Sunday, September 7, 2008


"To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless--it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable." -C.S. Lewis

Open Doors

The first day off at university is an exciting and intimidating day.  I had a few friends that had come to the same school as me, but we were all living in different dormitories, so I had no choice but to make new friends in my hall.  I had opted to have the school randomly select a roommate for me.  Based on a questionnaire I had filled out previously, they had paired me up with a very eccentric computer science student.  He ended up being one of the best roommates I've ever had, simply because we were so different, yet we held each other with the highest respects and courtesies.  

Anyway, our first day was basically unpacking all of our stuff, which for us priority seemed to be setting up our computers.  Once that was done, everything kinda just fell around the floor and what little closet space we had.  I don't recall having any floor meetings yet, so we were left to our own devices to get situated with getting food and navigating the bathrooms and halls, as well as mingling with our neighbors.  

Our first night seemed fairly quiet, and we hadn't done much to go out and meet too many people.  In fact, because classes hadn't started yet, many students chose to move in their stuff and go home, how boring (you can deduce from that that I went to a state school and lots of kids lived within driving distance).  Anyway, by around midnight, almost all the doors had been closed and me and my roommate just kept doing whatever we were doing on our computers with our door wide open,not even close to thinking about sleep just yet (we were taking full advantage of our new high speed internet connection and promptly filling our hard drives with as much data as possible).  

Anyway, the room directly across the hall hadn't gone to bed yet either and they had their door open.  Sometime between midnight and 2 am, a paper  airplane came flying through our door and landed at my feet.  It read "Open Me" across the wings.  Inside was a note saying something along the lines of "We seem to be the only ones awake still, what's up?".  With that we introduced ourselves and right there, we had made two new friends.  From then on, it was our habit to keep our doors open, and the two rooms next to us became pretty good friends as well, and our little cluster became a little hot spot for gathering on our floor.

Open hearts for good karma

I use this story as an illustration for how simply being open led to a great outcome and great friendships.  Granted that sending the paper airplane over took initiative on their part, but I think an equal part was that we left our door wide open, even when everyone else had closed theirs.  

When people are able to tell that you are an open person, they are then able to decide whether or not they will open up to you as well.  If, on the other hand, you give off the vibe that you are not an open person, then it takes greater effort on their part to take a risk and open up to you.  

Being open not only makes others feel comfortable around you, but it also allows you to be yourself, even among strangers.  Now the risk is that while you are open, you are also vulnerable to being hurt.  The upside is that there is a greater chance that good things may come, such as new friendships, opportunities, and overall good karma.

How to be open

There are a few basic things that I do to let others know I'm open.

1) Make eye contact, smile, and say "Hi"

I learned this from working in retail for awhile, and if you ever go shopping, you probably notice it also.  Although I was never a designated salesperson, I always made an effort to say hi to customers in case they need help.  Notice that I didn't often directly ask if they needed help, but by engaging them briefly, I gave them the opportunity to ask if the needed it.  Nowadays, when I'm shopping, I notice that workers and sales people are more willing to make eye contact and say "Hi".  Just by them doing that, I feel like I can ask them anything or just make small talk if I choose.  This type of behavior can be used elsewhere outside of retail.  The other day I was on a train ride through the mountains and happened to smile say hi to a lady.  Later in the ride, she asked if I could take a picture of her and her aunt, who was visiting from Germany, and that led to a wonderful discussion about a great deal of topics.  I think by first smiling and showing that I was open, she was able to decide to ask me to help them take a picture, and the rest naturally followed.  

2) In conversation, be willing to share a little more than expected

This one is tricky, but it's really about being able to show that you first feel safe sharing about your life, allowing others to see that they are also safe to share about themselves if they so choose.  Think about therapy groups, usually it takes just one brave person to open up and share about themselves before the rest of the group starts sharing and leads to bonding and healing.  This can happen in daily interaction on a shallower scale (since most people aren't ready to hear about your darkest secrets just yet).  

3) Don't criticize or make jokes that insult or put down others

A very important point.  If you are known to be a person who tells crass jokes or puts down others or talks about others when they aren't around, there is no way that anyone will trust you with their personal thoughts.  Even if you make a passing negative remark about something and a stranger hears it, they are less likely to engage you, unless they share the same negative view of things as you, in which case you've made a new friend.  

Related Reading:

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Importance of having a Star Trek-like Opening Sequence Every Day

"Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its continuing mission: To explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no one has gone before." - Star Trek: The Next Generation Opening Dialog

Any fan of Star Trek will can easily recite to you the opening voice over that precedes every episode of Star Trek.  In fact, even non-fans probably know it pretty well simply because of it's penetration into popular culture.  It became so popular that at one point, NASA, the US space agency, wanted to adopt it as their own mission statement.  

I want to focus on idea of having an opening dialog for your life every day.  To do that, let's look at some of the aspects of the Star Trek opening dialog.

1) It is read aloud at the beginning of every episode.
Ok, technically in some episode formats this dialog happens after a lead in scene, but for the purposes of this discussion, it happens before anything else begins.  The reason it's so easily remembered is because it's repeated over and over again in episode after episode.  It's ingrained in the viewers mind so much that it becomes almost automatic.  

Think back to when you were in grade school.  The same idea applies to the Pledge of Allegiance.  You may remember it: "I pledge allegiance, to the flag, of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all".  Believe it or not, I just typed that from memory, which proves that it's still ingrained in my head.  Every morning, we were renewing our oath to be loyal to our country, the good ole US of A.   I recited this every school day for 12 years, meaning that I said it around 2000 times.  

Now having been forced to recite it every day, the Pledge of Allegiance lost most of it's meaning and I bet most children don't even know the meaning of what they're saying.  But if you look at it from the education system's perspective, it's a method to remind kids of where they live and where their loyalty lies.  

Back to Star Trek, having it recited over and over every episode, reminds the viewer about why the Enterprise and it's crew exist.  Which brings us to our next point.

2) It defines why the ship and crew exist.

There are three aspects to the mission of the Enterprise: 1) To explore strange new worlds 2) To seek out new life and new civilizations 3) To boldly go where no one has gone before.  No matter what the specific mission that the Enterprise is performing, these are the overarching principles by which the crew will operate.  Any decision or action must be in line with these objectives.  This gives the crew a clear direction about their purpose in life.

I used to be involved in church and I can say that during that time, my purpose was to spread the word of God, and the love others.  Anything that I did was oriented around those objectives.  My job, my hobbies, and my relationships all centered on those.

Nowadays, after much self reflecting and discovery, I have set for myself other objectives around which my life is focused, which is basically to help others when I am able and to promote peace.

3) It only has three points and it's not terribly specific.

Some people have mottos, which are short phrases or pillars that they live by.  Short statements are easy to remember and recall.  The vagueness of mottos also means that they're able to be applied in many situations.  

So, why make a personal opening dialog and why use it every day?  It reminds you of what your purpose in life is or your guiding principles.  It puts into perspective everything you do that day in relation to the greater purpose in your life, which will help you make decisions and deal with stressful situations.  Reviewing it in the morning every day will make it a part of you, guiding your life and decisions.

When creating a dialog for yourself, keep it short and not too specific.  Make it something that you believe in no matter how you feel, so take time to explore yourself and find your core values.  This way, if you feel like you're having a rough week or just emotionally distraught, you can still stand by your values and live your life congruent to your beliefs.

Here's a few tips on how to remind yourself daily:

- Put a sticky note on your computer or bathroom or refrigerator or anywhere that you know you will see it each day.
- Use Google calendar to send yourself an email reminder every day
- Carry around an item or trinket that represents your beliefs so that whenever you see it or touch it, you will be reminded.

Final note: your purpose or mission or motto doesn't have to be permanent.  Even the Star Trek dialog changed over time a little bit.  Yours should change based on where you are in life and your constantly changing and growing outlook about how you want to live.  

Remember, whatever you do, do it boldly :)

Related Reading:

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Karma of Smiles

“Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.” - Mother Teresa

Mornings can be tough for me, especially since others around me usually are stressed, which rubs off onto me. Despite my efforts to remain patient, I still get irked a little by the time I get to work. I feel like it's such a waste to start the day on the wrong foot because it takes more effort to regain positive footing in my head.

Luckily, I was saved by an angel in the parking lot. As I was walking towards the elevators in our garage, I saw a lady standing outside of her car using one of those sticky rollers to pull off lint and hair off of herself before going into the office. She saw me looking and gave me a sheepish and genuine smile almost saying, "Yea, I'm a little embarrassed that you saw me, but it's the first day back from a long weekend and I don't care." I smiled back and felt much better about the morning.

A smile is a natural and simple expression of pleasure and it's something that means the same thing among all cultures and all times. It's one of the most basic and universal forms of communication that even babies are able to communicate with adults. It's this universality of smiles that makes it a perfect way for a person to express a connection with another person. Subsequently, a smile fills one of the basic needs of humanity, which is the sense of connection. Humans are naturally social beings and in order to feel fulfilled, must have connections with other humans.

Giving someone a smile, then, is a simple way to meet someone's need for connection. The great thing is that it costs very little for the giver and the reward for the recipient is greater than the effort to smile.

As it stands today, I am in debt to give a stranger a genuine smile today. Maybe I'll smile a bit more to put in extra karma to save me from another dreary morning in the future.

Related Reading:
How to Create Positive Emotions
32 Ways to Make Someone Happy Today
5 Reasons Why You Should Smile More