False Memories

Life teaches us a lesson every day. I spend time looking at each day to figure out what lesson I learned, and I share it here, with you.

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I was telling Nicole about a great dinner I had a few years ago with some former coworkers. I remembered the dinner vividly because it was at an upside-down themed restaurant in Orlando. It was a great dinner with the most expensive bottle of wine I have ever seen (a whopping $300–and I remember thinking I must have a very unrefined palette because it tasted just like the $3 bottle of wine I splurged on the week before).

Over the weekend, we decided to make a trip to Orlando so I could revisit this insane restaurant with chairs on the ceiling and over-priced wine.

The only catch was, I have never been to an upside-down themed restaurant. I was remembering the lobby of the Wonderworks building–an upside-down themed science center for families. The restaurant was not a fancy restaurant at all. It was Maggiano’s–an Italian chain restaurant at the strip mall across the street from Wonderworks. And the wine? I’m not even sure that was the same year now that I think about it.

I did not realize how I conflated the multiple memories into one until we arrived at Wonderworks and all the memories began sorting themselves out. The craziest part is I was sure my memory of that crazy dinner was accurate–not a blend of three different distant memories.

This is a common mistake well-known in psychology, but it was still strange to experience it first hand.

The next time I insist I remember a conversation or experience a certain way, and someone else remembers it differently, I will assume we are both half right… and half wrong. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.

Luckily, I always remember I am not perfect.

 

 

 

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Is Money Really The Root of All Evil?

"The Root of All Evil" by artist Dan Tague.
“The Root of All Evil” by artist Dan Tague.

Today’s Lesson: People, not money, are the root of all evil. We are the root of all good as well. Each decision you make each day contributes to your being part of one or the other. So before you decide to pay for something (metaphorically or literally), decide which side you are on.

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“Money is the root of all evil.”

If a man tells you this, run away for he understands neither evil nor money, or chooses to be willfully ignorant of both. Whichever it is, his intention is not to contribute to your Life.

Money is not the root of any evil. Money does not corrupt. Money has no inherent morality, desire, ethical premise, or secret agenda. At its core, money is paper (or digital code) with a mutually agreed upon value. It only exists as an agreement between the values of two people. If the value is not mutually agreed on, then money has no value to either side of a transaction.

Those who disavow the use of money are likely the same people clamoring for promotions in their careers and overspending their financial and moral credit. They scrabble for every dollar while cautioning you of the evil money poses in their world.

The truth is money does not care about evil. Money does not care about you or the people who claim money is the root of evil. What money does is allow the freedom for a man to show, in concrete terms, his own benevolence or malice.

Money brings out whatever was there already. Money provides Man with the means to take action on his own moral standing and trade his brute strength with a bludgeon for mental prowess and calculated risk. Money transforms bloody battles over property with clubs, stones, teeth, and claws to respectful, peaceful exchanges between two factions. It is an exchange of respect instead of fists.

I think money is one of the top ten greatest inventions in human history–an agreement among people that frees us from a crude system of barter. Without money, what would you trade for your smartphone or video game console–wool socks you knitted yourself? If you were lucky enough to have raised sheep? And if the guy with the smartphone did not already have sheep, or socks?

Only with the power and agreed upon value of money, created by and dependent on the will and honor of men, have we been able to rise from a feudal past to a glimmering future where nearly every person who wants to can own a car, a place to call home, and a way to communicate with the world.

If someone tries to sell you the idea that earning value by trading your time and effort to seek your own enjoyment in life is evil, then you can only respond properly by giving that person directions to where he can find the supporters of his notion:

“Go to hell.”

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((If you want to read the best speech ever given about money and what inspired me to write this post, read “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand. Or, for the short version, click here to read the speech given by my favorite fictional character of all time, Francisco D’Anconia.))

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Today’s Lesson: When Is Honesty Not the Best Policy? [141008]

“Is he going to be fired?” one of my team members asked about a fellow team member. “Just tell me the truth,” she said, “Are you going to fire him for this?”

I knew I was going to terminate the employment of the team member in question. He knowingly broke one of the company’s cardinal rules against harassment.

“No,” I said, “And even if I was, I would not tell you.”

I am well-known for my honesty and integrity, but there are some situations where I actually give leaders a pass on white lies (“White” lies, as I see them, are small non-truthful statements that do no relevant harm or damage to others or protects your best interests without compromising someone else’s any more than necessary). Those moments are few and far between but it is important to note when you do not owe somebody the inalienable truth.

Sometimes one of my employees, for example, will ask a question either they have no business asking (“Are you going to fire Johnny?”) or is inappropriate for them to ask (“Who was it in HR that denied my request for a raise?”).

In such situations, as a leader, you are under no obligation to provide an honest answer. In fact, it is unfair and, frankly, unprofessional for someone to expect an honest answer to a question they probably know they should not be asking.

Of course, this does not only apply to business. Today, a friend asked if I could run an errand for him since I was near a store he wanted to go to, except he was running late for an appointment. I like to help people but this was simply a request to bail him out of the consequences of his own poor planning at the expense of whatever I was doing. I was in the store, but I had my day already planned out and his emergency was not part of it. I told him I had already left the store. I prefer never to lie and will usually dodge a question honestly rather than lie indirectly but when someone exerts unjust pressure to push their agenda on you, I believe you have the right to defend your life and your schedule accordingly.

Somebody else’s inability to manage their lives or agenda does not give them a special right to make their problems your problem. We all have enough to deal with, without burdening others, too.

Today’s lesson is: be honest as much as possible, but understand there are times and places where honesty may not be justified or even in your best interests. The trick is to distinguish between those times and, if you are caught in a white lie, be unapologetic and explain your stance. No one likes to be lied to (but also no one likes to be called out on their bad behavior if they call you out on your white lie).

 

 


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How to Live Heroically

 

I have been thinking a lot about heroes and heroism. Many of us look up to heroes (whether real-life heroes or comic-book superheroes) but forget we have the capacity to live heroic lives ourselves. Some people, though, seem like they can not help but live heroically. You probably have a friend who always seems to know the right direction to take in a  morally ambiguous situation, or someone you know will hold you accountable for keeping your word or is a person who simply will not lie. Heroes are the people we know we can count on, the ones who will risk something like looking bad to everyone else to stand up for something like truth or having integrity.

Heroes are willing to risk something to stand for something.

I think most people have some heroic traits but do not put a lot of thought into developing moral fortitude or a personal philosophy. Most of us are not intentionally villainous; we just fall somewhere in the middle. The problem with falling somewhere in the middle, though, is the default becomes a compromise. Ayn Rand, my favorite thinker and author, wrote in Atlas Shrugged, “In any compromise between good and evil, it is only evil that can profit”.

We sometimes try to justify bad choices by claiming moderation–“Well, just one little _____ won’t kill me or get me in trouble” (put whatever you want in the blank: piece of cake, cigarette, kiss, etc.). The problem, as my heroic friend, Phillip, points out, is that it’s like saying “Well, just eating a little bit of rat poison won’t kill you. It’s just a little rat poison…” I think heroes tend to see things that way–putting choices in stark terms rather than trying to find the shady gray areas that allow us to get away with whatever our impulsive side fancies.

You must have a personal philosophy to think and act heroically and it can not be just the one handed to you, for example, by your family’s religion. Heroes innately consider questions of right and wrong, weigh the value and outcome of their choices against the impact the choices will have on others or the world, and then take action within the boundaries of their own moral standards. They may have initially been guided by an outside philosophy or religious tradition (“Thou shalt not steal”), but at some point they learn to internalize a moral code of their own (Thou shalt not steal because… it is unfair to take something of value without earning it).

To begin thinking heroically, you must ask whose moral code you are following and what drives your actions when faced with a question of doing the right thing? Hint: if your answer is, “I do what feels good,” then you are not making a moral judgment or following a path of heroism. This does not mean your decision is necessarily wrong, just that you have no ethical base to decide from. You are not the one in control; your feelings are.

There is so much more to living a heroic life but this seemed like a good jumping off point. If you want to be more like your heroes (hopefully, you have good heroes; I’ll talk about how to choose them in an upcoming post), then a good first step is to think about how you think about your decisions and consider what consequences your actions have on others before you take those actions.

 

What do you think? This is my first stab at trying to explain this, so tell me if you think I am spot on or way off or if I need to expand a part of it. Don’t forget, you can leave a comment, send an email, or respond via social media.

Or just go out and do something heroic today and tell us about it.

 

 

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25% More Truth in Advertising… “Free”!

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The devil is usually in the details. I love this one. “25% more free”… that is, 25% more than other 8-ounce un-named brands, not 25% more than what we normally give you.

How “free” is quantified is beyond me, since it is evident the price is the same as always. Sadly, “truth in advertising” doesn’t really exist and bad marketers still think the way to win sales is to start by deceiving customers.

Thankfully, the internet is a great equalizer. Shady practices and organizations will probably always be around, but they are getting harder to start up and run as consumers gain traction through skeptical thinking, education, and more ways to voice dissatisfaction and call shady businesses on the floor.

Don’t let them think they get away with it, and please reward honesty and actual Truth in Advertising by spending your money on the good marketers instead.

I figured after a statement like that you might ask me how to find the good marketers, right? Well… this is certainly not an exhaustive list, but here are a few pointers:

 

1. They tell you exactly what they are selling, and that is what they sell. The brand Tom’s of Maine says, “No Animal Ingredients”  and “No Animal Testing” on their boxes and tubes of toothpaste. Crest, Colgate, Aquafresh, and most national brands will offer no such comfort, or even any indication of where their ingredients come from, or what those ingredients actually do (and, believe me, you probably don’t want to know). At Tom’s website, you can find a link to all their ingredients right on the home page. Good luck with the other brands–if you throw away the box, good luck finding the ingredients. Remember, popular does not necessarily mean good.

 

2. You have a reason to like them. Okay, you get it. Tom’s of Maine has generally ethical business practices; they use natural ingredients and don’t torture mice. The point isn’t that they are a great business. The point is that you know why they are a great business. Colgate, on the other hand, shows you smiling kids and offers fake scientific claims (4 out of 5 dentists recommend… that is, 4 of the 5 dentists we asked who essentially work for us, but hey… here’s some smiling kids! See how happy they are?).

 

3. They don’t assume you are a moron. This is the “New and Improved” syndrome. As the late George Carlin so cleverly pointed out, there is no such thing as new and improved. If the product is “new”, that means there was nothing before it (thus nothing to improve). If a product is “improved”, then something came before it (and therefore it can’t be new). It’s traditional marketing jargon to sensationalize a product that is not sensational. Powerhouse brands (pictured at the top of the post) is not offering anything “free” and is not offering 25% more than they did previously, but they hope you are dumb enough to think so.  I’m actually not an advocate for Tom’s of Maine, but I recognize a good product when I see one–and they do a good job of explaining what their products are made of, and what each ingredient does, without assuming their customers are unimportant or too dumb to care. I respect a company that works to educate its customers rather than work hard to keep them in the dark.

 

 

The next time you see “25% more free”–ask yourself, “25% more of what, exactly? ‘Free’ as compared to…?” and decide if it is really worth its stated value. If the product is not worth its claim, then choose a product that is–the few pennies extra for a great product may be worth more than the “free” scam. Try to choose wisely. Don’t make the same bad marketing choice this guy did.

 

 

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The Truth About Every Body

Download The Truth about EveryBody.

I am offering something very counter-culture in this writing. It is one of the most important insights I have to offer, and I am honored to share it. I hope it transforms your life as fundamentally and immediately as it did mine.

Understand your body is the only REAL property you own.

Your body is the only thing of any REAL value in your world. Gold, money, real estate, jewelry, all material possessions…none of these have actual value; they are not worth anything only by virtue of existing. We are taught gold is valuable because it is gold, but in truth, any material you possess holds only the value you and another person can agree to place on it in a particular moment… An heirloom gold ring is only worth what you and someone else agree it is worth during the moment of negotiation. If you are someone who does not value gold or place emotional value on heirlooms, then the ring is not worth as much to you as it is to the seller.

Your body is the only thing that requires no negotiation of worth. It has all the value in the world to you, because it is the only thing of actual intrinsic value to you. When you die, everything loses all value; there is no value in seeing, smelling, touching, or hearing the world when you are no longer part of it. It is too late, then, to realize the only thing of any importance all along was your body—the very tool by which you experience and interact with the whole universe. In fact, your body is the only thing that really, truly belongs to you. Everything else—your clothes, your car, even the words you speak… everything outside of your body belongs to other people, to creditors, to governments, or the Earth.

Only your body is wholly yours and it is the only thing in the universe that is so.

This means if your body is the only thing you truly own, then it is the ONLY gift you can truly give another person. Everything else given must be borrowed from credit, from factories, from ideas, from the Earth or the Universe.

Do you see? Your body is the only REAL gift you own that is yours to give.

If you understand this, then you understand why you should never give your body casually to others. It must be earned, just as any extraordinary and precious material possession must be earned and treated with care. Honor and treat your body for what it is—the most valuable possession you have, or ever will have.

Understand there will be few, if any, people in the world that will ever deserve the most valuable thing you have…the only gift that is yours, and only yours, to give.

Before giving something so uniquely precious, consider the value of nearly any material gift is measured by a simple formula: the fewer people who have it, the more valuable it is.

An original painting by Rembrandt is virtually priceless because there are so few original Rembrandt paintings available, but a postcard of the same painting is worth virtually nothing because anyone can get one of those. The same principle is seen at most any high school. The most valuable prize to sexually active young boys is a virgin saving herself for “somebody special”. Boys practically trip over themselves hoping to win the virgin’s first sexual encounter. They talk about it lewdly, in hushed tones, and scheme to gain her glory. And what of the girl who has a reputation of giving herself to anybody that pays her attention? She is labeled a slut, a whore, and assumed worthless because of her alleged promiscuity.

The fewer people who have your body, the more valuable a gift your body is. Therefore, it must take an extraordinary person to deserve such an honor. “Extraordinary” means the person that deserves your body will honor your body before all others, will choose it as the most valuable gift he can ever receive, and will treat it as the most valuable thing in the Universe, next to only himself (because it will take someone who knows his own value to recognize the value of another, just as no one appreciates art more than an artist).

If you understand this and you have not, in your life, honored the value of your body as you should, then start now. RIGHT NOW, in this moment.

Understand no man or woman deserves a glimpse of your body if they have not earned it from you. Anyone honored enough to see your body should be in reverence to see all of it. An extraordinary person will look upon your bare figure for the hundredth time as if he were seeing an angel reveal itself to him for the first.

Paying attention to you, showering you with trinkets, and simply telling you things you like, or want to hear, is not enough. Flirting and being nice to you is not enough. He must honor you as he honors himself. He must see you as more than a commodity for a night or a month, or until a prettier product comes along.

If the person you consider sleeping with does not see you with reverence, then know he has not grasped the value of your body and he does not deserve to see your body a moment longer unless (or until) he honors and cherishes it properly, as the gift of highest value he can ever receive from another.

To put it simply, if a man (or woman) does not treat your body better than he treats his most expensive, important, or favored possession—his precious car, his hand-me down gold heirloom, or even his weekly “poker night with the boys”—then understand he puts you beneath something that is of obvious lesser value than you.

If he cheats on you, understand his actions say you have no value. To him, you are not even worth the unscrupulous behavior he chooses in favor of you.

Understand how you treat your body is an exact reflection of your self-esteem. Any time you wish to raise your self-esteem, self-respect, and self-worth, treat your body in kind (perhaps as you should have treated it all along). Care for your body and honor it as the only real property you own, the only item of actual intrinsic value in your life, and the only gift that is truly yours to give another—another who must prove he is absolutely worthy to be bestowed such a holy gift and will put no other gift before it.

It is that valuable.

Your body is the physical extension of your mind, your will, your Self. Taste, touch, scent, sound and vision—the body is the tool by which you are able to interact with the world and connect to another person, matching value for value. When your body is gone, these things are gone—value is gone.

You only own one thing in life and it is the most valuable property in all the world.

Be sure the person in whose hands you place this property is worthy to care for it.

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