Did you notice something happened this weekend? I am not talking about rallies, protests, violence or politics. I am talking about something else. Something that I find myself fighting against considering that I live life in a digital age.
It's an addiction that is running through every age group in our culture -- it's the addiction to reaction.
If you are like me, you probably scroll through various news feeds through out the day. Cute baby photos, new houses, cars, and jobs. At least that's what we used to see. Now, it's something else. It's a non-stop bombardment of hot takes and opinion pieces on what is happening in culture, usually with an emphasis on whose fault it is.
In 2015, I wrote a post called "WHO CARES ABOUT THE FREAKING RED CUPS!?!?" The post went mini-viral, my blog got a ton of hits and people were sharing it like crazy. I remember the feeling that I had when it started to happen -- this egotistical, self-centered, fame-hungry view taking over. I wanted to feel it again, so I started keeping a close eye on what I could give MY OPINION on. Thankfully, I married a strong, amazing woman who will "edit" my blog posts and as my opinion pieces started becoming more frequent she found herself "unable to edit things", and by the time she got around to it, the time had passed, my hot take had cooled and I'd decided against posting it. Life lesson - marry an amazing woman!
I started to realize that I was addicted to the reaction. I wanted to post the thing, with the perfect click-bait title, to get the most reaction, so I would feel awesome about myself. And after 2016 + 2017 I am realizing that I am not alone.
When something big and newsworthy happens in our culture, it seems like we are quicker to seek a reaction than to seek any sort of solution.
We are getting high off the likes, shares, comments, retweets of our instant thoughts, for the sole purpose of getting high off the likes, shares, comments, retweets. And all it produces is more hot takes, more reaction, more comments, more, more, more, more, more, more!!!
There are probably three types of people reading this. The first is the person who posted something recently about an opinionated subject, and wants to defend to me exactly why they posted it and why it was for the noblest of reasons. To you, I would say, if you feel good about it, then that's fine. I have no problem with you expressing your opinion on Facebook. I will just ask one question to you. Why are you expressing it? Are you doing it because one Facebook post is going to spur change in the hearts of man? Are you doing it because you think that this post will change the course of any one who has a problem with A, B or C? Or, are you doing it for the reaction?
The second type is people who posted something recently and are currently, right now feeling very convicted...not by me, but by the Holy Spirit. You are realizing that you just enjoy throwing fuel on the fire for the reactions. You love to play "devil's advocate" dressed up in "I just want to have a conversation." If that's you, just stop. Delete Facebook if you have to. Cut the addiction off at the source and move on. That was me. And even as recently as last week, I found myself opening up my laptop and typing a few opinions on the things that were unfolding around me.
I haven't stopped writing down my opinion since I realized I was a "reaction addict". I still write and/or talk about the things I see happening in culture. I just don't press post, don't push it out anywhere and usually only keep those conversations between myself and my wife, and a few close friends.
You might be the guy saying, "Well, you are writing your opinion now, aren't you?" Yes, I am, but it's not a hot take, it's not for the glory of likes. It's something that I have been thinking about and praying about since last Friday evening. I didn't write it just to get those sweet-sweet likes, like a twitchy heroin addict. I wrote this because I am guessing there are people in group two who are glad I wrote it, and are feeling like it's time to turn over a new leaf and step away from the share button.
That leaves the third group of people. The people who didn't post, who don't want to post, who probably were smarter than all of us and just stay away from Facebook when it comes to hot topics. If that's you, and that works for you, great. But it doesn't make you better than anyone in the other groups. Don't stand high and mighty, like Moses holding the 10 commandments as you proclaim, "I don't even have a Facebook..." We get it. You don't get a BEST-AT-BEING-HUMBLE-AWARD... because I already won it last week! 😂
Finally, there is a bonus group we all fall into and that is the fallen group of the human race. We are broken, damaged, hurtful people. You might be thinking that someone "is just so awful" and "you would never"... but I am guessing if we rolled over every stone in your life, and looked in every closet, we would find some darkness that someone else would describe as "just so awful."
This isn't a burn-your-phone-and-delete-your-Facebook post. This isn't even a "don't ever post about controversial issues" post. I believe that there is a lot of darkness that technology is helping bring into the light, and that's good. This is just a post about asking yourself, "Why am I posting this?" Is it because I am being compelled and pushed by the Holy Spirit to speak on an issue, or is it because I am addicted to the reactions I'll most likely receive. Only you can answer that question. No one else can. But, keep asking yourself that question EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.
And if you are a "reaction addict", find someone to hold you accountable to it. Text them before you post and say, "Hey, I really want to say this... What do you think?" More times than not, it's probably best not to.
I see and hear a lot of people saying things like, "We are living in dark times.." And that's true! It can be scary, unnerving and just plain weird feeling. But, I will let you in on a secret. We've lived in dark times since Adam + Eve decided to sin, but the greatest light ever came to earth to shine a light on all darkness. I'd encourage you to lean into Jesus when you feel the darkness creeping in... and not into the reaction to that darkness.
I started talking to entrepreneurs + creatives by writing for them on this blog. I wrote posts filled with what I hoped was helpful tips, tricks + advice for entrepreneurs + creatives. I enjoyed it, but it didn't feel like enough for me so I started recording myself talking about the same thing, first on video, then on a podcast and then on video again. It was enjoyable, but not quite enough. So, I went back to writing and wrote to specific entrepreneurs in specific industries with what I would do if I was in their shoes. All of these outlets were fun and fulfilling to me, but there was still something missing.
So, I added a face to face element to my business advice and called them One on Ones. I did over 30 of them and it was again, very fulfilling and I hope helpful. I loved being able to Facetime or sit down with people and talk about their dreams, goals + businesses.
Then, on July 3, 2016, Brooke and I sat across the table from Bryan + Heather and pitched the idea for SUPPLY. A year later we were in the building. During that time I didn't really have time to do as many One on One's as I had been and it slowly faded to the background of construction decisions, walk in love., being a dad and husband.
SUPPLY is now open and over the last few weeks, I've had different people stop by for a tour, which has led to conversations about business, marketing + life. Conversations that have filled me up and made me realize how much I have been missing that element of my life.
I really started to think about whether I wanted to start writing again, recording a video show, podcast or having more One on Ones. I kept feeling like none of those previous outlets were going to fill me up the way I was looking for. They were all great but seasons come and seasons go and I am ready to welcome in a new season of talking business with like-minded people, the SUPPLY Wednesday season. I talked to Brooke and she was all in because she is always all in and I love her dearly for that!
So, it is with great excitement that I introduce SUPPLY Wednesdays - a monthly conversation for entrepreneurs + creatives hosted by T.J. + Brooke Mousetis.
You might be asking, "What will that look like?"
My answer, I don't totally know. I just know that I love talking about business with people and I love giving any advice I can that allow people to live as an entrepreneur. It will be conversational, meaning I will prepare something for us to talk about but will let the conversation and questions dictate the directions we go each week. I have a feeling we will talk about business, marketing + sales, but our conversations will also be on balance, life, marriage, kids and all the other things life brings us as creatives + entrepreneurs.
Here is what it won't be. It won't be some elitist meeting where either you are in or you are out. It won't be a place where we just pat ourselves on the back for existing and getting likes on Instagram. Not happening here.
My goals and hopes are two fold. First and foremost, talking about business fills me up in a way I can't quite explain. Brooke will attest that I am a happier individual when I get to do the things that really fill me up. I know that when Brooke can cook and create she is happier and so am I, because she is a great cook! In life, it's easy to let life dictate what we have the "time" to do and it takes a dedicated energy and focus to make sure you are doing things to fill you up so you can take care of the harder side of life with joy and enthusiasm.
The second goal is to help someone, anyone with their business. I am no business expert and I am not going to charge to be your business "coach." I just want to talk about some of the issues you might be facing, suggest solutions, talk about goals + hopefully at the end of it all have success!
If you read all that and are still with me I am guessing SUPPLY Wednesday is for you. So, consider yourself officially invited to our first meeting on September 13 @ 10 am at SUPPLY - 280 S. Oak St. Manheim PA 17545.
Join our Facebook Group here - SUPPLY Wednesdays
For the last year, I have spent a lot of time and energy focusing on one word in all areas of my life -
It's a word that I didn't give a lot of attention to for the first 30 years of my life. I've spent 30 years as a friend, husband, employee, and employer with my expectations all over the board. It's only in the last year that I've realized the value of that word and how focusing on it will drastically change the outcome of your life.
If you are a Debbie Downer you are might think that if you have zero expectations then you'll never be upset. To which, I will argue - you will also not have any healthy relationships because healthy relationships have healthy expectations. (Boom. Roasted.)
Even though I am no Debbie Downer, I have lived parts of my life with no expectations, especially as a boss/leader. In the past, if I found that an employee wasn't living up to my unexplained expectations, I would get frustrated, grab the reigns and take over whatever task they were working on. But, how were they ever supposed to know my expectations if I never explained them? Doh!
Whether you are a boss or a parent, jumping in and taking over is an easy place to arrive at. We see our children struggling with something and because we are in a hurry (or have run out of patience) we grab/finish what they are doing, because the way they are doing it is not meeting our expectations. At times in my life, I have led like this and it is a regret I have.
We can end up living life in this awkward place where we are constantly being let down because our friends, family, and staff don't know what we expect of them...because we aren't actually explaining what we expect.
Let's say... you want your spouse to do the dishes while you are out running errands, are you telling them that you are expecting that of them? Or just getting mad when you come home to a full sink? If it's the latter, who is the person at fault in that situation?
I use to live a majority my life like that. Reacting to unmet expectations, that were impossible to be met because I never even explained them before hand. It is a lonely and joyless life, and one that can be so easily avoided through a little communication and conversation. That's because most unmet expectations can be avoided with a few conversations. YOU MIGHT BE A FEW CONVERSATIONS AWAY FROM HAVING A LESS FRUSTRATING AND MORE FULFILLING LIFE! HOW AMAZING WOULD THAT BE?!?!
That's what has happened to me in the last year and my daughter June is to thank. As June started to develop her communication skills, I realized that she understood me quite well. Life can be hard as a toddler and there are moments that are a roller coaster of emotion for my little one. Just a few weeks ago, Brooke sent me this photo of June collapsed in the middle of a walk, crumbled in an upset pile of toddler.
Why was she so upset you ask?
Well, her shadow was behind her instead of in front of her...
The struggle is real.
I realized that, as a dad, the more I communicated with June what was happening, and what was going to happen, the better off our days would be.
"June, we are going to change your diaper, eat breakfast and go to the park."
She would reply, "TV-DADA!"
"We can watch TV later, but right now we are going to change your diaper, eat breakfast and go to the park."
As soon as I explained what we were going to do she would, most of the time, go along with what I expected from her. And she would tell me throughout those morning activities, "TV-DAD...laaattttter."
I realized that I was explaining my expectations to my two-year-old toddler, but not explaining them to my adult wife of almost eight years, or any of my employees or anyone for that matter. I was just reacting when my unsaid expectations weren't met. I think a lot of us might fall into that category.
So, over the last year, I've really started explaining my expectations and asking people for theirs. Surprise! Surprise! My life has improved in all areas.
And even though it's affected all areas, I've seen the greatest effect on my marriage. If my wife leaves me home with June, I ask her what she expects of me while she is gone. On Saturday's, I ask what her expectations are for our day off?
And since we work together we can have extra tension in our relationship because not only do we have personal expectations, we have work expectations as well. Now that we talk about those that tension is gone. We know what the other one expects and we work our best to get there because we love each other and really want to.
We are humans though and don't succeed 100% of the time, but because we are in an on-going dialogue about expectations, there is no chance for us to not understand where the other is. If we didn't get to something because we were dealing with "shadows being on the wrong side of ourselves", we understand because we communicate about it. It leaves little to no room for an unwanted surprise in our relationship, which means there is little to no room for an argument over that thing. All because we've discussed, and continue to discuss our expectations.
Honestly, the first few times we really started talking about expectations with each other openly were awkward and difficult. We both felt like we were making demands of the other person, but after we pushed through the unfamiliar area of communication, it has become second nature. Instead of asking questions like "What are you doing today?" which often fill my wife with stress, because she couldn't tell if it was a loaded question or not, I ask, "What do you want to get out of this day?" or "What are your expectations of me today?" Or I say something like, "I am expecting this task to be done this week. Is that doable?"
It's given us another way to serve each other, because when you know what your spouse expects you can show them love by doing your best to meet those expectations. It's freakin awesome!
My brother recently got married, but before hand his pre-marital counselor asked him, "What is the number one reason people get divorced?" (I guessed financial issues, but I was wrong.) The reason his pre-marital counselor gave was a hard heart. I believe that unmet expectations can quickly lead to a hard heart. In our marriages, we expect things of our spouse and when we are let down we can feel our hearts harden.
Instead of spending a little more time communicating those expectations to prevent a hard heart we secretly hide our expectations away like Gollum hiding the ring. (My preshhhious.) We hold them tight to our chest and when they aren't met, we explode, or let a little more of our hearts harden.
Get your expectations out into the open. Tell those you love what you expect of them, whether it's something big like not looking at porn, or something small like doing the dishes while you are out. Communicate those expectations, with love and grace and kindness, and watch your world be filled with more joy, more peace, and more grace.
If you are holding onto your unexplained expectations like hostages just so you can hold them over your spouse's head, you are asking for a hard heart to occur. Stop it! Today. Seriously, just stop.
Let the hostages go. Let them leave before something goes wrong and you can't recover. Today, sit down with your spouse, fiance, boyfriend, girlfriend, employees or anyone you care about, and ask them what their expectations are of you? I am guessing you are the kind of person who would want to know and live up to those expectations. Guess what? As soon as you know what they are, you can!
And then once that conversation is over, have one about your expectations. Tell your husband, wife, kids or whoever you have a relationship with what your expectations are. Eliminate the opportunity to fight later over unsaid and unmet expectations.
Brooke and I have always communicated well, but our discussions about expectations are leading us to an even healthier, more fulfilling marriage. We will now start a conversation about expectations and end our conversation talking about big dreams, goals, and things we might have never shared because the rivers of communications were dammed off.
Break those dams open and start talking expectations. Don't wait another second. Do it today and watch your world be filled with joy, peace and contentment.
It's sad that before you continue to read this post you will want to know whether I voted for Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. Because if I voted for Trump, like you did, then you will probably agree with what I am saying. If I voted for Trump, and you didn't, well then... you've probably already branded me a hate-mongering bigot. And the same would go with Clinton votes.
We are all feeling things after the most recent election. Most of those feelings have been voiced in posts like this one, starting statements like, "I don't normally talk about politics but..."
I think we've all seen enough of those posts and let's be real, we are all tired of unfollowing every other person on Facebook. 😂
So, let's re-write that sentence. Instead of "I don't normally talk about politics but...OPINION OPINION OPINION" Let's write this instead.
I normally don't talk about politics, so... instead I am going to....
Love my wife.
Play with my daughter.
Run my business.
Read a book.
Go on a walk.
Go on a run.
Clean my house.
Clean out my car.
Make cookies for my neighbors.
Visit my Grandpa.
Open the Bible.
Go to church.
Volunteer at a local charity.
Call my friends and play pick-up basketball.
Train for American Ninja Warrior.
Go to my favorite restaurant.
Shut off my phone for two days.
Paint a room in my house.
Take my mom out on a date.
Help my dad build his bomb shelter. 😂
Go to the gym.
Play a board game.
The possibilities are endless. And my guess is that they will all make you feel better than writing what you think about this recent election online, and then arguing with friends or family in the comments.
I understand all the feels are real right now. Tensions are high and people are fragile. Instead of leaning into those tensions, let's lean into the people we love and the things we love to do.
Let's change our posts from "I normaly don't talk about policits, but..." to "I don't normally talk about politics, so..."
I think we will all be a little happier for it.
When we were kids, we were fearless. We climbed up, jumped down, ran fast, skinned our knees, and rode our bikes until our little arms were covered in sweat. We played tag with kids we just met at parks we were visiting for the very first time. We yelped in excitement as our parents pushed us higher, and higher on the swings and were totally amazed when they somehow ran under the swing while we were still in the air.
But, then something happens. We grow up, ride our bikes a little less, and stop hanging from monkey bars all together. Outside of a little head nod or "thank you" when someone hands us our change, we rarely communicate with anyone we don't already know. Our lives get closed off as we get older. I don't know why it happens or how it happens, but it does. Some of it's unintentional, some of it's because of hurt, some of it's because of laziness. Whatever the reason, it happens nevertheless, and we trade those fearless child-like feelings in for more of the mundane.
I was feeling this in my own life. I was feeling myself become more and more closed off to the world around me. I was tired of putting myself out there only to get shut down or ignored. But, then I had a baby... that grew into a toddler, and she has taught me how to play again. How to run again. How to be brave.
Several nights ago, at a local park, Brooke shot family photos for friends of ours, while I followed June around and kept her busy. She was fearless - running down the long concrete paths, up the little bridges, and over mounds of grass to pick up her favorite rocks. I just let her run wherever she wanted, helped her up the more difficult stairs and made sure she didn't face plant when her momentum got the best of her.
At one point during her exploration, she walked towards the largest set of stairs in the park, which we have gone up and down a few times before. She paused for a brief second, looked back at me with a small grin on her face that said, "Do you see what I see?!? These look fun!", and then took off running to conquer the stairs. Up and up she climbed with her little body, and when she reached the top she looked at the large hill still in front of her with the same excitement as the stairs she had just conquered, and we continued our climb.
Upon reaching the very top, I turned my little lady around, held her hand and we ran down the hill we had just climbed. Our running was filled with little June giggles and happy screams. After the hill I grabbed both her hands and swung her down the stairs, while yelling "1...2....3...JUMP!!"
As June's father, I want her to experience these brave moments. I want her to see a set of monkey bars, or a big hill, as an exciting challenge. When she finishes climbing a hill, or steps, she almost always looks back at either Brooke or I with a look of "Did you see that?" She wants to share with her parents and be acknowledged that she has done good work.
As I see her do these types of things, over and over again, I am constantly reminded of the wild, fearless, wonder that I am afraid I have lost as I've aged. And while I am definitely one that likes a good challenge, at times I can be a little hesitant to talk to a stranger, or even exchange more than pleasantries with the person behind the register at Target.
Learning to acknowledge that this child-like wonder has decreased in my own life is only part of the problem. Acting on it and fighting for it is the other part. So, if you happen to drive past June and I at a playground you will probably see me hanging from monkey bars, climbing through tunnel, and (as long as my ankles allow it 😂) jumping from obstacle to obstacle with a sheen of sweat over my brow and arms. I want to feel that child-like wonder in my life again, and I don't want it to ever go away. When it comes to the strangers in my life, I want to be more like June and approach them because they are new and unique. I will start a conversation. Ask them about their kids, their lives, where they are from, what excites them. If they think I am a weirdo, so be it, but I never think people are weird for engaging with me on a personal level.
I don't think, as a Christian, I focus on this verse enough in my life:
“Truly I tell you,” Jesus said, “unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
I want, no need, to become like a little child when it comes to my faith and approach God with the awe and wonder He truly deserves. Because how much more does my heavenly Father love me than I could ever love June? If I stumble He will be there. If I make it to the top He will be there. If I need a hand halfway through, He will be there.
If you find yourself in a similar place, go do something out of the ordinary. Go hang on monkey bars, run down a hill or play tag with your kids, or your adult friends. (Try it. It's terrifying and exhausting). Do anything to capture that out-of-breath-wonder and remember that feeling - never forget it! And then, with a new found sense of bravery and wonder, look at the God of the heavens and earth and simply stand in awe, like a child.