First a Dream

A Father to His Son by Carl Sandburg

A father sees his son nearing manhood.
What shall he tell that son?
"Life is hard; be steel; be a rock."
And this might stand him for the storms
and serve him for humdrum monotony
and guide him among sudden betrayals
and tighten him for slack moments.
"Life is a soft loam; be gentle; go easy."
And this too might serve him.
Brutes have been gentled where lashes failed.
The growth of a frail flower in a path up
has sometimes shattered and split a rock.
A tough will counts. So does desire.
So does a rich soft wanting.
Without rich wanting nothing arrives.
Tell him too much money has killed men
and left them dead years before burial:
the quest of lucre beyond a few easy needs
has twisted good enough men
sometimes into dry thwarted worms.
Tell him time as a stuff can be wasted.
Tell him to be a fool every so often
and to have no shame over having been a fool
yet learning something out of every folly
hoping to repeat none of the cheap follies
thus arriving at intimate understanding
of a world numbering many fools.
Tell him to be alone often and get at himself
and above all tell himself no lies about himself
whatever the white lies and protective fronts
he may use against other people.
Tell him solitude is creative if he is strong
and the final decisions are made in silent rooms.
Tell him to be different from other people
if it comes natural and easy being different.
Let him have lazy days seeking his deeper motives.
Let him seek deep for where he is born natural.
Then he may understand Shakespeare
and the Wright brothers, Pasteur, Pavlov,
Michael Faraday and free imaginations
Bringing changes into a world resenting change.
He will be lonely enough
to have time for the work
he knows as his own.

Such a beautiful poem whose message rings true through the ages! These words penned by Carl Sandburg went into the book __ and was read by countless people. Eventually, the book won a Pulitzer Prize, a prestigious award that is highlight of a writer’s career. Sandburg won three of them.

Sandburg’s advice to a son. So much could be given to a boy embarking on manhood and may one day have children of his own. How many hours did it take this poet to write one piece so eloquently and to the point?

I have been immensely busy today. I worked on one of my poems all morning and made an important change, I took out a comma. That is not all I did. In the afternoon, after much mature reflection, I put it back.

Oscar Wilde

Think of all the revisions and rewrites. A comma here, a pause there. The contents always on the mind. The work never ceasing.

Before the revisions, it was a jumble of words. Ideas put onto paper drawn from life’s experience as a son, a young man, a husband, and then a father. Theories put into practice becoming hard-earned experience.

And ever before the first draft, the poem was a dream pulled from the ether. It was a formless embryo hidden within the recesses of a brilliant mind.

Nothing happens unless first a dream.

Carl Sandburg

All great works started as a dream. Ideas were birthed and then sprang into life with a plan, with trial and error, and with dedicated and perseverant work.


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The Light in the Dark

Another night that began with what seemed an endless cycle of tossing and turning. The clock on my nightstand lies face down. I neither want to see the time nor the light emitting from it. Even with no known light source coming from the room, my eyes can still detect enough light to make out shapes and figures.

There have been times when I have felt my soul to be in complete darkness. Times, when at my lowest, I did not know if the light would ever shine on it again. I dug the hole, placed myself in it, and then covered it over with dirt. No ability to escape and no hope of salvation.

Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all the darkness.

Desmond Tutu

Despite my self-inflicted darkness, it turns out my soul is like my eyes. Somehow, it adjusts to the darkness and is illuminated by a light within. My soul refuses to remain without hope.

I want it to be dark when I sleep, but I don’t want my soul to be without light. Solomon said whoever digs a pit will fall into it (Proverbs 26:27). If I keep digging a pit for my soul, I will eventually fall into it. The key is to learn what I did to get into that situation and to try my best to not repeat that folly.

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Striving for Perfection, Catching Excellence

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.

Vince Lombardi

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.

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Thinking You Can Win

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.

Richard Bach

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.


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Really Go After It

Consider the following:

  • The healthiest body you could possibly have. One that is functional for your age, looks good, and is free of pain.
  • Financial security that allows you to sleep peacefully at night, enjoy life, and not fill you with anxiety when paying your bills and feeding your family.
  • Friends that elevate, encourage, and push you to excel.
  • A purpose in life that is more than a job. One that provides meaning, abundance, and fulfillment.

Wow! Those four may only be the tip of the iceberg, but for many, just one would make a life-changing difference. However, those same people might think even one is an impossibility. But if others had figured out how to do it, why can’t they? Why can’t you or me?

Anything you really want, you can attain, if you really go after it.

Wayne Dyer

Wayne Dyer’s words should be a mantra. It should be a reminder of what is humanly possible. If you want it bad enough, you could have it. But there is a catch. And that catch, well, it is a big one. You can attain your heart’s desire…

If you really go after it.

There is no middle of the road. There is no, “I really want it, but…” you must go after it. It must be all-consuming, all-pervasive, and have you go all-in. if not, then all you have is a desire without anything to show for it.


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Tragedies and Goals

It was another weekend where not enough got accomplished. As per usual, one of two things happened. I either over planned more than I could get gone or I under planned. In this case, I failed to plan.

 I usually make my weekend plans on Thursday or Friday. But this week, I got busy. And I got distracted. The result? When the weekend came around, not enough got done. I took too much free time and worked on tasks of lesser importance. I failed to make clear goals which in turn got me no closer to my high, hard goals.

The tragedy of life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach.

Benjamin Mays

Yes, it was just one weekend. There will hopefully be more in the future. And though I look at it as a tragedy, it doesn’t even compare to what Dr. Mays stated as the real tragedy: having no goals to reach.

Now don’t get me wrong. I have goals. I probably have more goals than I wish to admit. But what is a goal if it is not planned and executed? A pure fantasy. The bad thing about fantasies is they don’t get us closer to our intended destination. Instead, they consume valuable time. And time, as William Penn once said, is what we want most, but what we use worst.

I know I need to do better. My hope is to reach my goals. If I don’t improve my planning, I run the risk of not seeing them come to fruition.


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The Aligning of the Stars

The sun moves through the galaxy at about 450,000 miles per hour. It is just one star in a multitude of stars scattered throughout the universe. Imagine all the stars moving at that speed. And yet, to us, they seem to stand still.

All the ancient megaliths that were designed around the sun and stars have been correctly aligned for thousands of years. Like us today, those original builders were going off what seemed to be fixed points during the seasons. If they would have placed their blocks any place they pleased, none of their monuments would have lined up to the sky. Instead, they used mathematical precision and years of study to place those blocks in the exact location they intended.

They used observation and science to calculate the best places to build. They aligned themselves and their monuments to the stars. They did not wait for the stars to move to them.

Modern humans, unlike their ancestors, have developed a different belief system. Rather than going where the stars are optimally located, they want to wait until the stars are aligned to them. They want to believe their time will magically appear without any effort on their part.

Those same people look at anomalies like Gates, Musk, and Bezos and wonder how they got so lucky. And though fortune did play some part, they did not idly stand by and wait for the perfect alignment of the stars before they acted. Like the builders of old, these modern builders put themselves into the best positions possible.

Destiny is not a matter of chance, it’s a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.

William Jennings Bryan

I am a big believer in destiny. We all have it, and we all have the power to capitalize on it. But destiny will not simply come to us. Instead, we must move toward our destinies. The stars will always be aligned. What we must do is prepare ourselves. We must do the work and be where we need to be when we need to be there. We can choose to meet our destiny, or we can watch it go by.


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Climbing Mt. Vision

We are what and where we are because we have first imagined it. -Donald Curtis

All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become. -Buddha

A man cannot directly choose his circumstances, but he can choose his thoughts, and so indirectly, yet surely, shape his circumstances. -James Allen

We become what we think about all day long. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Throughout the ages, the message has been repeated over and again. You are the product of your thinking. In our youth, our imagination ran wild with the possibilities of what we could accomplish. Somewhere along the way, as we aged, we became more “responsible” and put away those childish dreams. However, reigning in our imaginations did not halt the fact that we are still the product of our thoughts.

In Pushing to the Front (click here for free e-book), Orison Swett Marden wrote, “We lift ourselves by our thoughts, we climb upon our vision of ourselves.” Mt. Everest is but a molehill compared to the vision I have imagined for myself. I don’t know if I will ever get to the top. Regardless, I will never stop climbing. Consider Marden’s words and elevate your level of thinking. Take your imagination to the heights and begin your ascent to Mt. Vision.


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Choosing Hope

There are a few philosophers that would speak of the futility of hope. They say to trust in it is a dangerous thing, and one would do well to stay away from it. I disagree.

Logic will tell me that the sun will rise tomorrow. The earth will continue its path and spin until the darkness becomes light. This may be true beyond the shadow of a doubt. But when I go to sleep at night, it is with hope that I may see another day.

Logic will tell me that I will reap what I sow. But in the Bhagavad Gita, I am instructed that my entitlements are only to the work and not to the fruit. I will do the work and sow the seeds, but it is with the hopes of a harvest that I go into the fields in the first place.

Despite the belief of others that hope is a waste of time, I will continue to hope. It is an integral part of my life. Maybe it is foolish to hope that things will get better. But I can’t help it, my nature is one of optimism. I will do my best, and I will hope for the best. And if it doesn’t work out, oh well, at least I tried.


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The Summer Within

After work, I enjoyed my walk to the car. It was in the upper forties and partly cloudy. Not bad for a winter’s day. On my way home, I called my little brother in Oklahoma. It didn’t take long before we started talking about the weather. He said it was cold, real cold. The high temperatures were in the single digits with a hope of getting above that sometime in the next week. The forecast for the night called for 12-16 inches of snow. This was the conservative projection as most of the models called for much more. Ouch!

In the Northern Hemisphere, it is winter. In parts of North America, it is the coldest it has been in decades. The winter is cold. It is dark. Life slows down, and in some instances, comes to a standstill. The winter doesn’t offer us much hope. Our only hope is that it will pass.

For many, the winter came in the Spring of last year (2020). A virus came and forced us into isolation. The economy slowed down, in some cases, it came to a standstill. Just like a seasonal winter, we huddled indoors separated from the ones we loved. We looked out our windows, waiting for the day we could finally reemerge from our hibernation. Some of us are still waiting.

In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me lay an invincible summer.

Albert Camus

In the depth of winter, some were able to thrive. They realized that life must still go on even in this time of darkness. And no matter how cold it got, no matter how isolated they were, there was still an incredible warmth within them. When others lost hope, they forged ahead.

Winter comes and winter goes. Eventually, even the worst winters will past. We can all find the invincible summer within us. We can cultivate the heat and the force that gives life to us and those around us.

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