27 THINGS I DIDN'T KNOW SO WELL AT 26

ONE

Dunbar's Number: 150-200. This is the amount of social relationship links that your brain and spirit were designed to handle. Anything beyond that is unnatural for humans. Remember that during the next moment of political outrage, the next moment of mass tragedy, the next celebrity scandal. Those things are real, but they're also beyond the scope of human ability to fully process. We were built for more intimate circles. If more of us gave all our attention to empowering 150-200 others, the world would be radically different.

TWO

It's always a good idea to find a few people about five years down the road from you to learn from. Sometimes it's as simple as taking a few mental notes from somebody who lives a joyful, generous life. I've been getting so much inspiration from certain people just on the other side of thirty these days.

THREE

Love hops on planes, bursts through international borders, and books inconvenient itineraries, all for the sake of being with the people who matter. Thank you, Lola, for showing me.

FOUR

In a world that seems to insist on your anger all the time, the best way to rebel is to be joyful. (Thanks, Brad Montague!)

FIVE

Artists get to work in the midst of injustice, telling stories that build empathy and creating beauty that draws others in the way that logic and reason cannot. 

SIX

Happiness and comfort are two of the biggest pursuits of the world around me. What the world needs most right now is joy. We can keep drinking from all sources of entertainment and pleasure, but we'll stay thirsty until we find joy.

SEVEN

I'm naturally an enthusiast with a huge appetite for life– it's a great quality for showing others what an God's joy looks like and sparking a desire to create more joy. I can also be prone to over-committing and spreading myself too thin. Quality over quantity, every time.

EIGHT

There's a time to challenge others, and a time to be patient with people as they grow and learn. You can spend a lifetime learning how to know which is which, but a good rule of thumb is that your critique is only as valuable as the time and energy you're willing to invest in another person to help them grow.

NINE

“I’ve noticed something about people who make a difference in the world: they hold the unshakable conviction that individuals are extremely important, that every life matters. They get excited over one smile. They are willing to feed one stomach, educate one mind, and treat one wound. They aren’t determined to revolutionize the world all at once; they’re satisfied with small changes. Over time, though, the small changes add up. Sometimes they even transform cities and nations, and yes, the world."

(Thanks, Beth Clark)

TEN

Nine times out of ten, you’ll notice that whenever something controversial happens that divides people in sides, I default to reminding everyone to try and get along. To avoid trying to take sides, and to find some sort of common goal. Most of the time, I like this approach and I like that I have some sort of built-in avoidance for wanting to take sides.
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That said, this isn’t always the right approach.
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In an instance where people are being oppressed, when one set of ideas contributes to people being harmed, being put at risk, being separated from family, being vulnerable to hate crimes, being talked about as if they were not entitled to the same treatment as any other human, or being excluded, it is impossible not to choose sides.
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To choose to do nothing, to say nothing, or to act like it isn’t happening contributes to the status quo. It allows the oppression to last a little longer, for that many more lives to be ruined. There is no real neutrality in oppression. Yeah, speaking up may result in a few difficult conversations, but there is no improvement without sacrifice.
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I think there are ways to do this that are respectful of people while still challenging harmful ideas. And it’s difficult to get it exactly right. But one sure-fire way to not get it right is to let my non-confrontational nature to be an excuse for not showing my Muslim friends, my black friends, my LGBT friends, and all others in my life that I care.

ELEVEN

Sleep is totally a spiritual discipline.

TWELVE

This world is totally hungry for joy and hungry for justice. Many people take on the assumption that these things are mutually exclusive. They're not, and when you find someone who pursues both joy and justice, the force-for-good that creates is magnetic. (See: the Rapper, Chance)

THIRTEEN

Ain't no Twitter in Heaven. (Thank you, Chance)

FOURTEEN

It's dishonest and wrong to turn a blind eye to the injustices, outrages, sadness, and oppression in the world. It's equally as wrong to neglect the stories of good. Simple ones of ordinary people overcoming obstacles and creating opportunities for others. This isn't the type of thing that makes the news, so be sure you find some other way of including good in your outlook.

FIFTEEN

An early morning walk-of-the-dog, with your thumb rubbing her leash like a string of prayer beads– that can lead to some of the best, most enriching prayers.

SIXTEEN

You create a community through the things that you communicate, the things you accept, and the things you celebrate. (Thanks for that one, Jake! It's been way more relevant to my life than I thought it would be at the time.)

SEVENTEEN

Wounded idealists turn into cynics. (Thanks, John Ortberg) Constantly growing idealists turn into humbled, sober pragmatists who actually make change happen.

EIGHTEEN

Good people can have bad ideas... ones that can support ideas that harm other people. And they can still be overwhelmingly good people. Remember they weren't created for bad ideas, but for great actions, and that'll help you speak in love. Remember that bad ideas also harm the people who hold them, and that'll help you speak the truth.

NINETEEN

Trying to win arguments is nowhere near as effective as trying to win people. You can win the argument, but both of you will likely go home less fond of each other, clinging to your beliefs. You can, instead win people. Look for the good in them, even if it takes a lot of squinting. Feed that good. And show off a better way to live.

TWENTY

I have yet to encounter a leader that I truly admire who doesn't have humility down as one of his or her most core, defining characteristics. For every single leader that I've found myself admiring, I have a personal memory of that person taking the initiative to apologize for a wrong, admit not knowing things, or doing "grunt work."

TWENTYONE

"The future is built with the present moment and how we take care of it. If you are fearful, the future will be fearful. If you are uncooperative, the future will be divisive."

"Community practice is crucial at this time. It's crucial not to be alone in front of the computer, reading media. That makes the world dark for you. Find flesh. There are still wonderful things happening."

(Thank you, Phap Dung!)

TWENTYTWO

Ask people to recommend more books. It's a good go-to question.

TWENTYTHREE

Challenges can be exciting and fun. Some are easy to embrace, especially if you have my personality. Some other challenges, however, are both hard and difficult. They take us away from our comfort and into pain. Grief is a challenging process. Health challenges are no fun.

Thing is, they make you grow as a person, and really, that’s where their value lies. 

TWENTYFOUR

Never take what you have for granted. There are things so much bigger than the usual things we freak out about on a day-to-day basis.

TWENTYFIVE

It's absolutely worth it to invest your time in things you love doing, and things you find important. The things you do regularly and repeatedly often become the things you get asked to do for others, and even the things that help pay the bills. The only way to get there is to try, and it's totally possible to take the "safe road" and still fail. Pursue what you're wired for, and you just might surprise yourself.

TWENTYSIX

Go ahead and make plans, but also leave lots of room for things not to go according to plan, room to have to rely on faith, room to still be amazed in the end. Feed hope and it'll feed you right back.

TWENTYSEVEN

Think of the most joy-driven, generous people you know. Ask them to tell you their stories. Ask yourself how you can help build more people like them.

Last Year's List

Philippe Lazaro