Month: December 2008

The Christmas Gift

I remember a time not too long ago when my wife and I were really struggling financially. Heck we aren’t far better now. At the time though I was beginning to question how we would be able to heat our house through the winter. Bills were piling up and there wasn’t much hope of the situation improving anytime soon. Christmas came and we had to make the tough decision to not buy each other anything for Christmas. The holiday is certainly not all about giving or receiving presents but it’s nice to be able to go spend money on your spouse and surprise them with something and it really stinks when you can’t.

A co-worker of mine at the time was somewhat aware of the situation we were in and a few days before Christmas he gave me a card. Inside of it was $50. He wanted my wife and I to be able to buy each other something for Christmas. Later that day we took the money, split it up, and went shopping for each other. Nothing big or extravagant just small gifts that wouldn’t have been there otherwise. There’s something so much more special about being able to give someone a gift after you’ve already resigned yourself to the idea that you won’t be able to. The gifts you receive in those circumstances are all the more precious as well.

That friend of mine may never know just how much he changed Christmas for us that year. I pray that God will multiply to him and his family the blessing that he gave us on Christmas. And to everyone who reads this article, may you be blessed richly and joy be upon you.

Merry Christmas.

What’s Holding You Back

There comes a time, or many times, in everyone’s life when they feel as if life has not been working out as they had hoped. Often times this prompts the question of what has been holding them back. More often than not, what’s been holding them back is themselves.

A lot of my articles recently have dealt with these kind of ideas but I think it is worth reiterating. You need to know what your goals are in life and you need to ask yourself if you can really bear the thought of looking back twenty years from now and realizing that you’ve accomplished none of them. Wasted time is such a huge thing in our society and it’s crushing to the would-be entrepreneur. Another death blow to your progress towards your goals can be trying to pursue something that you really know nothing about. Having a great business idea is one thing, having the knowledge, time, and will power to take the idea from a dream to a reality can be quite another. Investing time and money into areas that you have no business being in won’t help you achieve anything. Pursue knowledge before you invest.

A couple months ago my family and I were taking a trip out of state for a couple days. The day we were supposed to leave I looked up the directions on the internet and hit the print button. The printer proceeded to make a series of loud bangs and was shaking violently. An orange error light came on but gave no indication of the problem. I pulled the paper out, put it back in, checked the cartridges, and couldn’t find anything wrong. Print. Wrrrr, bang, bang , bang, shake, orange error light. Again, I looked over the whole printer and still couldn’t find anything wrong. I repeated this whole process a couple more times and finally saw what the problem was. Inside the printer, all the way over to the right side was a pink plastic Easter egg that was sitting right in the path of the cartridge carriage. Oh, the joys of having a toddler. I removed the offending egg and the printer started working just fine.

Many times in life, we are our own worst enemy and hold ourselves back from accomplishing anything. But sometimes what’s holding us back is a pink Easter egg in our printer.

The Dumbening

Over the past decade we’ve seen a lot of changes in the entertainment and news media industry and I for one don’t believe that the changes are positive ones. It seems as if everything is being dumbed down and that the bulk of the public is just fine with that and in fact are eating it up more than ever before.

Over the past decade video games have seen a huge transition away from games that require a certain level of strategic planning and mental involvement towards a style of game play that boils down to mindless repetition. Those kind of games have always been present in the industry but it’s really only been in the last ten years that they have become the biggest sellers. Some good examples are Guitar Hero and Rock Band. The value of video games for stimulating the mind was dubious before, but now it’s even worse. I often waste too much time playing a game called Combat Arms. It’s an online first person shooter that features various modes of play including capture the flag and elimination mode. When I play it, I only play Capture the Flag. It’s fun to try and strategize how best to overcome the other team. But Elimination mode is by far the most popular. The only goal in an elimination game is to kill more players than are killed on your team. There is no strategy it’s just mindless shooting and it’s what most people choose to play.

In the television industry the past decade has seen the rise of reality television. The networks realized that they don’t need to pay writers or actors they can just bring in some random people off the street and have them play a game and people will watch it. There is no attempt at quality programming with these shows and yet it is wildly popular.

Thirty years ago video games didn’t exist and seventy years ago television was just in it’s infancy. People used their free time differently in those days. Sure it wasn’t all reading books and learning but when kids played, they actually did something physically and often times mentally stimulating. If you wanted to play a game, it was a family and/or social thing, not a solitary tapping of buttons or keys on a computer or video game system. I believe that the recent rise in dumb entertainment is a direct result of a generation of video games and a few generations of television watching. People are less physically and mentally active. I’m not trying to blame the entertainment industry for this problem any more than someone who eats at McDonald’s everyday should blame them for their obesity. I believe in personal responsibility and people are responsible for how they choose to use their time.

A couple weeks ago one of our horses ran through a fence late at night. I didn’t have time to fix and so I decided to take care of it after work the next day. When I got home from work that day it was already dark and it was snowing. I had been looking forward to a relaxing evening of watching TV and playing video games. But that wasn’t going to happen. Instead I was out in a dark field with snow falling around me and I was piecing together an electric fence that had broken in multiple locations. About an hour into the work I realized something. I felt alive. I was cold and tired but I felt alive. I was actually doing something. It wasn’t what I would have chosen to do that evening but it was something real and tangible, not just another night of letting my brain turn into useless mush.

As I continued to piece the fence back together I started to feel the electric shocks through my gloves and realized that I had forgotten to unplug the fence. But the shocks were minor and I assumed that the gloves were protecting me a bit. The shocks however continued to grow in intensity as the fence became more intact and as I was tying off a wire at a fence post my wrist came in contact with the metal post just as the wire did and I got a huge shock. It felt like someone had punched me in the wrist and like my thumb was on fire. I then decided to unplug the fence. Feeling alive is one thing, lighting up like a Christmas tree is quite another.

There are millions of people willingly participating in The Dumbening. You can be a part of that tide or you can fight it. Be active, feel alive and do something with your life.