Do Mean People Know They Suck?

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Becoming a mean and miserable person is a gradual process.

Think about it like gaining weight. No one goes to bed skinny only to wake up fat the next morning. The pounds slowly creep on over the weeks and months, until one day you look in the mirror, and realize there’s a whole lot more of you then there used to be.

That’s when you go into denial. You suck in your gut in an effort to convince yourself you aren’t as big as you think you are, and the only reason your pants don’t fit is because you’re growing. Never mind the fact that you’re 43 and your last growth spurt was a few decades ago.

The same scenario is applicable to mean people.

They unknowingly train their minds to react to everything in a negative way over a long period of time. This process is usually influenced by the company they keep, the media they consume and the environment they exist in (work, home etc). Then one day they notice the world around them has changed.

That’s when they go into denial. They tell themselves the people who used to be a positive force in their life are gone because those people are abandoners. Those people deserted them. They try to come up with any excuse to justify why they’re so miserable all the time.

What’s unfortunate is most of us can’t seem to stop ourselves from reacting to mean people. More often then not, their efforts to bring us down are successful.

You know the saying “misery loves company”?

It’s true.

Mean people only feel better about the hurt they are experiencing, when they know someone else is hurting just as bad or worse than they are. This false sense of satisfaction becomes their addiction. They begin to crave it more and more which is why they continue to hurt people.

The best way to react to a mean person is by not reacting at all.

Hurting someone who’s hurt you is pointless. Revenge may be sweet, but it’s just another false sense of satisfaction that does nothing except feed your ego.

Try empathizing with mean people. Come to the realization that they are the ones who are unhappy. The only way their actions can affect you is if you allow them to.

Choose to rise above the hurt and the hate by never allowing yourself to wallow on their level.

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The Old Guy in CreCom

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Deciding to go back to school at the age of 33 wasn’t easy.

I still remember graduating from high school back in 1998. I told myself all I needed was one year off from school to find a job, make a little money and do some travelling. Well one year turned into two and two turned into fifteen. Before I knew it, my twenties were long gone and I still didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up.

But I had grown up.

All around me friends had established themselves with degrees, mortgages, families and commitments.

I was still kind of drifting. I didn’t know what to do, what I liked to do or what I was good at doing. Not to mention that lingering voice in the back of my head that would regularly make up excuses as to why I couldn’t and shouldn’t make a change.

One day I was sitting at my desk at work staring at the clock, trying to mentally force the minutes to pass by faster. Just another day at the office, working a mundane job with no opportunity for advancement. I zoned out, wishing away the next 25 years so I could just retire.

Wait a minute. Retire? Did I just think about retirement?

That’s when it dawned on me that I was destined be the guy in his sixties looking back on his life saying things like:

“If I could do it all over again, I sure would do it differently”.

Why was I selling myself short? There was still plenty of time to do something great. I’m always telling people to live without regrets, so now it was time to walk the talk.

Later that day, I enrolled in the Creative Communications program at Red River College. After a lengthy screening process, I was in. I was actually going back to school.

The first day was a little intimidating. Not surprisingly I was the oldest person in the class. Several questions began to arise.

How would I fit in with them?

Do we have any common ground?

What the hell is Snapchat?

Thankfully my fears were put to rest very early on. These weren’t the self-absorbed entitled youth I had heard about. These people were vibrant and interesting. A highly creative group with a great mix of standout personalities. A CreCom camaraderie was established almost immediately.

I went from being a good to writer to realizing I wasn’t as good as I thought I was. At the expense of my ego I began to accept some of my failures and committed myself to learning from my mistakes. The instructors in this program are outstanding and their criticisms are always constructive. The more I took their advice, the more my grades improved.

Now I’m doing things I never thought were possible. I’m writing screenplays and editing video footage. I’m writing articles for the school newspaper and creating advertisements for magazines. I’ve co-written audio dramas and dabbled with graphic design.

I can even diagram a sentence……why that’s important I don’t know, but I can still do it.

The point is I challenged myself and found out there was more to me than I thought there was. I have a much better understanding of who I am and what I’m capable of, and for the first time in a long time I feel like I’m on the right track.

Maybe this was how it was supposed to play out all along.

After all, I doubt the 18-year-old me would have been ready for a course like this.

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Captain Springtime

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Unfortunately, I haven’t had a lot of time to fill my blog post with insightful thoughts this week. I’ve been hard at work editing my first video, which I’ve posted below.

Let me know what you think.

It’s ridiculous, but the fact that I’m capable of doing something like this kinda blows me away. I had zero editing skills 3 months ago.

Enjoy!

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Quote The Raven……wait a minute, ravens can talk?

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I’m one of those people who surrounds himself with meaningful quotes. Anything I find that inspires me gets printed out and hung up somewhere around the house.

It occurred to me recently that I’ve been hearing all sorts of helpful messages my entire life. For the longest time these words of advice were just silly things old people said to me. They sounded good, but I never stopped to think about where the saying came from, or what it really meant.
Like when your grandmother tells you to “save your money for a rainy day”. Part of you knows she has the right idea, but the other part of you knows you got drunk last night and threw your iPhone at a racoon. As much as you’d like to take grandma’s advice, the thought of being phoneless is worse than the thought of Rob Ford in assless chaps. As a result, it’s bye-bye savings account. Actually it’s probably more like hello additional credit card debt.

Even though some of these sayings are older than I am, and pale in comparison to some of the more inspirational quotes you’ll see from people like Ghandi or the Dalai Lama, they never really lose their luster.

Here are a few examples of the wise words I used to hear over and over.

They will always remain relevant.

1. “When you smile, the whole world smiles back at you”

This is absolutely true. Smiling is contagious. Like yawning or whooping cough.

2. “A little kindness goes a long way”

A selfless act of kindness can inspire others to do the same for someone else, and you never know how far that gesture will actually reach. This is also known as “the ripple effect of kindness”. During a rainstorm last summer, I gave my umbrella to a family of three when I was walking around downtown Winnipeg. I just handed it over and kept on walking. The look of pure astonishment on the mother’s face is something I will never forget.

3. “Don’t sweat the small stuff” or “Don’t make mountains out of molehills”

It sucks that your cat barfed up a hairball on your fresh pair of J’s, and it’s too bad The Bombers probably won’t win another Grey Cup until we successfully land a man on Neptune. Just remember that things are never as bad as they seem, and none of this stuff really matters. Or I suppose you could always post about your dissatisfaction on Facebook. Everyone loves that.

4. “Happy wife, happy life”

This one is a no brainer. I can’t say for sure, but I’m pretty confident my wife is the happiest woman on the planet. After all, she married me.

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There Are Others Out There Just Like You

Awake

I always tell people that reading spiritual literature is by far the best way to open your mind. You choose for yourself which words to absorb, and how to interpret the book’s overall message. Reading an enlightening piece of spiritual writing, can be a very personal and rewarding experience.

But we can only read so many books before we want to increase our exposure to an alternative way of thinking.

So what should you do next?

I highly suggest you venture out into the community in search of light-minded people. Go to expos and book launches. Find out when a reputable spiritual teacher is coming to town, and attend one of their lectures. Participate in a group meditation session or consider going to a spiritual retreat. The spiritual community is thriving all around you, but it’s up to you to go and find it.

Not ready to go out and talk to other people just yet? Netflix has a wonderful selection of spiritual documentaries you can watch at home. Expose yourself to a variety of different perspectives. Determine for yourself what feels right and always trust your gut.

“All religions contain some wisdom, but no one religion contains all wisdom.”

– Quote found on SBNR (spiritual but not religious) website.

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What’s Love Got To Do With It?

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Most of us don’t want to be alone.

We go to great lengths to find “the one”, or what some people like to call their “soulmate”. We create online dating profiles that highlight our attributes. We frequent bars and nightclubs scouring the crowd for someone we can envision ourselves with. Sometimes we’ll strike up a conversation with a stranger in a park or at a bus stop, all in an effort to find someone that will make us feel complete.

If we’re lucky enough to find a person who can tolerate us, we begin to form a relationship with them. Over time, our lust for them turns into what we’d like to believe is love. We become emotionally invested. We become vulnerable. We form an unbreakable bond, and vow to spend the rest of our days honoring and staying true to them.

But if that person does something to jeopardize the relationship, we completely fall to pieces and lash out at them in horrible ways.

How can love turn to hate in the blink of an eye?

Everyone has heard of the many bitter divorces people go through. They go to great lengths to hurt the same person they claimed to love months, weeks or even days ago. They attempt to ruin them financially. They prevent them from seeing their children. They sully their name to friends and family all in an attempt to punish them for whatever unforgiveable offence that person committed against them.

How is this even possible? How can we claim to love someone one minute and want to obliterate them emotionally the next? Hate is the polar opposite of love, and yet we experience it so easily.

This doesn’t sound like love to me at all.

Is it fair to say that what most people think is love, is nothing more than infatuation?

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The Power of One

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What if the world woke up one day with amnesia? What do you think it would look like?

Would our initial instinct be to cooperate with our neighbor, or would we feel the need to dominate them? Would we look for ways to help our community grow as one, or concentrate solely on improving life for ourselves, even if it came at the expense of others? Would we lead with our hearts or judge with our minds?

I believe we as human beings are hard-wired for love. The concept of leading with your heart is just easier for some people to believe in.

There are opportunities all around us each and every day to make our world a better place. Unfortunately, most of us are too closed off to actually recognize them. We’re in too much of a hurry to be bothered. After all, it’s a dog eat dog world and time is money. Me, myself and I are all that’s important. If what I’m doing doesn’t directly benefit me in some way, then what’s the point?

In The Descent of Man, Charles Darwin writes only twice of “survival of the fittest,” but 95 times of love.

He writes of selfishness 12 times, but 92 times of moral sensitivity.

Of competition 9 times, but 24 times of mutuality and mutual aid.

People look at the world and wish things were better. Every time we open a newspaper or turn on the T.V we are bombarded with images of war and violence. The world around us can look like a pretty terrible place, and trying to change it alone seems futile.
Understand that you do make a difference.

If you believe that change can’t happen, then change won’t happen. Do your small part to improve things in your tiny corner of the world, and watch as the world around you changes.

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Victor & Sargent & Me

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For the second week in a row my blog post has to be school related.

On Tuesday night I went down to the Asper Centre to attend the Theatre Projects Manitoba performance of Sargent & Victor & Me. This one woman show was written and performed by Debbie Patterson, who’s been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. I make mention of her condition because her struggles with MS are an intricate part of the play.

First and foremost I thought Patterson was wonderful. Her reach as an actress was very impressive. Constantly switching between eight different characters would be a challenge for any actress. I can only imagine the countless hours she must have invested into perfecting the mannerisms of each one of her characters, who were based on real people.

The storyline was compelling. Afterwards, I found out the play was originally called Victor & Sargent. Patterson was encouraged to include her story into the play to give it added context and I’m glad she did. I’m not sure the production would have been nearly as interesting without her character being the focal point.

Periodically, re-enacted newscasts would play over the theatres speakers. They would recount one of the many shootings that have taken place on Victor or Sargent over the years. During these newscasts, Patterson would theatrically sway her body back and forth or passionately reach up to the sky trying in vain to reach for something that wasn’t there. The significance of this was lost on me. Maybe this is just some sort of art form I’m unfamiliar with. Either way I thought it was a little over the top and ineffective.

It’s fair to say the play lived up to my expectations, considering they weren’t very high to begin with. I’ve never been a fan of the theatre, so I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this play. After it was over, I left feeling indifferent. While I felt the acting was superb, the story itself was a bit stereotypical and didn’t really offer anything new.

The play reminded me that regardless of the precautions we take to stay in good health, there are diseases like MS that people can be diagnosed with at any time for no reason. In an instant our world can change. Listening to Patterson’s character insist to her daughter that she buy a gun and shoot her if her disease cripples her into a vegetative state was shocking. It reminded me just how lucky I am to be of sound mind and body.

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A Thousand Farewells

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This week’s blog post will be completely off topic. I’ve been tasked with a short book review of Nahlah Ayed’s A Thousand Farewells. As much as I’d like to somehow tie this book into the central theme of my blog, it doesn’t appear to be possible.

Initially, I struggled to find the right words to sum up how I felt about this book. I like to think of myself as someone who is worldly and well informed. But even I was shocked at some of the stories Nahlah recounted. There were excerpts of horrific prisons where innocent people were mercilessly tortured, to scenes of hysterical women screaming beside unearthed mass grave sites. The book painted a picture of a Middle East I was completely unfamiliar with.

Here in the west, we could be accused of having an overly simplistic view of what happens over in that part of the world. For the longest time, all we knew about places like Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Lebanon is they were filled with Muslim radicals who strap bombs to themselves, and then blow them up in the name of Allah. After all, that’s what was presented to us on news reports from the mainstream media outlets on television. So it’s no surprise ignorance of the Middle East runs rampant here at home.

Nahlah tries her best to give her readers a clear understanding of what’s happening in a very complicated region. The history of violence in the Middle East is well documented, but almost impossible to summarize in a book of only 400 pages. I thought Nahlah did an excellent job of writing for her western audience. She took the time to give her readers interesting pieces of information, other writers may have overlooked. Letting us know how a word like “gorbah” has such a deep and powerful meaning in its native tongue that translating it to English hardly does the word justice. Giving us these minute details was really impactful.

Her descriptions about her life in Lebanon were easily some of the most enjoyable parts of the book for me. Her vivid descriptions about Habib’s in Beirut made me feel like I was there with her.

This was the first time I actually felt exhausted after reading certain parts of this book. This is once again accredited to Nahlah’s writing style. I can easily see how the stress of Nahlah’s job took its toll on her physically. The constant change of time zones, the lack of sleep, and the culture shock would have been too much for me to handle. She conveyed those feelings of overwhelming fatigue wonderfully.

The Arab proverbs at the beginning of each chapter were a nice touch.

It would have been nice if she would have included a picture of a small regional map each time she entered a different country. I found it difficult to keep track of where she was situated sometimes. With all the traveling she was forced to do by car, it would have been helpful to have a visual included, to see exactly what routes she traveled, and what places she passed through along the way.

If you are interested in becoming a journalist, and you have every intention of fully investing yourself in your work the way Nahlah does in this book, you need to be prepared to make some sacrifices. Even though Nahlah is living her dream, she very candidly spoke about the friendships that she lost, and all the time she spent away from her family she will never get back. So either make it a priority to remain in contact with the important people in your life no matter what the circumstances are, or accept the fact that friendships will end and family life will go on without you.

Maybe it was because I was reading Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now in between chapters of A Thousand Farewells, but I couldn’t help but notice how Nahlah seemed to fit in with Tolle’s message. Eckhart implores his readers to be conscious of each moment in life, and to make the most of every opportunity. Nahlah is the perfect example of someone who lives for the moment. She never looks back.

This book really puts things into perspective. Our first world problems here in Canada aren’t really problems at all. They’re minor annoyances that we turn into catastrophes. Some people even go out of their way to create drama and conflict, just to make their lives a little more interesting. There was a Middle Eastern refugee in Nahlah’s book who challenged anyone from the west to live in her shoes for only one day. Then they would understand what hardships really are. I can think of a few dozen people who should take her up on that offer.

After reading Nahlah’s book, I can’t watch a newscast the same way I used to. Whenever a camera would pan a refugee camp outside of a country like Syria, all I saw was a bunch of displaced and unwanted nameless faces. Like the land of misfit toys. It sounds terrible, but I never really looked at them as people. Now, even though it’s impossible for me to relate with any of them, I feel like I have a better understanding of what it means to be a refugee.

They are people who have homes, they have families and they have stories.

Nahlah tried her best to tell them.

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The End Is Nigh

death

I try not to think about dying. Especially considering it’s not something I plan on doing for a very long time. Regardless, I think it’s natural for us a human beings to periodically ponder our own mortality.

Death is scary. It’s a finality. The way most people deal with it is by avoiding the topic all together. It’s almost impossible to speak with someone about death/dying and walk away from the conversation feeling positive and uplifted.

Or is it?

Last year I was fortunate enough to spend some one on one time with a man named Alex Chaligne. He’s the founder and head instructor of Aromansse, a studio in the heart of St. Boniface that offers meditation workshops, holistic healing, massage and yoga. He is a master aromatherapist and healing arts practitioner in the areas of spiritual guidance, feng shui, and tantra.

We spoke in great length about the different places his spiritual path has taken him, and where he envisions himself in the future. That’s when the conversation unexpectedly shifted towards death.

I learned that once he feels his work at the studio is complete, Chaligne plans on developing a project that will help fill a void in the medical system. His goal is to open a centre exclusively offering palliative care. He wants to teach people what it’s like to die, before they die. The idea is to mentally prepare someone for their death, so they aren’t afraid to die when the time comes.

Hospitals make sure you are physically comfortable during your last days on earth. What they lack is the ability to help you become emotionally comfortable.

Chaligne has seen firsthand what it’s like in palliative care wards. Numerous patients have asked him to spend time with them during their last days on earth. Usually at this point, they are beyond the help that doctors can provide. Instead of medication, Chaligne offers love and guidance.
When people get close to the end, they go into denial thinking a miracle will save them. Chaligne wants to teach people that death is a graduation from this universe to the next one. It’s not something that should be feared, it should be celebrated.

Instances where he was able to spend several weeks with patients before they died, gave Chaligne the opportunity to fully prepare them both mentally and spiritually for the moment of their death. The end result with everyone he worked with was the same. When the time came for them to take their last breath, they were fully relaxed and passed away with a smile on their face.

I left Alex’s studio that day with a smile on my face as well. It felt good to speak so candidly about death with someone who offered a perspective I was unfamiliar with.

“Death is opposite of birth. Death is not opposite of life. What takes birth dies, but life continues”
– Anonymous

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