A Reason to Reconnect With Your Past

The roots are bigger than the tree.

For awhile, whenever I thought of alumni events, the following would pop into my mind:

People coming to an event, decked out in their finest regalia, bringing their latest business cards with thirteen word titles. I imagined the alumni events for people who have been out of school for longer than I, for which guys would doll up their wives just to have something nicer looking on their arm when they arrived. “So what are you doing with your life?” I imagined it to be a big show down of who has become whom, and what has been accomplished since. Either that or a boring event where just the “losers” showed up.

Well, I’ve been forced to face the fact that that visualization is, by far, totally a reflection of me and my own insecurities rather than an accurate assessment of alumni events in general. I am twenty-four years old, and I have no concrete answer to the question “What do you want to do with your life?” That question is currently the bane of my existence and man oh man is an alumni event the best place to get practice reciting your answer to that question.

That’s my little intro story. In this post I’m not going to address that question or the nature of the dilemma it creates for “undecided” people. Instead, I just want to point out a good reason to attend alumni events, family gathering, or any form of reconnecting with your “roots” or past.

It has nothing to do with other people, actually. Reconnecting with people with whom you used to share a bond provides a great opportunity to evaluate your personal growth. When you see this person, you are reminded of the way you used to talk, the jokes you used to make, and the things you used to dream about. What has changed within you? Do you still desire the same things? If you’ve given up on a dream, how do you reconcile it? Have your values changed? It’s a great way to superimpose a benchmark next to your thoughts: then and now.

I included “roots,” to include places your parents came from or perhaps places you grew up in and moved out of before you started forming memories. Even though you may not have memories or relationships from this setting, benchmarks can still be found which can be used for self-evaluation.

For example, I spent seven months in Trinidad recently. My mother is from there. I was born in the USA. Whether or not I have grown up with Trini traditions, or have even visited the country, going back there still would have provided the self-evaluation benefit. People who leave Trinidad to come to America tend to want security (the crime there is saddening), opportunity, and cheap electronics. In New York City, the dream is owning a hedge fund, a home in Connecticut, and not being able to sleep at night. Okay that’s even more of a joke, but what I’m saying is that most of us here in America are one or two generations away from people who left their nations of birth for simple but meaningful things (such as security, opportunity, and cheap electronics). If we lose sight of that, it’s easy to get lost in wanting excessive material luxuries, prestige, and other things over and above what our families originally came here for. Is wanting these things bad? No-I’m not saying that. I’m saying going back to see your roots is like a tool that allows you to see some assumptions you might be making, to question whether you need to go above and beyond what your lineage had originally moved for (this is the self-evaluation tool I was referring to). That decision is yours to make though! It’s just nice to be aware of your options.

Have you changed? Has your thinking changed? If so, how has it changed? The same way tracking your progress in the gym is essential to continual fitness improvement, considering these questions is very valuable for one who is interested in his or her personal development. Maybe you’ve gotten off track, or maybe you’ve will be happy with the choices you’ve made. Think about it. Let us make room for our own improvement and simultaneously kick out any reasons or insecurities we have that might interfere with us returning to our past. I invite you to attend your next alumni event, old friends get together, and especially to consider spending some time connecting with your roots if you haven’t already done so. I will!

To Women, from a Guy, Re: Bodies

I’ve noticed a change has occurred in the portrayal of beauty of women in the media. Basically it has gone from natural to really skinny–so skinny that I don’t think it is healthy. I know at some point there was a big public stink about anorexic models but looking at pics from fashion shows and advertisements, I see nothing has changed.

The fact that this is out there represents a problem, and I say that only because these models are not healthy yet they are models (noun, a standard or example for imitation or comparison):

I don’t know if those were popular models or not, but I know this one is:

Zoe

Now Zoe is a very lovely model, and she’s been in movies and all. She beautiful, but we must admit she certainly is on the skinny side of the spectrum. What I mean by that is that her weight is well below that of the average woman (not just obese americans).

I don’t know where this change occurred. But let me point out two fly superstars who are nothing less because they are not super low weight:

Ms. Rose

Mz. Beats (are they still together?)

These are two lovely women who seem a bit more ordinary in their build (obviously they still have fantastic bodies) and in their diets.

I would just like to say, as a guy, to all women, that I don’t subscribe to that super skinny ideal of beauty. In fact, more than a full figure, I appreciate a healthy body. I think it’s sexy when I see a desire and willingness to work towards a healthy and durable body, from inside out. I don’t think it’s men who have pushed this “skinny thing.” It must be some much bigger, sicker, marketing trend that makes women self-conscious and people write books about.

Since I have this blog, I just wanted to publicly tell all my fellow humans that happen to be female:

Don’t buy into this image at the cost of your health. I don’t really find it attractive…just be healthy, be you. I like dates to restaurants where I can stuff my face with my girl. If you love your natural body, I bet I will too, and I bet it will look and feel better than what you see on TV.

Update: In fact, if Amber Rose or Alicia Keys obtained their body by vomiting after meals, or something bad for their health, that would be a turn off to me personally. It’s more than the physical appearance.

Guys, if you feel the same way, let a woman know that you don’t buy into it either. Some girls are really suffering because of it, and that’s less booty walking around. It’s a damn shame.

You Will Die

Time's 'a Tickin'!

Focusing on our own mortality could be a very helpful technique used to breathe spirit into our daily lives. Boredom and laziness are not part of a healthy human being-ness; they represent a spirit so covered up with societal expectations, media garbage, and lack of questioning. Curiosity, wonder, and satisfaction from daily work are what every human soul craves. I think we slip away from these blessed states when we “forget” that we will soon enough die.

Human attempts to conquer nature are as old as humans, almost, and death has not escaped our cross-hair. Pills to make us live longer, research into DNA to see if we can reverse the aging process, and freezing ourselves are all attempts we have made to escape the seemingly inescapable. So far, no luck.

We don’t seem to want  to die, and we try to avoid it in more subconscious ways. Leaving a legacy is one of the most common thoughts of dying men and women: “What will I leave to my kids?” “How will I be remembered?” “Can I make a donation to get my name on a wall somewhere?” The curiosity, wonder, and helpful attitude endemic in human being-ness is often buried as we try to make ourselves feel whole and complete through things such as money and status. We will never be good-looking enough, rich enough, or popular enough to avoid the same death as everyone else.

Curiosity, wonder, and that helpful attitude in humans brings about joy and progress.  The best scientists, reformers, and performers of any kind have all stated that they were never motivated by money, but rather by passion to learn and discover how great they could be, how far their could go, or how real they could make their dreams. So what does death have to do with all of this?

First, let’s look at direction. The closer one comes to truly realizing that they will die, the more valuable their time on Earth becomes. You probably know when you meet someone who has had a near death experience, as they often change their entire life course, usually to go on and encourage others to follow their dreams. That should be a big enough give away right there, bucko. If you can really spend twenty minutes trying to visualize what your last hour on Earth might feel like, it very well may make your heartbeat increase as your head becomes flooded with lots of questions. The big things to pay attention to are “I should have,” “I would have,” and “I could have,” as one who faces death must truly wonder “what if I just did what I thought I should do?” “What if I was the spouse, sibling, child, me that I always envisioned, rather than giving into my excuses to not be that person?” Curiosity runs abound. Things that you “have” to do start to lose footing…you might see that what you have to do is actually what you really, deep down, want to do. From the second we are born, our time is ticking. We only can begin to live once we realize what we’re actually doing here is dying.

Next, consider the strength of living a life of principle. “If nothing is worth dying for, then nothing is worth living for.” If you believe that your race should be treated fairly, great. If they are legally treated as secondary citizens and you say “hey stop that!” and the government says “No, shut up or we’ll kill you,” and you respond “Oh, well…that’s that,” you’ve just decided that hanging onto life is more important than your principle of equal treatment. What would a life look like where nothing was worth giving up your life, though? You would essentially be clinging to life, trying to safeguard it, not giving your all for your principle in fear of losing it. This is a shame because you are going to lose it anyway.

Coming to terms with one’s own mortality leaves one powerful in the face of fear. This is useful because sticking up for principle can be quite scary. But consider that some of the most effective men and women in history were fearless.  “I know I am going to die, so why give up on my principle?” Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi, and Socrates were all people who faced serious consequences to their well-being because of their curiosity and dedication, yet it never fazed them, even though it did end up in some of their deaths. Those people were full of life, and maybe realized that since they will certainly die one day, the only way to die is to die doing exactly what they believed they should do.

Finally, if you are going to die tomorrow, your neighbor taking your parking spot really isn’t going to cause you to spend fifteen minutes brewing over what an inconsiderate penie-head he is. Some might say that if we are all going to die tomorrow, “we might as well go commit crime, steal, rape, pillage, do drugs, etc.” Over and over, this is shown to not be the case. I just talked a guy who was in an area that suffered serious emergency flooding. He said he was astounded at the way people came together to help one another. My friend Jonny Boy told me a story about people in the Twin Towers, who stayed by strangers in wheel chairs, unwilling to abandon a fellow human being. Stories like this are a dime a dozen, pal. When death is imminent–which it is, if we choose to acknowledge it–there is less room to screw over your fellow human being. If I have two hours to live and so do you, I’ll probably ask you if there’s anything I can do to help, as we see ourselves as travel companions here on Earth making our last wishes.

Do you think Gandhi or MLK, Jr. ever said “I’m bored?”There is so much to do and learn here on Earth, and tomorrow isn’t promised. We will die soon, and we could die in our sleep tonight.

What do you want to see, know, have accomplished on your last day on Earth?

But You’re Not Me

Does anyone have the same birthday as you? The same time of birth?

Do they have the same parents as you? With all the same lessons and style of upbringing?

Do they have the same set of friends as you? Down to duplicate Facebook friends list, down to literally identical experiences with those friends from trials, tribulations, arguments, jokes, long talks?

Does anyone have the same set of mentors and schooling as you? Did they pay attention to exactly what you paid attention to, found the exact same stuff interesting, and worked the same amount of time as you?

Does anyone want exactly what you want for yourself? For the world?

Do they have the exact same work experience, with the same boss, coworkers, events, ups and down?

Do they agree with you 100% on what is right and wrong? Do they agree with you on whether Tupac is dead or alive?

And do they see the purpose of life the same way you see it? Have they determined what they are doing here on Earth to be exactly the same thing as what you’re doing here?

Have they suffered the same failures at the same times as you, and gotten the exact same identical lessons from those failures?

Have they gone through the same hardships as you? Experienced the same luxuries?

Do they have the same aspirations?

Do they have the exact same genetic make up (rhetorical), with the same tendencies and preferences for certain types of reactions, behavior, and likes/dislikes?

Do they have the same Nature+Nurture as you?

So how much sense does it make to ask advice? “If I were you, I would x y z x y z ….” But you’re not me. Did they answer yes to all the questions above? Each individual situation is so mind-blowingly, astronomically unique that advice truly makes no sense. It leads us to believe that there is some common place we are all trying to get to, and not to believe that the goal is the path itself–the decisions we make for ourselves and the learning and living process that comes along with it. Whether our decisions turn out “good” or “bad” is irrelevant when it comes to our personal growth.

Imagine if you never made a decision, and every single thing you did in life was directed by the advice of someone who you really admired. What would your last few moments of life feel like? I suspect you would have a lot of painful curiosity.

“People ask advice when they know what they need to do but just don’t want to do it.” Maybe every time we ask for advice, we really know the answer but we are fighting our internal compass. Why don’t we trust what we would do without advice? What is the value of trusting one’s self?

To give advice without being asked for it is to assume you know what lies both ahead and behind another person. It is to attempt to rob their life of making their own decisions. If they ask you for advice, perhaps you can offer it but we all owe it to our fellow humans to remind them that our decisions are not applicable to their lives.

The Best Ring Tone Profile for Focus

I. NEED. TO. CHECK. THIS.

Time for some self-honesty: Twitter, Facebook, Blackberry Messenger,What’sApp Messenger, text messages, e-mail, G-chat mobile, Skype mobile, and the mobile browser.  I suffer phone addiction. I could pass a two-hour bus ride quickly just using my phone. I couldn’t focus or spend quality time with people for long periods of time without checking my phone, and I ended up e-chatting way more than I needed to.

My friend Olgui made a suggestion. She is a designer and works with her hands, which means being “in the zone” is very important for her, as that’s when her creativity flows. She explained to me her ringtone profile:

  • All phone calls ring loudly.
  • No other notification makes a noise or even vibrates.

That’s it! The reason I love this is because anyone who needs to get in contact with you immediately can–they can always call. At the end of the day, if it’s a text message, it cannot be of utmost importance–why let it get in the way of your passion?

I’ve extended my attention span 10-30 minutes, I don’t miss out on things, I’m still accessible in case of emergencies, and I’m better at doing whatever I want to do. Also, I don’t get distracted by vibrations and notifications while I’m spending quality time with friends or family (whereas before I would go to the bathroom, or try to position myself in certain ways so I could sneak a peek at my phone…all taking my attention away from the person before me). The improvement in quality time with friends is more than worth it and I invite you to give it a try. It ultimately will help to make you more present in the current moment.

 

 

Can You Really Snap Out of a God Awful Mood?

This is me sometimes.

Sometimes you get into a bad mood, a funk. You can’t shake it, and what’s worse is that you are totally aware that you’re in it. You observe yourself being an ass to your significant other, your friend, your parent, etc. and for some reason you just keep doing it because you feel too crappy to make a change. It would require just too much effort to “pretend” like everything is cool.

At this point, it seems like we have two options:

1. “Snap out of it! Mind over matter!” or “Go do some physical activity to clear your mind, then all will be better.” Some positive, uplifting kind of method.

2. Wait it out. Accept that you’re feeling like a load of poo, and that even though you’re aware of it, you seemingly cannot do anything about it. It will just have to pass on its own.

Well, which one is the way to go? If you’re in a good state of mind, most likely that answer is the first method. Unfortunately, if you’re in that really crappy mood, the first method sounds like a load of garbage.

I so far conclude that while we should try our best to be pleasant to those around us, we’re left with just one option–the second. Might as well just accept that we’re in a God awful mood and that’s that…eventually we’ll come around. Ideally, someone who is in a horrible mood could read this, see if they disagree, and if they disagree, fill me in on how to snap out of a really, really awful mood (while you’re in it). Otherwise, this post is for anyone in a God awful mood. I can empathize with the hopeless feeling–no point in adding fuel to the fire by telling yourself you “shouldn’t” be in this mood.

I hope no one thought I actually had a solution to offer, what a let down that would be!

Using the Past to Form New Habits

Is there anything that you want to do consistently, but you don’t? Anything that you don’t want to do, but you keep doing? Welcome to the human race. Will power comes in handy when trying to be a better you.

Bye Bye Sucka!

I’ve stayed away from blogging a lot longer than I had originally intended to. I stayed away for so long, that I dreaded opening up my account because I was scared to look at the low readership. I got out of the swing of it, and the longer I stayed away, the bigger of a mountain it seemed that I had to climb to get back to it. This sort of thing happens to us all, I’ve noticed.

As the days turn from present to past, it’s like they build up and weigh heavy on us, making it harder to resume our discipline, whether its staying in the gym, staying away from cigarettes, or working on that special hobby every day. A textbook practice I learned on this matter is to always remember that the damage comes not from screwing up a day of your diet, habit, or routine, but rather it comes from the mental beating you give yourself when you mess up. That is likely to last a few more days, not to mention cause you grief. So the basic takeaway on that one there is really to just stop worrying and jump back on the horse and forget you ever fell off.

But can we use that power of dwelling in the past to benefit us, rather than weigh us down? You know, switch it on ’em?

Yes! I discovered a simple way that I’ll share with you for free: keeping a public count of days on track with a new habit. The beauty of this is you use your momentum to keep you on your routine. I’ll explain using personal examples:

I am done with cigarettes

I came back from Trinidad & Tobago, and chose to optimize my health: “How far can I take my health in the positive direction?” So that was 35 days ago, and every day I update the count on my Blackberry Messenger status so my friends can see. As the days go by, I love watching the number rise, and if someone offered me a cigarette tonight, the first thought I’d have is “Man, I’d have to reset that ’35 days’ back to zero…” It ends up gaining strength as I go.

I am done with pornography

I became sick of the warping effect porn was having on my mind–it really desensitizes a person to the sacred nature of sex and the human body. I don’t want anyone telling me how that part of my life should look like or go, especially not the citizens on those websites (hit me up if you need a few links though!). So, I also started a count–20 days ago–for days without looking at pornography. I like keeping my sexual energy focused where it belongs–on my pet dog. Just kidding, I don’t even have a dog. I also post this count on my Blackberry Messenger status for my friends to see. Keeps me honest!

I want to write

So write I will. Man, I became so caught up with my writing, the quality of it, the readership, blah blah blah blah blah, which can be good, but not to the point where it stops me from acting. Therefore I hereby to commit to making a blog post every day. Some days might be good, others might be horrible, but it’s okay–I accept that and I trust that over time I will improve. If I feel free to talk, let me feel free to write. Additionally, I choose to not care too much about how my blog goes for at least a year or two. I have a few inspiring friends I hope to share with you later that have inadvertently taught me that nothing ever happens over night. “Everything worth having is worth waiting for,” “work for 10 years and become an overnight success,” these inspiring friends put in serious time without expecting results quickly, and as time passes, they reap the rewards. So you all can watch my progress by checking up on me to see if I follow through!

Pick something you want to do every day, and pick a bad habit that you want to stop. Starting today/tomorrow make a count for each habit and count the days you stick to it in a row. Post it where every one can see it, and use your increasing count as a source of strength and momentum.

6 Reasons To Get Up And Go (To Another Country)

World Map“Traveling” can mean different things to different people. Let’s break it down:

A “vacation”, to me, is when you go somewhere for mental relaxation and physical enjoyment. Go to a beach, read a book, and pass out in the sun after too many exotic mixed drinks. “Touring” might be what you do when you want to go somewhere and to see the place or do a particular activity. You set up your hotels, transportation, and trips before you get there because you already know what you want to get out of your stay there. “Traveling” or “exploring” might be the name for a trip that has a set duration, but is done without planning out the details in advance–that part is left for exploration and open-mindedness. You’ll figure it out when you get there. The last option is what I would call “getting up and going.” I could probably find a better term for it, but this is buying a one-way ticket without a plan to return (it’s also what I did 7 months ago). Maybe you will come back (most likely), maybe you won’t. It’s an amazing privilege as it requires a unique set of life circumstances that involve financial freedom and lack of major responsibilities (namely children), and most of all, an open mind. These last two types of travel are not popular but are very different from the first two. They can change your life dramatically.

I’ve spent the past seven months abroad in a similar sort of travel journey. It took me about eight months to get myself into the mindset where I was ready to get up and leave without a plan to return. It took a lot, and probably not what you think–it was actually a new-found fascination with science that ended up making me question things enough to reach the point where I was ready to get up and leave. I have no regrets, and I’m going to share some of the best reasons I’ve found to get up and go.

So let’s go: Continue reading

Entrepreneur Spotlight: Charlie of Charlie’s Brownies

This post is a part of a series based on entrepreneurs who have gotten started or are starting using incremental steps that enable them to progress steadily and mitigate risk. To see the main post, click here: Starting a Business: Baby Steps to Beat Inertia. The previous entrepreneur featured in this series is Mona-Lisa of BlackMasterPiece.Com.
 
 
Chef Charlie Fyffe

Chef Charlie Fyffe of Charlie's Brownies

Charlie Fyffe

CEO & Founder of Charlie’s Brownies, The Official Brownie Experience

Charlie, 23, is a native of Los Angeles, CA and charismatic entrepreneur. He’s also a Jackie Robinson Scholar, a party promoter, and a community benevolent as he actively reaches out and tries to help urban youth achieve their entrepreneurial goals through TheCashFlow.com. In high school, he made some brownies that people loved. They loved them so much that he began to sell them even as he went to college. He literally took baby steps from there to bring his concept to a point where he’s ready for a second round of investment. He has a keen entrepreneurial sense that enables him to keep his overhead low while securing key items like a really nice logo (see below), a beautiful website (www.charliesbrownies.com), and some good photos of his operation.

I really love entrepreneurs, and Charlie is no exception. Anything is possible, everything is an opportunity, and nothing is a dead end. I met Charlie when he did a semester at NYU and I was inspired by the way he handled his projects. It was the first time I really saw business/school/everything occurring to someone like a video game: it’s always fun for him, he can (and does) do it all day long, and if he runs into a problem here, he just keeps on plugging away until he gets what he wants. So I asked him to share what he is up to in hopes of inspiring other people. He’s also a pretty well-connected guy and I know he’s open to talking about new possibilities and opportunities so I would leave his contact information below. Continue reading

The Rest of Your Life

Foggy Path

How far ahead can you really see?

Ask your favorite mentor or role model “Back when you were my age, did you think you would be living here, doing what you’re doing, married to the person you’re with?” I bet you a Facebook share they say “no.”

It doesn’t seem to make much sense focusing energy past step two in the plan. Two big reasons:

  1. It’s hard to predict what opportunities will open up once you reach the next step. And then to predict what will open up after that is impossible. So why waste the mental energy?
  2. Focusing on step 8 while you’re on step 1 makes tunnel vision more likely. So why waste the mental energy?

Making decisions based on plans 20 years from now is operating on the assumption that you know everything that will take place from now until then. Things that are beyond prediction tend to pop up and change the entire course. You could meet someone tomorrow that convinces you to change everything you’re about–that would mean you learned some really great stuff. Don’t you want to be open to that?

“What do you want to do with the rest of your life?” starts to feel very irrelevant. I can share with you what I’m working on now and other than that, I want to be open to a possibility far greater than I can currently imagine. Otherwise, I’m capped.