I Want to Start a Church.

Yes, I really did just say that. Hear me out, though.

This isn’t what one would think of in a sense of orthodoxy. I’m not even sure if ‘church’ is the right thing to call it, but I really want to refer to it as such.

The church is going to be called, ‘The House of Vulnerability’; Where conversation is the preacher, and the practice of listening is the only required element to being a member.

On a personal level, I think it also important (for perspective sake), that I outline a bit further my involvement/experience with religion. To put it plainly- I am FASCINATED with religion. I enjoy engaging with different religious groups, in varying capacities. I have attended the Christian church, I have read segments of the bible, I have sat down with a monk to discuss Buddhism. And my favorite holiday? Ramadan. 100%. Fasting for a month, reading the Quran, engaging with the Muslim community, is one of the greatest things that I have ever taken part in, and I will continue to do so, each and every year. The point is, that while I am secular, and I do not believe in a set higher power, I believe that religion holds significant value, that warrants further interaction. 

I have decided not to subscribe to one particular sect of belief for a few reasons, but the largest of which, is that I feel value from all of them, but don’t feel permanence to any of them. I read the bible, and I see massive lessons, and helpful, very applicable sentiments which can guide some incredible thought, but I do not believe in much of the ultimate preached ‘truths’. I fast in the name of Islam, and I feel a powerful connection, but I do not feel my heart to be in line with all of the teaching. I meditate with the spirit of the Buddha, but he is not my home either. 

My religious exploration is not about me trying to find a religious home. I am extremely happy with my standing in this life-department. I love my engagement with all, and commitment to none. Let me emphasis WHY this is how I feel…

I strongly believe, that religion’s maximized potential, is in the question.

With so many varying, different religions, and factions within those religions, it is impossible that everyone is 'right'. I think, this is the coolest thing about it. The uncertainty around every written or spoken element, is truly remarkable. Through an all-encompassing religious lens, it is hard to understand, hard to ponder, and impossible to grasp what truth looks like. To me, this sounds a lot like the all-important vulnerability. 

The vulnerable mind (where I live), is about celebrating uncertainty, engaging our questions, and ultimately knowing, and embracing, that we do not know. This, also, runs synonymous with my vision of spirituality. The thesis of all this, both in a religiously-oriented conversation, and in the larger scheme of this life, is that the questions themselves, are the answers.

This is the thesis of my church as well. As we ask questions, our mind will want an answer, but rather than feed it one, we will instead have our questions met with more questions and thoughts. Instead of religion providing an answer, it will be used to prompt the next question, the next conversation, the spreading of the vulnerable revolution. 

Ok, enough of my religious manifesto. Let’s finish with some brick-and-mortar (or maybe stucco and wood? Still waiting on the contractor estimates.) details of this here church…

I envision an open room whose orientation is not to one stage or speaker, but instead is set-up to value the group as the sum of its parts. The ‘pews’ (which will likely resemble more of a coffee shop-style high-top table. Again-still waiting on those estimates.) will be garnished with a book from each differing religion, as well as a note pad. Experts and guests from various groups, mixed with the average secular, spiritual, or religious-member will all take a seat. From here, the room will fill, and the conversing, and question-asking, shall commence. 

Please, god, if you are out there, help me make this dream happen. I would love to bring together the teachings of all that you are, and all that others claim you to be. Think of the oppurtunistic immensity of that collaboration. Amen.

Using Empathy to Fend off Fear.

As I sit on a flight from Columbus, Ohio to Phoenix, Arizona, suspended 30,000 feet above the ground that I usually walk, I cannot help but think about human fear. I wonder how many folks on this trek have a fear of flying, or what other fears they might have? My mind then wonders to the question of, ‘why am I not afraid of flying?’ 

The fear is certainly in my genes. My extended family is almost exclusively terrified of the notion of flight. But for me, there are few places that feel noticeably more comfortable, than the seat of a plane. Part of this, I would bet, is a result of my early-childhood plane trips with my father. However, when I really consider my personal relationship with this fear, I think my lack of it comes from a very interesting source…

I trust the pilots, beyond belief.

These two individuals that I have never met, often that I never even see, control the destiny of my future, and that of more than 100 others. It’s a very interesting break-down, one that can absolutely strike a sense of fear. 

But even given the magnitude of this trust, I feel safe. I believe in their training, and thus, in the people who trained them. I believe in the individual who manufactured the wing, just as I do for whoever was in charge of fueling the plane. 

I am a big believer that much of our distrust, misunderstanding, and ultimately society-wide issues, come from a lack of empathy. We’ve heard this stressed before, but I want to dive into a different usage of 'empathy' with this pilot example. By taking a moment to consider, and understand that this pilot had to do certain things in order to be a pilot, we are deploying a different kind of empathy. While we often talk about it in relation to those who are different, and may have less, or may be disadvantaged, here we are empathizing with a skill or trade that we do not possess, and acknowledging that our lack-of-control in the matter of flight is ok. 

Now obviously, fear of flight, as with the fear of anything, comes with many other psychological factors and hurdles. It’s not always as simple as convincing yourself that you trust a pilot, but it’s a start.

The more important thesis here, is that the implication of empathy, is boundless. It can be applied in nearly any singular interaction that we have the pleasure, or the pain, of living through, and it can be the MVP, and the ultimate difference maker. Not just for us, but for a whole array of others as well. 

This is all about re-wiring our default setting when it comes to the unknown, or misunderstood. Whenever I interact with a situation in which I do not understand, or literally could never understand, I force myself to a default first to a position support and understanding, versus a stance of combat, and extreme scrutiny. This is not about being naïve, or not looking out for yourself, or living without skepticism. This is about being comfortable with the fact that, in some moments and instances, we ourselves do not have control, or maybe even a credible say, but we do always have an viewpoint. The questions and the search for understanding play a part, but this self-awareness piece is perhaps the most important to an empathetic mindset. Realizing who we are, and just as importantly, who we are not. Not looking upon the latter as a negative, but rather as a means to become a happier member of society.

In summary, question everything, but approach the question from a direction of positivity. I don’t think this is our default, but I do think we can change in favor of it, and I whole-heartedly believe that this change is better by a vast margin.

Positivity is the Actionable Form of Hope.

The word ‘hope’ is very intertwined into common vernacular. From the time of conception, everyday life is littered with small instances of hope. The child hopes for a new toy, the farmer is hopeful for good weather, and I have hope that you will continue reading this post. What is interesting, is that even though hope surrounds our words, and our thoughts, seldom do we reflect or act in a truly hopeful manner. It seems as though, somewhere along the way, our hope becomes lost in translation. I have been considering this phenomena for a while now, and the more and more that I do, the more I am convinced that hope, in itself, is incomplete. 

There is a subconversation here which is equally important. This being that hope is extremely valuable, but rather than looking at it as a destination of feeling, let us reframe it as a crucial piece to a greater, more effective ultimate output. 

If we take a glance back to those few examples of hope which I spewed off at the beginning of this piece, we can observe that these are quite passive trains of thought. This is something that seems to hold very true throughout our various hopes in life. The way in which hope is often used, is in a manner that is almost synonymous with the word/concept of a ‘wish’, or ‘wishing’. With both of these terms, and their one coherent framework, the point of view feels very removed. A strong lack of any sort of control in the situation comes out as a prevalent undertone. Looking at this in a direct manner, for many things, this is surely not wrong. But my question becomes, if we take hope’s true power, and push it towards an even larger cause, can it become a more active and impactful step in our journey to happiness, and the maximization of life?

This larger idea that I have teased here, is positivity. I believe that adopting the spirit of positivity into your life can, and will be assistive towards the true realities that we desire. If we take that hopeful thought, or statement, and apply it into a positive mindset, one where we believe in ourselves, then hope becomes an attainable goal that is backed up by all that we are. From here, we are no longer passively hoping or wishing for something, but rather we are entrusting ourselves with the real prospect of bringing hope to fruition. I view positivity as a way of being. I do not think that it means that everything that happens, or happens to us, is inherently good. Instead, to me, positivity is all about developing a relationship with your self-awareness, then equipping yourself with a belief and a bet that you are capable of maneuvering through life’s moments, in your own way.

We each possess a special beast within our beings, that has the ability to flourish and thrive in its own different ways (big and small), each and every day. Once we have explored precisely where that true beast lies for us as an individual (vulnerability always has to make an appearance), positivity is all about growing that realization within, and then applying the implicative power to life. 

 

 

 

My Vulnerable Thought: Self as the Laboratory for Aspirational Success

For essentially the entirety of life, it has seemed as though much of the focus has been on where we are going, what we hope to be doing, or who we will be. From the time that we are young school-children, transcending all the way into the college age-range (where my biological clock currently calls home), and even well into adult life, our destination or ultimate climax seems to frequently surface as a hot topic. For that young school child, it comes in the form of “what do you want to be when you grow up?” The question starts to gain a bit more realism and traction as we progress, and begin our well-intentioned attempts to define our plan (if one could even call this life’s journey as much). We progress to a point of more official commitment around this conversation when we enter into university, or trade school, or at least as we begin to narrow our scope of thought and action. We declare a major, we complete a degree, or a program, all of it, is looking forward. 

 I think that this progressed thinking is important, obviously. I sink hours into working with people and creating content around so many facets of life which I believe will set us up for sustainability as individuals. The thesis of this writing here is one that questions, and seeks to reexamine the practice of scaling toward a goal. 

As is the case with, oh just about 100% of my opinions and beliefs, vulnerability is the overwhelming denominator as both a means, and as a mode for this expedition that is your date of-birth till time-of-death. In this particular segment, I’ll aim to ponder vulnerability in a more refined practice, for the sake of this specific thought progression. 

Ask that 3rd grader, that high school freshman, that college senior, that 34 y/o corporate employee climbing the ladder, “where are you aiming to go?” (obviously the wording changes based on the targeted audience). They may cite an aspiration of being the CEO, or the leader of a powerful movement, or a doctor, or an author, or maybe even the president of something like these United States. All of these, can and will be achieved by many. They are phenomenal goals, with potentially phenomenal realities set upon their summit. 

But now, here is where my questions come in. This is where I need vulnerability to take over for me, and where I believe its super-power-strength can be found. In recent self-conversations, when I have considered my version of this aspirational question, and considered my authentic answer(s), I find myself returning to a thought which I believe can be so valuable for the preparation of oneself for the work leading up to success, and for success itself. 

The thought goes like this:  If I have the aspiration or the ambition to be something like the CEO of a large company, or the leader of some movement/organization, or the captain of the team, or even something like the president, how can I expect to do this, and do it well, without first making the conscious decision and attempt to become the CEO of my own life, or the leader of my own dreams, or the captain of my own actions, or the president of my own self? 

This is not to say that achieving the lifestyle of president or CEO is not possible without these thoughts, but it is rather to say that with them, are we not armed with a tool more valuable than any that we currently feel are required for these positions? Again, this is all rooted in the powers and fruits of vulnerability, my believed necessity to all-things life. It is the principle of building your action thoroughly and patiently through you, so that your actions are merely a reflection of your innateness and your purpose, that frames this entire writing’s message. The idea is not to create a one-track plan towards the presidency (or whatever your current perceived ambition is), as the true river that is life does not flow as straight as a man-made canal does. Once again, I will say, this is all about the principle of vulnerability being placed into a more defined method of execution. It is the practice of questions such as this article that have made the difference for me in many respects. 

The greatest conclusion to this piece, as is the case with the majority of my theses, is that it is not about what works, it is about what works for you. Life’s most elusive concept, but perhaps its most important nugget of knowledge, is that no one has the key or the answer. I experience, that the questions, in fact, are the answers…

And once more, we find ourselves back at a vulnerable thought. 

An Article I wrote for 'Northern Prepster': There’s a Place for Both Quality and Quantity in Your Life

I often hear them say, “quality over quantity”. In fact, there may have never been a more repeated, cliche phrase to roam the chasms of our mind or exit through the gate of our mouths. However, for me, this is not enough. It promotes an incomplete model of thought that I see used more as an excuse, than as a truthful thesis. Before I continue, I want to stress that just because I question the phrase, does not mean I oppose quality. I just see it’s place in both this phrase and in our lives to be different. Let me explain...

I am guessing there is a healthy portion of this audience who is working toward a goal, doing work that they too want to impress upon other individuals. If you are not interested in spreading of ideas or product at this time, perhaps reading this could be a helpful step towards finding your purpose, and doing something awesome for people to enjoy. Wherever you stand currently, I hope you take something from this. 

As a podcaster, I obviously want people to listen to my podcast, my hard work. I want people to take time to listen to the 20 minutes that took me days to make and produce. That just makes sense, right? But thinking like this can be dangerous. You start to measure your quality as a producer and as a person, by the amount of people who consume your content regularly. If your numbers sit low, it can be very easy to become self-conscious about your work. When this happens, it is so easy to become discouraged about making more content, maybe slowing your production down. When production is slowed, and your quantity is minimized, then your quality also suffers. This is the stage when people often tell themselves that they’re making a choice to go “quality over quantity”, when in fact, all they’re doing is excusing an insecurity, and succumbing to fear. 

Instead, here’s is what I have done as I continue to grow my podcast...

From the beginning, I made a decision that I was not going to look at my analytics on Squarespace, Instagram, SoundCloud, or iTunes more than once a month.  The idea behind this was not to worry about how many people were seeing my work, but instead to just create content. It’s very hard to do. I want so badly to see how many clicks my site has gotten this week, or how many people have listened to Episode 12. But if I want to make it big, if I want my quality to eventually shine through to many, I first have to realize a very real truth about myself. This being that starting out, I am nothing. I haven’t proven anything yet. So I don’t have the right to sit here with a thousand followers on Instagram and claim that I am going “quality over quantity” when I haven’t yet proved that I have any quality?! The key is to produce as much content as possible, of course you should focus on the quality... of course, but focus more on the fact that you are actually DOING, and doing often. Something that one of my biggest role models and mentors, Gary Vaynerchuk says all the time is that your next video, or article, or post, or piece of content could be the one that does it for you. My next podcast could be the one that blows up. The internet is crazy like that. So at this stage in the thought process, quantity is more important than quality. 

For all of you that are freaking out right now, or struggling with this truth, keep reading, because quality very much has its place. 

While producing a ton of content is key, it is crucial that both your content and you are reflective of your identity-derived purpose. If it is meaningful to you, then it likely is meaningful to someone else. Focus on this innate, underlying meaning, not the shiny lettering in your video, or the proper header on top of your blog. Because this meaning is what makes quality important. 

Before continuing I want to change a bit of terminology... I want to change the word “quality” to “depth” in this context. And I want to change what we call “quantity” to “width”. 

I believe strongly that the depth of the impact that your content has on others is the greatest accomplishment. This is quality in my eyes. If something I say or produce impacts 1 person deeply, it will stick with them. If it becomes a part of who they are, they are more likely to reflect that onto another person in a similarly deep fashion. Meaning that, while it may be a bit more indirect, 2 people have now benefited, and it will continue to grow in this way because of that depth. I greatly prefer this progression over one that is wider in nature. Just because 100 people view your work, does not mean 100 people benefited or found value in it, meaning that “wide” impact, that quantitative impact is one dimensional and unimportant. 

In the end, I just really believe that by mentally expanding the roles quantity, quality, width, and depth, we are in a better position to understand why our work matters, both within ourselves, and to our audience. 

I hope from now on, we all begin/continue to create lots of content, while caring about the impact that our work has on the mind and heart of the viewer more than the like button on our YouTube channel.

The Impact of Simple Interaction: A brief thought from my road-trip

The notion that some of life’s most profound lessons and realizations are learned in the simplest of moments is often quite accurate. Today, I was driving down the highway, doing around 70. Per usual, there were a lot of cars driving significantly faster than I, and there were a good deal of cars moving at a slower pace than that of my Honda CRV. No special event occurred during the drive, but today, there wasn’t a need for one.

I looked over at the clock, which flashed something around 1:35, then let my eyes drift back to the focus of the road which stabilized my fluid movement forward. As my window passed that of another car on the roadway, and another, and another, my mind began to process a thought... With each car that I spatially interact with on the roadway during the course of a drive, both the other drivers and I are engaging in a connection. This narrative began to grow and mature in my mind, and my further takeaways were intriguing in my opinion…

It hit me in this moment, that for 99 percent of the people traveling in the other cars on this road, that this would likely be the only interaction that I would have with them over the course of my entire life. While yes, these people were in a completely different enclosure, and many of them didn’t even see what I looked like, much less care who I was, the knowing that our choices in that moment would in some capacity impact each other’s futures made them matter to me. It put us in a social contract with each other; trusting that we would each do the right thing.

 The point is, I realized that throughout each and every day, I interact with so many others whom I will never see again, and just like the drivers of those cars, we will impact each other’s lives. I realized that for every one of these people, I often only get a couple of seconds to make a life-lasting impression, which is without the help of words, disclaimers, or justification. Instead, it is purely based on action. When I think about this, it is motivating, and humbling in the same breath.

To summarize, you sometimes only get one chance with someone, and because of this, you have to make sure that you always live your actions and moments authentically and righteously, for like it or not, these actions will often be how you are remembered. 

Rethinking The Hierarchy of Knowledge

I’ll start with a brief story…

A couple weeks back, I was struggling to grasp a concept that I was studying, the way we probably all have at some point in time. This was all taking place in a pretty public space, one with a significant amount of foot traffic. Out of nowhere, I turn around to see a young boy (who I later discovered was 14), talking to his friends about the concept that I was tackling at that moment. Unwarranted, and completely unexpectedly, this boy began to tell me what I was failing to comprehend. As he spoke, I discounted what he was saying, because well, he was a mere middle-schooler…

Turns out, he was right.

The reason that I am just now writing this story, weeks later, is because I have been busy breaking down the situation, and quite honestly, I have been embarrassed by it all. Recently however, I have realized something very important from the ordeal… Knowledge does not discriminate. Knowledge is not a science, and it is not contained inside of societal bounds set by mankind. Knowledge is never complete, and more importantly on that note, no person is complete in any situation. Take the one I just described to you as an example. I did not listen to the young boy because my ego and pride told me that due to my age, and overall life experience, I was smarter, and therefore nothing he said would be of greater value than that of the thoughts that were my own.

This event led to one overwhelming, reinforcing thought in my head… As humans, we do not have all the answers, ever. This is in no way bad, it is actually quite good. Our species is built on the dependence on others. Just think, when we are born, we require matured beings to show us the way to do many different things. We cannot eat without the help of a mother or father, nor can we walk without first being given a reason to move towards something. Knowing that we need others to survive, why would we ever be afraid of the fact that someone else is always going to know more about something than us? It is quite literally human nature.

With all this in mind, it is time we rethink what I am calling the “Hierarchy of Knowledge”. Currently, we equate age and education with rising knowledge-status, which makes total sense. This is also not wrong. Earning a degree, or experiencing something like 50 years of life certainly gives you more gross knowledge, but this does not mean that you are always right over a person with less education on paper, or less years of overall life. Once we accept this, terminology like “teacher” and “student” become fluid. While the credentialed teacher generally assumes the role of adding knowledge to the deemed student’s life, the student often provides just as much teaching to the teacher. This is not a jab at authority, or a power struggle, it is just the way life is supposed to be. This can be translated into so many situations, ultimately shining into the world of leadership. In order to be leader, you must know how to take-on, and respect the responsibilities and challenges of a follower. So next time that middle- schooler teaches you a concept, or that younger individual shares their thoughts with you, don’t do what I did. Listen to them, take their thoughts and ideas with the same merit as you would your own, and lets transform the existing intense hierarchy of knowledge.

Discovering Identity and Cultivating Purpose: The Path to Meaningful Action

First off, it is very important to understand what identity really is before one tries to discover it, just as it would be hard to find gold if you did not know what you were looking for. When I ask people, “who are you?”, they almost always answer with either their profession, or an activity that they love or excel at. But these things are NOT your identity. They may very well be a direct reflection or extension of your identity, but they themselves are not who you are. This is because at any moment, you could be fired from your job, or you could sustain an injury that keeps you sidelined from your favorite sport. In other words, these things could all be taken from your life in a manner that is ultimately out of your control. What I consider identity, is who you are inside at your very roots. It is a culmination of your core values, heart-felt beliefs, and innate characteristics. These things, unlike a job or activity, CANNOT be taken from you, they are completely in your control, and under your undisputed ownership. 

After going through this thought process, and distinguishing for yourself who you really are, the next step in this model is to cultivate a purpose out of that authentic identity. This is done by taking the unique characteristics and beliefs that define you, and turning them into a “why”, or reasoning for everything that you do. If who you are, for example, is a loving person, then your purpose, or your “why”, may be to help and love as many people as possible. Formulation of this purpose provides and acts as a filter in your decision-making process that is built directly on the backbone of who you are and your identity. 

From here, with every decision that a person faces, they are able to play through the scenario in their head, and if the potential result from the decision does not compliment, or enhance the purpose, or the “why” behind what you do, then it generally is not the best decision to make. In the end, by making decisions in-line with this individualized purpose, one is always following their personalized “mission statement”, which in turn is sticking whole-heartedly and authentically to their true identity. 

Upon this discovery of identity, and cultivation of purpose, one is able to make a decision on what it is that they should and want to pursue as meaningful action. This is done by finding something, or a combination of things that one both loves to do, and is good at, and then from there, identifying something that the world needs. After establishing what these are individually, the ability to utilize proclaimed passion and skill towards a related societal purpose is opened up. By embarking on this journey, and committing to this way of thought and self-exploration, who you are can be translated into meaningful, purposeful action. 

Again, in a more simple light, this is the unique model:

Identity(Who?) -> Purpose(Why?) -> Decision Making -> Action