Be Wary of an Easy Ride

There are hundreds of colloquialisms about how the road that appears to be the easiest ends up being more costly in the end than a hard-fought journey. We hear, “Too good to be true” usually is; that the road less travelled is the one we should take. Even the Bible tells people that the gate to heaven is narrow, but the gate to hell is wide. It’s cliche, but adversity does make people stronger than they would be because weakness and uncertainty are a forerunner for adaptability and strength.

A few years ago, I listened to a radio program about the plight of the homeless in western Canada. One of the volunteers at a shelter said that people he meets deal with misfortune on a consistent basis and that makes them tougher, more adaptable, more resilient and more appreciative than those of us who live comparably easier lives.

Sometimes formidable a opponent is just what a person needs to shake them up, and get them back on track. Through experience, I learned to treasure the good times when they come, as well as prepare myself for the tough stuff. Everyone hates discomfort, and we don’t like the uncertainty that goes along with strong opposition. However, just as a video game gets more difficult with each level a person beats, day to day life gets more difficult with every challenge. How a person handles a tough challenge could mean the difference between moving up a level, or staying at a plateau. Life will knock us down—often. It is not falling down that tells the tale. It is whether we learn from the hard knocks and get back up to fight again.

I don’t think I’d be the same person had I not had so much opposition. I would not have known how to handle conflict if I never had anyone oppose me. I would not know the right thing to do if I had not gotten  so many things wrong. Opposition, it turns out, is the friction that sifted the nonessentials in my life away, and left the important things behind.

We may despise the appearance of weakness or vulnerability, but it is in that weakness that we find strength. A so-called “easy ride”, may make us feel good, but it does not prepare us for real life. Life can be an easy ride, but sometimes it isn’t. Just like an elite athlete in training for his or her next event, we need to be prepared both in season and out of the season because we never know when we’ll get the call to step up. We may not need as much power while things are going well, but we still need to build our muscles for when things go wrong.

Do not get too freaked out when challenging situations arise. Remember that every day is different, and things can turn around. Don’t allow past mistakes to infect the present. Take every opportunity to learn and grow. Adversity can crush a person, but it can also push them to succeed.

Don’t let the fear of failure kill your confidence. If life has knocked you down, remember that, as long as you’re living, hope is not lost. You were born to prosper.

 

Peace,

Erie

6 Things I Learned About Life From Working

I know it seems impossible, but some of my most valued life lessons were not learned in a classroom. I left school very early in my post-secondary education to work. In the 14 years since, I found out a lot about the “real world” just by being an observer, and occasionally a participant. Here is a list what I have learned so far that I know will carry me through to my next stage of life.

1. Resignation letters are for resigning only. 

When a person leaves a job on bad terms, it is tempting to use a resignation letter as a final, “piss off!” (pardon my language) to one’s employers. However, the reason for writing a letter of resignation is to inform the boss that you are leaving. Do not call names, use foul language, or, heaven forbid, tell the employers how they should do their jobs. Even if you believe that your boss is far too cocky about being the captain of a sinking ship, it is not your place to say anything. You’re leaving, so it’s not your business anymore. Instead, say thanks for the opportunity and give them enough notice for them to find a replacement for you. Leave the airing of grievances for Festivus.

2. It’s not them, it’s you. Sometimes it is them, but mostly it’s you.

I didn’t really enjoy working until I learned how to take responsibility for what I did. That doesn’t mean I took the blame for things I didn’t do, or got involved in other peoples’ drama. I made the decision to take an unbiased view of what I contributed to the culture at work, and I found out that I am openly dismissive and unfriendly towards any person whom I think has a strong sense of entitlement. Which is questionable behaviour to have among my peers, and even worse to have towards leadership. In order to change the culture, I had to change my actions. Blaming everyone else for my reactions didn’t get me anywhere.

3. If you don’t hog the credit, you can’t take the blame.

I’ve always been a leader, but there are a few things I don’t do well; delegate and take credit for success. I’m not the attention-seeking type, so my first instinct is always to take whatever attention is paid on me and deflect it towards the people who helped me succeed. (Don’t get it twisted: there were always people who helped me succeed) I did this for two reasons: 1. As I mentioned before, I don’t like unnecessary attention, and 2. If a task goes wrong, the one responsible for the failure is whomever takes the credit, which is usually the leader. On the other hand, if the task is executed by a team, the entire team shares responsibility.

4. A person cannot motivate anyone he/she feels is inferior.

My parents both went to college. My mother has been a nurse for almost 40 years, and my father was an independent contractor who designed and built houses, restaurants, and apartments. My mother also worked as a  retail salesclerk, and my dad was a janitor. The fact that my parents worked in many different professions helped me to approach each person’s part with equity. I don’t think that the head of an organization is more important than the janitor. (If you think I’m kidding, just watch what happens when the custodial staff goes on strike.) Every person’s role is equally important, and when anyone behaves as though his or her role is more important than someone else, that person jeopardizes the harmony of the entire group. If a person is not relatable and down-to-earth, he or she cannot expect to be able to motivate anyone.

5. Personal feelings are best left at home.

Approximately 10% per cent of the time, I base my decisions on how I feel about a person. (My “gut” is never wrong) The other 90% I base on efficiency and outcomes. Like most people, I enjoy spending most of my  time with people that know and love me best. However, I also like getting things accomplished, and if given the choice, I’d rather work with 10 enemies that I know will get a job done, than 10 friends that will most likely goof off and be a distraction. I had to leave my personal feelings on the shelf at work because they inhibited me from being objective. In the end, I was more productive because I was more concerned with the completion the task than I was with the interpersonal drama.

6. Rewards are great, but it is better to be motivated by something other than what one may gain from success.

While I cannot stand unnecessary fawning and performance-based reward systems, I like occasionally to be recognized for a job well done. However, the lure of praise and prizes is not what drives my performance. I do a good job because I like to do a good job. I’m thorough because I don’t like to take short-cuts, and I work hard because I’m paid to do it. If a person places all his or her emphasis on the future reward, he deprives himself of the experience of the present.

I have learned plenty more life lessons at work; 7.Even if it is the truth, referring to a supervisor as a ‘self-important half-wit’ is always wrong. 8.Avoid the employee lounge if you don’t want to hear people complain about work. 9.Be kind to all customers, even the mean ones. 10. Stay out of situations that do not directly involve you, and remember that your job is a way to earn money. It is not your life, so do not allow what happens there to crush your spirit.

That’s my two cents.

Until next time,

Erie

Sharing Sunday: Follow The Leader

Thursday night, I recalled an example of great leadership from my past. It happened while I was in the washroom (reapplying my makeup). I saw that there was paper towel all over the floor, so I went about picking it up. It reminded me of the year the then-manager made a bathroom cleaning schedule for the team. At one morning meeting, the staff began complaining about how unfair it was for the same people to clean the washroom all the time.

My supervisor stopped the chatter cold when she said, “Listen, I am on the schedule too. I also clean the bathroom. I would never make you do something that I wasn’t willing to do myself.” I recall thinking at the time, “Man, she gets this whole leadership thing.” I have been with my current place of employment for more than a decade, and I have worked with many different types of leaders. I will have to say, that between the years 2006-2009, I grew the most because of the people in charge.

I remember another instance in which I received assistance from a great boss. It was my first year as a receiver, and 13 pallets of merchandise got delivered to the store. The warehouse only has room for 12, so I was in a bit of a panic. I called the general manager, expecting her to assign someone to help me. She did, but she also came back in her professional shirt and slacks, and helped us.

By the end, we were all covered in dirt, but every pallet was unpacked. I learned another lesson: “Great leaders lead by example.” She showed me that day that she was not too “high and mighty” to do the hard work that was necessary to complete a task. Excellent leaders are also excellent servants. (P.S. 4 years on, and I am still sad that she had to leave us.)

I had another boss that taught me how crucial it was to do a good job the first time. She would assign a task, usually a merchandise display, and give me a time limit. I would do what I thought was okay in the time frame, only to have her say, “OK”…and then do the display 100 times better than I did while explaining how and why she did it. The lesson I learned from her: “If you do a job right the first time, there is no need for revisions”. Her standard was not perfection. It was excellence. The people who worked under her leadership learned those lessons and never forgot them.

The last boss is someone who showed me how to be a boss without ever having the title. When we were both doing the same job, she was one of those people that I just knew would be promoted, which she was several times. She ended up as second-in command to the general manager; a role she did faithfully with many different leaders. The thing I admired most about her is the fact that she had the expertise and experience to be the boss of everyone, but she was both humble and faithful enough to take a backseat, and work behind the scenes. The lesson I learned from her; “Not every job is about getting credit. Faithfulness is its own reward.”

If I were to include every leader who has made an impact on me, it would take several blog posts. I also had a leader who taught me the importance of compassion in the workplace. Another leader kept everyone and on task. One leader made sure that everyone had fun, and one made sure that every staff member knew how he or she was appreciated by management.

My first examples of leaders were my parents, but I am grateful for every leader I have had  apart from them because every one has taught me something valuable. In the last 14 years of work, I have learned that managers do not have to shout to make their point. They delegate tasks to the people best equipped to handle them. They admit when they are wrong, and learn from mistakes. They are faithful. They lead by example. They do not expect their subordinates to adhere to standards that they do not conform to themselves.

Leadership is not a job. It is a calling. The man or woman who answers the call of a leader will do that regardless of the role he or she fills. One of the most misunderstood facts about leadership is whether a person can be a leader when he is not in charge. The answer to that is, absolutely. The person who can be a good example for others to follow is a leader, whether he/she is a boss or not.

The call equips a person for the role.

Thanks to every leader I have had, from childhood until now. You have all been influential forces in my life, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

Peace,

Erie

Off The Cuff Thursday:10 Things I Learned From Watching Survivor

I have been a loyal watcher of Survivor since the very first season. In the 25 seasons I’ve been a fan, I have taken away many valuable life lessons, mostly by watching others either succeed or fail miserably at outwitting, outplaying, and outlasting their opposition. Here are a few in no particular order:

1. Don’t underestimate anyone. Some of the greatest “blindsides” of the game were the ideas of people who were the least likely to pose a dangerous threat. The most notable example happened on Survivor Marquesas, when the outsiders came from behind and decimated an arrogant alliance. (Side lesson: Pride is always a precursor to a freefall down the hole into humility. It’s a universal law.) This alliance did not have the numbers to take them out until the dominant alliance made it clear (in an elimination challenge, of all places)  that there was an established pecking order within the tribe. When the fringe members of the “top dog” alliance figured it out, they sided with the outcasts, most of whom did not even rate a mention. (One of these “outsiders” eventually won the entire thing, which just goes to show that no one can be counted out.)

2.Rapport does not equal friendship. There are a lot of kind people in the world. People who give everyone the benefit of the doubt. People who are quick to forgive, and slow to take offense. Even when these people experience betrayal, they see it as an opportunity for them to grow, rather than as a personal attack. However, this type is not as common. Many people are a combination of benevolence and selfishness (present company included), with a single-minded focus on their own agenda–regardless of the consequences to anyone else. Sometimes they will use other people to help them achieve their goals. They will say and do whatever is necessary to make a person trust them, and then turn on that person as soon as it is advantageous to do it. The victim of the betrayal will then be stuck wondering how someone who claimed to be a friend could stab them in the back so easily. The answer: Friends do not betray friends. If a person betrays your trust, that person is not a friend.

3. If you don’t work hard, people will talk about you. 

Every season of Survivor has featured the archetype of the “layabout”. (For some reason, most of them are black men. That is either racial type-casting or creative editing) One person who sits in the sun, while everyone else is working. Each time, they get called out by a fellow tribe mate for their laziness, usually to their detriment. (In other words, they get voted off the island) I heard it explained best on another reality show, The City. (Do not judge me) There are two main categories of workers: workhorses and show ponies. The show ponies look the part. They have the connections to be successful, and they do work, but they are inconsistent when it comes to quality. Workhorses just work. Their main focus isn’t on appearing to be a good worker, but on being a good worker. They are often the most grounded members of the tribe, and people want them around because they know that the workhorse will get the job done. The point is if you aren’t contributing in a substantial way, you’re dispensable.

Which brings me to lesson number 4…

4. Everyone is dispensable. 

Last year, I had a conversation with a coworker (and fellow Survivor buff–no pun intended) about that years’s season of Survivor. I explained that there’s one person who always believes he/she is essential to the success of the tribe, but when it comes down to it, everyone is dispensable. As a person, I am unique. There is no one on earth (that I know of) who is exactly like me. As a worker, I can be replaced tomorrow, and that’s just the way it is. It does not matter how strong, intelligent, and incomparable you are. You are replaceable. Thinking that you’re indispensable is always a harbinger of becoming a cast-off.  Be prepared.

5.Plan ahead. It seems like tired advice, but it still stands. Some of the most egregious errors in judgment are made by people who do not plan. (Or you know, make stupid plans, but that’s another story). For example, Russell Hantz had the potential to be one of the greatest Survivor competitors of all-time. He was dominant in most of the challenges. He had the “outwit” element of the game down pat, and he managed to align himself with enough people to secure his place in the final. What didn’t he prepare for? Those same people liking him enough to award him a million dollars. He burned a lot of bridges on the way to the top, and in the end, he lost to someone who made the right alliance, and managed to be likeable during the game.

6. Know your strengths. One of the best players in the entire game was “Boston” Rob Mariano. Rob was the complete package. He was strong enough to be good at physical challenges. He was smart enough to be great at mental challenges. He worked hard around the camp, and he was an excellent judge of character. He played up his strengths and acknowledged his weaknesses. Another thing that Boston Rob did right was that he never wavered. There was always an endgame, and he was always sure of which moves he wanted to make in the game and when he needed to make them. The other players were always sure of where he stood, but never enough to vote him off. He made it two the final two because he was a dominant competitor who knew all the right moves to make.

7. Know your limitations.  Do not try to play the hero when you know you have a limited skill set. If you are not capable of completing the task in challenges, defer to someone who can do it better than you.

8. Quit the grandstanding. It is one thing to be a fabulous leader. It is entirely another matter to be an oppressive tyrant. The best Survivor players are leaders who do not advertise how great they are at telling other people what to do. (At least, not in person. That is the reason the confessional cameras are there.) Margaret Thatcher once said, “Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.” Power players are such because they exude an air of authority without resorting to tired intimidation tactics. They don’t have to.

9. A little self-awareness goes along way. It is admirable not to care what others think about you. However, it is also necessary to keep in mind that you still have to live with these people. Rather than referring to the unofficial leader of your tribe as an ‘idiot’; passive-aggressively bullying anyone whom you consider beneath you, engaging in two-faced gossip, and then feigning innocence and crying when someone confronts you about your behaviour, (I’m talking to you, Abi-Maria from Survivor Philippines) you should probably keep your mouth shut. The face you present to others will leave a lasting impression, so try to make it a good one.

10. Have fun. Life is always better with some humour added. Have fun whenever it is possible. Smile often. Be nice to people. Do not complain (much–if at all). As someone who has lived with the numbness of depression, I do not take my joy for granted. Life is too short to be bitter and cynical. There are a lot of excellent things about life, but a person who is continually looking for the flaws so they can pick them apart will not enjoy them. The majority of Survivor winners are genuinely kind, likeable people. Besides, it takes a lot more energy to be nasty than it does to be nice. Just be nice, already.

 

Peace,

Erie

P.S. This is one of those, “I-hate-this” posts that I wrote about on Monday. I like it today.

Sharing Saturday: Cleaning House (Part 2)

When I requested this week off from work, I had three goals in mind. The first one was to clear most–if not all– of the clutter from my bedroom. The second was to find someplace else to live, and the third was to spend more time outside. My vacation officially ends on Monday, but I have only completed two of the tasks. The reason: I’m fussy, and I do not like any of the apartments I see. I have always lived in a house, so I will always have a bias against one large building with many people versus one medium-sized house for a few people. (I like my circle small, and apartment living equals many acquaintances)

De-cluttering, on the other hand, has gone well. (If I do say so myself) I am the progeny of two pack-rat parents. I used to make fun of them until I found out that I inherited that gene. I found so much junk in my bedroom that I was completely overwhelmed. I seriously contemplated sending organizer, and interior designer, Peter Walsh an email, asking him to help a sister out.

To the casual observer, my room appeared to be neat. In the past, my way of cleaning was to shove all the stuff I did not want to deal with into a nice box. Needless to say, I found several pretty boxes in my room filled with things like old curling irons, odd socks, receipts, kitchen utensils, and most shocking of all, the Walkman that I purchased in 1997. I also found every card that anyone has ever given me, from 1997 until now. I’m a sentimentalist at heart, so I will most likely take them with me wherever I move. Especially the cards I received from my dearly departed grandfather.

I also found lots and lots of nail polish. As I mentioned before, I collect it as one collects stamps, baseball cards, or vintage ornaments. Yet the number of bottles I had still shocked me. My mother tried to guess how much I had and said, “I bet it is at least 100.” Well…no. I have more than 100. Keep in mind that I have been collecting since high school, which means I have 14 years of purchasing at least 10 bottles per year. (Sometimes more) My sister-in-law was trying to talk me into leaving part of my collection behind. I don’t think that’s going to happen.

In a week, I learned what most neat-freaks have known from the start. It is much easier to keep track of one’s belongings when there are less of them. Clutter is a distraction. Now that my bedroom is mostly clutter-free, I can see where everything is. Most importantly, I can see when things are out of place. My mother told me that, if I spent the week cleaning out my room, (versus lounging around the house) it would help bring clarity to the rest of my life.

As usual, she was right. Getting rid of the non-essential things in my room helped me to focus. It was almost as though the physical act of getting rid of clutter was the catalyst for me getting rid of my mental clutter. I took a self-inventory of my life and priorities and changed my approach. I found out that living is not just about acquiring pretty things that look nice on shelves. Life is about the people I interact with, and whether I choose to be a positive force for change in the world, or a negative one.

I found out that each person is important, regardless of whom they are, and what they have done. It is not up to each person to rank people based on shallow and often changeable criteria. (Yet we do it all the time.) Everyone, from the President of the United States, to the criminal on death row, is worth something, simply because their birth. What a person chooses to contribute is down to them and their circumstances. At the end, everyone has a choice.

I choose to be a force for good. That does not mean that I will always do or say the right thing. I will miss the mark often. However, my mistakes help me learn what not to do in the future. I will use what I have learned to help someone else. I choose to live a life with standards, not of perfection, but excellence. I will use what (little) I know to help teach others.

I identify as Christian, but I am aware of the fact that my faith does not make me any better or any worse than anyone else. If anything, my public declaration of faith in God, is the epitome of acknowledging my weakness. At the end of my life, I want to be safe in the knowledge that I gave more to society than I took away from it. I want to secure the family legacy of philanthropy, and social activism that I am so proud to have inherited. Most of all, I want to fulfill my assignment.

American Pastor, Creflo Dollar once said in a sermon, “Whatever makes you the most angry in life, you are tasked with changing”

Finding what that is can take a lifetime, but it will be worth the search.

But first, get rid of the clutter.

Peace,

Erie

Sharing Sunday: Complain? Hah!

complaintfreezone-sticker

A few years ago, I made a commitment to reduce the amount of complaining I do. I wish I could say that I did it after having an epiphany and realizing how blessed I am. What really happened is that my family and friends refused to listen to my constant whining. (I am a princess, after all. What do princesses do best? Whine.) My mother is an R.N. and counselor by trade, so she has to listen to people with problems all the time. It must have been so annoying for her to come home after 8 hours of helping people work through their issues and be subjected to me whining about my (mostly trivial) problems. (Sorry, Mom.)

My mother gave me an ultimatum: Either I do something about what was troubling me, or be quiet. Mom was tired of listening to me repeat the same old, boring stories about how put upon I felt, so she said that I had no right to complain as long as I refused to do anything about the problem. So I chose to address the issue, and then to drop it. I stopped whining about it, which then caused me to stop seeing myself as the victim. When I stopped seeing myself as the victim, I was able to approach the situation fairly. Everyone was equally culpable, so it was wrong for me to place the blame on just a few people. (And deflect it from myself)

Mom and Dad raised me to be accountable for my actions, as well as accepting the consequences of them. If I continued with my constant complaints, I would have been too blinded my own martyr complex to empathise with the other people involved. Complaint-free living doesn’t work for everyone. (Particularly if the person gets a payoff for complaining–i.e. attention, validation, self-esteem, sympathy) Many people have more to complain about than I do. Sometimes, I break my own rule, and indulge in a “whine and cheese” session that has a similar effect as me partaking in real wine and cheese: I feel sick, a little light-headed, and I need to lay down afterward. (That’s an affliction called “contrition.”)

I’m an avid news-watcher. I watch the news to be informed about what is going on in the rest of the world. Learning about how other people live helps add perspective. I cannot complain because even when I’m broke, I have more than most of the people on earth. The fact that there are people with a thousand times more than me has no bearing on my daily life. When I can, I will use what I have to help someone who has less than I do.

I don’t see a problem with venting frustration. Sharing one’s feelings with people who are supportive can help lighten burdens. Complaining all the time about everything adds burdens. Particularly when the person  you complain to is not directly involved. You can tell when you have tried a friends’ patience by whether or not she changes the subject when you launch into a tirade about your coworkers. If she does, she sick of hearing about that topic, but is too polite to tell you.

I figured out that complaining was holding me back. As long as I held the belief that I was always right, I could not move forward. Not everyone I encounter is at fault. Each person has equal potential to be an asset or a hinderance. Which side they fall on depends on the day, the circumstance, and that person’s choice.

Living a life with few complaints has helped me to embrace gratitude. Neither me, nor my life is perfect, but they’re both great. (If I do say so myself)

My life may just be on the way to where it needs to be, but I am grateful for every messy part of it. The mess gave me an ample training ground for what is to come. If I am not grateful for what I have, I will not be trusted with more.

It’s okay to complain occasionally. All of us do it. If complaining becomes a constant habit, it’s time to step back and figure out the cause of the brokenness. If everything and everyone around you are awful, it is either their fault or yours. Sometimes it’s both. But if you’re accustomed to placing blame rather than accepting responsibility, you’ll never figure out which, and spend the rest of your life wrongly accusing people when you are the one at fault.

This isn’t the advice of someone who has it all together. I still complain. It just isn’t a habit anymore. My rule of thumb is; if I cannot offer an alternative solution to the problem, I don’t complain. It’s simple, but it works–particularly when I have one of my self-absorbed diva moments. (Which are few and far between now, Thank God.)

As long as a person is alive, he or she will have some troubles in life. How the person handles difficulty gives the outside world a window on his or her character. Choose wisely.

I’m going to end with a quote by poet, Maya Angelou:

 “If you don’t like something, change it. If you can’t change it, change your attitude. Don’t complain.” 

Peace,

Erie

Sharing Saturday: Resistance Equals Strength

Have you ever had one of those instances where you just know that something is not, right? At first, it is something that is easily shrugged off. What is happening may not directly impact the task at hand, but hangs over it like a storm cloud of doom, just waiting to strike, and create havoc.

The more one tries to answer it, the more resistance that person faces. It is not going to give up until it has achieved its expected end. The only other option is to go along with it, but that track also has its drawbacks. In a family, the quiet acceptance of bad behaviour causes a loss of boundaries and disrespect. (AKA. People will not know how to behave in a proper setting) In a business, it means a lack of trust; low morale; and disloyalty due to a loss of faith in the leadership.

The question is: Does a person fight it by making an open display of the opposite view and incur the wrath of others, or does he or she go along with the status quo, and risk losing an influential part of him or herself? Ferocity under control is a worthy adversary to counter wrongdoing. However, fighting for too long can leave a man or woman battle-scarred and bitter.

Sometimes, the battle is not worth the reward; sometimes it is. A person gains wisdom by knowing when to fight and when to bow out humbly. A person also gains strength by battling even though the odds are against them.

In acquiring physical fitness, the cardio workout is very important. It increases stamina, burns more calories, and sets the person up for a healthy and active life. On the other hand, strength training through resistance is how one builds strength, tenacity, and resilience.The more pressure on the body; the stronger the body becomes.

At the time, it seems as though the resistance is the worst thing that can happen, but all resistance has a purpose. Resistance sometimes is a sign that a person is on the right track. Some are a result of the corrupt motives of others. Some resistance is the result of one’s own poor choices.  Some is a delay that affords one time to switch gears and choose a different path, and some aids in a person’s continuous lesson about life.

Everyone has a choice. Even if, one’s circumstances have not changed, he can still gain freedom if he chooses to change his mind. People all over the world fruitlessly chase happiness, when the real catch is contentment regardless of the circumstances.

 Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote,  “You only have power over people as long as you don’t take everything away from them. But when you’ve robbed a man of everything, he’s no longer in your power–he’s free again.” 

True freedom is in a life that is unaffected, not hampered by attachments to things and status. It does not seek validation in the eyes of other people. It does not seek its worth through achievements, and it does not derive its well-being by thriving off of the misery of others.

Whatever life may deliver–and it will bring a lot, make a choice to either accept what happens, or make a concerted effort to change it. If it is not possible to change the situation, work at changing the mindset that made it possible. If a change is not an option, at the least, do not complain. Resorting to constant complaints sends a message that the person is not able to adapt.  Failure to adapt equals a slow decline.

And no one wants that.

Peace,

Erie

My 10 Biggest Weaknesses

This isn’t going to be one of those posts in which I confess a crippling fear of clowns, spiders, or heights. (I’m not scared of the former, and I cured my fear of the latter in 2010) I do not have a weakness for chocolate, cupcakes, or pastries. (I like salt.)  I’m not rankled by physical contact, or intimidated by crowds. (I do hate parties, however.) I am an introvert, who likes alone time, but I also love to spend time with people. I don’t react to external stimuli, and when I’m focused on something, I can block out everything else. Most, if not all of my weaknesses have to do with how I relate to my environment and the people around me. So, here they are. All 7 of them. (I’m positive there are more, but this is enough for today.)

1. Deeming things (and people) unimportant because they are not important to me.
2. Being rude and dismissive towards people I don’t respect.
3. Becoming confrontational when I sense that a person is trying to intimidate me.
4. Ignoring people that I do not want to talk to.
5. Making snide remarks at other people’s expense. To their faces.
6.Judging other people for their life/wardrobe/book/entertainment/word choices.
7.Sarcasm.

…And 3 weaknesses that are actually strengths:

8. Forgiving people after they have treated me wrongly.

9. Being kind to people without having ulterior motives.

10. Not giving a single care what people think about me.

The first 7 things on this list are what keep me humble. I cannot, in good conscience, believe that I am an infallible and wonderful person when I mean-mugged that girl I don’t like, talked mess about that other person, and told that other person that her words don’t carry any weight with me.

Acknowledging one’s flaws is the first step in conquering them. I can be confident in the fact that, as long as I’m alive, I can be better than I was the day before. Just when I think I’ve made it, I’ll mess up, and be reminded that I am not perfect. I am human, and I will make mistakes.

What is the best part about this? It is okay to make mistakes. Smart people learn by them.  The rest? Well, they keep making the same mistakes, over and over again, and then wonder why nothing ever works out in their lives.

I may have many flaws, but they keep me grounded. Smugness is for people who are looking to be knocked off of their high-horses by the law of reciprocity. (Or in biblical terms,  you reap what you sow) I’m a Christian, so I don’t believe in karma, but I do believe that a person only receives what he or she has already given.

As people, we are not defined by our flaws or mistakes. We are defined by our spirit and our character. I admit my flaws because I know they represent only a fraction of the person I am. And you are free to do the same.

Share this! 😛

Erie ♥

Off The Cuff Thursday: Destroy The Image, Break The Enemy

This week, I have been thinking a lot about self-preservation versus vulnerability.

It is human nature to protect everything that makes us feel comfortable, secure, and powerful. The bad thing about self-preservation is that it does not care how it holds on to comfort and security. In the interest of protecting ones’ own interests, self-preservation ignores the interests of others. It does not care what it has to destroy in the process. If self-preservation takes the lead, it will always set itself above the rest. Self-preservation is a display of strength that is devoid of any actual power.

I discovered that the real power is in vulnerability. Vulnerability is a threat to self-preservation because it is proof that a person does not have to appear strong in order to be tough. Vulnerability enables a person to take the biggest risks. There cannot be love where there is no vulnerability. There is no acceptance where there is no vulnerability. There can be no compassion where there is no vulnerability. There can be no success without vulnerability. There can be no genuine kindness where there is no vulnerability.

Self-preservation robs a person of his or her true self because it is reliant on a carefully constructed image. Vulnerability restores because it is reliant on the qualities that the person already has. Self-preservation is sometimes a false friend because it prevents a person from discerning whether threats are real or imaginary. It is continually fighting for survival, in spite of the fact that it is not in danger of destruction.

Vulnerability represents the deconstruction of the graven image that is self-preservation. It is treating people with respect, whether they deserve it or not. It is showing up and doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do. It is working to do your best in all that you do, so at the end of the day, you can say you have done everything in your power to succeed. It is making a mistake and admitting it without making excuses.

Self-preservation is the image. Vulnerability is the real thing.

One of my favourite movies is Enter the Dragon. My favourite scene (and inspiration and namesake for this post) is when Lee fights Han in the museum of mirrors. At first, this disorients Lee. The mirrors make it difficult to see where Han is, so it looks as though Han has the upper hand. (Or claw. If you’ve seen the movie, you know what I mean.) Lee remembers the voice of his sensei, Shaolin Abbot: “Remember:the enemy has only images and illusions behind which he hides his true motives. Destroy the image, and you will break the enemy.” Lee then breaks all of the mirrors and uses Han’s own spear to defeat him.

Humans are born with a survival instinct because we need one. However, sometimes our need to protect our own interests ends up harming instead of helping. It takes wisdom–that I am currently, not in possession of, but hope to acquire–to know when to protect and when to pull all the walls down and be accessible.

Self-preservation prevents us from ingesting poisonous foods and from running into situations that might potentially endanger us. Self preservation also prevents us from seeking things that may benefit us because we are too concerned with the risks involved. It causes us to work against the people we are supposed to be helping, and push the people who are supposed to help us away. It causes us to hide our faults because we don’t want anyone else to know that we’re not perfect. It causes us to blame others for mistakes that we have made.

“Self preservation isn’t worth it if you can’t live with the self you’re preserving.” David Levithan, Everyday

I write this because I am in the middle of destroying some long-held illusions about myself. In the past couple of years, I have discovered that the qualities I previously thought to be weaknesses; kindness, compassion, empathy, forgiveness, acceptance, and tolerance, are actually strengths. They don’t look like strengths, but I have decided that I’d rather appear weak and have a lot of strength, than appear strong and have little.

In the bible, the apostle Paul wrote that God’s strength is made perfect in weakness. (It all comes back to the Bible with me, folks. Get used to it.)  In my life, would not have gained the strength I needed without first admitting that I was not strong. When I made the admission, I had to go through situations specifically set up to strengthen me. It was a strict regimen–only the training was for my mental and emotional fitness rather than physical. (Though, my physical strength, is nothing to scoff at either)

I am who I am, not because I can intimidate people with my loud voice, (nope!) my size, (definitely not), or how I speak (I’m silent around 50% if the time). I’m not any smarter than anyone else. I’m not wiser, or bigger or badder. I am who I am because I know my weaknesses. I allow myself the grace to make mistakes without feeling shame about them. I know what I’m good at. I know what motivates me, and I know how I cope with stress. (By Working out, and then naps.) I can endure tough times and not allow them to defeat me. Most importantly, I have faith in someone and something greater than me. If I choose self-preservation, it means that I don’t trust God.

In the interest if self-preservation, I won’t eat anything that doesn’t look or smell right, and I won’t rush toward danger (unless, of course, someone needs my help). If a person has already betrayed me three times, I’d be hesitant to trust them so they can betray me once more, (Hey there, Delilah) But, me being dishonest so I can conform to the image others have of me has been over for a long time.

I am at my best when I am vulnerable because that is when my actions most closely resemble those of Jesus. Even if my vulnerability costs me, I don’t want to change.

Destroying the image breaks the enemy.

Peace,

Erie

Sharing Sunday:10 Reasons Why I’m Not Qualified To Judge Anyone

In no particular order:

I am not a judge.

No matter how great I look in a black robe and wig, I am not a judge. If I want to judge others with impunity, I will need to spend a minimum of 7 years in a proper law school, and gain experience presiding over trials. Since I have not done that, I can’t judge.

I am not perfect.

I am full of flaws. I have a lot of good qualities, but my flaws and lack of experience disqualify me from correctly judging another person.

I watch questionable TV shows.

Think about it: would you, in good conscience, trust anyone who watches The Real Housewives of Wherever, to make an accurate judgment regarding your choices? I didn’t think so.

I’m biased.

I have a unique view of the world that is based upon my upbringing, my experiences, my beliefs, and many other factors. How I view the world shapes my opinions, and I cannot always be trusted to be objective.

I don’t have the right to judge anyone.

The ability to judge another person is not a right. Judging another person is a privilege and is granted to a person who has been authorized, by a governing body to do so. That ain’t me.

Because. Who asked for my opinion, anyway?

My opinions are important to me. My right to have opinions is important to me. I am thankful to be allowed to express my opinions. However, if I’m honest, I have to admit that not a single person asked me for them. The fact that I have opinions does not give me the right to express them (particularly in regard to other people) without considering what the consequences may be.

No, seriously. Who asked me?

The assertion that an opinion cannot be wrong is false. An opinion is wrong when it is clouded by ulterior motives. An opinion is wrong when its foundation is built on erroneous information. An opinion is wrong when it exposes a clear bias. An opinion is wrong when it is based more on my personal feelings than it is on the facts. All of these may or may not be at play when I express an opinion, so I should keep some of them to myself.

I don’t know everything.

Sometimes my judgments are based on hearsay, misinformation, and ignorance. I can’t make a completely informed judgment without knowledge of all of the facts. I will not pay attention to the facts if I am standing in judgment of someone. If I don’t know it all, I can’t judge it all.

I am not God.

Obviously. I should have started with this one.

Bonus reason: I am a Christian, and while we do judgmental better than anyone else, I’d rather live a judgment-free life, than risk drawing the ire of God.

“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you. Forgive others, and you will be forgiven.”  (Luke 6:37 NLT)

Peace,

Erin