Living With Swag

Last weekend I was buying shoes for one of my grandchildren – the 4 year old – and he said to me, “Hey, Gran, I’m getting new shoes with swag.” I looked at my son cluelessly and asked, “What’s swag?”

“Mom, don’t you know swag?” he asked incredulously. “It means stylish and all that goes with it. I’m surprised at you, Mom. How could you not know that?”


I looked up the definition of swag. It has a laundry list of definitions. The way my 4 year old grandson was using it (if he even knew what it meant) was really about how you present yourself: wearing jeans so low your butt crack shows, wearing your shitty, sweat drenched baseball hat crooked, wearing clothes that are baggy and don’t match in color or pattern (the uglier the better) and then the definition morphs into “secretly you are gay,” stolen stash and the list goes on and on. My mother used to use it to describe the thing that holds back the curtains. I’m so 1950s.


It’s perfectly normal not to understand the meaning of slang terms like swag when you’re 70 years old. Those made-up slang words change by the minute. I can’t keep up nor do I want to, but I have to because my grandchildren’s generation will invent more slang. I’ll either have to get an interpreter or lose the race to the finish line.

Slang partially defines a generation. Of course, I’ve done my fair share of using slang over the decades. I grew up in the 60s influenced by the Beatniks and everything was punctuated with “It’s cool, man. I can dig it.” The Hippies and the drug cultures’s “far out, dude” resonated for decades or more, and the 80s coined “that’s boss.” Unfortunately, I don’t remember the 90s except that “dude” was used in every sentence and I learned that “douche bag” was a fabulous way to call someone a loser or a jerk. After that I tuned out and lost contact with the hipsters.

I’d rather live on the planet that is not about “styling it out.” It’s philosophy that teaches you how to live well and become a better  and happier human. That’s real styling, dude. It’s philosophy that asks the most important questions in life:

  • How can you lead a fulfilling, happy life?
  • How can we become better human beings?

The goal of living with awareness is to gain inner peace by overcoming adversity, practicing self-control and being conscious of our impulses. The truth about your  journey in life is that it doesn’t get any easier overcoming life’s trials and tribulations. As you age, it’s important to understand the obstacles you face and not run from them. It’s your human nature that grounds you in personal transformation. You have to learn to transmute difficulties and not run from them. Slang is a camouflage that distracts you from engaging in real dialogue. It’s easy to say, “cool, man” without articulating your emotional subtext. Use the challenges you face to fuel the fire in your belly.

Let’s pretend that swag was a philosophic concept. What if it postulates a principle for giving soul to our existence. What if swag improves your state of mind and produces a flow of creativity that removes your negative impulses, opens your heart and focuses the mind. What if swag provides centered energy that ultimately ends in bliss.

Since swag has so many definitions applied to it, I’d like to give it a few more twists. What if swag meant:

1. Acknowledge your vulnerability: Emotions come from within yourself and inspires you to express the creative forces and impulses that make you unique. What gets in the way of happiness is your own perceptions, which usually stress you out and cause anxiety and blame and shame. Resistance rears its ugly head and undermines your awesomeness.

2. Always be kind: Remember what your mother told you?  “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything.” Or you can just be vague. Don’t hurt anybody – at least consciously. There is no percentage in that. When you are unkind, it feels lousy inside and you just want to take back the negative words the second they come out of your mouth. Apologize immediately if you have been unkind, otherwise, the hurt gets bigger and manifests itself in transference to others who are blameless.

3.  There is no such thing as failure:  Failure is in the mind of the beholder and not in reality. You learn from mistakes and missteps because life is really a learning lesson. Mistakes are opportunities that can turn into possibilities. If everything is coming your way, dude, you are in the wrong lane. What fun is that? Stay calm and cool and step back from yourself, detach and get distance. It is than you’ll see the true picture of the sequences of your life.

4.  Know Yourself: Miguel Cervantes wrote: “Make it thy business to know yourself, which is the most difficult challenge in life.” You don’t live a successful life without thinking about what your values are, about applying your knowledge or about establishing loving relationships. Prepare your mind daily with meditation and develop more self-awareness. Connecting consciously to your environment and to others will result in clarity of thought, clear communication and a strong conviction for action.

5. Have an Attitude of Gratitude:  Gratitude is an awareness that everything that makes your life creative and loving will inspire you to give more of yourself. Studies at UCLA Mindful Awareness Center have shown that having an attitude of gratitude changes the molecular structor of the brain and makes us healthier and definitely happier. Gratitude says:  I am sufficient to the need of my own life.  Gratitude builds your dreams and establishes  your foundation in work and in life.

I’m down with using swag if I can expand the definition to include some gravitas, if I can make it part of my growth and transformation journey. It’s cool. It’s hip and boss, dude.  I can dig it.  Can you?




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