You may know him as Captain Jack Sparrow or Edward Scissorhands but before he was the Mad Hatter and Willy Wonka, Johnny Depp had a different title: ballpoint-pen salesman. There are many people who, like Depp, have gone on to fame and fortune after enduring first jobs that were less than thrilling. Before he became one of the most well-known actors in the world, Brad Pitt started out on street corners dressed as a chicken advertising for El Pollo Loco Chicken. Even Rachel McAdams, before she stole the big screen in films such as The Notebook and Mean Girls, once asked customers if they would like to supersize their meal. That’s right, Rachel McAdams used to work for McDonalds.

Your first job is not always an indicator of how your future career will pan out. Jonathan Acuff, of Stuff Christians Like fame, is a national best-selling author and now works as a contributor for The Dave Ramsey Show. But as he writes in his latest book, Quitter, success has taken a long time to catch up to him. Before he landed his dream job in Nashville, Tenn. writing best-selling books and working for a nationally-syndicated radio show, he went through eight jobs in the eight years following his graduation from college. Most of those jobs included technical and copy writing work for companies like, Home Depot and Staples – hardly thrilling for most.

Sometimes a first job can be a launching pad for inspiration or a big break. Author Stephen King was inspired to write his first novel, Carrie, while cleaning a girl’s locker room as a janitor. Stephen Colbert started his career at the famous improv academy Second City ,(which also helped launch the careers of Tina Fey, Steve Carell and Mike Myers) not onstage but by selling tickets at the box office and selling souvenirs.

Failure at a first job doesn’t always spell disaster for a future career either. Walt Disney had difficulty finding a job in the newspaper industry as a cartoonist and ad creator and eventually was fired by a newspaper editor because “he lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” He also had many failed business attempts and bankruptcies before he opened the world-famous Disneyland. MIT actually has offered an entire course on failure entitled “The Fine Art of Failure” because as Diane Garnick of Invesco muses, “We learn more from our failures that we could ever learn from our successes.”

Before you are the CEO of a Fortune-500 company, you may find yourself selling computer software over the phone for several hours each day. Before you own the dream house with the dream car parked out front, you may be living on ramen noodles and driving a Kia to your job that requires a 30-minute commute. But before you give up on your dream of success at a job that is meaningful, fulfilling and well-catered to your talents, you should know that taking a less-than-desirable first job will put you in pretty good company.


Pain and its Purpose

April 9, 2011

There are people who can’t feel pain. Not emotional pain, but physical pain. Those who have been diagnosed with the extremely rare genetic disorder (there are only 17 people diagnosed in the U.S.), congenital insensitivity to pain with anhidrosis (CIPA), have lost their use of sensory perception to touch. It sounds like an enormous blessing: to never feel pain, to never feel the hurt of everything from a skinned knee to a serious injury. But as any parent of a child with CIPA will tell you, the disorder is a nightmare.

Pain has a purpose. You learn through experience to avoid burning yourself, to go indoors when you feel too hot, or that falling on a gravel road is painful. These children can’t learn that because they can’t feel pain. One of the early warning signs that a child has CIPA is that when they begin teething, unable to feel pain and wanting to gnaw on everything in sight, they will gnaw through their fingers and tongue.

When it comes to emotional pain we all wish it was something we could escape from. We all wish that we could be immune to the hurt of a lost friendship, a lost loved one or any number of things in this world that cause us serious emotional pain. But pain has its purpose. Pain is a warning sign that something is wrong. We learn through pain to avoid dangerous and hurtful situations. Pain is often the result of an unexpected event: the loss of a loved one, a life-altering accident or any number of traumatic events. It is in the midst of these moments that a relationship with God may be tested and strengthened as a result or abandoned altogether. It is the difficult questions that arise out of these experiences that can cause real growth to occur.

Strength training and building endurance are what builds muscles. The pain felt in the muscles means that, in a few days, the tears will begin to rebuild and grow stronger. The heart is one of the hardest working muscles in the body and, in the same way, it grows stronger after enduring pain. Few people would understand this better than the late Pope John Paul II who, after spending his teenage years in Nazi-occupied Poland, lost his father, mother and brother before the age of 20. The late Pope credits the death of his father with his decision to enter seminary.

C.S. Lewis explored many of the difficult questions that arise when questioning the purpose of pain. In A Grief Observed Lewis lamented that, “(Man) has to be knocked silly before he comes to his senses. Only torture will bring out the truth. Only under torture does he discover it himself.” It is in grappling with the difficulties of pain that we might discover the true test of our faith.

Pain has a purpose. It warns us against dangerous situations and causes us to realize we have lost something valuable. Working through deep loss causes us to seriously question our relationship with our Creator and may lead us to a better understanding. Pain has a purpose. And it is when you don’t feel pain that you know something is truly wrong.



A strange phenomenon is occurring on campus. In recent weeks the use of mobile learning devices along with the diversity rate among students have both seen a significant increase. It is unclear as to whether there is a causal link between the recent increases and the presence of university marketing photographers in classrooms. Either way, many on campus are excited about the possibilities.

“It’s great to walk into a class and see a perfect 1:1 ratio of all the different ethnic groups,” Rachelle Stephenson, junior psychology major from Portales, NM said. “I’ve always really enjoyed my classes but now my time in the classroom is just so wonderful that I can’t keep from smiling.”

Stephenson added that she is glad that the positive changes coincided with the days the photographers came to her class so that they could capture them on film.

It also appears there is something almost magical about the photographer’s presence that allows an iPhone or iPad to appear in every student’s hand. Students who may not have brought or used their mobile learning devices in class are now grinning from ear to ear as they point at a small iPhone screen while others look on in amusement.

Students’ increased use of their mobile learning devices captured on camera also helps add legitimacy to the mobile learning initiative. Many students, like Donovan Staggs, senior business major from Lubbock, are glad that their iPhones will be utilized in their classes beyond marketing purposes.

“I use my iPhone all the time in class,” Staggs said. “For example, today I used my mobile learning device to look up a scripture that was already on the projector screen. Outside of simply glancing up, I never would have been able to do that without an iPhone. Now that’s exceptional, innovative and real.”

Administrators are interested in the positive changes occurring in the classroom and are seeking ways to make the photographer’s presence more permanent.


The university will be offering a Master of Relational Sciences (MRS) degree this fall as a joint program under the College of Biblical Studies and the Department of Marriage and Family Therapy. The new program will be offered to single female students who have completed their undergraduate studies at ACU who wish to pursue careers in domesticity.

“We felt there was a real need to offer our female students who have not found a suitor by the time they finish their undergraduate studies at least two more years to find a suitable mate,” said Dr. James Vowz, associate professor of matrimony, who will be teaching Introduction to Ring By Spring.

Students enrolled in the MRS program must complete 60 hours and will graduate upon completion of an internship or engagement proposal by spring of their second year. Some classes that will be offered include: Marital Financial Planning, Personal Selling for Engagement Purposes, Inter-spouse Communication and Quilt Making.

Several students have already expressed their excitement about the many possibilities that this program creates.

“Hopefully this new degree program will open some doors,” says Jennifer Folly, a junior from Arlington. “I already have a reservation for Chapel on the Hill for the June after I graduate and selections at Bath and Body Works, Dillards and Target. Now all I need is a groom and I am set.”

Graduation will include a mass wedding for all graduates along with the awarding of marriage certificates.  Family and friends can expect to receive graduation and save-the-date announcements eight to twelve weeks prior to the big day. Students who may still be having trouble landing a marriage offer can speak to their advisor who can refer them to single Bible majors in their senior year.

Those who wish to apply must submit a 250 word essay on the importance of marriage and how an MRS degree fits into their long-term goals. The deadline for applications is April 14.




There are many reasons to avoid Mark Zuckerberg’s monster: the mounting invasion of privacy, the addictive nature that has likely consumed more than a healthy amount of your time or even a strong dislike for the creator himself. If a new study conducted by Stanford University rings true, however, there may be a whole new reason to avoid the social networking site altogether.

Facebook makes you lonely. A paper recently published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that, “People underestimate negative emotions and overestimate positive emotions even for well-known peers.” In layman’s terms, everyone else is having more fun and other people rarely get sad. As a recent article in Slate explains, the study was inspired when a researcher observed that his friends “seemed to feel particularly crummy about themselves after logging onto the site [Facebook] and scrolling through others’ attractive photos, accomplished bios and chipper status updates. They were convinced that everyone else was leading a perfect life.”

We all know that Facebook profiles display the most exciting, intriguing and pleasurable experiences of people’s lives. If you were to rely solely on Facebook to gauge how fulfilling and interesting your friends’ lives were, you would likely get an incredibly skewed picture. If you believe that everyone around you is having more fun, evidenced by their biased representations on Facebook, while not realizing the real misery that also may be occurring, you’re likely to start feeling pretty gloomy.

These findings can certainly be applied to areas beyond Facebook. Broadcasting only the best attributes of one’s life did not originate with the Internet or social media. People have always expended enormous amounts of energy to “keep appearances.” Facebook profiles are really just an extension of the human tendency to display only the positive aspects of their lives while others assume that they are seeing the entire picture.

The study also reinforced previous findings that people can’t judge how sad others are. Subjects in the study “consistently underestimated how dejected others were – and likely wound up feeling more dejected as a result” according to the aforementioned Slate article. Things most of us have dealt with that the majority of people around us have never known about. Those outside our inner circle are likely oblivious of some real hurts that may have occurred or are still occurring. You never really know the whole story.

Everyone is dealing with something, most just never show it. And what they do show on their Facebook profile and other social media sites, is hardly a representative sample of how their life is going. Appearances can be deceiving. Just ask Mark Zuckerberg, the man with 500 million friends, over a billion dollars in net worth and yet beneath the surface is likely one of the loneliest people in the world.

Only Child Myth Debunked

January 31, 2011


My name is Ryan Self, and I am an only child.

It’s a confession I usually hesitate to make because it means I’ll have to respond to a number of misconceptions about only children, “Oh, you must be really spoiled,” or “Gee, you must have been really lonely growing up” being common ones.

I may not understand a few of the odd traditions some families have, like shouting “shotgun” before entering the car, but I think only children have unfairly been given a bad rap.

I’ve always been irritated when, during a conversation about difficult people, the self-absorbed, annoying behavior is explained away by the fact that the difficult person is an only child. There’s usually an outlining of the frustrating behaviors of that person, and then, after a long pause, the statement: “They’re an only child” – as if it’s a cause-and-effect relationship.

That pervasive misconception has no basis in reality. A recent article in Time debunked many of these erroneous stereotypes and revealed that “no one has published research that can demonstrate any truth behind the stereotype of the only child as lonely, selfish and maladjusted.”

Misconceptions about only children have been around for decades. In 1896, a study was released concerning only children, un-affectionately titled “Of Peculiar and Exceptional Children,” which likely introduced many of the negative stereotypes people believe today.

One of the more stunning statements made in the study claimed that “being an only child is a disease in itself.” Ouch.

But wait, there’s more: As recently as 1989, sociologist Judith Blake published a book stating that only children are “overprivileged, asocial, royally autonomous…self centered, aloof and overly intellectual.” I don’t know what caused these researchers to hold such harsh views of only children but their conclusions seem a bit extreme.

Despite their diseased, asocial, pampered upbringing (don’t forget “spoiled,” “humored” and “socially deficient” according to the aforementioned 1896 study), only children have somehow managed to find their way in society. Only children have grown up to become world leaders (Franklin D. Roosevelt, Condoleezza Rice), inspire thousands with their endurance (Lance Armstrong) and entertain millions long after their deaths (Elvis Presley, Cary Grant, Frank Sinatra).

I would mention that God had an only child, but that might be taking it a little too far.

Being an only child, rather than being a developmental stumbling block, may actually have significant benefits. It turns out, as a recent story on ABC News explains, that “while a battery of studies shows no difference with onlies when it comes to bossiness or acting spoiled… A landmark 20-year study showed that increased one-on-one parenting produces higher education levels, higher test scores and higher levels of achievement.”

Only children are maladjusted loners? Please.

From the moment one arrives on ACU’s campus, there is a subtle countdown to graduation: you have four years to find someone to marry, tick tock. As we all know, there are only 4,700 Christians out there who are marriage material, all of whom attend ACU. Even though most probably enrolled in ACU to get a Christian education, let’s admit that sometimes it feels secondary to finding a Christian mate.

I’m only half joking. To find yourself holding a diploma and not a marriage license appears to signal you are very far behind. But it’s not just the culture of ACU that creates an expectation that upon reaching a certain age you should either be married or well on your way to it. According to a recent New York Times article, “sociologists traditionally define the ‘transition to adulthood’ as marked by five milestones: completing school, leaving home, becoming financially independent, marrying and having a child.” Evidently, a person doesn’t enter adulthood until he or she is married with children.

Is marriage really a rite of passage into adulthood? Several of the most beloved and respected professors here at ACU are single by choice. Have they not reached adulthood because they are missing two of the five “milestones toward adulthood?” There’s a certain stigma that those who are not in a relationship are either lacking in maturity or fulfillment. I don’t think I’m the only one who would argue that this is an unhealthy mindset.

The prevailing attitude that marriage equals adulthood and fulfillment is not only harmful to those who find themselves single in their mid-twenties but also to those that may believe marriage will solve all of life’s problems.  Life’s challenges still occur after people say “I do.” At the ripe age of 22, I have already seen several marriages involving people my age which have ended in divorce. Plenty of those couples met at Christian colleges.

The pressure to marry by a certain age applied, by the Christian community as well as society at large, may be leading some to enter marriage before they’re ready. According to a study in the Journal of Family Issues, “young people who marry in their teens and early twenties are far more likely to divorce than those who marry later.” There are obviously hundreds, if not thousands, of examples of successful marriages that grew out of a college relationship – my parents, who have been married for over 25 years, are among of them. But the high number of divorces among this age group should give some pause.

Every single (or not-so-single) one of my older cousins is either married or engaged. The same is true of five of my six closest friends back home. Do I feel pressure? Sure. But I want to get married when I and the woman I’ve found are prepared to take on that significant commitment. I’m just not there yet. And that’s okay. I would go on, but I’m about to attend the wedding of a childhood friend, and I don’t want to be late for his special day.