The Inadequacy Conundrum

Some days we wake up ready to take on the world.

We're ambitious, driven, focused, and nothing will stop us.


Then something stops us.

We press on, but another thing comes up.

We trip. We may even fall.

I mean, seriously, I almost fell off a treadmill the other day.

Life is full of circumstances that test us--our patience, our empathy, our resilience, our tenacity, our perseverance.

The tests may arise as tiny little nuisances like missing stop lights, flat tires, crashed computers, dropped calls, broken air conditioners on days of record-breaking heat, and on and on the list goes. 

Then the other tests can rear their ugly heads, like injury, sickness, disappointments in our relationships, feelings of inadequacy, or even depression.

These things come and go, and we are left with the choice of how to respond.

In recent months, and to some degree, the entire last year, I have endured both spectrums of these tests. I'm not here to draw attention to my problems or plead for sympathy; but I here to tell you that you're not alone.

Some of you may know me, some may not. If you met me, you could form your own opinion about me. But I think many people get the impression from me that I "have things together."

With that impression, people often jump to the conclusion that I have things figured out; that I knew what I'm doing; that I'm proficient at navigating the labyrinth of life's obstacles.

They're wrong.

And I'm wrong when I start to feel like I've got all the answers.

I'm not writing this blog to provide you with answers.

Sometimes bloggers, writers, and speakers (and other people who can't seem to shutup) feel obligated to provide answers when they present their writings or speeches. We need to give you some golden nuggets of wisdom to pack away in your backpack for later use--as though we have all the golden nuggets.

I could paint a rock gold and sell you golden nuggets, but what I really want to do is encourage you to find some of your own nuggets that fit your life.

Here's how.

During the struggles I've faced in the last year, I've stumbled into a lot of self-doubt and feelings of inadequacy. I'm willing to admit that, in hopes that you might be able to admit that to yourself too.

We all doubt ourselves.

And there's a fine line between self-reflection and self-doubt. I'm a firm believer in self-reflection for the purpose of betterment and learning; but self-doubt is a different beast.

Self-doubt says, "Do I really have what it takes to do this?"

It takes you further and says, "Maybe I should quit."

It might also suggest that, "There must be something wrong with you."

The idea that you are fundamentally flawed and are, therefore, the cause of all your heartache and pain, is a foundational tenant of self-deprecation and self-doubt.

Do I question my abilities? Yes. But allowing this thought process to grind me into the ground and maim me is the furthest thing from beneficial.

In Christianity, we often refer to these downfalls as "spiritual attacks" or "satanic oppression." If you don't believe in that, I'm not trying to convince you one way or the other; but I think we can all agree that some points in our lives are more burdensome--emotionally and psychologically.

Regardless of where the "attack" or the onslaught originates, you have a choice how you will respond.

As a Christian, my response is to go to God in prayer and share my burdens with Him. I discuss my feelings of inadequacy and failure. I admit that I don't feel sufficient.

Contrary to some Christians ideas, God doesn't wag His finger at me and say, "See, Dan, I told you you were worthless and helpless. Now, close your eyes while I fix everything with the wave of my magic wand."

God's not really like that in my opinion. He's more of a teacher, a mentor, a sustainer, a friend, a confidant, and a healer. 

He doesn't pull me out of the fire. He stands in it with me (see Daniel 3:20-27). 

He doesn't devalue me because I fail. He lifts me up (see Psalm 27:5).

So getting back to that ridiculous picture at the top of this post, I may look like I'm charging forward in life with cool sunglasses and gelled hair; but really I'm just as weak and critical of myself as you are.

After talking with some folks this year, I realized I wasn't the only one who gets down. 

I'm not the only one who wonders if I'm really good enough to succeed in my career. 

I'm not the only one who wonders if I'm raising my children right.

I'm not the only one who thinks I'm a rather mediocre spouse.

I'm not the only one who wishes I could do some things better, or wants to delete aspects of my personality because they drive me crazy.

Nope. I'm not alone; and neither are you.

The Resilient Soul


Not too long ago I stumbled upon audio books. (Metaphorically speaking; because stumbling over digitized media is something I can only do in the Matrix.)

I realize many people have known about and enjoyed audio books for years, maybe even decades (for you that still refer to audible media as "tapes"). And that's fantastic. 

But for me, well, I can be slow in picking up on new technology. 

I didn't have a smart phone until 2014.

The reason why audio books sorta changed the game for me is that I have something either mildly related to or terribly worse than A.D.D. / A.D.H.D. 

That's right, I can't focus on books for very long. My mind wanders, and I almost never finish a written book. 

Furthermore, I have two jobs, two kids, a house, this blog, and somewhere in there I try to squeeze in a "life." 

So basically, I don't have time for books; at least not leisurely books. Until now.

A friend of mine recommended I read (listen to) Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life by Eric Greitens. I fired up an account on Audible and downloaded the book.

But then all that stuff I just listed above kept being real. So it sat on my phone, doing me no good.

Then I bought a new stereo for my car that pushed me right out of the 1990s and into 2016. It plays only digital media via Bluetooth or USB, and it has an AM/FM radio. 

No more tape decks or CD players for this hip guy! 

(Which reminds me, does anyone else still have a stock pile of 700 CD-Rs sitting in a drawer or closet somewhere? Can we play indoor Frisbee golf with those? Boom. Problem solved.)

Now I had a recipe for success. My average commute to work is 35-40 minutes each way. So well over an hour of every work day (almost 250 days a year!) is spent in a car. Sitting. Getting impatient. Losing faith in humanity.

But now I can listen to something productive, and I've really come to enjoy this book (Resilience).

I won't rehash his points or even try to synthesize any new information for you. He does a really good job; and since he was a Navy Seal, he's endured much more difficulty than me. 

In other words, he can illustrate resilience much better with his personal stories than I can with mine.

So yes, this post is a recommendation to read/listen to the book. 

But it's also a reminder to you: you cannot succeed in life without some measure of resilience.

I rarely state absolutes like this, but in this case it's apt.

Too many of us seek a life of comfort and ease because we feign ourselves to be weak, or spoiled, or delicate. 

We think we are incapable of dealing with truly hard things, so we avoid them at all costs.

And it does cost us. It costs fulfillment, happiness, success, and respect.

I need the same reminder, because it's easy at times to get frustrated with how many things go wrong (not as I wanted) in life. It's easy to say, "I'll never do that again" or "I'll never attempt this again."

Of course, this discussion can easily degenerate into sound bites, wall posters with the word "Resilience" at the bottom, or quotes from Einstein that Einstein never actually said.

Let's just talk plainly about it.

If you give up, you will never succeed.

I mean N-E-V-E-R.

But here's something you don't often hear.

If you don't give up, you still may not succeed.

Yep, failure is part of life. And that's why you need resilience.

If you can turn your failures and shortcomings into lessons and strength-building exercises, you will succeed in the long run at the cause you have embraced.

No life is perfect. 

No attempts at greatness are flawless. 

Nobody wins every time.

The question is: What will you do tomorrow?

Image credit:
Boy in cape image from https://www.groundworkcounseling.com/anxiety/becoming-resilient-through-cognitive-behavioral-therapy-orlando-cbt-therapists-shares-tips/

Buying a House


As you recover from the nuanced originality of the title, let me remind you of a few simple facts.

A. I am not an economist or a loan officer.

B. I am not giving you financial advice.

C. Renting sucks.

My family and I lived in a rented home for three years. 

Do you know what that means? It means we incinerated $37,500 of hard-earned money.

Yes, yes; we had a place to live. And I'm grateful for that.

And yes, we did not have to fork out money for repairs, etc.

But at the end of the day (or the years), we were left with nothing.

I don't know about you, but that pushed me to the brink of vomiting every time I thought about it.

I don't like vomiting, or cleaning it up; thus, we began searching for a home to buy. It's really quite simple.

Are you in a similar position? If so, follow these steps:

1. Save money.

Perhaps you already save money. Great. But this time, you need to save tens of thousands of dollars to make your down payment. 

And don't snort the magic fairy dust of 0% down. That will infect your nostrils and give you chronic encephalitis. It's nasty stuff. (Read more here.)

2. Shop smart.

Know what you want and go after it. 

Make lists. 

Do homework. 

Talk with (not at) realtors and listen to what they have to say. They do this literally every, single day.

You may think that you have to increase your price point to get what you want, but maybe you just haven't looked hard enough. Great deals are out there. 

I think we found one when we bought our house last year. It wasn't a foreclosure, but it was exactly what we wanted, and a little more, for exactly the dollar amount we had in mind. 

I call that a win.

Buying a house can make or break your financial future. Doing it whimsically or impulsively is akin to brushing your teeth with an unidentified brush that may or may not have been used to clean the underside of a toilet bowl. Good intentions without vigilance can lead to trouble. 

3. Get a good loan.

Technically, you'll need approval before you can really shop seriously; so maybe this should be #2. But let's not get lost in the details.

We locked in a 3.125% interest rate, which makes me smile. Our first mortgage was 7.0%, so cheers for giving less money to rich bankers! 

We also went to a local credit union instead of a giant conglomerate bank. They typically offer better rates.

We followed Step #1 pretty well, so we took a decent bite out of the home price with our down payment. This made the monthly payment manageable, and even eligible for paying over and above to kill that principle AFAP (as fast as possible, it's not a lisp).

We also opted for a 15-year loan because we want to own our home before we have gray hair. (Read more here.) And let's be honest, it's not a question of whether you can get a 15-year loan, it's whether you will get one. You may need to buy a less expensive home, but imagine all the money you could save/spend in 15 years of NOT having a mortgage payment. 

If that doesn't motivate you, I can't help you. 

This falls nicely in line with the famous (or infamous) line from Dave Ramsey: "If you live like no one else, some day you can live like no one else."

4. Double-check your new home's neighborhood.

In Step #2, you should have researched neighborhoods, home value trends, school districts, etc.

But before you pull the trigger, it might be is a good idea to go back and re-assess your analysis. Perhaps it was 1:45 AM when you were reading something on realtor.com, and double vision caused you to see five stars when there were only two. Maybe your kids were screaming at you when you were looking at comps in the neighborhood, and you were off by $50,000. 

Just go back and look. Have someone else look too. I mean, unless you're too cool for stuff like that. It's just the biggest financial investment of your life.

Let me speak from our experience. At least 50% of the reason we bought our house was the neighborhood. We liked the other houses, the yards, the people, the location, the parks, and the cul-de-sac. But more importantly, we liked that home values in this neighborhood had been increasing steadily over the previous 12 months.

Lastly, the home we bought was fairly close to the median home price for this neighborhood. (Read more here. See #12.) That means many of the houses in the neighborhood were selling for much higher prices than what we paid. That drives the price of our house upward when the next appraisal happens. As it turned out, three other homes on our cul-de-sac sold in the last seven months. The result? Our home value went up. 

Conclusion:

Buying a house is a big deal, so take time to lay a good foundation before you dive in head first.

I'm not telling you I'm an expert, or even that I take credit for the good things I mentioned in this post.

But following these simple guidelines will give you (and me) the best chance at success. 

I am learning as I go, and some of those lessons cost us lots of money! Our first home was purchased in 2008 (*cringe*), and it did half-a back flip, landed upside down on its head, and broke its face. We've been trying to stop the bleeding and repair its teeth ever since. 

If I learned one thing from that experience, it's that I am capable of making super bad financial decisions. And as much as I can help it, I plan to never let that happen again.

Image credit:
Image of sold home from http://record-transfer-services.com/buy-house/

You Can Be an Encourager

When you think back over your past, who has had the greatest positive influence on you?

Think about it.

Keep thinking.

Now keep that person or those people in your mind as this post continues. I have a point to make.

The greatest influencers, leaders, and managers are those that motivate people from within--by intentionally placing courage inside of those people.

How does one place courage inside of someone?

Encouragement

"en-" = inside of
"courage" = a desire, passion, or volition to do something
"-ment" = the act of

Encouragement = "the act of [placing] courage inside of [someone]"

After all the boring word study and dictionary stuff, there's a clear application here--you can be an encourager. And not only can you be, you should be.

Why? Because someone encouraged you, giving you a chance to achieve your goals and attain the level of success you enjoy. You didn't do it alone.


Recently I began reading a book called "Be a People Person: Effective Leadership Through Effective Relationships" by John C. Maxwell. I'm not very familiar with him or his work, but I do like the chapter I just finished. In fact, I stole the title of this post from that chapter!

Why am I writing this post?

Because somewhere in my head I have the crazy idea that I might be able to provide a unique angle on this topic. 

I like encouraging people. I like watching their potential manifest itself into reality. 

And as I mentioned earlier, I can look back into my past and see how encouragers helped me become the person I am today. I'm grateful for that, and I hope to pay some of that positivity forward to the next generation--so to speak (I'm 31, so I haven't exactly arrived.)

So let's jump into it:

In Maxwell's book, he says, "The key to encouragement is in knowing what gives people courage, what spurs them on to action. Too many of us take pleasure in discouraging people by pointing out their mistakes and getting excited about their failures rather than focusing on their strengths and getting excited about their possibilities."

The first thing that caught my attention in this quote is the word "knowing." Knowing stuff requires work--a specific type of work called studying. Studying books is work, but so is studying people. 

If you're going to be an encourager, you need to become a student of people. You need to care about people. You need to notice how your words and actions affect people, then act accordingly.

This quote also reminded me of a Bible passage in which Jesus harped on the same issue.

Matthew 7:3-5 (ESV)

[Jesus said] Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when there is a log in your own eye? You hypocrite! First take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother's eye.

It seems Jesus was aware of the fact that people tend to notice the shortcomings and failures of others and take time to point them out, sometimes publicly. But whether publicly or in the privacy of your own thoughts, you have the choice whether to spend your time and energy focusing on the bad in people, or on the good.

When you read Jesus' words, with whom do you identify? Are you the log-carrying critic, or the splinter-carrying recipient?

I'm both. And I bet you are too.

At any given moment we can take on either role.

But what is the log? 

Is it a giant moral failure? 

It is a glaring inconsistency in our life? 

Is it reckless behavior or despicable speech?

I don't think so. I think the log is pride.

Pride makes us a critic.

Pride makes us blind to our own failures and weaknesses.

Pride makes us bold enough to ramble on and on about the mishaps of others while simultaneously paving the path to our own ultimate demise.

See, pride leads you somewhere; and you won't like it.

Proverbs 16:18 

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty [arrogant] spirit before a fall. (ESV)

I'm not trying to preach a blog-sermon, but I am pointing out that the reason why you and I often struggle to encourage others is because we're too busy criticizing them because of our pride. We're too busy carrying a log around.

Feedback Loops

One of the systematic principles I learned about in my scientific studies is that of feedback loops. These little gems have been implemented in electrical engineering, software development, and many other disciplines; but first and foremost they operate in every multicellular creature on planet earth.

Allow me to illustrate.

There are positive feedback loops, in which the product of the loop also stimulates initiation of the loop.

Example: Oxytocin in the birth process.

Cells in the cervix feel pressure from the head of the baby. Pressure induces these cells to produce oxytocin, which circulates in the blood and causes uterine contractions. These contractions push the baby into the cervix, causing it to release more oxytocin; and the process goes on and on until the birth is complete.

Hopefully you're not too grossed out! (Sorry, I'm a scientist, so my gross tolerance is pretty high.)

The point is that the signal (oxytocin) creates a result (uterine contractions) that further stimulates the signal (oxytocin).

Let's jump back to the encouragement stuff.

The signal (encouragement) creates a result (success) that further stimulates the signal (encouragement).

Don't you feel good when you succeed?

Yep. Stupid question.

Of course you do. So it's a positive feedback loop.

And so is discouragement.

The signal (discouragement) creates a result (failure) that further stimulates the signal (discouragement).

The question is, which signal are you sending? Which feedback loop are you initiating in other people?

Now back to the book:

Maxwell goes on to say, "You don't get [from people] what you hope for, ask for, wish for, or beg for. You get what you reward."

If you find peoples' behavior unpleasant or counterproductive, your best course of action is to encourage them and reward them if and when they behave or act in a way that is good or beneficial. This is pretty basic stuff, but I feel it needs to be said.

Use positive reinforcement!

Let me point out three simple things you can do to encourage people:

1. Give to people.

I'm talking about gifts here--money or material items. It's so painfully practical, but it works. 

I'm not talking about bribing people or coercing them with payoffs. 

I'm talking about giving to them purely out of the desire to help and encourage someone because you want them to succeed.

Perhaps you can give money, or maybe you just have something they need; so you can give it to them. It's that simple. 

Matthew 5:42 [Jesus said] Give to him that asks you, and from him that would borrow of you, turn not away.

Let's take it a step further, and give to people even if they don't ask.

Hebrews 13:16 Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. (ESV)

2. Recognize and appreciate people.

This is free (except perhaps the cost of a card). 

Every now and then, verbally or textually acknowledge a person's contribution to the congregation, family, company, or organization. 

Let them know you notice them, and you appreciate what they're doing. Tell them they did a good job (even if it wasn't perfect). Or if they didn't do a good job (which happens), tell them you're glad to have them and you see good things in them.

As a personal note, I was a punk kid. Sometimes I'm still a punk adult, but that's not relevant at the moment. As a punk kid, I remember a guy telling me, face to face, "Dan, you're a good kid; and I know God has great plans for your future."

I don't remember that guy's name. I haven't seen him in fifteen years, but I remember how it made me feel. It surprised me, because I knew how stupid and rebellious and undisciplined I was; but he took time to let me know that he saw something good in me. I'm not saying he changed my life, but other people like him took it upon themselves to say similar things to me over the years. That encouragement is a great part of all my achievements (which aren't that many, but there are some).

3. Say kind words to people.

I realize this overlaps with #2, but it's distinct in its emphasis. This point focuses on spoken words. The old adage, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me" isn't true.

Depending on the context and the relationship, your words can literally break people. Maybe one word won't break them all at once, but each set of hostile words can broaden the cracks in a person's courage; then one day their courage and morale is nothing more than rubble.

This applies to every aspect of life, from parenting small children to being CEO of an international corporation.

Your words make a difference.

Proverbs 12:25 Heaviness in the heart of man makes it stoop; but a good word makes [his heart] glad. (KJV)

Thinking of bad things to say is easy, lazy, and destructive. People do it because it draws negative attention away from them. (Remember the log analogy from earlier?)

For every ten negative things you can think of, you might be able to find one positive thing. So say that one thing and shut the ten negative things up.

Yes, it's your grandmother's advice. But did you listen to it?

I'm like you. Saying nice things is hard. It doesn't come naturally to us.

But neither did typing, or shooting a basketball, or learning to ride a bike. It took a concentrated effort. It took practice. And now look at you--you can probably do at least one of those things pretty well. If not, I bet you know how to stalk people on Facebook. Think of all the practice that went into that skill!

Wrap it up:

The world as we know it is comprised of people. We will spend a few years on this earth, and then we'll be gone. 

The impact you have will be determined by how you influenced people. 

Did you help people become successful (at good things), and in turn improve the world? 

Or did you incite discouragement, negativity, criticism, and pride? 

Image credit:
Guys on mountain image from http://www.melwalker.org/2015/05/what-does-it-take-to-be-encourager-8.html

Don't Just Tell Your Kids, Show Them

This post is more or less a confession on bad parenting.

For those who have read my previous posts, you know that I have spent a decent amount of time addressing parenting issues and techniques. I want to be a good parent.

But isn't part of being a good parent being willing to admit that you've made some mistakes? 

And not only that you've made mistakes, but that you'd really like to correct them.

So here I am, trying to be a good parent, but seeing day after day that my mistakes and shortcomings directly influence my children; and that can create long- and short-term problems.

Children Are Human Mirrors

This is a concept familiar to many parents and others who may work with children for hours and hours every day. Some children have personalities that are more prone to mirroring, but all of them imitate behaviors and vocabulary. That's how they learn to be human.

Your responsibility, then, is to provide a decent example of humanity to mirror.

Easier said than done.

Being a good example is easy for an hour, or maybe a couple days. But when these little reflectors live in your house and see you day after day, in stressful situation after stressful situation, they start to see your not-such-a-good-example side.

The easiest thing to do to compensate for this is to try to "be good" in front of your kids. I'm not criticizing that; but I would try to extend it in my own life. Extend it to what?

I'm glad you asked.

Be a Good Example for Your Kids

Being a role model for your child(ren) requires that you show them how to behave in their role as a child, not as a parent.

I find myself constantly telling my 4-year-0ld son, "I can do that, but you can't" or "I can talk to you this way, but you can't talk to me that way."

In other words, there are implied double standards in how we police the behaviors of our kids.

Are there things I can do and say that my 4-year-old shouldn't? Yes. But that question misses the point.

There are things I should do and say, not because it's my right to do so, but because I want to show my son how to live and talk.

For example, many parents, including us, refer to each other as "mommy" and "daddy" when the kids are around (or "mom" and "dad" when the kids get older). Now it's weird and gross to take these titles literally; but we speak that way to each other so that our kids will know how to address each of us. We don't tolerate our kids calling us by our first names. So instead of always saying, "You can't call mommy by her name," I just call her "mommy" so my kids don't get confused. 

Sure, he'll figure that stuff out later in life; and things will be fine.

But let's extend this principle to more important things, like speech patterns and aggressive behaviors.

I started noticing several months ago that my son would point at me and make a very angry face when he disapproved of something I had done. Of course, I interpreted this behavior as rude and disrespectful.

Then it struck me. I did that to him.

Sure, I'm the dad; and I should be allowed to get upset at my son for disobeying or whatever. But I need to teach him how to handle situations in which he feels upset.

In other words, how I handle frustration and stress is how he is going to handle it. If I get upset and shake my fist, I can expect to see that behavior from him in a couple days or weeks.

Are there clear lines of distinction between kids and parents? Of course! I don't want any readers to get the wrong idea about what I'm trying to say. I am all about parental roles and kids being submissive to their parents. But amidst all of that, parents have the burden of responsibility to not only tell them what is expected, but to show them.

The Example of Jesus

To take an example of what I'm writing about, consider what Jesus did when he was here on the earth. (If you're not a Christian, don't worry. The principle is very evident even if you don't believe the Bible is true.)

"Then Jesus arrived from Galilee at the Jordan, coming to John to be baptized by him. But John tried to prevent Him, saying, 'I have need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?' But Jesus answering said to him, 'Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.' Then [John] permitted him." Matthew 3:13-15 (NASB)

If you see the connection, good. If not, Jesus is being baptized in this passage by John, and John thinks it's not a good idea at first. Why? Because Jesus was, according to the Christian faith, God in the flesh. He didn't need to be baptized. Jesus acknowledges that, but goes on to say that it's best for Him to do all these things in order to show his followers what they are supposed to do.

So Jesus didn't need to do it, but He did it so He could make it very clear what he expected of His followers.

As a parent, am I willing to sacrifice time, money, and energy to make sure that I clearly define the path for my children? 

Am I willing to humble myself and be inconvenienced so that they can see an image worthy of mirroring?

I hope so.

My kids are already reflecting my speech, my behavior, and my habits. I see it every day. The question is, am I willing to adjust my life for their benefit?

It's not about telling them all the right things to say and do, it's about showing them how to do it--day after day.

The sad truth is that many parents accidentally teach their children to be actors--to jump through hoops rather than becoming genuine people of character.

I hope I can avoid being one of those parents.

Image credit:
Dad and son baseball image from www.freedigitalphotos.net

How To Pick a President

Let me preface this post by saying that my blog is NOT about to become a political discourse or an arena for people to share their ridiculous political opinions in the comments section.



Last night, millions of people watched little snippets of the Republican presidential debate, and probably far fewer actually watched the entire debate. Nevertheless, people on the conservative end of the political spectrum are starting to make choices.

It's great. I like this process. You get to know people on TV and then pretend you really know them. Yes, I'm cynical.

But seriously, I enjoy the process of learning about things, forming opinions, and testing those opinions against reality. It's called learning, and learning is important in life. I'm saying this, not to insult you (as if you don't know), but to lay the ground for the whole premise of this post:

Americans need to start thinking critically.

That doesn't me be critical.

Any moron can criticize things he doesn't understand.

Thinking critically means analyzing what you perceive to be true and putting it to the test. 

Hold your ideas in the fire every once in awhile and see what burns away.

Ask tough questions and be honest enough, with yourself and with others, to answer them truthfully.

I did not write this post to endorse a candidate, or to hint at a potential winner. I have no idea who will win, but I am trying to gain a better understanding of the process.

What I have come to believe is that the winners of these types of debates/elections is a direct reflection of the capacity of the American people to use the billions of neurons between their ears.

That's how it works. The Democratic and Republican committees hire think tanks to figure out how their voter base thinks and then engineers a mold that a potential candidate must fit in order to be "electable."

Therefore, if you wish to change the nominees, you must change how people think, which will change how think tanks present information to committees that elect candidates.

For some of you, this is kindergarten stuff. For others, your mind was just blown. 

"Did you say I, little old me, can influence the nomination of Presidents? No. Not me."

But yes, you.

America should be a place where the people carry the power, and we grant it to our leaders when they convince of their worthiness.

Therefore, it is really up to us to think.

It's up to us to think about why we think things.

It's up to us to determine if our thinking is justifiable, or if it's merely a product of ambient absorption of mainstream fluff.

What do you think?

Do you care?

If you do, then start exercising your mind.

When you hear words flow out of a candidate's mouth, analyze them. 

Consider the implications. 

Question whether it's feasible, whether it's true, and whether he/she will have any ability to deliver on it.

If you don't understand much about politics, fine. Just start analyzing them like you analyze your friends and family. Look at their facial expressions and judge their sincerity. 

It's okay to judge. That's our job as citizens--to judge candidates.

My greatest fear for the future of this country is not that this person or that person will get elected.

My greatest fear is asking, "Why did this person get elected?"

Consider why Germany put Hitler in power.

Ask why the North Koreans allowed Kim Jong-un to lead them.

Why was Stalin allowed to take power in Russia?

I realize these countries were not democracies or republics, but the people still had a choice whether to revolt or concede. 

And why did they concede? 

I think because the general populace did not understand what was happening. They did not know what was afoot. They were unaware, uninformed, and complacent with allowing leadership that never should have been allowed.

You don't need to get political, but you should get informed.

And as you become informed, you should check what you observe against what you know. Sure, you could be wrong once in awhile, but that's okay; that's part of learning too.

In the end, I hope this post motivates a few people to become better citizens, better voters, and more skeptical of people who are vying for power and influence.

"Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom; and with all your getting, get understanding." (Proverbs 4:7)

Image credit:
Image obtained from http://www.austinimmigrationlawyerblog.com/2014/11/obamas-immigration-executive-a.html

Eating Scary for Breakfast

Yes, I am entirely aware that "scary" is an adjective, not a noun; thus, one cannot eat an adjective for breakfast. One can only eat a breakfast that is described by an adjective.

Now that the English instructors have been formally addressed, though probably not appeased, let's figure out why I purposefully chose a grammatically incorrect title.

Because "scary" describes things in our lives that are not necessarily bone-chilling, and they may not induce the fight-or-flight response. We're not necessarily running for our lives. 

But "scary" can be unsettling, disturbing, and a proverbial sleep thief. It can burden our mind and our heart, and drain us of initiative, energy, excitement, vision, optimism, and all the other things necessary to enrich humanity (including you).

"Scary" is taking a risk, starting something new, branching out, learning, exposing oneself to new ideas, new approaches, new perspectives, new people, new places, new jobs, and eating something you might not like.

It's all that stuff rolled up into a fajita that tastes like, well, you don't know until you try.

Now before you blast me out of the blogosphere (that's a thing), let me defend my position a little. 

Not everything needs to be tried to know it's stupid or harmful. Therefore, please exercise uncommon sense, use your brain, and ask people that are more experienced than you for some pointers. Many, many, many problems can be avoided by a well-placed, well-received piece of advice.

So if we're not supposed to try everything once, how do we tell the difference between good and bad "scary?" When is it beneficial to scare ourselves?

I'll give you my own experience and see if you can relate.

The kind of scary I like to try is one that pushes me to be better. It has some pros attached to it (and some cons--always). It has a prize at the end that is worth the risk.

Twenty fifteen has offered me some "scary" for breakfast. I could have chosen to skip breakfast and let my stomach eat itself at 10:15 am, or I could have chosen to eat the unknown scariness to obtain any and all of its nutritional value.

Scary is nutritious for the soul. It's sorta like vegetables. It's not always the most comfortable or best tasting thing to chew on, but it often provides you the greatest benefit. 

Should you eat vegetables for breakfast? That's a personal decision. I like Cheerios.

What do I choose--scary or comfortable?

Rhetorical, right? Because I wouldn't be writing a blog to tell you to try scary stuff if I wasn't trying some scary stuff. I'm glad you're one step ahead.

I started a second job doing something I've NEVER done before. Check.

I accepted a position in my church that is completely new to me. It has responsibilities that I have not previously undertaken. Check.

My wife and I agreed on financial decisions that are based on unknown events in the future. Check. (But really, aren't all financial decisions based on the unknown! Money is never guaranteed.)

There are days when the scary is unsettling. But every few weeks or month I look back to see all the growth that has occurred as a result. I see how it's pushing me to be better, to step out in faith (to use some Christian lingo), and to stop cowering in the face of the unknown.

I am not special. I have 46 chromosomes, just like you. My heart has four chambers, just like you. I have to sleep, just like you. We're not so different.

So if it's good for me, it's probably good for you.

But if it blows up in your face, I'm not legally responsible because this is just a blog. 

It wouldn't be scary if nothing could go wrong. 

I'm not offering you a "path to success." 

I'm proposing that you change your mentality toward the possibility of success AND failure.

Failure is an opportunity to learn and try again, not to quit and rationalize why you'll never again try something scary.

So tomorrow, have some scary for breakfast.