Take A Nap

No seriously. Take a nap. It is good for you.

Lately I have started reading up on the circadian rhythm which is the cycle our bodies go through during the day. This also explains what times we feel sleepy and when we should be sleeping. Have you ever noticed about midday, usually after lunch that you start to feel a little drowsy? That is connected to the circadian rhythm and is suggesting to your body that you need a rest. The problem is that our industrious society and culture doesn’t like to take breaks. Many of us Nine-to-Fivers are left to “power through” these energy doldrums and not take the rest that we need.

Showing great Cat Nap form! Photo by Mike on Pexels.com

In the book Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker, he talks about monophasic (one concentrated bout of rest) and biphasic (a large rest with a small rest in the middle of the day) sleeping structures. He mentions how many human cultures engaged in biphasic sleep structures including the west until the early modern period (16th century onwards). Now in our industrialized societies that are constantly left alert and awake by technology, we struggle to get one good night of sleep let alone a midday rest. We need to correct this. Our very health depends on it!

As a new parent, I am quickly understanding why my father was always caught napping on the couch. He was likely exhausted by antics (I was a busy kid). I say this because I am often exhausted and my daughter isn’t even ten months old yet. Therefore, it really helps to boost my energy and my mood when I have a quick thirty minute nap. Not only do I feel refreshed but I feel happier. Sleep and hunger have a stronger connection to our well-being than we oft give credit (you’ve heard of hangry to denote someone who is irritable due to hunger, well how about tangry for tired and angry?). In our very busy lives, we need more quality rest. I believe that naps will help with this.

In conclusion, this article serves as a quick public service announcement to bring back the siesta! Doesn’t have to be long either, in fact thirty minutes is optimal (having more than this could affect the quality of your night time sleep). Not only will you feel the immediate health benefits of an improved mood and feeling refreshed but it can also help in reducing the risk of heart disease and premature death.[1] This is because sleep is the bodies way of repairing itself. So take my word for it, instead of having an afternoon latte to jolt you back up- try looking for a place to take a snooze.

Thanks for reading!

R.G.


[1] Based on a study done at Harvard University on communities that take afternoon naps versus ones that do not. Of the volunteers, those that participated in not taking naps were 37 percent more likely to develop heart disease and die than those that had naps. These numbers were even higher in individuals in labour intensive occupations. Matthew Walker, Why We Sleep, Pg.71.

Perspectives with Kaamil Salojee

Yesterday evening I did a podcast with my good friend Kaamil Salojee. Kaamil is from South Africa and moved to Canada from Johannesburg in 2011. Whenever we got together, he didn’t always share much about his life back in South Africa. I attribute this mostly due to my hesitation in asking about his home country for fear of sounding nosy but also because we were usually preoccupied with parting and imbibing ourselves or snowboarding. Now with Kaamil preparing to return back to his mother country of South Africa, I decided to do a podcast with him in where he shares his experiences growing up in a different continent.

I have included the link to the podcast below. I hope you enjoy. Our conversation definitely taught me much about the interesting history of this country, from Apartheid to post-Apartheid and what the country is like today. From his sharing, I trust that there is something every listener can take from our conversation.

Thank you for listening.

R.G.

The Importance of Teachers

Summer vacation has started in most parts of North America for millions of teachers and students. Usually this is a time of immense joy. The pay off for a long hard year of academic pursuit; however, this break feels noticeably (and understandably) different. Due to the impact of COVID-19, the connection between teachers and students has been greatly affected with much of the learning taking place online. With everything taking place through chat groups, video conferencing, online calendars and a myriad of other digital tools- the very face of education change. In a very brief period of time. We went from going to places of education (schools), to transforming our living spaces into schools. Now, I am not the person to measure or assess the level of success that this had; however, I can tell you that this had mixed results. I believe it has much to do with the relationship between the teacher and the student.

Looking ready to tear up the afternoon Monday Math Meeting on Zoom. Photo by Julia M Cameron on Pexels.com

I should begin by stating my bias and why I have immense respect for teachers. I started my career as an elementary teacher before becoming a counselor and am still an employee of a school district. I work alongside teachers, students and families every day. I see the importance that a positive connection can have on an individual. (I also see the consequences of what a negative connection can have with a young learner). Connections are best established and maintained in person not online. That is not to say that you can not do this successfully online, it is just much more difficult and requires a lot more work and time. Something that we don’t have readily available in our ever increasingly busy lives. I have seen amazing examples of thriving online classrooms with lively conversations among teachers and pupils. I have also seen teachers provide tutorials for students who are struggling with specific concepts or one-on-one support for students who request it. The potential is there but there is still something missing.

Humans are hard wired for connections. Read any book on evolutionary biology or behavior. We got to where we are today by cooperation and competition. We did not enter the 21st century through isolation; however, there is growing concern that this is the direction we are heading. I am not against technology (I am using a blog to communicate this) but I do have concerns. I have previously written about the importance of positive adults in the lives of children and I believe that schools are wonderful places for this. I admit I am an optimist as schools can also be places that inhibit individuality and happiness. Buildings full of people but no personality, where “weaker” kids become easy targets for bullies. However, this has much to do with school culture and community that impacts the overall environment. Having a healthy school ethos or philosophy that encourages individuality as well as social-togetherness will develop happy and healthier minds (more on this on another time). The point is that environment, that is the setting and the place, plays a huge role not just in the learning of young minds but also in their well-being. Being stuck at home all day and trying to remember you have a math lesson at 10 is not easy for adolescent minds [1]. They need someone to be there to help them navigate the routine and the daily structure. This is what teachers do.

The focus on 21st century education isn’t on the “what to think” (or the acquirement of information) but rather on “how to think” (strategies that will help us decode, determine, argue, and acquire our own information based on the vast amount of information available). This is why we need teachers. It isn’t so much about memorizing information or facts anymore because anyone can do a google search. The focus is rather on developing the strategies and tools to think critically and openly as well as to express information constructively. It doesn’t take much researching to find that conversations on internet forums are often lacking in their ability for democratic discourse in many participants. We need teachers to help us develop the skill-set to navigate the world ahead. A world of information overload.

There is also a second major avenue that teachers help and that is in the well-being of the individual. What other profession can have such a profound social-emotional impact (either negatively or positively) on an individual? Almost everyone can recount either an uplifting story and/or a Dickensian archetype (the evil Grade [insert number here] teacher) of an educator at some point in their lives. I wonder/worry about those who can’t recall a memorable teacher. My success, not just in terms of career path but also in perspective, I owe in large part to a teacher who was there for me when I was a troubled teenager. Teachers make a difference especially the ones who develop a connection with their students. Humans are hard wired for connection but to establish connection you need presence.[2] It is much easier to do this when you have everyone in the room rather than individually seeking them out (I hear it also makes attendance a lot easier). Research also shows that the more involved a student feels, the more successful they become.[3] It is a lot easier to feel involved in something when you are already there and have someone to help you be accountable than sitting at home on a computer.

In conclusion, teachers make a difference in the lives of children and adolescents. It is difficult to argue otherwise. Contemporary education is not perfect. [4] And while there is much room for growth, it does provide an environment for many individuals to thrive, if used appropriately. I believe that school is not a place to do menial work, it is a place to develop the hearts and minds of the future. Yes, I know I am an optimist. I said that already.

R.G.

Please feel free to comment on this thread with additional insights. This was a very brief article and I know there is a lot more to this subject. My aim is not to do it harm but to hopefully do it some small semblance of justice. Thank you for reading.


[1]Individuals benefit greatly from routine. The establishment of routines is associated to executive functioning which occurs predominately in the prefrontal-cortex of the brain. This part of the brain is not yet fully develop in children and adolescents until their early twenties. Thereby making self-directed accountability very difficult for many young minds. For more information see Behave by Robert Sapolsky.

[2] Think Wilson in the Tom Hanks classic Castaway. He had to give an inanimate object sentience so that he kept his sanity. Therefore, we are hardwired for connection.

[3] There is much research available on this. I gathered this information from John Shindler’s Transformative Classrooms: Positive Strategies to Engage All Learners (2010).

[4] It is important to note that I am talking about Western 21st century education here. A system that like many others has historical and cultural associations and implications, often negative ones. Look no further than the impact of Residential Schooling on First Peoples (Inuit, First Nations and Métis) in Canada to see how education has caused cultural, often labeled genocidal, harm.


How Not To Kill A Plant: The Perils of Overwatering

Due to the recent pandemic, a lot of people have started picking up new hobbies. Maybe you are making sourdough bread from scratch. Going for dehydrating mid-afternoon walks in the burning sun. Maybe you are binge watching extremely obscure foreign language shows on Netflix. Or perhaps you learned how to fashion some home made toilet paper (although this was probably earlier, in the initial stages of the Covid consumer hysteria). I really hope you didn’t pick this up. I also picked up a hobby: gardening. Which is very new for me.

Before all this, I probably would have been the last person to be found inside a gardening center. I used to find the places suffocating. So many colors. So many choices. Why am I even here? Isn’t there a video game for me to be playing? Well, I have been playing a lot less video games these days, thanks in no small part to being a parent. I also don’t drink as much beer (hangovers and an infant, I’ll pass). So I found myself looking for something to do. Then I heard about the mental health benefits of gardening and taking care of plants. Not only do they purify the air inside and outside our homes (they take in carbon dioxide and release oxygen) but tending for them also has know health benefits.[1] As someone who wants to incorporate more healthy stress relieving activities in their life, this seemed like a natural fit.

So I did some synoptic searching on google for what some of the easiest and best plants are to have in your home. I boiled it down to Boston ferns and peace lilies. Apparently, these two plants are great for starters due to their resiliency. Read: you shouldn’t be able to kill them. I thought this would be a great start, so I set off to my local hardware store and bought a crocodile fern and a discount peace lily.

What a healthy Crocodile Fern looks like.

I returned home stoked to introduce my two new sun eating friends to my spouse. She doesn’t share my excitement instead asking where they will be going. A question I hadn’t thought out. Plants apparently are supposed to go in pots. So they sit in their plastic containers for the first night.

The next day, I have the ingenious idea of putting the fern in a big coffee mug and the peace lily inside a wooden container. While this worked all fine and well for the first few weeks, I soon noticed that some of the leaves were turning brown. Not on one plant but unfortunately, both plants. It turns out that watering a plant too much is worse than underwatering a plant. Leave it to me to figure this out. I also learned that tropical plants, like the peace lily, prefer to be kept in their plastic containers because it helps with drainage. Therefore, keeping it in a wood pail is not an appropriate alternative. I guess this is because the wood absorbs the water more resulting in poor drainage. If your plants have poor drainage you get root rot.

It also didn’t help that I left both the fern and the lily sitting in a puddle of drainage water. Yea, they don’t like that. This resulted in them both getting root rot, which almost feels like an achievement considering they are both rookie level plants and yet I managed to kill them within a month. I was disheartened to say the least. I wanted to revive these two plants and work feverishly to do so. Taking them out of their pots. Drying them. Re-potting them. Adding more water. It was probably getting a bit ridiculous because my partner had to tell me that owning a plant is like dating a women. I must have had an inquisitive look on my face because she went on to explain that if you give a woman too much attention, she will feel trapped and not want to continue dating you. I believe some call this “clingy”. Well, plants are much like this in that if you give them too much attention (read: water), they will suffocate and die. My mind was blown.

So, I backed off. I stopped calling, to use the metaphor correctly. While my fern didn’t survive. The peace lily is making a comeback. So I learned an invaluable lesson that not only relates to plants but relationships in general. We all have basic needs. In the case of plants they need sunlight, water and carbon dioxide. But give them too much of something and they can die. Well, we too need various things in our relationships: closeness, gifts, fun and exciting memories, gifts, and other stuff. But get too much of this and you can actually push your loved one away. Everything requires balance. We now have several plants all over our place (much to the chagrin of my better half) that are living healthy vibrant lives. All because I learned a valuable lesson: don’t water your plants too much.

My peace lily today. Making a comeback!

Thanks for reading! If you like this article and are looking for more, subscribe to my page. I have made a commitment to write articles every day of the week with the exception of weekends.

R.G.

[1] Check out this article if you don’t believe me: https://healthtalk.unchealthcare.org/health-benefits-of-gardening/

Image of the crocodile fern from Amazon because the one I had died. RIP fern. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B002UU2C7W/ref=olp_product_details?_encoding=UTF8&me=

The Philosophy Behind I’m Probably Wrong About Everything

In today’s post: I decided to write a brief explanation on the title of my project: I Am Probably Wrong About Everything. Since developing this idea in early 2020, I have found myself becoming more and more interested in the pursuits of asking questions I never asked and expanding my understanding. Questioning everything rather than just accepting my reality. The big question I wonder is what do I really know?

When I tell people the name of my blog/podcast/whatever this is, I often get a good chuckle. Perhaps that was the original intent. To develop something that made humour from its own self-deprecation. Admission to the fact that, well, I probably have no idea what I am talking about but I want to talk about it. And the more I think about it, the more I begin to believe that there is a lot more to this title than I give credit. I see the world through a lens. My lens. You do too. Only it is your lens. Our lenses are based in part through experience and relationship. You learn what you learn through practice and whoever is around you. This develops the building blocks or foundation of your understanding. Then come the abstracts. Things like events happening in other parts of the world, seemingly worlds away and of no immediate proximity to your world. As you learn through reading, watching, imagining and other means, this information is filtered through your lens of your understanding and thus shapes your perspective.

What makes this problematic is that I have so often found myself gravitating towards those who agree with me. Those who think like me. Perhaps even those who look like me. And when we choose to identify and associate ourselves with people like ourselves, we run the risk of developing a myopic view of the world. Of only seeing and understanding the world through our lens thereby becoming completely out of touch with the rest of the world. For example (and perhaps not the best one), we hear of celebrities being jerks to their rabid fans and think: What’s their problem? They are rich and famous? They shouldn’t treat people like that! Especially not their fans. But we have no idea what it feels like to be a celebrity and just how annoying it is to not be able to go anywhere without being recognized. Have you ever wanted to buy one item at a grocery store after a long and exhausting day (maybe, say, ice cream?) hoping to get in and out as quickly as possible only to be obstructed by one your annoying cousins or any acquaintance for that matter? Yea, well, I imagine that is what a celebrity goes through. Only it is every day, every where and all of the time. Makes me very glad I never got into movies.

My point is, is that we really don’t know what goes on in the minds of others. We have a hard enough time as it is keeping track of our own. At least I do (I won’t speak for you). Therefore, by definition of us not being able to think and speak for others then we have no idea what goes on for other cultures, races, religions, nations, genders, sexualities, etc. Especially ones that are not our own. So when we see things happening around the world on the news and think: Gee that must be how “they” do it down there. We should probably give that a second thought and ask ourselves: who is they? Do I know a they? Shouldn’t I be asking they instead of thinking that this is what they does all day? But I know two theys and they have different answers!?! My point exactly.

Therefore, the purpose of this project is to seek to understand as much as I can and always be open to differences of opinion. The truth being that I haven’t always been open to different opinions. This is especially true around politics. I see myself as I fairly liberal minded person but what does the other side have to say? Do I have to commit myself to one side of some strange tribalist political feud? Or can I be more open? What is it that this person is saying? What are other people saying? My point is that once we stop being open, we close the ability to change our minds and thus get ourselves closer to the truth. Whatever the truth is. And a lot of what we are currently living under is a collection of assumptions and historical consequences that are worth reexamining. Which is why I want to admit that I am probably wrong about everything but that I want to learn. So maybe you too can help me.

Thank you for reading. Please feel free to subscribe or comment on my posts. Have a wonderful day.

R.G.

Anti-Racism vs Multiculturalism

To say that the current protesting in the United States and the Black Lives Matter movement is trending right now would be an absolute understatement. This humanitarian pursuit (also known as Civil Rights Movement) is not new, nor is it reserved for the United States. Blacks and browns have experienced systemic racism all over the world and my country of Canada is not exempt. In speaking with various peoples of various backgrounds (including people of colour or POC), they express concerns about this movement losing steam and popularity only to reignite several years later after another case of police brutality against a minority. By my understanding, this is the second wave of mass protest of the BLM movement. The burning question is: how can we create lasting change?

The conversation around racial equality is an incredibly complex and sensitive one. For good reason, the inequality that groups such as BLM speak of have been around for a very long time. This history of racial injustice sometimes only receives a few paragraphs in educational textbooks. Why? I imagine this is because no one wants to focus on the crimes committed by first world nations. It is not easy to admit to the state sponsored genocide of American First Peoples. Nor is it easy to discuss how millions of African peoples were kidnapped as slaves and brought to various colonies around the world (Britain, Caribbean, America, Latin America, etc.) with extreme violence and oppression.* By admitting to guilt and therefore responsibility for these crimes and their contemporary consequences, there would need to be reparation. Admitting guilt would admit that there is a problem and a problem requires a solution. A solution that the state must come up with. What state wants to do that? Which is why we, as individuals, can no longer look away from what is going on. Not just in the United States, but around the world. We must demand change if we want to see change. Therefore, this can’t be just a fad. Something we post once on our various social media handles and sit back and relax believing that we did our part. It has to be a constant and it needs to be consistent.

I want to identify that I would fall under the category of white privileged and therefore, am unfit to answer this question. This is largely due to the fact that I can’t answer what the solution is, I can only speculate. I also know that by not saying anything at all is to be borderline complicit in the further continuation of systemic inequity and racism against blacks. So, I will write about this, full knowing that I am not the person to solve this problem but that I want to be part of the solution. I believe that the biggest contribution that I can provide is to continue to educate myself on racial inequity both historical and present as well as share my learnings with others- especially my children. I want to learn and hear more stories so I can bring them to light. I don’t want to be part of the fad, I want to be part of the change.

As mentioned, I believe that education is one method of changing the narrative and the systems of prejudice in various countries. In a book I have recently begun reading about the experiences of Blacks in Britain, Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge, she mentions a bit on a black sociology professor trying to put together a ” race-based” educational program for the police in the 1980s. The reason for which, was that Britain at the time was experiencing an influx in racial tension and “rioting”. The professor first wants to see what the general understanding on British Blacks is and sends out an open survey to police officers. Depending on his findings, he will be able to see whether or not the program should be anti-racist or multicultural in approach. The results of his survey provide ample evidence of racist beliefs held throughout the sample. It is important to note that the responses yielded similar themes associated to Blacks ranging from decreasing property value to increasing crime. This information encouraged the sociologist to pursue an anti-racist approach, rather than a multicultural approach to his program. However, this decision for an anti-racist program was turned down by the police department and the educational program was closed altogether as a result. This was a big a-ha moment to me, that there is a difference between multiculturalism and anti-racism.

But what is the difference between these two?

First let me briefly touch on my cultural lens. I am a heterosexual white male. Does this matter? Yes. I realize I am what is perhaps the poster child of what so many movements are going against. Typically speaking, when you think of racists who run the country and the agenda, who comes to mind? Straight white men who are rich and powerful. The only thing I am lacking is the mass influence and wealth. But maybe that does make me a good candidate to speak up. Maybe I can influence the other straight white men to have a different opinion? Or at least give their long held beliefs a second thought. Hence the whole purpose behind my blog and podcast, that we are probably wrong about everything. So why not try and get it right? Why not give it a second look? Why not hear someone else who has a different opinion or perspective than the ones we constantly surround ourselves with? Well, generally speaking, people don’t like doing this because it makes them feel uncomfortable. No one likes to be wrong. Which is problematic because at some point we are all wrong and until we challenge what we believe we could never be right. Phew, that was an aside but I believe it to be important… my point is, I have no clue what it is like to be a minority in a western nation, so how can I answer the question of what a different group than my own (read minority) needs? I can’t. All I can do is ask questions, shut up and listen. Which is very very hard for us (yes, I am talking about “us” white people) because we have been talking for so very long. It is time to listen to other voices.

This is where the difference between multiculturalism and anti-racism comes in. Multiculturalism is an interesting concept. It suggests that you have a country or place that is accepting of all different cultures and peoples. Everyone is included but not necessarily everyone gets along, or has to. However, there is a bit of a hidden piece to this. Where are all these cultures gathering? Usually in a place where they are the minority and there is a dominant culture. Usually, countries that are multicultural are also democratic, which means that decisions are made based on votes. Every individual gets a vote. So if you have a dominant culture and a bunch of different minority groups, it is likely that the majority will be making the decisions. If you are able to get the dominant culture or majority to think a certain way, then it its likely that they will be swayed to vote or direct their countries decisions in a certain way. Democracy isn’t perfect; however, it certainly beats the alternative of living in a fascist or communist country. At this moment in history, utopians don’t exist. Therefore, democracy is our safest choice. But, as one can easily deduce from this explanation, democratic countries and the voting power of the people can easily be exploited. I won’t name drop any current political leaders or explicitly list any of their tactics but by using emotive power of fear, you can be sure to convince anyone to think a certain way. Especially the uneducated. Therefore, multiculturalism, or the inclusion of different peoples and different groups is not enough to create a flourish democratic and egalitarian nation.

You need something more. You need to be honest. You need to be open. This is all a part of anti-racism. Which is the act of understanding the prejudicial views of others and then trying to educate them to thinking alternatively. It’s trying to figure out the x,y,z of why this individual or group dislikes this other group and then exploring the absurdity of these claims. You can do this by shaming people to think a certain way. But this can have mixed, often polarizing results. For example, calling someone who says they don’t care about BLM a racist is likely to make them oppositional rather than supportive. So this is definitely a tactic to avoid. Instead, I think it is good to listen to the views of the individual and go from there. In returning to our example of the person who doesn’t care about BLM, ask them why? Perhaps they have good reasons that have never been validated. Maybe they have been told their opinions don’t matter. We don’t know until we ask the questions. You may notice that people have some very searing opinions on the matter. As a white person, I know I have heard some things that I highly doubt would be shared with a person of colour. All the more reason for me to listen first and then ask questions. I won’t win anyone over by calling them a racist asshole. Maybe they say that this group is more prone to end up in prisons. Okay, but why is that? Start by talking about the legacy of how there came to be a disproportionate number of blacks in American prisons. You win people over by making them think. Maybe not immediately but eventually.

This is why anti-racist education is a strong medium for combating prejudice in our society and why the British sociologist wanted to go this direction rather than the multicultural approach. However, it is uncomfortable to openly discuss our own bias and prejudice. However, it is there. Anyone who says “I don’t see colour” is guilty of naivety. Anyone who says “all lives matter” is clearly missing the point. We are talking about Black lives. So you better start to see colour and understand that it has been misrepresented in historically and contemporary. We all have much to learn and we are all part of this conversation. The only way we are going to make change in our democratic society is by having the courage to be a part of this conversation. In conclusion, I am talking to white people: we have no idea what it is like to be a visible minority in Euro-western centric country because we are the majority. That might make you feel uneasy and if so good, it’s the truth. So we need to have these conversations but we need to do a lot more listening than speaking. White people have been doing most of the speaking for a long damn time (again, understatement), so it’s time to be quiet and listen. Trust me on this, you are going to want to be a part of the change.

Thank you for reading,

R.G.

*That is not to say that these two examples are the only cases of oppression committed by colonizers, in fact, the list is rather exhaustive; however, the focus is on the impacts of systemic racism against blacks.

I like to think of my articles as an open dialogue. If you have questions, concerns, comments or if you think I am completely out to lunch- please do not hesitate to write in the comments below. Your thoughts will help me and they could help others see a different point.

Father’s Day: A Day for All Positive Male Role Models

I know. I know. Father’s Day was yesterday; however, I decided to allow said day to come to an end before writing on the topic. Why? Well, for starters, why does it matter when you write on a topic, especially one as meaningful and timeless as fatherhood? The other main reason is that this was my first Father’s Day as a father myself and felt a lot different than previous ones. Also, it was Sunday and I have decided to make that a day to take a break from writing. Therefore, we find ourselves at the beginning of a new week with fresh thoughts on the invaluable subject of parenting. And to be specific: male parenting.

You see, Father’s Day used to be something I avoided. This is largely due to my father passing when I was fourteen years old. Ever since that event, I found myself routinely distracted on this day. When I was lost in my rebel rousing and anger, I called it Fatherless Day. Due in part to the absence of a paternal figure. But looking back, I couldn’t have been more wrong. I have had many positive male figures in my life, it was just my perception that was turning this event from something worth celebrating to something I detested. But now that I have a child of my own, I am able to breathe deeply and be thankful for all of the positive men in my life that shared their narratives, perspectives, beliefs and virtues but most importantly their presence. One could easily fill a book on the lasting impact of finding your own “father figures” in the absence of a biological one or the importance of providing this role in someone else’s life, but this is an article and thus calls for something far more brief. So I will do my best to do just that.

Life is an incredibly difficult landscape to navigate. The requirements and expectations on our young are demanding and constantly changing. If we think it is difficult to adapt and understand things like pandemics as adults, then imagine what must be going on in the minds of children and adolescents. They can barely understand their own biological functioning let alone the sociological intricacies of the Earth. Then of course comes puberty, where things really get out of whack. We need someone to help us understand these phenomenon and our mothers and other maternal figures do a fine job of that; however, we also need the insight of our males. We need, and will likely always need, a balance in parental leadership. You need dads and you need moms. Doesn’t matter if you have two dads or two moms. Or a single parent. An individual will always develop optimally with the influence of the opposite gender. Provided they are a mentally healthy individual. In my years of experience in education, I have of course, seen the impact of not-healthy parent(s) on the lives of children. Not unlike a plant that requires both sunlight and water to grow, a child needs a healthy adult male and a female to grow up confident and emotionally strong.

But what if a parental figure is missing? According to a 2019 stat, there are about 1.71 million single parent families living in Canada.* This is an increase from 1.56 million in 2010. This mean that there are thousands of children growing up without a biological mother or father in their lives.** This suggests that we are raising more and more children in single parent families. What will they grow up to become? According to one article, children with two parents reportedly have better success not just at school and childhood but later in life.*** But is this true? Are children doomed to failure and to repeat the cycle of becoming single-parents themselves? Absolutely not (nor did the article conclude this). But for their best chances and optimal mental and emotional development, they need a positive role model in their lives. Both male and female. This doesn’t have to be a biological father or mother. Why? Because these two different individuals can teach us not only how to be and how to act but also that we are valued, we are important and we are cared for. In my experiences, children with active male and female role models in their lives are far less likely to develop issues regarding mental health or at-risk behaviours. That is not to say that individuals with these role models will never suffer from these problems; however, it seems they are far less likely for this to occur.

So what is the solution? Like anything complex, the solution is far more simple in writing than in practice. We simply need more positive role models in the lives of children and adolescents. The reality is that there are not a lot of them out there, especially males. Which returns us to the focus of this article: paternal figures. I work in the field of elementary education, and let me tell you, there are not a lot of young males in my field. At least based on my experiences. I honestly don’t have the stats to back this information up but anyone who has a child who has been through the elementary gamut can likely attest: male teachers are an anomaly. Or, ask anyone who has tried to find a mentor through Big Brothers. Not a lot of them out there. At least, not enough to meet the rising demands. Therefore, we need more positive males out there. We need more paternal figures.

Take it from me. When my father passed, a void was created. Now I could have filled that void with anger, sadness and all kinds of bad decision making. And to some extent I did, or eventually did, but a lot of that was delayed. This is large part in due to the positive male role models I had in my life. Teachers, uncles, family friends. I was very fortunate for these people who tried to best guide me and help me navigate and understand being a man (which has a myriad of different meanings and definitions influenced by culture, sexuality, etc.). Unfortunately, I didn’t always listen to the advice and wavered between accepting guidance and leadership and outright rejecting these values in exchange for polluting my mind with negativity. Again, I was fortunate enough to not get consumed in my self-destruction and pity. It would not be an exaggeration for me to say that a teacher saved my life when I was a teenager because he was there for me and he cared.

Who knows how many others are out there waiting to be saved? Waiting to be cared for? I am not saying that it is your job to help all the orphans out there. No, but what you can do is be there for one. And that one can one day, hopefully, be there for somebody else. Again, that isn’t your job but it could be your influence. And your influence could be the difference between a child who succeeds and a child who grows up angry at the world and her environment. I know times are busy and we all know they are not getting any quieter. Therefore, we need to make time and effort to achieve this. Maybe it’s taking your nephew to their theatre practice. Or watching your friend’s daughter play her first baseball game. Trust me when I say this, there are lots of opportunities to make a massive impact in a child’s life that they could likely never forget their entire lives. And really, all it took was you sacrificing one afternoon of your life. In being with my own daughter, I have come to know what children want the most in the world: you. They want a loving parent. They don’t care about a trip to Mali or getting a PS5 for Christmas nearly as much as they want you to be there. They will remember playing Halo 15 on their new xbox a lot more vividly with you than by themselves.

I want to end this article by saying thank you to you. For starters, if you are reading this, then it is very likely that you are a positive role model in someones life. You are being part of the change. A change our society demands. You can help explain and explore the need to re-evaluate the problems of racism in our society. Be the example of how to treat others regardless of who they love, how they live, or how they look. You can be the difference in a person’s life and chances are, you already are. So cheers to parents. But especially thank you to all the fathers. Everywhere.

I also want to thank and dedicate this piece to all those who helped me become the father I am today.

Thank you.


Sincerely,

R.G.

* Statista. “Number of Single Parent Families in Canada from 2006 to 2019” https://www.statista.com/statistics/443342/single-parent-families-in-canada/

**The study defines a Two Parent Family as “a married couple (with or without children of either and/or both spouses), [or] a common-law couple (with or without children of either and/or partners)”. This stat doesn’t tell us if the child is split between two homes with a single parent at each or is strictly being raised in one home by one parent. Therefore, it suggests that a divorced family with two very involved parents could fall into the category of single parent family based on the definition.

*** Jeffreys, Branwen. “Do Children in Two-Parent Families Do Better?” https://www.bbc.com/news/education-47057787

Just Go Do It

The creative process is a frustrating one. Perhaps it is because, if you are like me, you wait for some creative genius to wash over you, be inspired and then start working. Well, guess what? It doesn’t work that way. If you want to write something, or do something. Anything for that matter. You have to physically start doing it. No amount of self-help books will self help you to action. You have to act. Now of course I am not saying that you shouldn’t be reading or expanding your knowledge. But at some point, we got to realize, we are the ones that have to do it. It is not going to come to us. It is not going to fall from the sky. We have to act.

So instead of sitting around and being a Netflix triathlete. Get up and do the work. This is the only way you are going to get things done. I don’t know what is wrong with me, and perhaps my generation, but nothing is going to come to you. With the exception of the lottery and even that requires buying a ticket. We have got to get up and do the work. So instead of thinking about all the plot points and pandering over every detail and theme. Just start.

Instead of researching the best gym routine to follow. Just go to the gym.

Instead of thinking about what products to best clean your house. Just clean your house.

Nike truly was on to something when they said, ‘just do it’. Trust me on this one. Whatever it is you want to do. Whatever goal it is you want to achieve. Stop making excuses that no one cares about because the only person it is affecting is you. But my internet is too slow and the word document for me to write this is taking too long. This is the voice I heard before writing this and honestly, it’s a piss poor excuse for not doing the work.

Hear yourself and redirect yourself. Just do it.

We live in a world of perfectionism and perfectionists. And I’m here to say that is a load of shit. Nothing is more important than the power of action and action is progress. Not perfection. So stop talking and just do it. You are more than capable.  

Robert Grant

Goal Reorienting: Achieving Success Through Consistency

May 3, 2020

Last Sunday I wrote about the need to reintroduce some routine and structure into my life. The current circumstances of COVID-19 has made it far too easy for me to formulate excuses to not have a rigid schedule. I can’t go to the gym because it is closed. I can’t get up early because I could wake everyone. I can’t go to be early because I have to watch one more episode on Netflix. As I write them out, I see the truth for what it is, my own laziness and my quickness to blame my situation on external factors. Yes, excuses. The reality is that I am the one who needs to adapt. So I decided to challenge myself in going to be every night at a reasonable time and getting up at 5am to start a specific morning routine.

That was last week and as promised, I thought I would share how it went. My goal is not to bore you with the details so I will try and be as succinct as possible. The purpose is for me to be honest with you so I can be more honest with myself. That night after writing the article, we had some friends over. I stayed up to late. Had too much wine. Ate too much food. So as you can imagine, when the alarm went off at 4:55AM, I hit the snooze button faster than cowboy in a wild west shootout. Off to a great start.

“Whoa, mind blown! I never knew it was that easy!”

I eventually did find the “strength” to get out of bed quarter after six. Rather than beat myself up, I acknowledged that this was an improvement from any single day the previous week. Improvement. Success. Getting better. But not where I want to be. Now the interesting thing about my relationship with goals, is that one failure often times makes me want to quit. Maybe you are the same way. Now I could get in-depth into the psychology of this (or what I think the psychology is) but allow me to be brief: for me I associate failure with shame (I could write an entire article on the reasons why). Maybe you do too? Historically, when I can’t make a goal or deadline, I collapse and give up. Rather than regroup, restructure and try again, I just throw in the towel. But that methodology is shit and I’m tired of appealing to it. So instead of beating myself up and giving up, which I was previously a master at, I decided to learn from what went wrong.   

I re-evaluated last night and looked simply at what happened without adding any emotions to it. Okay, so I had some friends over. Stayed up too late and drank wine. Clearly, I need to shut things down earlier. That’s it. No further judgements or shameful statements against myself or my decision making. Because this is what traditionally has derailed me from further pursuit of my goals. I believe that there is an inner critic in us all that keeps us from doing what we want to do. Because whenever we fail at pursuing that passion or valuable goal, the inner critic is in their glory. You suck. You knew you couldn’t do it, why did you even try? You can lie and convince them but you’re the same damn loser to me. You get the idea. The inner critic is a Bonafide prick! How do you shut it off? You just get right back to that goal. You make adjustments. So what did I do? Went to bed earlier.

Common excuses for accepting mediocrity.

The following morning? You may have guessed it. Didn’t get up at 4:55AM. Again, shoot the snooze button from the hip. I get the bullseye every time. But this time, I rolled out of bed at quarter past 5. And yes, I literally had to roll myself out of bed. While not the time I was aiming for, I saw it as another victory. I was encouraging myself. I went downstairs and did a morning routine. The only difference was that the timing was staggered by fifteen minutes. Victory. Rather than beating myself up, I kept identifying the positive and that pushed me forward. I want to clarify that acknowledging these successes is not to be confused with participation awards. You know, the ones were you go out and everyone gets a reward just for showing up. To hell with that, I still had a goal and I was going to achieve it. I just wasn’t going to succumb to the negative voices in my head.

So, that night I went to bed at a reasonable time. This allowed me to get up at 4:55 the following morning and crush my routine. I didn’t fall out of bed. I go up with purpose. Had a coffee and started reading. Then did a workout. It was the victory I had wanted. I was able to redirect myself onto the path of success and not give up on the goal because I failed the first day starting it. I call this Goal Reorienting. Imagine one day that you are lost in the woods while going for a hike. You would (hopefully) not just give up finding a way out. What you might do is stop aimlessly walking and recompose yourself by taking a breathe and thinking about where you came from and where you want to go. You would look for landmarks that would help bring you back onto the path from where you came from and eventually get yourself out of the precarious position you are in. Goal Reorienting is like this, only instead of getting lost in the woods you fail to hit your goal. The recomposing yourself is similar but rather than looking for landmarks, you look for the successes that are getting you closer to your goal. Lets say you wanted to lose ten pounds but you only lost 5, well, that’s a pretty spectacular landmark that means you are getting closer to your destination. This helped me stay on the path and carve out my first success with my goal. It felt good, but it was only one day.

“Shit, where was I again?”

Now, maybe I was too cocky because that night I did not go to bed at a reasonable time. But I made a commitment to get up at 4:55AM, which I accomplished. This goes back to the concept of Goal Reorientation. Yes, I strayed away from my path but I was able to correct myself at the nearest landmark (my wake up time). This was a success. And trust me, that night I had no troubles sleeping. I was back at it, even on the weekend! I also plan on continuing to pursue this routine- will I achieve it tomorrow? Not sure yet but I am aiming for it. That is the key to goal consistency.

The point is, if you do not want to accomplish something, aim for perfection. If you do want to achieve something, aim for and identify your progress. Once you get there, keep pursuing it. Achieving goals is all about consistency and your willingness to work for it. Not skill. Not luck. Ask yourself how bad do you want it? If you give up the first sign of difficulty then that can tell you one of two things: you either don’t really want it or you need to deal with that inner critic in your head who is keeping you down. Only you can figure this out and I challenge you to!

So how are you doing with your goals? Feel free to leave a comment below. I would love to hear from you.

As always, thanks for reading!

RG

Photo one taken from: https://images.ctfassets.net/oartd9t7ehdh/20NNQvcRlikMOCCQu8kIuE/90c6ec959e27be9b2803c54ceb898729/620×346-Setting-Realistic-Goals-Will-Help-You-Achieve-Them.jpg

Photo two taken from: https://www.dumblittleman.com/4-reasons-you-fail-to-achieve-your/

Rediscovering Motivation: Restarting My Routines

April 26, 2020

I don’t know about you folks, but I am really feeling the quarantine blues. I know Social Distancing is something to take seriously, which I am, but DAMN my routine and my willpower is way out of wack. I feel out of sorts and really lacking the motivation to do the things that are important to me. So I thought that this would be a good time to reflect on that and perhaps even offer some encouragement to you as well (if you find yourself in a similar state). After all, we are all in this together. I mean truly, whether we like it or not, this is happening to all of us and it is affecting all of us.

Before we were in this situation, I found myself getting up at five minutes to five in the morning. This gave me time to have some coffee, maybe even meditate, read a book, stretch and then head off to the gym before going to work. I found this routine got me pumped up and ready to go. I attribute much of this to not only going to bed at a reasonable time before but to getting some exercise before starting my day. Right there we got two major things that fuel a healthy mindset: sleep and exercise. Since quarantine, gyms have closed and I find myself working from home.

I am very thankful to be working. Unfortunately, many of us may not be as fortunate. While some of us are receiving financial support- there are others who are living under extremely stressful financial situations. My heart goes out to these individuals and their families. This is but one more major difficulty during a tumultuous time. I do wish to acknowledge these individuals. My thoughts are with you and your families at this time. I can not speak for you but my only hope is that this article may provide something useful to you.

Working from home is more difficult than I had anticipated. Not that the work itself is more difficult but rather the ability to remain focused is. At work, I find myself coming to a place where I am given a specific task: to do my job. When you are working from home, there is much more you have to do- especially if you have children. At the time of writing this, my daughter is seven months old. It is wonderful to be able to experience being around her during the day. Seeing her trying to figure out the world more than I was ever able to when I worked. However, it can make focusing on work and staying on task for extended periods of time very difficult. I can only imagine what this is like for parents of older children who are much more mobile and active.

That said, If I am being honest with myself: I am hiding my lack of productivity behind my daughter. Behind my spouse. Behind my dog. Behind my chores. All of which is rather unfair. The real reason my level of effort has decreased is because of me. I have fallen into a slump and I have chosen to use our current situation as an excuse. Yes, the gym is closed. Yes, I am not able to switch up my scenery and put myself in a “productive” environment. Yes, I can’t see friends. But these are all reasons to hide behind my lack of productivity. I can still get up early in the morning. I can still go to bed at a reasonable time. But I find myself not doing these things. Why? Because I am looking for a good reason not to. For me, blaming it on something out of my control is a great excuse. The problem: it is still an excuse and the only person who is really stopping me from accessing my potential is myself.  

Sometimes it helps to pull back the layers and look at things from a distance. Detaching yourself from the immediate experience. So if I am to do that and stop and assess things, I will see that there is a habit loop starting to cultivate itself. I tell myself: “Okay, I am going to get up early tomorrow and start my day like I used to.” But I find myself staying up way passed my intended bedtime binge watching shows about a gun trotting madman with a penchant for killer cats. The result: I go to bed later and can’t get myself up in the morning. Almost always, we do things because there is a reward.

Think about your worst vice: typically you do it because you get something out of it. If you didn’t you probably wouldn’t do it. Take for example alcohol. If you have a couple drinks, you start to feel good. It relaxes you. Have to many, you feel like you were hit by a truck the next day. But often times we forgot about how bad our hangovers are and only remember the good feelings, so we find ourselves doing the same thing only a few days later. My point is that our memory and our minds are programmed to these feedback loops especially if what we get out of it is a good feeling which over time become habits. This is explained originally (and far more clearly) in Charles Duhigg’s wonderful book The Power of Habit.[1]

Picture 1: The Habit Loop as explained in The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg picture retrieved from: https://medium.com/@laxmena/the-habit-loop-book-review-the-power-of-habit-303dc690825d on April 26, 2020.

So for me, staying up late with mindless entertainment was becoming a habit. Watching tv or playing video games felt good but then I would have a hard time getting up. This did not feel good. It made me feel unaccomplished and that in turn was failing my goals. This would derail my day and my mood because I felt unsuccessful which would manifest itself in, you guessed, staying up late to ward off those bad feelings. Before all this, I would get up in the morning and go to the gym. The reward was that I felt great after and in turn mentally set me up for a successful day. The problem is that the system of delivering that reward: the gym, is no longer available. So what do I need to do to get back on track and reclaim my routine? Like most things, the answer is deceivingly simple: I need to change right now. I need to stop hiding behind people and events believing they are “obstacles”. I am my only obstacle. I am the one responsible for where I am and the choices I make. So, I need to start making better ones.

The best way to get out of a slump is to acknowledge that you are in one. For me, my slump is not being productive and in not setting up some rigidity in my day. We all need this in our lives, we function best in the presence of a schedule not the absence of one. Therefore, I need to develop and stick to a routine. So starting today I will give myself a weekly schedule. If I slip up, rather than beat myself up, I will do everything to get back on that schedule. For example: if I don’t get up at 4:55, I will get up at the closest interval to that on my schedule. Most importantly, I will set an alarm at the end of the day to go to bed. This will help remind me that I have got to get up early tomorrow. Remembering that the biggest thing in aiding a positive and strong mindset is sleep! If you get a good night sleep, you will simply be more ready for whatever comes your way in the morning.[2]

Picture 2: A rough copy of my proposed routine.

I have included a scanned copy of my schedule above. You will notice the emphasis is on the morning having a strict routine and there being a set time for bed. This leaves plenty of room for figuring out the rest of the day. To me having a regulated morning is necessary for having a productive and positive day. Maybe it is similar to yours? Or perhaps you too could benefit from having a schedule. Feel free to share your thoughts and let me know what you think. I will be posting next weekend with results in how I did with my schedule and areas for improvement. This will help keep me accountable and honest. Human beings are creatures of habit and having a routine can help promote our maximum potential. My goal is to get back to achieving just that! I would be honored if you joined me (or perhaps for me to join you)!

Thank you for reading,


R. Grant


[1] Duhigg, Charles, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business, Canada: Random House, 2013.

[2] Walker, Matthew, Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams, New York: Scribner, 2018.