How to vote like a zen master

A asian boy prays

The big day is almost here. And it can’t come soon enough. 


Between the coronavirus, political rallies, protests and outrageous news stories, America is in full meltdown mode. 


But there’s one order of business that needs settling. 


You need to vote. 


Maybe you’ve made up your mind about your choice for president, maybe you’re on the fence. Wherever you’re at, I’d encourage you to stop. Breathe. And consider the process of voting itself. 


How do you vote? 


Obviously, you just fill out your ballot. But how do you go about choosing the right candidate? 


Should you vote for someone simply because you like him, he speaks your language and cares about the things that you do? Or are there deeper things to consider? 


Many dudes respect zen masters for their wisdom, calm and level-headedness, which I think you would agree is something needed in this election and the world today. So what principles would they follow to make the right decision?

Be mindful of how emotion is used to persuade voters

Emotion is a powerful force. 


And most dudes underestimate just how much they’re influenced by it. How do I know? My 17+ years as a meditator and my half decade career as a copywriter have shown me how emotion affects decision-making and rational thinking skills. 


When emotion comes into play, logical thinking goes out the window, which makes you highly susceptible to other people’s influence. What’s more, emotion is one of the most common tactics used by copywriters, salespeople and marketers to get people to buy a product. In other words, it’s a proven persuasion technique


And I can tell you this. 


Both candidates are using emotion to persuade voters. Out of any election I’ve witnessed, this is the angriest, most rageful and emotion-packed one I’ve ever seen. And based on my observations, I would say this is a purposeful tactic used to win votes. 


So what should you do? 


If you’ve read An Ordinary Dude’s Guide to Meditation, you know how overwhelming emotions cloud the mind. So don’t vote based on emotion. 

Don’t get sucked into the rah rah rallies of either candidate, which are designed to rile up voters and distract attention away from the issues through personal attacks on the other candidate.

Remove yourself from the constant news stories that try to persuade you to click with emotionally-charged words like “outrage,” “apocalyptic” and “disaster.”


Instead, take a step back. Breathe. 

Once you’ve calmed yourself, examine what elections are really about: the issues. 


From healthcare and immigration to climate change and the economy, there are many important issues up for debate in this election. Think about these rationally. Where do you stand on them? 


Reflect on your own viewpoints first, and only then consider where each candidate stands.


If you don’t know a candidate’s viewpoints, you may want to check out the Washington Post’s Where Trump and Biden stand on the issues, or the BBC’s similar articles on Trump and Biden. These articles in particular were the least biased I could find. That said, I highly encourage you to do your own research as well.

Consider the viewpoints of the "enemy"

two dudes fighting outside in the cold.

Many a zen master will say, “There are two sides of the same coin.” This means that while two competitors may seem very different, they’re part of the same thing. For example, while politicians and the media tend to divide everyone into Republicans and Democrats, if you look at a wider picture, we’re all just Americans. We’re all the same thing.


When it comes to the election, consider the opposition’s viewpoint. 


How do you do that? 


Seek out friends, family or acquaintances who disagree with your viewpoints and ask to hear their perspective.

When people speak about issues you disagree with, try and understand where they’re coming from. Ask them why they feel the way they do. The goal is to have them speak as much as possible and for you to actively listen.

This doesn’t mean you don’t question their viewpoints. But question with the purpose of understanding their perspective—not winning an argument.


The person you speak with may spout off some heated, emotional points. 


Don’t get sucked in. Calm your urge to start an argument. 


Just listen. 


If you read my article How to be calm when fake news invades your social media feed, you know that silence doesn’t mean consent. You don’t have to respond every time you disagree, because doing so would prevent you from truly understanding where that person is coming from. You can just stay silent and listen. Disagreement is OK—regardless of whether or not you vocalize your opinion.


Try this exercise with at least three people to get a better understanding of the opposition. You may be surprised to learn that the “other side” makes some valid points.

Examine each candidate's karma

What is karma?

Simple, it’s the process of cause and effect. So when it comes to politics, you can see a candidate’s karma by looking at his track record. 


For Biden and Trump, what are their track records? 


Politically speaking, have they followed through on their promises? 


Again, if you don’t know or aren’t 100% sure, dig for the facts. Don’t just take a candidate’s word for it. Research.


Granted, I would suggest cutting each candidate some slack. 


All politicians make dozens upon dozens of promises when they’re campaigning. And to expect any candidate to follow through on each promise is unrealistic because it’s only possible to get so much done in a given term. What’s more, every politician will inevitably run up against policy resistance. 


But if a candidate failed, did he try? And how hard? 


Also, examine if a candidate’s actions line up with his words. In other words, is he (his actions) who he says (words) he is? 


Politicians have been involved in countless scandals. Some of these scandals are very real, and have been backed up by hard evidence. Others have been exaggerated by the media to win clicks, readership and viewers. 


If you find that a candidate has potentially done something shady and don’t want to vote for him based on the scandal, I recommend really digging into the facts on the particular scandal. Research multiple sources and get hard evidence to actually see if the scandal is true or not. Look at the incident from multiple angles, not just the one that supports your current viewpoint.

Vote on purpose

Keep calm and vote

You’ve talked with people who disagree with you. You’ve examined both candidate’s karma. Now it’s time to vote. 


So what should you do? Who should you vote for? 


I’m not here to answer those questions. But I am here to encourage you to make a conscious choice. 


And that means to block out all the noise and emotion surrounding this election. 


Don’t be persuaded by each candidate’s attacks on the other side. Claims about Joe Biden’s possible dementia and Trump’s possible borderline personality disorder prevent people from assessing the issues. 


If you genuinely believe the other candidate has a mental health issue, how do you know for a fact? Have you seen the candidate’s medical records?


Yes, Joe Biden does stumble over his words, which is a symptom of dementia. Yes, Trump does have a constant intense anger, which is a symptom of borderline personality disorder. 


But can stumbling over your words and intense anger be caused by other things? 


Just because you have a runny nose doesn’t mean you have coronavirus. You could simply have allergies, a cold or a lack of sleep. And just because Trump and Biden show one symptom of possible serious medical conditions doesn’t necessarily mean either is ill. 


So forget all the noise, vote on the facts, vote on the issues, and vote on purpose.

Realize that "good" and "bad" is relative

Many dudes claim if their candidate loses, it’s the end of America. 


But is that really true? How do you know for a fact? 


No one knows the future. And what’s “good” and “bad” is ultimately relative. This can best be summed up in an old zen story…

When a farmer’s horse ran off, villagers said, “Ahhh, such bad luck!”

But the local zen master simply responded, “We’ll see.”

The next morning, the old horse showed up with two wild mustangs.

“What a wonderful outcome!” now said the neighbors.

But the zen master again simply remarked, “We’ll see.”

Later on, the farmer’s son took the horse for a ride, fell off and broke his arm.

Again, the neighbors saw this as unfortunate, whereas the zen master recited the same answer: “We’ll see.”

But when military officers arrived at the farmer’s house the next day, looking to draft young men, the villagers now saw the boy’s “misfortune” as a blessing. He couldn’t be drafted because of his broken arm. But again, was this really good or bad luck? The zen master continued with the same saying. He didn’t claim to know.

This story could go on and on. 

But the point is obvious: none of us know how one event will ultimately influence the future. 

What may seem bad may eventually turn good. And vice versa. Whichever candidate wins, I believe there are lessons for the “other side” to learn, as well as for America as a whole. Which brings me to my last point.


Just say "no" to the 4-year pout fest

Little kid wearing bow tie and crying

It’s been a pattern for as long as I can remember. 


The party that loses the election pouts for four freakin’ years…complaining, whining and stewing in bitterness till the next election. They become sore losers, trying to block the new president’s policy changes. 


If you read How Meditation can save America, you know this kind of behavior has trapped America into the doom loop—a destructive cycle that prevents the country from moving forward. 


And besides, what do you gain from being angry and upset for four years? 


Do you really want to squander four years, pouting and not enjoying this wonderful gift called life because your candidate lost? 


To me, it seems like a tremendous waste of time, energy and a drain on your existence. 


So vote, move forward and—whomever wins—get on with your life.

America's healing starts now

Not after the election. Not when your candidate wins or loses. Not in the future. 


The time for the country’s healing begins today. 


How can you help quicken the pace? 


Focus on improvement, solutions and having compassion for the “other side.” See them as people because that is who they are. And vote for state representatives who will do the same—and not just block the “other side.”


Remember, we do not know the ultimate outcome of an event. 


If Trump wins, maybe it will be good for America. If Biden wins, maybe it will, too. Do you actually know?


I won’t sit around and claim I do. I’ll vote and move on with my life. 


No matter the outcome, I’ll try to make the world a better place in my daily interactions with dudes, how I take care of myself and the choices I make every day. And most importantly, I will remember to enjoy each day of this amazing life. 


Whoever wins, I hope you can do the same, too.

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