Tag Archives: Things I learned before 1 turned 40

How to be popular: Life Lesson #27

The secret to popularity.

The first popular kid I remember from school was in 4th or 5th grade. From then on, the popularity contest ran full swing until graduation night, populating the hallways of highschool with “in” kids and everyone else, “cool” kids and everyone else. These were rarified airs to travel in, and being included was dizzying.  Why is it then that so many of the “popular kids” were actually quite unpopular with the rest of the world?

To credit my high school, the playing field and measuring sticks for popularity were not as delineated as in other fine institutions of social learning. Something about being in an international environment changed some of the rules.

In college, the game was still there. To be popular, you had to be attractive, confident, put together. But if popularity wasn’t your goal, you could just be you.

Somewhere in my 30ies, I achieved popularity. Not because I was suddenly the favorite of a whole ground of strangers I was forced to associate with because of the educational environment forced on me by my situation. Rather, I was popular because I knew a lot of people that I liked and who strangely enough, also seems to like me.

Once I learned that perfect hair, teeth and abs were history after high school, I started enjoying being me a lot more. And ALL my friends are popular. At least with me.

Free Coffee is not a human right. Life Lessons #25 .

” The precedence of privilege tends to lead to the assumption and demand of right.”

This one comes from Mike McClaflin, Africa Regional Director, AGWM, former military officer and king of the short one line answer.

A few years ago, I heard Pastor Barnabas Mtokambali from Tanzania speaking about privilege.

“We bring pastors in from the village to the city to train them. They get used to 2 meals a day. They get used to public transport and they become spoiled.”

Two meals a day is spoiled? Public transport is spoiled?

Kind of redefines privilege doesn’t it?

Precedence: The first time you get free coffee at work, you are grateful. The first year you get a bonus, you’re over the moon. The first time dad lets you take the family car, you are grateful.

Privilege: Three months later, finances are tight, and coffee is suddenly a few pennies. Irate, aren’t cha? No bonus at the end of the year? There goes Christmas for the kids. You can’t drive the car until you pull your grades up? Who does he think he is!?

I am privileged. By virtue of my birth location, I can travel to most of the western world without a visa. To be brutally honest, my skin color opened lots of doors in Africa for me, even if they were occasionally opened with resentment.

Give someone privilege long enough and they come to view it as a right.

Three meals a day is the baseline standard for what we should expect. That expectation is in the basic charter for human rights, isn’t it? Or it the baseline “daily bread?”

Everything else is bonus.

Personal note: This sounds kind of preachy, and probably leaves you feeling like I’m being unrealistic, unfair. Perhaps. So I decided to try it out myself on myself.  In leading up to my 40th birthday, I went 40 days eating only one meal a day. I was amazed at how easy it was. The battle was mental, not physical. Food we need. How much is often culturally and convenience defined.

Learn to talk to a human. Life Lesson #24

Learn to talk. (credit to my older, wiser brother, Stephen Porter, on the original idea here).

I speak 6 languages. Not fluently, and I have an accent in most of them. Swahili was the most recent one I learned and what a fun, challenging experience. My sixth language though? Digital media.

You may be a “digital native” . You don’t even remember Windows 95 and Compuserve. That doesn’t excuse you from this one.

I understand lol, I know that ALL CAPS IS YELLING, and I try to keep up with what the digital cultural metaphors are.

But just because you speak digital doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn to speak to people. Having a conversation is about valuing the person in front of you. At 40, I get irritated when everyone at the table keeps checking their phone. Which means that I’m often irritated at myself.

Can you have a conversation? A lengthy conversation, that’s verbal, personal and face to face?

Try it out. If you are struggling, google it. You should know how to do that, right?