Friday, May 15, 2015

Outside Your Control by Allen Laudenslager with Bryan Neva

When I was in the army , an  old time sergeant said “You either control your environment or it controls you” and like many young inexperienced trainees, I bought into that concept. Unfortunately, it has caused me untold frustration both at work and in my personal life. With age and experience, I  came to realize that there are circumstances outside my control and that many times they are completely outside my power to control. This is the central teaching of both Stoic Philosophy and Buddhism: that there are things under your control and things outside of your control, and if you really think hard, you’ll realize that the only things absolutely within your control are your own attitudes and behavior.  

I recently read an article that included the following statement: “Blaming others for a situation over which you clearly had a choice is simply shirking responsibility.”  While it's true that blaming others for situations over which you clearly had a choice is bad for you anytime you do it, there are real situations where outside influences caused the problem for you and recognizing that the cause was really outside your control is the first step in recognizing that it's not YOUR failure that caused the problem. Recognizing the real cause will help you find ways to either fix that outside disturbance or to separate yourself from it.

Life basically only offers us three choices: we can Accept things the way they are, we can honestly and constructively try to Change things, or we can Exit. In other words we can ACE it: Accept it, Change it, or Exit.  In practice, this is what most people do unconsciously.  The 12 step programs phrase it well in their serenity prayer: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.

Remember, you are getting wet because it's raining and you can't control the rain. All you can do is continue getting wet (Accept it), put on a raincoat or put up an umbrella (Change it), or come in out of the rain (Exit).

In any organization whether it’s a family, a social group, or a workplace, people will behave badly at times.  You might blame yourself asking, “what did I do to upset them or cause their bad behavior?”  Regardless of what you did or did not do, how someone chooses to behave is entirely up to them and not you.  You can honestly and sincerely try to positively influence other people’s behavior, but you cannot control their behavior. That’s completely up to them. You only can control your response and your behavior.  You can choose to be hateful and vindictive, or you can choose to be loving and forgiving - knowing that you too sometimes behave badly.

One of the big secrets to life is discovering the difference between what’s inside your control and what is controlled by other people or events. Once you understand what is truly within your control, you can begin to fix the things you can, decide to accept the things you can’t or to exit from the situation. 

When it gets right down to it, all you can really control is what you do and how you act. Including what you will or will not stick around for.

Monday, May 11, 2015

A Hair’s Breadth to Happiness by Todd Neva

A Hair’s Breadth to Happiness

May 11, 2015, by Todd Neva, guest blogger

“I have hundreds of Rubles I don’t know what to do with, and she stands in her tattered cloak looking timidly at me,” Count Bezukhov thought of a peddler woman. “And what does she want money for? As if that money could add a hair’s breadth to happiness or peace of mind. Can anything in the world make her or me less a prey to evil and death?”1

In Leo Tolsky’s War & Peace, Pierre had left his beautiful wife Helene at his Moscow palace and traveled to his home in Petersburg. Helene called him an idiot for suspecting she had an affair with Dolokhov. Pierre had challenged the insolent man to a duel and shot him, but now suffered overwhelming regret. He was in a loveless marriage, and he felt awkward in Moscow society. His life was not happier since he inherited a massive fortune and became Count Bezukhov.

Such a profound question Tolsky asks: Does money buy happiness? Great literature asks the big questions; this blog attempts to answer them.

In 2010, economist Angus Deaton and psychologist Daniel Kahnemana, both of Princeton University, published a study that showed Americans do feel happier as incomes increase up to $75,000, after which there is no greater degree of happiness no matter how much they make. The study also showed absolute wealth didn’t matter, rather people were happier when they were relatively wealthier than their peers. The same poll done in other countries showed similar results, but at different income thresholds. As incomes rise, stress decreases.

Apparently, money does add a hair’s breadth to happiness and peace of mine.

The Apostle Paul warned of the power of money, or at least the desire for money. He said that we should be content with food and clothing. Those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. It’s the craving for money, he continued, that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.3

We shouldn’t take Paul’s admonition too far and reject wealth or despise the rich. James tells us to look after the widows and orphans.4 We have more capacity to do that when we have wealth. We shouldn’t love money, we shouldn’t crave money, but we can use prosperity for good.

The United States may be the most prosperous nation in the history of the world. Is there greed? Sure. Is there income inequality? Sure. Nonetheless, capitalism has lifted more people out of poverty than any other economic system. As Winston Churchill pointed out, “The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.”5

Recently, my cousin visited us all the way from St. Petersburg, Russia. She said when people in Russia get ALS, they lie in their beds. There is no safety net, and the average person is so poor he can’t afford to purchase even the most basic adaptive equipment, like a wheelchair.

It’s a stark difference from my life. Slings and lifts transfer me out of bed and to my power wheelchair. I roll around in my accessible house. I get out on the town in my accessible van. I have a window that opens to the world sitting on my desk with a trackpad mouse and the clicker at my feet. Money might not buy happiness, but it certainly pays for my independence and quality of life.

I’m thankful for the top 10% of income earners who pay 70% of US federal taxes that fund Medicare for the disabled.6 I’m thankful for Americans heart for giving to organizations like MDA, which provides equipment to people who can’t afford to purchase it themselves.

Luke records Jesus saying, “Blessed be the poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” Does he mean all who live in poverty will go to heaven? What did he mean? Matthew quotes Jesus in the same sermon with more context: “Blessed be the poor in spirit.”7 Jesus is all about the heart. Rejecting wealth to stave off the temptation of greed makes as little sense as burning a bounty crop to stave off the temptation of gluttony.

“Money is a terrible master, but an excellent servant.” ~ P.T. Barnum

Todd Neva has a Bachelor of Science, Business, and Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. He worked for sixteen years in the fields of marketing research and finance until becoming permanently disabled with ALS. He co-authored (with his wife Kristin Neva) Heavy: Finding Meaning after a Terminal Disease, which has not brought him prosperity, but has blessed the poor in spirit. He blogs on the topics of suffering, grief, and disability at

Todd Neva and his family live in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan
1. Tolstoy, Leo (2010-07-23). War and Peace (Kindle Locations 7175-7177). Superior Formatting Publishing. Kindle Edition.

3. 1 Timothy 6:3-10

4. James 1:27

6. McCormally, Kevin (January 8, 2015). "Where Do You Rank as a Taxpayer?". Kiplinger., accessed May 9, 2015.

7. Luke 6:20-21 and Matthew 5:3

Sunday, May 10, 2015

11 Life Changing Lessons to Learn from Einstein

Article from:

11 Life Changing Lessons to Learn from Einstein

When most people think of Einstein, they think of the theory of relativity and “the world’s most famous equation,” E=MC². However, we can learn a lot more from Einstein than just scientific formulas and theories.  Albert Einstein also offered renowned knowledge in how to become your best self and enjoy life to the fullest.  Even if you have no interest in science, you can still apply these valuable lessons to your life today.

1. Value Your Imagination

“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge but imagination.” -Einstein
“Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” -Einstein
“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” -Einstein
“Imagination is the highest form of research.” –Einstein

2. Never Stop Being Curious

“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” ? Einstein
“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.” -Einstein
“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.” -Einstein

3. Be Willing to Learn New Things

“Learning is experience. Everything else is just information.” – Einstein
“Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.” -Einstein
“Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.” -Einstein

4. Realize that Growth Comes Out of Failure

A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new. – Albert Einstein
“The only sure way to avoid making mistakes is to have no new ideas.” – Albert Einstein
“You never fail until you stop trying.” -Albert Einstein
Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them. – Albert Einstein
“Only the one who does not question is safe from making a mistake.” —Albert Einstein

5. Dare to be Different and Take Initiative

“Only those who attempt the absurd can achieve the impossible.” – Albert Einstein
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. – Albert Einstein
The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it. – Albert Einstein
“I never made one of my discoveries through the process of rational thinking.” – Albert Einstein

6. Live in the Moment and Realize that Beauty Exists Everywhere

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” – Albert Einstein
“I never worry about the future. It comes soon enough.” —Albert Einstein
“He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.” – Albert Einstein
“There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle.” – Albert Einstein
“A happy man is too satisfied with the present to dwell too much on the future.” Albert Einstein

7. Live Selflessly and Value Others

“Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.”
“Try to become not a man of success, but try rather to become a man of value.”
“Only one who devotes himself to a cause with his whole strength and soul can be a true master. For this reason mastery demands all of a person.”
“We know from daily life that we exist for other people first of all, for whose smiles and well-being our own happiness depends.”
“Enjoying the joys of others and suffering with them—these are the best guides for man.” – Albert Einstein

8. Your Thoughts Create Your Reality

“I admit that thoughts influence the body.”
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein

9. Unleash Your Greatness

“Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” – Albert Einstein

10. Be Kind to All Living Beings On Earth

“Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.” – Albert Einstein

11. Trust Your Inner Voice

“The only real valuable thing is intuition.”
“Never do anything against conscience even if the state demands it.”
“Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts.” – Albert Einstein
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