Dealing with Adversity

Adversity. The word everyone loves but the explanation everyone hates. What do I mean by this? In the US, people love to hear the fact that you’ve “dealt”  with adversity and the hero’s journey that goes along with it. That you came, you saw, and you conquered. Now here’s a different spin. You came, you didn’t see, and you were destroyed. What reaction will that get from someone? Dismissive. The adversity too great, too difficult to overcome? Well, obviously you didn’t try hard enough. Is this the right assumption? No, no it’s not. Yet it’s one that happens all too often.

The Culture

In the US we have a culture that glorifies the hard-working, star individual who never fails. Work hard, play by the rules, and you’ll make it. Sound familiar? Well, what if I told you that was a lie, that you have more of a chance achieving the American dream in Canada than you do in the US? What would you say? You would say wait a minute… but deep down you know it to be true. We are taught at an early age to only look at the tip of the iceberg, to see success and go after it. So what do we get? Well we get a lot of us chasing money that if we’re lucky we’ll catch right before we die. We’ll skip vacation days to work more, and spend less time with friends and family just to close a deal or get an advantage over your peer. And then when you’re on your deathbed, only then do you see the truth, and by that point it’s far too late.

Rags to Riches

As the story goes, Benjamin Franklin was once a “poor” man; until he bought a printing press and was able to turn rags into riches (literally). Is this story true? Well, no one knows for certain, but the term came from somewhere. And it stuck. You wonder why Americans are so obsessed with being rich, that even the poorest of the poor in our country still believe that they can “make it”? It’s because this simple phrase has been absolutely absorbed into our culture. This glorification of success, that if you’re not successful it’s on your own merit. Well, I’d like to challenge this notion.  Call it what you will, but I call it American pride. That we as Americans are a nation of values and when those values are challenged, we will go on the defensive. Have you ever heard someone trash the US Constitution? The Declaration of Independence? If they have, they’ve most likely been called a plethora of names that are not appropriate for my blog. So in short, what I’m asking is that you at least keep an open mind, as what I’m about to suggest next is not necessarily what people want to hear…

Luck

Yes! What if I told you what makes the people you admire, the most successful, successful, is not so much about how hard they’ve worked but rather the time period they were born and the families they were born into. People hate that answer! We as human beings create answers because heaven forbid we say “I don’t know” and people tend to associate luck with the “I don’t know” category. We spend our whole lives trying to plan for uncertainty and yet where does that get us? We create routines, build schedules, plan our lives, only to have the unexpected happen. And what do we call the unexpected, when life doesn’t go as planned? Yes! Adversity! All Adversity is, is the acknowledge of luck, the unforeseeable. Yet if you say you owe a lot of your success to luck? You’ll probably get rocks thrown at you. You say you owe most of your success to how you’ve dealt with adversity, you’ll get flowers thrown at you and your boot kissed.

The Problem

You guessed it, the problem is we don’t acknowledge adversity for what it is, luck (good or bad). And because we don’t make this acknowledgement, we see no need to change the system. If we say the rich are rich because they are lucky (they can also be hard working, don’t get me wrong) and said the poor were poor because they were unlucky, wouldn’t we want to create a system, an environment (like we try to do for our own lives) that’s a level playing field? Wouldn’t we say, “hey, let’s create a society where whatever your background, the resources you need to succeed will be here, if you want them”. Yes, I think that’s a safe assumption. However, if we continue with the adversity argument, then the typical response will not be “let’s make society better” but rather “that person should work harder”.

The Solution

The solution is we simply need to start this dialogue, to start talking about luck (both good and bad). Saying you owe a lot of your success to luck in no way undermines the hard work you’ve put in to get where you are today. What’s so wrong with saying “I met the right person, at the right time and was afforded this opportunity”? Nothing! So let’s not glorify adversity and instead start saying “I got lucky” or “that’s rotten luck, how can I help you”? Go out and make a difference, as even little differences add up to make big changes! So the next time you want to say “luck had nothing to do with it”, say, “luck did have something to do with it”!


Comments, questions? Feel free to discuss. Like what I wrote? Share it, tell your friends. Knowledge is best when it’s shared.

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!

A Donald Trump America: A nation divided

“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” – Abraham Lincoln



The Road Ahead

As an American, I’m disappointed. I’ve taken some time to sit and collect myself as not to say anything I might soon come to regret. In fact, normally I would say nothing at all. Throughout my time in college I’ve learned to be politically correct and avoid controversial topics as not to set any fires. I’ve always had great respect for those who have advised me throughout my college journey and am forever grateful in the role they’ve played in helping me become the man I am today. Yet in this chapter of my life, I must do what I feel is right. So with that, you may be asking…

How did this happen?

Many laughed when Donald trump first announced his bid, and although I thought it was a long shot, I’ve never ruled out the possibility of Trump becoming our president.It was a nice diversion, a distraction from routine and quite an entertaining show to watch. This has not been the first time Donald Trump has made a bid for the office of presidency. In the past he’s always said he will run and “fix” this country, but as I would joke in elementary school, he simply needed ratings for celebrity apprentice.

The Media

Like I said, it was a great story. You’d be crazy not to cover Donald Trump. People love drama and excitement, and Donald Trump definitely provided plenty of it. Every week you could count on something new. Whether it was the Republican debates or simply whatever Donald Trump did in between, there was always something. But the thing is, the media covered Donald Trump too much. Instead of letting his 15 minutes of fame fade into the abyss, they propelled it towards space. And with all the news, Donald Trump could cherry pick. And he did. So he created an image of “evil” media, so that whatever was said, it would be “bad” and “untrustworthy”, or better yet, “rigged”.

The Silent “Majority”

Believe it or not, The electoral college does not represent the majority. It’s an outdated system meant for a bygone era. It worked in its time, but now it poses a detriment to democracy. Take a step back and think. Does it make any sense that someone can win the popular vote (which Hillary did) yet lose the  presidency? The popular vote, as its name implies, represents the entire nation. The majority of us did not vote for Donald Trump, we voted for Hillary.  A small minority of bigots (yes, I do not use this term lightly) used the electoral college to their advantage. Groups, such as the KKK, endorsed Donald Trump and showed up at the polls to cast their votes. I’m not saying all who voted for Donald Trump are bigots, I am simply saying that the majority of the minority is. Yes there is an appeal for Donald Trump as champion of the common man, but that he is not (that image is built on a foundation of lies).

James Comey

James Comey, the director of the FBI. Some may hail him as a hero, but a hero he is not. Comey directly (or as some might say, indirectly) intervened with the election process. I find it hard to believe that Comey couldn’t wait until after the election to continue his investigation into the Clinton emails. I am so sick and tired about hearing about the “emails”.  If you want something to talk about, let’s talk about Donald Trump being on trial for fraud, where he ripped off God knows how many students of not only their money but their future with Trump University. And perhaps (not perhaps) even worse, he’s due to stand trial for sexual assault after he is sworn into office. He has dozen of charges against him; what message is this sending? Hillary is by no means perfect, but my God. However, coming back to James Comey, I would like to say that it is a sad day when the FBI has become above the law, where the rules of democracy simply don’t apply and they’re allowed free reign. I used to have so much respect for our national security agencies but after this… So James Comey, instead of reading emails, how about you read this; if you’re any kind of decent human being, you should resign from your position. You should absolutely be ashamed of yourself. You claim Hillary was negligent (which she was and she admitted) but have you taken a look in the mirror?

Not my president

I love my country and I am proud to be an American. There is no need to make america great again because we live in one of the greatest countries in the world. Yet Donald Trump tore this nation down and made a complete mockery of us, played us for fools. Donald Trump found the biggest loophole in our system (the electoral college) and exploited it by focusing his campaign around bigotry. The world doesn’t see the majority of Americans, they see the man who is now in “charge”.  I personally will not stand by and watch democracy fail, to watch Donald Trump undo a decade worth of progress under Obama.

We the People

“The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing” – Edmund Burke

We have a voice.  I am not going to sit idly by and watch my country burn. It is time for change and we are that change. If one man can tear down a nation, then imagine what a collective of progressive individuals can do. America is the land of the free and we have a right to exercise our freedoms. Our constitution and declaration of independence insure these rights. If we do not like our government, we have the right to do something about it. But as a united nation. Donald Trump led a campaign of hate and this is not what our forefathers fought for. United. States. Can it be more self explanatory? So instead of tearing each other down, lets plant our feet firmly and fight. We will not go quietly and we will not go alone.

Germany: Around the world in 90 days

“Do the things you fear most and the death of fear is certain” – Mark Twain



The Road less Traveled

So it’s been a little over 2 months since I first arrived in Germany. A lot of my posts these past few months have been concerning travel. I’ve been to Paris, Strasbourg, Amsterdam, Bavaria, Mannheim, Frankfurt, etc. I’ve been traveling most weekends and haven’t really had time to reflect on the experience as a whole.

Before this experience, I had rarely traveled outside of Oregon. And in fact, I had barely spent time exploring my home city of Portland. I lived in a very tiny bubble. I remember the spark that planted the seed of adventure, the desire to see the world. By chance, I got a letter in the mail from an organization called “People to People” to be a student ambassador for non other than bowling (fun fact: I was in a bowling league for 10 years and president of my high school bowling club). Had I gone, I would’ve traveled to the Netherlands and competed with kids from all over the globe, but alas, it was not meant to be. Yet since that moment, I have waited for the day when the planets aligned and I could finally travel. That day never came, so I said “you know what, [insert expletive here] it, I’m going anyway”. Originally the idea was to travel to South America, as I was taking Spanish at the time and wanted to improve my Spanish while immersing myself in the culture. Yet I kept pushing the trip aside until, surprise, I was a Freshman in college. Then life happened, I grew up, started focusing on my career, and became highly involved around campus. Then I had a choice.

I could focus my energy on graduation, to have a diploma in my hand and a real sense of security, or I could push graduation back a few terms and go abroad. Not an easy decision. But as fate would have it, I decided to take summer classes a year ago. And during that time, there was an info session. And I remembered. 8 years ago, the excitement I felt when I was asked to travel to the Netherlands, the disappointment when I found out I couldn’t go. The years of Spanish, the desire to immerse myself in another culture. So I finally decided I would say yes. No matter what, I would go abroad. And here I am. Is it everything I dreamed it would be? It is. It is the single best decision I’ve made in my entire life. I’m not going to lie and say it was smooth sailing from that point out. In fact, it was anything but. As confident as I sound now, I had a lot of anxiety and reservation even after I made the commitment to myself. There were many times when I was ready to drop the program, when I wanted to say I had too much on my plate and I simply couldn’t afford to take a term abroad. But I asked myself, “When all is said and done, do I want to live a life of regrets”? To always wonder what would’ve been had I gone abroad. And that’s all I needed. A reminder that this was the next step in my journey. That, wherever life takes me, let it be forward. So why Germany?


Germany

Maybe it was all the history channel I watched as a kid, the pure fascination with the world and the association of Europe with cultural heritage. Perhaps it was the fabled rumors of delicious beer, beer that far surpasses any beer in America. Or it might of been the allure of magical castles or simply the idea itself (to experience something new). Yet if I’m to be honest, there were a few main reasons I chose Germany.

It’s centrally located

Want to spend a weekend in Paris? No problem. A weekend in Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Italy? Absolutely no problem. In fact, London and Ireland are a short flight away as well. If you’re looking for easy travel, look no further than Germany.

It’s got history

Mosbach, while small, is the perfect embodiment when you think of a German town. Each building… Well… Just take a look for yourself. This is Mosbach and I’m actually living here! No joke, it’s pretty much straight out of a fairy tale. Oktoberfest is pretty cool as well, and Lederhosen are very stylish. Of course there’s more history than that, tis’ but a snippet.

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Following my roots

In the 8th grade, I had the privilege of being in Australia for my cousin’s wedding. While there, I hunted down my great great great grandfathers grave. It was fun and made me realize the importance of heritage. I take great pride in where I come and while I’m still trying to piece together the family tree, I can say I have a lot of German in me. In fact, on the name sheet for my classes, my nationality says German; was it a mistake or something more? I can’t really say. I’ve also learned ein bisschen Deutsch, so… Anyways, it’s a lot of fun if you have heritage from the country you’re going to! It’s something to consider, but not necessary to have a great time.

The U.S. 2016 presidential election

I picked the right time to go abroad. Will The U.S. collapse or prosper? Who knows, I’m in Germany. If I want to, I can simply come back here and live a peaceful existence, regardless of what the election outcome is.


Closing Thoughts

Am I a different person? Yes. Life is about taking risk. If we don’t takes risks, we don’t grow. And when we’re not growing, we’re stagnant or worse, stumbling backwards. I never want to wake up one morning and realize that I’m exactly the same as I was yesterday. The thought absolutely terrifies me. I want each day of my life to be an adventure and the best way to do so is to constantly set new goals. So my message is go out, be bold, and don’t waste your time worrying. If you’re on the fence about going abroad, don’t be. You don’t want to be the student that regrets not taking the opportunity while you had it. In fact, I honestly can’t imagine what my college experience would be like without this opportunity.