Have You Stopped And Wondered Today?

The internet astounds me still, even after watching it grow from nothing into what it is today.

This past weekend, I chatted face to face with a man in Australia in real time. The next day my family shared dinner in five different houses across two states. I flew a drone with a first person perspective around an obstacle course as if I was a fighter jet pilot.

And I never left my house.

I remember only being able to imagine doing such things as a kid, when video calls were limited to science fiction like Star Trek. How far we have come. Now, anyone can buy a device that connects them to the rest of the world and all the information we have gained as a species. Some of those devices even fit into our pockets.

Staring out onto my deck that leads into my backyard, I can see the pine trees that give me privacy from my neighbors, the enclosed fire pit that I haven’t used, and the kids playset that is in desperate need of repair in a sand pit full of weeds that don’t seem to struggle at all to sprout year after year.

I’ve owned the backyard, and the house, for six years. The wonder that it’s the first yard I’ve ever owned has worn off. I don’t see a haven, or a playground for the children in my life. I see a to do list more often than not.

Trim the grass, weed the sand, fix the playset, stain the deck.

It worries me that there are places that I’m losing my wonder. We need wonder in our lives. It’s something that nourishes a part of us most have long let dry up. When we were kids, everyone had a bucket of wonder larger than they were. It made you hope. It made you imagine. It made you dream.

Wonder makes us build not what is, but what can be.

We have to fight to keep the wonder in our lives. Every day, we risk becoming numb by not taking the time to feed our sense of wonder. That numbness eats away until all we have is a phone, all we see is a responsibility, and we stop caring to get better.

When the universe becomes your backyard, after a while that’s all you see: just a backyard.

-Doctor Who

See you next Wednesday.

Chris Jabas

Finding Your Tribe

I know every mile will be worth my while. I would go most anywhere to find where I belong.

Michael Bolton, Disney’s Hercules

High school can be bad if you get caught up in the cliques. These little groups focus not on who they can include, but who they can exclude. They become insular to the point of being antagonistic and even hateful of those who “are out”. It’s a blessing to be able to ignore and avoid groups like that.

Humans are social creatures. We join together as groups when faced with adversity and divide ourselves into groups when we have the chance to create the adversity. We choose to bond with others, and can fight like hell to protect those bonds when challenged. Those we are bonded with the closest we consider family, but every group we bond with becomes a tribe.

Some tribes can be bonded over politics, some over religious views, some over the kind of dog we like best. We can bond over the silliest reasons, or just because we were at the same point in our lives at the same time. We choose what tribes to belong to, but we also need to realize when we are in a tribe we no longer belong in.

Everyone belongs somewhere, and it’s not always where you are right now.

If there is something you want to pursue as a career, you should find people that want to do similar things and choose to bond with them. The support and kinship you find in the bonds you create makes you into a tribe. They will help you to not be discouraged, and to keep you from feeling alone. It takes a ridiculously strong person to face adversity alone, and no one can face it on their own forever.

There are always ways to connect to people that share your interests, your drives, your passions and it is easier than ever to look for them. Look into social media sites such as Facebook, Discord, online forums, and specialty websites that fit your focus. Be willing to be vulnerable and show the fruits of your interests to others. The right ones will appreciate and welcome you.

Search for people that you can trust to connect with you that you can each add to each other’s lives. You will meet good people. You will meet bad people. Do not discount the good because of the bad, and do not ignore the bad for the good.

Be picky. Your tribe is out there.

See you next Wednesday.

Chris Jabas

Seeing The Masterpiece

“Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”

Michaelangelo Buonarroti

Growing up, I loved the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. They were cool, dangerous, funny, and always saved the day. Being into art, I also liked that they were named after famous Renaissance master artists. It got me to look into each of those artists as I grew up, and even drove me to visit Italy for a month on my own, but that’s a story for another Wednesday.

Michaelangelo (the sculptor, not the turtle) created multiple of the most famous sculptures in the world, and worked at every one to bring out from the stone the sculpture he saw in his head. While not all of us are sculptors, we all are working on a masterpiece of our own. Becoming manager, writing that book, creating that game, being a good spouse or parent: we each have that ultimate goal we started chasing sometimes years ago.

Over time, that masterpiece can be harder to see, or what we’re doing isn’t what we imagined in our head of what it was supposed to be. Like an errant golf ball or a dog that flopped into a lake, we can get lost in the weeds.

We have to remind ourselves what our masterpiece is supposed to look like.

There’s a great book by Rich Christiansen called the Zig Zag Principle. He describes it a bit differently than I do, but the idea is the same.

As you pursue your masterpiece, your perspective changes. You can see new ideas, new challenges, new information that you didn’t have when you started. Is the stone chipping too easily? Are your tools too dull? Did you not have the right tools?

You may finish a statue and have it not be the masterpiece you wanted it to be. Does that mean you failed? Only if you don’t keep trying, and learn from the mistakes you’ve made to not make them again. We can only hope to be as tenacious in our pursuit of our masterpieces as Edison was about inventing the lightbulb:

“I have not failed 700 times. I’ve succeeded in proving 700 ways how not to build a lightbulb.”

Thomas Edison

Keep pursuing, keep trying, keep climbing, keep creating.

Maybe someday someone will name their turtle after us.

Cowabunga, dude.

See you next Wednesday.

Chris Jabas

What To Do When The World Doesn’t Care

Did you know there comes a point where sunflowers will stop turning to face the sun?

The sunflower will physically rotate itself for the head of the flower to receive the most sunlight it can. It needs the strongest connection to the sun to gain the energy it needs to continue to do its job: grow. Our phones, computers, and televisions are a tad easier to deal with. We can just plug them in.

In the extreme ends of this planet where the lengths of the days and nights change wildly from season to season, there is a form of depression called Seasonal Affective Disorder. During the seasons where the daylight hours are short, people can feel hopeless, be sluggish, and lose interest in normal activities. In the United States alone, it affects 3% on the population. As of 2020, that’s 10 million people. This can leave a person feeling drained to the point of not being able to even get out of bed.

We all spend energy to accomplish the tasks and activities set in our schedule, but not everyone recharges their battery.

Someone who never charges their phone and yet expects it to keep working is seen as a fool. We see it as “normal” to run and run and run until we collapse, then down an “energy drink” to get back up and do it again. Spending your energy without ever seeking out enough to replace what was spent is just as disastrous as spending more money than you earn.

If you don’t seek out what recharges you, you will eventually fail to function.

Taking care of yourself can recharge you. Doing something for the fun or joy of it can recharge you. Even getting encouragement or recognition for your efforts can have an affect. That’s why sporting events have cheerleaders and support groups have meetings. It builds you up when you wear yourself down.

A sunflower still growing that stops turning to the sun dies in just a few days. People with Seasonal Affective Disorder need the sun in the same way. We all keep needing to seek energy in some way until the day we die.

Make sure not to starve yourself.

See you next Wednesday.

Chris Jabas

Ever Climbed A Mountain? Ever Ran A Marathon?

A mountain can kill you without moving.

Philmont Scout Ranch is 136,000 acres of New Mexico wilderness. A branch range of the Rocky Mountains cuts through the camp, and the views are incredible. It takes days to get to the top of the mountains, and then days to get back to civilization. You carry your food, your tent, even the water you drink. Dehydration from the exertion of walking is a very real danger.

The man the marathon is named for died running the full 26 miles. Pheidippides was a Greek soldier who was commanded to go to Athens to report the victory over the Persians at the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC.

You can’t climb a mountain without first walking down the street.

If you want to climb a mountain, run a race, or write a book, or cook a holiday meal, don’t try to do it without first practicing. You set yourself up for failing publicly at best, or never finishing, or dying in the attempt. Build your muscles, create smaller meals, write articles and short stories. Walk, draw, write, but make sure you finish what you’re working on. Then make another one just a little bit bigger, a little bit better.

There are so many writers who have books in their souls that we will never read, and so many works of art that will die in the hearts of the artists who could have made them.

Don’t leave your mountain unclimbed, your race unrun.

See you next Wednesday.

Chris Jabas

To Thy Own Self Be Loved, Beloved

What can be said about love that doesn’t feel trite or clichè? Poets, preachers, politicians – love is expounded upon so much that it slides over you without changing you.

That love can have so little impact is a tragedy.

Love is an amazing force that must be described a piece at a time. No one description can encompass all that is love. It warms, it drives, it soothes, it protects, it connects, it heals. What is love? Baby don’t hurt me, don’t… sorry, I had to.

Friday is Valentine’s Day, a celebration focused on love between couples.

Love does not have to be accessed through another person.

Know that you are lovable, even if you don’t yet love yourself. Believe that someone can love you, believe it to the very tips of your back hair. Then realize that you love yourself. You wake up, you eat, you sleep. Even if you are terrible at it, you take care of yourself day in and day out.

Show those quiet critics in your mind that you love yourself by taking care of yourself this Valentine’s Day.

Shower a little bit longer.
Eat that apple instead of that candy bar.
Do that one thing that makes you happy for a minute.

If you want to continue past Valentine’s Day, commit to the process of daily working to take care of your body, your mind, your soul. No one little thing does much, but a bunch of little things done day over day can change everything.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

See you next Wednesday.

Chris Jabas

What is Art?

Is art only sculptures, and paintings, and things? What about a play or a movie? What about video games?

Is art only what can be seen? Then how would you define poems, songs, and fine cuisine? Are singers and songwriters liars or just mislabeled as artists?

Can only finished pieces be art? Then how can movies and video games publish and sell books of the half finished sketches and paintings that inspired the final product?

Does art have to not have a sales intent to be considered art? I have seen greeting cards, movie posters, and even commercials that would challenge that idea.

Everyone has an opinion on what is art and what isn’t. There is no universally accepted definition that encompasses all of art. Even artists are split on what art is and can be. Art is a profession that is shrouded in mystery, romance, and glamour. In art school, the focus was on teaching you the tools of your trade so they didn’t get in the way of your creativity and expression. Not one of my teachers even tried to define “art”.

One thing that I’ve yet to find an exception for is that all art tells a story.

For movies and videos games, the story is blatant. For greeting cards and commercials, the story either encourages action or evokes emotion. The best art in my opinion always does. Paintings, sculptures, songs, even well made food tell a story – even if that story is as simple as “this is what I care about”.

Do you use art as part of your business’ messaging? Do you make art yourself? What story do you want to tell? Is your art telling that story?

See you next Wednesday.

Chris Jabas

20cc’s Of Thankfulness, Stat!

If I asked you to name 10 things you’re thankful for right now, could you do it without hesitation? Could you name 5? Could you name one?

The holidays for Americans starts with Thanksgiving, a time where we gather around a feast of food with relatives we may not have seen for almost a year. Fights break out over the kids running wild, Uncle Larry supporting the President no matter what he does, and that one cousin who became Vegan this year. These days the world moves in 195 directions at once, and from all the news reports you would think no one likes each other, let alone agrees on a single subject.

Meanwhile, the depression and suicide rates quietly climb as the snow continues to fall.

Happiness and joy springs from a thankful heart. This is what I was taught, growing up in Sunday School at church. As the years passed the realization grew that being thankful was something that you cultivated in yourself. It was something you choose, and continue to choose, day in and day out.

…One day or brief time of happiness does not make a person entirely happy.

Aristotle, Greek Philosopher

Depression, anxiety, Seasonal Affective Disorder, and just life at its thousand views per second pace can make you overlook even the best of things in your life.

Take a moment or five, and fight through the resistance that rears up to write down five things that are good in your life that you can be thankful for. Then, every morning until New Year’s Day, quietly thank whatever gave you those five things, even if it is only the circumstances of life that did.

…and when you finally think of a sixth thing, add that to the list too.

See you next Wednesday.

Chris Jabas

Do You Know What you’re Worth?

Every painting in your local museum can be replicated.

The Louvre, one of the most famous museums in the world, is no different. Each color can be mixed to perfection, each stroke of paint can be put on an identical canvas in an identical way and aged until it is indistinguishable from the original.

So why is the original so much more valuable?

The value is in the person who made the painting.

The person who made the first painting had knowledge and experience, gained from their hard work and the work of the people they learned from. They had opinions and beliefs that shaped their view of the world. They had events in their lives they shared with no one else. They had a way of interpreting the world and universe around them that no one else had.

The painter was unique.

The same can be said about you.

Out of all the billions of people that have ever lived, you are the only you there is or has been or will ever be. Forget one in a million, you are rarer than one in a billion. That is thousands of times more precious. The amount of money you make or the respect you demand or the value you bring to your loved ones, community, or the rest of the universe only adds to that value.

Have you ever felt worthless?

Be reminded that you are valuable, even if no one in your life currently acknowledges it.

See you next Wednesday.

Chris Jabas

Let Your Frustrations Be Your Guide

Do you know that all those pesky robocalls you receive can be blamed on a surly undertaker?

When phones first became widely used way back in the 1880’s, there used to be thousands of people employed by the telephone companies as switchboard operators. These operators would physically change the connections of the wires at their boards to route the call to its destination.

Almon Strowger was frustrated when he found out that he was losing funeral customers to a competitor. The competing undertaker’s wife was a local switchboard operator, and had been secretly routing calls meant for Strowger’s business to her husband’s business instead. The last straw was when he found out that the funeral of one of his friends was being held by his competitor.

Wanting to cut out the crooked middleman, or middlewoman as the case had been, Strowger developed the first automatic telephone exchange. Over time, his invention and the future improvements that followed all but eliminated every switchboard operator job that existed.

Take a moment to be thankful for all the things you don’t have to do yourself because technology has simplified it for you.

Today, phone calls in the United States are measured in the billions every month. Can you imagine how many of us would have to be employed as switchboard operators to handle that volume of calls? Nothing else would get done! Though to be fair, the operators would catch most of those robocalls before they even got to you.

What currently frustrates you?

Instead of staying frustrated by it, find what you can do to solve it.

See you next Wednesday.

Chris Jabas