“You say you want a revolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world
You tell me that it’s evolution
Well, you know
We all want to change the world…”

— The Beatles, Revolution

matthew_gilbert_5

As 2014 draws to a close people start listing resolutions they intend to achieve in 2015. Although well intended, 77% of people who make new year’s resolutions abandon them — many as early as the end of January.

I’ve never been much for making lists of resolutions, though as 2009 started I was inspired by Chris Brogan’s call to list three words that would inspire me and inform my decisions.

Ironically, in the months that followed my life took an unexpected turn that forever changed who I am and how I see the world. My three words were incredibly relevant some of the time, yet totally irrelevant at others. I survived a shock to my system that jarred me out of my comfort zone.

I learned that nothing is certain except the uncertainty of life. Yet, looking back over those five years I also realized something essential to my philosophy of lifelong learning: I evolved. What does that mean?

evolve

If you look at the definition to the left the word that pops out at me is “gradually.” This means change takes time and therefore requires something we all could use more of: patience.

Because most resolutions are transactional they are nearly impossible to achieve unless you precede them with a transformational realignment. If you don’t change how you see yourself and your situation, any short-term goals are doomed to fail because you won’t have an accurate benchmark.

So, with all due respect to The Beatles (see the lyrics to their song Revolution, above), evolution is more realistic than revolution, especially on a personal level.

Am I perfect now? Far from it; I am full of flaws and continuing to evolve as an individual. I suppose that’s the point, right? But I am more aware of myself and more engaged in my life than ever before. I am embracing ambiguity more than before and forcing myself out of my comfort zone.

The impact has been exceptional, both personally and professionally. Most notably, I relocated 8,000 miles away to Dubai, UAE for a full time teaching position  — just two short weeks after being offered the job(and having never before been to Dubai)!

Although Dubai is westernized in many ways, it has still provided me a wonderful opportunity to experience an entirely different culture than the one with which I was accustomed.

I am endeavoring to become the person who I should be, not who other people want me to be. I refuse to let others define me and decide for me.

I am doing this as much for myself as I am to show my two sons — whom I miss a great deal — that there is a world beyond the boundaries of the city in which they live. I want to inspire them to adventure by my actions. In the spirit of Robin William’s character in Dead Poets Society (John Keating) I embrace a philosophy of “Carpe Diem!”

I understand evolution is a process that happens  — wait for it — gradually. Ask Darwin: evolution is a transformational process that fundamentally changes something over a length of time, not a short period of time.  Just as I will never stop learning, I realize I will never be “done” evolving.

My evolution might have happened naturally as a function of maturity when I turned 40 earlier this year, but the process was was undoubtedly accelerated by the five years before it. While in the midst of the moment I was often overwhelmed with the challenges thrown my way, I now look back with gratitude for having been strengthened as a result.

Certainly you don’t have to go through what I did; you can find inspiration anywhere. If you need a little boost, however, you might enjoy reading the book “The Art of Possibility” by Benjamin Zander. You might also find insight by completing the StrengthsFinder analysis; it was fundamental in helping me realize teaching was my perfect profession.

So, will you resolve to evolve in 2015?

Today’s Music Monday selection — “Hypnotize” by System of a Down — marks the date on which the Tiananmen Square protests were violently ended 23 years ago today in 1989 in Beijing, China by the People’s Liberation Army.

"Tank Man" stops the advance of a column of tanks on June 5, 1989, in Beijing. This photograph, taken by Jeff Widener of the Associated Press, became one of the most famous images of the 20th century, and an international symbol at the end of the Cold War era.The demonstrations, which had begun on April 15, were inspired by astrophysics professor Fang Lizhi who, upon his return from teaching at Princeton University, began speaking out about liberty, human rights, and separation of powers.

Notably, Fang — who in a 1988 article in the Atlantic Monthly was dubbed “Chinas’s Andrei Sakharov” for his characteristic flouting of norms and outspoken beliefs about thinking individually — died on April 6, 2012. An obituary about him in the New York Times provides an insightful overview of his life and impact.

Fang’s ideas inspired students who initiated protests in December 1986. The chief issues included demands for economic liberalization, democracy, and rule of law. The Chinese government was greatly concerned by these activities and accused the students of fomenting turmoil.

Unrest finally culminated on June 4, 1989 when the Chinese Army was dispatched to Tiananmen Square with orders to clear the square by 6:00 am.  By 5:40 am — after the Army had wounded and killed several hundred students who had refused to disperse — the Square had been cleared.

One of the more iconic images that emerged from this unfortunate ordeal was a picture (included in this blog post) of an anonymous man dubbed “Tank Man” who stood in front of a Chinese Type 59 tank on June 5, 1989 (the morning after the Chinese military forcibly removed protestors from Tiananmen Square).

Hypnotize” — which was the lead single for the System of a Down’s album of the same name, was released on November 22, 2005 — was chosen as today’s Music Monday because Tiananmen Square is mentioned in the lyrics (see below).

Additionally, there is also a portion of the lyrics that proclaim “propaganda leaves us blinded.” According to the Wikipedia article about the song, “Another meaning that can be taken from the chorus is that while reality-distorting political propaganda is rampant, everyday life continues as usual.”

Hypnotize Lyrics

Why don’t you ask the kids at Tiananmen square?
Was Fashion the reason why they were there?

They disguise it, Hypnotize it
Television made you buy it

I’m just sitting in my car and waiting for my…

She’s scared that I will take her away from there
Her dreams that her country left with no one there

Mezmerize the simple minded
Propaganda leaves us blinded

I’m just sitting in my car and waiting for my girl
I’m just sitting in my car and waiting for my girl

I’m just sitting in my car and waiting for my girl
I’m just sitting in my car and waiting for my…
Girl