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.

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?”

 

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.

The power of confidence

It’s said of Steve Jobs that he wasn’t always right. In fact, he frequently changed his opinions about what direction to take. His secret was that he was sure. Confidence is a force that when cultivated creates a magnetism with immense power.

It doesn’t matter what you look like. It doesn’t matter what you do. Just do it confidently.

This is hard. Confidence isn’t merely a thought that you can do something. It runs deeper. It is a total body acceptance that some decision is the right decision. It is the complete belief you’re right.

This isn’t to say that confidence shouldn’t be checked. It’s a delicate balance between self-improvement and faith in oneself.

Despite your confidence you must be open to feedback. You’ll never grow without it.

Bliss versus joy

Ignorance is bliss and some are just comfortable going along blissfully. They don’t care that they have an alcohol problem or that their friends have drug problems or that boy they’re interested in is a cheater and not a good person. They’re content. They’re happy.

The hard thing to do is to wake up every day and take responsibility for your actions. If you don’t have someone in your life pushing you to do that, why should you? How can you? It can be inconvenient, even anguishing, to live an upright life. The problem is that this kind of happiness doesn’t pay dividends. In the end, these folks are going to end up miserable and in poor health, wondering how things got so bad, and terribly misguided.

Integrity and searching for what’s right, on the other hand, will pay off long-term joy, wisdom, and peace. It also makes the world a more happy place because existence that is properly ordered, well-thought, and constructive is productive and satisfaction inducing. It just takes time to build good habits.

A big reason why so many never reach a state of genuine joy and abide in ignorant bliss is that they’ve never been shown or encouraged. We need more leaders who not just act as an example in the spotlight but who listen and try to patiently and kindly help.

 

You’re not doing them any favors, leave them alone

One of the most difficult experiences in our lives is as followed:

Someone you know and care about is going through a tough time. Actually, they’ve been going through a tough time. In fact, they seem to ALWAYS be dealing with something.

They’re troubled, plain and simple, and they are a drain on your life. You give them advice, and they never seem to take it. What do you do? Your inner altruist says you got to stick it through with them. You got to be there for them no matter what.

Here’s the deal: if you have been trying to help this person for, let’s say, 3 and half months and they just can’t seem to get it together, to improve their situation no matter what you’ve told them, you have to trim the branches in your life.

They’re not going to do anything but continue to bring you down. If you want to be a 10, you have to hang out with 10s. You are highly and unconsciously influenced by the behaviors, habits, and attitudes of the people you hang out with the most. They set a standard whether you like it or not.

You must tell them, “Listen, I have been trying to help you for months. I care about you a lot, but every time we talk it seems like we’re just dealing with the same things over and over again. And even though I care about you, I have to keep in mind what’s best for me, and I just can’t hang out with someone who refuses to take responsibility for their life. I’m just concerned you’re not a great influence. When you’re ready to actually do something about your life, please reach out to me, and I’ll be happy to be there for you. But I simply cannot keep going in circles with you. I wish you all the best.”

You’re not doing your friend or loved one any favors by enabling their behaviors.

Let them fail. It will build character.

Scouting ants and the artist’s role

To survive, ant colonies require some members to act as scouts. These are the rare few who venture beyond the paths that have proven to lead to a food source. Many of these ants never return. They risk their own lives for the benefit of the colony.

The artist is a scout. They seek to venture beyond accepted wisdom and norms of the culture and discover new paths. It is in these paths that genius is born. Instead of death, however, their risk is isolation and misunderstanding. No one ever succeeded in a remarkable fashion that was unwilling to risk breaching conformity.

 

Non-committal and unreliable youth

“80% of success is showing up.” – Woody Allen

This is increasingly relevant and revealing itself to be true in my life. It seems that it is surprisingly difficult to find young people who you can get to commit to things (or work hard). And if you do get them to commit, there’s a strong possibility that they’ll flake.

It’s strange really. It could be that they’re just handed too much. They don’t need to persist. They don’t need to worry about integrity. It’s difficult for me to imagine that luxury. I guess they settle for average and don’t want the discomfort of asking more of themselves.

I hope eventually I’ll have more insights into what drives their motivations. Sure, they’re busy, but that’s no excuse for just blowing things off or, additionally, the increasingly popular and remarkably undecent “ghosting” in which they just start completely ignoring a potential romantic interest if they decide they’re no longer a serious contender.

Character speaks (loudly) for itself,  and, in time, they’ll reap what they’ve sown.

The power of appreciation and being a good person

Most people don’t have access to the kind of power that money brings or great connections. So, in these typical circumstances how do you gain influence?

According to Tom Peters in his book The Pursuit of Wow and Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People, perhaps unexpectedly, the answer seems to be to just act with genuine care, generosity, forgiveness, and empathy

By doing things like demonstrating you care through thank-you notes, voicing appreciation, sharing credit abundantly, and being sincerely interested in others, people who interact with us will experience a psychological affinity. We gravitate toward the good, and we want to follow people who seem to sincerely be seeking our best interests.