To Fight Or Not To Fight?

“With great power comes great responsibility” – Uncle Ben (Spiderman)

Power is something I have been considering for a long time. What exactly is it? What are your obligations to use your power for, assuming you find yourself in possession of some power? How many types of power are there?

I want to tell a story from when I was in college to demonstrate a misuse of power in from my past and what I learned from that.

Let’s introduce the characters. Myself. John Bro and A.O.B. (Names have been changed to protect the guilty, or innocent as it might be, except for myself).

John Bro was a mutual friend of A.O.B. and myself. I didn’t care much for A.O.B. I considered myself pretty religious at the time (I had a lot to learn), but still, I was put off by much of  A.O.B’s general derogatory comments towards women. He was also much too obsessed with this appearance and tough guy demeanor. So  admittedly I wasn’t coming into this with a very good attitude, but I was overall cordial to A.O.B.

Now he was hanging around our house (John and I lived together) pretty regularly, which was fine. But what was not fine was that A.O.B. had decided that I was a good person to antagonize. Being generally averse to confrontation, I generally shook off his personal attacks. He would “talk smack” at me rather often. He’d also make these ridiculous jab motions towards me like he was going to punch me. You get pretty tired of flinching because you think you’re going to be punched relatively often.

Finally one night I had had it. After yet another fake punch and some more harsh than usual smack talk I decided to end it that night. I challenged A.O.B. to a fight. Now I was a pretty decent wrestler in high school and I’m also 6’1”and relatively muscular. A.O.B. was probably 5’8”, a little pudgy but was also on the college wrestling team (for a short time) and had been an (amateur) boxer. He had also grown up in a tough neighborhood, from what I understand, or at least that’s what he said.

The fight was quite uneventful except for my first (and last) attempt at some smack talk “Do what you do!” I shouted at him as we were scuffling. Not my most enlightened sentence, then again, I obviously wasn’t doing much clear thinking as I was in the middle of a fight that I had (more or less) initiated.

The fight was over rather quickly. As is oft to happen when a wrestler fights a boxer, we were on the ground in less than a minute, I had secured a rear-naked choke hold and he had tapped on my arm signaling he was giving up and I immediately set him go. I walked in the house smugly, sure I had seen the last of our problems.

Two seconds later I was made aware how wrong I was by a fist hitting me in the back of the head. Turns out people who walk around insulting others and generally being antagonistic are pretty poor losers. A.O.B. had punched me in the back of the head, after I had won! What the heck?!?!? At this point our mutual friend John Bro threw A.O.B. out of the house. He didn’t come back for a long time. Seems like overall that was a win for me right? Well that night I spent most of the night wondering what other retaliatory action A.O.B. would take against me. Would he destroy my car? I was (and am still) a pretty huge car guy. Would he get his gang members and come beat me up? He was allegedly in a gang. Luckily no more retaliatory actions were ever taken and I also never really had to see A.O.B. again.

So what were the outcomes of that fight? Well my main goal on not having A.O.B. around demeaning me verbally or making fake jabs at me was fulfilled. This is definitely not a guaranteed outcome in situations like this. It’s just as likely that he could have beat the hell out of me and as was shown by his post fight antics, he likely would not have stopped if he had gotten me in a compromising situation like I had him. I had put my personal safety in peril. That was dumb.So while the outcome was arguably good in this situation it could have turned bad.

One outcome was I was physically exhausted and had received a punch in the back of the head and a cut from the fight. Definitely not a preferred outcome.

Another outcome as I mentioned was that I was nervous for months that A.O.B. would be after me or my property. This was an unintended outcome and one I had not considered before the fight. Also a bad outcome.

It is a pretty safe bet that A.O.B. did not learn anything from that fight. I didn’t show him the quote that I shared at the beginning of this article, “With great power comes great responsibility.” Instead, I reinforced that the strong take and do what they want and the weak suffer. That was not that lesson that I meant to teach him. This was a third undesirable outcomes.

So for a total of 1 arguably good outcome (that could have ended a much different way) and 3 bad outcomes, lets consider other ways that I could have handled that situation.

One way would have been avoidance. I simply could have made myself scarce whenever A.O.B.  came around. This is generally a cowardly way to live and not necessarily a very reasonable one.

I could have approached A.O.B. myself with reason and conversation. I could have tried to share with him why I getting pretty fed up with his act. This would have saved me from being in a life threatening situation in the first place, a lot of paranoia afterwards, a punch to the head and it would have taught A.O.B.  that there are better ways to solve a problem than fighting. 4 for 4 good outcomes again.

The best way would have been to get John Bro, our mutual friend, as an ally on my side. I think I could have convinced him that via his mediation he could create a calm that would make the time we spent together more cohesive. Bringing a mediator in between 2 disagreeable parties, preferably a fair mediator trusted by both parties is always a great way to solve conflict. I could have shared the same things but with an ally that A.O.B. trusted instead of just by myself. There is power in numbers.

So now you know a story from my life. I was in a fight. I learned that there are better ways to solve problems than fighting. If that simple message could get out to the world at large, I think we’d be on a pretty good track.

Fat vs. Fat Wads Of Cash

Entitlement and bad math skills.  These are two reasons people have so many problems these days. We feel entitled to have it our way (thanks to Burger King) and we expect it now. Also people are choosing to be awful at math, I guess I could blame this on the schools but I am more apt to blame it on bad parenting. It’s not hard to teach your kids math. 2+2=4 is pretty simple. Unfortunately you can’t pick your parents. I would also blame some of this on the government and their lack of keeping to a budget. What kind of example is that to the people? What should you expect the average person to maintain a budget surplus when you don’t yourself?

Let me start with a few simple equations relating to the title here.

Calories In < Calories Out = weight loss  – Preferred
Calories In > Calories Out = weight gain

For those of you whose parents haven’t taught them what < mean that means “less than”. You can remember that because < looks similar to a L. > means “greater than”.

The cool thing about equations is that you can affect different parts of them differently. For example you could reduce your calories in by eating less and thus make it less than calories out yielding weight loss. You can also increase calories out, for example by exercising, and thus make it more than calories in, leading to weight loss again. You have options.

The simple reason why diets don’t work is that people only affect one of those parts of the equation (calories out) and only for a short time. If you revert to the state that lead to the situation, by quitting your “diet” you should not be surprised at the weight gain.

As Einstein said (allegedly) – Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Onto the fat wads of cash equations.

Money In < Money Out = Debt
Money In > Money Out = Savings (Fat Wads Of Ca$h) – Preferred

By now you should understand the equations as they are the same equations. Notice that which on if the prefered equation is different though. You want excess in the money equations, you don’t want excess calories in in the weight equation.

Now onto the entitlement thought of the day. The problem with these 2 sets of equations is that you have to sacrifice things to come out on the preferred side. If you want to lose weight you will have to sacrifice some temporary comfort, either in the way of being a little hungry sometimes (not even starving, eat one less donut!) or less comfortable in the way of spending some time doing some physical activity. Gasp!

On the money side. You are required to make some sacrifices as well. Do you want to eat out every week for lunch that’ll be $50+. Do you want to make your own meals, probably will be $25 or < (that’s that less sign again). Do you want a new car and recurring payments for 72 months! Let me just tell you that no you don’t. You can probably continue driving your old car and banking that $500+ a month. Savings!

So that was on the savings side. On the “Increase income” side you have plenty of options as well. Take a look at where you are now. What’s your income? Are you happy with that? Then disregard this completely. If you are unhappy then maybe take some time to research what jobs will pay you more. Then you can investigate what is required to take you from where you are to that job. Let me tell you, it’s not likely going to be a fast journey and that’s where the entitlement problem comes in. “I want it all and I want it NOW” as Queen says is the mentality we have these days.

That needs to change. Some people have very low self esteem or low motivation. I’m here to tell you that “You can do it!” Sometimes that’s all people need to hear is someone giving them positive reinforcement. Today is the best time to start. New year, new you right? The only thing is you need to maintain the new attitude or habit. Don’t give up 1 week later like most New Year’s resolutions.

You will notice that I mentioned creating good habits. That starts small and you will likely not see results immediately, but over time, much like compound interest, small changes add up. One pound lost a week over a year is 52 lbs! $10 saved a week (don’t drink 2 coffees a week?) is $520 a year! Small change over a long period time is the only sustainable way to do things.

I heard a story one time where a person said
“I want to run 3 times a week to lose weight.” – John
That person was asked “How’s that going?”. – Jen
“Not well, I don’t have time.” – John
“Well, why don’t you run one time a week?” -Jen

“What good will that do?” – John
You can recognize the  fatal flaw of entitlement. John expects himself to go from 0 to 3 times a week running with no effort. Remember when I said “You can DO it.” The key there is DO. Action often drives passion. If you can rouse yourself to go to the gym, or avoid buying a $5 coffee one time, you are more likely to do it the next time. Actions breeds passion.

My challenge to you is to choose one action in your life that you are not particularly happy with and change it this year. Start small. Set some actions that you can follow that will reinforce the new habit. Put a dollar in a jar each day if you want to save money. Do one push up before you get in the shower each day, or more if you can. Start small, but don’t forget to ramp it up as you progress. Have a happy and successful 2014!

Darin McClure – cover photo – Flickr Creative Commons

Trust. Government Regulation. Guns and Income Inequality (Oh And Of Course Smoking)

I have been wanting to write about gun control and income inequality recently but as I’ve been researching and talking with people I have come across some interesting similarities between both topics that I feel the need to expound upon.

The basic idea shared by both these topics is how much government regulation should be exercised over each issue? I think it’s important to try to understand what is really being said, despite the words used. When a person says I want more government regulation, what they are really saying is “I trust the government to make better choices for my life than I can for myself.”

I am completely ok with that statement if some people want to make it. In fact, it’s probably quite accurate for the majority of people, not because the government is incredibly smart, but because people are often incredibly self centered and ignorant of how the world works. I would never make this statement myself. I am the architect of my own future.

For every regulation you think the government should make you should also be arguing for more taxes. OOOOOOOOOOHHHHHHHHHHH NNNNNNNNNNOOOOOOOOOO. I’m not paying more taxes, you say. Ah. Herein lies the problem. People can’t see the world beyond the walls of their own home and they think that the government should take care of them, but they don’t want to pay for it. People expect someone else to pay for it and this is the problem with arbitrarily raising the minimum wage.

How do you conduct your shopping? If you are like most people out there you first ask “What is the cheapest way I can get this?” If that includes buying things from Walmart, which you are very vocal about not liking on Facebook, or buying a burger from a fast food joint because it’s fast, cheap and therefore convenient, you are part of the problem. If you wanted to do something active to make companies listen to you you need to start talking with your wallet. Read this article about Moo Cluck Moo. It is a semi-fast food joint in Michigan that pays its workers $15/hour. Here is the important part for you lazy people who won’t read it “In order to make this model work, customers have to pay a little more.” If you go to McDonalds because it’s faster or cheaper but then argue that McDonald’s should raise their minimum wage, you are part of the problem. That is called internet activism my friends and it’s as useless as a knife at a gun fight.

The same principle has been enacted in the argument for smoking. People are arguing that the government can remove someone’s free choice to smoke and your free choice to avoid establishments that endorse smoking because you think the government is smarter than you. If you are in the NRA you should also be trying to help smokers get back their choice to smoke in places that business owners think it is beneficial for their business (public places like gas stations and hospitals where it’s inherently dangerous excluded). Read my article on smoking if you want to understand that more. If however you are in the NRA but you think that it’s ok to deny restaurants the right to choose if they will have smoking or not, you are really saying that you DO trust the government to make good choices for you and all your arguments for no gun registration is as worthless as a gasoline engine on the moon. (For those of you who don’t understand this, an engine running on gasoline needs oxygen to run, of which there is none on the moon.)

So let’s recap. The question is how much do you trust your government? If you say, unequivocally but argue against higher taxes, you are a liar. If you say I don’t trust the government at all (NRA people and anti-gun registration folks) but argue for some regulation like seat belt laws and smoking laws I also call you a liar.

This is my challenge to you. Let’s start taking a little responsibility for ourselves. Do the right thing! If you think you can make good life choices for yourself lets see you do that. If you don’t think you are capable of making good life choices for yourself, please give your whole paycheck to the government and let them tell you exactly what you should be doing for a job, where you should live, what you should eat etc.

Mark Rain Flickr Creative Commons, cover photo