I watched as my son reluctantly pulled the homework out of his backpack. There were so many other things he wanted to do after a long day of school. Instead of winding down or playing outside before the sun set, he was digging into more math and grammar problems. He didn’t want to do it, but he knew he must.
What must be done
I only partially learned this lesson in school and my grades reflected it. The lesson hit its mark in the Army. You do what you must, or you pay the price. In this case, the price was paid in full through pain. And as John Patrick said, “Pain makes man think. Thought makes man wise. Wisdom makes life endurable.” [Read: Feel the Pain, Make the Change]
Unfortunately, back then, doing what I must only extended to my professional life. I didn’t have the discipline or the courage to extend it to my personal life. As a result, I suffered. The pain I felt was dull, and therefore, I continued to do what I wanted rather than what I should have done.
Education through pain and experience
Professors Pain and Experience may have been my two greatest teachers. Early on, they were instrumental in my education. It was through pain that I learned the consequences of getting burned, to identify what was toxic if I ate it, and what will hit me if I upset it. Pain taught me how to survive. Experience, how to thrive. In time, they tutored me on how to bridge the gap between the personal and professional. Without them, I would be dead. But with them, I learned how to live.
The most valuable of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do when it has to be done, whether you like it or not.
Is our traditional education system broken? Some would think so. Yet, there is still value in it if we learn from Huxley’s words. Learn to do what you must, whether you like it or not. But consider the things you must do. Weigh them carefully. Is it that which you must do for yourself, or is it that which someone else thinks you must do for your own good? There is a big difference.
Fairy tales and legends are filled with trolls. They are described as ugly and cruel beasts living under bridges and in the marshes. And though the stories are rife with their existence, I wonder how many people have seen one.
Today, the word troll has taken on a different meaning. These are the individuals who scan your posts and your videos looking for ways to attack you. Often, their comments are both ugly and cruel. And like the trolls from the legends, I wonder how many have been seen. Chances are the answer is never. They might not live under bridges and in marshes, but they do their best to hide. Their power is in their anonymity, and therefore refuse to show their faces or reveal their real names.
The purpose of a mask
Traditionally, masks were used for two different purposes, and both had to do with identity protection. Villains wore masks so they could not be identified when committing their illegal acts. On the other hand, heroes wore masks to protect their identities so the villains couldn’t retaliate against them or their loved ones. In both cases, it was best for individual safety to remain anonymous.
It is easier to be bold when you are anonymous. Who doesn’t want to be able to hit without fear of the repercussions? You can commit the crime without the worry of being caught. As it is with water looking for the path of least resistance, so too is man’s heart. It takes courage to do the brave thing, courage to do the right thing. To be courageous means to go beyond yourself and do the thing you don’t necessarily feel like doing. It means to forego the easy way and choose a path that offers more resistance.
Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth. -Oscar Wilde
If you want to know what is really in the heart of man, then give him a mask. It will give him an inflated sense of bravado and allow him to freely operate in the shadows. You might not be able to see the face, but you most certainly will be able to see the person’s heart. And the heart as Solomon said is deep like water, and only the one with understanding can draw it out (Proverbs 20:5).
The only way to achieve real growth and progress is to work on yourself daily. It is often boring. It is slow and steady work. There will be no monumental gains from day to day. Rather, the growth is incremental.
Look for opportunities in each day. What can you subtract from your life? What can you add in its place that will take you to the next level? Analyze. Adjust. Reflect. Refine. Make your habits serve you. Become the master of your own destiny through constant and relentless work. Do this daily, and you will be surprised at what you become.
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.
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.
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.
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?
In the days leading up to the Great Flood, the people of the world were living a good and happy life. There was little worry about the future. They ate, drank, and made merry. If they continued to sacrifice to the local gods, nothing could go wrong.
Then one day, someone started building a large boat. This was strange as there were no large bodies of water nearby. They asked him what he was doing and did not like his answer.
To them, this was the Golden Age. They did not look well upon those that held contrary beliefs. They did not tolerate anyone who would spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt. And that is what Noah was doing. Their response was ridicule, derision, and mockery. Who did Noah think he was to ruin their good times? Thus, they continued in the disbelief until the rain began to fall.
In the early 1990’s, I had a teacher that believed the end was near. For us students, this was hard to believe. We were young and full of optimism. The world was changing before our eyes and thoughts of the end times were ridiculous. We were on the brink of a new Golden Age and this man was intent on cracking our good spirits. Today, we would consider this teacher an early “doomsday prepper.” He even advised us High School students to buy gold as a hedge against inflation. Back then, I had a hard time taking him seriously.
In my recent studies on cryptocurrencies, I have come across the acronym FUD. FUD is fear, uncertainty, and doubt. Spreading FUD will get you removed from online forums. Investors expect their returns to take them to the moon, and they do not appreciate those who would think differently. As an investor myself, I want to believe the best is yet to come. But at the same time, I don’t want to be so foolish to turn a blind eye to the spreaders of FUD. Doing so would be perilous if the storm really is on the horizon.
The world we live in is bound to have a little FUD. Last year, a health crisis began its devastating effects on the world. There are powerful people that are opposed to individual freedom. Our food and water supplies are being threatened. It seems that everywhere you turn, in every sector that impacts our lives, our existence is in peril. The FUD is real. I don’t want to be the one spreading the FUD. But It is out there, and I, for my own sanity, need to learn how to manage it.
F-E-A-R has two meanings. Forget Everything and Run. Or, Face Everything and Rise. The choice is yours.
Essentially, we are talking about one of the most basic survival mechanisms we have as humans: fight or flight. In the face of real danger, to run makes sense. But to run from the challenge when no real threat exists is self-defeating. Instead, you should rise to the challenge.
When I think about fear, I think of the unknown. That can be scary. What if there are monsters hiding in the shadows? Even worse, what if the monsters are hiding in plain sight. A wolf at a distance in the daylight might not be that scary. One in the dark brings fear. Even worse, is the wolf dressed as a sheep. You don’t even know to be scared until it is too late.
Zig Ziglar has another acronym for fear: False Evidence Appearing Real. This acronym describes most of our fears. We have anxiety for a future that has not yet come to pass. We are in fear of something that we cannot control. And this leads to…
Robert Greene put it well when he stated, “The need for certainty is the greatest disease the mind faces.” We are not gods, yet we want the omniscient power. We want the security that comes in certainty. Maybe this condition has evolved with the evolution of our modern world. Instead of living lives of adventure and exploration, we have become accustomed to routine. We have adapted to a work, eat, sleep pattern with only manufactured adventures experienced through television and video games. Are we really choosing to go passively into the Matrix? When our routine is challenged, we become uncertain. And with uncertainty comes…
How do you know how to proceed if you don’t know how what will happen in the future? In truth, you don’t. But we can’t resort to inaction. Instead, you must take a step. You must travel the path the best you can. And if you are wrong? Well, at least you tried. And with the knowledge of being wrong, you can correct your course and take your next step in the right direction. The key is taking the steps. If you don’t take the steps, if you remain in place, you will never go anywhere. The only thing that will hold you back is yourself.
Confidence comes not from always being right but from not fearing to be wrong.
We must learn how to navigate the FUD in our lives. Yes, it can be difficult, but it can be done. Search for the truth wherever it can be found. Make it your personal mission and gravitate toward it. Become who you were meant to be and remember…
The lady stood in line at the grocery store. The associates knew who she was and was giving her a wide berth. Unfortunately, another customer got too close to her in the line. The cashier, who happens to be my wife, attempted to give him a silent signal with her mask-covered face. It didn’t work, and the lady finally found another target for her hate. And thus, unfolded the same weekly tirade at the grocery store. This lady is in a perpetual state of anger and doesn’t care who feels her wrath.
The easiest solution is to return hate with hate. If it were me, I would make a game of it and flood her with more sarcasm than she could handle. But is that the right course of action? Does this improve the situation, or is it only a severe case of pettiness? I know what I would do, and I also know what I should do. Sadly, would and should are not the same thing. In this case, I will have to consider the words of one of the great thinkers in history. What would he do?
What Would Plato Do?
Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
Our antagonist in this story is angry. She is bitter. I cannot imagine the cause. But pouring gasoline on the fire is not beneficial to anybody. The battle she is fighting may be harder than anything I have imagined. Kindness may not cure her of her problems, but kindness is the answer. Thank you, Plato, for these words of wisdom.
The tragedy of life doesn’t lie in not reaching your goal. The tragedy lies in having no goal to reach.
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.
One of the great joys of my job is the conversations I get to have with co-workers. This week, I had the good fortune to speak with an enterprising associate who spends his time away from work as a personal trainer. As we were talking about some of the things we have learned since our last conversation, he mentioned he was still only on year four of his personal transformation. Now, this personal transformation goes beyond fitness. This is a complete change of mind, body, and soul. After hearing him speak, I fully understand the meaning of “like attracting like.” I couldn’t help but be amazed as I am also several years into my own personal transformation.
This journey has been full of ups and downs. It has not been the easiest road to travel. You can’t plan on overnight success. I set out with a five-year plan. But honestly, I don’t think I will ever come to the end of my quest.
What my friend is looking for, and what I am looking for, is greatness. And the beauty about being great is that our definitions are not the same. We define it on our own terms, pursue it on different paths, and measure it the best we can. We are not competing against each other. We are competing against ourselves. And when the smoke clears, if we continued to run the race, we will be victorious. We will have become great.
No great thing is suddenly created. When I get impatient, let those words be a reminder. When I am feeling down or frustrated, let me not forget. Greatness would not be great if it was given and not earned.
You may even call it pass or fail. I grew up in a world where failure was bad. It was embarrassing. It showed a lack of ability. Nobody wants to fail. And the stigma of failure is often so bad, that to never start at all is a valid temptation.
Why ask the girl on a date? She might say no.
Why try out for the team? You might not make it.
Why sign up for that class? It might be too hard.
In the Army, things didn’t get better. Failure often resulted in an unrelated punishment. Failing at the wrong time could result in your death or the death of your teammates. It was a go or no-go, and well, who wants to be a no-go.
Matthew McConaughey’s book Greenlights may have been one the more enjoyable books I have read this year. A greenlight means go. Catching all greenlights on the road makes for smooth travelling. This is a warm spring day where nothing can wrong. When you have all greenlights, life is good. As McConaughey puts it:
Catching greenlights is about skill: intent, context, consideration, endurance, anticipation, resilience, speed, and discipline. We can catch more greenlights by simply identifying where the red lights are in our life, and then change course to hit fewer of them.
Matthew McConaughey, Greenlights
Greenlights are good. But taken at face value the above passage would suggest to only look for the easy way. But that is not all that he is saying. He tells us the red and yellow lights are moments to pause, to think, and to reflect. Those lights might be green when looked upon in the rearview mirror of life.
Imagine hitting a red light on the road and thinking the game is over. You have failed to hit all greenlights. Would you stop driving? Would you give up or would wait until the light is green?
It’s a matter of how we see the challenge in front of us and how we engage with it. Persist, pivot, or concede. It’s up to us, our choice every time.
Matthew McConaughey, Greenlights
The Opportunity to Fail
That’s right. Failure is an opportunity. It is not always pleasant. At times, the failure can result in consequences unrealized and undesirable. Should that stop us? Nope. If we do the research and then the work, the failure is a chance to learn. It is a chance to evolve as an individual. Give it a try. If you fail, learn. Try again.
In starting your first business or your hundredth, there is a risk that it won’t succeed. There is a reward if it does. What many don’t realize is that the failure also contains a reward. It is called experience, which is not available to those who never try in the first place.
Many of us seek it in some way, shape, or form. The greatest glory is getting knocked on your rear end then getting back up. Getting knocked down is okay only if you rise when you fall.