Today was a beautiful day in the Puget Sound. I took this picture in downtown Bellevue and it got me thinking.
My kids are going to be 14 and 18 in just a few months, and I just crossed 50. So it’s probably a good time to tell them the handful of things that I learned in life.
1. There is nothing more powerful than Human Dignity
When you hesitate about which way to go, pick Human Dignity above all. There is never a time you will regret traveling that path, ever.
2. Be an Heartist
Saint-Exupery wrote in the Little Prince that “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye”. There is simply no amount of rationale that will ever weigh as much as a heart beat.
3. Don’t let “things” dictate what you do
There is no possession that’s worth anything: a house, a car, a boat, jewelry whatever it is you think you should own, it’s not worth the time you spend working for it. Yes, you need some money to live and raise a family, but there is always a way to make it work. Connecting with someone’s heart is priceless.
4. Stay away from Sociopaths
It took me a while to understand that Sociopaths are actually quite common in our society. They are easy to spot once you understand how they operate. When you meet someone and they behave in a sociopathic way, run, run as fast and as far as you can.
5. Live free
You can introspect everything you do, every action, every choice you make and figure out if it is dedicated to reach its purpose. There is nothing you are not in control of as long as you don’t react to what someone else does. Freedom is a state of mind, it is not about being able to do anything you want, it is about choosing everything you do, with purpose, heart and human dignity, in otherwords it is about becoming.
I know that’s pretty simple, perhaps even pathetically naive, but I don’t have stronger certainties today. I know that’s all I would have needed to know to guide my life properly.
I’d like to add a couple of notes:
1) Seattle is a pretty interesting place with people like Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos who are constantly in the news. What’s fascinating about them is that we can now see that their fortune means nothing. Bill Gates can buy Da Vinci’s manuscripts, but he’ll never be his equal, not even a fraction. Bezos may have built the best commerce engine in the world and funded Cloud Computing, but where’s the human component in Amazon? is Bezos shaping the future of humanity as algorithms, drones and robotic workers who help us buy more crap?
Even Bill Gates Fortune is puny when you put it in human terms. Bill Gates, the richest man in the world, who was able to collect for himself, one way or another, $70/Microsoft customer (~1 Billion) can only … hire the extended city of Seattle (Everett, Bellevue, Tacoma) for one year! (700,000 people at $100,000 GDP per worker = $70B). That’s it, 1 person out of every 1000 on earth would work for him for a year and he’ll run out of money. In the end he’ll just be remembered as the guy who brought us Windows 95, or Clippy, not to forget bullet point thinking.
On the other hand there are also some very successful people who seem to live these values every day like Howard Schultz or companies like REI. What can be more satisfying than giving decent, human-centric, sustainable jobs across the world with health care and education?
2) At the time of this writing, I wanted to add that I am not able to see my children when they need me. I suggested their mother that a teenager has a complex enough life between school and friends that a parental schedule should not be a document that can dictate his life. He should be in charge of the schedule, not me, not his mother, he should be free to follow his heart, and become a fully functioning human on his term. His mother replied to me:
“You cannot decide when you will see [your son] or not. I do not want that sort of thing for [him] as it can hurt him. I want him to have clear expectations. There is a schedule for that reason. All divorcee parents work with it. So we will do as everybody else. You will not rule. Bringing the argument that I don’t want you to see [him] WILL NOT work.”
This is what the parental plan my ex-wife demanded that I sign so she could maximize the amount of child support she could get:
“The father may have up to 8 hours of residential time with the children every weekend, provided that he gives mother 24 hours’ notice that he intends to exercise the time.
The father may also see the children every Wednesday, or another mutually agreed upon weekday, from 5 pm to 8 pm provided that he gives the mother 24 hours’ notice that he intends to exercise the time.”
As part of the divorce settlement, my ex-wife, a finance manager in a large Telco, got our two houses and condo, with a rental income of $30,000/year. She also demanded to have full decision control over the children.
During that beautiful day, yesterday, my son was left alone at home until 2pm as her mother had things to do. That is the kind people our society rewards, people who take everything, have no heart, no empathy and want to control everyone else’s actions.
I am free.