Friday, January 13, 2017

Lessons From the Past: How to Achieve Success in A New Year

Oh hey guys,

Look at that, It's a New Year and I'm still the same bum (joking, but not really joking). On this post, I will reflect on my journey to where I currently am and give you guys some advice based on my successes and failures (For similar posts, click these links: here and here, and here). Skip to the bullet points at the end if you just want a summarized version minus my mumbo jumbo. Either way, let's go!

This last New Year's Eve, December 31st, 2016 was a unique one. While prior New Year's had been filled with deep contemplation and uncertainty, this time around, I found myself in an unusually calm state. This was a first for me since adulthood. At first, I could not understand why I felt the way I did, all I knew was that it was different. I had just submitted the final draft of my capstone project for my doctoral program three days ago, a burden that had consumed my mind and body most of the year. I had no deadlines to meet nor any pending decisions from an application. I soon came to realize this was the first time I was going into the New Year burden free. Not only was my plate free of obligations and pending decisions, but it had been replaced with opportunities and certainty. I chuckled upon this realization and thought to myself, "so this is what a sense of accomplishment feels like." If you can't already tell, this had not always been the case.

To be honest, I never really liked the New Year, especially for this reason. It was a reminder of failed attempts--a reminder that I was not where I wanted to be. No matter how hard I tried to ignore these thoughts or have a positive outlook on the situation, my failures always plagued my mind. It was not until I got accepted to the Doctor of Physical Therapy program at Northern Arizona University in 2015 that my doubts began to lift. It took almost four years for this change to occur. Tired of repeated failures during this period, I made a decision one New Year that I would not physically rest until I became succeful, which I wrote down. On this same note, I wrote down specific areas in my life that I wanted to become successful at, what that success would look like and steps I needed to take towards attaining that success. I will make mention that my definition of success is based on the accomplishment of goals and self-growth, with no monetary implications. This pact set me on a journey of self-discovery and growth, filled with many, many, many rejections. But this period taught me many great lessons.

First, time is EVERYTHING, respect it.
I've had my fair share of mourning and feeling sorry for myself, but at the end of the day, that never changed my situation. I quickly came to detach myself from self-pity and grew an obsession for time. I was on a mission for success and time was not in my favor--EVERY minute had to have purpose in attaining my success. I found myself agitated with activities that consumed my time and didn't get me any closer to attaining my goals. I gave up activities that squandered my time, such as going out to the clubs or binge movie watching. As obsessive as it may seem, I learned to respect and value my time.

Second, opportunity isn't always around, sometimes you have to make it.
An entrepreneur by my definition is one that takes destiny into their hands. Utilizing my time more wisely allowed me to be more productive and apply for more positions and programs but this did not materialize into any opportunities. Following my motto of seeking solutions and not problems, I examined myself as an applicant and asked what ways I could improve--I needed experience. I was not taught this in my undergraduate--I assumed I would have the world at my hands after graduating, after all, I had a college degree. The world did not care for my degree, or my volunteer and internship positions. I faced the plight of a young applicant, I had no experience and no one was giving me the opportunity to gain experience. I decided I would forge my own destiny with or without the assistance of anyone or any programs acceptance. I did this by writing my strengths, weaknesses, skills, and accomplishments, essentially making a curriculum vitae. If you haven't noticed by now, I am a huge advocate of writing things down--your mind will trick you into overestimating or underestimating situations! In essence, my list was summarized to "college graduate with training in biological research and critical analysis with some life experience." These were the tangible skills I was bringing to the table. From this, I chose what I could work on with the resources available to me (money, equipment, infrastructure). This blog and my other blog are a result of this. On The Gist, I use my critical analysis skill to discuss topical issues that interest me. On here, I give advice on matters concerning college and how to make the most of your undergraduate career. Both blogs are free to run and I could promote them through social media. Many people have gone down this route and have made successful careers from blogging--maybe my blog will blow up one day as well, help a brotha out. My reason for starting the blogs was not to seek fame or money. I put a lot of effort into my writings and did the research necessary to support my articles, producing, in my opinion, quality products reflecting my skills and capacity. While there was no opportunity for me to gain experience and build accomplishments, I found a way to produce concrete products that I can, and do add to my resumé. Blogging served as a unique platform to showcase my competency and was a great addition to my resumé, which always seemed to impresses interviewers. I also improved on some of my weaknesses through blogging; I became a better writer and communicator. So, in the midst of scarce opportunities, I was able to create an opportunity, essentially hiring myself and adding that experience to my resumé.

Third, accept and even appreciate rejection.
I learned that rejection was not a reflection of my ability but a result of improper fit between two parties. I don't think anyone took rejection harder than I did and it made me question and doubt myself. Of course, there was still room for me to grow, but like Kanye said, "man, are these dudes that much better than me?" Was I really this bad? But like most stimuli, the effects slowly tapered and with this tapering off came a moment of enlightenment. Due to my desperation, I applied to jobs and programs that make me cringe now that I look back. Although desperate, I soon realized my goal was not to just get accepted but to get accepted where I needed to be. In essence, my rejections kept me on the right track and this gave me confidence when I was applying for programs and interviewing. I stopped stressing so much on trying to portray what I thought programs wanted in an applicant, and began telling my story and expressing myself. I was Ochuko, and if you were going to accept me, it would be based on every part of me including my failures. This approach reduced the chances of false positives. Through rejections, my confidence was strengthened, something I had lost.

In the words of my mother, "so, what am I saying?" My success in 2016 and subsequent peace I experienced going into the New Year was not the result of what I did in 2016--it was the culmination of experiences and my decision to chase success years ago. I went into 2017 with a peace and confidence I had never had before. I am certain this year is going to be even better and I credit the journey I have endured and opportunities I have seized. Those experiences have formed the foundation and enabled me to handle the opportunities presented to me now. I have started my year on fire, kicking off my photography business, I have a series of photography exhibitions planned, I landed two promising internships for the year, and I am in the process of developing a publication platform for my DPT program at NAU where I will be writing more focused articles, amongst other things.

I graduated from my undergraduate program in December 2012 and started my graduate program in August 2015. Of the four years of uncertainty I faced, this period from undergraduate to graduate school were the hardest and most challenging but also the most impactful on who I am today. The hardship of that period cultivated behaviors and skills that manifested themselves in 2016. I hate to give the cliché phrase of "work hard and never give up." We all know this. Instead, I will leave with this summary of things I learned from my past that you can use to start your journey to success.

1) Time is scarce, respect and value it.

2) An entrepreneur is one that takes their destiny into their hands. Don't wait for opportunities, harness the entrepreneurs mentality and create your own--sometimes your skills and ideas might be beyond the scope of established norms.

3) Find a platform to utilize and strengthen your skills. Social media is a great platform and it is FREE!

4) When it comes to a resumé, nothing is insignificant as long as you can tie it in appropriately and it is of high quality, except meme page manager; that might be harder to sell.

5) Rejections are not a reflection of you or your abilities, but rather a result of improper fit between two parties. Embrace rejections, they will guide you to where you need to be and let you know where you shouldn't be. Time is too precious to spend in the wrong place or doing the wrong things.

6) ALWAYS learn from your experiences. Only a fool goes into a situation and comes out saying that it was a waste of time. Like I said, your time is precious, if you're going to do something, make sure you learn something from it. Listen more than you speak and ask questions. Ask that interveiwer, whether you got the position or not, what areas of strength you displayed and MORE importantly, areas that you can improve upon.

7) WRITE THINGS DOWN. Your mind will deceive you but the ink never will.

Choose to be successful from this year on. Happy New Year,

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