A MUST READ: Rahiel’s Message on Success

Rahiel-and-Success

Starting on Friday, September 28, 2012, I sent out a series of tweets related to success, purpose, fear and resilience that struck a chord with hundreds of people. These are those tweets with minor edits for grammar and paragraph flow. I share them here in hopes that even more people will be blessed by this message.

Remember me saying that I felt God delayed me from getting on my flight for a reason but I didn’t know why? Ended up sitting in the seat next to a 24-year-old who was on his first flight as a flight attendant. It was “Training Day” for him. He is three classes away from graduating college and plans to drop out. I made my case for him completing his BA. We had a pretty deep conversation about his insecurities, family situation and aspirations. I told him I believe God delayed me for him.

Don’t know what our conversation will mean to him as he makes these tough decisions but felt good that my words resonated with him. I often assume that God delays me to protect me or orchestrate events, which may be the case. But most often – it’s to use me as vessel.

He looked down at the speech I was working on and asked what it was for. Told him it was on “Women in Social Justice.” He asked: “How old are you?!” A large part of our conversation was about immediate gratification vs. long-term planning and sacrifices. He wants to live for the here and now.

Told him I’m doing things I’ve always dreamed of. But only after years of school, internships, management experiences, savings… HARD WORK. Told him that living for the here and now – for immediate gratification – often leaves us open to harming our bodies and spirits. IT GOT DEEP. He was probably wondering “who in the world is SHE for telling me that living for now is how people can end up getting diseases they can’t get rid of.”

A lot of people ask me “how did you do it.” They think “it” is the express lane to progress. When “it” is really daily war. I never started planning for and building Urban Cusp so that I would get interviews and panels and public attention. It came out of a desire to find peace in my own skin and help others do the same; to not conform to this world but to be transformed. I could go on about why I took the biggest leap of my life but I bring it up because I see how people focus in on the result and not the process. People often ask me for a blueprint and sometimes they straight up just try to replicate mine. They forsake their own journey.

I didn’t chase success. I don’t believe I ever have. I have always chased purpose. And purpose has always brought me success. Always.

You want respect? Do something your heroes didn’t have the courage to do. Birth the dream they let die decades ago. Be unapologetically you.

You want confidence? Scribble your greatest fears on a piece of paper and then vow to stop running from them. Stop being held hostage by them.

You think I woke up one day thinking I was God’s gift to the world? I’ve been grinding since my lil’ Eritrean feet landed in Kennedy Airport. You think I care about my position at The Washington Post because it’s “the” Post? I care because I came to America not speaking a word of English.

You want success? It starts with your mental health. Self-love. Vulnerability. Willingness to forgive. Desire to serve. Ain’t a resume thang.

For years, I updated and “fine tuned” my resume so that I would be always be ready for whatever opportunity came next. Like a lot of us do. But then the day came when I paid closer attention to my patterns of failure than my moments of success. My “you f-ed up” track record. I dissected myself. Turned my soul inside out. Went into my past. Cried through my present. I sat on a therapist’s couch, telling my most painful memories. But I also kept a “Dream Catcher” journal, writing my deepest desires down.

Don’t ask for a roadmap to success if you’re not ready for the “Refiner’s Fire” you may have to pass through to get to where they are. To this day- success is not about interviews or how many of my sheros and heroes know my name or how many flyers have my face on them.

Success to me is and will always be that I, like Hagar, have seen the face of God and lived to tell about it. Success to me is and will always be that I, like Jacob, have struggled with God, with men [and women] and have won. My success is in my resilience. If you only knew where I started, where I’ve been and what I’m still going through. Make no assumptions.

In my native tongue Tygrinya, there’s a word “Ambessa.” It means lion. We reserve it for brave hearts. Those who endure the unimaginable. My taste of success came the day my family members looked at me, the youngest, and called me an “Ambessa” because they know from whence I come. I went back to my homeland in 2005 for the first time since I arrived in the US. Saw the village my mother comes from. I do this for her.

Someone tweeted me about taking risks and not being afraid of making mistakes. I will encourage people to be fearless all day every day but I would never encourage someone to throw away their education. Knowledge wins.

You want to be a leader? Show people you trust in and are fighting for something greater than your own intellect, talent, charm and dividends.

In sum, anointing comes with a heavy price. Are you willing to pay for it? Or do you simply want to fast forward to the standing ovation? Don’t sit in the sidelines hoping someone’s anointing will rub off on you. Or that they’ll let you board the airplane before they take off.

Instead ask yourself if every scar you’ve ever earned in life served a purpose. Did it break, harden, better, teach, train and/or transform you? It’s my scars that have prepared me for such a time as this. Not a resume. A blueprint. A motto. Or a model. My scars.

When I think about how many times I was so close to being “average” and “lukewarm,” I can’t help but celebrate when my witness is on fire.

—–

I ask that you include me in your prayers tonight – that I remember there is life and death in the power of the tongue. That I speak life. Jesus’ words were powerful enough to raise people from the dead. As I go to bed tonight, I go humbly reminded of that power. #SpeakLife

—–

The one thing I didn’t say last night (9/28) that I should have is that I wanted to quit countless times. Days that I wanted to be mediocre. After a breakup, I once yelled at God and said, “Don’t you already know I love You? Why won’t you share me? Let me live a normal life!” But Got never let me go. I felt it was selfish because of how much I had to walk away from. Now, I see God was preserving my promised life/land.

Trust me – what you will gain will be so much more precious and valuable than anything you’ve ever lost. Just set your eyes on your Maker. My brightest days have always come after my darkest nights. Yours will too. Don’t let the enemy steal your joy. Your purpose. Your faith.

Benediction

@PastorTim33: Now to Him who is able to use us more than we could ever think or imagine, to the only wise God be all majesty dominion and power. AMEN!

Question & Answer Session

@OluchiNwoke: What did u find in your failure patterns?

@RahielT: Failure patterns: desire to control things out of fear which often sabotaged matters; perfectionism to a fault; bondage to past.

@KAlexIsWrite: Any regrets?

@RahielT: I would have feared less, loved more and lived in the moment. But still no specific regrets.

@Melissa_Kimble: How did you know that you weren’t meant for average and how did you work through it?

@RahielT: While I believe we’re all called to different things, I think we are ALL called to make the most of the time we have here. Being average is often a choice and not a fate that God has restricted us to. At the same time, the Bible makes it clear that God establishes covenants with specific people to fulfill a specific purpose. That’s between God, the person and outside confirmation. I felt I was always destined for great things. But my Christian walk is what took my calling to new heights. God confirmed.

@PastorTim33: Other than obviously letting go of people who are negative, etc. – how do you know who to let in your circle?

@RahielT: Great question. I’m guarded. I keep my circle super tight. That’s what happens when you’ve been hurt a lot. But it also protects you. Someone once taught me the lesson of a lifetime. When you meet a particular type of Judas, know that type will come back again. They’re likely to “look” or “sound” different. But the second time around – it’s your job to recognize them. To not be deceived. I have a trained eye for spotting remnants of lessons learned. I also pray about everyone with a strong presence in my life.

@PastorTim33: Ok one more – how do you know if struggle that you’re facing is a sign to make a change in the situation or a sign to endure?

@RahielT: I know that struggle. 1) Did God call me to be in the situation to begin with or did I put myself in it? Did I plant myself? If God never called me into it, am I trying to change something I wasn’t meant to be experiencing in the first place? If God did call me into it and change needs to happen, am I getting in God’s way by thinking the power rests in my hand? “So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth” 1 Corinthians 3:7. 2) On the matter of enduring – I believe God only calls us to ensure when it will work for our greater good in the end. I believe we know we are to endure because all of our attempts to leave fail and we have no way out. Or it doesn’t make sense. Otherwise, we are opting for misery. Jonah is my go to of how crystal clear God makes God’s will when God has a serious stake in the matter.

 

Rahiel Tesfamariam is an activist, writer, public theologian and cultural critic. She is also a columnist for The Washington Post and founder/ publisher of UrbanCusp.com, a cutting-edge online lifestyle magazine highlighting progressive urban culture, faith, social change and global awareness. Visit Rahiel.com and follow her on Twitter and Instagram @RahielT.

5 Comments

  1. kate

    September 30, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    Rahiel, we have led very different lives, but I really feel like this message is somehow for ME. And I bet there are plenty of other people who feel that way. You have such a gift — and are so generous with it. Thanks for giving us all reasons and inspiration to keep going. I feel sort of ridiculous (cause it’s not very “new media), but I’m going to print this Twitter Message out and put it on the bulletin board I see every day. Thanks be to God for your witness!

    • Rahiel

      September 30, 2012 at 11:49 pm

      Kate, thanks so much for such a sweet message. It blesses me to know that you felt it spoke directly to you. That was what initially inspired it – the idea that God could love that young man on the plane so much that he would ensure that I would miss my flight and leave one open seat on the entire plane right next to him so we could have our conversation. A conversation that would then lead me to tweet things that same night that I otherwise would not have – that would then seemingly bless a lot of people. The whole point is reinforced – it’s all about the process and what we make of it rather than the finish line/destination. It’s our journey that matters.

      • Christen

        November 19, 2012 at 5:08 pm

        Rahiel,

        This is such an amazing story. Thank you for sharing it here. The beautiful thing about having this platform is that your message is here for all to see and get from it what they need. I’m late reading this, but as I peruse your website, I’m so inspired and so happy for you that you are able to share your light with your readers. I think sometimes it is easy to forget that God uses each of us in different ways, and as in your chance meeting with the young man, sometimes it occurs ways that we do not anticipate.

  2. Marcus

    December 5, 2013 at 2:58 am

    Hi Rahiel,

    First of all, I want to thank you for this message. I often visit this website because I’m proud of the work you have done. This morning, looking at your blog, something drew me to this article, and I didn’t know why, so I clicked to see what it was about. I’d ask you to excuse my bad english. You know, I come from a french-speaking country in Africa, where english isn’t spoken even by students. I’m curious, that’s why I just get by.
    To go back to your message, know that I felt concerned. It seemed like it was addressed to me. You should know who I am, or maybe not . I’m a Give1Project Senegal fellow, and I share the Global Entrepreneur page on the website with you. My name’s Marcus. I also have an unusual story, because I come from a very poor family, but it never stopped me to achieve some things. I just left the hospital 3 days ago, after 3 weeks of illness. It was a painful experience for me, because I was on track to reach a goal I set myself. You know, the realities in Africa are not the same as elsewhere. Here, it’s not only a question of jealousy. People are attacking you physically and even mystically. Thanks to the Almighty God, I’m still alive while the doctor found poison in my body. But that’s not what I wanted to talk about. I just wanted to tell you that your message has boosted me and pushes me to continue the work I’m doing for the young african people. After this experience, I wanted to give up, to withdraw completely, because, as I said to myself, I’m just 23, and I don’t want to die because of the jealousy o people I don’t even know. But your message changed my mind. Thank you for that. And I hope one day we will have the opportunity to meet each other.

    May God Bless you, dear sister.

    Marcus.

    • Rahiel

      December 9, 2013 at 7:26 pm

      Marcus, your words and story are deeply touching. I know exactly what you mean in regards to forces that seek to take us off of our life path, to scare us or even harm us physically. Just remember that those who are for us are more than those who are against us. Also remember that you will be victorious as long as you never give up and keep your eyes set on what you have been called to do. Be encouraged and do not grow weary in well doing. May God be with you in you endeavors.