Recap: The Reductive Seduction of Other People’s Problems

This is part of a series of posts called Recap. In it I will share my notes on the content I consumed followed by my response. The content could vary from a podcast, to an article, to a Youtube video, to a book I read. When applicable, I will link to the content.

This is a response to The Reductive Seduction of Other People’s Problems by Courtney Martin. While I do not agree with some of the more political examples in her post, she gives some great insight into the main trouble of attempts to solve foreign problems.

Notes

Other people’s problems seems easily solvable from an outside perspective. “It’s not malicious. In many ways, it’s psychologically defensible; we don’t know what we don’t know.” A lot of non-profit organizations are geared towards “saving the world,” and international aid.

It is problematic to try to solve problems without acknowledging the underlying complexity.

It’s dangerous for the people whose problems you’ve avoided. There’s domestic need, which we can better understand because it’s closer to home. It does require more research and as such seems more daunting.

Problems abroad can be tackled, but they take time and effort. You have to cultivate relationships with the people, listen to them, understand them, build trust so you can work with them to solve the problem.

Response

It only seems more because we recognize the complexity of the problem and the depth of understanding required to solve it. If we understood the same for foreign problems we could help the people create better solutions to those problems as well, but it would take time.

 

The article has a lot of excellent real world examples which I did not include. This is far shorter than the original piece, but that is a synopsis. I recommend reading the full article, it’s really good.

Recap: Forward Tilt Ep 9

This is part of a series of posts called Recap. In it I will share my notes on the content I consumed followed by my response. The content could vary from a podcast, to an article, to a Youtube video, to a book I read. When applicable, I will link to the content.

Yesterday I shared my notes on Episode 36.

In Praxis’ Forward Tilt Podcast Episode 9, Your Personal Brand, Isaac Morehouse discusses what your personal brand is and why you should cultivate it.

Notes

You have a brand whether you want to or not. Your personal brand is the same as reputation. It’s what others believe and feel about you.

Building your personal brand is not about putting up some image or making yourself look cool. The first thing is to understand you have a brand, then to take control of it.

Be sure what others perceive about you is accurate. Lots of people are bad at this. In Praxis, they’ve done a personal brand workshop. Think about yourself, write few sentences about how you want to be perceived. What do you want people to think? Find someone else that doesn’t know you well or at all, have them Google you for 20 minutes and see what they can find. Write down what you associate with them and see what they associate with you. Compare how you want to be seen with what they perceived.

If your brand is too benign or blank there’s no information for people to know about you.

Be aware of how you’re being perceived if you don’t know. Own who you are and be consistent with it.

Your personal brand is not a liability to manage, its an asset to use. It gives you access to opportunities and helps you build your network.

Response

I’ve branded myself a writer. I write about writing and my writing projects on my blog (which a blog is just… more writing). My LinkedIn heading is “creative writer and thinker.” A lot of my goals pertain to writing, though I have some other creative interests as well. The main thing is that I write therefore I am a writer. I don’t just call myself a writer, I actually write. You can see that on this blog and on Over the Invisible Wall.

The funniest time I was misinterpreted happened while I was at work. I was trying to find different pens in the office supply aisle so I could put the returns in their proper place. A customer saw me with six or eight different items in my hands, handed me an empty box from the shelf and said, “Here, work smarter, not harder.” It took him a minute to realize I was working and putting things on the shelf, not taking them off. He thought I was a mom doing back to school shopping!

Recap: Forward Tilt Ep 36

This is part of a series of posts called Recap. In it I will share my notes on the content I consumed followed by my response. The content could vary from a podcast, to an article, to a Youtube video, to a book I read. When applicable, I will link to the content.

Today I listened to Praxis’ Forward Tilt Podcast Episode 36, Finding Gold in the Grunt Work. In this episode, Isaac Morehouse discusses the value of being eager and willing to do grunt work.

Notes

Isaac tells the story of conversation with a CEO who has an employee who wanted a raise but hates grunt work. The CEO doesn’t ask that employee to do grunt work because it’s clear he really doesn’t want to. Another employee higher up will do it. The CEO even has to do it sometimes!

You should want your opportunity cost to get higher so you’re most valuable activity isn’t usually getting coffee. Someone has to do things like coffee runs, let that be you. You’re never too good for grunt work.

If all you’re doing is grunt work, take ownership and prove you can do otherwise. You shouldn’t have to ask to do less grunt work, if you prove you are valuable you will be given more important work to do. And if you’re always fine with doing grunt work, that’s an added bonus.

You could be valuable but not everyone knows or sees what you do. With grunt work, it impacts more people and is highly visible.

Create value in other ways if you’re only doing grunt work. Be eager, volunteer to get things, clean up, etc. “Sometimes the work isn’t glamorous.” If someone is afraid to ask you do to the crappy things you’ve made yourself dispensable.

Response

I work at Walmart in a retail position. My two primary responsibilities are customer service and improving the cleanliness and appearance of the aisles in my department. The second, referred to as “zoning,” is necessary to improve customers’ experience in the store. It’s easier to shop when the aisles are clean, organized, and you can see every item on the shelf. Zoning is tedious and can be categorized as grunt work.

During my shift, I am assigned a department, either Crafts/Stationery or Toys. I’m almost always the only person in my department, excluding short periods of overlapping shifts. That leaves me solely responsible for the zone. Customer service trumps zoning, but the zone still has to get done. Additionally, we’re almost constantly short staffed in some area and I will get asked to help out either with the zone or customer service.

For example, yesterday no one responded to calls to the paint counter or sporting goods counter, so I did. I asked the customers at the sporting goods counter what they needed. I was unsure of what to do, so I had it announced again that customers were still waiting. At the paint counter, I mixed paint for two customers who’d been waiting.

When I’m in Crafts, it’s common for a manager to walk by and ask me to zone two aisles in Housewares, the rugs and curtains. I always say yes, pause what I’m doing, and fix those aisles before returning to my department.

Lately we’ve been short staffed in Crafts, which I consider “my department” because it’s where I hired in. There are four Crafts associates: one lady who is on leave, one lady who’s been calling off, the department manager, and me. As such, I’ve taken it upon myself to pick up the slack so we don’t fall further behind and so we can catch up to where we should be as soon as possible. The lady on leave was the only one who knew how to make fabric remnants, pieces less than a yard long, so she taught me before she left. I’ve taken most of the pieces under the fabric table and made remnants so customers can buy them. We have to pull top stock, the boxes that are on the very top shelf, down and put it out on the shelf for customers to buy. The top stock shelf is where we first put overstock, when possible, but it needs to go out once it’s no longer overstock. When I have time, I make it a point to work the top stock to make it easier for the department manager.

Recap: Girl Defined Fixed My Anxiety

This is part of a series of posts called Recap. In it I will share my notes on the content I consumed followed by my response. The content could vary from a podcast, to an article, to a Youtube video, to a book I read. When applicable, I will link to the content.

Additionally this was written September 8th despite the url.

I recently watched Rachel Oates‘ video Girl Defined Fixed My Anxiety. I wrote about my struggle with mental heath on Over the Invisible Wall and I mentioned it in Why I’m Not a Christian. In my response to the video I share more about that.

Notes

Rachel Oates has dealt with anxiety and it’s been a big part of her life.

Girl Defined equates worry and anxiety in their video, but it’s not the same thing. Worry is something everyone faces frequently. Worry usually has an external cause. Anxiety on the other hand is more intense; worry on a way bigger scale. There’s more internal or physiological causes, and anxiety is longer term. It can have external triggers but is more internal.

First of Girl Defined’s points, you should pass your worries onto God. Rachel disagrees: what helped her with anxiety was feeling more in control; it was worst when she felt out of control.

Girl Defined’s 2nd point: don’t worry so much about the future that you forget to live now. Rachel shared how focusing on the present moment helped her at times when she was feeling overwhelmed because of anxiety. She said, “Things can change and things do change and you have the power to change them.”

Third point: worry isn’t helpful. Obviously. But you can’t just tell yourself to stop worrying or stop having a panic attack.

Fourth point: God promises to help those who trust him. Rachel wants proof that God exists, can help her, and has her best interests in mind before she’ll just trust him and throw out her medication.

Point five was to remember that God has a plan for you. Rachel disagrees, thinks better advice would be that while life is crappy sometimes it’s possible to recognize those things that make it so and make a plan to change them.

Girl Defined then tells people that following God more and praying is the best way to deal with and stop worrying or having anxiety. This is a dangerous mindset because it could stop people from getting the help they need and seeking treatment.

Rachel recommends Sane New World by Ruby Wax and Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig.

Response

I grew up in a Christian home and I dealt with depression. Which, yes, is very different, and not related to this specific topic directly, but it is a mental health issue. And I’ve seen Christians suggest partial “cures” for it in the same way Girl Defined suggested things for anxiety-conflated-with-worry. I was told at least once that my depression was probably due at least in part to my poor relationship with God. If only I would fix things with God and grow closer to him, I wouldn’t be so depressed. But I’ve had the opposite problem.

Rather than making me less depressed, it aggravated other problems. I feared I was not truly following Christ, that I hadn’t been forgiven, that my sins hadn’t been washed away, that I was one of the goats who thought they were Christians but were not and would burn in hell. This led me to hopelessness. I had some security in my faith to a degree, but it wasn’t enough. It didn’t convince me. It couldn’t convince me. The what ifs swirled on and on, building up. It took me to a point where there was no hope, no certainty, no reason to believe my life mattered.

I was taught that everyone’s true purpose was to glorify God. But I couldn’t discern whether I was truly glorifying him or if I was trying to glorify myself. There was no way to be sure. I kept reaching a point where my relationship with God, if you can call it that, felt ingenuine, more obviously fake than I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter™. And that drove me further into hopelessness and a fear of hell. It also drove me toward atheism.

If this God existed, he clearly did not intend for me to follow him. I can’t. I’ve tried everything and I can’t do it. It always flakes. I always feel like I’m faking it, going through the motions, holding a veil over everyone’s eyes, especially my own. So it seems that he is either not real or he is not good, because he is surely sending me to hell. I wanted to follow him. I wanted to believe. So badly. So badly. But I couldn’t. It always fell apart. Every time.

Recap: I Came Out as Atheist and This Happened

This is part of a series of posts called Recap. In it I will share my notes on the content I consumed followed by my response. The content could vary from a podcast, to an article, to a Youtube video, to a book I read. When applicable, I will link to the content.

My response was written 17 August 2018.

I watched Genetically Modified Skeptic‘s video I Came Out as Atheist and This Happened. It was fitting for me, time-wise, because I was planning my post Why I’m Not a Christian. In the video Drew tells his deconversion story along with telling his family and friends that he was an atheist.

Notes:

Drew grew up devout fundamentalist Christian. He was a leader in his church’s youth group and went to a Christian college. His last semester of college he started having doubts. He stopped believing creation and accepted evolution. He changed his mind and accepted that being gay was not a choice, harmful, or wrong. He also admitted to himself the Bible has errors. He spent a long time in which he questioned his beliefs intentionally, avoiding non-Christian sources.

In late 2016 he admitted to himself that he was not a Christian, he was an agnostic atheist. He hinted at his doubts to his wife and soon told her he was an atheist. He thought life was over until she didn’t freak out at the news. He thought he would lose his job at the Christian homeless shelter, get divorced from his wife, move in with his parents, lose his relationship with them and his friends, and end up broke and alone. All because he was no longer a Christian. He came out to his parents about a year later. It went better than he expected but was still difficult. He started his Youtube channel after telling his parents. He got really into making videos, gained small following, and started to see it as a part time job.

A few friends found channel once it got hard to hide. Hiding it was taxing; still had to participate in some Christian/religious activities. Didn’t want to become “pet project” or lose friends, so it was worth it for a while.

Went full time on YT in May. Told in-laws and all friends who didn’t know. Very few people were surprised. A few found channel and waited for GMS to tell them. A lot of close friends had loving responses. Best response that he had permission to share, “I love Drew as Drew, not as Christian or atheist.”

Just didn’t want this issue to come between him and friends/family. Moved shortly after coming out; most friends helped him move and set up his new, larger studio. No one yelled at him or shut him out after he came out. Best thing you can do is assure someone that you still love them and value them. Just wants healthy relationship with people. That’s why he didn’t come out for so long. Some people prioritize religion over relationship.

Specified didn’t want to debate; if they wanted to, he wanted to schedule it and have it be prepared and not sloppy so it wouldn’t come between them and ruin the relationship. Cares more about the truth than holding to current positions. Knows apologetics, especially Christian apologetics, very well. Studied it a lot. Hasn’t seen anything new on apologetics.

Considered sad response a negative; big deal, prevented his coming out for a long time. Can’t control it. Sees that it’s understandable, but it’s their burden not his.

For those in the closet, seek out community, even just online. Recommends the Secular Therapy Project and Recovering From Religion Foundation. Openly secular, normalize atheism, make things better for those still in the closet. Humanize atheists to others.

Response:

 

I just came out as atheist to two of my friends personally. I wrote a blog post that’s going to go up tomorrow explaining why I’m not a Christian and mentioning that I’m an atheist. Otherwise, my parents have some knowledge, and my boyfriend is an atheist too. My grandparents, who live with us, are less supportive than my two friends, but did not want any sort of debate. They simply said they would pray for me until I came back to God. I didn’t want to disappoint them so I haven’t told them I’m pretty sure I don’t believe in God. My parents asked questions, not the first time it came up, or even when I said I was leaning towards atheism. We were sitting at the kitchen table with my younger brothers and they asked for my thoughts on some things. Some of what they mentioned I don’t have a position on yet, because I haven’t done research on it.

I’m at a point where I see Christianity as equal to other religions to a basic degree. I see that, in general, it’s not that different. The only reason Christianity seemed more believable to me was because I was raised in it. I was surrounded by it for my entire life until just about eight months ago.

At that time, I was drifting out of religion and wanted to be honest about my disinterest in church. It happened to coincide with starting to date my boyfriend. I worried it would look like I left church because of him, and in fact, my parents told me once that they weren’t sure if that was the case. I assured them it wasn’t. It was a coincidence. My boyfriend has made clear that he is not concerned with my religion, I can believe as I will for my own reasons and he will still be there, it won’t change anything for him.

Knowing that Drew’s situation was similar to mine helps assure me that my friends and family could also react positively. I agree with him that a sad or disappointed reaction is a negative. That’s a large part of why I kept quiet about my disagreements, disinterest, and disbelief.

I plan to revisit this topic later to give an update on how people reacted, what they think, etc.

Recap: Legends and Losers Ep 181

This is a new series of posts called Recap. In it I will share my notes on the content I consumed followed by my response. The content could vary from a podcast, to an article, to a Youtube video, to a book I read. When applicable, I will link to the content.

I recently listened to episode 181 of Christopher Lochhead’s podcast Legends and Losers, “Digital Body of Work.” Lochhead shares his thoughts on episode 170, where he interviewed Isaac Morehouse, the founder of Praxis. I plan on listening to that episode soon, and will share my thoughts on it when I do.

Notes:

Morehouse really pushes this idea that you should be your own credential; college is buying it, today we should be our own.

What happens when someone googles you? See what happens.

What happens after we get googled is critical. People look online to find out about you.

Being a podcast guest is a good way for authors and thought leaders to get their name out.

Do you blog, post on social networks, podcast, have you written a book? Even if it’s not a best seller, you put in the work to put something valuable out there.

Are you on Quora? What are you doing on other social networks? What are you sharing? Are you contributing content? Do you have a TED or TEDx talk? Are your speeches available online?

Also, what are people saying about you? Are you featured somewhere?

Response:

As someone who is going to go through Praxis, I definitely think that Isaac Morehouse is right about a lot of things concerning the new job market. I also think the Praxis approach is valuable, especially as an aspiring author.

Presence is important. The community and the response to my work is important. It’s easy to think about all the various online communities I could be part of and think, “If only I had more time, I’d work on my presence there.” And in some cases, time can be an issue. If I’m spending too much time on Facebook or Discord or Quora, in excess of doing other things that are more important at the time, then it’s my fault I don’t have enough time. On the flip side, if I don’t have enough time because I’m really actually working, that’s a bit different.

Between my cowriter Justine and I for Over the Invisible Wall, we are not ready to add Twitter to our social media. We already manage the Facebook page on our own and we both have a lot of other responsibilities other that our shared blog. But for just a few extra minutes, I could make a personal Twitter and share my personal blog posts and maybe reach some people who aren’t on Facebook.

A lot of my friends aren’t necessarily taking the same steps I am now to improve their online presence and such. At least in part because of that, I don’t have a lot of social proof. I want to have people respond to my blog, or to guest write on a different blog, etc. to do that better. For now, though, I have a lot I’m working on and I’m adjusting to the workload I set on myself and balancing it with what I do for money.