How to set those Long Term Virtues


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Setting long-term goals can be tough. All this delayed gratification does not fit in with our present life-style. Can you imagine any sort of video game where it actually took you 30-40 years before you reached that final level? Sales of the game would be non-existent. Well, that’s what life looks like.

If we what we are looking for in life is a combination of happiness and purpose to total well-being, then how do we get from here to there? If you don’t know where you’re going, then any path will do. But if you don’t even know you have to go somewhere, then that’s a bit more inertia to get over. Remember, the longest journey over a cliff begins with the first misstep. But we are talking about living a full life, so it’s worth the risk.

A lot of us become involved in setting long term objectives in business.  One might think that using a business model to one’s own life simply allows the problem to take control over a larger portion of your existence. And we all know that vampires, and lawyers, need to be invited in to your life. So keep an oaken stake around just in case. I’m not sure what works on vampires. Sunlight perhaps.

But what if there were a way to try and apply what you have already learned to living a better life? Most people are involved in business in some fashion or another in order to earn income. Would applying those business skills somehow be of help to strategically lay out your own life to achieve your own personal vision and mission statement?

 Doing what you know and do best applies to most things. Certainly this would also apply to life, and using those honed business skills would make your life one of the top organizations for years to come. A Fortune 500 CEO of your own existence. And not one of those sociopath CEOs, but rather a kind and benevolent CEO. Unless you are into that, and of course no judgments here.

Business ethics sounds like a contradiction of terms, but the majority of organizations incorporate value statements into their own mission statements. These general guidelines fall within corporate responsibility. The difficulty in defining a proper code of conduct comes from the broad range of perspectives. Ethical behavioural viewed from your perspective may not have the same quality when viewed from your neighbour’s perspective. But, we seem to know right conduct from wrong conduct. After you finished some questionable hi-jinks the day before, just think what the social media feed would look like in the morning.

Owners and managers realize the impact their business have within the greater realm of the community. Good business practices suggest conducting one’s operation with integrity.  Your brand comprises of everything you do and say, and everything you don’t do and say. And we are all capable of doing more than a simple chemical infused brown carbonated liquid can do in changing the world. 

A close analogy could be drawn between the normal corporation and the nature of men and women.  The essentially soulless corporation depends upon the values of those that run the organization in order to determine its own values.  Accordingly, one would think that the values of Corporation have been aligned with the individual’s direction.  Perhaps the true happiness of an individual may be somewhat analogous to the happiness of the organization. Actually, thinking that a corporation would be capable of smiling and not feeling anything would cause most people to flee the area.

What connection exists between how a corporation runs and how an individual can run their own life? Corporations have always used objectives such as profits, return on investment and dividends paid amongst other criteria.  Can this somehow predicate the happiness of the Corporation or do we have a similar kind of dichotomy between humankind and business? Does the satisfaction of these corporate criteria also refer only to contentment?  The satisfaction of these various corporate objectives does lead to the payment of dividends, wages and bonuses, which can lead to the contentment of individuals in the short term. Not getting wages and bonuses can lead to long-term pissed-off dissatisfaction.

If indeed the Corporation’s soul is made up of the individuals that run the organization, then we could have an argument that a similar dichotomy exists between contentment and true happiness within a corporation.  This would suggest that a corporation having the values of the individual would also seek to maximize its happiness by leading a highly moral life. However, a corporation full of jerks would remain a jerky corporation.

If a corporation could somehow be happy in the satisfaction of its mission and vision statement, then it stands to reason that a similar achievement of a personal mission and vision statement would lead to the well-being of an individual. Here we assume that happiness of the individual remains an important component from the individuation or actualization of the individual.  An individual would still want to become fully actualized through the accumulation of skills and wisdom and perhaps wealth.  If an individual wishes to become actualized through work, this is somehow consistent with leading a highly moral life.  One should be able to lead a highly moral life and still become actualized.  Actualization may have to do more with the contentment of the individual and the resolution of various desires of that particular individual. You may already be happy and not know it! No doubt some would find that they have already realized their goal as being depressing.

There are numerous books on getting an MBA in various business areas already. There are also several books on developing a balance between work and life. However, how does one apply business skills to organize one’s own life? Developing a personal vision and mission statement are sometimes mentioned, but they are not mentioned in the way of an entire life strategic plan. If you believe in this approach, then a good life simply does not happen. You have to figure out what that means to yourself and how you are going to achieve it. If you don’t have a passion for work, then perhaps use your work skills to develop a passion for your own life.

If you must set personal objectives, then at least be passionate

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What better way to squeeze the fun and spontaneity out of life than to set objectives. But setting objective gets things done and remain remains pivotal for businesses and employees. This normally involves input from several levels of the organization very far removed from the reality of the situation as they both where it wants to be in the future. Objective setting really comes down to obtaining a reasonable return on investment. All activities in the business are supposedly coordinated as to whether a proposed activity assists in obtaining the objective set down. Resources should be aligned towards this particular direction. Activities at odds with the main objective could then be discontinued. If a corporation possesses some broader vision, then it may have certain R and D activities, skunk works, where creative forces could have free range to create products.

For corporations, long-term objectives are the results expected from following certain strategies, while strategies represent the actions to be taken to accomplish long-term objectives. Objectives provide direction, synergy, evaluation and prioritization for organizational activities. So you might set certain goals for education, exercise or volunteering to help others.

Thoreau’s approach to objective setting was to simplify.  He recommended having your affairs be as two or three and not as opposed to hundreds or thousands. Objectives for yourself should be specific, measurable, consistent, reasonable, challenging, clear, communicated, timed and rewarded. I like the rewards part. You should really make this something that you wouldn’t ordinarily do so that you associate your good work with the reward. I always seem to come back to chocolate. The higher 90% cocoa can taste a bit like punishment, but it’s an acquired taste.

At first glance, a business approach to life appears to be a cold and calculating way to approach one’s own life.  However, most of us are not living, and we are merely existing for moment to moment.  The vast majority of humanity never achieve their full potential.  So setting objectives can be a good way to do this. Even better, you can program any number of different aps to keep track of this for you. The aps can keep these objectives top of mind, at least until you relegate your smart phone to the bottom of the cabinet.

A simpler life allows an individual more time and ability to become fully actualized.  This was certainly Thoreau’s opinion that the things in life merely divert us away from achieving a full life. He would be aghast at the push notifications that we all like receiving to get our regular dopamine fix.

If we examine Thoreau’s objective, we can see that he wanted to truly experience life. He felt that he could only do this by sweeping away the other externalities that would distract him from this particular objective. His stint at Walden’s Pond only lasted for a couple of years, but the experience lasted for this entire life.

During this time he lived rather simply in a basic cottage. He kept track of the expenses and during this time and noted how stress free his life could be after spending $19 building a house when you had $20, but how miserable existence it would be if he actually spent $21. During this time, he built his house, grew his own food and read the great philosophical works. His time at Walden of course gave him the material to write his well-known treatise, A Life in the Woods.

We can see that Thoreau gave himself the objective of seeking the essence of life. He used a number of extreme strategies in order to get to this particular essence, and he did give a number of problems with the status quo of life at that time. He may not have absolutely determined the essence of life, but his secondary objective of stripping away everything that prevented him from seeking this essence was achieved. He wrote that he went to the woods to live sturdily, and so he accomplished this.

Taking the Thoreau approach, a good preliminary objective would be to rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way of achieving our main objectives, but what should our main objectives be once we have time to accomplish them. If something is truly important to you, no doubt that you have found the time to accomplish it somehow. This suggests that another main objective would be to critically examine the things that you have set out for years, but you still have not set out to accomplish. If this type of objective does not make the first five year plan, then perhaps set it aside for the next five year plan. Perhaps by then you will have finished off some other objectives and you can now focus on a new set of objectives.

All of your objectives should somehow fit into your personal vision. However, there are other objectives, constraints, we can call them realities that still have to be addressed in some fashion. You may have chosen, or had chosen for you, certain objectives that have a time span far longer than the traditional five-year cycle. If you have these types of constraints, or if these types of constraints have you, then you are facing completing these objectives before turning to any new ones. Fortunately, car loans normally end after five years. Student loans may take even longer to pay off.

Types of Objectives

The quintessential question would be what sort of objective should one set for one’s own life. Everyone has a slightly different situation, but some generalities could be drawn from other life examples. On occasion, objectives have been set for some individuals when they have not even been aware of it occurring.

Another obvious long-term objective would of course be children. Once you have started this objective, intentionally or not, you have signed on for life. At some points in time, this particular objective can be more time consuming, or even maddening, fortunately, this objective has certain phases, so the constant variety keeps us in suspense as to what might be happening next. Every parent will tell that the next children phase is even more troubling than the one you are presently in.

You can set a long-term objective to have a fully developed relationship with your children. How to fully develop this relationship can be dependent upon countless factors. There does not appear to be any particular formula in deciding how this relationship could be formed. However, there is always one limiting factor that determines the rate of growth in any type of interaction until you reach the next limiting factor. This first factor always appears to be time. Although there could be any other factors at work, spending more time would in all probability, be the best and first criteria to address.

A second long-term objective would be a fully functional relationship with your significant other. There are countless books on this topic, and I would suggest reading one or more of them.  By continuously reading, you can obtain the necessary context to all of the other conflicting recommendations.  

To say that he or she is not doing something or is doing too much of something can simply prevent you from achieving the full relationship that you truly desire. Perhaps you’re holding back or holding onto something.  If you’re waiting for an invitation stop waiting for one1.  Simply start doing whatever it is you’re thinking about assuming of course that it fits in with your larger value system.  

Possible Objectives

Having a fully actualized relationship with my significant other and our children.

Having a fully actualized life.

Avoiding matters that prevent me from achieving these first two objectives.

Reducing the constraints that the form my reality during this phase of my life.

This brings us to the question as to how many objectives can a person carry at any one time. We can look into anyone’s smart device and we will undoubtedly find dozens of things that have to be done, and we would not find one true-life objective. These activities are important, but they can fritter away a true life.

Somewhere between 1 and 10 objectives at any one times seems to be somewhat appropriate. Of course, you could have just one objective;

I will live life.

However, if this objective is not fleshed out a bit more, then one might not be completely sure if they are working towards this objective or not. Adding a few more objectives can fill in the potential list of activities that are useful in accomplishing our main objective.

The effects of objective planning for the human equation can be seen in any number of areas, but the effects are more clearly seen where someone has greater control of all of the extraneous variables. Training for a marathon requires rigorous training for at least a year prior to the event. This training can be done in less time, but similar to simply falling off a cliff, the end result is not as pleasing. However, once the objective becomes set in your mind, you merely have to elect a date in the future, and the training schedule can be developed for your individual ability.

This sort of example occurs all of the time when individuals set objectives strictly for themselves. You can see other examples of single parents returning to school after a long absence to finish or start their education. They certainly see themselves as being able to improve their present condition.

However, if we broaden our objective setting to include other variables, then we can see the difficulties. Your objective of finding a relationship, or improving the one that you are in, involves the greatest of variables, another human being; the most enigmatic of variables you could possibly find. If you set this as an objective, then any number of activities can be directed towards accomplishing this.

Finding a relationship initially starts with going to where to where the people. Your specific activities of only going directly back to your home or apartment appears to be inconsistent with actually interacting with people. If you want a better relationship with your existing significant other, again this involves actually getting up and interacting with him or her. Once again your activities vetted through this screen of objective setting. Perhaps going to the bar after work is somehow inconsistent with this objective. No doubt this is the way this type of activity is viewed by your significant other.

Continuing this line of thought, we can see that setting objectives on a broader scale becomes more problematic and challenging. Others might not see problems, but only challenges. Certainly, others would see only problems, and they would also see the optimistic types that only see challenges as one more problem. However, we can see the broader scale where entire communities and cities have been turned around; galvanized around certain events. One does not have to look farther than the situation of a lost child. Entire communities can set out to look for this child. Everyone can identify with this objective.

Recently, entire countries have been turned around from a cultural perspective. The U.S. civil rights movement centered on several individuals as they rallied for the rights that should be common to everyone. Many individuals had this objective, and perhaps this objective has not yet been perfectly obtained, but you can see the complexity of situation as more people, cultures, systems and ingrained attitudes become involved.

Objective Timing

Corporations reassess their own objectives on a yearly basis. This seems to be necessary since the competitive arena changes on a daily basis. A corporation has to constantly ensure that its objectives take into account these changes. An individual should do the same, but to what extent? Our competitive situation is not the same, but the constraints that we have to live within can change. A new spouse, child or job can place constraints that we voluntarily place upon ourselves. We then have to re-evaluate that the education/travel/marathon/business objective that we set for ourselves might have to be placed on a new time line if not completely shelved for the distant future. However, this should not come as any surprise since if we have changed so drastically, we would have given ourselves a new objective to put into effect the strategies to acquire a new spouse/child/job. Stop, look around, and that’s where you are.

Objective Size

How large should your own objectives be? Corporations sometimes use BiHAG; big hairy audacious goals. If you think small, then you act small. The bonus is, that if you think big you are sometimes rewarded big. However, the bonus that individuals that set BiHAGs for everyone else, normally obtain some sort of additional bonus, normally in the way of stock options.

For individuals, this means the larger the risk, the larger the potential reward. However, limiting your objectives to yourself for the time being appears realistic. If you meet your objectives for the first cycle, since you have continuously do this for all cycles of life, then you can expand your perspective later.

Setting proper objectives throughout life is rewarding. Once the nature of these objectives fit in with the larger vision you have set for yourself, you are far along the path of finding out what it means to be truly alive. Others have written what it means to be truly alive, and one further objective would be seek out different and perhaps larger perspectives on what this might actually mean.

Can your life provide a comparable return on investment? Remember that Thoreau suggests that we should simplify, while Jung suggests that our purpose is to become completely individualized. We could conceive as Jung being the result, while Thoreau is suggesting a type of means. But if the result only lasts for a moment at the very end of life or business cycle, then perhaps the means lasts for somewhat longer and should remain the main focus throughout life. The setting of the target albeit important, is merely a small part of the ultimate journey that one has to take. Getting there may be far more fun than simply arriving.

What would Henry Thoreau do to create a Personal Vision Statement?

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What if Thoreau decided to go to his strategic retreat at Walden Pond and create a personal vision statement.

A personal vision statement asks the most important question about you. A vision statement for a corporation would establish how the company views itself. A personal vision statement asks a similar question about how you see yourself. For thousands of years, men and women have been asking themselves what is the meaning of life. However, for a vision statement, you should ask yourself what it means to be truly alive.

So you have to ask yourself, how do you feel about your own life? If you read your own obituary, how would you feel or think about those really great spreadsheets or those pithy business plans? If you did a word search, it’s unlikely that these items would come up in anyone’s life description. Ever. Would you simply carry on and read about the more interesting person in the column beside you? If the answer is yes, then perhaps you should re-address your priorities.

So how does one create a personal vision statement? This does not necessarily have to relate to yourself, but could also relate to the environment around you. Martin Luther King did not have a vision for himself, he had a dream on how the world should be, and he worked towards that. However, most people would find it easier to deal with one’s self as opposed to an entire society.

A personal vision statement should capture in a single sentence what you would want other people to think and say to others about you. Needless to say, everyone should want to become all that they possibly could be. The Army Strong brand does resonate along with be all that you can be.  You could make this into a craft by suggesting vibrant colors and play around with different fonts!

You may be thinking about becoming a truly actualized individual, where all of your internal resources are fully put to the test. Jung conceptualized this as being individualized. Striving to be the best possible person in all aspects seems like an overly daunting task. But you do not have to force yourself to be the best possible person you can be by tomorrow. Take some time. Perhaps even the rest of your life, since the struggle is the most important thing. Or use the term “pursuit” if prefer.

You could strive to be the renaissance man or woman. Consider what the world would be like if we all strived to be like Leonardo. No, not that one. The other one. No one will ever be like Leonardo since that persona has already been done, and he was the best Leonardo that will ever happen, since there could only be one. Instead, be the best person you can be considering what you already have to work with and what else you could develop with the time allotted to you. Ask yourself, would Leonardo really be spending his time watching this rerun of a game show, or would he be doing something more constructive with his time, like creating the next level of mathematics.

If we look at the life of Leonardo we see that he was a painter, sculptor, architect, musician, engineer, inventor, and scientist. He likely epitomized the renaissance person. He easily bridged the two main planes of thought including science and art. Little has been written about any of his physical exploits. And nothing about his reality drama watching habits.

Creating ‘the vision thing’[1] took me several years. Ok, several decades, and I’m still working on it. Trying to create a personal vision in simple, clear and effective ways can be tough. Taking years kind of tough. If no vision comes to mind, then some of the collected works of the great essayists might provide you enough background to pick a particular way to create one. This might even include some of the greater poets (most aspire to reading poetry but I admittedly haven’t gotten the hang of it).

However, from a collected works perspective one of the greatest visionary writers would be Thoreau. By visionary, I suggest that the writer eloquently promotes an enthralling way of life clearly and simply. When Thoreau wrote that the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation he suggested that they had no real goals or visions, just a continuous state of anxiety and drudgery. He wrote that living was so dear that he did not want to live anything that was not life. Although his time at Walden Pond was somewhat short, he only lived there for two years, he wrote a wealth of inspirational prose based on these experiences. He provides a classic explanation of his rationale. 

Here Thoreau paints a tremendous vision of what life should be all about, living deliberately. As a true leader, he does not necessarily flesh this out in any detail as to what his really means. However, he has set out a noble objective and he has left his readers with enough flexibility to determine how they might achieve such an objective. We can look at a later passage to see that living deliberately could mean any number of things. 

“I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms, and, if it proved to be mean, why then to get the whole genuine meanness of it, and publish its meanness to the world; or if it were sublime, to know it by experience and be able to give a true account of it in my next excursion.” 

Here we see that life can run the full gamut of a life mean, solitary, brutish and short[2] to a type of ecstasy only achievable by being part of it. To him, nothing is more important than life itself and having all of the money or beauty in the world will not make up for a life wasted, or even shortened. He does provide certain guideposts to determine what living deliberately would require, and this would be to “simplify, simplify, simplify”. It would be difficult to achieve one’s goal if one is surrounded by reams of trivia. Other non-life things would have to be put to rout in order to get to the core of the matter. This also includes cutting close in order to carve away what gets in the way and defining life as a type of art. The essence of any great art would be to do away with anything that gets in the way of the thing itself that is being represented.

Perhaps the other attributes of leadership are not quite there, such as facilitating the change required to make such a change. Simplifying life in order to get at the art of life may be more difficult than most of us would like to acknowledge. This again does not suggest that taking time to get the kids to soccer interferes with your living deliberately, since interacting with your children on any level could be the sublime part that Thoreau mentions.  

We can look to see if there are any particular ways you might use and free up some more of that precious, and most often limiting factor called time. The amount of time per day is already fixed, so we can only look at getting some more time available to set out other objectives you might want to accomplish. Do not expect time travel any time soon. Besides, if someone had already created it, you would think that they would have visited our time line already to try to find out what were we thinking when we did whatever it is that we did in the past.

Finally, you need the wherewithal to make available any resources that might be required to facilitate what you are setting out to accomplish. In a corporation, this might look like accessing the necessary training and people to accomplish a particular objective. Personally, this means something slightly different. Having the necessary resources could be as simple, or as complicated, as making the necessary time available to accomplish what you are setting out to do. This of course, can be really dependent upon your own personal situation. It can be hard to find the necessary time when you have to run the children to their hockey lessons across town, or if you are running double shifts just to put enough food on the table. Your time has already been set out to accomplish as much as you can in the time allotted. These various constraints will straighten themselves out in their own time lines, and this might not be the same as yours.

Our lives appear so busy that we find it necessary to carve time out for ourselves. But if time is a river, how do you carve water out of a flowing stream? Once you have removed the water from a river, it truly is no longer a river, just a cup of murky water. I believe you have to put yourself into the flow of the river instead and do the things that must be done to become human. Carving time becomes a travesty.

Thoreau suggests that the oversupply of resources might be what gets in the way of living a deliberate life. When he suggests that we should simplify our lives, we should be simplifying our purchasing at the same time. This runs counter to the majority of contemporary thinking that the objective of life would be to gather as many things as you can put your name on before you die. If acquiring stuff is not your sole objective, then it appears to be a major indicator that you ran your life well. A proud moment in any couple’s life is when they finally get their first house. Considering the life span of a mortgage, Thoreau suggests that the couple did not get their house, but rather, the house got them.

When my mother passed away, my brother and I went through her one bedroom suite. With her moving from her place to independent living, she shed most of her belongings. She kept the things that evoked memories instead. A reminder from each place or beach she ever visited.

A Thoreau personal vision suits a slimmed down less stressful lifestyle which allows you to follow-up on the more important things in life. For me, the triskelion, my brand if you wish, really represents what I what to accomplish. Mind, body and spirit working towards a greater wholeness.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately… and not, when I came to die, discover I had not lived.” 

[1] Bush dismissed ‘the vision thing’ when someone suggested he should think of one for the country.

[2] Hobbes had earlier referred to man’s early life as mean, solitary, brutish and short.

Does the best happiness come from being with someone?

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I read that happiness can come from other people. Your significant other and friends should make you happy.  Certainly marriage makes everyone happy. Either in its creation or its destruction. Those that ride the razors edge and are unhappy with it, but can’t move to destroy it are caught on this nasty razors edge. I would suggest making a choice. Choosing the status quo is not a real choice.

Studies[1] indicate that our happiness depends upon other people. Good social relationships consistently predict a happy life and form a necessary condition for happiness.

But can you be happy by interacting with those you have not meet before?

Strangely enough, helping other people brings me a type of joy. Whenever I leave Costco I scan the parking lot to see if anyone is in need of my particular superpower of being overly insufferable.

One time I hit pay dirt when a mother with two young children was trying to load up her SUV when it was raining. Not so much a problem, but the lift on the rear lid was broken so the door was resting on her head. This gave my father-in-law and me an opportunity to hold the door and load the groceries. A two for one!

We could look towards history for examples to emulate. Perhaps we should say that we could look backwards at history for examples. Things always look better in the mirror. Caution, items may appear more romanticized than what they actually were.

We would look for a time when socialization reached its zenith. So before smart phones. We should also look for a time when fewer predators chased us and pillaging was minimized. I will have to go with Aug 15-18 1969. It was a tough slog up to then, and it has been downhill ever since then. Yes, the Woodstock festival was the happiest time in the US. Good thing we have photos on our smartphones to reflect. For everyone else that missed this weekend era, I would suggest going camping with the family with no power supplies and outside of cellphone coverage.

Experts suggest examining our relationship with other people to look for happiness. This may sound depressing for those not in a relationship. But as Stephen Still says, if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.

Does happiness come from within?

And is there an external APP you can use to drag it out of you?


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Recently the main focus has been trying to be happy from within. That mediation or other similar forms of therapy can bring you happiness. Or at least let you let go of things that might be getting in the way of your being happy.

Can we find happiness from nothingness? This is the existential option. Friends! Friends! I don’t need no stinking friends! (Bit of a line from a movie about deputy badges that I have always taken to mean that righteousness comes from within and not from a further regulatory authority. But I am drifting.) So, can you be happier alone? Or at least use that aloneness to step up and join the world.

A quick search provides countless APs that will send you cheery and uplifting messages that you could share with a friend, if you had one. So we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Some happiness aps are merely free and set out path for you to follow to reach your goal. Another AP allows for in-app purchases. This is a sneaky way for you to increase your happiness feedback by purchasing awards to encourage yourself to be even happier with unbridled consumerism. With this logic, all billionaires should be so ecstatic that they would have to be tethered to the ground. Alas, this is not the case. There must be more to happiness than just money to buy stuff.

Most inspirational quotes revolve around the main theme that somehow happiness comes from within. So we merely have to draw it out. Sort of like coaxing a deer out of the forest. And we all know what happened to Bambi’s mom when that happened. Or at least we assume we know. Like all the best tragedy, it occurs off screen for better dramatic effect.

Or happiness can be found within, and we simply have to let go, or for more reluctant egos, carve off parts that are blocking the happiness within. This journey within appears to be taking greater effect in today’s world.

One can begin to think that maybe happiness does not want to be found. And if you did find it, perhaps it was better left there. Sort of a be careful what you wish for. The pursuit of happiness makes us happier than actually achieving happiness, which might be more depressing in the long run.

Does the best hell come from other people?

I can easily recall the worst and best of times of my life. And they all involved other people. Some of the obvious picks are some people that are somehow in charge of some aspect of my life that I cannot simply get back. This mainly includes my surrounding environment. Such as repair shops. Or airline lost luggage counters.


There’s no need for red-hot pokers. HELL IS OTHER PEOPLE!  This quote comes from Satre’s play “No Exit”. Satre’s existentialist stance did not make him a people person. But he threw one hell of a party. Or rather, his parties were in hell. 

I was trapped in a hellish situation one time. Like when I was trying to enjoy Avatar at the same time that the person beside me wanted to enjoy his fast food hamburger. The assault of all the senses over a period of an hour as he slowly relished his simulated food product (Condensed Reconstituted Artificial Product or “CRAP”).

First we start with the smell. This CRAP smells good for about one minute, then the same smell takes on new dimensions. All of them hell like. Imagine being trapped beside this slowly descending smelling piece of CRAP for the next hour.

Then there was the sound. The slow uncrinkling of paper. So stealth like. Perhaps he was hoping that no one was noticing his transgression of bringing in a foreign piece of CRAP. In any event, he unwrapped his CRAP so slowly that you wanted to grab it from him and fling it across the theater.

Next came the slow sound of slowly biting off a piece and slowly machinating the CRAP for the next minute. CRAP is basically predigested, so chewing would seem to be redundant. One would think this was prime rib that deserved the extra chewing assist just to savor the aroma.

The next sensation was touch. I didn’t actually touch the burger as so much as a piece of greenery flicked off of the paper and hit me. The next touch was only imagined. My fingers around his throat. But this never happened. My lawyer would have told me to stick with that amnesia approach.

Avoiding crappy people would be an easy to gain a level of happiness. But another level of happiness can come from people that can make you happy.

Why do Sinners make the best Saints?

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The most interesting Saints cover a broad spectrum. They transition from the generally bad state to sainthood state. Everyone likes the come from behind kid.

St. Augustine may have had the most sinful past. He fathered an illegitimate child. He eventually abandoned the child and the mother in the prospects of marrying a heiress. His mother, like almost all mothers, persisted that he repent. Eventually he did and turned to the priesthood. As a nod to his party past, he remains the patron saint of brewers. He apparently prayed for chastity, but not just not yet.

Ancient Rome subcontracted out tax collection to locals. These people were generally hated by all. Tax collectors notoriously extorted additional fees on top of the taxes. Even if they didn’t, they were seen as Roman collaborators.

Likely the most famous was St Matthew. Followers harangued Jesus for including roman collaborators.  Eventually St. Matt moved out the money collection business and into Sainthood. I think it is telling that ever since tax collection in the US started, no one working there has been raised to sainthood.

St. Mary of Egypt lived in Alexandria in the fourth century. She was a ‘seductress’. Some research suggests she was a prostitute. Other studies suggest that St Mary never charged for her services. She seemingly liked the challenge.

Fortunately, she joined a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. She did this apparently to either drum up more business or join what would have been the closest thing to the mile high club. Either way she managed to seduce everyone along the way. When she finally got to the holy site, she saw a statute of the Virgin Mary and repented. What must be the greatest turnaround in ancient history, she is now the Patron Saint against sexual temptation.

St. Angela spent most of her life seeking wealth, material possessions and pleasure. As an aside, I really didn’t like where this one was heading. She had several children but was still more interested in gathering possessions.

At 40 she realized the emptiness of her life. Unfortunately, her mother, children and husband died three years later. She sold everything and joined an order and became the patron saint of widows. Part of her tagline includes adulteress. I am not sure what they did for SEOs back then.

The Blessed Bartolo Longo started off as a devout catholic. He may have been looking for more immediate gratification and became a Satanic Priest instead. He joined the Dominican tertiary and helped college students learn about the avoiding the evils of the occult. We can only be thankful that there was no cool aid back then.
All of these people focused on the long game. This means there is hope for all of us.

<a href=”http://Saintly“>saintly sinners

Is happiness just a trap?


Henry Thoreau said that the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. You can see it in the eyes of the men and women that commute to work on a daily basis. They have been consumed by the work that that they do. Most are looking for a way out, or they wonder if there is something more to life. This makes the pursuing happiness goal seem unattainable. Well, there is an easy answer. Just change the goal. If you are doing what you are doing by choice, then you must be happy. If you weren’t happy, and wanted to be happy, wouldn’t you be doing something else? Or at least trying?

That comes across as a bit mean as opposed to being helpful. Here’s an emoji to soften the wording.  🙂

Does happiness remain in one place like a tree in the forest, or does it race around like a retriever in the field? Does one pursue a tree? One normally chases a dog. The metaphors do not assist in the understanding. But pursuing something suggests that it tries to evade you. Police pursue suspects and leads. Perhaps happiness should be pursued as a thief in the night? Or even better, as a neighbour’s retriever making off with your favorite tree sapling.

The pursuit that people conduct may appear to be somewhat aimless. They shift from new hobbies, sports, religions, partners in order to find what may be missing from their lives and ask what the meaning of life is. But you should consider reversing the question and ask instead how to add meaning to your life. This does not mean adding hot sauce to your nachos as you continue to watch contrived reality TV. The term ‘fake’ has been ruined for me. Sorry.

The US Declaration recognizes certain unalienable Rights, which among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. So, no one guarantees happiness, but the government certainly allows you to pursue it. Up to a point. Public nudity always springs to mind. But back to the point, the government recognizes the journey as opposed to the destination. They held these truths be self-evident, basically meaning that it should be obvious. A little description may have helped future generations a fair bit of angst.

Back in 1776, happiness may have referred more to the Greek concept of Eudaimonia, the good life or flourishing. There has been a transition from the happiness of virtue to the virtue of happiness. Very convenient in a consumer based society if more stuff makes you feel happy.

“Greek class is tough!” If Mattel used that line, perhaps it may have saved itself a fair bit of grief and ridicule. The Greek approach to happiness through virtue can be tough.

In psychology, happiness refers to an emotional state of well-being ranging from contentment to intense joy.  The emotional state appears to be the more common usage today, so let’s go with emotion and virtue for now using another approach grooved into the population’s psyche.

The Happiness Pursuit shall be a topic for the next few weeks as we look at ways to travel down this path.


Unthethered Thinking

Photo by Helena Lopes on

This is not the same as losing one’s mind since I roughly know where it is when it managed to untether itself. I get texts every now and then. Credit card statements keep appearing. If I arranged a personal line of credit for it, then who knows where it might end up.

I have noticed that you can meet an old friend or acquaintance and predict fairly well how they will react? They can easily start with a good smile, handshake or hug, make good eye contact and start socializing? I have always admired that quality. I always make a mental list of things to do. Enter, smile, eye contact, ask some personal, but not too personal question, and then finally get on with what my purpose may have been otherwise. Of that short list of five things, I often get the order wrong. Perhaps someday.

I refer to this ability to react within a certain range of emotions or activities as being tethered. Someone you can depend upon to react or think in a certain way. It can be comforting. I seem to have to recall how I reacted or thought previously so as not to throw others too far off their stride.

When writing, always write about what you know. Or so I have read. So, obviously, I should know my own mind best. Or so I would hope. But, then how would anyone else know since I am writing this down.

When does a journey start? I suppose it does start with a single step. But when do you know when you are starting a journey as opposed to stepping out for a carton of milk? Both could be called journeys, but you would be reluctant to mark down the milk journey as being significant. Unless the milk journey turned into a real journey.

So the real journey probably began when I turned 35. Not a significant birthday, but I remember starting to read about a whole series of ideas looking for answers. I didn’t even know the right questions.

Sort of a C. W. Lewis approach. If you don’t know the question, then any answer will do.

I remember distinctly when the right question finally appeared. Joseph Campbell discussed the question in this Power of Myth series with Bill Moyer. The way Campbell phrased the question left a tattoo like print in my memory. Campbell said that we should not be asking about the meaning of life, but rather what does it mean to be truly alive.

Having a nice answer to that question right up front, would be somewhat anti-climactic. So, at the end of this story, as long as I remember to include it since it will several months before I work my way to the end, there will be a map. Follow the map to a man. This man will give you a key. Not a real key since who knows how many people will come along, so really it will just be more information. The information shall be key in sourcing some facts, leading to knowledge, and eventually wisdom.

This really means that no one has a hot clue on what the answers might be. So no, there is no map at the end of this story. Sorry if you flipped to the end to see. Good to see you back however.

So I wrote this to give some insights to things that surround us. Some of these things you may not care about at all, like free trade. But trust me, these things care about you. And they watch.

Many things impact how we think and ultimately what we do. I include essays on issues that occupy my mind and ultimately some of my behavior.

I enjoy writing of all types. I adhere to the concept that you must guide the reader as much as possible. If they stop and think, WTF, then you have made their work harder. But be prepared. Sometimes the logic process appears to drop out the bottom. Sometimes we may have to leap across small bottomless crevices. Sometimes I may tell you to run as fast as you can and don’t look back. During those times I am just kidding. This is just a story. What could possibly happen?