Friendzone Material

This would have been more appropriately labelled ‘Friendship Material’ but I attended Harvard classes in the Art Of Clickbait so this is what you get.

Based on our current source material, ‘Relational Intelligence’ by Judah Smith and Dharius Daniels, I have today 5 Key Signs of A Good Friend. Use these to vet your people and check yourself.

  1. Unshakeable character. This is built on the belief that there is no such thing as a neutral relationship and that every relationship either builds or destroys. The character of your friend can become your crisis. Consider someone who is known for being jealous of others or lying. If your relationship ever hits a rocky patch, and many real relationships do, you’ll need to worry about that. On the other hand if your friend doesn’t exhibit any of these traits with other people, you need not worry about it resurfacing against you.
  2. A friend loves at all times. These are friends that aim for your highest good. This means that they can discern when to give advice and when to “touch our wounds with gentle hands”.
  3. Unbridled honesty. I’ve been blessed to have friends that don’t mince their words for my self-esteem. You know that these people accept you for you and therefore you can trust their truths about you. These are the people you want to have with you so that they can point out the blind spot of your Johari window.
  4. Unmoveable reality. Friends like these exhibit high dependibility and trustworthiness. They are predictable (in the best possible way). The good thing about this trait is that it leaves clues for you to discover.
  5. Unceasing encouragement. These friends help lift you up. Oftentimes when we hear the term “helper” we instantly think of a spouse or mate for life, but friends can be our helpers too, in that they can be vehicles that help us achieve growth and purpose.

This is a summarised list of the benefits of having a real, genuine friend. I highly recommend reading the book ‘Relational Intelligence’ for yourself, or if you’ve never opened an audible account, getting it as your first audiobook for FREE here: Relational Intelligence Audiobook.

Stay Awesome!

Relational Hierarchy

Owe no man nothing but to love him.

Jesus is the perfect role model for many things, including interpreting relationships. He loved everyone, enough to die for even those that hated him. Therefore his treatment of people in the “friends” group stands out more than most as it is highly unusual.


There is a hidden pressure to provide people access into your life simply because you rub shoulders with them on a daily basis. When someone within your vicinity does something for you, and this can sometimes be monumental, it feels almost rude not to include them in your life. We are to love our neighbour as we love ourself. We are NOT, however, required to make our neighbour privy to each and every circumstance we experience on this earth. 

Friendship is a vital asset but it is to be earned. While that may sound arrogant, it isn’t. To form a meaningful friendship an investment of the greatest expense is required; time. In case you haven’t noticed, time isn’t a renewable resource. Therefore as a good steward of the time you’ve been given on this earth, it becomes absolutely essential that you invest yours in meaningful people – your friends.

Jesus loved everybody – but he had no obligation to keep everyone within the same circle. He had the 3, Peter, James and John, that were allowed to see him in more vulnerable states than the 12 and the others. Even the terminology tells you that this relationally intelligent leader had hierarchy regarding access to his private life. I advocate that we should too.

(Based on the first chapter of ‘Relational Intelligence’ by Judah Smith, Dharius Daniels)

Principle of (Personal) Release

Warning the following content is overwhelmingly good news. Proceed with caution.


To give this message some context for a long time I’ve had random moments where an event from the past, recent or otherwise, will just bubble up from some dark corner and come to the forefront. I would find myself reliving an embarrassing moment or dumb, hurtful statement spoken or decision made. The feelings that accompanied that experience would hit anew, fresh as if it were a ten-second old incident. It would be a very random occurrence too, doing some mindless task like washing the dishes or taking out the trash. I believe that’s evidence of undealt with baggage. Maybe it’s not, but below is an advisory antidote.


Dr Edwin Louis Cole, the late pioneer of the men movement in the USA, popularised a biblical truism which will be the basis of this, our conclusion in the Vulnerability series. 

“The sins you forgive are released, and the sins you don’t forgive are retained in your life. If you forgive, you release. By not forgiving, you retain. So simple. So profound. So divine. So true.”

I’ve known that phrase for a while. I know for a fact I haven’t applied it consistently but there has been some concerted effort on my part. One area I totally spaced out on was on the aspect of self-forgiveness. The very concept eluded me for its sheer alienness. “Forgive… myself? What drugs are you on gancho?” From that Christian worldview – where the wonderful, too-good-to-be-true news of Jesus paying the ultimate price and taking the punishment for my own wrongdoing so I can be reconciled with the Father by believing in Him – it was more than a little difficult to ingrain the idea of the wrong party being the one to also dole out forgiveness. 

“I did the wrong but I forgive you.” It sounds absolutely absurd – except it isn’t. If you’ve been following this blog for a while you’ve probably encountered the powerful speech tool “I am”. If not you’ll want to check it out here: Self-Esteem Building Hacks

We’ve talked about being vulnerable with others and being real. Can we take that step to be real with ourselves too?

Ok, so maybe it’s starting to make sense. Maybe I can buy into forgiving myself for foolish decisions I’ve made in the past, releasing the thing that I’ve actively tried to bury deep in my heart… but, how? How do I do that? I’ll take a leaf from a page a friend of mine shared with me just this Friday. It sounded corny. I almost didn’t do it. Almost – but it worked for me. I trust it will for you too.

The Process:

Look yourself in the mirror.

Hold your stomach.

Take a deep breath.

Then talk.

Say your name aloud, affirm that life is a journey where you make mistakes and learn from them.

Say I forgive you *insert your name here* for the bad decisions you made.

Now it’s time to stand up and walk.

And then address the thought of regret.

Whenever it jumps up again say scripture. (If you don’t know any appropriate one I would suggest looking up “verses about forgiveness and being made new”)


That’s it. You can breathe out now and walk tall and free. Thanks for reading. We’ll be jumping into habit formation on Thursday.

Image Source: Heart Shaped Lock

 

Real Steel

Hey. So I’ve decided to take a leaf out of James Clear’s life and update this blog biweekly, on Mondays and Thursdays. This will give me the opportunity to read more and add invaluable, researched content and not just opinions on this blog. It will also give you the opportunity to reflect and apply anything that impresses you. Till Monday, stay awesome.


‘There could be a freak accident
There could be a fatal disease
I know we hate to think about it
But it’s as real as you and me
It’s as real as you and me’

-Prophetess Rihanna

I’ll give props where they’re due, I heard the prophet Riri joke from Michael Todd first. However, the joke isn’t the focus but the lyrics. Can we sing those without any hypocrisy? When I ask this question I have to zoom in on “as real as you and me.” How real are you? Are you like the machine from Real Steel where actual props were created computer graphics served only as an embellishment?

To cap off the discussion we’ve had about being vulnerable I’d like to urge you to take a look at yourself… and then make a change!

-MJ

No, that’s not it. I mean to take a deep, introspective look at yourself. Go on a self date. Sounds mad odd but with quarantine in place that should be easy right? Find out what you really like, what your pet peeves are. What shows do you enjoy watching? What would you do when no one was there to pressure you or shame you into doing something else. When I was 10 I had the immense privilege of sharing 2 hours a day on a bus ride with someone I looked up to. I guess it was just pure awe at how well they adapted to the environment and at the way popularity appeared to wrap around them like a second skin. This person had an annoying habit though. (Insert petty Ayanda here.) They always seemed to know every lyric of every song that came out that week. That’s perfectly fine. What was irritating was the apparent, irresistible compulsion to ask me if I had heard the songs in question. I wasn’t one to keep up to date with music. I have no idea what spirit would possess them whenever I said this, which was perhaps 97% of the time, but it drove them to do that undoubtedly annoying thing that’s probably happened to you at least once.

“Don’t you know this song?” they would ask.

“Nope,” I’d respond, candid and more than a little uninterested.

“But surely, you know it?” they would ask again.

This is when I would think to myself, How bad am I at communicating? I’m sure I was straightforward in my acknowledgement of not knowing the song.

“Never heard of it. Don’t know a single word.”

“HoW cOUld yOu NOt kNOW thIs SoNG?” they’d conclude and then go on to recite the whole thing splendidly.

In retrospect, I find myself truly hoping that they enjoyed listening to music in their spare time and didn’t spend countless hours watching TRACE with a notebook in hand to impress others by their knowledge of lyrics. I truly hope that this was a manifestation of their authentic self (even though it was more than slightly annoying at the time), and not a try-hard imitation.

Does this story have a point? Uhm… sure. I hope so! Oh yes, it’s come back to me now.

I was so firm in my identity as a non-music lover that for three years on the same bus, Mr Music finally stopped badgering me perhaps after one too many occasions where the stunt didn’t have the desired effect. I assume he relented when it finally dawned on him that I was significantly more passionate about Animorphs, Goosebumps or any other work of fiction I had in hand every single day.

I had the option to change from my real self to fit in with the purveyor of swag (in the form of lyrics) but even then, as a 10-year-old boy, I knew that such a change would be inauthentic and therefore, not worth it.

That was one instance. My goal is to make that ubiquitous throughout my life.

In the words of popular comedian Andrew Schulz, renowned for his ability to tell jokes with hard punchlines while flying in the face of being politically correct:

By being truly authentic you do not need to gravitate to the world, the world will gravitate to you.

Check out the last 5 minutes of his TedX talk here: Andrew Schulz On Authenticity

Image source: WallpaperAccess

Thanks for reading! See you on Monday.

Kryptonite Tolerant

Vulnerability is akin to shedding off armour, sliding off the carapace that shrouds a soft centre or prying apart the ribcage surrounding the fragile heart. It’s potentially, devastatingly torturous and no one likes pain.

This right here encapsulates the majority of the overwhelming response to yesterday’s post ‘Pride Barrier‘. I encourage more of you to comment below as I feel your responses add so much more to the discussion.

In the previous post, we also pointed out that to form real deep and meaningful relationships that a shedding needs to occur. We need to disassemble the impenetrable aura around us to be better able to cleave to others. It’s dangerous. However, the possible results are amazing.

Imagine an environment where your authentic self is loved and accepted, where your gifts and talents are not envied but supported and perhaps even honed by those around you. Imagine crying without the fear of looking foolish, laughing as goofily as you desire knowing that you won’t be turned away. That is the beautiful alternative.

Yes, unfortunately, the people around us are human. That means they will make mistakes and be prejudiced. That means they’ll be hypocritical and exercise their free will even when it is detrimental to you, me or themselves. If we’re honest with ourselves we’ll realise we have the same tendencies, if not on the surface deep down that we may have to fight against; I for one definitely do.

Some people will say no. They will reject your true self because you’re not their cup of tea. Maybe they are a coffee person or a milkshake addict or whatever… but if you are authentic rejection will happen at some point and that’s ok.

What if… what if we embrace the rejection(s) because they will ultimately point us to where we will be accepted? If we looked at rejection and the pain that comes with it in the sphere of relationships as a signpost pointing us in another direction, could we possibly develop stronger hearts? I’m not talking about hearts sheathed in ice or hearts of stone but something akin to a muscle you’ve worked out several times, tearing those fibres and replacing them with multiple, stronger and tougher ones. Like salespeople who have come to understand that they will not make the sale every time, is it not possible for us to be able to overcome this seemingly immense hurdle, this emotional kryptonite and become (you guessed it) kryptonite tolerant? At the very least it’s something I believe is worth trying. Do you?

I’ve heard this too often, “Ayanda, I’m sick of these phoney friendships man. People don’t really care. Everyone out here is fake.”

Maybe it’s time to take a stand and start being the real people in our circles. Authentic not just as an act but as part of our identity.

I don’t want to be disingenuous any longer. I hate the fruits of it. There’s this graphic proverb that states: As a dog returns to its vomit so a fool repeats his folly. If I hate the fruit of invulnerability it only makes sense that I stop doing so. A way of looking at insanity is repeating the same thing over and over while expecting different results. (The irony is that I have an amazing topic titled ‘The Power Of Monotony’ in the pipeline.) Even though it feels insane choosing vulnerability in this instance perhaps it’s time to change.

To quote Batman in the dreadful Justice League movie as he tried to motivate a mortified Barry Allen, “Save one. Save one person.”

Similarly, when you’ve made the decision to be vulnerable, start with one person and see where it goes.

Just do it.

-Nike

Image source Batman-News

Who’s Smiling

Approx 1 min read

So we know now that communication isn’t solely based on the words that we use. There’s a bunch of cues we give off unconsciously that can be interpreted as signals of intent. I suggest taking the time to read about these signals and understand them. There’s tutorials given by FBI agents which you can find with a quick search on the internet. I recommend also subscribing to the YouTube channel Charisma On Command. The originators have my deepest respect because while I was thinking about the idea they went ahead and turned it into reality, now their channel has a deservedly large following with over 3 million subscribers.

Are you in a group of people and trying to find out who’s interested in you? Well good for you, there’s cues that can help you find out pretty quickly. Next time someone cracks a funny joke in that gathering, follow people’s eyes. The first person we look at when we’re laughing in a crowd of people is often the one we like the most. We do so to make sure they’re laughing too. It’s instinctive. It’s also brilliant because it’s a hack we can use for our benefit.

There’s many more things that can be grasped from communication beyond words.

Have a look at that channel and let me know what you think in the comments.

Until tomorrow…

Stay awesome.

Dumped By Someone I Wasn’t Hitting On

Approx 2 min read

Oh this isn’t clickbait, this actually happened. I’m only 23 but I gotta say I’ve lived a full life, riddled with memorable, unforeseeable events. Yes indeed – I was dumped by someone I wasn’t hitting on. With this we kick off our series on Communication.

Dr. Ed Louis Cole said “communication is the basis of life”. He was right.

Communication is how we transmit feelings, ideas and information to others.

We are relational beings and the success of a relationship is strongly tied to how well communication is done. There’s 5 kinds of communication: no communication (self explanatory), little communication, over-communication (also known as TMI), poor communication and good communication. We’ll subdivide these even more later on.

We often fall into the trap of thinking that communication is solely the words we speak but our gestures are very important too. I’m sure you’ve heard about good posture and other pointers when trying to project confidence. Certain behaviours give away more than what words could say – with this I’ll lead into the misunderstanding that occurred.

Now at some point in my more impressionable age someone I looked up to told me that I should treat women the same way I treat my sister, or at least the same way I would like to have my sister treated by others. This stuck, primarily because of my well-published affection for my only sibling and this kickstarted a series of faux pas on my part that led to a phone call ending with me being dumped (by someone I wasn’t hitting on). I thought the things I had been doing were standard behaviour: opening the door, giving up my seat, coaxing confidence in adverse situations and giving praise when I was genuinely impressed.

All of these are gestures that can in fact have meaning behind them about how someone feels towards you – they can also simply be an indication of how one was raised. I fell into the latter category.

The good thing is, I wasn’t (overly) embarrassed, the full story brings a lot of laughter to a lot of people and it taught me a valuable lesson:

Communication isn’t just about what I do. It’s about what the person on the receiving end perceives.

We have a lot of things to unpack in the chapter including how to tell if someone likes you when you’re laughing at a table, how to get better at saying what you want to say, and mustering the confidence to speak your mind. So be excited. I certainly am.

Do share this post with your friends, family or your crush (if you want them to take a hint).

(To the crushes out there, TAKE A HINT!)

See you tomorrow.

Stay awesome!

 

 

Creativity: Exposure (Television Part 2)

photo cred: www.sclance.com

To wrap up the Creativity: Exposure mini-series I would like to throw in a simple suggestion. If you’ve been watching American television or British television or Bollywood films all your life – to expand your creative thinking I suggest consuming products from different parts of the world than what you’re accustomed to.

We’ve already talked about the benefit of watching shows from different genres, now we will look at watching films steeped in different cultures. There was a stage in my life where shows like ‘Passions’ and ‘The Bold And The Beautiful’ were a staple. Those soaps and the mostly American and British books I read formed the bedrock of romance in my mind. It was no surprise then that my stories would mirror the themes that were the hallmark of those two cultures (which are more similar than most). Enter Bollywood – and there was a substantial shift. Now it wasn’t mainly about deception or conniving or charming your way into someone’s life but there was all this colour and impressing through talent (mainly musical) that I hadn’t encountered. Relationships were no longer founded just on power and money and beauty but on far much more. Furthermore in the ideas bandied about during the draft stages of my writing there was the introduction of a class barrier and finding love in arranged marriages… or the pursuit of forbidden love – concepts that were rare in Western media but commonplace in the Bollywood movies I watched. Did I mention the use of music to drive home whatever emotions the director wanted the viewer to feel? That was the time my writing rhythm underwent a revolution. Then came the Korean drama era where there was far more emphasis on the spoken word and the way they were delivered than in any other form of television I had seen up to that point. Lastly came the anime phase and there was another complete 180 degree shift with creative humour not only based on crude innuendos or the use of vulgar language (apparently they don’t specialise in Japanese) but the introduction of jokes based on the culture and tradition of the time.

My mind was learning the art of contortion, performing complex acrobatics to cater for all of these different ways to tell the same story… all because it wasn’t limited to watching films from a localised geography. Yours shouldn’t be either.

This concludes our Creativity: Exposure mini-series. I will talk about The Importance Of A Creative Ending and give an example in another double post to cap off the Creativity series tomorrow.

Singleness Is Underrated

Am I going to be endorsing debauchery in this post? Not one bit. However if you are looking for encouragement and advice in the single phase of your life, carry on, you are most welcome.

Before I enter into why the phase of singleness can be a crucially beneficial time of your life I would like to quash some world notions on the ‘benefits’ of being single. Yes I’m going to sound like a preacher when I denounce couldn’t-care-less relationships, casual sex and nights spent bent over ceramic chambers, but if you are honest with yourself you’ll realise that the aforementioned activities don’t do your physical wellbeing or mental health any favours. Are all these activities fun? They wouldn’t be temptations if they weren’t… but they are bad for you and most likely you don’t need to look deep down to know it. The good news is I’m not here to condemn you but to affirm you! We all have the gift of free will. You aren’t bound to certain actions or habits forever. Today I would like to introduce two terms that will help and will pop up a lot in this ‘Individuality’ series:

  1. Intentionality – living a life of deliberation, without constantly stumbling into things
  2. Plasticine brain – the ability of the brain to change throughout life

Life has prime stages for explosive growth. Singleness is one of them. Another stage is called ‘the Pit’ which I’ll refer to later this week.

When you’re single and intentional in your singleness, you’re in the best time to learn about yourself, the best time to figure out what you enjoy and what you are good at. Often in this chapter of your life you have one major responsibility, yourself, meaning you have more time as you have less people to be responsible over. What can you use this time for? More learning and setting yourself up for whatever your metric of success is. This is achieved first of all by coming up with a metric of success. This is vital. How can you hit the target when you don’t know what you are supposed to be aiming for? In this period explore by reading books, learning languages, travelling, building healthy habits, working to delete bad habits, learning organisation, studying people and coming up with the traits of the person you would want to be with once the phase is over.

I’d like to challenge a fallacy that we let ourselves be deceived by far too often. How many people have you heard say these words, “I wish I had known this when I was younger?” Or “I wish I had known this before I got into the relationship?”. We lie and say we’ll pick up the behaviours we need when we need them. Learning all the above once this singleness phase has passed is possible; it’s much more difficult but it’s possible, it’s why we have plasticine brains – but why would you want to grow a plant in the dry season when you can do so in the rainy season? The friction of embarking on a discovery of self when you have several more responsibilities is incredibly grating.

Lastly we have plasticine brains, which means the old ways of thinking don’t need to be the ways of thinking forever. It means we can learn new things. However it takes significantly more effort to unlearn things than it does to build new habits. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking I’ll do these things now then stop when I’m in a serious relationship or when I reach 30, 40 or 50. You’re setting yourself up to fail and to eventually drown in depression.

Conflict rises when expectations and reality don’t align. Internal conflict leads to stress and prolonged stress may lead to depression. So I’ll help you out a bit and be a bit harsh when I say:

Don’t expect the bad habits you’re cultivating now to instantly disappear when you want them to. Instead be intentional today about what habits you want to build in this crucial period of your time.

Cherish your singleness and grow baby, grow! It may be hard, that’s cool, I’ve got tips to help you do just that starting with tomorrow’s post: ‘Lying Is Good For You’.

P.S. Thank you all for helping this blog reach 100 followers! Onwards and upwards. Be blessed.

 

6 Degrees of Separation

Sticking to song titles this is one of my favourite songs by one of my favourite bands: The Script. When you are separated from something or someone you love deeply you may undergo some of these symptoms, more than aptly described by this talented group of artists.

 

“First, you think the worst is a broken heart.”

True line I believe. I think everyone has a different timeframe before it suddenly hits. You’re no longer tied to that person but your emotions – your heart – disagree. That hurts: what’s worse is you think it’s the worst part but it’s not.

 
What’s gonna kill you is the second part.”

The song never does state what the “second part” is. Unfortunately (or should I say fortunately) I don’t have enough first-hand experience to write from first person viewpoint but I can try assume what this is. It’s probably the memories of all the good things done together rushing through one’s head… and the realisation that it all came to nought.

 
“And the third, is when your world splits down the middle.”

You see them at every turn. They are in your mind’s eye the whole time and like some kind of stubborn cancer their memory just won’t go away; even when you try the not-so-chemo-therapy from friends and family.

 
“And fourth, you’re gonna think that you fixed yourself.”

“I’m fine now. I’m ok. I’m better off without them.”

You say it once, twice. Maybe you even start to believe it.

 
“Fifth, you see them out with someone else.”

How can they move on so quickly? Don’t they feel what you feel? You dread to ask but have to nonetheless:

“Was it… was it ever real?”

 
“And the sixth, is when you admit that you may have messed up a little.”

“I wish I’d never…”

Both regret and acceptance.  The ache remains but the separation should be complete.

PS I really enjoy listening to this song and would suggest you give it a listen, preferably the clean version because the original does have a word or two you wouldn’t want to hear a toddler saying.