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Audit Your Life.

The last month or so has been interesting for me.

I’ve been fighting this overwhelming feeling of ennui. There has been little no spark, no excitement and even less drive to move toward the things that traditionally would excite me.

This is very much out of the ordinary for me. I wasn’t quite sure what to do about it. I vibrated/bouncing around trying different things to figure out what the blockage was. Was I depressed? Did I lose my lust for life somewhere? Had I reached the peak of my life and it was now all just downhill for me?

I was stumped.

The breakthrough came a couple days ago after a conversation with my little sister. She played the role of my spiritual advisor and was able to give me some practical suggestions which I jotted down in my google calendar as I talked to her in the car at a red light.

Rest. Yoga. Nature. Remove the pressure – stop judging yourself. Take the pressure off. Try to be still. Put [your] hands over [your] heart and breathe into [your] heart…then talk to my heart..with gratitude speak to your heart. Don’t rush. set your intention for the day – asking for whatever it is you need.

Just some background on me: I’m not the biggest fan of anything that can’t be tested empirically. Things that don’t make sense to me in an analytical frame of mind I often “poo-poo” and dismiss as unworthy of consideration.

However…I was desperate. I knew I was unhappy but wasn’t sure why. Financially things were going well. I was finally learning that money’s utility was limited when it came to creating happiness. I was letting go of my tight grip on my budget and focusing more on creating the experiences that I valued. Relationally I had (maybe too many) options.

But, I was willing to try just about anything. And I had read studies where the value of walking outdoors was demonstrated on things like depression.

So I got serious about taking my sister’s advice. I rested. I took walks in nature, allowing my mind to get lost in the sounds of the creek and the bounce of the suspension bridge.

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I breathed into my heart and asked for clarity. I stopped making judgements about where I was and tried to be more present.

And weirdly enough, I started to feel better.

I realized there were some areas of friction in my life that I had the power to address, but that they would just require courage.

I realized there some relationships that needed to end. Some just needed to be adjusted to fit where I was currently and that I needed to have faith in my vision for my life. Just realizing that I had the power to say no to things that were taking up space and persisting  because of a type of life situational inertia was super liberating.

We don’t have to acquiesce to the status quo. We don’t have to do things the way that we’ve done them for the last week, month, year, decade. We can change. It may not happen overnight but with time, focus, and attention we can prune out the things that don’t make us ecstatic and become more focused on enriching the areas that do.

Get active about creating the life you want to see yourself lead.

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.

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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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The Same Answer

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So this is going to be more a brain dump than a legitimate blog post.

I’ve been spinning in circles for the last couple weeks. In true overthinker fashion, I’ve been struggling with the question of working hard and balance. I was kicking this idea around with my accountability partner/good friend over a 5am phone call and we had a watershed moment.

Midway through the conversation we stumbled across a couple thoughts that (for good  or for bad) will be guiding light when this question comes up again in the future. Which, knowing myself, will likely happen.

The last couple weeks, as I’ve noted, I’ve been working like I was trying to pay off all my student loans in a month. This has meant 17-18 hour days. 5am calls with accountability partners. Working 3 weekends out of the month. (#Humblebragging) Basically being at work every time I opened my eyes. I thought I was being disciplined. I wanted certain things at a certain time and, by golly, I was going to make sure that I did everything I could to make sure that these goals got accomplished.

I would struggle with myself whenever I would feel tired or want to sleep in. Reminding myself that Hard Work is what successful people did. That applying myself now would lead to greater rewards in the future. I would wake up bleary-eyed. My eyes would sometimes lose focus and I would find myself making mistakes that I wouldn’t normally. I was burning the candle from both ends.

Using up all the midnight oil. Buckling down. Busy as a cat on a hot tin roof.

Going the extra mile….(ok, I think I’m done)

During this conversation, I finally asked myself “why”?

“Why was I working so hard? Assuming certain things to be true about my faith:

  • God cares about me.
  • God can & will provide
  • God has & will be with me throughout my life

Why was I working my fingers to the bone (found another metaphor for hard work!) when God hadn’t needed my help to accomplish the things that I am most proud of?

The truth was I didn’t trust God.

I didn’t trust God to provide what I thought I needed (when I thought I would need it)

I didn’t trust God.

Isn’t that something? After all this time. All the moments where I knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt that God had my back, that He had come through in the clutch..and I didn’t trust Him for a couple small things that weren’t happening on my timeline.

In the words of Kanye West, “Man, people are funny”…Ok, I don’t think it was Kanye West who came up with that.

Couple verses that came to my attention today, courtesy of a accompanying series that Rick Warren is doing about creating a life of margin.

“It is vain for you to rise up early, tor retire late. To eat the bread of painful labors; for He gives to His beloved even in his sleep.” – Proverbs 127:2

“Better a little with the fear of the Lord than great wealth with turmoil.” – Proverbs 15:16

..

You know why I struggle with this balance?

Because for me this is really a battle between my need for control and admitting that I have none. The answer “Trust God” is very unsatisfying to my analytical, Type-A, Google-calendar checking personality.

And yet..it’s oddly comforting and Free-ing.

God has told me at certain times in my life that I need to “turn up” professionally. Work 2 jobs, wake up early, and go to bed late. And He’s always provided the strength for those times. As well as the job’s or business opportunities.

I guess I just need to let go of my need to control and KNOW and just trust Him to direct me when the time is right.

..Here’s to letting go of control (and trying to let it stay let go of)

Fly or Fall.

OFO

 

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The Same Question

So.

A couple of weeks ago, I was talking to a cousin of mine who read a blog post. She noted that she had read a recent post, then scrolled to a random post a couple years back and noticed that the content had been pretty similar.

I was struggling with the same thing I had been struggling with.

I had come to the same conclusions that I had realized back then.

And finally,

had written a blog post that summarized my learning and memorialized my wisdom from the whole experience.

Unfortunately. I must have forgotten it. (smh), because years later, here I was – re-learning, re-conquering, and re-writing about it.

I wonder if anyone else has similar struggles? Anyway, I was reading my new favorite blog post (and perhaps blogger) of now-time: (http://www.joshuakennon.com/one-of-the-most-important-lessons-about-life-and-making-money-you-can-ever-learn/)  and re-realized a lesson that I often forget.

Money is a tool. A mile-marker. An accessory to helping you live a good life. Trading your life for money is nonsensical.

So why do I forget this? How do I forget this? How can I make sure that I remember it?

First..How do I forget it?

Tunnel Vision. This year I read an amazing book by Gary Keller called “The One Thing”. This book’s main premise was that we needed to think deeply about the myriad goals we have in life, business, and personally. We should take stock of all the different goals we have and think very carefully before focusing on one priority.

It’s a great book. A great idea.

Couple that thought with my newfound infatuation with the teaching’s of one Gary Vaynerchuk. He is a disciple of the work-hard philosophy. It’s one that I am also an apostle of; but recently he made me ask myself, if I could work harder?

And the question that has haunted me for the last couple of weeks has been: What would your life look like if you had decided to work hard earlier  in my life?

“What if instead of goofing off in the 9th grade I would have worked hard? Would I have went to Harvard? What if in College I had really applied myself? What if I had conquered my fears and bought a investment property to live in during school in Macon? If I had worked harder academically would I have gotten into medical school? Would I be an anesthesiologist now? What if I had double majored in college or pharmacy school and gotten an MBA? What if I discovered my love of business earlier? What if I explored the limits of my capacity earlier? What if I started blogging earlier?”

Do you see how this question can lead to a rabbit hole of regret?

How it can lead you almost unbidden to a (possibly mistaken) belief that if I just work  a LITTLE harder right now, I can be in a better place later on?

On the other side of that temptation to work nauseatingly hard is the thought that I should enjoy the moment. That I could die at any moment. That 20 years down the road isn’t promised to me. That the only guarantee that I have is the present moment.

I think I just have to remind myself that (1) God is good (2) I’m ok. Just as I am. with just the amount of work that I decided to put in.

Work hard. Enjoy Today.

For me, this is often easier said than done.

Fly or fall.

OFO

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