First 6 Lessons of 2012: A Half Year in Full Review

The first half of 2012 has yielded many profound lessons for me. Some have been minor, like “don’t tell your boss that you hate the way he hits on his secretary” because it doesn’t bode well for your employment. And some tips have been major, like when visiting a sick relative, drop all your shit and just go see them. I could list an entire almanac on this year’s lessons but instead I’ll talk about six: one for every month thus far.


1. Learn to not give a damn so much. There are critics who bathe in your failure, employers who are quick to judge, and exes wishing you the worst. The most effective response you can give them? Fuck off.

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No, seriously. Chronic stress does not help you. It inhibits your performance and makes you weak in front of rivals and less reliable as a leader. Dismiss destructive thoughts and wipe fear of failure away like rain off a windshield wiper. Ignore the haters because they certainly don’t enrich your life. If you make a mistake, admit it, and continue to stand tall. In the long haul, patience and positive reinforcement have more staying power than negative feedback.

I’m not encouraging absolute complacency, no. Nor am I telling you to forget about other people’s problems. I’m endorsing the Zen-esque mantra of letting some trials figure themselves out instead of being a neurotic control-freak who holds onto autonomy like a security blanket. Listen: there are just some things you can’t control. He may leave you without a reason. She probably hates your best friends. Checking your mailbox more frequently will not make your packages arrive sooner. And the Knicks probably aren’t going to win a championship anytime soon so keep Linsanity at a tempered setting.

Relax. Stop stressing out so much. Drink a Kool-Aid and have faith that some flowers bloom on their own time.


2. My wise friend Julian once told me, “master your minutes.” Rightly so. Our time here is finite. The more responsibilities you burden, the more imperative it is that you really master time management skills. Spouses, jobs, hobbies, family, friends—all of these, whether you realize it or not, demand precious hours from your schedule. One preoccupation overshadows the chance for another and every moment you spend on leisure is a moment you lose in raw productivity. You may not realize the value of time now but you will eventually, esp. when a full time job, a lover, a family, or a passion comes into the picture. Your life is a studio apartment with sporadically shifting walls, so understand which priorities to tackle first and which Youtube videos you can save for later.

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Put simply: prioritize your activities. Allocate time to your craft. Set markers to gauge progress and have a strong drink when you need to. Work hard, rest smart, and visit loved ones as often as your schedule will allow. And for the love of God, eliminate potential distractions.


3. Focus on your goals. Focus goes beyond the winded adage of tunnel vision. Focus means borderline obsessive dedication, the kind that has you rejecting party invites to study for an exam or saying no to your parents when they try to tell you that your unconventional pursuits in life are insane. Focus means having an ever-present awareness of what you want, enough to make you pray for it at night and work thoroughly for its fruition throughout the day.

Run!

You probably know this mantra already. Maybe you don’t. What’s guaranteed however is that very few people will understand your obsessions to photography, work, performance, or Star Wars. The vast majority of outsiders will criticize you for “wasting your time.” Again, as mentioned in point one, most of these people don’t matter. Or they shouldn’t. When your life is a mess, its revitalization should be governed by two key factors: 1) people who support you and 2) your own persistence.

Don’t worry if your dreams sound insane. Dreams are a sort of self-fulfilling delusion, like “true love”—its fruition is only as real as you expect it to be. Censor the voice that tells you getting what you want is difficult or even impossible. If you must lose a friend because of professional or personal pursuits, so be it. This is the gritty reality of success: sometimes you have to let go of everything holding you back. This includes: non-relevant hobbies, sleep, good manners, and even fear itself.


4. Know that you are not alone. There are a lot of people out there struggling financially. Student loans are tearing wallets up like the Hulk attempting Origami. The fiscal resurgence economists ramble on about benefits only the employed 91.9% population of the US. But not really because 30% of them work 50+ hours weeks to simply survive. Dumped? Happens to all of us, partner. Feeling depressed, like, all the time? That makes you and thirty million other Americans. Don’t ever think you’re alone because you’re really not.

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It’s easy to feel isolated when you view your problems as self-exclusive. They’re not. You’d be surprised how people can empathize with the various plights in your life, whether they be rugged self-esteem issues, broken families, abusive fathers or meager finances. The world is unforgiving sometimes but its inhabitants are much kinder.

Don’t be afraid to let people in. Ask for help. Talk about your problems if you need to and be receptive when someone is spilling their own. Because when it’s time to vent, you’re gonna need someone there for you, too.


5. Talk to strangers. I can’t tell you how many strangers I’ve befriended this year out of sheer curiosity. My willingness to drive twenty miles out of way to make a new friend or photograph a new model has been its own unique reward. People say I’m brave; I’m really just a student of new-age psychology.

(And I get bored easily.)

Crazy face not needed.

You’ll never know what kind of opportunities and friendships lie dormant within a stranger if you never speak up. In a crowded NY subway, there are 200,000 stories floating around and the only flood gate holding them back is shyness.

I don’t care if you’re a guy or a girl, rich or poor, angry or sad, straight or gay, black or brown—if you look interesting enough to talk to, I’m going to approach you and strike up a conversation. That talk will most likely make you uncomfortable at first BUT after ten minutes, I will leave you yearning for more. I don’t have a gift for good first impressions but I know mine are lasting ones.

So start making people uncomfortable. You could be the next greatest accident in someone’s life.


6. People are beautiful messes. No one’s perfect, that is to say, for every redeeming quality you find in a person, there’s an equally dark secret lurking behind closed doors. No one is as spectacular as they seem (but if they are, marry them). Contrary to the reality stars we see on TV, not many people are as crazy as Hitler.

Perfection of character is nonexistent. We’re all amazing for different reasons and it’s imperative to understand this when meet new people and forgiving old enemies. There are very few people who are genuinely assholes. Neurosis is a funny by-product of bad genetics and childhood trauma. The meanest people you know are probably spoiled douchebags or inheritants of lingering child abuse.

When dealing with difficult people (especially loved ones), patience and communication are paramount. There are a staggering number of people who suffer from life-debilitating issues like low-self esteem, passive aggressive tendencies, and phobias that make daily chores look like a gauntlet run. There are no quick-fix tricks to snap people out of negative habits. Just a kind ear, firm reassurance, and open dialogue. My friends have given me this patience and I’m a happier person because of it.

…so yeah, don’t tell your boss to stop hitting on his secretary.


Crisanto J. Jorda is a witty adventurer who likes his own statuses on Facebook. When he isn’t running around New York City, he is a freelance video editor / photographer and active member of the artistic-branding collective ThinkBlot Media. Check out his personal photography blog, too!


Incremental Goals

The Problem

When presented with a multitude of options, human beings tend to get extremely anxious. We become restless and bothered to the point where having too many choices actually hinder progressive decision making. That is, it becomes too difficult to make up one’s mind and the easiest decision – which is to not decide at all – typically ensues. However, if the intended goal is to progress by selecting one of those options, then deciding to not decide would be very detrimental. To say the least, having too many options is crippling.

One of the most common concerns for recent college and high school graduates is this: “what should I be doing with my life now?” Obviously, this question is inherently vague and as a result has many possible answers. For instance, as a recent high school graduate, you have the options of travelling and going backpacking (if you have the money, of course), going to another state for college, staying at home and living with mom and pop, etc. Or if you’re a college graduate, the number of options are arguably even greater. You can move abroad to work, volunteer with the peace corp, go to graduate school, apply for a Fullbright scholarship, work on the next big thing (which is also vague), etc. Point being, graduating and deciding what to do afterwards is non-trivial.

Ah, the paradox of choice.

As recent college graduates, we too were impaired by the number of opportunities available for us. As they say, finish college and the world is your oyster. Indeed, it ate us alive.

Incremental Goal Setting

With this knowledge, how can one avoid the pitfalls associated with having too many options? The first and foremost obvious answer would be this: narrow down your options. This does not necessarily mean you’re eliminating options altogether, you’re simply identifying the most feasible ones that are actionable and current with what you want. Think about it, it’s impossible to do all things at once; however, executing a few manageable ones is a much better start than not doing anything at all.

This process of narrowing down options touches upon a technique that is key to any sort of achievement, that is, the process of incremental goal setting. The idea is simple, looking at any insurmountable goal is daunting, especially if you’re extremely far away from accomplishing it. Breaking a goal into smaller actionable steps, however, not only simplifies the process, but it enables you to move forward. In other words, incremental goal settings allows you to breathe and take things one step at a time.

Fully Committing

It is also important to note that incremental goal setting is simply a part of the entire process; arguably, the more crucial step is the act of fully committing to those goals until a reasonable conclusion has been reached. This involves consistency and being able to push through with unwavering grit (more on this in future articles).

Lastly, whether our goal has been accomplished or not, we need to determine when it’s time to reassess our current goals and refine them to fit our discoveries. Let’s face it, we don’t always get what we want, nonetheless, the various learnings along the way are invaluable and crucial to identifying the next steps.

Conclusion

Decision making and personal advancement are hindered when we’re faced with situations where subjectivity is intrinsic. The key to preventing this is simply being deliberate and conscious about our thoughts and actions, “seeing how things goes” should never be a criterion especially if a specific result is desired. The approach of setting incremental goals, fully committing to them, and refining goals along the way may not necessarily get exactly what you want, but it’ll surely get you pretty damn close.

5 Important Lessons I Learned in 2011

1. You can’t do this on your own. Or at least, you shouldn’t.

A natural loner with a penchant for introversion, I grew up with the mentality that greatness was an independent achievement. That one could achieve monumental success through adversity, grit and a smile.

While this dogma is true to a major extent, the reality of achievement is much more telling. There are very few people who are “self-made”. The most influential pioneers of society—from the politicians, to the artists, to the tycoons of the industrial age—all had friends beside them, a support structure from which to draw inspiration and important resources. Think about this century’s greatest movers—none of them were truly alone in their strides. Tupac had his mom, Jobs had Wozniak, JK Rowling had only her daughter, and Justin Bieber had Usher.

The lesson here is teamwork. Monumental success requires a culmination of skill, passion, and social leverage—traits that no one person can infinitely supply. Long explanation short: you cannot do this on your own. The bigger your dreams are, the more people you need by your side supporting you. Support is the foundation on which all thriving families, businesses, and lovers grow.

I could run circles on the subject but in a nutshell, the guidelines of integrating others into your life are very straightforward. Work with visionaries on meaningful causes. Connect with elite talent. Actively seek out kindred souls who can withstand your bitching OR make you forget (even briefly) about your problems. Because complete self-reliance is maddening. Depressing, even. You cannot function healthily harboring your own luggage all the time. It’s just not possible. And why subject yourself to burdens that other people can help you carry?

Who really celebrates Independence Day alone?


2. Believe in something.

Your ideals define you. They define your actions, they guide your reasoning, and—if your resistance to external struggle is that strong—beliefs determine your character throughout. When the world kicks your ass and no one’s there to help pick up the pieces, it is your resolve that will carry you through.

So believe in something. Could be the future, could be the universe, could be existence, could be your own strength—anything, so long as the belief solidifies your efforts and helps you grow into the person you wish to become. Your ultimate successes require finding energy when your muscles have failed you and staying true to your core beliefs when the quo attempts to suck you in.

If by circumstances your beliefs are compromised, admit defeat and adjust. Make yourself better and re-evaluate your goals. Stars may glow vibrantly in the night sky but they also shift positions, too.


3. If you must complain, do so while moving.

Complaining is necessary. In my most stressful days, venting means the difference between a) a full day of worrying and b) diving into a pool face-first with a smile so big that even the water couldn’t drown it. Why? Because talking about problems helps us validate my beliefs, find out who’s on my side, and consider what steps I need to take next.

What’s important here is that regardless of how difficult life gets, bitching is fine: just don’t stop moving. I’ll save you the trouble of learning this harsh mid-life crisis: life is not fair. The universe was here first. God owes you nothing and He damn well operates on His own accord. The richest, most comfortable fuckers in the world? Many of them are beneficiaries of ridiculously good-fortune or outstanding talent. And many of them die happy, selfish, and completely ignorant of the lower class struggles. The poorest people in the world? Many of them have already given up on themselves (understandably so) and will continue to curse others for their misfortune.

Where you fit in this struggle is up to you.

If you have a compelling dream and are passionate about its realization, you need to be willing to fight. Never feel sorry for yourself. Because for the yearning few, life is a truly a jungle, an unforgiving space enshrouded with dangers designed for no other purpose than to cripple your resolve. And if you let the night conquer you, the lions will eat you alive.

Hurt? Too bad. Get the fuck up and keep your ass moving. Excuses should never hold you back from getting what you truly want in this world (unless it means hurting yourself and other people). Find people who care and care for those who need it. And if no one’s around, dig deep to find the voice that pushes you: that urges you to keep fighting for your ideal future. Because one day, your work will be worth all its bleeding.

Your work will mean something.


4. Live for others. And be the example.

In the future, a child will look to you for guidance. They won’t ask for permission to do so—they’ll simply watch. Everyday. Soaking up your habits, your actions, and your daily gems of wisdom like an obese sponge. And when they do, you need to be on your A-game because at that point in life, your influence is crucial. Your actions will shape these little people into the adults they’ll eventually become.

Likewise, impressionability is not solely restricted to kids. Your actions are capable of positively shaping everyone’s lives, from those of your co-workers and friends to pedestrians who enter your life for even the briefest moments. Whether one or two-hundred, remember that your efforts must be congruent to the amount of people relying on you. The more others depend on you, the greater your efforts have to be.

Start assuming responsibility for your actions and find out what “being a good example” means. Be aware that your time for selfishness is slowly coming to an end and that from here on, your childhood is past. It’s not easy and yes, it sucks letting go of this nonchalance but there will come a time (if it hasn’t happened already) when you are no longer living for yourself but for a spouse. Or a child. And understand that their future, their mental soundness will rest heavily on your shoulders. If you fall, there’s a damn good chance they will, too.

You cannot let this happen. If not for yourself, be willing to fight for someone else.


5. Follow your heart. Even if it tells you to do something stupid.

In this age of reason and financial insight, careful logic governs daily decision-making. We have brokers for investing, psychologists for counseling, and tech support lines for electronics. I should know: I work tech support. At work, some computer problems are so recurring that troubleshooting is a matter of asking the same three questions for a solid diagnosis.

However, traditional A-meets-B logic itself does not apply to matters of the human heart. The most sophisticated reasoning cannot tell you whether you should leave a stable job for a ludicrous dream or stay in a relationship that’s so complicated it would wrinkle even Einstein’s brain. These are the sort of matters in which your own judgment is key—no one else’s. Friends can offer life-altering perspective, but they cannot make the decisions for you. That responsibility is yours.

On the difficulty scale, following your heart can range anywhere from blissful ease to painful torment. Sorting through all the noise means being able to identify certainties among abstracts, to calculate losses and gains, to choose between mind-numbing comfort and spine-stabbing transcendence, and to distinguish between foolhardy desperation and that ultimate, this-is-what-I-need-in-my-life catharsis. Sometimes acquiring your dreams means letting go of old ones. In other cases, the line between both spectra is so vast that the path is already laid open—the only question is whether or not you’re willing to make a run for the goal.

If you do, run as if your life depended on it.

Because it does.


Crisanto J. Jorda is a dreamer with scars shaped like smiley faces. When he isn’t fighting for his goals, he participates in freelance writing, video editing, and photography. Check out his personal photography blog!

Halloween and Superpowers

When we were kids, my sister and I would be glued to the television any time Power Rangers came on. We were absolutely obsessed with that show and couldn’t comprehend why it didn’t play on every channel, 24/7. We role played a lot: I was the Green Ranger (I frequently whistled the dragonzord dagger call), and she was the Pink Ranger. We speculated often about what would happen in the next episode (it wasn’t hard to figure out since the plot was always the same). And we would also randomly bust out a “Morphin’ Time!”

Looking back at that experience, what amused us the most wasn’t the multi-colored spandexes nor the biker helmets—it was the concept of superpowers that caught our imagination. Here were six normal folks that functioned in society the same way you and I would, but when they would morph, they would transform into superheroes—people capable of doing things that an average person cannot do. This concept impressed upon us the idea that possessing such traits can potentially change the world for the better (assuming we’re talking about a good guy, of course).

This fascination even extended beyond Power Rangers. We idolized Marvel superheroes, Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat characters, dinosaurs (I know they’re not superheroes, but we frikin’ love dinosaurs!), etc. Powers such as superhuman strength/intelligence, x-ray vision, spirit balls—these were all intriguing to our imaginative, overloaded-with-sugar minds. Like a lot of other kids, we believed that one day we too would discover our superpower. However, as the years progressed and we learned a bit of something called science, reality hit us hard. We gradually came to the realization that spitting fireballs and deflecting bullets with our minds would most likely never happen. We thought to ourselves, “it’s impossible…”

Just yesterday while debating if I should dress up for Halloween, I wondered: “do I still believe in superpowers?” In the fictional sense of the word, I hold firm to the belief that superpowers illustrated in TV, games, and comic books are impossible (with a confidence level of 99.99%—left 0.01% to save me from the embarrassment in case someone proves me wrong). However, if we define superpowers as the uncanny ability of a person to achieve a seemingly impossible task, I would say absolutely; I believe in superpowers with 100% certainty.

Although real-life superpowers don’t consist of 3 minute upward flying kicks, they share some similarities to the superpowers we all admire in science fiction—they defy what seems impossible. The fortunate few who exude such powers are admired and idolized by many. Their range of influence extends throughout the globe; we read about them in the news, we hear about them on the radio, we watch them on TV, and we even see them in real life!

So, who are they?

Modern superheroes are the “self-made” men and women of society, they are the non-conformists: leaders, entrepreneurs, scholars—people who stand for what they believe in. They are in constant motion and they direct their future with the same skill a world-class captain of a vessel would. They excel in hardships and shine in any condition, no matter how out of their control those conditions may be. Looking at their status may be intimidating to some and it can easily be deduced that these people are simply “born that way.” But is this necessarily the case? What if we entertain the converse—that superpowers are cultivated through time—and suppose that there is an underlying perceptual framework shared amongst these heroes. Can we draw the conclusion that anyone who adapts this framework can achieve superpower-dom? Intuitively, the answer would be yes; however, the question becomes: what is this framework? And how can it be adapted?

The answer lies in a little something called personal development.

In our own unique way, we all possess superpowers. For some, they lie dormant awaiting to be woken up, for others, they are effortlessly expressed. In the same way that a superhero must train to maximize his/her powers, we too must train to  maximize, and sometimes discover, our powers. It doesn’t mean we should start bench pressing 2 tons or attempting to run at the speed of light instead, we need to train ourselves through personal development.

The image of personal development has been tainted over the years. When the term “personal development” comes to mind, the common image is that of a stranger telling you what to do, giving you generalized—sometimes impractical/inapplicable—instructions on how to achieve success and happiness in life. Obviously there is no “one size fits all” and for this reason alone, many people have been deterred to muster up even a tad bit of interest in the field.

Despite the current image of personal development, there are still invaluable bits of information that can be used to achieve a superhero life. Personal development encourages self-knowledge, reflection, and awareness which can contribute as measures for quantifying how far one is from the direction they want to go towards. Are you almost there? Or are you light-years away from your goal? Simple questions such as these can significantly bring a person closer towards achieving their goals. Although step-by-step details of how to get there may not be available, being aware of where you are can at least tell you if you’re moving away or towards that destination.

More importantly, personal development allows us to realize the truth—that we CAN be a superheroes! Despite our false limiting beliefs, such as the idea that we’re not (fill in the blank) enough, we all have the capability of achieving our dreams. Once we rid our minds with all the bullshit, we can start actualizing our dreams in life with unfaltering force.

So even though Halloween was a week ago, rock that cape/mask/outfit/wand year-long and yell at the top of your lungs: “I’M A FRIKIN’ SUPERHERO!!! You deserve it.

On Failing: The Unexpected

Trying to achieve a goal without a plan is like driving blind-folded while hand-cuffed to the wheel hoping that somehow you’ll reach your destination. You can argue that there is a possibility of getting there, but chances are, you won’t.

At least not in one piece.

Having a plan is like having an internal GPS that’ll get you from point A to point B. It’ll guide you on a turn by turn basis and can even provide alternate routes when the original one is unavailable. It knows your exact coordinates and how far away you are from your destination. It breaks a seemingly impossible larger task into small, reasonable tasks, wherein progress can be measured. In a broader sense, planning guides you and allows you to create a blueprint for which you may follow to achieve a set goal.

Basically, If you want to achieve something or get somewhere, planning is necessary.

Unfortunately, having a plan in itself does not necessarily mean a goal will be achieved. As we all know, plans tend to fail. Something that we did or did not consider goes wrong. All of a sudden it starts to rain. People back out. Your hamster dies. You lose your wallet. Your GPS breaks. All of these are valid reasons for why a plan can fail. The unexpected happens and all your careful, meticulous, planning starts to fall apart.

In 1995, my family decided to relocate to the Philippines from New Jersey (I know it’s a bit odd, usually it’s the other way around). We moved to the populated city of Meycauyan, Bulacan where my mom’s part of the family resides. Coming from America, where my parents wouldn’t even let me a few feet away from their sight, this “big move” was the ultimate freedom – they were lenient enough to let me play across the street.

Little did they know, I was actually playing across multiple streets and actively exploring the city around me! I met dozens of other kids and played with them with whatever was uso (“in”) at that time. I also ventured out to the squatter areas, or the slums, and made a lot of friends there. They taught me the ins and outs of what it is to be a kid in the Philippines: how to catch a tutubi (dragonfly), how to fish in the baha (flood), how to make a saranggola (kite) out of a supot (plastic bag) and walis ting-ting (broom), how to choose a strong gagamba (spider) for spider fighting, how to climb a buko (coconut) tree, we even played 3-on-3 basketball using a handball-sized ring (using a handball as the ball, of course).

I quickly became accustomed to the culture in the Philippines and accepted Tagalog as my new language. Sooner than later, I considered the Philippines as my new home.

Being comfortable with where I was and having a close group of friends, I had accepted the idea that I would eventually stay and live in the Philippines. By the time highschool came, I had a pretty good sense of where I wanted to be in the next couple of years. I started planning out my future and considered aspects such as: what college I’m going to go to and what major I’ll take, where I will live, what I’ll be doing, how I’ll be as a person, etc. Basically, I had a mental map of how things fit together and how I should go about navigating that map to get to where I want to be. Everything made sense and following the instructions that I had set out for myself seemed like the right thing to do. Doing otherwise was simply not an option.

But then the unexpected happened.

In 1998 my dad, who was working in America while me, my sister, and my mom were in the Philippines, got cancer. Tumorous regions were discovered in his spine and two of his vertebrae had to be replaced, thus paralyzing him from the waist-down. It took him several months to regain the strength to walk again but ultimately, he became disabled and our family’s lifestyle was significantly altered. He moved to the Philippines with us after the initial surgeries and we stayed there for a couple more years. But looking forward, because of the demands of his post surgical treatments, continuing to live in the Philippines was not going to be easy. Two months into my senior year of highschool, my mom gave me the bad news: “We’re moving back to the states, and we’re leaving next month.”

For most Filipinos that are trying to escape the harsh living conditions in the Philippines, moving to America is actually a positive thing. In the land of opportunity where “anything is possible,” day-to-day problems encountered in third world countries such as the Philippines were not as prevalent. Lack of food and clean water, droughts, flooding, areas with no electricity, poor health-care; all of these are virtually nonexistent in a place like the U.S. Despite all this, I actually didn’t want to go back to the states. I wanted to stay in the place I called home – the Philippines.

Because I was so stuck in trying to fulfill my plans of living in the Philippines, the move back to America was not easy. Although New Jersey was technically my hometown (I was born in Paterson, NJ), I felt completely alienated. I wasn’t willing to adapt to this “new” place and I closed myself off to the myriad of opportunities and potential new experiences that came my way.

I felt as if I had abandoned many things I wasn’t ready to let go of including my friends, my identity, and my goals. I resented my parents for moving and I stopped caring about my future. I wasn’t proactive nor was I “going with the flow”, I was just there—sedentary—unwilling to move forward. Life, at that point, literally just passed me by. I felt as if I had failed tremendously and had hit rock bottom. Indeed, for the first 8 months of living again in NJ I didn’t do anything at all and it felt horrible.

Thankfully, I was able to recover from that state of mind. Through time and much reflection, I realized that although things didn’t go my way, I could still progress and move forward. I learned that change and the unexpected is inevitable, wasting time on wishing otherwise would simply get me nowhere. I knew that I had to take control of my life again and create a new plan for myself to get back on both feet. I decided to adapt and rediscover western culture and I also wanted to fully immerse myself in academic pursuits. To me, aiming for those would give me back the sense of direction that I once had.

As simple as this conclusion sounds, sometimes realizing and believing that you can get back on track is close to impossible when you start labeling yourself as a failure. None of these epiphanies would have happened if I had not accepted my situation, stepped out of my comfort zone, experienced new things, and if I had not met new people (my sincere thanks to all of them). All of these combined were key to shedding some light on my situation and giving me new perspectives.

Failure, however you define it, whether it be from something in or out of your control, is never pleasant. It would be great if everything always turned out the way you wanted them to, but unfortunately, it never goes that way. The unexpected always happens. Ironically though, failure is also essential to moving forward. It expands your horizons and informs you of aspects you might not have previously thought of. It refines your plans and it gives you the unstoppable drive to accomplish things that you might have initially labeled impossible. Although failure may appear like the end, sometimes it can even be the start of something greater.

Who knows, that same reason which has caused you to fail may be the unexpected reason for you to succeed.

On Failure: Coping With Hardship

I ran into her, as old friends tend to, walking the streets of good ol’ New York City. We met on the corner of Broadway and 45th underneath the flashing lights of Gap ads, news tickers and tour buses. I had just come from an interview and told her I was headed straight home but she insisted that we eat, that she was eager to catch up and reminisce about the “good old times.” I politely turned her down. I don’t like running into old friends, especially the ones who sit you down and pry into your personal life when all you want to do is grab a cinnamon bun and take a nap. And so I said my peace and departed.
"Hi, it's NOT nice to meet you!"
Because her name was Failure and lunch with her is agonizing.

 

I was raised on a winner’s mindset, the idea that victory was everything. That the journey didn’t matter—only its spoils. That bragging rights defined success—even if you were pompous—and pompous actions were justified—so long as you were “right.” It was the pedigree of a “doer” someone raised on the expectations of straight-As and bright yellow stickers on test papers. The notion of failure was as foreign to me as the Internet is to a rock.

Growing up, I had a variety of standards for failure. Failure in grammar school meant test grades 80% or below. In high school, failure meant less than 70%. In college, failure was spending Saturday night playing Super Mario Kart alone in your room while passing by opportunities to speak with beautiful and alluring women. My gauges were selfish and perhaps shallow but they were defined. Set. I understood them as infallible expectations for the typical American college student.

And then something happened. I graduated and suddenly the grades didn’t matter, nor did the evenings of lighting up bars and house parties. The standards for success had changed. Success meant getting a job, running eight hour work days and coming home every Friday tired but a little bit richer. I thought to myself okay, get a job. Like everyone else. Wake up, work the grind, wipe the sweat. Rinse and repeat.

So I tried. I advertised my name, my “brand” on the marketplace. I sculpted a semi-coherent resume, designed a telling Monster.com profile, and joined the business alternative of Facebook otherwise known as LinkedIn (side joke). I networked with malicious intent and tackled odd-jobs ranging from sales and retail to research and freelance photography.

But something wouldn’t give. I didn’t get the full time job I wanted nor the riches I had expected. I sent out seven resumes a week and yet no one was responding. When I did manage contacts, I bombed a majority of the interviews. My shortest one? One minute and thirteen seconds.

(I’ll talk about that in another post.)

I thought to myself, okay, a little bump here and there. Even Edison saw failure in his day. So did Donald Trump. It couldn’t get worse, I told myself.

But it could and it did.

My dog died. My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. Bills were stacking up and I was still jobless. My latest string of interviews weren’t too fruitful either. The recruiting manager at this one consulting firm said she would call at five-thirty PM on the dot for a second round interview. She didn’t. I called back seeking a follow-up. She didn’t call back. It didn’t occur to me until one week later that she had dished me a canned response, that is, a cookie cut answer meant to kick me out of the office in the most conflict-free manner possible. Recruiters will do that, I’ve read, to save time and avoid face-to-face guilt trips.

To put my feelings into perspective, seeing yourself fail is as painful as ripping a scab off your own elbow. I watched my own ego ooze from the cuts of a beaten and battered pride. Here—a straight A student with high expectations for his future, living a humbled and idle existence. Bombing his life faster than drunks on Saint Patrick’s Day. I did what any typical overachiever would do in his situation:

I beat myself up for it.

I called myself a failure. Compared myself to others on standards of payroll and smart phone ownership. I made the deduction that if nine percent of the population were unemployed then I was that lone bastard in a room of ten professionals, the only individual present who couldn’t carry his own weight. Who lived not only in his parents’ attic, but relied on them for his cell phone bills and daily meals. I accepted my self-loathing as a fixed reality. And though I struggled hard to escape my financial dependence, I couldn’t help but cry myself to sleep on some days. Because what self-respecting person wants to be dead-weight?

Luckily, I pulled myself out of the slump and have since embarked on newer, refined expectations. I’m humbler now and have since learned to stop comparing myself to others for some impression of success and happiness. Since my last “decent interview” I’ve adopted a freelancer mindset. I’m someone who networks fiercely but within his own character and not with the false persona of a try-hard Tony Robbins. Because I’m not a eight foot giant with the personality of a hummingbird. I’m a five-six Asian who’s quiet but amiable, and smart to a fault.

Since my self-hating days, I’ve noticed this in our current rat race economy: we are brought up with the mindset that a goal is met with two results: failure or success. You either win or you lose, break green or fall into the red. It’s a dualism as noticable as light and dark. Growing up, many people will teach you this model of thought. They will try to tell you that success is the only result—if not the only option—and that any less than perfect is unacceptable.

But it isn’t. Failing is subjective. It’s a standard oft imposed for an arbitrary, future goal. A line you mark down the road. It’s momentary, temporary. It should neither be too high nor too below your own abilities. And if you’re optimistic enough, failure is nonexistant.

My best advice if you’re down in the dumps? To not beat yourself up when things don’t go your way. I believe failure is eye-opening. It humbles you, teaches you an important lesson in adaptability and progress. It sours your palate so that when “true victory” comes, the triumph tastes that much sweeter.  It teaches you to simplify your goals, to highlight the necessity of baby steps and not dynamic, planet leaping feats.

Contrary to popular belief, life is not always about winning. An obsession with success disregards the often overlooked rewards that come with falling short. Rewards like self-discovery. Experience. Hell, even the opportunity to speak with beautiful new people. The world is not so simple as to be classified into two parts. Black and white expectations obscure the gray answers, the little conundrums of life that though difficult to accept are wonderful to experience. Like the colors in Van Gogh’s Starry Nite or the fleetingness of love and relationships. In my eyes, failure is learning nothing from your results because you’re so damn obsessed with accepting only one.

Dramatization. We're not THIS close.

I mean, I’m not completely sour about “us.” I do sit with her sometimes, Failure, that is. But I don’t let her control the conversation as much as I used to. I ask her questions. Like “what should I do differently” or “is this what I really wanted?” And she gives me honest assessments. She tells me to network, to discuss professionalism with friends. To explore new hobbies and continue the job hunt. Most importantly, she tells me to keep looking up.

She reminds me that you can’t catch stars if you’re always looking at the ground.


Crisanto J. Jorda is a recent Communication graduate of Rutgers University. When he isn’t looking for full-time work, he participates in freelance writing, editing, direction, and photography. Check out his personal photography blog and “Like” his stuff!

If you like this article, also check out this article about Crisanto’s relief work in New Orleans.

…and he’s still fighting.

Breaking the 3 Walls of our Comfort Zone

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been associated with being the shy, quiet, smart and conservative person. Someone who almost always kept to himself, wasn’t too loud and didn’t cause much of a ruckus anywhere. I wasn’t the daredevil in the room, and I  wasn’t the one telling countless stories about some sort of crazy adventure that happened in my life. Not to say that I didn’t like to talk, I actually wished I could talk more. I really just don’t know what to say most of the time.

Throughout most of my life, I accepted this. I accepted that I was the way I was, and pretty much nothing was going to change me. I was comfortable, and felt safe just going through the typical motions of life. I had big dreams, but somehow I felt that I could just work hard, and eventually everything would eventually come rolling my way. That somehow, my future and the life I desired would automatically fall into place.
I was clearly wrong!Considering the way I was, believe it or not, my big dream is to be an entrepreneur! Why be an entrepreneur? Well simply because entrepreneurs change the world! They have the innate ability to create a great change in their lives and within the lives of others, whether it be providing a job, providing a service, or making life just simply easier for everyone. That is my big dream and I think about how I’ll be able to achieve it every day. Whether it be determining solutions to a problem a friend of mine has, to brainstorming global problems that the world faces every day, I really enjoy thinking about how to improve things…simply because I feel that I can make a difference.But an entrepreneur you say? Entrepreneurs are supposed to be the opposite of quiet, shy and conservative. Entrepreneurs’ voices must not only be heard, but remembered. Entrepreneurs’ actions inspire some and motivate others. Entrepreneurs are leaders, decision makers and constantly take risks. They don’t sit around and let things happen to them, and they most certainly don’t accept things to just stay the way they are. They are the leaders of today and the pioneers of yesterday.

In many ways, the description of an entrepreneur is much different than what I’ve been considered to be, and how I’ve acted. I would say that, for most of my life, I’ve been the complete opposite, never taking risks, never doing the uncomfortable, and never stepping out of my boundaries. I let the comfort zone define me and who I was.

What I’ve learned for a while now is that I have the ability to overcome those boundaries. We all do! Although it has been part of me for most of my life, I don’t have to continue walking the same path forever. I can choose any path I’d like. The only thing that is stopping me, is… well me!

So, I chose to start moving forward. I needed to start improving my faults and determine ways to overcome the different walls I’ve stayed away from all these years. The walls which constantly kept me from growing into the person I aspire to be, and living the life I know I’m capable of living, no matter how difficult the road. I’ve found three of them to be the following:

Perception of Impossible

“You must always do the thing you think you cannot do”
-Eleanor Roosevelt

Before attempting anything in life, we usually gauge the possibility of achieving some task or goal. We consider how feasible the act is, and our ability to accomplishing it. For the things we are good at, usually sky is the limit, but for the things we are uncomfortable with, and the things that we think we are completely incapable of doing, we usually avoid it all together. This is the most common trap people fall into. Because we think we cannot do it, we can’t, and frankly, we won’t!


To overcome this mentality, we need to be optimistic. We need to have faith in our abilities and have the resolve to at least try doing what seems impossible. If we don’t, then how can we ever find out what we are truly capable of? If we don’t, then how will we ever seek out that extraordinary dream?

Uncertainty


The unknown is a scary thing. The possibility of the worst thing happening is the first thing that comes to mind when trying to overcome an obstacle, and the possibility of the best case scenario usually comes last. With that in mind, it is no wonder many of us give up before even trying anything in life, because of all the “What if’s” we ask ourselves time and time again. It is ok to be cautious, but it is even more important to be courageous! The interesting thing about uncertainty is that we can actually shape it into whatever we want and deal with it in many ways. Imagine life as an adventure, the countless possibilities, or the future that lies ahead. Keep this in mind, and uncertainty can be shaped into a strong motivator!

Fear of Failure

“If I find 10,000 ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is another step forward.
-Thomas Edison

Probably the most discouraging wall is the fear of failure. Failing is never a good feeling, and in every situation we try to avoid failure at any cost. Even if we took an attempt at something, if we failed, usually right after, we give up and stop trying simply because we weren’t successful the first or second time.


I could say for a fact, that my greatest failures, have proven to be the best teachers, and the loudest motivators in my life. Instead of letting failure tell me how wrong I was, we need to use failure as a tool for learning how not to make the same mistake again, or how to improve from it. Instead of letting failure get the best of us, we need use it to make the best us!


These are some pretty difficult walls I’ve got to say, but thinking about your goal and passions should give you the motivation to overcome the obstacles the comfort zone presents. I understood what it would take to be the type of person I want to be and had strong desire to become just that. The comfort zone I was so used to and all the uncertainty and fear of failure that came with it, would no longer be an excuse. I visualized what it would be like to be at point Z, and started planning out all the steps it would take to get there.

Everyone has their own type of obstacles that they must face, some more difficult than others, but that shouldn’t matter. The comfort zone is a place we can’t let ourselves get stuck in, especially if it is keeping us from achieving our dreams and life goals. The perception of impossible, uncertainty and the fear of failure are difficult walls that will continually keep us from growing, but we can’t let it. If someone were to ask me what some of my life defining moments were, I would say that they all occurred when I took some sort of risk, when I felt uncomfortable, but did it anyway! Our lives can change if we break out of our comfort zone and decide to just go for it!



So start moving already! What will you do to break out of your comfort zone?