This is Going to Hurt

This is how I know my brain is functioning optimally – I might be inspired but find that I lack that the motivation to do anything other than shopping, browsing, and surviving another day. However, today, I’m doing more than just survive – my laptop is open, and my words are blowing free as the ocean’s salty breeze into the world. The prospects of a new beginning and its uncertain end is daunting. Sometimes, when I have a great idea and maybe even a daring one, instinctively, like most of us do…I hesitate. Mistake. Big mistake.

Here is why you have to be figuratively crazy to walk out of that cushy job or even the crappy one that barely pays the rent – we dread failure and the often shameful and public consequences of making a mistake. In psychology, it is referred to as the “Spotlight Effect,” where we perceive that we are continually being judged by others. This triggers paranoia and self-doubt and sets off an alarm in the brain which then goes into overdrive to protect us from danger or hurting ourselves.

The brain is doing its job when it magnifies all the risk implications, the certain pitfalls ahead, the strain on the body, mind, and resources that executing a grand adventure would entail. It knows we have three basic human needs – food, clothing, and shelter. Anything beyond these is asking for pain, and when the brain senses an overreach, it acts as an exceptionally effective lever. It will respond to your hesitation and uncertainty with a resounding, “No, we are not doing that !”  Our brains would also love this excerpt from The One Song* poem by Mark Strand (1990 U.S. Poet Laureate & 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry):

I prefer to sit all day

like a sack in a chair

and to lie all night

like a stone in my bed.

 

When food comes

I open my mouth.

When sleep comes

I close my eyes.

But we are not sacks or stones, and yes, we do need to eat and sleep but manifesting our ideas makes us thriving human-beings and is an ongoing and painful growing process that requires planning, strategy, and taking chances. Let’s not analyze our plans to the point of paralysis or death. Per the Spotlight Effect, the perception of being under constant scrutiny is unrealistic. People pay less attention to other’s mistakes and failures than we think. Another reason we have halls of fame and awards, the focus goes to those who tried and failed till they eventually had success.

That’s why Mel Robbins, author, and speaker, said, “Motivation is garbage.” This might come off as extreme, but I think people confuse the need to survive with motivation because she explains that we are never going to feel like doing the things that are tough, difficult, scary, or new. And so we can right now, stop waiting for motivation and just make decisions that we will follow through on.

We are one risky decision away from a totally different life. Our futures are determined by micro-moments of insanity and boldness, slight shifts in perspective, and crucial decisions to be kinder and bigger. And when you are at a crossroad, tell your conscientious brain before it stops you that, “Yep, this is going to hurt.” As the Good Book says, “Write the vision, make it plain, run with it…and at the end, it will speak.”** Till we get to that end, let’s embrace the pain that helps us evolve.

 

Sources:

* Poulin, A. 2006. Contemporary American poetry. Boston, Mass: Houghton Mifflin. p.586

**Habakkuk 2:3 (para.)

Image Credit: Pixabay

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Extraordinary Love -The Path to Personal Development.

 

“Extraordinary love flows from those who do their life’s work.” AD

A few years ago, when I took an intensive HarvardX edX course called Immunity to Change™, I was so surprised by the emphasis on love in the introductory lecture by Drs. Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey that I paused the video and rechecked the course information, thinking, wait…this is Harvard not, the church right? Well, I came away with some insights about how the love of self and of others factors into our personal development and growth.

Our culture and humanity are suffering deeply from the deluge of outrage and violence, so much so, that our aggressiveness towards one another has become the order of the day, the headline news, and the click-bait. We have leaders who are proudly amoral, children and families traumatized by senseless gun violence, and metrics of materialism and false perfection that ascribes worthiness. We also, risk becoming inured to the revolving door of acts of hatred and divisiveness that pervades our communities.

Still, I am hopeful because almost everyone has the same reaction to the sight of a baby in the arms of a parent. Our hearts give way to love, which in its purest form, is emotion free of judgment and expectation. If the child is crying and uncomfortable, we are immediately concerned. Concern and consideration are how love translates into action. And so, we make funny faces, we ask the parent if they need help, or we share an understanding smile. It is no accident that the most revered people in history were generous and empathetic  – think Jesus or Mother Teresa – they were moved by compassion.

In contemporary times, we’ve seen examples of extraordinary love and philanthropy from those who have also excelled in their life’s work – Bono, Oprah, Bill & Melinda Gates, Warren Buffett, Li Ka-Shing, Andrew Carnegie, etc. Okay, these are prominent people, but they all did not start at the top – but at some critical point that propelled them forward, they discovered their natural talents and intentionally applied these principles of love that I culled from my course, towards their personal growth and development:

  • In life’s work or vocation combine the two strong and grounding forces of belief and values.
  • Change expansively with compassion for yourself and others. Generously forgive yourself and others.
  • When faced with challenges, view them as opportunities that require growth, new tools, and strategies.
  • Meditate and dig deep within. We all have an internal “cheat sheet.” The answers always precede the problems, and our posture should not be that of trying to dig out from a stuck place. Think in abundant terms.
  • Acrimony and hatred deplete and dim our lives. Love liberates us from self-torture and limitations.

Our personal growth is directly tied to positive shifts in our thinking, to evaluating our choices, and by taking small behavioral steps to reach what Oprah calls the “best version of ourselves.” We’ve heard people say, “I can’t believe I get paid to do what I love.” or “This does not feel like work.” That sense of enormous gratitude comes from doing and excelling at our life’s work and opens up the heart. So, it’s worth finding and following our calling and passion. The most crucial self-development goal is to daily commit to becoming extraordinary lovers of ourselves and others. Let’s go be phenomenal!

“Freedom is the will to be responsible to ourselves.” Friedrich Nietzsche

Image Credit: Pixabay.com

Silence Breakers – May Willows Surround

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WILLOWS OF WADI SURROUND – A poem by Ama Danesi

My mouth kisses my palm

and holds back welling tears

I remember I was a stranger there

his hands groping, seizing,

searching for certainty here.

As long as wicked is in the room

may willows of the wadi

surround and mark me safe.

This pain is not measured

by the scale of years

but unraveled by melodies

and as shadows reflect mysteries.

My river once turbulent

is no longer frightened for

tree of harps are singing out

names and redemption songs.

Once hushed and gray as a moth

my whole soul sings too, loud.

Me who moved further from shore,

now, rushes home in an exquisite

finery of light, sculpted in palace style.

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Time Magazine deservedly honored the “Silence Breakers” as Person of the Year 2017. These women and men challenged the status quo of sexual aggression and I stand with every girl, boy, woman, and man who has suffered the injustice and humiliation of sexual assault and abuse. We will not keep silent concerning our bodies and limbs.

We celebrate its splendid frame and the brave hearts rising across the world to confront small, weeny “gods.” We celebrate the power of each voice and the collective refrain. Hear our souls sing out loud. The sound barrier is broken and people will be silent no more!

In Service,

AD

Image Credit: Pixabay and Time Magazine 2017: The Silence Breakers

Giving to Live

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“They throw caution to the winds,

Giving…in reckless abandon.

Their right-living, right-giving ways,

never run out, never wear out.”*

There are primarily two ways of administering our gifts to the world, as a matter of enthusiastic generosity or as a grudging obligation. Which defines your posture? Honestly, that’s about all we can control. I often find myself holding back when I prejudge or speculate about the reward as if I am entirely responsible for that. I find we can trust the blueprint and fearless design encoded in our being that gives rise to our natural abilities, to also amaze us with its commitment to reward our service and offerings beyond our expectations. A stingy farmer gets it stingy harvest but since many of us have sown love, laughter, care or blood, sweat, and tears; then as nature does, we must go through the process of seed, time, and harvest.

When we perceive the world as an inherited land, we can see ourselves as both the seed bearers and sowers. Imagine that every obstacle is an opportunity to learn from those who have gone before or time to color outside the lines. There’s a good reason why there are no easy, cookie-cutter answers to specific problems. Notably, those particular issues that test our enduring human spirit. University of Houston’s research professor and empathy advocate, Brené Brown encourages us to “Dare greatly.”

The best-selling author of Without Rival (2016) Lisa Bevere at the recent Confident Woman conference said, “Sometimes you have to stop looking around and look within because you’re supposed to do something that’s never been done before.” She asserts that we are not only unique, we are without rival. Therefore, in our authentic spaces, we bring an essence that can only be imitated but never duplicated.

We are all given something we can give away. Right-living demands we believe that. Right-giving requires a full commitment. Excuses are for wimps. I know that because I’ve held that office for some considerable time, but the ache of floundering snarls and nags at you like an addiction that will not quit till you either leaving as dead or show up as your authentic self. The lyric from the band, United Pursuit’s Let it Happen (2015) says, “You’re full of life now. And full of passion. That’s how he made you. Just let it happen.” Every seed planted in truth will grow, and every tree that shows up will have enough headroom to flourish.

On a practical level, I believe that today’s superheroes are entrepreneurs and visionaries. People with the drive to create, develop, refine, and nurture a crazy idea till it becomes an empire or offering that enriches the lives of others. Risks and profits considered, these are “doing” people. The scary part of the equation is actually doing something, putting something out there. Talk is not only cheap, but it’s also mediocre. It’s like putting your hand to the plow and looking back to the safe zone or the cozy couch –  the place without judgment and expectation – warm as an eagle’s nest to an oversized eaglet.

Let it happen. Verbs are the most potent expressions. They transform any passive line into an active and engaging one involving an action, the responsible party, and a reaction. My verb and doing word is “write, ” and because it comes easy, I often think it’s not valuable to anyone else. Now that’s a partial lie, applicable only to my journaling. Don’t buy into partial lies or let them stunt transformation. Greatness is not handed down, it is cultivated. If I want extraordinary results and life, then I have to work at writing, show up on the field and generously plant words as seeds. To others, the seed may be a new business, a new app, a sketch, a song, or another dance audition.

Final word to me and the wise – “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured to you.”** And that is so you never run or wear out. Find your verb and do it every day you are blessed to see the sunrise.

In service,

AD.

Credits:

Image – Pixabay

2 Corth. 9:8 (MSG)

Luke 6:38 (NIV)

Racial Justice Served Cold in a Test-tube

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Image Credit: Pixabay

The myth of race and idea of difference as an inferior ethnic identity lies at the root of the conflicting cultural landscape dynamics at Santa Clara’s Pueblo in the 1990s, my former colonial Nigeria, and the recent Charlottesville’s alt-right nationalists’ rally. Every historical and current account of genocide, ethnic cleansing, and racial discrimination stems from negative views about this myth called “race” and the manipulation of our ethnic variables by power groups for their benefit. 

I was crestfallen at the poisonous social ideology displayed on banners, and racist chants at the recent Unite the Right rally on August 12, 2017, by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia. They spelled out their nationalist agenda – Whites are in; but Jews, Blacks, Mexicans, and Gays are out. Nationalism is always a contested space, identifying who belongs and who is excluded. Can I say that I was NOT surprised when President Trump condemned “…Violence on many/both sides…” He applied a false equivalency and failed to distinguish between activist groups of marginalized citizens like ‘Black Lives Matter’ who strive for racial equality from the privileged white nationalists who seek to mainstream or normalize their ideologies of exclusion and racial supremacy.

Other than the Native Americans, being an “American” is NOT a tribal identity but a nationalist and highly contested identity about who qualifies as one, and so this “made-up” nation tries to regulate who benefits from its cultural capital. The answer to bigots and supercilious agitators called Neo-Nazis is  – man-up, spit into a test-tube, and find your tribe – then they can talk about race and ethnicity.  Many will be surprised, and I bet crestfallen, to realize that their “pure” breed is another myth. Thanks to the paleoanthropologists and sociologists at the National Geo; we have this historical fact – That every living person shares a common direct maternal ancestor known as mitochondria Eve. She lived in Africa around the time of the Idaltu Skull* and had enough daughters to pass down her genetic signature through the generations. As they say, “Our mothers were her daughters.”

How many more mothers have to grieve before everyone realizes, that our biological differences are affected by natural selection, environmental survival, and genes that determine hair texture, skin color, and blood group? We bleed and pee the same. If all anyone has, is this claim to supremacy via the color of their skin, that person needs to dig deeper, get brave, and face the truth about their mitochondria. We are more complicated than our physiology and God has a great sense of humor – He made us all brothers and sisters. Anyone who seeks division is misguided and ignorant of the purpose of our collective humanity. Furthermore, the Confederacy lost the American Civil war in 1865, so any monument honoring the emblems of this nations’ torturous past, especially those on dismantled slave auction blocks should be taken down. 

Many were injured and hurt not just the nineteen hospitalized but every decent and unprejudiced human being. Sadly, we also lost three lives on August 12th – Susan Bro, the late Heather Heyer’s mother, at her daughter’s memorial service quoted her daughter, saying, “If you are not outraged, you are not paying attention.” The Alt-right is wrong. Racial discrimination is abhorrent. Thank God for our DNA that proves this. 

 

Notes:

  • Homo sapiens idaltu, also called Herto Man, is the name given to some hominin fossils found in 1997 in Herto Bouri, Ethiopia. They date to around 160,000 years ago. (Wikipedia)
  • My sincere condolences to the families and friends of Heather Heyer, Berke M.M. Bates, and H. Jay Cullen, as the nation mourns the untimely deaths of your loved ones. 
  • Interesting Article on White Nationalists reckoning with the results of their DNA tests. http://www.businessinsider.com/white-nationalists-genetic-ancestry-tests-dont-like-results-2017-8 ( A strange moment of triumph against racism)