Rising When You Fall

Go or No-Go

You may even call it pass or fail. I grew up in a world where failure was bad. It was embarrassing. It showed a lack of ability. Nobody wants to fail. And the stigma of failure is often so bad, that to never start at all is a valid temptation.

Why ask the girl on a date? She might say no.

Why try out for the team? You might not make it.

Why sign up for that class? It might be too hard.

In the Army, things didn’t get better. Failure often resulted in an unrelated punishment. Failing at the wrong time could result in your death or the death of your teammates. It was a go or no-go, and well, who wants to be a no-go.

Greenlights

Matthew McConaughey’s book Greenlights may have been one the more enjoyable books I have read this year. A greenlight means go. Catching all greenlights on the road makes for smooth travelling. This is a warm spring day where nothing can wrong. When you have all greenlights, life is good. As McConaughey puts it:

Catching greenlights is about skill: intent, context, consideration, endurance, anticipation, resilience, speed, and discipline. We can catch more greenlights by simply identifying where the red lights are in our life, and then change course to hit fewer of them.

Matthew McConaughey, Greenlights

Greenlights are good. But taken at face value the above passage would suggest to only look for the easy way. But that is not all that he is saying. He tells us the red and yellow lights are moments to pause, to think, and to reflect. Those lights might be green when looked upon in the rearview mirror of life.

Imagine hitting a red light on the road and thinking the game is over. You have failed to hit all greenlights. Would you stop driving? Would you give up or would wait until the light is green?

It’s a matter of how we see the challenge in front of us and how we engage with it. Persist, pivot, or concede. It’s up to us, our choice every time.

Matthew McConaughey, Greenlights

The Opportunity to Fail

That’s right. Failure is an opportunity. It is not always pleasant. At times, the failure can result in consequences unrealized and undesirable. Should that stop us? Nope. If we do the research and then the work, the failure is a chance to learn. It is a chance to evolve as an individual. Give it a try. If you fail, learn. Try again.

In starting your first business or your hundredth, there is a risk that it won’t succeed. There is a reward if it does. What many don’t realize is that the failure also contains a reward. It is called experience, which is not available to those who never try in the first place.

Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising every time we fall.

Oliver Goldsmith

Glory

Many of us seek it in some way, shape, or form. The greatest glory is getting knocked on your rear end then getting back up. Getting knocked down is okay only if you rise when you fall.


Feature photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Crafting Your Biography

Have you ever walked down the biography aisle at your local bookstore or library? What you see on those shelves is history and how one person played a part to impact it? These are the lives of extraordinary individuals and an account of their actions.

Actions. Rarely is a biography about something other than action. Nobody gets written about based on what they said they were going to accomplish. Instead, it is all about their actions. And those actions were not a one and done event. No, they were actions built over a lifetime.

Imagine a biography in that bookstore with your name on it. What would be in it? What would the writer say about you? What actions made it into the book? Without a purpose in life and daily steps to achieve that purpose these questions are difficult to answer. But if you want to become great and worthy of a biography someday, just look at the advice of those who had volumes written about them:

The whole secret of a successful life is to find out what is one’s destiny to do, and then do it.

Henry Ford

It begins with planning. What is your mission in life? If you don’t know, then it may be time to start scratching multiple surfaces until you find one that suits you. Click here to help you discover your massively transformative purpose.

You have to assemble your life yourself, action by action.

Marcus Aurelius

When you have your purpose, you must break it down into smaller, manageable chunks that you can work on daily. Make your lists, complete them religiously, and start stacking your wins.

Discipline is choosing between what you want now and what you want most.

Abraham Lincoln

Taking the easy path will never get you closer to your life’s goals. We must sacrifice immediate gratification and keep our eyes on the prize that lay ahead. We must be disciplined.

No great man lives in vain. The history of the world is but the biography of great men.

Thomas Carlyle

To make it in the biography section, you must shoot for greatness. You can’t play small in this arena. No, you must go big. The journey is arduous. But for the one that would change the world, that is not a problem. Your actions, your life, will not be in vain.


Feature photo by Moritz Kindler on Unsplash

Strength from Misfortune

Think of all the major events over the last couple of years. How many of them were planned for? If you could go through them all over again, how many of them would you choose to endure again?

For many, lives were upended. Thoughts of prosperity went out the window. Even the thoughts of returning to normal are dim. Will things ever go back to the way they were? Probably not. And the new normal, what will that look like? Like the old or a substandard version of it?

Those who know what is good for you will say to not despair. Things will get better. But should you trust external sources of manufactured hope? Do they really know what’s good for you, or is having you believe it only good for them?

With all the misfortune that has taken place there is a real question you should ask. What have you learned? No doubt, we have been through some rough times. Those rough times are only one wave amid a turbulent ocean. When this wave passes, another will take its place only to be followed by more waves. And as the first one battered you, when all became dark and the depths of despair reached out to touch your soul, what did you learn?

It is a crime to despair. We must learn to draw from misfortune the means of future strength.

Winston Churchill

Maybe in the moment, it was okay to close the shutters and pull the blanket tighter around you. Maybe the extra sugar and the alcohol gave you a temporary escape from the present danger. But those temporary pleasures are fleeting. They will in time lose their luster, and you will be confronted with a choice: either find a harder drug to escape with or wake up and face reality. To wake up is to evolve. It is to adapt to the times and learn how to survive and how to thrive. It is to learn how to swim in an ocean that will gladly swallow you up.

Do you believe in God? Good. That means you have a purpose in this world. And that purpose is not to huddle in despair. Throw off the blankets. Open the blinds and let the light in. Let the misfortune be a lesson. Let it be the catalyst for a stronger you.


Feature photo by Shane on Unsplash

Inspiration from the Genius

Search back through the annals of history, and you will encounter legendary figures who surpassed their fellow men with extraordinary powers of the mind. Today, we would call them geniuses and rightly so. Were they born with this talent, or did they cultivate it through acute observation and a life-time pursuit of learning.?

Let’s face it. Some people are just born with it. Yet, they still must cultivate it. Others were fortunate to get a head start. Lucky them, but only if they kept going. Most of the real geniuses began like everybody else. They all took that first step of the millions they would travel in pursuit of their destination. They kept learning. They kept working. They eventually became the masters in their fields.

The man of genius inspires us with a boundless confidence in our own powers.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Those geniuses demonstrate to us that anything is possible. Follow their examples. Let it inspire you to find your own genius.

Experimenting in the Lab of Life

What I didn’t like about High School Science: When it was time to experiment, you only had one chance to make it work. And the experiment you were conducting wasn’t really yours, you were just replicating someone else’s.

It reminds of all the time I spent reading the Book of Proverbs as a kid. I had the lessons right there in front of me, but I didn’t have the first-hand knowledge. It wasn’t until I conducted by own ill-advised experiments that I could understand the validity of Solomon’s sayings. Of course, most of those experiments went wrong. Some of them set me back several years. There were dark times of doubt and confusion. There were even more times of delusion where I traded long-term fulfillment for the fleeting pleasures of the short-term.

But not all the experiments were bad. Some were useful, providing a solid foundation that I continue to build on to this day (reading). Even the experiments that went horribly bad (finances) proved to be valuable lessons.

A true experiment, unlike those conducted in a High School Laboratory, ventures into the unknown. It will test your boundaries as it delves into the uncomfortable. Often, we choose comfort, but it is the uncomfortable that makes us resilient to fears, anxiety, stress, and weakness. The more we experiment with our bodies, our minds, and our souls, the stronger we become. By experimenting daily, we can test the boundaries of our capabilities and see what is truly possible in this life.

All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Get out of your comfort zone. Get into the lab of life and start experimenting.


Feature photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash

Choosing Between Safe and Great

I work in a factory. I could easily put in another fifteen years until retirement. Along the way, my family would be provided for, and I could enjoy my 3-4 weeks a year of vacation. It is not a bad life and only costs me forty hours a week (not including lunch breaks and commute times). They don’t hand out gold watches or pensions anymore, but I should have enough to live on in the last ten years or so of my life (if I am lucky enough to make it that long). I would be known as an honest, hard-working man that put food on the table and clothes on our backs. That would be my legacy.

Many have chosen this way life. It is not a bad way. If anything, it is a safe way. But if last year taught me anything, the safe way is not always as reliable as it is made out to be. Last year, the factory shut down for about six weeks. This was a better situation than many whose jobs went away completely. If my factory would have went down for a longer period or shut its doors forever, what would I have done? What if, like what we have seen over the last few weeks of weather in the United States, we had unforeseen natural disasters that we could not recover from? The safe way would be gone.

Earlier in the week, I wrote about Einstein. Was Einstein playing it safe by working in a patent office? If he went back to the family business, something that his family wanted him to do, would that have been playing it safe? Imagine if he stayed safe and never gave humanity the gift of his mind. As Harry Gray once said, “No one ever achieved greatness by playing it safe.”

My family, with good reason, wants me to play it safe. This is understandable. I am their security, their shelter, and their sustenance. If I leave the confines of safety, I put their welfare in jeopardy. The cautious person would state that it is too great a risk to venture into the unknown. But the unknown is my moon. How can I get to the moon if I am afraid to leave the earth? How can I find my New World if I live on a flat earth afraid to leave the Old?

A friend that I work with told me about a meme floating around. It said, “The hardest part of making $700k a year is leaving your $70k a year job.” There is a lot of truth in this. The unknown holds both success and failure. The known is only more of the same with maybe a 2-3% raise a year.

Thinking about money, wouldn’t more of it be nice? The company I work for makes a tremendous amount of money. They pay me so that they can make more. Will the world be a better place because of this work I do? I don’t think so. But the things I am working on, the things I want to do, could make the world a better place. Even if I made less money, making the world a better place would be worth it. So, the money as nice as making more of it would be, is not nearly as important as doing something that adds value to the lives of others. That is a legacy far beyond my own current sphere of influence.

What would I tell my son? Take the safe way and live an ordinary life free of risk? That is not what we usually tell our children. Instead, we tell them they can be anything they want to be. They can do anything they set their minds on. Is this only a fantasy we tell our children? Do we grow up and grow out of this belief that the sky is the limit? I hope not.

Feature photo by Anaya Katlego on Unsplash. What an awesome message in this photo: If not now when, if not you who.

Pay Up

I am a flawed individual. No matter how hard I try, I just can’t get it right. In all areas of my life, I have come up short.

That sounds super depressing…

But it is not.

In all areas, there is an opportunity for growth. To be flawed is to be human.

I am human.

“Mistakes [and failures],” Sophia Loren said, “are the dues one pays for a full life.”

Let us daily pay our subscription fees for this life we live.


Feature photo by Varvara Grabova on Unsplash

Our Path to Walk

Our path consists of choices. We choose the way we think is best and hope it works out in our favor. Sometimes our choices are bad. They may have seemed good at the time, but ultimately, they take us down a route we never intended. When our choices demand payment, we are faced with a dilemma. How do we survive? How do we navigate the current road so that we may continue to our destination?

There are times the universe gives us a nudge, often not gently. It tells us that we are not doing what we were designed to do. It tells us to stop playing it safe and go do what we were meant to do. To ignore this calling is to play a dangerous game with forces more powerful than us.

I have mentioned the prophet Jonah before. God told him to go one way; he went the other. Jonah chose not to listen to his calling. Thinking he could get away with it, he boarded a ship and fled town. God sent a storm. Not worried, Jonah decided to take a nap. But the storm was a bad one and the sailors panicked. They drew lots to find out who was to blame. Of course, it was Jonah. He was the reason for the storm. Next thing you know, Jonah was taking a salt bath. And if things couldn’t get any worse, a really big fish swallowed him up.

Have you ever found yourself in the belly of a whale? We all go through it on our hero’s journey. Our choices lead us down a path that turns to brambles and thorns. The sun goes behind the trees, and the goblins of our imagination come out to haunt us. This is the belly of Jonah’s whale. Imagine being in there. It is dark. It stinks. If you are prone to motion sickness, this is not the place for you. All you can do there is sit. Sit and wait. There is no one to talk to, so you are left alone to your thoughts. You reflect on the past and how you got there. You imagine the things you will do if you ever get out. But the past and the future are no help to you now. So, you sit. And wait. You still your mind in the present because that is all you have.

Jonah got out of the whale. He went to do the things he was supposed to do. Likewise, the sun will rise again on the morrow, and we will find our own way back onto the path.

God could have sent another to take Jonah’s place, but it was Jonah that He wanted. Nobody else could have walked his path. Only Jonah. In the same way, nobody can walk our paths. It is our journey.

In an east meets west post, consider these words:

No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.

Buddha

Photo by Simon Berger on Unsplash

Walls and Windmills

Even in the best of times, there is still uncertainty. The things we take for granted go away. The health we once enjoyed could take a turn for the worse. Zeno, the founder of Stoicism, was once a wealthy merchant until one day all that wealth was lost at sea. He was ruined financially. How many people would be able to recover from such a catastrophe? How many have jumped out of a skyscraper window or taken their lives because they lost it all? What did Zeno do? He went on to build one of the most influential philosophies the world has ever known.

The world goes through cycles. We, with the attitudes of gods, think we can stop it. Really? We cannot even stop our fellow humans from setting events into motion whose waves sweep across generations and through the centuries. Good or bad, the bad being the ones we remember the most, these changes illicit a response from us. How do you respond when the winds of change begin to blow?

When the winds of change blow, some people build walls, others build windmills.

Chinese Proverb

The Walls. Some will hunker down. They will put up the shutters and try their best to ride out the storm. They will prep for the doom to come going into their fallout shelters with their stockpiles of food. These are the ones that will isolate themselves from the rest of the world. The walls keep them protected on the inside but blinds them to what is on the outside.

The Windmills. By building a windmill, you look at the opportunities that the change brings. Humans are resilient. They can adapt. They can learn to operate within the parameters. Whether the change comes from a broken government or an angry Mother called Nature, they bravely face the obstacles ahead. There may no longer be any rainbows and sunshine in their near future, but they will keep forging ahead with the hope of a better tomorrow for them and the ones to come after them.

Everything involves a choice. Zeno could have said that life no longer held any meaning. He could have built a wall separating himself from the rest of humanity. But he chose something else. He chose to rebuild his life and along the way created a legacy spanning across the millennia. And like him, we choose whether to adapt to the changes before us or to isolate behind the walls. One results in a future for the generations to come. And the other, well, it just ends.


Feature photo by Hendrik Kuterman on Unsplash

Prophets Today

What I learned about the prophets from reading the Old Testament:

  • They usually only came around when bad things were being done by the people.
  • They were not always well-received by the bad people.
  • The people in the land were generally wicked. The bad people far-outweighed the good and were in positions of leadership.
  • They had a message telling the people to change their ways.
  • What they said was highly offensive (to the bad people) and the backlash often ended in their execution.

Those times may have been a couple of thousand years behind us, but is the world we live in really that different? There is a controlling force that wants us to live in a certain way. It wants us to have freedom of speech only if it is in line with their views. We are safe only if we stay in the herd, abide by the rules of the shepherds, and don’t make too much noise.

There is only one way to avoid criticism: do nothing, say nothing, and be nothing.

Aristotle

Imagine trying to live your life free of criticism. You are safe if you don’t step out of the boundaries. But as soon as you do, as soon as you break free from the herd, you run the risk of criticism. How much courage does it take to go out on your own, to say and do and be what you believe in your heart to be right? Without such bravery by others, we would still be living on a flat earth.

There are dangers in being an outlier. You could get canceled and de-platformed for having a voice that is different. Go far enough, you could be arrested, tortured, and even quietly removed from existence. It sounds extreme, but there are nations that have zero tolerance for those that do not quietly acquiesce to their rule. Don’t believe me? Go ask a Cambodian immigrant that fled their homeland in the 1960’s about the Khmer Rouge or a former Soviet escaping to America during the Cold War. It is not easy being different in a world that does not tolerate it. But as hard as it is…

The world still needs its prophets. Okay, maybe not prophets. That takes a calling destined only for a few. But there needs to be people willing to step up and cry foul when the world, or at least their part of the world, begins to stray. Without them, who knows, we may still believe the universe revolves around the earth.

Do, say, believe. You might get criticized. You might find that you were wrong and grow from the experience. You might create change, or you might be ostracized. Nelson Mandela said, “Your playing small does not serve the world. Who are you not to be great?” He knew what it was to be an outlier and take a stand. We can learn from people like him and strive to make the world a little better for the next generation


Feature painting: Jonah by Michelangelo from the Sistine Chapel. Jonah wasn’t exactly excited about being a prophet. After a little prompting from God and a large fish, Jonah eventually followed his calling.