What 38,000 Words Taught Me

Take-Home Message: Set goals. Stick to them. Witness your life change.

I wanted to write. So I did.

I wanted to express myself. So I did.

I wanted to set a goal and stick to it. So I did.

Over the past 31 days (today included), I have blogged and journaled as part of a personal development project. In this one month, I have learned far more than I ever anticipated. I have felt stretched and I have felt exhaustion. I have also felt relief and satisfaction.

On many occasions, I had to force myself to remain committed to this goal. It was not easy. On a handful or more days, I sat in front of my computer, evening closing in, wondering what it is I would use my words to accomplish.

Some days, I would wake up and review what I had written the night before and ask myself, “What the hell was that?” Other times, I would reread something and find a handful of typos and ridicule myself. But every time I woke up, and I looked back, I felt something else. I felt a sense of pride welling up inside of me from staying committed to a goal that proved to be so difficult. I felt challenged and yet confident that I had risen to the occasion in the days that it was most difficult. I felt alive for doing something I loved every single day and for overcoming all of the excuses I fought along the way.

In the process, I learned a lot about myself and about creativity.

I learned how important it is sit down and write out my thoughts the moment I feel inspired so as not to lose a portion of it. I learned the necessity of taking the time to follow a thought to its conclusion rather than being satisfied halfway through and stopping.

I reaffirmed what I already knew about the value of seeing something through to completion, but in a whole new light. I learned about writing and creating as a discipline, and how important it is to the creative process to work when there’s no inspiration in sight. I took a graduate course in foregoing sleep to make time for working toward a goal.

I learned how it feels to put my work on exhibition for the world. I learned a lot about the type of audience my style of writing fits. I learned plenty of areas I can improve with my writing, too. I learned a lot even about the way that I write, not just the process, but the tone, the words, and the phraseology that are my go-tos.

I learned that I use too many commas and sometimes try to fit too many thoughts into one sentence. I learned that I overkill ideas, sometimes. I learned that I repeat myself. I learned that I repeat myself.

I learned that sometimes the word that perfectly completes a thought is profane. I learned that it’s okay to use a preposition to end a sentence with. I learned that  writing is a self-regulating process and the only rules that matter are the ones important to me.

I learned that I produce sub-par shit sometimes, and that it’s okay. I learned that some of the pieces I think are my best are actually the worst in others’ eyes. I learned that I shouldn’t be so precious with my ideas, and that destroying ten drafts before making a good one often leads to a better end-product.

I learned that music with lyrics can sometimes bring to the forefront of my mind an entire new train of thought–Looking at you, John Mayer, Slow Dancing In A Burning Room (See, Let’s Your Stuff Burn, Save Yourself).

I learned that it’s okay to be wrong. And I learned that it’s okay to be right.

I learned that what works for me doesn’t always work for others. And that what works for others doesn’t necessarily work for me.

I learned that I write best first thing in the morning or last thing before I sleep.

I learned that sometimes it’s best to walk around all day masticating on an idea before attempting to put it into words. And I learned some thoughts aren’t ready to be put into words and require more extensive meditation.

I learned that writing about a new topic every day doesn’t allow me to produce the most meaningful results. And I discovered ways to improve this in the future.

I learned that some topics don’t interest me, and I found some that I could spend all day, every day on.

I learned that it doesn’t matter what other people think of my work, if I’m doing what I have to do for myself. But I also discovered that when you put yourself out there and start working toward something unswervingly, people take notice.

I learned that a lot of people have goals and dreams they really want to work toward and accomplish but they’re allowing something to stand in their way.

I learned that in the grand scheme of the essential human drama, we all, for the most part, face similar trials and difficulties.

I learned that sometimes the valuation I have of myself isn’t realistic or fair. And I learned about a lot of areas in my life I would like to work to improve.

I learned that growth can be rapid with enough concentrated effort. And I learned that screwing up gets easier when I cut myself some slack.

I learned that facing my fears is easier than it seems, and that reaching for my goals isn’t so scary, either.

I learned all these lessons and many more just by focusing on something that I wanted to do for a short period of time. I felt growth take place in my life in a way I have seldom felt before.

In the scheme of the universe, I didn’t do anything miraculous. I didn’t change the whole world. But what I did was miraculous for me. I changed my world. I found answers about myself to questions I had. I looked some of my fears in the eyes and made them blink first. I peered into my own mind searching for meaning, and I found plenty. It was tough, yet it was so easy.


I wanted to write. So I did.

I wanted to express myself. So I did.

I wanted to set a goal and stick to it. So I did…

What is it that you want to do?

What are you waiting for?

Please Offend Me.

Take-Home Message: Whatever it is, stand for your brand.

Writer’s Note: This post was inspired from an entrepreneurship e-course. The following is a quote from this text:

“everything you put out there in the world needs to clearly stand for something. Because when you stand for something, others can stand with you. But when you hesitate; when you try to appeal to as many people as possible with your message, your business offerings, your services, your products, your website, your copy, your blog posts, your social media updates…you cockblock people from being able to decide if you’re for them, or not. And if they can’t tell, the answer will always be no.” –Ash Ambirge, You Don’t Need A Job, You Need Guts


Have you ever met a real-life metamorphagus? In muggle-speak, the closest thing I can equate this to is a chameleon or shape-shifter. The type of person to whom I’m referring is the one who will, in the matter of one conversation, effectively change his or her mind about any matter so as to appease you or the audience. I think this is not only intellectually dishonest, but I think it’s lazy.

I’ve always been puzzled by it. I understand the incentive structure of it, I think. People want to be well-liked, so they project a false image of themselves onto others. Or, they might not even know it’s a false image. They simply project whichever image they think would satisfy their interlocutor. The short-term gains of doing this seem to be more inviting than the long-term gains of standing their ground on issues and potentially risking the loss of a friendship or offending a new acquaintance. It’s an interesting strategy, I think. However, I  propose operating by a different one.

I’m more of a believer in the words of Dewey Cox: “Walk Hard.” You’re going to encounter people with whom you disagree. In fact, you might even meet people who resent you for disagreeing with the way they see the world. When that happens,  I think you’ve gotta take it in the face and walk as hard as you can. At least, I believe if you want to be true to yourself this is how you should operate.

In fact, I think we detract value from the world–where we otherwise could have created value–by seeking only to appease others. When we delicately tiptoe within the boundary lines of allowable opinion, we are not doing anyone any favors. More importantly, though, I think we miss out on meaningful conversations and opportunities to learn about how someone else experiences the world differently than us. That information is invaluable.

Now, I do not think the goal should be to offend others. There are definitely some  methods to go about sharing your beliefs and ideas that are more harmful and less well-received than others. However, this does not mean you should be afraid to.

You should also dismiss and banish from your mind’s eye myths like “political correctness.” In a world of politics, anything disagreeable to the government is heresy. For instance, when I was in college, I once heard an administrator give a speech on hazing. They defined it as “Anything that makes someone uncomfortable is hazing.” How shameful. I think that’s some bullshit attempt at creating a society of victims.

If something offends you, maybe you should broaden your horizons. If you’ve offended someone, then maybe you’ve done them some good. I know that when I interact with someone who offends me by their beliefs they stick in the back of my mind more than someone who attempts to appease me. It sits there and dwells, and I chew on it like cud.

And what ends up happening as I replay those conversations in my head is that I stumble upon some nugget of truth either about that person or their beliefs that I previously didn’t know. They taught me something, even if it wasn’t some grand philosophical truth, their defense of their beliefs gave me something I didn’t before have. In so doing, they showed me into their head and revealed to me not only what they believe to be true, but also, they showed me how my beliefs are being received.

The latter part is the more important part to me. It’s another valuable reason for having conversations without fear of offending others: it allows us to sharpen and refine our own beliefs, our own conversations skills, and our ability to persuade and argue effectively. It makes us think critically and it makes us face some oftentimes harsh realities about the ways others are perceiving us. Next time you offend someone, keep this in mind: they might have done you a favor; they gave you a free signal that you’re either shitty at selling your ideas or they’re too narrow-minded for you to want them to be your friend.

However, that’s not always the case. Sometimes people get so caught up in their ideas of what’s unacceptable table talk that they refuse to even participate or grant you an audience. Well, a huge fuck you to them too for being so obtuse. Those are the type of people with whom I wish I could go back in time and watch a George Carlin show live. I would piss my pants laughing at how uncomfortable it made them to be exposed to ideas that conflicted with their shallow worldview.

And here’s why: I think the essence of learning involves bringing new knowledge into our heads. New knowledge always accomplishes one or more of a handful of tasks. It reaffirms what we already know, it disproves what we thought we knew, or it blows our minds by introducing something we’ve never before encountered.

That means every transaction of learning involves bringing something into our mind that was not previously there. If we are always walking around being so damned easily offended by new information or hyper-sensitive to knowledge that contradicts our current views and beliefs, then we’re equivalently anesthetizing ourselves to knowledge.

And so we’ve come full-circle back to the shape-shifters and chameleons, because that’s exactly what I think seeking to appease people does. It’s like condemning a whole generation to go without books, or like putting your brain inside a jar of fluid and placing it on a shelf to collect dust. You’re wasting opportunities to participate in one of the most beautiful miracles we as human beings can possibly partake in: experiential learning. And for what, to save face?

Here are some hard facts about life:

  1. The people who actually love you will get over it. Whatever it is, if they’re really worth having in your life, they will not hate you for your ideas or beliefs, nor patronize you to the point you can’t stand it.
  2. The people who don’t matter will remove themselves from your life. They’re all sweethearts like that. If they can’t get over your ideas or beliefs, they’ll hit the road, Jack.
  3. What you say about your character isn’t necessarily voiced by what you believe, so much as is said by how you believe it and how you defend it when challenged. If you’re abandoning your beliefs because of the way other people make you feel, then you probably never really believed it.
  4. Get tough. The world is full of non-believers in your ideas.

So, next time you find yourself cornered at a bar with the greasy dude who wants to impress you with how much you guys have in common, throw him a curve-ball. Make him dance by bringing up something you believe to be true that you know he won’t. And then just watch. I dare you.

You’re not hurting your brand by offending others. Others are hurting your brand by keeping you afraid of being yourself. Don’t let your brand be that of a coward or a shmoozer. If anything, be labeled an extremist. Embrace your ideas, beliefs, and the facts you know to be true, and go out into the world boldly, unafraid, and eager to learn and face whatever comes your way.

No License Required

Take-Home Message: These applications are revolutionizing the way we complete tasks.

One of my favorite topics involves the use of technology as a means for making our lives better. I am utterly fascinated by innovation, and the way it ceaselessly transforms our world.

Take the smart phone, for example. Even in my lifetime, this was once inconceivable. Yet, today, nearly every 11-year-old has access to a full warehouse of tools that at one point in the not-so-distant past would’ve cost almost a million dollars. (Here’s a cool article that discusses this advancement more.)

A growing trend today allows individuals to make even more use of technology to live better, more opportunistic lives. It’s the rise of the peer-to-peer freelancing industry. These softwares and applications are vast and growing, and they are revolutionizing the way people interact.

These applications don’t simply allow people to be more informed. They free us. They allow us to seek out directly the people, products, skills, or services we crave in a timely, affordable manner. They have dramatically decreased the overhead cost of running businesses, too. Imagine connecting with someone from around the globe to do your company’s billing or data entry at a fraction of the cost (which subsequently is much higher than the wages they might otherwise earn). It’s a win-win for everyone.

Here are some highlights from a few of my favorite examples of these innovations:

Upwork/Elance“Anything that can be done on a computer – from web and mobile programming to graphic design – can be done on Upwork. ” Upwork/Elance allows individuals to create accounts showcasing their talents and their hourly rate. It allows users to sort through and interview applicants, select the one they want, and rate the performance. It gives you access to over 10 million freelancers in more than 180 countries, and is a leading platform for global talent sourcing.

Freelancer“Post your project and receive competitive bids from freelancers within minutes. Our reputation system will make it easy to find the perfect freelancer for your job. It’s the simplest and safest way to get work done online!” Freelancer has similar features to Upwork and Elance, however, with the added element of allowing service providers to issue bids for the project proposals.

Wonolo: “Work now. Get paid. Live life on your terms.Don’t let job schedules run your life. Wonolo connects you with immediate hourly or daily jobs from the biggest and best brands, allowing you to work where you want, when you want, for whomever you want.” Wonolo allows users to find temporary work immediately. At the touch of a button, employers can post jobs and find someone to fill their need. Wonolo is a means to “leverage technology to create a flexible workforce to solve unpredictability in business.”

TaskRabbit: “TaskRabbit allows you to live smarter by connecting you with safe and reliable help in your neighborhood. Outsource your household errands and skilled tasks to trusted people in your community.” TaskRabbit is allowing people to take back control of their hectic lives by connecting with people who can help them.


If you are interested in learning more about talent sourcing platforms, check out this list of 50.

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. 

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.

Creativity As A Discipline: Viewer Discretion Advised.

Take-Home Message: When you’ve run out of gas, pull off to the shoulder and continue on foot.

Creating a masterpiece takes energy. Like love or war, simple passion isn’t enough. You’ll need more than sweet nothings and grenades. When the honeymoon ends or your wingman goes down, it might rattle you to your core. You might want to quit. There is always this choice: call it off and abandon ship or man the fuck up and get tough.

You can wayfare through life casually making advances on trollops of your wasted mind, hoping the shallow intercourse rekindles your flame. OR, let your fight through the drudgery reignite the heat of passion, burning in you a newfound lust for conceiving your magnum opus.

Choosing to create only when feeling inspired is like holding the face of your infant potential under two inches of water in the kiddie pool and telling it to swim. You commit a homicide on self-realization. You circumcise inches from the fullest version of yourself. You banish your love child to a preventable ending.

Someday you’ll find yourself in the trenches splattered in mud, out of ammunition, with nothing but a bayonet and a prayer: you can either face your fears or run away. You might not achieve glory. You might get shot. Either way, you have a choice to make.

One of these options transforms your shadow into a coward to follow you the rest of your days. The right choice showers light upon the darkness of your wildest fears, blinding them. It sends forth a higher version of yourself bursting free into existence from the ashes of the weary, worn, fear-ridden corpse formerly standing there.

This choice has a name. I call it Discipline. You embrace it like a long-lost lover or tremble with fear from it your whole life until it murders you in your sleep.