Life Is But a Cliché: A Motivational Poem

It’s time to lighten things up again with another fun blog post. For this one, I’m going to try and tell a motivational story using only familiar clichés. But here’s the catch: I can’t use Google Search to come up with the cliché — an impossible task for the Millennial generation 😉 — but I can use Google to verify that I am stating it correctly.

Okay, here goes.

Life Is But a Cliché

Life is short and 90% of life is just showing up
So early to bed, early to rise
Live one day at a time
Make the most of each day
And live each day like it’s your last.

Slow and steady wins the race
And gives you time to stop and smell the roses
But keep in mind that every rose has its thorns.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions
So when you come to a fork in the road, take it
Because the grass is always greener on the other side
And nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Remember, you get what you pay for and there’s no free lunch
So make hay while the sun shines
Because a penny saved is a penny earned
And a fool and his money are soon parted
So if you fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely
So speak truth to power
Because rarely do you get a second chance to make a first impression.

The end justifies the means
So speak softly and carry a big stick
But don’t go off half-cocked.

Many a true word hath been spoken in jest
So have the last laugh
Because he who laughs last, laughs best.

Don’t judge a book by its cover
And actions speak louder than words
But also remember, failure to act is often the biggest failure of all.

We’re talkin’ about practice, not a game, not a game, practice
So when you finally get up to bat
Put your best foot forward
Just do your job and swing for the fences
Because you play to win the game
And second place is just the first loser.

If you love someone, set them free
If they come back they’re yours; if they don’t they never were.

All you need is love
So make love not war
And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.

How’s that for a cliché-filled list of life lessons?

Keep Smiling. It’s Good for You

I’ve been writing about heavy topics lately and want to lighten it up a little bit for this blog. Today’s topic? Smiling.

In my research for this blog, I came across a post on the Psychology Today website dated June 25, 2012, by guest blogger Sarah Stevenson*. It was titled There’s Magic in Your Smile, How smiling affects your brain. I really like the way Sarah describes how smiling affects the brain and I’d like to share an excerpt from her post…

How Smiling Affects Your Brain

Each time you smile, you throw a little feel-good party in your brain. The act of smiling activates neural messaging that benefits your health and happiness.

For starters, smiling activates the release of neuropeptides that work toward fighting off stress. Neuropeptides are tiny molecules that allow neurons to communicate. They facilitate messaging to the whole body when we are happy, sad, angry, depressed, or excited. The feel-good neurotransmitters — dopamine, endorphins and serotonin — are all released when a smile flashes across your face as well. This not only relaxes your body, but it can also lower your heart rate and blood pressure.

The endorphins also act as a natural pain reliever — 100-percent organic and without the potential negative side effects of synthetic concoctions.

Finally, the serotonin release brought on by your smile serves as an anti-depressant/mood lifter —and you don’t need a prescription from your doctor.

How Smiling Affects Those Around You

Did you know that your smile is actually contagious? The part of your brain that is responsible for your facial expression of smiling when happy or mimicking another’s smile resides in the cingulate cortex, an unconscious automatic response area. Looking at the bigger picture, each time you smile at a person, their brain coaxes them to return the favor. You are creating a symbiotic relationship that allows both of you to release feel-good chemicals in your brain, activate reward centers, make you both more attractive, and increase the chances of you both living longer, healthier lives.

I wrote the first version of the following poem/song titled “Smile-away” in the 1989/90 timeframe. Recently, I got it out and re-worked it until it became the version you see below.

I have a challenge for you. Try to get through this piece with a frown on your face. I’ll bet by the time you’ve said smile-away four times you will be smiling, just from reading the words…and if so, go with it. Smiling, as described in this blog, is not such a bad thing after all!

Smile-Away

Smile away, when you’re feeling blue.
Smile away, it’s getting better for you.
When times get tough and life gets you down
you can smile away, cuz it will soon turn around.

Smile away, when your blue skies turn gray.
Smile away, everything will be okay.
When times get tough and life gets you down
you can smile away, cuz it will soon turn around.

Smile away the tears of today
Smile away, no matter what they say
When you smile away soon you will see
Your smile will always set you free

Smile away, girl don’t you cry.
Smile away, and never ask why.
Good times and bad both come and they go,
Remember, from the rain comes a brilliant rainbow.

Smile away, each and every day
Smile away, no matter what they say
When you smile away soon you will see
Your smile will always set you free

Smile away. when you’re feeling blue.
Smile away, it’s getting better for you.
When you smile away soon you will see
Your smile will always set you free, set you free, set you free…

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Now keep smiling.

*Sarah Stevenson, a.k.a., The Tini Yogini, is a certified yoga instructor in Southern California. She has a degree in Behavioral Psychology and teaches not only yoga classes, but also life-affirming workshops

Is This What Really Matters in Life?

During the formative high school years, there is so much emphasis placed on GPA’s, class rankings and PSAT scores; all to gain acceptance into a socially-endorsed university. The same mantra re-emerges during the college (and possibly grad school) years. And the conventional wisdom is that the stakes are much higher because the ultimate prize in this contest is a life-long career that will guarantee financial stability and “success.” Is this what really matters in life?

Upon entering the job market, one soon realizes that there are unfamiliar rules and players in this contest, affectionately referred to as the “rat-race.” In this game the emphasis is placed on how rapidly one can ascend to the top rung of a soul-less corporate ladder. Is this what really matters in life?

While making the corporate climb, society has the additional expectation of “marrying right” and finding the “idyllic” homestead to serve as family point-of-refuge, with one small catch. This picturesque view of life is clouded by constant life comparisons to the mythical Joneses. Is this what really matters in life?

Then, as mid-life approaches, one’s introspective side likely begins to surface, reassessing all aspects of life to date. As this movie of life plays in one’s head, the obvious life question arises: Is this all there is? Or, is this what really matters in life?

This journey through life could have and would have been much more satisfying if at a younger age, more focus and attention had been placed on two key outcomes that are often overlooked. Those are joy and happiness — better known as fun.

The Power of Fun

My prior blogs have touched on themes about life being short and time being precious. This post places an importance on the personal fulfillment aspect of life’s journey. To put it bluntly, if we are not enjoying ourselves or having fun on this journey we call life, what is the point?

I think The Beatles said it best in the closing lyrics of “She’s Leaving Home,” found on side 1 of the Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album …

She (What did we do that was wrong?) … is having (We didn’t know it was wrong?) … fun (Fun is the one thing that money can’t buy) … something inside that was always denied for (Bye bye) … so many years.

As you read the poem below, think about the question that drives this post: Is this what really matters in life?

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Breathe in, Breathe out

Breathe in-breathe out, breathe in-breathe out. What is life, really about?

When you bow your head at night to pray.

What is the message you are trying to convey?

Are you longing for a special innocence and truth?

Reminiscent of times that once defined your youth.

Are you seeking a greater meaning to life?

One free of material possessions and strife.

Breathe in-breathe out, breathe in-breathe out. What is life, really about?

The answers to life’s many mysteries,

can be found in plain view for all to see.

They’re in a setting sun on a mid-summer night,

or a red-tailed hawk soaring boldly in flight.

So if you’re hoping to one-day find,

an internal calm and peace of mind.

Remember, breathe in and breathe out,

and it will help you tune into what life is about.

Breathe in-breathe out, breathe in-breathe out, breathe in-breathe out.

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Find your fun. Find your peace. Find what life is really about.

Privacy Is Our Freedom

From time to time, I will decide to write about a subject that is not directly related to Know Your Enemy, the cancer book, but is a topic of national interest or one that moves me. This blog — about the war between privacy and corporate data collection — is an example of one such topic. As in, our privacy is our freedom. And today’s technology is infringing on it.

How many of you have had the experience of doing a web search and the next thing you know you’re receiving pop-up ads, on your phone or computer, for products or services related to your specific search? This happens too often for it to be just coincidental… C’mon Man!

Then there’s the fact that leading tech companies like Amazon, Google and others are planning to deploy what the industry refers to as “digital assistants” in the home of consumers. The New York Times March 31, 2018 story, Hey, Alexa, What Can You Hear? And What Will You Do With It? , sheds light on the controversial use of this technology and the potential privacy implications associated with tracking consumer behavior and buying patterns. Register me as a “no” vote for this technology innovation. It sounds like something right out of George Orwell’s futuristic must-read novel 1984, written in 1949.

This got me thinking about how precious, and yet how fragile, our freedoms truly are. Most of us take them for granted.

The following piece was inspired by this fight, and was also influenced by the Eagles 1970’s classic rock song On the Border. You probably know it. It starts with, ”Cruisin’ down the centre of a two way street”.
As you read this poem, think about the following questions:
Is technology taking away our freedoms? Are we complicit in allowing it to?

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Someone’s Watching You

Driving down the turnpike on a mid-summer night,
life in the fast-lane, man I’m feeling alright.
The motorcar of choice, a C8 Corvette,
that looks like a Monet and sounds like a jet.

Passing fellow motorists with relative ease,
when I heard a Voice-of-the-State say abruptly to me,
“We know who you are. Pull over my friend
because your driving privileges we must now suspend.”

This may sound a little crazy, even hard to believe
For a citizenry that only knows what it means to be free
But if we hope to safeguard the freedoms of movement and expression,
we must be resolute in their daily oversight and protection

Surfing the Web after the midnight hour,
looking for news on the latest party in power.
The next thing I know and it would only be my luck,
I find myself on an unapproved Facebook site, oh, w-t-f.

And then out of nowhere, I could hardly believe.
I heard a Voice-of-the-State say abruptly to me,
“We know who you are. Log off my friend
because your Internet privileges we must now suspend.”

This may sound a little crazy, even hard to believe
For a citizenry that only knows what it means to be free
But if we hope to safeguard the freedoms of movement and expression,
we must be resolute in their daily oversight and protection

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Privacy is our freedom. And big tech is slowly taking it away.