On Shaving Your Head

photoThe last couple of months have been a bit of a whirlwind – I left my day job, wrote a novella, went to camp with my kids, took a 20th anniversary cruise with my wife and some good friends, and did some freelance consulting and graphic design work. Needless to say, writing new essays became a lower priority for a while. Things have settled into a more predictable routine, so I can once again turn my attention to writing here.

So, I shaved my head yesterday. Well, I didn’t exactly shave it with shaving gel and a razor. It’s more of a buzz cut – a really, really short buzz cut. I used the 1/8 inch guard on my clippers and went crazy while the rest of the family was out shopping. When they returned, I’m don’t think they were terribly impressed with the results. On the bright side, they have decided that it is apparently good luck to rub my head. I like that better than rubbing my belly.

Going mostly bald wasn’t totally unexpected. In fact, nature has been moving in that direction for some years now. Having been slowly turning gray since I was in my early twenties, this was essentially inevitable. I just helped things along with decisive and immediate action.

I have been contemplating this for some time, keeping an eye out for others who choose to celebrate their hairlines rather than fight them. I have several friends that have gone this route with some success, and many celebrities choose the close-shaved stubbly look. Jason Statham wears it particularly well. While we were on our cruise, I also spotted an average-looking guy about my age that really rocked the look. He was well-tanned, bespectacled, and dressed casually. Since I needed a haircut anyway and it’s hot outside, I decided to just do it and see what happened.

Here are my conclusions:

  • I am not Jason Statham.
  • When I eventually go completely bald, I know that my head will not be terribly misshapen.
  • A tan is essential. Pasty heads bring the word “underbelly” to mind.
  • If glasses slightly improved my looks with hair, they greatly improve them with no hair.
  • You have to be of average build to really pull this off. Bald, overweight guys look more like bouncers than anything else.

On one hand, this might have been a stupid thing to do. While I was running the clippers over my head, I kept hearing Bill Cosby’s voice asking “Was your head with you all day today?” While not permanent, it is certainly irreversible. I’m stuck with a bald head for at least a little while until it grows out.

On the other hand, who cares? I wanted to see how it would look and now I know. I’ll get a little teasing from friends and family, but no one else will care at all. I have no appointments for formal portraits any time soon, so it was a good time to experiment. In a couple of weeks, it will just look normal. Even though my wife referred to this as a “bold move,” it is a genuinely modest risk in the grand scheme of things.

Fear of change convinces us to stick with the status quo. Change is risky and dangerous, and we know that it could be a turn for the worse. Fear convinces us to stick with what we know, even if it is unpleasant. A healthy fear is a good thing, protecting us from real dangers, but too much fear can make us avoid changes that are both positive and necessary.

Shaving my head is a personal reminder to try something new once in a while, especially when there is little or no risk involved. Success breeds success. When we practice facing our fears in small, low-risk situations, we prepare ourselves to overcome the truly debilitating fears that accompany important life decisions.

Take a small risk once in a while. Take a different route home. Mow your lawn in the opposite direction. Wear something unexpected. Just do something different. You might be surprised with the results.

 

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New Poster

There was some confusion about getting this done and it may not be the “official” poster for the latest production, but I was pleased with the result:

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I feel like I’ve still “got it.”


Today I Am

Lately, I’ve been making some simple doodles to entertain myself and remind me of all the things I am and can choose to be. I was sort of inspired by those posters you see with different emotions all over them (Today I am happy, sad, angry, etc.). In the back of my mind, I think that I might eventually put them together into a little desk accessory for self-expression like this:

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In the meantime, I will continue to add new ones to this post and also put them on the Facebook Feed.

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minister maker entrepreneur dadartistconsultant

 


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DIY Embossing

So, I have a thing about personalized stationery – notecards, specifically. I’ve made several of my own monograms and imprinted them on notecards. Over the years, I think I’ve had 3 different custom monograms ranging from abstract to fancy. None of them have really stuck.

Lately, I’ve been in more of a what-you-see-is-what-you-get phase of life. It seems like just have stationery that says “Jay” is sufficient. I’ve had an idea about do-it-yourself embossing, and here are the results. The process and results aren’t perfect, but I think the method has promise. Here is my personal embosser, Mark I:

From:

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To the embosser – bent and glued paper clips on a walnut (very hard wood) base with the reverse carved by hand:

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Pressed into cardstock to get the final result:

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Voila! Custom notecards. If you get a note from me in the near future, it will probably be on this stationery. Not perfect, but I’d say pretty good.

And cheap. Cheap is good.

 


Vocational Manifesto

Dream BigLast week, I turned in my resignation from my day job. It was a good decision, allowing me to exit gracefully on my own terms rather than stay in a situation that would become more and more of a poor fit over time. At this point, it feels more like an opportunity – the kick in the pants we needed to move our family forward into the next adventure. However, it does mean that I have some serious work to do in order to find that next adventure.

For the foreseeable future, my kids are going to continue to need shoes, daily meals, and an education, so a day job is probably a good thing to pursue. However, I have the luxury of a little bit of breathing room to allow myself to really reflect on what I want to do in my professional life. After some serious navel-gazing and soul-searching, I boiled my passions and personal preferences down into a single sentence. I consider it something like a personal vocational manifesto:

I want to create or accomplish something authentic that impacts people and leaves them feeling happier, enriched, or more positive about the world in which we live.

When I start looking for new opportunities for myself and my family, I can measure those opportunities against my manifesto. I can look at each opportunity and ask myself “How well does this opportunity score on these goals?” While there is no perfect job for anyone, a personal vocational manifesto can help you clarify what is important to you and come closer to finding a job that truly fits.

Here is my “scorecard” for evaluating opportunities and how they measure up against my own manifesto:

Create
When I was a teenager, I would say that I wanted to “make neat stuff.” Twenty-five years later, that hasn’t changed much. I want to create. I love imagining possibilities or making something new. It doesn’t matter if it is a piece of art, a work of fiction, a design, an experience, a business, an organization, or a plan. I just have to create.

Accomplish
If I can’t create something, then I want to accomplish something. I don’t want to be the person that merely monitors or implements other people’s decisions. I want to be in the thick of it where decisions are made and things get done.

Something
I want to be able to point to something and say “I did that.” Again, it can be an object, a design, an experience, or a system. I just want to be able to claim it as mine, even if it’s only to myself.

Authentic
Whatever I do, it has to be real. If I’m going to promote a company or organization’s ideals or products, then I have to believe in them. I can’t shill for a paycheck.

Impacts
I want to do something that has a direct impact on people. I don’t want to be so far removed from the beneficiaries of my work that it feels as though my efforts are wasted.

People
I want my work to have a direct relationship with the lives of others, even if the work itself is not done in direct contact with them. A job entitled “Government Regulation Documentation Compliance Officer” is probably not going to be a very good fit for me.

Happier
It doesn’t look like I’m destined to cure cancer or develop cold fusion energy sources. In the absence of something significant, I’ll go for something fun. Finding joy in life is undervalued, but I believe it is important. I’d be thrilled to be helping other people find some happiness or joy in life.

Enriched
I’m a big believer in lifelong learning. I want the work that I do to improve people’s lives, making them feel as though they have grown or gained something from the results of my work.

World
If the work that I do doesn’t make people feel better about themselves or their lives, then I want it to make the world a better place. If work doesn’t improve other people’s lives or the world as a whole, then it has no real value to me.

There it is. That is the lens through which I am going to look at my next adventure. Every opportunity I find will be measured against that manifesto to see if it has value to me.

What is your vocational manifesto? If you haven’t written one, give it a try. I’d be interested to read it.

 

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Vocational Manifesto

I don’t usually cross-post my essays from whoneedsnormal.com, but this one was more personal.

Here is the text in its entirety as it appeared here:

Last week, I turned in my resignation from my day job. It was a good decision, allowing me to exit gracefully on my own terms rather than stay in a situation that would become more and more of a poor fit over time. At this point, it feels more like an opportunity – the kick in the pants we needed to move our family forward into the next adventure. However, it does mean that I have some serious work to do in order to find that next adventure.

For the foreseeable future, my kids are going to continue to need shoes, daily meals, and an education, so a day job is probably a good thing to pursue. However, I have the luxury of a little bit of breathing room to allow myself to really reflect on what I want to do in my professional life. After some serious navel-gazing and soul-searching, I boiled my passions and personal preferences down into a single sentence. I consider it something like a personal vocational manifesto:

I want to create or accomplish something authentic that impacts people and leaves them feeling happier, enriched, or more positive about the world in which we live.

 When I start looking for new opportunities for myself and my family, I can measure those opportunities against my manifesto. I can look at each opportunity and ask myself “How well does this opportunity score on these goals?” While there is no perfect job for anyone, a personal vocational manifesto can help you clarify what is important to you and come closer to finding a job that truly fits.

Here is my “scorecard” for evaluating opportunities and how they measure up against my own manifesto:

Create
When I was a teenager, I would say that I wanted to “make neat stuff.” Twenty-five years later, that hasn’t changed much. I want to create. I love imagining possibilities or making something new. It doesn’t matter if it is a piece of art, a work of fiction, a design, an experience, a business, an organization, or a plan. I just have to create.

Accomplish
If I can’t create something, then I want to accomplish something. I don’t want to be the person that merely monitors or implements other people’s decisions. I want to be in the thick of it where decisions are made and things get done.

Something
I want to be able to point to something and say “I did that.” Again, it can be an object, a design, an experience, or a system. I just want to be able to claim it as mine, even if it’s only to myself.

Authentic
Whatever I do, it has to be real. If I’m going to promote a company or organization’s ideals or products, then I have to believe in them. I can’t shill for a paycheck.

Impacts
I want to do something that has a direct impact on people. I don’t want to be so far removed from the beneficiaries of my work that it feels as though my efforts are wasted.

People
I want my work to have a direct relationship with the lives of others, even if the work itself is not done in direct contact with them. A job entitled “Government Regulation Documentation Compliance Officer” is probably not going to be a very good fit for me.

Happier
It doesn’t look like I’m destined to cure cancer or develop cold fusion energy sources. In the absence of something significant, I’ll go for something fun. Finding joy in life is undervalued, but I believe it is important. I’d be thrilled to be helping other people find some happiness or joy in life.

Enriched
I’m a big believer in lifelong learning. I want the work that I do to improve people’s lives, making them feel as though they have grown or gained something from the results of my work.

World
If the work that I do doesn’t make people feel better about themselves or their lives, then I want it to make the world a better place. If work doesn’t improve other people’s lives or the world as a whole, then it has no real value to me.

There it is. That is the lens through which I am going to look at my next adventure. Every opportunity I find will be measured against that manifesto to see if it has value to me.

What is your vocational manifesto? If you haven’t written one, give it a try. I’d be interested to read it.

 

 



Going All In

jumper_smI usually try to “bloom where I am planted.” It seems like generally good advice for living – be content where you are, find opportunities to grow in any situation, give all of your effort to everything you do, and so on. I said “try,” but the truth is that I have to work hard to bloom where I’m planted. Too often, I am distracted by the new and shiny, or I want to indulge an underlying sense of wanderlust. I want to try something new, become good at it, then move on and tackle something else. That feels like growth to me.

Many folks, however, can really and truly bloom where they are planted. No matter where they are, they become essential lynchpins to their environment. They become the hubs in tribal relationships, always included in decisions and projects. When they need to develop new skills, they don’t just succeed. They excel. They make the effort needed to move from competency to mastery, rising head and shoulders above those who merely participate.

I have friends like that. They are deeply embedded in their tribes or occupations. They are immediately seen as authorities on a given subject or masters of a craft, even if they don’t see it for themselves. People seek them out for their thoughts and perspectives, and companies seek them out for their expertise. I have to admit that I envy them sometimes. I have a secret dream that someone will one day have an epiphany and shout “You know who we need for this? Jay Lynn!”

Anything is possible, and maybe one day I’ll get that call. But, the truth is that I am responsible for my own life. I could do a lot more to increase the odds of that kind of thing happening in my favor. Do you know why it’s less likely to happen? Do you know why those other people are so well regarded and sought after?

Because they go all in.

People seen as masters and leaders totally immerse themselves in a topic. If you want to be seen as an expert or essential resource in a certain field, or if you want to be certain that the tribe includes you in everything, you have to go all in. It doesn’t matter what that topic is. It can be lizard grooming or investment banking, but you have to live and breathe it if you want to be known as THE go-to-guy (or gal) in that field.

That means the real question is – how badly do you want it?

How passionate are you about your “stuff?” Are you willing to invest all of your creative energy into a specific area of interest? More, are you willing to put in the effort required to move beyond mere participation and on to mastery? If you want to be known as outstanding, that’s what you must be willing to do.

I’ve participated in several tribes over the years, with varying degrees of investment. I write fiction and non-fiction, but I don’t hang out with writers and participate in their professional dialogues. I do some coaching and consulting, but I don’t network relentlessly for my next client. I love geeky stuff, and I’ve done the geek convention circuit as both a vendor and an attendee, but I don’t Filk LARP, or Cosplay. I participate in professional Christian ministry, but I’m usually seen as a technology person with a religious background. I work hard at my job, but I don’t typically check job-related e-mail overnight and come into the office on the weekends. By indulging in a multitude of interests and passions in my own life, I limit my ability to be seen as outstanding in any of them.

If you want to be known as outstanding or noteworthy in an area, then you must commit to that identity wholeheartedly. Even if that identity doesn’t mesh with your day job or the things that you do on a daily basis, you must be able to clearly define yourself for others. Don’t expect a book deal from a publisher just because you wrote something. Don’t expect a job in the video game industry just because you play a lot of games. You cannot sit back and wait to be “discovered” by a tribe. You have to participate in group discussions, events, and activities. Volunteer to work for the tribe. Do something for others. Show up every time, participate, and then do even more. Provide consistent, long-term value to the tribe and you will be recognized accordingly.

What do you want to be known for?

How badly do you want it?

Are you willing to go all in?

 

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Marriage and Law – I’m Surrounded By Jerks.

burnsAs a Christian, I get irked by a lot of comments from atheist friends where the word “religious” becomes a pejorative term.  To many folks, the mere presence of faith or spirituality marks me as a fool or a willing dupe. To be called a Christian is to be labeled by default as intolerant and misinformed. The majority of the time, when I see the word atheist, I read “asshat.”

Unfortunately, as someone willing to struggle with my own faith and ask tough questions about what it means to be loved by God and how I am obligated to share that love with others, I have the same reaction in the other direction. As someone who once served in professional ministry and now works in a secular environment, I am frequently regarded as secondhand goods, unable to meet the rigors of a spiritual life. So, unless I know someone personally or associate them with someone I respect, when I see the word Christian I still read the word “asshat.”

I suppose that I really view people unwilling to have a serious and respectful dialogue about difficult topics as asshats.

Once again the national rhetoric has heated up to the point where I want to resign from the human race and say “yeah, I don’t know those people.” The noise to signal ratio has risen to the point where nothing can be heard. Ironically, I choose to add to the noise:

Maybe it’s time to take marriage out of the hands of government.

That statement probably makes my conservative Christian friends cheer.  Be patient, I’ll probably piss you off too.  What I mean is that maybe it’s time to divide civil unions from marriage. If marriage is an institution defined by God and mandated as an expression of spiritual faithfulness, then let it remain within the domain of religious institutions.

On the other hand, allow the government to categorize people as “primary beneficiaries” as opposed to spouses for the purposes of taxes, health benefits, and legal responsibilities.

We do not honor God or exhibit a moral superiority by denying people the right to:
-stay with someone in a hospital or intensive care room after visiting hours.
-designate someone as deserving of health care benefits.
-receive estate or retirement benefits as intended.
-receiving the tax benefits of sharing property, possessions, and incomes.

On the other hand, the government should have no say in defining how a religious institution defines and structures marriage.  Churches should retain the right to choose which kinds of unions they will honor and sanctify. Churches should be allowed to become the moral compass they are intended to be for society. Let them lead by example, regardless of whether that example is one of strictly defined guidelines or open acceptance of diverse standards.  Churches should be the place where people look to see the ideals of marriage exemplified and honored best.

The bestowing of legal benefits to another individual under the law is not a degradation of the moral fiber of society. It is instead an affirmation of the foundations of equality established at the founding of the United States. Defining the debate over same-sex unions as a moral imperative is a disservice to both Christians and secular citizens alike. Forced morality is a poor way to govern, and it is a terrible witness to the life of a Christian.

 

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