America’s Greatest Homecoming

Take-Home Message: Good traditions should endure.

October represents a special time for every member of the Cowboy family. It's a month when older siblings enjoy the privilege of introducing new and future members of the family to time-honored traditions that make Stillwater, Oklahoma the home of this yearly family reunion.

Each year, over 80,000 past, present, and future Cowboys join together to celebrate a rich legacy of familial cooperation, alumni and undergraduate achievement, and of course, Cowboy football.

To mark this celebration, students begin preparing many months in advance. In September, the campus evolves into a hub of chaos, hype, industriousness, and creativity, It remains this way until the Friday evening before the homecoming football game. On this evening, the hundreds, if not thousands, of hours of preparation culminate into the debuting of over a hundred and twenty years of history on display through the form of house decorations, hand-crafted signs, and a sea of orange.

On this special night, both distant and immediate members of the family join together, filling the streets to observe the spirit of Stillwater, Oklahoma on display. The dozens of house decorations merely serve as placeholders for of over a century of accomplishments, generosity, and commitment to excellence.

These massive, meticulously-tended to decorations serve as worthy placeholders, though. Each portrays its own unique definition of what it means to count yourself among the Cowboy family. Spanning at up to 80 feet and standing nearly 20 feet Ito the air, these brilliant emblems of cooperation, ingenuity, and creativity narrate the stories of many past family role models.

These incredible decorations take time, thoughtfulness, strategy, and resourcefulness. They join together around 200 students, per decoration, who have never before worked together, laboring round-the-clock, toward a creation that grows from infancy to adulthood in under two months. It is truly a beautiful microcosm of industry, engineering, innovation, and thrift.

To put things into even more stark perspective, consider these statistics: Eachecoatyion utilizes approximately 130 boxes of pomp (tissue paper), at 7,200 sheets per box, totaling 936,000 sheets, each cut into 1/4" squares. That's  3.744 million pieces of paper, not to make mention of the hundreds of feet of aluminum pipe, and likely miles of welding rods used to bbirth these behemoth artistic structures.

Though college as the establishment represents something different to each of us, I am proud to count myself a part of this Cowboy family, and to have had the opportunity to have participated in this rich tradition. I look forward to witnessing these masterpieces on display, and joining in with the tens of thousands of my Cowboy siblings as we celebrate 125 years.

Three Reads That Made Me Think

Take-Home Message: Do not simply read books that reaffirm your beliefs. Expose yourself to things that challenge your way of thinking.

Writer's Note: Each of these texts made me scratch my head and think. They each provided me the service of tackling many notions I had about the world, thus forcing me to devise my own conclusions. Each of these challenged me to look beyond my purview for answers of my own.

Life Without Principle, Henry David Thoreau (Published in 1862)

Thoreau advances an argument for withdrawing from the norms of society. He suggests to live a life of fulfillment we must find a way to abolish our slavery to the dollar and rather seek to live life according to the value we find in our own labor.

This essay made me contemplate my purpose in life, and what living for it would look like as opposed to not.

Resist Not Evil, Clarence Darrow (Published in 1902)

Darrow, an early-1900s attorney most famous for his defense of John T. Scopes in the "Monkey Trial, eloquently outlines the role of the state in administering justice in the United States. He provides a compelling argument against the death penalty and imprisonment. Darrow, sounding much like Ghandi, describes through analysis of the courts' operations that an eye for an eye does society at large more harm than good. The book gains its title from the Gospel of Matthew Chapter 5, verse 39: "But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also."

This book motivated me to explore my own thoughts and stance on the nature of justice and how best to seek it. 

The Law, Frederic Bastiat (Published in 1850)

This seminal text of Bastiat's profoundly influenced my understanding of what it means to live freely. Though written over 160 years ago, Bastiat's words sound  truer than ever today. This book challenges many of the ideas about the roles of both the government and society at large in relation to the individual. Bastiat praises America for the experiment of liberty it has begun, cautioning about its appetite for slavery and protectionist tariffs. I highly recommend this prophetic text to anyone interest in restoring individual liberty to the world.

This book stoked an intellectual fire in me to seek out answers about many of the problems plaguing the world today. 

It’s Not About The Money

Take-Home Message: Money holds its value in the opportunities it creates as a tool.

Money came into existence as a wonderful human response to expanding opportunities for trade. (If you want an in-depth explanation, I highly recommend The Origins of Money by Carl Menger.) It rose to popularity neither by government edict nor rule of law, but as a mechanism from innovative people to lower the barriers for attaining prosperity.

Consider this example: Three villagers would like to trade. Tom offers a cow and wants a sword. Bill offers 15 chickens but wants a cow. Wes offers a finely crafted sword but wants chickens. To facilitate this trade, all three villagers must participate and engage with one another, deciding the value of each item in correspondence to the next.

Money expedited this and allowed people to taste wealth in ways never before imaginable. It happened by eliminating the broker-dealer and third-party negotiations necessary to trade. It allowed people to deal directly with whomever they sought to do business.

Somewhere along the way, though, this perception of money as a tool for increasing global prosperity became muddied. Whatever the reason(s), be it greed, power, status, it took on a new reputation to many as the ultimate goal rather than for its role.

As money transformed into an object of obsession from its former glory as a brilliant innovation, it lost some of its value. It lost its story as a mechanism for peaceful dealings with others and as a resource for facilitating mutually-beneficial exchange.  It lost its value as a means for global progress to its competing interest as a symbol of status, wealth, authority, power, or success.

I used to count myself among the crowd who views money in this light. I used to think piles of Benjamins equaled happiness. I desired the symbol it represented, and I thought of the freedom immeasurable wealth would afford. I failed to account for the intrinsically valuable experiences, relationships, and memories to be sought after in life.

All of these former thoughts and beliefs represent a key misunderstanding of not only money but also of value. I failed to see the subjectivity of value. My flawed understanding could not make sense of how different things could possibly be worth different prices to different peoples, and at different times. My error became apparent quickly as I grew and witnessed a change of value in my own life. Many things that I once thought valuable hold little if any worth to me still today. In coming to this realization, I became aware of the importance not of money as a symbol but of money as a tool.

I faced many questions on the way to this truth. Like, what is money without happiness? What is money without someone to share it with? What is a fortune without a family or friends? What is an immense income without fulfillment in labor or life? What is prosperity without purpose? And many more...

In answering these questions for myself, I am convinced of the importance of seeing and understanding subjectivity in determining worth. What I value is not necessarily the same as what you value, and vice versa. If we all valued the same things and with the same intensity, trade could not occur and the weak would be subject to the whims of the strong.

Because of this truth, though, it is imperative that we allow each person to determine what he or she values, and to allow them to pursue those things so long as they go about it peacefully.

Money holds a valuable lesson for us in this regard. It provides us a living model to observe the different preferences of all people interplaying in a beautiful orchestra of human interaction. It's not about money as the end-goal, though. We must not forget about its origin as one of the most powerful tools for facilitating peaceful exchange among men.

The Why Chromosome

Take-Home Message: One thing that separates those who change the world from those who simply watch: A Vision. 

vi·sion·ar·y
adjective

  1. a person with original ideas about what the future will or could be like.

Have you ever observed someone describe a deeply-held belief? What did they look like doing so? What did you look like listening to them? How did it make you feel?

The ones who impacted me most profoundly made me feel something powerful awaken inside. They made me believe. If for but a moment, I shared their vision too.

They paint with their words. Not simple pictures, but beautiful, distant landscapes, and unfathomed horizons with brilliant, vivid clarity, these artists take hold of their brushes and gently, masterfully apply stoke after stroke with seamless effort, offering us an invitation to imagine.

These artisans paint us, too. With original insight, they carefully incorporate into their masterpieces our deepest fears and the sullen images of every shattered dream we ever encountered. Then, surreptitiously, the skilled hands of a genius fast at work replaces those pagan images of ourselves with bright, beautifully-colored, novel self-esteem and faith.

They possess a fierce, yet compassionate presence. They intimidate anyone unwilling to share in the enjoyment or embodiment of their vision. Simultaneously, they welcome into their presence all who share it.

Many mock them for their baffling distortion of reality. Yet, if at all moved by detractors, they become only more driven. They exist relentlessly for the pursuit of higher ideals. In the face of defeat, they embolden their vision all the more menacingly. They refuse to die until winning many victories for mankind.

Their beliefs do not equate to fantasies. Not to them. They see what we do not, they see that which exists beyond the veil. They hold confidence in both ideas and their ability to cultivate these into realities.

Others perceive them as discontent with each new creation. They simply see more yet to be done in their time. Others dub them profit-mongers, heretics, and cheats. These accusations distract them not. Their vision propels them toward a society of more apt standards of valuation for a man's worth.

They envision the world as it could be and as it will be. They fret not of the present. To them, the future remains static, and we must approach it boldly.

They do not ask what. Rather, they contemplate why? They do not question how. They wonder when.

They live today to create tomorrow. We call them visionaries.

About Mitchell


Mitchell is a cowboy turned startup professional and Director of Marketing @ Crash. He’s a former champion meat grader. Author of Don’t Do Stuff You Hate. Narrator of Why Haven’t You Read This Book? And previously Chief of Staff at Ceterus – where he helped scale a team from 20 to 150 while quadrupling revenue.

He’s radical about creating a better future and helping others do the same. Unsolvable problems and conspiracies are his favorite conversation genres. The keys to his heart – fine Bordeaux and Hemingway novels.

Follow Along