Friday, May 29, 2009

Read Before You Sign! We live in the information age. Written information is everywhere; sometimes we just take it for granted and ignore it. We sign for everything, gas, money, bills, websites, school and work. Hardly an hour goes by that we are not presented with a form to sign. The form always comes with terms, on and on they go with rules and then the final blank where we agree to all those terms….whether we have read them or not! House closings, they push stacks of paper in front of you to sign. People everyday sign things without reading them. The agent says its just boilerplate. Read it before you sign it! The small print is never to your advantage. They don’t expect you to read it so that put stuff in there you can negotiate away…but you have to know it is there and you have to negotiate it. Employment contracts, work rules, and mandatory memos control a third of our life. If we pause to read them, someone will tell us to just sign it. Read it before you sign it. A teacher was handed a slip of paper to sign while teaching her class. The messenger waited! She scanned it quickly, and then signed it to get on with her class. Later she read the receipt she had signed. She had agreed to remain standing, moving from the back of the room to the front to give all students equal access to her as she taught. It seemed like a small thing at the time, but it would come back to haunt her. The school year went on, and often she would start to take her seat but remembered the memo she had signed. Being a person of her word, she’d stand up and walk the room. Before the term was out, she had to take medical leave. She had vascular trouble in her legs from being on her feet too much. How about those thousands of people in Katarina who lost their houses to flood-- only to find out about the flood exclusion after it was too late. Similar thing in Ike, people lost their house to hurricane winds only to find out they had signed an endorsement excluding wind in return for a lower premium on their home insurance. They read the part about the cut in premium, but they were too busy to read the part about giving up wind coverage. It didn’t turn out to be such a bargain after all. For most of us our home is our largest investment. How many people have read their policy? After major disasters, when some people are hurt badly because they didn’t read their policy, the news media likes to do stories about how bad the insurance company is. Those talking heads have pretty faces and brains that are NEVER tuned to a higher level than the average 7th grader. Instead of urging people to read their policy, they convince them that they are full of legalese, small print and impossible to read. That is not true! Most homeowner’s policies are very readable and fairly short and the print large enough for old people to read. Of course, if we don’t read it we will never know. It is so customary to sign without reading that the person on the other side of the table gets annoyed if we don’t just sign and move on. If you pause to see what you are agreeing to they act like you are being unreasonable. We can’t stop America from jumping the cliff like lemmings, but each of us can break the pattern by reading everything before we sign. Each time we interrupt the brainless pattern of signing without reading, the zombies on the other side of the deal get a chance to break the coma they are in. Recently Congress voted to bail out financial institutions with our money…lots of our money. Our elected officials signed the bill and then the details began to come out. They gave away billions without any oversight at all. Their excuse was they had signed without reading the bill. That’s not unbelievable, but it should be! If ever there was proof that we are on an insane course of self-destruction, collectively and individually, our quickness to sign without reading is it. Take a deep breath. Take two! Let the oxygen refresh our brain, consider the foolishness of not reading the agreements we sign, admit that we do this, and commit to never doing it again. Read it, then sign or not based on full knowledge of what we are agreeing to. Read everything before you sign it. If you don’t have time to read it, you don’t have time to sign it.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Increasing Our Range of Vision! Currently America is having a few economic problems. Well, actually we are having more than just economic problems. I think a good deal of our problems are related to our collective lack of vision. Our founding fathers had a vision unique to history and America was the result, but they are all dead. Their vision was so far reaching that we still use it as a road map…but maps get old as the terrain changes. The best way to solve America’s vision problem is to increase our own. Vision is contagious! If we can see a better way for ourselves the light from that certainty will shine like a beacon over the darkness of others. Some near us will see what we see and the vision will spread. But how do we build vision? We are the 30-second generation. If it can’t be explained, understood, or seen in 30 seconds we lose interest and move on. Our forefathers were given to exploring their visions at great length. They argued passionately until all edges of their theories were tested against the theories of others. They didn’t always agree, but their individual ideas were well beyond the thirty-second limit. So how do we find the vision that we need to get us through troubled times? I remember an old Cherokee story teller laughing at how the Euro men thought Columbus had discovered America and proved the earth was round at the same time. “We always knew the earth was round,” he said, “and we were not lost or in need of discovery!” This old man told me how the Tsalagi lived in many villages before the diseases from Europe decimated them. He said if you look down the path, there was always a high spot in the path beyond which you couldn’t see. He said if you walked to the high spot, a whole new sight would open up and another high spot would be revealed. The old man told me a long walk gave one plenty of time to think. If you keep adding up the high spots and you think about it, it becomes obvious that the high spots are just ends of a curve and if you add up the curves…you get a circle. “We dance in circles, you know! We always knew the earth was a circle!” Ask any old Indian about circles. Any of them can tell you that, they don’t even have to be Cherokee!” he said with a grin. I already knew the earth was round, but I learned something else from the old man’s story. I thought about the walk from one village to the next and all the changing horizons in the path. As we begin a long trip, we can’t see our destination at the beginning. We can see the edge of that circle where the horizon moves down beyond our vision. We have to believe there is something beyond it. We see beyond the edge as a mental haze…but we can see if we use our imagination to fill in the details of the blur. We can’t see the actual village but we can see our mental image of that village. Once we have the expanded vision of that which is beyond what we can clearly see, we are motivated to move closer. The closer we get to the edge, the clearer we can see the old vision and the more we are enabled to build new vision in our mind’s eye. As I practiced looking beyond, I realized something else was happening. Once I looked beyond the horizon directly in front of me and punched ahead, a new range of capacity opened up. It was a simple process taking only a few seconds to complete but a lot of words to describe. By observing the details that were near and the way they changed as they got closer to the horizon line I could see a story develop which hinted of details to come. The hint of things to come was my expanded vision. Once I did this looking straight ahead, I could turn my head and a whole new range opened up. Ever how far I could see ahead in my path, I could see that far ahead as I scanned all around. Now that was a much bigger vision than that which I could see. We stand at the center of our own little universe, but if we look beyond our horizons, we can see. It is a huge new vision! We know it is not a complete vision so as we choose any of the infinite paths leading to that new expanded vision, we adjust the details as we go. Always we should look ahead and let that larger vision build from the story told by the changing of details near and far and the hint of things to come. Randy Cox

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Ultimate Long Term Goal!
I hope everyone reading this keeps written goals. Tony Robbins and others have systems to help you decide what you really want out of life. I set the usual 5 year goal, one year goal, and I have daily goals that I set up each week. During the day I have flexible goals for the day, subject to change in an instant.
Most importantly, I have mini-goals as I work on whatever projects I have going at the time. I nearly always have a time value to these goals, and I adjust them as I go. It helps me get through the day efficiently.
As crucial as these goals are, they are not really the subject of this post. I have an ultimate long term goal that really helps me know where I'm going. I have shared this goal with others and they usually laugh. I'm serious about it, but laughing is very important to health so whether my ultimate goal strikes you as funny or worth adapting to your own, I hope it serves you well.
I'm told that man is genetically coded to live 120 years and then the cells just quit replicating themselves. I love life so my goal is to squeeze as much out of it as I can...until the last day.
On my 120th birthday, I want to wake up before the sun as I do most days. I plan to walk down to the jogging trail a few blocks from my house and run or bike two miles. I then intend to return home and wake my wife up proving to her I still love her and that I can.
After a nice breakfast, I'll read my paper (or whatever it is that we do at that time) check my bank account for new deposits that have been building up for some time from passive income sources.
I plan for a nice family get together around noon, to celebrate my 120th birthday. I figure it might have become a family tradition by now. As my grandchildren and great grandchildren begin to storm through our house, I'd like to take a little time with each of them to give some words of advice from an experienced old man.
I expect to stuff myself with a large meal of all our family favorites. Then I'd like to confront a cake large enough to feed Cox's army and blow out 120 little burning candles with one breath.
After cake and ice cream, I'd like to sit down in my rocking chair, take a nice peaceful nap....and never wake up.
To accomplish this grand finale, I have to attend to my shorter range goals tweaking and adjusting as I see results I like from those I don't like.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Choosing Our Surroundings!
Nobody asks us what we want to look at as we drive the freeway. We aren't consulted as to what color we want the machine we work on at our job or the decor of the sidewalk between where we park everyday and where we go to school. We get what someone else selects if we are lucky and happenstance if we are not. At home we get to choose. Once behind the locked doors of our humble quarters, we can paint the room whatever we wish and we can hang whatever art we want. We don't have to collect expensive sculpture by dead artists. We could keep our eye open for form that pleases the eye, even if the form was secondary to function. We don't have to expend a lot of money, but we do have to pay attention. Birds collect bits of bright colored paper and fabric to spruce up their nest, and the pack rat collects shiny objects to keep him happy while he hides from his predators. Some people adapt their surroundings to things that suit them while others just accept things they way they are... at home and everywhere else. While we operated Touch of Texas Art gallery I must have heard a thousand times, "I don't have much taste, but I know what I like!" That's pretty much at the center of good taste. If one pays a bit of attention to what he likes and what he doesn't like, it's not hard to move out the ugly stuff and move in the pleasant stuff. A little adjustment here, another there goes a long way in making a house into a home. I just wanted to remind people that the space they live in belongs to them. Take a moment and make it like you want it. R. Cox

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Why bad things happen to good people!

Why do bad things happen to good people? This question seems to haunt many people. I first asked the question as a child and spent a great many years of my life trying to find the answer. When I found it, I was amazed at the simplicity. I shouldn't have been surprised; most of life's complex questions have simple answers. Why do bad things happen? They happen so good things can happen! Let's take a scientific approach to the answer. Before we do that we have to define science. Science is an attempt to explain the world around us in terms of observable phenomena. That's pretty much how the old indians did it; then guys in white coats started doing it a couple of thousand years later. When I look around I observe that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Okay, I'm not the first to discover that, but if we look around we will see that it holds true...always. If we assume it was always true then it follows that for every good thing that happens, something bad must happen--the opposite reaction to good. You can't have hot without cold. You can't have light without darkness. In the world as it currently exists, it is impossible to experience good without having a measure for bad. Up until now we have been dealing with abstracts; let's look at specifics. Smarter people than me quantify the values of reality as mathematics. I appreciate the need for that, but I'm pretty simple so I'll keep the math simple. If it is true that there is an equal and opposite reaction for every action, then for every value of one there would be an equal and opposite value called -one. If we could identify everything and give it a value, I believe it would have a corresponding negative value. I don't know what matter or anti-matter is, but I'm told it definitely exists. So I see the universe as an expanding infinity of positive and negative values. This helps me keep things in balance. When something bad happens to me, I look for the corresponding good. I try to be thankful for the bad because it helps me appreciate the good. For my first blog, I thought I'd tackle the big question and get that out of the way. In future discussions, we'll deal with smaller questions. I hope this gives everyone something to think about, and I hope you will share what you think with us all. R. Cox