Archive for April, 2010

Top Posts: April 2010

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:

5. John Assaraf Didn’t Do Anything For Me

4. 1 Difference Between”Trying” and “Doing”

3. Looking at Life from the Threshold of Death

2. 5 Truths for My Newborn Niece

1. Staring Death in the Face

The Best Won’t Come While You Wait

“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.

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4 Tips for Getting Out of the Hole

Lonely moments in gloomy darkness can swallow you whole.

With steep walls surrounding the canyon of your pain, it is easy to give up and be consumed by sorrow. How can you justify expending energy if you’ll probably just end up down there again?

Somewhere, another person is feeling the exact same thing at that precise moment.

Millions of people are suffering under the weight of dejection. Disappointment barges through the door of every home, tracking dashed hopes on the carpet and soiling the air with the stench of broken dreams.

Only the commitment to move beyond disheartening events–regardless of what it takes–will separate the happy from the miserable.

What can you do when the mountaintop is out of sight?

1. Embrace your feelings
There is a pervading misconception a bright smile breaks through gray clouds.

Few are those that move happily along every step of life’s trail.

It’s tempting to let desperate days meander into worthless weeks. Maintain a constructive attitude–“What can I learn?”–instead of sinking into perpetual destruction.

Grieve your vain efforts.

Avoid being buried with them.

2. Accept the bounces
Depending on how far you’re falling from, you may rise up and crash down several times like a rubber ball slammed against concrete. Realize that, even when you’re coming out of something, it’s natural to slip a bit.

Some days the recovery will go smoothly and others it will be taxing. Setbacks are normal. Concern yourself with progress, whether it’s an inch or a mile.

3. Examine the path
Look around and do your best to figure out how you got where you are. Even more vital–and often quite stunning: ask yourself if you’re on the right trail.

It is of little use taking a similar road if you were made to travel wholly opposite one.

4. Practice patience
There is an appropriate amount of time required to summit the peak above your valley.

Until your last breath, your window of opportunity remains open. Whether striving for another monumental achievement or making the first uncomfortable step, you’re walking the same course.

In the face of discouragement, keep moving your weary legs and you’ll get where you’re going.

Take a deep breath, fill your heart with belief and remember:

“The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a time.”
Abraham Lincoln

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Surviving Rock Bottom

Hitting rock bottom sucks.

The great thing about it, though, is there’s nowhere to go but up. It’s a tough place to be and easy–maybe even natural–to despair. You wonder how you can get out of the hole you’re in, seeing only the walls stretching high above your head.

You get everywhere in life one moment at a time.

Low points arrive in increments, even if you feel the last step is a proverbial “doozy.” Realize, however, the thunderclap of pain is the culmination of many decisions and mistakes.

You move upward the same way.

Slower than you’d like, for sure.

The depths of defeat are never escaped soon enough.

Discouragement is an unpleasant detour on any journey.

What’s most important to keep in mind is peaks require valleys.

Absent contrast, meaning evaporates.

“Tall” is incomprehensible without “short.”

“Order” is measured against “chaos.”

The exultation of “best” is defined by the desolation of “worst.”

Unfortunately, it’s easier to slide downhill than scale upward.

Grab every inch of every foot, maybe seeing only a little bit ahead into a dense fog–believing all the way in the good to come–and you’ll rise again.

The trail winds and, in spots, will require you come down in order to climb up later.

Be encouraged and confident.

Move forward and nurse your wounds back to health. The marks left behind are reminders. Count them as blessings while raising your arms in triumph.

Bear your scars proudly when you reach the next summit and remember what you’ve survived with the next fall.

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The Big Bang in Your Head

This Cosmic Microwave Background image shows temperature fluctuations across our expanding 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.

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4 Reasons Shakespeare is My Shrink

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?

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Looking Back at My Future Self

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?

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