How to Present Yourself Well

We live in a world where the first impression that we give out to others is a key determining factor into what kind of relationship we have with them and how they see us as human beings. I believe that it is naïve in this day and age still to think that first impressions don’t matter at all because they really do matter and if you don’t know how to present yourself in a positive, mature manner, it may affect your life in various negative ways.

Our culture is based around the individual yet we cannot forget that ultimately, you are still tied to other parts of society such as your family, your local community, and your country. Now, one may not care what others think of them and that is their right to do so but your actions, words, habits, and personal dress have an affect on society whether you like it or not. You are not an island unto yourself where you can do whatever you want and there are no consequences that can come of that. We are all part of an overall society and failure to recognize that fact of life will not change this part of human nature.

Whenever you’re out in public meeting new people for the first time, how you dress, how you act, and how you use your spoken language carries a number of effects as to how people will treat you. You never know what kind of relationship whether personal or professional you’ll be able to build with somebody else if you’re not willing to put in that effort. There are numerous opportunities that the average person can miss out on in their daily interactions if they are not actively thinking about presenting themselves in the right fashion.

The key thing to know is that people are always going to judge you when they first meet you and this always happens very rapidly. There are certain ways that you can make yourself stand out in a positive manner which will benefit you in terms of more people will take you seriously and will respect you more. The opposite of that is also true in that if you fail to present yourself in a respectable manner when you meet other people for the first time, there could be a number of negative consequences for you if you don’t learn to change certain bad habits.

In this day and age where people are becoming more and more addicted to technology, especially the smartphone, you can stand out easily if you know how to present yourself. Basic social skills are not being taught as much whether it’s for young people in school or for adults in the workforce. Just a few generations ago, both men and women were taught at a young age how best to present them so they could be taken seriously as individuals who are part of the collective society. To put it simply, we do not teach these social graces, cues, and skills anymore but I’d like to propose a few tips on how to present oneself for the good of yourself and the good of your society.

  • Clean Appearance and Appropriate Dress

If you want to be taken seriously, you have to look the part. Everyone has the choice to make in terms of how they dress and look everyday but it is important to keep in mind how that will effect others opinions of you. If you go to an interview for a job that you really want, you have to present yourself professionally. You wouldn’t wear a baseball hat, shorts, and a tank top to an important job interview, right? If you don’t dress the part, it’s a certainty that you won’t get to play the part. Obviously, modes of dress in the workplace are flexible.                                                                                                                     

An office worker is going to dress differently than a construction worker but even for both jobs, you want to present yourself with an appearance where you’ll be taken seriously. If you put in the bare minimum and your colleagues are putting more effort into their appearance, who is going to get the benefit of the doubt? Your colleagues. A suit and tie isn’t necessary for most jobs these days but you don’t want to be that one person who shows up in flip flops and jeans when everybody else is putting in the effort. There’s a healthy balance that needs to be struck and you want to make sure that you are following the dress code while even going a bit above and beyond to make yourself stand out.

Your appearance is not just about what you wear but how you wear it. Good-fitting clothes, polished shoes, facial and body hair that has been cut groomed or shaved properly; all of these small actions add up that can help you in both your personal and professional life. If you’re not able to take care of your face and body, what does that say about you as a person? It doesn’t say anything positive because the effort really matters and other people will notice when your appearance is on point. Others will see that if you’re able to take care of your appearance, you’ll be able to manage an important coding project, closing that lucrative business deal, or overseeing the construction of a tall skyscraper. When you’re able to take care of yourself first, you’ll be better able to tackle the big projects that you will come across in your professional life.

If you’re worried about how much money it costs to put into your appearance, it really doesn’t cost too much these days. I’m not going to go into exact figures but some new clothes, a haircut, and a nice pair of shoes as your baseline in terms of appearance would cost about $100 here in the U.S. I believe that the return on investment would be much more on that because the clothes and shoes will last you a while and the haircut will be positively noticed by your peers. While you may put $100-200 per month into your appearance, think about how much use or gains that you can get out of this personal investment. I think most people would find that they get a lot out of dressing and looking well when you do the math.

  • Positive Attitude and Good Manners

Presenting yourself doesn’t end in terms of taking care of your dress and your grooming. It extends greatly to how you follow social graces and courtesies that keep our society running smoothly. Even if you have had a bad day and don’t feel like extending these courtesies to strangers, try to see it from their perspective. Being polite, respectful, and minding your behavior is an integral part to how you present yourself in public. While graces, courtesies, and customs vary greatly from culture to culture, I have found in my own travels that you should always say ‘hello, please, and thank you’ to win yourself some points. It doesn’t hurt to say ‘how are you?’ or the equivalent in other languages to strike up a conversation with the person making your coffee, serving your food, or cutting your hair.

While there is a trend of people being on their Smartphone, listening to the music through their earphones, and ignoring the world around them, you can be better than that by making an effort to express pleasantries to the people you rely upon in your day to day activities. Social skills take time to develop and they can atrophy if they are not put to good use. Everyone is guilty of being antisocial every now and then, and that’s okay, but it can be a bad habit if you don’t make the effort.

As human beings, we tend to err towards the negative as a biological impulse but it’s really important to try and stay positive. You may not think of it too much but we are all social creatures and the attitude that we display has a contagious effect on to how others act and behave. If you are negative about life constantly and put on a negative attitude to those around you, you should not be surprised when no one wants to hang out with you or even help you. It’s okay to express frustrations about the stress and anxiety of daily life but you have to keep it in check. Things do get better over time and having a positive attitude about life will help you enormously rather than being negative all the time.

With your manners, you also want to go the extra mile. Helping other people feels good and the easiest way to do that is by having good manners. You could help an old lady cross the street, let the women and children off the elevator first (chivalry is not dead yet, ladies), tip a service worker extra if they did a great job, or even wait to let people off the bus and train first before you get on. These actions all display having good manners and will brighten up someone else’s day causing a ripple effect throughout our society. If everybody observed the golden rule of ‘treat others the way you would like to be treated’, our manners and attitude would shift quite a bit.

Sometimes, we don’t have the right attitude or display good manners but it’s good to be remembered of what they are. Unfortunately, there are no schools or institutions anymore that teach these social graces and courtesies to young men and young women, but I do hope that they make a comeback. Without each member of our society trying their best to display good manners and have a positive attitude, there would immediately be dysfunction, chaos, and a torrent of rudeness.

  • Strong Eye Contact and Confident Body Language

You wouldn’t think about it often but it is the icing on the proverbial cake to be able to present yourself well when it comes to both your eye contact and body language. While these two actions take place subconsciously, if you’re able to be mindful of it at times especially at key moments in your personal and professional life, you will be able to stand out in a great way. Maintaining strong eye contact and confident body language could help you improve your life tremendously. This is especially the case when you are meeting someone for the first time. You want to look them in the eye, keep your head held high, and give them a firm handshake.

Even after you meet them, you want to keep your shoulders back and walk with purpose. I’m not an expert when it comes to body language but I know what not to do in most situations. You want to be keep your legs pointing forward, your head should be at eye level, and you should keep your body open in how you stand and sit. Bad body language like looking down at the floor, having your legs crossed all of the time, folding your arms, and scrunching your shoulders are all bad habits that you are going to be mindful of avoiding. It’s important when presenting yourself to be confident, serious, and even smile a bit to diffuse your own internal stress and anxiety depending on the situation you’re in.

The saying, “Fake it until you make it” is key when it comes to body language. If you practice it enough times, it will eventually be so ingrained in you that you won’t have to act the part anymore. Having strong eye contact and confident body language will set you apart from other people who display the opposite. If you’re looking for that edge in work, business, or aspects of your personal life, you’ll want to be working hard to present yourself well in these two regards.

When you meet strangers for the first time, eye contact and body language are two key things that they’ll notice right off the bat. If you’re not able to create a positive impression with them, it’s likely that you won’t get very far with them professionally or personally. If you have a trustworthy family member or a good friend, it’s beneficial to practice body language and eye contact with them. Once they give you high marks for setting the right tone and finishing it off with a firm handshake, you’ll be able to impress strangers, employers, and even love interests with this overlooked aspect of presenting yourself well.

The main reason why I wrote this article is because I think we have reached the point in society where we pay too little attention to presenting ourselves well. With the absence of rules or standards, society can degrade to a point where it becomes dysfunctional. This comes down to being able to present yourself well to the world in the hopes that it will return the favor to you in one way or another. It’s not just about other people too but it’s about self-respect and doing your best to live up to your own standards and code. Having an overall society made up of individuals who understand that appearances do actually matter but so do manners and body language can help us progress to be fairer, kinder, and more respectful of one another.

Unfortunately, knowing how to present oneself is not taught anymore and hasn’t been for a few generations but I hope with this article that this kind of advice can come back into fashion and spur a good dialogue. How you dress, what you say, and how you act does not stop at you as an individual but ripples out to the rest of your society. If you’re not putting in the effort, why should anyone else do the same? We all have an individual responsibility to present ourselves well because by doing that, the society as a whole can improve in a number of ways by following your example.

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The Power of Mentorship

Since the days of ancient Greece, the concept of mentoring or mentorship has been apart of human recordkeeping and history. The naming of the word itself ‘mentor’ is said to have come from Homer’s ‘Odyssey’ where the main character, Odysseus, while getting ready to leave for his famous voyage, decided to leave his infant son behind. Because he didn’t want to leave his son alone considering how long his ‘odyssey’ could be, His infant son, Telemachos, was left in the care and companionship of Odysseus’s friend named ‘Mentor.’ From this allegorical story from Homer, we get a sense of how longstanding the idea of mentorship has been around and why it has lasted throughout the centuries.

Why exactly is mentorship so powerful? Well, there are a number of reasons why it can be such a helpful and important part of a person’s success. People very rarely can do everything by themselves and to have the ability to seek out someone who gives them both their time and expertise without asking for anything in exchange is what makes having a mentor so powerful. Now, not everybody starts out being the best mentor. It’s a skill like any other skill that takes time to develop. It’s also impossible to mentor somebody in every aspect of his or her life.

It would be better to focus on an area where you think you can be a good mentor and lend help to another person. For example, if you’re good at writing and consider yourself to be a writer, you should want to mentor someone else who’s aspiring to be a writer and not someone who wants to become a mechanical engineer. Your mentoring has to line up with the mentee’s aspirations and what they hope to do in the future. Mentorship doesn’t only have to be professional advice but it can also involve be personal advice as well. Mentorship can range from how to learn a new skill set in order to make more money to being able to manage your personal relationships better.

Before mentorship can begin though, a level of trust has to be built up over time between the mentor and the mentee. When you’ve taken upon the role of the mentor, it’s important to make sure that you think that the mentee can be successful and that they can put in the work and effort to reach their goals. If somebody is mentoring you, it’s important to make sure that you know them well already, you respect them, and you find that they have good expertise and knowledge in the field or area that you need mentoring in.

A mentor doesn’t have to be a boss or a co-worker. It could also be a friend or family member who you have a close relationship to and is able to give you sound advice based off of their personal and/or professional experiences. When it comes to mentorship, it has to be a consistent and long-standing relationship between two people. The mentor and the mentee should be meeting on a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis together in order to make actual real and sustained progress on both their short-term and long-term goals. If you’re only meeting with a mentor once every month or every three months, it’s not going to work out and you’ll be lucky to make any lasting progress. If mentorship is done right, the mentee will see themselves go far in the area, skillset, or field that they’re focusing on especially if the mentor is giving out real, practical advice that they themselves have proven to work.

For mentorship to be successful, it’s important that this kind of relationship between two people be a two-way street and not just a one-sided affair. The mentee should not be getting 100% of the benefits out of the mentorship because respect and appreciation has to be paid from the mentee to the mentor. Time, as we all know, is quite valuable and for a mentor to be giving his time freely to the mentee especially on a weekly or monthly basis is a very selfless thing to be doing. While the mentor should not expect anything in return right away, a healthy mentorship would involve the mentee taking it upon himself to show his appreciation and thanks through small gestures. It could be buying your mentor a gift for the holidays or buying them a ticket to a baseball game or a concert but it’s important to show that you care about the mentorship and that you realize it’s nice to give back every now and then.

If you’ve built up a strong personal friendship with your mentor, it would be nice for the mentee to spend time with the mentor outside of their formal meetings / sit-downs, etc. For example, if you two have shared interests outside of business, you can go out together for dinner, or do an activity together. Mentorships don’t have to be strictly business all of the time and the best mentorships are when both parties like each other and would consider themselves to be good friends. One of the key powers of mentorship is its’ sustainability and longevity when it’s done right. A fruitful mentorship of months and even years can definitely change the course of a person’s life. While not the easiest thing in life to take upon oneself, being a mentor to someone is one of the most rewarding things a person can do and it’s an easy way to make the world a bit better than before.

Unfortunately, true mentorship today isn’t as prevalent as it used to be and is a far cry from what it was like just a generation or two ago. Most people today do not have a mentor in their lives to help them who can they rely on for good advice without paying money. If you’re able to be a mentor to someone who needs your help or advice, it is something that should be seriously considered especially if that person has a lot of potential. Mentorships shouldn’t always be thought of in terms of the mentor being older the mentee in terms of age.

That’s a fallacy in that there are ways in which older people can learn from younger people especially in this current digital age of technology. The power of mentorships lies in the inherent decency of one person helping another person to get ahead in life in any way that they can. The mentee can then take the advice to heart and work hard to improve themselves in professional and/or personal ways. The mentee should show gratitude and appreciation to the mentor because having a good mentor who is generous with his time is not easy to find these days. While mentorships and apprenticeships were more common a generation or two ago, they are exceedingly rare nowadays. If you’re able to have a good mentor in your life, remember to be grateful for it and pay it back in the future by mentoring another person who is growing through the same struggles and setbacks that you once conquered yourself.

If there were more active mentoring going on between people, not only would their own individual lives improve over time but also that of the local community and society as a whole. When more and more folks are willing to give back to others in their community and help them out consistently, that helps out the society in general. The power of mentorship is also a reminder that we’re all in this together and we should try to spur on success of others rather than kick them down a notch. You’ll feel happier and more engaged in the world to when you give mentorship a shot so I encourage those of you reading this article to go out there, think about why mentorship is important, and figure out if that is a calling that you personally would like to take upon in the future in an effort to help other people help themselves.

Interconnected

interconnected
“Will humanity become more or less interconnected during the 21st century?”

When the 21st Century is over and becomes apart of the history books, it will be known as the first truly interconnected, interdependent, and entangled era of human history. Compared to past eras, borders are more open, long-distance travel is common place due to modern aviation, and global commerce is more free than it ever has been. Globalization as a phenomenon has been made possible not just through open borders and advances in aviation but also due to the wonders of the Internet.

While many human beings can not physically cross borders or take modes of transport to other countries, the Internet has helped to minimize that gap of connection by allowing people from around the world to connect virtually at an increasing frequency. As the technology continues to improve and advance, the Internet has made our planet interconnected on a scale once considered unthinkable a generation ago.

I woke up one morning in New York, had my breakfast and juice, and then was able to log-in to Skype and chat with my good friend who is living in Beirut, Lebanon about his work there and how he has adjusted to living in the Mediterranean metropolis. After that, I sat down to have lunch and finished some homework for a 1:30 PM Spanish lesson with my teacher who is originally from Mexico but currently lives in Italy. Somehow, we were able to make the six-hour time difference work between me in New York and her in Italy. Before the day was over, I had two more Skype and Google Hangout based English lessons with my students from countries like Saudi Arabia and South Korea. Satisfied with my day of both teaching and learning, I settled the rest of my affairs and went down to the kitchen to prepare my dinner for the evening.

None of these lessons or exchanges of information would be possible between persons of different countries and backgrounds without the invention of the Internet. Too often, the average person either takes for granted the capabilities that allow us to stay connected on a worldwide scale or doesn’t take advantage of using this technology to bolster their abilities personally or professionally.

Professionally, as an ESL teacher, the fact that I have been able to use the Internet and web applications such as Skype, Google+, etc. to connect with numerous students from around the world virtually has been a real treat for me. Sometimes, my students with whom I’m working with online do not have the means or ability to work with a native English speaker / teacher in person in their own city or country. Those of us language teachers who commit time out of our lives to help others learn our native languages should be commended for making this a possibility. It is truly enjoyable for me to work with those students online from different countries who will share with me interesting tidbits about their cultures and societies.

Personally, I have been able to stay in touch and meet up again with friends of mine from different regions of the world thanks to staying connected through social media websites like Facebook, CouchSurfing, Twitter, etc. The Internet has allowed me to stay connected with international friends, both new and old, thanks to the rise of social media and its applications. It is funny to think that only fifty to hundred years ago, or even before the advent of the Internet, twenty years ago, the best that you could do is send a handwritten letter by mail or make an expensive call to any location overseas. Now, such communication to an international location is often very cheap or even free of charge depending on which application you decide to use.

While the advent of globalization has its positives and negatives, which are often debated and discussed endlessly, I believe that one net positive from globalization has been how the Internet and the “world wide web” has made humanity interconnected. This one trend of “Interconnectedness” for the 21st century is one that isn’t going to reverse course anytime soon and is going to be hard pressed to find itself limited in total amount of users or overall global popularity.

According to the World Bank’s recent report titled “World Development Report 2016: Digital Dividends”, the number of people worldwide who have access to the Internet has tripled from about 1 billion people in 2006 to about 3.5 billion people in 2016. This recent development is an extraordinary occurrence. This means that over 40% of humanity now has some type of access to the Internet which has become increasingly possible due to rise of mobile technology and the spread of 3G and 4G cellular networks.

As more and more people connect to digital markets of e-commerce, become new entrepreneurs and start to create their own small businesses, this will also allow more students to connect and learn with me here in New York and other teachers around the world to learn English or another foreign language. The possibilities of eventually having everyone connected to the Internet would be truly endless. It could lift millions more people out of poverty and create new economic opportunities where there were none before.

Some of the big questions to be answered in the coming decades is how do we as a global community work together to connect the remaining 60% of humanity to the Internet? How do we work together as governments, NGOs, and individuals to give people the means virtually to benefit economically and personally from the advent of the Internet? These are not easy questions to answer let alone solve. However, if humanity is to continue advancing and developing into the future, we must continue to become more interconnected to each other. That is a fundamental truth of the 21st century for which we all must be aware of.

Sources:

1.)  http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/jan/13/internet-not-conquered-digital-divide-rich-poor-world-bank-report

2.) http://www.worldbank.org/en/publication/wdr2016

Dealing with Adversity

Historical-Perspective-When-Adversity-breeds-Resilience-top-I.J.-Singh
“There is always something positive that comes out of something negative.”

“Remind thyself, in the darkest moments, that every failure is only a step toward success, every detection of what is false directs you toward what is true, every trial exhausts some tempting form of error, and every adversity will only hide, for a time, your path to peace and fulfillment.”
―Og Mandino

Anybody who has ever lived has faced adversity and struggles that test one’s resolve and fortitude. How someone deals with these challenges and setbacks can show you their true character. I used to live under the assumption that everything will go smoothly if you work hard, play by the rules, and do your best. Recent events in my life have shown this hypothesis to not be true. Life is not fair sometimes and it is extremely important to adapt to this fact rather than to fight it head on.

We can curse our misfortunes but it is much better to move on and look to the future. The worst thing that someone dealing with adversity can do is to wallow in self-pity and to be endowed with guilt. The past won’t change but the future is still in your hands to shape. I am glad that I am aware of the realities of the world now while I’m still young rather than to be surprised by them at a later age. If a goal you strived for vanishes into thin air or a dream that you thought would be yours disappears, it does no good to consider what might have been but to plan instead on what could still be.

I would be lying if I didn’t say that over these past two weeks I’ve felt a range of emotions ranging from anger to sadness. I was in denial at first about what happened to me and why it happened to me. Initially, I could not accept what I could not change. I went through the five stages similar to the popular model of ‘Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance.’ Luckily, I did not suffer a personal loss or suffer from a serious ailment but I was crushed by the news that I would not be continuing on the adventure that I started eighteen months ago when I filled out my first application form.

It is difficult to deal with these painful emotions and feelings but it is far better to embrace them rather than to let them bottle up inside of you and fester on and on. I would have loved to continue the good work that I was doing and to finish the job that I had signed up for. Unfortunately, life has other plans for me and I am willing to embrace the challenges that lie ahead. Luckily, we live in a world where there are plenty of opportunities and possibilities available to those of us who are willing to work hard and to use our knowledge.

Clearly, I am not the only person to ever suffer setbacks and misfortunes. Many exemplary leaders and icons of history were unsuccessful in their initial hopes and dreams before greatness found them later on in their lives. The 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, had many personal misfortunes and professional failures happen to him before he became elected to the highest office in the land. He lost lovers and family members, failed in business, was defeated multiple times for elected office, and dealt with mental health struggles all throughout his life.

However, he never gave up because he knew what he was worth, had faith in himself and his abilities. He displayed a strong intellect and a strong drive to be great. President Lincoln had a lasting impact on my country and the world. This would not have been possible if he had simply given up when he encountered all of these adversities and disappointments. His story is a continual inspiration for me and for others who have been dealt a personal or professional blow to their lives.

How would our world be different today if inventors like Edison had given up after his 900th try at inventing the lightbulb or if geniuses like Einstein had listened to those teachers / headmasters who told him that he was lazy, dumb, and not worth the effort? If you don’t have confidence or don’t believe in yourself, you are not going to get very far in life.

While it’s pleasant to have other people think highly of you and give you praise, there will be other times where they’ll tell you that you’re not good enough and that you don’t belong there. If there is anything that I want the readers of this blog post to realize is that you can’t let anybody else stand in the way of your goals and dreams. They may have good intentions and think that they know what’s best for you but you have to decide that for yourself.

When I was younger, I was naïve to think that everything would go smoothly in my life and that I could control every outcome. Especially after what happened to me recently, I know that this notion is unrealistic. There are certain aspects of your life that you have some control over and there are other aspects that are completely out of your control. I do not regret the past nine weeks that I spent in Colombia, and I am proud of the good work that I was doing. I am happy for my fellow CII-8 trainees and wish them all the best as they become volunteers and move on to their communities for the next two years of service. I was grateful for the opportunity and have some good memories from this experience that I will remember fondly.

The future is unclear at the moment but I look forward to the opportunities and possibilities that lay ahead. I know that I will continue to write and develop this personal blog that I started eight months ago. I believe that there are many adventures that lie ahead for me in my life. I will continue to have faith in myself and my abilities. Dealing with this particular adversity will make me a stronger and more mature person in the long run. I have a strong mind, a strong body and I am confident that I will get through this momentary setback. Your past does not define you and the future is yours for the taking. Always remember that.

Expanding National Service

nationalservice
“Congress agrees…but will that turn into actual legislation in the future?”

If you are a young American thinking about what to do next with your life after finishing high school or college, and you’re interested in serving greater causes than your own personal goals and pursuits, you should seriously consider becoming a volunteer. You may have your own preferences when it comes to serving but what matters is that you choose to do something to give back to those in your country and those around the world who are less fortunate than yourself. Your career goals, your family, and even your friends will understand if you choose to put things on hold for a few years, especially if you’re in your 20s still. You may like your volunteer service so much that you choose to make a career out of it too.

Currently, in the United States, a country which continues to be divided more and more along political and economic fault lines, I think it is vital that young Americans choose to put their differences aside and contribute to bettering their country or the wider world in some measurable way. Volunteering or serving a community can help you to become a better person and a better citizen. There are many options out there if you decide to take the leap and apply for some programs. Not only will you be doing good for a school, a community, a city, etc., you will be helping your own future out with the experience, knowledge, and skills that you will gain from the type of service you commit to.

Contrary to popular belief, joining the Military, while a very noble and brave pursuit, is not the only way to serve one’s country or community. There are many other options for those of us in the United States. The most popular volunteer programs include AmeriCorps, Peace Corps, Habitat for Humanity, CommunityHealth Corps, Teach for America, City Year, FEMA Corps, etc. Those are some of the most well-known and reputable organizations and agencies that have successfully made in a difference in the lives of thousands of people both in the United States and around the world. Besides these national programs, there is also thousands of other more local and community-based volunteer service organizations located in different towns and cities across America. While the options to serve are out there in global, national, and local settings, most young people do not commit to any type of service after college and choose instead to go into the private sector and begin their careers right away.

While the number of applications number in the thousands and continue to grow for service programs like Teach for America and the Peace Corps, there are not nearly enough spots available for all the young people who would like to serve but can’t due to a lack of funding or not enough spaces for them. Demand is not the overall issue when it comes to the issue of national service but rather the supply. Less than 1% of the American population currently serves in the Military and while other national service programs enroll tens of thousands of volunteers and the competition to get accepted is intense, only 25% of adult Americans are known have served in some capacity, which is quite a low number when you think about it.

Senator John McCain of Arizona and U.S. Army General Stanley McChrystal recently wrote an excellent Op-Ed article for CNN where they also argued for an expansion of choices and options when it comes to national service for young Americans. They both believe that this issue is non-partisan and should be heartily agreed upon by both political parties and the American public as well. They go on to discuss the idea of a year or more of mandatory national service in order to foster a greater sense of citizenship, mutual investment, and commitment among young people for the country and the world. I agree with their sentiment wholeheartedly.

While there are a great amount of people my age who commit a few years in their 20’s to public and national service, many of my fellow citizens do not have the chance to or do not want to. Mandating a year or two of national service for all American citizens after college or high school would be an excellent policy idea and would be a great benefit to institutions like Teach for America, AmeriCorps, etc. Creating the opportunity for every young American to give back to their community and country is a noble endeavor and can only help the future rather than hinder it.

Overall trust in the American government, national institutions, and even other citizens are at all-time lows. Expanding opportunities for young Americans to serve would be a great way to begin to restore that faith and confidence in our civil society, and to rebuild that national fabric that holds us together as one people. Recent legislative efforts like the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act and the 21st Century Conservation Service Corps have been great in expanding national service in certain ways by increasing AmeriCorps membership by 250,000 volunteers per year and focusing on putting more resources towards improving our national parks and forests respectively.

However, none of the legislation thus far has gone far enough to make at least one year of national service mandatory for every citizen and to provide enough opportunities and programs available to make it a feasible commitment. I would hope that the next President and Congress will strive to involve more young people in building a better America and a better world. One or more years of national service from millions of young Americans would make such a positive and sizable impact on the country as a whole. It would be definitely worth the money it would take to make this public policy idea a reality.

As President Theodore Roosevelt once said, “We have fallen heirs to the most glorious heritage a people ever received, and each one must do his part if we wish to show that the nation is worthy of its good fortune.”

Sources:

1.) https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/therootdc/post/why-volunteer-programs-like-the-peace-corps-teach-for-america-reward-children/2012/02/02/gIQAOXl8mQ_blog.html
2.) http://www.cnn.com/2015/08/10/opinions/mccain-mcchrystal-national-service-legislation/
3.) http://www.nationalservice.gov/about/legislation/edward-m-kennedy-serve-america-act
4.)http://www.nationalservice.gov/sites/default/files/documents/10_0421_saa_implementation.pdf
5.) http://www.mccain.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/2015/8/senators-john-mccain-michael-bennet-introduce-bill-to-expand-national-service-opportunities-for-american-youth
6.) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-brown/americorps-funding_b_1280200.html
7.) http://www.people-press.org/2014/11/13/public-trust-in-government/
8.) http://21csc.org/

The Culture of Dressing Down

Personal appearance is very important to how human beings generally judge one another even before we have a chance to open our mouths to to say something verbally. That’s a harsh truth for some to deal with but it is absolutely correct that what you wear can leave a positive or negative impact on how you are perceived by others. A major factor that plays into our overall appearance is how we dress ourselves. I am no fashion expert by any means but I have noticed recently and many others have as well that our culture has embraced dressing down in almost every situation, whether in a public or private setting. Instead of putting some work into our style and our appearance, most people today do not put in any effort at all and it’s very disappointing to see on a daily basis.

"Women in the 1940's - Fashion"
“Women in the 1940’s – Fashion”

Going back to my parents’ and grandparents’ generations by looking at old photographs, watching old movies from that era, and seeing the attire that both men and women committed themselves to, it’s quite impressive to witness when compared to the lack of effort that most people subscribe to nowadays. Whether it was going to the supermarket, watching a film or play, and especially going out to a restaurant, both the rich and the poor, the young and the old, did their best to look their best. I would say that it’s becoming increasingly rare for most people to dress up even if its’ just to go out to dinner or to see a live show.

There was a recent news story that caught my attention where it showed the photographs of people in line to go see ‘Les Miserables’ on Broadway in New York City but instead of wearing suits and dresses, the photos showed most of the theater-goers wearing cargo shorts, tank tops, and flip flops. I can’t fault these people for not knowing how others dressed in the past to watch plays, or enjoy the opera but it shows a lack of awareness of the situation and type of event that you’re going to. When you’re going to the theater or the opera, you shouldn’t be dressing up like you’re attending a baseball game.

"Men in the 1950's - Fashion"
“Men in the 1950’s – Fashion”

Some may say that how we dressed in previous generations was conformist, boring, and dated but you cannot doubt that those same folks displayed class, sophistication, and attention to detail at the same time. No generation is perfect or has all of the answers but the fact that they put effort into their appearance and how they looked everyday says a lot overall. ‘Dressing Up’ didn’t use to be for only a special occasion but was a day-to-day ritual for most. I also believe that nice dress clothes were more affordable back then and, the major clothing companies encouraged their sale to the American public. It’s only been since the 1960’s and onwards where casual became cool and wearing blue jeans, shirts, and shorts out in public became normal and culturally acceptable.

"Compare and contrast the fashion today with that of the 1940's and 1950's..."
“This picture is a great example of how not to dress when going to the theater…”

I have to admit that I am guilty of not dressing up for most social occasions these days but it is something in my own life that I am going to start changing. Recently, I’ve made it a point to look my best if it’s for a dinner out on the town, a theater play, or another classier type of social gathering. I don’t envision most people suddenly changing their ways too much where men will wear suits to the grocery store or women will wear dresses when going to the dry cleaners but I think that a balance between casual and formal wear has to be struck.

Instead of wearing a tank top, shorts, and flip flops when you’re shopping and/or running errands, try to wear a button-down shirt, a pair of khakis, and a nicer pair of shoes. You may be surprised on how much more seriously people will begin to take you in your personal and professional life if you start taking care of your appearance and your style. Regardless, if you’re attending a nighttime gala or heading to the local supermarket to get groceries, clothes will always make the man or woman.

The Importance of Community

“Be part of a group. Life is better that way.”

“Being apart of a community is what makes you happy…not rising to the top and sequestering yourself from community.” This quote is from one of my favorite podcasts, “Tangentially Speaking” with Dr. Christopher Ryan. During this show, he conducted an interview with travel host and producer, Jonathan Legg of ‘The Road Less Traveled’ who is the author of the quote above. I was listening to the podcast while I was driving through my hometown when the subject of ‘community’ came to the forefront of their interview. The two of them, who are both very intelligent and worldly men, explained to the listeners how chasing money, fame, and fortune doesn’t ultimately make us happy as human beings.

I absolutely agree with this assessment made on the podcast and believe that while possessions, money, and owning property can create happiness in the short-term, long-term happiness and fulfillment can only come from strong bonds with your friends, family, and community. Dr. Ryan and Mr. Legg also mentioned in one segment of the podcast how isolating oneself while traveling, and staying in hotels does not create a great life experience. I couldn’t agree more having stayed in nice hotels, hostels, and guesthouses during my own travels.

While one could be very comfortable and relaxed in a hotel, you won’t meet other travelers and potential friends as easily compared to when you’re staying in a cheaper hostel that’s in the city center. Dr. Ryan and Mr. Legg concluded in their discussion on communal living that the best way to live is to have your own space to eat and sleep, but to live in close enough proximity to others nearby that you can still have a sense of community and sharing without being isolated. I believe that compared to recent generations and even further back, the idea of community is starting to weaken and become less important which is in direct contrast to human nature and true happiness.

Harvard Political Scientist and Professor, Robert D. Putnam, was one of the first people to bring to national attention the change and decline in communities with his book, “Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community.” He makes the argument that people have been interacting with each other less and less over the past few decades. Instead of going out to socialize in public through bowling leagues, picnics, sport clubs, religious organizations, etc., more and more people are opting out and have been expanding the amount of time spent using technology as a substitute.

With the ability to have groceries, electronics, books, restaurant food, etc. delivered right to one’s doorstep in major cities and towns now, people have less and less motivation to leave the house. Telecommuting and ‘working from home’ have become more popular as well making ‘office work’ and ‘happy hours’ less obligatory. Social and traditional forms of media have exploded in the sheer amount of offerings whether its’ through websites, TV channels, and/or digital gadgets.

When it comes to community life, religious and social organizations have often formed the backbone and glue that holds people together. However, many different news media outlets have reported that attendance at churches and synagogues have been taking a downward spiral. A growing percentage of Americans are identifying themselves as ‘atheist’ or ‘agnostic’ when it comes to their religious beliefs. Personally, I have no problem with our generation being an irreligious one but I do think it’s tough to replicate that type of community within other types of social organizations.

In addition to the close bonds between neighbors that shared religious beliefs can bring, it can provide a sense of belonging just like many other social groups. Beyond religious affiliated groups, membership in long-standing organizations such as the Boy Scouts and other volunteer organizations is also on the decline as well.

Newsweek.com highlighted this trend illustrated this disturbing trend with official numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics: “In recent years, the percentage of Americans volunteering has dwindled and is now at its lowest level in a decade. Last year, In 2014, the official volunteer rate was 25.4 percent, or 62.6 million people, compared with 29 percent of the population in 2003, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (Official statistics on volunteer rates go back only to 2002.)”

Recently, one of the pillars of my community that I was born into and grew up with shuttered its’ doors last year. My local synagogue where I was Bar Mitzvah’d, went to Shabbat services, and celebrated the Jewish holidays was not able to fund itself due to overall lack of membership and decided to merge with another still functional congregation. This was disappointing for me to hear about because I have a lot of fond memories of that place and the people I met there. It was more than just about religion but it was also a gathering place for Jewish residents of the local area to come together and get to know one each other better and form bonds of friendship. While members of the former synagogue have moved on to another synagogue nearby, it’s not the same as it once was and it’s difficult to integrate oneself into a new community.

This is a trend that seems to be replicating itself across the country. Most Americans don’t know their neighbor next door like they used to and beyond the local school PTA of the local town or city, there’s not much anymore to bring people together. The increasing atomization and isolation of people is worrying for me to hear about. However, I am quite positive about the power and spread of the internet to bring people from different backgrounds and beliefs all over the world together.

While it’s not perfect, you can still remain connected to old friends, former classmates, past roommates, etc. through social networking. Instead of bowling leagues, sports clubs, the local YMCA, now we have Meetup.com and Groupspaces. As technology continues to advance, the meaning of ‘community’ will continue to change and adapt to the times. However, we as human beings must not forget the importance of being apart of a community and how much it means to our mental health and overall happiness.

References:

http://www.saddleback.edu/faculty/agordon/documents/Bowling_Alone.pdf

http://www.newsweek.com/2014/10/03/volunteering-america-decline-272675.html

http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/01/17/us-usa-boyscouts-idUSKBN0KQ05O20150117