the key to success . . .

Confession: I’m a failure. I fail every day. But I’m also a success. I keep trying.

How do I mean? I’ll give you a few examples:

  • I applied to graduate school four times before being accepted. When I finally got in, it was on uncertain terms. (I’ll explain later.)
  • I didn’t complete my first half Ironman. I was anemic and had to withdraw. The next year, I finished two half Ironmans and several other triathlons. I have my sights set on completing my first marathon and first full Ironman in 2018/19.
  • I started a blog while I lived in Taiwan, Tai Tao. It never took off. When I moved to Hong Kong, I started Shift. Today I have more than 2,400 followers (and hope to gain many more).
  • I’ve lived in seven cities in ten years. Each relocation has been difficult. I’ve never given up and moved home (wherever that is). My life perspective has grown ten-fold because of this.
  • I’ve loved and I’ve lost. I’ve learned something valuable from each relationship. I’ll be swimming  and not out on a date tomorrow night. (Valentine’s Day sucks, anyway.)
  • I’m trying to eat healthier. I had a vegetable smoothie with tofu for lunch. I also had gummy bears. :D

I like what Will Smith has to say on this topic, too. In truth, the only way to truly fail is when you stop trying.

What’s your relationship with failure? Do you agree with Will?

 

 

 

 

the devil’s advocate

Whenever I write, I play devil’s advocate. Writing makes me think. Hard. I say this, I think. But what if it comes out like this? What if I were approaching this from this?

Will Smith’s message about fault and responsibility is true. But what if, through no fault of our own, we are rendered incapable of dealing with the trauma we’ve been dealt?

It happens all the time. Take the THIRTEEN kids of the couple who were arrested for torture and child endangerment in Perris, California recently, for example. The children were chained to their beds, not allowed to use the restroom, starved, filthy. Authorities were finally notified when a 17-year-old escaped and called 9-1-1 for help. Thanks to malnourishment, she appeared about ten.

Now . . . How this could have gone on for 29 YEARS (the kids are ages 2 to 29) without someone noticing is beyond the scope of this post. (In truth, it appears many are at fault.) Instead, my question is, if we are to take Smith’s “fault vs. responsibility” concept at face value: How are these malnourished, psychologically-abused individuals supposed to take responsibility for turning their lives around? It took 17 years just for one of them to figure out how get away. Can they be held to the same standards as Joe Schmoe down the street?

Now, this is an extreme example. I wasn’t planning to go so extreme. In truth, I was planning to share a personal story related to self-esteem. I’ve hinted in years past at internal battles I’ve had with my appearance and feeling like I’m not “good enough.” It’s taken several years of counseling to understand where my emphasis on appearance came from and how this has translated into the way I treat myself. Yes, I’m “owning” my issues — recognizing the role others and (impossible) societal standards have played, but not blaming them for my struggle — but it’s taken me a LONG time, and I couldn’t have done it on my own.

And I guess my point is, before we judge others, we need to walk a mile (or twenty) in their shoes. And before we worry about others, we need to worry about ourselves. Sure, at some point, some people cross a line. There is NO excuse for certain behaviors (more on that soon), but even so, people’s lives are rarely improved by critical barbs or blame. Instead, they’re changed by compassion. If you don’t believe me, take a look at the video below. How many times have you walked past a homeless person and wondered, How did they get there?

I know I have.

will smith, well said

I’ve always been a fan of Will Smith. No, I haven’t seen all of his movies, and I don’t know his entire life story. It’s possible he’s a terrible person. But typically the person you are on the inside shows up on the outside, and on the outside, Mr. Smith appears to be a decent human being—and a thoughtful one, too. He posted the below video on Instagram Live a few days ago, and when I saw it I thought, “Well said.”

Please watch!

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I know too many people who focus on what they can’t control—the actions of others or crappy circumstances—instead of what they can. There is power in accepting responsibility for our own happiness and success. No, it’s not easy. Life can be cruel and unkind, and the world’s playing field has never been level. But blaming others accomplishes nothing. As William Ernst Henley so aptly put it in the poem below, we are the masters of our fate and the captains of our souls.
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invictus

P.S. This is a reminder to myself!

thoughts on superbowl sunday

Today as many Americans gather to watch the Superbowl, I remember the first time I was abroad on a different American holiday — the Fourth of July. I was 17 and was in Florence studying Italian for the summer. The school had a special Fourth of July meal with traditional American food — burgers, fries, ice cream, etc. — and I remember how strange it felt to realize that the Fourth of July wasn’t celebrated everywhere. The school was just being nice to its American students.

Of course the Superbowl isn’t actually a holiday, but in the States it might as well be. It’s the most widely-watched sporting events of the year, and a single 30-second ad during the game costs advertisers $5 million (or $166,666 per second). The half-time show is always a huge production—this year’s show features Justin Timberlake—and it’s just generally a time of both rivalry and fellowship for families across the nation.

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For many people worldwide, though, the Superbowl is, “What? Oh yeah, that American thing.” In these countries people get excited about the World Cup, or Wimbledon, or The Grand National, or Polo, or . . . I once met a group of Australians while traveling with friends in Thailand. The Australians were trying to explain Australian football to us, and we Americans were like, “What?”

It’s interesting how much pride people take in team sports, though. In the South, college football is king, and people are loyal to their “home team” until death. I’ve never been a big sports fan, but I do think that to ignore the power of sports is to miss out on an important cultural phenomenon. The kinds of sports we play, the rules, the players, the fans, the coaches, the actions of everyone involved — these things matter. There have been numerous examples over the years of big-name sports players acting like total jerks both on and off the field. Just because someone’s a big name player doesn’t mean they should get a pass to be a jerk, though. If anything it means we should hold them to a higher standard. After all, these are people our children look up to and who represent America to the world. No one likes an arrogant whiner jerk. So why do we tolerate players who act that way?

Additionally, there have been mixed reactions to the amount some sports stars and coaches are paid. Alabama Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban reportedly earns a salary $11.125 million per year, and top NFL players like Tom Brady make more than $20 million per year. Holy cow! Now I’m not saying that these people aren’t worth the money they’re making, and I recognize that in some instances they’re actually putting their lives (or at least their health) on the line for the work that they’re doing. However, I am saying that the amount they make shows where our society’s priorities are — for better or for worse.

What are your thoughts on American sports and coach’s/players’ salaries? I am by no means an expert in this field. Just one American girl writing a post while the Superbowl is on — and I don’t mean on the TV. I don’t even own a TV!

P.S. If you haven’t seen the below SNL skits, you should check them out. Pretty funny!

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so how ’bout those new year’s resolutions?

:D

I didn’t mention resolutions last month. I thought about it. I have a few goals of my own on an ongoing basis, but, truthfully, I’ve never been big on creating lists at the start of the year. For one, I know the newness doesn’t last. By only a few hours in, 2018 was already starting to feel a lot like 2017 to me. Secondly, I recognize that big goals and big changes require big “whys.” We have to really want something—and have an attainable plan for how we’re going to achieve it—in order to stay motivated and “get there.”

Typically that motivation has nothing to do with a date on the calendar.

Take finances, for example. Money is something we all worry about, but budgeting is HARD and many people don’t know how to do it properly. I’m one of them. One of my long-term goals is to get better at handling my money—I want to travel again and stop living paycheck to paycheck—and for that reason I’ve been listening to Dave Ramsey a lot lately. Love him or hate him, Dave has a common-sense approach to getting out of debt and “building wealth,” and thanks to him I recently sat down and created my first budget. I don’t have a perfect system yet, but it’s a start.

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But here’s the thing. This change has nothing to do with January 1st—nothing. I started reading Dave’s “The Total Money Makeover” last year. I finished it on the plane ride to California over Christmas. After the New Year, I started listening to his show. The desire has been there all along; it’s just taken me a while to get the ball rolling.

In another area of my life, too, if my goals were based on a 12-month calendar, I would have failed already. I want to blog more consistently, but I struggle to write when emotionally stressed. January wasn’t the easiest of months for me. As such, you may have noticed I dropped off the face of the earth recently. I wanted to write; I just . . . couldn’t.

Now, it’s true that how we react to our circumstances is as important as the circumstances themselves, but another area I’m working on is giving myself grace. If I’m stressed and can’t write, oh well. And if I’m stressed and do write—and if my blogging comes across as “down” because I’m stressed—well . . . At least you’ll know I’m genuine! This blog isn’t about putting on a happy face. It never has been. It’s about the bumps and shifts of life and making the best of them as they come our way.

If you’ve read this far, thanks for joining me for the ride.

Do you make New Year’s resolutions? If so, why? And what have been your results?

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#totalfail… Sound familiar? It does for me! :D

the “in between”

Lights, camera, action. The theater darkens; actors appear on screen. And then, reality sweeps away. For the next few hours, we become a part of the film. We are encapsulated in the artwork of storytelling.

In those moments, we are the heroes; we are the everyday Joes; we are the young professionals trying to find our way. There’s a reason we choose the films that we do. In some form or fashion, we connect with them.

And later, when they’re all over, we long for them not to be done. We sit in the darkness, waiting—holding our breath—reliving vicariously the scenes we’ve just seen. I’ve never felt prettier than I have walking out of a movie theater . . .

That is until I get to the car and see that big zit on my nose. Ugh!

ladybI went to my first movie since moving to Knoxville last night. Ironically (or, not surprisingly?), I picked a movie about a girl who grew up in my hometown. She’s a high school senior who dreams of experiencing life outside her city. She hasn’t traveled much yet, but she wants to.

Throughout the film, I saw a few parallels to my own life. “Lady Bird” graduated in 2003 and went to a school in New York; I graduated in 2002 and went to a school in Tennessee. She and her mother both had strong personalities; I and my own mom are quite similar.

But what stood out to me most was a theme we often overlook in life: waiting. In the film, Lady Bird was eagerly anticipating the next phase of her life. She couldn’t wait for college; she couldn’t wait for the school year to be over.  But what the story was really about was what she was doing now. Often the “in-between-changes” parts of our lives are just as important as “what comes next.” I myself often worry about the future, but the movie reminded me that today—and every day—is an important opportunity to work on myself.

Shortly before seeing “Lady Bird,” I watched a video on facebook that talked about happiness. The video claimed that we often look outwards to find happiness and life’s purpose when it should be the other way around: “You are what you love, not what loves you.” This concept came to mind on my drive home last night, and I couldn’t shake it as I contemplated this newly-highlighted idea of waiting. Although I didn’t agree fully with the video’s message (my qualms are written below), I thought the narrator made some really good points. Please check it out (and read my comments, too)!

The narrator’s thoughts / My thoughts:

We’ve been conditioned to move to a place of “what loves us,” and almost every decision we make now is based on what other people think about us.
It depends on the person.
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If you’re under the impression that things outside of you complete you, you will always be a victim because everything has to change to make you happy . . . You’re moving from “out to in.”
True.
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When you were a kid, you weren’t working on managing customers or fake lists, etc., you were working on you. And that same mentality exists in people who are the greatest at what they do. They weren’t looking at their lists and how many people they got; they were working on themselves and excelling at that.
The narrator’s parallel to childhood is a bit simplistic. Kids play to learn skills they will need as adults. That’s part of life. At surface level, though, his analogy makes sense.
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There’s a level of effortlessness that shows up when you enjoy the process of working on yourself. That’s the goal of life, and when you do that, the results will show up when they’re supposed to.
The goal of life is more than just working on ourselves. I feel the goal is to look at what we can do to help others. In so doing, we become the best possible versions of ourselves. That said, I really like the idea of worrying less about what others think and knowing that things will happen when they’re supposed to.

the wild wind blows

I’ll be honest: I’m discouraged tonight. Life isn’t always easy; in fact, sometimes it’s downright hard.

That said . . . There are certain universal truths that we must all cling to during difficult times. One of them is that, like music, poetry can make everything better. :)

This poem is perhaps my favorite to date because it is one of my technical best. I originally posted it on September 3, 2013.

The Wild Wind Blows

The wild wind blows,
In caverns – slows
The beating of my heart.

In darkness deep,
Where creepers creep,
I dream of days, depart —

To summer sun
Where rivers run,
And all the world’s an art —

And all of love
A perfect glove,
And you, the perfect part.

The wild wind blows,
A blanket, snows,
Alone, I’m miles apart —

In darkness deep
And silence steep,
From you who has my heart.

To listen to this poem, click below: