The past 34 years have been mostly- blessed. Statistically and qualitatively I’d say I’ve probably won the lottery in at least a couple different realms. However, one thing that I’ve never been really great at – and possibly as a consequence one reason I’ve never been really GREAT is consistency. As the seconds gather behind me, I can’t help but notice the importance of perseverance, grit, and stick-to-it-ness.
I’m sure I can’t renovate my whole life in 30 days. But I’m going to try to start with one habit that hopefully will spread to other areas of my life.
I’m going to try to be consistent in writing.
I enjoy writing.
I enjoy thinking and looking for new ways to look at the world and how I’m moving through it.
I know I need to improve my consistency. I’m hoping this will be the vehicle. My posts may not make sense, they may be random, and repetitive, but I’m hoping they will teach me and keep me accountable as I journey toward a better self.
Hopefully this bleed into ..my fitness, my finances, and my relationships.
Being in a relationship can sometimes be an eye-opening experience.
At it’s base level there is a element of two realities clashing. The way one person see’s the world is interacting on a day-to-day level with the way the other person sees the world.
Toothpaste squeezed from the top is neither good or bad.
However, in one person’s reality – it’s a major offense. For the other partner – it’s not even noticeable.
What one partner doesn’t notice, the other partner is disturbed by and given enough occurrences this partner then potentially considers ending the whole relationship.
How do you fix the discrepancies?
“Communication” is key they say.
But what about when the differences are more than skin deep or trivial practicalities. What about when differences are cultural, or things that you were raised with?
Sometimes it’s not until your years-deep in a relationship that you realize that you and your partner have some fundamental differences in the way that you view the world.
If you can’t agree on what the world looks like, how can you navigate it together?
“Can two walk together, except they are agreed?” – Amos 3:3
Relationships can also make you question the validity of your own feelings. Are you unhappy because of a history of independence and not being used to having to compromise? In which case you should probably learn to be uncomfortable until you remember how to sacrifice.
Or is this a real red-flag that is trying to save you from hurt feelings and wasted time down the road?
When emotions are inflamed/involved, how are you supposed to know what is real and what isn’t?
Is there a person who I can’t possibly leave?
Looking back there were definitely people who it hurt me to leave.
When I’m not given enough alone time, I overwhelmingly feel relief when the opportunity to not hang out comes up.
Because I’m of the avoidant attachment category, I require large amounts of free time otherwise I end up feeling smothered.
One way to reclaim responsibility for my happiness is to ask for and make space for myself. To a allow other people the opportunity to respond to my requests and sacrifice for me.
If I need alone time, communicate and take it.
Visualize and think about what you want from a relationship, week to week, day to day and what the most successful relationships in your past felt like. What do you need? What do you want? where can you not compromise?
This week I got the opportunity to volunteer at a local church during vacation bible school. This was an all week vacation bible school that allowed parents a break and was targeted at both at-risk youth and neighborhood children.
I was only able to volunteer two days out of the five day camp but a couple hours into the first day I was texting a friend and telling her that this was the “best thing I had done all week”. I meant it. I had spent the previous part of the week working at two different hospitals, and while I enjoyed helping patients via my day to day activities, I felt a totally different type of reward from this.
The kids ranged in age from 4 year olds to 4th graders. And I loved them all.
We had bad kids (who weren’t really bad) but who had parents who didn’t reinforce boundaries or teach discipline and it really put my life into perspective. The bad kids were the kids that I was drawn to, because often they are victims of circumstance. Their parents were not prepared – financially, emotionally, or mentally for the responsiblity of having children. As a result the children suffer. They are stuck in a situation outside of their choosing and having to learn the rules for societies and success that their parents may never have entered.
It all got me to to thinking about my current focus. A little less than a month ago I stumbled upon a discovery that will save me a good sum of money every month, with no extra work, but just by making a couple adjustments to my student loan payment plan. That one adjustment will save me near the amount of money that I was hoping to gain from buying an investment property and be able to leave my second job.
I read a bible verse today that brought me up short.
Lord, help me to realize how brief my time on earth will be. Help me to know that I am here but for a moment more. My whole lifetime is no longer than my hand! Proud man! Frail as Breath! A shadow! And all his busy rushing ends in nothing. He heaps up riches for someone else to spend. And so, Lord, my only hope is in you.” – Psalm 39: 4-7
The last couple of days have had me reflecting more and more about my purpose and legacy. One of the reasons for my creating a huge board of exciting life goals for this year was the realization that saving money wasn’t going to significantly increase my happiness and in fact, too much saving was making me miserable.
Thinking about how I’m investing my time now and ways that I can invest more time into the areas of my life bring me more happiness is the overall goal. If I can invest my time into children and change the trajectory of even one child then I’m sure I’d gain more satisfaction from that than owning another property. I’m also certain that If God wants me to own another investment property he will make a way for it to happen.
So, what’s the path forward? I’m not sure.
I’m tempted to think that the path forward is to
Quit the second job.
Become more efficient with my mornings (stick to a miracle morning 5x week)
Volunteer with student (YBM’s) at Church or other volunteer organization.
But I’m not sure. I hope the road will make itself plain going forward.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
..It all started or came into fruition during a conversation with my mother over breakfast. These are one of the favorite parts of my rare day’s off. My mother is an early riser and can usually be found in the kitchen listening to Nigerian worship music whipping up something savory for the family to eat or enjoying a cup of coffee while poring over her morning devotion. I’m the other early riser in the house and so I’ll usually meet her while getting ready to head to the gym or running some errand that requires me to be up and about.
Usually these conversations touch on a familiar array of topics. God, family, When I’m going to get married, finances, and any other recent revelations either of us has experienced. On this particular occasion we happened to discuss money.
So..Money. Me and money have a interesting history.
First, our backstory: I was born to first-generation African parents who came to this country with 1 child (me) and Nigerian work ethic, a smattering of siblings scattered across the southern/western states and a desire for a better life. So needless to say, I had a front row seat to my parents growth from a 2 bedroom apartment on Memorial drive to a much nicer house in the suburbs. However, some of my formative years were spent watching my mom fly financially by the seat-of-her-pants and God’s grace. As a result, there were of course some opportunities that I felt I missed. This gives me a bent toward looking toward money as my security. Which, from what I observe is a common American phenomenon. However, as I struggle to get know God and myself better- I’m realizing (over and over) that Money can’t be my security- it’s not dependable enough. It comes and goes. Courts and politicians can take it away with a squiggle of the pen, illness can steal it, A boss’s ire can strip it away for months. However, making the mental switch from money being priority #1 to God being #1 takes intentional effort and if i’m not careful the love of money is insidious and will stage a coup d’etat in my heart to regain it’s #1 spot.
My current situation: Today I make more money than I’ve made for most of my life. So there is a constant temptation (Which I often I give in to) to put my list of priorities (if I’m honest) in the following order: 1. Work 2. Investments/Creating financial freedom 3. God 4. Family. I have a bad case on most days of prioritizing the gifts over The Giver.
Back to Mom: Somehow we started to discuss money and I bemoaned our family’s seeming inability to gather enough money to cover all our debts/needs/wants. She promptly reminded me of a couple things, and let me in on a secret that I’ve heard before but I guess one that I was finally ripe to internalize. “Your being financially blessed – Its not about you.” Which, can be taken one of two ways. As an insult: “you mean, i’m not as a smart, disciplined, and good-looking as I like to think? My money isn’t a result of God loving me MORE than others?” or as lifting of a burden: “You mean, God might have had a bigger purpose than just satisfaction of my personal desires when he blessed me? Whew, I was worried, because honestly who would worship such an arbitrary God.”
Things to consider: What if it’s bigger than you? What if God gave you money, talent, discipline, intelligence to be used for more than just your personal fulfillment? Conversely, what if those with less than you were not intrinsically worth less but rather serve as a mirror for you; how do you respond to those in need? What stories do you make up about the people who look a little less well-off? Are they all drug-addicts? irresponsible? lazy?
Money, cars, clothes, things. They are a means to an end. With the end being God’s relationship with You. Yes, they are nice, but if you are living with them as your yardstick or measurement of worth then you will always feel unfulfilled. Why? Because these things aren’t designed to fill you. They are designed to temporarily satisfy an appetite. But the thing about appetites is ..they can never be fully satisfied. Don’t believe me? Let’s take your appetite for recognition – not a bad thing, but if you were to think back and count up all the times you’ve been recognized/appreciated what would that number look like? All the times your parent’s nodded at you and said good job? All the trophies, medals, hand shakes, pat’s on the back, congratulation emails, likes on Facebook, mentions on twitter, #winning tags? Could you go the rest of your life without any other recognition? Maybe you say?…if your life was only slated to continue another 24 hours. Right! Appetites are temporarily sated. And oftentimes only partially sated.
So where does that leave us?
In a sentence: Seek God – b/c the outer (physical things) are just tools to either move us closer to God or further away.