As we are moving past the time when most people have given up on their New Year’s Resolutions, I offer this subtle reminder. THIS IS WHAT YOU WANTED. It is sometimes a difficult thing to swallow. Goals and resolutions are pretty and shiny when we create them. Everything will go great! You’ll be able to maintain this level of excitement until you get to the end! The problem is that we usually forget or don’t know the following.
When you set up a goal or make a resolution it is much like ordering your favorite dessert. For me that would be the classic chocolate milkshake. Unfortunately you forgot to read the fine print. Before you will be served your delicious dessert, you have an appetizer of pain coming. That will be followed by a main course of discipline with self-sacrifice sauce and side order of humility. Once you are able to choke down those mammoth size helpings of something that YOU DIDN’T ORDER, you’ll finally get that thing that you wanted.
Just remember that THIS IS WHAT YOU WANTED, all of it is part of the deal. Embrace it. You’ll actually find at some point halfway through the main course that you like the taste of it. Those things that you overlooked on the menu are actually something that you want for yourself. The problem is that most people retreat too early because THIS IS NOT WHAT I WANTED! At the end of the meal you’ll have to settle up the check. If you stuffed yourself full with meal and goal, the bill is paid with PRIDE. If you left your meal unfinished, then you have a debt of REGRET that is difficult to wipe away.
Decide on what you want from the menu!
In kindergarten (at least according to my recollection), I was the fastest kid in Mrs. Palma’s class. The reason that I know this is that we often had races across the blacktop outside of the classroom. I won everyone that I ran in. Although my memory is extremely fuzzy about that time period, I can make this statement for a few reasons with little fear of repercussion. First, it’s possible that it is true. I definitely wasn’t the slowest in the class. Second, everyone else’s memory is probably as fuzzy if not fuzzier than mine. Finally and most important, IT DOESN’T MATTER! While this may have been extremely relevant over thirty years ago, it’s importance has taken a nose dive down to zero.
Throughout our lives we re-calibrate the things that we build our self-esteem around. In a young person’s world, the focus is almost exclusively on short term races. Winning, the game, getting the right answer, having the newest outfit and other activities are momentary wins that give a quick burst of self-esteem. Most are not meant to be long lasting nor remembered years later. They are the icing on the cake because most of your life is about other things.
The real substance of life is made up by those things that we do on a regular basis. The more generalized self-esteem comes from all of the little things. Those thoughts, words and actions make us either proud or disappointed in who we are as people. It is not a competition to be better than someone else but rather a verification that we are living up to our own principles. Through the years the layers of who we are can either become a cake filled with robust flavor or a turd that needs to be covered in icing to hide its true taste. These are not the only two options but reality’s limits are informed by the extremes.
So the daily choice comes down to you. Choose who it is that you want to be and take the time to deliberately define the ingredients that you’ll allow into your life. Or use any icing that you can find in order to cover up the distaste that you have for yourself. Unfortunately both work but the latter will leave you malnourished and unable to run the long race of life with anything more than fits and spurts. Everyone needs to feel good about themselves but a life made mainly of fluff will most likely not sustain.
It was an absolute revelation! Never before and not since had I ever seen a short part of a movie and instantly gone to Blockbuster to rent it (Even more difficult to do now that BB is out of business). The movie was Swingers and the scene was when Mike’s friends are trying to help him with his abilities talking to women. The scene is mildly inconsequential but the idea could be life changing.
Mike had just failed at an attempt to make conversation with a girl at a bar. He returns to his friends dejected, saying that “she didn’t like me.” His friends, Trent and Sue (a guy), explain that he’s a bigger catch than he thinks (in a much more comical way). They compare him to a bear and the girl to a bunny. Armed with this new perspective and self-image, he goes back up to the girl and is able to get her phone number. Watch the clip for the full picture.
This scene was extremely helpful from two perspectives. First, I got a clearer picture of how I was presenting myself in those situations. Second, I recognized that in those situations, the girl was not rejecting me but rather her perception of me. I could do some things to influence that perception but ultimately accepted or rejected, it was only a perception.
The only person who knows every single: thought, action and intention of yours is you. Keep that in mind at all times. Your life is going to be filled with people who will pass judgment on their perception of you, not the real you. So choose deliberately who you will and will not allow to affect your perception of yourself. It’s the most important relationship that you have, so know yourself as best as you can. Maintain a positive relationship and know yourself well enough to be able to predict your own behavior. When someone gets the wrong idea about you, consider their perspective but only let them change your perspective on you if it’s in your interest, not particularly theirs.
You’re a big bear man!
Sometimes the hardest things to see are those that are right in front of you. Your nose is always front and center but most of us don’t pay it any mind. The reason why we tend to forget about it is because it is always there. Our brains tend to discard or ignore those things that can be taken for granted. Air, light, food, water, friends, opportunity, etc. are just a beginning to the list of things that we take for granted each day. This is not to say that we should be spending major amounts of time contemplating air in a recreational effort. It is simply to point out that your brain is working at all times to determine what is worth your attention and what is not. This ability to ignore the inconsequential is wonderful until it isn’t. As they say, the dose makes the poison.
Although our brains were originally designed to act in our best interest, the operating system has not been updated in a long time. So if you do not intervene on your own behalf, your brain will protect you from things that are no longer relevant. Most of the fear and anxiety that you feel is supposed to keep you from being eaten by a bear or be kicked out of the tribe. The latter is more relevant than the former but both need to oversight. On its default settings, your brain will keep you alive and partially comfortable in the modern world. If you are looking for more than that, then you need to be more deliberate about the things that you see.
The invisible nose is just a representation of the things that you’re ignoring. More important things are out there that you should be aggressively pursuing but you just don’t see them. Opportunities pass you by or better yet you pass them by regularly. The reason is that you’re not programmed to notice them. That’s not safe! Stay where it’s comfortable! Don’t stand out! Don’t fail! These are all things that your brain screams subliminally everyday. Unless you take control and look for that which is most important to you. Those things may not be as obvious as you want them to be. Although they might be directly in front of you, they may be buried under a pile of societal and personal hard-wiring. Hacking your way through that will be difficult, time consuming and totally worth it once you’re on the other side.
So I’ve give you permission. Look at the world with fresh eyes and endeavor to see everything. Hack away at the beliefs that no longer make sense. Filter your vision to look for the ideal rather than the real. Your past low expectations will be there to catch you if you fall. It starts with a moment and builds from there. Make this your first moment!
Have a great day!
The world seems to be in a never-ending search for balance. While finding this balance is difficult it seems to come most naturally from the pull of opposing forces rather than the migration toward a middle ground. Magnetism, life cycles and so many other phenomena are based on the polarity of their systems. At a certain point human beings should be anticipating the balancing forces of nature but instead we seem to fight it at every turn. Such is the case with learning, especially in the modern world. I’ve encapsulated this concept using the fast moving but rigid rails of trains. The other part to the idea consists of trails which are more free-form. Until recently I was not able to articulate the balance inside of my own head or for outward expression.
Intuitively I know that the education system is at best flawed and at worst broken. Much like the rails of the train, it can only go to specific destinations and relies heavily on schedules and uniformity. There may be first class and express ticket options available but the destinations are largely the same. The conductors of this system scoff at those who travel by any other means because they’ve become so enamored with their efficiency that they accept its limitations.
The trailblazers on the other hand see a total lack of freedom on the rails. Despite their much slower rate of speed, they find joy in the terrain. The rocks, trees, streams and other impediments are part of the experience of doing it on your own. In the learning space, the free-form approach is looked down upon because its progress is haphazard and difficult to measure. Starting a business, project, movement, etc. and failing can be an extremely valuable experience but lacks the quantifiable data that the traditional system requires.
At no time in history has it ever been more apparent that both approaches are needed in some form of personal balance. A person who spends their entire life on the rails will be frustrated by the world that now requires them to do more than “follow directions”. Equally the person who is used to the DIY approach will become frustrated by their interactions with traditional agencies that have protocols and procedures.
So as you, personally, go into the future recognize when the rails will move you forward quicker and when the depth of trails will truly satisfy. Understand that just because you prefer one or the other does not make it the best way to travel. Learning is a lifelong pursuit that needs your oversight. Hybrid your way forward and never doubt that product that you’re working on is you!
Learn today to be better tomorrow.
I remember it all too plainly. Sitting in a cramped seat on an airplane flying back from Europe after almost a month of traveling with my best friend. We had attended five games of the World Cup and visited a slew of sites and cities. It was truly one of the greatest times of my life! However on the plane ride back I repeatedly listened to the song “The God of Wine” by Third Eye Blind. Despite the amazing experiences that I’d just had, I was heading back into a world that I could feel was going to hurt me. For some reason this premonition got stuck within this song and I can return to any time that I hear the song.
The trip ended up being a deathblow to the multiple year relationship that I had forecast in my head to be “the one”. Returning home should have been a step back into a world of known entities but instead it was foreign. My girlfriend informed me that things were over on the night that I got back. Our plans to move in together and any other future we had were now gone. In many ways I was homeless. The person and the future that I had put at the center of my universe were both gone and picking up those pieces was going to be difficult. I’d love to say that the resilient part of me kicked in and I made instantaneous progress. Quite the opposite, there was a long period of self-doubt, reflection and possibly some depression. In the end I found myself sobered by the experience. The song is like a time capsule where I get to travel back to who I was. Looking back on that time I realize how appropriate the song was to the moment. In many senses I was intoxicated by the future that I wanted from the situation. I was running my life under the influence of what I wanted to happen but not acting in a way that was going to get me there. The crash was inevitable.
So as we all move forward it is most important for us to keep our hands on the wheel, foot poised near the brake or accelerator and eyes on the road. Issues arise when the idea of the destination overrides the moments of driving. The process is where we spend most of our time. Yet we allow where we want to be supersede where we are. Remember not to fall in love with your future so much that you forget to live in your present. There signs you must follow and detours you’ll need to take along your route. Becoming intoxicated with your picture of the future may just end you up in a ditch!
Drive safely 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!
The sport of skiing is one that I did not acquire until I was well into my twenties. My wife took me for the first time while we were engaged. I enjoy it but because I learned to ski later in life, I feel a certain amount of hesitance about pushing my limits. Skiing is an activity that allows for a good amount of self-policing. Generally speaking, there are no official representatives of the mountain telling you what trails to take. You need to have enough self-awareness to know if you’re a green circle, a blue square or a black diamond. Incorrectly gauging your level could have disastrous consequences. Despite this possible peril, most people make it down the mountain unscathed because they accurately police themselves.
It is amazing to me that in certain areas, the idea of self-awareness is ingrained and almost automatic. While in other places people are seemingly unable to see themselves at all. Perhaps it is the number of variables in the given situation. Or it is the perceived risk of bodily, emotional or social harm. Whether it is in sports, dating, business, school or any other area, we all know someone who does not know their own level. Either they think they’re an expert when they’re truly a novice. Or they think they should be on the bunny hill when they could truly handle or deserve so much more of an experience. Regardless of the situation, there are rewards to reaped from self-awareness.
So where do you belong in a particular area that means something to you? Are you a green, a blue or a black diamond? Take a real look inward and decide where you think you belong? Then take your self-assessment and bring it to people that you trust. Depending on the area, it may be worth it to take it to the streets and see what the common person thinks. Regardless of the outcome, the exercise is valuable because a map of Chicago is worthless if you’re lost in New York. Having a knowledge of where you are is a key component to getting where you want to go. Denial is not a strategy for progress.
So go out there and hit the slopes!
At one point in my educational career, transparencies were the height of technology. By today’s standards they are obsolete but at the time they were extremely helpful. The ability to manipulate and project for a group to see was used daily. My most vivid memories of them were from history class. A territory could be shown with a variety of borders and other influencers. Depending on the transparency that was placed onto the territory, a force like the Roman Empire could be all encompassing or completely inconsequential. The territory was always the same but the translucent lines of borders and boundaries changed. Even though the transparency projectors have all but disappeared, the influence of invisible and imaginary lines has not.
They are truly all around us, the transparent lines that often direct our lives. The boundary lines, goal lines, bottom lines, traffic lines and party lines are subtly informing our every day experience. So many different ways that we can choose to box ourselves in or direct our movement by using these lines. The issue comes when the lines become walls that imprison.
Many of us have constructs that we have developed or have been developed for us. Some are almost invisible until we look for them. For example you are reading this blog in English. If it is your first language, it changes the way that you look at the world compared to other languages. A simple sentence like “I dropped the plate.” illustrates the point. There is an underlying sense of responsibility attached to action because of the subject “I”. Conversely the Spanish representation of the situation, “Se me cayó el plato.” literally translates to “The plate fell from me.” For better or worse, the influence of simple things such as this can monumental and often taken for granted. So the first step is to recognize as many of the lines that are influencing you as you can. Then decide what makes sense.
When you peel back the layers of transparencies from your life, you will most likely find things that you’ve taken for granted that just don’t make sense. Driving on the right side of the road may be a useful constraint to keep. However there are probably others that can be amended or dropped in order to better service you in the pursuit of what you want today. Perhaps you’ve always believed that you’re not smart, that planning isn’t important, that sex is REALLY important, that you need to make it on your own or a million other things. Maybe you’ll keep most of your beliefs but it is worth the examination to see if you’ve painted yourself into a corner with beliefs that don’t make sense anymore. If you want to be a millionaire but think that making minimum wage is the best you can do, you’ve got a problem. Do the lines that you’ve painted for yourself point you in the direction that you want to be going?
Physically, mentally and emotionally; what do you believe about yourself, people and the world? Write it down in your notebook, iPhone, laptop or anything else that works for you. Then pick through it to see what you’re keeping, tweaking or tossing. It’s up to you to clean up whatever mess you might have. If you’re honest in your assessment, you’ll be able to see through the person that you need to read better than anyone else: yourself.
Go get your hands dirty boys and girls!
The average person has probably never been on a horse. It’s not as common as it once was. For close to a century the horse has been replaced by machines that are more predictable, reliable and economical. The one thing that these replacement vehicles are not, is natural. Machines tend to act like machines. However because of our close association with them over the past century, we have begun to think in mechanical terms. The old relationship with the horse was one that can teach us so much about our own lives.
While horses can be domestic animals, it is not their natural state. It takes work! Daily work is required to take a massive animal and make it ride-able. The later in life that this training starts, the more that the horse will resist because it is set in its ways. Work with a horse for years but then leave it alone for a few months and the effects will be noticeable. Its natural tendency is to buck, kick and fight being mounted. The horse is not going to be ridden without a plan and consistent action to make it possible. It is just like life.
We’ve automated and simplified so many things that a human life may not seem very natural anymore. Despite all of our attempts to domesticate life, it is not going to go along without a plan and consistent action. There is no single purchase that you can make which will make the rest of your life a breeze. Life is supposed to buck, kick and fight you at times. It will most likely come at the times where you’ve neglected something that needed your attention because natural things always do.
So for today, get back on the horse. Start training it again. Be prepared to be bucked. It’s the way it’s supposed to be. So enjoy it!