Journey’s End: David Vs. Goliath

“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.” – Mark Twain


The story of the underdog. The idea of whether or not you want to be a big fish in a small pond or a small fish in a big pond. Our greatest strengths often become our greatest weaknesses. The more resources we have at our disposal, past a certain point, can often lead to our downfall. Everyone seeks power yet so few know how to wield it once they have it. And even fewer realize that true power is having power and choosing when and when not to use it. It is a balancing act between strength and compassion. There are times to be strong and times to be vulnerable.

It is easy to get caught up in success just as much as it’s easy to get caught up in failure. People who taste victory want more and those who taste defeat want less. The strong tend to trample the weak and people can be poison. Or the weak can act strong and grow bitter as they claw their way to the top, becoming the very evil they sought to stop.

The lonely road

We, as humans, have a tendency to follow those who are similar. Those who are not like us get left behind. The people who need love the most are often those who do not receive and those who need the least often receive the most. If one cannot communicate, weave words into a story, then one cannot be. Everyone roots for the underdog and yet… It is very rare that an underdog succeeds. Those who do, become Goliath, yet those who don’t become dust. So in a sense, it’s a rare perspective and one I’m willing to share.

The lonely mountain

Climbing mountains aren’t easy and I can’t tell you how many sleepless nights I’ve had just trying to stay alive. College is a time of great excitement yet it can also be a time for great disappointment. And all too often, the experiences build and what once seemed manageable becomes an avalanche.  You’re buried and can’t breathe. You’re trapped. You can dig your way out or you can suffocate. The bright side of moments like these? You have time to reflect. To look yourself in the mirror, and ask, “is this who I want to be”? And for a brief moment you see a better tomorrow, then fear takes over. The, “what if” question. So what do you do? You close your eyes. There is comfort in consistency and there is uncertainty in chaos. Yet few see comfort in consistent chaos. Which there isn’t, so the underdog turns their back on reality and nothing is gained.

My story? I’ve said it enough times and while I could say it over again, with different wording, I won’t. My story is a complex blend much like yours and whatever narrative I once had, I’ve reshaped by not letting others write it. It’s all relative. Hardship to one is a stroll through the park to another. Yet the point is, all that matters is your perspective. If you feel unheard, then you are unheard. And if the other person feels unheard, then they are unheard. The simple solution? Listen. “Seek first to understand, then be understood”. There’s been a common theme since I’ve got to college and that’s been, “Wow, Mike’s such a great listener”. Disclaimer: I wasn’t for the longest time.

Two Ears, One Mouth

Listening is hard and those with the biggest mouths often don’t listen. People love the loudest person in the room. In college people think that automatically makes you the coolest person in the room. But more often than not, those individuals are Assholes.  The best part? Those Assholes don’t even realize they’re Assholes. They rationalize their behavior instead of taking a good look in the mirror. And the worst part? People want to be them. Why? Humans have an innate need to connect and be loved, so it only makes sense. The consequence? People spend a lifetime trying to be something they’re not. The coolest person some might consider a Goliath. And as a Goliath, it is far too easy to overlook the underdog.

Open Mind, Open Door

All too often individuals are closed minded, “I’m right, you’re wrong”. How many times do you ask, “I’m right and you’re also right”. This is not a difficult concept. I like cake and you can also like cake. Yet in practice? A disaster. Yes people are wrong, that’s reality but all too often people refuse to see another point of view. People are stubborn. And what’s worse, is few people find beauty in the differences. There is no reason to talk to anyone if all they do is agree. People grow when they are challenged and while agreeing may reaffirm your values and build confidence, it is disagreement that leads to the best insight. College is a time to challenge and not be a “Yes man”. On the flip side, don’t be an Asshole. Take politics for example. I can say I think Donald Trump is a terrible person and think he represents the worst of America. That’s fine, that’s an opinion. Yet on the flip side I can see why some of my friends can find him appealing and once again, that is their opinion. That’s called respect. See, simple. Is anyone upset? No. Wouldn’t it be great if everyone thought like this? Yet instead what you get is people pointing the finger instead of trying to understand the reasons why. Another question, “does it matter”? An open mind leads to asking the right question(s) and the best weapon against adversity is kindness.

Bringing it all together

So my idea for this series, “Journey’s End” is to provide a framework that I spent 5 years building for myself. Initially I thought I was simply going to talk about my week and have “Story Time”. But truth be told, I have my journal for that and while I still have crazy adventures, they don’t necessarily make for the best article. So as such, this series will be a random assortment of topics, some weeks giving advice, some weeks telling fun stories, and some weeks mixing the two together. This week I wanted to share my experience being an underdog as I am someone who should’ve dropped out of college long ago. So if there’s a take away, let it be this: If you feel alone, look in the mirror and remember that you will always have yourself, so remember to take care of yourself. If you want to connect with others, listen. And if you want to be understood, don’t be afraid to say how you feel (chances are the other person doesn’t realize you feel this way). And finally, don’t discredit others simply because they have a different opinion.


That’s it. Week 2 of my final term is done! If you have any topics you would like me to cover, now’s the time to ask. Thanks for reading and I hope you found the topic helpful!

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.

German Culture: Food and drink

So, food.

The Bakery 

I’ve been going to a little bakery almost everyday for the past month. At first it was an easy way to get rid of my Euro cents, but it ended up turning into so much more. Not only was it a way to practice my German, bakeries in Germany are absolutely delicious. There are more options than you can imagine but as for me, I was happy getting the same thing every day. I would try to describe the schinken-käse, but I respect it too much and simply don’t have the vocabulary to put it into words. But I will say this; it was absolutely delicious. Anyways, bakeries are so much fun in Germany. This last weekend I decided to sit down and enjoy my meal inside. German culture is much more relaxed when it comes to eating meals and it was nice to just be able to sit down and enjoy my food without worrying about where I needed to be next. Speaking of which…

Cafes

While not as cherished as bakeries in my eyes, I still managed to visit a few cafes. More or less the same as bakeries, it was just really nice to sit and chat with friends. You can order coffee, beer, food, whatever. By United States standards every cafe would seem like you were sitting in a fancy restaurant but by European standards even the worst cafes are better than some of the best U.S cafes.

Food

I love German food! It’s absolutely delicious. If you’re thinking bread and sausage, you’d be correct. I’ve had a lot of bread since I came here and it’s tasted so good. Imagine the best piece of bread you’ve ever had. Got the image in your head? Good. It can’t even compare to German bread. Oh mein Gott, es ist super lecker (OMG, it’s super delicious). Soft when it needs to be or baked to perfection, I can’t even comprehend living without it (which I will have to do). And sausage, just wow. I love German sausage [insert childish joke here] and I will miss it as well. There’s so much variety in the types of sausages and while I haven’t been able to try them all, they’re my go to for dinner. Have some sausage with sauerkraut and bread and you’ll need nothing else while you live in Germany. Also add sauce, because Germans love their sauce and while I’ve never been able to figure out what’s in it, just know that all German sauce is delicious. I could stop here, but my goal is to educate you and educate you I shall. What else is there? There is schnitzel, which is breaded meat. How is it? Delicious. Then there is spätzle, which absolutely does not exist in the United States! The United States is a country of immigrants, so shame on us for losing our German heritage and not having spätzle. If I sound angry, I am. Anyway’s spätzle is a soft egg noodle that you’ll never understand unless you travel here, so just know it’s delicious. As far as other German food, there’s plenty more. But this is getting painful for me to write as it will be years before I’m back in Germany to be reunited with my one true love, delicious food. I will end with potatoes. This was the big shocker for me. I never expected Germans to have so many potato dishes. It’s absolutely amazing. I never realized how much you could do with a potato until I got over here. Potatoes were never my favorite in the U.S., but now… They say study abroad changes you and I don’t think it’s ever held truer.

Döner

Döner is special. If you’re craving your greasy fast food, this is as good as it gets. Primarily a Turkish dish, Döner can be found all over Europe. It’s pretty much a burger except with shaved meat. The meat hangs over a fire and the juices drip down. While still juicy, I personally like to believe it’s healthier than a burger.

Water

So water. In the United States water is everywhere. Go to a restaurant, water. Go outside, you have drinking fountains. In Germany? Nothing. I’ve only seen a water fountain once in the last 3 months and that was in Switzerland! You have to buy water in Germany. And what’s more, it’s carbonated. Is it as bad as it sounds? Actually, no. I almost cried when I got here because I was already overwhelmed and then I couldn’t find water, a basic necessity. But now, it’s not so bad. Water maybe costs 20 cents per bottle and you’re getting one and a half liters. As far as it being carbonated, I now like drinking carbonated water, so now when I get back to the U.S. I can fully enjoy Italian sodas and the sort (yay). If you can’t adjust to carbonated water, water comes in three forms in Germany: still, medium, and sparkling. So, relax, it’ll be alright. But I’ll be honest. Beer is cheaper in Germany than water, so…

Beer

I could’ve started with beer but then you wouldn’t have made it this far. So of course you’re wondering, “is it better than in the U.S.”? Yes, yes it is. Even the best Portland, Oregon beer (we have amazing beer, what can I say) can’t even compete with the worst German beer. There’s a lot of variety to German beer as well and I don’t want to say beer is what I’ll miss most about Germany, but… It’s so good. Paired with delicious food and there truly is heaven on Earth. Beer is why I know I’ll come back to Germany and why I have shifted my future career goals to include international business. It’s not the classes, not the amazing adventures I’ve been on, but the beer. Nothing will stop me… Nothing.

Glühwein

If you thought I was done, I’m not. Beer is great and will always hold a special place in my heart, but Glühwein… Served during the Christmas season, Glühwein is warm wine that one gets you really drunk really fast and two, tastes delicious. I’ve had wine in France but Glühwein is on a whole other level. Like everything else in Germany, it has a lot of variety and I’ve unfortunately run out of time to taste it all. My favorite however, is blueberry Glühwein, so my advice? Come to Germany for the beer, stay for the Glühwein.


One more thing…

Manners

It should come as no surprise that in my quest to embrace my German heritage, I have been eating my meals with mostly Germans. And believe it or not, I’ve picked up on German dining etiquette. To illustrate my point, imagine you’re eating a pizza right now. As a United States citizen, you are most likely grabbing the pizza with your hands and devouring it like a wild animal. Now imagine eating it with a fork and knife. That’s what I now do. It wasn’t intentional, it just happened naturally. So now you’re asking, “which method is better”? In my opinion, the German method. And what’s more, I now set my fork and knife at 3 o’clock (think of the plate as a clock) rather than simply throwing my fork and knife on the plate. It feels proper and it is my hope that when I come home, I continue the habits I’ve established while in Germany (even if I’m that weird guy eating pizza with a knife and fork in the U.S).

So there you have it, food. Delicious, German food. Feel free to discuss the topic in the comments. If you have any food that I missed, feel free to say it! Any recipes? Share them. And as always, thanks for reading!

German Culture: Learning the language

Since day one, I have been determined to learn the German language. Have I succeeded? In my eyes, yes. When I arrived in Germany 3 months ago (wow) I was overwhelmed. I remember how excited I was to head to Germany and while I was certainly nervous, it wasn’t until I arrived that it hit me. I was in a foreign country and didn’t speak the language. I had assumed I could get by with my English but in reality, it was not as easy as I initially thought. The signs were in German and surprise, the people in the airport spoke mostly German. But the killing blow was transit. Getting from Frankfurt to Mosbach. In truth, had I not had the help of my fellow students, I most likely would’ve found a nice quiet corner to curl up in and simply starve. But now I can say “ich habe Hunger und ich möchte wasser, bitte”. Which means, “I am hungry and I would like water, please”. So now it is nearly impossible for me to die in Germany. Finding a German girlfriend? Much harder. But in that case, I can always say “zu dir oder zu mir”. I’m not going to explain what that means and to my German friends, yes, I know a lot more than you think. Anyways… So on that day I had a choice, I could either give into my fears or I could face them. So instead of being helpless, I helped myself. I said, “I will understand German”. And I did, as simple as that. Duolingo, memrise, and rosetta stone. But you know what the best teacher was? Making German friends. I would like to personally thank my buddy Tim, who invited me to the underground German poker ring, where the Germans said the table language was English but ended up speaking German anyways. So what did I do? Did I say “Englisch, Bitte”? Nein. I listened. And slowly but surely what was once noise started to become words and words became very broken sentences. And now I am proud to say that can almost speak as well as a German toddler. So here’s my guide for learning German when (not if) you go overseas.

Duolingo

If you have not taken a German course before, duolingo is your best friend. It’s free and it will give you the vocab you need to succeed. Beforehand, I recommend learning the German alphabet via youtube, find what works for you. In addition, memrise should be used as a supplement to your daily duolingo training. If you have rosetta stone great, but I haven’t found it necessary to learning the language. Once you start using these basic tools, you’re ready to move on to…

Make German Friends

To be clear, this is not a guide on how to make friends, but if you’re struggling on that subject, read Making Friends (shameless plug). Any-who, this is pretty self-explanatory. You have class, sit next to the Germans. Say, “Hallo, ich heiβe          und ich möchte sprechen Deutsch mit dir”. If they give you a confused look, that means I’m still learning and I just made you look like an idiot. But the idea is, make sure the Germans know you want to speak and learn German, otherwise they’ll simply assume you want to speak English. Then, once you have friends…

Listen!!!

German, for lack of a better word, is a very strong language. If Germans scare you, I can understand completely. When I first arrived, it sounded like Germans were hissing at me. But overtime, I’ve gotten used to the language and I can now say that Germans aren’t angry, they’re just different. We have two ears and one mouth, and I think a lot of people would be done a lot of good if they used their ears more and their mouth less. Listening helps you pick up on the little nuances of the language and will help you pronounce the words better, so it’s very important!

So that’s it! As a bonus, you can listen to German bands (with lyrics) and watch German TV (with subtitles), while not necessary, it definitely will help (and it’s fun). So the moral of this story? Learn the language! I highly recommend doing it before you head over (unlike me, whoops). It’ll make for a more meaningful experience, trust me! So get excited and make sure you go study abroad, it’ll be the best experience of your life. Any questions? Feel free to comment.