I once had a manager who, to be honest, was a bit full of himself. The work we did was challenging. It was sales which, as we know, involves performance goals that are not always within our ability to control.
The company paid salespeople strictly on commissions. There was no base pay, so as a salesperson if you did not perform well, you didn’t make much. The high-pressure environment and commission based income led to high turnover.
My manager worked hard, and he did very well for himself. There were plenty of reasons for him to be confident in his role and with his success. But he was more than confident, he was cocky.
I remember distinctly something he said when a fellow salesperson decided to quit. This salesperson had swum competitively in high school and had then been asked to coach a competitive swim team.
He loved swimming and had always dreamed of coaching. As he was returning to school in the fall to study law, he was forced to decide between coaching the swim team and continuing his sales job at the company.
In the end, he decided to follow his passion and become a coach. Of this decision, my manager said, “Some people just can’t hack it, so they look for an excuse to quit.”
The quick reaction of my manager to judge this man as weak, simply for deciding that he no longer wanted to be a salesperson, has stuck with me for a long time.
In our culture, this type of judgment is common. People assume that others aren’t as good as them, because they don’t excel at the same things or because they choose a different path.
I don’t think it’s fair to judge someone as weak, incapable or ‘not cut from the right clothe’ simply because they choose to pursue other interests.
In an attempt to live intentionally, I want to suspend judgment of others and give them the benefit of the doubt. I want to be happy for others in the paths they take for themselves, even if they are different than my own.
Below, I’ve shared some thoughts on how to appraise the strengths and weaknesses of ourselves and others, and how that appraisal can help us suspend judgment.
What is a Skill
Years ago, I read a Gallup book called Strengths Finder that described an intense study of the key strengths of successful people. It also provided a test for the reader to determine what their own strengths.
One of the main principles of the book was that in order to succeed in life, you should focus the majority of your time doing things that are your strengths, rather than focusing on your weaknesses.
It was an interesting approach. What I found most useful from the book, was the guidance it provided in determining your own strengths.
It listed two key characteristics that must exist in order for a skill to be considered a strength: (1) your ability to do the skill and (2) whether performing the skill energized you or drained you.
Are You Good at It?
This is a fairly simple question, with a fairly simple answer. The risk we run is in thinking that we must be good at a skill the first time we try it if it is to be considered a strength.
I don’t believe that is the case. If you are not naturally inclined to perform a skill well, you can spend time improving upon that skill, until you are good at it.
The effort you are willing to put into mastering a skill is derived, in part, by the second characteristic of a strength.
Does It Give You Energy?
It is certainly possible to be good at a skill, while simultaneously abhorring the performance of it. If a skill doesn’t give you energy, then its probably not a strength, and you probably don’t want to spend your life working at it.
Rather, you should focus your time and energy on things that do bring you energy. When I write, I feel good. It takes a lot of mental energy and some determination to keep writing, but when I do it, I am always glad I did.
I also feel good when I speak in public. This might sound crazy to some people, but it gives me a bit of a high. Whether I’m teaching a small class or presenting in front of an audience of a thousand people, it makes me feel good.
In fact, to some extent, I think I’m more comfortable talking to a thousand people than I am talking to one person. I know I’m crazy.
At the same time, there are things I’m probably good at but hate doing; such as sales, interviewing, and crucial conversations.
Choosing to focus on our strengths rather than our weaknesses can help us be confident and find success. We should also allow others to focus on their strengths, and forgive them for their weaknesses.
The other thing I’ve taken from Strengths Finder’s definition of a strength is the ability to look at others and realize that it’s alright for them to have their own strengths – which is the reason I’ve shared the definition here.
If we can look inside ourselves and see that there are things we’re good at and things we’re bad at, it makes it easier for us to see that others also have their own strengths and weaknesses.
Judging others based on our own context of the situation is not only damaging to others, its damaging to us. Surely, the stories we tell about others and their decisions, are the same stories we inevitably tell about ourselves.
We should grant others the right to decide what their strengths are and cheer them on as they pursue them.
So, the next time we encounter any of the example situations listed below, maybe we can for the moment suspend judgment.
You know someone who has recently quit or been fired from their job, and you wonder why it is that they can’t maintain steady employment.
You see someone in the gym who is clearly wasting their time because they don’t push themselves in any of the workouts they are doing. Or, you see someone who you believe is just trying to get others to notice them, rather than focusing on their workout.
You have a friend or family member who is always talking about their goals and what they hope to accomplish, but you can see that they aren’t taking any steps towards making them happen.
Our duty is to believe that for which we have sufficient evidence, and to suspend our judgment when we have not. – John Lubbock
The colleague from my earlier story, the one who quit to become a swim coach, turned out just fine. In fact, he coached throughout the remainder of his time in school and is now an attorney.
I guarantee that he is happier now as an attorney, than he would have been had he continued as a salesperson. I don’t know if he still coaches swimming, but I’m sure his experience as a coach was fulfilling for him.
We spend far too much time thinking about the weaknesses of others, rather than seeing their strengths. Wouldn’t it be better if we all acknowledged that everyone has their own strengths and encouraged them to find and pursues those strengths?
When faced with an opportunity to judge someone, let’s suspend that judgment and see them for who they truly are.
I hope this was helpful for you in some way. If so, please comment below. Thanks.
Pacific Swells is a collection of short stories and helpful articles about finding happiness through intentional living.
“The story of the human race is the story of men and women selling themselves short.” ~ Abraham Maslow
Few lessons I learned in high school continue with me to this day, however, I do remember one teacher who took time to delve into real-world topics, such as life and what the hell we were going to do with ours. We’ll call this above-and-beyond teacher Ms. Thurgood because she was thorough and good.
It was the final semester of my senior year of high school. While all of us students were itching for graduation and the different paths that lay ahead of us, Ms. Thurgood was intent on making sure we left school with a decent head on our shoulders.
She was a veteran teacher, which showed in her calm demeanor and the ease with which she interacted with students. She never tried to impress us; rather she dropped subtle hints to let us know that she understood what it was like to be at the crossroads of youth and adulthood.
She taught English, but her lessons often ranged well beyond the common-core curriculum she had been tasked with teaching us. For someone like me, who was constantly bored in class and felt like I was waiting out a prison sentence rather than a school year, she made the days more bearable.
There was one topic that Ms. Thurgood felt so much passion for that she devoted an entire week’s worth of our time to it. The lesson she taught us was about a man named Abraham Maslow and his study of human nature, often known as Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs.
Maslow was interesting, because, in contrast to the norms of his time, Maslow did not focus on the study of what goes wrong with people, but instead focused on studying the positive side of human behavior. Maslow was interested in human potential, and how people can achieve that potential.
“The science of psychology has been far more successful on the negative than on the positive side… It has revealed to us much about man’s shortcomings, his illnesses, his sins, but little about his potentialities, his virtues, his achievable aspirations, or his psychological health.” Abraham Maslow
Maslow believed that deep down people are good and not evil. I think Mrs. Thurgood believed the same thing, which is why she wanted to share some of Maslow’s theories with us. I think she saw a lot of potential in us, but she also saw the risk we faced of not living up to that potential.
I’m sure she also wanted us to see others in a new light. To recognize that people are to a great extent the product of their environment. She wanted to give us hope. She wanted to provide a roadmap for success and happiness.
The pinnacle of Maslow’s hierarchy is the achievement of self-actualization. The term itself was originally coined by a man named Kurt Goldstein as a definition for the realization of one’s full potential. It means to become who you are meant to be through the expression of creativity, and the achievement of spiritual enlightenment and knowledge.
Maslow made the term popular when he developed a pyramid of human needs, which if satisfied, could help lead a person to self-actualization. In speaking of his research Maslow said, “Human life will never be understood unless its highest aspirations are taken into account. Growth, self-actualization, the striving toward health, the quest for identity and autonomy, the yearning for excellence (and other ways of phrasing the striving “upward”) must by now be accepted beyond question as a widespread and perhaps universal human tendency”
I believe that self-actualization is important because we all have a purpose on this earth and it would be a shame for us and everyone else not to realize that purpose. A nation of self-actualized people is a nation that can accomplish anything and rise above any challenge.
I believe that people have the ability to become self-actualized. But I’m concerned that while people have the opportunity and resources needed, they still may not be reaching the top of their potential. Below I’ve laid out some of my theories of why this is the case, included some research from others, and provided some possible solutions.
Background on Maslow’s Pyramid of Needs and Self-actualization
There are a lot of great online resources for learning more about Maslow, his research, and the self-actualization pyramid. Here is one of them, and here is another.
Pyramid of Human Needs
Based on Maslow’s theory people have certain innate needs, both physical and emotional, which must be met before self-actualization can occur. While these needs are built into a pyramid, Maslow later admitted that the pyramid is not so much a ladder that must be climbed, one rung after another, but instead a general guidebook. As is the case with most things, the outcome is highly dependent on the individual.
Safety needs (shelter, security, order, law, stability, freedom from fear)
Love and belongingness needs(friendship, intimacy, trust and acceptance, affection love, belonging)
Esteem needs (esteem for oneself and respect from others)
Self-actualization needs (achieving one’s potential, self-fulfillment, personal growth and peak experiences)
Self-actualization is not about achieving wealth or prestige, but about becoming the person you have the potential to become. A few quotes from Maslow himself sum up the essence of self-actualization.
“The thing to do seems to be to find out what one is really like inside; deep down, as a member of the human species and as a particular individual”
“What a man can be, he must be. This need we call self-actualization.”
“A musician must make music, an artist must paint, a poet must write if he is to be ultimately at peace with himself.”
I also think that Thomas Jefferson speaks well to the idea of what self-actualization is and what it is not; said he, “It is neither wealth nor splendor; but tranquility and occupation which give you happiness.” I’ve expounded more on this quote in relation to intentional living in a previous post, which you can find here.
How can you tell if you are a Self-actualized Person?
If you’re wondering how you can tell if you or someone else has reached the self-actualization phase, Maslow actually defined the characteristics he believed to be indicative of someone who is self-actualized.
People who are self-actualized have:
Efficient perceptions of reality
Acceptance of self, others, and nature
A reliance on their own experiences and judgment
A task their life is centered around
Continued freshness of appreciation
Profound interpersonal relationships
Comfort with solitude
Non-hostile sense of humor
Are We Self-actualized?
The question I feel inclined to ask is, are the majority of people today self-actualized? If we live in a developed country, have access to education and technology, and have all of our basic needs (biological, physiological, and safety) met shouldn’t we be able to reach self-actualization quite efficiently?
The research would suggest that on the whole people who live in developed nations are not self-actualizing. Here is some of the recent research I have found.
Harris Poll: Based on the Harris Poll, in 2017 only 33% of Americans surveyed said they were happy and slightly more than half of Millennials said they were frustrated with their career.
Gallop Poll: According to a recent Gallop Poll, the U.S. failed to rank in the top 10 happiest countries. Of the 155 nations included in the 2016 study, the United States ranked 14th.
Quartz Article: In her article, Ruth Whippman leans on research that shows, “The systematic packaging and selling of happiness is an industry estimated to be worth more than $10 billion.” She also describes how happiness has become the ultimate consumer product. She also shared that one-third of all people in the United States is likely to suffer from an anxiety disorder in their lifetime
“Self-actualizing people enjoy life in general and practically all its aspects, while most other people enjoy only stray moments of triumph” – Abraham Maslow
What Are the Roadblocks?
The next question to ask is why are people failing to achieve self-actualization? I have a few of my own theories, which happen to agree with some of the research. The list of items below is certainly not comprehensive, but I believe it represents the most pressing issues that many of us face.
Our Priorities are Out of Whack
In life, there are really roughly five categories of meaningful activities on which you can spend your time, such as activities related to your family, friends, education/career, health (physical and mental), and religion. There may be others (e.g., travel and entertainment) but I think they are perhaps sub-categories rather than life pursuits.
If you were to track the time you spent on each category, you would probably discover that the categories don’t receive an equal distribution of your time. For example, education/career probably receives a lot more of your time than family or friends.
I’m not going to argue here for “work-life-balance”, because I believe that it’s a misnomer, especially for highly driven people. What I would argue for is ensuring we know what our priorities are, and we’re the ones controlling the time we put into different activities.
In the same Harris Poll, I referenced above, it states that nearly 40% of Americans said that they rarely engage in hobbies and pastimes they enjoy. Just like being happy, having fun is a choice. We just have to prioritize it, so that we make that choice.
The Distraction of Technology
Technology is a big distraction for me (Me: Hi, my name is Josh and I’m addicted to Twitter. Group: Hi, Josh). We all know in our heart-of-hearts that the stuff we read on social media is not valuable, is often misleading, and is distracting us from living our real lives. Distraction and a lack of control are cited as one of the reasons Americans are not as happy as they could be.
The constant stream of information we receive from technology provides us with an information overload and also leads to FOMO (the fear of missing out). This causes us to check our phones every few minutes, distracts us from the tasks in which we’re engaged, and makes conversations with people who are actually in front of us difficult.
And the biggest problem with technology is that it wastes our time – valuable time that could be used in the pursuit of our life’s purpose.
Focusing on a Life of Luxury
The final thought I have about the roadblocks we face on the path to self-actualization is the trap of luxury. I recently opened a fortune cookie and inside found the message, “You will enjoy good health and be surrounded by luxury.”
The part about good health I certainly appreciated, but the idea of being surrounded by luxury (and thinking it was a good thing) made me uncomfortable. A life of meaning is found in the pursuit of lasting relationships, productivity, and giving service – not in the pursuit of ease and comfort.
Don’t get me wrong, I want my home to be comfortable, but I fear that seeking after luxury flips our priorities around and sends us in the wrong direction. When possessions such as homes, cars, boats, and televisions become our driving motivators we’ve certainly lost our connection with what brings us joy.
How do We Rise Above?
Like most things self-actualization is not an event, rather it is a journey. Life gives us some ups and some downs, and we certainly won’t always be floating on a cloud. Given the self-actualization roadblocks we discussed, here are some things that can be done to improve our chances of becoming self-actualized.
Abraham Maslow said, “What is necessary to change a person is to change his awareness of himself.” I believe that what Maslow meant by this, was that understanding our full potential is all the motivation we really need to begin chasing after our dreams.
Becoming aware of who we are and what we want out of life is the foundation for intentional living. I’ve written about this in the past here and here.
Maslow said, “If you plan on being anything less than you are capable of being, you will probably be unhappy all the days of your life.” It’s not the desire to do something that makes you who you are, it’s the actual process of doing something that makes you who you are.
If you play basketball and want to be considered a shooter, you must shoot. Shooters shoot.
If your dream is to be a writer, then you must write. Writers write.
If you want to travel, figure out how to travel. Travelers travel.
If you want to be an entrepreneur and launch your own company, then found it today. Founders found.
A significant challenge to discovering who you are and what you want is the constant distractions in our lives. Earlier we talked about technology and luxury and how they can hinder our progress.
It’s hard to progress personally when you can’t get away from the incessant thoughts of others. Learn to turn off your computer or phone. Learn to be present in the moment.
Learn to be comfortable with quietness and stillness. Learn to say no to requests.
Maslow also said, “The ability to be in the present moment is a major component of mental wellness.”
I’ll readily admit that this is something I struggle with. Listening to a phone requires much less effort than engaging with a person or accomplishing a task. Consumption is always easier than production, but it can leave you feeling empty inside.
Setting limits on technology will give us more time to focus on what really matters.
Connect with Others
Nobody should travel through this life alone. We know that we need others to be there for us and we need to be there for others. Across research studies and surveys, one finding that appears consistently is that we need other people in order to be happy.
There is really never a time when I feel more in touch with myself and my spouse than when we spend hours alone just talking with each other. It’s fun, it builds connection, it ensures that we are on the same page.
While personal time is important, making an effort to spend more time with friends and family will lead to better mental and emotional health. It helps us to realize what our priorities should be and gives us the courage to realign our lives with those priorities.
Earlier I wrote that there are five categories of meaningful activities where we can spend our time. Friends and family are separate categories because I believe that one does take precedence over the other (hint: its family). Neglecting these two categories can have serious consequences on our short-term happiness, and our long-term sense of belonging and purpose.
I heard a powerful anecdote once that is very much in-line with my characterization of meaningful activities. I wish that I could remember where I heard it, but I don’t. Just remember that while I think this analogy is spot on, it’s not my original work.
Sometimes life is like juggling with a number of bouncy balls in the air at one time. These balls include such things as work, family, friends, health, church, etc… In life, as in juggling, you may occasionally drop a ball. When performing with bouncy balls, the balls that have fallen simply bounce back to you. In life, some things are bouncy balls and you can recover from dropping them. But other things are not bouncy balls, they’re more like glass balls, and if you drop them they don’t come back.
When prioritizing, just remember that our relationships are typically glass balls. We may not get a chance to pick them up if we drop them.
Ms. Thurgood never laid out a plan for us to achieved self-actualization. She did a great job of introducing us to the concept, then left the rest in our hands. If I had to summarize a game plane that I believe would help lead a person to self-actualization it would look like this.
Be aware of what you want and don’t be afraid to go after it.
Align your life so that your activities lead you towards your goals.
Stay connected with yourself and your loved ones.
If you found this post helpful or insightful, please let me know by sharing a comment below. Thanks.
Pacific Swells is a collection of short stories and helpful articles about finding happiness through intentional living.
I was in a college classroom, it felt like a religion class but it might have been history. The room had individual desks, the kind with the metal framed chairs and the small desktops that curve around your seat.
The teacher was an older lady, who had developed some very creative ways of remembering information, which she deemed important. She wanted to ensure that her students could recall specific topics or events in order to explain them to others who may inquire about them. Her solution was to create new words or phrases to help her students.
These words and phrases were not acronyms or mnemonics. Crazy as it may sound, the teacher described them as the way someone might say a word if they were to mispronounce it. Of course, the teacher’s made up words didn’t actually sound like anything. Even in my sleep, I thought this was crazy.
I have no ability to recall the topics or events the teacher thought were so important. What I do recall, is taking the teacher’s test and finding the questions she asked confusing and irrelevant. Here is an example of how the test questions were phrased – “If someone asks you about HOMGOM, what might they be referring to and how would you respond to them?”
In total there were 15 questions on her exam. For the first seven or eight, my subconscious mind was able to quickly find a reasonable response. It wasn’t until I moved on to the second half of the test that I came across the questions with the made-up words.
As I skipped one question after another, having no clue how to possibly answer them, I became increasingly frustrated and angry. Of course, the test was timed, and I could hear the clock ticking down as my time ran out. Tick. Tick. Tick.
My mind drew a complete blank as I tried to answer these questions. Rather than forcing myself to craft a creative yet completely wrong response, I simply left these questions empty. Sweat began to form on my brow. My heart raced with the anticipation of failing the test. I prayed that the time would be extended until I could return to the questions I had skipped.
But, the time ran out. The teacher told us all to put down our pencils. Then to my horror, she asked that we all exchange our tests with someone else in the classroom so that we could perform peer grading right away. When another student approached me, I reluctantly handed over my exam and took his.
The teacher provided the appropriate response for each question, and we were asked to mark our partner’s response as either correct or incorrect. When she reached the second half of the test and began providing the responses to her made-up-word questions, the answers didn’t make any sense to me.
The words the teacher had created didn’t actually sound like any of the responses she was giving. The entire exercise was impossible to follow and I couldn’t believe I was being tested on it. I also couldn’t believe that something so ridiculous would be affecting my grade and thus my transcript.
I raised my hand to protest the silliness of the questions and beg for an explanation as to how these items could possibly be helpful in real life. The teacher’s response was both shocking and infuriating.
She responded that she had talked about these “word plays” in class and that if I hadn’t been paying attention that was my fault. Again I protested that even if I had known the answers, the information was made up and completely useless.
In a very condescending tone, the teacher told me that her responsibility was to develop the curriculum and my responsibility was to memorize it. If I couldn’t do that, then I would fail.
At this point, I began to shout. For those who know me in real life, I’m a fairly subdued person, and there are few people who have ever seen me raise my voice. However, for some reason, I find myself shouting in my dreams quite frequently; usually as a stance against unfairness or in defense of the defenseless. It’s not uncommon to find myself fighting tyranny in my sleep.
It was at this point in my dream when I began to gain some level of actual consciousness. In the real world, it was about five in the morning, and I found myself lying in bed unable to sleep. Despite my best efforts to fight it off, my mind continued to return to my dream. I was trying to process what had happened.
Despite the obvious fact that my experience was just a dream and had not actually occurred, I couldn’t help but feel strong emotions about it. I was angry. It made me feel as though I was trapped in an existence where I had no real control over the outcome of my life. It made me feel as though I was wasting years of my life in an educational system that wanted me to memorize useless information, rather than learn life-changing skills.
As I lay in my bed, stewing over something that hadn’t really happened to me, I began to realize why I was so upset by it. While the dream was just something I’d experienced in my head, the wasted time in a classroom, memorizing useless information, was all too real. The dream was a representation of my actual educational experience.
Aside from some very technical classes in college, I rarely learned something I could take into the real world. It seemed that teachers were more intent on making their class either difficult or enjoyable, rather than educating and preparing their students for life.
How much of my life had I spent in school, memorizing exactly what the teacher wanted me to memorize, so that I could regurgitate it on the next exam?
Without intending to, I began to formulate a manifesto of what school should actually accomplish, rather than what it is accomplishing today. Around 5:20, I found that I could no longer lie in bed trying to sleep, so I awoke and went to write down my thoughts.
What I came up with in the early twilight of that morning, was a simple phrase followed by multiple bullet points. This is in no way a complete list, but I believe that it gets at the heart of what education should provide and where education is falling short today.
Here’s the phrase – An education should help students develop… I honestly believe that students should be the ones who are ultimately responsible for their education, as they are the only ones who can actually learn something. Teachers, parents, and administrators can only invite students to learn and help guide them in their journey. Our primary focus should be to help students go down a path of learning that will prepare them for their lives as adults, rather than preparing them for an entrance or exit exam.
I hope that you find my education manifesto helpful, if for nothing more than getting you thinking about what is important to you when it comes to your children’s education.
Keep reading to see the full manifesto.
An education should help students develop…
Morality does not have to be correlated with or tied to religion. In this context, what I mean by moral judgment is simply developing a standard of behavior or beliefs concerning what is and is not acceptable for them to do.
This involves seeing other people as people, having empathy, and avoiding selfishness. Another way to look at moral judgment is becoming a good citizen, becoming someone who does not steal from or abuse others, and becoming someone who is just and honest in their dealings with others.
As far as I have seen, the current public school curriculum does not even broach the subject of moral thinking.
Courage is taking action in accordance with your moral judgment, and being willing to do something because you believe it is the right thing to do. Courage means doing something even if it is frightening.
Teaching our children courage is important because they will be faced with situations that scare them and they’ll need strength to make the right decision. It takes courage to act on your moral judgment. It takes courage to do what is right even when everyone else is doing something that is wrong.
It will take courage for kids to break the mold, be themselves, and live the life they envision for themselves.
Self-worth is something that schools are not only failing to develop in students but are actually eliminating altogether. How could a child possibly develop self-worth in a situation where they have very limited autonomy, are educated the same as everyone other student, and are constantly compared to their peers.
Self-worth is inherent. All people have worth because they are human beings. One of my favorite quotes comes from my three-year-old daughter, who I overheard while she was playing – “Everyone is my family. Everyone is my friend.”
It’s so simple, but it’s true. If we can look at ourselves and others as individuals, who are inherently worthy, then we will all begin to feel a deeper sense of self-worth.
I believe we can help foster the development of worth in our children by allowing them to be themselves, to make as many of their own choices as possible, and to make their own mistakes. I believe that it will require individualized education, which may not be possible as part of the modern school system, but can be accomplished by a loving parent or teacher.
Critical Thinking and Analytical Skills
Going back to my dream, which sparked this whole educational manifesto, I was extremely frustrated by the fact that my teacher was requiring students to memorize useless information rather than developing valuable skills. The skills I feel are most needed in today’s world are critical thinking and analysis.
The world is evolving at an exponential rate and keeping up with every bit of new information is literally impossible. I’d also argue that keeping pace with all available information is unnecessary. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t continue to learn throughout our lives, and for some vocations, ongoing education is absolutely required. But what is vastly more important is to be able to think critically, effectively analyze, and solve problems.
Albert Einstein is often quoted as saying, “Never memorize something that you can look up.” The ability to look something up has never been greater. We carry this ability with us in our pockets and on our wrists. We have access to nearly all of the world’s information.
Schools don’t need to force feed students information, they need to teach them how to determine the best methods for using that information.
A Love for Learning
Learning is as natural as breathing. For kids, everything is learning – play, eating, bath time. Have you ever asked a two-year-old to stop pushing things off the counter? If so, then you know it’s almost impossible for them to stop.
Why? Because they are learning something new and it’s incredibly fascinating to them. They have to find out if the book or sock will fall again. It worked one time, will it work again? For kids, learning is so much fun that they literally can’t stop doing it.
That is until we begin to coerce them into learning. As soon as learning becomes a requirement rather than a natural occurrence, children begin to dislike learning. Education designed for the masses will never foster a love for learning in kids.
Why? It’s simple. Learning should follow curiosity. Curiosity is the foundation of all learning. Curiosity is the desire to know something.
So how do we help kids develop a love for learning? We get out of their way and let them take charge of their own education. We let them focus on the things they are interested in. We stop forcing them to learn the same thing at the same time as everyone else. Eventually, they will move from subject to subject as new things peek their interest.
Allowing curiosity to lead learning is the surest way to ensure our children hold on to the love of learning with which they were born.
An Understanding of How to Learn
Everyone learns in a different way. Some people learn best by reading about a subject, some people learn best by listening to someone describe a subject, and some people learn best by watching someone perform a subject.
Again, this goes back to individualization. Children need to learn which method of learning works best for them. This cannot be accomplished in a school system where all children are required to learn the same things in the same manner.
How do We Ensure our Children Get this Education?
This manifesto came to me as the result of a dream and a 5:00 am meditation session, which means that it is certainly not exhaustive. It also means that it is not entirely prescriptive. I don’t intend to tell you how to best educate your children, and I’m definitely not trying to explain how the education system should be changed as a whole.
What I do believe is that our kids need to develop the skills and attributes listed in my educational manifesto. While many would have you believe that it is the primary responsibility of communities and governments to ensure children receive a proper education, I will make a stand and say that parents and families are the actual gatekeepers.
Families are the basic units of society and the primary place for education to occur. I would encourage all parents to develop their own educational manifesto, or borrow mine, to ensure their children receive the opportunity for learning they need and deserve.
I hope this was helpful. If so, please like the post and leave a comment below. Thanks!
Pacific Swells is a collection of short stories and helpful articles about finding happiness through intentional living.
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The clouds move faster up here. The air is thinner, crisper. A half-hour drive from my home and I arrived in Provo Canyon. Pine trees as green as ever, stand in stark and beautiful contrast to the aspen and scrub oak, whose leaves burn in vivid, rich oranges yellows and reds.
When I left home, I packed my camera into my hiking pack, with the intention of retrieving it once I hit the trail. Not two miles into the canyon, I was parked on the side of the road cursing my shortsightedness and digging into my bag in search of my camera.
Two wild turkeys were pecking at the ground on the shoulder opposite my parked car. They seemed aware of my presence but too intent on their task at hand to really take notice of me. I’ve seen hundreds of wild turkeys in the hills of Utah, sometimes in flocks of 40 birds, but I’m always as excited as a child when I see one. I snapped a few shots and hopped back into my car. The turkeys slowly meandered up the driveway of a million dollar forest estate.
No more than half a mile down the road, I parked on the shoulder once again. This time it was the mountain itself that had caught my eye. I was staring at the back side of Mt. Timpanogos, an 11,752-ft. peak in the Wasatch Range that looks down over Utah County to the west and the Sundance resort to the east. The limestone rocks towered over the forest below with a dominance that I was intent on capturing, despite knowing that a camera could never do it justice. The snow shimmering near the peak created an even richer contrast with the flaming aspen and the stone cliffs.
I wasn’t the only one unable to resist the photo opp. In the two minutes I was parked on the side of the road, two other drivers stopped and began snapping their own photos of the mountain. I turned in circles taking in the range of colors and textures. The sky was clear and the sun shone down with a soft warmth. The cool air gave me that feeling I have come to crave – that feeling of being in the wilderness.
For $6 I bought a 3-day park pass at the entrance to the Aspen Grove trailhead. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed that my expedition would only last for one day. I had packed the bare essentials – food, tent and sleeping gear, and camera equipment. For an overnighter, it felt like a pretty heavy load. One reason for the excessive weight was the extra sleeping pad and small blanket I had packed in hopes of avoiding an uncomfortably cold night. It was early October and there was already snow on the ground. I wanted to be prepared.
As I prepped my gear in the trailhead parking lot, I realized that I was the only one there with an overnight pack. Everyone else must have received the memo that summer was over and although the forecast called for clear skies, the temperature would drop to 10 degrees Fahrenheit at night. I laughed it off and reassured myself that I’d be fine with my double sleeping pads.
Online, the hike up the Aspen Grove trail is described as intense and arduous. Over a distance of roughly 14 miles, you experience an elevation gain of nearly a mile. With a pack that weighed roughly 30 pounds and a serious climb ahead of me, I had two hopes. The first was that I would see a herd of mountain goats on top of the mountain. The second was that I would reach the top of the mountain.
In 2015 I started a company with a colleague of mine from my MBA program and a software architect whom we’d recruited to be our technical co-founder. Our spirits were high as we dreamed about the company we would build, the financial success we would have, and the lives all of us would be able to live in thanks to our genius and grit. We met with potential customers to pitch them on our idea, took their feedback, and built a pretty good product. We raised money from investors, filed a patent, signed beta customers, and even converted those beta customers into paid customers. We grew our team, won startup competitions and government grants, and raised even more money.
Everything was going great and the future looked as bright as it could be. There was only one problem – over the last few months I had grown increasingly unhappy. The company was doing fine and still is, but I was exhausted and trying to wear too many hats.
Two months before my hike up Timpanogos, I had a difficult conversation with my management team and we decided that it was time for me to step away from the company I had founded and run for the last three years. It was a very challenging experience for me. I watched the thing I’d built from the ground up handed over to someone else to run. Someone who I had to admit was going to be much better at running the company than I was.
I had serious concerns about what I was going to do for money, as launching a company had not left me in the strongest financial position. I had serious self-doubt about my ability to achieve my goals. And I had to live with the reality that all the things I’d hoped for and worked so hard to obtain were still well outside of my grasp.
Launching a company gave me purpose. Every day felt like a do-or-die situation, so I worked hard to focus on the most important things. I could feel a direct correlation between what I was doing and the potential success of the company. This experience made it difficult to think of looking for a job, as I wasn’t sure I’d find that same sense of fulfillment and purpose working for someone else. So, like someone reeling from a bad break up, I jumped right back into the dating world and decided to launch a new company.
I had known a lot of good things about launching a company, as I had done it once before. I knew the Lean Startup methodology well and went to work validating my ideas. Early signs from potential customers were good, but only a month into the project I began to see some very bad signs. While customers were interested in what I was doing, they weren’t ready to hand over their hard-earned cash in exchange for my services. I wanted so bad to go right back to being my own boss, however, reality began to settle in on me. Life wasn’t going to hand me something unless I took a lot of risk for it, and at this point in my life and career, I was beginning to feel a bit more risk-averse.
When I set from the Aspen Grove trailhead I was all alone. Rather than accompanying me, the few people in the parking lot were headed towards the Stewart Falls trail. I didn’t mind the solitude, in fact, I welcomed it. With my backpack situated and my camera strap around my neck, I was filled with anticipation for the adventure that lay ahead of me.
Throughout my ascent up the mountain, I encountered only two people. Both of whom were descending. There was a nice lady, perhaps in her early fifties, who used two walking sticks to ensure her balance. She had not summited but was hurrying down the mountain to get to work. The second person I encountered was a man, who also appeared to be in his early fifties. As we passed he noticed my sleeping pads and let out a surprised laugh. “You’re going to sleep up there!” he said in a way that could have been either a question or a statement. I replied that I was and we both went on our ways.
The solitude, rather than making me feel alone, gave me a sense of empowerment. I enjoyed the freedom to stop when I wanted and spend as much time as I liked observing. I snapped pictures of anything I thought looked interesting – views of the landscape, plants, birds, and bugs. The higher I climbed, the grander the landscape became. My line of sight extended farther with each step I took, making the views increasingly awe-inspiring. I tried to make sure I stopped periodically and turned to take it all in.
My pace was my own. There was nobody beckoning me to move faster. There was no rush to reach my final destination.
Aside from some scattered cumulus clouds, the sky was clear. The weather was warmer than I had imagined it would be, and shortly into my hike, I found myself stopping to remove my jacket. A sign warned that there would be little water available after the second set of waterfalls along the trail, so I made a mental note to stop and fill up my water bottles at the second falls.
Water can be extremely heavy – a gallon of water weighs 8.34 pounds. The same trail sign warned that I should drink a gallon of water before reaching the summit. I hated the idea of lugging extra pounds up the mountain, but my short stint in the Boy Scouts had instilled a deep fear of heat stroke in me. I knew I had to do it.
The first waterfall came just as the terrain transitioned into a steeper grade, a much steeper grade. From that point on it felt like I was walking on a stair master, and the only way to get up the mountain was to follow the seemingly endless switchbacks. My goal was not to reach the top as quickly as possible, rather I was hoping to stop frequently and take photos along the way. The periodic photo stops provided me with ample rest time, but the climb was already beginning to feel intense. The trail was seldom visible beyond 30 or 40 feet, and as I looked up the mountain it was difficult to visualize the path I’d be taking.
Sometimes I would try to look up the mountain and guess where the trail would lead. I was hoping for the shortest route, the one that would take me directly to the top. Unfortunately, the trail wasn’t designed with the most direct route in mind. But what I began to realize as I climbed was that it was designed with the easiest route in mind. The frequent switchbacks allowed the trail to be less steep than it otherwise would have been. Had the route been cut into the mountain as a straight line, it would have been impossibly difficult.
Despite my growing understanding of why the trail was carved into the mountain as it was, I couldn’t help but complain to myself each time it turned away from the summit. It often felt as though I was walking east when I needed to be walking west, or that I was turning south when I needed to be turning north. One step back for two steps forward.
Just over a year and a half into our startup, we faced some serious challenges in reaching our next milestones. The development of our product was moving along and most of our beta customers were still happy with our progress. However, we were low on cash, we didn’t yet have a product that customers were willing to pay for, and we began to feel some misalignments on our team.
Taking on the risks of an early stage startup is an experience you must endure yourself, in order to fully appreciate. Undeniably, there is a level of adrenaline that makes the experience exciting. Each day brings its own feelings of fulfillment because you’re constantly trying to focus on the most important things and working to accomplish them. But there are also serious negative emotions you must battle.
There is no guarantee of success, which means that every day could be one step closer to reaching your life’s dream or one step closer to failure. Adding to your emotional burden is the sacrifices you make from a lifestyle perspective. You spend less time with friends, less time with family, and less time doing things that are fun. Eating healthy, getting adequate sleep, and exercising all become increasingly difficult goals. You also sacrifice from an income perspective.
Granted you are sacrificing current earnings for a much larger financial potential in the future. But again, it’s not guaranteed. Even if it’s calculated, risk is risk, and it can weigh on you. While all of my MBA colleagues were cashing in on signing bonuses to buy new houses and upgrade their cars, I was keeping an eye on my runway to make sure I didn’t get too close to the edge.
There came a point where we had to make really hard decisions from a financial perspective and from a team perspective. Letting members of my team know that their part in our company’s journey was now coming to an end was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. These were my friends. We had worked side by side. We had dreamed together. I had recruited them with visions of what the future could be, and now I was here telling them that they had to go find a different vision.
It didn’t feel good, but it felt right.
The face of the mountain, which makes up the first section of the hike, is extremely steep. However, once you’ve ascended this portion of the trail, the land levels off quite a bit and the landscape changes into a small valley. The switchbacks end abruptly. There is still a good amount of walking to be done before the hike is over but for a few miles, your legs don’t work quite as hard. As you transition from one terrain to another, there is a beautiful set of trees, which you must walk between to continue into the valley.
The twin trees stand as sentinels for the next portion of the journey. As I passed between them I felt a shift in my spirits and increased energy in my legs. Now instead of vertical hills of shrub oak and rock slides, I was surrounded by rolling hills of short grass and stone. The trail turned northwest and lead me towards Emerald Lake, a small body of water that sits directly below the summit of Mt. Timpanogos. Emerald lake is fed strictly by melting snow from above and by mid-October was completely frozen.
I walked down to the lake to snap some photos and observed the frozen sheets of ice that had cracked along the shore. I gazed up at the massive cliffs that towered 1,300 feet above the small lake. From this vantage point, I could see the metal shed that sits atop the summit of Timpanogos. To reach the shed you must continue for several more miles, up another stretch of very steep terrain. A large saddle to the north of the summit is the exit point from the valley I had entered. For the time being, I was content to enjoy the view from where I stood.
Approximately 1,000 yards from the lake and just over a small hill sits an old, stone shelter. The roof is made of tin, and inside there is a stone fireplace. Wooden benches line the interior walls. The shelter was built in 1959 to accommodate hiking parties, some as large as 1,000 people, that were popular at the time. In an effort to preserve the environment on the mountain, these hiking parties were eventually disallowed.
The stone shelter on Timpanogos is similar to many of the places you encounter when hiking. Almost everyone finds it necessary to tag their name in permanent marker or on the walls or carve it into the wooden benches.
It’s a strange interplay between the natural world that people journey to experience and the man-made word they’ve temporarily escaped. I have similar thoughts when I see litter in the wilderness or pass people on the trail blaring music from their phones. The shelter itself is not beautiful, but maybe it would be more serene if it had fewer signs of human carelessness and less permanent marker smeared across its facade.
I had intended from the outset to camp near the shelter, but I wanted to ensure I had some level of privacy (as if there was anybody to hide from). To the north of shelter, just beyond a small rise, I found a comfortable place to pitch my campsite. Visibility was limited from the main trail. I spent some time decompressing inside of my snug hiking tent; eating much-needed food and writing down some thoughts from my experience thus far. Outside, the wind blew with a sense of urgency, but inside my tent, the mood was tranquil and reflective.
By the time I had reached my campsite and pitched my tent, I had yet to see a mountain goat. Or any animal larger than a chipmunk for that matter. I was eager to get a view of the surrounding area, in hopes that I might spot a herd of goats or some other quadruped.
Directly north of my campsite was a large ridgeline that extended to a point high above me. I was later told that this point was known as Brian’s Head. I decided that the ridgeline would be easy enough to follow and the point would give me a good view of the surrounding area.
The hill was mostly tall grasses but occasionally I encountered pockets of stone, where the hill had experienced a rock slide. When I reached the ridge, I was surprised to find that the opposite side dropped straight down for several hundred feet. The ridge itself was fairly easy to navigate, and I followed it upwards towards the peak.
Mixed into the stone, snow and occasional shrub brush were clear signs that goats had passed through not long before me. Goat prints were scattered throughout the patches of snow and mud, and goat droppings could be found all along the trail. Some of the droppings were obviously old, but some seemed quite fresh.
As I climbed the ridge, I would occasionally stop to catch my breath and gaze out at my surroundings. From my lower vantage point on the ridgeline, it appeared that someone had built a snowman atop of Brian’s Head. When I reached the top, I was surprised to find that it was not a snowman at all, but a small, white statue of Buddha. How long ago had someone placed it there, I could not say, but it was a pleasant surprise.
The views from Brian’s Head were absolutely breathtaking. I could see in every direction for miles. The small valley below the Timpanogos summit wrapped around the point where I stood. I could see the trail I had followed coming from Aspen Grove, and I could also see the alternate trail that began in American Fork Canyon. The east side of Bryan’s Head was a sheer cliff of limestone that dropped for hundreds of feet below me.
The cold wind blew across my face and body, but the thrill of standing above the world warmed my soul. I scanned the landscape for miles around, both with the naked eye and my long-distance camera lens, in hopes that I’d spot a group of mountain goats. In my mind’s eye, I saw their off-white coats standing out against the pale green grass. But there were no goats to be seen.
I meandered down the ridge, disappointed that I had not spotted any goats but grateful for the chance to stand atop the hill and take in the world around me.
When you’re all alone on top of a mountain at night, the sounds outside can give you an unnerving feeling. You question whether the noises you hear are just the tarp blowing in the wind, or perhaps they’re coming from something more heinous, like a grizzly bear or a pissed off mountain goat. The only thing between you and sudden death is a thin piece of polyester. It may not be rational, but for a second, your mind can wander.
Back home my wife was praying I made it off the mountain safely, but despite being alone in the woods I never felt any real sense of worry or apprehension. The only time I was even startled was during my hike up the mountain, when I almost stepped on top of a sage grouse. It flew out from under my feet and put the fear of God in me.
Amazing things can happen when you force yourself to focus. With the realignment of our team, we were able to extend the runway of our company by two measly months. It did not make me feel better about our decisions, but I hoped that it would give us just enough time to survive. The pressure that came with our finite existence forced us to become very focused. We made an inventory of the things we absolutely had to do, and we prayed earnestly that it would be enough.
With just two months of cash in the bank, we shipped some much-needed product features and began closing paid deals – some of which extended our runway by another two months on their own. The dark clouds that had hung over us began to part. We began to feel the warm rays of the sun once again
There continued to be minor setbacks, as there always will be, but we felt like we could start thinking big picture again. For one thing, we needed to start looking for talented people who could help us keep the momentum rolling. But before we could bring on new people, we needed to relocate to a respectable office space. For the past eight months, we’d been crammed into a 100-square foot box in a dilapidated building.
We had a microwave, mini-fridge, and four bodies shoved into a poorly ventilated space. It was not cozy. The extremely low rent, which the landlord allowed us to pay on a month-to-month basis, was the only things keeping us from leaving.
We did find a new space, and it was a significant upgrade. We also found a smoking hot deal on office furniture through a friend of mine, who ran his own startup. We paid pennies on the dollar for the furniture and filled our entire space. With the additional space and hip, new office vibe we attracted some top engineering talent. We signed a few more customer deals and had strong interest from an industry group to form a partnership.
Given the momentum we were experiencing, it seemed like a good time to approach investors. Raising money always takes longer than you would hope, but we were able to secure investments from some very good people. We had cash in the bank, paying customers, a great team, and a lot of exciting things in the works.
There was only one problem, and it was a big one. I was unhappy.
At some point in their lives, almost everyone has a product or service idea that could eventually become a business. Very few people make the journey from their concept to paying customers, because it is extremely challenging. But getting to paying customers is not even close to the end of the journey. Once your company has paying customers, you move into the scale phase of a business. This is where I began to struggle. We had moved from a chapter in our business where I felt empowered and confident, to a chapter where I began to feel ill-prepared.
From the beginning, I had always said that founding a company was not about my ego and I would do whatever was necessary for the company. Even if that meant stepping aside. It’s just that I didn’t expect it to come so quickly. Fortunately, we did have a great team of people that I fully trusted. They were understanding of my situation and eager to continue in the pursuit of our dreams.
With a heavy heart and worn out leg, I realized that I would not be summiting with the rest of my team.
My night was spent eating, writing, reading, and eventually sleeping. The temperatures outside dropped below 10 degrees, but inside I was comfortable and warm. The extra pad and small blanket I had brought to wrap around my sleeping bag had paid off.
In the morning I decided to go looking for goats, rather than trying to summit the peak. I’d experienced the summit before, and while it ached a bit not to attempt it this morning, I was more eager to see a goat. Where to begin looking though, I did not know. The evening before I had been unsuccessful in locating any mountain goats from the top of Brian’s Head, so I was setting off on a blind search.
I decided to start down the trail in the direction I had come the previous day. If I was unsuccessful at finding a goat, at least I wouldn’t need to backtrack to get down the mountain.
Near the twin trees I had passed through on my climb, there is a small pond. It sits south of the trail and is tucked into a joint where the mountain suddenly changes directions from east to north. This small pond, just like its sister Emerald lake, is the result of melted snow from the cliffs above.
The area around the pond seemed as good a place as any to go exploring, so I set off to see what I could find. Along the path to the small pond were several patches of trees and shrubs, as well as the same grassy fields that cover the valley. I decided to set my pack down next to one of these patches of trees and make my way over to the water. As I moved towards the water, I felt the undeniable feeling that I was being watched.
I’d experienced this feeling before, when I was a kid, walking alone through the foothills of Northern California. We had camped with a number of other families near a small creek. I was walking down a dirt road to meet up with some others who had gone ahead. Just before our camping trip, I’d seen a TV special on mountain lion attacks. The reporter had pointed out that attacks were increasing in frequency in the very hills in which I found myself alone.
The report also said that mountain lions like to attack from above, but will seldom attack if they lose the element of surprise. My view of the hills along the road was blocked by the large oak trees, and when the birds went quiet, I felt certain that a large cat was stalking me.
To my relief, nothing ever appeared, and I caught up with the others in due time. However, that feeling of being watched had returned to me now on the mountain. My first instinct was to look up, and about 300 yards above me on the west side of Robert’s Head I saw a mountain goat. He dropped his head and watched my every move with his beady, black eyes. I was thrilled that I had finally found a goat. It was alone, but at least it wasn’t a mountain lion.
Distinguishing the genders in rocky mountain goats can be challenging. Both males and females have small black horns and white beards. They also have thick, white fur that makes it difficult to see gender specific parts. I’m convinced that the goat I encountered was a male for a couple of reasons. First, the size and shape of the goat indicated to me that it was male. Second, it was all alone, which is more typical for a mature male than a female.
The distance between us was enough that even with my long-distance lens I couldn’t get a very good shot with my camera. I wanted to move closer, both to get a better photo but also to see him up-close. One thing seemed certain, if I attempted to go straight up the mountain in the direction of the goat, he would run away from me and I would never be able to keep pace with him.
There seemed to be two possible options for getting a closer look. The first option was to go up the south side of the mountain and try to scramble from one piece of cover to another. My concern was that the goat would spot me as I scrambled in the open. The second option was to go up the north side of the mountain, which seemed to be a more difficult climb but would provide coverage during the entire ascent. The north side of the mountain curved away from the goat and would allow me to stay out of his line of sight until I became even with him.
I opted for the latter route and mentally tracked a course that I thought would be feasible. Between the mountain where the goat stood and the meadow where I stood, was a small gully with a creek running through the middle. As soon as I dropped into the gully, I was out of the goat’s line of site. I began scrambling up the side of the mountain, trying my best to stay on the rock outcroppings. I figured that the rocks would dampen the sound of my feet.
The mountain had a fairly steep grade, and I stopped every 30 feet to catch my breath. After climbing for about fifteen minutes, I guessed that I had climbed to a height even with the goat. He had been grazing near a large patch of scrub oak, and my aim was to climb above the shrub patch without alerting him.
As soon as I began walking through the tall grasses, I couldn’t help but make too much noise. Throughout my scaling of the mountain, I was convinced the goat would spot me and make a run for it before I was able to get a glimpse of him. Now as I approached the shrub oak, small twigs snapped beneath my feet, and the hope of seeing the goat up close faded. I made it to the spot I’d planned and searched for the goat but saw nothing.
Who was I to think I could stalk a goat, who had already seen me and was probably an expert at avoiding people? I wasn’t upset, at least I had given it a try. Before I started up the north side of the mountain, I had told myself that the chance of getting closer would be slim.
With a sense of defeat, I turned to head back from where I’d come. When I pivoted to make my turn a grapefruit-sized rock came loose beneath my foot and I slid to my knees. The rock went rolling into the shrub oak, making a terrible racket as it crashed from branch to branch. It felt like the final insult to my injuries. I couldn’t have snuck up on my car, had I wanted to.
As I stood back up to continue my descent, I heard something running north through the bushes just below me. The goat must have been hiding in the scrub oak, and the falling rock spooked him. I quickly headed north myself and came around the corner of the bushes just before the goat. We were 30 feet apart. I stopped. He stopped. We sized each other up and I sat down to show him I was not there to do him harm.
He seemed to relax immediately. Rather than running away from me, he simply dropped his head and continued grazing. His furry coat was thick and white, and he appeared to be healthy and strong. His shoulders were powerful and gave him a noble and graceful demeanor.
I began snapping photos as quickly as possible, but a voice inside my head told me to put down the camera and enjoy the moment. The goat began walking north, and each step he took provided a stunning new photo opportunity. I fired away with my camera but forced myself to stop periodically to take in the experience.
I probably only spent ten minutes with the goat, and then decided it was best to leave him alone. Before I began my descent, I thanked him for his time and wished him luck for the coming winter. During my climb down, I turned periodically to take more photos. He was stunning and the experience left me with a sense of tranquility. I descended the mountain with energized feet and a lightened heart.
Anything worth doing takes a significant amount of hard work and determination. If you really want something you’re going to have to sweat for it. You may even have to shed some tears for it. I was satisfied with the outcome of my hike. I hadn’t summitted the mountain, but I was able to experience the beauty and grandeur of the earth. And I was able to observe a magnificent creature in his natural habitat.
The obvious thing to me was that this was not my last hike. How could it be? There is so much more to experience. So, in a way, I wasn’t satisfied enough by my adventure. Which is pretty much how life goes. Any goal we set for ourselves will necessarily be followed by another goal. Why? Because we need something to drive us. We need something to make life meaningful.
Had I stayed on with the company I founded until it eventually exited, it would have been a great experience. But as soon as it was over, I would be looking for my next adventure. I guess that’s why it’s so important to enjoy the journey. Just as Mt. Timpanogos threw countless switchbacks at me, before I reached my destination, life sends us down twists and turns that we don’t expect.
Sometimes we get frustrated because we feel like we’re going in the wrong direction. Sometimes we can’t see where the trail will go, and just have to trust that life will work out how it is supposed to. We seldom realize that switchbacks are what make the climb possible.
I’ll always be climbing. I’ll always be putting one foot in front of the other, on the hunt for my next adventure. And I believe that life will give me my ten minutes with a mountain goat from time to time. Life will give me grand vistas and awe-inspiring limestone cliffs. I’ll embrace those moments. I’ll soak them in. But I’ll know that they aren’t the end. Because, in life, there is no final summit. Life’s just one big trail.
Pacific Swells is a collection of short stories and helpful articles about finding happiness through intentional living.
Join others who receive Pacific Swells updates via email. Click HERE to signup for a monthly newsletter with my latest posts.
Sometimes my wife and I will receive questions from people about why we don’t have a television. Usually accompanied by a confused look. Sometimes people make statements about how one day we will get a television.
It feels as though some people can’t figure out how to live without a giant screen in their house, and they don’t understand how we do it either. One question that does come up is, “If you watch shows or movies on your laptop, why not just get a television?”
“Is it the money? Because you can find pretty cheap TVs these days.”
Before I dive into all of the reasons I don’t have a television in my house, first let me say that I do watch TV.
In additions to playing basketball, I love to watch basketball – mostly college but also professional. I have a few television shows that I really enjoy – for the most part, comedies, but occasionally a good drama will grab my attention. I also love movies and think that they are a great way to escape.
I even wrote a post a while back that included all of my favorite movie quotes. You can find the post here.
There are a number of reasons why we don’t have a television in our house. Below I share some of the biggest reasons.
The quality of technology that exists today is mind-blowing. I can’t walk into a Costco without being awestruck by the size, design, and capabilities of televisions. The amazing thing about technology is that as the quality increases, the price continues to decrease.
Of course, the newest technology will always come at a more expensive price point and certain brands (e.g., Apple) will also always be sold for a premium price.
However, in general, the proportion of your salary that it takes to buy a piece of technology today is much smaller than it was in the past. This is partially due to the never-ending innovation that is taking place, which drives down the prices of more outdated technology. Another reason for the decrease in price is the ability to produce in such high quantities.
So yes, when people tell me that a television is not that expensive they are correct. But here’s the thing – I still don’t want to spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on something that will provide very few positive outcomes.
Additionally, once you’ve purchased a TV, you have so many other things that need to be purchased. Speakers. A wall-mount or stand. A Blue Ray or DVD player. And once you have a TV, you’re sure to face the temptation to buy a gaming system such as a Wii, Xbox, or PlayStation.
On top of the hardware you can buy to accompany your television, it is essentially useless unless you purchase on-going subscriptions to content providers.
It boggles my mind that people pay upwards of $100 a month to have unlimited channels, of which they may watch 10%. That’s right, research has shown that the average television subscriber receives 206 channels and watches 20 of them per month.
People spend money every single month on something they don’t even use. That’s like getting a gym membership and never going to the gym.
If you decide to go without cable or satellite, then you’ll need Netflix of course. And Hulu. Maybe Amazon Video. Then you start saying things like, “Oh, did you know that you can use Pandora and Spotify on your television as well? Maybe we should get a paid subscription to that.”
To me, the cost of owning a television, purely from a financial perspective, is not worth it.
Money is not the only cost we bare when we own and actively use a television. Research has shown that the average US adult watches over 5 hours of television a day. That’s 35 hours of television a week!
Think of what we’re wasting by sitting in front of a television for so long every day. We could be doing things that are good for our mental, physical, and emotional health. We could be outside playing with our kids or enjoying nature. We could take up a hobby and do something we love. We could read a book.
It’s not just that we waste time on a daily basis. Those hours are adding up over the course of your lifetime. What if you had taken that time to write a book, compose a song, or create a piece of art? What if you had put that time into working a side business or investing? Where could we be if we worked 35 hours a week on a side project, as opposed to spending 35 hours a week in front of a television?
Over the past couple few weeks the weather where I live has been beautiful. The leaves are changing colors and the atmosphere is so vibrant. The air is cooler and the evenings just beg for us to be outside.
I’ll admit that sometimes when I come home, I’m exhausted and just want to veg out on the couch. But I’ve made a conscious effort to get outside with my kids. And it has been so good for us.
We play basketball. We examine wasp’s nests and catch spiders. We go for walks or bike rides. We take pictures and explore the natural world.
It’s so easy for us to tell ourselves that we’ll only watch one show. Or we just want to get caught up on the news or a sport. But even the most disciplined person, when they sit down in front of the TV, will find themselves unwilling to get up and move to another activity.
For me, the time cost of owning a television makes it not worth having one in our home.
Another very important reason for me to not have a television is that I don’t want a room in our house dedicated entirely to watching television.
Many homes have at least one room that is organized to have every piece of furniture pointed towards the television. The TV becomes the center point of the space. It becomes the purpose of the space.
I’m not saying there is anything wrong with having a television in your house, but for me I want our living room to be designed for spending time with people. For playing with our kids. For conversation and quality time.
Granted in our current house we only have one living room. I may feel differently about this argument if we had more space, but to be honest I don’t really want more space.
And given the layout of our current home, I don’t want to make the television our top priority.
A Story to Bring It All Home
To really bring home the reason for the absence of a television in our home, I’d like to share a short experience with you.
We recently had family come for a visit. Our home is fairly small, so a few of the family members stayed as guests in our house, and the rest stayed in nearby hotels. While we weren’t all sleeping under the same roof, our house became the de facto gathering place.
It’s where we ate meals, it’s where we met in the morning and planned the day’s activities, and it’s where we congregated at the end of each day to talk and play games.
Because we don’t own a television, there was never a football game on in the background. We never spent any time staring at the wall, rather than interacting with each other. We had real conversations. We laughed. We argued. We enjoyed each other’s company.
Without a television blaring in the background, there was no need to shout to be heard. There was nothing fighting for our attention and drawing us away from the available human interaction.
These benefits never actually crossed my mind until after the fact. I didn’t tell myself in the moment how great it was that we didn’t have a TV. It was after the weekend was over and everyone was gone that I realized how nice the visit had been. That’s when I was thankful that our home does not have a television.
I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with owning a television and I certainly wouldn’t judge someone for choosing to purchase one. But maybe its something to get intentional about. Just like most things, if you change a few habits, you’ll find a lot of great benefits.
I hope this was helpful in some way. If it was, please leave me a comment below. Thanks.
Pacific Swells is a collection of short stories and helpful articles about finding happiness through intentional living.
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