Ray: I’m a big fan of Will Smith. His success is in the most difficult industry to obtain greatness is certainly no fluke. Take a few moments to listen to his philosophy. Like, really listen.
Ray: I am what many people would consider to be “over the hill.” That’s right, I’m an old man. At the ripe old age of 27, I have already lived a full life. I’ve experienced love and heartbreak, success and failure, and even became a father. I’ve seen my elders get older and I stood by haplessly as loved ones passed away. I’ve graduated from a great university only to take jobs that had nothing to do with my major. In fact, I’ve even changed careers 3 times. I’ve seen best friends become strangers and new friends become brothers and sisters of mine. I’ve been robbed, cheated, and lied to. I’ve even done some cheating and lying myself. In short, I’ve seen a lot, did a lot, and have learned from it all. But after speaking with many different people, I have realized that too many of us go through life and ignore all of the beautiful lessons that God has intertwined in this wonderfully complex but brief experience.
There are so many different places I can go with this conversation but I think I’ll stick to a very important theory that has definitely held true in my life. I believe that there is no progress without a struggle. And while many people accept that as a truth, they often neglect the point of the struggle. The struggle is where the growth occurs. The struggle is where the lessons should be learned and where maturity is bolstered. The catch is, you really have to train yourself to find the lesson hidden within the struggle and apply it to how you live life. If you fail to do this, then you will continue to struggle with that particular part of your life and progress will come to a complete halt.
Take for example the case of the broken heart. Having your heart broken can be one of the most devastating life experiences one can endure. It requires that you first invest all of your being into a relationship with someone that you imagine someday being a life partner. And then for whatever reason, that relationship gets broken. Your trust, your happiness, your faith in all things possible is suddenly crushed and you are left there all alone wondering how you’re supposed to continue living (or am I speaking for myself?). Why would God allow such a sour and desolate mindset to exist and flourish in the midst of loss? Well, I believe events like this happen in order for you to grow and reach a level of happiness in the future that you never thought was possible.
Circumstances like broken hearts, death, losing a job, and many other events always lead to questions. Why me? What did I do to deserve this? How could I have avoided this? While every individual’s case is different, there are fundamental reasons to why these events happen. In the case of the broken heart, the first thing to notice is that you indeed are capable of experiencing love. There’s a reason that the phrase, “it is better to have loved and lost then to have never loved before” has lasted for hundreds of years. It’s true! Understand that you are built to give and receive love. And it truly is a wonderful thing. Just imagine a time when you can share that with the person you will spend the rest of your life with. Awesome.
But why the heart-ache? From my own experience, I can say that I have learned a great deal about myself while being heart broken. It made me think about all of the qualities about myself that drove love away. I was brave enough to dig deep and explicitly name those faults of mine which weren’t conducive for a successful relationship. As a result, I know that because of that experience, I would not allow those same problems to creep into my marriage (if that ever happens). Not only that, but I also realized what it was about my partner that caused me to act the way I did. As a result, I will most certainly avoid those qualities to the best of my abilities if ever I decide to settle down with a mate. Had I not learned those lessons, it’s very plausible that the two of us could have stayed together longer and missed out on living much happier lives with the people that fit us best.
The same theory can be applied to any other situation. When you take the time to find the lessons within a time of struggle, you will undoubtedly learn what it takes to move closer towards fulfilling your true potential in life. Also, many of the things you currently have need to be removed in order to make room for those things you need. In this regard, to struggle is to be truly blessed. You come out of it stronger, smarter, happier, and sexier than ever before.
Learn from the ups and downs of your life. Oddly enough, they ultimately teach you how to make your ups higher and your downs shorter.
Ray: My close friends know that eating healthy is a very difficult challenge for me. I look for inspiration anywhere I can find it. One of my best friends is very health conscious and even runs marathons on a regular basis. I recently sent her a text seeking advice on how to build healthy eating habits. Here is what she texted me back.
Em: You have to train your body to want to eat healthier. Habits are made from repetition and creating new habits can feel foreign or awkward. When you eat healthy, you feel refreshed and energetic. When you want something sweet, eat a fruit. When you want something salty, only eat a little bit. Avoid eating saturated fats and eat between 5-6 times a day (3 meals and 3 snacks). Your biggest mean should be in the morning and don’t eat less than 2 hours before bed. Focus on your goal, visiualize it, immerse yourself in your goal and things will happen to get you there. Be your own competition. Also, carbs fuel, protein builds muscle.
You can also learn how to go to a drive-thru and still eat healthy. Pick Subway over McDonalds and pick tea over Coke. Skip dressing but add cheese and eat half the fries. Eat what you want, when you want to so that you won’t feel deprived and overcompensate when you eat.
Keep trail mix in the car, a protein bar and vitamin water can help you until a healthy choice is in sight. Eat yogurt and cereal as a snack. Also, you need lost of greens. Season them well and you’ll start to crave them. Soon, you’ll hate fast food and you’ll get sick if you eat it.
Ray: I feel like I’m experiencing a quarter-life crisis and I know I’m not the only one.
Your situation may be different from mine, but my mid twenties have really challenged everything I thought about life. It has even challenged everything I thought about myself. There used to be a time when I felt like King Midas and everything I touched would be gold. In my early twenties, I put together a stretch of years where I couldn’t lose and I basically got everything I wanted. I was spoiled in almost every way imaginable.
After an amazing college career, I immediately started working at one of the most powerful companies in the world. They paid me a great deal of money and I traveled around the country twice a week. It was a great gig for a recent college grad. I knew it wasn’t what I wanted to do, but it came easy and it was tolerable. At least for a while.
My quarter-life crisis began when I decided that I absolutely hated my corporate job. I hated being stuck at a cubicle looking at a computer screen all day. I hated going to meetings that I had zero interest in. I hated being around people who loved that job and wanted to emerse themselves in the corporate culture. What appeared to be a great opportunity and tremendous blessing had become a thorn in my side. I was unhappy and I wanted things to change. I just didn’t know how to make it happen.
As they say, be careful what you wish for. The economy went downhill fast and I was laid off with 25,000 other employees. However, I imagine most of them weren’t as happy as I was. I felt like I was given my freedom and a second chance to do things my way. So I decided to do into business for myself… during the worst recession in decades… in the industry that caused the recession… real estate. Perfect! But I’m King Midas and I’ve never had trouble finding success. Well, not anymore.
This past year has been the most difficult year in my life. I haven’t made anything close to the money I used to make. After a while of being broke and finding it really hard to catch a victory, my personality changed. I had never doubted myself as much as I have over the past year. The thing I feared most seemed to be right around the corner and catching up fast. Failure!
It’s amazing how that type of outlook can deplete all feelings of confidence and optimism. It was no wonder why I spent countless nights wondering what in the world am I doing with my life? How did things come to this? Why me? I used to have it all and now it looks like I’ll never have anything again. Just reading this makes me laugh at how off my mentality and perspective on the situation was.
What I have realized is that I wanted a different life for myself but I wasn’t prepared to go through the changes it would take to get there. All of my praying wasn’t in vain. In fact, God answered my prayers by taking away all of my safety nets. God took away my crutches. Furthermore, he allowed me to fall so much that there was no way I could be my old cocky self anymore. I wasn’t King Midas. I was just a kid who believed way too much in his own abilities but wasn’t strong enough to endure all that a real man must endure.
Realizing all of this, I am able to clearly see what my flaws are. Understanding that the old me was not good enough to be the future me officially put an end to my quarter-life crises. This is the purification process when gold goes through fire to burn off the impurities and be made perfect. This is Moses wondering through the desert lost, tired, and completely unsure of his ability to survive. This is Saul on the road to Damascus, Michael Jordan getting cut from his Varsity basketball team, Bruce Willis going from being a bartender to becoming a mega movie star. I think you get my point.
The quarter-life crisis is a blessing from God because it’s telling us to analyse ourselves in a way that we never have. To be completely honest about the person we have become and determine if that’s matching up with the person we want to become. It’s accepting everything that is, taking a count for all that you do have and figuring out how to make it work. It’s not easy, it’s not fun, but it’s necessary. Let it humble you. Let it break you down. Let it take away from you what needs to be taken away. Endure the pain. Suffer in the loneliness. Wallow in the failure. It sucks because it’s supposed to. This is what makes you stronger, wiser, and more confident about your future. You weren’t the first nor will you be the last to go through it. This is how it is on the road to righteousness.
Never forget that life is marathon, not a sprint. Never give up. Never give in. The answers are out there.
***By the way, I’m feeling better than I ever felt in all ways imaginable. And business is picking up 🙂
Ray: We’ve touched on the subject of graduate school several times on this blog. Personally, I couldn’t decide on getting an MBA or going to law school. Then I decided on going to law school but never took the LSAT (the standardized test required to getting into law school) and that’s where I left off.
Since then, I’ve had some time to think things over a bit more. Primarily, why should I pursue a graduate degree? I have already decided that I don’t want to work for anyone but myself, I don’t need a graduate degree to be “successful”, and there’s that major issue of being a broke college student all over again. With that said, there would have to be some compelling reason for me to pursue a graduate degree.
In the back of my mind, I keep replaying this very vivid memory: the year is 2006 and Seth and I are at the Chaka Fattah Conference for Higher Education right on the Main Line in Philadelphia. Seth had a ticket, I snook in. The climax of the conference (at least for me) came during the keynote address given by Constance L. Rice. If that names sounds familiar, she’s the cousin of former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Ms. Rice, as I remember, is a fiery little woman and her speech was quite riveting. After her speech, Seth and I decided we had to meet with her. She basically put the fear of God in us and made us promise her that we would go to graduate school. That promise has been on my mind ever sense and there’s a reason for that.
I want people to succeed at whatever they do as much as I want to succeed myself. I’m not saying graduate school is a necessary ingredient to obtain success, but it definitely doesn’t hut to acquire a specialized knowledge from a world class institution. The recent recession has been an eye-opening experience for many people. In order to land work these days, you need to have valuable skills and proven experience. Having a graduate degree can help to serve as a safe-guard from being easily replaced or eliminated in the job market.
People with graduate degrees have opportunities that most people will never experience. They become politicians, doctors, lawyers, and CEOs of major companies. They become leading researchers of critical global issues and author new information that will be used to teach the next generation of human beings. Not to mention the personal satisfaction that comes with reaching the higher echelon of formally educated peoples.
There are tons of reasons why a graduate degree may benefit most people. What I do know is that the world is moving at an exponentially faster pace and those who lack the mental capacity or necessary information to keep up will be left to fight over an ever decreasing supply of government services. I encourage everyone to add value to their lives in any way possible. Going to graduate school may be one the best ways to do so.
“Everybody could tell you how to do it/ they never did it.” – Jay-Z
Before I even heard Jay-Z utter these words in one of his songs, I had already understood that simple truth. When you have ambition, you will find that people will either tell you how to do something they’ve never done or that you can’t do something because they never did it. This is where my grandmother’s advice often comes in handy; listen to what people have to say, take what you need, and throw away the rest.
The truth is, there are a million different ways to do a million different things. Some ways may be more effective than others but it ultimately comes down to the individual and their unique set of skills, personality, and environment. All you can really do is, do what you can do. You may not have all the tools available or all the knowledge needed to achieve your goals right away, but you have to start where you are. The journey of a 1,000 miles begins with the first step. The road to a vast real estate empire begins with purchase of the first investment property. The trek down Wall Street begins with the first stock purchase. The path to super stardom begins with the first audition.
The world is yours to figure out. As the great Laker announcer Stu Lance often says, “let success be your guide.” That makes navigating through all of life’s options a bit easier.
Ray: Love is great. Love is beautiful. Love makes life worth living. Love puts a smile on your face and makes you forget about all the nonsense in the world. Love prioritizes your attention and consumes your mind. It makes you drunker than any amount of liquor you could ever consume. It’s gets your higher than any drug that you could ever inject into your system. In makes you nicer to people at work. It makes your friends wonder what’s gotten into you. It makes R&B songs make sense to you. It gives you butterflies in your stomach. It makes you want to work harder to become a better person. It makes you want to do all that you can to please another person. It makes your forget about your friends. It makes you forget about your enemies. It makes you thank God for having a beautiful life alongside a beautiful person to share it with. It gives you hope for a better tomorrow. It makes you fearless and eases your pain. It is the power than can conquer the world. But Love isn’t perfect.
Love can betray you. Love can stab you in the back. Love can leave you desperate and confused. Love can shatter your hopes. Love can make you angry for no reason. Love can create enemies. Love can drive you to loneliness. Love can leave you fearful to ever love again. Love can hurt worse than any physical injury. Love can cause physical injury. Love can make you hate yourself. Love can make you question God and his purpose for your life. Love can make you hate your job. Love can sometimes never reach its full potential. Love can end friendships. It can make you regret every word that you just said. It can induce you to make inebriated phone calls. Love can cost you a lot of money. And in today’s society, love can ruin your credit! Love can haunt you when you are trying to sleep. Love will have that stupid song stuck in your head all day. Love will make you hate seeing happy couples. Love will make you Love someone that doesn’t love you! Love will screw you up in the head and impair your judgment. Love will make you crazy.
Love is everything. Love is life. Love isn’t perfect, but Love always comes back for more…