Month: August 2017

Self Preservation vs. Realizing you have a problem

What took my close to 50 years to understand was that many of my reactions to situations are about one thing, Self Preservation.  Our brains, in in fact every living organism, is about self preservation.  I (and many of the people I know personally as well as those reading this)  are extremely lucky and blessed to have most of our basic needs met, food, shelter, and air.  After that everything else is just extra.  Although my kids thing a Range Rover is a necessity, I have to remind them nope, its extra.

But with basic needs met, what do our self preservation instincts do?  Most of the time it helps you while crossing the road (unless you are looking at your cell phone) so you don’t get hit by a car that you notice movement from your peripheral vision.  But what has become the new twist on the brain you react to change, as well as wanting to keep the status quo in your life the same.  Now there are people who are actively going for change, like a new job etc.  But in many cases most of the people I know, want to keep their lives moving forward, slowly with little alternation.

When life throws a monkey wrench in to what is your world, you then act out.  Your world can be your job, your relationships, even the election.   I found myself a long time ago over reacting to something, that was not in my control, and not even anything I could affect, because I was afraid of what it would do to me.  Why my personal life was going to be miserable, and because of social media I was able to find like minded others.  Posting my anger got me likes, and I didn’t care about who I alienated, as it was about me not anyone else.  It took me a while to realize it shouldn’t have been that way, that no matter what was wrong with what was going on, others are not you, and have their own problems that they perceive as their world that needs fixing.

I grew from that situation, and took stock.  I learned that I don’t attack someone posting in a space whereas there is more than one side, I don’t retort in my posts either (sub-tweet as they say) as I understand things around me will change.  Bruce Lee once said, “To Change with Change, is a Changeless state” – and yes, if I want my changeless state, I need to change with what is going around me, not fight to keep my current status.

Besides social media being this outlet for self preservation, there is a second one that also shows (mainly because of where I work) it head to often.  During the economic downturn many people lost their jobs.  So often, people react to issues at work with the notion of how do I keep my job.  How do I do what I am doing so that I can survive.  I need to provide food and shelter, so what do I need to do so that my homeostasis is continued.  Only thinking about my self preservation, the company is second, so what is the proper solution to problems where I look good, or I come out of issues not looking bad, someone else does.

This view of wanting to put the self first, leads to a plethora of bad decisions at work.  From technology choices, direction choices etc.  I have seen people argue about moving forward even though whatever is working isn’t working properly, but its less scary than going to the unknown.  Or people spending more time figuring out how to cover their ass instead of taking the risk, trying to get the company better.  The goal of this action is “who to blame” when a decision is made if it goes wrong, as opposed to putting all effort into making it succeed.   I work with software developers, and many would love the chance to put in effort to get the best stuff working, instead of patching the old thing over and over again, even though it often is just putting a duct tape on a problem.

This self preservation may lead to also those not seeing their deficiencies.  When making the decisions, if one constantly goes to their strengths, there is no way for you to grow.  Technology is moving faster, and making those decisions is often balance between what you know, and what is right going forward.  I have learned to hire people around me that are in my blind spots, my weaknesses.   I have also told them, after I hired them, this is what I need your help in.  The ones who step up and do it, are the keys to our success.   I know that I am not perfect, that every year when I get a review, often my deficiencies are swept under a rug, and it is up to myself to figure out what is not going right, or what am I not doing well enough to either change, or build my team to resolve.  But it has become that, as my new self preservation vs. the old me who would lash out and figure out who was to blame, who was at fault, and who needs to be punished for my actions.

It is unfortunate we teach high school students many things that are not of value, instead of teaching them how to constantly learn and change.   To think of self preservation not as a survival instinct that needs a reaction like it used to, but one that needs to extend as a learning experience for yourself to get better.  Yes, it does not mean get hit by that car, but and I am not talking about that, but the same basic instinct needs to be updated so that we often do things that are better for the common good, than just ourselves.  We do have the ability to adapt, and as things change around us, we can alter our lives to keep moving forward.

Revisiting Gorilla’s and Bananas real quickly…

Every time I see an article looking at something that has done traditional, and unfortunately will not change no matter what is said or day, and keep remembering my gorilla’s and banana post.  Today I read an article and how bad the Jewish high holiday services are, and know my kids hate going.   Making them go, makes it worse, its like more of a punishment than a celebration.   I wish religion would take advice from this article.

I don’t think I will need to say any more.

I always wanted to be a hero…. never knew I already was

As a kid I had heroes, from athletes, to musicians, to actors.   I would dream about being a hero, being successful having everything I ever wanted in the world.  From reading books of swashbuckling swordsmen, to winning a Stanley Cup, to singing in front of fifty thousand fans what else would anyone want in a hero. There are even times later in life that I would daydream about it.  It seemed the world would be perfect if I could just be one of these superstars, it seemed like their lives were perfect.  They seem to do everything right, the worked out, looked awesome, made money, got the girls etc.

Every so often i would hear about chinks in the armor.  Finding out that the ripped athletes were taking drugs, professional wrestlers who were sworn enemies were actually best friends, and learning musicians were ‘taking drugs’ to write songs started to wear on me.  One of my favorite heroes Bruce Lee smoked marijuana and was most likely hooked on cortisone and there was no way he could reach the body fat he was without it.

So if heroes aren’t what they seem to be maybe I should be looking at it in a different way.  In the movie “A Bronx Tale” the dad shouts at C letting him know what real heroes are, stating the working man is the real hero.  I saw his argument, but didn’t think he was one hundred percent complete.

Three months ago, I lost my wife, and I knew I had to hold it together, it took everything I knew to not completely freak out.  What I found out that I had, or I should say we have a lot of good friends and family that stopped their world to be by my side.  It was overwhelming, it was unbelievable, and still is ongoing.  What took me three months to realize, I had been there for my friends in their darkest hours (and their brightest days) and will continue to try to be.  My sister has been helping out in my house, and many of my friends have been doing anything I ask.

Today I went to visit someone in the hospital, a friend who i saw at Shiva, but had not seen in a long time before that.  I didn’t think twice about trying to make some time during my crazy day to get there.

The notion of friendship, how to be a good friend, and to surround yourself with the right people.  That is what is makes a hero.  And its the ability to do the little things to make someones day, to help one another, In a book my father read to me Alexandre Dumas wrote “All for one, and one for all..”  The three musketeers were one of my heroes, and to realize I have grown up to be like them, or at least to follow what they have found in each other.   I have become one of my heroes, as well as my sister, many in my family, and most of my friends.  We may not carry swords and fight a bad king, we fight for one another.


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