Unstructured Conversation

Face to face interaction. It’s what humans need as a form of sustenance yet also what almost all of us lack. Lately I’ve been thinking about just how important this form of communication is.

The other day I had a wonderful time catching up with a friend I hadn’t seen in a while. We snagged some coffee, sat down at a table and started talking. There was no direction to the conversation, nor was there a topic we had to discuss. We just sat down and talked.

When was the last time you took time to sit down with a friend (or foe) and allow the conversation to take on a life of its own?

5 things I’ve learned at 25

In light of now being a quarter of a century old, I thought I’d share some lessons learned along the crazy, bumpy, and invigorating ride of life.

1. Learn to say no

This is a hard one for me. As someone who likes to please others, I tend to want to say yes to every invite thrown my way. I’ve learned that it’s just not possible to do that and be consistent with the people that mean the most to me. Learn to say yes to the important things and people in your life, and realize that it’s OK to sacrifice some ground in other areas.

2. Try something new

This is a typical one, but in all reality, the times I’ve tried new things have been quite enlightening and worthwhile. I’m not saying travel to Thailand and shake hands with a monk dwelling in a cave on the side of some snowy cliff. That’s just too far. But try to get out of your comfort zone. Do something that stretches you. We live in a world that continually seeks comfort. It’s time to swim against the flow and try something uncomfortable. Volunteer at your local homeless shelter. Strike up a conversation with someone on the bus next to you who seems lonely. Those things really count. You’ll feel better for it too.

3. Break some rules

For real. Some of you won’t be happy hearing this, but you can’t live by the book all the time. I’ve seen people that have, and they tend to live cut and dry lifestyles. It’s no fun. Do something on the edge. Once a year my brother and I sneak under a fence into a “no trespassing” area near town (no details) and bring a laptop loaded with a new movie we haven’t seen. We’ll chill and watch the movie out on a beautiful overlook where we shouldn’t be. But let me tell you, those are some of the most crucial times of bonding I’ve had with my brother.

4. Learn to give

Yes. My friends, most of you have been given extraordinary opportunities that so many people in this world would do anything for. Don’t take that for granted. Living in Kenya showed me circumstances in which people can survive and yet emanate a surprising happiness. You’ve heard it said, but I’ll say it again. The love of wealth will not bring you happiness. Learn to give some of what you’ve been given away while you’re younger, and you’ll thank yourself for it when you get older.

5. Learn to be yourself

This is a tough one to swallow for me. The above phrase is a staple in many self help books, discussed in many groups, and constitutes quite a bit of inspirational media, so it must be easy, right? Wrong. I still tend to fall into the trap of agreeing with everything people say, regardless of opinion. I’m continuing to learn that it’s OK to disagree with people and leave it at that. For example, I am a Christian, and hold certain values and ideas for a way of living that I believe works. This rubs many people the wrong way, but that’s all right.

So there you have it. The five things I’ve learned at 25. Thanks for reading, and I hope you got something out of this. If you want to add what you’ve learned or continue the conversation, please comment with your thoughts.

Much love, Jay.

Patience

Right now I’m in Denver, waiting in line to submit plans for my company. As I write this post, the cluster of tired civilians accumulates like sand in an hourglass, while one person sits behind a granite desk attempting to handle the influx.

Have you ever been to the DMV? This situation mirrors its painful slowness. It may be hours before my name is called, so I’ve set up a make shift cot to get some shuteye in the meantime. When the sloths from Zootopia are finally ready my misery will cease.

Im being cynical, and in reality the wait is a good practice in patience. If your occupation demands waiting, find a way to be productive or creative while you wait. Patience is indeed a virtue.

Cultivating Connections

I recently attained a new job at a company I’ve always wanted to work for (VERY exciting). They’ve got great people and wonderful opportunities to impact the surrounding community.

With this new transition came a desire to update my Linkedin account and reach out to some old acquaintances. As I was going through people to reach out to, my thoughts drifted to memories we’ve shared years back. I have had some good times with some good people growing up, and I don’t want to lose that in this new professional context.

Lesson learned: Don’t connect with people simply to make your profile look better. Connect with them because they have made a difference in your life or have shared quality experiences with you. Connect with people for who they are, not what they bring to the table.

Privileged

Last week frazzled producers at the TED Radio Hour HQ thought it wise to re-upload a 2014 podcast. The 45 minute episode discussed money and its impact on the human race, aptly named ” The Money Paradox“. During the episode, a relentlessly intrigued Guy Raz interviewed a small mob of psychologists and economists saying close to the same thing: Humans simply don’t need more money than necessary to live on (and allow for occasional time to relax). They found that poorer people tended to be comparably more generous and much more willing to help out strangers in a bind.

In reflection of the podcast, timely played during the two weeks before my new job starts, I don’t feel like climbing the “corporate ladder”. I will work hard at what I love and try to contribute as much as I can to environmental innovation and conserving our Earth, but not for the money. I am privileged to have a roof over my head and a computer to write this post on. Given this new job, it’s time to start finding ways to increase awareness of how lucky I am, and act in reflection of that.

How can you use what you’ve been given, your privilege, to help others? I’d love to hear some creative ideas!

 

 

Push Through

Today was a hard day. Just after concrete testing we had some down time before supposed rebar inspections in the frigid air outside. I decided to quickly sweep our concrete testing area, conveniently located in a parking garage just east of the construction site. After construction is completed, our portion of the parking garage will be used for premier hotel guests.

During this time my boss took a look at the sweeping and realized some excess concrete had built up next to the testing site, sticking to the garage floor. I was handed a metal scraper and told to simply separate the excess concrete from of the floor. So, I grabbed the scraper and banged it against the concrete, watching as a spec the size of a small chocolate chip flew through the air and landed a few feet away. Again, I rammed the scraper against the concrete with excessive force, only to watch as the mound remained in an unbreakable embrace with the floor. I was furious, and, after multiple further attempts, I realized this method wasn’t going to work. An eternity of using the scraper as a chisel, a bucket of sweat (and tears), some slight cursing, and most of the concrete had been removed.

Now, I didn’t tell myself to get over my self pity, and continued to curse at the damn ground for just being there. I could realistically have told myself that it would take time and to push through, but I simply became more flustered with each seemingly useless whack.

Needless to say, when you encounter difficulty, no matter how insurmountable it may seem, try to have a realistic perspective. Rather than giving up, say, “This is going to take a bit of time and will probably be hard, but I’ll get it done before long.” Then finish the job. No whining, no cursing or self pity, just get it done. Hopefully it will help the task get completed faster, and you won’t end up crying in a heap on the ground. Food for thought.

Finding bliss in an average day

Today was, well, average. I woke up at 7 this morning and after wolfing down a rather large breakfast hopped in my company truck and headed to work. The day zoomed by, and I am now finding myself back at my house, writing this second blog post of the week.

We as working adults can get stuck in the humdrum of life. It’s easy and comfortable to wake up, work, and get home to simply relax before our bed entices us back to sleep.

Break the mold today. Try something new and exciting, heck, maybe even uncomfortable. I guarantee you will be more satisfied because of it.

Well, I’m off to run a in a new area of Denver with a friend. Thanks to everyone who takes time out of their day to read this!

Continually Distracted

I’ve been driving a lot for work lately (in my white Chevy Colorado, a company vehicle that doesn’t quite suit my tastes, but hey, I’m not complaining). Sometimes I’ll find myself in a town two to five hours away, gearing up for another day of testing concrete. As the work day winds to a close, I pop in my car and start up a podcast before hitting the highway.

My internal radar is increasingly noticing the number of car crashes on Colorado’s main highways. It seems each week I pass more and more blinding blue and red lights followed by disgruntled people staring at their wrecked cars.

The main cause? That little friend resting in your pocket, middle compartment, or dashboard. Yep, your cell phone. If the majority of drivers made the choice to take their phones and put them on do not disturb while driving, I am sure the number of car crashes would decrease dramatically. The U.S. Department of Transportation states that “Drivers who are texting can be more than 20 times more likely to crash than non-distracted drivers.” (USDOT). This is pretty weighty news and recently it feels like it’s getting worse. If Elon Musk and the thinkers at Google don’t come up with some sort of “autonomous” solution fast, we could be in for increasingly dangerous situations on highways, not to mention more absurd amounts of time lost due to onlooker slowdown.

Long story short, put the phone down. Your pals can wait a little bit.

Texting and Driving
A sad car crash due to texting…

Success

When you visualize a successful person, who do you look at? The Wall Street tycoon? The Olympic athlete? The famous actor or actress?

What impresses me about the word success are the many interpretations that allow this word to achieve such a broad meaning. Definitions spring up from a plethora of opinions constructed by unique cultures and environments. Many seem to think it is defined by a level of status, wealth, fame, or comfort.

In my life, on occasion, I am drawn towards these broad definitions, and as I observe much of the media today, success may have the appearance of requiring minimal effort to obtain. “Buy this product and you’ll be a step closer to a happy life”, or “join our organization and you can reach your goals” are just some of the hooks out there vying for our attention.

Success may seem like a short and direct avenue with reward in sight, though once you actually decide to take the path towards accomplishment, the once spacious trail narrows, roots suddenly appear to obstruct the way, and success assumes an evasive nature.

As I’ve learned from my Christian perspective, the definition of success is really quite counter cultural. Success, by most standards is not easy to obtain, and without luck takes substantial effort. To climb the mountain you must train, to get that dream job you need to put in the time and effort to be competitive. To be satisfied in life, many times you need to show humility and defy our self promoting culture.

What defines success to you?

IMG_54301
My buddy Jordan deciding to take the left path on our way back from a camping trip.