“Everyone has the power for greatness—not for fame but greatness, because greatness is determined by service.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Last night I attended an event ASCAP put on called Women Behind the Music: LA Edition. There was a panel of inspiring women including Senior Editor of Billboard Magazine, Gail Mitchell, VP of Creative Relations and Marketing at Motown, Myisha Brooks, and recording artist K. Michelle. The women shared inspiring stories from their experiences in the industry, but also lamented on the difficulties they’ve faced in the predominantly male-run field. Major themes included ignoring the nay-sayers and consistently pursuing your dreams, showing up every day and doing your best, and not taking anything personally. After the panel, I happened to get involved in a discussion about the book The Four Agreements, which has themes that coincide perfectly with the topics discussed by the panel. The concepts Don Miguel Ruiz writes about in the book are very simple, but are transformational if practiced consistently. Simply put, the four agreements are “principles to practice in order to create love and happiness in your life.”
The first agreement is “Be Impeccable with your Word: Speak with integrity. Say only what you mean. Avoid using the Word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others. Use the power of your Word in the direction of truth and love.”
This agreement can bring a lot of unconscious behavior to the surface. Make a list of all the times during a day you use your words in the direction of truth and love and all the times you use it to gossip or spread negativity. Even if you’re not speaking down on others, there’s a very good chance you may be speaking negatively about yourself. All thoughts, words, and actions create at some level and bringing awareness to patterns we have allow us to choose a higher and better path. Gossip can be one of the hardest behaviors to stop, but breaking this habit alone will change your life infinitely for the better. Additionally, training yourself to have positive self-talk is one of the most powerful things you can do to change your life. Let’s say a typical exchange with your co-worker goes something like “Girllll, did you see what Raquel is wearing today!? What is she thinking with her body looking the way is does? Not that I should talk, I’ve been eating like a cow all week. I’m disgusting!” This may feel totally normal to you, but in reality it is doing a lot of harm, to you, to the person you are gossiping with, and often to the person you are gossiping about. You’ve also put yourself down casually, but even casual put downs are very damaging. Becoming conscious of what you are saying and what your intentions are will allow you to choose better thoughts and words. Do you want to hurt Raquel or feel horrible about yourself? No, probably not. When you break this behavior by becoming conscious of the urge to speak ill of someone else or yourself, you can easily make a change. At first, you may not feel like you have much to say if the majority of your conversations revolve around gossip. However, if you can hold off on speaking negatively, soon your conversations will be productive and inspiring. When you speak encouragingly to people and always seek to build others and yourself up, the entire world offers itself to you for the taking. Relationships improve, doors that were closed begin to fly open, and trust and security are established. If you can go for just one day without using your word to speak against yourself or others, you will immediately begin to see changes. Consciously using your word in the direction of truth and love will bring blessings pouring in.
“I don’t do shit until I meditate.” – Russell Simmons
I was at a friends house one night when he turned off all the lights, set up a black light, and then put large pieces of paper on the wall and gave us markers. He was working for Revolt at the time and was always talking about creating and catching vibes. I immediately felt like a little kid and began drawing and writing. I wrote about all the things we have to be grateful for, how incredible it is that we get to create our lives and choose anything we would like, and included all my favorite song lyrics and quotes. This guy Rob had just gotten there and began admiring my work and remarking how dope it was. We were having drinks and every time we went to cheers, he asked me to make a toast. I expanded on what I was writing about, just publicly appreciating the moment and reflecting on how incredible it was to be surrounded by great people in Los Angeles who are all following their dreams. I pointed out some obvious blessings that we often take for granted. He kept asking me to give toasts and I could see his vibration rising as well the more grateful he felt, reflecting on the things I was speaking about. It’s so accepted for people to complain all day, but it’s rare to speak about all our blessings out loud. It’s funny how that works and you can see evidence of this everywhere, from the news to the workplace. I normally speak about these things around my friends, but to do it in a room full of strangers was something new to me. I realized that the confidence in that moment came from the encouragement of Rob.
We left my boys spot and headed to the studio. There were four of us, Rob, a girl he was dealing with, a friend of his, and me. Rob is a producer and was complaining that he had turned in five songs to Puffy, but that Puff had only like three of them. Feeding off our conversation earlier, I confidently stopped him in his tracks. I reminded him of how incredible it was that Puffy not only messes with his music, but that he believes in him so much to tell him the truth and expect the absolute best from him. Puffy has built his brand on excellence, and by being allowed into his world, you must consistently rise and exceed his expectations. It reminds me of his feature on Rick Ross’s song, “Nobody,”
“You wanted to fuckin’ walk around these roaches?These n***** is roaches. These n***** is mere motherfuckin’ mortals. I’m tryna push you to supreme being. You don’t wanna motherfuckin’, you don’t wanna embrace your destiny. You wanna get by. You don’t wanna go into the motherfuckin’ dark, where it’s lonely. You can’t handle the motherfuckin’, the pain of the motherfuckin’ not knowin’ when the shit is gonna stop. You fuckin’ wanna walk around with these n*****? What the fuck is their culture? Where the fuck is their souls at? What defines you? These n***** with these fuckin’ silly looks on their faces.You wanna walk around with them or you wanna walk with God, n****? Make up your got damn mind!”
“You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestation of your own blessings.” – Elizabeth Gilbert
I had a realization somewhere in the last year. I took a pause from asking God for the things I wanted and started asking what (S)He wanted from me. I declared daily, “God, use me for Your highest purpose! Show me how I can use my unique gifts and talents to be of service to the world.” It was at this point that I became uber-aware of the miracles occurring all around me.
In the past, if I had an inkling to say or do something, oftentimes I would ignore it for fear of judgment. After I prayed this prayer, however, I acted on my intuition, knowing that God was answering my prayer. There have been so many instances since that day where God has used me to be a blessing, and has blessed me in return.
One day, I was walking to meet my friend Caitlin to go hiking. I confused the cross street we were meeting at, and ended up sitting and waiting for her on a stone wall outside of a popular plaza. After a few minutes, the parking attendant, an older Indian man, came over and began speaking with me. We made some small talk about his job before he blurted out to me that he didn’t like black people. I was shocked. Why would he think it was okay to say something like that to me? I remembered my prayer and decided that cursing him out would do no good and decided to try another method. I asked him why he disliked black people so much. He told me that all the people that park in his lot are respectful, except black people who often yell at him and try to physically assault him. I told him I was sorry to hear that he had had this experience, but reasoned with him that these were just a few people, and not reflective of the entire race. He wouldn’t listen. He had had so many bad experiences that nothing I could say would change his mind. I explained to him that he was having these experiences because he expected to have them and that my experiences were quite the opposite. I explained that he could change the way he experienced people and events by changing his thinking. I told him verbatim, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” At that moment my friend texted me clarifying the correct street she was on. As I went to get up to leave, a beautiful black family in an SUV slowly pulled into the parking space directly in front of us. The black man looked directly at the Indian man, bowed his head, and put his hands up in the prayer pose, respectfully thanking him for doing his job. The indian man looked at me with the widest eyes I’ve ever seen. Once again, I looked at him and repeated, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change,” and happily walked off.