Archive for July, 2010

Is Your Meaning What You’re Saying?

I am unashamed to admit to my constant search for understanding.

Every day, at least once, I haphazardly discern a pattern of some kind or turn my curiosity toward the nature of various objects I encounter. Whether wrapped up in string theory or bemused by a quirky phrase, I set my mind to the task of pulling the object apart to see what makes it work, to catch a glimpse of “the miraculous in the common“.

This is why my writing bounces around.

When I sit in front of my laptop at night, I am often merely reporting the observations and conclusions I’ve made during my waking hours. I intend to be organized and direct, then I am whipped into a frenzy of inspiration and piece together syllables with little, if any, idea of where I’m headed.

All I can tell you for sure is a light goes on in my head and I become determined to help you flip the same switch.

As such, I’m sharing a quote from René Descartes which has stuck in my brain for a couple days:

To know what people really think, pay regard to what they do, rather than what they say.

At first glance, this seems to echo the old adage that actions speak louder than words. In fact, my initial reading found it an elegant rephrase of the classic cliché and thus, I added it to my collection.

When I read it again, I saw an inconsistency and sought to resolve it.

Saying something is an act.

To speak is to define thoughts and reveal attitudes. Perhaps the message is subtle, yet something is delivered by every word out of our mouths. I suspect most of this is unconscious, as a large percentage of our daily verbiage–if we were to record ourselves and listen–would be judged little more than inane drivel. (For me, this amounts to half-clever comments aiming for a cheap laugh.)

How often do we think about the story we tell from day to day?

In my mind, Descartes forgets a critical distinction: there is a difference between saying one thing and doing another and saying something without thinking about what you’re doing.

Most of us fall into the latter category, we toss about sentences of all kinds with little attention or intention. In truth, we’re usually unaware of the shackles our words have become because, well, we have no clue we’ve handcuffed ourselves in the first place.

What does that say about us?

If I were to spend my day walking alongside you uttering foul statements about your worthlessness, would you want me around?

Further, if I were to share them with every person we saw, how quick would you be to punch me in the face?

Why allow the same from yourself? Is it any more acceptable just because you are the person saying it? How does that affect the way you act?

Asking these questions produces critical answers.

This is the yeoman’s work of making the connection between yourself and your limits.

The investment in self-examination is admittedly high, yet the return can be astronomical.

Your life may just gain new meaning.


An Amazing End Begins with a Bold Story

The Value of an Ideal

Think What You’re Doing!

Who Sharpens You?

There can be little doubt excellence breeds excellence.

I’ve often discussed my athletic career, sharing the connections I see between achievement on the field and in life. Last night I watched my favorite soccer team, Manchester United, face off against the best players from the United States’ professional league, MLS. The score line is unimportant, as it was just an exhibition, yet much of what transpired on the field reflects the importance of environment to success.

Over the course of 90 minutes, the gulf in class became apparent. The Mancunian Red Devils played faster and smoother than their opponents could hope to. Each movement oozed efficiency and precision. To put it simply, they looked they looked more than just better, they seemed smarter.

Testing yourself is crucial to the fulfillment of your potential.

There is something to be said for being immersed in an atmosphere which demands the best of every individual, regardless of innate talent.

The difference between these two teams, apart from the number of practices together (favoring Man United) and level of fitness (better for MLS), can be found in their training sessions. The team from the English Premier League employs some of the highest-rated players on the planet, while the MLS squad is surrounded by many young men who–though capable–are almost semi-professional by comparison.

The former is world-class, the latter is not.

Proverbs 27:17 (NIV) tells us “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

Think about the comparison again: one group goes up against elite athletes in session after session as the other competes with part-timers of varied skills.

Which is best positioned to make the most of themselves?

Though every one of us is born with a specific purpose, the impact of being forged in the fire cannot be underestimated.

Ability must be developed and commitment must be tested. Without either–or both–the likelihood we’ll grow from amateur to virtuoso diminishes markedly. The men in red have left behind family and friends, dedicating their lives to learning the ins and outs of being a “good professional” from their early teens to even sniff the chance of pulling on the legendary red jersey.

When facing off against long odds, you can wilt or seize the day.

By putting yourself in a situation that draws forth your best effort, you invite yourself to raise to your highest level.

If you decide against facing such a challenge, you settle for “what might have been”.


The Tao of John Wooden

“Hammer and Forge” Your Greatness

5 Ways to Make Others Better

Know “Because” When You Say So

I enjoy being interviewed.

As with most people, it’s a thrill to see my name in print or face on television and bask in the glow of pseudo-fame. For me, however, the pleasure is amplified by my enjoyment of sharing information.

I get to give someone a piece of my mind, just like with this blog.

It’s an opportunity for me to educate, to put my knowledge–and the views derived from it–on display for others to benefit, if they so choose. (Again, as with MeBuilding.)

And, thanks to a kind journalist friend, I’ve had at least one chance a year to talk about what I’ve learned since 2008.

Yesterday, she sent me an email to see if I could help her out:

I’m writing a story for the Eagle on meditation as a means to physical and mental well-being, as part of a lifestyle. Wondering if you have any thoughts on that?

I, of course, agreed to speak with her–but look what I offered afterward:

I would like to create a “fact sheet” of sorts for you so you’ve got evidence instead of me just talking off the top of my head.

When sharing your beliefs, it’s critical to understand your “why”.

To utter something and be unable to back it up is to tell a half-truth (or manage a political campaign). When you regurgitate a soundbite with little knowledge of its meaning, you mislead others and, more importantly, yourself.

Doing anything well–or, being somebody of value–requires more than just believing something; achievement demands a reason, it begs for your “because…”

Without your personal proof, an idea is wobbly at best.

The foundation is rotten wood laid on quicksand. Your mind can only rise so high on such shaky ground before toppling over on fallacy.

Thus, self-examination is critical.

Like an engineer checking an architect’s plan, picking apart your beliefs to find the weaknesses improves the overall strength.

Regardless of whether your truth matches another’s, you’re prepared to resist any storm thrown your way.

When you comprehend the roots of your idea, someone will care to let it blossom.


The Faith Soliloquy

An Amazing End Begins with a Bold Story

The Achievement Cycle

Adjust Your Attitude Towards Attitude

Attitude is misunderstood.

Long lauded as the key to life, let alone achievement, it has been placed on the highest pedestal in the pantheon of attributes. This status as the most superior of all characteristics–the Zeus of the brain’s Mount Olympus–has created a misconception capable of wrecking a driven mind encountering the first downpour on its journey.

Mood ebbs and flows.

Being happy each second of each hour of each day is like demanding a pig sprout wings and fly. So, too, is asking sadness or anger or shame to rain out a parade for months on end. The likelihood a person can maintain such pure emotion without interruption–a laugh among tears or a smile dimmed by disappointment–is so minuscule it is immeasurable.

To expect eternal sunshine and a spotless mind is futile.

Though I have grown, I still have times when frustration mounts and I become the mental equivalent of a snarling pitbull. The difference–the watermark of this shift–is that I am able to shake free of this entanglement far easier than before. What might once have bothered me for hours passes in minutes. I’ve ceased to volunteer days or weeks to the toxicity of a storm between my ears, yet have accepted it is natural to go through periods of rough emotional seas.

Attempting to force “a perfect state of mind” is to surrender your humanity.

Is it preferable to possess a soaring spirit? Of course, who among us would argue otherwise? Joy is the momentary expression of your essence, the playful inner child blessed with the spotlight of your consciousness.

To deny heartbreaking valleys is to lose appreciation for heart-bursting peaks.

Choose to avoid loitering in the low spot.

Acknowledge your discontent and let it be a spur in your side to head down the trail.

Everyone has an “off” day now and again, just be sure it doesn’t last a week.


4 Bs for When the Rain Falls

Aiming for Imperfection

4 Tips for Getting Out of the Hole

The Gift from Above

“Please let it rain,” I whispered to myself as I walked to my car.

Knowing I was heading home to run–and having passed the better part of a week doing so in thick humidity–I welcomed the possibility of moisture from the heavens. Just the night before, I headed out after 9 PM and the temperature was still pushing 90°. The two days before that, the heat index had reached triple digits.

Noticing dark clouds in the southwestern sky, I humbly requested a break from the blast furnace.

You see, a few miles to myself has tremendous cleansing power. I imagine every runner would tell you the same, whether they head out in a group or alone. Something about the rhythmic motion calms the psychic seas and soothes physical tension.

Further, I find it difficult to believe there is someone out there without a concept of perfect conditions for their meditative mile. The personal nature of this exercise–a primitive dance with Mother Earth herself–invites each individual to find their own means to achieve the endorphin-laced nirvana known as “runner’s high”.

For me, a light rain and 70° temperatures is ideal.

The peaceful tympany of raindrops tapping gently against my skin and my surroundings amplifies the catharsis I seek when I leave the house. Thus, I felt a small measure of joy when I noticed the first spots on the pavement around three-quarters of a mile. Within a few dozen yards, a steady rain had set in.

I grinned at my answered prayer.

Soaked to the skin as I neared a mile and a half, I smiled and thought “I only meant a little,” and then pressed on to complete my four-plus mile course. A short time later, I passed a Methodist church on the familiar route to my favorite park with its sign flashing

Every good and perfect gift comes from above… James 1:17, NIV

I chuckled at this reply and contemplated how those words resonated beyond the pavement I was pounding and into my life as a whole. Strangely, I hearkened back to similar ideas from dissimilar works.

A snippet from Zen and the Art of Happiness reminded me that “every event that befalls you is absolutely the best possible thing that could occur–that there is no other event imaginable that could benefit you to any greater degree.” Then, my mind rolled delicately into the words of Friedrich Nietzsche, the infamous line that “What does not kill me makes me stronger.”

The unexpected downpour could be framed as an inconvenience or an opportunity.

A day is infinitely simpler when you admit it could be better, then set about to make the most of it anyway. So, I had a chance to test my fitness in air 20° cooler than normal, lacking oppressive sunshine overhead. My stride remained fast longer and, since my core body temperature had not been elevated by the heat, I was able to do so with relative respiratory ease.

How often do we take advantage of surprises?

I had asked for rain.

I got more than I bargained for.

It didn’t “kill me” and I derived a greater “benefit” from the “gift”.

A good lesson for how we all might approach the present.


Sorry, Life is Fair

3 Reasons for a Short Run

Running into God

The Faith Soliloquy

Faith is an inviting mystery.

It speaks to each of us in a language all its own. It’s a mish-mash of culture, education and experience that, inevitably, loses something in translation as we attempt to discuss our beliefs with another.

At the deepest level, we are attempting to express an intangible feeling.

Why I know is a challenge to explain.

How can I define my intuition for you? What words are forceful enough to describe the thrust generated by this drive? Can I begin to hope you hear the song emanating from deep within me?

What blares in my ears is faint to you.

This is why our convictions are so easily misunderstood. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said:

Belief consists in accepting the affirmations of the soul; Unbelief, in denying them.

Only one person is propelled by the instinctive pushes that help either of us navigate in the murky fog of life. Maybe we’ll choose to follow the path we’re shown or maybe we will second-guess it and head off in a different direction. The strength of those gut feelings is determined by what we have faith in, what we are sure is true.

To have faith is to mold an image of the future.

When confidence permeates a dream, it serves as a guide for inspired action–a kind of single-minded obsession bending time and space at will. Upcoming events are aligned according to expectation.

I can say, without a doubt in my mind, the days of my life–to and from today–are defined by my certainty and my own movements to prove myself right. My belief, regardless of how grand or small, will demand my effort carries it out. Whatever I have faith in, after a string of steps, is what I will see.

My future is a reflection of the believing action I take.

The life I am living today is the result of my choices and the consistency of my labor in the past. As I stretch my legs in new frontiers, I hold on to the knowledge my future is brighter than my history, more amazing than the limits of my current creativity.

I see the books I’ve published and the people they’ve helped, the doors opened where there used to be walls. I see a house, a wife, children–a life. I see something just outrageous enough it can be believed, because it’s the only way it can be seen.

The idea–and my assurance of it–is the whip at my back and compass in my hand.

It pushes me through fatigue.

It shapes my fear.

It accepts my failure.

It sharpens my focus.

It is my faith.


The Fatigue Soliloquy

The Fear Soliloquy

The Failure Soliloquy

The Focus Soliloquy


You Must Be Crazy

The Value of an Ideal

Believing In Possibility

The Focus Soliloquy

Focus is an elusive creature.

Always “late for a very important date”, the white rabbit of attention scampers about lacking rhyme or reason. Encountering an ever-increasing bombardment of information, the mind is susceptible to wandering from stimulus to stimulus and losing its way.

I’ve had this problem in choosing my own path.

Just when it seemed I’d settled on one option, my brain has leaped to another with little warning.

I spoke with an entrepreneur well on his way to becoming a billionaire several months ago. Unemployed and uncertain, I had managed to use what I call “polite persistence” to secure an interview for a job. I’d been impressed by a speech he gave at an event I attended in October, his calm personality oozing through every word–the same easiness with which he approached our half-hour phone conversation.

At some point in the 30 minutes, when my nerves had settled enough, I innately realized I had been granted a unique opportunity to pick the brain of someone I admire. The tenor of our exchange shifted from that of “prospective employer to jobseeker” to something more akin to “wise friend to confused buddy”.

In desperate hours, it is easy to lose track of what you’re hearing.

My stress-induced haze prevented me from committing much of what was said to memory. Of the few snippets I do recall, I became transfixed on his description of a period in his life “15 years ago” he believed was similar to my situation. Having struggled for a while and bounced across the country, he made a decision and “leaned into it”.

I am still learning what it means to have that level of concentration.

He’d given me a window into his mind and, over the last four months, I’ve looked through it again and again and again. Every time, I’ve been left with a singular question:

“What stirs me so much I must pursue it to my very end?”

I’ve been blessed with the intellect and talent to really do anything I choose. After months self-analysis, I have accepted this as fact and, in the future, I’ll help you understand why I was afraid to admit that (to myself or anyone else) for a very long time.

I’ve shed my bashfulness because I’m grateful to have the option, and–arrogant as it may sound–in much of my life I’ve struggled because I didn’t know where to take it.

It’s humbling and confusing.

The resulting misguided chase led me to where I am today.

Without a sense of purpose–a destination–we end up going nowhere.

Clarity, the gold sifted from the muddy waters of a lost mind, can strike in a flash or grow deliberately like a tree. For me, it has been more the latter than the former. Over weeks, in a painstaking search through all of my life, I have discovered my true love.

Like any relationship, time must be set aside for nurturing and growth. Producing a beautiful garden requires constant pruning and planting, weeding and watering. Quality is a direct reflection of the inspired energy poured into the endeavor with tireless consistency.

When this focus is absent, the flower withers.

By pinpointing my direction, I am certain to blossom.


The Fatigue Soliloquy

The Fear Soliloquy

The Failure Soliloquy

The Faith Soliloquy


Boss Yourself Around

The Tao of John Wooden

Average People Live Average Lives

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