Take Your Turn

The Your Turn Challenge was a 7-day blogging challenge inspired by the Your Turn book by Seth Godin. The Challenge ran from Jan 19 – 25, 2015. I was a proud participant. Tumblr even had trouble handling all the submissions! Since I’m not sure if all of mine got through I decided I would post them all together here. Most of them are shorter posts so feel free to let me know what you think of any or all of them! (Note: some of the edits were made in the submission form so you may find some minor typos :) )

Day 1: Why are you doing the Your Turn Challenge?

With the ringing of a shotgun blast the lives of my cousin and her son came to an end.

More than two years later Hayley still inspires me every day. She would make a plan and execute it without hesitation. She wouldn’t complain when obstacles arose, she faced them with with joy and enthusiasm. Everywhere she went she found ways to improve the community around her. You couldn’t help but feel good in her presence.

For many months I tried to walk in her shoes. They were too big in places and too small in others. The laces always came undone and they’d leave blisters on the bottom of my feet. I came to realize I can’t wear her shoes, they don’t fit. To make the world better I have to do it my own way, by leveraging what I love to do not what I think I should love to do. I can’t change it in the same ways she did but that doesn’t mean I can’t make it a better place.

Whether through our action or inaction, we are always shaping the world around us. Every second we can choose whether to contribute to it positively or negatively. Hayley always chose positively and now so do I.

By making life better for those around me, it’s easier for them to make life better for those around them and so on. I want to be an endless supply of tiny, positive ripples. Eventually they’ll become waves.

Day 2: Tell us about something that’s important to you.

Stories.

We are a planet of storytellers.

The story of Karson Braaten isn’t written by just me, but also by anyone I’ve ever interacted with. My best friends story of me will be differ from my mother’s story of me. My story of myself is much longer than your story of me would be. Someone’s opinion of me depends on what stories of me they’ve heard and their interpretation of those stories. I can do my best promote how I want the world to view me but how I’m actually viewed is outside of my control.

We do control the stories we tell about other people. If a company or a person does something we view as wrong, we can spread the word to others. One “unimportant” customer’s story could eventually spread to very powerful customers or reach critical mass and cripple one’s business or reputation. Never underestimate the reach of a story told by one individual. Technology has made stories far easier to spread. By sharing or not sharing we determine the reach and impact a story has.

Be careful though, stories are always missing pieces. A complete story can never be told, there is always more backstory. There is a cause for every cause.

We can control the effect a story has on us. It is our individual reaction and interpretation of a story that changes our emotions, not the story itself. When you feel down and out, you have been telling yourself a story that led you to feel that way. How can you change the story to uplift you?

Life is ultimately an infinite collection of short stories and we’re all the authors and the audience. We choose the stories we consume and the effect they have on us. Focus on stories that bring good to you, and those you care for. Don’t let the others bog you down. You have the power of choice.

Choose carefully.

Day 3: Tell us about something that you think should be improved.

We throwaway too much food. When I was a child at dinner if I were full and there was still food left on my plate my parent’s would tell me to finish it. “It would be a shame to throw it out because there are starving children in Africa that would love to be able to eat so well.” This logic never sat right with me.

It doesn’t make a difference to a child in Africa whether I finish my meal or not. There are people struggling to find food everywhere, including most of the communities we live in, while in our homes and restaurants we continue to throw out what we don’t eat. Overeating to ensure no food goes wasted doesn’t help. Finding something to do with the food we don’t eat so it doesn’t go to waste would. There has to be a better way to dispose of our food.

Day 4: Teach us something that you do well.

I don’t let myself feel stuck. I switch tasks if my progress on something comes to a halt. If I find myself stuck on the next thing I’ll take a break for a quick burst of physical activity. A few minutes of walking, jumping jacks or squats for example. Most breakthroughs I have come after or during physical activity of some sort.

I get unstuck mentally by being unstuck physically.

Day 5: What advice would you give for getting unstuck?

A few tactics to try when you are stuck:

Try something else for a bit then come back to the project you are stuck on. Don’t dwell on being stuck, that only makes it worse. Finish some easier tasks and use that momentum to help complete the task you were currently stuck on.

Perform a quick burst of physical activity. Go for a walk, or squats, or jumping jacks, anything to get your heart beat up a bit. Exercise releases a protein called BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor). It makes us feel good! Get unstuck mentally by being unstuck physically.

Those will usually do the trick. Still feel stuck? Here are a couple more tricks:

Talk to someone. No one beside you? I bet your phone is. Make a call. Call someone you haven’t talked to in a couple of years. Explain your problem, sometimes just talking it out to someone allows you to find the solution or another avenue to pursue. Or you could just catch up the person… Surprise your brain. It likes surprises.

Get outside your comfort zone. The best way I know is to do something uncommon. Go ask for 10% off of your next coffee order. Call someone random and ask them on a date. Go ask a random person on a date. The last thing on your mind will be what you feel stuck on.

Do something you enjoy. Sometimes you just need to take a break. Play some video games, watch a television show you enjoy, just get your mind off it for a bit.

Try not to stay stuck on one thing for too long, there is so much good you could be doing elsewhere.

Day 6: Tell us about a time when you surprised yourself.

I’m surprised by how long it has taken me in the past to realize I was in a bad situation and even more surprised by how long it takes me to get out of it.

I deny that little voice in my head telling me I need to make a change; that a person or a job isn’t good for me. Just like an early morning alarm, I hit snooze and do all I can to ignore it.

I start to convince myself that it isn’t so bad and things will get better. The way I think I should be treated begins to degrade. I start to become numb to the situation. Things don’t get better, I just think they are better because I think less of myself. One more day, one more chance, one more pay cheque. Escape is always just one more thing away.

There are about as many reasons for a person becoming successful as there are successful people but I think one thing they have in common is they listen to their gut and let it drive them despite what other people think.

I’m trying to listen better. What I can start doing one day from now, I can start now.

Day 7: What are you taking with you from this Challenge?

I came into this challenge hoping to help people. I wanted exposure. I wanted people to feel compelled to read what I wrote. I wanted someone to tell me I helped make their day better. I didn’t really get these things. I’ve realized I didn’t work towards them though. Instead I found I was working to help myself.

When it comes to finishing something I go around in circles. The last 10-20% of a project usually takes longer for me than the first 80-90%. I want to find that “missing piece” that makes something perfect in my eyes. I’m like a blindfolded child swinging at a piñata on their birthday. A project will always have a spot that can be improved.

I’m proud to be a part of a community of people who took their turn. Who made a commitment to shipping every day. Going forward I’m going to continue to focus on publishing. Sometimes good enough can be great.

I’m proud to have taken my turn.

My 20 Favourite Songs of 2014!

Something a little bit different today.

At the beginning of every year, I sit down and reflect upon my favourite things of the past year.

Of all the forms of media out there I still find that music resonates the strongest with me. As a result I take this list fairly serious (that doesn’t stop me from doodling on it). While I loved many songs last year, I finally managed to whittle them down to 20. Any one of these songs have the ability to amplify any emotion I’m feeling when they play. They take me back to a feeling and a place and help me to remember the moments that defined my 2014.

Have a listen to a few of them, maybe you’ll find something you like.

YouTube

Rdio

Text

1. Elliott Brood – Taken
2. Jordan Klassen – Firing Squad
3. The Strumbellas – In This Life
4. The Wooden Sky – Kansas City
5. Hey Rosetta! – Harriet
6. Tokyo Police Club – Hot Tonight
7. The New Basement Tapes – Kansas City
8. The Gaslight Anthem – Red Violins
9. Weezer – Da Vinci
10. Morning Parade – Alienation
11. Wildlife – Lightning Tent
12. Sir Sly – You Haunt Me
13. Vance Joy – Riptide
14. Bleachers – Shadow
15. Magic Man – Honey
16. Waters – Got To My Head
17. Copeland – Ordinary
18. Passenger – 27
19. Linus Of Hollywood – Don’t F**K It Up
20. Death From Above 1979 – Trainwreck 1979

What’d you think? What were your some of your favourite songs of 2014? Let me know in the comments below.

I Was Crazy

nicola

It was a cold January evening and I was pulled over an hour outside of Edmonton trying to sleep. I woke up shivering and started the car so I could warm up. The frost that had crept across the windshield slowly began to recede. The green light emanating from the centre console read 2:30 am. I looked down at my phone and re-read the last message I received from my now ex-girlfriend, “I hate you.”

Things had gone well up until the last day of our first mini-vacation together. We drove to Edmonton Thursday, I had taken Friday off work and booked a hotel for three nights. We spent Friday afternoon shopping and went to our first NHL game in the evening. On Saturday we were supposed to go to the World Waterpark but she didn’t feel like it. I came back from a mid afternoon walk and she was gone. I texted her asking where she was, a few minutes later she replied that she was outside. I met her downstairs and she seemed distant and agitated. Mood swings were common with her. She was bipolar and off her medication but since she was usually fine around me so I thought I must be helping. As you might have guessed, I was wrong.

When we got back up into the hotel room she began packing her bags. I asked her what was up and she said she was leaving and would stay with a friend, she’d find a ride home and that she didn’t want to see me anymore. I had become too crazy for her.

I spent the rest of the day in the room watching television, reading and hoping she’d come back. Once 10:30 pm rolled around it became apparent that wouldn’t be happening. I didn’t feel like sleeping in the room where I had just been dumped. I texted her asking if she actually needed a ride and she said no and that she hated me. I was surprised by an additional $20 charge at checkout, she had charged a few drinks to the room before leaving.

I didn’t drive far before I was too tired to continue, I pulled over and tried to sleep. In the morning she began texting me again. She wanted a ride. I drove back into Edmonton to the hotel where she stayed with other friends then drove my ex-girlfriend back to Saskatoon.

I was crazy.

People familiar with the situation would tell you she was the crazy one but I still believe her point was valid. Going into the relationship, I was living a lifestyle that made me feel invincible. I ate well, got plenty of sleep and exercised regularly. I thought I could handle anything. Unknowingly to me at the time, trying to keep us together took time away from my daily rituals. The most detrimental of which was giving up sleep. I had only averaged 1-2 hours of sleep per weeknight since getting involved with her. She was currently unemployed and partied or stayed up late most evenings so I would keep my ringer on and be sure to answer any 1-3 am messages and then go out and meet her. If I was lucky I’d go to bed by 6 am and head into work at 8. It wasn’t until months after everything ended that I was able to acknowledge how much my mind and body had degraded over the span of our relationship.

So what allows us to put up with these negative situations and coward away from the changes that need to happen? Why do we ignore that little voice in our head that is trying to lead us away from insanity? I have a few reasons:

Change is scary

Change can be scary. I have to give up everything I’ve worked for and start from square one. All my accomplishments have been for not. What if I fail or make things worse? I may not be happy now, but at least I’m not completely miserable. Change introduces uncertainty which leads to doubt and excuses. The doubt in myself eventually projects itself onto others.

People will judge me

I begin to imagine people’s reactions to my decision. They will think I’m a failure and be embarrassed by me. The important people in my life will abandon me. I’m scared to tell anyone that something is wrong. Fear and doubt manifest in my brain and instead of dealing with the stress of changing I instead start to tell myself things will get better.

Things will get better

If I keep being selfless, kind, and supportive towards someone I like eventually they will like me back or if I keep pouring everything I can into my job eventually I’ll enjoy it, or get more respect from my boss, or get paid better, etc. Eventually I’ll be treated better. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. Instead I start growing numb to the situation. What I think I deserve for myself begins to degrade. With my lower expectations I start to trick myself into thinking that things are getting better.

Things are getting better

I’m sure you’ve lied to yourself about this too. The tricky part is when we start to believe our lies. When I was waking up in the middle of the night to deliver booze to my girlfriend I believed it was ok. I thought it was a small price to pay for having someone so wonderful in my life. I believed she was good for me. I told myself over and over again that it was ok and that I could handle it. I choked out the voice in my head telling me I need to change.

Why you need to change

The time, energy and money you are focusing on a bad situation or person could be used on something or someone positive. Looking back, I don’t mind that I spent just over a grand on a weekend only to be dumped but I’ll often think of the fun I could have had with my real friends had I chose to spend it with them instead. That thought never crossed my mind at the time. When we are transfixed on a negative situation we fail to see and create opportunities for ourselves.

I would grow spiteful. I would waste energy on complaining about the situation instead of trying to find ways to change it. It would become the reason for all my problems, when in truth it was I who was the cause of my problems. I was giving it the power to hold me back.

If you don’t make the change for yourself, often someone else will. When you feel like you don’t belong in a situation, you will naturally become disconnected. People will start to notice. If they have the power they may remove you from the situation themselves. This is actually a good thing because you are free from it but now you have to deal with the rejection. It is easier to leave on your own accord. I’ve learnt this lesson many times. Don’t let other people write your script for you.

Doubt and fear is what keep us from making changes. The only way to conquer it is through doing. We have to discover that the consequences of our actions often aren’t as bad as we imagine them to be.

The easiest way to make big changes in our life is to start with small changes within ourselves. By working every day to better ourselves, changes will start to become less daunting, natural even. Opportunities find their way to me when I am mindful of my physical and mental health every day. When you do this eventually you will begin to seize opportunities but be careful not to give up too much of what got you there. Once that happens everything can unravel. You can become crazy too.

Busses and Boxes

My friends and I had been in Vietnam for just over a week. We had spent the previous three and a half hours in a state of claustrophobia in the back of a bus not made to accommodate westerners. The overhead shelves kept us from being able to sit up straight and the seats in front of us prevented our legs from being extended. Without air conditioning the bus was hot and muggy, I couldn’t tell if the beads of water forming on my skin were from my body or someone else’s. The window lacked a curtain so there was nothing to prevent the sun’s heat from being amplified on us. We were like sardines packed into a can then set out to roast in the desert sun.

Air never tasted so fresh as it did when I got off that bus. We transferred onto a sleeper bus. As the name suggests, it is a bus that you are meant to sleep on while you travel overnight from one city to another. The seats are different than that of a normal bus. Imagine the seat of your car if you set it on the ground, you sit with your butt level with your legs which are extended in front of you. The back of the chair would recline just passed forty five degrees. Not an ideal sleeping position but far better than what a standard bus provides.

I was now seated comfortably and snacking on a small strawberry ice cream cup that I purchased while we transferred. A Belgium man across the isle was talking loudly to his friends. I wasn’t sure if I was annoyed by him or not. I settled on the former after ten minutes of being unable to block his voice out so I could read. Frustrated, I pulled out my laptop, put in my headphones, and began watching The Purple Rose of Cairo. The bus departed, people began to quiet down and settle in. It was almost peaceful. But it wouldn’t last.

I noticed one of the staff rather inconspicuously escorting another man to the back of the bus. I didn’t think much of this until a short time after when we came to a stop and the cops walked in. They were apparently looking for someone. The staff were of no help to the officers and they left empty handed. Judging by the staff’s behaviour the man hiding in the back was wanted for something. I wasn’t sure what but the events that followed gave me a pretty good idea.

Our bus came to a sudden stop. One of the doors on the side of the bus opened and a staff member began moving luggage from under the bus into the bathroom. I had no idea what was going on. I wasn’t alone, looking around most people were exchanging confused looks. We all watched in awe as more and more of our luggage got piled into the bus. It didn’t take long before it was falling into the isle like a closet door being opened after the mess of an entire room had been shoved into it.

A few pick up trucks quickly pulled up beside us. A couple of men jumped out of each of them and quickly began transferring boxes from the back of the truck into the newly emptied space underneath the bus. Box after box after box. It only took a few minutes before the men were racing away in their trucks and we were back on the road. The realization of what was going on dawned on me as fast as the trucks sped away; we were transporting drugs.

I remember staring out the window and thinking I can’t believe this is happening. I was nervous for a bit. I assumed as passengers we’d be fine if the bus was caught but I couldn’t be sure, the drug laws there were wonky. I had heard most drug crimes could be punishable by death and the trial didn’t have to be in English. After fretting over this for a bit I reminded myself there was nothing I could do about it. I fell asleep shortly after. We arrived in Nha Trang around 5 am, got our stuff and continued on our journey.

I don’t know what became of the boxes under the bus.