How Two Old Books and an Electric Car Changed My Perspective

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Blog written by J.J. Pinter | Team RWB Executive Director

My life, both personal and through my work at Team RWB (though they are intertwined) is busy – I suspect that’s the case with most others, as well.  Daily, I find myself focused on spreadsheets, budgets, 401K’s, social media, and the like.  Somehow, I spend most of my time working on scalable solutions to help large numbers of people create genuine relationships, and thus enrich their lives in the future – ironically, I haven’t been appreciating the relationships that I have in my life RIGHT NOW.

Recently, several unrelated things happened in my life that caused an important moment of reflection – one I thought worth sharing.  

First, I took some time to finish 2 fantastic books that have been on my reading list for quite some time:      

My First Summer in the Sierra (1911) is the journal of American naturalist and author John Muir who spent the summer of 1869 walking California’s Sierra Nevada range as a shepherd.

Zorba the Greek (1946) is a novel by Cretan author Nikos Kazantzakis. It is the tale of a young Greek intellectual who tries to escape his life as an academic with the aid of the eccentric Alexis Zorba as they start/fail both a mining and a timber business.

While at face value, these books might appear seemingly unrelated – in literal content that assertion holds true.  However, thematically, they could not align more perfectly.  

Permeating throughout both books is how the protagonist is completely awestruck at the utter beauty and complexity of the world is it happens around them – for both of them, this is somewhat of a new revelation, as both had been so concerned with the future and the theoretical that they had previously not taken the time to slow down and notice.  

  • For Muir, it was experiencing the grandeur of the Sierra Nevada Mountains (what is now known as Yosemite) and being overcome by it’s complexity and interconnectedness.  
  • In the latter, it was the narrator, watching Zorba truly experience life in the physical present, and not worried about academic abstraction.  

The above realization, came at a perfect time in my life, as I had been unwittingly undergoing a perspective change of my own.  

Second, my family’s primary mode of transportation is a fully electric car – if you’ve never driven one, you should try – it will completely change your perspective.  The point here is not about conservation, but rather the experience of driving.  With an electric car, there are so many factors that affect battery life (how far you can drive), that you must be much more in tune with the world around you – things like:

  • The change in altitude between where you are, and where you’re going
  • The outside temperature and how it is changing
  • How many passengers are traveling with you
  • How many times you need to start/stop and the number of hills
  • The speed at which you drive

Because these things matter and have a direct impact on range, I’ve found myself much more in tune with the world around me, things like weather and hills – not because I wanted to or made a conscious choice to slow down and be present, but rather because I needed to as part of my daily transportation.  

As it was gradual, I didn’t fully notice it, though, until I finished those books.  As an avid reader, I’ve read many similar works – I believe that in the past I would have enjoyed both, but taken them at face value: a book about being a shepherd, and a book about escape.

For some reason, however, this time the immediate connection to the power of being present and appreciating the things, and specifically the relationships around you RIGHT NOW, stood out – I’m confident I would not have drawn this conclusion in years past.  

It’s led me to be first reflective, and then appreciative of the people that are in my life right now – the genuine relationships that I have, and how important they are.  (consequently, there is tons of research backing this up).

As Team RWB is such a big part of my life, I think it’s worthy to consider it through that lens as well.  While I have grand aspirations for what this organization can become, and how many lives it can change – I sometimes lose sight of the fantastic people that are around me each day, all because of Team RWB.  I imagine this happens to our fantastic Eagle Leaders, as well.  

In closing, while the tactical work (events, attendance, budgets, and planning) are critically important – don’t lose sight of the fact the you’ve already surrounded by great americans, and those relationships matter and make your life more rich.  Take a moment to fully experience those, and I think it will be thoroughly enriching.