How do I get there from here?

Getting there

The past few months I’ve been a bit more silent when it comes to my blog. I’ve been a bit more introspective in my writing. Today instead of getting caught up with the daily ebb and flow of life, I decided to put the remote down, and open my laptop. Like many of you I doubt myself a lot, have I done the right things? Have I taken the right steps to accomplish my future? While I do write about positive things, I too struggle with many of those same topics, and this past few months have’t been any different.

How is fear controlling me?

I listen to quite a few TEDtalks and similar programs, my newest obsession is Invisibilia on NPR. On a recent episode Fearless they explore various ways in which fear influences us. They talked about the way our brains and our physiology reacts to fear, and how our brains can’t distinguish between real or perceived fear. What does any of this mean? A simple way to put it is that if your fear is perceived, you don’t feel any differently about it. That leads me to ask the question, “Is fear stopping me from achieving the kind of future I’d like?” What messages am I telling myself, is my attitude a bigger contributor to my success or failure? A part of me definitely believes that  with a better attitude I’ll be happier. Many people believe that with happiness comes gratefulness, but I learnt in another TEDtalk; it’s more gratefulness that leads to a happier life. So now my mission is to be more grateful for everyday experiences, like the ability to get out and walk around in this beautiful place I live in. In the conclusion of the Invisibilia episode on Fear, one of the hosts Lulu Miller gives her formula on overcoming fear, and I’m willing to share that with you. Fear = Thinking + Time, if you take away either thinking or time you don’t have fear.

Haunted by Past Relationships!

My last relationship was over 2 years ago, so fell free to think “hey this guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about, I should discredit EVERYTHING he says.” Before you completely write me off, I ask that you at least consider some of the points I’m making about my own journey, and ask if there’s any similarities with yours? Yes I know 2 years is a long time, and at the expense of sounding like some people in my life, yes I understand that’s a LONG time to be single; lol that’s a discussion for another post. I find that I’ve been thinking a lot about my last relationship, and whether it was the right decision to end it. But that’s the fallacy isn’t it, at the time it’s not like I said ‘hey I can make a stupid decision, or I can carefully consider things, I’m going to go with the stupid decision.’ Things we’ve done in our past, for the most part we’ve carefully considered them. Knowing what we know now, we can see that things could have played out quite differently. While I do still deal with the consequences of my decisions, I can’t think of it in terms of what I know now. I think it’s interesting that sometimes when we think of the past we seem to remember mostly either the bad or the good. My latest thought is that while I’m remembering the good aspects of that relationship, for other reasons it didn’t work out. That doesn’t mean that I can’t look for those qualities from someone new. Isn’t that the point of life, to learn from our past mistakes, and to not repeat our bad behaviors. Instead of focusing on the past, I could devote my energy to the present, and being intentional about the future I want.

How has my Faith helped or hindered me?

Being Christian isn’t easy, there’s many aspect that some might consider “fun” that I don’t indulge in. Without specifics, I’ve chosen to embrace a certain life, because when it comes down to it, it’s part of my nature, my upbringing. I had a conversation with my mom a few months back about some of the aspects that are central to my life, and I realized now why I’m the way I am. I was raised christian so many of those values have been en-grained into me. When I was younger I had a lot of misconceptions about what I could and couldn’t do as a christian. Without getting into any specific debates, I’d say that there were certain thing that never appealed to me. While it was fun to indulge myself for a time, that indulgence didn’t make me any happier about myself. In many cases I turned to destructive ways both mentally and physically, that weren’t any more fulfilling in the end. Especially here in my blog, I don’t specifically talk about my Christian Faith. I’m finding it hard to spread a message of Peace, Love, and Acceptance. Especially when others who share my faith, especially the most vocal ones are especially hateful to others. They preach a message of hate, ignorance, and otherness. I find it interesting that Jesus our greatest example as a Christian, when asked what’s the greatest commandment said:

… A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ – Matthew 22:39 NLT

To us the term neighbor is simple, but to the people of that time, a neighbor wasn’t just the person in close proximity. A neighbor also meant people who don’t share your religion, ethnicity, or even a mortal enemy. For me that means that even though you may not share my faith, showing you love isn’t conditional, showing you love doesn’t mean that you have to share my beliefs. My central question still remains “how do I spread a message of love and understanding” when others are saying that if we don’t share the same faith, I should hate you?

My life today is different from my dreams!

Why is it that what most of us imagined our lives being, isn’t the way it is today! Remember when you were a kid and wanted to be a Doctor, a Nurse, Lawyer, Celebrity? Why is it that many of our lives are vastly different? I was talking to a friend a last week, and she shared the same sentiment. The truth though is that while some of us aren’t the things we aspired to be, we’re happy with who we’ve become. I would say that the past few years have been more about appreciating who I’ve become, and to stop obsessing about what I’ve not accomplished. Life has a way of throwing you those curve balls doesn’t it? My view today has changed, on most days I believe that “I’m exactly where I need to be” I believe that each of our lives plays out in a way that helps to orient us towards our most beneficial self. Of course we also have choices, each day we make a choice to go one direction over another. Living my life believing that I’m where I’m needed frees me up to see opportunities that my presence can help fulfill. Not in a selfish grandiose way, but I believe that there are things each of us are uniquely qualified to handle. A changing view of life means that I also no longer hold on to the idea of a Perfect Relationship. I imagined that there’s a person out there that you won’t have to face certain issues with. Imagine a continuum if you will, where there’s a certain threshold that you don’t go below, but the truth is the person isn’t a determining factor whether certain relationships will have to deal with certain issues. In some ways conflict is a necessary part of all relationships, no relationship is devoid of conflict. As Gary Thomas recently put it in a recent article “Singles: Your feelings don’t matter half as much as this” he said:

Your future partner’s ability to handle conflict will have far more impact on your satisfaction in marriage that your current level of feelings.

Realizing that there is not really a Perfect Relationship, and that it matters more how much work you put in, my views continue to evolve. I believe that this fits with other aspects of life too. Sometimes challenges or conflict highlights our deficiencies. When faced with those deficiencies do we run or give up, or do we stick around and try to overcome them. For me I believe the latter is what leads to a successful relationship, it’s not that you’re not going to have conflict, or tumultuous times. It’s learning to work through them, it’s being committed to working with the other person. This should be one of the most important tenants of any relationship..

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Lessons on Empathy. What can we learn from Ferguson!!

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With each day comes more news of events much like Ferguson Missouri unfolding. Yet another unarmed person is loosing their life in the hands of police. While death is nothing new, loosing a life to someone who’s supposed to protect you isn’t something we’d like to be a normal everyday occurrence. The events unfolding in Ferguson has become yet another issue that is polarizing, now religion, politics are not the only issues of polarization. I wanted to take some time away from writing about my usual topics such as Love, Relationships, and Self-help to talk about this. How can something like this drive us apart, how is it not bringing people together, why does it separate us? While the issue is very complicated, and picking a particular side is easy, my mind prefers to look at it from a deeper angle. In the recent weeks what I’ve been thinking about is how there seems to be a lack of connection to those involved, to really understand where they’re coming from. For me I believe that part of the reason the events from Ferguson can happen in our communities, and why it seems to polarize other communities is a lack of empathy. I’d like to spend some time talking a bit about that and other closely knit factors.

Practice empathy not sympathy!

I tend to be a more logical person, while I doimage have emotions, and express them quite often. When it comes to making decisions I tend to be a bit more logical. While emotions are necessary, they do cause us to make decisions on things that are perceived, rather than actual evidence. Before I get further, let’s talk a bit about empathy. In a little video I found while researching this topic, Brene Brown gives a great explanation of empathy: The Power of Empathy. Brene defines empathy as having 4 elements: perspective taking, staying away from judgement, recognizing emotion, and communicating that feeling with people. In order to have empathy, we have to be able to put ourselves into someone else’s shoe. In the video she describes this as climbing down into the cave with someone else. It’s very important that we not pass judgement, “well I won’t have…” or “you’re stupid, it’s your fault.” Just by recognizing someone’s emotion it can change the conversation, “it sounds like you’re angry” “I can see that you’re upset.” By acknowledging someone else’s emotion you’re saying that you’re paying attention to THEM. In contrast sympathy is slightly different, but it is perceived vastly different. Sympathy in essence is sticking your head into the cave and saying “wow that looks really bad down there.” Sympathy is acknowledging that something is wrong, but not being willing to step into the mud yourself, you want to stay out of the mess yourself. As Brene says,

Empathetic responses don’t start with “at least”

I had a miscarriage “at least you can get pregnant.”

My marriage is falling apart, “at least you have a marriage.”

So to specifically understand why the Black community in Ferguson is so outraged, we have to fully understand what THEY’RE going through. We can’t necessarily look at the events there through OUR lenses, unless of course you’re living in Ferguson.

Our Perspective forms our Reality

This brings me to a central point that I think needs to be stressed. Our perspectives shape our reality, and this is where emotions could lead us astray. Regardless of what another person says or does, our perspectives will sometimes show us things that are not there. In the work I do I’ve encountered many upset customers, and one particular experience is still fresh in my mind. I spoke to a customer who was not happy with their experience, and felt that they had been treated badly. While I had no desire to follow the policy that initially caused this bad experience. I even tried telling the customer that I wasn’t going to continue to push the issue, but didn’t even get to say that before they began berating me. Not to worry there’s more to the story, but my point is that despite my actual intentions, the customer perceived that they were being treated unfairly, even though I was not actually engaging in the same behavior. It fascinates me that even in the presence of video evidence, people will still maintain there perspectives. Take football for example, there will be a video clearly showing whether a player was out of bounds or not. Despite what that video actually shows, there will be 2 people hotly contesting that the player was either out of bounds or in. Why is it despite concrete evidence people will still say that things are the way they think, even if actual physical evidence says contrary?

Good also exists in bad situations

In a TEDtalk about Courage, one of the presenters Janine di Giovanni talks about her experience as a War Correspondent. Check out her full TEDtalk What does it take to cover a War? In the radio segment the host asks her why does she continue to go to war torn countries to report, and something she said stuck with me. Janine said that although she has seen many tragic and horrific things, she has also seen a lot of good and courageous people in those places. Although there is a lot of darkness there, she has also seen light shine through in the darkness. While I had a previous post that talks about this but from a religious perspective, that is not what she is talking about here. To understand why this is relevant, you have to remember that our world is full of duality, good and evil does co exist. I’ve heard people ask in times of pain “why did this happen to ME” “why did god let this happen to ME” While I’m not here to defend God, a particular verse kept coming up this week:

And we know that God causes everything to work together  for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them. – Romans 8:28

This particular verse doesn’t get into the weeds about whether God “lets” bad things happen to people, but what it does say is that god causes things to work for good. I understand that many people reading this probably don’t share my faith, however I know that many have asked this question “why me God?” I’ve heard people try to simplify god down to this, god is good, bad things happen in the world, therefore either god isn’t good or he’s not real. I caution this kind of thinking, so let’s look at an example that will be more relevant. Many people are parents, and they consider themselves good parents, yet bad things happen to their children. When bad things happen we understand that it’s not always directly a reflection of your parenting, that you can still be a good parent. The reality is that many things happen that are outside of our control. Yet there are always opportunities for good to shine through. There is always an opportunity to offer grace to someone who treats you badly. I believe that’s what Janine has experienced in her life.

What does empathy, perspectives and good have to do with Ferguson?

I’ve lamented a bit about a few topics, but again what does it have to do with Ferguson? I believe that when we heard that story, we quickly tried to pick a side, we picked a side that associates more with our lives. We offered our sympathy, and in doing so we didn’t fully take the time to understand why the community was upset. You see while we might share similarities with Mike Brown our Daren Wilson, to understand their lives, we have to really UNDERSTAND them. To really embrace Ferguson and have an honest conversation we have to walk in the shoes of that community. As an African American male, it would be very easy for me to condemn Daren Wilson, he killed a black teen. While that might seem the case on the surface, the real story is far more dirty and murky. This could be our opportunities to really understand the lives of both Daren Wilson and Mike Brown. Especially on social media, this story has raised many divisive and visceral comments, and I’m ashamed to be a fellow human. This situation could be an opportunity for good. One of the things I was reminded from the TEDtalk was that it’s easy to make a negative comment, or to let injustice prevail. It’s much harder to stand up for good, to do the right thing. In the church sermon today about Joy, I walked away with this, sometimes we can’t really offer much help. Sometimes all we can offer is a simple gesture, but even a simple hug, is a step in the direction of empathy. Sometimes in painful situations there really is nothing we can do to make it better.

Writing is a platform for me to express my thoughts to people that are not in my immediate area. While it’s becoming easier and easier, I caution you, my readers to do so responsibly. Today the world is becoming darker, more evil, and even a small gesture will remind us that there is good. While it’s easy for me to pick a side in the Ferguson story, the act of 1 young boy has reminded me I should choose my words carefully. Some people believe they’re only words, Free Hugsbut words are very powerful. “I have a dream” are only words by themselves, but they’re also a rallying cry for the oppressed. Those words taught a nation that we can be more inclusive of our brother and sisters. I have a voice, and I refuse to use it to spew anger and hate. Mike Brown isn’t the only one who lost his life that day, in a way Daren Wilson also lost his life too. The question I ask is what can I do to not continue spreading hate and misunderstanding. A way for me to do that is to have empathy rather than sympathy. While empathy is a great place to start I must also do my part, I must be willing to step out and do good, even if I’m the only one standing. As a 12 year old showed us, even if it’s just a free hug, he’s offering all he can in that situation. Going forward a question I will as is How can I offer YOU help? Not in a Golden Rule kind of way, meaning I’ll offer you the kind of help that I would want. But to actually ask you, what do YOU need me to do for YOU?

New York Diaries Part 2

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Before embarking on my New York trip I had every intention to write each day. To find things in my surroundings and use it as a prompt to write. Here I am, going into my second week of being back from New York, and I’ve only managed to write once. It seems much hasn’t really changed, now I’m back home, I’ve fallen back into my work mode. Taking the time away was great, and I can’t say that I’m feeling like I shouldn’t have gone, now I’m ready to go again! The past few weeks have been a blur, there have been so many things to write about, but I just never sat down to put it down into a coherent string of thoughts. Since I had written a Part 1, I thought it a good idea to write part 2 now.

Movies like “When Harry Met Sally” speak to my inner Romantic, I’ve mentioned previously that I have aimage vivid imagination, and sometimes play things out in my head first. While it was exciting being up on the Empire State, it was very Cold, and time to reflect was short. It did get me thinking though, Movies tend to only give you a glimpse of things. Life itself is inherently hard, and you actually have to WORK to get what you want. The days of thinking that I’ll meet that woman, and we’ll instantly lock eyes, have a great conversation, start dating and get married are over. I’m no longer that naive into thinking it happens like in the movies. What I’m not saying is that I’m giving up on Dating or finding Love. While it does get lonely being single sometimes, and it would be nice to share things with someone, like my hike today. What I’d rather not be is in a relationship and feeling lonely, or not connected to my partner. For me that is not living. Which I think is interesting, because ALL relationships have to work hard to keep “The Spark” going. It’s nothing like the movies. The good news is that I believe I’ve gained a few more tools to help me foster better relationships.

For the New Year coming up, I’m going to work on enjoying my life more, last year it was about being intentional. In a way I’m not quite sure I’ve accomplished what I thought I would have, but it’s ok, I’m still learning. This hear I want to spend more time travelling, and I feel that I’m in a better place to afford it now. New York reminded me that I still have a bit of the traveling bug in me, and I’d like to spend more time exploring that. New York also reminded me that while I love my family, I also value my independence, and I really love living out here in California. Big cities like New York have much to offer, however I want to be close to nature too, not the concrete jungle a real jungle. It is great to look out my window and see mountains and trees, and the fog coming over the hills. It’s even great breathing in the salty ocean air from time to time. I can live in a big city, but I need to get away and be surrounded by nature at times. I think that’s what I love the most about the Bay Area.

I’m learning to Love myself more deeply, and I came across something interesting a few days ago. I heard a TEDtalk by Susan Cain: The Power of IntrovertsI’ve known for some time now that I’m not a real Introvert, I show many Extroverted qualities at times, but my dominant personality is more Introverted. I like to think of Introverted and Extroverted as where you draw your energy from, instead of whether you like to be more social, or by yourself. In her talk Susan Cain echoed this same way of looking at the two, but she added something I had never heard before. In her research she found that Introverts tend to be more creative, because the quiet time gives them the space to think of ways to improve things they’re passionate about. She also talked about learning to embrace your personality, and not feel guilty for who you are, especially introverts. It’s the quiet times that we use to not just replenish ourselves, but to solve problems. I’ve lamented before about being an Extroverted Introvert, I guess the term is Ambivert. While this new explanation strokes my ego a bit, it does help shed light on why I crave quiet time so much. I’m in a stage right now where I want to spend more time alone, than being around others. Susan Cain’s finding helps me feel a little less guilty when I don’t want to spend my free time with others. While I’m learning to love myself, it’s a good start to appreciate the quiet times I spend with myself.

New York Diaries Part 1

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You probably won’t know this about me, but I lived in New York for a bit. While my family lives there, I don’t call myself a New Yorker, I only lived there for 2 years. In contrast I’ve been in California for almost 15 years now, by all accounts I’m Californian. But there is something about New York that seems to draw you in, it’s a magnificent place of diverse night-life, people, cuisine, art and so much more, and we haven’t even talked about it’s history.

For those that haven’t been to New York it would probably be a bit overwhelming, so much to see and not enough time. I promised myself that I would take some time to write while I’m here, lets face it there’s a million things to inspire writing here. Before I tell you more about my Trip so far, I’d like to share something else with you. I took some time during my flight and lay-over to read a few chapters from “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown.

…A twenty-minute walk that I do  is better than a four-mile run that I don’t do. The imperfect book that gets published is better than the perfect book that never leaves my computer.

I’ve been in a bit of a mental funk lately, not feeling motivated to write, socialize, and be around others. When it comes to writing, sometimes I feel like a bit of a perfectionist. Instead of just writing, I tend to not write unless I think it’s perfect. I think it was great for me to learn this lesson from Brene Brown before my trip, in a way it got me out of my perfectionist state. What I got from Brene’s book was to not always strive for perfection, sure there are times when something should be perfect, but is perfection right for every aspect of life? In another lesson Brene points out that perfectionism is the enemy of creativity. If you look at Painters, sure there are some boundaries, but artists have the liberty to operate outside of borders.

So what does any of this have to do with my imageNew York trip? I think it was great for me to change my attitude before coming back to New York. There’s so much inspiration here, and I needed to be in the right mood to soak it all up. New York is an interesting place. As I started saying in the beginning there’s so much exciting things here, yet as I looked around, I noticed that everyone seemed to have a bleak and down trodden look. Perhaps it’s because I was on the Subway, or perhaps it’s because it was 30 degrees outside. By the way if you’ve never riden the New York city subway, you should try it at least once before you die, of course you might also die there too. As I rode the subway I couldn’t help but think that there was so much that the City had to offer, yet I was wondering how many of those people took time to appreciate the beauty that’s right outside. Even though we’re in a closed cramped space, everyone really seemed like they were in their own bubble. This all had me asking a similar question of my own life. What things am I missing out on in life that I could be enjoying? Am I going through my life not appreciating the beauty that’s right around the corner?

So what’s the lesson? Life can be inherently hard, sometimes work, life and responsibilities get us out of focus. While life is un-folding around us, beauty is also right there. If there’s one thing I want you to remember is this, take time to enjoy the beauty around you, and we’ll all be a little happier today.

Is Success an absence of Failure?

In my self-description I probably won’t use the words “Creative Type” yet aren’t we all creative, aren’t we all creating new things each day? In writing these thoughts I am creating something, and that is worth taking a moment to bask in. Not for the praise from peers or on social media, but to give your creative spirit a voice. It would be fair to say that I’ve had a bit of a block for a few months now. I started writing because thought and inspiration for others was running wild in my head. As quickly as it started, it seemed to have disappeared. Just when I was starting to finding a voice, something I was passionate about, it seemed to have left as fast as it came. For some time I’ve felt a bit stagnant, not just in my career, but also my personal life. Just as the voice has guided me before, it lead me to a TED Talk which let to another, and to yet another. In listening to those, the voice seems to have peeked it’s head out. Here are a few things I learnt from those talks.


Success doesn’t mean they’ve never Failed!

I have to admit, sometimes I subconsciously think that if I succeed it means I won’t fail. There are countless stories of many famous people who were seen as failures, they were rejected by society and peers, if they had listened to the world, they would have never moved forward. With modern media it seems the bar is sometimes set very high, we’re conditioned to think that in order to succeed, we have to be super human. In the teaching at church this weekend, our pastor identified a few people that were treated as failures. The one that was the most laughable was that Albert Einstein was called stupid and unintelligent. Of course his name is now synonymous with being a genius. The message there is that if you’ve been rejected by others, that doesn’t have to define your entire life. Thomas Edison, had hundreds of failures before he had his first real success. Being successful doesn’t mean that you’ve not failed before, or even that you’re not going to fail in the future. In contrast if people call you a failure, it doesn’t mean that you will be that way forever, because at some point you will succeed. When comparing ourselves to others, we might not always measure up, and that’s ok, the world doesn’t define you, you define how your future will unfold.


What is the source of creativity?

Where does your creative ideas come from? Is it something innate that you possess, is it something you’re blessed with? Can you loose that creative spirit? In a recent TED Radio Hour Program I heard The Source of Creativity  (click link to listen to the Full Show), a few people you might have heard of attempted to answer this question. The one that stood out to me the most was from Elizabeth Gilbert, you might have heard of her, she did a book called “Eat, pray, love.” In Elizabeth’s segment of the show she talked about how she found the inspiration to write her best selling book, and how she has learnt to live with the aftermath of such a great book. Another artist that goes by the name of Sting, also spoke on the same topic. After 3 decades of producing hits after hits, one day he woke up and couldn’t write anything new. They both point out that after you’ve found success, it doesn’t mean it’s something that will stay with you for the rest of your life. Isn’t that what’s plaguing most celebrities? One day someone is on the top of the Billboard charts, then months or years later they just completely disappear. Success like most things in life is fickle, in order to keep something you have to work hard at it. So whether you were blessed with musical talents, or the ability to transform yourself into a new person on stage, you’ll still have to be intentional to maintain your gift. As Elizabeth Gilbert points out in her TED Talk, whether you’re blessed by your creator or it’s something you just learnt, we must be thankful for our gifts. You should never come from a place of arrogance, but of gratitude, because one day it could all be gone.


Success is sometimes an accident

In the message at Church last weekend, we looked at failure, and some of the people who were seen as failures. There’s a man by the name of Thomas Edison, who after 1000’s of tries finally succeeded. Henry Ford was rejected many times, people thought that building a production car was a idiotic idea that will never go anywhere. Walt Disney was called un-imaginative, but later went on to build a company that is the epitome of imagination. Alexander Fleming was working in his lab one day, and what started out as a mistake, lead to the discover of Penicillin. What these things all have in common is that for the most part, they were all discovered by accident. Meaning that Thomas Edison didn’t set out to invent things that would revolutionize the world, or Disney to create an empire to dominate the entertainment industry etc. The final outcome was not the intention of these various inventors. While they didn’t predict the brevity of their inventions, they were working towards a smaller goal. Success comes after hours and hours of hard work, and dedication, to the point of insanity sometimes. In Elizabeth Gilbert’s story, she had no idea that Eat, Pray, Love would be what it is today. She wanted to share her story, to give a glimpse of her journey so far. So what does any of this mean? If you’re passionate about something, then you’ll most likely have to work hard to achieve it. While you have an expected goal in mind, understand that the final product may be even greater, or perhaps not as big as you thought. Despite the outcome, you still have to keep at it, keep persevering.


As I think on my own life, I know one thing for certain, I’m passionate about helping people navigate and improve their lives. I do believe that that talent is divinely granted, and that I’m to use it for the good of the world. While I do have an idea of where I’d like my life to go, I can’t say with any certainty where exactly I will end up. What I do know though is that I have to be intentional, with each day I have to live with gratitude, be thankful that I have the freedom and ability to carve out my life in a way that’s satisfying to me. My goal is to live my life each day with happiness and grace, and to not be naive in thinking that I’m doing this on my own accord. Of course the greatest challenge is figuring out my place in this cosmic space, to learn what’s my contribution to humanity. While I’m sure that I might not do anything grandiose, it shouldn’t stop me from trying.

 “success isn’t the absence of failure, sometimes failure leads to success; sometimes failure and success can co-exist in the same space.”