Wrestling with God: My Lifelong Battle with Doubt

I haven’t been confident about what I believe for a long time.

Is God real? Does he love me? Has he spoken to me? Do I have a divine purpose?

It’s a problem I’ve wrestled with for years. The world pressures us to hold strong opinions about everything under the sun. And admitting I don’t know sucks.

But truth be told, when it comes to faith I just flat out do not know.

Longing for God

I want to believe. Honest. There are days when I long for God. To know there’s something bigger out there in the universe. Something divine. Something eternal.

But I’ve never been able to reconcile that longing.

Is it just residue from my church upbringing? Is it my own ambition – reaching for the unreachable? My pride – leading me to believe that I’m worthy of speaking with God? Is it legitimately the Holy Spirit at work in my life?

I see a peace of mind faith could bring. But blind faith just because it makes me feel better? That’s always felt like a cop out.

If I’m going to believe anything – I want to feel the conviction of its truth in my bones. And that’s where I’ve always struggled.

Evidence vs. Experience

Forget the science. I’ve read books. I’ve looked under all the rocks. There are convincing arguments on both sides.

But every argument misses something huge – the kind of validation that can only come through personal experience.

I can’t say with confidence I’ve ever experienced God.

No matter how bad I want to believe it. A skeptic inside challenges every possible encounter.

I know I’m not the first person to ever doubt my faith. Or fully renounce it for a spell. Even the lead singer of one of my teenage favorite bands recently came out with a startling announcement about his faith.

Maybe doubt is something anyone with faith struggles with from time to time. And maybe that’s part of the point, too. Hell, if it were easy, would it be worth it?

Still. Doubts aside, I’m after the truth. And I have to live on this earth either way.

Pascal’s Wager

A long time ago, my boy Blaise Pascal wrestled with the same dilemma. And he came up with a clever coping mechanism.

Pascal made a wager with the universe. I’ll paraphrase for you.

He argued that it makes sense to live like God exists – whether it’s true or not.

If we die to find out we were wrong, well, we sacrificed some material pleasures. Maybe a few good times. And overall, maybe saved ourselves from a lot of immorality.

But if we die to find out we were correct, well, then there’s an infinite gain to be had.

I like this wager. Really. It makes sense to me. Except I take one big issues with it. This wager leaves me wanting more. Here’s why:

I don’t want to live a life based on avoiding consequences. I want a life of abundance – a life in pursuit of purpose and truth. And I don’t want to give up parts of my life I enjoy just to avoid burning in hell some day.

Positive vs. Negative Reinforcement

From a young age most of us are taught good behavior is rewarded and bad behavior is punished.

Real “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” type stuff.

Faith and religion aside – we’re supposed to do good and avoid bad. To follow rules. Keep in line. And do what we’re told. Or else.

But it’s precisely the “or else” that pisses me off. Especially when it comes to faith (as it’s often packaged).

I don’t like fear-based arguments for faith. To me its no different from the life insurance agent who throws your mortality in your face then whispers, “You’d want your family to be taken care of if you died, right?”

It’s predatory. It feels directionally incorrect. And truth be told, if that’s real faith, I’m not interested.

Because here’s why – I know I’m flawed. I will mess up. A lot. And if the expectation for messing up is damnation, then what’s the point? I’m already screwed.

Exploiting fear makes me resent the idea of faith even more. If faith is worth practicing at all then it’s got to be more than fire insurance, yanno? It’s got to be something that offers hope for more – something that offers a promise of rewards far greater than I could ever imagine.

A Game of Endurance

A few notable influences come to mind as I think more about my pursuit of faith.

The first is C.S. Lewis. The way he describes his discovery of faith has stuck with me through the years. His book Surprised By Joy offers what I believe to be an incredible insight. The discovery of a joy so strong, so good, so worthy – that he longed for it.

The second is Kahlil Gibran. In The Prophet he drops a hot take on joy and sorrow. Here it is:

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked…The deeper your sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you contain.”

I remember reading that for the first time and thinking to myself, “Yes! He gets it!” It describes the understanding I’ve developed from my own experience – that joy is a game of endurance. Not suffering for suffering’s sake. But enduring for the sake of unlocking even greater things than we know.

As Paul wrote, “Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.

I’m also reminded of Job – which has forever been one of the most meaningful yet challenging passages of scripture for me.

I’ve always wrestled with the why behind Job’s story. Why would God deliberately allow one of his faithful servants to be set up to fail?

Maybe it was a sign of trust. Maybe it was God’s own display of faith. Or maybe God knew that only through enduring could Job fathom even greater joy than he previously knew. Whatever the case, I’ve always thought if faith is real then I want a faith like Job’s: “Shall we accept good from God and not adversity?”

(For another excellent read on the same notion of endurance, check out Eugene Peterson’s A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.)

The Chief End of Man

Other influences that come to mind – Christian Hedonism, as popularized by John Piper’s book Desiring God. (I’m thankful someone put this book in my hands at age 17 when I walked out of the church and never looked back.)

The idea of Christian Hedonism captures another fascinating point of view when I think about faith – Piper offers one single word change to a common accepted view about faith. And it’s a radical difference.

Traditional View: The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

Christian Hedonism: The chief end of man is to glorify God by enjoying Him forever.

What a stark contrast, right? The traditional view conjures up an image of something entirely undesirable (at least to me)– a bunch of people sitting in church pews listening to sermons and singing hymns for all eternity. In other words, I always interpreted it as a call for self-limitation. That our highest and best exercise of faith is by restraining our impulses – by following rules and sacrificing everything as the cost of admission.

And I’ve always wrestled with that. Because if God is real…and we were made in His image…all entirely unique… then that’s not by accident, right? Maybe our highest and best exercise of faith is by discovering our uniqueness and leaning into it.

My good friend Isaac Morehouse paints it nicely in this post (which was also featured in a chapter of our book, Don’t Do Stuff You Hate):

“Christian’s purpose in life is to take delight in existence, and take delight in God delighting in them for being delighted. God created humans so that he could take pleasure in them, and seeing man take pleasure in life is what most pleased God.

I always associated the idea with a line from the movie Chariots of Fire, where the deeply religious Eric Liddell is chastised by his sister for missing church because he was running. He said, “When I run I feel His pleasure.” Not merely that Liddell was having a pleasurable experience himself, but that he felt the pleasure of God as he ran.”

Hedonism As Life Purpose, Isaac Morehouse

Unfathomable Abundance

There are so many other thoughts I have not catalogued here. But I had to get these words down. I’ve been wrestling with this issue for over a decade – and it’s intensified with age.

I want to know to truth. To understand my purpose. Or at least reach a conclusion I can carry with confidence.

Which brings me full circle. I’ve been reflecting more and more on how to build a life worth living. It’s a topic that constantly pesters me. And the issue of faith has been a constant undertone in my own narrative.

Yes. I’ve been wrestling with all this. It’s an extremely personal issue. But recently I was struck by something new – a thought that has never before occurred to me.

I was standing in my kitchen. Normal day. When a thought came to mind:

“God is not trying to cheat you out of anything.”

It’s so simple it made me laugh. Honestly.

I think my notion of faith has always been at odds with religion. To me, faith has always been about breaking free. An act of liberation. Where religion is about constraint. Following rules. Dutiful sacrifice.

And maybe my views of religion have marred my views on faith. Who knows?

This is a continuous journey. And tough one. But that makes it worth it – regardless what I discover.

To be continued…

How Will You Measure Your Life?

A decade ago, legendary thinker Clayton Christensen delivered a powerful commencement to Harvard Business School grads. His speech came only months after overcoming the same type of cancer that had taken his father’s life — which gave extra pause for reflection.

Sadly, Christensen lost his battle with cancer earlier this year.

But he left behind a rich legacy of insight through writings like The Innovator’s Dilemma, The Prosperity Paradox, and many other best-sellers. Christensen spent the better part of his career asking important questions about how we can build better businesses and more fulfilling lives.

The past months, our team at Praxis has written about big changes impacting the future of education and careers — like ballooning student debt, degree inflationchanges in job requirements, the rise of online learningno-code tools, and more.

Today, I want to share why we believe changes like these matter for young people thinking about their futures. And how the ideas Clayton Christensen left behind offer a roadmap for approaching our lives and careers in light of many major shifts happening in the world.

In his book, How Will You Measure Your Life?, Christensen describes two types of strategies people use in planning: deliberate and emergent.

  • A deliberate strategy, Christensen described as the process of planning for anticipated opportunities. In other words, a deliberate strategy involves planning for a specific outcome. (Like going to college to pursue a particular occupation.)
  • An emergent strategy, on the other hand, continuously evolves as new, unanticipated problems and opportunities arise — more of a “work hard and play it by ear” approach.

Ultimately, Christensen suggested the best way to approach our careers is by following an emergent strategy — continuously experimenting with new opportunities — until we discover a path that both fulfills us and meets our needs.

Christensen’s advice aligns well with our philosophy at Praxis.

As we think about the future, we continue to aim to design an experience that enables young people to approach their futures emergently. By rapidly experimenting with new types of work, gaining context for their skills, and increasing their exposure to different opportunities, Praxis participants expedite their discovery process.

Our world is being reshaped rapidly. Computing power continues to expand exponentially. The growth of data continues to climb. Starting a business is becoming ever more affordable. Technological shifts are creating, eliminating, and changing our jobs (and how we do them) at an unprecedented rate.

These changes have dramatically increased the opportunity cost of waiting to gain experience in the real world (especially if waiting also involves accumulating debt). And in many cases, delaying experience means gaining theoretical knowledge or skills that may no longer be relevant once you enter the real world.

At Praxis, we recognize the pressure many young people feel to have their entire lives planned out before they get started. And we want to change the narrative.

We believe the most effective way to discover the kind of work that makes you come alive is by running experiments in the real world — until things click. But until then, don’t stress about having it all figured out.

Christensen said, “What’s important is to get out there and try stuff until you learn where your talents, interests, and priorities begin to pay off. When you find out what really works for you, then it’s time to flip from an emergent strategy to a deliberate one.”

If you’re still in school or early in your career and feel the pressure to have it all figured out, take a breath. Everything will be just fine. And if you want help coming up with a strategy — don’t hesitate to reach out.

Onward.

Mitchell


This post was originally published in our Praxis weekly newsletter, and has also appeared on the Medium publication: On Breaking The Mold.

What It Means To Build A Legendary Brand

I am by no means a seasoned marketer.

I’ve never built a billion dollar business, nor orchestrated an IPO roadshow campaign. I have not led a major brand overhaul or released multiple product lines. No one has ever invited me to speak about marketing on their podcast or at their conferences.

But none of that makes me under-qualified to speak at length about my experiences with legendary marketing, lastings brands, and world-changing products.

Before I was ever a marketer, I was a consumer. And a legendary consumer I have always been.

When I encounter a brand that makes me feel like a different version – an aspirational version – of myself, I latch onto it. I promote it. I tell everyone I know about it. I preach its gospel from the mountain tops.

Brands that do this so-so occasionally convince me to part with a few dollars. But the ones that do it in a legendary way become part of my own personal brand story arc. That story arc makes up the fabric of who I say I am.

My Logo-Bar Identity

Like a NASCAR driver, my personal brand bears a tapestry of logos, slogans, and points of view that help define and describe who I am as a person. Powerful brand’s logos offer symbolism for explaining my identity to others in ways words often cannot.

The most effective brands deliver more than products into the world. They shape the backdrop of many stories of my life. In many cases, these brands affect nostalgia of former, better days. In other cases, they lay a path of possibility for who I’d like to become.

But here’s a secret I’ve learned as a consumer that lays the foundation of my core belief a marketer:

The best brands don’t sell products. They reveal a version of ourselves who we aspire to be.

Brands That Describe Me

So many brands inspire me. But the ones I really love act as a proxy for one aspect of my personality or another. Every brand that achieves some aspect of this does so because of the story I associate with the brand – and what that story means to my identity.

Consider some brand examples and the stories that surround them for me:

Amazon

What many people don’t know about Jeff Bezos is that prior to selling books on the internet, he worked as a successful quant on Wall Street in at a well-respected firm. When Jeff decided to leave, people laughed at him. They told him all the reasons it wouldn’t work. Even after he proved them wrong, when set his targets on other industries, experts still scoffed. They told Jeff to stay in his lane. Incumbents tried to destroy his company. Regulators attempted to interfere. And analysts underrated stock. Still, Amazon persisted, kept innovating, and continued beating prices. When some punk asshole tried to blackmail Bezos, he rose above it. Through every trial, Jeff Bezos proves he remains committed to the customer and to building something lasting. Amazon provides the de facto example of how I think business should be done.

Apple

Steve Jobs was not always the legendary innovator or product and design genius many revere him as. Long before the first iPhone or app, many found Steve to be a disagreeable asshole. But Steve did not care – he saw something different, something that would change everything. Steve believed every encounter with the brand that became Apple deserved to be special and human. He did not believe in following the mainstream. He believed in creating a new way of doing things, and in giving access to world-class technological experiences to a class of people the incumbents disregarded. Steve believed in bring revolutionary ideas and change to the world by empowering the individual. While everyone else focused on serving the business class, Steve brought personal computing – and free, democratized information access – to the masses. His legacy empowers BILLIONS of people to this day.

Budweiser

I drank my first beer at age 13 (If you’re reading this, sorry, mom). Alcohol was not allowed in my house growing up, so sneaking beers served as an act of rebellion at that time in my life. When my brother would leave his ice chest in his truck bed after trips to the lake during summers, I used to pilfer a few beers and share them with my friends. He and his friends drank Budweiser and Bud Light. The first drink out of every Bud Light takes me back to a specific time and place in my life of skirting rules and seeking thrills. Of being too big for my britches and wishing to be as cool as one of my biggest, earliest role models: my older brother. No craft beer can recreate the era of my life and sentimental, freedom-seeking experiences that are owned by Budweiser.

Levi’s

We didn’t have money growing up. Designer jeans were, as my mother called them, ‘a want, not a need.’ My dad wore jeans. But not just any jeans. Dad wore Levi’s. I remember curiously perusing through stacks of various-colored denim in my Dad’s closet as a kid. I marveled at the dark blues and the light, frayed almost-white fabric. I realized in time that my Dad viewed jeans as an investment. As a contractor, these were essentially part of his uniform. And as someone whose job requires trust, my Dad has always looked the part: jeans, a belt, a collared shirt tucked in, and work boots. When I got older, Mom outfitted me with Levi’s. I wore the hell out of them until years later when I could afford to buy designer jeans. And buy designer jeans I did. But here’s what I found, I’ve rarely found a pair of designer jeans that ‘fit’ me right. And I’m not just talking about the way the cuff breaks at the heel or the breathing room in the crotch. The jeans didn’t fit me because they felt impractical, overpriced, like a waste of money, and rarely lasted a justifiable amount of time considering the cost. As a brand, Levi’s has always dominated my denim market share –  both as a provider of a reliable, comfortable option, and a brand whose identity represents values of practicality and reliability that equal my own.

(PS – your boy here likes to rock those 501s and 505s)

Nike

Before we wore “Just Do It” emblazoned on shirts, or shoes ever had shox, Phil Knight labored for decades to bring his vision for a new brand of shoes to life. What he achieved likely outpaced his wildest dreams. Nike has since become a powerhouse brand, both provocative and empowering. It’s a brand for athletes, for dreamers, for those committed to never give up. And it’s the first brand of basketball shoes I remember putting on my feet when I took the hardwood for the very first time. Nike is a reflection to the years I spent waking up at 5 am to get a two-hour workout in before school. It’s the thousands of suicides, dribbling and shooting drills busting my ass to earn a spot on the Varsity team. It’s the first jersey with my number on it. It’s the sound of the swishing net when I made a winning shot, and the sound of the buzzer when we came up short. Today, it’s the comfortable brand I turn to leisure and workout wear – because when I wear Nike it reminds me of a hard-working, focused, relentless version of myself I still want to be.

What It Means For Marketers

Most marketers obsess over the latest tools. They scurry around like coveys of quail chasing “best practices” and Gartner magic quadrants. Seasoned- and new- marketers alike burn cash and demo products like schizophrenic maniacs trying to discover the latest growth-hack silver bullet to magically lift their business into the marketing stratosphere.

But what most marketers completely miss is how what they create makes people feel.

From content, to product, to company, most marketer overlook the experience of their customers at each interaction with their brands. And when this happens, their businesses fail to create lasting relationships with their customers.

As legendary CMO and godfather of category design Christopher Lochhead puts it:

“The most exciting companies create. They give us new ways of living, thinking, or doing business, many times solving a problem we didn’t know we had – or a problem we didn’t pay attention to because we never thought there was another way.”

The marketers (and companies) who succeed at this don’t just capture a big share of the market, they create a lasting legacy customers latch on to. Those experiences go on to shape more than their customers’ opinions of the brand. The most legendary brands give their customers a way to make a powerful statement of identity to their peers and the world at large.

And it doesn’t take a marketer to recognize that is a beautiful thing.

 

 

 

Should You Stay or Should You Go?

Imagine yourself at the bottom of a set of stairs. This is you at the beginning of your career.

Your ideal career scenario stands at the top of the staircase.

For me, it’s the freedom to create a life on my own terms and a reputation strong enough to unlock the opportunities I aspire for.

The stairs represent the challenges and steps you must take to get there.

Each step gets you closer to your goal. Each step unlocks a little more of what you’re after.

The idea of the “company man” – where you work the duration of your professional life at one corporation – has long timed out. Today, the average tenure has dropped significantly – roughly 4.2 years.

The cost of information has dropped significantly, too. Meaning, it’s much easier to discover new opportunities, for companies to learn about you, or for you to start your own business – even if that’s as a freelance service provider.

Leverage

This means you have more leverage today as an individual than your parents or grandparents had.

You’re not beholden to one organization. The more skills you have and the stronger the reputation you have at signaling those skills, the more leverage you have.

Your journey isn’t limited to climbing one corporate ladder. It also means you’re not limited to climbing steps one at a time.

In the world we live in, focus on doing good work and the reputation you build will open opportunities for you.

Many of the best opportunities aren’t things you apply for – but the types of things that allow you to skips steps and get closer to your end goals.

Don’t worry about whether you’re staying at a company too long or moving around too quickly. Instead focus on

  • Adding value where you’re at however long you’re there.
  • Learning and engaging in meaningful work.
  • Refining your option set – by removing or avoiding the kinds of work you hate.
  • Documenting your work and learning – by building a digital portfolio or body of work.
  • Creating lasting relationships with people who push you to be better.

Your career is a discovery process. Go out and do what you need to do to discover and build a career and life that brings you fulfillment.

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*This post was originally published on Quora in response to the question Is staying at one organization for a long time good or bad for one’s career? Why? It’s received over 110,000 views in the past month.

The Ugly Truth About Burnout

The lights were off. It’s how I liked to work.

A faint glow from two 27” monitors and a MacBook Pro reflected off my glasses. Beneath my hoodie, the steady mind-numbing pulse of screamo bass outpaced the tap-tap-tapping from my keyboard.

I forgot how long I’d been there. I’d woken up around 4:30 am and I’d be there well until the evening hours.

Half a dozen years into my career, this was a typical day.

At least, until the day I had my first major health scare…

I stacked 80–100 hour work weeks regularly. No one made me. There was no formal “work hours” policy. Success was about results. But in the breakneck pace of a hyper growth company, there is never a shortage of problems or projects to get lost in.

That kind of environment is addicting, dangerous even. There’s an almost pornographic appeal to putting in long hours. Even when you tell yourself you’re having fun – which I was – eventually your faculties erode. The warning voice of conscience “you’re overdoing it” fades the longer you allow workaholism to prevail.

It doesn’t have to be this way. And probably it shouldn’t be. But it’s a picture of what life had become for me.

I ate like sh*t. Burgers. Pizza. Tacos. Fast food.

I rarely exercised anymore. Unless switching from standing to sitting or pacing on calls counts.

Not to mention the excessive intake – coffee to kickstart the day and alcohol to shut the mind off most nights.

Health took a back seat to work – both mental and physical health.

Then one day it went too far.

Not unlike any day, I rose early and slammed several coffees before anyone else made it to the office. But I remember it was a particularly stressful day.

That’s what set it into motion, I told myself: the stress.

It started as a small ache in my side. It slowly intensified through the morning. By 11 am, I was doubled over in pain, clutching my left side.

By 11:30, my entire chest felt tight and I was gasping to breath. Fearing the worst, I called for help.

I spent the rest of the day in the emergency room, doctors running tests. Fortunately, they determined it was not a heart issue. But it was clear my lifestyle had created the conditions for this scare.

Not even 30 years of age, my extremist workaholic lifestyle finally reared it’s ugly head…

When a doctor warns you that your work lifestyle is putting your life at risk, it’s sort of a wake up call that’s hard to ignore.

I felt the only real choice I had was to reevaluate everything.

Starting with my diet, exercise, and sleep routines – like cutting back from 12+ cups of coffee per day to 1–2 max, and prioritizing healthy eating. Then prioritizing regular exercise and 8 hours of sleep. These all made big impacts quick.

But they weren’t sustainable alone. I had to set boundaries and get mentally fit, too.

It was not easy.

I began weekly counseling and engaged with my boss. This was no way to live. I needed help and accountability.

Over the subsequent year, I experimented. I tried a number of different schedules and routines. I iterated often.

I fought a guilt trap – where working less made me feel paranoid, or like I was underperforming. It took consciously combatting this to overcome it.

The withdrawal from working aggressive hours also sent me into a minor state of depression. Because I had centered my life around my work, it was extremely difficult to begin finding meaning in other areas of my life again. But I made myself explore things outside of work. Eventually, this worked, too.

The countless experiments ultimately resulted in my removing a bunch of bad habits and replacing them with intentional decisions.

In time, I discovered how much power I had in deliberately designing my life – where I could find fulfillment in and out of work and everything else.

I don’t regret a single hour I put into the work I did – that ultimately pushed me to burnout. I truly loved my work. Instead, I just wish I’d have realized how important it is to have more than just work going.

The surest way to burnout is by not allowing room for any other meaningful activities in your life.

It happened to me. May you be wiser.

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*This post was originally published on Quora in response to the question What are some tips for avoiding burnout in a highly stressful career?

Cherish the Imperfections

Can you imagine how stale life would be if everything were perfect?

The first pancake off the skillet always cooks completely through and every kernel of popcorn in the bag all pops perfectly.

But what if all those subtle imperfections in the world around us disappeared?

Today I’m grateful for all the things in life that aren’t perfect.

For the squeaky wheels. The kid screaming in the movie theatre. The gridlock traffic.

All these things form the beautiful tapestry that is the background of our lives. They grant us opportunities to improve both ourselves and the world around us. Opportunities to become a better version of ourselves – by achieving greatness or by learning humility.

Imperfections shape us, and in some way may always serves as a sentimental reminder of how far we’ve come, and how much further yet we have to go.

 

Don’t Fix What’s Not Broken

Paper straws suck. So do paper grocery sacks. I’ll take plastic any day.

Low flow toilets, faucets, and shower heads don’t work – give me the full-blown water pressure.

I also find the protective plastic outlets to be a real pain in the ass.

Recycling is stupid and exhausts more energy than it conserves. Not to mention the self-righteous moral high ground people pretend it endows them with also harms the environment even more.

Your rescue dog is an ugly mutt – and no I don’t want to donate to save homeless pets when I buy dog food for my purebred Bernese Mountain Dog.

Cows are for eating. If you want a properly cooked steak, tell the waiter to knock it’s horns off, wipe it’s ass and send it in here. Or better yet, get a propane grill and do it yourself.

Most things don’t need fixed. We don’t need more bans. People do stupid shit to feel good about themselves.

Everyday Superpowers

A friend of mine once slept in his car for three months.

He moved across the country for a girl. A few months later, they broke up.

So he needed a new plan, fast.

He had just accepted a job that was a bit out of his league, and the thought of declining because he couldn’t afford the cost of living in the city embarrassed him.

Student loans and credit card debt had piled up – he didn’t have free cashflow to afford an apartment.

So he found a parking garage.

His first night, he woke up at 3:30 am in a cold sweat. He peeked out the window from his reclined seat to find a cop parked in the spot next to him. He knew if his cover was blown, he could be arrested. So he laid there – frozen.

In time, he planned his day to a tee. He set his alarm to avoid security guards. He got a gym membership so he could bathe. It forced him to show up to the office early and leave late.

Over the three months, he paid off over $15k of debt and developed a remarkable reputation among his co-workers. Not to mention he earned a great story.

When I think about his story, I’m inspired by the lengths he went to make his situation work. He drew a bad hand – and bluffed it into winning the pot.

He didn’t win the lottery or have a miracle fall out of the sky. But he leveraged his will as a superpower.

His story makes me wonder, maybe superpowers don’t have to be the stuff of myth. What if tough situations are opportunities to develop them.

 

*This post originally appeared in my weekly Crash Newsletter earlier today – where I share inspiration, and the week’s best content on careers, personal growth, and how to get ahead. If you’re interest in learning more, sign up here!

Exploring as Catharsis

Do you ever get the urge to explore something new? I do – often.

Something about venturing out into the unknown acts as a release. Even in the small detours – like a new route home from work, or a new path on an afternoon walk.

I think exposure to new environments expands our minds, even subtle changes. Disparities from routine offer fresh perspectives.

The explorations don’t have to be geographic, either. Consider a few modest changes with significant benefits:

  • Rearranging furniture
  • Swapping light bulbs with different hues
  • Working remotely or from a coffee shop, instead of the office
  • Using noise-cancelling headphones versus the usual ear buds (cough *Airpods* cough)
  • Changing up your playlist
  • Alternating to standing from sitting

All of these small steps give me a major release – not just in reduction of stress, but in a more significant way. New experiments yield new glimpses of joy. It’s almost like each new experience unlocks one more small secret to the universe.

Maybe it seems silly. But it works for me.

Against Monotony

We live in a great big world. How much of it have you experienced? I try to ask myself that from time to time. Especially when I find myself stuck in a routine that’s begun to produce diminishing returns.

A quick change of pace can go a long way. Major alterations go even further.

The real secret is not in changing for change’s sake – there is value to be had from routine – but in changing to expand your point of view.

If you’re like me, doing the same thing over and over again eventually leads to a wall that impedes progress. Mixing things up combats against that.

Experience the Orange

A decade or so ago at a leadership training seminar, the speaker gave everybody an orange. He set the clock for two minutes. The only instructions he gave were “to experience the orange.” For two minutes, everybody observantly peeled back the layers of the orange – intently cataloging every nuance.

Suddenly I held more than some orange table fruit.

Again, it seems silly. But I still remember it.

Sometimes approaching things in a new light, gives you an entire new perspective. If you’re down and out or feel like inspiration is lacking, maybe it’s time for your to experience the orange.

Go explore something new. Or go explore something familiar in a new light. There may be some new secret waiting for you to uncover it.

 

 

Your Student Debt Isn’t Fair

Get good grades. You must!

Why?

To get into a good college, of course!

What happens if I get into a good college?

You’ll be able to get a good job, naturally!

What if I don’t want to go to college? Isn’t there another way?

That’s nonsense! College is the way.

Sound familiar?

A Narrative Trap

College owns the narrative. For so long college has been the de facto next step, people take for granted there are other options.

It’s so embedded in our social paradigm it’s become an almost expected conversation topic. If you’re under 25, chances are somebody’s going to ask about it – and not even who you’d expect.

Where are you planning to go to college?

What are you studying?

Where did you go to college?

What are you going do after college?

But you know who’s not asking – employers.

That’s right. Fewer employers care each day. Instead of a degree, they want to know you have skills, the ability to show up, and the willingness to dive in and work hard.

Still, the barrage of questions from your parents, friends, relatives, and guidance counselor can make it feel like your option set includes college or bust.

Information Costs

The cost of all information – except bad information – is rapidly on the decline. Today, you carry around more knowledge in your pocket than the combined intellect of every previous generation.

Whatever you want to learn, you can access with the proper Google search. In this age, asking good questions is actually a more valuable skill than going to college.

The decrease in cost of information also means knowledge is no longer esoteric in nature. To paraphrase wise words from my good friend T.K. Coleman – “The age of the school of mystery is over.”

You don’t have to pay some institution for secret information that unlocks some parallel universe where you’re successful. Why would you pay for what you can access cheaper, faster, and more personalized to your goals?

Today, you can design the universe of your own success deliberately and at a low-cost.

Choose Social Debt, Not Student Debt

If you’re dying to go into debt at a young age, then go into social capital debt. Go ask people for advice. Offer to buy them a coffee or lunch. Then ask all your burning questions about life and take notes. (Pro Tip: always send a handwritten thank you note after)

If you have ambitions about a particular type of role, then seek an expert out. Be respectful of their time and come up with good questions. But don’t be afraid to approach them.

No one starts out with all the answers. Everyone starts somewhere.

Even if you’re contemplating college, do yourself a favor and do some due diligence on what opportunities might interest you.

After you’ve done your research, be honest with yourself: is college the best way to get to where you’re trying to go?

If it is, then power to you. If not, then don’t put up a bunch of hurdles for your future. Serious.

It may seem like a great idea now, but when you graduate and the jobs in the industry you thought you wanted to go into have disappeared, and you’re making $35k per year…$350 per month in student loan payments becomes A LOT OF MONEY FAST.

It’s Your Story

The world wants you to believe you need college to live a successful story. But that narrative is bullshit.

Your story isn’t dependent on some third-party riding in with a silver bullet to save the day.

It’s not fair and it’s not honest to say your success depends on some other institution.  It doesn’t.

Your success depends on your makeup.

Are you willing to do the hard things?

Can you get up early, show up on time, and stay late?

Will you give up some nights and weekends to be successful?

In a world where everyone else walks one way, take hold of the advantage of going a different direction.

You owe it to yourself to at least consider your options first.