Thursday, 25 July 2013

Seven Percent Verbal

We are influenced by everything we see, feel, smell, hear and taste.

Maybe there are cosmic rays penetrating our brains from Outer Space that influence the way we do things. Perhaps there are aliens among us beaming thoughts into our easily determinative grey matter. Maybe there is influence from the other planets in our solar system affecting the Earth's magnetic field screwing with our synapses. Perhaps we are all lemmings incapable of changing course as we plunge headfirst over the Cliffs of Utter Destruction to the rocky, wave pummelled seashore below.

A more likely explanation of why we do what we do is elder influence.

Have you heard the saying “Do as I say, not as I do”? I've heard it of course (or I wouldn't mention it). There are studies that have shown as little as seven percent of communication is verbal. Taking that into account, it's no wonder we seldom listen to our elders. Rather, we watch their actions to learn most of what we know. Our words are getting the crap beat out of them by our actions.

The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
(16th century German proverb)

It seems we Homo Sapiens are subject to a pack mentality more often than not. Most of the “follow the leader” mindset derives from thousands of years ingrained reaction-ism; a need to belong to our tribe in order to survive. How much of that is necessary now? Very little, yet we still are influenced by the actions of those we look up to; parents, teachers, bosses, celebrities, peers, etc. It's not surprising we follow along with others since we learn to mimic the actions of our parents and relatives in our formative years.

Our need to belong far outweighs our need to do the right thing.

As stated, seven percent of communication is verbal. How can we expect those who are influenced by us to do any different than we do if what we say has such little effect? What we say isn't having the impact we hope. What we do has tremendous consequence. It is far better to lead by example than it is to say one thing and do the opposite.

Why should I care if I consume the right food and drink if my parents don't care what they consume? Why should I treat customers with respect if my boss is consistently degrading them in the back room? Why should I care if the environment is going to hell in Little Red Riding Hood's basket of Grandma goodies if society (as a whole) doesn't care?

Massive change seldom happens overnight. It usually occurs in dribs and drabs as individuals slowly change course.

One of the easiest ways to change our minds, without too much effort, is to change the pack we run with. In our early days, as children, it's difficult to change our pack. We pretty much have to follow our parents where ever they go. As adults, we have the right to choose. In fact, we have an obligation to make choices about who we call our tribe. And with that choice, we have an obligation to lead those who are swayed by us.

And... is it too late to make changes as adults if our parents had so much ingrained influence on us as children?

The only way we can truly influence others to “do the right thing” is to choose to do the right thing ourselves. It's unfair to expect otherwise. Since what we say seems to have minute influence, leading by example seems our most effective course of action.

Of course, I could be entirely wrong and what is really required of us is put Reynolds Wrap chapeaus on our heads to divert the hallucinogenic influences of Earthbound aliens.


Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Invisible Bars

What's in a name?

I smacked my thumb with a hammer, felt the zing of electricity all the way to my elbow and uttered a few needle-like expletives to no-one in particular. That I was twelve feet off the ground on a hot metal roof in an awkward position with a horse fly buzzing around thinking I might be tasty had little to do with it. No... of course not. Fortunately no-one was nearby to hear my second language (cursing) except a squirrel, two crows and said horse fly trying to make a hunk of me his next meal.

In essence, I wasn't paying attention to what I was doing. Anyone who is hands on with repairing or building has had this experience more than once resulting in bruised shins, a bump on the head or skinned knuckles. That we are actively doing stuff means we are going to end up doing some things that aren't particularly bright. Some of the consequences of our actions are bumps and bruises.

The physical scrapes aren't the real damage though. They will go away.

As is common, I called myself a few derogatory names while on that roof that probably aren't true... the jury is still out. Words like “stupid” or “moron” or “idiot” fly out of our mouths with great regularity when something goes awry. Sometimes, even when things aren't going wrong, our “self-chatter” can be negative, to say the least. How much of this is pre-programmed into our psyche and how much is simply carrying on an ill-guided, meaningless early-life tradition handed down from parents, teachers, bosses and peers is subjective.

I know I am better than my negativity.

I may have called myself stupid when I hit my thumb with a hammer when, in actuality, I'm not really stupid. At that particular moment I wasn't especially bright and, over-all, I'm actually not stupid all the time. I do a lot of things that are pretty bright though they seem to go unnoticed by me as this is the way I am supposed to be all of the time.

Being perfect all of the time isn't possible.

Never making mistakes means I'm not doing or not attempting new things. It means I'm stuck fearfully in my comfort zone and leading a boring, I-need-to-survive-as-long-as-I-can-by-not-doing-anything-I'm-not-accustomed-to existence.

Calling myself derogatory names locks me in my comfort zone. It tells my psyche I'm not good enough at what I already know and shouldn't try anything new because I may get hurt or die. It incorrectly confirms all those negative things others have said over the years. I keeps me jailed inside invisible bars in a comfort zone that only exists in my mind. It pigeon-holes me into a role I think I belong in in society or family or friendships.

If I'm called stupid enough times by others, it can chip away at who I believe I am and I begin to believe it. If I call myself stupid, the destructive effect is immediate.

What I call myself defines who I am to the world. It's the face I put out that people see and react to. If I go out to the world with confidence, a smile and a belief I am a pretty decent guy, I attract people around me who will reinforce that belief. If I go out into the world with a scowl a belief the world against me and is a dangerous place, I will attract people who will reinforce those thoughts. If I change the way I think and react, I change the way people think and react toward me.

I am who I believe I am and take my life into my own hands.

Let's face the truth... I do some pretty dumb things. Climbing a three hundred foot rock face without protective gear isn't all that bright... and I've done it. I could either agree with bystanders and say to myself I'm an idiot or I can laugh at myself for being silly and know I won't do it again. Calling myself names doesn't improve any situation. Besides, there are plenty of bystanders waiting for me to fail just to call me names and remind me how inferior I am. There's no need for me to do it to myself.

The invisible bars society attempts to place around me defines who they think I am, not who I actually am. They see a thin slice of me and make a judgement. When I do it to myself, it affects every part of who I am... even how I feel physically. By changing the words I use to describe myself to myself, I change the way I feel emotionally and physically.

If you want to feel better and stronger, change the words you use for yourself.

That being said, if I could refrain from hammering home lessons by mashing my thumb, that would be okay too.


Friday, 12 July 2013


I managed to get to my kayak junket. The wind was down a bit and the waves were no larger than two feet so all was good. (However, any photos attempted may either be at a forty-five degree angle or a series of shots of sky, then water, then sky...)

Afterwards, feeling a bit more calm of mind, I trundled back into town with the windows down and the radio on.

I often listen to CBC radio when I'm lurching along in my truck. I find it informative, funny, infuriating, enlightening, frightening and always interesting. They program a lot of things that aren't news in the standard sense (stories, insights, world perspectives, etc) and seldom do I hear the maddening drivel propagated as culturally important which is ultimately gossip about over-paid, self-promoting societal aberrations. I really don't care who is doing who or what they had for dinner at their paparazzi infested birthday party... as if the rest of the world doesn't have a birthday.

Umm... Got sidetracked by the gossip.

Anyhoo... Something came on CBC about pets and how some people view them as family. Not entirely a bad thing in my opinion. On the show, there were a couple of experts with differing points of view about how we view our pets. They talked about how we equate our pet's adoration to what we want in our relationships. And some of us go overboard with our pets. Let's face it... the lady with the Ikea monkey was (and still is) a bit out of touch. She is far from the only example of over doing it.

One of the points made during the commentary caught my attention. We have pets who give us unconditional love and somehow expect the same from people around us. For some reason we have equated a pet's adoration to what we want in a relationship.

There is a misconception about unconditional love. The presumption seems to be: if you love me unconditionally, you will stay with me forever. That's a bit short sighted and really doesn't explain what love is. The idea that unconditional love means doing whatever we want to ourselves or others and our significant other has to not only adore us and not voice an opinion, they must also stay with us forever, is an unrealistic notion.

Too often, there is a connecting line drawn between not liking an action someone does and not loving them. It's an epic mistake. I might do something you don't like... maybe leave the toilet seat up... and I doubt that means you don't love me if it bothers you. Not doing the dishes immediately or forgetting to take the garbage out doesn't mean I don't love you either. It means I'm not ready to do the dishes yet or was distracted and forgot the garbage. That's it.

We need to stop over-analyzing every action and reaction.

The perspective of what unconditional love is has to change. The shift has to be made in our minds that unconditional love does not mean we are going to like or accept everything our partner does. Unconditional love does not equate to unconditional acceptance. And, not liking what you do does not mean I don't love you. The fact of the matter is, that I love you is the very reason I voice my opinion about some of the things you do. I would expect the same from you. It shows you care enough about me to voice an opinion about something that may harm me or someone else.

This is important. Are you getting it?

We can love someone unconditionally and not be able to live with some of their traits. It doesn't mean we don't love them. It means we can't stand by and watch what they are doing to themselves or others. It means we are not able to accept certain traits because it hurts us or them.

Just because the waves are high or the wind is blowing an undesirable direction doesn't mean I don't love kayaking. Just because some of the things said on CBC infuriate me doesn't mean I don't love listening to the station. Just because someone doesn't like something you do doesn't mean they don't love you. And it certainly doesn't mean they're going to hate you or abandon you.

Just because your dog follows your every move and command doesn't mean your significant other will.

More importantly, not liking something doesn't mean they are not grateful for having you in their life.


Thursday, 11 July 2013

Winds of Change

Only the supremely wise and the ignorant do not alter.”

I think better on the water than anywhere else.

My mind buzzing like a hive of angry bees, I took a drive out toward the water with the intent of throwing my kayak in the body of H2O and paddling around the rocky point of Gros Cap. Mother nature had other plans, apparently. Instead, I sat in the cab of my truck and read a book as the unrelenting surf crashed against the bouldered shore.

I'm pretty sure I could have handled the rougher waters... I just wasn't in the mood for a struggle

People came and went as I sat there ruminating on life, love and the eternal pursuit of unmitigated bliss. Some went to the shore and snapped photos, some stayed in their vehicles, as I did, and still others simply stood beside their rubber hoofed chariots feeling the wind rush over them. We all have different paths and make different choices. As much as I had wanted to venture out onto the water, I knew the decision to stay out of the kayak was the safe one... and the smarter one. The shoreline at Gros Cap is not smooth sandy beach with a gentle drop off to deeper water. It's jagged rock above and below the surface. With white-capped swells racing across the water, kayaking would have been dangerous at best and most likely a perilous voyage.

I didn't lament my choice.

Making a decision is pretty easy... particularly when its one for my own well being or peace of mind. I know what I need to do to keep myself healthy and happy. That doesn't mean there aren't moments of self doubt along the new path I've chosen and there are certainly moments when I miss parts of the old path I had become familiar with. I would be lying if I said there weren't times I wished I could simply cave in and go back to the self destructive behaviour I was once addicted to and live my life in that comfort zone. That return to the comfort zone despite obvious signs I was harming myself and polluting those around me.

Sticking with a major, life-altering decision is the difficult part of deciding to change. It's often easier, especially early on, to give up the attempt and return to the crappy way I treated myself before. Most of the life altering decisions I've made and tried to achieve without support have blown up leaving me back where I started... in a cesspool of destructive behaviour... unhappy and surrounded by people who didn't want me to change for their benefit... not for mine.

I've learned a thing or two about decisions over time.

First, is the new behaviour in my best interest? If yes, then do it. It's easy enough to see the future if I don't change. All I need do is look in the mirror.

Second, we don't “try” anything. Has someone ever invited you to an event and you replied “I'll try to be there”? How often have you shown up? Yeah... me too. We either try and fail or make a concrete decision to do. To quote Yoda, “Do or do not. There is no try.” To say I will try is nothing more than leaving me an escape hatch to bail when the going gets tough.

"Well... I did try."
Poor excuse.

Third, if the change is a big deal to me, I'm going to need support to get through it. The odd thing is, even if I don't think I have support, once I've made a decision to change, support appears seemingly from nowhere. When the lesson needs to be learned, the teacher will appear. Whether I accept the support or not determines how far I get and how quickly.

Fourth, I have to feel the fear and do it anyway. The fear of stepping outside my comfort zone is usually the reason I say “try” in the first place. Somewhere in my mind, I believe I am losing something by making a change. My mind plays tricks on me telling me I am losing everything without taking into consideration what I am gaining (good health, better relationships, happiness, self-esteem, etc.).

Finally, when I know I am comfortable on the new path, I'm happier and feel more confident. I feel as if I can do anything. Knowing I have the support and don't have to go it alone makes all the difference in the world. Keeping in mind I am going to be happier on the new path gives me strength to endure any insignificant pain I may endure.

And I get to say, "I did that!"

Ultimately, I know what is best for me physically, emotionally and mentally. True wisdom is making the right choice when faced with that decision. We all realise we are on a self destructive path at some point in our lives. In my case, I hope I don't figure it out when I'm on my deathbed and the realisation will offer me nothing.

As for deciding not to kayak... it was probably a good one. Some paths are best not taken, even when they are on the water.