Beyond Concrete | Jeffrey Sumber's Blog – The Memories, Dreams and Reflections of a Postmodern Mystic
11 Jul 2012

Vulnerability 2.0 (or, What I Shlepped with Me to the World Domination Summit 2012)

5 Comments Humor, Marketing/Business, Relationships, Self Development and Transformation, Technology and Change

I came with a big bag of stuff. It was super heavy but at least my duffle is a rolling duffle. They did not charge me extra at the airport so it must have been less than 50lbs. I thought about that when I considered the jerry cans of water that women carried for eight hours a day to bring their families dirty water. With slugs in the soup. I wonder how much stuff Scott Harrison of Charity Water travels with when he goes to make deals with villages to drill wells. I really like my birthday. One year I hired a real live improvisational comedian to fly out to my town from NYC and teach 30 of my friends how to be funny and then we broke open an Elmo piñata. Still, if people will donate money in order to give people clean water instead of presents then I’m all for it. Those slugs are gross.

I had a backpack with me too, did I mention that? I was sitting there as Chris Brogan was slinging superheroes, comics and Dungeons and Dragons like he was speaking directly to me. It was like he knew that I had two prepaid, advanced digital tickets in my backpack for next week’s Dark Knight Rises film. He was born in 1970 just like me and we’re both Batman fans. I wonder if Brogan’s going to the midnight showing, too. I wonder if those superhero cards will serve as agents of change to the masses of uninitiated geeks. I was already a geek but it was fun to fly the freak flag together.


I thought about all my stuff squeezed into the pack when I listened to Daniel Noll and Audrey Scott talk about their treks around the globe and how life truly came down to the relationships they made with complete strangers who weren’t really strangers once they got to know them. Made me think of the complete strangers who rifled through my bag at the airport and left the Velcro handles unfastened. How do Dan and Audrey respond to all those pat downs and bag searches? I thought about their mileage programs. I felt petty for thinking about that but I was glad no one could read my mind.


I had outfits for all types of situations and events and climates. I like to be prepared and I like to feel like I am ok in a crowd. I like to blend in but I like the choice of standing out if I feel safe. Do I sound like an introvert? Sometimes I worry that people think I’m stuck up because I think too much without sharing what it is I’m thinking about. I’m not stuck up, I’m an introvert posing as a gregarious fellow.  My life is like a back and forth between Susan Cain and Jonathan Fields. A little witty, a little shy, a little sarcastic, a little nosey. Good thing I brought my Bose noise canceling headphones so I can simultaneously tune out and tune in.


I packed too much. I anticipated everything. I had a zip loc bag of almonds and two packs of gum. Cash. I had cash for tips, coffee and food trucks. I could always give some extra singles to homeless folks. Is that bad?


I checked the Weather Underground and read blogs and watched videos by people who attended last year. I looked at my closet and tried things on that I felt good in and that I felt others would want to see me in. I recently gained some weight and didn’t fit into my really “good” Banana Republic clothes. They used to be the clothes I felt empowered in so I had to go with clothes that I didn’t feel were too tight. This way I could make ideas happen without worrying too much about my clothes.


I brought essential oils because they make me smell good and relax me.

I brought 3 Apple products with appropriate cords. I like to be connected and I like toys. My IPad is a toy even though I use it to tweet you because you could be a client or a potential client or I might blog on my iPad and thus it becomes a business tool. I should be an entrepreneur.


Shoes. 3 pairs of shoes. I know. A little plastic container for all of my receipts, it being a business trip and all. It was super Slim.


I brought cool T-shirts with cool messages on them and then some plain white T’s because maybe cool messages aren’t as cool as plain white ones are. I liked the volunteer who sliced and diced her yellow shirt and made it into something fashionable. Maybe Megan Hunt could sell that to some brides as part of her $100 Start Up. She’s so cool.


I forgot my own partially read copy of the $100 Startup but they gave me one in my swag bag. I looked Megan up and she’s like all over that book. I wonder if she would have been my friend if she knew how much stuff I crammed into my suitcase. Well, rolling duffel.


Sunglasses. It’s summer. I wore them once. They were cheap ones though, from a supermarket, although very heavily tinted so I could even watch a Firestarter do her thing without hurting my sensitive eyes.


Vitamins. Lots of vitamins. I tend to mess with my immune system when I eat too much and drink too much. I can’t afford to get sick. I’m an entrepreneur. Wow, though…I never drink that much at home. I mean yeah I eat that much at home but the drinking, no. As Cal Newport suggested, we can’t really set out to do what we’re passionate about, we have to do something we’re good at and eventually the passion finds us. Headaches passionately found me four mornings in a row. I should have brought more Excedrin in my toiletry bag. Note to self for next year. Wait, how do I get there without trying to get there, again…?


Brene Brown defines vulnerability as the uncool combination of uncertainty, risk and emotional exposure. What does it take to be truly vulnerable? Who do you allow yourself to be vulnerable with and in what situations do you choose to expose yourself? Finding a tribe where one can simply be themselves and find love and acceptance is one of life’s most wondrous occurrences. Belonging is a bridge to transcendence whereas fitting in can be a cage in which we sit quietly, waiting. One simply can’t stop believing. Wait, was it don’t stop believing or belonging…?


I came to WDS with a sizeable amount of baggage and it felt incredible to be accepted as a tribal member. I even danced! Thanks Chris Guillebeau and your amazing integrity, vision and kick-ass-starting execution. A hundred dollars ($US) will never feel the same.


03 Jul 2012

Addicted to Your Approval?

No Comments yet - be the first! Relationships, Self Development and Transformation

Since the days of the Roman Ampitheatres and the classic thumbs up or down, we have been conscious, cautious and concerned about other people’s opinions. In the old days, a thumbs down meant your death. Today a thumbs up means you reposted someone else’s witty comments, a photo-shopped, rainbow laiden, Unicorn-riding Obama, or simply manifested 100 characters of your own brilliance. Either way, we seem to mind quite a bit whether, and whomever, someone notices.


I post status updates for 30K Twitter Followers and 6K Facebook followers every day. It started out as a social experiment a few years ago and now, I find myself wondering why some people LIKE my posts and others don’t. Every morning I send birthday wishes to a dozen Facebook friends and I rarely know them personally. I feel guilty when I go on vacation or life becomes such that I simply can’t write the birthday notes. I stopped blogging last year when it seemed like the same handful of beautiful friends were the only one’s reposting my work on their Facebook pages. Perhaps I had run out of things to say that you would like?


Many people use the word addiction far too loosely so in the auspicious days of Woods, Weiner, and Sandusky, I think it is very important to be careful not to get confused when it comes to real addiction (process or substance notwithstanding) and mild obsession. I would say that while a small fraction of our society is truly addicted, most of us are mildly obsessed when it comes to the whims and fancies of our friends and families. Mild to moderate, at least.


A friend of mine’s mother recently posted photos of her grandchildren playing in the pool. They are, admittedly, particularly cute. When her fellow octogenarian Facebook friends failed to “Like” the slideshow, she exclaimed: “What, their grandkids are cuter than mine?!? Stupid people. Maybe I’ll try Twitter.”


A very wise man named Fred Rogers once noted that “(t)he connections we make in the course of a life–maybe that’s what heaven is… We make so many connections here on earth. Look at us–I’ve just met you, but I’m investing in who you are and who you will be, and I can’t help it.” Leave it to Mr. Rogers to put things into perspective when it comes to social networking and our cultural need for external approval.


I do believe it comes down to that sacred space between us, the meeting in the middle between your light and my own. Somehow the pull to hear your praise or simply see your “Like” affirms the magic and beauty of life that I feel within my Self and for the rest of the planet.




02 Oct 2011

Spooning Buddha

3 Comments Humor, Self Development and Transformation

There’s a fat man in my bed.

He spooned my wife last night, walked my dog this morning and now he’s wearing my underwear.

The first time I lost a large amount of weight was in 10th grade. I had been overweight since 5th grade and had endured the typical jabs, pokes and shame associated with being too big for one’s britches. I hated my body.

Yet by the time I was a high school sophomore, I had found my niche. I was a clown. I could make fun of myself and get the laugh, somehow squeezing myself into a state of external acceptance. John Belushi did it as the Samurai. John Candy did it in Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Budhha looks pretty big in all those statues and always seems to be smiling. Is he laughing with us? Could he really be so enlightened as to think it is ok to be that big or was it that nervous giggle that I have known so well in my life?

Those first few races were straight comedy, too. Runners would be lining up for the 800 meter and have to step aside to let me through as I finally completed the previous 400 meter race. I pretended to be lighthearted and comedic as I made my way around the rubber streusel topping on that endless donut of a track. I’d sing songs, recite movie lines or just hyperventilate quietly to myself. I can do this.

I was there, forcing myself to be there, wherever there was. In the four months of the track season, I had “lost” all sorts of weight. I looked better, felt better and seemed better. It stuck for a while. Yes, I gained some weight back in college with all that drinking and the all-you-can-eat motif of college living. However, it wasn’t until I was in one of those long-term, committed relationships that the weight seemed to creep back in.

Living with a partner for the first time put me over the edge. I had to finish the pint of ice cream or they would. There was just enough of the leftovers for one person. Better finish it now. Or else…What was I worried about, really?!? Being without? Scarcity? Competition?

That was nothing compared to the amount of weight I gained after I became an entrepreneur and started my own company. Couple that with a few stressful relationships and poof! I was living large. Until I changed that.

It was supersized to downsized, up and down, over and over again. For years, I have been up between 30 and 50 pounds and then back down again to a nice cruising altitude. So here I am, once again, cruising at my “optimal” weight. And yet, there is still a fat man that looks into the mirror each morning. The consciousness of feeling self-conscious is hard to shake, especially one that has been present since I was 10 years old.

So, what does one do when my perception of SELF is inherently flawed? My ability to accurately see “me” as a body is deeply compromised by decades of shame, internal and external judgment, and the reality of boxes of clothes in my attic labeled “FAT BOX” or “SKINNY BOX.” How can I really see my self if my ability to see is so heavily influenced by my history? What kind of vision can I have if my lenses are so heavily scratched and carved through by years of obesity induced negative self-talk and self-loathing?

Like canyons of rock that are slowly but surely chiseled by years of relentless drops of thought, I am struck by the power and the beauty of persistent thinking. I am left to consider what years of loving, optimistic, nurturing and gentle self-talk looks like in contrast with the Grand Canyon of Shame. A flowering, lush garden, perhaps? A powerful, immense mountain range? Wild Jungles? Vast oceans?

Or maybe just me, the only me that ever lived, sitting at a greasy burger joint with a massive plate of food in front of me and a huge, French Fry induced grin on my face.

27 Sep 2011

Dreaming is a Sticky Substance

No Comments yet - be the first! DREAMS, Relationships, Self Development and Transformation

As I live and am a man, this is an unexaggerated tale – my dreams become the substances of my life.
Samuel Taylor Coleridge

This applies to you ladies, as well.

I used to think negative thoughts. Really nasty ones, actually. And I used to spend a lot of time worrying about my negative thoughts, the “what if’s” and “oh no’s.” Perhaps not surprisingly, many of these fears became reality.

I still have negative thoughts. I don’t believe they will ever cease to exist as a part of my IWS (Initial Warning System). However, the fear based thoughts that spray out of my IWS no longer dictate my reality. I have shifted from a state of reactivity to responsibility.

There was a time when I would dream in the night about something terrible and it would affect the rest of my day. My mood would grow heavy, my heart became closed and my eyes would dim. Until I stopped actively carrying the negative thoughts around with me. Again, the negative impulses never go away yet the ability to choose other, more supportive impulses are instituted by my conscious self.

I do not believe I am “enlightened” in the Buddha way or that I don’t have a significant amount of emotional work to do on myself in the Rick Perry way, and yet, I believe I have learned one of the most important lessons that human beings can learn on the planet.

I have a choice. I decide how my day will play out. No, I can’t decide if I’ll get a speeding ticket or if my 401K will tank, but I can surely decide my response. Our dreams, our emotional states, our intentions, become the realities of daily life because that is what we feed.

So, what choices are you making today?

08 Aug 2011

Currency Exchange

3 Comments Relationships, Technology and Change

How does the stock market affect me on a daily basis?

Does our AA rating influence your life?

How does the fact that our government and economy are in relative disarray and disharmony affect all of us, from here to there?

I know there are many among us, including many close to me, who are extremely concerned about the hurting economy. I have a lot of compassion for those of us who are struggling financially, those who are unemployed and those whose sense of peace and stability are hanging on every percentage point the DOW drops.

I understand that it is incredibly challenging, even frightening and anxiety provoking as we watch our retirement funds, savings accounts and home values disappear before our eyes. I watch bobble heads on TV point fingers and place blame on our president, Congress, this or that political persuasion, and on and on. Scapegoating is a really old human behavior so it isn’t all that surprising.

And yet, how real is this situation? How vital is the Dow Jones Average to our development as a species and the evolution of human consciousness?

I look to my own life for answers. I even look to my track record regarding my investments. Not my investment strategies in the “market” per se, but my history of relationships and how I have dealt with decisions that have been less than supportive to my overall well being. When I have chosen certain paths, chosen people with which to engage in relationships, I haven’t always seen great outcomes on the balance sheet. In fact, there have been a few of you that pushed me toward reconsidering my adamancy that there are no mistakes. But, I haven’t reconsidered that position. And here’s why:

I have learned far more from my challenges than my successes. I have learned about what I don’t want to recreate and what I need to do in order to create positive, supportive, harmonious results from my relationships.

Money is literally referred to as currency. Not a coincidence that currency is also a term used to describe energy. Energy is currently coursing through us every instant of our lives just as money and wealth is running through us, pulsing from behind and shooting right through and out towards the next person. When I am blocked, however, that energy/ currency gets clogged and stuck and I end up affecting the revolving circuit of the whole system. When we hold on tight, when we limit the flow of energy because we are scared and feel like we need to hoard the wealth in order to keep us safe, we affect the flow for everyone.

It makes a lot of sense that we get scared and want to stockpile money. Think about this in terms of love. What often happens when we are truly, deeply adored and loved by another is that we get scared someone out there will take it away or limit our wonderful supply! We then typically become very protective and limit the flow in and through us to others, creating a blockage for the entire system. Yikes.

There are a number of “Currency Exchange” centers throughout the Chicago area. I pass them all the time and they are constant reminders of the basic premise of our economy. You give me something and I’ll give you something. It’s a fairly old concept that harkens back to the old barter system. Ancient history. Transactional economy. You give me something and I’ll give you something back. Kind of the way we often run our relationships. You love me first then I’ll love you back. You get vulnerable first and then I’ll consider opening to you. Transactional. Rooted in that fascinating paradigm of success/failure, positive/negative, black and white to the core.

What would our financial AND emotional economy look like if our currency was not an exchange and more of a love offering? What if we embraced the notion that money is just energy as is love, food, compassion, etc.? Some might yell, “Communists! Socialists! Crazy Liberals!” Some would argue that it’s all real and that if we don’t really buckle down and get serious then we’ll have nothing. Much like: “You had better find someone to love you before you get too old otherwise you’ll die alone.”

I don’t profess to know a whole lot about economics and I’m sure there are some very challenging things happening to our global balance. I do understand energy, however, so I know this: When we hold on too tightly to energy, especially out of fear, we derail the natural circuit of currency.