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
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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

 

Positive Reinforcement.

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Atl. 

One of the things that I’m currently trying to figure out is how to engineer my daily practices especially around my work routines. 

My job is relatively low-stress. I’ve been in my current position for going on 3 years?

I can pretty much predict what a day will look like. I’m feeling like this day-in day-out monotony is creating rust when I should probably be learning more and producing more. 

Maybe this is a symptom of a bigger workaholic issue but I don’t think it is. I think I’m perhaps looking for more consistent ways to create meaning in my day to day experience. 

One of the things I want to do is commit to doing something productive daily.  I know that one of the reasons I haven’t seen the acceleration I want to in my life is that I’m not as consistent as I should be. 

So I’m going to commit to the D1TQD (Do 1 Thing every day (QD)) plan for 7 days, then I’ll report back on what I did each day and report back as to whether it was helpful as far as moving me forward. 

In the past when I would try these types of challenges, I think I would over-commit to very long time frames and inevitably fall short and beat myself up. This negative reinforcement does less than nothing for my motivation to try again or to experiment. I’m realizing I need to experiment and possibly fail more in order for me to find my way to my next level. A big portion of being able to do this is discarding my tendency toward perfectionism. 

I might have to learn to get more comfortable with a low level of chaos in order to learn which brush strokes are art and which are mistakes. 

Sometimes falling is flying. 

OFO

 

Stranger in a Strange Land

Fog.

I’m an immigrant. 

1st generation. 

But not the obvious kind. You’d be hard pressed to identify me in a crowd of Americans as someone who was born in another country. 

I don’t pronounce words with any discernible lilt or lisp. My clothing is more along the lines of a GAP ad than what you would find at your local international farmer’s market. 

I spent my formative years in America, and could talk more about the Kardashian’s rise to fame than I could perhaps elucidate on the post-war post-independence condition of my fatherland. 

With all of that being said..

The cultural thumbprints of “home” linger. 

I see it in the difficulty I have navigating some of the culture of 2018 America. Being African means that I didn’t have to deal with some of the baggage that African-American’s had to deal with. This can lead to confusion when I look at my path and compare it to theirs.  

I see it in my struggle with dating. Trying to find someone who understands my unique history and the views I have is somewhat more difficult for people who have not had the immigrant experience. 

Trying to figure out what aspects of my culture are helpful and should be kept and what aspects can be modulated and mixed with more progressive viewpoints is mildly annoying. I try to use a rational framework to decide what to keep vs. throw away. It’s not always an easy task. I think respect for elders translates well across all cultures, but there are other features that don’t make the transatlantic trip as easy. 

What’s even more difficult is that you’ve been raised in a place that automatically separates you from your home country via distance. You are not in the strictest senses African and yet, not quite American. You spend a good portion of your life, feeling a bit like an outsider in both groups. Each group has a claim to your heart but neither seem to allow you a perfect fit. There is always the faint reminder that “s/he’s not really one of us.”

And maybe, this is more a personal, but I suspect that it is the same for all immigrants who emigrate at a young age. 

There are of course, choices that can be made to ameliorate these issues. The most common is to fully adopt the culture of your new home. This is probably the most commonly chosen for those of us who arrive in America at an early age.

Because truthfully, it’s easiest to adapt when you are young. You can disguise or destroy any accent you have. You can adopt the slang, mannerisms, clothing styles, and learn what the social cues and practices are. Often because you’ve made an (unconscious) study of the new culture you’ll understand the unwritten rules in a way that even natives don’t quite grasp. 

The problem is that you’ll have something to compare the new culture to. You’ll grasp the hypocrisies and see the places where your new home falls short. You’ll be bewildered as to why your new home does things the way that they do. And when you go back to your fatherland, you’ll see the inefficiencies and foibles that live there. 

Being an immigrant, I think, is a good place for an introvert. You get to live in two different worlds at the same time. It is as close to as super power as I think I’ll ever get.


“The truth is, immigrants tend to be more American than people born here.” 
― Chuck Palahniuk, 

Choke