When the Going Gets Tough…

The Tough Get Going!

I know this saying sounds cliché, but sometimes each of us needs a kick in the tush! As 2013 comes to a close, I thought I would quickly chat about something that most of us like to avoid discussing. Life can be tough. We all know that… But we don’t all react the same way to tough things in life.

Stepping into 2014 let’s agree (together) to battle this tough life head on! I mean come on… Is it really that bad? I don’t think so.

Anytime I feel down in the dumps (yes I do, I just avoid showing it if possible), I think about people who are less fortunate than me. I mean there are people with no legs who somehow manage to thrive in life! There are people with inoperable brain tumors who refuse to give in and keep living despite their ailments!

If these folks can survive and thrive then who am I to complain?

Your life will have its downs. You will struggle sometimes. Some things will seem unbearable and inescapable. You need to suck it up and carry on during these times.

If there’s one thing I can tell you, it’s that even though we have hard times and down times, life will always come back around and improve. Just batten down the hatches and trudge through the tough times.

What do you do to help yourself during your times of need?

Let’s make 2014 a banner year!!!

Love you all,
Vaughn

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Christmas 2013

 

Merry Christmas!!!

 

Happy Holidays

Dear friends,

I hope you have a fantastic holiday season!

Posted with Love,
Vaughn

Now let’s address something health related and get mucho more than merry wishes out of this post: It’s flu and cold season… Do you know why?

Well, I’m no doctor, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this one out. Let’s think about a few things.

Near the end of November we celebrate Thanksgiving. During this time, we stuff ourselves with food and most of us drink alcohol. This is the beginning of a long and immune system derailing celebration that continues through much of the winter.

Honestly, we could go back to October 31st and think about the massive amounts of candy (horrible carbohydrates) that we poison our systems with. Also, during October, the temperature drops significantly.

Next, we add the stress of Thanksgiving. Yes, many of us actually build up stress before, during, and after Thanksgiving. Most of this stress is related to getting together with family. Stress has been proven to weaken our immune system, so I included it in my list.

While we’re thinking about stress, what about the stress that is associated with buying Christmas presents, Christmas parties, and simply dealing with others during the silly season.

Around Christmas (and other holidays) we continue to eat and drink way beyond our normal amounts.

So… How do we thank our bodies after Christmas and Thanksgiving? we stay up past midnight eating and drinking for New Year’s Eve!

Think about the copious amounts of (bad) food we eat during this period. Think about the cold and often wet weather. Think about the large amounts of stress. Think about all of the alcohol that many of us imbibe. And, think about the stress that’s piled on top of all of this. If you add all of these things together, you can easily see why people get sick during this time of year.

I can offer a tiny piece of advice to help. Lessen your food and candy intake. Cut off drinking alcohol after your second drink in any 24 hour period. And, enjoy yourself without stressing over everything.

Easy? Not so much… Doable? You betcha!

Enjoy yourself, be safe, and love your family and friends!

Cheers,
Mr. V

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A Son’s Eulogy for Julien Kim Ripley

My dad, Julien Kim Ripley, died on December 4th, 2011 at 1:12 a.m. Two years ago, today. Not a single day goes by that I do not think about him. In tribute, I decided to re-post a eulogy that I wrote for him more than a year ago and posted on my HIV Longevity blog.

Julien Kim Ripley (January 12, 1945 – December 4, 2011)

580_k_dad_di

Often when you see a headstone in a graveyard, it has the person’s name and then their birth and death dates separated by a dash. To me, that seems to say that the person’s life merely flashed by—a sprint—and not worthy of talking about. Well, Dad grabbed life by the horns and inspired others around him. His life was not just a dash. Quite the contrary… Dad spent every moment of his life improving himself and others around him. He had a vast thirst for knowledge and continued building it until his dying day.

Dad taught me so much about life. He introduced me to music and showed me how to play the guitar and piano. He brought me into his office and helped me learn to use computers before most people even knew what they were. He instilled in me values, a sense of worth, honor, and courage. He took commitment to family and work very seriously. Dad was the hardest working person that I have ever known. He was also frank and insisted upon candid talking. Often he was brutally honest, and not everyone appreciated that, but you always knew that you would hear precisely what he was thinking. Dad was sincere and fair with his words. Rarely would he judge someone else. And, he would encourage me to give everyone the benefit of the doubt.

My favorite “Dad story” was also one of his favorites, even though it deeply embarrassed him. We’ve both told and laughed about this one a thousand times, so bear with me if you already know it… I used to work with Dad at his land surveying company, Rodgers and Associates. And, I would often use his desk and computer. One day I was typing away at his desk when he came in and I had to give up the seat. What neither of us knew was that I had spilled a few Milk Duds out of my pocket and into his chair. Well… Dad sat in them and didn’t notice. He sat there for an hour or so working diligently. Finally, a client came in to meet with him and when he stood to greet the man, Dad found he was peeling himself out of his chair. His rosy cheeks and demeanor must have given away the fact that something was wrong, but Dad simply smiled and shook the guest’s hand. Walking down the hall and to the Men’s room with his brown-stained Khaki’s must have been one of the most embarrassing things ever to happen to him. As furious as he was over this incident, Dad told me about it later that afternoon and he laughed at himself instead of scolding me. That was simply the kind of man that he was.

I used to see Dad occasionally reading the obituaries. When I asked why, he said, “I read them every day just to make sure I’m not in them.” He continued with, “That way I know I’m still alive.” As I read his obituary earlier this year, I imagined him looking over my shoulder and saying, “Oh shit…”

Since Dad’s passing, I’ve been fortunate enough to hear from tons of folks who knew him, even friends from back in the 60’s who have nothing but fond memories. He touched so many lives and inspired so many people. Most of what I’ve heard was how honorable Dad was and how he made their lives better and stronger. All were thankful for meeting and knowing him. Mostly I’ve heard how Dad’s work ethic and principled beliefs rubbed off on them in a positive manner. That is the Dad that I knew and remembered. I’m proud to say, “That was my Dad!”

As I sat with my Dad and listened to his “death rattle” breathing, I knew that he would not be with us much longer. And, I was right, because he died that night. I’m honestly not sure what made me travel down to my parent’s house that weekend, but I’m glad I did, because I was able to be with him in his last days. Odd as it may sound, I honestly believe that Dad was relieved to see me. Almost as if he succumbed to death with comfort, knowing that I was there. Hard to explain it, but it was a completion of sorts.

Dad carried a fire in his heart. A strong fire that could be felt by everyone around him. I miss him every day of my life, but I still feel that fire, inside of me… I think that is because he passed it to me through his lessons and examples. Hopefully I make him proud as I work daily to strengthen and stoke that fire, in the hopes that one day my fire will be as large as his was.

Dad was also a humble man. He never tooted his own horn, even though he had plenty of reasons to. He would never have approved of me writing my thoughts and memories for all to read… But, this is a healing process for me, and this is who I am. Fortunately, I know that the man I have become is directly in response to the way he raised and fathered me. So, despite his wishes to stay humble and quiet, I am standing on top of the highest place I know (the Internet) and shouting his praises!

I miss my father so much! I will always miss him! And—yes—Dad’s life was much more than just a dash!

Posted with love by a son who misses and feels you every day.

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Thanksgiving 2013

Many of my posts talk about being grateful and expressing gratitude for all of the things that you have in life. As a matter-of-fact, I have one article, healthywealthytribe.com/what-are-you-grateful-for, that is specifically written around this topic. Well, what better time to tackle gratitude again than on Thanksgiving Day?

Thanksgiving is a national holiday that was originally celebrated as a day of giving thanks for the blessing of the harvest. In the United States, it is celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. More recently it is known as the holiday where you stuff your face with turkey (among other fatty foods) and watch football all day. I prefer to remember that it was (and is) a time to express thanks for EVERYTHING in our lives.

Many of us (me included) often feel worried about family events that will end with fighting and misery… Unfortunately, there are frequently practical brawls when we get estranged family members together. It is imperative that we find the good in our family and friends during these special holidays. Put your disagreements aside and love one another! You only have to do it once a year, people! If you are one of the lucky ones who doesn’t have any problems with family during these times than consider yourself lucky and disregard this paragraph… HA!

Regardless of what you believe or think, the name sums up this most excellent holiday. Thanksgiving is easily rearranged to “giving thanks.” If you dig, use this time to meditate briefly and concentrate on what’s important to you. Think about all of the fortunate things you have in your life. And, share your feelings and gratitude with those closest to you.

I’ve already mentioned my “thankful list” in that previous post, but I thought I would add to it a hair, and list it again as a reminder to myself… In no particular order, I am eternally grateful for:

  • Kristine
  • Trinity
  • Xander
  • Brothers and sisters
  • Moms and dads (yes, that is plural… HA!)
  • In-laws (all of them!)
  • My longevity and ability to outlive everyone’s expectations
  • Work (yep… I love it, and am grateful for it)
  • Hobbies and fun stuff
  • Home Sweet Home (shelter over my head)
  • Food on the dining room table (and in the fridge)
  • Five senses (fortunately I have all five at my disposal)
  • Arms and legs (not everyone is as lucky as me)
  • The sun (and the moon)
  • Computers
  • The snow
  • Four seasons
  • Social networks
  • My gift of writing
  • Internet access
  • Life coaches and mentors
  • Challenges (yes sir… Very grateful for these, because they help me grow!)
  • Decent brains
  • Music
  • Pets (dog, snake, fish, and even the cat)
  • Modern medical treatments and science
  • Filet mignon and lobster tail

What are you grateful for?

Enjoy yourself! Eat lots of food! And, most of all… Tell your friends and family that you are thankful for having them in your life!

I’m also thankful for you!

-Vaughn

p.s. I’d like to add one thing to my Thanksgiving Day prayer… “May the Dallas Cowboys get their proverbial butts kicked!” hee hee…

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Numerology

Today is 11-12-13. In recognition of this cool date and number, I decided to unveil a few more cool numbers. And, to talk about numerology in general. Numerology is any study and/or belief in the purported mystical and even divine (or other) special relationship between a number and some coinciding event(s). Whether you believe in numerology or not, I bet you have a favorite number anyway. Isn’t that funny? My favorite number is 9.

  • Cats (like me) have nine lives!
  • There are nine muses in Greek mythology. Who didn’t watch (and love) Xanadu?
  • Nine is the highest single-digit number in the decimal system and symbolizes completeness in the Bahá’í Faith. In addition, the word Bahá’ in the Abjad notation has a value of 9, and a 9-pointed star is used to symbolize the religion.
  • There are nine rings of power given to men, nine ringwraiths, and nine companions in Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Ring.
  • In base 10 a positive number is divisible by nine if and only if its digital root is 9. That is, if you multiply nine by any natural number, and repeatedly add the digits of the answer until it is just one digit, you will end up with nine. Check it out:

2 × 9 = 18 (1 + 8 = 9)
3 × 9 = 27 (2 + 7 = 9)
9 × 9 = 81 (8 + 1 = 9)
121 × 9 = 1089 (1 + 0 + 8 + 9 = 18; 1 + 8 = 9)
234 × 9 = 2106 (2 + 1 + 0 + 6 = 9)
578329 × 9 = 5204961 (5 + 2 + 0 + 4 + 9 + 6 + 1 = 27; 2 + 7 = 9)
482729235601 × 9 = 4344563120409 (4 + 3 + 4 + 4 + 5 + 6 + 3 + 1 + 2 + 0 + 4 + 0 + 9 = 45; 4 + 5 = 9)
(okay, I admit that we may have gotten out of control on that one)

  • Buddhist rituals usually involve nine monks.
  • Nine is the number of innings in a game of baseball, the number of players on the field including the pitcher, and the number worn by Roy Hobbs in the movie The Natural.
  • Finally, six recurring nines appear in the decimal places 762 through 767 of pi. This is known as the Feynman Point. Surprisingly, the next sequence of six consecutive identical digits in pi is again composed of 9s, starting at position 193,034. Coincidence? I think not!

(speaking of pi, I can recite 22+ decimal places from memory)

 

Kristine, my wife, has always said that 22 is her favorite number. I’m not sure why she picked this number, but here are a few COo.oOL things I know about it… The standard port number for the Secure Shell protocol is 22 (but I mean, who didn’t know that??) 22 divided by 7 approximates the irrational number pi; which is the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter (more about pi in a little while). The atomic number of titanium is 22, and that is pretty neat! Iron Maiden has a song named “22 Acacia Avenue” (this is another cool appearance). Did you know that there are 22 stars in the Paramount Films logo? And, drum roll please, my most favorite 22 (and perhaps the most famous use of the number) is in the title of the Joseph Heller book, Catch-22, and more recently added to the dictionary to mean, a problematic situation for which the only solution is denied by a circumstance inherent in the problem or by a rule. Freaking AWESOME!

My motorcycle number (during my racing years) was 922; which was a combination of both of our numbers. Whenever my wife or I see a time of 9:22 (a.m. or p.m.) we always say, “Nine Twenty-Two, I love you!” On top of this, one of my all-time favorite movies is A Streetcar Named Desire with Vivien Leigh and Marlon Brando… Can you guess what the streetcar was numbered? You got that right… It was 922! Bad ass!!!

Stacey (a good friend of mine) loves the number 714. Oddly enough, Isaiah 7:14 starts Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign… The colloquial name for the recreational drug Methaqualone (Quaalude) is seven-fourteen, originating from the number 714 stamped on the tablets. And, Babe Ruth hit 714 home runs over his 22 year career (some might argue that Babe Ruth could also go under the number 22 for having that long and successful career).

Another magical couple of numbers in our lives are 1111 and 2222. Because 10:22 p.m. is 2222 in military (24-hour) format, we often point out that arbitrary time. Speaking of times, we also love to wish ourselves happy birthday when the time says our birth date (mine is 4:12 and Kristine’s is 7:31). By the way, my last post appeared on 11/11 and as I said earlier, this one is on 11/12/13… Too bad I didn’t post it at 9:10 as well… Eerie!!!?? Numbers are everywhere!!!

There’s the superstitious and dubious 13. Friday the 13th is probably the most famous of these, but did you know that many tall buildings skip the 13th floor for this exact reason?

Another creepy superstitious number is 666. Need I say more?

One of the more painful and often appearing numbers for me is 911. I see that time on the clock fairly often, and it always brings back memories of that horrible attack.

Let’s not forget the Fibonacci Series ratio (or golden ratio); which Dan Brown helped to make famous in his book, The Da Vinci’s Code. Also called phi, this number (phi = 1.61803…) can be found in the Fibonacci spiral (shell), pentagram, pyramids, pine cones, spiral galaxies, hurricanes, and DNA molecules.

I half expect my buddies (Paul, Indy, Joe, Eric, and other geniuses) to comment with a bunch of mathematical fascinations such as Euler’s formula, Avogadro’s number, and the numerous constants (I can only remember: Champoleon, Conway, Feigenbaum, Euler-Mascheroni, and Khinchin). These are obvious neat numbers and calculations as well, but I didn’t want to write an entire book! However… I did want to mention one… Perhaps cooler and more amazing than phi, pi, e, or other numbers, is wau… Rather than try to type something up, I thought I would share an incredibly fun video found at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=GFLkou8NvJo:

And, last but not least, what discussion about numbers would be complete without a look at the number 42; which was not only Jackie Robinson’s number, but also the supercomputer’s (named “Deep Thought”) answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything which appeared in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Obviously, we tend to see the numbers that we appreciate more than other numbers. This is because our subconscious allows us to notice them on clocks, license plates, street signs, in movies, and so on and so forth. But, I still think numbers are very interesting!

Do you dig numbers? What’s your favorite, and why?

As a free gift, I’d like to leave you guys with a small piece of pi (actually nine hundred and twenty-two pieces):

3.141592653589793238462643383279502884197169399375105820974944592307816406286208998628034825342117067982148086513282306647093844609550582231725359408128481117450284102701938521105559644622948954930381964428810975665933446128475648233786783165271201909145648566923460348610454326648213393607260249141273724587006606315588174881520920962829254091715364367892590360011330530548820466521384146951941511609433057270365759591953092186117381932611793105118548074462379962749567351885752724891227938183011949129833673362440656643086021394946395224737190702179860943702770539217176293176752384674818467669405132000568127145263560827785771342757789609173637178721468440901224953430146549585371050792279689258923542019956112129021960864034418159813629774771309960518707211349999998372978049951059731732816096318595024459455346908302642522308253344685035261931188171010003137838752886587533208381420617177669147303598253490428755468731

 

Did you notice that 922 digits into pi is my wife’s birthday (731)? How cool is that??!!

I hope this was fun!

-Vaughn

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Veterans Day 2013

Today’s article is about my father, George Borden… Well, actually it’s about Veterans Day and all of the people who have served in the United States armed forces also known as “veterans.” However, I’m going to dedicate it to someone that I’m very proud of and honored to call “father.”

First off, let’s define what Veterans Day is:

It’s a federal holiday that is observed on November 11; which also marks the anniversary of the end of World War I. The major hostilities of World War I were formally ended at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, when the Armistice with Germany went into effect. Veterans Day is not to be confused with Memorial Day; Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans, while Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving.

Now back to the star of our story… George was in Vietnam from July 15, 1968 until July 15, 1969. His unit was “A” Battery 1st of the 30th Artillery 1st Air Cavalry. During his tour in Vietnam, George served in I, II, III, and IV Corps. His radio handle was “Hard Charger 24” and his battery received numerous commendation ribbons, medals, and citations.

George is not really a superstitious man, but on Friday the 13th, June 13th, 1969 he walked out of his tent and it took a direct artillery hit moments later. Unfortunately these kind of things happen on a regular basis during war, and George faced these types of things repeatedly.

On one occasion, George ran into a burning building that contained several 50-gallon drums of fuel. He did this because an injured soldier was trapped in the building. When he realized he could not get the man out, he quickly rolled the 50-gallon drums out of the fire; which allowed others to help save the man’s life. For this heroic act, George was awarded the Bronze Star (this medal is the fourth-highest individual military award) for acts of merit, or meritorious service in a combat zone.

The medal is obviously something I’m proud of, but that is not the extent of my feelings about George. War is hell and he served despite this. For that, I am not only proud, but also eternally grateful. I love my father with all of my heart and his military service is only one small piece of the things that make me proud and honored to be his son.

I told my children that this article was about their “Granddaddy” and they both asked to say something…

Xander, my five year old son, said, “I’m proud of my Granddaddy because he protected us in the war.”

Trinity, my eight year old daughter, said, “Granddaddy always reads ‘Goodnight Little Mouse’ to us, and I love being with him on holidays. He’s my hero.”

U.S. President Woodrow Wilson first proclaimed Armistice Day for November 11, 1919. In proclaiming the holiday, he said:

“To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations.”

 

In 1945, World War II veteran, Raymond Weeks, had the idea to expand Armistice Day to celebrate all veterans (not just those who died in World War I). General Dwight Eisenhower, who supported the idea of a National Veterans Day, agreed. Weeks led the first national celebration in 1947 in Alabama and annually until his death in 1985. Also, in 1982, President Reagan honored Weeks at the White House with the Presidential Citizenship Medal and named him as the driving force for the national holiday. To this day, Weeks is known as the “Father of Veterans Day.”

I’d like to take this time to thank all of the people in my life who have served in the U.S. military. I can’t possibly remember everyone, but I am eternally grateful to all. A few key people who have directly impacted my life are, Scean Ripley, Kim Ripley, Laine Ripley, Dano Christensen, Paul Ostrowski, Solomon Roller, Ben “slow poke” Srigley, Sadiki “WTJHAND” Harriott, Dan Bennett, Jack Breazeale, Jim Zak, David Crosby, Chuck Underwood, Robert “Mike” Johnson, Alan “William” Altizer, Richard Myers, Dan “Uncle Dan” McNally, Chris “what bone should I break next?” Marra, and Carl “Chuck Norris” Wright. Thank you very much for your service

And, I’d like to give a shout-out to all who have served… Thank you for your past, present, and future service!

Finally, I will close with a special thank you to the man of the day, my father, George Borden. Thank you, Dad!

Please take a moment and think of all of the people you know who have or are serving our country in the military. Close your eyes and think gratefully about all military personnel.

Thank you for listening (reading). Hugs and peace to all…

-Vaughn

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Shower Her with Love

Forget cards, flowers, and chocolates… Well, don’t forget them, but don’t rely only on them. What she really wants is sincerity and love! Love offered freely and without strings attached. I’m talking about love given regardless of what you get in return. I’ll let you in on a little secret: You must give unconditional love to get it.

Kristine and I have been married for 19 years and been together for 26. Over those years I’ve given her countless cards, flowers, and chocolates. But, the one thing that stands out to her more than anything is a simple thing I said to her about 22 years ago… One day when she was feeling a ittle down, she shared with me something along the lines of not being good enough. Without a second’s delay, I responded, “Look around you… Look at all of my stuff. I surround myself with only the best of the best. My stereo, guitar, TV, and other things are all the very finest you can buy. Do you think you are any different?”

That may not sound like much to you, but it’s precisely what I’m talking about. It was sincere and said honestly with love. I meant it. And, she knew I meant it. Therefore, it has stuck with her all of these years. To this day she still reminds me of how special that conversation made her feel.

I’m not telling you to skip the flowers, but I am suggesting that there are others things you can give, do, and say that will be much more memorable. One of the most important things that I’ve discovered is listening. I mean real listening… Not sitting there while she’s talking. I’m talking about, turn the TV off, set your phone down, step away from the laptop kind of listening. Look her in the eyes and nod at appropriate times. Then, when she’s done talking, compute what she said and reply with an honest assessment and appreciation with what you heard.

This ain’t rocket science, folks. Many would have you believe that relationships are incredibly tough and nearly impossible to build and keep strong. The truth is, they are much simpler than we pretend. Level with your soul mate, treat her with honor and dignity, and listen to her. This is the valuable key to staying in a healthy relationship.

There are people out there that will tell you that a man is weak for doting on his wife. This is ridiculous and any man who deserves a good woman in his life knows that it’s untrue. The truth is that it is our responsibility to love and care for our wives and our families. A real man can be strong and compassionate at the same time.

Tell me what you do to shower your spouse with love. Tell me what you’ve tried… What works, and what doesn’t?

I hope this article was beneficial.

Heartfelt feelings sent your way,
Vaughn

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Sugared Water

Many moons ago, Apple Computer wanted John Sculley to join them as CEO and apply his marketing skills to the personal computer market. Sculley was not sure that he wanted to join Apple and Steve Jobs sealed the deal when he made his legendary pitch to John, “Do you want to sell sugared water for the rest of your life? Or, do you want to come with me and change the world?”

This quote has stuck with me through the years and it is always a powerful reminder for me: I think that 99.9% of what we humans do to earn a living is selling sugared water. Think deep and hard about what you are doing in your job. Does it embody your high level of standards? Does it fill your heart with gladness? Does it inspire you to be even more? If so, then congratulations! If you are doing your dream job and making the world a better place, it is my belief that you are among 0.1% of the population of this small blue dot we affectionately call “Earth.”

If on the other hand, you are like most of us and unsure of what you are doing to make the world better, than maybe you should ask yourself the Steve Jobs’ question… And, if you do ask that question, you might get a sinking feeling in your stomach that says, “You are not doing everything in your power to accomplish great things.”

Supposing you do get that tummy ache, I suggest that instead of pouting and feeling sorry for yourself, you decide to make a change! Think about it… We are all capable of controlling our destiny. You! And, you alone can determine what path you take each day. Sure there are outside influences that will try to knock you off your path. But I believe that you can either let those influences alter your course, or you can stand up to them and say, “No.”

Together we are capable of anything. I mean that. You and I can make the world a better place. I choose to believe this, and I choose to do something about it. I’m doing it right now in fact. My blog is one of the ways that I strive to inspire my friends, family, and complete strangers who follow my shenanigans. This is one of my many ideas to make the world a better place. Come join me!!!

For what it’s worth… When Steve asked John that question, he thought about it and then accepted the job. Powerful words with an even more powerful meaning!

So tell me, Do you want to sell sugared water for the rest of your life? Or, do you want to come with me and change the world?

All the best,
Vaughn “the world changer” Ripley

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Kotowaza AKA Japanese Proverb

As you all know, I refer to kaizen on a regular basis. Kaizen is a Japanese word that means daily improvement. I strive on a daily basis to improve myself. Today, I’d like to introduce you to another Japanese word… Kotowaza. Essentially, kotowaza translates to “proverb.” I am fascinated with Japanese philosophy and one of the main things I gain from the Japanese is their inspirational proverbs. To me, the proverb is a powerful message that I can relate to my life and use it to inspire me. I am constantly finding myself motivated by neat proverbs (Japanese or any others). A few posts ago I put up some of my favorite passages and quotes.

One of my all time favorite kotowaza is: chiri mo tsumoreba yama to naru. This translates to “even specks of dust become mountains” (or, “even dust if piled, can become a mountain”). It is not merely my favorite because it has the word, yama (mountain) in it. I love this one, because it seems to be the ageless proverb. In English, we have a similar one, “many a little makes a mickle.” To me, it means that regardless of your current state, you can rise, like the Phoenix, from the ashes and make something more of yourself. I experienced this precise thing many moons ago, when I was 19 years old and my doctor gave me a death sentence. I rose from the ashes and turned a speck of dust into a mountain. That said, perhaps I should be more fond of kishi kaisei; which literally means “wake from death and return to life.”

If you think about it by wearing someone else’s shoes, you can also see that “chiri mo tsumoreba yama to naru” is important as you meet people. Everyone that you meet (regardless of status, or stature) has the potential of becoming a mountain. It’s vital to remember this as you greet folks for the first time. Think about the possibility of meeting someone at the very bottom of the ladder in a large corporation. You might look down on them, and think they will amount to nothing. However, it’s entirely possible that this person will be running the same company in twenty years. And, also possible is the fact that they might remember that you looked down on them. Look down on NO ONE, and you will avoid this situation. Think: Golden Rule.

Here are some of my other kotowaza favorites:

saru mo ki kara ochiru — even monkeys fall from trees
deru kugi wa utareru — the protruding nail will be hammered down
ropu no kireta tozansha mitai — like a mountaineer who’s rope has broken
ashita yama wa itsumo soko de aru — the mountain will always be there tomorrow
nana korobi ya oki — fall down seven times, get up eight
hitsuyou wa hatsumei no haha — necessity is the mother of invention
kane wa tenka no mawarimono — no problems because money always goes around
ichi nichi, ichi zen — every day, do one good (do a good turn daily)
Here’s a fun/funny one (yet true): ninjabashiri o suru toki, kutsuhimo ga yurundeiru to hisan na koto o maneku — when running ninja-style, having loose shoe strings invites misery.

Ganbatte kudasai is another cool Japanese saying that I use often. It can translate to many meanings, but they are all related. My favorite (simple) translation of ganbatte kudasai is, “keep your chin up.” That is just a sweet thing to say to a person who is striving to improve themselves and stumbling over the pitfalls of life. In other words, any one of us!

Do you have any favorite proverbs (English, Japanese, or any other nationality)?

I hope you enjoyed this!

Dewa mata,
Vaan san

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How to Boil a Frog

I thought about titling this article, ”A Look at Why Some People Thrive, and Others Do Not.” However, that seemed a bit wordy, unclassy, and simply pompous… Talking about frogs on the other hand is fun, goofy, and downright cool. Hence… The title is what it is. I’m sure everyone knows how to boil a frog, but I will waste one minute and explain it… You boil a frog by slowly turning up the temperature. With that in mind, if you were to throw a frog into a pot of boiling water, it would immediately jump out. At least that’s how the story goes. Honestly, I have never boiled a frog so I don’t know if this is true. What I do know is that if a frog jumped out of a boiling pot of water he would be one burned-up dude!

Ego digresso.

Today’s article is meant to show how some of us thrive in life and others struggle to thrive. I believe it is the boiled frog syndrome. And, I recently had this very discussion (to some degree or another) with a group of friends. I do not think that anyone purposefully tries to fail or do bad or quit in the blink of an eye. Rather I think it is a series of small doses of negativity, disappointment, struggling, and so on. Thinking along those lines leads me to logically conclude that I can also succeed, do good, or accomplish with this same exact pattern.

A strange epiphany hit me today. A friend said something along these lines, “I reached a turning point in my life when I realized that I’ve lived sick for longer then I’ve lived healthy.” She has Lupus (among other things) and what she meant was that she has lived longer with Lupus than without it. When she said it I was like, “Wow.” Then I thought a moment and realized that I was in the same category with my HIV. I was healthy and leading a fairly (relatively) normal life for 18 or so years. Since then, I have lived for about 28 years with HIV. For some reason, this hit me like a ton of bricks. I have almost lived twice as long sick as healthy!!! So, then I started thinking, How?

Next, another friend in the same group said, “If your problem changes from a physical to mental illness, you’re hosed.” Ha! That is freaking brilliant! That got me thinking real deep and I started formulating how I (and others like me) have survived. Next thing I knew I had another article idea.

Since I am such a firm believer in incantations, and I also talk with those close to me about how I believe in “I Can’t Tations” too, I formulated what I think is the secret to my longevity. It is not one single thing that can be pointed to. Think about it. No one wakes up and has such a negative thought process that they simply die or fail to live. It takes days, weeks, or even years to get there mentally. I believe that how we react to life on a daily basis is the key to our longevity. That’s right, I said it … Prolonged doses of negativity will eventually kill you.

I look back at my life and realize that I’ve had my share of negative beliefs and thoughts. However, my positive thoughts and actions far outweigh the negative ones.

I have heard people routinely say things like:
– I am unlucky
– The world is against me
– I can’t
– A black cloud follows me
– This is just my lot in life

And so on and so forth. Long ago I discovered (or at least I believe I did) that these folks are a part of creating their own destiny. Take responsibility for your thoughts. Take responsibility for your actions. Take responsibility in how you convey yourself to you and others.

Responsible said another way is “Able to respond.” Think about it… You are able to respond. This is in all of us. And, like Rush says, “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.” Make your choice to succeed. Make your choice to improve yourself. Make your choice to inspire others. Make your choice to think positively on a daily basis.

The next time someone asks you how you’re doing, think about your answer carefully. Instead of saying, “Okay” or “Been better” or “Can’t complain” try coming up with something upbeat. You don’t have to say, “I’m freaking unbelievable and have never felt better in my whole entire existence on Earth!” But you could say something along the lines of, “I feel great.” Say it, believe it, live it.

Brought to you with a dose of love,
Vaughn

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What’s Best in Life?

Okay… So that’s a very broad question… But I can answer one piece of it.

Most of us (me included) do not know what we want. Before you say, “No *expletive deleted* Sherlock!” Allow me to dig a little bit deeper.

It occurred to me that I’m not doing what I want to do. Even though this occurs to me on a regular basis, one memory from four years ago still lingers… You see, I was riding the train home and sitting next to someone that was putting off a putrid body odor. Before everyone knocks my lack of compunction, let me tell you that this was far beyond your standard human being stink. I’m not talking someone who walked two miles to the train station on a humid 95 degree day without underarm deodorant. I’m talking about the kind of stink that lingers over a two-week old dead body lying in a rainforest.

Now that I have sufficiently gotten your attention (and perhaps offended the Hell out of you), allow me to continue…

Sitting for 1.5 hours smelling death in a small, hot train car can make you come to some realizations in life. For one, I realized that I don’t ever want to do that again!

During this time, I found myself pondering the immortal words of Conan (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger), when he was asked, “What’s best in life?” Without missing a beat, Conan replied, “Crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentations of their women.” Now there’s a guy who knows what he wants!

The more that I think about Conan’s statement, the more I understand my lack of an answer to the question “What’s best in life?”

I know what my dream day would be like… I would wake up, take a short walk, and then swim (in my backyard pool) for an hour or so. After a shower, I would eat a good (nutritious) breakfast that was prepared by my nutritionalist and chef. Following that, I would write for about two hours straight (uninterrupted). Next, I would spend some playtime with Kristine and kids. Once we wore ourselves out, I would hit the music theory and guitar for an hour or two. After guitar, I’d tackle some business by returning emails, calls, and innovating my next great idea. Then, I would get some more kid playtime in. I’d squeeze some form of physical fitness in at this point in the day. Finally, I would wind down with the kids and Kristine watching TV or goofing off. After putting the kids to bed I would do some more business and prepare my agenda for tomorrow (more of the same). Before turning off the light for the night, I’d get some reading in.

That day would obviously be altered to fit in other activities, hobbies, etc. Also, from time-to-time, there would be a two-week vacation to somewhere exotic.

Funny thing about my list… I don’t see work (at least not in the traditional fashion) listed. Try as I might, I can’t seem to squeeze it in there. Some of you might argue that my writing (if done on a professional level) would be considered my work. Or, doing my entrepreneurial business ventures. I guess that’s true, but running my own business in brief time slots and writing are both things that I am passionate about. I don’t normally associate passion with work. Viola! Therein lies the problem… In order to make my life more meaningful, I need to be passionate about what I do for a living! *cue inspirational music*

The problem grows when you consider that balancing things you are passionate about and work is nearly impossible. So, I have decided to dedicate some time and effort to figure this out… If and when I figure something out, I will probably write an instructional manual and publish it.

For now, I will continue to commute to and from work. And, I will continue discussing these things with you on my blog.

Please feel free to comment with what you feel is best in life!

Signed,
A passionate man who is still seeking his passion!

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I Will Always Remember

It is now the twelfth anniversary of this heinous terrorist attack… Looking around at the world, I fear that we are already forgetting… Already putting our pain, fear, and suffering behind us. While I believe it’s important to heal mentally and physically, it is also my belief that we need to remember nine-eleven. It’s entirely possible that we will attack Syria in the next day or three and I must admit that I’m not on top of everything there. But, I have heard and read that there are ties to Al Qaeda in the Syrian rebel forces… If this is true than we are literally supporting the terrorists who killed 3,000 people on the very day (or within a few days) of the 911 anniversary. Does anyone else find this repulsive??

Enough politics and chatter… Let’s get on with my memorial article!

I will always remember where I was and what I was doing on the morning of September 11, 2001. For my generation it is akin to what our parents said about the Kennedy assassination. We will always remember it. ALWAYS! The funny thing is that I clearly remember a country that came together. That loved and cared for one another. A country that stood together to fight tyranny and terror. A country that no other would want to face in open battle. For a brief period, democrats hugged republicans and vice versa. Over the years our wounds have healed and we seem to be that same old complacent group of people who say thing like, “I remember” but not all of us truly do remember. I challenge you to take a moment today and sit in silence and remember. I mean really dig into your emotional depths and remember what you felt when you first heard about the 9/11/01 attacks.

Take a moment now… Look at the photo at the beginning of this article and go back to that moment… Close your eyes, and let those emotions come back…

911 Attacks

I have been called a violent soul at times. I prefer to call myself a sheepdog (see my post a few weeks ago – Sheepdog In Sheep’s Clothing). I am not violent, people. I am a protector. I am a lover. I am a father. I am a husband. I m a patriot. And, I am a friend. Ally with me and I will ALWAYS have your back. If the wolves come prowling around my backdoor (or the door of my friends), they will get two warning shots fired into their chest. I stand tall and strong for my family, my friends, and my country. I sincerely believe in loving one another… But, I also believe that it is my DUTY to protect my family and friends.

I say, “Nay” to those who would call me violent. Instead, think of me as a realist in a dangerous world. Another way to put it is, I am an American.

Standing at 1,776 feet, One World Trade Center is America’s tallest building. It was designed by David M. Childs. Here is a neat time-lapsed photography video that shows the building as it was created:

I have heard people say that we are merely building an idol by replacing the twin towers with the new World Trade Center… Are you kidding me? Do you know what we are doing? We are picking up our broken hearts, dusting ourselves off, and rebuilding, bitches! This is how we roll in America. You can knock us down, but you better damn well understand that we will get up again, and we will stand strong and united.

And, for those who would try to bring fear and terror into America, I have a bit of information for you… We will not cower. We will not fear. We will sing our death song, fighting to the last! I often find myself remembering the famous words spoken by Ronald Reagan about Libya, “They counted on America to be passive. They counted wrong.”

Despite your religious beliefs. In spite of your political views. Regardless of your feelings toward this post. Hopefully, we can all agree that America is our country, our land of the free, our safe haven, and our home. And today is a day to hold each other and remember.

Where were you on the morning of 9/11/01?

I for one will ALWAYS remember!

Your faithful protector and sheepdog,
Vaughn

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Toast To Your Health

I absolutely love being able to pull a fun toast out of my repertoire when gathered with friends. Up until recently, my most famous and most impressive memorized toast was:

Lines on Ale
by Edgar Allan Poe (circa 1848)

Fill with mingled cream and amber
I will drain that glass again.
Such hilarious visions clamber
Through the chamber of my brain —
Quaintest thoughts — queerest fancies
Come to life and fade away;
What care I how time advances?
For I am drinking ale today!

After many years of chanting this fantastic poem/toast I finally decided to take the plunge and create a toast of my own. Commandeering my cousin, Chuck Colby, I drafted the toast and then asked for his input. Together we honed the rough draft and created a masterpiece… Well, maybe not a masterpiece, but I sure do enjoy giving this toast.

Before you watch my toast (on YouTube), understand that I wanted it to be over zealous and funny… So, I always put on my best (sarcastic) southern drawl and odious overacting before giving this one. Also, the deep breaths are there on purpose, and meant to add to the dramatic effect. Without further ado, I present, my ebullient and/or exuberant toast; which I affectionately named: To Your Health – Southern Style.

Just in case you’d like to practice this fun toast, here it is written out:

To Your Health
Southern Style

by Vaughn Ripley

*clears throat*

Presently… At this time… I do believe. It’s high-time to propose a toast. As we gather here, in this luxurious bar, drinking our ales and cocktails, peering into each other’s eyes and hence deep into our very souls.

*draws a deep breath*

Building upon our friendships, and creating everlasting relationships… In your name and in your honor, Indubitably I salute thee, Mr. high-and-mighty grandpooba of upper buttcrack. Those whom the Flying Spaghetti Monster hath joined together, let no man put asunder.

*draws a deep breath*

I shall drain my glass hitherto and forthwith. Hear here! And so on and so forth.

To your health!

*pause for effect*

Ibid.

Let me know in the comment section what you thought of my toast! And, do you have a toast of your own?? Share it, please!

I hope you guys enjoyed this post as much as I loved writing it. And, hopefully I inspired you to come up with a toast of your own!!!

Cheers,
Vaughn

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Is World War III Coming

Let’s kick this discussion off by revealing that I normally do not post about political situations. That said, I believe that we are about to go to war with another country (Syria), which in turn will potentially put us at war with a number of other countries. And, because I believe that war affects us in countless ways (including health, wealth, lifestyle, mental attitude, and so on) it’s high time to tackle this tough subject…

You should all know (this is my disclaimer of sorts) that I am an armchair philosopher who gets much of his information from the media; which we all know is biased in one direction or another (sometimes multiple directions at the same time). This post is merely based on my opinion, thoughts, and observations. Don’t expect that any of my predictions hold weight, let alone have a chance of coming true. I’m merely pointing out a few things based on my calculations.

One thing is fairly certain… We are going to attack Syria in retaliation for the deaths of more than 100,000 citizens. Many of those deaths occurred recently and were allegedly caused by chemical weapons. The Syrian Arab Republic is 71,500 square miles (roughly the size of Washington State) with a population of ~20 million (give or take 2 million, considering the refugees who are fleeing the country as you read this article). The current border of Syria was created back in circa 1920s after World War I.

Syria has been in a civil war for more than two years now. Essentially, protesters demanded the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad (whose family has held the presidency in Syria since 1971) and the Syrian Army was deployed to “control” the protesters. During these two plus years of rebel verses government fighting, more than 100,000 people have been killed. Along with the deaths, there are also reports of widespread torture, rape, and tens of thousands of missing people.

Russia and Iran are both supporting the Syrian government. And, this year Hezbollah entered the war in support of the Syrian army. That conglomeration speaks volumes to me!!!

It is believe that Syria has the third-largest stockpile of chemical weapons in the world. During last month, they allegedly attacked the civilian population and killed more than 1,400 people with this latest chemical attack (more than 400 of them children). The U.S. government claims to have witnessed the entire attack and by intercepting communications. Also, U.N. inspectors corroborate the reports after returning from a recent inspection.

At this stage, President Obama has said that with congressional backing (which he appears to be getting at this time), he will attack Syria. It is assumed that the attacks will begin in three or four days. I’m wondering if some of the countries who have promised to retaliate on behalf of Syria are going to follow through with their threats. Among the front of these aggressors are Russia and Iran. Iran has plainly stated that they will attack Israel if the U.S. does anything to Syria, and they have revealed war ships to emphasize their point.

Who (what countries) would be involved if this police action becomes war? This is by no means a full listing of every country involved, but it does contain many of the key players. In my opinion most (if not all) of the following countries would become involved within a very short period of time… United Kingdom, France, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, Libya, Russia, and China. I dunno about you, but that is some serious world power in that list… And, it scares me to think about this many opposing views and angles mixed up in this little skirmish.

Another question I have is: Will Canada, Tunisia, India, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, North Korea, Japan, and Germany also be involved in this “war?” If even a small number of these countries join in, I feel we will be headed directly into World War III.

Finally, while all of this stuff is going on, who’s watching Mexico? Clearly while we (the United States) are spreading ourselves so thinly around the world a big problem is amassing in Mexico! Am I the only one who thinks that Mexico is primed for a U.S. invasion? I mean these guys look worse than Vietnam to me! Mexican drug cartels and gangs are having war-ish battles with the government and sometimes they appear to be winning… I feel it is simply a matter of time before we determine that a Mexico invasion is our only option. On top of that, the Mexican government might even ask us to invade!!!

Wow! That was quite a tangent…

Well, today’s article got a bit around the entire world. And, hopefully it was interesting. Sorry for the tirade… I am not only curious, but also worried about the current state of affairs.

In my opinion the common denominator here (and possible root cause) is the world’s failing economy and horrendous lack of strong (good) politicians. Are our morals going out the window??

What do you believe? And, what do you think will happen over the next ten years around the world?

Thanks for listening, and now please comment!

-Vaughn

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Stalk Me

It may sound creepy, but I’d love for you to stalk me! Seriously! I’m always looking for new virtual connections and friends. In this information technology age I am living life on the bleeding edge. I have countless social media outlets and memberships. Today I will list many of them and request that you click on each and connect with me! Please?

Without further ado, click away!

Stalk Me Online

My Online Blogs and Sites

To find out more about me, read my article: Allow Myself to Introduce Myself.

Also checkout my About page.

Better yet, read my memoir, Survivor: One Man’s Battle with HIV, Hemophilia, and Hepatitis C.

Enjoy your stay here, and please remember to subscribe to our newsletter and share this site URL with your friends!

Please comment by clicking “Leave a Comment.” And, if you dig, share this article! Also, please type your email address into the “Subscribe” box up top to get updates each time I post a new blog article.

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Sheepdog in Sheep’s Clothing

I am a warrior. And, I have warrior’s blood flowing in my veins. My father fought in the Vietnam War and was awarded the Bronze Star for acts of bravery. That said, the joke is on me… I was born in the body of a hemophiliac. And, on top of that, I contracted HIV back in the 80’s from a bad blood transfusion. That is why I call myself a sheepdog in sheep’s clothing. You see, I’m constantly on the lookout for the wolf, but if I find him, we may both die (this is an acceptable option to me). I’m an honorable and chivalrous protector of my sheep brethren. For an example of my sheepdog prowess, read chapter seven in my book, Survivor: One Man’s Battle with HIV, Hemophilia, and Hepatitis C.

The funny thing is, I’ve always known I’m a warrior, but I never thought of myself as a sheepdog until my buddy, Jerry, recently pointed me to a most excellent excerpt from a book, “On Combat.” The author, Lieutenant Colonel Grossman (retired), breaks down people into three categories: Sheep, Sheepdogs, and Wolves. I agree with this article with one caveat (actually two)… I believe there’s a fourth class that I call a “sheepherder” (in keeping with Col. Grossman’s analogy of sheep). The sheepherder is different from the sheepdog in that he does not necessarily try to protect us like the sheepdog does… Instead, he understands that people are sheep and he steps up to lead them. I also firmly believe that many of us (except the sheepherders) believe we’re sheepdogs even though in actuality, we are sheep. I’ll take that further and step out on a limb to state that I believe that even many wolves believe their sheepdogs. Think about it, and you might agree. Either way, please comment and let me know your thoughts.

Editor’s Note: The following passage is from the book, On Combat, by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, U.S. Army (Ret.), and is being reprinted with permission from the author. When I asked for permission, this is the response I received:

Vaughn,

Dave Grossman here. I would be honored for you to post the “Sheepdog” piece on your blog. You can find a clean, up-to-date copy on our www.killology.com website.

Good luck and God bless in all your endeavors.

Hunt the wolf! And bring the light to the dark places where others fear to go!
-Dave

Without further ado, I would be honored to share an amazing article with you. Please read it all the way through, and by all means, chime-in with comments below after reading it.


On Sheep, Wolves, and Sheepdogs
(From the book, On Combat, by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman)

”Honor never grows old, and honor rejoices the heart of age. It does so because honor is, finally, about defending those noble and worthy things that deserve defending, even if it comes at a high cost. In our time, that may mean social disapproval, public scorn, hardship, persecution, or as always, even death itself.
The question remains: What is worth defending? What is worth dying for? What is worth living for?”

– William J. Bennett
In a lecture to the United States Naval Academy
November 24, 1997

One Vietnam veteran, an old retired colonel, once said this to me: “Most of the people in our society are sheep. They are kind, gentle, productive creatures who can only hurt one another by accident.” This is true. Remember, the murder rate is six per 100,000 per year, and the aggravated assault rate is four per 1,000 per year. What this means is that the vast majority of Americans are not inclined to hurt one another.

Some estimates say that two million Americans are victims of violent crimes every year, a tragic, staggering number, perhaps an all-time record rate of violent crime. But there are almost 300 million Americans, which means that the odds of being a victim of violent crime is considerably less than one in a hundred on any given year. Furthermore, since many violent crimes are committed by repeat offenders, the actual number of violent citizens is considerably less than two million.

Thus there is a paradox, and we must grasp both ends of the situation: We may well be in the most violent times in history, but violence is still remarkably rare. This is because most citizens are kind, decent people who are not capable of hurting each other, except by accident or under extreme provocation. They are sheep.

I mean nothing negative by calling them sheep. To me it is like the pretty, blue robin’s egg. Inside it is soft and gooey but someday it will grow into something wonderful. But the egg cannot survive without its hard blue shell. Police officers, soldiers and other warriors are like that shell, and someday the civilization they protect will grow into something wonderful. For now, though, they need warriors to protect them from the predators.

“Then there are the wolves,” the old war veteran said, “and the wolves feed on the sheep without mercy.” Do you believe there are wolves out there who will feed on the flock without mercy? You better believe it. There are evil men in this world and they are capable of evil deeds. The moment you forget that or pretend it is not so, you become a sheep. There is no safety in denial.

“Then there are sheepdogs,” he went on, “and I’m a sheepdog. I live to protect the flock and confront the wolf.” Or, as a sign in one California law enforcement agency put it, “We intimidate those who intimidate others.”

If you have no capacity for violence then you are a healthy productive citizen: a sheep. If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for your fellow citizens, then you have defined an aggressive sociopath–a wolf. But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? Then you are a sheepdog, a warrior, someone who is walking the hero’s path. Someone who can walk into the heart of darkness, into the universal human phobia, and walk out unscathed.

The gift of aggression

“What goes on around you… compares little with what goes on inside you.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Everyone has been given a gift in life. Some people have a gift for science and some have a flair for art. And warriors have been given the gift of aggression. They would no more misuse this gift than a doctor would misuse his healing arts, but they yearn for the opportunity to use their gift to help others. These people, the ones who have been blessed with the gift of aggression and a love for others, are our sheepdogs. These are our warriors.

One career police officer wrote to me about this after attending one of my Bulletproof Mind training sessions:
“I want to say thank you for finally shedding some light on why it is that I can do what I do. I always knew why I did it. I love my [citizens], even the bad ones, and had a talent that I could return to my community. I just couldn’t put my finger on why I could wade through the chaos, the gore, the sadness, if given a chance try to make it all better, and walk right out the other side.”

Let me expand on this old soldier’s excellent model of the sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs. We know that the sheep live in denial; that is what makes them sheep. They do not want to believe that there is evil in the world. They can accept the fact that fires can happen, which is why they want fire extinguishers, fire sprinklers, fire alarms and fire exits throughout their kids’ schools. But many of them are outraged at the idea of putting an armed police officer in their kid’s school. Our children are dozens of times more likely to be killed, and thousands of times more likely to be seriously injured, by school violence than by school fires, but the sheep’s only response to the possibility of violence is denial. The idea of someone coming to kill or harm their children is just too hard, so they choose the path of denial.

The sheep generally do not like the sheepdog. He looks a lot like the wolf. He has fangs and the capacity for violence. The difference, though, is that the sheepdog must not, cannot and will not ever harm the sheep. Any sheepdog who intentionally harms the lowliest little lamb will be punished and removed. The world cannot work any other way, at least not in a representative democracy or a republic such as ours.

Still, the sheepdog disturbs the sheep. He is a constant reminder that there are wolves in the land. They would prefer that he didn’t tell them where to go, or give them traffic tickets, or stand at the ready in our airports in camouflage fatigues holding an M-16. The sheep would much rather have the sheepdog cash in his fangs, spray paint himself white, and go, “Baa.”

Until the wolf shows up. Then the entire flock tries desperately to hide behind one lonely sheepdog. As Kipling said in his poem about “Tommy” the British soldier:

While it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, fall be’ind,”
But it’s “Please to walk in front, sir,” when there’s trouble in the wind,
There’s trouble in the wind, my boys, there’s trouble in the wind,
O it’s “Please to walk in front, sir,” when there’s trouble in the wind.

The students, the victims, at Columbine High School were big, tough high school students, and under ordinary circumstances they would not have had the time of day for a police officer. They were not bad kids; they just had nothing to say to a cop. When the school was under attack, however, and SWAT teams were clearing the rooms and hallways, the officers had to physically peel those clinging, sobbing kids off of them. This is how the little lambs feel about their sheepdog when the wolf is at the door. Look at what happened after September 11, 2001, when the wolf pounded hard on the door. Remember how America, more than ever before, felt differently about their law enforcement officers and military personnel? Remember how many times you heard the word hero?

Understand that there is nothing morally superior about being a sheepdog; it is just what you choose to be. Also understand that a sheepdog is a funny critter: He is always sniffing around out on the perimeter, checking the breeze, barking at things that go bump in the night, and yearning for a righteous battle. That is, the young sheepdogs yearn for a righteous battle. The old sheepdogs are a little older and wiser, but they move to the sound of the guns when needed right along with the young ones.

Here is how the sheep and the sheepdog think differently. The sheep pretend the wolf will never come, but the sheepdog lives for that day. After the attacks on September 11, 2001, most of the sheep, that is, most citizens in America said, “Thank God I wasn’t on one of those planes.” The sheepdogs, the warriors, said, “Dear God, I wish I could have been on one of those planes. Maybe I could have made a difference.” When you are truly transformed into a warrior and have truly invested yourself into warriorhood, you want to be there. You want to be able to make a difference.

While there is nothing morally superior about the sheepdog, the warrior, he does have one real advantage. Only one. He is able to survive and thrive in an environment that destroys 98 percent of the population.

There was research conducted a few years ago with individuals convicted of violent crimes. These cons were in prison for serious, predatory acts of violence: assaults, murders and killing law enforcement officers. The vast majority said that they specifically targeted victims by body language: slumped walk, passive behavior and lack of awareness. They chose their victims like big cats do in Africa, when they select one out of the herd that is least able to protect itself.

However, when there were cues given by potential victims that indicated they would not go easily, the cons said that they would walk away. If the cons sensed that the target was a “counter-predator,” that is, a sheepdog, they would leave him alone unless there was no other choice but to engage.

One police officer told me that he rode a commuter train to work each day. One day, as was his usual, he was standing in the crowded car, dressed in blue jeans, T-shirt and jacket, holding onto a pole and reading a paperback. At one of the stops, two street toughs boarded, shouting and cursing and doing every obnoxious thing possible to intimidate the other riders. The officer continued to read his book, though he kept a watchful eye on the two punks as they strolled along the aisle making comments to female passengers, and banging shoulders with men as they passed.

As they approached the officer, he lowered his novel and made eye contact with them. “You got a problem, man?” one of the IQ-challenged punks asked. “You think you’re tough, or somethin’?” the other asked, obviously offended that this one was not shirking away from them.

“As a matter of fact, I am tough,” the officer said, calmly and with a steady gaze.

The two looked at him for a long moment, and then without saying a word, turned and moved back down the aisle to continue their taunting of the other passengers, the sheep.

Some people may be destined to be sheep and others might be genetically primed to be wolves or sheepdogs. But I believe that most people can choose which one they want to be, and I’m proud to say that more and more Americans are choosing to become sheepdogs.

Seven months after the attack on September 11, 2001, Todd Beamer was honored in his hometown of Cranbury, New Jersey. Todd, as you recall, was the man on Flight 93 over Pennsylvania who called on his cell phone to alert an operator from United Airlines about the hijacking. When he learned of the other three passenger planes that had been used as weapons, Todd dropped his phone and uttered the words, “Let’s roll,” which authorities believe was a signal to the other passengers to confront the terrorist hijackers. In one hour, a transformation occurred among the passengers–athletes, business people and parents–from sheep to sheepdogs and together they fought the wolves, ultimately saving an unknown number of lives on the ground.

“Do you have any idea how hard it would be to live with yourself after that?”

“There is no safety for honest men except by believing all possible evil of evil men.”
– Edmund Burke
Reflections on the Revolution in France

Here is the point I like to emphasize, especially to the thousands of police officers and soldiers I speak to each year. In nature the sheep, real sheep, are born as sheep. Sheepdogs are born that way, and so are wolves. They didn’t have a choice. But you are not a critter. As a human being, you can be whatever you want to be. It is a conscious, moral decision.

If you want to be a sheep, then you can be a sheep and that is okay, but you must understand the price you pay. When the wolf comes, you and your loved ones are going to die if there is not a sheepdog there to protect you. If you want to be a wolf, you can be one, but the sheepdogs are going to hunt you down and you will never have rest, safety, trust or love. But if you want to be a sheepdog and walk the warrior’s path, then you must make a conscious and moral decision every day to dedicate, equip and prepare yourself to thrive in that toxic, corrosive moment when the wolf comes knocking at the door.

For example, many officers carry their weapons in church. They are well concealed in ankle holsters, shoulder holsters or inside-the-belt holsters tucked into the small of their backs. Anytime you go to some form of religious service, there is a very good chance that a police officer in your congregation is carrying. You will never know if there is such an individual in your place of worship, until the wolf appears to slaughter you and your loved ones.

I was training a group of police officers in Texas, and during the break, one officer asked his friend if he carried his weapon in church. The other cop replied, “I will never be caught without my gun in church.” I asked why he felt so strongly about this, and he told me about a police officer he knew who was at a church massacre in Ft. Worth, Texas, in 1999. In that incident, a mentally deranged individual came into the church and opened fire, gunning down 14 people. He said that officer believed he could have saved every life that day if he had been carrying his gun. His own son was shot, and all he could do was throw himself on the boy’s body and wait to die. That cop looked me in the eye and said, “Do you have any idea how hard it would be to live with yourself after that?”

Some individuals would be horrified if they knew this police officer was carrying a weapon in church. They might call him paranoid and would probably scorn him. Yet these same individuals would be enraged and would call for “heads to roll” if they found out that the airbags in their cars were defective, or that the fire extinguisher and fire sprinklers in their kids’ school did not work. They can accept the fact that fires and traffic accidents can happen and that there must be safeguards against them. Their only response to the wolf, though, is denial, and all too often their response to the sheepdog is scorn and disdain. But the sheepdog quietly asks himself, “Do you have any idea how hard it would be to live with yourself if your loved ones were attacked and killed, and you had to stand there helplessly because you were unprepared for that day?”

The warrior must cleanse denial from his thinking. Coach Bob Lindsey, a renowned law enforcement trainer, says that warriors must practice “when/then” thinking, not “if/when.” Instead of saying, “If it happens then I will take action,” the warrior says, “When it happens then I will be ready.”

It is denial that turns people into sheep. Sheep are psychologically destroyed by combat because their only defense is denial, which is counterproductive and destructive, resulting in fear, helplessness and horror when the wolf shows up.

Denial kills you twice. It kills you once, at your moment of truth when you are not physically prepared: You didn’t bring your gun; you didn’t train. Your only defense was wishful thinking. Hope is not a strategy. Denial kills you a second time because even if you do physically survive, you are psychologically shattered by fear, helplessness, horror and shame at your moment of truth.

Chuck Yeager, the famous test pilot and first man to fly faster than the speed of sound, says that he knew he could die. There was no denial for him. He did not allow himself the luxury of denial. This acceptance of reality can cause fear, but it is a healthy, controlled fear that will keep you alive:

“I was always afraid of dying. Always. It was my fear that made me learn everything I could about my airplane and my emergency equipment, and kept me flying respectful of my machine and always alert in the cockpit.”
– Brigadier General Chuck Yeager
Yeager, An Autobiography

Gavin de Becker puts it like this in Fear Less, his superb post-9/11 book, which should be required reading for anyone trying to come to terms with our current world situation:

“..denial can be seductive, but it has an insidious side effect. For all the peace of mind deniers think they get by saying it isn’t so, the fall they take when faced with new violence is all the more unsettling. Denial is a save-now-pay-later scheme, a contract written entirely in small print, for in the long run, the denying person knows the truth on some level.”

And so the warrior must strive to confront denial in all aspects of his life, and prepare himself for the day when evil comes.

If you are a warrior who is legally authorized to carry a weapon and you step outside without that weapon, then you become a sheep, pretending that the bad man will not come today. No one can be “on” 24/7 for a lifetime. Everyone needs down time. But if you are authorized to carry a weapon, and you walk outside without it, just take a deep breath, and say this to yourself… “Baa.”

This business of being a sheep or a sheepdog is not a yes-no dichotomy. It is not an all-or-nothing, either-or choice. It is a matter of degrees, a continuum. On one end is an abject, head-in-the-grass sheep and on the other end is the ultimate warrior. Few people exist completely on one end or the other. Most of us live somewhere in between. Since 9-11 almost everyone in America took a step up that continuum, away from denial. The sheep took a few steps toward accepting and appreciating their warriors, and the warriors started taking their job more seriously. The degree to which you move up that continuum, away from sheephood and denial, is the degree to which you and your loved ones will survive, physically and psychologically at your moment of truth.


Lt. Col. Dave Grossman is an internationally recognized scholar, author, soldier, and speaker who is one of the world’s foremost experts in the field of human aggression and the roots of violence and violent crime. Col. Grossman is a West Point psychology professor, Professor of Military Science, and an Army Ranger who has combined his experiences to become the founder of a new field of scientific endeavor, which has been termed “killology.” In this new field, Col. Grossman has made revolutionary new contributions to our understanding of killing in war, the psychological costs of war, the root causes of the current “virus” of violent crime that is raging around the world, and the process of healing the victims of violence, in war and peace.


Also… Take a look at www.GetBulletProofMind.com and see the little promo video, to get an idea of what Col. Grossman is doing in the civilian/CCW field. (I already bought my copy!)

I hope you enjoyed this post! Are you a sheep, sheepdog, sheepherder, or wolf? What do you want to be? Please comment and let me know your opinion…

Your faithful sheepdog,
Vaughn

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