A Step of Faith

What is faith? Is it not believing in someone or something even if you can’t see it? I don’t think about the air I breathe. I never consider if it has the right mixture of gases. Breathing is a natural function, and I have faith that my body will be able to use the air it takes in.

Blind faith is different and often dangerous. Whether it is an over-confidence in one’s abilities or a disconnect from the reality of one’s circumstances, blind faith can be disastrous. Eating an unknown mushroom can result in negative consequences up to and including death. Walking in complete darkness can have similar results. if you are going to have faith, blind faith is not the one you want to have.

Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.

Martin Luther King, Jr.

I love these words from Dr. King. I see the staircase in front of me. I know that what I want is at the top even if I don’t completely understand the full value of what is up there. My only choices are to stay in place or take the first step. The consequences of not moving are more dangerous than the action of taking the step. Action begets action. One step leads to another. I have faith that my legs and heart will get me to the top. This is faith. It is not blind faith, but faith in the process of doing what I was put one this earth to do. It begins with the action. Therefore, I must go.

Confidence for the Win

Merriam-Webster

Belief in one’s own abilities. How do you get this belief? Hone your abilities. Practice. The speaker that lacks confidence is lacking in practice and experience. The singer that didn’t memorize the words to the song will lack the confidence to perform on the stage.

Why is my son not a better wrestler? It is not because of physical ability. It is because he lacks confidence. How so? He is a novice. He only knows a few techniques and has yet to master them. His teammates and opponents have more years of experience. They have a larger arsenal of techniques and moves at their disposal. They have spent more time practicing. But as Alec gets more time on the mat, as he grows in experience and continues to practice, his confidence will improve. He will become a better wrestler.

If you don’t have confidence, you’ll always find a way not to win.

Carl Lewis

Winning and winning consistently is a product of confidence. It is a product of a belief in your abilities. That belief comes through practice, which in time will lead to mastery.

Contemplating Seneca #25 On Written Goals

Our plans miscarry because they have no aim. When you don’t know what harbor you’re aiming for, no wind is the right wind.

Seneca

Whether it is at the beginning of the year, at the end, or somewhere in between, the act of creating goals is one of the great separators between the high-performers and the rest of the field. It doesn’t matter your age or station in life. If you want to get ahead, it starts with goals. Obviously, that is not enough. It is only a starting point. Keep in mind these words from Sir Francis Drake: There must be a beginning to any great matter – But the continuing unto to the end, until it be thoroughly finished, yields the true glory.

So, you have yourself a goal to get better at something that is holding you back. Accomplishing this goal will understandably change your life. What should be the first step?

The act of writing down your goals has stunning benefits. Check out these words from Keith Ferrazzi in his book Never Eat Alone and Other Secrets to Success, One Relationship at a Time:

As my dad used to say, no one becomes an astronaut by accident. Luck has little to do with achievement, as a study cited in Success magazine makes clear. In the study, researchers asked Yale’s class of 1953 a number of questions. Three had to do with goals:

-Have you set goals?

-Have you written them down?

-Do you have a plan to accomplish them?

It turned out that only 3 percent of the Yale class had written down their goals, with a plan of action to achieve them. Thirteen percent had goals but had not written them down. Fully 84 percent had no specific goals at all, other than to “enjoy themselves.” In 1973, when the same class was resurveyed, the differences between the goal setters and everyone else were stunning. The 13 percent who had goals that were not in writing were earning, on average, twice as much as the 84 percent of students who had no goals at all. But most surprising of all, the 3 percent who had written their goals down were earning, on average, ten times as much as the other 97 percent of graduates combined!

Writing down your goals could put you in the top 3%. That is an elite level. Being in the top 3% in any sport would almost guarantee an induction into a Hall of Fame. In any business sector, a top 3 percenter goes together with being a top earner. Imagine being at the top of the list of authors, entrepreneurs, or leaders. How about being a top 3% father or mother? Natural talent will only get a person so far. The rest is a combination of smart work and hard work. if we want our plans to bear fruit, we must have an aiming point.

Time to get smart,

Or rather it is time to develop some S.M.A.R.T. goals.

SMART Goals: Definitions and Examples

On a piece of paper, write down what you want your goal to be. Then define it using the S.M.A.R.T. method. When you are done, hang it up or put it somewhere that will serve as a daily reminder. Congratulations! You now have a higher probability of achieving your goal. Your chances of success have just increased exponentially.

To do more for the world than the world does for you—that is success.

Henry Ford

Personal goals are fantastic for getting you from point A to point B. However, personal goals only serve the individual making the goal. Altruistic goals on the other hand, benefit not only the goal creator but others. If we are truly interested in finding success, we must consider goals that do more for others than ourselves.

My Dirty Doorstep

There is one that I love like a brother. However, he is almost the exact opposite in personality, communication, and demeanor. As much as I love him, there are times I don’t want to be around him. It is simply too stressful.

Whenever this person does something, I am quick to complain to the others in our mutual circle. My complaining may start off with the latest perceived infraction, but inevitably it will extend to all the previous faults that still bother me today.

Don’t complain about the snow on your neighbor’s roof, when your own doorstep is unclean.

Confucius

I am far from perfect. I am stubborn, arrogant, and often sarcastic at the wrong moments. I can be petty, selfish, and unempathetic. For all my good qualities, the bad ones are just as prevalent and probably more noticeable to my friends and family. These are areas that need some serious work but are also ones that I do not like having pointed out to me by others.

All day long I can complain about the snow on my neighbor’s roof. Yes, that roof is a problem, but it is not my problem. I cannot control my neighbor’s actions, their roof, or the weather that brought the snow. The only thing I can control are my actions and my attitude. Marcus Aurelius said I should be tolerant with others and strict with myself. If I was doing what I was supposed to be doing, such as cleaning the mess on my doorstep, I would have no time to complain about the snow on my neighbor’s roof. I would have no time to complain about my friend’s problems.

If thy brother wrongs thee, remember not so much his wrong-doing, but more than ever that he is thy brother.

Epictetus

Patience is what I need when I am around my friend. His issues and the way he deals with them are his own best practice. And if it works for him, then I need to be less critical. I am not going to change this person, but I can love him for all the good qualities that makes him my friend. And if it rubs me the wrong way, then that is my problem. It is a problem with my perception and attitude, a problem that I need to correct.

We, the Sculptors

Candi Sambisari

In 2003, I saw my first Hindu temple in Indonesia. From the horizon, I couldn’t see anything. But standing at the edge of the complex, I could look down and see the whole structure. It looked like the builders created it from top to bottom, excavating and carving the solid stone beneath their feet. I was amazed at the beauty and complexity. I was amazed at the genius of the designer.

I have always loved looking at the old marble statues of antiquity. I can’t imagine the foresight and skill it took for Michelangelo to create his David from a solid block of marble that he chiseled away until he completed the image from his mind. The temple at Sambisari was no different only on a much larger scale.

Sculpture by Escultor Victor Hugo Yañez Piña

Many of us have seen the above image. Personally, I find it to be one of the most powerful impressions of what is possible. From the beginning, we see a misshapen lump of mass. Yet in the mind’s eye of the man inside is a vision of what could be. it is a vision so clear and so vivid to him. Tirelessly, he carves away the parts of him that is neither desired nor needed. This he will do until he can achieve the image he desires.

This has been my own personal vision for myself. In the beginning of my fitness journey, I was holding onto a large amount of undesirable mass. However, in my mind, I had a vision of something entirely different. Therefore, I began to shape and chisel away. I am not where I want to be yet, but I am working on it. Someday, I will finish this sculpture.

We are all sculptors and painters, and our material is our own flesh and blood and bones.

Henry David Thoreau

We have all heard that our body is a temple. To build that temple, we must imagine what the final product will look like. Once we have a vision, we can make the plans and then do the work. It is up to us to decide how spectacular and beautiful we want it to be. We are the sculptors.

Another Night with the Frogs

2010. For the first time in over 14 years, I was jobless. The first month of unemployment, I was okay only a little worried. I had a good resumé and thought I was highly employable. As the days, then months, went by I became more worried. Relationships, especially my marriage, were strained. Depression set in and even the desire to go out and look for a job went away. By the end of year, I watched the days fade away as I sat doing nothing. I kept telling myself that tomorrow would be a better day. I would be more proactive and do what needed to be done.

When tomorrow came, I did as the day before and the days before that. Nothing. But oh, there was always another tomorrow, another chance to do better.

Then Pharoah summoned Moses and Aaron and said, “Pray to the Lord your God to remove the frogs from me and my people, and I will let the people go to sacrifice to the Lord.

Moses answered Pharoah, “Please designate for me the time when I am to pray for you and your servants and your people, to get rid of the frogs from you and your houses. They will be left only in the Nile.

“Tomorrow,” he said. Then Moses replied, “It will be as you said, so that you may know that there is none like the Lord, our God.”

Exodus 8:4-6

I listened to this passage from Exodus on The Bible in a Year Podcast with Father Mike Schmitz. After the reading, Fr. Mike pointed out one key word: tomorrow. Pharoah was suffering. The frogs were everywhere. When Moses asked Pharoah when he wanted the frogs gone, Pharoah said tomorrow. Why not immediately? Why suffer another day with the frogs? Why spend another night with frogs crawling around in your bed? And like Pharoah, why do we continue with our suffering another day if we could remove it today?

January 2022. I wanted to begin the year just as I left off in 2021. Study hard, finish the gym I am building, and continue the home improvements. Instead, I got Covid. For about two weeks, I laid around doing nothing. Just sitting outside in the sun or taking a walk to the mailbox wore me out. There is so much I needed to get done, but I had no ability to do it. As much as I hated to say it, I was praying for a better tomorrow. Oh Lord, not this again!

As the illness faded and clarity was coming back to my mind, a glimmer of hope began to surface. I was reminded of the importance of time. Never again did I want to tell myself I could do something tomorrow if it was possible to do it today. What matters is today; tomorrow is not guaranteed.

Have you ever been there? When it comes to fitness, nutrition, alcohol, or starting a new venture? Did you ever choose to continue suffering today in the hopes of alleviating it tomorrow? Why spend another night with the frogs when you could make it all go away today?

The Ability to Change

Some are quite gifted when it comes to common sense. They are no-nonsense, practical, and able to discern the ideal solutions to most problems they encounter. If one is lacking in common sense, it would be in their best interest to either get it or stay close to the one that has it.

Others have the book smarts. They can open a book, read it, understand it, and then apply it. Yet not all of them are the ones you would call in a pinch. The ones you do call most likely have the double-bonus combination of book smarts and common sense.

What make a person intelligent? Is it the one who gets the high marks in school or the street-smart individual? Or is it the one who is blessed with both? If any had the right to be called intelligent, maybe it would be this famous physicist of the past:

The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.

Albert Einstein

The ability to change. This is the litmus test Einstein gave us. We either change or get left behind. We either evolve or die.

It doesn’t matter where you begin. The gifts you were blessed with help, but even that doesn’t matter. What matters is what you do along the way. What matters is how you travel the road and how well you adapt to the environment presented to you. The ability to change–the measure of our intelligence.

Did I always believe this? Of course not. I was too stubborn in my ways. I thought the hand I was dealt was not strong enough to win. Somehow, the deck was stacked against me. I claimed the victim before I even began, because I could not help but notice the stronger players in the game.

Life is not always a matter of holding good cards, but sometimes, playing a poor hand well.

Jack London

If we only hold onto the cards we are dealt, we can never improve our position. We must discard the weaker cards that do not serve us. We must play the game to the best of our abilities and learn as we go. This is the intelligence we seek.

Get vs. Giving

Making a Living.

Here is a simple truth: The more money you make, the better your standards of living. More money equals more buying power. Not just more in terms of quantity but also in quality. For some, this means everything. It is a completely selfish endeavor, but it doesn’t necessarily mean it is bad. It is just a truth. Who wouldn’t prefer to live comfortably, travel freely, eat better, and wear well-made clothes? To do so while incurring the least amount of personal sacrifice is the desire of many.

A Life of Giving

Yes, making a living is nice. But shouldn’t we aim for something higher, something more noble and less selfish? Our goal should be to leave the world a little better than when we entered it. The only way we can do this is by giving back to the world. Life isn’t about how much we can get. It is about how much we can give.

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.

Winston Churchill

The getting is nice, but it is the giving that matters.

The Neutral Mind

“Empty your mind.
Be formless, shapeless, like water.
You put water into a cup; it becomes the cup.
You put water into a teapot; it becomes the teapot.
You put it into a bottle; it becomes the bottle.
Now water can flow, or it can crash."
-Bruce Lee

Cluttered

I lie in bed and close my eyes. Everything is dark and quiet. The guardian of my mind, the watcher of my thoughts, lowers his awareness. The levee breaks. Wave upon wave of thoughts come as I ride the torrent of past actions and future hopes. I am in dangerous waters; the flow of time carries me beyond the shores of sleep. This is not where I want to be. I need sleep, yet all I have are my thoughts.

The restraint on my mind is my weakness. I know I am supposed to welcome my thoughts and then let them go. This is what I practice, but I am only a novice. Rather than let them go, I hold on to them. Rather than mastering my thoughts, I let them carry me away on the tide, tossing me wherever they go.

Empty

When your mind is crowded with thoughts and information about all the things you’ve learned and how you feel about them, there isn’t room for much else. You’ve given up access to new possibilities and points of view; you’ve limited yourself. In order to learn new information, we must first make room to let that information in.

Shannon Lee

Emptying my mind is the first and hardest step. Therefore, the practice of meditation is important. If there is anything I wish to accomplish through meditation, it is the ability to rule my mind. I want to be able to control my thoughts. On a basic level, it is so I can sleep at night. On an advanced level, it is to remove the clutter.

Emptying my mind is the purge process. It is the elimination of the unnecessary and irrelevant. It is the letting go of preconceived ideas that are preventing me from seeing the whole truth. The growth that I seek comes through the pruning of dead thoughts and the removing of the vines of misinformation which is choking my personal tree of knowledge. New growth needs the space and energy that can only come from the eradication of the old and useless.

Open

Make room for the possibility that maybe you don’t already know all of what you believe to be true—that what you believe is, in fact, a work in progress, capable of changing and evolving as you learn and grow.

Shannon Lee

Humanity is fractured by ideology.

  • Creativity vs. Evolution
  • Conservative vs. Liberal
  • Freedom vs. Control
  • Love vs. Hate

I can connect the dots of my own belief systems and be at peace that I am on the correct side of all the divisions. But what if I am wrong? What if I chose the wrong side? I can either close myself off and hunker down in my own dogmatic ignorance, or I can open my mind and welcome the possibility of discovering the real truth. Better to be shaken to my core than to live in a false fantasy.

There may even be a chance that my beliefs are not wrong. Maybe, they are just not fully developed. Fool would I be if I took a little learning and left it at that. I must cultivate the knowledge that I do have. I must be open to receiving more. Then, I may be able to grasp a greater understanding of the material. This is the path to wisdom.

Preconceptions

Because of our beliefs and our preferences, we walk around collecting the evidence of our experiences to bolster our beliefs. If I walk into a party with a sense of dread, then I am subconsciously looking for evidence of that dread to prove myself right.

Shannon Lee

We have all been there. We thought it was going to be bad and it turned out to be so. We are programmed to see only the things we are looking for. How much have we lost by following this programming? How much could we have gained if we went into the situation with a neutral mind?

To achieve the neutral mind, I must:

  • Unclutter the mind by releasing thoughts and beliefs that are unnecessary.
  • With an empty mind, allow it to open to new possibilities.
  • Eliminate preconceptions of what may come.

This is a practice. With time and consistency, mastery of the mind is possible.

Quoted material obtained from Be Water, My Friend: The Teachings of Bruce Lee by Shannon Lee.

What We May Be

Do you know what you are? Hopefully by this time, you have figured it out. You know your strengths and weaknesses. You understand the opportunities available to you and the potential threats that could endanger you.

It takes an honest assessment to find out who you are. Anything else could create a dangerous illusion that masks your true self. What you are is here in the present. It is an accumulation of all your past choices. It is not what you hope to be. What you are is the facts of your life right now.

We know what we are, but know not what we may be.

William Shakespeare

The future will be the accumulation of your choices going forward. They will be combined with past decisions to create the next version of you. What will be your next version?

Shakespeare said we don’t know what we may become. This is true. The potential and the opportunities are there. Yet only some will capitalize on them. Others will sit back and be passively led. Their hopes and dreams will be nothing more than fantasy. Their fortunes and misfortunes will be no more than a product of chance.

Today is a new beginning. If fortune favors us with a tomorrow, it will be the next beginning. Though tomorrow is not guaranteed, we must still plan for it. We must act on those plans today so that we can be at a better starting point tomorrow. If we can continually build upon the plans of each day, we can get closer to our true potential and discover what we may be.