Will you wait for motivation or chase after it?

An acquaintance once said to me, “I’m not motivated enough. I just need motivation. Maybe if I found out the answer to what I’ve been wondering,  then I can move on. Then I’ll be motivated.”

I had to wonder what motivation really meant and whether it even mattered at all. Truth is, 99% of the time you have to strive, and push through the lack of motivation to see any results or a glimpse of something that might motivate at you at all. This came to me as I compared the characteristics of  people close to me, and this acquaintance.

Generally I’m drawn to hard working, motivated individuals, who are driven, constantly moving, producing results, and speak very little. I feel connected to people whose work ethics I admire. I could count on and on when I look at my inner circle of five,my close circle of ten, or my outer circle of friends, the things about the characters that are attractive and admirable to me. The first on the list would be educated, a close second is hard working, and third, does not gossip or speak ill of others.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, I’m completely turned off by gossip, sitting around and talking or even conversations about people who are not present. If they have a lot of time in there hands to do nothing, or are always available, I repel their energy. Bottom line, If you tell me something negative about someone, I’m unlikely to hang around with you, and even less likely to entertain conversation  with you.

So in comparison to the acquaintance, I watched the work ethics of an individual who I admired. He was disciplined. This was the most important part of his success. He hates school, and he hates the 9-5 jobs, but thought it took slightly longer than average, he graduated with a degree, and is now working fulltime in a great company many a very generous salary. All the while, he had also been very actively working on  a side project, which recently, after years of planning, building and tweaking, took an impressive turn. The most attractive things about this individual, aside from the discipline to push through despite how he feels, is is lack of words. He worked in silence,  and in all the years I’ve known him he had never uttered negative comments about others, not even those who have done him wrong. That’s confidence, and that’s allowing his intelligence to overpower his emotions always.

Vice versa, the unmotivated acquaintance developed habits that sooner than I imagined had me running as far away as possible from him. He has done nothing with her life in years. He’s had dropped out of school, says he had no interest in it, and chooses everyday, to allow one incident which is natural in any human beings life cycle, to dictate that he isn’t motivated enough to go forward or step into something. He talked quite a bit about his dreams and visions, portrayed everyone he knew in negative light, especially those around his age group, and esteemed himself above these men in a self-righteous attitude while having no job, achievements, or accomplishments to back up his words. Of course, over the years insecurities or jealousies must have taken over causing a bitter view of the world and everything in it. But at the end of the day, he sat and waited for motivation. Motivation never came. This person could be a wonderful individual, and probably has a good heart but his problem was his own thinking, lack of discipline, comparing himself to others, and FEAR OF FAILURE.

So what about motivation? Nothing. Motivation is nothing, discipline and work ethics are everything. The problem is that if you wait for motivation, it will never show up. Most of us wake up to bewildering alarm clocks, much earlier than we want to just to go ahead and make an honest day’s wages. If we want to pay our bills, keep a roof over our heads, food on our plates and stay out of debt, we need to do this. Yet there are those who are jobless by choice and sinking in debt. Is that lack of motivation or plain laziness? Going to the gym is another example. We can be too tired after working all day to step into a gym and physically push our bodies out of the last bit energy. Doing so is beneficial to our health and physique but it’s almost never evident in one day at the gym. 

So what do you do to find that motivation? Work, push, suffer, cry, crawl, and even drag yourself there if you have to, but get there, do the task. I kid you not, just over a year ago, I had to go to work everyday while struggling with post traumatic stress disorder, and cry way through each day. I had to fight against opposing management who could not understand the situation, I even had to get there under medication for migraines and work with no energy. But I did it. It wasn’t motivating then, but it definitely paid my bills and I’ve never taken loans for school because of it.

Similarly in high school,  I remember I had trouble keeping up with track and field practices in Gr. 9. I had never had to work hard before Gr.9, whether in sports or school, I basically cruised through easily, so when I joined the track team in high school, the intensity of the training scared me. It was so hard that I began to skip practices for a month until my coach called home and I got in trouble. I forced to go back to practice again and I’m ever so thankful to my parents for doing that, because for 6, 7, 8 and 9 months later I saw the results all that hard work produced. It was the first time I had worked hard to achieve something, and my team and I head home from OFSAA with medals, not only was I proud to be a part of something so great, I found motivation to do it again and make it a lifestyle. The results that were produced from the endless, exhausting, hard work were what became the motivation.

Motivation is not what will take there, nor is talent, or having a dream enough. It’s the work ethics. It’s choosing to show up when you don’t feel like. It’s pushing yourself to finish what you started no matter how boring or unmotivating it feels. You must put in an effort, and take a step before ever seeing any results. You must keep working, try and try again, and then again to eventually produce and see visible results. When you see the results  they will become the motivation to turn your discipline and work ethics into a lifestyle. Until then, you either have the choice to painstakingly push your way to motivation, or find every excuse under heaven not to and sit at home and mope while building up bitterness towards everyone else and become more and more dismayed with each wasted day. Once you’ve read this, think of what you will do with the next 24 hours of your life? Will you wait for motivation or chase after it?

It’s not over!

Have you ever been frustrated with praying about something for a long time and feeling like you weren’t getting any answers or that the answer from God were vague? Have you ever gotten tired of hearing the answer, “wait,” I stead  of a direct yes or no? Did you ever come to the point of giving up or deciding that it was too late for that prayer to be answered?
Have people discouraged you or given you worldly advice against your prayers requests?

Of course there are many times when you prayers are out of God’s will, or not aligned with the word, that He Wil either give you a no, or change your heart’s desires to align with His plan gradually but surely. But there are some prayers which we have no idea why the wait was so long and there haven’t been any responses. Like that degree you’ve been pursuing, that difficult situation at work, the dead end job which you need a change from, relationships or friendships that seem to be on the rocks, the marriage conflicts that seem like they cannot be fixed, the salvation of loved ones, or that health issue you’ve struggling with, are all prayers God has heard.

In church yesterday a pastor and his wife had shared the testimony of all the trials and tribulations they had gone through for three years before finally adopting their young daughter. They mentioned in the testimony that even pastors were starting to discourage them saying that perhaps all the trials meant that it may not be God’s will. Surprisingly they were not moved by the negativity but continued to seek God regarding the matter through the storms, and 3 years later they just brought home their daughter.

As I listened God brought to mind the passage in Mark chapter 5, which I had read last week. There were two finality based situations presented in this passage, one about the woman with the flow of blood, and the other was the death of Jairus’ daughter. The woman with the flow of blood, had had this condition for 12 years. She had prayed and gone to healers, spent her money on treatments and nothing had cured. The frustrastion must have been unbearable and hope must have dwindled away after so long. But despite the length of the period of time she had suffered for, in which most of us would have given up, she dared to have faith. She reached out in the crowd and touched Jesus’ garment in hope of being healed, and immediately she was.

On the other hand, Jairus came asking Jesus to heal his dying 12 year old daughter. While Jesus turned to speak to the woman, one of Jairus’ servants came to tell them that the ill daughter had died and there would be no need to trouble Jesus. This was a dead end situation. It seemed like all hope was gone and nothing could be done, no one could fix it – not even God. But do we know how powerful our God is? Is there anything in the world that is too big for God?
Jesus went with Jairus anyway, saying that the girl was only sleeping. Of course like friends/family of yours and mine,  some ridiculed him because their carnal minds could not grasp that God can make the impossible happen. Jesus put everyone out of the room before walking up the girl.

Perhaps what you need to do is to hold onto your faith, and put the naysayers and unbelievers outside. Not everyone needs to know or hear what you pray for but everyone will be thrilled when your testimony is presented at the end. When life is brought back into that stale and dying relationship, when a promotion or new door opens in what seems like a dead end career,  when those loved ones have accepted Jesus, and even that impossible situation that you feel hopeless about, remember that God hears you. Although it may seem like it’s taking too long or that it’s too late, God is never late and nothing is impossible for Him. He shows up at the nick of time.

Read Mark 5: 21- 43

Let go. Let God

Letting go is by far one of the hardest parts of life. Whether it’s a relationship, job, habit or pain from the past, we become comfortable with familiarity, sometimes to the point that it prevents us from moving forward in life or taking the next step.
I’ve been in some vicious cycles in the past. Well one, and no matter how many times I closed the door, I curiously left a window open. How many know that all it takes the enemy is a foothold?
I won’t call people the enemy. It isn’t humans we’re at war against. But if a person, object, habit or whatever else youre indulged is not God’s will or aligned with His timing, after a season of testing it/they will eventually be used by the enemy to “kill, steal and destroy.” This is also true when you idolize someone/something, and place them above God on the throne of your heart. Whatever hinders you from your walk with God, ultimately must end, be broken and or severed.
God tried to speak to me, and he even tried to show me in pretty powerful and significant ways but stubborn as I am, when I want something I don’t let go. And so I repeated the same year almost 3 times until finally God pulled the plug. I guess I wasn’t about to step into 2016 with the old demons on my back and recycling the same vicious cycle. He pried the idol out of my hand in a powerful way and shut the door. Believe me the devastation is a lot worse when something is pried out of your hands than when you willingly surrender it.
Think of Abraham willing to sacrifice Isaac, and how moved God was with his obedience. Some of us are 24/7 fighters who don’t know when to put the sword

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and shield down.
As hard as it was, when I saw the whole picture God’s peace settled in my heart and I felt stronger than ever. There’s a sense of release that comes with letting go.
Break the cycles. Shut the door on the enemy and don’t leave a foothold open.  Don’t live the same year twice. Rather than survive, thrive.

(Photo from FB)

Character is everything, but what is “character”?

Character: “the aggregate of features and traits that form the individual nature of some person or thing.” (Dictionary.com definition)

Several years ago, a junior at a the church I had attended; preached a sermon on our core values, one of them being “Unshakable Character”. The other values included extravagant generousity, audacious faith, and a few others I cannot recall. Unshakable character was the one that stood out for me and over the years I often pondered over, analyzed and studied myself as well as others to understand in depth what unshakable character really is, what separates good character  from bad, what are the black white and grey areas and how does one truly develop such character. The only definite thing I know about good character is that it’s a process and ever progressing.  Even at this point, while I am finally writing the piece my hands have been itching to write for over a year, the final understanding is somewhat inconclusive.

Two things during the years following that sermon stayed with me for a long time regarding character. They are “Integrity”, and “Christ-likeness”.
INTEGRITY: the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness. (Dictionary.com definition)
Pretty simple to define this word. Integrity is something you either have or you don’t. It isn’t based on situations, moods or convenience.
Christ-likeness however can get seriously complicated. It’s basically, ‘What would Jesus do, say or think?’ Remember that bracelet in that Madea movie? W.W.J.D. ? Something like that, only, easier said that done.

What got me writing this piece is a conversation with an ex, some months ago that left me in complete dismay, disappointment, utter shock, and feeling betrayed and even scared. I’ve known him for 3 years and over the course of 3 years I’ve learned many things about him. To me he was that genuine, sweet, calm and collected, economic and ancient history nut whom I could talk to about anything and everything for up to 7 hours straight. He has never been disrespectful, aggressive or abusive and generally did adorable things like bring me little gifts, go for long walks with me and even play basketball with me at random hours. Our only very obvious mistmatch was that we were unequally yoked. As in, I’m a Christian and him, not so much. This naturally lead to differences in beliefs and our over all values, etc.
I had always known that he wanted to be successful and in leadership but the conversation took a turn unexpectedly and ended with him blurting in his drunkenness,“I love you. You make me happy… but I can’t control you…. I don’t care about happiness, I want power and control. That’s my goal…”
My immediate reaction to this was,“Wuthe Hitler!?” Not to mention some things I disregarded in the past came flooding back like the time when he esteemed Hitler above Ghandi. He believed Hitler was interesting and it intrigued him that he was able to make so many followers, while Ghandi was a dictator and he suppressed and oppressed people. I don’t know too much about Ghandi but it occured to me that my beau might have self control issues and/or outright dispise laws, rules, ethics, and moral values. I also contemplated whether it would be worth mentioning that Hitler had psychological issues and eventually took his own life but never quite accomplished his goal of taking over the world. 

For a few weeks that followed I was outraged and sad. It was easy to notice that he was not the only one with such a mindset. This is our modern day soceity: the dog eat dog world, the competitive me – culture, and everything else promoted through the media like power couples worth millions but lacking in morality or spirituality. Everyone, even I, occasionally feel this competitive urge like life is just as race is to the top.
My mind was muddled with so many mixed emotions and I couldn’t comprehend who this man was. He had become an entirely different person in an instant and I realized that I might have been clueless for two years and fallen for lies and deceit. His character, the way he carried himself, and who I believed he truly was, was now tainted. Or maybe I was over reacting to a very general statement made under the influence of alcohol. He wasn’t sober enough to put together coherent sentences anyhow. However, I began again to wonder what really makes a good character and Christ-likeness.
Do you recall in elementary school, the question, “Who is your role model?”
I remember writing papers and journals about my role models several times in different grades throughout elementary school. Each time it was a different family member from my Grandma to my uncles and aunts.

When I started to write this piece I tried to close in the box by referring to people who I met in church and were in ministry. This isn’t to put down Christians, Christianity or people in ministry,  because including myself, we’re Christian because we’re all imperfect people who need a perfect God, Christ. But in all honesty some of the least favourable and least Christ-like people I’ve met were Christians in leadership roles in church. Don’t get me wrong, I have met wonderful Christians also. But for some reason my mind strayed to a key few who have had terrible impacts on my life. A Pastor’s son who spent more time skipping class, getting suspended and drinking behind the school; a visiting pastor who was more of a dictator, completely arrogant and ignorant that he’d assumed judgemental imaginaty situations about many youth in the congregation and unjustly, ruthlessly belittled members of the church without so much as knowing their first names. Then there was gossip central. A crowd of girls in leadership roles, who had no better hobby than to bud their noses into and talk behind the backs of others. Say what you will about cutting church leaders some slack, but I think if they need that slack they aren’t ready to be in leadership but, “the fish stinks from the head.” As a baby Christian during those years, these encounters had left a pretry bad impression upon me, and usually the bad impression tend to stand out and stick a lot longer than the good. Reminiscing on these memories discouraged me very quickly from continuing this piece.
Luckily, just in time I attended the retirement party of one of the best people I have ever had the privelege of knowing.
Mr. Tony D’agostino, alias Dagger, our beloved coach. It was like a 10 year reunion with the most wonderful human beings God had placed on this earth and I felt so nostalgic from being in that atmosphere and around the people. One by one people got up to give their speeches and I kid you not, left me teary eyed at the end of each. I’ve been to many weddings and a few funerals but no speech had ever kept my attention nor stirred any emotions in me. Looking around at the calibur of athletes, students, family members and colleagues of Dagger that were present that night made me realize just how amazing a person he truly is.

Some of what was mentioned in the speeches added to my searching of character.  A teacher mentioned, “Tony has always been a spiritual guy.” His son added the thing about respect and his athletes about encouragement.
On my way home I compared society’s view on power and control vs my coach’s natural ability to lead without ever trying to control or manipulate anyone or anything.

It was character. It was integrity and Christ-likeness. Not to mention he had power, authority and control but through respect and because of who he is.
Was it the inumerable OFSAA medals, the Championships, and titles? Was it the Candian, Interscholastic and Ontario records that were broken by his athletes, the ones he coached and brought up under his watch and mentorship? Was it the number of full scholarships awarded to his athletes and/or the very fact that he produced national and international level athletes? Was it any of the achievements? Heck Yes! But these were only the smaller part of it. They were achievements deserving of respect and recognition. But Dagger was always down to earth, and never egotistic.
Throughout our high school years my teammates and I experienced the best of times and the worst. We came from so many different walks of life and we all had baggage. From eating disorders, annemia, iron dificiencies,  dysfuntional families,  poverty, child abuse, single parent homes to everything in between and all scenarios under heaven were among this crowd. Not to leave out the sitcoms we had among ourselves. And through it all there was Dagger, dragging 20 something of us to and from York U everyday in our big red van, giving us a step above every other school in practice facilities. He took us to many different cities for meets, and to Penn Relays to run against the world’s very best. Opportunities we couldn’t have imagined without Dagger. He listened to our problems, and even helped us through so many. When no one believed in us and when we didn’t believe in ourselves, Dagger didn’t just say with mere words but showed us that we could. He never gave up on any one athlete, whether it be the smallest, or the slowest. He flew down with the athletes to visit their universities and he even brought some of us our first furnitures. Dagger showed a kind of compassion and acceptance that very few people now know how to show. All the while he never expected anything back. Christ does just that. He shows us compassion.
But it wasn’t a fiesta. There were many moments of tough love too. When we were up to no good he made sure to put us in our place. Christ also does that; accepts us the way we are but never leaves us in our low places and mediocrity.
The times crossed my mind of when I was caught with the wrong crowd that was causing a lot of trouble,  and Dagger just shook his head disappointedly as he walked by me that day. I had never felt so guilty in my life. When I went down to the office that afternoon he said one thing to me that still rings in my every time I consider my friendships today. “If you hang around shit for too long, you’re going to start smelling like it.”
I remember I was a little rebel in high school, pulling stupid stunts deliberately to make my mother upset (I have mommy issues, don’t ask). But I never dated anyone because Dagger told us all, “No!” When I spoke to my bestfriend about those days, I realized it wasn’t just me, but we all didn’t want to let Dagger down, we wanted to make him proud. I know that anything I achieved  in high school was because I didn’t want to let Dagger down.
The last really big thing I remember after a really bad year was the pep talk he gave me. I was a little trouble maker from time to time. The little mischievous side used to stop by sometimes and because I often got away with things by just smiling,  sometimes others were at the mercy of my mischief. By that I mean my bestrfriend and a few of my teammates had to jump in to save my behind or got in trouble by association. We laugh about it all now, but I remember the very last time when Dagger pulled me into the office sat me down, and began a pep talk. He had never ever yelled at me but this time his face was pretty serious. I remember those words to this day, “At some point you gotta be honest with yourself, cut the crap,  put all the BS behind you and get your shit together.”
This meant business. I still have days when I have to remind myself of this speech just to get out of bed, get to work or class and keep moving. That’s how powerful Dagger’s words were. But at the end of the day, it wasn’t the words but who they came from.
And last but not least, Dagger is definitely a spiritual man. We all do still remember the huddle. While every other team huddled and blurted out some school cheer, we huddled together and prayed. We prayed together before every single race. I had never been on any other sport team where we prayed before the meet or games. But this was the tradition that was passed on for decades on the Ward track team. He is humble. Never once had Dagger belittled, or discouraged any other team, coach or runners. On the contrary he applauded and celebrated every other victory with just as much pride as those of his own athletes. To quote his teacher, “he checked his ego at the entrance.”
Bottom line Dagger is the most Christ like person I ever knew, but he never once talked about God nor preached a sermon. He lived it out in his life through the way he treated others, through his selflessness, compassion and through his dedication to molding these young vulnerable people into the incredible adults they’ve all turned out to be. He taught us to believe in ourselves and to finish the race, to leave everything on the track.  The team performed because he cared about every individual on the team. Believe it or not, some of his traits stuck and passed onto us as we grew older.

There are no group of people I look up to more than the girls I ran with. The kindest, most selfless and giving ones like Omoye, Leanne and Danielle, or the natural leaders like Lindsay and Cherise. Just like Dagger’s words, Lindsay’s MVP speech taught me time management and study skills, while Cherise’s lecture taught me not to get into destructive relationships with the wrong kind of people.

Ushakable “good” character is one that remains constant and doesn’t conform or sway under pressure. It is selfless, dedicated, disiplined, empathetic, uplifting, humble and shows mercy, forgiveness and unconditional love. Sounds pretty Christ-like to me.

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This is where the power is, in unshakable character. And where  there’s unshakable character you find integrity and unconditional love. This is the longest blog I have ever written and definitely the closest and most personal to me. It is a heartfelt thank you to all the coaches, teachers and mentors in this world who are still commited to the children and dedicated to making their paths straight and bringing out all their potentials. You are awesome, and you make the biggest difference. This is also a call to more people in these roles and outside to become these unshakable characters. The world needs you.

R. A. Newton

The Chase

We hurt the people worth keeping
To chase those better leaving.
In the muddled clutter of struggles-
The money, the study
The honey, the strategy-
The irony,
Is that everything we chase becomes everything we wish we never encountered.
What is life but a ‘vanity of vanities’?

R. A. Newton
August 14, 2015.

White Rose

A dozen white roses
And a million white lies
Is what it took to win her
One simple mistake
And an ugly truth
Is all it took to destroy her.

A china glazed doll
A molded figurine
Life breathing painting she was
One smirk to capture
A sweet word to conquer
And one last lie to bind her.

Beauty they called her
Yes, a beauty she was
In the eyes of a preying beholder
One whisper of his love
One touch of deceit
And a poisonous kiss to defeat her.

R. A. Newton
July 15, 2015.