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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Solid as a Rock

Union Square

I started a new job a little over a month ago. The position is at a property management company, where I travel to different buildings within the tri-state area to help leads prospective residents into apartments and plan events for current residents! Yesterday I was in Jersey City and at lunch, I took a walk along the waterfront overlooking downtown Manhattan to have some quiet time.

Every time I spend time with God, I ask him to teach me something new or maybe remind me of something I’ve forgotten. I often feel that most things I hear are things I have heard before, but they are received differently based on context, the state of my heart, what season I am in, and how mature I am.

Yesterday I just sat on a bench in solitude. No headphones, my notebook tucked away (but at the ready because you never know when you’ll have a notebook emergency). I kept staring at the Freedom Tower, completely zoned out. I’ve lived in New York for almost 8 years, jaded by the skyline, but suddenly I started to remember how the World Trade Center was built. 

The space had been unoccupied for years. City planners, government officials, and citizens alike all had something to say with how to plan out the space. It took almost 10 years to plan and build a foundation for something so symbolic, so iconic, something to stand the test of time.  It wasn’t until 2009 that the foundation was finished and construction began expanding to more than just the building itself. 

I left New York for 7 months to live in London in late 2011. By then the construction of One World Trade was barely visible- not more than 200 ft above sea level (for New York skyscraper standards, this is invisible). When I came back in 2012, it was as if the entire skyline had changed. I could see the building from miles away. One World Trade was designed to be a symbol, a hub and a place for everyone for generations to enjoy. 

When a solid foundation is formed, there’s no telling how quickly the rest of the construction will go. It was just a matter of a few months and one building completely transformed the way Downtown Manhattan looked.

One World Trade from Jersey City Waterfront

I need to continually remind myself that laying a strong foundation is the key to creating and designing something built to stand the test of time. And even when I think is going slow, that’s okay. The best foundations are laid so carefully that when it’s really time work on the rest of the construction, it goes smoothly and quickly. And even when hiccups arise, the firm foundation accounts for that, and construction will be able to resume.

As I am still in the early stages of my new job, I know that the foundation is important. The same principles I apply to my faith to learn more, to grow more, can be applied and permeate the rest of my life. Learning the software programs, the processes, the policies, the mannerisms, and the vision of the company are all a part of the bigger picture. Along with developing relationships, building a reputation with clients, setting a standard for my work of course. I know this will take time; and humbling myself, being patient, and resisting the desire to be comfortable all the time are things I need to remind myself of daily. 

While I am of course reminded of the story in Matthew of the two builders: one who built a house on rock and the other who built his house on sand (then a storm comes, but only one of the houses survives. Spoiler alert: it’s the house made of rock), I am also reminded of the following:

“Therefore thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, A costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed” Isiah 28:16.

It is more than okay to set standards, set goals and learn new things. I personally have to remember to keep it all within the context of grace and mercy, because I am only human.

We can only have that strong cornerstone of a foundation because we have a God who can help us withstand the weight of a blessing so big it could only come from Him. He already has carried the weight of the world on his shoulders; and whatever we experience in this life, he can help us build that firm foundation as well.

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You Are Loved and Are Called to Love

Valentines Day?! You’re going to write about VALENTINE’S DAY (I can already see your eyes rolling to the back of your heads).
For some, there is so much pressure and expectation when in a relationship on this holiday. And for others, there is this stigma that if you’re not in a relationship on Valentine’s Day you’re 1) worthless 2) unlovable 3) going to die alone and become a cat hoarder. I’m here to tell you that none of these are true – especially that last one – I’d definitely become a dog hoarder first (personal preference).
But real talk (in and out of relationships): I’ve never felt truly alone in my entire life. This is why:
1. I have made it my personal mantra to give away love without expecting anything in return.
2. I don’t need someone to complete me, only complement what I’m already doing. My heart and soul are full of joy and the Spirit of Christ.

When I give for giving’s sake (out of love) it eliminates the pressure of measuring up, comparison, and unrealistic expectations.

If I live in a “me-centric” world, I have an expectation of a certain amount of attention, love, etc. And when I don’t get that, my unmet expectations create a gap in my life filled with sorrow, self-hatred, and disappointment.

Don’t get me wrong – life is full of disappointments, I experience them often. Giving love away doesn’t eliminate those. There’s a difference between being disappointed in a moment and living out of disappointment. However, when I give something away and I don’t feel obligated to receive anything, those unrealistic expectations can easily become buried.

On that note, one of the most simple ways to give away love on Valentines Day (in my opinion) is a simple little note. It doesn’t have to be someone you have romantic feelings towards (but it can be), It can even be a non-specific note that you pass out to someone on the subway, or at the grocery store.

And speaking of giving things away ….. I wanted to announce a little giveaway that I’m doing for the month of February! -YAY
It's all in the Details.
As you may have read a previous post, I wanted to do a letter writing challenge in 2018 where the call to action is to send out an encouraging letter to someone you regularly interact with or may not have seen for awhile. Each month I focus on a different “theme” and this month’s theme – you guessed it – is love. I recently launched a new product in my Etsy Shop (NYC postcards!) and I wanted to share those (and a few other little Valentine’s goodies) with everyone. The giveaway includes (1) pack of 8 NYC postcards as featured on my shop, (2) colorful markers to decorate at your heart’s desire, (1) Muji black pen – size .38mm, (3) sheets of heart stickers, and (8) “love” stamps to make sure you’ll send some Valentines this year!

There are three ways to enter:

Entering on Facebook:
*OR*
Entering on Instagram:
– Tag a friend in the comments
*OR*
Entering Through the Blog:
– Comment on this blog post with a memory of your favorite Valentine that you’ve ever received.
Made with Love <3
Each platform counts as 1 entry. 1 entry per person. Open to participants residing in the United States of America. Must be 18+ years in order to enter. Contest closes February 5th 9PM EST. Winner will be announced via The Little Big Dreamer Facebook page, Via Instagram, and though a comment on this post. Happy entering!

 

And Happiest Valentines Day! *inserts all heart emojis possible*
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Call It What It Is

To be honest, yesterday was a tough day for me.

I was sitting at my desk completely frustrated and defeated, knowing that while God’s hand IS on my life I have not seen the fruit of the seeds that I have sown. While I have come a long way spiritually, nothing really monumental has changed in my life and I feel like I’ve been going through the same struggle I’ve had for the past 3 years.

“I’m not really being used to my maximum capacity” and “I would have so much more to give for God’s Kingdom if He just put me somewhere else,” are things I whisper to myself multiple times daily. Anyone else feel like that from time to time? You’re not alone.

I cannot discount the season that I am in, because I have to live it day in and day out until God moves me elsewhere. I am not any less valuable because of where I’m at today. I’m not any less or more valuable because of my job title, what someone says about me, or even my past. I hope for tomorrow, but persevere and be present for today.

Romans 5:3-5 reads “Not only so, but we also praise God in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not fail us.” So I ask myself this question: What character am I building out of the suffering / disappointment / frustration am I experiencing?

In a moment of frustration, yesterday I found myself saying “How can I possibly thank God when everything around me seems to be completely draining and pulling me in a million different directions??!!!??” and “How am I supposed to give God the praise when NOTHING IN MY LIFE IS MOVING?!”

But the truth is, God can bless you anywhere.

I was listening to a timely sermon by one of my favs Steven Furtick from Elevation Church and he said that “If I say it’s a blessing, it WILL be a blessing If I say God is in it, he IS in it. If I say it is an opportunity than IT IS an opportunity. If I say it is a setup, than IT IS a setup.”

So I decide the purpose of the place by what I speak over the situation. If I say that there’s nothing to give glory to, then that is the attitude that I choose. But if I say, I’m going to find something that is a blessing in this situation and call it a blessing, then that situation WILL be blessed. When I walk away from a frustrating situation, will I become disgruntled or will I make it worthwhile by learning something?

Today I find myself saying “this opportunity is a stepping stone for something greater.” or “today is another gift from God and another opportunity to give someone a bit of encouragement.”

What can I do today to combat frustration to build character?

I DO have the power to choose to bring purpose into something that seems mundane. I DO have the power to breathe life into the lifeless because I have the Spirit of God living inside of me. If I put limits on myself, I put limits on what I believe can be done through me, when we are all called to great works no matter who or where we are.

God may have the power to redeem my time, but I have the power to call it what it is (free will, anyone?). Don’t lose heart, there is a plan.

Use Your Advantage

Sometimes I get so frustrated with my life because I often feel like I am stuck. Things just really aren’t moving along as fast as I would like them to and not how I imagined them to. I want to be able to take matters into my own hands and get more in control of my “destiny” so to speak.

No matter how many times I get disappointed and anxious (because believe me, it WILL happen again), I know that I am where I am for a reason. And while what I can be going through is frustrating for me, it may actually be to my benefit in the long term.

Take Joseph, for example. His brothers hated him. threw him into a reservoir, and THEN sold him into slavery. After that, he was sold to Potiphar (guard and official of Pharaoh at the time). For awhile it seemed like Joseph got a break. He was entrusted with Potiphar’s estate and was handed many responsibilities and it says that “from the time he put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph. The blessing of the Lord was on everything Potiphar had, both in the house and in the field” (Genesis 39:5).  So…. a pretty sweet setup.

But just when you think Joseph had a breather, things began to go south real quick. Potiphar’s wife tricked Joseph by threatening to tell her husband he was sleeping with her… unless he slept with her. What a Catch-22. When Potiphar found out that Joseph allegedly “slept” with her, Joseph got thrown into prison. (If this was me, at this point, I would have thrown in the towel. Like HOW ON EARTH is there room for recovery after this?)

While Joseph was in prison, he was met by the Pharoah’s officials: the cup-bearer and the bread-maker (who were also imprisoned). One night, both officials had dreams that neither one could interpret. Joseph said to them, “Do not interpretations belong to God? Tell me your dreams” (Genesis 40:8). After he successfully interpreted the dreams, Pharaoh restored the cup-bearer to his rightful position. Years passed, and the cup-bearer had forgotten all about Joseph in prison until one night Pharaoh had a dream that no one could interpret. “Pharaoh said to Joseph, ‘I had a dream, and no one can interpret it. But I have heard it said of you that when you hear a dream you can interpret it.’ ‘I cannot do it,” Joseph replied to Pharaoh, “but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires’ (Genesis 41:15-16).

Joseph successfully interpreted the dream. Then Pharaoh said to Joseph, “Since God has made all this known to you, there is no one so discerning and wise as you. 40 You shall be in charge of my palace, and all my people are to submit to your orders. Only with respect to the throne will I be greater than you” (Genesis 41:39).

Well. ALLLLLL that is to say is that we all experience ups and downs as we walk through life operating in faith. So stay the course and use what is advantageous in every mountain and valley. If Joseph had not used the advantage of diligence in his work, he would not have been entrusted by Potiphar to take care of his estate. If Joseph had not used his advantage of hearing God and being SO in sync with the Holy Spirit while he was in prison, his journey would have likely ended there.

The most important thing to remember is that I am placed in a position of advantage because God has put me there and that favor, that advantage follows me.  “But while Joseph was there in the prison, the Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden.” (Genesis 39:20-21). No matter what sphere of influence I am placed in, and for however long, it is because God has curated this position specifically for me. Did it seem like an advantage for Joseph to be thrown into prison? Not at first.

Learning to take the perspective of the advantage is to your ultimate benefit. As I look around me, I ask myself “what is my advantageous about the life I am living in this moment?” Because if I only live and worry about the future, I am missing out on the precious moments and people God has placed right in front of me. How can I possibly expect God to entrust me with the things I am praying about for the future if I am not nurturing the season I am right now? I can’t build a solid foundation coming form a place of worry.

So if I’m frustrated about being single: my advantage is that I have time to grow more into the woman who God has called me to be. When I’m frustrated about my job, my advantage is reminding myself of my job’s benefits (the short commute, great coworkers). And when I find myself frustrated about my finances, I look back to see how far I’ve come this past year (paying off all debt, starting a savings account) and know that while it’s small progress, it’s still progress.

image2 (11)

What about my day, my week, my life doesn’t seem to be working to my advantage? How can I look at this situation and say “well, it didn’t look like an advantage….. at first.”  As I head into the rest of this week, if I get upset or flustered about something I can ask myself: “what is my advantage?” “how do I have the upper hand in this situation?” “what am I currently doing that is honoring the situation I am in?” and “how can I use that advantage to make someone else’s life (and not just my own) a little bit easier?” I never know what blessing can become of it.

 

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Passion Over Distraction

Essentialism

I recently finished reading the book Essentialism and the core of the book could be summarized in the following sentence:

“Less but better” over “everything to everyone.”

So often I get caught up in saying “yes” to responsibilities without thinking because my emotions get involved. In reality, the emotions felt when you say “no” are merely temporary; and what is leftover is respect.

My current struggle is that I am haphazardly juggling too many things at once. (Living in New York City gives me a constant arbitrary pressure and guilt for the need to “keep up” and “be something” to everyone I know – or at least appear that way). I try to justify the so-called benefits to these opportunities. I say things like “but it’s more practice and experience,” “but this is a personal contact and friend, so I feel obligated to…”, or “it will look great on my resume.”

Before I know it, I have taken on more than I can handle and have left no time for me to think about my own goals, what I want, let alone spend time perusing those things with all my heart. Greg McKeown put a little chart inside the book that can be extremely helpful when it comes to making decisions:

opportuity

The top row is blank to fill out with an opportunity that could be presented to you. (This could be either personal or work-related). The second row is blank to fill out three minimum requirements and non-negotiables you have already established in order to take on the new opportunity. The second row is for three “would likes:” things that are secondary-tier requirements. Greg suggests that in order to take the opportunity, it must meet all three “must have” requirements and two of the three “would like” requirements. If the opportunity presented doesn’t meet the criteria, then it is not in line with the clear vision you have for your life.

Essentialism by Greg McKeown

If I feel like I have lost my vision for my life, I meditate on this Bible verse: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Phillipians 4:8). It gives me joy, challenges me and sparks creativity that is rooted in the heart of truth and the heart of purpose. It provides me with a clear vision.

I don’t often read a (secular) book that alters the way I think, but Essentialism is one I will definitely be revisiting. Over the next few months, I will be sharing some of the lessons I’ve learned and how it has challenged my life.

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Starting this week I am asking myself: Am I letting the distractions of this world get in the way of my clear vision and passions I have in my life? What can I say “no” to today, to help alleviate pressure? When presented with a new opportunity, does it align with my requirements? “If it isn’t a clear ‘yes,’ then it’s a clear ‘no’.”

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Livin’ the Mundane Life

More often than not, life seems very monotonous, very routine. I often find myself trying to break out of routine becuase I get bored with doing the same thing over and over. Although I am a planner by nature, I thrive on the unexpected and variety.

I have looked at monotony the way that I feel most people see it: for its negative, repetitive connotation. I’d say to myself “I’ll be stuck doing this same thing for the rest of my life,” or ask the question “what good can come out of just repeating yourself and not learning anything new?”

What I seemed to have been missing over the years is that monotony can be seen as a discipline. By doing the same task over and over (and doing it well), I have the opportunity to build a reputation for consistency, for accuracy, for reliability. Practicing the same task over and over again can be healthy, becuase it builds habits so that you have room to grow in other areas of your life. When you become disciplined through repetition, you then gain that skill and then can graduate to bigger and better things (while retaining all that you have learned). If you move on before you mastered a skill, it can feel like you’ve lost your sense of direction.

Now, I have some new questions for myself. I’ll challenge myself by asking “is there anything I’m doing now that seems mundane or tedious, but is actually building my character and/or my skill set?”

Here are some close images from one of my latest drawings. While drawing each individual square seems tedious to me at first, without each window of the building, it would be incomplete.

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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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The Importance of Rest

This weekend, I had the opportunity to take a quick trip out to the beach with some girl friends. For me, the goal whenever I go somewhere for the weekend, especially the beach, is to “force” myself into a slower-paced and relaxing environment. Whether it be diving deeper into reading and prayer time (or – let’s be real – a full 8 hours of sleep).

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If I’m not careful, I end up filling my schedule with back to back activity. Don’t get me wrong – I love a good full filled social day. In fact, that is what is most tempting for me: to fill my schedule with coffee-dates or rooftop cocktails with friends. When my agenda steers from the core value or rest, I am not able to reconnect with God and feel more restless when I return to the city. Matthew 11:28-29 says “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Consciously setting aside quiet time allows me to rejuvenate and revitalize my life.

Now, I can’t always take a weekend trip, but I can make sure I set aside a day or two for rest and re-connection in my daily life. I’d rather give 100% effort for 5 days, than 70% for 7 days. And in case you were wondering about the math, it’s 500% v. 490% ;).

I’ve included some snapshots of Ocean Grove and Asbury Park New Jersey, where the weekend trip was. Last Saturday morning, we stumble upon a mod 60’s – 70’s era type coffeeshop called High Voltage. The decor is very East Coast beaches meet the Pacific Northwest. I recommend the iced latte. Enjoy!

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