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Living Out Advice




Thirty seconds is a generous guess at how long I typically give an article or podcast to catch my attention. When trying to choose a new bank, I considered myself well-educated after reading several articles from Nerdwallet. I wanted to be up to date on the world of contemporary poetry and figured I’d reached proficiency after listening to three Poetry Magazine podcasts. To be honest, my style of interaction with media content is fast and dirty, no matter how helpful that content may be. Compared to the dizzying pace with which I scroll through Instagram, 30 seconds of attention is monkish patience and focus.

This style of combing through media is a necessary skill these days, considering the avalanche of visual stimuli that comes at us on a normal Wednesday. It’s a survival technique. But when I’m responding to content like Sylvester Stallone responds to whizzing bullets (the duck and weave), I can’t seize even the best advice. Like most men in their 20s, I want the accumulation of skills that are gathered over years of navigating life to be mine right now. After all, the information is available right now.

I realized what I needed was focus. There were simply too many categories I wanted to grow in and an absurd amount of content on each topic. The article “25 Things Every 25-Year-Old Should Know How to Do” was interesting enough to at least get me to look at the pictures, but I gained nothing from it, nor did it change the way I live in the slightest. It was too much. I needed to choose, and choose only one thing to pursue. I know—at least in my head—that tangible growth happens slowly, in small pieces, but gains momentum over time.

Here’s the new shift for me…

The And Sons podcast released an episode back in March called “Three Choice Challenge: What Can You Do to Change Your World.” I didn’t listen to it until I was bingeing the season in May. Bingeing is usually a totally ineffective style of listening, but  that podcast stuck with me (though it wasn’t until September that I actually followed what it had to say; I am making a confession). The guys were talking about how our desires can be placed into two categories: our field of influence and our field of concern. My field of concern includes the United States’ foreign policies, industrial food production, immigrant worker rights, etc. Things I care deeply about, but don’t directly affect. My field of influence includes the food I choose to buy, how I treat myself and others, where my clothes come from, etc. The world I directly interact with. The point of that podcast was this: When we only angst over all those things in our global field of concern, very little change actually happens in our world. The choices I make engaging my field of influence are actually my greatest hope for eventually bringing change to my larger field of concern.

Side note: My wife found a way to integrate both through Resist Bot.

Political affairs have always been a passion of hers, but the immensity of the issues and the distance of our representatives made it feel impossible to do anything effective. Her field of influence seemed totally disconnected from her field of concern. Enter Resist Bot, an online program that will fax the offices of your various political representatives. It’s not dramatic and it’s not sexy, but it’s actually doable.

Back to the Three Choice Challenge conversation.

The podcast stuck with me (when other media I’ve given the same amount of time to faded into the background) because it fanned a pre-existing flame. It aligned with desire. I wanted to learn more about the world I occupy. Their advice was pretty simple: get a library card. Blaine offered Recommended Reading List for United States Foreign Dignitaries. My desires to learn about the world and to structure reading into my day already existed, but this piece of counsel gave me a simple plan to pursue it. Carving out time to read in the morning and choosing to read about social-political realities might not feel all that life-changing. But as Sam points out in The Domino Effect, it’s actually changing the way in which I live my life, and it’s growing me as a person. That’s not insignificant.

I had a desire.

I needed to focus.

I chose one thing to grow in and see it through.

March to September may feel way too long to do something with some good advice I heard on a podcast. But better late than never.