The Basics of Decency: PHL

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Philosophical thinking is easiest when we are alone, but is most challenging and rewarding when we have others who are willing to discuss it with us. (My pictured above is my dear friend, Morgan Thomas–someone who is ready and willing to have those deep talks with me at any time.)

To study philosophy is to study our own existence and our knowledge of it. It’s never exact, it’s never black and white, and it’s not something that can be studied through quantitative results or actions. As a social species, we have rules. They dictate how we behave and when certain behaviors are permissible. Our rules help us survive with some sort of order. These expectation can range anywhere from international law all the way down to how one might talk to their parents. Some rules are clear and other are more taboo or just unspoken while just as clearly understood. While we strive to have this order and mutual understanding of what is acceptable or not and how to fix things that go wrong, there is conflict.

Different populations can have different ideas of what to do or not to do based on knowledge, experience, or a combination of both. From entire nations down to a small family, there can be conflicting views on what is wrong, permissible, or obligatory. The Leadership Institute claims that we are becoming ethical leaders. In order to do so, a student in this program must study this idea of ethics and a great place to start is in PHL 118, Philosophy of Moral problems. In other words, this class revolved around the branch of philosophy that focuses on the argument of morality and ethics in communication, judgement, and values. Our class didn’t agree on the extent to which certain things were right or wrong which made for powerful conversations and challenging discussions.

Questioning what is right or wrong to an individual may be easy as they know their own morals and values. Once we consider what might be right or wrong to large numbers of people, it becomes ethics. One of the final papers that we wrote in PLH 118 was to be about something that was morally or ethically debatable and take a position on it. I chose to discuss when murder was permissible in the form of justifiable homicide. If this topic sounds interesting at all to you, this is the actual paper that I turned in- PHL118 justifiable homicide paper.

As leaders, it is important that we consider view points of all sorts. Being apart of this class and the talks that ensued proved to be a great place to become more aware of what may or may not be considered ethical. Doing the right thing isn’t always an easy path and to make matters more interesting, what one might have thought to be obligatory could turn out to be hardly permissible to others. These considerations and debates prepare our cohort to be those ethical leaders that the world seems to need.

To Be a Mentor?

I recall those that I have looked up to throughout my life. Many of whom were adults. However, the ones who helped me grow into particularly positive directions and realizations were those who could grow along with me.

If you’re a reader that is familiar with any of my previous posts, you are most likely aware of how dearly I hold both my past and current sensei. They held tittles of authority, yet surpassed their duties as teachers and became mentors and nearly family figures in my life. Their influences have spanned across areas of my involvements such academia, sports, hobbies, relationships, and jobs.

“Train your brain. Build your Body. Strengthen your spirit.”

Although I haven’t said those words together out loud since I was in elementary school, I never forgot this wisdom bestowed on me by my first sensei. For me to remember this, after all these years, has meant that I am not so easily lost in times of adversity. The weight of these words is immeasurable and I had someone in my life determined enough to make sure I remembered them.

As much as I can thank them for everything that they have done for me, I am also indebted to many people from my own generation and friend groups that I look to for guidance and positive examples.

I mostly feel young and inexperienced when it comes to simply living life. I’m a novice at this living-independently-thing at best. With that being said, I was extremely anxious about taking on what we at the CMU Leadership Institute call a “mentee” (or as I prefer to call them- padawan,  young cricket, apprentice, or protégé). This meant that, come summer 2016, I would be some poor soul’s mentor through the scholarship program that I am a part of here at school. Based on my nervous behavior, some may have thought I was about to bring another human into this world. I won’t go into detail on how I found who I wanted to mentor, but I will describe how impossibly perfect the match is becoming.

logan
photo credit to Dan Gaken

 

Logan James Palm is currently a freshman in the CMU Leader Advancement Scholar program. He is known for sharing funny videos, geeking-out over some definite geek-worthy things, spreading the joy of dank memes, being a fantastic performer, and loving/praising all things Disney. He will be known for making people laugh, ensuring other’s comfort (even at the cost of his own), and being a big name in the entertainment industry through working for Disney. I am blessed enough to be challenged as Logan’s mentor.

The weekend of September 10th , the Leadership Institute took the freshman and sophomore classes, or, more notably, the mentee and mentor pairs on a overnight retreat to Eagle Village.  We spent merely a day and a half on this little trip and those few hours are already proving to have had an endless impact on our relationships. We filled our time there with constant communication and exciting activity. Sometimes we were physically challenged to points requiring intense trust. Other activities pushed us to come up with creative alternatives to help each other complete puzzling tasks. I could go on and on about the specifics, but I would much rather recommend that you watch a video that was created from moments captured over the weekend.
A talented young lady in my cohort, and an amazing roommate of mine, Riley Bussell, created a heart warming compilation of us students being cute. You can check it out here!

Logan and I already had so many things in common. It wasn’t until the retreat that we birthdaylogandiscussed our differences and found out more ways to be there for each other. School has been going for almost three weeks and Logan and I have already proclaimed our sibling-like bond to the entire world. Or at least on various social media accounts. I cannot stress enough how important this young man is to me.

I have been putting an immense amount of pressure on myself to be someone perfect for Logan to look up to. I want to be able to answer all of his question. I want to help him through all his problems. I want to always make sure he’s having a better experience in this program than even myself. Despite all this, I have to remind myself that we are in the same boat. I only have one year more of college experience than he does. I have to remind myself that I can only do my best and hope for the best as a result. This is when I think back to all of the peers that I have looked up to over the years. They weren’t perfect either. They were just what I needed at a point in time to help me grow. I have to remind myself that what Logan needs from me is that same help to grow in positive directions and realizations. I want to be the perfect mentor for Logan, but that doesn’t mean I have to be the one to give him all the advice and all the help he needs. I have to remind myself, that just like me, Logan will have an endless supply of inspiration and support from everyone in the leadership program.

So on that note, I’d like to thank a few people. Angie (my mentor), thanks for always being  someone I can fall back on. I know I don’t usually admit when I need help but I think you can always tell and easily step in to help before I reach another level of crazy. Roommates, thanks for always making me laugh and reminding me of who and what is most important in my life. My cohort, thanks for all your unsuspecting wisdom that you casually drop on me at any given time of day. Keep up the good work, please. Thank you to my parents for raising me in a way that enables me to be so resilient. And finally, I’d like to thank Logan for being so open and honest with me. I see that you trust me, I see that you are willing to lean on me, and that shows me that I am doing at least enough right to allow you to feel comfortable with me. I feel like I’ve magically acquired a younger brother that I didn’t know I needed in my life until you arrived.  We have so far to go but with a start so strong, I can’t wait to see what the future may bring. I am determined to make you remember how great you are every day.

 

An Ascent: Leaders Brought up in Detroit

You wake to the pang in your stomach. You try hard not to remember when it was, exactly, that you last ate a full meal. Who can you tell? Who cares enough to help? Besides, you should be able to help yourself, right? All you can do is go to school each day as you should. You know you’re not the only one which makes it even more difficult to ask for help. Someone else has it worse. But how long can you endure things the way they are now? Sometimes you just wish you had someone to show they care–just enough to show you an opportunity to make things happen.

This is a reality for far too many young people around the world. Places like Detroit, so close to my home, know the feeling of hunger, restriction, and fear all too well. Change is wanted and needed. With nearly 40% of Detroit area residents living under the poverty line, where does the community start?

We get so caught up in the pressure to be successful that we forget the things that don’t affect us immediately. We fill most of our days. We spend our time on things that we have to do and then feel drained and incomplete if we don’t do some of the things that we really want to do.

I don’t have all the answers but I do have time to offer a helping hand.

It only takes a little time and hardly any extra effort. Instead of going through the usual routine, consider doing something to help others. Providing service for others is not only extremely helpful to a community, but offers personal gain in character.

My Leader Advancement Scholar cohort made a trip down to Detroit from Mount Pleasant   to help out the second poorest place in Michigan (around third poorest in the nation) that just happens to be a place full of potential for more amazing things. Detroit could return to the state of greatness it was once in. It may just need help along the way. We visited the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy on day one of our trip.

We placed our things and ourselves within a tiny gymnasium that doubled as a cafeteria and then waited patiently for the students to arrive. On their last day of spring break, I was worried the students would be far from excited to be undesirably adorned by their uniforms and come back on a Friday that was meant to be school-free. Throughout the day, I was with a small group of LAS members and Jalen Rose students. We made a somewhat quiet team. I did appreciate, however, that the students went along with our efforts to keep conversations rolling and our attempts to play games to make things more interesting or engaging. There were two moments in the day that really stuck out to me: First, we were simply “de-fuzzing” some circles cut off of socks for an educational non-profit’s craft kits. As the eight of us sat quietly in the classroom, we decided to play hangman on the white board. We each took turns going to write on the board. Every one else continued to “de-fuzz” as we guessed letters and phrases. Second, at the end of the day, we discussed what everyone thought of the whole event. It was then that I realized that none of them were really disappointed to be brought back to school. In fact, they were glad that they had something fun to do on their break. Nearly all the students agreed that they were extremely bored during their break. Many even felt like they were trapped to do nothing until we came to visit.

Their attitudes were obviously appreciative. In a place that doesn’t have a lot to offer in terms of facilities and opportunities, it’s amazing to see that they show their appreciation so clearly. Or maybe that is something that I should be used to seeing? Should I even be surprised when people are appreciative? With such a great difference between the areas we live, no wonder I am accustom to being under appreciated and under appreciative. Attitudes and life styles are geographically based when there is such a difference in an area’s average income. This new point of view that can be gained from simply getting to know the inner-workings of a new area, is something that everyone should have to experience at least once in their lives. And even though it isn’t understood by all, I’m positive that our LAS members were humbled by the type of leadership that we saw coming from the Jalen Rose students. Attitude is a huge part of leadership attributes and they had it right. They were so appreciative and they saw so many good things coming from their situations. It assured me that they don’t want to become victims of circumstance, and specifically, victims of their city’s current reputation.

 

Yep

I am where I am today because of my decisions. I am where I am going because of the decisions I have yet to make. I didn’t become more or less motivated by someone telling me ‘yes’ or ‘no’. In fact, when there is something that I really desire, I do what I can to reach or attain that goal. Regardless of what I am told, I can make things happen because I say yes.

A question was posed to myself and my peers; Does leadership come from ‘yes’ or ‘no’?

“The tension between ‘yes’ and ‘no’, between ‘I can’ and ‘I cannot’, makes us feel that, in so many instances, human life is an interminable debate with one’s self.”Anatole Broyard

Well I say yes.

We don’t need anyone else to say yes. Sure, it may seem like opportunities become available and doors open when others say yes, but we can’t count on that. Before high school, I liked to live as a victim of circumstance. It was almost easy because teachers were easy on me, and my parents were still looking out for me on basic living tasks. It was rare to be told no or to run into anything drastically life changing in a negative way. So when it did happen, I let that situation get the best of me. Seemingly unexplained guilt would eventually settle into the deepest crevices of my mind and heart after I milked such situations. It wasn’t until I realized I had the power to do important things for myself that I was no longer a victim of circumstance.

I firmly believe that leadership comes from ‘yes’. When I think of leadership attributes I think of courage, determination, compassion, and integrity. Common themes among traits like these involve internal strength and personal wisdom. When there’s a challenge in front of us, as leaders, we should want to say yes. Being able to say yes in the face of adversity shows courage and determination while adding to our internal strength. When faced with a question of doing the right thing, as leaders, we should want to say yes. Being able to say yes to a righteous path while being faced with an easy way out shows integrity and compassion while contributing to our capacity for wisdom.

We must find it within ourselves to say yes to things that scare us, that make us happy, and that create opportunities for ourselves and others.

“To my young friends out there: Life can be great, but not when you can’t see it. So, open your eyes to life: to see it in the vivid colors that God gave us as a precious gift to His children, to enjoy life to the fullest, and to make it count. Say yes to your life.” – Nancy Reagan

So I say yes.

yes

Perfectly Prepared Students Probe President for Positive Answers

In LDR100 we had the opportunity to speak with the president of the University. Being able to speak with President Ross instead of being talked at is pretty neat. Engaging speakers are certainly easier to listen to and learn from. The President had printed out handouts to outline his main points for us. The points clearly outlined some of the President’s important life values and words to live by. He clearly put his best foot forward because he sees how serious we are as students. It was different however, to see a person in power who willingly gets into the position to be asked questions from such serious students. He was comfortable being uncomfortable and I respect that.

After we learned what we could from some of his more intense life stories, we got down to business. The questions that were asked surprised even me. I constantly see my classmates in a rather silly state outside of class. I was thoroughly impressed by the questions that they came up with for President Ross. Previously meditated or spontaneously conjured, the ideas for these questions were good. After hearing some of them It prompted me to get into the conversation. Unfortunately, I don’t remember what question I ended up asking–but I do remember one thing. One of my classmates asked what our school was doing to compete with Big Ten schools. The president talked about some of the recent academic programs that have grown or emerged. He talked about the Leader Advancement Scholars, of course. He even added on some of the amazing things that alumni have done and told him about. Then I raised my hand. Instead of asking another prying question, I asked to add on to his answer. I told my classmate that CMU competes with Big Ten schools with the campus itself and how nice it is. I told him that one of the biggest reasons for me deciding to come here was because students at CMU are more involved and dedicated to their passions than I have ever heard of or seen. CMU encourages students to be so much more than students by the amount of extracurricular opportunities on campus and the high involvement in every form of it. My friends who went to Michigan State and Michigan University are never doing anything. Sure, they do homework and study but what else? They are basically wasting their free time by not joining anything or volunteering. Getting a job won’t just be like going to class and studying. I just see more practicality and usefulness in how students here are living. CMU truly graduates leaders.

Fred Factor Reflection

Fred is a real person but also a concept that has changed thousands of people for the better. Mark Sanborn was inspired by a mailman to write a book about becoming your best self. The idea is that this mailman, named Fred, went above and beyond his duties as an employee and as a decent human being. He had  a way with making people feel better and valuable. You can watch this video that really captures what the book and the following movement are all about. As a part of our leadership class, we were to find creative ways to become a “Fred” and show the effects that we had. My team decided to spread positive vibes on campus and over social media. We handed out flowers to strangers with a note attached that read,

Step One: take a picture with or of your flower and post it on social media with #sharetheloveCMU

Step Two: pass the flower on to someone else who would appreciate it so that they can do the same”

After we recorded several brave flower exchanges and dissected the reasons why it helped us attain our goal, we put together this presentation that summed it all up quite nicely. If you would also like to see the wonderful people receiving the flowers, you can click here and admire the awkward building of connections that we made.

The project and the presentation may be over, but learning such valuable lessons and getting myself to go out there and do something definitely leaves a lasting impression. I will continue to hold myself and my group-mates accountable for being the best version of ourselves we can be.

Each Puzzle Piece

I often find myself mindlessly scrolling through various forms of social media and stumbling upon articles and videos. These posts usually make us think that we have some sort of connection with the writer or person who shared the video because it is just oh-so-relatable. Today it seems too easy. We form relationships (real or virtual) based on a couple common interests. I saw that you tweeted lyrics to a song that I love; we must have so much in common. And so we form these connections that rarely even leave the space of social media to become more real and personal (not to mention that they sometimes rarely leave the comfort of our own thoughts). As a member of the human race, I know it’s easier to believe that these simple commonalities can be all that a relationship needs. But what actually matters in creating solid connections with others?

Fire up for CMU students relaxing in the hot tub after going down all of the slides at least three times.

Believe it or not, I think about this quite often. When the CMU Leadership Institute offered me the opportunity to go to the Connections Leadership Conference FOR FREE, you know I was on top of that. Leading up to the event itself, I was never entirely certain of what it was all about. Being unsure is far easier when, no matter what, I know that I get to participate in child-like-wonder at the Great Wolf Lodge’s water park. All twisty-slides aside, I was still looking forward to the conference.

We were seated in a ballroom area around fancy dining tables upon our arrival on Saturday. We were handed some booklets with the schedule and many worksheets pertaining to conference activities. After a nice lunch and some welcoming words, the conference finally began. Only two sessions that I went to were assigned two me and I was able to pick another five that I found interesting. Having that freedom was a conference-first for me and I was crazy about it.

Group work to show how the individual, culture, physical environment, organization, and government all work together.
Group work to show how the individual, culture, physical environment, organization, and government all work together.

Being around so many different CMU students and understanding the various leadership roles they held around campus seemed wonderfully enlightening. While working with countless new student-leaders, I began to see why they called it the Connections Conference. With each session and each activity I found that there are so many resources at my disposal. Between the organizations and the amazing individuals on campus, it seems impossible to feel alone with any goals I may have.

I had a common sense of usefulness throughout every one of my sessions during this conference. They were all useful because they brought up the connections that really matter. After all the wondering and worrying about what really makes a relationship, feelings of relief and satisfaction overcame me.

Finally, a conference that caught my attention and never let it go.

Connections are strong when you talk about what really matters to you in life. Who do you care most about in your life and why? What do you read or hear about in the news that really gets your blood boiling? What are you most happy doing with your free time? What are you most passionate about? More often then not, it is hard to answer these sort of questions without giving it some time and thought. I honestly believe that it shouldn’t have be that way.

It’s easy for us to have faith in petty similarities. It’s easy to avoid vulnerability by only talking about things that you have in common with others instead of saying what you really think and waiting for others to come forward with similar thoughts. We need to start asking the tough questions. We need to start showing others what is really important to us. And I don’t mean your Lulu Lemon $80 leggings, your smart phone, your Cyboard, or when your jeans still fit after the holiday season. In order to make sustainable and truly meaningful connections with others, we have to get real with each other. We have to talk about what we want to do with the rest of our lives and why. I have to admit, it’s a scary place to be–outside of the warm and cozy comfort zone we create for ourselves. But I’d like to know how many great things can happen without taking a step outside of this zone. Movements don’t start with a thought lingering within our heads for a few days and then passing with a sigh and an unfulfilled dream. Big things start to happen when those thoughts and beliefs are shared with others and you begin to see a bigger picture.

Inside and outside of my campus, I see that we all need each other. As students, workers, dreamers, artists, and many more, we each have a piece to offer to each other.  You can only begin to see a beautiful picture when you start bringing the pieces together.

Leadership Safari: College Students in their Unnatural Habitat

Here at Central Michigan University, something occurs that challenges the natural conformity of the species I call my own. We, animals, are called college students. A special event was formulated to dissect, analyze, and contemplate what behavior is versus what should be considered “normal” for my kind. This week-long event enables us to step outside of what we’ve known for so long. It goes against all the tendencies that most on-campus students follow blindly. It’s a scary, loud, no-sleep-because-you-have-to-keep-dancing kind of trial; it is Leadership Safari.safari

As far as Leadership related events go, I considered myself a veteran. I thought I had seen it all after going to 5 training events each year (on average) throughout my high school career. Going into Leadership Safari, I expected all the same exercises with the only differences being the places and the
faces. So color me maroon and gold and call me an average teenager because, well, I was wrong. Safari was, admittedly, challenging to myself and other so-called veterans.  Some of the activities were very close to what I had done before, but even so, it was on a completely new level. The large-scale of Safari changed even the last day of safarimost basic of games. I absolutely loved all of my past experience however, that fateful week felt most relevant to reaching for a future that I am really digging. I developed family strong bonds with people I considered strangers just a few days before. I made connections to people who can help and guide me for the next four years, and maybe even for a lifetime. I discovered that, with each day, there will be new and exciting challenges that will propel me toward my goals. I realized that I am making an impact today and not just in the wonderland that is called tomorrow. But most of all, I found my place in this world is wherever I can be at my best. A song I dearly enjoy says, “They all say that home’s where the heart is and I’d know ’cause I’ve tried my hardest just to see if I left it behind but it was with me the whole time” (Alive In Standby). Because of the many feels and my constant, unstoppable, desire to connect with more leadership opportunities, I am going to apply to become a Safari guide during my time here at CMU.

There is an atmosphere here that is completely unique to our campus. I never walk to a class or to work without waving hello to several encouraging individuals. Central constantly attracts and provides you with people who you can always lean on when you need them. This environment is the healthiest habitat for my species. I am proud to say that I went to Leadership Safari because it is what helps to create this beautiful ecosystem I call home. 

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