As a father of two teenagers, I recognize that I have a limited window in which I am still their primary caretaker. At a certain point, they will take care of themselves. It’s the eventuality that parents tend to both desire and lament. The children that they have raised since birth, no longer need them. The work has already been done. Now the results are all that are left!
The same is true for almost any goal. The life of it begins with control, care and influence but eventually we have to let go! Our actions are all that we can take care of. They are the children of our life. At a certain point, the results take care of themselves. We’d all love to believe that we can WILL a result to fruition. The only thing that we do is care for the actions that lead to results.
If you want your goals to mature, you need to take care of your actions consistently. Otherwise they will be hanging around in your basement, depleting your resources and shadows of lost potential.
My grandmother worked at a roller rink for my entire childhood. Despite that fact, I didn’t get “good” at roller skating until there was a rink in my hometown. For a few months, at most a year, it was the place for every teenager to hang out on a Friday night. I definitely got slapped across the face for skating “too close” to a girl by my then girlfriend but I digress! Putting wheels on our feet is a recipe for disaster in so many ways but it’s similar to the way we travel through the world.
Most of us are off balance and uncomfortable but trying our best to look cool and not fall flat on our faces. Some people really have it all figured out but they often get ridiculed for trying too hard or being odd. There’s probably a portion of each of us that’s jealous of those roller maestros but getting really good would probably require a ton of experimentation and painful falls. In the end, it’s easier to stay safe and average rather than get really good at something that could prove to be a fad or get us ridiculed. Why chance it, right?
The truth is that most of the people that you’re worried about judging you for falling on your face are just as scared and will be gone in a moment. The people who came with you will help you get up if they can. If they’re off balance too maybe it’s best that they focus on themselves. You’re more than capable of getting back in your feet by yourself! All you have is an unpredictable number of songs to get in your number of laps around the floor. The disco ball is spinning and this is your chance to shine. It will surely hurt when you fall but it will probably hurt worse at the end of the night if you just played it safe!
Keeping things alive is often the order of the day. If you’re a parent of a newborn, it’s directive number one. Farmers need to keep their crops alive through nourishment and protection. CEOs and other employees are charged with keeping their company alive. CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) is a last heroic effort to save someone who is dying. It’s not a long term plan. It’s a last ditch effort! Because it’s coming from the outside! However the mechanism that is in place within your chest keeps your heart beating for a lifetime because it is designed to do so. Our dreams can work very similarly. They are easier to keep alive from within rather than from outside.
Despite the simplicity of this statement, most of us still want CPR on our dreams. We want other people, “the world” or circumstances to align in order to keep our dreams alive. The problem is that just like regular CPR, it is only a short term answer. We need to keep our dreams alive through a Continuous Passion Reinvestment. Passion is an emotional state that can breed life into almost any project but it cannot be an occasional thing! The passion for that dream needs to come as Continuously as possible. The last piece is a Reinvestment. Small successes along the way are not particularly times over-celebrate, the energy needs to be reinvested back into the project. It’s not over! Most dreams are lifelong pursuits. So never think that the heart can stop beating. It needs to be healthy and thriving.
No matter the acronym that you want to use, you need keep your dreams alive and thriving. No one else will care enough to do it for you! It needs to be like a heartbeat. Otherwise it’s just a lot of chest-pounding that may or may not do anything. The inside is where it starts!
When I played soccer in college during my freshman year, there was a player on the team from the Gambia named Ousman (pronounced “ooze mahn”). He was relatively quiet but an absolutely amazing player who had a rocket of a shot. Being in a new country for the first time, he did not always socialize with the team outside of practices and games. The one time that I do remember him hanging around someone asked about whether we were getting the pronunciation of his name right. The question “What do you say when people ask what your name is?” His response “I usually say ‘Call me Mike'”. His rationale to us was that it was easier for people to say. Even now, I’m not sure if he was joking or not because he only played that one year. However that incident came back to me this morning.
The strategy that Ousman used, is one that we all use from time to time. Change who you are in order to make others feel more comfortable. I’ll admit fully that I am guilty of it regularly. Now some of this cannot be escaped in the civilized world. We should not be our 100% authentic selves. Many of us would be walking around with wet pants etc. if we just reacted to our every impulse in the moment. More of what I’m talking about here is the tendency to be a “watered down” version of ourselves. Those little things that we do in order to fit in but that undermine who we are. The comfort that is gained usually doesn’t serve either person. Again, there’s a balance to be struck in all things but I am reminded of the passage by Marianne Williamson “Our greatest fear” (below). We do not serve others by playing small.
There is nothing wrong with being “Mike” if that’s who you truly are. However, if you’re Ousman, Fred, Ignacious, Isabel, Fahruz or anyone else, then don’t pretend to be Mike for the sake of others. Your individuality carries with it the power to inspire others and unhinge the doors that separate us. Perhaps the true incarnation of yourself will be too much for some people and that’s ok also. Our job in this life is not to fit in as well as possible. All of the people that you admire are held in that esteem because they do not fit in. They stand out! Embrace who you are because until you do, no one else has the opportunity to do so.
My name is Pete!
Our Greatest Fear —Marianne Williamson
it is our light not our darkness that most frightens us
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.
We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other
people won’t feel insecure around you.
We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, Our presence automatically liberates others.
Recognize as you begin to read that I am fully aware that Bill Gates has far more advantages over me. However, if all you do is dismiss the points below, then you forfeit access to the gift that comes from reading to the bottom.
Years – Bill Gates probably doesn’t have as many years left on the planet as I do. It’s possible that I could have some tragic accident but in lifespan possibility, I have the upper hand.
Scrutiny – I have the major advantage of fewer eyeballs watching. When I make a mistake, it’s possible that no one knows or is affected. When Bill makes a blunder, it’s possible that it could be broadcast worldwide.
Expectation – Uncle Bill has far more people counting on him for their livelihood and well-being. He’s also set the bar extremely high for himself. Sure! He can kick back and vacation for the rest of his life but any project that he takes on needs to be epic.
Villains – It’s far easier for me ward off leeches and frenemies because there are very few people in this world looking to sponge off of someone at my station in life. Mr. Gates, on the other hand, probably has a team of people who are in charge of defending, deflecting and disabling threats inside and outside his circles.
Ceilings – Billy boy has far less room to improve in his areas of core competence. He’s already been the “best in the world” at one point. The chances of his returning to that level is unlikely.
Obviously these are all based on the simple premise of finding the weakness in something that most people would consider a strength. With the exception of time which is an opponent that we all must face; fame, responsibility and talent are all things that people desire. Am I just trying to blow sunshine up my own rear end? Hardly! This is an exercise in perspective. It’s an extreme one to be sure. Finding the chinks in the armor of someone who revolutionized the computing world and is now a humanitarian isn’t easy. However, each of us has our own advantages and disadvantages. One of the greatest is our own perspective. Rich people make themselves poor, strong people make themselves weak and beloved people feel alone because of their perspective on what they see from the world. The reverse can also be true and any gradient in between.
So it’s really on us! We have to see the world in a way that helps us move forward or lifts us up rather than holds us back. There’s evidence for both. If you look long enough, you’ll find all of the reasons why you’re disadvantaged, unlikely to succeed and useless! The same is also true that if you look long enough, you’ll find all of the reasons why you’re special, a juggernaut of talent and resourceful! It’s all in the perspective that you decide to take and no matter what anyone else tells you, you can discount them. It’s all happening upstairs! So whether you’re Bill Gates or not, you’ve got advantages that need to be used for the betterment of your life and the people that you care about. See them, believe them and be them!
Think differently! (whoops isn’t that an Apple thing?)
At a very young age, I started helping my mom bake. In the beginning, my brothers and I were given the ability to use the cookie cutters to make our favorite designs for Christmas cookies. Eventually, we added ingredients, used the mixer and all other jobs associated. My comfort in a kitchen probably comes from the fact that I’ve been doing it for so long. There are sometimes when my mom would have to follow a recipe and others when she would just “wing it” because she’d done it so many times before. After years of baking, she had all of the basic ingredients at the ready and specialty items were available when the recipe called for it. The kitchen had a spice everything that it needed. Our job was simply to add the right amount of each ingredient to get the desired result.
Life surprisingly is about the same. The problem is that most of us have gotten so used to making the same recipe that we don’t ever set ourselves up for much else. There are certain items in both baking and life that are almost always going to show up.
Flour, salt and sugar– Much like breathing, drinking and eating; these are constants in almost every single successful recipe. The question is how much and the quality of that ingredient. It’s possible to get by with poor quality in all of these but the end product is bound to suffer. Getting these right won’t particularly win you a place on the podium at the county bake-off but it can balance out mistakes in smaller quantity ingredients.
Other Ingredients– Taking on a new recipe requires looking at the list of ingredients and making sure that you have what you need. Often in life, we’ve gotten so used to making the same things, day in and day out. We never even consider or conceptualize the fact that life could be any different. The thought of breaking from that which we did yesterday is not considered because we are largely on autopilot. We are running a thought, emotion and action program that we’ve run for years possibly decades. Humans have thousands of thoughts everyday. The problem is that most of the thoughts that we are having today are the same ones that we had yesterday and the day before. The same thoughts and emotions largely lead to the same actions. Therefore change is highly unlikely unless something breaks us from our cycle. This is why traumatic events often lead to people making life altering shifts. It breaks the cycles of familiarity but we don’t need or particularly want trauma to change.
The other ingredients that are crucial to deliberate change are meditation and visualization. They do not particularly have to come in that order but both are necessary. Meditation is critical, especially today, because we need to regain control of the mind. With all that is being thrown at us in the way of stimuli, we need to take the time to detach from all of the demands that others have for our attention and put it back into the moment. If we are able to detach from all of the noise outside and get our mind quiet and it is more possible to inject new thoughts and emotional patterns.
Visualization is also a key ingredient for change because we need to be able to see a new future in our mind’s eye before it shows up in reality. The world is full of secondhand products because almost everything had to be created in the mind of someone first. The phone or laptop that you’re reading this on was an idea before it became reality. The words that I’m writing. The wire that’s carrying electricity to the light bulb where you are. It was all conceived in the mind first. If you are able to get your mind still, then focus it intently on the things that you want, you’re more likely to see that end product arrive. Of course there is action to be done! Since the thoughts and feelings need to fall into place first, they are the necessary step that brings about the action.
There are so many possible outcomes for a day. Like baking a cake, cookies or any other thing, it is your job to take the ingredients that you have and put it together into something palatable. If your situation is distasteful then you need to envision something else and take action in that direction. The ingredients cannot put itself together. That’s your job and you’ll continue to get the same old, same old until you’re willing to see something different inside of your mind.
Not sure if it was a term that was used anywhere else in the world or just in my neighborhood. A slow pitch down the middle of the plate that was primed for being smacked out of the park was called a “meatball”. Definitely not my term but it worked for elementary school kids to get their point across to each other. Sometimes a meatball was an accident and other times it was given. Regardless, you were always thankful for a meatball when it came your way. In the adult world, there aren’t many meatballs served up by the universe. That’s not the way that it works. The universe serves up opportunities, not sure things!
It’s an interesting situation in which we live! On the one hand, we’d love for things to be easy but we inherently know that something won easily is valued little. So we’re caught in some level of false hope. The hope is that big prizes are going to come to us with little effort, the lottery mentality! Unfortunately, it’s a hope that is rarely if ever realized. It is far less likely than the “meatballs” that we were sometimes served up on the playground. So if meatballs aren’t coming, can we embrace the idea that hard fast curving pitches are coming our way? That life is going to challenge us each and every time that we step up to the plate? It’s much better disposition to take because the anticipation of a meatball makes the fastball overwhelming. However, when you’re prepared for that big league style pitch, your possibility to hit it goes up and the meatballs (if they come) are welcome gift.
The opportunities are coming your way but that doesn’t mean that they will be prepackaged perfection! More than likely, they are going to challenge you in some way, shape or form. Be ready for it! Embrace it! Don’t anticipate the meatball because it takes no talent to crush it. You’re also going to feel less satisfaction about it than you will for that amazing pitch that you hit out of the park anyway!
Not sure if I’ve mentioned it before but for a few years now, my unofficial theme song has been “The Fixer” by Pearl Jam. It was a huge departure from my old one “Paranoid” by Ozzy Osbourne but… changing times! What can I say? I’m not even fully sure if theme song is the right name for it. The Fixer is just a song that partially encapsulates the way that I like to think of myself. Despite the fact that The Fixer is my “theme song”, there’s a completely different one that I’d choose as my ring entrance song. “The Pretender” by Foo Fighters… man! I must really like definite articles! Regardless there’s a different feeling to the song that encompasses you generally versus what you need to hear before moments of action.
Despite the fact that we are singular human beings with one consciousness, there are different versions of us that show up in each moment. Maintaining consistency across all facets of life would be both difficult and problematic. Being the person that you are with your best friend might be counterproductive with your father-in-law. The music of our lives would need to change with the situation. It’s not a question of inauthenticity. Each song to be played could represent a true disposition or emotion for the moment. Unfortunately the way that humans are wired means that songs that we play more often become easier to access. If we go through a prolonged period of playing sad songs, it’s completely possible that one becomes a generalized “theme song” without us meaning for it to be. The buttons on the Juke Box get conditioned to play those songs that may or may not be the greatest hits. If it were the radio, your iTunes or Spotify, that was continuously playing songs that you didn’t like, you’d probably change the station, playlist, etc. It’s not always that easy with our brains! So many of our systems are on autopilot that we sometimes forget to question whether that is getting us where we want to go. Are the songs in your head creating a life that’s a symphony or a mosh pit? I’m not judgmental! Sometimes the mosh pit is exactly where you want to be. But take note and decide!
If you’re in need of action, it’s probably not time for Franks Sinatra! If you’re in need of joy, it’s probably not time for the Cure. If you’re in need of depth, it’s probably not time for Katrina and the Waves. There’s a way that you need to be showing up in this moment of your life. Perhaps you’ve got on the wrong theme song! Give some thought to where you are and where you’re going, get the playlist ready and turn it up (or down)! You’re playing a complex concert with so many different audience members and venues. The set list isn’t always going to be perfect and you might even get booed offstage. Just be sure that you’re not lip syncing your way through life!
It’s a line from a largely unintelligible called “New Noise” by Refused. Despite being completely wrong for the time period that was portrayed in the movie, it featured in the film Friday Night Lights. The words are powerful once understood past the screaming. Good frames won’t save bad paintings! A frame is nothing more than an accessory. It’s not the point and never will be. Although this fact may be extremely self evident, people do their own version of it all the time. They spend a majority of time and effort on the things that are not truly the point but justify it to themselves as important. This is not a judgmental thing as usual. My finger is not wagging at anyone. I’ve done it before. Spending minutes, hours, days on the least important component because I’m afraid to focus on the truth. This painting sucks! Since I’m not a painter, that would be true.
Recognizing that your painting is shit will get you so much farther than putting a great frame around it! By accepting the fact that it is not your masterpiece, you have the chance to improve it. Ignoring the painting in favor of the superfluous is a waste of time and it fools no one. So why then would anyone engage in this foolishness? Because we’re not actually worried about the painting being garbage. It’s us! We’re trying to protect ourselves from the self-scrutiny! We do not want to look into that other framed rectangle that shows back exactly who we are. Whether the mirror is figurative or literal, we find it difficult to stare at because it’s us that’s imperfect and we know it.
Let me fill you in on a secret, you’re never going to be perfect. No one is! Despite that fact, you have the opportunity to be a masterpiece. It probably will take a long time to get it right. Several different iterations and tweaks will be necessary. But that’s the point! Don’t try and shortcut yourself by settling for being a bad painting in an excellent frame. Be the masterpiece that we all know that you can be!
Spring has definitively sprung and the ticks are everywhere! In the past twenty-four hours alone, I’ve removed six from my body. Despite the fact that they are my jumping off point for this post, it is actually the song by Tool that is the inspiration. Even though the song is about people who are parasites, the line “this is what you wanted” is overwhelmingly powerful at the moment. How many times in life do we think that we want something? Only to end up getting exactly what we asked for and being disappointed, frustrated or angry. It’s obviously happened to enough people that it’s now cliche, “be careful what you wish for.” It’s usually not the full package that we lament but rather the unexpected side-effects or difficulties.
Life offers up a myriad of possibilities but each of them comes with costs, circumstances or even problems attached. Like ticks and leeches, these parasites that we didn’t anticipate can drain us. We forget about that thing that we wanted and only see the difficulties when we notice them hanging on. It’s not easy! Our imaginations don’t usually include all of the issues that are coming along for the ride. Regardless though, this is what you wanted! You don’t get to line item veto out all the unwanted circumstances. They’re along for the ride!
So now the time has come to accept the fact that, this is what you wanted! You wanted all of it! Ticks, leeches, problems, chaos and anything else because it can’t be separated out. Your desire for a perfect life has nothing to do with reality. That’s just not the way that it works. Perhaps you can find a way to get the parasites to work for you or even learn to love them for what they do. It’s a major shift in thought process but it’s far better than being disappointed with a reality that should be expected.