Influence

There is a place for every Man. For every Woman and every child. A place where fears do not follow. A place where dreams become a reality. This place is found. It cannot be made. It cannot be purchased. This place is home. And to everyone, it is available.

 Anonymous

In this day and age, there seems to be a lack of confidence in who man is. I look around and see violence, loneliness and a general indiscretion towards one another. After talking with an old friend the other day, we agreed in the overwhelming sense of entitlement in man. I asked a 5-year old in modern day America why they wouldn’t share their toy with me and I got this in return – “Because it’s mine”. Well alright then. That’s fine and well to have ownership of something. It brings out a healthy dose of pride and accomplishment (or gratitude if it was given to you). But when you take what your have before you and burry it deep in the secure vaults of ownership – possession becomes a dangerous thing.

I bring up the 5-year old situation not to poke at children. How can you get deeply upset at a child? They are a breathing representation of what they see, hear and admire. Oh, and fear makes it’s way as an influencer at some point. But if a growing number of children in our generation fail to grasp core social, moral and physical principles, imagine a world where adults act the same way. Because if no one stands in the gap, I bet that’s the direction the world would take.

When I was a child, I was a sponge to everything around me. Love, anger, dispute, conflict, affection, joy, fear and the list goes on. Nothing has changed really as I approach my mid twenties, except for the fact that I have more choice as to what I want to influence me. Introspective me would say I have a lot of fear and anxiety. Hopeful me would say I’m trying to be a more optimistic and confident person. And the conflict of self carries on as it has since childhood. But at least I get to choose where I buy my coffee each morning.

I mentioned fear and anxiety. Anyone who knows me, who really knows me, will not be surprised to read that being an anxious person has been the haunting of me for a good part of my adult life (granted I’m only 23). However, I know this one thing: the fear that results in my anxious reaction of things (decisions, indecisions and the overall situation of LIFE) will not be a power over me for long. How do I know this? 2 things: 1 is spiritual and the other is experiential. I believe in a power greater than mine – a man named Jesus, his Father and a Ghost named Holy. I also remember a time of life where fear was just a cliff-note in the story of my life. This is the hopeful portion of the dual dichotomy mentioned in the previous paragraph.

There comes a point in every man and  woman’s life where a choice must be made. For some, choice (or the freedom of choice) is a terrifying thing. The fear of letting others, or most likely yourself, down can be an inescapable presence that leads a person to avoid the freedom of choice altogether. We also call this “being indecisive”. That’s a nice way of putting it. This “choice” I am referring to is the collective of decisions one makes (or does not make) resulting in the person you are to be. I remember in grade school, I was so afraid of giving the wrong answer or falling short before others. Because when I did, I felt bad and ashamed almost immediately. “Little me” obviously took that as positive reinforcement NOT to mess up again. But revisiting that process of thought – I kind of wish I would’ve been okay with the failure. There seems to be freedom in that. When looking at it that way, it puts less pressure on making the “right” or “wrong” choice, and rather grants freedom to make the choice you want or need.

That may sound worldly or so generation Y, but what if the choices you made really were reflections of deeper, more influential things. As mentioned before, children reflect what they see, hear, admire or fear. So, if you ask yourself what are the top 5 influential sources in your life – would those influencers line up with what you do or do not choose to do on a daily basis? I would bet yes.

Let’s take the theory of influence and choice mentioned above and use me as an example. Honest me would say the top 5 influential sources in my life today are:

  1. Social Media
  2. Peers
  3. Past Experience
  4. The Bible
  5. Work

I tried to order them by what I currently think have the most influential power. As you can see, it’s a fairly good lineup. Between you and me – I’m not too happy about this list. Honestly, I’m kind of shocked as to how quick it took me to fill 5 blank spaces with what I consider to be the top influencers in Josh’s Choice Playbook.

For a guy who feels fairly lonely in this stage of life, “people” filled my top 2 spots of influence. That is kind of a big shocker! But then again, it was I who filled this list out. I also think it was me who, just the other day, told a friend of mine that I don’t care what people think of me. Hard to believe that statement after looking at this list. And again, this isn’t a sound proof exercise, but the more I soak in it, the more truth I’m seeing.

Let’s move on to number 3, “Past Experience”. I shared that fear has been a thorn in my side for quite a few years. It has been expressing itself openly to me as anxiety for about 2 1/2 years now. It’s been a bumpy relationship. I want to break it off, but for some reason I just cant let her go.

Number 4 – “The Bible”. Religion, spirituality and Christianity can fill this spot as well, because the conglomeration of these has left me hurt, confused, hopeful, more confused and anxious. Don’t get me wrong, I believe I am a wandering soul needing a savior – namely Jesus – but I’ve experienced separation, bitterness, competition and brutality in religion, church and, well, people in general. And I know I’m not the only one. Is this an excuse for the fact this is number 4 on my list? No, absolutely not. But it is where it is and I won’t lie about it. That’s a conversation for another time. What I am saying is this: I want this to be number 1. But it’s evidently not. I think it is good to question the “why” it should be number 1, when all you have heard is that it “should” be number 1 by other people. I view it like this – a beautiful relationship doesn’t tell or demand affection, it gives and receives naturally through an unrelenting love. So really, I suppose I am learning to accept the affection of a savior who gives grace and love freely. “Freely” being the difficult word to swallow.

And finally “Work” and all it’s friends. Nothing has impacted me quite like the transition from student to working 9 hours at a place just to take care of yourself (and loved ones – for you married folk).  It’s good in that it has disciplined me greatly, but if you don’t know who you are and what you stand for in the workplace, I’m quickly realizing that you may become something you never expected. For a generation that seems more confused than ever, we need leaders that instill hope, not just generate excitement.

After writing down my top 5 sources of influence, I sat back and just took a minute. I took time to think about each one of these. I thought about all the social posts I’ve watched and read. I thought about the people close to me, the people I used to know and people I’ve never met but for some reason seem to influence my life’s decisions by means of various technological mediums. I thought about religion – about wars over religion and then I became sad at the thought that I’m not closer in relationship to my creator. And then I thought about work; and the fact that it’s Sunday night and I’ve got to go in the next morning and begin another week with my top 5.

I began this post with a quote. And I want to end it with that same quote. But before I do, there’s one more paragraph that I need to write.

It’s becoming more and more clear that the world I know is changing. It’s changing because of the people leading it. In a room full of talk, the only voices that can be heard are the ones with a microphone or the ones who choose to stay silent and pray. There are good leaders and there are bad leaders; there always have been. But the power of choice was given to us as a human body. I know a lot of you who may be reading this feel lost. You may feel lonely or afraid. It’s so incredibly easy to focus on these things when the influential forces in your life are telling you things you don’t need to hear. It’s time for an adjustment. If your soul is an anchor, whatever it is holding on to will guide you. And if it is good and if it is true, it will guide you home.

 

There is a place for every Man. For every Woman and every child. A place where fears do not follow. A place where dreams become a reality. This place is found. It cannot be made. It cannot be purchased. This place is home. And to everyone…it is available.

 

 

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Broken Pieces

There’s this piece of wood attached to my deck that’s become undone. Nothing real uncommon about it, and most people never notice it. In fact, there are about 30 other pieces of wood that make up the support system to the railing. All are about 16 inches in length and all serve the same aesthetically pleasing purpose. I’m sure not many people have noticed this one loose piece. But since i’ve been on the deck so much, and because the deck belongs to me I have taken notice.

I’ve often pushed the nail back into it’s designated slot, but no matter the effort it always greets me unhooked when I step out on the back deck. I have even thought of replacing the nail and reconstructing this particular part of the deck, but never done it. The deck still works. No one is in danger because of this one loose piece. I would even say it gives the deck some character. It’s difficult to think that any deck is as perfect as it looks. It doesn’t have to be a deck, but take any part of a house, material or object and it would be hard to persuade it’s meticulous perfection. However, at a passing glance it would look perfectly normal. But take any object you have in mind and I’m sure there is some characteristic flaw to it.

We, as people, are the same way. I don’t care if it’s one piece or many, there are a variety of “undone” pieces to us as humans. Some, more than others, would seem normal or even perfect at a passing glance. And this is how many of us live our lives. Looking at other people for a short while grants a skewed perception of the reality of the situation. Others are less convincing, but in the grand scheme of the matter it doesn’t make much difference. The point of it is that there are flaws to a work of art. But it is often in the eyes of it’s beholder.

Now, I didn’t build this deck, I wasn’t there at the conception of it, I am not even the first owner. But I notice the flaws because I have come to know it well. Ask any artist their opinion of their work and for every compliment you have for it, they will have 2 more flaws they see in it. It doesn’t mean they aren’t proud of their work, but they notice every detail. They know when each part was put together and when each mistake was made. And at the end of it, we seem to add the negatives on a greater scale than the positives.

This ought not how it should be. Let us look for a moment at us – people. We are a work of art. There are not many people that would disagree with that. I mean, just look at what we can do. The very fact that we can perceive, think and react is an amazing thing. And we do this every day. In essence, perceiving, thinking and reacting is what makes us human. But we have gotten to know ourselves well. And others. And when we like what we see in another, we think it is better than what we have and begin to look at ourselves a little different. This happens on a variety of different scales and in many different tiers. Nonetheless, it is not normal. Although it has become the norm.

If you are familiar with the Adam & Eve story, it is easy to see the truth of the “original” norm. Adam & Eve lived in a beautiful garden at the beginning of time, thought nothing of their weight, hairstyle or personality. And when they embarked on a road of destruction, they were ashamed of who they were. And they hid.

We’ve come a long way from that. And not necessarily in a great way. With so much exposure to people and media, it’s dizzying the amount of “stuff” we see on a daily basis. So why couldn’t they have stayed in the garden? Without jealousy, envy or hatred? That sounds like a better life. I would much rather live a life resembling a “Garden of Eden” mentality.

There’s something to be said about the man or woman that people follow. A. W. Tozer points out that the masses are or soon will be what their leaders are. The Kings, Presidents and idols set the moral pace for the people. I began looking at the characteristics of leaders. And what I found surprised me. It isn’t great speech or a grandiose of followers that make people want to resemble another. Great leaders can be simplified into this: confidence in the man or woman they are, and the comfortability to admit their flaws. It takes a proud man to ignore his “broken pieces”, but it takes a humble one to accept his flaws and allow himself to be mended.

At the end of this post, I stepped back on that porch where the piece of wood hangs loose. At the end of the day, it’s up to me whether I will fix it or not. But as I stood there, my attention turned to the support the deck gave. The strong foundation and the craftiness each piece brings to the construction of the deck. There are some things in life that need immediate repair. But for the most part, we just need a little perspective change.

Rebellion: The Real “You”

There is a lot of buzz around social media about how to be the “best” you. Countless blogs and articles share the secrets of how to fulfill your life or why you should believe a certain perspective over another. You may have seen some of the posts. How to live your life like a golden retriever! 9 secrets to live longer! Or quizzes that determine what species of fish best matches your personality type. And I’m not here to pry about the benefits or negativities, because I find myself reading and taking these quizzes all too often.

And I began to see my personality changing! Instead of taking heed to the benefits of what these posts are really rooted in, I find myself trying to implement 101 ways to better myself and then become exhausted (there’s probably a post about that). But it’s not okay. Frankly, it’s not normal.

To be honest, I found myself saying “I miss the old me.”

Woah! Hold up. I thought I was supposed to be a better me today than who I was yesterday…and so on and so on. Let me make this statement: “Man was not meant for social media.” At least not what it has become. It’s funny, because my line of work deals heavily with social media.

Let’s take a step back. Social media is GREAT for catching up with old friends, lost acquaintances, organizing events and sharing pictures of the cool happenings of life. But there is now no line between doing just that and sitting, waiting and worrying about the updates of the world. Think of it like this: we are watching ourselves watching ourselves. Constantly checking statuses of others and hoping someone will like our post. It’s “fame” on the smallest scale, but it becomes so important to people. Virtual conversation even takes priority to face-to-face relationship building.

There are even social media sites that have realized this and created platforms with simplistic settings and limited functions. That’s great, but it’s gotten to the point that to please the audience, you have to evolve to give them what they want. And people want a LOT!

This is nothing new. And please understand, I am not hating on the Internet or social media sites. They are great and they do have their place. But I also know that now more than ever, the Western World tends to get what they want when they want it. This is not only unrealistic, but highly dangerous.

When you open your computer, phone or electronic device what comes to mind? Is it social media? If it is, think for another minute about what excites you about it. Is it really that important? Probably not. So what’s the draw to it?

I honestly don’t know! But I know it’s contagious and extremely time consuming. When I think of opening my computer, phone or device I want to think of creativity. The opportunity to create and use these “tools” at my own disposal. Apple had this same mentality and we all can see where it got them. I don’t want to waste my life “enjoying” the creation of an excellent tool someone made. I want to create and find joy that isn’t dependent upon a “thumbs up” or a “favorite”. At the end of the day, we all want to be seen, heard and appreciated. But imagine with me for a moment longer: what if we lived a life that didn’t seek to be seen by the world? But rather a life that trail blazed the deep pure desires of our hearts.

I’ve found that the people who enjoy social media the most are the people who turn off the notifications and use it purely as a journal. A diary and photobook of the places they’ve seen and people they’ve met and adventures experienced along the way. THAT is the social media that people enjoy.

So instead of waiting for someone to post something, or for someone to like your picture from last Friday night, go out and live the life you desire. This is the challenge: to turn your excuses into experiences. And never, never be afraid of failure. You may find life to be a little more enjoyable and a little less stressful.

Dream Reader

Someone asked me why do I write? After awkwardly stumbling over my words, I found my stride and told them it was just apart of me. Writing is a release, and a source of mystery and excitement and love. I can’t imagine a world without writing.

Their next question caught me off guard. “Who is your dream reader?” The person I would send a thousand postcards to just to get them to read my jumble of words and phrases. After scratching my head and giving a little smirk I answered with “the one I spend the rest of my life with.”

Honestly, after sifting through celebrities, friends, acquaintances and loved ones, I couldn’t imagine any better feeling than having the one I love geek out with joy over one of my writings. Now, call me a romantic if you like, but here’s to you mystery girl. This one’s for you.

A Boat Called “Layla”

There was this dream floating around that I would own a boat one day and sail the seven seas. I figured “why not?” The seas aren’t going anywhere and pirates are probably really nice people. I was 7.

But to be honest with my 7-year old self, it was never really about the open water or befriending pirates; it was about the boat – “Layla”. You see, Layla and I were destined to share in great adventures with one another. I would take care of her, paint her and scrub scallops from her underbelly, and she would get me through the storms and unexpected tides of the deep blue. And hey, if we did meet pirates Layla and I would be the best hosts they would have the fortune to meet.

As the story would have it, I met Layla on an old dock in Maine’s northeastern shore at the first dim light of evening. I would remember it so well because as the sun was just setting this particular eve, she was the only jewel still glowing. Her pearl white complexion contrasted with utter perfection against her deep oak wood belly. The sails, smoothly caressed by the wind and gently splashed sea water, beckoned for a captain worthy to sail such an elegant craft.

The next morning she was mine.

From that morning on, I had a duty. A commitment to Layla and to myself that I would take care of what was mine and she would be the best looking boat in any dock we set anchor in.

Layla wasn’t perfect when we met. But Lord knows I wasn’t either. We started with her. A fine scrub did her well and new intricately sewn sails were all so fitting for a boat of her stature. A fresh paint job did us both in; bringing her a beauty that was untouchable and developed in me strong character. The interior needed work too. There was that cabinet that would never stay shut, and, oh, that flickering light in the bathroom drove me nearly mad.

Layla taught me something more, however. There are some things that shouldn’t be fixed. They don’t need to be. You learn to love them all the more because of their quirkiness and imperfections. It’s what gives them character and they soak into the deepest part of your heart.

Layla put up with me as well. Especially in the early days when I was so rough with her sails and could never catch the current just right. She never let us tip though. I give credit to her patience with me. And before long we made it. And when we did, we realized something. The seven seas were ours. The open skies and all the deep blue water we could want was at our fingertips. To this day, I believe our bond was certified by this moment. A sort of marriage if you will.

But that’s as far as the story goes for now. My imagination can’t push out another drop of possible adventures quite yet. Perhaps I’m waiting to meet my own “Layla” to share in adventures with. My life isn’t at a stand still and I’m not in agony that the story is currently incomplete. But I’m hopeful that one day “Layla” and I will search those seven seas. And that we will see unforgetable sites and turn strangers into comrades. By the way, I’m sure pirates are really nice people. See you soon “Layla”.

Context for “A Boat Called Layla” here.