Showing posts from 2013

Agreeing to disagree - a precious gift

The importance of choosing your friends with care cannot be overstated considering the massive effect they have on who you will become. One characteristic I value in people I choose to befriend is the ability to disagree without being disagreeable.
A friend wrote the following during a discussion we had about gay marriage: "People (and organizations) have different views on important issues, and in my view that's how our society should work. In the end society grows from a diversity of views. Sometimes that growth will be something we agree with, sometimes not.  "Empathy is an important characteristic to me. ... If a religious person is intolerant of my lifestyle, or someone in the gay community is intolerant of your lifestyle, well, obviously they're not a friend or someone to be around. I've previously shared that, without exception, all of my many experiences with my Mormon friends and coworkers have been entirely positive. Perhaps because I go out of my way …

Ask what you can do, people

"And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country."

As far as I can tell, this sentiment is long dead among the American public. And that's a problem. At least it is if you're an American and you want to keep living in a great country. 
Here are some great ideas of things you can do for your country. Quit buying stuff you don't have money for. Seriously, just stop. If the national debt bothers you, and you wish the country would be more fiscally responsible, check your credit card statements and see how your personal spending looks for a change. Get a job. With all due respect to those laid off or who are sincerely looking for work, of course, because life happens and sometimes you're unemployed for a time. But there are so many able-bodied people sitting on their rumps in this country. Overqualified for a job you can get? Take it anyway in the meantime.Give! Give, give, give. Sure, the government sp…

Just one person

I am just one person who tries to do better today than I did yesterday.
I am just one person who dreams of leaving the world better than I found it.
I am just one person who strives to remember and love God.
I am just one person who fails often at this.
I am just one person who tries again.
But I am grateful that I am not the only person. There are many who quietly struggle to accomplish good, who silently despair at their failures even as they pick themselves up and keep walking. And that's not truly despair, is it? No, that's diligence. That's optimism. That's the best of the human spirit.
So to all of you who carry on this way, thank you for your example. For your strength. For helping me to know that I'm not alone. I walk with a great, silent army of noble humans. And it's a pleasure to be in your company. by Tyler Smith

A hard look at love

Much has been said about love. From spiritual texts to conversations with roommates to messages from Miley Cyrus, everyone seems to have an opinion built on personal experience. Honestly, it gets confusing. Is love a complete sacrifice of self as argued in Seth Smith's recently popular article, or is it something we're just a sucker for like the Biebs?
While enduring yet another conversation along these lines during Sunday School this weekend, I became pretty frustrated. A thought popped into my head, and I jotted it down.
To love = to choose To love = to make a priority
Well, that might sound unromantic. That's fine with me. This definition works for people, things, hobbies...anything. What I love, I choose to do, by definition. What I love more, I prioritize above what I love less. 
Thinking about love this way scared me when I applied it to myself. Some of the activities and people that I love by this definition are not, shall I say, ideal. by Tyler Smith

The Hank Saga

Four reasons I want to get married

1. I want to create something new A new relationship, a new family, a new social unit, a new dynamic. New children, new experiences, new memories, new challenges.
2. I want to change the world  I believe that working to develop a stable, self-sufficient, nuclear family is the best way to impact my community, my country, and the world. I see the good that has come from my grandparents' posterity in only two generations, and I am amazed at the ability of families to change the world over time. We see it for the better and for the worse all around us. I hope my family will bring change for the better.
3. I want to deepen my humanity  Men and women are different. I believe both genders offer different lenses through which to view the human experience. I want to experience the whole spectrum of humanity in a way that is only possible through a combination of the masculine and feminine in the context of an equal partnership.
4.  I want to practice active love  I imagine this is the hardest…

Nobody cares because nobody knows

If you have ever tried to get a new blog off the ground or increase your following on a social network, you know how hard it can be. You figure, "I'll just produce great content, and people will flock to me!" It's the if-you-build-it-they-will-come principle. And to some tiny extent, it's true. But there is one cold, hard fact of the digital social world that is difficult to understand at first.
Nobody cares about your content because nobody knows who you are.
This is true for me, this is true for you, this is true for the biggest of social media powerhouses. Before those powerhouses became who they are today, nobody cared about their content because nobody knew who they were, either. 

As a member of +The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints striving to share the gospel online you are at an additional disadvantage. Think of your predicament this way: Nobody cares about your content because nobody knows who you are, and especially because you are sharing c…

Questions for those who share the gospel online

Why do you share the gospel online?
Who is your target audience? 
What is your motivation for increasing your reach?
How do you focus on the one?
How often do you share content created by others?
As we ask ourselves these questions, I believe we will be able to set specific goals for ourselves when it comes to sharing the gospel online. For a long time, all I wanted was more followers. Then I realized that I don't care about followers, I care about creating content non-members can relate to. My strategy adjusts regularly, but it's important to remember that setting specific goals and then creating a plan to achieve them will greatly increase our efficacy online. 
Future posts will focus on applying the principles of goal setting and planning to our online missionary work.
by Tyler Smith

You are not alone

Maybe you feel marginalized. Maybe you feel alone in your challenges, in your thoughts, in your convictions. Maybe you wish someone else understood what you experience. Maybe disagreements with others make you feel negative or even angry.

Always remember that you are not alone. And neither is the other side.

Someone is on your side.
Someone else is not.
While we're seeing our side
Maybe we forgot
They are not alone.
No one is alone.

Remembering this will keep you happy. It will increase your respect for others. It will increase their respect for you. Other people value their formative life experiences just as much as you value your own. Rarely do we know what other people have been through. Even then, we can't understand how it affected them.

Remember, you will never get anywhere in resolving differences until you understand the other person's point of view so well that it makes good sense to you why they think what they do.

No one says it better than Stephen Sondheim in Into th…

Three things Mormons do not understand about their own doctrine

1. The Atonement of Jesus Christ
If you associate living the gospel with stress, self-loathing, shame, or perfection anxiety. If you think others must believe the way you do or be damned. If you think people who espouse other belief systems will be miserable in eternity. If you think the unrepentant will be miserable in eternity. If you think you deserve to hold a grudge. If you lose faith because of something another person has done.
Jonah 4Doctrine and Covenants 19; 1 Peter 5:5; 2 Peter 3:15-18; Jacob 4:6-7, 12; Alma 36:17-20; Ether 12:27; Doctrine and Covenants 88:78; Doctrine and Covenants 93:12-13; Doctrine and Covenants 106:7-8; The Peacegiver
2. The role of the Church
If you think the Church should teach you the gospel. If you think the Church should teach the gospel to your children. If you wait for Church leaders to tell you what to do. If you think the Church is responsible for your spiritual, emotional, or temporal welfare. If you expect the Church to not change. 
Moroni 6;

Eleven reasons why they will never hire you

A few months before I graduated from college, I began applying for jobs at an astonishing rate. I wrote so many cover letters and created so many customized resumes that I began to question my true identity! After all that effort I managed to land a job working at a call center for a multi-level marketing company (oh, sorry, "direct marketing"). For those of you blessed enough to be unfamiliar with such jobs, I will tell you that it was a $10/hr dead end.

Now, click through these slides and perform a short self-evaluation.

Congratulations Graduate! Eleven Reasons Why I Will Never Hire You. from Mark O'Toole
It took me until the middle of my first year of graduate school to internalize these principles. When I began to apply them, doors started opening faster than I could peek through and see what waited inside.
So to all you college students preparing to graduate in the next few years, take time out of your studies to practice doing the real work at hand. As you develop t…

For the fun of it

Just last night I had a conversation with my roommate +Jory Woodis. I had been experimenting with how I might make content for YouTube and come to the realization that it's just not possible to be good at everything.
"Why make a video no one will watch? Why write a blog post no one will read? Why take pictures if I'll never be a professional photographer?" I complained.
"Aren't we at a time in our lives when we can do things just because we like doing them?" 
He had a point. 
Today I participated in a discussion about how to best use Google+. +Tonia Addison-Hall made a great comment. "I'm not here to attract people by doing what they want. If they like me, they'll add me. If not, no biggie."
She had a point.
I have a career and enjoy my job. I don't need to make videos, blog posts, photographs, and music for money. I can do those things simply because I enjoy doing them. Those activities improve my talents and help me become a be…

Спустя 6 лет (6 years later)

Six years ago last month I returned from the mysterious and wonderful land of Russia. You don't survive two years of relative isolation in the Russian Far East without undergoing some major life changes. Looking back it's hard to believe just how much that experience has affected the course of my life.

Why Russia?
I didn't really have a choice. When I was 17 or so I made up my mind to prepare for missionary service with +The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I knew that part of the deal was to accept an assignment--to pick up and go wherever the Lord asked me to go. I was basically ok with this idea, as long as I didn't go to Brazil or anywhere near the equator (I'm notoriously averse to heat). Imagine my joy upon finding out I would be living in the frozen wastelands of Siberia and my horror when I arrived during August and promptly sweat right through my suit coat in 90+ degree, extremely humid weather!
What changed?
I learned to think for myself and ho…

Luck and following through

Today I read this lengthy article +Tevya Washburn shared about survivorship bias. Tevya's share made me think it might be a dainty article about how to develop good luck, but it turned out to be one of those pieces that makes you work to understand it. Most things worth learning require mental energy, though, and I'm glad I pushed through to the end. Guess what. I have good luck. Now I know why.
It's not that I'm particularly smart or talented or that more of my endeavors succeed than those of the average person. It's simply that I have Opportunity ADD. I find it hard to watch opportunities float by, so I reach out and take as many of them as I can. Naturally, this aspect of my personality comes with consequences, good and bad. 
The good
To put it crudely, if you try a billion things, at least a few of them will work out. My curiosity and inability to pass by an opportunity have produced some interesting outcomes that range from visiting 38 states (most of which f…

Don't plan on it

Everyone interested in self-improvement knows that breaking a habit can be just as hard as creating a new one. It's true! Quitting behavior like biting your fingernails, checking your phone during dinner, drinking alcohol, or viewing pornography presents one of life's greatest challenges. How do you stop?
As I work to ditch habits I feel impede my personal progress, I find myself repeating the same thought after a relapse: "I'm not planning to slip up again." But in many cases I do...over and over. You know the feeling--frustration!
I may be splitting hairs here, but I think there's a big difference between not planning to do something again and planning to not do something again.
What's the difference? In version one you don't do any planning. In version two, you do. Call it semantics, call it deductive logic, call it's an important difference! 
If I don't plan on doing something, that doesn't preclude me doing it again. It…

On faith: Part 3 - Freedom

And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever ... to act for themselves and not to be acted upon.
There is something about summer nights. The stars reach out forever, a soft breeze evokes memories of childhood, and you engage in the most amazing conversations against a backdrop of chirping crickets.
Late one such night, I wandered the streets of our sleepy college town with a trusted friend, sharing with him some of my most private and difficult personal challenges.
I confided in him that only a few months earlier, I had considered abandoning my faith and leaving the church in which I had actively participated from the time I was eight years old. Interestingly, my friend told me he had found himself in a similar situation.
"So why did you stay?" I asked. "Why did you keep believing when you had no reason to?" 
In his own words: "I chose faith because I realized the decision was mine to make. Either I was going to choose to beli…

On faith: Throwing up

Personal journal entry from June 1998 Age: 12
About five minutes after I walked out the door to collect fast offerings, I started to get a little queasy. Soon after that I got this really bad pounding headache. The second I got home I went right up to my bedroom. It was my first migraine headache. I figured that if I got to sleep and had a nap that I would end up feeling better. I was just about to sleep when my stomach started to hurt really bad. It is impossible to go to sleep with a stomach ache, especially if it is accompanied with a very bad headache. I got down on my knees and prayed for my headache and my stomach ache to go away. A few minutes later I threw up. After this my stomach did not hurt and I was able to go to sleep. I had a good long nap and when I woke up I was feeling a whole lot better. I didn’t recognize this until later, but my throwing up was a good thing because after I threw up I was able to go to sleep. I also think that Heavenly Father helped me to throw up…

On faith: Part 2 - Snowball effect

I have felt the effects of a bully only twice in my life. The first time turned out all right because I ended up sitting on him for the rest of recess. That was in first grade. I wasn't really picked on again until seventh grade--the first year of junior high school. A certain ninth grader enjoyed using me for snowball target practice on the way home from the bus stop. Naturally, snowballs were not the only thing he hurled in my direction.
One day, having endured just such a barrage, I walked into my house, stormed up the stairs to my room, and sat down on the floor in the corner behind my bed. Hot tears of anger boiled in my eyes.
I don't remember why, but I reached for a copy of The Book of Mormon that lay nearby. Perhaps it was because I'd been told that the scriptures held the power to answer our questions. Perhaps I didn't know where else to turn. For whatever reason, my twelve-year-old hands grabbed the book and fanned through the pages. I read only one verse, a…

On faith: Part 1 - Introduction

During my experience as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I have had numerous opportunities to listen to people as they experienced deep personal crises of faith. I myself have endured such crises. I've decided to share some of these experiences in a series of blog posts. 
What do I mean by spiritual crisis?
For someone like me who grew up with believing parents who taught me from childhood about God, a crisis of faith may be as simple as wondering whether I actually believe what I was raised to know. For a recent convert, a crisis of faith may occur because of intense frustration associated with the inability to leave behind old habits and establish new ones. For everyone, a crisis of faith may come about when life, with its often cruel and merciless twists, presents a set of extremely personal and frighteningly intense circumstances that seem to directly contradict the faith we have embraced.
What of these crises?
Allow me to say that there is nothing…

5 ways the tablet has changed the way I do school

I recently asked +Spencer Apsley to share some of his thoughts about how using a tablet computer has changed his college experience. The enthusiasm of his response made me wish I were in college again just so I could get a taste of what he described. Rather than go back to school, I asked Spencer to share his thoughts here so I can live vicariously through him.

5 Ways My Tablet Has Changed the Way I Do School
by Spencer Apsley

I’ll be the first to admit that when tablets were first revealed to the public (a la iPad) I was skeptical. I distinctly remember thinking to myself: “Who would ever want to carry around a giant cell phone that doesn’t call people?” I didn’t see the appeal or the point. However, after spending some quality time with my new Nexus 7 I take everything back. Tablet’s are the best, they are the future, and they’ve completely changed the way I do school. Here’s what’s changed:

My back loves me. Before I got my tablet my backpack usually contained the following items:


It's about people

Writing that last post about meeting +Spencer Bean helped me realize something.

Networking. Why do you do it?

I suppose the first question you should ask yourself is, "Do I network?" You probably do some networking even if you don't realize it because, well, you're alive. But do you network with a purpose?

Oh, there are many "good" reasons to network. You know them. "Networking is the best way to get a job," you've heard people say. "I knew a guy who knew a guy," someone quips when congratulated on his new position.

These are all true. Networking is the best way to find a job. It is the best way to know and use resources well beyond your personal abilities. It is an incredible way to advance your career, improve your talents, add arrows to your quiver of experience, and climb in through windows when doors of opportunity slam shut in your face. But that's not what I realized. I've know those truths for a long time.

Perhaps the…

The people you'll meet

Last night I met someone I've known for a long time. Let me explain.

About a year and a half ago +Jory Woodis introduced me to +Spencer Bean via email. The occasion? I was trying to host my first website, and I couldn't figure out how to get it working. I was stuck, so I asked Jory for help, and he said his buddy Spencer knows all about that kind of stuff. Thanks to the magic of Gmail chat and Spencer's generosity, my site was up and running, but more importantly, an online acquaintanceship was born.

Thanks again to the magic of gchat and the serendipity of common interests, Spencer and I kept in touch digitally until, realizing that we both now live in the same city, we figured we may as well grab some dinner and meet face to face.

Meeting Spencer was awesome. He's finishing up a master's degree and working for a sweet company that makes financial software. It's very refreshing to talk with people who are full of great ideas and vision about the future.

As you…