The Remarkable Ones: Chris Darwin

What is your overarching purpose for your life? Your big, hairy, audacious goal? In the latest episode of #TheRemarkableOnes by Muse Storytelling, they document Chris Darwin and his effort to help prevent a mass extinction of species. If the name Darwin rings a bell, Chris is a distant relative of Charles Darwin. When a career in biology didn’t work out, he naturally went to advertising. I would encourage you to take a few minutes and watch this episode of The Remarkable Ones. You’ll learn a little bit about what Chris is doing to prevent a mass extinction of species, and you’ll find out about the footprint your diet has on the world.

When I first watched the trailer, I was in. I wanted to know more. I had a moment to watch the video before it was released and there was something inside me that felt let down. I asked myself, “That’s all?” Surely, he’s doing more than that? But you know what happens in moments like that? You can’t stop thinking about it. You ask yourself, “Could I do that?” This video has embedded itself in my brain. That’s the mark of brilliance.

My favorite quote: “If you can’t be first, be peculiar.” Okay, I will.

After you watch the video, please consider sharing it. Also take a moment and visit https://theremarkableones.org/episode-5. There you can download Chris’s app and listen to a podcast episode about the making of this episode.

The Remarkable Ones

I recently came across a video series called The Remarkable Ones. It’s about people changing the world by doing remarkable things. To me, it is a celebration of the good things on this planet: A telling of stories that are often ignored in the mainstream because they don’t have enough sensationalism, and yet, full of sensational characters.

As told on their site: “The Remarkable Ones is an original web series from the team at Muse Storytelling. Driven by the relentless pursuit of the untold story, each episode chronicles the personal and intimate journey of a single character, and one truth that they’ve found along the way. Designed to inspire viewers and spark conversation, the series aims to bridge the gap between vastly different experiences and perspectives, helping us shift away from routine thought patterns and pushing us to consider new viewpoints.”

I started out of order with Episode 4 featuring Shane Hurlbut and his wife Lydia. I have known about Shane, but in this episode, we learn about his drive and the strength of his character and his relationship with his wife, Lydia. The one thing I took away was that having a strong relationship with your spouse or significant other is essential to the success of your career.

Episode 3 with Jason Zook has impacted me the most because it is about asking for what you want and what you need. To Jason, asking is transformational because rarely people ask. If you are interested in learning more about my journey the past few months to ask, listen to my episode of Getting Work To Work all about it: Ask and You Shall Receive (GWTW75).

That episode encouraged me to ask the team at The Remarkable Ones how I could be more involved in spreading the word and doing my part to help build the community. They directed me to their TRO Advocates application. I filled it out and they have since welcomed me into their community.

I am gladly spreading the word of The Remarkable Ones because we need these stories. We need to be inspired. But more than anything, we need to change the conception in our minds of what is possible so that we too can be remarkable and live lives worthy of being documented by the team at Muse Storytelling.

One Day

Years ago I made a list of 40 things I wanted to do before my 40th birthday. When I made the list, I thought it was completely feasible to do everything on my list. I believed that I could do everything on the list. But each day I looked at the list, I applied a blanket thought to each item: “one day.”

Some people truly mean “one day.” When a friend of mine says it, I believe it. But when I say it, I know I’m lying to myself. I know I’m full of shit. I know I have no intention of doing it today, tomorrow, or a year from now.

When I say “one day,” I’m often following it up with an excuse of what I have to do today.

I need to learn to change “one day” to “today.”

If I want to run a marathon, that very well is a “one day” statement, but you don’t generally wake up and run a marathon. You have to work up to it. That means you start walking, jogging, or trotting today.

If you act today, every day, the effort and work compounds and your “one day” becomes real.

Overcoming (Software) Prejudice

I recently bought a new computer and I needed to setup my web development tools. One of the pitfalls of modern web design is that there are so many open source tools installed through so many different terminal commands. I couldn’t remember which tools were gems, npm, gulp, grunt, git, sass, compass, breakpoint, minify. I’m sure other developers don’t have this problem.

While bemoaning my frustrations to anyone who would listen (mainly myself), I noticed the Dw icon sitting in my dock. “I wonder what the latest Dreamweaver does?” asked a befuddled self, obviously looking for an easy solution. After a spending a few moments reading specs for Dreamweaver 2017, I thought I’d spin it up and take it for a drive.

Several hours later, I had a basic site built using Dreamweaver to transpile my Sass files to CSS and even tried Bourbon and Bourbon Neat (pretty cool grid framework). The Developer tools in Dreamweaver were comparable to what I was using before and I felt that it was time well spent.

The moral of the story

For years I avoided Dreamweaver. In fact, I despised it. I was prejudiced against the software. Somewhere along my web development journey, I labeled the software as inadequate (probably because of the popularity of WYSIWYG tools in the late 1990s and early 2000s). But Adobe kept refining and building up the program into the competitive package of tools it is today.

In rediscovering Dreamweaver and overcoming my software prejudice, I not only have a robust development tool for the websites I build, but also a software package that I know my students can use to design and develop their websites. A win-win situation.

Taking The Time, Doing It Right

When asking questions and seeking answers, I often find myself wanting to rush to the end so that I can move on to what’s next. I’ve done this in every stage of my life; every milestone in some way was rushed. The results weren’t always bad, but the habit was formed.

I know when I am rushing through life. I’m not spending time with friends. I’m not building the dreams I have. I’m toiling in the grind of rushing from moment to moment. It’s exhausting and nothing reveals the point of balance my life rests upon more than when things go wrong. The facade of success I have built crumbles. My mask shifts revealing who I am: a scared man that’s making it up as I go along.

As I reflect upon my desire to rush through life, I remind myself what it is I want. But instead of staying in that place of self reflection, I must weigh it against the needs of my family and community. I must do the things I don’t want to do, because I am able to do them. I may not like them, I may despise them, but I am able. There may be a time when I no longer have to do those things, but today is not that day. I try to rush through them, but the faster I go, the more impatient I get.

When I hit pause, reflect, and allow myself time to breathe—in both the good and in the bad—I realize that I have been shortchanging myself for a long time. My impatience has got the best of me.

It’s time to do it right. To go deeper, in both skills and relationships.

But that takes time. It takes commitment.

It cannot be rush.

Working Through The Melancholy

Today was one of those days.

I didn’t want to get out of bed.

I was feeling the deep depression that comes when multiple events start compounding in my soul: From the state of the world and my finances, to fighting to stay on my diet and an overwhelming sense that I do not have control of my life.

But as I worked through the day, it got progressively better. I got out of bed. I tried to meet with a client, but the internet decided not to work. I worked on a design, which directly impacted my evening lecture. I prepped my taxes and wrote the checks. Then I drove to class.

I was feeling pretty low by the time I got to class. But then I saw the work that my students were creating. I listened to their excitement. I chuckled at the student who fell asleep. I fought the urge to slam a book on the desk to wake him up. I helped teams learn more about working together. I made up some words.

As I interacted with others, I was able to get out of my head and listen. I wasn’t worried about tomorrow. I wasn’t worried at all. I was present.

Perhaps that is the best way for me to work through my melancholy: be present.

The Worst Case Scenario

I thought I would start the blank page with a little clickbait: The Worst Case Scenario! I think about how much mental energy it takes to imagine all of the horrible things that could happen. I let the depression sink in; the melancholy of destruction.

Then I think about dog smiles, the smell of dryer sheets in the garage, the sounds of Metallica and Neal Morse, the way freshly cut grass smells, the taste of chai tea, the way my wife lightly touches my back to say hello, my dad’s voicemails replacing words in a song with poop, the joy of reading, the love of writing, smiling at strangers, and the smell of cooking meat on a barbecue. I think about that damn blue turtle shell in Mario Kart and the way my wife and I spend time talking about dreams and ambitions while we play. I wonder how other people find happiness and joy in the midst of sorrow.

I spend time thinking about the best case scenario. It’s not because I want to be ignorant to what is going on. It’s because there has to be a better use of my energy and strength. I’m not trying to manifest something. I’m just trying to stay grounded in hope and peace.

Creativity, Curiosity, and Culture

Chris Guillebeau is one of my favorite writers and earlier today he wrote on Twitter: “If you don’t use your voice now, why should anyone listen to you later? What will you tell a future generation that asks ‘Where were you?'”

This isn’t the first time in the past week I have seen the call to speak up. Each time I read these calls to action, I ask myself, “Am I speaking up?” I often feel like I am not. I feel guilty for not posting my thoughts on social media. I feel judged. I feel forced to say something when I’m not certain what is going on yet. I am uninformed and doing the best I can to stay informed. I feel out of place in the conversation. I feel inadequate.

“You’re on the wrong side of history, Chris.”

“If you aren’t condemning, you’re condoning, Chris.”

“You don’t have time to consider what is going on, Chris.”

“Look at all these people protesting, Chris. Why aren’t you there? Don’t you care?”

“It’s either-or, Chris. There is no middle ground. Remember what Jesus said about spitting out lukewarm food.”

I am speaking up because I’m showing up for the people who matter most in my life.

Through my reflection on the subject of speaking up, I came to the realization that I am speaking up, but in different ways. The most important way that I speak up is that I show up for my students, ready to teach them, to guide them, to give them everything I have, to learn from them, and to serve them. Regardless of their politics, gender, religion, sexuality, beliefs, I show up for them. I care for them. I want them to use the skills I teach them to make the world a better place.

I show up for my wife. I show up for my family. I show up for my business and clients. I show up when I don’t want to. I show up when the world is going to hell. I show up when the world is at peace.

To allow myself to be provoked into other areas of speaking introduces the possibility that I dilute myself from my area of influence and importance. I am able to affect change in the lives of those closest to me. I may never change a life expressing my beliefs online, but I have an opportunity face to face.

My Manifesto for Life: Creativity, Curiosity, and Culture.

I offer myself a reminder of how I should operate in these troubled times. I suppose it is my creative manifesto for life. A belief in creativity, curiosity, and culture.

Creativity

I believe that the point of creativity, apart from making a living when possible, is to make the world a better place.

It is to express beauty and hope by shining light into darkness.

To tell stories of hope, peace, and transformation by overcoming adversity.

Curiosity

I believe that curiosity is paramount because I don’t know everything. Curiosity keeps me humble.

I want to understand those who are not like me, which is everyone. Without curiosity, I will always assume that people that look like me are the same as me and the people that don’t look like me are nothing like me.

Without curiosity, growth and transformation is impossible. There will be a lack of depth and substance.

Culture

Diversity of thoughts and ideas is of utmost importance in my daily life. I learn when I listen. I grow when I share and discuss. Without dialogue and discussion, I might as well stand in front of a mirror yelling at myself. When I hear something I don’t like, I have to remind myself to listen. When I hear something I agree with, I must pause from letting it enter my heart so that I don’t stop listening to those I disagree with.

Culture is an expression of arts and humanities, of science and religions. It is a place where the Earth is both thousands and billions of years old. It is a place of faith and reason. When I listen to the stories of old mixed with the moments of today, I grow and learn.

Welcome to my idealism.

These thoughts and ideas can easily be dismissed as utopian and farfetched. They are almost impossible to instill in a society because they require sacrifice, compromise, patience, and hope. They require context, fact-checking, and belief that there are such things as facts. They require faith and kindness. They require moments of correction and the expression of anger. But never is there a place for hatred and fear, manipulation and lying.

As I speak up, I think about the world I want to create with my art and life. As I pursue projects, as I teach others, as I live and celebrate life, as I pray, as I weep, these are the thoughts I think about.

When leaders act in their own best interests, these are the thoughts I think about.

When the world crumbles and all hope is lost, these are the thoughts I think about.

As the sun sets and rises again in the morning, these are the thoughts I think about. They motivate me to get out of bed. They fill me with hope for the future.

This is how I will show up each and every day.

To Be Kind

This morning, I had coffee with my dad and all we could talk about was the division in the country. He asked me what I would do to bridge the divide. I couldn’t think of the best answer at the time (I don’t think well on the fly), but after some reflection, I think it would have to be kindness.

To be kind to people I agree with. To be kind to others I disagree with. To be kind when people are angry. To be kind when people are happy.

Kindness is a simple answer to a complicated reality. Will kindness really help? It certainly has more of an impact than anger and fear.

Today I am wearing a shirt that says, “Keep calm and shoot film.” A woman on the college campus I teach at said, “Keep calm, I like that.” I started saying something while walking away and reminded myself to stop, turn around, and have a brief conversation. I ended it as I often try to, “Have a nice day.”

Have a nice day. Smile. Thank you. You’re welcome. Eye contact. Kindness is to recognize the humanity in others and embrace it.

I choose kindness.

I Don’t Know

I have a  simple response when I don’t know something: “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”

But is it that easy to find something out?

Research is time consuming and involves wading through academic papers, stories in newspapers, journals, and books. It’s easy to fall victim to confirmation bias: “the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs or hypotheses, while giving disproportionately less consideration to alternative possibilities.”

I remember being taught in middle school and high school about how to interpret the news. It involved looking at multiple sources to see how each newspaper interpreted events. It involved research in order to get the full picture.

Research in today’s world is automated and simple. We can search for just about anything while on the toilet, and that is often the same level of regard some people hold to its importance and validity.

I don’t know everything. In fact, there is a lot I have no understanding of. That is why I rely on the research and experience of others to educate me and transform me into a better person.

I often find comfort in a shared link because I don’t have to research. I don’t have to spend the time in the vacuum of opinions found between two extreme ideologies. I can revel in my ignorance.

But eventually, I have to say: “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”