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My cousin George Lemons has a Bachelor’s degree in Justice Studies at Kent State University,  a Master’s degree in Social Work at the University of Pittsburgh, and currently is a member of the United States Navy. Here are the top 6 takeaways from our convo in episode 34. 

1) War

“When you think about the ideology of war, it doesn’t make sense - unless you’re looking at it as a financial thing, which many people do” - George Lemons III

Listening to people like Jocko Willink and listening/reading stories of war, makes me appreciate life so much more. 

The first book I ever read was on the Hollocaust, and it was that experience that taught me how powerful reading could be because of all the emotions and questions I had when reading the book. 

Looking at the dark side of humanity has the ability to aluminate its bright side. 

But could we live in a world with no war? I can’t possibly dare to present any comment on that. 

There are too many unknown variables at play when it comes to war. What’s the rationale? What are the incentives? What’s the point? I can’t even begin to come close to answering any of these questions. 

But I do know that the world overall is now a safer place. It wouldn’t seem that way by watching the news, but even when you look back on the twentieth century, we saw rivers of blood drawn from the likes of Two World Wars, a Korean War, a Cold War, and a Vietnam War among others. 

There’s much we can learn from war because it’s the most extreme example of humans behaviors. I’m not so sure if the question is can we stop war is as essential as it is for us to study it so that we can better understand and challenge ourselves to stop our destructive behavior because of it. 

2) A Different Angle

George is always looking at the opposite argument. He’s constantly playing devil's advocate and because of this, it at times seems as if he’s a contrarian. 

That type of outlook on life is refreshing because we usually don’t get pushback from our ideas, no matter how trivial they may be. Being able to look at things from the opposite side and maintain two beliefs that contradict themselves is learning. 

Think about when you learn something; you held one idea about a subject, and new information came to you. That’s when you took what you already knew and what you just found out and tried placing them together in a way that now makes sense. 

Testing our assumptions is underrated. We don’t give ourselves enough credit, or maybe we give ourselves too much credit when we don’t question our own self-limiting beliefs?

What’s the opposite argument for when you tell yourself that you’re not dedicated enough? Smart enough? Strong enough? 

The opposite of these beliefs may open up doors that you never knew existed, and the only way to uncover them is by looking at things from a different angle. 

3) Being Right vs. Finding the Truth

Although they may come from a place of good intentions, some of your beliefs may not work and acknowledging that is the first step in the direction of growth. 

We all understand that we don’t have all the answers, so the question now becomes what are you going to do when more compelling evidence is evident? 

When you pick one side or the other, it can be tempting only to take the things that support your argument and leave out any and everything that doesn’t. 

What good does that do? It makes you feel right at the moment but does that encourage growth? 

Picking and choosing the things that make you right comes from the ego that desires to look right more than it wants to find the thing closest to the truth. 

When you place ego over the truth in any situation, you’re not only limiting yourself, but you’re limiting progress as a whole because you actively deny the chance to contribute more towards the truth. 

4) Being Scared of the Dark

“Genetically we’re uncomfortable with uncertainty” - George Lemons III

George shared an example of how children are scared of the dark and at the root of that fear lives uncertainty. The same goes for adults in one form or another; we just know how to cover up our fears better than children do. 

The fear of someone disagreeing with your ideas or the fear of what someone might say in that email or the fear of what someone might comment on your Facebook post is all fear of the unknown but when you look at it on paper in black and white does it matter?

Does it matter if they text you back? Does it matter if you get 100 likes vs. 10 likes? Does it matter that you got an 89 vs. 90 on that exam? Not really. 

But what does matter is energy, and you only have so much of it. Understanding that there’s uncertainty in life and moving forward regardless is a better use of energy than the alternative. 

If you truly spent energy on all the things that could or might happen, you’d never get anything done. So why waste any energy on things that don’t matter regardless even if you knew them to be certain or not? 

5) Learning from New Places

George is an avid traveler. Of course, traveling is fun and sometimes even romantic and provides experiences that lead to looking at the world and life differently. Travel is another form of learning. 

Learning about other cultures, other people, and also about yourself and what it means to be in another place. Travel can bring a lot out of us that we previously didn’t know to be there. 

George is always pushing me to get my passport, and I’ve made excuses as to why I haven’t. But although I haven’t gone overseas, I’ve been able to do forms of traveling that are a little less glamourous. 

I can remember the first time I went to Edgewater Park in Cleveland for the first time. I had been working ten minutes away in downtown Cleveland for almost a year before I set foot on the beach there, and I was blown away of what I was able to experience on the edge of Ohio. 

There was a beach party (in the middle of the week), an open field of grass where people played soccer and flew kites, and there was even a parkour course that surrounded the edge of the park. 

Now I understand that this is no Venice or South Beach, but the point is that you can go to places that you’ve never been before without having to leave the country, your state, or even your city. You can be a traveler anywhere that you find yourself if only you allow yourself to get curious, get out, and be open to learning from new people, places, and things. 

6) Priorities

“We prioritize work more than we prioritize life.” - George Lemons III

This quote immediately stuck out to me as soon as George said it. He mentioned how he has friends that will show up early to a job that they hate and at the same time show up late to spend time with the friends they love. It doesn’t make sense. 

Of course, we have responsibilities and there’s something to be respected about a person who’s ambitious enough to work their way to a better position in life, but why allow that to come at the expense of the things you love?

If you truly love your work, spend more time at work. If you truly love your friends, spend more time with them. If you love both, make it a priority to maximize your experience in both contexts and remove anything else that might get in the way of that. 

Anytime that I start to let something “slide” in my life, whether it is reading, exercising, and spending quality time, my wife will always point out that whatever needs to get done comes down to priorities. 

What are your priorities? Take a hard look at what they are because these are the aspects of life that are driving you towards whatever place you find yourself in.