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Today is Possible

Hello and welcome back!  I trust that the past couple of months have brought each of you an abundance of joy.  The summer months are an exciting time and often provide the opportunity to take vacations, spend time with family, or even pursue a new hobby.  For me, it was no different, but I’m excited to get back to writing and pushing forward into a new era for my work and writing.

In my last post, Timing is Everything, I honed in on two questions that I wanted to work through while building out a new website, creating better branding, and developing improved content.

  1. What kind of life am I trying to build?
  2. What kind of person am I trying to be?

If we are honest with ourselves, these are tough questions.  The questions force us to look at ourselves in the mirror and make a true assessment of our current state of affairs.  It’s challenging enough to answer these questions honestly and truthfully, and it might even be more difficult to take the first steps in working towards what we desire.

While I could provide very detailed responses for how I answered these questions, I will summarize with a quote that I feel encompasses what I’m trying to achieve.

“You have a choice.  You can live a life of self or a life of service – but a life of self-service won’t get you very far.”

Over the last four years, I have composed nearly 200 articles.  I have attracted nearly 1,000 subscribers to my work.  I have completed one re-branding and blog overhaul.  However, I am always seeking ways to better connect to my audience of readers.

Up to this point, the relationship with my subscribers has been very much a give-take interaction.  I produce an article, and my readers take it and read it.  Then, repeat the following week.  Therefore, when I reflected on the headlining questions, I realized that I wasn’t doing enough to engage with each of you and to provide you with the best experience that I can.

Beginning next week, I will officially transition all of my work and writing to a new website (Today is Possible (TIP)).  Over the last two months, I have worked with various people on logos and branding, marketing and SEO, and content creation.  As a result, I am excited about the new site, and the opportunities it will allow me to begin to build the life I imagine and to be the person I strive to be.

At the present, the TIP website is ‘live’ as I finish the final touches.  I appreciate your patience as I continue to modify, edit and adjust different aspects in the weeks to come.  As you browse through, you will find all of my original work – it was important to keep this as it serves for the foundation of my current material.  Additionally, I sought out avenues for creating more than a give-take relationship with my readers.  From online webinars, to one-on-one coaching, to speaking engagements, this is a big step in being able to personalize content.

For those of you that have been with me for the last several years, I would love to have you continue this journey with me at the new site.  If you would like to continue receiving my weekly articles, I urge you to click here and join the community.  Is there someone who you think would benefit from my work?  Please share the link with them, and I look forward to connecting with them.

In the meantime, I want to share how much I appreciate your patience in this process.  It has been more than just a learning experience for me as I worked toward this vision.  Now, I’m excited for where the journey takes us!

 

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Timing is Everything

Timing is Everything

I recently published an article titled, 2 Questions You need to Ask Yourself this Week.  Within a few short days, this piece became my most viewed article for 2017.  If you didn’t get a chance to read it, you can check it out by clicking here.

This past week I have been trying to wrap my head around what might have caused this article to rise to the top.  Were there just thousands of people who found relevance, and therefore, felt so compelled to share it with others?  Was the call to action precise?  Did the words provoke and elicit some buried emotions from deep within to be brought to the surface?

Quite honestly, I’m not sure that I will be able to pinpoint the answer.  As a writer, I can only hope that my words continue to inspire others to build themselves up so that they can build up (and into) those around them.

The two questions that I challenged all of you to ask yourself are the very same personal inquiries that I’m working through.

  1. What kind of life am I trying to build?
  2. What kind of person do I want to be?

The fact of the matter is that, in my head, I always knew the answer to these questions.  I’m sure the same is true for many of you.  Sure, you can tell yourself exactly what you are working towards and how you are trying to live your life – in your head.  The figments of imagination stream together random thoughts of consciousness and there you have it.

But, when it comes time to make it real, to put the words on paper or to express them to another person, that’s when it gets damned hard.  All of a sudden, you might begin to second guess the random thoughts that you thought you had control over.  Because as soon as your answers to these questions are written in stone, or shared with someone else, they transition from a mere idea to a mere fact.  And, in life, you’re never held accountable for your ideas.  Your words, however, people will always hold you accountable to.

One of the biggest challenges for writers such as myself is to incorporate the ideas that we share with others, into our own lives.  So, like many of you, when I sat down to write that article, I had some generic responses to those questions in my head.  

Immediately, everything I thought was important became irrelevant.  What became relevant were the questions:

  1. What kind of life am I trying to build?
  2. What kind of person do I want to be?

People who believe they can succeed see opportunities where others see threats.  They’re not afraid of uncertainty or ambiguity.  They embrace it.  They want to take greater risks and achieve greater returns.  Given the choice, they will always bet on themselves.  -Marshall Goldsmith, author, What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There

Now, the thoughts that are in my head continue to shuffle around.  It’s time to bring clarity to the confusion.  This is a decisive point.  A decisive point is when you reach a critical point – in your life, in your career, in your hobby – and you must make a decision.  More importantly, this means that whatever you’re after is not only attainable, but it matters.

What’s Next?

Societal tendencies often have us asking ourselves this less two words – what’s next?  Constantly moving from one thing to the next, always on the go without ever fully processing through all of our life situations.  However, I’m going to challenge all of you, myself included, to take these questions seriously.

Grab a cup of coffee, glass of water, or a cold beer – whatever works for you – and write these two questions down.  Reflect on your life up to this point.  Think about where you are today (your ‘here’) and where it is that you want life to take you (your ‘there’).  Once you can identify your ‘here’ and your ‘there’, then you can better understand the life you are trying to build and the person you need to be in order to build just that.

Timing is everything, so we’ve often been told.  Since I began writing this blog four years ago (ironically, I had just been laid off from a job), I have spent the weeks from the end of May thru June focusing on my own personal growth and development.  These weeks have also been a time for me to focus on content to write for the second half of the year.

I’m going to do the same this year.  The focus of my time away is going to be spent honing in my responses to the two questions:

  1. What kind of life am I trying to build?
  2. What kind of person do I want to be?

This year, however, I’m going to take an additional month away from writing.  Aside from finding my next career transition, I’m currently in the process of building a new website for this blog – new branding, new messaging, new everything – better content.  When I return, I will be sure to direct you to the new site.  Through it, I’m confident I will be able to share the life I am trying to build (what I’m trying to accomplish) and the person I strive to be (how I intend to live my life).

I want to share a quote with you, as I believe it relates to working through some of these questions.

Meaning does not happen to you – you create it.  One of the most important elements of building a great career and life is attaching what you do each day to a broader mission.  Until you understand how your efforts contribute to the world, you are simply going through the motions each day. -Tom Rath, author, Are You Fully Charged 

As always, thank you for reading, and I’m looking forward to connecting with you in a couple of months.  Meanwhile, I’d love to hear from you.  I can be reached at todayispossible@gmail.com.

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2 Questions You Need to Ask Yourself this Week

Building Your Life, Developing Your Purpose

Two weeks ago, I published an article titled ‘What Growth are You Cultivating in Your life?’.  This excerpt discussed the importance of cultivating something in our lives – something that we are passionate about and something for which we have purpose.

It comes as no surprise that, for many of us, growing something isn’t always easy.  In order to develop a skill, a study, or a living object to its full potential, requires a tremendous amount of time, effort, work, and sometimes even money.  But, as it relates to growing our lives, many of us are willing to make those sacrifices if it means that we are working towards an end goal.  I like to call this ‘pursuing your passion because you see the purpose’.

Have you ever asked yourself, what can I do differently to make an impact in my own life?  In the lives of others?  Chasing after something, or an idea, that doesn’t provide you, or others, any sense of gratification, might not be the best thing to pursue (relative to your time, effort, and money).  You might even find yourself running in circles instead of moving forward towards something that you find meaningful.

So, then, what is meaningful?  What makes sense?  You may not even know what that looks like?  That’s okay, I’ve been in that situation before.  Figuring where to begin is usually the most difficult piece.  However, I’ve developed a couple of questions that seem to help, and I want to share them with you.

  1. What kind of life am I trying to build?
  2. What kind of person do I want to be?

Take a minute or two and think about these questions.  You may not have an immediate answer, and that’s alright.  Put some thought into over the course of the day and come back to them when you feel ready.

Meanwhile, it’s important to understand the concept of ‘building’.  Typically, when something is built – a physical structure, a human muscle, anything – it gets stronger as it is built.  As it relates to your life, if you aren’t building, then you aren’t growing.  If you aren’t growing, then you likely aren’t getting any closer to an end goal.

More important than whatever it is that you decide to build, is the manner in which you pursue such a thing.  How well do you interact with others?  Do you maintain your integrity and stick to your morals?  Along the way, are you building relationships with others?  Are you being authentic and genuine?  So many questions, but I think it boils down to a single statement that has a yes or no answer.

“Are you building yourself up, in order to build up (and into) those around you?  Yes or no?”

Shifting back to the original two questions…  They may not set you forth on the path you desire, nor the one that you’re passionate about.  However, they will provide you with some direction – a starting point.  Then, when your responses to these questions collide and you are building something while being the person that you strive to be…  Well, that’s when it begins to make sense.

That’s when the path becomes straight.  This is the moment when you have clarity.  This is the time when you feel excited about everything that is yet to come.  And, this is the instant when you realize that today, and everything you have ever dreamed of, is possible.

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Knowledge is One Thing, but Faith is Another

Over the course of the last year, I have made it a point to surround myself with like-minded people.  These folks come from all walks of life, and each of them embodies one or more of the values, morals, or life priniciples in which I believe.  Each relationship is different (yet unique), and each holds a bond that isn’t shared by another.

While some of these people have been in my life for longer than a year, others have more recently become an integral part of my life.  One person has grown from a complete stranger, to a coach, to a friend, to a mentor, and to one of the people that I trust the most.  I value his perspectives on life, the authenticity that he shares, and sincere appreciation that he has for life – each and every day.

The person that I am referring to does not complain, does not cast blame, and does not stop taking advantage of the wonderful opportunity that we all share – to live life.

A little over a month ago, this friend and I were catching up with one another over a cup of coffee (likely a couple of espressos as well).  At some point in the conversation, he said something that has stuck with me ever since.  When I’m having a bad day, or things aren’t going my way, I think about this moment, and everything is put into perspective.  It went a little something like this…

“In life, all that we can do is do the best that we can, with all that we have, surrounded by the people who care.  Who can judge us so long as we are doing our best?  That’s how life works.  We think we’re getting the Taj Mahal and we end up at the Holiday Inn.  Do you think that I ever thought I would be diagnosed with a condition that is causing me to lose my vision?  You can’t plan for life, but you can plan how you will deal with the circumstances that you are facing.”

All of us have that ‘something’ in our lives.  It could be something that has come to pass, something that we are working through right now, or something that we will have to tackle in the future.  As we work through these challenges, or come face-to-face with them in the future, it’s important to plan, to strategize, and to take action.  It’s one thing to have an idea and to know what to do in these situations.

But, it’s another thing to have faith.

You see, we can have all the knowledge in the world.  I don’t care what it is, what we know, or what we will learn.  It doesn’t matter to me what the goal is we are trying to accomplish, the adversity we are attempting to embrace, or the struggle we face today.  What matters to me, and what should matter to all of us, is whether we have faith.

It doesn’t have to be faith in a higher being, just flat-out faith – the belief that we can still live life.  Not just any life.  A fulfilling live.  A life of integrity.  A life of endless opportunities.  A life of hope.

If I can do this, and you can do this, and we can do this, then we will truly live.  No matter the circumstance and never mind what could happen.  Because, a little faith can go a long way – especially when you’re surrounded by a group of people who also have faith in you.  It’s that same faith that makes today possible, and ultimately tomorrow.

Whatever is on your plate today, or this week, I challenge all of you to keep in mind one small part of the quote that I shared earlier:

“In life, all that we can do is the best that we can do, with all that we have, surrounded by the people that care.”

What you know is important, but it’s what you believe that can be done that matters.  So when you reach a decisive point, remember, difference makers do thing differently.  Difference makers take action.  Difference makers live.

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What Growth are You Cultivating in Your Life?

Growth is Happening

It’s that time of the year.  Rain is falling, grass is growing, flowers are blooming, and allergies are in full swing.  I’m always amazed at how quickly this transition takes place as we move from Winter into Spring.  Overnight, it seems, that the world outside comes to life.  The landscapes become plush, full of color.  Animals scurry about, and the daylight seems to linger just a bit longer.

Ready or not, it happens.  With the onset of a new season, the world around you begins to grow.  From seeds into plants, from newborns into toddlers, and from hibernation into awakening.  Your surroundings are moving faster, and it’s easier to get outside.  And, if you take a moment to stop and look around, you’ll take notice of some sort of growth that is happening.  The growth could be in one of the previous examples.  Or, perhaps, the growth is happening inside of yourself.

You see, your life is also a seasonal thing.  Life brings it’s own ups and down – times of stagnancy and times of growth.  Slower at points in time and much faster at others.  Either way, one truth remains – to continue to grow you must continue to commit.

Cultivating Your Growth

Behind growth of any kind, a process must occur.  Your own physical growth takes place because of biological and physiological processes.  Growth within a skill set happens after continued, deliberate practice.  Regardless, these developments do not take place by you doing absolutely nothing.

So, if doing nothing results in limited or no growth, what must you do to experience the contrary?

Cultivate.

Think of the farmer who prepares for an upcoming season of crop growing.  To have a successful and profitable year, there is much more to the process than simply planting seeds.  To receive the desired results (and ultimately growth), the farmer will do the following:

  • Till the land
  • Remove rocks from the soil
  • Carefully plant each seed
  • Water the land
  • Fertilize the ground
  • Spray pesticides
  • Allow the crop to mature
  • Harvest the crop

Even then, the process is much more involved than these few steps.  The amount of planning, developing, and executing that is required is a tedious process.  It’s a challenging process.  Finally, it is a journey that is continuous – day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year.  There is no stopping.

To cultivate such growth reminds me of the process for managing complex change.  It requires a vision, a base set of skills, an incentive, the resources, and a plan.  When each of these parts is present, then change can occur, and ultimately, growth takes place.

We all have areas in our lives in which we are currently trying to improve.  The process for improvement isn’t always smooth sailing.  It requires effort.  It requires time.  It requires work.  It boils down to the idea that your growth requires cultivation.  Sure, you will face challenges, the process will be hit with adversity, and you will want to quit.

However, if the end goal (growth) is something that you truly desire, then you will continue to cultivate.  You make the commitment to sharpen your focus, hone in on the objective, and bust your ass.  Then, when you finally break through, you will have arrived at a new season of life.

In that very moment, you will commit to something more.  You will begin to nurture once more.  And, one day at a time, you will tell yourself, Today is Possible.

So, today, commit yourself to something.  Commit yourself to something that you want to pursue with passion and purpose.  When tomorrow arrives, commit yourself once again to the same thing.  With each day that passes, learn, develop, and build into that one thing – cultivate it.  Watch it grow into something of value.  Hell, the process might even cause growth within you.

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Leaving your Mark on the World

I want to begin this week by stating that I hope each of you enjoyed a blessed holiday weekend with family, friends, and loved ones.  For me, it was a weekend of celebration as my birthday actually fell on Easter Sunday.  Between running 30 miles, grilling out with friends, and spending time with my wife, it was two days when I needed to focus on myself.  So, thank you for being patient and waiting an extra week for a post!

Every time I sit down and place my fingers to the keyboard, I draw from the thoughts and experiences of myself and others.  Sometimes the main idea of a post is extracted from a story that someone told me.  At other times, I pull from an adversity that I’m currently working through.  It (the post) could be a passage from a book that I’m currently reading.  Regardless of where the origin lies, I try to convey a message that is real, that is raw, and that is genuine.

In the process, my goal has always been to cause you (my readers) to critically think and analyze just a smidgeon of your own life.  Consequently, asking yourself two questions:

  1.  To what part of my life does this apply?
  2.  How am I going to make a call to action?

From there, it’s mostly out of my control.  The power to act rests not in my hands, or my words, but in the hearts and minds of each of you.  And so, week after week, for the past four years I have returned to computer.  Perhaps I’ve said something that sucker-punched you in the gut.  Maybe there was an instance in which my words provided encouragement.  And, if I’m lucky, there was a point in time in which my words provided you with hope.

Not just any hope.  A hope that – with passion – you can become a better person.  A hope that with purpose you can move from your ‘here’ to your ‘there’.  A hope that reminds you to never settle for mediocrity.  In that hope, the confidence to know that whatever shit you have to go through to get to the other side, the assurance that today is possible.

Today is possible is a theme that I have really driven home the last couple of months.  In recent weeks, I have shared ideas on related topics such as the following:

I don’t recall the catalyst for the notion of ‘today is possible’, however, it continues to resurface..  The title of my blog is Embracing Adversity.  In many ways, that title speaks to the theme of recent weeks’ posts.  To embrace adversity is to believe and to know that regardless of where your feet land in the morning, you can move forward with a deliberate desire in pursuit of this wonderful life.  For it is within this life that you have everything to gain, and nothing to lose.

In the weeks to come, expect to see (and read more) on theme today is possible.  And, as you begin your week, take a few moments to reflect on these two questions:

  1.  Why is today important – to me?
  2.  What makes today possible – for me?

Take it one step further.  Place your thoughts onto paper.  Scribble your answers on a sticky note.  Put these responses in plain view.  Then, when your day becomes challenging, take a quick glance at your own words.  At last, tell yourself, ‘Today is Possible’.

I’ll leave you with a quote from the book I’m currently reading, Shoe Dog, by Phil Knight, founder of Nike.

If I tended to dwell on all the things I wasn’t, the reason was simple.  Those were the things I knew best.  I’d have found it difficult to say what or who exactly I was, or might become.  Like all my friends I wanted to be successful.  Unlike my friends, I didn’t know what they meant.  Money?  Maybe.  Wife?  Kids?  House?  Sure, if I was lucky.  These were the goals I was taught to aspire to, and part of me did aspire to them, instinctively.  But deep down I was searching for something else, something more.  I had an aching sense that our time is short, shorter than we ever know, short as a morning run, and I wanted mine to be meaningful.  And purposeful.  And creative.  And important.  Above all… different.

I wanted to leave a mark on the world.

I wanted to win.

No, that’s not right.  I simply didn’t want to lose.

-Phil Knight, Founder of Nike

Now ask yourself, how do you plan to leave your mark on the world?

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To Learn is to Grow – To Grow is to Succeed

This past week I finished reading two books – two New York Times bestsellers.  One written by a renowned researcher and psychologist, the other by someone who has escaped a life of poverty.  While completely different in nature, the evidence presented in Angela Duckworth’s Grit parallels with the family memoir of J.D. Vance in Hillbilly Elegy.

Duckworth has made a name for herself by studying and researching the psychological notion of grit – the perseverance and passion for achieving long terms goals.  In her research, she dives into the complexities of what allows individuals, teams, and organizations to achieve success.  In most cases, it’s how people respond to the obstacles and challenges on the path towards growth.  A gritty individual (or organization) doesn’t see trying circumstances as a means to throw in the towel, but rather to gear down, to learn, and to grow through the adversity.

Vance, on the other hand, has become a respected author after writing a family memoir that shares his migration out of Appalachia to southwest Ohio, and onto earning a law degree from Yale.  Escaping and breaking the chains of poverty, and the social issues embedded in such a culture, required exactly the traits and characteristics that Duckworth researches.  J.D. Vance embodies everything it means to be a gritty individual.  Growing up with a mother who was a drug-addict, a non-existent father, and being raised by his grandparents wasn’t the best of situations.  However, Vance went on to escape what he describes as a ‘culture in crisis’.

Both Duckworth’s research and Vance’s personal journey, provide evidence of how learning (particularly in times of hardship and difficulty) can serve as a catalyst for growth.  Learning is a process that takes time – for some quicker than others, and consequently the growth associated with such learning.  Then, at some point in time, your growth becomes your success.  Personally, I like to think that success isn’t reaching the end goal, but rather it’s overcoming the struggles, adversities, and hardships along the way.  Because, if you have made it through, then you have maintained your moral character.

The truth is, though, however much grit you might have, the process is damned hard.  The process can knock you down, and there will also be people who want to see you fail.

So, how does one do it?  You stay the course.  Relying on everything you’ve learned.  Because, as Vance writes, “lack of knowledge and lack of intelligence are not the same.  The former can be remedied with a little patience and a lot of hard work.  And the latter?  Well, I guess you’re up shit creek without a paddle.”

The Importance of Character in Achieving Success

I like to think of character in two domains.  The first is how you present yourself to others.  The second is how you live out your life according to the values and morals that you believe to be important.  It’s one thing to achieve success by working your tail off, but lacking personal integrity in the process.  It’s another thing to earn the respect of others because of the way you carry yourself while working towards success.

Displaying character begins with a belief – a belief in yourself that no matter what, you will be successful.  As Vance would attest, the deck is only stacked against you if you believe it is.

“Still, Mamaw and Papaw believed that hard work mattered more.  They knew that life was a struggle, and though the odds were a bit longer for people like them, that fact didn’t excuse failure.  ‘Never be like these f****** losers who think the deck is stacked against them,’ my grandma often told me.  ‘You can do anything you want to.’” -J.D. Vance

Strong, moral character will drive you to keep pushing forward.  It will keep you grounded in times of success, and it will humble you in times of failure.  And, at the end of the road, it will be one of the things you look back on as having carried you along the way.  It will require you to display courage time and time again.  As the legendary basketball coach John Wooden stated, “Success is never final; failure is never fatal.  It’s courage that counts.”

Duckworth argues that grit is only a small part of a person’s character.  As she brings her book to a close, she has penned words on a page that bring it all together.

“I can tell you, for example, that grit is not the only thing I want my children to develop as they round the corner from childhood to maturity.  Do I want them to be great at whatever they do?  Absolutely.  But greatness and goodness are different, and if forced to choose, I’d put goodness first.

As a psychologist, I can confirm that grit is far from the only – or even the most important – aspect of a person’s character.  In fact, in studies of how people size up to others, morality trumps all other aspects of character in importance.  Sure, we take notice if our neighbors seem lazy, but we’re especially offended if they seem to lack qualities like honesty, integrity, and trustworthiness.

So, grit isn’t everything.  There are many other things a person needs in order to grow and flourish.  Character is plural.

One way to think about grit is to understand how it relates to other aspects of character.  In assessing grit along with other virtues, I find three reliable clusters.  I refer to them as the intrapersonal, interpersonal, and intellectual dimensions of character.  You could also call them strengths of will, heart, and mind.

In the end, the plurality of character operates against any one virtue being uniquely important.” -Angela Duckworth

What are you chasing after this week?  This month?  This year?  Ask yourself, ‘What is it going to take to get there?’  And, along the way, learn at every opportunity.  Allow the new-found knowledge to drive your growth. Most importantly, maintain your character and allow your growth to push you towards success.

At last, remember, ‘strength of will, heart, and mind’.  Anything is possible.

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The Importance of Reaching a Decisive Point

What is a Decisive Point?

Think about a goal that you have pursued in the past.  It could have been a personal endeavor to live a healthier lifestyle, a commitment to learn a new hobby, or a professional goal of career advancement.  Regardless of what your goal was, you experienced several ‘defeats’, as well as triumphs along the way.

Each small victory was cause for celebration.  The little ‘wins’ helped bring a vision closer to reality.  But, what about the moments of despair?  What happened then?  How did you feel?  Most importantly, what did you do?  It’s in these moments of both anguish and success that you found yourself at a decisive point.

A decisive point is that moment when you realize that the next decision you make is incredibly important as it relates to a goal you have set forth.  To be decisive means to go forth without hesitation.  You don’t waver or falter; you make up your mind and press on.  While on the journey to attaining your goals, being fearless is important to an extent.  Because as soon as you hesitate, you begin to doubt.  When doubt creeps in, along with it comes uncertainty.  The uncertainty leads to frustration, and the frustration drains your motivation to move forward.

An example of a decisive point could be musician.  After two weeks of attempting to master a series of notes on the piano, the pianist becomes frustrated that he or she can’t piece it together just quite right.  Before the doubt creeps in, the pianist has a decision to make, and this exact moment is a decisive point in the journey towards becoming a masterful artist.  Does the pianist choose to walk away and call it quits, or does the pianist continue to say, ‘just one more’ until the fingers stroke the keys and result in the melody the artist has been wanting to hear?

It could be that moment when you’ve been working out consistently for a month and eating healthy.  Suddenly, the results don’t show despite the gains you’ve made.  Your goal is still within reach, but you’ve hit a roadblock.  Turn back to your old lifestyle or break down the barriers in your way?

What about at work?  You’ve been busting your tail to make things click and come together.  People doubt your abilities, but you know that you have it in you to succeed.  The pressure has been building against the dam and you’re pushing and pushing but the gates won’t seem to break.  This is a decisive point.  Do you push once more, perhaps breaking the wall, or do you throw in the towel?  Do the people around you pull you away not realizing just how far you’ve come and how close you are?

As the goal you’re after comes closer into view, these decisive points don’t become any easier.  They become more challenging because more is on the line.  As you rise to the top, and the end comes near, the pressure mounts as you finally get to where it is you’ve been trying to get.

Why?

Because what you’re after is attainable.  And what you’re after is something that matters.

2 Reasons a Decisive Point is Important

Reaching a decisive point – in life, your career, your hobby – is no small feat.  In many respects, it means that you’ve put forth a tremendous amount of hard work, displayed a helluva lot of persistence, and fought time and time again.

What does this mean?  Why is reaching one of these moments critical to your long-term success?  In the military, it’s important because of two reasons.

  1. Reaching a decisive point means that your goal is attainable
  2. Reaching a decisive point means that your goal matters

When something is attainable, it means that it is within reach.  It may be today, it could be tomorrow, or it could possibly be months down the road.  However, choosing to move forward in these moments is what will place you on a trajectory that brings the goal closer, or on a path in which you turn your back to something that you’ve invested so much time, effort, and energy.

It’s also important to understand that the goal you are pursuing matters.  Taking it a step further, understanding why it matters will help put everything into perspective.  Perhaps the reason is personal and it’s something that you’ve challenged yourself with.  Or, is it that someone else set forth an expectation and you’re making progress towards that goal.

So, the next step in this process is to decide.  You can decide to throw in the towel, or you can decide to continue moving forward in the face of adversity.  When you choose to move forward it says to yourself and those around you, “I’m all in,” and, with that, comes a commitment.

Committing to Something More

Reaching a decisive point – and consequently moving forward – will be one of the markers in your journey that you will reflect on and remember when the time has come to pass.  However, to get from one decisive point to the next, or even your end goal, it requires you to commit yourself.  This isn’t to say that you haven’t been committed from the get-go, it’s just a confirmation that you haven’t yet accomplished what you set out to accomplish.

In my personal life, I reflect on a severe skiing accident that resulted in a major knee surgery and had me side-lined for several months.  That accident happened in December of 2015.  In August of 2016 I was slated to compete in my first Ironman Triathlon – a 140.6 mile race that combines swimming, cycling, and running.  I’ll never forget going into surgery, looking at the surgeon, and asking, “How soon will I be able to run, and will I be able to compete?”

Coming out of surgery I knew the journey to the Ironman was going to be incredibly different than what I had pictured.  Now I had physical therapy to overcome, consistent knee pains to battle, and expectations that I needed to reframe.  At three months I was cycling and slowly jogging.  At 4.5 months, the intensity of my workouts increased.  At 6 months I competed in a Half-Ironman (70.3 miles).  Then, I had a decision to make, did I move forward with the original race I had planned in August, or did I need to postpone until an October race?

Although I had made tremendous progress, my body was still recovering.  For me to have raced Ironman Boulder in August would have been a disaster.  I literally logged thousands of miles of training.  Because of the injury, I endured setbacks along the way.  So, I had to reframe my expectations for what achieving my goal looked like.  It didn’t mean I wasn’t busting my ass in training.  It didn’t mean that I lacked motivation, or skill, or ability.  It had everything to do with the fact that I wasn’t going to haphazardly pursue a goal and perform poorly just to say I reached my goal.  In the end, it payed dividends that I couldn’t before imagined, and it reminded me that ‘Anything is Possible‘.

Such is the case with your life.  With the commitment to move forward at these critical moments, you will often have to reframe the expectations.  Why?  Because during the process in getting to where you are today, you have learned.  Because of that learning you have grown.  And, because of that growth you can now better strategize.  To get so far and to give up on yourself, or for others to give up on you, won’t make it any easier for you, or those around you, when you don’t keep moving forward.

It’s impossible to take a generalized approach when you begin any journey towards something greater.  That mindset will create restrictions, never allowing for any flexibility, and ultimately, learning.  This is especially unknown when there are so many unknown variables.  The only thing you can do is prepare to adapt, reframe expectations, and keep moving forward.

Think.  Commit.  Do.

Remember what’s important.  Remind yourself that these moments are bringing you closer to something that is attainable and that matters.  Commit yourself to it.  All the while, never wavering from the values and beliefs that you choose to live by.

It is possible.  Today is possible.

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Comfort, Growth, and Panic: Where do You Choose to Live?

Becoming Better

In my 29 (almost 30) years of life, I have never met someone who didn’t want to become better at something – one facet of their life.  These areas include everything from being a better spouse, a more engaged employee, a stronger person of faith, a healthier person, or a better person at a specific task.

Think about your life.

What is an area in which you strive to be better?

Three months into 2017, and many of you have set goals.  The objective of any goal is to become better at a specific task, to do more of something and less of another, and as a result to be a better you.  Are you still on task for reaching your goals for the year?

Becoming a better you is not something that anyone can do for you.  It’s in your own hands, and something you must have control over.  There are no circumstances or exceptions preventing you from achieving what it is you’re after, however, there are excuses.

The panacea for making it all happen isn’t in my hands, nor is it written down on a recipe card.  The answer to making it happen lies within each of your desires to need to make it happen.  Not because you should change or want to change, but again because you need to because you know it will allow you to become better at what you do.

Where Are you Living?

People who are willing to change, and are yearning to grow, are people who want something more.  These are the people who understand that complacency breeds mediocrity.  And these are the people that choose instead to keep their life under construction – always building and always growing.

In this photo, you will recognize three semi-circles (yes, this is my creative art).  Each of the circles represents a stage of life for becoming better at something.

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Zone 1 – Comfort:  People who choose to live in this stage choose the road that’s already been traveled – the one where the pavement leads directly to a destination.  Decisions are easy because, well, the easy choice is the sure-fire, easy way out.  The comfort zone allows you to make it through the day being perfectly content with what you are doing – never choosing to do more or less – but always just enough.  At the end of the day, it’s easier for these people to stay the course than to be challenged on a different route.

Zone 2 – Growth:  As mentioned before, individuals who have a desire to be better at something, know deep down that they are going to have to work hard to reach it (most of the time).  In this zone, decisions are often hard, rejection can creep in, and struggles are present.  However, it is only through conquering these hardships that you become better at whatever it is you are doing.  Do you know what becoming better equals?  That’s right, growth.

Zone 3 – Panic:  Thinking, speaking, listening, and acting without – often without processing or thinking.  People living in the panic zone seem to have no rhyme or reason to their decisions.  These people know there is something out there they should be doing, but they don’t know where to even begin, let alone what it is they are supposed to be doing.  Although it’s okay (at times) to not be sure what you should be working towards, it doesn’t do anyone justice to move about aimlessly making irrational decisions just to be doing something.  Soon enough, the panic will force you into crisis mode.

There it is – comfort, growth, and panic.  Which one resonates with your life?  How long have you been there?  Does it feel good in that zone?  Do you think your life would be any different if you were somewhere else?

Are you ready to be a better you?

The Results of Living in the Growth Zone

So, what happens when you find yourself in a place that allows you to grow?  By no means does it mean that life will be absolutely perfect.  And, it certainly doesn’t place you into utopia.  To be quite honest, it will be damn hard.  You will experience the full gamut of emotions – frustration, excitement, anger, joy, stress, relief, sadness and exuberance.  People will even doubt your capabilities and skills, but that is because these people don’t see the growth that is occurring because they are focused only on outward expectations, and they don’t have the ability to encourage or build into your own development.

These people – the ones that will doubt you – are often the same ones who lack their own self-confidence to enter the growth zone.  Deep down, these people probably even admire you for the good that you are doing.  The struggle is that people won’t praise you for struggling and and learning through the struggle, and it’s not your job to expect praise from them.  Your job is to keep doing exactly what you’ve been doing – knowing that working through struggle will teach you far more than you ever will from the folks that doubt you.

People who live by the status-quo don’t experience the gamut of emotions of people in the growth zone.  Why?  Because a complacent person lives in the comfort zone which minimizes the range of what you experience, how you feel, and how much you grow.

And, the people who do things irrationally – they are living in panic because at any time the bottom could fall out from underneath, or they might find themselves launched to 10,000 feet without a parachute to soften the landing.

But, the result of living in growth?

You get to do life.  You get to do something that builds yourself up so that you can build into others around you.  You get to face the day.  You get to learn from today’s hardships.  And, in those hardships is growth.

Finally, the result of building into others?

You become a better you and make those around you better people.  So, go and find an uncomfortable seat – one that has you on the edge and peering out looking for something more.

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Living Out your Life Manifesto

Last week, I posed the question to all my readers, “What’s your life manifesto?”  As the week came to pass, I found myself thinking about this question.  As a result, a couple follow-up questions came to my mind, which included:

  1. What if someone doesn’t have a life manifesto? How do you create one?
  2. What is the call to action? How do you live out your manifesto?

I felt it was important to answer these questions and to provide some additional feedback.  Once I started putting together the answers, there was a poignant moment when I told myself, “Wow, this all begins with one simple concept.”  If you can hang in there long enough, then I’ll share with you just exactly what the concept is that I’m thinking about.

Question 1:  What if you don’t have a life manifesto – how do you create one?

For starters, there is nothing written in stone that says you must have a mantra by which you live your life.  I’d be willing to bet that most people haven’t put much thought into it.  And, you know what?  That’s completely okay.

I believe that having a creed of sorts by which to live provides you with the motivation to continue pushing forward in life.  Some people are okay with living an average life.  However, if you aren’t one to settle for the status quo, and if you aren’t a fan of complacency, then a manifesto is a great place to start.

Now, if you don’t already have a manifesto but are looking to create one, I implore you to work on it over an extended period.  Keep it simple at first, because it likely won’t hit you all at once.  Revise, edit, change, and keep working at it until you can say, “This manifesto defines the person that I strive to be.”  Because the person you strive to be is one of integrity, character, and authenticity.

Question 2:  What is the call to action – how does one live out their life manifesto?

A call to action simply means ‘what are the next steps’.  In other words, something is said or done, and there is a follow up item that needs to be completed.  For example, if you currently have a life manifesto, or you are in the process of completing one, the call to action would be to live out those words that you penned on paper.

If you thought coming up with a manifesto was challenging, just wait until it comes time to live it out.  I’ll be honest and share that it’s a struggle sometimes to live out the words that I put on paper each week.  For anyone who chooses to be vulnerable in such a manner, it creates an expectation that is, at times, challenging to meet.

However, your life philosophy can best be lived out when you stay rooted in the core values and beliefs that you have set for yourself.  Ask yourself the question, “What’s most important to me in my life?”  It could be your wife, your husband, your kids, your siblings, your work, your hobbies, your friends, your ‘fill-in-the-blank’.  Whatever is most important in your life is usually where you will find your values being lived out..

The second part to living out your manifesto is to have a clear vision of what it is you are moving towards.  This could include something simple (yet challenging) such as striving to be a better person each day, or it could involve something complex (still challenging) such as overcoming an addiction.  How you carry yourself in these processes will determine whether you are sticking to the words you have put on paper.

The One Simple Idea

The first big idea in this article was to determine how to begin creating your own manifesto.  To recap, this is the part when you ask yourself, “Who is the person I strive to be”.  Once you have a grasp on this, then you can take action on the second big idea – to develop your motivational road map to help get you from your ‘here to your there’.

I have found that the person who strives to grow and to develop is often seeking something more in life.  A mindset of these types of people is to never settle for anything less than they deserve.  They know what they want, and they go after it.

As I mentioned earlier, after reflecting on the idea of a life mantra and the questions previously posed, there is one simple idea that is often the driving force behind both creating a manifesto and living one out.

It’s called a dream.  Big or small – a dream is a dream.  It could be the side project in which you find enjoyment or pursuing what you feel is your life’s work.  How you carry yourself is pursuit of your dreams is what people will remember – it will define you in many ways.  For when you pursue your dreams, you are working towards what is most important in your life.  A manifesto helps to motivate, to keep on track, and to remind you that having dreams is what makes life tolerablehaving dreams is what makes life tolerable.

And after all, having a manifesto is what reinforces that today is possible.

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What’s Your Life Manifesto?

‘Learn by Doing, but Question Everything

This past week I found myself scrolling through old photos on my iPad.   Among the photos were snapshots of my wedding day, glimpses of a honeymoon in Thailand, scenic photos of hikes in Colorado, triathlon finisher’s photo, family vacations, concert venues, my home back in Cincinnati, and plenty of other adventures across the globe.

It goes without saying that I am blessed, and I have been blessed to have had the opportunity to experience these escapades.

Then, while reminiscing from one memory to the next, there was a photo that caught my attention.  As soon as I saw it, I remember having taken a screenshot of it some time ago.  There it was staring me in the face, as if it was trying to tell me something.  Better yet, perhaps this photo was attempting to remind of me something.

What was the photo, you ask?  Well, in all honesty, it wasn’t the view from the peak of mountain, nor was it from a beautiful place that I’ve traveled in the last couple of years.  It was just a bunch of words – 138 to be exact.

Words of encouragement.  Words that chase something more than the status quo.  Words that have meaning, that embody purpose, and that breathe passion.

Some of the phrases include:

“Learn by doing, but question everything… Measure against your own standards, not others… Learn to model excellence…”

When I saved this image some time ago, I knew there was more significance than just taking it for face value.  At its core it says, “You have a purpose – pursue that purpose, don’t look back, and do something worth making an impact.”  Whether big or small, all that matters is it’s something that you believe deeply in (and about).

What’s the Significance of the Words in the Image?

I must have read through the words in this image four or five times when I stumbled upon it last week.  It gave me the chills – it made the hairs on my arm stand up.

When the words are pieced together, they remind me that ‘Today is Possible’.  And for you, my readers, it conveys the same message.

Do you have a short phrase that you say to remind yourself to live life to the fullest?  You know, quotes such as, ‘seize the day’ and ‘make the most of every opportunity’?  At some point in time, we’ve all scribbled an expression like this on a notepad to serve as a daily reminder.  Then, as life happens and circumstances arise, we identify a new phrase for that season of life.  And, at some point in time, the new slogan becomes a temporary reminder, only to fade in time.

In addition to these short-term reminders, it’s important to have more permanent fixtures, if you will.  By a permanent fixture I mean a life motto, or manifesto – a deeper expression of words that, no matter the season, that reminds you that today you are infinitely capable of doing something meaningful.

Manifesto:  of or relating to conscious feelings, ideas, and impulses

Screenshot (85) I first stumbled across this image while reading through one of my favorite personal development blogs – Live Your Legend.  This website is more of a movement.  Scott Dinsmore, whom I have mentioned in the past, created this revolution of people across the globe who see the value in pursuing something in which they find purpose.  Encouraging people to take a leap of faith is great, but without a foundation from which to provide support, the leap of faith becomes a leap of hope.

So, your foundation can be found in a manifesto that you believe in.  The words in a manifesto are something to reflect on.  And, the words in a life manifesto are what remind you to pursue something more – not yesterday and not tomorrow – rather today.

Unfortunately, Scott was killed in a tragic accident in his early 30’s.  However, the creed he left behind is something that millions of people refer to each day.  It’s now something that I have saved on my desktop, reminding me that we all have value, and we all have purpose.

The question is, what are you doing today to pursue that purpose?  Are you having trouble figuring out what that looks like?  If so, listen to this speech by Scott, and ask yourself the question, “What is the work you can’t not do?”

Your life passion might only require an hour of time each day, or in some cases it might consume your entire day.  Either way, it’s possible and within reach.  If you want to define your own success in life, try to define it by whether or not you pursued what you were passionate about, and whether or not you’re doing the best you can.

In the meantime, develop your own life manifesto.  Put some words on paper that bring forth significance in your life.  Place them where you can see them.  Follow them, but more importantly, live by them.

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If We Learn from being Defeated, then Why do We Always Want to Win?

Being Defeated

In life, you will face challenges, encounter obstacles, and overcome hardships.  To be honest, there will be times when life knocks you flat on your ass – times when you face being defeated.  The same point can be made for just the opposite scenario.  Life also has the ability to lift us up – times when we embrace adversity and ‘win’.

In both wins and losses, there are learning opportunities  These experiences have the ability to contribute to the shaping of you into the person that you desire to be.  What I find interesting is that your victories often focus on what you did that was ‘good’, or something that helped you achieve success.  For example, if you perform well on a final exam in college, it could be attributed to the fact that you studied for the test.  So, for future exams, you may utilize the same studying process.  However, the question remains, ‘have you learned something long term, or did you merely remember something for the short term’?

On the other hand, what if you perform poorly on the exam… what if the grade you received is not what you were expecting or hoping?  What if you realized that the poor performance could be attributed to the fact that you waited until the morning of the exam, and you merely skimmed your notes a few times through before taking the test?

I think the learning lesson here is that if you truly have a desire to be successful, then you will change something about your habits in order to help make you successful.

My point is that if you always win at what you do, then you never fully understand the areas of your life in which you need to grow.  It is in these opportunities for growth that you have the ability to become better at what you do, more efficient at your work, and more prepared for the next challenge that you face.  Sure it’s possible to learn from your victories, however, when you learn from your short-comings, you increase your awareness of how to perform something differently in the future in order to receive a different result than you previously did.

Think of the following scenarios that may apply to your life:

  • Did you try cooking a new recipe and it turned out poorly? Did you learn what you could do better the next time?
  • Did you struggle getting through a sales call? Did it make you think about how to re-frame your questions in order to get the information you were seeking?
  • Did you attempt a fitness training program, but cut it short after only a few weeks? Did it make you think about how much time and effort would be needed to try again?
  • Did you cause hurt in a relationship because of your words? Did it cause you to think how you could act differently with people in the future?

The list could continue with several other examples, but the point is that these moments of feeling defeated – feeling like you let yourself or someone else down – are the perfect opportunities to try something new with the intentions of receiving a better result.

“I Needed to Pick Myself up From the Mat”

Although I enjoy athletics, and physical sports, I will admit that I’m not a fan of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighting.  This type of event usually involves two people in an octagon-shaped ring who take swings at each other until the other person is deemed not capable of continuing in the competition.  In other words, it’s boxing with a combination of various mixed martial arts disciplines.  In the past couple of years, this sporting event (I’m not too sure what else to call it) has grown, and females are increasing their presence as participants.

Two years ago, one female MMA fighter, Ronda Rousey, suffered her first defeat at the hands of another woman.  While I did not watch the fight, I did happen to catch a video of her being interviewed on the Ellen Show.  Ronda shared with Ellen what the competition was like and how it made her feel afterwards.  What grabbed my attention during the interview was the moment when Ronda said, “Maybe winning all the time isn’t what’s best for everybody.”

Ronda would continue by saying that even in the face of defeat, she needed to ‘pick herself up off of the mat’.

These quotes from Ronda speak volumes to anyone who is dealing with and managing adversity.  I believe the point being made is that you don’t always have to win at everything we do.

It’s great to win the championship.

It’s awesome to always be in position for job promotions.

It’s exciting to never have the air let out of the balloon.

But, at the end of the day, do you think it would be a great learning experience to see and know how it feels on the other end?  You might disagree, and I will admit that winning feels great.  However, when I can reflect on my life, it was in the times that I ‘lost’ – moments when I was down and out – defeated if you will – when I learned the most about myself.

Even the Most Successful People Have Fallen in Order to Become Successful

In my mind, success is a subjective word, and it’s meaning arbitrary to the person defining it.  However,  I believe there is a common denominator between what you choose to do (in work, school, relationships, faith, etc.), how you define success, and whether or not you actually achieve the success that you would like to achieve.

The common denominator is called hard work.  Achieving success isn’t easy.  The road isn’t always flat.  The burdens aren’t always light.  And, along the road to success, even the best at what they do will sometimes trip.  The best will fall – and to an extent – be defeated.  As I was trying to think of an example to demonstrate this argument, I came across the following quote:

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career.  I’ve lost almost 300 games.  26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed.  I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life.  And, that is why I succeed.” –Michael Jordan

For those of you who have never heard of Michael Jordan is, he is arguably the greatest professional basketball player of all time.

Taking this quote a step further, I began to research the opposite of what those numbers represent.  In other words, how many shots did Michael Jordan make, games did he win, and game winning shots did he make.

  • Shots made – More than 24,000
  • Games won – More than 1,000
  • Game-winning Shots – 25, with one of the highest game-winning shot percentages in professional basketball history

In looking at these statistics, and keeping Jordan’s quote in mind, I find validity in that it was the moments of defeat that helped Michael to develop into a better player and to grow into a threat against opposing teams.

If you knew that you would succeed 24,000 times, but only after you failed 9,000, then would you think differently about always wanting to win?  Would you be okay with knowing that no one likes to be defeated, but understanding that through defeat an individual is able to grow?

As much as I enjoy to win, I find myself thinking back on all the times that I didn’t meet the expectation – that I wasn’t ‘successful’.  As bad as it may have felt at the time, it helped me become the person that I am today, ready and willing to see obstacles as learning blocks to hone a skill and grow as a person.

I’d be willing to bet you have an experience like this as well.  Revisit this moment.  Remember the principles it taught you, and use those ideas as guidelines for how to increase your chances of success, and ultimately have more ‘wins’.  Continue on with the hard work and effort you have been putting forth.  Respect the process.  Have patience in the process.  Most importantly, celebrate the process.

Did you enjoy this article?  Check out more by visiting my blog, Embracing Adversity.

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The Importance of Knowing When to Let go, and When to Hang on

Choosing to Face the Day

When you woke up this morning, it was in those brief moments after first opening your eyes when the course of your day was determined.  Those first minutes of your day, when you were weary-eyed and possibly a bit sluggish, were pivotal in the way you decided to approach the day.  This is the part of the day when you unconsciously told yourself, “Today is (or isn’t) possible.

Think about it.  If you woke up at, say, 6:00am, and you go to bed at 10:00pm, that’s 16 hours of to make something happen today.  And, although that’s two-thirds of a day for you to accomplish something great, it’s also two-thirds of a day for a lot of things to go wrong.  Because if you’re honest with yourself, very seldom do plans go exactly as anticipated.

Based on the decision you made when you first stepped out of bed, you have either placed yourself on a path to embrace the day or a path that will easily self-destruct as the day unravels.  Then, for the next 16 hours, known and unknown circumstances, situations, and events will be hurled in your direction.  When this happens, you will have an important decision to make.

You can choose to let go of all things out of your control, or you can take control and hang on tight.

Letting Go and Hanging on Tight

Choosing when to let go and when to grab life by the horns isn’t always easy.  It’s a decision that has you at odds – in game of tug-of-war with your head and your heart.  It’s a battle of logic versus emotions.  It’s a conflict, that, at the end of the day, there is a winner and a loser – and you’re both.  So, does that equal a ‘tie’?  What does that mean?

These internal struggles are something that you are constantly up against.  The struggles never seem to get easier, always seeming to compound with time.

But, you know what?

The internal struggles are something that you do have control over.  You do can alleviate the tension on the string that’s connecting logic and emotion.

But, how you ask?

By understanding when to let go and when to hang on tight when the day tosses a curveball at you in the batter’s box.  And, if you decided when you woke up that ‘today is going to be a good day’, then you’ll knock it out of the park – smiling, enjoying, and appreciating the day.  On the other hand, if you said, ‘today isn’t going to be a good day’, then you will likely swing and miss.

Determining when to let go and when to hold on is an easier decision to make when you can identify which events throughout the day that will make your life better or worse.

There are thousands of factors that you have no control over.   It always strikes me as interesting that the things that we have no control over are the things cause the most anger, frustration, annoyance, fear, and aggravation.  It could be something as simple as having to take a detour on the way to work because of an accident, or something more complicated such as whether someone will follow through on a commitment they made to you.

In these moments, you can choose to let go and press on with the day, or you can let them stir up negative feelings that will only compound the more you harp on them.  In these moments, ask yourself, “Will my day be better if I just let go of it, or will my day be worse if I hang on to it?”

On the flip side, your day will present you with additional circumstances that you didn’t expect.  However, these are the situations that present opportunities – not obstacles.  These are the moments that, although unplanned, will make your day better.  While it might interrupt ‘plans’ that you had made, the long-term gains will counter any short-term losses.

In these moments, you can choose to let go of the opportunity and proceed with your plans, or you can be flexible and see the benefit in the last-minute change.  In these moments, ask yourself, “Will my day be worse if I just let go and pass, or will my day be better if I grab this opportunity and run with it?”

So, here you are.  Back to this battle of logic and emotion – head and heart.  If you’re honest with yourself, the last thing you want to feel when you lie down to bed at night is anger and frustration.  If you can’t let go of the things that are out of your control that make your day worse, then it’s likely to be a restless night.  But, if you can learn to hang on tight to the uncontrollable events that make your day better, then you’ll find a sense of peace and joy when your head hits the pillow.

All that’s left is to wake up tomorrow.  And, when you do, tell yourself, “Today is possible because I will let go of what I can’t control that brings me down, and I will hold on tight to the things that build me up.

I’ll promise you this, and I will say it again:

If you continue to hold onto something that you should let go of – day after day – it will compound and get worse.  It will weigh you down, and each day you will wake up feeling defeated.  But, if you hold onto the things that bring you purpose – day after day – it will also compound, however, your life will continue to get better.  Only with the latter will you wake up each day feeling accomplished.

Defeated or accomplished.  It’s your choice.  Choose wisely.

 

The Difference Between: Summary and Review

A Deeper Understanding

Four weeks ago, you took a closer look at the significance and difference between the two words ‘regret’ and ‘disappointment’.  In the weeks that followed, a similar strategy was used to look at other pairs of words that are frequently used in the English language.

The purpose of this last series, ‘The Difference Between’, was to break down the definitions of pairs of words that are commonly used interchangeably in life, conversation, and everyday use.  The intended result was to gain a better understanding of the differences of such words and to recognize the value they have when working through adversity.

For example, in part two of the series, you read about the deliberateness that is associated with an attempt to accomplish a task.  This component of being deliberate is what makes the word ‘attempting’ significantly different than the word ‘trying’.  Then, you dissected the phrases ‘I can’ and ‘I will’ to learn how one of these phrases helps serve as a catalyst to put an idea in motion.  Last week, in the final part of this series, you learned that giving thanks is an expression, but showing appreciation is an action.

There is no doubt that several weeks could have been added to this series.  However, my goal was to simply provide some thought-provoking material – some content that forced you to do more than just scratch the surface.  Because, until you can dig a bit deeper, and be curious about what’s beyond face value, it will be challenging to seek (and receive) more from life than just the status-quo.

Even more important than challenging your existing way of thinking, my intent was to demonstrate how making minor changes in ‘self-talk’ can be the difference between your ability to falter or to embrace adversity.

Think about these examples using the phrases ‘I can’ and ‘I will’

  • I can fight to overcome my cancer diagnosis. I will fight to overcome my cancer diagnosis.
  • I can work to create meaning in my life and the lives of others. I will work to create meaning in my life and the lives of others.
  • I can fight to overcome the challenges and hardships in my marriage. I will fight to overcome the challenges and hardships in my marriage.
  • I can learn to play the piano even after losing my vision. I will learn to play the piano even after losing my vision.

Remember, you can do anything.  The key question remains, “Will you?”

The Differentiating Factors of People Who Embrace Adversity

Often, it is the small tweaks that you make in areas of your life that will contribute to a much larger success.  Make small changes in your eating and exercising habits, and you will see long-term results that result in a healthier you.  Implement small strategies into your daily routines to eliminate distractions and to drive productivity.

Start small, gain momentum, and conquer the hell out of everything you do.  Just like the intent of this series, you will benefit from recognizing how the slightest changes in your life can promote optimism, drive action, and achieve success.

There is plenty of research out there that provides evidence for what characteristics most contribute to an individual’s success.  In her book, Grit, Angela Duckworth shares her research that suggests that the people with the most ‘grit’ are the people who achieve greater success than their peers who lack the ability to be ‘gritty’.

Author Richard St. John’s work concludes that the most successful people have the same eight characteristics.  Among these eight traits are a passion for what they do, they have a focus, and they get outside of their comfort zone.

While I do not doubt the results of Duckworth’s or St. John’s studies, I personally think that the difference between people who embrace adversity and who achieve success boils down to something much simpler.  It’s an idea or theory that requires waking up in the morning and telling yourself these three words:

Today is possible.

Today is the first day of the rest of your life.  When you woke up today, your feet were on the starting line.  Your failures and achievements of yesterday only serve as an experience that contributes to your growth.  Tomorrow’s opportunities aren’t promised.  And, quite honestly, if you can’t survive today, then you will never be prepared to face the dawn of tomorrow.

The difference between the person who embraces adversity and the person who shutters at the thought of hardship is the person who recognizes this:

Today provides you with an infinite amount of opportunities – opportunities to make small changes in moving away from your ‘here’ and towards your ‘there’.  So, as you begin your day, regardless of whatever it is that you’re dealing with, tell yourself, “Today is possible.”  Then, ever so slightly, begin with just one small step.  And remember, that one small step is the difference between taking control of your own life and moving toward the success that you deserve, or standing still and thinking about your next move.

You deserve today.  Embrace it and lean into it.  You will be thankful for the difference it will make in your life.

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The Difference Between Thanks and Appreciation

Do you Give Thanks, or Do you Show Appreciation?

The idea for this article hit me shortly after last Thanksgiving.  I know it’s been a couple of months since you were smacking your lips at the thought of turkey, dressing, sweet potato casserole, and pumpkin pie.  So, bear with me on this.  The word ‘Thanksgiving’ in of itself expresses exactly what you would expect – to give thanks for the good things in your life.  So, every year on the last Thursday of November, many Americans spend the day eating a Turkey dinner and ‘giving thanks’ for the blessings in their lives.

I remember scrolling through social media, and my feeds were full of friends and family who were sharing all they had to be thankful for.  Hell, I joined the party and posted a photo with my wife because I truly am grateful for everything she provides for our marriage and me.

Then, in a mere 24 hours, Thanksgiving came to pass.  There weren’t many more posts about the blessings in the lives of so many, nor the people and things that they felt deserve thanks.

I don’t believe the lack of post-holiday thanks is because we just stop giving thanks.  Rather, I believe it’s because there is a difference between what it means to ‘give thanks’ and what it means to ‘show appreciation’.

5 Differences between Giving Thanks and Showing Appreciation

Our lives are ‘busy’.  We all use the word.  Someone asks how you’re doing and how do you respond – ‘I’m good – busy.’  The word ‘busy’ is just another way of saying, “I’m okay, but I could be better,” or, “there’s a lot going on in my life and my mind is in several places right now.”

In the ‘busyness’, we only share and receive bits and pieces of our ‘busy’ lives with one another.  Then occasionally, something or someone will do something very sincere for us or vice versa.  In these moments, we have two options:

  1. We can give thanks and tell the person ‘thank you’.
  2. We can show appreciation and share how meaningful their action was along with their generosity

There isn’t anything wrong with either, and there certainly is a time and place for both uses.  However, we must first understand and recognize the depth of each.

  1. Thanks is a phrase, but appreciation is an expression of gratitude
  2. Thanks is often used as a placeholder for any situation – a generalized statement if you will – but appreciation is the result of something impactful on our lives
  3. Thanks scratches the surface of someone’s feelings, but appreciation touches the emotions
  4. Thank yous are quickly forgotten, but showing appreciation creates a lasting impression
  5. Thanks is universal, but appreciation is individualized and personal

While similar in nature, it’s evident that these words each have its own significance.  Not one is more important than the other, and regardless of the situation, they are both challenging words to express to others.

How many times has someone told you ‘thanks’ for what you’ve done?  How many times has someone expressed their appreciation for an act of yours?  Which meant more to you?  Which statement created a memory that causes you to smile when you reflect on it?

Be Thankful and Appreciative

Each day of our lives we have something to be thankful for.  On the same token, our lives are also filled (regularly) with moments for which we need to be appreciative.  It is true that the little things don’t go unnoticed.  Your small deeds are recognized.

Regardless of when, there is never a better time to say thanks or express appreciation than the moment in which it occurs.  Kind words mean more than you think, even if they are simple.

Most importantly, be thankful and appreciative at every moment of every day – not just on Thanksgiving.  Our world could use a little more thanks, a lot of appreciation, and a lot less negativity.  Be the person to brighten someone’s day with your kind words.  You never know just how significant it might be to that other person.

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The Difference between ‘I can’ and ‘I will’

The Deciding Factor for Taking Action

In this series, we are taking a closer look at words that are often used synonymously.  Each week we have dissected two words to better understand what each means (at its core).  For example, last week, I shared how ‘trying’ something new is much different than ‘attempting’ a new task.  Words are powerful tools to have and to use.  The messaging that we want to convey is dependent on our word choice and the context of those words.

Our lives are filled with a series of actions.  One action results in something else, and then another, and so the process begins.  We take action, we complete tasks, we go to work, we learn at school.  While there are thousands of factors and circumstances that limit our control over in these examples, the one aspect that we do have control over is our words.

At their core, every action, inaction, or intended action is the result of a decisions that we make with ourselves.  Whether our decision is the catalyst puts us into motion is usually determined by our selection of one of two phrases:

  1. I can do this
  2. I will do this

Can and will – two short words with similar intentions, but significant outcomes.

3 Differences Between ‘I can’ and ‘I will’

When I think about the importance and value of the phrases ‘I can’ and ‘I will’, I often think about the entrepreneurs of this world who have created products and businesses that are globally recognized.  At some point in time, each of these people had an idea… and a decision.  The idea was great on paper, but I tend to think that whether the idea would come to life would be the result of that person telling himself or herself, “I can do this”, or, “I will do this”.

You can do anything.  I don’t care what it is – write it down.

You can start your own business.  You can find passion and purpose in your work.  You can build a family.  You can be an architect.  You can learn to play an instrument.  You can overcome illness.

Set your mind to it, and you can do it.  But, the question remains, “Will you?”  Being able to transition your mind from ‘I can’ to ‘I will’ is a crucial step in achieving what you know is possible.

He that can have patience, can have what he will. -Benjamin Franklin

The words ‘can’ and ‘will’ get used haphazardly.  To the unassuming, they might mean the same, but to the person who is listening, they are light years different.

  1. ‘I can’ is non-committal and ‘I will’ is committal – Either you are going to do it or you aren’t. With a commitment, you are locked in.  People may or may not question what you say you can do, but they will certainly hold you accountable for what you say you will do.
  2. ‘I can’ is an idea left on paper and ‘I will’ is an idea put in motion – When you use the word ‘will’ you have made the decision to complete whatever action you were previously contemplating. The ball is put in motion, and soon after, you build momentum and traction.  Sometimes the momentum is more or less than desired and the traction might slip from time to time.  The point is that you are still in motion.
  3. ‘I can’ is an easy way out and ‘I will’ requires effort – Anyone can do anything, but when you tell yourself you will do something, then you understand that it’s going to require an effort of some sort. Instead of seeing failure in saying ‘I can’, you see success in saying, ‘I will’.  Be prepared to overcome obstacles and have a need to persevere.  If you are to achieve what you say you will, then remember that the road isn’t always paved.

We have all been blessed with different skills, talents, and abilities.  Whether we choose to use them is a decision that we must make and that we must to live with.  Whatever our unique gifts are, they have the ability to impact another person and people across the world.

Do this:

Write down three unique gifts that you have.  What do they mean to you?  What could they mean to others?

One last thing…

Can you use those gifts, or will you use those gifts?

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The Difference Between Trying and Attempting

A Kid at Play or an Adult at Work?

Have you ever sat back and watched a young child at play?  I’m sure most of you have.  What struck you most about the child’s actions, expressions, and movements?  Was it the way they rolled the ball across the room, or the way they pushed the buttons on a toy?

Children of all ages have a natural curiosity.  They want to know more.  They want to put their hands on everything.  They want to feel and hear and see new things.  The desire to want to know more causes children to be willing to try something new.  If it brings excitement, then the child will likely try again so that they can receive the same response.  If something new causes the same child frustration, then there’s a good chance that he or she will move on to the next thing.

Now, if you were to reflect on your own life, would you say that you tried as many things in your adolescence and adulthood as you did when you were a young child?  In your current life, when an opportunity presents itself – one in which you have never seen before – are you likely to try it?  What does it take to get you to give it a shot?

I believe, that, as we mature, we tend to try fewer things.  So, instead of trying things, we focus more on what we already know how to do.  In other words, we continue to attempt something that we have some skill for doing.  As a result, we eliminate some of the uncertainty that comes along with trying something.

Try this.  Attempt that.  We hear the words daily, but do they really mean the same thing?

As I think about all the things that I’ve tried in life, and all the things that I’ve attempted, I can’t help but think how both have shaped me – in different contexts and at different points in my life.

The Relationship Between Trying and Attempting

When I think about the words ‘trying’ and ‘attempting’, I tend to associate each of them with a two-word phrase.  When you try something, you try ‘just because’.  On the other hand, when you attempt something, you attempt ‘because of’.

Within each of these phrases, there is something deeper.  There is meaning that isn’t written in the definition of either word, but rather needs to be seen through a different lens.  As adults, it’s important to recognize that your growth is dependent on both, however it’s your level of deliberateness that will determine whether you are trying or attempting.

 

  1. Attempting something is a deliberate action with a desired result – Have you ever known, or do you know, someone who has pursued a doctorate degree?  A doctorate degree requires several years of researching and studying a specific topic to be considered an expert in that field of study.  People who pursue these types of degrees commit themselves to these rigorous programs and typically don’t do so ‘just because’.  The people who commit to these programs attempt to engage and learn with the deliberate intention of becoming an expert in a very specific topic so that they can share and teach their knowledge with others.
  2. Attempting something follows a specific process – Because an attempt is deliberate, it requires process thinking that works through a series of steps to arrive at the desired result. In the example of someone who is pursuing a doctorate degree, there is an entrance exam, specific coursework, research, and a dissertation – all of which must be completed.  Each of these components is requirement in order to obtain the degree.   In any facet of your life, if you were just out to try something, then it is likely that you would be less concerned with the process for how you arrived at the goal and more concerned at simply arriving.  With an attempt, you take to heart the process because you recognize it’s importance in the journey.
  3. Attempting something is best accomplished with the support of others – Anytime you can utilize the support network of others, it can help you to make progress towards something you are working towards.  When you attempt something, you learn by receiving feedback from those around you.  It’s the support of many that aids in the accomplishment of one.  Alternative perspective, different viewpoints, and thought-provoking suggestions are just a few ways in which the support of others helps contribute to any process.  Imagine trying to learn to ride a bike for the first time – what do you think the long-term success would be if you went out and tried to ride by yourself (without training wheels) and versus having a parent helping you and providing you with feedback on each deliberate attempt?

What Does this Mean for You?

For the rest of your life, you are going to find yourself in many situations in which you will be required to try or to attempt something.  There is a purpose for each, and it’s important to understand how the two words relate to one another.

It’s easiest if you think of it in terms of trying something that you may do once or twice.  It may work or it may not work.  Either way, you try it, and you move on.  On occasion, there will be something that, when you try it, you can’t get enough of it.  You enjoy it, and you try it repeatedly.  It could be something as simple as picking up a basketball for the first time, or solving your first crossword puzzle.

When the uncertainty in something new shifts to a desire, then you have moved from simply trying something to attempting it.  And when you attempt it, you want to get better at it.  And when you get better at it, you deliberately choose to do it because, in it, you find both passion and purpose.  For all or us, any attempt at something that we have a passion for, and in which we find purpose, is something worth pursuing.

 

So the question becomes, what are you pursuing today?  Are you passionate about it, and does it provide you with purpose?

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The Difference Between Regret and Disappointment

If it was Your Last Day on Earth…

You’ve all heard the story before.  It goes something like this…

“If you were at the last day of your life, and you looked back, what would you regret that you did or didn’t do with your time on earth?”

Tough question, to say the least.  Would you do anything differently?  Would you recall your favorite memories?  Would you show regret, or disappointment?

Now, let’s return to the initial question.  Notice that the question uses the word regret.  Personally, I struggle with this question for two reasons (other than the obvious).

  1. First, it forces you to look ahead into the future in order to reflect on your life as it’s been lived up to the present. It fails to take into consideration the life you have yet to live and the experiences you are yet to have.
  2. Secondly, regret elicits negative thoughts and emotions. It’s almost as though it forces you to think of the moments in your life that you are most ashamed of, instead of the moments that humbled.

This is an example when I believe that it’s never been more important to understand what it means to regret.

“In the verb form, to regret is to feel sorrow or remorse for (an act or a guilt).”

Right away, you’ll notice the two negative (or not so happy) words – sorrow and remorse.  I can’t think of any positive emotions that I feel when I read these words.  Let’s be honest, how many moments in your life did you truly feel sorrow and remorse for something you did or said?

However, what if I asked how many moments in your life caused you to feel disappointment because of something you did or said?  Disappointment, meaning it didn’t break you and you grew stronger because of what you experienced.  It’s likely more accurate that you can think of more times when you felt disappointment rather than regret.

So, when you look at the relationship between disappointment and regret, there seem to be slight nuances that differentiate the two words, even though you will find them listed as synonyms in a thesaurus.  And, while both words can be representative of significant moments in your past that were challenging, it’s important to understand the complexities so that you don’t end up confused about what caused you either disappointment or regret.

Five Differences Between Regret and Disappointment

If you were to live a life assuming that all the bad experiences from your past were regret, then you would find yourself living in a state a denial – denial that everything should have been or could be different.  On the flip side, if you can label some of these experiences as disappointments, then you can identify that everything is very much how it should be or could be.

How do you tell the difference between regret and disappointment?  Look at these five differences and then make your judgement.

  1. Regret is self-defeating but disappointment is self-fulfilling – When you regret something, you tend to beat yourself up over it. You replay it in your head in desperate hope that it will change the past.  Disappointment, on the other hand, teaches you a lesson.  You reflect on that lesson to better change how you react in the future.
  2. Regret never goes away but disappointment comes to pass – A regret gets buried deep inside. It festers there until something triggers a reminder that it’s there.  Then, when it’s triggered, it resurfaces negative feelings and emotions – feelings of sorrow and remorse.  Then, it’s suppressed until a future time.  Disappointment will fade in time.  It will merely serve as a reminder of an event in your life, a reflection point if you will, when you learned something about yourself.
  3. Regret pulls you down but disappointment builds you up – As you bury the regrets in your life, they begin to pull you down. Regret says, “I didn’t live up to the expectations.”  Disappointment says, “I’m a better person for having gone through that.  Now, I can do something great and turn ‘tragedy’ into triumph.”
  4. Regret celebrates failures but disappointment celebrates small victories – It’s easy to celebrate your regrets. Yes, you think about regret as this pivotal moment in your life and treat it as a special event.  When you do this, ask yourself, “What good will come about because of my celebrating my own regret?”  On the other hand, when you celebrate disappointment, it’s a way of viewing the pivotal moment as a small win in the game of life.  Small wins lead to big accomplishments.
  5. Regret has no purpose but all disappointment has significance and meaning – When you think about it, regret doesn’t have a greater purpose in your life. It does nothing to propel you forward, to excite you, or to make you feel joy.  Regret brings you down.  It eats at you and frustrates you.  What purpose does that serve?  None!  Do you want significance and meaning?  You can find purpose in your disappointments because they show that you can identify an event or a situation that has helped to define the person you are becoming – not the person you are today.

Both words – disappointment and regret – show your ability or inability to embrace the circumstances in your life.  When I think about my own life, it’s a bit ironic that my disappointments came at moments when I could embrace what I was faced with.

My failures?  You guessed it.  When I couldn’t embrace the situation at hand.

Believe it or not, you can find joy in disappointment.  You can find new hope.  You can find new life, new energy.  Your disappointments can be a catalyst for exponential learning and growth.  Your regret, however, resists any sort of development.

As you reflect on some of these crucial moments from you past, is the experience rooted in regret or disappointment?  You have the ability to choose – it’s in your ability to embrace.

So, would you rather say, “I wish I could go back and do things differently,” or, “It didn’t go as I had hoped, but it made me a better person for the way it turned out.”

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Incorporate Small Steps to See Big Changes

The New Year’s Crew

First thing’s first… Welcome back!  I trust that this post finds you doing well and having enjoyed the first few days of the year.  If anything else, my hope is that you are at peace with your life and all that is on the horizon in this new year.  I’m looking forward to moving into the fourth year of writing, and I am going to continue to strive to improve my content and find ways to connect with my readers.

There was a period in my life when I worked as a Personal Trainer at a fitness center.  I enjoyed the idea of being active and living healthy.  For me, I’ve always received feelings of accomplishment after completing a challenging workout and leaving the gym.  I enjoyed this environment for eleven months out of the year.  Yes, only eleven.

Come January 1st, the employee conversations were quite different than just a few weeks prior.  What previously was, “Man, it’s dead in here with the holidays,” became “Wow, people are waiting to use equipment!”

This new crowd of gym-goers was quickly dubbed ‘The New Year’s Crew’.   As fitness professionals, we would do our best to help understand what goals these people had and what was really driving them to be begin a workout regimen – other than ‘losing a few pounds and getting healthy’.  You know, that feeling deep down inside that says, ‘I need to change something.’

Then, without fail, we’d notice people who would miss 2-3 days after 10 consecutive days of being at the gym.  Eventually, the 2-3 day breaks became frequent, and in time, these people wouldn’t return.  This was so frustrating for me to watch, especially because these people who were making efforts to be there and to drive change in their life.

I even questioned whether I was doing my job by helping these people find a program that was effective and provided balance.  That’s just it, we didn’t convey the message of balance, and how a complete 180 was going to make things more challenging.

This example is relevant to any situation in life that you want to bring about change.  In many cases, making one large drastic change to your life is not going to provide the long-term results that you desire.  Instead, it’s through a series of small, simple changes with clear expectations that you can continue to move towards the life you want to live.

Small Changes Lead to Big Results

In the example of The New Year’s Crew, these people had every effort and intention of moving forward with their goals for the new year.  At the beginning, they had motivation and energy because it was something fresh and new.  Then, within a matter of weeks, they had exhausted themselves.

Making such a radical change carries with it big expectations.  The bigger the expectation, the more pressure there is to succeed.  The bigger the expectation, the easier it is to fall short of where you want to land – especially when not celebrating the small wins along the way.

In those initial weeks of the new year at the fitness center, I would watch people spend hours at a time on the machines and equipment – despite our staff conveying the message of variety, intervals, and other forms of working out.  I applaud each of them for their intent, but for many, the expectation was too high.

In the months that followed the new year, I would also notice a trend with another group of people.  This other group also made a similar commitment – to be active and healthy.  However, these people would come to the fitness center 2-3 time per week, and were more specific about the activities they did while there.  They also incorporated healthy eating habits.  In time, this group of people would outlast the others, and they would see better long-term results.

Why?  Because the small change was easier to manage and incorporate into their lifestyle.

Life Requires You to Change

Your life is going to require you to change and evolve.  I was having coffee with a friend recently and he made the reference that you think you might be getting the Taj Mahal out of life, but life gives you the Holiday Inn.  For that reason, we must be willing to adapt and make changes.  Sometimes you will be the driver in bringing about change, and at other times, life will drive the change for you.  In any event, you will have to do something different in order to achieve the desired results.

Although it’s easy to focus on where you want to end up, it’s not necessarily beneficial to think that making one significant change is going to get you there quicker.  Instead, understand that it’s going to be a process, and that there are advantages to making a series of small changes.

  1. Small changes are easier to manage – It’s easier to gradually increase the needed change than it is to scale back from making one big change.
  1. Small changes increase motivation – If you had a goal of losing 50 pounds, then that number would constantly linger over your head until you reach the goal.  However, if the goal started out as wanting to lose 10 pounds, then losing that initial weight would be motivating to continue doing the work.
  1. Small changes compound into big results – By implementing a series of small changes, there is a higher percentage that you will continue to see small results. In time, the results will continue to compound into a significant change.

So, as you think about the year ahead, I’m not discouraging you to think big.  Please do – think big and accomplish great things.  However, when you begin this journey, think small and with a clear vision.  Let each step be the catalyst for another, but be patient in the process.  Move from a walk to a run, and from a run to a sprint.  Then, when you have achieved your desired goal, or changed something you wanted to change, ask yourself, “Is there something more that I can do – something small that will continue to drive big results.”

And remember, you can’t get to where you want to go, unless you know it is where you are beginning.  Celebrate now, appreciate today, and live for the moment.

 

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Thinking Always Ahead

Thinking Always Ahead

This past year has been quite the adventure for myself.  Much of what I have experienced has been shared through this website, and the journey has been the impetus for most of the weekly posts.

I try often not to dwell on what has happened in the past, but it’s something that is challenging not to do when the end of the year is right around the corner.  In a recent conversation, my wife and I were discussing that it’s always easy to look back on our accomplishments and say, ‘That was pretty grueling’.

The caveat, though, is that in the moment you don’t always think of things as being challenging.  Why?  Because you just do what you must do to get the job done.  This past year, 2016, will be one that I will I always remember as having brought tremendous adversity, but the year that taught me the most about patience, persistence and fortitude.

There was plenty of fun amid all the hardship.  We made a trip to Mexico.  Weddings, marathons, and everything in between took us to Boston, New York, San Francisco, Tampa, and Cincinnati.  Mountains were climbed, and trails were hiked.  Paths were run, and roads were ridden.  Each of these events resulted in growth and learning.  However, there were three significant obstacles that have defined this past year.

Road to Recovery

My year began with a long road to recovery after an extensive knee surgery.  During the rehabilitation process, I was tested daily – physically, mentally, and emotionally.  Physically, I wanted to get back on my feet to training for triathlons.  Mentally, I had to learn to focus on one day at a time and not the end goal.  Emotionally, I had to keep myself motivated and not weighed down by everything I couldn’t do.

I had to learn to reframe my expectations.  Doing so, allowed me to focus on the process while still enjoying the outcome.  I had to create a vision for myself and have a desire to meet the vision.  With some patience in the process and the support of so many people, I achieved my goals.  Along the way, remembering to celebrate the small victories.

You Are an Ironman

Many people said I was crazy.  They weren’t sure how I was going to be able to not only complete, but compete, in an Ironman Triathlon.  It was a goal I had set out to accomplish prior to knee surgery, and it wasn’t going to pass me by.  The thought of completing a 140.6-mile race was daunting, but I needed to do this for myself – to prove that the human body can do some incredible and amazing things.

So, I trained.  Logging 15-20 hours a week of swimming, biking, and running.  The weekly mileage always seemed to hit the 200-mile mark.  When it all came to an end, my training covered nearly 3,000 miles.  It culminated with the Louisville, KY, Ironman in early October.  Crossing the finish line after 11 hours of racing was a humble reminder that ‘Anything is Possible’.

Changing Jobs

Halfway through the year, I decided to leave a company I had been with for three years.  I couldn’t be more thankful or appreciative of that opportunity for what I learned and how it allowed me to grow as a business professional.  When initial future opportunities didn’t pan out, it was both challenging and stressful.  However, it allowed me to learn things about myself that I had not yet known.

Going through this process emphasized the importance of surrounding yourself with people who genuinely care and want to help.  It reminded me that I am blessed to have the opportunity to decide what I want to pursue.  Most importantly, it allowed me to be present and to learn what ‘providing’ meant as a husband, a son, a brother, and a friend.  All too often, providing becomes confused with giving financially, but It’s the providing of yourself in all domains that will be long-lasting.

Moving Forward

For the first time in three years, I made a significant change to this blog.  I moved away from the theme of ‘Building United’ to ‘Embracing Adversity’.  With that change, a new website was built, content slightly shifted, and I believe the posts had a bit more depth.  I’m pleased with the shift, but not completely satisfied.

Over the course of the next year, I anticipate some bigger changes, and I’m excited to continue to evolve in a way that I feel most connected to my audience.  With the holidays approaching, I’m beginning my year-end hiatus that I take each year to spend time with family and to find the joy in these last days of 2016.

In closing, life isn’t always about looking back.  It’s knowing that the past is there, and it has helped us become the people we are today.  More importantly is that we point our finger to where we want to be, but keep our attention focused on today.

About halfway through the year, I began a new habit of reading at least one book chapter a day.  This has helped me to think critically and to dive into material I otherwise wouldn’t be exposed to.  This morning, before writing, I read a quote which I think encompasses the message I’m trying to convey.  So, I’ll leave you with these words:

“Thinking always ahead, thinking always of trying to do more, brings a state of mind in which nothing is impossible.” -Henry Ford

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The Difference Between Struggle and Work

Have you ever found yourself in a situation that was challenging?  You know, the kind of challenge that persists and that exhausts your physical, mental, and emotional energy?

Was there ever a point in the midst of this moment when you asked yourself these questions:

  1. Why am I doing this – what was the impetus for beginning this journey?
  2. What am I doing this for – what are the internal/external motivational forces driving it?
  3. Who am I doing this for – who are the people in my life who will appreciate this?
  4. When will it end – how much longer do I have until this is over?

Once you’ve arrived at the answers to these questions, and you’ve been able to embrace the situation at hand, you unconsciously arrived at one of two conclusions:

  1. It was a struggle.
  2. It was good ‘ol fashion work.

Struggle and work.  How would you define your circumstance(s)?

Do you struggle through work, or do you work through struggle?  While the two words are strikingly similar at surface level, at the core of each are some noticeable differences.

As defined, the words have such different meaning.

Struggle:  a war, fight, conflict, or contest of any kind; a task or goal requiring much effort to accomplish or achieve

Work:  productive or operative activity; the result of exertion, labor, or activity; a deed or performance

To paint a better picture, let’s imagine two scenarios.

Scenario 1:  You are tightly gripping the end of a rope that is approximately 1.5 inches in diameter.  The length of the rope is approximately 30 feet long.  Your hands are clenched tight, sweating just a little.  At the other end of the rope, there is another individual of similar size and stature.  This other person has a firm grip on the opposite end.  Your goal is to pull the rope against one another until the other person begrudgingly shuffles their feet far enough forward.

At once, you both begin pulling the rope towards your bodies – away from the other.  As you squat down and engage your entire body with all your strength, your body becomes rigid.  You recruit every muscle in your body and pull as mightily as you can.  Then there will come a point when the person opposite of yourself has been pulled far enough that the objective is complete.  At this time, you have put forth enough effort to accomplish the goal at hand.  This is called a tug-of-war.  This is a struggle.

Scenario 2: You are holding the end of a rope that is approximately 1.5 inches in diameter.  The length of the rope is approximately 30 feet long.  Your hands are clenched tight, sweating just a little.  At the other end of the rope, there is a large vehicle.  Not just a car – something more like a three-quarter ton pickup truck.  The other end of the rope just so happens to be fixed through an eyelet in the bumper.  Your goal is to pull on the rope – moving the truck inch-by-inch until it has covered the 30 feet that stands between you and the front bumper.

At once, you begin pulling the rope towards your body – against the weight of the truck that seems to be immovable.  As you squat down and engage your entire body with all your strength, your body becomes rigid.  You recruit every muscle in your body and pull as mightily as you can.  Slowly, the truck begins to move towards you.  You begin moving away from the truck, continuing to pull.  As the truck inches forward, it slowly gains momentum.  Your feet begin moving quicker.  Then, the distance has come to pass.  Your work is complete.  You have moved the truck the required 30 feet.  This is a weighted rope pull.  This is work.

Two scenarios.  Similar objectives.  Different outcomes.

Struggle and work – there are differences.  Now, let’s identify what those differences look like.

5 Differences Between Struggle and Work

In his book, Dropping the Struggle:  Loving the Life you Have, Roger Housden writes the following as it relates to struggle and work:

Yet struggle is not the same as work.  Struggle needs us to hold to a position.  It needs us to be right and the other to be wrong.  Relationship work, on the other hand, needs us to engage in an honest and humble exploration of our vulnerabilities and those of our partner.  Struggle tightens our defenses; work can loosen them. –Roger Housden

This statement is a reminder that you can not confuse struggle and work as one in the same.  You must understand, recognize, and view them as separate entities, if you will.  When you can arrive at this understanding, then you can more accurately determine whether the adverse events in your life were part of a struggle or the product of work.

  1. Struggle faces opposition and work fights resistance – When you look back at the definition of struggle, we are reminded that struggle is ‘war’ or ‘conflict’.  In any such event, there is an opposing force with the same goal as you, and that other person, or team will likely do anything intentionally (within reason) to beat you to the goal.  Work, on the other hand, requires you to put forth an effort while in pursuit of an objective.  However, it does not know a goal, nor will it intentionally hinder you from making progress towards the goal.
  1. Struggle minimizes opportunities and work leads to a realm of infinite possibility – Often times, struggles provide you with one opportunity to meet the demands of a goal.  Struggle is an all-or-nothing, win-or-lose scenario.  The work you put forth, is going to create resistance.  You will stumble; you will fall; but somewhere along the way, you will learn something about yourself.  You will grow to be a stronger person.  As a result of the growth and learning, you are preparing yourself for future hardship and establishing a repertoire of skills that expands your potential for future success.
  1. Struggle requires taking a stance and work requires taking action – When you find yourself struggling against something, it’s often that you find yourself hunkering down, taking a stance and holding off the opposition until they make a mistake.  Then, you attack.  Think of two football teams clashing it out on the gridiron.  On defense, a team holds their ground, not letting the opponent advance.  If the defense can take a stance and prevent the other team’s progress, then the offense can strike.  With work, there is a constant need to take action.  It doesn’t behoove you to sit back on our heels waiting for something to happen.  You have to be the catalyst for your own progress.  You will work through uncertainty because there is no benefit to being still.
  1. Struggle capitalizes on vulnerabilities and work invests in vulnerabilities – Place yourself at one end of the tug-of-war rope.  There is something to be said about holding your ground and waiting for the other person to make a mistake.  As you plant your feet firmly, you keep watch on the opponent.  As soon as their foot shuffles an inch, or the rope slips through their hand, you capitalize on this moment of their vulnerability; it’s a one time occurrence.  From the standpoint of work, a vulnerability is not a weakness.  It is merely an opportunity to learn and to strengthen an attribute that allows us to grow.  As a result, you will invest in your own repertoire of skills – skills that you will continually refine and use time and time again.
  1. Struggle exposes your weaknesses and work celebrates your strength – Let’s take another look at the definitions of struggle and work.  Struggle is often viewed as war, or conflict.  In these two environments, victory is had when one side recognizes a weakness in the competition.  You can only hide your weaknesses for so long, but remember, the opposition not only plans to stop your strengths, but they also plan to beat your weaknesses.  It’s only a matter of time before your weakness is exposed, and consequently, only a shorter amount of time until the weakness becomes your demise.  By definition, work is a productive activity.  When you set out to accomplish a goal that requires effort, there is a better likelihood that you will play to your strengths rather than focus only on your areas of improvement.  Sure, it’s absolutely important to improve your weaknesses, but you must utilize and celebrate your strengths to make ongoing progress.

Making a Case for Struggle or Work

I realize that there are positive attributes and consequences of both struggle and work.  I’d like to think that neither will define who you are as a person, but rather the person that you are becoming.  Because, the person that you are becoming will always bring forth struggle, and it will always require work.

My intention in sharing these ideas is that when you face adversity in your life, you can either choose to view it through the lens of a struggle that is working against you, or as work that is part of the journey for having a vision to get yourself to a place that you desire.

All life demands struggle. Those who have everything given to them become lazy, selfish, and insensitive to the real values of life. The very striving and hard work that we so constantly try to avoid is the major building block in the person we are today.  -Pope Paul IV

The next time you find yourself against the odds, and you’re holding the end of a 30 foot rope, who or what is affixed to the other end?  Is it another person that is after the same goal as you, ready to expose your weaknesses and break you down?  Or, is it an object – something that despite being challenging, is also moveable – able to be conquered with some effort?

The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand. -Vince Lombardi

It’s your decision.  You choose.  Will you struggle, or will you work hard?

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Anything is Possible

Where you Start is Important Relative to Where you Want to Go

Ten months ago, I found myself in the operating room having emergency surgery as the result of a skiing accident.  There was anxiety, stress, and even fear, that I wouldn’t be able to get back to doing the physical activities that I enjoy.  With uncertainty as to how the future would unfold, I knew where I wanted to go.

The journey began by reframing my expectations.  Everything from the timing of completing certain activities, to the manner in which I would do so, and to how the end result would realistically look (and feel), needed to have new expectations.

For me, at the time of my surgery, my ‘there’ was to complete an Ironman triathlon.  Arguably, an Ironman is one of the most physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding tasks that the human body can take on.  The 140.6 mile competition is a true test of an individual’s perseverance and passion – an ability to embrace adversity in pursuit of hearing your name and those four celebrated words at the finish line, “You are an Ironman.”

Those four words carry such weight and symbolism, moreso than the fact that a competitor has finished the race.  Those words signify what it means to commit yourself to a goal and stay the course (having a vision and desire), all the while being fairly unaware as to the challenges you will face along the way (having patience).  Then, one day in the future, being able to reflect on the journey knowing that supportive people (having relationships) along with perseverance and passion (celebrating small victories) fueled the experience.

It’s in that moment of crossing the finish line that the realization comes to light that as long as you know where you are relative to where you want to go, Anything is Possible.

An Ironman competition incorporates three athletic disciplines (swimming, cycling, and running) into a single event.  In each of the three, there is a distinct parallel that can be drawn to relate that specific activity to the challenge of working through adversity and towards a specific goal.

Swimming in Murky Waters

image4The first leg of an Ironman competition is a 2.4 mile swim in open waters – lake, pond, reservoir, river, ocean, etc.  Competitors are filed into the water in various fashions, and by the time the last swimmer is in the water, anywhere from 2,000-3,000 bodies are moving throughout.

While the swim course is marked by brightly colored buoys, it’s not always easy to locate them, or even stay the course for that matter.  With your face buried in the water, anything more than a few inches in front of your face isn’t recognizable.  The only clarity comes every few strokes as you rotate your head to the side for a quick breath of air.  As a result, it’s not uncommon to accidentally grab someone else’s foot swimming in front of you, or to swim into the person on either side, or to even get kicked in the head for that matter.

Uncomfortable?  You bet.

Frightening?  If you let it.

Impossible?  Hardly.

Eventually, the crowd of swimmers disperses just enough to provide some clear waters, although, it may not be a direct or defined path.  It’s a constant navigational battle, using the buoys as a rudder to steer yourself in, around, and even over the obstacles in your path.

Adversity is much the same.  It’s uncomfortable, it’s frightening, but it’s not impossible.  Despite the fact that you can’t always see where you’re going, it’s more important to know where you want to go.

Cycling into the Unknown

In the second leg of an Ironman, athletes transition out of the water (and wetsuits), into cycling gear before hopping on his or her bike for a 112-mile bike ride.  However, it’s more strategic than simply pedaling for 5+ hours.  It’s important to understand how to pedal most efficiently while using specific muscle groups, how to properly hydrate and fuel, and even how to ride safely as cars and other cyclists are on the course.

image5It’s grueling – the repetitiveness of pedaling.  It’s tasking – the monotony of staring at a road that seems to never end.  It’s frustrating – the road begins to move uphill, creating resistance that your legs must overcome.  As you shift into easier gears to make the pedaling easier, the road continues to climb.  Then, as you near the top, that’s when it becomes most challenging.  That’s the moment when you either tell yourself that you’ve done all the hard work and the end is in sight, or you utter a few profanities in pain.

Then, just as quickly as the hill came into view, it will soon pass and quickly be left behind.  For every hill that you climb, you have the opportunity to descend.  So, while you’re head was down on the way up, now you can take a breath of fresh air with your head held high – staring at the open road before you.  It’s time to give the legs a quick rest and a brief recovery.

At other times, the road may lead to a blind turn, unsure as to what is around the next bend.  Another climb?  An open field?  A busy intersection?  If you’ve prepared yourself, then it’s possible you drove the course in the previous days, otherwise, you rely on your training to get the job done.

Along the way, spectators, family, and friends will line the streets on various portions of the route.  There will be aid stations, bike support technicians, and food and drink.  This is the motivation that inspires you to press on, regardless of what the road ahead looks like.

Because, you know what?  The roads you’re cycling on – they represent life and the adversity that you encounter.  The roads aren’t there to stop you in our tracks.  The roads are there to pave the way to wherever it is that you are heading.  When you finally arrive at the end of this part of the journey, people will respect you for the way you handled the obstacles you were up against.  More importantly, you will respect yourself knowing that you had enough courage to embrace something that actually made you stronger despite the fact that you felt weak.

Running to the Finish

image1-copyI have a personal belief that, in life, it’s better to be running towards something than running from something.  Running towards something exudes excitement and enthusiasm – it expresses the notion that you have worked hard to get to something, and it’s finally come into sight.

The last leg of an Ironman is a 26.2 run – a full marathon.  At this time, your arms have been exhausted from the swim earlier in the day, and there’s a good chance that your legs are also feeling quite fatigued.  So, what’s left?  Where do you pull from to muster any last ounce of strength to carry you to the finish?

“Move with your feet.  Run with your heart.  Finish the race you set out to complete.”

You dig down deep into your heart knowing that that hardest part of what you are doing has already been done.  You’ve logged the training hours.  You’ve completed the workouts.

And, now…

You continue doing what you’ve done for the previous 114.4 miles.  You continue moving forward, one step at a time.  You take each stride with an appreciation of where you started and with joy knowing that your vision is being fulfilled.  At the last turn, when you make your way towards the red carpet, you find yourself completely immersed in that moment.  You forget the struggles, the pain, and the hardship that came in the days, weeks, and months before.

 

What you remember, though, is the journey.  You remember the small wins when things were challenging.  You reflect on the people who helped carry you when the journey was hard.  Lastly, you relish in the fact that you did it.

We define grit as perseverance and passion for long term goals.  Grit entails working strenuously towards challenges, maintaining effort and interest over years despite failure, adversity and plateaus in progress.  The gritty individual approaches achievement as a marathon; his or her advantage is stamina.  Whereas disappointment or boredom signals to others that it is time to change trajectory and cut losses, the gritty individual stays the course.” -Angela Duckworth, Psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania; Author of Grit:  Perseverance and Passion for Long-Term Goals

Your arrival at the finish is a combination of perseverance, passion and grit.  The perseverance to work through the challenges and not give up.  The passion to desire something and work hard to achieve it.  And, the grit to continue putting forth your maximum effort.

At last, and for a brief moment, you’re reminded of the Ironman motto, “Anything is Possible,” and you realize that you are an Ironman.

 

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Training and Preparation: A Necessary Collision

We Can’t Predict Life

If you had the capacity to forecast every scenario that would play out in your life story, then you would constantly find yourselves in this state of flux.  When exciting events are certain to be on the horizon, you would barely be able to hold your excitement.  On the contrary, an impending unfortunate event would elicit stress and anxiety while devising strategies to side-step any physical or emotional hardship.

Although you can predict some situations, it’s only with a certain amount of uncertainty.  You can attempt to be as proactive as possible, but until you find yourselves in the thick of the mud, then you have absolutely no idea just how you will react.

When your life gets flipped upside-down, and everything is in disarray, how do you make the most of the situation?

You rely on our training (discipline and habits) and preparation (experiences).  Then, you embrace the situation and deploy what we already know we are capable of doing.

No, you can’t predict life, but you can embrace it, manage it, and work through it, making the most of the opportunity.

3 Key Components of Training:

Training is a word that is often associated with some form of physical activity.  However, it can be used in any context in which an individual, or group of individuals is actively developing discipline and habit based responses within a specific environment.

“Training:  The education, instruction, or discipline of a person(s) or thing that is being trained.”

navy-seals-in-waterThink of the military recruits who are completing bootcamp training.  Each day they are tasked physically, mentally, and emotionally, to develop the ability to instinctually respond to the various scenarios in the battlefield.  There is no thinking involved, and the responses happen fluidly and naturally – without hesitation.

Take into account the expectant mother who is ‘in-training’ for the day she will give birth to a new son or daughter.  She will likely attend classes with her husband and actively practice what to do when the mother’s water breaks.  When the ‘big day’ arrives, both mother and father will fall into suit.  Again the response of the soon-to-be parents will happen without hesitation.

What about the heart surgeon who is going into the operating room (OR) for the first time.  This surgeon has spent years studying every aspect of the human heart.  This type of doctor has likely practiced on a human cadaver.  When the surgeon walks into the OR for the first time as lead surgeon, the training that has preceded will help to ‘perform’ without hesitation.

In each of these examples, there are three principles of training that can be found in each hypothetical situation.  Each of which is crucial to determining the outcome.

  1. Training involves active practice: Whether it’s hands-on, reading a textbook, or performing a walk-thru of events, it must be active in nature.  As a result, it will build muscle and mental memory.
  2. Training assimilates the ‘real thing’: Nothing will ever be able to fully assimilate the ‘real thing’ until the ‘real thing’ happens.  (Imagine training for war with live bullets in your first week or ambush training).  But, training must mimic the expected conditions as closely as possible.  (You wouldn’t train soldiers in sub-zero temperatures if they were going to battle in the desert.)
  3. Training must develop habits: Repeating a process can’t be practiced too much.  The training must build responses that are habit based and rely on the cues of the environment to react intuitively and instinctually.

At the end of the day, regardless of what you train for, there’s a good chance you don’t train to perform at an average level.  Imagine the heart surgeon who trained to be average, being successful at his trade only half the time.

“Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” –Aristotle

Instead of training to be average, train to be excellent – however excellence is defined to your own self.

3 Key Components of Preparation:

One of the Founding Father’s of the United States Constitution, Benjamin Franklin, is quoted as having once said, “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”

This statement shares the importance of preparing for an event or circumstance that is going to, or could happen, in the future.  You don’t prepare for something you are doing at the present moment.  Rather, you process, plan, and prepare for what you have yet to experience.

At first thought, it might seem that training and preparation are one in the same.  I agree that they are both important for an impending event, but they are inherently different despite being interdependent on one another.

In the past, I have written about how adaptation is the key to preparation.  If you were to look at the previously mentioned example of an expectant mother, she and her husband must be prepared to carry out their training in environments that are not necessarily ideal.  Say, for example, they were talking through a mall?  How about in the middle of a church service?

So, how exactly is that different, yet important to working through that event?

  1. Preparation requires visualization: Visualizing something does not require you to be physically active.  Preparation forces you to visually walk through each step of the processes that you have learned – the habits that you have developed in training.
  2. Preparation requires thinking about the worst case scenario: It’s better to have the essentials for any potential scenario and know you’re bases are covered, than it is to be under-prepared and not have the resources to survive (literally and figuratively).
  3. Preparation requires planning: To be most successful, it would be nearly impossible to show up on ‘game day’ without having a plan into place.  Soldiers wouldn’t go into battle without having a plan of action (POA) that didn’t force each person to visualize their responsibilities and prepare for any possible scenario.

Preparation takes time, and it must happen throughout the duration of any training period.  While it is impossible to be over-prepared, it is possible to be under-prepared.

The Collision of Training and Preparation

As you’ve learned so far, training and preparation each play a critical, yet independent role, in your ability to work through a myriad of life scenarios.  In as much as each trait is independent on one another, they are also interdependent.

Training facilitates preparation and vice versa.  Either concept has the ability to individually help you get to the finish line, but do you think there’s credibility in saying that leveraging both could produce a better result?  I’d like to think so.

It needs to be said that training doesn’t precede preparation, and preparation doesn’t precede training.  They are continuous actions that begin with the very basics, but, over time, each develops and matures into a specific, honed-in, and applicable skill set.  Their journey coincides with one another.

The next time life throws you a curveball, it’s important to rely on your own training (discipline and habits) and preparation (experiences).  The life lessons you have already learned will serve as the catalyst for embracing the challenge that is heading towards you.

More importantly, your ability to implement what you’ve learned in the past is what will drive, or won’t drive how successful you can be.  And, your success will be defined by the legacy you leave behind – the number of lives you have impacted – not on your personal accomplishments.

So, I’ll leave you with these two question:

  1. Have you trained?
  2. Have you prepared?

 

*Notes:

  1. There will not be a new post next weekend due to a big commitment, but we will get back on schedule the following week!

 

 

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The Truth about the Water You’re Swimming in

The Vision isn’t Always Clear, But it Doesn’t Have to Be

The adversity that we face in our lives is something that we not only have the power to work through, but it is something that we must learn to embrace.  Embracing adversity is challenging, and the process for doing so takes time.

In the midst of working through life’s biggest challenges, the process for moving from your ‘here’ to your ‘there’ can be a struggle to navigate.  The vision that you have may appear blurry, and the end goal completely out of sight.  Sometimes you might find yourself off course and seeking guidance and direction.  Hell, you may not even have any sense of what is right in front of your face.

But, you know what?

That’s completely okay.  If you had a crystal clear view, then it would not be considered adversity.  It would not provide you with the opportunity to learn and to grow.

Hurrying and rushing through these points in life won’t always result in a better outcome.  It won’t guarantee less stress or frustration.  Going full speed ahead won’t ensure that you will have learned something when you reach your destination.

However, pushing the pedal to the floor will most certainly result in the following:

  1. Greater expenditure of energy
  2. Tunnel vision with a single point of focus
  3. Lack of awareness of the process for moving forward

You will work harder, with one thing in mind, dismissing everything else from your peripherals.

To put this into context, I’ll share a quick example.  Last weekend I was in San Francisco.  During the visit, I had the opportunity to tour the city, visit popular landmarks, and soak in the Bay Area.  While making our way around the city, we stopped to take a picture of the famous Alcatraz island – the location of a former federal prison from the 1930’s thru the 1960’s.  I was quickly reminded of the moving Escape from Alcatraz, in which Frank Morris (Clint Eastwood) and two other inmates do the unthinkable – they escape from the prison and attempt to swim across the San Francisco Bay.

The distance between Alcatraz and the mainland is between 1.25-1.5 miles.  The water is choppy and cold.  The currents aren’t noticeable.  The tides don’t always move in the same direction.

Now, imagine you were attempting to make this swim (less having escaped from prison and being an inmate on the run).  Think about taking those first few steps into the water, into the unknown.  Slowly, the water rises to your chest.  Next, you find yourself treading water.  The only option left is to swim.

If you place yourself into this scenario, then what is your next move?  Do you panic?  Do you take off ‘full speed ahead’?  Do you assess the situation?  Do you remain calm?  Do you embrace the situation and approach it with the understanding that the journey on which you are about to embark is going to be a process?

Keep the Destination in Mind, But Focus on the Present

 Arriving at the destination is important, but if it’s done at the expense of everything else in your life, and just to be able to say, “I made it,” then it’s probable that you haven’t learned a damn thing.

I can’t imagine how challenging the swim would be from Alcatraz to the mainland.  What I can imagine is how frustrated, stressed, and impatient I would become if I constantly had my head out of water staring at the shore and flailing my arms as fast as possible.  I would become so engrossed in getting out of the water that I would forget what it means to swim fluidly and taking note of how my body is feeling in the midst of the journey.

This is what happens all too often in our own lives.

“We find it easier to get caught up in what we will receive when we reach the destination that we fail to recognize what we will receive during the journey.  We will receive feedback.  The feedback that will help to guide us with each step of the journey.  It will help us decide how, when, and where to continue moving forward so as to most effectively and efficiently reach our destination.”

When we are able to focus on the present, we are able to recognize the progress we are making.  We will see the progress as a ‘small win’ that helps keep us moving forward.  Instead of saying, “I still have one mile to swim,” we will say, “I have made already made it half a mile.”  When the focus is placed on a future event, or a future place we are going, we have a tendency to push it further from where it actually is.

The author Thomas Sterner states it best in his book, The Practicing Mind:

“Progress is a natural result of staying focused on the process of doing anything.  When you stay on purpose, focused in the present moment, the goal comes toward you with frictionless ease.  However, when you constantly focus on the goal you are aiming for, you push it away instead of pulling it toward you.  In every moment that you look at the goal and compare your position to it, you affirm to yourself that you haven’t reached it.  In reality, you need to acknowledge the goal to yourself only occasionally, using it as a rudder to keep you moving in the right direction.”

So, the next time you find yourself in uncertain water, remind yourself to stick to the basics, to soak in the surroundings, and to make yourself aware of where you are at the moment.  You can only arrive at your end destination if you can find your way to the next phase of the journey, and the next step is challenging enough.  Stay in the moment, and as Sterner stated, use the end goal merely as a rudder to help your guide your way.

Notes:

  1. This post was inspired after completing Thomas Sterner’s book, The Practicing Mind.
  2. My trip to San Francisco provided a good visual for an example that Sterner uses in his book.

10 Quotes to Provoke Thought in Your Life

Over the past few weeks, I have incorporated a new habit into my morning routine.  Each morning, I read at least one chapter in a book.  Growing up, reading was something that I enjoyed doing, and even at periods in adulthood.  However, it has been very cyclical in my own life, even though it’s an activity that I know provokes thought and initiates conversations.

My mind is at its best in the morning hours.  Let’s say between 5:00-11:00am.  So, in efforts to make reading a priority, I have committed to my reading routine every morning after I work out and before I open my email or dive into another project.  As a result, it has become a keystone habit that has positively influenced the manner in which I choose to think about and deal with current life events.

In many ways, my recent readings have provided a deeper context on general self-improvement and habit building principles.  A few books later, I have amassed a series of notes on my iPad of several quotes and points of emphasis from each of the books that I have completed.  In doing so, this has allowed me to re-visit these ideas after the fact and really dive into a deeper understanding of the message, and think about if and how I can implement these concepts into my own life.

So, this week, instead of writing on a specific topic, I thought I would share the Top 10 quotes from the books that I have recently read.  In each of the following statements, I am confident that each of us has an area of our life that we can relate to.  While this week’s post might be much shorter than most, I believe that it is more thought provoking in the sense that it will challenge you to think on a deeper level about your own lives.

  1. Once a small win has been accomplished, forces are set in motion that favor another small win. Small wins fuel the transformative changes by leveraging tiny advantages into patterns that convince people that bigger achievements are within reach. –The Power of Habits, Charles Duhigg

Question:  What small win have I had in the last day?  Week?  Month?

  1. When you’re cut off from your emotions, they often manifest in your body. –10% Happier, Dan Harris

Question:  What part of my life do I emotionally seem to be disconnected from?  Is it my family, my job, or a recent loss?

  1. Make the present moment your friend rather than your enemy. Because many people live habitually as if the present moment were an obstacle that they need to overcome in order to get to the next moment.  And, imagine living your whole life like that, where always this moment is never quite right, not good enough because you need to get to the next one.  That is continuous stress. –10% Happier, Dan Harris

Question:  What is keeping me back from being 100% present now and not focused on what has yet to come?

  1. If you don’t waste your energy on variables you cannot influence, you can focus much more effectively on those you can. When you are wisely ambitious, you do everything you can to succeed, but are not attached to the outcome – so that if you fail, you will be maximally resilient, able to get up, dust yourself off, and get back in the fray. –10% Happier, Dan Harris

Question:  What is the one thing in my life that my mind constantly wanders to?  If I was less focused on the outcome (getting there), then how would my life be different?

  1. People who believe they can succeed see opportunities where others see threats. They’re not afraid of uncertainty or ambiguity.  They embrace it.  They want to take greater risks and achieve greater returns.  Given the choice, they will always bet on themselves. –What got You Here, Won’t get You There, Marshall Goldsmith

Question:  What is that one thing that I know I can be successful in despite what others are telling me?  What is holding me back from doing it?

  1. When somebody makes a suggestion or gives you ideas, you’re either going to learn more or learn nothing, but you won’t learn less. –What got You Here, Won’t get You There, Marshall Goldsmith

Question:  When was a time someone offered me a suggestion and I learned less?

  1. Sometimes the desire for ‘perfect’ can drive away ‘better’. –What got You Here, Won’t get You There, Marshall Goldsmith

Question:  Would I have greater happiness if I continually got better instead of failing at achieving perfection?

  1. So, the key question is not, “Did I make all my dreams come true?” The key question is, “Did I try?” –What got You Here, Won’t get You There, Marshall Goldsmith

Question:  What I regret it if I didn’t give it a shot?

  1. Meaning does not happen to you – you create it. One of the most important elements of building a great career and life is attaching what you do each day to a broader mission.  Until you understand how your efforts contribute to the world, you are simply going through the motions each day.  Are You Fully Charged, Tom Rath

Question:  What skill sets and abilities do I have that I could utilize in pursuit of something I am passionate about?

  1. The problem with patience and discipline is that developing each of them requires both of them. –The Practicing Mind, Thomas M. Sterner

Question:  Am I able to be deliberate in my practices, and can I appreciate the process?

As I share these excerpts, I’m on an airplane heading back home.  Each of these serves as a pleasant reminder of something that I can work on this week.  Part of my morning reflection this week will be to answer these questions.  Take ten minutes and do the same.  What’s the worst that could happen?  You learn nothing?

Notes:

  1. The books that I am currently reading have come from a list that was compiled by James Clear who writes on ‘The Power of Small Habits’. You can visit his work here.
  2. I wanted to provide links to each of these books so that you can take a deeper glance if it interests you. The Power of Habit; 10% Happier; What got You Here, Won’t get You There; Are You Fully Charged; The Practicing Mind

 

Investing in Experiences, Returns a Lifetime of Memories

The Anticipation

Growing up, I used to get excited when my parents would break the news that we were going on a family vacation.  Whether it was a weekend get-away, or a road trip from Ohio to the ocean, I can always remember counting down the days until we would hit the road as a family.

Although many of these trips were planned prior to the era of internet and iPhones, my sisters and I loved sifting through the ‘activity’ pamphlets from the local AAA Travel Office.  The brochures included extravagant miniature golf courses, para-sailing, jet-skiing, deep sea fishing, luau’s, museums, and everything in between.  I can recall circling the activities that caught my eye.

All of these opportunities presented the chance to see and do something that was new for all of us.  These trips were the chance for our family to share in a mutual experience that we would re-visit years later when sifting through photo albums (not the albums you find on Facebook).

The days and weeks leading up to these trips were full of excitement, enthusiasm and anticipation.  Simply knowing what was on the horizon allowed us to let go of the things in life that were bothering us, the things that were stressful, and the things we just needed a break from.  During these times, just thinking about the vacation destination would bring a smile to our faces that consequently would create an environment of happiness and joy for what we knew we would experience.

But, why is the anticipation important?  Quite honestly, I believe the anticipation allows us to feel a bit more energized, and it allows us to carry on our daily lives with a little more excitement.

“Anticipation of knowing something good is going to happen, helps us to embrace the struggles we are dealing with today, and it reminds us that better days are on the horizon.”

As the day draws nearer, regardless of what the experience is, attitudes shift and the eagerness increases.  Spirits are lifted, and all of a sudden, the people who are going to be a part of the experience wait in earnestness (at least try) until the hour arrives.

When the hour strikes, and you’ve completed your last medical treatment, or you punch the clock at work, or you finally let go of the burden that has been holding you back, this is the moment when the experience begins.  This is when you begin to create something that can never be taken away.

The Experience

A memorable experience is an event or occurrence in our lives that cannot be replaced – whether good or bad.  That being said, most people typically do not choose to invest in bad experiences.  An experience that leaves us with a bad memory is likely one that is the result of some unforeseen circumstances.  It is possible, though, that these unforeseen obstacles could be seen as adversity with the opportunity to create something positive in that moment.

On the other hand, we often do invest in life experiences.  When we follow this route, we choose to invest in it because it is likely something that we desire.  However, this is where the fine line is drawn.  For those who have the opportunity, purchasing a new sports car might be desirable.  And for others, a weekend camping trip with friends might also be desirable.

So, the question becomes, “How do we differentiate whether or not something that is desirable will result in an experience that leaves a lasting memory?”

The answer lies in one of two words – temporary or permanent.  Then the question we must ask ourselves: “Is it a temporary fixture that can eventually be replaced, or is it something permanent that cannot be undone?”  In using the previous example of buying a new sports car or coordinating a mountain get-away, the car can be replaced and the emotions can wane.  But that trip with friends, it’s pretty damn hard to undo the laughter and conversation that was had while being ‘off the grid’.

I find that life is best lived when experienced and shared with others.  It’s not a bad thing to want, desire, and pursue nice things – I believe we all deserve that right.  However, when I reflect on my own life, the moments that stand out the most to me are permanent memories.  There were the family trips to the beach, traveling with my grandparents, driving across the country, living in Guatemala, competing in marathons and triathlons, and all the other weekend trips to a new place.

As you think about your life, take a moment to reflect on the moments that are irreplaceable.

The moments and experiences that you can’t place a value on because you would give anything to do it all over again.

When you think about these occasions, remind yourself of the importance of shared experiences and investment in people.  The return on investment as a result of doing so amounts to a fortune much richer and truer than what money can buy.  Success and wealth are relative, and your ability to differentiate between financial accumulation and relational gain are entirely different.

The Memories

For the longest time, I was a believer in the idea that the best memories were made without warning.  You know, all of life’s little (or big), unexpected surprises.  From gifts, to trips, to finding a dollar on the ground, I sided with the idea that this was when I had an awesome experience, and ultimately, a lifetime memory.

I never stopped to think about the actual stressors that may be associated with the unexpected experience.  What would happen if you booked a four day get-away for you and your spouse, but when you surprised him or her, you found out that your significant other was not allowed to take off of work because of a shortage in staff?

There is no anticipation or build-up of emotions in these all-of-a-sudden events.  Let’s go back to the previous example of attempting to surprise your significant other with a trip.  Assume the reason you are planning the trip is because your other half has been stressed out for months on end with job obligations.  With each passing day, the stress accumulates and becomes more overwhelming as nothing positive seems to be on the horizon.  In the meantime, you have had the trip planned for 2 months and have yet to utter a word about it.

The element of surprise only lasts for but a short amount of time.  Go ahead, tell your family and friends about a vacation that you want to plan.  Let them help you coordinate so that each individual is able to plan for something that they find enjoyable.  Then, in the weeks of planning, when life gets stressful – when shit hits the fan – there will be something positive on the horizon.

Part of having the memory of a lifetime is the opportunity to build it and create it.

In your own life, is there a memory that you want to create for yourself and your family?  What is it?  WRITE IT DOWN!  Then, take these five action steps:

  1. Tell someone else what it is – Think Vision.
  2. Share your reasons for wanting it – Think Desire
  3. Ask for advice – Think Relationships
  4. Don’t get ahead of yourself – Think Patience
  5. Establish small goals to get you there – Think Small Victories

Life is best shared in the presence of others.  Build into others.  Share mutual experiences.  Create memories.

Notes:

  1. The impetus for this post came from the book, Are You Fully Charged, by Tom Rath. Rath uses the model of anticipation, experience, and memories to share his thoughts on the ideas surrounding engagement with others in an attempt to be our best selves each and every day.
  2. My wife and I have traveled all over the US and to several countries. The memories we have created from these trips can never be replaced, and it is a reason that we choose to invest in experiences.
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Do You Work to Rest, or Rest to Work?

 

Eat, Sleep, and Work

There have been plenty of mornings in my life when I have woken up and said, “I’m still tired.  I’m still hungry, and I still have to work today.”

Then, shuffling my feet out of bed, I would grab a small bite to eat, get a workout in, take a shower, and head off to work.  Once the work day closed out, and it was time to return home, I would eat dinner, prep food and clothes for the next day, and head  to bed.

When the alarm would ring bright and early the next day, the process would often repeat itself.  The day would pass – all 24 hours – seeming to be filled with three tasks, eating, sleeping, and working.

During times of high stress and frustration, my personal experience has been that I eat more, work more, and sleep less.  Sound familiar?

Over time, I’ve realized that I’m not the only person who has gone through this process, or is presently faced with this mindless routine.  Recent studies show that 80% of Americans don’t eat enough fruit and vegetables, while approximately 36% of Americans are overweight and/or obeseThe Center for Disease Control (CDC) just released an article that more than one-third of Americans aren’t getting the recommended amount of sleepIn a 2015 study by Gallup, one-quarter of Americans reported working between 44-59 hours per week.

In piecing this information together, it’s safe to say that Americans eat too much, work too much, and sleep to little.  Now, I’m going to hold off on discussing the food component of this and focus on the work and rest components.

With these statistics in mind, ask yourself these two questions:

  1. Do I sleep (rest) in order to work (labor)?
  2. Do I work (labor) in order to sleep (rest)?

If you answered yes to the first question, then your response would likely sound similar to, “Yes, I sleep so that I am able to be productive at work and do my job well.”

If you answered yes to the second question, then your response might mimic something such as, “Yes, I work long hours because it’s needed to be successful at my job – even at the expense of my sleep – and I must do it to provide;”

Working to Exhaustion

There was a period in my life when I was working to exhaustion.  I remember being a year removed from college, working three jobs that accounted for 60-70 hours of work per week, and I was endurance training a couple more hours each day.  I would get to bed around midnight, and the alarm would ring at 4:20AM to begin the next day.  I did this for months on end.

In my mind, I was making money and I was improving in my marathon training.  However, every once in a while I would hit this wall.  Not just any wall.  The one made of solid brick that will flat out knock you on your ass.  I could barely keep focus at my jobs.  I felt sluggish in my workouts.  My body felt physically, mentally, and emotionally drained.

We live in a performance driven world.  A world where it’s easy to compare ourselves to the person we are competing against regardless of the situation.  Hell, we even compare ourselves to our own past performances (possibly even more to our demise).  While it’s not a bad thing to ‘get in the zone’ and maximize our performance, it’s not healthy from a holistic standpoint when it compromises our well-being.

When we choose to continue down this path of over-working or over-training or over ‘fill in the blank’, it’s important to remember that keeping this pace is only sustainable for a certain period of time.  At some point, our productivity will decrease, our focus will wain, and our functionality will suffer.

This is exhaustion.  This is not healthy.  This is not good.

So, in continuing with this pattern, you eventually break down and submit to the temptation to put away the computer for an evening, or take a day off from training.  You rest and re-charge the batteries.  And, once rested well enough (to your own standards), you get back to work – grinding it out, day in and day out – plowing through until the cycle repeats itself and it becomes a habit.

All this said, what if it didn’t reach the point of exhaustion?  What if we could sustain our pace of life for a much longer period of time, possibly even infinitely, with proper rest and recovery?

What if resting well enough now, meant saving two days of needed rest in the future?  Would you do it?

Resting to Work

For me, there is no better way than starting my day than by being able to wake up in the morning and say, “I slept really well last night, and I feel rested.”  Sure this doesn’t happen every night, but it occurs more often than not.

Since adopting an approach to life that finds a healthy balance between work and rest, it has been easier to not only maintain the pace that I’m at, but I have actually been able to improve my performance – particularly in Ironman training.

It’s not always easy, and it can be a work in progress to find a plan of attack that works well to meet your needs.

A method I have found to be beneficial is defining specific times to chunk out the activities that need to be done each day.  In chunking out these times, it forces me to be committed to a specific task for a defined period of time.

For example, I know what time I am going to go to bed each evening, and what time I will wake up in order to receive close to 8 hours of sleep.  I will also chunk out a time slot for training and workouts, as well as set the parameters for the hours I will fill with work and job related requirements.

Once the time slots are defined, these areas become non-negotiable.  This isn’t to say there isn’t an occasion when it requires being flexible and making adjustments, but more than 90% of the time, I’m going to be committed to the boundaries that I have set for myself.

The result is that I have felt more rested, more productive, and more actively engaged in other pursuits.

Why?

Because I have time and energy to stimulate my body in areas outside of working myself to exhaustion in any specific area of life.  In the midst of adversity, life isn’t easy, but having enough energy to remain focused on the vision and maintaining the desire to change the current conditions, will require balance – proper amounts of work and proper amounts of rest.

In trying to better understand how much of something is too much, there is one question you can ask yourself.

Am I my best self every day if I continue at the pace I’m going, doing what I’m doing, with each day that passes?

Tough question.  Does your answer begin with, “No, but…” or “Yes, and…”?

Do you want to be your best self every day when you wake up in the morning?  Find a balance in a few areas of life (food, work, rest, etc.), and you’ll find meaning and purpose in everything else.

Now, ask yourself, “Am I working to rest, or resting to work?”

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Sacrifice is Important, but Developing Good Habits is Necessary

You hear stories all the time of people who have overcome adversity in their lives and ultimately have been able to reach and to achieve their dreams.  These are the people who have, in many ways, defied the odds and did what many others told them they wouldn’t be able to do.

Take, for example, Olympic Swimmer, Michael Phelps.  Really arriving on scene at the 2008 summer Olympics, this was a guy that was starting to make a name for himself.  Taking home eight gold medals, it was quickly debated whether or not he was the greatest of all time in the sport of swimming.  However, in the years that followed, his journey became tumultuous in the public eye.  In a strong of run-ins with the law, Michael was beginning to tarnish the reputation he had built after the 2008 Olympics.

Michael was an individual who had the odds stacked against him.  But with a certain amount of grit and resilience, was able to overcome the odds.  Settling was never an option, and mediocrity wasn’t desired.  So, he went to work.  Leading up to the 2012 Olympics in London, his training regimen included 5-6 hours of training per day, six days a week.  Logging nearly 50 miles in the pool every week, strength training in the gym, and helluva nutritional plan, Phelps sacrificed his time, energy, and even his body to help him achieve his goals.  In the end, he took home four more gold medals and two silver medals.

In the two years that followed, Phelps again found himself in trouble with the law as he was arrested for driving under the influence.  Again, the odds were against him, and after a two-year absence he committed to training once more for the 2016 Olympics.  So, he trained, he competed, and he astounded fans across the globe taking home five more gold medals and a silver medal.

Sure, the journey to reaching your goals is hard and challenging.  Sometimes it requires a grind that means giving all you can – physically, mentally and emotionally.  But, with the proper habits, it makes these daunting challenges easier to embrace.

“If you don’t sacrifice for what you want, then what you want will become the sacrifice.”

Reaching your goals, achieving your dreams, and arriving at your ‘there’ is going to require sacrifice, and the sacrifice is possible when good habits are developed.

To Sacrifice is to Replace

When you set out to manage the adversity in our lives, a big struggle that I have noticed in my own life is that it’s easy to want it all.  As humans, we want the house, the car, the job, the lifestyle, the everything (insert your word here).  If we could just have these things, then it would make life easier and better.  It’s easy to forget, though, that these things aren’t always easy to obtain.  In reality, they require us to make individual sacrifices in one area of our life in order to attain others.

“Sacrifice:  An act of giving up something, for the sake of something else, regarded as more important or worthy.”

Take, for example, the entrepreneur who wants to start his or her own business.  In an effort to make the business idea a reality, sacrifices are going to be important.  The sacrifice might be waking up a half-hour earlier, or going to bed a half-hour later to develop the business.  It might require extra financial resources to develop the website, design the product, or launch a marketing campaign.  The list could go on, but in the end, it requires giving up, or replacing something because you value the end result more than what you currently have.

So, when life challenges you, and you want something more or different than what’s available to you today, you must be willing to accept that it’s important to make sacrifices.  This isn’t always easy to do – giving up something we currently have and replacing it with something else.

Question:  “Why in the hell would I want to do that?”

Answer:  Because I want to better ourselves.

Questions:  “How in the hell do we do that?”

Answer:  By creating and developing habits.

The Golden Loop

 I recently finished reading the book, The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg.  Using scientific research, Duhigg attempts to explain why people do what they do in life and in business.  With the focus of the evidence rooted in habits, it quickly becomes clear how the most successful organizations drive change and how the most driven individuals create opportunities out of obstacles.

It’s called ‘The Golden Loop’.  The Golden Loop is a three-stage cycle that re-creates itself over and over again.  It’s the process that Michael Phelps used to overcome adversity inside the pool and outside the water in the public eye.  The Golden Loop is what helped a company like Alcoa become one of the safest workplaces in America.

How, exactly, does this process work? Screen-Shot-2015-03-25-at-4.04.32-PM

  • First, there is a cue – something that triggers a specific response.
  • Second, there is a routine – the action that we perform (or don’t perform) following the cue.
  • Lastly, there is a reward – the feeling, emotion, object, thing, etc., that we receive following the routine.

In the book, Charles Duhigg gives the example of someone who smokes cigarettes and the craving they have for nicotine.  In this example, the smoker craves the nicotine (cue).  Next, the smoker lights a cigarette (routine).  At last, the smoker receives the reward of having the addiction filled (reward).

By now you’re wondering how this example of a smoker relates to your own personal struggles with adversity and your ability to make sacrifices.

In your own life, you follow this same pattern – cue, routine, and reward.  When you want to make a change in your life, or achieve something better than you currently have, then you must do something different.  As I mentioned earlier, this requires sacrifices.  When taken into context of The Golden Loop, the sacrifice must be made within your routines.

When you can sacrifice, or replace, the routine that you currently have, then you can begin making strides towards your end goal (our ‘there).  The trigger (cue) can be the same, and the reward can be the same, but the routine has to change.

To better explain, imagine that you wanted to lose 10-15 pounds.  When you are hungry (cue), you will choose to eat (routine).  After eating, the reward is that you no longer feel hungry.  However, in order to lose the 10-15 pounds, your existing routine is eating from a fast-food restaurant.  Instead of sticking with this routine, it requires a sacrifice to eat a healthy, home cooked meal (new routine).

Life Application

As you think about your own life, and the one are of your life that you wish was different, or that you want to change, think about it in terms of The Golden Loop.  What is causing it (cue)?  What is your existing response (routine)?  What do you receive from it (reward)?

New routines are new beginnings.  New beginnings are new opportunities.  And, new opportunities are doorways to success.  Once you begin to value something more than what you currently have, then you begin to sacrifice.  It is through the sacrifices that you make, that your habits will develop.  Those habits will be foundational to arriving at the vision you imagined.

 

Notes:

  1. The photos for this post were taken from the book, The Power of Habit, by Charles Duhigg.
  2. Sacrificing doesn’t always have to mean completing giving up something in it’s entirety.

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3 Benefits of Focusing on What is Good

Regardless of our life circumstances, there are aspects of our lives that we perceive as ‘good’ and other components we view as ‘not good’ – or bad if you will.  I agree that life isn’t always ‘good’ to us, and that things don’t always happen as we plan or anticipate.  When we find ourselves in these ruts, it is an example of adversity, but it is also an opportunity to turn an obstacle into success.

When faced with adversity, we can choose to view it as good or not good.  However, it’s not how we choose to perceive it, although it does carry significant weight.  The more important issue is whether or not we allow the difficult circumstance to cause us to focus our thoughts and energy on everything else that is good in our life, or everything else that is not good.

Adverse events have the ability to steer our thoughts towards all of the negativity in our life, which naturally creates a path of resistance.  As many of our parents would say, this path is ‘all up hill, in the snow, with cardboard covering the bottom of your shoes… both ways’.

The purpose of embracing adversity is to utilize a five-step process to make the path from your ‘here’ to your ‘there’, well… just a bit easier.  So, the consequence of focusing on the negative aspects of our lives in the midst of adversity is that it actually makes the process more challenging.  If we let it, then the negativity will eat at us.  And over time, it will break us down, causing feelings of incompetence.

On the flip side, we could choose to focus on what is good in our lives – even as we wade through the quicksand that seems to be pulling us deeper and deeper into the unknown.  Instead of thinking about how little time we have until we are neck deep, we choose to focus on how much time is left – and that is a good thing.

After some reflection this past week, I’ve come to the conclusion, that in my life, the good things are often the simple things.  The simple things are often the people, ideas, and opportunities that I have a tendency to let go unnoticed.  Ironically enough, when viewed in their simplest form, they are all of things that bring me the most joy.

How about your life?  What are the things that bring you joy?  Is it possible that these same things are also what bring happiness to your life – things that make you feel better about yourself?

You see, the ability to harness what is ‘good’ has a natural inclination to help us in the face of adversity. It benefits us in these three ways:

  1. Motivation
    Think about something that is good in your life – one thing that brings you joy. For example, one thing that brings me joy is having the opportunity to train for endurance sport events.  In many ways, the training can be tiring, boring, and stressful amidst other life obligations.  However, at the core of the training are three simple actions – swimming, biking and running.  Simply having the physical ability to participate in these activities is a good thing. This is motivation to appreciate the skills and abilities that I have been blessed with.  It helps keep me move forward in pursuit of my goals. The essence of a good thing is that it makes us motivated to move towards something we are after.
  2. Resilience and Grit
    There will be moments along the path of adversity that could be a potential setback.  These are the times when our momentum is challenged and we struggle to move forward.  In these situations, we have two choices: we can focus on how difficult it is and recede with caution, or we can hone in on what is good about the situation and use the motivation that we have already received and embrace our circumstances.  The result is that the choice to focus on what is good will create resilience and grit.  These traits allow us to appreciate all the small victories we have celebrated on the current journey, and be strong enough to step forward with confidence.
  3. Peace of Mind
    As previously stated, the good in our lives is what brings us the most joy.  The things that bring us joy are the things that allow our mind to be at peace.  When we are at peace, we have the ability to think more clearly and feel more at ease despite the difficulties that we face.  On the contrary, focusing on what is not good, produces added stress, unease, and even fear.  It creates a mindset focused on short-term gains instead of long term solutions.

As you go about your week, you will be challenged in some aspect of your life. In those moments, you will have the opportunity to steer your thoughts about everything else in your life and view it as good or not good.  When these events occur, take five seconds to ask yourself this question…

“Will this reaction bring me joy, and ultimately feelings of happiness?”

One possible response will elicit feelings of motivation, resilience and grit, or peace of mind.  The other response exhibits feelings of sluggishness, low self-confidence, and frustration.

How will you respond?  What will you say?  Will your response help you embrace the situation, or let the situation have a grasp on you?

*Disclaimer: I’m in agreement that all good things must come in balance.  When good things become the ‘only’ thing, then it’s time to re-prioritize.  Also, when thinking about what is good in your life, break it down to what it really is at the core.  For example, whether you have been married for 1 week or 1 month, or 10 years or 50 years, at it’s core you have someone to love and someone who loves you – that’s a good thing – that’s something that brings joy.

3 Reasons Why it’s Important to Challenge the Status Quo

Achieving the Status Quo is a Complacent Result

‘It is what it is.’

‘I’m happy without changing anything.’

‘There’s nothing wrong with being average.’

We’ve all made these statements.  Whether we are in the midst of hardship, moments of surrender, or personal defeats, it’s not always easy to have the confidence (and ability) to think positively.  I’ve been there, and I’ve battled my own demons, just as each of you has.

We may not admit it, but the truth is that deep down, we are seeking something more than what we can wrap our hands around.  Whatever it is, our excuses leave us thinking that what we desire is just too big to grasp, too far out of reach.

Those that are able to accept their adversity as normal, and let it ‘work itself out’, are often times the individuals that are willing to accept the status quo as a way of life. The result is complacency – and complacency breeds mediocrity.

The truth of the matter is that if we continue to do the same things, and accept the status quo, then we are going to continue to get the same damn results.

If we’re after something more than what we currently have, and want to move beyond our current circumstances, then we must change something about the way we ‘do life’.

Challenging the Status Quo isn’t Going to Be Easy

At any period of your lives, when you choose to challenge what’s considered ‘normal’, you are going to meet resistance.  People are going to question your prerogatives, doubt your abilities, and resist your ideas.

The result of these people is that it becomes easy to doubt your own capabilities and self-worth.  And, if it gets to you, the result is that you will submit to what these people say and settle for the path of least resistance.

But remember, you are a powerful person with infinite amounts of opportunity to embrace adversity, create change, and impact this world as a result of your accomplishments.  At the end of the day, it does not serve you well to accept anything less than what you deserve.

Be bold. Be different. Be you.

3 Reasons Why You Should Challenge the Status Quo

While there are several reasons for challenging the norm, I have boiled it down to the three that I feel encompass everything it means to question the way things have ‘always been done’ – and ultimately create your own path for moving forward.

  1. You Make Yourself Noticeable
    Let’s be honest, when you choose to challenge the status quo, you are going to be noticed.  Whether in a good way or bad way, you can forget slipping through the cracks along with all the other Donna-do-nothing’s.  You make yourself recognizable.  In many ways, you are going to be ‘heard’, and those that genuinely care are going to help.  These people will be the ones that help make your vision a reality, and they will help get you from your ‘here’ to your ‘there’. If they lead you to believe that challenging the norm isn’t acceptable, then it’s pthey have accepted the status quo in their own life.
  2. Difference Makers do Things Differently
    The people who have impacted this world the most are the ones who have looked at the way everyone else was doing something, and then went and done it differently.  The companies in our world that are most successful are the ones that have foregone traditional methodology and found creative ways to utilize their resources (human, capital, tools, etc.). Difference makers are innovative and see things through the lens of a problem solver – with the solution resulting in something better than the status quo.
  3. It Expedites Growth
    If you started completing 25 push-ups everyday, beginning today, there would come a time when this exercise regimen becomes easy.  If you continued with the push-ups, then you would eventually hit a plateau – a point at which the 25 push-ups provide no return on investment.  Unless you alter or change something about the the process you are using, then the results will not improve.  Whether you increase the repetitions to 50 per day, or change the position of your hands, something needs to change.  When the change takes place, then you will begin to see growth. There is not a single-track approach to success, and unless you are willing to change something about the existing process, then it’s going to continue to prove to be challenging to learn and grow.

Despite how challenging it might be to resist following into the trap of complacency, the reward is that you can soon begin to see the limitless possibilities that are before you.  When you have possibilities, you have options.  When you have options, you have the ability to choose.  And, when you begin to choose what is best for your life, and not what everyone else thinks or believes, then you begin to create opportunities.

There are so many people out there who are going to tell you that you can’t. What you’ve got to do is turn around and say ‘watch me’.

What are you going to do this week to challenge the norm? More importantly, what opportunities are you going to create for yourself as a result?

The worst thing that can happen… You will discover something about yourself that you didn’t know before.

 

 

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Embracing Adversity, Summary and Review: Piecing the Puzzle Together

Learning to Embrace Adversity

Over the course of the last five weeks, I have spent a significant amount of time sharing with you the five step process for embracing adversity.  Remember, my intention in sharing this method was not to be able to overcome adversity, but rather to embrace it in order to more effectively manage each subsequent adverse event.

Vision + Desire + Relationships + Patience + Celebrating = Embracing

This equation served as the framework for beginning to understand just how in the hell we can effectively work our way through adversity.  Now that we’ve learned what each of these terms mean – and the implications when each is missing – it helps us to understand the importance of process.

Not one component works independent of the others.  Rather, they are interdependent – working in conjunction with the others in order to achieve the optimal results.

When firing on all cylinders, our vision is clear, we yearn for something more, there are supportive people in our lives, we appreciate the journey, and the small victories allow us make big progress.

Solving the Rubik’s Cube

Have you ever seen a Rubik’s Cube?  (If not, you can find a picture and explanation of one here)  Essentially, a Rubik’s Cube is a cube-shaped toy that has nine independent squares on each of the six sides.  In total, there are 54 squares covering the surface of the cube, each with a colored sticker comprised of one of six colors.

At the core of this cubed toy, is an axis that allows the cube to rotate the rows and columns of squares in two planes – horizontal and vertical.

The purpose of this puzzle isn’t to just twist and turn the cube to provide some fascination for a little while.  Personally, I sometimes think it’s just a way to remind us of how little patience we really have.  In many ways, the purpose of this ‘game’ – covering each of the six sides with a single color – is similar to an adverse event in our life.

Imagine someone placed it into your hands and told you that you must solve the puzzle.  What would your initial reaction be?  It’s small enough to fit into our two hands, yet challenging enough to make us nervous and stressed while trying to figure out if we are capable of such a feat.

But why?

Because it’s not something we are used to attempting everyday (at least 99% of the world).  By no means is it a walk in the park, but who said it would be?

What if you accepted the challenge, and did so by incorporating the five step process for embracing adversity?  Do you think it would make a difference?

I believe it’s possible.  So, let’s walk through the five steps, and provide an example as to how it relates to our Rubik’s Cube.

  1. Vision – There may be one or two stickers of the same color on a given side.  To solve the puzzle requires you to have nine stickers of the same color on a single side.  The vision is to have each of the six sides of a cube filled entirely with one color.
  2. Desire – It’s quite possible that many of us would look at the cube and not give a damn about trying to solve it. If this is the case, then it’s going to leave you with that nagging two-word question that we don’t always like to think about – What if?  Instead, your desire is to say that a piece of plastic is not going to get the best of you!
  3. Relationships – Having authentic and genuine relationships is applicable in any life situation, even solving a Rubik’s Cube.  Remember, it’s not to say that you can’t or won’t solve the problem on your own, but you may find it easier and more efficient with someone else’s perspective and guidance.  Perhaps they will see a pattern or notice a ‘formula’ for arranging the colored squares (not removing and rearranging the stickers!).
  4. Patience – As is the case with many other things, the ‘answer’ to our problems isn’t always immediately noticeable.  In trying to rush to the solution, we will find ourselves agitated when we don’t seem to be making progress.  It’s possible that we will solve the puzzle, but if we do so in a hurried manner and can’t remember how we did it, then the time spent was for what?
  5. Celebrate – Did you get one whole row to be all the same color?  What about two rows, or an entire side?  These are small victories.  More importantly, these are moments to celebrate and soak in.  They are the momentum that is needed to complete one more side, and eventually another, and another…

When Life Hands you a Rubik’s Cube, What are You Going to Do?

Adversity isn’t easy.  It’s not always identifiable or noticeable.  Sometimes, we can’t control when or how it will be brought into our lives.  However, the one reprieve that we have is that we get to choose how we will handle the obstacles we face in life.

We can run from the challenges, run to the hardships, or embrace the adversity.  As you weigh the pros and cons of each option, remember which one is going to help you in future occasions of adversity.

There is no better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance the next time. –Malcolm X

When you pick up that Rubik’s Cube, or someone places one in your hands, what are you going to do with it?  It merely serves as a small piece of the puzzle for the greater picture called ‘Life’.  It can either be the piece that connects you from your ‘here’ to your ‘there’, or it can be the piece that you let slide under the table never to be seen again.

How are you going to use it?  Most importantly, what are you going to learn from it?

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Embracing Adversity, Part Five: Celebrating Small Victories

The Snowball Effect of Small Wins

As we continue to learn and understand the five-step process for embracing adversity, we close out the series with the fifth element.  In each of the last four weeks, we have looked at the importance of the other four components and the implications when each of those factors is missing from our ‘equation’.

Before introducing the final part, let’s take a quick second to review what we’ve already learned.

The five step process for embracing adversity looks a little something like this:

Vision + Desire + Relationships + Patience + Celebrating = Embracing

However, when we are missing a vision for getting from our ‘here’ to our ‘there’ we lack the direction needed to begin making progress towards our end goal.

When we remove desire from the equation, it’s easy to find ourselves becoming complacent.  As a result, we fail to ask ourselves the question, “What else is out there?”

Being in relationships with others provides more than just a support network to lean on during times of adversity.  Relationships provide an alternative perspective and another set of eyes to provide aid during times of hardship.  Without relationships, we become self-reliant and choose to bear all the weight on our own shoulders.

Last week, I shared that a lack of patience leads to agitation.  Instead of choosing to embrace adversity and remaining patient in the midst of our struggles, we will find ourselves agitated, and consequently falling short of the optimal results because we fail to let the process occur.

So, today, I want to take some time explaining the importance of the final piece to our puzzle, and how it directly relates to our ability and/or inability to embrace adversity.

As we work our way through our adversities in life, there are going to be high points along the way as well as some rough patches that leave us feeling defeated.  If our vision and desire is to be in a better place at the end than where we are today, then along the way it’s important to remember to celebrate the small victories.

“Small wins in the midst of a life-changing experience are no small feat.  When we choose to celebrate these victories, we position ourselves so that we have something to build from.  However, when we choose to look-over these small gains, we position ourselves so that it always feels like an uphill battle.”

To help put this into perspective, I’ll use a theory called the snowball effect.  The snowball effect is a process that starts from an initial state of small significance and builds upon itself, becoming larger…”

In other words, each time one seemingly small, significant event occurs, it creates a momentum that continues to propel you forward in the direction you want to head.  And, with each successive event, it’s possible to continue building the confidence needed to see your obstacle as an opportunity.

The Importance of Small Victories

 A victory is a victory – big or small.  Outside of the experience we gain from ‘winning’ at something, the lessons it teaches us are often times more fulfilling when we reflect back on that moment in time.

“Little victories lead to bigger victories, that affect the battles that eventually win wars.” –Irish Proverb

But, what exactly is a small victory?  How will we know when we’ve reached one?  What should we do to ‘celebrate’ that win?

All GREAT questions.

A small victory is progress.  It’s a small gain.  It’s breaking through the wall that you’ve been trying to get through for the last couple of days.

You’ll know when you’ve reached a small victory when you say to yourself, “I feel a helluva lot better now than I did a minute ago.”  And, you celebrate these small wins by appreciating that moment in the journey and recognizing it as a break-thru event – as something that gave you the confidence to press on.

When we learn to incorporate small victories into the process for embracing adversity, I believe there are five benefits that we receive.

  1. We build our momentum to propel us towards the next step, or the next goal
  2. We minimize the opportunity for failure to creep in
  3. We increase our confidence level
  4. We allow us to live for today
  5. We enhance our lives, and if anything, bring a smile to our faces

At the end of your struggle, it will be these small moments in time that you remember.  These memories will be the ones that you look back on and realize were the reason(s) that you were able to make it from where you didn’t want to be to the placed you dreamed to be.

When We Fail to Celebrate, We Succeed to be Overwhelmed

Recognizing the importance of small victories is critical to keeping our spirits high when we are at the core of battling something seemingly bigger than ourselves.  Continually passing on the opportunity to appreciate these small wins will eventually compound (snowball effect) into something that affects our attitudes, feelings, and emotions – we become overwhelmed.

Vision + Desire + Relationships + Patience + ___________ = Overwhelmed

“Being overwhelmed is often as unproductive as doing nothing, and is far more unpleasant.” –Tim Ferriss

The word itself is in the past tense, so instead of thinking about where we are today, we focus on where we were and why we have yet to arrive at where we want to be.  Consequently, we forget about everything in between.

In order to get from where we were yesterday, to where we are going tomorrow, then we have to be present today.

There is too damn much that is going to happen, or could happen, between the onset of adversity and embracing it to the point that you feel as though you have truly arrived in a better place.  That whole middle part – it’s filled with options, choices, and possibilities – all of which can be scary when we try to tackle them all at one.  Then, it doesn’t take long before we find ourselves feeling overwhelmed.

What happens next?

We shut down.  Everything is internalized.  We question our ability to arrive at better and easier days.  The process goes out the window.

And, at last…

We will be without a vision.

We will lose our desire to move from our ‘here’ to our ‘there’.

We will push away the relationships we do have.

We will make irrational decisions out of lack of patience.

Lastly, instead of embracing adversity, we will find ourselves struggling with adversity.

What’s the adversity in your life that you are dealing with today?  Did you lose a loved one?  Dealing with financial hardship?  Struggling with an addiction?  Seeking purpose in your life?  Do you have a physical ailment?  Whatever you’re faced with, I’m ask yourself this question:  “What is the one good thing that has happened to me today?”  It could be a smile from a stranger, a kind hello, or a heads-up penny on the ground.  It doesn’t have to be big; it just has to be there.

That one good thing – it’s your small victory.  Embrace it, but most importantly, celebrate it!

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Embracing Adversity, Part Four: Patience

“Don’t Worry, I’ll Just Google It”

It’s just a click away.

What is just a click away, you might ask.

The ‘answer’. The ‘solution’. The ‘fix’ to all of our problems.

It wasn’t too long ago that Google wasn’t around. Do you remember what you did when you had a question, and Google search wasn’t at your disposal? In case you can’t remember just how long ago this was, it was 1998 (you can read Google’s history here.)

In the 18 years since then, Google has evolved into this software giant that has arguably redefined modern software technology and the Internet in a way that is unparalleled. The growth and evolution of Google has ultimately shaped the way we live, work, do business, teach, and even process our thoughts. It’s present in our homes, our schools, and our offices all over the world – for better or for worse.

I will not doubt or question Google’s ability to reach the masses and to share content, ideas, news, etc., all across the globe.

However, I will make the argument that a large percentage of people, crave and desire the ability to have immediate feedback – to get things NOW as a result of the Google phenomenon – as I’ll call it.

So, what are we left with?

We are left with a society of people who have a dependency to be connected. A sense of urgency has been created that has us itching to respond to a text, even when we are driving (and it’s against the law). The moment our phones ‘ping’ we check our emails. Every 5 minutes we find ourselves liking status updates, favoriting tweets, and sharing articles.  There is a FOMO (fear of missing out) if we aren’t getting things in real time.

Even in the face adversity.

“Yes, even when shit hits the fan, and our life gets really hard. We spill our emotions on social media, we Google search the diagnosis our doctor gave us, and we forget what it means to critically think through something for ourselves before telling the world what’s going on.  Instead, we seek out other outlets in the hope that they will provide the answer(s).”

And, all of a sudden, we have lost sight of the vision we set out to achieve. Our desire is to just get through the damn thing as quickly as possible. Relationships are forgotten. And, we lose any bit of patience that was already hanging by a thread. Consequently, we find ourselves stressed, frantic, and even worried.

Patience is Important
In the same way that vision, desire, and relationships play a crucial role in the process of embracing adversity, so too does this idea called patience.

In the grand scheme of things, patience is important because it allows us to assess what’s ahead and to pay attention to what’s important.

“Why is patience important? Because it makes us pay attention.” –Paulo Coelho

Instead of being delirious of our surroundings and hurried to complete the task at hand, our thought process when displaying patience allows us to critically think and to take note of the small, yet important details.

By definition, patience means “the quality of being patient, as the bearing of provocation, annoyance, misfortune, or pain, without complaint, loss of temper, irritation, or the like.”

The definition itself alludes to the importance of this characteristic, especially during misfortunes (adverse events).

So, when patience is removed from our ‘equation’, the result is something like this:

Vision + Desire + Relationships + _____ + Celebrations = Agitation

Agitation.  It gets me a bit riled up just saying it.  The shoulders become tense. Our grip becomes firmer.  Possibly start sweating a little.  Our heart rate increases.  There is no such thing as calm and relaxed.  Instead we feel rushed and hurried.  So, instead of embracing the adversity that we face, we begin to despise the conditions at our doorstep.  Then, we begin seeking the quick fix ‘solution’ at our fingertips – because it’s available, and it’s there (kind of like the Google phenomenon, yeah?).

Using this approach may work every once in a while, but the intent of embracing adversity is so that each subsequent adverse event becomes easier to embrace and to manage.  By choosing to seek out whatever is available now, it doesn’t mean we are making things easier for later.

Implications for Losing Patience

Take a moment to think about the last time that you lost your patience.

No, really.  Stop and think about it.  Was it this morning on your way to the store?  Yesterday when you got into an argument with a friend?  Last week when you didn’t get the big job opportunity that you had hoped?

How did you react?  What did you say?  Did you say anything?  Were you agitated at any moment?

Did the words ever cross your mind, for a single second, ‘how in the hell can I fix this now?’

If these words resonate, it’s okay. In many ways, it’s our natural defense mechanism. In the short-term, it may be a fix, but again, it’s likely not the long-term solution. If this is the case, then what are the implications, as some would say, for ‘slapping on a band-aid’?

  1. We become defensive – Our tempers get the best of us.  We react negatively towards others which consequently results in us pushing them away.  Remember the importance of relationships in embracing adversity?  As a result of being defensive, we don’t care what anyone else is doing or says, or consider alternative options, because the best option is the one that we have quickly engrained into our minds.
    2. We get tunnel vision – Instead of focusing on the big picture and being specific about moving from our ‘here’ to our ‘there’, we focus on one thing – the end.  It’s the only thing we keep in sight, and there is no room for wiggle or compromise.  We set ourselves on a bee-line for the finish without consciously thinking or processing through the path on which we decide to place ourselves.
    3. We don’t achieve optimal results – If you’ve ever baked something in the oven, then you would know that there is a specific temperature to place the oven and a set period of time for which to leave your dish to cook.  If the recipe calls for 30 minutes of bake time, then it’s because that is part of the process for achieving the optimal result.  Crunched for time, and what do we do?  Crank up the heat and say, “it will cook faster”.  Sure, it will cook, but the results might not be optimal.  This is the same concept when we lose our patience in the midst of adversity, and we diminish our ability to achieve an optimal outcome.

It’s not easy to have and exhibit patience.  I’ll be the first to admit that patience is probably the one concept of embracing adversity that I struggle with the most.  There are a lot of times when I just want to snap my fingers and be at the end.  In those moments, I am depriving myself of an opportunity to learn, to grow, and to embrace the challenge ahead.  It’s even something that I’ve specifically had to work on over the course of the last few weeks.

Life’s not always about the next thing – the next pay raise, the next promotion, the next degree, the next job, the next event, the next whatever.

Not even close.  But, you know what?

Life is a series of experiences, and it’s our responsibility to be committed to the experience that we are in right now.  Without patience in this process – in the midst of adversity – we’ll continue to find ourselves extending our hand, and reaching for the next best thing. And in that moment, I would urge you to ask yourself:

“Is what I’m reaching for what I think I want in this moment, or is it what I desire to have when this time in my life is through?”

 

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Embracing Adversity, Part Three: Relationships

If Civilization is to Survive, We Must Cultivate the Science of Human Relationships

Here we are, in the third week of the ‘Embracing Adversity’ series. As has been previously mentioned, the purpose of this series is to learn and understand the five step process for learning to embracing adversity. Consequently, in learning this process, we will gain confidence for managing future adverse events in a manner that accepts the challenge and views it as an opportunity to grow.

As a quick recap, let’s take a glance at the overarching ‘equation’ and parts one and two from the previous weeks.

When all five components are present, the equation looks like this:
Vision + Desire + Relationships + Patience + Celebration = Embracing

When the first of the components in missing, we’re left with this:
_______ + Desire + Relationships + Patience + Celebration = No Direction

Last week, we learned that not having a ‘desire’ to be better results in complacency:
Vision + ________ + Relationships + Patience + Celebration = Complacency

The third element to this equation is ‘relationships’, specifically those that we have with others. Whether the relationship is with a friend, family member, husband, wife, co-worker, coach, or mentor, these bonds are imperative to our ability to embrace adversity and work through life’s most difficult situations.

As we begin to dial in on relationships, we will define what constitutes a positive relationship, the result when these relationships aren’t present, and the implications it causes in the face of adversity.

Since the beginning of civilization, humans have always been communal beings. We have a desire to be in and around others. We interact with others, and quite honestly, all aspects of our lives require relationships for the ‘world to go around’. From a personal standpoint, to business, to faith – there is a degree of relationship that is needed. And, the people who are most successful in these areas tend to be the ones who have the ability to build and establish genuine relationships.

“If civilization is to survive, we must cultivate the science of human relationships – the ability of all peoples, of all kinds, to live together, in the same world at peace.” -Franklin D. Roosevelt

Human relationships are not simple, there isn’t one specific method to building relationships, but rather it’s dependent on the individual person and his or her ability to create an emotional connection to someone else. There’s a science to it, and the science varies from one person to the next, which makes it damn hard if you are uncertain where to begin. However, once your relational science is discovered, it makes going through this life a helluva lot easier – and more enjoyable!

An Emotional or Other Connection Between People

In the early phases of my writing, I provided my readers with ‘5 Steps for Building and Maintaining Relationships’. As I have grown both personally and professionally in the three years since that article, I believe the five steps can be simplified into one, single step – making ourselves vulnerable.

In the face of adversity, the challenges that we face are going place us in situations that we aren’t comfortable with, that we don’t understand, and that require us to get outside of our comfort zone. In these moments, having solid relationships with others can help to make the journey a bit easier, a tad more efficient, and a little less stressful.

So, what is a relationship?

“A connection, association, or involvement; an emotional or other connection between people”

If I were to hone in on one word from this definition, then it would be connection. While connection is very general, in taking it one step further you get words such as commonality, or shared interest. And these words, are at the essence of what it means to be in relationship with someone else.

By now, I know you’re reading this and asking, ‘when is this going to tie into learning how to embrace adversity’. Well, at the core of all genuine and positive relationships is one central element – a desire to help. Take a moment, and think about the best relationship that you have with someone else. Who is that person? How have they made your life better?

“If you asked them for help in a time of need, would they give you their hand? If you were facing the biggest challenge of your life, would having this person at your side make you feel better?”

When I reflect on my own life, and the moments when I’ve wanted to give up in the face of adversity, I think about the people who were and were not in my life at those times. When I was able to embrace the adversity, it’s because I was in strong relationship with others who were able to place my interests ahead of their own. As a result, these adverse events became positive experiences and growth opportunities.

I have never known two or more people in relationship who weren’t stronger as a team working towards a unified vision, than as individuals seeking something on their own. Different perspectives, diverse skill sets, and varied personality traits eliminate the ‘single track’ mind that sees in one direction without room for diversion, change, and detours along the way. In other words, relationships make it easier to embrace adversity.

The Result and Implications for Not Having Positive Relationships

In reading the following comments, I want you to ask yourself whether or not you have ever made these statements. I know I have, and I know what challenges I had to deal with as a result.

1. I’ve got this.
2. I can do this on my own.
3. I don’t need any help.
4. I’m good right now.
5. I’ll let you know if I need something.
6. It’s not a big deal.

When we make these statements, we are creating a dependency – a dependency that our own skills and abilities will always be enough to overcome the mountain in front of us. By creating a dependency on ourselves, we shut out those with whom we are in relationship with. As a result, we become self-reliant.

Vision + Desire + ____________ + Patience + Celebration = Self-Reliance

Relying on our own efforts and abilities causes us to place undue stress and pressure on ourselves to succeed. Inherently, our biggest competitor in life is ourselves. But, what we don’t always realize is that competing against ourselves means that we are the only person who is exerting time, energy, and effort. Instead of recruiting the help of others, our human nature is to be ‘macho’ and do whatever we have to do in order to complete the difficult task (adversity).

Now, imagine if you could complete this task (adversity) in half the time and by exerting half the amount of effort and energy as you would on your own. Would it change your mind the next time around? Or, would you still have too much pride to let someone else help?

Sure, I agree there are times when you need to work through something on your own to serve as a catalyst for future growth and development. But, it’s important to remember that people with whom we are in relationship with, genuinely want to help us succeed in the midst of adversity.

As was previously stated, the result of not having relationships is self-reliance. Now, we must ask the question, ‘what’s the implication for this’.

“The implication for being self-reliant is that we place ourselves into isolation.”

When we become isolated from the people in our lives, we gradually create a distance in those relationships. Eventually, the connecting rope between ourselves and the other person will become stretched thin. And, hanging by the last thread, the rope will break – symbolizing a break in the relationship. This happens when we refuse to let people help us; when we turn down their offer to help and say things such as, “I’ve got this on my own.”

In relationships, we have two choices:
1. We can build into them and make them stronger
2. We can let them drift away to the point of separation

If you’re used to tackling life’s challenges on your own, then I would encourage you to ask yourself this question…

“Do you ever think you will need that rope?”

The rope only gets stronger when we build into it – when we take care of it, and when we rely on it for the purpose it serves. The rope symbolizes the relationships that allow us to embrace the adversity that we face, and the people that will pull us to the top. We need that rope.  Without it, we are a lone wolf.  And, the lone wolf only survives for so long.

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Embracing Adversity, Part Two: Desire

The Desire to Do (and be) Something More

In week two of the current series, we will complete a deep dive analysis on the second of five components to work through when learning to embrace adversity.  Last week, a lot of time was spent focusing on the importance of having a vision in order to take us from our ‘here’ in order to get to our ‘there’.

Our vision does not always have to be crystal clear or perfectly painted, however, once the vision is set in our minds, then it makes it easier for the next four steps in the process to occur.  In case you missed us last week, it’s important to know that when we find ourselves in the midst of adversity, there are five steps in the process to learning how to embrace and manage life’s greatest challenges.

As we develop an ability to deal with hardship, the idea is that each successive hardship that follows will become easier to embrace and manage.  Last week, I provided the following ‘equation’ to use as the framework in outlining the five components to do this.

Vision + Desire + Relationships + Patience + Celebration = Embracing

I mentioned that I personally believe vision and desire could each hold the first place, and I believe it’s worth mentioning that I still believe the same to be true today.  It is not important whether our vision or desire comes first when wanting to get beyond the current circumstances.  However, It is important that both of these concepts need to be at the beginning of the equation with one following the other.

When used in the form of a noun, the word desire means, ‘a longing or craving, as for something that brings satisfaction or enjoyment’.  A couple of  common words that can also be used in place of desire are aspiration and hunger.

How does this relate to adversity?

Having desire means that our ‘here’ isn’t exactly where we would like to be.  In other words, we have a desire to do (or be) something more than what we are (or where we are) in the present.  Desire without vision equals no direction, and vision without desire equals no traction.

Has anyone ever asked you ‘how bad do you want it’?  Well, having desire is similar to the way you would respond if you wanted something so badly because you knew just how much it could/would change your life.  Without desire, we can only get so far.  With it, the opportunities for success are much more abundant.

(If you’re in need of a little extra motivation today, here is the link to one of my favorite motivational videos – ‘how bad do you want it’.)

Desire has No Room for Complacency

On several occasions I have written about the idea of complacency.  When we find ourselves being complacent, my experiences have shown me that it’s because we have found a ‘comfort zone‘ from which we choose to operate.  While operating from within this bubble might help us to improve our ‘productivity’, it shields us from many life events that will potentially challenge us, and ultimately that will allow us to grow.

A desire to be complacent has a desire built within it to be mediocre.  A desire to want something more has a built within it a desire to become better.

Personal development works through three stages:

  1. Comfort in Stability
  2. Uncertainty in Growth
  3. Excitement in Change

Embracing adversity necessitates the need to be okay with the unknown (uncertainty in growth) and to be confident that things will get better (excitement in change).  However, managing adversity is not best pursued with the mindset of being comfortable.  There is no room to be complacent.

Vision + ________ + Relationships + Patience + Celebration = Complacency

When we can pair the desire to be in a better place with our vision for what ‘better’ looks like, then we can truly begin to see progress in getting from where we are now to where we want to be.  This is when our feet have traction on the pavement, and we begin moving forward.  This is the moment when we say the hell with being average and on with being better.

What More is Out There?

In order to champion the mountains that we will climb in our lifetime (big and small), each of us is going to have to go up against something that we probably don’t want to.  When these moments arrive at the doorstep, we are faced with two options:

  1. Stop in our tracks and shutter at the thought of continuing, or
  2. Prove that our desire is bigger than what we are faced with

When we lack a desire to grow as a person, to build into others, and to grow along the way, then we find it easier to succumb to defeat.  And with each defeat, it gets easier the next time around to throw in the white towel.

On the other hand, when we have a desire to grow as a person, to build into others, and to grow along the way, then we learn to embrace adversity and find it easier to manage.  And with each win we earn, it becomes easier to continue walking up the mountain, unnerved with the uncertainty for what may be at the top.  People who can do this are the one’s who ask ‘What more is out there’ and embrace their lives for what they are.  These people continue climbing the mountain – because they have a vision and a desire.

Have you ever asked yourself, ‘What more is out there?’  If so, how did you respond, and did you even care?

Put this question into context for how it relates to your life today.  What life challenges have been thrown in your direction recently?  Stop and think about it for a moment.  When you’ve done this, write down and finish the following statements.

  • Right now, I am facing adversity with/because/as a result of….
  • In order to get beyond my ‘here’, and to my ‘there’, it includes/looks like/is…
  • I’m going to get to my ‘there’ because I have a desire to grow, and when I get there, I am going to be a better and stronger individual because…

Use these responses as the initial motivation to take the first step, and allow them to be the catalyst for spring boarding you directly into the heart of adversity – because you have embraced it and are excited for what’s to come.

 

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Embracing Adversity, Part One: Vision

 

Determining Our Vision

As we mature and our bodies develop, for most of us, our vision is one thing that biologically changes.  For others, our vision matures to a point where we can maintain a sharp vision, having the ability to hone in on specific words, objects, and symbols.  This provides us with the ability to recognize and to make sense of what our eyes are looking at.  Unfortunately, there are also others whose vision moves in the opposite direction, slowly deteriorating to the point that it’s difficult to read the words on a screen or see what’s ahead.  Sometimes these conditions can be corrected, and at other times they can’t.

It’s even plausible to consider the latter of these two situations an example of an adverse condition – adversity if you will.  Although, what I find to be ironic is the concept that determining a vision for something which has yet to be attained does not require the physical ability to see.  However, it requires our ability to creatively construct an image in our minds of what it might look and feel like when we attain what it is that we are after.

When I first wrote about vision in the ‘Complex Change’ series, I used a definition for vision, and I believe it still holds relevance in the context of embracing adversity.  So,  I will share it again here.

“Vision is much deeper than surface level and certainly more complex than black and white images.  It requires us to perceive something far off in the distance, perhaps not even in our immediate field of view.  Sometimes defined as ‘the act or power of anticipating that which will or may come to be’.  That which will or may come true is the vision, and arriving there is the result of taking action and working with the end in mind.”

In our lives, adversity is going to come at us from all angles.  And, as we begin to digest what is happening, there is a good chance  we will find ourselves asking (when uncertain):

“How in the hell am I going to get through this?”

Or, we might even make a statement such as this:

“I just want it to be over already.”

Have you ever made these remarks?  I know I have… plenty of times.  Then, I realized that the my ability to get beyond these initial thoughts was indicative of my ability to embrace what I was dealing with.  In other words, it was important to ‘nip in the butt’ these negative thoughts as early in the process as possible.

At this point, it’s our opportunity to determine the vision for moving forward.  This is a matter of identifying exactly where we want to be and exactly what needs to be embraced.  More importantly, we must ask ourselves, ‘why’, because we will never arrive at where it is we need to be if we don’t know where it is that we want to go.

The Role of Vision for Embracing Change

When we determine our vision for where we want to end up in the midst of adversity, even more critical than knowing where wewant to go is knowing where we are.  Another way of stating it is ‘understanding our here in order to get to our there’.

The reason it’s important to know our current position is because it will allow us to more efficiently prepare and ‘climb the mountain’.  Instead of just climbing straight up to reach the top, it might actually be easier to make our way around the bend and back and forth a few times before going vertical.

If we aren’t aware of our ‘here’, then getting to our ‘there’ will be more challenging, require more effort, and force us into situations in which we probably aren’t prepared.  There are three reasons for using this process in determining our vision while embracing change.

  1. Removing the Obstacles – In the past couple of articles I’ve written, I have mentioned that one of the three options for dealing with adversity is to run towards it.  When we choose to run towards it, we increase the probability that we will meet our fair share of obstacles.  The obstacles could come in one of many forms – from resistance, to lack of energy, weakness, or lack of resources.  Being able to identify where we are relative to where we want to go allows us to process and think through what obstacles we are going to face on the journey, understand how to remove the obstacles, or be prepared to handle them if we can’t remove them.
  2. Going Against the GrainClimbing a mountain is not easy.  Step after step, it requires patience and persistence.  Reaching the stop of a mountain requires hundreds and thousands of steps on terrain that utilizes muscles that we don’t typically use when walking on a flat surface.  In this way, going up a mountain goes against the ‘normal’ walking pattern of a person.  Physical strength is one thing, but the mental and emotional capacity is much different when stepping on, over, up, and around rocks, trees, and other mountainous features.  What does this mean?  It means that managing and embracing adversity can be draining. In many ways, it requires doing the opposite of what the body is used to, going against the grain if you will.  However, determining a vision helps minimize the extent to which we wear ourselves down because we have prepared in advance.
  3. Understanding Root Cause – Adversity isn’t something that we always know is coming in our direction.  Certainly, there are times when we make personal decisions that we know could result in more challenging circumstances, however, in these circumstances our vision has likely been determined well in advance.  We don’t always have the ability to know how we will react in the face of adversity because it’s relative to the person who is experiencing it.  When we react, because we will, it’s our responsibility to identify what the root cause was behind this new-found adversity.  Chances are, it is something more than the ‘last thing that happened to me (us)’.  Perhaps the ‘last thing’ was just another symptom of a root cause, and the ‘last thing’ is what created the spiral effect.  If our intention is to arrive at our vision, then it’s imperative that we get to the root of the issue.  If not, then we will be running in circles.

Determining our vision in the face of adversity helps set the tone for the remainder of the journey.  Understandably, it’s easy to want to begin up the mountain full speed ahead.  But in doing so, what are we after?  Do we even know and are we prepared?

The Implications of Not Having a Vision

As is the case with most processes, there is typically a series of steps, and sometimes a flow, that the system should follow in order to produce a desired result.  If under any circumstance, one portion of the process is skipped, then it is going to alter the end result (for better or worse).

The same concept holds true for embracing adversity.  I have come up with the following ‘equation’ that incorporates the five steps (characteristics) that tend to be most effective when we find ourselves being challenged.

Vision + Desire + Relationships + Patience + Celebration = Embracing

When we decide to embrace adversity, all five of these components play a crucial role. Personally, I believe the first two characteristics could be in either location, as they set the tone for what is to follow.

With any math equation, when one number or digit is different, the answer will vary – sometimes more significantly than at other times.  So, the question becomes, ‘what is the result of attempting to embrace adversity when we don’t have a vision’?

_______ + Desire + Relationships + Patience + Celebration = No Direction

Imagine being blindfolded, taken to the middle of the woods, dropped off, and told to wait there for two hours before exiting the forest.  Sure, the direction of the sun, the way the river flows, or the wind patterns may help get you to safety, but can you imagine the struggles (physically and mentally) that we will have to overcome in order to make our way out?  Even if we make it out, who’s to say it will be the place we wanted to make it to?

In many ways, we’re shooting in the dark when we remove the vision from our ability to embrace adversity.  As it was stated earlier, our vision allows us to be efficient in a process, and without it, we not only increase uncertainty, but the level of risk goes up as well.

Remove our ‘vision’ and we have eliminated any sense of our ‘here’ and our ‘there’.  Without understanding these elements, we will miss out on building the foundation for the remaining four characteristics of embracing adversity.

I’m going to close this article with a few questions to think about.  The truth is, we are each facing adversity in our lives at the present.  On a piece of paper, write down the following questions and answer them honestly:

  1. What adversity in my life have I been facing, or am facing today, that I would like to embrace?
  2. What is my ‘here’ and what caused it? (Be as specific as possible.)
  3. What is my ‘there’ and why is it desirable? (Be as specific as possible.)
  4. How will my life be different as a result of my ability to embrace this adversity?

Moving forward, spend some time thinking about your answers.  Revisit them throughout the days and weeks to come so that they might serve as a reminder of what it is you’re seeking.

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Gearing Up for Change

Three years ago I began writing this blog, Building United, as an outlet during a period of unemployment.  Initially, it served as a medium to share my thoughts about the life challenges I was working through.  Week after week, I would take my hand-written notes from throughout the week and put them to paper.  And, for most Sundays since, I have published an article.

Each year at this time, I reflect back on the beginnings.  From learning how to create a blog, to understanding what a widget is, to creatively writing, I learned something with each step of the process.  It just so happens that I enjoyed writing enough to continue to share my ideas.

To date, I have posted 144 articles.  While the stories and messages vary, I always try to create content that remains consistent and is representative of the person I am, and the person I am striving to be.  I’ve written about decision making, stages of personal development, personal stories, persistence, inspiration, commitment, and change management (most viewed post).

I believe there is one central theme that permeates throughout all of my posts – growth through adversity.  Just this past week, I heard someone say, “I have never met someone who woke up in the morning and said, ‘I want today to be a crappy day.’”  The point of this statement is that there is always room for growth, there is always room to learn, and there is always room to become a better you.

In my life, I have two mantras that I live by.

  1. Never settle for anything less than you (and others) deserve.
  2. Without growth, mediocrity is a certainty.

So, when I think about this blog – where it is now, relative to where I want to take it – I realize that certain things need to change.  What began as a somewhat haphazard way to share my ideas, has grown into something that I believe has validity and a message that resonates with my readers – locally, nationally, and even internationally.  Now, I feel compelled to make it grow in order to reach a larger audience.

So, what needs to change?

For starters, I need to write better content.  Hands down, I’ve found that people will read something because they find one of two ideas to be present.  The first idea is that a reader finds the content valuable (applicable to his or her own life).  The second idea is that the reader finds it interesting (engaging and keeps his or her attention).  I personally believe that one of the best ways to provide one of the two (or both) qualities is to provide real life examples from everyday people, and this is something I want to do moving forward.

Next, I have contemplated (and even told myself for over a year) that I was going to revamp the existing blog webpage.  Quite honestly, it’s outdated, the format is not easily navigable, and, in my opinion, it’s not aesthetically appealing.  Time and time again, I have written about change and how it necessitates growth.  In the case of my blog website, it’s well beyond time for a change.

With that, and keeping in mind my life mantras, I’m on a personal mission to create better content and to expand my reach to a larger audience.  For something that I stumbled into, writing (blogging) has become something that I have a passion for doing and an activity that I find purpose in doing.

Historically, I have used the months of May and December to generate new ideas for content to write about in the next half of the year.  This year, for the month of May, I plan to stick to the plan, but I will be spending a significant amount of time upgrading the website.  At the end of the day, each of you are faithful readers, and I would be settling if I was providing you with something less than what you deserved.

The next few weeks are going to be challenging and exciting all at once.  Along the way, I’m going to appreciate the journey, celebrate the small victories, and return in June re-energized to make this thing take off – and I want you there with me.

I’ll begin again with weekly posts the weekend of June 19th.  Okay, so maybe that’s a little longer than a month, but thanks to the Boulder Half Ironman, I will be training to compete the weekend of June 11th.  I’m sure I will be writing about that experience, and I’m looking forward to continuing on this journey with each of you!

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Inspired, from the Other Side of the Fence

Boston Strong

12new-marathon-finish0line$large26.2 miles.  30,000 runners.  500,000 spectators.  One city, united.

I had the opportunity to attend the Boston Marathon this past week.  The strength of the running community, the passion of the city, and the electricity of the town were more than impressive.  The energy was at a level that I have never seen before at a marathon event.

Although it’s been three years since the Boston Marathon attacks, the memories of that day haven’t been forgotten in the hearts and minds of millions of people.  The images remain etched into memory – for better or for worse.  As horrific as that day was in 2013, it truly was a day that united a city.  It was an event that turned tribulation into triumph.

Banners and signs lined the course with the slogan ‘Boston Strong’.  For participants, fans and spectators, these two words stand as a reminder that being defeated isn’t an option.  Through the rallying cry of a city, no one is left behind and not a single person falls and doesn’t get back up.  Like the old saying goes, “I’m here to help, and I’ve got your back.”

From the Other Side

I write about the experience from a side of the fence that I’m not usually accustomed to being on – from the other side, if you will.  This time around, I was the spectator.  While I didn’t participate in America’s oldest marathon, I stood at the finish line, soaking up the emotions of the athletes as they finished the race.

I stood in the same spot, for three hours, my feet cemented in the front row.  Most others had been there for 2-3 hours before me to claim their ground.  Just like me, they anxiously waited for their friends and loved ones to ‘finish strong’.

The guy next to me shared his memory of participating in the race three years ago when the bombing took place.  Twenty minutes before the explosion, he took a photo with his wife in the exact location that one of the bombs went off.  That’s 1,200 seconds before people lost their lives.

The lady on my right excitedly asked my wife’s name, and she told me to make sure that I pointed my wife out so that she could cheer for her and yell her name.

I was able to see the race winners cross the finish line and be crowned the 2016 Boston Marathon champion.

My eyes couldn’t keep up with the wheelchair competitors who raced down the home stretch in a dead heat for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place.

It was emotional watching visually impaired runners stay in stride with a guide on each side.

I ached for the four or five runners that collapsed 200 yards from the finish.  The aches that I felt became goosebumps when other participants picked up the downed runners, hoisted their arms around them, and physically carried them the remaining distance, sending the crowd into an uproar.

I can’t say that I know what it would have been like on the other side of the fence, but I do know what it felt like where I was standing, and it was electrifying and inspiring.

Have you Experienced the Other Side?

I’ve been a participant in a number of races, and emotionally, I believe it is a completely different experience than being a spectator.  From the standpoint of race preparation, mental strength throughout, and the focus of getting to the finish.

All too often, it’s easy to find ourselves ‘in the zone’ when we are doing a particular activity, or even in the midst of our busy lives.  It can be difficult to see and understand something from a view other than what’s directly in front of us – especially when the task is physically, mentally, and emotionally demanding.

Sometimes, when we’re in the zone, the little details seem to pass us by.  We can get so caught up in getting to the finish that we can forget to appreciate the journey.   We can miss out on all of the exciting, fascinating, and inspiring things going on around us.  In this state, it’s easy to self-judge – evaluating how ‘good’ we’ve done based on our individual performance.  It’s easy to become a competition against ourselves.  We gauge our self-worth on the final result – forgetting what we’ve learned in the process

The Boston Marathon, it’s city, and all that it stands for, taught me to appreciate to view from the other side.  From the other side, I felt the pains of the runners.  I felt the enthusiasm of 500,000 people.  I felt the emotions of both the athletes and the spectators.

I felt bravery.

I felt courage.

I realized that being on the other side requires both of these traits.  It is from putting yourself in someone else’s shoes that you can feel their pain, understand their struggles, and cherish in their victories.  This is the case for any aspect of life – grieving loss of a loved one, battling through health issues, or struggling in your relationships with others.

You never understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.  –To Kill a Mockingbird

Until you are courageous and brave enough to be on the other side, you will never fully understand ‘what it’s like’.  Is there an area of your life that could use the perspective of the other side?  How might your outlook and opinions change if you placed yourself there?

Thank you, Boston, for teaching me this lesson.  Thank you, for allowing me to have this experience – from the other side.

 

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If You Knew it would Change Your Life, Then Would You do it?

Getting_Started_FinalYou’ve all heard that hindsight is 20/20, and that you can’t go through life living in the rear view mirror.  Life presents too many opportunities at the present moment – opportunities that carry more weight than ones that have passed, or ones that have yet to arrive.

Life isn’t intended to live by regret, but rather to live by experiencing – making the most of each moment that we have.

Yes, I know, it might sound cliché and overused, but life is too damn short.  In the past couple of months, I’ve heard stories and experienced these life situations that always seem to put everything into perspective.  These events had me reflecting this past week, asking myself how far would I go and to what lengths would I push myself in order to prevent myself from saying:

“I wish I had known…”

So, I arrived at a series of questions.  The answers weren’t always easy to swallow – possibly a hint of fear, a pinch uncertainty, and even doubt were associated with some of my responses.  However, at the end of the day, life is tough and it requires tough decisions, and if you intend to be a difference maker in the life you lead, then you are going to have to think differently than others in your approach.

Now, I’m asking you to answer the same questions I asked myself.  Think hard and give yourself an honest assessment about what is launching you to the place you want to be, or what has your feet cemented at the starting line.

  1. If everything you wanted was at the tip of your fingers, then how far would you reach?
  2. If you were given all the resources you need to pursue your passion, would you run after your dreams?
  3. If you were reminded that dreams can become a reality, how long would you continue to let them set idle?
  4. If you knew that your vulnerability would help you conquer the mountains you face, would you lace up your boots and start to climb?
  5. If swimming with the sharks would allow you to find that treasure you’ve been seeking, would you take a deep breath and dive?
  6. If you could be guaranteed that tomorrow was going to be better than today, would you forget about the problems you are staring at today?
  7. If you knew that the last dollar in your pocket would invest in the well- being of another person, would you give it up?
  8. If you knew you would regret certain parts of your life on your last day, would you change what you’re doing today?

After you’ve answered each of the questions, ask yourself one more:

“What’s holding me back today?

With one, brave step, you have the ability to begin living the life that you always intended to live.  Start today, and continue tomorrow.

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Difference Makers do things Differently

Have you ever made a decision and had people look at you like you were crazy?

You know, the kind of look that says, ‘What in the hell is wrong with you?’  However, at the time, it was either your heart or your mind that told you it was the right decision to make?

I have.  I’ll never forget walking away from a full-time job with great pay and good benefits in the midst of an economic downturn.  I could have settled and showed up each day and done just fine for myself.  It was what many would call ‘a no-brainer’.

But, I wanted something more.  I didn’t want to settle, and I sure as hell wanted more than just showing up.

Do you feel the same way?  Do you have a curiosity for life that drives you towards something more than the status quo?  If so, don’t worry – you’re not alone.

Difference Makers do Things Differently

A difference maker is someone or something that makes things happen – that challenges the norm and achieves success as a result of exciting, innovative thinking.  It could be a person, an institution, a business, a brain-trust, a school – anyone or anything that operates in a system with other competing people or organizations.

  • If you want your life to be more than average (in your own relative measurement), then it’s going to require that you do something different than what the average of everyone else like you is doing.
  • If you want to work for a business that is more than average (relative to the market it’s in), then it’s going to require that you seek a company that strategically operates and differentiates itself from the competition.
  • If you want to get a better than average education (relative to the education that other schools offer), then it’s going to require that you seek out the school that has developed innovative curriculum.

Difference makers not only make themselves better, but also the people and counterparts around them.  I need only name a few people to grasp the idea – Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, and Steve Jobs.  Or, how about a few companies – Apple, Amazon, and Uber.

These names and these companies were and are constantly re-evaluating, continually learning, and forever adapting.

You were put on this earth to be a powerful human being.  I truly believe that you were put on this earth for a specific purpose.

That purpose that you’re here for – it’s the same for you as it is for me – to be a difference maker and to be a part of organizations that strive to do the same.  It doesn’t mean that you have to develop a method that will alleviate poverty, or that the company you work for revolutionizes job equality.

You know what it does require?  It requires you to be uniquely different – to use your skills, talents, and abilities to improve your own well-being and the lives of those around you.

And, when you begin to do that?

Well, you begin to think differently than a large majority of people.

And, guess what?

You become a difference maker.

Notes:

  1. Thanks for my wife for inspiring this post – she lives and breathes the difference maker mentality.
  2. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be just average. In baseball, for example, the average hitter is successful 3 out of 10 at-bats – in that case, failing 7 times out of 10 is normal!

 

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Choosing Between your Heart and Mind – How to Tell the Difference

Mind v. Heart

Decisions, decisions, decisions…

They are part of life.  Each day requires us to make them.  Some decisions are made rather easily, without much thought, and others take time, forcing us to think of all the ‘what if’s’ as a result.

You can make some decisions, and your life will remain nearly the same.  However, there is also a chance that a decision could be life altering, forever changing your course and direction.

Regardless of whether or not you make a decision quickly or slowly, in good reasoning or bad, something will happen.  As Ralph Waldo Emerson states, “Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.”  It’s a cause and effect reaction that can be altered.

Arriving to the point of committing yourself requires thought, sometimes reframing your expectations, and developing patience until you are confident with your choice.  Once committed in your heart or your mind, the next, most important step is to actually move forward with what you feel is best.

“In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do it nothing.” –Theodore Roosevelt

Then, the final step is to move forward with the confidence knowing that you have made a decision you believe to be best, and you will stand by that decision.  If it goes as you would hope, then all is well.  If it doesn’t, then all is still well, because it allows you to learn, develop, and grow.

Are there decisions you need to make today?

Do you need to prioritize and choose which tasks are most important on your growing list?

Will you decide how to approach a difficult conversation with a friend, family member, mentor, peer, co-worker, or supervisor?

Does a decision need to be made for something more simple, such as what to make for dinner?

Perhaps it’s something much more difficult, such as whether or not to keep a family member on life support?  Or, possibly walking away from a career in pursuit of something greater?

No matter how you arrive at your decision, it’s important to understand that the decision will be rooted in one of two places – your heart or your mind.

The Differences Between Decisions of the Mind and Decisions of the Heart

I don’t always believe that the heart and mind are aligned.  A lot of times, there never seems to be congruency between the two – as if the heart’s passion is in serious conflict with the mind’s analysis.

The challenge is that life forces you to make decisions that require both types of decisions, but it’s your responsibility to make that choice.  When faced with a decision, the heart and mind will each have their own agenda, pushing and pulling you one way or another.  At the end of the day, only you can decide the right move to make.

Do you prefer to listen to your ‘gut’ (mind) or to follow your heart?  Both paths provide a different set of realities, truths if you will, that contribute to the process both before and after the decision is actually made.

When you can identify what these truths are, then it makes it easier to determine whether certain decisions would be best made with you heart or your mind.

That being said, the following ideas are a few of these truths, or differences, that help discern whether a decision is made, or is going to be made, using something deep inside us that provides life or something that speaks to us directly.

  1. Decisions of the heart are processed over and over again. Decisions of the mind are analyzed and made reactively.
  2. Decisions of the heart take into consideration the journey Decisions of the mind think about getting to the next step.
  3. Decisions of the heart have a tendency to involve passions, purpose, and pursuit of something greater. Decisions of the mind are often times fixated on immediate gratification, and fulfilling a desire to want something.
  4. Decisions of the heart take into consideration the impact that decision will have on others. Decisions of the mind are somewhat narcissistic – thinking about oneself.
  5. Decisions of the heart open up doors of opportunity for help from other people (refer to numbers 1-4). Decisions of the mind have the ability to shut off help from others (refer to number 4).
  6. Decisions of the heart are absorbed in long term investments. Decisions of the mind are immersed in short term gains.
  7. Decisions of the heart exhibit feelings of doubt, frustration, hope, and peace. Decisions of the mind display feelings of excitement, thrill, enthusiasm, and exhilaration.
  8. Decisions of the heart can have moments of remorse when the decision doesn’t go as planned. Decisions of the mind move on as if nothing ever happened.
  9. Decisions of the heart provide a deep level of growth and learning – something to draw from for future choices. Decisions of the mind create a reminder of what happened the last go around.
  10. Decisions of the heart challenge the status quo, they aren’t sexy, and you will likely be asked to explain yourself. Decisions of the mind are logical, easy to justify, and ‘make sense’.

In thinking about these ten truths, take a minute to think about a decision you are in the process of making – today, this week, in the next month or year.  Based on these thoughts, are you more inclined to make a decision based on what your heart feels or what your mind is telling you?

The life you live is a crazy, beautiful and challenging adventure.  It requires you to make choices.  And, tough decisions are made by tough people.

There’s no right or wrong path to follow.  As an individual you will likely fall on one end of the spectrum or the other – driven by your heart or influenced by your mind.  However, the most important thing to remember is that, in life, you need to use both.

When you’re not sure which route is best, then take a glance at the ten ideas listed above.  Then, ask yourself, “What am I trying to accomplish; what is my goal in making this decision?”

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Losing Patience? 5 Strategies to Remain Calm

Calm, Cool, and Collected

At the beginning of the New Year, I shared some ideas surrounding the idea of reframing expectations.  Since, then I have been tested time and time again, and it seems as though my expectations have been shifting pretty regularly.

For better or worse, my patience has been challenged, and I’m learning how to better react and deal with circumstances in which things don’t operate according to plan.

Most recently, I traveled out of the country to spend a few days without distractions and focus on being present.  Enjoying the trip, the time together, and the need to ‘reset’, we extended our stay for one more night.  However, the quick and easy adjustment in itineraries ended up having us in a panic, and franticly trying to determine when we would actually be able to return home.

It just so happens that the day we were due to travel home was the same day that Denver, Colorado, was hit with a snowstorm that left more than a foot of snow.  After several delays, the flight was eventually cancelled.

No big deal, right?

Well, there weren’t any available flights for the next day on any airline to Denver, and the soonest our airline could get us home was this coming Wednesday, March 30th (a week later).  Also, the city was preparing for Easter Celebrations as most Central and Latin American countries often do.  Therefore, hotels were nearly sold out, or a premium was being charged if there was availability.

Not only did we need to reframe expectations, but more importantly, we needed to be patient in order to navigate how to make the situation better.

Practicing Patience

Can you remember what it was like, as a kid, waiting for Christmas morning to arrive?  Were you anticipating that morning, anxiously awaiting the moment when you could open the gifts stowed under the tree?  Perhaps you even tried to sneak a peek at the presents when no one was watching – I know I did on one or two occasions – all because you just couldn’t wait.

What about the time you spent several weeks planning for a vacation that was 4 four months away?  Did it become harder to concentrate on your daily responsibilities as the trip drew nearer?  Were you able to remain focused on all of life’s other priorities until the day of departure?

Was there a period of time when you attempted to learn a new task, yet quit practicing because mastering the fundamentals wasn’t interesting for you?  Did you return back to the basics, or decide to move on to something new?

In each of these scenarios, hurriedly rushing through priorities, losing focus, and getting ahead of yourself, is not going to make the situation any better.

Now, back to the story…

I’ll spare you all the details, but, fortunately the airport had a fairly decent wireless network, and we were quickly able to snag an overpriced hotel for the evening.  The next morning we were able to finalize travel arrangements to get us to my hometown for Easter weekend and catch another flight back to Colorado immediately after.  Believe it or not, this was the soonest and cheapest option for getting back to Denver instead of changing hotels every night for another week.

5 Strategies to Keep Calm and Collected

In the process of figuring out ‘what to do next,’ my patience was dwindling, however, there were a few key, identifiable strategies that helped as we worked through the next 24 hours.

  1. It’s best to focus on one task at a time – Many people believe they are experts at multi-tasking. However, when your patience is tested, focus on what’s most important now.  In my recent travels, it was not working out well when we were trying to find hotels and re-arrange flights at the same time.  Priority number one quickly became ‘find a place to sleep and book it’.  From here it was easier to move onto the next challenge of getting back to the US. In your own life, do you ever feel overwhelmed at work – project deadlines, meetings to attend, calls to make, commitments to keep?  As a result, is your patience running slim?  Prioritize, focus on what’s most important and put the rest to the side and complete the task at hand.
  1. No matter how much patience you have, there is only so much that is within your own power – In moments of being excited or anxious, there is only a certain amount of control you have over the situation. Keep in mind what it is you’re capable of doing, and expend your energies in these areas.  If it’s out of your control, then it needs to be out of your mind.
  1. Understand that you are likely not the first, nor the last that will experience What you are – As we had spent at least eight hours in the airport, we began having conversations with others who were due to travel on the same flight. Everyone was trying to gather ‘intel’ and share it with the rest of the group.  The conversations were not always pleasant, but they were a quick reminder that we were not the only ones in this situation.  More than a hundred other people were also trying to book hotels, re-route their flights, and ultimately, make it to Denver.  As you begin a new task, or approach feelings of unease as a big day arrives, your drive to want to succeed has the ability to outweigh the need to be patient.  When this become the case, then the frustrations kick in, and it’s easy to feel isolated and alone.  This is the point in time when it’s important to tell yourself that it is highly plausible that someone else has experienced exactly what you are and overcome the challenge – so can you.
  1. Stay patient, and make the best decisions – Losing patience has the ability to put you ‘on edge’ and in panic mode. When this happens, your thoughts can become irrational.  Have you ever made a quick decision just to ‘get out’ of your current situation?  Sure, it may have worked out, but was there a better option available?  Unless you’re a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of person, then brash decision making isn’t something you’re probably good at doing.  Patience helps lead to coherent and logical decision making in everyday circumstances, and patience contributes to ‘best-judgment’ decision making in times of trial.  The opposite of this would be consequential decision making just to ‘move on to the next thing’.
  1. Remain patient and focus on the reward – Imagine if you had been practicing a new instrument for several months. You had experienced some struggles along the way, and at other times your practice had seemed to pay off.  Then, one day it all went to hell.  Chords didn’t make sense.  You couldn’t figure out the strumming pattern or technique.  And, you finally gave in and quit without ever knowing what you would accomplish in the month that followed.  Now, think about the opposite result – the one in which you pushed through and reached your goal because of your patience.  What do you think it would feel like to play your favorite song on that instrument?  Would that be rewarding and satisfying to you?
  1. As soon as you think you have enough patience, think again – Well, perhaps there are six strategies worth sharing!  Working through hardship will not be a one-time occurrence in your life, nor will it always repeat itself.  Every moment of adversity brings a different struggle, and every struggle requires a different approach.  And, there will come a time when your patience will be tested like it has never been tested before.

At the end of the day, being patient is often easier said than done.  In the heat of the moment, or when life seems to be in a cluster, you are required to react and make decisions.  These decisions can be quick and brash as a result of rushing the process.  Or, the decisions can be quick and concerted – well thought if you will – as a result of showing patience.

Patience is a virtue, and a virtue is associated with other words such as asset, advantage, benefit, plus, feature, and quality.  The association between the two words is both relevant and direct.  The association is also honest and true.  The next time you find your patience running thin, choose to test it, instead of it testing you.  Grow in patience, and allow it to help you grow into relation with others – especially those closest to you.

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3 Reasons it’s Important to Remove the Distractions

Being in the Mountains

FullSizeRender (3)Last weekend I was afforded the opportunity to spend two days in a mountain cabin in Colorado.  On the drive in, we made our way down the two lane highway, surrounded by mountains that lined the roadway.  The road contained several switchbacks which allowed us to climb closer to the top.  When we arrived, we were quickly reminded of how incredible it feels to be surrounded by these massive peaks, that are covered in snow, and are providing an incredible view from the top.

I have always been amazed at the ability of nature to leave you absolutely speechless.  Nature can be difficult to describe with words, and pictures can only do it so much justice.  The hope is that we can embed the image in our memory, remember what it felt like to be there, and seek the next opportunity to experience it again.  This past weekend, the feelings and emotions were more than I had anticipated.

Aside from the cries and laughter from the kids of another family, it was mostly quiet.  There weren’t any cars making their way past the cabin.  The ringers on our cell phones were turned to silent.  Emails weren’t even scanned or monitored.  It really was quiet – even peaceful.  The only expectation was to be present, and in that presence, to share life with others.

By taking ourselves ‘off the grid’, we had removed the everyday distractions – the ones that cause us frustration, stress, anger, and even fear.  I’ve found that when you’re wrestling with life – in your family, work, school, faith, relationships – one of the best things you can do is remove all of the external influences that are contributing to the anxiety and worry and add people that strive to build relationship.

Removing the Distractions

The excuses are plentiful.  The reasoning is not always justified.  The purpose doesn’t always have the best intentions at heart.

“But, what if someone needs to get a hold of me?”

“I’m scared that no one will be able to get in touch with me if I don’t have cell phone service.”

“If I get an email on the weekend, then I have to answer it or else my boss won’t think that I’m working.”

“I enjoy the hectic lifestyle and having ‘things’ to do.”

“I get bored if I have nothing to do or work on.”

Or, my personal favorite, “But, I might miss out on something.”

What I’ve also recognized is that when people can get over the initial ‘heartbreak’, that they tend to be just fine with the circumstances.  The world continues on, and the obligation to think that we always need to do, feel, and think something isn’t necessarily true.  In fact, when we can remove all the distractions for a short period of time, it can actually fuel us to inspire creativity, let go of worry, and build into others.

  1. Removing the Distractions helps us to Slow Down – As much as we are physically on the move, our minds are likely moving just as much. From thinking about all of the day’s tasks and chores, to thinking about the stresses in our life, every distraction has the ability to keep us more ‘on edge’.  Physically, our bodies can benefit from some R & R, and mentally are minds can be rejuvenated when they aren’t constantly infiltrated from distractions.  Without a break in the action, our bodies WILL break down.
  2. Removing the Distractions Helps us to Focus on One Thing – Without anything to sidetrack us, it’s easier to focus on what’s in front of us at a specific moment. It could be spending time with friends and family, finishing a project deadline, writing the book that we had always wanted to write, or just focusing on what’s the most important task at hand.  In doing so, all of our efforts and intentions can be devoted to that one thing.  Find the place that helps you do this and go there once in a while.
  3. Removing the Distractions Puts everything Into Perspective – Everything isn’t always a big deal. We have the keen ability to make small matters become big issues.  We often add undue stress to our day.  Soon after, life becomes a wrestling match with something much bigger than we feel we can handle.  However, when the distractions are removed, it’s easier to see life for what it is without all of the extra flair.  At this point, we can begin to see things for what they are instead of what we make them out to be.

It’s not always easy to remove all of the distractions in our lives, all of the time.  If the best you can do is to remove one distraction for a short period of time, then take advantage of that.  When you do so, be reminded of what it means to be present – to be alive in this moment – sharing, experiencing, and living life with all of your heart and soul.

It may come as a surprise that this blog post comes on a Friday instead of the usual Sunday.  That’s because I’m going to be off the grid, and for the next four days I’m separating myself from all distractions.  I don’t plan to open my computer, I won’t have cell phone service, and I won’t be worried about everything that ‘could happen’.  Instead, I’m choosing to focus my energies and efforts on ‘what is’ while my wife and I celebrate our first year of marriage.

At some point in time, we have all probably said, “The weekend just goes by too quickly.”  So, I’m going to challenge each of you.  Remove some of the distractions from your life this weekend.  Slow yourself down, focus on one thing, and put your life into perspective.  Get a grip on life before it gets a grip on you.  Then, when Sunday evening arrives, see if you can say to yourself, “I needed a weekend just like that.”

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If Everyone Does a Little, Then No one Does a lot

If Everyone Does a Little, Then No one Does A lot

handssI’m not sure where I heard it first, but it’s a quote that I have never forgotten.  The first time, though, someone probably said it in sarcasm while trying to make a point.

I can imagine a classroom full of toddlers with toys strewn about and the carpet completely covered with an assortment of plastic dolls, trains, cars, and blocks.  There will come a time when all of the toys need to be placed in their respective bins and crates, and it’s at this time that the teacher has two choices:  the teacher can pick all of it up without any help, or the teacher can recruit the little hands who were haphazardly playing with the toys.

Perhaps this visual, toys all about the room, helps you make sense of the quote– if everyone does a little, then no one does a lot.  I can picture each of the toddlers putting the toys away that he or she was playing with.  The alternative would be the teacher storing away all of the toys, one by one, until they are all happily at rest.

Believe it or not, life is similar.  There are moments when the task in front of us seems too big to handle – too much to accomplish on our own.  In these moments, we also have two options:  we can attempt to conquer these tasks on our own, or we can recruit the help of a supporting cast to help get us through the challenges.  This is our opportunity to ask for help and support.  We can do a little on our own, or we can do a lot with the help of others.

Knowing When to Ask for Support

When we are faced with the choice of deciding whether to tackle something on our own, or to enlist the help of others, I believe there are two questions we ask ourselves before determining which path we want to take.

  1. Do I have the skills needed to do this on my own?
  2. How long will it take me to do this on my own?

In answering these questions, we will come to the conclusion of how we will proceed.  In other words, we will weigh the risks and rewards of each – we will look to limit our risks (failing) while increasing the opportunity for the reward (success).

Using the following examples, take a minute or two to think about how you would choose to proceed.

  1. You are asked to complete a group project on the effects of market saturation for the technology industry in a specific region of the world.
  2. You are asked to assist with a fundraiser to support the local youth program.
  3. You are asked to contribute to cancer research in a fundraising initiative.

While it’s possible that you might feel comfortable, or even capable, of completing these tasks on your own, I would like you to ask yourself the following questions:  “Will it be easier for me to do this on my own or with the help of others?”

Asking for Help and Supporting a Bigger Cause

In my road to recovery from knee surgery, I have been adamant and determined to get back on my feet as quickly as possible.  Three months and a day later, and I am back on my feet biking, swimming, and slowly beginning to run.  Overcoming the hardship I’ve faced over the last three months wouldn’t have been possible to fight through without the love and support of the people around me.  I knew it wasn’t going to be possible on my own, and I can guarantee you that the people in my life made the road to recovery a helluva lot easier.

With that, I’ve realized that the challenges I have endured are small relative to the grand scheme of things.  There are people in this world who have been severely injured to the point that they will never walk again.  Others may need to learn to speak again.  And for many, they are in the midst of a fight against an illness or disease for which there is no cure.

And for these people – the ones fighting day in and day out – they need support as well.  For that reason, I have committed myself to the fight to end Prostate Cancer.  Did you know, every 19 minutes an American man dies of prostate cancer?  Approximately 28,000 men will lose their lives to prostate cancer this year, including about 430 fathers, brothers, and husbands from Colorado alone.  In my efforts, to support this cause I have registered to compete in the Boulder, CO, 2016 Half-Ironman with the ‘Zero Prostate Endurance’ team.  As a member of this team, I have committed to raising a minimum of $2,000.

And, I’m asking for your help and support.  It would be great if each of you could take a quick glance at my fundraising page and help me in this fight.

At the end of the day, I could try to do this on my own.  However, I will admit, I don’t have all the skills needed to cure this dreaded disease, and I probably don’t have the time.

But…

With the help and support of many, I am convinced that, together, we can do a lot!

 

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If We Learn from Being Defeated, Then Why do We Always Want to Win?

Being Defeated

In life, you will face challenges, encounter obstacles, and overcome hardships.  To be honest, there will be times when life knocks you flat on your ass – times when you face being defeated.  The same point can be made for just the opposite scenario.  Life also has the ability to lift us up – times when we embrace adversity and ‘win’.

In both wins and losses, there are learning opportunities  These experiences have the ability to contribute to the shaping of you into the person that you desire to be.  What I find interesting is that your victories often focus on what you did that was ‘good’, or something that helped you achieve success.  For example, if you perform well on a final exam in college, it could be attributed to the fact that you studied for the test.  So, for future exams, you may utilize the same studying process.  However, the question remains, ‘have you learned something long term, or did you merely remember something for the short term’?

On the other hand, what if you perform poorly on the exam… what if the grade you received is not what you were expecting or hoping?  What if you realized that the poor performance could be attributed to the fact that you waited until the morning of the exam, and you merely skimmed your notes a few times through before taking the test?

I think the learning lesson here is that if you truly have a desire to be successful, then you will change something about your habits in order to help make you successful.

My point is that if you always win at what you do, then you never fully understand the areas of your life in which you need to grow.  It is in these opportunities for growth that you have the ability to become better at what you do, more efficient at your work, and more prepared for the next challenge that you face.  Sure it’s possible to learn from your victories, however, when you learn from your short-comings, you increase your awareness of how to perform something differently in the future in order to receive a different result than you previously did.

Think of the following scenarios that may apply to your life:

  • Did you try cooking a new recipe and it turned out poorly? Did you learn what you could do better the next time?
  • Did you struggle getting through a sales call? Did it make you think about how to re-frame your questions in order to get the information you were seeking?
  • Did you attempt a fitness training program, but cut it short after only a few weeks? Did it make you think about how much time and effort would be needed to try again?
  • Did you cause hurt in a relationship because of your words? Did it cause you to think how you could act differently with people in the future?

The list could continue with several other examples, but the point is that these moments of feeling defeated – feeling like you let yourself or someone else down – are the perfect opportunities to try something new with the intentions of receiving a better result.

“I Needed to Pick Myself up From the Mat”

Although I enjoy athletics, and physical sports, I will admit that I’m not a fan of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighting.  This type of event usually involves two people in an octagon-shaped ring who take swings at each other until the other person is deemed not capable of continuing in the competition.  In other words, it’s boxing with a combination of various mixed martial arts disciplines.  In the past couple of years, this sporting event (I’m not too sure what else to call it) has grown, and females are increasing their presence as participants.

Two years ago, one female MMA fighter, Ronda Rousey, suffered her first defeat at the hands of another woman.  While I did not watch the fight, I did happen to catch a video of her being interviewed on the Ellen Show.  Ronda shared with Ellen what the competition was like and how it made her feel afterwards.  What grabbed my attention during the interview was the moment when Ronda said, “Maybe winning all the time isn’t what’s best for everybody.”

Ronda would continue by saying that even in the face of defeat, she needed to ‘pick herself up off of the mat’.

These quotes from Ronda speak volumes to anyone who is dealing with and managing adversity.  I believe the point being made is that you don’t always have to win at everything we do.

It’s great to win the championship.

It’s awesome to always be in position for job promotions.

It’s exciting to never have the air let out of the balloon.

But, at the end of the day, do you think it would be a great learning experience to see and know how it feels on the other end?  You might disagree, and I will admit that winning feels great.  However, when I can reflect on my life, it was in the times that I ‘lost’ – moments when I was down and out – defeated if you will – when I learned the most about myself.

Even the Most Successful People Have Fallen in Order to Become Successful

In my mind, success is a subjective word, and it’s meaning arbitrary to the person defining it.  However,  I believe there is a common denominator between what you choose to do (in work, school, relationships, faith, etc.), how you define success, and whether or not you actually achieve the success that you would like to achieve.

The common denominator is called hard work.  Achieving success isn’t easy.  The road isn’t always flat.  The burdens aren’t always light.  And, along the road to success, even the best at what they do will sometimes trip.  The best will fall – and to an extent – be defeated.  As I was trying to think of an example to demonstrate this argument, I came across the following quote:

“I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career.  I’ve lost almost 300 games.  26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed.  I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life.  And, that is why I succeed.” –Michael Jordan

For those of you who have never heard of Michael Jordan is, he is arguably the greatest professional basketball player of all time.

Taking this quote a step further, I began to research the opposite of what those numbers represent.  In other words, how many shots did Michael Jordan make, games did he win, and game winning shots did he make.

  • Shots made – More than 24,000
  • Games won – More than 1,000
  • Game-winning Shots – 25, with one of the highest game-winning shot percentages in professional basketball history

In looking at these statistics, and keeping Jordan’s quote in mind, I find validity in that it was the moments of defeat that helped Michael to develop into a better player and to grow into a threat against opposing teams.

If you knew that you would succeed 24,000 times, but only after you failed 9,000, then would you think differently about always wanting to win?  Would you be okay with knowing that no one likes to be defeated, but understanding that through defeat an individual is able to grow?

As much as I enjoy to win, I find myself thinking back on all the times that I didn’t meet the expectation – that I wasn’t ‘successful’.  As bad as it may have felt at the time, it helped me become the person that I am today, ready and willing to see obstacles as learning blocks to hone a skill and grow as a person.

I’d be willing to bet you have an experience like this as well.  Revisit this moment.  Remember the principles it taught you, and use those ideas as guidelines for how to increase your chances of success, and ultimately have more ‘wins’.  Continue on with the hard work and effort you have been putting forth.  Respect the process.  Have patience in the process.  Most importantly, celebrate the process.

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On Which Foundation Have You Built Your Life?

A Firm Foundation

Think of the last time you drove by a new construction development.  Whether it was a neighborhood of new homes or a high rise near downtown, each project began in the same way – from the ground up.

Prior to beginning a building process, land surveyors and contractors will test the land on which the property will be built.  Surveying the land is arguably one of the most important processes of a construction project.

Why?

Because it’s the land that will help support the foundation of the building.  It’s the foundation that will give rise to something great.  The different properties of the soil will determine the feasibility of constructing a two story home or a twenty story office building.  Without a doubt, the developers do not want to begin a project on an unstable surface.

It’s a firm foundation that will allow a structure to remain grounded, to stand tall, and to withstand the exposure to the elements.  And, if all of the research is done properly, and the architects, engineers, and contractors are doing their job, and barring any natural disaster, the structure will remain standing for years to come.

In many ways, this analogy is a direct representation of the life we live.  To grow, we must be rooted in something strong – something that allows us to grow and develop from the ground up.  Our life must be grounded in something more than values – something permanent that doesn’t go away.

Just as the foundation of a structure allows the structure to remain grounded, so does the foundation of our life allows us to remain humble.  A home or a building will stand tall when built on the proper foundation; our lives, too, provided they are built on solid ground, will stand in confidence knowing we serve a purpose.  Lastly, having the right foundation helps a building to withstand exposure to the environment – just as the correct foundation helps us to overcome the obstacles, challenges, and frustrations that we experience.

But, what happens when the surveyors and developers don’t perform their jobs?  How can things turn out when the foundation can’t support the structure?  I think it’s safe to say, we all know what the outcome could be.

The Types of Foundations

tommyefirmfoundationsIt’s possible that different structures will require different types of foundations – different soils to be built on.  What’s important to remember, though, is that the foundations might be different.  What is important to remember is that the foundation needs to be specific to the structure being built.

Our lives?  What kind of foundation should we build them on?  Again, it’s going to be different for each person given our personal strengths and characteristics, but it must be firm and it must allow us to grow from the ground up.

It’s possible that some of us have lived a life that was built on a poor foundation.  For whatever reasons – family hardship, missing values, poor decisions – these all contribute to an unsteady surface.  This doesn’t mean that our entire lives have been on unstable ground, but it’s possible our lives were unstable for a  certain period of our life.

The Sandy Foundation – It allows us to appear rooted, grounded, and even firm at times.  It’s able to withstand the environment to a certain extent, until something happens that is just a little more than it can withstand.  Then, it falls as though we expected it while we slowly watched it deteriorate as it was challenged by life.  Think about a sand castle on a beach.  The way the solid beach provides a foundation for the tightly packed sand to remain together to create a ‘castle’.  Then, as the day progresses, the tide moves in, and with each ebb and flow of the water, the foundation slowly begins to erode.  Eventually, the time will come, and each granule of sand will break away, returning to its original state.  Has this ever happened in your life – felt as though everything was great, and then it was wiped out from under your feet?  Something was slowly eating you away, until one day it just became too much?

The Rocky Foundation – This foundation type has us appearing as though we are always on the edge.  It’s always at the will of the environment and its surroundings because at any moment rocky foundation could give way, causing a drastic shift.  Living on a rocky foundation is one in which your movements must always be subtle because the wrong movement will cause a chain reaction from which it is difficult to turn back.  Often times, there isn’t enough time to think until it’s too late.  Beneath and between the crevices of the rocks, there isn’t any additional support to help keep you stable.  Does this sound like your life – always living in a state of nervousness?  Unsure what the result will be of your next step?  Missing a supporting cast beneath your feet to help keep you grounded?

The Firm Foundation – This foundation type keeps us rooted.  It is the one that can endure the exposure to the environment.  It is the mechanism that prevents us from wavering, faltering, and stumbling.  Oh yes, and collapsing.  When standing on this foundation, it helps us to see hardship as opportunity.  Each step made is a step of progress.  Every passing day is a chance to root ourselves deeper into the foundation – firming our stance so that we can stare the world in the face and say, “You can come at me as hard as you want, but damnit you’re not going to knock me down because I’m rooted in something strong and surrounded by people to help keep me standing.”  Have you ever been standing on this type of ground?  How did it feel to know that you were somewhat ‘unstoppable’?  What was it like to know that nothing was going to conquer you, but rather you were going to conquer it?

Sandy, rocky, and firm.  Sounds a little elementary, but that’s because it is.  It wouldn’t surprise me of the responses you might get if you asked a group of second or third graders where the best place would be to build a house – a beach, the cliffs, or flat ground.

How Do You Get to a Firm Foundation?

There’s a good chance that for certain people, our lives are not yet on a firm foundation from which to build – and others have found this place.  So, how do you get there?

You start today.  You start today by taking a deep look at yourself and evaluating the surface where you stand today.  Is it constantly shifting, not providing you with the stability you want?  Do you feel as though you are walking on egg shells – all the time?  Or, do you feel confident with where you stand?

The next step is to decide where you want to be tomorrow.  Next week.  Next year.  In five years.  Once you determine this, then work towards the foundation that will help you get there.  Honestly, it may require a stumble, a little erosion, or a sharp edge on a rocky surface; but when you finally arrive at the firm foundation, I’m confident that you will stand tall, full of self-assurance.

Within the past couple of weeks I heard someone say, “We tried something, and it worked okay for a little while, but then we realized it wasn’t what we wanted long-term.  And with that we made a change as we are constantly evolving, changing, and growing.”

My point is this:  If you have constantly tried living dependent on your current foundation and it hasn’t helped you get to where you want, then it’s time to make a change.  Change something, do something different.  Whatever it is, don’t do the same thing you’ve always been doing and getting the same results – that’s called insanity.

Take a step onto solid ground and begin the journey of growth into the person you desire to be.

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Would you Rather Have Temporary Pursuits or Permanent Fixtures?

Staring Ahead

Each day for the past several weeks, I have found myself positioned in the walkway between my dining room and kitchen.  Instead of making my way towards the refrigerator for something to drink, or a quick snack, I have stood there, motionless.

Motionless?  But why?  Surely, there had to be something inside that I wanted to get my hands on.  However, my rehabilitation program from my knee injury required that I practice single leg balances and toe raises.  It just so happens that the counter that separates the dining room from the kitchen was at the perfect height for needing to stabilize myself while balancing on one leg.

It took quite a few days before I could completely remove my hands from the counter’s surface, feeling comfortable enough that my right leg alone was strong enough to support the weight of my body.  It was at this point in time that I stopped staring down at the counter and directly ahead at what was in front of me.

It was on the object ahead that my eyes remained fixated.  The first time the object brought a smile to my face.  The second time, it forced me to reflect a bit.  And the third time, it had me appreciating all that I have in this life.

So, what was the object?  What was it that was helping to lift me up each day when I stood in that same spot?  Stainless steel and two doors have never looked better.  In case you’re wondering, it wasn’t just a refrigerator, it was a handful of experiences, people, and accomplishments that served as a reminder of all that is important in life.

Why the ‘Fridge’?

IMG_0632The goal was always to balance on each leg, 30 seconds at a time, for 3 repetitions.  But, once I progressed to the point of not needing to support myself by holding the countertop, I realized that 30 seconds was passing by quickly.  Soon, 30 seconds became 45 seconds, and 45 seconds became 60 seconds.  All the while, smiling on the inside.

I also noticed that everything that was hanging on the fridge was representative of parts of my life that were meaningful – pieces, if you will, that served a purpose.  There is a magnet that reads ‘Live, Laugh, Love’; a get well soon card from a friend; a picture of my wife from our wedding day; a photo of my wife and me at a community dinner with other young married couples; a postcard of the mountains; holiday cards from family (yes, they are still there); and, a wedding invitation for a friend.

The more I reflected on each of these objects, the more I realized that the ‘fridge’ has always served a similar purpose for me, as it probably has for many others.  It’s an object that represents so much more than what it keeps inside.  It shares victories, celebrations, and companionship.

There are so many good ‘things’ that we place on the refrigerator door.  For as long as I can remember, I have never seen something ‘bad’ hanging by a magnet.  From report cards, and drawings from kids, to family portraits and event invites, these items serve as a subtle reminder of what the important ‘things’ are in life.  The refrigerator allows us to share a part of our lives in a way that is humble – in a way that says, ‘this is important for me, and I want everyone to see it’.

But, the question still remains, why do we choose to hang the things we do?  How is what we choose to place on it important in the grand scheme of things?

The best response I can think of is to ask yourself this question:  “If my life didn’t have (in it) the items that are on display on the refrigerator, then how would my life be different?”

And, the best answer I can give to that question is this:  “Your life would then be full (or possibly not filled) with temporary things – such as money, a job, or a car.  If you had just these things (money, job, car, etc.), without all the rest, what would your life be like?”

What is Temporary, isn’t Important – What is Permanent, is Significant

In a world that thrives on comparison, arrival at the next level, and the acquisition of things, it’s easy to be overwhelmed in trying to keep up with everyone else.  In all honesty, I’m guilty of doing this at times.  And when I look back at these moments of ‘unhealthy’ pursuits, I’m reminded that the way I felt in those moments, or what I accomplished really wasn’t of any significance, and it certainly didn’t make me any better than the person standing next to me.  In those moments, the only thing I received was a sense of immediate gratification that was soon to fade.

It becomes a cycle – one that constantly has you chasing one temporary thing after another – trying to fill up life with things that don’t have permanence.  Chasing things that will not fill that void, and things that will continue to leave you saying, “Damn, I just need a little more.”  Do you really need a little more, or do you want a little more?

But, there are alternatives, and the alternatives are those items of permanence – the experiences, the people, and the accomplishments that have always been there.  It could be the experience of having went on the trip of a lifetime with your significant other, the family that helped get you back on your feet when you were struggling, or the excitement of getting an acceptance letter into the university you wanted to attend.  These moments are representative of something significant – something that you will always appreciate and always have.

Similar to temporary ‘things, the permanent ‘things’ also have the ability to create a cycle of wanting more.  However, what’s important to remember is permanent fixtures create the desire to want more of something that lasts – something that won’t go away – something that deserves to be hung on your refrigerator, to share with others and for people to see.

When you look at your fridge, is it full of life events?  Is there something there that you will never forget, or a photo of someone of great importance?  What’s on display?  If you removed one of these items from your life, or had never experienced that adventure in the photo, would you be the person you are today?

Or, is something missing?  Is there room for a little more?   If you added a supporting cast of people, then would your life be different?  If you chose to fill your life with permanent fixtures, then do you think you would have more stability, a better foundation from which to grow?  Most importantly, do you think you would be a better person than who you are today?

 

 

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5 Reasons it’s Important to Have a Supporting Cast

Getting Back on My Feet

It’s been nine weeks since I had knee surgery, and five weeks since I began physical therapy.  The journey to full recovery has been a slow, natural progression – one that leaves me amazed each day at the body’s ability to heal.

By no means is therapy as difficult as much as it is time consuming.  I’ve spent 1-2 days per week with a physical therapist, and I’ve also had to complete another 1-2 (sometimes 3) hours of therapy exercises each day on my own.  As someone who enjoys being active, these exercises don’t have me shouting with excitement, but I understand the importance of simple strength training, balancing, and moving.

Early in therapy, I asked my physical therapist, “What am I trying to accomplish in doing these simple exercises?”  She responded with a few phrases that I expected – to regain flexibility, to rebuild lost muscle mass, and to get you back on your feet.  Then, she said, ‘to help strengthen the muscles surrounding the knee joint because they are what provide you with the ability to walk, sit, stand, run, and do all the things that you love to do’.

This whole time, I was wanting to try exercises that I knew would be good for my specific injury.  It never donned on me that strengthening my quadriceps (upper leg muscle) muscle was imperative because it attaches to my knee joint.  It wouldn’t be until I had enough strength in this muscle that I would be able to get back on my feet.

As the weeks passed, the exercises became a bit more strenuous, but they were still fairly easy.  However, each week I noticed the progress that I was making.  Tasks such as flexing my ankles and balancing on one leg have me in a position where I am now able to walk fairly easily without the use of crutches.

So much of what I have been going through has been mentally challenging.  It’s because so much of my recovery from my specific knee injury is dependent on the growth and development of the areas surrounding the knee.  It’s the ‘supporting cast’ that helps to perform all the tasks that I once did, and without them, my road to recovery would be much longer than I would like.

Our Supporting Cast in Life

Imagine a life with no family, friends, peers, role models, or mentors.  What would your life look like?  So much of who you are as a person, and what you do, is reliant on having these types of people in your lives.  Who would you turn to when life gets hard?  Who would you call to share good news?  Who would you walk through life with?  The truth is, without another person to experience life with, the more challenging it becomes to learn and grow.  It is difficult to get support, care, and even love.

Now, imagine a life in which you only had one other person to spend time with.  Would your life look any different?  I’m not going to argue that life would be better with one person than it would be if you didn’t have anyone at all.  However, this type of life provides you with one perspective of everything you experience.  Your growth as a person will heavily depend on this one other person and your ability to grow with them.

Lastly, imagine a life in which you were surrounded by more than a handful of people.  People that you would invite to sit at your table and share in life.  These would be people who bring a variety of life experiences, perspectives, and backgrounds.  In this network of people, you would have a support mechanism when you fall on the ground, someone to keep you grounded when you’re flying a little too high, and someone to stabilize you when the road you’re walking becomes a bit rocky.  If you had these types of people in your life, do you think life would be a little easier and a bit more enjoyable?

Just like the recovery from my knee injury requires the support of the areas surrounding the knee, so to do our lives need the support of different people from various walks of life.

5 Reasons to Have a Supporting Cast of People

supportWhen I think of synonyms for the word support, some that come to mind are ‘hold up, bear, carry, prop up, keep up, brace, reinforce, encourage, strengthen, pillar, and post’.

When a contractor builds a home or an office building, do you think he or she will do so without establishing a strong foundation with support beams?

The same concept applies to who you are as a person, who you want to become, and how you plan to grow into that person.  Life isn’t meant to live alone.  It’s meant to have a supporting cast – people who will remain committed to aiding in our growth and development.  At the end of the road, these are the people who will help us get back on our feet and become the person we want to be.

So, more specifically, what’s the importance of a supporting cast?

  1. It Provides Stability – As we travel down the road of life, there will be plenty of times when we hit a speed bump, or a pothole, that causes us to lose our balance and get off track. A supporting cast helps us to remain stable, getting back on track as quickly as possible, making the road smooth again.
  2. It Keeps us Grounded – Have you ever done something extraordinary or fascinating? How did you react?  At times, it can be difficult to maintain control of our emotions, and at times our emotions can get the best of us.  We might find ourselves flying on cloud nine instead of moving at ground zero.  A supporting cast helps bring us down to a level of humbleness – a level that people appreciate.
  3. It Gives us Support – It sounds simple, but it is necessary. It helps us stand tall, grounded in our values, and it ensures that we have the resources available to us when we need them most.  It supports us in our decision making, aids us in achieving goals, and carries the weight of defeat.
  4. It Develops a Larger Network – Just as my knee injury requires a network of muscles, ligaments, and tendons working together in order to fully recover, so to do our lives need a network of people to fully The network of people grows as one, and the common goal is to help each other succeed.  And, the larger network we are exposed to, the more stability and support we will find.
  5. It Cultivates Strength and Makes Life Easier – I imagine my recovery without the strength of my hamstring, quadriceps, and calf muscles. If I didn’t have strength in these areas, I couldn’t imagine how much longer the recovery would take, or if I would even be able to regain my ability to perform certain tasks.  The supporting cast isn’t there to pull us down, or hinder us, but rather make us stronger individuals with the strength, courage, and ability to do anything we put our minds to.

Stability, humbleness, support, network, and strength.  How would your life be different if you had each of these characteristics?  Would your life would be more enjoyable?  Would you be more inclined to take risks, try new things, and step into the unknown?

What if you attempted the unknown by yourself?  Even better, what if you dared greatly with a supporting cast surrounding you?

 

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Life Lessons Learned from an Uber Driver

An Uber Experience

This past week I was sifting through the news articles from various media outlets.  I usually make my rounds between the Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, Inc.com, and LinkedIn Pulse.  While finishing up with the Pulse, there was one headline that grabbed my attention: “Meet Louisiana’s most Fascinating Uber driver”

For those of you that don’t know what Uber is, the concept is rather simple.  Uber is changing the way that people use transportation.  The business model is such that you can apply to be an ‘Uber Driver’, and after various background checks, you utilize your personal vehicle to provide rides for people – Essentially, a 24-7, on-demand taxi service. Or, on the flip side, you can choose to be an ‘Uber Rider’.

Users (riders), will open up an app on their phone, request a ride, an an Uber driver that is close in proximity will confirm they will provide the ride.  After the trip is complete, Uber gets paid using pre-loaded credit card information in the app, and the driver will receive a percentage of the total cost of the ride.

It truly is an interesting concept, and one that continues to re-shape the way society views transportation.  Click here for more information.

Now that you a brief understanding of the concept (or maybe not), I’d like to explain why this particular news story that was originally published in the Shreveport Times caught my attention.

An Uber Driver, Amongst Other Trades

Travis DeYoung is a driven, young man that has experienced more life in his short 28 years than most people have by 50.  Growing up, Travis always valued working hard, treating people with respect, and showing compassion to all.

You see, Travis wants to make the most out of his time on this earth.  While running his own lawn care company, Travis also finds the time to attend school, rent his home on AirBnB, work on cars, and spend time with his family.  Oh yeah, he also works as an Uber driver in between all of these other responsibilities.

In 2014, Travis was involved in a car wreck that should have taken his life.  However, him and his girlfriend basically walked away without a scratch.  Travis’ appreciation for life is such that no opportunity is taken for granted, and he views this world as an open invitation to truly go after your dreams.  Although, Travis is unique because he understands the importance of relationships and value of experience.

His adventures of an Uber driver, are outlined in the article, so I won’t go in to much detail.  Each adventure is one that he graciously, and willingly, puts his heart into.  He does this so that the people he interacts with have the best experience possible, because the reward is seeing how his actions help other people.

Three Life Lessons from Travis

At the end of the article, Travis is quoted as saying the following:

“Love what you do, and show compassion. Listen, and try to help people. It will come back around to you. If you show compassion, it’s the biggest reward you can ever get back.”

I believe this to be Travis’ ‘Life Motto‘.

I have never met Travis, nor do I truly know what kind of person he is.  Regardless, Travis’ words provide insight for how we should all strive to walk through life.  He isn’t a self-made millionaire, a high-ranking government official, or a renowned author and speaker.

What is Travis?

He’s a person – just like you and me.  And if all of us could put into practice these life lessons, I’m confident we would feel better about ourselves, and we would most certainly build into the lives of others.

  1. Love what you do – How do you spend the majority of your time? Do you work one job that consumes most of your day?  Do you work three jobs that keep you running in circles every week?  Do you work from home or in an office with other people?  Outside of work, what activities help provide work life balance – are they by choice or forced?  The point to be made is that whatever you are doing, however you spend your time, you must absolutely love what you are doing.  There isn’t such a thing as ‘good for now’, because now is over, and I know too many people that spend too much of their time doing something they would rather not be doing.  What’s holding you back from doing something you love?
  2. Show Compassion – When I think about showing compassion, and what that means for me, the word that immediately comes to mind is ‘caring’. Showing compassion should mean that you express care for people – all people – regardless of their life situation.  When you are able to express you care for someone else, and they feel it, you can feel it too.  Be empathetic, grieve with someone else, and put others before yourself.  As the philosopher Plato once stated, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.”
  3. Listen, and Try to Help People – There are many times in life when people don’t want to be talked to. They don’t want to hear what you have to say or what you think.  Rather, they simply want you to listen.  The struggle I think most of us face is that we don’t actively  Instead, we passively listen, picking and choosing what we want to hear.  But, when we can actively listen, we become engaged.  It is through this engagement that we grow as a person.  As a result of this growth, we become more willing to help people.  And remember, there’s a difference between giving and helping.  A passive listener chooses to give, and an active listener chooses to help.  Choose to be the latter.

Love what you do.  Show Compassion.  Listen, and try to help people.  I’m quickly reminded of how difficult it can be to perform such seemingly simple tasks.

But why is it so difficult?

Because it’s easier to place the needs and wants of ourselves before those of others.  It’s easier to continue what we’re doing, than to work harder at doing something different.  It’s easier to be apathetic than empathetic.  And, it’s easier to talk, than to restrain ourselves to listen.

Sometimes, a gentle reminder from an unsuspecting source is what we need to put life into perspective.  For me, the unsuspected source was Travis DeYoung, a jack-of-all-trades who has a passion for life larger than most I know.  Is there a person in your life who does the same?  More importantly, are you willing to be that person for someone else?

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5 Suggestions for Living Authentically

Isolation Leads to Destruction

maskThere have been times in my life when I have worn a mask.  Times when I didn’t feel comfortable in my own shoes.  Moments when I felt the need to isolate myself from everyone and everything life seemed to toss in my direction.

It wouldn’t surprise me if you have ever felt the same.  There was probably a period of your life when you were afraid to share your feelings.  It’s plausible that life possibly had you feeling defeated, or that something was burning deep inside of you.

Like me, I’d be willing to bet that you, too, have also worn a mask.  You’ve also held your cards close without ever revealing your hand – possibly folding when everyone else was ‘all in’.

Over the past week, I have been a part of two conversations that have been focused on living authentically.  Even more specifically, the discussions centered on the authenticity that we share and exude in the relationships with the most important people in our lives.

Questions were raised, such as, ‘what causes you to isolate yourself,’ or, ‘why do we choose not to share our true feelings and emotions with others’.  On the other end of the spectrum, questions were also posed such as, ‘how do we help one another live authentically’, and, ‘are there characteristics of a person who lives authentically’.

These conversations were intriguing.  Most of all, they were authentic, genuine if you will.  From the conversations, I walked away with ideas on how I could improve my relationships with others, and experience personal growth, by choosing to live authentically – rooted in values with strength.

The alternative, living in isolation, has a tendency to cause even deeper frustration, anger or hurt.  When you isolate yourself, deep down, isn’t help the one simple thing you want?  And so, living authentically helps to provide the mechanisms needed to break away from the isolation.  Authenticity gives you the ability to shine as your own person, true to the person you are.

5 Suggestions for Living Authentically

The word authenticity is similar to terms such as genuine, valid, and real.  In other words, authenticity is something that is true in form.  And, when something is true, we understand it, and we appreciate it.  Authenticity is of undisputed origin.  So, when we take the word in context in our relationship with ourselves and others, we know everything about what one is experiencing – because it’s real, genuine, and true.

And the question becomes, “How do we get to the point of living authentically?”  To answer pointedly, I don’t have a definitive answer, but I have some ideas.

  1. Choose to be vulnerable – Say what you are thinking.  Acknowledge your fears, flaws, imperfections, and struggles.  Let yourself find a level of comfort that allows you to expose these characteristics with others – not just anyone, but people who you trust.
  2. Live without regret – Life doesn’t afford ‘do-overs’ or repeats, and very few second chances. Living without regret allows you to put yourself out there, never reaching a point of saying, “What if?”
  3. Invite People to your Table – Let’s be honest, life is much easier (and more exciting) when done with other people. Literally seek out and invite others to go through life with you.  It’s important to have an established relationship with these people – one in which you build into one another, never judging or questioning, but rather loving and caring.
  4. Stick to your Values – Each of us has values or beliefs that we consider important. Write these values on a piece of paper.  Put them in a place where you see them.  Live by them each and every day without questioning yourself or what others will say when you choose to abide by them.
  5. Quit Questioning Yourself – There is a reason you go through the different challenges life hands you. In being authentic, it doesn’t help to question yourself, your abilities, or why you are where you are.  Quite honestly, you are exactly where you need to be at this moment in time.  Appreciating the moment is choosing to live authentically.

Let’s be honest, we live in a world that can be cruel and hateful.  At times, this causes us to isolate ourselves, out of fear of ridicule and mockery.  Among the struggle, it’s hard to be the real you that you want to be for yourself and the people in your life.  Not everyone likes authenticity, but most people appreciate it.  And so, I’ll leave you with this quote:

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you someone else is the greatest accomplishment. –Ralph Waldo Emerson

Be true.

Be authentic.

Be you.