Archive for the ‘ Ingenuity ’ Category

Why I’m Glad I’m a Bad Kisser

– Topher Endress

I have been working with some great people this summer.  There are brothers that I have been privileged to know, staff that teach me about dedication and hard work, and some other various people that have been simply fun to be around.  One person, however, has been able to teach me something about myself that I would never learn from a brother – namely, I am a bad kisser.

Yes, I have kissed a coworker.  To protect the other guilty party (as inter-staff relationships are frowned on here as they are “distractions”), she will remain nameless.  Due to the incredible awkwardness of my kiss, she may choose to remain anonymous forever.  But apart from the scandal of our illicit affair, the larger story is that in one fell swoop, I destroyed any notions of being a cool ladies-man and learned something about relationships along the way.

Now, I have shied away from discussing sex and dating here for several reasons. 1) I have very different standards for myself than most guys and 2) I have much much much less experience than most guys.  However, I think this is worth sharing and may be helpful to some, regardless of standards and history.

First and foremost, let me just assure you that my “I’m a bad kisser” thought is not hyperbole.  I was literally laughed at immediately after by this clearly caring and compassionate lady (hint: sarcasm).  I felt the awkwardness coming and was powerless to stop it; leaning in, leaning back out, talking nervously, creepily asking permission, leaning in again, lips at the wrong spot, too little tongue turned into too much, and it was over.  Not that I remember it or anything.

But here’s the thing.  Even though I may have just set a new low for human to human interaction, I simply don’t care.  It may have been painful (just emotionally – I’m not THAT bad), but the sheer badness of it puts life into a better perspective. For one, it helps shatter any remote thoughts implanted by Hollywood/Disney that first kisses are amazing acts of passion that look and feel perfect.  Second, it was more ME to have a bad kiss.  It was weird and awkward, quirky and different, endearing and innocent – it was a kiss from me and not some Hollywood dream.  That makes me somewhat strangely proud, that I could give her something so untainted by anyone else.

This bad kiss has also taught me that relationships work better when two things happen. 1) When the physical interaction either matches or lags behind the emotional/spiritual/psychological connections and 2) when you are comfortable with the other person seeing the least cool parts of you.  I think relationships suffer from too much too soon – if you haven’t connected in some other way first, you may as well be hooking up with a stranger.  Also, I was laughing alongside her right after because I’m comfortable enough to be uncool.  New relationships are usually defined by that time when you only want to show off.  Getting past that stage before the kissing comes in makes me feel a whole lot better.

I will own up to being a bad kisser.  But with what it showed me, I wouldn’t consider trading it for a magical Disney moment.

Plus, now she has plenty of reason to help me practice, right?

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Question/Answer #2

– Topher Endress

Question: Why Do I Do Young Life?

Answer: I have been asked several times recently about Young Life – what is it and why do I do it.  This is my best shot at explaining it.  As many of you know, or probably have guessed, that I am a Christian.  And while I enjoying learning and experiencing new ideas/beliefs, at the end of the day I am still a Christian with my varying degrees of set beliefs.  That being said, it isn’t unusual for people to see that I am a Christian, that Young Life is a Christian organization and put 2 and 2 together.  But simply sharing a large number of beliefs is not why I do YL – but this story can better illustrate my rationale.

Now, in typical Christian fashion, I am often caught feeling guilty about some of my actions or thoughts that are not in line with my beliefs.  It happens to pretty much all of us, and for me it reminds me how similar I am to the younger son in the story of the Prodigal Son.  I’m actively choosing my desires over my beliefs, so it just makes sense to relate to the younger, prostitute-lovin’ son.  However, I also often relate to the elder son – not that I can claim I always follow the rules without exception, but in that I find myself becoming jealous of someone else and asking, “where’s my party?”  Maybe I don’t deserve one, but really, I’m just missing the point.  I’m usually past the point of being that younger son – I’ve come home already.  And being the elder son is a much greater thing once you realize what is being asked of him in context.

The younger son is getting a party in his honor.  He’s come home, he was assumed dead and is alive, he has given his father his youngest son again.  But the father treats the older son with a respect that the younger son misses out on.  In that culture, the older son would have been expected to co-host that party – which was a huge honor.  That alone is striking, but even more so, the father actually leaves the party to go and find the missing co-host.  He didn’t do this for the younger son, just the older one, despite his very public denouncement of his family as shown by his absence.

As I continue to mature and learn, I have come to the realization that being a Christian isn’t about feeling guilty for the actions and thoughts not in line with beliefs, nor is it always about being a terrible person that needs to pull a 180 on their life.  There is a place for these things (which is worthy of a face to face conversation), but sometimes being a Christian means that I am supposed to co-host the party.  And that is what Young Life lets me do.

For anyone unfamiliar, I would describe YL as a cross between Big Brothers and a high school church youth group on crack.  Instead of being paired up with the kids that need a role model, we go out and find them.  I don’t do YL because it is required or because it makes me feel like a good person.  I don’t do YL because it is a fun activity, or because I can put it on a resume. I do it because I see it making an impact.

There are so many issues and problems that all kids, not just the drugs dealers and problematic ones, face today.  Everyone could use that party thrown in their honor.  Everyone could use that realization that they have worth and that there is someone out there that loves them for who they are.  YL allows me the freedom to go and find those kids and to help them find their own ways home.  I will always feel honored to have spent time helping to co-host that party in their honor.

On Ingenuity

– Topher Endress

“Pues suss, heme aquí.”  (“Good enough, I’m ready”)

This was Francis Xavier’s response to being told of his need to go to India in place of a sick colleague – with one day’s notice.  I don’t know about you, but I’m trying to plan now for a potential move to a different city a few states over . . . 7 months from now.  Xavier was told about being sent to India, a country with a completely foreign language, culture and infrastructure than his 16th century Basque Spain (then, the Kingdom of Navarre, for you history buffs) and Paris.  Less than 48 hours after being given his new orders, Xavier had managed to be blessed by the Pope and on his way to Portugal to embark on his way to India.  Yet somehow, Xavier was not shaken by the shock of displacement, but instead found time to establish a series of Jesuit outposts all across India.  He felt that there was work to be done in Japan, so Xavier promptly left India and found a way in to meet with the emperor.  The team that eventually caught up to him/joined him there brought back several incredible technologies from Asia to Europe, helping end the Dark Ages.  Had Xavier waited until he was ready, how likely is it that he would ever had gone to Portugal, much less India or Japan?  There is always something that you don’t know that you should, something that you haven’t done that you should have, or something that you need to take care of in the near future.  If you wait until you are ready, you will never accomplish anything.

Life takes ingenuity and a willingness to leave things unfinished.  Most people will tell you that you should take each project and finish it completely before moving on – this is how to do well in what you are currently doing and simultaneously do well in losing opportunities for incredible adventures.  Followers are those who finish all their work; leaders are those who give up on things that simply don’t matter to concentrate on what is important.  Francis Xavier felt the mission of the Jesuits was the most important thing in the world to him.  He chose to give up the lesser things in his life and more importantly, he was willing to change his plans.  Everything was flexible except his top objective.  As you examine yourselves (see post 2), start considering what you consider to be your most important mission.  Then, ask yourself what you would be willing to give up to make that mission happen.  If you have a list, use that to find what you truly consider to be your most important mission – maybe you’ll like what you see, maybe you won’t.  Xavier knew his, and it allowed him to be both truly flexible and a true leader.

(This is post 3 in a 5 part series on Leadership)

Heroic Leadership

– Topher Endress

Lately, I’ve been reading a book called “Heroic Leadership,” which takes apart the management practices of the Jesuits.  Having been started from a single man’s ideas, founded by three men with no capital or plan, they started more than 30 universities across the world within a decade and had members in positions of authority in cities across 4 continents.  They were some of the first Europeans to cross the Himalayas, to enter Japan, chart the Mississippi or to learn Sanskrit.  Despite it’s humble beginnings, the Jesuits are the world’s largest religious order and run over 2000 institutions in over 100 different countries.  Having been around for 450 years and with a presence across the globe, the Jesuits are clearly teaching some skill set that sets them apart from the vast majority of ‘companies.’  While I am not Catholic, I can certainly respect the work that this order has done on a variety of levels.  And, while reading this book, I have come to appreciate their unique focus on leadership preparation.

As men of Phi Tau, we are expected to lead others with exemplary character, and as Boilermakers we are called to “move the world forward” – but how do we as a group of 20 some-odd college guys make a lasting impact on those around us?  In most cases, we have been given tools but no instruction manual.  There is no clear roadmap to follow, even for those among us who feel a clear direction either now or post-college.  However, the teachings of Ignatius Loyola seem to cast doubt that a step-by-step plan would be preferable, if ever possible.  Understanding that motivation comes from within, he focused on 4 major values that each Jesuit was to follow: self-awareness, ingenuity, love and heroism.  I firmly believe that these values, regardless of setting, are keys to successful leadership and I for one am willing to try in my last semester to make full use of my time.  Imagine our impact on Purdue and the community if each of us were to make a commitment to being a leader in each aspect of our lives.  By following these principles, I believe that Phi Kappa Tau Lambda Colony can produce more in one semester than what other fraternities can in several years.

I will write 5 more short essays like this, with the next four detailing the 4 values of Loyola and the final one a summary and a challenge.  If you are interested in a challenge, read along.  Take one a day and see what conclusions it draws you to – both philosophically and tangibly.  Write down your thoughts as your read through these, record yourself having an argument with what’s written, fingerpaint your emotions afterwards, whatever works for you, but find a way to respond to these ideas and do it.

(This is post 1 of a 5 part series on Leadership)