Thank You, Cheers, and the Problem with You’re Welcome

On a recent trip to England and the Netherlands, I must have said “thank you” a hundred times.  Not once, did I hear, “you’re welcome”.

At one pub, when the bartender served me a beer, I said “thanks”.  When she responded with “no worries”, I thought I would test this a bit further.  I then said, “much appreciated”, to which she said, “absolutely”.  So then I took a quick sip and said, “this is great; thanks again”, to which she responded, “cheers”.

“No worries”, “absolutely”, “of course”, “no problem”, “not at all”, “oh, certainly”, “sure”, and “cheers”.

Hmm.  I had to look into this.

“You’re welcome” in response to “thank you” has only been around since about 1907, according to the Oxford English Dictionary.  And … when you think about it, there kind of is a problem with that phrase.

It really isn’t very friendly, is it?  It has a kind of superiority feel to it.  Yes, I did something for you and even though you’ve acknowledge that with a proper “thank you”, I’ll reaffirm my generosity, see you’re thanks, and raise you a very pompous, “you’re quite welcome”.  Be on your way now, peasant; you’re disturbing my air quality.

A few years ago, six of us friends went out to dinner and we had a great time.  At one point, one of our friends held up a beer and said this: “All I can say is, thank you guys for being our friends.”  That was way too formal and certainly not needed, so to break the awkward tension, I countered that with “Oh, you’re welcome.”  Everyone laughed and we carried on.  We laughed, because of the obvious ridiculousness of both statements.  “You’re welcome” works in comedy and sarcasm.

But, in today’s overly sensitive and easily offended world, you almost can’t win this game.  “No problem”.  Oh … I’m a problem now?  I’m sorry I showed up and made you do your job!  Whew; pouring that beer was above and beyond.  Do you want a tip, too?

I have one.  The only one not listed earlier is the only one that rubs me the wrong way.  “Uh huh”.  I mean, why beat around the bush.  Just say, “fuck off”.  At least, “fuck off” would make me laugh and you had the courage to be real.  I like real.  The only thing worse than “Uh huh” would be “Mm hmm”.  That one says, “I don’t even want to waste my energy on parting my lips.”

My favorite; and I’m adopting this, is “cheers”.  It just works, right?

“Cheers” is a toast to wish the recipient happiness and good will.  It says, “we’re on the same level and it’s a pleasure sharing time and space with you”.  While it’s casual (as things should be), it’s very respectful.  “Cheers” is Namaste, salutations, you’re welcome here, no worries, and hakuna matata.  It’s comfortable and merry.

It’s a social Swiss army knife.  A real one.  Not one of those knock-offs, where you break a nail trying to pry open the knife and when you do its short and quite dull.  No, “cheers” is not only multi-functional, its easy to use and the bottle opener actually opens bottles.  This bottle.

Cheers.

Photo by Lucas Lenzi on Unsplash

How Mindfulness Can Lead to False Assumptions

We love to arrive at grand conclusions with very limited information.  We’re great at making assumptions and we think we’re pretty damn smart.  And we’ll tell ourselves (and others) that our intuition is amazing!  Mmm … assumptions and intuition are very different things.

Intuition is a gut feeling, but doesn’t come from the gut.  It comes from our limbic system, the primitive part of our brain, which is designed to keep us alive and safe.  It’s the knowing without knowing why.  “Get the fuck out of there!”

Assumptions, on the other hand, come from our neo cortex, which is full of all kinds of shit.

Nothing is assumed by accident.  Our assumptions are mostly based on the outcome we want, which can be quite far from the truth.  And what we want could be good or bad; conscious or subconscious; beneficial or detrimental.  Why would we want anything to be bad or detrimental?  Well … for one thing, we’re fucked up.

Another thing is self-protection.  We protect ourselves by assuming the worst and if the worst actually happens, which rarely it does, we are mentally prepared for it.  No let-down.  And anything even slightly better than the worst is a bonus.  Low expectations.

Then there’s validation.  “See?  I knew that guy was an asshole.”  Even if he’s not, we’re going to focus on anything and everything that could possibly make that guy an asshole.  We just walked into the party, never saw that dude before in our lives, and from across the room, we quickly profile and determine, “Asshole”.  Done.

And what about the answers we want in our favor?  “I’m sure she put gas in the car.”  In the morning, you start it up and the needle is on “E”.  We wanted her to have filled it up, because we didn’t want to do it, so its more comfortable to assume that its been taken care of.

Assumptions are influence by our current mood, life experience, approach, philosophy, psychology, emotional state, outlook, perception, the situation at hand, gossip, beliefs, opinions, likes, dislikes, expectations, and about a million other things.

So how do we avoid the assumption trap?  Well, I looked into it and the number one suggestion is … mindfulness.  Sounds good, right?  It’s a popular go-to term these days.  “We need to be more mindful.”  Actually, it’s quite exhausting and mindfulness is the kind of shit that got us in trouble in the first place!  Our assumptions come from too much mind.

So, mindlessness then?

Funny; actually hilarious, but not exactly.  No, Mushin.  The Japanese Zen practice of mind of no mind.  Too much chatter; inside and outside.  The truth, as it is, is simply observed.  Nothing more.  No preconceptions, misconceptions, notions, judgement, ego, or misconstrued intel.  Minimal mind.

Mind of no mind.  Mushin.

Photo by Christopher Burns on Unsplash

I Can’t Swim the Lake if I’m Chained to the Dock

There was a time in my life when the people around me encouraged me to, just sign up for welfare.  Imagine that!  This was the atmosphere I grew up in.  It was not a nice neighborhood. I have a library full of “excuses” I could legitimately claim, but this is not an origin story, so I’ll leave it at that.  But, I was literally told to embrace all my excuses and to accept it. Welfare!  That was the advice.  So, should I drop out of high school now, or …

Then there was join our church, join our group, become a union member, join our street gang (no bullshit), join this or that; come with us.

I’ve always had something in me that said, “Fuck your group.”

If I’m chained to the dock, I can’t swim the lake.  Sure, the dock might save me from drowning, but I don’t want to be chained to the damn thing.

Those chains tell us what we can or can’t do; what we can eat and when, what we think, and what we wear.  How did they come up with these rules?  Chains that say, we’re poor and “underprivileged”, so accept it; this is our lot in life.  The chains of the dock say, there’s safety in our group, but here are all the rules you have to live by in order to be one of us.

I’m not a great swimmer; literally and metaphorically.  But, I’m swimming.  Freely.  It’s not easy at first.  In fact, I almost drowned a few times.  And when I was drowning, that’s when they really wanted me to quit, join the group, and chain myself to that dock.  Meanwhile, they think you’re and idiot for even trying.  Then they gossip about you and you realize your relationship with those people; friends, neighbors, and family as well, will be left at the dock.  I’m feeling lighter already and I’m really getting the hang of this swimming thing.

When we lose all the excuses, we gain all the power.

I don’t like chains; chains of that club, organization, mindset, and that thought process that wants us to believe that because we were born and raised behind the eight ball, that is where we’ll stay.

No chains for me.  I like my freedom.

I’m on my tenth president. Some had multiple terms.  You do the math.  Wait … don’t.  In that time, war, peace, scandals, assassination attempts, republican, democrat, conservative, liberal, effective, useless, uniting, divisive, morals, adulterers, and conspiracies, both real and theoretical.

Nothing …

Not politics, not the president –

Not that time the company I was working for closed its doors unexpectedly, when I had a young family with a mortgage and car payments –

Not that time we invested $40,000 into a business venture and lost it all in a matter of weeks (ramen noodles for everyone!) –

Not that time when either of my parents died and had to deal with Medicare, Medicaid, insurance, the banks, attorneys, and everything else –

Not that time I had two guns pressed into my skull –

Not all the nights I went to sleep to the sound of gunshots, screams, sirens, broken glass, and the elevated train –

Not that time I was hit by a car –

Not that time I got jumped and beaten in the projects, got attacked by a gang leader, got laughed at, failed ninth grade, broke my back, went bald, and … a million other things.

Nothing.  Not anything ever made me want to be chained to that dock, even when the swimming got hard.

Freedom and power.  Swimming isn’t easy.  But, it’s not that hard either.

Photo by Tj Holowaychuck on Unsplash

 

Hatha is Not the Sun and the Moon

The Japanese martial art of Aikido is made up of three words: Ai meaning harmony, Ki meaning life force, spirit and universal energy, and do meaning the way.  Summed up, Aikido means The Art of Steven Seagal.  What?  No, Aikido is The Way of Harmony of the Spirit.  It’s actually much more complicated than that.  You know; like Steven Seagal.  But, you get the idea.

This binomial and trinomial nomenclature is pretty common in the martial arts, such as with Judo, Jujutsu, and Hapkido.  Two or three words coming together to name an art.  In yoga, we see this in the naming of poses, like Paschimottanasana.  Paschima meaning the back of the body, Uttana meaning straight or extended, and of course Asana meaning posture.

So, it seems natural and easily taken at face value when we hear that Hatha is two words, with Ha meaning Sun and Tha meaning Moon.  However, this is not the case.

So, how did this misconception begin?  Well, in traditional Indian medicine and spiritual knowledge, as well as yoga, there are two primary energy channels that flow through the Nadi. These are the Ida and the Pingala; sort of like yin and yang, Seagal and Acting, and solar and lunar with Ida being related to lunar qualities and Pingala being realted to solar qualities.

See where this is going?  Solar and Lunar, sun and moon, Ha and Tha.  So Hatha; sun and moon.

While there are many Sanskrit words for sun, none of those words is Ha.  Surya is the most common, like in suryanamaskaram (sun salutation).  There are also many words for moon, but none being Tha.  Chandra is a common one, as in ardhachandrasana (crescent moon pose).

But, Hatha is just one word and it means force or effort. When we’re in that balancing pose, our muscles are shaking, our eyes are focused on that one spot on the wall, and we’re controlling our breathing, concentrating our mental and physical energies to hold this posture.  It’s like our entire being is … “Under Seige”.  (Yep, I did that.)  Everything else goes away.  This effort brings us to a state of yoga.

This is Hatha.

Through this practice we create a shift towards relaxation, physical and emotional wellbeing.  We feel more connected and engaged; a relaxed greater awareness.  This is Yoga. This is Zen. It takes practice, training, and effort, but the rewards are priceless.

So, Hatha is NOT the sun and the moon and Aikido doesn’t mean the way of Steven Seagal.  That misconception is going to be … “Hard to Kill”.  Sorry, it was there.  Had to.

Photo by Matt Nelson on Unsplash

The Threat of Heaven and the Promise of Hell

“So Rob, tell me; are you a God-fearing man?”

Almost twenty years ago in Nashville, I was having lunch with one of my rep agencies.  There were about eight of us.  When my salad came, I began to eat it while conversing with the group.  As their salads came, they waited for everyone to get theirs and when they did, they all bowed their heads, while one of the guys said a prayer, blessing the food.  Out of respect, I paused and remained quiet.  Cool?

Mmm, not for that guy.  This “man of God” had a bit of a superiority complex.  A self-righteousness that gave him a higher human status than others.  Pretty common.  You know this guy.  He’s on your HOA board, always the one talking at school events, and he’s letting eight cars go in front of him, because he’s being “nice”, while holding up an entire line of traffic that has a green light.  Yeah, that guy.

He knows better than you.  He’s smarter too.  He’s a parent; your parent; everyone’s parent.  He talks at you, not with you.  He’s fucking annoying.

Back to the salad.  Just before he took his first bite, he asks across the table with ultimate smugness, “So Rob, tell me; are you a God-fearing man?”  Yep, the table is silent and all eyes on me.  I simply responded, “I have no reason to fear God.”

Nice try. And what a shitty thing to do.  I dropped them as an agency and life went on happily ever after.  I have no room for that kind of shit in this life and no amount of business is worth it.  I don’t think God’s a fan of it either.

I don’t need the threat of heaven or the promise of hell to be a good person.

If we’re practicing good behavior, because of the promise of a prize or punishment after death, then that goodness isn’t genuine.  It’s not real.  It’s deceptive and it’s value is shit.  Authenticity is important.

True goodness comes from within; from the heart, or soul.  As it goes, I think the vast majority of us are good or genuinely want to be.  And good people do “bad” things and vice versa, given the dynamics of a situation, circumstances, and variables in real time, multiplied by how many people are involved, each with their various levels of influence, philosophy, beliefs, education, background, life experience, hormones, current mood and a myriad of other things.  But, in the grand scheme of things, general goodness is a genuinely inherent trait.  But with 8-billion people, we’re gonna have some bad ones and we treat them accordingly.

But, viewing God as a punisher to be feared, so that we keep ourselves in line?  I thought that was the Devil’s job.  Am I getting this backwards?  I can’t keep up.

Hey, my theories are just as weird as the next guy’s beliefs, but I don’t believe mine are right and anyone else is wrong.  Because, we don’t know.  No one does.  And if your beliefs and way of being doesn’t purposefully infringe upon others; mad respect.  And I’m not so insecure to try to get you to believe what I believe, to make me feel righteous.  And I’m certainly not going to go out of my way to try to make anyone feel inferior because they didn’t praise God before eating a bowl of salad.

I don’t believe in the personification of “God”.  I don’t do religion. Each one has THE answers, when no one knows shit. I’m more of a seeker.  If God is great, then what is greater than the entire universe?  So … yeah, I guess I lean towards Pantheism as a concept.  If we’re truly made in His (sorry ladies; I didn’t write the book) image, then we are the universe, made up of the same elements as ancient stars, some 4.5 billion years old: carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen atoms as well as other heavy elements.  And it’s not just humans.  No, it’s other animals as well.  Even the earth itself.  We are energy, experiencing existence, as we have before and will continue to do so, again and again.

What is us will once again and always be the Universe.  Thank God.

As I sit here, I’m becoming aware of the music playing in the background: Ronnie James Dio is singing Heaven and Hell with Black Sabbath, “The lover of life’s not a sinner.  The ending is just a beginner.  The closer you get to the meaning, the sooner you’ll know that you’re dreaming.  So it’s on and on and on.  It goes on and on and on …”

Thank you for sharing your energy and being a part of who I am.  Peace.

Stop Focusing on the Wrong Shit

What if B.B. King had to pass a written, standardized advanced mathematics exam to be legally allowed to play guitar commercially?  Crazy, right?

What if Eddie Van Halen had to be able to write and decipher advanced music theory, such as in the photo above, in order for him to play and make music?  Well, we’d never know who David Lee Roth is and that would be quite a tragedy.

There was a TV show around 2005, called Tommy Lee Goes to College.  One of my favorite drummers of all time and he’s actually pretty good.  In one episode, he’s practicing with the drum corps of the school’s marching band and cannot get in the rhythm.  It was so difficult and frustrating for him to get in sync with everyone else, because it’s not what he does.  Just imagine, if he had to pass a standardized written and practical exam to be able to continue as the drummer for Motley Crue.

Insane?

How about this? Our college entrance exams place a huge focus on mathematics (Algebra, geometry, trigonometry, calculus, and so on) and because of this, many students are not accepted, due to low math scores. In his book, The Math Myth, Andrew Hacker notes that of those who do go to college, nearly half leave without a degree; “Failure to pass mandated mathematics courses is the chief academic reason they don’t finish.”

In another study, it was found that the brains of advanced mathematicians activate a network involving bilateral intraparietal, dorsal prefrontal, and inferior temporal regions of the brain, while most of us mere mortals don’t work that way, no matter how hard we study!

There’s a chapter in Hacker’s book entitled, “Does Your Dermatologist Use Calculus?” in which he notes that many top medical schools require applicants to have taken calculus even though doctors never need it anywhere in their entire careers. We could be losing great doctors.

Hacker also notes that engineers and scientists rarely need the math they are required to master.  Now the fun part …

The United States is currently ranked somewhere between 36th and 41st in the world in Mathematics. Singapore, China, and Japan take the top rankings. Because of this, the US government is and has been pushing advanced mathematics through our public schools, college entrance exams, and universities.

However, according to the World Intellectual Property Organization, the United States is ranked 4th in innovation. Switzerland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom are 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. Not Singapore, China, or Japan. In fact, Singapore is 6th, China (Hong Kong) comes in at 14th, and Japan in 16th.

What’s up with that?

In an effort to catch up with the world leaders in subject matter that doesn’t convert to reality, we’re stifling our production of potentially great field specific leaders.

As you can see, innovation, invention, entrepreneurial spirit, and getting things done in reality and seeing projects through to fruition doesn’t take advanced math. It takes desire, passion, soul, work, ingenuity, creative thinking, people skills, communication, flexibility, belief, sacrifice, risk, practice, trial/error/success, feel, intuition, and everything that makes us human.

Whether we’re a yoga instructor, musician, public speaker, professor, doctor, app developer, or painter, the receiver of our work, our art, our science, our expertise is a human.

Stop focusing on the wrong shit!

Using What We’re Good at For Good

Through a series of unfortunate events, surviving two decades in a violent, volatile, crime-ridden neighborhood and one particular incident where I had two guns pressed into my head, I realized something: what is taught and practiced in a dojo, doesn’t really translate to the street.

Reality isn’t so neatly packaged.

For 17 years after the gun thing, I sought out, researched, practiced, studied, read, and trained with some of the scariest, most intelligently dangerous people on the planet.  I formulated a program and taught private clients how to survive violent confrontations.

No.  Not fairy tale “self-defense”.  Real life violence is ugly, brutal, bloody, injurious, fast, painful, unexpected, and mentally, psychologically, and emotionally incomprehensible in real time.  I taught violence.  I taught war.

It’s a dark atmosphere and teaching this, living in that realm, can take its toll.  But, I was good at it; good at delivering knowledge, wisdom, insight, and instruction in such a way that they got it.  They felt it, adopted it, and embraced it for real.

One of my clients, an Air Force Intelligence Specialist wrote this on my behalf; “I spent one month under the instruction of Rob Wilson prior to a tour overseas.  I would personally recommend attending his instruction to anyone seeking to learn reality-based personal defense as effectively as possible.”

The day before he left, he asked me, “What brought you to teach war?”  Hmm.  I wasn’t expecting that.  After some quick mental inventory, I replied, “It’s because I love peace.”

And he said, “Then why don’t you teach peace?”  And he left.  Mic … dropped.

There’s a line in the movie, Hotel Artemis, where Nice (that’s her name), a highly sought-after female assassin says, “You can’t pick what you’re good at.  This is what I do.”

There are guys out there, some whom I learned from, who make their living teaching tactical violence.  It’s who they are and I’m so happy they exist.  Not great at parties, but when evil happens, they’re your best friend.

For me though, my client’s question punched me in the chest.  I love peace, but I was living in the yang.  I felt it and people around me started to feel it too.  If I love peace, why not live in the yin?  And so, here I am.

There’s a thin line between war and peace, love and hate, yin and yang.  Actually, the line is only perception.  There is no physical line, but a sharp transition between the darkness and the light in a continuous swirl, with a bit of one inside the other.  You know the symbol.

Back to Hotel Artemis: When Acapulco, played by Charlie Day, offered to hire Nice to use her dark skills to protect him, she replied, “That’s not what I do”.  What a shame.  Maybe we can’t pick what we’re good at, but we can use what we’re good at for good.

Namaste.