The Teacher

She taught Education. She had been asked a reasonable question: what should they do when confronted with a racist student? How should they protect the student under attack? What was the best discipline for the student doing the attacking? She understood their impulse. Her own reaction as a young teacher back in the 90’s was to come down hard. But then she told her students about him.

He was a handsome boy; bright, very engaged. He sat right near the front. It had been a week since he’d been to class. The parents said they would ensure he came, but still no Cameron. She was on her way home when she finally spotted him.

He was sitting at a coffee shop table with a fruit drink, reading a comic book. He didn’t know what to do when she just sat down across from him with her coffee and a big friendly smile on her face. “Hi Cameron!” He froze like a deer in the headlights, caught off guard by her friendly approach. “Don’t worry. You’re not in trouble. I know what the problem is. Everything is going to be fine now. You’re safe.” He was baffled.

“Safe from who?”

“From whoever is bullying you.” His eyes rolled a bit. He seemed less nervous. It was like he was mocking her efforts. “It’s okay Cameron. You’re not weak for needing help. We have to stand up to racism together. Just tell me who the student is and I promise, they’ll be disciplined harshly. I’m pretty sure I already know who it is anyway.”

“Oh yeah? And who’s that?” he finally said.

“It’s Nathan, isn’t it.” He just laughed her off like a fool. “It’s not funny Cameron. This this is a serious issue. If it’s bad enough he’ll be kicked out of school.”

“Well then I guess you’ve already done your job then, haven’t you?” he offered. Now she was confused and he now felt more confident.

“What are you talking about?”

“I’m talking about me. I’ve already left. You don’t need to kick me out.” She stared back at him, truly lost and confused and he knew it. He let her stew while he built up his courage. He loved her as a teacher, but it was time. Finally, he stepped forward to offer his coup de grâce. “I’m the racist Ms. Simms. I’m the bad guy in this story.”

“Cameron I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“At least you got that part right.” She looked at him imploringly. He was a good student. She wanted to be a good teacher. But he almost seemed angered by her compassion. “I’m from South Africa Ms. Simms.” He paused. “I’m white.” She was still lost.

He spun the comic around and pointed to a character. “I’m the villain. I’m the bad guy.” She looked at him confused. “I had dogs back home that were trained to attack black people Ms. Simms. The person you want to kick out of school isn’t Nathan, it’s me.”

It was like someone flipped her world upside down. She started a hundred thoughts and finished none. He was South African. He was white. And South Africa was under sanctions for Apartheid. “But…” all of her preconceptions were smashing into what he’d said, and what she knew. “Cameron how could that be? Just because you lived in South Africa, that doesn’t automatically make you a racist.”

“Yes it does Ms. Simms. It does. Because I was. I was a racist. Do you understand? My friends and I beat black people.” She reacted as though he struck her. She flinched, and it made him feel more confident. “That’s right. I sicked my dogs on black people. They bit them. Badly. And I felt nothing. They were animals. I cared more about my dogs.”

She sat there feeling like someone had punched her in the stomach. She had no way to process what he was saying and he knew it, so he doubled down. “You’re from here, Canada. You talk to black students the same way you talk to white students, and Chinese students, and Native students. You’re a Canadian. You were taught to respect these people. I was taught to have dogs. Dogs that were trained to attack black people. And I was happy to use them.”

“But you’re not that person now…” she was almost begging him to confirm it. She couldn’t reconcile the nice kid she knew and the stories he was telling her.

“When you grow up and everyone around you thinks a certain way, you don’t even notice it. I was in Canada for months before I saw a white person treat a black person with respect. I’d never seen it before in my life. I thought he was crazy, or weak. My father thought he was both.”

“Do you still feel that way? Do you still want to attack black people?” Now he was uncomfortable. He didn’t. Canada had rubbed off on him in a year. He wasn’t friends with any coloured people, but he knew people he liked that were. He was going through his own conflicts. He couldn’t tell her how he felt because he didn’t know either. “How could you believe such a thing?” she asked.

“You thought I was a nice kid, right? You believed that. You took the little bit you knew and you told yourself a story about me and you believed it. So that’s who I was. I was who you thought I was. Well, the same for me. Everyone around me believed black people were animals, so I thought so too. I didn’t even know there was an option until I moved here.”

“But you’re so compassionate Cameron. I’ve seen you be kind. It’s why I like you.”

“It’s just guilt. I’ve done some very bad things.” That seemed to upset him.

“But you didn’t know better.”

“That’s no excuse. You said it yourself.”

She had. She now knew that had been a mistake. It had never occurred to her that she might not be able to recognise the racists. Her judgment felt too easy now, too casual. Now she felt like the bully. “I’ve made a mistake Cameron. I’m sorry. You’re making me realise that now. I’d never thought of the racist as a victim too.”

“A victim of who? We had all of the power.”

“I don’t mean the power. I mean the… awareness. The understanding. You had no way of knowing that you were participating in racism. I see that now. If everyone around you does it, then it’s normal. You’re making me realise now that I grew up in a family that had some pretty harsh ideas about Indians–about Natives–and I’m… maybe I’m not as good a teacher as I thought.”

“You’re fine Ms. Simms. You’re one of the most popular teachers in the school. The problem isn’t you. It’s me.”

Now she was feeling stronger. “No, it isn’t. The problem is that I didn’t have a discussion about racism, I just called one side good and the other side bad and that was it. I didn’t leave you any room. I didn’t leave a space for you and that’s my fault. That’s my failing. I not only let you down as a teacher, I let that whole class down and I see that now. I need your help Cameron.”

“My help…?” He was lost. He was young enough that he thought in absolutes. But she was changing her mind. And it was opening up new possibilities.

“I want you to teach us Cameron.” He seemed shocked. “I mean it. You’re right. I don’t know what I’m talking about. Just like you I’ve never even questioned my biases until now. I’m no better than you and you’re no worse than me. The problem here isn’t you. The problem is a lack of understanding. You can help us with that. Racism is subtle here in Canada. We like to think we have none, and yet I displayed some to you. I was intolerant of you. We have to fix that. This class can be better and it will be better if you explain it to us. We need to know why you had those dogs. We need to find our own versions of those dogs. Will you help me? Will you help us?”

She seemed serious. He liked her. And he liked school. He really wanted to be more comfortable with his black classmates but he had no idea where to start. Maybe this was his chance.

“Please Cameron. I mean it. I really need your help with this.” He looked at her a long time. He wanted so badly to believe he was a good person. He so badly wanted her forgiveness. He wanted all black people’s forgiveness. He started to cry. I mean cry. It started as tears but soon he was sobbing. She went around the table and put her arm around while he sobbed.

After a while someone appeared next to them. It was Robert. He was a sensitive boy. He’d been a refugee from Somalia. He was black. “Are you okay Cameron?” he asked. Cameron looked up and started to cry even harder when he saw who it was. Robert sat down across from him and took his hands his own. “It’s okay.”

Cameron looked at him through his tears. He felt so incredibly bad that he started a new jag of tears. He squeezed Robert’s hands. “Robert will you help me?”

“Of course I will.” He pulled Cameron up, into an embrace. He held him closely as Cameron bawled on his shoulder. People started watching them but they didn’t care. This was the beginning of it getting better.

When she looked up at her university class she was crying. They were too. Even the harshest, toughest boys. She took a moment to gather herself before speaking. “If I teach you anything in this class I’d like it to be this: you will learn more from your students than you can ever hope to teach them. So remember that when you’re at the front of your classes. Remember to never, ever, stop being a student too. Because in all of my years of teaching, no one ever made me a better teacher than Cameron and Robert did. Your job isn’t to police what’s good or bad or right or wrong. Your job is to build understanding. Do that, and you’ll have done the most important kind of teaching there is.”

And with that the bell rang.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organizations locally and around the world.

MoK: Converting Anger

1107-relax-and-succeed-mok-sorryEveryone gets angry, it’s just some hide it better than others. But passive-aggressiveness and yelling are both disruptive to human relations. It’s important to remember that you do have the chemistry within you to create anger for a reason. It does serve a purpose. But everyone gets tired, everyone gets hangry, everyone has some easy days and some that are particularly challenging.

Today’s acts in our March of Kindness are simple and straightforward. The first thing have you have to do is identify when you last got angry towards a specific person, then contact the person immediately after you’ve identified them and offer an unequivocal apology.

The most valuable apology is in person, looking the person in the eye, offering zero excuses, just responsibility. Next most valuable is a phone call, where they can hear the sincerity (and possibly discomfort) in your voice that signals your willingness to suffer a bit for what you feel is important–namely respecting that person.

1107-relax-and-succeed-mok-never-ruin-an-apologyOther electronic forms of apology are less personal and less effective but at least they’re a step in the right direction, so if you don’t have the courage for in-person then the next best option is a clear email that outlines your understanding of the lack of respect you’ve shown, that expresses your sincere regret, and that makes a commitment to do better in the future.

Text or instant messenger apologies are the weakest but again, are still far better than no apology at all. If you do this you can increase the value somewhat by also apologising for the fact that your sense of guilt makes it difficult for you to offer the apology in a more personal form. Own your weakness, don’t add it to the insult to the other person.

And finally, apologies to friends are critical to ongoing friendships, but the world is improved when we add people to the number we’re prepared to respect, so in many ways an apology to an opponent or enemy can be the most useful type for society overall. It models good behaviour and reduces tension in both parties.

1107-relax-and-succeed-mok-the-first-to-apologizeIt’s better not to overthink these. Just define the person, choose the form and then do it. It’ll take a few moments and the only suffering you’ll do is between your own ears, within the confines of your own consciousness. The harder it is to do, the better you’ll feel once it’s over. And who knows, maybe you’ll even get one yourself.

If we want to grow as people we must be willing to function outside our own comfort zones. The fact that this feels awkward is directly related to its value to the other person. Let’s start making apologising more common, because it’s human nature to eventually get tired of apologising for the same mistake and that’s usually what leads to us actually changing.

Do it, and do it ASAP. The March of Kindness needs your kindness to be active.

And have a wonderful day everyone.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

Observational vs Instructional Parenting

1019-relax-and-succeed-it-is-easier-to-build-strong-childrenWhen European settlers first came to North America one of the first clashes of culture existed in the realm of parenting. Corporal punishment was generally not used in the native cultures because they did not believe in corrective behaviour from an authority figure. Like most tribal cultures, they believed an entire community raised a child and that children learned to behave in alignment with their culture not by being told how, but rather by watching other people actually living in alignment with that culture.

Europeans on the other hand had unwittingly assumed the Christian original-sin belief into their daily life and so the idea was that no one was born worthy and rather one earned one’s worth. In the native cultures the worth of anyone was never in question. The European system lead to a top-down almost military style with the father in command, his wife second and then the children by order of age and gender. Meanwhile there weren’t even  things like lineups for native cultures, so therefore there were also no need to “order” people or things.

1019-relax-and-succeed-when-a-flower-isnt-bloomingAs well-intentioned as it is, the European model is based on a hierarchy rather than mutual respect. Being bound to someone by words and ideas is one thing, but caring about someone enough to make sacrifices for them is a much different thing. This is like the difference between a soldier fighting because he was told to by someone he doesn’t respect, versus he does so out of love for his leader.

The idea the natives naturally used is the one everyone’s actually using either way, whether their culture realises it or not. Kids don’t learn by what you tell them, it’s how we act. And if we realised that more consciously we would literally change the world.

The northernmost tribes in Canada, from the Gwich’in in the West all the way through all of the Inuit cultures and all the way East past the Innu to the Beothuk, the cold and barren surroundings and limited food sources have meant over time that patience, tolerance, cooperation and generosity are excellent strategies for staying alive. Since you couldn’t and can’t cultivate food you have to cultivate relationships that can lead to group dinners that ensure all are fed regardless of their individual hunt’s success. When you can end up living in the confines of an igloo it helps if you have an agreeable personality.

1019-relax-and-succeed-your-work-is-not-to-drag-the-worldSimilarly the Japanese and other Asian cultures learned to cultivate a courteous, respectful manner with others because the hydraulics of the terraced rice paddies meant that your neighbour had to choose to let you have the water next. These interdependencies can be seen as a lack of freedom, but they can also be seen to create more freedom. What is the point of any amount of freedom if it is primarily spent in a state of worry or fear when it could be spent cooperating with friends?

It is notable that these cultures are both very quiet. Words are seen as less important than the control of behaviour. This isn’t done in a subservient way; it’s done for the greater good of all. But for that to happen we first have to believe that a) we ourselves are capable of good behaviour, b) that our children are capable and naturally inclined to want to learn, and c) that lessons are not as important as examples.

Most parents I see are panicked that things are much worse than they are. Invariably I meet a caring, engaged parent who has the same kinds of flaws all of us have. Because people are generally good, just by living their lives the way they naturally do they end up raising really great kids too. Don’t worry if your child doesn’t follow every order exactly right. That won’t be what makes good character.

1019-relax-and-succeed-imagine-what-seven-billion-humansWhat’ll make a good fellow tribesman won’t be precise behaviour, it’ll be the general compassionate awarenesses that would lead them to do things like notice an older person struggling behind them, leading them to hold that door open a little longer for that fellow tribesman. What’ll make a good tribesman is not asking for apologies, but giving them. Then giving them will be natural to a child, just like they learn to avoid giving them. And forgive yourself for when they learn the bits about you you wish they wouldn’t. You’re worth those bits anyway.

Believe in yourself. Believe in the children around you. They’re all just waiting to sprout into something amazing if they just get the rest of us doing a bit of cultivating of ourselves. If we accept ourselves while we strive to grow, from there the kids will just naturally follow our lead, but lead we must do. Here’s to you exhibiting a great day of admirable behaviour.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

Man School

Let’s imagine Man School. This is where a boy goes to learn to be a man. Input comes through a screen and some speakers. All the parts of the brain and body are present and ready to learn. The Brain at the front of the class narrates for the other body parts.

T940 Relax and Succeed - I have reached the stagehis boy does not have a great role model but he does pretty well because he does something quite rare; he trusts his own internal guidance more than what he’s told and shown. Keep in mind that this is also how both of his parents learned to be a Mom and a Dad:

Brain: Okay everyone, ready? Remember, we’ll be spending most of our time and we’ll get most of our guidance from The Mother, but since we’re a Boy let’s keep a close eye on what The Dad does, okay? Okay Eyelids, open up, it’s morning.

Brain: Okay okay she’s taken us into the kitchen for what is called breakfast. Tongue, we know you love the part called bacon. Stomach, see if you can remind me with some gurgling to slow down on the coffee so we don’t have to get all the Nerves jangling later?

Stomach: Consider it done. This’ll be good, a bunch of the muscles have been complaining about wanting more protein.

Brain: This is what we eat on what’s called a Weekend. Okay hold on: she has a list for him. Okay our part is the reaction; we’re the boy…. Okay, we apparently do not like lists. Face, please practice frowning while I access Memory for some excuses for the mouth and vocal chords.

Face: No problem. I practice that one a lot.

BRelax and Succeed - When you speak to your spouserain: Nice work Face. Nice work. Okay, let’s see. Apparently if we disagree it appears the other person will become more insistent. See that Face? She’s giving us an angry and disappointed look.

Self (silently): I enjoy my connection to others and prefer that those connections continue.

Brain: Okay they’re both upset about not getting what they want. Watch the man: no, he doesn’t like that. Now he’s mad so he’s yelling. So if you want something and you don’t get it and it’s a weekend and a meal then we yell. Got that diaphragm and vocal chords?

Diaphragm: We’ll need an extra push from the stomach.

Stomach: You can count on me. I’m like steel down here.

Brain: Okay, Legs see that? If I don’t tell you otherwise, you walk toward her fast like that. And arm do you see how he’s got his Hand cocked back in that fist?

Eyes: She looks terrified. I think that’s because of his Hand.

Hand: Why would I do that?

Self (silently): I enjoy my connection to others and prefer that those connections continue.

940 Relax and Succeed - Sometimes I open my mouthBrain: I’m not sure. Maybe we find out as we grow up. For these first few years we just copy what we see. If it needs to change we can learn that later when we learn things in a non-experiential way. It’s not an easy or effective way to learn but it can happen.

Memory: Should I get Ears to jot down all those names he’s calling her? They seem mean. I don’t really want them.

Brain: Sorry memory, everything gets stored, but if it hurts I’ll do my best not to access those files very often okay? But in general whether it’s words or actions; if you see it a lot, do it a lot. If you only see it every now and then; just throw one in once in awhile.

Hand: By the way, I’m not in a fist anymore. Now I’m grabbing her hair and shaking her. I don’t like how this feels.

Self (silently): I enjoy my connection to others and prefer that those connections continue.

Eyes: It looks bad too. Are you sure this is how this is supposed to go?

Gut: Yeah, this feels off to me.

Heart: Yeah I like that lady more than anyone.

940 Relax and Succeed - Experience is not what happensBrain: Hey guys, I feel the same way but I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do. You know they made me brain because I’ll faithfully copy down what I see. I’ll do my best later to improve on this but this is how we’re built, I’m sorry. The best we can hope for is for the parents to behave in a healthy way.

Gut: Okay fine, but I’ve got an idea. It’s actually pretty clever, I’ll bet not many people think of it but; if we have to wire this behaviour in then let’s wire in a reverse switch too. None of us likes it. So let’s take all of those signals and let’s use them for the opposite of all of this stuff.

Hands: You mean like holding and stroking hair and cuddling instead of grabbing and shaking her?

Gut: Yeah. If we like her and she’s upset then let’s hold her instead, okay?

Eyes: So if I see her crying we don’t yell we hug?

Gut: Yeah.

Arms: I like that.

Chest: Me too.

Brain: Does everyone agree?

Mouth: That’s a lot of programming to reroute. Can I blow any extra energy off as yelling?

940 Relax and Succeed - The only person you are destined to becomeEars: It’s not ideal, could you work on it?

Mouth: Absolutely. I thought it would just help dispel some of the energy if I could transfer to something less destructive.

Brain: All of us find yelling quite loud so I know none of us are big fans so if you need to because of this programming then we get it. But let’s agree no shaking and no hitting and we don’t like mean names–and we only yell if we absolutely have to. We’re still allowed to experience pain but it would still be better to go for a walk.

Legs: I’d do that.

Mouth: What should we yell at?

Brain: How about our inability to not yell?

Mouth: Then I’ll feel dumb.

Brain: Good. I’m hoping if you do that enough times that maybe it’ll just stop.

Ears: Sounds good.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

Made to Order

Winner: 2016’s Blog of the Year #5

Despite how parts of it are sold, society is a cooperation not a competition. Traffic, infrastructure, schools, corporate structures, the internet; these are all things that were designed to help us cooperate.

903 Relax and Succeed -Calvin and Hobbes
The Story Behind This Cartoon

Our societal cooperation works best when each of us intentionally aligns our deepest self with the larger goal. So for some big startup company to succeed it needs someone who wants to lock themselves away alone to do some deep, complex thinking. But it also needs bold, talkative, likeable salespeople who’re good at managing grey areas, and those salespeople all have to be different to appeal to different clients. Then the organisation will also need accounting and legal staff that then turns grey areas into black and white. Etc. etc.

It is called an organisation because it is the coordination of all of these very disparate and even conflicting skill sets. So the saleswoman intentionally generates grey area to achieve a sale only for accounting to have to slice all the grey into neat little boxes. One person’s work literally creates the other person’s work. Nothing’s wrong there, it’s just the nature of an organisation.

The challenge occurs when a catch-all idea tries to encapsulate all of these complex relationships. We see this most often in schools, where it used to be presumed that some students were strong in some subjects and not in others. Now if you’re a good student you’re not allowed to be a human with natural skill set. Now a good student gets good grades in everything.

903 Relax and Succeed - Action without visionStudents are no longer their experiences, now they are just the memories in their brain. In turn their brain is seen as a computer to be programmed, and the notion is that the same process applies to programming math skills as reading skills when that is simply not the case.

Some kids look out their bedroom window and see the stars move each night and they wonder about those movements and they get good at math because they are innately interested in becoming a cosmologist. Some can’t sit still in class and they become world-renowned ballerina, Karen Kain. Some aren’t good at math but they’re good at understanding complex physical relationships, as was the case with the physicist, Albert Einstein.

Those are not people who succeeded because they got good grades and fit into the boxes at school really neatly. These are people who had just the right conditions to become fully themselves, even when that self conflicted with some pattern that society found convenient. Yes, we want to see ourselves as a part of larger society, but we don’t want salespeople to start acting like accountants any more than we want accountants to act like salespeople.

903 Relax and Succeed - Notable college dropouts

Real drive, real success and real happiness do not come from good grades, good pay and people approving of you. You’ll get all the approval you need from yourself if you’re realising your inner motivations and then working hard to achieve them. Because that doesn’t even feel like work–it just feels like the steps you need to take to get you where you’re going.

Yes, we all need to do reasonably well in school because those basic skills do end up way more important than any kid realises up until they’re about 25 years old. But we shouldn’t panic if someone struggles in a subject or their grades are average. College is no guarantee of a good life, but knowing how to realise yourself through diligent work is. If something matters enough to someone they’ll work incredibly hard at it whether that’s in a college or outside of it.

Do not treat kids like pegs to fit into holes. They are all individuals and as much as a hassle it might be for a parent or teacher to have Karen Kain and Steve Jobs in the same class, it’s important to remember that the school is a construct not a natural occurrence. Meaning we should be less invested in things like grades and more focused on seeing if the kids themselves feel like they are expanding.

Too many of our pressures on kids have to do with conforming and getting into line. Yes, teach kids to be good, solid cooperative citizens. But not at the price of choking off their spirit, because if that’s intact it will drive their intellect to create not only great things, but also a great life.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is an Edmonton-based writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and non-profit organisations locally and around the world.

An Attitude of Gratitude

It’s Thanksgiving today in Canada and so I present you this fresh edit on the notion of gratitude. Have a wonderful day everyone. I am grateful to have you to write for. Much love.

Feeling Like a Fool

You can’t lose. You really can’t. Because you either get the thing you want or you get something that makes you bigger. That’s how your world works. It’s one or the other. So you can have a great time hanging out with your beloved cousin, or you could have that same cousin suffer an injury and nearly die—or maybe they do die. So in one scenario you gain because you enjoy yourself, and in the other scenario you learn what it feels like to lose someone close to you. And so later when you’re around people who are going through a loss similar to that, you’ll be more empathetic and you’ll often know what to do or say just through your experience. The cracks are where the light gets in, so to speak. When everyone else is crippled by their lack of experience you know what to do.

653 Relax and Succeed - An adventure is only an inconvenienceLikewise, if you fail a test you also become more resilient. Maybe you’re more familiar with the pressures surrounding the test, or maybe you’re becoming more resilient to outside judgment. Everyone’s lives are littered with failed tests and no one more-so than the sort of person who wants to achieve a lot. Want to be an astronaut? Then fail a lot. Because you have to be good at a lot of things to be an astronaut and to be good at a lot of things you have to have failed at them first. When my brother was a salesman and he knew that one in ten people was a real buyer, he knew that a non-buyer was someone who had kindly checked off one of his nine empty boxes and he would be grateful for them because he understood they were just as necessary as the one who actually bought. And so my brother always met his next sales prospect with a great attitude and that gave him a much better chance at increasing his odds from one in ten to two in ten and that one small difference made him rich.

Maybe you’re in an exciting, whirlwind romance where you feel like you’re floating twenty feet off the ground. Or maybe you’re bawling your eyes out for the fifth night in a row because you got dumped. Either way you win by enjoying the romance and the back rubs and the cuddles and the cares, or maybe the very absence of those things has raised your awareness of the value of those things and so you are now more likely to place greater value on your future partners. Or maybe you’ll be better at choosing a partner next time. But 653 Relax and Succeed - Pain means you're growinghowever it happens, the loss of a relationship results in a gain in awareness about something useful, usually involving how you could have been a better partner. This is why they say the second spouse gets what the first one paid for. Again, you win no matter what.

In each and every case there will be some form of good fortune for us in every experience. The only question is, do we strictly look at everything for what we expected or do we look at life to see what we’ve actually received? Because in many cases we will get lessons that we did not even know we would need some day and yet in many cases those lessons will prove to be more valuable than the original benefit we sought by undertaking the activity. Certainly all of us know the wonderful level of comfort that gets created by someone who has been where we are and who is comfortable being there with us. That empathetic connection alone is worth a lot.

As the Buddhist’s say, there are no one-sided coins. You either get the benefit you were expecting or a benefit you weren’t expecting, but either way you win so never get too down on life. If it looks like you’re losing just wait a while. Your vision will clear and soon you will happily be on your way as you once again notice the incredible good fortune that every single life enjoys.

Every day is a gift. Treat today like that’s what it is and it’ll treat you pretty well right back. Have a great one!

peace.

Principled Parenting

There’s a curious irony to my practice in that, if a couple is sitting in front of me concerned about their child, I will almost invariably meet a solid young person who might be struggling with understanding the world, but they’re working from a strong and sturdy foundation provided by good parents. They can reason and they have a good understanding of value. These are children whose parents have always reacted proactively to concerns.

441 Relax and Succeed - Create a lifeBeing responsible in that way, those sorts of parents have generally raised their children using principles rather than rules. Because assumptions and opinion and learning are not the same as discovery, reason and understanding, the parents raising wise kids aren’t worried about what other people will think of them for bringing to them to someone like me—they have the kid’s interests first. So if there’s a way to achieve better reasoning and understanding, they promote that.

Now it’s important to point out that these aren’t groups of good parents and bad parents. These are equal people who approach parenting from two different perspectives and one perspective quite logically and naturally leads to calm, self-reliant, patient, tolerant and strong people, and the other approach is far more likely to lead to drama, neediness, impatience, intolerance and weakness. The current addiction to ego that the Western world is suffering under is amplifying the number of people in the latter group. No one wants to discipline their kid because they don’t want to admit their kid isn’t already perfect. Because life today is no longer about being real and growing. It’s about pretending to already be perfect. If you’ve ever untagged yourself from an unflattering facebook photo then you know what I mean.

I was shovelling snow once with my Dad and I was thinking about a guy at school who had gotten his girlfriend pregnant. It made me realize that the physical world was ready for me to be a dad, but my mind hadn’t even imagined that possibility until my buddy’s situation. So I 441 Relax and Succeed - Life itself is your teacherasked my Dad how a parent is supposed to know what to do to raise their kid? And my Dad’s answer was, “You just teach them what they need to know to live without you.” It was simple and elegant and humble and just like my Dad. From there, the only question is how far you take the qualifier: “need to know.” Because some parents think their kids need to know sports stats, or how fix computers, or that they have to have a college degree. But others are focused on principles.

What’s a principle versus what’s a belief that you’re essentially taught to believe? Here’s some examples that might pertain to kids of different ages:

  • A kid can be taught the belief that some genre of music is stupid or bad or brilliant or good, versus teaching them the components of music, exposing them to a lot of different forms, and then let them find out what appeals to them as individuals.

  • That a kid should vote in this or that way because it’s smarter, when that doesn’t even make sense in a democracy. The idea isn’t that one group is right and the other group is wrong. It’s that everyone has strengths and useful perspectives and we’ll make wiser decisions if we take them all into account, and so the principled kids should vote for whoever is taking the most people into account, not for some specific person or party.

  • 441 Relax and Succeed - Who we are can not be separatedSome kids are taught they have a right to scream, irritate, damage or even destroy the value in someone else’s time or space, wheres other kids understand that society is made up of how everyone treats everyone else, and that if we want a healthy society then we all have to do our part by modelling cooperative behaviour even when it might not be convenient for us personally. It’s like the rules of the road. They’re not there to be tyrannical. They’re not there because we’re stupid. They’re a set of principles that allow us all to function well together as a group.

  • That you should never have to wait for anything versus the idea that that world will absolutely leave you waiting all over the place. If you don’t develop the brain wiring for waiting, then you grow into one of those insane 50 year olds who beats the crap out of the inside of their car during traffic jams. Waiting is part of life and it’s a skill parents need to both exhibit and demand to ensure that the child learns the necessary skills to exist in the world as it is.

You have two routes: you can teach your children to make the same decisions you make, or you can teach your children how the world works and then they can make up their own mind about how to function successfully within it. It’s like memorizing math tables versus actually understanding what the concept of multiplication means. In one the child is simply repeating what they were told and in the other they actually understand. One group cannot adapt or change or accommodate other views, whereas the latter group is open, humble and flexible.

In the taught group there are right and wrong answers and a kid can be disciplined for getting the wrong answer. In the discovery group a kid can only misunderstand and so nothing more than further explanation/discovery is required. It’s not that the kid was wrong, it was only that their 441 Relax and Succeed - The greatest enemy of knowledgeunderstanding had been limited by experience. To increase experience is to increase understanding. So we don’t raise successful kids by telling them how the world works and by telling them what decisions to make. We raise successful kids by showing them how the world works and then let them make their own choices based on  wisdom and common sense.

Your kids are amazing. They are capable. They are naturally cooperative and generous and compassionate. Don’t teach them to hate others, don’t teach them to expect or demand or want. This life isn’t about achievement, it’s about experience. Teach them to be fully alive in this world and you will have introduced them to a way of being that will lead to the best kind of life possible.

I recently read a couple of blogs that discussed other important aspects of parenting and so I’m including links to them below. But just remember, healthy kids aren’t built they’re raised. They’re not taught they’re exposed to knowledge. They don’t know the rules, they understand how things work. So don’t teach kids what you know. Instead discover the world together with them. It’ll be good for both of you.

Have a great day with your kids.

peace. s

Wall Street Journal: Why French Parents Are Superior

5 Reasons Modern Day Parenting Is In Crisis

The Friday Dose #19 – Babies

389 Relax and Succeed - Keep me away from

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Human thought is extremely limited when it comes to grasping human potential. We have to remember that we’ve survived a million years. No baby books, no helmets or safety regulations, no health care—and yet we got to here. I remember watching my own little sister fall off our Dad’s work truck out at the lake. She spun and flipped and crashed through the industrial roof rack and when she hit the ground you could hear every molecule of air being dispelled from her lungs. And still to this day I’m as amazed as I was then that she just got up, rubbed her head and her ribs, and she got back to playing. I’ve watched babies being kicked into pools by their swimming instructors only to thrive. And as science does its research to discover all the other things we’re capable of, we just keep being amazing even ourselves. It shouldn’t surprise us then, that babies are way ahead of where we language-based creatures might assume they are:

Babies and Friendship

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This article is all about how memory—and therefore identity—evolves. I find it amusing that the scientists consider it “immature” for a person to not have a sense of time or place associated with their memories. Sounds good to me. How can you have a war if there’s no place defined as belonging to anyone? How can you feel old when there is no time in your world? Far from being immature, I would suggest these children are managing to stay clear headed despite our repeated—and eventually successful—attempts to get them to believe in ideas that we later come to treat as actual things. So there is no such thing as time, and yet we’ll feel like we’re late. There’s no such thing as a border, yet we’ll create discord with others fighting over who thinks what about where. An adult’s biggest challenge is matching their beliefs up with other people’s. I vote we go the baby way and surrender our beliefs in favour of joy and freedom and discovery. Let’s forget borders—let’s go for horizons instead:

Babies and Memory

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And finally we’ll close off our fun with more babies. Babies mostly wriggle and squirm and consume and expel, so most of our enjoyment of them relates to thoughts we overlay over top of the actual child’s behaviour or circumstances etc. In short, they can’t entertain us because they don’t know there is a them and an us, but we can certainly entertain ourselves with them, as in this case (which I’ll admit, made me laugh out loud—feel free to p0st your own versions on my social media):

Babies and Faces

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Now go be like a baby. Forget who you think you are, make a bunch of friends quickly and easily, and forget about meeting social expectations. Have fun instead. Enjoy.

peace. s

Getting Fired

I just got fired for the third time in a year. All three said I talk back too much but I don’t think it’s fair. I’m just explaining my point of view. It’s them that won’t listen.

signed,
Disrespected

Dear Dis,

You sound as though you are a younger person who is just beginning their introduction to the work world and your perspective is a common one. It’s common but naive. I want to make sure you understand that by naive I do not mean silly or stupid or dumb. I mean there is no way for 297 Relax and Succeed - An inability to tolerate feedbackany human being to know anything about anything if they’ve never encountered it before. Because it’s new to you the things you’re seeing make no sense. So I’ll do my best to use my experience to help shed some light on the issue.

Whether you’re starting out in a small business, or in the service industry, or a trade or any other thing, you will always start at the bottom. You know the least about what the company does so you’ll do the least damage in a lower position with less responsibility. But running a company and being responsible for a lot of people’s paycheques has a lot of aspects to it, so the managers will have earned their stripes whether it seems like it to you or not. Just think about it: they would have started with the company as one of 20 workers employed by one manager. And yet out of those 20, only one rose to become the manager. How come? Because he had more to offer.

Simply put Dis, no one really cares about your point of view. At least not yet. It was like that for them too. They know your youth and inexperience will largely blind you. Without knowing it you’ll say all kinds of naive things because what else can you say? You’re actually naive. So don’t take it personally. Don’t get mad. They’re just playing the odds. They know that people have done your job for years, so if things are some way then there’s probably a pretty good reason. Maybe that reason’s changed or maybe your needs have, but regardless, even if things do need changing—the boss is the boss. Unless they’re doing something illegal or immoral, your job is to adjust your sails to whichever direction the Captain requests. From there your only job is to not really question the captain because if every thing he or she did every day was questioned, they would end up spending half their day answering questions to subordinates.

297 Relax and Succeed - It's not what happens to youNow this isn’t to say that you couldn’t have a truly bad boss. Most people do because most bosses don’t give much thought to their bossing, they just do the first thing that comes to their mind. But bottom line, there will be a hierarchy, so you might as well learn to accept it. You know more than someone half your age, and you know way less than someone twice as old as you. So be humble and listen. And remember that sometimes guidance comes in the form of what not to do. Don’t take that personally. Instructions are not criticisms. Instructions make you larger and more capable. Welcome them.

I know it can be frustrating, but trust me, there’s pressures on those managers that you can’t see. When you get in trouble it’s because they got in trouble first. So ignore your personal feelings about the subject and just focus on your action plan. What are you going to do differently? Everything a boss tells you is just information for you to base your decisions on. So listen to it and see if maybe these three bosses aren’t even a little bit right. By listening better I strongly suspect you’ll quickly learn some valuable lessons. Just don’t feel the need to defend yourself. Your boss is busy and the explanation doesn’t move the business—or ultimately you—forward. Listen well, learn lots and work hard and you’ll do fine Dis.

I wish you every good fortune.

peace. s