Saturday, May 4, 2013

50 Rules Kids Won't Learn In School...

I recently came across a book written by Charles J. Sykes. In it, he outlines some real-world advice for kids. It's definitely not the type of advice one would often hear from a teacher or even a parent. And although some of the statements may be deeply cynical, I think they do contain some real practical truths about the world we live in - a world that can at times be tough, and challenging and critical. Perhaps, our children do need some "tough lessons" at times to help get them through the complexities and obstacles of adult life in the future.  The question for me (and the real challenge), personally, is how to balance teaching my kids on the one hand to be idealistic, confident and have a no-limit attitude towards themselves and the world they live in, while on the other hand teaching them some practical realities of our world and society.

Here is what Charles Sykes writes in the preface of his book:

  "50 Rules began as a mere 10 rules that I used in a television commentary back in the mid-1990s; they grew to 12, and then 14.  Along the way, they took on a life of their own, especially after they were somehow attributed to Gates.  With that imprimatur, the original rules raced across cyberspace, showed up in thousands of emails and websites, were picked up by newspapers and an assorted collection of politicians and motivational speakers and commentators, including radio's Paul Harvey and advice columnist Ann Landers - all attributing the rules to the Master of Software. This was flattering and a bit exasperating.  I enjoyed the fact that so many found the rules valuable, but it was a mixed blessing when my own email box began to fill with the brilliant insights of Bill Gates. Eventually, the word got out that Gates was innocent of the deed and that the blame rested solely with a guy named Sykes. But how to account for the enduring appeal of the original rules, which survived being delinked from Gates?  I think it was because they were such a blunt contrast to the thumb-sucking feel-good infantilism that has become so common in American education and culture.  Previous generations thought it was their duty to prepare young people for the ups and downs of life as a matter of course and as an obligation.  There is a long and rich literary tradition of books giving sound, realistic advice to young people, written by people who thought it was their job to provide children with a guide to growing up, rather than to amuse and entertain them, or be their buddies.  Today, however, children can spend years in the company of credentialed goo-goos who not only miseducate them about the real world, but fail to give them the tools to make their way in it.  This book is intended as a counter-point: think of it as a user's manual for the real world".

And here are the 50 Rules:

1. Life is not fair. Get used to it. 
2. The real world won't care as much as your school does about your self-esteem. It'll expect you to accomplish something before you feel good about yourself. 
3. Sorry, you won't make sixty thousand dollars a year right out of high school. And you won't be a vice president or have a company car. You may even have to wear a uniform that doesn't have a designer label. 
4. You are not entitled... 
5. No matter what your daddy says, you are not a princess... 
6. No, you cannot be everything you dream... 
7. If you think our teacher is tough, wait until you get a boss. He won't have tenre, so he'll tend to be a bit edgier. When you screw up, he's not going to ask you how you FEEL about it. 
8. Your navel is not that interesting. Don't spend your life gazing at it. 
9. Your school may have done away with winners and losers. Life hasn't. 
10. Life is actually more like dodgeball than your gym teacher thinks. 
11. After you graduate, you won't be competing against rivals who were raised to be wimps on the playground. 
12. Humiliation is a part of life. Deal with it. 
13. You're not going to the NBA, so hold off on the bling and spare us the attitude. 
14. Looking like a slut does not empower you. 
15. Flipping burgers is not beneath your dignity. Your grandparents had a different word for burger flipping. They called it opportunity. 
16. Your parents and your little brother are not as embarrassing as you think. What's embarrassing is ingratitude, rudeness, and sulkiness. 
17. Your parents weren't as boring before as they are now. They got that way paying your bills, driving you around, saving for your education, cleaning up your room, and listening to you tell them how idealistic you are. 
18. Life is not divided into semesters. And you don't get summer off. more rules to follow... 
19. It's not your parents' fault. If you screw up, you are responsible. 
20. Smoking does not make you look cool....It makes you look moronic. 
21. You're offended? So what? No, really. So what? 
22. You are not a victim. So stop whining. 
23. Someday you will have to grow up and actually move out of your parents' house. 
24. Batman's girlfriend is right: "It's not who you are underneath, but what you do that defines you." 
25. Pi does not care what you think. 
26. A moral compass does not come as standard equipment. 
27. Your sexual organs were not meant to engage in higher-order thinking or decision making. 
28. Somebody may be watching... 
29. Learn to deal with hypocrisy. 
30. Zero tolerance = zero common sense. 
31. Naked people look different in real life. 
32. Television is not real life. 
33. Be nice to nerds. You may end up working for them. We all could. 
34. Winners have a philosophy of life. So do losers. 
35. If your butt has its own zip code, it's not because McDonald's forced you to eat all those Big Macs. If you smoke, it's not Joe Camel's fault. 
36. You are not immortal. 
37. Being connected does not mean you aren't clueless. 
38. Look people in the eye when you meet them... 
39. People in black-and-white movies were in color in real life. And no, the world did not begin when you were born. 
40. Despite the billion-dollar campaign to turn your brain into tapioca pudding, try to learn to think clearly and logically. 
41. You are not the first and you are not the only one who has gone through what you are going through. 
42. Change the oil. 
43. Don't let the successes of others depress you. 
44. Your colleagues are not necessarily your friends, and your friends aren't your family. 
45. Grown-ups forget how scary it is to be your age. Just remember: this too shall pass. 
46. Check on the guinea pig in the basement. 
47. You are not perfect, and you don't have to be. 
48. Tell yourself the story of your life. Have a point. 
49. Don't forget to say thank you. 
50. Enjoy this while you can.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Be Thankful For Everything - Everything Is A Present...

I recently came across this short video of an interview of Alice Herz Sommer, the oldest living Holocaust survivor.  Incredibly, she is 108 years old.  What is truly remarkable, however, is that despite all the tragedy and horror that Alice has lived through in her life, she maintains an incredible optimism and a positive outlook towards life.  She continues to be passionate about learning, about music and every little aspect of the world around her.  She continues to smile and laugh.  What an incredible inspiration for all of us.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Tomorrow the Sun Will Rise....Who Knows What the Tide Could Bring

This evening I watched the movie "Castaway" with my family. I had first seen it many years ago, and recall being very moved by Tom Hanks' performance as the type A Fed-Ex employee, Chuck Noland, who survives a plane crash and is marooned on a deserted island somewhere in the South Pacific. The struggle of Hanks' character to survive the harsh natural elements of a tropical island - to create fire, find food and water, build shelter, and finally craft a raft allowing him to overcome the huge waves of the ocean - are a testament to the will and determination of humankind, and in many ways parallel the incredible progress of humankind over the past millenia.

The movie expresses many important life themes, human values and philosophies - the power of love, our need for companionship, our taking for granted the incredible advances of our civilization (eg. bottled water), and the negative repercussions of leading crazily busy lives which prevent us from stopping to really appreciate all those things and people that we have been blessed to have in our lives.

Towards the end of the film, after Hanks' character returns back to "civilization", having survived four years on the island where he decided to keep fighting for his survival despite moments of wanting to give up and admit defeat in the face of the bleak reality of his desperate situation, he describes to his close friend and colleague the incredible epiphany and the realization that emerged from those dark moments:

"We both had done the math. Kelly added it all up and... knew she had to let me go. I added it up, and knew that I had... lost her. 'cos I was never gonna get off that island. I was gonna die there, totally alone. I was gonna get sick, or get injured or something. The only choice I had, the only thing I could control was when, and how, and where it was going to happen. So... I made a rope and I went up to the summit, to hang myself. I had to test it, you know? Of course. You know me. And the weight of the log, snapped the limb of the tree, so I-I - , I couldn't even kill myself the way I wanted to. I had power over *nothing*. And that's when this feeling came over me like a warm blanket. I knew, somehow, that I had to stay alive. Somehow. I had to keep breathing. Even though there was no reason to hope. And all my logic said that I would never see this place again. So that's what I did. I stayed alive. I kept breathing. And one day my logic was proven all wrong because the tide came in, and gave me a sail. And now, here I am. I'm back. In Memphis, talking to you. I have ice in my glass... And I've lost her all over again. I'm so sad that I don't have Kelly. But I'm so grateful that she was with me on that island. And I know what I have to do now. I gotta keep breathing. Because tomorrow the sun will rise. Who knows what the tide could bring?"

Yes....who knows what the tide could bring. It is during our dark and desperate moments, when there seems to be no hope and no chance of things turning around, having the faith that the universe will throw us a "life preserver" and help pull us out of the turmoil of the ocean. All we must do is "keep breathing", keep fighting, keep putting our best efforts and skills forward....with the faith that things will turn around, and that not only will we overcome the current struggle, but also that this current obstacle will lead us towards greater fulfillment, appreciation and happiness.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

My New Year's Wishes For You...

Today I received an amazing email from one of my cousins, wishing me a lot of wonderful things for the upcoming New Year. I am sure the content of the email was not original but after reading the "lighthearted" words, I was struck by the beauty and the real meaning of these "good wishes" - the kinds of things one would want to wish a very close relative or anyone they really cared about and loved. At the root of it were very "simple" things: health, family, serenity and the ability and time to enjoy all those simple yet incredible things life has to offer us:

"In this coming year:

May you get a clean bill of health from your dentist, your cardiologist, your gastroenterologist, your urologist, your proctologist, your podiatrist, your plumber

and the IRS.

May your hair, your teeth, your face-lift, your abs and your stocks not fall.

May your blood pressure, your triglycerides, your cholesterol, your white blood count and your real estate taxes not rise.

May you find a way to travel from anywhere to anywhere in the rush hour
in less than an hour, and when you get there, may you find a parking space.

May the telemarketers wait to make their sales calls until you finish dinner.

And above all else

May what you see in the mirror delight you, and what others see in you delight them.

May someone love you enough to forgive your faults, be blind to your blemishes,
and tell the world about your virtues.

May you want what you have, so as to be truly content with your lot.

May you be at peace knowing that that which you so lovingly instilled in your children,
is sufficient to carry them through the rough spots they encounter along the way.

May you never be too busy or too late to really be there for the people you love.

And finally, may your world be filled with love and laughter. May you be strong and healthy, hopeful and grateful, and may you be able to rejoice in the good fortune
that is yours for many years to come.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Regrets Of The Dying...

I recently came across the writings of a palliative care nurse, Bronnie Ware, on her blog, "Inspiration and Chai". One of her posts is titled "Regrets of the dying" in which she describes the five most common regrets she heard from those who were close to death. Here is her entire post:

"For many years I worked in palliative care. My patients were those who had gone home to die. Some incredibly special times were shared. I was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives. People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality. I learnt never to underestimate someone's capacity for growth. Some changes were phenomenal. Each experienced a variety of emotions, as expected, denial, fear, anger, remorse, more denial and eventually acceptance. Every single patient found their peace before they departed though, every one of them.

When questioned about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently, common themes surfaced again and again. Here are the most common five:

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made.

It is very important to try and honour at least some of your dreams along the way. From the moment that you lose your health, it is too late. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.

2. I wish I didn't work so hard.

This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children's youth and their partner's companionship. Women also spoke of this regret. But as most were from an older generation, many of the female patients had not been breadwinners. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence.

By simplifying your lifestyle and making conscious choices along the way, it is possible to not need the income that you think you do. And by creating more space in your life, you become happier and more open to new opportunities, ones more suited to your new lifestyle.

3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.

Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result.

We cannot control the reactions of others. However, although people may initially react when you change the way you are by speaking honestly, in the end it raises the relationship to a whole new and healthier level. Either that or it releases the unhealthy relationship from your life. Either way, you win.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

Often they would not truly realise the full benefits of old friends until their dying weeks and it was not always possible to track them down. Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort that they deserved. Everyone misses their friends when they are dying.

It is common for anyone in a busy lifestyle to let friendships slip. But when you are faced with your approaching death, the physical details of life fall away. People do want to get their financial affairs in order if possible. But it is not money or status that holds the true importance for them. They want to get things in order more for the benefit of those they love. Usually though, they are too ill and weary to ever manage this task. It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content. When deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again.

When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind. How wonderful to be able to let go and smile again, long before you are dying.

Life is a choice. It is YOUR life. Choose consciously, choose wisely, choose honestly. Choose happiness."

Sunday, February 20, 2011

10 Life Lessons From Albert Einstein...

1. Follow Your Curiosity

“I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.”

2. Perseverance is Priceless

“It's not that I'm so smart; it's just that I stay with problems longer.”

3. Focus on the Present

“Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.”

4. Imagination is Powerful

“Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life's coming attractions. Imagination is more important than knowledge.”

5. Make Mistakes

A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.”

6. Live in the Moment

“I never think of the future - it comes soon enough.”

7. Create Value

“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value."

8. Don’t Expect Different Results

“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

9. Knowledge Comes From Experience

“Information is not knowledge. The only source of knowledge is experience.”

10. Learn the Rules and Then Play Better

“You have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else.”