Everyone else is wrong

Yesterday I tweeted a photo of the aftermath of my daughter’s playtime.

She’s been doing these sorts of things for days. We’ll enter a room she’s been in and find toys–especially her little animal and people figures likes these–arranged in tight lines or rows. Always straight, always right up against each other. The first time it was a cute quirk. The second it was a “phase” she’s going through. Last night I was watching her carefully reconstruct the above line after it was disrupted and I started seeing it as the start of something bigger.

My daughter is developing a world-view.

She’s already constructing a paradigm that she expects her world, and the larger world around her, to conform to. Everything should line up, just so. I noticed she’s even grouping certain categories or species together. The pigs are together, the people are together, etc. Her brain sees symmetry and order in things, and she is already showing preference for those things. She is bothered when things don’t fit to her preference.

She’s just like me.

Things have to line up, just so, or it all feels “off”.  I see ways that I push back against anything that doesn’t line up with my world view. Occasionally I am justified in that push-back; often I realize that my resistance is only troublesome distraction from reality. How much I get to thinking things are supposed to be a certain way, when the facts of the matter should be leading me in a different direction completely. When we base our reaction to things on our preferences and personal comfort, it rarely leads anywhere good. But I do it constantly. I hide behind the phrase “in my opinion”, because saying “I think everyone but me is wrong on this” would make me look bad.

When you feel a knee-jerk resistance to something that conflicts with your “world-view”, take a moment and ask yourself why. You may come out the other end of the question feeling verified…but you may realize that much of your resistance is old habit, with little reason other than a childish reliance on the way you like things to be, or what is comfortable.

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Hello, my name is John and I’m a serial Quitter…

Last night I had the opportunity to briefly meet one of my inspirations: Jon Acuff.

Jon is the author of the humor/satire blog stuffchristianslike.com, and three books; one of which is a best-seller. His third book, Quitter, was released yesterday, and I had the privilege (I had to spell that word like six times before I got it right) to be at a book-signing in Grapevine.

First of all, Jon is a really nice guy. Pleasant, easy to talk to, real, down-to-earth. Before I fawn over him too much, though, I will say that he’s deeply flawed. I know this because of his books. He doesn’t pull any punches revealing his own weaknesses and pitfalls in his books and blog. That’s why I like him so much; because I relate to his story and struggles. I relate to the flaws. I relate to his past frustration.

Quitter is about “closing the gap between your dream job and your day job.”  It’s a book for people who have a job they really don’t like, and dream of quitting to do what they really love. Spoiler alert: the book says not to do that. That there’s a right way to quit your day job. Quitter is about quitting the right way. This isn’t something I like to hear, honestly. I daydream about leaving my day job to do something I love all the time. Thinking of the “what ifs” is what keeps me going, some days. I have come so close to quitting, just because I often feel like I’m wasting my time and talents. However, I have a family, and bills, and responsibilities that prevent me from giving in to those urges. Acuff addresses this problem in Quitter. I haven’t gotten far in the book yet, but it’s already making me squirm in displeasure and discomfort…and that’s a good thing. I need to be able to look past the dissatisfaction with the status quo. I need to face the hard decisions and challenges if I’m ever going to quit my day job the right way.

I recommend Quitter for anyone who isn’t currently living their “dream” job. Let’s be honest; that’s most people.

Check it out.

Quitter in hardback.

Quitter for Kindle.

Follow Jon on Twitter.

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LEGO. That is all.

 

I love LEGOs.

I can’t remember how old I was when I first discovered them. I’m sure there were some Duplos in my past, but my first real solid memory of getting LEGOs is getting a small red plastic bucket of standard bricks. You may know the one I’m talking about; square lid with studs, like a 2×2 brick. This single box of simple bricks ignited a decades-long passion in me. As I think back across the sets I’ve had, the collection I amassed, and the countless hours of playtime they provided, I see some distinct themes.

– I always liked period LEGOs best. If it had a space helmet, a sword, or a pirate flag, I was in. I drooled over the Pirates collections and one of my favorite sets was Forestmen’s Crossing. It was a given that I desired every last Space set produced. The year my parents bought me the Imperial Flagship, from the Pirates collection, I nearly threw up from excitement.

– The big sets were always too expensive for me, but I spent enough money on the smallest sets to have gotten the big ones ten times over.

– My playtime wasn’t just build time. Yes, I built massive, multi-part constructions, but the real joy came in staging elaborate fantasies with my models.

– Drama was key. This is probably where my love for movies began to develop. I had a thing for heroic feats, epic battles and dramatic deaths. I would create a cast of characters, and most of them would end up dead by the end of my “story.” Usually there was a sole survivor, kneeling over the remains of a fallen comrade, crying “nooooooooo!” to the heavens. Believe it or not, I also almost always had a romance element.

– MegaBlocks are the worst.

– LEGO Technic, though more advanced and versatile, could never be as cool as standard LEGOs.

– The measure of a man was found in how big his spaceship was. For years, every spaceship I built had to be bigger and better than the last. My crowning achievement was a huge starcruiser, four feet long. It shattered on my way downstairs to show it off to my family, so they never had the chance to bask in its awesomeness. Something died in me that day. I had crossed a line. I never built a huge spaceship again.

– I am inexplicably offended by the vast variety of faces on minifigures now. What was wrong with the traditional standard smiley face?

– LEGO Star Wars changed my life. I supposed it was fate, or perhaps darned good marketing, that LEGO licensed Star Wars around the time The Phantom Menace came out. I think those sets inspired me to think even more of the new Star Wars movies that I would have otherwise. I launched into a four or five year Star Wars obsession, in which every new Star Wars LEGO set that was released was like a Dead Sea Scrolls-type revelation.  Even today I get giddy feelings of excitement when a new Star Wars model hits the catalog.

– LEGOs are timeless. I am 26 years old; soon to be 27. I still think LEGOs are the greatest toys ever created. My wife and I are expecting our second child and, having just found out it’s a boy, I am already planning a massive reconstruction of my old collection. I expect to live on Ebay for a while, searching for all the old sets I used to have.

I will never stop loving LEGOs, and I’ll pass that legacy on to my children if it kills me.

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Escaping Success

I’ve been following the work of the very talented and insightful Jon Acuff for a while now. His life is inspiring to me, and provides a great deal of insight into my own. Now, I don’t dare compare myself to Acuff; he has reached levels of notoriety and success I currently only dream of. But I am encouraged to read his frank and open words about his own struggles coming to terms with his dreams. It has inspired me to speak similarly about my own.

I’m a dreamer. I always have been. I have a great imagination and an uncanny ability to visualize complex concepts and possibilities. From childhood I’ve envisioned only grandiose things for my life, and have truly believed I am destined for something epic and important. I managed to carry that tendency into young adulthood and through college. The daily drudgery of adult life, however, has dulled those aspirations and hopes into a stagnant malaise of “reality”. The reality that everything I touch doesn’t turn to gold; that hard work and sacrifice are essential to success; that my dreams aren’t just going to HAPPEN.

Alongside my passions and dreams grew another, more sinister trait: laziness. I have always been a procrastinator, if the task at hand doesn’t show an immediate payoff. Put more simply, hard work doesn’t phase me; hard work with uncertain, nebulous results puts me into a coma. I can cheerfully do yard work for hours. The goal is clear and the payoff is immediate. When I sit down to work on a video project, or to brainstorm ideas for something I could do to build my skill set, my brain gets bogged down with all the other things that I could be doing for an immediate payoff or pleasure. The more I submit to that, the more despondent I get, and it gets easier to settle for the quick fix of escape into something worthless.

I’d never have said at any point that I thought that the fulfillment of my dreams was just going to fall into my lap, but if I am truly honest with myself, that’s what I’ve been waiting for. I have used the excuse of “well, I’m just not sure what my dreams are anymore.”  That is a lie I tell myself to avoid doing the work. I know what I want from life, but I’m allowing myself to get hung up on the uncertainty of “how”. I am the king of reasons. Reasons not to finish. Reasons not to start. Reasons not to learn.

I’m reasoning my way out of getting what I want.

How completely insane is that?

Why should I be surprised or disheartened when I get out exactly what I put in?

What was I expecting?

So where is the hope for the future? It’s in the knowledge that I am realizing and calling these things out in myself. Naming your sins, in specific detail, is very freeing, and that freedom allows you to move forward and create change.  Am I going to get it right, from now on? Of course not. I’ve still got a lazy nature to fight, and it’s probably going to win a few more. But I’m being honest with myself, and that’s a good start.

So thank you, Mr. Acuff, for your example, and for your inspiration. Keep it up. Guys like me need it.

~ Lead photo credit: mrhappy8 via Flickr ~

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Here’s the kickoff…

For my first post on the new site, I’d like to revisit my very first After Effects project. I created the following video as a full-motion version of a still logo I’d created for my video production “company”. My After Effects knowledge and skills have grown by leaps and bounds since then, so I plan to redo this video soon. This video represented a personal victory, as well as a vision of hope for my future career. Although it’s plenty rough around the edges, it will always be special to me.

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Under Construction

As of 12/28/10, I shut down my personal landing page, and will be moving to WordPress as my personal blog/portfolio. This domain will be under construction until I have re-built it from the ground up. In the meantime, please excuse the generic appearance. I’ll have the full site up as soon as possible.

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