Today, I’m excited to introduce my second SHE-POWER Man, Charlie Gilkey from Productive Flourishing. I’ll try not to gush, but I’m a big fan of Charlie’s. Not only is he one of the most sincere and insightful bloggers I have ‘met’ since starting SHE-POWER, but his blog really is one of a kind. Intelligent. Motivating. Thought provoking.
Though Productive Flourishing is listed on Alltop as a Lifehack blog, and has been featured on Lifehack.org, Lifehacker, and other top-tier productivity blogs, it is so much more than another productivity site.
Charlie is an accomplished teacher of Philosophy, who writes from the perspective of someone who actually has problems he’s trying to solve. Productive Flourishing combines his questions about the human condition and how we can live more successful and meaningful lives, with some very practical planning tools to help everyday people become more productive.
Of course, having such a fascinating interviewee put the pressure on me to ask some challenging questions that would be worthy of Charlie’s brilliant mind. Let me know how you think I did.
Charlie Gilkey talks soul mates, vagabonding, feminism and ethical dilemmas
My mother always told me…
Go out and create opportunities for yourself and don’t wait for them to show up on your doorstep. People who learn to help themselves rarely have trouble finding help when they need it.
My most defining moment was…
When Angela and I backpacked through Europe while we were in College. Being on the road with my then-girlfriend (now wife) in countries where we didn’t speak the language truly taught us who we were and what we loved, and when we returned to the States, the world around us (including our hometown) was so different. Vagabonding is an experience that everyone should have at least once in his or her life.
The qualities I admire most in people are…
People who can excel personally while not forgetting about other people. I see a lot of people, offline and online, that use people as pawns in their rise – and once they get to the top, they don’t turn around and help those who have helped them.
In a collective activity, individual successes are strongly dependent on the efforts and support of the group, but too often we (especially Westerners) are so individualistic, we forget about others once we’ve gotten what we want. I really admire people who actively work to spread their good fortune. I’m not saying that I’m particularly good at this, either, but I try.
Pioneering female broadcaster, Pauline Frederick once said: “When a man gets up to speak, people listen, then look. When a woman gets up, people look; then if they like what they see, they listen”. Agree or disagree?
Unfortunately, I agree. Gender roles are so completely socialized that the basis for which we judge men and women is radically different. It’s especially hard for powerful women and sensitive men. The sexes are expected to act differently, and there’s a lot of social pressure on those people who have “traits of the opposite sex” to conform and get in line. The sad part is that a lot of us recognize the problem, yet we repeat the same patterns with our children.
As long as our social institutions associate women with beauty, elegance, and domesticity and men with strength, intelligence, and breadwinning – especially in the fairy tales and heroes we present to our children – we will continue this division that generally disadvantages women.
There are more than two sexes, and gender is on a continuum – until we realize that, we will continue to judge females by feminine standards and males by masculine standards, and a large portion of humanity will continue to be unhappy as they try to wear shoes that don’t fit.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
More self-discipline. I can plan and evaluate ’til the cows come home but I have the hardest time following through with a plan or making changes after an evaluation. This problem manifests itself on my blog where I don’t complete series or write posts that I’ve said I will, and this is a large reason why I’m so behind on my dissertation. The good news is that I’ve made some real progress this year – a lot of it by using principles I’ve written about on Productive Flourishing.
Is there anything in your life that you truly regret? What did you learn from that experience?
We were sitting on the pier in Nafplio, Greece. It was a perfect evening, the sun was receding, and dolphins were dancing across the sparkling blue sea in the distance. The light on the lighthouse was just beginning to warm up, and we were reflecting on how amazing our trip had been thus far and how excited we were about the next few weeks. We sat, hand in hand, and both knew it was the right time for me to ask my girlfriend (my current wife) to marry me. I opened my mouth and began to say the words -and then thought about the fact that I didn’t have a ring, was still relatively poor, and couldn’t give her the life I thought she wanted – and looked away. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you blow a once-in-a-lifetime moment to ask the love of your life to marry you.
What I learned from that occasion is that there are times in your life where you just need to go with the moment and let your heart guide you.
What do you believe is the secret to a successful marriage?
Being able to dance with each other through life’s challenges. Change – sometimes small, sometimes radical – is inevitable, and your partner needs to know that you’re there throughout the changes. Sometimes we’ll have to lead, and other times we’ll have to follow – but as long as you keep dancing together, you’ll make it through. Anchoring your partner while giving him or her room to grow as a person is the best way to honor both your partner’s individuality and your commitment to be there for the long haul.
If you were having a dinner party and could invite three famous people – dead or alive – who would they be and why?
Leonardo da Vinci, Martin Luther King Jr., and Jane Addams. Maybe I see these people as archetypes for the human spirit. Leonardo to me is the icon of human ingenuity and creativity. King and Addams share a social dimension that too few of us take seriously – they were brilliant intellectuals that used their gifts to help others. These three combined would provide such different, but critical, perspectives into the human condition. And though it may not be rollercoaster ride ‘fun’, I think the conversation would be utterly fascinating and probably life-changing.
(Jane Addams is one of the forgotten heroes of feminism and activism who doesn’t get nearly enough coverage – all women, but especially American women, should know more about her.)
What advice would you give your 18 year old self?
Being good at something doesn’t mean you should do it, and you work for money until you learn how to make money work for you.
“The end justifies the means”. Agree or disagree?
This is a tricky one. Imagine that you’re placed in a position such that you have two options: kill one innocent person and save nineteen, or don’t kill that one person and someone else kills all 20. I hope that in such a situation I’d have the fortitude to kill the one person – saving the 19 justifies the mean. I may regret it and be torn about it for the rest of my life, but I think it’d be the right thing to do.
On the other hand, take what the Nazi’s did to the “undesirables” in the concentration camps. They used innocent people as guinea pigs for medical procedures and products – with the people suffering horrendously throughout these experiments – but it turns out that many of their findings proved beneficial for humanity at large. As inconsistent as it may seem with my above statement, I don’t think their actions were right.
There’s what ethicists call a proportionality constraint on these types of discussions that can’t be fleshed out to a very high degree. Intuitively, there’s a limit to the harm we can do others before we have outweighed the positive effects. But it’s really difficult and it does depend on the specifics of the harm we’re causing and the good we’re trying to get. I don’t think a simple answer can apply in all cases. I feel the tension in both directions: the individual must sometimes yield to the collective, but there are some things that you just can’t do to people without their consent.
All of that is just an academic way of saying, “Depends.”
Photo of Nafplio by kyriazis