Thanks to my wonderful readers and some kind retweets, I’ve been fortunate enough to exceed my previous record of views set only last month. The five most popular posts for this month are:
Archive for April, 2010
Tags: achievement, action, attitude, change, discovery, excellence, exploration, failure, focus, happiness, happy, help, life, living, mindset, purpose, self, succeeding, success, truth, work
Tags: achievement, action, attitude, discovery, excellence, focus, happiness, happy, help, life, living, mindset, patience, purpose, reason, self, succeeding, success
“The best things come to those who wait” is a common caution when impatience strikes.
It’s easy to give credence to the age-old phrase, as life can run on like an indefinite delay at the gate of Made-it Airlines before your flight “there,” whatever that means for you.
The words are usually accompanied by a wagging finger or admonishing look from the virtuous, those whose memories have clouded just enough to forget the wisdom of the poet and philosopher Tom Petty: “The waiting is the hardest part.”
How you linger at the gate determines if you sit in first class.
The phrase is deceiving, as a quick mental turn leads one to believe rewards are delivered to the stationary. It is as if, by staying in one place and remaining calm, holding out your hands will allow you to catch a break as it falls from the sky.
Vague cliches are hopelessly unable to demonstrate real truth.
There is a vast difference between “active patience” and “inactive hope.”
The first makes things happen while the second crosses its fingers.
Passion and purpose drive the former, warmth and whim sway the latter.
Persistent, directed action is the key ingredient in any successful journey.
Without targeted execution of strategic objectives each and every day, even the greatest organizations and people stagnate. Achievement is a fruit borne by the tree of activity. As Abraham Lincoln said,
Good things come to those who wait, but only those left over by those who hustle.
You can wait for the plane to take off and–eventually it will…probably…maybe–or rent a car and drive yourself.
There’s only one way to guarantee you’ll reach your destination.
Tags: antimatter, attitude, big bang, brain, change, focus, happiness, happy, matter, mindset, purpose, succeeding, success, universe
The Discovery Channel manages to really grab hold of me from time to time.
I was flipping through the handful of stations I watch as I took a break from reading Sunday night and quickly became engrossed by How The Universe Works, as close to a crash course in astrophysics as you can find on television. This episode, amongst many other things, highlighted a “cosmic game of risk” which resulted in all we see throughout the cosmos.
In the moments after the Big Bang, pure energy reigned.
Disorganized and expanding faster than the speed of light (at an infinite temperature, no less), a battle commenced between the component parts of this nebulous cloud of everything. In one corner, matter as we know it–protons, neutrons and electrons–existed. Literally opposite, antimatter appeared as a mirror image, an immovable object made up of antiprotons, antineutrons and antielectrons (positrons) facing the unstoppable force of our atomic reality.
The conflict was explosive.
In the way one magnet’s positive end exerts an irresistible pull on the negative side of another, these two extremes raced toward each other like jousting knights. And, just as with medieval nobles astride mighty horses, the winner made the difference by having a little bit more.
All that came into being over the last 14 billion years resulted from the miniscule advantage matter had over antimatter.
The face-off is equally violent when old thinking meets new. All that would restrain you jostles for position against what might lift you to another level. Every reason you’ve got to stay where you are lunges at each motive you provide to move on.
The outcome of your mental battle rests on who can bring the most to the fight.
Can your optimistic operators overtake pessimistic platoons?
Your future is on the line.
Will it be feeble or phenomenal?
Achieving victory is as much about vigilance as strategy.
Mind your thoughts, they are your soldiers. Feed and clothe them well. Rotate each unit regularly to keep them fresh for the skirmishes with “But what about…” and “You should…”, the scouting party seeking a place to gain a foothold for “You’re not good enough.”
Swarm them and retake the high ground with forward-looking ferocity.
The last one standing determines whether you flame out or flourish.
Tags: action, attitude, birthday, change, discovery, exploration, focus, happiness, happy, life, living, mindset, patience, self, shakespeare, succeeding, success, truth
Few men in the history of writing exert as much influence as William Shakespeare.
Timeless and accessible even today (if you can handle some “thee” and “thou”), the English poet and playwright’s reach stretches so far T.S. Eliot once wrote “Dante and Shakespeare divide the modern world between them; there is no third.”
Respected in his own time and magnified to worldwide renown by Victorian Britain’s fascination long after his death, he used a sly pen to cut to the heart of life for generations to come.
On this, the 446th anniversary of his baptism in Stratford-upon-Avon, I have pulled some of my favorite lines from his plays to comment on his words’ lasting veracity.
Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie.
All’s Well That Ends Well, Act I, Scene i
Whether your wounds are physical or psychological, you must usually look within to find healing. Asking someone else to “fix” you is akin to surrendering–if not flat-out ignoring–your inborn ability to mend injuries and grow.
Simply put, the propulsion of internal motivation is exponentially stronger than the exertion of external force. Instances where one person effects lasting change on another are far outnumbered by the attempts to do so. (Ask any woman that’s dated a “bad boy.”)
Be willing to ask for help, though. There are times all of us require the boost of a helping hand.
How poor are they that have not patience! What wound did ever heal but by degrees?
Othello, Act II, Scene iii
Regardless of what is going on in your life, a fair measure of composure is necessary to accomplish anything. Diligent pursuit of a goal must be married to a calm mind. Steady focus on the end–instead of flailing grasps at shortcuts–provides the surest means to achieve it.
When crossing a country or changing your life, always bear in mind “To climb steep hills requires a slow pace at first.” (Henry VIII, Act I, Scene i)
We know what we are, not what we may become.
Hamlet, Act IV, Scene v
In the midst of day-to-day struggles, it is easy to forget what you’re capable of. Unable to see the whole way, you are tempted to allow your history and/or present reality to unconsciously shape your future. You settle for what is familiar, afraid of what may result from your efforts.
This quote hints at what every great entrepreneur or athlete knows: only by pushing yourself to the limit can you understand how far you’ll go. Conquering your own uncertainty is the first step to flourishing.
O Lord, that lends me life, Lend me a heart replete with thankfulness!
As You Like It, Act II, Scene vii
This is the most difficult to apply, by far. The ability to maintain a spirit of gratitude while you endure trials and tribulations is quite possibly the toughest challenge of human existence.
It is acceptable to be unhappy with a situation, but it is arrogant to deny the value of a lesson. Even when you’re struggling to figure out what can be learned, appreciate the fact you’ll be better for it and save yourself much in the way of pain and anguish.
With uncommon grace and wit, Shakespeare ably reflected the scope of humanity’s experience.
He told stories of kings and commoners, wealthy and poor, lovestruck and cynical. From thousands of couplets, five words from As You Like It, Act II, Scene vii, ring truest:
“All the world’s a stage.”
How will you act on it?
Tags: attitude, change, discovery, exploration, happiness, happy, legacy, life, living, mindset, passion, purpose, self, succeeding, success, work
I saw myself fifteen years from now last week.
No, a man with a disheveled white mane didn’t show up in a DeLorean. I approached a customer at the office supply store I work at and struck up a conversation to help him “kill some time” while waiting for a nearby restaurant to open.
Almost from the get-go, he unleashed volley after volley of slings and arrows against our hometown.
In his late-40s, awaiting the graduation of his youngest daughter and a career move to Omaha, Nebraska, he laid bare all his frustrations with the life he’d chosen and the place he’d moved back to some six years ago.
Over time, I realized he held the deepest disdain for his own decisions, for the 20+ years he’d spent making considering financial return instead of psychic value. He shook his head in disgust at his inability to convince potential employers he was shifting his priorities instead of looking for a “layover job” before the next six-figure opening became available.
My blood ran cold as he lamented “chasing the money” on his way out the door.
Suddenly, I recognized the future I was on track for in his salt-and-pepper hair.
Tired and embittered at mid-life, I might have run into a 30-year-0ld sometime in 2025 and said the same things. I’d bemoan the lost youth and missing verve, wondering if long-gone days had any meaning beyond earning a paycheck.
The bills would have been paid, but would I have washed away grander talent and lasting work in the process?
Maybe I’m strange compared to the average person that’s said goodbye to their 20s.
I’m focused on making a legacy.
Does that require fame and fortune?
Certainly not…though I’m capable of both.
I refuse to die asking myself what more I could have given.
Who would my words benefit?
What am I to share?
When could my heart provide aid?
Where must I go?
Why should I do anything else?
Tags: achievement, divine, divinity, excellence, failure, god, happiness, happy, life, living, love, mindset, newborn, niece, purpose, reason, succeeding, success, truth
Yesterday, my second niece was born.
This is the first child for my youngest brother and sister-in-law, the Bay Area’s newest 20-inch long, 7-pound and 14-ounce resident. I received text messages throughout the day about how things were going, then was happy to finally see my iPhone ring with his picture and phone number on the screen.
A couple hours later, as I headed out to run, I wondered if I could come up with a list to guide her through life.
If you’ve read this blog more than once, you know I’m expressing what I see as truth through the lens of a grown man evaluating 30 years of decisions before moving into the next three decades.
What would I tell her?
1. You are a miracle.
You are the culmination of billions of perfect reactions in a precise sequence. Each one occurred in an exact manner, without fail, step by step. Every single event was extraordinary, not the least of which was your dad turning off Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and putting down the Wiimote.
2. It’s OK to fail.
Even with all your talents and capabilities, there will be times your results fall short of your expectations. You’ll skin your knee. You’ll get a bad grade on a test. Some unfortunate boy–assuming he passes Grandpa Clark’s thorough background check–will have the audacity to break your heart.
You will falter hundreds or even thousands of times before you succeed.
Learn something each time. Ignoring the lesson makes it easier to be hurt again.
3. Trust yourself.
When faced with challenges, you are the person you must rely on. You alone will reap the rewards or suffer the pain of your decisions. In those moments where your confidence wanes and fear grows, take a deep breath and remind yourself how amazing you are.
When your instincts tell you to go one way, pay attention. Unbridled and lasting joy is a good indicator of the quality of your choices. Live in the “irrational” area where buoyant mind and exultant love reign.
A full life comes from your head and heart working together instead of being at war.
4. Anything is possible.
Your great-grandparents wrote letters that reached a destination across town in days.
Your grandparents connected with people on the other side of the country by phone in minutes.
Your parents communicated by sending emails across the planet in seconds.
All his happened simply because someone thought it could, then expended the energy to make it so.
5. Faith means believing before seeing.
Over and over again, you’ll encounter situations contradicting what you hold as truth. Whether it’s something as trivial as the integrity of your favorite pop star or as overwhelming as the existence of a loving God, steadfast alignment of your actions and ideals–until proven false beyond doubt–will leave you satisfied regardless of the outcome.
Finally, my dear, remember this when you wake up: you are alive and loved.
It will be true every day of your life.
Tags: brain, change, discovery, exploration, focus, help, meditation, mindset
There’s a peculiar sensation I have when my mind is struggling to comprehend something.
It’s an odd numbness and tingling on my scalp, unlike the squeezing pain of a headache. Most times it will be localized, yet it can be all over the place at others. It travels back and forth between my forehead and the crown of my head, drifts over to the right or left and occasionally takes the shape of a mohawk.
It’s as if something is gently trying to get through my skull.
Since last May, I have had it fairly often, usually for a day or two–though it has hung around for several months, too. When most pronounced, I felt slightly disconnected from my body, like a portion of my “me” was hovering above my head like a wispy stratus cloud.
I’ve taken “mental static” to be a symbol of change.
Admittedly, the fogginess is unsettling. You know something’s off-kilter, yet you’re unable to totally put your finger on it. God is trying to reach you and your cell phone has only the faintest of signals. Regardless of where you stand or how you tilt your head, the call always seems to drop when He says “I’ve got to tell you t–”.
Frustration ebbs and flows.
This feeling is one of the consequences of evolutionary change. As you go about the process of unraveling your thinking–and all the experiences shaping it–your brain stomps its feet and screams. When it comes to shifting in a new direction, it is the most petulant of children:
“No! I like the way I am. It’s too hard. I’m staying right here. I don’t wanna.“
Part of you crosses its arms and pouts during metamorphosis.
For our ancestors, survival depended upon the ability to detect subtle differences between shadows on the savanna. Traveling to new areas created new problems in separating “food source” from “possible predator.” The heightened awareness that comes with uncertainty is merely your bloodline speaking up after 200,000 years of development:
“Hey! Be on the lookout.”
When your lazy modern mind hears the echoes of its hardened primitive ancestors, it sits straight up on the couch. Instead of being more conscious of what surrounds you and choosing each step carefully, fear tempts you to stay amongst what you’ve come to categorize as “safe.”
There are two things you must do when encountered with this situation:
1. Be patient
Look, your psyche has been living quietly in a cushy environment for years. It has had its way for as long as it can remember and is assured by the easy routine of its situation. It will attempt to run back to the known with all its might.
Hold its hand–firmly–and tolerate the tantrum until it relents, regardless of how long it takes.
2. Accept it
Though this second part would seem to work hand-in-hand with the first, it bears mentioning on its own. The situation is what it is–in fact, everything just is–and you must relinquish the tendency to pass judgment on it. As Shakespeare wrote in Hamlet, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
Don’t be the person that stands in a long line cracking jokes and “making the best of it,” then complains to the attendant upon reaching the front.
You’re on the road to a better mindset. Don’t turn around just because it’s unpaved.
In case you’re unaware, I love music.
As I’ve written lately about the rekindling of my romance with running, I’ve decided to take a moment to discuss what I listen to while stabbing the pavement with my feet.
My tunes are my running partner.
They exhort me to keep going and, occasionally, push me too fast. In addition to the solitude of a gentle afternoon jog through the park, having time alone with my MP3 player shuffling through my selections.
I have six exercise playlists.
Four of them are based solely on genre and pictured below. The fifth is a combination of the “Classic Rock”, “Nike”, “Rap” and “Rock” groups when I’m looking to work out to the greatest variety. The sixth is a set of prepared tracks, which are specific to the task of the day.
I’ve always found it easier to get going when I’m certain the rhythm keeps me charged up.
Apart from the occasional expletive–I’m looking at you, Dr. Dre–the lists are remarkably free of objectionable material.
How are we alike? In what ways do we differ?