Stop trying to complicate it.” I never actually counted the number of times my grandfather said those words to me, but anytime we attempted something mechanical I would lose sight of the small “first” steps and get distracted by all the steps necessary to complete the task … and then he would say those words.
While his efforts to train the mechanical side of my brain have yet to take root, his words made a lasting impression. “Stop trying to complicate it,” or the classic “keep it simple” have become a core principle in both my personal and professional life – and one that, as I reflect back on 2014, not only our leaders but the everyday Joe should adopt.
Or we as individuals and a country will fail.
Hear me out.
It’s a new year and Americans always want to “get back in shape.” So, let’s talk about America’s obesity issue. A good number of Americans are fat. Yes, I know, some of the weight issues are medical-related, but most are not. This is such an issue that our military has had to write in “exceptions” and is faced with a narrow selection of youth who even meet the weight standard to be considered for military service. America’s decision to “embrace” obesity by calling it a disease puts it at risk. This is one disease that you can actually manage by what you put in your mouth. And when it comes to exercise, the most exercise some are getting is jumping to conclusions when it comes to convicting people before a trial. My grandfather informed me when I was young that if it was worth a million dollars to me I’d likely find a way to make it happen. What he was essentially saying was, “stop with the excuses – if it’s important, you’ll find a way to make it happen.”
As you approach 2015, if getting in shape (other than round) is important to you, then get up earlier and devote time to your health. Stop trying to complicate your decision to get in shape with what pills to take and how you’ll fit this in to your busy schedule. The first step is commitment. If you are committed, you’ll find a way to make it happen. Your commitment and action to get back in shape actually benefits America as a whole by the way.
Granted, what I just wrote could be viewed as a bit controversial and so goes the thinking of America – the truth has become controversial. When I was growing up, I remember hearing frequently, and not only on Sunday, that the truth will set you free. This was the era when neighbors could lean over the fences or share ice tea on front porches and debate politics and still be friends. But truth was truth. Today if one speaks truth and we disagree, we rally other like-minded people around us, create back stories about the other individual, and attempt to shame someone in the press or social media instead of talking through our differences.
Is America really benefiting from political correctness, divisive political backstabbing and rhetoric?
What if we just kept it simple and listened objectively to the other side and searched for the 1 percent we agreed on and built a relationship from there? What if we actually appreciated hearing the truth even if it was offensive? What if we stopped trying to cram ideals down the throats of the unwilling and refocused our efforts on a common vision and worked on ideas that made that vision a reality? That is how America was first built … the basics. Start with a vision, debate ideas, not ideals, and then put action behind them. Much debate, certainly bruised egos – but all in an effort to make the vision of America a reality.
And that brings me to education. There are thousands of kids today who can’t even identify presidents or who know the importance of the Bill of Rights or why the Constitution matters and what it took to make America happen and continue to happen.
About 50 million students attended approximately 98,000 public elementary and secondary schools in the fall 2014 term, and before the school year is out, an estimated $619 billion will be spent related to their education. Yet, this “education” has our youth learning how to take tests instead of thinking through issues, and instead of exploring and learning about different religions, those educational programs are cut so as to not offend the minority and we then hide behind separation of church and state. And we wonder why there is ignorance?
What if we stopped complicating it and we started with teaching our children and encouraging our neighbors that our differences are what make this country so great? What if we encouraged exploring the different sides to an issue, like the big bang vs. creationism? It requires thinking. We actually have to understand and be educated on the differences though. And that requires education – not agenda-driven curricula. Point, counter-point. When I was a senior in high school I was known for being a hard-core advocate for the death penalty. So, my teacher, in his brilliance, required that I write my term paper on why the death penalty was NOT a deterrent to crime. I hated every moment of it, but took it seriously, did the research, wrote the paper and ended up winning a trip to DC and such was born my love for politics.
He kept it simple: Know why you believe what you believe. That’s education.
This New Year provides new opportunity – and that’s why, despite our failures, America will still succeed. There will still be those who stand in the gap and do what is necessary. They will stay fit mentally and physically, they will be honorable in their discussions, and they will embrace understanding the other perspective. There will still be 1 percent of our youth who qualify and will voluntarily serve this country in uniform while the 99 percent don’t. There will still be those who believe trials happen in courtrooms and not in the media, that God isn’t dead, that the Constitution matters and is to be honored, and that everyone is entitled to their opinion, but it doesn’t mean they are right.
Bottom line: America fails when we give in to ignorance and complicate what made this country great. This New Year, 2015, is our year to stop complicating it.
– By Michael Schindler
Michael Schindler, Navy veteran, and president of Operation Military Family, is a guest writer for several national publications, author of the book “Operation Military Family” and “The Military Wire” blog. He is also a popular keynote and workshop speaker who reaches thousands of service members and their families every year through workshops and seminars that include “How to Battle-Ready Your Relationship” or “What Your Mother-in-Law Didn’t Tell You.” He received the 2010 Outstanding Patriotic Service Award from the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs.