As the excesses and relative prosperity of The Roaring Twenties gave way to The Great Depression, history was once again engaging in a process of punctuated equilibrium. The decade of the 1930’s saw some of greatest wealth destruction and asset inflation of the modern era. It was a period of great geopolitical unrest and perverse theory that led to such atrocities as the Rape of Nanking and the gas chambers of Auschwitz, circa 1941.
The world was once again embroiled in a great war that resulted in the loss of millions of lives, a process that continued well beyond the war’s conclusion. It was against this backdrop that The Greatest Generation was raised. The austerity of the thirties and the harshness of war provided a constant example of reality, a reality that is often forgotten in times of peace and prosperity.
The men that fought in World War II and the women that powered the factories in their absence grew up with an understanding of an undeniable truth, a truth to which many of our time seem unaware. It was this understanding that led to subsequent decades of unprecedented wealth and prosperity powered by hard work and an appreciation for the privilege of life. History shows us, however, that mankind’s grasp of certain simple truths often proves fleeting.
The truth to which I am referring is the fact that the only things one deserves are the fruits of one’s labor and the consequences of one’s actions. This awareness provided The Greatest Generation with a strong work ethic, an understanding of frugality, and a respect for authority. It does not take long, though, to be hit in the face with the sense of entitlement that is pervasive among the youth of our generation.
In spite of the recent economic malaise, modern efficiencies have allowed even the poorest among us to enjoy conveniences that provide constant entertainment and an ever-shrinking attention span. While wealth and technology are certainly not evils in and of themselves, the love of money and an abundance of hubris can create a lethal combination capable of tearing apart the fabric of any society.
While it is impossible to stop basic political and economic cycles, history provides us with a blueprint we can follow to live our lives and prepare for the uncertainty that will always exist. That blueprint starts with an understanding that the choices we make have consequences. The lives we live are a direct result of those choices. If we choose to ignore that simple fact, we will never maximize the potential within us. More importantly, if we allow arrogance to goad us into a sense of undeserved entitlement we will destroy our incentive and the ability to harness the opportunities that present themselves or prepare for the uncertainties that lie ahead.
The decisions we make and the realities that we choose to accept will determine whether or not we will be able to ride out the tide of difficult times. The youth of our generation will soon be faced with that harsh reality, and in the end, it will be up to them whether or not to be a student of history or a slave to it.
There are many reasons why writers write. Some have a story that simply has to be told, others like to create worlds that can be shaped and molded by their own thoughts and desires. Regardless of the reason, the end product is not just ink on paper or words on a screen; the final product is a blue print that can be used as inspiration for more ideas and a driver of innovation and technology that can be developed further at some point in the future.
There are numerous examples of how fiction has inspired real life events. Science fiction is especially conducive to seeding ideas for technological advancements. Cell phones, the landing on the moon, and many other events and inventions started out as ideas that were once just words read by someone who thought that the ideas those words represented just might be possible.
As a writer of science fiction and fantasy, I am personally hoping for the day when some scientist discovers a way to travel across the universe, back in time, and through a parallel dimension. I would also like to see material sciences create special fabrics and metals with spatial properties that allow us to access the empty space within atoms or create a true cloak of invisibility. As strange as some of these ideas sound, many of them are already being studied and developed today. Scientists have been inspired by cryogenics to create new fields in medicine such as bio-vitrification, which is currently used in organ transplants as well as by companies such as the Alcor Life Extension Foundation to research methods of creating operational states of suspended animation. I firmly believe that we will some day be able to utilize these technologies to create multi-generational ships that travel across the galaxy, allow mankind to explore and colonize the vast reaches of space and beyond, as well as to extend the life of man to approach that of immortality.
Fiction has not just driven technology; it also has been a springboard for social commentary and pointing out problems within societies and governments. It has allowed thinkers and philosophers to ponder what the world would be like if specific events or societal constructs were different. From William Shakespeare to Thomas Moore to George Orwell and Ayn Rand, utopian and dystopian stories have flourished as outlets to describe what ills society in a fictional setting that can be analyzed and digested divorced from its own reality and political constraints. It has been the products of these pioneers and these thinkers that have led to the paradigm shifts and the cultural renaissances that have provided some of the greatest leaps in the evolution of mankind.
While many people hold the belief that the human race will self-destruct in short order, I am not one of those people. I am a futurist and an optimist. It is true that people often ignore the lessons of history, but it is also true that man has been marching steadily forward. While that march has not been uniform, it has been present nonetheless. It has been present because since the invention of papyrus by the Egyptians, the movable type printing press by Johannes Gutenberg, and the Kindle by Amazon, people have continued to write; people have continued to inspire, and people have continued to lay the foundation and the framework for future generations in the form of the written word.
While not every word will generate an epiphany in the reader, there will be some; there will be a few, and there will be that one in a million idea that started out as a scribble on a piece of paper or keystroke on a computer used in a fictional work by some as of yet unknown author that changed the world.Roy Huff, MA, MAEd
Originally posted at the American Diversity Report HERE.
For those who have given into cynicism, the topic of perseverance may seem irrelevant. The idea that working hard at something will eventually pay off in the end may seem naïve. We work because we have to, not because we have some long-term dream that we hope someday to achieve. The economic downturn, has at least anecdotally, strengthened that notion. I was reminded of this fact after watching the movie The Internship, which, by the way, I highly recommend. It certainly seems that some people, especially as of late, have relegated the belief that anyone can reach beyond their means or class to the realm of fantasy and fiction.
I wrote an earlier post on how it’s not a good idea to make New Year’s resolutions. This was not because I don’t believe in setting lofty goals or having seemingly impossible dreams; it’s because accomplishing a goal requires hard work, determination, a plan of action, perseverance, and a sense of optimism and follow through which are unlikely to be achieved by simply participating in an annual ritual.
To the cynic, perseverance is pointless, akin to watching a hamster spin its wheel while making no real progress in forward motion. To the dreamer, it is the lack of understanding of what is required and a lack of follow through that can often lead to defeat. Perseverance, however, requires something that both the cynic and the dreamer often both lack, namely, patience.
While it’s true that even the hardest workers and planners can still fail at achieving their goals or dreams, the reason that most dreams go unrealized is not because those dreams aren’t unachievable or are unrealistic. The reason they go unrealized is usually because of three things. Lack of belief is the reason that is perhaps most self-evident. Lack of planning is the second reason and the easiest to correct. Finally, there is patience. Patience is a character trait that simply has to be developed over time. Patience is the killer. Patience is what is required in order set forth a proper plan of action that includes sufficient forethought, research, and a list of steps that need to be followed over time in order to achieve one’s goal.
Patience and a sense of optimism are both necessary before one can accomplish a goal, but ironically, taking the pragmatic steps of doing a little research and planning can help start one on the path of developing both optimism and patience. For at least some, a lack of belief can be corrected by doing a little research. If the research shows strong evidence that a goal is achievable, then the cynic can often be won over. If the dreamer, who often already has an over abundance of faith, does a little research, then the dreamer will be more likely to have the patience necessary to keep striving for the dream because the required steps have already been created to allow for an effective and pragmatic approach, which should provide real gains over time.
Unfortunately, the sad fact is that the cynic is often so set in their ways that it is nearly impossible to get them to take the first step of doing a little research, and with the dreamer, they are often so starry eyed that they rush in head first without taking the necessary steps of research and planning. This is the reason that most people don’t persevere; they lack belief or patience, which can often be overcome with sufficient research and planning.
For a few, the prudent, they will take their cue from those who’ve already achieved success, from those who’ve already figured out the secret to accomplishing one’s goals, and from those who’ve already realized their dreams. The prudent, will spend a sufficient amount of research and planning, which will allow them to create an effective strategy to make slow and steady forward motion in the direction of achieving their goal. This will reinforce their belief in success, and it will help them create the additional resolve needed to problem shoot through the obstacles that are certain to come their way on their journey to the finish line.Roy Huff, MS, MAEd
Originally posted on Ann Pearlman's blog here.
I’m sure by now that many of those reading this who have made New Year’s resolutions have already given up on them. That’s not a criticism of the reader or those who make New Year’s resolutions but rather a statement of widely held belief. Every year, people across the globe decide to make the present January 1st, the month, day, and year they will follow through on their most difficult challenges and succeed at them only to a few short weeks later abandon the idea altogether. The question then arises, why do people continue to make New Year’s resolutions despite continuing to fail at them?
I personally have never made a New Year’s resolution, though I have toyed with the idea an occasion or two. Over time, I slowly came to the understanding of why that was the case.
I have achieved many accomplishments. I’ve been fortunate enough to run a marathon, skydive, climb mountains, travel the world, earn five degrees, pursue numerous other endeavors, live half of my life in Hawaii, and more recently write an epic fantasy novel.
Despite my seemingly intriguing resume, my life is far from perfect and how things look on paper seldom tells the whole story. While I have followed through on many of my dreams and goals, I suffer from the original sin of being human. Namely, I often defer to self-gratification, laziness, and procrastination as opposed to pursuing nobler pursuits and making more efficacious use of my time. Despite that shared liability, I was afforded the opportunity of having access to a strong support system with people who believed in me. That has given me a slight edge by instilling in me optimism and determination; traits that are often in short supply.
Growing up, I was raised in a broken home. I went from living in a rundown trailer park in Kentucky to an urban ghetto in North Carolina. I’ve been threatened at gunpoint, beaten up, and spent many days avoiding the frequent gunfire that littered my neighborhood. Each day, I would not only have to worry about whether I was in the line of fire of competing drug dealers but also when I was going to eat my next meal, as pictures of my younger malnourished self can attest to.
Living in an environment populated with pervasive crime, drug use, and with people who have given up on all hope was challenging to say the least. The general area where I grew up was not kind to many passers by, as demonstrated by the murder of Michael Jordan’s father. When even the local Domino’s Pizza wouldn’t deliver to your neighborhood because of their drivers continuously getting robbed, you knew you were living in a bad neighborhood.
Fortunately, I did have people that I could turn to for advice. I did have examples of success and role models that I could strive to emulate. I had dreams and goals that many did not. When I was having a difficult time, my escape was reading The Chronicles of Narnia, watching episodes of the original Doctor Who, Quantum Leap, and every single episode of Star Trek The Next Generation.
Yes, I was that skinny; nerdy kid that many people chided and laughed at. I did my best to take it in stride. Instead of turning to crack cocaine that was being sold in the stairwell where I walked through every day on my way to school or to the 40’s and Boone’s Farm that were consumed in massive quantities on my street corner, I opted to look inward and imagine the possible as well as the seemingly impossible .
When attempting to tackle fears and challenges or pursue dreams and goals, many people often have the wrong approach.
In the end, it’s not about whether you win or lose. It’s not even about how you play the game. What it’s really about is whether or not you choose to play the game at all. Making a New Year’s resolution implicitly tells your subconscious mind that you have failed at it before and will likely fail again. Going through the motions of making the resolution provides a sense of accomplishment that will soon be replaced with a sense of failure once you realize the reason you put off doing it in the first place was because it seemed too daunting and had an unrealistic likelihood of being achieved. This only serves to reinforce the already existing subconscious belief held before once it fails.
Instead of making a resolution, a better approach is to make a list of goals and dreams, or a single goal or dream, accompanied with small steps that can be taken to eventually realize those outcomes. I recommend making that list today, or any day except New Years. More importantly, one must insure that a short-term failure or departure from those steps does not mean the goal is not achievable. Sometimes timelines are missed, sometimes steps are skipped, but the critical thing to remember is that one must get in the regular habit of making small actions towards a specific goal. In addition, one must persuade oneself that the goal is achievable in spite of the opinions of others or even one’s own previously held belief. While it’s certainly true that not every goal or dream will be achieved, it’s also true that none of them will be achieved if every February you wait until next January to make your next resolution that your subconscious mind believes is already destined to fail.
Roy Huff, MS, MAEd
A Christmas Carol has always been a holiday favorite. It’s difficult not to appreciate the story of a once noble figure who has become jaded through greed and age, a figure who is haunted by the three ghosts of Christmas. It’s a story that shows a person with a singular focus and obsession with greed. It is a timeless classic that teaches a moral tale of what happens to people when they focus on the ends without regard for the means.
As a child, Christmas often captivates the imagination. The holiday season brings images of a winter wonderland, presents, and miracles. Children often wonder why many parents and adults don’t share the same fascination and anticipation.
As adults, Christmas often becomes a chore and a reminder of all the things that one doesn’t possess. It can be a reminder of how growing up requires responsibilities and obligations.
This year has seen so many tragedies. Hurricane Sandy in New York and New Jersey, the Batman movie massacre in Aurora Colorado, conflict in the Middle East, and political division during a heated election have all taken their toll.
It’s easy to understand how one can feel depressed, dejected, hopeless, and without direction. Devastating tragedies will happen every year. Family and financial obligations, responsibilities, and work will always happen regardless of how much one dislikes them. In these situations, why not accept the idea that Christmas is a fascination best left to the youth?
Yet somehow, many victims of tragedies find hope in the smallest things. Survival brings the promise of another tomorrow. The loss of everything can put in perspective the true value of life, love, friends, and family. The obligations of adulthood and the stresses of the daily grind become irrelevant in the face of losing everything.
As we get older many of us slowly become obsessed with the trivial. The clothes we wear, the car we drive, the latest electronic gadget, and worrying too much about what other people think can cause us to lose perspective of the things that are truly important. Our focus on success or dwelling on the obligations we have to meet prevent us from seeing what really matters. In short, we have allowed ourselves to become Ebenezer Scrooge.
This holiday season, we should all learn from the three ghosts of Christmas. We should follow the example of Ebenezer Scrooge when he awoke to find that he didn’t miss Christmas after all, when he realized he still had a chance to embrace what was truly important.
Lets embrace the holiday spirit and choose happiness over triviality. No matter how bad your situation or how great your responsibilities, take time to appreciate the things that are truly important. Allow yourself to appreciate life, love, friends, and family. Allow yourself to enjoy the things that make life worth living and set aside the things that are trivial and small.
Roy Huff, MS, MAEd
I am usually a very upbeat and optimistic person! I always have been. I grew up poor with single mom. Despite intense adversity, I managed to achieve some moderate success in my life. The sense of optimism and hope I had always propelled me forward to reach for my dreams.
So let me start by saying I love my job. I love everything I do. I recently decided to finish the fantasy novel I’ve been writing for the past two years in my spare time and have it published in a few months. Today, though, I didn’t do any writing. I worked. I did the usual mundane day-to-day stuff that everyone does. I did other things too. It was stressful, busy, and unfulfilling.
Over the last couple of months I’ve been having that on again off again feeling of disillusionment.
I am making some rather impressive progress in my career including achieving a life long dream, but something has been nagging at me.
Something has been missing. Perhaps it has been purpose, desire, or reason. Then it dawned on me.
The 24/7 social media in-your-face instant access to everything has robbed us of our heroes.
It seems we are all at fault, all jaded, all hiding something, and lack the genuine goodness that we once aspired too. All the heroes have now become reflections of our inner self that is corrupt, at least according to what we see in the media.
We no longer aspire to greatness. We have become a society of cynics.
I have decided that I can no longer be a cynic. Every mother, father, sister, brother, teacher, friend, or superhero may not be perfect, but it is not perfection that we need.
What we need is to know that there is goodness and greatness in all of us. We are not perfect and never will be. We will do terrible things and so will our heroes, but that will not keep them from being our heroes or make them no longer worthy of our admiration.
It’s time we believe in ourselves again. It’s time we stop throwing away our appreciation and hope for cynicism. It’s time we forgive our heroes and ourselves.
Roy Huff, MS, MAEd