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Was it worth it: A reflection piece.

It’s been a while since I’ve done a reflection piece. I’m happy with my update post (I based the design off of developer patch notes) but it’s not enough. I’ve worked hard to free myself from my shackles and be a better person and for the most part I have. Yet I am still living dual lives. I thought over time the “Old Mike” and the “New Mike” would merge yet that hasn’t been the case. It turns out however far I run, life always seems to have different plans.

I find success only to have it ripped away from me over and over again. My world has and I suppose will always be in a state of chaos. It’s by no lack of effort on my part but rather always a series of unfortunate events. The straw that broke the camels back was when I had a contract with my dream company. Most of my life has built towards this moment, reaching the finish line. I saw the good in the business world and truly believed that I had finally made it, only to be cut down by the political nature of Corporate America. And I am at a loss. I pick myself up and have nowhere to go.

And here I am, split between being honest and being correct. My world has been a firm handshake, a quick smile, and language so polished that it’ll make your ears bleed. And I’m tired of it. With over 300 contacts on LinkedIn, it might be time to hang up the towel. What I’ve built has become ash and I feel nothing. The money is nice but at the end of the day, it’s an obsession not worth having. I am tired of being used as a tool, or worse, a weapon. I learned as much as I could so that I could help others yet that same intelligence has only ever brought misery. The more I learn, the more I wish I didn’t know. Americans bathe in ignorance and it’s tough to see.

During my search, someone I trusted introduced me to Amway disguised under the pretense of “Alticor”. I went through the process and saw how some choose to make their money. An honest answer is it made me feel dirty, so I walked away. Is this the right answer, I can’t really say. The business model is sound and works for those with enough motivation, yet the reverse pyramid is still a pyramid. And at the end of the day, I must follow my heart. Corny, yes, but the truth nonetheless.

I don’t know who to trust anymore and it’s a damn shame. I love my friends and I love myself and for me that’s enough. It’s when I’ve put my faith in my professional network is when I’ve been hurt. Interesting to say the least.

This said, I am done hiding. It’s time to find just what all I am capable of. I am finally doing what I want and while I sacrifice the security of Corporate America, I don’t want to die in a cubicle. I thought I could waltz into an organization and change the world, yet I realize that change starts at the grassroots. My whole goal with writing and now photography has been to give myself a voice. It’s liberating to talk and have others listen. Now that I have, I want to focus on what I care about and not worry so much about reputation. So, cheers. Let’s build something together, it’s time I finally got my priorities straight.


A late night musing and I have to say, it felt great. I’ve been feeling anxious since graduation trying to find my place in the world but I came to realize that it has always been the route of the entrepreneur. What that will look, God only knows but in my never-ending pursuit of happiness, this is worth pursuing. Thanks for all your support throughout the years, it has meant the world to me. As I continue to grow, may you grow along with me and if I can inspire just one person from the work I do, then I’ll have done my job.

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Journey’s end, week 1: What we leave behind…

“Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” – Abraham Lincoln


How was my first week? As expected, it was bitter-sweet. The sun is shining and birds are chirping but sporadically we’ll get a sprinkle or monsoon (Oregon is weird). As I ask students what they remember most about their college experience, most of my friends are stumped. It’s something you don’t think about. Perhaps they’ll mention what they didn’t do but what we did eludes the mind. I’m lucky in the sense that most of my experience I’ve documented. When I was a Freshman, I started my blog over on IGN, back when all I did with my time was play video games. I was shy and awkward but video games always made me feel at home and IGN just felt like the right blogging community. I simply quoted whatever was said initially, then once I had people saying things like “great job” I started writing what I thought of that which I quoted. I even wrote a few articles before the move to WordPress. After my blog came my journal, which, whenever I’m feeling down (which isn’t often nowadays), I simply pull it out and reread entries that I started writing a few years ago. Very few people remember the old Mike but I’m one of them. And if one thing has remained constant, it’s the desire to be better. Call it an obsession; I call it progress. I used to hate failing so I never tried. Now I look back and see failing as some of my fondest memories. Not so much failing but rather the fact that no matter what, I’ve gotten back up.

Finding My Tribe

As much as I like to saying finding a job is the college dream, it’s not. The real dream is, as my organizational behavior instructor put it, “finding my tribe”. It’s amazing how one little phrase can have so much impact. If you do one thing in college, let it be “finding your tribe”. The people you surround yourself with will have the greatest impact on your life. For me, it was student organizations, for you, it might be completely different. Many will not remember when I was a drifter, but I do. People see the man today but very few ask what it took to get there. My mentors are long gone and many will not realize the impact they had on my development, but I thank them as they gave me the power to pass the torch, they believed in me when no one else would. And can I ever repay that debt? No. What they gave me is irreplaceable. You can’t make it alone so I’m grateful I didn’t have to.

Beginning of the End

Every step I’ve taken this week has led to one thought after another. I’m trying to savor every moment, every step I take. I’m a man running out of time and I know it. Time is the most valuable resource we have. Once it’s gone, we can’t replace it. When I was a Freshman it felt like I had all the time in the world and that was exciting. I had my whole future ahead of me, I had time to set goals and achieve dreams. And now I’ve achieved those dreams. I sit on my throne and look at my kingdom. The empire I’ve built, what I’ve left behind. And while I can smile, there was a certain magic throughout my years of college. I could be this, I could be that, I could be anything. And while not bad, I narrowed my focus and now more or less have a lot figured out. And I miss the chaos… Being that low-achieving, “mediocre kid” that failed so much that nobody expected anything from him. I miss the mid-achiever who had goals and ambitions but needed mentors to achieve them. And now I’m scratching my head as people look to me for advice and guidance. I never asked for this. Or better yet, I’m at a point where I’ve been a top-achiever for so long that I can watch the advice I gave being passed down generation to generation.

The little things

As I sit watching the sunset of my college adventure, I have to wonder, “If I could do it over, would I”? If I had the knowledge I had now as a Freshman, imagine what I could accomplish… So if I could do it over, to be given a second chance, would I change a moment of my college experience? The answer is NO. People prefer to focus on the good. The successes, the victories, the triumphs. Yet the battles are the good stuff. Digging into the trenches, buried up to your knees in mud. Blood, sweat, and tears. My life would be boring if all I ever did was win. There’s no test of character there. The true test of character comes from how we deal with adversity. Do we desert the battle field or do we fight until our last breath? Do we retreat to fight another day or do we lead one last charge? And when victory is finally achieved? Victory is earned. To wave the flag as the sun rises on top of a pile of destruction, forever looking to the horizon. That’s the beauty in life; the little moments building on each other to become our greatest triumphs.


The end is nigh

As I sit in my castle, I still remember when I worked the fields. Serf Mike never once thought he would be king. So that’s it, that’s week one in a nutshell. Thanks for reading and get excited for week two! If you have questions, comments, anything. Please, discuss, share!

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!

Germany: The road less traveled, now more traveled

So, Germany. This has been a hard last week. I still remember the first day I arrived. I was absolutely terrified. Had it not been for my fellow Oregon State students, I don’t think I would’ve made it out of the airport. Yesterday? I navigated the airport with ease. I booked a train, took a bus, and then caught a flight to Chicago and then a transfer to Portland. Absolutely no problems. And now that I’m back in the United States, it feels extremely weird. I actually feel like a foreigner! That’s something I never expected. But if you saw me now, you’d see my demeanor is completely different. Not only do I act different, I also speak and look very different than the last time you saw me. I’ve been mistaken as Australian, British, French, and German during my time over here (now there). So how was my last day? It was sad. The moment I went to city hall to say I was leaving was the moment it really hit me that this was it. 4 months were over and it was time for me to go. The flat I had spent living in for 4 months was empty, everyone trickling out one by one until there was me. I arrived with others yet the final stretch of my journey was taken alone. A fitting, if not somewhat somber end to what has been an absolutely fantastic experience. And my night? That was spent in the red light district. Now, before your imagination runs wild, that’s where I booked my hostel because it was a 4 minute walk to the train station and the hostel itself got good reviews. So…

I’ll Tell you all about it when I see you again…

Goodbyes. I hate goodbyes. Goodbyes are messy, awkward, and almost always never fun. A genuine goodbye? Heartbreaking. Now imagine yourself spending 4 months together with a group of individuals. Taking class together, living together, eating together, and hanging out together. You did pretty much everything with these people. And then? In a heartbeat, it all comes screeching to an end. That’s me. I had fun till the bitter end. Heck, I spent my last week in Berlin! But the goodbyes… Once someone starts crying everyone starts crying. Normally I just get choked up, you may even see tears start to form. But to straight up bawl my eyes out? That is extremely rare for me. We had our “official” goodbyes a few weeks ago, where I said goodbye to most of my German friends. That was extremely hard. Then came the non-Germans. The first to leave was my roommate, Javi. That was painful. I was upset but didn’t cry. The next to leave was Florian. That was when I started to really get choked up but still didn’t cry. At that point I was starting to feel pretty sad; luckily after a few days I left for my first (and last) solo trip, Berlin. There I caught up with an old buddy that I hadn’t seen in a few years and that was extremely refreshing. When I came back? Almost everyone was gone. Thank God Derick was there. We grabbed a few beers and chatted about the term for our last few days. And then? Derick was gone. So on Wednesday after I told city hall I was leaving, I wandered back home, sat down, and realized everyone was gone. And what did I do? I absolutely cried. I must’ve cried for a good hour. And then? I was gone. As quickly as I came, I left. So… what now?

Journey’s End

Of course, that was extremely depressing, so I can’t end there! So… memories. Years ago I heard that you may forget what someone says to you, but you’ll never forget how someone made you feel. And I have to say, I’ve never felt happier. My experience abroad has absolutely changed me. When I arrived, I was the shy, socially awkward guy who as a good friend told me, his first impression of me was that I was “weird”. That same friend was also willing to pay me 5 euros on our first trip to go talk to a cute girl at the train station. Of course, I refused and almost jumped in front of the train to save me from the horror of talking to a girl. In Paris, the city of love, another good friend told me to go talk to three cute girls in front of the Eiffel tower and what did I do? I literally ran. And then… in Berlin. Well, let’s just say Berlin was a lot of fun. My love life aside, that is just a small taste of how much I’ve changed. Another friend has described me as being a caged animal being set free and I think that sums it up perfectly. What’s more is, I could’ve of never done this alone. While I may have not learned how to become a cool girl, I think I learned how to become a cool guy. I was surrounded by cool people, so it only makes sense. In the U.S I was a tense dude, preferring to give you a handshake rather than a hug. But with a little help from my friends, I learned to relax and simply enjoy the present moment. It really is hard to believe it’s over. But how these lovely people made me feel… That, I’ll never forget. And every time I feel alone… I can always look back and remember that I’m not alone.

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See you Later

 

Germany Week 1: I’m not dead!

So the first question you may be asking yourself, “Did Mike make it”? The answer is yes. The next question you might find yourself asking “what have I been doing the past week”? Well, let me tell you.

Classes started the 5th and I arrived at 6:10am on the 2nd to Frankfurt airport. Feeling overwhelmed at the airport, I quickly found the nearest Starbucks,which I suppose is better than going to McDonalds. After I had time to collect myself, the rest of the OSU squad arrived and we took a taxi to downtown Frankfurt (don’t, it cost 74 Euros!).  Frankfurt is basically the Wall Street of Europe, so there were plenty of skyscrapers and people in suits. When we arrived, we checked in at the youth hostel, had lunch, and then napped for a few hours (super exciting!). After our lovely nap, we decided to explore Frankfurt. Besides there being a lot of brothels (we didn’t go in, I swear!), there were…

Churches!!!

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I took a lot of photos but the one above is my favorite and is simply here to illustrate the fact that we explored around 3 to 4 churches, all of which were very beautiful. Just to give you an idea of scale: 20160902_170516

After the churches, we found…

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A bridge with love locks! A lot of love locks! That’s about it. It was cool, but nothin’ special.

And Then…

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The creepiest statue ever. And then…

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The chillest statue ever… But of course, I wouldn’t be a good business major if I didn’t take a photo of…

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The Bear and Bull of Frankfurt! So yes, it’s confirmed! Frankfurt is indeed the Wall Street of Europe if there ever was any doubt.

What else did I do? Ah yes, after Frankfurt I arrived safely in Mosbach via train. The housing is amazing and i’ll have more photos on the way… But for now, just to give you an idea of how awesome this experience has been thus far, here’s the bed i’ll be sleeping in for the next four months.

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Yes, it does have zebras! That’s all for now, cheers and stay classy friends!

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…

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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”?

 

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.

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