Be Bored With Thyself

In the broad domain of the internet, I have been coming across some things that, to be honest, frighten to me. The products with which seemingly the majority of the world accepts as a necessity and are vital to life just flat out are not important to everyday life. Take any social media site, for example, and ask the owner why it is important to have it. Usually their answers will go along the lines of “it helps me stay connected to my family and friends who are not near me anymore,” or “they help you with entertainment or business opportunities.” Now, I am not saying these are not benefits; however, do we really need these things to lead full, productive lives? Most people would ultimately say no we don’t, but they will assert that these things enhance ourselves. Well, in the realm of today’s uber-connected world, I am going to make the statement that these sites do not matter in terms of life changing content. They are instead a quick getaway from reality, but the danger here is that quick getaway has become a permanent move into the virtual fantasies based off the real events of the world around us. I do not use social media as much anymore, and I am on the verge of getting rid of it completely for a time for a couple reasons. First, these sites, along with other distracting content, take away from the time one can use to make quality content in the world. Second, no matter where we are in life, someone’s world looks better than the world we live in, and that can bring up the nasty feelings of jealously, greed and envy, while also promoting laziness and sadness. I can say with good conscience that the benefits of social media and the like do not outweigh the negatives we allow to come into our lives if they become a huge portion of our everyday lives.

That is not to say, however, that war should be waged against social media and the internet. In itself the internet is not evil, nor is it good. It is morally ambiguous. That is why it is a tool and not a lifestyle. A tool helps whoever the wielder is bring their own creative work to our world. I am not out here to bash people for using the internet (it is the reason you are reading this post); rather, I believe it to be in the interest of most folk to look at their tendencies on the web and decide for themselves if they abuse it or not. Boredom, as I am finding out, is a good thing. It is in boredom that ideas are born. Being able to block out the noise and distraction of life is a quality that is of benefit instead of one to be avoided, like others tend to do. I like to observe the world around me, and what I have been observing lately are what my friends do in between activities. Whether it be in line at the store, waiting on work to start, or waiting on the movie to begin, I have taken it on to look at myself and others to see what we do in these moments. And it only took three times of doing this to see that we love distraction. I am definitely not immune to this practice, however, I am now trying to understand why it is that most of society is on their phones in those times. I am no sociologist but the explanation that is clear to me is one thing: the internet is more than a tool for most of us. Whether it is movies, random articles, or social media, the internet has become too seductive and leaves us with a supposed solution to boredom. But, that is just the thing. Boredom has never been meant to be solved. It is this state that we find ways to truly express ourselves. Heck, even this writing was inspired out of the boredom that I have begun inviting into my life again. For me, and I can say that probably most of you reading as well, we have to stop thinking of stagnation as an enemy, but let it be a part of our lives to the point that when we encounter it, we get to work because we do not want it to hang around. There is also an ethical reason for my overall wariness about the habitual use of the internet, and that begins with self value.

I am not here to accuse you of being jealous or envious. However, I know that these are common conditions of humanity, so like me you may, probably, and, more likely, definitely have struggled with these in the past or present. And whether it is at the forefront of our conscience or not, the internet has allowed these nasty qualities to rear their ugly heads in a way that is troubling. These problems are particularly personal and if we are not accountable, it can steep further into our habits. It is because of an improper view of our lives as compared to other people’s lives. And boy, the internet can exacerbate that to a whole different level. The self image issue that comes out of these problems are on both sides of the equation. You have the client, or viewer, who believes the seller, or presenter, has either achieved or is doing things better that the client’s own situation. Realize though that the seller never puts any of the bad stuff of his or her life that they do not want the client to see. Do not think for a moment that one person is worse or better than you, because the only reality on social media is the fantasy reality that others create for themselves. It doesn’t deal with the nasty, unwanted feelings or events that happen unexpectedly. It doesn’t post pictures that are not perfectly curated to the seller’s preference. Life is more than just the approval of a set band of people you know well or have had a passing acquaintance with. Our self images improve when we realize that a tool does not dictate the wielder and we stop giving it the power to do so. After all, who has ever seen a hammer tell the carpenter what he is to build?

If there is one thing that I want you to get from this post (if you are still reading because you did not get offended) it is that the life we lead in the world around us is so much better, has so much more beauty and give us a full spectrum of the human experience that the internet and social media cannot give you. I do not believe these tools are bad, but I believe we can give them that quality if we so choose to allow them that opportunity. Welcome moments of boredom and seek out the lulls in life that improve our cognitive ability to work with higher capacity. I do not believe in New Year’s resolution. I believe in everyone’s choice to turn around at any given notice, whether it be the turn of the year or in the middle of a hot afternoon in June. With that being said, Happy New Years everyone!bowie

A Familiar Spotlight

I will start writing about people that I think you should know about or who I think will give a bit of light into your life. So, the first person I will write about is someone I knew personally and who died over ten years ago. That would be my grandfather, Johnny Steelman, for who which I am named. This will be a little close for me, as his 90th birthday would have been yesterday. I won’t give you his biography, but rather I will tell you the biggest lesson that man taught me, how he impacted our family after his death, and why it is important to tell you his story.

After my old man retired from the Army in the 90s, we moved to our grandparents home. Grandpa was the bus driver for the school I went to, and if you know anything about moving around when you are young, getting into a new school where you don’t know anybody can be intimidating, and that was the case with me. However, everyone knew who my grandpa was, and he made the transition a whole lot easier. My classmates who were on his bus would tell me how much they liked him and how cool it was for me to be his grandson. What made him easy to like and get along with was that he did not care about anyone’s opinion of him. The man did not try to hide at all who he was, and as in my post about authenticity, that attracted the adoration of everyone who had the pleasure to meet him. Inside of the hard exterior he presented exuded a man who was both funny and compassionate, especially with his grand children. The biggest lesson he taught me was how to love like a man. He did not sacrifice masculinity for love, rather he unlocked that part of masculinity that most people think does not exist. He was, for all intensive purposes, the rock that tied us all together, along with Grandmother. And that presence was sorely missed after his death.

One of the defining traits of the impact of anything is to take it away and see how the rest of the group reacts. And, to say the least, the adjustment period for us as a family was immense. You see, when a force like that is taken away as abruptly as his death happened it takes a whole lot of time and energy to get used to the absence. He was a special person that kept the family glued together. However, I believe that we had to define ourselves outside of my grandparents. “Time heals all wounds,” is a partially correct statement. Time and active participation in life heals faster and complete. For me, it meant becoming more of the man by which he treated me. But, that time in between showed just how much he meant to our family. Grandpa was a man that stood by his beliefs and did not ask for a show. So, why am I telling you about him ten years after his death? That answer, for you and I, has a profound impact on why we pursue excellence.

Grandpa’s example in my own eyes was more than just your typical WWII veteran: tough, rigid, independent, and a family man. His defining characteristics shone through his day to day interactions and speech. Why should you know the intimate details about a man that I have held close to myself for so long? Because his example can be a teacher. Was he perfect? Not at all. However, as I touched on earlier, his masculinity was a quality that which we all can learn from to take on life. We are not meant to be calloused off to the world; life will punish us if we do such a thing. Love others and yourself with as much activity as you can. Do not let the flaws of this world define you. Rather, just as my grandfather did, take whatever comes your way and conquer it in your own way. That is the quality of a truly secure person. We are all capable of this, it just takes the courage to do it. I know we can.

Johnny Steelman was a man worth knowing. I was blessed to be able to live near him for 8 years. I still think about the times we shared, and what he would do in certain situations. Do not take for granted the people that have great influence in your life, for you will not have them around one day. Live an active life and become the person who knows how to get stuff done and is truly comfortable in their own skin. Always learn from smarter and wise people, and do not think yourself as better than your fellow man. “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” (Gandhi). Have a great Christmas. Much love.grandpa

On the Importance of Smarter People

moore

Who I envision myself in the future and who I am right now are two different people. We have similar interests, passions, and features, but our mental and emotional make ups are on separate wavelengths. We operate based on similar motivators, but my future self will be more efficient and effective at getting the task done. How do I know this? Am I “gifted?” Well, the reason I know this is because of the reality of the human condition: you either grow or die. I truly believe that I will continually grow to the day I die. So that vision I supposedly have is not of an old man surrounded by a library with a mansion. Rather, it is of a man who has not sacrificed growth for current and unworthy desires. It could be as soon as tomorrow, next week, or the next ten years. Now, this begs the question: Why are smarter people important?

I will be honest here. I delayed writing this blog for a few days because I had doubts creep into my head. I thought that this endeavor is not for everyone, and if people see my thoughts here then my inner self shall be exposed. Then it occurred to me while reading on the life of Chris Moore of Barbell Shrugged.* The man died on my birthday this year, but the legacy he left behind to so many people in the fitness and intellectual community is amazing. The articles and blogs spoke of a man who did not hide from who he was and a man who did not take himself too seriously. He was a passionate man of knowledge both in life and in the gym. After reading about him, it is when I realized that this is why I am writing specifically on this subject: you and I need smarter people in our lives. I am always encouraged when I get to dish on life to my friends or mentors on what is going on in my life or theirs, and I am all the better for it. When I read the books of men and women who have made profound impacts on society, my soul is uplifted. You see, we will never become our greatest selves if we just surround ourselves with others who are not a) in a higher stage of life and b) not pursuing excellence. I want you all to know that I did not pursue excellence for sometime after college. I subconsciously thought “Okay, I have my bachelors, now I get a break from learning.” Boy, how wrong was I! Education is not something that is bottled up in an institution. It comes from the habitual practice of putting yourself in the presence of those greater than you from the past and the present. This is uncomfortable, in so many ways. You are dying to self each time you submit to the authority of a learned man or woman. There is true beauty to this, and I am now finally seeing just how rewarding it can be to tap into this reserve that most people do not use.

Change is something that is available to us all. It is the means for which we can access the wealth of knowledge, experience and love that life presents to anyone willing to accept her challenge. Viktor Frankl, in his book Man’s Search for Meaning, explains how man has the choice to change even in the face of paramount suffering like the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz:

And there were always choices to make. Every day, every hour, offered the opportunity to make a decision, a decision which determined whether you would or would not submit to those powers which threatened to rob you of your very self, your inner freedom; which determined whether or not you would become the plaything of circumstance, renouncing freedom and dignity to be molded into the form of the typical inmate. (66)

Even when all of the basic human rights are stripped away from us, there is one that can never be taken away: our response. That is how Frankl and his colleagues survived Auschwitz with their meaning still intact. They did not allow their purpose to be defined by their surroundings. And if that is possible inside a concentration camp, then surely we can accept that truth here now. Seek those who are further along in the game than you. Be willing to submit to their instruction in whatever situation that you seek guidance. And, most importantly, always be open to change. Thanks for reading everyone. Let me know what you think or tell me a story about this subject. I would love to hear it. Later.

* http://daily.barbellshrugged.com/born-again-in-memory-chris-moore/  This is the bio of Moore from his friend. Well worth the 5 minute read.

The Art of Listening

When I write the word listen, I am tempted to tell you that this is some deep construct of the curious case of humanity. I want to say that where most of our culture bombards our visual faculties with movies, pictures, and the like, sound takes a back burner (Even music has to have music videos, yeesh.). I wish I could be at a position where I can tell you that I am at a point in my life where I am fine-tuned to this overlooked yet important sense. However, that is not the case. You see, this is my wake up call just as much as it may be for you. Listening for me has always in the back of my mind. It is almost like I know I should be more intent on what the other person has to say to me than what I have to seemingly yell to people to get my point of view in the foray. Yet, it just stays in the recesses, wanting to take a seat at the table of my life, but not allowed the full attention it deserves. So, this post is just as much about me as it is about you. This is not a how-to, but a why-to start to make listening an active part of our lives.

Becoming people that set the art of listening at the forefront of their lives is an endeavor that will improve the quality of the relationships with others and themselves to point of true openness. When I write words like narcissism, selfishness, and egocentric, what are the emotions that boil up within you? For me, they are negative emotions. That is what we project when we choose to always speak, but never listen. We can say that we heard them, even repeat the conversation verbatim. However, listening is an act; we choose to put the person we are in contact with in front of ourselves. It is a self-sacrificing act to put another person’s story at the your center of attention. For myself, this is a focus that I believe will provide value to my life. Giving is a natural reaction. It requires us to look out for the whole, not the one. I want to be a voracious giver. That idea of giving does not start with money or presents, it starts with the person. If I can give my most valuable commodity, time, to another, then the other stuff will flow naturally. Lewis Howes, in his book School of Greatness, says this about the giving mentality:

In our self-centered world, it’s easy to buy into the “me” mentality. We are constantly told that to get ahead, we need to invest in ourselves, and then once we’ve “made it,” we can give back. But as Adam Braun’s story shows, giving back can be the vehicle to “making it” if we align our service with our passion. Without service, achievement is empty.*

You see, giving does not start later on when you are supposedly in a position to give. Giving can (and I would argue, has to) start now, and there is no greater gift to someone than the gift of our time and attention. Listening, my friends, is not a chore. It is an opportunity. When you can honestly give someone your ears and brain with no agenda, that is when true change can happen. All it takes is the practice. What is our response then?

As I have stated previously, Uncomfortable is about a journey, not a destination. We never reach a place of complete perfection, but we do strive and claw to get there because that is our journey. And my sincere hope in starting this journey with yall (or you all, whatever makes you happy) is that you can see that it is worthy of our time and attention. Listening, not just hearing, is an uncomfortable act. But, it is only uncomfortable when it is not put into practice. If giving is a truly naturally reaction, then listening, our best gift, will become as natural as eating and sleeping. This is my hope in this post, that wherever you are, you take the time to stop and assess where you are at in this art. Become a sacrificial and uncomfortable person, and then you can become truly comfortable in giving. Thanks for reading everyone. Leave a comment and tell me what you think or where you are on this particular journey. Cheers!

*I am using my Kindle, but you can find the quote in Chapter 8: Live a Life of Service. Here is a link to the story of Adam Braun, because it is a fantastic story: https://pencilsofpromise.org/about/founders-story/

Authenticity: Is It For You?

 

What is a buzzword that our current generation likes to use? I don’t know about you, but I keep hearing the word authentic. From businesses that are trying to sell their product for their customers all the way down to everyday people discussing how their bosses act, authenticity rings as a pillar on which we judge everything to the way clothing is made, how the food we eat is created, and the personalities we meet on a day-to-day basis. So what does authentic, or living authentic, mean to you? When you can answer that wholly and know what it looks like, then that allows you to pursue a life defined by it because you know its purpose. My belief is that authenticity is not something that one person can create. It is created through that individual being truthful to himself or herself. The creation is not authenticity, rather, it is the byproduct of that person’s spirit and confidence. People can read through the lies and illegitimacy when an individual tries to beef up his or hers prospects. However, when someone knows who they are and is comfortable in their own skin, they become attractive to anyone that has the pleasure of coming into contact with them. Let’s take a look at the background, qualities, and our responsibilities for authenticity.

Now, to be honest, the background of how authenticity became such a prevalent topic is murky to me. I am not going to give you a research paper. However, I will give you the conclusions I have drawn from my observations on this phenomenon. It isn’t like authenticity wasn’t valued at all previously, but the moral backbone in places like the political, economic, and even spiritual realms were waning in the latter half of the 20th century and beginning decade of the 21st century. Examples like Watergate, the Great Recession in 2008, the Jim Jones Jonestown Massacre, and many more events became more commonplace as news was more readily accessible to the masses (I will link the sites for each event I listed. Very educated of me, wouldn’t you say?). So that, along with the increasing amount of divorces, consumer debt, and the envy of celebrities, created an atmosphere of phony living that I believe has led to this new emphasis on authenticity. Now, these are my musings on this subject. If you disagree, then I would love to discuss it with you. Remember, this is all about our journey to living an uncomfortable lifestyle in this current society. If this idea challenges you, dig deep into yourself first and try to find what is it exactly that makes you uncomfortable with this subject. Then you will be able to clearly define your position and help advance our knowledge to higher levels. With that out of the way, what exactly are the qualities of authenticity and what are our responsibilities to it?

When I see someone IRL (In real life, get with it people.) or a person I listen to online that draws me because of their authenticity, the first quality that sticks out like a sore thumb to me is their openness. It is almost like they have nothing to hide; there is not anyone that scares them to draw inside a shell, because of the comfort and ease at which they stay true to themselves. If your life was put out for the public to judge, would that make you cringe? Would it be a hindrance to you? Or, would it not be a big deal because you know who you are, and the people who do not have a direct impact on you do not affect your life in the same vein as a mentor or lifelong friend? I understand that we all have insecurities. I am not at all saying to throw your entire life out for all to see (Even though most of us probably do on social media, but that is neither here nor there.). What I am saying is that if you could not avoid that from happening, then how would people view you? Would they see the brand new car, house, electronics, and gadgets, but then see the crippling debt and overall fear you live with on the daily? Or would they see a person who is completely themselves no matter the situation? I’d take a pretty strong bet that you would want to be the latter. If you are in debt, I am not saying you are a fake. I am in debt myself and trying like all hell to get out of it. However, do not think that stuff makes you a better person. It is the quality of character within that creates authenticity. That is the responsibility of authenticity. Being true to yourself, dedicating to learning everyday of your life, and treating each person with grace and respect regardless of their position will result in an authentic life. What I just described is extremely uncomfortable for a lot of people. Do you have the ability to knock your pride down to become a person others are proud to know? Only you can answer that question. I want you to strive for greatness (I don’t think LeBron trademarked that…). Part of that greatness is the responsibility of creating an authentic platform for which others will benefit. I know you can do it.

Live in a way that does not adjust to other’s plans for you and that authentic air will form around you. Nothing in this life is too hard to accomplish if you have the faith and work ethic to yourself and society. This blog is all about learning opportunities for you, the reader, and me, the writer. Authenticity will become a sustainable state when we tear down our walls and let our true light to shine through our society. Become great at loving yourself and pushing yourself to new levels of uncomfortable and people will be drawn to you. I am excited about our chance to grow together and hopefully this post reaches you on some level. Let me know if you have a story or discussion about authenticity in the comment section. Have a great day!

http://uspolitics.about.com/od/presidenc1/a/what_watergate.htm

http://history1900s.about.com/od/1970s/p/jonestown.htm

https://www.thebalance.com/the-great-recession-of-2008-explanation-with-dates-4056832

 

 

 

 

 

Uncomfortable

My reasons for writing are one parts selfish and one parts altruistic. On the one hand, I see the catharsis of allowing myself free reign at the issues that pervade my current society and situation. However, the flip side of this coin is that if the more people are willing to fight the main stream and release ideas of counterculture, sound reason, and ideals, then the more good thought habits, actions, and discussion become commonplace. That is why I titled this blog Uncomfortable. I want to articulate my thoughts on subjects that make people uneasy, but are necessary to promote change and progression to a better place of living for the past, current, and future generations. With that being said, my first discussion will be on what I am doing to create a state of being uncomfortable in my personal life.

I recently went through a long distance relationship, and before you say things like “It never works,” and “It always ends because of lofty goals that aren’t realistic,” (You probably didn’t say that. That is just my summary of what everybody told me.), this small journey in my life started a chain reaction of events that would send me into the opposite way that most people live, which is just existing. While we did not work out, mainly because of differing values, that time did allow me to analyze what I thought to be important. I started reading books that matter. My financial state became the most imperative subject to me. The future became more and more the focal point of my thoughts and conversations, because when you do something like a LDR (Sorry, I am a millennial and in the Army. I like abbreviations.) the future is the only thing that gives you pleasure because in the moment you cannot be with the person that gives you joy. So it became a chore to talk to her, and that should never be the case in a romantic relationship. Ending it was one of the toughest challenges in recent memory, however, it is better to cut a defective limb off at first than to let it infect the whole body. That time was beneficial to me, though, because it put into focus what I want my life to look like in the future. Here are some of the things I am implementing in my life right now to make that future a reality.

Gaining knowledge, reigning in my financial behavior, and realigning my spiritual self have been the areas of my life that I have put the onus on to make a bright future for myself and those around me. I started increasing my knowledge while I was still in a relationship, but now I am full throttle on this matter. Learning should be a constant action, and sometimes it takes extreme action to make this goal as efficient and effective as it possibly can be. So I got rid of my X Box, social media, and internet (How will I ever live? And how will anyone ever read this? I’ll figure that out later). I truly believe that I need to disconnect from a lot of the comfort those things gave me to make my goal of my future a reality. And the main thing I have learned so far: Action CREATES change. Change does not come along haphazardly. It bursts through the door when you break the locks on the door of your subconscious comfort zone. The financial positives that resulted from these things I have done so far are immense. I have more money to devote to my goal of getting out of debt and becoming a millionaire. I have created a budget and begun to finally follow it in the way that allows me to live in an uncomfortable state, but still flourish. I see the benefit of failures and their ability to teach me to become even stronger. That is what leads me to the last subject of my post: my spiritual life. Now to preface, I am a Judeo-Christian that was raised in the Southern Baptist ways, taught in one of their seminaries, and now after what I call a “spiritual hiatus,” (Excuse my lameness.) I have come to the realization that I cannot run from who I am as a Christian. So, know that I won’t be talking purely about religion alone, but I will be talking about these subjects through that worldview lens. If someone feels that this is wrong, that is okay. If being candid about who I am is too taboo, then sign me up for the crazy train. I would rather be considered strange and lame than to keep on floating the mainstream (I apologize to Sweetwater Brewing in advance.).

I welcome challenge. Challenge is the only way we can grow as a society and as individuals. Writing this blog is something that I feel like needs to be done even if no one in the world reads it. This is what I believe Uncomfortable should be about: a place where I can dish on subjects that hopefully bring about change in someone’s life, even if it is only minuscule. That alone will be worth the effort. If you are reading this, I hope this either sparks you on a new path or encourages while you are on your path to becoming uncomfortable. Now, that is a way to end my first post. 🙂