Picture Quote of the Day: Grand Parents

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Quote of the Day, March 9, 2014: “Don’t seek gain, seek growth.” (Extended Version)

This quote comes from my pastor, but it harkens back to a conversation I had two weeks ago with another gentleman about what the trouble is with our society and business, and in particular, with Christians and business. It all stemmed from him speaking about how when he first had kids he found an interest in finding out what the best way to educate them would be. He started out looking for a concise definition that he could accept for the word “eduction.” Education is something that we speak about all the time in our society. Our politicians talk about it and how they are going to fund this school and that set of teachers, and all in the sake of education, but they never really speak about what education is or what it’s for. Our parents want us to get a good education, and our teachers push us to get good grades and go higher and higher in our education but it’s still never quite defined for us. Is an education literally that piece of paper they give you at the end stating that now you have an education? Does it mean you can recite poetry and recall obscure battles and what dates the occurred. The definition that this man said he finally settled on after years of search was this: (Paraphrase) Education is preparing someone to respond to and engage with the world in an appropriate manner. I can guarantee that is a paraphrase although I’m doing my best to recall his exact words. I do believe the ones I’ve chosen speak to the heart of what he said though. He found that the idea behind education was teaching a young person that there is a big world out there with all kinds of ideas, and tools, and facts, and dangers and wonders and that person will need the intellectual and emotional tools to be able to interact with that world in a way that is #1 beneficial to them, and #2 should be beneficial to those they are interacting with.

Now in today’s day and age we usually harp on education for one thing and one thing only. Yes sure we pretend that you should get a good education so that you are a well-rounded person, or a productive member of society or something of that lofty and idealised nature, but the real reason people say get a good education because they believe that is the way to make money, and money is how you get what you want and need in this world. It is true that without some kind of education, you definitely will not have what you want, nor what you need in terms of money or much of any other type of success. But that education does not need to come from a class room. It can come from what has become far too much of a cliche for me to use without blushing; “the streets.” It can from from wisdom passed on from your parents. Or it can come from an institution set up for the purpose of educating young (or old) people. It can come from many types of places but the reality is that if you don’t learn how to engage with the world in a manner that correlates with what you want, which usually means giving someone what they want first, then you will not make it, nor will you make anything better.

How this carried over into business, and therefore connects with the quote is this. He said that whether all of us like it or not, and whether the other half of us believe it’s still the case or not, the fact remains that our society is heavily Christianized. This means that while there are plenty of us that do not subscribe to Christianity, or even subscribe to a deity at all for that matter, the culture we find ourselves in has been created and sustained by Christian peoples for the last several hundred years. Whether you think of it as lasting influence or baggage, the fact remains that the majority of our ideals are Christian ideals. This is on a subconscious level and wont’ easily be taken from us as a culture, though on the conscious level we may seek to attain these ideals in what appear to be radically secularised ways. For example, both our political parties seek to help the poor and the needy. One party simply thinks that the other is going about it the wrong way. One says the only way to help is to teach people to help themselves. The other says the only way to help people is to sort of do it for them in a way. Independent of which one is right and which one is wrong, both  take for granted that it is a good thing to help the needy and they get their reasoning in the first place from their shared Christian cultural ideals. If we didn’t have these ideals then we would be having debates on whether is was right or not to help the needy in the first place. Aside from being taken over by a culture that has radically different religious roots we will never see a debate on whether taking care of the poor and needy is a good thing or not in North America or Western Europe. We will however debate on how  to get this done, but never whether it should be done. Christianity teaches that those who are strong should take care of and make accommodations for those who are weak. Christianity teaches that those who have plenty should take care of those who are in need. Those are the givens in our society at a subconscious level, whether there are many other cultures who teach that those who are weak should show deference to those who are strong. This is why men hold doors for women, slavery of minority ethnic groups is outlawed, and children can’t work until they are 16. The confusion comes in when they play out on a day to day basis and we can see that we still have some maturing to do as a society. One place where we seem to have gotten confused, as a people, and as a still subconsciously Christian people is in business.

Business has become a dangerous word because it’s a slippery slope toward the word Big business which is certainly a curse word. And if big business is a curse word then ‘profits’ must be one of the most vulgar of all. In short this is because our subconscious religious heritage teaches us that there is more to life than what can be seen or touched. That is to say that there is not only more to our existence than material world but that there are things that actually supersede the material world. And all that money can buy are material things. It also teaches us that those who place too much importance on the material, at the expense of putting importance on the immaterial are fools and can lead to wickedness. And to top it all off, we have a directive to take care of the needy, and we almost always think of the needy in terms of material resources. There are plenty out there who ignore this religious and cultural directive to the point of doing the exact opposite and actually oppressing the needy. Because our culture is rather duplicitous at the moment, being intent on freeing our conscious behavior from the tyrannical shackles of Christianity and religion, but being forever subconsciously tied to it, we start to lose track of why  we believe some things are right and somethings are wrong, but still have an innate drive to carry out those rights and avoid those wrongs. When this confusion sets in, as it has for some time our society grows more and more politically chaotic and culturally schizophrenic. Instead of the potential oppressor being kept in check so as to never fall into the temptation of using his strength for ill, he becomes the very oppressed himself, in an effort to combat the ill dreamed up in a nightmare of one of the potentially oppressed, to give the oppressor a taste of his own medicine, a medicine that he hasn’t even necessarily concocted yet. Like a doctor sues book where fictional creatures are getting stars tattooed and then removed on them so fast that nobody can quite tell who the original perpetrator was, or if there ever was one, we take what is good, but has potential for evil, and then do that evil to them in the name of what is good, convoluting both entirely. Over time this develops not only a natural hatred for those with strength, any kind of strength really, which allows for many different kinds of people to fall into the category of being loathed by a confused society that is grappling with an innate sense of right, without acknowledging its source: corporations, men, whites, the rich, the religious majority, the educated, those with white collar jobs, the banking industry, the oil industry, attractive people, tall people, popular kids in school, whoever. If they have power, even if they aren’t wielding it, even if it’s only perceived power, because we’ve kept our ideals but thrown out the ‘manual’ so to speak, they are suspect and probably got that power from doing something bad.

Business and profits are no exception. The idea behind profits though, is that in the truest sense of the word, it does not mean gain, which is n excess of wealth, of fat really. And admittedly so, it has become that to many of us. When profit becomes gain, the acquisition of more and more, the consumption of more than is sufficient, then they are tainted and not only seen as greedy or distasteful by our fellow man (usually because of his own greed and jealousy) but it also goes against how God wants us to profit. That is because it is hard to gain in the sense of acquisition without taking form others. The true sense of the word profit is to grow. When we succeed in business or in any other part of life, we often retain excess with which we use to grow the good we are already doing. Success in business finds the growth of not only the business but the customer and the laborers as well. That is why the demonization of business and profit is understandable, seeing as we are culturally too confused to recognize good strength being used well versus ill-gotten strength being used poorly, and the fact that there are plenty out there who would prove this demonization to be justified with the way they conduct themselves. But this demonization is ultimately incorrect because it cannot recognize the need for and the command to grow as being contrasted against, but equally important to our command to take care of the needy. Growth strengthens those involved, while gain decays.

In business it is always better to focus on growth rather than gain. A child that ‘gains’ retains fat that is of little use to him and often slows him down. Aside from genetic reasons this often happens because of a sort of gluttony or a greed with food or the wrong types of food which ultimately makes the child weaker and weaker. A child who grows is eating the right kinds and the right amounts of food allowing him to get stronger and grow and do even more things as he approaches adulthood.

A business have profit, presumably because they are providing a service or a product that others need. They are not only providing this to people but doing it in an organized fashion that is dependable for their customers. This is a good thing and this good earns them profits. Some heads of companies take more and more of these profits and squander them on frivolities or keeping up with the business owner down the street. This luxury will eventually turn into fat because it is neither a wise nor helpful way to use those profits. But a company may also use those profits to do the good they are already doing, but more of it, or better. This is growth which in turn helps even more people on the outside but strengthens the company on the inside. Growth and change for the better is always a good thing. Acquiring for the sake of having more and more is not and usually leaves us with less or in a weakened state in the end. That’s simple enough.

Quote of the Day, March 6, 2014: “It’s quite a rare skill to be both professional and frank.”

It’s not necessarily a profound notion, but it was to me when I first realized it. I had always thought that to be professional meant, at it’s heart, to be frank with people. After all, beating around the bush is bad news in business. So are things like fine print, political-correctness and breaking things easy to people. Business is about relationships, but it’s also about numbers, and while relationships can often require a bit of fineness and polish, numbers are cold and hard. Numbers don’t have feelings. People often say that numbers don’t lie. Well in that way, numbers are like words. Word don’t lie either, but you can arrange them in a way that makes them misrepresent the truth. The same goes for numbers. The difference is, that whether the numbers are lying or not, they say it without emotion, without courtesy, but without being abrasive as well. They just say what they have to say, frank and matter of fact.

But as I grow older I find that while I might have said that business is always about relationships and numbers, I’ve always unwittingly sped across the relationships and emphasized the numbers. Numbers are the frank part, but relationships are what makes the professional part professional. The question I’ve yet to answer is how to be truthful, up front, say what you need to say, and yet still be enigmatic enough to conceal details about your own business that are, frankly, nobody else’s business. Sometimes what you need to conceal is the very thing you need to reveal in order to truly get your very relevant point across.

Like a game of poker, its understood that we all have enough relationship to play the game and keep to the rules, and I’ll even show you, or at least make you feel as though I’ve shown you, my cards in so long as it helps move the game forward. But also like poker, it’s also understood that I’m not showing you everything, and that anything I do show you is either by design so that you’ll give me what I want, or a slip up on my part to be taken advantage of. Now of course in theory, and in the practice of most honest businessmen, the idea of the game, unlike poker, is not to see you go bankrupt. After all the world runs by all of us moving and gaining and losing and doing and creating and destroying in a big self-perpetuating network of activity. But there is a certain sense that aside from ideas like true modesty and true humility, there is an element of professionalism is only modest with respect to the idea that my modest keeps you from thinking I’ve got a good hand, or that my stiff upper lip keeps you from realizing that I’m on the ropes and that one well placed sucker punch could finish me at this moment. I suppose like most other things in life, it involves a balance, two poles of tension on which one end is complete divulgence of pertinent and relevant information and the other is stone-faced bluffing.

There is another professionalism however, an older, more noble sense in which there is nothing necessarily to gain from the situation, and yet I’m still going to protect the names or reputations of the parties involved in a various matter. Something like a journalist protecting his sources, or and executive taking full responsibility for a mishap that actually involved a few of his underlings as well. But perhaps these are the situations that so perplex me at times. When truth and information matter to a situation, how does one appropriately say what is true, while still not throwing others under the bus. If you want an accurate solution, is it not prudent to collect real data? Suppose I had better work on my poker face.

Quote of the Day, February 20, 2014: “Truth is truth. There is no truth for you and truth for me. You may have beliefs. I may have opinions. But both of those are designed to reflect reality, so when they don’t (which is often), then that’s called being wrong…which is ok, but it’s not the same as true.”

Now this type of assertion is most commonly found coming from some sort of religious entity or a politically conservative one, however usually because of their religious ties, and it is used as a weapon in the argument against the acceptance of multiculturalism in the sense that multiple religious viewpoints are accepted within one society. While I do assert Christianity to be true, I am not coming from a particularly religious angle when I say this, and that is because I believe that any particular religious affiliation is secondary when it comes to the logic necessary to assert that there is in fact a universal truth and that truth in its denotative form does not exist in a particular personal or customisable manner. one of the great follies, hypocrisies, and plan out fooleries of our modern society is the temptation to accept the notion that there may in fact be a truth for me and a truth for you, both of which can be differentiated from each other. To use that phrasing there is in fact a truth for me, and a truth for you, but only in the sense that both you and I have a relationship to the world around us and must come to terms with the same truth as we go through life.

The idea that there is not truth in a denotative sense, but only perspective is fundamentally incorrect, not only from a Christian or any other religious viewpoint, but also from any type of agnostic atheistic, or for that matter, anyone whose thinking has any semblance of logic at all. The reason the line of thinking that there is only perspective is a temptation is because from a human standpoint there is only perspective. Humanity has 5 senses naturally, and has developed even a few more with which it can discern and extract observations about the world. These observations can only be made from a particular vantage point in space and history and particularly from the locality of our own minds. But the idea that we because we can only view the world from particular vantage points and therefore the world only exists encapsulated within those vantage points is not only arrogantly human-centered, but its hubris goes beyond naiveté to sheer foolery. They are mixing up an individuals inability to se and discern universal truth with the idea that perhaps universal truth does not exist. This is like a person who is color-blind stating that true or more vibrant colors do not exist simply because they as an individual cannot see them. It is not their truth that sees different colors than others who are not color-blind but in fact their handicap that keeps them from seeing the whole truth that is there because of their unique perspective. And therefore perspective as a word is in a way, synonymous with the idea of a handicap because it means that our ability to observe the world around us has been narrowed down by our particular locality and experiences, keeping us from seeing the whole of what is truly there.

Therefore anyone person or any society for that matter is far better off claiming that one cannot ever know truth because it exists independently of our perspectives than claiming that there are multiple truths depended on an individuals perspective.

In honesty, the only way an individual or society that has locality can ever hope to obtain any type of universal truth is for it to be revealed to them by a source that is not limited by perspective. This is why the idea of truth is so important to religious peoples and why frankly religious peoples are the only ones with the intellectual right to claim any type of universal truth at all. Simply because by being religious peoples in the first place, they claim to have tires to a god or creator that is not limited by perspective neither in space nor in time. And while religious peoples may annoy us with their quibbling about their different interpretations of what truth has been revealed to them, they are the only ones that can even enter the ring of debate in the first place. The rest must bow out at the get go if they want to maintain any type of intellectual integrity.

Quote of the Day, November 12, 2013: “Sometimes you need to burn bridges in hopes that they can be rebuilt better and stronger than before.”

 

Guest Writer: Christina Beyler    

Burning a bridge can mean so many things but I want to focus on burning the bridge of a friend. Misunderstood anger, frustration, an argument, growing up and moving on can all lead to burning bridges. Burning a bridge is not as bad as it sounds not all the time. It’s cutting the ties off of someone that you may still care for but an event has occurred that has caused the “boat to rock,” for instance, an argument or a misunderstanding. Sometimes when people are so stubborn and something gets out of hand it might just be better for the two parties to stop and walk away. I have a particular friend that this pertains to. I love her dearly but growing up we had our issues. We have been friends for about 18 years and through those years we were not always the best of friends. In fact, we were not friends at times. Stupid fights and hormones will do it every time. We would have our time apart but would grow so much during this period we have always come back to each other as stronger friends and less stupid. I may not hear from her or see her everyday, but I know she’s there when I need her and vice versa. No maybe you care for this person but have been put into a position (willing) where you have become the “bad guy.” Friends confide with each other. Tell each other whatever problems they may be having at that time. A friend, should give support, offer advice and a shoulder to cry on right? Well, sometimes one person is the friend, and the other party may not like the things being said or just doesn’t understand. I have been in this position more than once. And everytime I tell myself never again, but what are you supposed to do when your friend comes to you crying? It almost always ends with burning a bridge, unless there is some compromise, but that’s rare. Sometimes it is good to walk away before the bridge burns to where it cannot be rebuilt. It’s only natural when you have a feeling of rocky waters to question the quality of your friendship. One key factor; trust. If there is no trust it might be better to move on and hope that the friendship (bridge) can be rebuilt stronger. Unfortunately, sometimes the bridge cannot be rebuilt but I feel that is a sign that that person does not need to participate in your life.

Quote of the Day, September 21, 2013: “Let’s not use the word God. Let’s use the word Robbadungdam.”

This quote doesn’t really make much sense at face value, but I do find it amusing that a few of you liked it nonetheless.

 

It basically comes from a conversation I had last night with a group of friends over some drinks. While the quote sounds blasphemous at worst and disrespectful at best, in the context of the conversation it wasn’t either.

 

Basically we were sitting around talking about life, and God, and human interaction, and ethics and all the things the tired, relaxed, buzzed people often find themselves talking about. I had posed a question about where one can derive ones should, if not from something above humans, even other smarter humans, and if you contest that your should comes from some sort of innate instinct then how can you trust that that should is really valid. After all, my sober shoulds don’t always quite look like my drunk shoulds. My angry shoulds  don’t quite look like my calm shoulds. My 12 year old shoulds look a bit different from my 27 year old shoulds. Surely, while I do have an instinct of ethics, I cannot fully trust that those instincts are the true unadulterated ethics of some sort of universal truth right?

 

Well that type of question is not a new one by any stretch, nor has it enjoyed any type of satisfactory answer over the ages. That night was no exception, however it did stem quite the discussion. Part way through the discussion, one member of the conversation was attempting to answer, or more to find a flaw in the question itself as if I had violated some sort of logical fallacy. While giving an answer he kept trying to describe some sort of all knowing, supernatural, perhaps spiritual, all powerful, being capable of knowing truth and justice in its entirety, yet is made up of love.

 

I told him, it sounds like you’re trying to define…oh I don’t know…God or something. He said well I find God problematic but I do believe yada yada yada. We all kind of looked at him and we’re like, “Dude, you just described what like 90% of the planet would call God. It doesn’t have to be God but why can’t you just admit that that’s a possibility?”

 

He talked around it for a while, making it apparent that he did not like the idea of God, more because of particular individuals in his own life that used the concept of God to hurt him and therefore claimed to not believe in God, yet went on to describe a being more or less synonymous with God that he believes guides his life and all others. But he refused to call it God because it somehow made that being less legitimate, or too traditional or old school for his very trendy definition. He went on like this explaining how his long definition of the Supreme Being was true but the word God simply had too much baggage for him to accept until one of us simply said, “Ok. Let’s not use the word god (fingers making air quotes). Let’s use the word Robbadungdam.” We all got a good chuckle, but the funniest part was the fact that simply by switching the name of the noun from ‘God’ to ‘Robbadungda,’ (a nonsensical word that we could hardly say with a straight face) he then could comfortably talk about this being without any hesitation, never once really deviating from what most other people would simply call “God.”

Quote of the Day, September 10, 2013: “The easy road often becomes hard, but the hard road often becomes easy.”

Pretty sure this is a variation on one of the quotes from the past but it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite sayings because as I get deeper and deeper into the trenches of adulthood it seems to prove itself over and over and over again in almost every way.

 

Today it comes from an encounter I had with a plastic surgeon. It was outpatient surgery using a local anesthetic so to keep my mind off of the tugging and strange sound of cutting that I could hear because he was working near my ear, the physician talked with me. We talked about the weather (rain), what we like to do for fun; you know the usual at first. But then said he was listening to public radio the other day and heard an interesting story.

 

They were doing some research on jobs and college degrees and they were on an unnamed college interviewing students about their coursework decisions. According to the radio program the last few years the most common degree by far has been psychology. The problem is that when we get out of school, psychology degrees end up earning near the bottom when it comes to entry (and long term) income. That’s because of three common misconceptions, and I’ll let you decide which one today’s quote of the day is referring to.

 

Misconception #1: Most students tend to think of a psychology degree and then envision themselves graduating and working in their own private office where people walk in, lay on the couch, look up at the fancy Kandinsky artwork on the ceiling and say, “well Doc, it all started in my childhood…” We see ourselves charging $100 and hour to talk to someone about how their mom not buying them a Lego set when they were 7 led them to their mid-life crisis now 50 years later. What we don’t realize is that we are actually thinking of a psychiatrist not a psychology. The basic difference there is that the psychiatrist is able to administer drugs and the psychologist cannot. And that apparently is where the money is, however it takes a lot more schooling and a lot better understanding of anatomy and neurology.

 

Misconception #2: Most students don’t realize that the vast majority of psychology degree-type jobs are in social work, which is usually government work. Now there is of course nothing wrong with working for the government, and it is actually really worth while and helpful work, however the government is not really known for its high paying entry level positions.

 

Misconception #3: According to the radio program most of the students interviewed picked psychology as their major because the coursework itself was said to not be very difficult. And in our Cs (and sometimes Ds) get degrees culture, that can be what a lot of students opt for. The problem is that it’s relatively easy compared to say engineering, but only for about 4 years, or a little longer if you go on to graduate work. Then you are out and the easy wears off fast.

 

Apparently the highest entry level pay these days if for a Petroleum Engineering Degree; around $120k a year. Who’da thunk? I hear it’s pretty tough coursework though.