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Have You Ever Had a Moment?

This is the post excerpt.

Have you ever had a moment when you first looked down at yourself, then looked up at whatever circumstance you had found yourself in and said “How the heck did I end up like this?” Well, here’s a picture of mine.

nola-hospital
The New Orleans incident, as mentioned on my About Me page.

If you haven’t had that moment yet, I don’t know whether to A) envy you because you haven’t had the worst night of your life yet or B) pity you because you haven’t impressed yourself yet. Although these two types of circumstances lie on the complete opposite ends of the fun scale, they both imply transformation.

The first, the negative one, implies that perhaps a change is needed. Let’s say you find yourself to be a Prodigal Son: dirt poor, living out on the streets and eating slop with the pigs. You say “How the heck did I end up like this?” You’ve hit rock bottom and you see a need for change. Or if you’re like me you might find yourself in a New Orleans hospital covered in your own blood.

The second, the positive one, implies that perhaps a change has already occurred. You’ve impressed yourself because you accomplished something out of the normal expectations you’ve set for yourself. Let’s say someone outside of the family looks you in the eye and tells you that they respect you, are grateful to have you and that you are their biggest role model in his or her life. You say “How the heck did I end up like this?” You don’t expect people to look up to you but apparently you’ve done something consistently good enough to make someone say that and mean it. Or if you’re like me you might find yourself in a New Orleans hospital covered in your own blood.

Yes, I repeated that last sentence on purpose so that you’ll be confused as to whether the incident was a good one or a bad one. And I’ll get to that as we go.

The greatest disservice people do themselves is put off this transformation. They wait to do anything extraordinary because they think they have all the time in the world, they’re scared or they’re lazy. This mentality runs rampant within the demographic in which I currently reside: the college student.

blog-drink
photo courtesy of Flickr

Yep, here comes the link to the title.

Too many college students assume that upon their 22nd birthdays or college graduations, a switch will be flipped in their brains that will instantaneously give them the conviction to be adults. To be mature. To stop procrastinating. To stop staying up late. To spend more time with the family. To go to church. To stop cussing. To stop drinking so much. To be selfless. To grow up.

This thought process is a trail that leads to nowhere but the Tar Pit of Mediocrity and Complacency because guess what: these ideals don’t just pop into your head and start working your body like a puppet. Sure, you’re entitled to your epiphanies, but a thought without an action is only a dream (Thank you, Kevin Gates) and action that isn’t turned into a habit will amount to nothing more than a memory. Hey, remember that one mature thing you did that one time? Yeah, that was sweet. You’ve continued to do it since then, right? Oh. You haven’t. Well, congrats on that one thing you did! That one time… It was sweet. I guess.

The topic of growing up before departing your university is one that might scare you if you’re clinging oh-so-desperately to your social life. Throughout my experiences and additions of fortune cookie knowledge, here’s the kicker: I still have mine. Yes, I said it. At no point will I tell you to get rid of your social life, social status or any other part of the social scene that you currently drool over like a middle school boy and his Brittany Spears poster (and yes, she’s even got a full head of hair). I get it, social connections in college are too fun and rewarding to loosen your grip on, and for those of you who truly want to maximize your personal growth before graduation, I want you to know just how you can keep them while doing so.

As we go on, I’ll continue to tackle personal growth advice that you can successfully juggle with your social life, even increasing the quantity and quality of the connections you currently have. In other words, if you want to improve yourself but stay relevant within your social groups, I’ve got more coming for you. And yes, I’ll even tell you how the heck I ended up like this.

You can read the follow-up post to this, The Two Things That Influence You the Most, here.

Breaking the Ice

In college, you’re going to meet more people than you could’ve ever imagined. The question: will you meet and greet or will you see them from a distance while your back is against the wall?

I get it, not everyone likes talking to strangers. Pretending to care about their lives, their concerns, their likes and dislikes. Whoever tells you they’re 100% invested in everyone they’ve ever met and remembers everything they talked about is lying to your face. However, that doesn’t mean they didn’t try.

Why try? Let me put it like this. College provides doors of opportunity. Majors, clubs, sports, grades, people. Seemingly endless paths your life can go once you graduate, all merging at your time in college.

Deliberately avoiding strangers because of introversion or laziness closes some of those doors.

You never know who you’re going to meet or what they may have to offer, but none of that matters if you aren’t able to walk up and say hello. If this doesn’t appeal to you, if you think you already have your path marked for you, you’re doing yourself a disservice. Some of the best experiences you’ll ever have in this lifetime are the ones you don’t see coming. The surprises.

If coming up with something interesting seems hard to you, don’t worry, it’s much easier to spark conversation with a stranger than you think. The answer is don’t. Don’t try to come up with something interesting. Ask questions. What they like to talk about, you like to listen to. It’s that simple. Ask for details in a NOT CREEPY WAY. Be casual, confident. Don’t be unnecessarily enthused, be genuine. Hang out with your extroverted friends, you’ll meet people naturally that way.

I’m not telling you to spend an hour with everyone at the party, simply see the face and share the names. Don’t rob yourself of opportunity. Your husband, your wife, your job, your lifelong friends; wouldn’t it be cool if you could look back and say that it all started with a handshake?

The Silent Killers

Out of class. You don’t have to work today. Nothing due tonight. You’re finishing season 937 of Supernatural.

In between classes. You’ve got an hour to kill. You’re sneaking in exactly two episodes of The Office over your ramen and Smart water.

You just woke up. You’ve got thirty minutes until class starts. Time to check out how many likes you got on last night’s Instagram selfie while you were asleep. The Gram never sleeps.

It’s such an easy default to plop down and run through a season of something during the lulls in our day or scroll through the memes on our Twitter timelines. Whether it’s an urge to stay informed or the dopamine in your brain giving you little doses as you go, we aren’t here to talk about psychology or anatomy/physiology. What we are here to talk about is what you might be trading for that extra hour of screen-staring.

I think we can all agree that with the majority of time we spend on Netflix or social media scrolling, our accomplishments aren’t really accomplishments. We don’t achieve anything noteworthy. MAYBE you could argue that you’re stimulating your brain but come on, you’re in college. Your brain can get plenty stimulated throughout the day without sitting through all twenty-six Fast and Furious movies.

The time we have on this earth is limited, that’s no secret. If your life were a pie chart showing percentage of your life spent doing different things, how high of a percentage do you want your Netflix binging to be? Your Facebook cat video-watching? You may not realize it on a day-by-day basis, but that time adds up.

Let’s say someone spends an hour a day on Netflix and an hour a day on social media. That’s reasonable, right? So that would be 2 hours a day, 14 hours a week, 56 hours a month, 672 hours a year. That’s twenty-eight days, almost a month out of your entire year dedicated to nothing.

If I were a genie in a bottle and granted you an extra month in your year, I’d like to think your instinct would not be to say “Finally four more weeks of Pinterest!”

With an extra month, how many new people would you meet? How much more sleep would you get? How much higher would your grades be? Would you be more fit?

I would argue that there are a lot of people on this earth that would love an extra month to do any of these things and more. Are you one of the people that might already have that extra month but just doesn’t utilize it?

What I’d like you to take away is this: make the screen your Plan Z. Don’t let it be your Plan A or your Plan B or your Plan C. If there is a single thing you can be getting done, don’t sit down.

Yes, this means there will be some days where you do not turn on the TV or open up a social media app. Boo hoo, right?

Prioritize your time, don’t waste it. You will see results.

“I Can’t Wake Up on Time”

Oversleeping. The bane of your 8 a.m. class’s existence. Sick of the disapproving looks from your professor as you slowly creak open the door ten minutes into the lecture? Oversleeping is arguably one of the hardest bad habits to kick that simply has to be taken care of as soon as possible. Your future career isn’t going to have a syllabus day that excuses two tardies per semester.

Never fear, some tips are here.

Smart phones are great, there’s an app for almost anything. You know what they’re not great for? Alarm clocks. One of the quickest ways to ensure you do not get up on time is to sleep with your phone and expect it to rip you out of your slumber at the first sound it makes. It’s way too easy to reach over in your half-asleep stupor and hit the snooze button to your heart’s content. So, tip #1: keep your alarm device out of arm’s reach and loud enough to be heard from the distance you choose.

It’s tempting to set multiple alarms as a fail-safe for hitting snooze, but in fact this does the opposite. Knowing you have another alarm coming will make you more likely to compromise and try to grab some more precious minutes of sleep. News flash: those ten extra minutes will not benefit you. What to do? Set one alarm and one alarm only. Yes, you will likely find yourself being late for whatever you need to be at on the first day you try this, but it’s that consequence that’s going to drive you on future wakeups. Do it now so that you’re ready when it counts.

Don’t wake up to sound? Do you sleep through the sound although it’s definitely loud enough? You have some options. Believe it or not, alarm clocks exist that vibrate your bed. Find one. Internet, store, it doesn’t matter. For a year, my roommate used an alarm clock that had pads attached to his mattress that literally vibrated the whole thing to shake him awake. And guess what? We had a bunk bed so I got to be shaken awake every morning with him. If you legitimately can’t wake up to sound alone, it’s worth the investment.

Here’s one of the more obvious tips that seems to always be the first one to ignore: Go to bed. Think bedtime is for kids? That’s because you still are one. Plan out when you need to go to bed and how many hours of sleep you need (shoot for 8, duh) and be in bed before then. Believe it or not, it’s actually possible to go to bed before midnight. Crazy, I know.

Don’t sleep with your phone in your bed or your TV on, those will just keep you awake and your brain active as you lay there. Watching TV or playing your Xbox or whatever you do on your television can keep you awake even after you’ve turned it off, so you need to make a point not to do those things too close to the time you lay down.

Turn your lights off, get comfortable, and relax.

As for waking up, a personal favorite of mine is making my way to the shower as soon as my eyes open. I’m not awake until that water hits me, but from that point on I am not falling back asleep. Do not lay back down if you wake up once. Stay on your feet.

If you think this post is unnecessary and self explanatory, congratulations: you have already perfected waking up on your own. As for the rest of us, you’ve got to nail this ability ASAP to grow in your discipline, punctuality, and reliability for others.

How Your Inner Circle Affects You

Have ever wondered why you and your friends are so alike? Maybe you started out as strangers, but over time you notice how alike you’ve become. I’m here to tell you that the similarities weren’t there from the get-go.

Maybe you used to never think twice about watching American Horror Story but one thing led to another and here you are on a Friday night binge-watching together in your Snuggies. Or perhaps you’ve never cared about college football but by God you’re not going to miss the Saturday tailgates with the boys.

Obviously people can have similar interests or mannerisms before they meet, but spending time with the same people over and over again leads to some inevitable exchange of character traits. Hobbies, dialect, diet preferences, you name it. So how can we use this to our advantage?

I’m a visual learner, so I’m going to show you a little illustration that was showed to me. First, think of 3-5 characteristics about yourself that you’d like to have or grow in. Is it honesty? Do you want to be on time to things? Go to church more? More organized? Visualize them below:

Characteristics You Want:            1.______________  2.________________ 3.________________ 4.______________ 5._______________

 

Now, think of the 3-5 people that you spend the most time with. This is your inner circle. Not the people you think you feel close to, but people you are physically spending time with a lot. For example, I feel close to my dad, but I’m not physically with him enough to consider him in my inner circle.

Inner Circle:                 1.______________  2.________________ 3.________________ 4.______________ 5._______________

 

Now, let’s compare. Look at each person in your inner circle and compare them to the characteristics above. Does each person have all of the characteristics you listed? Which ones are they good in and which do they lack?

Here’s some interpretation for you: if your inner circle doesn’t have the characteristics that you want for yourself, they are not helping you grow in those areas. In fact, they are doing the opposite. If they do have exemplify those traits, keep spending time with them to learn how they do it.

Am I saying dump all of your friends that don’t fit the bill? Nah. But what I am saying is don’t waste your time. Build your character now so that by the time you’ve landed the job or moved in with the spouse, you’re ready to take on the leadership role or pull your own weight in the relationship. Don’t find yourself scrambling to grow up AFTER you’ve already put yourself in a grownup situation.

Proverbs 13:20 says “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm.” Apply this concept to your life as soon as you can, start by assessing who you want to be and how badly you want it. You won’t have the conviction to take steps if you don’t first consider how important it is for you to develop your character. That conviction will help you make the harder decisions that will end up paying off in the long run.

“Show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.” – John Kuebler

Is My Crush “The One”?

You see her. Your eyes are locked for way longer than the standard 2-seconds-so-I-don’t-look-creepy glance, but you don’t care because she’s stopped you in your tracks. You, sir, are crushin’.

Opening aside, this post will relate to both guys and girls, I promise. In “What About Dating?” we discussed the idea of searching for your type instead of The One. Now let’s say you have your type and you’ve met someone that fits it perfectly. What do you do?

First and foremost, you have to determine whether or not YOU are ready to seriously consider dating. And no, your own opinion is not the only one you need. Ask people you trust. Remember, not all counsel is wise counsel. Just because Mom and Dad want grandkids doesn’t mean they’re right when they pressure you to find someone to date.

Matthew Pace, a guy I consistently refer to in this blog, gave me his two cents on this topic, and I’ll do my best to summarize it:

  1. Follow Your Type-   Stick to your guns when it comes to what is necessary for your potential spouse to have. Don’t compromise. If it’s imperative that they share your religious beliefs, don’t let that slide just because Suzie in Biology meets all of the other criteria you’ve made for yourself.
  2. Follow Their Life-   If you decide you like someone, you cannot run headfirst into the battlefield without first sitting back and watching what kind of person they are becoming. Everyone puts their best foot forward until they’re married, so until you hear “I do”, you have not seen their worst yet. Just because you and Bobby share an inside joke and you’re feeling some sexual tension for two weeks doesn’t mean he’s worth your time yet.
  3. Ask People You Trust About Your Crush- and most importantly, BELIEVE WHAT THEY SAY. Believe all rumors? No. Believe how your crush makes others feel? Yes. If the girls tell you he’s a jerk but you think he’s sweet, guess what? He’s probably a jerk, just not to you yet. If the guys tell you she’s mean with her words, don’t write them off just because you haven’t experienced her saying anything other than “darn” or “gosh dangit” yet.
  4. Give It Time- What kind of person are they shaping up to be?  You can’t tell if you don’t give it time. You may not like this figure but I’m going to tell you that I would wait no shorter than 6 months. Being with someone means jumping onto their path, and you have to make sure it’s a good one before you do. Don’t rush into it because you think you’ll lose your chance. Phooey. If she’s jumping on the next guy to give her attention or he’s running to the next girl with a free Friday night, they are not the one for you.
  5. Don’t Listen, Watch- Remember, talk is cheap. Follow your crush’s life to see their actions and visible growth, not just the words they use to describe themselves. Everyone likes to compliment themselves.

We are naturally going to want to jump the gun on dating most of the time, which is why it’s important to find someone to hold you accountable with it. If you’re not gonna date that person yet, don’t deceive them into thinking you are. Don’t text for no reason. Don’t hang out in the bedroom. Don’t give them any reason to question where you two stand. If you’re not dating, don’t treat your crush like you are. It isn’t fair to them and it will hurt your relationship when it comes time to take a step back.

Maybe you end up discovering your crush is not right for you and you move on. Maybe you two finally start to date after time of getting to know each other and are confident in your decisions. Either way, you will not regret the patience.

 

What About Dating?

Ah, the topic on almost every college student’s mind. Whether you’re looking for a soulmate or a weekend fling, it’s almost inevitable that at some point or another you’re going to have the opposite gender on the brain.

All too often it seems like college students are treating the campus like a real-world Tinder. Every party, every conversation is just another profile viewing and I’m going to keep swiping left until I find the best looking one that can tolerate my personality the most, right?

For the sake of this blog I will not be focusing on hook-ups or one night stands, but what I will say about that is every time you give yourself to someone who is not your wife/husband, just remember you are adding one more name to the list of people you’ll eventually have to tell your spouse about. Do you and your future spouse a favor and actually let the night of your honeymoon be something special instead of just another hookup but in more expensive role play attire.

Now, on to dating.

Why is it that all it takes for someone to decide they “like” someone is a similar sense of humor and physical attraction? At this point in our lives, every person we date is either going to be A). a waste of time because you will break up or B). the one we will marry.

Although too many college students don’t want to admit it, so much more goes into lifelong compatibility than making out and having some inside jokes together. How do they handle money? How do they treat children (not puppies, CHILDREN)? How do they act in social settings? How do they treat their family? How do they treat their exes? Do they have any friends? Run it by a married couple if you don’t believe me.

Before you make it Facebook official, I ask that you first consider what it is you want to accomplish before you graduate. Is dating your priority? If so, perhaps you should reevaluate the money you’re spending on classes. If not, then what are your priorities? Does dating nicely and neatly fit into your schedule without interfering with your priorities? Don’t pull the “I’m willing to make sacrifices for the one I love” crap on me either. If that’s how you feel right now, put down your Nicholas Sparks and John Greene and keep reading.

The most simple advice I’ve ever been given on dating was from Matt Pace, a guy I’ve referred to a few times in past posts. I was gung-ho ready to date a girl I’d liked for three months and was ready to hear him tell me I was mature enough and ready to take on the responsibility. Instead, what I got was:

“Look for the type, not the one.”

Uh, what? The type? Let me elaborate.

Think about the past five or so people you’ve been attracted to. Think of their names and their faces. Now why were you attracted to each one of them? Specifically, what traits did they have that attracted you? Try to avoid superficial traits such as looks or clothing styles and focus on more personal ones such as their interests, work ethics, and what other people thought of them.

Now put all of those traits together and you have your type. Feel free to be as picky as you want. Which traits does a person HAVE to have for you to be interested? Which are just optional? I recommend you take the time to write these down.

Whichever you decide are most important, it’s imperative that you don’t compromise later on down the road when a cute girl or guy starts giving you attention but doesn’t fully fit your type. With a list of must-haves and must-not-haves, you can avoid red flags early on that could warn you of that person’s real character that they’re still hiding from you. You have to remember, everyone has their best foot forward until you’re married and living together.

For example, a must-not-have for me would be that I will not date a girl who is uncomfortable with me being friends with girls on social media. Now I do not mean specific girls, I mean girls in general. If a girl doesn’t like it that I have other girls on my timeline (and I’m not inappropriately messaging or interacting with them), that’s a red flag that in a more serious relationship, we will likely have issues with jealousy.

Looking for the one ties you to a person, which leaves room for unhealthy compromise. Looking for the type gives you options. But how do I tell if someone that I think is my type is worth pursuing? We’ll get into that with the next post.

Distractions

Last night, I traveled to Fayetteville, Arkansas with a friend of mine, Matthew Pace. Pace is the campus director of one of UCA’s ministries, Student Mobilization, and the man who helped lead me to Christ way back when I was an idiot freshman. Needless to say, I value his opinions.

Pace was asked to speak at a Student Mobilization conference for University of Arkansas students about the topic of his choice as long as it pertained to leadership or spiritual development. The topic he chose was Distractions From God.

“What distracts you from God?” he asked. 3 things he gave the crowd were

  1. Distracted because it’s Too Hard
  2. Distracted because of Curiosity
  3. Distracted by ourselves

Distracted because it’s too hard? How many times have you sat down to write an essay, given up and picked up your phone to scroll through Instagram instead? The same can go for when we try to talk to God; sometimes we just don’t know how and we give up.

Distracted by curiosity? Do you know someone who spends so much time questioning the nitty gritty of the Bible that they fail to settle with the one most important theme of it? “Don’t get so wrapped up trying to figure out the 99% that we don’t know that you ignore the 1% that we need to know,” said Pace.

Distracted by ourselves? Too often people view the Bible as a self-help book, but in fact it is the opposite. Sometimes we get so stuck on “me me me how does this pertain to me this is about me” that we fail to connect with God. The example given was trying to take a selfie with a sunset. When you focus on one, the other gets cancelled out. If you try to compromise and focus that little square right in between to get both in the picture, you still compromise the actual brightness of the sun. Don’t compromise God’s glory and purpose for you because you’re too busy being distracted by yourself.

Choose what you run to. Is it your phone? Social media? TV? Video games? Books? Find something productive to run to. The Bible? Maybe. Sometimes all that’s needed is time alone with God. Take a walk. Go somewhere quiet, or as Pace called it a “distraction-free zone”, no different from the quiet times I mentioned in previous posts.

God’s waiting on you to feel as urgent toward Him as you do toward submitting that essay or posting that picture at the right time of day for likes. God may be here forever, but you won’t be. Learn what distracts you from Him so that you can overcome that now before the habit of ignoring God is too engrained into your daily routine.