The Endangered Tradition of Taking a Walk

You can walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, or you can actually walk with them instead.

To “go take a walk” used to mean something.  On the surface, it could seem that walking without a necessary destination may seem pointless.  But when you’re physically moving, the gears in your head tend to move as well.  (I get most of my ideas to write about while moving in some way, not sitting still and just trying to think stuff up: The ideas just appear in my head as long as I’m moving somehow.)  When walking alone, you will more likely be able to think more clearly and creatively.  When walking with another person, you’re more likely to engage in clear and creative conversations.  But in a culture where we do a lot of scurrying around, then we get home, and we are often so exhausted from the day’s stress that we just want to chill out on the couch, the tradition of taking a walk has become endangered.  And therefore; less thinking, less talking.

Taking walks is a tradition I am making a point to bring back in my own life.  Every day at work, my friend Chris and I take a fifteen minute walk around the buildings near us.  He’s nearly Asperger’s when it comes to World History and Geography, so I learn a lot from him.  And I’m able to bounce ideas off of him as I am in the midst of writing about them, like about capital punishment.  If it weren’t for our daily tradition of walking together, he would just be another guy I work with.  But instead, he is a friend to me, not simply a “work friend”- because there’s definitely a difference.

And if you’ve live in a townhouse development or newer apartment complex in a decent sized city, you’re aware of your Korean neighbor ladies who walk around the neighborhood every evening after dinner.  They are always an inspiration to me.  But of course it’s not just about necessary daily exercise; it’s about putting yourself in a position to where you can simply think (if you’re alone) or to strengthen relationships with people in your life.

Screen Door on an Open Mind

I think, therefore I am open-minded.

Before, I always thought that being open-minded meant I would personally accept any new idea that came along, so I distanced myself from the phrase. “Open-minded” was a description for a person with no backbone, so flaky regarding their worldview that they would accept anything fully; never really being able to believe in any certain deity whom they could actually know personally, because being open-minded meant they believed “God is in the trees and the wind and the animals and in all of us”.

But somewhere in between never adopting solid personal beliefs and being so unchangeably stubborn because “this is the way it’s always been done and I ain’t changin’ now” is a balance. I’ve come to realize that while there are certain things I am rock solid on, there are other aspects that I was wrong or misinformed about before. For example, in recent years regarding the relationship between my religious and political beliefs, I have definitely become more conservative on certain issues and more liberal on others. Yet I still know what I stand for.

Being open-minded means living a paradox. It means a person has confirmed the Big Stuff (a moral code, religion, etc.) but is open to the millions of things that don’t necessarily go against what is set in stone. And while people everyday are still sorting out the Big Stuff, there should come a certain point for everyone where they actually decide on something. It’s a necessary rite of passage that makes us who we are.

Speaking of a word that many often keep a distance from: faith. It’s amazing how there’s no escaping from needing to have faith in something. Whether it’s faith in no god, a god, science, tradition or “don’t know, don’t care”, people make their decision even in their indecision.

I have figured out the Big Stuff for me. Other than that, I’m learning the rest everyday. The door of my mind is open, though the screen in front of it is secured in place.

“If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.” –traditional proverb

Reading (and Leading) People

 There’s a mighty power called “being able to read people” that can be used for good, to lead others… or for bad, to manipulate them.

A sign of a person’s self-confidence level, as well as their amount of natural leadership skills can both be measured, to a great degree, by how often (or seldom) they are in defense mode.  While there are most definitely times to stand up for ourselves, confident in our stance on whatever issue is at stake, if a person is constantly feeling they have to prove their worth by acting and speaking in a default of defense, then there is a problem.

In theory, a person should only have to be in “defense mode” when they truly need to stand up for themselves or for their just cause.

Therefore, I can’t help but have a respect for people who fight for what they believe in, who turn an apathetic cheek to things they don’t feel passionate about by staying out of it (meaning they don’t think they have to be right about everything), and who are savvy enough when it comes to “reading people” that they don’t have to second-guess what a person is thinking. 

Definitely ironic.  Reading people so well that there is no need to try to predict or figure out what someone is thinking.  Because good “people readers” already know what other people are thinking, yet they NEVER admit it or tell the person they are reading.  No one wants to feel that they are being manipulated because someone has figured them out- though their fear is often indeed true.

So I’d rather be the one in the driver’s seat instead of the sidecar when it comes to the issue.  I’d rather attempt to become a leader (when there’s not already an established one) than become a follower of a corrupt or weak leader; one I don’t respect. 

That’s the whole brilliance in reading other people- the way to manage other people is to steer them into the desired direction without having them realizing what’s happening.  A secret self-taught art that entertainers, politicians, CEO’s, teachers, managers, and pretty much anyone in any type of leadership position learn to master: Do unto others or they will do unto you.

A leader who is a good “people reader” knows the limits of others- what can be asked of them and what they are willing to do to accomplish the goal.  Leaders also know what motivates their team members- how to let them thrive in their skillsets, talents, and creativity. 

To make sure I speak in confidence, not in doubt, I am very specific in the phrases I chose not to say (and type).  In my own vocabulary, these are blacklisted:

“My point isn’t that…”

 “Wait, I know what you’re thinking…”

 “Let me explain, you see…”

 “Here’s what I meant…”

 “See, what I believe is…”

All of those phrases seem to preface the rest of sentence in a way that negates its own validity.  Often when I write, I am making a point based on my own opinion.  As I do this, I have to carefully address the exceptions and any naysayers’ concerns by building on them (You Missed a Spot).  In other words, by “reading people” to where they don’t even get a chance to heckle me with a “yeah, but what about?…”

For example, when I was writing the “sleeper hit” post Must Not Mustache (currently my 5th most popular, surprisingly), I was explaining that most men under the age of 40 can’t be taken seriously if they have a mustache.  Yet, there are exceptions and I needed to be the one to address them.  So I did.  And instead of the exceptions taking away from what I had to say, they complimented it instead.

I keep this original proverb in mind daily:

Speak with authority and direction.  And if you may be wrong about the issue or haven’t done your research, just shut up.  People often mistake silence for wisdom. 

My inspiration to write this post?  This past Sunday night’s episode of The Celebrity Apprentice.  I like learning from other people’s follies and successes- even if it comes from a reality TV show.