you have something to offer

if you’re like me, you do this thing all the time.

you know, this thing where once you’ve achieved a new goal or climbed a new mountain, you immediately look ahead to the next one, and from where you are standing, the next goal or mountain always looks a whole lot huger than the one you just conquered.

there’s nothing wrong with being forward-looking. this endless, passionate pursuit to improve, expand, grow, and multiply is what drives fresh ideas and new inventions. but let’s stop doing that thing – that thing where we start belittling our past accomplishments and making them seem really tiny in comparison to all we have yet to achieve.

why do we do this? because acknowledging how far we’ve come means acknowledging that we have something to offer – something to teach, somebody to mentor, some capacity to contribute. and sometimes we genuinely doubt we are capable of teaching, mentoring, or contributing.

yet that’s the best way to get even better at what we’re already good at. it’s easy enough to just be great at stuff, but having to pass our knowledge, experience, and skills on to someone else requires more competency than it would take to just do something on your own.

sometimes i feel like i have nothing to offer. i still feel like a novice runner when i compare myself to others who have been running for years. i still feel like an amateur writer when i read Jeff Goins and Danielle LaPorte.

but then i tell myself: “hey, one year ago, before you believed you could run even 10k, you were intimidated by anyone who’d finished a half marathon. a couple years ago, you were still deciding whether to major in communications and media.”

to my 21-year old self, a marathon veteran wouldn’t be very much more intimidating than who i am today. to my teenage self, someone who was actually getting paid to write would be almost an idol.

so although i might be far from my ideal half marathon time, i’m still further than i was a year ago. although i might be even further from publishing a book, i’m still further than i was a year ago.

which means i can wholeheartedly, genuinely, convincingly say, to someone who shudders at the thought of 5k: “i used to be the same, one year ago, and guess what? it IS possible to get better. and this is how you do it…”

just this morning a friend wrote to me, asking for help on a writing assignment, which he felt needed a stronger angle. he was worrying that there wouldn’t be enough time to write the piece if he decided to change his topic to a stronger one. i said: “don’t sweat the writing. the writing is not the hard work. get your topic right, then the rest will come easily. people never see how much effort is put into strategy – but that’s the most important thing. here are my suggestions…”

and it hit me – i actually have valuable insights to share. the excuse that “because i’m not Jeff Goins, i have nothing to give” was just that – an excuse.

wherever you are, you’re further than you were yesterday. whatever your skill level, there’s someone who could use your knowledge and experience.

don’t fall for the excuse that you have nothing to offer. you may not have everything, but you have SOMETHING. give it, and you will get even better.

I might fail, but…

In trying to write something sexy,

I might sound clichéd.

But I’ll do it anyway.

In trying to say something smart,

I might put my foot in my mouth.

But I’ll do it anyway.

In trying to help,

I might make things worse.

But I’ll do it anyway.

In trying to explain,

I might confuse.

But I’ll do it anyway.

In trying to care,

I might be overbearing.

But I’ll do it anyway.

In trying to love,

I might get hurt.

But I’ll do it anyway.

In trying,

I might come across as trying too hard.

But I’ll do it anyway.

I might fail.

But I might learn something.

I might make some people upset.

But I might impress others.

Critics, failures, and curveballs are inevitable.

You can’t control them.

What you do control is the choice to do something anyway.

Making goal-setting sexy

This post is a response to Danielle LaPorte’s brilliant ‘The Burning Question‘ series. 

I want waking up to feel like fresh brewed coffee and a morning dip.

I want holding hands to feel like springtime in Paris.

I want coffee dates to feel like Rachael Yamagata.

I want Liverpool to feel like achieving first class honours.

I want my friendships to feel like Jason Mraz, home-baked goodies, road trips, and late-night talks at sleepovers.

I want learning to feel like my first plane ride, and understanding to feel like watching the sun rise above a sea of clouds below me.

I want exploring to feel like Owl City.

I want my body to feel like Sarah Walker kicking butt.

I want making money to feel the way a farmer feels when he surveys the fruit of his labour at harvest time.

I want family to feel like homemade ikan bilis pan mee, tent blankets, and torchlight shadow animals.

I want challenges to feel like Original Bootcamp and climbing Mount Kinabalu.

I want sleep to feel like Port Blue and bobbing on waves.

I want smiling to feel like dipping my toes into the sea and Colbie Caillat.

I want kissing to feel like deep, dark chocolate.

I want helping others to feel like muddy paws and enthusiastic, drool-filled licks.

I want my dream job to feel like walking through IKEA, the smell of new books, the whir of a coffee grinder, and a whiteboard + chalkboard covered with mindmaps in coloured ink and chalk.

I want my writing to feel like an old library with a roaring fireplace and hot tea, lovers sharing a dilapidated apartment in a gritty neighbourhood, and watching a beach sunrise.

I want love to feel like coming home after a long journey.

Feelings are magnetic. So it goes that if you generate certain feelings — and you have the power to create any feeling you desire — then you increase the power of your emotional magnetism. But we need to limber up, loosen the images and adjectives encrusted on our goals and most-desired states. It helps to get poetic, lyrical, and abstract. -Danielle LaPorte

The ultimate social medium

I fell in love with education the day a college lecturer I respected told the class:

Anything or everything I say may be wrong. Your textbook may be wrong. Don’t listen to me without questioning. Don’t accept what your textbook says without questioning. Don’t take things at face value. Question everything.

Since then, my experience in the academic world has been an extremely fascinating, extremely engaging, captivating one. Even outside the classroom, I doubt I’ll ever stop using the skills of thinking, learning, and engaging that I was taught in the classroom.

Likewise, what captivates me about Christianity is its alive-ness – how it has changed and evolved throughout the centuries, how it has appealed to people of all ages, cultures, and walks of life. Christianity to me is something I can engage with – sink my teeth into, wrestle with, debate, explore, question, test. It is not a dead-end religion.

I cringe, shrink away, and literally run in the opposite direction when anyone claims to have all the answers to Christianity. When any denomination claims to have all the answers to this mysterious, unfathomable God. When people try to define what makes a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ Christian.

I rebel when people tell me how I should live my faith out. And when people tell me that they don’t really know what being a Christian means, I tell them it’s good that they don’t know – because not knowing means having to find the answers. Finding the answers means wrestling with them. And wrestling with them long enough leads to sure, steady, unshakable conviction.

I fell in love with Christianity the day I realised God made himself human to talk to us. To have a conversation with us. To engage with us. Not to deliver a one-way broadcast of rules and ‘to-do’s.

As Jon Swanson says in his blog, Jesus is the ultimate social medium:

The Word has conversations, asks and answers questions, listens to what people are saying and responds.

That isn’t the image we often have of God. There is the rule-giver of Exodus and Leviticus, the declarer of Isaiah and Jeremiah. Those are images of a one-way broadcasting kind of media, cranking out 50,000 watts. That kind of a God may get our attention, but certainly not our affection. And that kind of God offers no affection.

But what if God becomes interactive?

In Jesus, in the incarnation, God allows comments. Throughout the Gospels there are conversations, interactions between Jesus and disciples and Pharisees and everyone between.

I believe and am convinced precisely because I am given room to doubt. To question. To wonder. I don’t want to blindly swallow ideas and ‘truth’ whole without taking the time and space to reflect on it, consider it, engage with it.

And this is why I write. To explore, to question, and to come to a place of belief. A belief that comes from doubting, wrestling, and finally accepting truth.

I don’t want something stagnant;

I want something alive.

I don’t want something manageable;

I want something that will catch me by surprise.

I don’t want to be talked at;

I want to be talked to.

My hosanna is born of a furnace of doubt. -Fyodor Dostoyevski.

Why I write

To learn

I used to think prayer was just about God and writing was just about audience. Over the years, I’ve realised that prayer and writing are alike: they are just as much for me, if not more.

Each time I stop to filter out the millions of thoughts speeding through my head and select, one by one, the words to articulate my ideas, I learn a bit more about the stranger in my head – what makes her tick, how she sees things, how she relates to the world around her.

In fact, I often tell my friends in the middle of a conversation or lively debate that I’m hearing what I’ve said for the first time just as much as they are. Ordinary conversations over coffee spark much of my most inspired writing .

By putting ideas, concepts, and emotions into words, I discover new things about myself and my world that enrich me, and help me grow.

“I write to discover what I know.” -Flannery O’Connor

To share

There is so much good stuff out there on the Internet. Seriously. Videos, blogs, podcasts, a never-ending kaleidoscope of inspiration in all forms.

Why become just another voice in the many out there?

The same reason I keep going back to my favourite authors and blogs. A feeling of solidarity, of identifying with what someone else is describing, and of community, which grows out of sharing life with others.

I can’t count the times something someone wrote kept me going, helped me through a tough time, inspired me to grow, and spurred me to action. And I write out of the same hope that by sharing my life and my words, I can encourage, inspire, challenge, or even just remind others they are not alone.

The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – which you had thought special and particular to you. And now, here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out, and taken yours. -The History Boys, Alan Bennett

Because I have to

I grew up constantly writing – scribbling words on scraps of paper or typing them out in my trusty old Nokia 1100 when I had none. The Poet in me experiences the world aesthetically, finds beauty and stories in dark alleys and telephone wires, and writes to capture those experiences, while the Editor is always rearranging words in my head even as I’m saying them.

Writing comes to me naturally and instinctively, and every time I sit down to write, I get up feeling renewed, energised, engaged.

I write because I cannot not write. Because as the fluid motions of limbs and arms are to dancers, as bold, vivid strokes of colour are to artists, so are the swing and swirl of syllables and sentences to me. They are my window to the world – both my inner and outer world.

I am sure that some are born to write as trees are born to bear leaves: for these, writing is a necessary mode of their own development. If the impulse to write survives the hope of success, then one is among these. If not, then the impulse was at best only pardonable vanity, and it will certainly disappear when the hope is withdrawn. – C.S. Lewis, Letters of C.S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves

What about you? Why do you do what you do?