Welcome back to another episode of No Whining Wednesday, the only day of the week where you do not get to whine, complain, or criticize. Now, if you are new to this blog or new to this segment please visit the first post HERE for more on what this post is all about.
The Four Agreements is one of those books I keep close to me alongside the Bible and Letters to a Young Poet. This agreement is my favorite and has been on my heart even without having anything to do with the book. You will find that you are happier when you don’t take things personally. When you know who you are, you don’t need people to tell you how good you are. When you receive praise, you don’t take that personally by letting it get to your head and start to think more highly of yourself than you should think. There is only one creator, and it’s not you. You understand that you are a vessel used for Yah’s purpose and that everything you are belongs to him.
Most importantly, when people say bad things about you or do not react in the way you expect them to, you don’t take that personally either. You learn to create healthy boundaries that allow you to cut people off who continue to disrespect you but you don’t take it personally. You know whatever they think is a result of their own belief system, opinions, and emotions. When people violate your expectations, whether that’s not calling/texting you back or not responding the way you think they should, you don’t see it as a personal attack on yourself. You’ll learn when people are happier, they respond positively but when people are not happy they respond negatively. And the good thing? That has nothing to do with you.
People who are not happy with their life will not be happy to see you happy and that’s okay. They are on their own journey. They can’t relate to you at this point in their lives. Otherwise, they would respond differently. They would be excited, motivated and charged. Why? Because they have been where you are and they know what it felt like when they had that same joy. But when things are not as joyous in their own life? They will respond differently. That’s okay. This has nothing to do with you. It’s an opinion given to you based on how they are feeling in this moment but you don’t have to accept it. The person is dealing with themselves, not you.
Taking things personally is a selfish act because you make everything about you when that’s not the case. What people do and say is not a reflection of you. It’s a reflection of their own selves.
This is the time of the year where we step back and analyze where we are and where we want to be. The time where we consider if the goals, we set at the beginning of the year have been realized and if there are any changes or improvements that need to be made. This is also the time of the year when I share with you the lessons I’ve learned from the year. Usually, I do this closer to the end of the month but my family is moving so things are busy around these parts. Last year, I had an entire list of lessons learned. This year, I only have one.
December is when I do a lot of reflection. An entire year has passed. What changed? What remained? What needs to be added onto or removed? 2018 has been filled with amazing growth for me personally as well as professionally. At the end of 2017, I was celebrating my move to Georgia and one of my books in a brick and mortar bookstore. At the end of 2018, four of my twelve books are in three bookstores and I’ve just purchased my first home. I attribute this to learning one valuable lesson. A lesson that I do not think we ever stop learning but that gets easier the more we love ourselves, a lesson that I’ve learned and that I will keep learning, a lesson that has changed my mentality and thus also, the way I do things. To further illustrate this point, let me first tell you about an experiment.
The Asch Conformity Experiment
Named after Solomon Asch, the Asch Conformity Study was meant to study conformity in people (how we behave according to other people’s desires and standards) and was conducted in the 1950s. The participants were shown three lines on a piece of paper and a fourth line. The participants had to simply match one of the three lines with the fourth line. Most of the people were accomplices in on the study with only one or two real participants. According to the study, 76% of participants picked the wrong line after the majority of the room picked the wrong line. The study was groundbreaking in studying conformity in groups and has been repeated many times throughout the years. (You can find examples of the study on YouTube.)
As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to fall into conformity by doing what everyone else is doing in an effort to achieve success. The problem is, entrepreneurship is about authenticity and there is nothing authentic about conformity. Everyone wants to be an influencer. The only question is, what are you influencing people to do? Who are you influencing people to be?
We talk about embracing being unique and different but at the same time, we secretly want a seat at the table. At the same time, we don’t really want to be different. We want to be like everyone else because not being like everyone else comes at a cost that we are not courageous enough to pay. It is the cost of standing out instead of standing in. It is the cost of rejection and being misunderstood. It is a beautiful sacrifice that many of us, despite what we say, are not willing to make.
But you can’t want to be like the world and be different from the world at the same time. Either stand for something or fall for anything.
In the midst of the Kevin Hart situation, I think it’s important for us to all remember how important it is to be ourselves and to stand on our own integrity. And if we must influence, I hope it is to influence others to be undeniably and unapologetically themselves.
I. The biggest lesson I learned 2018 is to be fully myself even when who I am is not accepted by others. There are people who will think I’m foolish about certain decisions but it is my decision to make and my lesson to learn. I’ve learned to trust Yah more and to trust his will for my life. To make decisions without explaining myself or feeling the need to defend my position.
…and I hope the same for you.
What I enjoy most about being an Independent artist is the freedom to produce work that speaks to who I am, to not have to pull back, slow down, or sugarcoat my beliefs because of someone else standard. The right and the freedom to live freely in every sense of the word. To be true to myself, to my authenticity and do not have to apologize for it. I don’t have to tap dance around the truth for a check, I don’t have to scratch my hair unless it itches, and I don’t have to laugh unless something is actually funny. I’ve never been part of the “cool kids table” and I am not about to start now. This is freedom.
I hope you walk into 2019 not afraid to shine or to fail, understanding that both experiences shape you. It can be liberating to choose yourself, armed with the power to move forward without guilt, without arrogance, and without pride but with a deep love for yourself that is so strong that you can quickly realize when anyone or anything devalues you, even if that someone is your own self. The biggest challenge is not the war we fight with others but the war we fight with ourselves. To quote the African proverb, “when there is no enemy within, the enemy outside cannot hurt you.” Kill the enemy within. Slay your demons, silence the doubt, and walk free.
Everything you have is yours. It is yours because it is in perfect sync with your life. You have a big family because it’s fitting for you. You have a small family because it’s fitting for you. You have gifts and talents because it is fitting for you. You have a good career or job because it is fitting for you. It works. And why is it fitting for you? Because everything you have is everything, you need in the moment you need it. When you think of it this way, even the things you don’t have that you may want or need start to take on new meaning. Gratitude starts to take on new meaning. What you don’t have is not fit for you and it doesn’t matter how much you think it is, the fact you do not have it means it is not fitting. Not at this moment. Maybe it will fit later but it does not fit now. “Why can’t I have?” Because it doesn’t fit you. “Why is this happening?” Because it is fitting for your strength. “Why won’t they?” Because they aren’t fit for you. Everything you do have is for your purpose and is tailor-made to fit your life perfectly and no one can take that away from you.
It took me a long time to realize Rick James Mary Jane song was about weed. For a long time, I thought Mary Jane was an actual woman he was in love with. Every time I heard the song I would smile, my heart melting at the sound of love. Even after watching the movie Friday, where there were obvious clues (such as the song being played as Smokey inhaled three joints at a time that day Craig got high for the first time), I still didn’t get it. After learning what the song was really about, I still liked it but it didn’t have the same happy feeling to it. I didn’t smoke weed so I couldn’t relate. I liked it better when I thought the song was about love.
I miss when we were innocent. Back before we really knew how messed up the world was. Back when the world was ours. Back when my Uncle told me and my siblings we couldn’t watch Bevis and Butthead. Back when the lyrics were still crafty enough to hide the “bad stuff” from the kids. When you didn’t know what the meanings behind the songs were, back when you had to be mature to know what it meant. I miss when we were innocent. Like before you really got to know someone. Back when you were besties just because. Back before we knew each other well enough to be aware of the other’s faults. When you meet someone for the first time there’s an innocence, a respect and a kindness you give because your mother taught you to be kind. As we get to know one another though, it seems like we are no longer as kind, as compassionate, or as merciful.
We take knowledge of the other person‘s mistakes as an invitation to pull back on the amount of love we give. And we do it in the cruelest way. We pull back without communication, without questions, and without checking to see if our assumptions were correct, we just leave. Abandon one another after realizing the other person was human. We didn’t do that kind of stuff as kids. We fought, argued and then invited our friends (the one we just argued with) over for dinner. We didn’t think they were possessed or insane or no longer worthy of our friendship. They disagreed with us but that didn’t mean we were enemies. We knew they were flawed, but that just made us love them better.
As you blog, not everyone will stick around. As people get to know you better, they will soon decide whether you are someone they want to keep up with. And that‘s not a bad thing entirely. People have a right to decide who they want to have around them. That’s life. People come and people go. Blogging is no different. This decision will come, either from you or from them. Somewhere along the lines, you’ll learn you either are or are no longer compatible.
If you‘re new to blogging you better take advantage of it. Those days of people being kind and generous and supportive and of you being loved on won‘t last long. Four and five years into this thing and you will look up to the faces of a completely new group of people, wondering where everyone has gone. This new group will love you now. Appreciate them for it. These are the childlike stages of blogging. The beginning of things, the freshness, the newness. These are the days when we are innocent.
Curtis Bunn is an essence #1bestselling author and founder of the National Book Club Conference, an organization that hosts an annual literary event for African American readers and authors. This year, the conference was in Atlanta and while I did not get to attend; I did have the chance to visit the InterContinental Hotel where the event was held. I did not get to meet Bunn (who was in the other room hosting Terry McMillan) but I did get to speak to some people there, learn more about the conference and next year‘s festivities, which lead me to Bunn‘s website. A title like “The Old Man in the Club” made me laugh and after reading several pages of the first chapter from Amazon‘s Look Inside feature, I decided this would be my first Curtis Bunn read. I was not disappointed .
I loved the message of this book more than the story although the story is good too. It is easy to judge Elliott but that ties into the author’s message.
Elliott Thomas is a sixty-one-year-old man who hangs out at the club. Not only does he hang out at the club but he flirts with and dates young women. Elliot is also divorced and sees a therapist. He meets Tamara, a twenty-five-year-old and they begin dating. Tamara is also a friend of Elliot‘s twenty-something-year-old children. I like Elliot but I disagree with his lifestyle. Elliot was convicted of something he didn’t do and I felt the reason for that conviction and him dating young women just looks bad. I didn’t think his past justified his desires to pursue younger women by any means. A thirty-five-year-old difference is just too much. I also really dislike the way his children treat him. Elliot’s ex-wife Lucy is also holding onto something. I long suspected what her secret was and I was upset that she would allow Elliot to endure abuse from his children because of something that wasn’t his fault.
But Elliot is not just an old man in the club. The author did well to provide us with multiple layers of his life. He is more complex. He has a past, trauma, and triggers. Elliot was convicted of something he didn’t do and endured other life-changing things in his life.
There’s also a craft chapter at the end of the book where the author explained his inspiration for writing the book and why as well as a list of discussion questions. This was helpful and rather than taking away from the book, I think it was needed and nicely done.
Despite my feelings about the characters actions, they were fully developed and representative of real people. Their decisions did not take away from the book but made it more realistic. Things are not as they appear. The message is: We instantly assess a person‘s values, motives, and character without ever having sat down to get to know them. It makes you think about our perceptions and how we judge others with no knowledge of who they are or where they’ve been. Everyone has a story and well-written as it is, this is Elliot’s.
I talk a lot about self-love and the importance of learning to love yourself but do not misunderstand me: love is reciprocal. Just as you give love you should also receive love. Love should always come back to you and if it doesn’t something is wrong. Understand that loving yourself is the foundation. It sets the stage for how you will allow yourself to be treated but it is not the end. Once you are capable of fully and unapologetically loving yourself you have a responsibility to give love and you have a right to receive love. Remember, what’s in the cup is yours and the overflow is for others.
Listen to the full podcast, “Love is Reciprocal” below on Soundcloud and iTunes.
Remember that you can catch all 18 episodes by visiting the podcast page HERE. Also, my Soundcloud limit is up and I have now upgraded to a pro account. But if at any time that does not fit in with my budget I cannot be sure I will continue with this series so enjoy this while you can! I have much more urgent financial responsibilities so I will cut this off if I need to. But, know that you can always find the episodes on my Soundcloud page or on the podcast page of this blog.