[*The Appearance of] Integrity

Integrity

A couple of years ago I think I was listening to a sermon by Andy Stanley, where he was talking about the definition of “Integrity”.

I hadn’t taken time to really ever think of Integrity and had assigned it some definition related to virtue and being a person of upstanding person hood.

That is definitely one possible definition.

However, for some reason, this definition didn’t resonate with me. Probably because I’ve run into too many examples of human frailty parading itself as the epitome of moral idealism.  For me, the most interesting (and perhaps attainable) definition was that of wholeness.

Wholeness. Being undivided. Being one.

That to me, resonates, as both achievable for the average human being and yet more  challenging than one would sometimes suspect.

This had been a particular struggle for me. When I was younger I made some decisions that I wasn’t always proud of; sometimes I still struggle with shame and feelings of not being worthy. As a result I had some puzzle pieces of my life that weren’t given quite the same amount of sunlight that I gave to other parts of my life.

How do I integrate the parts of my life that I’m not super proud of? How do I love all parts of me. Even the young, foolish parts? The parts that have burdened me with regrets or responsibilities I couldn’t quite shoulder at the time? How do I move toward a whole Me?

Answering these questions has been the work of the last couple years. I’ve made some progress but I find that there are always new challenges on the road to integration.

One of the areas that I often wonder about is Social Media. How do I use social media to face my fears of being transparent? Do I exhibit my scars, or just expose them when asked? Is social media the place for my soul baring? Isn’t it just a curated presentation of our best selves?

..Just musing..

OFO

Too much Me.

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Dominican Republic

The pursuit of Happiness. A inalienable right in America.

For most of my adult life, I’ve been on a safari for the perfect cocktail of life events, people, and places to create a life that would bolus happiness straight into my veins.

Because I started the son of immigrant parents, I tried to fix the glaring holes first. I remember the pain of wanting certain experiences and knowing that I wouldn’t even ask because my parents were already under financial pressure.

Staring at Bruce Lee and David Carradine and wishing that I could learn martial arts and be safe and able to protect the people I loved. I remember seeing the looks in my parents eyes when they had to say no to my repeated requests.

These feelings morphed into a focus on fixing my financial status and chasing financial freedom. I spent a good portion of my 20s chasing overtime, looking for investments, and saving for rainy days. Even today, I can feel the panic approaching if my bank account drops too much in too short a time period. These feelings were/are not wrong. They were survival skills. They are the fuel for my ambition. They have kept me pushing at times when I didn’t want to continue.

However, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed the falling utility and joy that I’ve found in material success.  Past a certain point, each dollar saved has had less and less of an impact on my happiness. In my early thirties I started to allow myself to demand more utility from my money, and try to use my money to create the experiences and life that I dream of.

I started to realize that money in the bank is practically useless with regards to my happiness.

For a long time, I’d confused the need for safety/financial stability and happiness. It wasn’t’ until I came face to face with my unhappiness and started to ask myself “why so sad batman?” that I was able to unearth some of the issues surrounding money that were affecting me.

But you’ve heard that from me before.

What I’ve newly realized is that too much thinking about the future and the worries that come bundled with trying to plan the un-plannable can lead to unnecessary anxiety.

I’m coming to see that sometimes the best thing I can do for myself is just let go and chase the illogical. To reach for the thing that turns me on.

I’m also starting to see that focusing too much on what I want can be a recipe for disaster. Thinking too much about why “I” must have “my” way is terrible for overall happiness. I’m learning to let go of my desire to be in control and to have my way.

Too much introspection is dangerous. Too much self-focus can lead to unhappiness. Instead .. in these moments I’m learning to see if I can find a way to give some of myself away. To help someone else.

“Who can I be of service to” is the question I must remind myself to ask when I start being to navel-gazey.

FOF,

OFO

 

Bigger than Financial Freedom..

 

F U Money. Wake up and Cake up Money. Freedom Money.

For a good portion of my adult life I’ve been focused on getting to the mythical but oft-talked about land of financial freedom. I’ve consumed blog posts, books, and gone to seminars that are all aimed at getting me to a place where I can live life not ever having to worry about money and cashing checks from investments would be my biggest job responsibility.

I’m not the only one it seems.

There are a lot of personal finance blogs that cater to the idea of financial freedom and helping you to achieve it. I love them all. I love reading about how people who came from not-much are able to focus and create a life of abundance. One of my favorite pastimes is scrolling through the personal finance blogosphere during commutes or downtime.

My financial journey has been an interesting one in that it has shifted and transformed as I’ve gotten older. I started with an extreme focus on expense tracking and organization. Then I started to seek opportunities to improve cash flow by searching for assets worth acquiring. The last couple of years has been somewhat frustrating as opportunities to find have dwindled significantly.

So I read this amazing post from George Tako on Medium..

This post was paradigm shifting for me. It really helped me to come to terms with the emptiness that laid behind my determination to live a life where I imagined living by the beach, drinking Pina coladas and watching checks roll in. Because, first of all, I don’t like Pina Coladas.

Second, do I really want to stop working? No.

The whole point of becoming financially independent was so that I could then, go on to discover the work that I love to do. smh. This is backwards thinking. Why not figure out how to incorporate more and more of the work I love to do into my life now. Why not figure out ways that I can help others and make money today. If I can’t solve this problem today then I must keep attacking this problem until I get to a solution that adds value to both my life and the people I’m serving.

I’m trying to make the shift from wanting the material wealth to wanting the internal changes that acquiring wealth would require from me. I think I want to be a better person. Who knew?

I am a self-improvement addict. I don’t need more money – I just need courage and the self-awareness to keep growing.

I hope to continually craft a work-life that speaks to my soul.

Fly or Fall

OFO

 

[picture from San Francisco Marina Playground]

View at Medium.com

Professor Time..

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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

 

 

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

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

 

While Pulling Carpet..

Why hello! Long time no see! How’s life on your side of the computer screen? Life’s been a whirlwind on my end. I’ll see if I can catch you up with a ‘short and sweet’ update. Memorial Day weekend last year I went to a weekend seminar on Financial Freedom hosted by Gary Johnston. He talked about a myriad of topics – ranging from taxes to real estate, but he also challenged me to look at options I hadn’t previously considered on my path to financial freedom. As a result, I redoubled my efforts toward achieving financial freedom, and more specifically, starting looking for a real estate deal that would move me closer to my goal. So I started talking to mortgage brokers, agents, and started looking at houses that would be good investments. Over the course of several months, I saw pretty houses, ugly houses, and mediocre houses, but I didn’t really fall in love with any one property. Until..I saw a duplex fixer upper in a great neighborhood. It didn’t look like much at the outset, but it’s potential (to me) was as clear as the hope diamond.

Some of the things I liked about it:  

1. It was a duplex in a good neighborhood – right down the street from my favorite coffee shop. The duplex would allow me to live in one unit and have the tenants in the other side pay off a good portion of the mortgage.

2. It was right down the street from my favorite coffee shop. This shop served a mean vanilla cappuccino.

Also..It was near a coffee shop that I liked to support. (They also served my favorite beer: St. Benardis)

The building itself definitely needed some work..The roof needed replacing, the yard was 80-120% weeds, there were holes in the walls, water spots on the ceilings, and the iron support columns for the front stairs were not grounded in concrete. [Yikes!] But it wasn’t so much work that it discouraged me.

After seeing the property online, I immediately emailed my agent to schedule a viewing.

My Realtor and I were scheduled to see the duplex the day AFTER I saw it come on the market, but unfortunately someone made an offer and just like that, the duplex was off the market.  For what I thought was forever. I was bummed to say the least. I ate Ben & Jerry’s Moose Tracks in pajama’s, spent hours watching old episodes of Property Brothers, and drove by the property while blasting the same song that John Cusack played in Say Anything.

Me After the House was put under contract.

I went out and saw other houses, but it was kinda like dating after you’ve been with Beyonce, or right after a broken heart. No matter how cute, the other houses just didn’t do it for me.

Luckily for my real estate love life, the previous buyer got tired of how slow the bank was moving (it was a foreclosure) and decided to pull out. Which, via a series of strangely fortuitous events (Thank You Jesus), allowed me to slide in with an offer the day after it was put back on the market.

I’ll fill you in on more about the duplex later, but one particular thought hit me as I was doing some work on the duplex late one night. On this particular night I was trying to rip up two rooms of carpet and padding, in order to throw it away in the dumpster that was there for the trash from tearing off the old roof. Not the most fun work. In fact, because of how the type of staples the previous owner/handyman used it was downright frustrating.

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There came a point where I attempting to roll up the carpet and doing mental calculations and visualization techniques as I was trying to figure out how to get the unwieldy, heavy carpet  off the floor and through the narrow doorways and into the dumpster at the bottom of two flights of steps (see picture above) I tried tugging it one way, experienced some resistance, decided to try it another corner, and when that wasn’t any easier tried grabbing it from the middle. No one ways was really working great.

At some point, I realized I was bullshi**ing.

I realized that no matter what method I tried, it wasn’t going to be easy. In fact, it was going to suck no matter what.  I realized that the most important thing at this point was horsepower, not mental agility. After that realization I gritted my teeth, lifted from my legs and pummeled the two rooms of carpet and padding through the doorways, out the exterior door, down the steps and finally down and into the dumpster.

It made me wonder about what else I’ve been BS’ing about. What else have I been trying to ‘figure out’ instead of just powering through. I started to wonder what my life would look like in certain areas – If instead of giving 25% in order to see if the idea is sound, I gave 110% and adjusted only as I encountered true resistance, not ordinary difficulties.

Going to try my best to keep that in mind as I keep trucking.

Fly or Fall.

OFO