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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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Leaves

My regular lawn guy left me high and dry.

One day I went outside and noticed that the lawn was getting taller than usual and that I hadn’t seen my regular lawn guy recently. So I shot him a text. “Just checking in on everything!”

Later that afternoon I got a text informing me that he would no longer be able to service my lawn. I’ll admit, I felt a bit rejected. I quickly recovered and texted my back-up lawn guy (good to have options) and within a couple of weeks my lawn was back in its C+ condition (i need some landscaping done). In the interim, the shrubs had grown considerably so there were a ton of trimmings that had to be left in paper bags by the trash can.

These trimmings, limbs, and general yard waste didn’t bother me the first week they were out on the curb awaiting pick up from the garbage guys. Or the second. But by the third week, I was irritated by the sight of these three bags that were apparently invisible to the weekly garbage truck.

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But, God wanted to give me a chance at redemption. It just happens that around week three, the electric company decided to do the yearly tree trimming for the power lines. They left a ton of limbs on my front yard on the first day of trimming. I was hopeful, but dubious. The new trimmings had bright green leaves, and looked as if they were still alive. It looked like they could just be sewn back onto the tree and they’d be back to exchanging carbon dioxide for oxygen like they never stopped.

My bags of trimmings were old. Yellow and haggard, they wouldn’t fool the electric company’s tree disposal guys. They’d take one look at my trimmings and leave the three mounds of sticks and leaves right where they found them, i thought to myself. So I waited. By the middle of day one, the new electric company limbs were looking weathered. I left for work and returned. The next day I awoke early to take a glance at the front yard.

I was surprised by what I saw.

Just a couple of hours separated from the tree and the limbs were looking more like my old trimmings than they looked like the new trimmings that they were. I had to run to work so I didn’t have a chance to dump my trimmings onto the electric company’s. I decided I would do it once I returned. I was encouraged that upon my return, the electric company’s trimmings were just about indistinguishable from my almost month-old trimmings. I decided to do one more errand before I got down to the hot work of opening up my yard waste bags and dumping them on top of the electric companies.

Much to my chagrin, the sneaky electric company snuck in and got rid of them while I was celebrating the success of my master plan before its completion. smh.

However, as I was lamenting the failure of my leaf disposal plan and even more so my inability to act on the plan, something hit me. I realized that the lesson, wasn’t a lesson about acting fast. It wasn’t even a lesson about keeping other people accountable. The lesson was about connection.

In the last couple of weeks I’ve been disconnected. Anyone who has known me for any amount of time could probably tell you that work is my drug. Self-improvement is my crack-cocaine. The quest for perfection is my idol & money is one of my favorite mile markers.

I’m in a constant battle with myself to pull back on my natural tendency towards being a workaholic and making sure that I’m investing in my relationships.

And I’ve been on a work-binge the last couple of weeks. A 60-hour-a-week bender.

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I was working 10-12 hours every day until my body started to protest and came down with a sinus infection. I realized that I had, on-accidentally-purpose, edged God and other people out of my life. Unfortunately in America, edging people out is easy. American culture is founded upon the idea that work is good, and Hard Work is Holy. The hustle is our nation’s real pledge of allegiance. I found it easy to hand out the excuse that “I’m working, sorry, can’t talk now” or “Busy at work, I probably won’t be able to make the baptism”.

People don’t really push back against that.

But the truth is over-work is just as harmful as other drugs. It’s symptoms are less clear because it’s benefits are so apparent. Bigger bank accounts seem to outweigh empty relationships in the short-term. And fancy titles and promotions seem so much more tangible than time spent with people you care about. For these reasons,  over-work can be insidious.

The episode with the yard trimmings made me realize that the same way limbs died when they were cut off from the roots that fed them, I was letting certain parts of myself and certain relationships die by scheduling myself into the ground.

Soon afterward, I made the decision to reconnect with the source that feeds me (God) and make sure that I was investing in other people and the relationships that feed me.

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Life is short. Work can’t be priority #1.

Here’s to better balance.

Fly or Fall

OFO

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