Friday, January 20, 2017

Thank You Donald Trump: A Letter From A Millennial

Thank You Donald Trump,

Today you are inaugurated president of the United States. You are my president. Not because I voted for you. But because the American public chose you – through our deliberate votes or lack of voting, we did. Statistics show that my generation disagrees with this choice overwhelmingly. But in a democracy sometimes who you vote for does not win.

So even though I didn’t get the President I picked, today as a Millennial I stand defiantly hopeful. Why? Because I believe that you just might fulfill on your promise to “Make America Great Again.”
I doubt you will fulfill on this promise in the ways you think you will. For today on your first day in office, thanks to your own repeated outbursts, you are already bankrupt in the currencies of strong leaders – namely respect, trust and prudence.

However, I do give you credit, Mr. Trump, for you did do something very well. You have aggravated us. You have provoked us. And although it is still unclear if you did so as a PR trick, out of cluelessness or just deeply-rooted insecurity, this behavior may have been the poke this American bear needed.

Because if you look at the history of America, no matter what our party or politics, we DO believe in the value of diversity, we DO believe in women as equal and valued contributors to society, we DO believe “that all men are created equal and endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, and among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”1 We believe this to our core. Our grandparents and parents (many who were sons or daughters of immigrants) taught us this. They even led by example, fighting wars to uphold these truths. And now, as the true foil you are to our American values, you are reminding our generation that we believe in this and will fight for this, too. In our own ways, on our own modern-day battlefields.

Mr. Trump, you have effectively riled us. But not to fight with the means you fight with or to build the walls you want to build. Rather “all you have done is awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”2

A resolve to do what? To be good. To be good to others, our families, our communities, our country. To be good and true Americans. Americans who fight for our values. And those values include but are not limited to human dignity, free speech, and integrity.

And for now, you may try to “write [us and our heroes] down in history with your bitter, twisted lies.”3 But in doing so, you continue to underestimate us. For in activating us as you have, you trigger one of our strongest attributes. An attribute we share with the great generation before us. For like Baby Boomers, we millennials are doggedly optimistic. We are such an optimistic generation that we believe (some think foolishly) that we can change the world. As Walt Disney taught us, “If you can dream it you can do it.”

And we do dream. We dream big. We dream of an America where race or religion are no longer barriers in our communities. We dream of living debt-free, individually and collectively. We dream of an America where values, missions and ethics drive all organizations, and that the places we work do good by the world through fair and honest means. We dream of a country where our leaders empower their people rather than belittle them. We dream of living happy lives with healthy families in a peaceful and flourishing country, where each of our fellow citizens feel like they are valued and belong.

“And no, we are not satisfied” with the current state of affairs. “And we will not be satisfied”4 until we turn these dreams into reality.

Mr. Trump, we will change the world. And you just might be our catalyst. Even though I doubt you intended this consequence, I do thank you.

And I promise you, we will not be bullied. We will not resign ourselves to a broken, corrupt America. “You will not see us broken, with bowed heads and lowered eyes”5. Instead, you will see us continue to hope, to believe, to dream with renewed vigor and urgency. And then you will see us mobilizing. Us digging in. Us holding ourselves and our country accountable. You will see us investing in the good of America. And together, we millennials, woven from all the heritages and histories of the world:

“We will rise.
We will rise.
We will rise.”6

And our country and our world will be better for it.

1. The Declaration of independence
2. General Isoroku Yamamoto after Pearl Harbor Attack WWII
3, 5, 6. “And Still I Rise” - Maya Angelou
4. Martin Luther King JR. – “I have a dream speech”

Monday, November 14, 2016

A Light Essay on the Election

Charles Taliaferro is a beloved philosophy professor at St. Olaf college who focuses on the study of philosophical theology in particular. His classes are the favorite among many on campus and he is known for curating lively discussions in class while accompanied by his friendly sheltie Pip. He has published multiple books focusing on love, aesthetics and theism. Here is his essay dedicated to George Snow and other students.

The term "election" in English is derived from the Latin, electio, meaning "to pick out," and evolved through the Anglo-French term for choosing or choice.  Elections took place in the Ancient Greco-Roman democracies, but what might also be called elections took place among non-democracies in which the elite pick out whom to lead and assign those who are to follow.  In philosophical theology, we study many elections and investiture historical conflicts, the processes by which persons pick out or recognize sages or spiritual - philosophical leaders but, for much of the history of ideas, the term "election" was principally used to refer to the choice that was made eternally by unsurpassable, omnipotent, majestic, cosmic-sustaining POWER to become manifested or incarnated as a vulnerable human being of love who taught non-violence and compassion, a person who healed the sick and then was subject to torture and death by religious and state authorities who feared his life and teaching of love.  You do not need to be a Christian or even like Christianity to appreciate how this vision, at its core, repudiates the hollow glory of state tyranny, opportunistic, organized violence.  So Gandhi, who had awe for the teaching and life of Christ (especially the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount) was a non-Christian Hindu, who nonetheless sought to draw on the core teaching of love that he found in common with world religions.  

What might Gandhi say about the USA election?  I am not sure, but we may gain some insight about how he sought to connect between persons of profound differences.  In 1942, Louis Fischer visited Gandhi's ashram and noticed that the only decoration on the wall was a picture of Jesus with the caption "He is our peace."  Fischer said to Gandhi: "But you are not a Christian."  Gandhi replied: "I am a Christian and a Hindu and a Muslim and a Jew."  Fischer records what he thought when Gandhi said this: "Then you are a better Christian than most Christians."  Again, Gandhi was a non-Christian Hindu, but he so sought to identify with what is good at the core of world religions, he was prepared to fight (through non-violent protest) injustice with any of those committed to compassion and justice. He sought to do something else as well, something more intimate.

During his final fast, not long before his assassination, members of a Hindu death squad burst into Gandhi's quarters.  One man came forward and begged Gandhi to help him.  "I am in hell," he said.  "Why are you in hell, my son."  The man replied: "The Muslims killed my child.  Today, I killed a Muslim boy."  Gandhi replied (slowly; this event is faithfully recorded in the epic 1982 film Gandhi based on the reliable testimony of three persons who were there) "I know a way out of hell.  You must find a young Muslim boy. The same age as your son.  And you must raise him."  Pause.  Pause. Pause. Pause.  "As a Muslim."

Impossible?  Maybe, but what Gandhi required of the man of violence, was for him to renounce violence and instead resort to nurture.  And to so remove himself from his own religion so as to reach out in compassionate love to others.  The man was to remain a Hindu himself, but he was tasked to so nurture another soul so as to purge himself of a hatred for Muslims, for "the other."

Should Democrats seek to find little, young Trump supporters and raise them as Republicans or vice versa?  This might either just contribute to a Saturday Night Live skit or cause a riot, though perhaps not as serious as the riot Gandhi was seeking to dispel in which Hindus and Muslims were committing acts of violence against each other on the streets in Northern India.  But I wonder if there might be something to do that goes half way with Gandhi's proposal.  Perhaps we might take our eyes off of worldly elections and think more cosmically of THE CHOICE we make in our lives to tend to each others' needs, feelings, aspirations, and dreams.  Some of us might feel like that person Gandhi sought to help on that evening during the last months of his life.  If so, there is a way out of hell.  But, if Gandhi is right, it will take time, perseverance, and loving those we might otherwise see as enemies.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Growing Into Newness

We are re-launching the Millennial Quest publishing with a brilliant post by Taylor DeNaples. Stay tuned for more articles in the near future!

I’m a new college grad. I’m in a new city. Moved into a new (for me) house with three new young folks. What an exciting time. I’m so freaking excited.

Young folks like myself seem to be expected to take on newness as “exciting” or “adventurous.” But what about young folks like myself who are teased for being an old spirit, or, as my sister says, “an old man.” Neither am I male nor seventy-five, but yes, I do like oatmeal raisin cookies better than chocolate chip cookies and I don’t like going out past ten and I have been called cute—like the old man from “Up”—and yes, I do call my peers “young folks.” Is this “old soul” of mine the reason I’m not feeling as adventurous as I feel like I should? Is that why I’m feeling uncomfortable in my new surroundings?

I got comfy in my college life. I majored in English and Religion. I found friends who majored in English and Religion. I thought about historical context. I thought about systems. I thought about language. I thought about art and poetry and what makes this world beautiful and I thought about food that was cooked for me and about the papers I was writing and the books I was reading. I thought about theology. I thought a lot about dead white theologians.

There are three popular options for a religion major after undergrad: grad school, social service, or seminary. As one of many religion major millennials who is uninterested in ministry, I opted to work with Lutheran Volunteer Corps for a year—to move to the west side of Milwaukee and try to be a positive part of the change erupting in our country. I studied religion for a deep interest in people and how they orient their lives. What I’m beginning to realize is how hard it can be to translate theory into daily practice where people are real and suffering is real and anger is real.

As I was talking with my new landlord—a pastor at a nearby church that I attended for the first time today—he mentioned that he’d like to write something someday. I asked what kind of thing. He said, something that will make people uncomfortable (just hearing that made me a little uncomfortable for a moment—what does he mean by that?). Something, he said, that will get people who have the privilege of ignoring injustices, because it is not their daily reality, to wake up and do something about it. This requires getting out of being comfortable.

Being comfortable is, in one sense, feeling at home. It’s feeling like you have a safe, comfortable place to rest and rejuvenate from outside—which is so important for a person’s wellbeing. How about for those who don’t feel at home anywhere? For whom it’s unnerving to see a police car as they walk down the street?

I’m living in a daily reality that is new for me in many ways—first time to be the minority in my neighborhood, first time I’m close to injustices happening. I moved into my new house a few days before the shooting and unrest in Milwaukee that reached national news. The following week I listened to people talk about their neighborhood, their worry for their teenage sons, their frustration, their sadness, their powerful words.

I’m uncomfortable thinking about systematic oppression. I’m uncomfortable thinking about my privilege. I’m uncomfortable trying to express anything about racism—what if I say something offensive? But right now if that discomfort is preventing me from thinking and talking and acting on matters of discrimination and oppression based on the color of a person’s skin, then nothing will change. At LVC orientation we heard the phrase “courageous space.” I’m attempting to enter new spaces courageously, though it may be uncomfortable, even frightening.

Perhaps the question isn’t whether or not my lack of excitement for newness is atypical of my peers—everyone experiences discomfort. Rather, the question is how to best react to and use this discomfort. Of course I’m not thrilled and excited about the discomfort of newness. But am I going to shut myself out mentally, emotionally, physically in order to get through? Or am I going to let myself feel it and let the discomfort begin to change my frame of mind in order to address the injustices around me?

We’re all in a time of change and newness. We’re in a world being pulled and torn by tensions too many to count—race, gender, class, socioeconomic disparity, housing, immigration, homelessness, political upset, fill in fill in. The earth is suffocating, it’s crying, it’s burning. And it’s time to accept that discomfort is okay, and necessary, if this place is going to improve. So perhaps it’s not so bad to experience discomfort in this new place—maybe allowing myself-yourself-ourselves to feel the discomfort is exactly what we need right now. If I let myself enter into it and let it shape me—maybe I can go on to change my surroundings.

What am I to do about the way things are? Well, I don’t know. I don’t know. It’s too big for me. But I also know that if I breathe love and trust and understanding, the folks next to me are sharing this air I’m breathing. So while I’m here, I’m going to start making this newness familiar. My plan for the current moment is simply this—go outside, sit on the stoop, meet my new neighbors, and learn something new about their lives. 

Friday, July 15, 2016

Marvelous Millennials and Buyers Beware

A post from my mother Susan Brust - someone very intimate with Millennials as she has raised three of them. She is one of my heroes, and here provides some wonderful insight from the outside looking in on our generational mindset.

I want to begin by thanking the many writers who have already contributed to this millennial blog. You’ve provided readers with a glimpse into the hearts and minds of this next great generation. Unlike most who have contributed I’m not a millennial, but as the parent to three I recognize some commonalities of thought amongst my children and the many other remarkable young people they’ve brought into our lives and home over the years.

Image result for optimism
Although you millennials have grown up in different times and are the products of the technological age, it’s been heartening to learn what inspires you and makes you tick—what disenchants you and concerns you—because at the core these are the same things that those who came before you experienced while in their twenties (and late teens and early thirties since that is the current millennial span). I’m not saying I understand who you are or imply that I’ve heard it all before. No, this is your time and the individual path you’re charting is unique and yours alone. But we all share a common humanity and bond, don’t we? I empathize with you and relate to you because I’ve struggled and felt strongly about things too.

Thirty years ago I was concerned about my place in the world and what I could do to make it a better place during my lifetime. You’re also worried about what to do in life and how to make an impact, as well as things like jobs, where to live, student loans, relationships, being socially responsible, and treading lightly on the earth. Never forget that each and every one of you has what it takes to change the world around you and as a collective group of 75-80 million (depending on who’s counting) you can and will ROCK THE WORLD!

I observe and have read that millennials are an optimistic group. That counts for a lot! You are members of the most educated generation too, and with the technology our world now possesses you literally have the world’s knowledge, and the ability to communicate with others in numbers large or small, at your fingertips. You are a compassionate group that’s supports diversity, fairness and giving back. “Even despite a poor economy, millennials strive to give back to society. 81 percent have donated money, goods or services, reports a study by Walden University and Harriss Interactive. [You] strive to support causes that align with [your] values and personal belief system.” You have a need to touch others and make an impact, regardless of the career you choose or your job title. I will tell you what I told a group of high schoolers when I addressed them and their parents in 2007 when my daughter Kelsie was graduating. I said, “The future is in your hands and that’s a good thing. You’re an incredibly bright, brave, talented and compassionate group. You’ll go on to become solid citizens of the world and do your part to make it a better place.” I really believe this.

I want to caution you though. The baby boomers (I’m not one technically, but I’m close enough) will be remembered for ending a world war, ushering in an age of health and prosperity, creating incredibly great music, and more. On the flip side they are known for being self-absorbed, self-indulgent, and wasteful super consumers of goods, services, resources, etc. Every attribute of our generation seems to have an opposing counter-balance—there’s always interplay of positive vs. negative, good vs. bad, helpful vs. harmful. The same will be true for you.

One simple example of this is your generation’s well-known preference for convenience and instant gratification (of course, you are not alone in this). You order things on Amazon and they are delivered to your door a day or two later. It’s really great and we all love this speed and convenience, don’t we? But we must not forget that all those individually wrapped and couriered boxes come with a flip side-- a price to the environment and the world. It’s the price of cardboard, labels, shipping papers, warehouses that are heated, cooled and lighted, packaging material, fuel for the planes and trucks that speed the goods to our door, etc.

Here’s another thing to watch. You embrace technology even more than the rest of us. Have you ever wondered where all the outdated computers, monitors, printers and cell phones are going? It’s so exciting to have the latest and greatest technology, but what in the world happens to the things we replace every year or two as devices evolve—not to mention the mailing cartons they come in? There must be mountains of circuitry, plastic and cords piling up somewhere. Yikes!

Likewise, most millennials have a love for bargains. “Nearly 9 in 10 millennials ticked ‘has lowest prices’ as a key retailer attribute when choosing where to shop…. 87% listed an item’s price as a key factor when deciding what to buy.” This focus on low cost often translates into buying goods that were not sourced locally, but rather brought to you from across the world. There’s an impact when these inexpensive goods prove to be of inferior quality and must be discarded and replaced after a few wearings or uses. What happens to all the sad looking clothes and shoes we discard? Millennial bargain buyers beware! Remember that your buying decisions have far greater impact than you think. Perhaps spending more for something that’s made locally and lasts longer (an old notion) will prove better in the end. But that’s for you to decide.

One of the greatest generations in history—yours-- is poised to reshape our world as you come into your time of influence and prime spending years. By 2020, according to a Brookings Institution analysis, 1 in 3 adults will be a millennial. By 2025 you will represent 75% of the global workforce, according to “Forbes.” You are about to overwhelm the world with your sheer numbers and the world is counting on you to do your best. Knowing my kids and their friends as I do gives me hope. I feel this hope despite the incredible sadness, violence, disparity and cruelty we see in the world, including the tragic deaths of dozens of people celebrating Bastille Day just today in Nice, France. I hope and pray that your generation’s desire to focus on others—on social responsibility and the world—as well as your pooled intelligence, integrity and talent, will now serve you well. I will end this post with a millennial trend article from the internet that I, being the positive thinker that I am, really liked: “…another trend to watch for in the year ahead—empathy as one of the world’s greatest currencies.” Now wouldn’t that be something to see? 

 Let’s do it!

Friday, July 8, 2016

The Need for Instant Gratification

I’d like to consider myself a relatively patient person. For instance, I have a long history of participating in Black Friday shopping (which should be evidence enough). But seriously, I would like to believe I am pretty patient at least compared to some other people in my generation. For example, I actively use snail mail to send notes to friends and family!

…..but I have discovered maybe I am not as patient as I think. We Millennials (or at the very least me) have a strong desire for instant gratification. As a generation, we grew up with the start of computers and the emergence of cell phones. These things and the immediate access they provided to EVERYTHING fostered our longing for quick answers and fast results. So I suppose my choice to use the self-checkout at the grocery store instead of waiting in a long line (only to watch somebody else painstakingly ring up my items for me...ugg!) stems from a hint of impatience.

However, it hasn’t been until recently that I have realized how my impatience shrouds my sense of confidence in myself, peace of mind and ultimately faith.

This started coming blindingly to light for me about a month ago. I had just completed my last semester of my nursing education at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. In order to become an RN, I needed to take my NCLEX (national nursing exam) on July 5. This meant studying for a minimum of 5 hours each day for all of June. Yes, I know what you’re thinking and I thought the same thing: Yuck. And on top of it there are no Kaplan nursing instructors - I was on my own. My first month of freedom from school - my fate was to be chained my books every day for hours on end. Happy Graduation...

Let’s be honest, I just wanted the end result (a good test score), and I wanted it as soon as humanly possible. The rest of the stuff in-between was drudgery. I found myself falling asleep during practice tests, taking about 8 different breaks in a day between studying, watching the clock reveal the painfully slow movement of time. I reached complete disenchantment and disinterest multiple times. But I knew I needed to dig in, I knew I needed to be patient and do the work no matter how painful it was. And although imperfectly, I am somewhat proud to say I did - day after day invest the time. It took every patience muscle I had and then some - but I studied and learned the material.

Fast forward to Monday, July 4, the day before my test. The day went from bad to worse. In the morning nerves set in. By noon, I was texting a friend about how scared I was. Come 5:30 p.m, I was scenario planning, preparing myself to embrace the impending doom of failing the test. 7:00 p,m. brought on all the worst case scenarios playing again and again through my head like a annoying song stuck on repeat.

Yet finally, come nighttime, after imagining all the possible worst case scenarios I could think of, I succumbed to reality. I recognized that in that moment, I had done all I could to prepare. I looked to patience once again, continuing to wait through the night for go time - 8:00 a.m. the next morning - to take my test. This moment of patience, of waiting, was my saving grace. It allowed me the chance to believe in the possibility of success.

The next morning my heart was thumping and all I could think about was getting the test over with, how much I didn’t want to do it, how no matter what I could easily fail. I found myself waiting before the test, in the lounge of the testing center... tapping my foot staring at the wall. Then, deep breath, there it was again - I found my peace in patience.

“Here we go, God. There’s no turning back now.”

I walked into a room of computers and fellow test-takers. I sat down and started clicking away. The 5 hours was rough - up and down. But I sat there, question after question, giving it my all. I still ended up leaving the test center physically sickened by the worst-case-scenario-songs replaying through my head.

My tendency is to expect the worst outcome for myself and in life, almost no matter the circumstance. It’s a strange form of self-denial I think, trying to be prepared. I anticipate the worst - just in case the worst becomes a reality. Strangely, I believe this is closely tied to my need for instant gratification. If you don't give me the answer NOW, that must mean the answer is a bad one: better to have a bad answer than no answer at all, right? I discovered this while I was waited for my test results from the NCLEX. I knew I would receive the test results within 30 hours, which is relatively a pretty quick turnaround. Nevertheless, this day felt even longer than the day BEFORE the test! I was filled with so many strong feelings of denial, anxiety, mistrust and disbelief. There was NO WAY this was going to end well. Finally, again however as I had done throughout the process, I made my way back to patience. I found my own acceptance by telling myself that regardless of what happened, I had to wait for my results, and whatever happened was in God’s hands (and out of MY control).

In the end I passed.

This fact is honestly still difficult for me to believe. All that worst-case scenario planning really stuck. But when I look at all that transpired - I can humbly see how my patience got me to this point. I see now that when I am patient with myself, patient with this life, everything works together and falls into place as it should. That sure doesn't mean there weren't dark moments on this journey. But thankfully in those moments I awkwardly and desperately turned to patience and faith. The night before my test, I did all I knew how to do - I prayed. I asked for God’s help in the process, and waited.

“He replied, ‘You of little faith, why are you so afraid?’ Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm” - Matthew 8:26

True patience I believe breeds faith. For see, faith is strongest I believe when we are present to it; focusing on it. And I find my faith is most present in my lif when I give up the fact that I can’t control everything. On the opposite side of the spectrum, impatience stems from wanting to control the outcome and dictate my future. Giving up the fact that I don’t possess some supernatural ability to formulate every outcome in life provides an avenue through which we can discover our sense of peace, comfort, and true faith.

So, as Millennials, while we are naturally a quick results type of generation, I believe we as a generation have a huge opportunity to discover patience. Especially how this patience can cultivate our own self-assurance and faith. Our ability to trust in the bigger picture, in the divine, in God, can and will lead to powerful outcomes for us. It just takes a minute to be present, to embrace our current discomforts, uncertainties, situations. Belief in something greater sometimes brings test results and sometimes it doesn't. But this faith does bring fulfillment, reassurance, peace and eventual gratification.
These are the sort of things you have to, but are very worth waiting for.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Hold the Vision, Trust the Process

I wrote this paragraph below in mid-October 2015:

On July 1, 2016 I will be driving in car with windows down on a beautiful summers day with John up north for the Fourth of July. Our plane tickets to Europe bought – we will have been accepted to a top MBA school. John and I will have moved out of compass with building managers in place. The last day of my job at Medtronic is approaching – I am leaving with the sense of having made an enormous contribution to the company and people I work with. John has a sense of peace, anticipation and happiness. We have more than enough money and John has an awesome impending job nearby my new school. Abroad adventures all over the world are booked and planned. I have the experience of launching into exactly what we are to be doing next in life.

Did this happen yesterday? Not even close. Yesterday, John and I were frantically sprinting around Minneapolis, fitting Spain visa and passport logistics among precious last visits with friends. It was a good day, but a stressful one with new things to accomplish at every hourly interval.

Still, I will take the day captured above one day late. July 2nd, 2016 - right now John and I are driving to Madeline Island for the 4th of July with the windows down on a beautiful summer’s day. We have the wind in our hair and smiles on our faces. Most everything in the above statement has come true or is coming true. We got into our top choice school in Europe, things are wrapping up at Medtronic beautifully, and John and I are excited and happy. We even have building managers for the Compass (our rental property) selected as we prepare for our imminent move to Barcelona, Spain. It’s actually happening!

In this moment I am able to sit back and take immense satisfaction in the fact that what I envisioned, worked for and dreamed of came true today. Some of it effortlessly, some of it through blood, sweat, tears and sacrifice. But here we are – we have arrived. So many days throughout the past year the above statement occurred to me as too good to be true, as a pipe dream, as a fantasy. It is quite surreal to be sitting here - realizing that my reality and dreams have become indistinguishable from one another.

I love Mike Dauphinee’s challenge last week to Millennials “What do you want? Really?” This question puts a thumb on the pulse of an important truth: being able to articulate and, subsequently, willing to fight for what you want is an important and immensely fulfilling part of life. Our parents and leaders have long been telling us the importance of visualizing and believing in oneself. I remember my first grade teacher having our whole class chant Walt Disney’s quote every day: “If you can dream it, you can do it!”

Therefore, having an appetite for sitting with and boldly answering this question is critical for Millennials today. And I believe this so strongly that I have taken it on for myself. Today, I am grateful to be a Millennial who has worked hard to have an answer to the question “what do I want?” and furthermore have turned my answer into a living, breathing reality. My ability to be where I am today can be entirely summarized in the statement below:

Hold the Vision, Trust the Process

I do not know the origins of this statement, but it was shared with me one worry-filled winter’s night this January by a good friend of mine, Karin Nord. I was about to retake the GMAT (business school entrance exam) for the fourth time and was overwhelmingly anxious. In talking with Karin, she said this very thing, “Kelsie, hold the vision, trust the process.” She then went on to encourage me to lean into the unfolding future and be willing to “fail forward” as I pursued my goals.

At the time I found this immensely centering. The statement immediately went up on the white board in our kitchen. However, I also found, day after day, through studying for the test, school applications and other ups and downs, living this statement was much easier said than done. Nevertheless, I charged forward. And here is what I discovered about this statement and how to actually live it out:

HOLDING THE VISION – If knowing what I want is a pencil sketch, then holding the vision is coloring between the lines. For me, holding the vision looks like imagining and re-imagining the future I want with new and brilliant details. Holding the vision also means believing this future was possible, believing that something that seems so good it isn’t just meant to be the stuff of daydreams. Holding the vision also means shedding the insecurities that aren’t in line with my vision – letting go of creeping doubts like “I am not good enough or smart enough to do this,” or “going to a dream school.., that is for other people, not me.” Holding the vision means being willing to articulate my vision out loud, share it with people I trust and care about. Holding my vision also means accepting myself and building, brick by brick, genuine confidence and belief in myself.

TRUSTING THE PROCESS – To me, trusting the process means sometimes letting go of control, of being willing to accept and embrace the journey of getting where I want to go. That also means when I was in the trough of a wave of failure – being willing to have faith that this moment too was meant to happen and a part of the bigger picture. Trusting the process means being willing to ask for and accept help. Trusting the process means being willing to have grace with myself when I come up short. Trusting the process also means knowing that things aren’t always going to go according to plan and being able to stay nimble through the changes. Trusting the process sometimes means doing what needs to get done, or taking a calculated risk. Other times it means sitting back and waiting. Trusting the process means never, ever fully giving in to my fears and fighting them with all the tenacity, spirit and compassion I can muster.

Fellow Millennials, we are at a time in our lives when we have more uncertainty, change and variables than likely at any other phase. You might be graduating college, embarking on marriage, or moving to a new place. Or you might have the job, the home, the girlfriend and are still left restless, looking for something more. Being in the thick of this uncertainty takes something; I wrote a post about this about a month ago. And I think we aren't only called to gracefully navigate this uncertainty, but even more step forward into our lives and intentionally shape the future we want for ourselves and the world.

With this in mind, I leave you with this:

First, “how good can you stand your life to get? What does ‘having it all’ mean to you? What is worth your while more than anything else?”

Second, take that answer, even if it is just a wisp or a fleeting glint at this moment in time, and cling to it. Dwell on it. Entertain it. 
Color it in until it becomes your vision. 

Third, hold that vision with all your might, and trust the process of making that vision a reality with all your strength. I truly believe a life beyond your wildest imagination will begin to unfold before your eyes. It is up to you — to us — to live a life of our wildest fantasies. Are you willing?

Friday, June 24, 2016

Millennials: How to Get What You Want

A inspiring and accessible charge to Millennials to go after and learn to articulate what we want. This post is written by Executive Coach and Leadership Expert Mike Dauphinee

As we stood in the door of Las Torres Refugio, my guide Roberto Carlos asked, “Listo?” (Ready?) With a confident nod, I slung up my fancy pack. In the weeks leading up to this trek through Torres Del Paine in Patagonia I ran my 5ks, I hiked on Saturdays, and I even made an intermittent effort to watch my diet. But like a movie hero in slow motion: in this moment I realized my obvious and critical mistake. For months, I had been so preoccupied with preparing for the distance of the hike that it never occurred to me to try my hikes with a pack. As I strapped the 40 lbs. to my back and began to walk, I knew I was in trouble.
We had gone only a quarter mile when the waist pad started cutting into my hips. And by half a mile I was questioning the sanity of the 90 kilometers that lay ahead. “What had I been thinking?” “How was this a good idea?” We were going up and down and up and down.  Like a chanting monk I just kept repeating, “Don’t stop and don’t tell him it hurts.” I seemed to think I could chant the pain away. And under no circumstance could I ask for help. I couldn’t tell Roberto that I needed a break. I couldn’t ask if my pack was strapped-up right. We were going to be alone all week, and I decided it was important not to be a disappointing gringo. So I smiled and chanted and trekked in silent misery.
Why do we that? What to we trudge on in isolated despair? We all do it. We commit to things and underestimate or misread them. We start with the best of intentions but overlook some detail. And other times we plan, prepare, and do everything we think we need to do and things still go wrong. But instead of stopping, making adjustments or asking for help, we chant on. There is no magic in the chant “don’t stop and don’t tell them it hurts.”
As an executive leadership consultant, I’ve spent nearly a decade talking to leaders from virtually every segment of business.  I’ve coached CEO’s, Olympic athletes, religious leaders, and the occasional warlord. While each was different in all the ways you can imagine, they had one critical thing in common. They were all terrible mind readers. Their best guesses, strategic plans, and most generous intentions were just not enough to get in the mind of their people. You have to be an expert on you and you have to say it out loud.
A therapist I used to coach with used to say, “Healthy people ask for what they want.”  Her words confused me.  I understood what she meant, but I didn’t. I don’t think most people do. What she was trying to say is that healthy people don’t shame others to get what they want from them. They don’t stay silent and then get angry when others don’t meet their expectations. They don’t make assumptions that others know what they need. Instead: they ask people what they need, what they want. But do you know what you need? What you want?
Too often we’re like two-year-olds. We are aware we have wants and needs, but we don’t have the vocabulary these things. So in the absence of words, how do we behave? We grab. We pout. We cry. We act like emotional toddlers (and this is on a good day).  This struggle is real and potentially worse for millennials. Although you don’t cry relatively more than any other generation, your needs are so different from any that the world has experienced before.
The Gallup Corporation, the global leader in cultural research and polling, has found that millennials are so different in their needs and desires in the workplace that corporations need to rethink their entire management approach. You, Millennials, are going to have to lead them. You need to be the expert on you, to find the words to articulate what you want: and then ask for it. Do you know what do you want?
After talking to a million people, and combing through 30 research studies, here’s what millennials said they wanted:
Instead of a paycheck, you’re looking for a purpose.  Instead of being lured by gimmicks, you’re looking for growth and development. You’re not interested in a boss but crave a coach. You don’t want annual reviews, and instead you welcome ongoing feedback. You dislike obsessing about your weakness but thrive when your leaders focus on strengths. And most importantly: you’re not looking for a job. You are rather looking for life.
So now for a dose of encouragement: If you, millennial, are feeling the pain and the job you hoped for that’s now cutting off your circulation — it is time. If you keep chanting to yourself that somehow it’s just going to get better and you just keep working: stop. Rely instead on some of Gallup’s words: “Find your moment. Express your need. Asking doesn’t mean you’ll get, but your chances increase exponentially.”
After 48 minutes, Roberto told me to stop for water at the sign.  I was a sweaty mess. I tried to hide my worries from a guide whom I was convinced was dreading to haul my body down the French Valley Glacier in the coming days. In my fatigue, I decided to ask a sideways question about my pack. Three strap tugs and a Roberto adjustment later and the hip pain was gone. All my posturing had prevented me from getting the help I needed. He asked me why I hadn’t told him earlier and I told him I hadn’t wanted to ask.  He smiled and said with his fantastic accent, “You can ask me anything…I’m not just a pretty face!”  We laughed until our sides hurt. My ego had been effectively disarmed.

As we started again, I asked him: “how we were doing?” He smiled then said, “Muy Bueno! We usually have to stop three times by now. We are very fast. You are a good trekker.” I suddenly found myself a changed man. That little encouragement amplified my confidence volumes. Suddenly the trail didn’t seem so long. I could do this. And it only took  me asking.