What “They” Believe

It’s not as simple as just being “wrong”


I ran across this comment via social media the other day.

You don’t have to approve of other people’s choices. You don’t have to like their hair color, their tattoos, or their piercings. You don’t need to agree with their style of dress or how tight their leggings are. You’re not required to agree with their non-traditional lifestyle or their relationship decisions. And you don’t need to like their religion, faith, or spiritual beliefs. What you DO need to do is respect that other people don’t have to live by your rules, because they’re no more important or relevant than anyone else’s. Acting like a decent human being and letting people live their lives should be an easy decision for everyone.

Here’s the problem: if you understand what “they” believe and why they believe it, you’ll quickly see it’s not an easy decision. Not at all.

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Unexpected side-effects

In praise of reading better stuff

A peaceful scene of a person sitting on a park bench in a lush green park, engrossed in reading from a Kindle. The park is vibrant with blooming flowers and tall trees, casting soft shadows on the pathway. A gentle breeze is rustling the leaves, adding to the serene atmosphere. The person is casually dressed, embodying the relaxation of a leisurely day spent outdoors. Birds can be seen in the background, and the sun is setting, casting a warm glow over the scene. The image should capture the tranquility of a moment spent alone with a book, away from the hustle and bustle of daily life.

When I started 7 Takeaways, my intent was to force myself to read more, better content, by establishing a weekly public deadline where I’d publish something about the items I had come across.

Three and a half years later, I’d say it’s been working. I haven’t missed a week (though there have been a few Saturday cram sessions), and I’ve come across some interesting stuff.

And I have 600+ subscribers to whom I feel a responsibility.

What’s interesting, though, is that it hasn’t affected me in quite the way I expected.

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You are Someone’s Odd Duck

An Odd Duck
(Image: Midjourney)

Have you ever looked at someone and thought to yourself: huh. Something’s a little off.

Nothing bad, really, just … different.

Not quite right. Not quite normal.

Maybe they’re a little eccentric in some way.

Perhaps you’ve said to yourself (or, *cough*, your spouse) “well, they’re certainly an ‘odd duck‘”.

Have I got news for you.

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Put On Your Own Mask First

Airplane Oxygen Mask Demonstration
(Image: canva.com)

I’m fairly convinced my mother died before she had to because of the stress of taking care of my father, who had dementia.

While trying to be everything to her husband, she failed to take care of her own needs and her own health. The result was not just that she passed away too soon, but even in her own eyes she passed away before what she saw as her job was complete. My father outlived her by four and a half years.

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On Aging and Loss

The bell curve of aging.
(Image: canva.com)

We all want to live a long and healthy life. We want to be the ones making it far through the bell curve of life expectancy. I know I do.

There’s an unanticipated problem with succeeding.

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Contentment vs. Passion

Aspire versus Desire
(Image: canva.com)

Is it possible to be simultaneously content and passionate about something?

By content, I mean in the Buddhist sense of acceptance of the present moment.

By passionate, I mean wanting something more, and feeling strongly about it.

It’s something I wrestle with.

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Acknowledging Anxiety

Teddy Bear
(Image: canva.com)

It almost feels trendy to talk about anxiety these days.

In part, I suppose, because it’s become more prevalent due to the pandemic, and politics, and social media, and, and, and …

But has it though? Has become more prevalent, or just more visible?

Based on my experience I would say: why not both?

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Which Step?

(Image: canva.com)

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Which step?

Which step is the first step?

Where does the journey begin?

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Fingertips touching.
(Image: canva.com)

It’s not uncommon for people to pick a theme or a word for the new year. I’ve been seeing a few over the past few days as we enter 2023.

It’s not something I’ve ever done. I tend not to do the New Year’s resolution thing. To quote a friend: “I long ago realized I didn’t have to wait for an arbitrary date to make changes in my life”.

However, this year a few things have come together in a moment of serendipity that’s making me think a theme might be in order.

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Every Day is an Experiment

Words to grow by

Every Day is an Experiment
(Image: canva.com)

“Every day is an experiment” (also “everything is an experiment”) is a mantra, of sorts, I adopted some years ago. It’s a mental model I find both freeing and empowering.

Treating the world, or life, with the idea that everything you do is an experiment of some sort to be learned from is also an exceptionally powerful path for growth.

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The Best Life Advice Came from Microsoft

And they took it away


It was in our faces the entire time. Right there in the lower left.

Perhaps the most important piece of life advice ever was provided by Microsoft, and we didn’t even realize it.

And then they took it away. We still call it a “Start” button, but the text admonition has disappeared.

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Skeptical to the End

Pearly Gates
(Image: canva.com)

Deity: Hello. Welcome. <spreads celestial “hands”>

me: uh … hi. Where am I?

Deity: What’s the last thing you remember?

me: Going to bed, I think. Yeah, that and a weird dream after I fell asleep. And then, all of a sudden, here.

Deity: uh huh.

me: Am I … ?

Deity: Are you …?

me: Am I … dead?

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Breukelen Cemetary
Breukelen Cemetary (Image: leonotenboom.com)

I don’t have that many particularly significant places on this planet. Those that would be are the “places” that are less about locations than they are about who happens to be there (i.e. “wherever my wife is”, “my close relative or friend’s current home”, and so on). These kinds of places can change as people move.

The more traditionally meaningful places have all fallen by the wayside. Significance has faded over time. The places themselves have fallen in to disrepair or become virtually unrecognizable. In perhaps my most personally significant case, they’ve disappeared completely.

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The Value of Time

(Image: canva.com)

One of the thoughts brewing in recent months, particularly because of my writing exercise, is the value of time.

I know, I know, it’s old hat, a cliché even, that time is our most precious resource. Except, it’s true. Nothing’s driven that home more than:

  • getting older
  • realizing my time left is finite
  • thinking and writing about that

All this is leading me to be significantly more aware of where and how I spend my time.

Or, rather, where and how I choose to spend my time.

That it’s a choice is, perhaps, the most important point.

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Wisdom and Legacy

(Image: canva.com)

When we’re young, it seems we conflate wisdom with knowledge. The more you know, the wiser you must be. Thus, the quest is to know as much as you can.

As we age, we slowly begin to realize that wisdom is also about understanding what you don’t know. In a sense, I suppose, that’s more knowledge. The quest becomes to be more self-aware about what you do and do not know. Perhaps you then use that as a guide to increase your knowledge, or to understand your limitations and, with that understanding, make better decisions.

At some point, though, wisdom is none of that.

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The Mug (Updated)

The Mug

It’s funny how we assign meaning and even sentimentality to inanimate objects.

Consider the mug shown above: it’s actually quite meaningful to me. So much so that at one point I actually stopped using it for fear of breaking it. As a result, I never saw it and it remained in a relatively obscure location.

Last year I came to the conclusion that that was kinda silly, and placed it back into service.

This morning I realized that it’s not just the mug we set aside for some odd perception of safety and desired permanence.

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Meditation Versus FOMO — The Approach I Use

The “other” app I run.

(Image: canva.com)

This has happened too many times to count: I get a great, or not-so-great, idea I want to act on later.

The problem is I’m not in a position to write it down or save it in some way.

Let’s face it, “I’ll remember it later” is not a valid answer.

Especially as I age.

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These are scary times.

Angry times.

Frightening times.

Sad times.

Anxious times.

Fetal position not wanting to get out of bed times.

Needing to work on it all to stay sane times.

The trick, for me, is identifying what’s under my control, and what isn’t.

Focus on the former and let go of, or at least don’t dwell on, the later.

I don’t always succeed.

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What Can I Learn?

Photo by Philippe Bout on Unsplash

Back in the day when I would look for a new position within Microsoft, one of my guiding questions was “what can I learn?” It was one of several criteria I used to evaluate opportunities. Rather than move to a new position doing the same thing, I preferred to find roles where I could both contribute and learn something new.

There wasn’t a plan, really; I wasn’t looking for something specific. I would just look at a job opportunity and see if there was something interesting for me to pick up. I think my career, both during, and post-Microsoft has benefited as a result.

It comes to mind because that approach feels like a huge opportunity in these “interesting” times.

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Notice Your Focus

This is not a meditation post, I promise.

Most meditation practices have you focus on your breath as part of the exercise. It’s always there (we hope), it’s always changing just a little, and it’s relatively easy to focus your attention on it. Some practitioners will say focus on where you feel it “the most” — being your stomach, your lungs, whatever.

When the monkey-mind isn’t successful in dragging me away from it, I focus on my sinuses. I find it absolutely fascinating what happens when I do.

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