Don’t Fit the Mold

In 8th grade I took a class called Technology Education. You could choose different rotations in the class designed to give you an idea of what you would like to do for a career. You could learn about radio and TV, nuclear engineering, but my favorite option was to create a CO2 dragster.

photo credit: Frédérique Voisin-Demery via creative commons

photo credit: Frédérique Voisin-Demery via creative commons

The object during this rotation was to was to create a fast car. I learned about aerodynamics and got really into it. At the end of the class everyone who designed a car would race it in a single elimination tournament. We designed a blueprint and then the teacher would create the car for us. The back of the car had a small hole for a C02 cartridge to propel the car. I was so excited because I knew the car I had designed was going to beat everyone else’s in class. When I turned my draft in the teacher grabbed my blueprint and immediately handed it back to me. He claimed this car did not adhere to the standards he had created. I didn’t recall this rule he had claimed I violated and I also didn’t see how it mattered at all. I was mad and had to make any changes by the end of class so I wasn’t able to make good adjustments. I had to make a generic car to fit the mold. I got smoked in the first race. When I think about it now it makes me mad. I’m not blaming the teacher because I don’t think he had malicious intent, but I do think he could have allowed more creativity.

Something I have realized in life is it isn’t the people who fit into a predetermined mold who make a difference. Those who really make a difference are the ones who throw away the cookie cutters and create something nobody else has thought of before. Life isn’t about seeing how good you can make something someone else already made. It’s about innovating a new way to do something.

There are a million good ways to do something nobody has tried yet. Why waste your time messing around with something someone else has already done?

I look at the way others I admire write and I want my writing to look similar. Instead of trying to emulate someone else I need to focus on creating my own style. In whatever it is you are passionate about, choose your own style. Don’t fit it into the cookie cutter others are choosing. Create outside of it.

Looking Up

Something is either breaking with your car, your home, or your body.

photo credit: Tomas Sobek via creative commons

photo credit: Tomas Sobek via creative commons

There is never a moment when you catch up. I jump from one problem to the next and it’s never ending. This used to bother me but I have come to accept it. There isn’t another choice. You can live in fear of the next problem or you can handle situations as they come.

Most of life is spent in the valley. Valley is the perfect word to describe bad times in life. When we are looking up at high elevation. It’s the looking up which bothers me more than where I’m at. I love to play the comparison game. I look at what someone else has and want them to get knocked down to my level. It doesn’t make sense because I’m not in need right now. I’m extremely blessed and I’m scared to death I’m going to screw it up. In late 2013 and early 2014 there was a three to four month stretch which absolutely crushed me. I was unhappy at work and I was fearful about what the future held. Morgan and I were engaged during this time and it bothers me I wasn’t able to enjoy it because I let anxiety and stress rob me. Things got better, but those days have never left me. Each one of them feels like it was yesterday.

I know others are like me and have gone through the same situation. Perhaps it has gone from a situation to the status quo. I don’t want people to continue down the path because it’s dark and it’s unhealthy and it’s not anyway to live. A valley should be something we pass through. It is something which is a means to get to where we want to go, but often we decide to live permanently there. No matter how much we dislike it we feel safe and feel as though we belong there and it’s what we deserve. This is what bothered me so much. When my anxiety was the worst I felt as though I deserved it. I didn’t think it was punishment for mistakes rather it was a consequence. I expected perfection from myself even though I knew it wasn’t feasible. I set the bar way too high for myself. It’s great to push yourself to achieve big goals but it’s not great to expect to live mistake free. I set the bar for myself to live mistake free and I was miserable. It poisoned my thought process. I didn’t want to make a mistake and it was the driving force behind all decisions I made.

So what do you do in order to fix this? For me it took time. I didn’t wake up one morning and decide I wanted to live a certain way and suddenly everything changed. It took me believing in myself. I decided I didn’t want to be someone who went through life scared. Life will knock you down sometimes. You don’t get a chance to think about what’s happening you get cold-cocked. You must prepare for it.

Even when things are going well you can still feel certain stress and anxiety. It’s an internal issue not an external issue.

I have worked on the foundation of my life. My core values help the valley become a place I pass through not a place I stay.

These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain pured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit – but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock.” Matthew 7: 24-25 (The Message)

A valley is a temporary point in life. It’s not somewhere which is meant to dwell permanently. However, getting up a mountain is hard. It’s difficult and it takes a lot of courage to drive yourself up to the peak. The view from the peak is much better than hurting your neck looking from below like you are sitting on the first row at a movie theater. You have to decide what way you want to live. Do you want to live life looking up wondering what could have been or do you want to do something? Start ascending today. The longer you wait the harder it is to take the first step.

How to Deal With Failing an Interview

Interviewing is always extremely uncomfortable. There are several parallels to a job interview and a first date. For both, you are trying to project an image of yourself that is different from what you actually are. Be honest, you have been on a date and said you liked some band you truthfully hate or don’t even know.

Moving on…my senior year of college I had a really good opportunity at a company in Nashville. It was my first interview with a company for a career and not solely an internship. As I walked into the building for my interview I was scared and felt totally out of place. To this day it was the longest and most grueling interview I have ever had. However, it went great. I could tell they really liked me and I truly enjoyed talking to the several people who interviewed me. It was also a job I could really see myself liking. Leaving the interview I was ecstatic.

I went and ate with a friend who lived in town afterwards and I remember ordering an appetizer and seafood for my main course. I was feeling exceptional. I was going to be able to enjoy the rest of my senior year and not have to worry about answering people when they asked, “so what is your plan after graduation?” Driving back to Knoxville was a completely different experience than driving earlier in the day. I was not tired form the long day. The anticipation of a bright career I had ahead of me propelled me back home.

As you can guess my dreams were shattered a few days later. After talking to the main manager who would potentially hire me the day after my interview and telling him I was all in on this opportunity I didn’t hear anything until I got that dreaded email from HR.

You have probably received one of these emails. It was full of the typical jargon about how they appreciated your time and while your credentials are great it is not a good fit for them. Getting one of these emails is the equivalent of getting dumped and failing a test simultaneously. Your confidence gets shattered and along with that you are ashamed of what has transpired. The fear of rejection which accompanies it makes you apathetic towards doing anything to change your situation.

I had to learn to trust God when this happened and I have had to remember the same lesson throughout my life. You have to fully trust in him and the plan he has for your life.

Also, I believe this Winston Churchill quote below personifies exactly what you have to do to overcome the failure of an interview:

“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”

That quote is so hard to follow through on. I don’t think anyone would disagree with Churchill’s definition but when it comes to going through with it it’s not very easy. The best way to deal with rejection when it comes to interviews is to be enthusiastic. Obviously it is not to be enthusiastic when you hear the news. Deal with it and move on. Once you find another opportunity lose yourself in it. Get excited about working for that company. If you can’t get excited then it is probably not the right opportunity.

My Worst Defeat in Sports Did Not Happen On the Court

Sixteen is an awesome year of life. Getting your driver’s license and being able to drive a car is such an awesome feeling. It is hard to believe that was over 10 years ago because I remember the first day I drove to school like it was yesterday. Another great thing about sixteen is you are not a freshman anymore. You get the chance to laugh at the freshman. Also, you get more serious about your extracurricular activities. For me, that was basketball.

There was a failure I experienced that year of life that stays with me to this day. It hurts to think about and still brings embarrassment but I learned a lot about myself.

I played basketball for my high school. I didn’t start, or really play that much, but I started for the JV team and I was getting better. We had a great team so I was thrilled to be a part of it. I was always a decent student in high school but math was a real struggle. That first semester of school went well but I was really doing poorly in math. I got extra help, studied hard, but didn’t pass the class. It was beyond humiliating. I was suspended. I was ineligible to play for about a month. I never will forget the coach coming and telling me the news in the cafeteria one day. All I could think about was how in the world I was going to tell my parents. It was so difficult. Even now I can remember how hard it was and how much shame I felt after telling my dad.

I had tried extremely hard to pass my math class but I realized after falling short and dealing with all of the repercussions I could have done more. That next semester I did more. Got a tutor and did really well. I got back on the team and we had an amazing season.

As summer came I had to really pay for failing math the first semester. I had to go to summer school. Embarrassing does not even begin to describe it. My family went on vacation and I had to stay home by myself to go to class. Being invited to hangout with friends and having to turn down the invitation because I had to be at summer school was an activity that was so degrading it hurts to think about.

I went to class. I studied extremely hard and actually got an A. I remember one day the teacher bragging on the job I did to the whole class. Although being the smartest kid in a summer school class is comparable to being the hottest waitress at a Waffle House, I was thrilled.
I learned something about myself that summer. I would take much harder classes in high school and in college and I pushed myself to go the extra mile to make sure I achieved my goals.

Had I not gone through all of that I would not be where I am today. Failure is a part of life. Literally failing a class was one of the best things that happened to me. I would like to say I made straight A’s after that but I didn’t. However, I did go on to graduate from college and I never have to take a math class again. I’m not sure which of those things is more important to me.

Pursuing your goals and chasing your dreams is not easy. It’s frustrating to struggle with something, like a math class, and see others who have no trouble at all getting through it. Failing a class taught me to dig deeper and truly give it my all when I’m faced with something difficult. It is one thing to say you will study hard but it is another thing to actually stay up all night and study.

I want to encourage you with whatever you are struggling with to seek God. Ask others for help. Give everything you have in order to get through it. It will be worth it on the other side.

Failure, Football, and Looking Back

Failure has a way of overwhelming your life. It has a way of leaving you constantly dwelling on the shortcomings and mistakes. It does not matter what you have done or what you have accomplished, your failures will bring you down if you let them.

Before the University of Tennessee’s first game of the football season head coach, Butch Jones, had this to say: “The losses, the defeats, they live with you. They never leave you. The victories, they leave you in about 10 minutes.” After losing to Georgia by three on Saturday that quote stings a little more.

There are a million quotes on failure but I believe that encompasses the way a lot of us live our lives. The biggest moments in our lives sometimes leave us right after they happen. Sure we remember them but we rarely dwell on them or take pride in them. However the failures? We think about those daily.

We rarely think about the positives of the situation though. We typically beat ourselves up over what has happened and tiptoe through life after the fact in order to try to prevent another mistake.

I know for me I don’t feel like sitting around and dwelling on what I have accomplished because I am afraid it will bring complacency. I also have a fear of failing. Nobody wants to fail, but if we aren’t failing we aren’t trying. If you don’t put yourself out there you never have the opportunity to fail. Failing hurts. It doesn’t feel good. It feels really bad.

I am going to spend the next few posts talking about failure. I have no problem dwelling on the failures I have experienced in life, but I rarely look back and see what I have gained from it. It is not easy to do but it is worth it.