It's the first day of 2018 and quiet outside. Most businesses are closed following new years celebrations. Though the streets have the occasional wanderer, many people are home with their families, which is a popular way to celebrate new years eve here.
Around 4pm, the 80-degree sunshine was replaced with storm clouds and then a crack of thunder (trueno). A few more bangs and then the sky opened up, filling the thick air with a downpour of hot rain.
These photos are caught on impulse from the vantage point of my apartment in the Laureles neighborhood of Medellín, where we stood and listened in a peaceful wonder.
Don't tell me happy Monday because I don't live for the weekend and you shouldn't either. Weekends are a tiny fraction of your one precious fucking life.
Don't tell me happy Monday. Don't give me that grimacing look.
On Friday, don't tell me "Happy Friday" before you go numb yourself at happy hour like it's a ritual.
If you hate the start of every week, go do something about it. If it takes sarcasm to face a new work day, go make changes to your damn life.
Don't tell me happy Monday. Take it somewhere else. My ears are at capacity.
Insights from my recent TEDx journey. May it speak to you in whatever ways you seek.
Delivering a TEDx talk is a journey of a lifetime. It’s an incredible experience, but not for many of the reasons that are often celebrated in the public eye.
It’s a journey deep into yourself, and also a journey completely beyond your scope of “self.” It’s a journey where you take an idea that you care about whole-heartedly, nurture it, water the seeds, and after much caring (and a bit of brute force), you bring that idea into the world—where you get to share your idea with people who are excited to listen.
Let me repeat that line incase you skimmed over it.
You get to share your idea with people who are excited to listen.
This is a very special (and rare) opportunity—having a room of active listeners to receive your very own wild idea.
Before delivering the talk, the TEDx journey becomes twofold — one that is an internal journey and one that is an external journey. One that advances your personal growth, and one that tests your dedication to an idea that is beyond the scope of you as an individual.
Internally, the journey surfaces old inner demons, and new ones to work with. Procrastination? Fear of the public eye? Imposter syndrome? Stage fright? Self doubt? Prepare to say hello to them all.
In the end, these are the internal obstacle that either transform you , or block you.
Externally, the TEDx journey becomes nothing about you. Yep, zero percent. Yes, it can be tempting to bask in the glory of the attention or compliments,but external gratification is short lived and certainly doesn’t nurture the soul…or the idea…or your dedication to the WHY behind your talk — why you’ve been working your ass off to get to this milestone, and why this message is important to share and activate people around.
The journey externally is about the journey of the idea, not about yourself.
You become so passionate about your idea that it emerges center stage, and you become the vessel for sharing it with the world. You spend hours researching it, framing it, polishing the language, and learning how to deliver it, so that you can best serve the idea.
Focusing on the idea, the message, and the motivating “why” is how we can reach incredible milestones, and savor them for what they are — with our ego trying to take the spotlight.
This is how we savor the intrinsic (not extrinsic) gratification of taking action towards our dreams.
Savor in what happens when you water the plant inside of you that is begging to grow.
This is what a TEDx journey is. It is a mirror of your strengths and shadows.
Here’s a look into one of my shadows:
The day before my talk I pulled my coach aside for a confession, “Marion, I still worry, what if my talk just isn’t strong enough? Isn’t smart enough? Doesn’t have enough depth?”
Marion tilted her head and looked at me kindly, “Alison, you have a wonderful talk. You are completely prepared. Whatever these thoughts are that are surfacing right now, have nothing to do with this talk.” Marion hit the nail on the head.
Just like anything we pursue in life that presents challenges (and opportunities for growth), these events surface what we must tend to and rise above.
What was the number obstacle that I faced? Impostor syndrome.
There — I said it. But guess what, I rose above it.
We all can rise above our fears and internal demons through acknowledging their existence, exercising self-compassion towards the fear, and through steadfast work. Nothing builds confidence like preparation.
Stay tuned for Part II: My TEDx Journey, where I’ll share my 15 top lessons on how to bring an idea from seed to execution and stepping into your power as a speaker.
We want to come full circle, become
whole, reawaken to something bigger, greater,
deeper—because this just can't be it.
We search for definitions. Closure. Completion. "New Beginnings."
We make sense in these circles and chapters, in these narratives
of our lives. We run for clarity, and think, "Then I will know. Then
I will understand the big picture—that which is my life."
And we clutch,
clench, and cling
to this pursuit of what we knew—what we know.
Our adventures have tails.
They are long—
winded, winding—blowing around, wrapping others in, and
I twirl my tail, my long golden curls.
I lay in the waves for a constant. The tide turns
over in my belly and I say to the waves,
"Here now, come. I will listen."
And I can always trust the waves to bring me exactly what I need,
even when I can't ask the right question.
I'm under water. I'm looking up, down.
The white water rips through me and I pause.
I look up and smile.
"This is real!"
"This is freedom!"
We live in a society that is obsessed with achievement.
Parents are told to embed self-confidence and esteem in their children at a young age, though they often instill these qualities through rewarding their children based on external achievements — like getting an A on a test. And so children begin to think that when they perform well, people are happy with them. Red flag.
The problem with training self-worth to be a reflection of personal achievement is that it leaves that very individual feeling perpetually incomplete and constantly searching for wholeness.
What this means is that we’ve accidentally bred a culture where daily grinding is supposed to fuel self-worth — unfortunately it does not.
This is one reason why some of the most successful humans on the planet still feel like they haven’t done enough. The truth is, with this mentality, they never will.
In his book, A Fearless Heart, Thupten Jinpa writes a chapter on The High Cost of Low Self-Compassion, where he discusses this dangerous cycle and why it is so challenging to remove ourselves from it,
When I read this I sat up straight in my chair.
For the last fours years I’ve made aggressive 3-month, 6-month, and 1-year goals each year and revised them throughout. For the last three years, this process has been an empowering method for coaching myself to living a more purpose-driven life and achieve many of these goals.
But this week I opened my list of goals and read through the 3-month goals that I set out to achieve by October, and then I looked forward to the goals I set to hit by January — and for the first time, instead of feeling empowered, I felt oppressed by my own internal whip.
I felt like burning my journal.
And though I will not be burning my journal (because to burn a moleskin is to commit a federal offense) I will be negating that list — possibly even burning it. I am also most certainly not making New Years goals.
We can’t live like this. We can’t keep feeding the connection of self-worth to personal achievement and the idea that we are not already complete exactly as we are. We can’t keep congratulating people who hustle 24/7, no matter how honorable their pursuits are. We can’t keep reinforcing the go-go-go, do-do-do mentality — whether you are a social entrepreneur, a capitalist, humanitarian, or a parent.
We need to support each other in slowing down. So to start, I’m supporting myself to do this very thing.
Philosopher and author Roman Krznaric explains how we can help drive social change by stepping outside ourselves, in this beautiful and animated talk.
When people say to me, “Done is better than perfect,” I often want to disagree. But the truth is, they’re often right — the imperfect expressions of life and the messiness are equally as important as the clean, polished, and pretty. They are two sides of the same coin.
The voice of an epic narrator has been following me around since I was born in Philadelphia, back in 1988. My dad says I came catapulting out into the world, “You couldn't wait another moment,” my mom says.
Even back then that voice had a story to tell. And that voice is still always here— filtering, replaying, and piecing together the many dots that make up my life.
The most beautiful and unpredictable breakthroughs often manifest in unknown territory; times of reaching, risking, and letting the mind venture someplace new.
Annie Dillard is famous for writing, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” We can take her words as a reminder that the thoughts, conversations, people, activities, and environments that we choose to fill our daily lives with—become our lives. And this makes the case for choosing the substance of our lives wisely.
In my own journey uncovering what is personally meaningful, it has equally been a journey of learning to recreate environments that allow these values to flourish. Consistent daily actions are key to driving sustainable change, yet in addition to this, we must also design environments and habits that help us stay on the path of the meaningful life. Our actions can otherwise easily lose their original intention.
Here are my distilled findings on habits that support the continuous pursuit, and the sustainable practice of a meaningful and authentic integrated life. But please remember—this list is not enough, there are no shortcuts to sustainable change; there are no hacks to a meaningful life, so make sure to enjoy the journey as it ever-unfolds.
As you read this outline I invite you to listen to, and take time with, whatever thoughts and emotions surface as you read through this piece. Because your journey begins when you begin to listen.
1. Be quiet and make time to listen to the voice within, every single day.
Check in. Ask yourself why you are making a certain decision. Ask yourself the WHY behind your actions. Is that you dictating your actions or external shoulds? It takes considerable effort to separate your voice from others, but when you do this, you will begin to be make decisions that are clearly reflective of your personal mission and values. When you do this, that voice inside of you will literally sing. You will know EXACTLY when you have made a decision that honors that voice. It will feel like a loud, strong, and BOLDLY JOYOUS "YES!"
2. Make mental fitness your secret weapon.
When was the last time you noticed a negative thought enter your mind? Maybe it’s happening right now? Learn to identify those when they enter, label them, and choose to move your focus elsewhere. The strength of your mental capacity to focus your mind on what is important is what enables you to actualize your mission in life. If you are always drained and you don't know why—chances are your mind is a wild beast. Tame that thing!
3. Search for your moments of flow, investigate them, and then structure environments to foster tapping into flow throughout your day.
Do you feel in the zone working solo plugging away at what you love? Great, make space for that to occur and guard that time like your dreams depend on it—because they do
4. Do something daily that brings perspective to your individual experience.
Look at the ocean, pet a dog, touch a tree—take a few minutes each day to remind yourself that you are a part of a system MUCH larger than yourself. And remember that everything you do, is a little ripple in this larger ecosystem, that every day in your life is also just a ripple in your life. Remember that your actions are powerful—but not singular.
5. Cultivate mental space and clarity early in your day through a mindfulness meditation practice.
It is mind blowing how this will shift your day. Your breathing becomes a vehicle for cultivating clarity and ease throughout your day; in meetings, walking down the street, during high intensity conversations. Continue to remind yourself to come back to that calm through your focused breathing. This will change your productivity, and not because you are “hacking” anything, only because your mind is at peace, and therefore of greater power.
6. Revisit your core values EVERY SINGLE WEEK.
Ask yourself how you are honoring them through your actions on a personal, professional, and social level. Be authentic with the values and with yourself. If your day is out of alignment with your core values, chances are you are not pushing forward your true mission in life. Remember, how we spend our days is how we spend our lives.
7. STOP LOOKING FOR SHORTCUTS. You are either honoring your mission in life and accelerating that progression—or you are not.
There are no quick fixes and hacks when it comes to honoring the life you were meant to bring to life—the impact you were born to honor. Taking continuous daily actions in alignment with your higher calling is the most productivity-inducing thing you can do. Even better, it is sustainable, which is the key to lasting change and impact.
8. Speak positive affirmations to yourself. Personal affirmation is far more intrinsically satisfying than external gratification.
Did you present a great proposal you poured your heart into? Write an article you’re really proud of? Meditate every day this week? Wonderful! Look yourself in the mirror, congratulate yourself, and remind yourself how empowering it feels to complete something meaningful to your mission in life.
NOTE: If this sounds crazy to you, ask yourself when’s the last time you celebrated a silent win with yourself?
9. Write on paper every damn day!
Tangibly express your thoughts and map out concepts.
10. Surround yourself with proactive, passionate, truly authentic, and multidisciplinary people, communities, and thoughts.
11. Create a routine that feels right to YOU.
Do what speaks to you, otherwise, you won’t adhere to it in the long-term, and consequently it won’t create long-term change. Things that are simple, nurturing, and recharging are great, for example 10-minutes of morning journaling.
12. What you resist persists.
I learned this when I told my coach that everyone at my old job looked miserable and she responded to me, "“Have you heard the phrase, “If you spot it, you got it?” Do you think this may be a reflection of your own mental state?" And then it hit me, regardless of the actions of others, we often perceive what we are putting out. If consistent pain points are popping up in your life, slow down, and take time to investigate their deeper source.
13. Investigate, reflect, and experiment.
This is a wonderful way to look at what is serving you, and what is not, to track your individual experience and experiment with new ways of being.
By Cesar Romero
Bronnie is a palliative worker who has worked with a countless number of patients who are seeing their last days on earth. When Bronnie had asked the patients about any regrets they had, or things they would have done differently, the most common regret was:
“I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me."
This really hit home for me and it made me realize that life is all about the choices we make or don’t make. There really isn’t any script to live a fulfilled successful life but the one we make for ourselves.
When I turned 28 I asked myself, "What if this was the last year of my life? Would I have been happy with how I had lived it?"
The answer was a partial YES.
There are still several projects that I want to complete. Places I want to visit. Lives I want to impact. But everything began to change ever since I started embracing YES in my life.
Yes to meditation, yes to better habits, yes to traveling, yes to chocolate, yes to taking risks, yes to living life.
In his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Dr. Steven Covey introduces the second habit, which is beginning each day with the end in mind.
What if we apply this single habit to our own life? How different would life be?
What experiences do I want to have?
What makes you come alive?
How do I want to grow?
How do I want to contribute?
The answers to these questions come from your deepest self and if you don’t know the answers it’s ok. This means you need to spend more time with yourself, experiment, and pay attention to the things that make you come alive.
Education, size of your bank account, job title, social status, successes, failures, don’t define who you are. These are only outcomes of our own actions.
Our generation has been called many names: Google Millennials, spoiled, entitled, unmarried, narcissistic, lazy, etc. But since when did looking for meaningful work and fulfillment become synonyms of laziness and selfishness?
It’s the total opposite.
What we want most is to live a fulfilled life doing meaningful work. This is not a sign of laziness or selfishness, but a sign that we have a burning desire to make a dent in the universe and live a life true to who we are.
A life true to your deepest self is not found in books or in a predetermined way of thinking or acting. Common knowledge is not enough. We must test and experiment; we must keep what works, add our own, and discard the rest. That’s where magic happens.
A meaningful life begins when we decide to take ourselves seriously
and carefully examine our own actions.
A meaningful life begins when we start ecoming more vulnerable
and take action despite our sense of vulnerability.
A meaningful life begins when we start asking questions like:
“Will this choice allow me to spend the greatest amount of time with relationships and activities that make me come alive?”
A meaningful life is all about service and impact.
Is it easy? Of course not. Is it worth it? Hell yeah!
I don’t know where this journey will end for you, or me, but I know it starts by living a life true to you.
My question to you is this:
The choice is up to you!
After a 2-week trip to Kazakhstan in 2012, Cesar realized that most of the ideas people have about other parts of the world are not accurate and that in order to change the world, we need to understand it first. Cesar describes himself as a connector of ideas, people, and experiences. When he's not leading trips with U30X, you can find him writing his ideas down and sharing them with the world, honing his leadership and public speaking skills at Toastmasters, running a couple of miles to decompress, and spreading the traveler's mindset encouraging other people to travel and understand the world.
You can find more about him here: www.iamcesarromero.com
This piece was originally published on Medium.