I Finally Stopped Waiting To Prioritize My Healthiness & Happiness.

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I’m part of a generation that’s not afraid to work for exceptional results. We see sacrifice as an inevitable rite of passage to be endured on the path to success. We have big dreams, and we’ll do whatever it takes to bring them to life. Unfortunately, this mentality can be toxic when unchecked.

The “whatever it takes” mentality that’s glorified in certain circles can lead to unbalanced lives. People believe that sacrificing health, happiness, and sanity to accomplish their goals is a viable option. Even if these goals are accomplished, the consequences of these choices outweigh the benefits.

I’m not speaking about this in theory. I'm speaking about this as I reflect on what my reality was for the majority of my 2014 and 2015. I had just graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University with a degree in Sociology. I was doing what I thought I was supposed to do - putting my professional life first, working on my entrepreneurial goals second, and putting my personal life on the backburner. I was blessed to have a job that offered me a significant degree of flexibility that wasn't afforded to most employees, but that didn't change the fact that I was overworked and undervalued.

By 2015, the euphoria of having a full time, decently paying job had worn off. I was an ordinary person who was past the infatuation phase. I was working over 40 hours for my day job, running my music discovery platform, Artistic Manifesto, in my spare time, and attempting to have a social life on the weekends.

On the surface, it seemed as though everything was going relatively well in my life. That didn't change the fact that it kept getting harder for me to get out of bed every morning. I felt lethargic and unenthused about my days.

I'm a resilient person. I've been able to push through unfavorable circumstances and negative emotions throughout many different periods of my life. At times, I've used my resilience as a band aid to hide the root causes of situations that I could have avoided. I tend to push through situations without thinking about how I could have avoided them in the first place. For a while, I didn't think about why my feelings of lethargy and indifference were persisting. I couldn't work out the disconnect between how I thought I should feel, and the emotions I was actually harboring.

I told myself that I would only live this way for a short period of time, until I got to a certain point in my journey. I told myself that I had to make sacrifices while I could still afford to. I didn't have anyone to take care of except for myself, so why not now?

I told myself that I’d start to eat healthy again when I could afford to. I told myself that I’d work out consistently again when I had time to go to the gym every day. I told myself that getting work done was more important than sleeping and giving myself time to decompress. I was wrong. I could only ascribe to those beliefs for a short season of time before my mind, body, and spirit started to falter as a consequence. No professional or entrepreneurial accomplishments could patch up the holes in my fundamentally unhealthy life.

I put my happiness and health on hold to sprint after my dreams with reckless abandon. I was quickly reminded that sprints can’t last for long.

My epiphany came to me on a lazy Saturday afternoon.

I was laying in bed, scrolling through NetFlix, just like a millennial. I had been watching way too much Family Guy that day. I'm frequently drawn to childish television shows because they offer me a break from the complexities of the real life problems I'm constantly navigating, but this time around I wanted something different.

I stumbled across a crossfit documentary, and decided it was worth a shot. I've always been motivated by the rush of athletics, so I figured watching how professionals train for competition couldn’t hurt. As I watched the athletes practicing and competing, I felt a surge of adrenaline reminiscent of when I would set up at the starting line before my track races back in high school.

I was an all-state middle distance runner in my high school years. I certainly wasn’t on track to be an Olympian, but I was a solid athlete. I was never the most talented, but I trained hard every summer, and would outwork just about anyone on the track. The rush of competition was euphoric to me. I was proud to see my times get faster as the season progressed.

These positive emotions had been an integral part of my life for my entire high school career. When I got cut from the track team my freshman year of college, I quickly transitioned into a regimented weight lifting program to make up for the void left by competitive running. After graduating from college, I lost track of my physical discipline as I did my best to cope with the stress of finding a job and transitioning into the professional world.

I had to call a spade a spade. Working out had been a great stress reliever and mood booster for the majority of my life. At this point, I hadn't been working out consistently for years. I had hidden behind the excuse that I didn’t have enough time for the gym for far too long. It didn’t matter if skipping the gym gave me more hours in the day if I wasn’t feeling fulfilled, happy, or confident enough to make the most of those hours. I went with my gut and decided it was time to get back in the gym.

I couldn’t afford to wait for the ideal time to take control of my physical fitness again. I realized that I’ll always be busy, but this was one thing I couldn’t afford to ignore anymore.

I bought a membership at the Gold’s Gym a few blocks away, and started going at least four times a week - sometimes before work, sometimes in the evening, and sometimes on the weekends. Working out routinely is not an easy habit to get back into. Each workout was a shock my system. My body was growing and adapting, but the process was exhausting at times.

I had to get over my ego before growth could occur. It had been two long years since I had been in peak physical condition. I couldn’t lift anything close to what I had been putting up when I was lifting every day back in college, but I could definitely start somewhere.

My first few weeks were a huge reality check. I've always had a fairly strong chest. My arms, on the other hand, refused to grow for years. I decided to make Day One a chest day so that I could get off to a strong start, but it didn't save me from embarrassing myself. I struggled to bench half of what I had been putting up routinely a few years earlier. I had to forget about numbers, and simply allow myself grace and time to focus on fundamentals.

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Before I grew to appreciate mental fatigue as an indicator of mental growth, I learned to recognize muscular pain during or after a workout as a sign of physical growth.

You only grow from working out when you gradually push yourself past what you think your limits are. Pushing past limits hurts, whether they're mental or physical. As I started to get back into shape, I was motivated by the sore body parts that kept popping up. 

Fortunately, there were less painful side effects to appreciate as well. I started to fall asleep more quickly, experienced a deeper sleep, and woke up feeling more refreshed. I started my workdays with post-workout endorphins that helped me to more easily push through the mundane aspects of my work. My mood improved and stabilized.

I had been worried about my time in the gym taking away time from my workday, but my gym time helped me to manage the stress of my workday. It's been invaluable as I've transitioned from my corporate job to my life as a full time, fully independent entrepreneur.

I’ve been in the gym consistently for almost two years now, and I still consider my time in the gym to be one of the most enjoyable parts of my days. It gives me consistent fulfillment, no matter where I am in the midst of the ups and downs that come with being your own boss. 

This year, I decided that I don't want to limit the ways that I can benefit from my fitness regimen. I've come to realize that passion will always be my most powerful motivational force. Having the discipline to establish habits, continue my self-education, and maintain a productive schedule is critical, but my passion is the foundation upon which those tenets are established and maintained.

I love to work out. Who's to say that I can't use my skillset, talents, and experiences to be impactful in the world of fitness? I'm never going to be a professional athlete, but who's to say that I can't find my own lane? I'm going to find out for myself. Over the past six months, I’ve pushed away a few voices of doubt en route to setting a few more advanced physical goals for myself.

Specifically, I decided that I wanted to use my improving fitness to supplement my work as a social media influencer. Working as an influencer is a strange space to be in, because of how heavily public perception and perceived popularity weighs on how much you get paid. To work in the realm of social media is to leave your success up to a number of factors, many of which are outside of your control.

The world isn't fair, but it is predictable. I realized that continuing to get into better shape would not only benefit me internally. I also knew that looking and feeling my best would help me to be more appealing to my social media audience, and subsequently the companies I hoped to partner with. I couldn't afford to not push myself further.

A friend of mine named Olu has been helping me to refine my workouts as I continue to get into better shape. I met Olu when we were two of the only black kids at a running camp back in high school. Every summer, we spent a week in the Appalachian Mountains getting into top shape for the coming year of competition. We also competed against each other fairly often.

The thing is, Olu didn’t stop with running competitively in high school. In fact, he competed in the triple jump for Nigeria in the 2016 Rio Olympics. That same year, I competed in the couch sit and the pillow fluff. These days, he’s traveling worldwide to compete and working as a personal trainer when he’s back in the district.

He’s given me some excellent new routines, and my body’s starting to grow in ways I didn’t think my genes would allow. If you’re looking to level up your fitness plan, he’s got some affordable options in place to help.

If you'll look closely at the picture below, you'll see significant signs of struggle on my face thanks to Olu's challenging routines. He's incredibly attentive to detail, and knows how to give instructions that are easily to follow. More than half of the exercises I did in our first workout together were unfamiliar to me, but I didn't feel foolish trying to do them. 

Side note: Olu and I made an Apple Music playlist to get you amped up for the gym. Don't sleep.

Can you see the struggle all over my face? I know you see it.

Olu convinced me to try yoga last week, and it was actually pretty lit. It was also pretty challenging. I had heard that yoga helps a lot with flexibility and recovery for people whose workout plans are weightlifting-focused. People like me.

We went to a studio in D.C. called East Side Yoga. The owner, Alia Khan, was very welcoming. She’s also a music lover like yours truly, which is always a plus. The class was on a rooftop. At one point, I was curled up in the fetal position, listening to Frank Ocean as the breeze gently blew over my body. Nobody spoke for two or three minutes, as the instructor gave us time to let our bodies remain completely still. During that moment, I felt more relaxed than I had felt in months. 

I didn’t know my body could do the things that it did that night. I definitely felt like a beginner, but noticed some positive changes almost immediately. I had entered into the class sore from the day before (most likely from trying to deadlift more weight than I had any business picking up). 

When I was walking back to my car after the class I felt noticeably more loose and limber. Alia told me that yoga can help improve athletic performance in everything - from running, to lifting, to my personal favorite, the couch sit. Yes, yoga also improves posture. I don’t have any plans to become an expert yogi in the near future, but I definitely want to make this a more consistent part of my routine. 

Alia is showing both Olu and me some of the finer points of our poses.

Alia is showing both Olu and me some of the finer points of our poses.

As my workout frequency and intensity has increased, my appetite has done the same. I’m eating as much food as I ate when I was running 60+ miles a week during high school cross country season. I don’t have the 17 year old metabolism that I used to have, so it's more important than ever to find time efficient ways to maintain a healthy diet.

That’s where BodyReady comes in. They’re a D.C.-based healthy meal prep company. I’ve been eating their food for three weeks now, and it’s one of the best choices I’ve made in recent memory. BodyReady’s weekly food deliveries not only help me to eat healthier, they also help me to conserve my most valuable entrepreneurial asset - time.

When I have busy work days or my energy is low, it’s a blessing to have a healthy, tasty, fresh, prepackaged meal ready to be heated up and devoured. I don’t have to spend as much time cooking, thinking of what to eat, or cleaning up the kitchen. My days are typically overbooked, so any extra bit of time that I can secure for myself is invaluable. To top it off, they’re a black owned company. The BodyReady founders are entrepreneurs in their late twenties, like myself. The first day we met, I had a plate of the salmon and quinoa dish that you can see in the picture below, and I knew that I had come to the right place.

As a brand ambassador for BodyReady, expect me to talk a lot more about the different food options that they have available, and how they fit into my fitness journey. My abs are still buffering, but these meals are helping me to speed up the download rate. If you’re based in Washington, D.C., be sure to check them out. Tell them I sent you.

All of these new additions to my daily routine are not connected to the vision I had for myself five years ago when I said that I wanted to be an entrepreneur. I wanted to run a music blog full time. That was the only vision I had for myself. That vision has clearly evolved. It continues to grow and shift. Music will always play a part in what I do, but there’s going to be a lot more to it than that. We mature, we learn more, and our visions for our future shift. That’s life.

I don’t have a rigid plan for where I want to be as an entrepreneur in a decade. I’m viewing the possibilities stemming from my uncertainty as a blessing rather than a detriment.

I became a full entrepreneur in July 2016 because I had to, not because I chose to when I was “ready.” I’ve been constantly adapting, reevaluating my methods, and changing my approach since then. I don’t ever pretend to have all of the answers. I still feel lost some days. I still feel unsure of where to direct my focus at times. I still have to move past a lot of roadblocks to continue my progression.

In the present, I’m working on refining my daily habits and figuring out my vision for the next 12 months. I’m not married to one particular set of end state goals. My newfound focus on wellness and health has not only helped me to work more efficiently as an entrepreneur, it’s also put me in a position to consider new opportunities that lie at the intersection of social media, music, and fitness.

This story is to be continued, but it’s definitely getting more exciting every day because of my willingness to prioritize passion in my life. Here’s to new possibilities, my friends.

"I Finally Stopped Waiting To Prioritize My Healthiness & Happiness."

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Full disclosure: I am a brand ambassador for BodyReady and Eastside Yoga. All thoughts, opinions, and struggle faces are my own.

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