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  • Writer's pictureJames Frater

Happy Birthday To Me

As I sit here reflecting on my last 12 months, I am feeling a little anxious about my birthday because I always feel like I need to do more and be more to mirror the increase in my age. This year, however, there is a gratitude for life that outweighs any of the anxiety I have been feeling. My birthday is or was (depending on when I publish this) on Monday 9th March, in case you want to buy me a present.

Here are the lessons from my Jordan year:

1. Do your best

This is super important. We all know people that do not have to be in the room for people to give raving reviews about them or their work. This is normally because of their character (we’ll get on to that later) or because of the consistency of the work that they do. I have spoken about this before, but I have been reminded about it far too many times to not touch on it again. In every task you are given, no matter how menial, you should always put 100% into it. Not only does it make you more credible because it shows consistency, but you have to do the small things well in order for people to trust you with the bigger ones.

This also extends to favours. When you promise to do something as a favour, the work you put into it reflects how much you value the ‘thing’ but more importantly, it shows how much you value the person you’re doing the favour for.

2. Love people how they want to be loved

Listen up because this is a lesson for everyone.

We all like to think that we are supportive, compassionate and trustworthy people that would do all the things that encompass being a good friend/relative/partner (for brevity’s sake, I will refer this as being a ‘good person’). The problem is: there is no one way of being a good person and sometimes the people you’re trying to love have a different definition of what that ‘love’ looks like – it sounds simple right?

In Rebel Ideas, Matthew Syed talks about the problem with standardisation and averages; both assume that most people will fit into an arbitrary mould and both completely ignore the varying differences in each individual. This leads to lacklustre and unsatisfactory services for a lot of people that do not fit into the standardised averages.

He also talks about the dilemma of people buying wedding gifts. Often the bride and groom will have a wish list so guests know what to buy them, but you will always get guests that will buy presents based on what they would appreciate.

In the context of giving love: individuals respond differently to different types of love and there is no arbitrary mould for what it should look like. We also exist in these relationships with our own ideas of how we would like to be loved, and impose those on other people.

Start looking and listening to what others are saying. If you find yourself getting frustrated because your efforts aren’t being reciprocated and/or appreciated, ask yourself this: “do I understand how this person likes to be loved?”.

3. Develop the things that people can’t see

I believe you have to master 3 layers to be successful:

  • The first layer is good and consistent character

  • The second layer is commitment and discipline (to development)

  • The third layer is technical skill and natural ability

The first two are the things that people, generally, cannot see and they are also the hardest to do. Simple psychology will tell you that you are more motivated when you know that people will be able to see the results, which is why we spend so much time focusing on them.

Focusing on the first two, with the help of my Character Building* group, taught me how to be vulnerable, and that has significantly improved the depth of a lot of the relationships that I already had. It forced me to question the root of my beliefs and values, and whether they were in line with the man I wanted to be.

I have been a lot more disciplined with prioritising my development. Instead of doing things because I wanted to, I started doing things that I knew my older self would be grateful for. Take reading, for example, I don’t read all the time because I am obsessed with reading, I just know that in order to help others it’s necessary for me to empower myself. I fail ALL THE TIME, but I get back up and try again.

* Character Building (CB) was a year-long programme that I did with ~19 other brothers. Throughout the year we looked at and dissected every part of our character. The only criterion was that we had to allow ourselves to be open and vulnerable.

4. Know your value add

This has been the hardest one for me. I have spoken, in previous posts, about setting steadfast boundaries and that is one way of letting people know that you know your worth (or maybe I journaled it?). However, that is not what I will be going into again. I saw a tweet that said “by the time you realise your worth, you’ll be so much more valuable” and it really resonated with how I used to feel. By the time I thought “I’m not too bad at this” people were telling me “you’re extremely capable of doing X”.

Once I started journaling, it meant that I was constantly documenting and reflecting, so I have been able to see my progress and regression *looks down at my belly* in the different areas of my life. It means that I can confidently tell people where I can add value and where I need more support. It also makes asking people for money (LOL) much easier: “that will be £100,000 for the deposit and you can pay the rest when I have finished”. WE CLAIM IT IN JESUS’ NAME.

5. Be grateful

I speak about this all the time, but the constant reminders of life’s fragility have really hammered home the importance of this point. It’s so easy to complain about life, but it’s equally as easy to stop and appreciate the small things that make life so beautiful. Although structural racism and capitalism are on our necks, we actually have to thank God for the things and the people that He has blessed us with.

I’m grateful for life. I’m grateful for my education. I’m grateful that I am able to empower others. I am grateful for Jamaican food. I am grateful for my friends and family. When you actually try, you realise that there are positives that can be taken out of every situation.

I have made it a habit to check in with people as soon as I think of them, or to message people “I love you” when my gut tells me to do so. You will never regret taking 30 seconds out of your day to do so, but there is a chance you’ll regret missing the opportunity to do so.

I am really looking forward to my Kobe year. I feel blessed and I feel loved, and I am optimistic for the future. Thank you for being a part of the journey so far, and here is to more life.

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