Creating Opportunities

I've had more opportunities than most. I've let many slip through my hands. Nevertheless, I create more.

I remember the first time that I realized creating your own opportunities was unusual. I wanted to get a glimpse into the world of real estate when I was in high school. I was going to the Muskegon Area Career Technical Center for marketing and accounting. I went to the office and inquired into doing a real estate internship, how that would work, and if they could help me with it. This was not a normal inquiry and the woman was quite excited about it. I suspect that her normal job was boring and she was happy to break up the monotony with something new and interesting.

I did the real estate internship in the summer between my junior and senior year of high school. I still remember one of my classmates, Aaron, asking how I was able to arrange unique things like that, because it wasn't my first unique activity. I'm not sure I even answered him, I'm sure that if I did it wasn't a good answer. I didn't fully realize it was a unique thing to arrange something like that, I wanted to do it, it seemed like a good idea, I tried to do it, and it happened.

After I turned 18 in February I took a two-week intensive real estate course and got my salesperson license over spring break. When I went back to school I remember sitting at this round table with a few people at it. People were talking about what we had done over spring break, kids had gone on different vacations and such. Someone asked me and I told them I had gotten my real estate license at a course in Grand Rapids. It stopped the conversation. I was not well versed in interpersonal interactions at the time, social interactions in general kind of confused me. It was just a novel enough answer to make everyone have to reorient themselves. One girl, Ashley, looked at me in that flirtatious way that is so disorienting to teenage boys and said, "Oh!, hello Jeff." I had no idea how to process that at the time.

I've done quite a number of things like this. Most of them don't come through: like when I applied to the Peace Corp after I did EMT training, or when I was invited to interview for Who Wants To Be a Millionaire because I was a member of Mensa. Some of them do work out and then I get the questions about how I did it: like when I started teaching English online - I thought it might be worth looking into, I messaged 50 people that were doing it about what I should do, 10 responded, 5 were useful, and 1 offered me a job and I started taking a course another had recommended. Now I've taught over 1,200 students online.

I'm almost always throwing spaghetti against the wall to see what sticks. I'm right in the middle of a bunch of these things, so I figured I would take this opportunity to show what the chaos is like when you're in the middle of trying to find interesting opportunities.

I have a few ongoing things of note. One, I'm writing a comic book with an illustrator. How that happened is simple, but not straightforward. I went to a venture capital fund meeting where I saw several people I know. One of them I knew from Toastmasters. Michelle was judging pitches that night. We talked and I told her about the writing I've been doing. She wanted to connect me with a friend of hers that's an illustrator and had an idea for a comic book, he just needed a writer. Chuck and I met the next week, now I'm writing a comic book, "Dungeon Buddies".

I used to listen to 88.9 Hey Radio in the car (my radio is broken right now). They are a volunteer organization. I figured I would message them and see if there was something that I could do from home that might be helpful. Bill asked me what I wanted to do. I said I didn't know and sent him my resume. Bill said he had thought about doing a blog for the radio station for years, he just hadn't gotten around to it. I thought that would be perfect. We tried it. Now I write a column for a radio station analyzing the lyrics of Christian rock songs.

I started sending those articles to the bands that I was writing about. Several of the bands really liked how I went into depth about their lyrics. They had never seen anything like it before. I thought it might be interesting to do in a speech format.

I've done quite a bit of public speaking, mostly through Toastmasters. I've won a number of speaking contests, spoken at the Gerber Baby Food Festival, given a keynote address that the billion dollar company Sodexo uses for new hires, and a few other things. I'm also giving speeches at the Harry Potter festival in Sparta, MI this year. I wrote a few articles on Harry Potter. The organizer of the festival, Rebecca, saw one of the articles and loved it. She invited me to participate. I said yes. She asked me what I would like to do. I said I could write or speak. She said she has wanted to have a Professor of Muggle Studies presentation for years, she just hadn't been able to arrange it yet. I said I could do that. Now I'm doing it.

Jerry, a friend from Toastmasters gives presentations at Christian Haven Home in Grand Haven once a month. I asked him if I could help. He said yes. He asked if I wanted to speak, I said yes. I prepared a speech about resentment as the most destructive emotion based on an article I wrote. There was some miscommunication about the time so I ended up opening the meeting before Jerry arrived. I gave that speech. At the end of Jerry's presentation there was a little more time so I gave another speech about the depths of philosophical, psychological, and theological questions that are explored in rock lyrics. It went well.

I thought this might be a cool thing to do at rock concerts. I messaged the two bands that were the most excited about how I went into depth with their lyrics: Collision of Innocence and Amongst the Giants. They both thought it was an interesting idea, maybe even a good one. It won't work on their current tours, but it might on the next ones. Since that didn't go through I messaged Bill at the radio station and asked if he had any connections that could get me on stage at the Unity rock festival in Muskegon for the same thing. He's looking into it.

Here's what these conversations look like with the bands. Collision of Innocence first.

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Hi Jeffrey, This is Randy. This is one of the most amazing things. I’m pretty much speechless. Thanks for diving so deep into these words and meanings and offering your time and effort in to doing so! I also like the fact that although we are a faith based band, you didn’t kill the article with religion. It was well thought out but it still offered what we set out to do, which was to create a relationship between those who are struggling and a God through Christ. Amazing work my friend. God Bless & thanks for the work. Keep in touch and hope you can catch our music as it is being released!
*God through Christ (not a God through Christ). Sorry typo...

I appreciate it. I'm never sure who is going to like that style. I've tried taking a deep approach and a light approach. Bill from the radio station and several people I know have commented on how much they like it when I go deep. I like it too, so I do it. Amongst the Giants also loved my deep dive into their lyrics. That was the first time that I went really intense with this series. It's a real challenge to write about all of these different perspectives at once about controversial topics in a technical way that people can connect with and understand. I've never discussed this with a band before and I have no idea if this would work, so I want your opinion on it. I also do various public speaking. I'm giving over an hour of speeches in front of a crowd of hundreds of people this summer at a Harry Potter festival, for instance. Do you think it would work, and would anyone be interested in, having me speak at a concert about these things? Talking about the layers of meaning behind lyrics and such.

Actually that would be pretty great. Just a word of “the musical” side of it, it would be great if you could get the band to do backing music while you talk. I would say as well it would have to be quick and to the point, entertaining, and passionate. Just like music, it’s also entertainment but the entertainment brings a great message. God Bless brother. Appreciate the good vibes.

That's a good idea. Yeah, it would have to be presented differently than the writing, with shorter more impactful packaging, and just focusing on a piece or two of the lyrics I think.
Are you guys coming to Michigan any time soon?

Not as of now. We do have a show in Indiana for Kingdom Come Fest. June 15th

That's not too bad, about 4 hours for me. Would you be interested in doing it? I gave two speeches yesterday at a senior center. The first was about how resentment is the most destructive emotion and went from Aesop's fable of the Fox and the Grapes, through Cain and Able as the main emphasis, and how it shows the underlying motivations that lead to things like Columbine. The second was on the first stanza of your song and how popular Christian music has depth and meaning to it. They liked it, but the old people said they can't understand the words in rock, lol. I gave a speech today about Leprechauns.

Hey Jeffrey, man that’s super awesome of you to offer. Unfortunately, we only have a 30 minute time slot and 15 minute set up time so we wouldn’t be able to spare any extra time at a Festival event. If we somehow do something with more flexible time we would definetly like to chat further about it. Thank you once again brother. Great talent!!! ☝️
God Bless

Sounds good.

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And here's the conversation with Amongst the Giants.

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I know you guys really liked the article that I wrote about you for 88.9 Hey Radio. I just wrote one for Collision of Innocence and they really liked it. Here it is:

I was chatting with them about an idea I had and I wanted your opinion on it. Do you think it would work, and would people be interested, in having something like this done as a speech before or during a concert? Collision of Innocence thought it might be a good idea to have a bit of the instrumental music playing in the background. I have some public speaking experience, for instance I'm giving over an hour of speeches in front of crowds with hundreds of people this summer at a Harry Potter festival. The spoken form would have to have a bit of a different approach from the written articles. I would pull out just a few lyrics and make a few points to help people look deeper into the depths of the lyrics and what they could mean to them. What do you think?

Awesome man!
That could be cool! :-)

Are you guys coming to Michigan any time soon?

I don’t think on this tour but possibly the summer rock fest

Sounds good.

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Will anything come of it? I don't know. Does it matter? It might.

In this very article I've tried starting a few stories with "I remember...". That's because I'm thinking about writing a series of memoirs. I've been told by dozens of people at this point that "You should write a book on that!" after I've told them about my trip climbing Mt. Rainier, or my misadventure in Kenya. I've felt odd about the idea of writing a memoir, but I've been keeping notes on it for a few months now. I'm thinking about calling it "I Remember", so I'm trying it here. It might become something.

I'm editing a flash fiction horror story anthology that I also contributed a story to with my friend Oleg from Russia, "Horror Without Borders". I joined VK, the Russian social network site to see what it was like. Its design is better than Facebook. I didn't know anyone on there so I joined a writing group. I made a few comments. I chatted with Oleg. He liked what I said and asked me if I would edit some subtitle translations he had done for some short horror films his friends had made. I did that. I did more. Now I'm editing two books for his publishing firm, Horrorscope Press.

I just recently sent out this email which explains itself. I attached a story that I wrote in this blog called "The City of Peace". The title of the posts that contain that story are "The XPRIZE Writing Contest...".

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Last year I met one of your reps at the Logging Festival in Newaygo, Michigan. I had never heard of Usborne Books. We talked for a while and they seemed like nice books. My mother has purchased a few for my niece.

Yesterday my sister hosted a Facebook party for Usborne and it reminded me of something that may interest you. I like framed stories, where we dive into a story from another story. James Cameron used that technique in Titanic, Patrick Rothfuss used it in The Kingkiller Chronicle, and there are many other examples throughout history, like Arabian Nights.

It would be great to use the frame of a bedtime story for a series of books designed as bedtime stories. I've done one chapter of a science fiction story like this. I could do this with different fantasy stories, historical fiction stories, etc. It would be easy to make each chapter come to a single day of reading, a full story fit into a week, a set of stories into a month, and the sets into a year. It would make an excellent program promoted as "A Year of Bedtime Stories for You and Your Kid", "A Year of Bedtime Stories to Share with Your Child", or something to that effect. This example is heavy science fiction, maybe a whole series of genres would be successful. Let me know what you think.

Jeff Martin

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Will Usborne ever even read my email? Maybe. Will they read my story? Probably not. So! they might.

I'm taking a psychology course on Youtube from Jon Vervaeke called "Awakening from the Meaning Crisis". It's excellent. In there he recommends a book by Susan Wolf called "Meaning in Life and Why It Matters". I don't think it's a very good book. I think parts of it are even dangerous for psychological health. I feel like I should refute it. A commentary would probably work well, where I show what she wrote and I comment on it. I looked in the copyright. To do it commercially would cost thousands of dollars, but if I did it as a dissertation I could get a free academic permission. I'm looking at doing that.

I gave an impromptu speech at a Toastmasters open house at The Book Nook and Java Shop in Montague a few days ago. It was about Leprechauns and an ancient Irish saying. It went off well. Several people commented on how much they liked the speech. Forbes invited me to visit his club and give a speech there. I sent him these options.

- - - - - - -

Alligator Wrestling and the Meaning of Life
Philosophical, Psychological, and Theological Depth in Contemporary Rock Lyrics
How to Not be Suicidal
The How and Why of Writing Comic Books
Resentment as the Path to Destruction
How to Fail and Succeed at Mountain Climbing at the Same Time

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Here's what the general outline of the first speech would look like. I could use this for any adventure.

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jump into adventure (alligator wrestling Cujo, mountain climbing cliff, etc.)

3 values - Viktor Frankl - experiential, more than that, attitudinal, (approach to anxiety, approach to uncertainty, approach to the unknown, approach to the world)

3 levels of knowing - Jerome Bruner and Endel Tulving - enactive
some knowledge is lost at each level, if you really want to know you have to do it

is it just a test? It’s an experience, an experience of what?
the loss of control, and regaining
step into the unknown, and conquer it
face anxiety, and overcome it
I encourage you to do the same.

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A friend of mine, Jon, mentioned after the speech that I should be making money off these speeches. I'm always hesitant about making money off of my abilities, which is a bad life habit and shows marked insecurity, but he also mentioned doing open mic nights. I had never thought about that before. I always think of open mic as music. But, I can give dynamic and interesting speeches. People might like them. I might do that. Maybe I should contact some festivals about giving speeches too. Maybe, maybe. Maybe I should contact adventure companies about giving speeches promoting them and selling tours.

There are other things big and small on my list as well. Health experiments, psychology experiments, social experiments, and the like. Life is much more engaging when you are developing an opportunity, that's why I create them. I encourage you to do that same.


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