By: Butch Swank
This one will take a bit, but I promise there is a point to it. I was listening to a podcast the other day by Lex Fridman. He is an Artificial Intelligence researcher from MIT. Yes, I get that might be considered nerdy behavior, but I say it’s not a dorky onee. You see, nerds work out. Dorks don’t. If they do, they instantly stop being dorks. Those are the rules. You understand.
Back to Lex, he was having a discussion with a psychologist and their conversation turned to religion. The talk centered on Cain and Abel. It was interesting to me because I could relate. I have been going to church a lot more recently and have had a hard time feeling like an imposter sitting there in the pews. Despite that, there have been a few times during a service when I felt an overwhelming sense of beauty. I am not sure if it was the singing, the kind people around me, or the general positivity, but these moments were truly powerful. I was certainly not expecting them. I mean, it was so beautiful that I had tears running down my face. My wife and kids sit to the left and right of me during the service so, of course, I had no choice but to act like a dragonfly had just flown into my eye. Dammed dragonflies. You understand.
Back to the podcast. They were discussing Cain and Abel. It seems that Cain was holding back his offering and generally resentful at his lot in life. His brother Abel, on the other hand, could do no wrong and that really bugged Cain. It bugged Cain so much that he killed Abel. The psychologist was trying to make the point that while Abel’s behavior was admirable, we should realize that we are all partly Cain and that, for some odd reason, made me feel better about the imposter thing. It also reminded me of one of my favorite quotes, “If you can’t be a good example, then you’ll just have to be a horrible warning.” Like everyone, I hold myself to a set of standards and work very hard to meet them. However, I do get angry, I think bad thoughts, I curse sometimes, etc. Pffft…maybe a bit more than “sometimes”. Yet, I try to be better. The vast majority of us try to be better. Making matters worse is that the news all around us is so negative. There is an antidote, though. Simply making an effort to smile at someone or saying a kind thing could lift someone’s spirits in a desperate need of a lift, opening a door for someone, or picking up that piece of trash blowing around, all of these behaviors do two things. They not just help the recipient or your community, they help you. Helping others is a conscious decision and it feels good. It seems like we are bathed in negativity and people just accept that. I say no! Decide to do something genuinely good for someone else and watch what happens. You will be so proud of yourself and will be beaming the rest of the day. So, if we all have Cain and Abel in us, then deciding to be kind is a choice, right? Deciding to work hard is a choice. Deciding that you control your life is a choice. Don’t let others dictate your life for you. You are capable of good and evil. It’s your choice and you do have that power. Despite all of the negative news, and, actually, because of all of the negative news, choose to empower yourself and choose good. It’s impossible to always be good but the point is to try. You understand?
Back to the church for a moment. It is a little church in Labelle called the Church of the Good Shepherd. Pastor Elizabeth there is so down to Earth and well, normal, that I feel very comfortable there, and I think that might be why the power of those moments sneaks up on me so. Everyone there is so nice. I don’t realistically think I can ever be as nice as them, but I sure do like being three, and their good example certainly helps my own resolve to try.
I must mention one other church since we’re on the topic. Pastor Larry from Victory Church in Lehigh generously offered the main hall of his church for our recent Southwest Florida Business Alliance meeting. That hall is amazing! There are speakers everywhere playing great music and they have a literal wall in the front for video presentations. Keep in mind that we’ve only had three meetings to date. Our first one had about 30 people. The second had 50 and this last one had 85! We literally had to move to Pastor Larry’s church because our group outgrew the original meeting place. Our two speakers were billionaire George Schaeffer and Pastor Larry. They were both so compelling and had everyone on the edge of their seat listening, learning and laughing. Side note – I recommend not to be a speaker at an event that has two of the most compelling speakers in Florida. Boy, I felt like a total doofus compared to those two. However, they are what made the event so amazing, and I am grateful for them both and grateful to everyone that attended. The success of this recent meeting proves our original thought was right – Lehigh Acres really needed somewhere that business people of like mind could gather, exchange ideas, become friends, and help one another.
I finish with a pep talk. Momentum is a powerful thing. It seems like the past few years the momentum has been largely trending towards the negative. It is like a haze that just hangs around everywhere. But always remember we are American! We can take a bunch of hits and get knocked down, but we do as Americans have done for 250 years – we then get up, dust off, and get back after it. I feel like the momentum is slowly shifting back towards the positive, don’t you? People are sick and tired of being bummed out and at each other’s throats. We have so much more in common than what the news tells us. We do not hate each other, in fact, we take care of and look after one another regardless of the news. We are not all the same – that would be boring, wouldn’t it? Our differences are what make things fun and keep us strong! And we all, at heart, believe in the American Dream and know this is the greatest place to live in the entire world. I ask simply that everyone make a conscious choice to try to be better. No one is perfect, we all screw up. Our revered ancestors made all kinds of mistakes, but they kept on going. If you try day in and day out, over time, you will find that goodwill builds up around you and you’ll find yourself in a much better place than if you had not made that choice to focus on getting better. Hang in there, stay focused, and just work to be a better you today than you were yesterday. Understand?