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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Given enough time, we'll figure it out.  The problem is that time goes away as quickly as it sets in as a general rule for everyone.  I grew up in the generation which was taught that the world owed me something and that if I tried enough to conform and be like everyone else, the world would take care of me.  

When I watched movies as a kid, the ideal lifetime situation for every character of wealth and happiness went largely undefined but always involved a desk job.  This is the ideal I was taught, even though neither of my parents actually worked behind a desk for any portion of my life growing up.  However, thus was the closely guarded definition of success.  You work hard during the week, take two days off, put in five more days of sitting behind that coveted desk making important phone calls while wearing a suit you paid someone else to clean - process repeat.  Add a week of vacation - process repeat.

I don't drink anymore, but I hang out at bars sometimes.  Bartenders at three different local bars know me because I sit there and talk to people while I soberly write blogs and article topics down in one of my many spiral notebooks.  I do this to gain a perspective on how people think and most of those I speak with are a generation ahead of me and either successful or trying to fight their way to the top.  Recently, I met a man in his early forties who was recently divorced, had a younger teenage son, and another son who was soon to graduate from high school.  This man worked in finance for one of the largest shipping companies in the world, as shown by the rather large ring he wore on his right hand.  We talked about where I was trying to go in life, what I was writing about (federally-mandated safety regulations in cars) and how he was impressed with my level of commitment in life when most people my age would rather settle into whatever "normal" consists of than try to be something unique.

"I have a kid who is graduating from high school this year.  He got into UGA but he doesn't know if he wants to go and it's bugging the hell out of me.  I told him that I wanted him to go to college, get an education, and have a great career.  Then he can have a nice house, a nice car, and be like me.  I've provided pretty well for my family and I'm going to pay for everything when he goes to school.  Do you know what he said to me?"
"He said: 'I don't want to be like you and sit behind a desk, stressed out over someone else's business.  It seems so boring to me.'  That's when it hit me, Drew.  Why would he want to be like me?  High up in a company that will still be turning profits when I die whether it be today, tomorrow, or after I retire.  I'm have a college degree, am wealthy, and divorced.  That sounds like everyone else I know.  I just never thought that wanting my kid to be better off than me would mean being the exact opposite of the person I am right now.  At this point, I don't care if he goes to college because his idea of success and happiness is completely different than mine.  But you know what?  If he gets out there for a year or two and decides he wants to go to school, he can still go.  But if I make him think that school is his only option, he could end up just like me.  I don't want that."

I didn't make any of that up.
  What you just read was a part of the conversation he and I had that night and the funny thing is, it was during our talk that he had his moment of clarity about his son.  He had been fighting the truth for a few months, but it took saying the whole thing out loud for him to actually believe what his mind was trying to tell him.  

A few weeks ago, I came up with this theory and I have been dissecting it over and over on a daily basis since then.  Outside of the specialized degrees you need in order to work in the medical field, law, or sciences, we are stepping farther and farther away from formal education.  My generation has done a really good job of scaring quite a few of the next batch of high school teenagers from accepting the massive amounts of student debt we have acquired in order to have the successes of those before us.  Some of these students are noticing that most of us don't have jobs in line with the degrees we have acquired, so what is the point of having it in the first place? 

I learned nothing more about Theology when I was in school that I couldn't have learned on my own by reading and staying committed to personal study.  The most (questionably) prolific thing I learned before they kicked me out of Seminary was how to write a research paper in the antiquated "Turabian" format, which I'm sure puts me in a better place with God, right?
My business skills were acquired through direct experience and my own trial and error over a course of many years.  I learned how to budget money and how to hold onto capital.  I learned risk taking through making expensive mistakes which I was accountable for entirely and am better off because of this.  
Some things you don't learn in school because you can read about them all you want to and bubble in answers on tests, or even write essays and research papers about the subject and still have no idea how to apply it properly.   

Sometimes I think the best learning can be done by real-world, practical experience.

I always wanted a nine to five job with a desk, open weekends to do the same thing, go to the same bars, with the same people who also held nine to five jobs.  I actually did that for a few years and drank too much in the process.
Then I woke up and realized how cookie-cutter and boring I was.  I learned (again, through experience) that there is more to life than being just like every other settled person in my circle.

Chase your passions instead of being normal.
Step back and see if your life is mechanical and common - change it.
If you don't have a struggle, find one.
Be your own definition of success - but be sure to actually define it.

The world owes you nothing and your life is exactly what you make of it.
Don't aspire to be like anyone.
You are your own best motivation and inspiration.

Grace and Peace,


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