It’s Who You Know

I stumbled into construction because I knew somebody. I knew less than nothing about construction, but I knew somebody. The old cliché, it isn’t what you know, it’s who you know. That has been true for me more times than I can count, but it has manifested in more unique and diverse ways than I ever envisioned. Read More »

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What Matters Most. And What Doesn’t.

I used to think that what I thought mattered more than anything else. I was controlled by thoughts that I couldn’t control.

My thoughts and feelings are virtually entirely involuntary. I have little to no control over what is going on upstairs. I often have no warning of what is coming, either. For example, I met my friend to carpool together for work a while back and was in the most incredible mood that morning. That struck me as odd because I’m not much of a morning person and it was considerably earlier than I care for. But no matter, I was smiling the whole way over to his house and was singing my fool head off at the top of my lungs in my truck. Suddenly it hit me like a ton of bricks, “What in the hell am I so happy about? Something is all wrong here…” And sure enough, a dark cloud materialized over me and my morning completely went to hell at once. For no conceivable reason whatsoever, I was in a terrible mood and there was no escaping it. It was summoned up because I realized what a great mood I was in. It just doesn’t make any sense. But it was all that mattered in the moment.

I like to think that what I think is what matters. I believe that my personal experiences are as valuable and important as it gets. Because, honestly, I am the most important person in the world to me. At least it feels that way. I am thinking about myself before I ever open my eyes, practically all day long, and long after I’ve laid my head on the pillow. I’m consumed with thoughts of myself and feelings of myself.

Last winter I was driving to campus late one cold, icy night as the semester was winding to an end. I was obsessing over the looming prospect of receiving the first grade that wouldn’t be an A in my MBA program. This singular thought had eaten away at me for days and I could no longer hide from reality. That reality, an impending A minus.

 

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A minus?!? Burn it down. All of it.

 

Everything was over.

Why even go on?

I was an utter failure.

It seemed like a better option to simply drive my truck off the road than collect an A minus. I had to seriously coax myself off the ledge. That grade mattered to me. So much.

But why? A grade is simply, in my opinion, the measure of my willingness to act upon a personal commitment I made when I enrolled in the course. I’m not competing against anyone, and I’m certainly not competing against myself. It is rather a gauge of my own personal inclination, dedication, and determination. In the lead up to that moment, and particularly in that moment itself, the grade seemed to matter more than anything else in the entire world. It drowned out every bit of rationale and logic. I was a failure because of that A minus.

I was trying to keep my truck between the lines as I battled to make sense of how I could have ever screwed things up so royally. I just so happened at that instant to glance over to my right and saw the hospital. It was like a stinging slap right to my face. Six years earlier, almost to the day, I was a patient in that hospital for thirty-five days. I had developed a severe staph infection and blood clots all throughout my arm because of my IV drug use. I’d checked myself out of the ER earlier in the week against medical advice because I needed to keep getting high and I was terrified of being in the hospital without health insurance. Two days later I had a fever of 105 degrees, was delirious and couldn’t stand the screaming, burning pain in my arm one moment longer. It had darkened to a shade of purple and was so swollen. I couldn’t bend it at the elbow. The doctor said if I’d have waited much longer they might not have been able to save me.

I didn’t get it then. I was hopeless. I stayed in that hospital for those thirty-five days and nothing changed. I would dress myself in street clothes when I was well enough to be up and out of bed. I’d walk right out of the hospital to the gas station across the street and buy Jack Daniels and tall cans of Coors beer. I would go hide in an alley outside the hospital and drink them as fast as I could before heading back up to my room. Or I’d sneak the bottles back in my socks against my ankles and then chug them in the bathroom before sending the empties back out with the dirty laundry. I was trying to die.

A few years later I was consumed to the point of insanity that I was going to receive an A minus, a blemish against my perfect record of A’s, in pursuit of an MBA degree. It was an incredible dose of perspective. The grade didn’t matter.

Life mattered. I took a breath and looked at what had led to the A minus. I had helped my partner get his construction business off the ground right as the semester started and it was the busiest month of work in our entire lives. I had drawn a once-in-a-lifetime tag for elk hunting and had gone scouting with my dad across the state and then followed that up with an incredible elk hunting trip with my dad, brother-in-law, and best hunting buddy, Neal. In addition to all of that, my girlfriend and I had the incredible opportunity to move into what has become a fantasy home. All this happened during the semester. These things mattered. For a guy who was left for dead a few years back and just wanted to die in that hospital—my life had become nothing short of a miracle.

I needed to remember where I’d come from. The grade was not a failure. It was just indicative of a time in my life when I should have been more willing to shift my expectations. It is imperative that I shoot for perfection, but just as critical that I also accept perfection as a lofty goal I won’t meet. That is not a built-in crutch, but rather the truth of things. I absolutely had to shift my perspective to see that what mattered then, and will always matter more than anything, is life. I can’t quite put it into words—what life is to me—but I can say that I know it is so important. And I can say that it is the most beautiful gift. The grade, the pursuit of making myself a better person, is but a part of my life. It isn’t all of it. It just felt like it in that moment. It overshadowed everything else, at least it did until I was taken back to a time when a scared, hopeless drug addict hated life and wanted nothing more than to die. Then I knew. I knew what mattered most.

Please share your experiences of finding what truly matters most. Together we can share an understanding of what is most important in our worlds. Together we can see why it’s worth it, and why it’s possible, to build a better world—starting with what matters most.

 

 

 

 

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An Ounce of Prevention is Worth Months and Months of Irrational Fear

I don’t know if there’s ever a good time to receive bad news. In all honesty, even in the moments where I was prepared for it, at least to degree I could have been, bad news was still bad. 

I’ve run from bad news. I’ve avoided the conversations and appointments that I thought would shine light on terrible truths I’d tried to keep hidden in the shadows. I consistently lie to myself, desperately trying to believe that everything is okay, although deep-down I suspect quite the opposite to be true. Read More »

Sanity Does Not Rub Off (Insanity Does)

The truth is, sometimes, no matter how hard I try, one plus one does not equal three. There are those who are oil to my water. We were never meant to mix. Such relationships amount to a negative sum. One plus one equals negative three. Or negative three hundred.

There are some people, despite all evidence to the contrary, whom I firmly believe should be in my life. No amount of suffering can dissuade me from the notion that we need to be together—in whatever capacity that may be. At first, the hints typically are quite subtle that we don’t play well together—not altogether painful, but noticeable nonetheless. Over time, as I continually disregard the obvious signs, the pain becomes more palpable. The more I try to inflict my will on the situation, the more my emotional wellbeing suffers.

I undermine my foundation in the insane attempt to keep toxic influences in my life. This is not to say that every one of those people, and the countless who are yet to come, were toxic. It rather illuminates upon the truth that some relationships are toxic, despite the degree of individual health the parties in them experience. However, there are some people who are toxic—in practically any setting.

I suffered through such an encounter for months—operating under the self-deception that I was right where I was supposed to be. I couldn’t have been more wrong. I entered the relationship with a healthy, strong foundation. All four of my cornerstones were in order and had been subject to regular upkeep and maintenance for months on end. I had never felt healthier. In a matter of months, each of my foundational pillars began to crumble and erode. Where once I had staved off engagement, I found myself practically inviting toxic conflict. I jumped at opportunities to engage. I was sick. Somebody told me as I was walking through the self-inflicted suffering that no matter how hard I would ever try, sanity would never rub off on insanity. But if I stayed in a crazy situation long enough, insanity would absolutely supplant sanity. They were right.

With the benefit of clarity, aided by a healthy degree of distance and hindsight to perceive what was a doomed-to-fail relationship, I began to carve out a new perspective on the connections in my life. Perhaps too simplistic, but it was exactly what I needed, because I tend to overcomplicate every single thing ever.

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Me. Trying to do anything. 

 

I realized that every relationship in my life boiled down to inclusion in one of three categories:  those which consistently bring serenity to my life, those which contribute serenity at times while also taking away from serenity at times, and those that regularly undermine serenity in my life. Viewed through such a lens, I was able to take my emotional attachment and subjectivity out of the equation and objectively perceive the facts of my personal relationships.  It helped to qualify relationships by measure of serenity. I value serenity as much or more than anything in my life.

There are very few relationships in my life which only contribute to my serenity. One example is that which I have with my mentor. I rely upon on him for practically everything that life has to offer. He literally walks through life with me and helps me to find practical answers to everything I’m experiencing. He constantly enriches my existence.

Those relationships that both contribute and detract from my personal serenity represent the vast majority of my personal interactions. All parties in those relationships choose to stay because the benefits of remaining in them outweigh the costs of departure. I believe that most of my friendships and family connections exist in this category. I rely heavily on many of these people, at different times, and they support me. They improve my life. However, there are times when they are burdensome and take away from my serenity, as I no doubt do in all of their lives. But we choose to press forward together because we ultimately gain from one another’s presence.

The last classification is the proverbial chopping block, the point at which the primary benefit of this system comes to fruition. If I can—through self-appraisal and upon receipt of the invaluable, honest feedback from those I trust—admit that a relationship in my life is consistently undermining serenity, my options begin to dwindle. I don’t always want to face reality, but this fact-finding mission puts truth in no uncertain terms: if I want to stop suffering, I must change. Nobody ever said change was easy, but this process allows an insight into options I was either unwilling or incapable of acknowledging. The options most often are limited to: stay and suffer, take an extended vacation, or get out and don’t look back.

The idea is to find simple, actionable levers to increase emotional wellbeing. I believe that personal relationships are the primary factor in growing or diminishing emotional health. Personal relationships are tricky though. The goal is to expand upon my emotional efficiency and productivity. I need others to strengthen and nurture the foundational cornerstone of emotional wellbeing. I need one plus one to equal three. If I am putting myself around the right people, I thrive. Please share your experiences of thriving in the right company. Together we can share an understanding of how to surround ourselves with the best people who allow us to grow. As we share understanding of how to build better versions of ourselves, we can then apply those tools toward building a better world.

 

 

 

 

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One Plus One Equals Three

I snapped my head around when he told the homeowner that one plus one equals three. One plus one

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Try again, dummy.

equals three? No. It does not, idiot. Before I jumped in with some smartass remark about how he must have failed high-school math, he expanded upon his statement. He enlightened us all to the origins of that saying, explaining that it was a German proverb on efficiency.

 

He was telling us a truth about how productivity does not increase in a linear fashion upon addition of the right components—in this case, workers on a framing crew. He discussed how the additional input of one worker to another does not produce twice the output that the one individual worker would have created on their own—provided they are complementary pieces. Read More »

It’s All Going To Be Okay. Because That’s The Way It Is.

I don’t particularly prescribe to the belief that the course of my life is dictated by fate. I don’t believe I am entirely powerless over my destiny. I suppose that I have substantial control to really foul up my own life. I’ve only done it a million or so times. Conversely, I know that I have the power to take positive action in my own life, as well. I can’t control outcomes, but I have command over the actions I take, and those I choose not to take. This is a beautiful dynamic—I have power to influence my own life. I have power to change myself. This power only extends as far as to relieve the burden of controlling and manipulating outcomes that are altogether outside of my own control.Read More »