Two Minute Tuesday: Find Your Treasure

As a bunch of twenty-somethings one of our most prevalent tendencies is to search until we feel as if we have found what we are looking for. We shuffle through social circles and work environments in search of the vibes and rhythms that most align with who we believe ourselves to be. We journey through experiences throughout high school and college in order to validate, or invalidate, our hunches and unsubstantiated beliefs. We search because we want to feel comfortable in our own skin, confident enough to attack the day, and, ultimately, gain the means to develop as human beings. Here are a few ways we can search and successfully find what that one thing is, whatever it may be:

 

  1. Seek Experiences: It is often said we are the sum of the five people we spend the most time with. On a larger scale we may be able to take the same idea of sums and averages and apply it to our individual experiences. Perhaps we become the sum of our most significant moments, interactions, and encounters.
  2. Find Your Life Treasure: Life treasure is the sought after core values that motivate us out bed and into the day; it is the confidence that grants us serenity to push through the obstacles of the day and achieve victory.
  3. Find Ultimate Value in that Treasure: For some, life treasure is religion, idealism, or something as tangible as a group of friends. Whatever it is for you, make it your everything.
  4. Nothing Else Matters: We live in a society of loud opinions, ambiguous norms, and, unfortunately, status quo. Retirement home folk are frequently on record as listing “caring too much about what others thought/not being themselves” as mistakes in their youth. Find your treasure, do not look to the right or left, and let the rest of life take care of itself.

 

Truthfully, we spend a lifetime seeking treasure. Right when we think we’ve found “it” we ultimately find that we still lack. I have seen some peers utterly fail in finding their “treasure”; their demise is found in their cynicism, fear of risk, and repeated patterns of self-destruction. So don’t be like my peers; be yourselves and fight for that treasure until it is the only thing you have.

 

Personal note: I’ll never forget the two quotes I left on the several hundred yearbooks of my high school. The first was “The Lion and the Tuna Story From the Other Guys” (super epic) and the second was this: “Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.” It took up until just a few years ago to realize this, but the whole “Jesus as my treasure” thing hasn’t failed me yet; I hope it doesn’t. Just wanted to put it out there in case you may want a head start and find your treasure earlier than I did.

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Microread of the Day: My Greatest Fear is ________

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” -Yoda

You and I give fear a strange connotation. As millenials I think we’ve come to the place where we now avoid fear altogether. We don’t want to acknowledge it and we especially don’t want to give in to it. Whether it’s a phobia, social anxiety, or uncertainty we tend to avoid talking about our fears much less dealing with them. I think it’s time we change the narrative.

Big Idea of the Day: Fear itself may be a mental rewarding mechanism that tells us where we ought not to go. I’m by no means a psychologist; however, I think the tightening of the stomach we all experience across the board may point to an eager anticipation of what we are about to encounter.

Allegorical Example: Let’s imagine a girl named Michelle. Michelle might “fear” being in social situations; perhaps the case could be made that the “fear” she is experiencing simply points to her authentic value for people, what they think, and how she might fit in with her peers. This same fear could possibly indicate to us that Michelle is excited to engage in social interaction, but simply may not have the means to do so- and that is ok.

Question of the Day: Fear is a feeling, premonition, or mental inkling. We naturally assign negative feelings with fear. The feeling, premonition, or mental inkling may not be such bad experiences after all; what if we could re channel our experience into one that moves us in anticipation for what is front of us rather than cause us to flee in utter avoidance?  

Two Minute Tuesday: Bring Your Piece

As you and I grow older we develop a propensity for self-awareness, leadership, and, hopefully, empathy. In turn we become more confident in our ability to add value to a conversation, group hangout, and even an entire collective congregation of people as we contribute a piece of insight, word of encouragement, or an act of service. Admittedly, it may not always be a contribution people necessarily want or appreciate in the moment; that’s the beauty of taking initiative. We can always take the initial step forward and adjust accordingly afterwards.

Consequently the green light to add value to others can become awfully ambiguous; this ambiguity contingently leads us to apathy and, in some cases, a complete lack of action from our end. So in the spirit of being discerning contributors and not ambiguous inactivists here are a few ways we can always “bring our piece” and add value to those around us.

  1. Listen: It seems counter intuitive, but I think if we want to add consistent and altruistically honoring value, we ought to listen and listen well. We should not feel the pressure to always “contribute”; there are plenty of moments where we ought to simply listen to the conversation and exhibit body language that encourages others to share.
  2. Observe: Observing someone is an extension of listening. The action of observing requires us to notice a person’s body language, the content of what is being spoken, and even the ways in which others respond to a given person’s words. As we observe we gain greater clarity for who someone is and work towards viewing them holistically rather than a binary “good or bad”. 
  3. Speak Candidly: Candor is something our society sorely misses. We tend to beat around the bush when it comes to speaking our minds or, worse, we say what we perceive regardless of what the truth is. As we seek to listen and observe we can bring “our piece” by speaking with radical candor. Radical candor might look like encouragement or a helpful insight; duly noted candor should be spoken in a way that validates the person across from us and puts them in a position where they can act on it. 

As we grow there is always room to take initiative in bringing our piece. We don’t have to allow apathy and social ambiguity to derail us in our effort to add value to the lives of those around us. If we take time to listen, observe, or speak candidly we may just find ourselves in a brighter, more clarified world.

Narrative Awareness

It is often said there are two sides to every story. You and I can be enormous narcissists and, as a result, often ignore the slightest possibility there could be more than just our side of the events we experience. This predisposition for our own narrative has created a lot of division, disunity, and disruptive disagreement. But what if you and I could wrap our heads around not only our own narrative or even the narrative of the person sitting across from us? What if we began to imagine a statement with several different perspectives, brilliant points of view, and diverse pieces of added value? Here are a few tips for how we can consider multiple narratives and not simply our own.

  1. Step back and ask yourself, “Is my perspective definitive?”. Most of the time the answer is no; most of the time there are remote possibilities we may be wrong and, perhaps to our dismay, someone else may be right.
  2. Consider another’s perspective with a desire to learn, regardless of validity. People can sometimes be crazy, evil, and wicked. However, there is always an opportunity to learn in a way that still gives us life. 
  3. Remind yourself the existence of another perspective does not have to inhibit your enjoyment of life. Food for thought: if you and I find ourselves getting constantly irked by another’s perspective and feel like it threatens our own we may want to consider how much we actually believe in our perspective regarding the issue at hand. Offense is not necessary.

It can often be crazy to be imagine there could possibly be more than just our perspective on the relevant issues of today. As we seek to navigate how to have proactive conversations that mend together cultural gaps as well as pursue the initiatives that bring us refreshment we can also be encouraged to engage perspectives that differ from our own. It is in this engagement of diverse narratives that allow us to accept, learn, and grow from one another.

Our Humanity Gives Way to What is Right

Every day there are decisions to made, things to be done, and people to connect with. In each of these arenas there lies a choice to engage the people and activities in front of us in one of two ways: We can live in our D.N.A ingrained humanity, the God-given qualities that make us human, and do what we feel is most natural to us; life becomes a sequence of reactions as we seek greater pursuits of joy and happiness. Our second option brings us to embarking on a journey of external dictation where the laws of righteousness lead us down a path of greater efficiency, refinement, and brilliant results, whatever that may be.

You may be thinking, “There is no way I live either completely by knee jerk reaction or by, essentially, what is right”. But I think that’s where we are as millenials. Granted I think living out the values we find most precious in a healthy, non-slave driving way is also apart of growing up, but I digress.

As millenials we have a basic idea of right and wrong; we have general principles that guide us in our careers and personal lives. As one can imagine it can become increasingly difficult to navigate everyday situations where a number of results can occur given multiple courses of action. Do we choose to do the mechanical, “right” course of action or do we opt to throw everything to the fan, not care, and do what we want? It may not be as black and white as I’m conveying, but there are certainly a fair amount of people that reside on both of these camps without much regard for the other side.

As you and I delve into this conversation it’s imperative we discuss why drinking the Kool-Aid of either the camp of humanity or righteousness becomes unsustainable and, frankly, impossible to do. The first of which we’ll address is living our lives by external dictation of doing what is right. In a perfect world you and I would always do what is right and socially acceptable. But our reality points to an imperfect world in which you and I face helpful, yet inhibitive emotions, mental breakdowns, and evil individuals who are also broken, but inflict pain upon our lives. This imperfect reality leads us to a massive amount of uncontrollable variables that often drive us off the path we’d ideally want to follow 100% of the time. Whether it’s a toxic relationship, drug use, or existential crises, we become helpless in our pursuit of perfectly performing doing what is right.

For the rest of us who try to do what is right, even a quarter of the time we interact with people, the external dictation of the laws of righteousness still take their toll on our psyche. This is more likely what you and I undergo on a daily basis. Most of the time you and I feel comfortable in our skin and are able to navigate most situations with an organic proclivity, but certainly face situations where the circumstances call for a very specific response from our end. It may be a toxic coworker, terrible friend, or a less than preferable social event. Admittedly it is exhausting to approach these specific circumstances and ponder the ways in which we should “do what is right”.

For many of us living a life driven by laws of righteousness is an enormous burden so our natural reaction becomes an effort to throw off every pretentious social norm, cue, and standard and live our lives the way we feel or think. If this new method of living somehow falls into line with everyone else, while still on our terms, we look in the mirror satisfied with the person we see.

My challenge to those of us who feel this way is to take one more look in the mirror. As young millenials it is enormously burdensome to know what the right thing to do in one situation, while altogether wanting to do the exact opposite of what our circumstances are calling us to do. In our work lives, for instance, we often face people we don’t enjoy working with. The ways in which we interact with these certain folk are, at best, a stinging pain in our side and, at worst, an excruciating experience. You and I both know the right thing to do is to engage this person in a professional manner and carry on with our business, despite what our mental and emotional propensity might lead us towards. However, most of the time we “put up” with the unpleasant coworker in a less than professional manner because we give into our humanity and disregard for what is right. As a result the less than professional interaction then creates uncomfortable tension amongst everybody in the office and things slowly digress from there.

As you and I throw the laws of righteousness out and begin to live on the far spectrum of the celebration of our humanity we often lose sight of the path we first sought out to walk upon. We often become too focused on the avoidance of any external dictation and live solely on the internal components of our humanity-our emotions and self-determinations. This path also leads us down a behavioral consistency of unsustainability and unfulfillment.

Granted our goal was to point out the infeasibility of living too far on either of the two spectrums of humanity or righteousness. Should we opt to live fully by what is right we will most likely burn out in frustration, anger, and confusion either at why the rest of the world isn’t following suit; in this case the event more likely to occur is that we will personally burn out in an effort to maintain such an insurmountable goal. If we opt to live fully in our humanity we find ourselves on a steady path towards destruction, both of ourselves and the people around us. The decay of unsustainable pleasure leaves us without a healthy external compass and we find ourselves lost and tossed back and forth in a sea of utter confusion and anger.

Truth be told we will never have the perfect environment in which we are always thriving and being our authentic selves. There are uncontrollable variables in this life that lead us to do some pretty crazy stuff and do some pretty terrible things. If we are ready to accept this fact and also acknowledge the importance of the balance of living with both a bit of external dictation from righteousness as well as internal navigation from our humanity, then we can move towards a third alternative that is sustainable, brilliant, and life giving. This third alternative brings us to a balance of the aforementioned spectrums of living. It is actually within the context of our own humanity, the qualities that make us most human, we can choose our own expression of doing the right thing. As we live out in the way in which we were created complete with our personality and leanings we can be encouraged to allow our humanity to fit within the realm of doing what’s right; doing so keeps us from blindly following rules at risk of becoming overly mechanical and dehumanized.  What this workaround also does for us is that it allows us to still be fully ourselves while also being effective and efficient in what we do whether it’s getting work done or navigating social situations.

Navigating what life throws at us can often be difficult; there is no shortage of difficult moments, anxious exchanges, and trying circumstances. Some of us choose to live life fully by the book and some of us choose to throw it all to the wind. I find, however, there to be much beauty and resolution by living somewhere in the middle of these two approaches. It’s in our God-given humanity we can find the means to do the right thing and ultimately be lead in greater efficiency and effectiveness in our daily lives.

Cultivating Openness

If I’m a non-American I’m certainly noticing a lot of division within the American people. Close mindedness is at a premium where fellow American citizens are unable to hold a simple political, religious, or moral conversation for risk of offending the other party, or much worse.  How is this possible? You and I have come a long way and are actually moving towards an egalitarian society and, on much larger scale, global value system. I want to believe the latter much more than the former, but if you and I are honest with what state of dysfunction the United States is currently in, we must acknowledge the former with utmost clarity. At this point our fellow citizens will not change based on an argument; people are won by non-violent conversations, initiated by you and I, geared towards a desire to better understand who they are. Here are a few ways we can be more open minded conversationalists motivated by greater peace and understanding.

  1. Listen. Be active in your listening even if you may not agree with them. Tell them you hear what they are saying and be ready to summarize the main points of their side of the discussion. Nod when they say something key; afford them the same open body language you would want for yourself.
  2. Determine what your hardline values are. What are you willing to defend until your last breath? This creates less room for offense to take place and, mentally, we can become more open towards the issues we determine to be less “hardline”. It’s an extreme precaution to take, but pregaming our beliefs allow us to further define what our “no budge” issues are and, surprisingly, helps us realize we should be a lot more open about. If you have several dozen “no budge” issues it’s time to take a look in the mirror and ask in what ways you can be more open. Period.    
  3. Generate common ground and resolute compromise, not tolerance. Bill Hybels of the long standing Willow Creek church claims tolerance is for cowards. The word tolerance begets a begrudging attitude of unwilling acceptance at the cost of obligation. Tolerance is the same attitude many white people had in Alabama when the Jim Crow laws were abolished. On paper racism and discrimination are somewhat gone, but tolerance, an obligatory attitude of begrudging acceptance, is what has kept racism alive to this day.

 

Friends we need peace. There is too much hate in this world simply to walk away agreeing to disagree. May our goal in conversation always be to foster greater mutual understanding; may we aggressively lean in and actively listen to those that share different beliefs from our own. If we can make proactive conversation a habit we might just be able to close the enormous racial, political, and religious gaps we see today. Today’s actions fuel tomorrow’s outcome.  

Cacophonous Relationships and Why You Need at Least One of Them

In my very brief stint with classical music I picked up the word cacophony, among others. My teacher must have been a real “tough love” kind of guy because he would describe my piano playing as cacophonous most of the time I attempted to play a new song; in short my piano playing must have sounded pretty bad for him to use an adjective connoted to be discordant, inconsistent, and unpleasant. For anyone that knows me you’ll probably chuckle because I’m not a very musical guy; however, you would also know I enjoy learning new concepts, such as cacophony, and applying them to relatively unrelated fields, namely relationships.

 

There are certainly many components that help define and give life to a phenomenal relationship. Some will point to natural chemistry, physical proximity, or qualities such as perseverance. Others will say great relationships are spontaneously found and there is no such strategy to orchestrating a healthy friendship. Nonetheless it’s important to acknowledge many philosophies exist to give structure and guidelines for how you and I ought to form our relationships today.

Strangely enough, cacophony, at it’s core, applies to the way in which we create thriving relationships. It’s the discordance or disagreement in our interpersonal interactions that  exposes us for who we are, both good and bad, and ultimately compels us towards resolution.

 

Often times we feel gutted and exposed in any experience of tension. Our levels of selfishness and narcissism decrease as we are forced to acknowledge the person we see in the mirror, the good, bad, and everything in between. As a result both our great and decrepit qualities lie vulnerably on the table for the person we are in conflict with to see. Most of the time one of two choices exist at this point in the conflict timeline. Our first most natural reaction is to simply judge the person sitting across from us and leave the conflict there; we tend to opt to agree to disagree, but inside we leave feeling dissatisfied, unresolved, and disgusted that we ever had to interact with the person in the first place. Our second alternative brings us to a more difficult path, but, in the long term, bears greater joy and satisfaction. We can choose to explicitly acknowledge what the person across from us has done well while also acknowledging our own brokenness and need for growth in the area being addressed. If the other person can reciprocate on some level, true, formative resolution has a green light to begin to take place.

 

As the process of resolution progresses it’s important to be able to step back and observe what exactly moments of conflict are doing to and for us. Tension is simply not exposing us for our terrible qualities and solving issues; on a holistic level we are becoming more developed individuals who are more empathetic, self-aware, and selfless. As we leave the battle room of conflict our capacity for our own brokenness, paired with other people’s brokenness, grows and we begin to have greater patience and understanding for anyone that might cross our paths.

Conflict is almost never fun, but it can become one of the greatest catalysts for growth in you and I’s relationships whether it’s a family member, close friend, or even co-worker. It is in these moments of conflict we find our authentic selves, good and bad, and gain the opportunity to move in a direction of greater growth and self-awareness for the sake of the people we love most. We cannot always choose how we feel, but we can always make a choice to move in a direction that brings mutual peace and understanding between us and whoever we find ourselves in conflict with.

How to Embrace Discomfort When it’s not Convenient

Millenials, one of our biggest critiques of our generation is our perceived entitlement. Are some of us narcissistic, entitled folk? Yes. Do all of us belong in that same category? No. Everyday you and I have a choice to engage the world around us, namely our relationships and work. Inevitably we tend to deal with difficulties within the realm of relationships and work because they involve people and, well, people are pretty messy. Here are a few tips to embrace the discomfort difficulty tends to throw our way and come out on top:

  1. Acknowledge What You Feel: Let’s face it; we are human, humans have feelings, and feelings matter. Often times we can be driven too often by doing the “right thing”; we aren’t robots and the world will never be perfect! In moments of discomfort it’s important we acknowledge our emotional disposition.
  2. Then Do the Right Thing: As you and I acknowledge our feelings, we can be reminded we also can choose to respond in a proactive and brilliant manner, despite how we might feel. The moments where we fall captive to difficulty can often feel like a physical shortcoming, but often it is our mental capacity, or lack thereof, to overcome our emotional dispositions that becomes the culprit for our dysfunction.
  3. Sometimes, take the “L”: Friends, there are moments where life beats us down and we simply need to take a little siesta. Life is tough; however, for every one of the tough moments we can look forward to a victory tomorrow. We cannot be driven by what is “right” 100% of the time so feel free to take moments of extended rest and journey to a place where you can begin to function once again.

The mental game of responding to difficult situations has it’s moments. There are certainly easy circumstances where responding to life is a natural, fluid movement of habit; there are other times where life comes out of left field and we feel beaten down, exposed, and hopeless. There isn’t a manual when it comes to this stuff, but we can see what is in front of us, respond, and trudge forward. Carry on my friends.

Your Small Talk has Big Value

One narrative you and I find ringing throughout our movies, books, and social media is the idea of deep conversation and it’s immense relevance to relationships today. If you and I are honest we have countlessly gauged a person’s relational value by observing how effectively they can hold a “deep conversation” and making an evaluation from there. Often we perform the social chore of small talk about the weather or what we do for work and jump straight to the beliefs we hold most dearly to ourselves. The conversations you and I have begun to covet are usually characterized by resonating political, cultural, or spiritual sentiment. It’s this same resonating sentiment that makes us feel known to the deeper depths of our core values and beliefs.  Inherently, you and I crave value; moreover, we desire intimate connection with other human beings and it’s because of these desires we go as deep as we do.

 

Admittedly, small talk can very much feel like a social chore. It’s boring and can feel as if very little progress is being made within the relationship; when too much small talk occurs we end up feeling unknown and irrelevant to the person in front of us. Ultimately, if the conversation isn’t on pace to satisfy our needs the inherent desire for connection takes us away from the person we aren’t “connecting” with and to the next prospect; consequently the cycle of endlessly seeking “deep conversation” continues until we find someone who makes us feel a little more known than the last.

 

Deep conversations that make us feel known, validated, and valued are crucial to any successful relationship; it’s these same conversations that propel us into greater self awareness and an empathy for other people’s dispositions. However, millenials, I think our expeditions for deep conversation are damaging our ability to identify relational promise in the person across from us. Our litmus test for determining whether or not someone as a viable friend worthy of our time has become far too archaic to the point of dysfunction.

 

So I appeal to you, millenials. In you and I’s fascination for the quick and easy, entitlement, and all the other stuff previous generations seem to label us with, here are four reasons why small talk might be the one thing we ought to value more in our determining factors for great relationships.

  1. Small talk is a Building Block for Connection: We’ve heard it a million times. Everyone has to start somewhere. In serendipitous fashion you and I will find certain individuals who can jump straight to the conversations of deep resonance and bliss; these are amazing opportunities and we should absolutely take advantage of these moments. However, I think it would be a mistake to expect the same deep conversation turnover, much less identify these certain individuals as the critical mass of everyday relational prospects. Small talk, perhaps to you and I’s dismay, sets a basic foundation for later conversations to be built off of and hopefully makes way for deeper topics to emerge in the conversation.
  2. Small Talk is a Goldmine for the “Spark”: As you and I engage in small talk something rather spectacular happens. It allows us to slowly and safely share our values without creating an uncomfortable expectation for the person across from us to perform. The person across from us may not be as quick to recognize when a conversation is going deeper, but as small talk carries on it becomes a gracious vehicle for them to identify where we are at personally and equip them to chime in; as recognition takes place the epic “spark” in relationships we know so well effortlessly enters the conversation.
  3. Small Talk Conveys Interest: One fact we often forget is the initial reason for which we engage in small talk. Yes, it is absolutely a social norm to perform the duty of small talk, but before identifying small talk as simply a social norm we can be reminded the person across from us is likely interested in having a conversation and likewise desires it to go as deep, if not deeper than we do.
  4. Small Talk is an Indicator for Value: Let’s be straight. If the person across from either you or I sticks around for a significant amount of time displaying the ability to talk about the weather, what is done for work, or favorite past times then we may have a winner on our hands. Either they are choosing to engage in what some may deep boorish conversation or there is a natural flow of chemistry with disregard for the content of conversation. Either of those choices indicates interest and perhaps even a deeper propensity for commitment.

 

Small talk, like many other things in life, are all about the way in which you and I view and utilize them. It’s our perspective that drives the way in which we navigate our relationships and, for the sake of this article, the nature in which we have conversation with others. Rather than viewing small talk as a social drawl there might be merit in viewing small talk as an ability. It’s often the aforementioned cues we completely forget because you and I are so obsessed with our own specific litmus test for relationships. But if we can simply take a step back and recalibrate the way in which we identify promising relationships we may find a little bit more fulfillment in our interactions with our fellow human beings.

 

Two Minute Tuesday: Privilege, What it Is, and Why it Matters

As it stands our world certainly is experiencing an appalling amount of hatred. The recent acts of bigotry in Charlottesville, VA have been horrid to watch as white nationalists protested for a “cleansed America”, free of minorities. There are many reasons why division rules in this nation: our nation’s history, misunderstanding, and pride, just to name a few.

As a minority and, more importantly, a human being I do not claim to know the answers, but certainly believe in the power of conversation. Can we have one right now? Can you and I begin to unpack our beliefs, little by little, in the hopes we would grow in empathy for one another’s background, culture, and lifestyle?

I want to share with you, from my eyes, what I consider to be a difficult topic, but crucial to our conversations of unity: the idea of privilege. Perhaps today you and I can speak truth in a way that leads us to greater peace and understanding. Here’s quick rundown of privilege, as illustrated in our society:

    1. What it is: consistently defined as a “right, benefit, or immunity that are predominantly unearned, but widely unaware of” by an individual. Many use the example of how a fish does not necessarily know it is swimming in water; it just does. Privilege can be our race, nationality, wealth, or a combination of all the above.
    2. So What: Privilege, whether intended or not, usually results in an inequality of some sort. What are the ways you and I can take a step back and reexamine our “privilege”? True equality can be achieved when the privileged make the uncomfortable move to reach out and equip the underprivileged.

 

 

Inequality is not an issue solved overnight, much less by an article touted to be read in two minutes. Conversations, however, help solve inequality and injustice; hopefully a conversation was had today and will continue to transpire between you and I.

Maranatha.