Transformational Moments

Slow. That’s what my Tuesday morning was. I woke up unrefreshed and unmotivated. It was a new day. It was supposed to be full of life, a day filled with opportunity. But on this Tuesday morning, none of it felt possible.

Why? There are a few possible culprits all beginning the day before. First was a hard leg workout, followed by a glass of bourbon, and a late dinner. I didn’t stretch before bed. And to cap it off, I was reading a PDF on my iPad, and it was not set to night mode. Nothing like a load of blue light coming into the brain via the eyeballs right before you turn in for the evening.

The result was a less-than-ideal Tuesday.  The body wasn’t willing. The mind wasn’t clicking. It was Aristotle who said, “The energy of the mind is the essence of life.” I had no energy. I had no essence.

I am not guaranteed to wake up every morning full of energy and life. But if I take a good look at the day and night before, I may be able to negate some of the bad juju I woke up with. If I don’t take a hard look at the events leading up to it, I am destined to repeat more of these bad nights.

There must be a transformational moment.

Something must click within my brain. There must be an inner voice saying, “If you continue without the change, you will stay the same.” What was that insanity definition again, something about doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?

Again, there must be a transformational moment. Those moments come to all of us throughout the day. They are moments of insight suggesting a minor correction in our compass bearing. Should I eat or drink this? Was my reaction appropriate in this moment? Do I really need to sit around for the next episode to auto-start on Netflix? These moments come and go all the time. Maybe it is a sign from the universe, an instinct, or a tiny little voice asking you if this is the best choice. To ignore it is foolish. To heed the warnings is to be open towards growth. To make the change is wisdom.


Feature photo by Suzanne D. Williams on Unsplash

Mangoes and Memories

I slice the knife down the side of the mango. A big piece falls away, and I repeat the action on the other side. Thanks to my brilliant sister-in-law, Eunice, I slash a crisscross grid into each piece. I then open it up like a flower and cut away bite-sized pieces. The best, meatiest parts of the mango go onto a plate, and I give them away.

Alec grabs the plate and greedily devours the orange bites. He loves mangoes. As I watch him, I eat the scraps from the stone and the skin. It isn’t much compared to Alec’s portion, but it is enough. It is more than enough as that first bite brings on memories of an ungrateful child who never fully appreciated the sacrifices of his mother.

I always watched my mother give me the best portions. I watched her cut away at the mango and give me all I wanted. She took whatever was leftover. I didn’t appreciate it then. I just ate the mango like it was a part of my birthright. She worked long hours to pay the bills, ensure I had clothes, and put food on the table. This too was lost on me. I could only see the things I did not have. I was a foolish child, selfish, and unappreciative of those who had me in their best interest.

I cut the mango out of instinct. Without even thinking, I give away the best portion. What I saw forty years ago is what I do today,  because somebody else, my mother, gave me the best portion. It was her sacrifices that molded me into who I am today. I watch my son eat the mango, and I pray that he remembers these days when he passes the mango on to his children. This is what we do. We give the best portion to those who will go after us, to prepare them for the future.

Your Best True You

There is only one real failure in life possible, and that is not to be true to the best one knows.

Frederic Farrar

How can you be true to the best you know?

If you find yourself on this planet with a sacred duty, to not fulfill it would be your only, one true failure.

There is a reason why we are here. To say our existence is only chance and that we have no purpose, then you are not digging deep enough within yourself.

An apple tree that bears apples is achieving its purpose. It is in harmony with the universe. No matter how much the apple tree wishes to bear oranges, it will never be able to do it. It will either fulfill its purpose, or it will be barren.

To be true, to do that which you were designed for, is to be in harmony with yourself and the universe. The universe is a great symphony. All its parts working in unison, fulfilling the roles they were designed for. Good and evil, chaos and order, all in balance. We are a part of this symphony. We must play our parts.


Feature photo by Nathan Hulsey on Unsplash

Little Waves of Destruction

Saturday afternoon shopping and errands. I’m not going to lie. This is not my favorite way to spend a Saturday afternoon. On the way, I suggest we eat lunch first. We go to Willy Taco.

Chips, salsa, and a big glass of some kind of fruit punch for the kiddo. He is playing with his Nintendo Switch. Occasionally, we let him bring it in. Today is one of those days. After all, it is Saturday afternoon and who wants to spend the day riding around shopping.

He reaches for a chip. On the way to his mouth, he clips the fruit punch. Fruit punch and ice go tsunami across the table, across the plates, and over the Switch.

My instinct is to add a little kindling to the fire. This is an interruption to a pleasant lunch. What are you thinking? How could you do something like that? Way to go, you ruined your Switch. These are the initial thoughts that course through my head. I look at him. Tears are starting to roll down his cheek. We clean up and Mama goes to the restroom.


2003. It was our first date. We are sipping on beer in our little booth at a local Mexican restaurant or maybe it was Applebee’s. Eighteen years ago, and the details are a little fuzzy. What isn’t fuzzy is me knocking over my beer. Sadly, this is not my first tabletop tsunami experience. The cute girl sitting across from me, Bethany, gets the full wave of ice-cold hops and barley.

A few years later, and that same girl somehow became my wife. My mom is visiting us in Tallahassee. Coincidentally, we are back at the local Applebee’s for dinner. We are sipping beer and enjoying our appetizers. I reach for a chip and initiate the next storm of destruction. This time my wife is spared. Thank God! Unfortunately, my mother is in the impact zone and the storm surge hits her full in the lap. All I can do is shake my head as I reach for any napkins in the vicinity.


About a week or two ago, I was listening to a Podcast. I can’t remember which one, but one little snippet stuck with me. They were talking about kids and their coordination. Overcoming clumsiness is a part of their development. How ridiculous it is to be upset with them when this happens. The conversation resonated with me, because I wondered how often I spoke what was in my mind when Alec had an accident. There is no use crying over spilt milk unless your parent makes you cry. In my mind, I told myself I can’t be that person that makes these molehill accidents into a tragic mountain.

As I mentioned, mama, that same cute girl from before, goes to the restroom. I look over at Alec and think about that Podcast episode. I tell him, “It is okay. Accidents happen, and this was an accident. There is no need to be upset. We are not upset. Your Switch is okay.” Bethany comes back from the restroom, and we resume our lunch as if nothing ever happened.

The moment that judgment stops through acceptance of what is, you are free of the mind. You have made room for love, for joy, for peace.

Eckhart Tolle

The hard thing is not voicing those initial snap judgments that come to mind. By taking a moment to see the big picture and keeping my snide comments to myself, I prevent the accident from escalating into something else. We are all human and prone to accidents. In this case, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I only hope he can gain a better control of his motor skills earlier than I did in life.


Feature photo by Anshu A on Unsplash

One Take from the Week #4: Harder-than-I-Thought New Habit

Art of Manliness #462: How to Tell Better Stories

A few weeks ago, I listened to the above podcast episode interviewing Matthew Dicks, the author of Storyworthy. He is a professional storyteller and gives his advice on how we can learn to tell better stories. This seemed right up my alley of interests, and I was eager to learn what I could.

It all starts with homework. Okay, homework. I can do that. It sounds simple enough. So, what exactly do I need to do? Every night before I go to bed, I need to spend five minutes recapping the most interesting part of my day. This information will go into an Excel file. There is no need for a lot of details, just a few bullet points. Then, on a weekly basis, I can go back pick one and come up with a worthy story. This is the first step and the inspiration behind my new weekend series of posts, “One Take from the Week.”

A new habit that takes five minutes. This is so simple that anybody can do it! Except me. The first week, I completed it a couple of nights, skipped a night, did another night, and skipped a few more. That didn’t go so well. Why? Well, at the end of the night, I am ready to shut down. After a day of working out, reading, writing, coaching, and going to the job that pays the bills, the last thing I want is to do the homework. And it is not about wanting to do the homework, so much as it is about forgetting.

What went wrong? I never set the alarm. Now I have a ton of alarms on my phone for just about everything that needs a reminder. Some of these alarms go off, and I immediately dismiss it. Yes, I know I need to take the dog for walk, coach in an hour, and even get out of the car and start walking to work when it is time to clock-in. Often, another alarm gets lost in the multitude and gets silenced.

But I set the new alarm anyway. Why? Because I must do better. I believe this habit is important, and I really want it in my life.

The successful person makes a habit of doing what the failing person doesn’t like to do.

Thomas Edison

Now, what I am not saying is that this will make me successful and you, for not doing this homework, will be a failure. But if this something I want to do and cannot get it done, then I have failed (in this instance). Nathanael Emmons said, “Habit is either the best of servants or the worst of masters.” This is a new habit that will serve me well in the future. If, I can develop the discipline to see it through. Five minutes is all it takes to turn off the alarm, stop what I am doing, and think and record something that was impactful during my day. Just five minutes. We need our habit to serve us. We need them to help us optimize our lives. Is there a new habit you are wanting to begin or have recently started? I would love to hear about it and any tricks you used to make it stick.

Our Path to Walk

Our path consists of choices. We choose the way we think is best and hope it works out in our favor. Sometimes our choices are bad. They may have seemed good at the time, but ultimately, they take us down a route we never intended. When our choices demand payment, we are faced with a dilemma. How do we survive? How do we navigate the current road so that we may continue to our destination?

There are times the universe gives us a nudge, often not gently. It tells us that we are not doing what we were designed to do. It tells us to stop playing it safe and go do what we were meant to do. To ignore this calling is to play a dangerous game with forces more powerful than us.

I have mentioned the prophet Jonah before. God told him to go one way; he went the other. Jonah chose not to listen to his calling. Thinking he could get away with it, he boarded a ship and fled town. God sent a storm. Not worried, Jonah decided to take a nap. But the storm was a bad one and the sailors panicked. They drew lots to find out who was to blame. Of course, it was Jonah. He was the reason for the storm. Next thing you know, Jonah was taking a salt bath. And if things couldn’t get any worse, a really big fish swallowed him up.

Have you ever found yourself in the belly of a whale? We all go through it on our hero’s journey. Our choices lead us down a path that turns to brambles and thorns. The sun goes behind the trees, and the goblins of our imagination come out to haunt us. This is the belly of Jonah’s whale. Imagine being in there. It is dark. It stinks. If you are prone to motion sickness, this is not the place for you. All you can do there is sit. Sit and wait. There is no one to talk to, so you are left alone to your thoughts. You reflect on the past and how you got there. You imagine the things you will do if you ever get out. But the past and the future are no help to you now. So, you sit. And wait. You still your mind in the present because that is all you have.

Jonah got out of the whale. He went to do the things he was supposed to do. Likewise, the sun will rise again on the morrow, and we will find our own way back onto the path.

God could have sent another to take Jonah’s place, but it was Jonah that He wanted. Nobody else could have walked his path. Only Jonah. In the same way, nobody can walk our paths. It is our journey.

In an east meets west post, consider these words:

No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.

Buddha

Photo by Simon Berger on Unsplash

The Virtue of Strength

When you think of strength, the first thing that might come to mind is that of some burly individual able to pick up heavy weights. And though that may be a legitimate mental picture, strength goes beyond the ability to lift heavy objects. But since that may be your mental picture, let us start with the body.

Strength of Body

What are the benefits of a strong body? The stronger you are, the easier it is to complete physical tasks with more efficiency. This could be climbing the stairs with less discomfort. It could be carrying the groceries from the car to your kitchen with less struggle. Being strong gives you the freedom to accomplish the things that needs to get done without undue taxation on the body. The building of strength today benefits what you can do tomorrow.

Strength of Mind

Can you push through the barrier past the pain of exhaustion? As much as you need a strong body, you need to develop a strong mind. You must be able to will yourself to go farther than you think you can. I can’t count how many times I have wanted to give up while running. My mind is looking for ways to get me to stop. It is looking for the smallest reason to use as weapon against me in the game of mental warfare. The body is willing and capable, but the mind needs conquering. As Zeno said, “Man conquers the world by conquering himself.” The way to do this is to train your mind to overcome adversity.

Strength of Soul

I am reminded of the monk who sat still in the middle of the road as he burned to death. Both his body and mind were strong. But to willingly cross the threshold of death with the knowledge that there is no coming back to the body, that takes a heart and a soul of immense strength.  I don’t recommend you try it, but you can learn to challenge your fear. You can incrementally increase your courage.

The belief that becomes truth for me…is that which allows me the best use of my strength, the best use of putting my virtues into action.

André Gide

You cannot use the strength you do not have. If you want to be strong, you must develop it. And like a three-legged stool, each leg must be trained equally. If not, you will topple over.

How does this relate to the virtue of Justice? To do what is right requires strength. Strength then is a virtue, and one that we can all strive towards.


Feature photo by Vicky Sim on Unsplash

Habits Deciding Futures

How much time have I spent thinking of the past? How much time dreaming of the future? If only I had the opportunities. If only I didn’t have to work in this job? If, if, if.

All that time wasted in my youth. I was always in the past, always in the future, never in the present. Back then, my habits (what I was doing at that present time) were not helping me. I had a slew of bad habits and only a handful of good ones. My habits should have been a tool to drive success in the future. Instead, they were preventing me from maximizing my potential in the present.

People do not decide their futures, they decide their habits and their habits decide their futures.

F.M. Alexander

My path was slowly engineered. Of course, there were all sorts of obstacles. There were many setbacks of my own doing. And I say, “there were,” but in truth there still is.  And though I revert to thoughts of past and future, I spend less time there. I am more present in today. And being in the present, I am more aware of my habits. Which ones are helping me? Which ones are detracting? Slowly, I can correct the bad ones. I can design new ones that propel me forward. I can engineer my habits for success.

Once again, it is a work in progress, but I have noticed some interesting things. Opportunities are starting to pop up that I never imagined or tried to obtain. My future is starting to take a positive shift without me trying to plan for it. It as if my habits are starting to decide my future. Maybe they always have, and I just didn’t know it.


Feature photo by Drew Beamer on Unsplash

Things Which Matter Most

What happens when I don’t have a plan for the day? I go through the motions. Of course, I get stuff done, but I also check my phone, watch a little television, piddle here, and piddle there. There is no rush, no sense of urgency, and no accountability at the end of the day.

What happens when I create a plan at the start of the day, or even better, the night before? I am focused and intent on checking off the boxes. I waste less time. At the end of the day, with tasks crossed off the list, I rest at ease knowing I made the most of it. Oh, the satisfaction if I get that list done.

But then, there are times I make the list and do not have the end results I hoped for. Somewhere along the way, I got sidetracked. I deviated from the plan. I started doing other stuff, stuff that was not on the list. If I had a quality list of items that held great importance, then I should have done those. If this is what mattered most, then I should have attacked it first.

Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

If you want to take your productivity to the next level, if you want to get the things that matter the most done, then do the following:

  • Make the list. Not “a” list but “the” list of the most important items you want to complete.
  • Start early and get it done. If other things come up, and they will come up, add them to another list or put them at the bottom.

Wow! There are only two steps. It is not difficult, but often the basics and the simple are the things that get missed the most. There are some great resources to make your planning super-advanced and technical, but they all have the same two things in common: Make a list, and Get it done.


Feature photo by Emma Matthews Digital Content Production on Unsplash

How to End the Struggle

I wake up. I struggle to get out of bed. Instead of checking in on how I feel, I look to the sleep section on my Fitbit app. Ugh. Another mediocre night of sleep. I think about the long day ahead and force myself to get dressed and go workout.

I am at work and check my email. I check my schedule to make sure I am where I am supposed to be at the appropriate time. I reach for the coffee to help me get through the meetings with those that do not want to meet, to get through the tasks that need to get done, and to get through the reports that need to be completed.

Back at home. Chores, dinner, a wound-up kid with tons of energy that need to be burned, and a spouse whose day wasn’t much different than mine.

Bedtime. Will I be able to get to sleep?  Tomorrow is a new day with a new set of struggles like the ones of today.

The struggle ends when the gratitude begins.

Neale Donald Walsch

What if the day looked different? Of course, it would be the same day with the same set of obstacles. But what if I had a different perspective? Instead of drudgery and have-to, what if it was opportunity and want-to? What if…

The alarm goes off, and I take a moment to check in with myself. I made it through the night to see another day. Not everybody gets that chance, but I do. I get dressed and exercise grateful that I have a mind and body that can still do it.

At work. I have a job that pays the bills and allows me and my family to live a relatively comfortable lifestyle. I have a chance to help others and make new connections. Somebody finds value in what I do. I find value in what I do.

Home. I have a wife and child who love me. There is food on the table and shelter over our heads. Our basic needs are met.

Bedtime. The bed is comfortable. Sleep comes with the knowledge of peace and security. Sleep comes because I did not squander the day in idleness, but instead made the most of the opportunities given to me. And if I am given another tomorrow, then I am given another opportunity. I am given a gift to be grateful for.


Feature photo by Amadeo Valar on Unsplash