Dream Time

Begin with the end in mind.

I have heard the above quote before, but I was reminded of it this week while listening to The Art of Manliness Podcast #607  with Stephen M.R. Covey covering his father’s book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

What is the ultimate end? Death. For a moment, consider what might be said at your funeral. How will you be remembered by your spouse, children, co-workers, and community? What would you like them to say about you? That is your end. And if your goal is to get them to say what you would like them to say, then it would be best if you begin planning and working on it now.

In the same fashion, you could imagine where you want to be in 5, 10, or even 20 years. Once the seed is planted in the imagination, we must begin the cultivation process and allow that seed to grow into reality. Start at the end, draw out the blueprints, lay the foundation, and then complete the project.

All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. -T.E. Lawrence

As long as we have breath in our bodies, we can set a new goal. We can have the waking dreams that make us dangerous in the good way. In the book Super Brain by Rudolph E. Tanzi and Deepak Chopra, we learn that cells are dynamic. As long as they keep moving, they live. But once they stop, they die. Even into our later years, we can continue moving. It is only when we become stagnant that we lose the dynamic ability to achieve new growth. The key is to keep growing, to keep improving.

For some of us, we suddenly have more time on our hands than ever before. What will you do with this time? If you have nothing to keep you occupied, it might be a good time to start dreaming. Set a new goal. Dream a new dream. Become the person you want to be known as when you come to your journey’s end.

You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream. –C.S. Lewis

Towards the Sun

When we retire to our beds at night, we take it on faith that the sun will rise again in the morning. Of course science will tell you that there will be another morning, but our faith is in believing in the things we can’t see, like the sun on the other side of the earth.

When the sun rises, it brings with it new possibilities. We can feel its warmth even on the coldest days. Its effect permeates into the very fabric of our beings. Our bodies recharge and become healthier. Our minds awake and become more alert and more focused. Our souls, freed from the shackles of yesterday’s worries, gravitates toward the hope that a new day offers.

We can only feel the effects of the sun when we expose ourselves to it. Take a moment to bathe yourself in its light. Face towards it and offer a silent prayer of gratitude for this blessing. In that moment, you will realize no shadows are before you. No darkness, only light.

Keep your face always toward the sunshine and shadows will fall behind you. –Walt Whitman

Sunshine Bath by Zac Durant
Sunshine Bath by Zac Durant courtesy of Unsplash

Stretching to New Limits

As children, we are naturally flexible. But as we age, we tend to lose that flexibility. In death, we become totally stiff, otherwise known as rigor mortis.

A way to offset this stiffness is through stretching. We can push ourselves slightly past our comfort zones. Do this often enough, and we can regain some of the flexibility of our youth.

If we lay in the bed or sit on the couch too long, for example when we are sick, our muscle fibers shorten and we become stiff. Our bodies become dormant and the ability to move becomes more difficult. Bodies in rest tend to stay in rest. And if this is true, then the opposite is true. Bodies in motion tend to stay in motion. Motion leads to greater flexibility.

It is not just in our bodies that we can lose our flexibility. We allow ourselves to slip into routines. We mold ourselves into boundary sets (principles, standards, and ideals) that in time become difficult to break. If we become too afraid to step out of our comfort zones, our whole beings will stiffen. We will become dead to new possibilities.

Stiffness is thus a companion of death; flexibility a companion of life. –Lao Tzu

Our hope is to find the courage to move beyond the known. Beyond the safe and the comfortable. It is in this, we will find growth. We will find motion and in time become more flexible.

The Challenge of Big Goals

Sometimes I will watch my son Alec play a game. The game is way too easy, and he wins every time. I will ask him why he plays it. He simply responds that it is something he enjoys.

If a game is too challenging, he will get frustrated and stop playing. If it is too hard, it isn’t very fun for this seven year old. Ideally the goal of any game is to win and to have fun. Alec is not going to willingly challenge his mental capacities for the sake of challenging his mental capacities. At his age, that is not enough of an incentive to play the game.

As we get older, our motivations become more complex. Of course, we like to have fun, and we want to win. But we also have to add in elements of “it needs to be done” or “it will make us better.” We lose the simplicity of our childhood for the higher purpose of necessity. We force ourselves to do what we think is in our best interests. It is why we set resolutions at the beginning of the year in hopes of some monumental change. There is an inner desire to become better, to put it on paper, and commit to it. By the way, how are those resolutions going?

The commission from the church came in. They approached the candidates and asked for their proposals. They wanted something spectacular, something worthy to adorn the temple of God. They wanted a masterpiece to grace the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Imagine if Michelangelo gave them a simple proposal. Picture him saying, “Well, I can maybe paint a cross on a blue background with a couple of clouds floating in the distance.” Could you imagine the response from the ceiling committee? They would have passed on him and went to the next artist. They didn’t want basic. They wanted something that would inspire wonder in the hearts of their parishioners. Michelangelo took the job and painted the ceiling in about four years. His work would last for centuries and be replicated in hundreds of different ways so that the masses could place a reminder of it in their homes.

The greatest danger for most of us is not that our goal is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it. –Michelangelo

Michelangelo’s work on that ceiling was an enormous project. His goals in the beginning were no small thing. He challenged himself, and he completed it. When it comes to goal setting, his example would be the gold standard of shooting for the moon. And what would have happened if he never finished it? What if he died in the last year of the project? I don’t think he would have been overly disappointed. Yes, of course he would have wanted to finish it, but it would not have been for a lack of effort on his part.

The opposite of the gold standard for goal setting would be to make set them too low. It would be like playing a game that is way too easy. Those type of goals do not make us better people. They don’t push us to see what we are capable of accomplishing. Today, I am going to take a moment and look at the goals I am setting for myself. Are they going to challenge me or are they going to give me a false sense of accomplishment? Am I working to become better or am I choosing to remain stagnant?

Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars. -Les Brown

Growth and Progress

We hope for the best. Usually that means improving at something, achieving a victory, or being successful. To keep your hope intact, you have to grow. You have to make progress.

What can you do today to improve your tomorrow? Mind, body, soul. This is the trifecta you need to develop.

Mind: What are you reading? What are you learning? Knowledge. Understanding. Wisdom.

Body: Use it or lose it. Objects in motion tend to stay in motion. The opposite is true as well unless you break the trend. Discipline. Temperance.

Soul: You have to train your heart. Courage. Bravery. Perseverance.

Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning. –Benjamin Franklin

Suffer-ability

I love the analogy of running a race as it compares to life. In both, you start out on a journey with the goal of winning, or in some cases –just finishing. I have never been the first to cross the finish line of a running race, but I have had a few personal victories along the way. Those victories didn’t happen by chance. I had to work for them, overcoming obstacles both internal and external.

In a conventional race, you really only have to deal with your own preparedness, the weather conditions, and the difficulty of the course layout. These were the only races I was running until last year, when I experienced my first obstacle course race. Not only did I have to deal with the all the factors involved in a conventional race, I had to deal with the obstacles, the water crossings, and the mud. A whole new animal and an even better metaphor for this race we call life.

I’m not the strongest. I’m not the fastest. But I’m really good at suffering. –Amelia Boone (one of the greatest obstacle course racers to ever step on the course)

When we think of practice, we think of doing an act over and over until we get better at it. Yoga is considered a practice. In order to do the poses, you have to practice. Meditation, reading, sports –all practices. If you want to improve, you must practice. Have you ever considered suffering as a practice? Suffering in a controlled environment, like an obstacle course race, gives you an opportunity to expose yourself to a bit of suffering. In the beginning, it is definitely not easy. But the more you do it, the better you become –the greater your ability to suffer in the future. To get past the obstacles in a race requires you to problem solve. It requires trial and error. And if you keep going and don’t quit, you just might be able to finish the race.

These artificial impediments along your journey are really no different than the ones you face in real life. The ramifications in life might be greater, but you have to solve them the same way. We can’t control everything that slows us down. Some of these obstacles are self-induced, others come upon us by chance. All we can do is navigate them to the best of our abilities. If we can continue doing this and not despair nor quit, we can be victorious in this game of life.

I hated every minute of training, but I said, “Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion. –Muhammad Ali

Those who aim at great deeds must also suffer greatly. -Plutarch

This is a continuation from Thursday’s post on not giving up. The conditions will not always be perfect. We might not ever be 100% healthy. But the race goes on. We have to keep going. We have to tackle each obstacle that gets in the way.

Boldly Go

Last week I was able to catch The Joe Rogan Experience episode #1108 with Dr. Peter Attia. Joe Rogan’s podcast is consistently at the top of the charts and may be one of my favorite ones to listen to. I honestly think I learn something new every time I listen to it.

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In this episode, Dr. Attia talks about his open water swimming. He once held the record for the double-crossing of the Auau Channel (Maui to Lanai and then back to Maui). The over 19 mile swim took 11 hours and 45 minutes.

Can you imagine it? The swim was completed overnight to not interfere with shipping traffic. It was done at night, when God knows what is lurking or hunting in the waters below. Leaving the safety of the shore, you walk into the water and begin swimming into the unknown. There is no sight of land on the other side, only the open water.

You cannot swim for new horizons until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore. –William Faulkner

The vision is clear in your head. You can picture the destination. You can smell it and hear it. You may not be there physically. But in your mind’s eye, you go there often. How will you get there? How will you make your vision a reality? You take that first step, then the next, and you keep stepping. That first step takes courage. It is only one tiny little step. But to build courage, you have to start out small. You have to take tiny little steps over and over. In time, your stride will lengthen and you will gain your rhythm. As you train daily in courage, your ability to go farther and farther from the shore increases. You will become comfortable doing the things other people fear.

Exploration across the land, the sea, and through space began with hope. There was a hope in something beyond the known. The known is safe, and to venture into the unknown takes courage. You hope the rewards are worth it. But without taking that first step, you will never know.

Building Impossibilities

Hope 12/21/2019

Think of all the things that are an integral part of our lives. All the gadgets and technology that we can’t live without. We couldn’t even imagine those things existing a few years ago. Back then, that technology was considered impossible. Now, it is the norm.

Unless it was an accident, the impossible wasn’t created overnight. They were created by regular people going about their business and doing the things they believed were necessary. They worked within the bounds of reason and continued to build upon their foundations. One step led to another. And then, they were doing what was previously impossible.

The impossible is daunting and seems so far away, yet we are all capable of achieving it. Start small and then build. Keep building. Keep adapting. Make the plans, build the foundation, and then see how far you can go with it. It could take months, years, decades, or even more.

It starts with the seedlings of hope. It’s coupled with action and a relentless pursuit towards the goal. The impossible can become real. It can be done, and it can be done by you.

Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible. –St. Francis of Assisi

Letters to TS #2: Hope Tied to Health

Hope 12/14/2019

Letters to TS #2: Hope Tied to Health

In our last conversation, you stated that you wanted to look like you did ten years ago. “Hot” was the word I think you used for yourself back then. But after a decade of heavy drinking, the alcohol has left its mark on you.

You’ve gone two months in between drinks, and now you are beating yourself up over your last episode. You embarrassed yourself. The hangover lasted two days, but its memory is still very fresh in your mind. You feel miserable right now, and it is warranted. But there is also a positive here. You went two months. When was the last time you went that long? And if you can do two months, how long can you go until your next drink?

There was one thing that bothered me in our conversation. We know you are running away from alcohol, but are you running toward anything? What do you have driving you forward into the future? Do you have any goals other than to stop drinking? Do you have a purpose?

You have a ten year-old picture reminding you of what you used to look like. You blame the alcohol for the way you look now. You are right. It deserves some of the credit, but it goes far beyond that. As an alcoholic, you tend to justify too many things. And when it comes to being healthy, you can’t justify a poor diet or a lack of physical activity. You can’t be both an alcoholic and healthy. And even though there are some that seem to be both, one behavior will eventually be sacrificed for the other.

My friend, you need to run towards a healthy life. You need to visualize the life you could have if it wasn’t tied to the bottle. Once you have that picture burned into your mind, you need to let it consume your every waking desire. You may never look like you did ten years ago, but you could look good again. You could feel good again. No longer would you be dumbly and drunkenly walking toward your grave. Instead, you would be making the most of this precious time you have left on this earth. Fight for your health and find the hope that comes in the pursuit. It is that hope that will light your path in the future.

Always your friend, TF.

He who has health has hope; and he who has hope, has everything. –Thomas Carlyle

The Skeleton Keys #2: Hope in Yourself

Hope 11/23/2019

America, the land of opportunity. It is the reason so many come to this country. They want a better life than what is possible by staying in their own countries. Here is a chance to live the rags to riches story. Here is the chance for success that they dream of.

This is why my father’s ancestors came to America in the late 1600’s. It is why my mother’s family, fleeing from religious persecution and the threat of communism, came over 300 years later in the late 1960’s. They wanted the freedom to pursue a better life, and not just for them but for their families and their future generations.

As a kid, I didn’t understand the sacrifices that were made by those who went before me. I saw the “have’s” who had more than me and considered myself a “have-not.” It was foolish, but I was young. I imagined all the things I could do if I came from a wealthy family. The aristocrats I read about in my books filled my imagination as well. It is amazing to think there was a time when people got a stipend for having a title in front of their name. Why couldn’t this have been me?

We live in a time when we can peek into the lives of celebrities and stars. We see the where they are today, but we don’t always see how they got there. Some were born with silver spoons in their mouths. Others had to earn it. It is these others that we should really look at. How did they get to where they are today?

This week, I listened to an interview with Shaun White on the Ed Mylett Show. This was the second interview I have listened to with Shaun White and was amazed to hear about his childhood. His family wasn’t wealthy. They made a lot of sacrifices so that Shaun and his siblings could get to the mountains. Where he is today wasn’t handed to him on a silver platter. He had to earn it. He was willing to learn by watching the best until he became the best himself. He is a beneficiary of the America our forefathers imagined. Very little stands in the way of the one who has faith in the future and is willing to work for it.

That some achieve great success, is proof to all that others can achieve it as well. –Abraham Lincoln

All through history, and not only in America, do we see the success some are able to achieve despite the circumstances of their childhoods. So many come from very little but are able to attain to great heights. Once again as a youth, I didn’t believe this was something available to me. What a fool! As I get older and continue to work on myself, I now have a different belief. I have a belief that I can do anything that I put my mind to and am willing to work for. If others can do it, so can I.

The first part of this skeleton key to success is to pray mightily and work hard. The second part is to have an unwavering hope in your own self. You have to believe you can do it. If the others can, so can you!

My son, do not think I have forgotten about you. These words are not just for me, but they are for you as well. Our family blood runs strong and the desire for the success of future generations continue to this day. You must believe in your abilities and work to cultivate them. Others can guide you, but they cannot do the work for you. You will have to find your own path and then walk it for yourself.

The virtues of faith, hope, and love make up these keys able to open any door closed to you. Two keys have been discussed, the third is next.