Sunday, March 12, 2017

How to Have a BIG WIN Year (Or What I Learned in 2016)

First of all, big breakthroughs are precipitated by years of hard work and developing good habits. None of it happens by chance. I live with the intention to be better than I was yesterday, to learn from every situation, and to mature into the best possible version of myself. This is the basis of my beliefs and actions. So even when I seem to make drastic changes to my beliefs and actions, the underlying motivation remains constant (someone needed to hear that).

At the end of last year, I decided to engage people. That was it. I decided to have a people-centric year. I set the intentions of (1) more effectively and consistently serving the ones I love, and (2) forming more meaningful connections with people of like passions. The result was a BIG WIN year. Here are the principles that stood out most:

1. Spend time with people you love and who love you. 

I spent 2016 giving more TIME to people whose company infused me with energy, who I was sure genuinely cared for me, who consistently made time for me, and with whom I shared similar passions and interests. I just gave them the lion's share of my time and consistently chose to be with them. The result was that I spent less time with people who didn't meet that criteria, and had many more moments of joy and genuine connection, and much less awkwardness, discomfort and angst. I had unwittingly found and chosen to be with MY TRIBE! These were the people to whom and with whom I truly belonged. It gave me loads of energy and encouragement and peace. There was less dissent and doubt and fear. These people believed with me and sometimes FOR me, and pushed me when I was just drained and exhausted, because they love me (for real reals).

2. Look for connection.

This is so important. I chose to just trust my gut and go after the people with whom I felt deep connections. It worked. I would go to events, talk with lots of people, and follow up closely with the ones with whom I'd felt some kind of spark. I ended up making lots of new friends with whom I share plenty of common interest. And I ended up strengthening relationships that had been casual for years. I found people I could help, and who could help me, and who were running in the same direction as me and were willing to join me on the journey. My people knowledge database expanded drastically in one short year. It was great!

3. Do what you love.

Because it's your life, and if you don't enjoy it, who will? I just threw out the burdensome, tedious tasks I had felt obligated to do and, as often as I could, did the things I was really interested in and excited about. I went to more art exhibits, book readings and launches, parties, self-improvement seminars, dance concerts - anything I already knew I loved to do that filled me with zest and joy, I pursued that. The result was more connections with people of like passion, and plenty bliss. Pure bliss.

4. Express self less and listen more.

When I made the decision to engage people more, I chose to be an active listener and encourager. My focus became: 'how can I be present for this person right now?' I made serving others a priority, and I learned something from that: people want to be heard. Often, lunch and a listening ear was all it took to turn a casual friendship into something more solid and intimate. I just listened and let them know that I really cared (because I really did). That was a definite game-changer. People appreciate honesty and genuine concern. But if you think about it, of course they do! We all want that.

Listening more also gave me many nuggets and insights that I had missed before. I re-learnt a lot of my friends last year. I heard them. You can't become a better listener without also becoming more observant overall. So I picked up on certain cues and expressions. I heard the story beneath the words. And I learned to appreciate these people, and love them so much more.

5. Learn to let go.

I didn't realise it at the time, but deciding to more actively engage people I felt strong connections to automatically meant less engagement with those I didn't. Some friendships just faded. When I went after connection, I realised how many people were sorta just there ... in my life because I had picked them up at some point, and they just kinda stuck over the years. We no longer shared common interests or passions, we just had common history. But this history was no longer relevant to where or who I was. And I had to learn to let those go. When a friendship no longer has a certain kind of intensity, allow it to become casual. Don't be afraid to let go of the people you've known all your life who you no longer relate to. If you've grown apart, admit it, love them, but don't stress about it. Allow the relationship to grow where it's growing. Don't see it as loss. See it as evolving.

6. Get the good exhausted. 

The kind of exhaustion that comes from doing so much of something you love with people you love and thoroughly enjoy, that you are just all worn out. What's the point of agonising over things that do not serve you at all? Why get tired doing things you despise with people you really don't belong with? Find your tribe. Find your passion. And then go for it with all you've got. Take the risk. Work superhard! And get the exhaustion that fills you with joy and satisfaction and fulfillment. Get the good exhausted.

Monday, February 20, 2017

SIGMA RUN 2017

I use the Sagicor SIGMA Run to gage my aging process each year. My time, how I feel when I'm running, how many young whippersnappers breeze past me ... All of these are the non-scientific indicators I use to determine whether or not my body is still up to the fitness challenge.

This year, I saw a proliferation of tiny primary schoolers whizzing past me, my calves were on fire, my stomach was churning bile, my breathing was very halted, and I felt like a very tired 50. Meanwhile, some little upstarts were just blazing past me with all their hype and energy, and I realised that my not-yet-30-year-old body was threatening to jump into the nearest AmbuCare ambulance and just stay put.

A thought occurred to me this year, though, that had me chuckling and crafting a poem in my head while I walk-ran. It was after seeing a madman standing on the side of the road watching the passers by, and the women in particular. He inspired this poem:


SIGMA 2017

Mad man standing at half mast
Eyes bump-a-bumping
To rhythmic rotund rumps
Jouncing down the street
Drumming time

To the patter of running feet

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Is it time to get a life coach?



I'm considering getting life coaching for 2017. Partly because I'm curious to see how that works first-hand, and partly because I think I would really benefit from it. I'm already driven and determined and pretty disciplined ... but the mantra for 2017 is DOUBLE EVERYTHING, so I need to double my energy, effort and impact. Life coaching can probably help with that.

What made me start to consider life coaching as more than just a fleeting fantasy was the fact that I met a phenomenal friend online. (Yes. I do that. I have met great people online: awesome movers and shakers who are also wellsprings of wisdom and knowledge about a variety of things that matter to me in life.) I find like-minded and like-spirited people wherever they are. And I embrace them and the roles they play for however long in my journey. Sometimes the meeting is fleeting - an ephemeral connection. And sometimes ... sometimes the connections stick and those strangers become friends. Long-distance friends, yes. But still, friends.

This one woman has been dropping emails in my inbox for years now, freely sharing about her life and her journey. I usually drop her a one-liner or so in response. But some time earlier this year, I made the decision to actively engage the people to whom I feel a genuine attraction/connection. (I should do a post about how that one decision, consistently applied to every new relationship, has transformed almost every single aspect of my life. It has resulted in a love explosion. My friendships, family life, work life, volunteerism ... game-changing decision, I tell you).

So I've always been able to relate to this lady's posts. They are usually of the bare-your-heart variety. Her writing is direct, yet open and vulnerable, and I have a really big appreciation for the principles she usually lands on by the end of her emails. They resonate with me in a big way, and one day, I wrote a somewhat lengthy email telling her so. She responded. I responded. And we've been dialoguing ever since.

Here's why I call it a friendship: there is an honesty in the conversations that allow us both to be frank and pull from and learn from each other. I have grown from those dialogues. So much so that I am now considering trying a life coach for 2017. Imagine: we didn't make a commitment to connect or help each other, or anything. We just talked freely, and it has transformed me. I have gained so much insight and applicable solutions to various problems ... That's the power of connection.

It makes me wonder how much more growing and learning I could do if I had one person who was devoted to that cause alone: helping me see my blind spots and triggers, teaching me the best and most effective ways to deal with certain things ... it might accelerate the growth process significantly. It could change the game -again- in magnificent ways. It might be the missing ingredient to make 2017 a real double-up year. Who knows? I just might do it.

Friday, November 4, 2016

I've learnt to love people

Aren't you happy that life doesn't leave you in default mode? And that it sends you what you need to discover your best self? I'm happy, because life has taught me to let go, live and love; and I think I've finally caught on and found a flow that has more of that in it than anything else ... and it is golden.

I've learnt to love people. I know that may sound weird, or sappy, but it's so true. If you're reading this and you're one of the people in my life, chances are, I'm talking about you. I've learnt to love you. And let you lean on me. And be honest with you. And let you into my very full life. I've learnt to see you as gifted and beautiful and precious and flawed and human, and I LOVE you!

Before this, I think I was more an anthropologist than an active participant in your life. I was there because I was there by default and I was more interested in what was going on in my head than in yours. Sorry.

I wasn't aware that this wasn't a natural or beneficial state of affairs. Timeless truth: you don't know what you don't know until you find out. But 2016 has been a game changer year for me. I don't know when or how. I could pinpoint many moments. There has been a progression into acceptance that has been ... for want of a better word ... beautiful. My life has become part of a flow, and this flow is ... almost magic it's so good.

I think it comes from truly appreciating people for who they are, and from intentionally becoming a person who allows others to relax because they know that you represent a judgement-free, supportive, genuinely caring zone, although sporadically crazy space where they can just be ... . And I like when I find that in others too. I love when I meet someone who is just chevere. Peace really does come like a river.  And it really does reside in your soul.

I don't know if this is a season. I hope it's a permanent state of being ... but I love it. I love the me I am. And I love the you you are. Truly. I've learned to let you be and just love you ...

Selah.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

To be, or not to be ... my #Bitmoji?

I might be jealous of my #Bitmoji. She has more swag than I do. And the way she changes outfits - in the click of a button? Oh how I wish it were that simple! My Bitmoji has clothing choices from Calvin Klein, Alexander McQueen, Bergdorf Goodman, Michael Kors, Marc Jacobs ... She can go from casual to formal in a heartbeat. She has the perfect outfits for her body size, and accessories come with them all! SMH. Lucky, lucky girl.

She doesn't have to worry about social awkwardness and angst. She's been programmed for expression perfection. No matter the situation, she has a quip, a line, a look, or something that will usually provoke the right reaction ... especially from MY closest friends and family. And she comes with a built-in disclaimer: if something she does or says doesn't go over well with her audience, they don't blame her, they blame ME! She gets away with expressing herself HOWEVER she wishes - anger, sadness, annoyance, boredom, joy ... she says it all and doesn't care. I'm the one who has to be paying attention and ensuring that what she says is appropriate and inoffensive.

I love her fearlessness. She's not afraid to say 'I'm sorry', or 'I love you', 'I miss' you', and 'wish you were here' - and even 'you stink!' She has no qualms about telling it like it is, and even if she is afraid, she expresses that fear with fierce boldness - she's not afraid to be afraid. Or vulnerable. Or wrong and foolish and quirky.

My Bitmoji is also enviably adventurous - flying off ropes, swinging on trellises, popping out of cars, cakes and boxes, throwing on all sorts of disguises, quoting flicks like a real movie buff, celebrating every holiday on the planet  ... she's everybody's favourite funny girl.

It makes me think about the reservations we often carry with us through life. It can be so easy to start to live on 20-25% of your personality, to somehow just morph yourself into the mundane patterns necessary to get through the days, and to forget, as a result, to claim, express or develop the other  75-80% of who we are ... or could be. Can you imagine what the world would be like if we were all unafraid and crazily expressive like our Bitmoji selves? (Although, truth is, some of us are!) What would our relationships look like if we were that honest with each other? If we said what we meant and felt: I'm sorry; I love you; I miss you; I'm proud of you ... ?

Maybe Bitmojis and emoticons are our way of 'safely' expressing the part of us that wants to connect  with people and be vulnerable and open without actually being all of that often uncomfortable stuff ... maybe they enable us to express the things that would otherwise be difficult to say. Or maybe they give us a cop-out, feeding our tendency to avoid genuineness and authenticity, and helping us hide behind funny faces and quick quips that ultimately mean nothing at all.

Food for thought.




Friday, October 7, 2016

Here comes the new ... JOB!

It's amazing how, when you have a little free time, sometimes you don't appreciate it. One month and one blog post ago, I must have had free time. I know I had free time because I was able to sit down and write whiny little blog posts about how I 'wasted' a day and waah waah waah ... . Now? Not so, little grasshopper. I don't have time to whine and pontificate. That season is done and over with. Goodbye, au revoir, and sayanora.


By now I should know the pattern. Life comes in seasons, and they alternate in extremities. So I've glided out of got-time-to-Netflix-binge (which I thought was a pretty hectic time for me) into get-to-work-get-to-work-get-to-work. I have so many things to finish, a big side load of things to throw myself into, and a host of future things to think through and plan properly. This is for real, real, real. But you know what? I LOVE IT!!! I am never so pumped as when I have a lot of things to do and my brain is just ticking, ticking, ticking with ideas and tasks and stuff ... it makes me come ALIVE!! I am so HIGH right now, marijuana can't touch me! I came home, sat down, and thought: so this is what it feels like to come home after a day doing work you love ... hmmm ... I could get used to it.

I'm just saying ... I've got a new job, I already love it, and I am SUPEREXCITED about it!

Thursday, September 8, 2016

How I wasted a day OR redefining wasted time

I feel like a terrible person.

Wanna know why? I blew a day. A whole day. I did no [real] work today. I woke, made breakfast, and then I sat down and binge-watched How I Met Your Mother. Netflix has the entire series. And I am a Netflix fan. My main sources of entertainment are real life, books and the Internet. I try to Netflix with moderation. But sometimes I end up doing things like binge-watching an entire series in the time that I should have been doing ... you know ... productive stuff.

Like writing. I'm a big believer in the am-writing hashtag world on Twitter, et al. I draw real encouragement from those 140 or less characters detailing other people's struggles and successes with the writing process all across the Twittersphere. I join in the write-at-whatever-hour groups when I can. I join the late-night writers and try to use my after-work hours to polish my future bestsellers. I try to give my writing as much time as I give to my nine-to-five, because I read somewhere that it's ridiculous to give so much time, effort and discipline to another person's dream, and then pretend indiscipline when it comes to your own. I agree with that sentiment. If I can be great at working to build another man's empire, I should be AWESOME at building my own. And I shouldn't need a slavemaster to motivate me to put in the work required to build my own dream.

So I try. I defy sleep sometimes. (Other times, sleep defies me). I forego preparing a proper meal and just settle for quick cereal (I love cereal though). I read. I delve into the worlds of other writers and find out how they're doing, what they're working on, etc. I occasionally go out to get some semblance of a proper meal and socialisation.

But. There are still days like today when no matter how many times I pick up the writing project and say, I'm going to do this .... I end the day thinking, well, I blew it ... again. I didn't do the things I set out to do at all. I had an awesome day of unparallelled productivity planned, and all I ended up doing was sleep ... watch something in between sleep ... some mild housecleaning ... wash clothes, cook something ... sleep some more. That was all the awesomeness my tired brain could manage today.

Failure days?
I hate these kinds of days! They feel like failure days. I hate days when the tired is so much, and the will is so weak ... I just let Netflix take over the thinking for me. Or whatever. It makes me feel guilty. And weak. And miserable inside. And I feel worse for being able to write about how I'm feeling in a blog post, but not do the important writing for the important  projects. *Sigh*. I posted this tweet tonight:
State of mind: SOON. for REDEMPTION. but TRYING. . Somehow, in my head, it's already.
This truly is my state of mind.
1. I need a change soon. If not, monotony will be the death of me.
2. I AM writing! It's my constant in life. No matter what is going on around me, my ability to write coherently has never left me. And my writing usually somehow goes directly to/from my heart. I value that and see it as a redemptive quality.
3. I'm tired, but I'm trying. These days, this should be my motto. It's not just that I've been fighting flu and sinus issues for the last month ... there's a weariness these days that is so overwhelming ... I ward it off most days, but sometimes, like today, it just hits me full force and it's all I can do to raise my head and look over the edge of the bed. I am realising that burnout is real, because I'm now walking through serious physical, mental and emotional exhaustion. I was on fire for the first seven months of this year, and now? Oh gosh man! I feel like tiredness has set into my bones. I need to rest ... or something, but ... there is so much to do, and so little time to do it in! You don't make an impact by playing it safe. You don't get to do great things by working just a regular job with regular hours. Achievers push. I believe that you don't grow if you don't push yourself past your own limits, so I try to push myself forward, because how else do you expand your horizons? It takes a toll sometimes, but most years, I can look back and honestly say going out of my comfort zone and taking on new responsibility was worth it. If I don't drown under this new workload, 2016 will be one of my best years yet. I'm working for it.
4. I'm not superstitious. I don't believe in any of the spooky stuff either. But I have this great feeling about November. I don't know why, and I can't sensibly explain it, but it's going to be an exceptional month. And in my head, I keep thinking I'm in November already. My brain just keeps skipping past September. Dunno why. Go figure.

Nothing is wasted
Part two of this rant is that I may have to redefine what I call wasted time. Is the time really wasted if I spent it getting some well-needed R&R? At what point did I accept the notion that any time spent doing anything outside of my (perhaps foolishly narrow) definition of productivity is wasted? And why do I feel guilty for giving myself a break for a day? Funny; if I had spent the day reading a novel, I wouldn't feel as terrible. Because it's somehow more sophisticated to say I spent the day reading a literal, physical book, than it is to surf the net (even if most of it is reading long-form opinion in the Guardian and NY Times), or binge-watch anything on Netflix or YouTube. Isn't that just pretentious? Where did I pick up that notion? And is it correct?

And on another level, is anything ever truly 'wasted'? There's a song by Elevation Worship that says 'nothing is wasted'. I'm starting to think maybe they're right, and I should learn to relax and just let life be.

If I did that, today would not be seen as a wasted day. And I wouldn't feel worthless for it. I would realise that after a month of fighting off the flu and not taking any real rest, and on the tail-end of juggling four major side projects in addition to my mainstay job, maybe a day like today is my brain and body's way of reminding me that I am not a robot, and I must occasionally pause and relax.

I want to reach a place where I master the pace of life ... where I'm always building and making progress, but doing it in such a healthy way, my brain and body don't feel the need to just shut down on me. I'm working towards that, too. Maybe I'll get it by November. Or maybe I'll figure that out by the time I'm 60.

Either way, what I'm clear on is that I'm making progress in some sort of way. And even though right now, I still have days like this - where I feel less accomplished than I'd like, in the end, when I look back on the big picture, there's something happening. And that something is good, beneficial, and very, very promising.