Month: April 2016

Harriet Tubman $20 bill: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

Harriet Tubman $20 bill: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it
Harriet Tubman $20 bill: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it

I’m a believer in the expression that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” So, when news first reached me that Harriet Tubman would replace Andrew Jackson on the front of the $20 bill, my first question was, “why?”

Not “why did they choose Harriet Tubman?” Not “why did they choose the $20 bill?” And no, not even “why did they choose a woman or an African-American?”

Instead, my question was, “why fix something that didn’t need fixing?”

Does changing the face on a piece of currency make it any more valuable? Was keeping Jackson’s face on the money somehow harming our economy?

No? Then I repeat: “why fix it?”

If the currency absolutely had to be fixed, then I applaud the government’s decision on Tubman. In principle, it makes sense. Tubman was an abolitionist born into slavery who escaped and helped lead the efforts of the Underground Railroad during the American Civil War. Jackson, meanwhile, was a slave owner and former President responsible for the Indian Removal Act, which stole land from Native Americans and led to the Trail of Tears, causing the death of thousands of American Indians.

In essence, the switch from Jackson to Tubman sounds like a no-brainer, right?

While Tubman was a good choice, I’m still hung up on the intent behind the currency change.

Those who know me best understand my level of distaste for Donald Trump, the current frontrunner for the GOP nomination for President of the United States.To put it more bluntly, I think he’s an obnoxious, arrogant blowhard with little knowledge of what it takes to be president.

But Trump put it correctly when he said that he thinks highly of Tubman but believes the move to put her on the $20 bill was “pure political correctness.”

To put focus on a trivial matter such as who graces our nation’s currency, simply to pacify a small segment of people who might be upset by it, is just an incredible waste of time.

Seriously, does anybody even pay attention to who is on our money? I don’t care if it’s Andrew Jackson, Michael Jackson, Harriet Tubman, or Harriet the Spy … I just care how many of them I have in my wallet.

The idea that our country is trying to appease everybody so as not to offend anybody is just hard to wrap my head around. Some might try to call that progress, but I call it spinning our tires in the mud. If we wait until everybody in the country catches up, the rest of the world will pass us by, and we will cease to grow and progress.

The constitution was written not to make every citizen equal, but to ensure opportunity exists for every citizen, which it most certainly does for those willing to work hard and earn what they deserve.

So, while I applaud the choice of Tubman for her courage and bravery, I frustratingly loathe the reason behind the switch. Changing the face of currency in order to put a woman or a minority on it, not for monetary improvement but simply for the sake of “equality”, belittles Tubman’s great accomplishments and instead puts the focus on qualities she had no control over.

Warriors break Bulls record: Stunning and unfathomable

The 1990s was a good time to live in Chicago, particularly if you were a Chicago Bulls fan.

His Airness, Michael Jordan, was in the prime of his basketball career and helped lead the Bulls to six championships in a span of eight years. And, some may argue, that if Jordan had never retired for two seasons, the Bulls would have won eight titles in a row.

But for as magical as the two separate three-peats were, one shining moment stuck out more than any other in the course of those six seasons. And that was their 1995-96 championship season when they set the NBA record for most wins in a regular season with 72.

I remember that season very well, and I knew the team was in for a special year in the summer prelude. The Bulls front office boldly pulled off a trade with the San Antonio Spurs for the enigmatic troublemaker, Dennis Rodman. The hair-dyed, multi-tattooed former Detroit Piston “bad boy” was just the missing piece the Bulls needed to fill their power forward position — a guy who would play defense and grab rebounds.

As a brash teenager, I confidently predicted the Bulls would win the championship on the very day they acquired Rodman. That seemed all but inevitable given that the team already had the greatest player of all time in Jordan, and one of the best No. 2 players ever in Scottie Pippen.

No, the question wasn’t whether the Bulls would win their fourth title of the 90’s … it was how quickly and by how much.

Little did I or anyone else expect at the time that the Bulls were destined for the record books. The Bulls destroyed their competition and went on to win 72 regular season games, with just 10 losses.

That was a record I didn’t think would ever be touched. To only lose 10 games in a season seemed impossible, as if you were playing a video game on “rookie mode” — the easiest competition level, for those of you unfamiliar with the video game lingo.

Several teams since that year had tried, but just couldn’t come close. The Los Angeles Lakers teams of the early 2000’s with Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Karl Malone, and Gary Payton couldn’t do it. The Miami Heat “super team” of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh flirted with the notion but didn’t have the prowess. And none of the great San Antonio Spurs teams of the entire millennium up to this point could manage to top 70 victories.

Then something strange happened. A team from Oakland, California, which played an up-tempo West Coast style of play, started shocking the NBA landscape with ridiculously high shooting percentages and better-than-expected defense. The team was led by little 6-foot-3, 190-pound (soaking wet) Stephen Curry, a player who could go down as the greatest shooter of all time.

To think that a player of Curry’s stature could win the Most Valuable Player award and destroy opposing players who are bigger and stronger than him just seemed outlandish.

But alas, the Warriors have done it. They have won 73 regular season games and not only beat the greatest-team-of-all-time’s record, but they now hold the distinction of being the only NBA team in history to lose single-digit games in the regular season.

And that … is … amazing.

Even though I said it before for the Bulls, I now say it again for the Warriors: I don’t see any other team coming close to touching that record for a long time — if ever.

Part of me is bothered that the Bulls’ record is broken. As a fan of the team, of course I wanted them to live in immortality. There’s a banner that hangs in the United Center, where the Bulls play, proudly displaying “72” in honor of that record-breaking season in ‘95-96. I’d hate to see that banner come down, or worse — think of how that number is only second-best every time I look at it.

But then there’s another part of me that realizes change is inevitable in this world, and sports are no exception. Records — not rules — are made to be broken, and what the Warriors did this season was remarkable. But the Warriors winning 73 games does not take anything away from the greatness of the Bulls in the 90s.

Sure, there will forever be comparisons between the two teams and the question of “which team is better?” will be asked for a long time. My belief, of course, is that the greatest player of all time gets the benefit of the doubt. And there’s also some part of me that believes if the Bulls had it all to do over again, knowing that they would need 74 wins to hold the record — they would do just that.

So, why does it bother me that the Bulls’ record no longer stands?

I think part of the reason is the pride factor. Every sports fan wants to support a winner. A champion. A team team that defines greatness.

But in my moments of clarity — usually late at night, such as the time of this writing — I realize that sports pride is just foolish.

For starters, I had absolutely nothing to do with the Bulls’ success in the 90’s. Fans want to feel like they’re part of something special, which is why they use first-person possessive pronouns when referring to their favorite teams. But I didn’t step onto the court that season. I didn’t help them win 72 games. I had nothing to do with it.

Secondly, pride is a sin. To look so fondly upon a sports team for some kind of ego boost or self-satisfaction is just plain wrong.

With a level head, I’ve come to the realization that I’m more stunned by the manner in which the Warriors have won games this season than I am saddened or angered by the Bulls’ fallen record. I’m also relieved by the notion that this Warriors team is mostly — if not completely — comprised of good men with normal egos.

Could you imagine the feeling if the arrogant LeBron James held that record? I’d be devastated.

Instead, the Warriors are a team of talented, hard-working players who win as a team. They focus more on the names on the front of their jerseys than the ones on the back.

Kudos to them. They broke the “unbreakable” record and they deserve the recognition.

Emotional Intelligence Quotient: What are your EQ behaviors?

How high is your Emotional Intelligence Quotient (EQ)?
How high is your Emotional Intelligence Quotient (EQ)?

How high is your EQ?

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, don’t worry. I didn’t either until recently.

EQ stands for emotional quotient, but is also known as emotional intelligence (EI). Similar to how natural intelligence is measured by the IQ, emotional intelligence is measured by the EQ.

Throughout my childhood and into my early twenties, I was prone to outbursts of anger and frustration, sadness and despair. Those aren’t uncommon feelings for children to exhibit because kids lack the maturity to handle the disappointment of not getting what they want.

But as you enter adulthood, you need to learn to manage your emotions better. And it was sometime in my mid-to-late twenties — not coincidentally when I began my serious walk with Jesus Christ — that I found emotional peace and contentment. Are all Christ-followers exempt from bouts with unhealthy emotion? Of course not. But faith helps.

I came across this article from titled “18 Behaviors of Emotionally Intelligent People,” and I was curious to see if I exhibited them. For the most part, I found similarities between the behaviors they were describing and what I feel I possess, because I do feel I have a good grasp on emotional intelligence.

But I am human; thus, I am imperfect and have work to do. Here are the 18 behaviors that they listed in the article, along with my analysis of where I stand for each of them. I encourage you to read the article and do a self-assessment for yourself, too.

  1. You have a robust emotional vocabulary
    I feel that this is one of my strong points. I’m a big believer in semantics, that words have many different meanings. There a synonyms, sure, and quite a few words that share similar meanings. But they’re not exactly the same thing. Think about it: if multiple words had the same exact meaning, there would be no need to have that many. The article points out that someone who is capable of clearly expressing what is bothering them — i.e. not just saying they “feel bad” — then it’s easier to deal with the issue.
  2. You’re curious about people
    The article describes the curiosity as one borne out of empathy. And as a Christian man, I try to exhibit empathy, but still knowing that there’s always room for improvement in that area. I think I’ve always had this burning desire — at least since adulthood — to try to understand people. For starters, I love stories, and every human ever conceived has a unique story. Secondly, I find human behavior and emotion fascinating, and that’s a core reason why I took up psychology — albeit briefly — in college.
  3. You embrace change
    In a moment of clear transparency, I must admit that my first instinctive reaction to change is one of hesitation. It’s not that I dislike change, per se. It’s more a reflex than a feeling. When presented with a scenario that would cause some kind of change in my life, I want to first weigh the implications that will come from such change. Is it a big, life-altering change that will require a lot of work? Is it something small and trivial that won’t make me skip a beat? After thinking things through, I am more likely to accept change than what my initial reaction may portend.
  4. You know your strengths and weaknesses
    I feel that I have an extremely good grasp on my strengths and weaknesses. I know what I’m good at, what comes naturally, what contributes to my success in life. I also know what I need a lot of work at, what challenges me, and what faults tend to hold me back. The article also speaks of people who “push [one’s] buttons,” and I certainly know which types of people those are.
  5. You’re a good judge of character
    I’m confident in my ability to judge another’s character. Can I read them like a book? Not really. I’m not God. But I happen to have a ton of people in my life who have exceptional character, because I choose to surround myself with others who make good choices and live respectfully. As Proverbs 13:20 states: “Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” And 1 Corinthians 15:33 says: “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’”
  6. You are difficult to offend
    This is an area where I need improvement. I care so deeply that I allow too much to offend my sensibilities. But typically it’s only those closest to me, like family and friends, who are able to offend me. There is little that any stranger or mere acquaintance could say to me to offend me, for their opinions do not define who I am. But if a loved one says something to me that may be true, however unpleasant, it’s often a difficult pill to swallow.
  7. You know how to say no (to yourself and others)
    I’m a bit of people-pleaser, always wanting to make others happy in whatever way possible. Thus, saying no has not always been the easiest thing for me to do in that regard. However, the article refers to delayed gratification and avoiding impulsive actions, and that has long been a strength of mine. I rarely buy things for myself. I sometimes go years with the same clothes. I wear my shoes until the soles come off. That’s not always the smartest thing, but I know how to tell myself “no”, and I’m learning the right way to tell others no when it’s important for my health and sanity.
  8. You let go of mistakes
    As a bit of a perfectionist, it’s a little bit harder to let mistakes go, but I’m improving. A mistake — especially an avoidable one — will initially bug me because mistakes are a cause of lost production and/or time. But I also firmly believe that mistakes offer the best opportunities to learn because of the negative stimulus that is generated from the incident. Therefore, I don’t let mistakes linger for too long, but there is an initial hurdle to clear.
  9. You give and expect nothing in return
    I literally do not need anything more than the essentials of life. And my wants are few and far between. When asked by others what I want for my birthday or Christmas, I have a difficult time coming up with responses. Now, does this mean I would never care if I didn’t receive another gift the rest of my life? That’s easy to say in the moment, isn’t it? I have no idea how that would make me feel — gift giving is one of the Five Love Languages, after all, and it’s one way to feel loved by others. But I don’t need a gift in return just because I give one to others. A gift by definition is something that should be given without any kind of expectation of return. Otherwise, it’s known as a debt or a loan.
  10. You don’t hold grudges
    Much like the mistakes (No. 8), grudges are a little bit of a challenge as well. It’s not that I will hold something over someone’s head forever and treat them differently because of it. But certain words or actions can stick in my memory for longer than I care them to be there, and that leaves me with occasional sadness or frustration. I try to use analytical reasoning in times like this, to let myself know that either something is incapable of being changed and thus should not be dwelt on, or worrying about something does not help solve it.
  11. You neutralize toxic people
    I hate conflict. To a fault, actually, because some conflict is healthy, so I’ve learned. But this behavior that the article refers to has more to do with people who are excessively difficult and just aren’t on the same wavelength as you, as opposed to a loved one with whom you might have a disagreement. These “toxic” people I have no problems keeping at bay. I will not avoid them altogether, especially if they’re in my life for one reason or another — such as a coworker or neighbor or a friend of a friend. But I will certainly not let their negative thoughts and words become a drain on my emotion. I will also listen to them respectfully, and if I disagree, I can do it courteously.
  12. You don’t seek perfection
    Boom. This is a big problem for a perfectionist. Even though I am acutely aware that there is no such thing as perfection, I have a hunger to do better and achieve something more. I develop websites for a living, and in such a creative field where most projects are open to subjective evaluation, I have a hard time accepting my work as “good enough.” As a result of this, I often repeat my work, doing things over and over again until I feel they are satisfactory. Admittedly, this is not the most effective use of my time and my production could be better by setting expectations that aren’t anywhere near perfection.
  13. You appreciate what you have
    “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that.” -1 Timothy 6:6-8. The Bible speaks of the need for contentment, and it’s an area that I’ve mastered, quite honestly. When I sit back and think about the desires in my life, little to none have to do with material possessions. Do I have dreams and goals like anyone else? Sure. But I also know that if I don’t achieve these things, or accumulate certain possessions that would be fun and enjoyable, that my life would turn out just great by the grace of God.
  14. You disconnect
    Often when people think about “disconnecting”, their initial thought is about cell phones and social media. That’s just a product of the society we live in today. But that’s just one aspect of disconnecting. To disconnect also means to ease the burdens in your life, to remove or lessen the stressors that can weigh heavily on you, and to take vacations and small breaks from normal rigors of the everyday world. And it’s in these areas that I excel at disconnecting.
  15. You limit your caffeine intake
    Yikes! Talk about one of the most challenging behaviors on the list! I have regularly consumed caffeine for years — to the point where it’s caused gastric issues that I’ve had to monitor and regulate. But I must say, I don’t completely agree with the premise in this article. The article states that caffeine triggers the release of adrenaline, causing the “fight-or-flight” response. And:“The fight-or-flight mechanism sidesteps rational thinking in favor of a faster response to ensure survival. This is great when a bear is chasing you, but not so great when you’re responding to a curt email.” That’s a bit too simplistic. To say that a person who is on a caffeine hike can’t rationally respond to a curt email is a bit of a stretch. I’m not a person who shoots from the hip. I think things through and don’t respond on pure emotion. Whether my adrenaline is pumping or not, I’m going to put careful thought into what I say or do. In fact, I’m more likely to have a brain that works when it isn’t dog tired and lacking adrenaline.
  16. You get enough sleep
    I have a difficult time sleeping. No, I’m not an insomniac, and I probably get more sleep than most who have “sleeping issues.” But I’m both a bit of a night owl and a person who can’t really sleep in. Somewhere between six or seven hours is considered a good night for me, and I seem to be able to function well on that … especially if paired with an influx of caffeine in the morning! (see No. 15!)
  17. You stop negative self-talk in its tracks
    I don’t like to be a pessimist. In fact, my glass is generally half-full. But I’ve been told I have a tendency to “talk down” about myself at times. That’s difficult to hear because that’s certainly not my intent. I’m a person who knows his strengths and weaknesses (see No. 4), plus I try my best to be humble and admit my faults. But I guess there is a fine line between admitting your weaknesses and talking down about yourself. Maybe it’s an art form I need to practice more? In general though, I don’t sit around and dwell on negative things. Life is too short and is filled with too many blessings to be upset all the time. I’m generally happy-go-lucky.
  18. You won’t let anyone limit your joy
    I don’t need the approval of others to be happy in life. Do I like to make others happy? Of course. It’s a good feeling. But if I’m surrounded by Debbie Downers, rather than let them rub off on me, I’m just going to leave the room. If somebody has a negative opinion of me, I’m not going to let that bring me down. Like I mentioned in No. 6 about being offended, if a loved one is upset at me and says something that may not be pleasing to the ears, it’s going to initially bother me. But I’m not going to let it bother me to the point I live my life in sadness and despair. I’m going to want to work it out so the joy can return.

As you can see, there are areas where improvement can be made in almost any behavior, even in something you feel may be a strength of yours. I encourage you to read the article on emotional intelligence and see how you fare in each of the examples.