2020 In Review

One of the hardest things to do every year – especially with the daily pressures of everyday life is to find time to get a clear view of exactly where you are and where you are heading.

The craziness of the day to day can overwhelm and confuse even the most focused of us and 2020 was nothing if not overwhelming.

For me personally, there were a lot of moving parts – many of them wonderful.

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I’ll start with the major developments:

  • My fiancée sold her house and we lived in a owner-occupant duplex which allowed us to save prodigiously for the many events of 2020.
  • We got married! COVID threw a monkey wrench in our original wedding plans so we decided to pivot and get married in Vegas during the midst of the pandemic.
  • We bought a House! Deciding to keep up with our theme of doing the most- my wife and I decided to close on a house right outside of a major metropolitan city. We managed to get a great rate (2.75%)
  • We got pregnant! We’re expecting a baby girl in May of 2021.

So in summary – we decided to do every possible thing in 2020.

While these big events were definitely monumental on the personal/relationship side of my life – I’m not certain where the rest of my life stands as it relates to the goals I set for 2020.

Major Areas:

  • FINANCIALLY
    • Financially we had a great year – I was able to max out my 401k investments for the year. This was a huge accomplishment as we had a lot of large expenses that occurred this year.
    • My wife sold her house for about 10-15k over asking price and was able to get 27k saved which went towards
    • Purchasing a new home – we moved out of a 875 square feet apartment to our potentially forever home and acquired a new mortgage.
  • SPIRITUALLY
    • I was able to speak twice at church – giving two sermons – one in Newnan Georgia and once at my home church here in Roswell, GA
  • PHYSICALLY
    • This was one of the bright spots – I was able to attend Crossfit courses consistently and as a result I saw significant improvements in my body composition.
      • One of the reasons I think I had success with this particular goal is that the gym I went to really helped me to make new connections with actual people who then were able to hold me accountable. The people at the gym became some of my favorite people and one of the reasons that I was willing to wake up at 6am to head to the gym.
  • CAREER-WISE/ENTREPRENEURSHIP
    • I received above average performance reviews and made many presentations that I feel made, hopefully, a positive impact at work
    • I was able to renovate and successfully rent out the apartment that we left in about a month.
    • I was able to go to a career-specific conference this year that was amazing for my growth – this was great for my understanding of the field that I was in.

All in all, 2020 was a monumental year by any measurement.

I hope 2021 is a good one for us all.

Fly or Fall,

OFO

Pt. 1: On being a new husband.

Hard is interesting word. Like many words its ambition is greater than its ability.

Hard can be used to describe a range of experiences that span the gamut from a math problem to basketball tryouts to childbirth. And as you can imagine, the word hard doesn’t do a good job at the extremes of human experience.

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I find that relationships and marriage specifically have the same problem. Words aren’t really helpful when trying to explain to other people the intricacies of relationships. No matter how articulate you are, it’s hard to properly paint an accurate depiction of the many layers that can exist in the extremes of human relationships.

I’ve been married for ~ 4 months. By no means am I a veteran when it comes to love and marriage. Because of this inexperience and rawness of a new reality, I think it’s important to memorialize my experiences as early as possible before things become so normal that it’s hard to remember the growing pains that accompanied my process.

Just a couple baseline things to get out of the way before I begin.

  1. My wife is wonderful and absolutely one of the best things to happen to me
  2. I got married in my mid-30’s
  3. I believe in God – a god that is personally involved and cares about my day to day experiences.

Ok, with those caveats – which of course will color and influence my worldview I can begin the process of remembering.

First off. If I was talking to a younger version of myself – I would probably try to give him an indications of how to proceed and of how hard marriage can be. I would use phrases that people tried to use to communicate similar things to me:

  • “It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done and also the most rewarding”
  • “Don’t let your expectations of your spouse ruin the reality of your spouse”
  • “Don’t try to change your spouse, Focus on what you can – changing yourself”
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What people forget to add, or can’t because the level of intimacy it would require would take these locker room or office chat’s and turn them into therapist couch confessionals – is that the things that make marriage hard (for me) have nothing to do with logic, or effort, or trying harder.

The things that make marriage hard are intangible and insidious in the most growth-producing way. The pain of having your spouse angry at you for a couple hours is agonizing in a way that nothing else can be. Because this is your one person in the world – and if your emotional make up is tilted toward worrying you can create whole timelines of fabricated endpoints that end up with you divorced because your wife didn’t like the way you put (or didn’t) the trash can bags back.

The weight of “forever” also adds a hefty emotional punch to even the most mundane actions. You can begin to wonder how you’ll deal with a behavior that you used to find charming, but that is now so irritating that you wonder how you’ll make it through the next week, let alone the next 40-60 years.

It’s the strength of these emotions that can lead to wild reactions to small arguments and depending on your “virgo-ness” trying to control or “manage” your spouse.

What no one tells you is that , often the answer in these situations is not to double down on action and planning.

Instead the answer can often found in the opposite course of action.

“Anybody who decides to get married – should hold on lightly to their idea of themselves.”

-Chima Ike. (My cousin)

Often our (read: my) issues with our spouse stem from identity issues or expectations that are deeply rooted inside of ourselves.

Instead of externalizing to your spouse, take a look at the desires inside of your heart that make a certain course of action seem to be the only appropriate one. What experiences have you had that make you so sure that your way is the only way forward?

A question that I’ve found to be helpful when I’m about to enter a discussion is:

“How important is it that I’m right in this particular discussion?”

For me this helps me to contextualize an argument or discussion and remove some of the emotional weight that marriage can tempt me to bring.

The other thing that is helpful is remember that your spouse can be trusted. That they are not out to hurt you nad that the things that they do that do hurt your feelings are not on purpose.

“Don’t ascribe to malice, what can be better considered ignorance” –

Author Unknown (maybe me?)

Giving them grace and remembering that, God is with you and has blessed your coupling (especially if you make sure God was involved in the process previous to jumping the broom) is also helpful. Being conscious of the things that make them great partners and the reasons you chose to be with them is also a helpful tactic when things get stormy.

fly or fall.

OFO

From F.I.R.E. to On Fire.

I grew up in an immigrant household. I have by popular consensus the best mother in the world. My Father was the right amount of disciplinarian to help balance her out.

My immigrant family growing up was/is like a lot of immigrant families.

There was an abundance of love and enough money for all the necessities, coupled with an extreme focus on achievement and “making it”.

The last two decades of my life has been spent trying to make up for the perceived lack in money of my childhood.

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It’s been in many ways a worthwhile pursuit.

The chase led me to pursue an education with a clear return on investment. To a degree path that led to a career that I love but that also paid well and that had room for growth. This chase has led to making sound investments that will continue to (hopefully) pay off for years to come. The desire for wealth has also led to tens of thousands wasted on hard lessons in the school of knocks.

Hare brained schemes, bad investments, bad or incompetent partners, partnerships made out of fear, crooked contractors, and chasing fast returns in the stock market – all of which, incidentally, turn out to be fast tracks to losing money.

Along the way I discovered a movement that helped me to put context around all of my savings and investment efforts.

The F.I.R.E. movement, which stands for Financial independence, retire early, helped to give me words to describe the shining target for my desire to be financial free. Previous to the F.I.R.E. movement all I could say was that I knew there was a world with more options that I could envision but I wasn’t sure of how to get there.

The F.I.R.E. movement isn’t what I’m here to talk about though.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve noticed that the pursuit of a financial endpoint is just not enough. As nice as big deposits are, they are inherently meaningless at some point. They ease discomfort but can’t usher in happiness. They can ward off hunger but never really leads to satisfaction.

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This realization has been growing in tandem with my net worth. I’m nowhere close to the financial goals that I had set for myself but I’m making steady and consistent progress, and lord willing, will arrive there someday. The steady progress in net worth at some point becomes un-linked from a steady growth in happiness.

At that point you have to make a conscious decision to turn your attention from financial goal setting to goals that have inherent meaning and lead to increased happiness.

Nowadays, I’m trying to prioritize seeking fulfillment over paychecks. Now every financial decision has to be run through a decision matrix that balances peace of mind with purpose. I’m less interested in profits without purpose.

I still prize freedom these days. In fact, I treasure the thought of this freedom even more than I did as a younger man because I know that my time grows shorter with every day lived.

I am really working on making the shift from working to be F.I.R.E. to be working on Fire. Filled with purpose and focused on fulfilling the vision that God has for me.

I wish the same for you.

Fly or Fall.

OFO

Stagnant.

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For me, there is no feeling worse than stagnation.

Feeling like I’m not making any progress; like everything i’m doing is ineffective or even worse a waste of time.

Oftentimes when I get into spaces like this, I’m not exactly sure how to shake myself loose. The uncertainty seems to soak down into my pores. My speech becomes halting. My bellowed greetings become mumbled and smiles seem tentative. I start to feel like people can see the insecurities in the furrow of my brow.

In times like these I’m tempted toward extremism. Pushing myself to the limit to see if the pain will awaken me or numbing myself with TV marathons to see if extreme slumber and inactivity will goad me towards normalcy.

Meanwhile all the while I thrash about searching for something to hold on to that will give me something stable to stand upon. Something that will ignite my ambition and refuel my fire.

Usually this is the part of the essay where I reference Jesus. Similarly in my life I try to reference Jesus during these times. Poring over scriptures, listening to gospel, talking to him about my fears.

Something just occurred to me.

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I’m on this fitness journey right? One thing I’ve noticed is that the results of the actions don’t show up at the same time as the action. This is especially the case with food. The past couple of days I ate a lot of gummi bears. Now, nothing really changed in the 30 minutes after I ate except for any hunger I might have had lessened. As a result I ate a couple more gummi bears- enjoying the burst of flavor and the consistency of the fruity candy.

Three days later however, I feel the effects in the heaviness of my body when I try to run at previous paces. The seeds I planted 36 hours ago finally grew their fruit.

Maybe the seeds of these feelings of ineffectiveness were planted many days to weeks ago?

What are the areas where I’m not being obedient to God, and to my best self?

How can I fix those areas of unfaithfulness?

I’ll investigate and report back.

Fly or fall,

OFO

Be careful what you pray for..

The last couple of weeks, a theme that I’ve been running across in my devotional time has been the need to be quiet after praying in order to actually make room for God to speak to us.

To me, theoretically, this made sense.

I mean, in no other conversation in my life do I speak incessantly for a couple minutes then turn around and jet off to do something else.

Every other relationship requires a steady back and forth of ideas, thoughts, hopes, and fears. Only in my relationship with God do I find myself constantly bombarding him with a laundry list of requests, questions, emotional status updates, and then turning on a podcast and wondering why he remains silent.

This week I got the opportunity to travel away from home and my normal routines for a work trip.

Because of the different age groups in the line of work, I found some of the conference to be somewhat isolating. Even worse was when I got back to my lodgings. I found that nothing greeted me at my abode but the sound of a ticking mechanical clock that hung over the double doors to my bedroom.

I can literally hear the seconds march by.

round silver colored wall clock
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This silence filled me with unease at first. It felt unnatural.

Initially, I tried to fill it with social media. That worked for a while. Eventually even the infinite scroll of beautiful places and faces was not novel enough to distract me.

Then I tried Netflix. I made it through a season of an intriguing show or two before I felt boredom and an unsettledness invade my streaming habit.

Eventually I hit the wrong button on the remote and seemingly nixed the TV’s internet connection. My friends were already in bed in a different time zone. The coffee from the conference lingered in my bloodstream, keeping me alert as I watched the minute hand  sweep the roman numerals on the clock face.

I was left alone, awake, and in silence.

Somewhere in this process I realized that I was not just trying to entertain myself – I was  also avoiding, not just silence, but stillness.

I finally capitulated. I pushed my phone away from me. Turned off the television and I laid in the bed and allowed my mind space and time to hear from God.

Discomfort with stillness became more comfortable.

Soon, thoughts bubbled up from somewhere deep inside and led me to tackle and complete a sermon topic that had laid unfinished for longer than I was comfortable with. Even more important than finishing this project was the comfort in knowing that God had been waiting to talk to me.

It was comforting knowing that although He wouldn’t yell above the noise He would always find a way to whisper into the void in my heart. A God-shaped space that is always yearning for something more fulfilling than the newest Netflix original series.

The previous weeks, I had been praying for God to speak to me. Little did I know that He had been speaking to me the whole time. He had probably been praying for me to be quiet enough to hear him. I’m grateful that He forced me to slow down and be quiet, and yes, be uncomfortable until I could discover Him.

I still have some time before the din and noise of regular life resumes.

I’m hoping that I can make the most of the quiet by not making the most of every moment.

Fly or Fall,

OFO

Jeremiah 17:9

The heart is deceitful above all things
and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?

-Jeremiah 17:9

The last couple weeks I’ve seen wild swings in my feelings.

Wild Swings.

people riding on swing rides under gray sky
Photo by Isabelle Taylor on Pexels.com

It’s made me realize that I really don’t know what drives my emotions and even worse, in certain situations, I can’t really trust my emotions.

Fear can hijack my emotions and leave me moving in a direction that I don’t want to simply because I can’t see the underlying motive.

It’s crazy.

What’s been interesting is that in this particular sphere of life, I’m learning to live more on faith. I’m suppressing the voice in my head that seems to be “logical” but is really just fear parading around with my voice.

Instead I’m having to trust God/the Universe to guide me and to take anything out of my path that I don’t need.

I’m thinking that I’m going to try to do more of this conscious living by faith and stop depending so much on the logical part of my brain.

Lord help me.

OFO

Feelin’ Good.

“I heard the lonely howl of a single siren in the distance, like a ostracized coyote on the prowl”

About a week or so ago, I wrote a bit about consistency, and how I struggled with it. Historically, unless I have a burning urge to finish some project, my completion rate on certain “dreams” of mine was abysmally low.

However, the last week has been a weird yet insightful one.

It’s been very purposeful. Almost slow. I’ve written daily which forces me to live a bit more in the present. I’ve been trying to avoid workaholism, and signing up for every shift possible.

I’ve felt a bit more centered overall. It’s been nice.

With the extra time I had to think, I had time to really think about my goals.

I heard a podcast that really gave me perspective on the things I’ve been aiming at. It made me realize that the truth is – I just don’t want those goals bad enough right now. Instead, I’m enjoying the status quo. I also need some downtime in order to cultivate the seeds and soil that my next project will grow out of.

My new goal is to be still enough to hear the voice on the inside as it tries to lead me into the next season of my life. I still believe my vision for my life is still going to come true, the path just might look a bit different than I expected.

Thinking off the top of my head of goals that I might want to add to my to-do list: 

  • Go to therapy for my relationship habits
  • Hire a personal trainer for a year
  • Take a martial art class for 6 months-1 year
  • Travel to All the countries on my original goal list: Ghana, senegal, south africa, SE Asia, etc
  • Figure out what kind of company I’d enjoy running
  • Keep writing

Peace and Blessings, 

OFO

 

Truth Telling

Listened to a podcast that recommended a something that I think I’ll institute.

  1. Taking time to let input circulate in my brain and halting the non-stop intake of information.

I’m an information gathering addict. I love the process of digging into the theory of something. Figuring out how it works and how it should operate. Figuring out what went wrong in case studies and figuring out ways to fix it or make it better.

However, I’m not quite as action focused as I would like to think.

Or maybe I’m not as motivated as I would like to believe.

One quote that stood out to me that struck me between the eyes was from the co-host. He basically said – some of us are stuck in information gathering phase. And we are fooling ourselves by professing to want something that we actually don’t want.

“if you say you want to be a real estate investor and you haven’t made any offers in the last two years – you don’t actually want to be a real estate investor”.

This is something that I need to face head on. Am I searching for something in trying to identify myself as a real estate investor when I’m really not willing to go through the struggles associated with that growth process?

More thinking required.

-OFO

Roosters.

I need to sweep and my broom is broken.

It’s really nobody’s fault either. There was an aggressive rooster, a scared pomeranian and a girlfriend in her boyfriend’s shirt that could all be considered part of the reason that the broom ended up in two pieces.

Sometimes, my life feels that way. Kind of broken. But broken in a specific way.

The broom handle had a screwy end that you would screw into the actual broom. Unfortunately, that’s exactly where the broom broke. So now I have a broom handle with no screw. A broom with a screw top inside of it. Making broth pieces useless.

On the bright side – I wrote today.

It’s a keystone habit that I plan on continuing. 20190315_170430

Sometimes the only way to a better tomorrow is through a today with a broken broom.

Push on.

OFO

Becoming (in your thirties)..

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I think it is interesting how we spend a good portion of our early life (0 years to mid-20’s) in the process of becoming.

From 0-18  society is interested in making sure that we become productive members of society. From 18-24, we have the tailwinds of youth behind us, and mistakes seem to have both lower stakes and an air of youthful indiscretions surrounding them.

From the 25 year on, the world’s expectation of growth is pretty much non-existent. The only applauded areas of growth are relational. Parent’s and potential grandparents  love to ask when they’ll get to hear the sound of little feet running around the house.

As the 30’s approach and responsibilities mount it becomes clear that personal growth is pushed to the back burner as responsibilities mount. This can be a problem for people who sacrificed in their 30’s for stability. Health professional’s I think, fall into this category. You spend your youth learning and preparing for your career and trading large portions of your time for this.

“Do you feel good in your role? If yes, that’s the perfect time for you to experiment with something new, to get out of your comfort zone. This willingness to learn is probably the most important thing for leaders of today and tomorrow.”

Pierre Nanterme

So where does this leave young professionals who spent a good portion of their youth chasing a stable career?

How does fit in self-experimentation, entrepreneurship, after a decade spent chasing stability?

Is huge reinvention possible?

Can you make huge jumps before the responsibilities of family and social expectations tie you down?

How do you find the courage to make those types of shifts?

Stay Tuned

OFO