It’s not about your last words

Commitment is an act, not a word ~ Jean Paul-Sartre

It’s been a tough few weeks in America, there have been the unfortunate series of mass shootings, but two have been particularly horrific, one in Buffalo and a school shooting in Texas. As often happens when tragedies like this occur, you see a lot of regret about last words. You see distraught survivors, parents, friends and family members who regret their last meeting with the deceased. You hear weeping relatives and friends lamenting that they didn’t say I love you that morning, or shared a harsh word with their loved ones and they feel terrible about it. You see lots of people posting on social media with memes and advice, always tell people you love them everyday, never part with a harsh word you never know when it will be the last time you see someone. These are all well-meaning ideas, but they’re not realistic. It sets and unrealistic expectation for us mere mortals. As humans, we are not always at our best, sometimes life is incredibly hard and so we don’t communicate the way we would like. We shouldn’t beat ourselves up about that, we are only human after all.

I learned this lesson personally in the year 2000. My grandfather was a feisty old bastard who was born in 1910. He had decided that in the year 2000, he automatically turned 100. Crazy, and when he told me we argued math for a few minutes and then I asserted I guess I did too then, he dismissed me, “you’re not old enough.” Well, as New Years Eve 2000 approached my grandfather fell into a coma. I was in Florida celebrating the new millennium, I’d rented a house on the Gulf of Mexico for the occasion. I got a call about my grandfather’s situation a couple of days before New Years Eve and they suggested I come home because he was about to die. I explained that I wouldn’t be coming for two reasons. The first was that there was no way he was going to die before, in his mind, he turned 100. Secondly, I didn’t need to say goodbye, it didn’t matter that we had some last positive interaction. You see I had always made an effort to spend time with my grandfather.

To me, that’s always been the important thing. It’s not about the last communication you have with someone, it’s about the time you spent with them when they were still with us, and that’s really good news. Because my friends, that means that you can start right now putting in that time with those you care the most about. It’s far better to look back on good times you had with them, then one last good word. And one last bad word could never negate the love grown over that time.

The recent events in Texas and New York and Memorial Day holiday triggered these thoughts tonight, both of my grandfathers were WWII veterans and they are always on my mind during this time of year. Below is my grandfather who died in 2000 and got in his last street fight in 1998 at 88 years-old. I miss you old man. ~ Rev Kane

grandpa, memorial day
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The Miracle of Graduation

A graduation ceremony is an event where the commencement speaker tells thousands of students dressed in identical caps and gowns that ‘individuality’ is the key to success. ~ Robert Orben

Tonight a jointly published post on both the Ministry of Happiness and my Higher Ed Mentor blogs. 

Today, once again, for my thirty-fifth year in education I witnessed the Miracle of Graduation.  I call it a miracle because if you’ve worked behind the scenes as long as I have, seen behind the curtain enough, you know how unbelievably complicated and dysfunctional higher education bureaucracy can be.  Given how difficult getting anything done is in higher education, every spring it really seems like a miracle to see those students walking across the stage in their caps and gowns.

So it happened again today, 300 of them walked across the stage, all smiles and full of pride.  Friends and families came out in droves, they brought flowers, balloons and gifts of all kinds.  Those family members clapped and cheered, hooted and hollered.  After the ceremony there were hugs and tears, people went out to dinner and celebrated just like they always do.

Today’s ceremony was particularly sweet.  There’s a lot going on in the world.  This class was the class of the pandemic, as two-year students they have not known college except during a global pandemic.  That fact is a pressure multiplier.  For our community college students, they are a group that already is and has always been under pressure.  The majority of our students work at least part-time, many full-time and many are parents.  Most come from the lower socioeconomic levels in America.  Which of course means many of them, like I was, are first generation college students.

Being a first generation student brings a special basket full of stresses and pressures.  First off, it means that there is often someone in your family who doesn’t even understand why you are going to college, someone who expects you to fail and doesn’t value what you’re doing.  You also have the exact opposite pressure as there are incredible expectations for you to do well, to represent your family.  Very often your family has sacrificed to make college possible and as such, they are counting on you to be successful.  Not just successful, but for you to change the trajectory of the future of your entire family.

The beauty of community colleges are that they are places, where students, who didn’t feel comfortable in secondary education, can often find a supportive and safe place to further their education.  Our students come from every part of society.  Black and brown students who have never felt equal, LGBTQ students who have been bullied and ostracized, our AAPI students who live with the fear that they’ll be assaulted in the street.  Many of our students come from poor families and all of the added stresses that occur from economic difficulties at home.  We work incredibly hard in the community college system to support all of these students and help them be successful.

So it’s all of these stresses and issues that these students bring to campus while trying to learn.  And for those who walked today, two-years of all of the added stresses brought about by the pandemic.  The fear and anxiety of getting ill or of causing a family member to get ill.  The stresses related to the economic madness that has been occurring, constant rule changes about isolating and masking, surviving lock-downs. Losing people in their lives that they love.  Throw in a war in Ukraine with its accompanying threat of nuclear war or even World War III starting.  To give you an example of how complicated it was.  Our Cosmetology students had their classes suspended, were allowed to briefly come back and were once again pushed off campus and then returned.  Unlike every previous class that had opportunities for client nights throughout their time in college, our current group has only had that opportunity for the last eight weeks.  Oh and just a few months ago the state licensing bureau changed all of the licensing requirements that they will be under.  No other set of students has had so many additional obstacles thrown in their way.

And that’s the other part of the Miracle of Graduation, first that the students got through the bureaucracy, their own obstacles and everything the world has thrown at them.  The second miracle is what this completion does for all of us.  These students, all students, but particularly these students truly are our hope and future. The mere fact that they have graduated, whether it is with a certificate or degree, means that these students have put themselves in an incredible position to change their lives for the better.  But it’s not just their lives, especially for those first generation students, they are changing the lives of their entire families for generations.  That’s a magnificent level of success, it’s the very definition of the American Dream, that the next generation can do better than the last.

But we’re at a nexus point in the history of the United States, hell, the history of the world.  We’re potentially on the brink of World War III, we’re living in the worst global pandemic in a hundred years, global supply chains are in disarray, inflation is spiking to a height not seen in forty years.  Not to mention the fact that global climate change is a true existential human crisis.

It’s not surprising given everything above that we’ve started to hear that young people are becoming increasingly bleak about their future.  But that’s not the students who have and will be walking across college stages across the country in the coming weeks.  These students truly are our hope.  They have worked hard and persevered in one of the toughest college environments any student has ever faced.  They are up to the incredibly complex challenges of the modern world and frankly, they are our only hope for us to successfully face these challenges, and I’m incredibly proud of anything I’ve done to help get them there and to have been there today to celebrate the Miracle of Graduation with them.

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It’s not all roses

The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it. ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

The world goes up and the world goes down. I picked a bad day to write about happiness, as you likely know, nineteen children were killed in our latest mass shooting at an elementary school. I won’t indulge in the politics on this page, or attempt to address the total madness related to this phenomenon. So instead I’ll address this point. Even in an insane and sometimes terrible world, it’s ok to be happy.

The fact is, somewhere, every single day something happens in the world that is beyond horrific. Whether it’s starvation, disease, war or hatred, it’s always happening somewhere. I’m not suggesting that you not care, or that you become cold and indifferent to the suffering of others. Instead I want you to focus on those closest to you and yourself.

We’ve talked frequently about self-care, about finding simple joys in life, positivity, travel and many other ways to enhance your happiness. But sometimes I think it’s important to just remind people that it’s ok to be happy. You can be troubled by the ills of the world and still do what you need to, to make yourself happy, it’s ok.

So the news may be utter shit, the news may be complete darkness and horror, but you are allowed to be happy, it’s good for you and it’s good for those close to you. So be well my friends and have a happy day. ~ Rev Kane

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It’s the people that matter

If you get, give, if you learn, teach ~ Maya Angelou

The first thing that we all have to remember is that it’s all just dust in the wind. Everything we build, all we buy, make and create will in the end become nothing. Somebody was the originator of the idea to build Stonehenge and yes, here we are thousands of years later, still amazed about this magnificent creation. But the originator’s name is long forgotten, the builders of Stonehenge forgotten. Like everything, there are occasional exceptions, we know a little bit about the builders of the pyramids.

So does that mean there is no point to what we do in life, that we should just live a nihilistic existence? My perspective is no, that’s not the answer. Our institutions, our buildings, our countries and our cultures will all someday fade away or change to the point as to be unrecognizable to us.

So the answer is in the relationships that we have. While we will never know the name of the human that first gathered other humans to live together, hundreds of thousands of years later we still benefit from the creation of community and society. Throughout human history people have passed the best ideas and values to their children and other people. In our current society, in many ways, we have formalized this type of sharing. We have schools and organizations that collect this information and pass it on to others. Our society and by our, I mean human society, continues, survives and at times thrives because of the ease in getting this foundational information to build off of and make things even better. But it’s not the information that matters, but the values and drives of the people using this information to make life better for all of us.

Yes, there is a small flaw in this way of thinking. Because just as easily, bad ideas can be moved forward as well. We’ve seen this through history and one of the worst happened less than 100 years ago. The old myths and slanders about Jews were used by the Nazis to justify what they called the Final Solution, which most of us refer to as the Holocaust. This ideology, philosophy and political manipulation led to the murder of six million human beings. I’m not typically an optimist but in this one case I am. I believe that overall the good ideas win out over the bad, and by the good, I mean the ideas that allow humanity to survive and move forward, even to be happy.

What are those ideas? Things like kindness, supporting those less fortunate, fostering a love of curiosity, innovation and knowledge. Protecting those who can’t protect themselves. Most of us do this through instilling these values and ideals in our children. But these aren’t the only people we impact. You can help build these ideals in nieces and nephews, friends and both blood or chosen family. I am also fortunate enough to do this in my work, as an educator I get to help students discover these ideas for themselves. Most importantly I help students find their way to careers, often careers that change the fortunes of not just them, but their children and their families going forward.

Since all of the material things will someday turn to dust, what’s most important is that we help the people we have relationships with, to be better humans. It’s the positive creation and continuation of helpful ideas and values that last far beyond the material items. So it’s the people the matter, and the better job we do of carrying these things forward, the happier we all can be now and in the future. ~ Rev Kane

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Some Life Wisdom

So, as someone who researches and writes on happiness I get a lot of life wisdom, how to be happy, etc…pieces that show up on my feed and in my inbox. A lot of them I quickly dismiss, most I scan quickly for ideas or to see how I might be able to use them as resources for what I writing on the blog. But occasionally something comes along that I really find impactful, one of my favorites I featured in the post Remember the Sweet Things, tonight I present another one from The Technium. Really simple, straight forward and amazing life advice and I can say that I support all 103 of them. ~ Rev Kane

103 Bits of Advice I Wish I Had Known

Today is my birthday. I turn 70. I’ve learned a few things so far that might be helpful to others. For the past few years, I’ve jotted down bits of unsolicited advice each year and much to my surprise I have more to add this year. So here is my birthday gift to you all: 103 bits of wisdom I wish I had known when I was young.

• About 99% of the time, the right time is right now.

• No one is as impressed with your possessions as you are.

• Don’t ever work for someone you don’t want to become.

• Cultivate 12 people who love you, because they are worth more than 12 million people who like you.

• Don’t keep making the same mistakes; try to make new mistakes.

• If you stop to listen to a musician or street performer for more than a minute, you owe them a dollar.

• Anything you say before the word “but” does not count.

• When you forgive others, they may not notice, but you will heal. Forgiveness is not something we do for others; it is a gift to ourselves.

• Courtesy costs nothing. Lower the toilet seat after use. Let the people in the elevator exit before you enter. Return shopping carts to their designated areas. When you borrow something, return it better shape (filled up, cleaned) than when you got it.

• Whenever there is an argument between two sides, find the third side.

• Efficiency is highly overrated; Goofing off is highly underrated. Regularly scheduled sabbaths, sabbaticals, vacations, breaks, aimless walks and time off are essential for top performance of any kind. The best work ethic requires a good rest ethic.

• When you lead, your real job is to create more leaders, not more followers.

• Criticize in private, praise in public.

• Life lessons will be presented to you in the order they are needed. Everything you need to master the lesson is within you. Once you have truly learned a lesson, you will be presented with the next one. If you are alive, that means you still have lessons to learn.

• It is the duty of a student to get everything out of a teacher, and the duty of a teacher to get everything out of a student.

• If winning becomes too important in a game, change the rules to make it more fun. Changing rules can become the new game.

• Ask funders for money, and they’ll give you advice; but ask for advice and they’ll give you money.

• Productivity is often a distraction. Don’t aim for better ways to get through your tasks as quickly as possible, rather aim for better tasks that you never want to stop doing.

• Immediately pay what you owe to vendors, workers, contractors. They will go out of their way to work with you first next time.

• The biggest lie we tell ourselves is “I don’t need to write this down because I will remember it.”

• Your growth as a conscious being is measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations you are willing to have.

• Speak confidently as if you are right, but listen carefully as if you are wrong.

• Handy measure: the distance between your fingertips of your outstretched arms at shoulder level is your height.

• The consistency of your endeavors (exercise, companionship, work) is more important than the quantity. Nothing beats small things done every day, which is way more important than what you do occasionally.

• Making art is not selfish; it’s for the rest of us. If you don’t do your thing, you are cheating us.

• Never ask a woman if she is pregnant. Let her tell you if she is.

• Three things you need: The ability to not give up something till it works, the ability to give up something that does not work, and the trust in other people to help you distinguish between the two.

• When public speaking, pause frequently. Pause before you say something in a new way, pause after you have said something you believe is important, and pause as a relief to let listeners absorb details.

• There is no such thing as being “on time.” You are either late or you are early. Your choice.

• Ask anyone you admire: Their lucky breaks happened on a detour from their main goal. So embrace detours. Life is not a straight line for anyone.

• The best way to get a correct answer on the internet is to post an obviously wrong answer and wait for someone to correct you.

• You’ll get 10x better results by elevating good behavior rather than punishing bad behavior, especially in children and animals.

• Spend as much time crafting the subject line of an email as the message itself because the subject line is often the only thing people read.

• Don’t wait for the storm to pass; dance in the rain.

• When checking references for a job applicant, employers may be reluctant or prohibited from saying anything negative, so leave or send a message that says, “Get back to me if you highly recommend this applicant as super great.” If they don’t reply take that as a negative.

• Use a password manager: Safer, easier, better.

• Half the skill of being educated is learning what you can ignore.

• The advantage of a ridiculously ambitious goal is that it sets the bar very high so even in failure it may be a success measured by the ordinary.

• A great way to understand yourself is to seriously reflect on everything you find irritating in others.

• Keep all your things visible in a hotel room, not in drawers, and all gathered into one spot. That way you’ll never leave anything behind. If you need to have something like a charger off to the side, place a couple of other large items next to it, because you are less likely to leave 3 items behind than just one.

• Denying or deflecting a compliment is rude. Accept it with thanks, even if you believe it is not deserved.

• Always read the plaque next to the monument.

• When you have some success, the feeling of being an imposter can be real. Who am I fooling? But when you create things that only you — with your unique talents and experience — can do, then you are absolutely not an imposter. You are the ordained. It is your duty to work on things that only you can do.

• What you do on your bad days matters more than what you do on your good days.

• Make stuff that is good for people to have.

• When you open paint, even a tiny bit, it will always find its way to your clothes no matter how careful you are. Dress accordingly.

• To keep young kids behaving on a car road trip, have a bag of their favorite candy and throw a piece out the window each time they misbehave.

• You cannot get smart people to work extremely hard just for money.

• When you don’t know how much to pay someone for a particular task, ask them “what would be fair” and their answer usually is.

• 90% of everything is crap. If you think you don’t like opera, romance novels, TikTok, country music, vegan food, NFTs, keep trying to see if you can find the 10% that is not crap.

• You will be judged on how well you treat those who can do nothing for you.

• We tend to overestimate what we can do in a day, and underestimate what we can achieve in a decade. Miraculous things can be accomplished if you give it ten years. A long game will compound small gains to overcome even big mistakes.

• Thank a teacher who changed your life.

• You can’t reason someone out of a notion that they didn’t reason themselves into.

• Your best job will be one that you were unqualified for because it stretches you. In fact only apply to jobs you are unqualified for.

• Buy used books. They have the same words as the new ones. Also libraries.

• You can be whatever you want, so be the person who ends meetings early.

• A wise man said, “Before you speak, let your words pass through three gates. At the first gate, ask yourself, “Is it true?” At the second gate ask, “Is it necessary?” At the third gate ask, “Is it kind?”

• Take the stairs.

• What you actually pay for something is at least twice the listed price because of the energy, time, money needed to set it up, learn, maintain, repair, and dispose of at the end. Not all prices appear on labels. Actual costs are 2x listed prices.

• When you arrive at your room in a hotel, locate the emergency exits. It only takes a minute.

• The only productive way to answer “what should I do now?” is to first tackle the question of “who should I become?”

• Average returns sustained over an above-average period of time yield extraordinary results. Buy and hold.

• It’s thrilling to be extremely polite to rude strangers.

• It’s possible that a not-so smart person, who can communicate well, can do much better than a super smart person who can’t communicate well. That is good news because it is much easier to improve your communication skills than your intelligence.

• Getting cheated occasionally is the small price for trusting the best of everyone, because when you trust the best in others, they generally treat you best.

• Art is whatever you can get away with.

• For the best results with your children, spend only half the money you think you should, but double the time with them.

• Purchase the most recent tourist guidebook to your home town or region. You’ll learn a lot by playing the tourist once a year.

• Don’t wait in line to eat something famous. It is rarely worth the wait.

• To rapidly reveal the true character of a person you just met, move them onto an abysmally slow internet connection. Observe.

• Prescription for popular success: do something strange. Make a habit of your weird.

• Be a pro. Back up your back up. Have at least one physical backup and one backup in the cloud. Have more than one of each. How much would you pay to retrieve all your data, photos, notes, if you lost them? Backups are cheap compared to regrets.

• Don’t believe everything you think you believe.

• To signal an emergency, use the rule of three; 3 shouts, 3 horn blasts, or 3 whistles.

• At a restaurant do you order what you know is great, or do you try something new? Do you make what you know will sell or try something new? Do you keep dating new folks or try to commit to someone you already met? The optimal balance for exploring new things vs exploiting them once found is: 1/3. Spend 1/3 of your time on exploring and 2/3 time on deepening. It is harder to devote time to exploring as you age because it seems unproductive, but aim for 1/3.

• Actual great opportunities do not have “Great Opportunities” in the subject line.

• When introduced to someone make eye contact and count to 4. You’ll both remember each other.

• Take note if you find yourself wondering “Where is my good knife? Or, where is my good pen?” That means you have bad ones. Get rid of those.

• When you are stuck, explain your problem to others. Often simply laying out a problem will present a solution. Make “explaining the problem” part of your troubleshooting process.

• When buying a garden hose, an extension cord, or a ladder, get one substantially longer than you think you need. It’ll be the right size.

• Don’t bother fighting the old; just build the new.

• Your group can achieve great things way beyond your means simply by showing people that they are appreciated.

• When someone tells you about the peak year of human history, the period of time when things were good before things went downhill, it will always be the years of when they were 10 years old — which is the peak of any human’s existence.

• You are as big as the things that make you angry.

• When speaking to an audience it’s better to fix your gaze on a few people than to “spray” your gaze across the room. Your eyes telegraph to others whether you really believe what you are saying.

• Habit is far more dependable than inspiration. Make progress by making habits. Don’t focus on getting into shape. Focus on becoming the kind of person who never misses a workout.

• When negotiating, don’t aim for a bigger piece of the pie; aim to create a bigger pie.

• If you repeated what you did today 365 more times will you be where you want to be next year?

• You see only 2% of another person, and they see only 2% of you. Attune yourselves to the hidden 98%.

• Your time and space are limited. Remove, give away, throw out things in your life that don’t spark joy any longer in order to make room for those that do.

• Our descendants will achieve things that will amaze us, yet a portion of what they will create could have been made with today’s materials and tools if we had had the imagination. Think bigger.

• For a great payoff be especially curious about the things you are not interested in.

• Focus on directions rather than destinations. Who knows their destiny? But maintain the right direction and you’ll arrive at where you want to go.

• Every breakthrough is at first laughable and ridiculous. In fact if it did not start out laughable and ridiculous, it is not a breakthrough.

• If you loan someone $20 and you never see them again because they are avoiding paying you back, that makes it worth $20.

• Copying others is a good way to start. Copying yourself is a disappointing way to end.

• The best time to negotiate your salary for a new job is the moment AFTER they say they want you, and not before. Then it becomes a game of chicken for each side to name an amount first, but it is to your advantage to get them to give a number before you do.

• Rather than steering your life to avoid surprises, aim directly for them.

• Don’t purchase extra insurance if you are renting a car with a credit card.

• If your opinions on one subject can be predicted from your opinions on another, you may be in the grip of an ideology. When you truly think for yourself your conclusions will not be predictable.

• Aim to die broke. Give to your beneficiaries before you die; it’s more fun and useful. Spend it all. Your last check should go to the funeral home and it should bounce.

• The chief prevention against getting old is to remain astonished.

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Happy May Day

All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence. ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

I’m a kid from a working class family and honestly, unless you are independently wealthy you almost certainly have a job. So why happy May Day? Well here’s a quote from an article on the meaning of May Day.

May day is observed every year on May 1. It’s observed not only in India but also in nations such as Cuba and China. The major goal is to acknowledge the immense hard work put in by the working class, to educate them about their rights, and to protect them from being exploited.

May Day, although often associated with the celebrations in Communist countries is in fact a holiday created, but no longer nationally celebrated in America. It was created as part of the American Marxist labor movement of the 19th century. These radicals had a goal of making it illegal for workers to be required to work more than eight hours a day. We owe a lot of what we consider to be normal today to the workers movements of the early 19th and 20th centuries. Things like the eight hour workday, weekends, overtime, holiday pay, etc… all came from these movements.

Of course anything that can be politically associated with Communism is permanently tarnished in America. But I think we should bring back May Day. Yes, we do have Labor Day, which grew out of the Haymarket riots of 1886 to celebrate worker contributions and also was focused on the eight hour workday and that’s great. But I think we all work hard enough that we deserve two holidays a year.

So on Monday, you have my permission to take an extra coffee break, go out for a walk if the sun is shining, maybe put up an impromptu May poll and celebrate the fact that you work hard and have a happy day my friends. ~ Rev Kane

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What a long strange trip it’s been

You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough. ~ Mae West

I decided to be bad today.

Why? Well I finally got around to getting my shingles vaccine shot. When I checked in the lady said, “ooh shingles shot.” The nurse said, “I see you have three vaccines scheduled.” I mentioned I was there for the shingles shot, “oh we don’t pair the shingles shots with any others, it’s a VERY strong vaccine.” I got a little nervous, then she hands me the info sheet. You might experience a sore arm, bruising, a headache, flu like symptoms, extensive vomiting. I stopped reading at that point I’m sure the rest says something about plagues, locusts and potentially becoming a mutant ninja turtle. The nurse said, “if you have sickness, take some medication.” Always good advice. That was seven hours ago, my arm hurts like hell, I have a headache, and feel like I’m coming down with the flu. So I decided to be bad.

Being bad these days means eating and drinking carbs. So for dinner I made some raviolis with garlic bread and had a bottle of root beer. That’s me being bad these days, back in the early 80’s that had a different meaning. Being bad meant a bottle of vodka, a half an ounce of weed and a couple of hits of acid. And probably some questionable company for the evening.

I’m coming up on my anniversary, it was June of 1984 that I finally made the commitment to be straight and sober. Over the last thirty-eight years there has been a lot. A lot of madness, a lot of tears and depression, a lot of amazing places, people and beauty. Moments of incredible joy. Years of obligation and being boxed in by the world’s expectation, many small and a few large rebellions against those expectations. I have taken this trip my way and it has never been in a straight line, rarely made sense to others but was almost always true to me. What a long strange trip it’s been.

The trip led me to study happiness and depression, to create this tiny little piece of the internet called the Ministry of Happiness, hopefully I’ve helped some people feel better about life and to be a little happier. Follow your voice, do things the way you have to and have a happy day my friends. ~ Rev Kane

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Life During Wartime

I’m afraid that reason will triumph and that the world will become a place where anyone who doesn’t fit that will become unnecessary. ~ David Byrne

I grew up during the cold war and as such, wondering if everyday the Russians and Americans would decide to end life as we know it on our planet, creates a certain affinity to a dystopian mindset. The time we are living in right now is becoming equally as stressful as those cold war days. I’m a lifelong reader of science fiction and recently I’ve discovered a really amazing writer, Octavia Butler, through her book The Parable of the Sower. It is an amazing dystopian novel, mostly because unlike most science fiction it doesn’t take place hundreds or thousands of years in the future. It takes on life in America and specifically on the West Coast in the near future, just the next few decades. What made the impact even heavier for me was that I have personally experienced some of the places she uses in the book.

What I found so amazing about the book was how unbelievably realistic it felt. In many ways it felt like an actual diary from the near future. It describes a world that has been falling apart for decades. Disease, war, famine, climate change all degrading our world, our lives, our standard of living. In many ways this is a world living under an old adage, the frog in the pot. The way this goes is that it’s said, if you put a frog in a pot of cold water and slowly turn up the heat, the frog will never notice until the water is boiling and it’s too late.

This idea feels very much like the times we are living in. A global pandemic, war in Europe, global supply chain issues and global climate change. All are degrading our lives in many ways. Most of these are subtle, you can see it at the grocery store if you pay attention. Pre-COVID, we lived in a world where at eleven at night I could leave my apartment and drive to the supermarket. Once there I can find what I want, the brand I want, the flavor or type and even in the size that I want. Now, I can still go to the market late at night, I can still get what I want. But, it’s no longer a guarantee, you might have to settle for another flavor, or an alternate size. And occasionally, you may not find what you want.

This is not a big thing, but when you put it together with not being able to get some things as quickly as you normally would, more frequent fires, storms or other disasters you start to get that we are a bunch of frogs. And even if we all aren’t consciously thinking about these things, we are still feeling them and it’s increasing our stress levels. Now this blog is not the place to talk about solutions to the myriad of large problems in the world. But here we focus on how we can maintain our happiness.

I think the first piece to remember comes from a Wayne Dyer quote, “How people treat you is your karma, how you react is yours.” This goes for the world as well, external pressures are always going to happen, what matters, is how you react. In this respect, attitude is everything. You choose the way you respond to everything. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think you should get all yippy-skippy and dance around singing your joy over war, disease and climate change. But instead I think it’s important to focus on the positive aspects of life. Things may be different than they used to be, there may be more stress, life may get harder, but we have to remember all of the things that bring us happiness.

I received a picture this morning of my littlest niece and nephews sitting on a bench eating ice cream and I think that image really captures exactly what I’m talking about. There is nothing better than the happiness that radiates from kids eating ice cream, or playing. Today was a day for people to have big family meals, time with great company eating good food watching kids hunt for eggs. That’s what I’m talking about, thinking and focus on those things. If you struggle go back and read about the three questions technique that I’ve developed that can help.

Life is hard and complicated and amazing and wonderful. It’s up to us to decide which part of it to focus on. So stay positive and have a happy day my friends. ~ Rev Kane

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The transactional nature of relationships

When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. ~ Maya Angelou

As a manager I pride myself on a few things, one of the things I really try to put a lot of focus on is helping the people I supervise get to what’s next for them. During their annual reviews I end the sessions with two questions, how can I do a better job of managing you, and what’s next for you? I make sure that folks know that I’m supportive of their career advancement if that’s what they’re after. Or, if they want to change directions, I’m here to support that as well. By knowing what their goals and aspirations are, it gives me a better chance of being aware of training and other opportunities that might be available to help them achieve that next step, whatever it might be.

Recently an opportunity popped up that I wasn’t expecting, but was something that I was quite interested in. It was a new job, a position with a fully online college that focuses on helping older students who either haven’t attended college or who had dropped out. The model had specific adaptations for helping these folks, the same types of folks I grew up with and around. Unfortunately I did not get the gig. I’m pretty much an open book with my bosses and people I work with so they knew I was up for the job. This was met with a lot of negative sentiments, comments like, “I hope they hate your guts” and “honestly, I hope it doesn’t go well.” I did my best to take these comments as the compliments they were minimally intended to be.

You see I’m good at my job, and there hasn’t been a history of solid leadership in my position. So my coming in and running the division competently has made a lot of folks really happy. They finally have structure and some place to go to for answers to questions, someone experienced with a good knowledge of the system. They have expressed this to me and have made it clear they are not looking forward to my eventual retirement. On the surface this seems like a mutually respectful relationship, they appreciate what I do for them and in turn like and respect me for doing this work.

However, I was reminded during this job search process, as I need to be from time to time, that almost all relationships are transactional, or conditional if you will. You see it became pretty clear that the people I supervise are only supportive and on my side if I’ll be in position to do for them. But if I’ll be leaving, and not in a position to be able to do for them, well then they are no longer on my side or very supportive. This is the true nature of most work relationships and at times things feel comfortable and more significant, so it’s good to be reminded that they aren’t, and that compartmentalizing my life has always been a good idea.

The fact is most of our relationships are transactional, most people will be your friends as long as you’re providing something for them. Perhaps it’s company to go to events, or being a travel companion, maybe your a shoulder to cry on or just someone giving the attention that they desire. As long as you do these things, they’re your friends. How often have you had someone be a friend who you interact with frequently, who suddenly disappears when they start a romantic relationship, only to return to your friendship when their relationships ends.

We all do this, it’s the deal we make, a social contract if you will, that if you provide for me, I’ll provide for you. It’s not a terrible thing, as long as you remember and understand that the core nature of the relationship is transactional. Of course this is one of the differences with true friends. These are the folks that while we do for them and they do for us, it’s based purely on desire and caring. Transactional relationships are relationships where you typically keep score, in a true friendship keeping score is totally unnecessary.

From time to time I test those relationships that feel like friendships but that I’m unsure about. I typically do this when I start to feel things are getting one-sided. When it’s always my shoulder being cried on, when it’s always me that makes the phone call, or sends the email or makes the effort to visit. Often I’ll just stop reaching out and see what happens, you know it’s transactional when if you stop trying nothing comes back the other way.

I feel really blessed to have four or five people that are true friends. We may fall out of contact for a time, or the relationship may be one-sided for a time, but that happens because of true need, and it’s the fact that you know, they would do the same that makes it so comfortable. While in a transactional relationship you may be weighing the likelihood of some level of reciprocation, in a true friendship it never even crosses your mind.

I hope you have some true friends and that likewise you’re a true friend to them. I have often credited one of my true friends with literally saving my life when I fell apart. That’s how important they are to us. ~ Rev Kane

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Family Happiness

The Ban Be clan in their Carrol Gardens bakery – Brooklyn

My family is my strength and my weakness ~ Aishwarya Rai Bachchan

How happiness relates to family is one of the most complex things in the universe. Humans are often a mystery to us. Our everyday interactions with others often leave us shaking our heads. The most innocuous of interactions can anger people, or even leave us ruminating over an interaction for days. Add in the additional factor of loving someone, of them being part of your family and everything gets amped up like it’s on steroids. The good things are better and the bad things are way worse. Often, your family are the people who know you best, so they know all of your buttons. That can result in the best of surprises or presents, or it can send you into incredible levels of pain, frustration and rage.

It’s important to define what family is, I know it seems obvious, but I may not define it like everyone else. Most people would say family are your blood, the people you share genetic and familial commonality with through birth and marriage. That’s not how I define my family. I’ve written about it many times on this blog, my childhood wasn’t wonderful. I remember being one of the first kids in school with divorced parents and all the angst, fear and madness that went along with that happening. After the divorce there was never a lot of money, sometimes not even enough. I grew up in a tough neighborhood so I know what it’s like to get my ass kicked, to run from trouble, to know real fear. But it wasn’t all bad, I had people who cared about me and for me. The lessons learned being a street kid have served me well. And as all children do, in all circumstances, I had fun. It’s what I admire most about kids, no matter how bad things are, they find a way to play, laugh, have fun and be amazed by the world.

Throughout my life I’ve had family members who have inflicted great pain upon me and so as I got older and learned about the idea of selected family that is how I’ve lived my life. Being a part of my family isn’t an exercise in genetic inheritance, but a matter of being someone I care about, who cares about me. As such I have family who are not blood, and blood, who are not family.

I want to focus today on some of my family. My little brother is fifteen years younger than I am, I always told my mother I would have a brother, she would laugh. So when he was born I got to name him. My father split again, shortly after his birth, so I helped raise him. We have a unique relationship, he is part brother, part son in the way we interact. My brother is one of the few people in my life who I have never been angry with, never felt betrayed or let down by and I’m incredibly proud of him. He is married to a wonderful woman and they have three of the most adorable kids you will ever see. During the pandemic his wife started making some family desert recipes and selling them. They became popular, REALLY popular, to the point the business has moved from the apartment to a storefront.

From something she did on the side, to a full family business that now also employs my brother. Even their soon to be three year-old daughter has a job, she’s the Chief Baby Officer of Ban Be Bakery and the unofficial mayor of Brooklyn Heights. The bakery has gained some attention and fame as the first Vietnamese-American Bakery in New York City. Their cookie tins have months long wait lists, their pop up events sell out in hours.

Ban Be Founder, and swinging Chief Baby Officer

My sister-in-law and brother are serial entrepreneurs who, like most business people, have had several successful and unsuccessful ventures before seeing this current one take off. They are both amazing people, my tiny sister-in-law is brilliant and feisty and stands up for what she believes in, her 17.21 Instagram page featuring and promoting the accomplishments of Asian Women will soon become a book. My brother is an artist, graphic designer and web designer who has worked with Lincoln Center and the New York Philharmonic, he’s one of the kindest and gentlest humans I’ve ever known. They are also amazing parents. They amaze me how they do everything they do, and do so well. My pride in their accomplishments is obvious and their success makes me incredibly happy. They were featured this past weekend in the New York Times Metro Section.

Interacting and managing your own personal happiness is always complicated. Never forget that your first and foremost responsibility is to you, your significant other and any humans you have created. Take care of that first and you’ll have happy days my friends. ~ Rev Kane

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