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.
@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!
@RahielT: Failure patterns: desire to control things out of fear which often sabotaged matters; perfectionism to a fault; bondage to past.
@RahielT: I would have feared less, loved more and lived in the moment. But still no specific regrets.
@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.
@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.
@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.