Stay Hungry.

Six months ago I sat salivating over South Carolina’s tastiest chicken biscuit and an irresistible business opportunity.

I had flown to Charleston to pitch a pretty aggressive business development proposal to my then-boss. My presentation projected 200% growth for his company in 12 months, led entirely by yours truly. It was ballsy. It was unlikely to be accepted. But I believed I could do it and I had to try.

I didn’t know what was going to happen when I took that 1,200-mile flight to a city I’d never visited before to pitch the most aggressive presentation I’d ever crafted to a man I’d never met. But I wasn’t scared. Quite the opposite. I was as alive as I’d ever been.

So when my proposal was rejected I didn’t lose an inch. I gained miles. What I did that day made me proud. It gave me confidence and resolve. It gave me closure. It made what happened next seem natural, providential even.

My experience has given me an acute awareness that failure is part of life. I’ve learned failing usually signals an opportunity to succeed at something else, perhaps even greater. What happened in South Carolina that week did not shock me. It came as no surprise. Not to me. I’ve been working my entire life to position myself for the exact type of situation that unfolded.

What I didn’t know when I got on the plane to leave Oklahoma was that I wasn’t going to South Carolina for this proposal I worked so hard to create. I was following a path years of diligence had carved for me.


It was 24 hours before my proposal and I had taken maybe a bite out of my biscuit. I lost my appetite for food. A new hunger had taken hold of me.

Sitting before me on that table was more than South Carolina’s best breakfast food. There was also opportunity served. The type of opportunity so one-of-a-kind you can’t even dream it up. But for me it was also the kind of opportunity that made me hesitate and ask myself, “Am I capable of this?”

The shellshock wore off with the rejected proposal, and I knew what I had to do. Nothing would stop me. No one would stop me. I knew the only way I could answer that question was to meet it with my best effort. So I did. And everything fell into place.

In the following weeks I uprooted and moved 1,200 miles away. I had no second thoughts. I hadn’t even figured out how I would make it all work when I left. But I found solidarity in the drive. I knew I would make it. I believed I would.

In the short months that followed I learned just how capable I was. Capable of working hard. Capable of learning. Capable of observing. Capable of improving at least 1% or more each day. Capable of waking up early and working ‘til late. Capable of dedicating myself to labor I believed in and capable of being mentored. I was as capable as I was willing to be.

Now I no longer worry if I’m capable. Instead I believe with enough resolve, effort, and willingness to get in the trenches and deliver, I am capable of anything. Anything. And I intend to prove it. Every. Single. Day.

I’ve come a long way since that chicken biscuit, but I’m still as hungry as ever.


Present day, I report directly to the Founder & CEO of a VC-funded startup. No two days have been the same since I started. I’m intellectually stimulated and challenged daily. I get to dive in and solve problems all the time. I get to learn new softwares and help design and implement new processes. I have 360 degrees of exposure to a rapid-growth business that’s taking an $81 billion industry by storm. And I’m only 24 years old.

I could be in law school or working toward an MBA. Instead I experiment daily with actual business operations and with actual entrepreneurs. I could be married and working on a family. Instead, I’m single and creating a fulfilling life. I could have taken a high-paying corporate job, grown roots, and bought a house. Instead, I‘m mortgaging myself so I can be an asset wherever I choose to go, with no cap on income potential. I could be living out any number of prefabricated lifestyle templates. Instead, I’m not. Instead, I’m blazing my own trail and I’m creating a life governed by my own terms.

It all happened because I bet on myself. Not on a credential. Not on conventional wisdom. Not on the status quo. It happened because I refused to follow the beat of someone else’s drum. It happened because I needed to prove to myself what I could do given the chance to thrive. It happened for me and it can happen for anyone who wants to go out and discover the life they’ve always wanted.

Your story to the life you’ve always wanted can begin anywhere, too. Mine started with a chicken biscuit. And that’s why I believe it when people say breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

Stay hungry, my friends.

 

Break Free From Your Nest.

“Step away from that edge, young bird!” The teacher’s stark, reprimanding voice sent me catapulting from my  day dream. “You’ll fall to your death.”

“Oh! But what if I fly?” I boldly replied.

“That’s nonsense. Get your head out of the clouds,” she said. “No one’s ever done it before. You weren’t made to fly. Now sit down, you’re disturbing the class.”

I challenged her. I was not about to give up so easily. “How do you know I won’t soar?”

“Sit down and shut up,” the teacher, not in the mood for a debate, exclaimed. “You’re putting ideas in the other students’ heads. Do you want them growing up believing myths?”

“What if staying nested is a myth?” I asked. Her lectures could not stifle my inspiration.

“Class, listen up,” she started in–the teacher did love an audience, “Let me make this explicity clear once and for all. You were not made to fly. The stories you’ve heard are simply tall tales passed down for ages. Make believe fables. There is no flying. If you leave the nest, there is only dying. Nest life is the best life. What lies beyond the edge of this kingdom is not suited for birds. One foot over the nest’s wall and you will plummet to the earth, meeting a most dissatisfying doom. You must stay here and learn. That is your only hope for survival.”

I could not take it anymore. No teacher would stifle my dreams.

“But I don’t want to survive! I want to glide! I want to feel the wind rushing beneath my wings, to sit atop clouds, to chase lightning bugs on the breeze, and to greet the morning sun with a song from the heights! I must fly! I just must!”

I ran to the edge and threw myself over, hearing gasps followed by an uproar. Then, only the violent rush of wind filling my sinuses and ears.

I hurtled downward picking up speed. Everything around me, a blur. “I might not make it!” The thought rushed to the forefront of my mind. “What if the teacher was right? What if I die?”

“NO!” A roar unlike anything ever produced from my lungs erupted. I don’t even know where it came from. The startling noise ushered from my beak caused me to flinch and toss my arms out beside me.

Everything slowed. I could see. Was I not to die after all?

“Wait a second…I’m flying!” I chirped as loudly as a young bird could chirp. Today was not my day to die. Today surely was my day to fly!

 


When a bird flees its nest for the first time, it has no backup plan. It doesn’t slink to the edge and assess how far away the ground might be. It doesn’t fall from the nest.

It jumps. It spreads its wings. It becomes what it was meant to be.

It flies.

You were meant for more than the safety of your nest.

Take flight today.

 

 

How Long Has It Been?

When was the last time you laid in the grass gazing stars,

built a fortress of solitude with furniture and blankets,

slayed an imaginary dragon to save the day,

stayed up too late laughing with friends,

snagged your shirt jumping a fence,

dove into a pond to test the depth,

took a walk out in the rain,

ran barefoot outside,

skinned your knee,

played in the mud,

got lost outside.

How long has it been since you let your inner-child out to play?

It’s been too long.

Your spirit longs to break free.

Let it roam wild.


“We are perishing for want of wonder, not for want of wonders.” –G.K. Chesterton

Abstinence & Voting

I’m saving myself for a better world.
 
Someday when I find it I don’t want to have to explain how I gave myself up to George Bush. Then John McCain. Then to Donald Trump.
 
I want to be pure for it. So I took a vow of abstinence.
 

I stopped voting years ago. I’ve been frequently challenged to provide lengthy explanations for my decision. It never ceases to amaze me how affected others are by the news. Like I’ve betrayed them. Like I’ve committed some kind of Grand Treason.
 

Sometimes these conversations lead to realization that I share many of the same frustrations as voters. I hate taxes. I’m repulsed by war. I don’t trust politicians. Prohibitions and licensure laws are tyrannical. Government should stay out of ____________ (everything). Blah blah blah.
 
I participated in these conversations for years (as a non-voter and as a voter). I punched my ticket at each election. Which was maybe 3. I stopped voting not long after I was “of age.” One day I just got bored.
 
I started to see the whole thing as one giant circle jerk. A new guy would come up for election. He’d make promises. He’d secure some votes. He’d be stonewalled in office. Nothing would change. Repeat. That’s not progress. It’s madness.
 
When I began reading more broadly into political philosophy and economics I found I wasn’t alone. There were tons of theories about why voting isn’t particularly useful. There were as many about the incentives politicians face for acting in their own interests over the interest of ‘the people.’ None of this surprised me. It simply abhorred me.
 
I never stopped hoping for a better world. I just couldn’t buy into the fairy tale that voting would accomplish this any longer. I had new information. But my experiences and observations had confirmed the same.
 
It inspired me to empower myself to eliminate my frustrations. Voting seemed too passive. I wanted to be active about making my world better.
 
I started by educating myself. I wrote a lot about what I read. I engaged others. I challenged. I argued until I was blue in the face. It didn’t matter. Other people couldn’t envision the world as I saw it. They didn’t want to.
 
That no longer bothers me. Everyone should do what makes them happy I think. If voting has value to you, then vote. If it doesn’t, then don’t.
 
I think a greater issue is at the root. Every person is an individual actor in his or her own universe. We’re all just trying to go out and get what we want according to what we know and believe.
 
This idea was revolutionary to me. It made want to stop changing others and start by changing myself. Hoping 51 percent of people agree with me was disempowering. Voting for that world was just not enough. If there was a better world to be had and I wanted it, then I must take action.
 
A great explanation of this comes from Ludwig von Mises’ Human Action. To summarize he posited three requirements must be present for individuals to take action: 1) unease or dissatisfaction with the present state of affairs, 2) a vision of a better state, and 3) belief that they can reach the better state.
 
The three requirements are contingent upon one another. The first two conditions are nearly always satisfied for me. Yet, in the context of the political establishment the third criteria ceases to be satisfied for me.
 
I abstain from politics not [only] because I hate politics and not because I’m apathetic. One significant reason stems from the third criteria above. It would be illogical for me to cast a ballot knowing I don’t believe it will effect any desired change. Why should the burden of proof be on me anyway? Make the political system prove that it’s invaluable to social progress. It hasn’t yet.
 
My belief that a better state can be reached rests on the creation of that better state. Not by governmental mandates but by individuals who set their vision into motion in the world.
 
It is not through handmaidens of the political establishment with their waving pens and  crummy rhetoric that the standards of living across the globe have ever been raised. It’s by the sweat, blood, and commitment of men with a vision for a better world and a bias for action to create that world.
 
If you’re dissatisfied with the present conditions of the world; and you possess a vision of a better world; and you believe that world can be achieved…it’s time to act.
 
Don’t rely on the ballot box to create a better world. Just go build it.
 

 

My Librarian, The Drug Czar.

I didn’t get really into drugs until I was about six or seven years old. During the summers, I used to visit the Enid Public Library and wander about the shelves, carte blanche. It was there, cloaked from the public eye behind numerous texts, where I would be administered dosage upon dosage of fresh, new, enlightening psychotropic devices. Even so, this freedom to binge diminished as I relocated during the school year to a more cautiously monitored environment: the public school library.

Potent substances of epidemic proportions, if you look carefully enough, can be found littering the shelves of most libraries, though, and I was determined to find the most satiating of these. This, in my opinion, must have been why I was banned from visiting certain “Dark Arts” sections as an elementary student. It must have been that look in my eyes. Perhaps they were too red, or maybe the librarian had begun to take notice of that slight change in my disposition each time I made a new visit to this wonder emporium. Either way, I had to proceed with caution most days, if I was, after all, going to get my fix.

One day, in fact, the librarian caught me perusing around this “off-limits” section of the bookshelves. There I was at 11 or 12 years of age, Atlas Shrugged in hand, when that user’s itch overtook me. I dropped the book immediately and began frantically convulsing, part from fear of being caught in the act, part from knowing my stash was about to be flushed. All the while I knew if I did not administer soon, I would surely die.

It was no use, however, the ruse was up. At that age, I was hardly tall enough to see over the counter to check a book out, let alone hide a 1,200-paged manifesto behind my wimpy little back. So, I picked the book back up from the floor, replaced it on the shelf, and obediently followed the orders, promising myself I would find a way to unlock the potency of its contents at a later date.

That memory seems so long ago; I oftentimes wonder if it happened at all or if it was no more than the birth of some intense trip. After all, I have been using most of my life, and, it is not uncommon for me to drift entirely from all tethers to reality into fantasies tucked deep away in the darkest crevices of my mind, readily awakening to the inspiration I find in each new literary drug.

Subsequently, even if the instance with the librarian did not occur, I am certain the restrictions to prevent me from self-medicating or overdosing at such a young age were, in fact, in place. I despise that truth even to this day, but realize it did not stop me from introducing myself to those much harder drugs, so much as it merely delayed me.

However, what I know now is that had I simply been allowed to satisfy my craving when it initially had sprung, perhaps I would not have been so receptive to its effects or so keen to discover even harder, more illicit scholarly substances to fill the void such a prolonged introduction had created.

Furthermore, perhaps under the cautious supervision of the librarian or some other pedagogue dealer of dalliances, I would not have—once self-prescribing—been so keen to consume far above the recommended dosages. Perhaps given the opportunity at self-discovery—though this might be a stretch—I would have even hated the drugs, and rejected altogether any such interferences with my worldview as it then existed.

Even so, such was not the case, and it was made clear that such voyages into the unknown were impermissible for such a young, budding mind. This created nothing but contempt and inspired in me a sense of rebellion, a sense of courage to gallivant off into uncharted waters as a freelance pharmacist for myself, eager to indulge in every new available banned product I could find. So, too, did it make me more receptive to the mind-altering nature of these unapproved commodities. I found in these not merely a delightful escape, but more importantly, I discovered truth. I felt alive and aware, as if my eyes had at last been opened to all that was around me. I saw the world not as I thought it to be, but for what it truly was. I saw myself juxtaposed to the universe as a finite entity, both free and powerfully awestruck by the magnitude of what I had previously not only not known, but dismissed as impossible.

Those substances freed me from the restrictions imposed not only by coercive authorities, but of the inhibiting limitations I had enforced on myself through ignorance. Upon discovering this newfound, vast expanse of intellectual wealth, I gained a new appreciation for life, for learning, and for contemplating axiomatic truths.

I discovered how to listen rather than talk, how to humbly promote myself rather than boast, how to speak sincerely rather than with grandiosity. But far and above more imperative than all, I came to know how to love myself and as a result, how to love others. The ideas resulting from of all these trips and highs in prose and poetry unlocked all of these things for me, and I think they can for anybody courageous enough to give them a try.

So forget about prohibitions, censorships, or coercive deterrents. Why don’t you give the unknown a shot? Why not explore the limits of your own vast cognitive abilities?

Go pick up a book today, who knows? Your gateway drug could be waiting for you.

 

 

How A Stranger Taught Me To Love My Neighbor.

Take-Home Message: Spread hope, not hate. Focusing on all the bad in the world can make you lose sight of the good in it.

Writer’s Note: This is based upon an actual conversation from Summer 2015. I have preserved the integrity of this to the best of my memory.


 

It was a normal day and I was headed to get a haircut. Since I was from out of town and driving around the city, I pulled up Yelp and searched for the nearest barber shop. The closest result showed up just a few blocks from where I was and it was on my way back home. So, I pulled in and walked up to the door.

Immediately after walking into the building, I began second-guessing my decision. In the barber’s chair sat a large Mexican man covered in tattoos, carrying on conversation loud enough for the whole building to participate. But there wasn’t anybody else but the hair dresser and me. Towering over this man was a large black woman working on a high and tight for the customer. She was humming a few bars of what she later told me was one of her favorite Billie Holiday tunes.

I thought I should leave. I pulled up Yelp again and refreshed my search for a haircut and found the nearest one almost 7 miles away. On a Friday afternoon around Atlanta, GA, 7 miles is a several-hour-long commitment, and for some reason I felt like I was being frozen in place. For some reason, I thought, I’m supposed to stay here.

So I gulped my preconceived prejudices down and waited. After a painful amount of time, the Mexican man stood up, politely thanked the woman, paid her, and headed for the door. A few paces before he exited, he flashed me a smile and asked, “How are you?” shattering my earlier notions that this was a dangerous man. “I’m fine, thanks,” I replied, disgraced by my stereotyping.

“You’re up next, Sweetie,” the warm, inviting voice of the hairdresser beckoned to me. “What can I do for you, today, young man?” she said politely awaiting my instructions. I told her how I liked it cut and she said, “Oh, that will look great on you.”

She asked me where I was from and how I made my way to her shop. She asked me what I did and how I had found my way from Oklahoma to Atlanta. I told her what I was doing in Georgia and how [at the time] I was about to go back to school. I was interested in studying law because I had a passion for helping people live more freely, I told her.

“I can already tell you’d be one of those good attorneys,” she said. “The world needs more of ‘em.” But she paused for a moment after that and seemed bothered. “I’ve had experiences with bad attorneys,” she said. “Someone I know (I think she said her nephew) got arrested for possession last year, and he’s been locked up ever since. They [the Public Defenders] didn’t really care about his case.”

“I’m so sorry to hear that,” I told her–and I really was. I could tell that this was really troubling her.

“What do you think about marijuana?” she asked. “Do you think it should be illegal?”

A rare moment with a stranger had arrived for me. Here I was, simply wanting a haircut, and my prejudices had almost driven me out of this shop. But her kindness and sincerity had sent my smugness packing. “I don’t have a problem with it,” I told her. “In fact, I think it being illegal does a lot more harm than good.”

“Why is it that so many people don’t think that?” she asked.

“I couldn’t tell you for certain, ma’am,” I said, “But I think the world could be a lot better place if the government and law enforcement stopped interfering so much with people’s lives.”

At this she stopped cutting my hair altogether and I saw a tear stream down from one of her eyes. She took a deep breath and wiping it away said, “Young man, I think you were supposed to come into this shop today to get a haircut.”

“Thank you,” I told her. But I didn’t reveal to her that I had felt that strange sense of assurance earlier that I was where I was supposed to be.

“You know, I look around at the world and I see so much hatred,” she said. “It’s all black versus white and cops versus people and the news all riling everybody up. But here you are and here I am. I love you and I don’t even know you. I want the best for you and I just met you. I don’t think people hate each other as much as the media wants us to think,” she said. “But this ain’t anything new, Sweetie…”

When she said that, she sort of drifted off, her eyes got misty and she let out a couple of more tears. She had set the scissors down at this point and was looking directly at me.  “I’ve seen this story all my life,” she said, “People don’t naturally hate one another,” she said. “Their circumstances and the way the world treats them teaches them that. I want to share a story with you if you don’t mind,” she gestured to me.

“Of course!” I told her. I was intrigued by this point and had entirely forgotten I was even there for a hair cut. And then she began narrating a story that has forever changed me.

 

“I remember the day those men in black suits came rolling through our neighborhood,” she said. “I was only about five or six at the time, and my sister and me was out in the front yard playing when we saw this big, new, fancy car roll up to the house at the end of the street. That was back in the ‘60s, though, just a few years after Mr. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act, and we hadn’t ever seen a car like that before. Then these two men climbed out all dressed up, they had them a couple of black suits and white shirts, with the black tie on, looking all official and such. They just marched up to the first door and disappeared. My sister and I went running into the house hollering at Momma and Daddy telling them all about the sight we just saw. Then, one by one, them men just kept making their way down the block, one house at a time, until they got to ours. Momma and Daddy said we had to wait outside seein’ as we wasn’t old enough to talk business yet, so we did, and I tried peeking through the window the whole time. I never could make out what they was saying, but Momma and Daddy seemed a bit troubled by it.

Just a street over at the time was a huge lot surrounded by great big, tall fences. We never knew what was going on inside there, but we could hear the banging and hammering around the clock. All of us on my block kept guessing what it was that was going up, and whether or not we should be afraid of it, but the walls stayed up and the banging kept on a’ coming. Until one day, it stopped. The walls were torn down and behind them stood two great big, brand new towering buildings.

It wasn’t until Momma and Daddy told us we was moving that they explained what those gentlemen in the black suits months before had shown up to discuss. It became clear fast that the offer those men made wasn’t the best for everyone in our neighborhood, though. Momma and Daddy explained that those men were offering us one of the few spots in the shiny new apartment buildings. ‘The spots are going fast,’ they said to Momma and Daddy that day they came to our block, ‘So you’ll have to act now.’

We didn’t have a lot of money at the time, but we also didn’t have reliable electricity or indoor plumbing. In fact, almost everybody on our block still had an outhouse. So when me and Sissy walked into our new home that day, we couldn’t hold back the excitement. “Our very own toilet!” I remember yelling to my Momma. “And what’s this machine over by the wall?” I asked, as Daddy swooped me up in his arms and set me atop our very own washing machine unit. That was such a happy day.

After a few days, I started to notice that very few of the other Daddies from our neighborhood had come over with the families who had moved. I asked Momma about it and she told me to stop pestering and one day when I was older she might tell me.

Days passed and turned into months. Months into years. Until one day, I was watching the news in the apartment building, an older girl now, and I saw this fancy pants man get on the screen talking about all the homeless blacks that were causing problems with drugs and violence and vandalism. He talked about how the cops were roundin’ ‘em up for disturbing peace or something like that. Most of the problem, fancy pants said, was coming from over just a block or so where we used to live. The problem was, none of those houses that used to be there was standing any more.

Just a few months after we had moved out, some wrecking crews came in and tore down all the houses. They said it was the city who had bought all the property up preaching about eminent domain or the likes of some law. They said it would be better for the whole city and that they had built the apartments and offered them real cheap for all the former residents. They said the ones who didn’t take up the offer were lazy criminals and deserved to be snatched up by the law. Some of those men were my friends’ daddies.

So I mustered up the courage to ask Momma and Daddy again about what happened to the other Daddies and why they never moved over. They sat Sissy and me down and explained what they hadn’t told us about those men in the black suits who had come knockin’ on our door for all those years ago. They said they were making an offer to move to a better life.

Those men told my parents it was $39 per month rent to have running water and electricity in the new place they’d built for us.

Daddy had a job at the time, but he didn’t make very much money. He worked long hours and Momma stayed home with us kids. Back then we wasn’t old enough for school yet. But, Momma and Daddy told us, the new apartment buildings didn’t have room enough for all the members of all the families so if the men wanted to move in with the families it would be another $9 per month. Those men in the black suits told Momma and Daddy and all the other neighbors that day that it would be a lot cheaper and just fine by them if the men stayed in the houses where they lived. They’d be allowed to visit whenever they wanted, so long as they got a permit and left by 9 p.m. And they told them the men could come and live with the families one week out of every month, too, if they got the permission from the building. But there just wasn’t enough room to fit everybody.

And so that’s what happened. Most of the families moved over to the new buildings and the men stayed put figuring they could keep more food on the table for their families if they saved the extra money per month, Momma told me. The cost of renting the houses on our neighborhood wasn’t even that much at the time, so they could use the difference to help out. Most of the men in our neighborhood worked jobs like my Daddy, too, long hours for not a lot of money, so it didn’t really make a difference where they laid their heads at the end of the night. But not my Daddy. To him, it mattered, and he told us he wouldn’t let our family be separated even if it was going to make things tight with money.

But after we moved over, the worst thing happened to those other men. When the city came in and bought up the properties, they evicted all of the Daddies who were still living over there. And some of them came over to the apartment trying to work things out but they weren’t given permission by the building to move in with their families. Maximum capacity by order of the fire marshall they told ‘em. No more room for more people.

That’s when new men in black suits came to the apartment building. The marched up and down the hallways to the rooms with a clipboard and some pens. Daddy wasn’t home when they came by but Momma told us later the men were walking by explaining how families could get assistance to help with the bills if they needed to.

“Since a lot of families are facing hard times, we want to make it known that there are options,” those men told Mamma. “We can offer assistance on a monthly rate and even more depending on the number of mouths you have to feed.”

Momma knew Daddy wouldn’t like this, so she asked those men to leave. Mamma told me that it’s because a lot of the Daddies had been arrested by the police and were out of work and couldn’t pay their families’ bills anymore.

 

She broke character after this, lightly sobbing, and began to shake her head. “After they ripped those families apart and kicked the men out onto the streets, many of them lost their jobs,” she said. “My Daddy knew a lot of them. He told me that it was like they had lost their reasons to live, so a lot of them turned to alcohol and drugs to help them escape. And then it got a lot worse,” she said, shaking her head again.

“The laws around those times that were passed were really harsh, especially on marijuana and crack rock, on the poor man’s drugs,” she said. “They’d catch somebody one time and he’d go away for a decade or more, and nobody could do anything about it. They’d just keep yelling from the news about the ghetto and drug dealers, and how it wasn’t safe unless they were all rounded up.”

“So, that’s exactly what they did. They rounded up all those men that used to be Daddies and husbands, working long hour jobs to support their families, and they threw them behind bars. Meanwhile, they were running through the families whose husbands and daddies were being jailed and they’d get them fixed up on government assistance. They had pretty much replaced the role of the husband and father with the government over the course of several years. That’s not making society a safer place. That’s destroying it. And that’s how I feel almost every time I hear about new laws for making us safe or about gang violence or any of the white noise coming out of the TV, there’s usually a much bigger problem behind it somewhere else.

And it doesn’t look hopeful still today. With all the police killings and the rioting, it’s sadness and fear and hate every time you pick up the newspaper or turn on the TV. It’s bombing other countries and wars and arrests and politicians breaking promises. It’s people hurting people everywhere you look. But that’s not the way it has to be,” she said. “That’s not how we were supposed to treat each other. Loving one another is a choice, and it’s one I choose to make every day.”

She went silent after that. I was at a loss for words, but I wanted to give this stranger a hug.  After a few moments pause, she picked up the scissors and set to finish up on my haircut. When I finally found some words, all I could muster was to thank her for sharing her story. I was too choked up and taken aback to come up with anything worth adding.

“Mitchell,” she said, “I’m going to pray to Jesus for you tonight. I hope you get to help people like you said you wanted to. Thank you for listening to an old woman’s story. It was nice to meet you, and I hope the best for you.”

“Likewise,” I told her. “I think you were right that I was supposed to be here today. Thank you so much.”

I paid her for the haircut and left her the best tip I could afford, told her goodbye, and walked out in the warm Georgia air shaken up but somber. Her story pulled scales from my eyes about my attitude and how I look at the world. It wasn’t dismay that I found from her story, but hope. She didn’t have to share her story with me. She didn’t even have to be as kind as she was. She could have just done her job. Instead, this stranger taught me what it looks like in practice to love your neighbor, and how you don’t need a grand stage or billions of dollars to change the world. You just have to be willing to use your voice, and to see goodness where others see only bad.

 

 

 

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.

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. 

Hating The Other Team Isn’t Fandom

Take-Home Message: Don’t be a fantagonist. Let love fuel your passions, not hatred.

Wasn't I just a lady-killer?
Wasn’t I just a lady-killer?

I remember the first shirt my parents ever put on me with the logo. I was just a little tike at the time and had no concept of fandom, let alone team loyalty. At two years old, I rocked that tiny crop-top Oklahoma State outfit like it was my job. It paired nicely with the boots, chaps, and cowboy hat I wore a few years later, the Halloween costume turned outfit of choice on any given day. Still years later, for my 13th birthday, when my mom and sister decorated my bedroom in the colors of my future alma mater, I possessed little understanding of the qualities indicative of a true supporter. I was still in the phase where insults about the rivaling Oklahoma Sooners equaled confirmation in my eyes. Little did I know I was missing the entire point of being a fan, of wearing the colors of my team win or lose, and of simply enjoying the game for the beautiful thing it is.

Throughout the years I have explored the meaning of fandom and observed the definition in action from various capacities, through different lenses, and by vast numbers of unique personalities.

My conclusion is simple: Being a true fan requires love for your team. Riding the bandwagon does not. Rightly so, a significant difference separates the two, though it may take a trained eye to identify these differences when you are out tailgating on game day. Against the crowd, everyone wearing the team colors may appear to be a fan, but the truth is simple: real fans love their team, fake fans hate the opponent.

Think for a moment about any number of the outings in which you have participated, be it a sporting event, a political rally, a religious conference, an organization meeting, or any scenario for which you have been present where the ultimate goal rested on the advancement of some agenda, be it winning, voting, promoting, raising awareness, evangelizing, and so forth, ad infinitum. Whatever the matter may be, we naturally, when coming together for such a cause, assume that an opposition to our cause exists somewhere among society. In many cases, this opposition is readily identifiable: you can judge it by the colors worn or the flags waived, the words spoken or the rhetoric invoked. However, this process becomes greatly muddied when the people standing on the same side of the aisle as us are not at all satisfied working toward the same agendas.

The most potent example of this in action depicts the conditional fan or supporter. Here are some of his most distinguishing characteristics:

  1. He is the guy that shows up to the game more buzzed than the rest of the crowd around him (except maybe the college frat guys).
  2. He’s usually wearing the colors of the team for whom he’s rooting, though it’s probably one of the only shirts or hats of this team’s which he owns.
  3. He yells more obnoxiously than those around him. He does not know all the words to the fight song—nor does this inhibit his invocation of his own remix. He usually spends most of the game belittling the referees and other team.
  4. His stake in the game is insignificant, if existent, at all.
  5. He HATES the opponents, and all supporters of them.
  6. His cheers for the team he is representing pale in comparison to his degradations of the opponent.
  7. He will not wear the colors the following day, regardless, but he will insult anyone wearing the other team’s.

The descriptors above are meant to paint into your mind a picture of the “fantagonist.” He is around us, everywhere, in every movement, cause or group with which we have stood in support of an idea or purpose. To our demise, his presence or portrayal as a member among our group is more often than not more harmful to our cause than most of the good we seek to advance. He is the bad apple in the bunch. He is the nail picked up by our tire. He does all of this with no idea of the significance of his action upon those individuals who live outside the world of our fandom. He is associated with our cause only on the fringe, but he is contrary to all we hope to promote in our own delighted support. He is the fan that everyone from the other side thinks of, however, when they envision doing battle with us. Among us loyal fans, he is the biggest imposter, a hollow pretense cloaked in team memorabilia, but to everyone on the outside, he’s got the goods.

Even for these fans, though, there exists in play a simple litmus test to identify this wolf in sheep’s clothing. Nudge them softly, though. All you must do is pinpoint the other team this fan would support over your team. Put your finger on these entities which hold more weight to this fraudulent fan, and you will have arrived at an understanding of his true degree of fandom. The more contingencies he possesses, the less a fan he is of your cause, team, or proposition. Made simple, this looks something like, “I support Oklahoma State, so long as they are not playing ________________.” The question can be reframed in any number of ways depending on the issue at hand, but the effect remains the same: People will always prioritize according to their highest preferences.

Too often in my own short life, I have embodied this same behavior. I have found myself rooting against things for all the wrong motives. I have been the loudest, most virulently hostile ringleader, at many points for causes in which, though I may have held an infinitesimal stake, my interest in said stake was birthed from ulterior motives. Most notably among these causes has been my hatred down to the cellular level of illegitimate authority imposed upon me. Until very recently, however, I viewed this hatred of authority through an opaque lens.

From my own seat in the nosebleed section, I was chanting at the top of my lungs for liberty to decimate the other team, and to do so at all costs. Meanwhile, I raged onward as a self-proclaimed fan, continually fueling my buzz and obnoxiously announcing flagrancies toward the political pundits above the cheers of my neighbors for each goal liberty scored. I was wearing a Ron Paul shirt in the 47th row of the stadium waving my picket sign, upon which, boldly emblazoned in bright letters visible to the entire crowed was the word “SECEDE!” This was not love of liberty. This was hatred of the state on display.

I was enraging the fans on both sides of the field, and I was finding little fulfillment in the cause, aside from the sick, twisted arousal I gleaned from starting forest fires of debate among the natives. I was not a true fan of liberty. I was a hate-fueled fraud. Instead of victory solely for victory’s sake, I sought victory for my own team only at the expense of all the other teams.

This hatred was equivalent to rooting for everyone to beat the Yankee’s solely because I was a Bo-Sox fan. Love of any cause, though, is standing tall during the ninth inning of a blowout at Wrigley Field, proudly smiling that I had the chance to watch my team, and making plans to come back again next week to do it all over again.

This epiphany has made all the difference to me, and it has drastically changed both my worldview and valuation of camaraderie. I want to be a Cubs fan of liberty. I want to be the Poke’s fan for freedom. Sadly, my team is not going to win this year. In fact, we might not even win next year, but I heard we are building the program from the ground up, and we have a great recruiting class the next few years.

So, in light of this, I think I’ll pack my poncho and maybe even an extra fleece in case there’s a chance of snow. I’ve even got my tent loaded up so I can camp outside the stadium and snag a front row seat. Hell, I might paint my face. It’s okay that you are cheering against my team, though; I’ll still save you a seat. Anyway, I hope to see you there, I hear it is going to be the matchup of a century.