Let’s talk politics

 

While I can’t speak on behalf of other countries, I’ve spent 23 years of my life (minus 4 months) in the US. From the day I was born and hopefully not till the die, I have witnessed the volatile stigma that is US politics. Politics in the US isn’t rational, it’s emotional and therein lies the problem.

The Problem

The problem is simple, we don’t talk politics. I’ve spent 5 years in the college of business and it’s always the same story. I’ve invested a lot of time in my communication skills and one common theme is, “don’t talk politics”. Why? Because it’s a sensitive topic. Why is it a sensitive topic? Because we don’t have open discourse. See the paradox? And the same applies for the US as a whole. Instead of having open discussion about the political process, we judge and divide, we pick sides. Emotions run wild. It’s absolutely absurd and could easily be avoided with a simple concept, “don’t make it personal”. Instead, that’s all anyone ever does. It’s very common in the US when you meet for the holidays to avoid politics like the plague because once someone starts talking, usually the college students (good on us), we’re hounded by our older, “wiser” relatives. Or we simply make observations and we’re told that we’re wrong and that we should “read” more. Where’s the respect in that? Respect doesn’t go one way, it goes both ways. I truly believe the young can be just as wise, if not wiser than our older counterparts and yet are we treated as such? No, instead we are looked down upon. I’m not saying this is the case with every family, but it’s common enough to the point where it needs to be addressed. It’s culturally ingrained that we do not speak politics in the US! How insane is that? Where does it start? It starts with the family. Families have an obligation to teach the young to respect politics by understanding politics.

When I voted for the first time 4 years ago, I was so excited. To have the ability to influence democracy and vote based on policy. I respected Mitt Romney as much as I respected Obama. The discourse during the debates was civil and I could see both sides of the issues being addressed. At the end of the day, I chose Obama. Why? Because I liked his policies best. See? Does that seem so bad? Does that make you angry? No! How easy is that? That’s a very basic example, but it illustrates my point so well. But let’s add another element to the story, when I decided to talk about who I voted for to my family. The moment I said “Obama” it was over. It was all criticism. It was “Obama did this, Obama did that”, “Obama takes jobs away, he’s going to make it so difficult”. So what did I do after that? Did I talk more about politics with my family? No. I shut my mouth because it wasn’t a discussion, it was an argument. It’s absolutely disgusting that this is even an issue. And that it is so common. What’s worse is because a lot of people feel they can’t talk openly about politics with their family, they think this applies to the rest of life as well. Strangers, friends, etc. Where are the liberals and conservatives coming together, because right now it’s simply a free-for-all, with everyone pointing the finger. Well, I say enough is enough. So what then, is the solution?

The Solution

The solution is simple. And it is… Drum roll please. Open dialogue! Yes it starts with simply talking politics. But of course, you may be asking “How, where do I even begin”? Well, let me to tell you.

The How

  1. Listen – Yes listening is the first step. Hear what the other side has to say and go in with an open mind. Obviously you’re not going to agree on everything and that’s a good thing! If we always agreed, there’d be no reason to talk with anybody.
  2. Ask questions – What a novel concept! You’re confused on a point? Ask a question and keep digging, “seek to understand, then seek to be understood”. It’s not rocket science! Saying someone is wrong and you’re right will get you nowhere.
  3. Offer a new perspective – Expand on the questions! Ask follow up questions! Then offer your perspective! Chances are you’ll have a meaningful discussion and both parties will walk away happier.

So there you have it, we’ve taken a simple problem with a simple solution and made it overly complex. It’s time to change and that starts with the individual. If we want a better tomorrow, we have to fight for it today. So feel free to discuss, share, and re-post this article. Stay classy people.

New Year, New Mike

Background aka New Mike origin story

So I’ll be honest, 2016 was by far the best year of my life. Last year (2015) my goal was simply to become a better person, the person I always talked about becoming but never really followed through on. I had laid the foundation for success towards the end of 2014, when I decided to quit my job and join student organizations. Then, in Spring of 2015, I ran for leadership positions in those organizations and those positions became my full time job. Summer, after missing out on the opportunity for an internship, was a time for reflection. To take a look at my life; where it was, where I wanted it to be. So come Fall term, I had a goal, just no idea how to get there. I had to start somewhere, so I started with Stephen Covey’s “7 Habits of highly effective people”, the book that changed my life. The first habit is be proactive. So I tried it. Instead of saying, I started doing. It helped being the Director of social media for management club and Service chair for the professional business fraternity; I could simply apply the concepts I read about to those positions. The best part? It worked. Each term, Service, Social media improved and as much as it benefited the organizations I was a part of, it was more a reflection of my personal growth. I finished “7 habits” at the start of my Spring term, when I was able to draft my own personal mission statement. Everything I value, written on paper. And I didn’t stop there. I simply kept reading. I would read a recommended “business” book, internalize the concepts, and… blog about it. Yes. My blog more or less started with the books I read in 2015 as it was fairly easy to write about. I’ve been blogging since my Freshman year of college but this was really the first time I felt my blog was worth reading, or for that matter, worth sharing.

2016: A Year to remember

So, that’s where it began. Before that? I was just trying to keep my head above the water. 2014 was the year I decided I had enough of mediocrity and started moving forward. So when you hear me say “always moving forward”, it was around this time that I adopted the philosophy. So, 2016. This year has been absolutely amazing. Winter term was the term I finally got my shit life together. Fall term there was a lot of stumbling, adjusting to the “new” Mike. Winter term was by no means perfect, but by that point I had a lot figured out. So come Spring term, I was more or less king. I knew exactly what I was doing and how to get there. After 4 years, I finally got an internship (the American dream right there). Then come summer, I secured a job where I could apply what I’ve learned.  And then… I was off to Germany, the final stepping stone. I’ve talked quite a bit about Germany already but as many know, I love talking about Germany. What you might not know is the real reason I decided to study abroad. And simply put, as cheesy as it sounds, I was there to find myself. What does that mean? I was searching for my confidence and more importantly, my independence. Did I find it? Yes! So for that reason alone, Germany will always hold a special place in my heart; it represents the end of one chapter of my life and the beginning of a new one. And now here I am ushering in a new year. So that said, what’s in store?

Goals for 2017

What do I want to accomplish for 2017? Well for starters, I’ll be cooking a lot more. A few weeks in and I’ve only been making eggs and bacon, but hey, it could be worse. My goal is to cook a new dish every week or two. I want to improve my German and Spanish to proficient levels by studying at least a few times a week. I want to run at least two times a week, but hopefully three to get back in shape. And of course, I want to spend more time with friends and overall strengthen my relationships.

2017: Broken Chains

Of course this post wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t take the time to talk about the future. New Year’s Eve is as much a celebration of the past as it is a celebration of the future. This New Year in particular is special as my time at college comes to a close. I still remember my first week of college and how I cried because I couldn’t find my class and navigating campus was so overwhelming. And now? I can tell Freshman it’ll be alright, that they’ll make it. Why? Because I’ve been there. It’s been a long road and while I’m sad to leave, it’s my time. 2016 was a year of saying goodbye. Not only to the friends I’ve made over the years (now some are 5000 miles apart) but also to who I was. This will be the first year where I am ready to take on the world, so bring it on 2017!