I started out in life content, even happy. I believed that people were generally good, kind, and generous with their love and their time. Somewhere along the way, I became disillusioned and jaded, believing most people are short-sighted, selfish, and hurtful.
It took a long time, but slowly I realized that good, kind, generous people do exist AND short-sighted, selfish, hurtful people exist. It’s not either/or.
Beyond that, I realized that you get to choose which of those two types of people to be around. You are the average of the people you associate with most, so if you want to be kind, generous, and content, surround yourself with people who are also those things. Life is too short to hang around people who care not about you and your dreams.
I remember my hapkido teacher telling me a story about his father who was, according to Joe, not a very nice person, unhappy and abusive. One day, as a teenager, Joe’s father was yelling at him about something. Joe finally lost it and snapped back, “Tell me something! If I do everything you say, will I be as happy as you someday?” Whenever I deal with someone who is trying to adjust my values toward their own, I think about this and I ask myself that question. Do I want to be like you?
I want to be happy. I want to be content. I want to believe people are good, kind, and generous with their love and their time. I know it’s possible because I started out in life that way. Some days I forget. Some days I remember. My goal is to remember on more days than I forget. I’m getting there. I can feel it. I have more good days than bad, days when I know that I’m headed in the right direction with the right people. Other days, my wife is there to remind me who I am and who I can be.
Robert Van Valkenburgh, Co-Founder of Kogen Dojo & Taikyoku Mind and Body