There’s a real strength that comes from knowing your own limits (or, in some cases, seeming lack of limits). I’m writing specifically from the veteran’s viewpoint, but the concept applies to anyone who has consistently overcome obstacles they didn’t think they’d be able to overcome.
It’s easy enough to accomplish the impossible when the choice is taken from you.
In the instance of service, there is rarely ever a choice. Service-members are faced with terrifying obstacles from the time they join – from entering a tear gas chamber for the first time to entering a battle for the first time – and presumably anyone reading this who relates has survived those challenging obstacles and gained the confidence that comes along with it.
Something else comes along with it, too.
“Overcoming the odds” is an addictive accomplishment that can leave us feeling like we’re failing when life finally settles down. The feeling of “I can handle more than this” can often be replaced with “I SHOULD be handling more than this,” and we can easily become addicted to living on the edge of burnout – or worse, on the edge of life and death. There’s a healthy way to process that feeling, and a plethora of unhealthy ones.
I once wrote that “Duty is when idealism must be suppressed in favor of rationality,” but the idealist must eventually come to terms with their emotions once more, and eventually you WILL be presented with choices (for some, this prospect seems far into the future). As someone who is trained to handle the impossible, choosing not to add too much to your plate is sometimes difficult. So make sure the things you add are PROductive and not DEstructive.
Go to school. Buy a house. Get a hobby. Play music. Work two jobs and pay off debt. Help others! (Seriously, no matter how much you’re doing, you’ll eventually feel like there’s no point to any of it if it only benefits you). Get into art. Study. Read. Workout.
The other option is to become addicted to TRAUMA rather than STRESS. I’ve been there and done it, but sometimes it’s like we’re tempted to build a checklist of things that are stacked against us in order to validate (to ourselves or others) what we’ve overcome. It’s important to realize that the world isn’t set out to hurt you. You aren’t cursed to a life of pain. There are a lot of tools and resources out there for you to use your resilience in a positive way, but don’t get set on being in pain just so you can overcome it.
As survivors, we need to be aware of this phenomenon. All this said, I’ll be closing on a house at the end of the month (as many of you know), and have decided to return to school full time in addition to working. I’m very excited to see what I can learn from history, and to delve once more into the humanities.
Let others celebrate your victories with you, not just the trauma you’ve overcome.
As many of you know, mine is not a “personal” blog. While I write memoir for philosophical purposes on occasion, my primary mission in writing is to help people who “live on the edge” because of their mental health struggles, so I rarely post updates that are exclusively personal. In this case, I’m making an exception:
I wanted to post a brief explanation for why I haven’t written much this week and why my posts may be intermittent for this entire month:
I’ve taken yet another foray into home ownership. Hopefully this is the last time for a good decade or so. This will be my 4th home purchase (with three sales) and my seventh move in eight years. I should do a post about how living in high stress environments is addictive and tends to make you take more risks than you did before, but I’ll have to save that one for another time.
As many of you know, home buying is pretty stressful stuff and nothing ever goes as planned. BUT – I’m very thankful that my wife and I will have the lovely place below to call our home.
While dealing with the home purchase, we also added another member to our family – Lady will hopefully enjoy the fenced in back yard pictured above.
So – steady progress toward our long term goals, but it means taking a brief hiatus from writing so much.
Can’t wait to get back in touch with ya’ll! Keep us in your thoughts until then!
I’m keeping it simple in today’s post: here are four books that can help pull you back from the brink.
“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.
“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.
“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.
“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.
I typed in the name of my new website just now, so that I could begin sharing its intent.
As I did so, I felt a bit burnt out. More than that though, I felt the weight of conviction and a rebellious sense of purpose in a world that tells me I don’t have one, or that I can’t have one, or that I’m not qualified to achieve it. That I’m not qualified to achieve my purpose.
You see, I already know what my purpose is. Ever since I was a child, I’ve felt the strong urge to help others. To advocate for the broken, mistreated, or misunderstood. To heal them, show them how they should be treated, and to understand them. It’s all been inspired by my journey to to heal myself, to find those who treat me with kindness, or to find the people I can be understood by.
And they’re out there. You’re out there. It’s just such a complex problem to digest and address with a tone of victory.
The Quiet Visionary. Maybe I’m being too quiet – I’ve never been one to self promote, and I always feel like advocating for my own skills and purpose is too proud a thing to do. I think that a lot of people who can heal our world feel the same. But I couldn’t just start typing after I entered my web-address – there was another step before I got to my present screen. I had to click one more link.
And that’s what this is, right? My site. My blog. My space. My voice.
Mental health awareness is such a huge issue that almost everyone from almost every walk has to at least acknowledge it. Which one of you doesn’t know a person who has ended their life early, or tried to? Which one of you hasn’t thought about doing it yourself at some point, but refused because of faith, honor, love, or fear? How many more could be reading this if they hadn’t already lost that battle?
Fuck mental health awareness. We’re already aware of it.
The problem is that so many people who could honestly contribute to the healing of our country are held back from doing so by misconceptions that have existed for FAR too long. I’m held back from doing so. And that’s not a complaint or a pity party, it’s a challenge. So many people survive adversity and come out on the other side with a story to tell, only to be warned that they shouldn’t tell it.
It’s too private. It’s too shameful. It’s too real. You’re not educated enough. It’s too late to become educated enough – you have a family now. You have responsibilities and bills and all you can do is keep working your life away in a desperate grind to stay afloat.
Nah, man. It’s time to challenge that.
Every single day people are literally choosing to blow their brains out or hang themselves in their own “living” rooms because the way we are treating mental illness is NOT working. NARCAN is now available over the counter, because people choose to run to drugs where a more obvious solution is absent. Almost every veteran I meet has been diagnosed with PTSD, because our nation would rather throw money and mind-numbing drugs at problems than to see them properly addressed. Many within my own circle will judge the stance I’m taking because people should just “turn to God.” I believe that God gave us the tools to overcome adversity together, and it’s not always enough to just project the things that pain us into the sky and be freed of them.
Most of the people you engage with beyond the surface level are proud to share with you conditions which replace their own names in illustrating the adversity they’ve overcome. You’re not a person – you’re a person battling depression. You’re a person battling bulimia, anxiety, PTSD, or anorexia. You’re a person battling. As if anyone out there is not battling.
You’re so thankful when you finally find someone else who is battling the same disease that you are…perhaps they can understand you. Disease, when written regarding mental health, is a word created by other people to monetize issues that have been faced since the dawn of humanity. The truth? The truth is that mental diseases and spiritual brokenness are the same damned thing. Honestly, at this point – with suicide rates skyrocketed and diagnosis at an all-time high – what’s the harm in trying a different approach?
I may not have a master’s degree, or a doctorate (though I hope to find the means to add those tools to my kit), but I think I have an even more valuable tool. MY story. I can help the broken to heal, because I’ve healed from being broken.
Anyone who scoffs at this post or the language in it hasn’t been in the place I’m talking about. But SO many have. And SO many are still there, and hiding it. Military leaders. CEO’s. Waitresses and strippers and whores and soldiers and children and happily married men and women and preachers and teachers and cooks and druggies and the homeless population that we try SO hard not to see. None of them is more important to me than the rest, and none of them has less potential than another. They all just need an advocate. Someone to give them the time of day, an open ear that won’t judge and can offer advice based off of practical experience, not some text book.
That’s the crux of what America’s mental health issue is, and it’s also the key mission of The Quiet Visionary. People don’t need to pay hundreds of dollars an hour to a therapist who tells them only that they’re “intellectualizing their emotions” and lacks any hint of empathy or compassion. If that sounds like a story based on experience it’s because it IS. The one time I sought professional help, I found someone who was professionally disconnected from the world’s problems. Someone who lacked the experience to relate to the world’s darkness. People bound by a code of ethics that prevents true connection or understanding, people who seek to drag the broken into the light without understanding why they haven’t been there in the first place.
Humanity is not a shameful experience. Real answers do exist. Cut yourself some slack. Pain is not something to be hidden. It’s something to be shared that others might better avoid it.
I may not have a degree like they say I should. And now, well into adulthood with a wife and child of my own, I’ve found myself thus far incapable of dropping everything to return to school. Sure, education is a great enhancement for tools forged by hard experience. By what use is a tool adorned with jewels if it’s never been forged in fire and quenched into its most durable form?
Better a plain and humble sword that was made properly than a jeweled one made of softest metal.
I can help you climb out of the pit. I know the path. I’ve been there before. And I’m working so hard for you, behind the scenes. Processing my story into something digestible. Not something to cling to, but something to learn from. And not because I’m better than you or because I’ve been through more, but because it is simply my purpose to do so. To change the broken stigma of mental health “awareness,” and give folks who are in pain actual solutions to their problems.
But every advocate needs an advocate. Help me build my platform so I can help those who are in the dark to understand the darkness, and thus overcome it.
You will hear more from me. If you need help, reach out to me anytime. It doesn’t matter who you are or how we’re related. I see the world’s hidden pains. The only real solution is unconditional love. Whatever happened to unconditional love?
I’m a firm believer in “micro-to-macro” philosophy: that, if you pay attention to small lessons, they are nearly always applicable on a larger scale. That said, I recently heard a senior manager talking about one of the non-verbal ques he watches for during an interview – the interviewee’s comfort level with their necktie. He said he doesn’t just watch how someone dresses when he conducts an interview – he watches how comfortable they are with the manner of dress.
My initial thought was that it was a bit over the top and
that someone’s comfort level with a necktie (which, let’s admit, is basically
uncomfortable) doesn’t really affect their job performance or leadership
But then I tied the concept to leadership ideology, which I’ve spelled out below.
A leader that does not make adjustments is not a leader.
If you put your tie on in the morning, feel like it looks great, and then get to your interview location and it looks awful, you’d be remiss not to quickly adjust before you walked in for the interview. Similarly, if you see your organization is on the wrong path, a decisive adjustment is exactly what the doctor wrote.
Ideally, you should make that adjustment in private.
Once you realized your tie was on incorrectly, you’d preferably adjust it in the bathroom or in your own office. Particularly where people are concerned, it’s important to criticize privately and praise publicly.
Adjustment to your personal policies or outlooks should also be made in private so that you can keep your people focused and motivated. First, make the adjustment, and then redirect the course.
The key word here is ideally. Occasionally, a situation warrants public adjustment – whether it’s one employee disrespecting another, or your own idea that needs to be re-examined. It’s important to own your mistakes and, at times, to make sure other people own theirs.
Adjustments need to be decisive and efficient.
What the manager I referred to in the beginning of this article is really paying attention to is fidgeting, not adjusting. Nobody wants a leader who implements knee-jerk reactions and extreme disciplinary measures. Don’t let your company’s culture degrade to the point that you cannot execute a simple, decisive directive to get them back on track. Reach up, adjust your collar, and carry on smartly. Have an efficient and executable plan, and stick to it. Failing to do so will quickly lose you the confidence you’ve worked so hard to earn from your people.
Lastly – if you’re going to wear a tie, prove that you deserve to.
It doesn’t do any good to wear a tie if your posture and presence is that of a depressed teenager undergoing puberty. If your management (or indeed, your subordinates) trusts you enough to put you into a leadership position, you should constantly seek to pay it forward by putting your people and company before yourself. Be the leader that seeks to enable and better your team, not a surface level alpha-type who never sees past the cover of the book.
Finally, a brief lesson from another observation. During a recent departmental audit, my boss shook hands with our auditor and led him into our conference room. We all took our seats, and then he said, “Bill, you’ve seen that I cared enough to wear a tie, right?”
The auditor laughed, said that he had, and then my boss removed his tie and threw it on the next chair over, inviting Bill to do the same.
When you can, do things the comfortable way, not the uncomfortable one, and be aware enough not to judge a prospective employee based on how they interact with their necktie.
For more exploration of leadership, culture, and philosophy, be sure to click follow and join us next time. Humanity constantly provides opportunities to learn about the whole by examining one of its many parts.
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.
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.
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.”