The future is out there and you’re going to arrive at it whether you’re ready or not. The problem is that the future is unclear like on a really foggy morning. The haze itself is nothing to fear. It will dissipate as you get closer. It’s possible to move at full speed in territory that is known and clear. On new and uncertain paths, it’s important to manage your speed with your field of vision. Going too fast on a new road could end in a crash. The thing is that most people are not afraid of the ditch, pothole or even the wall. They’re afraid of the uncertainty that the fog brings.
The fog is the barrier that they can’t get past because it is SO frightening not to know. Fear is the fog and avoiding it shrinks the world down to almost nothing. The only way to get the fog to disappear is to go into it. It doesn’t disperse with time, compliments from friends or likes social media. Motion/action is what is needed to break through the fog barrier. By all means, manage your speed and watch out for potholes but never let the fog stop you in your tracks. It’s not a wall! Unless you make it one.
The act of being human is not always an easy one. Despite all of our advantages, we still run into plenty of obstacles and potholes. There is an odd feeling that I have inside that I am more than one person. I’ve written before about my fascination with a scene from Lord of the Rings that personifies that internal struggle. However today I’m thinking of a much more strategical breakdown to the human animal. We are all in a constant cycle of -ing.
Human Being – This is our general state. Much like an idling car, we all have our own base state. This may be influenced by outside factors but in general it is within our capacity to control. Who are you being on a regular basis? The -ing is important because it is a present progressive. Who you’ve been in the past is not important. The present is a new choice for you to be.
Human Meaning – As we are being our way through the day, things are going to happen. It is inevitable. Humans are not always objective creatures. We generally put meaning onto the things that happen. Something happened, that means; I’m going to be late, people appreciate me, I’m worthless, it’s a complete success or a million other things that we’ve made up in our own heads. Since the stories inside of our heads about the meanings behind things are completely made up by us, then wouldn’t it be intelligent to give things a meaning that helps us? As the writer of your own programming, this seems the most sensible thing to do.
Human Doing – Once we’ve put ourselves into a position for a successful day by being in a winning state. Then putting the most helpful meaning onto all external events. The only -ing left is what to do. Doing is the end step that brings the cycle back around. There is definitely enough evidence around to support the fact that the internal human game is extremely important. However we were always meant to be creatures of action. Man was meant to MANufacture, MANifest, MANage and MANeuver through this world to greater heights.
So as you are going through your day. Pay attention to the -ing that you are in. Are you being in your best interest? Is the meaning that you give to your circumstances helpful? And especially, what are you doing with what you have? It won’t always be perfect but that’s alright because you weren’t meant to be either. My hope is that you’re at least progressing!
The Shawshank Redemption is one of my all time favorite movies. Based on how often it is shown on TV, I’m not the only one. SPOILER ALERT! If somehow you’ve not seen this movie that was released in 1994 and don’t want it ruined, STOP READING! (For those that are pressing on) The movie and the book that it is based on recount the multiple decades of Andy Dufresne’s life in Shawshank State Penitentiary as the wrongly convicted murderer of his wife and her lover. There are some differences between the movie and the book but mostly Andy is a methodically planning his escape through a tunnel in his cell wall. He finally achieves his goal after years of slow chiseling and eventually crawling through a shit-filled pipe. Shawshank was not meant to hold Andy Dufresne because he was free where it counted most, in his mind.
While most of us can’t imagine living Andy’s life in Shawshank, we can definitely imagine the way that we wish our life was. We wish that things were easier, less busy, more money, fewer problems and more “perfect”. The problem with the image of perfect is that it is a prison of its own. That image exists in a completely fictitious world where things just fall into place magically. While it may be a nice diversion, it is not anything resembling a game plan.
So if you want to break free from the prison of that perfect image and move to real freedom, you may need to follow the path of Andy Dufresne. Chisel away at that dream that you have, possibly for years. Take joy discarding the small pieces of rubble that you’ve chipped away from the wall in front of you. Just be ready when you finally feel that you’ve broken through, there could still be 500 yards of shit for you to crawl through. Expecting that type of a path will make your real journey to your dream life seem like a walk in the park!
The Rolling Stones are iconic and endured long past most of their contemporaries. That type of longevity mixed with commercial success is worth noting and aspiring to but not manufacturing. Trying to manufacture the Rolling is not only impossible, it feels foolish to suggest trying. Despite this realization in the folly of trying to manufacture the next Rolling Stones, people seem obsessed with being the next Uber, AirBnB, Amazon or Lebron. Either individually or organizationally at certain point, we all must break away from the icons that we adore in order to stand in our own right.
For the moment, my daughter is listening to Twenty One Pilots. I’ve enjoyed their music because much like the Rolling Stones, they have their own style. It has been a long time since a musical group has not sounded like some derivative of a style or past performer. It’s possible that I missed who they are copying but for now I’ll stay impressed.
The mixture of uncertainty and pervasive broadcasting of “success” through social media leads to a desire to impersonate. Trying to emulate the airbrushed life of a quasi-celebrity is an exercise in futility and disappointment. Regardless of the person, what you see is not 100% of who they are. It is the public version or the highlighted reel. Holding yourself to that standard will end in failure.
So hold yourself to your own standard! Can you be influenced by others? Absolutely! Borrow, experiment and test but in the end your product is going to need a huge helping of YOU at its core. Keeping that in mind from the outset will allow you to be a much happier version of yourself. Comparison can be a killer because you know everything about only one person in the comparison, you. You know every thought, fear, desire and screw up. No matter who you’re comparing yourself to, you’ll never know all of that. So you’ll either be too hard on them or yourself and usually it’s the latter.
So go out there and be you today. Wear your flaws and shortcomings like they’re some of your best accessories because in all honesty, THEY ARE! Just imagine, there is probably someone out there who would love to be you and the message to them is the same. They can’t be. So go be yourself.
In this country and around the world Champions are lauded for their accomplishments. Usually the scene of victory is filled with a trophy to be kissed, confetti falling, champagne popping and players/fans rejoicing. The reason that this scene is so easy to recreate in one’s mind is that it is pervasive throughout sport. Depending on the particular sport, one could be even more specific about the scene. Regardless of which championship is one there is an invisible specter that is ever-present but has seemingly been forgotten by many who are watching. The fruits of the labor are on full display but the labor often gets overlooked. In a world where instant gratification is becoming more of the norm will we be seduced by the empty triumph of getting the small reward now or choose the labor that creates real results? The answer is that both will happen.
There will be many people who get swept up in the power of the “Now Economy”. They will take the short term rewards and overlook some of the long term consequences. It is not a surprising phenomena that people take the easier path. On a biochemical level, our reward system is easily seduced by the immediate regardless of its hollowness. It takes time and training to override this system.
The greatest of all time were able to train themselves to be long term greedy. Rather than giving in to the temptation of the moment, they put in the work now in order to reap the benefits later. Often that was months or even years later. The prize at the end may have been what drove them but the process of attaining greatness is won daily.
Each of us has the power within to choose. There probably won’t be a championship trophy at the end for most of us. Our accomplishments won’t be on ESPN. It will almost all happen on the inside. The triumph will be over self and circumstance with only a few fans (friends and family) there to celebrate. Will you be able to hold your head high based on what you have done? Or will you be looking down at the path of shortcuts that you took to run yourself in circles? You have the power to choose and you’re choosing right now. Choose wisely!
It’s Mr. Baxter from 7th grade science class that started my tendency toward being a spelling/grammar Nazi. Two times receiving a 99.5% based on spelling errors was enough frustration to get me to pay attention. I fully recognize that language is a fluid and live thing. Every day we can influence it for the better or worse. Outside of church, very few people are using “thine” and “thou”. These words have been morphed and replaced with their more recent counterparts. Change is not my concern. It is laziness and apathy.
Widespread education and technological advances have democratized access to knowledge and the overwhelming response of the public has been indifference. There was a time in this country when only a select few could hope to become educated. The huge supply of knowledge seems to have caused an equally huge plummet in demand. While this lowering of expectation has happened in the realm of language, it is just as obvious in personal health, civic responsibility and many other areas of life. As the challenges of life have become easier, we seem to be less inclined to meet them head on. Instead we have found a degree of comfort in social proof. If “everyone else” is holding a low standard, then it makes us feel that we are OK.
What if you were the one to hold the line for yourself? Not to tell the world that it is wrong but to do what is right for yourself and those around you. If you held the line on your health, your marriage, your relations with people or yourself; what kind of a ripple effect could you have on your family, community or even the world? Even if no one else took up your particular cause, how would it feel to be the answer to your own problem? Deciding for yourself, exactly what you would and would not stand for could be liberating. Rather than looking at those around you to find the path of least resistance, you could look inward to find the strength to hack out a new trail. Our world is filled with more possibility and less hardship than every before, so are you going to sit there and bask in the glow of what our forefathers built? Or are you going to do your own work? The choice is yours! And that is probably the biggest kicker of all, we get to choose to step up or not.
So I hope that you find within yourself a desire for better than most. Be a leader by doing first. Utherwhys whee May knot bee aybl two reklame wut weave lust!
If you go to a fine restaurant and order a steak, you will probably enjoy a fine meal and receive no side-ward glances from anyone. The location and timing are everything. On some level you must realize that months earlier, that steak was part of cow. If you got dressed up, went out into the field and bit the cow’s ass, you’d definitely get a reaction especially from the cow. There’s a place and time for almost everything. Getting that combination right is the difference between being cheered and ridiculed. To a certain extent, Galileo was considered a “cow-biter”. The things that he was saying and doing were so far ahead of their time that no one understood them. He was even excommunicated from the church for his beliefs. People were not ready to hear what he was saying because they were too invested in their worldview.
The entire world is never going to cheer or ridicule you but it feels that way when those close to you do either. In order to become the best version of yourself, you will need to change some things. While some may be subtle, others may be drastic and misunderstood by your “world” (friends, family, colleagues). The people close to you are invested in who you are now. That better version of you is something that they might not be ready for. Your actions may force them to see things in themselves that they do not like. That’s not your burden to bear. It is your job to decide if you’re a cow-biter or Galileo.
Can you see a future that you want to create for yourself? If you’re a true believer in that future, then don’t worry about the people who think you’re a cow-biter. They are invested in your yesterday and you’re using today to build a better tomorrow.
In 1994, I was a freshman in college and discovering who I was as a person. Although I enjoyed that time, it was not without its potholes. After a week of being on campus for soccer’s preseason, I started hanging out with a junior from the women’s team pretty regularly. In my mind I was en route to my first college relationship. After going out to see the movie “Forrest Gump” together, I finally got up the courage to ask the question that I had in my head. “So what’s going on between us?” Her response was something that I did not anticipate, “Nothing, I have a boyfriend.” At the time I was confused and a little hurt but now I realize that I was just collateral damage.
Each of us is making it through our own life as best we can. Life is not a spectator sport, it is battled out in the trenches. At times during that struggle, we will all hurt someone without any intention. That is life’s collateral damage. However because we view our lives in the first person, we tend to think that the world is happening to us. Therefore all damage is personal because it means more to us. The question is not whether or not you will be collateral damage. It is whether you will be a victim or survivor.
Victims have the distinguishing factor that they were targeted. It does not particularly matter if that targeting is real or imagined. The victim feels it as if it were real. The teacher, boss, girlfriend, boyfriend, town, society or world is against them and they know it. Even worse, they think they deserve it. The mindset of being a victim is a choice.
Survivors often have scars but they are a sign of life, not betrayal. The survivor can move past the damage because it wasn’t particularly about them. The focus is also on the future rather than the past. Each moment is another opportunity for the survivor to get stronger.
There is no completely safe passage through life. At some point, you are bound to be hurt by someone or something. Are you a victim or a survivor? The choice is yours!
Trent. – “Stop right there! Ladies, don’t you always double down on an 11?”
Lisa – “No matter what. Like splitting aces.”
It’s a smart play to double down on an 11 in Black Jack because your chances of hitting 21 are worth the extra gamble. On the other hand, it’s foolish to double down on a losing hand. In cards your chances are based on mathematical probability. Playing the odds is the name of the game. Avoid the slim odds!
In our lives, the game is not entirely mathematical. Decisions are made for all kinds of reasons that have nothing to do with probability. Emotion, prior programming and a host of other variables lead to the less than logical decisions that we humans make regularly. For example I double down on mistakes. It’s not something I do intentionally. It happens less today than it did a few years ago but it happens. Most of the improvement in this area is due to habits and pre-scripting.
Like doubling down on an 11, daily habits that have the greatest possibility of working are key. Usually these habits are not hard to find. You know what they are but in the moment people get overwhelmed by emotion and choose the easy/comfortable route. The path to where you want to go is not hard to find, it’s just hard to follow. The more times that you follow that path, the easier it becomes to stay on.
Actors can definitely ad-lib their lines but for the most part, they work from a script. Pre-scripting particularly difficult actions in your mind can be an effective way to get past them with the best results. Visualizing the event in advance puts you into a proactive state of mind rather than reactive. It does not resolve the situation in advance but can reduce the amount that emotion carried to it.
So go out into the world and bet on yourself. Double down on the things that lead you to the life that you want. Don’t allow yourself to bet on lottery number odds with your life. Getting what you want is not a matter of luck, it’s a matter of time if you set the game up right!
The other night I had dinner with a former student/player of mine. We ran into each other a few months back. Our common love of books and podcasts started the conversation. He’s freshly out of college and we’ve been talking about life and career lately. This dinner was a eye opening conversation for me and I’m hoping that this post will help someone who may be in the same spot as my friend.
The phrase that he uttered the most was “I don’t know.” In some ways this could be viewed as a positive. Moving from the teen years where young people tend to think (or project) that they know everything, “I don’t know” could be a sign of positive motion. In this case (and possibly for this generation) there was a definite sense that his need to know was a bit of a surprise. His GPS had gotten him to the restaurant. He mirrored my choice in beer and our conversation followed that theme of uncertainty. While I know that this is not completely his fault, he needs to deal with the consequences. The finger of blame will do nothing to give him direction or satisfy the remainder of his life. So how does one find the answers for the test that’s not coming?
The first step is recognizing that the answers are your answers, not right or wrong answers. While the majority of a young person’s life may be spent in a very regimented existence today, the “real world” is becoming less definite each year. The internet has changed the rules of almost every facet of our lives. Industries that did not exist ten years ago are major components of our everyday life. The economy, geopolitics, the job-market and many other areas of life are variable at best and regularly volatile. While this amount of change may be disconcerting to some, the way to avoid being swept away in a tumultuous seas is to have an anchor. In a world that is always changing, it is important to find consistency in something that is under your control: YOU.
Perhaps the hand that you were dealt is not what you wanted, you still have to play it. For most of us, mom and dad can’t be relied upon forever. At some point we all must take responsibility. Break that word down into “response” and “ability”. Having the ability to respond to the good, the bad and the ugly of your life rests completely with you. Is your response going to be “I don’t like this”, “I hate this”, “I’m not ready for this” or “I can work with this”? Regardless of your circumstances, the only one that makes any sense is to work with the ingredients that you have. Stop comparing your life to some celebrity’s airbrushed picture perfect life or some other source that detracts from your pure power. No matter what comparison is a waste of time. No one has exactly your set of unique ingredients, so the only person that you’re competing with is yourself. There comes a time in each of our lives that we realize that this life belongs to only us. It is not your teachers’, parents’, professors’ or bosses’ life. If you choose to give them control, it is still your choice. So no matter what the question, the answer is yours to choose.
The second key is realizing that time is on your side and patience truly is a virtue. If you’re in your twenties or teens, you’ve got the time to figure things out. Just because you don’t have the answer right now, doesn’t mean that you won’t eventually. Amazon does not do “same day delivery” on the perfect life. Even the most incredible stories of overnight success usually have a less known story of hardship and patience. Unfortunately in a 140 character world, it’s easy to have expectations that surpass what the world actually consistently delivers. The only thing that you can get RIGHT NOW is the opportunity to plant seeds that you can reap in a year, five years, ten years or more. Climbing the mountain is not an instantaneous process and even if you could teleport there, you’d miss all of the good stuff that comes with the climb.
So take these two points out into the world and use them. Anchor yourself with an unshakable belief that you can figure out your life on your terms. Then be patient with your pursuits because nothing worth having comes without effort. With those two concepts in mind, I’m sure that you’ll do well on this art project called life. Enjoy it! It’s yours!