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Thursday, October 30, 2014

It’s All a Rehearsal


The more refined rehearsals are often ones that people (customers, audience, clients) will pay for—a Billy Joel concert, an inbound marketing workshop, a root canal procedure.

There are varying stages of what other rehearsals look like: a backyard reading, a rehearsal studio, a Google Hangout On Air, a product pitch in a board meeting, two weeks of Broadway previews, and yes, even the shower. 

Each is an opportunity to learn, to listen, to refine. 

We’ll never get what we’re aiming to do completely perfect or just right, but that isn’t the point of the exercise anyway. The point is to refine the product, the idea, the service as much as possible—reducing as much friction as possible in the attempt to get it in the hands of the people who need it. 

And if you weren’t able to refine it, to sand it down, to make it sleek enough this time… you’ll do it next time. 

Be patient (I’m reminding myself too), be generous in action and in spirit, and keep at it. It’s all going to be fine. It’s just a rehearsal. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Butterfly Effect of Male Suicide (My latest feature from HuffPost)


*This article is my own, originally published in the Huffington Post, 10/16/2014
In early 1941, a man named Haakon joined up with the 35th Squadron of His Majesty's Royal Air Force to fight the Nazis. He served as a tail gunner and flew on many missions including the bombing of Paris. In late 1941, Haakon was shot down over Hamburg, Germany. His face was scraped up and he was struck three times in the back of his neck by shell fragments. He would soon get promoted to 1st Lieutenant and serve the majority of the rest of the war in York, England teaching advanced tactics to members of the Royal Canadian Air Force.
Haakon returned to the United States, got a job as a mason, was married, and had two children. He would later suffer from undiagnosed post traumatic stress disorder from his time in the war. In 1966, just shy of his fiftieth birthday, he died by suicide.
I, a 30-year-old American man, didn't know any of these details about my grandfather until recently when I stumbled upon old newspapers online. We didn't talk about Haakon when I was a child because my father, Haakon's son, was ashamed of the way Haakon died and kept him a secret.
The stigma of Haakon's death loomed over my father for his entire life, and in 2009 my father took his own life at the age of 60 while going through a divorce with my mother.
In 2011, after my father's death, a falling out with my mother, and a bad break up; I nearly took my life as well. Not wanting to die and knowing my two predecessors didn't speak up; I finally opened up and got help.
Statistically speaking, people who have had suicides in their family are at greater risk to make a suicide attempt. I can't help but think that if Haakon's story hadn't included his time in the Royal Air Force; then Douglas might not have died, and my story would look different as well. You can't change the past but you can create your future, and so I wanted to go back to where it all began-the United Kingdom.
For years, I've been inching to get to the bottom of male suicide - not just an American thing or a British thing, but a problem worldwide. Statistically in the US and UK, men above 50 years of age have a high rate of suicide - roughly 75% of suicides in both the US and UK are male and worldwide there is an average of one suicide per forty seconds. I wanted to know what we could do to prevent that. To do so I interviewed Dr. Max Mackay-James, a doctor based in the UK, who founded Conscious Ageing Trust and Men Beyond 50.
Q1: Is suicide learned-behaviour or is it truly preventable?
A1: It is preventable - there is nothing inevitable about suicide. Every suicide involves a choice, and in every case the choice can go either way. In any moment we can decide to kill ourselves, or we can choose to stay alive.
Every man or woman alive has more than likely had the thought, however fleeting, that in this moment, in this situation, he or she could choose to kill him or herself. That's okay - it's a thought comes with simply being human. But we have a choice and help and hope does exist in this world.
Whether you're in crisis or if you want to help someone in crisis - it's important to develop the feeling of being vulnerable, especially us men. Why? Because it allows us to feel empathy for others so we look out for each other more, but even more important it gives us compassion for ourselves. We men get into the habit of thinking we are invulnerable, and it's simply not the case.
Q2: What is it about men aged 50+ that causes risk for suicide?
A2: The way men are brought up to believe what it takes to "be a man" may add to the risks. When traditional expectations of men about power and control no longer work in today's society, intense feelings of shame, disgrace, and sense of personal failure can result in potentially self-destructive behaviour.
Loneliness and isolation can increase the risks of suicide. Research on male social networks shows that both 30+ and 50+ men may have fewer supportive relationships, and that (compared with women) men may lack skills and experience in coping emotionally.
Q3: How can we lend a hand to men aged 50+ in crisis of thinking of suicide?
A3: Simply remember to stay in touch with a feeling of vulnerability. Don't judge, don't panic, and don't feel you have to be an expert. Being open to this feeling of vulnerability will give us a good chance to help somebody thinking seriously about suicide.
Since mental illness is so common in suicides, the "canary" warning sign is likely to be depression. So being able to recognise this (see signs of depression HERE), and letting that person talk especially in a time of deep unhappiness or distress can make all the difference. Giving our own emotional support and signposting somebody to get appropriate and timely professional help can and does help prevent suicides.
UK Resources:
Helplines and support groups
Samaritans (08457 90 90 90)
A 24-hour service available every day of the year.
Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) (0800 58 58 58)
A resource and helpline for young men who are feeling unhappy.
Silver Line (0800 4 70 80 90)
A helpline providing information, friendship and advice to older people
Josh and Dr. Max are working together around International Men's Day on 19 November, to break the taboo on men talking about depression, mental health, and suicidal thoughts. To join the conversation click here, or go towww.gospeljosh.com/uk; and www.menbeyond50.net.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Problem with the Phrase “Instead of Complaining… Do Something About It” — When Talking About Making Massive, Societal Change


I. To create massive change many people think someone else is going to do it. Hypothetically, the problem affects thousands if not millions of people, and someone else is going to be so pissed off about it, that they’ll be the one to solve it… but not me.

I’m certainly guilty of that on some points: campaign finance reform, the de-unionization of some of my acting work, and getting people to stop saying Diet Dr. Pepper tastes like regular Dr. Pepper (it doesn’t).

II. People think they lack the time to make change.
This is often an invisible script in a person’s head. One person taking ten minutes a day to create change might not seem effective (it is). But when that one person can inspire hundreds, thousands, or millions to take ten minutes a day… now we’re getting somewhere.

III. In the very beginning of a change movement, the two prototypes of people needed (in this order):

1) A person who has an idea to make change, who is willing to follow through, and who is willing to rally and inspire the troops as it were.
2) Someone who wields social influence. A celebrity, a queen (not that kind of queen… but maybe actually!), a well-respected person within the community. This person will affect the masses (social proof), telling them that person 1’s idea is brilliant and worthy of implementation.
Note: Point number “2” can take lots of different forms (including that person undeservedly getting a lion’s share of the credit for the work) and the person or persons from point number “1” must stuff their ego for the greater good of getting the job done.

IV. People (non-celebrities) who want to make change in an area where there is a vacuum for strong leadership, think that they have to be the leader or the idea person to make change, when neither of these qualities (leader or idea person) truly suits them.

Not true. A non-leader or non-idea person can affect change by keeping the candle for change lit until a leader and/or idea person steps to the forefront—OR they can help create the search to find the leader and/or idea person.

There is a role for everyone to affect change at some point during the movement: the seamstress, the accountant, the beer master (yea!), the wet nurse, the mechanic.

V. Humans often need to be backed in a corner, away from comfort and toward danger or discomfort, before they will work to create positive change

1) This could be a reason why multi-million dollar athletes often invent or hype up words said by an opposing player, or the coach who cut them from the team in the third grade. On a human level, they have all of their creature comforts… but if they don’t stay motivated, they won’t be able to get better as a player or score their next big contract.
2) How much are we willing to take before things get bad and we’re backed into a corner?

* * *
In fact, what I presented are not really problems with the phrase “Instead of Complaining… Do Something About It;”  but problems that exist because we humans put them there, unnecessarily so. Our species is incredibly resilient, smart, and resourceful.
Things haven’t always been this way. Someone or something else affected change to become this way. You are part of this incredibly resilient, smart, and resourceful species as well—meaning you, too have the ability to create that change you want to see in the world.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Instead of Working so Hard to Avoid Failure, How About Turning it on Its Head


Failure is inevitable, it’s to be expected—so we create a contingency plan for it, we find ways to learn from it and come back stronger… essentially learning how to become masters of failure. 

Bear with me on this metaphor for a hot second. Failure is a bump in the road that we need to learn to navigate our vehicle on, around, or through. Preparing for this bump could be buying or creating a new map, driving slower, souping up your vehicle’s tires, or building or buying a massive super-vehicle.

In the real world, moving away from the vehicle/bump-in-the-road metaphor; there are at least thousands of ways to prepare. I could certainly, but won’t (the audience collectively sighs in relief), write about all the combinations and permutations—but the only thing to do here is talk about mindset.

You can control how you respond to failure (even if you don’t know how to respond specifically just yet). Knowing, conceptually at least, that you’re not a failure if you fail, even repeatedly; is a great first step. But as par for the course, you will have to tell yourself often that you’re not a failure—depending on how big your risks are and often you’re taking them—weekly, daily, or hourly.

I know I certainly do… and I don’t know if that will ever go away. There are always bigger fish to fry (or larger chunks of seitan, I suppose for my non-meat eating friends).

Despite the variety of different circumstances, the need and developing a mindset to adequately prepare for failure is the one catch all.

There is no bad news here, only good news. Preparing for and then dealing with failure does get easier. Failure does involve some pain but so does the deliberate numbing of pain as well (just delayed and more intense). 

Planning for failure, (grasping it and then wrestling it to the ground) makes the impossible, “I’M” possible, or if you prefer it less cutesy... the impossible becomes possible.


Look for more posts on failure and developing contingencies, and creating powerful possibilities. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Physics of Making a Big Splash


So, I was totally going to write something cute here, analogizing weather systems with making a big splash in the world. But heat and condensation and salt in the air, was just too damn complicated.

But I’ve been ruminating on and even studying folks in the world whom I respect, who have or are making big splashes in the world. While there are a great deal of variables and outside influences that can affect a person’s message and intent, there are a few basic elements that one can muster up internally to help give their message and intent some momentum to become a big splash.
  1. Recognize a problem or issue
  2. Become educated on it
  3. State educated opinion (or solution) on how to solve problem
  4. Refine the opinion/solution by stating in such a way that’s unique to your voice (this involves risk because you might look stupid, brash, or _Fill in the blank_ with any other negative connotation you’re afraid others might label you as)
  5. Persistence
  6. Consistency on follow through
  7. Willingness to be adaptable (and wrong)
Bullet #4 is where I’m most interested at the moment. Most people, including myself at times, are so damn afraid to be wrong or mislabeled; that they’re unwilling to state any kind of opinion that goes against traditionally held beliefs.  

Many politicians (not naming names, that’s not the point of this) after a big televised debate find themselves scrutinized for this kind of behavior, that they “played it too safe.” They might even find that they can get elected this way—but reelection could be a difficult task, or more importantly, the long-term sustainable change needed on behalf of their constituents is unattainable.

Much of the friction a person will experience is when their solution or opinion is presented in a bold or innovative voice, uniquely their own.
Looking at them objectively as a movement and for purposes of “making a splash” —entire religions (again, not naming names) are based on a few people with bold messages presented in unique ways. Yes, there was friction (boy was there friction) but it was out of this friction where the longterm change occurred (objectively not labeling it as “good” or “bad” or anything else for the purposes of this exercise).

Practice expressing an opinion somewhere, anywhere—controlled groups on Facebook, get togethers with your school’s alum, Sunday dinner. 
You’ll be refining your voice, which is so important for your longterm health and for the world (not an overstating that at all); you’ll be readying yourself to make that big splash; and you’ll be actively searching for solutions to important issues.

A list of several folks who have gone on to state an opinion consistently with their unique voice, thereby changing the world or even a little piece of it: