Sovereignty is misunderstood

Most people conflate this idea of more money and more power equals more sovereignty. That if somehow you can accumulate more than the other person you can be free to do whatever you want.

This mindset has perpetuated the Gordon Gekko mentality of “Greed is good.”

“It’s just business.”

“Survival of the fittest.”

“It’s a dog-eat-dog world.”

This is a mistake.

Life is not a zero sum game. Somebody doesn’t have to lose in order for you to win. The pie isn’t fixed. No, possibilities are endless.

Here’s the thing: You probably don’t need more money to gain the sovereignty you seek.

Because what most of us are actually seeking for is sovereignty from the boss. Sovereignty from a paycheck. Sovereignty from a dead-end job. Sovereignty from the credit card companies. Sovereignty from board meetings. (The reason why everyone calls it a board meeting is because everyone is board.)

The point isn’t to be totally free from government or responsibility either. We don’t want to live in a world without roads or schools or educated citizens. The point is to act in a way that amplifies your generosity. To become an agent of change. To do work that matters. To make your art.

And you do that by shipping.

By adopting a posture of shipping, overtime, your work gets better and maybe you can make a living at it. If not, then you have your day job to fuel your art.

Money amplifies character. It doesn’t change it. Wealth can make you more generous or greedy. Freed or enslaved.

What most of us don’t realize is that the more responsibility you take the more sovereign you become.

Inevitable futures and the choice to do something or nothing

Once upon a time, I was walking through campus and in the distance saw a crowd had gathered around a tree.

Curious, I walked over and in the center there was a dog and a squirrel.

The squirrel minding its own business did not notice that every time he would duck behind the tree or turn around, the dog would creep closer.

Closer and closer and closer the dog kept creeping.

Not sensing its own demise, the dog finally lunged after the squirrel and in a blink of an eye had the squirrel in its mouth.

A couple of people from the crowd jumped in and pried the squirrel out.

But it was too late. The squirrel was dead.

[Of course, I didn’t really see this happen but the story is better told in the first person.]

So the question is, Why did it take so long for the crowd to react?

At any moment the bystanders could have warned the squirrel by scaring away the dog or even the squirrel itself.

Sometimes, we fail to act in the face of the inevitable because of things like social pressures or fear or status roles…but most of the time, it is because we fail to see what is actually happening until it’s too late.

We act like bystanders instead of agents of change.

We fail to see that we had the power, the choice to do something. To act before an outcome was “inevitable.”

Inevitable outcomes don’t come out of nowhere. Usually, they creep on us. One step at a time. It takes insight to see and guts to change them.

Asking for direction

“I don’t know what to do with my life.”

“I don’t know what my passion is.”


The problem isn’t about what you want to do or what your passion is. The problem is that you don’t know which direction to face.

Because once you figure out which direction is north (strategy), then the other stuff (tactics) is much easier to figure out.

If you decide to climb a mountain, then expect Resistance.

For others, they may decide to go in a direction with the wind on their back.

You might decide to work harder or smarter.

But don’t decide to push a giant boulder up a hill without a reason. Otherwise, all you will find is displacement.

A rant about teaching and violence

I’m stunned at these comments in these Facebook threads. Just stunned. The 40 year old who loses control and beats up a teen is somehow the victim in all of this…Really?

Sure, we can broaden the conversation about how stressful it is to be a teacher these days. I get it, there are students that want to push your buttons and be one step over the lines you draw. (These are important topics to discuss but hardly the reaction when a teacher physically assaults a student.

But “back in my day…”. Stop it. Go back one more generation and we were segregating who could use the drinking fountain based on their skin color. Another favorite, “and we turned out just fine.” Reality check: We are the most in debt, most obese, most heavily medicated and most unhappy adult cohort in human history. And the planet is being destroyed.

This hits home since we work with so many students that have been labeled by administrations/faculty as “bad kids.” I just don’t believe it.

Labels are a dangerous thing to put on youth. What is doesn’t always have to be. And what I find is that adults are quick to label youth because of how it makes them feel. They feel better that they can’t actually parent/teach their kids.

We are products of our own environment AND the environment is a product of us. Why do we create so many “disrespectful” students these days (as some put it)? It so easy to blame character. Why don’t we instead build a better system? What is school for? Maybe we don’t need to train students to be a cog in a machine.

We can make things better by making better things.


Pulling tension out of a hat

There’s a reason why magicians don’t reveal their secrets.

The reason is, magic isn’t real unless we believe it is. Telling us how she did the trick takes away from the tension she spent the last hour creating.

Most of us spend our day trying to make this kind of tension go away.

We fight to get to inbox zero, to finish meetings without being noticed or hope we are not picked for a difficult project that might fail.

The professional, on the other hand, learns how to embrace this tension and to create it.

They instigate, ask questions, make assertions, challenge the status-quo…creating a ratchet.

Learning to leverage this tension is the work of a professional. It’s what we do to get your audience on the edge of their seat.

Ten seconds of courage

Not the kind of courage it takes to scale a wall without a rope.

But the kind where you will make one uncomfortable interaction.

Whether it is clicking publish for your blog or phoning a long-lost family member.

Make one interaction each day that scares you, one that might not work.

As you do so, you’ll begin to notice that it is easier to walk through doors that you have been hesitant to open.

Authenticity vs consistency

Notre Dame can be rebuilt. And it can be wonderful if we can simply let go of this idea of authenticity.

Because nothing is authentic anymore. Nothing is original.

Even in Notre Dame, the paintings, the sculptures, the architecture were all borrowed ideas from the style of the time.

So, if we want to rebuild it, we can. We can restore it to be consistent from what it was before.

Because that is what we are really looking for. A feeling that is consistent with the past.

[Don’t be sad that it’s over. Be happy that it happened.]