Let’s face it – Obama got himself in a jam.  He spoke on national TV about matters relating to a local community, local police, and race relations.  Any one of those topics is dangerous to speak about, let alone all three at once.  To top it all off, he spoke without knowing all the facts.  Admitting to not knowing all the facts and then continuing to form opinions about the situation doesn’t exempt you from responsibility.  The only bonus points we can award Obama is for the guts to say something so bold (some call it stupid?) on national TV.

Wait, there’s more bad news.  Obama acted stupidly by saying that the  “police acted stupidly.”  Stupid is a harsh word that has no upside or chance to be interpreted in a positive light.  Add stupid in front of anything, and it’s going to be taken negatively.  If someone told you that you made a “stupid decision,” your first reaction is to get defensive.  If that same person told you that you could have acted “differently” or in a “better way,” your reaction will be less defensive.  Words matter.  The details matter.

But… let’s put all this childish analysis aside.  Besides the fact that Obama goofed (for the reasons mentioned above), there’s something powerful in what transpired as a result of this entire fiasco.  Obama personally called both parties (Professor Gates and Officer Crowley) and invited them to a beer at the White House.  Yes, he had to.  He had to in order to save himself and ever-so-cleverly do something about the mistakes he made (again, mentioned above).  But, in calling both parties and holding a casual meeting, he did something else that’s “teachable.”

Obama showed how two parties that were at polar opposites of each other just one week ago can get together in a peaceful manner and hold dialogue.  He showed the world how grown ups should act when they have disagreements.  It can happen.  It did happen.  And what was the outcome?

The outcome wasn’t some “It’s a small world” dance or “We are the world” reconciliation between both parties.  In fact, both sides still completely disagreed with each other after the beer.  The outcome, instead, was the lesson that it’s okay to disagree. Both parties agreed to disagree in a civil and grown-up manner.

What a novel idea: it’s okay to disagree.  Wait… it’s okay to disagree?  Then how do I convince others to do what I’m doing?  How do I convince others that I’m right?

The short answer: you don’t.  You can’t.  All you can do is show your side of the story.  Then, it’s up to the other side to rationalize it, agree or disagree with it, and follow or not follow it.

And here’s the secret: 90% of the battle in any disagreement is getting both sides together.

The rest is easy because most people are intrinsically good by nature and want to have mutual respect for each other.  The hard part is putting aside ego, having the courage to approach each other directly instead of using some third party to send messages through, and having the intellectual maturity to accept another “right” opinion.

There isn’t always one right answer.  Read the poll findings in the 4th to last paragraph in Donna Brazile’s article here, and you’ll understand.  Both parties are right in their own way.  Each party brings their own experiences, preconditions, and stereotypes to the situation.  It’s wrong to do so, but guess what – it always happens.  And it always will.  So why fight over it?  Instead, just swallow your ego, talk directly with the person(s) you’re in disagreement with, and agree to disagree if you still can’t come to one conclusion.  But understand that it’s okay to disagree. We don’t always have to come out of a discussion as the “winner” or the person who was able to convince or transform the other side.  Life isn’t black and white; it’s the entire spectrum of colors between those two.  Let’s not live in monochrome.

Sounds like an alibi, I know.  Resolutions seldom work because, unless you are committed to changing your lifestyle, they are usually short-lived.

Yesterday, I went to a dietitian for the first time in my life.  (No, my resolution isn’t to eat healthy.)  I wanted to get a practical understanding of  how my body interprets food, from the best in the business (in my area).  I learned more about my body and nutrition in that one hour of consulting than I have during my entire academic life.  It completely changed how I view food.  Let’s see how long I can maintain the effects of what I learned.

I learned another important lesson, though.  I learned about the value of hiring one-on-one consultants.  My resolution for this new year is to make resolutions.  I’m resolute to holding 6 meetings with experts in various fields that I’d like to get more knowledge about.  I’m still working to identify what those six are.  So far, my list is at 14, and growing.  The challenge is to narrow it down to just 6 (which works out to one meeting every two months; more than doable in terms of time and money).

My justification:
We invest hordes of money to purchase artifacts or invest in things – electronics to simplify our life, entertainment to occupy our free time, fitness equipment to live a healthy life, vacations to relax, IRAs to secure our retirement, etc.  However, have we ever invested to learn the proper way to use/do/engage these things?  Are we investing in our ability to learn how to learn?  It seems like a no-brainer to spend some money to have an expert teach us about the things we invest so much money into.

Of course, the challenge in all this is to find “real” experts.  There’s a million and one consultants out there in every field known to man.  Finding the best can make the difference between learning accurately and learning inaccurate or incomplete information.  It’s like clicking on the top ranked listing in Google versus a listing ranked #3 or #4.  The value of the top ranked listing isn’t proportionally higher than the third or fourth, it’s exponentially higher.

Then, the only challenge that remains is implementing it.  That’s the other half of the story (and arguably, the most important).

The story goes that the first Thanksgiving Day was celebrated by the Plymouth Pilgrims.  The celebration was in honor of a bountiful harvest season, which meant enough food for people to survive and live well.  The Pilgrims were new to America and its land, climate, and agriculture.  The Native Indians, who have inhabited America for many generations, taught the Pilgrims how to farm and raise crops in this new land.  To show their gratitude to the Native Indians, the Pilgrims celebrated Thanksgiving.

The success each of us has witnessed and continues to do so in our life is the result of multiple things, of which our own efforts are just a small portion.  It’s the culmination of our efforts and those of the people who have come into our lives and touched us in some way or another.  Think back to your family, relatives, friends, school acquaintances, teachers, etc., who have helped shape your nature, personality, ideology, and philosophy towards life.  We’ve borrowed things, often times subconsciously, from people we’ve met in passing.  We’ve used ideas and examples from others that we can incorporate into our own lives.  We are who we are as a result of all this.

I speak for everyone when I…

… thank the basketball coach who kicked me off the team because I failed to follow instructions.  Thank you for teaching me the importance of putting the team ahead of my own goals.

… thank the relatives and family friends who continuously pushed me to stretch the limits of what I felt my boundaries were.  Thank you for teaching me never to settle (often at the cost of using examples of failures from your own lives).

… thank the then-annoying uncle who pushed me, unprepared, in front of an audience.  Thank you for teaching me that not every moment in life can be scripted and preplanned, and that speaking from your heart leads to more natural results than speaking from your mind.

… thank the parents who let their own wish lists get longer and longer so I could check off some items from my list.  Thank you for teaching me that sacrifice is always sweeter than self-indulgence.

… thank the family friend who involved me, when I was naive to the world of management, in reviewing the business plan for a multimillion dollar endeavor they were planning to fund.  Thank you for giving me the confidence that I can meaningfully participate in something that I felt was outside of my scope of capabilities.

… thank the third grade teacher who caught me cheating on an exam, and instead of reprimanding me in the typical manner, gave me a solution that would change me forever.  She told me to continue cheating on future exams, but to also increase the number of questions I solve on my own.  On each successive exam, I would do one more question on my own, and cheat on the remaining questions.  Eventually, I was able to solve all the questions on my own.  Thank you for planting the seeds to grow a lifelong student.

The list of people who have uniquely touched our lives can go on and on.  What’s important is that we reflect, say thanks, and reciprocate the act onto others during our lifetime.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Why vote?

November 1, 2008

“So long as I do not firmly and irrevocably possess the right to vote, I do not possess myself. I cannot make up my mind — it is made up for me. I cannot live as a democratic citizen, observing the laws I have helped to enact — I can only submit to the edict of others.”

— Martin Luther King, Jr. | 1957

Often, we don’t realize the value of something until it is taken away from us.  This applies to civil rights, human dignity, and even the people in our lives.  It’s unfortunate, but true.

The right to vote is no different. People have fought wars, been tortured, and lost lives to ensure that every citizen has an equal chance to be heard. If you don’t care for the issues or the candidates, at least go and place your vote as a sign of respect for the people who have fought so that we have this opportunity to express ourselves.

In the end, your vote may not really matter. But what will matter is your reverence towards the people whose shoulders we sit on and live, breathe, and sleep so freely.


Source: CNN

You think the blind can’t read? Here’s a blind person who wrote 4 books so our children can learn to read.

You think the deaf can’t hear? Here’s a deaf person who’s written a screenplay and is making a professional movie based on it.

You think the mute can’t speak? Here’s a mute person who’s communicating his ideas with professional actors and a director who will speak on behalf of him.

You think the quadriplegic can’t move? Here’s someone who’s confined to his chair 24/7, but has the ability to inspire and compel us to get up out of our chairs.

I think it’s time for me to reconsider my excuses for not doing something meaningful with everything I have…

Article Link: http://abcnews.go.com/print?id=4544003
Source: ABC News

For those of you who missed this special episode on April 1 (it’s not an April Fool’s joke), the days of increased longevity are here. We’ve heard of various characters in mythology living this long (i.e., Bhishma in Mahabharat), but we’ve blown those instances off as “special” situations.

Well, all that is about to change. In fact, some researchers claim that every body part, from our organs to tissue cells, will be replaceable in the next 50 years. Consequently, they are expecting life spans to exceed 1,000 years! Here’s a short video of the program.

Here’s a question: do you think extending life to such extremes is good or bad? Regardless of the stance you take, how do you justify the acceptance of common medicine and vaccines as opposed to something like this (extending life to 1,000 years)?

Article Link: How to turn the tide
Source: Glenn Beck, CNN.com and radio host

This applies regardless of which side of the political divide you stand on, or what you define “our country” as. The full article does a great job of explaining these concepts in simple terms that you can share with others. Here’s a quick summary; needless to say, my summary doesn’t do justice to the entire article:

Step 1: Admit we’re not powerless.

Step 2: Believe that a power greater than just ourselves can restore us to sanity.

Step 3: Decide to take (action) power back.

Step 4: Make a complete and fearless moral inventory.

Step 5: Admit our wrongs, and rights!

Step 6: Be ready to remove our defects.

Download Article: Question your questions
Source: Anonymous

The most fundamental source of knowledge comes from our ability to question things. But when was the last time we questioned our questions? We expect accurate answers, but seldom ever reflect on whether we are asking accurate questions.