059 -The Tenacious Ones

I’m a huge hockey fan. It’s by far my favorite sport, and I do my best not only to take in as many games as I can, but to take as many friends to games as I can in order to share the sport I love with the people I love.

Oftentimes, I get asked what position I played when I was younger or I play hockey now. The answer to both of those questions is “no”, and the question that typically follows is “why?”. Aside from the fact that I never really learned how to ice skate (typically a requirement for hockey players*), I’ll frequently follow up with the fact that I’m just not big enough to be a hockey player. Standing at 5’10.5″ in a a physical sport where the average professional player is 6’1″ and 200lbs is a pretty sure indication that you’re at a disadvantage. But as I think about this, I feel like it’s important to note that it’s not like everyone in the NHL is 6’1″ or above. There are a lot of little guys making it in the big leagues, and they teach us an important lesson.

For the sake of science, I started to look at the players currently in the league, and I found that more than two dozen of them are actually shorter than me! That’s enough for a full team roster (including Jhonas Enroth, our lone goalie under 5’11”). Ouch. I guess maybe my excuse of not being big enough to play hockey doesn’t hold much water.

But are these guys just role players and lineup-fillers? “Plugs” who are just good enough to be on the ice while the good players get some rest on the bench? Let’s take a look at who some of these guys are.

Up first is forward Mats Zuccarello of the New York Rangers, lumbering into the room at a towering 5’7″. Mats, nicknamed “The Hobbit”, has scored 10 goals and 11 assists so far this season, is signed in 84% of Yahoo Fantasy Leagues, and is statistically ranked the 61st best fantasy hockey player to this point in the season while playing over 17 minutes per night. Not too bad for a little guy, eh?

Left wing Johnny Gaudreau, aka “Johnny Hockey”, of the Calgary Flames, is a 5’8″ former winner of the Hobey Baker Award for the best hockey player in the NCAA. But obviously he didn’t stop there. He was drafted in the 4th round in 2011, went on to become a finalist for the NHL’s top rookie award in his first year in 2015 (after being selected to play in the NHL All-Star Game), and has currently scored 5 goals and 16 assists so far this season, is signed in 94% of Yahoo Fantasy Leagues, and is statistically ranked the 90th best fantasy player to this point in the season while playing over 20 minutes a night.

What about a defenseman? The big bruisers signed for their ability to keep the other team away from the net and block shots before they make it to the goalie? Let’s look at Torey Krug of the Boston Bruins. A former MSU Spartan who stands at 5’9″, Torey has scored once and added 13 assists so far this season, is signed in 90% of Yahoo Fantasy Leagues, and is statistically ranked the 68th best fantasy player to this point in the season while playing 22 minutes per night. He may be a full foot shorter than his teammate Zdeno Chara, but his utility to the team and impact on the ice is significant.

The fact that these players not only exist, but are playing hockey at a high level, is important both for young hockey players who may be vertically challenged, and for the rest of us, too. The lesson their careers gives us is applicable to every single person who is determined to do anything.

Here’s my takeaway:

No matter who you are, there are going to be things you’re good at, and things you aren’t. There will be areas of your life where you are above average, where you’re average, and where you’re below average. Sure, it helps to play to your strengths (Mats Zuccarello is fast and agile…Torey Krug has an incredible accurate shot), but you don’t have to let your shortcomings (unintended pun) hold you back. You can still succeed at something in which you are irreversibly disadvantaged. But you’re going to have to be tenacious.

Hockey is a physical sport. When a guy who’s 5’8″ gets hit by a guy who’s 6’5″, he feels it a bit more than he would with another 4″ and 20lb of muscle on him. He gets beaten to the puck by a guy with a longer reach more often. He gets swallowed up in a scrum more often than his teammates who can see right over his head. This stuff happens. And it’s okay. These guys come back and push harder and do what they need to do to succeed. They are, necessarily, tenacious. It’s their only option if they want to win. Sure, they could quit hockey and go into another career. Maybe Mats Zuccarello would be a really good burglar (see aforementioned “Hobbit” nickname). Maybe Torey Krug would be really great at literally anything, since he’s a Spartan and Spartans Will. But they picked hockey, so we’re talking about them playing hockey.

The question for us is, what is it in our chosen field that we’re not that good at? Maybe you were never great at math growing up but you always wanted to go into personal finance because you like helping people with things that are difficult for them. Maybe you went into sales with social anxiety. Maybe your disadvantage is just a particularly difficult coworker.

Either way, you have the same choice to make that we all do. You either quit to do something easier, or you buckle down with tenacity and get better, do better, and win. Tenacity is the product we get when we mix the character, courage, and competence necessary to succeed in any endeavor. So if tenacity is the difference between you getting better or staying the same, what are you waiting for? Let’s go.

I’ll end with the quote that I currently have pinned at the top of my twitter feed, one of my favorites:

“I don’t believe that greatness happens by chance. I don’t believe it happens by happenstance. I don’t believe it happens to those who are lucky.”

-Jeff Blashill, Head Coach of the Detroit Red Wings

I believe it happens to those who are tenacious.

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058 – The Other Side of the Table

As human beings, we live most of our lives around other human beings. We’re neighbors, fellow bus or subway passengers, colleagues, mutual victims of rush hour, friends, and family to hundreds if not thousands of other people. And yet, very rarely do we spend much time considering these people through any lens that doesn’t also go through us. Are they looking at me? What does he think of me? Does this person see me as competent? Do they think I’m confident? Is everyone laughing at me or with me? And because we spend so much time thinking about ourselves, how wonderfully refreshing and uplifting it is when other people think about us, too! It’s like they really get us!

This simple reality is the key to one of the most underutilized-yet-powerful win-win scenarios we could ever put ourselves in. In our dealings with other people, if we can just stop thinking of ourselves briefly- momentarily- just for a second- and consider the person on the other side of the table from us, we effectively get up, walk over, and get on their side of the table. And all of a sudden we can begin to understand each other and can actually work together toward a common goal or interest.

The beautiful thing about this strategy is that you don’t even have to be subtle or sneaky about it! I’ve frequently expressed to other people, verbatim, “I want to do my best to get on your side of the table and understand where you’re coming from and where you’re trying to go.” This has got to be the most noble sort of manipulation there is; you’re tricking people into allowing you to help them get what they want quicker, better, faster, easier than they could have on their own.

“But Jared,” someone who isn’t as wise as you might whine, “how is that win-win if it’s all about the other person getting what they want?”

That’s the other not-so-secret secret about this whole concept. For it to really, truly work, you’ve got to flat out, no exceptions, unconditionally care about the other person. If you’re thinking about how you can help them so that they’ll help you, or trying to maneuver around or through them for your own end goal, you’re thinking about it all wrong. However, when you really care about that person and what they want and need, then getting on their side of the table and understanding their motivations and their thought processes so that you can help them follows as the next logical step in the process. And when you really care about helping them get what they want, then it becomes something that you want, too. All of a sudden, you’re working together, you’re moving in the same direction, and when you reach that goal, it’s a win-win for both of you.

So, here’s to the table-hoppers who are constantly jumping from booth to booth, sitting down next to other people, and coming alongside them in the spirit of camaraderie and helpfulness. Let’s never forget that for every time we wish the person across from us would think more about what we want, there’s another person looking at us and thinking the same thing.

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057 – The Grind

Been a while, hasn’t it?

So many times we start something and never finish it for one reason or another. Our priorities change, a platform dies (I’m sure I have a myspace profile somewhere waiting for me to come back and update my Top 8), or we just quit what we’re doing.

This site serves a few purposes for me. It offers me a platform to talk about things that are important to me, it gives me a public landing page on Web 1.0 for folks who don’t know me (hey there everybody who visited this page in June when I interviewed for a job- thanks for picking up cookies here), and it serves as a semi-permanent record of who I am and what I’m up to at various points in time. So why haven’t I updated it in almost a year? Well, that’s because I’ve been on somewhat of a grind.

In office culture, we might describe “the grind” as a soul-crushing, repetitive, boring job or task we have to keep going back to. That’s not the grind I mean. In gaming culture, grinding refers to repetitive but intentional tasks that serve to grow and level up your character. That is the grind I’ve been on.

For the past year, I’ve been digging deep into personal finance and leadership concepts. Eventually, I’ll start sharing more of what I’ve been learning here, but for the past year, it’s been major nose-to-the-grindstone, burning through books and blogs and spreadsheets, brain-stretching intensive study. I haven’t had much to say because I’ve been listening and learning. Funny how that works, isn’t it?

See, the thing about personal development is that the benefits of it compound a lot like monetary investments do (in theory). Learning soft skills in team building and leadership at 25 will get you more return over the course of the rest of your life than learning those same things at 65 (not that you shouldn’t keep learning forever!). With that understanding of the compounding effect of learning, I’m determined to grind out as much knowledge and wisdom as I can as early as I can so that I can do better, be better, and live better for the next 100 or so years.

I’ll still be grinding for a while, but I’ll try to check in here every so often. In the meantime, what are you grinding on these days? What skills or attributes in your life are you trying to level up? I’m looking forward to hearing about them!

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056 – The Responsibility

On a long enough timeline, change in anything is inevitable. We grow, we adapt, and we make decisions that push us closer to or further from any given thing.  Naturally, our relationships with those around us change because of this.Throughout the course of our lives, there are friends we meet, friends we make, friends we give up, and friends we lose. And over the past four years in particular, I’ve given up and I’ve lost more friends than I really care to count.

Not all of that is intentional, of course. Friends graduate, leave town for job offers, start families, etc. They grow, change, and move on, and all of that is natural. But very few friendships break off and end without leaving something behind- a residual chunk of memories, feelings, and shared experience that we carry with us forward into the rest of our lives. More often than not, they’re good memories, good feelings, and experiences that help mold us into the people we become (hopefully good people). But occasionally, I find that when a friendship ends unexpectedly, abruptly, or before its time, it takes a piece of me with it filled with hopes, expectations, and investment that was never fully seen through in that friendship.

I spoke last year to my church about the incredibly freeing reality of the Gospel that we can give up our inward questions of identity (Who am I? What am I here for? Do I matter? Am I loved?) because our identity is permanently sealed in Christ who chose us, made us adopted sons and daughters of God, immeasurably important, and irrevocably loved. I talked about how liberating it was to cast off the weight of my own selfish questions and insecurities and recognize that I have been made new, and the only weight of my new identity is the weight of responsibility that I bear to spread the message of the gospel to others and show them the same love and compassion that God shows for us every day.

It’s when these friendships end too soon that I feel that weight of responsibility, and my heart sinks to know that I may not have done everything I can for a person whom I may never see or speak to again.

I fully believe that every person is capable of greatness. I don’t believe that anyone is broken beyond repair or that any person is unworthy of happiness and a full, rich life. All of us were dreamed up, imagined, uniquely designed, planned, and written into a story entirely our own by a God who loves us individually, specifically, and intentionally, more than anything else in all of creation. That’s the way that I see everyone, and I try to do my best to show that to them, through my eyes, and let them know that they are valuable and treasured individuals with a worthwhile purpose, capable of a wonderful life.

Not everyone sees it. Some people never will. I’ve had friends whom I’ve loved for a host of reasons that I couldn’t fully articulate even if you gave me a dictionary, a thesaurus, and a poet to help me craft the words. Sometimes someone just doesn’t understand why you care. It just doesn’t register. And because they don’t understand the why, they don’t accept it. And when those people leave your life never understanding that they are cared for, valued, and important, it might just break your heart when you think about it.

Friends who struggle with depression and loneliness. Friends who have attempted suicide. Friends who are in therapy, counseling, rehabilitation. Friends who see little to no worth in themselves or the life they live. Friends paralyzed by fear, not knowing what to do or where to go with their lives.

Some of my friends whom this is for, either via facebook or twitter, may read this. And to those of you whom this is for, I want to let you know that I wonder sometimes if you think of me the way that I think of you. I wonder if you think back and remember me, and our conversations, and you wonder how I’m doing. What I’m up to. If you wonder what I think about myself on any given day. Those are the things I wonder about you. I wonder if you’re doing okay. I wonder if you’ve found direction and purpose in your life, and if you’ve found a meaning for it all. I wonder if you’ve come to know how amazing you are and how much you’ve touched the lives of those around you, even just in the short time that we knew each other.

I want you to know that sometimes I find myself awake at night thinking about you. I want you to know that I pray for you. I want you to know that you are important, you are valuable, and you are loved. I want you to know that whatever you’re going through, you can do it. You are capable of greatness- a champion waiting to be proven. I just hope that someday you can see yourself the way that I see you, and you can finally understand.

Lastly, if we’ve drifted apart either accidentally or unavoidably, I encourage you to reach out. Let’s talk. I miss our friendship and I’d be so glad to reconnect with you. I care about you more than you realize, and I’d love to hear how you’re doing. No matter what, I wish you the best.


God Bless,


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055 – The Fallacy of Expertise (or Why Millennials Might Not Suck)

“Now, don’t get me wrong. Expertise has an important place in any advanced economy, but we’ve taken it so far that even many of the best experts are highly dependent on other experts for anything outside their specialty. The result is that people defer to the experts on almost anything, so getting the 10 percent to lead in government is  a major challenge, because business leaders will always wonder why the political experts don’t just do it.”

-Leadershift, by Orrin Woodward and Oliver DeMille

The point that Woodward and DeMille make here in Leadershift is a big one. In reading that paragraph this morning, I found myself drawing comparisons with my own experience, both in the corporate world and in my social circles. What I would like to postulate here is that perhaps some of the Millennials whom everyone apparently thinks are terrible, are actually just very useful generalists stuck in an economy and a culture that doesn’t know how to use them because they aren’t experts in any small niche.

Now, don’t misunderstand me. There are some Millennials who are definitely not stepping up to the plate. Anyone who neglects the “hard work” step of the “follow your heart and do what makes you come alive” process of living one’s life, or who thinks that now that they’ve got a degree, they should have a job, is clinging far too closely to a credentialist view and is well overdue for a study in meritocracy (that is, being judged based on one’s performance and results as opposed to the titles or degrees one has).

But there are some folks around my age who have degrees in things like “Communications”, “Interdisciplinary Studies”, or in my case, “Comparative Cultures and Politics.” These degrees don’t necessarily fit square peg in square hole with jobs in the corporate world. (Bing “Communicator Jobs”, “Interdisciplinarian Salary”, or “Jobs for Culture and Politics Comparer” and you’ll see what I mean). But what a lot of these folks have, that isn’t spelled out letter for letter in their degree, is a wide-angle lens that’s been keenly developed by studying something that isn’t as much the ABCs as it is a can of alphabet soup, with which they’ve been allowed to do with what they please. These people may not be able to design, build, and launch a rocketship, but they can put together the right team to do it, and they can probably manage the whole project cradle to the grave, because they can see the way it’s all supposed to happen. More importantly, the Millennials with all these silly, vague degrees often understand the “why” of doing things, in addition to the how.

No doubt, this creates tension between employers who are looking for specialists to come in and do a specific task and Millennials who know THAT they can do, but may not know WHAT to do just yet. And I would argue that their feeling of confusion and apprehension isn’t altogether their fault. They’ve been trained to succeed in ways that our current economy doesn’t always know how to handle. But consider this: were you a company, would you rather hire someone with a set of individual skills, or someone who has learned how to learn skills and is adaptable? If you’re a huge, gigantic company that’s been around since the stone age, you’ll probably go for the specialist. And that’s not inherently wrong. They’ll probably be great at what they do. But if you opted for the more adaptable, wide-lens generalist, you’d have someone that will probably be great at what they do, and will have a good handle on what a lot of other people in your organization do as well.

Now, I’m not saying that Millennials with pointless-sounding degrees should be hired in droves because they can all do everything. That would be ridiculous. What I am saying is that if most hiring decisions are made on the basis of qualifications (credentials), and most firing decisions are made on the basis of character (merit: lack of work ethic, morals, teachability), then maybe it’s time to give a shot to the people who have the character to learn and adapt, even if they don’t have a degree with the same name as the job posting. We’ll probably find that the generalists who understand “why” things are done just as much as the how, and who have a good grasp on the organization itself, its goals and its fit in the world, make for better long-term business partners because they can more easily align with the purpose of an organization and come alongside it to take ownership of the cause. After all, aren’t most people who hate their jobs really just lacking in purpose and fulfillment? If our organizations looked at “why” just as much as “how”, and we hired people who did the same, wouldn’t we all feel more fulfilled and have more purpose? Again, just postulating here.

As to Woodward and DeMille’s point about leading in government, what they’re really talking about is top leaders in society taking ownership for watching the government to make sure they aren’t overstepping their bounds (something that we do sorely need in this country). But I would go as far as to say that we need people taking that sort of ownership at all levels of our society, and that perhaps Millennials are starting to do it. We do live in an age where information is just a click away (the determination of its quality, much more distant), and internet activism to the tune of “Facebook likes” for change, but it’s a start, even if a misguided one. Even if it’s just because they have nothing else to do, or because they don’t have a “why” in their role as a Junior Assistant Flippity Flop at XYZ Services, Inc, there are Millennials paying attention to “stuff” and doing “things.” Even if they can only digest serious, high-concept issues in the form of lists of GIFs on Buzzfeed, Millennials want to feel like they know what’s going on and they want to feel like they’re doing something to make the world a better place. They’ve seen the world of experts with blinders on, toiling away as Senior Executive Flippity Flops at XYZ Services or Founder and CEO of MNO Tech (XYZ Services’ competitor, founded by a former Senior Executive Flippity Flop at XYZ, fed up with feeling underappreciated and undervalued in her old role). They’ve been told that they should go to school, get good grades, get a degree, and get a safe, secure job, and follow that same path, and they asked “why?”. They’re looking for more. And I would go as far as to say that if they can leverage their vagueness and indecision and frustrating apathy with things that credentialists think matter, then maybe they can dig out their own, wide-lens, community-based niche in the economy and rise up as conscious leaders in a country that needs more people who understand why we do things, and not just how.

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054 – The Time to Act

Something’s not right.

Looking across the landscape of America today, we can see that something’s not right. Living here, we feel it. In our communities, we hear all about it. There is an ever-widening gap forming between the world that we believed in when we were younger and the world that we see now.

And something needs to be done.

In times of record debt and unfunded liabilities in the institutions above us and record divorce rates and instances of neglect and abuse in the families in our communities, we are sandwiched in a failing culture. We’ve done everything we’ve been told: we went to school, studied hard, got good grades, and maybe even got a “safe, secure” job, but nothing came out like it was supposed to. Instead, we see massive rates of unemployment that don’t factor into millions who are underemploymed and hundreds of thousands who have just given up. We see scandal after scandal breaking on the news because we’ve been taught that the screen on the television should be more captivating than spending time engaged with our families. Sociologists claim that increases in violence in our communities come from young men who take lives because they have no value for lives because they don’t believe that their own lives are valuable. The children in our communities grow up with television characters as role models because idealizing fiction is the only way to believe that what they can expect will be as good as fiction.

But it won’t be. And that is okay. The world is not meant to be perfect. We shouldn’t expect 0% unemployment, a government that functions without the involvement of the people (!) or a job that’s handed to us just because we’ve jumped through one or two more hoops than the last guy. We shouldn’t expect the world to be fine without us. We should expect to have to engage. We should expect to have to put in the time and effort to maintain and grow the freedoms and opportunities that we were born with, because not everyone is and not everyone will be.

You see, something’s not right in the world. And it’s time to do something about it.

It’s time for us to ask ourselves what we would spend our time here doing. Because I’ll tell you this: we don’t have a million years to do this. You’ve been told that all you have to do is study hard, get good grades, get a safe, secure job, a house with a white picket fence, a spouse, two-point-three kids, and a golden retriever, and you’ll be happy. What you weren’t told is what that really costs, versus what its value is.

You see, working 40 hours a week, if you’re lucky enough to keep the number that low, the average person spends 100,000 hours at work in their lifetime. They’ll go on to spend 25,000 hour with the person they marry, if they do marry. If they have children, they’ll spend 12,500 hours or less with them before their time is up. Now, if I were to ask you to rank your priorities, including family, friends, money, God, and hobbies, how would you rank them? And no cheating by reading what you just read above.

Do you see how your time can get eaten up right in front of you without you even noticing it? We’re told what to do to live the life we want, but nobody has ever asked what the life we want looks like. We decide what we want to “do” when we grow up before we even consider what we want to “be”. Because what most of us will “be” if we continue on this path is busy, distracted, distant from our families, and largely underutilized when it comes to our potential.

Today, we see a frightening number of people unemployed because they went to college and got a degree only to find that there was nobody willing to hire them to do a job when they got out. Well, I’ll say this. I do not believe that the first ships of refugees from the Old World that landed here in the colonies hopped off their boats and strolled into Wal-Mart for a job application. I don’t believe that they stepped off their boats and booted up their macbooks to e-mail their resume to GM. I believe that our country was founded on the principle that whatever it took to build a life of freedom and peace to live by their own priorities, the men and women who came here to establish their dreams were going to do it.

And that, my friends, is what’s not right in the world today. We’ve lived so long on the efforts of those who came before us that we didn’t think we had to contribute to keep it going. But we do. And we should. And it won’t be easy. But it will be worth it. We don’t have a million years to do this. But we do have the time necessary to act. And at this point, it is the time to act.


Jared Schulman

Categories: community, culture, dream, family, finances, freedom, Liberty | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

053 – The State of the Dream Address 2013

As we head into a new year here, it’s only fair that you are provided with an update on how this venture is going. After all, you are the people out there in the world interacting with me, supporting me, investing in me and expecting of me- some of you for most or all of these 23 years. And so you deserve a status update.

You see, a year has passed and it’s easy to look at the accomplishments of the past and pretend that we’ve done a lot. I do not intend to fall prey to that comfort. It’s easy to look at the small victories that we’ve achieved and pretend that they were the goal all along, and that we’re happy with where we’re at. I do not intend to fall prey to that comfort. I do not intend to be happy with where we’re at. I am, as I have been, very happy with, and very excited about, where we’re going. You see, beneath the daily happenings on the outside- the 8 to 5s, the after-hours, the weekend get-togethers- we’ve been working on something bigger. Not necessarily marching the artillery forward, but aiming, tweaking, and setting up the cannon. Because those of you who have taken the time to think through this have realized that we only get one shot- just one- at a meaningful life. But thankfully, it only takes one shot- just one opportunity to really get things right and for everything to line up- and the rest is history.

Ladies and gentlemen, that is the goal. And that is the intention. That is the expected result of this run. What you see today is not what you’ll see for long after that. Because we don’t intend to stay in one place and sit back on the comforts that we’ve been blessed with. You see, our blessings are not for our pleasure but for our purpose, and it is a great and mighty purpose that we have. It has to be. Too much time and effort has been put into making you the person you are today for you to just ease off the throttle and kick back at the earliest opportunity.

You see, there are people out there who need us (and by us I mean to include you) to step up and do more than the average person. The need someone to be the example for what they can achieve. If you intend to be happy, why don’t you just decide to set the bar for what it looks like to be happy? If you intend to have some measured amount of success, why don’t you just decide to set the bar for what it looks like to succeed with grace and humility? If you intend to make an impact, why don’t you make such an impact as to be worth the investment that so many others have paid into you so far?

Or to put this in other terms, why should you? I’m going to spoil the surprise here for you. If you’re going to set the pace for being happy in all circumstances, for succeeding with grace and humility, and making an impact worthy of the investment placed in you, it’s going to require a few things. The first is a massive, audacious dream. Anyone who says that it’s dumb to dream big or discourages you from getting your hopes up is someone that is dangerous to your health: RUN. The second requirement for that sort of life is people. We are created as relational creatures, and while you can be happy, successful, and impactful to a certain degree sort of kind of on your own, when you partner up with a pack of rascals with whom you can operate interdependently, the size of those things is exponentially greater. The final thing that hitting those goals will require is your absolute very best. And that’s really simple to justify because to become all that you were created to become, it darn well better take all you’ve got.

All of this is available to you. There is no better time than right now to sit down with yourself and figure out where the path you’re on is leading and if it’s really the path you want to be on.

Ladies and gentlemen, the dream is alive and well. And it’s waiting for you to get out there and make it come true. If I don’t see you for twenty years, I want to be able to run into you again and find out that you went out and did everything you ever dreamed you could in a lifetime, and that you’re still finding out there’s so much more to do with the time you have left. That is available to you, and don’t underestimate the significance of that. Take advantage of that opportunity, because not everyone will. Those who don’t may not even realize what they’ve missed out on. But those who do- those who run with their dream and really give it all they’ve got for just long enough- will enjoy a reality that they probably doubted from time to time even truly existed. We’ll look forward to seeing you there.

God Bless,

Jared Schulman

Categories: dream, Growth, LIFE, success, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

052 – The Night That Diapers Glorified God

The Riverview MSU Venue Christmas Party last night was probably the perfect way to head into the Holiday Season (or as those of you who are still in school know it, break).  There were a whole bunch of people there I was stoked to see, a myriad of fantastic Christmas sweaters, and four baptisms to start the night.

And there was also a white elephant gift exchange.

The white elephant gift exchange was a blast even just while it was happening. We had close to 70 presents brought in to be traded around, and there were some really sweet takes: a paddleball, a live goldfish in a bowl, and a framed poster of Taylor Lautner, among others. (Side note: I’m not sure what the big deal about the Taylor Lautner poster was, but judging by everyone’s reaction it was some sort of big deal.😉 ) Also among the gifts exchanged were a jar of homemade cookies (the likes of which I had enjoyed before, and trust me, they are AWESOME) and a package of diapers. Now, when my turn came around- turn 43- I did the only logical thing. I went for the cookies and shamelessly stole them from the person who had unwrapped them in the first place. Mission accomplished! Until about ten turns later when they got stolen from me. Surprisingly, I was not particularly outraged. I figured someone else would probably snag the cookies. They are, after all, cookies. But I had been keeping my eye on another gift wrapped in a bright yellow bag, so after the cookies were stolen from me, I went to that one. Shock and surprise! It was the diapers.

As much as this seemed a disappointment, it was all in the fun of the game, and I didn’t particularly mind. I figured that I would laugh it up in the moment and then quietly dispose of this apparent gag gift when I got home. Before that happened, however, Providence intervened. In the car on the way home, my friend Jing and I were talking about how God has a plan for everything and life happens the way it does for a reason. I brought up the time that I spent working 65-70 hour weeks unloading semi trucks in a warehouse after graduating from college and how thankful I was for the lessons that God taught me through that experience. My friend Ben from the warehouse was even able to come to the new company where I work now shortly after I did. I explained how much of a blessing that was since the warehouse doesn’t pay very well and Ben and his wife Carissa have a two-year old son (Asher) and another son on the way. In clear evidence of my obliviousness and Jing’s remarkable common sense, she suggested that I give the diapers to Ben instead of tossing them, since he might have a use for them. I’ll copy over my text conversation with Ben below so that you can get the full picture.

Me: “Hey, Ben! I got a pack of diapers tonight at a white elephant gift exchange. I figure you’ll have a use for them before I will, so I’ll bring them by the office next week so you can have them.”

Ben: “Ok. Thanks man what size are they?”

I was driving, so before I got to the next red light, he texted me again.

Ben: “5’s?”

I was pretty sure I remembered them being size 5.

Me: “Yeah. Is that a useful size?”

I know nothing about babies or their sizes.

Ben: “For real size 5’s?”

Me: “Yeah, I’m 99% sure. I’m in the car now but I can double check when I get home.”

Ben: “Seriously Carissa just told me the other day we were running low on diapers. She’s been praying for some. And Asher wears size 5’s. God is soooo good! He used you to answer a prayer for us!”

Cue me reading that and then immediately half laughing and half crying at the dual ridiculousness and sheer miraculousness of what had just happened. I could not believe it. I cried the rest of the way to the gas station where I was filling up before heading home (although I quickly composed myself so that I could be a man again standing outside my car). When I got out to fill my tank, I checked: size 5’s. There is just absolutely no way probable that the series of circumstance that had to collide to create this situation could have happened by random chance. As my mentor Holger so often says, “Coincidence? I think not!”

There are two important lessons that I learned from this.

1: God has a sense of humor that is completely intertwined with equal parts of instruction and justice.

2: God will always use every situation that He creates, in one way or another, for His glory.

Not only did God answer a prayer and fill a need with something as simple as a pack of diapers at a white elephant gift exchange, but he also (as he does nine times out of ten in my life) taught me an important lesson about humility. Remember: I picked the cookies. A completely temporary, self-serving gift that I wanted for me. God turned that around and although he used the experience to teach me something, he also blessed me greatly by including me as a step in the answer to a friend’s prayers.

There’s no better way that I could think of to enter into the Christmas season: both humbled and blessed by God, and seeing him work to answer prayers in people’s lives. And as for the white elephant gifts, I’d argue that I received the best gift of all.

If I don’t write again before, have a very Merry Christmas, everybody.

God Bless.


Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

051 – The Calling

“I was taught that everything is attainable if you’re prepared to give up, to sacrifice, to get it. Whatever you want to do, you can do it, if you want to do it badly enough…and I do believe that. I believe that if I wanted to run a mile in four minutes I could do it. I would have to give up everything else in life, but I could run a mile in four minutes. I believe that if a man wanted to walk on water and was prepared to give up everything else in life, he could do that.”

– Stirling Moss, excerpted from The Greatest Miracle in the World by Og Mandino

I first read the book I just quoted above over a year and a half ago. Feeling compelled a couple of weeks ago, I pulled it back off my shelf and have been idly flipping through my highlights intermittently since. That quote above hit me just as hard today as it did in February of 2011.

See, I do believe in many ways that under the right circumstances, we fickle, soft, flawed creatures (humans) are actually capable of doing just about anything we set our hearts on. Or that our hearts are set on, depending on your interpretation. Why do I believe this? Simply because any cursory examination of history will show that human beings have frequently achieved not only the pinnacle of what was thought to be possible, but have also achieved far beyond what has been thought to be possible at various times throughout our brief history. With that knowledge, even limited as it is, who am I to say that anyone is incapable of doing anything their heart is set on- anything that they dream possible?

Laurie Woodward has said before that, “Behind us, or perhaps above us, lies infinite power. And in front of us lies infinite possibility.” That statement alone summarizes this entire text far better than I can in far more words. (So if you want, you can re-read that quote, think on it for a minute, and then not read any more of this. Or keep reading. Your choice.)

I’ve yet to come across a human being in my lifetime whom I did not believe was capable of greatness. I would, in fact, go so far as to say that we are likely all meant for greatness. Each one of us is part of an ever-changing world. We each play a part in shaping our collective future. If a person goes into the desert and moves one grain of sand but an inch, haven’t they changed the world? What about the person who takes a struggling friend in and invests their time in helping that friend through their struggles? Certainly that person hasn’t cured a deadly disease or negotiated peace between world superpowers; but they have helped cure a person’s heart and negotiate peace inside that person’s mind. That alone is a feat of incredible accomplishment.

It used to be that fighting valiantly for a noble cause was considered great in and of itself. These days we find ourselves so concerned with our own greatness, or at least the image of it, that we refuse to strive greatly for anything, scared to fail lest we be revealed as the imperfect humans we are.

I submit to you this:

Make the choice to be great. Once you make the choice to be great- and I mean truly make that choice- it’s done. There’s no going back. But! You still have to decide on a daily basis what you’re going to do to advance yourself toward that goal. That’s why once you truly decide, it’s over. It can’t be a try. Yes, you can mentally insert a Yoda quote here.

However, I would also submit to you this:

It won’t be easy. But wait. If we’re meant to be great, why isn’t it easy? That doesn’t seem fair!
Well, I don’t know about you, but I was never raised being taught that life was fair. In fact, I seem to recall some lessons to the contrary. But when we think about it, doesn’t that just about make sense? If we’re meant to be all that we’re created to be, shouldn’t it take all that we’ve got to get there?

Only too often, we’re our own worst enemies. We hold ourselves back from greatness because of a mixture of fear and pride. We limit ourselves. We build cages around our potential.

I submit to you this:

“You were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” – Galatians 5:13

“Go therefore and do that which is within you to do. Take no heed of gestures which would beckon you aside, and ask of no man permission to perform.” – Frederick Dey

Categories: dream, freedom, Growth, success | Leave a comment

050 – The Exploration

When was the last time that you felt like Christopher Columbus? What about Neil Armstrong? Roald Amundsen? What if I told you that the journeys that you take in your life could actually equal the storied accomplishments of those great men? I wouldn’t be lying if I said that you were capable of discovering far more than any of them did.

One of the inaccurate maps that Columbus referenced when planning his voyage

Christoforo Columbo, or as we know him better, Christopher Columbus, is one of the most well known explorers of all history. In 1453, with the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks, the comfortable passage from Europe to “the Indies” via the Silk Road became considerably less comfortable to travel and trade on, posing issues for traders and economies alike. While expeditions in the 1480s from Portugal had already reached the Cape of Good Hope (in modern South Africa) seeking to navigate under Africa to reach the Indies, Columbus sought a more direct route, straight across the Atlantic ocean. Now, most Americans have been taught that Columbus had trouble getting funding for his voyage because most scholars of the time believed that the earth was flat and couldn’t be sailed around. In fact, scholars at the time knew pretty well that the Earth was round. They just also knew that the distance between Europe and the Indies was much larger than Columbus thought. Columbus was working with the three wrong assumptions that the Earth was smaller than it is, Europe was bigger than it is, and Japan and other islands East of China were actually much further East than they are. In short, Columbus had some very bad information going into his voyage.

What Columbus did have, however, was a great working knowledge of the trade winds, which would prove crucial to his success. On the way to the New World, Columbus’s voyage rode the Easterlies for five weeks, and instead of trying to fight against the winds for several months back to Spain, they sailed North and then East on the Westerlies, saving them from an attempted return home that probably would have killed them.

In the end, Columbus made four voyages to the New World, earned a spot in history forever as the man who “discovered” the New World, and was eventually arrested and imprisoned upon return to Spain, where he died around the age of 54.

While his list of accomplishments is certainly extensive (even after accounting for false histories and misnomers), perhaps his most educational accomplishment was that he set off into the relative unknown with conviction and courage. Today, we don’t remember Columbus for his doubt or his failures; we remember him for his courage and daring.

But taking three wooden ships across a largely unexplored ocean with limited supplies and technology is child’s play, right? What about going into space?

Neil Armstrong went into space. In fact, he was the first American civilian to be in space (although, in fairness,a big-time shoutout goes to Valentina Tereshkova from the Soviet Union, the first civilian in space nearly three years before Armstrong).  Despite his fame and legacy, Armstrong did not have a defining moment in his decision to become an astronaut. He more fell into it. As announcements circulated that NASA was looking for applications for their second group of astronauts, Armstrong became more and more excited, but his application was submitted a week past the deadline. If it weren’t for a friend of his who saw the late application and slipped it into the pile, Armstrong never would have been an astronaut. Even once he became an astronaut, a series of thin threads is all that lead Armstrong to his place in history. The tragic Apollo 1 fire and the delays in the Apollo 8 and Apollo 9 programs that caused them to switch crews were both crucial steps that inched Armstrong closer to his destiny. It was because of that crew switch that, by the crew rotation, Armstrong would serve as the commander of Apollo 11. The rest is history. Armstrong journey to the moon with Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins and took one small step for (a) man, one giant leap for mankind.

Two things are important to note here: first of all, that Armstrong was selected as the first man to walk on the moon in part because NASA management did not see him as someone who had a big ego. Consider that the next time you’re in line to take a mission to Mars and you’re wondering how humble you should be. Second, Armstrong didn’t have grand plans of being an astronaut as a child. It wasn’t his goal from the beginning. But he seized the opportunities when they arose and had at least enough faith to guide him on the path to his destiny, and because of that courage, today he’s one of the most well-known Americans in our history.

But what about the lesser-known heroes of our time? Roald Amundsen lead a life that bears similarity to the other great explorers we’ve discussed so far. Amundsen was a Norwegian explorer who was the first to reach the South Pole in 1911, the first to undisputedly reach the North Pole in 1926, and the first to traverse the Northwest Passage in 1903-1906. Amundsen is another unlikely hero, though. His original intention was to travel to the North Pole in the early 1900s, but after hearing that two others had already claimed the pole, he decided to reroute to Antarctica for the South Pole. Amundsen didn’t inform anyone about the decision to reroute- even his crew- until they had already left. This gave them a head start on English explorer Robert Scott, also vying to reach the pole, that would prove crucial to their success. For their journey, they utilized sled dogs, skis, and Eskimo style skins in lieu of heavier woolen parkas- all tricks that he had learned on his previous journey through the Northwest Passage. Additionally, Amundsen set up supply depots regularly as they traveled, just in case they needed the extra supplies on their return journey. The entire voyage over land was conducted in twenty mile segments. That principle alone has importance that can’t be underestimated. Every day, nice weather or poor weather, sunny or snowy, Amundsen and his men would march twenty miles further toward the South Pole. It was that consistency, along with meticulous planning and forethought that finally brought them as the first expedition to reach the South Pole in 1911. Amundsen’s crew left a tent with some supplies and a note detailing their accomplishment and the locations of their supply stores along their route back in case they didn’t make it, but they returned safely.

But what about Robert Scott? His expedition wore heavy wool parkas to battle the cold. They traveled light with just enough supplies to make the journey to and from the South Pole. On good weather days, they would travel 50 miles or more. In periods of extended poor weather, they stayed camped in their tents. As a result, they reached the South Pole more than a month after Amundsen, tired, worn out, and frostbitten. Their return journey was short-lived and tragic. Members of their party were hampered by hunger, injuries, and old wounds, and slowly dropped off one by one until only three were left, including Scott. The last three died in their tent in early 1912, just a short distance away from one of Amundsen’s leftover supply stores.

While Amundsen’s accomplishments may be less famous than Columbus’s or Armstrong’s, his are perhaps the most applicable to our lives today. His meticulous preparation and steadfast determination, along with the unwavering dedication to progress of the twenty mile march not only carved his name permanently into history, but ensured the survival of his crew and himself. Too often we live our lives like Robert Scott: moving forward without much planning, preparing just as much as we think we have to, and working on progress when it’s comfortable but staying in our tents when it would be uncomfortable to press on. We remember Amundsen because of what he did; we remember Scott because of what he didn’t. There’s a lesson there.

But I did tell you that you could accomplish even more than these men have, and I don’t aim to disappoint. The story isn’t long because I don’t know much of it. In fact, you’ll need to be the one to write it. What I can do, however, is tell you this.

Each of these men- Columbus, Armstrong, and Amundsen- were exploring various finite areas. The New World, while it was unknown in the Western World, was not growing or changing. The moon isn’t going anywhere. Antarctica is actually shrinking more than anything. But what about you? Have you figured out yet where your exploration will take you?

Do you realize yet that your life is a journey into the unknown? That your life’s path needs to be explored? Not only do you have a unique and specific purpose that you’re being guided toward every day, but the land that you have to navigate to get there- your life- is constantly changing based on how you choose to live it! Columbus couldn’t change the size of the Atlantic ocean! Armstrong couldn’t alter the topography of the moon! There wasn’t enough global climate change at the time to make it relevant to Amundsen’s expedition! But YOU can change where your journey takes you any time you want! YOU get to decide if the path is rocky or smooth! Sort of. YOU get to decide what stops you make along the way! That’s why YOUR journey is grander than Columbus, Armstrong, and Amundsen combined! ONLY YOU can do it, and YOU create it as you go! How incredible is that?

It is a pretty tall order though, isn’t it? And couldn’t we all use some advice for our journey? Luckily, even in this blog post alone, there are lessons to be learned.

Learn from Columbus

Be courageous. Known where you’re going. Columbus “knew” everything he needed to know to get to “the Indies.” Where he ended up wasn’t where he expected, and he was unarguably wrong about the distance he would have to travel if he were to reach his intended destination, but he never faltered in his determination to get there. If there’s somewhere you want to be in life, get out and get there!

Learn from Armstrong

Take advantage of opportunities when they arise. Armstrong didn’t intend to be an astronaut when he was growing up, but today he’s the most well-known Astronaut in America. He took advantage of the opportunity to join the space program when it came up and through a series of thin threads, found his way to his destiny. If there’s something that piques your interest in life, give consideration to whether or not it’s an opportunity you should take. You never know when your future might be just one week-late application away!

Learn from Amundsen

A failure to plan is a plan to fail. Amundsen overstocked for his expedition, left extra supplies for his return journey, and made sure to maintain a steady pace toward his goal regardless of the circumstances. Make sure that you know what it will take to get to where you want to go and then do more than you think it will take. Utilize knowledge that you’ve acquired in other areas of life toward your success in your purpose. Commit to a twenty mile march every day- do something every day that moves you closer to achieving your purpose, whether you feel like it or not.

If you apply these principles to your journey in exploring your life and your purpose, I have no doubt that your discoveries and accomplishments will dwarf the side of the New World, the moon, and Antarctica all put together. That’s because they’re finite land masses. Your life, on the other hand, has unlimited potential to be as vast and grand as you want it to be. So set sail and explore- let me know what you find.

Categories: fun, Growth, personal development | Leave a comment

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