Getting Out of My Way

I’m on the road to recovery. For years I was one of those chaps who would waste time, energy, and resources trying to find the solution to a problem on my own. I can’t recall how many wheels I’ve reinvented, but I know it’s up there. I resisted the sage advice of seasoned professionals. I had Google, what use would an expert be?

So what’s changed? Well for one thing, I’m getting over my phobia of asking questions. I’m learning to step outside of my comfort zone to engage people who know what they’re talking about instead of trying to do it all on my own. For so long I resisted the common sense approach of asking questions in search of what I thought was a better, purer way, but it turned out to be rooted in selfish and egotistic motives. If I had to ask someone else the question, then they would get the credit. Naturally I assumed that if I could discover the answer on my own, I would get the credit. Sound logic, right?

This is corrosive behavior. Now I have a difficult time being open to collaborative opportunities, I’m stubborn, and I tend to think that if I didn’t come up with an idea myself, well, then it’s probably not worth pursuing. I struggle to be enthusiastic about other people’s ideas and I plateau quickly in my cycles of learning because I’m unable to reach that next level that requires me to ask the questions. My lack of openness to learning from others on a personal level has left me devoid of some very necessary characteristics for ministry work. In short…I’m a bad team player. But it gets even better…

I love playing guitar and writing songs. I’ve been doing it for over a decade and it’s one of the few things I can say I’m passionate about. In fact, I taught myself how to play guitar by writing songs. I was awful for a while, but I gradually got better. But ten years after I picked up my first guitar I’ve plateaued. Why? I should be pretty good by now, right? Well, because in all of my “teaching myself” I wasn’t learning from anyone else.  I wrote all of my own songs and learned very few of the songs that had shaped my musical tastes in the first place — songs that would have challenged and improved my skill as a guitarist. Instead, I was an island unto myself. I developed a one-dimensional approach to my songwriting and guitar playing because I wasn’t seeking out those influences that would have made me better. For this reason, I haven’t improved much in my playing or writing skill for many years. And I know I’ve developed a bunch of bad habits that are going to be that much harder to unlearn when I finally buckle down and hire a guitar teacher to get me on the right track.

“Great. You’ve pinpointed it. Step two is washing it off.” – Tommy Boy (1995)

Let’s just cut to the quick here. There’s no shortcut to success in this area. We either are, or we aren’t, asking questions, asking for help, and learning from others. We have successes and failures along the way, but if we are purposeful about the change I can guarantee we’ll see some major improvements in our relationships, learning ability, and lots of other areas. The hardest part is getting out of your own way.

Like I said, I’m recovering. I don’t have it all figured out yet, but I’ve got a decent start. What about you… is this something you struggle with or are you naturally a question asker?

Starbucks Communism

Rain turned to slush in the skies over Clarks Summit, PA. I woke up, earlier than usual, to a soggy Monday morning with a mind to take advantage of the extra time before work. So I got ready, rotated the seedlings intended for this year’s garden, and naturally headed to Starbucks. The Clarks Summit Starbucks is okay in my book. Sometimes it has condensation control difficulties, and parking can be an absolute joke. But when all is said, it gets the job done. However, something happened this morning that has left me uneasy and feeling robbed of my right to choice. As I approached the counter to order my drink, and indeed began to request my “Grande Mocha,” all three of the baristas behind the counter began to glow with a pride that smelled eerily of smugness and self-admiration. And hardly had the words left my mouth when the drink was sitting in front of me on the counter.

“We saw you pull in,” they announced proudly.

“Oh, good,” I thought. “Stalkers and communists.”

This is what irritates me. Mondays can be a tough day. And though I typically enjoy them, certain things need to occur in order for me to get to my Monday morning utopia. And one of those things is receiving the simple, yet oh-so-very-profound sense of accomplishment and self-worth that comes with making the first major decision of the week: Starbucks. So naturally, when I walk in to find that a decision that I have paid $3.48 (I have a Starbucks Rewards card) for has been robbed from me, I am justifiably indignant!

And what about my right to wait? I’m not impatient for my Starbucks drinks. I would like to know that it was carefully crafted by well trained hands. Don’t get me wrong here… I know that Starbucks is the corporate farm of coffee shops where it’s not about nuance or atmosphere or amazing coffee – as much as they’d like us to believe that – but I do want my drinks to taste right. And if good things come to those who wait, what then for those who are forced not to wait? I fear that something less than good is in store for them.

But I’m not typically a wave-maker. So I muttered something about good service, gave my money to the greedy barista, and slumped down in a less-than-comfortable chair to complain to the blogosphere of my Monday frustration.

So, to the baristas and Starbucks ladder-climbers – hear my cry. Let me order my drink MYSELF!

Spring Is the Best Time for Monday Morning

I’m sitting at the Starbucks and wondering why everyone hates this day so much. I get the whole part about the weekend being over, and having to go back to a job that you probably don’t like very much, or even getting back to class.  But I think most people miss the beauty of a Monday morning.  Unlike any other day of the week, Mondays offer you a fresh start and a chance to apply yourself, and your mad skills, to all the stuff that the week is about to chuck at you. Think about it.  You’re rested from the weekend, most of you haven’t had to see your boss or coworkers for two days, and you haven’t had a chance to fail miserably at anything yet.  So naturally, now that it’s time to get back to the grind you should be ready to face it with renewed spirits (not alcohol) and tenacity.

So on this, the first Monday of a brand new spring, when the green is just on the horizon, and in spite of still being able to see your breath in the air, why not try to embrace a new approach to Monday mornings and enjoy it instead of loathe it.

Solve My Problems

Here’s a challenge for all of you creative types out there. The company I work for, Lamplighter Ministries, is expanding into new territory. Many new territories, in fact. We’re developing a much more multimedia minded branch as well as incorporating social media practices into our “marketing.”

For those of you who know anything about Lamplighter, one of our core operations involves republishing books originally published in previous centuries. They are hardbound books, often with authentic Italian leather cover materials. One of our goals is to maintain a high level of quality and beauty in these products. The newer portion of our ministry involves producing these books in “Hollywood” level audio dramas to be broadcast on the radio and sold on CD. In order to properly promote these productions, and increase general awareness of Lamplighter, we’re adopting many of the current social networking and “viral” marketing techniques. This is proves to be difficult for a company who has had a difficult enough time establishing any kind of web presence, let alone something that’s cutting edge in technology, yet true to it’s origins.

And so I pose the question: How does a company that is grounded in concepts and design trends dating back hundreds of years compete and be relevant in todays world and yet remain true to it’s mission and values? How do we offer up the same resources (social networking tools, new media, deliverable content, etc) as the most cutting edge organizations without betraying the basic principles that have helped bring us into existence (ie: age, beauty, texture, and moral value)?

Official Notice

Okay folks, brace yourselves, I’m about to be rude.

The Facebook version of Jared Brandon is no longer accepting invitations to participate in “dumb things.” The term “dumb things” refers to, but is not limited to the following:

  • Poking (in any form) – Please keep your hands to yourself.
  • Best Friends – Honestly, How many can you really have?
  • Family Members – Does this really need to be announced publicly?
  • Birthday Requests – I don’t care about yours…
  • Gifts – I have no intention of giving you anything.
  • Weird games – I have no time for these things.
  • ETC.