Today's Word: 6.09.14...Even When You Can't See The Path, Begin Walking!

"Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase."-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

When I think about some of the most incredible moments in my life, I must say that I do not know where I would be without faith.

Whether it has been packing my things and moving to New York when I felt my spiritual and creative development being stifled in my previous environment or taking on a role as a leader in a previously failing school, being able to say yes even when fear was yelling "hell no," has not only opened my mind to the infinite possibilities in this life, but it has allowed me to discover the courage that exists within me.

Some of the greatest moments in your life will come simply because you will have the courage to begin walking without knowing where the path may lead.

Thursday 6.05.14... How To Learn From Everyone

“If we learn to open our hearts, anyone, including the people who drive us crazy, can be our teacher.” ― Pema Chödrön

Each day we are given is another opportunity to get it right, a chance to learn something about the ways of this world and who we are in it. We don't learn by closing our minds and our heart but by pushing ourselves to always be open to the infinite possibilities of life, however they may come.

If we seek to deepen our understanding, we must be willing to learn something from every source, no matter how small and simple the lesson may seem. It is not enough to sit at the feet of those we admire and trust. We have to be open to engaging with the stranger, the taxi driver, the small child who is likely more creative than we are because their perception has not yet been tainted and yes, even the ones who annoy us.

I have discovered that when I am annoyed by someone or something, it is not an opportunity for me to run, but a moment for me to pause and simply ask, "what are you here to show me about myself?"

Wednesday, 6/4/14...Deepen Your Relationships By Being Honest

“Lying is, almost by definition, a refusal to cooperate with others. It condenses a lack of trust and trustworthiness into a single act. It is both a failure of understanding and an unwillingness to be understood. To lie is to recoil from relationship.”-Sam Harris

We're all guilty of it. No matter who you are, even when it has been simple and innocent, you have lied. We lie for many reasons, some of which are scientific. Researchers recently discovered that we are less likely to demonstrate integrity as the day progresses because our self-control diminishes over time. Whatever the reason (guilt, shame, or fear), when we lie we miss an opportunity to deepen our relationships with ourselves and others.

For myself, I know that there have been times when I have lied because I was afraid of how my truth might impact someone else. Though I now understand that in many ways, I lied because I was afraid of how others might see me. At this stage in my life, I am striving to be myself in every relationship and that requires me to lean into the discomfort of my truth as opposed to running away from it.

If we want more authentic relationships, we have to be willing to tell the truth not "even when", but especially when it is difficult.

Tuesday, 6/3/14... "Lose The Meaningless to Gain The Meaningful"

"Never make someone a priority when all you are to them is an option."-Maya Angelou 

As you continue on your journey of personal development where you begin to live a life aligned with your calling and your unique purpose, you may discover that there are some people who no longer belong in your space. Of course, watching our circles shrink can feel daunting and it has the potential to make us feel lonely but we must protect our energy and time if we want to enrich our lives by strengthening our relationships with people who pour into us the way we pour into them.

Do not be afraid to "lose" meaningless connections in order to create more meaningful experiences in this life.

Staying Cool Under Pressure

The work that I do as a school leader is often very exciting and demanding. Being responsible for  children, adults and high stakes results, requires me to tap into a wide range of skills I've accumulated over the years from setting a clear vision to motivating others when they're lacking confidence. Though I seldom have to explain why I do the work I do, many people are often curious about how I manage some aspects of my role that can be challenging.The question I'm most often asked is, "how do you stay so calm?" Years ago when I found myself in difficult situations, I would hear a little voice whispering "don't ever let them see you sweat."I don't hear that voice much these days, but my sense is that the mentality is baked in. The underlying mindset I hold onto is that appearing stressed seldom makes things easier. It's my responsibility as a good teammate and leader to remove barriers and sources of stress for others so they can focus on what matters most. Having played enough sports, I know that when a coach looks overwhelmed or worried, it impacts the way the team feels about the game.

Though the mindsets I hold are fundamental to the way I operate in difficult times, there are some actual technical/skill-based moves I repeatedly pull that help me stay "75 and Sunny" even in the midst of an unexpected hurricane.

1) Keep things in perspective: Whenever I find myself in the middle of stressful situation, I try my best to be mindful of the fact that there are 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week and 365 days in a year. The situation I'm handling begins to look small with respect to time and energy when I keep in mind that it's only one event at one point in my entire career.

2) Rallying my team: I have seldom dealt with a difficult situation alone. Even when I have final decision rights on the best course of action, I am never hesitant when it comes to pulling in thought-partners and key players who can help me remain focused on resources and options at my disposal. I know that my work is demanding and I can't do it without my team behind me. I also recognize that I'm not always the best person to handle critical steps in resolving complicated situations so I leverage the strengths of my team to get things done.

3) Finding the appropriate release: Experiencing stress and appearing to be stressed are not synonymous. I'm not a robot! I don't hide my emotions ad infinitum, but I find the appropriate time to release in a way that does not add fuel to the fire I am trying to extinguish. When I recently handled one of my most challenging crisis in the last year, I stayed focused on being logical and rational in the moment while mobilizing my team to take the best course of action to contain an isolated event that could have mushroomed into a nightmare. But trust me, immediately after the smoke settled, I went into a private room, ate several chocolate chip cookies and prayed. Once I was calm, I took a few minutes to chat with a teammate and mentor about the experience and how I was feeling.

4) Striving to achieve the best possible outcome: Being a leader requires you to strive for excellence in everything you do. You may drop the ball occasionally, but you always push yourself to learn and grow and to serve as a model for others. This can be dangerous though if you lose perspective and ignore reality while becoming obsessed with a vision to the point that your perfectionism hinders your ability to get things done. When you're trying to manage stress during a difficult situation, you can't be concerned about how far off the reality is with respect to what you would imagine in your ideal world. I don't have any survey results, but I'm willing to bet that no one who has ever been responsible for passengers on a sinking cruise line has worried about how much their guests would miss out on the wonderful five course dinner available in the dining hall. Your primary concern needs to be doing the best you can with the best you have in the moment even when that means good trumps great for the day.

As the old saying goes, "Keep Calm, and Carry On!"

 

I Knew You When...

There are points of pain to which you must become accustomed if you desire to live with an open mind and an open heart. Despite these points, if you have the required faith in love, you will never forget the value of dreaming regardless of what nightmares may come and they will come, in many forms, like unrequited love, affection given without being earned, and sacrifices made for those who know not of sacrifice. Over the years I have left the door of my heart open or at least cracked and every so often, some damaged and discouraged creature of beauty has crept in searching for nourishment, searching for an opportunity to speak its truth without the fear of judgment.

At first I cared, perhaps too much, lavishing weakened muscles barely gripping bones, with affection and encouragement hoping that once restored and renewed, an unfamiliar guest would become a familiar fixture, transcending time, growing beside me as love propelled us forward outweighing fear enough for the trajectories of our desires to intersect like rivers flowing into one united waterfall until all distinctions became undetectable…

But I have learned that even the most broken creatures begin to dream of flying and running into the wild when they forget what it feels like to crawl and remember how to walk.

Too many nights had passed before I grew to see the patterns of my love like undiscovered constellations. Alone, partially by choice, in the most silent silence, I could feel time stop and suddenly I felt an unknown body beside me, a body of secrets forgotten; grievances untold; trespasses too readily forgiven. There I was face to face with the truth of my addiction to fixing other people. I had been wrapping myself in other people’s problems so that I would not have to see my own and when there was nothing there to distract me, I crashed into my own truth, unable to take another breath without opening my eyes to see my own pathology.

Now as I stand firm on a mountain of love for myself only second to the love and adoration, I have for my creator I can see the pain of my previous tribe, a nation of souls fixated on saving everyone but themselves. Those souls, fearful of seeing their beauty, their brilliance, churn around in a cycle of misfortune with glimpses of hope, until they fall to the bottom of an imaginary world where they can convince others to love them, where the broken bodies they find will grow to appreciate their nourishment, where they will be rewarded for accepting less than they deserve.

They will become bent to the point of almost breaking just before they too will realize that the narratives they have created enslave them to the point that being in the presence of anyone but themselves is more desirable than true emotional and spiritual freedom.

To those souls who are still fixed on loving others back to life, while they remain broken and are ultimately left to stand alone, my heart does pray for a much needed awakening… I too know what it is like to sing “I knew you when you needed me” again and again. Today I sing, I knew you when I was afraid to know myself.

Begin Your Climb Today

Perched on an oversized hotel bed at a work conference, I was faced with a decision: use the remaining twenty dollars in my account to purchase food for the next two days until pay day, or buy a ticket to a writer’s networking event.

I’m at the beginning of my journey to be a writer. Figuratively standing at the bottom of the mountain looking up with no clue as to how to get to the top, but I know I must climb. And climbing is work. And climbing is sacrifice. So there I sat.

Tears filled my eyes as I understood the decision I had to make: short term sacrifice with the promise of long term benefits. Knowing that God will provide but unsure of how or when. Nothing really matters when you are hungry. I thought about being hungry tomorrow and the next day. And the tears fell.

I mean, after all what if this writing event didn’t work out? I would have spent two days hungry and a whole evening networking for nothing. Before I went too deep down the rabbit hole of the depression I played a song that’s near to my heart. The song simply says “It’s turning around for me. Sooner or later, it’ll turn in my favor. God is turning it around for me. It won’t always be like this.”

I wiped my face.

Instead of thinking of all the reasons why things weren’t going to work out, I held onto the promise that it would. The scripture says the end of a matter is better than the beginning. There I was at my beginning, defeated before I took even one step towards the mountain.

My face was dry now. I started to think what life would be like if I really gave it my all. If I invested the energy into what I could do instead of what I couldn’t do. Where would I be a year from now if I kept pushing instead of letting every set back, delay and denial leave me cowering at the bottom of the mountain?

I felt the spirit urge me to trust Him. To give Him my little bit of nothing and watch Him turn it into something more than I could imagine.

I told myself, “In the grand scheme of life, one late night, one missed meal, one rejection won’t matter a year from now.” I took my last little twenty dollars and paid for the networking event ticket.

Confident that I’d made the right choice I played the song on repeat and went to bed.

I woke to two e-mails.

Email 1: Your check has been deposited.

Email 2: Tickets for networking event are now closed.

Two days early? My check came two days early and I still don’t know why or and I don’t care. Imagine if I had decided that not missing a meal was more important than missing this opportunity.

The networking event rolled around and I made a connection. That connection is now an additional source of income for me. God took that 20 dollars and gave me recognition and a paycheck I could never have gotten without attending that event.

And there I was cowering at the bottom of the mountain afraid of the climb. Afraid to make a short term sacrifice for the long term promise.

Now, here I sit at the good part. Here I sit at the peak of this first mountain (there are always other mountains) and I look around. I almost gave all of this up because I was unable to trust that right now isn’t forever. I almost gave it all up because I was so focused on what I could see that I missed what I believed.

How might life be different if we could know the end? There are few guarantees on this journey upwards but the peak is always better than the base. You may not know what waits for you up there but it’s better than where you are.

Be unafraid to climb. Be unafraid to leave it all behind, to sacrifice now, and gain so much more.

The end of the matter is always better than the beginning.

Written by Dee Rene

Contributor and Thought-Partner 

Don't Let Life Defer Your Dreams

As an artist it is insanely difficult to prioritize your craft amidst the hectic life of full-time employment at (INSERT COMPANY NAME HERE), where menial tasks take up all of your time and leave your gift unfulfilled.

Working in a dead end job feels foreign to you no matter how many years you do it, and you tell yourself it is worth it for the steady pay, especially in this economy and that you’ll do some writing, painting or sculpting this weekend or next.

I wouldn’t suggest that we all strip off our suits and throw our company ID badges in a river and live in a nudist colony. It’s tempting, but not the most practical solution. I would suggest that you take a moment to breathe and ask yourself if what you’re doing at your job makes you happy?

I have asked myself time and again if inputting data or helping a customer has brought me the kind of satisfaction that resonates at my core, and the answer is an emphatic NO! This has led me to ask not only what makes me happy, but what fulfills me and for me the answer is creative writing.

On a whim one day, I sat in front of my keyboard and found myself weaving a world of my own filled with desperation and insurmountable odds, (not unlike my reality) except that there were zombies in this world. When I finished, I had ten pages that I couldn’t believe I had written. I would later scrutinize my piece to high hell, but the satisfaction of having created something from raw emotion was world shaking.

Discovering what you are meant to be doing is only a small part of the equation. Once you have your passion and purpose in your Oprah embroidered spirit warrior holster, how do you make time to utilize it? The simple answer is anytime you can.

If you are a writer like myself, then write on the train or on your breaks. Get your technology in the mix and jot down any ideas you have in your cellphone notepad. Whatever it takes, don’t allow circumstances to defer your dreams.

I have seen the dreamless eyes of adults who prided themselves on staying with the same company for twenty years, and while being a diligent worker is an admirable endeavor it hardly causes that necessary resonance that reminds you that you’re worthy to experience wonder from within.

You must find the time for the work that your soul is calling you to do. The voice of God, the Void, your Ancestors or perhaps nature is calling you to realize something within yourself!

If you are a parent, practice your craft once the kids are asleep even if only for twenty minutes at a time. If you simply cannot muster sitting and working another hour after life has allowed you to slow down, then write while you are in the thick of existing in your chaos. Own your chaos!

As a writer, I try to take in the details and I keep a notebook and pen on me at all times, so that I can indulge my muse whenever it calls out to me. Inspiration and intuition speak to you all the time, and learning to listen to it with respect to your craft is essential.

Take stock of the energy you are allotting to things that don’t require the emotional investment. Don’t shirk the responsibilities of your employment, because that is a commitment you made, but realize that as an artist, you have a calling and if you neglect it, you are creating a future with regret and unanswered questions about opportunities that have long since slipped past your withered fingers.

Remind yourself daily that you will use your gift, whether it is for five minutes or twelve hours. Remind yourself that you and your gift are worthy of being acknowledged.

Utilizing your talent is an affirmation of your existence and you deserve to be here!

Written by Taj Shareef, 

Contributor and Thought Partner

Mastering Your Craft...

In a world that is so obsessed with social and economic status, it often feels difficult to be comfortable with what you have and where you are. At every turn there are messages telling us to have more and be more. For many of us, these messages are the basis for diseases that form within our minds and hearts, informing the ways in which we view ourselves and our significance in the world. Each and every person has a unique purpose and while a few of us may be led to fame and fortune as a result of pursuing our special assignments in life, most of us will take our final breaths and leave behind a life and legacy that are only celebrated and remembered by a few people who knew us well and loved us for who we were and hopefully despite who we were not.

So if fame and fortune aren't what we're all driving toward we may pause to ask ourselves what is it that ties us all together in our journey toward fulfilling our purpose and finding some level of significance. I am learning and believing that what we should be striving toward is mastering our craft, whatever it may be.

Living a life of joy and fulfillment involves doing your very best and that doesn't necessarily mean doing your best in a particular space, or doing your best with a particular task, but rather striving to do your very best wherever you are.

I spent some time last week listening to speeches and sermons by the great Dr. Martin Luther King and found myself scratching my head when King shared a story of a man who shined his shoes. In his story, Dr. King spoke in detail about this man, another Black man, who was masterful in shoes shining.

Dr. King, talked about the man's focus and the level of thought he seemed to be putting into his work and as I listened I could feel something within me wrestling with an emerging paradox.

What struck me was a tension I felt somewhere in my mind where an image of one of our nation's greatest advocates for equality was passionately praising the work of a service provider in a role that would garner little or no respect whatsoever in our tremendously hierarchical society shaped and informed by social, cultural, educational and economic elitist sentiments.

In my mind, there was something odd about King's excitement over this man's shoe shining skills, a man who likely faced great obstacles in the segregated south and had very limited opportunities to take advantage of the privileges afforded to his white brethren at the time because of the overt systemic racism that ruled this nation.

As I continued listening though, I began to understand the point of Dr. King's message. His reflection wasn't an assessment of the man's worth but rather an observation of this man's focus, intent, drive, passion and brilliance all utilized in his efforts to be his absolute best. The man's title and role may not have had value to those who took advantage of his service, but he was not concerned about status.

His only goal was to determine, for himself, the value and quality of his position by doing what he was called to do as best as he could possibly do it and the truth of his mastery, made me think about the significance we all possess despite what structures we operate in that are determined and sustained by external forces.

Dr. King struck something in me that pulled back the lenses through which I view the world and adjusted my vision in a way that allowed me to think about the potential we all have to simply do our best with whatever the assignment is that we have been given.

Our craft, no matter how big or small, does not determine who we are but it is through mastering our craft that we reveal to ourselves and the world who we are and what we're made of.

No matter what it is that you are positioned to do, don't just do it, but do it as best as you can!

Don't Dim Your Light For Anyone...

Because several people have come to me over the last two weeks for advice on managing the shifting energies of friends and family, I felt the need to pause for a moment to encourage any and everyone who reads this to resist the temptation to dim your light for anyone who can't handle the brightness that is your glory. Whether you are celebrating a promotion, getting fit or simply wearing a smile more often, you may notice that some people within your circle shy away from you when you are at your brightest moments.

Like most people, you might be susceptible to allowing such energy and passive judgment to influence the way you see yourself. You may talk about your wins less or shift your focus from holding onto your joy to trying to figure out how you can support others. Worst of all, you may spend so much time and energy trying to convince others of their greatness that you forget to cultivate your own.

If you are moving up and perhaps closer to your destiny you may very well be forcing those around you to reflect on their own lives and in doing so they may find moments of discomfort as they see the life they want and the life they live.

It can be a painful and hard-hitting process and in your journey, some folks may decide that you're walking too quickly or heading in a direction that's not for them and they'll decide to walk away from you. If you're susceptible to dimming your light, you're also prone to chasing after folks who want you to run toward them and away from your purpose.

I say to you, resist! I dare you to have the audacity to rebel. I encourage and challenge you to stand firm in your own truth and light and be not afraid of losing those who would rather see you remain hurt, remain penniless, remain under-employed, remain single, all because they're afraid your change might change something in them.

When you are in someone's home and you walk into a room that is too bright, perhaps there is a switch that allows you to dim the light or turn it off completely. The walking away, the constant reminders of the times you were broken, the cries for attention and time, are all tactics people use to manipulate the brightness of your light.

The next time someone tells you your light is too bright; the next time they try to convince you to fear the impossible, you tell them that your destiny has no switch. Tell them your purpose cannot be dimmed nor damaged.

Tell them that you know and affirm who you are and that you don't fear your own light because it is indeed your ultimate gift, your most prized blessing.

Tell them that you are not a room with a light switch, but a human being with a unique assignment.

You tell them if they can't handle your brightness then they ought to look away. Don't dim your light for anyone! Shine on!

Letting Go of Failing Love and Friendships

Over the past few months, I've taken a step back to really think about how I prioritize my time and attention. Outside of work, I spend a significant amount of time forming and sustaining friendships, writing and reading. I love my friends. They're a hilarious group of people with similar interests and philosophies of life. What separates some of them though is the lack of attention and time they reciprocate. In some of these relationships, I've been the one reaching out and checking in. I've found that there are a few people I've been concerned about who quite frankly are not concerned with me. To some extent they've been walking out of my life, and I've been playing catch up attempting to keep them around. I once told a friend who was experiencing similar issues with her friends, that realizing who they ultimately revealed themselves to be was not aligned to who she thought she befriended. When she considered cutting them off and expressing some of her frustrations with them, I told her that sometimes in life we don't have to put any effort into reevaluating our relationships and distancing ourselves from those who are not worthy of our friendship.

Sometimes all we have to do is stand and let them continue walking. We can write our next chapters and let their actions and decisions leave them on previous pages. We can let the seasons change and let nature take its course, blowing weak leaves and branches from our strong limbs and roots. We don't have to do anything but stand.

In a powerful video clip I saw a few months ago, Bishop T.D. Jakes preached "when people can walk away from you, let them walk." If you value your time, attention, love and friendship, why waste it on the undeserving? Why spend time trying to hold onto things and people who don't want to be held? The only thing you end up doing is holding your destiny, your light, hostage for the sake of breathing air and life into something that's already dead.

When we let go of friendships that aren't true friendships and love that is not reciprocated, all we are losing is the weight of broken promises and unfulfilled expectations that can, if we continue to hold onto them, cause us to ignore the abundant love and friendship we can find in those who are and can become roots in our tree and permanent characters in our stories. When people can walk away from you, let them walk!

Becoming A Better Writer

As a member of the audience, I found myself laughing at the sheer wit displayed in a conversation with Black queer writers three weeks ago. The discussion was being moderated at the Schomburg Center here in New York and consisted of several NYC based literary artists. True to popular form, the members of the panel, which included Terrance Dean and James Earl Hardy, represented a sarcastic and humorous tone that is commonly seen in popular Black gay culture. While filled with countless moments of laughter, the wisdom of the panel left the audience of burgeoning writers with sobering tokens of wisdom. Between playful pokes at each other, comedic reflections on their journey to professional writing and commentary on industry obstacles, the panelists did not shy away from telling the truth about the craft of writing.

Reluctant to sugar-coat his own views, writer and director Stanley Bennett Clay simply exclaimed "there are just so many books out there these days that are just shit!" While cosigning other hard hitting comments by his fellow panelists, Clay encouraged members of the audience to seek out editors saying that editing your work and going through the process of perfecting your writing are necessary.

I left the venue that evening with many thoughts and one critical question: where does my own writing fall on the scale of quality which begins with awfully shitty and ends with something like beautifully brilliant? I had to really ask myself how serious I was about being a good, if not great writer. I felt great discomfort with the possibility that I may fall into a class of bloggers that some professional, well-trained writers might describe as arrogant. Calling yourself a writer these days seems so damn easy. With all of the resources we have at our fingertips, any one of us, regardless of education, style, voice, or topic can write whatever is on our minds and publish it somewhere. If we're lucky, someone will read it and even declare that they "like" our work; but does that really mean we're good writers?

If someone were to ask me what I think of myself as a writer, I'd say that I do a pretty good job at articulating my thoughts and ideas, but I still have a lot of work to do in perfecting my craft. I get an encouraging note here and there from followers, mentors, family, colleagues and academics who tell me they appreciate my work and want to see more. Though appreciate, I don’t write because I’m searching for such praise. Whenever I decide to write I'm really writing for me. The vast majority of my written work has never been published in any space, but I've learned to share pieces occasionally because what good are ideas and thoughts if they only live in my little head? The truth is that I haven’t consistently sought the guidance of others as a writer. Outside of my academic experiences in high school, college and graduate school, few people have read my writing and returned the work to me with guiding questions and feedback.

My guess is that we’ve all read some article, blog post or short story online that really should have been deleted the moment the last punctuation mark was added in the final line of the work. The moment we realized how terrible the writing was, we closed a window on our screen, or put a book back on the shelf and continued on with our lives.

What if we paused for a moment to actually write the author a quick note with some advice about how to improve their work? Wouldn’t the modern world of writing shift just a bit? Wouldn’t writers who are prone to spilling diarrhea onto a page and hitting “publish” without a second look feel a little more humble? Couldn’t we, as readers, hold authors accountable for the quality of their work? Granted, I just may very well fall within the cohort of writers who should reconsider writing anything aside from their own name (though I personally don’t believe I’m that damn bad). I wouldn’t know it if that were indeed the reality because aside from the occasional messages I receive praising the work I produce, no one tells me how I might create better work and I don’t take the time to seek out such constructive criticism.

In my own reflections over the past few weeks, I have learned of some things I can do to improve the quality of my work. First and foremost, I need to read more. Steven King slapped the shit out of me with this undeniable reality in his incredibly honest and authentic book On Writing, A Memoir of the Craft. I consider myself well-read, but as I’m in the process of writing my first novel, I had to ask myself if I’ve read enough great fictional work. I love music! I listen to music almost twenty-four hours a day and I can speak endlessly about the artists and entertainers in the musical world who’ve influenced my tastes and my ideas about what makes a song great. Why can’t I do the same for literature?  If I want to refine my voice and get a better understanding of great writing, I need to read more work from great writers. Seems commonsensical doesn’t it? Believe it or not, it’s apparently common for writers in our modern fast-paced world to neglect this practice. Perhaps that’s one of the key causes of the wide array of terrible writing available on the market these days.

In addition to reading more, I need to write more. Several years ago, before I discovered that I looked like I was dying (5’10 and only 130 pounds) I was a long distance runner. I ran a few miles every day and trained in the gym. I was careful about what I ate and I’d watch track and field every chance I could get to study the form and strategies of world-class runners. Unlike some of my peers, I didn’t excite spectators when I stepped onto the track, but I improved drastically each year with intentional practice. The first time I ran a 5k I thought I’d die. My chest was tight, my legs were on fire and if sweat could be used as money, I could have hired Bill Gates to be my personal chauffer. I’m not kidding. It was tough, but practice paid off. It’s time I approach writing with the same mentality. If I want to be a better writer, I need to set aside time each day or at least several times a week to just write!

Since it seems this post has turned from being a written reflection to a quasi-advice piece, let me say one other thing I need to do in hopes that at least some of you can benefit from this as well. I need to be more selfish with my time in an effort to give my mind space to breathe. When we are passionate about things, we make them priorities in our lives. Sometimes we let work, family, and friends get in the way but what I’ve learned in my 25th year of life is that the world and its nearly 7 billion inhabitants have few limits on what they may demand of you.

In a world in which we are easily accessible, it can be difficult to find a balance between taking care of your energy and maintaining relationships with others. None of us wants to give the proverbial “fuck you” to the members of our expansive networks by blowing off obligations and ignoring calls, texts and wall posts, but if I don’t get more serious about giving my mind some time to cool off, I know I might be cutting myself off from opportunities to pause and receive the many ideas the universe has to offer. I’ve come to appreciate King’s belief (which he writes about in On Writing) that we don’t have to find ideas but rather “recognize them when they show up.” I need to be ready when they come and I find I’m most ready when I’m not allowing my mind to run at 100 mph being concerned with all of the distractions the world has to offer. It doesn’t mean I have to stop living, but it does mean I need to be more conscious of my life as I’m living it.

I’m committed to being a better writer. I don’t think I’m awful, but I know I have a lot of work to do if I don’t want to spend my days producing work that can only be described as shitty.

The Role Humility Could Play in Your Relationships

In the past few months, I've seen several friends go through some serious challenges in their romantics lives. I myself wrestled with the end of my own relationship back in April and have since tried to reflect on what went wrong in my previous attempt at long-term love. I wanted to dig deep into myself to understand all of the many lessons that experience could possibly offer, and having turned 25 since, I've also thrown myself into a constant state of reflecting on who I am and who I want to be. I was thinking about several relationships this past weekend, not just relationships with romantic partners, but also friends, colleagues, and family members. In asking myself some of the tougher questions I've probably ignored in the past, I discovered that many of the problems I've experienced in my own relationships have a common root cause, the absence of humility.

Several of my friends who have experienced troubles in their own love lives over the past year point to communication, intimacy, and unequal care and attention in their relationships as some of the primary causes of turmoil. But when I ask them questions that force them to reflect on their own actions and mindsets, I've noticed this overwhelming presence of arrogance in how they see their role in their relationships.

In one conversation, a friend of mine shared that her partner doesn't "share the same level of affection." I asked her to explain further and she said, "I'm very romantic, affectionate and I feel like I'm the one always expressing that and he likes it but won't do the same in return." It was also disclosed that her partner in general has a difficult time expressing his feelings. Although this was a problem for my friend's lover, her ego told her that she was  "worth the effort" and that he needed to just "change" for her.

She is beautiful, brilliant and possesses many of the attributes that any single man with his head screwed on properly would desire, but the truth is if our lovers enter relationships with barriers that they've never been respectfully pushed to address and given the time and space to do so intentionally, we would be incredibly arrogant to assume that they'd just change overnight for us.

What was even more of an issue here is that my dear friend never bothered to really tell her lover how she truly felt about how the relationship was progressing on the basis that "he should just know..." Should he? A part of me wanted to ask my friend, who in the hell she thought she was to believe that someone should just know how to meet and cater to her needs when she had not explicitly shared those needs or disclosed where her heart and mind were with respect to the relationship.

It's not her fault though and it also isn't her fault that her partner's arrogance hinders him from seeing that while he also brings many great things to the table that his own work in making my friend both happy and satisfied is far from being done. In addition, he's arrogant to assume that just because he has some difficulty meeting my friend's emotional needs that she was just going to have to compromise while continuing to meet his needs. Both of them, like many of us, were lacking the kind of humility that could really take their relationship to greater heights.

When I think about this concept of humility, I think about the shear arrogance and ego that I see consistently interrupting the trajectory of our most sacred and meaningful bonds.  If I really think about the root cause of problems I've seen in many forms of relationships, often it's our inability to set our ego aside or arrogance that leads us to believe someone should change for us, that we should only be TRUE lovers and friends when WE are in the mood, or others should just know how we truly feel without being told explicitly.

I also think of the arrogance that forces us to believe others should give us more than what they are capable of giving and how deeply humility could inspire us to fully accept our realities in relationships, stopping us from thinking we could bend reality to fit our own needs and desires.

I want to be more humble in my relationships. I want to recognize, own and display my weaknesses, my fears, my concerns and set my ego aside to open up my mouth and be able to allow the words that rest at the deepest parts of my heart to flow honestly and freely. I want to love, and care, and listen, and walk in humility next to those with whom I am in relationships, acknowledging my small place in this world and the potential humility has in making a massive difference in the lives of others.

3 Ways That Minding Your Damn Business Can Change Your Life

As I was walking through my apartment last night, I was wrestling with the complexities of a friendship I'm currently managing. The details of the situation aren't at all significant so I'll save you some time and energy and jump to the point which is that this most recent complexity has made me reflect on past relationships (using this term in the most general sense, not exclusively romantic) and I discovered that in many ways the problems I've experienced—whether they've been insecurities, frustration, anxiety, anger, or regret—have often came about because I wasn't minding my damn business. Chances are if this aha moment (thanks Oprah) is true for me it's true for other people as well. So as I continue to reflect on what this all means for me, I thought I'd take a moment to share with you just how minding your damn business more often may change your life.

1. Gossip: You can pretend to be a saint if you want to, but let's be real. At some point in your life you too have participated in gossip. Either you were talking about someone behind their back or passing on a story you heard about someone. In some cases you yourself may have been the subject of gossip which, understandably so, put you in an awkward situation in which you felt obligated to address the issue/defend yourself. These circumstances typically bring about drama and distract us from the far more important things that are or could be happening in our lives. It seems that no matter what you do or where you go, someone will always have something to say about you so why waste your time worrying about and/or creating the nonsense? Next time you are the subject or facilitator of gossip, just think of the headache and potential heartbreak you could save yourself if you decide to take a rain check and mind your damn business.

2. Waiting for permission to heal: I'll given you a break from the honesty and ground this one in my own experience.  So I have been in a few relationships that didn't work out. Someone disappeared. They stopped calling. They suddenly weren't sure if they were ready for a relationship although I'm "amazing" and "brilliant" and "beautiful" and my favorite "You're everything that I have ever wanted. I'm just not sure I deserve you yet..." Can you believe this? Of course you can! You've heard it too! Oh wait, we're focusing on me. Oops. Right. So when these situations have emerged in the past, I've searched for an explanation. I wanted to know what happened. What did I do wrong? Was it something I said? Was there someone else? Well you know what? I never actually got any answers and instead of moving forward and healing, I harbored anger toward romance and often times when someone else came along tugging on my legs—even if gently—I wasn't willing to take a step forward because I was standing still waiting for closure to come. Guess what; It never showed up... Often times people don't give you an explanation because they don't believe they should have to or that you at least deserve one. Want closure and permission to heal from these situations? I have a tip. Mind your damn business. Why they didn't want you ain't none of your business.

3. If it isn't your life, don't live it: Here's a tough one. Love...it's a tricky bastard because when you love someone you give them a space in your life from which their actions and words can cause you pain and worry. Many of us have friends and family members for whom we care very deeply and occasionally someone will come into your life for whom you want the very best. Sometimes the problem is that what we want for others is more than what they want for themselves. So what do we do? We lose sleep. We sacrifice money, time, energy, care and sometimes even our well-being to ensure that we do all we can to convince them to live the life that we believe they deserve. But in trying to force our horses to drink the water to which we have led them, we typically hurt ourselves and in many cases we damage our relationships with those we love. By all means we should care for others, but when our care for them begins to diminish our care of ourselves we have to pause and ask ourselves if we are pouring our precious wine into a porous barrel and hoping each time that it will stay. Sometimes when you neglect your life because you're busy trying to live someone else's, you have to learn how to mind your damn business.

Can you imagine other ways in which minding your business might be helpful? If so, please share below! You never know who might benefit from your thoughts.