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Not Waiting For Answers: 10 Questions That Will Empower You Now

We tend to obsess over having the “right” answers, which can be a trap. Answers fool us into thinking we know everything. But answers are meant to be broken as soon as we discover new facts, perspectives, and circumstances. On the other hand, questions keep us alert, curious, empathetic, and humble. Questions provide perpetual progress. Which is the hype of the whole “New Year, New Me,” thing right?

In the beginning of the year, it is exciting thinking about the boundless patterns we can shape our new year, but also overwhelming. We all experience (you may be doing so right now) the anxiety involved with figuring out our next “move” or goal. We have no idea where to begin; so we wait for “the answers”…aKa. Do Nothing.   

 

But hey, don’t take my word for it. I am at peace and aware that I Know Nothing. As much as our ego likes to inflate its chest thinking it knows and should know all “the answers,” it’s impossible. The best we can do for a prosperous new year is to ask more questions.

This is why I put together a list of 10 questions I believe can help orient and empower any person looking to be an invaluable agent of change. The questions are inspired not only by my experiences and failures but more importantly from the wisdom of some of the most impressive leaders of all time.

Let’s ask:

[1] Do I Have the Response-ability?

“Highly proactive people recognize their “response-ability”— the ability to choose their response… they do not blame circumstances or conditions for their behavior. Their behavior is a product of their own conscious choice, based on values.”

– Stephen R. Covey, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

January 20th, 2017 journal entry {President Donald Trump’s Inauguration}

[2] Is Single Better?

Success demands singleness of purpose. You need to be doing fewer things for more effect instead of doing more things with side effects. It is those who concentrate on but one thing at a time who advance in this world.

-Gary Keller, The One Thing

Did I focus on one major goal at a time or did I scattered my focus with multiple smaller side projects? If I could sum up 2017 in a hashtag it would be #DreamActNow. Passing the Dream Act was important enough to demand my undivided attention and put other endeavors on hold. 

[3] Am I In Control?

To be happy and healthy, we need to feel as though we are in control of ourselves and we are utilizing our abilities and talents effectively. To do that, we must be in control of our attention.” 

-Mark Manson, Smartphones Are The New Cigarettes

The constant phone notifications begging for our attention preventing us from having a grip on what we want to do. Every day this year, my social media feeds and news outlets had an “urgent” White House tweet/accusation, and at least one panicking, the world is going to end, friend. 

Pointless, useless, and often false information conspiring to take away my happiness, tranquility, focus, and enthusiasm for life. Was I even in control of my own emotions or did I let them distract me or worse paralyze me?

[4] Is Routine > Inspiration?

The difference between amateurs and professionals is that professionals do the work even when they don’t want to [not feeling inspired].”

Author, Cheryl Strayed explains that inspiration happens at really high points (i.e. pie in the sky… I can do it all) or low points (i.e. I am so scared… I am depressed, no way out). However, most of our time is spent in the middle. Getting work done consistently, requires a routine we can trust every day (good and bad days, high or low energy).

Did I find a routine?

[5] Am I Part Of The Family?

“There can be no darker or more devastating tragedy than the death of man’s faith in himself and in his power to direct his future.”

-Saul Alinsky, Rules for Radicals

Confidence to participate in a democracy—this may be the toughest challenge for Americans, and especially for a person of color. How do they let go of the fear that they are not wanted or looked after by their own country? 

Overwhelmed with unexplainable emotions and frustration, they choose to disregard their remedy… civic engagement. Many grassroots organizations and nonprofits work on uplifting the communities, but trust is not easily lent to others.

What is my role in helping everyone feel part of the family?   

[6] Who Won the Shouting Match?

“You can’t win an argument…. Let’s say you win the argument by proving them wrong, then what? You have made them feel inferior. You have hurt their pride. They will resent your triumph. You still end up losing by failing to get them to your way of thinking.“

-Dale Carnegie, How To Win Friends & Influence People

The current polarization in political ideologies feels like a shouting match. Where is the deliberation, compromise, and empathy? Saul Alinsky, says in Rules for Radicals, “When we call someone a “racist”, “white supremacist”, “pig”, or [“Mother F”] we are immediately stereotyped by others, “Oh he’s one of those…” and they are promptly turned off.” Communication dies. We look ignorant. Nothing gets done.

Is it a shouting match we want to win? Or do we want to guide others to connect with our thoughts and experiences? Would we rather win a roasting session or gain a political victory?

[7] How Do I Define Activist?

“Running, as a hobby, has no “real” destination. You define why running is important to you and what value you derive from it [e.g. health, mind liberation, looking good, etc.].”

– Phil Knight, Shoe Dog

At the beginning of 2017, I was not comfortable calling myself an activist because I associated it with “rowdy rudderless protesters.” Yet, the more I got involved, I realized that I get to define what “activist” means and looks for me. Protesting out in the streets is not the only way we can be a force.   

Here are questions I ask myself to define the activist I want to be: What is my role in passing the Dream Act? Why is it important not only for me (directly affected) but for the entire country? What will history write about Dreamers/Americans in the 21st century? How can I use my skills, and zeal to best help the movement? Am I providing value or just adding noise to the madhouse? 

[8] Is It Just Fog?

We tend to overestimate what we can do in short-term, but underestimate what we can do in long-term.

The hard part of creating or starting anything is getting comfortable with the fog. — I cannot see exactly how I will succeed… I don’t know if my effort and countless hours will result in any positive impact… It is uncomfortable to spend weeks or months on a potentially fruitless task. Do I have the resilience to get past the blows of people’s doubt and envy? Can I suck up my pride and put out work that will only receive one LIKE or two VIEWS on social media? 

Progress is slow. Progress is walking in darkness.

[9] Is Loneliness Necessary?

James Baldwin in 1965. ©Sedat Pakay

“Generally, solitude and isolation go together. Yet there is a subtle difference between them. Solitude is often voluntary, whereas isolation is not… Isolation is compulsory, close to imprisonment, whereas solitude is sought by poets, painters, musicians, dreamers — in other words, creators. Criminals isolate themselves in their crimes, but poets free themselves and their words through and with their solitude.“

-Elie Wiesel

This year has been the loneliest I have ever felt. I spent a lot of time reading, writing, and self-reflecting alone in my apartment or coffee shops. Unsure of how to handle the termination of DACA, but perpetually anxious to lead us closer to a legislative solution.

Was I wasting my youth? Was I missing out on life? The FOMO was overwhelming! 

Yet, 2017 is the year I felt most accomplished and proud of myself. I finally launched UndocuX, I read more books in one year than in the previous three years, I got involved in amazing civic organizations, I met special people, and I finally revealed my undocumented story.  

This got me thinking is loneliness required for success? The greatest creators tend to encourage solitude. If so how do we learn to balance the necessary alone time for self-improvement and the rejuvenating company of good friends, family, and human connection?

[10] Is it Worth It?

The antidote for fifty enemies is one friend.

-Aristotle

When you meet someone you like or admire you better go get them. Whether it’s a potential friend, partner, or mentor. It is rare to find people that are level-headed and bring purpose to your life. It is also frustrating. Searching and cultivating those friends takes patience. Even “good” friends need time to get used to being loved.

We, humans of the 21st century, do not know how to love without being self-conscious. We are prideful, envious, distracted, and distrusting. Some walk at a very slow pace. Meet them where they are, not where you’d like them to be. If in the end, you can call them a brother or sister, won’t the frustration be worth it?

New Year, Further Questions.

*EXTRA: The questions above were inspired by these books:

Keep the dialogue alive and running by sharing with someone you care.

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