The Puppet Master


You’re a mute until the world hears you speak. Until then your voice is an invisible entity owned by no one, just another a conduit through which a puppet master speaks. Your voice in the world can be owned by a raving lunatic, or by a poor woodcarver named Mister Geppetto. Or it can be your own.

Aside from time, your voice is the biggest asset you hold. Without it you’re just a puppet in someone else’s play, existing but not living. But what would happen if you cut the strings and left the stage? When you’re suddenly aware of the realities of the world you’ve been living in, possibilities suddenly stare you in the face, begging to be chased.

There is a critical relationship between a puppet master and his puppets, between reality and those that ignore it. You can play the part of the puppet master but unless you’re genuine and real, you’ll be just another puppet and no Pinocchio.

The Pinocchio’s of the world have the freedom to fail. They can be turned into an ass in public, get swallowed up whole by a whale, disappoint their family, lie, and contribute nothing to the world. Or, they could be like the prodigal son, and learn to live, and find their voice.

The woodcarver staring at an unformed block of wood has done more than the one only dreaming of the magic they will create. Go ahead, cut the strings. Live, fail, speak.

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Fortune and Glory

“Fortune and glory, kid. Fortune and glory.” -Indiana Jones

The phrase fortune favors the bold rings true in any life. There are those that dream of quitting their jobs and traveling the world, and then there are those that do it and make it work. What is the worth in doing something half-assed?

In 1956 a 26-year-old Thomas Fitzpatrick stole a single-engine plane from the Teterboro School of Aeronautics in New Jersey, took off without lights or radio contact, and landed on St. Nicholas Avenue near 191st Street in Manhattan around 3 a.m near the bar where he had been drinking. The plane’s owner refused to press charges. Two years later he did it again after a bar patron refused to believe the story of his first landing.

Fortune and glory is the antithesis of those obsessed with raging mediocrity. Not all great adventures start in a tavern and end in a plane in the streets of Manhattan, but it’s that yearning to experience what’s different, to chase the fortune and glory of the world that propels the explorers and misfits around the world to keep chasing their dreams and landing planes outside of bars.

Fortune favors the bold, not the boring.

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Jumping at Soldier Bluff

Lake Whitney

Fear is a fickle thing. It drives some to immeasurable heights while crushing others into oblivion. It can be both a tool and a curse. Some men are driven to run due to fear, others cower. Me? I jumped.

The Soldier Bluff campsite rests on Lake Whitney’s southern bank, near its dam, roughly 45 minutes northwest of Waco and my alma mater, Baylor University. My first trip there was nearly 9 years ago, during the fall semester of my freshman year at college.

My hall monitor that year, Andy, arranged for a trip out to Lake Whitney to go cliff jumping. Having no friends and not wanting to say no to anything for fear of missing out, I agreed to go along with 6 other guys living on our hall.

That day was a normal day for Texas weather. After we parked, storm clouds appeared on the horizon bringing with it wind and a temperature drop. Getting to the jumping spot might be easier now, but back then it was a bit of a challenge. No road took you there, and the walk from the parking lot to the jumping site was just under a mile. Most of the way was along a steep cliff face 30 or so feet above the water, with a path that at times, was little more than an inch or two.

“What did I get myself into.”

After what seems like forever, the path opens up into a slight incline that culminates at a triangular point overlooking the whole of Lake Whitney. You can stand there at it’s peak and see nothing but water and a distant shore. That day, the wind was driving against us, churning up the dark water as black clouds raced towards us.

The cliff that day was roughly 30 to 50 feet above the water, which meant absolutely nothing to me, because the entire trip was a series of firsts.

We reached that point, the jumping spot, right as it was starting to go from “uh oh” to “we should go.” Andy told us it was now or never, and with an intense, shaky sigh, he ran towards the edge and disappeared. Just like that.

Fear is a fickle thing. Everyone else was looking for an excuse not to go. The “exit” was just minutes away, climbing up the cliffy shore after having jumped moments earlier. It was now or never. Thankfully I’ve been blessed with a bad taste whenever regret enters my life, so I next found myself running towards the edge and soon flying. And falling. And then it was dark and quiet with only the waves whispering in my ear.

There’s a moment right after you jump where it doesn’t feel like you’re falling yet. A void surrounds you, letting you float for a moment in nothingness. Here, just the stormy water surrounds you while the wind is singing in your ears. It’s as if someone slowed your real life down to a fraction of its normal speed so that you could enjoy every moment.

Then you look down, the wind is roaring, and suddenly time races ahead, bringing with it dark, cold water. And you hit it, and you’re in a new, dark and cold void and for just a moment you don’t know which way is up. A few seconds of clawing later you’re back at the surface and climbing up the cliffs to do it all over again. It’s fun now.

This is our life. We jump and pretend we’re flying when it’s convenient, but all the while hurdling towards smashing into a new reality we saw but didn’t prepare for. We deal with it all the same. You either jump, or you don’t. Fear was no different for any in our group, most jumped, some didn’t. Life moves forward without them, leaving behind its potential experiences.

Fear can either be a tool that reveals a new slice of reality or a blanket that blocks out the world.

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Voyager 1

On September 12, 2013, Voyager 1, the farthest man-made object from Earth, left the solar system. But things weren’t always this way. Voyager 1 started with just an idea and a dream by NASA after a Grand Tour plan was proposed in the 1960s to study the outer planets of our solar system. In the early 70s, NASA began to work on this mission, ultimately culminating in the Voyager 1 launch on September 5, 1977.

Voyager 1’s primary mission was to study the outer Solar System, and was ultimately accomplished as the spacecraft encountered the Jovian system in 1979 and the Saturnian system in 1980, taking the first detailed photographs of the two planets and their moons. After its primary mission ended in November of 1980, Voyager continued to soar through the solar system, and as of August 22nd of this year, has been operating for  36 years, 11 months and 17 days.

The Voyager 1 spacecraft is currently 128.26 AU, or 11,922,511,800 miles, away from Earth. Tomorrow it’ll travel further, nearly 900,000 more miles, leading it closer to its next destination, the Oort Cloud, only 300 years of travel time away.


By today’s standards, the technology aboard Voyager 1 is as simplistic as you can get. Currently operating with just 70 kilobytes of memory on board, 240,000 times less than a 16GB iPhone 5, Voyager’s journey has taken it further than the wildest expectations of NASA and the scientists and dreamers that built the spacecraft.

On February 14, 1990, having completed its primary mission nearly ten years earlier, NASA gave Voyager 1 the command to turn around, point its cameras toward Earth and photograph the Solar System. By this point, the spacecraft had reached a distance of 3.7 billion miles from Earth and was traveling at a rate 40,000 miles per hour.

Of the 60 frames sent back to Earth from Voyager 1, one stands out above the rest. The photograph, named The Pale Blue Dot, puts our world in perspective.

Pale Blue Dot

Seen from about 6 billion kilometers (3.7 billion miles, 40 astronomical units), Earth appears as a tiny dot (the blueish-white speck approximately halfway down the brown band to the right) within the darkness of deep space.[

Earth is visible in the image as but a small, pale blue dot, taking up just 12% of a single pixel. The great astronomer Carl Sagan commented on this photo:

From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it’s different. Consider again that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every “superstar,” every “supreme leader,” every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

Feel small? Your one day in a sea of billions of days being lived – innumerable human experiences happening, goals being won or lost, life happening – might make you feel small and insignificant, but your one day can lead you magical places.

The operational capabilities of Voyager 1 are expected to stop functioning somewhere between 2025 to 2030, well before its scheduled arrival in the Oort cloud in around 300 years. But the spacecraft’s significance won’t end there. Voyager 1 carries with it a gold-plated audio-visual disc filled with images of Earth and its lifeforms, scientific information, spoken greetings from dignitaries, sounds of earth life, and music from around our world.

Voyager 1 launched with just 70 kilobytes of memory  and a primary mission that ended just over three years after its launch. In 40,000 years, carrying with it the signs of the cultures of humanity, Voyager 1 will pass by its next star. The small, golden disc on a spacecraft launched on far outdated technology will be traveling long after you and I are gone, doing so one day at a time.

The way you look at the world and your own life will dictate whether your goals are visible and in your future, or lost in the darkness around you. Your perspective is everything. Always keep moving forward.

The Prince of Poyais

A day before Christmas in 1786, Gregor MacGregor was born to Daniel MacGregor and Ann Austin, a Scottish family living in Stirlingshire, Scotland. Not much is known of Gregor’s early life, but it is known that at the age of 16, in 1803, he joined the British Army and served as an infantryman in the 57th Foot regiment. The next two years saw Gregor rising to the rank of lieutenant and marrying an admiral’s daughter by the name of Mary Bowater.

Less than 10 years later his wife Mary was dead and MacGregor had assumed the title of Colonel, calling himself Sir Gregor MacGregor, and falsely claiming to have succeeded to the chieftainship of the clan Gregor. Thus began a lifetime of exaggerations, schemes, and claiming to be something he wasn’t.

After selling his small Scottish estate, MacGregor sailed for South America and wasted no time in becoming involved in local affairs. Upon his arrival in Caracas, MacGregor talked General Francisco de Miranda, the Commander in Chief of the new Venezuelan Republic’s army, into appointing him to colonel. Quickly after, MacGregor became a brigadier-general, thanks to a series of skirmishes that saw him the victor. Next he  traveled south  to New Granada, now present-day Columbia, where he joined the liberation forces of General Antonio Nariño.

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The War Against Creativity

Kurt Vonnegut Quote

Creating is hard. It’s choosing to go to the point of no return and to commit to creating something new, unseen, not yet in existence, and something that will more than likely fail. Not creating is even harder though, it’s the choice of putting your curiosity in a prison and throwing away the key. At first it’s missed, but over time it becomes easier to forget the absence and go on in normalcy, following the trends and working to forget there was ever an option to chase curiosity in the first place.

There’s a war against creativity. From an early age we’re taught to put away the crayons and to conform. To stop coloring outside the lines, to stop making up stories, and to start following the rules. We’re taught this is the path to success.

Creating seems to be outlawed, and you can see the evidence everywhere. It’s very easy to conform. The thought of going against the norm is strange to most people. Creative people that have bought into the normalcy must wait to be picked in order to create, and once they are, they must color inside the lines that someone else has already drawn. They wait for the system to choose them, passing the ability to initiate off to someone else.

Initiating, like creating, is hard. There’s pain in it, and fear too. The fear of rejection, of isolation and loneliness, and the fear of failure. It’s easy to see why avoiding the fear and pain of failure is the norm when it’s what has been taught since day one.

The war against creativity isn’t conforming vs. not conforming, it’s the effort at making you think that failure is actually a bad thing.

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Racing the Sunset

Mars Sunset

Life is a race. The race to the finish line, the race to retirement, maybe the race for knowledge, power, or money. Whatever you’re racing for in life, whatever the grand goal is, there’s a chance you’ll never meet it, that it will slip away, like the sunset over a beach. What if your goal only has you racing the sunset?

John F. Kennedy once spoke about his goals during a speech in Houston, saying, “But why, some say, the moon? Why choose this as our goal? And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic?

Why do anything? Why try if you’re only going to be racing the sunset? But few realize that once their sunset disappears,  it’s gone forever.

Kennedy challenged a nation to race its sunset in that great speech in Houston, saying,  “We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.

On January 4, 2004 the MER-A, commonly known as the Mars Spirit Rover, landed on Mars, a celestial body leagues away from the simple goal of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth. A year later, on May 19, 2005, the Mars Spirit Rover took the above image of a sunset on Mars.

Only 43 years separated a President’s dream of a man landing on the moon from a machine’s photo capture of a sunset on Mars. What is your sunset? Does it dare you to dream? To explore? Always chase it, let it pull you forward into life’s amazing moments.

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