Category Archives: Philosification

Retreating

Old people are grumpy.  They are less patient.  They smell weird.  They talk about boring things and have crazy ideas about how the world should be.  This is how I always thought about old people.  But as I get older, I feel like… I get it.  I’m not tired or wore out like I always thought old folks were.  I don’t have an abundance of time to drink coffee and fix all the world’s problems by complaining about them as I assumed all the old folks did.  But still, I get it.

Seasoned citizens are the way they are… I think… because the world has eroded the relevance of the things they’ve always thought of as valuable, and it comes to appear (to them) as apathy, laziness, and a loss of formality and professionalism.  But those participating, creating and shaping culture today see new ideas as either a rejection of the status quo, or a step towards something better than we’ve ever had before.  And that has to be right.  It has to be.  Things have gotten better generation by generation pretty objectively.  Health, education, lifestyle.  Millions of people have it better now than even the richest of the rich had it 100 years ago in many ways.

So why do I feel myself ready to hop off the wagon train of progress?  Just content to put down my roots here with what I know, what I’m happy with, and let that be that.  I can attest that it’s literally frustrating trying to wrap my head around why what is new is better sometimes.  And I can’t quite understand why.

Last night Andrea was struggling trying to watch a movie.  We have a smart TV with Netflix built in.  Problem was, every 5 minutes, the Wi-Fi would disconnect.  I don’t know what time she finally got it fixed, but it was after I’d gone to bed and fell asleep.  All I could think about was how if this had just been on a disc or a tape, we would have just watched a movie, and not been troubleshooting some technological hiccups all night.

But sometimes we remember the past better than it ever really was.  Heck probably most times.  I can also remember wrapping tin foil around TV antennae and adjusting endlessly trying to get the clearest picture possible, only to have it messed up when somebody else walks into the room and blocks your signal, all that effort to watch the ONLY thing on TV.  As opposed to the thousands of choices available now on demand.

As I get older, it feels like people are willing to accept less and less quality, but in reality I suppose we’re really getting more than ever before.  At work the past few days I’ve been pulling my hair out trying to get a College Football Pick ‘Em contest put together on our website.  My company entered into an agreement with another company to provide a web platform to facilitate the contest.  Problem was, no matter what we did, it looked like crap.  Just plain awful.  I tried everything and finally called the provider when I admitted defeat and couldn’t get it to look good.  Their response was, “I don’t know.  It looks pretty great to me!”  I couldn’t help but in that moment think… they really find this acceptable?  They’re really OK with this?  Actual real humans look at this ugly off center, non-screen fitting disaster and think, well… nothing.  It’s just… normal.

What I’ve thought about between that moment and now, is that while it wasn’t pretty… it facilitated something that in the past would have been pretty impossible.  In days gone by, if you wanted to do the same contest, you would have had to print up entry forms.  Distribute those entry forms to people who wanted to play.  They’d have to go to a physical place to get them.  They’d have to physically return them to you.  Then it would be up to them to keep track of the contest on their own while they “play along from home”.  Then all the entries and results would have to be counted by hand, hours and hours of people time.  Where as now the contest is instantly distributed up to an infinite number of people, who can all play on devices that they already own, and get results in real time.  All automatically.  I guess if you put it that way, who cares what the magic carpet looks like?  It freakin’ flies!

But I valued the presentation.  I valued qualities of the experience that were important to me.  And I left feeling frustrated wanting to retreat back to something that reinforced my values.  But going back isn’t an option.  For one, as mentioned before, the past as we remember it more often than not was not a place that ever actually existed anyway.  But also the energy required to keep those old ideas alive requires more and more energy the farther away you get from them.  Like trying to keep a Model T running in the year 2017.  But I also don’t feel the need to truly embrace the new values, or maybe I’m just taking them for granted.  Where I find myself is in a place of acceptance.  That the world now “is what it is” and there isn’t a whole lot I can do about it.

But where do you find joy in a lifestyle of reluctant acceptance?  I can see now how it’s easy to slip into the character of a person who’s frustrated, impatient, and apathetic.  That’s not who I want to be, old and grumpy… and smelling bad.  What I’m working towards is rather… tolerance I guess you could say.  It’s a resource that I think you need to recharge once in a while.  So I am working on a compromise.  To complain less.  To push forward more.  To be productive.  To be positive.  However, with the understanding that I’m going to need to retreat away from time to time to recharge.  To find those touchstones that reinforce my values and the things that I feel are what make me, me.  That I’m still the same person that I’ve always been, and that it’s still OK to be.

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Convictions

Change is good.  I’ve pretty much decided.  Don’t get me wrong, nostalgia is by far my favorite drug.  But as time goes on, the more I realize every change brings about a more firm resolve in the area the change took place.  This is not to be confused with stubbornness.  Rather a commitment to the choice, and a new line of thinking that makes future decisions rudimentary.

Change in my life seems to go in and out like the tide.  Things are either changing all around me, or life is pretty much status quo.  When you leave your parents house for the first time, your life is full of change.  New settings, new objectives, new friends.  For me, when Andrea and I got married, we had the ceremony, moved and started new jobs all in the same weekend.  Three years later, within 9 months, we’d just bought the Cutlass, moved to a new house and were having a baby.  Most recently I’ve started a new job at work and we’re buying a house.  In between those eruptions of change I know there were things of consequence.  Perhaps it’s just the magnitude of the big events that makes the things that happen around it seem more significant (most likely).  Nevertheless, I look back on the big decisions and life, and I feel like I’ve really grown, emotionally and spiritually.

Not just the good changes.  When I dropped out of college, I decided on a career path that has ultimately been rewarding both personally and as a provider for our family.  At the time it wasn’t an easy… popular… or a fun decision to make.  What it did though, is make me commit to making it work.  When I was in school I was constantly making terrible money choices.  When the bottom finally fell out, it was dark times.  The only choice I had was to move on and make the decision to never go back there again.  Even the unfortunate change has resulted in firm convictions that lead to more positive thoughts and actions.  Now when a credit card offer comes in the mail, it goes straight to the trash bin.  I have no need, or use for it in my life.  I don’t have a single credit card.  Infact my credit score doesn’t exist.  (So the bank tells me).

Now, I can’t imagine ever having a car payment.  Not knocking anyone who does.  If there’s one thing I truly believe in, it’s that what’s best for me, isn’t necessarily best for anyone else.  To me life is all about sacrifices.  What are you willing to give up to get “X”.  In order to not have a car payment, I drive older cars.  I fix older cars.  In exchange for that sacrifice I have a few hundred bucks every month to toss at something else.  Or nothing else, and put it into savings.  Luckily… I like older cars.  Although I’ll be honest.  I like new cars too.  I’d love to be driving a new Dodge Charger.  But I’ve made a choice that I have committed to making work.  And if I stick to it, someday I’ll be able to go buy a new car, and still not have a car payment.

And that’s what’s completely awesome.  You can make it work.  Whatever it is you want.  But you have to truly believe it WILL work.  Could be a relationship, a job, a lifestyle choice; the moment you start to second guess yourself, you’ve taken the first step towards giving up.  When life throws change your way… it’s an opportunity to search within yourself and decide the path you’re willing to take.  An opportunity to really confirm what it is you believe in.  It’s the choice that helps bring you to that self-realization.  Once the choice is made, and you’ve committed to it, every change like it which follows brings with it an answer which is automatic based on your convictions.  And each change brings you closer to the center of who you are as an individual.

So I welcome change.  It is not always easy.  But so far, I’ve usually been better for it.

How much do we miss?

You know sometimes I feel bad for not posting enough, and generally just disappearing off the grid for a while.  Then videos like this remind me that I shouldn’t.

Old Ghosts

cpakLast night I sat down and busted out some Mario Kart 64.  It’s been a few weeks since I’ve played, and a long time since I dove into time trials.  I looked back at my twitter and it’s been 1,086 days since I put down a time that was good enough to rank in the top five on any tracks on my cart.  So that probably means it’s been at least a decade since I’ve had a time good enough to place first on any of those tracks.

For whatever reason I’d been thinking about this game lately.  All the hours I’d spent perfecting those tracks and to some extent if those were skills that were lost forever, or if they were still inside me, buried beneath all the work stress, car repairs, bills, and savings.  Of course there’s been a lot of good additions to my life too since then like my family.  As nerdy as it sounds, my Mario Kart times were a very special thing to me in my school years.  By both the good and the bad, since the late 90’s Mario Kart 64 is something that’s been steadily been pushed aside by other things that were of greater significance.

Sometimes it feels like I’ve changed so much since then.  With the pressure of being pulled in so many directions, I feel like it’s wore me down making me more tired, irritable and cynical than ever.  Changes I’m not really proud of.  So from time to time I wonder if that free spirit is still at the center of the layers of serious crap that have been rolled and caked on top since then.  I guess I felt like if I could still compete with my old self at something I was best at back then, then maybe I wasn’t as different a person as I felt after all.

Part of the reason it’s been 1,086 days since my last “blistering” time is because I’m always afraid that some day I’m going to sit down and not be able to do it anymore.  That the “old” me really will be nothing more than just a memory.  So with some mild trepidation, I picked a track I knew I’d spent a considerable amount of time on.  Kalamari Desert.  To put into perspective just HOW much time I’d spent racing this track, there is just a 0.42 second difference between 1st place and 5th place.  That’s less time than it takes a fluorescent light bulb to turn on.  This is exactly the reason I’ve been reluctant to race tracks like this because unless I really am as good as I used to be, there’s no chance I’ll ever have of ranking in the top 5.

My first attempt.

My first run through was pretty far off the mark.  Relatively at least.  When you start getting picky, finding 2 seconds to shave off somewhere can get pretty tricky.  But I did notice that my third lap was in the ballpark of my best lap ever.  So I felt like getting on the board was achievable, especially since I was literally picking this up cold after ages.

My second attempt.

After just my second run, I was really feeling good.  My third lap was slower, but I’d picked up big time on laps one and two.  Heck, over all I was just a half a second off  5th place and I knew I’d made some mistakes during the run.  If I could just correct those, I could be on the board easily.  Heck, maybe three runs would be all it would take and my skills had virtually never left me.  Hell, maybe a new personal best was in store for me, all on just my 3rd run!

Nope.

What followed in the 4th, 5th… 12th runs were waves of frustration.  As I’d try to get more aggressive on each lap to cut into that time, I’d push just a little too far and make a mistake.   I’d only finish all three laps maybe one out of every 5 attempts or so.  But you know what, I wasn’t too bummed by it, because this was exactly how I used to play.  In fact these exact scenarios used to infuriate the hell out of me.  (Maybe I wasn’t so free and cheery as I’d like to think I used to be).  Actually… I think Mario Kart Time Trials is the only game that literally made me throw controllers.  I would start, restart, start, race, restart, start race finish… restart… all until my thumb was literally raw.  So to think I just cranked out these times at will is far from reality.

Then finally after about an hour of racing this track.  This one track.  I finally did it.

Probably my 25th attempt counting restarts.

I’d never been more happy to get 4th place.  Only 0.16 seconds away from 1st place.  I did try a couple more runs to see if I could crank out a 1st place.  But honestly, after two runs and it not happening, I didn’t even want to keep going.  As lame as this is, part of me didn’t want fell my old 1st place time because of all the work past me had put in to get it.  WTF is wrong with my brain?  The motivation this whole time was to prove that I’m still the same Matt I’ve always been, but when I have a chance to even be better I draw a line.  I’ve gotta be nuts.

So someday I’ll beat that time.  Maybe it will take another 1,000 days, but I hope not.  I was thinking today about playing and caught myself saying I didn’t need to be playing it two days in a row because of all the other things I needed and wanted to do.  Which is exactly what I’ve been telling myself for years that brought about this blog post today.  So you know what.  To hell with that mindset.  If I have the time, and I want to play Mario Kart 64… or ANY other game for that matter.  I’m just going to do it.  Otherwise I end up convincing myself why I shouldn’t and end up doing something I enjoy less. I’m going to quit over thinking all this crap (see previous 1,000 words) and just have some damn fun.  Time to go beat some old ghosts… in Mario Kart that is.

Phones

I think it made #1 in my list of Top Ten Most Annoying Technological Advances… the Cell Phone.  I cringe every time it rings or I get a text for fear that I’m getting called into work… But most of all it has fundamentally changed how we interact with each other and not for the better.

This past weekend we went to Andrea’s sister’s house.  It’s about a 2 hour drive to get there.  At one point in the evening we are lounging around in the living room the TV is on and I’m vaguely paying attention what is on… when I stop and realize that nobody is talking.  There we sat, Andrea, her sister and her niece… all on their phones.  We’d traveled all the way down to see each other… and none of them were even looking at each other.  Sure they were aware of each others’ presence… but each in their own little bubble.  I was as alone in that room as if I were literally alone…

Now, I’m sure I’m guilty of it at times too… so I don’t want to say I’m holier than thou…  in fact, I partake in it with all the mundane crap I post on Twitter.   But I think there’s definitely a huge issue when we’re missing what’s really happening right in front of us, because we have our noses buried in an LCD screens.

Since that moment, this is another thing that I’ve grown to appreciate about Luke.  He is EVERYTHING about what’s happening right now in the real world.  And if there isn’t anything happening… he whips up something in his imagination… or just screams to let you know he wants to go play and DO something.

We should all be screaming though.  I can’t believe we allow ourselves to be pacified by these short little bursts of “intestingness”.  Yeah, I made that word up.  But really, you check to see if there’s anything new…  What’s interesting?  A quick smash and grab emotional fix.  But the gratification burns out as quickly as it was consumed.  So you come back for more quick hits, again and again.

What are the long term consequences of this behavior?  At best, we’ve just wasted hours and days of our lives on something that has absolutely no lasting value.  How many things can you remember that you read on Facebook today?  Yesterday?  A week ago?  A year ago?  How much time have you spent using social media in those same time frames?  At worst I think we are robbing ourselves of true life experiences.  The kind of experiences that shape us as a person, give us our personality, and make a richer and more meaningful existence.

Maybe I’m just being over dramatic.  But I struggle daily with trying to find the time to not only be a responsible adult, parent, husband, co-worker and friend… but also to do the things I truly want to do.  I place a high value on my own time.  To think of that time gone, lost forever, never to have back… bothers me a bit.   The fact that others have such disregard for what their own time is worth… frightens me.  I don’t want to be 85 and wish that I’d taken the time to write a story, or build a project car, or whatever it is you’ve always thought about doing.  Because someday for you… for me… for every one of us… it WILL be too late.

Please don’t settle for being pacified.  Be amazing.  Be awesome.  Be happy, justified by your own measure and expectations, and not by what others have “pinned’ or how many “likes” you’ve received.  Start something today.  Because if you don’t, you’ll blink and wish you had a decade ago.

Predictable People

I like to think that one of my more refined (and useful) skills is the ability to figure people out rather quickly.  For the most part people are very simple creatures, largely predictable.  Once you figure out how they respond to certain inputs, it’s safe to say they’ll usually respond similarly in similar situations.  If you’re able to pick up on those tendencies, you can go as far as to emphasize certain inputs to… erm… manipulate the outcome.  For the most part people are inputs and outputs.

I’m not saying I’m manipulative… I usually choose to just observe.

Honestly I find it disappointing that most people are so simple and 2-dimensional.  Feed them something they love, and they’ll re-regurgitate it right back to you.  Ask them why they love it and they say “I don’t know, I just always have.”  Feed them something they hate, and they’ll parrot every opposing argument they’ve ever seen, heard or read on the internet.  Ask them about something neutral, and they just don’t care.

All of the most interesting people I’ve come across in my life (which probably total less than 8) share two things in common.  First and foremost, they have deep convictions and feelings about the things they consider relevant.  And second, those convictions are rarely unsolicited, because those convictions aren’t reliant upon the acceptance of others.  They are wholly their own. Both of those traits are probably my most respected qualities in a person.  The ability to form your own thoughts, be passionate about them, and not require validation.

Because your thoughts are your own should be validation enough.  Should someone disagree with you, what does it matter? If you think something is “stupid” or “awesome” because someone else did (or didn’t), that’s not conviction, that’s influence.  I don’t mean to say you should be unique for unique’s sake; it’s absolutely fine to share similar feelings as others.  It is how you arrive to those feelings that matters.

Don’t confuse a strong conviction with ignorance though.  One of the most powerful conversations I remember having with someone was talking with a friend about salvation.  You may or may not be religious, but the conversation below is a great example of what I’m talking about.

She said, “Do you know you are going to heaven when you die?”

“Absolutely,” I said.

“How do you know for sure?”

“Because I believe 100% that Jesus lived and died on the cross for my sins.  That as the Son of God, His sacrifice is enough to cover the sins of all humanity, including my own,” I said with great confidence.

“You think believing is all it takes to be saved?” she asked.

“I do.  When I stand before the Lord I can say I believe with all my soul that Jesus saved me.”

Then she caught me off guard when she said, “I would rather stand before the Lord and tell him that I did everything I could to know for sure that Jesus saved me.”

I felt a bit ignorant in that moment.  I believed I was saved, because that’s what I was told I had to do.  Just believe.  She made me realize that just because I choose to believe something doesn’t make it real in and of itself.  That what is truth is truth regardless of what one chooses to believe.  That that conviction needed to come from personal revelation through action.  (James 2:14-17)  Those are the kinds of thoughts that I find alluring.

So, honestly I’m rarely that “interesting” person I’ve been talking about.  I’m pretty predictable and unsolicited myself a lot of the times.  But I try to keep an awareness of it about me. I try to be my own person and do what’s best for my family and me, but also realize that my way isn’t necessarily the best way for anyone else.

We are all unique individuals.  Being different isn’t something we should feel awkward about.  You should celebrate it!  Don’t let conformism take away one of the greatest personal freedoms you’ll ever possess, and that is the freedom of individual thought.

My Philosophy on Collecting

Geeze, how many copies of Madden are in that picture?

I like watching videos on YouTube of other people’s video game collections.  There are so many different ways to collect games.  Some people go for every game ever released.  Some people collected sealed, never opened games.  Some collect only for a particular brand.  Some like to import.  Some people like collecting merchandise.  And some people go for the really rare and expensive stuff.  Every collector is probably a little bit of all those things.

I appreciate the most extreme collectors on a preservation level.  I respect the people that try to collect games and systems that are complete with all the boxes and materials that would have been included when new.  Without their eccentric obsession, knowing exactly what documentation came with the original Atari 2600, for example, would be impossible now.  99% of people will say, “Who cares?” but if you want to know what something was like “when it was new” as opposed to “when it was garage saled”, then keeping this stuff intact is the only way.  It’s the nuances of history, but it is history none-the-less.

I’m not sure when I began considering myself a “collector” of video game junk.  For the most part, my stuff is just amassed through purchases over the years and I’ve never gotten rid of it.  The only game I’ve ever gotten rid of purposely, was Yoshi’s Story for the N64.  But for the most part gaming has just been a past-time I have enjoyed and blown my disposable income on.  Over the years I have ended up with quite a bit of stuff.  To me it just shows that I’m old.

But I guess I crossed over the line to collector when I started hoarding all these brand new Nintendo 64 controllers.  Since I bought them they have done nothing but sit in their boxes on my shelf, never being played with.  Dissatisfied with third party N64 controllers, my original plan was to use them as my current wore out.  Most of them I acquired for around $30 which is about what they costed back when they were on the market anyway, so using them wouldn’t feel that bad.  But it’s like that nice bottle of wine.  The one that you’re saving for some really special occasion, and every special occasion that comes along, just doesn’t feel quite special enough… so that super special bottle never even gets drank.  That’s when I realized what I was.

So all of a sudden, my 25 years of video game purchases are now a “collection” so I’ve labeled it.  Now I feel like I have to establish some guide lines.  Mostly to set some limits for myself.  Because when you are a “collector” that just means the amount of money you can spend on old junk instantly loses all reason.  If you’ve got the cash to blow, you can buy a certified, sealed copy of “Pinball” for the NES for $19,999.99.  That’s only $19,999.00 more than I paid for my loose cartridge of the same game a year ago.

It's yours for $19,999.99!

It’s yours for $19,999.99!

It’s yours for only $00,000.99!

So what’s the difference between the two?  Well, there’s only one difference that matters.  You can ACTUALLY PLAY one of them.  Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the $20k version for what it is.  A pure un-altered time warp.  Maybe the only one left in the world.  Sealed behind a plastic enclosure that just as well be a temporal barrier that is impossible to traverse.  And if only two people decide they want it… then it has value.  But one thing is for sure.  If you want to play the game you definitely don’t want that one.  And when it gets right down to it, I’m all about playing my games.

So whatever it is that I happen across, whether its the Vectrex, NES Pinball, or the Wii U, I want to make sure it’s something that I feel like I or anyone that comes over, can pickup and play.  So it should work reasonably well, but not be so pristine that actually using it destroys what it is.  To me the nostalgia of this stuff comes from playing it, not looking at it.

I like to make sure things are as original as possible.  I never got into emulators, because there were always little differences that took away from the experience.  Don’t get me wrong, you could go to great lengths and get very close to the original experience.  But nothing replaces blowing in a cartridge, sliding it into an NES and hearing that springy click as you push the cart down into the system.  The feeling of the original controller in your hand and knowing you don’t have the ability to quick save at any moment.  For me it’s all about being able to shut everything else out, and fore that brief moment, you might be able to convince yourself that it is 1987 again.

That’s where the worth in my collection comes from if you ask me.  Not in its monetary value.  But it’s ability to transport you to another time.  To actually pass through that temporal wormhole and at least let a part of you exist in that world that used to be.  When you’re playing an old game, you remember how simple life used to be.

I really enjoyed growing up, and I have vowed as I get older, to not forget what it was like to be a kid.  Now that I have a little guy of my own it feels important to me that he is able to do the same thing.  I don’t expect him to care about the same things I care about.  I want him to make his own memories.  But I do hope he learns to value his experiences the same way I do.  You can easily get caught up in the desire for more “stuff”.  But in the end, it’s only the experiences that really matter.

So maybe I should finally open up the box on one of those N64 controllers and lay down some blistering Mario Kart 64 times.

I’ll think about it.

Too late to blog

Aye carrumba.  I think that’s how you type it.  It’s far too late to be up doing this.  1am in fact.  Tomorrow I’ll be staring at the computer screen at work, eyes glazed over and thinking about how my eternal goal of setting up some kind of Utopian sleep schedule may never be attained.  Though if it where attainable, it wouldn’t be Utopian then would it.  Oh should I have such clarity of mind tomorrow at 3:17pm.

Today was Andrea and I’s 3rd wedding anniversary.  It was astoundingly unremarkable.  We had plans of going out to eat in Hays and making a deal of it.  But after we got home following a few kinks in the plan… it just seemed so forced to me.  Whether Andrea felt the same, I’m not sure.  But we decided to postpone the festivities.  We had a really awesome “breakfast for supper” and spent some time together just talking.  The whole time I was thinking about how this wasn’t really an anniversary, it was just another day… but BEING on our anniversary I couldn’t help but think of how much I LOVED being with her… every day.

She drifted off to sleep early, busy growing a baby, you know.  And I had some things to do.  I was waiting on some video to encode for work and somehow stumbled upon this story.  I had forgotten I’d even written it, and forgotten most of the things I had written about.  As I read through what was an unusually coherent story for me, I really reflected on where I’ve been.  Where I am now.  And how much I have (and haven’t) grown up.

You know there aren’t any chapters in life.  It’s all such a slow process that you don’t even notice the time that’s passed until you lift your head up from the page you happen to currently be writing and look at everything you’ve already “written”.  And you have that “holy crabcakes” moment where you think “I’ve been so deeply consumed with what’s been right in front of me for so long I’ve lost track of all that I’ve done“.  It was amazing to read that old story and think that that really was me.  And to recall those decisions I made at that time having no f’ng clue what all would happen in the next seven years.

The sobering thought for me is that I had a plan then.  Probably a plan with even greater clairvoyance than the plan I have now for life.  Remarkably much of what was planted back then has blossomed now and continues to grow.  Andrea and I are married 3 years, and Luke could conceivably be here any day now.  I’m still in radio after quite a bit of adversity and some really scary job moves.  If you asked me if I am where I thought I would be by now… I probably couldn’t give you a straight answer.  I’m somewhat where I expected to be, but got here ENTIRELY unlike anything I ever dreamed of.  Certainly a path I couldn’t have planned for, yet somehow walking distance from the original course.

As I read that it brought back a lot of personal thoughts about myself of the sort you never really share with people.  Not the dark or embarrassing kind.  The kind you don’t share because when people ask “How you been” they’d really rather not know anyway.  “Doing well” is efficient and expected in these encounters.  Had they or I been up for it, I could have opened with the oft overused, “I HAVE been pretty shitty and confused, but right now I feel quite effervescent so please don’t feel awkward.  I can only hope you are better than you have been as well!

I feel like I’ve grown… A LOT in seven years.  More mature, confident and determined than the clueless kid with a positive attitude I was back then.  But you ask me where I’ll be seven years from NOW, and I feel just as apprehensive, courageous and positive as I did back then.  I’m still intimidated about how I’m going to provide a living, now not just for myself, but my family.  How to grow in my career as to be a more valuable team member, and how to expand my skills should god forbid something unforeseen head my way.  If history is any indication you can be assured it will.  As intimidating as it all is, knowing what challenges have already come and gone, and how even the monstrously tough decisions did little in the way of straying us from our original path, it’s hard to be scared.

What I love about today, is how exciting tomorrow sounds. Know I can’t wait for tomorrow, to see what happens. And to be there when it does!

Practice vs. Predisposition

I knew someone growing up that always insisted that they, I or anyone could be just as good as anyone else given the right amount of effort and practice.  I rather, postulated that some are naturally gifted with certian talents and that neither she, I or anyone else would EVER be as good as them given equal amounts of effort and practice.

I submit to the court exhibit A:  A 5 year old drummer

This kid has already surpassed my skills as a drummer.  I’m not terrible, I’m not good.  I’m probably smack dab in the middle of the bell curve.  Lil’ Johnah there has a bright future ahead of him, because with plenty of practice he could potentially be the most phenomenal percussionist the world has ever seen.  Me?  Well if I practice long and hard enough, I could surely be good enough to be a professional drummer.  But I don’t know anyone who in their right mind would consider me a phenom.

I don’t want to short effort and ethic for achieving goals.  That’s not what this is about.  But just to lay to rest an old argument that we aren’t all created QUITE equal.  You have some God given abilities somewhere that others don’t.  Find ’em and use ’em!  Mine just happen to be in Mario Kart.  Haha!

Getting what you want. (aka Guaranteed Happiness)

One of the sites I get to enjoy regularly via my Google Reader is lifehacker.com.  They tend towards the techy side but they offer a lot of clever insights on handy little “Life Hacks” that may or may not be useful.  One that popped up today was “Negotiate Anything“.  Every once in a while I run across something or somebody that kinda re-enforces my beliefs and helps me understand a bit more about how things work, and how I can use my abilities to make them work more in my favor.  In this world you can’t have everything instantly, but with a little careful strategy you can tilt the table in your favor and have a few more things go your way than those that might not.

The Lifehacker article I linked to above talks about Herb Cohen.  Honestly I’d never heard of the guy.  But supposedly he’s the “defacto” negotiator.  I watched the video in the article and a lot of what he said really resonated with me (I guess it’s that Althouse blood, hehe).  He says the three variables in negotiation are power, time, and information.  I’d never really thought of it like that, but when I’m “negotiating” those three things are what I focus on, I just never really thought about it like that.  I kinda just went on “instinct” I guess (again, thanks Dad for those genes).

You might think about your “negotiation skills” and you think about buying a car or a house, or interviewing for a job.  But if you think about it, pretty much every decision in your life is a negotiation.  Will I do this or not? It all depends on whether you agree with the other person.  Even when you don’t think there’s another person there.  For instance say you’re hungry and a Big Mac would REALLY hit the spot.  If I asked you right now what a Big Mac cost you probably couldn’t tell me.  But you know if you rolled up to the drive through window and they said “Big Mac’s are $15 today.”  You’d say to hell with that no matter how reasonably hungry you were.  But I’m willing to guess most of the time when you go through the drive through, you look at the price, pull around, pay it and go on your way.  You and Mc Donald’s just negotiated a fair price for your meal that you both agree on.

But, Matt you’re 400 words into this and I still don’t know how to get what I want!  I feel cheated!

First off.  Nobody gets what they want.  Hate to break it to ya.  Now, I know what you’re thinking.  You knew it.  You knew I didn’t have any secret knowledge that unlocked the universe, and definitely not any knowledge that will just get people to hand over the goods.  Do you want to know the secret though?  Do you REALLY want to know?….  The secret is something you’ve long suspected.  That some people get what they want more often than others.  And lets be honest with each other.  When you get what you want.  You’re happy.  Me?  9 days out of 10 I’m a happy camper.  Hey, we all have a crummy day now and again.

Fine then.  How do I get what I want…. more often?

Glad you asked!

What DO you want?

What is it that you want? A pony?  They’re cool, but who’s gonna scoop all the poop?  A million bucks?  Well there’s those printing presses, but I hear they’re cracking down on who gets to use ’em.  And then there’s that working your whole life and earning it.  But that’s lame.

Honestly though, this is the hardest part.  Whether it’s deciding what you want to do for a living, or whether you look better in hot pants or bell bottoms.  A lot of times you know you want something but you don’t know that that is.  Best advice I can give you is don’t over think it.  By the time you’ve narrowed it down to a couple good choices just be bold, pick one and go with it.  Commit to it.  Live and breath it if you have to, even in the face of those that laugh and tell you you’re crazy.  Did it ever occur to you that you look GREAT in hot pants AND bell bottoms?

Be realistic.

Be realistic. Big things take a lot of time and resources.  Which either means you’re going to need a lot of help, a lot of time, or a ridiculous amount of luck.  Also consider all the draw backs.  For example. People like to look at celebrities and think how nice it would be not to have to worry about money and be known every where you go.  But along with that means you can’t even go buy toilet paper without getting stopped for autographs, and everybody hears about it when your wife chases you down the driveway until you hit a fire hydrant.

Some things are nice but require ongoing maintenance.  Swimming pools are awesome, but it’s a lot of work to keep them from becoming a lab experiment, and every year you have to winterize them and recondition them for summer.  A gym membership will let you swim whenever you want, someone else takes care of the pool, and it’s cheaper, but you have to leave your home  and swim with random strangers.

You can’t have it all for a little, so be realistic or you’re going to be disappointed.

Check the emotions.

Check the emotions. Sorry, drama llamas.  The word is out.  Nobody cares how much your life sucks.  I don’t say this to be mean, or infer that your friends and family don’t care about your burdens.  I say it because lamenting on why you are so downtrodden is never going to be a good tactic for getting what you want.  Never.  Ever.  Because the people that care are probably already helping you in every way they can.  That only stands to reason that everyone else doesn’t care.  You can hate the world and bitch about them being selfish insensitive pricks, or you can check the baggage and get in the game.

The biggest thing that Herb Cohen said in the video in that Lifehacker article is to think of negotiations like a game.  “Because in a game you care.  You REALLY care.  But… not that much.”  In a game you always want to win.  And it sucks when you lose, but shoot.  It’s just a game.

It seems counter intuitive, but checking the emotions is (in my opinion) the most important part of actually getting what you want.  Not only do you approach things with a more level head, but you can really FREAK PEOPLE OUT.  Grandpa Frank told me a story once about his first car.  It was a 1942 Chevy (I think, Grandma ask Grandpa and correct me on these details if I’m wrong).  Frank and his Dad went to look at this car.  Frank loved it.  The fella wanted $400 for the car.  His Dad said “No way.  I’ll give you $250 for it.”  Of course the guy scoffed at the offer.  Frank’s Dad just said “Fine,” and headed back to the car.  Frank couldn’t believe it.  It wasn’t the greatest car, but his dad couldn’t even cough up $400 bucks for his son’s first car?  I’m sure he’d already pictured himself shining it up, driving it to school showing it to all his friends.  But instead he was sitting in the PASSENGER seat of his father’s car as they drove AWAY from HIS car.  Lo and behold as they’re driving away, the seller chases them down half the block just to ask Frank’s Dad if he’ll still buy it for $250.

Getting what you want right now always comes with a price.  But always give the impression that whatever you’re after isn’t that important.  That you can afford to walk if you don’t get what you want.  My Dad always said, “Never underestimate how desperate someone is to get rid or something.”  And the converse it true as well.  Never underestimate how badly someone wants what you have to offer. This applies to everything.  Cars, jobs, heck even relationships!

Be prepared to compromise.

Be prepared to compromise. If you look at compromise as defeat, you’re NEVER going to get what you want.  Instead look at it as opportunity.  Because THIS is the crucial moment where you can really skew things in your favor.  This is where you have to opportunity to do what is in YOUR best interest.  Think WAY back to the beginning.  The three key variable of negotiation are power, time, and information.  By playing the cards you’re strongest in and minimizing your weaknesses, you will usually come out on the favorable end, even if only slightly.  But in the end, if you reach that agreement you’ve gotten what you want right?

For example, when I wanted to paint my car.  I realized I had a lot more time than money.  TIME>POWER.  I had read and seen results of people who’d painted their cars with a roller and rust-o-leum.  Armed with this INFORMATION my car got painted over the course of a few months.  Does it look as good as a show car?  No… but it’s a compromise.  One I’m pretty satisfied with.

Things usually are the way they are for a reason.

And finally, just remember.  Usually almost always all the time things are the way they are for a reason.  Don’t over think things.  Don’t force things.  But most of all, don’t convince yourself that you can’t do something that tons of other folks already do.  Figure out what you want.  Figure how to get it.  And GET IT!