Mistakes=Knowledge

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Last night, my friend and I were discussing the disease of perfection that permeates how women feel they need to be perceived.  As a gender, especially with social media, we are made to feel that we should have the perfect ass, perfect hair, perfect face; be able to have an amazing career while being amazing mothers/partners; be sexy but not slutty; be feminine but not too girly; the list goes on.

As a man, the pressure is no less intense.  You need to be a perfectly suave career man, steadily climbing the ladder; casually show off the abs that come from a little light sweat in the gym; be tough but not too tough; embrace sports; simultaneously be able to kill a spider and fix a faucet while tearing through a giant steak.  Anything a woman could want all in one chiseled package.

This portrayal of superiority  in every way possible is completely unrealistic and completely unhealthy.

Yet so many people have bought into this representation completely and live lives fraught with miserable comparison after miserable comparison.  There is no room for widely deviating personalities.  There is seemingly no forgiveness for error.  In short, there is no relaxation into or even celebration of the fact that we are freakin’ human.

I cannot tell you how many times I have beaten myself up for making a mistake.  I slipped up and ate something while dieting?  I restrict even more out of frustration.  I said something wrong to a friend?  I flush with shame at every remembrance.  I handled a situation wrong at work?  I replay the scene over and over again.  If I want to become the person that I hold up in my mind as the gold standard, there is simply no room for error.

I put a lot of pressure on myself as it is, and with the added vision of becoming a woman that has it all, I find myself shying away from things that might lead to error.  Yet I have come to realize that this is the complete opposite of what I should be doing.  If I really want to strive towards greatness, I need to embrace mistakes.

Love your mistakes.

How cringy does that sound?  Love my mistakes?  Hell no!  Mistakes are what keep me from awesomeness!

Yet what we need to realize is, mistakes are what make UP our awesomeness.

I made a mistake when I was 19 years old and got married.  This wasn’t a little “oops, I spilled a little Pinot Noir on the couch” mistake.  No, this was a “shit, I just murdered 5 years of my life and I can never get them back” mistake.  Talk about something you don’t want to blast all over social media.

And yet, that mistake has shaped me to be a better person.  I am more empathetic.  I can relate to people in their poisonous comfort zone.  I have extremely high standards for who I even allow to take me on a second date.  That fuck-up has given me invaluable knowledge.

Overall, the problem does not come when we make the mistake.  The problem comes when we refuse to acknowledge that mistake and therefore deny ourselves the opportunity to ruminate on it, examine it, dissect it for the valuable information that it holds.

If you analyze the big, juicy, terrible mistakes that you have made over the years, you will undoubtedly find that you are now the proud possessor of subsequent clumps of education directly stemming from your deepest pools of shame IF you have taken the time to work through everything.  If you have simply ignored the error and moved on, you are highly likely to make that same blunder again.

Sweeping the mistake under the rug will not cause the snafu to be unsnaffed.  Everyone wants to be smarter, to have a broader base of knowledge, to know what to do in every situation.  The irony of it is, you almost always have to do the wrong things before you figure out the right things.

Of course, one of the greatest tools we have as human beings is to learn from other people’s examples (and we don’t even have to actually know the person to do so!).  Books, podcasts, articles—they all offer valuable information that will cut our learning time down in droves if we actually take advantage of them.

There is no escaping making miscalculations of our own, sometimes with catastrophic results (yet with a silver lining of incomparable knowledge if we choose to take advantage of it).  But if we can glean the knowledge that other people have gained and graciously decided to share with us, we will be so much further ahead.

Holding back from living your life in order to minimize your mistakes is the shittiest way to live that I can think of.  Our one life that we get to live deserves to be fiercely embraced, relentlessly experienced, and openly analyzed.

And lets be honest, mistakes are where the good stories come from.  If nothing else, that moment that sends you sobbing into your pillow every night for a year will end up being the time that you eagerly share the most often IF you take the time to glean the wisdom that such an event presents.

Go out and be gloriously flawed.  Strive for perfection whenever you can, but take advantage of the times that you fall.  Seize every opportunity life sees fit to offer you, and continuously utilize every opportunity to improve in one way or another.

No one, and I mean no one, is perfect.  We all have fuck ups.  If you really want to be be a cut above, though, actually glean the knowledge from yours.

THANK YOU!

Status

As of yesterday, I have hit 50 followers on this blog, and I just wanted to say that I am so grateful to each and every one of you!  Thank you so much for the feedback you have given, and for taking the time to actually subscribe.  I am thrilled that so many people see value in my writing, and I am glad that my little project has continued to grow slowly but surely.

Much love to all,

Hannah Elizabeth

Don’t Let Your Focus Override Your Purpose

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Last weekend, I decided to go get a drink for a couple of hours on Monday to celebrate Labor Day and to get out of the house.  I was planning on two, maybe three hours max since I was by myself and I still wanted to complete some extra things back at the house before the week started.

As it turns out, my friend decided to come meet me and we ended up heading home around 8:30, sliiiiightly over the mental time limit I had set for myself.  I got nothing done that I wanted to, but I wasn’t upset, and not just because I had had a good time.

The reason that I wasn’t upset was because that day resulted in a much better friendship between that friend and me.  We both had misconceptions and slight mistrust towards each other before, since this was a “friends through a mutual friend” situation, and having fun together ultimately lead to a really, really good conversation where we were able to clear things up and open up to one another in a way that allowed true friendship to blossom.

Just think, though: what if I had gone against my instincts and allowed my focus on getting stuff done to prevent that from happening?  What if I had been so bent on what I felt SHOULD get done that I missed what NEEDED to get done?  I can guarantee our relationship would still be strained and we would both be trying to pretend that it wasn’t.

Focus and drive are invaluable.  However, sometimes we get tunnel vision and neglect to see the opportunities around us that would enhance our lives and purpose dramatically if only we would slow down and take advantage of them.

As much as we need that inner fire, and at times we do need to block out the outside world if we want to get anything accomplished, if we do that all the time sometimes we will miss the fact that perhaps our purpose is changing, or should change.  A lot of times we settle on a goal and do our darndest to reach that goal without actually stopping to analyze if that target is actually within the scope of where we want our life to end up.

Our purpose should drive our focus, not the other way around.  If something isn’t serving you or serving your objective, why are you still focusing on it?  There is no shame in quitting something if you realize that it is actually not helping you get to where you want to be.

This concept that I just mentioned-of quitting for lack of purpose-is one that I have struggled with in the past.  When I commit to something, I like to go all in.  I don’t back down.  I get. shit. done.  But really, how dumb is it to keep doggedly trying to accomplish something after discovering that it just isn’t for you, or that your desires have changed, or that it actually won’t help you get to where you need to be?

Quitting because you’re a pussy is one thing.  That should never be an option.  But quitting because it’s not longer the right fit should never be something to be ashamed of.  It’s hard, though, especially if you’ve held a certain purpose in your mind for so long.  Those deeply ingrained targets can be hard to let go of, but sometimes it’s necessary to take inventory and clear out all the clutter.

But if we’ve been focused on one point for so long, how can we remove ourselves enough to know if it’s really the not right thing or if we’re just going through a momentary inner struggle?

Honestly, most of the time you already kind of know.  There’s a big difference between little dips in the road (i.e. man, this is really hard, I wonder if I have what it takes) and giant stop signs (i.e. every single step I take towards this goal is making me miserable, this target doesn’t actually align with my end game).

On the other hand, there are times when quitting isn’t the answer.  Those are the moments when you just have to step back, take a breather, and realize that the reason the wagon isn’t moving is because there is a stick stuck in the spokes and all you have to do it pull it out and you’ll be moving merrily along.

The point is, tunnel vision can be both a blessing and a curse.  Don’t begrudge the times when your focus gets shaken and your purpose gets solidified.  There will (hopefully) always be more time you can dedicate to your goals, but sometimes moments that remind us of the scope of our existence happen only once in a while; don’t miss out on those opportunities because you are worried about throwing off your game.  I promise you, if you want it badly enough, your game will be even better for taking that moment to soak in the reason why you are working so hard.

Feed your focus.  Starve your distractions.  But never, ever forget your purpose.

 

Inspiration Must be Sought

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This morning (a Saturday), I woke up around 6am and hopped on my bike to take a lap around the Back Bay area, which is a beautiful lake-like bay that I just discovered a couple of weeks ago right by my house.

As per usual for my morning rides, I popped in my headphones and scrolled through my podcast list to choose a title that caught my eye.  The past week, I’ve been listening to either The MFCEO Project by Andy Frisella and his cohosts Vaughn and Tyler or The School of Greatness by Lewis Howes.  I absolutely love the former podcast because you can feel 100% that the information given is valuable, and that the people giving it are authentic.  The latter is great as well because Lewis brings on pretty cool guests.

The point is, my four AM bike rides this week means that I have listened to four different podcasts, all with varying messages and main points.  The one common factor, however, is that starting off the morning listening to people who want to make a difference in the world and who are very successful has motivated me each day to start getting my shit together again, and to focus on the different areas of my life that I want to improve.

During the past couple of months, I haven’t been as motivated as I have been in the past to get working on all of my side goals that I have for myself.  My real estate books have fallen by the wayside, snacks have made their way into my tummy way more often than I’d like, and my book ideas have remained just that….ideas.

This is partly due to the fact that I am starting out a new school year with a heavier workload than I’ve ever had before, but it’s also because I have neglected to feed my mind with inspiration in order to keep my vision at the forefront of my mind.

Successful people always say that you will not be motivated 100% of the time, and you have to be able to simply put in the work anyway regardless of how fired up you feel in the given moment.  I completely agree.  However, I think that the hard work will eventually peter out without periodic bursts of oxygen to get the fire roaring again.

However, there sometimes is this idea that inspiration is something that must hit you like a strike of lightening, and it will come out of the middle of nowhere and BAM, you will be triggered to throw yourself wholeheartedly into your passions once again.

Don’t get me wrong, sometimes inspiration DOES happen like that.  However, most of the time those who get re-inspired get that way because they are constantly seeking out people, stories, and actions that motivate them.  And it is only when they can’t find that outside galvanization that their work ethic kicks in, and they do what they need to do anyways.

So how do people find such motivation on a regular basis?

Follow people who have done the work.  While social media sometimes gets a bad rap for being a time suck and perpetuating images that simply aren’t true, there are people who put out a lot of really valuable content and give inside looks into their day to day routines that lay out the blueprint for how to emulate their success.

If your feed is filled with people who are constantly hustling and improving themselves, you cannot help but feel obligated to catch up.  If your feed is filled with memes glorifying laziness and constant partying, you will feel pretty great about where you’re sitting and feel completely unmotivated to change.

Expand your knowledge.  There are so many smart, life-experienced people who have taken the time to write about what they know to be true.  We can cut our learning curve by quite a bit if we take the time to take advantage of each perspective of life that has been offered to us.  There is nothing more motivating that reading the life story of someone who has overcome obstacle after obstacle and finally came out on top (and stayed there).

Even if you read something that you don’t agree with or that don’t resonate with you, you can still use the pieces that do make sense to fuel your fire or to add more to the picture of your life and where you want to go. Gathering information that you end up discarding is not a waste of time if it solidifies the direction that you’re going.

Motivation doesn’t have to come in a glittery, splashy package; sometimes it simply is a phrase that you come across or a small conversation with a friend, or a quote that grabs your attention as you scroll through Instagram.  But the thing about inspiration is that it is not a constant, and it is not the end game.

No one wants to tell stories about how they spent their life being motivated.  You need to use that impetus that you find on a daily or weekly basis to actually work toward something tangible.  A spark is necessary for the flame to start, but the labor of cutting down the trees, hauling them to the fire pit, and physically putting them in the ring is what creates the fire that is usable.

The bottom line is inspiration isn’t necessary to do hard work, but the hard work comes much more quickly and easily if you have the inspiration.  Seek out ways to become motivated, but then don’t let that motivation go to waste.  A horse that is spurred to run but is chained to a wheel will only be trotting in circles.  Don’t place inspiration above putting in the work, but recognize the advantages of the extra fuel.  What you focus on grows, so make sure that spotlight is shining on the right things.

In other words, set your intention, seek out those above you, and go get inspired to actually do the work!

Dedication Becomes Habit

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Today I started my routine of waking up at 5am and doing cardio before heading to work.  I had stopped doing it a month before the last school year ended, and didn’t pick it up again during the summer.  However, because I have certain Halloween goals (Spandex suit, anyone?), I am dusting off ye olde alarm clock (or the earlier alarm clock setting, anyways), and utilizing my brand-spankin’ new hybrid bike and exploring the roadways around my house.

When I mention that I get up at 5am, most people are surprised and feel sorry for me.  When I mention WHY I get up at 5am, people make comments like “wow, really?” and “you’re really dedicated!”

Which is funny because to me, dedication sometimes seems like a chore.  Something that you have to slog through and mentally grit your teeth about and put your head down and just.get.it.done.

Yet for me, because I’ve done a 5am wakeup call for so long (minus my three month haitus, of course) I was able to slip into the routine this morning without a problem.

Of course, in the beginning, my routine was nothing but a problem.  I mean, waking up at 5am when it’s still dark as pitch out and only the hard-core commuters are there to share your misery is not anyone’s definition of a good time.

And yet, as I groggily opened my eyes morning after morning, it become something that I simply did.  Engrained.  Part of the daily grind.  A habit.

In order for the hard things to reach the point where they are no longer hard, you have to struggle through the beginning stages.  When you pick up your first weight at the gym, it has to give you a little bit of pain in order for your muscles to actually get stronger and be able to handle heavier weights.

Obviously, if you pick up a heavy weight one day, and then two weeks later pick it up again, that won’t do anything.  That’s where the grinding comes in (and not the fun grinding on the dance floor).  Pushing yourself to go headfirst into the suck day in and day out until eventually, it starts to suck a little less and pretty soon, it’s not sucking at all!  In fact, you might actually find yourself enjoying it.

So, how do you find it in yourself to actually make it past the daunting gauntlet of suckage to get to the enticing, seemingly unreal goal of actually liking this thing you once hated?

Mental fortitude.  You simply cannot reach this point if you don’t have the mental balls to tell yourself that you are GOING TO DO THIS, DAMMIT!  Having the discipline and strength to get through the terrible times is invaluable and indeed, 100% necessary to turn your desires into a habit.

Many people let themselves have the easy way out.  Catch yourself in the act, and force yourself to follow the harder (yet more satisfying) path.  This will be a major bummer the first couple (or more) times, but it eventually that dedication will pay off in great habits.

Start small.  If metal toughness and going all in on a goal is something that you’ve always struggled with, start small!  Sometimes the easy goals to hit are overlooked.

If you eventually want to become the top salesperson at your job and know that your skills are sub-par, but just can’t make yourself concentrate on the classes or practice that will get you what you need, start with one thing.  Find one small tweak that you can make that is so small it seems laughable, and challenge yourself to do that for one week.

Once you’ve accomplished this small, insignificant goal, you will feel a small ego boost.  This will carry you through your next round of attainable mini-goals, and eventually, you’ll find that the target that seemed so far off before now seems, well, actually attainable!

Sometimes, we may look at someone and feel like they have their shit 100% together and they don’t struggle with anything because they are always following through with what they set out to do.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  There are some days where I go to the gym and my ENTIRE BRAIN is screaming at me to turn around and hightail it back home.  Hell, even tonight I didn’t want to write a blog post, but because I try to post every Tuesday and Saturday (barring anything unforeseen), I opened my laptop and started typing.

You will never be at your peak in all areas of your life (unless you are super human).  However, with time, you will be able to build up the different aspects of your life after a period of dedication to each one, and then you will be at a point where you are able to start optimizing rather than playing catch-up.

Plowing into the dedication stage does really pay off.  You will mostly likely want to tear your hair out and quit, but if you stick with it for a while, you will be so, so glad you did.  Building up to a habit is like building a house-the foundation is the dirty part, the framing is a little easier, but once you get to the point where you can decorate it, live in it, and show it off, all the blood, sweat, and tears WILL be worth it.

Just know, you CAN do it.  All it takes is faith, trust, and a little bit of commitment dust. Then, friends, you are ready to fly!

 

 

 

Friendship: Life’s Greatest Gift

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The greatest gift of life is friendship, and I have received it.

-Hubert H. Humphrey

Yesterday was a terrible day at work.  Not only have I found myself panicking slightly over keeping up with three different grade levels, but I was publicly (via e-mail) chastised for reaching out to the staff (via e-mail) at my new school in order to introduce myself and hopefully establish some tentative connections.

If there is one thing that I cannot stand, it is illogical actions and reactions.  If I see the logic in something, even if I don’t like it, I have no problem acquiescing to that request.  However, to have my friendly gesture immediately squashed and frowned upon seemed to be the epitome of injustice, and I found myself in tears, huddled over my desk like a 12 year old who just got rejected by her first crush. (Note: Yes, I am aware I cry very easily-thanks Mom-something that I hate about myself but have come to accept).

Of course, being that I am at a new school with little to no shoulders to (literally) cry on, I contented myself with texting the whole saga to my friends from my other school, and was gratified by their responses brimming with outrage, support, and love.

There was no judgement for my hasty tears (even though there was plenty from myself).  There was no “Well maybe you should have thought about it first”.  There was no trite responses and quick changes of subject.  There was simply friendship.  And what put the cherry on top of the cake was the fact that one of my friends stopped by my school during Back to School Night that night simply to give me a hug and chit chat for a few minutes before jetting off to her date that night.

Reflecting on the whole shebang, I am still irked at what transpired (although I actually received more introductions and support because of that negative response than I believe I would have if none had been sent, so there was a silver lining).  However, I am so incredibly grateful to have made such amazing friends in my time here in California, and it made me appreciate anew how incredibly important real, true, deep friendship is.

We all have those friends that we see from time to time, and every encounter is filled with laughter and fun memories.  However, those aren’t the moments when friendships are made strong.  I have people that I could hang out with thousands of times who I would feel as close to day 40 as I did day 1.  Epic memories are great, but it’s those small, fleeting moments of interaction where your guard begins to fall where true friendship is forged.

True friendship is listening to your friend cry over anything that is upsetting her and offering not only an ear and a tissue but but advice, support, and a gentle outside perspective.

True friendship is going to your friend’s Mary Kay launch party even though you have no interest in their products and but plan to buy one anyways.

True friendship is grabbing your friend’s dry cleaning because he overslept and delivering it to her at work because you always give yourself extra time in the mornings and today, he needs that suit for his big presentation.

True friendship is telling your friend exactly what you think about those jeans and her butt (and helping find a new outfit if it’s bad).

Overall, true friendship is really about true love.  To borrow a phrase from the Bible, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

True love is simply operating at our highest capacity.  When we are with the people that are the ones we’ve chosen as our family, we WANT to be at our best, even when they accept us at our worst.  True friends bring out the amazing parts of us that we may not even know existed.

If you have real, pure support behind you, you can do anything.  Simple words of encouragement can do wonders when we are bogged down on our journey, and knowing someone is within shouting distance on their own trek through the jungle truly invigorates the soul on the nights that the journey gets rough.

If you are lucky enough to have such friends, take a moment to pause and give thanks.  Treat your friends well, and show them the love and support that they always show you.

If you have yet to find such friends, take a moment and dissect what you offer as a person.  Are you willing to inconvenience yourself for friendship?  Are you ok with giving in order to receive?  Are you ever in a place where you let your authentic self shine?

Life is hard enough without having to go through it alone.  Thank god that we have the ability to create a network tight enough to withstand any storm.  Friendships are life’s emergency plan, and even though we will hopefully find our best friend and romantic partner all wrapped up into one, there is something pure about those solid friendships that don’t venture into the romantic territory yet are every bit as loving and committed as those we pledge our life to.

Friendship is the world’s greatest gift.  Treasure it.  Take care of it.  Give your own.  And always, always remember that a simple token given in love is worth more than all the riches in the world.

 

 

Six Things to Do Instead of Watching TV

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I’ve been thinking a lot about time lately.  Mostly about how I don’t have enough of it.  There are so, so many things that I want to do and I usually cannot find the time to cram them all in.

Which is why it boggles my mind when I hear some people talk about how much TV they watch, and relay tales of binge watching their Saturday away or catching up on the latest scandal on CNN as their evening’s activities.  Don’t get me wrong, I find nothing the matter with watching an occasional movie or couple episodes of Big Bang Theory here or there.  But I. personally, could NEVER make it an actual daily or even weekly practice.

TV is entertaining, no doubt.  And I’m sure if I let myself, I could really get into Game of Thrones, or follow the Orange is the New Black saga with bated breath, or find a couple of new releases to patronize each weekend.  But in all honesty, entertainment, especially mindless entertainment, is not productive.  And when seeking entertainment becomes the main focus of your free time, you are losing out on so many awesome points of life!

But some people have become so accustomed to watching TV that they have no idea that there is a whole entire world beyond their 60″ Plasma, or that they themselves could create the type of life they so envy on the silver screen.

Instead of pressing play, you could:

Go on a walk.  Especially with your significant other, kids, or friend.  The fresh air is addicting, and you can have so many good conversations if you go with the people that you love.  There have been so many great discussions that I’ve had with my friends as we meander the sidewalks or trails, and you come back refreshed and energized rather lethargic and blahhhh.  Not to mention the obvious perk of burning rather than consuming calories.

Read a book.  Even when a novel is entertaining you, it is making your brain process information, put ideas together, and decipher the meaning of new words.  It is the best form of entertainment because it is relaxing yet still mind-expanding, especially if you skip the fiction and go straight for the self-improvement reads.  Some great fiction reads are A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, The Help, or The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.  If you lean toward the non-fiction side (which you should at least every once in a while), I would recommend The Power of Habit, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, and You are a Badass.

Join a club of some type.  One thing that I have recently started up in the past year has been beach football.  I have never played an organized sport in my life, but there is a league in my town and I, on a whim, decided to join.  I love it!  Joining something that fits a new or old interest not only keeps your zest for life alive, but it is an amazing avenue for meeting new people.

Learn to play an instrument or learn a new craft.  Making music is an innately human way of expressing emotion.  Even if you are not musically inclined, setting aside time to struggle and eventually master a new skill is not something to be sneezed at.  When the mind is stretched it expands, and the more things you add to your toolbox the more valuable you become.

Create a second (or third, or fourth) stream of income.  Think about it.  You could either spend 1-4 hours a night wasting your time with episodes of Friends you have seen hundreds of times, or you could put your time and effort into something that could actually pay off.  Enjoy crafting?  Start an Etsy shop.  Have a particular set of hard to master skills?  Market them.  Have a business idea?  Actually start it.  If it’s something you actually enjoy doing, the same amount of time will pass while giving you way more options in terms of money and connections.

Call a friend.  How many times have to thought to ourselves “oh, I wonder how so-and-so is doing?  We should catch up!”  and then simply never followed through?  Connections with other people are extremely valuable both for sanity and for creating a vast network of resources from which you can draw whenever necessary-IF you put the time in to create those reserves.

The trouble with the majority of options outside of the black box is that they take a least a minimal amount of effort.  So many people like to think of their hours of diversion after a long day of work as a reward, when the truth is that real rewards come out of real effort.

Constant entertainment is taking the easy way out in life, and it makes you accustomed to the road less bumpy.  Yet there WILL be parts of life that are not entertaining, and if you simply fall into the habit of putting blinders on and ignoring it because your reality muscles are in a state of atrophy, those bumps can prove to be disastrous rather than merely annoying.  The most beautiful waterfalls are at the end of the unbeaten trail, and the best life experiences are best actually lived by you.

So the next time you are tempted to press play, put the remote down and step away from the boob tube into a realm of endless possibilities.  Stop watching other people portray scripted exploits, relationships, and feats of grandeur, and go out and create your own!  Life is meant to be lived, not watched.