The struggles are real

Daily life is ripe with struggles.

The glowing check engine light, the dismissive coworker, slow Wi-Fi, the wavering religious faith, a snarky Facebook comment.

Yesterday’s struggles have been replaced with today’s struggles. And today’s struggles will be replaced by tomorrow’s struggles.

However, you must learn to separate struggles in two categories: empty and meaningful.

Empty struggles are pedestrian and often easily fixed.

Don’t entertain empty struggles. Let empty struggles entertain themselves. Empty struggles are also trivial. And if you devote time to the trivial, you yourself become trivial.

Meaningful struggles compromise your principles. They challenge your integrity, your creed, your philosophy, your ability to emotionally and intellectually grow.

Meaningful struggles don’t go away on their own. They breathe and wait for you to engage. So when you do engage– I recommend leveling your eyes, flexing your muscles, snarling something wild and fighting like hell until you’re victorious.

Be well,

Jay

About that email no one responded to…

You develop a meaningful idea that excites you.

A practical idea with positive benefits. An idea, you’re convinced, people will appreciate and support.

So you write an email, send it, and wait.

And nothing happens. Nobody replies.

Don’t take it personally.

Remember, just like you, people are busy. They have they’re own passions and pursuits. Don’t be insulted by their lack of enthusiasm and never let their silence discourage you from doing meaningful work.

Be well,

Jay

Don’t be an indifferent student.

You will not love all of your subjects. You will not love all your teachers.

You will question the importance of the subject and it’s significance on your current life, your future life and the world-at-large.

In fact, you will rationalize some subjects are pointless and insignificant.

You will fall asleep in class. You will look for shortcuts. You will procrastinate and cram and stress and possibly, fail.

But whatever you do, don’t be indifferent.

Indifference makes many capable students incapable.

Your teacher is passionate about the subject. Respect their passion.

They attend workshops and seminars and take advance classes on the subject you dismiss. They think about the subject while eating lunch, driving to work, staring at themselves in the mirror.

No matter the subject–don’t be indifferent. Your indifference is impossible to hide.

Inside, outside a classroom we’re all forever students.

Respecting another’s passion allows you to forge connections and build relationships while indifference is the quickest, safest way to be forgotten.

Be well,

Jay

Disarm the audience

People often ask how I could teach teenagers. Stereotypes find teenagers to be arrogant, rude, and scary.

If I learned anything from performing stand-up comedy it’s to survive on stage, you have to disarm the audience by criticizing yourself and your absurdities.

When teaching, I’m quick to poke fun at myself. Self-deprecation is one way to win over a crowd or a classroom full of judgmental teenagers and get them to do something miraculously subtle–listen.

By taking away their ammunition, you doubly encourage the critic to support your cause.

Be well,

Jay

The answer is not out there.

Many young people think the answer will be found in a magical land known as out there.

They can’t wait to graduate high school, move out of their parent’s house, leave the confines of their hometown behind and get out there.

Older now, I realize the answer is not out there. The answer has always been right here, inside me, wherever I am.

If only we could travel inside ourselves with the same vigor and optimism that we travel to some distant land, hoping to find the answer, we may have saved a lot of time and money.

Be well,

Jay

I once had a supervisor I disagreed with.

I’m sure you can relate.

During a performance review, my supervisor told me that my teaching style,  a fusion of storytelling and instruction, was not practical and measurable on state exams.

“You’re job is to teach reading and writing skills not to tell bedtime stories.”

At the time of our meeting, I’d been teaching for 13 years and felt I was finally forging a classroom identity.

Though I didn’t agree, like a good employee, I did what I was told.

I didn’t tell stories. I didn’t openly reflect on writing, literature, and life with my students.

To the detriment of both my professional integrity and student instruction, I tried to be someone else.

I grew lost and frustrated. I began to resent teaching. I updated my resume, created a monster.com account and begin exploring other career options.

Then, one day in a meeting with my supervisor, I snapped.

“If I don’t teach your way…what are you going to do?…Are you going to fire me?”

There was a long, trailing silence.

“I can’t compromise who I am anymore. I’m drawling a line. Feel free to cross it and fire me.”

Proudly, I’m still a teacher and though I was not fired, the meeting sprouted permanent tension between the supervisor and I.

There are many moments, especially as an employee, when you must follow orders.

However, when you’re asked to compromise your identity you must take a stand, draw a line or risk losing your integrity–which will always be more important than any job you’re paid to do.

Be well,

Jay