The “Lost Connection”

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I am an inveterate people watcher, and lately, I have witnessed something that profoundly troubles me. WE CAN’T SEEM TO KEEP OUR FACES OUT OF OUR SMARTPHONES FOR EVEN A MINUTE OR TWO. Some people call it an addiction. Others call it an obsession.

For example, how many times have you seen someone pat their pocket and smile, having been reassured that their phone was still safely nestled close at hand? How often have you experienced “phantom pocket vibrations” where you felt a tingling near your pocket area—or wherever you keep your phone—only to discover that rather than the alert or notification you “thought” you just received what you felt was just some neurons near the surface of your skin randomly firing? A few years ago I would have just reached down and scratched that itch. Now I am supremely disappointed that it is only an itch.

Going anywhere for a vacation, walking around tourists-frequented spots,  I could not find one person who was not gazing into a phone, even those who were traveling with others. My friends around the world tell me that they see the same behaviors. The other day at a  party I watched a young woman dining with her supervisor pick up her phone while he was talking and check her Facebook. And the more interesting part is that he kept on talking to her and didn’t seem slighted at all. 

Last summer, my wife and I, took a road trip with some friends and visited some of the most beautiful scenery around the area traversing four top class tourists spots along the way. One instance we hiked all the way up to a magnificent mountain peak  only to find that since there was a cell connection up there nearly every hiker was looking down rather than out at the magnificent vista. And those who were looking were busily snapping pictures instead of simply looking and experiencing the magnificent views. I doubt whether they can have the same experience of nature through that small lens. Will those who were taking videos get the same enjoyment by reliving the views rather than experiencing them? Will they even watch those videos again?

Another interesting and somewhat troubling observation is that many young people, and a lot of older ones too, carry their phone in their hand. I often ask them why and the answer is always the same: “So, I know immediately when I get a text or an email or someone posts on social media.” I guess taking a second or two to take that phone out of a pocket or purse is not soon enough in our tech-rich world.

And I find it amusing (and somewhat disconcerting) that people even make excuses to escape whoever they are supposed to be spending time with so that they can check in with other people who may not even be real-life friends. Sometimes when my wife and I go out to dinner with friends (or other acquaintances) I am bewildered at how many people put their phone on the table and if it vibrates they interrupt whatever is going on to tap a few keys and return to the conversation often asking, “What did I miss?” Some people call this FOMO—Fear of Missing Out—but by choosing to not miss out on their virtual social world they are missing out on their real social world right in front of their face.

It is sad that this technology which was supposed to connect people is (actually) making them disconnect from each other in person.

I am still a believer in the major benefits technology brings to our world but I sincerely hope that what we are seeing is just another pendulum swing where we become so excited about something new that we want to use it obsessively and as time passes we become less captivated and use it less often until the next new thing comes into our world and the pendulum swings again. But the observer in me shakes his head and wonders whether the pendulum has reached its apex yet and, if not, what that will do to our relationship with the world and the “real” people who inhabit it. I remain optimistic.

Photo credits: Google photos

Perseverance makes a difference!

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If I had to pick one trait that is key to achieving nearly anything in life it is this. Perseverance. That’s it. It’s the one thing that sets achievers apart from those who complain that they aren’t reaching their dreams.

Perseverance is about doing what you set out to do, day in day out. Even when it gets boring, even when you don’t feel like it. Even when it seems like you’re on a road to nowhere.

I’d love to say that being better than average, super talented or gifted will ensure success. But none of that is true. Once you establish your big picture goals, whether it’s writing and publishing a book, making your blog successful and/or profitable, getting paid to post photos on Instagram, or buying a house for that matter, you need to persevere in the face of difficulty and boredom. And that’s where most people trip up.

Say you want to write a book. And you start it. And by the second week or even the second month of writing every day, you hit a wall. You’re uninspired. You’re tired. You stop. But the book won’t write itself. You need to keep on going. If you don’t persevere, you won’t meet your goal. Then you will complain that writing a book is hard. Well, sure. It is. But if you really want to do it, there is no other way around it than to keep on going. This is one lesson I’m trying impose to myself lately.

Or maybe you want to excel at social media. You want to make money as an online influencer. You open a Twitter account, set up your Facebook page and start your Instagram feed. You post a few times and then a month or two later, you give up, because “it’s not working out.” Brands aren´t filling your inbox with lucrative proposals to work together.

Let’s take blogging as an example — to work for you, you have to work at it. You need to persevere. You must be consistent over time, whatever that looks for you. If you need to publish posts once or twice every day, or once every week or month, to keep the juices flowing, that´s what you do. Day in, day out. Whether you are being paid for it or not. Whether you feel it´s moving you forward or not. Until you produce content consistently for a while (maybe months, maybe a couple of years), you aren’t going to know for sure whether you’re on the right track.

It suffice to say also that there is nothing wrong with trying out different things before you find out what you really want to dedicate your time and efforts to. But throwing in the towel before giving yourself a real chance to succeed, is cheating yourself. Don’t do it.

Stick it out. Keep on going. Post it somewhere you can see it daily: “Perseverance.” It’s a small word that makes a huge difference.

If, after persevering, you eventually decide to quit, then it’s a choice based on facts and feelings, not something that simply happens to you. Give yourself the chance to make that choice.

Stop Trying, Just Be

 

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Have you ever seen someone try to dance ballet who is not a ballet dancer, or heard someone trying to sing opera without any training? It would make you laugh, no?

Have you ever experienced an uncomfortable discussion with someone who is trying very hard to be nice? You can tell that this person is working hard to be polite but you can tell that it is not genuine. It is as if the person has a mask on their face and is hiding their true nature.

It is similarly awkward when a person you are speaking with tries to impress you with how important he is. You feel doubtful and wonder if they are trying to sell you something that may not be true. Are they merely exaggerating, or are they lying to you?

“Trying to be” means you are working on doing something that does not come naturally to you. It is not you.

Please do not try. If you are angry, be angry. Do not try to be angry. If you are depressed, let yourself be depressed. Do not try to look depressed to get attention. Just be, whatever it is.

When I find people who are genuine, I cannot be offended by them. They are what they are, and I find it refreshing to be with someone who does not try to be but is.

You know where you stand with this kind of person. What you see is what you get. You do not have to have multiple thoughts in your mind as you interact with a genuine person. One of the most difficult parts of interacting with someone who seems disingenuous is that one part of your mind is listening to what they say while another part of your mind is screening the information because you do not trust what you hear or see. It is exhausting if it is prolonged.

It is not always easy to be genuine. In certain situations, it is easier to cover our faces and souls with a mask and pretend to be what we are not.

To be genuine means to have no fear. To be confident enough in one’s own identity to withstand criticism. It’s not easy, but surely productive and beneficial to one’s self.

 

– just sharing a thought…

Being Smart vs Being Interesting

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Smart is good. I’ve always thought that one of the most flattering compliments someone could receive is to be referred to as “bright”, as I feel that word encapsulates much more than just one’s mental aptitude. The ability to learn and have a wealth of knowledge in that thing we call a brain is something to be admired.

The expression “the smartest guy in the room”, depending on how it’s used, can be a term of endearment or a flat out insult. But you can’t deny someone’s brain if it’s functioning at a level superior to your own. I know a few people (my dad being one of them) who I look at and think Wow, your mind is on a totally other level than most.

That being said, I find that most couldn’t really care less about how smart someone is anymore. And I don’t mean those simply making small talks at parties or cocktail hour. Most organizations are hiring based on personality much more than someone’s actual IQ (unless you’re trying to get inside NASA or other  similar institutions, then an exceptional IQ is required). Nowadays, in order to be successful, we all need to understand the shift that’s occurring under our feet.

No one cares about how smart you are. People care about how interesting you are.

 At 36, I’ve seen and experienced my fair share of things. But I want MOREI want to DOAnd I have the utmost respect for those people who are doers, because doers are the most interesting people on the planet. I would much rather someone walk away from having a conversation with me and think, “Wow, that guy is pretty damn interesting,” than, “Man that guy knows a lot of information (read as: useless c**p) that I could just as easily have looked up on my iPhone.”

Old stereotypes are shifting with the technological revolution that we’re living in. We’re connected to a device that can tell us anything we might want or need to know. Being intelligent used to be the main factor, the one thing that makes the difference, it simply isn’t anymore.

With that, I challenge us to make the shift from trying to learn and know about all the stuff in the world to actually living it. 

Be someone that you yourself would find interesting.

Travel the world and meet every type of person it has to offer.

Experience LIFE in a way that most people don’t and will never.

Run down the path that has never been taken.

Try different hobbies.

Try to be a musician, a dancer, a poet.

Do that one thing you’ve been aching to do just for the sake of doing it.

Live LIFE to the fullest reaches of our known existence.

I want to try all of those things. I want to LIVE Life. Because I know for sure, that in the end, I won’t regret it.

How about you? What would you prefer?

Photo credits: Google photos

Enough may never be enough

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As human beings, it seems that once we attain what we think will make us whole, we grow bored quickly and need something new in order to feel satisfied. We are addicted to what we don’t have.

You could sit down at this very moment and list out all the reasons why you’re fortunate, and while you’re writing that list you would want nothing more. You could get together with a group of people that you care about and discuss rational ideas within this irrational society, and in that moment and the hours after, you would feel comfortable with what you have and who you are; contentment feels like a legitimate possibility. It’s when you turn on your television and the talking heads tell you that you need to be rich, famous, and flawless; that your thirst for more becomes unquenchable. You forget that you are enough. You find yourself making comparisons between your life and the life of someone you assume has it all figured out, and all of your accomplishments are never enough to satisfy you.

The issue with this “never enough” mentality is that we all have it to some degree. We collectively fail to realize that even the people who have “figured it out” are on some level still as lost and broken as everyone else. That’s the drawback of being a member of the generation more interested in documenting life-like activities, rather than creating a life. If we always seem confident in the pictures and words that we post, then maybe we will start to feel that way in real life. Everyone is constantly looking for validation in the form of likes and comments to give meaning to our twisted sense of self. We honestly believe that as long as people buy into the illusion that we are happy and everything is going great, that we won’t have to face reality.

Reality is that we want all the material c**p, social media fame, and worthless validation in order to feel accepted by others. The reason all of those things bring only temporary satisfaction is that they aren’t the answer. We all keep looking for other people to accept us in order to feel whole, when all that’s truly necessary is that we accept ourselves. We are in a universal competition for acceptance that no one wants a part of, but so few have the courage to stop competing.

What will ever be enough?

 

Photo credits: Google photos

The “Be Yourself” Contention

No one sees us the way we see ourselves.

Like many people, I have given and likewise have been given, over and over again, the advice: “Be Yourself”.

Pondering about it now, I realized the advice was, in some way or another, unwise and ridiculous, to say the least, terrible!

Now, before you furrow your eyebrows in rage for that comment, hear me out on this, first: because if I were to be “myself,” I would never overcome my inability as an introvert to confront uncomfortable situations such as speaking in public or in front of large groups (which I occasionally do at work as an executive and at church as minister of service) or, most importantly, never would have come up with this beautiful blog site which by the way expresses and represents  thinking and ideologies that are still considered unconventional or “out-of-the-box” to many—a manifestation of sheer boldness to trample upon “untrodden grounds”, literally quite the opposite from the makings of a “shy” person.

Going back to the subject of “being yourself”, I understand that we are currently living in the “Age of Authenticity, where “be yourself” is the defining advice in life, love and career. Authenticity is defined as erasing the gap between what you firmly believe inside and what you reveal to the outside world. Simply put: “the choice to let our true selves be seen.” 

But, would you agree if I say that being authentic does not have to mean being a slave to your inner life; acting on every impulse, sharing every feeling you have, or not caring what impact you have on others? 

In light of that, there is, to my opinion, a kind of authenticity toward which we could all strive—the kind of authenticity that entails choosing to be the you that you envision being. Of course that doesn’t mean we should try to be someone else. But if we never consciously choose who we want to be, to what “self” will we be “true”?

These are the big questions we should be asking ourselves then: Do we have the idea what we mean when we talk about finding our “true self.”? So what are we talking about when we talk about being “yourself”? Because the “self” is a highly complex array of one’s innate perspectives and responses combined with a host of one’s acquired beliefs, values, and actions.

So what does it mean to be “true to yourself”? To what “self” would you like to be “true”? If you have a biological tendency to be shy, but you want to make a difference in the world and in order to do so, you need to effectively make presentations to large audiences, do you want to be “true” to A) your biological tendency to be shy, or to B) the difference you want to make in the world? Which “self” is your “authentic self”? If you choose option A, does that mean it is “inauthentic” for you to become an incredibly good public speaker? Well, that was just an analogy.

Here’s where the difference lies, we tend to believe that we have fixed, concrete personalities or characteristics. “I am shy” or “I am outgoing” become descriptions of what we come to think are essential elements of who we are—our “true self” or “authentic self.” But, I strongly believe, that there is NO “fixed essence” of who we must be, because if that’s the case, then we are putting limits to our personal growth!

Another thing is that, many believe that being “yourself” means being true to that fictional, “fixed self,” and I stand contrary to that. Because the “self” is not immutable, is not “fixed, and is up to each of us to create, and choosing who to be is a deeply authentic way to be.

So “be yourself,” but choose wisely the self you want to be 🙂

Everything Worthwhile, Takes Time.

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Think about these…

You scan over the news, barely taking in the facts. Yet the headline and the emotion of the topic stays with you. You may even have skipped the actual article and just read the comments which dampen your mood even further. On your way home, you order at a drive through and let’s be honest – the chips or whatever you’ve gotten are finished by the time you get home. Information is instant and reaching out to the people who are not with you is fixed with a phone call. Just because you thought of something and because you worry you’ll forget about it, you send an e-mail. At least something has been done about that thought, right? We rush through conversations without really listening. How often have you thought “just get to the damn point so that I can move on to the next task!”.

 

It’s a blur. The traffic, the work, the family obligations. We are stressed out and worried and we forget to breathe deeply so anxiety takes hold. Depression follows the anxiety and when you finally have a moment to sit your fine backside down on the couch, you reach for your phone to scroll through Facebook and you slide into jealousy for all the holiday pictures and happy, smiling faces and you think “what am I doing wrong?”.

 

This obsession to get ahead, stay ahead, be faster, be quicker, get there FIRST, has taken over all people’s lives rapidly spreading like a viral pandemic. It has got to stop. Our mindset has got to change. Technology and the processes we live within are great tools – they have made our lives easier and we appreciate that. However, we don’t need to speed up to keep up with them. They need to service OUR needs. After all, we did create them for just that purpose.

 

Take a load off. Pay more attention. Instead of just replying to emails without reading them properly, take the time to understand the contents and offer a valid solution. Seventeen-odd threads on one email without a real solution is just a panic attack waiting to happen. Take time to really listen to someone else instead of just getting the crux of the story and moving on with your own perception of the situation. Read the whole story.

 

Everything worthwhile, takes time. Your finances will become a better situation if you take the time to manage them and set goals. No single individual on this planet (besides those who come from money) became wealthy, overnight. They worked and they failed and they had plans and now we read their stories and we want the same NOW. It just does not work like that. Your relationships take time. You must get to know people and connect with them to have those happy, smiling, holidaying moments. Otherwise, those moments are empty public relations snaps devoid of any real meaning. The cookie-cutter happy life on Facebook took WORK and disappointments and resilience. You are just looking at a snapshot of a piece of their story – not all the dirty details that brought them to that place.

We have been born into a world where everything must be fast and we’ve forgotten that this fast-rule applies only to certain elements of our lives. We need to remember that the good stuff, the real stuff and the stuff that means something – takes time. Stop. Breathe. Prioritize and understand that whatever it is that you are looking to create in your life is going to take TIME. Time, effort, resilience, humor, faith. No internet speed, no cellular connection and no amount of stressing will hasten the universal rules of time.

Take your time. It’s worth it.

P.S. If you liked this post, I’d be happy to hear your thoughts in the comments below. See you 🙂

Photo credits: Google photos

Your Word is your Bond

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Do you think before you make a promise to someone? What if you can’t deliver on your word? Does it really matter? The world isn’t going to come to an end, is it? Well, actually no, but have you considered . . .

Many people are pretty casual about making promises. As a result, promises are frequently made at the drop of a hat with no real intention of keeping them. “Let’s do lunch,” “I’ll call you later,” and “I’ll be there in five minutes” are all examples of throwaway promises that are frequently made but seldom kept. However, this casual attitude can have real consequences.Think about it — when someone else breaks a promise to you, or gets caught in a lie, doesn’t that make you feel violated or cheated?  You can’t help wondering whether you were wrong to ever trust that person.

There was a time when keeping your word held special significance. We took great pride in being of good character. Personal integrity was both expected and valued. That was a time when everyone knew each other’s family, and you wouldn’t do anything that would cast a shadow on your family’s good name. It was a time when integrity was instilled in children at a very early age and was viewed as instrumental in achieving success. The truth is, our world may have changed, but the importance of integrity has not. While we may not know everyone in our own town, the world is still smaller than you think. Create some bad news and you’ll learn this for yourself.

Every time you give your word, you’re putting your honor on the line. You’re implying that others can place their trust in you because you value integrity and would never let them down. It goes without saying that if you don’t live up to your word, you may end up tarnishing your credibility, damaging your relationships, and defaming your reputation. Most importantly, you’ll be letting yourself down.

But . . . when you operate with complete integrity, what you say will be taken at face value, your intentions will be assumed honorable, and your handshake will be as good as a contract. Most importantly, you can take great pride in the standards that you’ve set for yourself and sleep well at night knowing that your conscience is clear. As for others . . . just when they think they’re fooling the world, they’ll realize that they’re only fooling themselves. A promise is a promise after all.

What do you think? Are people too casual about making promises?

 

Don’t give people permission to walk all over you.

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The other day I had a talk with a friend who kept complaining about the “cold” treatment  of her colleagues at work towards her which she found rather rude. Said she had not done anything wrong to deserve such treatment in the first place. 

“Why don’t you just ask any of them?” I asked.

“Then they’ll think I’m insecure?!” she exclaimed.

Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, but lately I find myself having little tolerance for games. In the past if I sensed indifference from someone, or if they had behaved in a way that made me want to speak out, I’d refrain. I convinced myself that it wasn’t worth confronting this person over. Instead, I allowed whatever feelings of uncertainty, frustration, or anger to stew inside of me.

How many of us are guilty of this? How many of us stop ourselves from speaking out in an effort to appear calm and undeterred. Sure, there are times when it makes sense to let things slide — not everything is worth making a ruckus over. But too often, we choose to pass on our opportunity to be assertive, to stand up for ourselves, to use our voice. So it’s worth asking: is choosing to remain quiet worth sacrificing our self-respect?

The answer is obvious. Life is short. You could die tomorrow. If you feel you’ve been wronged, forgotten, neglected, disrespected, or taken advantage of, you owe it to yourself to say something about it. Too many people keep their feelings to themselves in an effort to avoid being perceived as needy, desperate or insecure. But this silent acquiescence only further deepens the insecurity they’re so desperately trying to dissociate with.

There’s no issue if something legitimately doesn’t bother you. The problem is that most people are bothered by how they’re treated, and they allow this bitterness to consume them.

Realize that there’s a difference between bitterness and anger. Maya Angelou so eloquently put it, “Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. It doesn’t do anything to the object of its displeasure.” Contrast this with anger — it’s okay to be angry, as long as you channel that energy productively.

It’s time for real talk. Don’t give people permission to walk all over you. Be constructive. Be assertive. Be firm. But whatever you do, do not go quietly into the night.

 

Make Better Mistakes Next Time

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A rather humbling scenario which I experienced couple of days ago allowed me the time to reflect how much has changed in my life in the last decade. The process led me to realize that I made so many mistakes, hurt people I loved, and behaved in ways that I can’t say I’m proud of. While I think I’ve got a good grip on my moral compass and fundamental set of values, I’m still shaping my character to this day and will probably continue doing so for the rest of my life. However, as much as I messed up, I wouldn’t take any of my mistakes back, as they taught me lessons and shaped the person I’ve become today.

This may not only hold true to me but may be to some of you too. 

It is human to make mistakes. Some mistakes are witnessed by others and come with more shame, some are in private and come with more guilt. Some hurt others, and some ultimately hurt just you. In a life where trial and error is often how we learn, avoiding making mistakes is not very realistic. However, making different choices the next time around to avoid making the same mistake — is completely in your control.

Where we differ as human beings is the choices we make after we falter. I distinguish the difference in two separate camps. There are those who use regret and remorse as a catalyst to grow and change their way of going about life in order to become better people. The consequences of their mistakes serve as reminders to do things differently to avoid repeating the same situations. Often, we need these experiences to teach us the lessons in life that ultimately shape our character.

Then, there are those who feel ashamed by their shame, and after a period of self-loathing and guilt, they resort back to their exact same way of thinking and behavior. Instead of the mistake becoming a lesson, it becomes just another cyclical loop in habits.

When you make mistakes, how do you respond? If your mistake leaves a trail of hurt and destruction in the lives of others, do you make amends and apologize with actions and empathy? Or are the people that reap the consequences of your mistake just a mere casualty of your disregard?

In my opinion, what builds character is not avoiding mistakes — it’s how you choose to think and act afterwards. Use your mistakes as opportunities to grow. And hopefully you can “make better mistakes tomorrow.”