building skyscrapers

This is not an original or breathtaking idea, but an inspiring one. One I hold close.

Look in the city sky. A tree of man’s creation sprouts. Grown from rubble and the din of an emerging city to the height of a snow-capped mountain. Its design is intricate, lacing numerous materials, laws of physics, and sweat equity. Its purpose, to some, is awe. It is a monolith to the prosperity of a nation- a testament to its bravery. Filling a city, it is a finger on a dozen-digit hand that holds safe the hope of millions.

We all have a skyscraper to build. A small seed in our hearts at a young age that is either nurtured or extinguished. You recognize this dream by your fear of failing it. Or you don’t know it and need a return to the grassy hills of wonder-years. Fear and blindness prevent us from manifesting our greatest ideas. We are coddled and bullied by our own psyche to stop the Work.

But building a skyscraper is a war. It’s constant struggling against the forces of nature. As gravity and winds threaten structural integrity, so self-doubt topples creation.

In the middle of the stormy wind, hold onto this:

The world needs your skyscraper

If you build it, they will come…

restart

Stop thinking of words like ‘restart’ negatively.

Many of us reach troughs or setbacks with the complete opposite mindset to what those who succeed have. Our culture has reinforced this shame in things like moving back in with your parents to save on rent or making a lateral career move to a company more aligned with your values.

Shame isn’t spent only in the big things. Failure in workout regiments, relationships, or spiritual disciplines tend to spiral us to compoundingly negative paradigms.

Why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves back up.

Alfred (Batman Begins)

Foster a paradigm that is resiliently compounding positives.

If we see every fall as a chance to rise stronger and smarter, we grow a rare mindset that is self-affirming and independent (two proven qualities that lead to great success in business and in life). Every tech mogul in Silicon Valley circa 1985 working twenty years later had this mindset to carry them through adversity.

Steve Jobs was abruptly thrust into the spotlight, battered out of the company he built, and brought back as a herald of a new revolution. In the 90’s, the public saw that, “Jobs does nothing in half measures and so seems to reap his rewards in abject failure and stunning successes.”

“Stunning successes” merit “abject failure” at times, and when we don’t enter “overcome mode” we can be torn apart, ripped, broken, and chewed up by our own thinking.

Life is hard. Trials come; failure happens.

It’s always our response that dictates what happens next.

true voice

How can we be certain that our voice is our own? Not the frequency we speak at or the timbre of our voice, but the way we craft sentences and use language.

As a writer, I have clear evidence of my most recent readings affecting my prose. It’s barely conscious in the moment. It doesn’t make for terrible writing. But it’s not my true voice.

Some spiritual and meditative gurus talk of finding our “true selves” through practices of self-reflection. One of the things that interferes with this discovery is the consumption of inputs created by anyone other than ourselves.

Without a true voice, we are more likely to be swayed by popular action or character. We find it easier to sound like the crowd and shape ourselves to what they say. A writer without his voice becomes a parrot of other works, endlessly regurgitating the same style, words or symmetries

“Eschew all diversion.” Seems a bit extreme- necessary at times maybe- but not long-term. This route suggests “dopamine fasts” to cut all connections to stimulating distractions, hence restoring our focus, clarity and ability to sit with ourselves.

The answer to finding our “true voice” lies in our passions. The things we love are the things we cannot be dishonest about. Find that and you’ve found your voice.

The Overstory

The Pulitzer prize-winning novel by Richard Powers has been described as “a fable”. Fable means truth. From the Latin, “that which is told”, and Webster, “a narrative intended to enforce a useful truth.”

A useful truth says we need to stop. Stop and consider. Stop and consider and protect.

Powers intertwines the lives of eight human’s in his narrative, telling their stories over a span of decades of connecting branches. This alone would be a triumph endowed, but in this homo sapien overstory there are swelling roots and towering trunks of a tale of arborescence supporting humanity’s grasp at life.

A literary sentinel stands to secure circulation of a message that has dire need of delivery and, more importantly, action. The reason for Powers’ message:

The world had 6 trillion trees, when people showed up. Half remain. Half again will disappear, in a hundred years.

The effects of the maltreatment of our planet do not have distant ramifications. We see collapse in our ecosystems now in Puerto Rico, California, the Arctics. You can’t be enraged for these crimes without seeing the damage and understanding the root sin in man’s actions.

Still.

The Overstory plants a seed that goes;

a seed that knows.

One that can bring us home,

and restore this world’s broken bone’s.

weekly keystone

Habit is a long-term game. We can be habitual till the weekend, maybe make it past that, but eventually, we forget why our habit exists in the first place.

In order to play a long-term game, we need long-term practices. Every week is a new chance to fail and forget or to act and progress.

Michael Hyatt has greatly popularized (among many other things) the idea of The Ideal Week, a weekly system to plan a perfect week physically, socially, vocationally, and recreationally.

Seeing the big picture can push you to live out your intentions for a week:

  • Remind yourself of quarterly goals and project’s progress.
  • Reread an inspirational piece that has galvanized action in the past.
  • Budget your time and money each week in accordance with your core values.

You do not rise to the level of your goals, you fall to the level of your systems.

James Clear, Atomic Habits

I’ve begun rereading Steven Pressfield’s, The War of Art, at the beginning of each week in sections to remember the reason why I have taken on some of the challenges in my life. Reflection can incite advancement in ways that keeping our heads down on the grind never can.

daily keystone

We have to walk before we can run.

I once had an English professor who began every class forcing a paper and pen into our hands with a prompt and orders not to let the pen leave the paper. For 10 to 15 minutes, 3 days a week, with our coach hovering past tables with encouragement and admonishment, we wrote 500-800 words.

He believed if you can do a thing, everyday, consistently well, at the start of your day, you can do any other thing.

This is the guiding principle behind keystone habits.

I’ve decided to write everyday (Monday-Friday) for the foreseeable future to prove to myself that I have this muscle and can sustain the practice for a long period. My eventual hope is to have a body of work that I can enjoy, gain insights from, and develop a compelling narrative around.

Small steps are how mountains are climbed. Incremental revision is how change is made. Daily habits are how lifestyles are built.

Find the mountain you want to climb, encourage the change you want made. Then build.

bandwidth

What can I do as a college student?

Short answer: anything.

The current generation of college students (namely Millennials wrapping up graduate programs and Gen Z’ers entering them) is one that desires purpose and fulfillment from what they do. Career assessments, personality tests, the Enneagram– The resurgence of meditation and mindfulness as disciplines in our culture scream of a craving for inner quiet and deeper connections. A generation of “trend-breakers” seeks to level the playing field for all and support their communities and the world at large in big ways.

Good news for them- they are currently in the easiest position they will ever be in to make changes like this. With a third of parents saying they will pay for their children to attend college and two thirds receiving scholarships or grants to aid the cost, college becomes a place with overhead covered and finances beginning to be freed.

Most college students will joke about being broke, but this can actually lead to flexibility beyond belief.

I have friends who are creating businesses, buying out storefronts, freelancing, or, like me, writing everyday. They choose to do these things because they are driven to do purposeful work and they have bandwidth.

What can you do?

time to stop

Class 8:00-9:45. Email respondents 9:55-10:30. Haircut 11:00-12:00. Lunch with Riley 12:15-12:59. Arrive at work 1:00-…

“Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.” -Groucho Marx

Do we lose a surplus of this valuable resource by tracking it so religiously?

In 1972, a game-changing piece of technology came into play that shifted the paradigm. Hamilton Watch Company presented the first iteration of Pulsar digital watches to a market that had worn only traditional (analog) clock faces. Before digital, we operated on a “flexible” system that incorporated time measurements like half-past five or quarter-to four rounding minutia. More laid-back business and social expectations characterized a western culture that was not yet defined by attitudes of the hustle, burn-out or “the rat race”.

A speaker I once heard challenged his audience to hold their phones, set their timers to one minute, and close their eyes when they started the timer. He asked us to try and preempt the timer going off by the lowest possible amount- using our internal clocks to get as close to 59.99 seconds as we could.

Nearly every person had undershot the minute by 15-25 seconds, believing a minute to be 20-35% shorter than it actually is.

When we track time, we lose it. When we live life, we gain it.

First, We Make the Beast Beautiful

I think we can all use a little of this right now.

I recently read Sarah Wilson’s enlightening book covering “a new journey through anxiety.” Her premise, aside from giving us a look into an anxiety-brimming mind and life, is based on an old Chinese proverb:

Before you can conquer a beast, you first must make it beautiful.

While practical treatment with medicine and professional treatment should always be considered first in cases of anxiety, depression and bipolar* (a place to call for those working through these struggles is here at government mental health departments), deep introspection and mindset shifts are what Wilson ultimately introduces to fight her battles.

*I retooled her premise with the perspective of mindsets and paradigms that I believe about myself. This is the direction I lead my writing…

What are the things we repeat to ourselves daily- The job market is too competitive to get hired, my work doesn’t compare to what they’re doing, I couldn’t mean enough to them.

What is the thing (emotion, belief, trauma) that “mantra” is rooted in? Fear of failure, self-loathing, self-defeating woe.

This is where Wilson steps in and says, “Yes, I’ve got these conditions (mindsets)… But they are also my superpowers.” She writes about the joy she gets writing letters to her brain, asking it questions about why it does what it does and why it thinks it can control so many of her actions. She befriends the “beast” and walks with it, not against it, to live a more healthy, less panicky life.

There is a meta-purpose to the battles we fight everyday against our minds’s pernicious games. We can conquer the beast and, behind its lies, find beauty. Make that a mantra.


Sarah Wilson, First We Make the Beast Beautiful.

more webbing

The Marvel Cinematic Universe, Lost, those cork-board, crime-solving, mind maps. Some people are obsessed with making everything fit together in a seamlessly holistic universe of multiplicative connections.

I am one of those people.

As long as I have thought about writing on a consistent basis, the idea of writing to create a spider’s web of interconnected thoughts and projects has been central to my planning and drive (CliftonStrengths assessment terms this proclivity, Ideation).

Spiders create a framework for their circular webbed pattern to be laid upon in the same way that builders construct scaffolding to shadow a house being built before any walls go up.

Initially, I wrote long-form, research posts that covered, in-depth, topics to my scheming. With new inspiration (see, a body of work), I have planted the seed of shorter writings that take only a day to fruit.

Using both approaches, I will build a trellis of ideas that can spread and take root.

I want to create something that lasts; something that is a foundation for growth to occur; something that unfurls for a lifetime and reaches parts unknown.