Monday, March 25 2019
“It is indecision that is the thief of opportunity.”
Good morning, friends! I hope you had a wonderful weekend and your bracket remains sturdy, or at the very least your life remains so. Let’s get to it!
Have you ever been stolen from? I suppose we all have to one degree or another. It’s a terrible feeling of invasion of privacy. The home my mother lives in, the very one my parents built 48 years ago, has been robbed four or five times. It’s horrible. But even little thefts hurt. My brother-in-law gave me a personally engraved pocket knife as a groomsman gift when I was a high school senior. I proudly took it to school, showed it off, left it in my car and it was promptly stolen. Theft hurts in many ways. But what about the ways we steal from ourselves? Whew!
Robert Frost’s wonderful poem “The Road Not Taken” reveals a wonderful reality we all face more often than we realize. But what set’s this poem apart is the care and awareness the poet gives each road. When we face our divergent roads every day, some days more important than others, do we give adequate attention to alternative choices we face? Perhaps, but when we find ourselves continuing down the same path day after day more likely is that we had plenteous opportunities along the way yet for reasons unknown we flew headlong past them.
* The career changes we never considered.
* The relationship opportunities we never pursued.
* The financial choices avoided.
* The health signals ignored.
I don’t like to think of robbing myself but that’s what I’ve done many, many times. What about you? A simple definition of robbing is to have dishonestly something taken away that leave one lesser or poorer. I don’t need anyone to help me with that; I’m pretty good at it by now. What I need help with, and perhaps you too, is gaining awareness of daily opportunities and courage to consider them adequately. That way, whichever road is taken it’s the one we choose and more often than not the better one in the end. And we are none the poorer for it. What paths will you take this week? Consider them carefully, make your decision, and GO! I’ll see you at the end of the line. Have a wonderful week.
Monday, March 18 2019
“No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other.”
Jesus of Nazareth
Good morning, friends, and happy belated Saint Patrick’s Day! I hope you remembered to wear your green yesterday to avoid the dreaded pinch. My family is well-versed so no pinches at home this year. That’s enough, let’s get to it!
Depending on how you define the issue, multi-tasking is impossible. If you define the issue as akin to simply the art of juggling, perhaps. But that’s not the definition. Multi-tasking is multi-focusing and that is humanly impossible. You may have multiple activities going at once, or multiple events in the queue, or multiple ideas floating around at one time but that is not multi-tasking. Human attention is a mono-focused ability that can be sliced as thin as we want to attempt but at any one moment only one “thing” is getting any attention. That’s the ball in the hand. The others are up in the air with no attention at all.
Why does this matter? Because how you manage your attention or focus is key to success. I was in my local Domino’s (a very good one) this Friday past at suppertime. The place was hopping. The manager was at the dough station, patting out and shaping pizza doughs, saucing them and passing them along. She hollered out instructions and encouragement once in a while but her focus was on that dough. Other persons were doing their jobs and the ovens were packed with pizzas in process but she was focused and flying. And the two or three times she diverted that focus to attend to anything else the system slowed. I could feel the chaos. Then she would return to the doughs and encouragement and the chaos would diminish while the system would return to simplicity and effectiveness.
* Is your dream dying because you give too much focus to other ideas?
* Is your system floundering because you have sliced your attention too thin?
* Are you goals struggling because you struggle to focus?
I believe that success comes not from attending to many things at one time but rather by respecting the gift of focus. Surely someone will come back at me with a multi-tasking story but I won’t buy it. Take any one of those tasks and tell me you wouldn’t have been much more successful focusing on that one. The problem is committing to focus. Can we set aside those other things, ideas, hopes, plans, etc. that are not critical to our success? Whatever your priority, if you don’t give it the priority of your time and focus it won’t last for long. My pizza was excellent but late. I’m glad she got back to her focus. What do you need to focus on today? this week? this year? Get to it, and have a great week!
Monday, March 11 2019
“We must all wage an intense, lifelong battle against the constant downward pull. If we relax, the bugs and weeds of negativity will move into the garden and take away everything of value.”
Good morning, friends! I hope the time change hangover didn’t catch you today. It’s never the Sunday of time change that hurts; it’s always the Monday. We’re in it now, so let’s get to it!
I hope I don’t sound too pessimistic but I hear a constant melody at the end of person’s lives. “I wish I had…” I don’t hear it always with that language but the melody is there. There is the backward view with reasonable clarity that sees the underwhelming results. And never is it expressed with joy. Essentially, gravity got them, just as it does you and me. Gravity, not in the sense of the magnetic force that pulls all things to the center of the earth. Gravity, in the sense of the downward pull of emotions, health, relationships, energy, vision, etc. When we relax, take time off, or just plain quit, gravity begins to win.
In Greek mythology we learn of the deposed king, Sisyphus. His tyrannical reign created his banishment, condemned to push a giant boulder up a hill, only to have it roll back down once near the top. Eternally, Sisyphus struggles with the boulder. None of us wants that life; we consider the very image as anathema to our dreams. But “up” is not the natural direction of things. “Down” has the benefit and support of gravity. The Wright brothers learned this lesson. Getting the first plane off the ground was hard; keeping it up was the real challenge and ultimately the real victory.
O The day you stop working to advance you begin going down.
O The day you stop attending to your health gravity begins to win.
O The day you withhold attention to friends gravity wins.
O The day you don’t climb the mountain downhill wins.
P As long as you must work do your best to grow and achieve.
P As long as you have reasonable health give it all you have.
P As long as you have good relationships nurture them completely.
P Whatever you want to live give it all the energy you have.
Because the natural direction of things is down, so our efforts must be up. Yes, I know the dangers of resting, relaxing, taking time off. When I took a week off from exercising it took months to get back in gear. When I didn’t call a friend for a long time it turned into an eternity. The examples are rife for all of us. Surrender to the sirens of “moderation” and “good enough” if you want, but gravity is gravity and it wins when we let it. Figure out what matters to you and give it all the energy it needs to live well. And you will, too! Have a wonderful week!
Monday, March 04 2019
“I ask myself: are defeats necessary? Well, necessary or not, they happen. When we first begin fighting for our dream, we have no experience and make many mistakes. The secret of life, though, is to fall seven times and to get up eight times.”
Good morning, friends! Just for the record, my wife and I are opening up a limited amount of spaces in our ark. Availability won’t last long so secure yours now. We expect it to begin floating any day now. While we have time, let’s get to it.
I know, I know, another quote from Coelho. I’m reading his seminal text, “The Alchemist” and it’s a powerful thought provoker. So I’m provoked. What provokes me here is the perspective of the mystery of challenges and struggles. Have you ever considered that? If you have I’ll bet it was a fleeting thought. More often than not defeats (to use Coelho’s language) create in us either questions or flight. Neither of these attitudes helps much in personal pursuits.
I can think of no effort in my life that was easy from start to finish. Not one. Every effort was a journey filled with starts, stops, wins, defeats, retreats, advances, etc. What mattered was the commitment to finish, but what conspired was often a focus on the setbacks. Why did they happen? What did I do wrong? How can I prevent them again? Should I have done something else? On and on. Coelho reminds us that sometimes things just happen. There is no rhyme or reason. There are no questions to answer. The little and large defeats are simply happenstance and our job is to assess and keep going.
* Maybe the first, second, or third job didn’t pan out. So what? Get the next one.
* Maybe the workout ended way too early because of pain or fatigue. So what? Show up tomorrow.
* Maybe the naysayers were loud today, yesterday and the day before. Really? See what they have to say tomorrow, and the next day, and the next.
* Maybe the project hit a snag just when it seemed viable. Great. Work it out.
Jim Rohn, a fantastic motivational speaker from the previous generation, has a wonderful take on the parable of the sower in Matthew 13. With excellent seeds and a strong spirit a man went out one spring to plant his crops. Some sown seeds fell on the path and birds ate them. Did he quit, asking, “Why?” No, he said in his spirit, “Isn’t that interesting?!” and kept on sowing. Another handful of seeds fell on hard ground. With little water and no root depth the seeds came to nothing. Again, “Isn’t that interesting!” Another handful of seeds fell among the thorns and lost the battle for room. Once again, “Isn’t that interesting!” Finally, a handful of his precious seeds of excellent quality fell on some fertile ground and produced a bumper crop of immense proportions. Did he ask, “Why?” Not at all! He simple surmised one last time, “Isn’t that interesting!” If you are defeated by your defeats in your pursuits quit asking, “Why?” Who knows? I don’t, that’s for sure. I didn’t sign up for or take that class. It just happened. Isn’t that interesting. Keep going, keep sowing, keep trying and sooner or later you’ll find your fertile ground. Call me if you need help harvesting your successes! And have a wonderful week.
Monday, February 25 2019
“You must always know what it is that you want.”
Good morning, friends! I hope you are all well and dry today. While it lasts, let’s not lollygag. Let’s get to it.
Among my PE credits in college was a half-credit course in archery. It was a summer morning class and we all tried hard to not shoot one another. And we all learned that hitting the bulls-eye was easier said than done. Day after day, shot after shot, we all aimed for that tempting centerpiece. Any hit was celebratory; misses were lamented only for their distance from the center. Sounds a bit like life, doesn’t it?
But what is your bulls-eye? Quite seriously, most of us stopped visioning bull’s-eyes when we were young, first entering the job market, maybe even before that. We all had dreams and then life happened. Recently I learned a little acronym that speaks to this issue: KFC.
K: Know what you want.
F: Find out what you are getting.
C: Change what you are doing to reach your want.
Unfortunately what we do when life happens is re-adjust the formula of success. Instead, it becomes...
K: Know what you want.
F: Find out what you are getting.
C: Change what you want to accept your results.
* You didn’t get the job you wanted so in time you settled into the job you got.
* You didn’t achieve the promotions you wanted so you settled into the level you are.
* You don't have the health you want so you accept the lesser health you have.
* You didn’t reach the goal you set so you decided just to live with the outcomes you have.
* Or maybe you simply lost track of what you were trying to accomplish today.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned this gentleman before but he’s relevant now, too. Bill McArthur was a first grader many years ago in a small town down east in North Carolina. My mom taught him. He grew up to be an Air Force pilot but he really wanted to be an astronaut. He applied and was passed over. He applied again. Passed over again. He applied again, and again, and again, and again. Six times, six grueling, emotional, difficult applications and every time told, “No.” But Bill knew what he wanted. He didn’t quit; he renewed his efforts, changed what needed to be changed and applied a seventh time. And on the seventh effort he was accepted! Three missions, including six months on the International Space Station, and he had arrived.
I doubt you want to be an astronaut but whatever it is you want, whatever is your bulls-eye, you’ll never hit it if you don’t aim and keep trying, changing what needs to be changed. Big or small, it matters not. What matters is that you know your wants and you keep trying. KFC. Keep it straight. And have a wonderful week.
Monday, February 18 2019
“Move towards the next thing, not away from the last thing. Same direction. Completely different energy.”
Good morning, friends! I hope you had a special weekend, maybe some leftover experience from Valentine’s Day. Or maybe something else special. Whatever it was, it’s yesterday’s news. Let’s not linger; let’s get to it!
Golf professionals often say that it’s hard to win from the front position. Golf tournaments are usually four days long, four rounds of golf over four days. The winner is the one with the best cumulative score at the end. Rarely does a golfer take a lead on the first day and keep it all four days to the win. Far more common is a win by the slow, steady golfer who makes their move on Sunday, overcomes the leader and sufficiently wins. The person in the lead is always running away from the pack, while the pack is always running towards the leader. Who, do you think, feels more stress?
None of us are professional golfers but we have plenty of transitions in our own lives. Jobs, relationships, locations, dreams, all sorts of things in our lives often take about turns, from one to the next, from the old to the new. And then we are presented with a choice: are we moving away from something or moving toward something? Yes, I know we are doing both at once, but mentally we can only hold one effort in our mind. And as Mr. Clear says, it is a completely different energy to move towards the chosen rather than away from the rejected or left behind. Think about it…
* You may have left a bad job for a better new one, but do you want to carry the bad baggage with you?
* You have decided to pursue a better health initiative; is your best image the old you or the new you?
* Empty nest may be in your near future; can you really hold on to the past?
Examples are aplenty but the truth remains the same. Eventually, we tire of moving away from yesterday and its realities, but when we have a new and better reality in front of us the energy to continue is powerful. Dreamers always have the advantage. Whatever the reality, the dream in their minds calls them forward every day to a new achievement. There are very few, if any, great story of “leavers”. Whatever you are naturally headed towards or by choice are headed towards, let that be your vision and ride the positive energy wave to new and greater successes. Surfs up! Have a great week!
Monday, February 11 2019
“The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do.”
Good morning, friends! I hope you all are doing well and back in the Monday morning groove. Thanks for taking a few minutes to read a little encouragement. Let’s get to it!
My favorite events in any summer Olympics are the track and field events, no doubt about it. There on the green fields and oval tracks we encounter the very best of sport, pure objective competition, winners determined without the stain of judges or votes. I love it. How many times have we seen those superb athletes line up along the starting line, waiting for the gun, only to blast off like rockets headed down the track? If only it were so easy for the rest of us, not the world-class running of course, but merely the courage to face the starting line and begin the journey.
I’ve done enough study as a layman to be a near expert on the power of the starting line. That’s where the real battle of achievement exists and is fought. Dreams and ideas and hopes come naturally to us; we can conjure up an idea in a heartbeat. And we have plenty of experience following through on things, succeeding many times and failing sometimes, but sticking to what we start. The internal battles are few at the extremes. But that starting line looms like a monster between every dream and what comes after it.
* We have an idea for health but we’re afraid to toe the line.
* We have a dream for new finances but we’re afraid to toe the line.
* We would love to do a new thing but we’re afraid to toe the line.
* A new job looks enticing but we’re afraid to toe the line.
* On and on the list goes…
The starting line tells us we’re not capable. It tells us we’re not worthy. It tells us failure in inevitable. It reminds us of all the other times we started and failed. But let me tell you this very plainly: the starting line is a liar. Is it easy? No. Do you deserve success? Not until you’ve earned it. Will there be unknown challenges along the way? Most likely. Is the end predetermined? No chance. What matters is that we stop being intimidated by the starting line, intelligently selective about the races we run, and committed to the ones we start. Toe the line with confidence and take off! What ideas have you been holding on to for a while, too intimidated by the starting line to begin? Listen to Ms. Earhart and have the guts to begin. It may be the best race of your life. Ready! Set! GO! I’ll see you at the turn… Have a great week!
Monday, February 04 2019
“Whatever may be the tensions and the stresses of a particular day, there is always lurking close at hand the trailing beauty of forgotten joy or unremembered peace.”
Good morning, friends! I hope your team won last night. I don’t support football for moral reasons so we watched a movie with the kids. I say we won, but it’s open to debate. Let’s get to the real business of the day.
Less I forget, let me first commend the works of Howard Thurman, our quote-ster for the day. He was a brilliant man with a beautiful heart. I recommend anything he wrote. Now to the point. This past Friday evening I was again participating in a ministry for homeless men in my community, feeding them a hot winter meal. When we (the team) arrived at the facility we were met with a challenge. Apparently bed bugs had been discovered the night before; we were cautioned to use every possible precaution. When the homeless men arrived the check in procedure was greatly revamped for the challenge and as soon as that was completed the men were informed that typical comforts would be forgone for the evening, leaving them with only a bed mat and a fresh blanket. Lacking a pillow was big problem and I’m not unsympathetic, but the griping was surprising. It lasted a few minutes when one voice from among them spoke up and encouraged peace. It worked! And for a moment I was ashamed of myself.
We all have out tensions and stresses every day, multiple times per day. We don’t (hopefully) have bed bugs or a lack of a pillow for a night but we have our issues. I remember the last time I slept without a pillow. I was a chaperone for an overnight camp. Facing my challenge, I folded up my jeans and used them to elevate my head. It was a hard night’s sleep, I assure you. But that was 20+ years ago. I suppose the quality of our problems reflects the status of our lives, but whatever they are we all have them.
* The unsympathetic boss
* The selfish co-worker
* The arrogant customer
* The forgetful child
* The overwhelming work
* The lack of resources
* A health problem
Does the list ever end? Perhaps the reflects the size of the problem. We are so aware of the things, large and small, that can create challenges for us. But are we equally aware of the joys and peace that balance out, if not in fact outweigh, any negativities of life? In other words, we can choose to live in the dark clouds of life or keep our focus on the silver linings. It’s our choice. As for me, I’ll remember that homeless man, facing a night with no pillow, who loudly and lovingly said, “Put the shoes you have on underneath the mat to raise it up like a pillow.” Let that be your silver lining today. And have a wonderful, wonderful week.
2 Corinthians 11:16-33
Monday, January 28 2019
“The moment a question comes to your mind, see yourself mentally taking hold of it and disposing of it. In that moment is your choice made. Thus you learn to take the path to the right. Thus you learn to become the decider and not the vacillator. Thus you build character.”
H. Van Anderson
Good morning, friends! How has this day begun for you? No matter; you have plenty of time to turn it around, starting right now. I hope this word helps. Let’s get to it.
There is a modern science field that concerns the issue of “dark matter” or “dark energy”. They are one and the same thing. I cannot speak fluently the language but I think the field studies the space between things that are seen. In our world that is so concerned and convinced of knowledge, awareness and understanding it seems the awareness of the unknown is the most troubling reality of all. I suspect my lifetime will never know of any understanding, conclusively, of what comprises the space between things seen. And in my mind there is a different “dark matter” that is equally elusive and even to me more troubling. That is the world of the undone, unchosen, undecided, unfollowed, uncommitted.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news today but imagine the difference in your life if you had given reasonable effort towards any one of the many positive dreams you had? It is the thought that comes to all of us at various times in life: I wish I could…; I wonder what would happen…; What would it take…; I’d like to be…. The life we have is the one we chose, or in many cases the one we defaulted to. It is not the only life that could have been. From whatever source you trust you’ve had many ideas in life that had the spark of greatness. What did you do with that spark? Like most of us you gave it no oxygen; we starve most of our best ideas.
* The book that never was written.
* The business that never was created.
* The job that never was pursued.
* The relationship that withered away.
* The trip that never was taken.
* The opportunity that never was pursued.
Now I know already you have your excuses that support the life you currently have. That’s the narrative we all create to mollify ourselves; we would go mad if we did not create positive narratives. What is common in our “dark matter” threads? In most cases it was the worst of us: apathy, indifference and fear. Fortunately the system of dream creation carries on and even today something will “come” to you. What will you do with it? Will it be worth a little oxygen? Can you risk even a step or two? Or will it become just another death bed regret of dark matter in your life? Say it won’t be so. Take a dream, take a few steps, and live a little. I suspect there’s a lot of life in the “dark matter” of our lives. I may not recognize you if you do, but I sure will celebrate you! So get to it and have a great week!
Monday, January 21 2019
“Years ago there was a belief that the world was flat. People were born into that belief and they took it on faith that if they went too far from the shoreline in a boat they would fall off the earth. Columbus sailed on.”
Good morning, friends, and happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. I hope you have the ability to honor this day in a positive way. Let’s do our part and get to it.
I have a thing for shark teeth; my collection is large. When my children were young their fascination with my finds encouraged them to want to seek with me. Rarely would they begin the day with me; six thirty comes mighty early in the summer at the beach, but later in the mornings they would find me on the beach and fall in line. Looking and looking and looking they would come up empty handed, while I would find one, then two, then three. Finally they would ask, “How do you do it???” and I would tell them they were using the wrong senses. Don’t look, I said. Listen for them. They call my name, I hear them, then find them with my eyes and pick them up. (Abuse my fatherhood later…) The gig lasted a few years, watching them walk up and down the beach silently listening for shark teeth calls. Then they grew wise and now they find their share.
While I may have been facetious with my children your flat earth beliefs are anything but facetious; they are huge barriers to your growth. Assuming none of you hold to any flat earth beliefs there is little doubt you have equivalents. I’m not talking about false beliefs but simply beliefs that do not support or encourage your life.
* You may have failed a few times, now consider yourself a loser, and success is nigh impossible.
* You may have had a tough start in life and now see every obstacle as a wall.
* You may have been on one track for a while and now think that’s the only track possible.
* You may have had success a few times and now consider failure something to be feared.
* You may have been judged negatively and now see yourself only through negative eyes.
The list of false beliefs is long and damaging, but guess what? None of them is true and all of them come down to the same falsehood. Let me set it straight: the past doesn’t determine your future. You do. Your choices, your efforts, your sacrifices, your hungers, your vision, you. Believing in any version of a flat earth in your life will only hold you down from the future you deserve and desire. And the only way to prove to yourself that these beliefs are false is to confront them and defeat them. Can you name your limiting beliefs? Can you see yourself confronting them? I see you on the other side of them! Get to it and do the great things you dream. And have a wonderful week.