Start the Weekend Right Link Series – Volume #2, Edition #1

After a nearly 8 month absence, I’ve decided to bring back the Start the Weekend Right Link Series. There’s just too much awesome content that I run across on a daily basis for me not to share these links. On the topic of there being so much great content out there, if you find yourself visiting several websites each day and you’re looking for a better way to stay up to date on all of your favorite websites’ new articles, then I recommend signing up for a free Feedly account. I don’t get any kickback or reimbursement for promoting their product; I just think Feedly is the best RSS reader on the market and that everyone should use it! If you’re using another RSS aggregator, then consider following JerseySmarts.com at http://www.jerseysmarts.com/feed/ or if you’re already on Feedly, then you can follow us by clicking here.

Anyway, the link series is back. Enjoy the links below and get your weekend started right!

Start the Weekend Right Link Series – Volume #2, Edition #1
5 Things I Wish I Knew Before College, Be Great Daily
One of my younger fraternity alumni started a blog focused on personal development, motivation, and inspiration. He wrote an entry that caught my eye because of its timeliness. With colleges across the nation kicking back into session either this past week or this coming week, I thought that now was the perfect time to share this entry. What are the 5 things that you wish you knew before college?

What If?, Danger & Play
Mike at Danger & Play has some of the best content on the web for men of all ages. This particular entry poses the question – what if? In this short, but thought-provoking read, Mike asks a lot of great “what if” questions. My favorite one was, “What if you live your life with a sense of urgency and purpose?” More people need to live life with a better sense of urgency. The time is now, people!

Great Leadership Isn’t About You, Harvard Business Review
This one is a little bit longer, but it really hits home on one of the core characteristics of great leadership. The article suggests that great leadership is about inspiring your followers to “share your enthusiasm for pursuing a shared ideal, objective, cause, or mission.” Amen! As the title of the article states – great leadership is not about YOU!

The English Major Has Lost Its Way, John William Pope Center
Keeping with the earlier theme of “back to school,” this is an entry about how the English major has lost its way in higher education. My undergraduate degree is in English, but I always knew that English couldn’t be the end of the road. In my graduate studies I opted to get a degree in Public Policy along with two different certifications – one in Public Relations and another in Curriculum Studies. You have to be diversified if you’re an English major. The third to last paragraph of the linked commentary gives a concrete suggestion to improve the English major curriculum, and I agree with the writer.

What’s Wrong With Comcast?, The Atlantic
We all remember listening a few months ago as a customer tried to cancel his service with Comcast and the telephone rep for the cable giant refused to let him do so until the bitter end. It was the very definition of a public relations nightmare for Comcast. In the wake of the call being released, some folks began interviewing current and former Comcast employees to try to figure out what the problem is over there. This article sums up their largest problem – a company that is built on a fragmented structure. Not a good situation to be in. Not good at all.

Building a Better Teacher: An Interview with Elizabeth Green, EdWeek
Normally, I’d stay far away from posting links that direct people to articles on education-based websites. The unfortunate truth is that the public education industry is inundated with extremists and ideologues who are intellectually dishonest and blatantly lie to disgrace the people they assume to be their opposition. And most public school teachers are brainwashed by the propaganda organizations that they call “unions” (particularly here in New Jersey) so it makes having an intelligent conversations virtually impossible. This interview, however, is with an author who wrote a book about which teaching methods work in a charter school in Newark. Incidentally, this charter schools is also one of my clients, so I’m extra interested in their success. In fact, I’m so interested that I’m actually going to buy a physical copy of this book (who buys physical books any more?!) to see what the author has to say.

How Anthony the Developer Lost Over 200 Lbs… In One Year, Nerd Fitness
Sometimes, I’ll spend an hour or so reading through different motivational websites focused on realistic approaches to the world. Many years ago, though, I stopped reading blogs focused on the primary writer’s weight loss journey. Those blogs are a dime a dozen out there, but their abundance doesn’t bother me. I’m bothered by the “if I can do it, YOU can do it!” bullshit that accompanies most of these weight loss journeys. No, idiot. Your readers’ lives are different than your lives. They can’t do exactly what you did because they’re NOT you. A few years ago there was a semi-famous blog written by a guy who lost 125 pounds by counting calories and starting to work out. Big surprise he lost weight, right? And then after he stopped counting calories and working out? He gained 70 pounds back. Now he justifies gaining the weight back as being healthy. Amazing. The article linked here is NOT that website nor is it that guy’s story! This article is from a fun fitness website called Nerd Fitness and it talks about a guy who lost 200 pounds. I’m not suggesting you get inspired from what this guy did because he’s not you. However, looking at the pictures is pretty dramatic and eye-opening.

The Necktie, Doghouse Diaries
One thing I hate about working in an office is that I often have to wear a necktie. I liked the comic that I’m linking here so much that I pinned it to my office wall. Stupid neckties…

‘Six Californias’ Plan May Make 2016 Ballot, USA Today
This article may not be as recent as some of the others linked above, but it is certainly relevant. Particularly in our country, where we’re finally beginning to have a national dialogue about whether a two-party system works best for American and what elements are in place that keep the two-headed monster firmly in control of American politics. The map in this article shows how the state of California could (and should) be broken into six different states.

9 Striking Library Posters from the Great Depression, BOOK RIOT
If you made it down this far, then you already know that I was an English major back in college. You may have surmised from that information that I enjoy reading – which would be correct. One of the book-focused websites that I follow is BOOK RIOT, though not all of their content is focused on book reviews. Take, for example, the entry linked here. This is a post listing nine different library posters from the time of the Great Depression. I don’t know why, but I appreciated these posters – they were fun to look at for a few minutes. I hope you enjoy them!

Again, if you don’t already have one, then I recommend opening a free Feedly account. You can follow JerseySmarts.com on Feedly or you can add us to your existing RSS aggregator. Enjoy!

Words of Wisdom in Sigma Pi’s First Issue of The Emerald

Several weeks ago my fraternity (Sigma Pi) made the entire history of our national magazine (The Emerald) available online. For those who enjoy reading about the history of our organization and learning more about the true foundations of the fraternal movement, this online database is a treasure trove of great reading. As soon as the database was made available I looked up those issues of the magazine which were published after my chapter was initially chartered in 1969 and then rechartered again in 1991. I made electronic copies of the relevant pages related to those charterings and shared them them with my chapter brothers.

As I read through some of the old issues of the magazine I noticed a distinct tone in many of the articles. The tone that many of these articles are written in is much different than what we encounter in today’s writings and discussions in the Greek world. The tone of these articles is stronger than what we read and hear today. It is not an inherently weakened tone nor an apologetic tone. The early writers in our fraternity were strong in their convictions and proud of their membership in Sigma Pi. I imagine that the men who wrote these articles would give a passing chuckle at the heavily biased, anti-fraternity, anti-male drivel that many extreme sources are publishing these days. They’d read an article that talks about the “dark power” of fraternities and pity the writer – not attempt to glean some greater bit of wisdom from this obviously biased perspective.

My long-time readers know that I remained engaged in my fraternity beyond graduation by serving as a local, regional, and national volunteer. And during the 11 years that I’ve spent as a volunteer, I’ve seen and heard a whole bunch. When I began as a volunteer, I joined a national association presumably focused on providing assistance and guidance to fraternity advisors. My membership in that organization lasted about two years. I left that group when I realized that it was not an organization focused on building and strengthening Greek life at the chapter-level, which is the area that interested me the most given my volunteer position at the time. Rather, this was an organization focused on providing university employees working with fraternities and sororities different methods of controlling their students, limiting their university’s liability in worst case scenarios, and implementing more “campus progressive” policies on Greek organizations (i.e. policies that clandestinely break down traditional gender roles by forcing fierce repercussions on men who act masculine as well as women who act feminine).

In short, the strong, masculine perspective that is evident in the writing of my fraternity’s early leaders is absent today. In fact, it’s not just gone – it’s blasphemous on today’s hyper-sensitive college campuses.

I’ve written a commentary about how and why the “campus progressive” mentality was formed and is now spreading in Greek Life. And I plan on publishing that commentary in the near future after I’ve revised it some more. But I thought it would be useful to show you one of the early writings from my fraternity’s magazine to serve as baseline for that future commentary. To that end, I downloaded the first issue of The Emerald and I couldn’t stop reading it. After the opening editorial, I was hooked by the first opinion piece which followed. This piece was titled Measure of the College Fraternity as an Institution and was written by Brother Ralph Stanley Bauer of our Phi Chapter at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

For those of you who are highly engaged in fraternity and sorority life, I think you’ll enjoy reading Brother Bauer’s thoughts which were first published 102 years ago. It is amazing that over a century later, many of the same criticisms stand against our organizations. The difference between today and back then is that the “muck-rackers,” as Brother Bauer calls them, are now empowered and working on college campuses! These muck-rackers are quick to throw away over a century of history in an effort to reprimand college students for a perceived deviation from their strict, mucky definition of Greek values.

Again, I’ve written more on this which I’ll publish here soon. In the meantime, though, I’ll end my thoughts here and yield this space to Brother Bauer. I hope you’ll find his commentary as satisfying as I did when I first read it.

Measure of the College Fraternity as an Institution
By RALPH STANLEY BAUER, Phi Chapter

WHEN a modern and practical man of affairs desires to know whether it is best for his son, a freshman in a university, to become a member of a fraternity, he is likely to ask two questions. One is: What is the demeanor of “frat men” during their careers as undergraduates? The other question that he will ask is: “What do “frat men” amount to after they leave college?” Of these two, the latter question is of the more practical consequence. Fraternities mould men. As they do this work well or poorly, they are successful or unsuccessful. The efficiency of a factory is never determined by the appearance of its product in its unfinished state and when it is only half way through the factory; only the finished product of the factory indicates whether the establishment is serviceable. Moreover, it is not usual to judge the usefulness of a factory by the poor quality of a very small portion of its products, but it is customary to study rather the average quality of the entire output.

Yet there are certain “muck-rakers” who are criticising college fraternities in a manner in which they would not think of criticising other organizations. They forget that the test of the efficiency and usefulness of a college organization is not to be found in the conduct, appearance and demeanor of the student members of the organization. They fail to remember that the test is to be found in the finished product and not in the half-finished material. They say that fraternity men are more attracted by outside amusements than by their studies; that they do not have time to do their class work because of fraternity activities, and that fraternity men are, as a class, sporty. Suppose that, for purposes of argument, we grant all these allegations to be true; does it indicate anything if they are true? Do not these same boisterous, rollicking, fun-loving students become real, live, industrious, useful citizens. In the modern university there is no place for a man who is slow; other students may sympathize with such a man, but they have very little patience with him. Real strenuosity is a part of college life, and it is also a part of business and professional life. What appears to some old fossils to be a sporty and wicked atmosphere is just the kind of an atmosphere that said fossils need to live in for a short time, in order that the stale and sour gases of musty antiquity may be met by a suitable antidote.

These old-time traducers of college fraternities go still further and say that the lives of some college men have been wrecked because of associations formed by them in fraternities during their careers as college students. But suppose even that we grant that this is a fact; have not some persons ruined their lives by forming evil associations while attending Sunday School? Yet, who would dare to argue that, for this reason, the Sunday School should not be accorded a place among our useful institutions?

Educators are agreed that a child is not a small adult and therefore should not be expected to act as an adult would. Neither should the same conduct be expected of young men of ages ranging from sixteen to twenty-six as one would expect of men of forty. Young men of student age need more of recreation, amusement and diversion than do older men. Many of the best forms of wholesome enjoyment are supplied to the student by the fraternity. All this aids in the development of the individual and makes him better fitted to “mix” with other men and take a real place in the world after he leaves college.

We trust that no one will take what has been said concerning recreation and amusement to indicate that the writer has any inclination to believe in the absurd and vicious doctrine that a college man must “sow his wild oats.” No more pernicious proposition was ever put before young men. It is difficult to understand how so base a view of life should ever have gained a footing anywhere in a civilized and Christian country.

If the writer had the space necessary, he would be glad to go into a somewhat full discussion of the reasons why a fraternity man, upon graduation, other things being equal, has received a better training than has a “barb.” Many reasons might be given to show why so large a number of our most successful business and professional men have sprung from the ranks of the college fraternities. Surely, organizations that have produced nearly all of the recent presidents of the United States cannot be wholly bad.

Results count. Vague theories and gloomy foreboding about the “cussedness” of the whole situation cannot impress a man who thinks. Let the great college fraternities of America stand upon their brilliant record of past achievement, and let us hope that the future will equal or, if possible, surpass it in glorious results.

We need more people with this mindset working on our campuses! This is the perspective that our young men and women need to understand. The angry muck-rackers should be shunned from our movement, not employed and empowered by our campuses!

For Those Of You Who Enjoy Playing Around In The Outdoors

One of my friends loves going camping. She and her husband are constantly going away on vacation to exotic places and spending their time away from the office sitting in snowy mountains, tropical jungles, amid the ruins of ancient civilizations, or just hiking the trails along some of our own country’s magnificent natural environments. When you stop to think about it for a moment, America really does have a beautiful landscape which is comprised of a variety of diverse landscapes. We have majestic mountains, grassy plains, scorching deserts, beautiful forests – heck, we even have a volcano over in Washington state!

Personally, I’ve always enjoyed seeing pictures of these places instead of getting out there and experiencing them. And I think the reason for that is because I generally have never had the proper equipment to actually get out there and enjoy the experience. When I see my friend come back from her trips she has bags of hiking equipment and different gear that she uses to make her time in the wilderness not just enjoyable, but safe and productive, too. Even her camera is a top of the line item!

And while anyone can just go to a random store to buy outdoors equipment the truth is that you really need to get high quality gear in order to make your excursion worthwhile. The savvy shopper will find a high quality store like The Clymb and see what they have on sale in their camping tents department. The next step would then be to find the items that work best for the experience that you’re attempting to create. For a guy like me, I’d be focused on my feet. I find that if my feet are getting battered and bruised out there, then I just can’t enjoy myself. I’m sure that many of you are the same way.

I wouldn’t be opposed to even getting a higher performance pair of shoes to spend some time out in the wilderness. So I’m sure it’s no surprise that my first purchase will be from The Clymb’s trail running shoe section! It’s really all about quality for me – particularly when purchasing equipment that is going to have to stand up to the elements.

Since I’m not teaching during the coming semester and since I will have a little bit more free time, I fully expect that I’ll schedule more time to enjoy the wilderness. And with some high quality gear backing me up, I’m sure that my experiences will be just as exciting as my friend and her husband’s experiences!

A Few Words on Treating Drug Addiction and Alcoholism in New Jersey

One of my best friends in the world is a drug addict. Without going into personal details about this person, they came from a home where the parents were divorced. The mother had (and has) a drug addiction and the father likes to drink. The stepmother didn’t have either of those issues, but in the end wound up turning on this person. Through drug addiction, this person wound up turning their back on almost everyone that they knew so that, today, this person sits along in a jail cell without a strong life to return to once the sentence is up.

Why is this person one of my best friends? Well, I don’t really know. Sometimes you just see through all of the addiction and all of the drama that surrounds it and find that you like a person for the human being that they are, right? I guess that’s the root of my friendship with this person – after it’s all said and done, I just like them because they’re a good person at heart.

Stories like this one abound in suburban America. And as a guy who grew up in suburban America, I always wished that there was some type of avenue or route for so many of my friends to have their addictions managed and cared for when they became major problems. And that’s where a group that I recently learned about comes into play: Advanced Health and Education in Eatontown, New Jersey with a specific focus on providing heroin addiction treatment and alcohol rehab, among treatment for other services.

Having a group like Advanced Health and Education in New Jersey is a great option for those of us who know people that really need this type of service. Heroin addiction is running rampant in suburban New Jersey, but particularly in the Jersey Shore area (where I currently live).

Just as Governor Chris Christie mentioned the other day – we need to find ways to help those people in our lives who are addicted to drugs – not continue to lock them up without providing any treatment. Sometimes I wonder what would have become of my friend had they been offered the type of treatment that someone can find at a drug rehab center like Advanced Health and Education. At the very least, that person may not be sitting in a jail cell right now without being provided any treatment for the very real addiction that they suffer from on a daily basis.

If you’re suffering from addiction or if you know someone suffering from addiction or who needs treatment for alcoholism, then consider giving a place like Advanced Health and Education a try. Lord knows it beats the alternative that my friend is suffering through right now.

People Should Not Fabricate Reality To Create A Personal Pity Party

There are few things that I find more irritating than people who just blatantly lie about reality. I’m not necessarily talking about people who need to be medicated because they’re delusional, but rather those people who inflate otherwise ordinary circumstances in an attempt to garner pity for their perceived plight. I had a firsthand view of such inflation a few months ago when I was in line at the local Chipotle.

This woman was in line ahead of me at Chipotle.

This woman was in line ahead of me at Chipotle.

There was a woman standing in line in front of me who appeared to be a little bit hot and bothered by the whole ordering process. She didn’t understand how to order or what to order or how the process works at Chipotle. And that’s fine with me – I just figured that she was new at the whole thing and that this was probably her first time in the store. Everyone has a first time at a new place, right?

Well, this woman proceeded to order a burrito with nearly everything on it. And even though she was a big woman, I have no intent to get on her case about her weight in this post. As you might imagine, while the girl who was making the burrito was stuffing it full of just about everything, the wrapping burst open. The girl behind the counter looked up at the woman and asked if she’d like a newly folded wrapper or just a second burrito wrapper folded over the first one. The woman became somewhat distraught and said to just wrap the burrito in a second wrap.

The young girl behind the counter says okay in a cheery voice and begins wrapping the first, broken burrito in a second wrap. Then, randomly, the woman in line ahead of my screeches out, “You know what? Forget it! I hear what you’re saying! I can hear you talking about me – I’m standing RIGHT HERE! Forget it!” And she stormed out.

As the next guy in line, I was standing about a foot away from this woman and I was shocked. The people behind the counter were shocked. The people standing behind me were shocked. Not only did the young girl behind the counter not say a word about the second wrap, but nobody said a thing about the entire process as it unfolded.

Maybe the pressure of holding up a 25 person line so she could select every single topping and have it shoved into a burrito finally got to the woman who was standing in front of me. Perhaps she heard voices in her head mocking her for getting a quadruple-sized burrito when a regular-sized Chipotle burrito is more than adequate. Who knows what set this woman off, but set off she was and she made a scene as she exited the store.

The story goes on…

I finished getting my order and walked out to my car. As I’m walking towards my car I hear a hysterical person crying and screeching at someone. It turns out that the crazy woman was parked about a car length away from me and bawling her eyes out on the phone with what must have been her husband or boyfriend. Seeing an opportunity to eavesdrop and thus create content for this blog (and here we are!), I rolled down my window and sat in my car as I made it appear like I was looking for something on my phone.

What I heard was amazing. The crazy woman was angry and said some “snotty” little girl was talking about her after the burrito wrap split. She told the guy on the other end of the line that she “didn’t need this today” and that she was “having a really bad day.” Now I’ll write this upfront – I don’t know whether or not she was having a bad day. What I do know, though, is that the girl behind the counter was as pleasant and charming as any customer could ever ask for from Chiptole.

While I sat there and listened to her recount the lie about what actually happened, I started to get sick to my stomach for two reasons. The first reason was because I could never imagine being the guy on the other end of that phone. I have issues with contemporary ideas around marriage as it is, but imagine if you were the guy on the other end of the phone with a hysterical woman who was lying to you? Would you even know that she was lying? Would you be sitting at home or at the office and thinking, “Ugh… here she goes again. Fabricating another false reality. Tonight is going to suck when I get home.”

Who wants that hassle? Who wants to be with someone who needs so much attention that they lie about what is real and what is fake?

If you’re the guy on the other end of that phone, I have to imagine that you’re banging your head into the wall.

The second reason that I became sick to my stomach was because society has allowed a person like this to think that her bellyaching, bitching, and lying are acceptable behaviors. They’re not. They’re never going to be acceptable behaviors. You don’t cry and whine and fabricate reality when things don’t go your way.

And you especially don’t act like a spoiled child when your burrito wrap bursts.

My suspicion is that the crazy woman saw how nice and pleasant the girl behind the counter was and had a momentary mental break. That break pitted her unappealing attitude, bad hygiene, poor physical state, and increasing age against the otherwise very charming young girl working at the Chipotle. The utter clash in realities between what that young girl experiences in a day and the misery that the crazy woman encounters in a day was, I think, too much. I think that clash elevated the crazy woman’s level of self-loathing to a breaking point and her reaction was to storm out of the store and seek consolation from whoever was on the other end of that phone.

The moral of the story (if there is one) is that we need to make sure that we ground ourselves in reality. This woman made up an accusation to fit the story that her mind needed to create to get away from hating itself. Get over your misery, people. In the end, no one cares about your fabrications and falsifications besides yourself. Stop it! Take charge of your life and change those things that you hate about yourself! Nobody is going to do it for you – so get up and start doing it. Right now!

And for the love of all that is good, don’t go crazy inside the Chipotle store. People stand in that line way too long as it is without your mental break adding to their wait!