On Flying Solo…

Photo republished courtesy of Dean Petersen ©2018 all rights reserved. Check out his work at: @deanventures

Picture this:

You have a brilliant idea! You’re inspired to do something tangible to bring it to life. You excitedly call someone to bounce the idea, hoping for some cheerleading. They offer you a few “mhm” and “yeah” as you explain what you are setting out to do. You finish speaking and eagerly wait for the response. When it comes, it sounds something like:

“I mean, sure, everyone could do that if they could afford risking the money.”

“Are you sure this is such a good idea?”

“Why do you want to do that? You have it better than all of us! Just be grateful.”

“Well. Sounds interesting. Hopefully you’ll actually stick to it.”

“You don’t need more work!”

“That’s a great idea! I’m going to do it too. No harm in a little competition between friends, right?” Smirk.

“How are you always in dream land? I’m too busy keeping my feet on the ground.”

“Yeah, yeah. You and your big ideas. You’re always lucky, so I don’t need to wish you good luck.”

Sound familiar?

Each of us bears his/her own collection of dismissive, negative, and discouraging statements from friends and family. Over time, we carry more and more of them, and they become grey clouds hanging over our future adventures. Everything from taking a new job to changing up our nutritional menu is contested by people around us. Now, don’t go trying something really crazy, like moving across the world or going back to school to become a doctor.

Eventually, we start to doubt what it is we really want, and what we can really achieve. Whose voice is in your head telling you that “it can’t be done”? 9 times out of 10, it’s somebody else’s.

Keeping this in mind, I’ve learned something extremely valuable which I only put into effect recently. When trying to achieve a goal, there is nothing more powerful than keeping it secret. Being very selective about who we divulge personal information to is fundamental to our success, because we are easily manipulated creatures. No matter your confidence or faith in your idea, it requires protecting while it’s still a budding thought so that you can focus all your efforts on bringing it to life, without risking being swayed by others.

People can be risk averse self-doubters. Often, when standing in front of Burj Khalifa in Dubai, I’ve overheard tourists say things like “it’s impossible!” Even while cranking their necks back 90 degrees to look at the peak of the tallest building in the world, they express disbelief. If people have this reaction to what is already there and has already been achieved, why entrust your dreams to them?

People will tell you to fight for your dreams and be deterred by no-one. They will throw cliche quotes at you like a hail storm. That is, until you have an idea. It is only after the idea is born that the same people who once wrote you soliloquies about reaching for the moon suddenly become doubters.

When you set your mind to something, wisely and carefully select who you let in. If you cannot think of someone who has already proven unfailing confidence and support, someone whose criticism only serves the purpose of elevating, rather than destroying, your ideas – fly solo.

There will come a time when the idea has manifested powerfully enough that you can share it without leaving it vulnerable in destructive hands. Even then, be on guard. Remember that Burj Khalifa has an elevator that swiftly and smoothly moves up 148 floors in 60 seconds without a single hiccup, and that people make it all the way to the top and still don’t have the capacity to believe that it can be real.

And remember… we design our own luck!

M.

On Resolving Pain…

My readers know that I am an advocate for making the most of the present moment. I am always writing about the importance of intention and mindfulness when making decisions about how we live, think, speak, and feel. For the most part, I try to live my own life in this way, constantly checking myself in to the present.

The truth is, however, that fully immersing oneself in the present moment does not mean that the past can remain ignored. We are all products of our personal past, and of our ancestral past. Our histories are boundless and they extend well beyond our own life experience. Dissociating from our past can be incredibly dangerous because, one way or another, the pain bubbles back up.

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On Imperfection…

Sometimes, things just don’t go so well… and that’s O.K.

The modern global culture, especially social media culture, is obsessed with an unattainable standard of perfection. From the perspective of the outsider looking in, everyone is on cloud 9. It’s no wonder that this causes severe cases of anxiety and depression over time, as individuals come to believe that they are the only ones left behind in imperfection.

Imperfection creates character in our lives… it’s the spice that turns out a little too spicy, and is therefore memorable. What are we, if not a compilation of broken pieces fused together? Whole, but imperfect.

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On Mortality…

Last night, my friends and I were chatting about the impacts of putting certain things on hold in order to accomplish others. Yes, we talk about stuff like that on an odd Sunday. At this stage in our lives, we are dealing with the consequences of decisions we made when we were in our early 20s, and recognizing the vast differences between all the various life paths each of us chose to take.

This is only step 1, if we’re lucky. But, not everyone gets to live through steps 2, 3, 4… and so on.

When thinking about specific things I’ve witnessed people delaying for the sake of others (a family for a job, children for vacation, a home for a hyper expensive but fun rental, a career for backpacking, financial stability for the latest trends, etc), I’m not sure whether it is because we tend to believe that life is short, so we go for the quick and immediate pleasures, or if it is because we actually believe that life is very, very long.

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On Pain & Gain…

Nothing worth having in life comes easily. If you’ve been reading my blog, you already know that I believe that even good luck, which seems to come out of nowhere, must be intentionally nurtured in order to manifest in our lives. Everything is hard work, perseverance, and faith.

You will be questioned most when you choose the difficult path. When you take the road less travelled, others will witness this and it will cause them to doubt the well-trodden path they favour. Nobody wants you to work harder to succeed, because your success will only prove that they need to work harder too. Nobody wants you to sacrifice and suffer to succeed, because this will show them that they, too, must sacrifice and suffer in order to gain what you have gained. Be prepared for the backlash.

What other people think of you is none of your business. What we focus on is what we succeed at. If you worry too much about what other people have to say about you and your journey, you will only become an expert at fielding criticism. Get over it and move on. Nobody promised that the road to your best self will include many friends. That’s part of the sacrifice. Quality over quantity. The winners stand alone, together!

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On the Secrets of Homes…

Growing up, I often heard a common phrase used in my mother culture: “homes are secrets.” This was often the go-to response when anyone verbalized a judgment about how others live their lives and the choices they make. Eastern cultures are known for their emphasis on community, but there is also a sacred element of privacy in the understanding that nobody knows what happens behind closed doors.

Each of us has a path to discover, and the revelations do not end until our lives end. Perhaps, there will even be more to discover after death. Our time in this world is so fleeting, a blip in the collective human memory. Why are we so keen on spending this precious time judging others?

If I’ve learned anything over the course of the past two years, as my Facebook feed started erupting with international stories of my friends’ milestones and setbacks, it is that we all do things differently. Some of us value education. Some value travel. Some value homes. Some value big weddings. Some value marriage. Some value being single. Some value wealth. Some value luxury cars. Some value huge book collections. Some value work. Some value retirement.

The bottom line is: everyone does life differently, and that is the beauty of it.

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On Boundaries…

In my family, when we were kids, we were taught to respect everyone’s personal space. This meant keeping a fair distance unless invited closer, not asking extremely personal questions, and keeping our noses out of other people’s business. Moreover, under no circumstances were we to ever ask anyone for money, or about money.

Then, we grew up, and found people invading our personal spaces, asking us to divulge private information about ourselves and our families (both original and new), and running live commentary on everything we do with our education, careers, mortgages, family decisions, etc.

I am therefore a firm believer in boundaries, while maintaining community. 

I often work with young adults who are trying to choose an academic path. They ask me what they should do. They ask their parents what they should do. They ask teachers and friends what they should do. Sometimes, they resort to online discussion forums and ask strangers what they should do.

My advice always is: take your parents’, teachers’, and counsellor’s advice into account, ignore everyone else, and then make the decision that you feel right about.

This becomes more and more crucial over time. Not all advice is good advice. A select few people should be your guides; choose them wisely, and be sure that they are advising you towards your personal truth. A good coach helps you succeed by capitalizing on your strengths and ambitions. Choose the mentor wisely, then pick and choose the advice that aligns with your personal values, and finally do what you feel right about.

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On Affluence & Poverty…

This morning, I woke up thinking about affluence and poverty. I think we can all agree that wealth is a matter of perspective. You can be making 50k or 200k a year and consider yourself “poor” if you like keeping up with the Kardashians.  Meanwhile, in comparison to most people on Earth, you are exceptionally wealthy if you are making 50k independently. Social status is funny in this way; the measure of wealth and poverty is in constant flux depending on where you are standing.

For some reason, it seems more and more people around me are complaining about money these days. Perhaps it’s just a natural phase as things begin to change and evolve in our lives. There is a very clear rejection of the “rich” although, for all intents and purposes, I would not classify any of my friends as poor. In fact, I wouldn’t classify most people in this country as poor. I’ve seen poverty, and it isn’t the inability to purchase a BMW. Yet, oddly enough, I hear the phrase “we’re poor” being tossed around by people who are even more educated and have higher paying jobs than me.

I am often taken aback by such statements. “If I do not consider myself poor, how can you?” I wonder how little of the world they must have seen to so confidently complain and insist that they lack, all while I can very clearly observe their outrageous spending habits.

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On Intention…

In some Arabic cultures, when someone gets something they have been hoping for, people say: “her intention was pure!” or “he must have pure will!” This signals to a deeply held cultural belief that the pure of heart will always be cared for by God. They do not receive miracles or luck by accident, but rather, due to their own goodness.

Intention isn’t everything… but it certainly plays a big role in shaping the lives we build for ourselves, as it feeds our actions. In pursuit of good friends and fun company, one will find himself out of luck if he himself is neither friendly nor fun. In pursuit of wealth, one will find herself penniless when she exercises greed towards others. In pursuit of love, one stands alone and disheartened if his primary intention is to take from love, and not give back to it.

If we are aware of our negative intentions and recognize the consequences, we can put them in check and gradually practice intentions that are better aligned with the path of happiness. But, if we decide to excuse our negative intentions, we cannot hope that nobody will notice, because they will. We cannot escape our intentions; we might as well plaster neon signs on our foreheads that tell it like it is.

There will always be people out there who are better off, and worse off, than you are. Be genuinely happy for their successes. Be genuinely sad for their pain. Be genuinely afraid for them when they get sick. Be genuinely excited for them when they get that promotion. If you are not genuine, they will be able to tell, and you will have missed the point of this life entirely.

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