Mike Cole’s Year of New

2018 has come to a close. And it’s a year best left buried. While I found “success” I’ve struggled. I feel my soul slowly seeping and what was once new has become routine. Now is a time for me to define 2019 before 2020 rolls around all too soon. To look at my life and see where I want to be in a year.

Last year I had written an article and meant to post it in January, to declare to the world “How to New Year Properly”. And the moment came and past. And I did not “New Year” properly. I played it safe and while I kept some goals for a time, most fell through and I was left to the mercy of the world.

So ultimately, my year is themed and having a month to reflect, I don’t think the “Year of New” is enough; I want this to be the “Year of Finishing” as well; A “Year of New Beginnings” so to speak. To clear out the clutter and find stable ground in an unstable world. In addition to a theme, I have chosen a word to represent the year, “Forward”. Forward can mean many things to many people but my focus is towards progress and being up front; not bottling in my emotions and saying what’s on my mind. It’s a year to stand up and put my foot down.

Goals for 2019

Language

I have not been diligent with my practicing. I am off and on again with my languages and in addition to Learning German, I have also decided to pick up French. Obviously I feel it’s important, however, I have lacked the motivation to maintain consistent practice as I am unable to see the long term benefit in the short term. I’ve tried fixing this by joining the Duolingo clubs and time will tell if this works. It’s the first step, but it is my hope to join more communities for my interests and ultimately expand my network.

For specifics at this point, my goal is to practice at least twice a week on Duolingo for both French and German. I would also like to start watching more shows in German and eventually watch a show in French.

My tangible goal for the year is to be able to help with translations for both German and French.

Run A Half Marathon

More and more I am realizing I respond well to what I can see. I need tangible goals to create the framework for improvement. So what better way to get back into shape than to start with a distant goal, one that will require training and discipline? As I write this, it sounds absurd and I think that’s exactly the point. This is just right outside my comfort zone.

So it boils down to this: Exercise 3 times a week for at least 30 minutes and it can be whatever I want it to be. I can go bouldering, running, or even do push ups as breaks when I’m playing video games.

My tangible goal is to sign up for a half marathon in my city and hopefully race close to January of 2019.

Learn to Program

This has been long overdue. If I want to move forward, I will need skills that position me as an acting agent and further my ability to create. I am starting with the basics; Javascript and Python. From there, I might branch out, but I do not want to bite off more than I can chew.

I’ve already started with Codecacademy and I’m trying to sit down to watch LinkedIn learning videos. However, each time, I have fallen short. So now, I have a long term goal in mind: to design a video game. This is the challenge I need and the goal to really push my ability further. The game will be either 8 bits or 16 bits and could be a minute or 60 hours, so long as I have something tangible to show by the end of the year.

Writing

This is the big one and perhaps the goal I’m most excited to achieve. Over the past couple years, I’ve been working on my creative writing and think it’s at a point where I can start pushing my comfort zone even further. My writing goal for this year is to publish a book.

As far as specifics, I am starting with Poetry. The goal is to have 30 poems written and once I have done so, I will publish (most likely on Amazon). Right now I am playing with different formats and trying to add variety to my writing.

My other goal is to re-imagine my posts never published and bring the majority of them to see the light of day.

Cooking

As the list grows longer and longer, I should be worried; however, this is the most excited I’ve been in a long time and I can’t stop writing; I had forgotten how great it feels to set goals to achieve.

For cooking, it is simply to cook a dish once a month. To go out, buy groceries, and make anything. Ideally, I’m cooking to be healthier and to find what I enjoy; cooking relaxed me in College and I should’ve never stopped.

The tangible goal is to make cheese sticks (weird, I know). I tried once before and had a breaded cheese blob and it has been my greatest cooking regret.

Painting

Truth be told, it can be painting or drawing. I am in need of relaxing hobbies that soothe the soul. I need a hobby where I can catch my breath and create more than just vivid descriptions; I want to see what I create.

I’m starting out small and small is all I need; I want to attend one art class and have one painting I can be proud of. Online tutorials are great, but for this, I feel the need to go out and be part of an art class.

Road Trip/Camping

I do not consider myself a great driver. I can get some bad anxiety and figured I could kill two birds with one stone. The goal for this is to get me out of the house and more comfortable with adventure. When I did study abroad, I nearly had a heart attack but I grew so much. This goal is of the same mindset. I already have a trip planned in May and am taking a week vacation at the end of February so things are already shaping up to be better than the last two years.

My measure of success will be if I bought the sleeping bag and tent I’ve been saying I was going to buy and to not only go on a trip to the beach but to go camp overnight or for a couple days.

Epilogue

So that’s it, I now have my goals in writing. A basic roadmap to get me started with the catalysts I need to jump start my life. In addition to these goals, I want to get out once a week; whether that’s getting drinks downtown or trying a new restaurant, seeing an art display, or visiting a park, this year is about stepping out and creating the environment I want to live my adulthood in.

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As always, thanks for reading! What are your goals for the new year? Have you started? Are you happy with your year so far? Let me know in the comments below.

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”!


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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.