Choosing Between Safe and Great

I work in a factory. I could easily put in another fifteen years until retirement. Along the way, my family would be provided for, and I could enjoy my 3-4 weeks a year of vacation. It is not a bad life and only costs me forty hours a week (not including lunch breaks and commute times). They don’t hand out gold watches or pensions anymore, but I should have enough to live on in the last ten years or so of my life (if I am lucky enough to make it that long). I would be known as an honest, hard-working man that put food on the table and clothes on our backs. That would be my legacy.

Many have chosen this way life. It is not a bad way. If anything, it is a safe way. But if last year taught me anything, the safe way is not always as reliable as it is made out to be. Last year, the factory shut down for about six weeks. This was a better situation than many whose jobs went away completely. If my factory would have went down for a longer period or shut its doors forever, what would I have done? What if, like what we have seen over the last few weeks of weather in the United States, we had unforeseen natural disasters that we could not recover from? The safe way would be gone.

Earlier in the week, I wrote about Einstein. Was Einstein playing it safe by working in a patent office? If he went back to the family business, something that his family wanted him to do, would that have been playing it safe? Imagine if he stayed safe and never gave humanity the gift of his mind. As Harry Gray once said, “No one ever achieved greatness by playing it safe.”

My family, with good reason, wants me to play it safe. This is understandable. I am their security, their shelter, and their sustenance. If I leave the confines of safety, I put their welfare in jeopardy. The cautious person would state that it is too great a risk to venture into the unknown. But the unknown is my moon. How can I get to the moon if I am afraid to leave the earth? How can I find my New World if I live on a flat earth afraid to leave the Old?

A friend that I work with told me about a meme floating around. It said, “The hardest part of making $700k a year is leaving your $70k a year job.” There is a lot of truth in this. The unknown holds both success and failure. The known is only more of the same with maybe a 2-3% raise a year.

Thinking about money, wouldn’t more of it be nice? The company I work for makes a tremendous amount of money. They pay me so that they can make more. Will the world be a better place because of this work I do? I don’t think so. But the things I am working on, the things I want to do, could make the world a better place. Even if I made less money, making the world a better place would be worth it. So, the money as nice as making more of it would be, is not nearly as important as doing something that adds value to the lives of others. That is a legacy far beyond my own current sphere of influence.

What would I tell my son? Take the safe way and live an ordinary life free of risk? That is not what we usually tell our children. Instead, we tell them they can be anything they want to be. They can do anything they set their minds on. Is this only a fantasy we tell our children? Do we grow up and grow out of this belief that the sky is the limit? I hope not.

Feature photo by Anaya Katlego on Unsplash. What an awesome message in this photo: If not now when, if not you who.

The Blessing of No

A young Albert clocked in and sat at his desk. A stack of paperwork was waiting for him. For the other clerks in the office, it was a full day’s worth of work. For Albert, he could be finished in about two hours. It was an easy job, almost too easy. He didn’t mind it there. At the least, it paid the bills.

Last week, he was pegged for a promotion. The promotion came with a considerable raise in money. He could use the money. He could spend it on his girlfriend. He could send some of it back home to keep the family business running. He remembered one of his mottos: Try not to become a person of success, but rather a person of value. Climbing up the corporate ladder was success in the eyes of others. But for him, that was not the person he wanted to be.

Yes, the money would have been nice, but moving up also came with a serious drawback. His two hours of daily work that he crammed into an eight-hour shift would be traded for 10-12 hours of actual work. His stress levels would increase, and he would have neither the time nor the energy for his thought experiments. Those thought experiments were the most important part of Albert’s day. It was where he could dream about time and space and the speed of light. It was where Albert Einstein could develop his theories.


The last I checked, I am no Einstein, but let me share with you a little story…

A few months ago, I was approached about a promotion opportunity. I thought about it and went ahead with the process. I had my reservations about it, but it would pay more money and offer better benefits.

But there would be some drawbacks about the position as well. I would have to work more hours, and they would be at night. I would have more stress. I would have less time and energy for my own thought experiments. On top of it all, I would have to stop coaching my son’s parkour class, a class that I love to teach. The cost of making more money and having more benefits was a hefty one. I considered it and believed I could make it work. I proceeded with the process. Once again, I am no Einstein.

Through the process I went until I came to the last assessment. It was a half-day ordeal that took the other half of the day to decompress from. When the smoke cleared and I received the results, the answer was to try again next year.

The chief cause of failure and unhappiness is trading what you want most for what you want right now.

Zig Ziglar

I did my best and didn’t make the cut. It was a no, a big, fat, blessing in disguise. I know my path, and I tried to deviate from it. I almost made it, but the universe put a stop to it. I almost traded what I wanted most for something not nearly as important. Unlike Einstein, I did not have the discipline to see it through. Hopefully, this lesson will not be lost on me.


Feature photo by Wesley Tingey on Unsplash

Preemptive Strike

Prudence 12/23/2019

You would be clever to stop a quarrel before it goes too far. You would be wise to never get in that quarrel in the first place.

A clever person can see that he is out of shape and then takes the necessary steps to get back into shape. It is not easy, but it goes a long ways in preventing future health problems. A wise person knows that it is much easier to stay fit than it is to become fit. Oh, that I was wise when I was younger.

I have had my share of problems. I have spent a good deal of my adult years trying to solve the problems I created for myself as a youth. I have tried to be clever in my solutions. With most problems, the key was to minimize the damage and solve it as painlessly as possible. It doesn’t always work, but it is better than allowing the problem to escalate.

I have saved myself a lot of money by getting out of debt as quickly as possible. But some of that debt, i.e. student loans, I held onto for way too long. Along the way, third parties have given me clever solutions to relieve that burden. But no matter how clever the scheme, there was always a catch. It would sound like a wise choice for me, but it was really clever for them to be the holders of that debt. What I don’t remember is anybody giving me the truly wise advice of not getting into that debt in the first place. How much more money would I have had if I knew the costs of that loan before I got it? It is too late for me to change the past on that one, but I can shape the future for my son when he is old enough.

A clever person solves a problem. A wise person avoids it. –Albert Einstein

I always saw Einstein’s quote as too simple. Of course, it is better to avoid problems. Why would one of the smartest people to walk on this planet say something so simple? Shouldn’t wisdom be complex? Shouldn’t we overthink things a little more?

The missions with the greatest success rates are the simple ones. They are easy to understand and execute. Bog them down with too much complex variables, and they will fail. Simplify, simplify, simplify. Keep it simple and reduce the amount of potential problems. Einstein understood this, because he was a master of solving problems. You could be a master at solving problems too, or you could find a way to avoid as many as possible. Choose wisely.

Attitude Adjustment, Character Correction

Justice 10/23/2019

I was asked for help on a project, and I didn’t have a good attitude about it. I had something else I wanted to do and didn’t want to burn daylight assisting in another area.

It is easy to correct my son when he gets a poor attitude. It is easy to call anybody else out on this when I see it. But if somebody would have called me out here, I would have denied it and been wrong for it. In truth, my attitude needed an adjustment.

Continuing on in this manner, I doubt the person would ask for my help in the future. That would hurt, because I want to be called on when needed. But what I was doing was not helping my credibility. Would I want someone else’s help who would only give it grudgingly? Not a chance.

Having a poor attitude is direct reflection on my character. I believe I have a strong work ethic, but nobody is going to want that kind of negative baggage even with positive results. I know I wouldn’t. I would rather just do it myself.

So today, I am going to reflect on my attitude and how it impacts my character. If I am serious about being a positive role model for not only my son but for those I come into contact with, I am going to monitor this in the future and make the necessary adjustments.

Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character. –Albert Einstein

Change the Way You Think

Prudence 5/20/2019: Change the Way You Think

Sometimes you get stuck on a level. You try over and over again, but you just cannot pass it. Enough tries, and soon you will be repeating the same steps that caused you to lose.

It might be a game. It might be calculus. It might be a struggle with alcohol.

A good way to solve a problem is to list out each step along the way. When you notice a misstep, you can repeat the process and change where needed. It is much like keeping a journal. Write down your steps throughout the day. Where did you go wrong? What could you have done differently, so that you don’t make the same mistake again?

The significant problems of our time cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them. -Albert Einstein

Charity 1/20/2019

Try not to become a person of success, but rather a person of value. -Albert Einstein

You want to be successful? Make it your mission to help as many people as you can.

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The Virtue of Charity

Many view charity as financial aid to the less fortunate. But charity goes beyond gifts of money. We can be charitable in our actions to those who need it. We can lend a helping hand to those who are suffering physically, mentally, and spiritually. How far can a kind smile, a kind word, or a kind act go? Sometimes these gifts go much farther than money.

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Purpose of Knowledge

Unless your niche is in trivia, what is the purpose of all that random knowledge? When one of the smartest people to have ever lived says that imagination is more important than knowledge, I had to stop and consider these words. Why is imagination more important than knowledge? I have spent my whole life trying to acquire knowledge, and this statement had me confused.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized the wisdom of Einstein’s words.

Aristotle said, “The purpose of knowledge is action, not knowledge.” We should be acquiring knowledge for a specific purpose.  We can hope for a better future, but without knowledge, how can we possibly get there? Knowledge is the tool that makes our dreams come to life.

Your imagination is the stepping stone to a better life. Imagine what it would be like to be healthier, wealthier, or happier. Where do you want to go in life? Once you have it fixed in your mind, you can begin the process of gaining the knowledge to get you there.

Wisdom begins in wonder. -Socrates

Logic will get you from A to B, imagination will take you everywhere. –Albert Einstein