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

How to Differentiate Yourself as a Male: Emotional Vulnerability as a Form of Masculinity

In our society teenage boys and young men are constantly expected to be strong, bold, intense, and “manly,” which creates an overlaying stigma against the male who is more openly loving or soft-hearted. In the communities in which teenage boys inhabit, acting in such a manner deems you as “weak,” or tags you with a nickname of “gay” or “girl” (both used in a derogatory sense). This seemingly society-wide standard of presented toughness by young males contributes heavily to both large-scale societal issues, as well as internal, individual hardships. Noticing this, in recent years, I have made a very conscious effort to lean in, and embrace my own emotional vulnerability. I have allowed the walls and barriers that house my prevalent fears of acceptance to lower. I have allowed my heart to take over, and for my emotions to radiate outward. I have found time and time again, that this opening-up, this sharing of love, has allowed me to build and maintain extraordinary relationships not only with others around me, but also with myself.

But vulnerability is difficult. Tenderness can be scary, and when I add in the world’s expectations, and my peer’s opinions, authenticity becomes much more challenging. I have, for the most part, put that all aside, and focused on what I can control. This being my opinion of myself, and the man that I am. Because I do this, and stay true to my identity and my purpose, I am able to explore things such as the very idea of my evolving identity and purpose.

I spend countless hours thinking about my purpose, or my “why.” I think almost constantly about who Brad Biehl really is. I take who I am, being a loving, caring, believing, resilient, contagiously-happy boy, and live that self authentically. I then translate those thoughts into action. This constantly fluid process of revising, rethinking, and exploring my thoughts, and embracing this vulnerability is something that I rarely have seen other teenage boys, or people in general for that matter, try on a regular basis. The opportunity for differentiation among the male population, when one looks within themselves, and dares to think differently, is all right there. The possibility that this vulnerable attitude encompasses is so vastly open for one's exploration and success.