"The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing." -Socrates

Saturday, April 14, 2012

From Mainland to Maui: Awakening From "The American Dream"

Now available for sale @ Amazon.com and DavidJGross.com

American ideology has corrupted the psyche of millions by measuring success through money and status. The pursuit of this standard is killing imagination, limiting potential, and destroying individualism. It's time for something new.

From Mainland to Maui: Awakening From "The American Dream" is a two part self-help guide to redefining success as the pursuit of personal goals, rather than simply money and status. Part one is the author's account of anxiously going against what he'd been taught by leaving college in search for a better life. With the goal of moving to Maui, David saved money waiting tables in Cincinnati, Ohio and found success by turning his dream into reality.

Part two is a step-by-step guide to reexamining what we truly value by encouraging readers to S.T.O.P.
-Stop everything
-Think about your past
-Observe your environment
-Plan with purpose

From Mainland to Maui doesn't promote moving to Hawaii, but encourages readers to find their own definition of paradise, then do whatever it takes to get there. In doing exactly what we deem to be worth our time and effort, success is inevitable.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

A Unique Question

People ask many questions in the forms of who, what, when, where, how, and why. We ask questions daily, but there is one form of questioning I find to be somewhat different than the others. In school we are asked things like, “Who first landed on the Moon? What part of our brain enables us to speak? When was the Constitution written? Where did the Pilgrims first land in America?” and, “How do you find the root of a number?” These questions can all be answered by facts through historical documents, mathematical equations, scientific formulas, etc., and are rarely subject for debate. But to ask a student any of these using the “why” form of questioning, a plethora of answers could be presented, many of which could be disagreed upon. “Why” is a very interesting question for this reason.

“What do you want to be when you grow up? Where is your favorite place in the world? When do you want to retire? Who will you vote for?” These questions are answered by the preferences of individuals and take more thought than reciting a memorized date or equation. But looking at each of these questions, to think about the “whys” behind the answers is a much more difficult subject.

We often ask people what they do for a living, or where they live without following with asking why. It almost seems that why is most frequently used when someone holds an alternative view to another’s opinion, or if someone doesn’t understand the reason behind an event. If a kind-hearted person were to see someone mistreating someone else for no reason they may ask, “Why would someone do that?” The reason is because, as a kind-hearted person, they could not relate. One may ask why because they themselves do not value the same thing as someone else, such as, “Why would you want that? It’s so ugly!” or, “Why would you want to do that?” Holding different opinions on a topic can promote asking why as to better understand a person or point of view.

The unique thing about why is that it forces us to take a step back and reflect on what’s giving us that desire, goal, or motive toward whatever the questions directed. I believe that by asking why we can learn more about ourselves, others, and the world around us. Imagine if in schools dates, names, and places were followed by why. “Why did man pursue landing on the Moon? Why does our brain work the way it does? Why was the Constitution written?” If we focused on the reasons behind the actions, I believe we would live in a much different world.

Why do you do what you do?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

On Haves and Have-Nots

In present day United States of America.

According to what I’ve learned regarding world history, there has always been a division of classes. There have always been haves and have-nots, princes and paupers, land owners and slaves, servants and those being served. While there undoubtedly remains a middle class in the USA, this has not changed. There is still a divide between the rich and the poor.

I speak only for the USA, as this is the only country I have experience in and have seen with my own two eyes. Granted, I have not been to the richest areas, nor to what would be considered the poorest, but I have seen near the top and near the bottom of our societal spectrum in the economical sense. And as I would imagine the case in other parts of the world and throughout history, there is some bitterness from one group, and arrogance from the other.

For many, to envy others and want more is commonplace. However, this way of thinking is only reasonable by keeping your perspective narrowed to those around you, and in the same time of history. Comparing the modern conveniences we enjoy today to what was available just two hundred years ago, even a poor person could feel extremely spoiled. Looking just one hundred years ago, it’s as if we live in an entirely different universe. Due to technology, we now have conveniences and luxuries unimaginable by previous generations. I’m sure everyone’s heard at least once, “Kids have it so easy these days! When I was your age...” And these older folks are right.

So when looking at the division between the wealthier and the less fortunate, we must agree on how truly rich we all are thanks to the innovation and hard work of other people. We are all very spoiled relative to those who lived in past millenniums, centuries, and even decades ago.

But everything is give and take, for with added luxuries comes added complexity. More technology requires greater time for education on understanding what those conveniences do and how they work. In past generations and in other parts of the world today, food, clean water, and safe housing would be viewed as the greatest currency there is. Today, in America, time and energy are what we fight for. So with nearly everyone able to afford food, clean water, and protection from the elements, are we arriving to a time in history where the rich are actually the poor? Are we entering an age where those with fewer luxuries with more time to enjoy life are truly the wealthiest?

“Beauty is bought by judgement of the eye,
Not utter'd by base sale of chapmen's tongues” -William Shakespeare

Sunday, May 15, 2011

On Quality of Life

How does one define quality of life? Cities are rated being measured through air quality, cost of living, weather, etc. Hotels are reviewed for cleanliness, location, and overall value. Restaurants, cars, and products all have their own rankings based on various factors. But in looking at one’s life, how do we rate or measure the quality of the overall experience we have in this existence?

In asking a question of such monumental proportion, this takes a great deal of thought, as there are many elements that comprise life as a whole. Sensual stimulus (both pleasurable and painful), relationships, ethics, spiritual viewpoints, health, ratio of work and leisure, societal status, and personal fulfillment of goals are just a few of the things which make up our life; and how we measure that quality.

A combination of these things would provide an overall quality evaluation of life, just like a combination of measurements for a city or hotel. And all of them are equally as important. Just as a city with low cost of living could be devalued by poor weather, a person with high status and physical pleasures could feel unsatisfied due to poor ethics and suffered relationships. So quality of life is not measured by one standard, but by many.

The interesting thing about “rating” anything, be it quality of life or a vacation destination, is that it’s all subjective. When forming an opinion, we subconsciously use comparisons from previous experiences, and personal preferences which are directly related to one’s past. We’ve all used or heard the phrases, “I couldn’t be better” or, “Things couldn’t be worse”. In actuality, things can always be better or worse. In the instances where everything seems to be going right, or falling apart, we oftentimes cannot picture a better or worse scenario because we’ve never experienced it; and do not have the imagination to fathom a better or worse.

Quality of life is different for everyone, and it’s important to understand that our perception is often derived from our past; and the boundaries of our imagination. It’s also viewed differently by each and every person in the world. Things can always be better or worse, and by having that understanding, we may be greater able to celebrate the quality of life we have in the present.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Would You Tell Them?

Suppose a friend or family member of yours was being cheated by someone they believed they could trust: Cheated in the sense of being lied to, stolen from, poisoned, or anything else. If you saw this person you cared for being cheated and they did not know, would you tell them? One’s first inclination would be to say, “Of course! I’m not going to stand by watching one of my friends or family members being treated unfairly.” But let’s look more into this.

As with nearly everything in life, there are pros and cons; and this is no exception. On the one hand, if you tell this person they are being cheated, they could not believe you. If you did convince them that someone they trusted was in fact being dishonest and hurting them without their knowledge, it could be devastating. Changing the perception of the one being dishonest could change the way they looked at everything related to the person they believed they could trust. If they were to die never having discovered they were being cheated, wouldn’t it be better to not tell them at all?

But, by convincing this person they in fact are being deceived, poisoned, stolen from, etc., you could create a better future for this person. If someone was taking a portion of their money time after time, the person could theoretically stop it from happening and have more money if you were to tell them. If they were being fed something that would make them sick, they could become healthier. And the list of examples goes on.

In a world of great mystery, to know the Truth of all things is impossible. However, to find some Truths that could lead to a better quality of life is quite possible. The challenge with discovering anything new is by first admitting that whatever you think you know could in fact be false. In going back to the initial question of, would you tell someone they were being cheated, how utterly impossible it would be to convince that person if they could not first let go of their former belief.

“It’s only after you’ve lost everything that you’re free to do anything.”- Tyler Durden

Friday, April 8, 2011

What is Freedom?

Freedom is defined by our dictionary as, “The state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint.” It then defines free as, “Enjoying personal rights or liberty, as a person who is not in slavery.”

So, how do we do that? How does a person obtain freedom? People for centuries have been asking this question and actively pursuing their definition of the term. To some extent, every individual enjoys certain liberties. Even a person in prison has the right to sleep, use the toilet, or exercise within their cell. They can read a book, think, and philosophize about the most intriguing questions of the Universe. But, they are in a confined area and under certain physical restraint (they cannot leave their cell or the prison whenever they please).

Looking back at the days of slavery, those enslaved also had certain freedoms, similar to an imprisoned person. They could enjoy the rights and liberties to think whatever positive or vengeful thoughts while being forced to work. But, forced to work doesn’t make sense. If a slave refused to work, they could be beaten or killed, so technically it was a choice to work.

In America, “the land of the free”, are we truly free? Do we enjoy personal rights and liberty without being enslaved? Compared to a person sold in the slave trade or someone incarcerated in a prison, I would say we are most certainly free; but we are also enslaved. We are enslaved to paying taxes for things we have little to no say over, enslaved to the global economy for which provides our livelihood, and enslaved to a set of rules enforced without our permission known as laws. However, enslavement is too bold of a word for these things, as anyone could break the law or not pay taxes, and thus pay the consequences for their actions. A person could attempt to live off the grid and become self-sustained, providing more freedom for the individual, but would that be true freedom?

In this world, I believe ultimate freedom is impossible to obtain, as we are confined to the boundaries of this planet to live, and the imagination our minds allow us to wander. No one has the liberty of thinking with a blank slate, as we have all been influenced by our environment since birth. Plus, we are all enslaved to our bodies, reliant on temperature regulation, food, and water for life. Even someone who lived on a self-sustained island without any regulation from other people would still be bound by their mind and body.

When looking at freedom, something valued so highly that people have given their lives, we must view it as a relative concept. While someone could enjoy more freedom than someone else, ultimate freedom is not possible in this realm of existence. Understanding this leads me to question the valor of the men and women who have been killed or incarcerated for more liberties. Were their efforts in vein? Did they realize that true freedom was unobtainable? Is it worth the time, effort, and possible persecution to enjoy more freedom than you’ve had in the past, or what others around you have? This is the question, as freedom and liberty are solely relative, and more of a state of mind than anything else.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Sixth Life Lesson I Learned While Hiking

During a four-mile hike near Hana, Maui, hiking differently than I had in the past, I learned some life lessons. This is what I learned.

A Different Perspective

As I started making my way back, I thought about how different this solo hiking experience was as compared to taking the same trail with others. It was new experience altogether! Things looked different, smelled different, and the trail itself seemed to take on a whole new feeling. Then I questioned whether it was just because I was alone. No. I had hiked this trail with different people in the past; groups, with my wife, with my family, and each time I had a different perspective.

One may dislike their job, where they live, or a certain activity. But instead of just looking for a different career, location, or thing to do, I believe it’s important to first evaluate whether that same thing could be more enjoyable with different company. Our environment affects us in many ways, and a big factor is the people in that same environment. When viewing anything we spend time on, before grading it based solely on what it is, look who it’s with. Perhaps by understanding the influences others have on us, we can began to realize the impact we have on others as well, and then make an effort to be more positive for the sake of our neighbors.