New Year, Past Reflections, Familiar Gameplan

When I was my 15, I couldn’t imagine being 20. When I got to 20, I couldn’t imagine being 25. And now that I’m 30, I can’t imagine being 35 someday. But, I know I’ll get there (God willing) and when I’m 35, I’ll probably ponder what 40 will look like.

Most of us do this – looking towards the future with an unsteady sense of what our next five years may entail. When I’m journaling or being reflective, I tend to look back five years at a time. What was I trying to achieve? What was I trying to avoid? Did I get where I wanted to go? The best laid plans don’t always come out as we envisioned them, but often, the results are even better than we expected. Ironically, one of my biggest life lessons has been to not look too far ahead. But, if I were to look back five years, what did that look like?

From a personal perspective, I’ve done much over these five years. Most recently, I got married. And to a wonderful woman. What a big change (and a big blessing) that has been. You can learn a lot from living on your own, but I think the experience is amplified a hundred fold in marriage. It’s not just you who is traversing through life now; it’s you and someone else. And that means taking on their life adventure, their story, their trials, and their tribulations along with your own. But, it’s not all hardship, it’s the joy of working together too. That’s the big thing. And something I’ve been learning and will likely continue to learn as she and I move forward. I’ve become more active in my faith; something that’s been a real miss for much of my life. I don’t know what’s worse – knowing there’s something wrong with your soul or seeing the same struggle others are experiencing, but never having the words for them. Well, nowadays, I have better words than I used to. Not that I know it all, I just have a greater peace where once I was a mess of things.

From a professional perspective, I’ve had several vocations – insurance, contracting, and even ministry – each of which I’ve learned much about myself and how I work with others. I remember when I used to work the drive-thru at Burger King and how I would become angry with how people treated me. I’d take it personally if someone were upset with the way a burger was made or how their fries were done. I felt like a “good day” meant having no complaints. But, as you can imagine, that didn’t leave many “good days” at all. That being said, I’ve learned not to take things so personally at work – regardless of where I am at. No one is as big a critic on Josh as Josh himself, but I’ve learned that this notion of being a self-appointed critic is incredibly unhealthy. It’s better to be able to receive criticism and feedback rather than beat yourself up all the time. You can learn to take things in stride at a much better pace and be quicker about applying certain changes to your work style, if need be. Again, our biggest enemies are usually ourselves. That’s as much a personal observation as it is a professional one.

Lastly, from a writing perspective, I’ve achieved quite a bit also. I’ve self-published three books in three years, my most recent an ebook on Amazon. I’ve written consistently every day for more than a year. I’ve kept this blog going for more than two years. And I’ve got several projects awaiting final edits before I release them. It’s been a rough journey, but I’m slowly starting to see the break in the tide I feel I’ve been under.

Twelve days into the new year, I feel like my game plan remains the same: don’t look too far into the future, but maintain a healthy focus on what I’m working towards. It may come with age, but my own use of time – and my view of time – continues to change. It’s not as much a commodity as it used to be, and I don’t find myself doodling away when I could be more productive. For me, that’s one of the better lessons I’ve experienced as I move into this new year. That our use of time trickles into every aspect of how we live: personally, professionally, and how we pursue our dreams.

 

Persistence – what does it look like?

The end of the calendar year can often look like one of two things to people: a time for reflection or a time to scramble and finish whatever project was begun way back in January. Several folks will float between both categories, naturally, and do so till December has ended and the new year has begun. Some will even be fortunate enough to have their eyes completely on the year ahead, content with leaving the year behind. I find myself as one of those ‘floaters’ – alternating between reflection and completion. There’s plenty I’ve completed and plenty I’ve yet to complete. There are still many goals out there, but there is one solace that keeps my unfinished ventures in a healthy perspective: my persistence.

To some people, persistence is a way of life – an invaluable character trait. Nothing comes easy in life so anything easy just can’t be worth the effort. Failures may come, but it’s the failures that define and mold those who count themselves as survivors. From there, they adopt an enduring will for anything else that crosses their path. For others, persistence may appear to be wasted time; wasted energy; or even wasted talent. Only swift results with immediate impact – anything other than that is not a worthy investment. Persistence through lengthy challenges can be seen as inadequate planning. Instead of weathering an impossible storm, one’s persistence should be in finding what’s best for him, not what’s the most challenging way to do something. Staying in one place for too long may be a sign of weak-mindedness; a person who has yet to find his way in life because of immaturity or inattentiveness to his own desires. Because that’s what we should be persistent about – personal happiness and personal gain; not personal challenge.

One may look at either ideology and be quick to attach it to a certain age group or even a generation. Persistence belongs to the older generation, but the younger generation will argue that persistence belongs to them. And depending upon what angle you’re looking from, you can make these same assumptions too – that persistence really does belong to any one generation – depending on the source.

But, as I type this short entry, I can’t help but feel like persistence doesn’t belong to any one generation. Nor does it belong in any one part of life necessarily. That any generation’s persistence is always motivated by one thing: hope.

Hope is what drives anyone to be persistent; be it through challenges, through personal development, through jobs, or life in general. There must be hope at the end if there is to be persistence in anything. Otherwise we would find no need to attach ourselves to the future we are all heading towards. And it’s this faith in hope that keeps me persistent in life, as it should anyone else. No matter what the trials may be or what generation you find yourself within.