Archive for the ‘Wisdom’ Category

Why Do We Want That?

June 1, 2023

Seth Godin recently asked on his blog a question I used to pose to my daughter when she was in high school, “How much of what we want, really want, is due to the ideas that culture has given us, and how much is truly what we need?”

It was easy for me to observe her and ask if she, for example, hated cafeteria food at school because the food was bland or tasted bad or if she was just saying what “everyone” was saying.

It is less easy for us to observe ourselves and ask if we believe something because we’ve thought it through or because “everyone” is saying it on social media.

There is probably a reason that even the most ancient wisdom literature teaches that unsubstantiated opinion is the lowest form of thought. Forming an opinion from a combination of learning and experience reflected on is a much higher form. Even better when we are open to someone pointing out the possibility of misinterpreting a source or a thought we may have overlooked. 

You Have The Power to Change–Sometimes

May 31, 2023

A part of my first “real” job following marriage and grad school was production scheduling in a small manufacturing division. One day I received an order from one of our customers necessitating a change in the production schedule for one of the departments. 

I rewrote the schedule and took it to the foreman. He said, “I can’t change the schedule. I have it here in black and white.” 

“I wrote the schedule, so I can change it,” I retorted.

After a bit of arguing, he, of course, changed the schedule. (In reality, part of his job was to teach the “college kid” the real world of interpersonal relationships in a manufacturing operation.)

Do you ever notice that sometimes you adjust something, say a window blind or a chair. Or, you put something around the house in an inconvenient place. And you catch yourself muttering about it. But, you put it there; you can change it.

There are so many things about our routines, our diet (not a diet, what we eat), our exercise, that we chose and we can choose again. Yes, changing habits is hard. You can read Charles Duhigg (Power of Habit) or James Clear (Atomic Habits) for tips.

One key to a better life is to recognize those things you can change and then takes steps to make the change if they aren’t working out. Constructing a routine is good. Changing it when it doesn’t serve you is also good.

Words Have Consequences

May 11, 2023

People want to be able to say anything that comes to mind. Unfounded opinions expressed to a friend at the coffee shop is one thing. Amplifying those comments through social media is a leap. 

Words have consequences. You may offend one friend. Or, you may stir a hornet’s nest of reaction. And you may be surprised at consequences—lost friends, lost job opportunities, lost position. 

Yes, we can say whatever we want. But there are consequences. We cannot avoid responsibility for what we say. Indeed, we need to assume responsibility. “Free speech” without assuming responsibility is merely the behavior of a toddler. A 2-year-old, or a 4-year-old, or even a 17-year-old. But an adult—they should be aware that what they say has consequences and sometimes we are advised by Wisdom to keep our mouths closed and our fingers still.

Make Why Your Most Important Word

May 8, 2023

Who, what, when, where, and how are also important words.

“I’m sorry, I don’t understand, why do you say that?”

“I am not sure what you mean. What do you mean?”

“That is interesting (when someone says something with which you disagree). Where did you learn that?”

Of course, when you use these words, it follows that you must listen carefully. Otherwise, all is futile.

When you don’t understand something, ask why five times. Sometimes even by the third time understanding will come.

Pay No Attention To What The Gossips Say

March 29, 2023

Some of this morning’s reading:

Pay no attention to what the gossips say

They call the wide-eyed flower Jasmine.

They call the wide-eyed flower a thorn.

The wide-eyed flower doesn’t care what they call it.

Labels blind and tear us apart.


I hear so much gossip, innuendo, the Bible calls it “whispering”. People rush to put a label on other human beings. Yet, we are all humans, children of God, made in the image of God.

Perhaps we could change our outlook on life. We could rest in the fruit of the Spirit. When we feel the urge to place a label on someone, we can pause, feel the tension between our thought and our spiritual outlook, and change our thought.

And when they label you…pay no attention. There is no need to respond. We live in the spirit and let the gossips go where the wind blows. Perhaps someday they will understand.

And we, ourselves? We will shun the urge to gossip and label about others.

Don’t Be Fooled By Randomness

February 14, 2023

Nassim Nicholas Taleb wrote a series of books on preparing to survive random events. The book is part philosophy of life and part investing in the markets. I’m rereading Fooled by Randomness: The hidden role of chance in Life and in the Markets.

Reflecting on the book, I thought of all the random events in my life.

  • I entered graduate school thinking about getting a PhD in political philosophy. The faculty voted half-way through my first semester to close the graduate program.
  • I wandered into a job in the recreation vehicle industry. Then came the Arab Oil Embargo of 1973 and then hyper inflation.
  • I landed a good engineering position, then a random article in Consumer Reports (I’ve never read a thing in that publication since) tanked our market.
  • I answered a random ad in a trade magazine and wound up in a new career, which led to a second position and then a good life working for myself. But the random events along the way prepared me to make the best of new random events.

Perhaps you can think of random events from near and far that changed everything. But your preparations could make all the difference.

We purchased a coffee mug when we visited the Will Rogers estate a couple of years ago. It says, “Live your life so that whenever you los, you are ahead.”

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Learn something from each event
  • Limit financial risk to what you can afford to lose
  • Develop spiritual practices that give solid inner strength

Beware The Yeast That Infuses The Mind

February 2, 2023

Jesus and the group that followed him packed up what they carried with them. They left to go to another place. They were always wandering from place to place. You’d think they would have the packing thing down to a habit.

They forgot to pack the bread. Did you ever start out on a trip with that funny feeling in the back of the mind? That feeling that suddenly bursts into “Oh my god, I forgot to pack the ….”?

Well, the guys were probably blaming each other as they realized they had left a pile of bread behind. “I thought you had it.” “I thought he had it.” “Didn’t you pick it up?”

Jesus said, “Forget the bread. Beware the yeast of the Pharisees.”

It took two times for the message to sink in that Jesus wasn’t reprimanding them for the bread. He used this simple real-life example as a teaching moment. 

Don’t let the wrong ideas or teaching infuse your brain and soul. Use awareness and  discernment to filter those out as you do your daily reading and listening. 

Let the words and actions of Jesus be the yeast that infuses your soul and grows into a beautiful bread.

Speak Out For Those Who Cannot Speak

January 31, 2023

January 31 has arrived suddenly. And thus ends the 31 days of a chapter of Proverbs a day.

This collection of sayings ends with “The words of King Lemuel. An oracle that his mother taught him.”

Among the wisdom of the mother, “Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute. Speak out, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

The ending is an acrostic poem—Ode to a Capable Wife. Among her many good works, “She opens her hand to the poor, and reaches out her hands to the needy.”

Further, “ Give her a share in the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the city gates.”

And again, “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.”

Does the Bible teach that women should be subjugated? I think not.

Proverbs teaches us to be industrious and not lazy. We should reach out and be helpful to the poor and those without a voice in the government (Proverbs would say city gate or assembly). Further, our hearts must be aligned with God.

After many years of reading through this wisdom literature for a month, am I wiser? You cannot tell by what I know but by how I act. And the same with you. Are we acting a bit kinder? More aware of the needs of others? More aware of the things in life that can trap us into slipping? Greet people with a smile. Really listen. Help where you can.

Liars and Dopamine and Social Media

January 30, 2023

Day 30 of reading a chapter from the Proverbs a day. Reflecting upon how often liars are despised.

Perhaps you were kids on the playground. Perhaps it was later in young adulthood. Someone gets angry and wants to fight. All the people around encourage him. They are not going to fight. But the angry one grows ever more belligerent and ready to go into the fight.

Liars on social media are in search of “likes”. Each like is a hit of dopamine for the mind. Like the encouragers in the mob encouraging the one to fight, the “likers” obtain some joy watching someone else play the fool. The “liked” person feels vindicated and backed up ready to go further.

We may think this is a new phenomenon—all this lying on social media. But literature from 3,000 years ago containing sayings most likely passed down from many generations before show us that lying is not new. It is as old as humans in community.

Yet, we also have the examples of the wise, the truthful. They existed at the same time.

Community, society, exist in tension between the wise and the fool, the truth teller and the liar.

Our choice, my choice, your choice is to become aware and then choose—within which side of the tension shall we reside?

Finding A Rhythm In Life Lived

January 27, 2023

Dad decided for whatever reason I don’t know to send me to a percussion teacher when I was about eight years old. I learned the variety of rhythms–marching, Bossa Nova, rhumba, waltz, and so on by the time I moved on to guitar at 20.

I thought of rhythms thanks to a new book I’ve begun reading this week, Attention Span: A Groundbreaking Way to Restore Balance, Happiness and Productivity, by Gloria Mark, PhD. She is a psychologist who has researched things such as focus.

I’ve only gotten through the first four chapters so far. She has gone through some research on flow, a topic popularized mostly in athletics but also in creative work. This observation is derived from that feeling you have when you are deeply immersed in something–a book, painting a picture, playing soccer–and time passes unnoticed.

She points out that much of our work, and indeed our lives, are not in flow. Rather there is a rhythm. Perhaps the daily circadian rhythm. There are points of a day where we are more alert and times when we need a break.

Reading through the Proverbs (my annual January refresher course) I sense rhythms. The wise person rises early, attends to the work to be done, helps other people, avoids fools. The fool’s rhythm depends on the whims of the moment, the vagaries of the moment, the suggestions of “friends.”

Our trick is to find our daily/weekly/monthly rhythms and live them out. Hopefully the rhythm of the wise and not that of the fool.