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Conscience is the dog that can’t bite, but never stops barking.

I've learned many lessons in my life, not the least of which is that we can fear a lot of things and become stronger for pushing past it, but it's not until cowardice comes into play that we're left in the dust. After all, it's our avoidance of the little problems and inconveniences that have a ripple effect in our lives that lead to bigger, seemingly unfixable problems.

I’m pro-education of any sort, be it scientific or otherwise. There is nothing wrong with studying history, literature, art history, film, astrology, geology, or any one of a large number of other ‘soft’ subjects. Those are great subjects that can help you expand your knowledge and perspective on life in general. Where I tend to draw the line is when people go hip-deep in debt to get a degree in one of those subjects and then later find out that it's not possible to find employment using the knowledge that they studied for. Your tuition dollars at work, right?

One day a few years back, I saw a video on YouTube and the person speaking made a bold statement that changed my entire perspective on life and it helped me narrow down on finding the right fit for employment. "Stop beating your head against the wall in order to find out what it is that you want to offer the world, and give to it what it's actually asking for. What is the world actually asking for? Figure out what industry your talents can contribute you, get a feel for what it's like to be a consumer in that industry, and then as a leader, fix what's broken. Make your offering the better of the many alternatives. Beat your competitors that way."

It's a simple notion, really, but it's one that hadn't come to mind until I saw the video. I was so busy trying to figure out "what I wanted" that I didn't stop to think "What is the world actually asking for, what can I contribute that they'd be happier coming to me for than what already exists?"

Anyway, that's not what this article is actually about, but I thought I'd share a great lesson learned from my end.

A while ago, I met an elderly woman at a local pharmacy/supermarket. She'd dropped something on the floor, and I picked it up immediately, so as to give the item back to her. "Oh my, the chivalry! Thank you, sir. You don't see a lot of kind gentlemen these days." She said, smiling. I smiled back. "I just picked something up, it's nothing." From there, a conversation was born. "I look at you see and I see strength. Someone tried to take that from you, didn't they? Don't ever let the world change you. Don't ever let any man or woman change and define you." I thanked her, but then asked her how she knew about this "someone" trying to take my power away. "I have a good sense of these things, you see. I'm a mother. I know you've been through some terrible things. You don't have to admit the truth when I know it in my bones." The conversation took a sad turn, though, when she said "When I die, and I suspect I will go soon enough, it'll be like I was never born. No friends will attend my funeral, because I let the world define me. I isolated myself. Reach out, kiddo. Take risks. Be known for something. Because there's nothing sadder than an empty funeral with no stories to tell."

I don't know whether or not she's alive today. I hope she was wrong and that she's living a happier, healthier life. Nevertheless, that was the day I learned one of life's most precious lessons on happiness. Isn't it interesting how the act of becoming truly happy can often be achieved by taking an unhappy route? We can’t change the past, that’s a fact. If we want a better life, though, we'll have to comprise. I must do whatever I have to do to move forward with my life without the ghosts of my past at the forefront of my mind. Because if I want a life different from what I'm used to, it won’t come by doing the same things I'm used to doing. Wilfred, my favorite dog (and one of my favorite shows) says that as a dog, he feels guilt for 5 seconds and then gets on with his life. I think we can all take a page from his book. We should let go and be happy-go-lucky instead of dwell on what clearly can’t be changed.


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