Victory from Defeat

‘Tis the season to get thrown down, squeezed hard, and manhandled by somebody else. It is the season where the mind and the heart are tested to see just how far they can go. This isn’t your season for this? Well, after a two-year hiatus from the wrestling mats, it is Alec’s season.

A lot can be forgotten in two years by a nine-year-old boy. The technique, muscle-memory, and explosiveness must be retrained. His new teammates didn’t take the last two years off, and they are primed to deal out some punishment. And in Alec’s last practice, that is exactly what they did to him. Into the fire he goes where all his faculties are being tested, where all the impurities are being removed. As a parent, I am loving it. No, I am not some kind of sadist who loves to see his one and only son get abused. I am loving it because I see the fire within him burning as brightly as the fire that is testing him. He wants to succeed. He is determined to get better.

A couple of days ago, the coach gave his after-practice speech. He told the boys that the most wrestling they will do this season will be in practice. This is where they can perfect their game. It is where they can try new moves and fail. It is where they can continue trying and then succeed. I loved this message from the coach. I hope the boys take it to heart.

If you learn from defeat, you haven’t really lost.

Zig Ziglar

Learning from defeat. It is one of the best educations someone can get. It is a quality that separates the champions from the participants. Nobody wants to lose, but it is a rare individual who can take the lessons from a loss and use it to become better. Giving up might be accepted in a modern society that doesn’t want anyone to feel bad. They might even get an award for their efforts. But will it have any value in the future? Can it compare to unlocking the puzzle that holds the keys to victory?

Sport is a proving ground that can allow a person to find out how to win in life. It is a practice in resilience, courage, determination, and grit. Therefore, I love seeing Alec go into the fire. As a parent and a spectator, I can witness the evolution of a boy earning his rite of passage into manhood. What an opportunity!


Feature photo by Chris Chow on Unsplash.

Compliance not Recommended

Indoctrination begins at the earliest stages of life:

  • Don’t stand out from the crowd.
  • Do as your told.
  • Behave yourself like a good little boy/girl.

It continues in school:

  • Check this box, not that one.
  • Be where you are supposed to be when you are supposed to be there.
  • Stand out as a cool kid, and you are in. Stand out as anything else. Awkward!

That wasn’t enough for some of us, and we needed remedial training. I fell into this category and ended up in the Army. There I was granted the opportunity to live in forced compliance. March, turn, eat, and sleep. Everything in order and on schedule.

What do the rulers of the world (governments and corporations) want from us? They want us to do exactly as we were trained. They want us to be compliant. The outsiders don’t fit into their plans. They need workers and consumers who can be where they are supposed to be and are able to check the correct box. And the result? The average person will put off their dreams, work themselves nearly to death, and then hope they have a little peace in their final years of existence. From their earliest stages of life, they were molded to be compliant citizens working for “The Man.”

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thinking outside the box is only acceptable when it benefits the higher ups.

Our current pandemic has highlighted the world we live in:

  • Small businesses are getting crushed because they do not fit in with the corporate scheme.
  • Compliance is being forced with our freedoms on the line.
  • Make one wrong step or voice one contrary opinion and Big Brother’s minions, the social gestapo, will cancel you.

To be yourself in this world may be one of the hardest endeavors you could undertake. It could also be the most rewarding. That’s why Emerson said it was the greatest accomplishment. It means we can’t allow others to think for us. We must think for ourselves.

Questions, Answers, and Political Divisions

Tony Robbins said, “The quality of your questions determines the quality of your life.” It is such a beautiful idea, but what happens when questions are not allowed?

We live in a world where everything from food, freedom of religion and speech, and what can go into a person’s body has become political. If you find yourself in the minority, your freedom is at stake, your ability to make a conscientious decision becomes limited and can even be taken away. And your questions? Questions to those on the opposite end of the spectrum are frowned upon, condescended, and even censored. No one wants to live under a tyrant, and yet many of us have no problem tyrannizing those who dare disagree with us.

I would rather have questions that can’t be answered than answers that can’t be questioned.

Richard Feynman

Are the days of open dialogue gone? Do we no longer try to understand the differences of others? It is far easier to shut down the voices opposition than it is to come to an amiable solution. Rather than have a moral backbone, would it be preferable to go over to the majority where there is less opposition? Rather than trying to formulate the questions that determine the quality of our lives, should we only rely on the answers given to us that cannot be challenged?

I am not saying that one side is right and the other is wrong. What I am saying is that we should do the research and try to come up with the questions that can lead to improvement. We might not be able to find the answers now, but at least we are willing to seek them out.


Feature photo by Artem Maltsev on Unsplash

The Shade of Knowledge

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.

Lord Chesterfield

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.


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Examining Epictetus #12: To Improve, Seem Ignorant

The quality of your questions determines the quality of your life.

Tony Robbins

The above is one of my favorite quotes of all time. I have spent hours considering it and how to ask a better question. And though I ask many questions on a wide array of topics, I am certain I can still do better.

What is the direction I want to go in life?

Where can I improve?

How can I get there?

The first two questions, I can answer on my own. The last one, however, requires more questions. It demands better questions than the ones I am asking today. I don’t know how to get there because I simply don’t know. And therefore, I must consider these words from Epictetus:

If you wish to improve, be content to be seen as ignorant on certain matters. -Epictetus

A student who wants to attain mastery will watch and learn. She will look at those who went before her to see what they did right and what they did wrong. She will experiment, fail, and try again, repeating the process until it works. She will learn to ask the right questions until she gets the answers she is seeking. If she is humble and doesn’t pretend to know it all, if she is pleasant to work with and working hard herself, those with more knowledge and experience will be more apt to help her.

If we seem to be ignorant in the areas in which we wish to improve, we could one day attain the mastery we seek.

Feature photo by Jeswin Thomas on Unsplash

Do What You Enjoy

I was in the audience years ago when one of the vice presidents of our company asked the question, “Who loves their job?”

I was at this job less than two years. Before that, I was in a dark place. Without employment for over eight months and with a marriage on the rocks, hope was slowly dwindling away. All the money was gone, all the savings dried up, and in debt up to my ears. I was out of shape, overweight, in my mid-thirties, and thinking the end was near.

The job wasn’t a dream job, but it came when I was at my lowest. It was a glow-in-the-dark ladder offering me a slow climb out of the deepest hole I have ever been in. It was an opportunity to start over, a way to get my life back and even salvage my marriage. It was a glimmer of hope when I thought there was none left.

“Who loves their job?”

When the question was asked, only a few hands went up, mine included.

That question was asked over ten years ago. Since then, I haven’t always loved my job. Sometimes, I have viewed it only as a job and a means to an end. But I have also been very fortunate to have been in several different positions that I have loved. I have met people that will be long-time friends, and I have a quality of life that isn’t too shabby.

People only do their best at things they truly enjoy.

Jack Nicklaus

It hasn’t always been truly enjoyable, but I have learned to enjoy the things I truly did not like. I do my best because even the undesirable tasks are still better than doing nothing at all. I don’t think I will be here forever, but I do think I am better prepared for the next stage in my life. That stage in my life when I am really enjoying the things I do.

Your best will come when you do the things you enjoy. Sometimes, it means you must find a way to enjoy it. Even the worst tasks have a silver lining if you are willing to look for it.


Feature photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

I Don’t Know It

 “What do you know,” asked the voice on the other end of the line. It was the standard greeting whenever I call this friend.

“I don’t know it,” I replied. It was a deviation from the standard, “I wish I knew.”

For the last twenty years, this has been the opening salvo of our conversations. Over the last twenty years, I have gone to great lengths to gather as much knowledge as I can. I have done my best to understand the things I have learned. Knowledge and understanding. My quest for wisdom has always started with these two: knowledge and understanding. And yet when I am asked what I know, my answer is still, “I don’t know it.” I wish the answer was different. I wish I knew it. But the knowledge I accumulate only leads me to the realization of just how much I don’t know.

Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.

Confucius

The great Eastern sage makes a great point. One that even his Western counterpart, Socrates, agreed with when he said, “One thing I know, and that is that I know nothing.” Does this mean I now have real knowledge? Not even close! Too many things have prevented me from attaining the thing I desire most, namely my ego. I have often grown arrogant in the few things I do know. When brief flashes of enlightenment have come in the form of understanding, I have found pride in the accomplishment. But in truth, I am but a lowly student and cannot afford the debt of pride. Who am I to think I have found mastery?

The person on my phone call often says I am the wisest person he has ever met. I can’t help but wonder if he should broaden his horizons to include more wise people. If I only had a portion of my friend’s wisdom, I would be much wiser than I am today. I might even be considered somewhat successful. Yet, that is not the case. Therefore, my quest continues.


Feature photo by Jim Reardan on Unsplash

A Purge

We are excretion machines. We take in food and liquids, process them, use what we need, and excrete/eliminate everything that is left. Hopefully. Sometimes, we take in stuff that the body can’t process. If the body doesn’t know what to do with it and doesn’t remove it, it will put it in storage (such as fat). Other times, there is a blockage. The stuff doesn’t get stored, doesn’t get eliminated, and it just sits in the gut. This is not good if the stuff sitting there is toxic, especially if you have damage in your intestinal lining (leaky gut).

What do you do when that happens? For some, the solution is a purge. They want to clean the system out. This comes with both positive and negative benefits. If you are interested, do your research.

A purge for your body may be beneficial, but have you ever considered these words from a great French philosopher…

Get a purge for your brain. It will do better than for your stomach.

Michel de Montaigne

What needs to be purged?

  • Old belief systems that are no longer valid.
  • Too much clutter clogging and slowing down your internal computer. Link: Remove the Clutter
  • The truly useless information.
  • The garbage you see and hear from TV, social media, news, and radio.
  • Needless fear and anxiety.

Imagine all the stuff you take in mentally. Much of it may be good. But how much of it is toxic? Without a good filtration system in place, you could be letting all the crazy in. And if you are not purging that out of your head, you might be worse off than having a leaky gut?


Feature photo by Birgith Roosipuu on Unsplash

The Pebbles in Your Life

When I think about living a better life, I am always thinking the question:

What can I add to make it better?

As a matter of fact, it is almost always a question of what I can add. Rarely is it what I can take away. And though I have made many reductions in my life, there is still much that can be taken away.

It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoes.

Muhammad Ali

Life is a battle. Whether you are actively pursuing the hero’s journey or just trying to survive another day, life is a battle. We all want to feel good. We all want to achieve homeostasis in our bodies, minds, and souls. What we are looking for is balance. And this is more than what we can add to our lives, it is also about what we can take away.

I don’t watch much television. But a few days ago, I watched an A&E biography of Steve Austin. Steve Austin may go down as one of the most popular wrestlers of all time.  This episode was a fascinating account of his career, but there was one segment that stood left an impression on me. At the height of his fame and popularity, he had to go to the hospital the night before a match. Why? Even though on the surface he was the epitome of health, he was out of balance. His daily routine was to wake up, drink coffee, then drink multiple energy drinks through the day, followed by enough alcohol to pass out at night. Eventually, his body could not take anymore, and he went to the hospital in a severely dehydrated state.

In Austin’s case, the default mode was to always add more. He was continually on the road and in the limelight. His body paid the price. But that wasn’t the only price he paid; his personal life also suffered. Was the fame worth it? Fame, like fortune, comes and goes. But on this earth, we only have this one body. If we are always adding and never taking away, we will eventually pay the price. We will be in a state of dis-ease.

There are many pebbles in life causing us discomfort. If we cannot remove them, then the journey to our lofty mountain peaks will be much more difficult. Learn to remove them before they completely halt your climb to the top.


Feature photo by John Matychuk on Unsplash

An Investment in Reading

Warning: This is another post about reading. It is inspired by the book, The Art of Impossible by Steven Kotler.

Look at these figures below:

Blogs: Three minutes gets you three days.

Articles: Twenty minutes gets you four months.

Books: Five hours gets you fifteen years.

Chapter 9: The ROI on Reading

What does this mean? According to the author, the average reader reads at a speed of 250 words per minute. The average blog post of 800 words takes about three days to write. To read a blog post would take about three and a half minutes. A five-thousand-word article takes the author about four months to create. For the reader, it takes about twenty minutes to read. And for books, the numbers go even higher. The author’s book, The Rise of Superman, took fifteen years to write. At 75,000 words, the average reader would be able to complete it in about five hours. Hence, five hours gets you fifteen years.

By reading, you are getting a fast-track version of what it took someone to learn, think, and write about.

To use myself as an example, so far this year I have read:

If the average time to write a book is fifteen years, then in five months I have consumed 165 years of other people’s wisdom and knowledge. Even if I only retain 10% of what I have read, that still puts me at sixteen and a half years in five months.

My quest in life is to acquire wisdom. I understand this is not everyone else’s quest, but everyone can benefit from more knowledge, more understanding, and of course, more wisdom.

Jim Rohn said, “Miss a meal, but don’t miss your reading.” Are you getting in your recommended daily allowance? Imagine what would happen if you read only ten minutes a day. That book that only takes five hours to read would be complete in one month. That is twelve books a year at ten minutes a day. For 180 years of knowledge in a year’s time, you are only giving .7% of your day. Is there any other investment you could make that has that high of a return?

In my whole life, I have known no wise people (over a broad subject matter) who didn’t read all the time -none. Zero.

Charlie Munger

Wisdom is calling us. She freely gives her fruit to those who would seek it. Heed the call and go pick up a book.

Moreover, books pay performance dividends. Studies find that they improve long-term concentration, reduce stress, and stave off cognitive decline. Reading has also been shown to improve empathy, sleep, and intelligence. If you combine these benefits with the information density books provide, we start to see why everyone from tech titans like Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Elon Musk to cultural icons like Oprah Winfrey, Mark Cuban, and Warren Buffet credit their success to their incredible passion for books.

Chapter 9: The ROI on Reading

Feature photo by Jaredd Craig on Unsplash