Power Words for August the 6th: Challenging Conventional Wisdom

“There’s no such thing as a free lunch.”

This we often hear, and a wealth of evidence underpins its credibility. Example: someone you don’t know invites you to enjoy a sandwich at no cost. Upon arriving, you begin to eat. Ham and meatballs let’s say, your favorite in this hypothetical. The stranger is very friendly, and you enjoy his company initially, but he begins to ask leading questions about where you take your vacations and what you pay for them. Soon it becomes clear that this person is attempting to sell you on the purchase of a time-share property in the dregs of Florida. You pass on the offer, but the lunch has proven to be anything but free. The time you’ve spent listening to the pitch, making your objections, then remaking them, has unquestionably been a cost.

That sort of situation is clear to anyone, and very likely the origin of the saying we’re examining, but here’s another. A friend you like very much invites you to lunch at a sit down establishment. When you’re done eating, and the bill comes, the friend grabs it and insists he pay. You say he doesn’t have to, but he won’t hear of it, and gives his credit card to the server. You think nothing of it, besides what a good friend he is. His name is Ralph, one of your favorite names in this hypothetical, but that isn’t necessary to remember.

A month later, Ralph invites you to lunch again. At first nothing is any different. You discuss various things and share some laughs, and eat your respectable dishes. However, when the bill comes, Ralph makes no motion to look at it. It almost seems he’s ignoring its presence. Your best judgment indicates that he’s expecting you to pay. You want to hold to the notion that free lunches exist, so you pay only for yourself, and with some histrionic sighs, Ralph finally adds money.

Only, you don’t hear from Ralph again. Several weeks later, you try calling him, but he doesn’t call back. You suspect this is based on your behavior at the second lunch, and you’re right. In this scenario, the first lunch has cost you one friend. You seek another friend name Ralph and learn very few men of your generation have been assigned that name. You may never have another Ralph in your life.

Both of these are clear examples of the inability to obtain a free lunch. However, we cannot grow and change unless we challenge our own status quo, and that often means challenging widely held believes. So let’s take a look at a third scenario:

You bring yourself to dinner at a local chain eatery. In this hypothetical let’s say it’s TGI Friday’s, but it can be the Olive Garden or P.F. Chang’s if that’s easier for you to envision. You sit at a table for one and eat an entree. Perhaps an appetizer too. Dessert Even. When you’re done, ask for the check. Only, while the server is preparing it, you flee the restaurant and drive away in your car, which you parked in another parking lot so that it would not be seen, because the chew-and-screw (as we called in this author’s darker days) was your plan all along. Was the meal not free? Perhaps the scheme might appear work-like, but in term’s of its motions it’s just the same as if you had payed, only without the paying step.

Even if you become enamored with the technique and try it many places and are eventually caught, you will likely pay (either in money or justice dollars, which involves fines, community service, or incarceration) only for that particular incident. You will not be held to account for most, or all the other times you pulled off the trick. Hence, those are, free lunches.

And viola, we have proved wrong a staple of conventional wisdom in just a few paragraphs. The careful reader will also note that we have disproven another fallacy, that which states “Crime doesn’t pay.” Crime always pays in situations where one is not caught, and if the amount of crimes you’ve gotten away with outnumbers the amount for which you’ve been caught, this designates a profit. Thus, it is better to the bottom line to commit the maximum number of crimes.

Power Words:

Today, forget conventional wisdom! I can throw all the old rules out window, along with several laws, if doing so benefits me.

Power Words for August the 5th: Social Skills

How shall we interact with our fellow human beings?

To some of us, the answers to this question make it scarcely a question at all. Those lucky few are innately programmed with knowledge of what to do and say, and how to get along.

For others, the lack of this knowledge, or perhaps the questionable knowledge holding its place, can be a terrifying liability.

I am such a one. At a dinner party in 1990, an attractive, young woman began to interact with me through behavior I would today deem as flirting. At the time, my abilities with women, what I frequently hear on modern television to be termed “game”, was sorely inept. The attraction between the woman and I was mutual, so, I fast began to sweat and turn a bright red hue. I stumbled on my words, trying to construct clumsy sentences and failing repeatedly. Being a kind soul, the woman continued to talk to me without remarking on how nervous, or soaked, I was becoming. Others at the party were a different story. I began to feel as though everyone present was staring at me. They were careful about it, sure, but looking at them for sustained intervals, I repeatedly caught them taking visual account of me. This amplified my anxiety ten fold. The pressure built and built. Then, I couldn’t stand it.

I stood abruptly up from the table, rattling it and spilling a glass of wine. All eyes were on me now, and making no secret of it. Then came the real trouble. I screamed at the room, “What the fuck are you looking at!? What!? Stop fucking looking at me! Stop laughing at me!” They were silent, but clearly shocked. The silence became unbearable and I started to question the wisdom of what I was doing. I had to stop that thought fast, so I turned my anger on the young woman. “Stop humiliating me, you horsefaced bitch!” The silence persisted. The woman, who I should explicitly state was attractive and faced like no farm animal whatsoever, began to cry. What to do now? I took a glass of water from the table, and poured it over her head. A large man at the end of the table stood, and began approaching me. I ran for the door. Just before crossing through the doorway, I turned, and without a plan of what to say, uttered in a stuttered scream, “You! I- You all should die of disease!!!” Then I was gone.

That was many years ago. I never spoke to anyone present again. Since they were mostly work acquaintances, I did not return to my job at the telephone book company on Monday morning. Nor ever. I took only the shame I’d brought on myself, and resolved to start over somewhere new.

My behavior at the dinner party demonstrated poor social skills. The sad truth is that these were the only kind I had. Because of that, I can share the event with you today, free from the shame. When I was awakened, and began my spiritual path, I was able to look at myself honestly and start the slow path of change. Slow it has been, but steady. Today, I can interact with all manner of people, including women I’m attracted to, without explosive behavior. I am not perfect, and do sometimes make mistakes, but I am accountable for my behavior today, and when I err I take actions to correct it. I don’t need to hide from anyone. For example, I returned to a Denny’s in Sioux Falls last year and made restitution of $672 for a destroyed booth and portion of carpet, some results of my behavior in the restaurant three days prior. However, I proudly can say that such incidents are now rare.

Power Words:

Today, I can approach people and situations without fear. Or panicked violence against strangers. This is called social skills.

Power Words for August the 2nd: Something Better for Our Children

It has been suggested that the best thing a parent can hope for is a better life for their children than theirs. This is why the American dream is so often characterized by economic mobility, and the idea that a person can grow up to be anything they want.

Many of us have benefitted from that idea. My people traveled to the northeast from Ireland on a raft made of empty liquor bottles, and lived in hay amongst the animals they professionally cleaned up after. That was the late 19th century. Less than 150 years later, I am a unique voice in the personal growth industry, heard worldwide and universally recognized as a visionary.

As of this writing, I have zero acknowledged children. While I aspire to spread myself into the next generation, (I contend that) I have not yet done so. On advice of counsel, let me clarify that I have no children. That said, I realize that any potential children of mine, may not have as good a life as I have. Subtracting my early struggles, how could any son or daughter of mine hope to achieve the unique balance of enlightenment and material wealth I’ve accumulated?

Whatever our place in society, it’s not permanent. Individuals and cultures have ups and down. No matter what, some generation of our descendants to come will live worse than we did. This could be due to poor financial planning or a genetic “dud” in the microcosm, or a generalized apocalypse in the macro analysis. Either way, the idea that every generation will better (a little or a lot) than the preceding one is unrealistic.

Taking this into account, I propose the following. We should live for today, and living for today means living for ourselves. We should splurge on the luxury car or vacation home we want, rather than concern ourselves with sending a kindergartner to a fancy private school. Let that child make its own way, and live its adulthood the same way I’m suggesting. People living this way are no more vulnerable to success or failure than those in the old system. The only difference is that we can win or lose by our own merits, and enjoy the fruits of a better life in real time.

If, on some hypothetical day, my son and daughter lack my attention because I’m pushing my speedboat to its limits, all the better for them. They can spend that time pondering how attain their own .25 million dollars to purchase a similar watercraft, or whatever else they desire. And so the road shall travel on, into history.

Such thinking doesn’t make for bad parents, but more realistic ones. We meet our children when we are already grown, and by the time we reach our senior years, they’ve grown, and for all intents and purposes they’ve left us. This period is just a fraction of our lives, and since that is so, they are just temporary acquaintances. I will own my speedboat until I intend otherwise.

Power Words:

In my life, I’m priority #1. My family shouldn’t take it personally, and I refuse to care if they do.


Power Words for August the 1st: Keeping Clean

In my writings, I sometimes mention being clean, usually making reference to periods in my life journey where I could (or could not) be described this way. When I do so, I am speaking of my long, sticky road traveled with an addiction to intoxicating adhesives. Today, we will again discuss being “clean”, but in a more conventional sense.

The great spiritual teachers have always seen the benefits of personal hygiene. Our images of the Buddha show a smiling friend, attractive for his clear skin and hairlessness. Christ washed feet while spreading his message, as I recall. On television, I have seen muslims wash their faces somehow in connection with their religion. The results are clear. Looking our best is part of living the spiritual life.

Like all of our other character defects, we’re not always the best judge of our own filthiness. We rush to get ready in the morning, eager to munch the day ahead, and sometimes don’t take the most careful self appraisal. So, we might benefit from little checklists, just occasionally, to examine each part of ourselves. Here is an example, for our hair. Let’s try it. We can look in the mirror, and ask ourselves these questions…

How is my hair? Is it neat? Trimmed? Is it getting mulletty in the back? Are my sideburns beginning to look like grass on an Alabama lawn? Women- do you have split ends, or flatness (again, hair). Do you look ready for the Husband Lounge, or the Cat Adoption Pavilion?

How did it go? Did you learn or realize something you’d missed before? Good. You can travel south across your body, developing your own questions for all remaining parts. If you’re satisfied with what you find, start over, and try harder.

Power Words:

Just because I’m good enough the way I am, doesn’t mean I can’t be better, or that I shouldn’t worry a lot about it.