Is It Working?

The summer was a hot, sweaty mess. Twice a week, the three boys with an occasional fourth or fifth, would show up, go inside the gym, lace up their wrestling shoes, and hit the mat. As the weeks passed, the wrestling became more and more intense. In time, the boys got so familiar with each other’s style, that the matches would end in stalemates with little to no action.

The drills before the matches were to give them options, to add to their arsenal of moves. But when the opening whistle blew, they almost always reverted into their comfort zones, forsaking the new and sticking with the old.

Is It Working?

“Is it working,” called out the dad sitting next to me. His son got into a bad position but would not let it go. Was he weighing the risk versus the reward of his current position? Or was he so committed to that pursuing other options was unfathomable? As an observer, it was easy for the dad to see the problem. But for the exhausted wrestler struggling in the heat of the moment, the obvious wasn’t so clear. Of course it wasn’t working, but when the boy was locked in, it felt easier for him to stay the course.

Discontent is the first necessity of progress.

Thomas Edison

The question of “Is it working?” is permanently engrained in my mind. I heard it from the dad a hundred times, and I said it myself equally as much. And every time we said it, we discussed it as the amateur analysts that we were. Why were our sons not changing? Why were they stuck in their ways?


Donut was the assigned safe word. When it was called out by the coach or by one of the parents, the wrestler in the bad position was supposed to bail out of it. It didn’t always work, but it made for an easy verbal cue for whatever the wrestler was doing that was not working.

Donut became the second most prevalent shout in the gym. Easy for the parents to say, but not so much for the wrestlers trying to bail. They may have heard it in the background, but some positions were seemingly inescapable. Knowing to bail out and the ability to do so were just too far apart.

Too many times we get locked into what we are doing even if it is not working. The current process is familiar, maybe even easier, and change is hard. But if it is not working, why do we continue to do it? Is the comfort of routine greater than the discomfort of a lack of progress?

How do we get out of this rut? First, we must ask ourselves if it is working. Often, this requires us to pause the activity and take a step to observe. If we are still too close to the problem, then we should seek the guidance of a trusted advisor. Let them observe and counsel accordingly. Maybe their insight can provide the change we seek. Next, we can’t be afraid to call “donut” on our current situation. I’m not saying we should give up. But if it is time to bail on one tactic and try a different approach, then that is what we should do. The end goal doesn’t have to change, but maybe the path to getting there does. Better to pivot, than to remain stagnant.

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.

First Move Yourself

Natural disasters, pandemics, global elitist playing the part of puppet master, drought, starvation, war, inflation.

So much in this world that weighs us down physically and mentally. Why is this happening to us? Why now? How do we stop it?

Why us and why now really come down to our viewpoint. The good times are the easiest to remember and certainly the times we long for. But catastrophes do not discriminate. They don’t just go after you and the ones you love. They attack anybody and everybody that gets in their way. A tidal wave doesn’t pick who its victims will be. It is an equal-opportunity destroyer. The hard times has always come and gone only to turn around and come again. It is rather depressing if you allow it to depress you.

What about trying to stop it? Equally depressing is the answer. Some things you just can’t stop. You can give water to him that thirsts, but can you stop a drought?

Let him that would move the world first move himself.


Leave it to Socrates to find a glimmer of hope in what seems to be an unfixable situation. Maybe there are some things we cannot change, but there are some that we can. We can be the catalysts that sparks a movement. We can be the rock in which others find shelter and comfort. We can be these things but not without a price. What is this price? We must first be willing to change. We must become the pinnacle of self-improvement. We must learn to grow, adapt, and as Gandhi said, “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.” It begins with us on the individual level. And once we fix ourselves, we can go about trying to fix the world.

Feature photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

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

Be the Change

Think of the great revolutionaries of the past. They were people who wanted to change the world and that is what they did so. Moses pulled his people out of a 430 year span of slavery and created the catalyst for establishing a new nation in the Promised Land. Jesus established his kingdom, not on this earth but in heaven (a message that billions of people have believed in over the last two millennia). Mahatma Gandhi led a movement that ended up in an India free of British rule. Nelson Mandela, the same for South Africa.

The above are good examples of people who have changed the world. Many dream of changing the world, but only a few actually succeed. Do you have such aspirations? If you do, then…

DON’T –meet injustice with injustice. Is there anything worse than seeing one tyrant get replaced by another tyrant? The name at the top may change, but the world is never better for it.

DO –demonstrate a better way to do things. This may mean sacrificing yourself (or your ego) in order to get the message across. I’m always reminded of the Buddhist monk, Thích Quảng Đức. In 1963, he burned himself to death in a protest against persecution of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government. His self-immolation was captured on film on a crowded street in Saigon. He never cried out but sat there meditating the whole time. This was the ultimate statement of protest.

Photograph by Malcolm Browne, Associated Press
Photograph by Malcolm Browne, Associated Press

DON’T –sit back and pass the blame. You have to move from “it is somebody else’s fault and problem” to “this is our problem.” When I was younger and an up and coming retail manager, I had the opportunity to work for some really horrible bosses. In their own unique ways, they were toxic elements within their organization. I didn’t know how to handle it. I knew it wasn’t fair to the people who worked under them, but I didn’t think I had to power to affect any changes. Only from experience and through a continuous education have I learned that I wasn’t a victim in these circumstances. These were obstacles with the opportunity to make a difference. Unfortunately at the time, I wasn’t ready. Whether on a global or an organizational scale, real change is made when we take ownership of the problems.

Do –lead by example. Jesus didn’t tell others to carry the cross with no intention of carrying His own. Gandhi didn’t suggest for others to suffer while he stayed safe. No. Instead they set the example for others to follow. It isn’t always easy holding ourselves to the highest standards possible, but it is necessary.

This week, I listened to The Tim Ferriss Show with Hugh Jackman (#444). Hugh made an interesting comment about his father that really resonated with me. His father pointed out that instead of making an outward show of your religion (bumper stickers and such), you have to wear your religion on the inside. How you act will always outweigh what you say. Who washes only the outside of the cup, when the inside is full of greed and self-indulgence (Luke 11:39)? Rather than giving the appearance of something we are not in order to change the world, we need to work on making those internal changes. Or as Mahatma Gandhi once said, and even better demonstrated, “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.”

Today is a good day to reflect on the changes I would like to see in the world and in my own life. I have to start with myself and who I really want to be. Once I become that, maybe I can succeed in changing some part of this world for the better.

Have a good day.

15 Years of Marriage

Today marks my fifteenth wedding anniversary. It seems like it has been an age. We may not even be the same people that we were back then. There has been so much sacrifice. Sounds bad doesn’t it? I wouldn’t change it for the world.

I often joke that these have been the longest years of my life. This joke may be perceived as a bad thing, but I don’t mean it in a bad way. I want the years to be long. I want to embrace all the moments, both the good and the bad, and I want none of it to speed by. I think how time flew by in my youth, and how I now try to slow it all down. There is nothing wrong with wanting it to be slow. And in regards to my family, I want to savor each moment and wish none of it away.

We’ve changed. We are not the same people that got married in 2004. We have been through a lot, and we have grown through the years. Our experiences together have changed us for the better. The tough times, and there has been some tough times, have made us more resilient. It would be foolish to think there will never be any hard times again. But if they come, we are more prepared than ever to overcome them.

Sacrifice. There are so many ways to describe marriage, but for me the best description I can think of is sacrifice. If I act on my own, with my own selfish desires, our marriage suffers. But when we act together, we seem to get stronger. I have to sacrifice many of the things I want, because they are not in OUR best interest. That’s fine. Sacrifice is not bad. Getting everything I want, all the time, is bad. Without sacrifice, I would be the poster boy for the seven deadly sins. Sacrifice is good. It is how we become healthy, wealthy, and wise (Thoreau).

These last fifteen years of my life have been the longest I have ever had. I have completely changed over the years with somebody that has changed as well. We’ve sacrificed for each other. These years have been the best of my life, and for that I am truly grateful.

When I Let Go

If you have arrived into a state of being that is less than you imagined. If you don’t like where you are. If the path you have followed turned out to be the wrong path. How do you correct the course and get to where you want to go?

You start by letting go. You have to let go of all the things that brought you to your current state. You have to change. You cannot repeat the same behaviors and expect a different result. It was those behaviors that prevented you from your success. It was those behaviors that you now have to strip away from your life. You have to change. You have to let go.

Identify the area(s) in your life that you are not happy about. Examine the behaviors involved. Begin to make the changes. They don’t have to be radical changes in the beginning. They can be incremental. Do it long enough, and in time you will be amazed of the progress. Start now. Let go of the old ways.

The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new. –Socrates

My metamorphosis isn’t complete. The process began years ago, but I was resistant to the change. I knew I needed to change, but it was hard to let go. I wasn’t happy with my physical condition. Lack of attention to my diet and an inconsistent exercise regime is a recipe for mediocrity. At my best, I was only mediocre. That is not where I wanted to be. I had to change. I had to let go. But it wasn’t only in my body that change was needed. I needed a change in my heart and a change in my mind. And though I have started making changes, I am far from where I need to be. It is process. A very long process that requires my constant examination of what I am doing. Keeping a journal has truly helped.

Why I am doing it? Because I can be better. I haven’t added enough value to this world, which means I haven’t maximized my potential. And if I am not maximizing my potential, then I am not getting the most out of this life. If I don’t change, I cannot become what I might be.

When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. –Lao Tzu

I have spent weeks meditating on this quote. I don’t know what I might be. All I know is that I am moving in that direction. It is my path. The only thing preventing me from my destiny is holding on to old me, the old ideas, and the old behaviors. I have to let go.