Pass the Gavel

A hand passing a gavel

Getting through MIT was probably the most stressful thing I've experienced in life. Of course, I clearly didn't learn my lesson the first time when I decided to spend 6 more years there to get my PhD! What can I say... I have my mom's stubbornness and I hate to lose. One phrase in particular kept me focused through the pain was the often heard quote — "MIT is a terrible place to be, but a great place to be from." The idea being that all your hard work and efforts would be rewarded once you got through the sleepless nights filled with problem sets, exam studying, and trying to be the best among the best. Still, I'm learning there are better ways to succeed in life, with whatever definition of success you like, without having to make it is as difficult as possible. This article describes one incredibly powerful idea/experience that helped me out tremendously during my time at MIT — Pass the Gavel... a yearly tradition that occurred during my fraternity's yearly retreat. 

Embracing the Living Document Edition

50 years ago, getting a published book was a laborious and costly task. No computers, no spell checkers, no MS word, no, no e-books, no kindle, and no second chance if the first run didn't sell worth a damn.

Today the opposite is true. Find a spelling error on page 23 of the eBook? Export new copy of the pdf and have the corrected version online in less than an hour. Kindle edition needs and updated cover? 5 minutes and it's all fixed.

The Curtain Always Rises a Second (or Tenth) Time

I was at our local grocery store buying a lottery ticket (because that NY 'Dollar and a Dream' meme always give me hope of serendipity) when I saw a very neat chinese character tattoo on the arm of the older woman handing me the ticket. Now most tattoos have some cool story or meaning and I always like to chat it up with strangers to try and brighten up their day. But when I mentioned how I liked it, I was shocked at the story behind this one.

I'm Probably Wrong

There is a reason why public speaking is a fear worse than death for most people. The human ego can rarely stand being judged and picked apart for all of its alleged flaws (not pretty enough, not charismatic enough, not smart enough, etc.) Given enough eyeballs and enough opinionated outsiders, they'll surely find something wrong. The pressure is increased with the quantity of eyeballs in the audience just waiting to catch us make a gaff.

The Better Beliefs Bureau

I have a hard time believing that you would sit idly by if you knew a company was intentionally scamming you out of your time, money, and other resources. Yet we all let our fears, worries, doubts, and other conscious/unconscious beliefs to rob us daily of our happiness, creativity, and peace in life. What a paradox! Knowingly steal $200 from me and I'll have you arrested. Knowingly destroy my happiness for 2 years and I'll just drink my sorrows away because I believe something crazy like "I deserve it" or "I had it coming."

"Just Jump" - The importance of the right word

Mark Twain once remaked "The difference between the almost right word & the right word is really a large matter--it's the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning." In my days of coaching track and field, I had the exact same experience when trying to teach a group of athletes at the same time. 7 different athletes could hear the very same instructions and (based on their life experience, personalities, etc) come away with completely different interpretations. And it didn't matter how explicit and detailed I was in my directions. I sometimes felt like I was asking for their reaction to a poem or gut reaction to a piece of abstract art.

Best Advice Is What We Give to Others

Recently a close friend of mine was faced a major upheaval in his life (the details of who, what happened, etc are unimportant). In the aftermath, confusion, and grieving he was consoled my many people and offered lots of advice as friends tend to do. One surprise happened as a particular piece of advice given really hit home - it was exactly the same advice he had doled out 2 years ago. He didn't even recognize the words, as if they had been uttered by a stranger rather than his former self.

Losing the Essence

Rome was born, some amazing advancements happened (unless you were the ones being conquered!), and then Rome fell. And this pattern was not an isolated historical event nor is it only relevant to countries. Very few things that expand worldwide can sustain themselves into perpetuity unless their foundation is strong, altruistic, and based on integrity (AA might be an example but even it is only a few decades old and might become irrelevant if society were to evolve enough to no longer have addictions).

Photoshop Your Self-Image

The "self-image" is the key to human personality and human behavior. Change the self image and you change the personality and the behavior.
— Maxwell Maltz

So you want to achieve that amazing new goal (lose 50 pounds, quit smoking, start that new hobby)? Great! But for many this is where the voices in the head creep in saying things like: