Lacking Sense

 

There was a time when those that wanted food had to go out and get it themselves. If they didn’t grow it, they had to catch it. If they didn’t do either one, they had to have something of value to trade for it. The more you wanted for you and your family, the harder you had to work for it. Even better if you worked your own land, instead of someone else’s.

It is much easier to get food these days. But if you want more than a miniscule ration, or if you want better quality, you are going to have to work for it. Maybe it is hearkening back to the old days and growing/catching it yourself. Or maybe, it is doing something of value worth trading. If you are working hard, working smart, and staying focused, you will be able to eat, and eat well.

Oftentimes we find ourselves getting off track. We lose that focus and start doing other things such as:

• Spending too much time engaged in social media,

• Reading material that does not enhance your life or cause your brain to think,

• Binge-watching some television,

• Playing games for the sake of killing time,

• Or doing busy work.

Sometimes we need a little downtime. Seneca in his 14th letter writes, “I do not maintain that the body is not to be indulged at all; but I maintain that we must not be slaves to it.” By becoming a slave to your body, you lose your self-control. Without discipline, your body will tell you to relax and put off the things you should be doing. It will tell you to procrastinate. Those who procrastinate, do not eat as well as the others.

The last point, doing busy work, is a killer that is often overlooked. It is easy to engage in busyness and never accomplish your primary mission. Tim Ferriss makes an interesting statement in his book, Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers:

Being busy is a form of laziness –lazy thinking and indiscriminate action. Being busy is most often used as a guide for avoiding the few critically important but uncomfortable actions.

Next time you find yourself doing busy work, you should ask yourself whether or not you are moving closer to your task. I find myself falling down this rabbit hole all the time without even realizing it. When I should be writing, I start cleaning the files on my computer or looking for a picture that correlates with the writing. I start doing all kinds of things, except the ones that are most important.

Solomon said that those engaged in idle pursuits lack sense. It is something to consider the next time we go on a marathon involving social media, all the episodes in whatever drama you’re watching, or knocking out the latest romance novel in one sitting. I know this is an area that I can improve in my own life.

Do Not Retaliate

 

This is my 27th consecutive day meditating. I have never picked up a new habit so easily and so transforming. The following is the thought that presented itself to me this morning. I acknowledged it, stored it for later, and then continued the practice.

You do not have to retaliate. Not against yourself. Not against others.

Yourself. You can accept your weaknesses and work to correct them. There is no need for self-flagellation. There is no need to give yourself lashes physically or mentally. Accept who you are and if necessary make the appropriate course corrections in a way that will lead to long-term sustainable growth.

Others. Being Christ-conscious is not weakness, it is strength. There is no need to retaliate against those that offend you. That is pride. That is ego. It is also your perception of an offense that may have been given unintentionally. Operate from a space of humility and demonstrate the true strength of self-control. You have the power to function on a higher level. Do this and the offensive situation will lose the oxygen that feeds the fire.

Embrace Those Quotes

We see quotes all day long. Often they are very inspirational bits of wisdom that cause us to think from a different perspective. The person being quoted has found success in their area of expertise and has shared this pearl of knowledge in hopes that others may find their own success. Does it work? Is the quote just a quick meme to generate some likes? Does it actually resonate within you? Does it cause you to think? Even better, does it cause you to act?

The quotes are out there. They are essentially public domain and are ripe for the taking. Only you can find the truth of the message and apply it to your own life.

Any truth, I maintain, is my own property. And I shall continue to heap quotations from Epicurus upon you, so that all persons who swear by the words of another, and put a value upon the speaker and not upon the thing spoken, may understand that the best ideas are common property. –Seneca Letter XII: On Old Age

Systems

I have always been one to create goals. In my mind, I shoot for the moon. In reality, I come up far short. “This is the year I am going to achieve my fitness goals” or “This year, I will write that book” were annual phrases in my life. My list of all the things I wanted to accomplish in the future kept growing. So many goals created, so little to show for it. Until I unknowingly started creating systems.

It started with work on the assembly line. Do the same work over and over and achieve the same results. The consistency I learned in manufacturing, I began to apply to daily routines. I applied a lean manufacturing concept to my pre-work habits, which tremendously helped me get through those early years working the night shift. The more consistent my routine, the less chance something would go wrong that would keep me from making it to work. I would try to automate my life in every aspect from meal prep to placing my wallet and keys in the exact same place every day. I didn’t know that what I was doing back then would become an integral part of who I am today.

Over the last year, a new system has been instituted into my workout routine. In the past, I would work out when I could at whatever time was available. This of course, led to inconsistent behaviors. With inconsistent behaviors you get inconsistent results. I realized that after a hard day of working on the production line, I was less likely to get in a quality workout, if I even got one in. Often I was too tired or too dehydrated. Back then I was primarily a runner, and after standing all day on my feet, the thought of pounding the pavement was unbearable. In addition, there was the guilty conscience of selfishly spending the last few hours of the day on myself instead of my family.

I was not happy with the results I was achieving. Something had to change. I had to change. So I started working out in the morning. This meant I would have to get up before 5 a.m. to start. So I set my alarm for 4:30. But it was too inconsistent. I would hit the snooze button, make too much noise getting ready, or start too late. I had to bump up the time, though that didn’t keep me from snoozing. So I had to make incremental changes to get it right. I started to get the mix right by setting the alarm at 4, laying out my clothes the night before, and drinking a large glass of water when I woke up. Now my success rate was close to 75%. When I started planning my workouts the night before, my percentages started to improve.

WorkoutSystem

After a month of getting up at 4, I stumbled upon the Jocko Podcast. This affirmed what I was doing. Jocko Willink is a former Navy SEAL commander who preaches that Discipline Equals Freedom. He says to get up every morning at 4:30 and workout. Not only is he is saying to do this, but there is a whole community of people doing this very thing. They are getting up when the rest of the world is still sleeping and they get after it. Now I am a part of that community and actively holding myself accountable by participating. So here is a tip of my hat and a thank you to the 0445Club, the Samarai Gang, and the Troopers. Consequently, my success rate is over 95%, 7 days a week.

My system for fitness is working. And if it works here, it can work in almost any aspect of my life. I can create a system for writing that ensures a consistent daily output. Having a system for personal finances keeps the bills paid on time and more money in the bank. Developing a system for whatever aspect I want to improve in my life gets me much closer to accomplishment, than the throwing of a quarter in the wishing-well of a goal. I haven’t completely tossed out the creation of goals in my life, but they are now only a starting point to the building of a systematic plan for accomplishing the mission.

There must be a beginning to any great matter –But the continuing unto the end, until it be thoroughly finished, yields the true glory. –Sir Francis Drake

Palm Sunday

If you are not going to get anything out of the experience of attending church, then why go? So what did I get from this morning’s service? The gospel reading was The Passion of the Christ. These are the events leading up to the crucifixion and ending with the moments shortly after the death of Jesus (Mark 14-15). During the reading, two events resonated with me more than usual.

Peter’s Denial

Peter is the one that denied Christ three times. It is a well known story, so why did it catch my attention more than usual today? In terms of church hierarchy, Peter probably stands at the top among his fellow humans. This is the rock we are talking about, the foundation upon which the church is built. He is the one that denied Christ. After three years of spending almost all of his waking hours in the presence of Jesus, he is the one that began to swear and said, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.”

When it comes to failure, that has to be pretty high on the list. But did it stop Peter from doing the things he was supposed to do in his life? Could you imagine Peter not recovering from this betrayal? He could have just went away, maybe become a hermit, and wallow in misery for the rest of his days. But he didn’t. He recovered and eventually became that foundation of the church that he was supposed to be.

Have you failed in the things you knew you were supposed to do? You had every intention of doing the right thing, and then you blew it. The past is gone. You can’t change it, but you can learn your lesson. You can get back up again and make it right the next time. That is character, and that is how you become what you are supposed to be.

Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. One fails forward toward success. -Charles Kettering

The Crowd’s Denial

Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like to live in Jesus’ time. Can you imagine witnessing some of those miracles or even being the one healed? I often think what kind of person I would have been back then. Would I have dropped everything and followed Jesus? It is easy in this day and age to say I would. But what is the truth? One of his disciples betrayed him for a relatively small sum of money. Even Peter denied knowing him when not too long before he said, “Even though they all fall away, I will not…If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And so I think again, could I have been faithful?

The crowd knew who Christ was. They knew of the prophesies and seen, or at least heard of, the miracles. Even more, the priests, those most knowledgeable of the prophecies, wanted him dead. Two thousand years later, I say to myself, that these people were so blind to the truth. Yet, what makes me so different that I would have not been blind?

How often are we confronted with the truth in our lives and we turn away? Is it because the truth is uncomfortable and questions why we live the way we live? We have the chance to gradually make each day better than the one before, but so often we choose to remain static. The static lifestyle is eventually going to break down. It is going to lead to a slow decay that can affect every aspect of our lives if we allow it. We should be driving toward the truth, even if it is uncomfortable.

My prayer: I am going to seek the truth as it relates to my body, soul, and mind. I am going to strive to make improvements everyday. No man knows what tomorrow brings (Memento Mori), but I have today, and I will make the most of it. I am going to fail. Failure happens, getting back up is optional. I pray that I always have the desire to get back up. My destiny is on the line. To realize the potential of it, I have to get back up and go again.

Friday morning 3/23/2018

Friday morning 3/23/2018-

• Woke up at 3:40 a.m.

• Met client at gym at 4:30. This is not currently a paid service.

• Drove to work and meditated in parking lot from 6:10 to 6:30.

• Saw a need and helped out. Tweeted about this without realizing that a connection might be made and it could be perceived as arrogant. This created some unnecessary anxiety, as it wasn’t my intention. Now it is something I need to sort out in my mind.

The tweet was: Difference a year makes. Now if I see a need I don’t hesitate to help. Before I was selfish, reluctant, or procrastinated until it was too late. This is the path I was searching for.

What was the “before” I mentioned? There has been times in my life where I just wasn’t able to help. I wasn’t in the right place mentally, spiritually, or physically. I wanted to, but I did nothing. What are our wants if they are not backed up by action? Faith without works is dead (see James 2:14-26). Sometimes I procrastinated on it. I told myself I would just not today. The day never came. For some reason, not helping always plagued my conscience. I told my wife a few months ago that it was one of my greatest regrets in life. I also told her I wanted to live my life in such a way that I no longer have those types of regrets. It is similar to meeting a client at 4:30 in the morning. My drive is to be able to help others. This is a full 180 change from my younger version. That version was motivated by self-interest.

I believe my anxiety stemmed from how others would perceive me. I didn’t want to toot my horn and say, “Look at me and what I have done.” If my intention was to say that I am growing up, getting better, and trying to do the right things, then who cares what others think (if they even thought it, which is the more likely scenario). Here is my insecurity: worrying about what others think of me. This is good. I have identified another weakness that I can work on.

I am reminded again of “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield. I read this book a couple of weeks ago, and it is still fresh on my mind. Here’s Steven:

I learned this from Robert McKee. A hack, he says, is a writer who second-guesses his audience. When the hack sits down to work, he doesn’t ask himself what’s in his own heart. He asks what the market is looking for.

I have tried this in the past. I have tried to tailor my writing to my audience. I found myself not writing what was in my heart, but rather what I thought they wanted to hear. I was being a hack. I was not being authentic. I could feel it in my writing. I didn’t like it, but I thought it was the way. It was not the path I wanted to be on, and it certainly is not the path I am on now. I see my path before me. I know the direction it goes and where it leads. I will not turn to the right nor to the left. While there is still breath in me, I will stick to the path.

Choose to Pass, Not to Indulge

 

If you are mission-oriented toward pleasure, you will never be satisfied. You will always want more, because what you got the last time will only temporarily placate your desires. Put away the immediate gratification and hold out for the greater reward that comes with waiting. The intoxication from the wine will wear off. The scent of that perfume will fade. There is a far better use of your wealth than on mere trifles.

Here’s what the Greek and Roman philosophers had to say about this:

The man who overcomes his desires is braver than he who overcomes his enemies. –Aristotle

But no man would ever repent of having refused any sensual pleasure. Pleasure then is neither good nor useful. –Marcus Aurelius

If you are ruled by you mind, you are a king, if by your body, a slave. –Cato

No one is free who is not master of himself. –Epictetus

To be conquered by yourself is of all things most shameful and vile. –Plato

It is the sign of a great mind to prefer things in measure to things in excess. -Seneca

No Promotion, No Problem

 

You didn’t get the promotion you were hoping for, and it hurts. You are currently doing the job, but you have neither the title nor the security the title provides. You have been working hard for this. You feel like you deserve it, but you didn’t get it. Now you have to get over it. And just maybe, it doesn’t really even matter. So you need to move on. You cannot wallow or feel sorry for yourself. Not getting that job may have been the best thing for you.

Do not ask for what you will wish you had not got. –Seneca

You could have ridden this job into retirement. You could have coasted into old age doing something that was easy and comfortable. You could have relaxed and settled. You might lose your edge, but that’s okay, because there would have been nothing left to fight for. But wasn’t this job only a holdover until you could do the things you wanted? Wasn’t this supposed to be a temporary solution now to get the food on the table? You don’t want to grow old and at the twilight of your life say, “This is what I have done. I gave all my years to the company.” What were you to that company anyway? A vital part or just a number? Would you have left an unfillable void or would the next number come in to replace you? The twenty or forty years at the factory wasn’t easy. It took a toll on your body. It took a toll on your family. It wasn’t the easiest path to take, but it was the one with the least resistance. It was the easy way to grow old. The dreams you had in your youth were just dreams. As an adult, you left those childish dreams aside. Instead of realizing your dreams, you punched a timeclock.

Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands resistance. –Steven Pressfield

Last week I read “The War of Art” by Steven Pressfield. This book reached down into my core. It opened my eyes. For the first time, I had the name of the enemy that has been plaguing me my whole life. The sad thing is that I never knew I was in a war against an enemy, one that is relentless and will attack whether or not you are fighting back. How do you fight an unknown enemy?

If you know the enemy and know yourself, your victory will not stand in doubt. -From Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War”

So who or what is this enemy? Its name is Resistance. What is resistance? It is that voice telling you to delay doing the things you know and believe you should do. It is telling you to take another drink, to eat another cupcake, and to start that diet tomorrow instead of today. It is the one telling you later, not now. Resistance is the soft warmth of your bed beckoning you to hit that snooze button. It is the voice telling you that you will never be good enough so don’t even bother trying. Resistance says that your hopes and dreams can be put on hold until the time is right. We all have an adversary named Resistance.

 The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought anew each day. –Steven Pressfield.

Every day. The enemy, Resistance, is there waiting to attack. Sun Tzu said that one of the best ways to attack is to look for a weakness in your opponent. Resistance knows your weaknesses. It attacks when you are the most vulnerable to giving in. If you don’t do battle against the enemy every day, then all those aspirations you have in life will amount to nothing. Your dreams will be just that, dreams.

Questions to ask yourself:

• Was there something I wanted to create but didn’t?

• Did I delay building my business, because something else came up?

• Did I say to myself just one more show on Netflix and then I will get started?

• Did I not pursue my dreams because life got in the way?

I have used that last line plenty in the past. So much I wanted to do, but life got in the way. Life will always get in the way if you let it. Who is in control? Are you in control of your life or are you being controlled by outside factors? Life didn’t get in the way. Resistance got in the way.

Meditation –On Happiness

Meditating is a new practice for me. It is one that I hope I can stick with. Why am I doing it? Am I trying to achieve nirvana? It isn’t my intention, but I am receptive to the possibility. This whole focus on my breathing and trying to find my center, what’s the purpose? Is it to lower my blood pressure or feel better about myself? I am sure those are some nice secondary benefits, but what is the real reason?

In the first few sessions, I found my mind wandering. I was constantly trying to remind myself to focus on my breath. The “path” is one of the concepts I am concentrating on these days and applying it to all aspects my life. To find my path, to know it, and to stay on it. If meditation is like this path, the breathing is helping me to stay on it. It is guiding me back on course. In the bigger picture, I am always trying to correct my course. I am trying to stay on my path. It is the reason why I am meditating. I need to find my center. I need to discover who I really am and where I want to go. The meditation is going to help me get there.


I breathe and I think. I am not happy. I am not where I want to be in life. There are things I want, and I don’t have them. I am trying to get to the place I want to be, but do I have to be unhappy on this journey? Do I have to go on with an iron resolve and a stoic countenance? The stoicism I heard of as a child was related to unhappiness and a stern face. But that is not stoicism, is it? I am not being stoic by being unhappy. I’m being an ass to both myself and those around me.

Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions. –Dalai Lama

I am choosing to be unhappy. I am choosing to not be content with the things I have. I am choosing the wrong path. I can choose to be happy. I can be grateful for the things I have and the people in my life. Every morning I have been writing three things I am grateful for. Do I believe it? Am I really grateful, or am I just going through the motions? Why is it that the morning after a rough day, say a day full of pride, I don’t express my gratitude on paper? If I was to fill my soul with happiness, then the gratitude should come gushing out onto the paper. I need to choose to be happy. I need to change my attitude and get on the path.


I had a flashback to my youth. I was walking in line back to the locker room after a tough junior high school football game. I was tired and hurting, but I wanted to maintain my composure. When I passed by a few cheerleaders, one asked me why I always looked so serious. In my mind, I thought I was training to be a warrior and had to look the part. I should have learned my lesson. I should have learned it when so many people over the years have asked a similar question. Why am I so serious? Why do my brows furrow on my face? Why don’t I smile more? I like to tell myself, and others, that I am happy on the inside, and I just forget to show it on the outside. But I think that is just a façade. I am fighting a war within myself. When virtue reigns over my vices, I find myself happy. The opposite is true as well. When I give into my vices (laziness, gluttony, all the other things keeping my from realizing my full potential) I find myself unhappy and my face will surely show it.

What is the happy life? It is peace of mind, and lasting tranquility. This will be yours if you possess greatness of soul; it will be yours if you possess the steadfastness that resolutely clings to a good judgment just reached. How does a man reach this condition? By gaining a complete view of truth, by maintaining, in all that he does, order, measure, fitness, and a will that is inoffensive and kindly, that is intent upon reason and never departs therefrom, that commands at the same time love and admiration. In short, to give you the principle in brief compass, the wise man’s soul ought to be such as would be proper for a god. –Seneca, Letter 92: On the Happy Life

Meditation: On Pride

I know I need to meditate more. Yesterday was day one. Ten minutes in the morning before leaving for the gym to meet a client. 10 minutes again sitting in the car before walking into work. Later that evening, I lost my focus and subsequently lost my temper. Now I am on the second day, and it needs to be better than the first.

I set the timer for 15 minutes. It is dark outside as I sit in my car in the parking lot. 15 minutes to meditate and then 5 minutes to walk into work. I close my eyes and sit. I try to center myself, but something is missing. Oh yes, my breath. In. Out. Why did I get angry last night? I should have known better. I should not have fell into the trap. In. Out. Pride. It was my pride. My pride was injured. It wanted to retaliate. My pride is me. Not some separate embodiment acting of its volition. My pride. My ego. I own it. No one else is to blame. Blaming others is the easy path. The wrong path.

My thoughts begin to drift. I think about work, about the things I need to do today. Something is not right. My breath. Focus on my breath. In. Out. Back to pride. Back to anger. How do I eliminate it? How do I become stronger? This pride, my pride, is a weakness. When it is in control, I am more prone to anger. Anger is bad. It leads me down the wrong path. It leads to stupid and rash decisions. It leads to thoughtlessness. Chaos.

What will I do this weekend? What will I read? Write? This is not the time to let the mind wander. Concentrate on the breath. Breathe in. Take in the oxygen, the life. Exhale the breath. Expel the pride. Like the Om, expel the pride. When the anger comes, the walls crumble. My defenses are weakened. A city unprotected. My walls are my strength. My protection.

In. Out. Courage. It takes courage to be strong. It takes courage to overlook a perceived offense. It takes courage to not retaliate. Courage, not pride. With courage is strength. Pride is weakness. Anger is weakness.

In. Out. The timer goes off. My mind is now focused on courage. My prayer is to have the strength to be courageous. The strength to put away pride and anger. One last breath in and then exhale. It is time to walk to work.

A city breached and left defenseless are those who do not control their temper. –Proverbs 25:28