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From my latest book, "Daddy, how do you know?" Available at book stores everywhere.
Chapter Three: Why are you Alive
Chance, this book is for you. It is my advice on how a man should live life in this century. Many people will not agree on the advice that I am about to give you; you may not agree on the advice I am about to give you, but give it consideration as you make decisions in your life.
I had you later in life, and I believe this has been a good thing for both you and me. You have kept me young, and I have been able to give you things not possible when I was younger.
I have been able to throw the football to you, and you are still learning to catch.
We have been to many places I would not have been able to take you when I was young and struggling with my career.
I have more patience than when I was young, and I am a little smarter as I am just south of my 60’s.
You will not have to struggle as much as I have had to, unless you decide that is a path you want to take.
When you ask me, “Daddy, how do you know?” the answers I give you are from my experience and continuing education and curiosity about life. It is about never knowing it all, and always looking for more, because sweetheart, there is more.
You will be about as happy as you make up your mind to be. You will be as successful as you are willing to work and use your brain.
Don’t let other people tell you what to believe; they may be wrong or right, but you have to use your own mind as you turn into a young man.
I love you.
I care for you and your mother very much, so I am going to give you advice you may not immediately see the value in. My father gave me advice, and some I took and some I left behind. The choice will be yours.
When you and your mother came into my life, I was in my later 40s and 50s. And this, my son, was not a bad thing.
We want you to finish college and do what you want as a man. To finish college simply means you were able to buckle down, show some character, and display some values your mother and I think are important for you. It is easier to be successful in life as an educated man.
You are my only son, my favorite son, someone that I love with all of my heart.
Your mental process in your life is going to expand. It is part of being a human being to grow.
You will think you know something only to find out you do not know.
People have beliefs, you will have beliefs and some of these beliefs will be true, some false.
When we find out what we believed is not true, we harbor ill will and feel foolish, so sometimes we will believe something that is not true, so we don’t feel bad about ourselves.
Doctors are educated; they go to school for many years. They graduate several times before they become a doctor by a person of the “Who Said’s.”
You are running into the “Who Said’s” now. I, the “Who Said of the greatest magnitude,” have been in school and I know through my education that this is a truth you need to know.
People will say the “Who Said’s” know. Well maybe they do, maybe they don’t know.
A professor, a teacher, may say I will bestow on you a piece of paper that says today you can do this, when yesterday, you couldn’t.
You see, this man has become a “Who Said.” I am certified by the great state of my mind and the other minds around me that I know what I am talking about and have convinced my peers I know what I am talking about. You might ask a professor, politician, leader of the “Who Said’s”, “How do you know?”
“Daddy, how do you know” is not just limited to me, but the people around you.
Now, this is not such a bad thing, to question people around you so you can examine the ideas around you. I would say it is absolutely necessary--you have to examine the world you live in and continually evaluate what it is you are doing or believing.
George Washington was a great man, a great leader, our Nation’s first President and an American revolutionary leader. George died in December 1799 at age 67, from possible loss of blood.
George wasn’t feeling good and called his doctors (yes, more than one) to see why he wasn’t feeling well. Modern doctors believe George could have died from epiglottitis, swelling of the windpipe.
Or since he was bled with leaches as part of his treatment to get better, it was believed the nearly 5 pints of blood that were taken from George as part of his treatment did the trick and killed him.
George was being bled with leeches by his doctors, the most highly regarded of the “Who Said’s” at the time.
Just over 200 years ago, some of the most educated people in our world, the cream of the “Who Said’s” thought putting leaches on people and letting them suck the blood out of you was a way to get better and recover from feeling bad (depression) or a common cold.
Pretty wild--only 200 years ago we used this treatment on people. Do you think anyone uses this treatment today? Would you like to have this treatment done to you?
How do we come up with our beliefs?
Our minds are fabulous things. As we observe our world, our brains are videotaping the things we see, feel, touch, hear, and taste, just like on film.
Because the information we come into contact with every day is voluminous, we can’t absorb everything, so we have to choose what we want to remember. We select what we want, as our video recorder is going at full speed all day, and dreams at night, which we think are real, are also part of this mountain of data thrown at us every day.
We decide what we want to believe and what we decide not to believe. This is not a neutral process. This is true of everyone. We select what we want to believe. In life people are teaching you what they believe is correct, even though in the future it may prove to be incorrect.
Because there is so much information-- and more coming at us every day--when you become a man, the information in the world may double every 72 hours.
The Dean of the University of Southern California School of Business, Yash P. Gutpa, looked at our past acquisition of knowledge and our future acquisition.
According to Professor Gutpa, a “Who Said,” of the highest magnitude, from 1600 to 1850 our knowledge of the world doubled. From 1850 to 1950 our knowledge of the world doubled again. From 1950 to 1975 our knowledge of the world doubled yet again. From 1975 to 2000 knowledge of the world doubled again. According to the professor, the people on this planet will have their knowledge doubled every 72 hours by 2050. You will only be 50, yet you will have more knowledge in front of you than the rest of history every three days.
When will this knowledge stop? Can we as people stop knowledge from happening?
Certainly a lot of people, for different reasons, would like our knowledge to stop. Many people would like to believe the world is not changing, and they feel comfortable in a no-growth relationship.
Many people from around the world would like to believe the past is the correct way to live, so this “historical materialism” of the world and societies moving forward, whether we want the world societies to or not, is at odds with many people who seek power in keeping the old ways in check. We will discuss this “historical materialism” forward progress later, but people and societies move on.
People were burnt alive at the stake for being convicted of the crime of being a witch from the early 1300s to nearly 1800, less than 250 years ago, which does not sound like a lot of time in history.
Today Muslim punishments include beheading and stoning a person to death for violation of religious laws. These punishments are done in public as a way to deter future violations.
Our belief systems are extremely strong-- how do we get these beliefs?
As we observe our day, our video camcorder brains record everything we see, hear, feel, touch, taste, everything we experience--there is so much. We select what we want, and push any other knowledge, thoughts, and advertising into the deep recesses of our minds. People around us will encourage us to think one way or the other.
We decide what to keep in our minds and we add meanings to the information we decide to keep.
We see a mountain and think God created it.
We see a mountain and think the earth created it in an explosion.
We see a mountain and think ice glaciers created it.
We see a mountain and think a volcano created it.
Because the mountain is great, we may assume it will be there forever.
There are people that will tell you one of these ideas are correct or wrong. How do they know? They pick one so then the others would be false.
We draw conclusions from what we decide we should believe.
We adopt these conclusions as our beliefs.
We take action on what we believe.
Some of what we believe we have learned from other people; perhaps we have had an epiphany ourselves. Maybe Madison Avenue advertising has convinced us we need to have or be something other than what we are now.
As we get older, more and more of our beliefs become what I call hardwired. We get into habits from our beliefs and this is what guides us in our actions on a daily basis.
Not all hardwiring is bad; if we had to relearn everything every day, we wouldn’t get anything done.
If I had to learn typing every day, before I could write, I wouldn’t get a lot done. Believe me, some of my friends don’t think I can type, or that what I do type is anything useful--dream killers on the prowl.
If I had to think about getting dressed in the morning, driving to work, a hundred other things in life we just learn and do, it would be crisis every day.
I have a friend who told me the other day he had moved into a new house about a month ago. He had finished a long day at work, and ended up driving to his old home. As he got to his old home, he drove into the driveway before realizing he didn’t live there anymore.
Sometimes you need to reprogram your hardwiring; as useful as it can be, it can also be a burden.
However, ideas like politics, religion, and social models are things that can become hard wired in you, also. So you may accept these ideas and beliefs without ever questioning them.
Remember President Washington being bled to death?
Beware of your mental model.
It doesn’t hurt to examine what you believe from time to time, and over a course of a lifetime, your ideas and beliefs will change.
This is a normal part of growing. Overcoming some of these ideas and beliefs will be hard, because of your hardwiring. It is difficult for people to replace one belief with another, because you believe!
Robert Kegan, a professor at Harvard, came up with five orders of mental development in human beings.
Each mental order is an examination of how you think, what you believe and what you perceive society thinks and believes around you.
From the lowest to the highest order of mental development is where we all start.
Mental order number one is being a young child. Children see things as magic and mystery. Children cannot distinguish between what is real and not. I should have probably never let you watch TV as a young child, because you didn’t know if what was on the TV was real or not.
Your mother used to get mad at me for letting you watch things that were not appropriate for you at your age, because you couldn’t distinguish if what was on the TV was true or just Hollywood. So everything is my fault for allowing you to watch TV, when you should not have. (The news was included in Marina’s what not to watch-- you could be tainted by a Republican or Democrat.)
I hope what could be my biggest crime is now behind us.
Someone reads or tells you a scary story, and as a young child, you cannot tell the difference in what is true or not. Disney used to scare the bejesus out of me as a young child. No one told my parents or grandparents or Disney that children didn’t know the difference between reality and fiction. I thought the wicked witches of Disney were real; no wonder people burned them.
Mental order number two sets in as teenagers. Teenagers and young adults discover many things remain constant: some beliefs and the physical world around us remain constant. The sun comes up every day in the morning, and the sun goes down every night. We learn there are certain patterns we know are going to be consistent.
We learn certain actions are going to be met with positive or negative repercussions.
Teenagers and young adults are generally self-centered, and see others as barriers or helpers in attaining their desires. Teenagers tend to rebel against parents and teachers. With limited experience, they believe they know the answers to life.
Teenagers don’t break the rules because they may get caught. They think they know everything; they may think instead they are misunderstood, but in general can be selfish, and are looking out for only themselves.
At my father’s funeral I met an old friend I had not seen in many years. He was blessed with three teenagers. At the reception after the service, we were getting into our “cups” and Bob kept saying he was the dumbest person in his household. His teenagers knew everything. I think this is probably an isolated event in families in America; on the other hand, maybe not.
Hollywood has made movies about this order of mental development; one would be the famous film “Rebel Without a Cause,” starring James Dean and Natalie Wood.
As we move into adulthood, (Kagen’s third order) we move out of being self-centered and take into account other people’s feelings.
We have through our belief system decided if we are political, religious, what cultural, what societal norms we believe and belong in, and what rules we are going to adopt. (Usually the laws of our local society.)
As adults we would welcome other people’s ideas, whether we accept them or not as a part of our lifestyle. And as adults we would accept a “board of directors” in our lives.
We can be devoted to something that is greater than our own need. We can be selfless and willing to help other people
As adults we are looking for consensus among the people we interact with.
As adults we can feel “over our head” much of the time and have self-image problems because we don’t think we might be good enough or know enough. We gravitate toward leadership because we are not quite sure ourselves. We have self-doubt much of the time.
As adults, we have internalized different systems of meaning. We choose a religion, we choose a political ideal, and we choose values. Often the values we choose are what we were brought up in by our families and our society. We give up the rebel and assimilate into society.
We choose a career, or maybe careers; religion, and politics choose us or we choose them. We have strong feelings about our life and what is right and wrong.
We welcome a board of directors in life. We follow, sometimes we lead. We become devoted to what we have around us.
We take into account other people’s feelings. And many of us will be devoted to something other than our own needs.
As adults we are looking for consensus. As adults we have to navigate around people who have different ideas and different ideologies and institutions we don’t believe in but which exist because others believe. We have internal and mental conflicts because of the environment we are in; not everyone is going to believe what we believe, and that makes us uncomfortable. But as adults, we block out, or tolerate other beliefs and ideas not our own.
Being an adult in the third stage of development, according to Kagen, is not a personality flaw, it is not a result of low mental power, but a point we have in our development as we grow in life.
As adults we can feel limited when there is conflict among different ideologies, people or even institutions.
We have to deal with institutions like the IRS, or some government agency or private agency, like your medical insurance: the Can’t Fight City Hall syndrome. We feel small and unimportant. We feel hopelessness, and fear.
Kagen calls this stage of adult life, which most of us enter into, not a “personality flaw” but simply a point on the development continuum. And many of us stay in this mental stage most of our lives.
This is one purpose in life, to grow through the continuums of these orders and mental models.
This is the fun, the challenge: the need to push forward to achieve self-satisfaction in the journey. Not looking for the end, but the challenge from growth happening every day.
Why are we on earth?
From observation, I would say our purpose is to grow. We grow physically, we grow mentally, we grow emotionally, and we grow spiritually.
So our purpose is growth.
Kagen talks about an adult stage of life, but to the professor there are two other stages of mental orders we can achieve.
Kagen’s fourth order of adult is someone who can examine and mediate through various rule systems and opinions. They see themselves as “Chairman of the Board.” They have a set of internal rules, values and character they live by. They are self-governing. They feel empathy for others and take their wishes, and opinions into consideration when making decisions. These people are self-motivated and have self-evaluation.
Self-evaluation is key to this mental order. We can independently, from a distance, look at different ideas and see what they are about, without condemning or confirming these ideas as true or false. We can suspend our beliefs to examine other beliefs.
It takes time and it takes someone who can understand the limits of the internal system within themselves to grow to the fourth order.
People in the fifth order are not likely to look at things as either black or white, but with many shades of grey. They can manage the tensions of opposites within their own mental models.
They would not necessarily have a board of directors, but would consider systems, thoughts, and ideas outside of their internal systems. They would be able to internalize a wide field of alternatives.
These people, by their nature, and maturity, would be slow to judge. Kagen says he rarely sees the fifth order in anyone under 50 years old.
Because our knowledge is growing at such a rapid rate, we are living longer, and have more communication, our world is actually creating more people in the 4th and 5th order of adults.
Chance, you are going to have more opportunity in your life because of growth of the human mind and advancement in knowledge and communication.
But like all of us, you are going to have to grow through these development stages. If you know what these mental orders are, it is easier to navigate through them.
America is one of the countries in the world where you are able to grow and move forward in this self-development
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