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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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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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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Performing When You Don’t Feel Like It

I’m starting to hit that wall where enthusiasm runs out and you have a choice to either continue on the path or decide it’s just not worth it. It happens so often in my life, and my usual choice is to set aside what I’m doing and look for something else to do. As a person who grew up in an instant gratification world, it’s so hard to stick with anything when you aren’t getting what you want, let alone something that by definition isn’t likely to turn into something big enough to be sustaining as a career. Where do you draw the line between patience and delusion?

Of course, my rational side knows I haven’t been doing this nearly long enough to assume it won’t go anywhere. I know it’s my impatient side trying to get the better of me. I want amazing results right now, and unfortunately it just doesn’t work that way. You have to put in the time and effort and only after you do both of those things can you find out if something is going to succeed or fail. There are no shortcuts in life. Well, except maybe winning the lottery or something like that.

So what do I do with this knowledge? This is where the perseverance part comes in. I have to decide to get on this blog and write another post. Do I have other things I could talk about? Absolutely. There are a million different things going on in the world I could write about. But the biggest thing on my mind today is the fact that I knew I needed to write something and a part of me thought “why bother? You only have a few followers and your voice isn’t really heard. You’re wasting your time with this.” That hopelessness from the previous article is rearing its ugly head yet again.

The problem with that attitude is that several of you have chosen to follow this blog because it apparently has some kind of meaning to you. We tend to get focused on what we don’t have without valuing what we do. I think it’s probably the content creators who truly value the people who follow them that find success in this kind of business. They aren’t really focused on making lots of money, but creating a relationship with the people they are creating content for. I know I’m not like that yet, but I also know that I need to move myself to that place if I want to have even a chance of turning this blog into a writing career.

I appreciate those of you who have chosen to follow this blog and read these articles. I know that as this blog slowly continues to grow, it will start to become easier to motivate myself to keep writing, especially when it gets to the point where I start getting consistently positive interactions from the community. I have to keep in mind that it doesn’t all come at once; it’s a marathon, not a sprint. I have to exercise these things I’ve been posting, all of which I wrote mostly as a reminder to myself that I shared with all of you.

The title of this post says it all. I don’t feel like writing, and that’s exactly the time when I need to force myself to sit here and write the best article I possibly can. I need to sit here and put down honest words with careful thought and continue imparting whatever meaningful information I have to share. I don’t have to be an inspiration that sets the internet on fire; I just have to show up and practice what I preach. Most of us want to follow someone who is dynamic and powerful and charismatic, but what we really need is someone who tells us what we need to hear and is consistent about it. The best leadership is by example. We respect it more.

One of the encouraging things for me is that I sit down with no particular layout for an article in mind, just a vague idea, yet I’m able to put together several paragraphs that clearly lay out what the idea is and how I think you should approach it. This is not to brag about my writing skills, because I certainly don’t think I’m a great writer, but to remind myself that it is a type of validation that maybe this is something I’m good enough at to turn into the meaningful career I’ve been searching for my entire life. The lesson I hope we all take from it is that if we can find that silver lining that everyone talks about, it can really make a difference in sticking to the things we choose to pursue. The fact that these words are here at all show that this is the truth.

So today’s post is partly about me, but also about you, reader. What do you have in your life that you’ve started, or would like to start, that you want to give up on because it just doesn’t seem like it’s going to happen? What parts of that have caused you to become apathetic about your goal? Have you found the strength to force yourself into performing, even when you don’t want to? I think today’s post is an example of how just forcing yourself to get started can have much more of an impact than we think. I started with “why bother” and ended with eight paragraphs of self-motivational text. If we can find the ability to do this consistently, I think this is where we have a real chance to pass from part time hobby to full time success.

Like many things in life, it’s all in the attitude.

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Wisdom Trumps Ambition

When I was younger, I used to think that I wanted to make sure I did what I needed to do to become as successful as possible as early in life as possible. I thought about wanting to acquire certain things that most people don’t get until much later in their lives in my twenties. The thought process was that I wanted to have those things early enough to still be young enough to enjoy them. Being too old to truly do things at the best level seemed a waste to me. How naive.

One of the things that young people universally need to overcome is the impatience of youth. I’m not talking about our previous discussion about having a goal and being unable to stick to the long game. I’m talking about the kind of impatience that leads to angst later in life because you set unrealistic expectations for yourself and then fail to meet them. We all have ideas for what we think our future should be, but almost all of us have a completely unrealistic time frame for how long that should take. If it could truly come so fast, we would retire at thirty. It simply isn’t the case.

One of the most important lessons I want my children to learn is the concept of setting realistic expectations for their life. Unfortunately, truly understanding this idea can only come with age, because it is only when we gain the wisdom of our years that we are able to truly understand anything. I hope my children will listen and make decisions for the long term rather than a short gain, but if they are anything like me they will jump into adulthood expecting their desires to be delivered to them in the first few years of work. They might take my advice and slow things down, but they won’t be able to truly get it until they’ve experienced enough life for it to truly make sense.

That’s the thing about wisdom. A person can make wise decisions, but it is only through making decisions that we can test things and figure out what works and what doesn’t. We can certainly absorb knowledge through education or reading the words of others, and this can help accelerate the process, but there is vast difference between knowledge and wisdom; theory and application. We can theoretically know that something is wise, but we don’t truly understand why it is wise until we find ourselves in the situation and take a course of action. It is when we see how it either works or doesn’t that the knowledge becomes wisdom.

If our education is any good, our entire childhood is spent learning the theory of how the world works. Up until the point we become adults, we are immersed in learning about all manner of things from science to social studies to physical activity, storing up knowledge that we expect to prepare us for the world. At the end of our formal education, we are proud of the accomplishments we’ve made and jump out into the world assuming we are ready for anything.

Our twenties are our first lesson in the difference between knowledge and wisdom. Our early ambition is thwarted by the world around us and we start to realize that maybe we don’t know quite as much as we thought we did. The career we chose might not be as glamorous as we hoped, or perhaps bad decisions were made that set us back. An inability to exercise discipline in our spending might have placed us in a sticky situation with our credit. Whatever the details, it is in our twenties that most of us truly start gaining real world wisdom.

When we look at it like this, we start to realize that, aside from the rare exceptional person, it is only in our thirties that we really start to push toward our life goals. This is the time that we have built up enough experiences to know what works for us and what doesn’t. It is the time of our lives in which we have demonstrated who we will be for the rest of our lives and everyone around us can know who we are and what we stand for. It is the time in which we become confident in our decisions because we’ve made enough of them to have a pretty fair idea of how those decisions will turn out.

As the title of this article states, wisdom simply trumps ambition at every level. Ambition without wisdom invariably leads to failure. You may make some short term gains making blindly aggressive decisions, but eventually your luck will run out and all your efforts will come crashing down around you. Ambition tempered with wisdom can be a very powerful force, and approaching life with the goal of slowly incorporating wisdom into your makeup will get you to your goals far faster than impatience can.

What do you think about wisdom? In what part of life do you find yourself? Are you just getting started and want to learn how to be wise? Or have you already experienced enough to know what you want and where you’re going? Self reflection is an important part of learning to be successful, because if you don’t even know who you are, you can’t make decisions that make sense for you.

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Dealing with Disappointment

A lot of my posts recently have focused on trying to stay positive and move toward a goal, but what do you do when it seems like life is just out to get you? You don’t have to be living in terrible circumstances to feel like things just aren’t working out. Many people in our society struggle with depression specifically because they had dreams and aspirations that just didn’t work out and now they are stuck in a situation they never wanted to be in. Some of them are even very wealthy, and they still feel trapped by this feeling. Many people will say that this is some sort of privilege and to look at people who have it much worse than us and we should be grateful for what we have, but those words never seem to make us feel any better.

How do you deal with a constant feeling of disappointment? This article isn’t intended to provide you with specific advice, reader, as I have struggled with this form of depression for most of my adult life and I feel no closer to solving it. For myself, a large portion of it stems from the fact that I just don’t know what I want to do with my life, aside from a couple of crystallized ideas that have formed over time, none of which have to do with my career. Perhaps the worst form of disappointment is being unable to find a sense of purpose for your life, or maybe feeling like there are things you could probably do well but circumstances just don’t work out for you.

Many people will tell you that you just need to pick yourself up and start doing something. Try different things and see what sticks. It seems like good advice on the surface, but I liken it to treading water. You put in a lot of effort just to stay afloat but you’re not actually getting anywhere. Sometimes putting in the effort only to find it was a complete waste of time pushes you further into depression. Trying things can actually be detrimental to your mental health if nothing ever seems to stick. You feel more and more lost every time something new fails.

Disappointment is a hard thing to overcome. It is in direct opposition to the concepts of perseverance and patience, and as long as it has a strong hold on your life it will be an impediment to your ability to find peace and satisfaction in your life. It encourages that insidious laziness we discussed in a previous article because it becomes harder and harder to summon the energy to do anything if you have come to believe that anything you do will end in failure. Why waste the effort?

I don’t believe there are any solid suggestions that can be given to help stave off disappointment. If there were, it wouldn’t be such a widespread problem. Disappointment is one of those things that is unique to each of us, and it requires a unique solution to figure out how to get past it. “Gurus” could probably give you a list of ten things you can do to work to overcome it, but in the end your disappointment stems from personal failures in your own life. You can’t apply a template to a unique problem.

So what does this mean for us? It is simply that part of life is struggle and failure, and unfortunately there is no easy way out. It again brings us back to perseverance and patience. Learning to accept that feeling of disappointment without allowing it to crush our resolve is one of the most important thing we can do to find meaning in our lives, especially when we find ourselves in situations where we are not happy with how things turned out. You will always have a part of your life you wish were different, and learning to live with that is key to finding peace. The way you do that is up to you. No one can figure it out for you.

For myself, part of my motivation to start this blog and make a serious attempt to keep writing it stems from the crushing disappointments in my own life. My way of dealing with disappointment is to share my thoughts and hope that it makes some kind of difference, not only for myself but for others who are struggling to figure out their own lives. I have certain ideas about things, be it political or otherwise, but part of my goal is to start putting together something that is coherent and meaningful and that maybe starts moving my life in a different direction. It is when we find meaning in something that we are able to overcome disappointment. Otherwise we are lost.

So what about you? What will you start doing today to fight back against disappointment? Do you agree that there is no standard solution that applies to you?

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