Learning New Skills

“I suck.” “I’m not good at this.” “I should just quit now.”

These are all common phrases we tell to ourselves when we begin learning a new skill. This negative self-talk will definitely not help us improve, but it is sure to discourage us enough to quit.

Learning a new skill is one of the most exciting, yet challenging situations we can put ourselves in. Think back to when you were first learning to ride a bike. I am sure you fell numerous times, cried, felt discouraged and wanted to give up. After each of these falls, though you did not recognize it at the time, you were becoming a better rider. Fast-forward a few weeks and many falls later, I bet you were riding up and down the street like it was second-nature. How awesome!

We have to remember this experience and understand that learning ANY new skill is no different than learning to ride a bike. Though failure can be tough, know that even your failure is getting you closer mastering that skill!

As we grow older, many of us give up on developing our skills. We begin to believe we are too old to learn new things, and are not as willing to learn as we used to be as kids. Basically, any skill was a new skill to learn as a kid, from the basics of reading, writing and even tying our shoes. However, we were always excited when we finally accomplished these simple feats! Let’s embrace that same excitement as adults!

For example, I recently became a local real estate agent in my area. Initially, I believed I would only use my license for myself because I was not interested in getting into the sales side of real estate. As an introvert, I was convinced sales was a skill too far outside of my wheelhouse. I assumed it to be a skill it I could never be good at.

Eventually, I decided to take on the challenge of embracing the sales side of real estate, and see it as an opportunity to learn a new skill, the very skill I deemed impossible for me to learn, sales!

“Oh my! How could you ever step so far outside of your comfort zone, Alex!? You better come back!” my mind tries to convince me daily.

Though it is still early in this skill development, and I have already failed many times, I am excited to witness my progress come to fruition down the road no matter how long that road may be.

We must all understand that falling on your face only gives you the opportunity to get right back up! It is up to us to choose whether to stay down or keep going.

Take hold of the opportunities to learn a new skill when you get the chance! Maybe there is an Excel class or writing workshop at your place of work or local college that you can sign up for. It is never too late to learn something new! Get excited! Be patience! And watch ourselves grow. J

“How Long Is It Going to Be Before I Demand the Best For Myself?”

This quote from Epictetus forces us to be honest with ourselves. We question whether we are doing the best for ourselves at this time. If not, why? Are we waiting for the “perfect time” to be a better person or take action? It’s so easy to make excuses for a number of things, but is putting this off making you any better?

The Stoics often speak on the theme of perfectionism and how we can never expect perfection in life. Instead, we must be resilient to the obstacles in our path and continue our journey with persistence. How often do we find ourselves saying things like “Oh, I’ll do [   ] 3 years from now,” “Right now I am just too busy for [   ]” You fill in the blank. We all say these sort of phrases but, will there ever be the perfect time to do anything, or is it really just procrastination? (Feel free to answer but it is a rhetorical question). So now back to Epictetus’s question, “How long is it going to be before I demand the best for myself?”

New Year’s resolutions are a perfect example of the idea that Epictetus is trying to get across. Every year we wait for a new start of the year to get healthy, read more, get a degree, etc. Why do we wait for this time when we can start right now?

The reality is, there will never be a more perfect time than now. We do not know what will become of our lives in the future and the new challenges it will pose. Rather, let’s make the decision to demand the best for ourselves while we can, in this very moment. What better time?!

For myself, there are definitely goals that I have set and not accomplished. Perhaps I am making excuses and procrastinating on these feats. Let’s see…

For example, it has been a year since I first began looking for an investment property. The potentially procrastinating side of me says, “There are no homes I am interesting in purchasing, maybe it is just not a good time in the market for me to buy.” Though I am always looking every day, I am WAITING for the right property to appear. Furthermore, I have not made offers on any properties and, at times, I find myself reasoning about the inflated nature of the current real estate market does not allow for me to make a BIG investment mistake. Will there ever be the perfect time to buy in the market? Will there ever be the perfect house? The answer is no, Alex. It is okay to be cautious, just make sure you are not making excuses for yourself.

In conclusion, what I am trying to present here is that we all have goals we are putting off for the “right time,” but understand that we can only have influence over what is happening right now in this moment, not later. Whether it is a specific action-goal or simply being a better parent, being a healthier person, being a better teacher, etc. Ask yourself this question, “How long is it going to be before I demand the best for myself?” And answer, “No longer.”

What Do You Want To Be Remembered For?

This morning’s Daily Stoic passage had been titled, “What’s Written on Your Tombstone?” but as a more light-hearted twist, I pose the comparable question, “What Do You Want to Be Remembered For?”

The idea of this question is really to recognize what motivates you in life and what kind of accomplishments are important to you. Do we want to be remembered by having the biggest house on the block? Working the longest hours? Wearing the nicest clothes? All accomplishments as a result of what we have done in life. Or, would we rather be remembered for being the sweetest person in class? Being the most positive person at work? Being the most giving and thoughtful individual in the family? Obviously there are no judges or commemorative plaques to deem you as such, no tangible items to show for it, but this is a reflection of who you are as a being.

The one quote in the passage, which had most summarized this thought is, “We are human beings, not human doings.”

The passage makes me think of a story about a man who made millions of dollars working long hours, but as a result, rarely saw his family and knew little about his son. Though, he had all of life’s glamour.

At the end of his life, this man was recognized for all of the accomplishments that had granted him this wealth. However, his son had no clear memory of who he was. He knew his father had provided for him, given him new clothes and purchased a car for him, but had always been this sort of fiction character in his life. He was grateful for all of the things he did for him, but wished he knew him better.

Written on his father’s tombstone had been “#1 Stock Trader,” for all of his colleagues, associates and friends knew this was his drive in life and spoke of little else.

This passage was quite powerful since it has us question our own life aspirations, why we are doing it and who are we being in the process. Some care more about money and fame than they do the way they treat or care for others. So, money and fame is what they will be remembered for. Ironically, that does not sound like a glamorous remembrance to me.

Upon reflecting on what I would want to be remembered for, I would want to be remembered for being a source of peace and inspiration for everyone who surrounds me. I do have grand career aspirations but my drive is to assist in this mission to be a source of peace and inspiration to my family, friends, co-workers, future family, etc. So, even more important than this doing ambition itself, if all else fails career-wise, simply continuing being a source of peace and inspiration to others is all I would ever want to be remembered for.

So now I ask ya, what do YOU want to be remembered for?

 

“Why Reinvent the Wheel?”

This popular phrase came up two times this week, and it got me actually thinking about its meaning. “Why reinvent the wheel?” is such a common vernacular that it can be easy to ignore its actual relevance. Both in work—regular work and real estate work—it came up in regards to “innovation,” though, this phrase sounds almost counter intuitive to innovation at first glance. The wheel was invented as a round, simple rolling object, a design we still utilize today. If this simple object has had such a lasting impact on the world for centuries, why feel the need to fix it or recreate it when it already works?

Innovation is about creating new ideas, products, even leads but think about the greatest “inventions.” Many of them were really more of improvements to already existing innovations from years or decades earlier. Take the IPhone, for example, perhaps deemed one of the greatest innovations of our generation. Though there has been a new generation to come out every other year, the consumer sees each product as its own innovation. However! What Apple is really doing is not reinventing their wheel, just sharpening it, tweaking it, giving it a good oiling. At the end of the day, it is still the wheel.

Two main tasks I have been working on have been creating a logo for a project at work and also generating leads for my real estate endeavor. This phrase rung true in both instances. I remember a time when I would try to think way outside of the box, to try a method no one else had ever used to see if it might score me a competitive advantage. Let me tell you… It often does not. People will instead tell you to steal from the pros, do what they are doing because it is proof that it is already working.

When it comes to my task in creating this new logo design, I had this phrase in mind. I knew we wanted something with our company emblem on the design and also the name of our new program. “Why reinvent the wheel?” I said. “We already have a company emblem, so why not use it.” My final product had been a spin-off of our already-existing company logo, erasing some of the old wording and inserting some color and the name of our project. My team loved it! I made 12 different variations of this, which all came from essentially and already existing design.

Next is my real estate endeavors. Overtime I had learned my lesson about marketing and generating leads, which had been a direct derivative of this phrase. Many people rely on fancy marketing and social media to hopefully obtain leads, having little control over who and how many people will see it and, if they are lucky, reach out. But, I know the one method that has worked timelessly… Cold calling. As uncomfortable as it may be for everyone, if this is a method that every sales book, mentor, coach, etc. has suggested WORKS, why try anything different? That is just my own opinion on the matter.

This week I was able to really exercise the meaning and actions this phrase prompts in my own life, intentionally. We will see if this logo goes over well with upper management and if I will get any more listing appointment prospects from my cold calling method.

You can grease it, but don’t reinvent the wheel.

The Pink Elephant in the Room

A few days ago, I was prepared to diagnose myself with OCD. OCD is also known as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, essentially a behavior problem that prompts one to inhibit obsessive thoughts and habits that hinder their everyday functions. After recognizing my destructive habit of analyzing every little thought that came to my head, making reason for why it was occurring, and manically scribing away pages and pages in my journal for a full diagnostic report of one simple thought, it sounded like an OCD-type behavior to me. So, I began to read up on the disorder that can be crippling for so many. Ultimately, I realized my behaviors were very much in my control and nothing as serious as such a potentially debilitating disorder. I began to understand this was in my control.

As it was explained in a video I came across about OCD, the psychologist used the example of a “pink elephant,” an objectively bizarre yet meaningless image. She instructed the video viewers NOT to think of a “pink elephant.” Ok, try it for yourself now. Do NOT think of a pink elephant. Whatever you do, do NOT think of a pink elephant. What are you thinking about now? Let me guess… The damn pink elephant, of course! The point of this exercise was to make an example of how the more we think about our thoughts, the more they can consume us. We might even begin to question, “Why am I thinking of a pink elephant? Oh my gosh, it must mean something!” And again, be possessed by meaninglessness.

As the doctor went on to explain, WE are the ones who give meaning to our unintentional thoughts. Unintentional thoughts that just pop into our heads are really just the natural random functions of our brain, which we have no control over. Instead of accepting these thoughts as something we have no control over, oftentimes we CHOOSE to give reason and meaning to these thoughts, which in-turn drive our obsessive behaviors.

At the end of the day, it has been enlightening for me to realize that the majority of thoughts I experience throughout the day are not in my control and are completely random. I am the one who chooses to place meaning on the. As much as I love journaling, I decided it needed to be tamed, for it prompted full-fledged analysis of every little thing. Now that I understand, I have been working to allow my thoughts to come and go, not sticking with or giving meaning to the unintentional whims that might show up thought the day. You kind of just have to laugh about it and say, “Oh brain, you’re so funny. I don’t know why you would think that but I’m going to go back to what I was doing. Thanks for visiting.” And leave it be.

This is where the practice of mindfulness comes it, being able to recognize when the mind has drifted into possessive thought, and then bringing it back to the present. It is easier said than done and I am no expert in meditation or traditional mindfulness practices, but I have found that developing an ability to laugh off our thoughts and move on is a mindfulness practice in and of itself. This is what I encourage us all to do to live a more clear-minded day. Place no meaning on the unintentional thoughts that may pop up today, laugh at them and recognize that it is your mind doing its job. It is not you. J

Creativity in 30 Seconds ~Poem-Not a Poem

Pen to paper is my favorite form of dear expression,

No real care for quality, but still a masterpiece in essence.

Judgment is the only thing to ever folly the craft.

A care for opinions, critics, and cynical responses, in fact.

Beyond the worry and care are these creative flows,

One suppressed in so many as the story often goes.

“Who cares what I say? What a silly way to be.”

“I’ll keep it to myself, locked away without a key!”

Now I see all that comes with such expression.

Sharing of art is just as joyous without attention!

No matter if I am the only one to ever view.

Creativity is exclusively yours, a way to be you.

Intimacy and Loneliness

I’m thinking about yet another concept I had observed from listening to the Dali Lama. It was the relationship between intimacy and loneliness. When Dali Lama speaks of intimacy, for the record, he is not speaking of sexual intimacy, but rather intimate human connection.

When the interviewer asked the Dali Lama if he ever got lonely, living in isolation, away from family and spending many days in silence, he responded, “I have never felt loneliness.”

This response had my attention because I had always, personally, questioned whether something was wrong with me, since I never had this sense of “loneliness” either. Often, from my experience in participating in conversation, when people speak of loneliness, its context is often associated with experiencing a love life or lack thereof. For example, people speak of wanting to find someone for the sole reason of feeling lonely. Perhaps all of their friends have a significant other and they believe the presence of another will fulfill this void. The fact of the matter is, however, another person will never fill this void if we are not creating connection. This idea will clear up later.

It was interesting to take this perspective as the Dali Lama spoke about why he is never lonely. He begins to describe the kinds of encounters he has with the people he meets, whether it is an official meeting or simply one in a hotel elevator. He describes the connection he creates with these people. No matter what their status, no matter what the topic of conversation, he feels deeply connected to them. As a result, the Dali Lama’s human need for intimacy is regularly quenched. He creates it himself through genuine listening and openness with other human beings. How can he ever feel lonely if he is constantly connected to the universe in this way? He cannot.

Now, this brings us back to us non-Dali-Lama people, who feel we incapable of connecting to just anyone. No one understands us, right? No one is listening, right? It has me thinking…. Is it really another or is it just us who are hindering our connections? How often do we truly listen when another is speaking? How genuine are our questions of interest in another’s life?  Such conversations are opportunities to connect, yet we find ourselves distracted, uninterested and ultimately, back to feeling lonely. Go figure!

Taking it back to my personal reflection on intimacy and loneliness in my own life, never feeling this sense of “loneliness” people would speak of really, I began to think about why. Well, what I concluded really came down to the simple act of making connections with the people around me every day, like the Dali Lama (well…sort of). I am definitely not one to talk to stranger or any of that craziness, but I enjoy talking to my mom, grandma, friends and family just as much as I enjoy listening to them! This simple act has made me too feel constantly connected to the universe we all comprise, so where would this sense of loneliness have a place?

What I am saying is, another person will never fulfill our loneliness. In fact, if we do not work to create connection with that added person, we will feel just as lonely whether they are there or not!

There are so many opportunities to connect to anyone on a daily basis! Take advantage of them! I understand fellow introverts like me might not want to speak to just anyone on the street like the Dali Lama, but how about our own family members and people we are close to? It is so easy to take for granted the comfort of their presence. We might find ourselves never striking up a conversation with our parents because we feel they will always be there. But, in realty, this is missing out on an opportunity to feel connected to someone we love. Make the effort to start conversation with whoever you live with today! I guarantee the feeling of loneliness and intimate connection cannot coexist.