A Straight Pathway to Achievement

A Tuesday night soccer game. Before the game, I was a little worried how our team would play. We were missing three players and would take the field with one less player than our opponent. At game time, I realized neither team would have any substitutes. It would be eight versus nine with the winner standing at the top of the league standings.

After 5 minutes of play, we went down 1-0. The star player on the other team scored the first goal. Oh no! This could get ugly fast. Yet, our team didn’t surrender. They never gave up and continued to run and play hard. Our defense collected themselves and became relentless in their pursuit of the ball. And in the proudest of dad moments…

My son, Alec, began to shine. He coached his teammates on what to do and where to go. He took over on offense with multiple break-a-ways. He  employed a few tricks that left the defenders watching him as he passed them by. After the dust settled, Alec had four goals on the tally sheet. We won 4-1.

Sometimes, a player gets lucky. Other times, a player just has a little more natural talent. But this performance wasn’t luck. It wasn’t natural talent. So, what was it? What separated him from the rest of the pack?

Having conceived of his purpose, a man should mentally mark out a straight pathway to its achievement, looking neither to the right or the left.

James Allen

Last season, Alec was good. He was one of the four best players on the best team in the league. He finished the season with one or maybe even two goals. He was happy to win and happy to provide key passes to the goal scorers. But he wanted more. He wanted to capitalize on the “oh so many close” shots. Last season was when he started to really get hungry.

During the offseason when he wasn’t in school or wrestling, Alec was outside kicking the ball until the sun went down. He would bring his iPad outside with him, watch a video, and then practice what he saw over and over until he learned the skill. If the weather kept him indoors, he was watching more videos, watching games, or playing soccer on his Nintendo Switch. Soccer was his focus, and it was laser sharp.

Of course, I love to see his work bear fruit. But what impresses me the most is seeing his work ethic. He found something he is passionate about. And to become the best version of himself, he never looked to the right or the left. He marked out his pathway and began the journey only the most dedicated are willing to take.

I spend so much of my time teaching and working with him. But watching him practice, I realized he was really teaching me. At his age, I never worked as hard as he did. And as an adult, I tend to waver from one pursuit to the next. I am a middling Jack-of-a-bunch-of-stuff, but a master of nothing. Alec, on the other hand, is on a path to mastery that I can only hope to be on one day. He is becoming my inspiration to be better, to try harder. Maybe, there will come a time that I can be like him.

The Work

I’ve always believed that if you put in the work, the results will come.

Michael Jordan

When I was younger, I didn’t always do the work. Consequently, the outcomes I was hoping for rarely came. It wasn’t until I got older that I realized I needed to do more work. This became my faith:

Do the work. The results will come.

How often is my faith tested? Am I only entitled to the work but not to the fruits? I try not to compare myself to others. But when I pick my head up from the work, I only seem to see the results others are getting. Where are my results? Where is the payoff from these years of struggle?

Do the work. The results will come.

I know I made mistakes. The track I am on is not the fast track. Heck, it is not even the medium track. However, this is the bed I made. I must sleep in it until I can produce a better bed. This is my race no matter how slow I go.

Do the work. The results will come.

I want to believe the results will come. Doing the work is all I have. I know for a fact that I won’t get the results I desire if I don’t do the work. Therefore, all I have is the work. if the amount of work I am doing is not getting the results, then I must do more work. The work must be smarter. It must be relentless.

Do the work. The results will come.

I pray for the strength to be able to do it. I pray that I may continue to fight this good fight. My mind and my hands were built to work. I have no other choice but to do that which I was called to do: the work.

In the Wilderness

The following was inspired by Father Mike Schmitz’s Bible in a Year podcast Day 65:

Here’s a brief recap of a story not unfamiliar to most of us:

The children of Israel were slave to the Egyptians. They lived a hard life of labor. Moses eventually gets them out of Egypt. They are headed to the Promised Land, a land flowing with milk and honey. More importantly, they are headed to a place of freedom.

Between Egypt and the Promised Land is the wilderness. They don’t like it there, and like many unruly children, they complain and murmur. Their destination is a dream of the future. The wilderness blocks their vision of the dream. In their misery, they remember Egypt. It was a place of their slavery, but was it that bad? Maybe they should have stayed in Egypt rather than wandering around in the wilderness.

My (imaginary) friend Sarah is physically unfit. Here is a quick description of Sarah:

  • She works in a job that doesn’t demand much from her physically.
  • Her calorie intake is greater than her calorie burn.
  • Due to convenience and the fact that it is tasty, she eats a lot of calorie dense, nutrient deficient food.
  • She is regularly buying new clothes because she keeps growing out of  her old ones.
  • She is in a state of dis-ease. Why is there a hyphen in this word? Because her body is not in an optimal state to perform its normal duties. Her body is not at ease.

Sadly, Sarah is a slave to the environment she has created. She is not happy, but she doesn’t know how to escape her present condition.

Sarah’s loved ones are concerned about her well-being. They, the fitter ones, plant a vision within her mind of what is possible if she makes the following changes in her life:

  • Lose weight by going into a calorie deficit.
  • Engage in more physical activity to strengthen her muscles and bones.
  • Eat nutrient dense foods that are satiating and give her the fuel she needs.
  • Live a healthy lifestyle that promotes well-being and reduces and/or eliminates her current dis-eased state.

What her loved ones show her is a glimpse of her promised land.

Sarah agrees and with the assistance of her “advisors,” she flees the lifestyle that has enslaved her. Where is Sarah now? She is in her own wilderness. She has given up all the things that put her in bondage. The transition is difficult. She has made the changes but has yet to see the results. She has the vision in her mind, but she remembers the immediate gratification of her previous lifestyle. At this moment, Sarah is at a crossroads. How long she stays in the wilderness in up to her.

At one time in our lives, we have all been in Sarah’s place. We have found ourselves in bondage to a self-created system. This could be fitness, bad habits, an unfulfilling job, or anything that is a less-than-optimal situation. But during our captivity, a loved one, an inspirational video, a book, or an article presented us with a new vision of a better life. Undoubtedly, many of us chose to leave our old lifestyle in a quest for our own promise land. Making the decision to change, we entered the wilderness. We still have the vision, yet the old way of doing things no longer seems so bad. And then, we begin to doubt and to wander. In our hearts, we mumble and complain. Was it really that bad? Is all this really worth it? This is the test. We can continue our true path, or we can deviate. How long we wander in the wilderness is up to us.

Legacy

What is value?

It is what something is worth. When we pay for an item, we expect the value to match or even exceed the price.

What does it mean to provide value?

I would like to think my words provide value. I do not charge a fee for my services (yet), but I respect the time you invest in visiting my site. Your time is just as valuable if not more valuable than money. Money is something that can be lost and then recovered. Time, once spent, can never be recovered. If I cannot provide value in the time you spend with me, it would be better for you to go somewhere else. Your time is too valuable to waste it on something that offers no return on your investment. Therefore, I write from the heart and to the best of my ability to provide equal value for your time.

Someday, I hope my services will increase in value. My goal is to give more to the world than I ever take. This is the legacy I wish to leave my family and those within my community (my community being as large or small as I choose it to be). My legacy is not for me. I cannot reap the rewards of future generations that may be inspired by the remnants of my words and deeds. They receive the benefits of my legacy, not me.

In a conversation one evening with my son, we spoke about success. He told me if he ever made it big, he was going to buy me a beach complete with a house and a shed for all my stuff. I told him this was a very kind gesture and how much I would love that. But I also told him that I would never want it if it came at the cost of his happiness. If he did not love what he was doing, then he would not be successful. There is no amount of money or possessions that could give him happiness. I then asked him where we could find our happiness. He said, “Love.” Yes! I told him he was right. The happiness we desire in this life comes from loving ourselves and others.

Loving Ourselves

This is a must. If we do not love who we are, we can change it. We can become better. We can aspire to greater things and work on making those aspirations a reality. If we hate what we do and only do it to “make a living,” then we are not loving ourselves. If this is our current situation, we can either resign ourselves to our fate or take the steps to make a change.

Loving Others

In Matthew 22:39*, Jesus said, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” I love myself so much that I am willing to do everything I can to become the best version of myself. But that is not the commandment Jesus gave us to love others. Therefore, I will become the best version of myself to better serve you. And I love you so much that I will do my best to help you become the best version of you. This is my love for you, not to give you the fish but to teach you how to fish.

Great lives never go out; they go on.

Benjamin Harrison

This is legacy. All of us will die. Many of us will be no more than an afterthought upon expiring. Some of us will go. That is, the great ones among us will go on and even the grave will not have the power to stop it. The only way we can go on is to provide lasting value to the world. This is done through love, love for ourselves and love for others.


*Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

Matthew 22:34-40

A Step of Faith

What is faith? Is it not believing in someone or something even if you can’t see it? I don’t think about the air I breathe. I never consider if it has the right mixture of gases. Breathing is a natural function, and I have faith that my body will be able to use the air it takes in.

Blind faith is different and often dangerous. Whether it is an over-confidence in one’s abilities or a disconnect from the reality of one’s circumstances, blind faith can be disastrous. Eating an unknown mushroom can result in negative consequences up to and including death. Walking in complete darkness can have similar results. if you are going to have faith, blind faith is not the one you want to have.

Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

I love these words from Dr. King. I see the staircase in front of me. I know that what I want is at the top even if I don’t completely understand the full value of what is up there. My only choices are to stay in place or take the first step. The consequences of not moving are more dangerous than the action of taking the step. Action begets action. One step leads to another. I have faith that my legs and heart will get me to the top. This is faith. It is not blind faith, but faith in the process of doing what I was put one this earth to do. It begins with the action. Therefore, I must go.

Build the New

How much energy have I spent in reliving the past? It is a time locked in concrete and cannot be changed. All the “I wish I would have, could have, or should have” to no avail. What is done is done, yet so hard to be done with.

There are a few old computer programs I liked. They were familiar, therefore making it easier to use. But as technology improved, they became less appealing, buggier, and simply outdated. To keep those programs operating took more work and eventually the costs outweighed the benefits.

Like the computer programs, companies often struggle when they can’t adapt to the times. They held onto the old ways of doing business and got outpaced by their competitors. The “why fix it if it ain’t broke” mentality holds true, unless one is unaware that it is indeed broken.

The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.

Socrates

Companies that can build the new stay relevant.

Computer programs that are technologically with the times will outperform the legacy programs of yesterday.

And then, there is us. If we are constantly fighting the old, we will continuously find ourselves in a losing battle. Would it not be better for us to concentrate on building the new?

Mind, body, and spirit. If what we did in the past is no longer serving us, we would be better off building a new way to do things. It takes observation and analysis to build self-awareness. This is review of the past, not dwelling in the past. We must look to the future and plan a deviation from previously failed actions. This is strategy, not fantasy. It is in the present moment that the changes are made. Work on building the new, not fighting the old.

Within Oneself

Belief

I have a confession to make. I believe in myself. I believe I can achieve what I set out to do in life. This is my faith. I am an optimist when it comes to fulfilling my destiny. Better to be an optimist than a pessimist.

This does have a drawback. Sometimes I get so excited about my hopes for the future and how I intend to achieve it that I want to share with others. But as I learned in The Art of Impossible by Steven Kotler, telling others what I intend to do before I do it, prematurely sends dopamine to the brain. Because I imagined it and told others, I have tricked my brain into thinking it has already been accomplished. This makes doing the work even harder as the brain has already gotten the “high” it was looking for.*

Do I need to tell others? No. I have a belief in myself. That is enough. Therefore, I must temper my excitement. I must let go of the egotistical desire for aplomb. I don’t need to convince others of my plans. Instead, I must execute the plans.

Contentment

What makes me happy? Am I a dog that derives happiness from the approval of others? Happiness is internal. Being designed for action, I am happiest when I perform the work I was created to do. If I squander away my time, if I do nothing or get “busy” doing that which is outside of my life’s purpose, then my happiness wanes. Isn’t this true for all of us?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I do find joy in the success of others. If you are happy, then I am happy for you. But to be content with myself, I must do what God created me to do.

Acceptance

Approval is nice. So is acceptance. However, this also is internal. My conscience is intact. It knows what is right and wrong. If I violate it, it sends a message to the rest of my being that I am in a state of discord. If I repeatedly abuse my conscience and learn to dismiss its signal of disapproval, then I will nullify this beautiful tool designed for harmony. I am what I am. I am not what I am not. I can accept this. It is something I can work with. I hope the world can accept this. If not, then I apologize. For I cannot be anything other than what I am.

Because one believes in oneself, one doesn’t try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn’t need other’s approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.

Lao Tzu

We must look inward to find our peace, our harmony, and our happiness. Others cannot provide this for us. It is a task we must achieve on our own.


*While Latham and Locke originally believed that making your goal public increased motivation, a series of additional studies by NYU psychologist Peter Gollwitzer showed that talking about a goal significantly lessens your chances of achieving it. By giving voice to an aim, you’re creating what’s called a “social reality,” and this has negative consequences for real reality. The act of telling someone about your goal gives you the feeling that the goal’s already been achieved. It releases the dopamine you’re supposed to get afterward, prematurely. -Art of Impossible, Steven Kotler

Bound by Anxiety

I was living a nightmare. It was a bad rendition of George Thorogood’s “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer.” I was in my late 20’s. I had a decent job. But with all the debt I racked up from the Army, I was struggling to get by. Every cent I earned hardly covered my living expenses. It certainly was not enough to get ahead. I was miserable and saw no light at the end of the tunnel. Instead of buckling down and proactively doing something about my situation, I took what little money I had, bought some booze, and did my best to check out from reality.

I wanted to get better, yet I didn’t know how. I was stuck at the bottom of the pit I had dug for myself with no visible means of escape. Life was miserable. I was miserable.

Men are anxious to improve their circumstances, but are unwilling to improve themselves; they therefore remain bound. -James Allen

James Allen

My external situation was dire. The person I had become was one that I did not like. What I needed was a miracle. And that miracle, it was one that only I could provide. I needed an internal miracle. The process was slow. It began with letting go of the past, then I had to remove the shackles of an uncertain future, and finally I had to concentrate on the present.

To affect the external, one must look at correcting the internal. If not, one might remain bound by anxiety.


Feature photo by Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash

Goals and What You Become

The sun is going down, but it doesn’t prevent Alec from kicking the ball. Every weekday, it is the same scenario. School in the in morning, followed by soccer immediately after his homework is done. On the weekends, it is soccer all day with the occasional break for food. Sometimes, he will even bring his iPad outside, watch tutorials, and then go practice what he just watched. Even after his soccer games, he will come home and continue practicing.

When asked what his goals were, Alec responded by saying he wanted to be a better dribbler, passer, shooter, and teammate. Essentially, he wants to be a complete player able to contribute to the success of his team. Well, if that is the case there is only one solution.

Octavius Augustus said, “Practice is the master of all things.” I can’t count how many times I have said this to him in his nine years of life. And yet, I am still amazed by his dedication. He has found something he loves that he wants to get better at. Therefore, he practices at every opportunity he gets. If this is the monster I have created, then I am one proud monster papa.

What you get by achieving your goals is not as important as what you become by achieving your goals.

Henry David Thoreau

No doubt, Alec would love to be a great soccer player. I hope he does as it would be the fruit of his labor. But just because he works hard at something, it doesn’t mean he will always get the rewards he hopes for. Such is the nature of life! The rewards are nice, yet there is something greater. What does he become by going through the process?

There is nothing like the feeling of achieving a goal, especially if it is challenging. We always seem to have goals. However as soon as we achieve them, we often move directly on to the next goal, sometimes without even a pause. But every time we cross that milestone, we begin the journey as someone with more knowledge and wisdom, one that is battle-tested and experienced. We become something greater through the process of striving toward hard things.

Alec is developing skills beyond the soccer field. He is learning what it means to be both a leader and a follower. As the players move upon the field like pieces on a chess board, he is learning tactics and on-the-spot adjustments. He is developing quicker reaction times and improving his decision-making skills. He is developing his mind, heart, and body. He is becoming something new that he will be able to take with him into any new endeavor he chooses to pursue.


Feature photo by Ronnie Overgoor on Unsplash

Thoughts Corresponding with Desire

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.


Feature photo by Danica Tanjutco on Unsplash