Lesson #8: Take the totem. {Year #2}


This year I quit my decently paying job [that I was not happy with] at the bottom of the totem pole to start a poorly paying job [that I was excited to pursue]… at the bottom of another totem pole.  [Ahh — sweet, sweet post-graduate life.]

While a lot has changed, one thing has remained the same.

People love to talk about the big How.

By this, I mean that people at both the top and the bottom of the so-called “totem pole” love giving advice about how to get where they are, or how to get to where they are going.

And nooooot in the inspirational way.

I’ve met too many people that tell others “Okay this is the track you have to take to get here” and “These are the positions you need to hold” and “This is who you need to know” so matter-of-factly, and then people my age take it and regurgitate it to everyone else around them. And I just don’t think that’s healthy.

While I don’t doubt that their wisdom has truth to it [I mean — they’re the ones who are where they are], I also doubt that everyone’s path will look the same.

Today’s lesson— or maybe more so of an observation — is this:

Stop trying to climb the totem pole that someone else has already created.

Create your own.

Lesson 8, Year 2.


Lesson #7: Get out of your head. {Year #2}


Get out of your head.

Naturally, it seems like the safest place to be.

But cabin fever of the brain is just as real as cabin fever of the body.

Sometimes in the midst of a blizzard, you need to get outside and play.

Make snow angels in the middle of the storm.

Lesson 7, Year 2.

Lesson #5: Sink or swim. {Year #2}


Advice: People love to give it, but rarely talk about the steps you have to take beyond the surface.

They say step out of your comfort zone. It’s where you’ll grow the most; it’s where you’ll be tested and challenged and stretched. This kind of advice leads you to the water but doesn’t really teach you how to swim.

I’m no better than “they.” I’ve realized that I’ve given pretty general advice my whole life, too. Take the leap. Follow your dreams. Push yourself. But today as I was pushed out of my own comfort zone once more, I began thinking about what it actually takes to dive deep in unknown waters.

I think it’s confidence.

When you’re pushed off the side of the boat, Confidence becomes your oxygen tank, your goggles, your life vest, your lifeline, your everything. Actually —

You can’t think it’s confidence. You have to know it’s confidence.

And swim like your life depends on it — because it does.

New waters call for a new attitude.

The answer is not “No” or “I don’t know how” or “I can’t.” It’s “Yes” and “I will find out” and “I can.”

You pick up speed once you begin sailing.

I know, I know — nothing is as simple as that. It’ll take some trial and error. You’ll flip the boat and get tangled in rope. You’ll float into fog and learn how to re-navigate. Shake off the sand and laugh before you even see the horizon — it’s coming. You have to take on new form. A liquid only thinks it’s a liquid until it becomes solid. A solid doesn’t know it can become a gas until it does.

When you lose comfortability, you gain confidence.

What other option do you have?

It’s game on.

It’s sink or swim.

Keep your head up and out, kid.

You’ll get the hang of it.

Lesson 5, Year 2.

Lesson #4: It’s not from ourselves. {Year #2}


Today I spent 7 hours in a car with a woman who I met two days ago.

We talked about her life’s work, the places she’s been, the people she’s met.

I won’t go into detail because those are her stories to tell, not mine. But all I kept thinking (and saying) was, “Wow. You’ve lived an extraordinary life so far.” And all I could do was listen.

Wendell Berry said it and he said it best: “It’s not from ourselves that we learn to be better than we are.”

It’s not from ourselves that we learn to be brave and live brave.

Day 4, Year 2.

Lesson #3: Stay tuned. {Year #2}


Looking back on this month, I can pinpoint the exact moments where I let something slip between my fingers even though I wanted to hold on tight, when I held my tongue although I wanted to let it run, and when I did what I knew in my gut was right even though I so badly wanted to do what was wrong. I’ve had some really wonderful people advise me along the way. I’ve failed and I’ve succeeded. But this month has proven to be a never-ending marathon for me; a constant choice between taking the high road or going low and matching the blow.

I was beginning to think that the latter is “just the way things are.”  It’s how we survive this harsh reality and keep warm in this cold world.

Let me tell you — God is no micromanager. Sometimes, for a long time, we hear radio silence because He wants us to figure out the answer for ourselves. And today I learned that if we stay on the right channel for long enough, we’ll get a a clear signal.

God tuned in to tell me to keep doing what is right.

Stay kind, stay humble, and worry about you.

The rest will take care of itself.

Lesson 3, Year 2.