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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." 

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

 

Chit Chat Turned Powerful

morning-393623_640How often can you say you've truly been moved by the words of another person. I mean truly moved to action, to change, to commit, to be a better person. I recently had one of those moments with a friend of mine through a relatively brief conversation. After some small talk in which I joked about being jealous of her living in warm weather Vancouver while we Torontonians wait in fear for another brutal Winter fighting through ice storms, we got into a deeper discussion about something that I struggle with mightily, and that's acceptance.

Acceptance really is a big deal for me because I really don't know how to get there. Something about the concept seems conciliatory, like I'm settling for something when I know there's so much more for me to do.

"But Kern, I'm not telling you to give up on any of your aspirations, all I'm saying is accept who you are now and appreciate all that you have accomplished thus far. And not just in your writing career, but look at the person you've become, look at the daughter you've helped raise, look at the life you've carved for yourself despite being a teenage parent and a high school dropout. Once you accept all of those victories, you'll elevate your mind to a different level of understanding that will guide you to the future success that you crave so badly."

Finding My Way

Acceptance...the word suddenly didn't parallel mediocrity or failure, or settling for less than what I hope to achieve. Suddenly acceptance became liberating and freed me from the uncompromising burden of not being happy until I reach some intended point of "success" that would supposedly allow my happiness to kick in. That is no longer the case. Instead, I would accept and celebrate all of my victories and be happy throughout the entire journey.boy-185195_640

I am fortunate in that I am able to wake up every day and do what I love to do. I am able to use my voice through my way with words to share thoughts, stories, points of views and life lessons with people who are connected through similar perspectives. I am not an angry person nor am I ungrateful. But it took that conversation for me to accept that it's OK to be happy without feeling guilty; OK to feel proud of my achievements so far even though I'm nowhere near where I aim to be. That conversation brought a feeling of calm over me I haven't felt since writing the first page of my novel so many years ago.

But I am thankful for those few moments. Sometimes that's all it takes to change your life. And I'm not saying that I am a completely different person today since having that conversation, but I am better than I was yesterday and I will be better tomorrow. And when tomorrow comes I will welcome it not with the fear that days are passing too fast for me to grab hold, instead I will accept that it is another chance for me to do fulfill my calling and inspire others with my words. What more can I really ask for....

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