In a Word, Respect

Every year my family and I head down to the 9/11 Memorial to listen to the list of names of those that lost their lives on that day in 2001. Only family members of lost ones are allowed to attend in person. My kids are 8 and 5 now, so questions about the events of that day start to come up and sometimes I have trouble answering them.

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Everyone’s different, and everyone’s the same.

As we approached the Memorial, we walked past the mural in the photograph above, and the words on the mural explain it all very well. “Everyone’s different, and everyone’s the same”. In other words, we might not agree on everything, but we should respect each other’s opinions and differences.

Honestly, sometimes that’s really hard to do. Right outside the Memorial were people holding up signs and telling others that what happened on 9/11 was fake, that it was all a government conspiracy. I wanted to punch those guys in the mouth. But freedom of speech is one of the reasons why this country is great. They’re allowed to have and voice their opinions. I might disagree with them, but I’ll respect their rights.

Respect isn’t just limited to big issues, respect is something that should be on your mind with everything. Respect others at all times, and that doesn’t just mean their opinions and/or stances on specific topics but respect their time as well. Respect the effort people put into their jobs and respect them when they say “no” to something.

We may agree to disagree on many things, but we should all agree to respect each other.

Does Who You Surround Yourself with Matter?

The short answer to this is yes, it matters. It’s why this Jim Rohn quote, “you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with” is so popular and recognized. Put it this way, we should be very intentional about who we choose to spend our time with.

Maarten van Doorn writes:

“The people you spend the most time with shape who you are. They determine what conversations dominate your attention. They affect to which attitudes and behaviors you are regularly exposed. Eventually you start to think like they think and behave like they behave.”

The Game of Life

My family tries to have game night every day. We think it’s just a great way to step back from life and connect each day as a family. Recently we’ve been playing “The Game of Life – Twists and Turns”. It’s a fun game and a spin-off of the classic game that you might have been used to playing as a kid. In this version of the game, all of the money, property, and vehicles are controlled by a computer, which is also how you spin the wheel to move. The game loosely introduces the concept of credit cards, and that is how each players stats and data is accessed.

The way the game plays is pretty much similar to the classic game, but the winner is who ends up with the most “life points”, and that is a combination of the amount of money you have plus the experiences that you’ve had throughout the game. So, it’s really not just about the money anymore. I won’t go into any more details about the game, this blog post really wasn’t meant to be a game review, but I highly recommend the game if you get the chance to try it. My wife and I have played with just the two of us without the kids and it’s still a lot of fun.

My older son is what you’d expect from a first-born child. He’s reliable, structured, cautious, and really wants to please his parents. He’s also very competitive and wants to win at everything. My second child (we only have two) is also a boy, and he’s quite the opposite of my older one. The second one is a risk taker, definitely more self-centered but also much looser and more rambunctious. Our first-time playing Life together definitely brought out their personality traits.

My older guy is completely averse to having debt. Real or fake, he doesn’t like the idea of owing anyone money. So, he played the game conservatively, not going into debt to buy things and just doing things as he would in normal life. My younger guy was completely opposite, he bought all the expensive stuff because it looked like it would be more fun. And understanding that it was just a game, my wife and I did the same thing.

One thing to note about my older son, if he does not want to do something, he won’t do it. He really holds on strong to his opinion and feelings about what he likes and doesn’t like. But peer pressure can be really tough. After playing the first game doing things as he would normally do in real life, he played the second game completely different. He saw how the rest of us were playing the game and he felt the need to change how he played. In the second game, he bought anything he wanted regardless of price and had a negative money balance for almost the entire game. As I watched my older son make decisions that I didn’t think he’d make, I knew I was seeing Jim Rohn’s quote in action.

Figure Out What is Important to You

It’s relatively easy to influence kids, and in the game that my family played, the powers of influence for my older son were just too much to resist. As the first born, he sees what his parents’ habits are and he models after them. As adults, I think we are just as easily influenced, but the signs might be a bit subtler.

If you are around negative people, you’re going to be negative. If you’re around people that complain a lot, you’re going to complain a lot too. If you spend a lot of time around people that always see the good in things, you’ll start seeing the same as well.

As I get older, I find that I value my free time a lot more. I also find that I would rather have a small number of quality friendships over having just a lot of friends. Recently what I started to do without really knowing it was I started to spend more time around people who had the same life goals as I do. And what I also noticed was that I didn’t enjoy spending a lot of time around people who had a negative impact on those goals.

To put it on a personal level, I think about finances a lot. I believe I share the same dream as anyone else in that we all want to be debt free. When I think about making sure we have a roof over our heads, putting food on the table, clothes on our backs, college tuition down the road and hoping to retire without financial worry, it’s daunting. So, I’ve found a small circle of friends who are focused on the same thing. Our spending habits are pretty much the same and we keep each other from falling into the temptation of spending money just to keep up with the Joneses. No, we don’t have group meetings or anything like that, we just have similar lifestyles. I know that if I were to spend a lot of time around people that spent a lot of money all the time, I’d probably do the same.

You can apply this same sort of thinking to any goal. Are you focused on climbing the corporate ladder? If so, do you surround yourself with people who are just as hungry about that as you are?

What this means is that friendships probably will change, and that’s ok because that’s life. I’m not saying that I’ve cut off friends that I’ve made earlier in life, I still talk to plenty of people. But the people that I will spend the majority of my time with are those that are going to have a positive effect on the goals that I’ve set for myself.

I also love this article by David Burkus. And he writes that it’s not just the 5 closest people that have an impact on you, it’s actually those 5 plus whoever is influencing them that has an impact on you. And then it’s their friends and their friends and so on and so on.

Who you choose to surround yourself with matters. It matters a lot. It can be the difference between accomplishing the goals you’ve set for yourself and your life, or looking back when it’s all said and done and wondering “what if”.

You Don’t Know Someone Until You’ve Walked In Their Shoes

Who says all the cool random conversations have to happen in the office? A technician came to change my gas meter the other day to swap out the old one with a new smart meter which will allow the company to take a reading without having to come by my house. I thought that was pretty cool. When he rang the bell and I answered, he asked if I went to Penn State because I was wearing a hoodie that said it. I answered no, but that my brother had attended the university. As it turns out, the technician attended Penn State for 3 years and then went into the military, serving overseas as well as here in the States. And while he is no longer part of active duty, he is part of the National Guard.

His military service started a really interesting conversation about politics, war, civilian life, racism, and community influence. It was great to hear his about his experience in the military and how it was different for him as a minority. In fact, all of his responses and opinions on the topics we spoke about were fascinating to hear and I was very thankful that he shared them with me. And I did thank him for his service to our country.

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Before passing judgment, try walking in someone else’s shoes.

I was reminded of a valuable lesson after my conversation with him. And that is that you really don’t know and cannot understand what someone is experiencing unless you walk in their shoes. As human beings we have our own opinions on things and we don’t always agree with others. That doesn’t mean the other person is wrong, an idiot, uneducated, or stupid. It just means that they see the world in a different way than you do.

I recently watched a film called “Citizen Soldier”, and the story was about a group of soldiers in the Oklahoma Army National Guard’s 45th Infantry Brigade Combat Team. I found it interesting because these were soldiers that had regular full time jobs, trained for 40 hours a month, and were sent into Afghanistan and into combat. After watching the film, I had my own reservations and questions, and this tech was able to clear them up for me.

It’s really easy to sit on a perch and pass down judgment on everything you see around you or what’s fed to you by the media on television or online. Social media has given everyone a megaphone to share their opinions in an open forum regardless of understanding situations. People just don’t listen anymore before they speak. And this leads to landslides of negativity that you see in your feeds every day. The “glom on” effect is just rampant.

It’s not wrong to have an opinion. It’s better if you have one. But before you choose to share your opinion about someone or any situation that you haven’t fully experienced, try speaking with someone that has.

How Can You Be Different?

Hearing Keaton Jones’ story is troubling. The cool thing is the support that he has received from just about everyone. We shouldn’t be made fun of for our differences. Our differences make us unique, help us stand out from the crowd. Our differences make us stronger. So it’s really sad to see someone being bullied because they’re different.

Keaton’s story should prompt you to take action, but what kind of action should that be? It’s easy to get mad and angry at those that treated this kid this way, but in the end hate will just lead to more hate.

The action that you should be moved to take is how you can change yourself to be different. Can you be different in a way that people can see kindness? How can you be different in a way to stand up for others that can’t stand up for themselves?

At a time when a trend will soon be to make resolutions for the New Year, maybe we all can resolve to be different for good.