Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Class of 2016: Congratulations: I hope you fail (and a little advice for when you do)

Class of 2016: Congratulations: I hope you fail (and a little advice for when you do)

Dear Class of 2016, you graduate high school in a few days and will walk across that stage and receive that diploma you have earned. You will be cheered. You will be freed. You will gain greater access to this great big world than you have ever had before. This is the one and only time in your life that you will do this exact thing and let’s be honest – it is amazing!

You are eager to launch out in this world and be free. This is normal. At the same time there may be a hidden anxiousness about the unknown that you don’t wear on your face, but it lurks somewhere in your heart. This is also normal. Having two seemingly opposing feelings at once is not new to you, but having these specific feelings in these specific ways is probably new to you. Again, it is normal. Having the “I can’t wait to get out there and do whatever it is I am going to do even though I have no idea what it is” feeling is normal. Transitions in life end up being like jigsaw puzzles where there is a picture you are putting together, but you can’t see it yet.

If you feel excited and anxious, ready and not ready, eager and apprehensive, this is all normal. Engaging the complexity of life is part of what it means to be an adult. You won’t know everything before it happens. Life has its way of providing surprises despite the best planning. Still plan, sure, but also leave some room for surprises. 

The freedom you so greatly desire and will now grasp more fully than ever before is exciting to be sure, but it also comes with some high expectations. Really high. This world expects a lot of you. And let’s be honest, you expect a lot of yourselves as well.  And sometimes those expectations can seem overwhelming. You want to do well. You don’t want to disappoint. You don’t want to come up short. You don’t ever want to fail.

Well, I hope you do fail.

And I hope that when you fail, as you most certainly will, that you will do something constructive with it. Do! Not! Quit! Deciding that failure is a reason to quit is the one failure you will not recover from. When you fail it feels like the end of the world. It feels like there is no sense moving forward. It can lead you to believe that perhaps you’re not good at doing this, or you’re not good enough for that or that you can’t do anything right. Failure can lead to feeling like quitting. Don’t quit.

How? How do you not quit after failure?

Here are ten things to do when you fail:

1.      Let it hurt for a moment. You’re human.
2.      Decide that failure does not require quitting.
3.      Convert that hurt of failure into meaning (e.g. failure is your teacher, not your enemy)
4.      Seek out a mentor who is both where you want to be and at the same time has failed more than you.
5.      Invite feedback from people smarter than you are (relax, we are all well acquainted with failure and do not expect you will be the first person ever to avoid failure).
6.      Be prepared to have that feedback create discomfort (and then repeat #1).
7.      Gather all that failure and your mentor have taught you and try again.
8.      Understand that failure is the only true way to rule out bad ideas you could not have anticipated.
9.      Come to embrace the reality that failure builds endurance.
10.  Your current failure is the going to be the much needed and desired grace you give to someone else someday who is counting on you to be a great mentor.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

One Brutal Baptism

One Brutal Baptism

Limping down the bank
Into the current
With one brutal baptism
Standing between here
And the other side
Drowning possible?
Drowning required!

Flesh awashed on shore
Breath of life

Awaken in wimsy
Animated in wonder
Imagination sprung free
All familiar
All new
"I've never been here"
"I've always belonged here"
"Finally! Finally! Finally!
I know what to do"

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

3 Layers Deep: An Essay

3 Layers Deep

Humans are complex creatures. We are full consistencies and inconsistencies; predictabilities, and surprises; logic and paradox. We experience tremendous joys and horrific suffering, sometimes at the very same time. We long to live and fight to survive while griping about the manner in which we must live and survive. We long to be good, but often find ourselves acting with selfishness or contempt toward others. We long for people to judge us as good while fearing all the while that they judge us otherwise. The desire to appear good presses us toward complex and intricate strategies to manage the impressions others have of us while trying desperately to crush, hide, or deny that part of us that we believe deserves the kind of  self-loathing our hedonism or self-condemnation indicate. In short, we have a hard time being whoever it is we were meant to be and can’t stop trying to figure it out.

We all seek to manage the impressions others have of us; furthermore we seek to manage them such that it is advantageous to ourselves. This isn’t always selfish. There are ways to manage impressions altruistically, but in the end, even in altruism we manage the impressions of others toward our own advantage.

Somewhere deep down we know what we are doing. We know that we have to perform for people. We must do the task at work, show up to class at school, appear productive or smart when we are not. We want people to think the best of us in the context we live. Or, if not the best, then some other thing. The dark Goth teen is managing impressions showing only the dark. The hipster is managing impression hoping for sophisticated status and their denial of it is their best perpetuation of it – and they know it. The professor must be professorly even when everything within screams otherwise.

We want people to have a particular understanding of us and there is the fashion industry, political narratives, and all manner of ways of being seen and understood to back up the sense that we want control over the beliefs others have of us. The person who says, “I don’t care what people think,” lives within a secret from whom no one is excluded knowing the truth – that they too are managing impressions.

Some people are more honest about their self-loathing than others, but mostly we are all dishonest about it. We try hard to conceal it. This self-loathing is our reaction to ourselves and that collection of parts about ourselves that we wish were not real or true. Stupid. Ugly. Failure. Rejection-worthy.

We “know” these things about us are true. Or we “know” that the meaning we assign to them is true. And these things are undesirable. Some of them are just physical characteristics (I’m short or my nose is too big) while others are potentially humiliating. We will do whatever we can to conceal or hide and misdirect such that these undesirable characteristics cannot be seen or given a value by anyone else. With self-loathing comes fear and with fear comes an inability to love.

We manage impressions in a particular way that people will both see what we want them to see while not see what we wish to hide from them. We bury underneath the surface these things and they become secrets. Secrets just left to rest untouched or covered up rot and spread to everything else around them. We get sick with secrets as the infections spreads within. Usually, the answer to the sickness of our secrets is greater effort invested into impression management. With so many secrets, there is so much more to manage.

Layer 3: IMAGO DEI
Buried beneath years and decades of impression management and self-loathing is one more layer of complexity – and innocence. It is the Imago Dei. It is the image of God. Humans are not God, but are in so many ways like God. We are daughters and sons of God. What this means is that we have the impulse within us to create, to appreciate beauty, to reach for infinity. We are capable of love through compassion, peace-making, justice, mercy, grace, and all manner of virtue. There is an endless impulse within us to sacrifice for others, to improve whatever it is we come across in this life, to declare “good” that which is good.

The divine impulse within each person is always alive in the person.  Even when the seduction of impression management and the tyranny of self-loathing pile on layer after layer, this impulse to make all manner of good burst forth is always alive. It may be buried with some, but it is alive, free-willed, and ready to unleash goodness, redemption, and relief.

When humans are at their best, they have given up on the high cost of impression management and have faced their fears concerning that which seems to deserve self-loathing. When humans go to the third layer deep and reach past their base desires and deep fears, there is something there it is beautiful and infinite.

Where is God? Well, if humans are an image of God, then I suppose God is partially within each of us. If God dwells in a temple and that temple is human flesh and blood, then God is in you.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

What Little Sky

Redemption unignorable
Reaches to what little sky it sees
Drawn to the light
From the bottom
Of an open grave
Again again again
Reaching reaching reaching
Unobserved, unseen, unremarkable
Without reward
Besides the hope to reach the light
Without reward
Besides another day to live
Without reward
Besides now
Accumulated moments
Gather into a history
Reaching forever upward
Toward a future
That was never intended to inspire
But can't do anything else
No pride
No pretense
No ego
Just reaching for the light
(Photo Cred Jonathan White)

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

An Open Letter To Governor Haslam

Dear Governor Haslam,

First I want to thank you for your service to the state of Tennessee in your role as governor. You have done great things in your term as governor including making education accessible to so many more Tennesseans who thought it was out of reach. You have been a model for the nation on how to make meaningful and significant changes in areas of great concern. I am proud of your work and proud to live in the great state of Tennessee.

As a loyal Tennessean, I have the privilege of praising your good work, but also the obligation to share my concerns for decisions that I see as running counter to the best interest of the state and running counter to the very core of who we are as a nation.

I recently learned that you have asked the Obama Administration to stop taking in Syrian refugees until a better vetting process can be established and consequently have decided not to take any of the 200-500 Syrian refugees who were slated to be resettled in Tennessee. With my greatest respect, this is a mistake.

It is a political mistake. 
This is a political mistake because we are in a real and sustained war and, whether we like it or not, this is a war of ideas as much or more than it is a war of bullets and bombs. Governor Haslam, although we have better bullets and better bombs, our much better weapons are our better ideas. This nation is nothing without its refugees and immigrants, as the vast majority of people whose feet are on US soil can trace their lineage back to a people whose feet once stood on other soil, whether that be a year ago or five generations ago.

We must decide whether these words remain true:

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Governor Haslam, we have better ideas. Our founding documents are guiding collection of ideas for the best government that has ever existed since the beginning of civilization. We are a nation of freedom and justice and we are ruled by the people, not a dictator or warlord. We have an opportunity to live out these ideas with people who have never had such an opportunity to do the same. We have the powerful weapons of better ideas embedded into the DNA of this nation and there is no better way to demonstrate to a people that our ideas are better than showing them through our actions of welcome and hospitality. Let’s participate in giving these people a taste of our better ideas.

It is a strategic mistake.  
The fear is that some terrorists posing as refugees will get through the refugee resettlement process. Although it is impossible to guarantee 100% that this will not happen, the refugee resettlement process is not the gaping hole that some people fear that it is.

  • There is no evidence that resettling refugees in the US has ever brought a flood or even a trickle of terrorists into the country.
  • Refugees who resettle in the United States are at a lower risk for becoming radicalized than if they settle elsewhere. We have to think with a broad vision. We are not simply resettling people, we are engaging in a cultural intervention for a people who are having to decide who they will be from here on out. The worse the refugee resettlement situation is for the refugees, the higher the chance of people turning against us – especially if they thought they were going to be welcomed here and then were not.
  • Waiting until a better vetting process can be established will function as a way permanently block Syrian refugees from entering the US. It may not be intended that way, but it will function that way. While they wait, they will resettle elsewhere in much worse and more dangerous situations. Waiting is tantamount to rejecting regardless of intention.
  • The way we respond to the Syrian refugees is a communication to the world about the kind of people we are. Will the wealthiest nation in the history of the world be stingy? Will we respond out of fear that is more contained in a propaganda-like fear narrative than it is legitimate threat? The world is watching and everything we do defines who we are. Let’s show the world that we are a shining city on a hill and that the light we shine shines for all.

It is a cultural mistake. 
One of the greatest parts of Tennessee culture is its special brand of Southern Hospitality. Tennessee specializes in delicious and diverse food, the best and most diverse music in the world, and a particular set of manners and kindness that is unique. Being a native Minnesotan, but in my 6th year living here in Middle Tennessee, I have been a non-stop beneficiary of the great Southern Hospitality of Tennessee. It would be hard to find another place that does hospitality better than Tennessee.

Therefore, the move to block the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Tennessee sounds like a dark and dissonant chord, out of tune with the prevailing cultural norms.

What I love best about the culture of hospitality is that is assumes risk. Having someone in your home assumes risk, always – even if you know them well. When I was new here in Tennessee, lots of people assumed the risk of getting to know the new family in town. What I have learned living here for over half a decade is that people are willing to assume the risk as well as the cost of hospitality in order to enjoy the sharing of their food, time, and stories – the sharing of lives is worth the risk.

Furthermore, Tennessee hospitality is contagious. Once you have been on the receiving end of it, it is natural to want to be on the giving end of it. You open your house, kitchen, and life to me and I want to do the same for you and for others who are new and uncertain about their place here.

And though it is out of place to address a politician with religion (my apologies in advance), it is also a theological mistake.  

The driving theme in the Jewish and Christian scriptures is to welcome the refugee and treat them with kindness as opposed to reject or delay them until we have 100% eliminated all risk.

Governor Haslam, I understand that it would come at a political cost for you to reverse your request to President Obama to halt the flow of Syrian refugees into the US. To express the immediate welcome of Syrian refugees would not be a politically popular move right now with many of your constituents. At the same time, you have time and time again demonstrated your willingness to take political risks to do the right thing. Your persistence with health care coverage is obvious evidence for your political courage. You have a track record of doing good things over defaulting to that which only earns political gain. You are a wise and strong politician precisely because you do not simply make decisions based on making political gains, but rather on making good choices no matter the cost.

My encouragement to you is to do it again.

Please reconsider your position on Syrian refugees and let them have a taste of American ideas of freedom and justice now.  Let them feel the great acceptance of the unique and wonderful brand of Southern hospitality only Tennessee can offer.

You have the power to help the world see who we really are.


Chris Gonzalez, Ph.D.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Mental Health Fitness

How do you take care of your health?  Your body that is.  What do you either do or know to do in order to have a healthy body? We all know how it works, don’t we? Eat lots of vegetables and some fruit and then take it easy on the carbs, meats and dairy – right? Do 30 minutes of exercise daily, even if it is just walking – right? We have systems set up just for this purpose. From Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig to Curves and Cross Fit, there are many onramps to helping you with your physical health.

But what about mental health? What are the obvious ways to take care of your mind? Your emotional health? How do you manage your moods?

When people talk about dealing with mental health care, usually the first thought is a remedial mental health approach. You know, going to a therapist, counselor or psychologist. But that is more like going to a medical doctor when you are sick as opposed to the gym to make a healthy body even healthier. That is sick care. That is important and necessary, but what is healthy mental health care? What maintains already good mental health that buffers against a dive into anxiety or depression? What is the mental health equivalent to pushups, Pilates and planks?

Just like there are scores of physical exercises for the body, there are scores of mental health exercises for the mind. The remainder of this article is a small sampling of good mental health fitness practices that can improve and maintain good mental health and even turn around some aching mental health issues such as anxiety and depression. For significant anxiety and depression it is best to see a therapist just like when the body has high blood pressure it is best to see a medical doctor.

Physical Health: To some this may seem ironic or counterintuitive; however, the link between physical health and mental health is firmly established in science. Daily exercise and eating right is a powerful influence on the thoughts and emotions of a person. A daily diet of Swiss Cake Rolls and pizza is going to result in weight gain, but it also increases the chances of anxiety and depressed mood. Plus, what regular exercise and healthy eating also does is provide some order to one’s schedule and some restraint to one’s appetites.

Contemplative Practice: Ok, you lost me. Before you quit reading or just skip this one, humor me. All this means is taking time to be alone and pondering something intentional and meaningful. And it can take less than ten minutes. Some people use mindfulness, some use contemplative prayer, some use breath prayer, some use mediation and some use relaxation exercises - there are so very many ways to do this. All of them are good and backed by science. Some of them have a religious or spiritual bent to them ranging from Christian to Buddhist, but many of them have no spiritual impetus whatsoever. What this is NOT is sitting and ruminating on everything going wrong or a special time devoted to worry. That is the OPPOSITE of contemplative practice. What happens in contemplative practice is the breathing becomes deeper and healthier, providing rich supplies of oxygen to the blood. It also calms tense muscles that you didn’t even know were tense. Those muscles might stay tense all day long and go undetected. That’s tiring. Contemplative practices bring rapid calm to the body and mind.

Highlight Strengths. Knowing what you are good at, what your positive characteristics are and what you have that is valuable to the world is incredibly important. An honest awareness of your own assets is neither boastful nor is it narcissistic. How you communicate with and engage with the rest of the world is what makes for pride when it comes to abilities and assets. Some people downplay their strengths and assume that everyone is as intelligent, strong, attractive, funny etc. as they are or that their asset doesn’t count. Often times they do this because they fear being boastful so much that they overcompensate and by default tear themselves down. They interject a constant dose of negative to inoculate themselves against pride. Ironically, that is another more sinister and stealthier kind of pride – false humility. Here are three ways to highlight your strengths without being boastful:
1.       Write them down in short sentences: I am hilarious. Then in your contemplative time just review them and be glad you are the way you are.
2.       Use your strengths often.
3.       In certain settings, when your strength would help, humbly offer to do that task that no one else knows how to do, wants to do, or is not any good at.

Appreciation. This is one of the healthiest things you can do. There are two major categories of appreciation that can really help with mental health fitness. The first is to tell someone how much you appreciate them. When someone does something that benefitted you or when someone is simply just a wonderful person, tell them. From small things to large things, initiating a genuine expression of gratitude means a lot to that person and usually it turns around and means a lot to you. If you can bring a smile to someone’s face because of what they did that made your life better, then you will likely also smile. Endorphins for all. Also, and this one is hard, telling someone you do not like what good you see in them is good for you. It accesses the empathy that soothes angry and bitter soul sores. The second form of appreciation comes when you are actually tempted to compare yourself to someone else. She’s so pretty and doesn’t even try or I wish I was an all-star dad like he is. When this temptation hits, convert the comparison into appreciation. Be glad for the other person and the assets they have. What this does is gets you outside yourself and allows for people to have the advantages they have without it being a threat to your value, meaning or purpose.

Play Inbounds. Life happens and sometimes it is really hard. Frankly, some things about life are impossible. When people are overwhelmed, it can seem like all of life is one ginormous blob of responsibility and knowing where to begin can make a person want to just crawl in bed until the return of Haley’s Comet. Whether life is overwhelming or not, sorting life into two specific categories is a really healthy thing to do. One category is, “Things I have the power to do something about” and the other category is “things I do not have the power to do anything about.” Yes, it is that simple. After doing that, start working on what falls in the category of “things I have the power to do something about.” And to get started, do an easy one first. Take out the trash. Go to the store. Wash the dishes. Just do something you can get done quickly and start the momentum. What to do about the the things that fall into the other category? Some people use that to populate their prayers while other people freely let those things go. Investing energy into something you can't do anything about will wear a person out - fast.

Playing inbounds also applies to what you agree to do. The word, NO, is so hard for some people to say. They like the affirmation they get for being wanted. The problem comes when there is no place to put another responsibility. They have committed to something they may have the ability to do, but not the time. The result is converting some other previous YES into a NO, which inevitably increases stress and anxiety and can even form resentment or regret.

Mental Health Fitness is easily as important as physical fitness. However, we do not live in a culture that values mental health fitness. Mental health is assumed and if it deteriorates, then usually we wait a really long time, until crisis, and then get help - maybe. Many people just suffer in silence. Using mental health fitness practices can create more capacity in your life, help you be better at the things you are already good at and help to maintain and nurture your boundaries. These mental health fitness practices are very introductory, but are a good place to start. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Prayer In A Snap

Having a hard time praying or knowing what to pray for? Maybe you get so busy that there is no time to pray. Maybe you think prayer is so important and sacred that it requires a lot of time to set aside to do it, but you can’t find the time and don’t want to half do it.

If you are the kind of person who feels like you should pray more, but has a hard time doing it, then this may be of some help to you. Prayer doesn’t have to be this long and drawn out process all the time. Sometimes prayers can be super short and simple, like a quick text or snap to a friend – just checking in or sharing a quick little thing that has momentary importance, but nothing of global consequence (or perhaps maybe it is majorly important).

Here are 9 Snap Prayers you might want to try.

9 Snap Prayers

1.       Morning prayer & Evening prayer. Quick morning and evening prayers can be as simple as checking in with God in the morning asking for a good day (help me on my math test) while in the evening being grateful for at least one good thing that happened that day (thanks that my locked wasn’t jammed today).

2.       Prayer of desperation. This sort of prayer comes when there is an immediate need. “God, help!” is enough.

3.       Interceding prayer. When you see someone else who needs something or is in trouble, this quick snap prayer can help you empathize with others and call upon God for help.

4.       Confessing prayer. Sometimes you just blow it. You said something stupid, hurt someone’s feelings, or realize that you just did that thing you promised you would never do again. Tell God what you did and share the burden rather than carry it all.

5.       Listening prayer. This sort of prayer can really have two parts. Part one is like sending a text to God, “Hey, what’s up?” and then awaiting the rest of the day for the return texts.

6.       Gratitude prayer. A quick “thanks” is always nice when something good happens. Plus, it helps you remember to be grateful.

7.       Seeking virtue prayer. Sometimes you realize that the task before you requires something more than what you feel you have (e.g. patience). A quick text asking for growth is good. "Gonna need help with this one - patience please."

8.       Spontaneous prayer. Randomly thinking of God for any reason and just checking in is good. Again, you randomly text your friends and this is really not that much different. "Rainbow this morning. Nice"

9.       Lord’s Prayer. This 71 word prayer is slightly longer than a quick text, message or snap, but it is simply 71 words of awesome that takes less than 20 seconds to say.

Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.


Saturday, September 26, 2015


Pride. It’s ugly, it’s toxic and it’s part of the human condition. Whether humans are born with it or just pick it up along the way, there is little doubt that pride walks along with us, climbs inside of us and so often just takes the over controls and makes us a walking impersonator of ourselves.

Pride is clever and crafty as it wears many faces and does impressions of other attitudes and even virtues. Pride is so invisible at times that it can be up and running without anyone detecting it for long stretches of time – infection without detection.

If pride were not so much a stealthy, complex, and perpetually reincarnating individual and social process, it might be easy to quickly diagnose and treat. But the reality is that pride has no interest in being diagnoses and treated, it has no interest in compromise, and it has no interest in sharing. It is a relentless force that seeks to fill every single little patch of real estate in your soul it can find. Any little crack where humility has not filled, pride will occupy, take up residence, and defend as its sovereign domain. Pride is nothing to be trifled with.

One of the great ruses of pride is to define itself in obvious terms. Arrogance is a form of pride that is often obvious and overt, but pride would like us all to believe that arrogance and pride are synonymous – that arrogance is the only form of pride. Pride would like us to look at overtly arrogant people and compare ourselves and find ourselves to be something other, better than they are. Pride invites us to separate ourselves from that overtly arrogant person and declare ourselves humble since we are not like that arrogant person. That is a major win for pride. Any occasion that results in some declaration of immunity to pride allows for the undetected processes of pride to continue unfettered.

Pride, though it has its obvious and overt expressions, spends most of its time behind the scenes and under the surface, carefully constructing houses of cards that look and feel real, but in the end result in seemingly irreversible devastation. Pride likes to hide and lurk

One of pride’s favorite ruses is false humility. With enough practice, there are people who can simultaneously be consumed with and controlled by pride and be regarded by friends, co-workers, and family members as the most humble person I know. When pride engages the power of the social system and event he culture to perpetuate itself, it is almost impossible to detect. It is up to the prideful person to do all the work of detection and remedy. And if detection and remedy is initiated by the prideful individual, the social system around them will actually work against the remedy. Why? Social systems do not like to change, especially when the change feels like an indictment. In short, the prideful individual who is seeking to change is essentially telling the social system that you have supported and helped perpetuate my prideful living. No one really wants to hear that, so they’ll usually persist and dismiss that the person was ever prideful in the first place.

Another ruse of pride is internal defiance with external compliance. Sometimes this process isn’t pride because it is a redemptive subversion of oppressive forces, but much of the time it is simply just pride. This process of pride can emerge in work, in family, in school, at church, with God or in just about any situation when there is a power difference or intimate relationship. In short, this manner of pride says you can compel me to change my behavior, but I will not soften my heart.

Another of the many ruses of pride is depressed defiance. There is a particularly clever strain of pride that leverages perceived helplessness to gain, power, control, and even dominion. This manner of pride can emerge when there is legitimate helplessness (this is distinguished from resilience and resourcefulness), but does its best work when conceptual helplessness transcends actual helplessness and it is the conceptual helplessness that is acted on. It preys on the goodness of people to do for the individual what the individual could do for themselves. In its most extreme form, it will lead the individual to perpetrate on oneself and then endure dangerous suffering in order to control others.

If pride is so clever, so stealthy, and so…intelligent, what can a person do?

The first act of humility is to recognize one’s own perpetual vulnerability to and propensity for pride. This is not easy; however, working from the assumption that you are always at least vulnerable to some form of pride is itself a very humble posture.

The second act of humility is to seek an ever increasing sensitivity to pride, to be willing to detect its presence. Depending on comparison to other people as a barometer of one’s own pride is too crude a measure. It is unnecessary, but it may be a fair place to start. However, it is best to go past comparison as quickly as possible as it has a whole set of built in pitfalls. Introspection is important and necessary, but it, too, is likely to be insufficient. Some other ingredients to getting better at detecting one’s own pride includes having a small group of people (1-3 others) who you invite to help you detect it, tell you when they detect it, and have zero judgment in the manner in which they relate to you concerning pride. Another is to have an external code for processing experiences. Some people use the wisdom of the Bible to help them along. Submitting oneself to legitimate sources of wisdom helps to make one sensitive to one’s own pride.

A third act of humility is to submit oneself to an authority of some kind. Many people relate to God in this way. Having someone to whom you consistently seek to show respect and honor allows for you to practice the kind of humility with another that would work well in lots of relationships, even people who are not an authority to you.

Pride is nasty. Pride is ubiquitous. The discipline of humility is the kind of the medicine that remedies and extinguishes the scourge of pride.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

How to burn out without really trying

Actually, if you've never experienced burnout, you're just not trying hard enough. But don't be discouraged, there is enough burnout to go around. If you follow my very simple recipe for burnout, I 100% promise that you too can get there. Look, with proper mentoring and some specific changes to your approach to life, you can fully and completely burn out.

Before I reveal the secret to burning out, let's define it. Burnout is the final phase of what I will call the "burn out trajectory." It goes like this: working hard leads to growing tired which leads to exhaustion which leads to work fatigue which, if sustained long enough, develops into burn out. Burn out really needs to be thought of as an injury as opposed to being tired or exhausted. With tiredness or exhaustion, the cure is rest. They are not injuries. Burn out is an injury that needs healing.

Ok, a quick review before I reveal my 10 secrets to guaranteed burnout.

Work hard > Tired > Exhaustion > Fatigue > Burn Out

Here's how to do it:

Desire to Please. Let your desire to please people, especially your boss, drive everything you do. Prioritize everyone else's happiness over your own and take responsibility for them being happy. Neglecting some important things for the sake of pleasing others is paramount. If someone else is not happy, make sure you tell yourself that it's probably your fault.

Fear of Disappointing. In order to get to burn out as fast as possible, use fear as your primary motivation. But to really get the greatest impact out of fear, do it this way: make sure that if people are disappointed, it was because you weren't good enough. In fact, gather up your entire self-esteem into a single bundle and hitch it to the emotional reactions of your boss, partner, children, or any other significant relationship - heck, tie it to an insignificant relationship. Doing so will really help you get through these phases in the burnout trajectory.  

Ambition. It is important to have high goals and do whatever you can do to meet them. Furthermore, make sure the right people know how ambitious you are. Let them know how available you are to do whatever it takes to make it happen - at any time of day. You always have time to succeed, right? Here's a winner's tip: keep your cell phone with you at all times. You never know when an opportunity might need attention right now.  

Huge Ego (get addicted to affirmation). Burn out is not for the humble. If you are humble, your chances of burn out are low and you might just want to give up on the notion. However, if you have a huge ego and you know it, then turn up the ego volume to 11. Here is a special trick, if you can pass for humble while having a huge ego, you've really got the best of both worlds. No one hates for you being Trumpian in your inflated sense of self, but you get to have it anyway. One way to really increase the capacity of your ego is to get lots and lots of affirmation. Want it. Crave it. Get addicted to it. Stealthfully manipulate it as much as you can. Make sure as much of that affirmation is public as you possibly can without looking like that is what you are doing.
Low Self-Awareness: Capacity. If you are self-aware, accomplishing burn out is going to be a problem. However, if you are not, then there is still hope for  you. Having no idea how much you can do is key to burn out. If you do not know how much you can actually do, then you'll never know when enough is enough, because, let's be honest, it is never enough. Low self-awareness will allow you to say yes when you should be saying no. Ignorance is bliss!

Low Awareness: Task Size. Just say yes without even looking into the size of the yes. This is critical. Actually knowing what you are saying yes to might lead to cold feet and second thoughts. That is the death knell for burnout. If you know the size of the yes, then you might begin to get self-aware about your own capacity and then the whole thing falls apart. Just agree to everything and burn out will come looking for you.

Avoid Communities of Discernment. Other people are a real problem. Your friends have no desire for you to burn out. Be gracious - they just don't get it. They will fight you on this. Just leave them out of the process. It is better to simply make decisions in isolation and then, only when it is too late to back out, share those decisions with your friends. You get their pity without their critique (bonus: that's backhanded affirmation).

Procrastinate the Mundane. When you take on too much, just ignore anything that is boring. You'll get to it later, promise. Focus only on exciting things that get you lots and lots of affirmation. Just tell yourself that since you can't do it all right now (ever), focusing on the important things (read: exciting) is all that matters.

Dismiss Feedback. You may have friends or colleagues who give you feedback even when you don't ask for it. Be polite, of course, but dismiss it as quickly as is socially acceptable. If you have to tell a little white lie for the cause, then do it. Whatever you are doing is more important than your integrity.

Push Through. On your way to burn out, you'll have signs and symptoms that it is coming. Sometimes these are health related or are manifest as disruptions in sleep. This is good. When this happens, push harder. Drink more caffeine if you must. Whatever it takes is worth it.

Like Winston Churchill said when giving a speech on how to burn out, "Never, never, never! Never give up!"

If you really want burn out, you can do it. Don't get discouraged. You can't burn out in a day. It requires persistence. Be patient and trust the process. You'll be in the club before you know it.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Sisters - By The Scars of My Tongue

You're so very loyal,
By the scars of my tongue,
With all my voices carefully managed,
In the silence of my mind,
Never making it past my teeth,
Those simple and reckless thoughts,
Benign and explosive feelings -
My heart and soul -
Obscured from you -
For you.

I lassoed these tornadoes in my mind,
For you,
And you've never felt the breeze.
I think about my thoughts,
And you just speak yours;
I'm so fluent in our difference,
You think we're the same,

Because you need us to be the same,
You can't be you,
If I am not also you,
And letting you think so,
Was the best love I ever had,
For so long,
For too long,
I've done you wrong.

And you'll sip, just right, your just right coffee,
And I'll have what you're having, again
And we're both smiling,
For different reasons,
In our paper sisterhood,
Oblivious to the silence
You enjoy. Demand. REQUIRE.

So, my confession is due,
We're one, but we're not the same,
And I think I love you more,
But so scared you'll love me less,
Sister, it's just me - this time all of me,
And I hope you still think I'm pretty
Now that you see
The scars of my tongue.