Category: relationships (page 1 of 2)

taming the wolf

I’ve been revisiting some of the foundational philosophies of Western culture and seeing how necessary to our current climate these thoughts are. I can’t help but think our current American culture is what Nietzche meant by “God is dead.” We have set up a surrogate god by praising patriotism and personal rights as a virtue over treating all humans as made in God’s image. Freedom to preserve one’s personal interests is the new morality.

A cult of conservativism (or any half-blind party loyalty) cannot bring salvation to a country divided, a society whose people cannot see beyond “us and them.” Your right to keep your firearms doesn’t preserve freedom if we are raising children who become lone wolves keen to lash out on those who carry different beliefs.

Every time a mass shooting happens (which is woefully frequent these days), what’s the first thing we want to know? What is the shooter’s profile? In other words, we want the suspect to be one of them, not one of us.

If he’s not one of us we can attribute the atrocity, the anger, the violence to something clearly outside of our own beliefs. We can rationalize it as a threat outside of us. When it’s someone who doesn’t “fit the profile” in our minds, we struggle to find reasons that he isn’t one of us. We rush to find the differences between him and “normal Americans” instead of acknowledging the common denominator.

We find the ways in which he was troubled that we should have noticed sooner, the way that he didn’t quite belong. (Oh, see? He was never really one of us.) We can shift the issue to something that isn’t so threatening to our core beliefs–such as guns or skin color or abnormal psychology–instead of the deep-rooted problems within our society that we’ve cultivated for so many generations.

And yet we always insist on morality. Every time this happens the suspect is “clearly an evil man.” It is an act of evil. Of terrorism. Of Islamic extremism. Until it’s domestic. This is an act of mental illness if it’s a white man, in which case he’s the victim of something beyond his control. We insist that we should have seen that he was crying out for help.

Well, what creates the kind of person who will fly under the radar with so much hatred in his heart and an Anarchist’s Cookbook under his bed? An arsenal in his closet? What creates a person so out of touch with others that no one would notice? Why so devoid of humanity and love?

Who bred this lone wolf?

Where was that moral fortitude in his upbringing and education? Where was the failure to instill empathy? Who or what ought we to hold responsible for instilling a sense of entitlement, selfishness, and hatred in place of kindness and equality?

Hate and all of the various “isms” that stem from it is a symptom of fear, insecurity, ignorance, and selfishness. Superiority is a delusion of those who, for whatever reason, don’t know what love is and can’t see beyond their own interests. Love and inclusion require humility. Hubris divides. Hubris rationalizes gunning down dozens of innocent people.

It takes the kind of strength that only comes from humility to recognize that you are not better than anyone, that others have intrinsic value. In normal human psychology this is something we all should have learned in early to mid-childhood.

No matter what ethos you have cultivated, we must insist that human beings are more important than ideologies. If your head knowledge leaves no room for the sanctity of human life, your education has failed you. We must cultivate the life of the heart along with the life of the mind.

Otherwise, what’s the point of living?

Perhaps this goes through the minds of those who, after taking lives, decide to take their own. They may have a keen sense that something is missing, but don’t have people around them to help figure out just what that might be. They’re missing an empathy network; their heart longs for it, but its absence creates confusion. Confusion without humility results in anger. Unchecked anger without empathy creates a person capable of seeing others as disposable.

Perhaps we simply need to cultivate the ability to recognize when someone is becoming a lone wolf. That requires being actively tuned in to other people.

Secondly, we need to cultivate the courage to call it out when we recognize the lone wolf tendencies creeping up within the ranks. This applies to any kind of social injustice, from sexual harassment to gun violence. It’s easy to overlook flaws in people of your own tribe. We don’t want to see ugliness in our own. But we have to. We have to recognize and correct the bad in order to foster the good.

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365 small steps

Saying out loud what your goals are is necessary in order to calibrate your journey towards them. Daily steps, however small they seem, will get you closer to your goal; communicating about it with other people keeps letting you know whether you’re on the right track.

As this hits the internet, I will be on my way to Austin, Texas for the second seanwes Conference. I went last year, and it is no overstatement to say that it was life-changing. I learned so much, and met the most wonderful people. The clarity I received from intimate conversations is priceless. It’s safe to say I would not have made the progress I made this year if not for those conversations. I know I have a long way to go, but I feel such a huge weight off my shoulders knowing that I’m making forward progress. Prior to this time last year, I felt anxious, directionless, like I was treading water.

This time last year:

  • I was taking all kinds of self-inventory tests and reading all manner of books and articles designed to help me figure out what my “element” is, what specific thing I’m good at and want to pursue.
  • I had a hundred different things I wanted to do and was anxiously dabbling in each of them with no particular direction, wondering which of them was going to be the thing.
  • I was really hoping to quit my day job really soon.
  • I don’t even remember what was going on with my website, but I know that it was pretty sad stuff.
  • I couldn’t say in one sentence what I’m all about. “Well, I sell crochet stuff sometimes, I’m a sign artist for my day job, but what I really want to do is write and illustrate, but don’t really have the energy to be creative when I get home from work.”
  • I had janky business cards that I wasn’t thrilled about handing out.
  • I would not have been able to answer 9 Key Questions for Building a Successful Brand Foundation.

Now, going into this year’s conference:

  • Thanks in great part to the conversations I had last year, I know exactly what I want to do for at least the next couple of years (i.e., I have an elevator pitch): I will write and illustrate a series of books that make the concepts of the Great Books accessible to children.
  • I have a focused direction for multiple products.
  • I have regular content that I’m putting up on my website and social media.
  • I still don’t want to stay at the day job for the rest of my life, but am comforted that it is a great place to be while I overlap.
  • I have a professionally designed logo and web elements that bring clarity to my website, products, and business cards (which are now mini bookmarks with a sample of my hand lettering and an email address linked to my domain–instead of the old gmail address I’ve had since college).
  • I also got some great clarity from hand-letterer Lauren Hom’s ten-week Passion to Paid course. She and the students in the class helped me define a side project that propelled me into my current conceptualization of a book-themed product line/curriculum.

I know I still need to work on:

  • Building an audience. I don’t have much of a following yet, but this is a good thing at this stage. It needs to be the first step before I launch any products, and it gives me the freedom to write my books/create products/build my brand in the meantime. I can find my voice and have room to establish myself without the pressure to “perform” for a large audience.
  • Incorporating my awesome new design elements into my products and web presence, and create a landing page with a specific launch date.
  • Actually write the books…and all that entails (writing, editing, illustrating, publishing, marketing, distributing).
  • Reach out to influencers within the realm in which I want to establish myself.
  • Share and curate my work more regularly, as well as set strict deadlines.

Apologies that this has been a me-centered post, but I share this in the hope that it inspires someone who is where I was a year ago, or where I am now looking into the future. I can’t stress greatly enough the value of community. You need to step outside of your own point of view in order to get real clarity.

Daily journaling helps, too, but saying out loud what your goals are is necessary in order to calibrate your journey towards them. Daily steps, however small they seem, will get you closer to your goal; communicating about it with other people keeps letting you know whether you’re on the right track. One step a day doesn’t seem like much…until you’ve done it for a year.

I’m excited to see what insights will come during this conference and am excited for what the coming year will bring.

What are you working on now that didn’t seem possible a year ago? What have you learned? What steps do you look forward to making toward your goals in the coming year?

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Slow to Anger: How to Keep Offensive People from Derailing You

Do you ever have days that you feel completely derailed by someone’s words, actions, and/or attitude? Maybe they have a point of view you vehemently disagree with. Or they refuse to hear you.  Or (one that upsets me more than anything) they assign bad intentions where there are none. How do you keep cool? How do you step back and not let it ruin your day? How do you rid yourself of the negative feelings that are keeping you from being able to focus on more important things?

Some hard medicine to swallow is that in their eyes, you are the asshole.

Yes, you. Always, always consider the possibility that you are wrong.

But I’m not! They’re the one who…

It doesn’t matter. Blameless and well-intentioned as you may be, they are coming at the world from a different angle. Maybe the best thing was to not engage in the first place. You may never see eye to eye with this person. You may never understand how they can see the world from their perspective. But it’s prudent to try. It’s prudent to take a stance of humility and realize that they may be just as angry at you as you are at them, even if it seems totally irrational to you.

You do not grant them the power to ruin your day. No one can make you feel something. It’s your choice to either internalize the situation or let it roll off of you like water off a duck’s back.

Don’t be a hypocrite.

Avoid fault-finding. Even to yourself, never assign intentions to what they’ve done or said. Only they know their intentions, so take their behavior at face value. Making assumptions about their motives could only result in making you more upset, and really isn’t fair to the other person. Always keep the Golden Rule in mind.

And do your best not to take it personally. Chances are, a person in the habit of creating conflict is someone who takes only their own feelings into account. Don’t be that guy.

They only have so much energy to get through their day, too. They’re most likely not looking for ways to upset you. They probably aren’t thinking about you at all. Just be as kind as you can be as you float through your day, and let them float through theirs in their own way.

Boundaries

If they are the type of person that can’t avoid creating conflict, remind yourself that it’s not worth your energy to be around that person. This may sound callous, but if the only way to avoid conflict with them is to disengage entirely, then avoidance is an act of civility.

You have to also love yourself enough to not let them upset you. As a human being, they have a right to their point of view just as much as you do. But it doesn’t have to be at the expense of your well-being.

Sometimes they won’t hear you or respect your boundaries. This is tiresome and anger-inducing, but take a deep breath and tell yourself that they don’t have the power to make you feel a certain way. You have a choice in how you respond emotionally, even when you’re seeing red and emotion seems like something utterly out of your control. You do not grant them the power to ruin your day. No one can make you feel something. You can either internalize the situation or let it roll off of you like water off a duck’s back.

Fake it ’til you make it

Grit your teeth if you have to, but at the very least stay calm on the outside while you defuse your insides. Fake calm until you are calm. Don’t mirror them, and don’t feel like you have to respond in any way. Silence never killed anyone. (Though someone with a short fuse may be confounded–likely even pissed off–at your total serenity in the midst of their anger. And sometimes that is reward enough.)

If you know you don’t share many viewpoints with this person, absolutely abstain from voicing your opinion. Whether or not you agree with what they’re saying or doing is irrelevant to the situation, especially if they’ve given you their unsolicited opinion.

You don’t have to convince them of anything. You don’t have to shame them, you don’t have to change their heart, you don’t really even have to respond at all. Silence is an option if they have proven incapable of respecting your boundaries.

But you will never regret being the bigger person. You may secretly hope that they’re embarrassed and that karma bites them in the ass one day, but you are mature enough not to express or act upon those thoughts. “Man, I wish I hadn’t taken the high road,” SAID NO ONE EVER.

Validation

Is there anything else contributing to your anger toward this person? Did other little things start forming a bad day and this person was just an unfortunate tipping point? Are you projecting? Sometimes without realizing it, it feels safe to make a person that we don’t care for a vessel for all of the characteristics we dislike in ourselves.

Think about why that person upset you so much. Did they strike a nerve? Are there deeper roots to what made you upset?

To be clear, this should all be happening internally. You’re not looking to be right, and you’re not looking for other things they’ve done that made you mad. You just want to put your reaction into perspective. You might as well learn from what you’re feeling.

Catharsis

Go ahead and feel your anger. Don’t deny yourself that and salve it with fake positivity. Acknowledge it first, then ask yourself if your feelings are valid. Then after all is said and done, treat yourself to whatever form of stress relief usually works for you. Write about your experience. Do some meditative yoga. Go for a run or walk. Spend some time with your pet or loved ones. Play some games. Commit a random act of kindness.

(Or scour the internet for pictures of ducks. It’s pretty hard to be mad at anything when you look at cute animals.)

Give your mind and body a break from dwelling on negative feelings. Get outside of yourself and get some endorphins in you.

 

If you’ve been mature enough to get this far, take comfort that even if you are still an asshole in the other person’s view, it’s out of your hands. It’s up to them to deal with how they feel about it.

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the most important defense against resistance

The single most important thing you can do to defeat creative resistance is to get the focus off of yourself and get around people who think bigger than you do.

Find your tribe

I had been so keen on finding what I wanted to niche down into and find out what I was good at outside of my day job that I was elbow deep in assessment tests and books about finding my element. Instead of trying to find my element, I should have been trying to find my tribe. I recently attended the very first seanwes conference in Austin, Texas. I’ve been listening to the seanwes podcast and a part of its online Community for about a year and a half. These are people who think bigger. I was intimidated going into the conference because so many of them are killing it in their chosen industry, and here I am not knowing what I want to do with my life.

When you’re talking to the right people, your floundering introduction of who you are and what you’re about gets abbreviated quickly. I went into the conference with something like, “My day job is as a sign artist for Trader Joe’s, but on the side I also like to write, draw, hand letter, and sometimes I sell crochet stuff and…” Then someone would say something like, “Oh I love Trader Joe’s! What kind of writing do you do? What are you working on?” If you do this more than once, you’ve gotta come up with a better elevator pitch.

I started saying that something I had thought about doing was writing and illustrating a series of books for children that broke down into digestible chunks the key concepts in the Great Books of western civilization, such as Plato, Augustine, Kierkegaard, Emerson, etc. When this was the part of my muddy introduction that people responded to, I tossed out the window the other ideas rattling around in my head that I wasn’t truly on fire about.

Get outside of your own head

If you’re being shy, you’re thinking about yourself. This was my problem in trying to figure out what I might be good at. I am an introvert in the extreme, but these were people I had interacted with online and knew they were people I just had to know in person. I already loved these individuals, and that made it so much easier to walk up and talk to them. I had to stop being selfish, stop being a wallflower.

Yes, I wanted to get the most out of this conference by engaging with people and building relationships. Yes, I wanted clarity for my own vision. But what happens when you get outside your own head and talk to others is that you see their vision, too. It magnifies what you’re doing. It empowers you to think about how you might serve a much bigger purpose, solve a much bigger problem, and to help more people.

That, in the end, is what it’s all about: how can I serve more people? Stop being shy and engage with others about your vision so you can better serve your audience. Serve your audience for the purpose of growing them and helping even more people. Do what you do because you love people.

Get a bigger vision

Get a bigger vision, then talk about it. Talk about it a lot. Once I put it out there that I wanted to do this illustrated Great Books series for children, people said, “Yes, do that!” The more I shared, the more feedback I got and the bigger that vision became. I started to see that the real reason I wanted to do this was to normalize what seems like big, daunting ideas for a younger audience so they’re not intimidated when they reach high school or college.

Sean McCabe often says, “Normalize what seems big to you. Think in bigger units.” Perhaps this would be more than a book series. It could be a whole curriculum. It could potentially change the way we educate young people. If understanding Plato’s cave analogy is normal in elementary school, think how much deeper students can dive into those primary texts when they’re in high school or college.

I went into the conference with very little focus as far as what I wanted to do outside of my day job. By day two, I knew exactly what I wanted to do and started taking action on it right away. By day three, it was a bigger calling than I could have imagined. I never would have imagined it if not for connecting with people who get it. I never would have imagined it if I didn’t have the guts to share that little seed of an idea.

Imagine if I had let shyness prevent me from going to the conference in the first place (I almost did). Sean also said, “The only thing holding you back is the smallness of your ideas.” Get a bigger mission so you can take massive action, be known, and help more people. You’re not being selfish by wanting to do big things and talking about your dreams; you’re being selfish by keeping them from others.

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Don’t be afraid of success

Only you can build your dream. Talk about your vision, get the right people on board, get out of your own way and work your ass off on that thing. Focus hard on that one thing and build a bonfire that can’t be ignored. Get known so you can do more. Walt Disney said, “We don’t make movies to make money. We make money to make more movies.” The money you make enables you to do bigger things, so don’t be afraid to make as much as you can. It’s not greedy because it’s not about you. It’s an enabler of your bigger purpose.

Keep it positive

Even though everyone at the conference was light years ahead of me in their pursuits, I never once felt an ounce of judgement or embarrassment that I wasn’t at their level. Everyone was there to improve their game, and the atmosphere was overwhelmingly positive.These individuals are successful because there’s a team of successful people cheering them on. They are super humble about their success, too, so it’s very common to see high-functioning creatives struggling with impostor syndrome or the occasional hater.

Successful people don’t spend an ounce of energy tearing others down. –Sean McCabe

Sean also made a great point that the opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s irrelevance. If you’re successful enough to be noticed by a lot of people, you’ll elicit strong opinions on both ends of the spectrum. If you remain in the middle, you’re not putting yourself out there enough to be known or for people to care either way. But when people say hateful things, remember that it’s not about you at all. If they’re spending their energy tearing you down, they themselves are not successful. Don’t let someone else’s opinion limit you.

 

When creative Resistance has you up against a wall, try shifting your focus. It’s not about you. Are you stuck in a rut because you’re navel gazing? Remember that whatever your dream or passion, in the end it’s always about serving other people. Any money you make beyond what you need to survive is to equip yourself to serve others with what you do. Your unique talents aren’t merely for your own enjoyment, they are to do big things in the service of an audience. When you have people tearing you down, remember that it’s not about you. When you’re struggling with moving forward, get around a group of people who can bring perspective to your struggle. The world deserves what you have to offer, so put yourself out there. We are built for community. It’s your duty to share yourself and your gifts.

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