Friday, August 8

Gladiator for Life

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out where the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred with dust and sweat and blood. At best, he knows the triumph of high achievement; if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat." — Theodore Roosevelt.

Where are you? In the arena or standing in the stands? Have we as a people lost the heart to stand in the sands of the arena and battle for the Life that we want? I would say that for the most part we have. Or rather, not necessarily that we have lost the heart to fight, but that the heights that we aspire to are SO much lower than they could be.

We see the battle raging every day when you see the single parents (mothers and fathers) struggling to provide their kids with the best they can. People working two and three jobs to make ends meet for their families. Hopeful people that are trying to clean up their communities and make a difference in some way.

But what about the BEST and HIGHEST Life that is possible?? Why don’t we shoot for that anymore? Have we been beaten down by the world so much that aiming for the stars has become impossible?

Sometimes, when I talk to people about the things that I want for my life and my kids’ lives, they just stare at me. I don’t feel like I’m wanting too much, but the reactions I get definitely tell me that others think differently. It’s not that I’m expecting things to just fall into my lap. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t complain if they did, but I know better. I expect to have to work hard for what I want and that’s OK with me. But I know LOTS of people that feel it’s too much to work hard for the stars.

You hear it all the time in the world today. Someone looking for a free hand out. Groups of people shouting for the government to take care of them and being outraged if it doesn’t happen fast enough. What is wrong with these people? I can honestly say that I have never gotten or asked for a free hand out. Sure, I’ve had some hard times and people that care about me have helped me out. But that’s different, even if they didn’t let me pay them back. However, it seems that we now have a class of people that desire to live off of other people’s hard work. In nature, that is called a parasite and eventually it will kill the host organism. The only way to keep that from happening is to remove it.

I don’t know about you, but I find it VERY hard t be around someone that won’t work for what they want. Maybe I’m a bit snobby. Maybe I just expect more from the people I meet. You see, I EXPECT you to get out and work hard for your dreams. In the same way that I EXPECT you to succeed if you do. It’s not really a matter of if, but rather when, as long as you as putting every ounce of strength, energy, and desire into achieving it.

Life is not something you just quit on. Throwing your hands up and say “I quit!” is not an option. Well, I mean, it IS, but that just sucks. Because it’s not like quitting a job where you go out the next day and find a new one. It’s quitting on YOURSELF! And in reality, you are the only one working FOR yourself. If you quit on you, there is no one else to pick up and do it.

I’m not saying that it’ll be easy. I think this is the only time I’ve used that word here today. It WILL be hard. You WILL fail at times. But, here’s the kicker, it WILL be worth it. Every drop of sweat and blood, every ounce of flesh, every moment of pure exhaustion where you kept on going, will be the epic that will see you, in the end, out amongst the stars. You will be the sole standing gladiator and you can raise your arms high and shout in victory.

But, that’s only if you choose to take to the arena in the first place. The audience doesn’t get that honor. They don’t get the blessing of success. They get to watch as others howl in the ring and gain the victor’s cup. They are the ones that miss the thrill of overcoming. I would even say; they are the bitter one’s that envy those that try. Complainers and whiners that try to bring those that try down, so they can stay safe within their little confines and never risk failure.

See, that’s part of the price. The risk of failure. No one likes to fail, but it’ll happen if you try for the stars. But remember this, it’s not a true failure if you get back up and keep trying. It’s only a failure if you stay on the ground and give up. We like to internalize failures and beat ourselves up with all the failures we have ever had. But YOU are not your failures. You are not a sum of the times you fall, but rather, a sum of the times you get back up. As long as there is one more get up than fall, you’re succeeding.

I am shooting for the stars and beyond. Join me in the arena of life and let’s battle shoulder to shoulder and back to back. I know that together, we can all really kick some ass. :-)

Thursday, August 7

Time Stands Still...

“Time stands still for no man.” - Leonard Reiss

We all go through life with the belief that tomorrow will be a new day. That sometime in the future, we’ll draw our last breath. That those people and things that we love will be around for us to enjoy, well, really, forever. Right? No one ever likes to dwell on the mortality that is Life. We don’t like to discuss Life ending and all the myriad ways that it can end. We all know that life ends, we’ve all seen it. Maybe not first hand, but we have all experienced the loss in some way.

Death. It has a certain finality to it, doesn’t it? Of course, it should. It’s…well, Death. Why am I talking about Death, when no one wants to talk about it? I could say, because I’m like that. :-) Ask my friends. But, my reasoning is to make a point about Life.

Life is all about time. How much, how little, how well spent, how exciting, how boring, and so on. You get the idea. How you fill up your Life Time is what determines the quality of your life. Notice that I said how YOU fill up your time? That’s right boys and girls. The quality of your life is up to YOU. There is no blaming anyone else for the quality of your life or the situation you find yourself in. Those are excuses that mask the true problem.

And what IS the true problem; I hear your little minds asking. Responsibility. Wow. I know. That’s one of those words that we don’t like to talk about when it’s directed at us. So, let’s talk about responsibility for a bit. Just cuz I’m like that. :-)

You are in the place that you are in life, because you directed yourself there. That’s nice and simple, right? And most everyone will not like hearing that at all. I have heard it put forth that we are respons-able people. That means that we are able to determine our response; that responses to stimuli are chosen. Granted, sometimes the response is chosen in less than a heartbeat, based upon convictions held deep within our beings, but, it’s still chosen. In fact, responses like that are chosen before the stimulus ever presents itself. We determine our reactions based on how well we develop our own personal morals, ethics, and integrity.

So, if you are where you are, because of your own responses, where does that leave you?

Remember, “Time stands still for no man.” It’s a blessing and a curse, really. Time is the downfall of all people and yet, it allows us to change into different people. To cultivate different thoughts, beliefs, and habits that will allow us to have different responses to those blink-of-an-eye stimuli.

I believe that it comes down to knowing yourself. Knowing what you value, what you like, what you don’t, what you want, what you will stand for, what you will die for. Those are some of the things that make you, you. And they are probably not the same things that make me, me. Know what? That’s OK. There is no one on this planet that can judge you for what you believe and value. But you need to know what those things are, firmly, so that when you are called to, you can defend them and stand firm in what you believe.

OK…with me so far? Let’s figure out what some of those things are. :-)

Take out a piece of paper and write on the first line: What I like. Then just go for it. Write down everything that you can think of. Nothing is too small or insignificant to not be written down. I like Rum and Coke, Reading, listening to music, playing with my boys, sleeping late, girl watching, Buffalo wings. You get the idea? Let’s be honest. You’re going to need a lot of paper if you’re going to do this right. Don’t be afraid to stop and come back later to add more. Take as much time as you want doing this. It’s just for you. Once you’re exhausted from doing that, take a new sheet of paper and on the first line write: What I don’t like. And run through it again. Do a list for each of the topics I listed above and any more if you think of others that matter to you. Remember, this is FOR YOU! So, please, be honest. If you like walking around with cold play-doh in between your toes, OK. Put it on your list, because that’s YOU.

See how easy that was? Now you know a little bit more about yourself. Now you can pick the biggest, most important things from those lists’ and make certain that you are devoting Life Time to them. Then, as you spend more Life Time with and on the things that you love and care about the most, the quality of your life will start to improve. Isn’t it neat how that happens?

Here’s to choosing the responses you want and to having the quality of life you’ve always dreamed of.

At the end of every day, you will have traded an irreplaceable part of your life for something else. Make sure it's a fair trade.

Wednesday, August 6

Pushing on the Pull Door

We’ve all done it, I know that I have, and you always feel like such a complete dumbass when you do. What is that you ask? Pushing on the pull door. And don’t you even begin to tell me that you’ve never done it. You may not look like the cartoon above, but I’m certain that in some part of life, you’ve pushed the pull door.

So, what do I really mean, “Push the Pull Door”?

Look at it like this. In life, there is a certain way that things work. If you have a bad mood and take it out on your spouse, odds are, you’re going to get into a fight, or at the least, hurt their feelings. If you give all your money away, you WILL be poor. If you smile, people will think you are friendly. We all, instinctively know a lot of these things and follow them, most of the time. When we don’t, there are consequences that we face. From shame and embarrassment, to injury and true heart ache.

The funny thing is; it doesn’t matter how smart you are or how dumb you are, how rich you are or how poor you are, how beautiful you are or how ugly you are. The rules of Life will apply to you, the same as they apply to everyone else.

It almost seems to be human nature to forget or challenge the rules of Life. Either that or we are simply wired to press the boundaries that we have. Don’t get me wrong, I think that pushing the boundaries is an essential part of life. I believe that Life’s boundaries are different for everyone. Oh sure, some stay constant for everyone, like the rule that says you are not able to fly on your own yet.  But I don’t think that rule will always hold and we will never know that it’s moved if we don’t push.

The people that push Life’s boundaries are our modern day adventurers. Our explorers and our questors. Sadly, the time that we live in right now has a dearth of such people. Where did they all go? I think I can answer that question easily. We now live in a society that is plagued by fear. We are inundated with all the fear mongering that money and governments can buy. We are told that no one is safe outside anymore and that you are in danger even in your own house. But if you act now, you can get this state of the art security system that will incinerate anyone trying to break in. Plus free installation, all for just $1995.99! You see…fear sells. The businesses know it, the media knows it, the government knows it. It seems that the only ones who don’t know it…is us. We buy right into it and let the fear mongerers exercise an incredible amount of control on our lives.

I know what you’ll say…Yes; there is danger in our world today. But, believe it or not, there was danger in it when everyone was a kid too. And even though my parents didn’t put me in a 5-point harness and lock me inside the house at all times, I actually survived long enough to be an adult and parent too. You did too apparently. :-) I’m not telling you to check the ol brain out completely, just use a bit of your brain to realistically evaluate what you see and hear. And, for goodness sake, look to the motivation of the person speaking to you. Think for yourself, it’s a rule of Life that many forget.

Let me help you with that. It says pull for a reason. C’mon, let’s walk in through the door together and see what Life has to offer us.

Tuesday, August 5

Flow like Water…Stand like Mountain

Flow like Water…Stand like Mountain.

It’s probably one of the oldest saying and a very good one too, if I may say so. So, what does that have to do with today’s post? Well…OK. You caught me…I’m still working on that. :-)

I’ve talked before about stress and how we manage to make our lives a LOT more difficult than they need to be. We seem to like the drama that invades our lives. Maybe it gives us something to talk about at work. But does it HAVE to be this way? No, I don’t think so. But it actually takes a change in our mindsets HA! That’s what the quote is for! :-) Let’s go through it together.

Flow like Water…

Ever sat and watched a small river? Better yet, a brook or stream? Ever seen a stream formed after a rain storm? Next time it rains, go out to a park with a bit of a hill in it. Watch as the water gathers at the top, then begins to flow down the hill. As it comes to a barrier, it simply sloshes to one side and keeps going on. Eventually, even that barrier is going to be worn down and the water will have a much straighter path down. Very few obstacles block water from flowing... Oh sure, I can hear the grumblers out there now. “Hey, what about a bottle, doofus! Or a pool!” Yes…some idiot can always come up with something in an attempt to derail the thoughts

But follow with the thought for a bit. I want you to “Flow like Water”. So, what, exactly, do I mean by that? When life starts to ride up on ya, let it go, don’t fight, don’t argue, don’t flail, just flow right around it. If you need to, change directions for a little while. The point is to flow around all the little things that life tries to put in your way. I like the demonstration that Stephen Covey does. He takes a large, clear, empty bucket and has 3 other buckets filled with rocks. One has big rocks, another small rocks, and the last sand. He will then ask someone from the audience to fill the empty bucket with the contents of all three buckets. So, the volunteer usually tries to pour all the small rocks in and then can’t fit all the large rocks, let alone the sand. Covey then tells them to start with the large rocks and arrange them all in. Then they pour the small rocks in, filling the holes around the large rocks. And finally, the sand. And it ALL fits. What’s the point of this? Priorities. Figure out what is most important to you and do that first. Then worry about the minor things, and if you have the time and energy, look to the sands. It’s really the same thought. Flow like Water…

Stand like Mountain…

OK, you all should be able to figure this one out. :-) So, if you’re working this right, then you’re flowing like water. OK…I’ll wait, go to the bathroom and flow. OK…feel better now? So what does it mean to “Stand like Mountain”? Well, I can make it kind of simple here. You need to flow around the troubles and stress of life, but stand firm in what you believe in.

Everyone has things that are important to them. Convictions that are held so close as to be a part of that persons thinking and feeling process. And the beautiful thing is; everyone’s different. What’s important to me might not be important to you, and vice versa. But the important thing is that what is the most important to YOU is what you need to be unshakeable on. No one should ever be able to persuade you to come away from what you believe the most in. In the face of the strongest of storms, the mountain remains impassive and solid in its own strength of foundation.

Be like the mountains and live like the waters. I know you can do it!

We lift ourselves by our thought, we climb upon our vision of ourselves. If you want to enlarge your life, you must first enlarge your thought of it and of yourself. Hold the ideal of yourself as you long to be, always, everywhere - your ideal of what you long to attain - the ideal of health, efficiency, success.

Orison Swett Marden (1850 - 1924)

Monday, August 4

Lip Service Age

Lip service.

Defined as: an avowal of advocacy, adherence, or allegiance expressed in words but not backed by deeds.

It’s something that we tend to ascribe to people of shady character or low integrity. Case in point, most everyone believes that MOST politicians are good with lip service. And no, I’m not talking Monica Lewinsky style lip service either! However, I would propose that ours is a time of lip service. We have had the Bronze Age, the Iron Age, the Industrial Revolution, the Technological Age, and now, sadly, we live in the Lip Service Age.

Gone are the times when a commitment, even one given off-handedly, would be kept no matter what the hurdles. “I’ll give you a call tonight.” Meant that you could actually count on a call tonight. Even if it got a bit late. There would still be the call. “Sorry it’s late, but I said I’d call tonight.” Far more likely is the next day’s justifications and excuses for why the call was never made or the commitment not kept. Inconvenience is the by word for our times. And most of the time, it’s the personal inconvenience that is the most important. It’s a pervading and inclusive symptom of a sad degeneration of people in general.

Now, I know that I’m generalizing here. I know that there are some people that have managed to maintain a moral compass and are staunch in their personal integrity. However, I also know, and so do you, that those people are rather few and far between. And I’m certainly not talking about the occasional one off that we are all guilty of. This is a definitely moral decline. We live in a time when integrity is a foreign word. When even the world’s leaders show a complete and utter lack of personal integrity, what kind of leadership does that provide for the rest of the world’s population?

We seem to be constantly amazed by the lack of integrity in the common person. We see them on all the talk shows and the news and shake our heads and wonder how they could do something like that. But we fail to take the look around and see that our lives are in such a state that how CAN our children know better and do better? We make idols and role models out of people with no integrity. People that break the laws without a thought. Our presidents, business leaders, athletes, musicians, actors, all seem to come to the point of believing they are more than they are. There are some that maintain themselves, in spite of everything. But for the most part, morality and integrity are thrown to the wayside.

I will take my stand and say…This is NOT right. We HAVE failed and need to make things right again. It is a time to reclaim the ideas and ideals of integrity, morality, and ethics. Our children deserve that, and honestly, WE all deserve that. There was a time when there was no expectation of deception. Why can’t we get back to that?

I know that sometimes, it’s hard to make the right choice based on the concepts of integrity and morality. I will be the first to stand up and say that it IS a sacrifice sometimes. I will also be the first to say that it’s a sacrifice that will bring nothing but good to you. You will be a better person because of it, and YOU will know it. That’s more important than being a star.

So, I challenge you. For one week. Don’t break a commitment, no matter what. If you say that you’ll do something, you MUST do it. And do it when you said you would, not days later. If you make a promise, then you MOUST keep it, no matter what. Teach yourself that you have integrity and can be trusted to act according to that. You just might be surprised at the results after the week is over.

I know that this isn’t anything that you don’t already know. Maybe some of you are feeling a little sheepish (baah) right now and know that you SHOULD be doing more. If so, that’s OK. I hope that you give this a try, even if you feel confident in your own integrity. There is nothing but benefits to you. Sure, it’ll be hard. Breaking bad habits of doing the easiest thing will be hard.

But I’m walking the same path and will help stand you up when you fall. Come on…walk with me.