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!

Why is Reality a Hard Sell? 3 Questions

While I was studying athletic training at Temple University, one of my mother’s friends came up to me and asked, “Hey Rob, what can I do to get rid of this?”, flicking her triceps fat, while eating a donut.  Hmm.  Very attractive.  As I got into the real answer, she interrupted me with, “No, I just want to get rid of this”.  Again, with the flicking of the fat.

She wanted the result; the destination without the journey. I couldn’t help her, because well … I’m not a warlock.  And even if I was able to do magic, there was much more to it than flabby triceps.  She would have looked very odd.  Funny though.

The thing is … there’s very little value in the result without the journey.  Fantasy is a cheap sell and after its purchased, whatever little value it had, is quickly diminished.

Three questions:

Why is the buying and selling of the fantasy so easy?

Because, reality is not easy.  It’s hard to sell hard.

The fantasy is wearing $90 yoga pants at the mall, while drinking a smoothie with a wrist full of mala beads.  It’s taking a selfie at the top of Mount Everest.  It’s six-minute abs, how to become a millionaire in three easy steps, and a guaranteed black belt with payment in full.  Easy money.

Why is reality such a hard sell?

Because its packaged wrong; focusing on the destination, instead of the journey.

Sell the journey, not the destination and package difficulty as something desirable.  The real rewards are in the climb, even if we don’t reach the summit.  Through effort, pain, strife, focus, determination, introspection, practice, training, breathing, and going inside ourselves, seeing who we are, we’re rewarded with some very rare knowledge.  We gained wisdom, we didn’t die, we’re fitter and more flexible, physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  And as a byproduct; yeah, maybe we summited.  Maybe we became a martial artist, became a yogi, and even uncovered those abs.

Should either one be sold at all?

No.

When the value of the journey is presented well enough, people will buy.  No one likes to be sold, but we all love to buy.

Buying reality takes acknowledgment of the truth.  The truth of what is.  Reality is freedom, self-awareness, and empowering.  It can hurt and it can abolish pain. It can bring us through the sadness to true happiness.  Its not always easy, but the rewards are real.  It’s an amazing place, but it’s not for everyone.

Don’t try to sell everyone.  But, for those who are ready to take the journey, let them buy.

Photo by Michael Clarke on Unsplash

This is Us

The chance of you, me, or anyone ever being born and existing as we are, is one in four-quadrillion.  In simple mathematical terms, that means zero.  A zero chance, so the fact that we’re here means we won the biggest and most impossible lottery ever and we didn’t even buy a ticket.

However, … our importance is greatly over-imagined.  Wait … what?!

Our home; this earth is but a speck of dust in a universe so vast, it’s unimaginable.  Carl Sagan’s observation about this “Pale Blue Dot” we live on, provides some perspective.

He says, “Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

We’re so intelligent and advanced with our technology, but we’re not very smart, when it comes to what really matters.

We commit gross atrocities against each other in the name of politics, religious beliefs, race, national origin and so on.  Some individuals and groups are affected so much that they’ll kill other humans and feel righteous about it as if they’re on the “good side”.  So much misery and darkness inside an improbable being on a speck of dust.

Hate, division, and racism is big business and the purveyors of this poison have a wider and deeper reach than ever.  It’s sick, twisted, and quite evil.  All forms of media selling us on how we should feel, why we should be angry, and what side to be on and whom to be against.  Telling us that we should be offended, ashamed, mad, repressed, or whatever else rows the oars of their massive ship.

My favorite sitcom used to be a place I could go for a healthy laugh.  Not anymore.  Now there’s a message and an agenda.  I thought this was a comedy?  I really liked that show.  I used to enjoy your talent, your music, your jokes, and/or your writing, but now its tainted with preachy manipulation.  And for that reason, I’m out.

Politicians, news media outlets of all genres, network television programs, movies and the actors who play in them, stand-up comedians, leaders, musical groups and individual singers, churches of all kinds on one side or another, newspapers, Universities and their staff, authors, social media, and … well, almost everywhere.

What ever happened to entertainment?  What happened to the “news”?  What happened to … us?

This planet is roughly 4.5 billion years old.  Us humans; a tiny, tiny fraction of that.  Somewhere around 200,000 years with civilization of any form having only been around for about 6,000.  That’s nothing.  When we’re gone; when this pale blue dot is gone, the universe will still be.

Our significance is minuscule in the grand scheme of things, yet our ego is immense.  Such an advanced species and yet, so greatly flawed.  There’s so much that we can’t truly know, yet we pretend we do.  “We believe that what we know is true and if you don’t agree, you’re wrong!”  Our party against yours, this religion against that one, and that “race” against another.

By the way, there’s only one race of humans, so we need to get our head out of our asses on that one.  Different colors, shapes, sizes, and sexes, but we are all the same animal.  Some are smart and some are quite stupid.  Some are good and some are bad.  Some have class, while others are classless.  Some are assholes while others are just very cool peeps.  Some cling to excuses, while others find solutions.  Some are lazy and some work hard to improve life on this speck of dust.  Some are selfish, while others do their best to help humanity as a whole.  Most of us are a mix of all of those things along a sliding grayscale.  And … we come in all colors.  Same race though.

We will never be perfect.  The mathematics make that an impossibility.  There will always be war, hate, division, atrocities, tragedies, and evil.  And there will always be peace, love, union, kindness, miracles, and good.  We will never have world peace, but there is peace on earth.  At this time however, the balance seems to be way off.  We are giving the negative all our energy and of course it’s spreading and perpetuating.  We need to quit feeding it.

We’re all on this dot together; 7.5 billion of us, yet alone in the cold, vast darkness of space.  It’s an incredible existence and I am grateful to be a part of it, however small.

Cheers.

Photo by Voyager 1.  Earth, from 3.7 Billion Miles.

 

 

Embracing Our Balance

Driving in a straight line requires a thousand adjustments to the steering wheel, because the car, it’s suspension, it’s tires, alignment, and many other things aren’t perfect.  Outside the car, the road itself isn’t perfect.

To execute a yoga pose, our muscles are making hundreds of minute reactions and modifications to hold the balance, because our bodies, the floor, the temperature, our skill, our mind, and many other things aren’t perfect.

But, we adapt to all of these imperfections almost effortlessly in real time, through instinct, feel, presence of mind, care, focus, and reflex.  We get into trouble when we try to adjust reality, tipping the scales of the universe in our favor to accommodate us, instead of the other way around.  A little bit goes a long way, but too much is too far.

Remember Utopia?  That fictional island in the Atlantic with a perfect society: no poverty, no wars.  But, while the utopians didn’t “believe” in war, they trained for it.  And everyone wore uniforms without any distinctions. Oh, except to distinguish the sexes and who is married and not married.  But other than that, no individual expression of style.  And … the towns of Utopia were all alike, except in certain situations.  And the town of Amourot of course, was the most eminent and exceptional of all.  Nice.

Hmm … wait a minute.  Who’s utopia are we talking about?

To achieve “Utopia”, we have to implement rules and exceptions that affect, embolden, and counteract other rules and exceptions.  Oops.  Side effects and counter-indications stack up like a list at the end of a pharmaceutical commercial: “Could cause divisiveness and discontent”, “Some experience depression, suicidal thoughts, loss of freedom, and a lost sense of self and purpose”.

The concept of utopia is a miserable endeavor attempted many times and to varying degrees over thousands of years and it has never worked.  It’s like taking water from this end of pool and putting it in the other end.  Utopia’s problem is reality.

Reality, from deep inside us to the shallow edges of the universe, is dynamic with an infinite number of variables, nuances, and circumstances.

Now … add us humans to that, multiplied by how many of us are actually involved; each of us bringing our opinions, hierarchy, beliefs, education, emotions, status, experience, wisdom, personalities, wants, current mood, needs, and special interests, along with a million other things, then “Utopia” truly is unachievable.  After all, that is the meaning of the word, isn’t it?

While reality isn’t perfect, it is perfectly imperfect.  Its happiness and anger, joy and sadness, destruction and art.  Its preference and distaste, law, crime, justice, reward, and punishment.  It’s peace and unfortunately, war.  It’s good, bad, ugly, and beautiful.  It’s luck and misfortune, gains and setbacks, comedy and tragedy, love and hate, feast and famine.  It just is.

If there is such a thing as Utopia, it is balance.  Find YOUR balance.  Embrace it.

Photo by Gustavo Torres on Unsplash.