Saturday, November 30, 2013

Simplify This!

As you may know, especially if you've read my book or been following this blog, I've been simplifying my life for years now. Eliminating clutter and unnecessary possessions was just the beginning. Eventually the process evolved into simplifying other areas of my life by carefully and intentionally choosing those activities that add to my life, and eliminating those activities which distract from my life. And for the most part, I've been successful in both areas.

But I've noticed my online footprint has become increasingly complicated. Rather than simplifying my online presence, I'm continually adding new accounts. "Ooooh, this looks fun. I think I'll create an account, spend hours customizing my profile, add pictures, import information - then I'll share it with all my friends and other social networks!!!"

The whole thing has become cumbersome and intrusive, takes too much time, and has complicated my life too much. So, I've decided to spend some time eliminating the virtual clutter. I've already eliminated a few accounts. You might notice which ones are gone, but chances are, nobody will notice. That's a clear indication to me that those accounts were completely unnecessary.

I've been scrutinizing my online activity and the programs on my personal computer too. Just like in real life, I'm looking for things I don't use on a regular basis. Or even things that I do use, but don't really need to use - like games that are just time wasters. I have too many of those. Well, I HAD too many of those.

If you see less of me (virtually), now you'll know why.

I am working on a plan, a strategy.

I'll keep this blog. I like having a place to record my thoughts. If other people read it, that's great. But if I'm the only one (other than my parents who always read my new posts), that's okay too.

I'll keep my photography website. My friends and family like to see my photos. And I don't want to share them on Facebook; the tend to take possession of anything posted on their site and I don't want to risk them taking ownership of my images.

I'll keep my flickr page, but that's really just a place to backup my photos. If my computer dies, I don't want to lose all my images. And before you ask, yes I do have other backups.

I'll keep my facebook page, because that's how I connect with a lot of family and friends.

And I'll keep my google+ page, because that's how I connect with photographers around the world. Photography is so important to me. In fact, it's becoming more and more important. It's my creative outlet and I need that form of expression.

The rest were just distractions or time wasters. And they are disappearing.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


I was talking with a friend recently and the subject of confidence came up.

I've given this subject thought throughout my life, but more over the past few years. When thinking about contentment and significance, confidence arises as a component.  It's difficult to be content without also being confident - at least in my opinion.

There are several antonyms for confidence: doubt, fear, hesitation, uncertainty, weakness, timidity, and a few others.

It seems to me that confidence - learning to be confident, growing in confidence, developing confidence - follows a progression, a predictable pattern. When I begin a new task or skill, I start without confidence. My skills are weak, I doubt that I'll be able to perform adequately, and uncertainty colors my experience.

As my skills develop, my confidence progresses and grows.
Taken too far, my confidence can become arrogance.

Beginning confidence, I believe, is still affected by weakness. Although I'm "confident" in my skills, at some level I understand that my skills aren't complete. There's still a chance that my abilities can (and probably will) fail me. Therefore, I feel the need to prove that my skills are better than other people's skills. I have to prove to them that I am competent. In reality, I'm trying to prove things to myself. Although I may understand my weaknesses, I'm often unwilling to admit those weaknesses, either to myself or others.

As my skills continue to grow, so does my confidence and inevitably I reach a stage of over-confidence. I become arrogant in my skills. Everyone goes through this stage - everyone. In the last stage I recognized that I had weakness, but was unwilling to admit them. In this stage, I think I have no weaknesses (in this particular skill area). "I am the best. My skills are the best. I'm better than everyone else. No one's skills are better or even equal to my skills." That's what arrogance sounds like and feels like.

Some people get stuck in the arrogance stage. If I'm unwilling to recognize my weaknesses, I see no reason to further develop my skills. My skills stagnate, which makes it all the more important to prove my expertise. I over compensate for my unrecognized weaknesses.

When things go wrong, I cannot accept responsibility for my part because that would be admitting weakness. Instead, I blame other people or circumstances. When things go right, I take credit. And not just partial credit - I take all the credit. Even credit that is due others, I claim for myself.

But, it is possible to move past the arrogance - not back to confidence, but forward to True Confidence. When I recognize my weaknesses, I develop an understanding of where I need to grow and I also develop a better understanding of my true strengths. True Confidence includes a willingness to use my strengths and understand my weaknesses. I no longer need to prove myself to others (or myself). My actions speak for me. I don't need words to convince people I'm competent. People recognize my competence through my actions and the results of my actions.

When things go wrong, I accept responsibility. If I'm leading a team that experiences failure, I'm able to accept responsibility for the whole team. There is no blaming. True Confidence allows me to accept responsibility for failure because I know that failure in a specific circumstance does not define my competence.

When things go right, I share the credit. Giving credit to others also does not diminish my competence. In fact, sharing credit makes people want to work with me more. It increases my resources, increasing my chances of success. There are so many great people, I want them working with me. I want to learn from them, which increases my competence. The more I share, the more I grow.

True Confidence

This same progression can be applied to specific skills, like becoming a school counselor or counselor educator. And it can also be applied to life in general. There are some skills at which I'm still timid, like playing a ukulele. There skills in which I'm confident and some skills in which I'm arrogant. Hopefully there are more areas in which I'm truly confident and very few in which I'm arrogant.

What are your thoughts?
Are you a confident person? An arrogant person? A truly confident person?

Monday, November 4, 2013

Three Years Ago

Just over three years ago I left the Wendell School District. Although it was the best job I've ever had, and I loved it - loved, loved, loved it - my health wouldn't allow me to stay.

Obviously I've had three years to think about that, and I've written about it plenty, including in my newly published book! (You can get a copy here.)

Last week something happened that reminded me of how much I loved being a school counselor. I went to the Eagle Camera Club meeting last weekend. They were putting on a macro-photography workshop. One of the members had his two children there. There were so well behaved, sitting through the lecture portion of the night. After explanations, we all got up to go practice the techniques we had just learned about.

The member's daughter, a third grader, came up to me. "Do you want to take pictures with me?" I don't know why she approached me. I'd like to think that it's because I'm approachable. Kids recognize my genuineness. I heard once that children are drawn to the oldest person in the room who takes them seriously. Of course they like their peers, but they like to be around older people - older meaning just older, not elderly.

So I think she looked at me that night at the camera club meeting and recognized - somehow - that I take kids seriously. So for the next 30 minutes, she and I walked around the various rooms, taking pictures of things. "Chris, what do you think looks interesting?" I was so touched that she wanted my opinion. There are a lot of people who would be more interested in taking the pictures they want to take and just have me watch. But she wanted my opinion. So I pointed out various things and explained why I thought they were interesting.

"I think this is interesting. I like the lines. See how most of the lines are horizontal, but this one line cuts across? I like that. And I like the shadows it makes."
She would say, "That is interesting," then take a picture with her iPod.

"What else do you think is interesting? And I would point out and explain something else.
She also took time to show me some of the things she had already photographed, and she tried explaining to me why she thought they were interesting.

At the end of the night, she invited me to dinner with her and her dad. She also invited me to trick-or-treat with her family. I politely declined, but that small gesture made me so happy.

I didn't take a single picture with my own camera that night.

It was the most fun I've had in a very long time.