Tuesday, April 18, 2017
Cursed was the day
There were no warning signs, no red lights, no pointers
The sun was bullish as ever, the moon peering as always
And then you called as usual, with your voice soothing as normal
It was to be the last
With broken hearts, we remember
Twelve months have brought no solace
Our soul still bleed
Our eyes still sore
Our head still ache
Time has not healed us,
It has only revealed the scale of our loss.
The thought is still vivid
The wound is still fresh
The agony still hangs over us like a cloud
The memory still shatters us
How can we heal mpa? How?
We find solace in the life you lived
We take succor that you are in the right destination
We are comforted that you have found true peace away from a world that gave you none
We will never completely heal; but we will patch up and keep moving
Friday, April 14, 2017
So I found this top 10 book recommendations to read before 30. Coincidentally, I have read all of these books, and wow, they make for a fantastic read any day!
1. The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck – Pretty much the granddaddy of all self-improvement books, it’s easily one of the best nonfiction works I’ve ever read. By melding love, science and spirituality into a primer for personal growth, Peck guides the reader through lessons on delaying gratification, accepting responsibility for decisions, dedicating oneself to truth and reality, and creating a balanced lifestyle.
2. Getting Things Done by David Allen – The ultimate ‘organize your life’ book. Allen’s ideas and processes are for all those people who are overwhelmed with too many things to do, too little time to do them, and a general sense of unease that something important is being missed. The primary goal of this book is to teach you how to effectively get your ‘to-do inbox’ to empty.
3. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey – Covey presents a principle-centered approach for solving personal and professional problems by delivering a step-by-step guide for living with integrity and honesty and adapting to the inevitable change life brings us everyday. It’s a must-read.
4. The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz – Schwartz gives the reader useful, proactive steps for achieving success. He presents a clear-cut program for getting the most out of your job, marriage, family life and other relationships. In doing so, he proves that you don’t need to be an intellectual or have innate talent to attain great success and satisfaction in life.
5. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie – Easily one of the best and most popular books on people-skills ever written. Carnegie uses his adept storytelling skills to illustrate how to be successful by making the most of human relations.
Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse – A short, powerful novel about the importance of life experiences as they relate to approaching an understanding of self, happiness and attaining enlightenment.
6. The Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason – The best book on money management ever written. Although only 145 pages, this book is packed to the brim with powerful, life changing information. I’ve read it three times and I still pull new pearls of wisdom out of it. Babylon should be mandatory reading beginning at the grade school level, then again in college, and should be given as a gift right along with a college diploma.
7. The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less by Barry Schwartz – Faced with too many options or decisions in your life? We feel worse when we have too many options. This book will make you feel better and change the way you look at them. Schwartz discusses people making difficult decisions about jobs, families, where to live, whether to have children, how to spend recreational time, choosing colleges, etc. He talks about why making these decisions today is much harder than it was thirty years ago, and he offers many practical suggestions for how to address decision-making so that it creates less stress and more happiness.
8. The Art of War by Sun Tzu – One of the oldest books on military strategy in the world. It’s easily the most successful written work on the mechanics of general strategy and business tactics.
9. Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath – An easy to read psychology book about real ways to make change last – both personal and organizational. So many powerful insights, based on fact not theory. Inspiring counterintuitive stories of huge organizational change against all odds. Highly recommended for people in all walks of life.
10. Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki – It is unfortunate that in America, arguably the greatest nation in the free world, few people including those with high incomes understand the value of investing and the proper use of money strategies. You can live off your income, but you can’t get wealthy off your income. True wealth is the result of using principles described in this book. This is a classic, must read for everyone.
Sunday, April 9, 2017
Today, I will like to share with you three pivotal organizations that have oiled the wheel of my personal development over the past few years. These organizations are entirely not exclusive to a select few and have nothing to do with your job. I like to think of them as credible ‘pass time.’ To avoid all doubt, the list is by no means exhaustive. However, the goal is that this will make someone want to be a part of any of these three. Let’s go!
Arguably the best association I have been a part of over the past few years. Toastmasters International is a place that provides a mutually supportive and positive learning environment in which every member has the opportunity to develop oral communication and leadership skills, which in turn foster self-confidence and personal growth. With its headquarters in the United States, there are about 16,000 clubs in over 140 countries of the world. I have learnt that by just having the gift of speaking, and exuding confidence while at it, will open tremendous doors. The beautiful thing about Toastmasters is that it will teach you how to make impromptu speeches, how to harness your thoughts and imagination in words, how to prepare manual speeches that is sublime and perhaps most importantly, it provides you feedback (which is a gift). The club also helps in developing your leadership skills. Each meeting is structured, the environment is devoid of criticism and I often wonder where I’d rather be on a Friday evening (And yes, I still have my Friday nights gig afterwards; should I crave ). So it’s simple, get online on the Toastmasters website and find the Toastmasters club nearest to you and be a part of it today!
2. The Book Club
It was Ralph Waldo Emerson who once said that ‘If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.’ So marvel no further when you see the likes of Chimamanda Adiche, Barack Obama, Pat Utomi among others. The caveat on this one is that I am a hopeless reader. It is a vital part of my life. From fiction, to self-help books, to autobiographies, to editorials, to motivationals, few things are more soothing. Belonging to a book club is the fastest and easiest way to sharpen your reading instincts. For me, it was until I joined a book club that I fully understood the latent power of books; particularly, African Writers Series. See, books are powerful and this is not just a cliché. Few things can illuminate your mind the way reading a book can. And when anyone ask me about the number one secret to being a good writer, I am quick to say ‘Being a hopeless reader.’ The reality is that anyone who says that we have only one life to live has not read a book before; for with books you have many lives, you go to many places and the narrative of your journey is richer and fuller. In a book club you find like minds, fellow addicts of books, lovers of words, masters of the pen. Again, it’s simple. Just go online and ask around for any good book club around you.
3. Motivators International
Now this one is close to my heart, primarily because there was a co-creation involvement in this one right from my University days. This organization was a brainchild of Chijindu Umunnakwe (friend & brother). To be honest, this club means many things to many people. However, the overriding goal is to create platforms for young people to harness their potentials in order to be the best they can be. The organization is focused on leadership and entrepreneurship development and is committed to maximizing the potential of young people, tackling poverty and unemployment through innovative development solutions. My philosophy of a potent organization is in the people and Motivators is replenished with a plethora of amazing young minds striving to make their world better than they met it. You can find out more and be a part of the group when you search online.
I hope this has helped. Have a smashing week friends!
Sunday, April 2, 2017
1. Starting over isn’t a good choice, and should only be a last resort.
The idea of starting over being a bad thing is baked right into the fabric of our society’s education system. We send our children to a university when they’re 17 or 18, and basically tell them to choose a career path they’ll be happy with for the next 40 years. “But, what if I choose wrong?” I remember thinking to myself. And that’s exactly what I did, in more ways than one.
Over the years, however, through bouts of failure and hardship, I’ve learned the truth through experience: you can change paths anytime you want to. Yes, starting over is almost always feasible, and it’s oftentimes a pretty darn good choice too. Of course, it won’t be easy, but neither is being stuck with a lifelong career you naively chose when you were a teenager. And neither is holding on to something that’s not meant to be, or something that’s already gone.
The truth is, no one wins a game of chess by only moving forward; sometimes you have to move backward to put yourself in a position to win. And this is a perfect metaphor for life. Sometimes when it feels like you’re running into one dead end after another, it’s actually a sign that you’re not on the right path. Maybe you were meant to hang a left back when you took a right, and that’s perfectly fine. Life gradually teaches us that U-turns are allowed. So turn around when you must! There’s a big difference between giving up and starting over in the right direction. And there are three little words that can release you from your past mistakes and regrets, and get you back on track. These words are: “From now on…”
So… from now on, what should you do?
Anything. Something small. As long as you don’t just sit in your seat, strapped down to a destiny that isn’t yours. If you mess it up, start over. Try something else.
Let go and grow!
No doubt, one of the absolute hardest lessons in life is letting go – whether it’s guilt, anger, love or loss. Change is never easy – you fight to hold on and you fight to let go. But letting go is generally the healthiest path forward. It clears out toxic thoughts and choices from the past and paves the way to make the most positive use of the present. You’ve got to emotionally free yourself from some of the things that once meant a lot to you, so you can move beyond the past and the pain it brings you. Again, it takes hard work to let go and refocus yourself, but it’s worth every bit of effort you can muster!
And oftentimes letting go is strictly about changing the labels you place on a situation – it’s looking at the same situation with fresh eyes and an open mind, and then making the best of it.
The underlying key is to treat life like the journey that it is.
The destination you have in mind today is likely not the same place you’ll someday be grateful you’ve landed. So while it’s healthy to plan for the future, it’s not healthy to do so at the full expense of today. The truth is, no matter how smart you are or how hard you try, you can’t accurately figure out the future. Even people who have a systematic plan (steps to be a doctor, steps to be a successful entrepreneur, etc.) don’t actually know what will happen down the road. And if they have any certainty at all, they’re a bit naive.
Life rarely goes as planned. For every person that succeeds in doing exactly what they set out to do in the exact time frame they set out to do it in, there are dozens of others who start strong and get derailed. And if this happens to you, it isn’t a bad thing. New obstacles and opportunities may come along to shift your perspective, to strengthen your resolve, or to change your direction for the better. Again, the destination you fall in love with someday may not even exist today. For example, just a few short years ago the esteemed career paths of working at Facebook, SnapChat, and Twitter didn’t exist. Neither did the job of professional coach and blogger at Marc and Angel Hack Life.
So… if you can’t plan out your future in its entirety, what should you do?
Focus a little less on the future and focus a little more on what you can do now that will benefit you no matter what the future brings. Read. Write. Learn and practice useful skills. Test your skills and ideas. Build things. Be adventurous and seek real-world experiences. Cultivate healthy relationships. These efforts will help in any future opportunities that come your way, and they may even create them for you.
Bottom line: When life does not go as planned, breathe and remember that life’s richness often comes from its unpredictability. Remind yourself that you are on a journey that’s ongoing, and that nothing is ever guaranteed. Sometimes this is hard to accept. Sometimes you have to force yourself to step forward. Sometimes you just have to accept the fact that things will never go back to how they used to be, and that this ending is really a new beginning.
2. Discomfort is undesirable.
Discomfort is a form of pain, but it isn’t a deep pain – it’s a shallow one. It’s the feeling you get when you’ve stepped outside your comfort zone. The idea of exercising in many people’s minds, for example, brings discomfort – so they don’t do it. Eating a spinach and kale salad brings discomfort too. So does meditating, or focusing on a difficult task, or saying no to others. Of course, these are just examples, because different people find discomfort in different things, but you get the general idea.
The key thing to understand is that most forms of discomfort actually help us grow into our strongest and smartest selves. However, many of us were raised by loving parents who did so much to make our childhoods comfortable, that we inadvertently grew up to subconsciously believe that we don’t need discomfort in our lives. And now we run from it constantly. The problem with this is that, by running from discomfort, we are constrained to partake in only the activities and opportunities within our comfort zones. And since our comfort zones are relativity small, we miss out on most of life’s greatest and healthiest experiences, and we get stuck in a debilitating cycle.
Let’s use diet and exercise as an example…
First, we become unhealthy because eating healthy food and exercising feels uncomfortable, so we opt for comfort food and mindless TV watching instead.
But then, being unhealthy is also uncomfortable, so we seek to distract ourselves from the reality of our unhealthy bodies by eating more unhealthy food and watching more unhealthy entertainment and going to the mall to shop for things we don’t really want or need. And our discomfort just gets worse.
Amazingly, the simple act of accepting a little discomfort every day, and taking it one small step at a time, can solve most of our common problems, and make our minds happier, healthier and stronger in the long run.
Truth be told, there is no person in the world capable of flawlessly handling every punch thrown at them. That’s not how we’re made. We’re made to get upset, sad, hurt, stumble and fall sometimes. Because that’s part of living – to face discomfort, learn from it, and adapt over the course of time. This is what ultimately molds us into the person we become.
When you find yourself cocooned in isolation and cannot find your way out of the darkness, remember that this is similar to the place where caterpillars go to grow their wings. Just because today is uncomfortable and stressful, doesn’t mean tomorrow won’t be wonderful. You just got to get there.
3. Grief is a burden that gradually devastates us over time.
You may have heard that it isn’t healthy to grieve for too long. I say this because it’s something I was taught when I was a teenager. A close friend died in a car accident. At first everyone accepted my tears, but as the weeks rolled into months, I was frequently told that it was time to let go. “The tears aren’t helping at this point,” I remember someone telling me. But that was hogwash. My tears were necessary. They were slowly watering seeds of my recovery. And I recovered as a much stronger, kinder, and wiser soul than I ever was before.
Then, a decade later, this lesson was reinforced in my life two more times, back-to-back, when Angel and I lost her older brother, Todd, to suicide and our mutual best friend, Josh, to an Asthma attack, a month apart.
Through the grief of losing people I love, I have been given the gift of awareness… awareness that every one of us will lose someone or something we love, and that this reality is a necessary one.
It’s incredibly tough to comprehend at times, but there’s a reason for everything. We must know the pain of loss, because if we never knew it, we would have little compassion for others and we would gradually become hollow monsters of egoism – creatures of sheer self-interest, never being happy with what we have. The awful pain of loss teaches humility to our prideful kind, has the power to warm-up a cold heart, and make an even better person out of a good one.
So yes, grief can be a burden that devastates us in the near-term, but it can also be a healthy anchor for healing and living well in the long run.
As human beings, we often get used to the weight of grief and how it holds us in place. For instance, Angel once told me, “My brother will die over and over again for the rest of my life, and I’m OK with that – it keeps me closer to him.” This was Angel’s way of reminding me that grief doesn’t disappear. Step-by-step, breath-by-breath, it becomes a part of us. And it can become a healthy part of us too.
Although we may never completely stop grieving, simply because we never stop loving the ones we’ve lost, we can effectively leverage our love for them in the present. We can love them and emulate them by living with their magnificence as our daily inspiration. By doing this, they live on in the warmth of our broken hearts that don’t fully heal back up, and we will continue to grow and experience life, even with our wounds. It’s like badly breaking an ankle that never heals perfectly, and that still hurts when you dance, but you dance anyway with a slight limp, and this limp just adds to the depth of your performance and the authenticity of your character. (Angel and I discuss this in more detail in the “Adversity” chapter of 1,000 Little Things Happy, Successful People Do Differently.)
4. Everything we experience firsthand in life is reality.
At a young age we are often taught to question the stories and rumors we hear from other people, but to fully accept what we see, hear, feel and experience firsthand. In other words, if we see it with our own eyes, hear it with our own ears, or feel it with our own two hands, then what we’ve just seen, heard, and felt is most certainly the whole truth. And while that may seem like a logical assumption, it’s not always an accurate one.
As human beings, our inner dialog, or mindset, has a drastic effect on how we interpret real-world life experiences. The stories we subconsciously tell ourselves don’t just change how we feel inside – they actually change what we see, what we hear, what we experience, and what we know to be true in the world around us. This is one of the primary reasons multiple people can go through the same exact experience, but interpret it differently. Each of us may enter a shared experience with a different story echoing through our mind, and our unique story – our inner dialog – alters the way we feel every step of the way, and so each of us exits this shared experience with a slightly different feeling about what just happened. And sometimes that slight difference makes all the difference in the world.
Perspective is everything!
In a way, the stories we tell ourselves narrow our perspective. When we enter an experience with a story about how life is, that tends to be all we see. This phenomenon reminds me of an old parable in which a group of blind men touch an elephant for the very first time to learn what it’s like. Each one of them feels a different part of the elephant, but only that one part, such as the leg, trunk, side, or tusk. Then the men eagerly compare notes and quickly learn that they are in complete disagreement about what an elephant looks like.
Something similar happens through our wide-ranging, different past experiences. Some of us have been deeply heartbroken. Some of us have lost our parents, siblings or children to accidents and illnesses. Some of us have dealt with infidelity. Some of us have been fired from jobs we relied on. Some of us have been discriminated against because of our gender or race. And when we enter a new experience that arouses prominent memories of our own painful story from the past, it shifts our perspective in the present – it narrows it.
When a negative past experience narrows our present perspective, it’s mostly just a defense mechanism. Every day of our lives we are presented with some level of uncertainty, and our innate human defense mechanisms don’t like this one bit. So our minds try to compensate by filling in the gaps of information by clinging to the stories we already feel comfortable with. We end up subconsciously trying to make better sense of everything in the present by using old stories and past experiences as filler. And while this approach works sometimes, other times our old stories and past experiences are completely irrelevant to the present moment, so they end up hurting us far more than they help.
Let this be your wake-up call!
Next time you catch yourself emotionally struggling with the ‘reality’ of a particular life experience, ask yourself:
What is the story I’m telling myself about this experience?
Can I be absolutely certain this story is true?
How do I feel and behave when I tell myself this story?
What’s one other possibility that might also make the ending to this story true?
Give yourself the space to think it all through, carefully. Mull it over, mindfully. And keep in mind that it’s not about proving yourself right or wrong.
It’s about taking a deep breath, and giving yourself the space to gain perspective.
5. Bad habits are really hard to break.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people repeat the age-old cliché, “Bad habits are really hard to break.”
But this just isn’t true, because “hard” is a matter of perspective.
What is true is that you ultimately become what you repeatedly do. If your habits aren’t moving you forward, they’re holding you back. And if they’re holding you back, it’s time for a change.
For most of us (who are not coping with clinical depression, for example), changing our habits is a straightforward process. People who say otherwise are often just making excuses. They always want tasks to be 100% easier, regardless of how easy they already are. And it’s always easier to do nothing, rather than something. It’s always easier to complain, rather than commit. It hurts to admit this sometimes, but it’s worth doing. It’s worth reminding yourself that changing a habit is just a matter of recognizing why you’re doing what you’re doing, and then replacing one small action with another.
But, why are you doing what you’re doing?
What motivates you to start a bad habit in the first place?
How is it that your best intentions for having good, healthy habits have somehow been beaten?
The collective answer to these questions is simple:
Like many human beings, you don’t yet know how to cope with stress and boredom in a healthy, effective way.
Yes, most of your bad habits formed subconsciously as a coping method for dealing with stress and boredom – you resist reality instead of working through it. And these habits didn’t build up in an instant, so they won’t go away instantly either. You built them up through repetition, and the only way to change them is also through repetition – by making small, simple, gradual shifts.