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Live Your Life. 

Live your life. In your terms.
In high school I was never the popular kid. I just never felt the need to have to belong to a group of people or follow the norm. Sure, I had plenty of friends because I socialized with everyone. But I didn’t live and die by what they thought of me. 

I was also very fortunate to become conscious and self aware of who I was as a young 17 year old. So I didn’t subject myself to society’s view of a young Black Man. And I have constantly evolved in my 20s, 30s, and now 40s. 

But one thing is constant: I am not bothered by what others think of me. 
Live your life and be who you have always wanted to be. On your terms.

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I Dare You.

dare you to be great
It’s so much easier in life to be average. To not rock the boat and to toe the line.  It’s so much easier falling into a routine with everyone else.  Falling into the norm.  Doing exactly what your parents, not you, want you to be in life.

Yea, ok.  No.  I have always been someone who wanted and did the opposite of others.  I didn’t follow the crowd in school.  I never really had a ton of friends.  Just like-minded people on the fringes like me who always did their own thing.  Sure, there were times where I wanted to be popular.  But that quickly subsided when I figured that high school was very temporary and we actually had to be something productive in life afterward.

I knew early on that I was destined to be something bigger than just another kid graduating and joining the workforce.  I joined the military knowing I wanted to be the best Logistician and Soldier I could be.  Sometimes I fell short and others I excelled, having retired after 23 successful years. During that time I fell into depression and grew very pessimistic.  But one thing that kept me going was that phrase:  I Dare You To Be Great.  I often told myself this.  I dare you to do good on this promotion board.  I dare you to do your absolute best on this deployment day in and day out.  I dare you to give your best leading these soldiers.  Every single day that was my mission:  to be great just that one single day. Like I said, some days I was great and some days I fell short.  But I always dared myself and gave the best I could.

It’s something that all of us can do.  It’s not a gift given to the rich, privileged, or gifted.  Each one of us has the “greatness gene” dormant inside of us.  Each one of us has the willpower to be everything we imagined. We just need to follow these simple steps:

 

Believe in Yourself

Set Your Goals

Accept and Take Action

Acknowledge and Repeat

In the coming weeks, I will be elaborating more on these four principles in a new way titled the Becoming Better Project. My goal is to assist one hundred people in realizing their fullest potential. The plan will be to build a community of people from all walks of life who just want to become better.  And it’s free.  All I want is your time and commitment to want the best for you and others on the same path.

Will you commit?  Drop me a comment below or send me an email with Becoming Better in the subject line letting me know you want to be apart of this.

 

-alv

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How Optimism Is One Of The Keys To Success

gary vaynerchuk and optimism

(Gary Vaynerchuck on the DailyVee)

Life is tough, but I wouldn’t want it any other way. I have lived through some dark times and moments where I didn’t know I would survive. And I am not talking about on a deployment in Iraq or Afghanistan. I am talking about everyday life before and after the military. Up until a few years ago, I was a very pessimistic person. I felt like everyone was conspiring against me. You know what I am talking about. The victim mentality. Where instead of thinking of ways to see the silver lining to problems, I was retreating to the dark and “woe is me” comfort of thinking and dealing with things.

And it was comfortable and I was content. Sure, on the surface I complained about things, but deep down I felt safe in my misery. Safe in the way that I had to put no effort into complaining and being not trying to achieve anything. But I was wrong. I put in some hard work, but I was mostly mentally.  Believe it or not, it’s hard work being miserable. It’s also hard work being positive and being spent everyday achieving your dreams. I don’t know about you, but I would rather have the latter. Wouldn’t you?

I mean, think about it, both of them take a considerable amount of effort to do: complaining and doing. But by doing you are actually getting what you want. Do you want that new job? Don’t go into it think that someone has more experience than you and is going to get it. Do you want to finish that degree? Don’t go into thinking of the amount of classes that you have to take. Think about walking across that stage and using it later in life. But you can’t do any of that if you aren’t starting with the right attitude.

When I realized that I needed to first start with the right attitude, my outlook on life completely changed for the better. I took my own dreams into account and set about conquering them. By being optimistic myself, it automatically impacted my world around me. My family, friends, coworkers, and soldiers who worked for me were directly affected by my new disposition.
I used optimism to finish out two decades of service. I used optimism when I didn’t know when I didn’t know where I was going work next. I think my optimism helped to keep my options open and my mind clear of what I wanted out of life. It paid off in the end and I am way ahead of where I thought I would ever be.

Now in my new profession, I live by pushing optimism out in the forefront. I wake up with gratitude for a new day and for the rest of the 86,400 seconds I work hard to keeping it positive. Like, Gary Vaynerchuk says above, “If you lack optimism, it’s game over.”

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Why It’s Easier To Just Execute Instead of Making Excuses


Life is hard, I get it. It seems like everything is spiraling out of control at the same time. The world is changing all around us and it’s showing no signs of slowing down.
And you know what, that’s ok. We as humans have adapted and evolved for many millennia. Right now that’s not your concern. Your concern is your dreams, goals, and putting in the work.

That’s it. Put your head down and do the work. It sounds easy enough. But if it was why are so many not doing it?

Why would people rather complain than to work hard? Because it’s easy. It’s really easy to make excuses. The effort put forth to think of them is not that difficult.

But where we are wrong is that it’s not that hard to put in the work either. Sure, the actual physicality of it may be but that really depends on what you are trying to accomplish.

And if you love it, then it doesn’t even feel like work. But the only way you can find out is if you put in the time and effort. Like right now. Figure out the steps you need to take and get started.

Stop waiting for someone to help you. Stop waiting for someone to give you the necessary tools. Go and find them. We live in an age where so much information is at our fingertips. You really have no excuses.

Absolutely none. Don’t use your lack of education as a reason for not getting started. Don’t use the excuse that you don’t have money as to why you haven’t started your business.

I know a couple people who have started from scratch on the Internet. Most through just word of mouth. It can be done. There are eleven year olds and older with national products being sold in major stores.

There are no excuses. No one is literally stopping you. Put your head down and do the work.

I am.

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Vision 

  

You know exactly what you want out of life. You know who you want to be. You know who you are right now. You have a plan. Goals are laid out. So what is stopping you? 

 Vision

You need to see yourself as a success before it actually happens. Whatever your definition of success is, you need to see it. See it daily. Picture what it would look like to you. 

Keep that vision cemented in your head and work on the plan to get there. It may not always be clear. So break it up in 90 day chunks so you can see the progress better and more quickly. 

All the hard work in the world won’t get you there without the vision. 

It’s time to see it and achieve it. 

Let’s go. 

-alv

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My first guest post: Live Your Life, Serve Your Country and Show No Weakness

I recently had the opportunity to guest post for my writing friend the wonderful, Shawna Ayoub Ainslie who runs the site The Honeyed Quill.   This was a tough and eye-opening post for me to write and I am grateful for her asking me to write on this topic.  Let me know what you think below in the comments below.

Live Your Life, Serve Your Country and Show No Weakness

I am not an emotional person.  Well, the old me isn’t anyway.  My prior profession, serving in the military, made me void of any emotions long ago.  It was seen as a weakness to truly care about the soldiers that you were in charge of.  The culture of the military is to mask your emotions and get on with the business of defending this country.

I was lock, step and heel in that philosophy, too.  Don’t show any emotions so that your subordinates, peers and superiors don’t mistake it for fear.  Because who wants a sensitive soldier around?  We can’t trust them.  Feelings are for women and you know where that gets you.  That’s the type of thing I used to hear all the time.

soldier monument

But I quickly saw on my transition out of the military that it’s just not that institution that feels that way. Society as a whole doesn’t want sensitive, emotional men.  It has become a common thread throughout the country that masculinity and being sensitive are polar opposites. Truly, you can’t be both and be taken seriously as a man. 

Why is that?  I started to look back at my own life when I started to write this so as to use myself as a case study.  What I found brought me to tears.  Sure, I have been loved throughout my life.  My parents loved and still love me.  But my mother was the only one who really showed it.  My parents divorced in the mid-1980s and my father gained custody of my younger brother and me. I lived with him and our new family unit until shortly after my 18th birthday. 

My father was a career Army man, too.  He was the poster boy of the popular slogan “Be All That You Can Be.” He devoted every waking moment to his profession and it showed.  He was not an emotional man at all.  In fact, I only remember my father crying one time; when my stepmother was moving out of the house. I don’t remember him crying at my high school graduation.  I don’t remember him showing any emotion when my oldest daughter, his first grandchild, was born.  Nothing at all.  To be fair, maybe he did but I was so conditioned to not paying attention to it that I didn’t notice it. I doubt it though. 

This was my model:  Live your life, serve your country, and show no weakness.  Don’t show it to women that you are involved with.  And under no circumstances will you allow a man to know, see, or hear that you were emotional. 

I have broken these rules many times.  I have cried uncontrollably at times in my life and been told that I was too sensitive.  Even by those closest to my heart.  It stung, but I regrouped, added more bricks to the wall and continued to shut myself off from the world. 

In 2013 I was diagnosed with an adjustment disorder which was actually depression. When I came to grips with that, I started to let my guard down. Since starting my blog in September 2014, post after post, month after month I have slowly taken a brick down from this wall and let the world in. Unintentionally I came to grips with how I was feeling and how I needed to change.  By allowing myself to be vulnerable to the world, I was becoming my true self: an emotional yet masculine man. 

Now, I still have issues showing emotions to loved ones.  It’s just not going to happen overnight, mind you. It is a daily process, but I want every man who is reading this to understand that you can be both.  That it doesn’t take away your manhood to take your feelings into account.  Some decisions can be made emotionally.  Not all, but some.  You can be emotional about sports as well as the current state of our nation.  You can show genuine gratitude and emotion to another man and not feel less than him. 

It is time to run your life both with your heart and mind as equal partners in the pursuit of your greatness. 

-alv

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What If Tomorrow Wasn’t Promised? 

if tomorrow wasn't promised

It’s six o’clock in the morning.  I just told you that today is your last day on Earth.  What would you do differently?  Would you lay in the bed contemplating your existence?  Wondering where you went wrong and about all the time you wasted.

Or would you get up out of the bed and be accountable for your 86,400 seconds for this single day?  See, we all seem to think that tomorrow is promised to us.  This should not be a shock to you, but it’s not.  Nothing in this life is permanent.  Not a relationship, a job, etc.  Nothing lasts forever and what you are doing now is temporary and in the moment.

So if today was your last day, you should be doing your best to accomplish everything you have been procrastinating about.  But it shouldn’t take this ominous event to get you to take some action should it?

No, this is the very reason for the saying, Carpe Diem, which mean Seize the Day. And that is how you should be every damn day.  You should ready every day to make the most of each second.  To not waste it frivolously.

So get up and get started.  Yes, right now.  Don’t waste this day.  Stop reading this.  Start doing what you need to do to conquer your dreams.

It’s time to get to work.

-alv

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You Are Worthy

you are worthy simply because you exist.
The world is not fair.  Some people get all the breaks in life.  I will never amount to anything.  Why am I even here?  Sound familiar?  Any of it?
Each of you reading this today can identify with these sentences.  At some point in your life, you will say one of them or something similar.  You will feel like no matter what you say or do, you can’t get any further in life.

Ok.  Well, I don’t agree with you. I know that the entire world is not fair, but mine is.  My world is everything around me that I can affect.  I don’t care about the chaos going on around me. You know why?  Because I know my worth and you should, too.

You are worthy simply because you exist.

Yes, it’s just that simple.  There is honestly no difference between you and the next person.  Especially a celebrity.  Well, at least, one thing: they realized their worth earlier than you.  That’s it. They knew that they had someone to offer the world and they knew they could do it.

That’s what being worthy is about.  Recognizing that you were born this way and that you can do and be anything you put your mind to. I know there are some skeptics out there.  People who say that this is all lies and everyone is not born with the same advantages.

But I am telling you the truth.  There will be tough times and obstacles. There will be times that you feel like quitting and giving up.  But you can’t do that.  Too many people do in life already.  Be different.

Be different and believe in yourself. Be different and know you are something special created by the cosmos to be exceptional.  Be different and ACTUALLY believe these words and act upon them.  Don’t pay lip service to your worthiness.  Use it as fuel and realize your potential is beyond imagination.

No one is better than you.  No one wants it more than you.  So now prove it to yourself.  Prove that these words aren’t falling on death ears.  It’s not going to be easy, but nothing worth having  ever was.  

-alv

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Success vs Failure

  
Time and time again I see this come up. Comparing ourselves to others and feeling let down.  Why? Why would you compare your life to others?  No two lives are the same.

Even if we live in the same house our successes and failures will never be the same.  Be steadfast in your convictions.  Remember your goals and why you are doing them.

Stop comparing yourself to others and do the damn work.  Do what is necessary to create your definition of success. And by the way, success is inevitable.  You just have to choose when you want to have it in your life.

-alv

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Dream Your Dream

Keep dreaming. Don’t allow people to tell you dreaming is silly. Don’t allow people to tell you that you need to grow up and be responsible.

Dreaming is responsible. As long as you are acting on them. As long as you trying to elevate your life and that of others.

Keep Dreaming with your eyes wide open. Don’t miss a thing.

-alv