Call it the Law of Attraction, the manifestation of desire, or simply faith. When it is set firmly in the mind, when the thoughts all but consume one’s soul, then it is only a matter of time before it becomes reality.
Our destiny changes with our thoughts; we shall become what we wish to become, do what we wish to do, when our habitual thoughts correspond with our desires.
Orison Swett Marden
I have no doubt this is true, but it has not always worked for me. Does it make it less true? Of course not. Then what went wrong? I failed to stay true to the course. Instead of one singular purpose fixed continuously in my mind, I deviated. I floated from one to the other and then to many more. I became a hobbyist dabbling in a multitude rather than an expert in the one. What good is faith in an undisciplined mind?
Now is the time to go back to the plan. I don’t need to rewrite it; I just need to execute it. I was not designed to be a multi-tasker, so I must stop pretending to be one. One focus, one task firmly and habitually set in my mind. That is enough to set the wheels in motion to becoming that which I desire.
So many long for happiness, yet so many have yet to find a true and lasting form of it. Some would blame others for their inability to obtain it. Others would look for cheapened versions of it that only lasts a few moments before the rush dwindles and fades away.
Happiness is found within each of us. We cannot trust others to provide it for us. We must determine what it is and then work to discover it.
The secret to happiness is freedom…
The secret is freedom. But what is freedom? Is it the ability to do whatever one pleases? Would this not make one a slave to his desires? Freedom must go beyond base pleasure. It must speak of a higher nature, something more meaningful.
When I think of freedom, I think of the ability to operate without hindrance towards one’s goal. Freedom to pursue happiness.
and the secret of freedom is courage. -Thucydides
Simply stated, one cannot be afraid to take calculated risks. There is a chance of failure. Even the safest bets can go awry. But this should not deter us from trying. After all, our happiness, and our freedom, is on the line. If we fail, we should pause. We should look to see what went wrong and what can be done better. And after this moment, we get back up and try again. It is an endless cycle until we hit the mark, until we find the happiness we seek.
This week I started the book The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin. One of the first segments that caught my attention was the author’s initiation into Tai Chi Chuan. The master of the studio, William C.C. Chen noted as a world renown Grand Master, was teaching brand new students. This is a task normally assigned to junior instructors, yet here was the master performing a task many would assume was beneath him.
Recounting this act was to illustrate the humility of the master, but I interpreted it differently. The master was the closest to the purity and truth of the art form. The beginners were the most ignorant. The master did not disdain these students, but out of love for his art had the desire to illuminate those in ignorance. [I know, I might have read into this passage a little too much.]
Marcus Aurelius said, “Be tolerant with others and strict with yourself.” I try to live up to this as much as possible. Daily, I struggle to become a little better than the day before. It is no easy journey, but it is the one I have chosen. It has become my truth of what I must do to become the person I want to be. I encourage others to take up their own journey, but I do not demand it of them. And for those with no such desire, I can understand their decision and sympathize with them along the way. Tolerant with others, strict with myself.
The closer people are to the truth, the more tolerant they are of the mistakes of others.
Closer to the truth equals greater understanding. It equals greater tolerance for those who may be farther away from it. Like the Tai Chi master, it is done through love for others. It is done out of love for the truth.
Tolstoy’s words also serve as a warning. This is not righteous indignation. When we find ourselves defending our platforms without an open mind or a desire to achieve a peaceful conclusion, we become less tolerant. We find ourselves on the road to psychological and even physical bullying. We become extremists with the desire to force others to our truth. As detestable as this practice is, we see it in almost every aspect of our lives from friends and family to social media and news. And the only thing we can do to prevent us from going down that road is to be not like that.
One of the last things I do before I go to sleep is say a prayer of thanks. I am grateful for friends and family, breath and life, health and love. I have food, shelter, and the means to provide for my wife and son. Sound of mind, body, and soul.
Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are.
Of course, I want more. But in truth, I have more than I really need. If I only pursue the latest and the greatest, I will be a slave to every new generation of “stuff.”
I have so much, and that is enough. For this I am thankful. Truly, I am blessed.
No. When I say it to my son, he gets upset. He doesn’t like it because his request is something he wants at the time. But what kind of parent would I be if I said yes every time?
People don’t like hearing the word no. They believe their request is reasonable. What they are asking is to their benefit. To tell them no is inconvenient for them.
It’s only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important. -Steve Jobs
If I am always saying yes, then I find an inability to get my own work done. It is difficult because I want to be nice. I want to be helpful. But doing so keeps me away from my goals, goals which are designed to benefit me and my family. I must learn to say no.
Maybe not for everything. Certainly not if I have nothing else going on.
Over the last few weeks, I have realized just how far behind I am. I had too many irons in the fire and was not making any progress on any of them. Would this have happened if I said no more often?
“No, I cannot watch your dogs, so you can have a spa day.”
“No, I can’t go to the winery for an afternoon of drinking and socializing.”
No. It is not that hard to say. I just need to get better at saying it.
It is clear to you, I am sure, Lucilius, that no man can live a happy life, or even a supportable life, without the study of wisdom; you know also that a happy life is reached when our wisdom is brought to completion, but that life is at least endurable even when our wisdom is only begun.
A happy life. Seneca said it is only possible for the person who studies wisdom. Why is that? Wisdom may not make a person perfect, but it is the pinnacle at the top of the mountain. To study wisdom is to climb the mountain. And as it increases over time, the student learns to avoid foolish mistakes in both words and deeds.
Solomon also said the one who finds wisdom is happy, that her profits are greater than monetary wealth (Proverbs 3:13-15). Money comes and goes, but wisdom, once attained, doesn’t flee. It doesn’t fluctuate based on speculation, inflation, or corruption.
The acquisition of wisdom is a journey that improves and makes life endurable.
This idea, however, clear though it is, must be strengthened and implanted more deeply by daily reflection; it is more important for you to keep the resolutions you have already made than to go on and make noble ones. You must persevere, must develop new strength by continuous study, until that which is only a good inclination becomes a good settled purpose.
Daily reflection. One must take the time to measure progress. The most effective way is to do it daily. Is there a better way to do this self-examination than by journaling?
One of my favorite podcasts is Ben Greenfield Fitness, one of the best shows to learn about human optimization, ancestral living, and biohacking. Check out step #3 from Ben’s evening journaling practice.
As you breathe, for anywhere from 3 to 6 minutes, begin to visualize your day. During this time, I recommend you replay your entire day in your mind like a movie, watching yourself in the third person and identifying what you have done well, what you could have done better, and where you felt most self-actualized and connected to your purpose statement. Watching the character of yourself in your mind, in the third person, ask yourself what you aren’t rooting for the character to do, or wishing they’d done differently, or where they failed and learned. Ask yourself what you are proud of that character doing and how you really see them acting their best. Finally, ask yourself where that person seemed most “in the flow” and doing exactly what seems to be the very reason they are in the movie in the first place. As you play the movie in your mind, stop when necessary and write down in the journal what you have done well, what you could have done better, and when or where you lived your life’s purpose.
Examine yourself; scrutinize and observe yourself in divers ways; but mark, before all else, whether it is in philosophy or merely in life itself that you have made progress.
When I first began journaling, I would write down the events of the day. It was a non-value-added list of bullet points. After a while, I became bored with it as I was not reflecting on a deeper level. Now I try to look at the day from multiple angles. How did I perceive myself in those actions? How did others possibly perceive my actions? What actions brought my life closer to my goals in life? What did I do to not only improve my life but the lives of those around me? What were my good deeds and how can I improve on my bad ones?
Philosophy is no trick to catch the public; it is not devised for show. It is a matter, not of words, but of facts. It is not pursued in order that the day may yield some amusement before it is spent, or that our leisure may be relieved of a tedium that irks us. It moulds and constructs the soul; it orders our life, guides our conduct, shows us what we should do and what we should leave undone; it sits at the helm and directs our course as we waver amid uncertainties. Without it, no one can live fearlessly or in peace of mind.
The purpose of philosophy. It is the user’s manual on how we should live. Nobody cares whether I memorized the lawn mower’s user manual. But if it is their grass that I am cutting, they do care whether I can operate the mower. The same with philosophy. To quote others and study for the sake of knowledge only does no good. Henry David Thoreau said, “There are nowadays professors of philosophy, but not philosophers.” I must do more than just study philosophy, I must practice it. I must be a philosopher.
Countless things that happen every hour call for advice; and such advice is to be sought in philosophy.
Wisdom leads to making good choices. It leads to a happy life. Through daily reflection we can refine our choices in the hopes of preventing the bad ones. Those bad choices are available to us constantly. How do prevent them? We turn to our user’s manual. We turn to philosophy.
Around the perimeter, my wife and I walked laps around the track. We talked, we laughed, and we burned off a few extra calories. It was a low-stress activity that will hopefully strengthen our muscles and improve our bone density.
On the field, our son was practicing with his soccer team. He loves playing and having some of his best friends from school makes it more enjoyable. With each practice he gets better. At this level, one talented player can dominate the rest of the team. That might work in the short-term, but eventually the team’s success will depend on the abilities of the rest of the team. The better they can defend, pass, and communicate amongst each other, the better their chances of consistently winning.
Alec might not say it, but he wants to be perfect. He doesn’t like missing shots, giving up the ball to the other team, or losing. That is understandable. Who wants to lose?
Gentlemen, we will chase perfection, and we will chase it relentlessly, knowing all the while we can never attain it. But along the way, we shall catch excellence.
When I first started writing, I was still trying to find my voice. The quality of my writing was not good, a far cry from excellence. Thankfully, I have readers who let me know when I miss the mark, and they are usually quick to point out my mistakes. It upsets me when I overlook something, but I take it for what it is. Their critique and my willingness to improve makes me better. I will never be a perfect writer, but I am going to chase it with everything I got. I am going to be relentless and maybe one day, I too will catch excellence.
The man was tired. All day long, he had been working in his father’s fields. It was no easy chore, but as the oldest son, one day those fields would be his. The labor he performed on that day was well worth the reward he would have in the future.
When he got home, his brother, who had not been working in the fields, was in the kitchen making dinner. It was a stew prepared with lentils and fresh meat. The aroma from the stew and the fresh-baked bread was enough to drive the older son crazy. He asked his brother for some. The brother said yes on one condition: trade your birthright for the dinner. The older brother pleaded with him. He said if he didn’t eat soon, he was going to die. The younger sibling didn’t budge. Finally, the deal was made. For Jacob’s stew, Esau filled his belly and gave away his inheritance (Genesis 25:29-34).
For one morsel of food, he sold his birthright. -Hebrews 12:16
How many remember this story? Who could be so desperate to do such a thing? Esau’s father, Isaac, was probably one of the wealthiest in the area. Esau could have gone somewhere else to get food. He could have waited a little longer and made his own supper. But instead of holding out for the greater reward of his inheritance, he traded it away for the immediate gratification of filling his belly.
What a fool! And yet, how many times in my life have I done the same thing? How many times have I traded a better future for something insignificant? I call Esau a fool. I read the story as a kid. I knew what it was about. I did the same thing. Not once, but too many times to count. Who is the fool now?
True happiness…is not attained through self-gratification, but fidelity to a worthy purpose.
Loyalty to a purpose. It is rather simple. The journey is not all interstate and smooth sailing. There are dirt roads and treacherous paths. The stops along the way are not designed to help us reach our destination. Instead, they are strategically placed to get us to stop, to stay. As enticing as they seem, would it not be better to keep on going?
You could pretend to be something you are not. It might work for a while in fooling others, but in time your façade will be exposed. All would look well on the surface. And on the inside, all would be at odds.
However, some might suggest you should fake it until you make it. In some instances, this could work if you were actively trying to make it. But without any internal change, faking it would only be another form of pretend.
I’d rather be hated for who I am, than loved for who I am not.
Kurt Cobain was at the forefront of a new and polarizing music genre. What was this grunge music? It wasn’t like the Rock ‘n Roll people were used to. Some people loved it; others hated it. Cobain was a talented artist. He could have played any genre of music he chose. But that wasn’t him. And so, he stayed true to himself. He played his own music.
Maybe, you are not happy with where you are at in life. Maybe, you aspire to greater things. This is not pretending. This is becoming who you were meant to be.
Popeye was one of my favorite cartoons as a child. He was a somewhat normal guy trying to do the right thing. When times got rough, he would crack open a can of performance enhancing spinach and solve the problem.
That is what I wanted to be like—a normal guy able to overcome the obstacles of life. Of course, I didn’t want to be in a position where I was always getting bullied, where I was forced to drink a cup of courage in my direst need, just able to survive to see the next day.
I yam what I yam and dats all what I yam. -Popeye the Sailor Man
I quoted the quote and sang the song, but back then I never considered taking it to heart. I am what I am. I am not Popeye, not like Mike (Jordan), or any other childhood hero. Nope. I am what I am. I can emulate the actions of my heroes and mentors, but in the end, I must remember: