3 questions

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Let me start this off by saying that I love to read. Finding the time can be difficult with the current workload but I love the feeling of learning. Books are something that I will always find valuable beyond measure. I think the unquenchable thirst for knowledge and learning more is something I hope to never lose. My current favorite reads (besides Harry Potter of course) have all been leadership, management, and similar themed related literature. It’s almost a level of childlike joy and eagerness that with the next turn of the page the secret to being a leader or supervisor or manager or teammate is lying there waiting to unfurl itself from the pages before me. Whether its “Drive” by Daniel Pink, “The Happiness Advantage” by Shawn Achor, “Leaders Eat Last” or “Start With Why” by Simon Sinek, or even “Tribes”by Seth Godin they all seem to utilize the narrative of exemplary leadership to instil within their readership not necessarily the “tools” to become a great leader or great person but more so the approachability of the concept. The reader fulfills the ultimate question of “am I capable of this greatness?” that they are searching for answers to questions within. If you have great book recommendations please feel free to pass them my way!

In working with college students as my current job, I have the opportunity to be amazed by the things they say, do, or accomplish. One story that I will tell over and over again is a particular chapter president for a fraternity that worked to create some sort of change within the community (and his peers) around him. During a speech he gave he said that as a leader of his peers, they were continually looking to him to answer three questions hourly/ daily/weekly/monthly/ yearly. These questions are: “Do you see me? Do you hear me? Do I matter?”.

Let me say them again.

  1. “Do YOU as my friend or ally or person that I look to for support or guidance or leadership SEE little ole me?”. As in, “does my humanity take up some sort of residence within your (in a literal sense) line of sight or am I invisible to you (potentially also) in such a way that I am not even worth being acknowledged as a person.” 
  2. “Do YOU as my supervisor or chapter president or significant other HEAR me?”. As in, “In what ways does my voice resonate with your mind and heart so that you recognize our commonalities or differences as people? Do you recognize when my voice shakes? Do you detect the tone, timber, and way my fears or hopes resonate throughout this room or off these walls?”.
  3. “Do I, a person on this spinning marble who also hates Mondays or can’t stop hitting the snooze button or would love to always have a perpetual queso fountain as well, MATTER to YOU , a fellow compadre on this weird and wonderful journey that is life?

**Pause: Please bear with me, I know that this is ableist language. I think that there are plenty of our friends who do not have the ability to hear or see who need to ultimately know whether or not they matter. Ultimately, how are we showing others that their humanity and sheer existence in our own bubble or world actually matters to us and the rest of the world, even if just for a brief and fleeting moment of interacting? **

I think both the leadership literature and this life moment with a student a mutually connected. I think that great leadership means taking the moment to let someone know that they matter to you, even at the sacrifice of either your own mattering or perhaps of your most valuable resource: your time. I think that leadership relies upon the utmost care of another persons humanity and the respect of mattering to another human being. Is it a project they have been working tirelessly on? Is it a risk they took in a meeting to stand up for marginalized persons or challenge systemic rooted issues? What bravery have they exemplified and have we honored it? Is it giving them credit where credit is due for an amazing and/or groundbreaking idea? Whatever it may be, we (as leaders or supervisors or managers or friends) need to be open to knowing that we matter to others, to be open to answering the 3 questions.

In talking with a close friend from work, I discussed this concept of “mattering marbles”that each person gets either through daily interactions or work they receive. Each person is a jar, a glass and fragile jar. Throughout each day, your sense of mattering is either taking or putting  a marble in the jar. Either through your own personal actions or the actions of others. Eventually, either in a relationship or in the workplace or what have you, you start to assess if all its doing is taking your “mattering marbles” out, you’ll get to a point where you’re burned out and question everything, perhaps even yourself. “Do I even matter?” is a common woe I hear of many people who work in a variety of fields. Selfish as it may potentially sound, who wants to work for hours on end or spend years in a relationship to find out that they maybe wasted their time? That they ultimately dont matter to the person(s) around them and were just…well…used?  What if you spent years of life working for a company, sacrificing time with friends, family, loved ones…sacrificing potentially even your health and well-being for one more meeting…one more late night program…one more impromptu phone call for an “emergency” only to find out that you didnt matter to those around you?

What if you are operating in an assumption that you think you are showing another person that you see them, you hear them, and that they matter but how do you really know?  What if you’re doing the opposite?

 

I know what you might be thinking…”But I show these people how much they matter by______” and that might very well be sufficient. But let me as you this, have you asked them how you can show them that they matter to you? Or are you just going by an assumption? What if you are operating in an assumption that you think you are showing another person that you see them, you hear them, and that they matter but how do you really know? What if you aren’t event accomplishing what you think you are or even worse, potentially harming their sense of mattering even further (aka taking mattering marbles out). Yes, some of this is rooted in Love Languages and overall expressing appreciation for others. In what ways as leaders do we assume we know what makes people feel like they matter? Whether it’s some sort of “staff appreciation” gift or verbal acknowledgement, its important to have the sensitivity to know in what ways your words (or absence of them) can make a world of a difference to the person sitting across from you.

I even think some of this progresses further than just leadership and management of others. I think that these 3 questions embody some (if not most) of the root of social justice initiatives or concerns. Does this person and some (if not all) facets of their identity…matter to you? Does this individual or a group of persons humanity exist? Do you see it enough to care or intervene or say something?

How do you show the people you lead that they matter? Supervisees- what makes you feel like you matter? Feel free to let me know what your thoughts are in the comments.

Until next reflection,

James

Seek the Light

 

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(Photo credit to Sara)

 

I’m going to share a [deep] secret with you that I never willingly tell others: I love photography. When I used to do stand-up in college and high school, when I would tell people that I did stand-up comedy they would always look puzzled…”Well, tell me a joke” (not gonna happen, that’s not how this works). Ever since then, I refrain from telling people what I really care about. Once they know, they start to evaluate. Judge. Compare. Contrast. Evaluate. Even skew their eyes real small assessing whether or not they can recall that I’ve ever done something to impress them in that category as if they are an editor for National Geographic.

I was a little kid, photography has always beensomething that I have been enamored with. The ability do so something like painting and drawing was a creative outlet that fueled inner passions and desires, but it always took rather long to do. There is a sense of accomplishment to see a piece of paper or canvas transform but then it takes up space. It demands your attention. “Put me on a wall!” or “Sell me!” or “Okay Ill be over here gathering dust” is what they usually say to me. But photos…photos take up space on a memory card and are perfectly fine waiting around for you to look at them again. Waiting for their moment. To take you back to that one time you could feel the wind against your face. That one moment you jumped out of your shell and went to another country. The one last memento of a loved one that has passed that might remind you the bear-hug they used to give. There’s soul in photography, there’s the image that is captured along with the photographers soul all mixed together. A piece of them is in every photo.

I have always wanted to capture moments to never forget them. The feelings can be so fleeting in the moment so trying to make sure they can be revisited is something that I have always wanted. I couldn’t tell you how many times I would take my mom’s camera and use up all the film without asking her. I had no concept of what I was really doing nor that film wasn’t infinite, I just figured that it was like batteries, constantly refilling. The textbook “click” and “whirr” once the film started to wind was confirmation of a job well done. She was patient with me and would save the film that needed to be wound for me, letting me press the button to make it ready to be dropped off and exposed. Being behind the camera has always been a place that has felt comfortable, way more than being in front of it. This is definitely why I jumped on Instagram as soon as I could when it first came out and a lot of photos.

 

“Happiness can be found even in the darkest of times, when one only remembers to turn on the light.”- Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

 

A friend was in town for work a few months ago and as any good southerner would do, I tried to help him find a northerner staple for breakfast to eat: a bagel. We headed to a pretty popular spot that had amazing bagels, of which got his NY stamp of approval for being in the south. While there, he asked me “Whats one thing that you love that no one else might know how much you love it?”. Immediate response was “Making photos” in between bites of an awesome BLT on an everything bagel. While mid-chew he asked, “Why?”. I had thought about this before but never really had put it together in my head. Some of that is based off of the justification of maybe if you really love something you dont think about why? Here’s what my response consisted of… seeking the light. In yourself. In others. In the world around you.

Photography is based on a lot of things but generally speaking is boiled down to two things: time and light. In considering what is needed to compose a photograph, light always draws my attention. Whether its shiny objects or something that sparkles, light will pull your eye to it. Understanding where light is and seeking the light eventually trains my eye to look for the light. Such a practice with light source management wears off on you in other ways. You stop looking at the darker things and find yourself looking for the best of circumstances. Not only do you need to be creative with your perspective concerning an angle or where you’re standing but you also are driven to look for the best of things. The light and how it falls on the subject. Such an approach ends up paying dividends in my work and personal life. When you draw your eye to the best of others, is when you truly see things they way they need to be seen. You see what sparkles in a person and in that moment can let the darker parts of a person fade to the background. Looking for the best in others can be tough, thats why its always great to have my camera pull me back to my best self.

Keep an eye on the light,

James

 

Who?

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I recently had a meeting where  the conversation towards the end spiraled towards being a rather deep one. While this isn’t necessarily a new territory for me as I have been known to catch people off guard with my questions, it was one that takes a high level of risk. There can be courage in conversations when we take a moment to either give a real answer or perhaps one that is comfortable and not so real. Trust  comes into play. Do you answer in an honest fashion and give someone a glimpse to something under the hood or do you give them something that will satiate the game of hot and cold they are playing with your heart and mind? Even this post in itself is a risk. Will a reader draw some semblance of a conclusion concerning how I feel about the subject matter? Make assumptions about things? Evaluate me, psychoanalyze me, examine every character flaw exposed in this post? Perhaps. But oh well, because the moment was too good not to share.

 

We had been discussing all various aspects of life and work when out of the blue the person said, “Who do you work for?” and I was, well, confused. Surprised. And rather stunned. I guess I never had thought about that portion of the who-what-why-how that shaped my world- especially the why. The “why” had always been a hog of attention. I had been a good little pupil of Simon Sinek’s “Start With Why” and kept “why” in the forefront of my mind. Always looking for “why” to work out some sort of personal or professional solution be it “why pursue a degree?” vs “why go into a career that has nothing to do with my undergraduate degree?” to “why do I not want to work out today?”- the “why” has always been there serving as a carrot dangling in front of me.

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Going through the remaining golden circles that Simon mentions, I have always built out the “why” along with the “how” followed by the “what” but can honestly say that I never fully considered the “who” behind it all. I suppose that I always have in the back of my mind due it coming to fruition with my responses to why I chose the field I work in saying things like, “I just want to help students” or longer answers like  “Help them achieve their goals and utilize the collegiate experience to help them make or change their stars”.

 

The conversation pressed on. They said, “Do you work for yourself?…your students?….the money?…some sort of sense of obligation to not let others down?…the type or area of work?…do you work for you?…who do you work for?”. I didn’t know what to say. I suppose I could say that I work for my students. I could say that I work for my field. I could say that I do the work to pay the bills or provide for my little family. I could have brushed it away with a joke about I work so that my dog can have the most spoiled life ever with a punny “I bring home the biscuits so he can have them”. But could I say that I work for myself? Instead of rushing the conversation along or trying to get out of it like I was burning alive I sat there. I couldn’t think of an answer in the moment. How come? I was stuck on the “do you work for you?” question. Was I working for myself? Why or why not? Was I too afraid to be narcissistic or self-centered that I avoided considering if my work life was for me? Had I just never wanted to consider what I wanted in the deal for work? Always looking at what others had done and was good for them? A lot of questions poured into my head all at once. Eventually I was able to stifle out a “all of those…sometimes some more than others”. They responded, “some more than others? When was the last time you worked for you?”. I knew where they were going and it was, whew, intense. It made me wonder, who do we do any of the things that we do for? Ourselves for sure with how social media can be, this blog post, what have you. But do we ever consider the “who” and why them?

 

There was something very freeing yet captivating in my in my knee-jerk, gut based response. It wasnt just the unpredictability of the answer but it was the chance to give myself some grace. That sometimes things might not be what you want them to be and thats okay. Some days you aren’t going to be working for something that initially got you into it, some days you are just searching for meaning or paying the bills, some days you legit feel like you’re making an impact in a field you love. Each day is different. Its when the sun comes up that you know you have another day to become the person you imagined. In this new year my goal is to give myself and others grace. Its important to show yourself that you matter. That your work matters. That the people around to you matter. If you dont show yourself that you and what you do matters, how can you expect someone else to? That there are many answers to the “who” portion of that question and each day it can be all of them or some of them. Whichever the answer, regardless of if you are asking yourself about work or anything, make sure you consider “who” is behind all of it in the background.

So, who do you work for?

Gracefully,

                                            James

The Arcade of Life

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“Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different…” – C.S. Lewis

 

When I was a kid, there was a place in town called Celebration Station. It was the IT place to have birthday parties. A lot like Chuck E Cheese with its own version of mechanical animals playing fake instruments to entertain families as they ate overpriced pizza. The premise of the place is similar to what we have now at other places: you buy tokens or coins to go play games and either you win tickets that you can redeem or you are just sinking coins in for the thrill of the game. Ultimately, you get to collect as many tickets that you can accrue through acts of little kid gambling techniques to hopefully trade in for random knick-knacks ranging from candy, to glider planes, to those [awesome] rubber disks that you flip inside out and then they launch into the sky.

Side rant: I’ll never forget getting one of those fox tail baseballs one birthday. One of those toys where you have parachute material sewn into a baseball that you imagine being a shooting star as you try to throw it over a building or a mountain range. I got it stuck in the rafters of the place within 20 minutes and my heartbreak could be felt for all of eternity that it was lost and gone forever to a land of rafters relegated for balloons, parachute men, and the toys of children’s dreams. Nothing but tears for minutes if not hours, I’m over it, I promise. 

While I’m not spending my days in the arcade that once was, I cant help but wonder if we as a people are playing a different game- one that is with our lives.

You take your most limited resource (your life/ time here on this marble) and trade it in for tickets.

 

 As an undergraduate, I had my boss’ boss give a presentation during a training about how we as people should treat our experience like its an ATM. We have to be considerate of the number of deposits we make so that when we make a mistake and need to make a withdrawal, that the withdrawal doesn’t leave us over drafted [aka fired]. What do you do on a day to day basis to invest in the ATM that is your fraternity or sorority/ your job/ your family/ yourself that allows for you to be ready for when you make a mistake? When something doesn’t go as planned and are ready to fix it? How do you make the withdrawal and not overdraft at the detriment of your relationships?

Each day when you go to work or a chapter meeting or playing video games, you invest in your future in some way.  You take your most limited resource (your life/ time here on this marble) and trade it in for tickets. You plunk coins of your life away for the hopes of winning big on tickets to trade in for prizes. That the work will be worth it, that it will pay off in get you a chance to turn those accrued tickets in for a big prize. Whether or not it’s something like a promotion, feeling satisfied in a job well done, to get ahead in your field, invest back into a passion area or surrounding community- whatever it may be- are you going to wake up one day and go “huh, I don’t know when it changed but it sure did”? The greater question is are you going to be happy with what’s left? When it’s all said and done, what are they going to say about you at your going away party? Your eulogy?

 
I’ll be honest and say that it’s something I think about a good bit. Vulnerably, because I don’t want to spend my “life coins” on the wrong game for the wrong tickets to get the wrong prize. It can be paralyzing. Quicksand  starts to sink in when I think that maybe / what if I’m not fulfilling my greatest purpose on this planet at the cost of deep and meaningful time spent with loved ones. What if I could be doing something greater that could arguably make the world a “better place” but some fortuitous moment has distracted me from it? What if each person has a song to sing within their soul and when the song actually comes out they have a “is that it?” response? A “that’s all I got?” 

Each meeting, event, conference call, program, etc. is another chance to help me give back or make an impact, but it’s costing me quality time with loved ones. That’s the trade off. That’s the choice that’s made. Investing coins for tickets that’s either going to make the world better or allow for me to provide for my family (a whole other blog post). Whether I’m missing face to face birthdays or just not present for other moments, it’s something that I have to be okay with. Part of it.

 
I’ll close with this: Notorious BIG is quoted in a Jay Z song about working each day like it’s your first, but what if you worked each day as your last? Would you leave it on the proverbial field? Lay it all on the line as the final minutes ticked away on the 4th quarter of your career or job? Whatever approach you end up taking, make sure the trade off for the tickets is worth it in the end. 

Collecting tickets,

James

These Cards We’re Dealt

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While in high school, I spent a lot of time listening to bands that people who know me now would raise an eyebrow to. Bands like Chevelle, Deftones, 311 and more were a part of my regular CD player rotation. [Remember, Im old enough to have had that struggle bus experience of only being able to fit my CD player in certain things or hoping to get a CD player that was able to be “shock proof”]. One of the bands that was local to Charlotte, NC was a band called Scapegoat and would be filed under “post-hardcore” genre. One of my favorite albums by them is the namesake of this post and honestly reminded of Ben Rector’s “The Men That Drive Me Places” which both groups are easily on two different ends of the music spectrum.  Ben talks about how somehow he was dealt the cards to make it where people know his name. In some stroke of luck he now finds himself on stage making money doing what he believes he loves while the men he meets along his way to and from a gig are making ends meet however they can. I attended a concert of his a long time back, before this song was officially released, and Ben talked about how he thought it was totally crazytown bananas that he gets to do what he loves and people hang on every word yet the people he meets every day are amazing ones whose story should be told.

Friday always tends to be the “realest” day of the work week for me. It’s almost as if each and every day people spend time putting up their guard, loading themselves into an act of which they want to maintain a certain image. Whether its “I got my shit together” or not, I find that Monday-Thursday are just fine but Friday? Friday is a completely different world. I think it has a lot to do with people being just plain tired and the day in itself is one last breath of “you can do it” as people countdown until the weekend’s respite. On a recent Friday, I had a really moving and great conversation with a coworker that is going through some really. tough. shit. He is a hard worker and someone who I look up to “more than he’ll ever know” for the way in which he cares about others and his family. As a man in the professional field I am in, it can be tough to find people who think and believe the same way you do while also holding some similar identities to yourself.

“Why does it take being shaken to our core to open our eyes? Why do we wait for the dealer to let us know what we will be playing with before we realize (or return to) who we are?”

Out of nowhere we were talking about some of the cards he has been dealt, the way that lady luck as looked down upon him in the least graceful way she could, and we started talking about the things that change people. Be it struggle for a common purpose or the sense of having something to believe in, he and I being “deep” people of course there was no wading out into the deep in but more of a plunge. So we found ourselves talking about work, love, life, and the ability afforded to us to do any of the three. The privilege of work. The willingness to love. The opportunity to live. He began to talk about the choices he has made in his life to fulfill all of the three at any given time and we both welled up with tears. [Pause] Why does it take being shaken to our core to open our eyes? Why do we wait for the dealer to let us know what we will be playing with before we realize (or return to) who we are? To be a person of compassion. A person of love. Someone that is living. To look at each moment where I share a breath with another human being as a chance for us to fall into our own humanity once again.

All of these choices add up and in turn, shape us into who we either want to be or need to be. I had never considered fully “Who do I choose to be each day?”

While generally, I am quite the indecisive person when it comes to many things, including ordering food. Making a choice is paralyzing. Its too much power, the power of choice. I couldnt help but think about how difficult it is for me to choose a flavor of ice cream let alone fight the cement I find my feet in regarding the “harder” life decisions. His voice carried from his heart to mine as we discussed random choices in life that brought us to this conversation. I had never marinated on whether or not I choose the things that I do. I choose to let work issues get to me and rob me of a chance to spend meaningful time with loved ones. Choose to answer an email that feels urgent. Choosing to love another person or choosing to love ourselves. Choosing to go to work that day. Choosing our attitude on a day where you are questioning what really matters. All of these choices add up and in turn, shape us into who we either want to be or need to be but I had never considered fully what or who I choose to be.  Why do we choose to rob ourselves of fully living? Of compassion? Choose to rob ourselves of our grace and our humanity because we aren’t enough in some warped sense of self-measurement. Choose grace. Choose love. Whatever you choose, choose something that when you look back on it you know it was part of your story.

Stay choosey,

                                      James

More Than You’ll Ever Know

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As you’ve caught on by now I love metaphors, similes, comparisons, and idioms. Vernacular of the world around me and the words we choose to make people feel awful or wonderful. Empowered or belittled. Loved or cut off from our love. I wish I could tell you that I have the high level of resilience to embody “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” when in reality it’s more like “sticks and stones may break my bones but, well, yea words can hurt from time to time those pesky little devils.” That’s reliant upon many factors, including if you care more about the person saying the words than perhaps the words they are saying. The impact has potential to be shifted if you don’t know the person as much (unless you’re talking about someone shouting really bigoted, messed up stuff then all bets are off but bear with me here) as someone that you love or once loved. Internally, the impact of self-love or criticism can hit closer to home more than anything any person might be able to say to us.

I have a coworker that needed help on a project and asked around for people to weigh in, share their thoughts, participate in the program later on, and so forth the story of collaboration goes.  Once we finished the meeting they said, “Thanks so much for being willing to help with this, it means more than you’ll ever know” as I was walking out of their office and shaking their hand. While I am rather awkward about praise (especially if it’s because I am doing my job. Its my job to get ish done, so please don’t make me be awkward about it), it made me wonder: What if they told me how much it meant to them instead of leaving me wondering? Have we steadfastly utilized a phrase like that, which might still have opportunity to get the point of gratification across, to rob ourselves of deeply expressing why we are appreciative of that person? 

“…we use this phrase on borrowed time we assume to have been loaned. The assumption that you will see this person again.”

What if it was just that simple? More than you’ll ever know is wiped from our memory banks and we actually expressed appreciation for others in a manner that went as far as to outline why they matter. Why their existence has made someone else’s world a better place, if even for a moment? I would say that conversations would take up more time for sure. We would need to be more thoughtful in the appreciation we give instead of using an all-encompassing statement to smooth over the nitty gritty details. Peeling it back further, it would need a substantial amount of vulnerability. If I wanted to dice up “more than you’ll ever know” and cook it into another way to share whats happening in my soul to another person, a requisite is going to be that I need to actually know whats going on in my soul- that I need to be in touch with the little voice inside me that says “hey this person has made your life or your world better, why don’t you tell them about it?”. Which leads me to fear.

Fear can impact whether or not we even let them know what that little voice inside us has said. “More than you’ll ever know” protects us. It is a catch-all that allows for you to not have to bare some inner thought to another person about “why” whatever it is means so much to you. Why whatever they did has impacted you in such a way that it was needed in order for you move on and keep up the good fight throughout your hour/day/week/month/year. An “owning of one’s shit” that is needed to take place where you show this person “I was incomplete and imperfect and you made things right again, if even for a moment” that can be downright scary in a world we feel the unending pressure to be perfect.

My final thought is that we use this phrase on borrowed time we assume to have been loaned. The assumption that you will see this person again. That tomorrow they will be walking into your office space, see them on campus, pass them as they are walking their dog, whatever it may be the phrase almost serves as a time placeholder for “I would tell you how much you actually mean to me but, it looks like we are out of time! I’ll tell you later!”. Like we are our own version of Shonda Rhimes, stealing a page out of a tv series to leave our audience of life hanging for the previews of what is to come. Assuming we have that time to spare can rob us of opportunities to legitimately make the world a better place. It’s morbid but you might not be able to tell this person the things running through your head one day. Write those things down and mail it to them. Carrier pigeon and wax seal style so they know they got that upgrade of awesomeness. A small card or a handshake can work to if you’re appreciating on a budget.

Upgrading to awesome,

James

Kintsugi

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When I was in high school I bought a (well, THE since another one will never grace this planet) Postal Service CD when it first came out. I was in the mall, killing time before heading over to a friend’s house to pick him and his brother up to a major league lacrosse game. I remember standing in FYE and getting the itch to spend some money. That weird “I need to buy something urge” that makes your palms electric. As soon as I got a job working at Dairy Queen I developed an addiction to retail therapy. The world was my oyster at $5.25 an hour. I came across the album with all of the stickers that try to sell it like “Now featuring ______!”. I walked out of the store feeling like a new man, the thrill of buying music that I had never listened to was thrilling yet terrifying. I had put my money into the hands of the marketers that put stickers on the outside of the case and trusted the “new music thats gonna make it big” section. What if I had made a huge mistake? What if this turned out worse than that one time that I thought buying the WCW wrestling cd was a good call?

I remember putting it in my car cd player and being… confused. I loved the sounds coming out of my speakers as I waited for my friend to come out of his house but didn’t understand why. I had never listened to music like that before. This was actually what inspired me to listen to Death Cab For Cutie (not the other way around) since their lead singer was a part of this side project. I found Ben’s voice soothing and motivating to my little teenage heart. Fast forward plenty of years down the road and I see that Death Cab For Cutie will be playing at a local venue that I love. This could be the only time I ever get to see them as they hawk their newest album. While there, they of course play the classics that everyone wants to hear, including “What Sarah Said” which left not a dry eye in the house. Nothing rattles your bones more than the haunting echo of “who’s gonna be there when you die?” through the rafters of a classic auditorium with a question that many might not really want to ever be asked. Their newest album is titled “Kintsugi” and I just figured that it wasnt much behind the name, until I did some detective work (see: googling).

“…highlighting the cracks and repairs as simply an event in the life of an object rather than allowing its service to end at the time of its damage or breakage.”

Disclaimer: I am not well-versed in Japanese art and philosophy, I hate to break it to you. For me, though I am no expert in this matter, I feel completely inspired by the following.

Kinstugi or Kintsukuroi is a Japanese word embodying a philosophy that is loosely translated as “golden repair”. The overall process is summarized as instead of throwing away pottery that has been broken it is prudent to put it back together with some sort of lacquer or bonding agent. While many may not really think this is that big of a deal or might chalk this up to being frugal or borderline hoarder, the process has a deeper foundation. After repairing the pottery, it is then painted with gold (or silver or platinum- some sort of precious metal). The philosophy recognizes the whole value of the object and attests to the break in the pottery is not a sign of weakness or futility but something that is worth celebrating. I found this astounding and has really stuck out to me. Shawn Achor’s Happiness Advantage speaks to this regarding training yourself to alter your own viewpoints for times when things don’t go as planned or as well as you would hope. Looking for the best in a crappy situation allows for you to shift your focus to the opportunity found in the fall. The pleasure in the pain. The lesson doled out by destiny.

Let’s take it a step further. In the article linked at the bottom of this post, there is an excellent point made that I really want to highlight. This form of artwork and philosophy says to the piece of pottery, “It’s okay. Things break sometimes. Here, lets smother the bond with gold so that people know you have become stronger from this. That you arent perfect, and thats okay.” This break and repair is considered not only natural but is considered to have been needed in order for this pottery to be better. That “highlighting the cracks and repairs as simply an event in the life of an object rather than allowing its service to end at the time of its damage or breakage.” Is that it? Is it that simple? To take something that is viewed as devastating like a breakup? a job loss? a failed exam? as a simple event. A song of many to be sung in the chorus of life? I think this is utterly amazing, maybe its just the coffee talking, but it intrigues me how this can be applied to pottery but socially we arent inclined to do this with people. Our bodies are already repairing themselves each and every evening as we lay to rest but we never consider the breaks in our lives as opportunities that need to be painted gold. I wouldnt be who I am today if I hadnt had my heart broken.. If I hadnt had my Bruce Wayne and Alfred J. Pennyworth moments then I wouldnt have learned to pick myself back up.

To recognize that things will not be perfect all the time. The magic lies within how we choose to put the pieces back together, to view things as worthwhile, and honor that  part of our story as a golden moment of our life.

I think the deeper meaning behind all of this is not just the repair being made but the view of which the person is making the repair. The pottery needs to be viewed as worthwhile. Worth the time, effort, energy, resources, to be found not complete and whole and to be made whole again. Herein lies the thought that echoes in my head, do we view things as worthwhile as much as we should? When a fall or break happens, are they viewed as worthwhile or as a hindrance? Is this break viewed as worthwhile or something worth gaining or are we too busy looking at the immediate moment of  what is being taken away from us versus what is being given? The opportunity to repair something. To make it beautiful. To make it perfect.

I am always intrigued by where words or idioms originated from. The colloquialisms that are embedded into our everyday life seem to be passed over but with further examination can lead to a whole lot more. When looking at the latin translation of the word “perfect”, its derived from “perfectus”. This came from the word “perficio” which means “to bring to an end”. So when we strive for perfection, what end are we seeking? An end to feeling upset about our body weight? An end to feeling like we will never be satisfied with where our career has gone? Herein lies the issue with perfect or perfection, its unrealistic. We all know this. This is in all sorts of news feeds, youtube videos, popular books, and all around us yet the undying journey seeking perfection tends to haunt people continually. Why? What if we sought out ways to embrace our imperfections and paint them gold? What if all it took was to pause during times of stress, take a breath, and seek ways to paint things gold? To recognize that things will not be perfect all the time. The magic lies within how we choose to put the pieces back together, to view things as worthwhile, and honor that  part of our story as a golden moment of our life.

Stay gold Ponyboy,

James

Check this out to read a paper on one persons exploration with Japanese Art. Here’s a Wiki, depending on if you are a judger about Wiki’s or not.