Heed the Red Flags

A few days ago, I encountered an issue at work that really upset me. For a few moments, I allowed myself to fixate on the problem until I became angry. It was at that moment a warning siren went off in my mind. What will happen if I take this anger too far?

For some, it doesn’t take much to set them off. The smallest infraction can flip the switch that causes their blood to boil. It is easy for me to spot it in others, but often I don’t even notice my own switch. And like the incident at work, it is my ego that allows that anger to rise. If I was less self-absorbed and had the ability to see the bigger picture, I would realize that this misdemeanor against me was not some sort of malicious scheme.

If in that moment of anger, if I could not get control of my emotions, I was at risk professionally. Saying the wrong thing could result in disciplinary measures, even termination. And though in my mind I would tell myself it would never go that far, the lack of self-control I was demonstrating would suggest it to be possible.

But I also had another thing to consider: my reputation. Do I want to be known as that guy who is emotionally unstable? Do I want to be the one who talks and writes about living a virtuous life but is unable to actually live it? Of course not. What kind of example would I be demonstrating to my peers? More importantly, what kind of example would I be demonstrating to my family, my son?

The red flags were a good reminder to slow down. They were saying to proceed with caution, because there were dangerous turns up ahead. I am thankful that the red flags popped up, and that I heeded their message. I took a moment to relax. I took a moment to breathe and see the issue from a different perspective. The anger ceased to rise, and I avoided any potential consequences.

If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will avoid one hundred days of sorrow. –Chinese Proverb

The ability to be patient is the ultimate in self-control. If we take the focus off of ourselves, we can realize that mistakes occur often without malice. By maintaining poise in the situation, we can address the problem at hand, correct it, and move forward.

Feel the Pain, Make the Change

Let us take a moment to think what is painful in our lives. Is the pain physical? What about mental or emotional?

By nature, we are conditioned to move away from pain. Touch something hot once, and if the pain is severe enough, chances are that you will be more careful around that object in the future. The same with eating things that do not agree with you. It only takes one occasion before it is etched permanently into your mind.

When in a painful situation you have to make a choice. Are you willing to live with it? If not, then you need to start thinking. You need to figure out how to remove the pain from your life. Once you can identify the source of the pain and its remedy, you can improve the quality of your life.

A year ago, I had a lot of pain. Most of it was due to poor physical fitness. Though I may have been deemed normal by many of today’s standards, I was not happy with it. When I looked in the mirror, I saw a person on the downhill. Just the act of putting on my socks would leave me breathless as I struggled to reach the end of my toes. My joints hurt and the chronic pain in my back was getting worse every day. For me, this pain of poor fitness was not only physical but emotional as well.

I had to make a change, and it began with the simple act of thinking. What could I do differently in my life to remove, or in my case reduce, this pain? I had to become more consistent in my exercise. I simply missed too many workouts. After work, I was too tired. The solution: exercise in the morning before work. But as many people know, exercise is not enough. The diet needed to change too. I had to stop being lazy about the things I ate and eat with a healthy purpose. Just the simple daily habit of moving more every day and being aware of what I put in my body had an amazing effect. Such an effect, that much of the pain of poor physical fitness has been relieved.

What is the purpose of wisdom if it is not to improve the quality of life? Most of us would like a better life, and we need wisdom to achieve it. This wisdom is acquired by thinking about what it takes to get us there, finding the tools we need, and then working daily toward that purpose. It doesn’t matter whether your pain is financial, professional, or even just from being in a bad relationship. You can think your way into better choices that will improve the quality of your life.

Cast a Little Kindness

One kind act can have a huge impact on the life of one who desperately needs it.

Imagine doing one kind act every day. What would the impact be?

Instead of one a day, what if you performed one kind act every time the opportunity presented itself throughout the day? How bright would these good deeds shine?

It takes very little effort to be kind. All we have to do is move the focus off of ourselves and shift it to others.

Purpose of Knowledge

Unless your niche is in trivia, what is the purpose of all that random knowledge? When one of the smartest people to have ever lived says that imagination is more important than knowledge, I had to stop and consider these words. Why is imagination more important than knowledge? I have spent my whole life trying to acquire knowledge, and this statement had me confused.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized the wisdom of Einstein’s words.

Aristotle said, “The purpose of knowledge is action, not knowledge.” We should be acquiring knowledge for a specific purpose.  We can hope for a better future, but without knowledge, how can we possibly get there? Knowledge is the tool that makes our dreams come to life.

Your imagination is the stepping stone to a better life. Imagine what it would be like to be healthier, wealthier, or happier. Where do you want to go in life? Once you have it fixed in your mind, you can begin the process of gaining the knowledge to get you there.

Wisdom begins in wonder. -Socrates

Logic will get you from A to B, imagination will take you everywhere. –Albert Einstein

Said vs. Done

Faith that your actions will always speak louder than your words.

Faith that your hard work will pay off in the end.

To get the “well done, thou good and faithful servant,” you have to do the work. That line isn’t given out to the ones that only give lip service.

To the inventor who never gets into the workshop, the would-be novelist who never has the time to put pen to paper, and the kid that messes up but says he’s going do better next time:

Have faith in the truthfulness of Franklin’s words, “Well done is better than well said.”

Righteous, Totally

For you. For your family. For your employer. For your community.

You have an obligation to do the right thing. It is the minimum expectation you probably have for others. And if you hold yourself to the highest standard possible, there should never be any wavering in our quests to do that which is right.

If you are always doing the right things, then it should not bother you if others don’t like it. At the end of the day, you alone bear the responsibility of your actions. So keep doing the right things, and realize this is the path to being totally righteous.

King of You

Food

Alcohol

Sex

Drugs

Laziness

Television

Social Media

Consumerism

Sleep

Anger

Even too much Exercise

There are some things that are beneficial in moderation. But if you notice you can’t escape, if you have become addicted, then you have lost your control. No longer are you free but have become a slave to your passions. You have become a slave to your flesh.

We all have a strength within our minds to control our bodies. We can restrain our need for immediate gratification knowing that there is something over the horizon that is much grander. We can be the kings of ourselves, if we put our minds to it.

Resistance to Fear

The little girl on the stage standing in the bright lights waiting for the recital to begin.

The boy on the wrestling mat facing an unknown opponent.

The adult at the podium addressing the audience.

Stepping on the stage, in the ring, or in front of others can cause butterflies, nervousness, or make you outright scared.  But in these situations designed to test your abilities, your enemy is not the people watching. It is not even the opponent standing opposite you.

Who is the enemy? It is the fear within you. In order to succeed when the pressure is on, you must become resistant to that fear. The big stage is an examination of your preparation and training. The work has already been done. Now it is time to show your mastery.

Fear can be healthy. It would be fool hardy to jump with reckless abandon. Therefore, we train in advance and gradually increase our level of testing. Trust your training and learn to master your fear.

Time Flies

On my assembly line, it takes 93 seconds to complete a series of tasks per car. The job is designed that you have 100% utilization during the 93 seconds. What does this mean? For the average worker, all time is accounted for. There is no room for errors. Small acts, such as dropping a screw, has the potential to get you behind. Efficiency is key and true success is finding ways to become even more efficient.

Tempus Fugit. When translated from Latin to English, it means, “Time flies.”

Our lives seem long. But in reality, they are really short. When I was younger, I often had nothing to do. I was bored. I didn’t have a concept that every second counts. I didn’t know that the more I did back then would have a profound effect on who I would be today. I wasted time in my youth. Time that is gone forever.

As the sand from the hourglass of my life continues to dwindle, I am constantly reminded to make each grain count. As I watch that hourglass, I become more aware of just how precious life is. I become more grateful for each moment. No longer am I willing to waste time, because I see so little of it left. I look for ways to be 100% utilized in my own life, ways to be more efficient.

We would be prudent to watch over our hourglasses. The time is always flying regardless of our attention to it. We are wasting away, marching ever closer to the end. What a waste it would be if we wasted our time along the way.

Losing Before Beginning

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

Feel like you are going to lose even before you begin? It doesn’t matter whether it is in business, sports, or any venture you undertake. If you think you can’t win, chances are you won’t. But you can choose to:

  • Figure out what it takes to win.
  • Exhaust every option available to you.
  • Learn as you go.
  • Practice, practice, practice (builds confidence).

America’s greatest inventor, Thomas Edison, put it brilliantly, “I haven’t failed. I have found 10,000 ways that don’t work.” If you are doing things the conventional way, the established norm of everybody else in the field, you may have to change it up. Break away from the pack and set a new trend. If it fails, try another way. Keep experimenting until you find a working model.

To win right this moment may not be possible. But if you are patient, you can victorious. All you have to do is understand the game. Know your competition. Don’t quit.

We are all capable of doing more than we think we are can, but a self-defeating attitude and a lack of preparation is a recipe for failure. Prepare, practice, and persist. Do this and you can win.

If at first you don’t succeed, before you try again, stop to figure out what you did wrong. –Leo Rosten