Category Archives: Time

The Ultimate Quest

Listen to just about anyone discussing their life’s goals, their “bucket list,” and you might hear things like:

“I want enough money so I never have to work on someone else’s schedule again.”

“I wanna see the Pyramids of Egypt, the Antarctic, and sample all the fine barbecue establishments in Kansas City before I die.”

“I want to hold my grandkids’ kids.”

“I hope to help at least 100 homeless people find a permanent home.”

“I want to explore Machu Picchu.”

“If I play my cards right, I can find a nice little scuba class in Bali that needs an instructor.  That would be my dream job.”

“I want to see a game at every professional baseball stadium in the US.”

“Skydiving sounds like a kick in the pants.”

“I want to hike the Pacific Crest Trail.”

“I want to go on pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago in Spain.”

“I want to see the Northern Lights.”

Each of us is on a journey.  We share our journey with a select few.

Even as we share our journey, our goals are rarely the same as anyone else’s.  That’s what makes us unique, like everyone else.

But, there’s one thing that links all our journeys; a common theme in every bucket list.  The ultimate quest.

The quest for time.

We want quality time, special time, alone time, together time, family time, me time, kid time, game time.  We want to spend our time as we choose.  Time to explore.  Time to give.  Time to waste when we want.  How we spend our time defines who we are.

We don’t just want more time.  We want time on our terms.

Defining the “deal terms” for using our most precious resource is where the real challenge begins.

Are you the one setting your terms?

 

My favorite things in life don’t cost any money.  It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.  –Steve Jobs

Photo Credit:  Unsplash.com, Kyle Szegedi

The Questions We Ask When Someone Dies Are the Wrong Ones!

  • How old was he?
  • How did he die?
  • Did he suffer at the end?
  • Was his family with him?
  • Various versions of:  Who is he leaving behind?  How are they doing?

These are all worthwhile questions.  They show how much we care.

They also provide a small glimpse into our future, and the future of the people we love and care about.  We will each take our final breath someday.  It’s just a question of when and how.

These questions do more to quench the morbid curiosity we have about our own future than to learn about the life of the person who just died.

We used to receive a local monthly newspaper.  I was always fascinated by the stories in the obituary section.  Each person had a story.  An arc through time.  Milestones.  Achievements.  Lives they touched.  But, these were merely stories someone else had written to encapsulate an entire lifetime into a few paragraphs of highlights.

It’s impossible to capture someone’s life in a few paragraphs or even an entire book.

Our lives aren’t just a series of events and milestones.  They’re an almost infinite collection of moments.

Moments that often seem trivial when they happen, but are anything but trivial.  These moments would probably never make the “highlight reel.”  These are the moments that (with the benefit of hindsight) are turning points in our life, and the lives of the people we touch.

Our lives are also a feeling.  An energy.  An impression we leave behind.  It’s not tangible, and it can’t be seen or touched.  But, it touches everyone around us.  It’s something they can only describe with a far-away look in their eyes when we’re gone.

The questions we ask when someone dies miss what really matters.

I’d like to add some new ones:

  • What are the moments you shared with him that you remember most?
  • What stories did he tell you?
  • Which stories had the most impact on you?
  • How did he make you feel when you were around him?
  • How did he impact the direction your life is going?
  • What did you learn from him and the way he lived his life?
  • What type of energy did he bring to your life?
  • What impression did he make on you?
  • What comes to your mind whenever you think about him, now that he’s gone?

And, one final question to consider while we’re still here:

How will those that you love and care about answer these questions after you’re gone?

 

Are You Willing?

“I know this now.  Every man gives his life for what he believes.  Every woman gives her life for what she believes.  Sometimes people believe in little or nothing, and yet they give their lives to that little or nothing.  One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it and then it’s gone.  But to surrender what you are and to live without belief is more terrible than dying—even more terrible than dying young.”  –Joan of Arc

Joan of Arc lived less than twenty years.  Yet she fought for her beliefs and made a huge impact on history.  She died for her beliefs at an age when many are just beginning their life’s journey.

She knew what she believed in.  She knew what it meant to sacrifice for her beliefs.  Ask anyone who serves or served in the military, a first responder who runs into a burning building to save others, or a newly formed priest who has answered God’s call.  These are just a few examples.  Each of them know what it means to sacrifice for their beliefs.

Sometimes our beliefs emerge quietly without our knowledge.  We go through life, making seemingly inconsequential decisions about what we will and won’t do.  We decide who our friends are, and how much we will let them into our lives.  We decide when to listen.  We decide how honest we will be with the world around us.

We establish habits for living our life, and we go on our merry way.

Do you know what you believe in?  Really?  Do you know what you believe to be true?  Do you know what is important in your life?

Have you made the quiet time in your life that’s necessary to consider these questions?

What if it turns out that the things you believe in aren’t manifested in the way you live?  Are you willing to change your habits?  Are you willing to eliminate the things that don’t support your beliefs?  Will you support your beliefs in the way you live, and the way you work with others?  Are you willing to make your beliefs the centerpiece of your actions in everything you do?

Joan of Arc was right.  One life is all we have, and then it’s gone.

Where are you in that one life?  Is it too late to examine your beliefs and change the way you live?

The answer is clear  But, it won’t become obvious until we make quiet time in our lives to reflect.  When we do, we find it’s never too late to examine our beliefs and change our life.

Every day is a new beginning if we choose to make it so.  It doesn’t matter what happened in the past.  It doesn’t matter who wronged you.  It doesn’t matter if you had a terrible childhood.  It doesn’t matter if you’ve missed opportunities in the past.  It certainly doesn’t matter if you failed in the past.

All that matters is learning what you believe in.  Then, deciding what to do with that new knowledge, starting today.

The only question is:  Are you willing to find out?

 

Beliefs and Values

h/t:  Matthew Kelly

It’s Only a Hundred Years

“I’m 15 for a moment
Caught in between 10 and 20
And I’m just dreaming
Counting the ways to where you are”

I’ve come to realize that life can be divided into quarters, each (hopefully) lasting 25 years.  Every quarter has its own unique challenges, and opportunities.  Some things we care deeply about in one quarter don’t matter as much in the next.  Each quarter carries mystery, and revelation.

“I’m 33 for a moment
Still the man, but you see I’m a ‘they’
A kid on the way, babe.
A family on my mind”

Experience reveals the nature of our mysteries.  A total mystery in one quarter often becomes a given in the next.  I have a good friend who likes to say, “I’m gonna be one smart mutha, just before I die.”  I suppose that’s the irony of life.  Just as you’re totally prepared to live it, it’s over.

“I’m 45 for a moment
The sea is high
And I’m heading into a crisis
Chasing the years of my life”

It may be a revelation to some that we are never totally prepared.  We never know everything (and don’t remember it even if we do).  We rarely understand all that is happening around us.  The life we build is rarely planned, and only takes shape in retrospect.

“Half time goes by
Suddenly you’re wise
Another blink of an eye
67 is gone
The sun is getting high
We’re moving on…”

This doesn’t mean that we throw all caution to the wind, ignoring what others have learned, bouncing from one experience to another.  Life carries a ton of mysteries, but we can (and should) learn from those who have gone before us.  Those who faced similar mysteries, similar challenges.

“15 there’s still time for you
22 I feel her too
33 you’re on your way
Everyday’s a new day…”

Each of us has something to share with our fellow travelers.  We can shed light on their mystery.  Show a way.  Lead by example.  Reveal truths that we can clearly see.

“I’m 99 for a moment
And dying for just another moment
And I’m just dreaming
Counting the ways to where you are”

In the process, we reveal new truths for ourselves, see with new eyes, and listen with new attention.  That’s the journey.  Enjoy every minute of it.

“When you only got a hundred years to live.”  -John Ondrasik, Five for Fighting

 

 

The Life We Realize

Our Town

EMILY: “Does anyone ever realize life while they live it…every, every minute?”

STAGE MANAGER: “No. Saints and poets maybe…they do some.”

Thornton Wilder, Our Town

 

“Choose the least important day in your life. It will be important enough.”

Thornton Wilder, Our Town

I never read Thornton Wilder’s play, Our Town. It seems like the type of literature that would be required high school reading. The mundane and simple nature of the play would surely be lost on most high schoolers, so it’s a good thing I didn’t discover the play until recently.

I’ve just started reading it…the first play I’ve read in at least thirty years. What a relief to know I get to read this one for the sheer pleasure of it, and not in preparation for a final exam on the subject.

There are a ton of thought provoking quotes in the play, but these two stand out for me:

Does anyone ever realize life while they live it…every, every minute?

It’s easy for us to see that fish swim in water that sustains their life, but I doubt they realize it. It’s easy for us to understand that we are “swimming” in the air that sustains our life, but I doubt we realize it. Life is all around us, every minute if we choose to notice.

How many of us realize how precious each day is while we are living them. The countless decisions and non-decisions we make each day, the people we impact (hopefully positively). The memories we accumulate along the way.

Instead of continuously looking ahead, chasing our dreams, maybe it’s good to look to the side occasionally. Slow down and check out the scenery that’s whizzing past as we barrel ahead to our futures. Taking time to appreciate the gift of our life, even as we live it.

Choose the least important day in your life. It will be important enough.

If you live to be 100 years old, that’s 36,500 days. How about 75 years? That’s 27,375. Imagine you just turned 48, like me. I’ve used 17,538 of my days, so far. Trust me, I used a calculator to check my math.

Which one was the most important? How about the least important?

What are the criteria you use to define importance? Do you have your criteria all picked out? Are you ready for the days when those things you thought were important suddenly don’t matter?

Each of us can identify important days in our past. Chances are, some of the days you see today as being most important didn’t seem so important when you were living them in real time. Hindsight is good that way.

Was today important? How about tomorrow, or the next day?

Each of them will be important enough, if we take the time to realize it.

 

 

 

Photo Credit:  http://www.theguardian.com

 

Mountains, Elephants, and Steps (they have more in common than you’d think)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI recently read an interview with James Doti, president of Chapman University. He’s a runner, triathlete, and mountain climber…in addition to his day job.

He mentioned a discussion he had with his mountain guide at the beginning of a big climb (I think it was Kilimanjaro) that went something like this:

Doti: That mountain is going to be tough!

Mountain Guide: Don’t worry about the mountain. Worry about the next turn.

Excellent advice. It made me think of two more quotes:

How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

 

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step…and then another.

The sentiments in each of these quotes is the same. Every journey, every project, every career path, every big achievement, and every lifetime are made up of small and seemingly insignificant steps along the way.

I haven’t climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro (yet), but I’ve climbed Mt. Whitney twice. There’s a famous section of that climb called The 99 Switchbacks. It begins at about 12,000 feet. Each turn gets you one step closer to the summit.  After 99 turns, you reach the Trail Crest at about 13,600 feet.

Then the mountain plays a dirty trick and descends down the back side about 800-1,000 feet before turning back up toward the summit at 14,500 feet. That small descent may sound trivial. It’s not! At that altitude, and after making it through the switchbacks, descending on the way to the summit is quite a mind bender. The only response to the mountain’s challenge is to take the next step, and the one after that.    

Funny thing about the triumphant photo at the top of the mountain (or graduation, retirement, etc.) is that it doesn’t show all the small steps that made the photo possible. Those are for the climber (or graduate, or retiree) to remember and appreciate.

The small steps represent our decision to start. To continue. To change direction, or ask for help. To persevere. To achieve.

 

Photo:  Our crew on the summit of Mt. Whitney, 2009 (time flies!).  I’m the guy on the far right, trying to catch his breath.  I never would have reached the summit without help from everyone in that picture. 

Ode to the Rusty Chain

Ever noticed it sitting there, sometimes coiled neatly, but usually just piled in a corner?  It used to be important.  Its strength was unquestionable.  Its purpose was clear.

Now it sits, out of sight, and out of mind.  It waits for a call to action that will never come.  Many of its links are bent and twisted.  Rust has taken its shine and luster.  Time has sapped its strength.

The rusted chain rests.  Its inevitable return to Nature has begun.

It has no memories.  Its time and experience will add no wisdom.  It has no strength of character.  No moral values to impart.  No lessons to teach.  Nothing to pass on to future generations.

It is, after all, just a chain.

Your Future Called…Here’s 10 Things You Should Know

Not_Judging

  1. The future will start, as always, with ideas.  The ideas that become reality will be those that capture the imagination of strangers, most never knowing the origin of the ideas they now “own” emotionally.
  2.  

  3. People will dictate the future.  It won’t be a poll, the Internet, social media, or some secret government agency.  People, acting in the pursuit of their own self-interest, will decide with their votes at the ballot box, and the way they choose to spend their dollars.
  4.  

  5. Nothing predicts your future better than your own attitude and expectations.
  6.  

  7. The future belongs to those with personal motivation, determination, and a willingness to fail in pursuit of success.
  8.  

  9. Your future is finite, just like everyone else’s.  Enjoy today as your prepare to greet tomorrow.
  10.  

  11. 99.9999% of your success will happen when you open yourself to helping others succeed first.  Of course, you already know that since you listen to Zig Ziglar.
  12.  

  13. The mark you leave on the world starts and ends with those closest to you.  Everything else is a bonus.
  14.  

  15. Learn to teach and you will never stop learning, or helping others.  This is closely related to number 6.
  16.  

  17. You are the only arbiter and defender of your core values.  Think about your core values, understand why you have them, and live them to the fullest, every day.
  18.  

  19. History continues to find its way into the future.  Study history.  Study the people who drove history.  Learn the lessons history provides like your future depends on it…because it does.
  20.  

Balancing Attention

serenity_edit

I’ve read countless articles and blog posts about work/life balance.  They generally focus on the rigors of managing a business in a 24-hour-a-day cycle.  Some are from the manager’s perspective, and others are from the worker’s point-of-view.

Most articles mention sacrifices.  How families, spouses, kids, friends, and even our own health and welfare, are forced into the back seat while our hero focuses on the challenges of his/her career path.  There’s usually some kernel of wisdom…justification for the decisions being made by all involved.

Achievement rarely happens without hard work, focus, determination, sacrifice, and making the (hopefully) right choices.  What are the right choices?  That varies for each person.

One thing that doesn’t vary for each person is the value of their time.  Time is the most precious and fleeting commodity in our lives.  We can’t control time.  We only control how we spend it.

Attention is the currency we use for spending time.  Like time, our attention is limited.  Unlike time, we control our attention.  We decide what deserves it, and what doesn’t.

Work/life balance isn’t really about the demands of the job.  It’s not about the oppressive boss who demands our continuous availability, or employees who need input and direction at all hours.  It’s definitely not about checking our email or social feed every fifteen minutes.

Regardless of its details, if there is such a thing as work/life balance, it comes down to two things:

  • Realizing that we decide where to focus our attention.
  • Whether we decide consciously or not, our actions make our attention decisions a reality.

Photo credit:  Diane Anderson (my wonderful mother-in-law), who focuses (pun intended) a lot of her attention on making beautiful art with her camera.

Everyday is a Surprise

 “Bobby (what anyone who knew me before I was about 13 calls me), it all started with an earache.  The doctor gave me some ear drops.  The pain didn’t stop and seemed to get worse, so he gave me stronger drops.  That still didn’t work.  He ran some tests and told me it’s cancer, and I’m gonna die.  It was an earache, and then I was dying.  He says that I will probably just die in my sleep, so each time I wake up, it’s a surprise.”

Pete_Triumph

In Pete’s case, it took about four months for the cancer specialists to identify the type of cancer that is killing him.  He told me the name, and said it is very rare, untreatable, and fast moving.  I made a mental note to look up the cancer and learn more about it.  As I type this post, I have forgotten its name.

The fact that each of us will die is no surprise.  The timing is the surprising part.  That, and the name of the thing that ultimately causes our death.  There’s always a name.

I remember a conversation I had with Grandpa Clyde (my wife’s grandfather) at least ten years ago.  He was in his late-80’s at the time, showing me how to cook ribs properly on a barbeque.  I asked him what it was like to have lived as long as he had.  I will never forget his response.  “If you live long enough, you say goodbye to a lot of friends and family.  Most of the people I grew up with are dead and gone.  I stopped going to funerals a long time ago.  I spend my time making new friends, and enjoying this time I’ve been given with my family.”

Growing up, Pete was one of my role models for a life worth living.  A firefighter, motorcycle tuner, racer, helmet painter, wheelie king, runner, water skier, speeding ticket magnet, traveler, and a Bluegrass fan.  Although I never actually saw it, he used to say that he also jumped rope, attended three world fairs, and a few other things that are probably better left unmentioned.  Pete never stopped making new friends, or appreciating his old friends.  He grabbed all that life has to offer, and then some.

Pete_Wheelie

Pete wears a patch over his right eye now.  The tumor has grown and prevents that eye from blinking.  He is in a lot of pain, and the pain medications cloud the passage of time.  This hasn’t stopped Pete from grabbing what life has left for him.  He is living each remaining day as a surprise.

In truth, each day is a surprise for all of us.  An opportunity to appreciate our family and friends.  An opportunity to make new friends, and enjoy what little time we’ve been given.