Why are you afraid of failure?

It still surprises me that people hide their failures, because we hear about the merits of failing so much - “Things fall apart so better things can fall together”; “Do or do not, there is no try”; “Fight through the bad days so you can earn the best days of your life”.

Though these quotes are easier said than done - as always, lip service is the cheapest and least effective service out there - they surround us. If you follow any personal growth or entrepreneurial materials, odds are you’re going to hear about 1) the merits of failure, and 2) why you should be proud and tout your failures.

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It’s without a doubt that I’ve failed - I think we all have. Yet failure is a muscle, built on the cringes of the past. Just in the past week, I have gone out in public with a busted fingernail, had a conversation with some great-looking lettuce in my teeth, and noticed 3 typos in work emails. “Psh”, you say. “That’s life; that’s not failing.”

But this is where you’re wrong.

Failing is what we choose it to be. To my perfectionist brain, I should have known better than to fix my fingernail polish before running around like Jabba the Hutt after five cappuccinos. I should have reread that email. I should have found a way to make sure I wasn’t carrying a salad in my mouth before speaking.

But, does it matter? Yes, these are small-scale fails; annoyances. I have larger ones, don’t you worry. I fail to get up in time to get my morning workout in — at least once a week. I’ve failed in standing up a sustainable business — twice in two years. I sometimes fail to look around me, instead head down, focusing on my to-do list and forgetting that, oh yes! I have a husband, and friends, and family! I fail to make time for doing all the things I want to do. In the act of failing, I must prioritize - and therefore, failure teaches me more about myself than success ever will.

Failing is one of my new favorite things to do, because it makes success taste that much sweeter. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still hard to admit failure…. but it does get easier with time and practice, and honestly, forces you to be nimble. Those business goals? They’ve made me learn more than any MBA program will ever preach. That morning workout? Let’s do yoga in the evening instead. Friends and family? Schedule weekly calls or check-ins with all your prioritized people. Ensure they know they’re thought of and loved, even if from a distance. Send memes or gifs when words just won’t come easily.

At the end of the day, failure is simply a part of life. The crust to that gooey pie filling, if you will. And as much as always, it’s more about how you react to the world around you, then what actually happens - so will you fall and get up later, or will you choose to fly?

Loneliness is Hard Work

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I've been thinking about relationships a lot lately.

Self-Experiments in Nature = The Best Medicine

Humans are social creatures, yet those stereotypes - introvert, sensitive people, social anxiety sufferers - have been known to be less social than others. As someone who relates to all three of those stereotypes, I'm careful of with whom and how I spend time, but I've found myself hiding behind the labels instead of overcoming them. 

Recently being disconnected from almost everything for three weeks was an interesting self-experiment, though I have no regrets of going abroad without a mobile phone. Having time in nature, to soak in our experiences from Dublin, Galway, Belfast, Glasgow, the Highlands, Edinburgh, Malham, and London was the right way to travel for me. I didn't have my nose buried in Google Maps, and getting lost on some of those cobbled streets was a wonderful adventure. There's nothing like a large expanse of city or country life unfolding before you to make you realize how small your life can be.

The more social connections we make, the bigger our legacies?

I remember when my grandmother passed, her legacy seemed larger than life. Sympathy cards and flowers poured in, memories were relived and reflected upon, and unfortunately, it was only then that I realized just how large her life was. I always had known her as Grandma, but she wore many hats - teacher, mentor, friend, Chair of Education, golf buddy, and holiday casserole connoisseur.

Grandma's social network was always extensive, and she made friends easily. For that, I'll always be a little jealous. Those that are willing to have meaningful conversations are easy friends, though I've always struggled with those surface conversations; those that don't come with cut-and-dry instructions. 

Travelling on our honeymoon together helped bring Husband and I closer, and our relationship has flourished since then. Yet it's the other relationships that I tend to struggle with; the others that aren't so easy and comfortable. If relationships are a precarious balance of trust, vulnerability, and self-awareness, how do you manage that with a work colleague? Too much vulnerability and trust, and it's almost too personal. Too little, and you can be perceived as a robot. 

Making it Right: Course Corrections

My personal vendetta this month has been toward self-awareness. I'm usually been proud of my levels of self-awareness, but I've gotten complacent. Things happen, but someone forgot to tell my face. Coming into places or meetings with open body language, a more pleasant expression (gasp, even a smile), saying "Hello", "Good morning", or "Have a good evening"... these are all basic tenants of being self-aware in the workplace, but they had all fallen by the wayside. I got so wrapped up in my own head that I forgot to take a step back and really be aware of how I could be perceived. 

I've been trying to have more patience with those surface conversations as well (though when I ask you how you're doing, odds are I want to know really how you're doing). For those people that I've lost touch with because Life got in the way (or I was overwhelmed by notifications after turning off my phone for three weeks), I've started to schedule time with. 

It's easy to isolate ourselves. The "Busy" takes over all conversations, and after awhile, you don't even get invitations to go out and be social anymore. Yet pure loneliness - where you're surrounded by people, but none are your people, those you know are in your court - is hard work. So let's grab a cup of coffee, and you can tell me how you're really doing - and I swear, someone will tell my face to match what's in my heart.  

A Practical Guide to Career Management

When I think of myself at my first company, I think of myself as a toddler.

Not because I wore pigtails to work every day, but because I was fairly clueless as to what career management really meant. I was relying on others, and wasn't empowered to really do some of the hard digging needed to manage my career, though I knew my goal – to become a kickass consultant (Rule #1 of career management: your goal will be a moving target). I just didn't have a clue as to how to get there. As a matter of fact, it wasn’t until I hit mid-twenties that I started researching what I wanted my career to look or feel like. I had to build it, much like the Lego version of the Millennium Falcon, bit by bit. I had to find the pieces first before I could even put them together.

And this is how I did it.

It really started when I discovered TED Talks. I’ve shed more tears at a well-worded story than most, and someone sharing their story or knowledge started that churn in me – “Well, if they did it, why can’t I?”. After TED Talks came social psychology articles. Why do we feel the need to have a career? Why were women told to “have it all” in the first place? What does it mean to be fulfilled?

This all sounds very deep, and the short answer is that it should. Do you want a job where you punch in each day, fulfill that job’s requirements, then go home? Then stop reading.

If you want something more, you have to figure out what you want before you sprint off trying to get it. As an example, for me that looked something like this:

  • Fulfillment. I want my career to matter.

  • Uniqueness. I don’t want to follow herd behavior. I want my journey to be meaningful and different.

  • Balance. I want to balance having a social life, private life, and work life without having to sacrifice my sanity.

  • Empowerment. I’ve always had a soft spot for an underdog, and I want to keep fighting for those that don’t experience solidarity.

Now that you’ve piqued interest and defined what your end point is, the fun begins: how do you get there? For me, a big part was reading articles online. A few examples are below:

  • Career Contessa is geared toward women, and their website is chock-full of articles, guides, templates, and advice. Want to reach out to network, but don’t know how? There’s a template for that. Have a unique mix of casual – business dress code at work? There’s an article for that. You see where I’m going here… (Also, shameless self-promotion – my website won a personal branding contest, so I’m pretty loyal).

  • Glassdoor has articles, and believe it or not, they’re pretty good. The purpose behind Glassdoor is also neat in that you can work to minimize the pay gap and come to interviews more prepared.

  • The Muse is geared toward those recent college grads or the awkward “I feel like an intern though I’ve been in the working world for three years now; why don’t I have my shit together?!” feeling. Career advice, articles, and a nifty animation-fueled process to work through their website; you can’t go wrong.

For job boards in the nonprofit sector, DevNet Jobs is key. They post worldly, and for the most part (they have persnickety hidden “Premium” jobs), they’re free to use.

Still not convinced, or do you feel like you’re missing a skill? Try Udacity (MOOC courses), Coursera (MOOC courses), or Memrise (free language learning app). I’ve learned French, Portuguese, and am completing a specialization in Investment Management – all without paying a dime (until I decided to purchase the certificates, that is). Showing your employer you’re open to learning is a huge win – for them, you’ll be a dynamic employee, and personally, you’ll never know where you’ll find the use for these skills.

Last and most importantly, focus on the people and ideas in your network. It doesn’t truly matter which tool you use – blogs, social media, newspaper articles – as long as you connect with others. Don’t know where to start? Try following thought leaders. Share their articles, comment when appropriate, rebut them when you disagree, but most importantly support them; because one day, they may be supporting you. Search for Meetup groups or LinkedIn Local events, and be approachable. Put in as much as you want to get out. Be genuine.

One final thought – as with anything, keep a balance. You’ll know your limits, because they will appear. Push them enough to grow, but not enough to implode. Once you define your path and begin to follow it, the rest will appear as needed.

Remember, each job, each company, each industry has benefits and costs. The key is to make the cost-benefit ratio always work in your favor. 

Searching for Purpose

It all came to a head in Denver. 

I was surrounded by the most inspiring and motivating (and motivated) people I'd seen in one place before, at the esteemed #NLVDenver No Longer Virtual conference, headed by a North Star of a human, Sarah Elkins. During the first presentation, everyone had their puzzle pieces or their completed puzzle before them in succinct "I Am", "My Why", "My Purpose", "My Superpower" statements. I felt like a misassembled Rubik's cube. I took deep breaths, became a sponge, and lived in awe for one more day - then back to the grind, the snow, wind, and rain, the Maryland drivers, the routine. 

Don't get me wrong, I love routine. I thrive off of a carefully balanced routine of productive and bleugh days. Yet as the routine crept in, the creativity, the motivation, the clear path forward seeped out. Suddenly, I felt powerless as to what my Why, Purpose, or Superpower could even be.  How rude of it, to exist and not introduce itself?

I'm 27. I've lived enough -- in hostels, in strange cities with strange people. I've lived in poverty (that's supposed to build character, right?) and precarious middle class. I know what I want and need out of life, but I have no idea how to ask for it. I'm always grasping for that commonality, that wispy WHY that should serve as the common thread between my rambunctious career and desires. Human and animal psychology, romance languages, financial institutions, foreign economic policy, how computers work and how people work around computers -- all of it is awe-inspiring. I was hoping that finding this ubiquitous WHY would help me filter down and make something useful of the swilling questions in my head. 

I was wrong. 

The destination is great -- I'll find that WHY sooner or later. But the journey is so much richer than I previously thought. I thought that if I squinted my eyes and closed my ears, listening to my heartbeat would bring me those answers I seek (it just brought people asking if I was alright). Yet in speaking to these incredible, patient people -- my tribe -- it's really about the journey. I need to keep living life as self-aware and self-compassionate as I can, doing what feel right and good in my gut, and the path will show itself.

For a control freak, there should be no more trying circumstance, but I'm actually enjoying it. Doing corporate trainings, brushing up on my French, learning investment management, recording and editing training videos, all with that servant leadership mentality is what truly sets my inquisitive soul on fire. 

I'm not quite where I want to be yet, but that's OK -- because I'm right where I need to be. 

Adelante

Breakdown or Breakthrough?

Last week, I was the epitome of a burned out lightbulb. There was so much hope, so much promise, so many self-directed “shoulds” and “wills” that getting sick and doing the bare minimum all week was not part of the plan, was not part of the schedule, and was not part of the checklist.

I’m the Type A type of person that lives by a checklist. I’ve always taken great pride in doing as much as I can, pushing the limits – working multiple part-time jobs throughout high school and college, working multiple jobs as a young millennial in DC trying to make a way. Now, with only one job (and multiple volunteering opportunities), life is full. But sometimes I wonder if I try to distract myself through my to-do lists and checklists – if I’m chasing my need for productivity instead of chasing my passion.

Enter weeks like last week. Weeks when snow fell freeform, weeks when work fell into a lull, when I was content to gobble up other people’s content instead of creating my own. Then, after finishing my third book, it hit me – I’m not burnt out, I’m not burnt enough.

My problem wasn’t with getting burnt out with my checklists – after all, I’ve done so much more before this moment in time, and I’ll probably be doing just as much in the future. No, it was that I wasn’t energized. Recently, I’ve been doing things that haven’t been energizing me; instead, they’ve been taking – volunteer opportunities taking away from my time to socialize or become more inspired; work projects taking time to get started; even my workouts have become more maintenance than fun.

Instead of maintaining my schedule, I should have been maintaining my energy.

Why is this even a problem in the first place? Perhaps it’s because as women, we’re ingrained with ingratiating ourselves; to put others before ourselves. Usually, I try to keep up with my energy levels, doing “half-halts” or small breaks to ensure my energy levels are stable throughout the day, but I’ve thoroughly been distracted. It’s time to cut the noise and focus my energy on what really matters.

I get energy from connecting with others – either meeting someone for a cup of coffee, interacting with my #NLVDenver tribe, and connecting with those work colleagues to try to problem-solve their projects and issues. I get energy through solving those problems that other people have given up on, or trying to make the impossible, possible. I get energy through learning – languages, other cultures, other ways of life.

What sorts of activities do you do to maintain your energy levels?

How I Used LinkedIn to Get a New Job – And Another – And Another

I’ve always struggled with identity and feeling like I belonged somewhere, so using tools like LinkedIn in the “correct” way (i.e., trial and error, in my case) – is crucial to my overall career happiness.

Happiness, to me, is partly genetics and partly environment – since we can’t alter our genetics, let’s focus instead on our environment. Also, generic disclaimer here: what worked for me may not work for you, simply because tools like LinkedIn and job hunting in general rely on humans, and if there’s one consistency about humans, it’s that we’re so changeable.

My career path closely resembles that of an overstimulated rabbit in the wilderness, and using my trial and error strategy, it’s had its pain points and positive notes. Starting in Washington, DC as a naïve, nearsighted recent graduate, I had one goal: get a job. Preferably one that paid well enough so I wouldn’t struggle too hard, and preferably one in consulting. It didn’t really matter what, because with my bilingualism and liberal arts degrees, I felt like I could do anything.

So I ended up doing admin work – sometimes bilingually. I found my new corporate calling via Indeed.com, researched their background on LinkedIn, and did more thorough research via their website. I fell in love with the corporate lure of a steady ladder to climb, pencil skirts, and self-important people.

Just as soon as it all started, the honeymoon was over (see: previous notes on environment and trial and error). Turns out I wasn’t the best fit for the corporate lifestyle – the ladder always seemed to move after I put one foot on the lower rung, pencil skirts are actually really uncomfortable, and self-important people care about themselves, but rarely genuinely care about others.  A few lessons arose:

  1. There’s a stigma that only those that are actively looking for a career change are on LinkedIn. This is true if all of a sudden, you start to dust off your LinkedIn profile one day and post each day for weeks on end. People will wonder and assume. It’s best to ramp up your activity gradually – first on the weekends, then move into tactful weekday posting.
  2. LinkedIn is a really good source for getting the elevator pitch of a company. Companies show themselves off, the same as people do.
  3. Just like online dating or house hunting, you have to be able to read through the cracks before finding yourself in a place that you don’t belong. Look for a work/life balance through a “close-knit” team, observe a few people working and others playing ping-pong in a “fun, start-up environment”, and look at the circumference of those undereye bags for those teams that “work hard and play hard”. If I had read through the cracks (and wasn’t so desperate for something besides an unpaid internship), I would have missed this first career step.

However, with each “lesson learned” comes some benefit, right? To me, it was the people – five years later, I’m still good friends with two of the friends I made while in the corporate quandary.

Fast forward to career step #2: this position was found right around the same time as the feature of single-click applications to jobs on LinkedIn. Just one click, and the application was pre-filled with your LinkedIn credentials. So easy, right? The answer is: very easy. I could do up to 40 applications in a day at my job with this feature (side note: Applying to jobs while you’re at your current job is very uncouth. Don’t do it. People will notice, and people will talk).

By pure happenstance, I loved this job. I say pure happenstance because I did what every desperate job seeker does: focus on volume and quantity of applications, versus the quality of the fit. This job was exactly what I needed; even now I can look back and see the tangible benefits – the confidence won, friendships earned, connections cherished. I didn’t search as hard as the first company, and it was pure luck that it worked – for a little while at least. Pretty soon, I felt that now-familiar urge that happens when I need more room to grow, to stretch, and to learn. I was convinced that I had to go about it the right way this time, the proper way. This was about the same time that LinkedIn rolled out its new feature of flipping a switch (or a radio button in this case), and telling recruiters that you’re available for new opportunities – all without being dreadfully obvious in your LinkedIn activity.

I used this button, and utilized LinkedIn premium to gather information; attend (previously Lynda; now LinkedIn Learning) training sessions, host coffee hours with strangers-turned-acquaintances, and learn more about the big, wide world of opportunities out there. I had a list of requirements for this new job, and enough confidence to believe I was worthy of such requirements. Even more lessons came of this search:

  1. Believe in yourself, and others will, too. Having more than 2 years of working experience is a weird balance, as you’re right on the cusp of being a manager, and you know enough to articulate what’s tolerable, what’s preferable, and what’s impossible.
  2. Utilize and keep on top of your LinkedIn network, connections, and the content flying about. It’s one thing to read content, another to comment, and yet another to actually create content. Jobs are out there, but your network is key to parsing through those that can be a good fit, and those that are probably not the best fit.
  3. Tactfulness while job-searching includes scheduling interviews after the day is done, or claiming an appointment during the day. Tactfulness while job-changing includes not burning bridges (looking at you, exit interview) while you’re on your way out. There’s a right way and a wrong way to leave to greener pastures, and you owe everyone – including yourself – to do things the right way.
  4. As new LinkedIn features come out, take the risk and try them – you never know which ones may work in your favor!  

As you can see, LinkedIn is a great tool – but it’s not the only one out there, and it’s not the best. It’s only as good and as useful as you make it, but when given the power, it can really alleviate the pressure of finding a good fit – which is just as important in a job as it is in a pencil skirt!

When What You Love Doesn't Love You Back

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C.S. Lewis may have said it best, as we usually remember historic words and platitudes. 

I used to have this quote hanging on the wall right by the door, so I could see it each time I left my office. It gave me perspective, a "Get-out-of-Jail-Free" card from my worry if you will, when a client started becoming angry and the world looked bleak.

The quote itself is a beneficial memory of self-sufficiency and self-indulgence; independence and a macro perspective on problems - which, honestly, are hard to fall back to when times get tough and people get tougher. 

As anyone reading this blog knows. I'm a horse-lover by heart. I grew up in the thick of the industry, propelled by my father's reputation and success as a blacksmith - all bias aside, a damned good one, too. Horses came and went, as I never owned - always leased or rode others in lessons. Though I've been dreaming of owning my own horse since I was a little girl reading horse encyclopedias, it's always been right outside of my reach, even with my "big girl job". See, I forgot as a child that adult jobs also come with bills - a lot of them. 

I think back on those formative years, galloping in the schoolyard during recess and reading all the Saddle Club books I could get my hands on, with a fondness and melancholy fit for older age. I think of those experiences differently now than even six weeks ago. 

It all started when I got married. After the wedding, going and riding someone else's horse in a weekly lesson wasn't fulfilling. I wanted something of my own, or something I could pretend was my own, even if it was just temporary. I started putting feelers out. I even created a new Facebook account, just to connect with equestrians in my area. I finally found four horses to try, and after a few test rides (think of test-driving a car), I settled on one. He was young, eager, smart, and big - just my type of horse. I moved my gear to the barn and started riding. It was perfect; I was enjoying my hobby and I could identify with my hobby again: feeling as though I no longer barely qualified as an equestrian.

Then the inevitable happened when you have a 1.5 ton animal beneath you, with their fight-or-flight response programmed so deep in their core. It was dark, there was a small animal, and I went down. Though I hope it resembled a graceful swan, it probably looked more like Wile E. Coyote when he realized the Roadrunner outran him yet again. 

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Every equestrian falls; that's part of the beauty of the sport to me. We all fall, we all fly; whether we have Olympic gold medals or a backyard pony. It's the great equalizer of equestrianism. It had been a decade or so since I last fell, and I must say, falling as an older twenty-something is a lot more difficult than a rubbery 16-year old. After four doctors appointments, three prescriptions, two days off of work, and many grumbles, I succumbed to the logic of joining a physical therapy program and slowly started to heal. As time goes on, I'm reminded of the gravity of the fall (pun not intended). It was a big fall - more than the usual, "Dust yourself off, cowboy" falls I had experienced before. This was the first fall that I didn't immediately get back on. Instead, I took myself home and then to the urgent care center.

In these past six weeks, something else has stirred deep inside me - a growing, gnawing feeling of doubt. Maybe I'm not meant to be an adult rider. Am I really that good? I have nothing to show for any of it, and the constant going out, cleaning, working; taking communion of blood, sweat, and tears is taxing. It's hard to take time from my new marriage to take care of a stranger's horse. It's hard to work 8 or 9 hours a day, put on funny pants and boots, and touch manure. 

We all have self-doubt now and again, and to be honest, I don't know how my adult self will ultimately resolve this experience. The deep devotion and undying love I had for animals has been replaced, bit by bit, by other things: watching the sunrise from the gym in the mornings; snuggling with Netflix, Hubby, and wine during the week; working late in a quiet office on ideas that move people; and having time to write and meditate.

At the end of the day, I have to come back to C.S.'s words of wisdom: I can give or take riding a specific horse; but in my heart of hearts, I still feel like an equestrian. I can't give up the feelings of an extended canter in a field, flying over a jump, basking in the sunshine on a warm summer day, kissing my special someone good night, or of having a heart full of love. Though we have to be careful not to put all of our eggs into one Happiness basket, I truly believe that those that love us will, in time, show us that. 

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The Power of the Phoenix

Maybe someone’s noticed that I’ve been away. I was slowly going into an ashes and embers state with my writing, and with my own personal development –beginning a new job, in a new town, and in the throes of wedding planning, will do that to someone.

The thing is, we’re all human. We all lose ourselves sometimes, and we start to question if what we say, do, or write actually matters; if our words have an impact. Now, with tracking and analytics software free or simple to turn on, we see those numbers – and for me, those numbers had been dwindling.

Now, the wedding bells have rung; I’m past the quarter-year stage and am still in love with this new company, and I’m ready to rise again. I read somewhere, from someone, that prioritizing items is key to success – that instead of saying “that’s not important to me”, one should say “That’s not a priority right now”. I’ve tried this in the past few months, and it’s really helped my anxieties of getting everything done, and I can focus on the things I do want to juggle, and not prioritize on those that I cannot.

One simply cannot do everything, and I’ve learned this the hard way. Without proper time for self-care – for me, that’s journaling and practicing yoga – I tend to break down. Without a balance of “me” time, “us” time with the new husband, and social time, I tend to be off-kilter. Without being engaged in work, I tend to be complicit and complacent, just along for the ride. And without blogging, I feel lost, without an identity.

I write, but I wouldn’t call myself a writer. I have this blog, but I wouldn’t call myself a blogger. And why not? Maybe I don’t do it enough, I don’t have the readership, that nasty imposter syndrome is too far deep in my head… but what it really boils down to, is that I hadn’t been prioritizing it. The wedding details and other volunteer activities have nudged up, claiming to be more important than the words that magically are transferred from my mind to my computer screen.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness.
But still, like air, I’ll rise.
— Maya Angelou

Our wedding rehearsal dinner was in a small local Italian brick oven café, in a room aptly titled The Phoenix Room. I think it’s time to rise from the ashes of “what could have been” and instead glide toward “what is” – and for me, that is blogging, that is engaging this wonderful online community, and that is saying “I’m here, and I’m home”.

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To Marianne:

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here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
— e.e. cummings

At the ripe age of 22, I lost someone that I was supposed to protect. I didn’t do my job properly enough to make sure that she called me when something was off, or I didn’t build up enough trust to make sure that the unthinkable stayed just that – unthinkable. As a first year forum mentor, I was supposed to be the middleman between a group of fantastically acute and apprehensive first year students and the professor in charge of the small, 6-8 week seminar course made for those in their first year at Syracuse’s College of Arts and Sciences.

Marianne Guppenberger died too young, and it shook all of us that knew her, however well.  Some days she pops up in my thoughts as a shadow, and I often think of what she’d be doing these days, with that infectious laugh, glowing smile, and obvious wisdom. Next April it’ll be five years – five years since I was shocked by the news, five years since I blindly bumbled through planning a memorial service with her closest friends, five years since the unthinkable happened.

Death is always a shock to us, as it reminds us of our fragile mortality. We’re so used to living in the past or planning for the future that we forget about the present. Not enough people are living with intent. They’re just living each day as spectators to their life, and as a result, they’re passive, and they’re unhappy. It’s hard work being the coach, umpire, star player, and benchwarmer all at once – but it’s also a hell of a lot more rewarding. If you’re going to put in effort, why not give it a full 100%? What business do you have trying to lower the expectations of your own life?

Intent is creating with your heart. Loving with your soul. Deciding with your brain and your gut. Talking with your mind and your mouth, but listening with your ears more. If you use your entire body, multiple times a day, you’ll find that you will be living with intent – not being chased by regret. There’s no “could haves”, “would haves”, or “should haves”.

Life is about the yin and the yang; with death, there is always hope, light, and life. Marianne is always going to be sparkling light in my memory, and I only wish to respectively pay tribute to her memory. Personally, I know how hard youth can be; since my own path was so very non-linear. I’ve lost more friends than I can count, I’ve cut people out of my life, and I’ve also invited new ones in. There are a lot of highs and lows in my life, though they’ve thankfully been gradually ironed out over the years.

One thing I know, though, is that we need to know ourselves. It’s so important to know yourself better than you know a best friend – know your strengths without being arrogant, your weaknesses without being filled with angst and worry, know what keeps you up at night and what lulls you to sleep. What you’re passionate about, what makes you want to move and exercise, and what is profitable. Know how you can fit in to the multiple big picture options you have. Know what you will and will not accept – from others and from yourself – and always keep pushing forward, always with intent.  

Perception: or, Prefiero Decir Dejar

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Perception dictates reality. To change reality, we must first change our perception of our reality. Before jumping off into the deep end of actions and ideas, however, we must understand how our perception works.

What is perception? Quickly put, it is the input and output of our environment – taking in and becoming aware of our environment through the five senses (hearing, seeing, smelling, touching, and tasting); compiling that information, and then responding to that environment. It is more than our ears, eyes, noses, skin, and mouths; perception is also our thoughts, feelings, emotions, and the small nuances that can nudge our brain this way or that on a subject. [1], [2]

Enter in the word dejar, which has been on my mind a lot lately. It is a Spanish word, and doesn’t have one set meaning: it can mean to leave, to set down, to let or allow, to let someone or something be, or to stop or let up. [3] Recently, I’ve moved jobs and companies, and heard the English equivalent so often it brought a bad taste to it: quitting. I don’t think of myself as a quitter; I know my story is just unfolding a chapter at a time, and it was time for the previous chapter to end. My eyes are straight ahead, adelante. I’m excited about work again! Yet to everyone at my old company, I quit when I left. I stopped contributing to their mission statement – and the two sides of the coin simply depend on perception of the situation.

Language is full of nuances. As a mode of communication, what we think, what we say, and what we hear all affect us – yet it all depends on perception.

I’ve written before about perspective, and how trying a different perspective can help solve conflicts or challenges, provide new meaning to an old problem, or even negotiating – but perception is deeper. It’s not something you can try like a new pair of jeans; it’s the act of realizing there are holes in your jeans to the point where it’s not socially acceptable to keep them, and realizing you should replace them, based on the social norms and the need to keep your bottom half covered. Thoughts like “I’m cold” or “That’s a different type of breeze” mix with “Everyone will stare at me funny” or “I’ll get made fun of” to form that input / output relationship.

Our perception will always be there, looking out for us, and helping us with our decisions. Once we acknowledge it’s there, we can join forces and work to change how we might want to change our realities through the power of language, thought, and pure brainpower.

[1]: Study.com, What Is Perception in Psychology

[2]: Psychology Today, Perception and Perceptual Illusions 

[3]: WordReference.com, online language dictionaries