Three Things I’m Grateful For:
- Making new connections and reviving existing ones
- Laughing with my mom and grandmother early this morning
- All of the opportunity I am presented with
Three Things I’m Grateful For:
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.
Upon recent conversation with my significant other, we had discussed the three people (alive or dead) we would want to invite over as a dinner guest. I’m sure throughout life these choices have changed and will change, as if it were a lifetime- long game of musical chairs. Currently, off the top of my head, at this time of in life, I have selected—Barbara Corcoran, Brene Brown, and Oprah (though, originally chose Tupac Shakur for somewhat similar reason).
Although it seems like a strange pairing of people, I feel each of them add a unique perspective given their life work and experiences.
Barbara Corcoran is a notable real estate businesswomen and investor on the popularized show, Shark Tank. My own real estate interest aside, Barbara Corcoran’s mindset, creativity and street-smarts is what is most admirable. Her success story tells a tale of a fellow Jersey girl from modest beginnings rise above challenge and build a real estate empire through her creative wits and lessons from her mother. This crediting to her mother has been especially interesting, paralleling the manner in which her mother raised Barbara and her 10 siblings with her own future business achievements. One story in Barbara’s memoir, Shark Tales, which stood out to me had been her mother’s ability to single-handedly get all of her children washed and clothed in assembly-line fashion. The efficiency of her parenting presented the impression that being a parent was her business and she treated it as so. Furthermore, as someone whose mother is also a great motivator in my life, I take to this accrediting on a sentimental note as well.
One Question to Ask: Being someone who is very much an action-taker, what would be your advice to someone who is alternatively learning and preparing for action but is struggling to make the leap? What can they do to begin closing that gap between learning and taking action?
Brene Brown is an American research psychologist and story-teller. I am a newer follower of Brene Brown, having listened to my first book of hers, The Power of Vulnerability, a few months ago, but have followed her work quite diligently thereafter. Brown’s psychology focus is in that of shame and vulnerability. Such topics are definitely a hard listen, but Brown makes light of much of these topics through her own personal stories and kind-hearted nature in her delivery. It is important to have Brene Brown at the dinner table because of how much of an impact her work has had on truly becoming more comfortable with myself, my past and my relationships. Her work has allowed me to forgive myself for not being perfect and, conversely, and somewhat ironically, soak into the opportunities that come with imperfection. Her good-natured delivery has allowed me to laugh off things that have brought me worry and feel more normal in feeling a certain way by exposing the folly of us human beings in believing it’s “just me” or “I’m the only one” feeling this way. It’s not just us.
One Question to Ask: What do you do when you feel you are taking something too seriously?
Oprah is an American journalist, media-mogul, businesswomen and motivator. In reflecting on why I would want Oprah to be at my dinner table, I think back to the book report I did on her in the 5th grade. It shook me. The trauma and tragedy Oprah had endured herself at a similar age was something I could barely read about and she had to experience it. Through all of the abuse and loss she experienced as a child, she grew up to now be one of the most influential and wealthy women of our time. What she was able to achieve in her life, never discouraged by her failures, is a testament to her mental strength. Furthermore, I have always been fascinated by the way Oprah conduct an interview, from the linguistic quality of the questions she asks to her genuine engagement with her guests. As a writing creative myself, it is interesting to dissect the reasons behind the pairing of words, and how Oprah has been a master of this to intentionally prompt her guests to share intimate experiences. This is a masterful craft, not a skill that can be executed by just anyone. Oprah has made such word-play her expertise, just as a musical artist does so similarly to prompt listeners’ emotions.
One Question to Ask: How can we ask better quality questions to enhance our connections with one another?
Ask yourself this question! Who would you invite
Three Reasons Why I Am Already Successful:
It was interesting to watch an interview with Donald Glover (also known as Childish Gambino), who seems to be trending heavily right now, Issa Rae and other writers who were speaking about creativity and how they have cultivated their creative expression. What I found to be the most intriguing had been all of their mention of the correlation between creativity and vulnerability!
Much of the conversation revolved around the writing of their shows and movies, and how improvisational acting was completely different. They spoke about how improv acting is completely raw so it requires a NEED to be vulnerable or you will fail.
When you think about what improv is, it makes sense. Improvisational acting is unscripted, and instead, actors work off of the unanticipated dialogue between other actors and their energies. As Glover expressed, to be creative and succeed in improv, you need to be vulnerable and not think about how you look, how you should, act or what you should say. Rather, you need to get into a space where the mind is free to accept and work off of the energies of those performing with you.
He speaks of the writing he does for Atlanta, where he encourages many of his actors to perform improvisational scenes. He claims he provides two scenarios for the actors to work off of, and come time for the scene he encourages them to spontaneously choose to take the scene in one direction or another to create an unexpected need for improvising with the other participating actors.
As a result, Glover believes this vulnerability, this freedom to be expressive forced by the unanticipated conditions of a situation and the accepting of one another’s’ energies, creates for a more real and interesting portrayal of a scene. Issa Rae had then expressed she does something similar in her show, Insecure, which I happen to be a watcher of, so it makes a lot of sense when I found out that improv is also a critical component in her narrative. Much of the conversations, expressions and situations in the show seem so free-flowing and real-life, and it is because oftentimes they are.
Understanding the correlation between creativity and vulnerability sent me into one of those rabbit-hole thoughts, I so often mentioned. I thought about how such a high percentage of us with creative talent, and I do believe everyone has some sort of creativity within them, end up never expressing our talent because we refuse to be vulnerable. School teaches us to be invulnerable, to acquire a degree, leading us in a direction of obtaining a stable job and following all of the rules to lead a “secure” life.
Essentially, this conditioning is killing creativity everywhere. We doubt our talents and our capabilities. We not only want a parachute when we jump out of the plane, but we also need it to land exactly 100 yards away from our house or we don’t want to do it at all. As a result of this conditioning, we hide our vulnerabilities and, in turn, our creativity, some of which will be hidden away forever for no one to see… EVER.
If you are willing to be vulnerable, perhaps you will be able to discover a creativity you never believed to be there or perhaps it will give you the courage to express the creativity you always knew you had. I don’t think its matter of who is and who is not creative, it who is willing to be vulnerable enough to express new ideas and show themselves to others who will probably judge them. Many of us, myself included, rather not most of the time. But, let’s break though this conditioning and get creative! Woo!
I never really noticed how little time I have spent around kids in recent years. Now that I have been spending more and more time around children, it might sounds strange, but I have learned so much. I see the way children express themselves and I am envious of their innate ability to be so present, free from thought and shamelessly expressive.
I see the way children tell their parents “I love you,” their grandma, “I miss you,” how they dance like no one is watching, express excitement that you can FEEL beaming from their eyes. It’s so beautiful, unplanned and unrehearsed. It is merely their instinctual emotion.
This is what it would be like if we were all able to be present, thought-less and shameless. Our thoughts and conditioning can hold us back from so much, it hinders the ability to express these instinctual emotions. As adults we rather torture ourselves and question our emotions, rather than act on them. We question whether we look ok, whether we said that right or what we should say next.
A child just does. That’s it. They are not yet consumed by the stress and conditioning the world brings them up in. They just are. Again, beautiful.
With this, how can we not trust a child? When a child tells us they love us or misses us, we have to take their word. They are not thinking about their expression being the “right thing to say,” “what they should say,” and they definitely had not been thinking, “Yeah, next I should tell them I miss and love them.” No! A child is present and acts in the present. They enjoy moments, which adults often take for granted because of the conditioning adults have experienced throughout their lives.
Children cannot help but be vulnerable but they do not see it as vulnerability. They see it rather as play, joy, fun. So, I encourage all of us to learn a thing or two from these children and act as they do. Embrace these moments free from thought, worry and shame and we can feel like a kid again.
Looking up at the sky, I search for answers.
I wish to calm these racing thoughts, and grip these wild emotions.
I ask God to help me, for I knew there was reason for it all.
What is wrong?
I am lost.
I am fearful.
I am confused.
It is silent.
I ride through the neighborhood,
The wheels of my bicycles were cranking a mechanical sound
As it grooved along the pavement.
It is enjoyable, for I am present.
I feel free from thought.
I look at the sky as its now grows dark.
Suddenly, a downpour of rain hits my thighs,
And soon drenches me from ponytail to sneaker.
I initially feel this discomfort and itch to rush home to shelter.
In withstanding the storm on my wet ride back home,
I am flooded with joy, beauty and appreciation for this warm summer-like rain.
What was once a feeling of discomfort was now joy?
I continued, peddled and peddled,
Wet as a dog.
Finally, the gray sky cleared back to blue.
It was time to go home.
I had completed my journey
And all of my questions were answered.
I have done a lot of thinking about “expressing joy.” In Brene Brown’s Power of Vulnerability (which I feel I need to give a second listen to), she speaks of expressing JOY and the fulfillment of happiness this brings. She speaks of a story of a man who lives his entire life like everything is just ok, not really getting overly excited or enthused about much. Then one day his wife of 25 years passes away, and he is regretful of never truly expressing the joy he had all of these years of life with her. From the day on, this man vowed to actively express joy every single day. I may have paraphrased that story a bit, but the lesson is conclusive:
Actively express joy for everything in life, big or small.
It is easier said than done mostly because life is so distracting and sometimes we do not truly see a moment as an opportunity for joy, rather, we may just see it as just another ordinary moment.
If you are anything like me, vacations or promotions were always things I was appreciative and grateful for but did not necessarily induce excitement. Perhaps it is due to a modest upbringing or not wanting to come off as arrogant or haughty, but the converse of not expressing joy, is just as poor… We SHOULD be excited and be joyous for these small pleasures in life.
This thoughts has then led to my attempt in better defining “joy,” and also finding a way to intentionally express it every single day.
First, my definition of “joy” is essentially gratitude + excitement.
Gratitude is the expression of things in life that we are appreciative and thankful for but does not necessarily induce that explosive expression of how I (at least) visualize “joy.” The visual that comes to mind when I think of joy is then sun shining, beaming on my back as I skip through a field of daisies, wearing a great big grin. That is the visual I need to live up to in my mind.
So, in order to have that visual come closer to life, the second piece of this definition is then excitement! This is an action we prompt have to prompt for ourselves. We can choose to be excited about those moments in life we are grateful for. Ever hear the old saying, “Act enthusiastic and you’ll be enthusiastic”? It might be a motto you may hear at a Dale Carnegie Public Speaking workshop, but nonetheless, whether in public speaking, business or in life, we act the way we want to feel, more simply. I believe this intentional expression of excitement paired with this appreciation for moments big and small, helps us to feel JOY.
As a matter of practice, every day I do express gratitude but to further express joy, this morning I ask myself a simple question:
What am I excited for today?
Now, for the record, today is an ordinary working money, I do not have anything particularly unique going on, yet still I found moments to be excited about.
It sounds silly but we deserve to be joyous about all facets of life. Otherwise, why bother waking up, right?
Answer this question for yourself today and feel your mood change. I promise. That is joy.
I recently heard a TED talk a man was giving about his accomplishment of writing a novel in 30 days. Yes, 1 month. 50,000 words. The man joked how this book was no New York Times Best Selling novel but the completion in and of itself had been his reward.
In reflecting upon this man’s achievement and my own yearning to one day become an author “someday”, I thought “Why can’t ‘someday’ be today? Right?”
Wait, could I do that? Little ol’ me?! But Alex, do you even have a story to tell? Silly. EVERYONE has a story to tell. We don’t all live the same life, right? True. In fact, the fantasy of only “someday” writing a novel had stemmed from my belief that I don’t have enough experience in life or writing yet. But, in putting this task in a perspective parallel to the attitude of the TED speaker, WHO CARES IF IT SUCKS? START! This guy didn’t even expect his novel to be good, he just set out to write one in 30 days and he did.
The thought about the process in completing a book in 30 days is intimidating yet exhilarating! Just for the fun of it! That’s the thing. When we take our goals and aspirations too seriously, sometimes we ironically discourage ourselves from ever taking action. Instead, approaching a journey as leisure rather than a job, inspires action!
So, should I do it? Well, to get a feel for this challenge, my first task will be to finish the children’s book I wrote inspired by my grandma. I continually tell myself I will draw the illustrations and publish it into a book for her “someday”. Well, this month’s goal is to complete that (freaking) book! It’s already written for goodness sake! What the heck am I waiting for? Plus! Nowadays there are sites like LuLu.com, which allow you to self-publish and produce a physical book on your own. All of the resources are there! Let’s do it!
I am currently only 4 days into these work-in-progress illustrations, and sheesh, is it tough! Still, I am having a great time because I am envisioning the result throughout the process and the joy this book will bring my grandmother. Though these may be illustrations only a grandmother can love, boy, will she! The smile it will put on her face is all the motivation I need. 🙂
Last Month’s Writing Goal:
This Month’s Writing Goal: