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My favorite thing today.

Subject: File No. 10-222
From: Danny Mulson
Affiliation: 8th Grade Student

December 15, 2015

Dear SEC,
I am a future stock investor, currently in the 8th grade at Aberdeen Middle School in Wetlawn Oregon. I whole heartily approve of the IEX plan to slow down trading.

Things move too fast in this world and we need to slow it down in every way we can. Take my school for instance. When we stand in line to pay for our lunch, we have two cashiers to pick from. There is Mr. Fields, who was recently fired from a data entry job. I heard he made some creepy comments to one of his female co-workers. But that isn’t important. Mr. Fields can work that cash register like nobodies business. Even when twice as long, most kids will get in Mr. Fields line. Me, on the other hand. I prefer to get in Josephine’s line. She used to work at the DMV before failing a drug test. I always get in her line. Sure, it takes me much longer, but she will always give me a compliment and ask me about my day.

In conclusion, IEX should be rewarded for slowing everything down and moving things backward. Cause backwards is awesome

Thank you for your time.

[source: https://www.sec.gov/comments/10-222/10222-274.htm]

And the response from a classmate:

Subject: File No. 10-222
From: Emma Hibernia
Affiliation: Aberdeen Middle School

December 23, 2015

Dear SEC:

I saw that letter Danny Mulson wrote to you. The Whole School Saw It. You need to know that Danny Mulson NEVER tells you everything he just tells you what HE wants you to know.

….

And Mr. Fields is creepy too just like Danny said but he didn’t tell you everything at all. Mr. Fields got the cafeteria manager to make the GIRLS go down one ramp to the registers and the BOYS go down another ramp and the girls ramp is LOWER so instead of looking at us at eye level he gets to look down at us. Do you get what I mean?? So we complained to the cafeteria managers and they said it makes everything BETTER? And even though I begged her NOT TO my mother complained to the school board and they said they would put it on the agenda for like some meeting a gillion years from now after they talked about parking and everybody is already DEAD.

Very truly yours,

Emma

https://www.sec.gov/comments/10-222/10222-275.htm

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Navel-Gazing..

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Oh 2017. What an interesting year. And I say “interesting” with the same tone of voice that your disapproving aunt mentions your drummer boyfriend.

I’m starting the process of doing a retrospective of the past year and to be honest I’m having a hard time putting a name to the theme of 2017. If I had to (at least right now) I’d probably say the theme of the year was “wandering”. Not quite so bewildered as to be considered lost but definitely not focused in the way that I would need to be to achieve the kind of precise and momentum building type of accomplishments that I would have liked to.

This year felt a bit like splashing a lot of paint on the wall. Some things that I thought I would love  – I grew bored of. The things that I’m most proud of are of course the things that required the most from me. The things that really made me happy had less to do with goals and success and more to do with long standing relationships and being able to spend down time relaxing. Either I’m getting old or more mature.

One of  the problems I think I’m running into is that for so long, I have defined my happiness according to the size or difficulty of the accomplishments I’ve been able to conquer. I can’t decide if my lassitude is caused by me not choosing big enough goals and being more aggressive about them this year or if I need to the opposite and find meaning in something other than goal pursuit.

One thing that has been on my mind has been finding a way to re-define myself and pursue goals in fields that are more artistic and require more faith.

I feel the hands of time turning faster and faster on me. I see my parents and co-workers getting older and know that means time must also be working its deadly magic on me. This makes me sometimes break into a cold sweat – the fact that I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

What’s interesting is that even though I feel the hands of time bearing down upon me, I’m starting to understand that the only way I’ll find true success and forward movement is if I narrow my focus and choose one or two significant projects (at max) and pour myself into them.

I’m pondering what those goals will be. How does one narrow one’s focus enough to make an impact? What level of sacrifice am I willing to make to see my dreams come true? A deep relationship with my children? A marriage?

How does one decide what to focus on? Or is this constant reassessing an artifact of my personality type (INTJ)?

To be honest my feelings about 2017 vacillate between satisfaction and frustration. I’m happy with the turn toward self-care 2017 took. Sometime during the year I realized that money in and of itself is pretty useless for me. Having enough money to pursue the goals that stimulate me and move me towards my dreams and passions makes the money meaningful. Seth Godin mentions this often. About how money is a story. And that once we’ve reached the point of “enough” money from that point forward is a story that we are telling ourselves. Oft-mentioned research notes that $70,000 is number at which money stops affecting our happiness.  I’m often asking myself the question “are there any ways in which money can improve my present or future happiness”?  And not being afraid of releasing the money in order to improve my happiness.

I’m thinking that 2018 has to be focused on buckling down and focusing on creating the future that I imagine. I’m thinking that 2018 will be focused on stretching myself to the edge of my comfort zone in order to grow into the person I dream of. This may mean long hours, focusing on goals, and maybe allowing people to get closer than they have in the past.

I think that I’m going to end my rambling now. Here’s to figuring it out.

-OFO

 

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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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