Answering powerful questions, No. 6

The penultimate part of “6 Powerful Questions That Will Change Your Life Forever” found me taking a look at what i’d do if money were essentially no object. Looking back i am a little disappointed that i didn’t come up with anything more extraordinary but, it is what it is and we’re moving along now to the final question in this series.

So let’s get to it, shall we?

Question No. 6: Who do i admire most in the world?

List your greatest inspirations and the qualities that you admire about these people. Think about what really inspires you in this world. What you admire about others is also a quality that is in you. Know that you admire someone because they have similar qualities to you.

Right off the bat, i know for sure that there will be people who later on come to mind that i’ll think “darn it! I should have included them!” To answer this question right now at this moment in time, i’m stretching my memory back over my entire life and seeing who comes to the forefront in terms of standout personalities, both personally known or not.

Dragons_of_Winter_Night_cover

Picked this up at a library book sale because the art was cool. About halfway through i realized it was the second book in a trilogy

 

As a child, from around age 8 to about 14, what i remember looking up to or feeling inspired most by were authors. i spent a lot of time reading in those years, mostly fantasy and science fiction novels, and writers like Margaret Weis & Tracy Hickman, H.P. Lovecraft and Michael Moorcock not only enthralled me with the stories they wrote but beyond that, with their ability to create entire worlds of their own to play in.

"Lovecraft" by by Goulish Gary Pullin

“Lovecraft” by by Goulish Gary Pullin

Thinking more about it now, each of those writers approached universe-building a bit differently. Weis & Hickman had their Dragonlance setting with recurring characters and an epic saga that branched out extensively from it. Lovecraft had his fictional New England where the setting itself was provided the atmosphere for unconnected characters and stories to take place. And Moorcock’s “eternal champion” was a more conceptual backdrop for stories of different genres to exist together.

Moorcock

What all of them did similarly though, and what inspired me, was their use of imagination to create something larger than a single great story, instead presenting their own worlds.

Of my high school days, the person who stands out most to me as an inspirational figure is my honors English teacher of several years, Joe Tomba. Papa Smurf, as Mr. Tomba was affectionately called, was the first teacher i ever had who engaged his students as equals in discussions. Or, at least, i was developed enough at that age to recognize the process. We may have had a textbook for his classes but, if so, i don’t recall ever cracking it open. Instead, we read books and would have conversations about the themes, character motivations and human nature. This isn’t to say i enjoyed all of the books we read (and sometimes i didn’t even read them). Nevertheless, the more valuable lessons were opening our minds to new ideas and, in a broader sense, allowing for a new perspective on education itself. Rather than a series of rote lessons, it was the first time for me that the teacher and students learned not through repetition and procedure but more naturally, through sharing ideas and coming to new conclusions naturally. In fact, when i first went off to college, my initial plan was to work towards becoming an English teacher myself.

papasmurf

Seriously, dude looked just like him, minus the blue skin and Phrygian cap.

While i’m on the topic of educators then, i must include Professor Anup Kumar from my much more recent time at Cleveland State University. Everyone i know who learned from Prof. Kumar is very grateful for their experience and considers him to be at least one of the best educators they’d ever had, if not the very best. (i am in the latter category.) In fact, although not in any official capacity, i consider him to be my mentor. The concept of meeting students on equal footing that Papa Smurf introduced me to, Prof. Kumar raised to the Nth degree. At that level of education, those in the classroom are adults first and students second. What i mean by that is, we have all made a choice to be sitting at those desks to learn something. Not just what comes out of a book, but as a last stage before participating in the greater world through whatever profession we hope to embark on afterwards. As such, what Prof. Kumar brings to the table is not only a wealth of knowledge and experience but a very real sense of guidance on what to expect out there. And if that is not enough, he goes beyond that as well, making himself available for questions, advice and whatever help he might offer even after we’ve put away our caps and gowns and ventured out into the “real world.” For those reasons and more, there was no one else more deserving for me to present the Cleveland State University Stole of Gratitude upon my graduation.

In a similar vein to the writers i mentioned above, there are two other creative geniuses who have had a huge impact on my life, Stan Lee and Gary Gygax. What can be said about these two pillars of the geek community that hasn’t been said?

Certainly, there is more to the world of comic books and superheroes than Stan “The Man,” but the fact that he has essentially been the human face of comics for over half a century is saying something. There are countless other creators who have contributed enormously to the industry, no doubt about it. Two very significant things Stan Lee did, though, were giving those four-color heroes more humanity, and beyond the pages of the comic books, giving a human connection between the readers and the comics themselves.

In the case of Gary Gygax well, anyone who’s read even a little bit here at The Long Shot has no doubt noticed my great fondness for Dungeons & Dragons. i’m not even going to get into the vast influence Gygax has had in so many ways. Suffice to say, the thing he created (along with Dave Arneson and others) has been a big part of my life for about 30 years.

Along with the preceding individuals, there are a group of people that have continued to fascinate and inspire me and one of my goals here on The Long Shot is speaking with them and sharing their stories with you. These are the folks who have worked tirelessly to remain autonomous and are strong in the creative spirit. People like Chris Stuckmann, Jim Mahfood, Stefan Pokorny, Paul O’Connor, Don Hileman, Valentino Zullo, Anthony Snitzer, Shawn Coss and more have shared their time with me and it was a great honor to share their stories. These are all people who i look up to, who continue to follow their passions and dreams and bring their unique creativity to the world on their own terms. What they all share, which every one of them said to me, is that they just keep doing their thing and that they’re “just a person who likes <whatever the thing is they’re doing.>”

In a similar way, a childhood friend of mine is also something of an inspiration. Aaron Bonk was my best friend growing up, and these days he is a performer who does all sorts of things like a comedy juggling whip show, fire performance and stilt-walking. We had lost touch for many years and reconnected a few years back through Facebook, and i was really astonished to see what he was up to these days. i recall when were were in maybe sixth- or seventh-grade, he got a book on how to juggle for his birthday. So imagine my surprise to see that here we were decades later and he’s parlayed that into a successful career! How cool is that? For the simple fact that an innocuous birthday gift as a child would transform into a fun, fulfilling life for him as an adult is definitely inspirational.

My best friend Melissa is another person i admire. For the better part of a decade my girlfriend and since separating my closest friend, she was sort of a dual inspiration for me. When we were together, she kept me inspired to keep trying to do better. She would say i need to do better for myself, but i strove to do the best i could for the both of us. Although i returned to college to finish getting a degree through a desire for personal fulfillment, the inciting reason was really to try and make a better life for us. When i first met her, i was working on filming an independent movie and the same support and enthusiasm she had for that continued through whatever project of endeavor i pursued, including this here blog. On the flip side, i always admired her fortitude, honesty and drive. She is a very strong person and i continue to look up to her still. She has a way of putting things that can be complicated or confusing to me, in a way that smooths them out and makes simple sense.

Lastly, a small group of people who might not have a huge impact on the wide world, but who certainly do on mine, is my mom, my brother and my dad. Although we are far from the closest family, and in many ways far from it, i do hold some admiration for each of them in their own ways.

Despite the many times i’ve thought my mom was batshit crazy over the course of my lifetime, i definitely recognize that raising two boys on her own was quite a feat. i have a hard time taking care of just myself! She has always done her best to make sure we’re okay though, and at the end of the day she’s always been there for my brother and i when we needed her.

As for my dad, we have been basically estranged for a long time, since he and my mom got divorced when i was in, i think, kindergarten. We’d see each other here and there over the years but it wasn’t anything groundbreaking. A few months ago when i was preparing to move here to Austin though, we went out to dinner and had a really great time. Since then, we keep in touch more and it’s been pretty cool. What inspires me about this is that it just goes to show that, no matter how much time passes or how distant you can grow from people, family is family, and i’m happy that we are staying in touch even if it took me moving away from my hometown to do it.

Lastly, my older brother, who has really forged his own way through life. He has always been his own person and stayed true to himself. Like me, he has a penchant for the philosophical and getting way out there in conversations, and i think he always has other people’s best interests at heart. As far as big brothers go, i can’t complain. We’re different in a lot of ways, but similar in just as many or more. To see that he is happy with himself and his life in certainly something i look up to.

What about you? Who are some of the people you admire, or who have inspired you?

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Answering powerful questions, No. 5

Looking and thinking ahead, at first i thought the next of “6 Powerful Questions That Will Change Your Life Forever” would be one of the easiest and most fun of them to answer. But if i’m honest, it’s proven more difficult. Not because nothing at all comes to mind, but rather aside from essentially a laundry list of mostly generic thoughts, it began to shed some light on more overarching foibles i’ve struggled with for my whole life. i suppose that is ultimately a good thing though – if these questions are supposed to change my life forever, then it would behoove them to stimulate thoughtful responses.

What could this consternation-causing question be?

Question No. 5: What would i do if i had one billion dollars?

 

List everything that you would really love to do if you had all the money in the world. Okay, so you would probably travel the world, buy a house or two, and give some money to your family. Then what would you do with your time?

This question helps you to think without limitations. When we are able to remove limitations and boundaries, we can discover what we really want to do.

Dr. Evil

A couple of things right off the bat that spring to mind, the first of which is that my benchmark for a “change the rest of my life” amount of money has long been one million dollars. Shades of Dr. Evil aside, and discussions of that sum’s relative value in the world today, i still think that’s an enormous amount of money. My usual response to dismissive attitudes towards a cool million is to divide that amount by how much a person makes in one year and tell me it’s still chump change.

Sure, if you’re a well-off or modestly successful professional, the impact will be lessened. But even at the height of my yearly income several years ago, it would have taken me roughly 21 years to gross $1 million. Which means, i could have lived at least that long without making any income at the same lifestyle level. And that’s not counting any interest made, investments or simply by wiping the debt slate clean immediately and keeping it that way while living a modest lifestyle.

The second thing that stands out to me about this question is a discrepancy in the wording. The premise is what one would do with $1 billion, but the description says “all the money in the world.” Those are two distinct things, of course. On the other hand, a figure with all those zeroes might as well be all the money in the world to me; it’s hard to wrap my head around getting an ATM receipt and seeing a balance like that. Pretty much everything i could possibly want as a luxury or on a shopping spree would not even make a dent in an amount like that.

To get right down to it though, the very first thing i would do is pay off every bill and debt that i have – even those distant ones i ignored for many years that have since fallen off my credit report due to statutes and abandonment by creditors. i would like there to be no question that i’m in the black.

The people i’m close to in my life, i would do the same for them. Fortunately (?) my circle of closeness is pretty tight so it wouldn’t be too expansive of an expenditure to accomplish this. i’ve read and heard about others in these sorts of situations, like winning the lottery for example or discussions with friends about the possibility of such, who’ve said they wouldn’t feel comfortable straight-up fronting people money like that. They’d arrange it as compensation for some sort of service or goal-meeting task, or would provide things like homes or scholarships instead of forking over a check or whatever. Those ideas have merit, but at least at this moment in time i’d feel okay doling out funds to a small number of people and allowing them to decide what to do with it.

With that stuff out of the way, the world is my oyster so naturally i’d do what everyone else says and travel. i mean, who wouldn’t? As i’ve mentioned in previous posts, being enamored of the wide world would compel me to visit a whole lot of places, as well as return to a few places i’ve been. As the human to my best bud, a ten-year-old tuxedo cat Cosby (named before the media scandal surrounding the comedian, sorry kitty) i wouldn’t want to leave him behind or travel around with him in an airplane cargo hold so i suppose i’d splurge on more accommodating methods of travel with him.

It would be awesome to have a travel companion along as well, like, another human being. But a friend recently pointed out that i’ve always had a need for other people to often be around me, which she saw as a bit of an issue, so maybe i’d go solo (with Cosby). My recent relocation away from my home turf, on my own, has illuminated some of the benefits of being on my own, like opening more opportunities to meet and engage with people while out and about than if i were with someone. On my own, i could go wherever and do whatever i wanted. On the other hand, i do miss the few friends i have and how awesome would it be to embark on a grand adventure together? Although, they have children and families of their own now, so they probably wouldn’t be able to gallivant around the globe with no agenda.

The deeper part of this question, with the preceding few things out of the way, is what would i do with my time, without limitations? Money is a strange thing, in that removing the barriers it creates is really only achieved through extremes. Either you have so much money that the cost of things is not really a concern, or you have absolutely none and the matter becomes irrelevant. i suppose there’s a modicum of majesty in having nothing, like some sort of Buddhist or Hare Krishna or walking the world like Kane on Kung-fu…but the darker side of that is living the homeless life – something i’ve become all-too familiar with seeing here in Austin, Texas.

My instinct in answering this question is to say i’d write more. Do more reporting, profiles on people capture my imagination (my favorite), introspective pieces like this one, travelogues, or even delve back into some fiction projects – both those on the back burner for years and more recent ideas i’ve had.

The fear i have though, is that i wouldn’t. There’s nothing really stopping me from doing any of that now, except a grab bag of excuses. i could say that time is an issue; i have to keep working at my job. But outside of that, instead of binge-watching Arrow, The FlashSilicon Valley or some other distracting entertainment, i could be tapping away at something. Instead of playing a game as escapist entertainment, i could be using my imagination to finish work on one of my own projects. So, in some ways, i am afraid of what i’d do if i were suddenly so flush with money that i had no excuses for being lazy or putting things off.

Another strange shift that’s very recently come over me (like, in the last couple of days) concerns where i’d want to live, given this fantastical financial situation. As recent as the last powerful question i answered, my ideal living situation was NYC. And for certain, that would be one of the places i would spend some time at with my billion-dollar bank account.

But would i live there?

i honestly can’t say for sure right now. Although the appeal of establishing myself in a place different than where i was born and raised has been part of the bedrock of who i am for all of my life, there’s a growing part of me that feels a stronger connection to that place now that i am away doing exactly that. For all of my love-hate relationship with Cleveland that has crested and broken over time, right now at the moment of writing this, i think i would make the city my home in a way that it really has never been before.

Outside of living in the house i grew up in, once i moved out at 18 to go away to college, it ceased to be a place i envisioned settling down in. That’s not to say i didn’t live there, or go away and come back numerous times, but my eye was always looking ahead to getting away from there again. There were one or two dalliances with buying a home over the last couple of decades, but those were brief and half-hearted.

The words of several friends now echo in my mind, that in a lottery-winning scenario, they would own a home in Northeast Ohio and if the desire to see other places arose, simply take trips there. It is only now that i’ve really made a big move on my own that i can see the value in that perspective. With $1 billion budget, my idea of a dream abode would not be very challenging at all to establish there. And one of my biggest gripes about the area – the weather – would be much more tolerable. Specifically, the winter cold and snow would be a lot more manageable with, say, a garage to park in, a decent car to park in said garage, and similarly practical solutions.

As to where in the area i might live, despite my shyness and general dislike for people, i would likely get myself a place in the heart of downtown Cleveland. A nice place in a more rural setting does sound appealing, maybe even a decked-out Airstream due to my fondness for small living spaces. But i do so love high-rise living, and with $1 billion i’m pretty sure i could afford the penthouse or top floor suite with a commanding view of Lake Erie to the north and both the east- and west-sides of Cleveland all around. That would be pretty dope.

Now, what i’d do all day from this mythical place? Well, outside of whimsical traveling and keeping up with my shows, i would hope that i would work more. And yes, i mean the aforementioned avenues of writing. i actually think it would be cool to “work” for a few different places, and since i wouldn’t be dependent on a paycheck, i would honestly just offer myself as a sort of unpaid intern for the sorts of dream jobs i wish i had now anyway.

What sorts of jobs? That’s easy – all the stuff i already enjoy doing! It would be amazing to work with the folks at Wizards of the Coast on Dungeons & Dragons stuff, or something related to comics or the television shows they’ve inspired. Or maybe i could just sit-in to observe the people i admire while they do their thing and write about it to share right here.

So, if you read this far, you might be a little disappointed by the lack of any outrageous ideas on what i would do with $1 billion. At the end of the day, i guess i’m not really that exciting of a person. i don’t have aspirations to fund Martian terraforming, solve the world’s problems, build an art collection or do philanthropy work.

i’m just a boring Midwestern guy whose introspection and experiences in life continuously provide me with befuddlement about my own self, and who likes to write.

How about you? i’m guessing you can think of much more elaborate and exciting uses for $1 billion. Or maybe you’re as humdrum as me?

Answering powerful questions, No. 4

The next of “6 Powerful Questions That Will Change Your Life Forever” looks to be a fun one. Having passed the halfway point with my answers, if i’m honest i’m not feeling like my life is changing forever but perhaps it’s not meant to be a cumulative process. Nevertheless, discovering the directions in which these questions lead my thinking has been fun and interesting so far. So let’s continue, shall we?

Question No. 4: If my life had absolutely no limits and i could have it all and do whatever i wanted, what would i choose to have and what would i choose to do?

 

Describe your ideal lifestyle. List what you would do throughout the day if you knew that you were bound to be successful, what kind of person you would be, how much money you would earn, and where you would live.

This question allows you to realize who you would truly want to be if there were no limits. By aligning with this you can begin working towards the life that you truly want to create. Know that you wouldn’t have a desire if you didn’t also have the ability to fulfil (sic) it.

Now here is something that i’ve thought about quite a bit throughout my entire life! That is probably not an unusual scenario though; i imagine daydreaming about what you would do without any limitations is not an uncommon thing.

Bruce Lee limits

The first thing that comes to mind is the “where you would live” part. That’s been a source of countless discussions for me, both internal and external.

i recall that when i was very young, i read somewhere that the majority of people grow up, settle down and die within a 20 mile radius of where they were born. i want to say i was in third grade when i read that, but “third grade” has always felt like the default time for anything that happened as a youngster. It probably was around that time though.

Even at that age, having lived in the same house my whole life to that point with the idea of moving around or even the concept of an independent adult life foreign to me, that notion scared me. Obviously it had quite an impact on my young mind – here i am decades later and it remains a standout of my childhood. Most recently, the notion surfaced before i moved from Cleveland to Austin. A pragmatic uncle mentioned it in relation to it being more applicable to lower- and middle-class people, which i am.

Relocating away from my hometown is nothing new to me; moving to Austin wasn’t my first trip to the rodeo. Each time in the past, my moves had not lasted very long and in fact, being here in Austin two months now represents the longest i’ve ever been outside that 20 mile radius after a move, eking out by maybe a week or so the time i lived in Big Bear, California. For clarity i’m not counting travel, just changes of residence.

Speaking of Big Bear, it was while driving cross-country back from there and passing by a good cross section of Americana that i remarked to my traveling buddy how all the cities and towns are pretty similar. There’s a central hub where the taller buildings are, bleeding out into stripmall-infested suburbs and finally giving way to vast tracts of rural land before the next urban hub. The only major differences between them, the weather and climate of the region.

On one level, i still believe that to be true. Granted, there are demographic, socio-economic and myriad other comparisons to make but, at least here in the US, one place is more-or-less the same as any other.

So why do i continuously feel like i should be somewhere else? Even now, here in Austin where apples-to-apples i find superior to Cleveland, i have moments of thinking i would like to live somewhere different.

Maybe it’s because i have traveled around the country and a little bit of the larger world enough to comprehend how massive and full of variety it is. i have written several times about my first experience outside the US, and how i felt immediately upon leaving the train station that “this is different than what i’ve known.” That exhilarating sensation of arriving in a place i’ve never been is so exciting, and greatly intensified when that place is in another country.

At the same time, spending time in new places inevitably at some point gives me pause to reflect on my home region and the aspects i appreciate (and miss) coalesce and crystalize in my mind more coherently. i may leave Ohio considering the idea that i may never go back, but each time i did was with a more positive perspective on the area (and somewhat of a heavy heart, too – returning has always been a matter of failing to successfully establish myself in the new place).

To the point of the question however, where would i live ideally?

New York City.

All other considerations aside like weather (i hate the cold), cost of living (i’m one of those po’ folks) and sociability (go out on a Saturday night?!) we are talking ideally here, and NYC ensnared my sensibilities from the moment of my first visit and further enchants me each other time i’ve been.

Sure, there are lots of other places i’ve been that i liked a lot. And as i mentioned, the world is vast and varied. There’s cities in other countries that i fell in love with, and quite a few here in the US that hold a great deal of appeal as well.

But NYC…

The Pinnacle List

*salivate*

The rest of the explanation for Question No. 4 is informed by, rather than informs, the part about where i would live, at least in my mind. NYC ain’t cheap!

As far as how much money i would earn, that’s certainly something i’ve put a lot of thought into as well. Again, speaking of ideals here, i mean, who wouldn’t say “a lot. A hell of a lot!” Earlier this year i applied for a job online. The company had a really, really cool application process. One of the questions was “who is your favorite superhero” for crying out loud i mean, how cool is that? Anyway, another question said “what would your ideal salary be?” so i answered a million dollars a year.

In my mind, i’ve always daydreamed about making one big score all at once. Perhaps that is a symptom of lower- and middle-class people, to imagine having that one huge payday just one time, to bump your lifestyle up and give you some breathing room. Of course there is always the reward of hard work’s mythical pay off, and i’m cool with that. But the appeal of one big lump sum has always called to me. That was a big motivation for various endeavors i’ve tried like writing screenplays or making a film – the fanciful idea that someone would slap down a large sum of money up front for something like that.

As to what kind of person i would be, that’s a tough question. i can’t imagine being any kind of person other than the kind i already am. i suppose that kind of lends itself to answering what are some things i’d like to change about myself? For one, i’d like to be more hardworking. i don’t mean in the sense of on-the-job productivity; any job i’ve had i put my all into it and go above and beyond what is expected. But my dreams have never involved working my way up at someone else’s company. i’ve always yearned for autonomy, so i guess ideally i would be much more productive and industrious during my own time. In my imagination, if i never had to punch a clock for instance, i’d like to think i could still enjoy my leisure activities and then the 50+ hours i work each week i could devote to things i feel like i might actually have a shot at succeeding at in a professional way. Any of those things all involve writing in one way or another. Which isn’t to say i think i’m supremely talented at it but, it’s like the only thing i feel confident i actually have any sort of skill at, as well as immensely enjoy, so it stands to reason i should focus on it.

Which leaves just the part about what i’d do throughout the day. So at this point, i’ve got myself ideally living in NYC after having landed a large lump sum of money, with nothing but free time on my hands to do with as i please, and a penchant for writing.

So…more of everything i’ve been doing the last four years here on The Long Shot? Along with branching out and trying to do real freelance work. And who knows? Maybe even put the work into one of many passion projects whose beginnings i’ve had floating around in notebooks and computer files for the past few decades.

no limits

What about you? What does your ideal life look like, with no limitations?

Answering powerful questions, No. 3

The third of “6 Powerful Questions That Will Change Your Life Forever” has been on my mind the last few days. The first two were relatively easy to answer, one being a list and the other…also a list, but with shorter and with some elaboration.

It stands to reason that these questions get progressively more challenging to answer. After all, they claim to have the power to change one’s life forever.

This next one presents a bit of a stumbling block for me because if i’m honest i don’t completely understand the parameters of the question.

Question No. 3: What would i stand for if i knew no one would judge me?

List everything that you would do if you weren’t afraid, even your wildest dreams. This will help you discover your greatest values.

See what i mean? The question by itself makes me think of something like an issue or a cause. But the explanation suggests something more akin to a bucket list.

Stand up 1

So i guess i’ll just take a stab at tackling it via whatever comes to mind after considering the question.

Since i do plenty of self-judging, the notion of worrying about how other people might form opinions or make conclusions about me has never really been in my wheelhouse. On top of that, since i’m answering these questions in a truthful way publicly, i can’t really afford to be reserved about my answers.

[After writing this post, i realize it has the potential to be more inflammatory than anything i’ve written previously. It is what it is; the nature of this question almost insists the answer not be milquetoast.]

At this point in my life, one of the bigger-ticket ideals i stand for is personal responsibility. In this particularly volatile political climate we have here in the US during this presidential election year, the idea of personal responsibility feels like an underlying issue across the campaign platforms, at least to some extent.

So i’ll start with that idea and see where this goes. Taking responsibility for myself is something i can stand for and support.

Stand up 2

This is tricky territory for me here, because i’ve always strived to keep The Long Shot a politics-free zone. So i don’t want to delve into that morass to make a point. What i will say though, is that in my experience, it is overwhelmingly satisfying to set and accomplish goals that require an investment of one’s own time and resources, regardless (or perhaps because of) any societal roadblocks that must be overcome to reach them.

For a good example that i think will illustrate a variety of points in this outlook, i’ll use the ongoing debate about minimum wage and the accompanying “Fight for 15” movement.

As i understand it, the segment of the population that supports this believes our government should regulate wages so that all working people earn at least this amount. It has a particularly strong advocacy among fast food workers, who say that businesses like  “McDonald’s and low-wage employers have made billions of dollars in profit and pushed off costs onto taxpayers, while leaving people like us – the people who do the real work – to struggle to survive.

Like so many others, i put in my time behind the counter, as a teenager and in my early 20’s. As i’ve done at pretty much every job i’ve ever had, i applied my strong work ethic at these places, and when the time came around for raises or promotions i moved forward. In relatively short order i became at least a shift supervisor at all of these places i’ve worked.

Similarly, in more professional environments, i did my best to excel and enjoy the benefits that came along because of that. i’ll never forget a heated discussion i once had with my boss, after being assigned to a brand new position that dealt directly with the company’s finances in a measurable way. After a few months in the role, and seeing actual dollar figures that doing the job efficiently had generated, i naturally asked for a raise (there was no pay increase upon transitioning to the position). In the course of the discussion, my boss asked if i knew why people go to work.

“Yeah – to make money!”

He countered with the idea of personal satisfaction, which he read in a book about management that he recommended to me. To his point, i get that, but at the end of the day people are at work to earn a paycheck, and personal satisfaction doesn’t stave off the bill collector.

More recently, i am enjoying the fruits of having gone back to college to earn a degree in journalism and promotional communication. My goal there was actually to accomplish both the goals of that long ago conversation between me and my old boss: better income and more satisfaction. It was a hell of a lot of work to finish school while working, then switch career tracks, then move 1,300 miles away and start over.

i am not currently making $15 an hour, like the legion of fast food workers insist they deserve. i have college debt, as well as decades worth of other debts alongside cell phone bills, internet bills, rent, utilities, health and car insurance and so on.

And you know what? Here i am, getting by just fine. i am able to enjoy some discretionary spending on fun things as well as pay all of my bills on time. Every so often, i’m required to contact some entity or another to which i am a debtor and negotiate lower payments, or make a sacrifice so i can pay off an outstanding balance or whatever. i’m fully confident that if i apply myself at my new job, which i also happen to get a lot of satisfaction from, that i’ll move ahead and earn pay increases. And since i have a degree now, i think it’s more likely that my chances in the job market are better, too – meaning i won’t have to start at the bottom and prove i’m not an idiot at any jobs i might take.

Certainly, i would love to make more money. And i do think there are a lot of problems with income inequality across all sorts of racial, gender and socio-economic lines. i guess what i am getting at is that, by taking responsibility for the circumstances in my life, i don’t think it’s right to put any difficulties onto other entities. There are ways to move ahead and achieve success, and yes it is much more challenging for some by a wide margin. A big part of the argument is that anyone who works full time shouldn’t be living in poverty. That’s something i can agree with.

Not incidentally though, with a federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour, working 40 hours a week, a single person would not actually be below the poverty line. The argument takes into account those with families, to which i would say, why are they having families? And if they are, why not put more effort into whatever job you have – it’s not that hard to get ahead at McDonald’s.

All of this is meant to illuminate what i mean about personal responsibility. There is a lot of talk about our rights to things like education, health care and the like. And i agree with that, it is absolutely our right as humans to have access to those things. But i think it is infinitely more satisfying to achieve those things by applying yourself and taking responsibility for your own decisions in life to make them happen.

Stand up 3

After having taken a break to finish writing this, re-reading what i already had written and giving it some more thought, it struck me as a position in support of the status quo. There’s more than a few holes anyone could punch in the premises i’ve presented already, and that’s fine. In fact i wholeheartedly endorse discussion about anything i put on this site. Please, feel free to comment! i’m not one to dig my heels in on a topic; one of the greatest things about being human is the ability to learn and grow in our thinking. In fact i’m sure the “me” of just a few years ago would disagree with the “me” writing this post on many points.

Now, since we’re already quite a ways into this post, i ought to wrap it up before even the staunchest readers, like you who’ve gotten this far, drift away.

How about a short list of a few more things i stand for?

  1. Honesty/truth
  2. Civil rights (for all people regardless of gender, sexual orientation, age and so on. Except religion. That’s just dumb)
  3. Smaller government
  4. Trying to see and understand all sides of an issue
  5. Learning
  6. Freedom of speech (even if someone is offended by it)
  7. Acceptance
  8. Positivity in the face of negativity
  9. Art and creativity

And that’s gonna be that. The answer to this Powerful Question feels like it went off the rails a little bit and wound up being much longer than i anticipated (probably with a healthy dose of tangent thrown in).

Truth be told, i’m not feeling quite as satisfied as i usually am before i hit that “Publish” button.

On the other hand, it’s been a few days since the last post and i really don’t feel like working on this one any longer. So there it is.

What sorts of things do you stand for? This one gave me some difficulty and i’m looking forward to seeing some responses for what sorts of things come to your mind. As always, thank you so much for reading? (Especially when it’s an entirely too-long post.)

Answering powerful questions, No. 2

Since there was a No. 1 it only stands to reason that there’s a No. 2. And in fact, it was not unclear that there are a total of “6 Powerful Questions That Will Change Your Life Forever.”

A bold claim, to be sure, but since it is both free to ask and attempt to answer them for oneself, and because it offered a convenient way to create six new posts, i would be remiss to pass them by. And, you know, because of the life-changing part too. Which does beg the question – will it change for the better, or for the worse? Although the language of the inciting post is presented in a positive manner, there is no explicit statement of the outcome of asking these questions.

Nevertheless, i will ask and answer them of myself for you, reader. And because of the third thing on my answer for the first question.

Question No. 2: What are my greatest accomplishments in life so far?

This question is summarized thusly:

List all of the moments that you are proud of as well as the times that you’ve succeeded. To have accomplished these, you would have used some of your key strengths. See if you can identify why you succeeded. Also, list any activities, hobbies, or anything else that you do that you complete with ease. Within these lie greatest strengths.

Another list!

This one suggests more than straight itemization though, so more than likely it will wind up significantly shorter. (Plus, if i had 50 “greatest” accomplishments, how great could they be?) However, it is also suggested to elaborate on the items, so in terms of sheer word count i surmise this will surpass its predecessor.

  • Graduating from college: This is the first thing that springs to mind. My college experience has been erratic. Following high school (in 1995) i went to Ashland University because their cafeteria was the bomb. After the first year, i was unable to return so i worked for a year and then went to community college and earned an associate’s degree. Following on the heels of that i went to Kent State University, but i dropped out because “i don’t need a piece of paper to help me succeed!” Fast forward to 2012 and taking a job at a place i’d worked before – a place that was wholly unsatisfying and indeed hated (by me). So, the day i was hired back there was also the same day i applied to return to school. Journalism was my course of study in the past, and despite knowing it was not a lucrative career choice, i was far along in credits and did not want to start all the way over with something else. Also, my main goals for going back to school were: get a degree to help find better employment, and get a job that i don’t hate going to every day. Although it was challenging to work full-time plus overtime and attend school full-time for two years, i did graduate summa cum laude. Not long after, i transitioned to a new job in the journalism field as a copy editor, designer and writer. Since then, i was offered a job as a designer in Austin, which is where i live now. My job is very enjoyable and satisfying, and i have been paid to write stuff so i can legitimately call myself a writer. Even though it has been a lot of work to get to this point, in some ways i feel like it was a little easier because of my age. My motivation was pretty high due to my experiences in “the real world” fueling ambition and drive. At the end of the day, i am very proud to have finally gotten that “piece of paper” and it definitely tops this list.
Graduation day

Graduation Day, May 2014 with Professor Anup Kumar

  • Backpacking in Europe: My first real adventure, this came about in 2001. Just a few months after moving into a really nice highrise apartment with two friends, we grew restless and craved adventure. Not necessarily activities like skydiving and mountain biking (although we did do both of those things). We were fantasizing more about high adventure – and not just because we were high all the time. What we came up with was getting one-way flights to London and going from there. To that end, i sold literally everything that did not go inside my backpack. Clothes on consignment, furniture, truck, beloved and meticulously curated comic book collection…you get the idea. Even though this trip only lasted a couple of months (we weren’t sure when, if ever, we’d return to the states) and was the impetus for more than a couple of difficulties over the years, i have zero regrets about this endeavor. The moment i stepped out of Victoria Station is an image that is marked indelibly in my mind and every second of that trip was fantastic if only because i never thought i’d be able to do anything or go anywhere like that before. Only a couple of times during the entire walkabout did i feel even a hint of danger, most notably staying at the Hotel Kabul in Amsterdam while the government from back home was currently bombing the city Kabul shortly after 9/11. Even that wasn’t the fault of anything external; the people there were really nice and we had one of the best nights of the trip hanging out in the hotel lounge area with some kids from Ireland who were there to “visit the cathedrals.” My good friend Dan had his share of freakouts though. But in a weird way i think those moments helped balance things out because it was an opportunity to laugh and see the situation from outside myself, and see that it was okay. When we finally decided (begrudgingly on my part) to head back home, we hadn’t done anything tourist-y the entire time really, except visit the British Museum for a couple of hours. We made the adventure our own the whole time and that’s what made it memorable for me. A few times after getting back, Dan apologized for being kind of a stick-in-the-mud during the trip; he wished he’d let go of some of his fears a bit more and enjoyed himself. But, as i told him, he had nothing to worry about being sorry to me for – i had an amazing experience the whole time.
liberty hotel

Liberty Hotel in Amsterdam. We spent a good portion of the trip in Amsterdam.

  • Discovering real love: For clarification here i suppose i’m referring to basically romantic love, not, like, the divine sort or what you feel for your children or friends. i don’t really want to get too into this but, i will say that when you find it (or it finds you) it’s pretty much the best thing ever.  Over time it can fade or go away, and that can leave you with a lot of heartache. Sometimes it can take a very long time to move past or at least accept. But, at least for me, i consider experiencing this one of the highlights of my life for sure. It’s no secret that i’m a sentimentalist and i’m not embarrassed to say the time i shared with that special person informs a lot of my life. Some would say that’s a bad thing; i consider my overall happiness and contentment and my current state is the result of all my life experiences, so i’m not sweating it.

love

  • Making a movie: Was it a great film? No. Was it a good movie? …No. Is it an actual feature-length piece of cinema? Yes! In fact, we jokingly came up with several satirical “critic’s comments” that could be applied to “Bad Service” like “A movie, from beginning to end.” This 2005 project suffers from a number of amateur moves and mistakes, but still i consider it a great accomplishment that it was completed in any form. On a budget of essentially zero dollars, we tricked…i mean, inspired…a few dozen people to devote time, energy and effort to making our vision into a reality. My friend Anthony Snitzer at one time said it was his favorite project that he’d worked on at that point. Now, since then he’s had continued success as a video director, cinematographer and animator, but he did say that! Personally, Bad Service is hilarious to me, but mostly because when i watch it i am reminded of being there during shooting and all the wild things that happened on the other side of the camera. The making of the film is actually much more interesting to me than the film itself, and i still hold out hope that someday we can revisit the project and make a sort of documentary about that. The film is exactly 1 hour and 30 minutes long, which was cut down from i think about 2 hours and 30 minutes. On top of that there’s something like 8 hours of footage from all the takes we did and just leaving the camera on, so i think we could make a pretty decent behind-the-scenes making of thingie, hopefully someday. At any rate, writing, filming and editing Bad Service was a magical time.
  • Creating The Long Shot: Yep, that’s right – this here blog you’re reading right now (gratz on reading this far by the way) is one of my greatest accomplishments. True, it’s wholly at my own whim and discretion when and what i write. i don’t get paid anything and it’s not wildly successful in terms of audience. There has been growth over the last four years though, in terms of visitors, followers and personal improvement in quality. And it’s given me many opportunities to speak with fascinating people and attend terrific events. i got to speak with world-renowned artist Jim Mahfood, hugely popular YouTuber Chris Stuckmann, D&D entrepreneur Stefan Pokorny, three-time winner of Best Filmmaker Anthony Snitzer and lots more. The Long Shot covered Yuri’s Night Space Party at the Great Lakes Science Center, and i attended Gen Con as a member of the press. The Week in Geek column let me cover a whole bunch of cool science and geek stuff, and my coverage and photo gallery of Wizard World had something like 70,000 viewers in just a couple of days. It’s always been a great honor and pleasure that i’ve had contributing writers share their work here. The Long Shot started shortly after i returned to college in 2012 as a way to give myself extra practice writing. i actually haven’t looked at the “About” page in years, and after just doing so i am very happy to see that i’ve managed to stay on track this whole time.

The Long Shot exists for two primary reasons.One is to share stories of people who are engaged in autonomous media projects.  Two is to provide a place for me to share my thoughts and perspective on a myriad of topics that pique my interest.

Well, that was a fun trip down memory lane! At least one item on this list has given me an idea for a new goal to pursue. i’m enjoying this exercise and looking forward to answering the next powerful question.

What are your greatest accomplishments so far?

Answering powerful questions, No. 1

When i come across an article titled “6 Powerful Questions That Will Change Your Life Forever” i gotta at least skim over it, right?

powerful questions

Ever one for introspection, i’ve been considering the state of my place in the world for as long as i can remember (which is pretty long – i’ve got a good memory for the most part).

As a man for whom 40 is looming on the horizon, with no wife/gf or kids and having recently moved to Austin for a new job, i’ve had more time than usual to delve into the why’s of my existence. In many ways, this is a net positive situation because it speaks to the general abundance we enjoy in society. Without any real struggle for survival day-to-day, there is room for esoteric reflection on what author Daniel Pink describes in his book “Drive” as the three elements of the motivation formula: autonomy, mastery and purpose.

So, that’s a good thing, right?

At any rate, i thought it would be fun, useful and enlightening to answer those six life-changing questions for myself.

Question No. 1: What do i absolutely love in life?

The guide for this question reads as follows:

List anything that you love about the world and the people in your life. Think about any activities that get you excited and enthusiastic and make you feel most alive. This can be absolutely anything: music, sports, cooking, teaching others, learning, watching movies—anything. Within your love for these things lies deep passion.

So, a list! Big fan of lists here. A pretty easy way to start this project as well. This list isn’t going to be in any order other than that in which the items on it cross my mind.

  1. Dungeons and Dragons
  2. My tuxedo cat, Cosby
  3. Writing and copyediting
  4. New York City
  5. Walking in the woods
  6. Sunshine and warmth
  7. Overcast days
  8. Coffee
  9. Comic books and superheroes
  10. Journalism
  11. Getting lost in music
  12. Engrossing serial television and dramedy films
  13. Comedians
  14. Love
  15. Trying new foods
  16. Making lists
  17. Seeing another side to an issue (and being shown by someone else)
  18. Wit
  19. Making people laugh
  20. The ’80s
  21. No need for an alarm clock
  22. Talking with my closest friends Melissa, Dan and Brett
  23. Endless possibilities
  24. Geeks are cool now
  25. The beauty of human connections
  26. Even though that’s the way it goes, sometimes it goes the other way, too
  27. The vast and myriad ways humans can communicate with each other
  28. Pot
  29. Learning
  30. Technology (most of the time…)
  31. Mentoring from Anup Kumar
  32. 1960’s-era science fiction
  33. Pizza, tacos and sushi – the 3 greatest foods platforms
  34. Self-examination and introspection
  35. Gaming conventions
  36. Hope
  37. Torrents
  38. Mega Man
  39. Star Trek TOS
  40. Headlines and deadlines
  41. Colorful socks
  42. Courage on any scale
  43. Independence
  44. People who do their own thing and stick with it
  45. Sentimentality (and cheesiness)
  46. Making due with what i have
  47. Rewards of hard work
  48. Encouraging others
  49. Forward movement in life
  50. Graffiti

That feels like a good place to stop. When i started, i had no numerical goal, but somewhere around the high 30’s i felt like 50 was a nice number.

i’m curious to see how things turn out after answering the remaining five questions. Since i’m doing this “in real time” (i.e. i haven’t pre-written my answers yet) i’m looking forward to whatever discoveries i can glean from them.

What about your own list of things you absolutely love in life?

questions desert