My Top 5 Takeaways from #BlogHer17

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The past couple of days, I’ve been in Orlando, Florida at the BlogHer conference. ¬†It was INCREDIBLE. ¬†It was the first time I’ve ever been to a conference of any sort, and I was blown away by all of the passion, information, and people that I encountered on my two day stint.

There was so much amazing knowledge that was shared, and so many insights I gleaned from my observations and conversations.  Overall, though, I want to share with you the top 5 takeaways I gathered from my 48 hours at #BlogHer17

Takeaway #1: You Serve Best by Doing What You Love

As I was listing to all of the keynote speakers, it was evident that they had SO MUCH passion behind their individual projects.  While each of the speakers had lofty aspirations they wanted to reach, and they all wanted to make an impact on the world, they were doing it in so many different ways.   Likewise, when I dove into conversation with other bloggers, there was so much variety in what people were targeting in their blogs.

If you look at what everybody else is doing, it is so easy to lose focus on what we originally set out to do. ¬†One of the great quotes that I heard is “we envy what we don’t know”. ¬†I have found this to be true with me recently, as I am trying to solidify what impact I want to make in the world and how I want to do that outside of my teaching arena. ¬†I look at all the things others are doing and think “aw man, I should be doing that!” or “I should be doing this!”

In reality, we need to bring our focus back to us and what WE love. ¬†If we have passion, that passion will be infectious. ¬†However, if that true joy in what we’re doing is lacking, it will never end up being successful anyways.

Takeaway #2: ¬†Don’t Be Married To An Outcome

There were several speakers who touched on this idea.  The notion that we are going to go from A to B to C without any forks in the road or hills to climb is laughable.  Oftentimes we decide on a path and continue to slog through the mud, come hell or high water, even when stepping stones to higher, drier ground appear before us.  There were many examples at the conference of people who started out doing one thing and then pivoted and did something completely different than what they originally envisioned.

This idea of letting life lead you needs to be balanced with drive and ambition, of course, but if you find that you aren’t enjoying something as much as you used to, or you discover something else that gives you more fulfillment, it is 100% ok to change direction.

Takeaway #3:  Pressure is a Privilege

A couple of people discussed this idea that they avoided success because it meant that there would be a lot more pressure put upon them to perform.  If you are the best tennis player in the world, people simply expect you to win, which can be daunting.  However, being successful and having that pressure put upon you is a privilege in that it validates your achievements and gives you a platform from which to amplify your message.

Not having any pressure to accomplish anything is dangerous; it leads to complacency and a cycle of accepting the status quo.  If you feel that pressure to get better, go to the next level, or advance your brand or business, be thankful: It means that you are making headway and an impact.

Takeaway #4:  Celebrate The Power of Others

There were so many women (and a handful of men) at this conference who were doing so many amazing things, big and small.  There were several keynote speakers who blew me away with their social change efforts, and a handful of open-mic night participants that moved me to tears.  It was incredible to feel the constant energy, and it completely fueled my fire to do big things.

Someone else doing amazing things in no way dilutes your ability to reach success, too. ¬†If everyone helps each other up, all participating parties benefit. ¬†There are so many authentically awe-inspiring things that are going on in the world around you-get involved with other people’s success, and it can only augment yours.

Takeaway #5: Dream Big

Many times we imagine what could happen if our wildest dreams came true, and then we tamp our thoughts back down into the firm cold ground of ‘reality’. ¬†There were so many people who presented their accomplishments, and all of them conveyed them in a way that made it seem like it wasn’t an act of luck or happenstance that these things came to fruition but simply putting in the time or taking advantage of opportunities that cropped up along the way.

Our dreams are worth holding on to. ¬†There is no point in chasing a ‘realistic’ dream; than it ceases to be a dream at all. ¬†If you have aspirations that seem crazy, don’t let that dissuade you. ¬†Keep those goals in the forefront of your mind and actually believe that you can achieve them. ¬†We only have one life, and it is better to spend it working towards a bigger vision that squander it on the mundane.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, BlogHer was an amazing, mindset-shifting event that had a profound impact on my mindset and awareness.  While I still need time to process all of the information that I received, I am beyond thankful for the opportunity of going!

I highly encourage you to search up conferences related to your passions and professions. ¬†Not only will you return with renewed purpose, you will connect with others who are like-minded and maybe, just maybe, you will have one encounter that alters your course for good. ¬†In the infamous words of Shia LeBeouf, “Just DO IT!”

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!

 

Be F*cking Nice

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Today, I was the recipient of pure, unconniving, good ol’ hometown nice.

I found a desk that I wanted to get on Craigslist yesterday, but I lacked the space in my tiny Nissan Versa to move it. ¬†I posted a message on Facebook asking if anyone had a truck or an SUV they would be willing to let me borrow, but made plans to rent a Uhaul as I wasn’t really expecting anyone to respond.

Lo and behold, a guy I haven’t spoken to in quite a while commented that he had a truck and was willing to help! ¬†I texted him and arranged the time; he drove me to the place where the desk was, helped me load it, and gave me a hand bringing it in to my apartment. ¬†When I offered him payment for his gas and time, he refused and said “nah, it’s just what nice, normal people do.

How refreshing is that?

He had zero agenda.  He did not benefit from the exchange at all.  And yet, he gave his time and assistance in spite of the lack of reward.

I follow CEO Andy Frisella on Facebook, and a couple days ago he posted the following:

Be fucking nice.

Its not that hard.

You never know the impact a simple gesture can make on someone.

A hello.

Holding the door for someone.

Complimenting someone (with out an agenda)

There are a million ways to help people…and sometimes the simplest are the best.

Give people faith in humanity through your daily actions. Its good for both of you.

I love this post.  So much so that I stole part of it for my title.

It is admirable to be a driven, goal-oriented person.  Sometimes, however, the same people who are galvanized to succeed are also the people who brush past the niceties in order to drive hard for the prize.  This tunnel vision is great at times for getting results, but it sucks for creating relationships.  And relationships are what push you past the finish line those crucial .2 seconds before the competition.

Case in point, if you have equal¬†on-paper qualifications and an equivalent success track record as someone who is gunning for the same position or sale as you, but you’re a bitch/dick/unpleasant, it will go to the nice one every. single. time. ¬†Humans don’t want to be around horrible people (even if they are a horrid specimen themselves).

Nice has gotten a bad reputation. ¬†So many individuals think that “nice” is a synonym for weak. ¬†Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Try doing someone a favor when you are exhausted and all you want to do is sit at home in silence. ¬†Try holding a pleasant conversation for a couple of minutes with someone you secretly can’t stand. ¬†Try to compromise on something when the outcome actually affects you.

Yeah.  Not weak.  Not weak at all.

Sometimes, being nice is a task accomplished by those with only the most impressive store of willpower and inner strength.

Growing up in the Midwest, I was saturated with nice throughout my entire childhood. ¬†Neighbors stopped in randomly to chit chat. ¬†Checking out at the grocery store always included a “have a great day!” from the cashier. ¬†The mail lady bought our pet rocks that we were selling on the side of the road. ¬†To me, nice was simply normal.

In today’s world (or maybe it’s just anywhere outside of the Minnesota bubble), being nice is viewed as an anomaly rather than the status quo. ¬†I have never had so many people comment on how “nice” I am more than I have in the 2.5 years I have lived here. ¬†It’s something people notice and appreciate, especially when it’s atypical.

Now, to play devil’s advocate, one cannot go out of their way to be nice all of the time, or nothing personal will ever get accomplished. ¬†There comes a point when your actions can cross over from nice to doormat. ¬†That being said, when it costs to you nothing to lend a helping hand or give of your attention except a little bit of time or effort, just do it.

The world is one big mirror that gleefully reflects every single thing you show it.  Is the universe displaying positivity?  Are doors opening for you?  Do you step outside into a playground of friendliness and possibility?  Or, is the galaxy one swirling dark mass of negativity and suffering, with walls rising in every direction and people slamming into your shoulder as they rush past with their hat pulled low and their collar pulled high?

You have the power to create a little bit of beauty multiple times a day.  The more times you take the opportunity to be nice, the more times the world will bring nice to you.

The guy who helped me move my desk today?  I became friends with him after I offered to help him push his truck into the garage when I saw him struggling to do it himself.  You never know when your acts of kindness will come back to benefit you, but I can promise you, they will come back.  It might not be the next day or even the next year, but eventually, the tiny seeds of positivity that you plant will bloom, and the winds of life will blow those second-generation seeds back into your own garden right when you need them.

So really, what do you have to lose? ¬†Go ahead–pull on your overalls, grab a shovel and hose, and¬†plant nice.

Creating Steam

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This weekend was a three day weekend for me and an amazing one at that. ¬†I felt incredibly happy the majority of the time, yet looking back, I’m dissatisfied with how some of my time was spent.

On Friday night, I chilled out with my roommate and watched ‘our show’. ¬†This isn’t a problem, but the fact that I didn’t do ANYTHING else is.

On Monday, my extra day off, I cleaned in the morning, but napped in the afternoon and fell asleep really early that night.  I was going to do some life errands, but I put them off until today.  Uncool.

While this may seem like a typical weekend for most people, ¬†I know that I don’t want to be most people. ¬†I want to accomplish a lot in life. ¬†Like, a LOT a lot. ¬†Like, an insane amount. ¬†And that requires that my extra time be utilized to its maximum capacity.

Most weekends, I find it incredibly easy to work on the things that I am building in my life. ¬†It feels exciting and fun. ¬†But this past weekend, I lost my momentum. ¬†I wasn’t feeling inspired on Friday and Monday, and I simply didn’t care that much.

So what does this reveal? ¬†Does this imply that I shouldn’t be working as hard as I have been? ¬†Does this suggest I should lower my expectations of myself because they are clearly a bit unrealistic? ¬†Does this foreshadow the impending doom of my lofty ideals?

Hell no.

Upon reflection, I realized that I am never going to be gung-ho, balls out, 2 year old who just got a sucker excited about reaching my goals 100% of the time. ¬†That’s just not possible. ¬†I’m going to get tired. ¬†I’m going to get discouraged. ¬†I’m going to get lazy. ¬†This is normal.

But, I don’t want to be normal. ¬†The difference between ordinary and extraordinary lies in pushing through those moments where you feel like you’ve hit a wall. ¬†Ordinary stops and shrugs its shoulders. ¬†Extraordinary picks up a sledgehammer and starts swinging. ¬†Ordinary makes excuses. ¬†Extraordinary refuses to give in to stumbling blocks. ¬†Ordinary settles. ¬†Extraordinary achieves.

Creating the incredible requires that you just. keep. going.  Everything is so easy when you have that inner desire.  Sometimes, though, you can lose your steam.  Its disheartening when you can observe this happening in yourself.    If you feel like your fire is dimming, take steps to fan your own flames.

In order to create steam you need fire and water, much like creating progress takes motivation and effort. ¬†You’re going to have to add fuel in order to keep the flames alive. ¬†Most of the time, the wood is conveniently plopped in the stockpile close at hand. ¬†Sometimes, it’s still going to be in tree form and require an ax and some muscle. ¬†¬†Other times, you’re going to have more than enough wood, but adding more water becomes necessary so the pot doesn’t boil dry. ¬†It could be as simple as turning on a tap, or as consuming as grabbing a pail, hiking a couple miles, and filling that sucker up.

Regardless of what you need to do in order to keep the momentum, it is going to take mental determination.  Being willing to put in the extra effort creates the difference between achieving awesomeness and settling for humdrum and mainstream.

Sometimes, putting in the effort is easy because the flames of motivation are hot. ¬†Other times, it’s simply a matter of principle that keeps you going.

When it comes to promises made to other people, are you a man or woman of your word?  If you are, how much more important is a promise to yourself?  Know what you want to achieve, and make yourself a promise that you will get there.

And then?

Keep your promise.

Your Authentic Self

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I have a student who moved here at the beginning of the year and is quite different from all of my other students that I teach.  Mary* works extremely hard at school, takes dance classes every night, is involved in the drama class, belongs to the speech and debate club, AND wants to start a Junior National Honor Society Chapter at our school.

When I talk to her about the future, she tells me she is planning on auditioning for our Fine Arts College during her sophomore year of school (since she moved here too late to audition this year).  She also laughs off the notion that she needs to relax a bit, saying that doing all of these things now will give her more options in the future.

To top it off, this girl is also the most polite and sweet child I have ever had the privilege of teaching.  Her fellow students snicker when she talks and gives answers in class, mostly because she is a glaring anomaly in a sea of kids who have zero ambition and no future plan.

I am ashamed to admit, I find her irritating at times.  She asks for her scores at inopportune times, will come back again and again if I am busy at the moment, and takes up my time in between classes because she enjoys talking to me about whatever is going on in her life.

Why am I telling you this?

She is always no holds barred, unapologetically, in-your-face, 100% her authentic self.

 I cannot help but admire her.  She knows what she wants.  She takes the steps to accomplish it.  And I will bet you my life savings that she is going to BE somebody someday.  If she is this determined and strong in 8th grade, at a school where the culture is anything but goal-oriented, who knows to what heights she will soar when she gets around people who will embrace her true self rather than be intimidated by it.

I am almost 28 years old, and while I have always been someone who accomplishes what I set out to accomplish, it has taken me this long to be ok with my own authenticity. ¬†Growing up, I was always a person who secretly worried about what other people thought of me. ¬†Do they like me? ¬†Why not? ¬†Why aren’t they talking to me? ¬†OMG why ARE they talking to me? Should I wear this outfit? ¬†Talk about this topic? ¬†Maybe I need to be more serious/goofy/like them.¬†And on and on.

Thank GOD I have gotten over myself.

A couple weekends ago, I hung out with a group of girls, one of whom rubbed me the the wrong way COMPLETELY. ¬†When I talked to my roommate about it later, she said “Yeah, it was so obvious you were annoyed, and I could tell she thought you were annoying too.”

A couple years ago, a comment like that would have crushed me. ¬†She thought I was annoying? ¬†OMG-Now I need to change everything about myself. ¬†I’m obviously a terrible person.

Today, I don’t give two flying f*cks about whether she thought I was irritating or not, because I know who I am, and dammit, I like who I am.

Revealing your true self is one of the scariest yet empowering things you can choose to do.  People gravitate towards authenticity, no matter what form it comes in.  If someone is genuinely a sweetheart, those around her will notice and appreciate her thoughtfulness.  If someone is genuinely an asshole, peers will grumblingly admire his honesty.

If you are true to yourself, those who surround you will be able to sense the credibility in your actions.  You attract the vibes you put out in the universe: fake begets fake, real begets real.

Success will come much faster and more abundantly to those who achieve it through being legitimate.  Real desire, reliable work, and a convincing vision will win over slimy networking and brown-nosing any day.  Those who are at the top have zero reason NOT to showcase their ultimate selves, and they got to where they are by shedding their masks and using their verity to their advantage.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you have cart blanche to be a terrible person and hold out the “authentic self” card like an all-encompassing shield of justification. ¬†If you are that person who is authentically an asshole, stay true to the genuine core of who you are, but take the steps to soften the edges. ¬†It is 100% possible to be true to yourself AND work on self-improvement at the same time.

Finding and displaying your pure self takes a lot of courage in the beginning. ¬†It’s hard to shed the need for other’s approval. ¬†But when you understand who YOU are, you can use that knowledge to propel you forward in life. ¬†Trying to make progress without accepting yourself is like walking on a treadmill: you may get a workout in, but you’re not actually traveling anywhere worthwhile.

Overall, you will be surprised by how many people actually LIKE you for you. ¬†In a world of filters, contour, and butt surgery, finding individuals who proudly display their personality ¬†like Mary* is a rarity. ¬†Take a chance. ¬†Let others around you see your hidden glow. ¬†You just might find the tools you’ve been needing to take the next step towards your optimal life have been hidden behind your walls this whole time.

 

 

Accepting Criticism

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I’m currently sitting in Las Vegas with 4 hours to kill. My friend had a seminar to attend from 11-3, and since I didn’t have any other plans this weekend and don’t mind chilling on my own for a bit, I decided to tag along and get dropped off at the hotel early while he was attending his event. ¬†Originally, I was planning to get some grading done, create some teaching resources for next week, and write a blog post. However, all of these grand plans came crashing down with the post-arrival realization that I couldn’t access the wifi without a room number, and I couldn’t get a room number until check-in time at 3 pm.

I texted my friend dramatically telling him my situation, and he responded that I could write a blog on Notepad (I have yet to install Word on my week-old computer). I dramatically responded that my blogging fire was feeling defeated right now, and he shot back “that’s all it takes to defeat you?”

Of course, this immediately rankled me because a) I’m not a quitter by any means, b) he didn’t give me the sympathy I was angling for, and c) I was being melodramatic with the conversation-of course I wasn’t going to sit and sulk and accomplish nothing for 4 hours. So, with an “I’ll show you!” attitude, I opened my computer and started writing this post on, yes, Notepad. After my initial butthurt reaction died down, however, I was happy he reminded me that I didn’t need Word to accomplish at least one thing that I wanted to get done. This whole exchange got me thinking about reactions: our reactions to others, their reactions to us, and if the reactions we want/give are actually the reactions we/others need.

Even if we don’t consciously admit it, we almost always have a reaction that we expect or want from other people whenever we ask a question or tell them about something we have positively or negatively experienced. When we don’t get the reaction that we desire, it usually causes negative feelings. However, sometimes the reaction we want is not the reaction that we need. For example, when I screw up on my diet or don’t exercise for a while, I have friends who tell me that “it’s ok” and “you can handle it, you always work hard” and other flattering comments. I have other friends, though, who point blank say “you screwed up” and “stop slacking”. Initially, the first comments are obviously the nicer ones to receive, because they assuage your ego and allow you to sidestep responsibility for your screw-ups. In the long run, though, the hard-ass comments are the ones that spur you to actually accomplish your goals. When someone tells me that I’m ok, it’s so easy to ease off the gas and coast for a bit, but if someone points out my failures, it drives me to step on the pedal and go faster.

It always sucks when someone refuses to pander to you. We are used to being “politically correct” in all situations, and it’s much easier to make someone feel good about themselves then to point out where they could improve. This is especially true with friends. We don’t want to cause any rifts or hard feelings in the relationship, so it’s easier to gloss over certain things that we notice rather than take the trouble to point them out. This results in each individual giving everyone else a thumbs up to their face and a grimace at their back. The result? Everyone stays pretty much the same, lying to themselves and others, and avoiding looking directly in the mirror because no one ever has the kajones to actually point out out the lettuce that’s firmly wedged between your two front teeth.

Of course, I am not advocating for everyone to drop all pretenses and be glaringly honest about everything all of the time; there is nothing to be gained by constant criticism and gleefully pointing out your friend’s every falter. There is value, however, in not allowing ourselves to fall into the “you’re doing fine” trap, and giving honest, firm observations from a place of love. The intention behind the feedback makes all of the difference. If you hear something that stings from a person that you know actually wants to help you, it makes it easier to swallow. If you receive criticism from someone you know couldn’t care less about your actual goals, it drives to you a defensive position, which doesn’t lend itself to growth.

This also brings up the factor of truly desiring direction versus kind of wanting input, but not really. Superficially, I love to hear that I’m doing well and that I should continue doing exactly what I’m doing. In reality, however, I am striving to optimize every part of my life, which cannot be accomplished without an outside, critical eye. I am not so egotistical as to believe that I magically know how to do everything the very best way, every single time. As much as I hate hearing that I am failing in this area or that area, that knowledge is invaluable for growth if I choose to accept it. As hard as it is to acknowledge correction, especially from people close to me, I know that digging in my heels and defending my position will not lead me to expand, unless I truly feel that their criticism is unfounded or given out of spite. The underlying desire for true success allows me to humble myself and admit when the other person is right, even when it’s not at all what I want to hear. The people who give lip service to their ambitions yet don’t want to change anything to make them a reality are the people who become angry at tough love and cannot swallow other peoples’ honest assessments.

Overall, opening ourselves to the possibility of learning from all different sources allows us to evolve in ways that we never imagined. Any growth is uncomfortable; this means that we may have to admit things to ourselves that may be incredibly painful to face in order to go to the next level. There is never any real advancement, however, without some form of sacrifice, whether that be our time, our resources, or simply sacrificing our ego. Instead of focusing on what you are losing when faced with vexing realities, look at what possibilities are now open to you. If we choose to embrace the sunlight let in from the doors pried open by those with more knowledge than us rather than shying away from the sudden brightness that will temporarily hurt our eyes, we might just find a whole new world of exciting potential that has always lain just outside our self-imposed walls.

Intentional Adversity

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I listened to a snippet of a podcast today from Lewis Howes in which one theme was “we don’t grow when things are fabulous”. ¬†In other words, we tend not to expand ourselves when things are already going pretty great. ¬†It is only when we face hardship that we truly test our inner mettle and rise to or above the occasion.

We see examples of this all the time.  Jay Z grew up in the projects surrounded by drugs and crime, and is now worth over $500 million.  Oprah Winfrey was born in poverty and is now worth billions (BILLIONS!).  Even in nature, birds, snakes, and turtles must break out of their shell on their own in order to create the strength necessary to thrive in the wild.  There is no progress without adversity.

Of course, not all of us are ‘lucky’ enough to have such suffering early in life that creates that inner drive and hunger. ¬†Which brings me to a question: ¬†how can you progress if you, for all intents and purposes, face no difficulties? ¬†How can you raise to greater and greater heights if you are at a fairly satisfactory middle ground?

If you are fortunate enough to have made it to average, you need to create your own adversity. ¬†This means setting goals for yourself that will 100% cause you to struggle and fail and feel frustrated and cry and feel like it’s almost impossible. ¬†There is no glory for the boy who performs his perfunctory 30 minute treadmill walk and 20 lb bicep curls. ¬†The prestige come for the man who adds on the extra 25 lb plate and performs so many reps that he drops his weights to the floor with a snarl. ¬†There is no recognition for the girl who perpetually moves through the assigned, stereotypical stages that history has laid out for her. ¬†The kudos comes for the woman who chooses to achieve great things in her career while still being an amazing mother, ride or die friend, and kick-ass romantic partner. ¬†Giving yourself hurdles to jump and mountains to climb means that you are forcing yourself to grow, expanding your mind, and most importantly, constantly reaching for more.

Of course, there are those who are perfectly content to stay in the middle lane, and why shouldn’t they be? ¬†They have no reason to work hard. ¬†Once the average existence is set in motion, there is a momentum that keeps things going at a comfortable speed, with only a slight push needed every once in a while. ¬†Life is good.

But here’s the thing.

We only have one life.  Take a minute or 30 to really, truly think about that reality. One life. Singular.  Unique.  Specific.  Finite. One.

What are you going to do with yours?

I grew up reading the Bible, and while I am not religious now, I still value the wisdom that many of the stories have to offer.  There is one parable that is particularly relevant to this situation, where there are three servants who are each given one talent while their Master goes away.  The first two servants grew their talents in different ways and showed a profit upon his return, but the third played it safe, buried it, and presented the same talent on the day of reckoning.  How well do you think his one talent was received?

If you don’t take your one life that you are given and do everything in your power to make it as amazing as you can, how are you going to feel when you look back on your life? ¬†How much better would it be to recall a life full of adversity, failure, and eventual success versus a life of 80-100 identical, average, complacent years? ¬†No one tells stories about that one time they made a comfortable salary and repainted their white picket fence every three years. ¬†Impressive stories, mind-blowing stories, glorious stories are made of times when you are so despondent that you cannot imagine sinking any lower, or so dizzyingly high that you feel absolutely invincible.

If life does not give you the opportunity to look failure in the eye and try anyway, create that chance for yourself.  Choose to put yourself out there.  Choose to be scared.  Choose to strive for things just out of your reach so that you can evolve upwards and pluck the highest, sun-kissed fruit for yourself and those you love.

But these are just words.

Triumph is only obtained when words become action.  This whole idea of intentional adversity is something that I have struggled with recently, and is the whole reason that I started this blog.  When things are pretty good, why would I want to go for more?  Why should I risk possible failure at something big when I already have a sure thing here and now? Why on earth would I face potential defeat just for a small chance at greatness?

The answer?

Why not?