Belief: The Un-faith

In the English language Belief and Faith have largely come to mean the same thing.

However, the difference between the two is rather nuanced and the simplification, in the name of efficiency and speed of use, as usual, has led us astray and muddied the distinct and profound difference between the two terms, which paradoxically are in fact opposites.

Belief is the insistence that the truth is what one would wish it to be.

Believers open their mind to the truth, on the condition that it fits in with their preconceived thoughts and wishes – think about it, when was the last time you acknowledged that a strongly held belief was no longer true?

We believe because it makes us feel secure.

It gives our lives the perception of value and meaning.

It is fixed.

It makes little room for truths that conflict with the things we believe and hold sacred.

We can only believe what we have already known – preconceived and imagined.


Faith, on the other hand, is the exact opposite.

Faith is an unreserved opening of the mind to the truth, whatever it may turn out to be.

People with faith have no preconceptions.

They plunge into the unknown.

They let go.


We believe because it comes naturally.

It’s cultivated by the system at large.

A cultivated yearning to always desire.

A yearning to focus on the future and the past – ignoring the present.

A desire to grasp at any sense of meaning we can find in our lives and to hold on to it and keep it for one’s own.

We have been fooled into believing.

The belief that if we earned a few more dollars we would be a bit happier.

The belief that if we went to a slightly more prestigious college we could be a bit more successful.

The belief that we need to consume more and always.

The belief that life is something to be taken by the horns and made the most of.

However, you can’t grasp onto life.

It simply isn’t possible.

Just as you cannot walk off with a river in a bucket.

If you try to capture running water in a bucket, you will always be disappointed.

Water does not run in a bucket.

To have running water you must let go of it.

The same is true of life.

To have faith is to let go – to discover the ultimate reality of life.

We enter this world as babies – open, curious, a thirst for figuring out how the world works and a desire to understand reality.

However, this phase, for most of us, is brief.

We quickly abandon faith, openness to reality and instead, let our minds harden into doctrine.

Set in our ways, we walk around with a construct of how the world works and naively convincing ourselves that we know what is fact and what is fiction.

The truth is that we don’t know.

Faith is being comfortable with not knowing.

Seeing the world as it is.

For you cannot see the sky through a window by merely painting the window blue.

To believe is to have unfaith, as faith is not clinging – it is letting go.


What’s at The End of The Rainbow…?

There is no pot of gold.

There is no race.

No end destination.

However, our culture treats life as such.

As if life’s main objective is to achieve something.

That “one job”.

That dream house.

Peace of mind.

The perfect spouse.

“Successful” kids.



We treat life as if there is something for us to attain from it.

Constantly chasing after something that appears to be just out of our grasp.

However, life is not a bank to be robbed.

There is no prize. Nothing that we have to “get out of it”.

However, that doesn’t make it not worth living.

Instead, that realization, the realization that we are not competing with each other.

The realization that it doesn’t matter how big our house is, the name of the car we drive, or the logo on the clothes we are wearing – that realization is liberating.

It’s liberating because it allows you to let go of the attachment we have to the end result.

It gives you freedom. Freedom to stop chasing something that isn’t real.

This freedom allows you to alter your posture.

If it’s not a race, how many more people would you help?

Would you think twice about the next time you use your perceived status to put someone else down?

Seriously, if it wasn’t a race how would you play the game differently?

How would you engage with and connect with the universe?

I’m guessing the answer is different than you’re currently playing the game.

The point isn’t that life is a game, the point is that we have the power to choose how we play it.

If your happiness is dependent on achieving “the result” or making it to the “end destination” you are setting yourself up for failure.

We suffer because we desire…

Training Fleas: Will You Jump Out of The Jar?

Fleas: In The Beginning The Future is Bright

At birth, fleas are incredibly resilient. The sky is the limit.  Specifically, fleas are born with a built-in mechanism that allows them to survive and propagate its species against all odds. The flea reproduces small eggs that require a warm-blooded mammal to hatch and then when it does, it can be nourished from biting and sucking the blood of the host. This darwin like survival instinct is aided by the fleas great “athletic prowess” –   they are able to jump very high – several feet in order to land on a new “host” to feed and breed. When you consider their body size, they can jump the human equivalent of 100 yards into the air. That is pretty amazing.

How do you put a lid on the aspiration of fleas? You train them.

Training Fleas

To train them, you put the fleas in a jar. Screw the lid on, and observe. In the beginning, the fleas use their innate skill and talent to jump as high as they can, determined to get out. However, the flea keeps hitting the lid. The lid hurts and gradually the fleas stop jumping as high, jumping just high enough to fall short of the lid. When you take the lid off the jar, the flea continues to only jump high enough not to hit the lid, as it’s forever tainted by the conditioning and pain of prior limitation, the lid on the jar.

For most us, our response to life is no different.

Each and every one of us is born with the opportunity and a desire to make a difference. The scale and scope of the opportunity may differ, but that’s not the point as if each of us lived up to our individual potential the accumulated impact would be profound. So, what stops us? The lid.

The lid is the teacher that tells us we will never amount to anything.

The lid is not making the team.

The lid is not getting into the school that you just “had to get into”.

The lid is not getting an interview for your “dream job”.

The lid is that voice in our head that tells us that we aren’t good enough.

The lid is our decision to wait until we are a bit more “established” to take a leap and create the change we want to see in the world.

The lid is failure, it hurts.

The lid is fear.

The lid is the self-narrative and life experience that condition us to give up when things are hard and to stop trying to jump as high as we can.

However, for all of us, just as with the fleas, there is no lid. The lid is merely a figment of our imiganiation.  A psychological barrier that we invented.

With that as truth, the question that remains is simple:

Are you willing to try to jump out of the jar?



Accomplishment: The Result of Good Fortune.

In a few weeks, I will be graduating from business school and as the day’s countdown I’ve been asked one question time and again –  “how does it feel?”. Interestingly, each time, the first answer that comes to mind is that I feel fortunate.

I feel fortunate to have won the ovarian lottery and to be born to James and Leslie Campbell, where it all started.

Fortunate to have two parents that were willing to make sacrifices to make sure that I had activities to be involved in after-school. Parents that made sure that I read books and wrote book reports during the summer. Parents that set unforgivingly high standards and convinced me that I could do whatever I put my mind to, as long as I worked hard.

I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to attend Cary Academy, a private middle school.

Fortunate that the day my father went to Cary Academy they had recently hired an African-American woman that was committed to increasing diversity in the school. A woman that was willing to take a risk and put me into the application pool. A woman that was willing to make sure that I was eligible for full financial aid, as that was the only way I could attend.

I feel fortunate to have broken my ankle playing football during my sophomore year of high school.

Fortunate to have doctors that insisted that I would never play football again after requiring surgery, a metal plate, and six metal screws to repair my ankle. Prior to my injury, I took pride in my self-reliance. However, as a result of my injury, I was forced to ask for and depend on help from others. I learned how to trust. I learned how to contend with and transcend fear.

I feel fortunate to have met Jeff Scott, Chad Barnes, and Derrick Thompson at Davidson College.

Fortunate that these three individuals would become mentors, role models, and most importantly great friends.  Great friends that showed me the ropes at Davidson College. Great friends that kept me focused, taught me what classes to take to “protect” my GPA. Great friends that inspire me to this day. Friendships that have truly been a privilege.

I feel fortunate that Wells Fargo Securities took a chance on a liberal arts major that had only taken one math course.

Fortunate to be placed in the Leveraged Finance Investment Banking group. The group where I would meet Alicia Wnorowski, who would introduce me to her sister, Janina.

I feel fortunate that I meet Janina, my beautiful wife.

Fortunate that she has been willing to uproot her life on multiple occasions to support me. Fortunate that she has taught me how to live. To live for experiences, not material objects. To work to live, not live to work.

I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to work in Private Equity at HarbourVest.

Fortunate to have learned what great leadership looks like and the beginnings of what it takes to build a great culture from Jeff Keay and the guys at HarbourVest. Fortunate that the experience helped me realized that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my professional career in financial services. That I instead wanted to work on things that were tangible, things that changed people. That I wanted to be an artist.

I feel fortunate that Harvard Business School took a chance on a young man from the south.

Fortunate that they didn’t hold my “tier 2” investment banking and private equity experience against me. Instead, seeing a young man that was resilient, hard working, getting comfortable with his own story, and passionate about making a difference.

The follow-up question to my response typically is – “Well, don’t you feel accomplished?”, which causes me to pause, as yes, I recognize that it is an “accomplishment”, or “something that has been achieved successfully”. However, I can’t bring myself to take any significant level of credit for the outcome, sure, I played a role – I worked hard, I listened, I took chances.

However, it’s the people and the institutions that I’ve been fortunate enough to meet and be a part of that deserve the credit. They should feel accomplished as if you remove them the results could have been different.

Ultimately, our lives are shaped by an inescapable confluence of choice and chance.

I’ve been fortunate enough to make the right choices and fortunate enough to be given a chance.



Choosing The Right Pair of Glasses

You see what you expect to see.

Nothing is inherent.
Change is always possible.

In 1454 the German goldsmith Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press. 1454, a time when most people couldn’t read, yet alone use a printing press to write or type!

In 1901, Wilbur Wright told his brother Orville that man would not fly for fifty years. Two years later, the brothers built and flew the world’s first plane.

Grover Cleveland, the 22nd and 24th president of the United States, remarked in 1905 that, “sensible and responsible women do not want to vote. The relative positions to be assumed by man and woman in the working out of our civilization were assigned long ago by a higher intelligence than ours.”

In 1909, the Scientific American published, “the fact that the automobile has practically reached the limit of its development is suggested by the fact that during the past year no improvements of a radical nature have been introduced.”

In 1977, Kenneth Olsen, president and founder of Digitial Equipment Corporation, a major American company in the computer industry at the time, remarked, “there is no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home.”

Nothing is inherent.
Change is always possible.

Yet, our brains make it difficult for us to embrace this reality. As, for the most part, we do not first see and then define, we define first and then see.

As humans, our tendency to categorize is reflexive, automatic. We need to know what something is before we can figure out how were supposed to relate to it.

Hence, our frame of reference and categorization of people, brands, products, and ideas impact how we view the world.

This frame of reference impacts how we interact with people. Our ability to build relationships.

It impacts our ability to trust. It impacts the way we view business leaders and the businesses that provide the products and services that we depend on.

Just as people aren’t inherently evil. Business and capitalism aren’t inherently bad.

What matters is our frame of reference.

The beauty is that, like when choosing which new pair of glasses to buy, we have the freedom and liberty to choose the lens through which we see the world.

To do this, we must be open to trying on several new pairs of glasses.

We must be open to listening through multiple new pairs of headphones.

Most importantly, this willingness and openness must occur often and with intentionality.

The power of embracing this freedom allows us to adjust the posture of how we view the world. It allows us to cultivate and embrace entirely new ideas, products, people, and opportunities for connection.

Ultimately, you see what you expect to see.