2016: Reflecting on 2015 For A Better New Year

Well, this is indeed a new year. Well, not technically. For the earth, yes, but for you, it will be another Thursday night. Actually, this new years will pry be a disappointment like most New Years. I am not a pessimist I am just stating the fact that New Year’s is always better in your head.

Think about it, technically a new year would be when you were born. Because the day you were born is the first day you were aware of time and existence. Therefore, your birthday should be your New Years!

The reason why I am bringing this up is because as we head in 2016 I want to try and change my prerogative on the world and start to take more control over my life. For far too long I have lived in a passive consumer role in my life and not taking charge. I have let others dictate my decisions, my interests, and my routines. I have not been responsible for a lot of things in my life. As such, I have gone with the flow and never really made any strides. Am I a better person than I was last year? Sure. could I be an even better person had I “chosen myself” versus just being ambient and letting the world decide my fate? Yes.

I have been reading an insane amount of books this year. Mostly non-fiction and entrepreneur based, and mostly on how to take control of my life. There have been two major things that I have noticed come up from all of this reading:

  1. Surround yourself with like-minded people that will challenge your growth and support you becoming the best version of you
  2. Choose yourself and pursue things that will make you happy and remove or delegate things that don’t. That way no energy is wasted on frustration, complaining or failing.

Looking back on 2015 and reading through my journal I have found myself to be most involved in self-thought and complaining. Complaining about work my love life, my endeavors, and my tribulations. Although I do have some of my accomplishments listed, most of the time was spent in a solitary and negative place. When I think about what I did vs. what I could have been I realize that this negative and solitary process I went through in 2015 has what held me from reaching that next level. It kept me in a state of ambivalence and complacency. Even though I had read all of these books of both Superstar business people and hard working business acumen, I never really took those lessons to heart and turned those lessons into “actionable content.”

Looking forward to 2016

For the new year, I know that my number one goal I have is to start taking action on the reflections and successes that I have had in 2015. Instead of just letting things be one time events, I want to build upon the strengths that I have actively achieved. To do this is going to take something more of me than I have ever done. Something that has been so difficult. Something that I never in a million years understood or recognized the importance of.

I need to ask for help

It was widely popularized with our generation of in-betweeners (Gen X and Gen Y) that to flesh out our own path and success we needed to go at it alone. We popularized lone warriors and Ronin’s who carved out their own path with little forethought but tons of action risking family and friends for the sake of finding their true calling. All of their success came from hard work and learning everything themselves.

Or so I believed.

My personal values were built upon this precipice of lone warriors out there fighting the good fight. Protecting the innocent and rolling and out of people’s lives. The Doctor, The Man With No Name, Han Solo, Peter Venkman, Wolverine, Ned from Pushing Daisies, all of these characters I saw as strong men archetypes who knew everything and could handle the struggle alone.

As I grow older and not that much wiser, I know that I am starting to learn the difference between these Archetypes and real heroes. I am starting to discern that what makes these characters great is not their chevre or their tenacity but it’s more the people that they surround themselves with. For all of the great characters out there, there was always someone there with them. Someone supporting them, giving them advice and pushing them to be better.

I had always misunderstood what it meant to be the best you can be. It is not just you actively pushing for that, but it’s also having support there to push you and assist you when you couldn’t do it yourself.

Rule of 33%

There has been a “thing” floating around for a while now in the blogosphere called the rule of 33%. IT basically states that 33% of your time should be spent with somebody below you that you can teach, somebody at the same level as you that you can process with, and somebody above you that you can learn from.

Essentially by splitting up your time like this, you can process things both by learning and teaching as well as see life from multiple perspectives. Instead of just going at it alone and getting caught in your own thoughts you can become inspired by those above you and feel empowered by helping those move up.

The true definition of Happiness in 2015 is feeling valued

I want 2016 the year to be where I finally feel valued. Yes valued by other people for my  contributions, but more importantly valued for  myself. I want to be able to feel like the things I am doing during the day make me feel inspired, alive, and that I am contributing to my own personal well being. I want everything I do to be a “hell yeah” instead of a “meh.” I want to be able to direct my direction in life. To move  forward and continually improve on the actions that I take.

2016 is going to be a different year for me. Going into this fake passage of time I have come to learn and try to take everything that I have learned from the last year to improve and be better.
2016 is the year I Choose Myself and be the James that I want to be. Not the James that the world is carving out to be me.  

With trepidation and excitement I look forward to Star Wars on Friday

Agh, I never thought this day would come. Okay, so I thought this day would come, but let’s be real here. Its actually happening! A new Star Wars movie is coming out and I could not be more excited! From that first major chord in the Star Wars opening theme to the hum of the lightsaber first igniting I mean you can not feel a sense of awe and wonder like you did as a child.

http://mrhipp.tumblr.com/image/116908174063

Although I have a slight fear about the movie sucking (due to ostensibly high expectations that not even God at this point could reach) I am still going in with hope. JJ Abrams has been very good about holding the best secrets close to his chest till the reveal. From everything that we have seen come out in the trailers it has been little new and all old. He is pushing our nostalgia buttons right where he needs to to get us to fall in love with Star Wars again. And I feel he was reluctant enough to take the mantle to know he has to create an amazing story to move the Universe forward.

Hey remember the Millenium Falcon? Well it’s here! Lightsabers? The fucking glow! Hey, you want to see stormtroopers, x-wings, and the desert heroes journey again? Well here you go, its Star Wars silly!

Part of me applauds Mr. Abrams for the work that he has put into this movie. Instead of just trying to make something “new” and “unique” he is pandering to the masses of fanboys foaming at the mouth and eagerly pawning over any little snips of information that come out. But the other part of me worries that he may push that line of nostalgia ala Terminator Genisys or Jurassic World. Both movies, when left to stand to their own devices, failed miserably because the emphasis was on nostalgia and less on telling a quality story.

Hey remember that great scene in Jurrasic Park with the kitchen and jello? It’s right there! Hey, do you remember the really cool terminator that turned into liquid silver? He’s gonna fucking punch Arnold! Like in the second movie! Remember that? It’s cool if you don’t this is almost a shot for shot remake.

You see where I am going with this?

What fascinates me and is different about this new Star Wars movie i  that with those other nostalgia movies that have come out this year, there wasn’t as much expectation for success or so much pressure put on them to perform like Star Wars. Sure there are fans of Terminator and Jurassic Park. Hell, even the new TMNT movies were a throwback, but they don’t have the dedication and mass following like Star Wars.

I think a lot of that comes from what Star Wars means to so many. Unlike many other cliche’d stories Star Wars hits every fanboys buttons. Cowboy Westerns, Smugglers/Pirates, Samurai, Space, Damsels in Distress, Swords, Knights, Cops, and revolutionaries, Star Wars is this perfect amalgamation of all fandoms put into one. It balances so many genres so well into a fully cohesive story that actually makes some sense. The movies and even the extended universe have fully fleshed out a whole universe that everyone can feel like they are a part of. Instead of the focus being on the one destined hero, Star Wars made everyone feel like they had potential, like everyone had an integral part to play in the story.

And that for me is what makes Star Wars so special. Instead of it just being a story about the “destined” one to fix everything and everyone lives happily ever after, Star Wars empowered anybody with the chance to do something good. Han Solo, classic example, was a smuggler who was able to become the hero of the story. Wedge Antilles, went on to lead his own Squadron on missions that impacted the universe. Hell, even Jar Jar Binks went on to become a Senator and lead his world into a time of political prosperity!

I remember finding Star Wars when I was a kid. I remember watching these movies and feeling inspired. I remember thinking about all of the lightsaber fights I had and how many times I wished with my heart of hearts I would be able to one day fly an A-Wing. I remember that when I watch Star Wars, I have hope. Hope in myself and hope in creating beautiful stories in my own writing and in real life.

Star Wars to this day is one of my biggest influences in life and lately I feel like I have been letting it down. But hopefully, the Force willing, JJ Abrams has done the fans proud and created a beautiful movie that builds off of what we love and expands the story to inspire a new generation of heroes.

Stretching/Straining Creative Muscles

There is this really stupid scene in Girls where Lena Dunham is bitching about her job at GQ. She is sitting there freaking out that her working at a very affluent advertorial job has somehow inhibited her creative spirit. That having a nice paycheck, free food, and other amenities is killing her passion and wasting her talent as a “voice of her generation.” In fact, she goes as far to quit, TWICE, to better pursue her passions and non-stifled creative process. At the end of the episode, when she has finally resolved to try and do both the sell out writing gig and creative writing at home, we see her passed out over her computer with a blank page open.

When I watched this episode I wholeheartedly agreed with Salon’s article of the episode and thought that this was Ms. Dunham’s best look at the reality of trying to make it as a creative writer. Even more so trying to make it as a creative person in a world full of hot models, free bagels, and the unending reality of growing up. It was really interesting to see through Lena’s eyes this thin veil that was put over all of her coworkers eyes that somehow this job is given them that (paycheck) creative outlet to satiate their needs. Instead of her character enjoying the amenities and disregarding that little itch everyone feels when their creative spirit starts to die, we see in an over dramatization of the rebellious nature one feels when they realize they are being trapped in a cage. Although it was played up for humor, I find myself constantly thinking about that episode and finding myself wishing I could be as reckless and irresponsible as Hannah! Maybe not leaving GQ, but being able to actively speak up when I feel that the world is not aligning with the support of my passions.

When sitting down and finally trying to put myself into that creative zone after work sometimes, actually most times, I feel like Hannah at the end of that episode. The day has completely drained all reserve creative capacities. Instead of sitting down to create the “next great american novel” or hell, even writing down 10 ideas, I find myself sitting in front of the boob tube and just recuperating all of that burnt energy at work.

Work and what you do is supposed to be fulfilling. And sometimes it is, but what I really connected with in this story line for Hannah, was the fact that even doing something that you feel is socially defined as success can and will usually not match up with your personal ethos. No matter the luxuries, the benefits, or the salary, if it doesn’t match up with your goals in life, it is not a good match. And instead of creating the opportunity to have an emotional or creative outlet, so much of your energy is wasted on trying to force a good thing to be the right thing.

A good thing to the RIGHT thing.

Much of what happens in life is this pervasive march forward to death. We are constantly reminded that we are moving to in a straight direction with finite time to the same conclusion. And although we talk about living every moment like its your last, we are actually living a life of complacency and acceptance. As we continue our straight line, we start to compromise who we are and want to be to accept the system is our life. We slowly start to accept the benefits and amenities we receive as fair compensation for our sacrifice of personal growth and value. We trick ourselves into positions that on paper say we are helping people but ultimately don’t give us any meaning. We create a system of acceptance over appreciation of the dynamic.

As I am trying better to stretch my creative muscles and my writing muscles I seem to always find myself staring at a blank page with little to say because I don’t have the energy to put action into my words. But when I am writing I feel alive. Instead of that buzz of life I feel from pursuing my creative endeavors, I have chosen to give my energy to something that leaves me unfulfilled. And in doing so I have created a system of compromise and uneasiness because I wasn’t strong (or naive) enough like Hannah to see through that veil. I am allowing that itch to become normal and submissive to the assumptions that we all make of life instead of forging my own meaningful and rewarding experiences in life.

Ultimately, what I need to remember as I try to refocus my energies into my passions and my projects is that when choosing myself I have to address what I want out of life and can not let myself get disillusioned. Even if I have a title or job description that says I am helping people, in my heart I know I am not helping anyone. That my world is becoming smaller and smaller. That my routines are becoming less engaging and more like watching a clock tick down. I have to be able to be strong enough to let go of things that are not giving me that feedback and energy and ultimately pushing me forward to find what I consider  rewarding in life, regardless of financial incentives or benefits. Now I can’t be idealistic and expect my parents to pay for everything, but when we talk about “taking responsibility” I have to be able to take responsibility for myself and what I want success to be.

If I feel that at the end of the day I am burned out with little less than nothing to give to what makes me want to live, well then, I have my energy misappropriated and need to get that back. I need to be willing to take drastic measures, improve my life, and learn to walk away and let go of the titles, the benefits, and the projects that are vexing and instead redistribute that energy into what I consider “rewarding”

 

Black Friday Posthumous Turkey Day Reflections

Yesterday, like on every Turkey Day, I will go for a long run before I head over to eat like a glutton of pain and misery. It’s my way of justifying eating a whole turkey and a half by myself. Usually I think an 8 mile run makes up for what I am about to do to my poor body. I don’t know how many of you think that a mile equates to half of a bottle of whiskey drinking justification, but if so, we are totally booze brothers.

Anyways, back to running. Over the last 6 years or so, for some reason I have taken to running on special events and holidays. Every Christmas day, Birthday, Halloween, Arbor Day, what have you, I always seem to catch myself pounding the pavement and running usually farther than I regularly would.

I don’t know if you have felt it before but there is something about the cadence of my runs that helps me relax and focus. The step, step, step. The breathing in unison with each foot striking the ground, the feeling of air rushing into my lungs. The white noise that comes with the outside world. Running for me is a very therapeutic experience. Not just because of the “runners high” bullshit you see everywhere on things like Instagram, but because it seems that running is one of the few places in my life I can let go of everything. I am a very high strung person and people pleaser so I am continually feeling pressure and guilt for not doing everything I am supposed to be doing. I constantly feel like my time could be used more appropriately. Even when I am at work, or with friends, or even watching TV, I am never doing enough. There is always something better.

Sorry, tirade of self-pity that hopefully will get people to read my post and like it for my own selfish ego-tistical reasons.

When I run, I really open up my mind and take in the world. I really give myself time to reflect, on an almost spiritual level, about the holiday and momentous splendor this day will bring to me. Many people give thanks with their families and friends. I give thanks with the cadence of my feet hitting the ground and letting the world move around me. I use my run to let go and take the time in my life to appreciate who or what I have around me. Running, because you can’t do anything else while sprinting, allows me to focus on one thing rather than feeling pulled to do a million other tings. I have given myself permission to only focus on running when I do.

Yesterday’s run was more so special than to me than other turkey day runs in the past. Yesterday snow was falling, there was no one out, and the weather was cold enough to give a good burn to your lungs. As I was running,I watched as the snow come down making the world look like a white landscape. As I looked in the distance I saw no cars and no people just myself and the snow. There was a comforting silence as little white particles drifted all around. Not a soul in sight. The time to reflect and think about what I was grateful for uninterrupted by distractions and pressure to do better. As I came up to one of my favorite hills I slowed down to a stop to look over and see this beautiful winter wonderland. I saw all of this white, all of this peace, all of this tranquility.

And I cried.

I balled. I just fell to my knees and became a blubbering mess. The world around me was frozen and still. And for the first time in a long time I was able to not jump from project to project. I was able to live in that exact moment and let all my emotions I had been holding in or avoiding to come out all at once. I allowed myself to feel alive and experience something for myself and myself alone. That cry was not one of sadness but a reaffirmation of my life and doing something for myself. It was tears of realizing that in this lonely world where it is constantly moving and we feel like we have to be a part of it, there is a stillness. And in that stillness is where we find ourselves. Where we are not selfish but we are living for ourselves. We are experiencing life for no one but our own experiences. Where we truly know we’re alive.

Fear Mongering and Accepting Our Limitations

The Syrian Refugee crisis has been swirling around for weeks now. Regardless of whether you approve or oppose the movement of millions of people across the world, this is a real fact and a real problem that is inevitably going to directly impact many different countries including us here locally in the United States. Countries like Germany, Spain, and even Greece are already feeling the pull on resources from Refugees in the area.

No matter how you spin it, this is a massive project to take on regardless of what country you live in. More so the the countries in Europe who don’t have a whole ocean providing a natural filter to bottleneck and slow the rapid progression of people into their borders. Even though I currently work in Refugee resettlement, I bless every day for the temporary reprieve of people and projects we will be working on in the United States.

The problem with the Syrian Crisis, like most problems of migration, is that there is an inherent fear stemming from lack of control, a strain on personal resources, and a fear inducing media conglomerate that uses anything and everything to up ratings and encourage people to watch their channels 24/7. What we are seeing play out in front of us is nothing too different than Gentrification problems in local communities or disruption of businesses by up and coming start ups in set markets.

The big issue that we are having to address, beyond that of helping people and protecting our borders is that of….

CHANGE

The biggest and scariest word that any of us know. Yes we can get riled up and dissent on each others stances and positions on the problem but when we strip down the issues to their core structure, we can see that we are all resisting a grandiose paradigm shift in our personal values, beliefs, and way of life.

For years, and even ISIS or devout Christians will attest to this, many of the wars we have fought have been for territorial claim and resource claiming. Backed by grandiose philosophies and belief systems, our people have always had a way of finding something that is “comfortable” or “stable” or “just the way it is” and wanting to keep everything the same. And to keep everything the same you want to control more and make it the same as what you have.

Think about this in your own personal life. Think about your own habits and routines. You feel safe, you feel comfortable, you feel like you can predict things in your life. Even sometimes to the point of where you feel like you are stuck. That there are limitations to what can happen in your life because that is “the way it is.”

Think about this on a community level. Your community has always had the same festivals annually, your neighbors have been your neighbors. The neighborhoods are predictable, your streets have been driven down, paved, and reinforced inn the minds of all who use them “this is the way it is.”

Even on a larger scale in our great nations, government structures are set up with common rules, legislation is presented and voted upon, people in power relatively seem to stay in power. The conservatives are against the liberals. Politicians become out of touch with their constituents. Power remains the same because “that is just the way it is.”

But what the Syrian Refugee Crisis is presenting to the modern western world, what Gentrification is making  us address in our neighborhoods, and what empowerment is teaching us as individuals, is that for far too long have we lived in the comfort of predictabilty and stability and ultimately are now having to finally and openly confront oru worst fears.

THE FEAR THAT WE CAN’T CONTROL THE WORLD CHANGING

Our schools, religious beliefs, and values are all based on a predisposition that those “truths” are “unalienable” constant structures that we can depend upon. Which I for one don’t doubt. But when we start to get comfortable in our stability, our senses of these constants become translated from ideas into concrete structures. We believe that our land, our money, our homes, our material possessions are our own. That the truth is this is the way it is and we must protect the way it is from any outside forces.

But what is it worth defying anything changing when change is inevitable?

Control is such a fragile concept in our lives. It is nearly non-existent and fleeting. In our fear of letting go we hold on even tighter to the control that we have. We complain, we commiserate, we alienate, we vilify anything and everything that will change what believe to be concrete and true.

IT’S BECAUSE WE FEAR CHANGE 

If we look at the arguments against the Syrian Refugees and critically analyze the core argument structure, we can start to see a pattern emerging. One of xenophobia and fear of status-quo disruption. Yes there is a fear of terrorist acts on domestic soil. And yes there is a fear of Islamic beliefs corrupting the “traditional” views of children. But those are fear based arguments of change. One of terrorism’s main tenets is to disrupt the system through any means necessary to bring about change. Whether that be political or territorial change, they want something different.

Because of our fear of the unknown, of different, of disruption, we vehemently fight tooth and nail against our lives being different. As such, we create these notions, we develop animosity and anger against those we don’t know. We use the same belief systems to create arguments and counterarguments. We see enemies made from friends. And all of this boils down to people just wanting to open up and scream, “I DON’T LIKE CHANGE!”

Here is the problem…

CHANGE IS INEVITABLE 

As our world becomes globalized and as we gain the invaluable benefit of creating a world of inter-connectivity we are ushering in a new age of growth. This growth is allowing us to innovate and create new and exciting standards of life for all different type of people. We give people hope by seeing what the rest of the world is doing and we inspire individuals and communities to be the difference in the lives we want to see.

But the word that we never hear ushered in this new world of growth is that of change. Ultimately, as our world has become more connected, so to has it changed. So too has our understanding of nations have changed, of religious beliefs have changed, of our actions and the way we run our businesses and way of life. But this change is subtle. It slowly happens over time and gives us the ability to feel comfortable. The world changes around us and we don’t notice. Because we don’t notice we feel that everything is the same even though the world is different from 5 minutes ago. We have accepted this change.

Disruption or immediate change is what scares us. It makes us confront the fact that ultimately we don’t have control. We are simply along for the ride. When things change slowly we adopt new routines without thinking about. We passively change. But the Syrian Crisis has brought to life proactive change. The inevitability that we will have to become something different rather than them. And by them we mean the collective idea outside of our barrier of control.

This realization that we have to change leads us to using counter intuitive and bad arguments against those that confront us with this change.

When you look at your newsfeed you will see tons of memes that use the same argument in contradictory manners. An example is a picture that shows people protesting the negative slandering of police saying that we can’t blame all cops for a “few bad apples.” The same picture again points out about Syrian Refugees that we CAN blame all Refugees for “a few bad apples.”

This kind of contradiction in argument and the fighting among ourselves does nothing but show that we are stubborn and afraid of any change. That disruption is ultimately the cause of unhappiness and pain in our lives.

BUT CHANGE IS INEVITABLE 

The sad truth of reality is that we can’t stop change. We can slow it down to a crawl, we can push against it with all of our might, but change does happen. The only true thing that we control is how we react to it. How our personal self addresses change. Do we understand that the fear of the unknown that the progression of time is something to embrace and ultimately grow from? Or is it something that we use to hold back and create conflict between ourselves and our peers over the inevitable?

If we take away our pride, our fear, and the minute details and really get down to the core of our arguments, we can start to see that we are ultimately resistant to change. If we want to truly resolve the Syrian Crisis, or gentrification, or even accepting the inevitable It will require us to stand up and admit our collective fear. It will take strong wherewithal to let go of our pre-conceived notions (which in and unto themselves are fluid and not edged into the atoms of the universe) and hold together as a collective unit stepping into the unknown.

 

Writing Again, and It Feel’s So….Weird I Guess…

Good evening, or morning, or whatever your time beliefs are.

After almost 2 years of non-existent work on this site I have decided to jump back into writing a free form blog. Not only that, I have decided to drastically update the site and turn it into something less of “LISTEN TO ME BECAUSE I NEED MY EGO FED” to more of a practicum of writing. I want to be able to use this site to kind of freely express myself and develop my writing skills in a fairly public space. Not neccessarily expecting people to read it but again, to understand the principles of online writing.

I have been really wanting to venture more into online writing and have really been interested in jumping into the online market. You know, opening on e-commerce site, starting some sort of online e-learning course, writing valuable content. Stuff that, according to all of the online courses that I refuse to pay for, if I start writing I can make millions of dollars a year! Now that may be true for them teaching, but let’s be real. A lot of these online courses are really not helping.

But lately I have been feeling the urge. I can see the other side, I can feel calling of the online/writing world and it feels good. Real good. And I want to stand up to the world and go “yes, yes I will write online and somehow turn that into a profitable, rewarding, and value-driven experience!


 

To start writing again after so long has been hard. To be able to form messages and clearly articulate what I want through writing, either long form or short, is difficult when you haven’t written in a long time. Writing is like a muscle. You can’t just run a marathon. You have to pace and build. This month for instance I tried to jump in and use NaNoWriMo to be my jumping on point. And after about 6000 words my brain died and I couldn’t go any farther in my book.

But I was recently listening to a few different podcasts including James Altucher, Art of Manliness, and Tim Ferris, and the common thing that they kept saying that I refused to listen to was, “if you want to write, just write.” Whether that be writing 10 ideas down a day or writing your thoughts, or something actually of value, you just need to write. A lot of the scams online will tell you “write and make money immediately” but all of the podcasts I listened to recently have been putting the focus on the effort and patience. You have to just kind of start and throw a wide net and develop your writing skills. I think a lot of people, myself included, want that instant gratification of writing for a niche that will listen to you and pay for your work. But I can’t have a niche until I start writing, learn as much as I can, and develop myself to provide value to the world. The more that you can build your writing muscle the better writer you can be.

So here we are. Writing around a 500 word article to say that I am going to write more. How embarrassing. I have to write to tell you I am going to write about writing. But it will hold me accountable. And again, this blog has gone away from being for someone (i.e. to make money) and more for me to better develop my skills and maybe, hopefully, be able to write in other avenues for a profit and give people some value and quality content in their lives.

Friday Morning Coffee Break: The To-Go Cup

KeepCup Cork/Glass sexiness

It is a beautiful day outside. I have decided to call in sick to work. And no…my boss doesn’t read my blog. Well hopefully she doesn’t. But if you are at work or at home, grab your favorite brew, grab your computer and take a break outside as we enjoy our Friday morning coffee break and learn about the to-go coffee cup. Continue reading