My International Day of Awesomeness Manifesto

Today is the third International Day of Awesomeness, a holiday I invented back in 2007. For the past three years, I’ve tried to perform a “feat of awesomeness” to commemorate the day. The first year, I dyed my hair blue, something I’d always wanted to do but never had the guts to actually do. Last year’s was less obvious, but there was a huge layoff at AOL the day before, so I wrote LinkedIn recommendations for all of my friends that got laid off instead of doing something else. This year, I walked around Forsyth Park with my friends Murray and Tom (something they do three times a week at 6:30AM), poorly organized a lunch at a brand new restaurant downtown, and am now doing part three – writing a manifesto. I wanted to write down, for the world to see, what I believe in and what I aspire to be. But, I remembered this TED Talk from Barry Schwartz and realized that he sums up most of it in 20 minutes of eloquence. So, watch it, and then join me down below.

He talks quite a bit about “moral heroes” and celebrating them. My moral heroes are pretty simple: Mister Rogers, Elwood P. Dowd and Jesus Christ. All three men (fictional or not) contain the attributes I aspire to. They’re kind, empathetic and gentle.\
I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want my kids to learn from me, and here’s the (very short) list I’ve come up with:

  • Be kind to everyone.
  • Do no harm.

I think that if I can live those two things, everything else that I could do that would be considered good or worthwhile will follow naturally. As Jesus said, “And the second [great commandment] is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (Matthew 22:39). Elwood P. Dowd, the protagonist in Harvey said it like this, “Years ago my mother used to say to me, she’d say, ‘In this world, Elwood, you must be’ – she always called me Elwood – ‘In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.’ Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.”

I don’t know about choosing between being smart or pleasant. I hope it’s possible to be both.

And, I obviously stole the second item in the list from the Hippocratic Oath, but I think it applies to everyone, not just doctors. To me, that means not just avoiding physical harm but emotional. If you’re kind and empathetic, you’re not going to intentionally cause any kind of harm to anyone else – and you’re much less likely to cause it unintentionally.

The world is full of well-meaning people who forget about empathy. We hear it every day: “I can’t imagine anyone living like that / doing that / feeling that way / loving that person / doing that to themselves / etc.” That shows a problem with their imagination, not with the other people. The things one person can’t imagine are held deeply by others. The things one person thinks are disgusting are the deepest feelings of another’s heart. We try to legislate away everything that makes us uncomfortable. We try to push deep down inside us those feelings that we can’t express because we lack the imagination to invent the words for them.

I refuse to believe that there is too little imagination in the world for us to accept each other. Being “tolerant” isn’t good enough.

If the second great commandment is to “love thy neighbor as thyself”, then nothing else can trump that, not the Old Testament, not Paul’s epistles, nothing else in Christian scripture beats Jesus Christ telling us to love each other (if you’re a Christian that is – if you’re not, that’s fine, the golden rule is a fairly universal concept – see the Charter for Compassion).

If my kids learn that from me, then I think I’ve done my job. It doesn’t matter what else they learn from me. If they grow up to be gentlemen, in the truest simplest definition of the word, then I’ll be happy.

How are you supposed to end a manifesto? I think I’ll end it with a quote from Martin Luther King Jr, who is on my “expanded” list of moral heroes:

Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression, or retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.

International Day of Awesomeness is almost here!

International Day of Awesomeness is this Monday. This is an opportunity to celebrate the awesomeness already within you.\
bq. No one’s perfect, but everyone can be awesome… People are awesome every day, frequently don’t realize it, and their feats of awesomeness are rarely recognized. We aim to fix that, with a special day to both perform and celebrate feats of awesomeness! bq.\
For the lazybones in the crowd, Monday, March 10, was picked because it is Chuck Norris’s birthday. Go here to read why Chuck Norris is so awesome.\
It’s been fun to read the different mentions of this around the internet. I am nothing if not a supportive wife, so I knew I had to do something too. Plus, Max is super excited. It is a school day and Kevin will be out of town, though, so I was having trouble thinking up something. Then inspiration struck! I made t-shirts. (Erm, I came up with the idea, did the shopping, and googling, and then went to my in-laws who actually made the shirts. Heh. Thanks, Baba and Uncle Steve.) Because really? Special t-shirts and/or cupcakes are all you need for a celebration. It’s true, ask around!\
Here they are:\
Aren’t they great? Some might even say “awesome.” I know Max will. He doesn’t know about them yet though. Wheee. I love fun and silly surprises. Then we are getting together with Baba after school to have a treat or activity of some sort.\
For my awesome feat, I decided to… donate blood! Woot. I am very proud of this idea. 🙂 I haven’t donated blood since moving here and it’s about time I did. My mom always set an excellent example of the importance and ease of donating blood. I have an appointment in Fairfax for Monday afternoon. Go me!!\
So, those are my plans for the International Day of Awesomeness. What are yours?

A Couple Awesome Things

First off, anyone who can find a funny way to raise money for a charity, especially one dealing with hairblz, is awesome. The Great Mustache Contest is awesome. Not only do they have a killer tag line: “Because it takes balls to grow a mustache”, they’re raising money for testicular cancer research – by getting guys to grow mustaches!\
I’m still thinking about it… the only thing holding me back is that I may be speaking at a conference smack in the middle of the contest, and I’m not sure I want to go speak, representing AOL, sporting a Cletus. But, I may go ahead and do it anyway (update: I went ahead and signed up – the donate button will appear on the site shortly).

Pirate Kitteh!

Pirate Kitteh!

Secondly, the awesome Scott Andrew is self-producing his new album. I accidentally discovered Scott a long time ago and loved his work with The Walkingbirds. I met him at SxSW, and he’s a really good guy. He’s accepting donations to try to finish up the album, and I think that’s great. It takes balls (there they are again!) to go it alone and try to do it all yourself, and I think that should not only be applauded, but supported. The more artists are able to really go it alone without having to sell their souls to corporate record labels, and make it work, that can only mean good things for music fans. It means more music for us, and gets us closer to the artists we like. Go, Scott, go!\
I’m slowly working on the Rails app that will power The International Day of Awesomeness blog and an extra special something that my pal Kedar suggested. Slowly because by the time I do 9-10 hours of “real” work, and spend a couple hours playing with the boys, I’m pretty much shot. I’ve got things started, but nowhere near ready to launch – but keep your eyes peeled. I’m hoping to launch it in the next month or so…

The National Day of Awesomeness

These things always start as a joke. Fortunately, I am someone who always takes the joke too far. So, here we are, with The National Day of Awesomeness. You’ll have to go to the site to read up on the holiday, what it is, when, and why you should join the probably three or four other people who will celebrate this special day (for which I’m sure someone will produce greeting cards in the very near future) early next year.\
This is no longer a joke. This is serious. Well, as serious as a day dedicated to being awesome can be, that happens to occur on Chuck Norris’ birthday, and organized by a complete idiot… Yeah, it’s that serious.