Years ago, a friend once told me that I ‘lived in my own world’. At the time, nobody had ever really noticed that trait about me, including myself. It gave me some food for thought that I’ve continued to chew on since they first mentioned it.

For most of my life, I think that I have, in fact, lived in a bit of a self-made world. A good majority of this time has been spent by myself, as most of my journey has been a solo one in which I’ve made a lot of personal growth and undergone a lot of micro-transformations that have led me to become the man I am today.

One thing that has changed in me is the desire to learn about and understand others who have a different point of view. At some point, I realized that I carried a lot of judgement for others, and that judgement didn’t serve me at all. In fact, I think judgement can be one of the most self-defeating traits in life, because it prevents you from accepting what others can teach you – both consciously and unconsciously.

As I get older, I realize there are a lot of power dynamics at play within our culture that are designed to program, control and divide us. Even the concept of professional/college sports has an element of division,  because it creates adversaries between strangers that have never had a chance to speak with each other.

I know this very well, as somebody that went to THE Ohio State University, where I’d routinely see classmates hurling profanities at random strangers walking up and down the streets who dared to wear a different color than scarlet and gray.

“Ann arbor is a whore! F*ck Michigan! F*ck you!”

I can’t tell you how many times I heard those phrases shouted at strangers. This goes beyond a sports rivalry and degrades people into the field of harassment and verbal abuse.

Even when I was younger, I had the wherewithal to know that the University of Michigan was ranked higher, academically, than Ohio State, and I found these sorts of taunts to be exactly the sort of thing a stupid(er) person does to somebody who outranks them in the things that actually matter – like academics, rather than a silly game of football.

Now that I’m both an adult as well as a parent, I feel like my perspective of the world has gotten substantially wider, and I have a very quick decision-making process that dictates how much energy I devote to controversial topics, which the news is full of.

Divisiveness never brings people together, and I don’t think that many of the topics you read about on the news actually bring families closer together. Rather, I often see them break people apart who see the proverbial elephant from a different perspective than the other.

It would be very silly to think less of somebody if they had a different taste in music than me. In similar fashion, it doesn’t serve me (or others) to cast stones of judgement on others who have a different taste in hobbies, occupation or even political views.

As a culture, we’ve been programmed to look at micro views about any one topic in particular, and completely forget the larger picture at hand. In reverse fashion, we’ve been programmed to look at the ‘big picture’ and completely forget to ask ourselves how our actual day-to-day life will be impacted.

The older I get, the more I realized how much of my life experience is impacted by one thing – the way that I feel. When I’m stressed, the whole world seems to be falling apart. When I feel good, it seems as if all is ok. Whether or not this is the actual reality is a completely different story.

As a Dad, I want to raise Atlas in such a way that he isn’t blind, deaf or dumb to divisive topics. Rather, I want him to be able to take a good, hard look at topics and evaluate them from every possible angle so that he can accurately understand, accept and welcome different points of views than his own.

All of the facts, statistics or graphs in the world will not help somebody who feels minimized feel any better or different about their situation. That’s a fact.

In marketing, one of the things I love most is creating ‘personas’ about customer types. For example, when brainstorming about how to market a particular product, you’ll create several different personas that represent different customer types.

E.g. “This is Melissa, she’s a 47 year-old executive who enjoys buying organic groceries, taking spin classes and reading James Patterson books for leisure.”

“This is Tim, he’s a 27 year-old graduate student who came from a small town and enjoys tinkering in his garage on the weekend.”

“This is Mary, she’s a 33 year-old working mother, who spends her free time traveling the world.”

During the brainstorming session of an idea, you ask yourself what each of these personas would say, think or feel about the concepts you’re creating, and it is one of the most effective ways to objectively create a strategy that will work to market a product.

That’s probably one of the most valuable tools I’ve learned in my career, both professionally and personally, because it’s taught me how to get out of my own head/perspective and be honest with myself about my own level of bias about any topic in particular.

Recently, I was scrolling through old photos and I found a picture of me in my 20’s. At that time, I weighed about 245lb and had a single-digit body fat percentage – which resulted in me looking like an absolute tank. While I could bench press over 400lb, I couldn’t even touch my own shoulder because I lacked the flexibility.

At the time, I liked being a ‘sidewalk crackin’ mothaf*cka’ – to quote CT Fletcher – but none of that muscle did anything to promote my longevity or wellness. Rather, it weighed me down and prevented me from actually being healthy. Had I continued on that path, I’d probably be well on my way to needing heart surgery at this age.

Thankfully, things changed – and so did I. I realized that it feels a lot better to be slimmer, flexible and run on a treadmill without getting winded after a few minutes, and now I’m able to be a better Dad to Atlas without worry that I’ll someday grab my chest and fall over in front of him.

I share this example because I think that it’s true of a lot of things in life. A rigid world-view is just as unhealthy as a bulky body with muscle. It keeps you from a full ‘range of motion’ as it pertains to getting along, understanding and accepting others, and I don’t think that’s much of a way to live at all.

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