I was in a business class for entrepreneurs and the instructor said business owners frequently pay dumb tax and her job was to lower ours as much as possible. Dumb tax is the price we pay for what she characterized as “dumb mistakes”. I thought the whole notion of paying a dumb tax analogy was really clever. I have paid heavily toward the dumb tax in many areas of my life not just in business. And I know I am not alone.
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I feel we are currently paying a hefty dumb tax through our current apathetic response to norm violations. When I was growing up my elders would teach and reinforce for me important benchmarks, those unwritten but understood rules of society, that preserve order. I am not referring to social or traditional customs but the understood code of conduct regarding vices like the seven deadly sins; hubris, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath and laziness. I was taught growing up this was God’s way of running a morally balanced universe, and that seemed reasonable to me. I find it fascinating and deeply concerning many of our elders and leaders today seem willing to pay dumb tax or eagerly impose that tax upon us to pay. Mistakes manifested by indifference or disregard for these very standards, that keeps our universe scrupulously equalized, carry a massive tax for that indifference.
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This all puts a great onus on all of us indvidually to to be more discerning about the source, author and dates of information we are consuming. The use of algorithms in social media sites predict what you want to see and forward that to reinforce what beliefs you evidently hold. Its like taking a car out on a race track running a quick lap and assuming you’ve gone somewhere when you actually end up right back where you started. We are all running in circles and paying high taxes, even those who oppose all taxes, the dumb tax does not discriminate we all pay it. Rather than worrying about the danger from others or others insulting us, lets not insult our own intelligence and be our own source of danger.
At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reach us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen, we must live through all time, or die by suicide. I hope I am over wary; but if I am not, there is, even now, something of ill-omen, amongst us. I mean the increasing disregard for law which pervades the country; the growing disposition to substitute the wild and furious passions, in lieu of the sober judgment of Courts; and the worse than savage mobs, for the executive ministers of justice. This disposition is awfully fearful in any community; and that it now exists in ours, though grating to our feelings to admit, it would be a violation of truth, and an insult to our intelligence, to deny. ~ Abraham Lincoln
Over the last year I have done a lot of soul-searching, self discovery, accepting of those aspects of myself I was not very fond of, basically peeling back the layers. Like an onion some layers fell off easy, others I had to pry off while tears were streaming down my cheeks. All this work and learning how “to be” along this journey really comes down one very important practice, pausing. That’s right hitting the pause button. When you hit the pause button several things happen and more importantly many things don’t happen. What does happen, you stay present, what doesn’t happen, you don’t say or do something that is not in alignment with your intention. I am so amazed at how quickly a well-intentioned encounter goes awry if I don’t hit pause. I leave feeling like, what the heck just happened? I am amazed at how well things go when I do hit pause.
You all know what I am talking about, let’s talk about the time you went to talk to someone about something you thought was no big deal. You start the conversation and all of a sudden things get tense, maybe even confrontational. Rather than pausing and considering what is happening we react in a similar fashion. – Well screw you I came over to tell you we got some ice cream how the hell did I know you were lactose intolerant. No we didn’t get any sherbet. You know what I will make sure I never invite you to any parties we are having, you jerk. – Now let’s go through the same scenario and pause. Hmmm I told this guy we were having ice cream and he is really getting worked up, I feel my face getting flush and my heart is racing, isn’t that interesting. – You know I feel my face getting flush and my heart is racing because I am sensing this is an upsetting subject for you, listen my intention was to make sure you felt welcome to our celebration. Will the testy lactose intolerant dude defuse? Maybe, maybe not, the point is your fuse wasn’t lit. We can’t control how others “are being” along their journey, we can only chose for ourselves.
The pause is so powerful, many great philosophers and teachers think that when we meditate or pray, the pause between thoughts when one thought ends and before the next thought begins, is when we are closest to God. If you think about it, it really makes sense our thoughts are tied very tightly to our ego so the pause in our thoughts is when we have a direct line to our essence, and our ego is bypassed. When I make the choice to pause, to be mindful and become an observer of my own actions, it creates a calmness in my being. It sounds crazy but if I find myself starting to get spun up if I take a step back and witness what is happening I can stay present and mindful. I had a recent encounter where I wanted to get a point across and the person I was speaking to told me some negative traits about myself, it struck a nerve at first (ah hello Mr. Ego there you are) and then I paused yes they were correct I have these negative traits and I have positive traits that is what makes me whole (remember Mr. Ego we discussed this in detail a blog ago!) and that makes me like everyone else perfect. The exercise of hitting the pause button has helped me understand that my self-worth, as with everyone else’s, is intrinsic and not determined by others.
Hitting pause has helped me to be a better listener I find myself talking less and listening more. If you are like me or at least like I have been in my recent past, you may feel the need to talk when you walk in the room, the silence feels awkward, notice that impulse to fill the silence, pause be present, relax and enjoy the silence and think about only breaking the silence if value is added. It is a very powerful exercise. If you are a shy person and would never consider breaking the silence but sit in quiet suffering hoping another will break the silence, be present relax and enjoy the silence, you may feel less inhibited to break the silence if value is added. I love this quote by Abraham Lincoln – “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.” And what amazes me is he was such a great orator, of course as I said if you can add value then speak and if you have read the transcripts of his speeches and debates it was certainly true in his case. Of course in my own case I have on many occasions removed all doubt. The pause has helped me not only to avoid removing doubt but it has done more, I am, in very stressful situations, witnessing them, almost observing myself and the events.
Life is so much more interesting when you become the observer and not the actor. If you have ever been on a stage you know what I mean, the actors cannot see the audience, only what is happening on the stage, the audience on the other hand can observe the actors as well as the rest of the audience, they have a more complete picture of the moment. So the next time you lose your train of thought or forget your excellent comeback, just pause, don’t judge yourself and witness your thoughts, trust me you are seeing more, experiencing more than if you did get that awesome comeback, it’s powerful.
Mahatma Gandhi said “In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness. Our life is a long and arduous quest after Truth.” Remember we are all on a quest for truth, how powerful. (pause).