How to Win

We're defining 'Win' , here to mean - how to make the world a better place. After all, America is at peace. Wars of convenience don't count - and the bush republicans that started them are long gone. And the war against Al Qaeda, that we're waging in Afghanistan - is one that for most intents and purposes has moved into a country building stage. And oh yeah - that thing about how muslims are so dangerous to us all, and all that stuff about a mosque near ground zero? Well, our president just took care of that: America stands for religious freedom. There's no culture war between muslims and other people in America: the guy next to you at work is a muslim. You've never fought with him, he's never fought with you. With the sole exception of the weirdos that want to make a mosque being built not even at ground zero - but far away from it - we have no culture war with Islam. Hell, we even share books of the bible with those guys. No kidding. Check out the old testament. And since it's an election year, we hear alot about how fragile our economy is, how much danger looms. We'll hear about how dangerous everything is, for people facing illegal immigrants coming at them with knives and machetes. But winning means making the world a better place - and there is work to be done there, whatever points to a battle still to be won on any electoral landscape.

The first step is to realize that by and large, things are ok. Now is a great time to draw a line in the sand, and set the goals that need to happen in order to build a strong country. And , yourself. The whole 'America as a beacon of democracy' thing starts with you.

And you should always start with God. But do it in a simple way. For guys like Salman Khan, for example - he heard a voice within him that advised him to help his young cousin with their homework. It became an academy (see link below). It doesn't have to be powder blue suit, bible thumping evangelism. After all, there aren't really a whole lot of things that God will ask you to do with your life. Think about it. God is this great and vast thing - whether or not you believe in God, the reality is that somewhere, somehow - there will be a still, small voice that will tell you to do the right thing. If you can hear it. You can, if you like - call it the center of their self actualization strategy. You can also call it a creative spirit. Wicca, hindu, muslim, buddhist, jewish, catholic - those are just labels. This voice is where it begins. It's the thing you're going to do with your life, overall. You're not just here to take up space. It's not all just a cosmic joke. Because if it is, who would be around to get it?

How? Ask yourself what you would accomplish five, ten, fifteen years from now - by your work and your life. The two are separate. You can do cool things with either. Be a good person. And do well at work. Whatever you do, be the best. And when he calls for you. You will know it.

The next thing to do, is to learn how to win for yourself. Golf is a great way to teach this. There is no one out there on the course that can take you down, except yourself. Other ways to push your own limits are surfing, sky diving, skiing, skateboarding, chess - any activity in which you're pitting yourself against the world. If you talk to Jack White, of the 'White Stripes', he'd probably say playing the blues like Son House - is a good way to do it. Throw yourself out there, and push your limits.

Now comes family. That's a bit easier than the other two -because leadership comes naturally when you're in line with the first two objectives. However, being a parent has a unique set of challenges. The first challenge, that having children presents - is towards the union of yourself, and your wife (or equivalently, yourself and your husband). Having kids mean that the general freedom of a two person relationship becomes first, constrained to having three or more people in the relationship. Think for a second - what if the free form relationship to your spouse was based on a kink relationship threesome, where you, and your wife, shared your life with someone else? It would get tricky, wouldn't it? He loves her, she loves him, he loves her or him, he loves him or her, etc. etc. ... this is not to say that kids interject themselves into the sensual fabric of your relationship.

But they sort of act as a placeholder to remove some of that fabric. Sensuality - esp. when we think of it in the context of the Kama Sutra, takes a hit. Want to go out on friday night? Can't. Baby needs a sitter. Want to have a candlelight dinner? Sorry. Baby is trying to learn how to use their sippy cup. And it gets even better, as kids move into their teen years and start doing things like borrowing the car, and injecting a kind of drama into the family home along the lines of "where were you last night?" ... or .. "did you finish your homework?"

Also, you and your wife had different upbringing. You were both raised differently - first, between man and woman, and second, culturally. You had your own family thing, and so did she. So, you're both capable of disagreeing on what is the best course of action to raise your little one. And you will quickly find out that there is little that makes you more uncomfortable than seeing someone else try to steer your child away from the way you grew up. It bothers you in a whole new way.

In general, the thing that arises from the presence of children in the marriage - is a power struggle. One of the two will want to assert their dominance (and we're talking about the not so fun kind of dominance here) over the other. They'll be interested in making things happen his or her own way - the kids will be here, they will go there, they will act like so, etc. etc. - and the trickiest part of it is that the disagreements - which were once free form and could be executed in argument, using adult language - now have to be bottled and any mediation on the fly has to be done in kid language. So the little ones eyes just don't glaze over and you lose them in the conversation. Kids can put a huge strain on the relationship.

The first thing to do , to win - with a family - is to secure something unique about the other person - in your life - and don't let it go. He or she will have flaws, but there is something there, that you may have married them for - something that goes beyond whatever it is that can become part of the daily chaos and , say for example - the generally inelegant means by which the family gets rounded up into the car to go anywhere. Something cool. Hold on to that and don't let go. They might be on the operating table in the ER one day and you'll need to have it close. Trust me, the kids will get taken care of - when you're in the ER. Someone always steps up to the plate. We're still hunter/gatherer at least in that regard - we haven't all become completely isolated when it comes to community and childcare. At least not yet.

Once you have that down, the next step is pretty easy. Get leverage on your kids. It doesn't matter how - as long as you've got it. Get something they really like, and then use it to help guide them along. I hate to use the analogy of a horse, but think of a sweet apple the stallion or mare would love to have from your hand. A horse will do anything for it. Same principle applies. Keep the kids in line, spend the time to get them going in the right direction. And don't forget to have fun - take them somewhere and do something neat - like whitewater rafting, or exploring a mountain, or to the beach. They'll take care of the rest. Especially if bringing home straight A's brings a reward.

And now, we come to the final step. Community, and country. In that order. Look around, and you'll see that your community plays more a part of your life than any federal government. Do you get a golf course built in your backyard? That's a local or community issue. Do you get embryonic stem cell research medicines ten years from now? That's federal.

The best way to win on the community level is first, to do good work - and deal honestly with others around you. Try your best. Good business deals will help everyone around you. But also, be nice. It's really that simple. Be cool to people. This is America, after all. We're a tolerant place. We're into freedom, and liberty - and we're more about human rights than we are about telling anyone else what to do with their life. Be cool. Be open. And put it all on your own server. If they try to stop you from running your own server, or connecting to wherever you want. Join the Linux community. It will push you to do better work, and your own community will benefit. There should be as at least as many servers out there as there are end users. Community is a two way street - and the internet is the best place of all to build it.

One caveat: make sure you avoid the pitfall of thinking that only one website out there can connect you to anyone, or any thing. A website is meant to be closer to a resource - but sites like facebook don't really do that. They tend to aggregate communities and keep them in boxes so they can sell marketing information about them. You want to remember that 'logging in' to a website means logging in to that specific site and don't let people try to rook you into logging in to several sites at once - tweeting, and facebook updates - and mindless texting are all really, really bad for building community. They make you think you are connected when you aren't. And don't let them try to make you think that in order to connect, you need them. Start your own. Tux will help.

On the federal level things can get big and complex really fast. The bush republicans, with their biggest ever expansion of government - taught us that. Politics isn't some loathsome thing - it's not a debbie downer - it is a way in which social machines can still work at that huge level - large pieces of a machine can work properly while other pieces can be broken. You'll hear about the broken ones in an election year. But things by and large work.

The easiest way to win on a federal or state level is to remember that there are a few key things you can do, as a voter, and as a citizen - that help the machine to work right. For example, you can keep the faith on healthcare - and push the issue forward. America saw a law passed last year, that doesn't really do the job. So keep going - press your local congressman-elect or senator-elect to stand for reform in the full cloth. The path that must be taken is often obscured by design - the powerful forces of anti-democracy do not want the people discussing the issues - they want dog and pony shows. Distractions. Don't get distracted. You might have alot going on in your life, with your job, your family, or whatever. But keep your focus as a Voter. Use the net. And then, all you have to do is show up to vote.

If you want to add your voice to the debate, use a web blog. Consider your words carefully, do the research -and link your resources. You should stay away from other web services that force you to express yourself in smaller sentences , or otherwise obscure the real issues.

But above all, Vote. Voting is the one act, as a citizen, that can change American government. Don't forget to do it. Especially in a primary. They really don't think you're going to show up and vote there.

Finally, Invest in yourself. Check out Khan Academy - a sort of free, online instruction website. Finish your degree or degrees - if you haven't already. Take technical training in whatever you do. Read up on the journals, find the best practice and go for it. If you keep growing, you'll go far.

And in the end. The love you take. is equal to . the love. you give.

Play to win.