5 Important Life Lessons It Took Me 40 Years to Learn (A Crash Course in Emotional Intelligence)

Having turned 40 this week, I came to the realization I have now learned certain life hacks that… no one ever tells you about!

So for anyone out there still reading blogs in the year 2021, I am going to share with you 5 important life lessons it took me 40 years to learn; most of which relate to the underrated commodity of emotional intelligence.

Don’t Just Be Yourself:

To “always just be yourself” is implying that there is not constant need and constant room for change in your own life and in your perceptions of reality. In order to mature, you must always remain open to, and even crave, constructive criticism.

Plus, the reality is that people don’t simply like you for who you are: Instead, they like you for what value you add to their lives; how you provide for their needs.

So to just be yourself insinuates that you not are empathetic enough to at least temporarily evolve into a version of yourself in order to relate- and therefore to be valued by that person.

Don’t just be yourself. That’s not enough. Instead, be a better and more flexible version of yourself.

Stop Believing That You Are a Good Person:

It’s interesting how many people instinctively see themselves as “good”; which in their minds grants them access to good things happening to them, and not deserving bad things. They compare themselves to people who have different moral struggles than they do; using cliches like, “I’m not perfect, but at least I’m not an ax murderer.”

I feel that culturally, we have bought into this false concept that karma exists. Living for 40 years has shown me plenty of examples where bad things happened to “good” people and good things happened to “bad” people.

Am I a good person? No. Am I a bad person? No. I am a person- and that means both good things and bad things are going to happen at some point. I accept this.

No One Cares About Your Opinion:

What you believe caries no actual weight on the rest of the world. It doesn’t. All that matters is what you actually do.

Yet still, watch how many people express their beliefs on social media as if they were actually changing someone’s mind. Instead, they are only reinforcing what others already believe through a process called Identity Protective Cognition.

Notice how “news” headlines are designed to trigger your tribalism; to get you to take a judgmental side and even get angry and emotional about the other side being “wrong.” This is simply their tactic to sell ads; whether the topic is politics, sports, or entertainment.

Getting older has taught me that I actually only have control over a limited number of things in this world. I have learned to focus on the few things I can control, not the infinite number of things I can’t- like other people’s deep-rooted beliefs.

You Have Complete Control Over Your Own Emotions, Time, Energy, Money, and Nutrition:

Whereas it seems the default that people think their opinions matter and that they control what other people believe, for some reason they ironically assume they are powerless victims when it comes to the things they alone control 100 percent.

No one can offend you unless you let them. No one can waste your time unless you let them. No can force you to spend your mental and physical energy on them unless you let them.

Likewise, you get to decide how you manage the small or large amount of income you have access to; as well as the density of nutrients in the calories you consume everyday.

For many people, “victim mentality” is the default instead of taking control and therefore changing their daily personal choices that currently lead them to a lesser quality of life.

People Always Find a Way to Do the Thing They Really Want to Do:

In the same way people often assume they have control over other people’s opinions and views, they often assume they can motivate other people to change their behavior too. Very seldom is this the case.

Everyone has their own personal motivations. Some people actually find comfort in their self-destructive routine. This is often due to some type of trauma they experienced earlier in life that they never received professional counsel for. It is their defining wound that they’ve made part of their identity. To change for the better would be to lose sight of who they are.

(Ever seen an episode of Hoarders, My Strange Addiction or My 600-Lb Life?)

At best, you can learn to nurture a relationship with a person to the point they begin to want to help you, and that help that you want might mean they change for the better. However, that often is more of a long term investment.

It is often a waste of emotion, time and energy to try to change a person who isn’t motivated to do so on their own.

That’s it! If you found any of my life lessons to be helpful, let me know.

After all, I am making an assumption that my opinions don’t matter, that I am only reinforcing what you already believe, and that to try to convince you otherwise is simply a waste of my emotions, time, and energy.

Dear Holly: Your Tour of Kindergarten This Week!

4 years, 11 months.

Dear Holly,

As you are now just a few weeks away from your 5th birthday, Mommy and I took you this week for your official tour of Kindergarten!

We were in a group of other upcoming Kindergartners; even one from your current preschool.

Once you begin Kindergarten this fall, it will be the only year that you and your brother will be at the same school at the same time; as he will be in the oldest grade of the school, as a 5th grader.

You are very excited about starting Kindergarten; which happens to be at the biggest elementary school in our county, which happens to be in walking distance of our house.

I am confident you are going to love it!

Love,

Daddy

The Jew(ish) T-Shirt: For People Like Me, Who Are Only Partially Jewish

How Jewish do you need to be in order to still be considered Jewish? Or maybe more importantly, how Jewish do you need to be in order to wear the new t-shirt I finally bought for myself:

Jew(ish).

It is a complex and complicated topic. After all, you can have 100% Jewish heritage going all the way back to Israel, yet not actually be a practicing Jew- observing the culture and faith.

On the flip side, you can be like Connie Chung, a Chinese-American, who adopted an identity of Judaism when she married her husband Maury Povich. She is kosher and attends synagogue.

And then there are plenty people in-between, like me.

My mother and I had always specifically felt connected to Jewish people. As a kid, I assumed we were in deed Jewish. I didn’t question it.

Then, a few years ago, my mother’s DNA test confirmed what most self-identifying Jewish people are telling me: Because my mother’s test shows she is 15.2% Sephardic Jewish (via Italy), that means that I am, as well.

Coincidentally (?), I have faithfully remained kosher for over 11 years now; well before DNA tests were easily accessible.

Therefore, I feel confident in qualifying to be worth of the Jew(ish) t-shirt.

If you feel that you qualify, as well, just click this link to find the best deal on Amazon, like I did.

Shalom… I guess.

 

Should Christians Forfeit the Right to Be Offended?

If you know me at all, you know that a fundamental life motto of mine is this:

“It is your personal decision, 100% of the time, whether to be offended, insulted, disrespected, to let someone hurt your feelings, or to just simply be ready to instantly forgive.”

That’s an epiphany I had shortly after my 35th birthday. So for the past 3 years, I have been living in that knowledge. That nugget of wisdom has only improved the quality of my life and truly has given my freedom from arbitrary burdens I used to carry.

I have also accepted the reality that anything a person believes, in their own mind, is true.

If someone thinks I’m wrong, immoral, ignorant, immature, lazy, unqualified, too serious, too silly, too conservative, too liberal…

They are always right. To them, it is truth. To them, it is reality.

Therefore, it is a waste of my time, energy, and emotions to attempt to prove them wrong in their perception. It is most likely that they have identity protective cognition, so that my attempts to correct their perspective about me will only reinforce what they already believe about me.

I feel this is the example Jesus gave when he was being questioned by Pilate (in Mark, Chapter 15):

“Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate.

“You have said so,” Jesus replied.

The chief priests accused him of many things. So again Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.”

But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.

Granted, I believe that often, when one person makes any kind of judgment call regarding another person’s character, there is a good chance that are simply broadcasting their own insecurities or uncertainties about their own identity.

As a human being, I forfeit my right to be offended. I openly invite the free world to call me every name in the book.

Ultimately, only I get to determine whether I am a victim, a villain, or a victor.

It is my opinion, as a Christian, that it is ideal for Christians to forfeit the right to be offended. Jesus taught his followers to turn the other cheek.

That implies the importance of not only taking the hit, but giving the “offender” the opportunity to strike again.

I see this is a healthy state of being: to be ready at any time to instantly forgive anyone.

Instead of being offended, I say we should use those opportunities to extend grace to the person; whether they are a believer or not.

Who knows? That surprising response of grace could prove to be the simple act of kindness to help minister to the would-be “offender”.

But hey, maybe I’m wrong. And if that’s what you believe, I won’t try to prove otherwise.

Dear Holly: Your New Christmas Lights for Your Bed

3 years, 7 months.

Dear Holly,

Last weekend, Mommy surprised you by decorating your bed with some rainbow Christmas lights!

You are so proud to go to bed each night, under the festive glow.

I’m not sure how that coincides with your bed sheets you currently have, which are covered in poop emojis.

But to you, it makes perfect sense.

Actually, I have a feeling it’s going to be difficult to convince you to get rid of these lights once Christmas is over.

I guess we’ll have to revisit this topic here in a few weeks, or maybe next year!

Love,

Daddy