The Friday Dose #71

If you just want a quick two-minute way to get really happy then just watch this first video. It’s a lot of fun. But if you’re looking for some longer term solutions then watch the video and keep reading.

Pretty cool huh? Okay, are you ready?

We’ve got to clear up some confusion here on Earth. A small part of the planet is doing extremely well but they’re also famous for being completely unhappy about it. Meanwhile half of the planet is struggling with things so basic that only a few dollars would change their lives. One group has so much it’s a culture that is actually comfortable calling each generation 700 FD Relax and Succeed - One day we will realizeincreasingly lazy, increasingly entitled, and increasingly selfish because it’s fully aware of those truths. Meanwhile 35 million—the largest number of people in history—are actual slaves, working brutal hours at backbreaking work with their only reward being they are allowed to continue being barely and painfully alive. And still the human spirit goes on in both groups. One group feels lost, disconnected, lonely and meaningless, while another would benefit so much from compassion that their gratitude would extend for their entire lives.

While it seems difficult to believe, more men, women and children are disabled or die from domestic abuse and sexual violence than from malaria, car accidents and war combined. If a woman where I live has someone break into her house to rape her she can call 911 and she at least has a chance of being saved and of the attacker being brought to justice. In a poor country the rapist will not only succeed in the rape, they’ll also take the home and all of the possessions too. And why? Because the odds are that person is painfully poor as well.

The hoarders aren’t happy, the weak live in fear and these are two sides of the same problem. I often have business friends ask my aid friends how they can work in refugee camps or do that “sad” work. What they don’t understand is that the reason these 700 FD Relax and Succeed - It is not happy people who are thankfulpeople can sustain themselves in those jobs is precisely because it is so much more rewarding to actually help a fellow human being than to purchase another object. Your new clothes will never look so good in a mirror that they will ever allow you to feel as good as you do when you see your good works reflected in the face of someone who really needed your help.

It’s not our fault. We got confused and it’s difficult to understand parts of the world that we only see snippets of. But take heed—nothing improves a life more than the feeling that you have enough to give, because that must mean you most certainly have more than you need. And that is the only abundance we can truly appreciate.

Yes, parts of these are hard. But like the gym or school, they’re also very rewarding and it’s easy to enjoy the results. You have more to offer than you realize. And the act of offering it is one of the healthiest spiritual acts anyone can undertake so I do hope you’ll consider changing your life in this direction. Thank you.

Jack Black and Felix on Red Nose Day:

Gary Haugen explains the hidden reason for ongoing poverty:

Be grateful today. Take note of all of the things you would not have or be able to make use of if you weren’t living in one of the richest places on Earth. Feel so much good fortune that you bubble over and your happiness spills on to others as good works. Because we can not only change the world, but we can get happier doing it too. I do hope you’ll join us.

Have a wonderful day.

peace and love, s

An Attitude of Gratitude

It’s funny where gifts can come from sometimes. A friend of mine has had a few pretty challenging years—you know, big stuff. Serious health concerns, bigger than average job stresses, all while she’s had to deal with some big family issues like death and dementia. Life is like a card game and right how she’s in the midst of a run of less-than-easy hands to play. And then she got her gift.

555 Relax and Succeed - Life is full of give and takeThe strange part was, the guy who gave her the gift has next to nothing himself. He was on TV. He was there to try and raise money to be sent to people like him, but instead he gave her a gift. She was trying to get caught up on some overdue paperwork and to get her kitchen cleaned and in her head she was adding up all of the balls she was juggling. The more she entertained the thoughts of how busy she was, the more things she remembered. By the time she noticed the guy on the TV she was getting pretty low about her situation. And then she saw his.

Of course, if the guy’s on a program like that then he’s a representative of that huge section of the world’s population that is just happy to have made it from one day to the next. This guy was a 12 hour a day rickshaw driver with no health care, a government hostile to his existence, no financial security net of any kind, and he had to provide for numerous children who he loved very much. Those were the facts of his life but he still beamed with gratitude. His walls may have been made of whatever was available and his meals might be meagre, but he remained grateful that his family was together and that he had any shelter at all.

My friend’s initial reaction was guilt—she had so much compared to this guy and yet she was sitting there complaining. But the guilt quickly turned to questions. Why was this guy so happy when he had so little? She watched him talk about his life a little longer. It turned out it’s because he wasn’t paying any attention at all to what was missing or what would make life easier. He only accounted for his good fortune. Yes, the hands with bad cards were there—but to him that was just life. He focused on when he won. In the end this poor have-nothing guy gave my upper middle class friend a huge gift. It was like he uncovered all of the things in her life that she had been taking for granted.

555 Relax and Succeed - If you were on your death bedIt’s a cliche, so people always brush past it too quickly, but it’s worth your time: how exactly are you more fortunate than someone in a third world country? This can seem like a chore to calculate until you do like my friend did and realize that it’s not mythical—you do have a lot to be thankful for, and your life is better when you’re consciously aware of it. Having a full belly or a healthy family or the support of good friends—these are all gigantic things when they are missing.

The act of taking something or somebody for granted is easy for all of us to do. It simply means that we have ceased to think about the benefit we receive—it is presumed. It’s not that the value isn’t there—it’s just that you’ve stopped counting it. You’ve stopped adding it up.

It’s a natural progression that we would move from gratitude to complacency and back again—one needs the other to exist. But we are still better to spend as much time in a state of gratitude as possible. Because if we live like that, then it’s possible for a super-poor guy to give my rich Canadian friend a valuable gift.

555 Relax and Succeed - The things you take for grantedSpend less time today thinking about your own plights. No matter how difficult things are, do your best to consider the challenges of the people around you. The insults they would face, the physical challenges, hunger, the constraints of poverty, or even just being cold, or sleeping without a mattress let alone a roof….

The odds are if you’re reading this then you’re probably better off than at least half the planet if not 98% of it. So rather than tell yourself and others about the 10% of your life that genuinely does suck, focus more on the 90% that doesn’t. And do that selfishly. Because sitting there at her kitchen table my friend’s life hadn’t changed one bit from an hour earlier. But still that third world guy managed to help her feel like one of the richest people ever. And you can feel that way too.

Make today a day where you earnestly pursue gratitude as an objective in your life. Make it a priority. Make that a habit and you will absolutely have changed your life. Now go create a great day with your choice of what you focus on. Because that’s the only place great days ever really came from anyway.

peace. s

Scott McPherson is a writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.

The Challenges of Scarcity

242 Relax and Succeed - Scarcity by Mullainathan and Shafir
Tonight I had the pleasure of listening to a fascinating interview with author Eldar Shafir about his book, Scarcity, Why having too little means so much (with co-author Sendhil Mullainathan). While I haven’t yet read it, through the interview I was able to tell that the book points out a very disruptive aspect of what I’m trying to impart here.

Eldar Shafir is the William Stewart Tod Professor of Psychology and Public Affairs at Princeton University. His book starts off with my fundamental point here: we all only have so much “bandwidth.” For instance, when we’re in the car, we all turn down the radio when we’re looking for an address. You can only do so much thinking—so much processing—each day, and your life will be made up of what choices you make within those individual moments.

For Shafir, the point is that the very poor have to spend a lot of their processing power on pure survival. There are no casual decisions. They have no expendable income. They are the ones that know that a $1.60 coffee each workday is $8.00 towards groceries at the end of the week. And they’re the ones that end up suffering from decision fatigue.

242 Relax and Succeed - May your choices

For the poor, there isn’t enough already so life is always a matter of choosing which form of pain they will experience. Shafir’s research showed that those conditions literally deducted a serious number of points off people’s IQ’s. Not having enough money was equivalent to not getting any sleep. Just the brain-stress of all of those calculations was leaving them with less time and caloric energy to make forward-thinking plans that might actually improve their future. And this applied to everyone equally. It doesn’t matter what your education is, what your previous capabilities were, the simple lack of bandwidth results in more difficult days and less odds of success for whoever is in the situation.

Obviously the poor are left with fewer basic choices. Under the right circumstances fewer choices can be a very healthy thing because it can leave you with more time to simply be, and there is great value in that. However in deep poverty there is no time to be. Every choice is critical. Every choice involves the very foundations of Maslow’s Pyramid. Every choice must be examined for its possible financial effects. Wasted money or time is literally dangerous. Any pause is a lost moment of sleep or a lost opportunity to bring in or save more money.

Where there is perpetual shortage there is a non-stop scan of the environment for any opportunity that you can fit into your morals. And in this world, the more moral you are the more you go without. If you won’t steal, you have to watch the clock like a hawk because you know that there’s this one person at work that often doesn’t finish their lunch, and you want to be there when they give the rest of it away.

242 Relax and Succeed - Blessed are those

Or you put $20 dollars worth of fuel into your old car—the one you can’t afford to pay to fix—and then when it breaks down you cry because you realize you’ve trapped $20 worth of food in the gas tank. Or when you miss the bus and have to wait in the snow for another half hour it’s much more difficult because there are holes in the bottom of your shoes. Holes no one else can see. And these people will routinely hear people complaining about problems they would love to have because there are people around you every single day and this sort of poverty is their daily reality. They work alongside you without you ever wondering why they never go to the birthday lunches at restaurants.

Shafir sounds like a very compassionate doctor to me. And all of his research makes sense with what I learned about the human brain through my studies. On top of the pure energy and expenditures of effort, it’s also important to remember that these are calculations with potentially disastrous effects. You’ll make each calculation a few times just to make sure because the downsides are so profound. And that’s more energy again. And stress hormones as you rightfully recognize some very real potential consequences. If you’re walking on the edge of a cliff it’s a good idea to be extra wary.

Strangely enough, these sorts of times are when it’s most useful to be able to see the best in the world. A wise man once told me that the more we sweat in peace the less we bleed in war. So practice whenever you can. Get good at looking for the positives in all situations. You’ll still have plenty of opportunities to be sad. But you won’t waste any time being sad when it’s no longer what you want to experience. Because sadness, fear, worry and anger all eat up energy that could be better used moving forward.

242 Relax and Succeed - Give generously

When you’re in the position of facing something that is not only challenging, but also something long term—something you may have to face alone or with dependants for years or more—then you must be able to call upon your connection to the world around you. If you can learn to be grateful in circumstances such as the ones described then you have mastered this life.

Surely you will waver in and out of your health for no other reason than fatigue. And some days you may feel like simply caving in and crying yourself into oblivion. But those tears stream down one of the many faces of strength. Because the only way out is through, and if one accepts that fact early on then the entire experience can be about building the sort of strength that does not require material trappings.

True character isn’t cool clothes or cool car or a cool job. Character is when the individual person is able to convey a cool confidence that has emerged from tested, fundamental knowledge; they know they can survive tremendous hardship. And that knowledge of self is worth more than all of the gold in the world, for as Lao Tzu said, “He who is contented is rich.” 

242 Relax and Succeed - We rise by lifting others

Take a look around your world. There’s probably people around you every day that would benefit enormously from the smallest gestures. And by giving you would be proving to yourself that you have more than enough. But fair warning: in the vast majority of cases the act of helping will simply feel wonderful. It’s why people work in refugee camps or with organizations like Doctors Without Borders. And that’s actually why I would suggest you consider adding more generosity to your day. Because it’s good for you.

Yes, it’s great that a seriously struggling person gets a hand, but it’s even better if they get valuable assistance and yet you also get the wonderful feeling that goes with helping others. It’s a win-win. The poor are aware of this, which is why—as a percentage of income—they give away more than anyone. Their own life experience keeps them very empathetic to the hidden challenges of poverty and it is through that connection that they share their love and support. Often the rewards that go along with that generosity are one of the few feelings keeping them going.

Our culture does not feel fortunate enough. Too many people literally do not have enough while others struggle to manage their excess. Mixing these two groups gives one group a chance at relief while the other gets to experience gratitude. And when our priorities are focused on creating that kind of wealth in our society, we will truly have advanced as a culture.

Be kind out there today. You just never know how heavy a load everyone is carrying. And you just never know how much your patience, love or support might help.

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.
Here’s the link to the radio interview. I highly recommend it:

CBC One – The Current – Project Money – Scarcity

The Fortunate Life

26 Relax and Succeed - Do what you can with what you haveYour ego is this unrealistic jerk that always talks to you as though you exist in multiple universes with no limits to your energy. So if you’re playing guitar you’re comparing yourself to the best guitar player you personally know and you’re telling yourself how you would be better if you practised more, or if you were born with more talent, or if you started playing at a younger age. But you’ll do this with everything not just guitar. According to your ego, apparently you were supposed to be up 24 hours every single day, practising every single thing you’ve ever seen or done.

Your judgments will be about both the frivolous and the important. If you play cards you’ll compare your arithmetic skills to the person who adds their score the fastest. If someone’s kid achieves something, you’ll compare that to whatever your kids have achieved and you’ll rate your ability to parent on that flimsy evidence. You’ll think of how well you’d know your material if you would have paid more attention in school. You think of how good your meal would be if you were just a better cook like your friend. Or you wish you got the promotion a friend got, or could sing like a friend can sing or dress like a friend can dress. Compare compare compare. You’re super aware of all of the resources you do not have.

27 Relax and Succeed - No matter how good or badBut what about the ones you do have? I live in Canada. Using Canadian dollars (which are at the time of this writing, roughly equal to the US dollar), you only need to earn about $50,000 dollars per year to be in the top 1% of money earners on Earth. Yes that’s still sixty million people, but it’s still the top One Percent. And 96% of people are born into a life with drastically less earning potential than you. So we can imagine a massive number of those people would trade lives with you in a nanosecond. And they would love your life. Love love love it. So the important question is: why don’t you?

You don’t love your life because you’re blind to all you have. You forget you can see and hear, and many people can’t. You forget you’ve never starved and most of the world has. You forget you can breathe and much of the world can’t. Your police generally rescue you rather than perpetrate crimes on you. You can elect your political leaders and for many people that is a dangerous idea. Your children will likely live and many people’s won’t.

What would these people do if they got your life? Imagine if you were an innocent soul dropped into your life with no knowledge of what the previous you thought of it. You’d have all of your old skills but none of your memories or judgments. So you wouldn’t know who you were or what your attitudes used to be but you would know how to operate in the world. What would you do? Do you really think you’d sit almost completely still, repeating the same old patterns? Do you think you’d sit around half the day pining after an old love? Or re-living an argument with someone from work? Or in any way sit around complaining about your life?

27 Relax and Succeed - Each morning we are born againYou would be out and excited to see the world. You’d feel safe, your belly would be full, you would have a bit of expendable income and the world would seem filled with amazing things to do. You would love your job and your pay. You would love your food, your art, your clothes, your car, your home, your freedom—everything about your life would seem opulent and grand. You would feel fortunate.

Stop thinking the same unsatisfied person into existence each day. It is a choice and if you’re not enjoying it it’s a silly choice. Choose instead to see your life through new eyes. Look at it honestly and reveal its many good-fortunes. Revel in them. Own them. Experience the joy that goes with feeling grateful and strong and capable.

Your investment in your own life will be what builds the path to your future. So stop wishing for a different past. Instead, be grateful, take up your tools and stop thinking about another life in favour of digging deeply and fully into this one. Trust me, it’s a gold mine.

Thank you for joining me today. Enjoy your day.

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.