“Oh, You’re Left-Handed?”

Left-Handed FTW!

“I’m a left-handed person living in a right-handed person’s world.” –Eric C.

I am here to stay that I am definitely proud to say that I am left-handed and would not change that for anything in the world.  However, I think that a lot of my counterparts see me being left-handed as abnormal, or even weird.  There’s nothing wrong with being predominantly left-handed; I feel that there’s a lot of misconceptions of being left-handed.

From the time that I was a small kid up until now, when people saw me writing with my left-hand, the responses would be, “Oh, I didn’t know you were left-handed”, “Is there something wrong with your right-hand?”, “Why don’t you write with you other hand?”.  As a child, many people had the perception that I was socially immoral for using my left-hand to do a lot of daily activities.  I even tried writing with my right-hand numerous times growing up.  Even though I could write decently with my right hand, I just did not see the point with switching my writing style to another hand in order to feel “right”.

Just until recently, I did not realize the amount of discrimination made toward those that are left-handed.  A lot of products that we use nowadays are geared majorly toward right-handed individuals such as scissors, school desks, and even keyboards.  When you go to the store, you won’t see something on the label such as “Product made for right-handed people”, they just usually assume that the product should be compatible to both hands.  That is not always the case.

There is a misconception that left-handed people are not as smart, uptight, or maintained as right-handed people.  What does the following group of well-known individuals have in common:  Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Steve Forbes, H. Ross Perot, Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Issac Hayes, Tim Allen, and Robert DeNiro.  You guess it: they are all left-handed.  I would conclude that based on their well-tracked success that they don’t have a problem succeeding in the world.

So, how does a person generally become left-handed?  Let’s talk about the brain structure first.  Our brain structure, which is asymmetrical, is divided into two parts: left hemisphere and right hemisphere.  The left side deals with controlling speech and language, while the right side controls emotion and imagination.  For a left-handed individual, the brain structure symmetry is flipped around.  The right side of the brain controls the body in this instance.

One theory of left-handedness came from the University of Oxford.  Scientists discovered in 2007 that the gene LRRTM1 (Leucine Rich Repeat Transmembrane Neuronal 1) plays a role in whether a person will be left or right-handed. According to Doctor Cycle Francks, a co-author of the extensive research project on LRRTM1:

“We think that this gene affects the symmetry of the brain.  LRRTM1 is not essential for left-handedness, but it can be a strong contributing factor.”

Being left-handed is definitely a minority, which only makes up approximately anywhere from ten to thirteen percent of the world population depending on surveys and studies you look at online.  Does this mean that the same varying percentage of people are “inferior” to right-handed people?  Absolutely not.  Being left-handed is not a child deficiency, and shouldn’t be treated as such.  Left-handed people are not inferior to the right-handed, no matter what myths, generalizations, or stereotypes are out there.

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Stepping out of the Comfort Zone

I haven’t written in about a week, and that short period of time seemed like an eternity.

All the way up until I started college, I always had a problem with stepping out of my comfort zone.  I will honestly say that I was worried about what other people would think of me if I did something that was “atypical” of my normal actions.  I hung around the same couple of people throughout school, usually no one else; I always pursued the same hobbies; I never had the interest to venture out and explore other things in life.  The reason why was because I was comfortable, contempt, and closed-minded.

That was until I got to college:  my mindset about life in itself changed.  Many discussions with different people made me realize that in order to achieve many goals and overcome obstacles, I needed to step out of my comfort zone.  I needed to take some risks that I wasn’t accustomed to taking in the past.  I needed to explore many different options that life could take me.  This didn’t mean to act like a wild child or be reckless, but be more open to new opportunities.  As my late friend said, “Life is short.”

I hear a lot of people refer to stepping out of the comfort zone in the aspect of dating. In my opinion, stepping out of your comfort zone can be applied to many different aspects of life.  For example, instead of going to the same nightlife spots, I started venturing out to places that I never even heard of previously.  I started traveling to other states close-by in order to experience something different from what I’m used to.  There were times where my openness succeeded, and there were times where it failed.  It doesn’t really matter; at least I was willing to try something once outside of the normal behavior.

Stepping out of your comfort zone can apply to the type of people you interact with regularly.  College was a good way for me to communicate with people of different ages, races, and backgrounds.  Yes, the people I saw in high school were similar in characteristics to those I saw in college; the difference was that I was now more open to the possibility of learning more about people who I interacted with that were different from me.  I will definitely say that I’m glad that I got to have these experiences.

Stepping out of my comfort zone took me a while to do because I used to think that doing something different from the norm would not benefit me in any way.  I’m glad that I left that mindset in the past.  Sometimes we need to leave our comfort zone in order to achieve something greater, something close to oh so far.  This involves taking a risk.  Are you willing to make that jump?

Summer: A Free One

Summer Escape

The above image shown is my patio; a place that I will be migrating to for a good majority of the summer.  This is the area that I will be enjoying my summer, a part of the year that I have not really embraced for 5 years (Full-time work and school will do that to you).  I can just sit back and think about how far I have come so far in my journey that I like to call life.

In one of my earlier blog posts that I wrote (which can be viewed here), I mentioned some of my evasions from reality.  I think I might need to add this physical area to my list.  I have the opportunity to reflect on the hard work and dedication in a way that I have not before.

Along with sitting out on my patio and enjoying nature (when it’s not extremely hot), I can do many other things this summer with the extra time.  For example, I can plan that family trip that my mother has been dying to take.  I can visit a couple of new restaurants/nightspots that I want to explore.  Finally, I can spend time with family members and friends who I have not seen in what seems to be a century.

For the last couple of summers, I have either been doing the following pretty much in order: 1. Work varying hours full-time for an IT company, 2. Attend school full-time right afterward three-times a week, 3. Had my head buried in the books in order to get homework/projects completed, 4. Slept on the couch from extreme exhaustion.  I unfortunately do not have pictures of the fourth statement (might be for my own good).  It’s good for one summer that I don’t have to do steps 2 & 3; step 4 I’m still trying to work on.

As much as I love and miss school, I can’t pass up the chance to enjoy three of the hottest months of the year known as summer.  Next year might not be same story, that Master’s Degree is calling me about now.

The Thought of Sacrifice

When you hear the word sacrifice, what comes to your mind?

We all have to make sacrifices in life.  Whether or not the sacrifices we make are one that we agree with, sometimes we have to give up something in order to help others who are less fortunate.

When’s the last time you made a sacrifice?  What is the sacrifice beneficial?  As I look back at the last couple years of my life, I can think of a lot of sacrifices that I have made that I felt would provide rewarding returns.  A majority of my sacrifices have been made for my family.  Honestly, I feel that when I need to make a choice in spite of what feels good to me, sometimes I initially don’t like the thought of making the choice.  However, once I see the good that my sacrifice has given, I feel good inside.

Think about this question:  Would you make the ultimate sacrifice for someone you love dearly?  Knowing that you would end up losing your own life, and knowing that you are making the choice to eventually protect/defend your loved ones, would you do it?

Think about the movie Seven Pounds for example.  The main character, Ben Thomas (Will Smith), ends up making the ultimate sacrifice in order to benefit other around him.  His organs were donated to others in order to help overcome their physical shortcomings.  Now, I understand that Ben Thomas’ circumstances that led up to his ultimate sacrifice was a little different, but the point is that he made a choice to better others.

Speaking of making a choice to better others, this brings up the thought of Utilitarianism.  Utilitarians aim to increase the amount of pleasure while minimizing suffering of other people.    Could a sacrifice that is set to increase pleasure (or good) for others around you be classified as a utilitarian effort?

In closing, we all make sacrifices.  Think of the sacrifices that your parents made in order to make sure you didn’t make the same mistakes they made when they were younger.  Think about other people who make sacrifices for you, whether you know it or not.

“Great achievement is usually born of great sacrifice, and is never the result of selfishness.” – Napoleon Hill

I Am Thankful For…

Thankful – feeling or expressing gratitude; appreciative.

For the last couple of nights, I have been in deep thought.  I had a chance to sit back and reflect on what has been my life.  For the most past, I will say that I have been very fortunate on how everything is turning out.  You know how during Thanksgiving holiday, you are at the table and you tell your family/friends what you are thankful for?  Don’t reflect on what you’re thankful for once a year, make it a regular habit.  For every time you are having a bad moment or day, always imagine that it could be a lot worse.  Imagine someone who has it a lot worse off than yourself.  Imagine someone who is less fortunate than you are.

I took the time to brainstorm some things that I am thankful for.  Here are the top five things I am thankful for:

Family

My immediate family has been the most supportive during my life journey.  No matter what hard times arise, I will always be thankful to have them around me.  I am thankful to have a family that loves me and manages to be behind me no matter the circumstance.

Strong Circle of Friends

You know they old saying friends come and go? I can honestly say that a good majority of the people who I call friends have come an stayed.  People that I have known since elementary school are still apart of my life, which I can be thankful.  I can be thankful for the many new people who I have met through college and professional endeavors as they have helped me to become a more confident and strong-willed individual.

A Young, but Successful Career

With the amount of college graduates not being able to find a job after graduation, I am thankful that I was able to get a job within my field after I received my first degree.  Ever since my first job within my field of study, I have been able to build upon my education and work experience in order to reach another plateau in my career.  I know that I have a long way to go to get to my destination, but I cannot be mad at the foundation that I have built so far.

Words from the Wise, or Experienced

Everyone makes mistakes in life.  However, the question is: Can you learn from other people in order to avoid making the same mistake?  I am thankful for the amounts of people who have given me guidance or even advice in order to make my situations better.  There are some people who are reluctant to give others advice or even lend a helping hand when needed, so I am fortunate for the ones who have given me guidance.

The Ability to Live Another Day

I don’t know when I’m going to leave this Earth for good, and I’m pretty sure the rest of you don’t know either.  This is why I am thankful to wake up and live another day.  Nothing is promised in life, except death.  I have learned to live each day with the utmost gratitude and be fortunate for the time that I have been given to live.

Now ask yourself:  What are you thankful for?

Motivation: What Motivates You?

Motivation -the state or condition of being motivated; something that motivates; inducement; incentive.

Ask yourself this simple question: What motivates you?  Think about for a little bit.  There is something that motivates each and every one of us.  Depending on what you are trying to accomplish, there could be a wide range of factors that equates one to get a job done.

I hear people saying that others around them gives them motivation.  People who won’t stop at nothing to prove that you cannot succeed; people who believe that they are superior to your existence; people who say that you cannot accomplish something just because they could not do it themselves.  There finally comes a point where you feel that you have to prove yourself to others who doubted you.  You start working extra hard to overcome the naysayers.  This is where motivation kicks in.

Your sources of motivation could come personally; more specifically: family members.  This relates to me very specifically, especially when I lost my cousin lost his life to senseless violence.  This event motivated me in two ways:  1. To stay close with my family members no matter what constraints lie between us; 2. To succeed in college in remembrance of my fallen family member.

One last source of motivation that I will talk about is regarding the future.  What does the future hold for you if you accomplish your goal?  For example, do you see yourself coming out better financially?  Do you see yourself improving physically?  Motivation can come from realizing the end result of all the preparation and work you will need to sacrifice.

Overall, motivation can come from many different sources.  I tend to find something all the time to motivate me.  I tend to be more focused when I’m motivated.  As T.I. said in the song Motivation:

“If God with me, who could be against me sucka? Can’t make me suffer, just make me tougher (It’s motivation)”

Schools Cheating to Get Ahead?

I was watching TV a couple of days ago and I saw a story regarding an elementary school and cheating test scores.  After further investigation, the school was George Washington Elementary School located in Baltimore, Maryland (my hometown).  Here’s an excerpt of the story below (full story can be viewed here). 

A Baltimore elementary school principal’s professional license has been revoked after officials found widespread cheating on state tests at her school.Baltimore City Public Schools CEO Andres Alonso and State Superintendent Nancy Grasmick said the test tampering occurred in 2008 at George Washington Elementary School. 

The 18-month investigation included a review of hundreds of test booklets that revealed a “pattern of erasures changing incorrect answers to correct,” according to a release from the city school system. The tests were taken by students in grades 3, 4 and 5. 

Further down the article, the drastic change in test scores from one year to another is explained 

“The district said the probe was triggered by the dramatic shift in test results from 2004, when reading scores were at 47.6 percent and math scores were at 67.9, to 2007, when reading scores soared to 100 percent and math scores went up to 98.9 percent.” 

Since I live in Baltimore and I hear about the constant struggles of the Baltimore City school system, this piece of news deals a significant blow to a failing school system.  I personally don’t understand what can be gained from teachers, or better yet the administration, changing answers on a state exam.  There can be a point made that the school can gain financially by the strength of excellent test scores with the likes of better funding. 

However, how do the kids gain anything from this?  Most kids will think that their answers are correct and that they understand the material being presented to them.  This is unfortunately not the case.  I thought that the focus was on teaching children, even if they were to make mistakes; not giving children false hope by secretly changing answers. 

The investigation led to then-principal Susan Burgess being stripped of her professional license.  There is one SMALL problem: Burgess retired in the spring.  Should Burgess be held responsible for the actions of the school teachers who changed the scores?  In my opinion, I believe so.  As the leader of George Washington Elementary, or any school for the matter, you are responsible for making sure nothing like this occurs.  You are responsible for keeping your faculty in line to prevent a catastrophic event like this. 

I would find it very hard to believe that the principal didn’t know anything about this going on at the time, so the excuse of her possibly not knowing is nonsense.  At the same time, who else should be held accountable?  Teachers? School Board? Parents?  Blame could be pointed to a lot of areas. 

I haven’t done any research on this same type of story being reported in other schools or states, but I believe that there’s a possibility of this happening elsewhere.  I just hope that this is a small rate of this actually happening, for education sake.

Customer Service or Customer Frustration?

Image taken from Techreaders.com

Note: I know this topic has been done probably around a million times, but I just want to add my two cents.

I remember when I was 15 years old and I worked my first “real” job as a part-time waiter.  No, not a restaurant, but at a retirement home.   I will admit that at the time, I was very shy and barely allowed people who I did not know get close to me.  However, as time went by (approximately two and a half years later), I realized that I can make working at my job enjoyable along with providing good customer service to those who I served.  I got the chance to learn about other people’s lives, which made me more comfortable to express my life to them in return.  I now get a rewarding feeling being about to help out other people, whether it is at the job or away from the job.  I want people to feel that their experience was worth it.

I left the retirement home and my job serving retirees a couple of years ago to pursue my career in Information Technology.  As I start going to a lot of different places, I noticed that there is usually one constant thing lacking each and every time: customer service.  What do I mean by this?   I mean the amount of workers who tend to give you funny looks anytime you ask them a question regarding their products.  I mean the amount of workers who take an appalling amount of time to serve you, dragging their feet like they don’t have other customers waiting in line.  I mean the workers who can’t even at least say “thank you” or “have a nice day” as you are able to leave.  I can’t recall all the times where I would say either one of these two things, and I would get tight-lipped expressions in return.

In my personal experiences, without making a generalized statement, I noticed that most of the poor customer service has come from the younger crowd: teenagers and even young adults.  Even as I write this blog, I tend to think to myself:  Why does the quality of customer service seem to differentiate between different age groups?  Is it the lack of face-to-face interaction that younger people seem to suffer from compared to their elders?  Is it the lack of training provided by the employer?  Is it the person in general?  There are many different factors that can be attributed to customer service, or the lack of.

One thing that I will say in defense of customer service is that there are some out-of-line customers who seem to mess it up for the rest of the customers.  One quote that I will always live by is, “Treat people how you want to be treated.”  If you tend to treat the employee like dirt, well expect to get treated like dirt in return.  I was taught that no matter how out of line the customer is, still treat the customer with respect because it’s still the customer.  Even in the case of the belligerent customer, it’s still unprofessional to provide bad service in return.  However, don’t be that customer that sends the employee over their tolerance threshold.

I understand that some employees, no matter the age, gender, or race, do not interact with people well at all.  In response to this, those employees must make one of  two decisions:  either improve their soft skills or find another job where customer service is not salient.  Well, guess what the problem with that is?  Many companies are putting an emphasis on customer service going into 2010.  On a general basis, bad customer service = unhappy customer = loss of company profit and reputation.  With jobs the way they are now, employees with lacking customer skills better improve, or risk losing their own job in the process to someone who can provide positive customer interaction.