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Why Am I Waiting for People to Change

  I’m still trying to figure out if this is a strength or a flaw. I have this problem where I almost instinctively see the thing in people that I want to see. Some sort of light, or goodness, or hope that I arrogantly feel only I am aware of and only I can bring out.

From one perspective, this helps me to stay positive. And I notice when I treat people as I see them and not as they are, they end up behaving closer to the image I have in my mind. But what does that really mean? Only that they have potential, which is true of even the worst people. Worse, this may only mean they are capable of altering their behaviour to fit the circumstance, usually to some selfish end.

From the other perspective, having this notion that people can change has put me in plenty of situations in which I constantly give people chances. I can recount even recently me speaking to this person and not understanding at all how they can continually behave this way, even though their history has proven to me that this is exactly who they are.

And this person doesn’t necessarily have to be a partner. For me, this is not a girlfriend issue. This is a people issue, or a recognizing who to trust issue.

Waiting for people to change is like drawing a circle. No matter what, you end up in the same place you started. And as I’m writing this I still feel some hesitation within myself because I genuinely want to believe that we all have the capacity for change. That we all have bad moments, or go through rough periods where we aren’t exactly at our best.

And if that’s true, then these people should expect us, the ones who love them and care for them, to be there as they make their way around the ferris wheel.

But that’s really not how it works, is it? I had a thought a few weeks ago. A thought incited by a real life decision. I wrote on my Facebook page that sometimes we just have to let people go, no matter how long they’ve been in our lives and regardless of if we love them. Because if our goal in any friendship or relationship is to wait for someone to change or attempt to spur on that change, then we’ve entered that situation for the wrong reason and it’s time to get out.

Now in writing this, another thought has crossed my mind. Maybe I’M changing. Maybe I’ve already changed. And if this is true, if I’ve really changed, then my expectation that anyone else should change to match who I am now is baseless.

I’m either creating or have created a new me, which means I’m creating or have created a new world for myself. Instead of waiting for anyone else to change, I should be finding people who fit my new world.

Right? Am I making any sense? Is any of this making any sense?

It’s tough when I’m actually going through it to see anywhere outside of my own mind, but this is what I’m feeling. A writer/artist expressing myself the only way I know how. And yet I feel there are countless amounts of people going through this right now who know precisely what I mean.

#PassionAndPaper

Read my novella THOUGHTS OF A FRACTURED SOUL here.

Life Can Be Your Passion

I write this from my hotel room in Manhattan, in the early hours of the morning on the fourth day of my week long trip. Coming to this city has been such a blessing. The affect New York is having on me has been unexpected, and the lessons I’ve learned equally as curious. Last night I saw Jhumpa Lahiri speak at the New York Public Library. She’s a Pulitzer Prize winning author for a collection of short stories called Interpreter of Maladies. I admire her writing more than you can imagine, and she’s directly impacted my own writing more than any author I’ve had the pleasure of reading.

But it was after her dialogue that was equally as memorable. Walking through Times Square, feeling the energy of the city as I strolled down 42nd street. Before that I was with a friend in Harlem, and we walked around 155th street before meeting up with another friend who drove us through the east and west side of that relatively small, but historic section of Manhattan.

This evening I’ll be headed to Williamsburg, on the suggestion of some colleagues I had lunch with in Greenwich Village a few days earlier. And what’s been amazing for someone like me, someone who is more passionate about my career than anything else, I realized that it’s possible to be just as passionate about life itself.

Life can literally be your passion. And I feel very humbled to be saying this. I absolutely love writing, love words, love reading other writers. Writing is my life, it’s both what I do and who I am.

But that’s me. And being here even I have to admit that for those who are struggling to find what they want to do with their lives, what career they want to pursue that will fulfill their passions, know that you can find fulfillment in life itself.

What I’ve learned perusing New York in the manner I have is that it’s possible to still be content even if your career doesn’t define who you are. In fact, I would even suggest that those still searching for who they are seek refuge in life itself. And that doesn’t even have to happen through travelling, although it will certainly increase your appreciation for the world we live in.

But you can find passion in your family, in your friends, in your city. You can find that contentment in your hobbies or in your partner. Jhumpa Lahiri spoke about finding that passion in her learning of the Italian language, and how it has made her feel a kind of wholeness she was missing her entire life.

And I’m not saying you should stop pursuing a career that would fill whatever space you’re looking to fill, I’m saying look to what’s already around you or within you to find that comfort. Because those things can be just as magnificent.

#HistoryOrNothing

Read "Thoughts of a Fractured Soul," here. 

Me First

Yea, just like that. Me first. Selfish, yes. Necessary, unfortunately it is sometimes. And that doesn’t make it any easier for someone like me who has a hard time saying no to people I care about. I remember years ago, before I was a full time writer, telling my girlfriend at the time that she’s going to have to make a decision. I told her that my time, effort, and energy will be primarily on building my career, and that wasn’t going to change until those career goals were reached.

If you’ve read all of my posts, you know how that ends. And I don’t blame her at all for eventually leaving. But now that I’ve gotten to phase one of my career, I guess it’s only normal to wonder if the sacrifice was worth it.

To be honest, even in my weakest moments I say yes it was worth it. In my strongest moments I say I had no choice. But that’s not true. I did have a choice, and I made it. And she made hers.

Was I selfish? Is it possible to make a “me first” decision without being thought of as selfish? Either within your own mind or by everyone around you?

My mom retired on January 1st of this year. I threw her a retirement party and invited all of her friends. Near the end of the night, I asked some of them to come say a few words.

They all had their own special and unique experiences with my mom, but one message was consistent among everyone. And that was how giving my mom had been to each of them. How she had sacrificed in some small way to better their lives.

And when they spoke that night, each of them told her it’s her turn to now be selfish. To live her life in retirement for herself.

After over 40 years of giving, they gave her a pass to be selfish.

I guess it’s one of the characteristics of me being a Millennial that I don’t want to wait that long to get a selfish pass. I live my life the way I want to live it right now. And I’m working everyday to keep creating my ultimate vision of how I want my life to be.

“At what cost” is probably one of the first questions that comes to mind. And the closer I get to that dream life, the more I realize the parallel between sacrifice and success. So as you see me grow, see me write more books, see my fan base expand, know that I gave up a lot along the way.

#PassionAndPaper

Read "Thoughts of a Fractured Soul." 

Just A Millennial Looking for Validation

I’ve had some really amazing conversations this week. Some have been 3 hour marathons on multiple subjects, others have been simple text messages that have sparked powerful realizations. The one conversation that has stayed with me centered around my friend asking me to verbalize in one word why I do what I do. Essentially, why do I write. After dancing around the question and talking about how I want to touch as many people with my words as possible, and impact lives blah blah blah, he turned to me and said “one word, Kern. Scream it.”

I looked at him and said I want to “impress.”

He nodded his head and chuckled. “I sense some need for validation, Kern. Am I right?”

I thought about it for a while and up till now still haven’t responded. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized how right he is. I can’t escape being a Millennial and in fact embrace it to the fullest. But when I think about many of my friends or people I know who rather take photos than work retail, or live with their parents so they can build their freelance careers. When I think of all of the amazing Millennials I have met through social media who have a voice or are looking to be heard, I have to say that we are a generation who more than anything are looking for validation.

And no I haven’t done any case studies or conducted any research polls. But I interact with my generation every day. I see them moving from job to job till what they do actually matters, I read their blogs and follow their posts on social media and hear them all screaming their own "one word." I can feel their emotions when they don’t want to settle for this now mythical 9-5 lifestyle.

Through the criticisms of laziness, self entitlement, being overly ambitious, all we want is validation. We want to know that people are taking notice of what we do and that what we do actually matters. That we actually matter.

When I think of myself, I want to be considered one of the best writers of this generation. Yes I want to touch as many people as I can with my words and incite new thoughts, visions, questions, or perspectives in my readers, but at the core of all of my ambition, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I just really want them to be impressed.

It’s funny how simple this notion truly is. But we are a generation of endless noise, constant clutter, and a neverending stream of content. And though we’re birthed from a past generation whose goals were more aligned with doing a job and ensuring the security of those directly around them, it’s not hard to see why being validated through all of the mayhem becomes important to us Millennials. It means more to make a ripple in the ocean than it does to make a splash in a pool.

#PassionAndPaper

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Why The Heck Am I Watching Oprah

OK so it was one of those odd occasions where I had a few minutes during the day so I flicked on the TV and it magically landed on Oprah's "O" network. Please don't judge me too much LOL, and to my defense, my brother's wife was over so I feel somewhat justified in watching a segment or two. But talk about eye opening. From what I could tell, the guests on the show were all women who had finally ended their marriages. And I say finally because all of these women were unhappy, unfulfilled, and outright miserable in their marriage for years before finally ending it. I heard one woman say she had checked out of her marriage after the first ten years, but stayed with her husband for SEVEN MORE YEARS despite not feeling any emotion for him at all and herself being constantly unhappy.

Fear of change, maybe?

Can you imagine being stuck in a situation you hated for seven years? Having to wake up everyday and deal with that situation knowing you absolutely don't want to be there. Then I thought a little deeper and realized this is what so many people deal with every day. Not just with their spouses, but so many people hate their jobs, or hate the classes they're taking or their majors, hate where they live, and on and on and on.

And despite feeling deflated, hopeless, dejected, disconnected, and whatever other negative emotional adjective you can think of, they stay. And some stay in their situation for much longer than seven years. Now I don't want to sound insensitive or even ignorant. I know there are always mitigating circumstances and other factors to think about. In marriages, children are always a consideration; with jobs, finances and bills are always a consideration.

There's always something, right?

But that's just the point. There's always going to be something holding your feet to the fire. Some reason, real or manifested, that prevents you from getting out of a situation that's draining you of your energy and your soul on a daily basis.

At what point does that something disappear and your need for happiness take precedence?

Me personally, I protect my happiness at all costs. And not saying I haven't done jobs I've hated or been in bad relationships. But I've always had goals with any job I've worked with the vision that it was either a stepping stone or a necessary evil to get to where I am now. And with relationships, once I could look at myself in the mirror and say I've given it my best shot, that I've tried honestly and intently to make it work and it still isn't fulfilling my expectations, then I have to move on.

And I have a daughter, so I understand all the repercussions involved. But to me, it can be more psychologically damaging for a child to witness a loveless relationship than it can be to end that same relationship.

I'll leave with words from one of my favourite musicians:

"Leaving you is hard, being here is harder." Lana Del Rey

#PassionAndPaper

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Do or Die - The Middleground is No Place For Winners

  My daughter’s been in art school going on nine months now. Our goal is to try and get her into Etobicoke School of the Arts, one of the top art schools in all of Canada and definitely the hardest to get into in Toronto. We have this thing when every once in a while I say to her “what school are you going to,” and she’ll say “Etobicoke School of the Arts.” Then I ask her “what’s your next option,” and she’ll say “there is no other option.”

See, people have all these “secrets” to success; business leaders or life coaches write hundreds of pages and sell millions of books to tell you a very simple remedy to achieving your ULTIMATE dreams. The secret is there is no secret, you just need to create a situation, real or perceived, where you don’t give yourself any other option but success. You either do it or don't.

Urgency

I watched an interview the other day with Birdman who is the CEO of Cash Money Records. Angie Martinez, who was conducting the interview, asked him how he was able to build what is the most successful independent (hip hop) label ever. Birdman replied by saying he didn’t want to end up like everyone else around him, which meant dead or in jail. He said he had a vision and used the urgency of wanting to escape his environment and carried that energy all the way through to where he is now.

Nowhere in his response did he say he read every self help book out there, or he followed the “7 habits of all successful people,” or any other so called secret. Birdman simply wanted to succeed more than he wanted to fail, and here’s the key: this ambition would not allow him to settle for the in between, the middleground many of us find ourselves trapped.

But settling is where most of us end up. We educate ourselves somehow, push ourselves through school or some kind of training, feel good that we’ve been able to rise up just enough to feel comfortable, then we stop. It’s like there’s a huge gate so many of us get to that convinces us to say “that’s enough for me,” and we settle.

I’m going to make an assumption here based on how I view things, but for people like Birdman and the other mega successful women and men out there, stopping at that gate just isn’t going to cut it. In their mind, they’ve created enough urgency in themselves to where finding a way to the other side of that gate is the only option possible. Settling for a position that isn’t part of their vision was just never going to happen, and in their mind’s the thought of not getting to the other side is so scary that they literally create a reality similar to my daughter saying “there is no other option.”

No Escape

Creating a reality where there’s no option means you don’t give yourself any excuse for an escape. Popular (ex) blogger Necole Bitchie said she was sleeping on her aunt’s couch and working on her website when everyone around her begged her to get a “real” job. Soon her aunt’s couch turned into her own couch and she became one of the more popular celebrity bloggers out there.

Even getting shot in the head by the Taliban couldn't stop Malala Yousafzai from her quest to make a difference. Not only did she have the entire deck stacked against her being a female in a country that oppressed the gender, but she could have literally lost her life, a possibility that still exists, and that still wasn't enough from stopping her from entering that gate. Now she's a Nobel Peace prize winner and one of the most influential people in the world, male or female.

But it’s hard to create that urgency on your own. It’s hard to make yourself believe that ultimate success is dire and if you don’t achieve the level of success you’re seeking, then everything inside you will die. And for those who live in situations that are truly urgent and they really do need a way out, sometimes it’s difficult to actually escape.

Like I said at the beginning of this post, for me it’s a pretty simple formula. If you want to succeed more than anything, then you have to prove it. With urgency comes actions, so logically the more urgency you feel the more actions you should take to alleviate those feelings and replace them with feelings of fulfillment and appreciation.

I can’t tell you how great it feels to be witnessing all of my dreams happen everyday. My vision is clear, my work ethic is sound, and I take steps everyday to keep creating the reality I’ve dreamed of for so long.

#PassionAndPaper

 

Not Built for the Crowd - Looking Forward to What's Next

The song I connect with most now is from a teenage girl named Alessia Cara called “Here.” I watched her on an interview and she said the content of the song stems from a real life situation of being at a party and just wondering why she was there. I kind of feel the same way. For better or worse, I’ve been fortunate in my life to have endured many experiences at a young age - smoked my first joint at 12, went to my first club at 13, lost my virginity at 14, travelled to France at 16, had a child by 19. At 19 I also earned a full athletic scholarship to a division one university (Go Bonnies), which lead me on the path to becoming the writer I am today.

Boredom is Real

But now I find myself stuck in my own mind thinking to no one but myself how utterly bored I am with everything. I avoid any invitations from my friends to go anywhere (I'm infamous for saying maybe) unless it’s a new experience or unless I’m 100% sure I’ll enjoy it. I’ve been to the club twice in the last two years, and most places I go now usually has me venturing on my own in fear that any companionship would ruin the experience.

Influence Excites Me

I realized while I was standing in the bleachers at the annual OVO basketball finals, an event put on by Drake leading up to his now classic summer music festival, that I’m really not built to be in the crowd. I’m not built to spectate, to watch and cheer as others put on a show

Que my ego...

What excites me now, and really always has, is being part of the show. Bringing people together, stirring anticipation, being responsible for whispers and wild rumors that only get more outrageous with each broken text.

Through my writing I’ve been able to achieve some of the influence I crave. I’ve impacted lives, caused people to reflect, moved people to action in ways that I could never have guessed when I set out on this journey. I’m grateful for it all, but always find myself asking “what’s next.”

What is next?

And I don’t say this to suggest I’ve accomplished all that I want. Not even close. I just mean in those moments of adulation, disappointment, achievements, honours and awards; what is the next step and what will that feel like? Some days I feel like I’m already living what I want, other days I feel like a castaway relegated to my own island forced to create a world only I can see.

Call it my Millennial spirit, but in either case, I want more. More, more, more.

Oprah and Deepak say gratitude is one of the keys to ultimate success. But how do you balance being appreciative for what you have with this burning desire for what you want?

#PassionAndPaper

Get Thoughts of a Fractured Soul here.

 

 

 

Acceptance vs Ambition - Where Do We Draw The Line

Talk about thrilling. I was sitting in my seat waiting for the hit play “Secrets of a Black Boy” to start and I could literally feel the energy and the buzz of anticipation all around me. People were genuinely excited about this show, and after seeing it myself for the first time, I shared their excitement. secretsI was invited out by the writer of the play, Darren Anthony, whom I had just met a couple weeks earlier. We had a chance to chat when we first met, and he was excited about his show’s upcoming road-trip to DC and Baltimore after first debuting just over five years ago here in Toronto. We also spoke about commitment and perseverance, an d the courage to take that final leap of faith and do whatever it takes to follow what you know is your calling.

He was admittedly a bit nervous about making that jump, and we got into a discussion about where to draw the line between accepting where you are in life, accepting what you’ve accomplished and where you’ve come, and balancing that with the ambition you feel to do more? How do you stop when you know in your heart there’s so much more to for you to do, so many more lives to touch and people to inspire?

We spoke about how our loved ones play a role in those decisions, how maybe having a child or long term relationship changes the outlook of what we thought would be our future. And that may be true, and many people can substitute “child” or “relationship” with any other external influence - family, work, time - and have that be their scapegoat of choice.

But anyone who’s been reading my blog for the past year, anyone who knows me personally and understands what I stand for knows scapegoats don’t exist in my world. Teenage parent, so what. I still graduated from university. High school dropout, no problem. Now I’m a successful writer and first time author with readers and fans all over the world.

I create my own reality, I dictate what’s possible, I dictate my present and my future. A few years ago I pictured my life as it is right now, and right now I’m busy creating more mental molds of what my life will be during the next five years. I don’t know how wrong or how right this is, but there is no line for me. My balance is weighted completely on the side of ambition, squarely one sided on the scale of not accepting anything less than what I know I am meant to do, on what I am doing right now. chess-316658_640

I’m not a dreamer because I live this reality everyday. I am not delusional because I set goals and continue to shatter them. I play without a lifeline, without any boundaries to how far I can go. My life is my life.

I was invited as a special guest speaker at my old high school’s graduation. Seeing the excitement of all those young people ready to take on the world, still believing anything is possible, those few hours were inspirational for me and reminded me of how naivete can sometimes be a powerful perspective. All of those students still operate from the belief that nothing is impossible, that they can be or do anything. And really, who’s to tell them any different?

The fact that the influences of the world have not fractured their ambitions is what makes them special, what sparks evolution and leads to revolutions. And we should encourage this behaviour, so long as it is backed by a comparable work ethic and determination to follow through on these passions.

Secrets of a Black Boy received a standing ovation. I saw tears in Darren Anthony’s eyes as he hugged his sister Trey Anthony, an accomplished writer and producer, herself, with The Kink in My Hair as her launching pad. Our chance meeting suddenly ran through my mind, and somehow I feel his decision was already made.

#PassionAndPaper

Get your copy "Thoughts of a Fractured Soul" here.

 

Find Success in the Process

It was my biggest flaw, and probably still is to some degree. Always hungry, never satisfied, always wanting more, pushing towards that next milestone with my eyes fixed like I was driving down a two way without any headlights. It's tough being ambitious, and no I'm not saying that playfully, I'm being really serious here. It's not easy living day to day with the weight of the expectations I put on myself. It's not easy having all these visions of success and literally seeing exactly where I want to be, who I want to be, how I want to live; being able to see that everyday but have it be just out of my grasp. And I feel myself getting closer, feel the energy of the people I'm touching, can actually see real results; measurable, real life progress.

But it still isn't enough.

At least it still wasn't enough.

Over the better part of the last 12 months, I've made a conscious effort to stop chasing. I've realized that everything I want I already have, and I mean that. Maybe not in the abundance that I want, but it's all right here, right now. So the last year I've let go, taken chances I normally wouldn't take, opened myself up to other people more than I ever have, forged some amazing new friendships, lost some amazing friends, saw some amazing friends lose themselves, made more money than ever before in my life, then faultered and struggled a little bit with managing that money. And I haven't even touched on my book which has brought me the most joy in my career thus far.

But I was there for it all. Conscious. Aware.

I found success in my journey.

And I don't mean this in a philosophical kind of way, I mean I truly appreciated and recognized all of my successes with friendships and my writing career during this time period. I realized that I don't have to keep waiting for this grand moment when all of a sudden I'm going to feel like I finally "made it." I don't know where "it" is and everything I'm trying to make I already have.

Ghandi has a saying that goes something like this:

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are all the same.

I can't say I'm all the way there yet, but I'm damn close!

#PassionAndPaper

I Saw a Girl Fall Today

Eight young runners in a staggered set holding their batons at the starting line, three of their teammates spread across the rest of the track pacing, anxious, waiting for their turn. The gun sounds and the race begins.

Alternating positions around the corners and down the straightaways, each young girl snatching her chance to run, run, run, only thinking of passing on that baton for the next step to victory.

Then the last runner cradles the baton in her hand and sprints to the finish line. She's racing to the ribbon with ribbons in her own hair.

Then she falls...

And rolls on the floor a couple times before looking up at the crowd with what must have been embarrassment, or anger, or maybe even fear. Concerned coaches and trainers come rushing out to her aid but before they can attend to her injuries she lifts herself to her feet and finishes the race.

Everyone claps and acknowledges what they have witnessed is a winner.

I think of a line I heard from a song on the radio: "I rather lose the fight than miss the war."*

I think of something I saw on TV a few mornings later. Hilary Duff is talking about moving out to Los Angeles at 10 years old and being rejected 200 times at auditions.

Two hundred times.

"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." **

I would love to be able to follow the young girl I saw fall today, five years from now, ten years from now. Nothing is guaranteed but her will is undeniable. What are you passionate enough about to pursue after getting told "NO" 200 times? What pushes you to get back up after everyone you know and love and care about has seen you fall?

For all the success I've had, I've been told no much more than I've been told yes. But I'm sure of who I am and what I do so those no's are milestones to be celebrated even if they sting. The more painful, the closer I am.

#PassionAndPaper

 

* Lyrics from My Inner Ninja by Classified.
**Mahatma Gandhi

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