If you’re here, that means one or more of a few things:
- you have a problem with people telling you what not to do
- you have a selective reading issue where you miss certain words
- you clicked on it by mistake
- you sensed that there was more to this than the title
I’m going to assume the final one because it will get us farther faster!
The ability to see past the obvious and simple solution is not one that everyone possesses. Judging books by their covers or even first chapters is not always the best strategy. Not everything in the world is completely formulaic. Even some chemical formulas require a catalyst to increase the rate of their reaction. Despite these facts, there is a solid majority of people that believe the obvious answer is the only possible answer. One of the main reasons is that it is comfortable. Comfort is probably the ethos of our age. So the reason that I asked you not to read this blog is that I want you act on it.
I’m asking you to be uncomfortable, see past the past and act in spite of any past failures that you might have. We’ve all got something: talking to that special someone, losing weight, making the team, starting a business, writing a book or whatever. At this point it has been written off. You’ve either failed sever times or not tried because you believe that you can’t. Either way make me (or anything else that you choose) your excuse. You need to give that thing another go. Not because you’re guaranteed success this time but because it’s still inside of you somewhere. I don’t really care if you give up on a goal. I just don’t want you to ever give up on yourself.
Every moment is a new opportunity. Pile up the dead carcasses of your past selves and make a staircase to take you to the place where you know that you can get. If you believe that you’re who you’ve always been, that’s exactly who you’ll continue to be. But if you believe, even for a second, that you can be different. You can be stronger, more determine, resourceful, patient, caring, aggressive or anything else that you’ve failed to be in the past. That’s not who you are! That’s who you were! Today, right now before you finish reading. Take a step! No! Take a leap and move yourself forward. The you from six months in the future is BEGGING for you to do it! Because he/she doesn’t want to be where you are now. They want to be five miles down the road or ten thousand dollars richer or in a relationship. So now I’m BEGGING! Don’t read this blogpost! Live it! Step up and out into the world that you deserve and not the one that you’ve grown accustomed to. DON’T READ! DO!
Love you guys!
I have a very clear recollection of the day that I passed the test that told me that I was ready to be a father. I was on the bottom floor of my in-laws’ house on a lake in Virginia. A strange sound came from outside that I didn’t recognize. A few seconds later my wife screamed my name. It was the kind of scream that I knew something was wrong. I jumped up and sprinted out the door. When I reached my wife on the deck outside, I quickly found out the source of the sound and why she screamed. Our dog, Kelme, was pinned down by another dog that was attacking him. The two dogs were about ten feet below the deck on the rocks that sloped down toward the lake. Without a moment’s hesitation, I jumped over the deck’s railing and dropped the ten feet landing next to the two dogs. Luckily my sudden appearance and loud shouts were enough to scare the dog off without my having to fight him. I picked up Kelme and raced him to the vet with my wife. His wounds were very minor and he made a full and energetic recovery. It was after that incident that I knew for sure that I could be a father.
Not everyone gets that type of real life test that tells them something important about themselves. Generally people have to take a leap of faith that they can handle the situation. The phrase there is not unimportant, “leap”. I can’t say for certain whether I would have gotten the same type of self-assurance from that situation had I run down the stairs to Kelme’s aid. The jump was important because it separated me completely from safety and put me directly into harm’s way: both from the rocks and the dog. The willingness to take the risk of the leap was key. Lives don’t need to be at stake. Broken limbs and dog attacks don’t need to be risked.
The keys to any endeavor of creation: child, book, movie, relationship, song, poem, etc. are the leap and the foregoing of self. Neither is particularly easy to do. Leaping requires a detachment from the stability of the known world for something much more uncertain. Putting something else before ourselves is also an exercise in chance. With both, fear is a major opposing force. While fear is an emotion that is intended to protect us from pain, it is often the force that keeps us from living fully. A full life is one that requires creation and therefore risk. There are no diplomas, courses or tests that can prepare you to live fully. It is something that needs to be done on the fly everyday with consistent action. The act of leaping may never become completely comfortable but it may just become completely worth it.
It’s something that every single one of us went through at one point or another. The hard-wiring is built deep within us based on our ancestors’ need to survive. Fear of the dark, unknown, bumps in the night, the boogeyman and the like are so natural that I do not blame anyone for that response. Even at the ripe age of 41, I still have that response to some situations. Even though I know that this is to a certain extent instinctual, it is possible to train it out. I no longer check for monsters under my bed at night. The question on my brain tonight is, would it be possible (and advantageous) to not only train the fear out but instill a sense of dominance over the monsters?
The beginning assumption of the child is that they need to be afraid. In the ultimate Chuck Norris reversal, couldn’t the monsters be afraid of us? If they are such badasses, why do they need to skulk in the dark anyway? It’s probably because the sneak attack/sucker punch tactic is their only hope. Flipping the script on a situation like this opens up a new world where the victim becomes the victor. Since most of our world is no longer based on an “only the strong survive” system, a large majority of the shifts that change victims to victors are of mentality and not physicality.
Since there is less to need to fear and the game is mostly mental, perhaps it is time to change the assumptions that we make about ourselves. Each of us has jumped to conclusions about ourselves based on limited or weak data. “I’m not smart enough.” “They’d never take me.” “I’m just really bad at ______.” All of these are assumptions that may not be true or can be flipped. The difference between a weakness and a strength might be as simple as perspective or selection. Being 4 foot 10 inches is a major liability in the NBA but for a horse jockey, it’s an asset. The world that you live in is based largely on perspective.
DON’T ASSUME YOU’RE WEAK, JUST BECAUSE YOU HAVEN’T FOUND YOUR STRENGTH YET! The world offers so many opportunities to each and every one of us. The problem is that many of us make assumptions about what those opportunities are supposed to look like. People want opportunity to look like a lottery ticket rather than an unpaid internship. The latter will probably make a stronger and smarter person but the former is sexier, so we ignore. We ignore our strengths or opportunities to become stronger all the time because it’s easier to complain about being weak. Flip the script and attack those monsters under your bed and inside your head. You’ll find that that they’re no match for you when you believe and you act.
Have a great day people!
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 it 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.
Move on through today!
Boxing and all of its martial cousins are disciplines based on the idea of avoiding physical attacks while trying to make contact with your own. Practitioners such as Bruce Lee took a philosophical approach to the art of physical combat. In no way am I putting myself into his category. The thought that I want to convey is a slightly more modern predicament that the metaphor of fighting may best explain.
So imagine if you will that in a boxing match, that some of the opponent’s punches gave you more energy. The object would no longer be just to avoid punches but also discern which ones were helpful and allow those to land. Despite the ridiculousness of this concept in terms of real boxing, it’s easy to see that the best boxers would be able to max their potential by taking positive hits and dodging the negative.
At the moment, you have millions of punches coming your way from a ton of “opponents”. Almost like a battle royal, your life has an absolute melee of people and organizations who are trying to punch you in the face with their opinion, product, idea or service. It’s not all bad but evaluating it all can be difficult. Here are some steps to help you from feeling punch drunk as you make it through your day.
- Avoid the Negative Corner – There are some places where you know that you’re going to be hit repeatedly by people who do not have your best interest in mind. There are billion dollar industries whose sole purpose is to distract your attention as often as possible and hit you with “BREAKING NEWS”. Just because it’s happening now, doesn’t mean that it is important or better yet that it is important to you. Your Twitter feed, e-mail, Facebook, TV, the gossipy coworker and others are not based on important, just recent.
- Pay Attention to the Source – Some sources will almost always negative and others will almost always be positive. The amount of positive missed and negative endured from these consistent sources will be negligible. Keeping a default position of avoid all or accept all may be the best position to keep decision fatigue to a minimum. For those wild card sources, usually the most important question to consider is WHY? Why is this person taking a swing at me, to help or to hurt?
- Decide on the Power of the Punches – Since we’re dealing with information here and not actual physical contact, the amount of pain that you feel is dictated by you. So you can take the sting out of a punch by making it less significant. Our perspective often dictates our reality. For example, eyebrows are usually raised when I say that “Fear is a positive emotion”. People take it as solely negative but if they focus on the signal rather than the sensation, it becomes clear. Fear is sending a message to help protect you from some perceived threat. That system is there to help, not hurt you. Unfortunately many of us have our feelings on autopilot rather than recognizing the influence/control that we have over them.
So today as you brave the modern world and all of the jabs, hooks and sucker punches that it throws at you, remember that you’re not defenseless. The world does not have to knock you senseless. You can keep your wits about you and set up a system that protects you. After all, you’re fighting for your mental life. The only way that you get to control it is by keeping up the defense against those who are trying to take your control away.
So keep your guard up and only let in the hits that will help you.
My mother is a spectacular cook. Her cookies are famous among our family and friends. She makes sensational macaroni and cheese. Although I don’t eat them, I’ve been told that her apple pie is the best. I’ve started off with this shower of compliments because my mom is also a bit clumsy. She has fallen and hurt herself quite a few times. Once she broke her ankle without even falling down. She and gravity are not the fondest of friends.
It is a force that sometimes wreaks havoc on her life. Gravity could be seen as a force that pulls us down but more accurately it is a force that makes us lift ourselves up. Gravity is not overwhelming. It is a relatively small amount of resistance to endure. We’ve become quite adept as a species at defeating gravity in a variety of ways. At the moment our problem is not that we cannot overcome resistance, it is that we do not face enough of it.
In the modern world, we face so little resistance on a daily basis that we have forgotten or never learned how to overcome it. The challenges of most days are nothing more than annoyance. With so little an amount of resistance against us, we should be able to break free of their pull and almost fly. BUT we don’t. The reason that we don’t is simple. We’re afraid. Afraid that we’ll fail. Afraid that we’ll lift off but then fall. Afraid that someone will see us and laugh. Gravity is a force, a constant that we can work around. We did not create it but we can figure a way around it. Why can’t we do the same thing with fear? Unlike gravity, it does not have to be a constant and we create it. So getting around it or destroying it completely is well within our grasp. Fashion your wings and fly.
In the movie “Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers” is one of my favorite scenes from any movie. It is a conversation that the character Smeagol has with his alter ego Gollum. Peter Jackson and his crew did a beautiful job with the scene. It was shot as a conversation between two people even though the two exist in the mind of one person. Gollum is obsessed with reacquiring the power of the ring while Smeagol fights to regain his life from the grips of that obsession. This scene resonated with me because at times I feel that type of conversation going on in my own head.
Inside of my head I have two voices battling for my attention. One says all the things that I fear and want to avoid. It not only points those things out but it also tells me that they are bound to happen. The other voice tells me that everything is going to work out and that I have nothing to fear. Neither voice is particularly right. However believing the first paralyzes me and it was the one that I listened to most in younger years. Believing the second has gotten me to do more than I thought that I could.
For a moment in the “Two Towers” Smeagol is able to banish Gollum from his life. However he resurfaces later in the movie much like my own antagonist. It is a battle that I know will most likely never be won completely. However with each successive day, I find new ways to unlock myself and others from the paralysis. The fear is not stronger but giving up is easier than doing what needs to be done. So the combination of fear and complacency is a two headed monster that squashes our dreams for the future before we even begin.
Love you Dr. Knowles!
Sunday morning I drove from Maryland to a soccer tournament in South Jersey. I crossed the Delaware Memorial Bridge at about 7:30 am. This is not a major problem but I have a fear of heights. When I cross high bridges, I usually get a tingling sensation in my legs. It is a physical reaction to my mental picture of the bridge coincidentally collapsing as my car crosses it. This fear is not debilitating, just a sensation that I have to move past. There was a heavy fog that morning and I could not see any indication of height. Strangely enough there was no tingling in my legs despite knowing that the height was there. This was extremely odd because the tingling has been consistent for years.
Fog is nothing more than a dense accumulation of water molecules that clouds our vision slightly. The fog allowed my vision to focus on the road ahead and nothing else. It’s such as simple thing but it is profound as well. The thing that we fear is very rarely staring us right in the face. It is usually on the periphery and we allow it to distract us just enough to cause accidents or immobilize us. The fog didn’t take away the possibility of danger, it only blurred my acknowledgement of it. As you set a goal, fog your fear as well.
Make your goal ever-present. Put it in front of you in pictures, words and emotions. Print it out in 72 pt font. Ingrain its presence into your consciousness like a hot rivet being driven into a steel beam. Then take your fears and put them out there in the fog. If you’re a picture person, put the photo of your fear behind wax paper. Print it in 4 pt font, so that by comparison that fear is extremely small. It is acknowledged but not as big as the goal. Fear is almost never completely extinguished. The key is to make it an ember rather than a bonfire. Embers are easy to ignore. Fog your fear and focus on your goal.
Go for that big thing today, tomorrow and the next day!
I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus from writing on the blog over the past week. There are plenty of reasons why but most of them are only half true. The most pertinent reasons are that I haven’t made a priority and I haven’t felt like I had something “big” to say. So tonight I’m taking care of both by committing to saying something little.
I am afraid. It is a posture that I have to deny in many ways as a father. I am supposed to act fearless at times for the sake of my children. That usually is not a problem because we are afraid of different things. My kids are afraid of the dark and an internet concoction called “Slender Man” which freaked my son out last night. Those aren’t the things that scare me.
I am afraid of what I am not. The things I’ll give up on or fall short on. I am afraid that for all of the words that I pound into this little keyboard that I will help no one. My fear is that I will give in to the worst versions of myself. I fear that the people that I love most will not see that I have tried to give them what they need instead of what they think they want. My fear is the same as everyone’s, that I’m not enough.
Tomorrow when I wake up, I’ll begin to dance with these fears again. Perhaps one day, like my fear of the dark, some of these fears will be gone. Until then, I will learn to dance with them so that they don’t step on my toes so often. They are of course the partners that I have chosen.
Fear, one of our most basic emotional states, has served us through the millennia to keep us alive. Few of us are in daily peril from the elements or predators anymore. So our fear mechanism has little real cause for use. So we sometimes indulge the fear mechanism in very benign circumstances. Although emotions are not perfectly quantifiable, I would suggest that we take some time to truly assess our fears and their intensity. Where would most of our fears of today rate on the Fearometer?
Fears are very personal. However when I think through history and all of the possible situations that could cause a fear level of TEN, being a soldier on a boat about to storm the beach of Normandy is always at the top of the list. Waiting for a door to open to almost certain death is something that I’m not sure that I could handle. By comparison, my daily fears seem extremely small and petty.
So where do your fears rank? Is talking to that special person and asking them out really a TEN? Or is it a FIVE that you’ve turned into a TEN? Since most of our fears are societal and not natural, inflation is something that is bound to happen. We make things bigger and scarier in order to protect ourselves. But from what? A moment of discomfort? The truth? In the end you need to decide if your Fearometer is working well for you or is it paralyzing you?
Regret is momentary pain that you have chosen to make permanent.