June 27, 2014

Sometimes You Win Sometimes You Learn (V)

Hello, hello! I apologize for failing to post last week for our series, but it's great to see you here today! We're currently on Chapters 9 and 10 in John C. Maxwell's Sometimes You Win Sometimes You Learn in our series, which focus on dealing with problems and bad experiences.
"Mistakes are painful when they happen, but years later a collection of mistakes is what is called experience" (Denis Waitley).
Have any of you ever had to deal with huge, snowballing problems that Maxwell describes? Accurately assessing and then dealing with problems is just what everybody needs to do in order to lead successful lives and grow. They're a part of daily life, so learn to enjoy facing them; enjoy the journey toward a goal (yep, I'm thinking of The Alchemist).

Maxwell's way to successfully overcoming problems and learning from them are (153-156):

  1. Anticipate. Be ready for something to be challenging as you go into something. 
  2. Communicate. Don't be afraid to talk to people about your problem--oftentimes, problems involve other people from relationships to collaborating on a group project.
  3. Evaluate. When it comes to evaluating a problem, more problems can arise when we overestimate or underestimate it. So taking all the facts in with a grain of salt is crucial to solving the problem efficiently.
  4. Appreciate. What would life be like if we could all be successful winners without ever having to work for anything? It's ostensibly nice, but just think about it for a moment. 
Maxwell compares running into problems with an eagle flying in turbulent winds. Turbulent winds cause the eagle to fly higher, they give the eagle a larger view. Turbulent winds lift the eagle above harassment. Turbulent winds allow the eagle to use less effort, turbulent winds allow the eagle to stay up longer. Turbulent winds help the eagle to fly faster (156-157). Be like the eagle and soar to great heights as you address every problem that comes your way.

Although we do our best to get through our problems, we still run into bad experiences. I've sure had my share of poop thrown at me, and although we face different forms of pain you've probably had a bunch of lame things happen to you too. It is so easy to let certain bad experiences get you down, but it's during these moments that our strength shines out the brightest. 

Maxwell believes that the most important thing to do during a rough time is to put your losses into perspective (162-171).
  • Accept your humanness. Nobody is perfect.If something bad happens, it's not because you messed up worse than your friends or that you did anything inadequately. Life has its ups and downs, right? So as we relish and bask in the ups, we need to learn to at least accept and maybe even appreciate the downs. 
  • Learn to laugh at yourself and life. At least try to smile. It'll make the biggest difference; try it yourself next time.
  • Don't base your self-worth on a bad experience, don't feel sorry for yourself, and consider your failures as a process to learn and improve. It's kind of giving yourself a bit of tough love. Look at things objectively, and you'll be able to pull yourself out of the rut faster than if you mope around for days over getting stuck.
  • Don't give up. Because you're worth it!
  • Don't let your bad experience become worse experiences. I admit that I'm guilty of doing this. When I went through some hard times, I would often replay those events over and over again in my head. Instead of living my darkest days once, I ended up reliving them a countless number of times, and doing this caused even more damage. Maxwell also focuses on learning as the punches come. If you don't realize what you did wrong, you could end up literally reliving the same bad experience again and again in different forms.
  • Let the bad experience lead you to a good experience. Darkness exists, and so does light. Find the light.
So this concludes all I have to say about Maxwell's ninth and tenth chapters. What did you think? Let me know in the comments below! Also, please subscribe to Smiles No Matter for future updates. Next week, we'll be studying the eleventh and twelfth chapters next Friday. Hope to see you then! 

Smile on,
-Riley XO

June 25, 2014

How to Make Hard Choices

Hello there! I seem to have a lot of spare time this week, so what better way to spend it than sharing new things with you? This TED video came out a little while ago, but I watched it just recently and couldn't help but marvel at how profound and insightful it is. Ruth Chang is a philosopher who presents a compelling explanation about hard choices.

I don't know what the decision-making process is for you guys, but I personally draw upon two primary sources for information as I think through a hard choice: the heart and the mind. Psychologists probably have different terms for these, but basically the heart represents that gut feeling--instinctual, but often reckless voice. The mind, on the flip side, often mulls over the facts, weighs pros and cons, and is the voice of reason.

For me, my hardest choices come around when the two voices give me conflicting conclusions, or when one of them doesn't know what to say. Furthermore, as Chang says, the mind can compile lists of information that in the end don't amount to very much. What should I listen to, the heart or the mind?

The way I see it, the mind finds reasons for making a choice. But the heart creates reasons as you make the choice.

So, when faced with a tough decision, follow your heart. Because preserving life, love, and joy are far more important than what the data say.

Smile on,
-Riley XO

June 24, 2014

Tagged :)

Hi all! I apologize for failing to post last week. I actually started these posts but didn't get around to publishing them. See, I went on a trip a couple weeks ago...do you know what it's like to need a vacation from vacation? Well, I just needed a quick break from writing to rest up and recover from two weeks packed with adventures. With that said, can we pretend that it's last week so that this post makes a little more sense? Thanks, you're a great reader!


So, Rcubed nominated me for the Liebster Blog Award a very long time ago. I actually thought about not accepting the award because I wasn't sure if you guys like these posts much (this is the third time Smiles No Matter has been nominated for the Liebster, yay!), but I just got back from a two-week-long vacation and wanted to do a more casual, simple post today. Also, I really enjoy Rcubed's blog and her questions looked pretty fun. Without further ado, here is Smile No Matter's 3rd Liebster acceptance! (To see my previous posts for the Liebster award, please click here and here.)

Thank you so much, R-cubed!
Here are 11 facts about myself:
  1. I just got back from a cruise around the Baltics! I was gone for 16 days, and it was a great time to take a break from working and writing, but I actually blogged up a storm so that there would be scheduled posts for you guys while I was gone! The Sometimes You Win Sometimes You Learn series had a great start and I didn't want it to get cut off or forgotten, so I am so grateful for those of you that continued to read and comment.
  2. This might sound pathetic, but I went to bed at 16:00 last night and woke up at 5:00 this morning, and then took an hour-long nap at 9:00. That was the most sleep I've gotten in the longest time! The crazy things jet-lag can do to a girl.
  3. Yesterday was my birthday. I lounged around the house, watched all the missed Bubzbeauty videos, spent time with a best friend at Ikea (greatest store in the world), did some yoga, and went to bed super early after a simple dinner with my dad. It was pretty chill because we had just arrived back home the previous afternoon.
  4. I uploaded a new video yesterday! One of my New Year's Resolutions for 2014 was to try vlogging; unfortunately, I haven't been able to stay very consistent for the last several months... I am back on it, though! My videos are admittedly a work in progress, but you've gotta start somewhere!
  5. The yoga has been going well. I practiced a bit yesterday (first workout since returning from the cruise) and it was pretty great. I'm excited or my session today! If you'd like to try it with me, just check out this YouTube video
  6. Other than yoga and writing to you, I'm stalking professors' websites for research opportunities, then have a night shift at work. Not such a bad day so far!
  7. The previous six facts were kind of lame for facts because they've just been an account of what I've been up to recently. But the last four facts will be more fun. At least I hope they will!
  8. My favorite shirt is this pink Calvin Klein...thing. It kind of looks like a bro-tank with an epic collar and it's really soft on the inside so I'm not even sure if it's supposed to be worn as a shirt or a vest, but I've been wearing it as a shirt...possibly every day this summer. 
  9. Four of my friends and I are hoping to live together when we all graduate. We call our dream home "The Doctor Mansion" because there was a point in time when we all wanted to be some form of doctor or another (three PhDs, an MD, and a veterinarian). When we realized that we'd be practically broke upon graduation, we made a pre-dream home, which is called the Doctor Apartment.
  10. I like visiting art museums. While I was on vacation, one of my favorite sites that we visited was the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. There is something about art that is so powerful and intriguing--paintings just capture things that elude other mediums, somehow. 
  11. If I could choose to be an animal, I would be a dolphin. And I don't really know why.  
A "Favorite Shirt!" selfie for anyone puzzled by my bizarre description from #8. 
My responses to Rcubed's fun questions:
  • Would you rather...only say random things or say nothing at all? I would rather say nothing at all. I'm pretty introverted and really only talk when I feel like what I have to say is relevant. So if the random thing isn't really relevant, being quiet fits me better.
  • What's your favorite thing to talk about? Probably Christian theology. There is so much mystery and love that surrounds God, and every time I talk about him I feel uplifted and inspired.
  • Which Frozen character are you most like, Ana, Elsa, or Olaf? Although a lot of people say I'm like Ana, I feel this weird affinity with Elsa. I don't know if it comes from being the older sister or my love for Let it Go, but I just have to go with Elsa.  
  • Would you rather breathe fire or shoot ice out of your eyes? Why? I would like to shoot ice out of my eyes. It would make my death glare a lot more effective, hehe. 
  • Finish the sentence: When life gives you lemons... sucks to suck! (Just kidding :P)  
  • What's the nicest compliment that you've ever received? It doesn't seem like a compliment at first:"I love you." It's a compliment because love is such a powerful word. It means that the person who's said it is willing to put you before them, and what else can make anyone feel better than that?  
  • What's the randomest thing anybody's ever said to you? I can't think of a single line, but the most random conversation I've ever had happened when I got in a debate online over whether vampires are real or not. It was truly random and flabbergasting for both sides
  • Imagine you're a starving dragon in the dreadfullest winter anybody's ever seen in ages. You've dedicated your life to understanding and associating with people. Your motto is "People are friends, not food." Then you see a fat, ugly, evil guy walk by your house. What would you do? I would egg his car.   
  • Would you rather be a contestant on a reality singing TV show, or a judge on it? Singing! I would sing Bleeding Out by Imagine Dragons. 
  • Would you rather be a terrible baseball player who makes a million dollars or a really good singer who only makes $100,000? The money doesn't matter so long as it's my passion. That being said, I tend to be passionate about things I think I'm good at, so I'd rather be the singer. 
  • If you could jump into a book, what book would you jump into? Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. Hogwarts just sounds like the greatest! 
I wanted to nominate a very special blog today called Journey for Jessi, written by Emily. I went to middle school with a wonderful person named Jessi, who very unfortunately passed away suddenly very recently. She was a person of great faith, had a vibrant personality, and was always there for the people who needed her. Emily started a new blog and made it sort of a tribute for Jessi. This was such a selfless act of friendship that I just had to share it with you guys. Emily shares a lot of recipes and gives thanks for health and many of the other things around her. Her first post gives us a glimpse of Emily and Jessi's stories. I hope you'll like it!

Here are my questions for Emily:
  1. What is your favorite thing to do in your spare time?
  2. If you created a painting to express yourself, what color would you use the most?
  3. What is your favorite movie?
  4. If you had to describe your best friend in three words, what would they be?
  5. What is the thing that you miss the most about your childhood?
  6. What is your favorite article of clothing?
  7. Would you rather be a mouse-sized elephant or an elephant-sized mouse?
  8. Describe one of your role models.
  9. Say it's Thanksgiving dinner. What are you most looking forward to eating?
  10. What is one of your favorite memories?
  11. What is your favorite quote?
I hope that you accept my nomination, Emily, and best of luck to you both in your writing and life!

And I just wanted to thank all of you guys for reading this! Have a lovely day!

Smile on,
-Riley XO

June 13, 2014

Sometimes You Win Sometimes You Learn (IV)

Good evening, and thank you for stopping by. Today is Friday the 13th, the worst day of the year. How have you been surviving so far? Well, if it's been crummy so far, hopefully your day will get a little better with today's post. Even if you're not superstitious and your day has been great, I sincerely wish that this will be the little layer of glitter on the birthday card.

This week's post is special to me because it focuses on two parts of life that this blog is dedicated to inspire: daily appreciation and learning, and growth in the face of adversity. As you'll see, I really loved Maxwell's discussion on adversity and end up quoting him a lot today, so I hope you'll feel as inspired as I am after reading it. Please leave your thoughts and reactions in the comments; I look forward to seeing what you think!
Quote of the week: "Lord, deliver me from the man who never makes a mistake, and also from the man who makes the same mistakes twice" (William Mayo).
I personally believe that Maxwell chose the most underrated word for the title of Chapter 7 in Sometimes You Win Sometimes You Learn. "Teachability." What, Maxwell? To be honest, I actually wasn't expecting this chapter to be as cool as it turned out to be. "Teachability" sort of had this connotation of a pupil getting a lecture, or a dog capable of learning new tricks--but we know that life isn't like that! But actually, Maxwell is discussing a greater, constantly moving spirit of inquisitiveness, curiosity, open-mindedness, and consideration.

Teachable people have an attitude conducive to learning, possess a beginner's mindset, take long, hard looks in the mirror, encourage others to speak into their lives, and learn something new every day (109-118). So you see, teachable people are the ones who not merely able to learn, but actively seek to discover. From Maxwell's description, I picture a society living by Aristotle's philosophy built around eudaimonia (which is translated to mean a "flourishing life"), each person finding her/his whole life's worth, growing both from his/her own experiences and others' stories. Not a single day is wasted; every occurrence is valuable. People aren't just surviving, but thriving!

To become teachable, Maxwell gives us a road map from 119-123:

  1. Prepare. John Wooden said, "When opportunity comes, it's too late to prepare." Maxwell tells us to take a breath "each morning or evening before thinking through what your day will be like and where the greatest potential opportunities lie for you to learn" (120).
  2. Contemplate. Think about what you observed, read, and experienced through the day, and analyze what you can learn from any mistakes you made, from somebody you met, or from what you talked about.
  3. Apply. It takes a lot of discipline to apply what you've learned. It's kind of like trying to find a way to use a word you've just learned in context. But those chances you get show what you've learned. 
In the previous weeks, I've just kind of picked one of the quotes from the reading to highlight as the quote of the week and let you guys digest it on your own. But I wanted to put in my two cents' worth this time because I think that this one is especially cool. Since it's so cool, here it is again!
Lord, deliver me from the man who never makes a mistake, and also from the man who makes mistakes twice."
Let's face it: Nothing teaches a lesson the way a mistake does. (What is life if not for the dichotomies of successes and failures, of love and evil, of jubilation and sorrow? You can't have one without the other, right?) William Mayo makes the point that it is okay to make mistakes--it is actually good to make mistakes here and there because that's how we grow. But it's making mistakes twice that indicates that we're doing something wrong. By following the road map above, we become fierce, unafraid of failure, and then in the wake of adversity, we will be ready to learn and discover.

Adversity. When was the last time you faced it? Perhaps you're going through it now? Well, here are some words to inspire you the next time it comes around: "Extraordinary people survive under the most terrible circumstances and then become more extraordinary because of it" (Robertson Davies).

I would like to draw out an excerpt from the book to demonstrate the effects of adversity, in Maxwell's words:

There's a story about a young woman who complained to her father about her life and how hard things were for her. The adversity of life was overwhelming her, and she wanted to give up.
     As he listened, her father filled three pots with water and brought them to a boil on the stove. Into the first he put carrot slices, into the second he put eggs, and into the third he put ground coffee beans. He let them simmer for a few minutes and then placed the carrots, eggs, and coffee before her in three containers.
     "What do you see?" he asked.
     "Carrots, eggs, and coffee," she replied.
     He asked her to feel the carrots. She picked up a piece and it squished between her fingers. He then asked her to examine an egg. She picked one up, broke the shell, and saw the hard-boiled egg inside it. Finally, he asked her to sip the coffee. She smiled, as she tasted its rich flavor.
     "So what does it mean?" she asked.
     "Each ingredient was subjected to the same thing--boiling water--but each reacted differently. The carrots went in hard. But after they were in the boiling water, they became soft. The egg was fragile with a thin outer shell and a liquid interior. But it became hardened. The ground coffee beans changed little. But they changed the water for the better.
     "Which are you," he asked. "When you face adversity, how do you respond? Are you a carrot, an egg, or a coffee bean?"
     Life is filled with adversity. We can be squashed by it. We can allow it to make us hard. Or we can make the best of it, improving the situation (131-132).


How can we be like the coffee? We look for the advantages of adversity by keeping these things in mind (132-142):
  1. Adversity introduces us to ourselves if we're open to it.
  2. Adversity is a better teacher than success if we want to learn from it. 
  3. Adversity opens doors for new opportunities if we want to learn from it.
  4. Adversity can signal a coming positive transition if we respond correctly to it.
  5. Adversity brings profit as well as pain if we expect it and plan for it. 
  6. Adversity writes our story and if our response is right, the story will be good.
In the wake of adversity, it is so easy to want to retreat, to want to go hide and mend the wounds. But we have the choice to keep going. But not to just keep going--to run right up to the adversity--and then to push straight through it and emerge back to the light stronger than ever before.

If we consider the six points above, we see that adversity is a blessing, but it is totally up to us to count it as one.
Bonus quote of the week: "Some people treat adversity as a stepping-stone, others as a tombstone" (Maxwell).
Smile on,
-Riley XO

June 10, 2014

Take This Summer to Learn Something New

Greetings, person of the Internet! How have you been lately? My life's been good and fairly fun this past week. Just trying to take each day as a blessing and enjoy myself. You may have known this, but I started a blog series that is like a book club on John C. Maxwell's Sometimes You Win Sometimes You Learn. Reading this has been inspiring me to start learning and letting go of the bad things that have happened in the past. I thought that Chapter 6 on hope really helped stir what needed to be moved inside of my heart.

Do you have that one thing on your list that you've always wanted to do? Some people want to learn how to knit/crochet, some want to learn a new instrument, some want to read the Bible all the way though, and there are others who want to learn how to dance, paint, or train to run. That one thing for me is learning yoga. I think I can be a pretty high-strung person at times, so I've found myself wanting to try learning a new, fun way to exercise that also contains some meditative qualities to help the soul. What's that thing for you?

My challenge for you this fine summer of 2014 is to do that thing that's at the top of your list of things to learn. If you don't find time to try it now, when will you ever get the chance to? There is no better day than today!

Need a little help with finding the motivation to do this? Grab a pen and this month's page in a calendar and follow these steps:

  1. Write down your goal and why you want to reach it at the top of the page.
  2. Check out your schedule. Where are some open spots, and what rearrangements can you make for trying this new thing? 
  3. Make a plan. How are you going to learn this? Take a class to get started, or you can do what I've been doing with yoga, which is following some videos on YouTube. The Internet is a great place to find inspiration, and it also contains a ton of resources available to you--so take advantage of it all!
  4. Write down the days on which you'll work on this new activity. It doesn't have to be a daily thing. Maybe you only have one or two days a week that are available. Whatever there is, use it for something productive and fun!

What are you going to learn this summer? Let me know in the comments below!

Smile on,
-Riley XO

June 6, 2014

Sometimes You Win Sometimes You Learn (III)

Hello, thank you for visiting Smiles No Matter today! This is our third week into our reading journey through John C. Maxwell's book Sometimes You Win Sometimes You Learn. To see the previous weeks' posts, please click on the following links and read up on those, because I think that they contain some blocks that build toward today's post:
    ~ Introduction
    ~ Week 1
    ~ Week 2

We are about halfway through the series so far! Reading this book has helped guide me in self reflection and I've found some parts of it to be valuable while I reflect on my past and consider how to go about my future. And I think that this series has been a lot of fun, so I'm hoping to be able to do another one based on a book again later on. If you have any book recommendations that you'd like to see on this blog, please let me know in the comments below!
Quote of the week: "When you cease to be better, you cease to be good. When you stop growing, you cease to be useful--a weed in the garden of prosperity.... We are what we are today because we were what we were yesterday. And our thoughts today determine our actions tomorrow" (George Knox).

This week, Maxwell is addressing the following question in Chapters 5 and 6: Why and how do we do all of this learning stuff, anyway?

Learning in the face of a mistake or tragedy is absolutely crucial, because during those times, usually there is very little good to draw out from them if not for the lessons we learn. However, Maxwell argues that learning should be an everyday thing, that we should try our best every day to make ourselves better. Why? Because we have hope.

I loved Maxwell's answers to the question, "What does hope do for mankind?" on pages 90-91:
  • Hope shines brightest when the hour is darkest.
  • Hope motivates when discouragement comes.
  • Hope energizes when the body is tired.
  • Hope sweetens when the bitterness bites.
  • Hope sings when all melodies are gone.
  • Hope listens for answers when no one is talking. 
  • Hope climbs over obstacles when no one is helping.
  • Hope endures hardship when no one is caring. 
  • Hope smiles confidently when no one is laughing.
  • Hope reaches for answers when no one is asking.
  • Hope presses toward victory when no one is encouraging.
  • Hope dares to give when no one is sharing.
  • Hope brings the victory when no one is winning.
Hope is hard to define, but I would say that it's the little voice that tells you to keep going even when everything else around you is screaming at you to quit. I would also venture to say that hope is a sort of combination between love and faith. Losses lead us to question our own worth, so we need to find that love and courage to believe in ourselves despite the setback. We somehow find faith that there will be a better tomorrow despite the pain. This is hope.

Maxwell presents three steps to cultivate hope:
  1. Realize that hope is a choice.
  2. Change your thinking. (I really liked the excerpt from Who Says the Fat Lady Has to Sing?. What did you think of it?)
  3. Win some small victories. 
Positive thinking helps us believe that we can do great things, and that belief in ourselves is all we need to move closer and closer toward our goals. 

Then, comes the doing. There is a method to learning. First, we must develop our senses of hope, humility, and responsibility. Then comes the actual learning, right? Maxwell makes a pretty self-evident point that the focus of learning is improvement (88). It sounds like an obvious thing, but sometimes we need the reminder every now and then. Have you ever asked yourself why you do something? Well, let's hope you do it because you believe it makes you better in one way or another--otherwise, why would you be doing it? 

Improvement is something that does not come easily. Improvement in all aspects require us to move our of our comfort zones, to accept that we're not perfect, to do things the right (often, harder) way, and to commit to it daily (78-84). Consider how we develop our artistic, technical, and physical abilities. Often through hours of practice a day, right? Well, here we're also talking about improving our mind and spirit. Do you sometimes neglect to dedicate time to your mind and soul? In this busy day and age, I know I do.

For instance, I have found that I need and want to develop my patience and compassion for others. It is something I must reflect upon constantly in order to keep myself on track, but yet it is so easy to forget all about it!

Maxwell believes that it is necessary to make improvement intentional. And in order to intentionally improve, he lays out the following steps:

  1. Decide you are worth improving.
  2. Pick an area to improve. (You can't improve everything all at once!)
  3. Find opportunities to improve in the wake of your losses.
I think that the first step is essentially having hope for yourself, the belief that with some work you will be better tomorrow than you are today. I agree with Maxwell--you are totally worth improving! And since we do have the ability to get better and are blessed with new opportunities each day, don't we owe it to ourselves?

Next week, Maxwell is going to get more in depth with improvement, more methods to do it. But for this week's reading, I've found the renewed awe in the power of hope and look forward to Chapters 7 and 8! Please visit again next Friday for a discussion on "Teachability: The Pathway of Learning" and "Adversity: The Catalyst for Learning" and subscribe to Smiles No Matter so you'll never miss an update! Have a wonderful weekend!

Smile on,
-Riley XO

June 3, 2014

A Tribute to Maya Angelou

Hello there. Today's post will be relatively short because my words fall short in comparison to this great author's. As some of you may know, Maya Angelou passed away on the 28th, and this led me to reflect on how her words have impacted me.

It was probably my junior year of high school when I first stumbled across this quotation:
If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude."
Since then, those words have come up each time I went through something difficult.

It's probably really melodramatic of me, but at times I can turn little instances of carelessness into major tragedies. For example, I once made a big exit giving up on my Chemistry grade only because the person I was working with told me the wrong answer to two of the questions, thereby confusing me immensely. It was soon resolved, but this just goes to show that I'm a person who is impacted a lot by Maya Angelou's famous words.

The first clause is empowering, and the second always reminds me to find that humility and grace that is somewhere inside of me. Trying to live by these words have gotten me through some crummy things, and will probably continue to do so in the future.

I haven't read much of her great literature, but the few pieces I have read were filled with such color and stories of hope. Maya Angelou, you have inspired me. Not just for my writing--for my life. Thank you.

Take care and God bless,
-Riley XO
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