Microread of the Day: Collectivism and Why it Matters

A simple definition of “collectivism”: group > individual

I imagine we all think we are expert collectivists; after all you and I grew up with the idea of sharing and valuing others. We are taught, on paper, together we are better. However, I do not think we execute on collectivism in a manner that truly maximizes you and I’s potential and skill set.

Let’s be frank; we are individualistic in nature and we want to control our own destinies, who doesn’t?

In the Bible, Jesus says something really funny and very much paradoxical when he states, “whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.”

Sure, the context is that he refers to the idea of personal surrender, salvation, etc.

It got me thinking. I think we find a bit of collectivism, the surrendering of one’s personal action/importance, may benefit us in the long run. As we lose our personal identities, entitlements, and leanings for the sake of others, we find greater value.

Just a thought. Could it be that you and I are actually better together? Is greater value worth the discomfort, slow of pace, and inefficiency that comes with a collectivist mentality?

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Two Minute Tuesday: We Give Value Away

Interesting contention here: I have a hunch we have a greater quality of life than we think we do. Recently we engaged in dialogue regarding the nature of insecurity and how a lot of it has to do with our minds; our mental strength grows as we mature and, in turn, our insecurity presumably decreases.

Another way our insecurity decreases is when each of us learns to hold onto the value of the few precious commodities life grants us. Generation X, namely our parents, has displayed this sentiment in many ways. Gen X is fun to observe because they, for the most part, find their ultimate value in just a few things whether it is religion, family, or close friends.

For many of us you’ll notice that, as each year passes, the approval of many becomes a little less important and the possessions become a little less necessary (huge disclaimer: there are still a large number of people period who really like the approval of others and big, fancy possessions). I think there are two key elements to this profound process:

  1. Place value in the few, immeasurably important things
  2. Remove value away from the many, non-worthwhile things.

The first point is fairly easy and comes with time. We grow older, discover the few things we can actually place value in, and adapt. The removal of value is something you and I can do today, right here, and right now. You and I are plagued by insecurity because we give our value away to the masses. We place incorrect stock in others’ opinions that have no merit in relevance in the first place.

Today we can identify where we misplace our value, decide it’s worth, and respond accordingly.

Two Minute Tuesday: Something of Value

There are so many different propensities and leanings when it comes to the life you and I live. There are a variety of religions, cultures, ethnicities; the list could go on forever. Yet, when it comes down to it, there are a few universal principles that reside above us in overarching fashion. We all like, or need, to eat food; you and I enjoy activities that give energy and greater refreshment for the day. Universally you might say that we all enjoy the idea of being with one another, to reside in common unity with another set of like-minded individuals.

The idea of community is just as diverse as the individuals on the Earth; there is a reason why folk of different cultures can gather around a religion and rally towards a more ideal and perfect world. There is a reason why so many different kinds of folk can gather around the LGBTQ movement and rally towards equality. There is a reason why random kids in high school can gather around being apart of the same sports team and rally towards a state championship. If you notice in all of these examples, the value at the center of every gathering of folk was great. The value in the center of a community can be different in form; however I think the value of community is brilliantly standard,in principle, across the board.

Here is something to consider for the movers and shakers of the world: let’s set out to create value wherever we go. Wherever we create value, people will come. When the right people gather in the right place you and I can begin to change the world. But it starts with value. God gives each of us a piece, a skill, a talent; call it whatever you want. If we are faithful with what we have been given perhaps we might find that the world you and I live in will be a brighter place.  

Microread of the Day: More, but Enough

You and I have seen her frequently. It’s the girl who is never quite satisfied with what she has achieved. She gets the grades, has the great relationships, and, yet, still looks at her life and determines she needs “more” in order to be fulfilled. We’ve also seen him; the guy who is abnormally content with his frank underachievement in life. He is happy with his few “things” in his life and has zero desire for anything else without having experienced the other things normal people get to encounter.

Perhaps I am strange for thinking this; I could not imagine a life where I persistently felt like I was not doing enough nor a life where I was abnormally content with what I had achieved. Yet I think this is how many of us live without being fully cognisant we fall on either side of the spectrum; we often miss the mark on living a life characterized by a balance between driveness, openness, and humility. Here are two ways we can be driven, yet open to what life would have for us:

  1. Remember There is Always More: Average people settle. Successful people view the world as an open space filled with unlimited opportunity to be taken advantage of with ultimate autonomy. Every day we can remind ourselves that day is an opportunity ready to be attacked, not simply given.
  2. Move in Gratitude: Gratitude is a strange ideal. It grants us serenity to be fully aware of what we have, yet breeds openness to what more of life there is yet to be explored and revealed. Gratitude, in a sense, takes us out of the driver seat of ultimate control, and enables us to increase our capacity for the positive things of life.

It’s a bit of a biased example, but I think my friend Bryant has displayed the balance of driveness, openness, and humility well in his Christian faith. Most young people, namely Christians, tend to utilize Christianity as a simple social mechanism to make friends and conveniently live a life characterized by contentment, social gluttony, and superficiality. When Bryant made the choice to follow Jesus he certainly made some mistakes along the way, but continued to grow in his understanding of the ideals of prayer, Christian community, and the implicit sacrifice that comes along with following Jesus in the many areas of life. He continued to display humility throughout his greatest mistakes as well as victories.

I think a good prayer to pray is one that asks God to grant greater diligence, faithfulness, and persistence while also hoping to grow in humility and empathy. Sometimes we remember one without consideration of the other end of the spectrum, but I think you and I can have a capacity for unstoppable grit marked by an exuding humility.

“And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.” -Philippians 1:9-11

Tue Minute Tuesday: Call Insecurity For What It Is

For many of us insecurity is a bit of a taboo subject. The modern woman is hounded daily for not looking or acting a certain way while the modern man is taught to hide his insecurities. Our society has moved in a direction where feeling insecure is perceived as a weakness and any sign thereof is deemed irreparable and perhaps even condemnable. You and I cannot help how we feel. No matter our predisposition, leanings, or backgrounds we face the inevitable reality of our emotions and the method in which they affect us. My millennial expertise informs me that while an overly emotional or visibly shaken individual may wear their insecurities upon their sleeve even the most cerebral of our peers deal immensely with second guessing and a lack of confidence. Added bonus: it’s likely the one’s we perceive as most outwardly confident who can actually be the most arrogant and ultimately the most insecure (don’t be fooled by looks, especially with young folk).

Anyways, there are far too many books that teach us how to “overcome” insecurity. Let’s call it for it is and say insecurity is real. Don’t hide it, be ignorant of its existence, or work to rid yourself of it. Here are a few ways we can respond to that tightening of the gut, mental tunnel vision, and that uncomfortable sense of feeling exposed:

 

  1. Admit: Our society teaches us to mask insecurity as if it is the black plague. News flash: you can’t hide the black plague and it will kill you regardless. However, we can readily admit our inadequacies and shortcomings and acknowledge there may be some work to do moving forward (and it won’t kill you like the black plague).
  2. Discern: interestingly enough sometimes that tightening of the stomach we think is anxiety isn’t anxiety at all. Sometimes that pseudo anxiety is our body exciting us for what is to come. Be on the lookout for the moments where we may just be excited as opposed to actual insecurity.
  3. Respond: Just as in any anxiety-filled situation the action of response requires us to take a step back, examine the situation for what it is, and fight the innate desire to react irrationally.

This may be sadistic, however I find a lot of comfort knowing other people wrestle with their inadequacies because I wrestle with my own shortcomings. I think there is a lot to learn from what we are inadequate in and weak in more so than our greatest strengths. Maybe you and I can take a step of resolution for our society by perceiving insecurity for what it is and responding accordingly.  

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.

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.