Archive | September 2012

The True Meaning of Poverty

Today’s post is inspired by John Scalzi’s post – Being Poor – Whatever.

Here on BreakingNorms, my number one goal is to provide an alternative opinion, a different perspective, a slightly new spin on something that we think we know so well. Today’s post is on something we all know how to define: poverty. The mindset of those who are poor however, is something completely different entirely.

I normally ask those who have time to go visit the blog post, but this time I implore you to visit his post.

These twelve (in no particular order) were perhaps the most eye-opening ones for me:

  1. “Being poor is hoping your kids don’t have a growth spurt.”
  2. “Being poor is thinking $8 an hour is a really good deal.”
  3. “Being poor is relying on people who don’t give a damn about you.”
  4. “Being poor is making lunch for your kid when a cockroach skitters over the bread, and you looking over to see if your kid saw.”
  5. “Being poor is needing that 35-cent raise.”
  6. “Being poor is six dollars short on the utility bill and no way to close the gap.”
  7. “Being poor is crying when you drop the mac and cheese on the floor.”
  8. “Being poor is going to the restroom before you get in the school lunch line so your friends will be ahead of you and won’t hear you say “I get free lunch” when you get to the cashier.”
  9. “Being poor is picking the 10 cent ramen instead of the 12 cent ramen because that’s two extra packages for every dollar.”
  10. “Being poor is a box of crayons and a $1 coloring book from a community center Santa.”
  11. “Being poor is checking the coin return slot of every soda machine you go by.”
  12. “Being poor is a $200 paycheck advance from a company that takes $250 when the paycheck comes in.”

I think we all forget how luxurious the word choice is. To be able to choose to do something different is a luxury that some simply do not have. It is not up to us to scorn them or judge them for the position they are in. To think that we are better because of a lucky break or being born in nurturing environment is a travesty and is a thought we should all do well to eliminate from our minds.

I hope that you’ll take a moment to really let this sink into your mind and carry it with you the rest of your life. We may not all have grown up with hardship, but we all should do well to treasure and appreciate everything we have because it would be a shame if we waited until it was too late to do so.

Finally, I leave you with his final statements, which in my opinion, stand alone as if it were a poem.

“Being poor is people who have never been poor wondering why you choose to be so.

Being poor is knowing how hard it is to stop being poor.

Being poor is seeing how few options you have.

Being poor is running in place.

Being poor is people wondering why you didn’t leave.”

What were some of the most eye-opening statements for you?


It’s Time to Step Things Up

In conjunction with last week’s post on the illusion of busyness, I thought it only be appropriate that we talk about “stepping up our game.”

Joel Runyon’s post, An Unexpected Ass Kicking, did exactly that to me when I happened to stumble upon it one day.

For those of you who do not have the time to read the post in its entirety, it is essentially a journal entry about how Runyon was sitting in a coffee shop working on his new Macbook Air when the the guy who invented the computer (Russel Kirsch) decides to bestow his time and wisdom to Runyon.


In their ensuing conversation, the following statements will forever stick out in my mind:

1. “I guess, I’ve always believed that nothing is withheld from us what we have conceived to do. Most people think the opposite – that all things are withheld from them which they have conceived to do and they end up doing nothing.”

In other words, as Runyon paraphrases quite nicely, “If you’ve conceived something in your mind, decide to do it, and are willing to put in the work – nothing can stop you.” Now there are clearly many exceptions to this statement, but why let personal or environmental obstacles serve to determine your reality? I’m not proposing that people be delusional, but stop with the excuses and get out there!

2. “Do things that have never been done before.”

I know that naysayers and Debbie-downers will always try to interject about things can’t be done, but isn’t what makes life so interesting the fact that we often have the opportunity to turn ideas only thought to exist in dreams into reality? Just as people do with the whole notion of busyness, we find that most often people’s usage of the verb “can’t” really should just be replaced with “won’t.” Because in reality, most things aren’t about capability, they are about the willingness to move forward regardless of the challenges that we are faced with.

So here’s to the improbable, and not the impossible!

Think You’re “So Busy?” Think Again.

Anxiety by Brecht Vandenbroucke

“I’m so busy… I never have any time for myself… Relax? What is that?”

Sound familiar? I’m sure it does, because at some point we all have probably thought something along those lines.

In the article “The Busy Trap” by Tim Kreider, Kreider brings up some great points regarding the whole notion of “business” within our society.

#1. “The present hysteria is not a necessary or inevitable condition of life; it’s something we’ve chosen, if only by our acquiescence to it. “

Isn’t this quite the interesting notion? Most people would probably argue that society has “forced” us to be so busy. Yet, Kreider is completely on target with the fact that the only person to blame is ourselves, not society. Society have provide certain environmental guidelines, but history has shown us again and again that it is up to the individual to abide by the conditions around them.

#2. “Busyness serves as a kind of existential reassurance, a hedge against emptiness; obviously your life cannot possibly be silly or trivial or meaningless if you are so busy, completely booked, in demand every hour of the day.”

In The Shawshank Redemption, the famous quote from Tim Robbin’s character Andy Dufresne is: “Get busy living. Or get busy dying.” With our topic being about the whole notion of being “busy,” it’s kind of ironic that “busy” is the primary verb of the popular quote. Yet if we think about Kreider statement, it becomes apparent that many people do not realize that there are different types of busyness.

The type of busyness that Kreider focuses is on is the one that most people choose to occupy themselves with. It is generally full of noise and action, but very often there is nothing to show at the end of the day.

The type of busyness that Andy Dufresne talks about is one that is full of purpose where each action has an overarching goal behind it. This is the type of busyness that we should be occupying our time with, not the normal busyness we so often find ourselves spending time on.

#3. “The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole, for making unexpected connections and waiting for the wild summer lightning strikes of inspiration — it is, paradoxically, necessary to getting any work done.”

Case and point. Sleep.

Even the most brilliant minds of our time require space and time away from their work. In fact, just as Euclid leapt out of his bathtub and went running naked down the streets when he discovered a new physical law, these times of peace and quietness are often where a good deal of our inspiration and innovation comes from.

In the end, do you want to recall your life as one gigantic blur of actions? Does it not strike you as odd that we work so hard for a “successful” career in hopes that we can “one day” actually “live” our life? I think the Dalai Lama summed it up the best when asked what surprised him most about humanity:

“Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived.”

The word “life” is akin to the word “live.” So why not live your life with a purpose that transcends the whole notion of being “so busy.”