Different Path, Self-Improvement, Self-Therapy

Professor Time..

Lady on the beach.jpg

Today I sat on the beach for a couple of hours watching the waves pulse against and fall away from the accumulation of seashells, sand, and tourists. 

I’d gotten the opportunity to step away from the ho-hum and accompany my cousin to a mini-vacation that was stuck right in the midst of one of the busy weeks; full of obligation, guilt at being unable to attend to them all, and unease about if any of these things were moving me closer to the life I wanted.

On the way up we bounced the beach ball of conversation onto a couple of different topics. We started with how we were each, everyday, chipping away at the life we were given. We were constantly becoming. Constantly creating habits that would either make our sculptures more beautiful or letting the chisel slip and create details that we did not want in the final product.

We talked about how being comfortable could be a type of ambition anesthesia that allows time to slip away unnoticed, not capitalized on, and unappreciated. I started to think about what creature comforts I needed to remove from my life in order to give myself the nudge towards doing something different. Was it Netflix? Facebook? My Television? Tinder?

I watched the waves build, crest, and then crash into the beach. They reached as far as they could then reluctantly were drawn back into the ocean, never to be seen again in exactly the same form. 

I realized that my time here on earth was very similar. My time was very much like the waves. I don’t know when I might be asked to return back to the ocean. I don’t know what rocks I may crash against. However, I do know that I have some choice as to what I want to pursue while I have time.

What came to me while I was watching the waves lick at the beach, was that I wanted to create as much as I could while I could. I want to leave my mark in as many realms as I am interested in. I don’t want to waste any more time.

Practically this translates into a desire to create something new everyday..An essay, a piece of music, a new muscle, a skill, something that is additive. Ideally this is something that I can look at the next day and feel that exhalation of satisfaction in putting my heart, and nerve and sinew to the tasks of building something new.

Even if it’s a sandcastle on the beach.

Fly or Fall.

OFO

 

 

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Self-Improvement, Self-Therapy

Follow. Through.

Commitment.

Me and commitment have had a rocky past. And this apprehension around commitment isn’t limited to the romantic arena. It has bled into mundane day-to-day decisions. I’ve been giving myself time to think about a my life and where I am as I approach my 33rd birthday.  I’ve been trying to give myself undistracted time to evaluate the roots and fruits of some of my actions.

My struggle with commitment is definitely something that is preventing me from reaching my full capacity.

My mother is my hero. She and my father raised us in the middle of some pretty rough areas when they were a young couple with 4 kids. Unfortunately, because of the environment that we were raised in, the friend pool wasn’t always the most wholesome. As a result, my parents often resisted us getting too close to the “American’s” we were surrounded by. There was often the implicit suggestion that opening us ourselves to trusting the people in our immediate community would lead to pain and regret, because of the vastly different value systems. Couple this implicit suggestion about how to interact with others with my own devastating heartbreak in college, and I think I know the roots of my hesitancy around personal commitment. 

Unfortunately, these lessons stuck. I have a hard time really letting people in. I tend to be super individualistic outside of my family. My good friends are longsuffering and need to nominated for early sainthood.

One of my friends says I have an alter-ego whom she named “George”. George is a catastrophist. He’s always thinking of worst-case scenarios. He’s a saver, in case the rainy day arrives earlier than expected. He’s a planner because lists make him feel safe. He prefers inaction because inaction is more predictable. George is in many ways the polar opposite of an inner child. 

I think my early experiences around love and interacting other people actually led to me distrust my ability to make good decisions in these areas. It also allowed irrational fear to grow around making a bad decision. Recently I’ve been having to affirm to myself that no matter what decision I make, I’m capable of dealing with the consequences and that I have to learn to trust the self that made that decision. I can’t let my (worried, doubtful) self second-guess my (confident, intuitive, courageous) self, and thus undermine my self-confidence.

My track record of figuring out what kind of people I can trust has (of course) gotten better with more experience.  I have to continue to trust that the reason’s behind any decision I make were made with love and intuition. I can’t let my inner “George” steal the spark that makes life enjoyable. The spontaneity, drive, and risk-taking that makes a life remarkable.

I heard a sermon (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RdtrwHuQrfk)  where the pastor said the people who struggle most with  commitment the most are usually the talented. Too often talented see commitment as a whittling away of possibilities; so often the talented will wait and wait and wait hoping that they’ll magically discover some cause, person, or organization that is perfect enough to deserve their attention and time.

They often end up waiting a long time.

The cost of getting to your greatness is commitment. Sticking with something through the thick and thin means allowing that thing to stretch you, change you, and mold you into something better.  “Greatness cost what it costs” – TD Jakes.

Had a conversation with a good friend. I remarked that I was heading to the coffee shop to take a look at my current goals and perhaps re-work them. She stopped me and noted that the goals I’d set were fine, I just needed to be working towards them. It made me realize that I am oftentimes more excited by the setting of big goals then the day-to-day grinding to make them a reality.

That realization has helped me to make sure that I’m making steps towards my goals daily until I stumble over a completed goal.

I’m not sure what I want to impart in this particular post. I do know that you should trust yourself. Trust the dreams that are whispering to you. Trust the feeling that you are perhaps meant for more. Trust the inner child inside inviting you to play. Know that often your “adult” will have to come up with a gameplan and stand attention over the dreams to ensure that the child isn’t distracted. But while the Adult is attending to the details and creating task-lists..don’t let them get to talking down about your dreams. Don’t let your Adult sabotage your dreams. Don’t worry about the odds. Worry about your happiness. Worry about the story of your life that you want to tell your grandkids. Worry about dying with the seeds of dreams un-watered and un-acknowledged.

I wish you Bravery.

Fly or Fall.

OFO

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Take Risks. Appreciate Progress.

Frustration has been a constant companion for the last couple of months.

I haven’t been impressed with the progress that I’ve been making on some of my goals. 

Today at work, during  a slow moment, I got the opportunity to take stock of where I was.

I’ve been slightly frustrated because progress toward my financial goals haven’t been achieved at the speed I would have liked. I’ve been frustrated because I haven’t been able to do everything I wanted to do when I wanted to do them.

I’ve been basically throwing mental temper tantrums for the last couple of weeks. This frustration has been compounded by the fact that I haven’t felt like I’ve been able to focus on and make progress in other area’s of my life. The last couple of days have been helpful in that they’ve been giving me insight into the real reason I’ve felt like I’m standing still.

It’s because I have.

And I should have been.

I’m an extremist. To be more specific I’m a goal extremist. I’m also very one-track minded. I’m not great at focusing at too many big goals at a time. This can lead to frustration when I’ve either (1) not reached the big goal I’ve set or (2) haven’t set appropriate mile markers to celebrate progress.

Due to this tendency I can sometimes get very cerebral and down on myself because I haven’t reached the goals I dreamed I would have yet. A remedy to this malady (that I often forget to use) is to take time to create perspective. I say create, because it takes effort. I have to retrospectively evaluate and appreciate the things I have accomplished and whether I’m on track.

So here I am, trying to be objective and gain some perspective:

  • In the last six months,
    • Visited San Francisco to celebrate my brother’s birthday and be there for him during a time of need
    • Help pay for my sister to come to Vegas with us
    • Started the process to get approved for my next loan for the next real estate purchase..Just now getting to the point of having enough saved for the next RE purchase
    • Fixed a ton of stuff around the Rental
      • Replaced rental side kitchen with stainless steel appliances
      • Replaced Washer/dryer on Rental side
      • Replaced/repainted mailboxes (which a neighbor promptly ran into)
      • Fixed a mystery roof leak
      • Replaced siding on renter’s side
      • Fixed Backyard Fence
    • Spoke at my mentor’s retirement party – told him thank you (important to me)
    • Enjoyed some activities just for me: Moonlight ride, Ran the Peachtree, Went biking with Ryan/Juan
    • Traveled to New Orleans for 2 day food tour
    • Went to New Orleans for Mardi Gras
    • Spoke at Snpha (Gave great talk to an organization on campus)
    • Invested in my appearance/upgraded my wardrobe
    • Came to peace with driving my older car (~300k miles on her now!)
    • Discovered I’m a foodie and that my stomach is actually capable of amazing feats of storage.

Listing the events of the last six months has given me a new perspective on the time that just a couple of days ago I would have called “wasted time”. I’m realizing that this down time is actually been more meaningful than the days that are marked by successfully achieved goals.

This downtime has given me the space to enjoy life. To take a moment before diving headfirst into the next goal which is surely peeking its head around the proverbial corner.

If you are in a season where it seems like not much is happening, and your type-A personality is rebelling. I would recommend you lean back and enjoy it.

Life is short. Take a day off.

Fly or Fall

OFO

 

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July. (In praise of being last)

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I caught myself in a lie earlier today.

I was speaking the lie with so much passion that the only reason I realized it was a lie was the disassembling that followed it.

I realized halfway through the explanation around the lie that I was, in fact, lying.

I have a group of friends that I really enjoy hanging with. People who reflect who I want to be in my heart of hearts.  This group of friends are all entrepreneurs. It is, however, apparent whenever we hang out that I am in LAST place. Not that these friends would ever rank who is where, but it is pretty clear (to me) that I am not taking as many risks, and as a result, not experiencing as many entrepreneurial successes.

In fact, I’ve been having the conversation, with many friends that the last 3 years have been a kind of holding pattern for me – entrepreneurially. I haven’t swung for the fences or been willing to adjust to a market that has changed from what I was used to. I haven’t been willing to step outside of my comfort zone.

I’ve distracted myself from the lack of movement by working harder. I started a second job. I picked up crazy hours and exhausted myself, which both made me feel like I was making progress, and prevented me from having enough time to think critically about where I was.

I picked up goals that would only require me to work harder, and not be creative.

It only took me a year to figure out what was wrong.

It didn’t click for me until a friend of mine, mentioned that she was trying to get a family member back on track and that she only had a couple rules. There were a couple rules that she set for them. One was that this family member couldn’t sit at the house all day. The rule that stood out for me was that this family member couldn’t have/invite any friends who were not doing better than them. Her exact quote was that “They have to be at the very bottom of their social scene – everyone they  know needs to be doing better”

As soon as I heard it, I knew that it was a powerful rule and I immediately wanted to ask myself where I was in my social circles.

Today, while hanging with my entrepreneur friends I immediately realized that I was at the bottom of this particular group. And that I was defending my excuses as to why I hadn’t progressed. I realized that I needed to let go of my pride and get clear about where I am.

I also need to use the resources I have to conquer the fears and old habits that have been holding me back. Release my ego and ask for help if necessary and move forward.

Having people around you who inspire you is a piece of advice that we often overlook, because looking for friends who are doing significantly better than you can be an ego-bruiser.

I pray that I don’t slip into using work as an excuse but continue to grow and move towards a life that is more fulfilling.

 

Fly or Fall

 

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Arrows.

myquiver

I’m not certain how to start this post.

Nor am I certain, where I want this post to end up.

Let’s throw some paint on the walls.

This morning I got the opportunity to speak to one of my cousin’s. Now, my cousin’s are as close as I get to having older brothers. I grew up with them, and they remember me before I remember myself.

Our conversation was supposed to center around something I’ve been thinking about lately – Adventure. Adventure is something that’s been whispering to me around corners. Waving at me from the periphery of my vision. Prank calling my heart then hanging up when I take too long to turn towards the phone.

As we were leading up to the pre-specified topic of the conversation, We got waylaid by a foundational issue that I think has to preface any discussion of being able to chase adventure.

“For us, African’s, you know we listen to our parents until someone falls into the grave” – A friend.

This quote from a friend rang true to me the first time I heard it. I’m a first generation naturalized American Citizen. I was born in Jos, Nigeria and moved to America when I was one. I’ve  only spoken English for most of my life. And yet, my worldview in many respects is rooted in Nigeria. Respect for elders was preached right along with the fact that God was watching. However, this respect for elders/parents culture can have some negative effects.

The culture that kids should be “seen and not heard” can lead to (in my experience) a tendency that these kids grow up to believe that their  voice (internal) isn’t important/valid/right.

This may not have been terrible in times where things didn’t change quickly. Innovation isn’t important when going to the factory and getting a job will ensure that you’re able to raise a family and take care of your responsibilities. This invalidation of children’s –>adults internal dialogue/voice is dangerous when we inhabit a world that is changing quickly.

Some Parents, for all their good intentions, are not built for the future. Their job, in many cases is to become stable launch pads to vault their children into the future.

My generation found this out when we listened wholeheartedly to the advice that “College is the only way to a stable future” and found that the job market isn’t as enamored of college degrees as our parents were. Some of us discovered this when we watched our parents, who espoused the stability of real estate, get dragged down by bloated mortgages and houses that were multiples bigger than what they really needed. I’m sure we’ll see more as more of our parents approach retirement with very little in savings.

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Fortunately or unfortunately, growing up often means internalizing the voice of your parents. This can be a great thing when you’re young and may have more testosterone than common sense. This can be a terrible thing when you’re older and have a well-thought out framework that is being short-circuited by old programming given to you by your ultra-conservative christian fundamentalist dad, or racist uncle, or conspiracy theorist mother.

The programming doesn’t have to be super-crazy or extremist. It can be as subtle as “you’re not quite as special as your siblings” or “You’re the middle child, you always have to be peacemaker” or “Your job as oldest is to be responsible for all your other siblings”, or “in our family, we don’t take big risks” or “Just do enough to not get noticed, you don’t do well under pressure”, “you should suppress parts of yourself (culture, sexuality, beliefs) in order make your life more comfortable.

And I’m not saying that you have to throw out everything that your parents ever told you. I’m just saying our parents are there to be our training wheels for the real world. You should examine all parts of the training wheels, keep the spokes that make sense (integrity, faith systems, etc) and throw out the prejudices, fears, and accumulated experiences that don’t match up with reality anymore.

Trust yourself. fly or fall.

OFO


“Behold, children are a gift of the LORD, The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them; They will not be ashamed When they speak with their enemies in the gate.” – Psalm 1127:3-5

 

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It’s People Stupid.

Hello.

You ever feel like your on a merry-go-around and you keep passing a particular face in the crowd over and over?

And the person you keep passing is yourself?

Maybe your best self? The self that you imagine you can  be? I’m hoping on every revolution that I’m getting closer and closer to him.

But, sometimes I’m not certain.

Anyway, what’s the post about?

Just came out of my shell to write another reminder to myself to  make sure that I’m focusing on the right things. I’m struggling to come up for air from another work bender due to some issues with the car that make me think that it’s on its last legs.

As a result, I flew into a tizzy ..working all the hours available this side of the mason-Dixon.

Somewhere right in the midst of reaching my savings goal (so I wouldn’t have to take out a car loan)-  I started to sense that I was off track.

That somehow, someway, I had missed the mark once again.

One day, while toiling away, making steady progress toward my GOAL, I had a thought float to the surface of my brain. “What happens when you reach this goal Okenna?”

I paused. Thought on my feet and answered quickly, “well, duh, I’ll have reached the goal! Then I’ll be …happier, less stressed, more peaceful..right?”

I looked behind me at all the conquered goals and achievements and  milestones and realized that my life has been a hamster wheel of achievement and centered around the pursuit of “excellence”. And that more success had not exactly led to contentment. More money has not always led to a sense of security.

My next question was directed at God. “Ok, God, I get it. If this next purchase/achievement isn’t going to lead to eternal happiness, what should I be putting my energy toward?”

The answer was simple and somewhat surprising.

It’s people, stupid.”

Ok, to be clear, God didn’t call me an idiot. Although, if He did, He wouldn’t have been wrong. Upon reflection, it was very interesting to me that I could have missed the plot for soo long.

I’ve ruminated before how our society makes it easy for us to focus on the trappings  of success and the process of hard work as our “raison d’etre”. Our society rewards a  puritan work ethic and claps for the people who accumulate wealth, no matter what the sacrifices that they’ve had to make. For the first 3 decades of my life, and actually even right this second, work ethic has been a constant that has helped me to overcome tough (immigrant) beginnings, bad decisions (Oh lord, my 20’s), and helped me to build a life that I can be proud of.

More and more I’m realizing that the template set up for me to follow will not lead to long-term happiness. What’s difficult is formulating a template that will work for me.. It’s always more difficult creating something vs. copying, but usually more rewarding.

Fly or Fall.

OFO

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Different Path, Self-Improvement

Ladder’s on the Right Wall

This month has been a very interesting one. One filled with a message that I seem hell-bent on ignoring. I’ve written before about my tendency to use money as a yardstick. This leads to a temptation to bury myself in my work due to it’s easy availability of meaning.

  • Work = Value created for somebody.
  • Work = helping other people
  • Work = More money
  • More money = More Freedom

Work is a win-win-WIN. Until it’s not.

One of my correlated interests due to my obsession with financial freedom is perusing personal finance website and poring over other people’s thoughts on finances, investing, and smart ways to tackle financial planning. As a result I follow a couple people in the blogosphere who pontificate on making smart financial decisions and ways to structure back-door Roth’s or use HSA’s as no-tax retirement accounts.

One of the people I follow was  a young doctor who was in her residency but had managed, through levels of hard work I can’t even begin to imagine, managed to graduate medical school with no debt, purchase a home, and fully fund her retirement while also raising a child. To say I was impressed by her achievements were a understatement. All this was accomplished before her 32nd birthday.

Recently, I learned that she had passed. Possibly (unconfirmed), due to suicide.

For some reason, this death, although I did not know her personally, shook me.

I think, because, she was so far ahead of me in soo many ways. Although, she was younger, I looked up to her. Her work ethic and accomplishments were in many ways- a blueprint for the life I wanted.

So her death (and it’s rumored cause), naturally, threw a monkey wrench into my mental model. The biggest question to be born from it all is, am I living my best life today? If my life was to end today, would I be happy with the way I’ve been spending my days?

I think this has even been on my mind even more due to a couple conversation’s with some people who have known me for  a little while.

  • One conversation with a former roommate. He asked me if I still made music, because he knew how happy it used to make me as a student. I used to get noise complaints weekly (yep – I was that neighbor) because I would spend hours crafting music simply for the joy of creating. My answer to him: No.
  • A friend of mine about a month ago not believing that I made music. Then daring me to create some right that second. I started and lost myself in the process. I looked up an hour later. Happier, although I didn’t earn any money, move forward on any goals, or create value for anyone but me.

It’s really also made me stop and look at the why of why I’m doing the things I’m doing. The last couple of months I’ve been working extra because my car was acting up in late December. I threw myself into work in order to be able to buy my next car with cash. However, the closer I got to my goal, the more tempting it was to move the goal post just a bit further so I could afford a car that was just a bit nicer, had just a bit more horsepower or just a bit nicer rims.

After this event, I started to wonder about the wisdom of working harder to afford a more expensive car, that would mainly serve to shuttle me to work. I was about to willingly  enter into a bit of a nonsensical vicious circle-jerk.

This death, as unfortunate as it was, has helped to pause my automatic decision making. It’s helping me (And I really do struggle) with pausing my knee-jerk reaction to solve problems with more effort, more hours pounding away at a problem, and to take a moment to consider surrendering control to God.

To ponder relaxing and happiness as goals worthy of achievement unto themselves.

To try to re-frame my relationship with money and  work.

“To work to serve. To work to learn. That money is a tool” – DWM

Fly or Fall.

OFO

 

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