A truth that will help you reach your dreams

You are greater than you know. You are more than you believe.

No matter what credentials, diplomas, status, or net worth you have (or don’t have), you possess the power to change your surroundings, your habits, your career, your life. You are more powerful than you know. What you say, think, and do impacts those around you. You create ripples in the pool of life. You have power. Use it. Bless others. Do good.

You are more beautiful than you feel. Although you long for beauty, to be it, to have it, to hold it, to be united with it, you are glorious just as you are. Yes. Don’t believe the lies of the media, our culture, glossy magazine covers, or social media posts. They are fantasy, untrue. There is a beauty that lays hidden from plain sight; it’s more profound, more vibrant, more authentic than what we see. It can be cultivated and grown in anyone, in you. The real beauty is the person you are, your kindness, gentleness, integrity, justice, love. By those, anyone can beam with blazing splendor.

You are more capable than you think. Don’t let the voices inside you, around you, the mistakes from the past, the fears of the future, sway you from seeing what you can do. You can learn new skills, start a venture, pursue a dream. It’s not beyond you. Every day is an opportunity to try. It’s before you always, beckoning. The only person holding you back is you. Go.

You are more competent than you think. Maybe you’ve failed here and there. But don’t count them as signs of incompetence. See them as opportunities to learn. You aren’t a failure; you’re experienced, seasoned. You’ve been around the block and got mugged and lived to tell the tale. You’re a survivor. Now it’s your chance to thrive. And you have enough smarts and skills to do more than you can imagine. Take your experience, interests, and effort and create something. It’s in you. You can. Try.

Cast off the negativity, naysayers, self-criticism, hate. There’s too much of that already.

See your capacity to achieve, change, grow.

You are more than you think.

Believe.

Sometimes to forget is the most powerful thing you can do

Sometimes forgetting is the best thing you can do to become who you were meant to be.

Forget that you feel like a failure and that you can’t do this or that and the mistake you made back then.

Forget thinking that you’re not enough, that you don’t look a certain way, have the credentials, talent, network, or the perfect quaff of hair.

Forget comparing yourself to others who have more of more—more money, friends, cars, sex, lovers, homes, children, followers, beauty.

Forget the shame and guilt that you carry around you like lead weights; you aren’t what you think you are; you are far greater, more magnificent and beautiful than you can imagine.

Forget the anxiety, the negative stories, the imperfection, the stress, the haters and the hate. Forget all that hinders you from reaching your potential.

And remember this.

You are enough.

The one thing you need to make more of to grow: mistakes

Perfectionism doesn’t help us progress; mistakes do. 

With the right mindset, they push us forward. We need to know that succeeding isn’t neat and tidy; it’s sloppy and messy. It’s mistake-ridden. 

When you make a mistake, it lays the groundwork for improvement. Every failure is an attempt to do something. And in those attempts, you experience this and that. You test a hypothesis; you discover. You see what works and what doesn’t work, and you can understand something new about yourself. 

Sure, making a mistake is painful, and it’s tempting to want to ignore the failure, avoid it. But that would be a waste. That would be a bigger mistake than the mistake you’re trying to forget. 

Mistakes are a goldmine for growth and learning. But you can’t learn and grow from them if you ignore them. 

If Steve Jobs didn’t get fired from Apple, he wouldn’t have learned what he needed to learn to come back and become its successful CEO. Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder, said that he’s made billions of dollars of failures. And without those costly mistakes, his company wouldn’t have grown, making him the wealthiest person in the world. 

One of my biggest mistakes was taking on some wrong business partners. I was the one who pushed for partnering and got it. In the end, it got me. And it almost broke me. 

But as I healed and recovered, I changed. I got stronger, smarter. And I am much more careful when it comes to partnerships. I learned. 

And this blog post is a product of my mistake. If I would have never failed at those partnerships, I don’t think I would have ever tried blogging. I grew. 

You see, we are mistaken about mistakes.

They hurt like hell at the moment, but they are blessings. If you understand them aright and try to learn from them, things won’t just get back to normal; they often get better. 

So make more mistakes. Take risks. Try new things. Put yourself out there. Learn.

And you will find that a mistake can become a marvel.

One of the most powerful things you can do for yourself: Forgive

We all make mistakes, and we forgive others. But often forgiving ourselves is harder. 

But we must. 

Do you know what I’m talking about? It’s that thing you did or continue doing that you can’t release and forgive yourself. Instead, you punish. 

I know all about that. 

Defiance marked my teenage face, as I screamed at her. She stopped speaking. And I started calling my mom unspeakable names, unleashing words like armed missiles. She would flee, and I would seethe. It was ugly; I was ugly. 

In college, I started to follow Jesus and accepted his forgiveness. But I would always say that there was one thing I could not forgive, and that was the way I treated my mom. 

So I held on to my guilt and shame. Unknowingly, I beat myself up, launching armed missiles at myself, perpetuating an old wound. It was ugly; I was ugly. 

Then one day, some guy I knew talked to me. And somehow we got on this subject, and he said something that I would never forget, “If God can forgive you for everything, why can’t you forgive yourself? Are you better than God?” 

I was stunned. 

The truth of his statement and the utter blindness of my behavior and mindset were stunning to me. The understanding washed over me like a wave washes over you on the seashore. 

My burden melted away from me; I was free. 

What I didn’t expect was how much better I was going to feel. The quickness and sharpness of my anger lost its snap and edge. My missiles were disarmed. I felt calmer and was kinder to others, to myself. 

It was work, though. It wasn’t just a one and done kind of thing. I had to continually forgive myself, reminding myself of what my friend told me, remembering that it was foolish to beat myself up over my past failings. 

And slowly over the years, I wasn’t just continually forgiving myself; I forgave myself. 

Forgive yourself. Holding onto your failings, shame, sin doesn’t do anyone good. It certainly does you no good. 

It’s counterintuitive to think that if I forgive myself that I will become a better person. It’s tempting to believe that if I just keep on lashing myself with the past, I’ll get better; but it doesn’t work that way. We don’t get better. We get worse. 

Shame begets shame; unkindness begets unkindness. It’s a cycle–vicious and bloody. 

It takes a radical act to break it.

Forgiveness is the only door through which true healing comes. And that’s exactly what we need to mend our wounds and cease to perpetuate them. We need balm and bandage. We need to forgive ourselves. 

And you will find that you will no longer see yourself as that person who did that terrible thing. You will see yourself as a person who can change. You will no longer be trapped in the cage of the past. You will be released to live anew. 

You will be free. 

How change can make the best of you now

Change is scary. But we can learn to face it and turn it to our advantage. 

The reason we fear change is because we can’t control it. It often happens to us. 

And we see it as adversarial: Change is the enemy and is messing with my life. Change is changing what I don’t want to be changed. 

We can fight it. But that tactic usually ends badly. 

But we can alter the way we view it. 

Change is a chance. It’s a time to grow. We can try something we’ve never done before and expand our mind, practice, life. 

We can’t change change, but we can choose to change ourselves, our actions, our language, our thinking.

Change is painful, but, if we think rightly, it can mean progress. 

By changing the way we see change, viewing it less as a burden and a thing to fear and more like something that helps us, grows us, pushes us to be better; we change. 

Now, instead of change happening to us, it’s happening for us. 

It needn’t be torture. 

It’s a teacher. 

What do you think about fear?

Fear is no way to live. It keeps you from doing what you want, what you should do. 

It causes you to freeze when the moment calls for moving forward. You hide when revealing yourself is better.

Safety is not always sound. 

Sure, it protects us from risk, from possibly dying, losing. 

But living in fear doesn’t help us win. Staying alive doesn’t mean you’re living. 

Open your heart, put yourself out there, get in the game, do. 

There is more to fear than just failure, pain, and death. 

It’s not living.

You can conquer the fear of embarrassment

The fear of embarrassment is powerful, but it doesn’t have to overpower us.

But sometimes it does.

I know all about that.

An episode of a TV show kept me from blogging. Let me explain.

Billions, a show on Showtime, has a scene where two characters were talking about another person who got fired from their hedge fund, and one of them wanted to know where he ended up. And the other said that he thought the guy who got fired started blogging, and then they looked at each other with this smirk that said something like this—loser.

Blogging was an idea I had toyed with for months. I wanted to try it. But I was unsure of myself. Then I saw that episode. And visions of others smirking about me made me cringe. I didn’t want to be a loser. I got scared.

And I didn’t blog.

Others’ opinions about us affect us all. Parents, friends, coworkers, strangers—for me, even fictitious TV characters—can, and do, stop us from pursuing good things.

All too often, we care too much about what too many people think about us.

Dreams, goals, and hopes are squashed even before they begin because of that dynamic. A threat of a smirk halts us.

And what’s interesting (and sad) is that often it’s not the actual embarrassment that stops us. It’s our fear of it.

We don’t want the possibility of others thinking that we are a loser. But living that way robs us of reaching our potential, trying new things, becoming better.

And that fear, it’s often the fear of feeling embarrassed. It’s the fear of fear.

But we don’t need to live that way. We shouldn’t.

And this truth can set us free.

Most of what we believe other people think about us doesn’t exist. It’s not real. Most of the time, we don’t know what others think about us. It’s just our imagination, and we usually imagine something snippy or snide. It’s never anything positive, or cheery.

But really, most of the people whom we are afraid are thinking those negative thoughts aren’t thinking about us at all. They are too busy worrying about what other people are thinking about them. Their thinking about their problems, stresses—not you.

The issue isn’t them. It’s us. We tell ourselves a story of what we think they are saying about us. But it’s just our inner critic; it’s self-hate. We are calling ourselves a loser: They’re not smirking. We are.

Being aware of that is power.

Anytime we start worrying about the opinions of others, we can pause and assess the thought.
Then, we can call it what it is—a lie. It’s a false story. And we can move on. We can pursue our dreams, start that company, make a career change, be ourselves, blog.

For me, this isn’t just a battle; it’s a war. It’s fought daily. Assessing that inner critic and calling out the lies needs to happen far more than I’d like to admit. But that’s just what it is. So I fight. Many of you may need to, as well.

If so, fight on friends. It’s a practice. It’s life. And we need to get on living freely, unchained by the smirks, fear of fear, and opinions of others, free of self-hate.

Sure, there are haters out there, but that’s for another post.

For now, let’s overcome the hater within.

Failure is the secret to success

Failure doesn’t have to be the end; it can be a start to something better.  

Failing sucks—no doubt. It’s something we all want to avoid. And after we’ve failed, we may be tempted to quit, stop trying, hide. But that would be a mistake.

For greater success is forged from the ashes of failure. 

He wanted to be CEO of Apple, the company he helped start, but his board didn’t think he was ready. Then Steve Jobs was fired, setting his life in a direction he never anticipated nor planned for, at all. But his firing led him to start NeXT, buying and growing Pixar, getting married, and, finally, Apple bought NeXT which brought Jobs back to his first company and led him to become its CEO. 

That’s not how Jobs scripted his life. But it ended up being better than he planned it, all because he got fired and didn’t give up. 

Failure, for Jobs, was the beginning of something new, something better. He didn’t know it at the time. But he continued to take risks and try to add value to the world. He continued to work. And he accomplished more than he would have if he would have stayed at Apple.  

Jobs’ failure multiplied his successes. Later in his life, Jobs called getting fired the best thing that happened to him. If he stayed at Apple would we have Pixar, Toy Story, and all of the other animated movies that we love? Probably not. 

When we fail, we must remember that failure isn’t the end. It’s painful, yes; it’s embarrassing; it sucks. But if we keep moving forward and pushing ourselves, we can still succeed. But even more so we have a higher chance of multiplying our successes. 

You may not become a CEO of one of the most valuable companies in the world, instrumental in and largest stockholder of the best animation studio in the world, or even an entrepreneur. But failure can still shape a life you never imagined for yourself. 

It happens because failure creates change. Just as it did in Jobs’ life, failing changes your life and work. It shakes things up. Your career, work, trajectory, etc. is forced in directions you never saw coming. But, in that lies opportunities to see things afresh, gain learnings, try new things. And you will be surprised by what you can produce, who you can become.

What changes will, or should, occur for you isn’t for me to say, but there is one thing for sure that will change. And it’s this.  

You. 

You will be different. Failure wounds, and you will have scars. Forgetting what happened is a fool’s errand. The memories won’t leave you. But that can be a good thing. 

You will see the world, others, yourself differently. The pain you experienced will be a part of your story irrevocably. And, after you’ve survived the agony, you will see yourself anew. You can be stronger, better, more capable. 

And as life presents new bumps and bends in your path, you will find navigating them easier. And you will be able to do things you never thought you could do. 

If you don’t allow failure to crush you completely, it can become an experience that helps you soar to heights you never thought you could reach. Because you are changed, better, greater. 

Pushing through failure helps us become the people we are meant to be. It’s an essential part of reaching our potential, the potential we never even knew he had, nor ever could have achieved without the pain of failure. 

C.S. Lewis is one of my literary heroes. He is one of the greatest thinkers and writers ever to marry ink to paper. 

But, he was a loser. 

Well, he wasn’t really, but he did lose. And it did something to him. 

He considered himself a Christian apologist, which is a fancy word for someone who defends his or her faith. Lewis wrote some of the best works that articulate what Christians believe about Jesus and why. 

Then in a public debate, in a club Lewis was president of at Oxford, he and a new female professor debated on one of his positions that he wrote about in one of his books. 

And he lost. 

It’s hard to say what it did to him. Some say that he questioned his ability to be a Christian apologist and had a lot of self-doubt. Others doubt that. Whatever happened to Lewis, we can be sure that it did do something to him and his work. It changed him. Just look at his bibliography. 

He was on a tear, writing a lot of Christian nonfiction. Then, after the debate, he stopped. And he started writing children’s books. 

Chronicles of Narnia to be precise. 

And Narnia became his most successful work in terms of popularity. If Lewis never lost that debate, it’s hard to know if Narnia would have ever existed. Out of the ashes of defeat, Lewis wrote his most beloved work. 

C.S. Lewis didn’t know what his failure would produce at the time. He probably did feel humiliated, embarrassed, or bad, at least. Losing hurts. 

Lewis stopped publishing nonfiction for a long time, but he didn’t stop writing. He was knocked down. But he got up and started anew. And children all over the world were (and continue to be) blessed. 

Failure can kill. It can destroy our drive, our will, our hopes, our loves. But we can’t let it snuff us out. We must move forward. Writers must continue writing, even if they are “just” children’s books; entrepreneurs must continue starting businesses; we all must continue moving forward. 

Remember that failure is a part of the process toward success. It’s an invitation to progress. 

In my life, there have been many times when I just wanted to pack up all of my toys and check out. I wanted to quit. I didn’t just want to stop school, work, relationships; I wanted out of life. 

I do not doubt that you’ve had your fair share of pain. You’ve lost. You’ve felt shame. You’ve felt stupid. And all you want to do is hide and never come back out. 

Failures will change us. And, if we let them, we won’t just become different; we will be better. If we continue to push forward, we progress to not only to becoming better than we were before but better than we could have ever imagined ourselves to be. 

Failure isn’t just falling down.

It’s where we rise up.

My first business was a complete failure

Me with partner in 2008 somewhere in Brooklyn

Featured pic above by Billy, I think, of my business partner and me at our first photo shoot. We had no idea what we were doing. What is that look on my face?

Grand dreams of selling luxury t-shirts swirled in my mind, as I schlepped through Bedford Stuyvesant, the Brooklyn neighborhood in which Jay-Z grew up. It was 2008, and the Great Recession had begun.

Continue reading “My first business was a complete failure”

Surviving one of the most difficult times in my life: my bout with depression

When I was younger, I didn’t think I could ever fall into depression. Not that I wasn’t susceptible to it but that it just would happen to me. But, I was naive.

I was working at a church in Queens, New York, learning how to start churches. I was young and full of hope.

My life was a beautiful dream. I was living in the city I loved, working in the career I felt called to and I was making new friends. My future looked bright.

Then, I got fired.

Continue reading “Surviving one of the most difficult times in my life: my bout with depression”