Category Archives: Gratitude

Wishing Well

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What’s the first thing you think of when you see a stranger?

How about your competition?

Or, the jerk that just cut you off in his Porsche?

What’s your default setting when it comes to others?

How critical are you?

How many stories have you made up about that stranger—stories that only you hear—based on nothing more than appearance?

It’s easy to be critical.  It’s easy to look for the worst, and even easier to find it.  Defaulting to fear and distrust is the safest play.

What if you defaulted to wishing others well?  Even strangers?

What if the stories you tell in your head give that stranger the benefit of the doubt?

What if you looked for the best, instead of the worst?

What if you had no opinion about that guy who just cut you off?

What would happen if you helped your competitor improve?

Starting with a mindset of wishing well, looking to give instead of take, understanding rather than responding, reveals our best self.

Our best self hides behind walls of criticism, doubt, distrust, fear, and ill will.

Take away its hiding places and get to know your best self…default to wishing well.

 

Photo Credit:  Unsplash–Brandi Redd

More Than a Few Lessons…

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I turned 50 a while back.  Although it’s just a number, it’s a big milestone.  Hopefully, it’s a halfway point.  During my first 50 years, I’ve learned some things and here they are in no particular order:

  • The quest for the Holy Grail is all about the quest, and less about the Grail.
  • Soft tissue injuries are much harder to get over than you think.
  • Execution is all about preparation. Prepare well, and you’ll be able to execute when called upon.  Wing it and your execution will be a crap shoot.
  • Preparation is difficult and requires discipline. Building and maintaining discipline is one of the greatest challenges in life.
  • No matter how smart, strong, tough, fast, or independent you think you are. You aren’t.
  • Nearly everything is easier said than done.
  • Just because you can watch someone do something doesn’t mean you know anything about what it takes to actually do that thing.
  • Doing is the key to enjoying. Stop talking about it.  Stop thinking about it.  Stop procrastinating.  Stop making excuses.  As Nike said so well, Just Do It!  You’ll probably suck at it at first, but so does everyone else.
  • The real “99% and 1%?” Ninety-nine percent of people will try something, suck at it, and quit.  One percent will continue the struggle (see discipline above), and incrementally improve.  They may even continue long enough to become a master at it.  Another variant:  only one percent will try something, and the other ninety-nine percent will focus on explaining why they can’t or won’t.
  • Whenever I’ve become the most anxious in life, I usually realize that I’ve skipped exercise or going outside to play for more than a week (it happens more often than I care to admit!). Exercising and playing are the best ways to build a foundation of clarity and calm.
  • Another thing I’ve noticed when I’m most anxious is that I’ve probably pushed gratitude out of my mind. When your mind is filled with gratitude, it doesn’t leave a lot of room for other things like anger, frustration, or negativity (this also happens more often than I’d like).
  • Vacations are nice. Travel is nice.  Seeing exotic places is nice.  But, there’s nothing like creating a life at home that doesn’t require a vacation for happiness.  Vacations should be icing on the cake.
  • Every person who lives in the US should spend at least two weeks in a foreign country…preferably when they’re young. That way, the lessons they take away from the experience can be applied early in their life.  Something I’ve found from traveling to at least 10 (maybe more) foreign countries is that the US is like Disneyland.  Even compared to modern and thriving countries, the standard of living in the US is noticeably higher.  It is easy to take all these differences for granted, or to be truly ignorant of them…until you spend time in a foreign country.
  • Tom Petty had it right: The waiting is the hardest part.  Everything in life takes longer than you plan in your head.  That’s probably because we plan and think in our head for a long time before we spring our thoughts on the “world.”  Or, things just really do take a lot longer than we think they should.
  • Jobs become obsolete (and so do certain companies). People don’t (and neither do companies) unless they allow it.
  • The best way to avoid obsolescence?  Continuous learning.  Continuous exploration.  Saying yes more.
  • Save early and often in your life. Those savings will yield a huge amount of freedom later in your life.
  • In the struggle between service and earnings, choose service every time.
  • The most beautiful sound in Nature is uncontrolled laughter.
  • The most beautiful sight in Nature is the smiling eyes of someone you love.

 

 

Photo Credit:  Unsplash–Massimo Mancini

 

I Should’ve Laughed More

A photo by frank mckenna. unsplash.com/photos/EgB1uSU5tRA

Grandpa Clyde used to say, “You had to laugh!” whenever he told stories about something that had happened.

I’m not sure he was laughing when the thing was actually happening, but he knew you had to laugh when he looked back on it.

How many tough situations, crises, or plain old everyday events do you experience in a day, a week, a month…a lifetime?

What if we could pull ourselves out of these situations just long enough to hear the story we would tell?  It won’t get us out of the situation, but might help us find the reason to laugh.

 

 

Photo:  www.unsplash.com, Frank McKenna

 

Later…

Later creates room for compromises.

Later lives for tomorrow.

Later keeps lists.

Later allows us to avoid.

Later tells us why we’re preparing.

Later delays forgiveness.

Later is born from hope.

Later connects without really connecting.

Later captures what we imagine.

We often try to create what happens later by our actions today.

Later provides direction.

Later reduces today’s expectations.

Later can hijack the present.

Later is the carrier of our dreams.

Later gains power when it remains vague.

Later simplifies execution.

Later is where many careers will find their stride.

Later is where the craziest ideas go to die.

Later tells us it’s okay to delay.

Later is where big ideas find their future.

Later makes it okay to add complexity.

Later drags us reluctantly forward.

Later makes today easier.

Later makes today harder.

Later isn’t guaranteed.  It can easily turn into never if we allow it.

Later only matters in the present. By the time we get to later, there’s a new later that will once again seem more important than our new present.

There’s more to say on this subject.  I’ll probably get to it later…

“I’m bored!”

“Thems was fightin’ words” in our house when I was a kid.  If mom ever heard us utter those two words, she had a list of things for us to do.  We learned quickly to find things to do for ourselves, since mom’s list was definitely not a fun list (toilets, folding clothes, raking leaves, etc.).

I remember one summer, probably the one between 7th and 8th grade.  Our little crew had a solid plan every day.  It usually involved taking a mid-day “break” to watch Get Smart at Denis’ house.  I’m pretty sure they ran two episodes, back-to-back.  So, that took care of about an hour of entertainment.  The rest is a blur of football games, hide-and-seek, swimming at Marty’s, riding bikes, and just about anything else that would keep us from having to say, “I’m bored.”

I suppose it’s all those years of training, followed by “advanced” training in college, and then even more in the work environment.

Stay busy.

Keep moving.

There’s always something to be done.

Don’t be lazy.

If you aren’t busy, you better at least look busy.

Where’s your work ethic?

Aren’t you dedicated to this cause?

Focus on the task at hand!

Don’t be boring (even worse than being bored)!

Somewhere along the way, a lack of movement, or a completed task list, started to equate with the dreaded “b” word.  Somehow, a lack of movement turned into an example of laziness.

Is it even possible to do nothing and be at peace with it?  Or, do we have to tell ourselves that this momentary lack of movement is just a quick break before returning to another of life’s endless tasks?

When did doing nothing go from being a peaceful state to one of guilty boredom…or worse, an example of our laziness?  When did life become a task list?

The next time I’m faced with the challenge of doing absolutely nothing, I hereby promise myself that I won’t be bored (or guilty about my laziness).

I will enjoy the peace of that moment with gratitude.

What’s next? (just kidding)

 

Note to Self

Maybe it’s all the close calls, existential threats, newly-invented liabilities, newly-minted regulations, new competitors, old competitors, angry customers, happy customers, former customers, new customers, potential opportunities, new ideas, new methods, better mouse traps, and everything else that comes our way in business (no matter the size).

Maybe it’s the fight-or-flight instinct that gets honed to a fine edge through years of experience.  Knowing when to hold ‘em, and when to fold ‘em…but always allowing room for doubt.  Knowing when the silent customer is more important than the loudest one.  Knowing that the employee you don’t see is just as important as the one you do see.  Knowing we always have a competitor, whether we realize it or not.

Maybe it’s that standard defensive posture that every business assumes at times, even when it knows that only a strong offense will win the day.  Understanding that this isn’t a game we get to win every day.

Maybe it’s just fear of failure, or more likely, fear of success.

Whatever it is that stops me from getting the most enjoyment from this business…now is the time to let it go.

Life is way too short to let the small stuff get in the way.

Here’s my promise to myself:

  • I will go on offense, every day
  • I will acknowledge my fears, but only if it helps create a stronger offense
  • I will focus on the next step forward, and let the past remain there
  • I will create opportunities for those around me
  • I will love and serve
  • I will let go
  • I will enjoy each day as the gift that it is.

I will do these things as a promise to myself, knowing that I’m not the One who is in control.

Beware of the Edge

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I recently heard about a sign at the top of Mount Vesuvius.  It reads, “Beware of the edge.”

That’s the only safety precaution in the area.  No guardrails.  Just a sign.

I can hear it now:

“Your honor, I submit that my client had no idea he could plummet to his death by stepping over the edge of that volcano.  If only there’d been a guardrail to prevent his untimely death.”

Or,

“Your honor, we acknowledge that there was a sign that said, “Beware of the edge,” but my client must have thought he was safe as long as he stayed inside the guardrails.  Since there were no guardrails on the mountain, he was clearly misled into a false sense of safety and security…just before his fall.”

How many of us really need a sign, or a guardrail, to tell us to stay away from the edge?  Can’t we see the danger on our own, without the sign?

The truth is, probably not.

Why not?

Simple.  The edge is where the action is.  We know it’s dangerous.  We know our mind will play an imaginary leap that only our subconscious sees when we look over the edge.  We secretly like the butterflies we get in our stomach.

The edge brings sharp focus.  It’s where our imagination is most alive!

Sometimes, the edge represents the end of a long journey.  A challenging climb.  Our view over the edge reminds us of the distance we’ve traveled.  The work we’ve put in to get there.

The edge is like the proverbial flame that draws the moth.  The edge reminds us of how fragile our life is.  One step away from real danger.

How do we approach the edge, and take in its energy, while avoiding the danger that lurks just one step beyond?

It’s a question we each have to answer for ourselves.

But, here’s hoping we don’t discover the answer as we tumble over the edge.

Relax, You’re Doing Fine

I saw this on a license plate frame.  When I first saw it, I didn’t give it much attention.  Then, as I sat at the red light, staring at those four simple words, I realized how freeing they are.

Relax, you’re doing fine.

You aren’t as far behind as you thought in the “race” of life.  In fact, life isn’t a race at all.  There’s no prize at the end for getting to the finish line faster than the other people.

You’re living in a great time.  Why is it so great?  Because it’s your time.  It doesn’t matter what else is happening.  The fact that things are actually happening, and you are here to see, participate, and have an impact is all that matters.  What impact?  That’s up to you.

What you do, how you do it, and the pace you choose are up to you.  I recommend you take advantage of your limited time on the planet.  Start moving, stay moving, always learn, and never stop teaching.  But, that’s just me.  It’s up to you and no one else.

Not as happy as you’d like to be?  Not as fulfilled as you’d like to be?  Worried that life is passing you by?  Worried that you aren’t as rich, pretty, strong, tall, smart, stylish, successful, or any other measure society places on us, as you’d like to be?

We all have the same seconds, minutes, and hours every day.  Our ability to define our time by the people we help, and the smiles we coax into the world are the only things we control.  The rest is going to happen with or without our involvement.

Enjoy your time.  Let someone else worry about all that other comparison stuff.

And, never forget:  Relax, you’re doing fine.

The Most Powerful Words of All

“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”

Why do parents teach this little quote to their kids?  Simple.  It’s a one-sentence philosophy that arms each of us against the words others may use to describe us, or worse, to tear us down.  We learn from this one sentence that words can’t hurt us.

As a philosophy, it works.  But, in practice, it misses a few points.

Words do matter.  They inspire, motivate, comfort, and create.  They also discourage, disappoint, frustrate, and destroy.

Certain words wield more power than all others.  The words we say to ourselves.

We can tell ourselves almost anything, and we will believe it.  If we don’t believe at first, we can relentlessly work to convince ourselves.  Remember, we’re in our head all the time…unfiltered!

We each have a personal stream of consciousness that narrates our perspective of what’s “really” happening around us, and to us.  It’s this continuous chatter of self-talk in our head that drives everything we feel, and everything we do.

The words in our self-talk carry all the power, regardless of what’s happening around us.  Imagine you’re a golfer.  A professional golfer.  Maybe the best golfer in the world.  You’ve won major tournaments this season.  You’ve outclassed the entire field.  And yet, you aren’t satisfied with your results, because they should have been better.  You finished second a few too many times this season to let yourself really celebrate your success.

Why?  Negative self-talk.  Your self-talk is telling you that you aren’t good enough.  You don’t deserve all the accolades coming your way.  You tell yourself that your short game needs to get a little better if you expect to win again.  Each mistake you make is amplified in your head as yet another reason you shouldn’t win.  So you stop winning.

Negative self-talk has nothing to do with reality.  It only robs energy and happiness.  Positive self-talk has nothing to do with reality.  It only brings energy and happiness.  The reality you perceive, the reality you create, and the way you will ultimately live your life are each dictated by your self-talk.

The words we say to ourselves can and will hurt us.  Or…they can lift us, propel us, and bring us happiness.

We get to choose.

“Whether you think you can, or think you can’t.  You’re right.”  –Henry Ford

What’s Not to Love about Carrot Cake?

I had my first piece of carrot cake in 1974, or maybe it was 1973.  We were at my uncle Denby’s wedding, and the cake they served was this oddly wonderful concoction of flavors I had never tasted.  Being one of the munchkins in the crowd, I did what smart munchkins did back then:  I eavesdropped on the adults who were talking about the cake.

They called it carrot cake, but this cake was a lot more than carrots, and it was awesome!

I don’t remember having carrot cake again until college.  I may have had it before then, but those memories are lost in a din of other information like the capital of North Dakota, the difference between an adverb and an adjective, why the earth rotates around the sun and not the other way around, and who shot J.R (we watched that episode with a huge crowd of Hilltoppers in a hotel bar in Rosarito Beach, but that’s another story).

Whenever I see carrot cake as a dessert option at a restaurant, I order it.  Carrot cake muffin?  Gotta have it.  I’ve sampled carrot cake recipes across the US, and even a couple in foreign countries.  Some are decent.  Claim Jumper’s is probably the best, especially with a scoop of vanilla ice cream (everything is good with a scoop of ice cream).

When the time came to choose our wedding cake, Janet and I chose carrot cake.  Actually, I think Janet knew I’d love it, and it was her small wedding gift to me.  The only bite of that cake I got that day was in the cake-cutting ceremony.  We were too busy with all the other wedding stuff to actually eat any of the awesome cake we’d chosen.

As good as everyone else’s carrot cake is, none come close to mom’s.  Mom’s is the only carrot cake that captures the awesomeness of my first carrot cake experience in the ‘70s.  It’s simply the best.

Unfortunately, my love affair with all things carrot cake came to a screeching halt a little over a year ago when I was diagnosed with gluten intolerance.  Someone asked me recently what I miss the most now that I basically can’t eat anything made with wheat, or containing gluten as an additive (it’s hidden in tons of sauces, dressings, and of course, beer).

The first thing that popped into my head was carrot cake.  It’s not that I miss the taste of carrot cake so much (but, really I do).  It’s the freedom to try everyone’s attempt at carrot cake…knowing that none will compare to mom’s.  I miss getting to have a huge slice of carrot cake at mom’s, and then getting to take about half of the cake home (since it’s not everyone else’s favorite) to enjoy every night for a week.  There’s nothing like a slice of carrot cake and a tall glass of milk after a hard day of whatever I did that day.

Thanks to gluten intolerance, I thought those days were gone.  Not so fast!

Turns out there’s an excellent gluten-free “all-purpose flour” available at Trader Joe’s.  What’s the first thing I thought of when I saw it?  You guessed it!  I need to get mom a couple pounds of this stuff so she can make some of her carrot cake with it, just in time for my 49th birthday!

We are about t-minus one hour from heading over to mom and dad’s to celebrate the September birthdays in our family (there are a bunch of them).  We’ll eat some barbecued steaks with all the trimmings.  But, more importantly, we’ll be trying the gluten-free carrot cake that she and my niece baked.  I’ve heard that it’s pretty good.

I know it will be awesome.  Why?  Mom (and my niece) made it, and that’s all that matters.