Setting goals begins with this one question

One Question That Can Dramatically Impact Your Future

Every once in a while, life presents you with a defining moment. Some may even call it an epiphany. But if you’re not aware enough to identify it as such, you could miss a major growth opportunity.

I wrote in an earlier blog of one of those moments, when I realized I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I’d like to share another one I experienced on the road to discovering what I was meant to do. This one is related to the other, and it involves my wife.

Making Room to Dream

It was the end of March and the weather was finally warming up. Atlanta in the spring is truly one of the most beautiful places to be, and my wife and I love taking advantage of the outdoor opportunities the warm weather affords.

This year it also happened to be a really busy season for us and we were feeling (especially my adventurous wife) a strong desire for something different. We wanted to get away, if only for a night, and be near the water. So I got on AirBnb and started looking around at some options. After some searching, I manged to find the perfect place for our getaway: a docked sailboat on Lake Lanier.

How cool is that?

We had such an amazing time. We got burgers to-go at a nearby tavern and ate them on a secluded beach while watching the sunset. Then we just sat on the back of the boat, drinking wine and listening to music. Many boats around us had string lights on as their occupants did the same. We were having a great time reconnecting, away from all the distractions.

Then my wife asked me this question:

What do you want?

See, my wife has this God-given ability to cut through pleasantries and go deep in conversation, creating a vulnerability that fosters connection. And there she went again. And it truly took me by surprise and I was having trouble answering at first.

But this one question forced me stop and focus on something I had not asked myself in a long time. What do I want? Why can’t I clearly articulate it? I needed to change that.

At the time, I said there were a number of things I wanted. A family, the freedom to spend time with them and to serve God with my talents. But In the months since it was first posed, I just keep coming back to this question and what it’s teaching me:

1. You need time to focus on what’s important

Life was crazy when we did our sailboat getaway. We recognized the signs that we needed some quiet time, out in nature. And often when you’re faced with the beauty, peace and scale of things like oceans, lakes, mountains and stars, you’re naturally left pondering your place in the world

2. You need to ask good questions

I know I’m often guilty of letting moments go by – both with the relationships around me as well as myself – without being intentional. In the same way that it is hard to really know someone without taking the time to really talk to them, you can’t fully understand what you want in life without a little self-talk. Get alone, ask questions and listen. If that’s difficult for you, set aside some time with a trusted friend to help begin the process.

3. Knowing what you want helps you define why you do what you do

This is a big one. Setting goals naturally acknowledges a direction you’re headed. It also creates accountability for your life. If your goal is to open your own bakery, you’ll be spending many hours practicing your craft, researching locations and learning from others. The goal dictates what you focus on. Without a clear vision of what you want, your time becomes free to roam where it wants, leaving very little leftover for the things that may bring you closer to the life you desire.

This all takes practice and it will develop over time, as it has been for me. But it’s so worth it. So take some time, either alone or with a friend or your spouse, and ask the question, ” What do I want?”

Please let me know what you discover by leaving a comment!

Setting goals begins with this one question

The One Simple Thing You Can Do To Stop Comparing Yourself To Others

We live in a world where comparison comes easily. Because of social media, we have windows into the lives of just about anyone.  If you’re not careful, one scroll through Facebook and Instagram can leave you feeling like your life is pretty much the most boring of them all.

Beaches you’re not relaxing at, delicious meals you’re not eating, things you do not own and art you’re not creating. Each post becomes another nail in the coffin of monotony that is your life. Am I the only one who feels this way?

If you’re an artist, like me, you tend to follow many other artists on these social networks. It really is a great way to find inspiration and grow ideas for you’re own work. And if you’re also like me, you can so easily fall into that trap of thinking you’ll never be that good, talented or known.

So why even try?

I have those days where I don’t even want to try to do anything creative or meaningful with my life. It seems like the world is doing just fine without my little contributions already. Better just sit on Facebook and watch funny videos. That’s far more entertaining than trying, anyway.

But you know what I’m learning that changes everything?

Wait for it.

Wait for IT.

The only person responsible for where I’m at and where I’m going is me.

If I want to see positive change in my art, my marriage, my life – it’s up to me. Thinking this way helps me change my perspective. It helps me choose what thoughts and activities will get my attention. Because I am the one responsible for my own story. Instead of thinking about how far behind I am compared to others, I think about the work I am doing, the progress I have made and will make. And I choose to be thankful for it all.

And that brings me to the greatest weapon for fighting comparison.

Beating Comparison with Gratitude

It’s hard to feel jealous or sorry for yourself when giving thanks for what you have and where you’re at. Gratitude can take all that negativity and flip it on its head. Instead of thinking I’m a crappy photographer, I can be thankful I have the resources to become a better one. Instead Of being jealous of that beautiful new car I don’t own, I can be thankful I have zero payments on mine and it works perfectly.

And when I see people doing amazing things when I’m not, I can be thankful for the amazing experiences I have had in life and choose be inspired to fill my life with more of them.

And this feels so good. Because when you take responsibility for what your life looks like, you create ownership of your story. You are no longer a victim, but the hero. No one wants to read a story about someone who never overcame anything but just blamed everyone for their problems. We love movies where the hero wants something and overcomes the odds to achieve it.

So when comparison creeps in to tell you how bad you have it, think of just one thing you’re thankful for, and get back to work being the hero you know you are. It’s your choice.

When you feel like what you’re doing doesn’t match up to others, what’s one thing you can be thankful for? Let me know in the comments.

The One Simple Thing You Can Do To Stop Comparing Yourself To Others

 

Finding what you're meant to do involves listening to your life.

How To Find Your Calling: Listen to Your Life

Before I can tell my life what I want to do with it, I must listen to my life telling me who I am. – Parker J Palmer

I know that there is a purpose for my life and I’m determined to find it. If I can embrace mystery, and be ok with the not-knowing, I can discover my life’s work.

Two months ago, I didn’t have a clue where to start. For years my own fears of failure and unknowns led down a path of inaction. But still, the stirring inside remained. There has to be more.

Thank God for the internet. While scrolling through my Instagram-feed, feeling sorry for my lack of self purpose, a book cover caught my attention. The Art of Work: A Proven Path to Discovering What You Were Meant to Do, by Jeff Goins.

I had never heard of Jeff Goins, but that title intrigued me SO much. I went to his site and clicked around and found he was giving away the book for the cost of shipping. Whoa… an author AND a marketer. I like that. And so I bought the book.

And it’s been opening up a world inside of me. Taking something so lofty, like finding your calling, and bringing it down to where I was at. The ideas were simple, yet so empowering. He does this through multiple stories of ordinary people, like me, who have discovered what they were meant to do.

One thing that has been a major milestone for me, is what Goins describes as “awareness”. It’s the first stage of discovering your vocation, or calling. If we can take the time to look back on our lives, we can realize that we already have a sense of what are called to. Our lives have been speaking, but it’s up to us to listen.

I spent about a week thinking about that. As I went through my day to day, I began to take notice of the things that I loved, the work I love to do, and not just recently, but all the way back to my childhood. It still felt so ambiguous and I couldn’t put my finger on it. I enjoy so many things, like design and photography, that I felt overwhelmed at knowing which step was the first step.

Then the clarity came

I was driving home from work one day, listening to a podcast from Dale Partridge, an entrepreneur and founder of Sevenly. I can’t remember who he was interviewing. It doesn’t really matter. But I remember being so inspired by hearing the host talk to entrepreneurs and the creative businesses they’ve started. With 15 minutes left in my drive and no more podcast to distract me, I began to pray, and a thought entered my head:

I am an entrepreneur.

My eyes welled up with tears, as is typical when my heart agrees with somethings God is trying to tell me. I said it out loud, “I’m an entrepreneur”. And it just felt right. Just saying the words, agreeing that part of me, instantly laid a foundation for the future to come.

And as I looked back on my life with this new lens I began to agree more with it. I was always the kid knocking on doors to rake peoples’ leaves or shovel their snow. I remember the feeling when I made $80 one snowy day when I was 10. In middle school, I learned to string lacrosse sticks, and I soon hung up flyers in the locker rooms advertising my service, charging less than the local store to do it. I’m proud to say I’ve been a member of eBay since 1998, buying and selling things since high school. In college, I did a project where I created caricatures of the members of the band I was in. I thought they looked cool and that others may want their own, so I made a website where people could order theirs, called DrawPhoto.

My life was strewn with these moments. I’d often find something I enjoyed doing on my own, then figure out a way to make money from it. It was just natural. Inside of me.

My Grandparents

One other thing I was reminded of was my grandparents. For most of my life I did not really recognize that they too were entrepreneurs, but looking back now, I can see how much they impacted me. They were antique dealers, with a basement full of treasures that would some day be sold. I loved looking at the random things they’ve found and I can still picture exactly what their basement looked like, homemade shelves of Rubbermaid bins lining all the walls. I would watch them buy lamps at garage sales for $800 and then they’d take me on trips into New York City as they auctioned them for $5000. Who knew those things were Victorian?!

I would help them with antique shows at the West Side Piers and I loved walking around and seeing the booths of the rare things people had for sale. I always loved the old advertisements and campy things like ray guns from the 50’s. It was an amazing world to me. And as I look back I can now see that the entrepreneurial spirit within me was being awakened and confirmed. It was all kind of making sense to me now.

And that scares the crap out of me

So I’m an entrepreneur now? What does that even mean? What’s my business? What will I do and how do I start?

I have more questions than answers, and that scares me so much. But at the same time, I feel a foundation has been laid, and my direction is just a little more clear. And I understand that without recognizing what my life had been telling me, I would be that much more lost. Things are now making more sense as I look through this lens. I feel one step closer.

I’m an entrepreneur.

What do you think your life is telling you? Take some time to reflect on it and let me know in the comments below.

Ford Fry speaks to a crowd at Grace Midtown for Creative Mornings Atlanta.

Celebrity or Servant?: Creative Mornings with Ford Fry

Feeding people graciously and lovingly is one of life’s simplest pleasures – a way of making life better for someone, at least for a while.

When I first decided to embark on this journey of self growth, I knew right away that I could not do this alone. I needed to find community. To see what others were doing, be inspired, absorb and learn.

Through the power of Istagram and some friends there, I was beginning to catch wind of some really great companies, organizations and artists doing some amazing work. In a short time, I stumbled upon the account of Creative Mornings Atlanta.

[instagram-feed id=”1331188145″ num=12]

Here’s what they are about (taken from their website):

The Atlanta Chapter of Creative Mornings believes in the city we all call home. We believe Atlanta is a hotbed of creative talent and we want to inspire and challenge our creative community towards better things.

 

Wow.  That’s exactly what I was looking for.

The way they do this is through free, once a month lectures from people in the Atlanta creative community. I had just missed march’s event so I set a reminder for the registration date ( I was serious about scoring a seat) and when the time came, got a spot right away.

Ford Fry Shares about Humility

April’s event was held at Grace Midtown, the theme was “humility”, and the speaker, chef Ford Fry. Fry has opened a number of restaurants in Atlanta, including JCT Kitchen & BarThe Optimist and The recent Superica at Krog Street Market. Having just been to Superica the week before (if you have a love for well designed spaces and experiences, not to mention amazing tacos, visit this place) I was excited to learn from the man behind it all.

Fry embodied the theme; humility. He was a laid back, unassuming fellow with a big smile from Texas. Listening to him was like hearing an old friend tell stories in you living room.

He began with this question: Would you rather be a celebrity or a servant?

#goodquestion

Ford went on to tell some stories about his process behind some of the restaurants he’s opened. I was amazed to see, start to finish, it was not about him at all. Before a name or location, he asks, “does the community need this place?” Every detail of each restaurant is thoughtfully designed to provide the best quality of experiences, and not just the menu. Even each light fixture is important, he said.

What’s even more amazing is that Ford is not about growing businesses and profit. He’s all about growing people. He gives each of his head chefs a stake in how their restaurant  operates, mentoring them to the point where it’s no longer Ford Fry’s place, but it truly belongs to the chef. He is there to serve them.

Impact over income. It’s a theme I’m seeing over and over, the more I observe the people that are doing amazing work. Ford is making an impact by not only providing amazing culinary experiences to ordinary people, he’s impacting the staff he hires. He’s impacting local farms by buying the best of what they produce. And he’s impacting an industry, proving you don’t need fancy, suit-and-jacket establishments to be successful. You can create inspiring spaces with the best food where folks can casually enjoy one another.

So what’s the takeaway? For me it is this: it’s all about serving. No matter what your passion is, you can be yourself and serve others with it. And your impact and success will eventually grow. But as Ford Fry said, “The day I start to think its all about me is the beginning of the end”