Frozen with Fear (And How Not To Be)

When I was 16 years old, I was selling cigarettes and t-shirts in my hometown bar, working at night and going to school during the day. I was even smaller then than I am now – maybe 130 pounds if I had a 10 pound barbell in each hand. It was an educational few years for me: I saw adults who were well respected in the community fight, vomit, and initiate affairs under the influence of alcohol. I learned how to deal with drunks, and how not to be, in a general sense.

It was during those years that I experienced my first ever “fight or flight” moment. A group on group bar fight broke out right in front of my little cubby hole of a store. It was too early in the night – the bouncers were scattered about, not expecting trouble. Still getting settled. My reaction was worse than either of the “fight or flight” options. I froze. I mean, I was a kid, right? What was I supposed to do? The guys fighting were all wearing “Tap-out” shirts and seemed like they were trying to make a name for their MMA school – MMA was just on the up and up in those years. By the time I snapped myself out of the frozen state, the bouncers had arrived. I hadn’t even had the presence of mind to call for them. I just stood there, frozen in fear. Once the fight was over, I’d beaten myself up for it for half the night. I decided right then that I would never be frozen like that again because of another man’s actions.

The next time a bar fight broke out, I was ready for it. Two guys – again, way too beefy for me to take on – were pummeling each other furiously. In a lot of ways, the second fight was worse than the first. The group had mostly been throwing each other around, making a mess but not really doing any damage. These guys were throwing real blows. Blood had already been spilled by the time I heard the noise. Don’t freeze. DON’T FREEZE.

“HEY!” I yelled in the most boisterous voice I could muster. It gave them pause, but they went back to pummeling each other. I ran in. Grabbed one of the beefy guy’s arms. Put him in an arm bar (I’d taken a bit of martial arts myself, but the passive philosophical type). I held his arm with all my might, and managed to stop his punches. Then, I realized by mistake. The other man was still free. He carried on punching the one I was controlling, and I inadvertently turned the tide of the fight. Then the bouncers showed up and rescued my 16 year old self again.

I was proud, in some ways. I knew I’d messed up, but I’d learned that the fight or flight “instinct” can be controlled. I learned that action is better than inaction, and I learned the first rule of emergency management: Don’t get excited.

Years later, those skills became increasingly relevant in a military setting, but I had one more freeze-up incident.

It was in the Horn of Africa, where I was part of a “Force Protection Liaison Team.” I’d spent months building relationships with everyone from human traffickers to tribal elders in an effort to keep Americans in the region safe. You can’t fight a threat you don’t know about. Anyway, a hotel fire broke out in one of two hotels in the Northern half of the Djibouti. By the time my partner – a Marine Staff Sergeant – and I arrived, the place was in terror. There were electric explosions along with things like alcohol and fireworks in the building, so that added to the chaos. We were in the desert and had no water to fight the fire with. All around me there were children screaming and women crying, and worst of all – they said there was still a man inside.

I froze for what seemed like eternity – it was really just a few seconds before my earlier lessons kicked back in. Already this post is longer than my average, so I’ll summarize to a great extent, but after a night of fighting for our lives and the lives of others – seeing men pass out from smoke, and attempt to fight a raging fire with dirt and sand – we managed to at least make sure everyone was safe. Even one guy who thought the best way to fight the fire was to stand on the roof and beat it with a large stick. He thought that if the roof collapsed, it would be more effective to dump dirt on the fire from above it. I wondered why anyone would want to force the collapse of a roof they were standing on. I questioned whether I would give my life to save his – he, who had made a stupid choice that could’ve resulted in hellacious pain. The conclusion I came to is my own to bear, but what I learned that night is this:

The fight or flight response is largely dependent on experience and priorities. These days, I often find myself running toward chaos where I think I can lend assistance (it typically turns out to be nothing more than a scare of some kind). I don’t know that there’s much that would make me freeze these days – though I’m aware it’s still possible, for anyone. But if you think about the worst case scenario and know what you’re willing to die for, there’s no reason you can’t prevent yourself from ever being frozen in fear.

If folks like reading about these concepts, maybe I’ll explore them further?

Much love,

Dustin Stitt (The Quiet Visionary)

My First Blogging Milestone (Thanks, Friends)

Hello everyone.

Today is the first opportunity I have to express thanks to those reading along so far – I hit my first small milestone as a blogger in reaching fifty followers. If you’re new to my blog, I post “think pieces” fairly regularly, with topics ranging from mental health and self-betterment to philosophical and leadership ideologies. I also write poetry on occasion, and offer freelance editing and writing services. If you’re a seeker of wisdom and truth, I think that I can contribute to your journey while simultaneously learning FROM you, and would be honored to have you join my community. You can read “the crux” of what I do, here.

I also love to help like minded people, and in the spirit of that, would like to congratulate a like minded blogger, Peter, on achieving the same milestone (on the same day!). He’s a veteran and fellow philosopher who is articulate and thought provoking – if you read my stuff, I’d highly encourage you to take a look at his as well. As my community continues to grow, I hope to be able to aid the growth of others who write with intent of positively impacting the world.

Anyway, I wanted to say thank you for the validation of my writing thus far, and for the impact each of you have had on me with your own writing. I believe that a few strong writers can nudge the human collective toward compassion, acceptance, and contemplation, and aid one another in their journeys toward peace. And I’m stubborn enough to help that happen.

100 followers, here I come!

Much Love,

Dustin Stitt (The Quiet Visionary)

My Blogging Experiment Worked and Tripled My Following! Here’s My Next Strategy.

A little over two weeks ago I wrote a blog about a forthcoming strategy that I hoped would increase my following – I actually predicted that it would double it, but instead, it TRIPLED!

Don’t be too amazed, yet – I’m still new to this (to blogging, not to writing), so “tripled” really only means that I went from ten followers to thirty, but if you read The First Blog, you’ll see that I have a relatively high confidence level moving forward. What it really seems to come down to is culture, and the study of culture has been a lifelong passion of mine. I’m happy to say that many of my followers have consistently interacted with my posts (which I hope means they have found them impactful), but the really amazing thing about the growth is that it was done ENTIRELY on auto-pilot.

I was on a vacation to get married at the Grand Canyon, a magical experience that you can read about Here, and simply scheduled a poem to be posted each day at the same time while I was gone. During the brief moments that I had service on my vacation, I followed the folks who had interacted with my posts with intent to further check out their work when I got home. That’s it! So, it’s true that blogging is about consistency.

My next strategy actually comes from the wedding post linked above. In the interest of “branding,” I’ve primarily kept my “travel writing” separate, but I was shocked at the number of folks who liked my Grand Canyon bit within the first few minutes, so I’ve decided to migrate some of those blogs over in time as well. I’m slowly discovering that, as someone who hopes to use written language to inspire and heal others, my “brand” is fairly flexible. Write impactful, honest shit. That’s my brand. Done.

So, I have a plethora of travel and personal blogs that I will migrate over, and I bet I can get to a minimum of 55 followers by the time that’s done. They say the first 100 is the hardest – I hope to hit that number by the end of July. Blogging is about consistency, “the grind,” and honestly caring about your impact, not just the numbers. I promise that I will succeed at this. Follow along for more strategy updates, or to be inspired or encouraged in your battles to overcome adversity. I will share each and every success, but more importantly, I’ll always share my failures.

Much love,

Dustin Stitt (The Quiet Visionary)

P.S. I always welcome any tips in the comments! My initial mistake was importing a bunch of content at once – remember that your posts are the most visible during the first few hours after posting! Also, use appropriate hashtags, and always link to other work. Finally, write about things you are honestly passionate about – don’t force it. Any tips for me?

A Wedding Speech

I recently had a very magical wedding ceremony with my wife (who I legally married in January) at the Grand Canyon. My best friend (a historian) officiated the wedding, using concepts from the middle ages and ancient Latin language, and it was one of the most magical moments of my life. I’m forever grateful to all involved, and wanted to share the words I wrote for my wife. What’s the point in freelancing if you can’t express thoughts from your personal life while doing so, and use the work to honor those you love? A few of the day’s photos are included below the text.

“Steven recently asked me if I had anything that I wanted to say during this ceremony, and I realized that there is a huge difference between “Not having anything to say,” and “not having to say anything.” Since that time, I decided to write a full-length speech about not having to say anything.
 
If you know me well, you know that public speaking and crowds are my greatest fears, and I chose to say these words not because they needed to be said – I know that this moment is as sacred to Amanda as it is to me, and nothing could change that. I chose to say them despite knowing that I’d probably get emotional because this without a doubt the single most sacred moment I’ll ever live through, and I want to honor it with authenticity and vulnerability by sharing it with all of you.  

Since the moment I met Amanda, she has always understood me and accepted me for who I am – accepted how I came to be this way. That may sound like some innocent, puppy-love statement, but the truth of the matter is that life and its lessons will always leave scars behind. You’ll rarely meet a person of compassion who hasn’t been denied it, or a person who advocates for others who hasn’t been beaten down by them.  

From the outside, the world sees a couple that met during a college field trip and returned the following year to take the plunge. They see pretty Instagram pictures and read adventurous blogs about hiking and the outdoors. They see love. And there is an indescribable amount of that shared between us, or I wouldn’t be standing here. But there’s so much more than that. 

What the world doesn’t see are the things we’ve overcome together, and the things we have yet to. They don’t see a medic who wakes up in the middle of the night, screaming from nightmares that torture the mind but paralyze the body. They don’t see a man clinging to the hope that there’s still goodness in the world, and kindness. And they don’t see the days where I lose that hope and plummet into a darkness that I have to scratch and claw my way out of. 

Yes, I’m a gentleman and I can be charming. Yes, she’s stunningly beautiful and wicked smart. Yes, we’re ferociously loyal to one another. But there’s a negative to balance every positive, destruction balances creation, and yin balances yang. I used to have so much noise in my head, and it doesn’t matter to me if anyone here can relate to that. When I’m in the presence of the person I trust the most in this great and terrible world, the noise goes away. I try to be aware of projecting, not to be too dependent, and not to cling to the comfort she gives my soul, but I always end up losing that fight and just appreciating the fact that she’s there and chose to love me back. And I think the thing that makes that okay is that she somehow feels the exact same way about me. 

We’re two humans who were so sick of the world that we were just about ready to move on to the next one, but instead, God – the universe – whatever synonym you choose to use…”The powers that be” decided to grant us the mercy of each other. Of friendship. Of a life where your inner voice becomes the outer one, and you know that your person would follow you into the pits of hell, but that they won’t have to because you met in those pits, where you’d each learned to survive alone, and together, were resurrected.Persuasive writing, empathy, and intuition have always been strengths of mine, and I have to say that it’s been utterly refreshing not to have to convince, explain or justify anything to Amanda. Any emotions this speech has invoked are baseline compared to what each of us see when we simply look at each other. Our connection has been so organic and natural since day one – a connection fostered by living in a tent for the first three months of our relationship. Unconditional love is an increasingly rare gift – but that’s what we have for each other.

On the surface, I’m the emotional one. I choose to wear my feelings openly, on occasion, to prove that the human experience is not a shameful thing, but one of beauty. Nothing is more beautiful than the moments when I can connect to her emotions, though. To her spirit. To a thing that is so well sheltered because the world is such a cruel place. And it’s not that I break down walls to get to it, it’s that she trusts me enough to break them down for me. I promise that, until my last breath, I will dedicate every tool that I have to making her world one of beauty, and comfort, and trust. Thank you all for being here to witness our enlightenment – our Nirvana. For two souls that have been tormented by their lifelong separation have at last been reunited into one.”

Cutting through the B.S. (A Blogging/Content Experiment)

Throughout my life, I’ve studied a number of cultures, and most recently I’ve become a member of the blogging community. It’s been about a month, and I’ve gained a grand total of about ten followers, but I think I’ve hit a pivotal milestone. It’s happened with every culture I’ve been emerged in, and evidently this one is no different – it even took around the same amount of time in the cyber world that it takes during foreign travel.

After a month of immersion and study, I’ve gained confidence that I know how to navigate this place! It just so happens that I’m also scheduled for a rare and exciting opportunity – a two week hiatus from my “real job.” So, I’m going to use that time to conduct a content/blog growth experiment which you are more than welcomed to join in on.

My two weeks away from work will be spent hiking and camping in the Southwest with little signal, so I’ve scheduled some posts in advance. Let me set the scene for you by sharing a couple of lessons I’ve learned, along with my predictions going forward:

  1. It seems to me that the way this blogging thing works is that people who are passionate about writing attempt to use their craft to influence or inspire others. In their efforts to gain a readership (and often, to genuinely contribute to the community of other writers) they slave away and get down into the weeds with their feelings, giving 100% of their honest effort to provide quality content.
  2. It also seems to me that, as someone endeavoring to contribute to the community of others while growing my own, I set the bar pretty low for who I’m going to follow. It’s like, if they have decent grammar and their blog is basically professional, I hit them with a follow and hope that they will be marginally inspired by my work like I am by theirs. I also make a note of the blogs that I REALLY want to read, so I can stay up to speed with their content. This guy is presently at the top of that list. (Note that it isn’t dishonest when I follow blogs I’m marginally interested in, I just have faith in their ability to grow over time and want to help them do so.)
  3. Another important lesson I’ve learned is that “branding” is evidently important. However, as a freelance writer whose “brand” is simply using the written word to provoke and inspire contemplation, I think I largely get a free pass on this one. All I want to do is write impactful shit – so that gives me a pretty wide range to work with.
  4. While I thrive on persuasive writing (particularly, articles on idealism and leadership), I’ve also been a poet for as long as I can remember. I have hundreds and hundreds of poems already written, but breaking into articles and content is new for me.

All that said, I’ve scheduled some of my favorite (self-healing/self-help) poems to be posted once per day at 0800AM until my return on May 28th. Cristian Mihai said in one of his articles that consistency is more important than almost anything when it comes to blogging, and I believe the guy! Your content is the most visible during the first few hours that you post it, so posting something new consistently is bound to yield more followers.

I guess the ultimate goal of a blogger is to first build your network using whatever strategies (authentic or otherwise) you can, and THEN once that community has been built, try to maintain it by inspiring them, hoping that you’ll be able to hone it down to people who are honestly impacted by your work. And strangely, I’m okay with that. If I get a thousand followers, and then 80% decide that my work isn’t for them, then I have gained 200 followers that I can honestly engage with and learn from.

My prediction is based on two factors:

  1. That, in general, the poems I’ve scheduled over the next couple of weeks will attract an audience that is genuinely interested in all of the things I write (I observe life’s subtleties and draw larger lessons from them – that’s essentially poetry).
  2. That I will be able to gain more of an audience by not being so attached to the idea of growing one. The things I’ve written have impacted me – there’s no reason I need to check a hundred times per day to see if they impact others.

I’m betting I’ll be able to at least double my number of followers during this experiment. And if I don’t, I promise to be straight forward about my lessons-learned and redirection of course when I get back. Click follow to see how it goes, and know that I’m genuinely thrilled by the idea of building my organic, honest community, and learning from your contemplation as you learn from mine.

If you stayed with me this far, you must be intrigued. Here’s an example of what to expect each morning.

Much Love,

Dustin Stitt (The Quiet Visionary)

Writers – Cut Yourself Some Slack!

This message is just as much for me as it is for any of you – and I’m going to keep this short, because it doesn’t take long to say what’s on my mind today. The way I see it, there are three major obstacles that all writers face, and that most of us NEVER overcome.

1. Finding your voice: You can write for decades, and even be good at it, but most people never find their unique, vulnerable, and brutally honest voice and style. If you’ve done this, you’re leaps and bounds ahead of the competition. I’d say that being confident in your voice puts you ahead of at least 50% of aspiring authors.

2. Live through experiences that validate and lend credence to your voice: People want to know why they should read your work. There are a million possible answers to the question – maybe you studied a particular subject, hold a certain set of beliefs, or traveled to parts of the world that made you who you are today. I once had a college professor tell me, “Tons of people can write. Not many of them have lived a life worth writing about.” Just remember that you have to write with purpose – nobody wants to listen to someone vent for three hours.

3. Lastly, you have to find your audience. This is increasingly complicated in our technologically advanced world. It’s easy for anyone to share their thoughts on social media, so there’s a lot more competition. Even before the era of social media though, many of the greatest authors in the world weren’t discovered until after their deaths. Give it time – if your message is impactful and you are dedicated to helping others by delivering it, you WILL succeed in finding your audience.

I realized this morning while beating myself up that I have achieved two of the three necessary but often not achieved steps to becoming a successful author. We all need to just cut ourselves some slack and enjoy the journey. 2/3 isn’t bad for my first 27 years.

Thoughts? Did I miss a step? I’d love to hear from you.

Our Band-Aid Society

It used to be that when something was broken, people would endeavor to fix it. We used to solve problems, not just postpone and perpetuate them. That was then, though. These days, we’d rather throw a band-aid on the problem and call it a solution. We’d rather medicate, distract, or otherwise preoccupy the minds that should be steering humanity toward our next “greatest milestone.” And if that distracted “fix” doesn’t solve the dilemma, then we simply ignore it.

The problem is that people are too averse to being uncomfortable. Take me, for instance…if I had to use one word to describe myself, there’s no doubt in my mind as to what it would be.

Author.

Writing is the one consistency I’ve always had in my life, and it makes me uncomfortable that I haven’t yet figured out how to leverage that passion into a career that allows me to pursue the craft fulltime. That discomfort is what’s going to help me solve the problem. The people who read my work find it impactful. That sounds like a win, but really it’s a frustration – it proves that my dreams are obtainable in a way that is tangible to me, and yet…

Eventually that “And yet,” will frustrate us to the point of finding a complete solution rather than just the beginning of one, but only if we allow ourselves to feel it. To embrace it.

A soldier knows his life could be better if he could overcome his PTSD.

Society throws him paroxetine and a disability check to prevent the life or death choice of what comes next.

A company doesn’t understand why its culture isn’t attractive to millennials.

Maybe if we install a fountain soda machine and decorate the office with beanbags.

A father struggles with the rift that his alcoholism has caused between him and his son.

A glass of whiskey should take the edge right off that…

Stop taking the edge off. Stop accepting failure on the first attempt.

If the soldier would embrace the discomforts of the things he’d seen, he could use it to shape his own recovery and the recovery of others. He could unpack everything he’d compartmentalized and learn lessons that most people could never dream of.

If the company would realize that the problem isn’t the building they’re in, but their modus operandi, they could integrate the powerful passion of the younger generation and tap into what is soon to be the largest portion of our world economy.

If the father would embrace his inner conflict and guilt, he could transmute it into hatred for the substance that caused the separation in the first place. He could use it as motivation for self-betterment, and set an example for his son that mistakes can be overcome.

Not all solutions are easy. Sometimes radical mindsets are necessary to make the greatest progress. If we want to just live out our years perpetuating problems, it’s easy enough to do that: after all, we only have one life, and it’s a relatively short one. If you’re like me though, and you want to dedicate that life to having an impact and making the world a better place for our children and grandchildren, try to maintain awareness of the things you’re putting band-aids on. Focus on real solutions by considering the root of the problem, and remember to embrace the “And yet.”

All Millennials Need Nannies

Oh, good! I got you here.

That’s how this blogging thing works, right? You use a provocative title to get peoples’ attention, and then you woo them back to reasonable thought with the words that follow. I didn’t make the title up based on nothing, though.

During my last job interview, my (now) boss told me, “I’m here to coach you and be a mentor. I’ll give you guidance and I’ll teach you, but I’m not your nanny.” I swallowed back the urge to ask him what he thought qualified him to assume I needed a nanny.

The thing about my boss is that he’s one of the best I’ve ever had. In fact, if you look through my articles on leadership, you’ll see that more often than not I use his actions as an example of HOW to treat your people. He’s one of the few leaders I’ve met that primarily thinks about people and their holistic development, rather than just the work they’re assigned to complete.

Another common theme in my writing is that people are the way they are for REASONS, and instead of feeling immediately put-off by how they interact with you, you should first question why they interact in that manner.

He told me he wasn’t my nanny because, by and large, today’s young people are uncomfortable with ownership and defensive toward character development. Millennials often feel that their employers should utilize their strengths and understand their weaknesses. That line of thought isn’t wrong, per se, but as with all things, balance is the critical element.

Throughout the interview that followed, I gave up a few parts of my story, not for validation, but because every good boss deserves to know who they have on their team. I told him about multiple deployments to poor, war-ridden countries, that I’d been through a divorce, and about several mistakes I’d made throughout my life both professionally and personally. I told him that I was in the process of selling my third house so I could buy my fourth, and that I’d been in charge of anywhere from four to eighty people throughout my career. That I’d experienced what it’s like to be the senior person in a state, making calls that would have far reaching implications to the company as whole. I told him about fostering abused children, and about my dream of becoming an author – about how I’d largely failed thus far in achieving it.

It wasn’t about boasting – it was about being forward regarding where I was at in my journey, so that he could decide if he was able to help me progress. It was one leader interviewing another – him to see if I knew how to follow, and me, to see if he was WORTH following. In the military, leadership isn’t linear. I’d gone from being in charge of force protection for half of a country, and then the next day I was asking permission to vacuum the sunflower seeds that a man had accidentally spit on the floor instead of in the trash can. Since I already spilled the beans about the results of my interview, you know that we both saw each other fit for the job, knowing fully that “fit” didn’t necessarily mean “perfect”. Good leaders aren’t always easy to follow, and I did struggle somewhat with going from being the man in charge of dozens of folks to being (once again) the lowest section of a short totem pole.

The comment about not being a nanny was a social misstep – to assume my ability based on my age, and it evidently put such a bad taste in my mouth that I’m using as a blog title nearly 5 months later. I’ve continued to earn my credibility at work and to try to correct the common misconception (generalization) about my peer group, but I also feel like it’s my responsibility AS a millennial to address the issue WITH my generation. We’re getting to the point in our lives where many of us are stepping into leadership positions, or even SENIOR leadership positions, and it’s important to explore the concept of first impressions. Yeah, it’s okay that you’re an introvert, but you still have to calm the butterflies in your stomach and look people in the eye when you speak to them. It’s okay that phone calls make you anxious and you communicate more clearly in writing, but you better also learn to march up to someone’s office and confront them about not performing. It’s not enough just to be nice all the time. My article about the downside of emotional intelligence explores how leaders still need to have grit and presence, not just empathy.

I forgave the misstep, knowing that my boss didn’t know me at the time, but I’ve learned since then that many leaders and even companies as a whole don’t really know how best to utilize or integrate their millennial workforce. Their uncertainty makes young people feel less empowered, and thus, perpetuates the problem.

What it boils down to is this: if you’re not confident in the young person you hired, that’s your error, not theirs. If you’ve got enough faith in someone to put an offer on the table, you should damn-well have enough faith enough to let them exceed your expectations. But don’t do so by telling them what you’re not – do so by letting them tell you what they are, and what they want to become.

Thanks for reading a long – for more insights into the millennial mindset, leadership, and culture, click follow or shoot me a message. I’d be honored to learn something from your perspective in the process.

-Dustin Stitt (The Quiet Visionary)

Caution: Trendy “Emotional Intelligence” Can Cause You to Fail Your People

I was born with an amazing gift: emotional intelligence. Empathy, intuition, and discernment have always come so naturally to me that, from some views, it borders on telepathy. I can see where a person is at in their life-journey, communicate with them in a way that makes them comfortable, and make them feel understood and enabled. Often, I will reach out to check on one of the few people in my inner circle at the exact point of a tragedy, which shocks my closest friends most of all because of the consistency at which it occurs over the course of a decade. 

I was also born with a terrible curse: the self-same trait. For the majority of my life, I have read peoples’ emotions so well – have been so connected to them – that I never wanted to disagree, say no, or let go of their problems. Instead of carrying the weight of my emotions exclusively, I’d stay up well into the night just trying to digest everything I’d perceived throughout the day…and throughout the months and years preceding it.

I carried pain not only from the people I’d met, but from the articles and books I’d read, from stories I’d heard, or even from strangers only seen from a distance. And I didn’t only carry their pain, I also carried their guilt. If a complete stranger didn’t act in a way that was “right,” I perceived it as a collective human failure – as my failure. I was also so concerned about peoples’ comfort level during communication that I developed an intense social anxiety by trying to read every conversational tone and interpret every subtle movement during interactions.

I’ve read dozens of articles of late – many with studies and science to back them – which say that emotional intelligence is more important than any other leadership attribute. Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s amazing that many (often introverted) unrecognized leaders are being given the chance they deserve to grow into leadership roles. But unchecked – unbalanced – emotional intelligence can quickly lead to personal burnout while also preventing us from making our people undergo uncomfortable but necessary growth.

The key to being a great leader isn’t one definable trait, but a balance of many traits. It’s not about understanding and placating people – it’s about understanding where they are now, where they need to go next, and how to get them there in a way that is most impactful to the individual in question. Sometimes you have to confront hard truths. Sometimes you have to operate outside of your box. Then again, sometimes qualities are so engrained in people that it isn’t productive to try and force them to operate outside their nature.

A holistic approach to leadership is more effective than exulting a single quality. Emotional intelligence is profoundly important, but we also need to know how to develop future leaders who have that attribute as a defining strength. Teaching them self-care and delegation are a large part of that. Emotionally intelligent people are givers with no boundaries – but you can’t take care of your people unless you know how to take care of yourself first. In order to properly build a team, we have to consider every person on that team – which includes ourselves.

In short, Emotional Intelligence is an attribute that will largely contribute to the success of modern leaders. But unlike the trendy articles going viral of late, I don’t believe that it’s going to be the most valuable currency in the human landscape moving forward. Leaders still have to have grit, authority, and presence to balance their empathy, and they have to learn to funnel the emotions they perceive into focus in a way that does not overwhelm them.  

Defining The Problem

For nearly two years, my primary mission in life (aside from typical distractions like working, paying bills, and finding inner peace) has been to write and publish my memoir, which was initially entitled “Depravity.”

I’ve achieved a number of goals and breakthroughs concerning the memoir, not the least of which was breaking the book into two parts and changing the title to “Depravity and Defiance”. For around the past year though, I’ve been at a virtual standstill when it comes to actually writing the damned thing. After months of contemplation, discussion with friends and mentors, and having a few test audiences read along, I’ve learned a few things, which I intend to process for myself in this article.

My primary mistake was based on a concept from the East – that clinging to outcomes and having (generally unrealistic or unenforceable) expectations only leads to stagnation and pain. The purpose of the memoir is to help people who have experienced trauma (which is virtually everyone) on their paths to overcoming it. My mistake has been visualizing the achievement of that goal by yearning for things like mass publication, a Pulitzer prize, or landing on the New York Times Best Seller’s list. I’ve been so focused on the book being translated into dozens of languages, overcoming cultural biases, and winning prestigious intellectual awards, that I’ve amassed this incredible amount of pressure for myself, which has largely prevented me from putting words on paper.

Additionally, while I’ve had an intangible idea for what I want the book to accomplish, I’ve never written it down. As a writer, I should know how important that is, but I’ve long neglected it. By way of a remedy, here is the defined list of life-events that I want to address in my book, which is something of a “Thesis on Life.” Since the book is a memoir, these are largely chronological and are written as I experienced them in my own past.

  1. The over-arching theme of the book is that humanity is a universal condition, not one to be ashamed of, and not one that we must atone for. Our best efforts need to be viewed with compassion toward the self, and passionate expression in writing is not sinful.
  2. It’s important to realize that we are the way we are for reasons, and that reflection and meditation on each piece of our lives will lead to a greater understanding of the whole. It isn’t enough to shove hard emotions into a box that we never open. We have to examine and process the emotions we’ve shoved away in order to maximize our potential and achieve our goals.
  3. Written from my own viewpoint throughout different stages in my life, the book begins with a 10 year old’s attempt to process the following: coming from a divorced/broken home, negotiating a life of inconsistency, growing up with different (and opposing) influences, and overcoming an initial introduction to loss and grief. When I lost one of my best friends at age 11, death (the balance to life) became incredibly tangible to me, and has been so ever since.
  4. Religion has been a primary influence in my life: I grew up in Pentecostal Churches, have lived with a Muslim tribe in the Horn of Africa, traveled to Central America and witnessed the influence of the Mayans, Voodoo, etc. I’ve also explored Eastern Religion and Yogic lines of thought associated with energies and spirits. Additionally, I was heavily influenced by Greek religious concepts and philosophies during my college studies, and I hope to share the cultural lessons I’ve learned from each. I aspire to break down the stigma that differences must be met with violence, hate, and pain. I also share my experience in processing multiple religions (including the pressure of loving people who have opposing beliefs) in hopes that others will be able to relate to the process. Allegory and parables are used in my book, as they are in many of the influencing sources. In part two, I share my current perspectives, not to convert, but to explore and express.
  5. The writing progresses to my early teenage years, where I attempt to negotiate the effects of parental alcoholism and violence on a young mind. I address my experiences with misogyny and the self-hate associated with toxic, angry masculinity. Throughout the entirety of the book, I address the multi-generational and highly contagious effects of masculine guilt and insecurity.
  6. My grandfather was a profound mentor and influencer in my life. I address how impactful healthy relationships can be for young people, even when they aren’t obviously so. I also address the process (from a young person’s perspective) associated with the loss of such an influence to cancer.
  7. Nearing the middle of book one, I discuss the spiraling cycle and rut that a lifetime of impactful events can have on a child’s mind. I explore internalization and the loneliness associated with not having an avenue of expression. I reflect on how that suppression can lead to violent thought (and eventually, to violent action), which perpetuates guilt and causes a deeper rut to be formed.
  8. The book explores young love, the cultural and religious pressure that causes young marriages (and subsequent divorces). Family values can cause young people to project things that aren’t there in their ambition toward achieving “the American dream.” I learn about the journey my parents were experiencing during my youth, as I experience it for myself in adulthood.
  9. I reflect on the impact and journey of military enlistment and the (many) demons that can accompany military service. I write about PTSD, suicidal thoughts, and the overuse of medication in treating veterans and others.
  10. I traverse the intelligence community, discover a number of truths about politics, government, and international relationships. I write about my journey as a father, both to my own daughter and to foster children. I write about achieving the American Dream.
  11. I write about my father’s diagnosis and battle with cancer – my experience with separating from service in order to support the family. I cover giving up, breaking down, and the confidence of authenticity that comes from just not giving a damn anymore. I explore how to recover from not giving a damn. I break the American dream into pieces and explore what my own dreams might be.

Book two is about my perspective as an adult, and how I (attempt to) balance and learn from the events listed above. 

Below is a list of people who I want the book to influence and help:

  1. Humans, or anyone who might know one.

Since the book is a thesis on life, I decided to pursue a mentor to hold me accountable for its progress and content. A special thank you to my mentor in completing this project. Also, to my readers, collaborators, and life influences.

An extra special thank you to anyone who accepts me for who I am and the mission that I have in the world rather than trying to change me into something else. Transmutation can be uncomfortable, particularly for the object being transmuted.

In a world of extremes, I hope to use difficult experiences and impactful language to snap people out of complacency and propel them forward in a journey toward balance and acknowledgment of the self.

More to come, for those crazy enough to read along. Much love. This one was written for me, really. Now, I’ve got some work to do.

-Dustin Stitt (Just a man who writes things, because that’s what he’s supposed to do.)