The Devil is in the Dirty Work

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Lately I’ve been realizing that I need to do more.  In pretty much every area of my life.  More cardio.  More planning.  More thoughtful gestures.

The thing is, in each of the areas of my life I’m sitting at at an OK level.  My body doesn’t look terrible, and I can pull off a tight dress if I want to.  My teaching meets acceptable standards, and I am confident that my students are learning things in my classroom.  My relationships are all fairly solid, and I know that there are few, if any people who would have bad things to say about me.

But come on—this is a scenario that is easily applied to SO many other people, and dammit, I want to be at the TOP.

This is something that I’ve written about before, and sometimes it’s frustrating because I have the personality where if I feel that something needs to get done, than dang it, I’m going to try to get it done NOW.

But I’m slowly starting to realize that transformations like this cannot be accomplished NOW.  They are not a one time thing.  Rather, they are achieved through DAILY dedication and eventual mastery of the habits and mindsets that only the great people have.

Which means that you have to do the dirty work.

Every single day.

It’s one thing to set your alarm for 6am on a Saturday morning and go for a long run and feel accomplished about it all week.  It’s another to consistently get up at 5am and get your cardio in and go to the gym after work for weights and watch what you eat every day not just weekends and do that day in and day out and never. ever. falter.

That shit is HARD.

It isn’t fun AT ALL.

Yet the people who have enviable physiques, lives, and results all do the unenviable on a daily basis.

It all comes down to a decision.  It’s really that simple.  When the moment comes, you can either decide to do the thing that is hard or do the thing that is easy.  And so, so, so many people choose easy.  Hell, I choose easy a lot of the time.  It’s easy to pop in a couple chocolate covered raisins rather than resist.  It’s easy to “forget” to go on the stairmaster. It’s easy to throw together a plan last minute and call it “good enough”.

But every single person that I read about who is winning chooses hard.  Not because they are a masochist or because they think that the more pain they put themselves in the more noble they are, but because they know that that is what it takes.

Most people can’t see past the immediate.  They see the sweat and sacrifice and do an about-face.  But nothing great was every accomplished by retreat, and we need to forge our own warriors mentality with everything that we do.  Battles are not won only on the battlefield, but during every day that leads up to the final epic clash.

So how do you ensure that you will, in fact, be victorious on the battlefield?

Become a leader.  I was listening to a podcast by Andy Frisella on how leadership isn’t about bossing people around but being willing to do the smallest of things every single day.  Essentially, if you are a true leader, you may have someone assigned to do the dirty work but if you see it needs to be done, YOU do it.  Practicing doing what needs to be done on a daily basis, regardless of who is ‘supposed’ to do or when it ‘should’ have been done is a surefire way to ensure self-respect.  And people who have massive amounts of self-respect are unstoppable.

Stop the excuses.  There are so many times I have told myself “It’s Friday…one treat won’t hurt” or “I did a really hard workout today, I don’t need that extra cardio.”  If you want better than normal results, you have to put in more than normal effort.  This is a hard and fast rule that really can’t be bent, broken, or manipulated.  Our excuses are like fast food-convenient in the moment but over time they add up to a shitty lifestyle and a fat ass, neither of which are appealing.

Educate yourself.  If my goal is to be the next female body builder, I could dedicate myself to running and eating low calorie all day long, but I will never achieve the results I want.  I have to be willing to spend money on the best trainers, dedicate time to researching my nutrition and exercise, and constantly be prowling for the best and newest information.  Learning does not stop after we graduate high school or college.  If you want to truly succeed, you must constantly try to learn new things.

Do the dirty work.  I cannot stress this point enough (especially to myself).  I cannot expect to accomplish any of my grand ideals if I don’t grab a shovel and start clearing the hole for a solid foundation.  And once that foundation is made, I need to grab a hammer and nails and start building.  And once the structure is made, the drywall needs to be hung.  And so on and so forth.  The point is, you can image the most beautiful house in the world, but if you don’t actually break a sweat to get it done, it will remain naught but a fantasy.

Everyone in this world has a vision of what they would ideally like their life to be, but there are only a few who actually roll up their sleeves and dig in enough to make it happen.  We have one life.  Why wouldn’t you brave a few cobwebs and dust bunnies to uncover the potential treasure trove that lies beneath?

Grab a shovel, friends.  It’s time to get dirty.

 

 

 

Be Careful What You Wish For

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This weekend is the very last weekend of the summer *stifles sobs*.  On Monday, I will be greeted with 150 smiling faces in rotation, all filled with as much trepidation and anticipation as mine will be.

This year, it’s going to be different for me because I chose to move schools after the whole being laid off thing got taken back just as quick as a toddler grabs back a toy he’s offered to someone else after he’s changed his mind.  I had the choice to go back to my old school, but instead of sticking somewhere where I was well-known and had built my reputation as a good teacher, I decided to branch out and move to a high school a) because I’ve always wanted to teach high school and b) I felt like I had already reached the peak (or close enough to it) at my old school and I was ready for a new challenge.

Oofda.  Did I ever get a challenge.  Firstly, I discovered that I would be teaching 7th and 8th grade (not quite the high school experience I was envisioning) along with some 9th grade classes.  That’s right.  Three preps.  Considering that last year I taught 8th across the board, that in and of itself was enough to make me think that perhaps I should opted for comfort over novelty.

Secondly, not only will I have three preps, but the middle school classes are designed to prepare the students to enter the IB Diploma Programme in 11th and 12th grade that has just started at this high school, which means that they need to have TOP-NOTCH instruction in an inquiry based setting.

Now, in my previous schools, if you were able to get the kids to behave and respect you and also learn something along the way, that was enough to get you through (not to mention middle school is less rigorous than high school).  I have my relationship building tools with my kids down pat, but I have not yet had a chance to really test my actual TEACHING capabilities with kids who are, shocker, eager to learn.

Of course, I wouldn’t be teaching if I thought that my kids didn’t learn from me.  But my focus has always been on more of the social-emotional piece for my kids, because that’s where I saw the most need.  Now, on top of preparing for three different classes each day, I need to make sure that my lessons are interesting, high-level, and relevant.

ON TOP OF the academic side, there is the reality that I have no real support system at this school.  I chose this school specifically because my old principal worked there as well as several old coworkers who moved there during the last couple years, and because of the IB programme; being trained in that will be invaluable for my own skill set and my ability to move anywhere should I chose to ever leave California (doubtful, but possible).

However, all of my old coworkers have since formed new bonds or tighter bonds with their fellow middle school cohorts, and I left our first day of meetings feeling a bit adrift in the sea of it all.

Now, at this point, I could either curl up in a ball and wish my hardest to turn back time and go back to comfort and familiarity, OR I could narrow my eyes, set my shoulders, and prepare to knock this shit out of the park.

When it comes down to it, challenges are the spice of life.  Think about it.  Every single thing that is good is challenging at first.  Learning to walk?  There’s a reason diapers are so fluffy.  Marriage?  There’s a reason counselors make bank.  Parenting?  It’s a wonder that we’re still alive as a species.

Challenges make you grow.  They make you question things.  They make you stretch yourself in ways that you never thought possible and then stretch a little more.  You may chose your challenges or have your challenges thrust upon you, but the outcome is still the same: you get better.

An unchallenged life is truly an unlived life.  Think back on all the times you have grown and changed as a person.  Usually, it was the direct result of a challenge to your security, belief system, or familiarity with something, and when you look back you wouldn’t have it any other way.

The thing is, you WILL get what you ask for if the Universe knows you are ready (and sometimes even if it knows you’re not).  Most of the time we have no idea what we’re really asking for until it comes to us and then we realize that we have called something into reality that we aren’t quite sure we actually want, but by that time it’s too late.

Most of the time, however, these unexpected manifestations help us hone what we really want, and build up strength to get through the tough times of life.  I wanted nothing more than to get married young, and boy, did I get what I wished for even though it was quite possibly the worst decision of my entire life.

Yet, I’m thankful for this challenge that I overcame, because there have been so many times I’m able to share my experience with someone who is going through almost the exact same thing, and it is so gratifying to be able to see them relax and know that I truly understand what they’re going through.

If your life is on autopilot, choose a challenge for yourself or open yourself up to the Universe providing one for you.  While the temptation to stay in the cocoon is quite strong, remember that no one looks twice at a brown lump hanging from a twig, yet a butterfly can capture the attention of even the most hardened of hearts.  You are that butterfly.  All you have to do is narrow your eyes, set your teeth, and never stop pushing until your wings are free.

And then, friends….you are free to FLY.

 

It Takes a Village

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Yesterday I chaperoned our end-of-the-year 8th grade dance.  Well, merely chaperoned is an understatement.  I’m in charge of our 8th grade end of the year activities, and thusly I’ve been prepping for this event for months.  In addition to making sure that the students ‘left room for Jesus’ during the dance, I also spent several hours setting up the event and an hour afterwards tearing it down (AFTER, of course, a full day of teaching).

What made an impression on me, however, was how many people stepped up to help me out.  I’m used to doing things on my own, and while I vaguely knew that people had volunteered to help, it was overwhelming HOW MUCH they helped; it was truly awesome to be able to trust the people around me to step up and help me get the job done.

All of this reminded me of the saying, “it takes a village to raise a child”.  As teachers, we have thousands of children to raise, and I am lucky to have an amazing village of teachers around me to help shape the children in our care.  However, I feel that this saying applies to more than just raising a child; it also takes a village to provide the catalyst for success, motivation, and fulfillment.

This is not a very popular idea.  In America, there is a glorified image of the Lone Ranger taking on the world all alone and rising to the top.  Yet in reality, this type of win could only be achieved by stepping on the people below you in the fight to get the top, and you are limited by an unsavory reputation and the smell of burning bridges behind you.  However, if you truly cultivate a village around you, your potential is unlimited, and you and your village will progress together.

The original village mentality was built around survival.  If one person was out of line or there was a rife in a relationship, that threatened the very existence of the village.  It all came down to trust, and if that trust was lost, your membership in that community was called into question.  This guaranteed that the village members toed the line-their survival depended on it.

Today, we don’t need a village to survive.  But I would argue that we do need a village to thrive.  And while social media has done us a disservice by bringing to life the paradox of ‘the more you share the lonelier you feel’, it has opened up the possibility of being able to hand pick our village.

This is an amazing opportunity, so I’m going to repeat it: we live in a time where we are able to individually choose our village.  We are able to actively search out people who will add value to our lives.  This includes people who expose us to new information, pick us up when we stumble, and help us discover the tools we need to keep growing.

This, of course, comes with a flip side of the coin.  In order to choose these individuals as your village, you need to bring something to the table.  Gone are the days where you might happen to be born into the village where the best cloth-weaver resides, and where you can pick up on her skills by exposure.  Now, in order to take advantage of someone else’s years of practice, you have to be able to contribute to their lives in some way.

It is a harsh reality, but it is true: if you do not bring value to anyone, no one is going to chose you to be in their village unless it is by happenstance.  I believe that this is why so many people stay by their hometowns and have the same friend circle throughout their entire lives.  People have a need to belong no matter what level they are on, but if you want to belong to more than the Friday night local bar club, you have to infuse your being with value.

Just as the top villages of old worked their ass off to make sure there was food, water, and shelter, the successful villages of today work just as hard to make sure that their minds are in tip top shape.  And the concept of striving for full potential is just the same as scrambling for survival; every single person has to be at the top of their game or the whole network suffers.

The ability to choose your village is a privilege that many forgo, simply due to the lack of effort or lack of preparation.  Actively seeking like-minded people is a foolproof way to light your own personal fire while getting the benefits of helping other people light theirs.

Take the time to think about who you admire, who you can see is creating your type of success, and who you want to be as a person.  You cannot simply run up to these people and create a shortcut to prosperity-achieving ANY kind of personal goal is always through hard work.  If you put in the arduous work, it will show.  And once it starts showing, the people you seek out will be attracted to you because YOU can help them, too.

It truly takes a village to become the best version of yourself.  Don’t shun the idea that you need help to get to where you want to be.  While you’re waiting, strive to become the best version of you on your own, and when that is achieved, there will be people who come into your life to skyrocket you to heights you could have never even seen if you stayed in your own bubble.  Strive for more than survival–seize the chance to thrive!

 

The Three Most Annoying Words in the English Language

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I had a nice little chat with two different friends yesterday.  I was detailing the horrors of the end of the school year, and lamenting that I wasn’t as far along with my real estate classes as I would like.  I was, of course, expecting the sympathy to start rolling in–HA.  I should have known better.

They both, in so many words, said “Sounds like a bunch of excuses.”

This, obviously, was the exact opposite of what I was wanting to hear.  Aw man, that sucks!  Yeah, you definitely have your plate full, I wouldn’t be that far along either.  That is completely understandable.  THAT’S what I wanted to rain down upon my ears.

But instead, I got “quit slacking”.  “It all comes down to you.”  “Sounds like you aren’t working hard enough.”  So that was cool. *insert sarcasm*

But the most annoying part…the part that sucks….the part that I hated to admit was:

They were right.

I DIDN’T actually have any excuses.  I legitimately was kind of being a slacker.  And as much as I like to think of myself as a driven person who won’t quit until success is reached, I kinda sorta have to admit that lately, that hasn’t been the case.

“You are right”.  Those three words can cause even the most seasoned life veteran to cough and stutter before spitting them out.

No one likes to hear that they are wrong.  They especially don’t like to learn that they’re wrong in a direct, straight-to-the-point matter.  With witnesses.  And it SUCKS to have to swallow your pride and admit your downfalls to yourself, much less to the person casually pointing them out.

I know that if I were to have talked to any of my other friends, I would have gotten what I wanted-soothing words of affirmation that would assure me that there was nothing wrong with what I was doing, and I should just keep on keeping on.

And yet, I feel that this would have been a disservice to me.  We don’t need people to encourage us to keep curling the 5 lb weights that obviously are a better fit for the tiny 80 year old woman in Silver Sneakers class.  We need people who are going to yell in our face as we struggle to put up the 20 lb shoulder press, and encourage you to go for that last rep before our arms fall, exhausted, but our pride swells, elated.

Of course, this last metaphor would be a lot more effective if you’re being yelled at by a 220 lb jacked trainer rather than your 115 lb friend who loves Zumba and Yoga.  Likewise, we need to have those friends in our lives who are living what they push us to do.

The two friends who called me on my shit?  Both male.  Both extremely hard-working.  Both putting in long hours towards their differing goals, so much so that most people would think them slightly nutty.  Both headstrong, very smart, and driven from within to succeed.

So yes, it was extremely annoying to have to admit that they were right.  But I would rather have friends who push me to my breaking point and help me reach beyond rather than ‘friends’ who are content floating down the Lazy River.

“You are right” are the three most annoying words in the English language.  But they are also the most necessary words to hear in order to move forward with your life and your goals.  If you never feel the need to admit that you were wrong about something, then you have never felt the impact of growth.

Growing.  Changing.  Evolving.  These are all symptoms of realizing that we do not know everything, and we are better than our excuses and previous mindsets.  If the people that you surround yourself with have never ever made you say those annoying words, than you need to find yourself some other friends and mentors.

Flourishing as a person is not easy.  But it is infinitely better to go through the pain of mental reorganization and realization of temporary failure than it is to skip blithely along with the mindset of your youth unchallenged.

“You are right” is annoying only because of our pride.  Set aside your ego, and those words become words of discovery, words of new beginnings, and words of positive change.

In today’s society, we have become so accustomed to others patting us on the back with a ‘there there’ and moving on that we instantly become offended when people try to point out how we could improve.  Straight-shooters are seen as assholes.  Individuals who keep it real are snubbed.

But stop and think about it.  Who really cares about you?  The person who nods their head and agrees externally while rolling their eyes and shaking their head on the inside?  Or the person who stops you in your tracks and says ‘wait a minute dude, you’re selling yourself short’.  I know who I’d want on my team.

So challenge yourself to truly see what you are.  Call yourself on your own shit.  If you actually care about the people around you, be (wo)man enough to call them out when they aren’t serving themselves well.  The quick slice of a knife always heals faster and less ugly than the slow degradation of flesh.  And the sting of reality is substantially better than the suffocating cloud of self-deception.

Embrace the annoyance.  Relish the feeling of those words on your tongue.  Love the effect of pushing yourself to constantly be more.  At the end of the day, the moment of irritation and ego deflation will fade away in the bright light of fulfillment, and you will thank god that someone took the time to call you out.

 

When It’s Out of Your Hands

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If you know me in person, you probably know that I am a bit of a control freak.  Not the kind that tries to control everyone’s thoughts and actions to the tiniest degree, but the kind that has to know what’s going on a month in advance, who is taking care of what, what are the exact time specifications, and so on and so forth.

Lately, the universe has been whacking me over the head with the knowledge that sometimes, it’s just not up to me.  Along with some personal things that are simply out of my hands at the moment, today I received the official notice that I am, indeed, being laid off.

Knowing that you MIGHT be laid off and knowing that you ARE laid off are two completely different feelings.  And control freak me does not like it one bit.

A song that has been playing over and over in my head has been Carrie Underwood’s “Jesus Take the Wheel”.  While I am not religious, the sentiment of the song seems quite applicable to my life right now.  I have done all that I can do to prepare for everything that is out of my control right now.  Personally, I have said my piece.  Professionally, I have applied for new positions.  Practically, I have made arrangements with my roommate.  And now all I can do is wait for opportunities to present themselves and snatch them up.

I was reflecting back on some of my earlier posts where I discussed needing to have a direction in life and actively steering where you want to go.  The recent turn of events made me think back on that sentiment: what if the steering wheel suddenly gets taken from you?  What if you are rowing merrily along and suddenly hit a rock hidden just beneath the surface?  What if the rushing stream you had been following suddenly dwindles to a mere trickle?

And then, I shook myself out of it.  Having a direction and the drive to do something in life does not guarantee smooth sailing.  In fact, it usually means the opposite.  Just because you know where you want to end up doesn’t mean that you’ll get there walking in a straight line.  If you don’t have direction, you’ll end up stopping, backtracking, or simply changing your end goal to fit the easiest route.  Sticking to your guns means climbing mountains, fording streams, and whacking through underbrush to make it through.  Having things taken out of your hands is not a stop sign for the determined, but merely a moment to pause and look at the compass before forging on ahead.

So how do you know if something is TRULY out of your hands or if you’re just telling yourself that as an excuse?

If something is out of your hands, you will have done everything that you can up to that point.  If you get laid off from a job simply due to numbers, there is nothing you could have done to prevent that from happening.  And if you were truly doing everything that you could, you will have killer recommendations to move to the next opportunity.  If you give your all to a relationship and they choose to leave, there is nothing more that you can say or do if you have honestly laid it all out on the table.  Your ability to be vulnerable will only be a positive in your subsequent relationships.

If something is out of your hands, it couldn’t have been prevented.  Having your house catch on fire and losing everything due to the stove being left on could have been prevented and thus isn’t really something that is out of your hands.  But losing everything in a record flood that was completely unexpected isn’t in your range of control.  You cannot prevent every disaster, unexpected life twist, or people’s reactions based on their personal issues; all you can do is deal with the aftermath.

If something is out of your hands, you can’t change it after it happens.  I cannot go back and reverse the decision of the school board.  There is no way for someone to persuade an ex to take them back after they have already mentally moved on.  No one can recreate a reaction to something that could potentially lead to negative consequences.

However, with all that being said, just because something in your life is out of your hands does not mean that your life itself somehow follows suit.  There are circumstances that suck, things that happen that you would give the world to change, and people that choose to leave of their own volition.  Yet even with those elements removed, there is still so much raw material to work with.

Our lives are an adventure.  And if every single thing was in our control, we probably wouldn’t find the awesomely unknown opportunities or get to experience the joy of figuring shit out for ourselves.  So in a way, I’m lucky: I’m being forced to discover things that I may not have taken the chance on if I would have kept my position.  Who knows what amazing things I may stumble upon?

Facing the unknown is a scary place to stand.  The path disappears into the night, and there are no friendly lanterns to guide your way.  But if you take a couple of strides forward, you’ll find that you have enough light from within to keep illuminating the next small advancements, and really, that’s all the light you need.

So strike out with courage, befriend the cold hands of fear, and never ever let uncertainty prevent you from taking those tentative yet oh-so-important first steps.  Usually, you’ll find that greatness lies just beyond the edge of the dark, and the velvet black that seemed so threatening from your comfort zone is able to be melted away by a simple brush of the hand.

(PC: This guy)