Four Books to Pull You Back from the Brink

I’m keeping it simple in today’s post: here are four books that can help pull you back from the brink.

  1. Many Lives, Many Masters” by Brian Weiss: If you can stomach Eastern Ideology (Which I personally love and connect to more than Western Ideology), this book can really help you find peace about the meaning of life. It’s about a therapist who uses hypnotic regression to help people overcome trauma. He begins to notice a pattern that some people regress to what appear to be previous lives. Over the course of the book, he learns that the more stubborn we are about learning particular lessons throughout our lives, the more difficult progress can become. He even gets some prophetic advice and tells us about why we connect to certain individuals more than others. Just read it, you won’t regret it. Most people I recommend it to read it in one sitting.
  2. Please Understand Me II” By David Keirsey: This book begins with a Myers Briggs personality test, and then deep dives into each personality type, why you process information and feel the way that you do, and how you interact with others because of SCIENCE. It’s very validating to read and helps with self-awareness. Highly recommended to anyone having relationship and communication stress.
  3. The Alchemist” By Paulo Coelho: The only fiction work on my list, this book is sometimes scoffed at by intellectuals (but only because they aren’t intellectual enough to understand it.) This book has won multiple awards, been translated into multiple languages, and helped thousands of people find peace. Follow the journey of a young Shepherd who travels across the world seeking wisdom and ultimately finds peace in an unexpected place. You can read this book time and again and it never gets old – it’s wisdom shared through allegory, and should sit on every poet’s shelf.
  4. Quiet – The Power of Introverts In a World That Can’t Stop Talking” By Susan Cain: If you feel disconnected from a complacent world, and are exhausted by nonsensical falsities and surface level conversation, read about how you can empower yourself to change the world using your natural strengths. Susan Cain literally started a cultural revolution dedicated to the empowerment of introverts; you only need to look at the name of my blog to see how influential her work was for me. A True Visionary who has my honest and utmost respect.

If you don’t feel better after reading those, check out my other blogs on mental and spiritual wholeness, like this one, which gives practical advice for managing stress.

More to come, much love,

-TQV

The Cool Guy Club – A Leadership Failure

People love to talk about themselves. It’s an early lesson for many, particularly in intelligence, but also in politics, journalism, and a plethora of other careers. It’s a healthy attribute – it helps us to connect to one another, build our inner circle, and relate to other cultures – but when the ego becomes programmed to draw a constant comparison between our own experiences and the experiences of those around us, a culture of inadequacy and exaggeration is formed. Instead of an environment of growth and empowerment, we create one of stagnation which sucks the motivation out of a large percentage of the work force. We feel the need to “fluff” our resumes and stories, as if our actual life experience isn’t really enough, and we create a sort of “laundry list” of events that make us who we are. There’s no laundry list. The entirety of our journey makes us who we are, not just the catch-phrases that sound good to other people.

“Cool guy clubs” are particularly prominent in a military environment, and are a primary contributor to many psychological effects that follow military service. Particularly during their first decade, whatever experience a service member gains is never really enough. I remember reporting to my second command following a pretty intense tour which featured some of the toughest mental training a sailor can go through, followed by a deployment to the Horn of Africa and another to Central America. I’d been broken down and rebuilt a number of times, but the first question my new supervisor asked was, “So what ship were you on?” When I responded that I hadn’t served on a ship (other than to travel to various third-world countries), he responded, “Don’t worry – we’ll make a real sailor out of you.” I was a non-commissioned officer with multiple medals and warfare specialties, but evidently, I wasn’t a “real” sailor.

Even before then, during my first tour, you weren’t one of the “Cool guys” unless you were an expert marksman. Or an interrogator. Or unless you’d been through SERE, or been OC sprayed. There was an endless list of experiences that evidently mattered, but it was only comprised of things you hadn’t already done. I always thought that it was a phenomenon exclusive to the military, but as it turns out, it isn’t.

“Oh, you run a blog? Did you break a thousand followers yet?”

“Oh, you’re an author? How many books have you published?”

“Oh, you’re getting married? First time?”

“Welcome to the Company! Have your degree yet?”

Instead of contributing to the journey of others, we compare ourselves to them.

Instead of flaunting all the reasons that leaders are in a leadership position, (This is why I have authority over you. This is why I am cooler than you.) leaders should be validating not only the experience of their employees, but also the personality traits and organic strengths that they each contribute to the team.

Upon taking my current position, my boss handed me a drawing of a blank check. He said, “You know what that is? It’s empowerment. I wouldn’t have hired you if I didn’t trust your judgement. As long as you know you can deliver what you promise people, you don’t need to ask my permission first.”

So break down that “Cool guy” culture. It’s not about who is the most tactical, who has been shot at the most, or how cool your Oakley’s and five-eleven pants are. It’s about humble confidence, a proactive attitude, and enabling your people to achieve their truest potential (rather than trying to hold them under your thumb and keep them at a place that makes you comfortable).

Leadership isn’t comfortable. Train your replacement – hell, train your CEO’s replacement. Help your people to achieve their dreams, and in doing so, you’ll make endless progress toward achieving your own. And if you get good at that, make everyone you meet one of “your people.” Humanity is a group experience. If you find a passionate person out there who has managed to escape complacency, encourage their passion. Don’t rid them of it.

-A proud non-member of the Cool-Guy Club

The Flames of Tadjourah

The world had become a flaming hell – impossible to tame

Yet, every man sought to quell the fire in the village that day

Children screaming, women crying, explosions from inside

As alcohol and powder spilled into flames that only thrived

Goats ran wild, bulls thrashed, a man impaled upon a horn

With no water to fight our flaming hell, we were mercy to God’s scorn

We threw dirt into the fire that day, praying for reprieve

When water finally did arrive, it fell boiling at our feet

I didn’t need to speak her language to know what she had said

In a desperate voice “He’s still inside!” but I knew he was long-since dead

Dark pale men lay all around me, passed out from smoke in lung

Shoes melted from our feet by then, but still we all fought on

Heroes of Tadjourah, every villager – one and all

That fire burning ocean-side, raging ever on…

Men would wake from smoke-filled sleep, and into battle once again

Some fought from roof above the flames, in my mind’s eye they fell in…

I realized it wasn’t flames I fought, but demons of the mind

For no matter how much time I bought, I’d soon leave that place behind

I shared a name with a village there, half-day’s journey up the road

Where for months, I sought to help its children with water, food, and clothes

This strange family all around me, we fought yet hand in hand

Me, the welcomed intruder to their magical foreign land

Neither primitive, nor heathen did I find the people there…

A desert tribe, yet still they thrived, despite the land so bare

And never once did hesitate to share what Allah gave them

With open hearts, they welcomed men sent by governments to enslave them

Eventually we, together, prevailed against the flame

The man who died, I realized, was my old self gone away

I learned many lessons there, this but one amongst the pile:

You may think God sent you to teach lesser men, but instead you’re learning all the while!

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)

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)