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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Happiness and Flow

There are some days where flow seems impossible. A sporadic mind, a cell phone designed to distract and interrupt, and countless other trivialities spring up. Those days are difficult. Items need to get checked off the list, but the boxes remain blank. It is easy to get frustrated when this happens. It is easy to blame the universe and those within it for destroying your chances of productivity. Such an unhappy state!

But then, there are the other days. There are days when you are gifted with a laser-like focus. You are in the zone, and you got the flow. You don’t need the coffee and its stimulating effects because what you got within is more than enough. Those days are the best. Pure bliss!

Happiness is a good flow of life.

Zeno

If you want to be happy, you must find the flow. Whatever that flow is, doesn’t matter. It is your flow. All you must do is get on and enjoy the ride.

This state is available to all of us. You can find it in a day, or it might take you a lifetime. Such is the quest for happiness. You define it, then you pursue it, and hopefully, finally, you find it. You will meet it on your own terms when you are ready.


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More Presence

It is Spring Break and the family is down in Pensacola, FL. We are down here to finally lay my Father-in-Law to rest at Barrancas National Cemetery. We will be down here for a week enjoying our time on the beach with many of my wife’s friends and family.

It is the first day. We are not at the beach yet, so I have a little time to write. Or at least I think I do. The words are not coming. I am allowing myself to be distracted and using it as a sad excuse for my inability to put my thoughts into words that make sense.. This struggle is self-induced as my mind is not fully into what I am doing.

Leaving for a week comes with a cost. I think of all the other things I could be doing. This is a problem. If I am thinking about all the other things, then I am not present here. As important as I believe some of these tasks to be, they really are not compared to being present. I can’t bring this unnecessary baggage with me on this trip. If I do, I will not be able to enjoy myself. I will not be able to be here wholly for my family.

More presence. I must calm my mind and remember why I am here. This week, my schedules and plans do not matter. Can my mind be here and not somewhere else? I don’t know, but it is something I will be working on this week.

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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Experimenting in the Lab of Life

What I didn’t like about High School Science: When it was time to experiment, you only had one chance to make it work. And the experiment you were conducting wasn’t really yours, you were just replicating someone else’s.

It reminds of all the time I spent reading the Book of Proverbs as a kid. I had the lessons right there in front of me, but I didn’t have the first-hand knowledge. It wasn’t until I conducted by own ill-advised experiments that I could understand the validity of Solomon’s sayings. Of course, most of those experiments went wrong. Some of them set me back several years. There were dark times of doubt and confusion. There were even more times of delusion where I traded long-term fulfillment for the fleeting pleasures of the short-term.

But not all the experiments were bad. Some were useful, providing a solid foundation that I continue to build on to this day (reading). Even the experiments that went horribly bad (finances) proved to be valuable lessons.

A true experiment, unlike those conducted in a High School Laboratory, ventures into the unknown. It will test your boundaries as it delves into the uncomfortable. Often, we choose comfort, but it is the uncomfortable that makes us resilient to fears, anxiety, stress, and weakness. The more we experiment with our bodies, our minds, and our souls, the stronger we become. By experimenting daily, we can test the boundaries of our capabilities and see what is truly possible in this life.

All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Get out of your comfort zone. Get into the lab of life and start experimenting.


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Examining Epictetus #20: More than an Athlete

Over the last few weeks, Alec has been going to bed early so that he can spend about thirty minutes reading before going to sleep. As this is what I do every night, it is a super-proud moment for me.

What he can do physically, I can only dream about. I’m almost jealous. I mean honestly, that kid has more muscle definition and a legit six-pack crammed into his little body. But for all his physical prowess, he has taken the initiative to build his brain. I can almost feel the tears of joy running down my cheek.

My goal in life has always been to achieve balance. I want to be in peak condition in all three facets of my life (body, soul, and mind). Too often we see the meathead with no brains or the genius with no heart. But nobody wants to emulate a character from the Wizard of Oz. What good is a one or two-legged stool? Too much in one direction, and you will find yourself toppling over.

Have I achieved it? Of course not, but I am getting a little closer every day. Sometimes I lean more in one direction. Maybe this is a natural state. But after some time and a bit of introspection, I realize I am getting little wobbly. It is in these times that I must recalibrate and make the adjustments towards the right direction. It truly is all about the balance.

It takes more than a good-looking body. You've got to have the heart and soul to go with it. -Epictetus

Alec is starting to mature and make grown-up decisions. He is becoming more than just an athlete. He is realizing the value of having a strong mind and heart. He is starting to find his own balance in life.

Constant State of Learning

To be successful, the hunter must be able to learn. His whole existence is an education of what works and what does not. He must be able to observe and read the signs presented to him. He must train his senses and cultivate his awareness.

Like the hunter, the prey’s existence is based on education. There is safety in numbers. Anything that dumbs the senses could result in death (i.e., deer in the headlights). Success for the prey is a long life. And to be successful, the prey must be trained by those that went before him.

Life itself is your teacher, and you are in a constant state of learning.

Bruce Lee

Should we not all be in a constant state of learning? If life is our teacher, then we should be living life to the fullest. This is the way we get experience, the greatest of teachers. The mistakes we make along the way are signposts pointing us in the direction we need to go. Like the hunter, we should observe the signs and consider what is preventing us from achieving our target. And like the prey, we cannot let anything (or substance) interfere with our senses lest we be caught by our adversaries. To learn from life, we must live life.


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How Do You Live a Perfect Day?

The question in the title is the question I have been considering lately. How do you live a perfect day? What does that even look like? Is it possible? Honestly, I do not know. However, I do know it is worth trying find out.

What would make a day perfect? To define this, we must go back to the philosophy of stoicism. The stoics believe we are responsible for everything within our control. Therefore, a perfect day can still involve rain, snow, personal loss, and other “less than ideal” situations. A perfect day is not a cosmic alignment of the stars. Instead, it is what you did to make the day perfect. Were you able to control the things that were in your control?

If we go back to the question of what a perfect day involves within the parameters of what is in our control, what are some of the things you can do to make it perfect?

Wake up refreshed and energized.

This begins with executing a routine the night before. If the unexpected happens the night before, which could very well happen, then it is out of your control. Either way, we must play the hand we are dealt to the best of our abilities. Just remember, the better you prepare the night before, the better your odds of success on the following morning.

Eat and drink right.

A perfect day doesn’t involve putting something in my mouth that I will regret a few hours later or will destroy my chances of a perfect day on the morrow. Remember, we are what we eat (and drink).

Get the things you need/want done.

Plan it out, create the list, and check off the boxes. But what if your idea of a perfect day is to take one off and do nothing? Then make the arrangements beforehand so that you have no misgivings while you are enjoying your day. And if your day is about super-productivity, then go into attack-mode and get after it. Of course, outside influences might slow or halt your progress. Don’t worry, they are outside your control. Deal with them and move on. What is not outside of your control is the wasted time. If you can identify and eliminate it, then you will be able to crush your “to-do” list.

These three things could put you well on your way to achieving that ever-elusive perfect day. But those three do not seem to be enough. Something seems to be missing:

You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.

John Wooden

Oh, the icing on the perfect day cake. It is an act of unconditional love for someone other than yourself. This is giving the cup of water to the one who thirsts. It is the essence of godliness. If you want to make a good day divine, then be on the lookout for these opportunities that have the power to change the lives of those you encounter. It is the final and most important ingredient to make your day perfect.


Feature photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

Only Doing What They Think Is Right

One Take from the Week #10: Only Doing What They Think Is Right

A note came from Alec’s teacher this week. She wanted to let us know that he was having a hard time with a few of the students. Some of them were bothering him and his attitude was going from pleasant to unpleasant extremely fast. He was not telling the teacher when there was a problem, and he was not dealing with the situation in a proper way. Unable to use his reasoning skills, he was resorting to the use of force to resolve the conflict. At his age, using force is easier than using wisdom to solve the problem. But easy is not the solution and often results in unintended consequences.

My counsel to him was to identify the problem. I asked him, “Is this you or is it them? If it is them, then you need to respond accordingly which is to let the teacher know. If it is you, then you must determine if you need to change. Ideally, these students will be who you are hanging out with for the next nine years of your life. You will be working together in class, playing together in sports, and engaging with each other socially. What can you do to be in harmony with the group?” After our conversation, I joked with Bethany on where he could have gotten these behaviors from. Surely, he must have gotten it from her.

The next day, I was a little mentally bothered at work. One person was getting under my skin. There was a breakdown of communication with another. One of my team members asked me what was wrong. I responded with “nothing.” She knew right away that I wasn’t being truthful. Apparently, I have not yet mastered the ability to mask my facial expressions. The stress I was holding on the inside was manifesting itself outwardly. I told her, “My problems are with my perception. The others are doing what is in their nature. They are doing what they think is right. I need to adjust my emotions accordingly.” It was almost in line with something the philosopher Epictetus would say. As I said it, I had a moment of clarity. How are my problems any different than that of Alec’s?

It turns out he is more like me than I thought. These behaviors didn’t get genetically passed down from his mother. No. Those were the apples he picked up from me. I was quick to give him counsel him on a response that I continue to struggle with. Of course, I will not use force to resolve petty annoyances. But I can do better. I can use more wisdom and less emotion. I can remember these words from Epictetus earlier rather than later:

Whenever anyone criticizes or wrongs you, remember that they are only doing or saying what they think is right. They cannot be guided by your views, but their own…Say to yourself each time, “He did what he believed was right.”

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Writing for Me

My message is for all, but especially for my son. As true as this may be, the reality is that I write for myself. When I was young, I often put myself into seemingly inescapable predicaments. I didn’t always know who to talk to. The solutions I was looking for were not found easily. In these times of great distress, pen and paper acted as magnets and drew me toward them. It was in the words that I found my therapy. It was a haven to freely express what was in my mind.

Although writing was instrumental in the dark times, it took years for me to realize its value when things didn’t appear so bleak. Through this medium, I found both a greater sense of direction and purpose. Words on paper was a means to prevent the lethargy that comes with comfort.

Write to please just one person.

Kurt Vonnegut

Of course, my words are intended as a message for all who would read them. But I cannot do this when I am at odds within. The writing gives me pleasure because it brings me into alignment with my soul. It brings me closer to harmony with the universe. Yes, it is a message for all. But in the end, it is ultimately for me.