You Can’t Wear a Blindfold and See the Light

Good morning! I hope your day is starting off nicely.

Yesterday, somebody mentioned that Facebook has gotten extremely polite lately, with fewer argumentative posts and a lot more pictures of babies and kittens. Somebody asked the question, “Is it possible they finally put a stop to the monster they created?” Because that’s how it works. When you can’t stop writing nasty letters, you blame the people who make pens.

Well, let’s agree on one point. Social media is nothing more than a platform on which we can share thoughts. There’s no inherent requirement that we pick fights or debase those who disagree with us. We do that all on our own. Social media just allows it. Kind of like a mother watching her two kids punch one another. “As soon as this is over, you’re both grounded!”

When I first started writing motivational posts, I noticed within a few weeks that my daily feed had gotten a lot more positive. People weren’t arguing. They weren’t looking for reasons to be offended. And it was entirely possible to celebrate a birthday without the conversation devolving into a political debate over which party wants us to live longer.

I remember thinking, “I’m making a difference! People are reading my posts and becoming more positive!” Okay, every writer wants to think they’ve touched their readers in a way no other person ever has. That’s why we do it. Believe me, it’s not for the money. And the last time I checked, there’s no line of groupies waiting by the front door.

After a day or two of basking in my newfound greatness, it occurred to me that just maybe the reason I was seeing so many more positive posts is that all of the negative people on my feed had unfriended me. One even offered the theory that maybe I’d joined a cult. You know, you could hand some people a bag of gold and they’d complain about the weight. Oh well.

The truth is, when I began sharing inspirational messages, I also cleared my “friends” list of anybody who couldn’t share a recipe without a political dissertation, whether I agreed with them or not. I needed a break. In a week’s time, I unfollowed close to 200 people. So, I guess it’s no wonder I was only hearing from positive people. They were the only ones left.

Dave Barry once wrote, “I can win any argument on any topic, against any opponent. People know this and steer clear of me at parties. Often, as a sign of their great respect, they don’t even invite me.” I think there’s a little more wisdom than humor in those words. Come to think of it, I haven’t been invited to a party in years. Um, hello?

But the point is simple. If you want to reduce the negativity in your life, change the channel. Step away from negative input and look for something a little more worthy of your time. “But I need to know what’s going on in the world!” Okay, but there’s a difference between consuming news and drowning in it. Especially when the “news” is somebody else’s biased opinion.

Your mind is like a computer. Every bit of input it receives is stored away in permanent memory that, at this age, I can’t seem to access as easily as I once did. But it’s there. And as new ideas are received, they’re validated against all that data we’ve stored over the years. If it matches what’s already there, it’s stored as “fact.” Everything else goes into the “BS” file.

That’s great if you’ve been filling your brain with positive thoughts. That becomes your basis of truth, and your brain will subconsciously seek out proof of that mindset. If, on the other hand, you’ve been filling it with negativity, it’ll seek validation of that as well. Either way, everything we see and hear is run through the filter we’ve already established in our mind.

It’s why one person sees a storm on the horizon, and another sees the blue sky overhead. They’re both looking at the same sky. The difference is one expects storms while the other expects sunshine. And expectations are nothing more than regurgitations of what our mind has been programmed to believe.

Shut out negativity, and your daily “feed” automatically becomes more positive. Challenges become opportunities. Despair yields to hope. And you realize that, behind every cloud, the sun still shines. It’s not about denying facts and living in a world of delusion. It’s about equipping your mind to work through life’s tribulations to find the happiness that awaits those who do.

As a technical writer, I had a sign over my desk … “Garbage in, gospel out.” Sure, it’s funny until you realize I wrote aircraft maintenance manuals. But our brains work pretty much the same way. Garbage in, gospel out. Make sure you’re storing information worthy of remembering. Your happiness depends on it.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2020 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

News Isn’t a Bad Thing – Taken in Moderation

Good morning! I hope your day is off to a nice start.

Feels like it’s been forever since I last wrote. There are times when the mojo takes a detour and finds somebody else to spend its time with. That’s what happened with me last week. I wish I could blame it on work or household chores, but the truth is I wasn’t any busier than normal. Sometimes the brain just needs a break. Of course, some brains need a little less than others.

I’ve learned a couple of things about myself over the past several months. I know, at my age, you’d think I’d have it all pretty much figured out by now. After all, it’s not like I’ve taken on a new identity. But I’m not the same person I was even a year ago. Keeping up with me is like shooting moving targets in a carnival arcade game. Crooked gun and all.

I’ve always felt it’s important to at least stay abreast of current events. People say ignorance is bliss and if that’s true, my oldest daughter should be the happiest person on the planet, at least when it comes to the news. Two hurricanes could hit the Gulf coast in the same week, and she wouldn’t have any idea. I’m not exaggerating. It happened just a few weeks ago.

But you know, there’s something to be said for that. Sure, it keeps you in the dark to a degree, and if you live anywhere near the Gulf coast, that could be an important tidbit of news. But there’s a certain mental relief in not dwelling on things you can’t change that won’t affect your life in any meaningful way over the next few days. Like tonight’s dinner. Does it really matter?

I’ve always felt a need to stay abreast of current events. Not necessarily that I can do anything about them, and I’m certainly not one of those people who changes his 401k investment strategy based on today’s gas prices or who won last week’s debate. I’m not that smart. If I tried playing the market, I’d lose big. Well, not “big” … you have to start big to do that.

Still, I like to know what’s going on in my world. Not for anything more than a sense of being informed and being able to form an educated opinion that nobody still wants to hear. But I’m learning that, the more news I consume, good or bad, the more it weighs on my sanity. And sanity is not one of those things I can afford to spare. Again, you have to start big.

I guess the news itself wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for all the “informed” commentary by people who think we need their opinion to help decipher what we’ve just read or heard. I laugh every time I see a headline that says, “How to watch this week’s debate.” Um … turn on the TV and watch? Duh! Maybe I’m not as smart as I thought I was.

And just in case you missed the real thing, social media is overflowing with opinions on who said what and the underlying “truth” everyone else seems to have missed. Only problem is, most of those “opinions” are somebody else’s – people see something that speaks to their own beliefs and pass it along as gospel to anybody looking for “facts” to support their own opinions.

There are two problems with this. First, you can’t believe everything you read on the Internet. That’s a direct quote from Abraham Lincoln. I’ve even seen his picture with those words. And second, you don’t have to know everything about everybody else’s life in order to live your own. It’s reality TV without the script. At some point, you have to seriously ask, “How does this affect me?”

If the answer is simply that it informs you, then put it in perspective and get on with life. If it’s something you can’t possibly change, stop agonizing over it. No amount of worry or anger will make a difference, except to your own mental well-being. And make no mistake, we are in uncharted territory right now, and we need all the marbles we can hold onto.

Being informed is a sign of intelligence. But too much information can clog the pipes and keep you from focusing on what’s really important. Get what you need and move on. Because, one thing you can be sure of, when the dust settles and this is all behind us, you’ll still be left with the life you put on hold in the process.

Remember the Serenity Prayer. There’s a lot of wisdom in those words. Focus on the things you can change and find a way to accept the rest. Storms are an inevitable part of life. But a clear mind and healthy body are your best bet for making it through to the other side.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2020 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

The Truth According to Who?

Good morning, and happy Friday! I hope your day is off to a nice start.

I think summer is just about over. It’s a lot cooler here today, by about twenty degrees. You know what that means, right? Global warming is gone!!! We can go back to leaded gas and aerosol sprays, and cows can once again break wind without fear of ending up on somebody’s dinner plate as punishment. Hallelujah!

Okay, I wrote that completely tongue-in-cheek and I still feel even more idiotic than I sound. Of all the things we can do with computers, nobody has ever invented a sarcasm font. Seriously? I guess you’re supposed to just read the words and accept them as truth without applying any thought of your own. Sounds a little dangerous to me.

In a previous life, I was a technical writer. My job was to take technical matter and express it in words the average Joe can understand. And the industry must not know any really smart guys named Joe, because they told us to write everything at a sixth-grade level. Think about that the next time you read a toaster manual.

I wasn’t so smart about all those things that I could just write the manuals. Okay, maybe toasters. But for anything more complex, I had to rely on subject-matter experts – people who knew the topic inside-out and could give me enough information to let me write the book. Which is why most user manuals have big mistakes. You’re getting it second-hand.

Over my desk I had a sign – “Garbage in, gospel out.” It was a not-so-subtle reminder that I would write what I was told to write. I’d ask questions and get clarification on anything that didn’t sound quite right. But in the end, the person giving me the information was the source of truth. If they forgot something important, it didn’t go in the instructions. Kaboom!

Worse yet, most people would follow those instructions blindly because they were under the mistaken impression the book was written by somebody who knew what he was talking about. It’s one thing when you’re talking about burned toast. But if you bypass the wrong sensor and accidentally raise an airplane’s landing gear while it’s on the ground, that’s gonna leave a mark.

Which is why most instruction manuals, especially those that deal with more complex and dangerous procedures, have a disclaimer at the front that says, “If these instructions aren’t clear, get help.” Find somebody who knows a little more about the topic and make sure you’re not about to drop an airplane on somebody’s head.

That said, as a writer, I tend to take things pretty literally. Like those billboards that say, “Illiterate? Call today!” I’ll just leave that one right where it sits. My favorite was one of those seat-back emergency procedure cards on a passenger plane. At the end it said, “If you cannot read these instructions, ask a flight attendant for assistance.” Got it!

In a world of 24-hour news and social media, it’s become far too easy to just read what somebody else thinks and accept it as a source of truth. After all, “they couldn’t write that if it weren’t true!” Well, yes … they can. And believe it or not, they do. Why? Because somebody will take it as gospel and spread it around. Before long, everybody’s talking about it.

Some of this even originates from “news” sites. And we all know, journalists are held to a higher standard of reporting the truth, right? No, they’re not. Besides, a lot of these “news” agencies consist of a couple of trolls sitting in a dark corner of their mother’s basement, making up stories as they go. And if you tried to identify them, your search would likely end up overseas.

Then there are the stories that appear as if they came from a reliable media source. They even have the right logos and background colors. It has to be real! Well, if a hacker from Nigeria can mimic your bank’s website well enough to fool you into sharing personal information, it’s not that difficult to copy an international media webpage.

Sure, we should all pay attention to what’s going on in our world. But consider the source. If it’s so outlandish you can’t believe such a thing could ever happen, trust your instincts. Do a little research. In the same time it takes to spread a story, you can verify its authenticity. And while some pretty outlandish things have been happening, don’t believe everything you read.

It’s hard to know the truth sometimes, especially when we let our own preconceived beliefs influence what we take to heart and what we automatically discard as lies. The truth rarely lies at the ends of that spectrum – it’s usually somewhere in the middle. If you want to be informed, then inform yourself. Don’t ever let somebody else tell you how to think. Least of all, me.

That’s all for now. Have an awesome day!

© 2020 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved

News Is Like Horseradish – A Little Bit Goes A Long Way

Good morning! I hope your day is off to a great start.

For those who have been missing these posts, you’re right – it’s been at least a few weeks. I didn’t plan on taking a vacation from my morning musings. It just worked out that way. If you haven’t missed me at all … well, I don’t know how to respond to that. But even with the best of friends, you sometimes wish they’d go home for a while. I get it.

Several things have been going on, and I just didn’t feel that I would be able to give my best. So, I decided to ride it out. The danger in that is that it becomes a habit. Miss one day and it’s easy to jump back in. Do it a few times, and the excuses start to multiply. After a while, it’s like dieting and exercise. The best of intentions take a back seat to whatever excuses may arise.

Another problem is that I’ve been my own worst patient when it comes to positive thinking. I’ve allowed events of the day to consume my mind to the point that all I was seeing was negativity. It’s not hard to do with 24-hour news and social media to fuel the fire. And let’s be honest – we are seeing some of the worst in humanity right now in people’s responses to genuine issues.

Part of the problem is that people are so desperate to cling to their views, everything becomes a matter of choosing sides. There is no middle ground anymore. You’re either one of us or one of them. And I’ve been guilty of that myself. There is a point where you just can’t stretch your own values far enough to accept some of what you see in others.

It’s normal to feel that way. Not healthy, and not constructive. Just normal. It’s also normal to become intoxicated when you drink too much and it’s natural to do things you normally wouldn’t when you’re a little inebriated. That doesn’t make it a good thing – just a natural consequence of intentional behavior. And it’s no surprise when it happens. We expect it.

Well, the natural consequence of ingesting too much negative news is bitterness and depression. It shouldn’t have surprised me, but it did. It hit me right in the face when I started to lose my temper talking with a customer service rep about satellite radio service. I told my dad later, “I never get upset like that!” The look on my wife’s face said it all. Apparently, I do.

So, I had to do a little soul-searching and get back to the basics. Seems we do that a lot, whether it’s in our career, relationships, health, or just about anything. Because the “basics” are the foundation on which everything else is built. If you lose that, it all comes crumbling down. And the basics are pretty simple – surround yourself with positive input and limit the negative.

I’m on the road to recovery, but it’ll take time to get back where I need to be. Time and effort. It doesn’t happen by coincidence, or because God decided to bless you with happiness. You have to seek it out. You have to be more than just a willing recipient – you have to reach for it and embrace it. You have to make it more a part of your life than any amount of unhappiness.

Maybe today is a good day to do a self-assessment. Are you moving in the right direction, or could you use a little course correction? The sooner you make the necessary changes, the less time it’ll take to get back on track. Happiness is not a tangible thing – it’s a frame of mind. And it’s always out there, waiting to be enjoyed. Best of all, it’s free. All you have to do is decide how much you want.

That’s all for now. Feed on the positive and step over the negative. It’s that easy. Have an awesome day!

© 2020 Dave Glardon – All rights reserved