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vulnerability: What remains unseen

“Vulnerability is about showing up and being seen. It’s tough to do that when we’re terrified about what people might see or think.” – Brene Brown


This month will either break or make me. In my never ending quest to step outside my comfort zone, this might be my greatest challenge yet. The goal with this series is to one, reduce the stigma around mental health and two, create an opportunity for myself to talk openly. Every week will get a little deeper and like Neo, once I climb down the rabbit hole there’s no clawing my way out. Luckily, I’m an expert communicator nowadays, so people no longer run away in horror when they see me (yay).

How am I qualified?

Some might argue I am not [no one has argued that but it sounds poetic so I’m leaving it in.] Some might say I’ve gone mad, however, nay says I. Why? Because over the last five years I have diligently studied every technique I could find for mental wellness. Hell, I chose my major (Business Management) just so I could learn how to develop meaningful relationships in my life. And I did. I came, I conquered and I destroyed. The unintended consequence of my actions is when I open up now, it’s hard to believe how I possibly could relate. Little known fact is I spent the first two years of College in a counselors office and the year after taking antidepressants. I am imperfect and so is everyone else.

Why Write about this?

The first reason is that I am in a position to. I have spent years developing my writing talent so that I would have a voice and with that voice, the power to speak when others might not.

We as a society run from our emotions. We are scared shitless and we choke on our own pain. This is not unique and our pain begins to manifest into unhealthy behavior and habits. We look at Facebook and begin to loathe our own lives even if they’re going well. We see a Snap and feel as though we’re missing out. We write inspirational posts just for the sake of being noticed, feeling heard, and getting likes. And we are miserable.

We as a society hate vulnerability. And not so much being vulnerable but the risk that we might be misunderstood. Vulnerability itself is beautiful and to be heard? Even more so.  To be vulnerable is to be human, so why have we designed society around developing personas?

For Society to Succeed, Men must be vulnerable.

I could be wrong, however, I’m willing to take this risk; I think society would be better if men knew how to express themselves. And while I can’t speak for women, I think most of you would agree. All too often I see men being real dicks (pun almost not intended). And instead of pointing the finger, I think the real question we should be asking is “why?” My working theory is because men aren’t taught to manage their emotions, those emotions begin to manage them. Early on in life it might not be as noticeable, however, over time the issue compounds. And we as people, have emotions that are stronger than others. When we’re sad we cry and if we can’t cry, we get angry. What are men told from an early age? That we can’t cry! And with anger, comes aggression. Anger is only ever healthy if properly managed. Channeled well, anger becomes passion, determination, and immense focus. Handled improperly? You get men who can’t take no for an answer.  And when this happens, the more we push, the more we are pushed back. While not impossible to break through, it’s easier if men are taught that we are imperfect from the start. That we will have our ups and downs, and it’s not so much about weathering the storm as it is to feel the rain and hear the thunder.

And if you’re curious as to why there is an emphasis on men, here it is. While women are imperfect (just like men), my observation has been that women seem to be better equipped to form support groups and networks that encourage openness. Men, however, do the opposite. Instead of open up, we distract ourselves. We grunt at the T.V. when watching football and we drink beer in a feeble attempt to self medicate. When we are backed into a corner we kick and scream rather than let ourselves be vulnerable; we want to be loved yet we don’t know how.

Why are we afraid?

Next week, I will be talking about my struggle with chronic depression. In most situations, people wouldn’t know how to react. Why? Because it’s not something we’re taught. Instead of a hug, most of the time a reveal such as mine would be met with awkward silence. And worst case? Your friends who you thought you could trust, decide they don’t need the added stress and decide to leave. That is why we don’t talk and feel the need to say “I’m fine” rather than “I’m not ok and that’s ok.”

We fear one day if we reveal who we really are, people will not see beauty but rather destruction. And to an extent, those fears are justified. Emotions are messy and if not handled properly, they can cause more harm than they can ever do good. And that is why we need to practice. To tell others how we really feel rather than how we want them to think we feel. If we don’t allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we risk losing everything that makes life worth living.

How does this feel?

The simple act of writing without limits feels wonderful. Yes, I have my filters, however, they’ve been refined to the point where I can weave stories with the snap of my finger. Instead of watching my story unfold, I can tell how my story will unfold. I am in full control. That’s the thing. We create our own reality, for better or worse. For me, it’s been the drive to be better and that started with a blog post five years ago. It was an act as simple as sharing my love of poetry over on IGN. I chuckle now, but it was a big deal at the time.

What does it mean to be Vulnerable?

This is a question I have found myself asking. This article has taken months of planning and reflection. And unlike most, I’ve been dreading hitting publish. There always seems to be more to refine, more left to write, and words that simply don’t sound right. The closer I get to finishing, the further away I feel. And I think that encompasses vulnerability best. It’s not so much the act of sharing as it is the fear that my words will be ill received. We can plan for all the possibilities in the world, however we won’t know until we choose to speak up. These articles are not what I would call “safe”. If I’m wrong, the greater the fall and the fear that there will be no one to extend a hand when I hit the bottom. However, these fears are ill-founded. The best moments of my life have been when I’ve chosen to allow myself to be vulnerable. I thought I would lose everything, however, it was in these moments that I could grow and allow myself to feel. As difficult as it is, would you rather be able to say in the end “I’m glad I said” or “I never got the chance to say”…


Thanks for reading! This was an extremely difficult article to write. Next week is the tipping point for this month. The content will delve into my mind and the vulnerability discussed in this article will be ever present. Be prepared and while the topics in the next few weeks will be handled with grace as always, they might make some uncomfortable. Feel free to discuss in the comments; I read each and every comment and always love hearing from you!

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9 months of meditation: Has it been worth it?

The short answer, yes. The long answer, also yes, but longer. So full disclaimer; as much as i’d like to say I’ve meditated every day as I set out to do, I haven’t. In my defense however, progress is not a straight line. When you attempt a new habit, you will have your ups and downs but the idea is to stick with it until you set a new bar for yourself. without further ado let’s start with the most important question.

Why Meditate?

Let me set the scene. I had just come back from Germany, awaiting my kingdom upon my triumph return home. I had my head held high and was ready to seize the world. But as life would have it, my kingdom had turned to ash. My hero’s welcome was using all my available energy to put out fires and keep ships from sinking. In the first time in years, my journal failed me. You know things are bad when Mike Cole is carrying around a stress-ball at every waking moment. All my systems were collapsing and even my books couldn’t save me this time around. But if you know me, I carry on to the bitter end. So I rebuilt my old systems.

I started with 5 minutes a day and went from there. It was hard at first but got easier over time. When I was able to do 5 minutes on a consistent basis, I bumped it to 10, which I think is the perfect amount. But once again, why would you want to meditate? Couldn’t those precious minutes be put towards something more valuable? Well…

Imagine you have anxiety. Scratch that, don’t imagine; everyone has anxiety. What if I told you your deepest fears could melt away and that your clouded mind could become clear? Well, that’s meditation in a nutshell. The hard part is sitting down and making it a priority. As I’ve deemed it, meditation is kind of like hitting the reset button. Done right, it’ll clear the clutter and allow you to focus. Meditation in the morning can set your day up for success.

What is meditation?

Before I started, I looked up different techniques online. I couldn’t find a proper explanation and this frustrated me. Some people go to the extreme for meditation and when they try to explain the experience, it comes off as gibberish. If you look up mindfulness, you’ll get close but still it reads more like a self-help book more than anything else. So what I did, is simply combine the pieces I liked and then simply started meditating. After a few times, I got a feel for the experience and refined it to what is a mix between the spiritual and the mindfulness techniques your friendly neighborhood psychologist would tell you about.

My Techniques

So the idea behind meditation is not necessarily letting go of the negative thoughts inside your head but rather acknowledging them and moving forward. What most don’t realize however, is meditation is not simply an emptying of the mind, it’s a process of clarifying thoughts, much in the way we feel refreshed after sleeping. A good thought can branch out much like a tree and instead of trying to focus on nothingness, simply follow the thought and the thoughts thereafter. Think of yourself as a leaf flowing down a river, perhaps imagine a gentle breeze with branches gently swaying in the wind. A leaf in a river simply is and does not work against the current.

That’s only the first half. The second half is focusing on your body. It can be as simple as breathing to start but eventually you’ll want to focus on nerves. Find the tension in your body and simply be aware, massage, wiggle your fingers, pay attention to dexterity, etc. If you’re uncomfortable, adjust yourself. Listen to the wind blow, the sound of your breath, the gentle trickle of water from a fountain.

There are few ways to do meditation wrong. However, if you want more guidance, here’s a few suggestions. Buy a sleeping mask. If you find yourself reaching for your phone, this will prevent that. It will also block out light and should you open your eyes you will simply see darkness. If you have raw emotion and simply can’t get comfortable, let your meditation posture reflect that. Try leaving one hand open and clenching a fist. The open hand should relax and the clenched fist should control. Over time you’ll most likely end up with both hands open, pressed together in the center.

If you’re looking for a spiritual aspect to meditation but don’t want to turn into a monk, try going into meditation as your time to connect with nature. Sit outside under a tree or leave a window open. Simply learn to appreciate the present moment.


Thanks for reading! It’s been a while since I’ve done a self-improvement article and it feels great. I hope you find the advice helpful and feel free to share and comment below. If you have your own technique or a personal story, I’d love to hear it!

A Key to Success: to tell a…

So , there are many ways to be successful. This happens to be what’s worked best for me and I truly believe if you do this you can find success wherever that might be. What is it? It’s learning how to tell a good story.

Yes, from the dawn of time we have been story tellers. A story can take any form, it can be a painting, a photo, a blog post, literally anything. Let me clarify, just because you have something to say doesn’t make it a story. A story is a process of organizing information, tailoring a message to your specific audience. This audience can be yourself or others. We are constantly absorbing new information and this information is just noise until we break down the noise and organize. So what do stories need?

Stories need focus

One story at a time. Yes we have a lot to say and want to say it all at once, but this almost always ends in disaster. You end up having too much to say and end up spreading yourself too thin. You end up jumping from topic to topic and lose the interest of your audience.

Stories need a message

There is no point in telling a story if it doesn’t have a message. People want application. A story without a message is simply put, a waste of everyone’s time. You don’t tell a joke without a punchline and the same applies here.

Stories need to matter

You must tailor your story to your audience. Some stories are best left untold if they don’t add value to the other person. That’s not to say the story doesn’t matter, but it might be a story for another day and a different audience. If you find value in the story, great, that’s your own personal story. This said, my advice is try to find universal interests to frame your stories. Like, for example, everyone can relate to wanting to feel valued, to know that they have worth. You can tell many stories from this frame, whether that be giving advice through a blog or telling someone how much you appreciate their work and listing specifics.

So there you have it, a simple guide on what stories are and what to watch out for so you’re not giving people word vomit. I would like to note that this post is just one story. There very well has probably been another blogger who’s written about telling stories and reached a completely different outcome. Life isn’t about right or wrong, it’s about valuing the differences! Now go out and tell your story (or stories) whatever that (those) may be! Thanks for reading!

Two steps forward, one step back

So here’s an idea. Everyone knows the old saying, “one step forward, two steps back”, right? Well, I say let’s challenge that. Life comes down to perspective. Let’s break down the saying itself. Who in their right mind has ever taken one step forward and two steps back? No one. Isn’t it more likely for a person to take two steps forward and one step back (maybe to turn in a new direction). That makes sense. Why would you ever believe a saying that doesn’t even make literal sense? It’s a logical fallacy.

Moving Forward:

The first step – As it goes, the first step is getting started. If we want to get anywhere, we must take the initial step. This step is the foundation. The first step allows us to take the second step. If we only take the first step, we get nowhere.

The second step – In a perfect world, I’d say that the first step is just as important as the second step. That it comes down to perspective and that it really depends based on the situation. It doesn’t. The second step will always be more important than the first step. That said, without the first step the second step would never exist. The second step is what pushes us further. It is putting the decision in motion and giving us a taste of what to expect.

One step back – This is the turning point, the point where you choose whether or not to take the third, forth, five, etc. step. Think of it as a pivot, it’s not really a step back but rather a rotation, a change in priority, even a change in purpose.

So there you have it, a fun little musing of a common saying. I plan to do more of these “common sayings perspective shifts” but until then go take a few steps into the unknown. Learn from your mistakes  and you’ll always be moving forward. Thanks for reading!

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!

How to Build Genuine Relationships

Life can be a challenge and trying to do everything alone can be even harder. We, as people, have an innate desire to connect. There’s enough loneliness in this world and unfortunately as people, we tend to be attracted to the great communicators and don’t bother with the socially awkward. So what can the socially awkward do? I’m here to help.

A little background before I dive in. This year I have put a lot of focus into building better relationships. I started this year as a quiet, sad individual who said too much and tried just a little too hard to make others like me. While I meant well, I was, how do i put it? Well, I was more or less perceived as an asshole by others. And guess what? Nobody likes assholes. So let’s go over the do’s and don’t to make sure others don’t see you as an asshole!

Don’t

  1. Make assumptions Once you start making assumptions of what others think of you, it’s game over. YOU aren’t the other person and I’ve found out the hard way that until you talk  to the other person, you should assume your assumption is wrong until proven otherwise.

Do

  1. Be Direct – Say what you need to say, beating around the bush only leads to further frustration. The longer you wait, the more opportunity there is for doubt to enter your mind. Time is precious and it shouldn’t be wasted playing a guessing game with the other party. So go ahead, say what you need to say!

Don’t 

  1. Try to control the relationship – Yes life is scary and we try to control as much as we can to give ourselves the illusion of stability. Control never ends well, especially when you try to do so with people. Relationships form naturally and if you try to force them, you won’t make any friends. Everyone is unique and nobody likes being told what to do.

Do

  1. Genuinely Listen to Others – I used to think I was a great listener, but in truth, I wasn’t. I was simply going through the motions (nodding my head, smiling, laughing, etc.) all the while waiting for the other person to finish (or briefly pause) so that I could make my point. What I’ve had to train myself to do is not push my agenda, to chat with someone for the sake of them being heard. You have to be patient. Listen first, be engaged, and more often than not the other party will want to hear about you.

Don’t 

  1. cross your arms – Watch your body language! If you are someone who crosses their arms out of habit, train yourself to pop your hands in your pocket, lay them on the side, or whatever else you need to do. Closed vs. open body language. It may not seem like much, but having an open posture will go a long ways in making you seem approachable.

Do

  1. Smile – So important! If you’re upset? Smile! If you’re sad? Smile. If you’re happy? Have an even bigger smile! Smiling goes much further than making others perceive you as more friendly. Smiling, one, makes you feel better. And two, it has the potential to make someone else’s crappy day great! You’d be amazed by the power of a smile. So, go ahead, smile at strangers, friends, and whoever you might see! Don’t take my word for it, try it yourself and watch the magic happen!

So there you have it. A few Do’s and Don’ts that will help you build better relationships! Remember, building genuine relationships takes time! It won’t happen over night! Keep at it and don’t lose hope!

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