Monthly Archives: October 2015

“It’s not my fault.” Thoughts on taking responsibility when no one else does (or will).

“Cut the crap and stop whining. Put your big boy pants on and suck it up.”

-The Zen Hiker

I am, and always have been, a firm believer in personal responsibility. I believe that everything that happens to us, and doesn’t happen to us is a direct result of choices that we have made and continue to make. This true in every aspect of our lives.

In our personal lives people to often bemoan the life situation that they are in by blaming everyone and everything else in their lives. The reason why they don’t live in a bigger house? The bank wouldn’t give me a loan. No new car? The dealer wouldn’t give me a good enough deal. Why is my marriage failing? My spouse is the problem. Why are my kids a mess? It’s the schools fault. It is this type of thinking that is killing us as a society. It seems as though no one assigns blame to themselves for the trouble that they may be having.

Sophocles said that “It is a painful thing to look at your own trouble and know that you yourself and no one else has made it.” A truer statement could not be made. We live in a society today where it is ok to not accept responsibility for anything. Unfortunately this type of behavior starts all the way at the top. Our President has spent the last seven years blaming the previous administration for every single failure during his term. What are we to think when the President of the United States can’t even take responsibility for anything that he has done? Since he does it, why shouldn’t we?

At work we hear the same mantra:

“It wasn’t my fault.”

“I can’t do that because it won’t work.”

“What do you expect me to do, the administration tells us what to do.”

“They have always done it that way.”  

“They expect to much from us.”

When was the last time that you actually heard someone say, “I messed up and I will accept the consequences for what I have done”? I would venture to guess that it is probably not in the recent past. This is a societal issue that needs to be addressed and until we do we will continue to sink lower and lower as a people. This runs across all ethnic lines and income levels.

For those of us getting older, time is running out. For you folks who are younger and yet again much younger, consider making a change in your life that could not only produce better results for you, but would certainly make you happier. What is it that we can do to produce change in ourselves?

First, don’t think that you are entitled to anything. If you want something, go out and earn it. Here’s a shocker-you can’t afford it? Guess what? You can’t have it! Hard work has never killed anyone. Our society is riddled with those who believe that due to their circumstances, they are owed something. Not true. Ken Keyes jr. said that “you are not responsible for the programming that you picked up in childhood. However, as an adult, you are one hundred percent responsible for fixing it.”

Second, If you spend all of your time blaming others for your problems, they will never change. Accepting responsibility for what you have done empowers you and allows you to change things that may occur in the future. You won’t be relying on others to change to help improve your situation. If you want change, you have to be the one to make it happen.

Lastly, I refer you to the quote at the top of this blog. “Cut the crap and stop whining. Put your big boy pants on and suck it up.” Do I really need to say anything else?

Some other quotes to think about as you choose the path to change::

“The victim mindset dilutes the human potential. By not accepting responsibility for our circumstances , we greatly reduce our power to change them.” -Steve Maraboli

“This is your life. You are responsible for it. You will not live forever. Don’t wait.”  -Natalie Goldberg

“Take your life in your own hands and what happens? A terrible thing: no one to blame.” -Erica Jong

Eventually we all have to accept full and total responsibility for our actions, everything we have done, and have not done.” -Hubert Selby jr.

Anthony’s Nose vs. Technology

“It was my letting go that gave me a better hold.”

Chris Matakas

When I was out hiking several weeks ago, I had some time to think about how my attitude towards technology at work and my home life overall had changed over the course of the last several years. Since I have hiked the familiar trail to Anthony’s Nose countless times, I was once again afforded the opportunity to let my mind wander since I didn’t have to really worry about getting lost. As days go it was one of the better ones that we had seen in quite a few weeks. Cooler temperatures, no humidity and a light breeze made for perfect hiking conditions.

As I strapped my pack on and tightened the laces on my boots, I hoped that I wouldn’t see to many people on my journey. It’s not that I am anti social, but there are times when the need to be alone with your thoughts takes precedence over everything else. Why you may ask? It’s really pretty simple.

We live in a world that is dominated by the technology around us. I know that in my house you have the tv, computer, telephone, cell phones and ipods.We can’t even escape this deluge in our cars. It seems as though someone is looking at or listening to something twenty four hours a day. I know many people of my generation who grew up without this 24/7 technological onslaught feel overwhelmed, at times, by the sheer volume of everything that is being directed at us.  Every aspect of our lives is controlled by our use of technology.

Think about it. When was the last time that you saw something positive on the news? I know, I can’t either.  It doesn’t happen. Death, corruption, destruction, child molesters, fires, car accidents. It’s all negative and it is hurting each and every one of us.

Why does this matter? Up until about three years ago, I felt that if I didn’t check my work e-mail at home, or my personal e-mail ten times a day, I would be missing something. I especially felt this at work over breaks and during the summer.

And please don’t ask about Facebook. When I first joined Facebook I felt the need to comment on just about everything that was written. I would get into lengthy arguments with people who I disagreed with, especially in regards to politics. Over the course of the last year, I have tended to pick and choose what I respond to. Unfortunately, many people feel the need to focus on the negative and can not engage in any type of healthy and productive debate.

I would actually get angry over the stupidity that I saw and it just seemed like an awful waste of energy.

This led to my recent decision to not respond to Facebook posts, no matter how provocative they may be. At this point in my life it just doesn’t seem productive to engage in such incredibly pointless debates.

You may be asking, “Why is he focusing on just Facebook?” That is also a simple answer.My interactions on Facebook were the ones that were causing me the most angst and wasting an incredible amount of my time.

The need to be able to escape from our technological lives is what makes every single trip to Anthony’s Nose special. The ability to feel the earth under your feet as you walk and to be able to hear only the train whistles in the distance is, indeed, the perfect mental cleansing. Sometimes you just need to get rid of all of the crap in the attic and move forward.

Needless to say, everyone needs to take the time to disconnect and get back to the basics, at least for a little while. Is it possible to totally disconnect? Not in the 21st century. But you can reduce the amount of time that are swept up in the technological malaise.

Reid Genauer, the lead singer and lyricist of the band Assembly of Dust summed it up perfectly when he said, “Can you help me get my head on straight just a half an inch, so I can muddle on through?”

Take some time to assess where you are with all of the technology available out there and ask yourself if it is really improving your state of mind. I think you might be surprised with what you find out.

(Before anyone attacks me, I know that I am using technology to write and maintain this blog. A necessary evil….)

Mow to Zen

“I can only meditate when I am walking. When I stop, I cease to think; my mind only works with my legs.”

Jean Jacques Rousseau

Over the years I have come to realize that hiking is not the only form of walking that has a calming effect on my soul and allows me to think without anyone hassling me. Even though today is October 4th in the Northeast, I actually had to mow my lawn. Now I have expressed countless times to my friends, colleagues and especially my family just how much I love to mow my lawn. Every time that I do, I get the same response-”You are truly out of your mind.”

I then say to them, “No, no, you just don’t get it.  When I mow the lawn, I can pretty much guarantee that no one else wants to do it, which guarantees me a period of time where no one will bother me.” I can then get lost in my mind and think what I consider to be profound and incredibly insightful thoughts. Or, if I am not in the mood to think profound thoughts, sometimes mowing the lawn just puts me in my Zen place.

I can remember one time when my kids were much younger I had raised the level of the blade on my mower so the length of the standing grass would be higher. I thought that by keeping the grass higher, it would look better than the golden brown that was over taking my lawn.  As I finished mowing, I remember feeling really good until I heard the yelling. My son and daughter were going at each other at a level that, quite honestly, I didn’t want to deal with.

What was the argument about you might ask? I apologize, but the reason has been lost to the annals of time. And to be honest with you, if I didn’t see any blood, broken or missing limbs or a weapon, then I didn’t care. But what I did in an attempt to save my state of mind, and to allow myself to continue to wallow in my mental abyss was to lower the blade on the mower back to its original height and I mowed the lawn again, guaranteeing me another hour of peace.

And to steal a line from Forrest Gump, “That’s all I have to say about that.”