Yo Dre, Why Are You Always Talking about Changing the World?

earth

I’ve been reconnecting with a lot of friends recently and it’s been cool to catch up with all of them. As I’ve shared with them the many changes I’ve gone through over the past year and a half or so, there has been a trend I’ve noticed: people asking me why I care so much about changing the world.

Wait… wanting the world to be a better place is a weird thing? LOL.

Okay, okay, I’ll explain it like this because after a call I had with my fiancé, I feel like I finally found the words to properly convey my mindset.

*deep breath*

Much like everyone else, most of my life was spent just trying to make my way through this world. I tried to play fair within the boundaries of the rules everyone told me to follow. There were exceptions, of course, but for the most part I was just the nice guy who had to earn his confidence over time rather than having it all my life.

Actually, I started off as a super confident kid, but adolescence isn’t for the weak of heart. A brother’s confidence caught a beat down, y’all.

There was also a nagging thought I had had ever since I was a kid: I’m alive right now and one day I won’t be. I kept that to myself for YEARS because I figured I’d be looked at like a weirdo if I started posing such esoteric concepts as a ten-year-old. Still, why was I alive? Am I supposed to just live and die and that’s it?

Was I a sinner for making a joke about Jesus? I mean, it’s Jesus, for… uh… Christ’s sake. He should know I’m kidding, right?

Am I supposed to spend my entire life working and hope that I stay alive long enough to enjoy retirement? That sounds like a bum deal.

I kid you not when I say I had these thoughts and questions for the majority of my life. I felt like an effing alien because no one else I knew seemed concerned about any of this.

Andre: King of the Weirdos.

During college and afterward, I met a handful of awesome, open-minded people. Folks who are fine with conversing about this stuff. Coupled with that, I soon found out that everything for which I had ambition (a high salary, lots of stuff, a misguided definition of love) brought me temporary happiness at best and straight up unhappiness at their worst. I mean, by and large I was a happy person, but every once in a while the disappointment of not being able to swallow society’s expectations of me and the goals I was taught to have manifested itself in not so pretty ways. In short, I was lost.

If only I knew I wasn’t alone, but people who are lost rarely see the big picture.

I took it upon myself to figure this thing out. I’d love to get into the details of how I did it, but not everyone in my personal life would be accepting of the choices I’ve made even if they’ve helped me for the better. I personally don’t care about the opinion of others, but I’m not about to stir the pot unnecessarily either. That being said, I figured myself out. I figured out that I was much more and much less than what I thought I was. To be specific, I’m not special. Not as an individual at least. But I’m also much more than just a man; I’m a part of everything. Just in the same way that a blood cell is both the individual cell and the blood. I am this reality in which I exist, the individual and the collective.

It may sound crazy to people who won’t get what I mean, but stick with me on this because it all ties back together.

I found my happiness and it was pretty awesome if I do say so myself. I spent some time patting myself on the back for having the wherewithal to discover my own answers while still being open to the beliefs of others. Unfortunately, I quickly discovered not everyone reciprocated this feeling. On top of that, I was all too aware that I didn’t actually care about the fancy job, having a bunch of stuff, or many of the other things I was taught to want. What was the point? My happiness and sense of peace was far more important and I learned I could have that independent of any external factors.

So why was I still here?

This next part may sound concerning if you don’t know me at all, but I’m not about to apologize for thoughts that crossed my mind. I seriously questioned why I should keep playing this unfair game of life. You know, the one where we’re expected to follow rules that not everyone is actually following. Where people hate, murder, cheat, steal, and whatever other vile acts humanity is capable of. Why do I want to continue working at a thankless job where I didn’t agree with many principles? I already found my happiness. What was the point of continuing? None of this would help me maintain my sense of inner peace. For all intents and purposes, I would have welcomed being done with life. Not in a negative way, but more like there was nothing I felt this world could offer me and I certainly didn’t want anything from this world either. I was happy being benign, but family, friends, and the rest of society had invested too much in me already. I wouldn’t be let off the hook that easily.

Sigh…

Then a funny thing happened: I met my soul mate aka my fiancé. The story of how we met is nothing short of fate. I say that because, seriously, how it happened is ridiculously improbable (I’ll save that for another day). The point is, I found my reason for enduring a life in which I had no stakes. Soon afterward I was laid off from my job, which turned out to be a blessing in disguise despite it being an initial burden. I had the opportunity to create a life that I wanted, not one shaped by what I was taught to want. I wasn’t about to sacrifice my own happiness again.

But then I looked at the the rest of world and couldn’t help being put off by all the ills around me. Remember, I saw myself as both the blood cell and the blood. I’m both the being and the reality. Therefore, how could I just sit idly by and be unconcerned with inequality, war, discrimination, greed, etc? That’s quite the impossible task given the way I think nowadays.

We’re all sharing the same house. If I was living with someone who treated me unfairly and was trashing our home, I would probably move out or ask them to leave. I don’t have that option. I have to figure out how to coexist in this house. But I don’t want to live in a sh*tty place either.

This time there are no questions. I have to do what I can to fix this house. Not just for me, but for all the people out there who are walking the path I once walked. We’re all just trying to figure our way through this life and we’re the victims or beneficiaries of people who came before us. That doesn’t excuse crappy behavior, but I understand why we aren’t living in utopia right now; there are a lot of lost people out there just trying to fit in where they can.

And this is why I want to bring positivity to this tiny, insignificant rock we call Earth. If I have to be here I’m going to do my damndest to only make an impact that helps rather than hurts. It’s why I’m going vegan. It’s why I want to exclusively use reusable energy. It’s why I’ll always be against our current form of capitalism. It’s why I’m writing this now. Believe me when I say I love you all and I only want to see you happy too. ALL OF YOU.

But I’ll always love my fiancé more. After all, I don’t know if I’d be here right now if it wasn’t for her, heh.

Peace out, party people.

Peek’s Picks: SwitchPitch Lets Larger Companies Pitch Ideas to Startups

Peeks Picks

I’ve been stewing on possible startup ideas recently. Who knows if I’ll ever come up with a home run idea, but a brotha has to give a shot right?

Aric then told me about SwitchPitch, a cool concept that lets companies pitch startups instead of the other way around. This allows companies to avoid the onslaught of startups vying for their attention. These reverse-pitch meetings are also face-to-face, allowing for more personal interaction. This sounds like a pretty awesome way for companies to partner with the right people. Take a look if you’re interested and, as always, thank you, Mr. Peek!

Website: http://www.hellohub.org

Previously: Hello Hubs Is a Community-Built and Owned Internet Kiosk

Peek’s Picks: Hello Hubs Is a Community-Built and Owned Internet Kiosk

Peeks Picks

Aric and I met briefly this Sunday and he tossed this gem my way. Hello Hubs is a community contributed project that builds internet kiosks that also act as an educational resource. Each terminal has access to 24-hour WiFi and up to four people can be seated at once. Additionally, there is a workbench for maintenance and repair of the hub.

This is an awesome idea and shows the power of cooperation. Why can’t we organize like this more often? Think of the greatness we could achieve instead of the pain we create by being adversaries. Support this endeavor!

Website: http://www.hellohub.org

Previously: Bluemix Is an Open-Source, Cloud-Based Development Platform

Peek’s Picks: Bluemix Is an Open-Source, Cloud-Based Development Platform

Peek's Picks

Aric randomly sent me a link to IBM Bluemix the other day. Bluemix is a cloud-based, open-source development platform with pretty awesome services provided by IBM.

For example, do you know Wat-

Wait, before I continue there are no Sherlock Holmes jokes allowed, damn it. We’re better than that.

Ehem, do you know Watson? It’s IBM’s technology that processes information closer to humans than machines by interpreting natural language. Cool, right? Well, there are Watson services for Bluemix that lets developers build cognitive apps. That means possibilities for language identification, on-the-fly relationship extraction, and maybe even some advanced AI in your apps.

Sign up for a 30-day free trial today; no credit card needed.

Website: https://ace.ng.bluemix.net/

Previously: Aric’s TED Talk Picks

Lessons from a New Self-Earner: Embracing Your Strengths

Photo Credit: Amir Jina
Photo Credit: Amir Jina

During the 33 years of my life, I’ve started more ideas than I can even remember. My first business venture started when I was ten years old. My buddy Ahijah and I began drawing our Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle comics and sold them for a quarter.

Copyright infringement FTW.

Since then, I’ve had more ideas die and go nowhere than I’ve had successes. Many more. Over time, I began realizing what leads to a big part of failure: not embracing pre-existing strengths.

There was a point in my life when I was building websites as a part of a business my buddies and I started up. We got a couple clients, but I was way in over my head because I was learning as we went along. Eventually, I couldn’t fulfill requests and, unsurprisingly, the business died. This trend repeated itself numerous times until I finally broke out of it recently. Why was I trying to learn how to do things myself instead of partnering with people who could compensate for my weaker areas? Why was I even pursuing ideas that didn’t take advantage of my talents?

Every self-earner should be keenly aware of their skills and how to apply them to a money making idea. Sure, enjoyment should go into it as well, but skill is essential. Otherwise, you could easily lose momentum because you’ll eventually reach some hurdle that, for one reason or another, feels too daunting to overcome.

Embrace your strengths and exploit your skill set. If you want the challenge of learning and creating something new, good on you. I’ll worry about that later when I’m more established. For now, I’m just going to continue doing what I do best.

Peace out, party people.

Previously: Is Being a Self-Earner Right for You? All You Need Is One Rule