"If you have an apple, and I have an apple and we exchange apples then we both still have one apple. If you have an idea, and I have an idea and we exchange ideas then we both have two ideas." George Bernard Shaw

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Money Doesn't Buy Happiness, But it Enables it

    There's a common adage that says that money can't buy happiness.  Earning large amounts of money won't bring happiness.  Saving large amounts of money, as Ebenezer Scrooge of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol did, won't bring happiness.  However if money is not used to enable happiness then it is really of very little value.
     There is of course money's usage to provide the necessities of life, but I don't think there is any real discussion there.  At least not one I'm interested in.  I'm more interested in how money can be used for good and to bring about happiness.  In the last year or so I've adopted a philosophy of "it's only money".  I have had opportunities to help others achieve happiness and the only real barrier to me was time and money.  By saying "it's only money" I mean that there was really no reason I shouldn't have used money at those times.  I am quite capable of getting more money.  As Charlie's grandfather says in Tim Burton's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory": "There's plenty of money in the world.  They print more of it everyday."
     One of those experiences occurred when I was faced with a choice of going home for a family event or staying in Logan where I lived.  I tried to justify to myself that I had recently been home and there was really no reason for me to go home again so soon.  After some thought I decided that family was more important and that it was worth sacrificing for.  I had the time and the money to do it, so I decided I should do it.
     Another experience was with a cousin of mine who was struggling a little financially.  I owed her gas money and when I found out that she really needed it because she was waiting for her paycheck to come and needed food I gave her the rest of the money in my wallet.  It wasn't much, but it helped her.  I reasoned that I had it and she needed it.  It felt good to be able to help her out.
     More recently I came across a game that my brother enjoys playing and so I went and bought it.  I enjoyed the game as well and thought that if it was something I could do with my brother and that he could do with the rest of our family, then it was more than worth it.
     In all of those cases money didn't buy happiness, but it enabled it.  When I made the trip home or when I played that game with my brother I created memories, and built relationships.  When I helped out my cousin, I was able to serve her, and as King Mosiah teaches: "When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of you God"
     Money can mean many things to many people.  To some it is power.  To others it is stability. And to still others it is simply a means of providing necessities and sustaining life.  To me, money's greatest value comes when it is used in the service of others; in enabling happiness.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Rules? I Like Rules

     Yes I could be called one of those goody two shoes kind of guys.  Yes I have been accused of being a rule nazi (especially when it comes to my favorite games such as Settler of Catan).  I've been called old fashioned and just about every other name you can think of for someone who actually likes the rules and tries to follow them.  I've had arguments/discussions over rules with mission companions, coworkers, family, and old girlfriends.  And at the end of the day I choose to follow rules, to understand them, and to be grateful for them.
     Recently at my job I had an experience that made me especially grateful for a rule that was in place and the safety it represented.  I work on an assembly line and am required to wear safety glasses.  They are uncomfortable and sometimes get dirty making it hard to see.  Also no one looks good in safety glasses.  While placing a bolt and a nut using a wrench and a pneumatic drill I lost my grip on the wrench and the drill threw the wrench at my face.  It hurt, but not nearly as much as it could have had I not been wearing safety glasses.  At best I would have gotten a black eye and at worst I would have lost my eye entirely.  Either way I am grateful for the rule requiring me to wear safety glasses.
     A past girlfriend of mine really liked to break "minor" rules.  She hated when I would set rules for us, and we inevitably argued about them.  She would often ask if I trusted her to keep us out of trouble or if I trusted myself to do the same.  I would often reply that I didn't trust myself.
     I really do trust myself; I trust myself to make a smart choice before hand and not put myself in a position to get in trouble.  I trust myself to make guidelines for my behavior so my weaknesses are covered.  In this case not making out, because I knew it would become very difficult to not move on other things that I would sincerely regret.
     A soldier trusts his gun and his aim, but that doesn't mean he's going to walk behind enemy lines.  He's going to stay far away from danger and confront the enemy on his terms (really it's the terms of his commander who knows more than he does, but that's a topic for another day).
     In the case of my girlfriend I usually gave in to her and nothing good ever came of it.  I made some mistakes that I wish I could take back.  I often felt enormous amounts of guilt and self loathing because I knew I was better than that.  Eventually, with help (thanks Mom), I broke up with her.  It took a long time to overcome the depression that ensued because I wasn't true to myself and I didn't do what I knew was right.
     I like rules because they keep me safe.  They keep me from danger.  They keep me happy.  Some rules it's true, have no real purpose.  Rules made by evil people designed to enslave others should be fought against.  In general, however, rules have good reasons for existing.  They summarize knowledge and experience that has been passed on from one person to another.
     Safety rules at work protected me from serious harm.  Rules I had made or borrowed from my religious leaders would have kept me much happier.  Dieting rules keep a person healthy.
     If you don't like a rule, perhaps it is because you don't understand it.  If you don't like it or don't agree with it, question it.  Ask why it exists.  What purpose does it serve?  How can following this rule benefit me?  A smart person learns from his own mistakes, and a genius learns from the mistakes of others.  A genius would recognize that rules often arise from the mistakes of others, and by adhering to the rule, avoid similar mistakes.
     Sometimes rules simply provide order.  There is a rule (sadly on its way out) that says: "ladies first."  Have you ever tried walking through a door at the same time as another person?  Or awkwardly had a nonverbal argument about who goes first for something?  Allowing ladies first simplifies things.  The follow up that may have once followed this simple rule is: "elders first." (generally summed up in "respect your elders and betters)  Sometimes you won't know who is older and you still have problems, but if it helps at least the majority of the time I think it is worth following.  I heard it said once that rules are the grease of society.  They reduce friction and conflict.
     Next time you find yourself fighting against some rule, take a step back and try to understand it, rather than complain that it is a construct of some high-up paper pusher, male chauvinist pig, God, or whoever to constrain you and cramp your style.  Who knows, you may just like what you find.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Meaningful Intimacy on all Levels

     I heard once there were five different types of intimacy: spiritual, intellectual, emotional, social, and physical.  Hopefully none of these need much explanation, but maybe I'll write some posts about each one some day.  Today I want to talk about how understanding and balancing them can lead to greater happiness in our relationships.
     Disclaimer: I am a single guy and haven't actually been in too many relationships, but I want to share what I've learned from the few I've been in.
     In a past relationship my girlfriend and I focused too much on the physical side of things.  I don't think we would have stayed together even if we had done things differently, but perhaps there would have been fewer problems and heartache.
     After I broke up with her I thought a lot about what I wanted in a relationship.  For a while I didn't really care about the physical part of a relationship because things had gone so haywire.  As time went on I decided that I do want that, but I want it in proper balance with the other four areas.  It is my humble opinion that only when all five balance out can we find the greatest happiness in relationships.  How those balance out is between you and your significant other.  I won't even pretend to know how to help you find that balance, except in a general sense.  Not until I've done significantly more research and observation anyway.
       In general relationships will work better when both focus on the first four areas.  If all you care about is physical intimacy you can be satisfied with anyone.  Anyone can hold your hand or kiss and so forth.  But you want more than that.  You want physical intimacy to mean something.  If you are new in your relationship you don't want to feel awkward.
     Focus on the first four and whatever physical intimacy you have will come naturally.  You won't feel awkward and it will be much more meaningful.
     A wise man (a former bishop of mine actually) once told me that "romance was the icing on the cake or the seasoning of a meal."  Physical intimacy on any level is the seasoning, that while important won't sustain you.  You need to have a strong base to a relationship.  Learn to connect with your significant other on the other four levels.  Build your relationship on that base and when you get old and fat and ugly it won't matter.  The things that your relationship is built on will still be there.  When you look for someone to share life with, find someone that you connect with on those four levels.
     I'm still waiting to find someone to build that kind of relationship with, but I know that when I find her it will be well worth the wait.  And when I find her, the effort to strengthen that base will be worth the effort.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Move Quickly, Not Fast

     The idea for this post comes from The Book of Five Rings attributed to Musashi Miyamoto, a legendary 17th century swordsman of Japan. To those of you interested in Eastern philosophy it is an interesting read, and not very long either.
     So many people are in a rush to do everything.  It's a good idea to not waste time and to be efficient it's true, but there is a difference between moving fast and moving quickly to not waste time. Too often I think people worry about moving fast, rather than moving quickly.  I am generally not a fast person.  I mostly move slowly and steadily through whatever I am doing, not because I want to drag it out, but because I am simply not a fast person in general.  However I can be quick, moving from one task to another smoothly and efficiently. (I don't pretend that I always act quickly, but I can when I need to.)
     Moving fast isn't really something you can control. To a certain degree you can work to imrove your speed, but in general it is something you are born with. Moving quickly on the other hand is a matter of choice.
     Moving quickly means not wasting time between tasks and not deliberating over choices. When you make a choice go forth with resolve and accomplish whatever task you set yourself with. Don't waste time wondering what would happen if you went with a different route. I don't mean that you shouldn't take ample time to make a good choice, but once you decide upon a path go with it.
     On the other hand one can rush through everything, trying to get as much done as possible, but often making mistakes along the way. This is what I mean by not moving fast. Take care in accomplishing a tast and do it well. Once that task is done move on without wasting time in between one task and the next.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Leadership is a Big Game of Chess

     I wish I could recall the circumstances that led to this particular thought. I was talking to someone, probably my mother, about leadership and I thought that being a leader is like playing big game of chess.
     Chess is a game that I enjoy playing and wish I was good at, but have never gotten very serious about, despite the fact that many of my friends think I must be good at chess.  It's a very strategic game made of many pieces each with very unique attributes. A good chess player knows his pieces, their strengths and weaknesses, the playing field, and his end goal.
     Every piece in chess is different and has special ways of acting that no make it valuable. A good chess player knows that each, if used properly can be used to great advantage, even those that seem to be less important.
     The people we lead come in all varieties, from those who take center stage to those that are content to do their job in the background and not be noticed, to those who are afraid to share what they have to give.  A leader needs to get to know each of his "pieces", their strengths and weakness. Don't overlook anyone. From pawn to king, each has something to contribute if you know how to use them.
     A chess player knows the game board.  I don't mean just knowing that there are 64 squares of alternating colors. I mean knowing what positions are most important to hold, which are best for offense and which for defense. The best chess players know the board so well that they can play without even looking at the board. By using chess notation a strong player knows where all of his and his opponents pieces are in relation to eachother. He knows who is in danger and who is in a position to attack.
     Whatever our playing field is we must know it thoroughly. Perhaps we lead a nation and need to know what areas are safe and secure and which are under imminent threat. Perhaps we lead a small group of people on a campout and need to know where we can set up tents and what and where poison ivy grows.
     Perhaps the most important thing to know in a game of chess or in a leadership position is the goal. In chess it is simple: capture the opponent's king, and protect your own. For leaders it can be anything from helping to chop firewood for winter to leading your troops through enemy terrain.  Whatever it is it must be understood by leaders, or else little or nothing can be accomplished.
     When a leader understands each of these basic principles and brings them together he can accomplish great things.  He can maximise the effectiveness of those he leads and make them more together than any of them could be alone.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Start with what you know

     I am currently a college student studying electrical engineering.  Recently I came across a problem that I had no idea how to solve.  I looked through the book hoping to find some sort of inspiration, but to no avail.  There was only one thing to do.  I wrote down what I knew from the problem statement and set out to squeeze as much as information as I could out of the few details provided to me.  After a few lines a solution opened up to me and I was able to complete the problem.
     Another example of this happened when I was trying to fix my car.  Initially it was thought that the starter had died and needed to be replaced.  I wasn't sure where the starter was locacted to even begin working with it.  I thought that maybe I should start with the battery and then follow the cables until it led me to the starter, but I wasn't sure if that path would be productive.  I called my dad for advice and he confirmed my suspicion that following the battery cables would lead me to the starter.
     I followed the battery cables, but still wasn't sure if what I had found was the starter so I called someone else who could come look at my car and give me more direct help.  The first thing my friend did was to check the battery.  I had already tried jumping the car with no luck and was convinced that it must be the starter.  We removed the battery and went to get it tested.  The voltage low enough that the battery wouldn't charge from being jumped by another car, and so we had the battery trickle charged.  After an hour I recieved a call saying that the battery was beyond hope, but that because I was still under the warranty I could get a new battery free of charge.
     I learned an important lesson from these experiences; one that will serve me well in my engineering career and in life in general.  Start with what you know.  It seems like a simple thing, but there is often great power in simple things.
     In solving most any problem you can organize what is given to you and then you can expand what is given using what you already know until you are able to solve the problem.  In solving my engineering problems it is often necessary to rearrange information and look at it in a different way.  I have to keep my mind open and be willing to do work that may not directly help me to solve the problem, but leads me to other options that do allow me to discover a solution.
     I am not always able to solve the problem at hand immediately, but rather am shown what questions I must ask so that I can solve the problem.
     I have found that this is also an excellent way to learn new things.  Find something that interests you and, using what you know, make your best guess about what it is and how it works and then proceed to fill in the gaps.
     To continue on with the example of an engine.  My younger brother recieved a dirt bike for Christmas.  It needs some repairs to make it run and so my brother and I get to work on it together.  I have a little knowledge of how an engine works and by applying what little I know I can see what else there is to know.  If I were to simple look at it and guess how to fix it I would be at a complete loss, but by knowing that gas and oxygen need to mix together and be ignited by a spark I can check if that process is happening correctly.  If it is I can move on to the next thing I know, if not I can learn more about that process and fix it.  
     Some problems may take more work and ingenuity than others, but with any problem, you have to start somewhere, so you might as well start with what you know.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

First Dates

     The first date.  For some it's simple and easy.  For others it can be one of the most nerve wracking experiences known to man.  And why shouldn't it be? You face an entire evening (or monring or whatever time of day you choose) with a person that you hardly know.  You probably think they are good looking and could be a fun person, or maybe a deep thinker, or the sporty type.  It's a mystery just begging to be solved.  And so we go on a date and see what happens.
     The funny thing is, after that first date you still know nothing about the person!  Sure you can spout off a few random facts about them, but that doesn't tell you anything, and no one really remembers any of that stuff.
     It takes time to really get to know someone.  On a first date no one is really themself.  You have to learn how they really are when they are comfortable enough to be themself.  You have to learn what's really important to them.
     You can't learn enough about a person to decide if you want to be in a relationship with them or not on a first date.  And yet we try to do it all the time.  We try to learn all the superficial stuff at first and then decide if we like that person.
     All that stuff should really come later.  Or rather it will come later.  As a relationship build you will eventually learn all the little details, like their favorite movie, their favorite memory from childhood, who their first grade teacher was.  You'll never stop learning the little things about a person.
     But how can we do it differently?  How can you open up to a person when you first meet them to let them get to know you?  Maybe you can't.  What you can do is this: give it time.  Don't jump to conclusions about people until you get to know them.  Give them a chance to be with you without having any expectations, just go on dates to have fun and see where things go.
     You can certainly build a friendship without having romantic interest.  On the other hand you can't really build a lasting relationship without a foundational friendship.  Frienship is a much more durable commodity than romance.  And when the going gets tough what you really need is a friend, not someone to cuddle, though hugs are certainly helpful after a rough day.
     So go on dates and be friends.  Don't make it more complicated than it really is.  Maybe it won't lead to marriage, but if you can gain a friend, then it is worth it.