So this is the time of year where people harp on and on about New Year’s Resolutions and make social media posts announcing the goals they are going to accomplish in the New Year.
It all actually makes me quite tired.
Unfortunately social media has created a culture lacking authenticity. People are more interested in how they can get “likes” than they are in providing anything of substance.
That’s a whole other thing though that I’ll write about later.
I turned 40 in 2018, and of everything, I am first of all absolutely ecstatic to be alive. My heart is warmed by the memories I have created, and I am amazingly excited about what the future holds for me.
Looking back at my life, particularly last year, I realize that instead of trying to stroke my ego by bragging about goals that may impress others, it would probably be more beneficial to look into the experiences I’ve had, the lessons I’ve learned, and share those experiences in hopes they will enhance the lives of others.
Following are the top three things that I feel like I can hopefully impart in a way that will be helpful and healing.
Why just three, you ask? Well hey, I don’t want to take up too much of your time. You’ve got resolutions to get to, right?
Don’t Be Afraid, Or Be Afraid, and Do It Anyway
If I’m honest, I’ve lived a good bit of my life in fear. Things I should have said, done, people I should have expressed my feelings for, opportunities I should have taken; over time I have now come to fully understand the real and true danger of being afraid.
There is a lot of comfort in doing things that are safe. With life being uncertain enough as it is, it seems almost irrational to the human mind to do things that would add to what can already feel like an out of control spiral. Instead of walking away from the irrational though, sometimes it should be embraced. When I wonder on the things people I admire have accomplished, people like Oprah, Warren Buffett, Viola Davis, Julia Roberts and Barack Obama, I understand more and more that these folks were probably scared as shit when it came to the chances they took, but they took them anyway, helping them get to where they are today.
We’re never really taught the truth about fear. From childhood we’re conditioned to believe that things causing fear should be avoided because they’re either wrong or too risky. We in turn live out our lives in a box, sticking only to what is familiar, comforting and safe. It’s not a terrible life to live, but in order to accomplish life goals, and perhaps in order to truly live, running away from things that make you afraid isn’t always the best method.
When I was in college I had a chance to work with John Robert Powers, an agency that grooms people for the entertainment field. There was of course a small fee associated with the opportunity, and I had the means to pay for it, but I was still afraid. What if I couldn’t pay off the credit card I was going to use to pay the fee? What if nothing came of the opportunity and I ended up wasting my money? What if I wasn’t good enough? I found so many unknowns I couldn’t focus on the opportunity at hand and ended up talking myself out of it because I created more questions than I had answers for.
When it comes to opportunities, hell when it comes to life, sometimes there will be more questions than answers. This doesn’t mean you should turn away in fear, it means you keep going, keep digging, and keep working. In those pockets of fear, irrationality, and questions lie some of the greatest opportunities of our lives if only we are willing to embrace the unknown.
Say it. “Embrace the unknown.”
Sounds terrifying, right? Kind of like those dreams we have about falling.
No fun, especially when you wake up on the floor because you actually fell out of bed.
Oh wait, that’s a tangent there. Sorry!
One of my best friends and I have a challenge where every month we do something we haven’t done before. It helps us in exercising that muscle of moving forward despite the questions we may have, and it helps us work through doing something we’d like to do even though we may be afraid. Admittedly we don’t get to it every month, but when we do and we have the opportunity to share the experience, it’s always fulfilling and helps create the habit of moving forward despite any fear we may have.
Tell the person you’re in love with the truth. Write the book. Go get the loan to start the business. Go to the audition (yes, take off work if you have too). Whatever it is in the back of your mind that you want to do but you’re afraid of, if you feel like it will enhance your life, or the lives of others, do it.
A life truly lived either knows no fear or has been willing to look fear in the face and shake its hand.
So open your arms and your mind and embrace the unknown.
Warning. You may fall out of bed..
Operating In Your Purpose Will Keep You From Getting Fired
If I were to take out my resume, it would unroll and hit the floor like a scroll. First it was standing on the side of Roswell Road in Atlanta dressed in a red white and blue get up advertising for a store that sold Olympic souvenirs. Then there was the sales job with Cingular Wireless (now AT&T) where I had to add certain unnecessary features to cellular contracts so the company could make more money. I’ve worked security and concierge at over 30 high end office buildings and condos. I’ve been “taken off the schedule” because I reported my manager for miscalculating my check and not following company procedure to fix the error.
I spent three years driving for Uber (my book of stories from which is coming in 2019) where I saw the absolute best of people and where I saw people whose parents should have considered other options instead of having children, like passengers that would throw up in my car and not tell me, or passengers that didn’t tip.
I’ve quit, been fired, been yelled at; my “career” if you will has been quite the journey.
What I’ve discovered from all of this is we need to operate in our purpose as early as we know what we want to do. Since I was a child I knew I was meant to be an entertainer of some sort. I enjoyed music and singing, and acting, but these non-traditional careers weren’t strongly encouraged, so I focused more on learning what I needed to know to get to college and get a stable job instead of pursuing entertainment.
I was laid off from the job I had a year after I graduated from college.
Some stability that was.
While my regret for the way work life has ended up isn’t totally searing (I’m now in property management), I realize now that had I pushed for what I truly loved early on, I would be further along in doing the things I’m passionate about instead of doing work that was never truly fulfilling.
Since we have to earn money anyway, why not get it by doing what we love?
I won’t say my time at Georgia State was a waste. It helped me lay the foundation for being a well rounded person and helped me be able to maneuver in the working world. I never had trouble finding a job after I had lost one, and I can attest that to my time in college and the contacts I made while I was there.
However, knowing I wanted to be in entertainment, there were so many other options. Julliard or the theater program at NYU would have been great opportunities to take advantage of. Pursuing an agent at an early age would have also allowed me to start working sooner as an actor.
From that though, it’s never too late to chase your dreams. Even if you’re 40 like me, or older, go after the things that have been placed on your heart. It can be arduous, but it will make your life amazingly fulfilling. If you have children, observe them so that you can discover their natural talents, abilities, and interests, and give them the tools they need to explore those things. It will help in giving their lives direction.
I don’t have any huge overwhelming regrets (that is until I start thinking about how much basketball players make, and I’m 6’5), and I don’t share this out of a need for pity, it is just important to figure out what our purpose is as early in life as possible, and then do everything in our power to live in it.
We all have something, be it the gift of music, writing, making people laugh, the gift of gab; we all have something special and unique we can do that is strongly tied to our purpose on this earth. While exploring these things can be risky, doing the things that give our life meaning is one of the greatest things we can do on this Earth.
Operating in your purpose may not keep you from totally getting fired. Some may argue that it will get you fired more often than not, but the payoff of being able to live in your purpose is unmatched.
From job loss (as mentioned in the previous section) to near eviction to auto repossession, I’ve experienced quite a few things as a member of the middle class (read “working poor”) in America. Having learned quite a bit from these experiences, I’ve always found it important to share the ones I think could possibly help others either not make the same mistakes I’ve made, or let others know they’re not alone in what they’re going through.
I can remember posting on Facebook about my car being repossessed. My mother and grandmother were both quite surprised, and a little overwhelmed, that I shared something so personal. Looking at it from their perspective, I understood their feelings that not everything needs to be told, but something inside would not allow me to sit on that event in silence. So I wrote it out in detail, from the moment I walked outside my apartment to find my car gone all the way to me having to sit at the auction yard for two hours waiting for them to bring my car to the waiting area (a distance I could have walked mind you). It was a story for the books, and one I knew I needed to make public.
As soon as I made the post, the texts, inbox messages, and comments started to pour in. People were thanking me in droves for sharing my experience. Some weren’t brave enough to admit in open forum that they had the same experience, but still let me know privately and thanked me for having the courage to share. It was affirmation that I was doing the right thing, and I could have not been more overjoyed that sharing that experience helped and encouraged so many people
With the advent of social media, people are overly concerned with painting pictures of a perfect life with no worries, vacations at the beach all the time, flawless selfies, and anything else that makes life seem good 100% of the time.
Let’s face it. Life is not good 100% of the time. Life can in fact spend a good 40% to sometimes 90% of the time being totally fucked up. So why not just tell the truth? Life is crazy enough as it is without the added stress of having to live up to a contrived facade. I have found that telling the truth and being honest is a major relief and what’s more, it helps other people.
Our stories of triumph and failure are not just for us alone as individuals. Our stories are meant to be shared to build others up, help others grow, and encourage others. Going through auto repossession is embarrassing, and I honestly still cringe at the thought that it happened to me, and that I SHARED IT WITH THE GENERAL PUBLIC (that’s in all caps because I just had a ‘I can’t believe I did that’ moment), but at the end of it, it’s not about me, or how I feel, it’s about how that story helped other people. That outweighs any shame I feel.
Yes, helping people sometimes at the cost of your own feelings is a thing. Quite honestly, it’s one of the major reasons we’re here on this Earth together in the first place. So don’t be afraid to share. Don’t be afraid to tell your story.
If you are afraid, see the first section of this article.
Don’t Listen To Drake
A few years ago rapper Drake coined the term “No New Friends”. One could guess that he meant it’s hard for rich people to make new friends because they have to decipher what new people are around for.
Drake is also an actor that has a knack for creating easily accessible lyrics that fans repeat without acknowledging their ramifications.
One of the biggest things that will shape our lives is our friendships.
I was a tall, nerdy, goofy kid whose father lived in a different state, so I was the question of my time in elementary school, and the ridicule of my middle school. All of this meaning I had no real friendships until two people, Sylvia Smith and Jimmy Brittian saw me my sophomore year in high school. By saw me I mean past the physical sense and into my soul. These were the first two people in my life aside from my family that helped me see my worth.
Over the years since then I have created bonds with some of the most amazing people on Earth. The friends I have are supporting, encouraging, and loving; they bring out the best in me and have helped me remain focused and inspired. These friends have also used their resources and connections to help me over and over again
What’s more, these are friends I met later in life. Whereas most people establish strong friendships early in life, the people in my life now showed up during my last two years in college (one being my close friend Cornelius), and the others years after I graduated from college. If I had adopted the “No New Friends” mentality, I would not be as far along as I am in my work life, the pursuit of my passions, and I would not have all the beautiful memories that will stay with me for the rest of my life.
Our culture has become increasingly insular. People love to proclaim they are “self made” and talk about how “lonely it is at the top”. All these self aggrandizing adages are nothing more than people trying to fill the holes they lack in their relationship life with physical things they can show off in hopes the spoils of their “sole” labor will make them happy.
No one is self made. Anyone who has made it to any great place in life had parents or friends or business partners that helped them reach their goals. The willingness of people to ignore the efforts of others in their own life truly speaks to the hurt and pain people feel that they think “likes” and “fans” and “followers” will heal.
If it is indeed “lonely at the top”, it’s because those at the top either didn’t to their job and bring the people that helped them along for the ride, or the people at the top are not sending the elevator back down to help others get to the top as well.
Friendships take work, and they can be tricky to navigate, but at the end of it all, we are here for each other.
I talk to people all the time about how hard it is to establish and maintain true friendships. Some of it I get. We’re all busy. We have to work and then have some kind of social life to balance things out. Marriages take work and need to be tended to. There’s traveling and deadlines. We all have a lot to squeeze into 24 hours, making friendships a little tricky to cultivate, but just like we make time for everything else, we have to make time for our friendships.
It would seem that some folks are just busy for the sake of being busy because they don’t want to deal with what’s really happening in their life, which friendships will make happen. Creating bonds with people is almost like putting a mirror up to your face and having to truly look at and examine yourself. Who wants to deal with all that when you can just go to work?
The thing of it is though, some of the pain we feel in life, the person struggles we deal with, and the voids we have, some of these things can begin to heal if only we would allow friends into our lives that will help us grow and help us become whole.
Then there is of course Drake. He started in the industry with a very close friendship to Trey Songz. Then Lil Wayne saw Drake as a “new friend” and brought him on to his record label. Drake his also worked with everyone from Rihanna to Lil Baby to Nicki Minaj, and Future. So yeah, he’s probably not the person to ask about that whole “No new friends” thing anyway.
There you have it. These are the three top things I’m bringing into the New Year with me, and the three top things that I hope have given you some new perspective or have validated the perspective you already had.
I could go on and on about traveling, eating great food, being near water and mountains as often as possible, having great sex, trust me, I could have a made a list of which reading would have had to be one of your New Year’s Resolutions.
But I’ve also learned to respect the time of other people. So thanks for sharing some of yours.