On Being Different…

The other day, someone told me that I was an idiot, a fool that no one likes or listens to.

I just laughed. I just happened to disagree with what he was saying. Yes, he felt very strongly about the topic, one that I don’t really give a damn about. He was looking for agreement with what he believed, partly because, from what I could gather, someone else had attacked him of his belief. So, I was classed as being part of the great masses that were totally against his side of the argument.

It makes no difference who was right and who was wrong. It’s a matter of opinion, and neither side can be absolutely certain on what the interpretation of the facts. There is always room for disagreement. But, more importantly, neither side can really make that much of a difference, at least in the short term.

A song passed through my mind. The Beatle’s “The Fool On The Hill” and its chorus:

“The fool on the hill
Sees the sun going down
And the eyes in his head
See the world spinning around…”

Or… I could have quoted Wittgenstein: “I act with complete certainty. But this certainty is my own.” With the addendum “And your certainty is your own”.

We make a big thing out of differences, like two distinct opinions. But the differences are what make us interesting.

Would he have been happier if I had agreed with him? Probably.

It would have meant that he had someone on his side of the argument (if one can call it that). He would not be alone with his view of things. But it’s through differences that we can see ourselves as individuals. It’s what distinguishes each of us from all those other people out there. Differences don’t lessen us, but make us better than we could have been.

It’s okay to agree with others, if you really agree. And it’s okay not to cause confrontations that lead to making out that one group (race, religion, language, whatever) is superior to another.

But celebrate your differences from, and celebrate your similarities to, others. Cheer on the differences and make use of the similarities.

Be the fool on the hill — see things for what they are!

And never let anyone ruin your own uniqueness!

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Be smart with your money!

I could say that when I was a kid, we were so poor that…

But, when it comes right down to the nitty gritty, I never felt poor. Neither did my siblings, at least not until we went out to earn or own incomes, whether part time or in real employment. It was only when we actually had cash in our grubby little hands that we began to realise that we had had so little to work with.

It’s so easy to feel that one is broke, that one has so little in the way of wealth. Even millionaires that I’ve met over the years have complained about how they feel poor at various times. They have to think about all that they’ve got, or the huge incomes they are getting, and compare it to someone who has a lot less, whether it’s in wealth or income. In some ways, it hits those rich people far harder than people like my parents and my siblings.

The first thing about being smart with your money is simple: live within the income you’ve got!

It suggests that the question you should ask before buying anything is “Can I afford to (buy this)?”.

If you have enough of an income (or enough wealth that can convert to cash), then great! You won’t go too far wrong. But what happens when you DON’T have enough cash or enough cash available to you?

Funnily enough, even millionaires find there are times when they can’t afford things; for practical purposes, they are as broke as my family used to be. In case you are wondering, yes, I’ve met millionaires in exactly that kind of state. But it’s more common among the middle income people, those who have very good salaries, and seem to be able to get just about everything they want, at least within a short time frame of when they want to buy whatever it is.

Take a look around you, and you’ll find that this is a very common problem.

It leads to what could be called “mental or emotional poverty, a poverty consciousness that affects the rest of their lives. If you live by “Can I afford to..?” you are always in danger of falling into the poverty consciousness.

Poverty, by the way, is a matter of definition: you are in poverty if your income falls below roughly ⅔ of the median societal income. In some countries, it’s ⅔ of the AVERAGE income. In other words, the way people see poverty is by some statistical definition, rather than the availability of cash, income or wealth.

So, how did we get by, with our more or less real poverty?

My parents lived with a very simple rule. Rather than asking whether we could afford to buy something we kids asked for, or that they wanted to buy, they asked: “Can we afford NOT to buy…?”

If the answer was “Yes, we can afford NOT to buy!”, the item or whatever was ignored. No excuses, no arguments, no debates.

When the answer was “No, we can’t afford not to buy…!” we would take a very close look at how much we could afford to spend. Not just looking at the money, but looking at why we could not afford not to buy it.

Then we would consider the alternatives, the substitutes that could give us the advantages of having whatever it was. Sometimes, it meant that Dad would work overtime, if it was available. Or maybe Mum would take on an extra job — she was an excellent seamstress, and often finished off clothes for a manufacturer or a store that did alterations on clothing (male or female). Or we’d head off to the Barrows, and find something second-hand that did the same job — Mum or Dad could fix it so it looked perfectly new. Or we kids (if it was to meet our needs) would go out and do chores — babysitting, delivery groceries, selling lemonade or whatever, or a hundred other small things that people were willing to pay for. We’d find either the price being asked for the bargains or find a substitute.

Sure, it meant that we didn’t have the brand name goods. But what we did have worked every bit as well as the “real” stuff.

The thing is, we never felt deprived of the things that were essential. We had everything we ever needed, even if we had to make it ourselves….

Try it…

It will work as well for you!

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Thoughts On Leading A Meaningful Life

Who Am I?

When I was very young, maybe five or six, I had a thought: your failures define how good a life you have.

It’s through failures and mistakes that you learn. These, or how you act and react to them, make the real difference.

So, you work to not repeat the bad parts.

You are NOT your failures and mistakes; but they are the things that make you different from everyone else. You need to learn quickly that the real problem with most people is that they keep trying to do the same things and expect different results.

Some people may look at my seventy-plus years of living and see someone who is not successful. If you measure success by huge amounts of income and accumulated wealth, then, for sure, I’m not successful.

BUT…

I’ve traveled over most of the world. And most of that travel has been paid for by others. I’ve played various games at professional levels, even made money at them, and had a reasonable career, enough to keep my wife and children on a reasonable level of comfort. I’ve been a writer — poet, technical writer, ghost writer, short story writer, and more.

Most of all, I’ve found new ways to make mistakes and looked at how I can avoid repeating them.

It all goes back to the realization at five or six that life is about finding ways to fail.

And that the best are the Magnificent Failures.

They are magnificent, because they opened the doors to seeing how to recover from them, and do things better than I could before.

Not that many years ago, I was playing chess with one of my grandchildren, and the child was disappointed because I won the games.

‘You can’t DO that, grandpa!’ came the words after the third or fourth time “You’re supposed to give me a chance to win!”

‘Why?’

‘Because I’m young and I deserve to win a few games.’

‘Then learn the lesson.”

‘What lesson?’

“That you start winning when you learn all the ways to lose.’

‘But how can I do that, if I keep losing?’

I smiled. ‘What did you do wrong? It’s not that I’m a much better player than you are. It’s that I made fewer mistakes. But you’ll never win, until you learn how to lose.’

Oh, I’ve played chess with my other grandchildren, and it has led to the same lesson — learn all the ways of losing first; the better you learn these, the greater your chances of winning a game or two.

Nowadays, of course, they all can beat me in chess, more often than they lose. But there is one thing for sure: they all still expect to lose, even when they win. They are ready for those magnificent failures.

Maybe I don’t have as much of the trappings of success as many other people. Like my grandkids, I’m still looking for ways to lose. But I keep on trucking, and have a great time doing it, and keeping up a meaningful life!

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