Just Say No

No. When I say it to my son, he gets upset. He doesn’t like it because his request is something he wants at the time. But what kind of parent would I be if I said yes every time?

People don’t like hearing the word no. They believe their request is reasonable. What they are asking is to their benefit. To tell them no is inconvenient for them.

It’s only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important. -Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

If I am always saying yes, then I find an inability to get my own work done. It is difficult because I want to be nice. I want to be helpful. But doing so keeps me away from my goals, goals which are designed to benefit me and my family. I must learn to say no.

Maybe not for everything. Certainly not if I have nothing else going on.

Over the last few weeks, I have realized just how far behind I am. I had too many irons in the fire and was not making any progress on any of them. Would this have happened if I said no more often?

“No, I cannot watch your dogs, so you can have a spa day.”

“No, I can’t go to the winery for an afternoon of drinking and socializing.”

No. It is not that hard to say. I just need to get better at saying it.


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Today Is What Matters Most

What if there was a 70% chance you were going to die sometime at the end of the day? How would you go about your day? Would you approach it any differently?

Obviously, with a 70% chance, you couldn’t just throw it all in the wind, burn all your bridges, and go out with a bang. After all, there is still a 30% chance you would get to see the next day. But if you were given those odds, would you:

  • Spend a little more time the things that matter,
  • Hold your loved ones a little closer, or
  • Reflect a little more on the beautiful?

Each morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.

Buddha

This morning I am born again. I may still hear the echo of yesterday, but I can no longer change the sound. It is buried in the past. Tomorrow has not yet arrived. As a matter of fact, tomorrow may never come at all. With yesterday gone and tomorrow not guaranteed, all I have is today. All I have is this moment right now. I can affect this. I can do all the things I should have done yesterday. I can do all the things I hoped to leave for tomorrow. I can do this now as if my next breath were to be my last.


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Act in Accordance with Thinking

Consider these words from Alan Watts: A person who thinks all the time has nothing to think about except thoughts, so he loses touch with reality and lives in a world of illusions.

I’m a thinker. Not one of those ground-breaking scientists or a philosophical savant, but I do like to think. Maybe, a little too much. Maybe, even so much that I often have little to show for it.

I believed this was a good thing. Aren’t we supposed to use our heads, to be more thoughtful? The thinking part is easy. It requires little effort. Unfortunately, that’s where it goes wrong. If you want more than thoughts and live in the world of reality, then you must do something with all that thinking.

“By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground…”

Genesis 3:19

The hard part is work. that requires effort. It requires movement and action. Often, manual labor is looked upon as base and work fit for only the unintelligent unable to use their heads. If asked, many would rather work in an office than on a factory floor. They would rather use a keyboard than a wrench.

Working in a factory, I have done jobs that have required minimal brain power. If you repeat a process enough times, it will soon become second nature. I loved this type of work because it was a form of escapism. My brain could wander free without having to concentrate on the task at hand. Maybe, it was because the thinking was the easy part. I could disconnect from the hard labor. But even so, there was still a disconnect. Something was still missing.

To think is easy. To act is hard. But the hardest thing in the world is to act in accordance with your thinking.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

To act in accordance with your thinking is something only a few can do. Imagine the possibilities if we could all do this.

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What You Do

This is a continuation of the post: I Don’t Know It. If you haven’t read it yet, I invite you to do so.

From my earliest years, I have been on the hunt for wisdom. King Solomon said wisdom is calling us, and all we must do is heed the call (Proverbs 8). I took this literally. I also made the Book of Proverbs a staple in my daily reading. Initially, I believed there were two major keys to acquiring wisdom. First, you must collect as much knowledge as possible. Then, you must do your best to understand it. For most of my life, this was my modus operandi. Yet, something was lacking.

I thought the world would benefit from my vast stores of wisdom. I thought the masses would flock to me for guidance. Okay, maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration. However, I did believe I would be more valuable to the world if I wasn’t a complete fool. All I had was the wisdom found in books. A good thing no doubt, but wisdom is more than book smarts. It is more than theory. If I genuinely want to be wise, I must learn the practical application of wisdom. I must get out of the perpetual classroom that I am living in and get into the experimental aspects.

The world cares very little what you or I know, but it does care a great deal about what you or I do. -Booker T. Washington

Booker T. Washington

Action. It always comes down to action. Or in the case of wisdom, it comes down to application. And this is where I went wrong for the longest time. We know knowledge does us no good if we don’t understand it. And what is the purpose of knowledge and understanding if we don’t know how to use it? We can have a theory about what is in the great unknown, but it is not the same thing as actually venturing into the unknown. We must get out of the classroom and get into the world.


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Happiness, not Amusement

Maybe, the crowd was not prepared for all the blood and the gore? Sure, that is why they came to the arena in the first place, but this? The fighter was too efficient, too merciless. They had never seen anything like this before. Instead of a scared and bumbling idiot with a weapon, they saw a warrior. They saw the Roman general Maximus Decimus Meridius.

Of course, the movie Gladiator is fiction, but it gives a glimpse of the lengths people go to in their search for amusement.

Amusement is a diversion from the ordinary. It is a get-away from reality. The world spends around 2 trillion dollars a year in entertainment. It has become something we are constantly seeking. And if we are in a perpetual state of amusement, we don’t have to face reality. We don’t have to confront the hard things in life.

Escapism. That is what we are looking for. We want the release of dopamine derived from watching sports, movies, and social media. We want the excitement, and we will go to great lengths to get it. Even though we know it is fleeting, we will still look for it. And when the buzz is no longer sufficient, we will continue down the path even if it means we must find a harder drug.

Happiness is not found in amusement.

Aristotle

Unlike amusement, happiness doesn’t have to be fleeting. Instead, it can be a state of being. You can find happiness in the mundane. You can find it in doing a day’s labor. You don’t have to go to greater and greater extremes to find happiness. You can just be happy. It is in your mind. It is in your perception.


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Plan Before You Start

For years, this was me. Maybe, it was you too…

The alarm goes off and the motions began. Snooze. Snooze again. Get up. Get ready for work. Go. Work, then lunch. Work, then home. Dinner. Television. Sleep. Repeat.

Not counting school, this was about 70% of my life for over two decades. If you take a moment to think about it, then you would realize that it was not much of a life. And just imagine the conversation on Judgment Day:

“What did you do with the life I gave you,” God asked.

“Well,” I stammered, “I worked, I slept, and I watched TV.”

“You are My son. I made you in My image. I gave you life. And this was your gratitude? You took My gift and buried it in the ground like an unfaithful servant.”

Here I have no response and can only hang my head in shame.

“Let me show an image. This is you, the person I made, with all your potential and all your gifts. You could have been this person. This is the person you were supposed to be. I didn’t put you on earth only to work, sleep, and watch TV.”

Don’t begin the activities of the day until you know exactly what you plan to accomplish. Don’t start your day until you have it planned.

Jim Rohn

It is easy to get caught in the trap of the same routine. It is a cycle that left unchecked could continue through the decades. And in the end, you would little to show for it. How do you end this pattern and become who you were meant to be?

Start with a plan

It really is that simple. Oh yes, you must execute it, but it starts with a plan. And if you start every day with a plan, you give yourself direction. You give yourself meaning.

But what happens if you can’t complete your daily plan? Then add it to the next day. Eventually, you will complete it or get tired of writing down the same thing every day.

Each day is a fresh start. Plan. Execute. Win. Become the person you were intended you to be.


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Life is a Chain

In a team setting, the analogy of a chain is often used. If the team is only as good as its weakest link, then it is your job to not be the weak link. In addition, you are also responsible for helping the weak links become stronger. This obviously helps the team.

A chain is no stronger than its weakest link, and life is after all a chain.

William James

This chain analogy is applicable to more than teams. It also holds true on the individual level. If your life is a chain, what are your weak links? In what areas do you have opportunity to become stronger?

Look at your social, professional, and personal life and identify areas that can be improved. If the enemy, both the real and imagined enemies, is looking to exploit your weaknesses, then you should be identifying these areas and securing your defenses.

I have identified several weaknesses in my own life. Some of these, I have known about for some time and have been actively trying to fortify them. Other areas, such as financial investments, are known weaknesses that I have been hesitant to address. Last week, this weakness made itself known when I realized my knowledge and understanding in this area was insufficient. Not wanting to be solely reliant on the advice of the “experts.” I decided to take a deep dive into this subject and become more knowledgeable. I may never become an expert, but at least I will have a better understanding of where to put my money.

What is my goal? Identify the weak links and strengthen them. Why? Because life is after all is a chain.


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Age and Abilities

Working in a factory, I am amazed by how many workers in their thirties and forties conduct themselves as if they were in their fifties and sixties. They work manual labor jobs, but their bodies reflect those who live a sedentary life. Couple this with poor dietary choices and the result is premature aging. Not knowing their psychological status, I would dare say that none of them want to die early. But if they are fortunate to live to an old age, what will be the quality of their lives?

Regular daily physical activity has been a way of life for virtually every person who has reached the age of 100 in sound condition.

Dr. Alex Lief, Harvard Medical School

I recently read the above quote in my studies on exercise and older adults. Imagine living to 100. The century mark is still a rare occurrence even with what seems to be an ever-increasing average life expectancy. It would be amazing to live that long, unless you couldn’t enjoy it when you got there.

Daily physical activity. Is this the cup of “enjoyable” life we should all be drinking? When I think of Dr. Lief’s point, I can only think of all the older (the ones close to a 100) that I have met. A few stand out that seem to be truly enjoying life. They were more than just functional. They were thriving in both body and mind. What sets them apart from their peers? Living that long there is no doubt they have had their fair share of pain and heartache. And yet, they keep moving on with a light in their eyes and a smile of their faces.

Almost everything we have been taught about aging is wrong. We now know that a very fit body of 70 can be the same as a moderately fit body of 30.

Dr. Walter Bortz, We Live too Short and Die too Young

Imagine a fit 70-year-old with the physical capabilities of one that is 30. I know some, and no doubt you have met a few as well. Imagine if at 30, you didn’t have the metabolic age of someone in their fifties. Both scenarios are possible. And like a good mutual fund balance, the earlier you start, the better.

But this post is more than just having a fit body into your senior years. Your mind and your outlook on life plays a significant role in how you age.

Everybody hopes to reach old age but when it comes, most of us complain about it.

Cicero

The earlier you start complaining about your age and limitations, the worse you will age. You could condition yourself to become the decrepit individual with no joy and light in the eyes. Nobody would say they want that as their dream. Don’t let it be you. Build your body through movement and good nutrition. Guard your mind and don’t let those negative age-related thoughts become your reality.


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Better to Have and Not Need

A glutton has an endless desire to accumulate more. They are always hungry, and their appetites are never sated. Like the glutton, the materialist has the same appetite, only theirs are for things. They can never have enough. If it is shiny and new, or if it is rare and hard to find, they want it.

Better to have, and not need, than to need, and not have.

Franz Kafka

The beauty of Kafka’s words is that it goes beyond gluttony and materialism. It seems to speak of something of a higher nature. Like the carpenter, it is not about having all the hammers but having the right variety of hammers capable of performing the necessary work.

Rather than outside possessions, consider the following internal possessions:

Can you have too much knowledge, too much wisdom? We all know the consequences of a lack in one of these, but there is no harm in an excess.

Can you have too much discipline or too great a work ethic?

What about courage? Better to be courageous, than to lack it in your time of need.

Would you rather have an abundance of faith or not enough of it?

What about love? Antonio Porchia said, “In a full heart there is room for everything, and in an empty heart there is room for nothing.” Without love in your heart, you will truly be barren.

Food comes and goes. Too much spoils. If you eat too much, your body will hold an undesirable excess.

Possessions will only last for a short time. Fortune gives and takes away. Whatever you have left in the end, you will leave behind.

The acquisition of virtue is sublime. It imprints a mark on your eternal soul. And wherever the soul travels in this life or the next, its character will remain intact. Better to have on that day of your need than to be without and suffer the consequences.


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One Day, This Day

As the sun comes up, I face towards it, and like an Egyptian of antiquity, stare straight into its center. It is a beautiful blessing to look upon its face and consider how fortune has favored me. I am alive. I am well. As far as I know, all my friends and family, all those I consider dear to my heart, are also alive and well. We have survived to see another day. This is a blessing. The air we breathe, a blessing. The Sun with the power to create and destroy, a blessing.

In this moment, I think upon the day before me. Like the Sun, will I be light? Will I shine, and radiate, and be a blessing to others? What good will I do this day?

One day is worth a thousand tomorrows.

Ben Franklin

This day is all that matters. No would have, could have, or should have. Can I go to bed tonight with the knowledge that I did all in my power to do? If I wake tomorrow to see another day, I will continue to build upon this foundation created over a span of yesterdays. But if not, I am at peace. I did today, all that I could do.

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