College, journey, love, personal

Journey’s End: The End

“Ever since I was a child I have had this instinctive urge for expansion and growth. To me, the function and duty of a quality human being is the sincere and honest development of one’s potential.” – Bruce Lee


So the grand experiment is finally over. Next week I start my celebrations starting with the Management Club Banquet. The weeks following will be a College of Business banquet, an International Studies banquet and then graduation. As far as my College journey is concerned, this is crossing the finish line. It’s making sure my grades are sufficient, my assignments are done, and my debts are paid. So the question is, “how do I want this to end”? Writing every week is not an easy feat when you’re only one person and as much as I love writing, I think a proper break is in order.

The goal was to express my vulnerabilities and for the most part I accomplished that. To be honest, this was more of a personal assignment than anything else. To challenge myself one last time, to see if I could apply my strategies and use it to help rewrite my script. I’ve put up so many walls over the years, so this has helped some with easing my burden.

To tell a story… I’ve spent my entire College Career learning to weave stories, all in an effort to feel heard. This series in a sense has been a way for me to reconnect with my past self, that which I have spent a lifetime trying to bury. A farewell to the chaos, the crippling fear, and the darkness… Before this, my story was a jumbled mess. I have spent the last few years talking about my successes rather than failures, so it feels good to simply put it all on paper. Not in my journal but rather on the world stage…

Of course, this does not mean that I have simply wished away all that has happened. All I’ve done is face my demons. Of course there is one demon I didn’t talk about and as much as I wish I could talk about it now, I can’t. That’s a story for another day, perhaps another lifetime. For, as much as I tell, and as much as people would love to believe they know me, very few actually do. I wear many masks.

Sometimes I wonder if I’ve worn a mask for to long… I’ve always been great at molding myself yet I’ve become unrecognizable. Who I once was I can barely remember… The more I change, the more I begin to shape my memories. What was once rotten is now ripe. And I have to wonder, where does it end? I love who I am yet that is the question. Who am I? As I’ve said, I see many doors. And I’m finally ready to pick one. With the end of College comes an end of an era. A degree is my Golden Ticket…

It is time to finally hit reset. I have no commitments, no obligations. I am finally free. If I choose Germany, so be it. If I choose Seattle, great. If I end up as Farmer Mike, hunky dory. Either way, I will finally be free. If I don’t like my job, I can quit. If I want to settle down, I’ll find a girl. My past will always follow me but now it will not define me. When I speak of the past, I can speak with confidence that it is not my future. For the first time in what feels like ages, I am finally happy. Truly happy. While I’m terrified and anxious, I’m also excited for what the future holds. I beat the odds. I didn’t become some statistic and fade away. I learned to love and to live. My present is now finally a gift. It’s no longer “let’s make it to tomorrow”, it’s “what can I do today”? Do you know what it’s like to smile after watching anger and sorrow erode your soul? It’s amazing. This has been a year of growth and while I thought I couldn’t top last year as “greatest year of my life”, I think I have. I am beyond grateful…

The End…

Thanks for joining me on this journey. It has meant a great deal just to express my last term of college on the world stage. I not only accepted my past through this series but have also embraced my future. More so, I was finally able to talk about my present. My College bucket list… One last bang before I turn the page to the next chapter. My time at College is at an end but with the death of an era comes the ushering in of a new one. My last item on my bucket list is to go to a little coffee shop I’ve walked past for the last 4 years… I’ve wanted to go in for the longest time but I’ve been waiting for the right moment… And I had always hoped I wouldn’t go alone.. Time is best spent with the company of others… And I’m glad I’ve spent the majority of my time in college in great company… My friends, my mentors… I love them all. I cut out the poisonous relationships in my life and saved the ones I could… I have few regrets… And a lot to smile about. So with that, cheers to the future!

personal, reflection

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!

Advice, personal, Travel

Germany: What Have I done?

Life is about experience. If you had asked me a year ago where I saw myself a year from now, I bet you I wouldn’t be saying Germany. Yet a little over year ago, I asked myself a simple question, “why not”? I was taking summer classes at the time when I read an email saying “Hey, Study abroad is pretty cool, come listen to some guest speakers from Germany and Sweden talk about the programs”.  So I went. Sometimes that’s all it takes, a little nudge in the right direction. When I went to info session, I fell in love with the German program and as much as I’d love to say I did hours of research into every country I could experience through study abroad, Germany had me at Oktoberfest. I had my reservations at first but here I stand just a week away from what will be the greatest experience of my college career. So…

Why Go?

Perspective – It’s about understanding. The world would be a better place if everyone went abroad and learned that we as human beings are more similar than we are different. More so than understanding similarities, study abroad is a great way to teach you to value the differences.

Independence –  The great quest of the college student, learning how to Adult properly. You can spend your entire college career thinking you can Adult and are getting quite good at it only to realize once you graduate you’ve been doing it completely wrong. What better way to learn how to Adult the right way than in a foreign country?

YOLO You only live once. Was there ever a truer statement? Is study abroad a risk? Of course! I could end up living in a box when I get back from Germany because I spent all my money on beer. Who knows? But if we didn’t take risks, face our fears, and live for experience, then we wouldn’t get anywhere in life!

You actually save money! (In theory) – Groceries are cheaper, housing is cheaper, textbooks, etc. As far as I know, I’ll actually be saving money while overseas! Probably not, but one can dream.

But the main reason you should study abroad…

For Blog - Germany entry 1

As I said earlier, life is about experience, or better yet, life is about adventure. If we’re not moving forward, we are either standing still or moving backward. It is absolutely terrifying to take a leap of faith and say “I’m going to live in a foreign country for 4 months”. Yet the very fact that I’m terrified makes this opportunity all the more exciting. When we are afraid, it means we are outside of our comfort zone. Every time we step outside of our comfort zone, we grow. We push our limits and set new standards for ourselves. Our comfort zone expands each and every time we face our fears and that’s when we say “what’s the next adventure”?

 

Advice, Business, personal

Embracing Chaos

So let’s start where it all began; The Big Bang. The Universe was in harmony, molecules bonded, planets formed, life was created. The Universe was in order. Every moment that passes the Universe expands ever faster and the unforeseen happens, bringing a little more chaos into our lives. Is it bad? Not at all! I may sound like a mad man, but hear me out.

So, what is chaos? Chaos represents that which we cannot control and that scares a lot of people. Control gives us a sense of stability, so as humans we seek to control the world around us. Yet this is a futile effort. We have this illusion of control, that somehow our lives will be better tomorrow than they are today. This is not guaranteed. Some may say it comes down to perspective, that if you think positive, your life is all sunshine and rainbows. This is a false assumption. Optimism only goes so far and it can be a slippery slope. Being overly optimistic can lead to a false sense of security. It can become easier to ignore reality than face that the world can be a cruel, unforgiving place. “Good to Great” wisely stated (I’m paraphrasing, but you’ll get the gist) that optimists don’t survive in the real world. The people who survive believe they will prevail but set realistic expectations. So pessimists rejoice, you have the right attitude (just don’t have a rain cloud over your head)!

I have spent my entire college career trying to answer what role chaos has played in my life. Like the great human being I am, I spent the the first two years trying to control the chaos with no avail. Then I simply let the chaos control me. And then, I invested a lot of time and energy building myself from the ground up, the typical reinventing that many-a -college-student goes through. What did I find? Once I understood how to control myself, how to self manage and all that good jazz, I didn’t see chaos as such a detriment. I wouldn’t say chaos and myself are BFF’s right now, but I’ve found life to simply be more enjoyable. I know what you may be thinking “hey, he figured himself out, that’s great! But doesn’t the act of finding/creating yourself help reduce chaos?” Yes and no. The way I see it, investing in yourself is the equivalent of being handed a compass. A compass may point you in the right direction but at the end of the day you can choose any map you want to follow. But there’s a difference between looking at a map and having direction vs. actually setting down the path you’ve chosen. All the preparation and tools in the world won’t prepare you for reality, the environment and situations you may or may not come across. You may find that the road you chose to wander down is a dead end. If you are afraid of chaos, you’ll turn around and retread your steps. The familiar will  always give a false sense of stability. If however, you embrace chaos, you might say “this road is blocked, but I know where I’m headed, so here’s another road that’ll get me there”.  So go ahead and embrace chaos, you won’t be disappointed.

Book Review, Business, personal

Go-Givers Sell More: Worth a read?

Short answer, it depends. In my honest opinion, I’d say no. You are much better off reading “How to win friends & influence people” or “7 habits for highly effective people”. This book, while not inherently bad, offers nothing new. In fact, the title gives away the entire book. Read the title and you’re good to go. The premise is if you’re nice to people, you’ll be more successful. This is a lesson you learn just by breathing and living. The difference is that this book places it in the context of “making sales”. The advice given is filler, while decent advice, there’s nothing that makes this book stand out. This a book you’ll read once and put away on your shelf. This book is a business book but as with all business books it can be applied to your personal life as well. Yet most of the techniques I’ve read in the book were watered down versions of what previous authors/philosophers have said before. Building off the ideas of others is a foundation of success, but for all it’s talk about creating value, this book came off as filler. The anecdotes used in the book are bland and boring, offering very little substance to get the gears turning.

Final Verdict:

Time is the most valuable resource we have. While I didn’t feel like my time was completely wasted I still felt that a lot of this book was trying to live up to greater titles such as “How to win friends & influence people”. This book never really found it’s footing. I can neither recommend it as a business book nor a personal book. The ideas presented in this book have been written about before and in a much more entertaining manner.

Business, personal, Recommendation

The Power of Context: Life isn’t a one size fits all label

Ever heard the phrase “it’s the little things that matter most”? Of course you have, unless you’ve lived under a rock your entire life; no judgments here. Is it true? Yes, yes it is. That’s not to say big moments don’t matter but it’s often the little moments that add up and create big moments. So why then, as human beings, are we stuck in a vicious cycle of oversimplifying the complexities of life? We can say criminals are evil but that’s an easy answer that doesn’t add up. If I volunteer on the weekends, I’m perceived as a good person. As flattering as that is, that’s a generalization. So what makes everything add up, where you can say, “oh, now that makes a lot of sense”? Well, my friends, it’s context. We are not always good and we are not always evil. Context explains why “good” people do “bad” things and “bad” people do “good” things.

Why Context Matters:

Context matters because it allows us to make better sense of the world. Instead of saying someone did something out of “character”, we can analyze and break down what they did and why they did it. When we make generalizations, we are left scratching our heads. If I’m perceived as a good person people will dismiss when I do something out of line, or worse, change their view of who I am with this one instance. If, for example, I call someone a “bad” name, rather than trying to understand the context and what lead to the name calling, they can simply say I’m a “bad” person. And due to personal bias, once they make this new assumption, they will look for anything that will reaffirm their new belief that I am a “bad” person. Yet, flip the story around. Let’s say I compliment that person and reaffirm their world views. Then I am a “good” person. So, simple. Just be a “good” person. This would work in a perfect world. Yet what as human beings do we tend to do? We focus on the negative. We are hard-wired to do so. Everyone wants to feel as though they have worth and we seek this through the approval of our peers. Humans are social creatures, so it makes sense. In a perfect world, we would be 100% intrinsically motivated and not care what others thought of us, but once again, we do not live in a perfect world. So back to my previous example. We can have a thousand positive interactions with an individual yet it only takes one moment to destroy a relationship. Does this seem logical? No, yet we do it all the time. We hold grudges and we put up walls. So an understanding of context in a sense can overwrite what we are hard-wired to do and make forgiving others much easier.

Asking the right questions:

A question we don’t ask enough is why. Such a simple question yet so powerful. Why is a question of trying to understand context. It encourages discussion and facilitates results. It not only helps you understand the situation better but shows appreciation of the other party. Ask why enough times and you have an answer. Instead of “good” or “bad” we get “Oh, I never saw it that way” or “Oh, that makes a lot of sense”. That’s the power of understanding context. It’s understanding. Context encourages us to break down labels and try to understand the other person on a situation-by-situation basis. “Heat of the moment” now makes a lot more sense. So go ahead, ask the question “why” and let the results speak for themselves.

Business, Fun, personal, Reading List, Recommendation, Relaxation, Self Improvement

Summer Reading Lists! They aren’t just for children.

So it’s summer. Whether you’re on vacation or not, you can sit back, relax, and enjoy some time in the sun. We’re all busy people but are we all that productive? This past year I’ve read some fundamental “business” books. These are great books if you want to reach higher and really build a foundation for yourself. So, without further ado, here’s my reading list:

All Work:

  1. 7 habits for highly effective people – I cannot preach this book enough. Helped me get on my feet this year and find success. Why it’s worth your time: The 7 habits give you a concrete framework for you to go from being dependent to independent to interdependent. If you find life constantly out of your control, give this book a try. It’s not a dry book and it has plenty of anecdotes to keep you entertained.
  2. How to win friends and influence people – Don’t be deterred by the title! This is not a book about becoming a grand puppet master and learning how to control relationships. This is a book that teaches you the techniques for being a better person! Why it’s worth your time: Communicating well can be hard. How often are we actually given a framework for how to be a better communicator? More often than not, we’re left to the wolves when it comes to learning how to communicate. Excellent communication skills are expected, so it can be frustrating when we don’t even know where to start. Well look no further, this is your book. I recommend reading after 7 habits. This book has plenty of anecdotes and is an easy, but thoughtful read.
  3. The One Thing – The book i’m reading right now. Great book, so great that I’m going to recommend it before I even finish. Why it’s worth your time: This is a book all about focus. It’s all about working smarter, not harder. Another book that gives you a framework for success, I highly recommend giving it a spin.

All Play:

  1. The book of awesome – Did I buy this book because of the title alone? Perhaps, but it is still a great book and I highly recommend reading it! Why it’s worth your time: This book is a quick read. It’s not a book you have with a glass of wine next to the fire. I actually heard of this book through a TED talk I watched years ago when I was but a wee freshman in college. I was caught up with all the chaos that is college so I needed a little reminder of all the little things that makes life so great. The story behind the book is amazing and I highly recommend checking out the link. Each “chapter” is a different awesome thing, so chapters can range from a paragraph to a few pages. The author is hilarious, so the book is good, lighthearted fun.
  2. The Martian – Where do I even begin with this book? This book is awesome (but is not the book of awesome). Why it’s worth your time: This book makes math seem cool. But more than that, it’s a space adventure showcasing the good of humanity and the strength of the human spirit. Mark Watney gets stranded on mars and has to survive. How does he do it? Why does he do it? Does he actually survive? All great questions. Also this book has lots of potatoes! Yay for potatoes!

Other Books:

  1. Good to Great – Next on my reading list, all I know is my professors love this book and that’s good enough for me.
  2. TED Talks –  I listened to the audio version which was narrated by the author, Chris Anderson, also the CEO of TED. If you’re looking to better your public speaking skills, not a bad place to start.

There you have it, if you’re looking for a great way to start your summer, try picking up one (or all) of these books. I included links to the books, so click away! Also be sure to check out the TED talk if you have the time, thanks for reading!