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:
For many, these things are difficult. Each one on this list is a battle I struggle with today. I saw the damage these behaviors can cause if left unchecked. I am constantly training to overcome these obstacles. I am far from perfect (obviously). Often my guard slips and so does my feet from the path I know I should be on.
If I can’t do what I know is right, I will not be able to improve. Therefore, the training of the will is indeed important. Important not just for me but for all of us.
Training of the will must be an element of moral education. A weak willpower can result in the inability to do what you know is right, or the inability to prevent what you know is wrong.
What if there was a 70% chance you were going to die sometime at the end of the day? How would you go about your day? Would you approach it any differently?
Obviously, with a 70% chance, you couldn’t just throw it all in the wind, burn all your bridges, and go out with a bang. After all, there is still a 30% chance you would get to see the next day. But if you were given those odds, would you:
Spend a little more time the things that matter,
Hold your loved ones a little closer, or
Reflect a little more on the beautiful?
Each morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.
This morning I am born again. I may still hear the echo of yesterday, but I can no longer change the sound. It is buried in the past. Tomorrow has not yet arrived. As a matter of fact, tomorrow may never come at all. With yesterday gone and tomorrow not guaranteed, all I have is today. All I have is this moment right now. I can affect this. I can do all the things I should have done yesterday. I can do all the things I hoped to leave for tomorrow. I can do this now as if my next breath were to be my last.
It is the advice unasked for that bothers me the most. And when I get it, which seems to be daily, I try not to be rude and do my best to listen to the speaker. But while listening, my mind tends to wander. Who is this person telling me what is in my best interest? What have they done to be a credible speaker? The worst is when it is from an absolute stranger. Who are you to be telling me how to live my life?
Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.
We live in a world full of people who know what is best for us. This is the way it has always been and most likely will always be. We can’t prevent it, but we don’t have to be a part of the problem. We don’t have to be the ones giving unsolicited advice. Rather, we can spend more time figuring out how to best lead our own lives.
Every autumn, the four big oaks in my front yard dump thousands of acorns onto the ground. The deer and the squirrels love it. The dogs bark every time they hit the house like small mortar rounds.
The acorns are a nuisance, but that is okay. The amount of shade those massive oaks produce in the heat of summer is worth the hassle. The oaks are a blessing to those who take refuge among their branches, gain respite from their shade, and feed from their fruit.
It is amazing to think that those trees each started out as a tiny acorn. Such a small seed with so much potential energy! When the combination of earth, water, air, fire, and even spirit work their life-giving magic on the seed, the results are nothing short of miraculous. This is true alchemy.
If we do not plant knowledge when young it will give us no shade when we are old.
The tree is an allegory for wisdom. We plant the seeds of knowledge. We give them the nutrients necessary to grow. And if we do this, then we will reap the blessings in our elder years.
There was once a time when one would hurry ahead only to open the door for the one coming behind. Now a person would hardly look back to see if any was coming.
Once a lady could board a crowded train or bus and others would get up and offer her their seat. Now, she stands.
Once, driving down the road, motorists would use their turn signals and allow others to merge into their lanes. Not anymore.
But that was in the past.
A genuine “how do you do,” a hearty handshake, a smile, and a heartfelt response. Have these become relics of a previous age?
Courtesy is as much a mark of man as is courage.
Courage is no doubt a virtue many would attain. Do we look at courtesy in the same light? Consider the cost it requires to show a little kindness. For you, it may only be a few seconds to go out of your way. For the recipient, the effects may leave a lasting impression paying dividends for years to come.
Some of the ancient philosophers were not believers in hope. They felt it gave someone a false sense. Though I appreciate their insight, I will continue to choose hope.
Like many, I am a fan of sports. I love to engage in athletic contests where I can pit my abilities against an opponent. These are contests of strength, endurance, skill, heart, and mental acuity.
When I have the opportunity, I love to watch others compete. I love the feel-good stories of individuals who found success after facing insurmountable odds. Who doesn’t love the underdog or the Cinderella? Who doesn’t love seeing the poor kid from the bad neighborhood overcome all the bad breaks life has thrown at him?
Winners, especially the ones who win consistently, all have one thing in common. They all believe they can win. They all had hope in coming away victorious. It doesn’t matter if it was the kid on the street or the rich kid with all the advantages. The ones that believed in themselves and believed they could win were the ones who eventually won.
Sooner or later, those who win are those who think they can.
There are many keys to winning. You must train. You must learn. Without the work, you leave it all to chance. But winning in life is no game of chance. To win consistently, you must train in the virtues of:
Wisdom: learn the game, the rules, the strategies, and your opponent.
Discipline: a day-after-day diligence towards your goal.
Justice: to play within the rules ethically, to be a champion in your conduct despite the actions of others.
Courage: to be brave, to push yourself beyond your known limits.
Hope: to believe in yourself even when others doubt you.
Winning consistently only comes to those who believe they can.
I am a big believer in destiny. I have faith that if I really go after something, then I can attain it. It is not a matter of if but a matter of when.
Take writing for example. There are some works that my soul has called me to write, yet they haven’t been completed. I believe they will get done in the future when the time is right (if I am fortunate enough to get to the future). Some may call this a fantasy, that I am living in a fairy tale. And if I was so remiss as to say, “I will get around to it someday,” then those naysayers would be correct. But what they don’t see is what I do daily. These stories are continuously in my mind. And every day, I work toward that end doing the research and honing my writing skills.
A consistent man believes in destiny, a capricious man in chance.
There is a chance that these stories will never get written. I could die, become ill, or face some other tragedy. Those are all real possibilities. But writing what my soul has called me to write is no random toss of the dice. Maybe I will get lucky, and they become best sellers inspiring the masses. I hope it does, but that is not my motivation. I write because my soul tells me to write. This, I do every day. If I didn’t, I would not be listening to my heart. In the end, I will have accumulated quite a massive body of work. This I believe is destiny, but it can only be achieved through consistency.
Suffering is inevitable. That may be something we might not want to hear, but it is true.
Our bodies will degenerate as we age. We can do our best to minimize the effects through nutrition, daily physical activity, and stress management. But despite our best efforts, we will succumb to age. And we can try our best to prevent accidents, but they will still happen. If it hasn’t happened to you yet, rest assured, someday you will suffer physically.
We can guard our souls, but they too will suffer. We will mourn others who suffer. We will mourn loved ones as they pass. Our hearts will long for that which it cannot have. Our souls will suffer.
And then there is the mind. Here the suffering may not be as acute. The body can numb some of its ailments. The soul can as well through the passage of time. Bur our minds are always working. Wanting for the body and soul to be at peace, it wants for the things they cannot have. It longs for something higher, for something better in the future. Although self-induced, the mind will also suffer.
You desire to know the art of living, my friend? It is contained in one phrase: make use of suffering.
Henri Frederic Amiel
To make use of the suffering is the art of living. Indeed, to suffer gracefully is truly an art! And some do this better than others. They take their internal battles stoically. Suffering is a test of the will. And where some, at the slightest hindrance, will go about in sack cloth and ashes proclaiming, “Woe is me,” others will hold their pains close and look for ways to overcome it. They go forth to do battle, and through grit and resolve return as conquerors. The suffering is looked upon as an opportunity, and they will find the greatest use for it.