Be Useful #10 of 55 things I’ve learned in (almost) 55 years

Christmas tree with presentsIn The Christmas Choir, a nun asks a Wall Street businessman volunteering at the homeless shelter what the meaning of life is. He guesses to be happy. She says,

“The meaning of life is to be useful.”

I thought of that this week when someone on twitter commented on all of the different activities I had mentioned lately.

The free rice group – this is the third time Ronda, has run a competition leading up to a fight. You go to the site, join her group and for every answer you get correct the sponsor donates 10 grains of rice to the World Food Programme. To date, her fans have donated 83 MILLION grains of rice. The RondaUFC group for this fight alone is over 52,000,000. Mostly I just tweet and blog about that, ask companies that sell MMA and judo apparel to donate the prizes and then I mail them out, complaining all the while (I hate waiting in line to mail stuff).

Kickstarter campaign – we are making a game to teach math, with a MAJOR focus on students on American Indian reservations. We received $100,000 from USDA to develop a prototype under its Small Business Innovation Research program. With that, and a good chunk of our funds, we built and tested six levels, that had very promising results in raising mathematics scores. Now we are applying for an additional $450,000. A significant part of that evaluation criteria (20%) is your commercial potential. Which is why the Kickstarter campaign is important. Our goal is to raise $20,000 to tell USDA – see, it does have commercial potential. Go to Kickstarter. Pledge $35 – we’ll send you a license and give one to a student as well. If you pledge $50 we’ll throw in a signed photo of Ronda.

My book – yes, I wrote a book on matwork for judo and mixed martial arts. I doubt many people who read this blog are into matwork but if you are, it is called Winning on the Ground and you can buy it for the Kindle, Nook or Sony or other ereaders.  Here’s the Amazon link.  The paperback is out in March. Not only will it, I hope, teach some people matwork, but I told The Spoiled One to research charities for her Christian service credit hours and pick one to donate the royalties to. She picked a program for homeless youth.

I also teach judo at Gompers Middle School in south Los Angeles. I’m the evaluator for a project on the Spirit Lake Nation. I teach a doctoral course in statistics once a year.

I’m helping, a little, with the organizing of the Don’t Throw Up, Throw Down fund. Ronda is matching donations to the Didi Hirsch Clinic for outreach mental health up to $5,000 and to be sure they GET $5,000 she is doing a seminar at Glendale Fight Club in March.

When I run through all of this, usually there will be  at least one person who posts in the comments,

“Yeah, we get it, you’re great. You brag too much and …. “

and a lot more vituperation. My response is always to think, although I never respond because feeding trolls is definitely NOT useful,

“What the fuck is WRONG with you?”

No, my point is not I am great. My point is all of these activities I just mentioned have something in common – to be useful. To help feed people. To help teach people. To support programs that are doing good in the community.

That’s how the world gets better, you know. Each of those things I mentioned is not a major deal. It’s not the Gates Foundation. But it’s something. Too many people, because they can’t do something huge, don’t do anything. What most of the things I mentioned have in common is that ANYONE can help. If you are completely broke, you can go on over to the free rice site and answer some questions. If you are super-busy, you can go to the Kickstarter campaign and pledge $10 or $100, whatever. You can give to Didi Hirsch. Just put Ronda Rousey fund in one of the boxes on the form and bang, your contribution is doubled.

Or don’t do any of those things, but do SOMETHING.

Yes, I am busy all of the time, but I am busy doing things that are interesting and are useful. Otherwise, you may end up someone who has nothing better to do than write spiteful things to people they don’t know on the Internet.

There is never a day that goes by that I don’t turn to The Rocket Scientist and say,

“Don’t we have a great life?”

I think the secret to the meaning of life is this – If you’re useful, you’ll BE happy.


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  1. Just discovered this blog while doing a little homework on someone I (didn’t think of it this way) am hopefully being useful for. 🙂
    You have an amazing career and I just want to thank you for not wasting your time, talents, and treasures while in your youth. The world needs more people with a heart like yours. I am glad to see that #3 🙂 picked up on it, too!
    Just wanted to say perhaps you can find someone to go stand in line to mail packages for you, even if you pay a small sum to a courier. At your level of management, Mrs. De Mars, your time spent on projects is more valuable than spending time in the post office. I’m sure you get a sense of satisfaction in being ‘hands on’ with the details of getting items to supporters the things they were promised, but they’ll never know who actually mailed it.
    Just a thought on maybe how to allow someone else to be useful for you!
    Take care, and I’ll be talking to my nephew soon about Spirit Lake.

  2. Hello, Greg –
    Thanks for the kind words. You are right about getting someone else to stand in line, except that the first free rice contest some of the people didn’t get their prizes for months. I don’t know what happened. Grr. But after all the work the winners put in, I wanted to make sure they received something so I started doing it myself. You’re right though, I probably should chill out and get someone else in my office to do it. Thanks for the reminder

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