Get Off of the Fence

I should (fill in the blank) but I’ll wait until tomorrow. If you’ve said this today, or even in the last week, you’re fence-sitting. Why? What are you waiting on? The perfect day, better weather, the right mood, greener grass? How has that worked out for you in the past?

If you don’t like where you are, you have two choices – accept it and live with it or take action and change it. No one is coming to save you from your circumstance. You won’t wake up tomorrow with a different life if you go to bed tonight with the same fears.

“The world is more malleable than you think and it’s waiting for you to hammer it into shape.” – Bono

Too many of us are under this grand illusion that successful living just happens; one day we just wake up and the life we want will magically take shape. It won’t. Nothing positive happens without action. Nothing.

“The best way to predict the future is to create it.” — Unknown

We only have so many years on this beautiful planet and the more time we spend wishing, hoping, and fence-sitting, the less time we have to see and do and live. We sit on the fence because we are afraid to fail. What’s so bad about trying something and failing? Every single person who has found success has failed…many times.

“Success seems to be connected with action. Successful people keep moving. They make mistakes but don’t quit.” – Conrad Hilton

So get on with it. Get off of the fence and start doing. Experience a different life. Don’t die with your bucket list unchecked. Take pictures, talk to strangers, see new places, climb mountains, swim in the ocean, start a business, ask for the promotion, work hard and do epic stuff.

Stop trying to figure it all out before you try something. Step out and take the first step. Try hard things and fail at them. Action is contagious and it feels good to exert influence on the world around you.

“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The fence will always be there, but our time is limited. We get one shot at this thing; don’t waste it. Get off of the fence and start living.

Stop Letting Emotions Dictate Your Life

The ability to overcome negative feelings and forge ahead in order to accomplish an important task is one of the most overlooked aspects of developing a strong mental attitude. Too often, we wake up in a funk and allow that feeling to persist throughout the day. It affects our mood, our mindset, and causes us to perform at a subpar level.

Perhaps we don’t wake up with a bad attitude, but then someone cuts us off in traffic, sends us a nasty email, gives us a backhanded compliment, or we get an extra helping of projects and boom…frowny face syndrome sets in.

If we are not able to shake off those negative emotions and move on with our day, it leads to lost productivity and the tragic waste of an otherwise, perfectly good day. Too many of us let our emotions control us; we let them dictate our lives. String too many of those days together and you have a real grump who’s constantly waiting for the sky to fall.

“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life. It goes on.”    – Robert Frost

Learn to identify those temporary emotions for what they really are; brief sensations that can signal anything from fear or concern to outright anger. While some of these emotions can be good, as in telling you to run from that dog that just broke away from his owner, we weren’t meant to hold on to them. Acknowledge the emotion, react if necessary and then move on (assuming the dog didn’t catch you).

Learning to focus on the bigger picture of the day without getting bogged down in the ranges of emotion that sweep through our bodies on a daily basis is the key to maintaining mental focus. We need to stop being reactive to our emotions and start being proactive with our actions…in other words, don’t let your emotions dictate actions.

“Any person capable of angering you becomes your master.”        —Epictetus

Understand your emotions for what they are and learn to recognize that they are temporary. Don’t allow them to make permanent decisions on your behalf.

Know that our feelings and emotions often lie to us. Just because we have a feeling about something or someone does not necessarily make it a reality.

Shift your focus to the task at hand and move forward. When you do, these feelings will take a back seat and eventually return to the nothingness from which they came.

Take back your life and pursue your goals with constant forward action everyday. Relentless forward progress accomplishes great things as long as you are in the drivers’ seat.

No Time For a Better Life?

One of the absolute biggest lies that we tell ourselves when we want to accomplish something is that I don’t have enough time. How is it that some people accomplish so much with their days and some of us can’t seem to get out of our own way? Obviously, much of it has to do with planning and time management.

I read a book last year called The Time Trap and it completely changed my perception of time and just how much time I was wasting on absolutely nothing but honestly if I am being truthful, it’s just easier to be lazy – not necessarily snoozing until 11 am lazy, but the spending all available free time on Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat lazy.

I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with downtime, but even our downtime has lost its purpose – resting and recharging. Spending time mindlessly scrolling through news feeds, looking at the same pictures, status updates, and taking selfies with goofy ears on our heads has replaced catching up on that novel or building that model car with your kid in the garage.

It’s easy and requires little effort, whereas signing up for that graduate course is hard. The more time we trade in for the easiness of passing time, the less time we have to accomplish worthwhile goals.

I don’t have time to work out means that I am not willing to give up and hour of sleep to improve my health and fitness.

I don’t have time to go back to school means that I am not willing to give up a few nights every week for a couple of years in order to further my career.

I don’t have time to make healthy meals means that I am not willing to give up a couple of hours to meal prep on Sunday for the week ahead. 

I don’t have time to work on my marriage means that I am not willing to sacrifice an hour every evening talking about your day to make your marriage a priority.

I don’t have time is the ultimate excuse that we use everyday to avoid the hard stuff of life. 

I don’t have time essentially means that I am not willing to sacrifice my ease of existence in order to do something that could better the lives of my family. Our perceived lack of time really boils down to avoiding the hard stuff and choosing to do the easy, mindless stuff.

“Someone once asked me “why do you always insist on taking the hard road?” and I replied “why do you assume I see two roads?”      

– Unknown

We all have 24 hours in a day, 168 hours in a week, and 8,760 hours in a year to accomplish so much more than what we think we are capable of. It isn’t about time, it’s about choices…our daily choices.

We can read books about time management, try the new diet of the month, or continue to lie to ourselves about why we aren’t where we want to be…OR we can start making different (better) choices today.

Tomorrow when you wake up, make a commitment to yourself to do one hard thing over the same easy thing that you’ve done for the past year. The more of those difficult choices that we make, the better our lives become, and even more importantly, we improve the lives of those around us.

The Power of Rejection

Most of us spend our entire lives trying to avoid rejection, but what if the answer is to embrace rejection instead of always running from it? I recently watched a Ted Talk video of Jia Jiang speaking about his experience of 100 days of rejection, where he actually sought out being turned down for random requests for 100 straight days. His requests were far from ordinary and ranged from asking a complete stranger for $100 to asking for a refill on his hamburger at a local fast food restaurant.

What he found through his 100 day experiment was that if he resisted the urge to run away from the rejection and instead embrace the uncomfortable feeling while staying engaged with the person after being turned down, that it actually was not him that they were rejecting. In most cases, this rings true for us as well. Most of us feel that when our requests are met with a flat “no”, that it is we who are being rejected rather than our request or idea.

Jiang’s experiment actually paid off on the third try when his request for donuts at the local donut shop, made into the shape and color of the olympic rings was met with a “yes, we can do that for you.” You can watch that video here.

The truth is that rejection comes in all shapes and sizes but it always feels the same; embarrassing and hurtful. We have all been rejected at some point in our life and most of us are not willing to go out and intentionally look for more of it, but what if there is something incredibly beautiful on the other side; something freeing? There is a famous quote from Steve Maraboli that says, “Every time I thought I was being rejected from something good, I was actually being redirected to something better.”

In fact we can find stories by the hundreds of company founders, product inventors, and other successful entrepreneurs who were turned down over and over again before getting to the yes that they needed. One of those is Starbucks founder, Howard Schultz who was turned down 242 times by hundreds of banks before getting to the yes that he needed to propel Starbucks into history. If he had given up after the first dozen or so rejections, we would all be drinking gas station coffee today.

My point is that while rejection can sting, it actually hurts worse if we let it stop us in our tracks. In Jiang’s experiment, one of his rejections came when he asked a stranger if he could plant a flower in his backyard (a little weird right?). The stranger said no, but then instead of walking away, Jiang asked “why”.

The stranger said, “because I have a dog in my backyard who tears everything up, so it would never last back there.” You see, he wasn’t rejecting Jiang, but he actually had a legitimate concern. In fact, he then points Jiang to his neighbor and says to ask “Carol” because she loves flowers. Guess what? There’s now a flower planted in Carol’s backyard.

Most often when we have a request turned down, the person (rejectioner?) on the other side is not rejecting us, only our idea. If, instead of walking away with our heads hung down in shame, we engage the person with a simple “why”, we could find that it leads us right to the yes that we are searching for. Be brave today and try it. What’s the worst that could happen? Maybe someone ends up with a nice flower in their backyard or perhaps you score a sweet set of Olympic-ringed donuts!

Carrying The Fire

I stumbled across a book last month titled The Road, which was written by Cormac McCarthy. In the book, a father and son are left alone to survive in a very dark and barren landscape. As they travel through unknown and sometimes hostile environments, the two rely on each other for comfort and reassurance.

The father repeatedly talks to his son about “carrying the fire”. In the world in which they live, survival is the only hope left for them.

“We’re going to be okay, arent we Papa?

Yes. We are.

And nothing bad is going to happen to us.

That’s right. Because we’re carrying the fire.

Yes. Because we’re carrying the fire.”

It’s a dark and desolate place filled with death and chaos. Along their daily path, they repeatedly encounter others who are also trying to survive, but some of these strangers are also looking to do more than survive; some are looking to capitalize on the misfortunes and mistrust of unsuspecting passersby.

In the book, “the fire” represents what is left of the good and decency of mankind; perhaps the last twinkling ember of humanity. The father navigates a razor-thin line of protecting his son from the evils of a dying world, while also teaching him morality and kindness. Throughout the book, the boy looks to his father for constant reassurance that they are still “carrying the fire” and wants to know if “they are the good guys”.

I do not want to spoil the book, should you ever decide to pick up a copy and read it for yourself (you definitely should) but the story serves as a reminder that we should always “carry the fire” and teach our children to do the same; to be watchful but maintain moral dignity and goodness.

“You wanted to know what the bad guys looked like. Now you know. It may happen again. My job is to take care of you. I was appointed to do that by God. I will kill anyone who touches you. Do you understand?

Yes.

He sat there cowled in the blanket. After a while he looked up. Are we still the good guys? he said.

Yes. We’re still the good guys.”

While the world that we live in is a much brighter place than the one depicted in this book, we face some of the same challenges. How do we protect our children and loved ones but also allow room for adventure and growth? How do we teach them to be suspicious of strangers without shutting off their ability to trust? Frederick Douglas once said that “it is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.” Children aren’t born strong just as men aren’t born defeated.

We have an awesome responsibility to our children and to the world. We must never allow awareness and curiosity to turn into indifference. We have to inspire and lead by example in every facet of our life. Our children are watching and they will follow our lead. Are we building strong children? Are we setting a good example for them to follow? Lead them, inspire them, and allow them to grow.

“You have to carry the fire.

I don’t know how to.

Yes you do.

Is it real? The fire?

Yes it is.

Where is it? I dont know where it is.

Yes you do. It’s inside you. It was always there. I can see it.”

If we don’t carry the fire, who will? If we don’t teach our children to carry it responsibly, the flame will extinguish. Be good, do good, and teach them how to carry the fire…always.

Resolutions Are Not Goals!

3 days into the New Year and I am feeling guilty that I didn’t make any resolutions. Does this mean that my 2017 is doomed to fail? Probably not, but anything is possible. Last year, I wrote a blog called The Real Reason You Should Keep Your New Year Resolutions, and although that piece was about keeping them, I never said anything about making them to begin with!

Look, I am a big fan of goals but I don’t feel that we should relegate goal-setting to one specific day on the calendar. In fact, I think we should make goals, adjust goals, readjust them again, and even change them far more often than once per year. I honestly think that we should evaluate our goals at least once per month.

We should always have goals, otherwise our life is left to drift on its own accord, which rarely, if ever, leads to any worthwhile destination. So if I believe that goals are important, then why didn’t I make any resolutions at the turn of the calendar page? Well you see, that is because I think resolutions are stupid. “I resolve to make more money, lose 15 pounds, get in shape, spend more time with the kids, give more to charity, and run a marathon” (actually I think you really should do that last one).

These are all empty words because we rarely put any planning or actual effort into these thoughts, so they remain just that…thoughts. Instead I tend to place my goals into funnels, which then lead into one big funnel, each with their own specific purpose. It looks like this (much more artistic in my own mind).

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Picturing it this way helps me to keep it organized and reminds me that each funnel works with the others to lead me to my ideal life (assuming that exists). Your funnels may be different in number or even categories, but it work the same. The smaller funnels on top also represent shorter term goals, while the larger funnels depict medium and long-range goals.

Goals are great, but having too many goals can trip us up. It scatters our focus and most often prevents us from achieving any of them at all. Whatever model you use, just remember the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupery, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” Make resolutions, set goals – BIG ones, but always put a plan of action behind them.

Dream big, set massive goals, and shock the world in 2017!