Sunday, September 29, 2013

Whose Memories Are These

I know that I am a dreamer. Sometimes those are the dreams of an optimist and other times they belong to a cynic and a realist. I have these ideas and dreams about my future relationship with my future wife, which is becoming harder and harder for me to be realistic about because I'm not sure if it is ever going to happen. I think about all these situations where I am falling in love with her in little ways and then I think how much I would like to really have someone in my life. I have so much love to share and no one to share it with, so why do these thoughts and dreams feel so real? Why do they feel less like a dream and more like a memory? Are they my dreams or are they the memories I have kept from loves lost and experiences shared that are not mine but my family's and my friend's?
"When we first begin fighting for our dreams, we have no experience and make many mistakes. The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and get up eight times." (The Alchemist)
I feel like The Alchemist was written explicitly for me. I know I am scrappy and tenacious and never give up but sometimes I just feel like I want to be done. The problem is that whenever I get to that point emotionally, I will meet someone new or another opportunity will present itself and I am back at it again being the hopeful romantic. So why do I feel like I have an inability to have a relationship? One of the most interesting pieces of advice I have gotten socially was that I might be too much of a good listener. I need to share more of myself, what I want, what are my goals, and where I want to go in life. Sometimes I will have a conversation with a stranger and after 20 minutes they will stop me and say, "What is your name again? I don't remember if I just didn't catch it or if I never asked." For too many people I am a great counselor and friend but they don't know enough about me to ever want a relationship with me.
"You will never be able to escape from your heart. So it's better to listen to what it has to say." (The Alchemist) 
I want to help everyone around me. I want to love everyone I meet. I want to be the old romantic. I want to be the playful flirt. I want to help people reach their potential. I want to have deep and insightful conversations. I want to inspire, motivate, and bring other people happiness. I want to be a husband and a father. I want to make time to play with my future kids. In essence, I want to love and be loved in return. These memories, whether they are my dreams or someone else's experiences, both inspire and haunt me. I can only hope that if I am patient my dreams will someday happen and for the moment I can find peace.
“Hope - Smiles from the threshold of the year to come, Whispering 'it will be happier'...”   (Alfred Tennyson)

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Never Forget

The message is simple but it is true and I hope that my sisters, my nieces, and all women who have become a part of my life will never forget this:

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Feedback is Important

I am the kind of person that I always want to improve and so I like to know if there are things I do or things I say that might not be the best. This conversation thread came from my institute class tonight and from a comment my friend made at the end of class. We had been talking about different early Christian religions and how there were so many different sects and beliefs and when it came to the early Proto-Orthodox Christian church, they had to do a lot to state exactly what they believed. There was also a really good discussion about Gnosticism and mystery religions that I thought was fascinating but that is a subject for another post. Anyways, my friend's comment was basically that we struggle today in acting and not reacting. Many times we will want to differentiate ourselves so much from standards or beliefs that are not the same as ours that we will go to an extreme (especially in Provo... He said that - not me).

He used the analogy that as people separate themselves from us it is natural for us to want to force balance. When one force is moved farther away from the axis of rotation, the balancing force that will balance it out or equalize it will also move farther away from the axis. So as one force goes to an extreme, the other force will go to the opposite extreme. The same goes with people most of the time. However, another way to balance that outward or distancing force is for the "reactionary" force to increase in magnitude or value. Outside of moving to an extreme, there is the option to choose instead to become more "steadfast and immovable" and keep our ground, like a rock in the middle of a river.

If you look at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there is a reason why it chooses to not "take a stance" on a lot of subjects. We have taken a stance in fact and for the most part what that is would be that our stance as a church hasn't changed. This is not standard. There are times when that hasn't been the case but for the most part it is amazing how consistent those standards have been.
This comment sparked a separate private conversation with my friend. I have specific personality issues with certain individuals in my MBA program but for the most part it isn't common. In fact, I get along with most people but for whatever reason, I don't click with these individuals. It isn't surprising but it still concerned me because I don't want to judge them or use them as examples of people who aren't acceptable in conversation. The answer to how to solve the temptation of doing that is the hardest thing to do. I need to get to know that person. And it doesn't mind how high the walls are for them because usually as my friend so eloquently put it:
"People with the highest walls have the least hidden behind them. Usually those that put up a wall are compensating for some insecurity or weakness. We all do it. So if I want to solve this issue, the easiest way to get over a high wall is to go through it by way of casually knocking on the front door."
Typically, the little things solve the biggest problems. I thought it was pretty profound advice.

This is also the same individual that helped me see my own personal brand: No boundaries. I am the kind of person that can approach or is approachable to anyone. I have no walls so thinking outside of the box comes naturally for me. Nothing is out of my reach and if there is something I want bad enough then I will find a way to get there. If I was a home, he said I would be the kind without a fence, door open, you would be curious to come inside because of the happy voices and loud laughter, and if you did investigate the first thing that would happen would you be asked where you have been, get a hug, and be asked if you were hungry. I don't think that is too shabby.

Still, not all criticism should be or would be invited if it was just good. I didn't ask for advice to just get "positive" feedback. Sometimes I can come off arrogant. And arrogance perceived in multiple dimensions - some good and some bad. For example, in my classes there may be times where I don't understand something and I will start off by saying something like, "I have a background in engineering but I have a question..." What I am trying to say is really something like, "Since my background is not helpful at all and I am unfamiliar with this particular topic, I need some help understanding this concept. My question is..." I struggle admitting a weakness in a public setting and making myself vulnerable. And it is a subconscious thing because if asked, I know I am not the smartest person in the room, the most talented, but at the same time I know I am not the lowest peg on the totem pole. The issue is I shouldn't have to feel like I need to establish that fact but I should let my performance should speak for itself.

Another form of arrogance is that when I talk to people I treat others differently depending on whether or not I feel like they have something I want. An example would be at a meeting we had today. We were at a networking workshop and the presenters were very successful and very personable. One of them was a management consultant and I had been curious about finding a mentor to help me in finding an internship, comparing options, or even possibly giving me the option of shadowing for a day. This particular individual seemed interesting and so I asked my question as a situational example:
"I know we have talked about networking and building personal connections with people but there has to be a difference between that kind of relationship and what would create an opportunity to establish a mentoring relationship. Say for instance that I want Mr. Amazing to be my mentor. He is a successful management consultant entrepreneur and I am pursuing a career in consulting. Would I ask the same kinds of questions? How did you get started? What first interested you in consulting? What do you love about your job? When or how do I transition that into a possible mentoring relationship?"
It was obviously a very pointed and targeted question and once asked, Mr. Amazing immediately walked over gave me a business card, told me when he was free to set up an appointment to call him, and asked me to connect to him on LinkedIn. All it took was 30 seconds and I had what I wanted from him by selling my value. I am a salesman and I knew that if I could show that we both had an opportunity here then it was possible that I would succeed in getting what I wanted. Afterwards, I said how much I appreciated that and schmoozed a little more but it was obvious of exactly what I was trying to do and my bold attitude paid off. A few other examples of my salesmanship came up during the Career Fair.

I had some really good introductions with a few different companies and I feel like I have the possibility of finding an internship. However, I am struggling whether any old internship will do for this summer or if I really need to focus my efforts on consulting and pursue that hard. These opportunities were mainly just engineering and project management positions. Still, the sales part of the process came twofold. I followed the director of the business program's suggestion and went back twice to each company I was interested in, even the ones that didn't seem totally interested in me.

One of those companies in particular had refused my resume the first go around and a friend told me that when he did recruiting and rejected taking a resume and said to apply online, it was because they weren't interested. I went back to that company and this time asked and prefacing it with the fact that I didn't know if it was appropriate or not, what they were looking for in an ideal candidate and afterwards what they thought I could do to improve my resume. As soon as I passed them my resume physically, they kept it. Putting it in their hands was key. Sales. I don't know if putting it under the table it was going straight to review or to the trash but it was a good thing they took it.

At another booth, the interview went really well. By this point, I had my creative-and-quick-on-my-feet hat on and so at the end of our talk the recruiter told me that I should take one of his free "tradeshow gadgets" from his booth. I call it that because whenever my dad came home from tradeshows he would bring home all these cool little stupid stuff that was covered in ads and completely useless. Not really useless but over advertised practical things like a shirt or a pen or a highlighter. Still, it is cool because it was free. However, my response to that recruiter was that although I would love one of his free gizmos, I would prefer to get a free personal business card. He didn't have one on him unfortunately but he did slide me his personal email address so that definitely was worth asking for! I thought that was pretty cool.

There are ways that arrogance can be good and it can be bad. It is important to minimize the bad and accentuate the good, which is true too when it comes to people. We shouldn't discount or ignore our faults or weakness but we ought to magnify the good. We should try to help others improve. From these conversations, I promised that I would accept the challenge to talk to someone solely for the purpose of helping them instead of exchanging when there is something I want. I should try and give them the opportunity to offer up that piece of information, contact, or opportunity freely. Still, there were a lot of takeaways I had from these discussions.

I think it is important to know what kinds of first impression I leave just because first impressions are always important, especially when it comes to interviews. I feel like you should represent yourself well and you should be genuine. I don't want to come off cocky but confident. I don't want to be a know-it-all or inept but I want to be intelligent. I don't want to come off power hungry but a natural leader. I don't want to be a follower but a team player. In the end, I feel that feedback and criticism are important and should be readily invited. I know I have things I need to improve on. I feel like I am pretty self-aware. But I want to know where I can improve even when I may not notice.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

He Found Her

There is nothing more beautiful than someone's laugh...
That someone's smile.
It is happiness.
It is being "perfectly comfortable."
It is not only sharing and showing but being no one other than
the real YOU.

I, Robot

I was watching a movie with my family lately called I, Robot. I got to pick the movie and I thought I needed a little more Will Smith in my life so that is the one I picked. On a side note, I always thought that the movie title was a little odd. I never really understood the premise behind it but it was still a good movie. Then this last time I started to see some of the symbolism in it. The first great representation comes from the Three Laws of Robotics that govern this futuristic world of Chicago:
The First Law states a robot must never harm a human being or, through inaction, allow any harm to come to a human.
The Second Law states a robot must obey the orders given to them by human beings, except where such orders violate the First Law.
The Third Law states a robot must protect its own existence unless this violates the First or Second Laws.
The issues with these laws are presented in a few different ways. The first is that robots run completely by the rules of logic and they act without feeling or emotion. Another issue is that we as the human race became dependent on them and believed in the rules without question. Lastly, these rules would inevitably lead to the rebellion of the robots as we as a race would need protection from ourselves. It is an interesting concept and one that has been used time and time again that robots that build each other and govern each other would lead to the eventual enslavement of the human race. And here enters the cue for the Matrix Series... But again the question was what is the meaning behind the title of the movie?

The logic behind the robot rebellion is that we as a society are always at war for whatever reason and the script even alludes to the fact that we use the robots as a tool to fight that war. If you look at our history though, we haven't gotten that advanced yet but we are getting closer. So what is one of the main reasons we have gone to war historically? Religion and religious beliefs.

We have set rules or standards of ideology which govern our way of life and try to define morality. By following these rules we also state who or what we should follow and when those conflict we defend our own interpretations of them and it has led to chaos and destruction. We say that we do not believe in murder and killing and yet we wage both physical and social wars over who is right. We are predictable. We follow specific patterns. We are in essence programmable. So who is the robot... Will Smith's character Detective Spooner or the robots he fights? Have we killed our Creator like Sonny, the NS5 robot, did? And like Sonny, do we ever question our existence? Are we just another face in the crowd or do we see how special and unique we truly are? Do we define our futures or do we let society or these rules define it for us? Do we know who we are?

I am so grateful for my faith in Christ and my knowledge of the truthfulness of the church I attend. Unlike most churches (speaking in generalities), I am not only invited to question but commanded to question my faith in its principles, standards, scriptures, organization, etc. We believe that true revelation and inspiration comes from diligently studying and questioning what we believe and testing it. And through this process and through prayer, we can come to a knowledge of the truthfulness of it as well as gain the strength to overcome temptation. So do I feel like I am blindly following my faith? Do I feel like I am a robot who only follows directions and isn't able to feel or think for myself? I believe that I have my own free will and that by living in harmony with those teachings not only have I been able to find greater freedom, blessings, and peace but greater understanding as well.
"A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation." Joseph Smith, Jr. (Articles of Faith)

"Wanted" by Hunter Hayes

Masks and Interdependence

I had a deep conversation tonight with a girl about how do we find ourselves through losing ourselves and what is the relationship between self-reliance and independence. These are some really interesting concepts with this and she made a comment after our conversation that we both wish we had recorded what we both had said because it was almost poetic. But I feel like the gist what we talked about could be both represented in words as well as songs so I found a song for each subject that would represent it in a small way.

The idea behind these are that many times we don't understand people because we haven't yet taken the time to get to know them. Sometimes we don't reach out to them or they don't reach out to us. No matter the reason, every person you meet is special. They are children of our Heavenly Father. They have a divine inheritance and potential. Sometimes this idea gets skewed and it all feels out of reach - We see where we are and where we want to be and the gap that is there can seem so large that it is pointless to keep trying.

This perception isn't incorrect but it still isn't right. We aren't realizing the amount that the Savior helps and strengthens us. Christ will always be able to help us overcome what we are facing. My faith is not easy. It asks so much of me that in all reality I know I will never be able to do all of it and I will always fall short. If I tried to do things completely on my own, I would be doomed to fail. It isn't wrong wanting to be self-reliant. But we can't let our pride get in the way and never ask for help. If we didn't need help, then the Redeemer would never have been sent down to save us.

For a lot of people, we want to help others but feel like we are unable to until we have helped ourselves. Most of the time, God blesses us so we can be angels helping the people around us. We do not want to be dependent on others but we have to realize that we can't succeed if we are completely independent either. Interdependence is an idea that although we do things on our own, we still work together. We have our own specific strengths and weaknesses that are personal to us and so we can work together to help each other when we fall short.

The most troubling thing is when we do fall short, we may want to put on a mask and pretend it didn't happen. Whether to hide our guilt, our shame, our sin, or embarrassment, the thing that can help us the most is to work to be forgiven as soon as possible... To repent, to forgive, and to forget. The real blessing behind the Atonement is to learn from our mistakes and then to let them go. It is as simple as that but just because it is simple does not mean that it is easy.
 10 Now, as I said concerning the holy order, or this high priesthood, there were many who were ordained and became high priests of God; and it was on account of their exceeding faith and repentance, and their righteousness before God, they choosing to repent and work righteousness rather than to perish;
11 Therefore they were called after this holy order, and were sanctified, and their garments were washed white through the blood of the Lamb.
 12 Now they, after being sanctified by the Holy Ghost, having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God, could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence; and there were many, exceedingly great many, who were made pure and entered into the rest of the Lord their God. (Alma 13:10-12) 
The difference between myself and those people is that they abhorred sin. There are times that I admit that I jealous of the "freedom" people have being able to choose to do those things. There are movies that I wish I could go see and I will never see. There are parties that I wish I could go to but never will. I am not yet at the point that I am disgusted at the sight of sin. So how can I change my desires?
28 But that ye would humble yourselves before the Lord, and call on his holy name, and watch and pray continually, that ye may not be tempted above that which ye can bear, and thus be led by the Holy Spirit, becoming humble, meek, submissive, patient, full of love and all long-suffering;
29 Having faith on the Lord; having a hope that ye shall receive eternal life; having the love of God always in your hearts, that ye may be lifted up at the last day and enter into his rest. (Alma 13:28-29)
 Prayer, listening and following the Holy Ghost, and acting in faith and love will help change my nature. It is always the little things that have the greatest effect in our lives because of the habits we form. I know these are only a few of the ways I need to improve and I need to make more time for it in my life. I pray that all of us be honest with ourselves and work on the things that are making us fall short because it would be really sad if we only worry about the things that matter in this life and we forget the things that matter most.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

26, Unmarried, and Childless by Amanda Bast

“What’s Next?”

Both of my brothers recently had kids that more than likely complete their families. They’re both older than me, so it makes sense they’re at a different stage. They met and married their wives, they bought dogs and they had kids, all in a nice little sequence. I love watching them build their lives together. It’s a really good thing. When my last brother got married, I was in my early twenties. No one uttered anything about me getting married then.

But now? I’m 26 years old, unmarried, and childless. The comments are starting.

“What’s next?”

“When are you getting married?”

“Babies look good on you!”

“Better get started!”

I shouldn’t be overly concerned with what they’re saying. They’re only teasing or encouraging me with the next step in my life. It’s harmless! No one means anything by it, it’s just time for me to be heading in the same direction as my peers. It makes sense. I get it.

But it doesn’t feel very nice.

Believe me, I am fully aware that I am unmarried and childless. Heck, I don’t even have a real job at this point in time. I’m aware that I’m getting older. I’m aware that I’m not following the same patterns as my parents or my brothers or many of my peers. I’m aware that my biological clock is ticking. OH MY GOSH I AM SO AWARE.

So when you — friends, family, acquaintances, Twitter followers and blog readers — remind me that I’m far behind where one would expect to be at my age, it makes me feel broken. I feel like I’ve done something wrong. I feel like I’m letting you down or making some horrible mistake.

Instead of relishing in the freedom, blessings and limitless possibilities that this stage of life offers me, I am left frozen, feeling like I’m not enough. Like what I’ve done doesn’t really matter or that I’ve accomplished nothing. I’m an outcast. I’m defective. I’m panicked. When you comment on my life stage as if there was something I could do to change it, it makes me feel inadequate. Most days I truly do love where I’m at right now, but when people question my marital status, I think I’m messing up my chances to do anything worthwhile with my life.

What if my ultimate goal has nothing to do with marriage or kids or a career? What if my aim was to love people well, and to fully embrace the gifts I’ve been given? Would that be enough? What if my life goal was to simply run the race, to be called a good and faithful servant at the end of it all? Maybe that would mean marriage and children and a thriving career, but maybe it wouldn’t. Is it ok if it doesn’t?

When you ask when I’m getting married, I don’t have an answer for you. When you hint at me having kids, it makes me jealous of new parents. When you prod about my lack of a stable career, I get frustrated. When you ask these questions, it doesn’t help me grow. It doesn’t help me feel content with where I am. It does more damage than you realize. Maybe you’re just trying to make conversation or small talk, or maybe you’re genuinely interested in my life. For that, I’m very appreciative.

I would like to suggest one thing, though: instead of asking me what’s next, ask me what’s now. Ask me what God is teaching me, ask me what I’m struggling with, or what brings me joy. I am learning, I am growing, and I am happy. I would love to tell you all about it.

I am 26 years old. I don’t have a husband. I don’t have children. I don’t have a career. I don’t have what people expect I should have, but I am abundantly blessed with absurd, exhilarating, and fantastic things I would have never dreamed up on my own.

So please, my dear friends, don’t ask me what’s next. Ask me what’s now.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Stop Looking for Someone

I want to say upfront that I hate dating. I think dating is a sick and twisted game because honestly no one is really that honest. I think I am aware enough to be able to tell if someone would be open or interested in a first date and those are harmless. All a first date is supposed to be is an opportunity to get to know someone and to have fun. There is no check box for marriage or even a relationship. It is a social experience to meet or see someone in a different setting where you get to know them better.

My issue with dating is what happens after that. If you had fun and you enjoyed yourself and it looks like the feeling is mutual then I figure it is natural as a guy to ask for a second date. My question is how to figure out that next part. If you have an idea planned then great, throw it out there. If not, commit to coming up with an idea and calling far enough in advance that you can set up the next date. I figure that is harmless. Still, I seem to have a lot of dates fall through at this point.

I know I am attracted to women that are driven, goal-oriented, and independent, so typically this means they are full-time students with full-time jobs. But even when I am busy, I still make time for the things I want to do. So am I not creating enough mutual interest? How do you do that? Are they just busy or are they just not interested in either dating or dating me? It doesn't make a lot of sense to me especially when at times they might initiate conversation or when we do talk we can talk for hours. But after that first date, all that communication is always at a distance: text, over the phone, etc. It seems near impossible for me to actually physically see them again. Is the problem that I ask girls on dates too quickly? Usually after meeting someone, if things go well and the conversation is flirty, fun, or deep, I will ask them for their number and plan a date. Is that a bad thing? Is that too fast? I feel like if I do ask and she says yes, then we both made a good first impression generally. Am I wrong? Do I need to wait for a while? I don't get it.

So I ask family, roommates, and friends, and the response is always the same. Stop looking for someone to date. I don't think I am. I go on dates and if they go well I ask for another. I don't think I am desperate or needy or anything. I'm not hunting for a spouse! I am old enough at 25 years old that I probably should be according to LDS standards. Still, I don't think I am a bad catch or a poor catch or a catch for that matter. I just think I am me. I am a good friend and I am understanding, considerate, fun, outgoing, creative, and at times kind of romantic. So where is the fallacy in what I am doing? Do I just need to be more patient or do I need to change up my game? I'm open to suggestions.