Monday, February 19, 2018

Start With Why

Why do you want to do the things you want to do? Why is it important to you? Why does it matter? These are the questions that I’ve been pondering as of late. After coming down from the high of completing a lettering project every day for a year, the next question I ask myself is what’s next? I am not one to do things for no reason and there’s a great deal of thought that goes into every major decision I make. I find comfort in only taking calculated risks since I’m incapable of doing things “just because.” If you asked me a year ago why I wanted to draw or challenge myself in that way, my answer would’ve been “because one day I want to be an artist making a living from my work”. But as the questions of why start to pull at my heartstrings, I noticed that my response doesn’t answer the question.  What I do is create handmade or digital designs but what I do does not answer the question of why I want to do it.

I recently finished reading the book Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek. I don’t know what has lead me to thinking about why or where the thought arose but somewhere in my subconscious the question was presented to me and this book found its way into my hands. If you’re unfamiliar with Simon Sinek by name, you might recognize him from his Ted Talk “How Great Leaders Inspire Action which has been viewed over 7 million times on YouTube and is considered one of the most popular talks of all time. Every time I watch him speak I’m always left feeling inspired and eager to hear more.

Throughout the book, Simon shares the stories of different leaders such as Martin Luther King, Steve Jobs, Rollin King and Herb Kelleher founders of South West Airlines as examples of the principle behind starting from a place of WHY. He shares the rules of the Golden Circle which centralizes WHY as the primary focus that all business should start from. As he puts it, “People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it. WHAT you do can change with time but WHY you do it never does".

Reading similar sentences like these throughout the book brought me back to my question of why. Why do you want to do the things you want to do? Why do you want to be a lettering artist/graphic designer? Why did you start For tha Masses? These are questions I’ve unknowingly dodged and never thought to ask myself. It could be the source of my inability to define myself and what I do. If my WHY has not been established, it’s no wonder that I experience so much internal struggle with decision making. I let WHAT I do define WHY I did it.
Early days of blogging photos

When I originally started the blog, I was not in a good mental place. Jon and I moved to Knoxville 6 months to a year prior and how unhappy I was with my job and myself was becoming abundantly clear. I was a recent college graduate doing nothing with my degree and finding work related to my field seemed next to impossible due to “lack of experience”. In reality, my life wasn’t so different from that of other millennials but, at the tender age of 26, I felt like a failure and needed to find an escape. At the time, blogging was something that everyone seemed to be doing as a creative outlet. When searching for inspiration of where to start, the blogs I encountered (speaking objectively) seemed to be spaces filled with poorly written material that didn’t appear authentic and DIY projects that appeared crafty but not very purposeful or well made. One space looked like a replica of so many others, only with different graphic elements and a different name. Since I saw these spaces as not fully representing the types of things I wanted to see, I said to myself “I can do this too!”

As I slowly (and I do mean slowly) started to create content here and there, my lack of self-confidence got in the way. I kept looking at what others were doing and was jealous and angry that everyone else was getting attention and I wasn’t. I was annoyed that mediocrity was passing as success and I questioned the decisions I made to try to fit in with everyone else. I started to see how this thirst for fame was getting in the way of trying to create from an authentic place. I needed to go back to the drawing board because this could not be life. I couldn’t operate from a place of disdain; it’s not healthy. I needed to work on myself first.

Self-help and wellness turned into my refuge and gave me strength. The more I worked on myself the more I found the willpower to move forward and do the things that scared me. Taking care of my mental health and absorbing as much information as I could made me take notice that if I was going to be successful in anything that I did, I needed to learn how to validate myself. I needed to stop comparing myself to others, learn to love myself, and trust in the decisions I made. Reasons like these are what made me realize that prioritizing wellness alongside pursuing creative endeavors was a must. I’ve been able to use personal challenges and everyday experiences to find a path to clarity and a path to my WHY.
My WHY comes from a place of finding purpose within uncertainty and doubt. My WHY comes from being too scared to try and needing to show that my fears were self-inflicted. I blog because I needed to find something to believe in and that needed to be myself. I do this because in the midst of personal turmoil, I turned struggles into action. I do it because whether I’m capable of having a self-sustaining business or not, I have already accomplished more than imagined by simply starting. I want people to come to For Tha Masses and see someone who doesn’t have it all figured out yet but is still trying to do something from an authentic place. I believe in people and I want people to believe in themselves and in others. I want my art to uplift others and support businesses with mindful business practices that operate with the intent of prioritizing people, the community, and the environment because this is deeply personal to me.

It has taken me years to get to this place of assurance but I'm happy I've stumbled and questioned myself more times than I can count before getting to this state of mind. If I didn’t struggle I would never have thought that wellness was essential to life. I would have continued to search for work that didn't align with my personal beliefs or may have compromised those beliefs in the process.  As Simon puts it, "Finding WHY is a process of discovery, not invention". I wish I had heard those words years ago to keep me from overworking myself and my mind and instead enjoy the process of discovery. But now that I know my WHY, anytime doubt or fear shows its ugly head, I have my personal mission to keep me grounded and focused. Starting from WHY cuts out all the noise and serves as a check-in point. Now that I know my WHY I feel better and more eager than ever to continue to follow my moral compass. Like all things, I don’t know where this will lead but if I can inspire someone to simply start, then all this work will be worthwhile.



Thursday, February 1, 2018

Stop The Comparison Game

Does comparing ourselves to others do us more justice or harm?

This past weekend I did something dramatic and would consider a breakthrough for me...I disabled my Instagram account! Severing the psychological hold that Instagram had on me was the first step away from my inability to look at myself without drawing comparisons to others. To be open and honest about this, last year’s hellish experience with Instagram made it difficult for me to figure out if people were seeking real connections. Because my primary content is lettering, I took notice of this in the lettering community, where it seemed accounts only interacted with me in order to gain a follower. Is it a ploy to get more followers if the accounts unfollowed me a few days or hours later?

In attempt to stay on top of this trend, I installed a tracking app called unfollowers which breaks down your follows into 3 categories: the number of people who you follow but don’t follow you back, the number of people who follow you but you aren’t following back, and last the number of unfollowers in real time. With easy access to an app that kept me well informed on the inner workings of my feed, things slowly spiraled out of control. I became infatuated with the numbers and fell victim to the wretched refresh button. I would open Instagram multiple times a day (one day 65 times) to see how many likes or attention my work was receiving, altogether getting sucked into a toxic culture. As a creative trying to get some buzz for my work, presenting the right image was a primary focus even if it meant obsessing over things completely out of my control; I clung to the idea that I needed to present myself and my work in a certain manner in order to get attention. I used Instagram as a tool to curate an image of myself that wasn’t true to who I was and felt it was necessary to be like everyone else to gain attention, followers, and likes. I ultimately compared everything I did with what others were doing while battling this voice inside consistently telling me to just be myself.  


"When observing someone's being from the outside looking in, what you get is a misguided image that does not adequately correlate to reality."

Instagram became another tool that leads me to draw uneven parallels between my creative work and self-identity with that of someone else. I’m sure I'm not the only one who has struggled with comparing themselves to others, not just on social media but also in real life. If you think about your own life experience, have you had a moment where you knowingly or unknowingly compared yourself to others in some form? Has there ever been a point in time where you’ve looked at someone else's life with so much admiration that it leads to questioning your own potential? Have you ever had someone in your life so talented and well put together that it made you feel inadequate? Let’s look at it from another angle: have you ever had a moment where you compared yourself to a fantasy of what you envisioned life would look like for you; possibly unfulfilled life expectancy? If your answer was yes to any one of these questions, let me ask you one more: do you gain anything by looking at yourself in that manner or is this just another form of you not noticing what you’ve achieved?
Does comparing ourselves to others do us more justice or harm?

Realistically when comparing ourselves to others, we typically focus on our alleged negative aspects versus observing areas in which we excel. We look at our cup as half empty in comparison to others and with social media, it's easier than ever to get lost in play by play reels of someone else's manicured and filtered life. What we fail to understand in those moments is that it’s impossible to truly understand the inner workings of anyone else’s life. Just because you "know" someone doesn’t mean you truly know them. You can't entirely grasp what it's like to walk in someone else's shoes without living their life. When observing someone's being from the outside looking in, what you get is a misguided image that does not adequately correlate to reality. There needs to be a breaking point where we stop stacking ourselves up against everyone else and picking ourselves apart based on what others are doing. We also need to stop looking at unfulfilled life goals as our failures and change those perceived failures into work in progress.   

Gaining control of my own comparison game has been a challenge but what has slowly helped me get out of that state of mind was first recognizing if and when I'm unjustly looking down on myself. I had to become consciously aware of moments where I wasn't taking pride in my capabilities (journaling helped the most with this). I turned my focus inward and listened to my self-talk, recognizing my belittling ways of thinking. I grasped onto the idea that with time comes growth and accepted that my walk in life is mine alone and should never be compared to someone else's.

I also needed to define who I am on my own terms and seek to find solace in where I am today. This has not been easy and I still continue to struggle. There will always be someone out there who I view as being "better than me" or who have achieved goals that I have yet scratched the surface of, however letting my imagination run wild with comparisons does not get me closer to attaining those goals. It only leads to feeling inferior and potentially crumbling under the pressure of altering my life to match that of someone else.
Does comparing ourselves to others do us more justice or harm?

No matter how you may feel about yourself, no one wants to be a carbon copy of someone else no matter how flattering their life may seem. It serves us more purpose to celebrate who we are while finding ways to stay true to ourselves. There's nothing wrong with having someone to look up to or an aspirational figure; that is perfectly healthy. The key is to take notice of when that admiration might be turning toxic or causing you to make decisions that don't align with who you are. 

Sunday, January 14, 2018

New Possibilities

Hand Lettering New Possibilities

With almost every major life occurrence crash coursing its way into my life in 2017, it gave me an opportunity to look at my life in the grander scale, and figure out where my focus needs to be shifted. With that being said, 2018 will bring the start of some new changes coming way to For Tha Masses. One of the biggest changes that I’m really excited about is a regular blogging schedule. I know this is something that I’ve said would occur multiple times in the past yet have not followed through with my words, but that is all changing.

As mentioned in the previous post completing 365 days of hand lettering taught me more about myself than I thought it would. Through continuous practice and showing up for myself, my drawing skills improved as well as my confidence level.  I learned that I am capable of doing the things that I say I will, especially if it is something that I am wholeheartedly passionate about. When I translate that lesson into other areas, I have no reason not to be able to dedicate a few days during the week to share content that I know is important. Starting this month, I will regularly share new content every two weeks starting on Monday 1/29/18. I suppose after you do something every single day for a year the idea of doing something twice a month looks very doable. 

Another aspect of For Tha Masses that will slowly change is the content. During 2017, a majority of the blog’s content focused on self-help and sharing some words of wisdom with others who may be struggling with their creative voice or confidence in themselves. It was rewarding sharing content like this because not only did it help me, others let me know that they found it very relatable. Though I enjoyed sharing work like this, I will be slowly shifting my focus elsewhere in the New Year. I don’t want this space to solely focus on self-help or motivational material. I find that there are many talented speakers and writers who do self-help in a passionate way and I don’t feel that taking on this path is what I should rightly do with my creativity. I do believe that wellness is very important, however, it's difficult for me to share words of encouragement when I myself am struggling and also seeking resolutions. I find it more beneficial to share motivational content through my art and other areas (more to come on that in the future).


Moving forward, I would like to focus more on conscientious content such as supporting local businesses, highlighting ethical and sustainable practices, promoting fair trade goods, and many more. I want to highlight and promote the people who do things in a respectful manner and who put the well-being of others ahead of capital gain. This has been a goal of mine for some time as I've shared in the past and now more than ever, I feel that it is important to join in on the conversation. I know that finding a tone and overall message for this space is something I have struggled with over the years, but after 2017 that message is ringing like a bell in my life. I am more eager than ever to share all that I learn as I transition into living more like a conscientious citizen of this place we call Earth. I hope you're all as excited as I am of what's to come. 2018 is sure to be another great year!

Monday, January 8, 2018

2017 Year in Review

2017 year in review

Hey there and Happy 2018! I know it’s been a minute (4 months to be exact) since my last post and I have no excuse for the disappearance. 2017 was a year that brought on more surprises than I was prepared to handle. With everything that I planned for the year, my cup was running over. There was a lot going on in my personal life and when trying to make time for a side hustle, everything became too much to juggle so for that I sincerely apologize.   

2017 was, without a doubt, the start of something transformative in my life; a year where I became open to the idea of speaking my truth and gained an understanding of what life truly is about. I experienced moments of joy, as I’m sure we all did, and I am proud to say I accomplished a good portion of the goals I set forth, the biggest being the completion of 365 days of lettering, which sparked the most change in my life. 2017 was a mind-blowing, firsthand look at how time and dedication to something as simple as drawing could cause a huge mental shift in my perception of life. I admit as the year progressed finding the willpower to continue was difficult. There were times where lettering was not a priority due to personal events that didn’t allow me the time to draw. But despite those rare moments, I was very consistent with it. Seeing the continuous growth in my work as time slowly progressed gave me a true understanding of what growth really means. But before I get too ahead of myself, let me reel things back and let you know of some life-changing events that happened throughout the year.

handmade christmas cards


For starters, I got a promotion at work! After years of doing the same thing and complaining about my position in life, I was blessed with a new position and career opportunity; one that carries a little bit of authority behind it (key word being LITTLE). This opened up an opportunity to input my lettering practice within my workplace. For example, I started designing monthly banners that highlighted current events in the workplace and also recognized my colleagues for their performance. The promotion also gave me a platform to promote my lettering skills to my peers. Since my job has nothing to do with art, it’s been rewarding finding ways to mix my daily grind with my side hustle and the best part of it all is that I have my own office space to do it all in.

work banner


Another very huge accomplishment of 2017 was that Jon and I can now be called homeowners! Yes, that’s right, we bought a house. It’s been 3 months since this occurred and I’m still in disbelief that I have a permeant residence. Now when I come home, I feel a sense of comfort that I didn’t know before. I never thought that having my own space would have such an impact in my life. It seems as though everything I tirelessly complained about for so many years immediately became resolved. I have my own personal space to create at my job and at home. Not many people can say they have that luxury, so for that, I am truly blessed.

home owners


The icing on the cake of blessings came a month after buying the home: Jon and I took the first step to becoming husband and wife by having our traditional Nigerian wedding. The ceremony is referred to as a Wine Carry. Within the Nigerian culture, a wine carry is a symbolic ceremony completed for our marriage to be recognized by the elders in my family and my village. It’s an important first step toward becoming husband and wife that joins not only Jon and me but our families together. Since we have completed this traditional ceremony, we can begin planning our “white wedding” which will take place spring of 2018!

for tha masses nigerian wine carry

Nigerian Wine Carry

Nigerian Wine Carry


Outside of daily lettering, another commitment I took on was a daily Bible reading plan. The goal was to finish reading the bible in its entirety by following a reading plan courtesy of the church I attend here in Knoxville. I’m proud to say that I did rightly finish all 1,189 chapters of the bible and I believe that everyone who identifies as a Christian should do the same. Going to church and having a pastor or priest tell you what to believe or what to focus your attention on is not enough, in my opinion. I wouldn’t have come to this conclusion if I didn’t take the time to learn the gospel for myself as a part of my continued relationship with God. This was a very important accomplishment; it helped me understand the need for daily devotion to the word of God and rekindled my faith.

For Tha Masses Thank you Lord Lettering


Not everything on my list of goals was fulfilled and that’s ok. For example, I started the year on a mission to eat better and start a small garden. Though we did manage to grow a few herbs, I was unable to create the time to start a viable garden. Another setback was in my meditation and yoga practice. At the start of the year, everything went smoothly; I was meditating in the morning and had a solid workout routine. But as the year progressed and more responsibilities got added to my plate, I began to feel overwhelmed by everything I was doing. My focus towards my physical health wasn’t on the top of my list of priorities. So a part of my goals in the New Year is to find my way back to clean eating habits and an active lifestyle.

2017 was the transformative period in my life that needed to occur to shape the way I function. I am really eager for what’s to come and I hope you are too. Cheers to new possibilities taking shape in a wonderful New Year!
x

Monday, August 28, 2017

Get Out Of Your Mind

As an introverted creative, my life as of now falters between feelings of not being “creative” enough and daydreaming of becoming a self-sustained business owner, who has creative juices pouring out of every orifice. This turns into a spiral of internal dialogues that lasts for hours, I end up ruminating about events that have simply never happened, and the whole sequence finally ends with a self-loathing sigh and me saying to myself, “I can’t wait to get there.” It’s an ongoing struggle to say the least.

Far too often I find myself living in my head, afraid to get out and truly accept life in its current state. I’ll fantasize about the life I want and get infatuated with my own thoughts, rather than consciously working towards building a foundation to achieve my goals. I’ll have moments where I obsess over my goals garnered by an overwhelming sensation that I’m not doing enough, pushing myself enough, or working out my kinks fast enough in order to actualize this life I seek to live. I’d get into these in-depth conversations with myself, pondering about the past mistakes, or future goals I’ve yet to fulfill which leads down to a road of overanalyzing everything.

Living life in my head had drawn me further from the people around me and caused me to check-out of whatever I was doing at the moment. I had shut myself off from others because I felt like they wouldn’t understand what I was going through and I refused to let them in or get out of my comfort zone. At times I’d find myself watching a movie or reading a book or article and notice my mind had wandered off, leaving me with no clue as to what just happened.

"Life is not what you think it is; it’s what you create"

Once I noticed my life was being spent more often in fantasy than reality, I started to comprehend that this had been causing more harm than good. Conscious awareness only exists in the here and now. No matter how much I wish it, think it, or talk to myself about my future plans, none of these neurotic behaviors will lead to fruition.

It’s great to have a strong sense of self and be capable of resolving problems on our own, but life is meant to be lived and experienced with others and should consist of dialogue and engagement with others. In my personal experience, falling into a habit of solely having dialogue with ourselves it leads to:
  • Feelings of Loneliness
  • Unrealistic views of current circumstances 
  • Withdrawal from people in the present
  • A heightened sense of being incapable of expressing ourselves or relating to other
  • Creating illusions that things are worse than they really are

At times our perception of the life we want to live and what we constitute as the factors which will lead to happiness can be completely skewed and unfathomable. It becomes impossible to see exactly how skewed things are when the only exchange of information, both negative and positive, comes from us and when there’s no one around to challenge or contradict our way of thinking.

"The past doesn’t exist except in our memories and the future doesn’t exist except in our imagination."   

Getting out of our head and living in the present allows us to enjoy all the ins and outs that life has to offer. Life is not what you think it is; it’s what you create. It’s what is actually happening right now in the present moment, not what has happened or what is yet to come. Reframing your thoughts and getting out of your head allows you to be present, mindful, and rationally cope with whatever you may be experiencing by drawing others into the conversation. This insight allows us to see thoughts about the past and the future for what they really are: thoughts. The past doesn’t exist except in our memories and the future doesn’t exist except in our imagination. We shouldn’t let the thoughts of what has happened or what has yet to happen hold us captive.

It’s important to foster a habit of actively engaging with others, and I don’t mean by sending a tweet or hitting a like/heart button on your favorite social media platform. It requires getting out the house and meeting a friend for a quick tea/coffee break. It means picking up the phone and calling someone whether its friends, a family member or even a co-worker. Call someone rather than sending a text since a text doesn’t allow for you to hear the tone and voice of someone else. Open up and invite others in and start having real conversations instead of reminiscing about the past or pondering about the future. 

If you’re like me who doesn’t have a gang of people to readily spend time with, getting out the house to experience something new and possibly meeting someone new will suffice. The idea is to actively try to overcome the need to stay in your neatly crafted shell. This is essential for the creative mind to blossom. There’s nothing wrong with being an introvert and not playing well with others, however, don’t let that become an excuse or your reasoning for not interacting with people. There needs to be a transfer of ideas outside of your own in order for the mind to grow. So, today I challenge you to step out of your comfort zone. Think about the new experiences or insight that will be found once you do so! Don’t just imagine it, get out and live it!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Where's Your Head At?

Tuning into yourself and discovery what is missing. Notice when your perception is not in sync with your reality


As of recent, I find myself often starting my posts the same way; apologizing for a long absence and giving excuses as to why I haven’t shared anything recently. Instead of giving an excuse, I decided it would be best to open up and simply update you as to why I’ve been absent as of late.

The past couple of weeks have been a rollercoaster of emotions, filled with more downs than ups. I’ve really been fighting with my own insecurities, attempting to stay on top of them, failing in the process and struggling with personal demons that keep saying that I’m not good enough and I will never be. Thoughts such as: “Why do you keep doing this? No one cares about the work you do. Stay in your lane!” You know those negative thoughts that we all berate ourselves with from time to time. These feelings started affecting my work and writing became yet another task that I was not accomplishing. Ultimately, I found it difficult to get out of my head and out of my own negative bubble. Outwardly I portrayed an image that everything was fine, smiling and conversing with friends and family like I’m all good and not shedding light on my personal struggles.

Not only did my work suffer, but my ability to take care of myself was not a priority. Things like cooking a well-balanced meals weres like pulling teeth. I started spending money unnecessarily on junk/”comfort” foods, and forget about making it to the mat! There was no time for yoga and meditation in my agenda. My self-esteem which was already far from high took a hard hit. I felt trapped in a self-inflicted state of misery.

After weeks of being miserable for no reason, it was time to get to the root of the problem. I decided to do things differently by taking an altered approach to the way I usually self-reflect. I went back and looked at some of my past work and sought clarity from some of my favorite wellness blogs. I also tuned into my self-talk and actively listened to the thoughts which were constant in my mind.

It became clear that not only was I not taking my own advice, but I failed to recognize my successes. There were no valid reason to feel as low as I did. It came down to noting that I didn’t give myself enough of a break and wasn’t mindful of the accomplishments I’ve achieved thus far. Half the year is already gone and my lettering work has improved immensely yet, I looked at myself as a shitty designer. In my day job, I’ve slowly transformed the way things were done in the past and worked out a system to create better flow in the day, yet I still saw things as disjointed and unorganized. I put into action a plan to pay off my bills while making room to save money and treat myself on occasion but still felt as though I was lacking, when I really wasn’t. 

Essentially, I had created a false narrative of my life in my mind. My perception of reality was not as I imagined it to be. I wasn’t living in the moment and accepting things for how they truly were. The real demon was my failure to recognize my self-worth and accomplishments.

Self-compassion is the idea of treating yourself in the same way you would a dear friend who needed help or comfort; of being compassionate to yourself and knowing when to give yourself a break. This important lesson I learned from Dr. Kristin Neff helps remind me that I need to be gentler to myself, especially when it comes to the mind. Self-compassion helps me notice when my own toxic thoughts are splaying into the way I perceive the day, and myself, or even the way I function.

When I decided to take on all the goals I set for myself this year (365 days of lettering, blogging, and becoming a sustainable minded human being), the goal was to gain a better understanding of self; to define who I am and define my own happiness. I know that staying positive can be work, a lot of work for that matter, but in the end it really does take the same amount of energy to stay positively minded vs negatively minded.

Staying positively minded all starts with your inner thoughts and treating yourselves with a little care and compassion. Sometimes you have to ask yourself “where’s my head at?” Where are my thoughts focused on? Does this state of mind actually match my reality? Am I giving myself the love and attention I need? Am I being compassionate towards myself? In asking myself these questions I was able to pinpoint where my pain and suffering were coming from.

I want to learn more about the practice of self-compassion so I went and found Dr Neff’s book Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself  at my local library. Once I finish reading I’ll be sure to give a review of it and share my thoughts with you all. I look forward to the next post and I feel refreshed knowing that I am on the right track. We are all flawed human beings in some way and that’s fine. As long as we stay focused and check in with ourselves on occasion, I believe we can do some amazing things with our lives.  See the glass as half full vs half empty! Till next time folks!

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Company We Keep

You should want to be around people who make you feel good about yourself and worry about your wellbeing. Since friends are an extension of family and, for some, your only form of a family, these people matter more than you think. Form a support system that contributes to your better tomorrow. The company that we keep is where it starts.
The last couple of weeks has been some of the best times I’ve had this year. Jon and I got the pleasure of seeing some of our close friends and enjoying a few backpacking trips with them. We went primitive camping in Kentucky's Red River Gorge and went backpacking in Tennessee's South Cumberland State Park for Memorial Day weekend. Trips like these, where I have the opportunity to reconnect with really good friends, are always refreshing.
You should want to be around people who make you feel good about yourself and worry about your wellbeing. Since friends are an extension of family and, for some, your only form of a family, these people matter more than you think. Form a support system that contributes to your better tomorrow. The company that we keep is where it starts.
Since Jon and I moved to Tennessee 3 years ago, building friendships and finding people we truly connect with has been difficult for us. We just haven't clicked with a lot of people, aside from a few casual acquaintances, and honestly, finding people who are real is a challenge! In light of that hardship, staying in touch with good people and good friends that I've met in life has been very important to me. I have them to thank when it comes to finding the motivation to keep going. They're always a voice of reason when I hesitate to make life changing moves. I really do have a lot to thank them for. <3
The road to gaining such a great support system has not been easy. As I'm sure you've encountered, there are times when we meet people in hopes of becoming good friends and they end up disappointing us. Unfortunate to say, events like this happen far too often! It puts you in a state of mind that makes it difficult to let people in; almost like isolating yourself from meeting new people out of fear of disappointment, or because of the unwillingness to trust others. It can also lead you to start resenting people altogether and completely lose interest in making new friends. 

Another aspect of friendship that’s often overlooked is the act of keeping people in your life that are overtly a burden on you; the ones we hold onto who always seem to bring us down, no matter what the occasion. It could be that person you've known for years that you stay friends with because of how long you've known each other, trying to sustain a dying relationship and afraid to let go. But why is it that we keep people like this in our lives? I know it’s harsh to say, but it’s almost like holding onto dead weight everywhere you go, carrying on with something that serves you no purpose.
You should want to be around people who make you feel good about yourself and worry about your wellbeing. Since friends are an extension of family and, for some, your only form of a family, these people matter more than you think. Form a support system that contributes to your better tomorrow. The company that we keep is where it starts.
When you’re a kid, you don't necessarily worry too much about the people you call friends or the impact they'll have on your life. But as we get older, the company we keep becomes a reflection of us. In order to build a well-rounded support system, you start by aligning yourself with people whose core values align with yours, surrounding yourself with people who only want to see you thrive and people you completely trust. By investing your time into creating your support system, you’re always with people who truly matter to you and are a positive impact in your life.

When I decided to live my life in a minimalistic manner, learning to let people go was one of the biggest hurdles. I came to realize that holding on to possibilities of long lasting friendships with people who only communicated with me when I stretched the olive branch was not serving me any purpose. It forced me to deal with some inner demons which ultimately meant having to part ways with some "friends."

Friends are like family, and we all know how difficult family can be. The difference is you can choose your friends. You can choose whether to keep that person you can't rely on around. You can choose to call the person that’s always talking negatively behind your back your “best friend”. You can choose to stay friends with someone who's betrayed your trust repeatedly.

You should want to be around people who make you feel good about yourself and worry about your wellbeing. Since friends are an extension of family and, for some, your only form of a family, these people matter more than you think. Form a support system that contributes to your better tomorrow. The company that we keep is where it starts. Just be advised that in choosing to do so, you’re doing yourself a serious injustice. When we meet people we connect with, our intent is to keep them around long term and build a solid friendship from it. But sometimes, you have to ask yourself whether these relationships are beneficial or toxic to your growth. It’s a harsh reality but you should be selective of the people you surround yourself with. Not everyone you know can be called a friend and not everyone in your life wants to see you succeed. In the beginning, it’s impossible to know where every friendship will lead but it’s important to be able to recognize when you must cut the cord.

If you’re struggling to part ways with some toxic people in your life, here’s my advice:
Ask yourself these questions: "How does this person make me feel when I'm with them? Are they supportive, encouraging, and open with me? Are they drama filled or self-destructive? Does this person put me in situations that I don’t want to be in? Is this relationship uplifting or defeating? Will their absence be missed? What will be gained or lost by keeping them around?” Note: pros and cons lists are great for this!

Once you understand how you feel, decide whether this is a feeling that you want to continue to have. Be confident in your decision, then go ahead and act on it. I know it can be very hard to let people go and again this is one of those things that are easier said than done. But truly the people we surround ourselves with play a huge part in our quality of life. You have to choose whether you want to continue to be a part of that person’s life and vice versa. Carefully assess the relationship you’re on the fence about. Chances are you’re on the fence for very good reasons.
You should want to be around people who make you feel good about yourself and worry about your wellbeing. Since friends are an extension of family and, for some, your only form of a family, these people matter more than you think. Form a support system that contributes to your better tomorrow. The company that we keep is where it starts.
Lastly, try to make smart choices about the people you let in your life. When you spend countless amounts of time with someone, some of their traits start rubbing off on you without realizing it. You should want to be amongst people who push you to do better, make you go for your goals, and calls you out when you’re making the wrong moves by giving you sound advice. You should want to be around people who make you feel good about yourself and worry about your wellbeing. Since friends are an extension of family and, for some, your only form of a family, these people matter more than you think. Form a support system that contributes to your better tomorrow. The company that we keep is where it starts.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Trust Yourself

Trust, that 5 letter word we all seem to struggle with. It may be a lack of trust in your friends, family, co-workers, or lover. It can also be a lack of trust in ourselves and the decisions we make that effects our lives.

A talk with self: Trust yourself

Trust, that 5 letter word we all seem to struggle with. It may be a lack of trust in your friends, family, co-workers, or lover. It can also be a lack of trust in ourselves and the decisions we make that effects our lives.

Trust is something that I can honestly say I struggle with especially when it comes to trusting myself. Even as I write this, I find myself second guessing every sentence and ask, “Is there a point in doing all of this?” I know it’s easy to just tell someone to trust themselves and the decisions they make; easy to say your intuitions know best. But how do we actually translate that into our lives? Why is finding trust within us so difficult to do? Is it due to lack of self-confidence? Fear of failure? Or simply being uncertain of the decisions we’ve made for ourselves?

In a previous post a few months ago, I stated that I wanted to open up my own design studio in the future. However, within the course of saying that, I’ve changed my mind more times than I can count. I had this clear image of where I wanted my life to go and now it’s all become a blur; it feels like a grueling nightmare of insecurity and self-doubt. But in the midst of it all, I refuse to give into those negative thoughts. I still show up for myself everyday even though I feel lost.

Trust, that 5 letter word we all seem to struggle with. It may be a lack of trust in your friends, family, co-workers, or lover. It can also be a lack of trust in ourselves and the decisions we make that effects our lives.

I like to use myself as an example in these situations because I understand how it feels to struggle, to doubt every step you take. I know how it feels to overthink things to the point of driving yourself crazy; to cry yourself to sleep because you’re so frustrated with your own indecisiveness. How can one be so sure one minute and then spiral into a sea of doubt and uncertainty the next?  Why do we have the tendency to go against our gut and our intuitions? I don’t know and I wish I had the answer to the question, but what I do know is that stopping or quitting is not the solution.

When you find yourself struggling to build the bridge between your inner desires and discovering the strength/confidence needed to keep going, ask yourself this “what will I gain if I quit? Will this be another thing I told myself I can do only to give up midway?” And if you do fail, why is this viewed as a negative? Isn’t life supposed to be filled with highs and lows? Isn’t failure part of life’s lessons? Maybe just doing and trusting that you’ve made the right choices is all you need to do.

Trust, that 5 letter word we all seem to struggle with. It may be a lack of trust in your friends, family, co-workers, or lover. It can also be a lack of trust in ourselves and the decisions we make that effects our lives.

Imagine all the time wasted on striving for things that added no value into our lives. Think about that new product that you stood in line for hours or days to get, that relationship you fought tooth and nail to keep alive only to be disappointed in the end, or the countless hours spent scrolling through your social media accounts envying the success of your friends or strangers. Now imagine redirecting that same time into things that did add value in your life, even if you didn’t know where it will take you. Nothing that I do comes easy or naturally to me. From lettering to writing, cooking or getting in shape, all these things took time, patience, and practice and I still have so much to learn.

In preparation for this post, I read a few articles on the characteristics of successful people. The most common traits that they share are: they are focused driven, patient, optimistic, self-confident, work well with others, and have a strong sense of self. Most importantly, they make decisions that align with their goals. Some of these characteristics are qualities that we all possess in some form; however the everyday person falls victim to fear and doubts or listens to the naysayers who hinder them from putting their best foot forward.

Trust, that 5 letter word we all seem to struggle with. It may be a lack of trust in your friends, family, co-workers, or lover. It can also be a lack of trust in ourselves and the decisions we make that effects our lives.

Success in any form (not only monetary) is what we all want in life. But success does not and will not happen overnight. Achieving your goals truly may take many years and many failed attempts to get there. Regardless of what form of success you seek, just remember that you will never get there if you don’t trust that you are capable of getting there. Try not to get overwhelmed with the circumstances of your everyday life. In times of adversity, giving up is a guaranteed way of ensuring you will never actualize your goals. Don’t let your inner demons take over. Believe that you can do what you say you will. Trust starts with you.





Thursday, May 4, 2017

6 Forms of Yoga

If you’re a regular reader, you’ve noticed that I’ve mentioned yoga and meditation quite a bit, and how both have really helped me in many areas of my life. Specifically, the ongoing practice of both has helped reduce stress and guided me to a level of self-awareness previously unknown to me. Since yoga has taken over as my primary workout regimen, I want to gain a better understanding of all forms of yoga and fully grasp what I'm getting into.

If you’re a regular reader, you’ve noticed that I’ve mentioned yoga and meditation quite a bit, and how both have really helped me in many areas of my life. Specifically, the ongoing practice of both has helped reduce stress and guided me to a level of self-awareness previously unknown to me. Since yoga has taken over as my primary workout regimen, I want to gain a better understanding of all forms of yoga and fully grasp what I'm getting into.

As a Christian, I definitely don't want to dive into anything that will lead me astray with my walk with God (not that I think that yoga will) and I know certain religious sectors believe that Christians should not partake in yoga in any form. However, I disagree with that notion. In fact, I believe that certain forms of yoga can act as a catalyst to bring someone closer to God, or at least their form/vision of God.  Ultimately it all comes down to understanding and having the willingness to look at someone else’s perspective versus a one track minded view.

So this week, I will talk briefly about the different practices/forms of yoga, what they all mean, and some most commonly heard terms.
As a disclaimer, I am in no way a yoga teacher or guru; simply someone who wants to share a way to find peace and balance in your life as it’s helped me in mine.

The 6 forms of Yoga
If you’re a regular reader, you’ve noticed that I’ve mentioned yoga and meditation quite a bit, and how both have really helped me in many areas of my life. Specifically, the ongoing practice of both has helped reduce stress and guided me to a level of self-awareness previously unknown to me. Since yoga has taken over as my primary workout regimen, I want to gain a better understanding of all forms of yoga and fully grasp what I'm getting into.


Bhakti Yoga (Yoga of Devotion)

If you’re in search of spiritual guidance or simply looking for a path to self-realization, then Bhakti yoga is for you. The Sanskrit Bhakti comes from the root word bhaj, which means to adore or worship God. It has been referred to as “love for love’s sake” and “finding union through love and devotion.” It is also viewed as a method to gain the purest relationship with your inner self.  The origins of Bhakti yoga comes from the book The Bhagavad Gita written around the 2nd or 3rd century.

Originally, the practice included devotions to Hindu deities such as Shiva, Krishna, Vishnu, or Kali, by offering gifts and offerings through a puja ceremony. Once the idea started to spread, devotional schools started opening in southern India. Common customs of practice include worshipping and chanting mantras to deities, singing devotional songs (which are known as Kirtan), following a guru either dead or alive and writing and reading poetry. The emphasis of this practice is a longing to know God, also referred to as the Beloved. Westerners tend to connect with the idea of the divine, the beloved, the spirit, the self, or the source. Bhakti yogis also have festivals everywhere around the world, like Bhakti fest in California.

If you’re a regular reader, you’ve noticed that I’ve mentioned yoga and meditation quite a bit, and how both have really helped me in many areas of my life. Specifically, the ongoing practice of both has helped reduce stress and guided me to a level of self-awareness previously unknown to me. Since yoga has taken over as my primary workout regimen, I want to gain a better understanding of all forms of yoga and fully grasp what I'm getting into.

Hatha Yoga (Transformation Begins In the Body)

Hatha yoga is the most popular form of yoga in western culture. Sometimes called a dual type of yoga, it includes duality between 2 opposites the sun (ha) and the moon (tha). Hatha can also mean willful or forceful and is viewed as the yoga of balance. When you practice physical yoga postures such as ashtanga, vinyasa, Iyengar, and power yoga classes, these are all forms of hatha yoga. In earlier times, hatha was used to prepare participants for long meditation sessions. Today it is highly recognized as a form of exercise which helps work on body alignment, and relaxation techniques, as well as building strength and flexibility through structured poses and other activities that help with body and mind purification. Common terminologies include asana (posture) or pranayama (energy control).

Jnana Yoga (Inner Knowledge and Insight)

For the scholarly type of person, there’s also a yoga form for you. Jnana yoga is the study of scripture and text of the yogic tradition. It appeals to those who are more intellectually inclined and probes the discovery of self through the question “who am I?” Jana yoga recognizes man's intelligence and tries to surpass limitations of the body and mind, by unifying intellect and wisdom.  Along with Bhakti yoga, Jnana is the best approach for becoming aware of the eternal self. It is considered the most difficult and most direct forms of yoga. It’s yoga of the mind, of wisdom, and the path of a scholar.


If you’re a regular reader, you’ve noticed that I’ve mentioned yoga and meditation quite a bit, and how both have really helped me in many areas of my life. Specifically, the ongoing practice of both has helped reduce stress and guided me to a level of self-awareness previously unknown to me. Since yoga has taken over as my primary workout regimen, I want to gain a better understanding of all forms of yoga and fully grasp what I'm getting into.

Karma Yoga (Energy of Action)

“Do good for others and good things will come to you” that is the philosophy behind Karma Yoga. It is the path of service, or the desire to do service for other. We practice this when we perform work and live our lives in a selfless manner serving others. People who study Karma Yoga believe that the actions of our past influence our experiences today. In the Hindu belief structure, service to others is a path to spiritual fulfillment. We consciously create a future that frees us from being bound by negativity and selfishness when we are concerned with the wellbeing of others. Volunteering, coaching, a selfless act for a friend or stranger, and other acts of service classify as karma yoga. Over time, the act of servicing others becomes naturally engrained in you.

Tantra Yoga (Pathway of Ritual)

One of the most misperceived and misunderstood of the yoga forms. Tantra yoga has been linked to sorcery or witchcraft and misconceived as exclusively being about sex.  It is the most esoteric of the 6 branches. Based on the worship of Hindu deity Shaki, the divine feminine energy, its main goal is to expand awareness in all states whether awake or asleep while utilizing rituals to experience the divine in everything.  When the masculine and feminine energy is balanced in one's life, the practice leads to the awakening of kundalini -- the divine cosmic energy that brings for self-realization. Tantra yogis must have purity and humility, devotion, courage, cosmic love, non-covetousness and truthfulness about themselves. It also encourages a ritualistic approach to life.

Raja Yoga (eight-limbed path)

Last but not least, the final yoga form is Raja (Royal) Yoga. If meditation is your primary focus, or you would like to dive deeper into meditation practice, then this is the yoga for you, as meditation is the focal point of the practice. Raja Yoga teaches you how to control your thoughts through meditation, uniting your ego-based self with your higher spiritual self. Raja is known as the eight-limbed path because there are 8 strict requirements to follow which are:

  • Yamas (Ethical standards)
  • Niyamas (Self-discipline)
  • Asana (physical posture)
  • Pranayama (extension or control of the breath)
  • Pratyahara (Sensory withdrawal )
  • Dharana (Concentration)
  • Dhyana (Meditation)
  • Samadhi (Ecstasy or final liberation)

Members of religious orders and spiritual communities devote themselves to this branch of yoga. It teaches deep self-respect through mastering yourself.

Overall whichever yoga path you chose, it all comes down to self-realization. You can practice more than one form at a time. Once you get past the idea of the awkwardness of some of the poses, be one with your breath and let your mind be free; you'll start to connect with your inner light.
I really enjoyed doing this research about yoga. I can now put a name to the form I practice, which is Hatha, and have gained a better understanding of it all.  If you are interested in learning more about yoga or meditation, I recommend visiting Yoga Journal. It was a very helpful tool during my research process. They have guided meditation practices, yoga videos and of course helpful articles to guide you along the way.  I hope this was as helpful for you as it was for me. Till next time!

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Go With The Flow: Minimize Your Daily List

Go With The Flow
Here we are again: a month or so has gone by without a new post. To be honest, I don't have an excuse this time. The plan was to post a few weeks ago about yoga and meditation since they’re my newfound loves, but time got past me, a week turned into 2, and here we are.

It’s been difficult setting aside time to write and draw daily. The two are fighting each other and I'm left half-assing two things that are very important to me. I've been at this crossroad before, finding it difficult to better manage myself and wisely distribute my time. It’s overwhelming being a one-man operation and trying to plan things accordingly.

As much as I would like to say that I'm organized, there is a mild form of self-destruction that goes on in my life. I'm starting to understand that if I'm to be my own boss, I need to first learn how to manage myself. I know the beginning is rough and there will be challenges along the way, but that was part of the reason I chose to transition to a minimalist lifestyle: to put a head the things that are most important and everything else last.

Go With The Flow

Moving forward there's going to be some lifestyle changes to be made.
·         To start, I'm no longer creating new lettering pieces every day.
I've realized this has caused unnecessary self-induced stress in my life. I’m expecting perfection daily vs. enjoying the process of producing work I'm very proud of. The point of taking on a daily lettering challenge was to freely express me creatively every day, even if that meant working on the same piece for multiple days.

I wanted to explore going through the design process of planning and execution but instead, I feel stuck to my sketchbook and not experimenting with different mediums. It's also the main reason I currently feel overwhelmed with lettering. It's becoming a daily haunting project and another form of work rather than an enjoyable experience. Because of that, I've decided to do away with themes for the moment until I get into a groove of doing things.

·         Next I'll have designated days to blog.
For now, expect to see posts on wellness, lettering, or just an update of life every 2 weeks; of course, if I have free time, I will post more often than that. As I've said in the past, I want this blog to be a melding of art and sustainable/ethical/fair trade living. I'm trying to find the balance between the two and so far, this is a good start. In the beginning, things will be slow moving as far as getting acquainted with change but over time I'll get the hang of it and fall into a smooth rhythm.

I know I often share posts like this where I reevaluate what I'm doing or thinking and make changes accordingly but being capable of recognizing areas that need improvement in your life is beneficial to self-growth. I enjoy sharing the battles and doubt that goes on in my life as I explore the realms of entrepreneurship. The idea is even when you’re down you have to keep pushing.
Last night, I told Jon that I was afraid because I've never really pushed myself to do anything. Imagine how different my life would be if I just believed.

Go With The Flow

I wanted my work to be a source of enjoyment but along the way, I turned enjoyment into a revolving door of stress.  Now that I'm putting appropriate time into steering my business in the right direction, I know I can start to relax a bit.

I suppose this post was an open invitation to review your goals. Check in with your progress and see if some adjustments need to be made. Are you feeling unnecessarily stressed or anxious? Is that stress steamed from your goals? Can adjustments be made? Are you doing too much? Ask yourself open ended questions and give yourself permission to take a break when necessary. Taking care of yourself has a huge impact on how you walk through life. It’s one of the many reasons why I love yoga so much, but I'll share more on that the next post. 

Having a better understanding of how you feel and why you feel that way will guide you to pinpoint the areas where change needs to be applied. I think these small changes will help dramatically. So, I ask you to take the time to tune into yourself.  Remember if you need any extra guidance or need support I'm always here to listen and to guide.

Till Next Time!