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Into the Unknown

Dear Elida,

Today is the first day of a new decade. A decade where you will go from bicycling age to driving age. You will grow and learn so much, and I can’t wait to be a part of it. By 2030, you won’t be done growing, either. You’ll just be beginning, if my experience is anything like yours. Like Elsa in Frozen 2, we are taking our own journey into the unknown.

One of my favorite things to do with you is to go on adventures. We have done all kinds of fun trips, from climbing Beacon Rock to hiking at Latourell Falls. Remember seeing all the dogs on the trail? I think you took a picture of every single one.

We went to the Ape Caves in October of last year. Maybe you’ll remember but it was dark and kind of spooky. We had lights but we couldn’t see everything. After getting used to the dark and the limits of our lanterns and flashlights, we were able to get along just fine. We spent an hour and a half underground and explored 1.5 miles of cave. 

You told me you were a little scared but that you wanted to keep going. That’s definitely your approach to life at five and three-quarters years of age. 

There are a lot of similarities between our experience spelunking and looking ahead a full decade. It’s easy to be overwhelmed or to be unsure. Like I told you that day, it’s okay to be scared. 

What we can see ahead of us is very limited. I know we’ll have some laughs and some tears. I know we’ll have some hard times. I know some days will feel easy. But, I can’t predict what will come around the next bend. Sometimes, that would be a pretty nice skill to have. 

What I can tell you is that if you give the next ten years what you gave the last five, you’ll be better than good. You’ve grown into an amazing little girl. You give me courage to step into the unknown like you do: Forging ahead, full of energy, even if I don’t always audibly share my self-doubts and fears like you so transparently do. 

2020 is going to be a great year and you’re a big reason why. Let’s take on this year like we did the last. 



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When It’s Time to Come Home

As we twisted our way around Mt. Tamalpais on the way to the beach in our Subaru, something felt different. A sense of melancholy washed over me as I looked in the back seat. My daughter, now five, looked out her window at the redwoods getting denser and then thinning as we wound our way to the coast.

After a year of firsts — of exploring as many places as we could within a few hours of the Bay — we were reexploring some possible lasts. Maybe not last lasts, but almost certainly lasts as residents of the Bay Area. When a lazy Sunday morning lingered into an afternoon, as it often did, we found ourselves surrounded by the beauty of the Northern California coast. Those days don’t happen on vacation, they happen at home.

But California never truly felt the part of home.

I’ve read a lot of stories about people who have left the Bay Area. They talk about legitimate gripes about the area that I could identify. High cost of living? Homelessness? Transit? Toxic tech culture? Inequality? I get it.

In the end, all of the challenges that California faces are ones that other areas of the country face (or will eventually face, to some degree).

I had (and still have) a great job, one that supported us. It didn’t allow for a lot of saving or doing but we also weren’t ever wanting.

I also never felt ostracized. Which, as a straight, white, married male in his mid-late 30s who worked in a tech-adjacent industry, I stayed mostly in people’s comfort zone here. If you’re new to an area, it can be helpful to blend in but it can also feel a bit invisible.

I also really loved the area we lived in. The area of Marin we were in was a perfect combination of walkable community, suburban comfort, and city accessibility.

The sun dances across my daughter’s face as we continue to drive toward the Sonoma coast. I wondered what Elida would remember about California. I hope she remembers the small co-op preschool that her mom was able to be a part of. I hope she remembers a few of our adventures. I hope she remembers just the amazing beauty that was all incredibly accessible.

For me, moving far away from family and friends put my priorities in sharp relief. I love being able to wander and explore — it’s what ultimately drove me to move, and if we’re being honest, what made me happy to go along with other moves. What I missed was coming back to a place I could truly call home.

California, while glorious and nearly perfect if you have the means to make it work, didn’t have the key things that my wife and I both identified as important parts of our own childhood.

It’s not just the backdrop to the scene that mattered but the people who were in it.

We’re lucky to have people in California we call friends now, but our core is in the Pacific Northwest. That’s home. Not for now, but maybe as forever as we can anticipate.

“When can we come back?”

When you have a five year old, that’s always the question for any place that’s fun. This time, I didn’t know when we’d visit our favorite beach again. So, I told her we’d have to see.

She sat quietly as we listened to music. Our feet were caked with sand and the car smelled like sunscreen and sea air. After a few minutes, she broke her silence.

“I like that beach,” she said.

“So do I, baby,” I replied back.

“Do they have beaches where we are going to live?” she asked.

“They’re not as close but they definitely do,” I told her.

“I bet I’ll like it, too,” she replied.

I looked in the rear view mirror and smiled at her. She smiled back.

I think she’ll remember the right parts about California. I think I will, too.

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An Underestimated Transition

Many people overestimate the impact of change on their lives. Me? I do the opposite. This time, I paid for it.

Photo by kyler trautner on Unsplash

Not-so-secretly, there’s a part of me that always wants to be moving. I like travel. I like the discomfort. I like living in new places. The other part of me wants to be sitting on the couch watching Star Trek: The Next Generation re-runs on Netflix. It’s a hard balance to maintain.

So five months ago, I embraced the former side. I packed all my shit and moved from rural Eastern Washington to the San Francisco Bay area.

Exciting, right? But wait, things are a little more complicated.

The Pieces Fall Into Place

Fourteen years ago, my then girlfriend (now wife) followed me from Pullman to Portland and Walla Walla. After we married, I followed her back to Portland, then to Seattle and Kennewick. It was my turn to have her follow me, I guess. If it was just us, it would just be another adventure.

Something happened in our stop in Kennewick, though. We sprouted a little one. We bought a house. We had a small community we relied on. We even gained a new cat. Maybe we were there for good? Okay, probably not but it wasn’t a bad spot to be.

Something did change, the most critical was that a job at my company’s San Francisco office was available and seemed like a good fit. Another critical change? My wife was ready for something… different. After a decade of 70+ hour fall weeks of wine harvest, who could blame her?

If only just a year-long hiatus from the craze, the timing couldn’t be better. Our daughter, now four and a combination of outlandish, shy, and adorable, wasn’t getting younger. The pieces were in place for a successful move, a rare one where the person coming behind doesn’t have to worry — at least in the short term.

In Theory

Logistically, everything came together fine. The timing couldn’t have been better for almost everyone. The relocation went smooth. Even when a tree fell on my car an hour before our movers were showing up with a trailer full of my stuff? My only thought was, “This is as bad as it will get.”

Screw this particular car

I was right. At least, in theory.

In reality, change was only just beginning. My daughter, used to 8 hours in a full preschool environment, turned into a very small wrecking machine when she stayed at home full time. She frayed my wife’s nerves to exhaustion.

For four years, I was the primary parent for my daughter. I worked from home, 10–20 minutes away from preschool. I shuttled her to appointments. I went to almost all school functions. My wife worked an hour away in a time intensive industry, so there was no real conflict about this arrangement. For however difficult my job can sometimes be, it was the more flexible of the two. If work spilled over to after bedtime, a glass of wine would usually guide me to the end of an extended work day.

My wife stepping into not just being the primary parent, but going from working full-time to watching your daughter full-time at age four? With no ramp up?

Four-year-olds are their own version of insane. My wife is a wonderful parent, but she was shifted into an entirely different role that is nearly impossible to prepare for. I won’t write on her behalf but even taking a temporary break from your career, even without the stress of a move and caring full-time for a kid, is no easy task. She’s handled it remarkably well.

What About Me?

In theory, everything is fine. The job is going great. San Francisco is as advertised. But reality is more complicated.

I miss the people I love, of course. Although we’ve moved a lot, we’ve never been as far away. That’s tough.

The part that surprised me is that I miss a lot of my old, boring daily life.

I didn’t realize how much I personally got out of ferrying my kid back and forth from preschool or just being there for silly little after school moments while cooking dinner. And I was damn good at it. We had such a solid routine and this kid really appreciates that. There were months where I would arrive back at home within about a ten minute window. I would schedule 8am meetings without hesitation. I loved being able to be at almost every dance class and negotiate every side trip to the playground, driving detour over the white cable bridge, or a walking spot on our way home.

All while belting out my favorite Frozen or Moana songs.

I did get lonely and I did miss the in-person camaraderie of an office. I hated traveling so frequently, especially from my crappy airport, which required at least a layover each way. I hated that my wife spent two hours on the road, in addition to the crazy hours. I didn’t like the amount of time our daughter spent in preschool.

It wasn’t perfect but I perfected it. Why did I need to change it?

Disrupted Perfection

Photo by Lance Haun

I don’t know if there is a moral to this story. I’ve always been happy to take risks and not wonder “what if.” I know what life would’ve been like if we had stayed. This has been a more difficult five months than those ones would’ve been.

Working with industries where disruption is often seen as a net positive, I can’t make a call on that with my own life disruption. At least, not yet. But even through some of the lower moments of the last few months, I’ve felt optimistic. I’ve looked up more than down. I’ve felt pain, but some of that pain is growth. It feels good in that way that change always feels good to me.

As I get accustomed to commuting and we prepare for a new preschool and the routines that brings, a new normal approaches.

That will feel good, at least for a little while. Then?

Well, I guess we’ll see.

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How You Can Help Refugees Today

What we’ve heard recently about people fleeing war-torn countries is demonstrably horrible. Just as what happened a little over a year ago, too many people simply don’t understand or don’t care about the terrible conditions these people are fleeing — and how many countries with resources much smaller than our own are doing much more to help.

If you feel helpless, or you don’t feel like entering the political fray, it can seem like there are limited options to do something positive or something that has an immediate impact. Here’s what I do know: There are many refugees already in the U.S. right now. They are trying to adjust to a new way of life and often, they are separated from their families.

It’s hard to imagine what it must be like to be in their shoes. But if you live in the U.S., there’s a very high chance that your family has made it here under similar, uncertain circumstances. Everyone gets help along the way to make that transition, whether from the government, community, churches, families, or friends.

If I escaped a war- or poverty-torn country and relocated to a country that now has a really unfriendly position toward people in my situation, I’d be scared. I hope nobody ever has to deal with that.

So, a little over a year ago, I researched what I could to help.

The Office of Refugee Resettlement is the national agency that coordinates refugee assistance. If you check out their website, and click on the state you live in, you’ll see actual assistance is provided by a patchwork of public and private nonprofit organizations.

While every organization is different, here’s what I’m told most of them need right now:

  1. Money: These organizations help provide housing, food, and medical assistance and the easiest way to provide that is through the purchasing power of money. Most of them get special deals because of their position and most of the resources they have easy access to are the ones they get locally. This is the fastest and easiest way to help.
  2. Household goods and clothing: If money is tight or if you want to supplement your donation, you can donate household goods in good condition and clothing — especially clothing for women and children.
  3. Volunteers: Part of the mission of our local organization is to mentor and connect with refugee families and help them get settled. Whether it’s taking them to a doctor appointment or just working with them on English skills, it’s an hour or two out of your week to have another friendly face in a strange place.

There are a lot of programs that also help refugees still stranded abroad as well as political advocacy groups that are both perpetually underfunded. No effort is wasted effort. I know my actions have made a difference though and the impact is immediate.

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You’ll Be Okay. We’ll Be Okay.


Dear Elida,

This last Tuesday was the first presidential election of your lifetime. It was the ninth of mine.

The first election I could remember was in first grade. We had a discussion as to why we were going to vote one way or another. I supported Vice President George H.W. Bush and I told the class that I liked him because he reminded me of my grandpa and my parents thought he was good. It seemed like good enough reasons to me.

There was this other kid named Ross and he told the class that he thought the Vice President was going to be a really bad and scary president. He was going to support Governor Michael Dukakis and he wanted everyone in class to support him too.

I didn’t like Ross much that day.

We went into our mock voting booths and we punched our cards for who we chose for president (as well as a few other fun voting things like our favorite candy and our favorite pet). Everyone got the opportunity to voice their opinion. After everyone had voted, our teacher counted the ballots.

The candidate who I thought was good, the one who reminded me of my grandpa, lost. I blamed Ross and he celebrated defeating the mean Vice President. Just a handful of my classmates had agreed with me. I thought I had done something wrong.


The next day, the real results came in. Vice President Bush had won! I couldn’t wait to tell Ross. The Vice President couldn’t be that bad if all these people voted for him. Plus, Ross was a jerk about winning.

“I can count all of the votes Bush got on one hand,” he had laughed at me.

But when I got to school, Ross was as worried as a six-year-old could be about something that had far reaching national and geopolitical consequences. He wasn’t sad or mad at me. He was scared. I don’t know what his parents had told him but it didn’t matter.

We didn’t gloat that day because we won. Instead, we colored and we played basketball together. We read books and learned new math problems to solve. We had lunch together and laughed at first grade boy humor. We played the drums way too loud in music class.

We told him that he’d be okay. We told him we’d all be okay.

Even though we didn’t really know how.

We had no control over the outcome, of course. We didn’t know what the Vice President’s policies really were. Even if we did, we couldn’t comprehend the impact they would have. We trusted adults who told us, regardless of the outcome, we’d figure out a way to make it to the next day.

Now, more than 10,000 of those days and seven elections later, the feeling of voting hasn’t actually changed much. It’s okay to feel uncertain in your choices and in your future. It’s okay to worry or to be scared. I sat down on election day and worried about you. I hoped you would get better opportunities than me and live in a world that’s better than the one I got.

I hope you still do.

I tell you all this because big things in your life will happen that will feel out of your control. It doesn’t even have to be as big as a national election. Some ordinary days, when money was tight for months or when decisions were made for us that we weren’t prepared for, your mom and I weren’t sure how we were going to get through it all.

The road ahead won’t always be an easy one. There will be days that feel insurmountable. With giant mountains that seem to be blocking your way. As a father, I hope to teach you to use that fire inside you to fight through it. One day at a time. One hour at a time, if that’s what it takes.

You will lose. You might not feel safe and you might worry. You might be mad or sad. Some days, it will feel very tough to escape that feeling.

But open up a coloring book or play a sport. Go to school or to work. Wake up the next morning and be with the people you love. Laugh and eat ice cream. Volunteer and put the motor inside of you to good work.

You’ll be okay. We’ll be okay. Even if we don’t know how.



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When Being One of the Best isn’t Good Enough


The corruption of the Olympics is pretty staggering but it’s not the most interesting story from the games. The real question remains: Why do elite athletes do this to themselves?

I’m not trying to be glib here, either.

Getting into the top percentile of anything — especially sports — is difficult, but not impossible, for almost anybody. You can become one of the greatest in your field or your sport.

But becoming the greatest, even for a snapshot of time? That’s damn near impossible.

So this year at the Olympics, you had 11,000+ athletes going for 306 gold medals. Yet, for almost every one of those athletes, they had to beat incredible odds just to get there. Hundreds of thousands of potential Olympians were left at home. And millions compete in all the sports, and some even number the billions.

The storylines were fascinating to me. In the context of the Olympic games, the term “failure” is something that shouldn’t be uttered about any of the athletes that somehow make it to the games.

Even the term “disappointment,” which was used about many of the athletes who didn’t live up to — in any other situation — expectations of truly unbelievable proportions, seems strange. So instead of placing first in a sport, they placed fifth? Or 12th? Or 23rd? But they still made it to the Olympics. Any of their contemporaries at home would probably give anything to have the chance to compete for the last spot.

I get it the competition factor. If you’re an elite athlete, you want the chance to prove you’re the best. But being the best is also a matter of things outside of an athlete’s span of control. Everything from body type to timing of when you’re in peak physical shape relative to the Olympics is out of even the best athletes hands.

Then you have every sprinter that has had to line up beside Usain Bolt for a race these past three Olympics. Should getting second place against a once-in-a-lifetime force give you any other emotion other than extreme accomplishment? You couldn’t beat Bolt? Join the 7 billion+ people who couldn’t either. And by the way, you beat all of those people, too.

Not too many Olympians will admit to just being happy to be at the Olympics, especially right after the sting of an earlier-than-expected defeat. In the moment of victory, all eyes are upon the greatest — or maybe a 6–12 hours later if you’re watching NBC’s coverage.

But this week and in the years that pass, every person that didn’t medal at the Olympics still probably put the Olympics as a highlight of their life and a pinnacle of all they worked toward accomplishing.

To me, the best thing about the Olympics is celebrating all of those amazing athletes. It’s a reminder that greatness is almost always within reach, whether you want to be a great athlete or just a great dad.

Being the greatest is special and it’s something worth celebrating, too. But I do wonder if we lose something by not acknowledging the feat of simply being there is enough? It seems antithetical to being American, where we take home more gold than anyone. But in this case, I’ll take that.

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Getting the Highest Marginal Value for Your Vote


You should vote for Gary Johnson. Maybe.

Let’s be clear: If you’re excited about Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump (or any other eligible candidate), you don’t need this post. Regardless of the relative value of your vote, having a candidate you’re excited about is a gift. You don’t need strategic voting.

For everyone else (and there’s probably a lot of you), I might make a case for you to think a little more strategically about your vote. Here’s the thinking behind it:

Most state’s electors (how we actually determine who will be president) are chosen in a winner take all manner. Washington State for example has 12 electoral votes. Whoever wins the most votes in Washington gets all 12 of those votes. In some states, like Nebraska and Maine, they divvy up electors by congressional district and then have two more to represent the entire state vote. But that’s the exception.

Because of that reality, most states are statistically out of contention. Washington has Clinton up by high double digits. Our next door neighbor Idaho has Trump up by high double digits. The statistical chance of Trump beating Clinton in Washington (or Clinton beating Trump in Idaho) is next to nothing. Most states are not in play. If you live in a swing state like Ohio or Florida, that means you get to see a lot of presidential candidate commercials and visits. Lucky you. That difference will be important in a bit, though.

There are also two third-party candidates who have a good chance of appearing on your ballot: Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party nominee and Dr. Jill Stein, the Green Party nominee. These candidates and parties have to fight for ballot access, money, and exposure. But even in a winner take all election, getting some different voices to the table is incredibly important. Especially if you are cynical of your mainstream political choices (like me), the need for some alternative voices is even more important.

There are a couple of things that keeping third-party candidates from gaining traction:

  • Third parties have to use their limited resources to fight for ballot access in all states because many have automatic thresholds that are tough to get around if you don’t get enough votes in a particular state
  • Federal election matching funds are only available if you get 5% of the national vote. The last candidate to gain that level of support was Reform party nominee Ross Perot in 1996.
  • The presidential debates require that candidates have at least 15% polling in the days leading up to the debates. Ross Perot in 1992 was the last non-mainstream candidate to achieve this.

For me, as a voter in a very certain Washington state and who is not moved by either mainstream candidate, getting the highest marginal value for my vote means supporting and voting for the third-party candidate who has the best chance of reaching those thresholds, even if I might have individual issues with some of his or her policies. Today, that is Gary Johnson and that’s who has my vote in November.

People are obviously worried about the spoiler effect in a potentially close election. Many still blame Nader for costing Gore the election in 2000. But in a swing state, where there is a good chance that your individual vote will matter a great deal, strategic voting isn’t asking you to ignore that. Unfortunately, you have a tougher decision if you’re not in love with either candidate: Vote for the person you dislike less or go for a third-party, knowing that there is a greater chance your vote could’ve tipped the election.

Johnson is still a long shot to enter the debates. He’s hovering right around 8–10 percent right now. But if those votes come through, the next election might be easier.

A slight warning: Strategic voting isn’t popular (in fact, it doesn’t really make sense in any other race besides ones determined by the Electoral College) and it’s difficult to explain to either candidate true believers or the “Never” the other guy supporters. It’s dispassionate, which is the polar opposite of what this election seems to be about. But in my cynical political eyes, it’s the only reason I’ll put a checkmark beside any presidential candidate.

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No More New Ideas


Being a bad blogger isn’t the worst thing you could be. But today, I stand before you and tell you that’s exactly what I am: A bad blogger.

I wrote multiple posts a day for years. I write at least that much most days for clients. Putting my own words to my name is a lot tougher these days. It felt like I’ve run out of new ideas. Which is ridiculous, since I never had any new ideas in the first place.

I could roll out the excuses for you and tell you that I was busy. I was. Or that spending time with my daughter was more important than telling you why employee engagement should still matter. Both of those are true.

We make time for things we love and I’ll be honest with you: I fell out of love with blogging. I wanted to convert this into a podcast but I know from my own research that podcasts unsupported by blog content rarely gain traction. So it’s time to fall back in love with it.

I also realized I had to drop things in my life that got in the way of writing things. I’ve hosted a few websites that you may have heard of over the last five years that were all much bigger than my own. Their success outgrew my capabilities and thanks to their patience, they are slowly moving their way to hopefully more secure and responsive support.

I dropped my Tumblr, which I was using for a news aggregator/baby picture distribution service. I stopped publicly posting a lot of pictures of my daughter and aggregating news is a pretty nonsensical job unless you are doing it with some cohesive purpose, like in a newsletter.

While I wanted to write guest posts for a few places, it made no sense to clear my schedule to do that when I didn’t even have a blog to point anyone to. I don’t want to be active on LinkedIn because that’s not my approach and Medium seems to be good for open letters and little else.

So. I’m backish. With no word count minimum and hopefully less over editing that have prevented a lot of good, timely posts from being published.

And maybe later? Podcasts. Guest posts. But I have to write something, and it has to be something other than white papers and PowerPoint presentations.

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Kids These Days


I gotta admit, I was a little spellbound when I first read Talia Jane’s open letter to the CEO of Yelp, the company she worked for then (she was fired shortly after posting her story). I felt some cringe on her behalf as I made my way through the piece. Just looking back at the things I wrote when I was 25, I’m guessing I’m not alone in it feeling a little too familiar.

But this isn’t about bashing Jane’s post. Plenty have already done so, including one on Business Insider I’ve seen repeatedly.

Instead, I’ll try to not be the guy that yells about kids on his lawn for a few minutes.

Playing the Generational Card

I hate generational stereotypes and the biggest problem with Jane’s diatribe is that it plays right into the hands of people who love to hate on millennials as a whole. Entitlement is a tricky word but that’s exactly what this smells like. Moving to one of the most expensive cities in the U.S. for a job that doesn’t pay much is a recipe for disaster. Paying 80 percent of your income towards housing is not sustainable and should’ve been a red flag to any of the friends or family members in Jane’s life. A $20 co-pay is a luxury plenty of people don’t have, either.

A series of bad choices, published for all to see online, goes viral and like magic, old and young people alike start rattling off all that’s wrong about kids these days.

Listen, assholes: You made mistakes when you were young. So did I. We still make mistakes. And while this series of mistakes had a train wreck appeal and a predictable ending, let’s not pretend your generation of dead-end jobs and multiple divorces saw everything coming, either.

You didn’t pull yourself up by your bootstraps

That widely shared post I mentioned responding to Jane? Written by nearly 30-year-old Stefanie Williams, it shares a viewpoint that isn’t uncommon: Work harder, complain less.

Shit, I get it. That’s how I was raised, too. But it’s such a belittling piece, it’ll fall on deaf ears to those who could probably use an extra dose of suck it up.

First of all, many people don’t have the opportunity to live with parents while working low wage jobs like Williams did. Many of us don’t have family friends who will take pity on us and give us a job when we’re down on our luck. I guess if you don’t have that, you can always make your own luck, which is its own brand of bullshit made by people with money, power and opportunity already.

Williams’ tale of putting pride aside and working a job she initially didn’t want was less a lesson in work ethic and more a demonstration of the power of privilege. I worked shitty jobs over holidays and weekends, but let’s pretend that finding even a job you hate that’s in the right location that pays the bills isn’t an entitlement on its own.

Her condescending diss piece, made for an internet audience that gobbles this shit up like the lamest east coast/west coast rap war ever, was at least as offensive as the original.

Unfortunately, the whole thing plays out more like two poorly written fictional personas: the entitled princess who can’t understand why her bad career choices aren’t working for her and the wise-beyond-her-years character who simply parrots the same things her grandparents say about success but in a much more condescending, grating way.

Congrats for making me hate both sides of this argument.

I learned it from you

Of course, while many baby boomers cheer Jane’s professional demise from the sideline as a hard lesson they hope others will learn from, they can ignore the issues that have caused situations like Jane’s to be more common than just slacker, entitled kids getting their comeuppance. In fact, it’s snarled a lot of good kids who do work hard and find it difficult to move up without lucky breaks or knowing someone in high places. Specifically, these long-term issues have hurt young people’s ability to move up in the world:

  • A college degree is no longer a ticket to success: I’ve worked with a lot of older people with liberal arts degrees who are doing work significantly outside of the scope of their degree. Millennials were sold a bill of goods about college education that is a lot less certain today. There was a time when any degree was better than none and many parents and advisors assumed that would continue to be the case. Now, a horde of English and History graduates that used to get jobs in the 70s and 80s simply languish in today’s job market. When college was a few thousand dollars, that’s less of an issue but now, it’s much different.
  • Unaffordable education: When I started repaying my student loans in 2004, I had $12,000 in debt thanks mainly to the generosity of parents who floated me money for when finances got tight and my ability to work close to full-time at a place where I nearly set my own schedule. A student starting today at the same state university I attended, a little more than a decade later, will be that much in debt after their first year if they only financed tuition. Unless something major happens, I don’t think college tuition is going to decrease. Something will have to give. We can’t keep encouraging 18-year-olds to make house-sized debt gambles on careers.
  • Affordable housing: In many coastal U.S. cities, housing is insane. In my hometown, a bedroom community for Portland, rents rose the fastest in the nation last summer. White collar workers making six figures want baristas, servers, and retail workers next to their workplaces in high-rent high rises but they don’t seem to want to pay to either subsidize housing for them or pay the prices necessary to offer a livable wage for the area. Many younger workers and college grads are abandoning cities to find work away from the coast, if they can afford the move in the first place.
  • Lack of truly entry-level career opportunities: During every recession, training is one of the first departments to get cut to the bone and the last to get an increase in funding. While companies complain about the lack of talent, they are unwilling to put skin in the game to get those who are willing but may be lacking in certain skills up to speed. Going from the mailroom to the CEO requires not just hard work from the employee but also investment and risk from the company.

Of course, all of these hit minorities and women harder than people like me. It’s not a good situation but it’s one that was created by all of us.

It’s not about the trophy anymore

When you look at the odds young people face, you can see why they support someone like Bernie Sanders. And look, he’s not my cup of tea but it seems like young people are stuck between a rock and a hard place. I think it’s fair to look for relief, especially if it feels like you got a significantly worse deal than your parents did — which you did, because you could get a better job with a free high school diploma then than you can with many college degrees now by nearly every measure.

This whole idea of a “trophy for every kid” is what doomed an entire generation is just a load of hot garbage and every person with an ounce of honesty has to admit that argument has played itself out.

Entitlement is ripe in America. It has no age. When I see people complaining that taxes are still too high, I see entitlement. I beg these people to go back to the tax rates their parents paid. You didn’t walk uphill to school in the snow. You weren’t better off because you didn’t wear seat belts or helmets — you were lucky you didn’t die, dumbass.

If we’re honest, nothing has truly doomed millennials. There are many successful people under 35 years old. They have good jobs and kids. I’m one of them. I’ve worked with a lot of them. Many are my friends who are forging ahead with incredible success.

But I think we underestimate how much the deck is stacked against them compared to previous generations, even compared to what older millennials like myself faced.

Thinking ahead

Talia Jane’s situation is a unique one born of a tough situation for anyone her age, ignorance, and yes, we can all acknowledge, incredibly poor decision-making. Hardships and lessons like this are part of growing up. Did she handle it great? No, but I have an entire journal of shit I wrote when I thought I was super brilliant and had it all figured out at 23 (I didn’t). The only decision I made differently was to keep it all private.

But her situation is also becoming less unique. Not because millennials always make bad career choices but because even the best, most assured and smart career strategy today carries with it a much more significant risk of failure.

I want my kid to be successful and I think most people want millennials, including Jane, to find success. But the path forward for them is going to be different from yours and even mine. Calling her to the carpet for the predictable failings that a lot of 25-year-olds face (but don’t necessarily publicize) is your right.

For a lot of people who have taken on second jobs, moved in with roommates, sold every last thing they could, deferred massive student loan debt and still not squeeze by without the help of friends, family, and even kind strangers — don’t be surprised if they find something in Jane’s story that resonates more with their personal struggles than some tired appeal to just suck it up and work harder.

Sometimes, it’s not just the kids’ fault. We don’t have to coddle her mistakes while still admitting that it’s kind of a screwed up world out there for anyone looking to forge a living as a young adult.

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How To Change A Person’s Mind


I’ve been thinking about my Facebook news feed lately. Like many of you, I have friends of various political and religious persuasions who make it their life’s work to make you aware of their views on issues.

Some of it is spice of life stuff. Something you might have found interesting, interspersed between pictures of adorable pets, or children, or feet on a beach in some desirable place. For others, it’s a calling and they spend their time either preaching to a handpicked, self-selected choir or trading comments with the chronically argumentative or bored.

These are good people, I think. They want to help educate the world. If that’s what you want to do with your free time, more power to you. But there’s some bad news that you should know before you spend too much time on this endeavor: People don’t want to change their minds.

A year old article in The New Yorker lays out the crux of the issue associated with the challenge: Any logical approach to changing minds simply doesn’t work.

In one such study, a team of scientists followed around a group of 2,000 parents for three years. Could they affect their views on vaccines based on a variety of methods?

Each household received one of four messages: a leaflet from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stating that there had been no evidence linking the measles, mumps, and rubella (M.M.R.) vaccine and autism; a leaflet from the Vaccine Information Statement on the dangers of the diseases that the M.M.R. vaccine prevents; photographs of children who had suffered from the diseases; and a dramatic story from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about an infant who almost died of measles. A control group did not receive any information at all. The goal was to test whether facts, science, emotions, or stories could make people change their minds.

The result was dramatic: a whole lot of nothing. None of the interventions worked.

Oof! And not only did they not work. In some of the cases, they made matters worse!

Logically, you would think that one or all of these besides the control group would have a positive impact on vaccination rates and attitudes. The fact that not a single one did speaks to a greater issue at hand: Beliefs can be very difficult to change, especially if they are closely held or part of our identity. In fact, the most difficult beliefs to change are those that are embedded in our sense of self.

You are, at a very basic level, trying to change the identity of an individual when you are trying to change their mind. When you challenge people with appeals to facts or emotion, you are also challenging who they are at their very core. The more important an issue is to the identity of the person and the longer they’ve held that point of view, the tougher it is to change their mind.

Study after study has shown that facts and stories are processed incredibly selectively based on how you identify as an individual. For example, people with high racial biases persisted in racially profiling crimes negatively against a minority, even after being corrected. Conversely, people with low racial biases persisted in racially profiling crimes positively toward a minority, even after being corrected.

There’s even a more problematic issue here: These studies dealt with mostly assessing views on factual information as it relates to a person’s identity or belief structure. The difficulty in convincing people on issues where there is no factually correct answer is even fuzzier. There is no factually correct minimum wage, or tax structure, or government subsidy for women’s health. It leaves more issues up for interpretation and a conclusion that can be taken in many different directions.

What’s the solution? Are we to think that it is utterly pointless to try to change minds?

Not exactly.

For one, people who haven’t firmly chosen or identified themselves with a particular issue are fairly easy to reason with. While you may not be changing a mind, you may be helping illuminate an issue they don’t know about.

For bigger issues, trying to present them in ways that don’t address political affiliation, ideology, or a reflection of who you are is a start.

That may seem like a Charmin soft approach to discussing and challenging issues that are near and dear to us. It certainly runs counter to the “punch you in the face” headlines and the “punch you in the nuts/ovaries” comment sections and social media commentary that seems to be the norm.

But that approach isn’t working. As someone who has had a closely held belief changed, it wasn’t through a pan slapped to the side of my head or some sort of lightbulb moment that made it happen. It was a culmination of years of being exposed to new information and people, and ultimately came to a true change in my own self and beliefs.

I don’t expect my social media feeds to change anytime soon. For some people, the exercise of political or ideological thought isn’t about discussion or changing minds. For some people, discussing issues isn’t about thoughtfully moving people in a positive direction. I don’t know anybody’s motives besides my own.

If you do care about changing people’s minds, you should know that it’s generally not easy or quick. The place it happens the least frequently is probably the comments of any website.

But, it’s a start.

Unfortunately, it’s usually the end, too.