Faith and confidence

Faith is believing there is light at the end of the dark tunnel. Confidence is knowing that if there’s not, you’ll be okay. Faith is a certainty of outcome. Confidence is a certainty of ability. When combined these two forces give you powers of stabilizing your environment.

There’s a caveat though. Blind confidence is dangerous. This is arrogance. Anyone can go around making decisions. For confidence to be legitimate, it must be earned. You must study. You must know your limitations.

Our wood boxes we call “home”

When your mind is clear you see that houses are just protective boxes of wood that we hang stuff in that we feel resonates with some element of ourselves or because we feel like we have to.

These wood boxes represent something fundamental to the human experience. That is, our attachment of ideas to materials, which corresponds to a propensity to overcomplicate out of a desire for there to be meaning in life.

We’ve been creating meaning out of nothing since we developed the ability to communicate.

So, when the world feels complex and overwhelming, remember, it’s all just imagined.

Life is, truly, what you make it.

Can you handle real friends?

The rise of social media, algorithms, and seemingly limitless options for customizability in our lives have brought with them a unique kind of comfort: the comfort of familiarity.

It’s easier than ever to stay in a worldview and ignore different perspectives. It’s almost effortless to create an echo chamber.

Perspective, in contrast, breeds uncertainty. It challenges not only our existing beliefs but, at its most extreme, our entire self-conception. This certainly is not comfortable. Changing who you are when you find out you’re not living right takes hard work.

But we must accept these challenges. We must shed our pre-conceived notions if we are to grow. If you’re not striving to learn, you’re doing everyone you interact with a disservice – and a massive disservice to your long-term quality of life. There’s genuine satisfaction knowing you fought for a well-lived, upright life that can’t be matched by the simple bliss of ignorance.

How do you get there? One main action you can take is finding those in your life who are willing to tell it like it is. Most people very much dislike conflict, so finding these people can be hard. Once you have them, though, they are priceless.

Real friends tell you when you’re being a jerk. Fake friends are there for a good time.

The question you have to ask yourself is, “Can I handle the real friends?”

 

A poem for what’s right

Oft-brash or brazen leaders
Call their plays without heart or thought
They seek their mark from deeds they’ve wrought
With pride they hold their titles high and status sought

They tend to go along to get along, never asking why they’ve gone
Striving for their name in lights or throngs to sing a Song of Songs
It’s easy, I suppose, to smugly cast a life, comfortably in an upper class
To go to class, just get by, and never ask for whys or extra tasks

Certainly, it’s not the case that all don’t care
It’s true that many do, but we need more
Selfishness and greediness brought a world that’s unfair and war-torn
I hope we can work together to speak against these elite and bring what’s right
What the world needs is listening and kind souls, unafraid to fight

Six daily habits for artists

I just finished Seth Godin’s The Icarus Deception. Like all of Godin’s work, it was excellent. I highly suggest you check it out if you’re interested in creative work.

Here is one of my favorite lines in the book: six daily habits for artists.

  1. Sit alone; sit quietly.
  2. Learn something new without any apparent practical benefit.
  3. Ask individuals for bold feedback; ignore what you hear from the crowd.
  4. Spend time encouraging other artists.
  5. Teach, with the intent of making change.
  6. Ship something that you created.

You can find more great quotes here.

The imperfection in progress

In many ways, I am improving. I am more professional than ever. My values and principles are cemented. I deeply understand the importance of kindness, integrity, work ethic, honesty, charity, and thankfulness. I am proud of these aspects of myself and often feel like I’m measuring up to self-expectations.

However, this growth comes at an expense. It’s an early expense that I have faith will pay dividends in the future, but it is an expense nonetheless. That is, my daily experience is one of friction. It’s a constant grind.

This is a reoccurring theme in my life and therefore on this blog. The feeling has evolved over time. I’m learning to dance with the anxiety and responsibility, but it frequently still steps on my toes.

School, work, driving, preparing for graduate school, self-care, multiple weekly deadlines to hit, a constant compelling need to put my best foot forward and make the right decisions – these are omnipresent forces.

These things take time to adjust to. The key things I need to learn to do is keep a daily calendar of activities and update it as soon as a new meeting pops up and slow down and re-read everything before I send it.

The major things are taken care of, but the devil is in the details. Everything is in the details. I repeat: everything is in the details.

In the future, it is likely that I will be extremely well organized, an immensely kind, good man, and professional through and through. This is 10 to 15 years from now. 24-year-old Kyle until then, well, like I said, he dances. He dances with his own humanity. His own self-doubt. His own weaknesses. He is certainly getting better, but he has a long way to go before he is there.

One thing I said recently that I think adds up is, “One of the key things I’m doing right now is figuring out the balance between what’s an appropriate level of acceptance for human nature and what’s unprofessional.” To put it differently, what I should kick myself about and what’s being too hard on myself.

The response from one of the most professional and well-respected men I’ve met: “If you figure it out, you let me know.”

In truth, I don’t know if the grind ever stops for a leader. At least not for a long time.

I’ve been told I’m too hard on myself for a couple of years now. I’m likely a perfectionist. There’s a fine line between perfectionism and professionalism, between leading by example and being relatable. But I want to be the best role model. I want to be the greatest version of myself because that’s what the world needs. The world has enough people who are willing to settle for their lack of integrity because they’re only human.

I’m going through this – really, really, really giving it my best shot. Giving my work and school and life my best shot. I think self-help gurus will tell you that folks will notice. The thing is if they do, I don’t know. People seem too busy to notice or if they do, they notice quietly. They don’t express your reputation to you. They don’t let you know if you’re messing up.

A failure looks a lot like someone passing the buck because they don’t respect you. They’re too busy. They’re not the best person to help you out. People aren’t going to tell you that you’ve blown it. If they do, count yourself likely. You might save a knowingly failed opportunity if only you can become aware of it.

Success looks a lot like getting to the graduate school application process and at the end someone telling you that they’ve written you the best letter of recommendation they’ve ever drafted.

Trust takes years to build and just one instance to blow.

It’s super easy to slight others.

THIS is why I’m hard on myself.

Success and failure are nimble and nuanced, everyday occurrences, and these will likely depend on whether some person in power who probably doesn’t even know you that well thinks you can or should make it.

I can’t wait until I bypass all these doors, to prove to others that I’m worth their salt, and to be in a position to look back and help others find their paths.

The put together 35-year-old I will likely be won’t act like the noncaring, flippant authorities I’ve too often been forced to tolerate. If and when I make it, I will boldly declare that my peers, the students that I teach, and the children in my life matter. And I’ll demonstrate that by my actions. I’ll believe in them and give them hope. I will get to know them, their dreams, their passions, their stories. I will take the time because I know what it’s like to be disregarded. I know what it’s like to be the intern people call just “the intern”.

To be the server, the busboy, the dishwasher, the pizza maker, the delivery driver, the restaurant host, the burger flipper, the drive-thru guy, the loser, and the outcast most folks don’t give the time of day in a meaningful way.

I know, in other words, what it’s like to struggle, to work hard and have it seem like no one notices or appreciates it.

I just gotta keep going to be that person I know I can be. You keep going, too. We’re in this together.

Why your government doesn’t engage you

Here’s a paradox: people working for the government have a tendency to believe that citizens don’t care. They think citizens want an effective, efficient government that operates quietly in the background steadily adapting to deliver higher quality services more economically. Yet, at the same time, they like to avoid social media like the plague. They view it as a trap to not get caught into.

Don’t get me wrong, many governments are beginning to take part in one-way communication online. They post information like important public notices, event notifications, or service updates. But, when it comes to a substantive discussion they miss the mark.

They do this by not going to Facebook groups like “I lived in [insert city name] before there were stoplights” or “Concerned citizens of [insert city name]”. They say that these Facebook groups are just looking for trouble. They even extend this as far as saying Nextdoor isn’t a good resource.

“The public is misinformed, and all they want to do is complain. After all, they only show up to meetings when it’s negative.” This is something you might here offhandedly while out for dinner. It’d be no surprise.

The paradox is that they say citizens don’t care while acknowledging that, actually, some do. Some really, really do. They just don’t care in a way that leaders like. They care loudly. They care from a place of misinformation or from a differing perspective. In short, they care in a way that governments don’t want them to care.

An inconvenient truth that I predict will become paramount in my career as it advances is that democracy in practice looks a lot like: some very active residents we might disagree with complaining regularly at meetings (the thorns in our side), some vague general frustration among the general public about some public policy issue (the mass that just complains and doesn’t do anything), and generally speaking, a mess. Human beings are messy. We’re emotional. We’re too busy to get all the facts. And all we know is we are worried about [insert issue].

It’s an unpopular opinion to say that governments should go head first into these public debates. It’s likely going to upset the apple cart, make it hard to execute policy efforts, and get as much done. However, we MUST do so if we are to adapt properly to changing demographics, if we are to adapt equitably to increased life demands and media distractions.

 

The sacrifices we make

I strive to achieve this balance in my life, particularly to spend quality time with friends and loved ones, but my life is inundated with responsibility.

With so much time spent driving in addition to an intense school and workload, I barely find time even for self-care, let alone relationships.

I tell myself it’ll be worth it in the end. I don’t know if it will. I don’t know what I’ll do if I don’t get into a good PhD program, besides cry. There’s so much heart being poured into this process. There’s so much hope and sacrifice. There’s so much struggle.

Nothing is being handed to me. I’m proud of that, but the pressure feels extreme. I just pray for a worthy outcome.

Reaching the balance

The secret of Western life is finding a healthy balance between your work, your family, your friends, self-care, and proper diet and exercise.

If you’re waking up every day trying to be better than you were the day before, you’re probably asking yourself where you invested more energy previously that neglected something else, in addition to whether your meeting self-expectations through proper self-discipline.

I’m not sure if this ever reaches a moment where you say, “I’ve done it. I’m a complete master of myself. I’m living the perfect life.” So, life becomes a continual process of growth and self-discovery.

It’s quite amazing. The trick is to find contentment (or even joy) in the journey.