Monday, June 27, 2016

Thank you, PRIDE

Rarely does this world make a lot of sense to me.  

Why are we here?  What are we supposed to do with our lives, and how much control over them do we actually possess?  What are the right objectives for us as individual human beings, as siblings, as parents, as families, as professionals, as societies?  

My father blames my philosophy degree for these lingering uncertainties, and while certainty certainly has its virtues, this is the mind I possess.  

Occasionally, I have shining moments of clarity and serenity.  Yesterday was one such day.

I went to the PRIDE parade in St Louis, MO.  The recent shooting at an Orlando nightclub has been on my mind a lot, and I wanted to participate in the festivities.  

While I might not always understand much in this world, the underlying theme that drives tragedy is crystal clear to me -- fear.  Fear of what is different.  Fear that we are not “Right” with a capital “R.” Fear that we are not -- or someday might not -- be in control.  Fear of a world that evolves -- always has, mind you -- and how it will possibly operate under altogether different values, beliefs, practices and behaviors.  Fear that something standing in stark contrast to some truth we hold near and dear might be overcome by that scary thing over there that seems to be breathing -- or worse -- even thriving.

Our minds cannot fathom such a dynamic world, so we create zones for ourselves where we find comfort and security.  While this makes sense and is often necessary, it can be dangerous, serving to separate rather than unite us.  

Sexuality, faith, style, language, behavior, artistic expression, interests, taste and values that, while connecting us to people we can often best relate to, can be breeding grounds for separation.

As I walked the streets of downtown St Louis, smiling and high fiving with strangers that I somehow felt immediately connected to, I felt the pride that founded this culture.

To the founders and continued supporters of PRIDE and its positive, eccentric and altogether brilliant culture, I stand with you.  I love what you have created.  There was not a happier or more fun place within hundreds of miles of the environment you built yesterday in downtown St Louis.  

I will continue to celebrate your style, your music and your love, and I thank you for it.

$.50 Philosophy

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

A Letter to Undergraduates: 7 Pieces of Advice for Dudes

#1 - Consciously make a strong first impression.
Look nice on your first day of class, and stop by the professor’s desk before leaving.  

Introduce yourself, ask a general question about the syllabus or express interest in the course.  
This small gesture, which most of your classmates will skip, will leave the professor with a positive first impression of you.  They will recall it when you need it most -- final grades or requesting an extension for an assignment, as examples.

#2 - There is always a party. 
College parties are fantastic.  You will attend “Anything But Clothes” parties and beer breakfasts. You will slug wine out of a bag and build giant slip n’ slides simply because the sun is out and it is Sunday.  You will shut bars down and then throw epic dance parties until 5am, surrounded by great friends.  

But, you have a midterm Thursday morning.

It will feel - and your friends will lead you to believe - that THIS Wednesday’s ladies night will be the night of the century.  You CAN’T miss it.

It won’t be.  And you can.  

Handle your business and then have fun.  There is time for both.

As a secret, the fun and the parties are even better post-college.  

#3 - You are not that busy.
Your mother -- who worked full time, oversaw your school projects, ensured you arrived on time to every practice with a clean uniform, fed you quality meals each night and kept you on top of everything -- is busy.  

Call her every Sunday -- not just a text -- to let her know that you are alive and well, and to thank her.  Call your grandparents, as well.  

#4 - Make your bed every day.
Your bed takes up ⅓ of your room.  If it is made, ⅓ of your room is clean.  

This seemingly insignificant step makes a vast difference, not just on appearance, but in how your work space functions.  

It takes 30 seconds and will make drastic improvements in your performance across a number of realms.  

As an example: 
I am aware of the physical desires of all 18 year old women and men.  If your bed is made, it looks appealing to sit or lie down on.  If your guest chooses to sit down there, well…

Step 1: Complete.

I could write a book (and might still) on ways to engage and treat women.  So many dudes (Spaniards, included) skip simple, yet critically important, steps in this realm. This one is yours for free.

#5 - Go to class every day.
You partied excessively last night.  The after party went until 5:30am, and you stumbled into your room at 6am.  

It’s now 8:30am.  Your head hurts.  You are nauseous.  And you left your bookbag at a friend’s house.  

Grab a sheet of paper and a pen.  Throw on sweats and go to class.  Every time.  

Ask any college advisor and they will tell you.  Going to class is the sole difference between the freshmen that get to return to campus after first semester, and those that must go home.

Side Note:
The first semester is often the worst semester (academically) for college graduates.  Mine was.  The newness of it all is understandably overwhelming, and you will make some poor decisions.  Going to class every day will minimize the impact this has on your GPA.  Raising your overall GPA from a 2.6 after first semester, is a much different project than raising it from a 1.2.

Disclaimer: Going to class every day will secure a much stronger first semester performance for you than the numbers listed above.  

#6 - Never stop exploring.
Universities are worlds unto themselves.  You are surrounded by current or future entrepreneurs, artists, musicians, athletes, writers, etc.  

There are musicals and concerts taking place.  Speakers and open discussions on interesting topics. Patios filled with people slugging beers.  Rec centers filled with sports and fitness activities. Teams organizing worthwhile efforts to raise funds or bring about change for admirable causes. Etc.  

Do not limit your college experience to the world in which you reside.  Mix it up.

Do the “Anything But Clothes” party on Friday night.  Wake up at 9am for a Big Brothers/Big Sisters fundraiser.  Play frisbee in the park with your buddies in the afternoon.  Nap until 9pm, and then rouse your friends for a beer pong tournament that night.  

There is time for it all, and you should do it all.  

#7 - Take your education into your own hands.
Your professors are experts in their respective fields.  They have dedicated their lives to this area of study.  Absorb all they have to offer!

Once you decide what you are going to study, get excited about it.  If you are to become a teacher, connect with your practicum professors.  If you are to join the business world, ask your professors about books or leaders that have influenced them as business professionals.  Maybe they own or oversee a local company and have internships or other opportunities available.  

Yes, you will have classes that suck, but do not dread them.  They are in place to challenge you to think critically, and to approach problems from the many different vantage points that plague them.  Learn.  Learn.  Learn.  

You will have to take some general studies courses.  Your advisor will try and choose these for you, and do so based on class sizes -- doing what they can to even out class sizes -- but there are MANY classes that fill those requirements. 

Use your guide book, RateMyProfessor (cautiously -- students can be unnecessarily harsh) and fellow students to help you create a curriculum that will interest you.  

For my degree, I had to take two general science courses.  Had I let my advisor schedule it, I would have been placed in a lecture hall with 100 other students.   

Instead, I found the following two courses:
Weather and Climate -- a joke of a class, but with a hilarious Italian professor.
Life of Animals -- another joke of a class, but with the infamous Professor Project Pat.  I did not learn much, but I took the class with a great friend.  We clowned a lot, but we were good at memorizing material, so we aced the class.  He got a good chuckle out of the two of us, and I remember the class fondly.  

Lastly, and maybe most importantly - you are not a kid anymore!  You can have mature relationships with your professors, and they can become lifetime friends and mentors.  The sooner you understand this, the greater the advantage you will have on your peers.

In closing, I hope you have a most amazing experience.  Have fun, but accomplish things as well -- you are truly successful if you can marry the two in the same project(s)!  You can call on me at anytime for anything, including: the good, the bad and the ugly.  

I love you very much.

$.50 Philosophy