0105-Overtones: Second Level Agency

I had another dream this morning around 8am where I was presented (again, without any real context—the idea just “occurred” to me, if you will) with an idea.

In this case, it was the idea that there are two levels of agency. The first level is the basic level that we all have—the capacity to choose our attitudes about our circumstances, and then work within our circumstances to make things work out for the best. This is the level that most people live out their lives in. This is where the real test of mortality takes place, where we show our Father in Heaven that we are willing to do all things whatsoever He commands us.

But there is a second level of agency. It is the level where a person rises above his/her circumstances. It’s the level that makes the great leaders, reformers, entrepreneurs, inventors, as well as the tyrants, Hitlers, and manipulative and wildly successful salesmen.

This second level of agency isn’t limited to circumstances, but can actually bring about significant changes to circumstances. It’s available to all, though it will manifest itself very differently in every person who chooses to use it.

So what is the difference between those who live entirely in first level agency and those who develop and live in second level agency? That’s what we discuss in this program.

Date Ideas: Occupational Career Dates

One of the things that you’ll want to learn about your date is her career plans. Once you find out what she wants to do for the rest of her life, plan a date based around that thing. (And don’t forget that full-time parent is a fully legitimate career choice!)

Shadow Someone

Find someone doing the career that either you or your date is pursuing, and arrange with them to either follow them around for a couple hours or assisting them.

Watch Videos About Your Date’s Career Choice

Look up some videos on the subject of your date’s career choice, including steps that can be taken now to work toward that occupation. Talk about what you learn.

Attend a Conference

There are conferences on just about everything. Look up a local conference on the subject of your date’s interest or occupational goals. Invite them to go with you to it.

Go to a Company Party

If your job has a party, invite your date to come along. (Just be sure to check with the people in charge to make sure it’s okay.)

Plan a Presentation

Together, plan a presentation, lesson, game plan, or sales plan, or whatever follows the right career path.

Build Something

If your date is going into a building, creative, or construction field, build something together. It could be big or small, so long as you do it together.

Hold an “Official” Interview

Tell your date you have an assignment to interview someone pursuing a career (I hearby assign you to do so—there, now you won’t be lying when you do it), and you’d like to interview your date. Ask questions to get as much detail as possible.

Come Up With Career Mission Statements

Sit down together and come up with mission statements for your career(s). Doing so can not only help you focus your efforts in trying to fulfill your dreams, but doing it together can help you come to know some of the deeper aspects of each other’s personalities.

Watch a Movie Based on that Career

Go to a movie based around your date’s career path, and use it as a launch-pad for a great conversation over dinner about your date’s goals, hopes, and dreams.

Go Shopping For Career Stuff

Most careers involve items unique to that occupation. Once you know your date’s career ideas, go shopping at some places that carry items that might be useful in that career.

Help. I Hate Advertising.

Those of you who know me know that I hate – HATE self promotion. I have the hardest time in the world telling people, “come buy my stuff!” Just the thought makes me want to gag. Which brings up the question, why did I go into music and writing? Well, the $4 answer is that I love to do it. I love writing, I love composing, and I’m happy to share it with those who come asking for it.

Anyway, so my publisher – remember, I’m brand new at this stuff, is asking me to be proactive and find ways to advertise my book (once it’s ready) in as many ways as possible, multiple times a day. Some of the suggestions they have include blogging, twittering, having a regularly updated website – stuff like that. I follow a lot of other authors, so I see how most of them are doing it, with tweets, giveaways, review invitations, and contests. They’re doing great at it. I’m amazed at how well they are able to promote their stuff without sounding too advertisy. But for some reason, every time I try to do it – to do ANYTHING, I want to barf my lungs up – it feels so pushy to me.

So my point in mentioning this is to ask you all – no, BEG you all – how do you all like to be advertised to? I know I have to advertise. I recognize that there’s no way around it – if I want to be a professional author (and musician), I’ve GOT to promote my stuff. So if that’s what it takes to be a professional author, (gulp) I’ll  do it. I’ll promote my blasted stuff.

So what I want to know from all of you is, how do you like to be promoted to? (badly worded question, but you know what I mean.)

I’m serious about this. I need your help. I can think of no one better to turn to for feedback and ideas than those who know me either through my blog or Facebook. I’m determined to turn my dream into a reality (sorry for the cliche, but it’s true), and whatever suggestions you can all give would be WONDERFUL!

Missionary Work

On this blog, I occasionally share aspects of my faith, and I try to word things so that what I say will make sense to a general Christian audience. For this entry, however, I would like to speak specifically to members of the church. I do hope that those of you who aren’t members of the church will read in order to understand why we do so much missionary work.

I belong to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day saints, and as most people know, we are a very missionary-oriented church. We share our faith constantly. A friend sent me a Facebook message explaining that they were giving a talk in church on Sunday about missionary work, and sent these five questions to friends for their input. I’m sure mine was longer than it should have been, but this is a subject I am very passionate about, though it’s also the gospel principle that I struggle with more than any other.

Here are the questions:

1.What is missionary work?

2.Why are we as members so afraid of sharing the gospel?

3.What is a ‘member missionary’?

4.What can we do as individuals to be better missionaries?

5.What does visiting teaching have to do with all of this?
Here are my answers:

1.When we truly care about a person, our greatest desire is to help that person know the truths that will bring them the greatest happiness. The truths that will bring them the greatest happiness are the truths of God, Jesus Christ, and their plan for our eternal progression. We are God’s children, and the gospel is the way for us to become like Him and live as He lives.

2.For me personally, I think my biggest fear in sharing the gospel is that I will somehow come across as self-righteous, as if I think myself somehow beyond the person I am speaking to. I don’t want people to think that I am some religious fanatic. Especially among friends or co-workers, I would hate to have them think that I think myself better than them.

This is really unfortunate, because I can think of nothing that brings more joy into my life than seeing someone accept the gospel at my suggestion. It would bring more joy than saving a life or preventing a suicide. That is difficult for people to understand who haven’t yet accepted the gospel, but it is true.

3.Honestly, it’s kind of funny that we have the term member-missionary. I suppose it’s mainly because we don’t do missionary work as well as we should. If members of the church would do missionary work as we should, there would be only be two kinds of missionary work: missionary work, and full-time missionary work. Member missionary is a redundant term. If someone really understands what it means to be a member of the church, they will do missionary work without even having to be asked. But I guess we all struggle with that.

4.I think one of the best things we can do to be better missionaries is to be authentic. It’s so easy to hide our true selves behind a pretended mask of being normal, or just like everyone else. Of course we aren’t better than everyone else, but we do have knowledge and a lifestyle that is very different than the rest of the world. Why should we hide it? If we simply live the way that feel comfortable and stop worrying about what everyone else thinks, we will have a lot more opportunities to share the gospel.

5.Being a guy, I’ll address home-teaching, though the principles are the same. I love home-teaching. I struggle like everyone else to get out and do it, but I love it. To me it’s an excuse to get out and visit friends. I’ve always been the shy type, and though I love to go visit friends in their homes, it’s hard for me to come up with an excuse to do so.

Home-teaching gives me that excuse. I can hide behind the calling when I ask to come visit. Then when we arrive, I can have an enjoyable comfortable visit. Being the home-teacher is an extra bonus, too, because if my friends need help with anything at all, I’ve got a whole ward to back me up.

The Incrediblenet

The Incrediblenet

Isn’t the Internet amazing? From genealogy to gardening, from movies to email – the Internet has so many resources that it has made a great impact on our day to day living. While we must make necessary precautions to avoid the evil influences that can be found on this almost unlimited source of information, the good influences are more prevalent than ever before.

At least once a month, I discover a new website that absolutely impresses me. I’m sure many of you have the same experience. So let’s share what we’re finding. What are some websites or Internet resources that have really impressed you that other readers may not yet know about?

Here are two of mine:

Pandora.com
I don’t think I’ll ever go back to ordinary radio, so long as sites like Pandora exist. Pandora is an online radio station where you create your own stations (as many different stations as you want) from your favorite songs or artists. Once you type in a band or song, it will create a station based on that style, and then find other bands of the same style. As it plays songs, you can thumb up or thumb down the song to tell Pandora if you like it or not.
No matter what kind of music you listen to, it’s there. I have an LDS station, a contemporary rock station, a Celtic station, a piano solo station, an African traditional station, a country station, a soundtrack station, an oldies station, a native American station, an a cappella station, and about half a dozen other stations. I have friends with hip-hop stations, goth stations, and oh, I almost forgot, I even created a funny station. It’s really amazing. I can listen to it all day.

http://pandora.com/

Podcasting
I’ve known about the idea of the podcast for over a year now, but only in the past few months have I discovered that podcasting is its own entire realm of social media. You can find a podcast on any subject, and thanks to feed readers (such as Google Reader – which is built into every Gmail account), you can have a collection of dozens, even hundreds of regularly updated podcasts on your favorite subjects.
So why is this such a cool thing? Consider that you are interested in pottery. A rather obscure interest in terms of the Internet, don’t you think? Well there are a number of pottery podcasts. If you have a computer in your home, you can listen to your favorite pottery podcasts and hear interviews with some of the worlds greatest potters while you are doing the dishes or exercising.
If you have any kind of Internet handheld device, you can listen to your favorite podcasts while you drive, walk, or work. I listen to podcasts often at my job, because I sit at a computer for the majority of the time. My Google reader is automatically collecting podcasts on dozens of topics that I have chosen, such as the music business, gardening, humor, fiction stories, genealogy, writing, news, photography, science, and as of today, dogs. That’s probably only half of the topics I do, and in each topic, I have numerous podcasts.
If you don’t know where to start, either Google search “podcast directories” or simply “pottery podcast” or whatever topic interests you. Google is pretty good at finding stuff like that. While your at it, start your own podcast. How? Google the words “how to make your own podcast.” It’s really easy.

So how about you? Any sites or Internet resources that have really impressed you?

Making Moments

Making Moments

I believe that life is lived in moments. When I am old, will I look back and remember the daily routines that fill up most of the stuff of each day? I doubt it. Will I remember getting behind on a bill or school assignment? Not likely. Will I remember taking our the garbage and doing the dishes? Not really.

Chores, routines, jobs, and finances may be the mortar that keeps my life from falling quickly to shambles, but a building cannot be made entirely of mortar. And when it comes to living a meaningful life, it is the bricks that I will remember when I look back on my life.

And what are the bricks of my life? The moments – the moment I first noticed the girl who became my wife; the moment my daughter said something hilarious; the moment I felt great pain for a loved one; the moment I first saw my newborn son.

While some moments are life-altering, others just make the day a little more pleasant. Life is lived in moments. When I get so busy that I let such moments pass without my notice, life begins to feel rotten.

I have a wife and two small children. I have a full-time job, a mortgage, and bills stacked high. I’m also a musician and author. I’ve just published my first CD and I’m in the process of redrafting my first book. In addition, I am a partner in a new business that is small but growing. I am very busy. I know how easy it is to let the most important people in my life get the least attention. In fact it’s very hard not to let that happen.

I’ve discovered that it isn’t merely a matter of waiting for these precious moments with my loved ones come. If I wait for moments come, they only come occasionally. I don’t want my life to be made of mortar with a few occasional bricks. I want my life to be lined completely with brick, only using mortar for what it’s intended – to keep the structure together.

I cannot just expect the moments to come. I have to create them. I have to make moments. Whether a moment lasts an hour or only a few seconds, if I want my life to be filled with moments, I have to make them myself.

So I have made a decision. Actually, you might say I’ve begun a project. Remember I am a writer, and since I’m nearly finished with my first book, I need to start working on another. This is my plan: every day for the next year, I will keep a record of at least one moment that happened that day. Every day. I cannot skip, and I cannot make something up. It has to be a real incident, and I have to keep a record for every single day of the year. If I don’t have time to write the full incident on the day it happened, I can record a keyword or two and then write about it later – but the incident must eventually be written.

I’ve decided that for this project, a moment will be defined as a meaningful moment I had with a loved one. It may be a painful moment or a joyful one, so long as it was somehow meaningful. It can be as simple as a joke someone told, with the laugh we shared, or as deep as a desperately needed talk or hug.

In short, this project is an attempt to keep me looking for and making those precious moments that make life meaningful, both for me and my loved ones.

My commitment to record the daily instances keeps me accountable, and my intentions to later publicize them will motivate me to keep going. I’d publicize all of them on this blog – but remember, I’m intending to write a book, and I want to keep enough out of the blog to lure people to buy the book when it’s ready!

I do intend to study and write on some relevant topics on the subject as well, but the bulk of the book will be the complete collection of moments.

I hope this project will help any who read these entries to see that it is possible for anyone, under any circumstance, to reach out to their loved ones and make moments with them.

In terms of this blog, I will be doing other entries as well. This is my writing blog, but since my project will take up a good part of it for the next while, I’ve named it Making Moments.

The Fair

the-fair.JPGI love going to the fair. It’s such an interesting experience. All the people in the state are invited to participate by submitting something. Perhaps many of those projects represent a good part of their interests and skills, and yet few, very few, do it for a living. I’m sure they’d love to. In fact, if the opportunity presented itself, I’d bet most contributers to the items at the fair would far rather follow their interests instead of their present jobs if they could have the same basic pay and benefits.

But then again, perhaps if that were the case – if everyone did their hobby for their occupation, perhaps the individual works would not mean as much to the artist. As it is, people create what they create for the sake of creating; for the joy and fulfillment that comes of expression and creativity. There is a pureness to a piece that was created for the sake of the end product. When someone creates something for money or position, the art is merely a means, and not an end of itself.

There is just as much to be said for a piece that is created for the sake of a principle, idea, or message. Art gains its meaning in the intent of the author and in the reception of its audience. But when something is created only for money, the piece is only worth its monetary value. It can only be worth that amount, and rarely more. The remarkable thing is that there are some artists (and musicians and authors) that are able to put infinite meaning into their work, and still use the piece to make a living. Those are the real professionals. Those are the people that can carry emotion, meaning, and purpose in a frame, as it were, and share those gifts with the world. This may be a difficult balance for creators to find, but certainly the truly passionate will come through, and will make the world a far more beautiful place for the rest of us.

I believe that many of the truest and greatest authors and artists will never be known, because they are too busy living to put their art on paper. Many of the deepest thinkers and the greatest ‘live-ers’ have not the time to immortalize their compositions by putting them on paper, because to do so might take time from the glorious day to day experiences that make them the great artists that they are.

Gratefully, painting, music, poetry, and all of the great arts are products of the mind and heart, so they do not vanish with death. This life is only a grain of sand on the beach of eternity, and the greatest masterpieces will not show up in mortality.