I finally had the birthday cry I was expecting related to my dad not being around. I have Mumford & Sons “Tompkins Square Park” to thank for it. It’s a beautiful song, the album in its entirety is beautiful and should be listened start to finish the first time with absolutely no pause.
But no flame burns forever, oh no
You and I both know this all too well
And most don’t even last the night
No they don’t, they say they don’t
I’ve never been so lost
I wanna hear you lie
One last time
Just one last time
To put the screws in, I let the very next song called “Believe” play which I feel is about connecting to another person or their spirit, what they want you to know, but completely being overwhelmed both by how blind you’ve been to the message and also disbelief you could actually really be hearing it. I feel that way about my dad. I’ve never felt his presence in my life more than I do now. And that’s overwhelming, makes me feel crazy at times, but I think is a gift I’ve been granted.
I don’t even know if I believe
Everything you’re trying to say to me
I had the strangest feeling
Your world’s not all it seems
So tired of misconceiving
What else this could’ve been
I don’t even know if I believe
Everything you’re trying to say to me
So open up my eyes
Tell me I’m alive
This is never gonna go our way
If I’m gonna have to guess what’s on your mind
But I don’t want to talk about that here today about how I feel such a strange connection to something I can’t explain or don’t understand. God exists in me and I am more and more each day recognizing the very sweet simplicity of faith. And what I believe today more than ever is that faith and life with God has nothing to do with behaving perfectly or being without flaw. Quite the contrary. God is described as “perfect” and that word is often used to mean without fault or sin. I think it means he had reached a milestone in creation of earth, was ready for the next, and wanted us to come after him when we were ready.
The Aramaic word used that is transcribed as “perfect” really just means milestone, as in the construction of a project. It doesn’t mean flawless and it doesn’t mean we won’t ever fuck up. But it does mean completing a phase and I think that God in his infinity will always be many “perfections” ahead of us.
I think we are meant to live authentically and manifest life’s lessons and what you are learning, trying your best to never do harm to others and atone when you have. It also means serving a greater purpose than supports your own interests and sometimes that could mean through your life ending – partly because you are ready to move in to a closer relationship with God and partly perhaps because of the way you can impact others through death. Ultimately both life and death are gifts, however. I see that now.
I will talk so much moving forward about my journey with faith and God and why I think one of my purposes and life’s missions should be to help others see what I’ve seen — that flawed, imperfect people like me have a place in the infinity of life. That I truly feel connected to the universe and something that is so unseen. So unverifiable. This is faith.
My father is teaching this to me now.
Today at work I happened to be in the same building where MSFT Global Security operates. I spotted the photo booth MSFT has set up where you can take a picture for your new badge. It resembled a photo studio to some degree with all the lighting rigs you’d expect.
Without going in to detail, we are modernizing the badges and I have been so busy that I hadn’t had a new picture taken. I stopped by the booth, sat for the picture, and after the first flash from the photographer he says, “Hey, we have a shadow. I need to do some lighting adjustments.” (The standard they are trying to achieve is something similar to a passport photo) He looked perplexed. I asked if I could see what he meant and he showed me a picture just like this one which I’ve colored in for impact and added words to. The actual shadow itself was barely visible but closely resembled the outline of my own front profile.
He remarked how he had taken several hundred pictures today and never seen this. I have a thing for breaking technology so I was at first just sighing and thinking “yep, here we go again…Jason and another technical SNAFU.” Then I asked to see the picture again — I didn’t really see a shadow behind me at all. I saw someone who looked like me standing behind me. I saw my father. I saw my shadow, the presence I couldn’t escape but which indicated my life.
It would be easy to ignore this or dismiss it if the entirety of my past several months hadn’t been about discovering the connection I was feeling. I’ve felt invigorated and energized by a new found source of creativity and passion that I think I knew was part of me but never let run free. I’ve prayed so deeply…so thoughtfully and received back insight I sometimes cannot process. I’ve fallen to my knees at times overwhelmed with what I believe is God’s message and purpose for me, sometimes delivered in weird strange ways.
The biggest most delicious part of how I’ve received these messages is that it has come from a desire to connect to the world around me and not stand above it or feel limited by it — both sides of the coin. The lessons don’t come from books or pastors, they come slowing down just the second it takes to acknowledge someone who has done something of service to you and others. To smile and say “thank you” or “my pleasure” or “have a great day” but do so with authenticity that comes off in the sheer energy of your delivery. There is magic there and I’m feeling it. There is magic in helping others recognize not only that they can feel equal, but actually are equal. I love that.
I’m becoming more and more someone who doesn’t see position, status, or things as indicative of my value, loves certain “things” nonetheless, but values them as small earthly rewards. I drive a fucking BMW, wear expensive clothes and shoes, but I promise you this — for every dollar I ever raised for charity or kind thing I’ve done in the past, I’m trying to make recognition of the unsung a daily purpose of mine. The rewards of my hard work are better than other people’s rewards but I would give them up tomorrow and I’d expect to not have the luxury of them anymore if I didn’t balance this somehow with a thanksgiving to others.
It is never okay to be a prick. It’s even worse to be a pretend nice guy.
Which brings me to work. I’ve given my all to this role. As anyone reading this who has managed me can attest, I’m a handful and challenging to manage. I’m coachable but willing to call situations the way I see them too. I’m often the smartest kid in the class, but sometimes have emotional EQ stuff to work out. My instincts are trusted by many people. I use too many words people don’t understand. My standards for people that work for and around me are achievably high but more than they’ve been expected to produce. I tackle organizational breakpoints like open communication, transparency, and accountability by just DOING IT and letting the change follow, which it often does. I can be inappropriate. I can burn people to the ground who do not hold themselves accountable. I can forgive people who then acknowledge that. I demonstrate that forgiveness. I shirk credit until I feel it has been stolen.
Depending on how and who you know me to be, some of that might surprise you. I think it’s a true representation of me.
I’ve worked endless hours. I’ve sacrificed. My friend Tami feels as though I’ve been unhappy this whole time and in fact I couldn’t be happier. As Matthew says, “freely ye received, freely give” and I’ve given a lot but I’ve also received. I’ve become more accountable, more willing to admit my faults, more transparent about my own shortcomings and more willing to acknowledge my fuckups.
Why have I done it? Because my job is to think about the nature of human productivity and how it can increase, how we can do more with less, how we can give more without sapping resources…of any kind. And I have had to spend a considerable amount of time and effort thinking about how to get one of the largest companies in the world who has a real chance at making our human potential come to life to actually activate around that mission.
I understand that most people reading this won’t have a clue what that means or what I do day to day.
I may not show up in the record books on this topic. As much as people might think otherwise, I’m not a “climber” who does things just to achieve more status when it comes to work. Quite the contrary, I’ve probably suppressed my career to some degree because I’ve jumped in where others would not, voiced uncomfortable truths then dealt with ramifications that were some combination of deserved and not.
And yet, I have a network of people who say things like, “what you did was legendary and brave beyond words. you shouted loudly and escalated and pissed off a bunch of people but you were right…and now you see that taking shape.”
So my gift to myself on this 36th birthday is just this:
- Gratitude towards myself for whatever impact I’ll have on the future of things when I did so only because of my raison d’être of making the internet connected world more productive.
- Acknowledging to myself the very serious consideration I give to the way I impact and interact with others.
- Recognizing the great transformation I’ve exhibited acknowledging, addressing and adjusting for my imperfections and also demonstrating this in action.
Beyond that, I’ve found again my sense of self, my ability to be really amazingly creative, create from nothing things I have in my mind, and learning the skills to do so. 35 was great…and hard. And my heart hurts because my dad is not here to see me.
But 36 and the future will be better. My dearest Ian inquired at dinner tonight (an impromptu two people who care for each other scheduled last minute on my birthday), “Don’t make fun of me, because I know you think I’m all ridiculous about this aspirational stuff, but what is your hope for 36?”
I replied, “I just want to help others and make sure that everything I’ve learned through my life can be of value to others and that I find a way to make people see faith the way I do. And I want to never hurt anyone ever again.”
He replied, “That’s more than I expected.”
What a lovely gift back to receive…being told you are exceeding the expectations of those you love.
Thanks be to God.