Making the Most of My Commute

In 2017, I accepted a new position at the University of Texas at Austin. I was beyond excited because we would be closer to our family in Texas, have access to the foods we loved (mainly Whataburger), and get back to the city life we enjoyed while living in the DFW (Dallas-Ft. Worth area for those that don’t know). For the most part, life in the city was everything I expected it to be. We enjoyed attending sporting events, making new friends, walking around downtown, and getting readjusted to the pace of a major city. But there was one aspect of living in the city that I had forgotten about - COMMUTING!

My commute from my home to the campus is almost an hour each way (depending on traffic and when I leave).  This means that I spend an average of 10 hours per week IN MY CAR!!! At first, it was okay because I was just happy to be back in a major city. But after a while, it got old and I became increasingly frustrated each day while sitting in traffic. I had to figure something out. I had to search for a way to make the most of my commute.

The items below are the ways that I have found to make my commutes incredibly productive and somewhat refreshing:

Listen to Podcasts:
Listening to a podcast has become one of my favorite things to do while commuting. For those that don’t know, a podcast is basically “internet radio on-demand.” Most podcasts come in the form of an audio (or video) series and are accessible for your engagement when you want.  During my morning commute, listening to a podcast gives me an opportunity to learn something new, hear diverse perspectives on various topics, and keep up on trends related to issues that I’m interested in.

Here are few of my favorites:

  • Work Life with Adam Grant

  • Inspired to Live, Bryan Loritts

  • Fresh Air, NPR

  • Jude 3 Project

You can access podcasts just about anywhere. I recommend checking out Spotify, Apple Music, Google Podcasts, SoundCloud, or wherever you stream your music.

Listen to Audiobooks:
In 2019, most printed books come in audiobook format. An audiobook is an audio file that contains the narration of written book. I have to admit, I have not always been a fan of audiobooks. As a known bibliophile, I struggled with the concept of not reading a book for myself. However, since moving back to Texas, audiobooks have become a vital part of my morning commute. According to a 2018 Medium article, audiobooks are now the fasting growing sector in the publishing industry. In just a few weeks, I’m able to explore new disciplines, enhance my professional development, and gain valuable insights while riding in my car. I can’t imagine my commutes without audiobooks these days.

There are many ways that you can access audiobooks. However, I get all of my audiobooks on Audible (an Amazon company).

Reflect, Pray, and Focus:
My morning commute is also a time to reflect at the end of the day, start my day in prayer, and focus on the tasks I have to complete. I have found that I am more productive, balanced, and settled when I spend at least a part of my commute this way. The road is filled with a lot of people frantically driving to their respective destinations. Road rage, traffic jams, bad weather, and accidents are all par for the course. At least through reflection, prayer, and focus, I’m less likely to contribute to the madness on the road.

How do you make the most of your daily commutes?

OPINION: Why We Need Grandparents

My wife and I were talking recently about how our kids, unfortunately, won’t get to experience the joy of being with their grandparents like we did. They will never know the joys of being in “the country” for the summer or learning the lessons we learned growing up. Due to financial, health, and geographical limitations, it is incredibly difficult for our children get the quality time with their grandparents that we had as kids. We are working hard to build relationships that will help us fill that void in our children’s live

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I See B But Not R and G: My Struggle With Colorblindness and the Quest for Consideration

Before I dive into this, please note: I am, in no way, looking for sympathy. I’ve dealt with this my entire life and I’ve learned to handle just about every situation that comes as a result. What I am doing, however, is asking people to THINK before they speak once they discover that someone struggles with this.

Imagine playing video games with a group of your friends and one of them frantically yells out, “shoot the red one” But you don’t see the color red that well (sometimes not all). Try playing Monopoly and someone says I’ll trade you for the green property over there (all they had to say was “Pennsylvania Avenue”). These, and many other experiences, are common to individuals who experience color vision deficiency (aka “color blindness”). A condition that I’ve lived with my entire life.

Color blindness (which really isn’t a form of blindness) impacts the way I see colors (specifically red and green). I won’t attempt to go into the scientific details. But simply put, my retinas don’t respond to certain colors of light the way they are supposed to. Since this condition is hereditary and mostly affects men, I’d like to thank my grandfather and dad. I’d also like to wish my own son good luck in figuring this out as well😊

Not being able to see two of the three primary colors is usually more embarrassing than anything else. Not because I’m ashamed or feel dumb, but it’s mostly because of the uninformed comments that people often make. Below are the top five inquiries that I get (and I absolutely cannot stand) when people discover that I struggle with this:

  1. What color am I wearing now?
  2. So how do you drive?
  3. Do you only see black and white?
  4. But didn’t get a degree in graphic design?
  5. You wear all of those bright colored clothes. How do you see them?

So I decided to create a list of “best practices” that you can employ when you discover, or it is revealed to you, that someone is color blind.

1.       Don’t point to random objects and ask what color they see.
I’m able to laugh about it with people and not get upset. Others, however, may not be. If someone tells you they are color blind or you notice them struggling to identify an object, try assuring them that you didn’t know and don’t become super awkward after.

2.       Don’t become a talk show host and ask about how they were able to make it this far in life.
Color blind people do not see like dogs! Most of us can see an entire spectrum of colors…for the exception of two. If they are willing to tell you more about it, just listen attentively, laugh at their corny joke, and don’t let that awkward silence set in. For those of you who have experienced this with me and responded appropriately, thanks!

3.       Don’t assess/analyze their ability to make life decisions.
Be considerate in the moments after you are told that someone is color blind. In college, because I majored in graphic design, I was required to work with color daily. I had two instructors who, upon discovering that I was color blind, would do simple things like discreetly arrange my colors in a way that I could identify them and not suffer embarrassment in front of my peers.

Again, this is not an attempt to gain sympathy. I just want to shine a light on something that doesn’t get talked about much and ask for consideration.  Almost everyone that knows me already knows this so talking about it is very easy for me.

Life Lessons from My Father

As many of you know, my father passed away on February 14, 2014. Since then, every year on Father's Day, I spend a lot of time reflecting and thinking about the great memories I have of William Jones. This past week was no different. However, this year, I began reflecting on the life lessons that he taught me. Although my father was a man of very words, his actions spoke volumes! Below are a five of the most important life lessons he ever shared with me:

  1. Your faith in God must have legs!
    My father was a Christian and always emphasized having a relationship with Jesus Christ. Therefore, no matter what was happening around him, his trust was in the Master! This same faith also led him to serve others in whatever way he could.
  2. You can't love God and be great if you don't love people!
    William Jones met no strangers! Although a lot of people in Tyler, TX knew my father, he could hold extensive conversations with total strangers. When he talked to people, he made sure that they felt heard and that they mattered.
  3. Sometimes, you will be a father to more than just your own children.
    My dad taught me at a very early age that a lot of kids I knew didn't have good fathers (if any at all). He would often make it a point to take us all out for pizza, to the Smith County Fair, football games, the park, etc. And while in the car, he would also make sure to drop some knowledge on us. My sister and I brought a lot of friends home over the years. If you were to ask them about my father, they would tell you that they felt like my dad was their dad too! In case you didn't know, this is also one of the many reasons why I joined Big Brothers Big Sisters in 2002.
  4. You have to move in silence.
    My sister and I were taught that we did not have to publicize every move we make. "Your actions will always speak louder than your words," he would say. When participating in youth sports, my father always emphasized doing your talking on the court and field (as well as in the classroom). If we won, bragging was not allowed. If we lost, complaining would not be tolerated.
  5. Accept your children for who they are!
    There was NEVER a moment where I believed my dad was trying to force me to become someone/something that I wasn't. In fact, he would always say that he wanted me to be better than him in every way. My father was a great running back and knew how to fix things with his hands. It didn't take him long, however, to discover that I was mediocre in sports but excelled in the classroom. Rather than talking me out of playing football, he continued to support my decision (as long as my grades remained high).

These are lessons that I will never forget. May they be a blessing to you as well.

Why Everyone Needs a Librarian as a Friend

My grandmother instilled the love for reading and bookstores in me when I was a little boy. She didn't believe in spending money and time on things that were not vital to everyday life. As a result, I got a library card and spent a lot of time in the Tyler Public Library. I learned how to navigate the Dewey Decimal System by the time I was seven and discovered that books were the gateway to new worlds. Twenty-six years, 3 degrees, and two kids of my own (that we regularly read with) later, I would say that my grandmother's efforts to keep me busy paid off.

The local library is also the place where I discovered some of the nicest, smartest, and most resourceful people on the planet. No, I'm not referring to my fellow comic enthusiasts. I'm talking about the librarians, keepers of the great treasures that we call books. These people know EVERYTHING! They're more than book admirers who rent books to patrons, wear funny glasses, and tell people to "shhhhh!" Librarians are intellectually curious, knowledgable, and friendly. We all could use friends like this!

Below are my reasons why everyone needs a librarian as a friend:

Librarians can have a conversation about ANYTHING!
Think about it. Librarians have access to information and resources about everything in the world. This means that they will always have something to talk about (no matter the subject). If you like playing trivia games, it pays to have a librarian at the table.

Librarians can help you solve just about any problem!
Librarians have been our living "search engines" for centuries. If you tell your librarian friend that you are having a difficult time planting azaleas, they've likely thought about several databases, magazines, books, etc. that could help you get them growing. Whatever your hustle, having a librarian as a friend increases the likelihood of success. As my friend and librarian, Ingrid Ruffin says, "librarians stay on their access to information for all grinds."

Librarians share their toys!
I have yet to meet a librarian who doesn't want to share when new resources are available. Whether it's a new piece of software, updated resources, or helpful books, your librarian friend will want to tell everyone! While working on my doctorate, the librarian for my major taught me how use every relevant search engine and database pertaining to my topic. 

Librarians promote literacy!
Reading is a skill that everyone needs. While living in Knoxville, TN, the local libraries sent free books to my daughter on a monthly basis. This helped us tremendously with our nightly readings. The librarians always made sure that each book was age appropriate and relevant.

So go out support a librarian today!

Finding My Own Flame...

I recently purchased Ken Costa's book, Know Your Why.  If you haven't read it already, I would strongly encourage you to do so because it is wonderful! The book is a practical guide for anyone struggling to identify their purpose or calling in life. Although I don't identify as someone struggling to identify my purpose or calling, I have found it very difficult to articulate what it is.

I know that I am meant to teach, preach, and design. The recent struggle has been how do I put all of that into practice and words?

While reading the closing paragraphs of the section on "Finding Your Passion", Costa referenced a song from Will Reagan and United Pursuit called, "Help Me Find My Own Flame."  Like most millennials, when someone references an unfamiliar song, I looked it up on Spotify and played it. As I listened to the words, my own purpose and calling became less difficult to articulate.

Helping others to find their own flame is the calling on my life!

For a lot of people, the word "calling" maybe difficult to move past because of the spiritual implications. However, even if you substitute the word purpose in its place, the message remains the same (at least for me). We are all, at some point, searching for our flame. From a spiritual standpoint, God endowed each of us with unique gifts and desires. Some are more obvious than others. It is up to each of us to identify that gift, nurture it, and use it for the benefit of mankind.

Whether you are trying to identify your calling, decide which direction to take your idea/business/etc., or needing help figuring out what your purpose is, I want you to know that you are not alone! We all want to lives that have meaning. If I can be of service in helping you find your flame and make meaning of this experience, please don't hesitate to reach out.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

10 years...

The year was 2006. I had just graduated from Abilene Christian University with a BFA in Graphic Design. I was optimistic about the future and knew that I had the potential to do some amazing things. My teachers believed in my talent. My friends loved my work and were very encouraging. My family was beyond supportive. The problem was, I didn't believe in me. I failed to get into any graduate schools and I had no job(s) lined up. I sat back and watched in amazement as my classmates went on to get married, buy houses, work for great design firms, and travel the world. Meanwhile, I couldn't even make ends meet. That led me down a long road of self-doubt, anxiety, and paralysis of analysis.

I questioned myself at every turn. With every design project came the overwhelming fear of being called a "fraud" or looking at the work of my peers feeling like I wasn't good enough. Despite everything went on to accomplish in academia and in other areas, I still did not believe in myself.

About a year ago, I made a goal to confront my fear of failure and start believing in myself. I decided that I possessed the gifts, knowledge, support, and passion to accomplish everything that I wanted. I'm freelance graphic designer, licensed minister, and an educator. The problem was, I had NO IDEA how to put it all together and market myself. So I spent a lot of time praying, seeking insight from others, benchmarking, reading books, going to conferences, and asking a lot of questions. All for the sake of branding myself and each of my skill areas.

On July 30, 2016, I put myself out there. I stopped asking "what if" and decided to take a chance on me. That's how The B. Jones Project came into existence. It's been 10 years in the making.

Why am I posting this now? Because I want to encourage you, whoever you may be, to believe in yourself and take a chance on YOU. God has equipped you with everything you need live out your purpose in this world. It's up to you to take those gifts, knowledge, and experiences and turn them into something.

Below is a summary of what I learned over the last ten years:

  1. Quit comparing yourself to the other people doing what you do. They are not YOU!
  2. Do something EVERYDAY that puts you one step closer to your goal. 
  3. Challenge yourself to go beyond what is comfortable, familiar, and easy.
  4. Believe in YOU! There's a reason why you were asked to do that presentation, take on that project, lead in a key area, etc.

I'm done doubting me. So if you see me putting out new things every time you check this website or my social media accounts, it's because I now BELIEVE!