Wednesday, October 24, 2012

human nature

Good morning, class. Today's lesson will be a reality check on human nature, human nature being very real. No matter how hard we try to deny it, it's all about self-preservation. Those who deny this truth about our human nature, are only setting themselves up for disappointment in their fellow man. It usually raises its ugly head when we think no one is looking, or we think we won't be held accountable. When you're not around anyone who knows you, that's when the "real you" comes out. Why else would looking over your shoulder and glancing in your mirror to see if it's safe to change lanes automatically cause the other cars to speed up so you can't? Or that moron blocking the passing lane for 10 miles stares at you in the mirror, sees you behind them, knowing that you want by, and knowing that the left lane is for passing only, will not make any effort to let you pass. In fact, they will make an effort not too. Of course, the unintended consequence, or maybe it's actually intended in this case, is the traffic behind them becoming bottlenecked, all the cars riding bumper-to-bumper, with every driver being frustrated, and angry. They begin to drive erratically with much more aggression. The next thing you know, it's every man for themselves, cutting each other off to the extent someone could be killed. Sometimes, I think this is a power trip. You can almost hear them saying, "I'm doing 70". How difficult is it to fall back a little bit and moved to the right or speed up a little bit and moved to the right? OPEN UP THE DAMN ROAD, IT'LL BE OK, I PROMISE!!! but I digress... They won't let you by. It's a perfect example of human nature at it's finest. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying it's nescessarily a bad thing. I'm saying, recognize it for what it is and own it. Ya'll all do it to each other all day on the roads. You don't want anyone in front of you. I don't treat other drivers like that because I feel sooo much better when I assist another driver by allowing them to pass, or get to their exit, and get a smile and a wave in return.
I drive all over Dallas-Fort Worth every day, all day long. As an elevator technician, I am sometimes in a hurry, and believe me, if you were the one trapped in the elevator, you would appreciate that. I use my blinkers for every lane change and turn. If someone uses a blinker, I do everything in my power to let them over. It keeps me in a better mood, until that butt head blocks the passing lane with that shit-eatin grin... take a breath...
The reality is, as much as we tell each other to be good to one another, generous, and to treat others as we would like to be treated, human nature dictates to us to look out for ourselves. Although this can be overridden, it is nonetheless a strong part of human nature that is necessary in order to survive.  I believe, unless you are a true Mother Teresa, you will only help others as long as it doesn't put you out to the extent it is uncomfortable. But the funny thing is, we expect everyone else to go beyond that and give till it hurts... and then give some more. The only time we will make a true sacrifice, is when we are trying to impress someone that will show us favor, or we think there is a pay-off. This is why true charitable giving is done in secret.
Anytime you're doing anything that goes against human nature, it requires practice and conscious thinking. Your assignment today is, fight the urge to speed up when a vehicle in the lane next to you puts on a blinker, or you see them checking their mirrors about to come over. Get the hell outta the passing lane. And for extra credit... oh wait, you don't get extra credit for this, because it only counts if nobody knows, but start a coin jar. Try to fill the coin jar with as much silver as possible and even some dollar bills wouldn't hurt. Just before Christmas, hide the coin jar in your purse or bag, and go to your local Walmart. Put a few things in your cart and start strolling through the store. When you see that mother or father with the look on their face of pain, chances are, that they are struggling to do for their kids this Christmas. When they're not looking, place the jar in their cart. Do not get caught, and do not tell anybody you're doing this. This is a learned behavior, not to be confused with human nature. When you feel so good about something, or proud of yourself, you can't help but want to share it with someone, and hear, "how nice you are," or "what a great thing you did." It's worth keeping it to yourself. Resist telling even your husband or wife, because as soon as you do, you'll feel some of that joy slip away.
Compassion is a gift from God and is intended to be shared. So how do we practice compassion without denying human nature? It's easier than you think. Recognize, when someone else is being selfish, like that idiot in the passing lane, they're simply allowing their human nature to rule them. It's not personal. Probably the sweetest person in your church or neighborhood, but they're not accountable behind the wheel. Resist being this way, and drive with compassion, knowing that your good deed ain't worth anymore than a smile and a wave.
Ok, I'm beat.
     class dismissed :)

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Think it through

Good morning, class. Today I want to talk about unintended consequences. Everyone's heard the phrase "Every action has a reaction". Therefore, it is foolish to act and not expect a reaction. So, if you understand there is going to be a reaction, then why not look at all the reactions possible before you act? A lot of times when we decide to act, it is because we're looking for a particular reaction. Though we see unintended consequences every day in our lives, we failed to foresee that we are every bit responsible for the unintended consequences of our actions as we are for the intended consequences. Ways in which we dodge the responsibility of unintended consequences is to simply say, "I didn't mean for that to happen", or to pass the blame of the negative reaction to the reactor. Most of the time, had you thought about all the reactions possible, you could have foreseen the reaction. Not all unintended consequences are necessarily negative. For instance, you sort through the clothes in your closet, bag up the slightly used clothing that you no longer wear, and donate them to your local church. Other church members see this, and without you saying a word, decide this is a wonderful idea and do the same. All you intended to do was donate a few things to people in need, when in fact, a landslide of donations occurred.

I entitled this post, "Think it through," because that is the only way to foresee unintended consequences. I will usually attempt to look at a situation through other people's eyes, especially if we have competing ideas. If you apply the principles of critical thinking such as human nature, personal experience, and observation, then it really isn't that difficult in foreseeing what their reaction is going to be. Gather your facts, come at the issue through their eyes, and then try to decide what the most appropriate approach would be that would result in the final goal or outcome that you're looking for. This would be the approach used if you are actually looking to solve a problem together. Unfortunately, most people attempt to solve problems by beating their opponent. In a lot of cases, critical thinking is used, but not to look for real solutions, such as in a game of chess.

I want to challenge you to a critical thinking exercise. I will lay out most of the scenario. You will need to pay close attention to what your final goal actually is. I will give you the cause and point out who your opponents will be. I've used this example before on Facebook, and found it to be a good exercise because it is a perfect example of critical thinking. Your assignment is to look for the unintended consequences. Think it through carefully and see if you can predict the reaction to the solution given to you. Then you will need to remove your emotions and see if you can come up with a better solution.

Bob decides he wants to live the American dream, take his chances and go for it. He wants to build a better life for his family and kids. He decides that he wants to pull all his resources together and build a wood shop. His dream has always been to build custom cabinets. He has an opportunity to purchase five acres of land just outside of town. He goes to City Hall and gets all the necessary permits, takes out a mortgage on his home, sells everything he owns that he doesn't necessarily have to have to get by, and cashes out his life savings and any bonds and and stocks that he has. He then uses his money to purchase the land, building materials, and goes to auctions looking for used tools and machinery to get started. He is now all in.

Out of nowhere, he runs into his first snag before he even breaks ground. During the land survey, a very rare lizard was discovered. Once this news got out, an injunction was placed on his land by the court to halt all development on this land. An environmental group is seeking to have this lizard placed on the endangered species list. And here lies the first unintended consequence. The environmental group simply wants to save and preserve the species of lizard, but have unintentionally wiped out the entrepreneur.

Now pay attention to the question. You know who your opponent is going to be. By past experience, you know what his chances are in winning a court battle, and so does everyone else. The real question is, is this the best way to protect and preserve the lizard species?

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Critical Thinking

Anytime I have a discussion with most people on practically any subject, I find that they will go way out of their way to "win". Of course, it's only natural to want to appear intelligent and not have to humble one's self at any cost, especially if the subject is about something they have strong beliefs in or they are very passionate about. Occasionally, during a heated discussion, I've wound up agreeing with them, yet they are still trying to argue. On other occasions, they find themselves agreeing with me, but rather than responding with, "I see what you're saying, that makes sense," or " I never looked at it that way, interesting", they will attack my character, or change subjects immediately, or the popular "talk over me" technique comes into play. One of the hardest things to learn or admit, is you don't know everything, and sometimes you're wrong.

You don't have to have the IQ of a genius to learn critical thinking, but you do have to learn to discipline your thought process. In order to learn, you first have to realize you don't know. You then have to take a journey down the path of information gathering. Go directly to the source whenever possible, go where ever the path leads you, and accept what you discover. Once you've gathered your "facts", then you have to filter out your own emotions. Emotions are very important in this process. You cannot allow them to override the truth. You have to be honest with yourself through out this entire process. You will wind up with one of two conclusions. You were either right, or you were wrong. That's it. Either way, you are miles ahead by going though the exercise. If you were wrong, you've learned the truth. If you were right, you will be able to articulate your position with confidence and a full understanding of the subject.

One of my favorite by-products of practicing critical thinking is being able to recognize the techniques being used when you are being mislead or deceived. This alone can help you in any discussion because once you see your being mislead, you can quickly turn the subject back to the point. Otherwise you find yourself going down this endless path of defense on subjects that wind up having nothing to do with what you were discussing, and if you choke up anywhere along the line, they take that as a victory of the entire discussion and you both walk away dumber than you started. Another favorite by product is that you'll discover who you are in a deeper sense than you ever knew. No two people travel the exact same path in applying critical thinking. Our life experiences alone divert these paths though we may end up at the same conclusion.