Blogpost, self-reliance

X Marks the Spot

Pirates! Those scurvy scoundrels that took to the high seas in order to rob other boats in search of treasure. According to movies and stories at least, they took that loot and buried somewhere. While this practice may be largely fictionalized, it makes for an interesting adventure: the treasure hunt. People trying to find another pirate’s treasure or retrace steps to their own. The use of maps, codes and booby traps may have been common place but the likelihood of an X marking the spot is doubtful. Why would you advertise where the treasure is? Their hope would truly be that no one else would be able to find it.

I’d like to give you a clue where all of the treasure that you’re looking for is buried. Even though the traditional pirates are gone, there are still people around who want to steal your treasure. They are looking to take everything that you’ve got and bury it in their own special spot. If you feel like you’ve lost your treasure and do not have a map to find it, then here is the X that you may need.

Everything that you’re looking for is inside of your own head. It is where everything that happens to you is processed. So regardless of whether you have a chest full of gold or not, you are in control of how you feel about that. Many people who have had “riches” felt poor because they did not know how to control that treasure chest between their ears. By comparison some people who seemingly have nothing, have lived a rich life based on their possession of the keys to their own mind.

While this is a simple idea, it may not be easy to access the riches that I’m talking about. Some people have buried their treasure under years of self-doubt, fear, anxiety, recklessness and other impediments which keep that treasure out of reach. So if you want to have all that life has to offer, dig into that place where everything is kept and demand the gold rather than the lead that weighs you down. The externals of your life are usually a reflection of what is going on inside of your own head. Don’t bury that treasure, use it!

Heave ho!


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I Had To F%#$ This Up!

HHS Soccer
Not exactly the right year but the shorts tell the story!

I was in 8th grade and my school soccer team was playing against North Warren.  They were the only team that had beaten us all season.  It was late in the game and the score was still tied.  Someone passed me the ball as I was wide open in front of the unprotected goal.  I shot the ball and it sailed over the goal.  It almost defied physics!  I was so close to the goal that missing seems as though it was harder to do than scoring.  The memory of that shot is almost 30 years old and it still bugs me a little bit.  All of these years later though, I’ve come to realize that I had to miss that shot.  In all of our lives, there are things that we really have to f%#@ up.

No one wants to fail.  The disappointment, the shaken confidence and the negative memory are all reason enough to avoid failure.  People are always trying to give themselves the best chance for success in any endeavor.  Aiming for success is always crucial but always achieving it is both impractical and probably detrimental to future successes.

The path to where you are is probably filled with potholes, detours and the occasional breakdown.  Even though we think that we want a smooth and clear path to our destination, most of the fire that we have in our belly comes from past failures.  Learning how to live through and overcome failure are key ingredients to a growth mindset.  Although we live in a physical world, the beginning of almost everything in our lives starts in our mental world.  That is the space where failure can be taken, molded and turned into a stepping stone for future success.  I’m sure that you want whatever you’re working on right now to be a great success and I hope that it is.  However what if you need to F%#@ this up to succeed later.  Part of the equation is that you really want to succeed but recognize in the long term f%#@ ups are part of the equation too.

Give it your all today!



The Chewing Tobacco Solution

tobaccoMy cousin who is fifteen years older than me used to go on vacations with my family each summer.  At the time, I was a teenager and he was in his early thirties with a very successful career in retail.  Despite my seemingly inferior station in life, I was able to change his life for the positive with little more than a few words.  I’m hoping that the process can give some hints about making big changes in your life.

It was completely unintentional but it sticks out in my memory as if it were scripted out.  My cousin was and is pretty fanatical about health and fitness.  He would run everyday, do push-ups and sit-ups in order to maintain his chiseled physique.  Despite this relentless pursuit of fitness, he had a habit that seemed out of place to me.  He used chewing tobacco daily.  It wasn’t anything that particularly bothered me.  I had friends who used it.  The thing that felt out of place was that it seemed contrary to all that he valued.  So as we were driving home from North Carolina and he got his spit bottle ready for his next lip full of tobacco, I made the simple statement.  “It seems odd to me that you do that.  You are so healthy in all other parts of your life but you do something that you know is horrible for you.  I just don’t understand.”  That was all that it took.  He didn’t tell me until much later that he had quit using tobacco and that was the reason.

Many of our decisions break down to the story that we tell ourselves about ourselves.  It could be true or it could be bullshit.  The main thing is that the story is effective at moving life forward in a positive manner.  The reason why my simple statement was able to change my cousin so quickly was that it showed an inconsistency in his story about himself.  In that situation, I knew his story about himself and showed him how the tobacco didn’t fit.  People want to stay consistent with the image that they have of themselves.  That’s the entire reason why the term “midlife crisis” exists.  Men (usually) make poor decisions in order to maintain an image that they have of themselves as young, cool, etc.

The first step to changing a behavior in yourself or someone else is to know the person’s story.  What is an identity that they want to uphold at all costs?  Is their family the center of their world?  Do they think of themselves as an athlete?  Do they think of themselves as successful?  Once you know the story, take that thing that needs changing and flip it against their story about themselves.  I keep saying they but I really want you to do this to yourself.  So if your family is extremely important but you are obese, then you actually don’t care about them very much.  If you truly cared, you’d do your best to guarantee that you’ll be around for them.  The combinations of stories and behaviors is infinite.

The key is to find the one that works.  Results are what we are after, not an excuse to feel bad about one’s self.  Your mind can play tricks on you.  It is time for you to play tricks on it to help you get where you want to go.  The possibilities of your tomorrow need to be forged in the thoughts that you have today.

Have a great day!


The Survivors of the Mental World War

mindworldThis morning on my run I was listening to the Inside Quest interview of Carol Dweck.  Her book “Mindset” is one that I have not read yet but has been suggested to me over and again.  The basic idea is that of a “fixed mindset” versus a “growth mindset”.  People who believe that their intelligence or skills are set and cannot be improved upon have a fixed mindset.  While a person with a growth mindset believes that they are always able to improve in any given area.  Although this is an oversimplification it gives a basic understanding of her thesis.  The effect of each mindset is astounding and either can be developed largely without the person’s knowledge.  The fixed mindset puts emphasis on the outward appearance of skill rather than the internal development of skill.

For some reason listening to this conversation about growth and fixed mindset started me thinking about the present international economic situation.  The European Union in particular has had a tumultuous period because some of their member nations seem to have a growth mindset: Germany especially.  While others seem to be contented with their situation as it is with little thought of growth.  It seems almost odd that Germany, a country that has twice “lost”  World Wars would be an economic leader.  However when compared with a country like the United States, it becomes clear that “winning” and being a “super power” can lead to a fixed mindset.  After the end of the Cold War, the extrinsic competition no longer existed.  Therefore a conservative fixed mindset seeks to maintain a position of authority rather than progress for its own good.  Perhaps wars should not be won but rather survived.

In no way am I a pacifist but I’m also not sure that war should have a winner.  Everyone loses: lives, money, peace of mind, land and the list stretches on for all sides of a war.  People, land and nations survive wars, they don’t truly win or lose them.  I’ve never studied history in a German school but I’m confident that their historical loses are the exact reason why they are thriving because first they had to survive.  Survival is an instinct that runs deep within the human spirit.  Once we get above the line of survival, we look to improve life incrementally.  When survival is assured, comfort is readily accessible and no “enemies” seem to threaten that station, it easy to develop a fixed mindset of protecting that which we have acquired.

The problem is that there seems to be a new “World War” coming and the combatants will not be nations but rather individuals.  Each of us will be challenged to either grow or be the cog in someone else’s machine.  The industrial revolution gave mass production to the world and allowed a few key bosses to give direction to the masses.  It was a system that was based in a fixed mindset.  That system is disintegrating and the new one requires people to be human and think progressively.  The growth mindset will be required to survive in the world’s new economy.  The US or Germany or any other set of people can survive the “Mental World War” if they realize that it is never over.  Even if drones are farming our food and jobs in the traditional sense are obsolete, we need to hold fast to the idea that there are only three positions in the world: dying, surviving and thriving.  It is important to remember while thriving that you got there not by doing what you’ve always done but pushing for better at all times.

Be better today than you were yesterday!