Success, with Style

Posts tagged “life

What To Do When You’ve Done All You Can

Posted on March 2, 2015

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things that I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

I usually stagger, and sometimes fall, on the first part: opening myself up to accepting the things that I cannot change. When you’ve grown accustomed to leading, creating opportunities, changing unsavory situations, and encouraging others, sometimes you want to buck against those circumstances that you actually cannot change. You want to find the loophole, the break in the chain of command, the weak link. You want to force a square peg into a round hole. It is then that you, and I, experience the most discontent. It is when I know that I have done all that I can, yet I continue to find a way to alter the outcome, to sway it in my favor. This is the moment that is the hardest: knowing there is nothing more you can do, yet wanting to do more.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.

Serenity is not enough. Serenity is the first leg of the race. Faith is the finish. You get through those anxiety-ridden moments when you don’t know the outcome by having faith in yourself and your God that, no matter what, you will be okay. You will continue to move forward. You will rise, and in the end, you will conquer.

You ever notice that you feel least in control when it seems the outcome is in the hands of another person, when you are not in control? For instance, you’ve submitted your resume, you’ve interviewed exceedingly well, and sent you handwritten thank-you notes. It seems you did all you can do. Yet, you still find yourself biting your nails and pacing, trying to figure out what more you can do to land your dream job. That is where serenity and faith must show up. When you’ve done all you can do and you simply have to wait.

I’m not good at waiting. I’m better at serenity and really good at faith, but waiting…eh, not so much.

I’m waiting to hear back from a few more graduate programs and a couple of fellowships. Depending on how much coffee I’ve had, I find myself stressed and anxious while awaiting the outcomes of my applications. That is, until I realize that I have too many other things to do instead of wait and worry. Those outcomes are no longer in my control. What I can control, however, is my work, my blog, and how I operate in my relationships. I can control the effort I put in at the gym and the food I put into my body. Once I reaffirm that I control certain events and outcomes, the waiting becomes less difficult. I have to remind myself that I am, in fact, equipped with the wisdom to know the difference between the things that I can and cannot change.

Most important, however, is that I also possess the courage to change the things that are within my control, and so do you.

Are you Really Ready for 2015?

Posted on January 16, 2015

Some of us reside in the now, but revel in the past. The past represents the shoulders upon which we stand, it is not the ladder upon which we climb. As we proceed through 2015, if you haven’t already done so, take some time to reflect on the last year, and to prepare for this year. A Chicago-based non-profit helped me and about one hundred other people engage in this practice this past Saturday.
(Affinity Community Services is a social justice organization celebrating its 20th anniversary that works with and on behalf of Black LGBTQ communities, queer youth, and allies to identify emergent needs, create safe spaces, develop leaders, and bridge communities through collective analysis and action for social justice, freedom, and human rights. )

Affinity Community Services is a social justice organization that works with and on behalf of Black LGBTQ communities, queer youth, and allies to identify emergent needs, create safe spaces, develop leaders, and bridge communities through collective analysis and action for social justice, freedom, and human rights.

Affinity Community Services hosted its annual Burning Bowl ceremony, an affirmation ceremony that has two main components:

(1) constituents write down the feelings, experiences, and circumstances that they will leave in 2014 – this is the “burn;” and

(2) constituents write down their affirmations for 2015 and then place their affirmations in a self-addressed envelope which Affinity mails to them in June 2015, allowing  constituents to check-in and measure their progress for the year.

If you haven’t already, I encourage you to engage in your own burning bowl. You’ve heard of vision board parties. Well, you all can also do a burning bowl.

How to Have a Burning Bowl: 

  • Get a small group of close friends together at someone’s home.
  • Note: Of course, you can host a solo burning bowl. 
  • Provide Paper and writing utensils
  • Provide refreshments to guests (potluck style is always an option)

The Burn:

  • Think about what you will leave in 2014. Write that down. And then let it go.
  • Example: From 2014, I will burn the negative and hindering feelings associated with rejection and self-doubt.
If you can safely burn the paper, do so. The goal is to never engage in those experiences, painstaking moments, and negative feelings, again. Release it. Burn it; let it go. If you cannot safely burn it, shred it. Ball up the piece of paper and pass around a wastebasket for everyone to pitch their “burn” list. Immediately take the garbage out. Whatever your method, your “burning” is a symbolic release.

The Affirmation:

  • Write down what you want to affirm in 2015.
  • Example: For 2015 – I affirm love in every aspect of my life, ruthless prioritization, and fearlessness.
It’s best to write your affirmations on a single sheet of paper, front-side only. Don’t overwhelm yourself with the action items right now; start with feelings. How do you want to feel in 2015? We all want to feel happy. What is keeping you from feeling happy? Are you dissatisfied with your employment? Your affirmation may be that in 2015, you will affirm your work experience for the lessons, learning, and mentoring. You may also affirm your ability to advance in your profession.
* Note: You do not have to share your burn list or affirmations. However, you might find it incredibly liberating and affirming to do so.


  • Set calendar reminders for your affirmations
At the end of each quarter, check in with yourself on the progress of your affirmations. For instance, you might ask yourself whether you have been kind to yourself, whether you have made your health and wellness a priority, whether you have allowed fear to stop you from pursuing a goal, or whether you have engaged in the process of determining your passions.
We have reached the middle of January 2015. Time will move on regardless of whether you are prepared for it. Isn’t it better to be prepared?
Wishing you a successful year ahead,

Rumination on Death and Life

Posted on September 13, 2014

I’ve been thinking about death lately. My thinking was triggered during the funeral of a close family friend. When she died, she was the same age as my big sister, and she is survived by five children – adults and teenagers. While seated in the pews of the funeral home, my mother sat to my left and my sister to my right. In the middle of mourning the deceased’s passing and her family’s loss, my mind wandered to thoughts of the type of service I wanted, and I leaned to my left and I shared my thoughts with my mother as they came to me. Something else was stirring inside me during the funeral service.

I’ve been called “sensitive” a time or two, and when my sister reached over, grabbed my hand, and squeezed, I definitely earned that title. Tears that had been welling up inside me for months suddenly erupted and I choked back a sob. I cried for the family of the deceased, and particularly the daughters who hollered out in pain, as though their mother was physically stitched to their bodies and someone came along and ripped them apart, leaving a gaping wound. I cried because, one day, my mother or myself would experience that, and I cannot stand the thought of anyone I love experiencing pain, hurt, or sadness. I cried because, when my sister squeezed my hand, I was forced to begin the process of reconciling some things in me.

I went to the funeral knowing that I would be faced with this moment. My sister and I, once as entwined as you can imagine two sisters can be, are not as close these days. When she squeezed my head, and I was faced with the reality of death, the unexpected shortness of life, and the wish for just a little more time, I began the process of deciding whether and how to mend my relationship with my sister.

I had so many competing thoughts before, during, and after the funeral service, but three things became clear in the weeks that followed:

1) We must each exercise our autonomy in crafting our narrative and shaping our legacy.

I must be deliberate in crafting my narrative because my narrative will become my history. We should not go through life passively, responding to circumstances, and unprepared for the future. I am the first to admit that I am not where I want to be. However, I am exactly where I should be – the difference is that I have faith in my journey. I have confidence that things will happen when they are supposed to. This confidence did not come easily. I had my share of false starts: in friendships, romantic relationships, and professional relationships. And I’m sure there are more false starts to come; I cannot control when or how they show up. Yet, I do not regret a single experience. I am grateful for them because they inform my life and led me to this very moment. At the same time, I firmly believe in planning; I have goals and plans to achieve them.

You can plan your legacy. You can aim high and try to shape your future and the impact that you will have on others. Of course, you cannot control how your intentions and actions will be received. You can, however, undoubtedly control your intentions and actions. With this control, you have the power to plan for your death by crafting your narrative and your legacy. We all have the autonomy to create positive and inspiring memories.

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I want to leave a legacy that I would be proud of. My mission is to identify, teach, and manifest the power of self-revelation. One way that I work towards and achieve this mission is through writing and curating. Dressing every day is an expression of my creativity, my identity, and my freedom. These are just a few of the ways that I am crafting my legacy and narrative.

2) The more you do in service to others, the wider your reach, and the more sustaining your legacy.

A few people have told me that they are trying to figure out their purpose and their passion, and how to merge their purpose and passion in a way that makes their lives more fulfilling. During these discussions, I urge them to also consider ways to serve others in the midst of manifesting their passion. It’s no coincidence that when your purpose and passion involve serving someone besides yourself, you feel more fulfilled. OPC-201407-help-community-steven-sawalich-949x949And yes, you can get paid for serving others. Being of service does not mean you are doomed to a life of poverty and trying to figure out how to feed yourself and your family. Operating from a place of service to others will no doubt make your legacy more robust. For instance, one theme became clear at the funeral: the deceased had a way of making people laugh, feel comfortable, and feel welcomed. She was not a woman of means, but she used her treasures – her kindness, humor, and easy spirit – to provide to others. That’s a wonderful legacy to leave.

3) Death, unfortunately, inspires the urgency of life.

If something or someone is important to you, then your treatment of them should reflect that importance, and it should be done with a sense of expediency. We like to think that our lives exist in perpetuity, but they don’t. Lives end, seasons change. Feelings, personalities, and goals morph. Moments, and even lives, are fleeting and you cannot control when a moment, experience, or a life will end. You can plan for a lifetime, and only get a month. If you knew that you only had one month with a person, or just to live, how would you treat that month? I choose to cherish it, to enjoy and experience it. Others choose to forego experiencing the month altogether. They think, “Well, if I know it will end, why get involved?” Rather than engage in those feelings, become invested and create those memories, they operate out of fear, instead choosing to close themselves off from opportunities to live, love, and learn. Being faced with death inspires me to experience and appreciate the urgency of life.

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Therefore, I am more open to dealing with the scab that has formed over my relationship with my sister. It is too important not to. But I will do it in the healthiest way possible, and in a way that mends and does not just mask. I will do it in a way that affirms the mutual love and care that we share for each other, but that also recognizes the deep hurt, frustration, mistrust, and divergent views that pervade our kinship. In the end, I cannot force or feign a positive encounter or relationship, and I cannot solely live in our past relationship. Things have changed. However, I can unabashedly affirm my love for my sister. I can acknowledge and assert the urgency of that affirmation.

My life, and yours, is a work in progress. But you must be willing to do the work to see the progress. Think about how you want to be remembered, and get to work on creating that legacy. Today.

In solidarity with your success journey,



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