“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”

“The difference between what we do and what we are capable of doing would suffice to solve most of the world’s problems.”

“As human beings, our greatness lies not so much in being able to remake the world – that is the myth of the atomic age – as in being able to remake ourselves.

These three quotes by Mahatma Gandhi have meant a lot to me as I’ve developed my political and social worldviews. The only undeniable way we can change the world for the better is to change ourselves for the better. Here are ten simple ways you can change the world for the better, beginning today.

1. Smile Early and Often!
Did you know that your body language has a major impact on your mood and emotions? Everything you do, from your posture to your facial expressions impacts the way you think and feel. Don’t take this mind, body, spirit connection lightly. Instead, take advantage of your ability to improve your mood and attitude by starting your day off with a smile. Smile when you’re alone, smile on your daily commute, smile in the workplace. Not only will you feel better about yourself, you’ll also positively affect the people around you. One smile can have an incredible ripple effect with unlimited reach.

2. Explore The World!
If your last three vacations have all been to generic beach resorts with white sand and fruity drinks, it may be time to rethink your travel priorities. Relaxing vacations are great, but they don’t nourish your soul the way impactful travel can. By impactful travel I mean trips that allow you to visit places and interact with people that can create synergies of goodwill and respect. If you really want to change the world, you’ve got to understand the world. You’ve got to get to know people from different cultures and see them as they live. Can’t afford to fly halfway around the world? Plan a day trip to a nearby neighborhood you’ve been meaning to explore. Whatever it takes, you’ve got to break out of your ordinary environment so that you can interact with people you wouldn’t normally get to see.

3. Respect Your Body!
Stop abusing your body. From the food we eat to our sedentary lifestyles, we don’t always treat our bodies with the respect they deserve. Why does this matter? Well if you’re unhealthy and unhappy due to binge eating, years of cigarette abuse, or a lack of any physical activity, you’re probably not in a great position to be an effective change agent. You’ve got to reasonably take care of yourself before you can begin to take care of others. When you feel good physically, you end up with an abundance of creative energy and drive that will inevitably spill over to others.

4. Feed Your Brain!
It makes me sad when people brag about not having read a book in years. Reading is one of the most elementary forms of empowerment on the planet. The more you know, the more you can do. When I was a teenager I never read books. I was a lethargic college dropout with no real goals, no motivation, and no hope. Eventually I fell in love with books and my life changed. I became hungry for information and determined to impact the world around me. My sense of determination knew no boundaries. I was able to channel that determination into an action plan which led me to a Harvard degree, a productive career, and this blog which I use to make a small but meaningful impact on the world. [click to continue…]

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With only three days left in Colombia, I was ready to soak in the sights and sounds of Carnaval. My sister and I hopped on a bus and made the roughly three hour drive from Cartagena to Barranquilla. Fortunately, my sunburned skin was healing quickly, thanks to a disciplined regimen of applying soothing skin creams to my back, chest, and shoulders.

We arrived in Barranquilla just as dusk set in. The energy derived from Carnaval was palpable throughout the city, even at this late hour. Walking past residential homes on my way to the rental apartment, I saw dozens of families camped out on their front lawns with music, booze, and elaborate costumes. I was in the middle of party central.

After a well deserved eight hours of sleep (this nation-wide tour of Colombia was really kicking my ass at this point), I made my way to the Carnaval parade. We ended up sitting next to a group of elderly, local gentlemen. Okay, so they weren’t really elderly, but it was fun to see fifty and sixty-something year old dudes partying like teenagers. They also weren’t exactly gentlemen, based on my limited Spanish profanity vocabulary. Still, I thought I’d give them the benefit of the doubt.

Within ten minutes, we had hit it off with this group of Colombian OG’s. They were passing to us a steady stream of shots of some sort of locally produced alcohol. Normally, I don’t feel any sort of peer pressure to drink, but I just couldn’t let these guys see my sister out-drink me. I quickly downed each of the shots they gave me. Honestly, I lost count after number ten. It was that sort of an afternoon. [click to continue…]

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Pride and Prejudice

Yankees Pride

by Joshua on April 29, 2012

An original poem by Nora Garriga.

It would be her first visit to that city,
She had never been,
Maybe for fear of whispers she had heard
But she was not one for blind impressions.

For her family, a Harvard graduation was a big deal.
They enjoyed breaking through barriers,
Ignoring common weapons,
Satisfying the urge to conquer with encyclopedic knowledge

She parked her car and fed the meter.
Brimming with excitement for the upcoming commencement
Only to be whittled to the ground by the oncoming scream
“We don’t want your kind around here! Damn Yankee fan.”

There was little she could do to stop the flung milkshake
From exploding over the bumper stickers
On the back of her car,
Dripping a thick ooze of hatred.

“Come mierda gusano!”
She screamed in retaliation.
And from her bag she pulled out a cap
Bearing the very symbol of contempt.

Mounting it proudly on her head
She would not stoop to their ridiculousness
And feed the fire
But she enjoyed lighting the flame.

N.G. 3.28.12

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In Search of a Charismatic Leader

Waiting for Superman

by Joshua on April 8, 2012

A The Daily Garriga classic!

When I first realized that Diane Ravitch would be a guest interviewee on The Daily Show, I got really excited. If you don’t already know who Diane Ravitch is, you should. You see, there is a major political push happening right now to break up teachers unions. As with any political movement, there are bound to be innocent bystanders caught in the crossfire. In this case, those bystanders happen to be millions of public school teachers, many of whom are great teachers that haven’t been identified by the system as great teachers because they don’t “teach to the test.”

A number of prominent voices (following the lead of the highly successful film Waiting for Superman) are trashing teachers in the hopes of busting the unions. Meanwhile, Ms. Ravitch is one of the country’s strongest voices in support of unions. According to Ravitch, “unions actively lobby to increase education funding and reduce class size, so conservative governors who want to slash education spending feel the need to reduce their clout. This silences the best organized opposition to education cuts.” [click to continue…]

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Exploring Colombia: Sunburned in Cartagena

Cartagena, Colombia

by Joshua on April 7, 2012

After a great first week exploring Bogota and Cali, my Colombia trip hit a low point when I arrived in Cartagena. Not that Cartagena is a terrible place to visit. It just isn’t somewhere I care to ever see again.

We arrived on a Friday at 10:00am. I was looking forward to hitting the beach as Cartagena is well known for its hot Caribbean climate. The plan was to check in to the hotel and then take a ferry to a nearby island beach. Well, we arrived at the hotel and we were underwhelmed by the accommodations. Dirty sheets and a shower with no shower head. No matter, I was sure things would look up once we made it to the beach.

After inquiring at the hotel’s front desk, we were told that we’d missed the last ferry. Apparently this mystical ferry only runs until 9:30am. What is that all about? Never mind, we were told we could hire a private boat to ferry us across.

Within fifteen minutes of leaving the hotel, I’d been ripped off by a cab driver and mobbed by about twenty young men with motor boats all vying for my business. I was completely overwhelmed by the scene and so I went into my convenient defense mode. “No, I don’t speak Spanish,” I repeated to the mob as I shrugged my shoulders. [click to continue…]

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Some people will never understand why I love baseball so much. They say it’s a slow sport, a boring sport. They say baseball is for old people, while young, hip people follow cool sports like basketball and football. I think they’re wrong. As much as I love basketball and football, I think baseball is the sport of kings. I’ll admit it, baseball may be slow and even boring at times, but it features incredible individual battles wrapped in a team sport in a way that no other sport can match.

Baseball is a symphony of possibilities – most of which go unrealized until that magical crack of the bat when all the forces of skill, athleticism, and preparation come together in an enchanting moment of physics and faith that leaves its spectators gasping for more.

Baseball is the intersection between science and hope. Brilliant minds have spent lifetimes studying the effects of velocity, drag, and gravity on a small sphere of yarn and cork wrapped in leather. Hitters talk about the “sweet spot” of the bat, while scientists describe centers of percussion and coefficients of restitution. Fielders study angles and trajectories in ways that a billiards champion might admire. Pitchers talk of mechanics and rhythm, velocity and break.

Baseball is that loyal friend who calls you every day; not like those “other” friends who call you once or twice a week to hang out at a bar. Basketball and football teams play less often, making their games seem more like events. Meanwhile, baseball teams play almost every day, acting as a true friend who is always there for you. Through wind and rain, good times and bad, you can always tune in to a new game full of intrigue, mystery, and growing story lines.

Baseball is a metaphor for life. You step up to the plate, completely alone and with the whole world watching, not knowing whether you will get a fastball, curveball, or changeup. You feel the pressure knowing that your team is depending on you. Your muscles tense as you wait for the pitch. The world moves in slow motion and the crowd fades away. The pitch comes at you with blazing speed. No time to think. You only react. Plans and strategy no longer matter. You recruit every fiber of muscle and spirit in your body to swing the bat, knowing that you are no longer in control. The ball goes where it goes. You run as hard as you can, hoping God, or fate, or karma has placed the ball in a spot where no one can get to it in time. When you fail, you blame circumstance and continue to believe that if the wind hadn’t shifted oh so slightly you might have been a hero. When you succeed, you smile broadly, secretly not knowing whether you deserve your good fortune. [click to continue…]

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Exploring Colombia: Sweet Cholados in Cali

Cholados in Cali, Colombia

by Joshua on March 17, 2012

I was a little disoriented by the hustle and bustle in El Dorado International Airport. As I rushed to depart Bogota, my Spanish language skills seemed to be fading just as I needed them most. Slow down!, I wanted to shout at the woman behind the counter. Why did every airport employee seem to want to speak at machine gun speed? No matter. I made it onto the plane to Cali.

The sight of the plane made me nervous. It was a two propeller (or 2-prop) plane. I’m not sure why this particular plane made me so nervous, but at that moment I longed for the powerful jet engines I had become accustomed to in the United States. Even U.S. Airways seemed not quite so bad from this vantage point.

Why so worried? I made it to Cali without a hitch!

The ride from airport to hotel was interesting, to say the least. Dozens of motorbikes zoomed  by our taxi. And riding on the back of almost every motorcycle I saw was a woman with the body of a Hip-Hop video vixen. What was this place? Cali, land of the vixens? [click to continue…]

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And His Name Was Charlie

Charlie

by Joshua on March 15, 2012

An original poem by Nora Garriga.

she was an angry girl
mad at the world
always looking at the ground
never making a sound
her darkness blocking out the sun shining above

it was a cold park bench
flaking green wood, with sides made of cement
he was sitting towards the east, watching the sunrise
nodding that she could share the seat, a world’s wisdom in his kind eyes
she would listen to his tails of what once was

she looked at his face, scarred and withered
under a woolen cap, drooping skin studded with stubble
weaving his tales of dreams and miseries
woven and sewn with smoke pipes and needles
he poked pinholes through her clouds
she rained down on him a friendship, sharing but a season
they would watch the sunrise, and she, for the first time
welcomed the new day, embraced in the warmth of the sun

his name was Charlie

N.G. 03 05 12

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Exploring Colombia: Biking Through Bogota

Bogota, Colombia

by Joshua on March 10, 2012

As I rushed from work to Reagan National Airport, my heartbeat began to accelerate. In less than eight hours I would arrive in Bogota, Colombia.

Colombia hadn’t been on my original list of countries to visit in the next five years. The list, which seems to grow each month, includes Vietnam, Cuba, Brazil, China, and India. I hadn’t ever really thought of Colombia as a place I needed to see. However, when my sister announced that she was visiting Colombia and I should join her, I started to consider Colombia as a country worth seeing.

You see, my sister is sort of an epic world traveler. She’s got to be pushing nearly fifty countries visited at this point. For a kid who barely left his neighborhood growing up, that’s a big deal.

So I decided to join my sis and head to Colombia. Land of Pablo Escobar. The place where all the cocaine comes from. Would I be kidnapped by rebels as soon as I got there and held for ransom? Wouldn’t they be able to tell that my family doesn’t have much money and instead target someone with a surly attitude and deep pockets? Did my questions make me sound like an ignorant Gringo/Yankee with no clue? It didn’t really matter. By midnight, I arrived in Bogota. [click to continue…]

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For Those of You Who Occupy

occupy, 99%, corruption, corporations, greed

by Joshua on January 28, 2012

An original poem by Nora Garriga.

HEY!

For those of you who occupy…

Here is for your braveness
In the face of
Those who created this
Mess to begin with

Leaving jobless
Homeless
Tracks in their woods of

Deception
Corruption
Money hoarding capitals

More separate than when we started this
Land of opportunity
Free to worship what we believe
But now you can’t say anything

Or be sprayed with
Burning badges that
Once used to work with us
Now they’ve hopped on the other bus
That holds us
Back from
Getting too close to the front [click to continue…]

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