Category Archives: Happiness

Advice to My 25-Year-Old Self

I regularly listen to the Tim Ferriss Podcast.  In fact, it’s the only podcast I listen to.

A question he asks nearly every guest is:

What advice would you give to your 25-year-old self (or whatever age is about half your current age)? 

For me, that was late-1992.  I’d been married for four years.  We had a two-year-old daughter, and our newest daughter had just arrived.  We’d purchased our first home in 1990 (at the high-point in the market before a 5-year down cycle).  I was about two years into my first management job, working in the healthcare industry.

Here are 10 things I’d like my 25-year-old self to know (in no particular order):

  1. Don’t change a thing! You’re about to be blessed with 25 years of awesomeness.  You may not realize it while it’s happening, but trust me, it’s going to be amazing!  You will face triumph and tragedy, hardship and happiness.  Take lots of photos and videos so you can remember just how small your kids were and the things they used to say.  You’ll get a kick out of the photos of yourself when you actually had hair and it wasn’t all gray.
  1. Take time to write about the things you’re experiencing, what you’re thinking about, and what’s motivating you. These things will probably change as you get older and you might appreciate seeing where your thinking started compared to where it is in 25 years.
  1. Be sure that you include the words, “Have Fun” in as many of your mission statements and plans as possible. These words are easy to forget while focusing on the day-to-day dramas that you will inevitably let drive your life.
  1. Seek out mentors, and be a mentor to others. Find ways to serve others while never thinking of how you’ll be “paid back.”  You’ll do a pretty good job at this, but it’ll take you many years to get started, and those are years you’ll never get back.
  1. It’s okay to ask for help or admit that you don’t know everything. “Knowing everything” and getting the highest score in all your classes may have brought you straight A’s, but trust me when I tell you that you don’t know nearly as much as you think you do.  You never will.  Here’s a corollary:  when you think you’ve thought about every angle of a problem, or come up with every contingency in considering a new strategy or idea, you haven’t.  The only way you’ll ever approach a full understanding of a new strategy or idea is to get lots of other people involved.  Have the patience and humility to do this on a regular basis.
  1. You are surrounded by the love of God. You need to take the time I didn’t take at your age to realize it.  The signs of His love are all around you.  Stop and listen.  Stop and look.  Just stop.  What are you running from?  It’s going to take you another 20-plus years to realize this unless you follow my advice today.
  1. When you look at starting that new home automation business (it’s a long story), remember that the most important question in any business, especially small businesses, is who is your customer and how will they find you? The next most important question is why should this elusive customer come to you for your service or product?  Until you can answer these questions, you’re wasting time (and money) on everything else.
  1. Realize that just about everything takes longer than planned. As you make progress in your career, initiatives that you think should take 3-6 months to complete will actually take years to fully bear fruit.  Practice looking at things on a longer horizon.
  1. Read more fiction, especially science fiction. It’s a great way to declutter your mind.  Of course, books come on paper in your time and we have these new devices that make reading so convenient.  Don’t let that deter you.
  1. I recently heard this, and it’s something you should consider…you can always go back to the museum. What do I mean?  Most people go to places like museums, theme parks, other states, or other countries only once.  At least, that’s their plan.  With that in mind, they try to cram everything into their “one and only” visit.  Their visit becomes a long checklist of things to do and things to see.  Instead, approach your visits with a plan to return again someday.  Focus on the few and leave the rest for your next visit.  Be present and let go of the checklist.

Bonus advice:  You’ll have trouble with that patience and humility thing, but embracing these will be your key to happiness.  There is no checklist.  Life isn’t a race.  Life isn’t a destination.  It’s a journey and an infinite opportunity for experience.

Realize that you aren’t the one holding the compass and you’ll find more joy than you ever thought possible.

 

Photo Credit:  Unsplash.com, Justin Tietsworth

More Than a Few Lessons…

unsplash-massimo-mancini

I turned 50 a while back.  Although it’s just a number, it’s a big milestone.  Hopefully, it’s a halfway point.  During my first 50 years, I’ve learned some things and here they are in no particular order:

  • The quest for the Holy Grail is all about the quest, and less about the Grail.
  • Soft tissue injuries are much harder to get over than you think.
  • Execution is all about preparation. Prepare well, and you’ll be able to execute when called upon.  Wing it and your execution will be a crap shoot.
  • Preparation is difficult and requires discipline. Building and maintaining discipline is one of the greatest challenges in life.
  • No matter how smart, strong, tough, fast, or independent you think you are. You aren’t.
  • Nearly everything is easier said than done.
  • Just because you can watch someone do something doesn’t mean you know anything about what it takes to actually do that thing.
  • Doing is the key to enjoying. Stop talking about it.  Stop thinking about it.  Stop procrastinating.  Stop making excuses.  As Nike said so well, Just Do It!  You’ll probably suck at it at first, but so does everyone else.
  • The real “99% and 1%?” Ninety-nine percent of people will try something, suck at it, and quit.  One percent will continue the struggle (see discipline above), and incrementally improve.  They may even continue long enough to become a master at it.  Another variant:  only one percent will try something, and the other ninety-nine percent will focus on explaining why they can’t or won’t.
  • Whenever I’ve become the most anxious in life, I usually realize that I’ve skipped exercise or going outside to play for more than a week (it happens more often than I care to admit!). Exercising and playing are the best ways to build a foundation of clarity and calm.
  • Another thing I’ve noticed when I’m most anxious is that I’ve probably pushed gratitude out of my mind. When your mind is filled with gratitude, it doesn’t leave a lot of room for other things like anger, frustration, or negativity (this also happens more often than I’d like).
  • Vacations are nice. Travel is nice.  Seeing exotic places is nice.  But, there’s nothing like creating a life at home that doesn’t require a vacation for happiness.  Vacations should be icing on the cake.
  • Every person who lives in the US should spend at least two weeks in a foreign country…preferably when they’re young. That way, the lessons they take away from the experience can be applied early in their life.  Something I’ve found from traveling to at least 10 (maybe more) foreign countries is that the US is like Disneyland.  Even compared to modern and thriving countries, the standard of living in the US is noticeably higher.  It is easy to take all these differences for granted, or to be truly ignorant of them…until you spend time in a foreign country.
  • Tom Petty had it right: The waiting is the hardest part.  Everything in life takes longer than you plan in your head.  That’s probably because we plan and think in our head for a long time before we spring our thoughts on the “world.”  Or, things just really do take a lot longer than we think they should.
  • Jobs become obsolete (and so do certain companies). People don’t (and neither do companies) unless they allow it.
  • The best way to avoid obsolescence?  Continuous learning.  Continuous exploration.  Saying yes more.
  • Save early and often in your life. Those savings will yield a huge amount of freedom later in your life.
  • In the struggle between service and earnings, choose service every time.
  • The most beautiful sound in Nature is uncontrolled laughter.
  • The most beautiful sight in Nature is the smiling eyes of someone you love.

 

 

Photo Credit:  Unsplash–Massimo Mancini

 

I Should’ve Laughed More

A photo by frank mckenna. unsplash.com/photos/EgB1uSU5tRA

Grandpa Clyde used to say, “You had to laugh!” whenever he told stories about something that had happened.

I’m not sure he was laughing when the thing was actually happening, but he knew you had to laugh when he looked back on it.

How many tough situations, crises, or plain old everyday events do you experience in a day, a week, a month…a lifetime?

What if we could pull ourselves out of these situations just long enough to hear the story we would tell?  It won’t get us out of the situation, but might help us find the reason to laugh.

 

 

Photo:  www.unsplash.com, Frank McKenna

 

Self-Talk

It’s not what you say out of your mouth that determines your life.  It’s what you whisper to yourself that has the most power. –Robert T. Kiyosaki

The first person to give you feedback is yourself…in the form of self-talk.  You have 24/7 access to your internal talk track.  Your messaging is unfiltered and brutally honest.

Does unfiltered and honest mean accurate?  Does it mean valuable?  Not necessarily.

The truth is that no matter how incorrect your self-talk is, or how much you try to ignore it, you are your most trusted advisor.  You have the most power over yourself (for better or worse).

Negative self-talk is easy.  Bad news travels fast, especially when it doesn’t have to travel.

Positive self-talk is harder, and sometimes difficult to believe.  Our positive self-talk can sound a bit crazy, which makes it easier to discount.

Status quo is powered by doubt in our positive self-talk.

The most successful people I know face challenges with self-talk.  They happen to believe their positive self-talk just a little more than the negative.

The negative is right there, trying to hold them back.  Somehow they’ve found a way to focus on the positive, finding ways to push past their wave of doubt.

They’ve usually found kindred spirits who can help strengthen their positive self-talk.  A support network that reinforces their crazy ideas.  The best support network doesn’t fully buy-in to the crazy.  They merely create an environment where it’s okay to explore the crazy.  To bring it out in the open and let it breathe a little.

And, that’s the real secret of self-talk.  We all have negative and positive self-talk rolling around in our heads.  But, if we can allow the positive to get a little breathing room, that’s usually all it takes to win the internal battle against the negative.

Here’s the challenge:  The war between negative and positive is never over.  You have to win it one battle at a time.

Note to Self

Maybe it’s all the close calls, existential threats, newly-invented liabilities, newly-minted regulations, new competitors, old competitors, angry customers, happy customers, former customers, new customers, potential opportunities, new ideas, new methods, better mouse traps, and everything else that comes our way in business (no matter the size).

Maybe it’s the fight-or-flight instinct that gets honed to a fine edge through years of experience.  Knowing when to hold ‘em, and when to fold ‘em…but always allowing room for doubt.  Knowing when the silent customer is more important than the loudest one.  Knowing that the employee you don’t see is just as important as the one you do see.  Knowing we always have a competitor, whether we realize it or not.

Maybe it’s that standard defensive posture that every business assumes at times, even when it knows that only a strong offense will win the day.  Understanding that this isn’t a game we get to win every day.

Maybe it’s just fear of failure, or more likely, fear of success.

Whatever it is that stops me from getting the most enjoyment from this business…now is the time to let it go.

Life is way too short to let the small stuff get in the way.

Here’s my promise to myself:

  • I will go on offense, every day
  • I will acknowledge my fears, but only if it helps create a stronger offense
  • I will focus on the next step forward, and let the past remain there
  • I will create opportunities for those around me
  • I will love and serve
  • I will let go
  • I will enjoy each day as the gift that it is.

I will do these things as a promise to myself, knowing that I’m not the One who is in control.

The Puzzles We Build

 

jigsaw-puzzle_pieces

When was the last time you assembled a puzzle?

Did you do it yourself, or did you have help?

How long did it take to assemble?  Minutes?  Hours?  Days?

In our house, whenever we started a puzzle, it was an “all-hands-on-deck” affair.  We’d all start working it.  Some of us would focus on organizing the pieces to make them visible.  Others would dive right in and start putting pieces together.

I worked the edges.  It’s the only thing that helped me get my bearings on the puzzle.  Start with the flat sides and establish a border…then work into the middle.  Working from the middle, out, was way too random for me.

“Hey, does anyone want some hot chocolate?” always seemed like a good question for me to ask after about a half-hour of diligent work.  With marshmallows.  Without looking up, I’d get some slow yesses and a few grunts.  By the time I came back with the hot chocolate, I was always amazed at the progress.

I’d get back to working the edges.

Each of us had our specialty and our own pace.  Some of us were easily distracted (me).  My wife would stay focused for hours…one piece at a time.

“Hey, who’s up for a break from the puzzle?  Maybe we can hit it again in a couple of hours with fresh eyes.”  I was always a proponent of fresh eyes.

But, then we’d get most of the edges completed.  I’d get my own personal rhythm, and I could start to see the patterns.  The puzzle started to take shape.  First, in my mind and then on the table.  My perspective on the puzzle and my ability to add value to it changed as the image emerged from all the pieces.

I don’t know if my wife and daughters (or anyone else who’d stop by and get sucked into the assembly project) went through the same evolution in their perspective as I did.

Our latest puzzle is a new business (actually, an existing business that we recently purchased).  Once again, our family is building a puzzle together.  This time, it’s not at the dining room table with a clear picture of the final product.  In fact, new pieces are being added to this puzzle all the time.

Once again, we’re each approaching the puzzle in our own way.  Center-out.  Edges-in.

Distractions?  Definitely.

Is an image beginning to emerge?  Yes.

The best (and most challenging) aspect of this puzzle is that it’s never finished.  It grows and evolves.  It occasionally leaves us feeling a bit perplexed.  But, it also takes beautiful shape before our eyes as we continue to build, one piece at a time.

Anyone up for some hot chocolate?  We’re gonna be here a while!

 

 

Relax, You’re Doing Fine

I saw this on a license plate frame.  When I first saw it, I didn’t give it much attention.  Then, as I sat at the red light, staring at those four simple words, I realized how freeing they are.

Relax, you’re doing fine.

You aren’t as far behind as you thought in the “race” of life.  In fact, life isn’t a race at all.  There’s no prize at the end for getting to the finish line faster than the other people.

You’re living in a great time.  Why is it so great?  Because it’s your time.  It doesn’t matter what else is happening.  The fact that things are actually happening, and you are here to see, participate, and have an impact is all that matters.  What impact?  That’s up to you.

What you do, how you do it, and the pace you choose are up to you.  I recommend you take advantage of your limited time on the planet.  Start moving, stay moving, always learn, and never stop teaching.  But, that’s just me.  It’s up to you and no one else.

Not as happy as you’d like to be?  Not as fulfilled as you’d like to be?  Worried that life is passing you by?  Worried that you aren’t as rich, pretty, strong, tall, smart, stylish, successful, or any other measure society places on us, as you’d like to be?

We all have the same seconds, minutes, and hours every day.  Our ability to define our time by the people we help, and the smiles we coax into the world are the only things we control.  The rest is going to happen with or without our involvement.

Enjoy your time.  Let someone else worry about all that other comparison stuff.

And, never forget:  Relax, you’re doing fine.

The Vocabulary of Christmas

MerryChristmas

I’m fascinated with the way our vocabulary morphs as we approach Christmas.  Consider how often you hear these words other than this time of year:

Jingle Bells

Rudolph

Reindeer

Santa

Elves

Cinnamon Sticks

Tidings

Nutcracker

Jack Frost

Mulling Spice

Christmas Island

Jolly

Jack Frost

Snowman

Stockings

Baking

Chestnuts

Trimmings

Joy

Twinkles

Tinsel

Sugarplums

Merry

Noel

Caroling

Village

Christmas Tree Lot

Chimney

Crèche

Gingerbread

Frankincense

Welch Cakes

Wishes

Myrrh

Fruitcake

Holly

Manger

Nativity

Goodies

Home (as in “for the holidays”)

Frightful (as in the weather outside)

North Pole

Workshop

Ornaments

Traditions

Partridge

Cornish Pasties

Poinsettias

Rejoice

Scrooge

Sleigh

Wise Men

Yuletide

These words trigger great memories, but none would matter without family and friends to make them special.

May we each create wonderful new memories with our family and friends this Christmas season.

TEDx ChapmanU–August 20, 2015

TEDxSoldOut

Be curious. Open your mind. Challenge yourself to listen and learn. Respectfully explore new perspectives. Discover your own inner Icon\Genius\Maverick.

Great advice in any setting. Prerequisites for attending a TEDx event.

Here’s a summary of this year’s talks:

Stella Young—I’m not your inspiration, thank you very much. Stella was born with a disability that limited her growth, and confines her to a wheelchair. Is it difficult being disabled? Yes. Is she special because she’s disabled? She doesn’t think so, and her goal is that you won’t either.

Stella told a story that happened when she was about thirteen. Her parents received a call from a representative of their town council saying they’d like to give Stella an award for her community achievements. That was puzzling to her parents (and her), since she hadn’t really achieved anything for the community. She was more interested in watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Dawson’s Creek than actually doing anything for someone else.

The real reason for the award was that she was disabled and could be an inspiration to others. But that’s just it. She says that being disabled shouldn’t be something special, or an inspiration. After all, isn’t the inspiration we feel based upon the silent (and instant) comparison we make to that disabled person’s difficulty…and our relief that it isn’t us? By comparing ourselves to someone we think should have lowered expectations, we give ourselves permission to have our own higher expectations, at their expense.

Stella can’t wait for the day when being disabled isn’t special: the day when we take our inspiration and lessons from the good within people, whether they’re disabled or not.

Dan Pallotta—The way we think about charity is dead wrong. How much should a charity spend on fundraising? How much overhead should they have? Is it better to have a bake sale and raise $375 with no overhead, or spend $350,000 to produce an event that raises $5,000,000? If you’re an MBA graduate, should you go to work at a for-profit company, or a non-profit?

Dan says the way we approach these questions, and the ethical standards we put on charities and non-profits, is shackling them and reducing their ability to grow. We should be focused on what they are raising, how successful they are at providing their services, and not their overhead rate.

He provided a number of examples of the ways we apply different standards to for-profits, compared to non-profits. And yet, for all the advantages that for-profit organizations have in terms of access to capital, access to talent, permission to make mistakes, and their ability to focus on growth; they are not equipped or motivated to provide the type of assistance (economic and otherwise) that’s required in the lowest 10 percent of our society. Philanthropy is the marketplace for love. We need a robust and well-funded non-profit community to meet the very real needs of those less fortunate.

To get there, we need to upend the way we think about non-profits. We need to remove the shackles and give them the room they need to grow and succeed.

Mina Morita. What you value is defined by what you risk. Mina’s mom risked everything to come to America from Japan when she was 20. Mina gave up her corporate job to pursue her love of theater. Through many twists and turns, she is now the Artistic Director of Crowded Fire Theater. She’s fulfilled and happy. Not because her life is perfect. It’s fairly messy.

She gets to tell stories and create unique moments that can only happen in theater. Theater fulfills dreams. It’s a place where failure and judgment are in the flesh…every night. She has missed a lot of life’s joys, sacrificed special moments with family and friends. But, she’s happy because her life is what she wants it to be. What you value is defined by what you risk.

Brian Vellmure. Brian is a management consultant, but his talk wasn’t about that. It was about how to prepare our next generation for the challenges that lie ahead. What does he recommend? Team sports and adventure travel.

Team sports show us how to work with others, how to rise to a new challenge, how to go beyond what’s expected. Most importantly, team sports show us how to respond and bounce back from failure…and the fear of failure.

Adventure travel makes us all kindergarteners again. We don’t know anything. We don’t know the language, the customs, the food, or the geography. Outcomes are uncertain. It’s perfect practice for dealing with the challenges that our future will bring.

Why do some people succeed while others fail? Brian says successful people have three things above all else. Curiosity. Grit. Character.

Ryan Gattis. Ryan is an author, but more than that, he is an explorer of life. In 2009, his life had bottomed. He boiled it down to a series of numbers and stats, and none painted a good picture.

As a storyteller, Ryan told us that every good story has five elements:

Hooks

The Unexpected

Cause & Effect

How did it feel?

Concrete specific detail.

All of these elements are nothing if the story (and the author) lacks authenticity. Authenticity is the invisible power that makes a story matter.

Ryan weaved three stories together that contained all of the elements. We heard about the depths of his despair in 2009 and the course he charted to climb out, followed by an intense meeting with a Los Angeles area gang leader, asking permission to do research for his next book, All Involved: A Novel of the 1992 L.A. Riots. The third story, and also an unexpected element within the first two, was something that happened when he was seventeen. He wound up on the receiving end of a punch from a football player named Lump. The punch destroyed and relocated all of the cartilage in his nose to an area on his cheek, without breaking a bone. Two reconstructive surgeries later, he was fluent in pain.

It was that pain that gave his stories their authenticity, along with all the other elements. He discovered that once he opened up to his pain, his prose opened up as well.

Doug Woo. Doug is the president of the Smart Display Division at FUHU. FUHU focuses on providing digital solutions for families and kids. They have a line of tablets, aimed at the unique needs of families. Their Big Tab displays are as big as seventy inches. They resemble large flat screen TV’s, but they act like tablets.

Their innovation was to create a whole new category, based on something that everyone thought they already knew. Tablets. Innovation is practical change, driven by desperation or inspiration. FUHU went “big,” and focused on how to connect the family with their technology. Their cause was bigger than just the technology. Togetherness, collaboration, sharing. These were their motivation, and the Big Tab displays are the result.

These tablets don’t isolate family members. Instead, the entire family shares in the immersive experiences that only the Big Tab can provide.

Dotsie Bausch. In the first minute of Dotsie’s talk, we learned that she was a fashion model, a cocaine addict, bulimic, and attempted suicide twice. This was all before she entered three years of therapy. As she made progress, her therapist recommended she take on a new activity, and she chose cycling on a whim.

By 2012, she had become an Olympian track cyclist. She won a silver medal in the team pursuit event. She says that she has a voracious appetite for winning.

But, that wasn’t the subject of her talk.

Her talk focused on the benefits of a plant-based diet. It all started when she watched a documentary about factory farms, and witnessed the cruelty that animals face on their way to slaughter. She considers it an act of Olympic-level compassion to eat a plant-based diet.

She says that a person who eats only a plant-based diet is consuming 200,000 less gallons of water per year than someone who eats a meat-based diet. Athletes who eat plant-based diets recover 50% faster than their meat-based counterparts.

She asked each of us to go meatless for one day to start down the path toward a plant-based diet.

Todd Irving. Everyone is someone’s child. Todd says this should be the dominant thought in education at all levels. Parents send their most precious possession to school, and they should be treated that way. Todd is the teacher, now principal, that we hope all of our kids get. What makes the most difference to a kid? Taking time to make a connection with them. Getting to know them, their dreams, and their fears…one-on-one. Every child needs to have hope, and that’s the job of every educator, and each of us in the community.

Lesley Fightmaster. Yes, that’s her real name. Lesley is a yoga instructor. She led us in a short, guided meditation. We started by focusing on our breathing and our posture. With our eyes closed, breathing a little more deeply, she guided us through a series of peaceful thoughts that we directed out to the world and then back within ourselves.

Meditation helps us focus on the present moment. This moment is great. Be there. Namaste.

Dr. Anthony Chang. Dr. Chang started his talk with some sobering statistics about the relative happiness of physicians in the US. Nine out of ten physicians wouldn’t recommend their profession to others. Only 6% are happy with their careers. We are creating a perfect storm for reducing physician morale. They are under pressure to see high volumes of patients in a short amount of time. They are inundated with data gathering, data entry, and billing challenges.

Dr. Chang gets his inspiration from his patients. He told us about three of his patients, Hanna, Elsie, and Shirley. Hanna helped him renew his idealism for his profession. Elsie showed him how important it is to take all the data we have and somehow turn it into wisdom for patients…intelligence in medicine. Shirley reminded him about the importance of innovation in medicine.

Dr. Chang wants to integrate artificial intelligence into the practice of medicine. When we were learning to fly, we watched birds. Our first attempts tried to mimic their method, and didn’t work. Only by learning the underlying characteristics of flight, were we able to solve the riddle of flight in our own unique way.

It’s the same with artificial intelligence. Rather than attempting to mimic the way our brains function, the best approach is to extract the lessons we can learn and create our own unique methodology for bringing intelligence to various fields, like medicine.

Dr. Brenda Wiederhold. Dr. Wiederhold is a clinical psychologist and entrepreneur. She uses virtual reality to create transformative therapies for her patients. Therapies that free her patients from the bonds of fear and anxiety, and help them regain control.

Virtual reality is an excellent tool for transporting a patient into another reality. A reality that scares them, paralyzes them, or holds them hostage. Once the patient enters this reality, Dr. Wiederhold can work with them in this safe environment, showing them how to control their emotions, and ultimately their subconscious mind. This frees the patient to use what they’ve learned in the virtual reality environment, in the real world.

Phu Hoang. Build your dreams over time. Phu is the co-founder and CEO of Virtium Technology. He says there are two types of entrepreneurs. One is the “reckless abandon” type that makes a breakthrough and dives into it without really knowing which way he’s going. We’ve heard of many of them, yet there are only a few of them.

Then, there’s the rest of us.

Phu’s advice is to always have a dream, but also a belief in ourselves. He always believed that if he put time into learning about something, he could master it. By continuously improving, he could become the best. Choose a niche in something that is already growing rapidly. Look where the big guys aren’t looking and take that bite size niche. Become number one in that niche and build from there.

It’s okay to build someone else’s dream while you’re building your own. When you’re ready, make the leap and work full-time on your own dream.

Rob Seitelman. Rob is the speaker coach for Chapman’s TEDx. His talk was a letter to his daughters on the power of failure. Everything worthwhile has to cost something. Sometimes that cost is failure. Create a fall-through plan, not a fall-back plan. Sometimes you can do everything right and it still doesn’t work. The reality is that life is all about family, friends, and most importantly, love.

Never let someone else dictate your happiness. There is such a thing as best, but it’s only what’s best for YOU that matters. What’s best for someone else isn’t necessarily best for you. Think about the “why” of things. The most important “why” is: for the benefit of those who will come after us.

Ahmed Younis. Ahmed is an Assistant Professor at Chapman University. He focuses on the architecture of social change, youth employment in the Arab World, global Muslim public opinion and Islamic reform for social change. He started his talk by saying that he’s been working on terrorism for the past fifteen years. But, he hit a wall about a year ago.

He began to lose faith. A vessel can only pour what is within it, and he feared that his vessel was empty. It’s his job to articulate hope, and yet he was out of hope. He went on a search for hope and found it in a surprising place. He found hope in graphic novels and comic books. His favorite comic books? Pride, Cairo, Captain America, Black Panther, and Ms. Marvel.              

Each tells a story where hope triumphs amidst tragedy and conflict. Each is a story of heroes rising up from nothing to take on a world of ugliness and darkness.

How we engage the ugliness determines our hearts, and gives us hope.

Mandy Len Catron. Mandy published an article in the New York Times in January of this year, titled, To Fall In Love with Anyone, Do This. It highlights a study done more than twenty years ago by Dr. Arthur Aron. It’s an experiment built around the intimacy that comes from sustained, escalating, reciprocal, personalistic self disclosure.

Here’s the premise (from the article): A heterosexual man and woman enter the lab through separate doors. They sit face to face and answer a series of increasingly personal questions. Then they stare silently into each other’s eyes for four minutes. The most tantalizing detail: Six months later, two participants were married. They invited the entire lab to the ceremony.

Intrigued, Mandy tried this experiment with an acquaintance. After they had asked each other the 36 questions, they stepped outside the bar where they were for the evening, and onto a bridge. They then stared silently into each other’s eyes for four minutes.

Did they fall in love? Yes, but that’s not the whole story.Her story received over 8 million views. Suddenly, she was an international news story. Unfortunately, so was her new relationship. The most asked question she receives is, “Are you two still together?”

She doesn’t think that’s the question we should be asking.

When you admit to loving someone, you admit to having a lot to lose. What she wants from love, and probably what most people want, is a guarantee that this love will last forever. That’s why everyone asks if they’re still together.

Falling in love and staying in love are two different things. Love is terrifying, and there aren’t any guarantees. That’s part of the deal.

Are they still together? Yes.

 

If there was one overarching theme from all the talks, it is that hope is precious. Without it, life becomes ugly. With it, everything else becomes possible.

Past Chapman TEDx summaries:

2013

2014

 

Real People. Not Actors.

There I was at the gym, climbing the StairMaster (it’s what competitive stair climbers do for fun), and I noticed a commercial on one of the TV’s.  I don’t know what the commercial was trying to sell.  I only know that the people who looked so excited were Real People. Not Actors. That’s what it said on the screen.

I wonder if actors like being thought of as not real people.

Are real people supposed to be more honest than actors?

Don’t we all act just a little bit everyday?  If that’s true, who’s the real person, and who’s the actor?

Real people choose to act in a certain way, everyday.  They may choose to act unhappy, irritated, belligerent, impatient, frustrated.  Or, they may choose to act happy, supportive, patient, welcoming.

We’re all actors…and real people.  We choose how we act.

When we choose, it’s real for everyone, including ourselves.