The Seymour the Seagull Complex..."Mine, Mine, Mine!"

     When the founding fathers of this nation penned the document which has guided our country for almost two-hundred and fifty years, the Declaration of Independence, its framework was built around three simple, profoundly powerful principles: The value of life; the significance of liberty, and the opportunity to pursue happiness.  This straightforward, yet radical proclamation that all people are created equal has served as a source of inspiration for citizens everywhere since the day it was signed. But the sad truth is, our society has strayed so far from the original intent behind this ideal that it’s no wonder we struggle to find common ground from which to build a shared path to a better tomorrow—just follow the Fiscal Cliff fiasco in Washington DC ad you’ll see a vivid example of how we’ve become more divided than united; more interested in satisfying self interest than in serving the greater good.

      By design, the Declaration of Independence leaves the definition of “life” open to interpretation, which unfortunately, many people today chose to interpret simply and selfishly as “quality of life.”  Similarly, liberty, the very principle which distinguishes democracy from others forms of government and provides us our true measure of freedom as individuals and as a nation, has also been distorted beyond recognition.  Much like the right to life, many today choose to liberally translate liberty as the ability to do anything one may desire.  Regardless of the cost or consequences of these choices on the community, society, or planet we must all share with others.
     But perhaps the greatest misinterpretation of all relates to our cultures hijacked definition of happiness.  Far from the ideal intended by our nation’s founders, who spoke merely of happiness as a characteristic of a good life, that is, a life in which a person fulfills human nature in an excellent way, many people today choose to interpret happiness narrowly--intent to measure it more by what we can get or gather for ourselves than what we can give of ourselves in pursuit of serving a higher purpose.   Much like Seymour the seagull and his flock of self-oriented seagull friends in Disney’s, Finding Nemo, who fly about repeating their favorite phrase, “Mine, Mine, Mine,” I find our society today is quick to adopt a hedonistic orientation that encourages us to interpret happiness through the lens of “Me, Me, Me.”  Too many of us, happiness means no more than the pursuit of wealth and status as embodied in such things as where we live, what we drive, how we look, what we wear, and how much we can accumulate for ourselves. From such a view, Life is good if we look good, feel good, or possess plenty of goods.  And as I mentioned at the outset, none of this is even close to what the citizen leaders who founded our nation had in mind at our countries inception when they spoke of our fundamental rights as American citizens.
     So what did the framers of our Declaration of Independence really mean when they implored us to pursue and protect at all costs our fundamental rights to life, liberty and tin particular, the pursuit of happiness?  Interestingly, they were not promoting our doing whatever’s best for ourselves, individually, but challenging us to live our lives for a higher purpose, collectively.  Invoking the Greek idea of eudemonia, they were challenging us to pursue a deeper source of satisfaction by living well and doing well. 
     Properly understood then, our founding fathers were telling us not to promote our own interest, but rather, were challenging us to exercise the personal responsibility to contribute to creating the kind of society we each desire and deserve.  Not by accepting mediocrity as the norm or remaining prisoners to the status quo, but by risking being different for the purpose of making a positive difference in our surroundings—one opportunity.
As we go forward into the New Year, I’d challenge you to reflect what, if any, of these words ring truest to you…and then I’d encourage you to see what changes you can start to make in your own part of the world in order to help our hurting society to get back on track.

Copyright © 2012 - All Rights Reserved
John Michel
experienced leader, humanitarian, visioneer, and renown status quo buster,
is the author of the ground breaking book:
Mediocre Me: How Saying No to the Status Quo will Propel you from Ordinary to Extraordinary
Check out his blog at or drop him a note at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.