graduate school

https://imgs.xkcd.com/comics/resolution.png

As a general rule, I reject the notion of new year resolutions. Sure, I get why people make them; the start of a new year seems like a natural occasion to make new changes in one’s life. But I’m not sure I have ever met anyone who has successfully kept true to their new year resolutions.

You know what they say; today is the first day of the rest of your life. It seems to me if you are really interested in making a change, why wait for a national holiday to do it? Despite my apathy for new year resolutions, I expect 2018 to be a pivotal year in my life. In lots of different ways and for lots of different reasons.

40 in 2018

Though I haven’t thought much about it (partly because I don’t want to), 2018 will mark my 40th birthday. In recent years, my birthdays have generally come and gone with little fanfare and I don’t know that I expect much different next year.

But for me, passing 40 years of age is a milestone I am not looking forward to. In my mind, I should be much further along in my life. And though I’ve made trade-offs over the last 15 years, because I love this place I live, I feel fairly unaccomplished.

I own no property. No savings and minimal retirement investments. I remain single and haven’t been in a committed relationship since moving to Hawaii; I have no family of my own. And perhaps most frustrating is the feeling I am still struggling to make a career in my chosen profession.

I imagine most people when they reach 40, feel like “an adult”. I often don’t as I feel like I’m still trying to find my place, my purpose.

A Catalyst for Professional Changes

Despite the looming milestone (and potential mid-life crisis), 2018 could prove to be the most pivotal year of my life after 2002, when I moved to Hawaii.

One way or another, I suspect I will see my current employment come to an end.

Governor David Ige, for whom I work, is facing a tough reelection this year. And while I believe he can stave off his primary election challenger, there is certainly no guarantee. As an appointee, I work at the pleasure of the Governor and would have to be rehired by his successor in the event of his loss.

I’ve been in this situation before; four years ago when Ige beat the sitting Governor, Neil Abercrombie, in the Democratic Primary. I was incredibly fortunate to be kept on for the current administration. I seriously doubt I will have that kind of luck twice.

While this situation creates a level of uncertainty in my job, I don’t completely mind it. Without significant changes to my role and responsibilities in the office, I am not inclined to stay to the end of a second term. I’ve gotten about all I can out of my current position and am ready to move on.

This was the case two years ago, which is why I decided to go back to school.

In July, I will complete my Masters in Political Management from George Washington University. I started the program with the goal of learning some new skills, as well as validating with an advanced degree the skills I’ve cultivated as a volunteer activist over the last decade.

Once I decided to do it, I never looked back. Despite knowing the financial expense and that I’d likely be paying for it for the rest of my life. I wanted to move up and out of my current position and the degree was the best way I saw to do it.

And though I am struggling to figure out what comes next professionally, I’m excited (and worried) about what opportunities may present themselves with this specialized degree under my belt.

A Year for Real Change

When I think about what this year has to offer, I am most excited about the progressive political activism that has been building since Bernie Sanders announced his bid for the Presidency. In the more then ten years I’ve been involved in Hawaii politics, I’ve never seen anything like it.

Progressive-minded people are running professional campaigns for elective office across the state in greater numbers than I can recall seeing before. We are organizing, collaborating, breaking down silos across issues. Progressives are coming together for a common purpose and a common agenda: make Hawaii a better place for everyone.

HAPA’s Kuleana Academy has churned out dozens of individuals ready to be solid candidates and activists that can serve as real and useful support to those candidates. I am a graduate of their second cohort.

And the organization I co-founded in early 2017, Pono Hawaii Initiative (PHI), is poised to make a marked impact on the 2018 legislative session, as well as the 2018 elections. For the first time, maybe ever, I really feel like I personally will be able to make real tangible change.

A Life in Balance – Personal Goals

Maybe for my whole life, I’ve struggled for balance and for mental and physical wellness. 2018 won’t be any different.

It seems I always have a list of things I want to accomplish, skills I want to improve. I’ve never been great at self-motivation, though there are obviously exceptions.

My parents often point out that I should spend more time focusing on my hobbies, more time relaxing, and more time enjoying the special things Hawaii has to offer. They’re right. Between my day job and the work I am passionate about, there seems little time to take a break for other interests. In what time I do have, I struggle to find the energy to do anything other than being at home on my couch.

Maybe most importantly, I need to be more healthy. Though I continue to struggle with some level of depression, it’s in check. I’ve learned over many years how to cope with its ebbs and flows. But I also need to address my slowly rising weight and general lethargy. There’s no doubt I’d feel better over-all if my physical health were better, but I nonetheless battle to find the motivation.

Aside from politics, I enjoy writing, photography, and music. I will try to continue to develop my skills as a photographer. I will take more time to explore new music to appreciate the artists and albums I already love. At the top of this list: continue to write regularly on this blog about the things in my life.

 

I’m excited and nervous for what 2018 has in store. Here’s hoping it’s mostly great stuff.

Read more

So, I think everyone knows I’m currently a graduate student, online, at George Washington University. It’s been a great experience so far, with only occasional stress.

Well, yesterday I indicated which elective courses I will be taking for the remainder of the program. And I’m pretty excited about it, so I thought I’d share.

State & Local Campaigns – Application of campaign strategy and management principles to electoral races at the state and local levels. Staffing, budgeting, and strategic challenges for what are typically lower-visibility contests that involve state and local candidates. Coordinated campaigns and the impact of the national party’s reputation on these down-ballot races.

Fundraising & Budgeting – Raising and spending money in political campaigns, referenda contests, issue advocacy, and lobbying efforts. Budgeting process, standard controls to check expenditures, accounting procedures, and general strategies for use in effective fundraising.

Digital Strategy – Development of an integrated digital strategy for use in advocacy and electoral campaigns. Introduction to the theoretical concepts, distinctive technologies, applied skills, and managerial challenges associated with digital campaigning. Search engine optimization, GPS, online payment systems, customizing back- and front-end systems to meet strategic goals and budget parameters, working with IT vendors and distance volunteers, legal and cultural considerations in the US and other regimes, site rollout and scaling, security and privacy.

Issues Management – Track, influence, and alter politically significant issue-related discourses and policy developments. Legislative, executive, and judicial venues and processes for policymaking; state referendum, initiative, and recall ballot opportunities; organizational structures, including digital procedures, for issue management.

Campaign Strategy – Orientation to the basic systems and technologies that must be created and managed to produce electoral victory. The campaign plan and campaign budget as the foundation for management of campaigns. Focus on development of a campaign plan.

Grassroots Engagement – Strategies and techniques to build advocacy support among and across general civic populations. Identification of potential supporters through database targeting and individual outreach. Motivation and training of interested supporters for grassroots action in campaigns, at public forums, and before decision-makers. Coalition and protest options; analytics of ongoing efforts.

Cool, right?

These are all the courses I’ll be taking, more or less in order between now and when I graduate sometime early to mid-summer.

Read more

There’s a part of me that doesn’t like being busy. When I am, like over the last several weeks, it disrupts an otherwise stable routine. I’m also far more likely to use any downtime to do… well, nothing. So exercise doesn’t really happen and I’m less likely to put effort into eating well.

On the other hand, when I do have downtime I get twitchy. My thoughts become more detached and I have a more difficult time getting and staying motivated. My brain struggles to focus. For me, boredom leads to an increased likelihood that I’ll spend money on (arguably unnecessary) gadgets. Boredom leads to laziness (which also makes exercising a challenge), and depression.

At least partially, my dysthymia has always been tied to my level of productivity; I always feel better when I’m productive. Though I’ve been really busy, a bit stressed, and very tired since I started school, I’ve also felt positive, upbeat.

As you may have noticed, I haven’t posted here anything regularly since starting school in mid-January. But my first class is nearly at an end and I’m finding I have a bit less strain on my time. And though part of me is pleased to have a bit more time to breathe, I’m now struggling a bit to find tasks to keep me focused.

Earlier today, when I thought it a good idea to sit and write something, my mind was blank. There was no topic that sprang to mind which spurred me to write. Forcing myself to do the work of a post, this is the topic I settled on.

Ultimately, I’m a strong proponent of having some down time at least once a week. The ongoing problem for me is finding a balance. I don’t mind too much being really busy. If I could better manage my time, though, I’d be able to be more consistently productive.

It’s all a work in progress, but as part of my efforts to find balance, I’ve prerecorded two “Music Monday” videos. Hopefully, I will at least be able to post those once a week going forward.

Read more

It seems the only traffic my site gets anymore is when I post a video of my lip syncing to songs I like. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the time (or much energy) to make any new videos in the last few weeks. Sorry.

School. The legislative session. Trying to wrangle supporters for a fight on a $15 minimum wage for Hawaii. The Kuleana Academy. All these efforts have sucked up so much of my energy, that there’s little left. I’m working to increase my efficiency and time management, but adjustments to my routine are slow to come; I’m a creature of habit. So, until that happens, not only can I not promise regular posts, but I can’t promise regular videos, either.

Still, it’s (mostly) for my intellectual and career betterment, so I hope you’ll understand.

I’ve got a few minutes while my phone and iPad update their software, so I thought I’d share with you a recent assignment I completed. It’s a mock speech I wrote for Donald Trump. This past week in class, we studied the construction of speeches and how people make (political) decisions. The lesson’s final assignment was to write a speech, using polling data from 2015 and the lessons we learned to write a speech for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.

At first, I thought writing a speech for Trump would make my skin crawl and my guts and progressive instincts would revolt if I attempt a speech for the cheeto man. But after thinking about it, I thought it would not only be easier (less wonky) and could actually be kinda fun. And so it was.

Hopefully, it will tickle you as much to read it as it did for me to write it:

There are so many wonderful people here today. There are thousands of people here today and all of you want America to be great again. I will make America great again!

Over the past eight years, crime has risen, violence against Americans around the world has risen, the cost of health care has risen, our economy has stagnated, and good jobs have been hard to find. These are all bad things and all are the product of a President and a Congress that has failed too many ordinary, hard-working Americans.

But Wall Street has done gangbusters. They have done terrific while everyday people, ordinary Americans like you good folks here today, have fallen behind. You have struggled. You have lost jobs. And you have lost faith and hope in the America we all love. I love this country!

The politicians in Washington have done nothing. Nothing! They are all talk. When they come home to tell you what they’re doing, what they are going to do to make your lives better, they say all sorts of things. They make promises and do not keep them. When I am elected President of the United States of America, my first order of business, on day one, will be to make sure government is working for the people, not Wall Street and the corporate lobbyists.

You know, I saw a poll the other day. I Pew poll, I think it was. This poll said half of all Americans feel like they are falling behind. Half! And the other half? Well, they are doing ok, but most of them do not see things getting any better for themselves or for their families. If you are not making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, and most of you are not, you are struggling. Your families and your friends are struggling.

This same poll, the Pew poll, found that more than eighty percent of you who are making less than one hundred thousand dollars a year, view the economy as poor.

Too many of you believe there aren’t enough good paying jobs. How can this be in the country with the greatest economy in the world? Well, I will tell you. Those good jobs are being given to illegal immigrants. People are crossing our borders, entering our country illegally and taking good jobs from folks like you.

For the greatest country in the history of the world, this is unacceptable. What happened? How did we come to this?

For starters, this country has been taken over by status quo politicians. Lobbyists and banks have rigged the system for themselves. The Washington establishment and Wall Street elites have forgotten about you and have utterly ignored the cries and the needs of good, hard working ordinary Americans. All of you here today because you are being left behind by a system and by leaders who don’t care about you.

The Democrats’ front-runner Hillary Clinton, says America never stopped being great. She says America has always been great. Wow, is she wrong. She is so wrong! She is the queen of the Washington elite. She is bought and paid for by Wall Street and the big banks and she is so out of touch with ordinary Americans. Even Democrats aren’t thrilled with the economic prospects of the country; only about one quarter of them think the economy will improve in the next year.

But I am not like Hillary. I am not a career politician intent on maintaining the status quo. I am not a high-paid Wall Street lobbyist looking out for the interests of my clients. I am not a member of the political establishment. I am a political outsider.

I am in the race for President, not for myself or my family. I am already a very successful businessman with billions of dollars. I am in this race for President of the United States because I love this country. I love its citizens. I love the hard-working people of this country and I want them to be prosperous and successful. I am in this race for President to make that happen, to help all of you who are here with me today.

How can we fix everything that is wrong with our country? How make this country great again?

First, I will start by getting the government out of the pockets of ordinary Americans. Your taxes are too high! And how does the political establishment in Washington spend those hard-earned dollars? They spend them by sending money around the world to help people you have never met in countries you have never heard of. They use your tax dollars to subsidize banks and corporations; the wealthiest among us. I should know. I pay so little in taxes it is unbelievable! This has to change.

As President, I will make sure the government is working for ordinary people. Government will stop taxing to death people like you, people who work hard to support their families.

Second, as President I will make sure good paying jobs stop getting taken by illegal immigrants. We need to put a stop to this right away, but the Washington establishment has done nothing about it. They triangulate, they posture, and they compromise. They worry about how they will be perceived by pollsters and by people around the world. They are more concerned about politics than about doing what is necessary to help Americans now. When I am elected President, I will see to it that our borders are secure and that jobs right here in America are going to hard working citizens!

It is true, too, that too many American jobs are being sent overseas. We are losing too many jobs to places like China. The Chinese are laughing at us. American businesses, tired of wages that are too high and government regulations that are too stringent, are sending their manufacturing jobs, their call center jobs, and even their high-tech jobs to countries all over the world. All the while, the career politicians, the Washington establishment talk to us about free trade and globalization.

And everyone is talking about the minimum wage being too low.

We do not need to raise the federal minimum wage! We need to reduce regulation! We need to get government off the backs of businesses so they can create good paying jobs and bring back good paying jobs to America. Businesses will be set free from burdensome regulations. There will be good paying jobs for Americans, not illegal immigrants. I tell you, when I bring those jobs back from places like China, there will be so many good paying jobs in this country, it will be amazing!

I will do all this and more to make sure Americans can work in jobs they can be proud of. Jobs that will allow them to provide for themselves, for their families. When I become President, Americans will not have to struggle just to get by. And you all will be proud of your country again.

Vote for me and I will take away this rigged government system from the Washington establishment and from Wall Street lobbyists, and giving it back to the people. I will make this country great again.

Vote for me and I will make sure America’s economy is the greatest in the world again!

Read more

It seems my streak of irregular posts continues….

Right now I’m sitting in Kahului airport catching one of the last flights back to Honolulu. I’ve been here roughly 12 hours, spending time with an old friend for his birthday. And while I’m sitting waiting to board, I thought I would at least start a new post.

Last Monday (1/16) I started graduate school. While I’m enjoying it so far, it hasn’t been really what I expected; though to be fair, I didn’t really know what to expect. The last time I was in school was 15 years ago for my undergraduate degree.

Nothing I say here is meant as a complaint; I’m thrilled to be a student again. Thrilled to be pursing a graduate degree and thrilled to be doing so from such a prestigious school as George Washington University. But it hasn’t been without its stressors and frustrations.

Maybe that stress is a product of participating in the first weekend of Kuleana Academy during the same weekend my before first “big” assignment for school was due.

So first, school. I knew it would be self-directed study. I knew I’d have to set my own schedule and complete assignments at my own pace within certain parameters. That’s all true. But I also expected that assignments would have a natural progression, that assignments would build on previous lessons. At least for the last assignment of my first week, that didn’t seem to me to be the case. So I ended up spending significant time just trying to figure out what was ultimately expected.

After spending more hours that I thought would be required so early in the course and with a deadline looming, after several rewrites of my paper, I finally just submitted the assignment. Thoroughly unhappy with the final product, I was sure it wouldn’t garner me much better than a C, I uploaded my paper and had a twinge that maybe I was, in fact, not cut out for this.

Add to all of this a non-stop, fully busy weekend with a great bunch of people for my first weekend of Kuleana Academy. I don’t get stressed very easily, but last weekend and rewarding as it was, was also one of the most stressful I’ve experienced in quite some time.

I’ll try to write more about my experience in that program later.

In the end, my grade on that assignment was much higher than I expected, which is definitely a good thing. But maybe even more importantly, I gained some confidence from the experience. If I can do well (I got a B+) while being so disappointed in my own work, then I know I can do well in the program. I just need to prioritize and manage my time better. It’s easier than it sounds, but I’m on my way.

Right before beginning to write this post, I my first assignment for Week Two of my first course. Because I knew I was coming to Maui for the day to hang out, I made sure to complete the assignment early. It may not sound like much, but it feels like a big deal to me.

Alright. Well, I should be boarding shortly. Hopefully you enjoyed this quick update.

Read more