Book: You are Not Special

I came across a YouTube commencement speech titled, You’re Not Special given by english teacher, David McCullough, Jr. To my surprise it was an extremely insightful speech. He gave the point that there are millions and billions of us on earth and we think we are the center of the universe, but when we recognize that we aren’t special, we can finally see everyone is special. Our life isn’t just for our own satisfaction but for the good we can bring others.

Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you. 

Don’t wait for inspiration or passion to find you. Get up, get out. explore, find it yourself and grab hold with both hands. 

I urge you to do whatever you do for no reason other than you love it and believe in its importance. Don’t bother with work you don’t believe in anymore than you would a spouse you’re not crazy about. 

I came across the book when I was on vacation and knew it would teach me something new. One aspect of the book I didn’t realize and I should have because after all the book is written by a high school english teacher; it was full of new vocabulary words. I had to look up new words to understand the sentence. Each word was a new discovery. I knew I could use some of these words in my writing and speech. They would make cliché sound fresh!

The chapters took me forever to complete but with each page I was learning something new. I was learning about what its like to be a teacher, a parent, an encourager, and a mentor.

Day after day being a kid, being a person, is an exercise in trail and error. This is learning, which is growing, which is incremental evolution into a new person..

..enthusiasm matters most of all – for your students, for your subject, for the day ahead. 

The teachers I remember most, are the ones who I felt cared for me and who were passionate about the subject they taught. I enjoyed sitting there listening to them talk about their passion. I started to visit the school library during lunch after I saw my 10th grade teacher get excited over Catcher in the Rye.

Fulfillment will come only when you’ve achieved your own definition of success. 

You have to persevere through setbacks, through your own discriminations, trepidations and self-doubt, trying your best not just a matter of principle but as a leap of faith. Process matters wholly, and there are no shortcuts. When you encounter a limitation, work to push through it. When things don’t go your way, try again. In this way you prove yourself worthy- you prove it to yourself.

And so many more encouraging passages to quote from. I’ve been out of high school for 12 years and still an english teacher is teaching me something new. What a fresh perspective to read from. Thanks Mr. McCullough

Book: The Cost of Discipleship

Last year I heard of Dietrich Bonhoeffer for the first time. I never thought in a million years this Pastor German theologian from the 1930’s who died as a Martyr who piloted against Hitler in WW2 would impact me as it has. But with a bio like that, how could his life not have an impact on the generations after him? After reading Bonhoeffer by by Eric Metaxas, I ordered his first book, The Cost of Discipleship.

When I first started reading it, I kept thinking about the journey Bonhoeffer was on and the culture he was talking to. But soon after the first few pages, I began to think of my journey, and the culture I live in. The questions he was addressing, I’ve asked, but his conclusions weren’t afraid of the answers.

“…only the man who is dead to his own will can follow Christ.”

“Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

“Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ. It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life. It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner. Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son.”

Here I was reading the fundamentals of Christianity and yet it was so new to me. Why hasn’t anyone told me to read this book years ago? Now when I have conversations with my friends about living the Christian life, I find myself referring back to Bonhoeffer explanations on what living as a disciple really means.

Bonhoeffer writes these amazing chapters where he ask a question, and takes you on a journey looking for the answer. When he takes you to the conclusion, its like seeing the Scriptures in color for the first time. Simple concepts that I thought I knew. He goes in to depth.

The Sermon on the Mount,

Judging others – “If the disciples make judgements of their own, they set up standards of good and evil. But Jesus Christ is not a standard which I can apply to others. He is judge of myself, revealing my own virtues to me as something altogether evil..Judging others makes us blind, whereas love is illuminating.”

Loving your Enemies –

“…Men should defeat their enemies by loving them.”

“We must love not only in thought and word, but in deed, and there are opportunities of service in every circumstance of daily life.”

“His behavior must be determined not by the way others treat him, but by the treatment he himself receives from Jesus; it has only one source, and that is the will of Jesus.”

“…not only to refrain from treating him a he treats us, but actively to engage in heart-felt love towards him”

The chapter of loving your enemies made me think of what Bonhoeffer was going through at the time. Being a Christian German in the early 1930’s. Crazy to know he lived this…and know that he died for this.

Reading The Cost of Discipleship help me see the world and myself in a new perspective. It also required me to look in the mirror and to realize just what the gospel was saying to me.

“It is only because he became like us that we can become like him…By being transformed into his image, we are enabled to model our lives on his.”

“His life on earth is not finished yet, for he continues to live in the lives of his followers.”

Above all else, what I learned most, when I die to my own will, He lives.

Blog: Advice to a College Grad

(Bianca, the third from the left)

I met Brooke, Briana and Bianca at church when I was 11. Bianca was only 5 years old, Briana 7 and Brooke 9. Its funny to even think we stayed friends since there is a large age gap. I remember Brooke fighting with the two youngest, “She is my friend!” Little did we know we would all grow up together.

Bianca asked me a great question when we were hanging out at the cabin this weekend, “What advice can you give me, a 22 year old? What do you know now at 29?”

Bianca just graduated from a college in Los Angeles, and yet the question still haunts her, “What is it that I want to do?”

Your gift is your guide – When I was 18 I was going through a dark time. I was in the mist of figuring out who I was. I began to draw in the old software Paint and soon creativity became my best friend. I went to college wanting to be a graphic designer but came out a video editor.

Stay Focused on what you want – When I graduated I began to hear of stories of classmates not being able to find a job in their field. I told myself I would never give up, I will get paid to be creative. I had so many random editing jobs, I was discovering what I wanted to do by learning what I hated doing. For the first 5 years after high school, I had a new job every year. No job is forever. Make each job matter. Build your experience, learn what type of work you want to do and go towards that.

Stay Humble, Work hard – When I first graduated college, I came out with great pride. I knew my value and worth. But the real world could careless, I was just another email. I had to prove myself. I volunteered, interned and just kept showing up.

Trust in God, not your ability – After applying for hundreds of jobs you can only do so much. Can you believe that my first job in the creative field was at Warner Brothers Studios in Burbank! I knew that was GOD. He opened a door that prove to me, “I can really do all things.” He was opening the right doors for me, something I couldn’t do.

Ask God for guidance – Everyone and everybody will start asking those annoying questions that you have been asking yourself. The solution – Let God be your guide. Even those who don’t know Him can hear from God. “Listen to your heart.” He knows you best, and knows what type of job you’ll love. And yes, it may be hard to find a job these days but from my memory, it’s always been hard to find a job you REALLY want.

The Lord says,
    “I will instruct you.
    I will teach you the way that you should go.
    I will advise you as my eyes watch over you.” – Psalm 32:8

Ask yourself the deep questions – At the end of the day, its not even about a job, its about your life purpose. What do you want to pour your life into? This is why no matter how great the job or pay is, if you find no purpose behind it, it will drain you.

Working together – It would be dumb to do nothing and expect things to happen. “Faith without works is dead.” Looking back at my early 20’s, I can see that God was working things out as I was working hard to develop my skill. Each conflict was for my good, it was sharping me. Now my twenties make perfect sense. He has brought me to my dream job. The cool thing is that He is always putting new dreams in my heart so I know even where I am at now, won’t be forever. And though I have no idea what the future holds, I know its Him who holds it.

Live your Destiny Now –  He takes our heart on a journey in order to reach the right destination through out life. We want to go from a to z but need to reach each letters at the right time.

If I could talk to my 22 year old self, I would say, “Don’t worry, God is at work.”

Book: “The Best Advice I Ever Got”

The past few months I’ve been reading Katie Couric’s, “The Best Advice I Ever Got”. I discovered this book when I was searching through youtube for inspirational speeches. I was in need of an encouraging word from someone who was living their dream.

I wanted to hear some wisdom about pressuring the impossible. The book was perfect. Each page was full of encouraging life lessons from some of the most successful people of our time. I would sit in my local cafe, read a few pages, reflect and keep on reading. Some days I would only ready two pages. The advice was so good I would land on a quote and think about it all day.

Here are my favorites.

“Acts of bravery don’t always take place on the battlefields. They can take place in your heart.” -Anna Quindlen, Bestselling Author

“Keep trying doors; one will eventually open…Fearlessness is not the absence of fear. It’s the mastery of fear.” Arianna Huffington, Bestselling Author

“…resolve to grow intellectually, morally, technically, and professionally every day through your entire work and family life…ask yourself every day, Am I really up to speed? Focus on your weaknesses and on ways to overcome them.” David L. Calhoun, CEO of the Nielsen Company

“If you really believe in yourself and your art, then you have to create your own opportunities. You can’t wait for someone else to do it for you.” Susan Stroman, Broadway Director

“Be patient and persistent. Life is not so much what you accomplish as what you overcome.” Robin Roberts, Broadcaster and Journalist.

“You quit, you fail.” Morgan Freeman, Actor

“Finding your passion will eventually get you to where you’re supposed to be.” Katie Couric, Broadcaster

“We are all frightened by change and by the unfamiliar, but those who remain open – despite their hesitations- can discover new worlds and opportunities.” Vera Wang, Fashion Designer

“How we live our days, or course, is how we live our lives.” Annie Dillard, writer

“Commitment will set your free.” John Gardner

“A boat is always safe in the harbor, but that’s not what boasts are built for.” Producer of the Today Show

“If the world puts you on a road you don’t like, if you look ahead and do not want that destination which is being offered and you look behind and you do not want to return to your place of departure, step off the road. Build yourself a brad new path.” Maya Angelou, Author

“We are often so busy running as fast as we can on the hamster wheel of success, we often don’t take time to appreciate each other, to nurture and ten to our relationships with people we love.” Katie Couric

“When you start getting into the fear business, you blame your problems on other people. But if other people are doing well, it’s not because they’re cheating. It’s because they are working hard.” Fareed Zakaria, Author

“Marry someone who you would want to be, someone who wants to help you be that better version of yourself.” Jay Leno, Comedian

“Society tells us to think about next, next, next so much so that we never really finish what’s in front of us.” Rosario Dawson, Actress

“I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.” Thomas Jefferson

“If I would have listened to the critics I’d have died drunk in the gutter.” Anton Chekhov
–And so many other inspiring quotes and stories.