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Courage over Confidence

My theme for 2019

When you take a long trip around the planet, there's a lot of pressure to learn and grow and have this incredible self-actualizing experience, only to return as a fundamentally changed human being. I scoffed a bit, certain that I knew, definitely, who I was, and that I wasn't going on some soul-searching mission.

And that was true. But learning to be alone - truly alone - without the comfort of work, or social obligations or romance, forced me to confront and reconcile with a lot:

- parts of my identity that I thought I wanted to bury or change

- my deepest fears and insecurities

- deeply rooted beliefs that I hadn't previously examined

Without distractions, I had to reckon with thoughts that I would ordinarily keep myself purposely too busy to acknowledge. And rather than running from that, I ran towards it: I forced myself to meditate more. To lay in bed and just be still. To completely disconnect from technology and even electricity at some points.

Just me, myself and my thoughts.

And it was the most powerful thing I've ever done. 

It allowed me to healthily experience with the full range of human emotion.

To let myself to feel fear, and anxiety, and deep, intense sadness and longing - and realize that feeling those things will not kill me, and so I shouldn't avoid them and miss out on opportunities for incredible growth.

It allowed me to embrace parts of my personality that, after further inspection, I want to nourish and appreciate even more: the ability to find something to love in everything and everyone, radical honesty, constant authenticity, the appreciation of the "weirdness" in myself and others, endless ambition and the desire to make an impact.

After spending an unprecedented amount of time vacationing, playing, and just sitting and walking around and thinking - after recognizing that I could spend most of my days on a beach for the rest of my life if I wanted, I realized a few things, wrapped around a core idea:

My goal in life is not to relax on a beach - it's to make an impact and create a sense of legacy.

It's to work on projects that are meaningful for me.

It's to be generous.

It's to connect fully with experiences and to spend time with activities and practices and people that nourish my mind, body, and spirit.

The past twelve months have been a whirlwind.

  • I rented an apartment in a neighborhood in Mexico to practice my Spanish, eat all of the tacos I could find, admire the street art, and swim in the sea
  • I quit a job that I loved, gave up my precious condo and donated all of my possessions with the exception of what could be contained into one suitcase
  • I explored parts of Bali, watched people carve art from wood and stone with their bare hands, hugged elephants, and spent hours in nature with wild monkeys 
  • I experienced the monuments and temples at night in Qatar and Thailand, and rode through the streets of Bangkok on tuktuks at midnight searching for the perfect pad thai and mango sticky rice
  • I sat in some of the most beautiful urban greenery and practiced mindfulness in Malaysia 
  • I hiked mountains, walked along beaches and drove across iconic bridges, explored the finest fashion culture, embraced luxurious skincare experiences, and had an incredible culinary experience in Korea (I'm thinking of gimbap and goon mandu as we speak)
  • I jumped off boats and limestone cliffs and snorkeled with the fish and explored a small handful of the 7,000 islands that make up the Philippines 
  • I ate pizza in Italy, spanakopita in Greece, and drank port wine in Portugal - I also explored the incredible architecture there and secured a new apartment. 

I dedicated the first half of the year to learning and reading and absorbing as much as possible. I carved out time to sit and think and listen and feel and re-listen and take notes and process and experiment and listen more. To consolidate it all would be impossible, but there are a few things that really resonated with me:

1.) It's okay to continuously adopt new values - shifting beliefs is the natural consequence of learning and intaking new information

I'm not interested in arguing about "Western" vs. "Eastern" values and "who's right" - everyone's philosophy offers something valuable and makes sense for their lives in the context of their culture, and I've enjoyed learning about and integrating new values that resonate with me, like:

  • Elements of Buddhist beliefs like loving-kindness, compassion and nonattachment
  • Parts of Korean culture that emphasize discipline and testing
  • The Western European focus on leisure and downtime (this is a stark contrast to American culture where "busy" is a status symbol - in Western Europe, having the means for frequent rest and recuperation is a status symbol. I'm curious to see how this plays out in the US).

2.) Aim to find internal stability and peace regardless of location and circumstance

  • The importance and value of staying connected with mindfulness, meditation and gratitude and finding internal peace and happiness that you can carry with you everywhere.

3.) Fear is just a feeling - do things anyway. Courage is more important than confidence. In fact, courage begets more courage. Confidence comes as a result of doing something successfully. It's not necessary to feel confident before taking massive action.

4.) There is beauty in truly learning who you are without the influence of others. Who I am when I'm trying to meet the expectations of my family, or compromise with my significant other, or meet obligations to friends is different from who I am when I have no one to consider but myself. It's been incredible to discover what choices I make when I'm the only person I have to think about - and how radical it is to put my desires and needs at the forefront of my life.

5.) It’s okay to feel both gratitude about where I currently am and the drive for more. Wanting more, and striving for more, despite having "a lot" or having accomplished a great deal is not a bad thing.

Related: the best thinkers can hold seemingly opposing beliefs.

Looking ahead to 2019, I want to focus on expansion, abundance and opportunity. What principles or practices will be my guiding lights?

  • Courage over confidence is my most salient this year: I want to make bigger and bolder moves without worrying about who’s coming with me. I'm no longer interesting holding back or dimming parts of myself because of other peoples insecurities. I trust that by walking in authenticity, the right people will find me and we'll align organically because we'll be walking on the same path.
  • Less rigidity helps me remain open to new opportunities: I enjoy having structure and routine, but I think that keeping myself open to maybe, 25% spontaneity (in location, in strategy, in relationships and planning) will allow me to experience things that I hadn't even fathomed, and therefore, couldn't possibly account for with a rigid plan.
  • Having, Doing and Becoming: This has been one of the most simple but critical lessons I've learned and I am excited to bring it with me and apply it in as many contexts possible. I've written about it before but in essence: in order to have, you must do, and in order to successfully do, you must be
  • Sometimes, it best to assume that we're all trying our best. This allows me to approach my loved ones (and myself) with more compassion. 

People want to know where I'm calling home these days, and what my plans are for 2019. To be frank, I change my mind with the wind. Virtually all of my travel plans are subject to change, as I try to move on desire and intuition, but right now, the plan is:

Q1: Portugal, Spain and Northern Africa

Q2: Caribbean & Latin America OR Eastern Europe (Serbia, Croatia, Bulgaria) or Thailand, India and Japan - Totally undecided but I will need to leave the Schengen Zone for 90 days

Q3: Italy, Greece and France

Q4: No idea - maybe Mexico?

I'm being intentional about slowing down my travel next year (in February, I literally went to a different country every week for five weeks - exhausting). As usual, I have ambitious learning and business goals, and grounding in one place for months at a time helps me to rebuild routines and consistency, on top of building a community and better understanding the culture. I have target growth goals for all of my businesses / projects, on top of:

- continuing to progress in grad school

- refining my use of four languages (Portuguese, Spanish, French and Italian)

- becoming a certified Data Scientist

- enhancing my Positive Psychology Practitioner's toolkit

- publishing 100+ pieces (across types of media) and finishing my first manuscript

I can't place the source, but there is an electric energy in the air right now. I'm excited about manifesting, intention-setting and doing the work with heroic consistency. I'm excited about the integration of stability, systems and routine in the midst of my travel-heavy lifestyle. I'm excited about the new locations, the art, the architecture, the culinary experiences, and the connections I'm anticipating. I'm excited to unwrap the gifts that the next twelve months will hold, and unlock new layers of learning.

I love the demarcation of new starts: full moons, new months, new weeks, and New Years, but it's never too early to start a new habit, so I've already started working on Q1 goals and testing new systems.

What growth or learnings are you looking forward to in the New Year? What systems are you relying on to get there?

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