Success is Relative

To be honest, the last few months have not been the easiest, creatively. I have had a whirlwind of ideas, concepts, next steps if you will, floating into my mind (some of which are better than others), and that just where they have stayed. In my mind. Personally, I can be intimidated by the sheer volume of other people creating things, it makes me not want to do anything ever. 

The allure and vision of becoming successful one day is slowing fading out of my mind and time just seems to go by: I’m standing still, slowly turning in a panoramic manner, and everything else seems to be moving in hyperlapse. Sound familiar? If not, let me paint you a better picture (complete with some sad piano music, a black and white filter, and all) : Standing Still.

I have to ask myself then: where am I getting this definition of success? Who is creating that for me? And why does that definition apply to my life? Long story short: it doesn’t.

34th Street, Manhattan

The world’s definition of success is actually so vague and purposeless that it makes me frustrated for actually falling for it. I didn’t even realize where I was feeding my soul information from until I started to dig deeper.

In the context example Google uses for its definition of success (meaning popularity and wealth), the sentence it gives is “the trappings of success.” I’m sure you know as well as I do that the feeling of entrapment can come hand and hand with success. But the definition I care to explore more about, the one I want to continue to meditate on is “the accomplishment of an aim or a purpose.”

We are all created for a purpose. Is that for us to know right away? Maybe. But at the very least, it is for us to figure out along the way . As we continue to grow more in our faith, we discover more about ourselves on a daily basis. This means trying on a daily basis. This means failing on a daily basis. But it also means one step closer to your own personal success on a daily basis.

Success does not look the same for a woman who was born to raise 3 children to be future leaders of the world as it does for me. It does not look the same for a woman who is a teacher during the day and attending night school so she can advance her research studies. It does not look the same for the lawyer working until 2AM in the high rise in Midtown Manhattan. It does not look the same for the athlete training 6 hours a day and making sure she gets 8 hours a sleep a night so her body can recuperate.

Success is setting reasonable goals for yourself within your own lane. Only you and God know your own limits; and you have to be honest with yourself. This is something I know I need to work on. I will be either all in or not at all. Lately, it has been a not at all mindset, which has left me feeling discouraged and left behind. If that’s you too, that’s okay. As you grow in your skills and abilities to become autonomous, your limit and capacity to tackle more responsibility increases.

That definition of success that I mentioned earlier (the accomplishment of an aim or a purpose)? I think I want to rewrite it to say “The accomplishment or aim of a purpose.” You may never been truly feel like you are “done.” But we continue aiming, because we will always be called to a Higher purpose.

Don’t look for the success that will entrap you. Look for the kinds of success that will propel you into your unique purpose. Own your own definition of success.

 

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2018: The Year of Intention

Do you ever just make plans and then they get pushed off or put on hold due to something unexpected?

For example: last night I had planned to go out with a few girls to dinner, ring in the new year, and then dance the night away (among other things like writing this blog post and cleaning the apartment). I woke up with an incredible sinus headache and the chills. The only thing I actually did yesterday was start and finish Mindhunter on Netflix and rewatch some of my favorite episodes of Arrested Development and play HQ Trivia (no – I have not won any money yet, no I’m not bitter about it).

When I make my plans for the day, I never factor in if something goes wrong. I just assume that everything will go as planned. Over the years, that has put a lot of unnecessary pressure on myself. Pressure just to try and make sure that nothing goes wrong (apparently I forgot that I am a human and that the grace of God exists).

Looking back on how I have planned out my life for my previous years, I set resolutions with the expectation that everything will go according to plan. I say to myself “No, I won’t get injured and I will be able to perfectly complete my training program in time for my marathon.” Or “I don’t plan on getting sick so any money I set aside for the doctor can be automatically put into savings.”

Well unfortunately that’s not what I have encountered this past year. It has been full of disappointments and realizing that life happens and doesn’t stop just because I make plans otherwise. This year, I’m aiming to set realistic resolutions. Resolutions that I have carefully planned out with a buffer for when things don’t go exactly as planned. For me, instead of looking at the year as a whole, it means breaking the year up into 12 months to set monthly goals instead of yearly ones. Instead of calling them resolutions, I am calling them intentions. Intentions have more meaning to me: it’s saying despite what happens in my life “I intend to do this.” I’ve planned it out, I’ve planned for buffers, and I will get this accomplished.

This year, as I look at my “resolutions” “intentions,” I ask myself are these realistic? Or am I banking on the fact that “life” won’t actually happen and everything will go according to plan? Plan for your goals and dreams, but be sure to leave buffer for the unexpected too.

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Life-Giving Life

When your mind, body, and soul are operating on the same page, meaning, there is a common goal, beautiful things happen. If you put your mind into a cause or a project where your heart is and your actions follow, passion ignites and things actually start to get done.
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What’s more, when you are operating within God’s will, you are on an accelerated path for the Kingdom, and you become an unstoppable force to be reckoned with. When your goals align with kingdom destiny, your goals become on a fast-track.

Philippians 1:21 says “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” I paused for a moment to meditate on the “to live is Christ” portion. “Is” in this context is a direct metaphor for life. Nothing you do can separate you from God, so why would you try? I am reminded of that Steven Curtis Chapman song, Jesus is Life. “The air I’m breathing, Why my heart is beating, Everything I’m needing, Jesus is life, Jesus is life.”

Jesus IS life. All encompassing, ever-dependent life. The goal is to operate as one mind, one body, and one spirit: totally and completely in sync with your God-planned purpose. “Be no longer conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test God’s will. His good, pleasing and perfect will.” -Romans 12:2. Just rest in those thoughts, knowing that God WANTS you to know His perfect and pleasing will for your life and He WANTS to be involved. 

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Quality Alone Time

On the surface, I come across as a highly amiable and social person. Which is mostly true: few things delight me more than spending time catching up with a friend over a latte (or breakfast – I love a good avo toast). But so much of my life has been going going going that sometimes I become anxious or lose focus or I find myself saying things like “It’s almost July and I still can’t believe I haven’t finished (fill in the blank).”
I’ve slowly learned the importance of “me” time. This could be spent reading, praying, writing, walking around the city, painting, or even sleeping. All I know is that my body and my mind need rest and space.
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I’ve recently made a routine of “me” time by making matcha lattes and doing my morning reading. I look forward to it every day: it’s quality time spent reading and praying. It’s my time I don’t have to answer emails, texts, or calls. It is an important way to start my day to reset my heart, mind and spirit so I can go into the day filled with encouragement and joy,
Here is my recipe for matcha lattes (adapted from @LeeFromAmerica).
2 Teaspoons of Jade Leaf Matcha
1 scoop of Vital Proteins (optional)
A pinch of Brain Dust (yes, you read that correctly) (optional)
A dash (or four) of cinnamon
1 cup of heated almond or coconut milk
1 TBSP of coconut butter (I like Artisana Naturals)
Set aside the matcha in a small mixing bowl. Heat up the almond milk in a saucepan over the stove on low to medium heat. Put some boiling water in a tea kettle. Once boiled, let the water cool down for a minute, then pour the water into the small mixing bowl with the matcha. Whisk the matcha with a bamboo whisk (like this one) to get out any matcha clumps. Let sit for a minute. Add all ingredients to a blender (including the heated milk and matcha mix). Blend for 1-2 minutes so you get MAXIMUM foam from the coconut butter and milk froth. Pour into a mug, sip and enjoy your “you time.”
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The Power of Perks

Staying focused is hard. Really hard. Short term, long term, I struggle with both sometimes. Coming up with a reward system for yourself or little perks when you reach certain milestones is key to keep going, for me.
When I was little, maybe 8, I had to write this research paper on an invention of my choice. I could have picked anything, and mine was the ballpoint pen. Something simple, something you use almost everyday. Anyway, all that is to say that every time I wrote 100 words of the paper, I was rewarded with 5 M&M candies. It was an incentive for me to keep going, even when I didn’t feel like it. Because, let’s face it, I wanted M&M’s.
Right now, I’m on a “mega savings plan.” “Ummm, what is that?” you might ask. Well, it’s a plan I made up myself to save as much money as possible as quickly as possible. It’s hard to give up old spending habits (ie cabs everywhere and going out to eat), so I made myself a savings incentive list, so that I have a motivation to keep going (besides the obvious: having a substantial savings). When I save “$X,” I can take a weekend solo trip. When I save “$X” more, I can take a language class I’ve been wanting to take. So on and so forth.
Yes, self-discipline is good. It is necessary. But unfortunately it is not all that is part of the equation. One of my best friends Louisa has recently lent me a called Accent of Leadership by Steve Kelly (I haven’t finished reading it yet becuase I’m letting all of the concepts sink in- but I couldn’t wait to share with you what I have learned so far). He made a good point in saying the following:

“Some people think if they were more self-disciplined, problems would go away. Yet until we develop a vision that is bigger than simply being more disciplined, the change we seek will never become permanent.”

Completely cutting yourself off from everything won’t improve your habits or quality of life, and you may just find yourself right back where you started. As you go into this week, ask yourself: what are your perks to keep you going? What is your greater vision, the bigger picture you have for your life? How do you or will you create a reasonable reward system for yourself to get you closer to your goal? And how will the decisions you make every day get you closer to your end-goal? (Edit 6.25.2017)
If I find myself habitually drawing on the go, I have so much joy by integrating that into my daily life. It’s almost like it has become a part of what I do daily: and I love it! Above are some drawings I recently made on the go, in an Lyft when I was in California this past weekend. Enjoy!
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Consistency is Key

In every area of your life it pays to be consistent. To say you will do something and follow through with it. Repeatedly.
901 Broadway
I’ve noticed for me that consistency leads to growth and developing new habits. This can go either way: maybe I consistently go for a run and develop that habit. Or I could consistently come back home and watch TV for 2 hours after work and develop that habit. (For the record, I’ve done both).
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Challenge yourself starting today by asking: are the habits and choices that you are consistently making leading you towards a life that you want to live? Towards a life that will help you grow in your faith? I know I personally can be better about how I spend my time and my money. What changes can you make today that will help you tomorrow, in five years, and in ten years?
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This series of drawings is of a cast- iron building in New York City on 901 Broadway. It was built in 1870, and was formerly a Lord and Taylor dry goods shop.
Enjoy!
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Why I Go the Distance

This past Sunday, I completed the longest run of my life (by a long-shot), a marathon. As physically taxing as 26.2 miles sounds to some, so much of your experience comes from months of training beforehand both physically and mentally.

Marathon Medal

So many people I know talk about “The Wall.” This mental block that comes somewhere usually between the 18-24 mile marker (I know, 24 miles, I still laugh in disbelief at myself). By the grace of God, I didn’t hit “The Wall.” Maybe it was because I exaggerated in my head how exasperating it would be for me, maybe it was the killer playlist (definitely was the playlist), or maybe it’s becuase I walked when I felt like it (muscle cramps always get the best of you, amirite?). Most importantly, I learn how to train my mind to anticipate and counteract any sort of struggle that would come my way.

Running a marathon is more than just finishing a race that is 26.2 miles. It’s saying that you have the mental toughness to accomplish anything, even when it hurts, even when it sucks. It’s being able to say “yes” to things you don’t feel like doing and saying no to things you would rather do. It’s not shying away from the hard things in life. That is why I go the distance.

When you finish a marathon, you’re training your mind for life. It sounds weird, it sounds cliche, but all my friends who have run marathons are some of the bravest, toughest people I know. So many trials you face in life are overcome by months of preparation beforehand; and I’ve personally learned that by running long distances. A lot of people have recently asked me how to train for a half marathon, so I’ve attached a handy little “schedule” to follow (and a link to some fresh AF workout music if you need some new jam suggestions). Note that this schedule is just a suggestion and everyone trains differently for each and every run, this is what I know works for me! The most important thing is to listen to your body and not over do it. Train smarter, not harder.

Enjoy!

Are We There Yet?

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The waiting and timing of promises can be frustrating, especially when there are many unknown factors. I was reading through Isaiah this morning when it hit me that God is an artist, a creative, and a creator. (Something you always know but you see it differently some days).

He formed each and every one of us uniquely and with love. He has painted and fashioned a beautiful life for us; and all of His promises for us are ours when we choose Him and let the Holy Spirit guide us every day. Imagine an art studio, where understudies watch a seasoned master paint. The artist isn’t finished, but the students don’t know that. The artist begins to pack up for the day, clean his brushes and the students say, “so that’s it? Are you done?” The artist then replies “My work is not yet finished, and I will be back tomorrow to paint again.” Unlike the artist, the creator, the students cannot see the end vision, they cannot see the complete and beautiful painting.

How is that different when we question God’s artistry and orchestration of our lives? Isaiah 45:9 says “Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker, to him who is but a potsherd among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter ‘what are you making?’…” (NIV).

While we are on this journey called life, trying to fulfill His purpose for the Kingdom, we need to have faith in His timing. I had this vision, where I find myself on this road trip, in the back seat of a car (probably a G-Wagon becuase this is, after-all, my daydream); and God is driving. We are in the middle of the desert, and I find myself asking God “Are we there yet?” “Have we close to our destination?” “Are we out of the desert?” “Have we reached The Promised Land?” Meanwhile, He’s driving the car, turns around and says “We will get there in time, trust me.”

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God’s timing is not our timing. When you feel yourself unfulfilled by the promises of God, know that you aren’t finished with your journey yet. Trust God on the windiest of roads, and know that “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion…” (Philippians 1:6). Don’t be weary in your well doing.

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Why Dream?

Dreamers often get the short end of things. Sometimes we get a bad rep for being off in our own world, living purely out of our imagination. But you see, that is just the things that make dreamers so important and relevant in this world.

What if we never had people who were born to dream, who imagined the world to be a different place, who challenged the status quo? What if we never had people who asked questions, dreamt of new possibilities, and more efficient ways to accomplish things? What if dreamers did not exist?

Dreaming is important because dreaming changes things. It sees a current circumstance and wants to improve the situation. Dreaming is the spark to a movement and the beginning of a revolution.

If there is a vision on your heart that you have for the world, you must keep that alive and never stop pursuing the dream. Nurture your dream every day, even if it you only have five minutes. Do not lose sight of the very things that bring your soul to life.

To dream in big you must be persistent, constantly reminding yourself as to why it is you want, what you want, so badly. Having a dream is not a gift to be taken for granted. So use your original ideas for good, and let them come to life!

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