You Can Be Smart and Stupid at the Same Time

I consider myself a fairly intelligent fellow. There are many things that I’ve learned in my life that other people find very confusing. Cosmology is one of my favorite subjects, and while I am certainly nowhere close to being an expert on the subject, I can understand most of what scientists are talking about when they are describing the physics behind how the universe works. The average person would struggle just to grasp the basic concepts of many of the subjects that simply come to me with little effort.

At the same time, there are other subjects that shouldn’t be very hard to grasp that simply do not come to me very easily, if at all. I’m not very good at math, for example, not having retained any knowledge of the subject past very basic algebra despite having a college degree with courses in more advanced mathematics. I’ve taken geometry and some calculus and even accounting, but none of it stuck with me for any length of time. I just never really understood any of it.

This is the thing about we human beings: we can be smart and stupid at the same time. Certain things just click with us while others will simply never be a part of our makeup. We can look like a genius one day and the next we can feel like a complete fool. Regardless of your raw intelligence level, there are simply some things that you will struggle with because each of our brains works differently and is good at different things. We are highly specialized.

It was because of my desire to figure out how to get this blog off the ground that this subject has been floating around in my head. One of the big things that any website owner has to figure out is getting their content in front of people. Perhaps the biggest thing we can do to accomplish this is practice the best possible Search Engine Optimization (SEO) that we can. When you can figure out how to take advantage of how the algorithms work, you stand a much better chance of reaching a much wider audience.

The problem for me is that I’ve never really been able to figure out how to make this work. I can understand the basic concepts, like making sure you have keywords that the search engines are likely to put first, but more advanced concepts simply escape me. For example, many of the tutorials tell you that your content has to be optimized to be searchable. How do I do this and still make content that is me rather than a template for search engines? I want my content to be formatted in my style, not something that panders to computers.

This is where my stupidity comes in. Part of it is stubborn pride, I suppose. I want my content to stand on its own and I don’t feel I should have to modify it to accommodate an algorithm. The other part, however, is simply that despite my ability to comprehend many other things, I just don’t get the algorithm. I know there are things I should be doing to my content to make it optimized for searching, but for whatever reason I just can’t figure out what that should be.

The other side of it is the actual website design. If you regularly read my content, you may have noticed I updated the layout a few days ago to separate the blog into the different categories I discuss here. That was mostly for your convenience so you can scan back through my content and more easily find a topic you might be looking for, or so you can skip the subjects you’re not interested in. It was also following the idea that more organized content tends to be better for internet searches. We’ll see how that works out.

I previous posted an article entitled “It Takes Money to Make Money“, in which I said that you have the best chance of finding success when you make investments in yourself. This can be personal education, and that will certainly help to some degree, but sometimes there things that you just can’t do on your own and you need expert assistance. You can’t know everything and sometimes the best investment you can make is hiring someone else to do the things you struggle with.

I believe SEO will eventually fall into this category for me, as I’m fairly sure I won’t be able to build a strong following all by myself regardless of the quality of the content. There are great creators out there with awesome blogs and podcasts and videos, but because they haven’t learned to game the system, they will never find any real level of exposure. There are simply too many of us on the internet and we get drowned out by those people who have figured out the tricks of the trade. In the end, it is only through working with others that we can build something amazing.

What do you think about the variability of human intelligence? Are there things that you excel at which make you wonder why you struggle with something else? How do you overcome the things you’re not good at? When we can identify our weaknesses, we start to realize that we can’t do it on our own and, though it may hurt our pride, we learn to reach out to others to find a way forward.

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Why Is Individual Liberty Important?

One of the biggest debates in our modern political climate is the balance between what is best for the individual versus what is best for the community. It is not usually at the forefront of our minds when we think about political issues, but the basis for most arguments from both sides revolves around which of these categories is more important. Understanding how you think about the issue of individual liberty can help solidify your point of view.

For many, the argument that anything about the individual should come first appears to be evil, because for them “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one”. This is clearly an altruistic sounding statement, and when you look at it from a cold mathematics perspective, making a decision that helps ten people at the cost of one seems like something that just makes sense. If you look at it in that very simplistic way, it becomes an easy decision to put the group before the individual.

The problem with this line of thinking is that it completely ignores the reality of human nature. There are billions of unique human beings on the planet, and while many of us share myriad viewpoints, none of us are exactly the same. Different things are important to each of us, and while we might group together to push for a cause we believe in, at our core we are individuals who want individualistic things. How do we decide which ideas to adopt and which ones to reject when we are all so different?

This is the problem with large societies. Once the population grows to a certain point, the expediency of “group think” begins to erode the emphasis on our own individuality in favor of what is best for the biggest number of people. Rather than remembering that we each have things the we like and dislike, we start focusing on what the group decides is important and begin ignoring the needs of the minority. This is an extremely dangerous way to make decisions, because it causes the kind of terrible back and forth societal shifts we are experiencing today as power shifts from one major group to another.

One of the founding principles of our American Republic was the idea that we wanted to preserve the freedoms of the individual and avoid any one group from ruling over another. To quote one of my favorite movies: “why should I trade one tyrant 3000 miles away for 3000 tyrants one mile away?”. The understanding from the very beginning of our nation was that we did not want a repeat of what had happened in the past with dictatorial rulers oppressing the people with their power.

Today’s political climate has become exactly what the founders of the nation feared and did everything they could to prevent with the Constitution: large groups of people banding together in an attempt to force other groups of people into submitting to their authority. Despite what each side tries to tell us, it is no longer about what is good, but who can win and assert their dominion over the population. It is 1775 all over again.

This is the reason why individual liberty is so important. Of all the things about us as human beings, the fact that we are each a unique individual is the one thing that is universal, regardless of nation, creed, religion, or otherwise. Understanding this fact, the logical conclusion when deciding how to run a society is to make this single factor the foundation upon which we build everything else. When we all have such differing viewpoints on how we see the world, the only fair way is to only put rules in place that preserve the ability for each of us to live our lives the way we decide is best. Forcing people to do things a certain way can never lead to lasting peace.

The crux of the issue is all about learning to understand that large groups of people aren’t just numbers to be manipulated, but real human beings who are affected by the decisions imposed by others. We rarely think about how the policies we support force unbearable restrictions to people who oppose our point of view. It doesn’t matter if living with the restriction doesn’t bother you; you have to understand and empathize with the fact that it does bother them.

The problem we have today is that we can’t put ourselves in the place of others and realize that we wouldn’t like it any better if they forced their way onto us. By believing that individuals rights come first is selfish, we become truly selfish by forcing others to bend to our way of thinking because we can only see our way as the good way. We forget that there are actual people who must radically change their lives to accommodate our personal preferences, and we become oppressors rather than fellow citizens.

One of the biggest changes we can make in the way we interact with our political structure is to shift ourselves away from these big groups who care only about being in charge and start voting for people who understand that it is free individuals who made our society great and who will make it great again. It is when we all freely choose come together around common goals that we find the best in ourselves and make great strides as a species. One free man who willingly joins you is worth far more than many slaves who obey only out of fear. As counterintuitive as it sounds, it is when we stop worrying about the group and provide individual people with maximum freedom that our society finds the greatest good.

What do you think about individualism? Have you traditionally regarded it as selfish, or do you believe we should try to accommodate different points of view? What can you do today to advance the cause of individual liberty? While many will never be able to understand the seeming contradiction, it is important for us to think critically about human nature and carefully insert it into our political decision making. Failing to do this inevitably results in conflict, just like we are seeing today.

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Learning to Live With Your Past

We all deal with it. Regardless of where you come from or how much money you make or who you choose to spend your life with, there is something in your past that you’re still dealing with today. It might be something minor that surfaces from time to time, or it could be something truly horrific that makes it difficult just to get up in the morning. Most of us fall somewhere in the middle. No matter who you are, you are dealing with something from your past.

It’s normal to want to forget your past and just move forward with a positive attitude. This period of my life is marked by a desire to find a bright future for myself and my family, and dwelling on the past seems counter to that. Most people understand that you can’t find happiness by dwelling in negativity, but many times we try to push ourselves so far in that direction that we simply ignore the bad things that have happened to us.

The problem is that you can never truly get rid of the demons from your past. They are a part of what makes you who you are today, and because of that they will forever be entwined with your future. Were you able to somehow rip them out, you would no longer be who you are now, but someone quite different. We are shaped by the events we live through, and every one of them is important, good or bad.

The best you can hope for is to tame those demons to the point where they no longer control you. Like most things in life, this will not be easy in the beginning. You will struggle every day to get over whatever it is that hurt you, and no matter what technique you try, it will still require a monumental effort to just get started down the path of healing. People will come along offering a “quick fix” solution, but the truth is that healing requires time. Accepting that is the first step.

One of the great things about human beings is our ability to adapt to new situations and new routines. While it will require a great deal of effort at first, once you get started it becomes easier over time to continue moving forward. The pain lessens and the memories become more and more blurry. You see the light at the end of the tunnel and it draws you forward. The initial push in the middle of the darkness is the hardest, stumbling around blindly until you can find that far away light, but it gets easier once you do.

The temptation after we exit the darkness is to never look back, but we have to remember that the tunnel we walked was inside a mountain, and that will always be there on the road behind us. We didn’t want to go through that mountain, and we never want to again, so it is important to look back occasionally and take a good look at it to make sure we can recognize it when another one appears on the horizon. Part of healing is learning from mistakes and injuries, so fixating on the path ahead can sometimes cause us more harm. Remember to look back from time to time.

At the same time, we still need to watch where we’re going. Spending too much time looking back might cause you to stumble into another mountain you didn’t see coming. Balance must be maintained between keeping your eyes ahead on the path, and occasionally glancing back to keep the obstacles from your past clear in your mind. It’s not an easy thing to do, which is why so many of us struggle to figure it out, but with a little effort you can start to control your own path and avoid repeating the same mistakes in the future.

How do you feel about your past? Did you learn anything from it, or do you continue finding yourself in the same situations? What measures are you putting in place to make your life better from today forward? These are the questions we must ask ourselves if we are to have a fighting chance of making a better life for not only ourselves, but those who choose to share our journey with us.

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It Takes Money to Make Money

It’s one of the most heard and hated clichés to newcomers in the business world. In this modern era of free video streaming and nearly unlimited access to mountains of content, we don’t want to be told that we have to spend any more money than we already do to get into something that we hope to turn into a career. Just like most of the other things in our life, we want it to just come to us with little or no effort.

Unfortunately, no matter how much we wish it were different, that just isn’t the way the world works, especially if we’re talking about doing something as competitive as making money in the online space. There are literally millions of people out there uploading content and competing with you, an individual, for the money that’s out there for the taking. You’ll read articles from people who tell you it’s hard but doable, but the reality is that only a small percentage of people make it in any industry because there’s only so much to go around. How do you compete against people who have already been doing this for years?

The reality is that if you want a leg up on the competition, you’ll likely have to spend some amount of money up front to have any real chance of success. Whether it’s paying for access to a premium service, hiring a marketing company to help you get your message out, or simply purchasing better equipment to increase the quality of your content, it is a near certainty that you will need to spend an uncomfortable amount of your own personal earnings to get started.

I have always struggled with this, but not because I’m too cheap to spend money. I tend to spend way more than I should, if I’m honest. My issue stems from the fact that I tend to be very skittish about risking money on an unknown. This is the reason I’ve never been comfortable with gambling, and at the most basic level an investment of any kind is a gamble. You can’t really know how it’s going to turn out.

Knowing this, I have typically stuck to regular day jobs because they felt like the safest option. A job where you go into work and get a regular paycheck sounds eminently stable, but like many things in life it’s just an illusion. You can walk into your job any day and be laid off without notice. There is no true income security in any sector of the business world, so being afraid to invest your money in yourself is pointless if there is something you want to do that might be more fulfilling than laboring for someone else.

It is because of this that I’ve started taking some small risks by investing in certain things, such as a paid subscription to this blogging service. As I continue to write and attract followers, I will be looking at more opportunities to invest money into the various outlets I’m using to try to get my content to readers and listeners, trying to find the best balance between doing things myself and hiring out work to others who can do things far better than I can. Of course, this requires that I build a following, and who knows how that will actually turn out.

I’m in a part of my life where I’m trying to cast off the old pessimistic view I had of my life and start moving toward something more meaningful, and preferably lucrative. My dreams don’t require a lot of money, but I won’t pretend that one of the motivations for starting this blog is to turn it into a career. Honesty is the best policy, and I prefer to be as real as possible with my writing so that no one ever feels like they were tricked. If they support my content, I want them to know they’re contributing to exactly what they think they are. My hope is that this attitude will be attractive to people and they will find it valuable enough to support it.

How do you feel about spending money on an unknown outcome? Do you jump right in and hope for the best, or do you hold back because you’re afraid to lose? Where do you draw the line between risk and reward? Sometimes we have to do things that are uncomfortable to get where we want to go, and the sooner we learn this, the more rich and fulfilling out lives can become.

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How Do You Shift Your Perspective?

Much like most of us, I have been through many changes in my life. After a fairly normal childhood, I joined military service as a musician, a decidedly paradoxical role in which both extreme discipline and expressive art were jarringly crammed together into a strange but interesting caricature of creativity. Since then I’ve spent most of my time in offices doing computer work, rarely stopping to think about some of the things I realize I’ve lost since not only my time as a musician, but also my childhood.

When I was young, I was far more imaginative than I am today. This can be said for most people, but I think I can say I was above average in the creativity department. Childhood games of fantasy pretending to be crazy characters from books, hours and hours spent reading adventure novels and imagining myself alongside the characters, creating and leading fantasy adventure games with family and friends; I used to have a far more interesting way of looking at the world than I do now.

Somewhere along the way I lost that spark of creativity. I feel that part of it was the discipline I was required to maintain as a Marine for what is now about half of my adult life. It is difficult to find the motivation for creative thought when your daily routine is so highly regimented by others. In order to satisfy that creative spark, I retreated more fully into things like video games than I already had by that point, and it feels like the creative side of me has atrophied due to relying on other forms of entertainment than my own imagination.

Since leaving the military, I haven’t really been able to pull myself out of that. I’ve gotten used to the routine of day by day life, looking ahead to the future but never really knowing how to get there. I’ve accepted boring office jobs because they seem to be the only kind of work I am qualified to do. Setting aside the fact that I’ve convinced myself I can’t afford it financially to start over, the truth is I don’t believe in myself enough to branch out into something else.

In order to jump into something new, you have to have a part of you that can visualize success. Sometimes, that success depends very highly on your ability to think outside of the box, because the thing you jump into might require very different solutions and actions than you’re used to. More than a decade in the military planted me firmly inside the box, and I struggle to this day to break out of it. As part of this struggle, I keep searching for different ways to use one of my interests to break free.

Writing is something that I’ve always had an interest in. I even wrote the first book of a fantasy trilogy, though it hasn’t found success. I have made several attempts to break away from the traditional labor space into more creative endeavors, but it feels like there is just something missing from my makeup that I can’t seem to get past. The hard part is that I can’t figure out if it’s something I lost to adulthood that I can maybe get back, or if it’s something I just never really had in the first place.

Like many things in life, that question can only be answered by continuing to try and seeing what happens. Sometimes looking at the world a different way requires that you change the way you look at it. I have traditionally felt that I don’t have what it takes to move out from under the shadows of others to stand in the light on my own. The only way to get past that doubt is to simply ignore it and keep trying. It may never happen, but if I don’t even try it certainly won’t.

What do you think about your perspective on life? Are you satisfied with where you are headed? If not, have you thought about trying to break into something new? Sometimes all we can do is simply take the first step down the path and hope for the best. None of us knows the future, and many times it is a small change that ends up making the biggest difference in our lives. If we support each other in taking those steps, perhaps many more of us can live the kinds of lives we dream of.

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Government Can’t Save You

As our society moves forward into higher and higher levels of technological advancement, we are starting to exhibit some very troubling tendencies. In the past, we used to accept a lot of things about life that were simply variables outside of our control, and we adjusted our lives to cope with this reality. Whether it was protecting ourselves from wild predators or enemy tribes or even just dealing with the inconsistency of the weather for our crops, we had the capacity to understand that we couldn’t waste time fixating on things that we can’t do anything about.

In this modern era, we have a lot of free time. While this idleness has allowed us to move our focus from basic survival to more meaningful pursuits, it has also allowed us to come up with some pretty unrealistic ideas about how life should be. As life becomes easier and we are required to work less and less, our sense of entitlement is increasing at an exponential rate. Because we live in our sheltered little worlds, we have lost touch with reality and expect the world to bend to our will.

You can see this in a lot of the political ideologies that have surfaced in recent years. Their goal appears to be eliminating many of the struggles that our citizens face and bringing everyone up to the same quality of life. This is a noble sentiment, but it ignores many of the problems associated not only with the fact that the world is a harsh place to exist, but also that human nature is not conducive to this type of political structure. All of the worst qualities of humanity still exist in full force, our system of government must reflect this.

Systems like socialism or communism sound great because they are designed to implement control on the world around us. We like to feel that we can put rules or contingencies into place that will safeguard us from danger, and it becomes easy to turn to people who seem to know what they’re doing. This is foolish because it ignores the reality of the human condition. Ambitious and selfish people from every period of time have stepped up to claim the mantle of leader, and they implemented strict controls into the societies they led in order to get people into line under their power.

The problem is that any sense of control is a total fiction. Even ignoring the chaos of the natural world, human beings themselves are impossible to permanently subjugate. They yearn to live out their hopes and dreams. The longer they are forced to live in conditions they find detestable, the more angry they become and eventually revolution sparks. The control that the leadership believed they had is shattered in an instant by the very human nature that propelled them into power in the first place. It is a deadly cycle.

We see this in our society today. The reason our country is so divided is not only because of misinformation by the media or large groups of people shifting to one extreme or the other. A big part of the problem is the slow encroachment into our personal lives that our system of government has been pushing for more than a hundred years. Social programs, unjust wars, increased police states and more have begun to weigh down on the spirit of Americans both left and right. We simply can’t see that our common enemy is our own government, not each other.

So instead of pushing off the control of these people who want us to do what they tell us, we call these same people to implement more rules in the hope that they can somehow protect us from the people we’ve been propagandized into fearing. Rather than seeing these “leaders” for what they are, we blindly follow these evil shepherds into terrifying ideas in the hope that they actually know what they’re doing. They don’t.

What do you think about government? Is it something you trust, or something you fear? Have you seen anything done by government that guaranteed you a positive result? We like to believe that most people are good and will do what is right for the betterment of society, but history has shown us over and over that this just isn’t the case. Good people become corrupted very quickly when given power, and their ideas are generally no better than yours. If we can remember that human nature will always be what it is, we can start to take responsibility for ourselves and push our future forward the right way.

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Working for Employers Who Don’t Value You

One of the hardest things for a working adult to figure out is learning to live under a boss who views you as an asset rather than a person. It is natural for someone managing so many things all at once to lose sight of the fact that the people he employs aren’t just pieces to be moved, but at the same time it is very difficult to use that understanding to avoid becoming resentful. The boss may be a good person, and he may have a true desire to treat his employees with respect, but at the end of the day his job is to get the job done and your desires are secondary.

It is one thing to be able to look at this objectively and understand how things are and why they are that way, but it is quite another to reconcile that in your own heart. We can understand why the boss needs to have that sort of attitude to some extent, but eventually we begin to become disenfranchised with our work environment when we realize that we don’t really matter past what our employer can get out of us. The longer this goes on, the harder it becomes to withstand our own angst and continue maintaining a positive attitude.

Of course, this post is being written in response to my own current employment experience. I have to be upfront and honest and say that I have a pretty good boss. He treats me with respect and has allowed me a lot of leeway with time off for childcare and other things of that nature. I can’t fault him for his character in the slightest. Most people would be very satisfied with their experience here. I certainly was for several years.

On the other hand, there is an expectation that as you continue to work for an employer, you move out of the tasks and responsibilities that you started and begin advancing further into your career. The problem with this employer is that I have nothing to offer them outside of what I already do, and to advance I would have to shift my focus from my current skillset to an entirely new one…a skillset that I’m definitely not interested in. So instead of moving forward with my career, I get stuck with all the random tasks that no one else wants to do. It is difficult to find satisfaction in that sort of position, and it makes it quite clear that I am seen as a convenience rather than a meaningful and contributing member of the team.

This is the problem with being an employee. No matter how good or nice or positive your boss might be, at the end of the day you are working for the enrichment of someone else. You are compensated for the effort you put in, but you are not adding any lasting value to yourself, aside from more job experience added to your resume. That’s nice, I suppose, but it doesn’t have the same staying power that it had in the past. The current gig economy makes it very difficult to find quality positions regardless of your experience because everyone is always looking for work.

This is the second post in which I’ve come to unload some of my issues in written form. I try to focus on the positive, but like you, reader, I have my ups and downs. For me to paint myself as a beacon of hope in a world of darkness would be hypocritical. All of the issues I’ve written about on the blog thus far are things I struggle with, not things that I’ve learned to master. I do my best to implement my own advice, but there are days like today where the circumstances of life press down on me and I want to just walk away. It’s all harder than it sounds.

Where I find a difference between myself and many other people is that I am able to objectively look at these things once I get past my initial frustration. Will I just walk away from my job because I hate it? No. I can’t afford to just walk away without somewhere to go. Will I allow my frustration to poison my life? No. It’s not worth dwelling on it. I have to keep my focus on getting to the next step in my life and not shooting myself in the foot before I get there. We all go through this at one level or another, but bringing this thought to the forefront can make all the difference in our ability to find peace and happiness.

So what do you think about working for employers? Do you have a good one or a bad one? Do they make you feel valued, or despite their kindness do you feel like a chess piece? Sharing your own experiences is one of the best things we can do to assuage our own angst and frustration, because the sharing of our experiences in a constructive way has a strong, positive effect on our psychological condition. I encourage you to share your story and get the weight off your chest.

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Living in Transitions

I don’t want to make this a rant post, but there is something that has been on my mind the last few months that I can’t shake. It feels as if we are in a transition period in our country when it comes to the way that people look at work and how it gets done. What makes it difficult for me is something that seems to be present in my life all the time. We’re pushing into this brave new world of remote work where people can work from their home office, but not enough that employers are fully embracing the idea to make it workable for people like me.

For a long time now I’ve wanted to cast off the traditional life of dwelling in a house or apartment to roam the country in my travel trailer. The issue I’ve had is that it is very difficult to find a job that fits this kind of lifestyle. I already live in my trailer, but it’s parked in a permanent lot waiting for me to figure out how to set up an income stream that follows me wherever I go. All I need logistically to get where I want to be is to find an appropriate truck to tow my trailer, as well as some final equipment to make me self sufficient for things like electricity and internet on the road. I’m so close I can taste it, but the one huge and immovable barrier seems to be finding a job or other income stream that I can do from the road that pays enough to sustain me.

The part the frustrates me is that we are now living in a world where business appears to be shifting to the kind of remote work I want to do, but I just don’t seem to have the job skills that these kinds of businesses want. Even though my skillset is primarily focused on computer work, my career thus far has been shoehorned into the construction industry, which is full of very traditional employers who want people to be there in person ready to take up any random task they need to get done. This is not conducive to remote work and I have yet to meet a project manager who approves of employees working full time from their home office. They want you there and available.

The natural solution to this would be to switch career fields, but unfortunately I just don’t have the ability to take a huge pay cut to start over in another field. It is rare to find an employer who will hire someone to a mid-career position simply because they were successful in another field. They want a plug and play solution; someone who can simply step into the role with little to no training and start making them money.

I can certainly understand this attitude, but it is disheartening from this side of the fence. Being unable to shift gears railroads you into being stuck in a lifestyle you don’t really want. This is amplified by the current gig economy that we now live in that forces us to be stuck with the same type of job over and over, but still having to live with the uncertainty that comes with constantly moving from job to job. It’s all of the downsides with almost none of the good.

This isn’t to say that I’m not grateful for what I have. I could never complain that I don’t have enough or that I’m being treated unfairly. The job I have pays me well to do what I was hired to do, and that’s a reasonable arrangement. Still, the part of me that wants something more out of my life yearns to find a new opportunity that will allow me to use my skillset to find a way to make income on the road so I can find the freedom to escape the rut I find myself in. Like many things in life, it’s like a huge black wall that I can’t see past and I don’t know how to punch through it or get around it.

So here we stand, in the middle of another revolution in the business world, not quite out of the old way but not fully into the new. It’s very difficult to watch the world moving so very slowly into the kind of job market I would prefer to be in, but I understand that you can’t just force everything to move the way you want it to. Change has to happen slowly over time to get the best result. Adjustments are made gradually to ensure that we aren’t shocking things out of balance. Too many of us forget this and try to force things to happen much faster than they should.

This doesn’t change the fact that I’m yearning for an opportunity to jump into the new way of doing things. Finding a method of income that allows me to not be tethered to a specific location is one of the biggest goals I have in my life right now, and if I can figure it out I think a lot of things in my life will finally change. Sometimes you just need to press the reset button to get past some of the things that have been holding you back. So I’ll do my best to patiently wait for the opportunity to move forward with the life I’ve been hoping for.

What do you think about living in transitions? How did you handle it when it happened to you? Are you in the middle of one right now? Our life is full of transitions, and learning to handle them well can mean the difference between moving closer to our dreams and being pushed further away from them. Still, sometimes venting your frustrations can reset your perspective and help you to refocus on your goals. Don’t be afraid to embrace your issues and use them to put yourself back on the path to success.

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Writing for Shorter Attention Spans

When I was younger, I would sit and read five book fantasy series with four to eight hundred pages each.  The stories were gripping enough to hold my attention and there wasn’t enough time in the day to read them.  As I’ve grown older and lived in a world so very different from the one I grew up in, I have come to realize something about myself:  I have a much shorter attention span than I used to.

You see, I grew up in the 1980’s and 90’s.  Back then, we had television and videos games, but not nearly at the level in which it pervades society today.  I remember much of my childhood being spent outdoors, running around in the woods and through creeks.  I had good friends who I had sleepovers with and I was involved in activities that were not only physical, but took a long time to do.  Though it had many problems, my childhood was much more like the traditional upbringing that most Americans think about when we look back to our past.

Then I hit my high school years and the computer era consumed my life.  There was a rapid shift from wanting to be outside having fun to slowly merging myself with this incredible piece of technology that could take me to far more interesting and amazing places than my simple community could.  Even the imaginary journeys I followed in my books paled in comparison.  Three dimensional graphical games invaded my life and grabbed my attention, and the things that had defined my childhood fell away.

I’ve spent most of my life in front of a computer screen.  It’s difficult for me to jump into anything else.  So much of my time has been spent on computer generated adventures that imagining myself doing anything in the real world seems foreign to me.  Despite this, I have finally reached the point in my life where the draw of the instant gratification I get from computer activity no longer satisfies as it once did, and I find myself starting to wonder: what now?

This is where we get to the topic of this article.  I am in this slow process of waking up from a computer-generated dream, and as I start to interact more and more with the real world around me, I’m noticing that my ability to focus on things for an extended length of time is seriously diminished.  I see this most often when I’m watching YouTube videos.  I look at a video that is only about fifteen minutes and think I’ll be alright to watch the whole thing, but then I get a few minutes in and I’m impatient for them to get to the point.  I end up leaving the video because it feels like they’re taking far too long to just get to the point.

It’s just as bad when I’m reading.  I try to read the articles of others, but when I start to see that it’s more than just a few paragraphs, I get annoyed and click the back button.  It happened just before I was moved to write this article.  The article wasn’t much longer than the typical length of the articles I write myself, yet I was too impatient to sit through it and absorb what the person was trying to say.  I barely remember the subject of the article because I was too focused on wanting them to just get to the point.

I know that part of it is me and my history.  I have a problem with impatience and for most of my life that flaw has been catered to with technology.  One of the things I need to spend the next phase of my life working on is learning to slow down and let things happen the way they need to.  It doesn’t always have to be right now, and I know I’ll have a lot more peace in my life if I can figure that out.

On the other hand, we as writers also need to start understanding that we live in a world where most people just don’t have the patience to sit through things the way we used to have to.  With so many things on demand, the average person simply doesn’t feel that they should have to wait for anything.  I know most of the time I end up feeling that way, regardless of whether it’s justified or not.  It’s a natural extension of the society we now live in.  And if we want to engage more readers, we must learn to adjust to it.

I know that for myself, the limit is between eight and ten small paragraphs of text before I decide it’s not worth the time to figure out what the person is saying.  I’d like to increase that over time, but for now it’s about as far as I can focus before I get bored and move on.  I think that most people would like to see even fewer paragraphs than that, but it becomes difficult to include enough information for your thoughts to flow correctly if you try to squeeze them into too short an article.  So with that in mind, you’ll note that this article is exactly ten short paragraphs.

What do you think about the shortening attention span of our society?  Do you find that you struggle to get through articles once they reach a certain length, regardless of how interesting you find the topic?  Are there writers that you find engaging, yet you still struggle to read their work because they simply take too long to get to the point?  The reality is that as things continue to move along the path that they do, it’s only going to get worse.  If we want to keep up with it, we need to learn to distill our writing down to meet with our readers’ expectations.  Otherwise, we risk our content falling by the wayside.

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The Stifled Soul

We all go through awakenings.  It doesn’t matter what kind it is, but each of us many times in our lives go through periods of time where we start to realize that something is changing within us.  The old way has become unbearable, and we need to lash out at the world to break free from the oppressive weight we’ve been carrying for so long.  In our desire for safety and security, we hold on tightly to the horror we know in hopes that we won’t be subjected to anything worse.  There is nothing more evil in the world than a soul that has been stifled by its own expectations.

We live in a world today where things like creativity and art and all the things that make life worth living have become sidenotes to practicality.  The world has become so efficient at spitting out product and forcing us into mass produced molds that we struggle to know the slightest bit about who we really are.  Millions of people spend lifetimes grinding away at a goal set by others that they never really wanted, all because we have been ingrained from birth with the values of industriousness, conscientiousness and a worshipful nature toward the almighty dollar.  It is a hollow existence.

You can’t teach this fact to anyone.  It isn’t something you can lay out on a chart or graph, nor is it something you can measure with a ruler or microscope or beaker.  No one can walk up to you and point to the sky and tell you about it.  It can’t be seen, it can’t be heard, and it can’t be given.  It is something that must be experienced.  Whether through your own life experiences, or by becoming inspired by the life experiences of others, you must live it to truly understand it.

I am just beginning to emerge from the long sleep of the stifled soul.  My life has been routine and rules and following the crowd, always afraid to be singled out and embarrassed.  I am an introvert, always looking inward and afraid of what others might see.  But there is a part of me that longs for the freedom to be whatever it is that I am without any reservation whatsoever.  After nearly forty years of life, I find myself yearning to start living.

We were all taught the phrase “carpe diem”, but most of us never really know what that means.  “Seize the day” sounds amazing when you just say it like that, but when we actually consider what we have to do in the real world to live that philosophy out, most of us shrink back in terror at the awful risk and responsibility and horrible freedom implicit in that simple phrase.  It is the essence of working without a net, a single mistake thrashing you against the rocky shore to be crushed to bits that you ever dared to dream in the first place.

How many years do we waste waiting for opportunity to come knocking at the door?  How many opportunities are just out of sight, waiting for us to take that single step forward to find it?  If we could look back on our lives and see all the times we passed right by them, how much regret would weigh down our hearts?  Even the most conservative guess scares me down to the bottom of my soul.

Some figure this out early in their lives and go on to do amazing things for both themselves and the world around them.  They find a way to become unfettered by the expectations of others and strike out on their own, blazing a trail for others to follow.  Many burn bright and fast, flaring out in a blinding flash, but the shortness of their time is balanced by the brightness of their light.  The truly lucky ones get a lifetime as a shining beacon in the darkness the world tries to impose on us.

For others, such as myself, it takes a lifetime just to get to where we even want to find a spark, but finally something changes within and we can’t simply sit in the darkness any longer.  Our souls yearn to see, to be uncluttered by shade and twilight and to view the clear, beautiful vista that the dawn brings.  And we imagine it to be all the sweeter after living in the dark for so long.

Will this spark last, or will it be drowned out by the darkness of doubt?  The peril of predictability?  The yearning for a safe harbor?  Or will it flare up into a raging fire to be viewed with awe in its full glory?  Can it be a guiding light that not only saves my own soul, but that of others around me?  I cannot say, but I view the world through this new dawn choosing to believe it isn’t the last one.

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