Over the years I have come to learn that I have a tendency to over think things. At times I can even become a bit of a perfectionist, or just very anal about how things should run in my life. Of course this characteristic has its advantages, but it also comes with its own set of baggage as well. For years it has limited me or often times short-cycled some significant events from occurring in my life. To be specific, it would be a case of me sitting on the sidelines watching others enjoy something or pressing through a life event, and for whatever reason I did not give myself license to become involved or discover what could have been significant for me during that time.
As I continue to take my own advice and “Keep Pressing” ahead, I found myself at a cross-road with the topic for this week’s post. With so many ideas constantly running through my brain, I allowed myself to become challenged and almost stifled on what to write. The challenge was not finding a topic, but wondering if I was staying true to what this blog is about.
So this week I am in San Juan, Puerto Rico for work, with a few added extra days on the tail end. I had a topic all cued up, but something inside of me said, “Save that for later and write about this trip and how it relates to my truth.” My first thought was, “Am I staying true to what The Upside of Down is about”, by doing that? After toying with the thoughts for a few days, I refused to think about it any longer, and simply enjoyed my trip on this beautiful island.
I went on some tours off the beaten path, watched families fly kites by the hundreds at a park near El Morro, walked around for what seemed like miles, met a bunch of great people at the conference I attended, and in the taxi I rode in. Whoever was the waiter/waitress at the local restaurant became my friend by name, with some form of friendly affection shared, whether by a compliment or good conversations. I ate some great local dishes, took a guy out for dinner on his birthday that I just met, had some great drinks, took some amazing pictures, (some you see posted here) lied on a hammock on the beach between to palm trees and chilled for hours doing absolutely nothing. Now I’m sitting here at 10:08PM EST, writing this post from my Villa over looking the ocean.
As I watched people and did abnormal things (at least for me), like not become a loner on this trip after the people I knew flew home, I forged some great friendships and discovered, this is what The Upside of Down looks like. I discovered how much I needed this trip and how important it was for me to exhale this past week. Not exhale in the sense of relieving stress or pressure, but in the sense of embracing something different and feeling/being okay with it (maybe that’s inhaling actually). I am living The Upside of Down, and this trip has helped me to see what that actually looks like for my life more clearly.
I am truly blessed with so much and thankful for all of it. My perspective is hopeful and my best is still yet to come. I look for that best to come in the form of rich relationships, through family and friends (new and old), a dynamic love-life, a limitless career path that will stretch me far and wide (as it does now), widely read published articles, best-selling books and the ability to authentically help others achieve their wildest ambitions, through this blog or through personal interactions.
I want you to rediscover the truth for your life.
It hasn’t changed since you were that curious kid. It has only been hindered or delayed by circumstances. Once you have the faith to see it again, apply that same faith to cause it to become a tangible possibility.
I have learned that how we define things for ourselves will ultimately shape us and dictate a certain path for our future. In other words, as I use the phrase, “Keep Pressing” every week, I have a picture of what that looks like to me, based on my understanding and faith. If your image of those words are completely different from mine, it won’t matter what I say, regardless of the level of intensity I say them with.
Your truth will become your (boundary) invisible jail cell or what propels you to greatness!
For many, that boundary will quarantine you like a glass ceiling or become vast like the stars in the night sky. The choice is really is up to you and I. Each day we have the opportunity to choose what will limit us, by first recognizing what those things are. Here lies the problem. Since we don’t know what we don’t know, the cycle can be vicious, by habitually impeding any attempts towards making real progress or living a life of freedom versus bondage. There is a quote in the Bible that states, “What a man thinks about himself, he becomes that man.” I don’t think it could be any clearer than this, but with any attempt to grow, we must have, what I call the four rules to change, become whole or healthy.
1. Recognize or identify that you have an issue – like a cut or wound in your physical body, this usually comes in the form of pain, whether self-inflicted or committed by others.
2. Seek help to remedy the problem – Go to a doctor/counselor/pastor/trusted and wise friend to help with this newly identified issue.
3. Apply the lessons or counsel given to the issue – Administer the ointment or advice, and do the homework prescribed.
4. Give yourself time for the lessons and counsel to work – Cuts don’t heal overnight, and emotional wounds are much more complex, so give yourself some time for the medicine (lessons/counsel) to work.
Contrary to popular belief, time does not heal all wounds, it only lessens the sting. It’s what we do in that time that truly causes the healing to really take effect.
In other words, a broken leg may feel better after several months, but if it’s not reset correctly, you may never walk the same again. And without therapy you may never have full use of it, even if the pain seems to be gone. Do the work, however long it takes. We begin to visualize and accomplish this when we understand our worth and our value. You must begin to visualize yours and often times it does not manifests itself in the path of least resistance. It’s usually the “hard thing” or what causes you the most discomfort. Perhaps it will become your greatest challenge to date.
We’re typically not ready to take these steps until the pain is so great, where it becomes intolerable and the normal means of numbing becomes futile. That was my story and today I am grateful for the pain, for it was the one thing that allowed me to finally discover what my truth really was, not with simple structured words alone, but with something that I could visualize, hold on to and pursue with passion!
“Peace secured by slavish submission is not peace.” – Kim II-sung
“The submission of her body without love or desire is degrading to the woman’s finer sensibility, all the marriage certificates on earth to the contrary notwithstanding.” – Margaret Sanger
So often when we hear any form of the word submit, it can take us to a place. Unfortunately it’s usually not a happy place. According to Dictionary.com, submit means to give over or yield to the power or authority of another. If we’re honest with ourselves, just the sound of this definition gets under our skin and defies everything humanly independent about us, including our lives, our thoughts and pursuits. Depending on our life experiences, it ruffles some more than others. For women it may bring up past thoughts of living in emotional or physical bondage, conformity, inequality, complete deference or denial of self at all levels. For men it may bring back memories of chauvinistic dominance, servitude and selfishness, just to name a few. (And men, I’m hoping as you read this, you realize these traits as a husband or life partner are not admirable, but quite the contrary). However you associate with this word in your life, usually it comes with a negative set of observations and experiences. However, to authentically submit means so much more than the aforementioned descriptions and it is so incredibly important to the very success that we desire in our lives, whether professionally or relationally, for both men and women alike.
There is a widely accepted quote that states, “Every great leader must first learn how to follow.“
Most of us will agree with this. So what’s the problem? Why is there such a power struggle with the statement, when all it is, is a another form of submitting? Could it simply mean the one doing the submitting is defiant, or perhaps the one in authority doesn’t understand how to convey a submissive-worthy message or countenance? Of course these are both rhetorical questions that have a bit of truth in them both, but I believe they are worthy of discussion in order for our us to gain clarity on why we are (men and women) so at odds when it comes to this topic.
Having the privilege of growing up with three sisters, and being the only boy in the family, I’ve had the prime opportunity to learn the many ways and complexities of girls and women. Not that my three sisters represent all of woman-kind, but I do count my experiences as having an edge towards understanding what other men usually rely on books for. They were and still are distinctly different in their personalities, from moderately calm to semi-explosive when provoked, and l love them all dearly and differently I might add. They have helped to shape my ideas and thoughts and even assisted me in the area of empathy and patience. I am forever grateful to them.
Ephesians 5:21 states – “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God” (KJV).
Whether you believe the Bible to be true or not is not the point here, but to understand the practicality of the verse is more important. How sensible is it to think that one gender should not submit to the other? In other words, how much sense does it make for only a woman to submit to a man and not vice-versa? It would seem like common sense, however we know that common-sense is not always common amongst us. This very ideology has been the source of many painful relationships and is taught in many churches and organizations throughout the country. It’s one thing to believe that a woman should submit to me simply because I am a man and another thing to earn that honor from her, but for many decades now, we men have increasingly lost that honor due to poor judgement, lack of discipline, becoming mean-spirited and providing poor leadership for our families. We have demanded the respect without earning it first, and out of our frustration for what seemed like an innate, God-given right we brought our wives and partners to their knees with abusive actions to obtain it. There is nothing God-given about that, but it has occurred and continues to be perpetuated generationally through families across the world. To take it a bit further, I’ll ask the question, “What are we giving that is worthy of anyone submitting to, whether a wife, girlfriend, or etc.?” Again, if we use the Bible as an example we can accurately deduce that there had to be some assumptions being made by God Himself, like for instance as a husband we (men) are to love our wives as Christ loves the Church. (Ephesians 5:25 KJV)
To put this in laymen terms simply means that what we both truly submit to is not (us) the man or woman, but the very love that is conveyed by us.
I can submit to authentic love any day of the week and twice on Sunday. This is what my former pastor would call the “love walk”. Easily stated, but not easily fulfilled, unless an authentic change has occurred in our lives. A change that requires a new spirit being birthed in you. If we men want to rely on sheer physical strength and fear to gain the respect that we desire, most days we will win this fight, but at what expense? An expense that will certainly ruin every relationship we touch. Do we really want our wives and loved ones to be afraid of us? If you can answer yes to this question, then you are truly in need of counsel and I pray that you seek help before you ruin more lives in addition to your own. Or are you like them, someone who simply wants to love and be loved in return? Maybe you never had a model of what a loving husband and father looks like. Perhaps all you have seen are abusive, self-serving relationships, built on fear and intimidation. Today I pray that as you read this, an intervention will occur in your life that will change your heart and healing can begin for your new day.
When two people are authentically submitting to one another, in no way does it mean problems cease to occur or even fester, but what does happen is both partners lose one simple profound thing.
That is the will to win and always be right, for you can be right and be right by yourself on the couch sleeping at night.
Now who in their right minds want that? Actively submitting doesn’t mean I no longer have an opinion. Quite the contrary actually! When done the correct way your opinion matters more to your partner and your voice matters. There isn’t always marital bliss, nor should your relationship reflect a glass house, (perfection) but this couple has learned the art of deference. They understand that they are a unit and when one is down, they are both down, therefore winning alone begins to take second fiddle. Submitting truly reflects the oneness in the relationship.
To submit to another person is a choice, but not a choice we should make to an undeserving person, whether they’re a potential spouse, family member, pastor, community leader, or otherwise. That privilege should always be earned, like trust. So before you decide to marry someone, or enter into any committed relationship, decide first that they are worthy of you giving yourself over wholeheartedly. Decide first that he or she has proven themselves to you, not with words only, but honorable actions over a course of time. Decide that he or she is worthy of you following them. Do this with intent and like your very life depends on it. This may indeed become your life’s truth.
“Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.” – Dale Carnegie
I can recall driving on the road on many occasions and accidentally cutting someone off. As I looked over to apologize to the driver, all I received was the finger or a glaring stare that would kill if it were at all possible. After many occurrences of this over the years, like anyone you get tired of the unnecessary ill-treatment and you do what you can to avoid it. So today if I accidentally cut someone off or make a mistake while driving, I say, “sorry person”, out loud (in my car, windows up) and keep it moving. I do this without any hesitation or even a glance at the other driver. Since I’ve come to the conclusion that most people aren’t so nice in these situations, (even the ones with bumper stickers that state otherwise) I keep my focus straight ahead and don’t give them the benefit of flipping me off or yelling at me through their window. Who does that? Unfortunately most people do.
I never realized how taking this approach would end up being so helpful in other areas of my life as I encountered other types of distractions and life issues along the years of my life. Issues that manifested as loud noises and destructive interferences, only designed to keep me from what was best for me or my family. These distractions were exhibited in various forms such as:
2. My Common Sense (or seemingly)
3. Opinions of Others
5. Self Doubt
1. Fear – a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined. – Dictionary.com
How many times have you allowed fear to deter you from pursuing a dream or goal? One that was ultimately yours if you had only not given up so soon. I believe we all have a story like this to tell at some point in our lives. A time when the voices in our heads became so strong that they effectively drowned out or persuaded you, that the vision you once had was not worth pursuing any longer. How does fear cause us to lose our focus? I can only examine my own life and ask myself this question before I dare answer for anyone else. My answer is multi-layered.
Typically when fear was able to elude me from my goals, it was because I begin to over analyze my situation.
I began to see the mission or task at hand ultimately too large for me to accomplish or achieve. This mindset strategically set me up to sensibly talk myself out of pursuing whatever my initial goal was. I use the word “sensibly” because at that point it was no longer about me moving forward with passion or by faith, it became about logic and what made sense to my brain, even if that logic was off the mark. The thought or idea of continuing down the path brought on a feeling of trepidation and anxiety and I had convinced myself that stopping was the right thing to do. These emotions that I now embraced (during that time), I knew were enemies to any dream, but I allowed them to grow and ultimately take control of my destiny in many cases. So there was my dream, being hijacked by fear and I willingly handed it over. Fear had so cleverly became intertwined in my thoughts that I would have convincing arguments with others about why I had a change of heart and usually at that point, no one could convince me otherwise. It was a precarious situation, sad even, because I was the only one in the dark about where I was typically, but I had to learn, which in that time I was not ready to grasp. Hindsight, I recognize that fear did it’s job and I relented to it. It effectively paralyzed me, like a deer in the headlights, and destroyed some of my dreams. What I recognize today are the triggers that bring me fear, which affords me the opportunity to expose the source of it and handle the anxiousness head-on with support, through prayer, counsel or trustworthy friends and family.
2. Common Sense – sound judgment that is independent of specialized knowledge, training, or the like. – Dictionary.com
In this particular case I used the word “seemingly” for a reason. We all know what common sense is, however in my case it was quite the contrary. I do consider myself a fairly wise man who uses sound judgement when necessary, but in this case, as I mentioned earlier I would easily talk myself out of something due to logic. The point to make here is I should have questioned what I called “common sense”. Unfortunately I was unable to question this due to the fact that I had shielded myself from others, which in turn locked me in to my own devices. Devices that would ultimately perpetuate an already defeated mindset. A mindset detrimental to keeping focus.
My “common sense” was common only to me and it desperately needed the thoughts and ideas of a trusted and wise outsider.
The lesson here in regards to maintaining focus is to not be afraid to invite someone in to bounce ideas around. Don’t become a stale pond with only your own ideas. Realize that you don’t know everything, and that God has placed some special people in our lives for good reasons. It’s for us to learn why they are there and when and how to utilize their support, versus trusting only our own senses. It’s widely accepted that what we don’t know can hurt us, but I say in this case, “what we do know (or think we know) can equally destroy and hinder our focus”.
3. Opinion – a personal view, attitude, or appraisal. – Dictionary.com
If I had a nickel for every time I heard people say that they don’t care what others think about them, I could probably retire early. The fact of the matter is we do care, and much of that can be healthy. The problem lies in how much we internalize what others have to say about us. It becomes energy that we give away by attempting to prove something we should already know, therefore have no reason to prove to anyone. Think of how much time you spend attempting to convince others that your goals, dreams or pursuits are worthy of becoming more than just an idea. Think about how you could better utilize that time, versus giving it away to critics.
The lesson here is to know who is worthy of your time.
Hint, these individuals usually do not appear suddenly. Look around, they’ve most likely been around the entire time supporting you quietly behind the scenes. All others and their opinions of you should be strategically placed. A place where their voices are limited to your access. Negative ideas and unproductive criticism is designed to hurt you, not promote your dreams. Be warned that, “everyone don’t love you”. (Henry Nutt, III)
4. Guilt – a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined. – Dictionary.com
Guilt, whether substantiated or not has been, and unfortunately will continue to be a precursor to idleness. What we have done or allegedly done is one the quickest ways to short-cycle of focus. Perhaps in the minds of others, or perhaps in our own minds, we can never do enough to be forgiven, therefore we should limit our lives to mediocrity. I dare say that we have all hurt someone in our lives (some more than others). My question to that population of individuals is when is enough a enough? And when is it okay to begin living your life again? When you have made peace with your past, (hopefully with an apology to the ones you hurt) the time is today.
Nothing distracts focus quite like guilt, because at some point you begin to believe that you are undeserving of achieving the goal or dream, therefore the energy required to maintain focus begins to deplete.
Eventually you stop, and justify in your mind that it was never supposed to happen anyway.
5. Self Doubt – lack of confidence in the reliability of ones’ own motives, personality, thought, etc. – Dictionary.com
Of the five mindsets that I have listed, “doubt” tends to be the decisive factor that ties them all together. This is the ultimate mindset of each potentially destructive thought. When we doubt our own ability to accomplish anything for whatever reason, we place limitations on ourselves without the need for help from anyone. In other words, we will find a way to destroy our own dreams with no one’s assistance.
The doubter will question everything, believe nothing and always expect the worse outcome.
The doubter is constantly questioning themselves about the validity of their dreams, therefore will rarely share them with anyone. They start with plans that die prematurely and have ideas that pass like dreams in the night. Only to awake to something new again, possibly forgotten and seldom discovered. How does this person ever begin to obtain a focus to lose, some might ask?
I believe deep inside in us all lies an inherent belief that there is something bigger and more profound for us to accomplish while on this earth. Our ability to accomplish these things requires what I mentioned above and so much more, but I believe this is a good place to start. Often, we can become our own worst enemy. I know this all to well and still fight today with that (myself).
What I learned to recognize is that my past does not define my future.
I am more than what I use to be and I will be more tomorrow, than what I am today. The key for many of us, is to actually begin to believe this for not just “the others” in our lives, but for ourselves. Sometimes the sheer fact that our focus is constantly being hampered is the indication of how important the underdeveloped dream is. Think of all the great inventions and discoveries we now benefit from today as a society. Now imagine if the individual(s) were distracted to the point that their ideas were never actualized? Where would we be? Do you see yourself as that important? You should begin to if you don’t. The world needs you to pursue your God-given talents and step into the process of causing them to manifest. First begin by acknowledging the five things I stated. Deal with that reality and seek support to get answers on how to move past them.
Staying the course does not mean you will never be distracted, it simply means you won’t quit when things get tough. The best of us have to pause at times or take a break, but we usually pick it up where we left off, and the only one that is aware that we were on short hiatus is us.