On Stress Addiction

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.

More to follow, as always.

-TQV

Why the Interlude

Greetings, friends.

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!

-TQV

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 Crux of America’s Mental Health Problem

I typed in the name of my new website just now, so that I could begin sharing its intent.

W…w…w…dot.

TheQuietVisionary.com

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.

“My Site.”

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?

-TQV

On Neck-Ties and Leadership Roles

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 ability.

But then I tied the concept to leadership ideology, which I’ve spelled out below.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

-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.”

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.)

On Rejecting Self-Imposed and Cultural Growth Constraints

It’s a lesson I’m still learning, no doubt, so don’t take this as advice from a success coach. I do sometimes write to give advice, but I also find writing is a solid way to explore and express thoughts that are still being developed in the subconscious. Writing, for me, is one of the senses – it’s a part of myself that I use to perceive things from the world while contributing to it. This article is one that I’m writing for my own growth, but I hope someone finds it relevant.

I try to stay pretty self-aware, and lately I’ve noticed a weird phenomenon in my life. I keep being smacked in the face by opportunities that, upon first consideration, I would consider out of my league. After three or four iterations of that cycle though, I finally asked an important question.

Why do I feel like this is too much for me?”

How many people have to tell me that my experience, my story, and the growth I’ve endured are valuable before I start to believe them?

And then after some contemplation, I discovered an exciting answer.

None of the opportunities are too much for me. None of it is out of my league. I’m not intimidated by the six-figure salary offers, or the opportunity to write for an actual profit. I’m not afraid to work with people who are smarter than me, or more experienced. I was caught up in the cycle of being so sick of a mundane life, but simultaneously being programmed not to take necessary risks to break away from it.

I had to stop and take a look at why I felt the way I felt. For starters, I was raised in an area of the country where a solid 80% of the population is living a paycheck to paycheck lifestyle. The ones who could own a nice house were considered to be in an entirely different social class, and anyone who owned a vacation home was a rich snob.

The idea of social classes was keeping me locked into mine.

Secondly, my own ideology was contributing to the problem. In a desperate search for a life of simplicity, I was complicating everything. I don’t want 150k annually. I want a piece of land and a chicken coup. A log cabin and a small garden. In my commitment to that, I limited my job searches to opportunities between 40-65k. Jobs where I’d have to bust my ass and spend my evenings thinking about the next day’s task load. Any more of a salary, I thought, would mean sacrificing what little free time I had remaining.

FALSE.

Increasing your salary doesn’t mean sacrificing balance. It just means accepting more for the significant efforts you already contribute to your work. 

Another contributing factor was the idea of readiness. As an easy example, I’d constantly received advice that I shouldn’t reach out to any agents or publishers about my book until its completion. The other day, I disregarded that advice, and now there’s an agent going over my work for me. Had I chosen to wait, it would have delayed progress toward my ultimate goal. The only one responsible for that delay would have been me, for not following my gut instinct to reach out sooner, when the intent of the book was already made evident in the first hundred pages. Sometimes, you have to disregard sound advice in pursuit of your passions.

Finally, we must surround ourselves with people who believe in our dreams. If your friends, family, or boss constantly beat you down, it might be time for some distance. Hearing people constantly speak negativity works its way into your mind whether you know it or not.

When I say, “I can change the world,” the ONLY appropriate response from people in my inner circle is,

“I know you can. How can I help?”

And you can be damned sure that that’s the response I’ll give when all of you world-changers reach out to me. But first we have to learn to reject unnecessary restraints in order to become all that we were meant to be.

The Whole Person Concept

During my six years in the Military Intelligence community, I learned a great many lessons. One that remains near the top of the stack is this: two seemingly opposing ideas can both be truthful simultaneously. I experienced yet another example of this phenomenon this week, as described below.

Truth number one: reading and interpreting government publications, programs, and policies is some of the most mind-numbing work on the planet.

Truth number two: I always try to learn from whatever I’m doing, particularly with a goal of broadening my life’s philosophy, bettering myself, or molding myself into a better leader.

Now, if you’d have told me last week that those two ideas could exist in unison – that I could learn something that would make me a better leader while studying one of the many documents I use to accomplish my job duties, I’d have probably laughed at you or asked you if my boss sent you to manipulate me.

But it happened, man! After being honorably discharged from the military, I did a short stint running a guard force for a contracting company, and then found myself landing in PERSEC. Recently, I was studying the adjudication process, trying to round out my knowledge in a holistic sense, and I came across a concept that I’ve been unable to escape since the moment I read it.

“The Whole Person Concept.”

Essentially, it states that, when adjudicators are trying to determine whether someone is worthy of a security clearance or a trusted government position, they should understand that all people are different, and that people are they way they are for reasons. You aren’t trying to see if you find them morally relatable, but rather, adjudicators are meant to balance the positives with the negatives, and to see whether the subject of their investigation can continue to A. Contribute to the government mission they’re set to serve in, and B. Continue to grow in a holistic sense while doing so, without being susceptible to coercion and the like.

It equally holds people accountable for their actions, while understanding that people make mistakes and grow over time. The federal government, in other words, doesn’t necessarily care about the joint you inhaled when you were 15 years old; they care about who you are today, and how you are managing your past experiences.

Of course, adjudicators view the concept in a limited scope. As leaders, we not only have to understand who someone is as a “whole person,” we also have to contribute to it. We have to observe their strengths and weaknesses, and learn to incorporate them into the workspace. 

My own boss impressed me the other day when I told him that, while I’m a grown man and can handle anything I need to, group events like “Taco Tuesday” or other functions tend to set me on edge because they’re full of surface level, placating conversation. I’d honestly be thrilled to meet and engage with anyone on a one-on-one level, but the group element takes me back to some uncomfortable life experiences. It’s an entirely different scenario if it’s “my group” – if they’ve gathered for a reason and we can get to business. But awkward conversations about the weather or taco seasoning just make me anxious.

“No worries man, it’s not the military and this isn’t ‘Mandatory Fun.'” 

He also uses my passion of writing to let me contribute to our mission by reviewing and editing our own security policies. It makes me feel useful because of the things I naturally love to do, rather than just grinding through the day to day, “Mowing the grass.”

Applying the whole person concept to our own lives also gives us the ability to cut ourselves some slack. We have good days, and we have bad ones, but as long as we seek to understand who we are while being empathetic to the journeys of those around us, there’s not a doubt in my mind that we can remained balanced and grow together.

Best government instruction I ever read. Happy Tuesday, folks. Hope this helps you through the remainder of the week.