Roadblocks, Trespasses and Dysfunction, oh my!

It’s never what you expect. You have high hopes. You suffer from what is known as “optimism bias.” Somewhere in your mind, it’s all going to work out, until, it doesn’t.

That’s a tough pill to swallow even if you coat the pride with sweetened acceptance that “it just wasn’t meant to be.” The truth is, not everything is meant to be and not everything has the will to be. We would all be rich, beautiful, famous astronauts with a side job as President of the United States or whatever your dream is.

So how do you, being the creative person you are, deal with rejection of your ideas and creations?

Do you give up or keep on trying?

To put this in perspective, thousands, maybe even millions of people, have moved to New York City, Hollywood, Nashville, and <insert creative Mecca here> to try and make it in their given industries. Now how many names can you think of that have become really inspiring and successful actors, writers, dancers, etc. It’s a teardrop in the ocean.

Sometimes, it’s who you know, what your moral standards are, right-place…right-time and other times it is simply being yourself. We have a tendency to imitate (steal) what we are most familiar with. How then do you stand out? Hi, I’m writer X, who writes like writers A through W, my replacement Y will be along shortly; buy my stuff before she gets here.

I had a hard time finding my voice. I still do from time to time. There’s an immediate desire to play to the crowd and write what is popular, trendy, or just plain controversial.

I find that when I do this I get hung up on a particular post for days at a time. How does that help anyone?! My latest fascination and entrapment has been in writing a post about agnosticism. I started working on the post a few weeks ago and just kept reading different opinions about what it means to be agnostic. While fascinating, and I did learn more about not knowing anything than I did before, I didn’t accomplish anything with this blog, and really, what does agnosticism have to do with creativity, technology, or me in this context? Nothing.

Find a way to link creativity, technology and agnosticism? CHALLENGE ACCEPTED!

Laura and I were recently on vacation. We decided to spend a week in a mountain cabin in Tennessee. Our families had both spent a few vacations in the Pigeon Forge area when we were growing up. On our way down, we discovered that an entire section of I-75 had fallen down the mountain into the abyss.

Yeah, that's one hell of a rejection letter. Sorry, your path to the future is gone.

It was extremely frustrating at first going from 75mph to a meandering 30mph. We were subsequently rerouted over 30 miles through locals-only territory. The detour easily added another hour or two to our journey. We were moving around crazy turns that left 6 inches between us and a straight down the mountain drop and look “Ma! No guardrails!” Scary, huh? I’m from Indiana. We have cornfields and micro hills, nothing remotely mountain-esque.

But then, I started looking around and the beauty of the area started to sink in, in between the cars on blocks and the other picturesque trailers of course. We passed mountain churches looking like they had fallen right out of the 1950’s. We drove around winding ridges with beautiful views of untouched valleys and nature, you would never see this from the interstate at 75mph. We began to feel privileged to be detoured.

What started out as an inconvenience turned into an experience littered with photographs, conversation and excitement. We  found something out there. A natural beauty of culture, structure, and things that most people missed now that I-75 carved its way through the mountains. The detour opened up our eyes and minds to a scenario we would’ve missed.

Recently, I had a very painful experience. I learned that I was literally 5 months from graduation and found out simultaneously that I was no longer eligible for financial aid. There’s a long story here, one that involves prior medical issues and emotional constructs and really doesn’t matter. Suffice it to say, I’ve been in school for too long without obtaining my degree.

I attempted and failed to find an alternative means of paying for school and my rent. (I would have to quit my job in order to complete my degree due to class schedule conflicts.)  I am at the end of my ability to obtain financial aid from the government and also only 24 credits away from completion. I have to withdrawal from classes at least for this academic year in order to eventually pull this off. I could see the finish line and the dream failed to launch. That’s tough to face. I’m angry at IU Kokomo and IUPUI for not having schedules that are more convenient to a working adult and angry at myself for all the things that slowed my education and now has stalled it completely.

Noticing my malcontent, life decided that I might need some incentive or reminders about course correction. I’ve since garnered some sound advice from working professionals that I respect. A couple of experiences, networking and potential opportunities later and I realized that like I-75, my path to graduation had fallen into the abyss. However, just like I-75, it will reopen again soon enough, and the beauty of it is that the path less taken created more opportunities and ideas than the path of less resistance. I’m reminded of a Robert Frost poem…

One final bit of random advice for you creative-types, one of the worst things I can do is type anything on a computer first. I wonder if any of you have this problem. Do you find that you spend so much time self-editing that you can’t quite get your original ideas out? Since I have discovered this problem, I have started writing with pencil and paper, that’s right, old school. I write and write some more without regard for proper spelling, grammar, punctuation or even cohesion of thoughts.

Your mind doesn’t work in proper grammar because you are an individual and your mind is only adapting to the language rules of your respective society. You format it for other people… but you have to get it out of your head first.

Now get out and there and start creatively rebuilding your bridges!

Thanks for reading,

School’s Out – Where’s my gorram cheese?

I apologize for the long wait between posts. I’ve been dealing with a little extra stress in my life and took the appropriate break to try and sort some of it out. Hope you’ve all been well and that the forthcoming content appeases your appetites. As always, I look forward to hearing from all of you.

My spring semester recently ended, a little more than recently now, but when I started writing this it had been recently. I met with an academic advisor at IUPUI to discuss my diploma requirements and discovered that I had 59+ credits to complete before I could graduate. That’s all well and good, except that I’ve been going to school part-time since 2008 and to be honest I’m tired of it. When I moved to Indianapolis, I transferred from IU Kokomo where I was about a year from graduating. It just goes to show some of the absurd policies of colleges. Why my credits wouldn’t transfer to the same school, albeit a different campus, is very simply beyond me.

Out of curiosity, I contacted IU Kokomo and met with an advisor there. Through their helpfulness, I discovered that I could definitely swing graduation in within 24 credits and they were willing to accept the credits I took at IUPUI.

I could technically graduate in December. IF(big if) I quit my job at the end of June and bust the coursework out. However, Laura is also doing an unpaid practicum this fall and we certainly cannot afford for us both to be unemployed. There’s an even bigger catch, almost none of the classes are available to me at a reasonable time for the gainfully employed. What an impossible situation!

I am left to choose between my job and my degree. I can *maybe* squeeze one more part-time semester before I run out of scheduling options that allow me to continue pursuing my degree while employed. However, even then one of the classes I need for graduation is only offered in the Fall semesters and only scheduled at the unemployable time of 11:30am-12:45pm, Tuesdays and Thursdays.

What would you do?

Whatever he says.
Whatever Jayne tells you to do, of course.

I have a great job with decent pay. It’s certainly not the last station I want to hold. How do you make a choice like that? It would be different if I really hated education or truly despised my job. I, however, enjoy them both. Not to mention, the incredible financial impact of being unemployed for even 5 months. Laura and I were just married last September and we are still slightly recovering from that expense.

So where’s my gorram cheese? Which path is right path? I honestly don’t know. The thought of never finishing my degree disgusts me. I have worked too long and too hard, for far too many years to just quit now. But, how would we live? How would Laura and I pay our bills?

Loading Kobayashi-Maru simulation…

But not a real green dress, that’s cruel.

I just finished a semester at IUPUI. There comes a certain point when you’ve just had enough and need to take a break for a while. I had my math exam a couple of Fridays back and shut down completely after all the studying and effort required took its toll on me.

Math comes easy for some people. My brain works better with words, themes, concepts, thoughts, theories and expressions. My brain does not like the idea of one solution. It just doesn’t suit me well and as a result my math classes are a source of haggard desperation which results in hardcore studying a few days before an exam to make sure my mind is condition to perform the tasks at hand.

That’s not an excuse for not writing though. It’s interesting how much pleasure taking the time to write gives me and yet how often I avoid it. I wonder if other writers have that problem. If you do, what’s your solution for getting through it?

It is difficult juggling passions in life. I have several passions and sometimes it feels like I’m stirring too many pots. I have my beautiful wife. I have two adorable kitties. I have two guitars that I keep plucking at trying to learn how to play. I bought some running shoes because I’d like to try and run a 5k next year. I have my writing. I have this degree that I’m trying to figure out how to pay for. I have my job. I find that I have at the end of the day a strong desire to just reside myself to the couch and call it a day, tomorrow will be better. But it never is. It is never a good time to pursue everything. Multitasking is fundamentally flawed at its core.

The reality of trying to do everything at once is impossible. In order to pursue something, a task, a passion, a dream or even a family, you have to focus on them. While most of my tasks and passions don’t have feelings like my wife does, imagine how your tasks would feel (if they had feelings) if they were constantly ignored as you shuffled your attention around the room. How much longer does it take you to accomplish a simple task if you constantly shift between tasks? Or in my case, how many tasks do you simply never get around to by your own prioritization?

So what are the priorities here? How I strive to define them:

Separate things you can live without.

Example: Do I need to learn how to play the guitar right now?  No, so why do I stress out about not having time to play? I made a decision today. I’m selling my guitars. If you’re interested in a beautiful sounding acoustic and a relatively inexpensive starter electric, let me know.  I might be willing to make a deal.

Decide what is important to you.

Example: My wife is extremely important to me. She makes a lot of the things I am capable of possible by simply believing in me. Faith can be a very powerful thing.

Example: Writing. No better thought in my mind exists than these words from Rainer Marie Rilke

“There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple “I must,” then build your life in accordance with this necessity…” ~ Rainer Marie Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet


This is the tough part. In order to succeed in any of your passions you must be willing to execute the plan. My advice is to set aside time for everything and not time for doing everything at once. Define a time when you will write pursue your passion; if that’s 4am, when your wife is sleeping, do it. If it’s on your lunch hour, so be it.

I am currently working on a short story or flash fiction. I suppose it matters what the word count is. I need to make the time for it. I hope to share it soon.

Thanks for reading!

Education: Why my degree doesn’t matter.

Every month, I review my credit report and follow up with any inaccuracies. I found several around a year ago and have been vigilant about maintaining my credit score ever since. However, that is not what this post is about. While reviewing the credit report, I discovered that I have a simply staggering amount of student loan debt. I could easily buy a reasonably sized family home in my hometown, Kokomo, Indiana.

Opinion: It currently costs too much to seek education in the traditional way.

I realize that every situation leading into education is different. In some cases, parents foot the bill, in other cases the student is meant to get student loans, and of course in the best case scenario the student receives a full-ride scholarship. For most of us, there is a great deal of cost either personally or parentally.

Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI): According to their website it costs $247.90 per credit hour. We’ll for the sake of argument tack on an extra $32.10 to cover book costs and that gets us to $280.00 per credit hour. A full load of classes (12 hours) will run you $3360 minimum to get through a semester. This doesn’t even take into account things like parking, food, transportation, gasoline and personal time commitment cost.

Indiana University Kokomo (IU Kokomo): According to IU Kokomo’s website it costs $193.47 per credit hour to attend undergraduate classes. There is a sizeable difference here. Will I obtain a lesser degree by attending classes at IU Kokomo versus IUPUI?

Opinion: The current education system drives people into debt without much to show for it.

You may argue that you get a degree or experience. In my particular area of study most of my learning was self-imposed. Some of it was inspired in the classroom and some of it was pursued on my own. Education should be a self-motivated mission. You cannot simply pay for an educational upgrade. We haven’t reached Kurzweil’s Singularity, yet.

Colleges and universities are constantly trying to keep up with the technological demands of their facilities. They are upgrading their sports arenas and building additional parking garages (or at least they should be!) and in this process of constantly upgrading they are also running short of government funding to help augment the costs. None of this actually leads to a quality upgrade to the educational system. Why should it? An overhaul would cost more money that the university doesn’t have. So as the costs continue to rise and the quality of education remains the same your degree is rendered bewilderingly useless other than to meet the line item of “4 year degree required” on a job posting. Where does that leave you?

“Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.” ~ Oscar Wilde

This leaves you to embark on your own journey unaided or guided by curriculum and faculty. When you leave college you are still considered unprepared to work a job in your field.  Some people will turn you away and tell you to come back when you have more experience. Where then do you acquire this experience? Unpaid internships that further drag you into debt’s waiting maw? What did you say your degree was in?

“I think everyone should go to college and get a degree and then spend six months as a bartender and six months as a cab driver. Then they would really be educated.” ~ Al McGuire

Opinion: Education should be free because education benefits all mankind.

The student grows by absorbing knowledge and logic. Critical thinking should be taught early on. We should be prepared to process and adapt to changing resources, knowledge and technology. Our education should not have an expiration date on usefulness.

Ultimately, if students were guided towards advancing human knowledge we would all benefit. However, there has to be a paradigm shift in which we stop hoarding our discoveries. I am all for patents, temporary in nature, to take credit for your discovery. However, discoveries should be openly passed along so that the next step can be taken. All discoveries should be shared as should failures.

Take medicine for example. Why should we have to wait 10 years for the next step in pioneering a new treatment or combining two patented molecules for better results? Keep driving the research constantly and as a corporation you could still profit just by doing the most good for humanity instead of patenting the “premier” drug for “x” condition. This is not exclusive to temporary patents. I believe that it makes sense to be able profit from the work you do. It simply does not make sense to hold the endeavors of humanity back because you want to make a few million dollars first.

Why I don’t value the current educational path to a degree as much as I would value a family home.

I’m going to tell you.

You realize that you are paying someone to force you to read a book. This person, no matter how charismatic or interesting, is pacing themselves along a designated path in order to meet the requirements of curriculum for the numbered class you’re in. I have had some wonderful engaging professors in my classes. I am not discounting their abilities or their efforts. A few of them have been truly inspiring and have caused me to pursue my education outside the classroom. Dr. Scott Jones and Gregory Steel at IU Kokomo were instrumental in shaping the way I will forever approach knowledge and problems. Unfortunately, not everyone is as fortunate to study under such excellent instructors.

Education… has produced a vast population able to read but unable to distinguish what is worth reading. ~ G.M. Trevelyan

Next problem, your instructors should be helping to advance the field and not simply regurgitating it. Education should be up to the minute, now, fresh and happening. However, because of the requirements and the perception of the need for uniform educational outcomes, it becomes impossible to keep coursework fresh. Students should be advancing the field right along with their instructors, stretching the realms of the existing knowledge. This isn’t exclusive to science even though it seems to resonate strongly within the scientific realm. There’s no reason that this couldn’t be applied to art, music, writing, political science, social work and so on. There’s always something to do, some envelope to push, a deviation to explore and a world full of ideas to embrace and abandon in favor of the next step.

How much do you value your degree?

Unleashed: A curious bit of follow up.

I want to be upfront about something. The post, “It’s a Curious Bit of Culture,” from the inception of the idea, worried me. When I conceived the first sentence all the way up until when Laura, my wonderful wife and editor, read it. I knew that I was self-editing in the extreme. What’s wrong with self-editing? I left a lot of myself on the cutting room floor out of fear of what my audience might think.

This is possibly the first time that I thought self-editing was a bad thing. I was surprised by the number of readers, friends and people I didn’t even know who were reading my blog who responded either directly or via comments on Facebook. The comments and reactions were enlightening. I am very new to this, making an effort to put myself and my writing out there for the world to see. It’s hard not to be afraid of the reactions that I’ll receive. It’s not unlike stage-fright and as a writer; you tend to hold back at first.

This Tuesday, I had the good fortune to hear a young woman, Olivia Rusk, speak about her challenges growing up with a disorder that causes her to lose her hair. Olivia is a teenager that speaks against bullying and talks about being who you are, instead of worrying about what other people think. I thought, if this teenager can do it, why am I afraid of being myself?

If you haven’t yet read, “It’s a Curious Bit of Culture,” please do so now. And without further preamble, the author’s reaction to his fear and what the post should have expressed.

Let’s start at the words “Why is that?” and move forward.

How else do we know how well we’re doing, if we don’t have a yardstick by which to measure? We do have a way to measure ourselves. We all do. It’s built in equipment standard on every human model, with the exception of sociopaths and other mentally ill fragments of society. We refer to it as a conscience, Super Ego, Karma, or simply the knowledge of good and evil.

The problem with the word “evil” is that people tend to argue semantics. What is “evil?” When people think of evil, they think Nazis, they think Osama Bin Laden, and in other countries they think Americans. I personally think of Teletubbies.


Behold, evil in all it's colorful glory.
Behold, evil in all its colorful glory.


Merriam – Webster Dictionary Online defines evil as the following:

1)      Evil

  1. Morally reprehensible: sinful, wicked
  2. Arising from actual or imputed bad character or conduct

2)      Evil

  1. Archaic: Inferior
  2. Causing discomfort or repulsion
  3. Disagreeable

3)      Evil

  1. Causing harm
  2. Marked by misfortune

We, in this society, as a general rule tend to associate the word evil with the very first definition “morally reprehensible.” If you can muster the courage and strength to accept that beyond the accepted definition the word actually means much, much more.

“…while the truncheon may be used in lieu of conversation, words will always retain their power. Words offer the means to meaning and for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth. And the truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn’t there?” ~V, V for Vendetta

That’s the point isn’t it? A word can, by itself, inspire extremely strong emotions. They don’t necessarily have to be strongly negative either, such as the many colorful and clearly intellectual words used to describe someone of another race, they simply need to evoke emotion.

What if I were to tell you that you’ve done something evil? The blank look on your face most likely represents your social conditioning to the aforementioned accepted definition of evil. I’m not saying you’re satanic, that you have any interest in the genocide of an entire creed of people, that you’re a terrorist or that you’ve tortured me with children’s television programs. No. However, you have caused harm, discomfort or been disagreeable at some point. We’ve all done it.

We are both culturally and evolutionarily programmed to be self-centered and yet, interestingly enough, despite this fact we rarely make an effort to measure ourselves with the slightest regard to how we affect others. We measure our rank in society. We measure our reach on social media.  We measure how many friends and followers we have on Facebook and Twitter. How about measuring the good you have personally done in this world against the bad? That’s right; I’m telling you that life is not a zero-sum game. A zero-sum game, if you are unfamiliar, is the idea that if you add the losses and gains of two opponents then the resulting number is zero.

“The more complex societies get and the more complex the networks of interdependence within and beyond community and national borders get, the more people are forced in their own interests to find non-zero-sum solutions. That is, win–win solutions instead of win–lose solutions…. Because we find as our interdependence increases that, on the whole, we do better when other people do better as well — so we have to find ways that we can all win, we have to accommodate each other….” ~ Bill Clinton

You can’t win a game when the rules aren’t set. There are far too many variables controlled externally from yourself. You don’t “win” at life, unless you’re talking about Milton-Bradley’s Game of Life. Although, I think winning at that game leaves you feeling almost as hollow as actually attempting to win at real life. The Milton-Bradley’s Game of Life was initially created in 1860. It wasn’t until 1991 that they added “rewards” for doing good things in “Life” such as recycling, helping the homeless, etc. I think that says something about the goals of people. A game designed around “winning” at life is scored by getting married, having kids, doing what everyone expects of you and ultimately retiring to either “Millionaire Acres” or “The Poor Farm.” That’s right. The 1960s version of the game says you lose unless you’re a millionaire.

That’s utter crap, by the way.  You don’t need to measure bank accounts, progress, jobs, clothing or any of the useless “fruits of our labor.” We need to measure the good we do. What needs to occur is balancing of the karma checkbook, and let’s be honest, many of us have balances that are unjustifiably in the red. Pay attention, today, of all days, while this is fresh in your mind. Be honest with yourself, write down every act of “good” and every act of “evil.”

How would you measure up? Keep a journal of your actions that impact others. I’ll do it with you. I admit I’m an asshole. The best of my friends will tell you that being friends with me is like trying to cuddle a porcupine. I could be better. I’ll even get you started with a few lines from today’s journal.

1.  Carefully challenged a person’s belief on Facebook (Good)

The reason this classifies as good is because instead of telling the person they were inferior or just bashing their belief system. I presented my point in a relevant and hopefully meaningful way.  You could argue that it’s evil to argue with someone, but I believe discourse done respectfully is always a good thing.

2.  I wrote this post (Good)

I feel no ill-will towards anyone with the creation of this post. It is my observation and for that I expect to be challenged, respectfully.  This post is meant to hopefully inspire people to take a look inward and to measure within instead of without. How can that be a bad thing?

3.  I argued with my wife (Evil)

As many of the married people in the audience can tell you it doesn’t matter how you fight, it’s usually a bad thing. There is nothing worse than watching the person you love cry, whether or not you’re in the right. Laura and I have a great relationship. We don’t often fight, but when we do it’s rarely handled well. We all have areas of opportunity, this is one of mine.

That’s all you get, this is about all of us. Not just me.

Do it for one day. Do it longer if you’re brave enough. But above all, be honest with yourself.

Watch those things you do without really thinking. Do you drive aggressively? Do you carry a bit of a chip on your shoulder? Do you participate in passive racism, classism, etc? Do you act as if you are better than others? Do you complain about your co-workers (even if they deserve it or make your life difficult)? Do you treat any particular people badly? Do your self-centered behaviors impact others negatively? I’d love to see the results of anyone’s journal. Please send in any that you feel comfortable sharing.

For each item in your journal, as I did, note Good or Evil. There isn’t a gray area. You know which category something fits into. Now count them, how does it measure out if you were completely honest?  This might be tough for some of us, it’s hard to see some of the things we take for granted that are negative to those in our wake. That’s also not to say that one good = one bad. To be clear, I’m not saying help an old lady across the street and then push her in front of a bus and you’ll even things out. You’ll know what items really weigh more than others. How are you to know if you’re not used to looking at yourself with a microscope?

One of the things I’ve come to enjoy about the organization that I currently work for is their adoption of a code known as “The Four-Way Test.”

  • Is it the Truth?
  • Is it fair to all concerned?
  • Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
  • Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

I’m still not here to tell you what the “right thing” is. What I can tell you is that our observable culture is driving us to madness in the pursuit of money, fame, fortune and having a bigger and better pile of useless trinkets than the next person.

Despite what some people may tell you it doesn’t matter how hard you work. You will not pull off a so-called success story where you rise from the depths of poverty to be the owner of some ridiculously profitable empire. If we were paid by the amount of hard work we do, this country’s factory workers, retail, service and custodial workers would be the billionaires.

You may not be able to afford to throw money at a problem. You may not be able to save everyone. You may not be able to feed your own family from week to week. You are still very much in charge of the amount of good you do in this world. Keep track, that’s what they always tell you right? Winners keep score. I firmly believe that if you are honest with yourself, you’ll find that you’ve got some work to do. I know you can think of some good to do in this world, even if it’s only for your family, to console a friend, to a give a hug when one is needed, whatever the case may be.

Do it today.

~Don Sedberry, unleashed.