Archive | July 2006

The Weekly Dream: Everything and Nothing

“We want everything and nothing. We want to stand in the spot light, but suffer from stage fright.”

I love music. Music is what I use to control my moods and also relax. I love music of all kinds, from R&B to Jazz to Classical. I have always loved music and I find it almost impossible to do anything without it. And as long as I can remember, I have wanted to learn how to play the piano. In grade school, my dream life was to own a pent-house and play all of my favorite songs on this magnificent grand piano. In college, I even went as far as purchasing a piano book and practicing in the dorms an hour a day.

Since then, I could never find the time or the money to really devote to this hobby. Enter car notes, dry cleaning bills, studying etc. and there seems not to be enough hours in the day. And unless I carve out some serious time and make a serious investment, I do not see anyway to make this dream come true.

This is not the only ambition I have. I also want to learn three languages before I die. I want to write the great American novel, a book of poetry and my autobiography (but first you have to live a life worth reading about). I want to be on the cover of FORTUNE. Sometimes, it feels like I am a conglomerate of random hopes, dreams, desires and wants. But so are most people to me.

I Want It!

I have alluded many times that there is a difference between wanting something and being ready for it. In an ideal world, our wants would keep base with our level of preparedness. For instance, people would not become rich until they were mentally and spiritually prepared to deal with the changes that wealth brings. People would not get married until they fully understood their responsibility in the marital relationship. But that is not how the world works.

In economics, a common and misguided assumption is that human behavior is rational. However, if you have ever encountered children, you know that is not the case. As human beings, we want what we want when we want it. Who cares if we are not prepared for what will be demanded of us in return? It takes a ton of maturity to step back and acknowledge our limitations. There are things that we must master (i.e. fundamentals) and lessons we must learn before we can have the satisfaction of attaining our wants.

In addition, the price you are willing to pay for your wants will determine the level of fulfillment you experience. For example, I was watching Vh1 and there was a story on a music group that took $1.7 million dollars and set it on fire. Money was so abundant and free flowing to them at the time that there was no fulfillment that could be had from buying another car, drugs, houses etc. But the more you have to give, the more you appreciate it. When things come easy, when there is no struggle and no sacrifice, it is only a matter of time when one want is gratified, another springs up in its place. And that is really annoying.

Stewardship 101

This is exactly the case when someone else is footing the bill. I am amazed at how whimsical people become with the resources of others. I have been out with people and when I was footing the bill, they were merciless. Or if I had made a sacrifice, they would act like it was nothing. There is no greater feeling of hurt and disappointment than when you go out of your way for someone and they treat it as nothing. Whatever happened to stewardship? Is it a lost art? Stewardship in a nutshell is to hold the resources of another in trust. It is the ultimate position of responsibility.

We are always accountable to someone, whether we acknowledge it or not, for everything we have control over. We are accountable for our time, money, relationships, and wants. When you are a steward, you move beyond the base level of slaving to fulfill wants and begin to think about what is the best use of resources in this particular situation. Stewardship enables one to prioritize what pursuits are worthwhile and what are frivolous. Therefore, we must train our appetites to want the right things and to pursue only those things that will yield the best outcome.

Free Your Mind

How do you classify and distinguish between your needs and wants? Stewardship begins with a mindset. And just as we train the body, we must train the mind by bombarding it with positive things and healthy desires until we want it bad enough to do something about it. As a freshman in college, my roommates would read the Robb Report as motivation to study and spend our time wisely. We saw the lifestyle we wanted and meditated on what it would take to get there, until we believed that it was possible. Accordingly, we spent our resources wisely and maximized our opportunity.

For me, I often picture having to answer to God, my ancestors, my unborn children, my family, and my future self as to the life I lead and the things I choose to pursue. Somehow, taking the long view helps me stay focused. As a result of my point of view, I lead a different life. I realize that I cannot do what everyone else does because I am different. I must prepare myself and my family for the life we will one day lead.

Find something or someone to hold yourself accountable to. Begin to view your life as an aggregation of resources to be deployed wisely. We only have so much time, energy, health, and money at our disposal. Instead of spending these resources, begin to INVEST them. Think about how your wants will affect those you love and care about. What are the implications for the future. Meditate on what is good and dig for the root of your desires. Think about the moment you finally get what you want, will you be fulfilled, how long will you be happy? What does this particular want represent?

As human beings, we are forgetful creatures and must constantly remind ourselves of these things. However, with practice, patience and discipline, we can be the stewards that we were meant to be.

If you really want it, prepare for it.

Luck is where opportunity and preparation meet.

Truth and Peace,
Steven M DeVougas

Question of the Week: Where do your wants come from?

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On the dissolution of Voting Rights

Many political observers have commented that the most controversial case rendered by the Supreme Court involved the illegality of Bush’s holding “enemy combatants” in Guantanamo Bay. However the more significant case to me was the case involving Tom Delay and the Supreme Court giving credence to changing election district lines more than once every ten years as outlined in the constitution.

For many years, state legislatures would get together after every census was taken to battle it out over how election districts should be redrawn. But in Texas, Tom Delay engineered an election coup by leading a successful campaign to get the Texas state legislature to re-draw the election district lines for Congress so as to give Republicans a decided and permanent advantage over Democrats in representing the Texas Congressional delegation. The Supreme Court upheld this redistricting scheme with the exception of one district that they said should be re-drawn to correct the disadvantage incurred by a largely Hispanic district.

Something is seriously wrong with the system and principle of voting in this system. To be sure, the redistricting plan upheld by the Supreme Court means that if there is a state legislature controlled by one party, then that legislature can redraw the lines for their advantage at will. Waiting every ten years to re-draw the map seems reasonable and dare I say constitutional. But now, there will be no rhyme or reason to re-drawing districts so if you thought we had a winner-take-all system before this decision was announced, you haven’t seen anything yet. The larger issue here is that when you leave politicians to redraw the election district lines at will, you create a system where by politicians choose their voters and voters don’t choose their politicians. Think about that.

And lest we forget, there will be states this year that will be voting with electronic voting machines that have no paper trail. I am sure this is the direction we will be heading. Mexico provides an excellent example of what happens when you have electronic voting machines. When the Pri (the dominant party for years in Mexico until the election of Vicente Fox) held elections while they were in power and the tallies seemed to go for their opponents, they would announce that the computers crashed and before you know it, the Pri remained in power.

Also, the Voting Rights Act is being held up in Congress over some stupid technicalities like having bilingual ballots. While that is a legitimate issue, didn’t everyone think that the Voting Rights Act should have been renewed without any fuss?

Between the Supreme Court decision agreeing to election redistricting at will, electronic voting machines with no paper trail, and the hampering of the Voting Rights Act, it seems like Diddy’s catch phrase “Vote or Die,” is not an adequate dichotomy because voting ensures fairness, honesty, and equality; traits that are seriously being undermined by the system and principles of voting in this country.

Stay up fam,

Brandon