No Limits, Only Plateaus

Limits

I can’t.

It is those words that draw the line in the sand. They put up the barriers between success and never really getting started in the first place, which is worse than failure. To say, “you can’t,” is not getting beat, it is only admitting defeat.

Can’t is a self-imposed limit. It is a red light on an empty street. A full stop. And sometimes when you get one red light, you find a multitude of them waiting around the corner.

The Spread

The obstacles in life are only that. They are only obstacles. And when one enters the picture, we are confronted with a choice. We can either attempt to conquer them, or we can stay where we are.

Some said it was impossible to:

  • Run a four-minute mile
  • Deadlift a thousand pounds
  • Travel faster than a horse
  • Fly like a bird
  • Go to the moon

They were wrong.

Hit one red light, you might hit them all. Say you can’t in one area of your life, you might find you can’t in the all the other areas. “A mighty flame followeth a tiny spark,” said Dante. One little “can’t” has the potential to burn all your hopes and dreams down.

No limits

Are there really any limits to what is possible in life? Are there any obstacles that are too great? Indeed, there are some that seem insurmountable. But they only just seem. We have been blessed with unlimited potential. We have been cursed with unlimited doubts.

Plateaus

The obstacles in our lives are only plateaus. They are sticking points that attempt to mire us in the mud. They are not the peaks we attain to, and therefore, we must go beyond them. They are but puzzles waiting to be solved. We must solve them and then continue the journey. Often, they will require all our faculties of body, soul, and mind. Our virtues will be put to the test, especially the one of courage. This is no light matter. But be not faint of heart for our first step in the journey was an act of courage. And all our subsequent steps, they were additional acts of courage reinforcing us and preparing us for the obstacles to come.

If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else. It will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them.

Bruce Lee

Feature photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash

Do the Things You Have to Do

I watched as my son reluctantly pulled the homework out of his backpack. There were so many other things he wanted to do after a long day of school. Instead of winding down or playing outside before the sun set, he was digging into more math and grammar problems. He didn’t want to do it, but he knew he must.

What must be done

I only partially learned this lesson in school and my grades reflected it. The lesson hit its mark in the Army. You do what you must, or you pay the price. In this case, the price was paid in full through pain. And as John Patrick said, “Pain makes man think. Thought makes man wise. Wisdom makes life endurable.” [Read: Feel the Pain, Make the Change]

Unfortunately, back then, doing what I must only extended to my professional life. I didn’t have the discipline or the courage to extend it to my personal life. As a result, I suffered. The pain I felt was dull, and therefore, I continued to do what I wanted rather than what I should have done.

Education through pain and experience

Professors Pain and Experience may have been my two greatest teachers. Early on, they were instrumental in my education. It was through pain that I learned the consequences of getting burned, to identify what was toxic if I ate it, and what will hit me if I upset it. Pain taught me how to survive. Experience, how to thrive. In time, they tutored me on how to bridge the gap between the personal and professional. Without them, I would be dead. But with them, I learned how to live.

The most valuable of all education is the ability to make yourself do the thing you have to do when it has to be done, whether you like it or not.

Aldous Huxley

Is our traditional education system broken? Some would think so. Yet, there is still value in it if we learn from Huxley’s words. Learn to do what you must, whether you like it or not. But consider the things you must do. Weigh them carefully. Is it that which you must do for yourself, or is it that which someone else thinks you must do for your own good? There is a big difference.


Feature photo by Element5 Digital on Unsplash

The Truth about Masks

Fairy tales and legends are filled with trolls. They are described as ugly and cruel beasts living under bridges and in the marshes. And though the stories are rife with their existence, I wonder how many people have seen one.

Today, the word troll has taken on a different meaning. These are the individuals who scan your posts and your videos looking for ways to attack you. Often, their comments are both ugly and cruel. And like the trolls from the legends, I wonder how many have been seen. Chances are the answer is never.  They might not live under bridges and in marshes, but they do their best to hide. Their power is in their anonymity, and therefore refuse to show their faces or reveal their real names.

The purpose of a mask

Traditionally, masks were used for two different purposes, and both had to do with identity protection. Villains wore masks so they could not be identified when committing their illegal acts. On the other hand, heroes wore masks to protect their identities so the villains couldn’t retaliate against them or their loved ones. In both cases, it was best for individual safety to remain anonymous.

It is easier to be bold when you are anonymous. Who doesn’t want to be able to hit without fear of the repercussions? You can commit the crime without the worry of being caught. As it is with water looking for the path of least resistance, so too is man’s heart. It takes courage to do the brave thing, courage to do the right thing. To be courageous means to go beyond yourself and do the thing you don’t necessarily feel like doing. It means to forego the easy way and choose a path that offers more resistance.

Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth. -Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde

If you want to know what is really in the heart of man, then give him a mask. It will give him an inflated sense of bravado and allow him to freely operate in the shadows. You might not be able to see the face, but you most certainly will be able to see the person’s heart. And the heart as Solomon said is deep like water, and only the one with understanding can draw it out (Proverbs 20:5).

Rising When You Fall

Go or No-Go

You may even call it pass or fail. I grew up in a world where failure was bad. It was embarrassing. It showed a lack of ability. Nobody wants to fail. And the stigma of failure is often so bad, that to never start at all is a valid temptation.

Why ask the girl on a date? She might say no.

Why try out for the team? You might not make it.

Why sign up for that class? It might be too hard.

In the Army, things didn’t get better. Failure often resulted in an unrelated punishment. Failing at the wrong time could result in your death or the death of your teammates. It was a go or no-go, and well, who wants to be a no-go.

Greenlights

Matthew McConaughey’s book Greenlights may have been one the more enjoyable books I have read this year. A greenlight means go. Catching all greenlights on the road makes for smooth travelling. This is a warm spring day where nothing can wrong. When you have all greenlights, life is good. As McConaughey puts it:

Catching greenlights is about skill: intent, context, consideration, endurance, anticipation, resilience, speed, and discipline. We can catch more greenlights by simply identifying where the red lights are in our life, and then change course to hit fewer of them.

Matthew McConaughey, Greenlights

Greenlights are good. But taken at face value the above passage would suggest to only look for the easy way. But that is not all that he is saying. He tells us the red and yellow lights are moments to pause, to think, and to reflect. Those lights might be green when looked upon in the rearview mirror of life.

Imagine hitting a red light on the road and thinking the game is over. You have failed to hit all greenlights. Would you stop driving? Would you give up or would wait until the light is green?

It’s a matter of how we see the challenge in front of us and how we engage with it. Persist, pivot, or concede. It’s up to us, our choice every time.

Matthew McConaughey, Greenlights

The Opportunity to Fail

That’s right. Failure is an opportunity. It is not always pleasant. At times, the failure can result in consequences unrealized and undesirable. Should that stop us? Nope. If we do the research and then the work, the failure is a chance to learn. It is a chance to evolve as an individual. Give it a try. If you fail, learn. Try again.

In starting your first business or your hundredth, there is a risk that it won’t succeed. There is a reward if it does. What many don’t realize is that the failure also contains a reward. It is called experience, which is not available to those who never try in the first place.

Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising every time we fall.

Oliver Goldsmith

Glory

Many of us seek it in some way, shape, or form. The greatest glory is getting knocked on your rear end then getting back up. Getting knocked down is okay only if you rise when you fall.


Feature photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Crafting Your Biography

Have you ever walked down the biography aisle at your local bookstore or library? What you see on those shelves is history and how one person played a part to impact it? These are the lives of extraordinary individuals and an account of their actions.

Actions. Rarely is a biography about something other than action. Nobody gets written about based on what they said they were going to accomplish. Instead, it is all about their actions. And those actions were not a one and done event. No, they were actions built over a lifetime.

Imagine a biography in that bookstore with your name on it. What would be in it? What would the writer say about you? What actions made it into the book? Without a purpose in life and daily steps to achieve that purpose these questions are difficult to answer. But if you want to become great and worthy of a biography someday, just look at the advice of those who had volumes written about them:

The whole secret of a successful life is to find out what is one’s destiny to do, and then do it.

Henry Ford

It begins with planning. What is your mission in life? If you don’t know, then it may be time to start scratching multiple surfaces until you find one that suits you. Click here to help you discover your massively transformative purpose.

You have to assemble your life yourself, action by action.

Marcus Aurelius

When you have your purpose, you must break it down into smaller, manageable chunks that you can work on daily. Make your lists, complete them religiously, and start stacking your wins.

Discipline is choosing between what you want now and what you want most.

Abraham Lincoln

Taking the easy path will never get you closer to your life’s goals. We must sacrifice immediate gratification and keep our eyes on the prize that lay ahead. We must be disciplined.

No great man lives in vain. The history of the world is but the biography of great men.

Thomas Carlyle

To make it in the biography section, you must shoot for greatness. You can’t play small in this arena. No, you must go big. The journey is arduous. But for the one that would change the world, that is not a problem. Your actions, your life, will not be in vain.


Feature photo by Moritz Kindler on Unsplash

Strength from Misfortune

Think of all the major events over the last couple of years. How many of them were planned for? If you could go through them all over again, how many of them would you choose to endure again?

For many, lives were upended. Thoughts of prosperity went out the window. Even the thoughts of returning to normal are dim. Will things ever go back to the way they were? Probably not. And the new normal, what will that look like? Like the old or a substandard version of it?

Those who know what is good for you will say to not despair. Things will get better. But should you trust external sources of manufactured hope? Do they really know what’s good for you, or is having you believe it only good for them?

With all the misfortune that has taken place there is a real question you should ask. What have you learned? No doubt, we have been through some rough times. Those rough times are only one wave amid a turbulent ocean. When this wave passes, another will take its place only to be followed by more waves. And as the first one battered you, when all became dark and the depths of despair reached out to touch your soul, what did you learn?

It is a crime to despair. We must learn to draw from misfortune the means of future strength.

Winston Churchill

Maybe in the moment, it was okay to close the shutters and pull the blanket tighter around you. Maybe the extra sugar and the alcohol gave you a temporary escape from the present danger. But those temporary pleasures are fleeting. They will in time lose their luster, and you will be confronted with a choice: either find a harder drug to escape with or wake up and face reality. To wake up is to evolve. It is to adapt to the times and learn how to survive and how to thrive. It is to learn how to swim in an ocean that will gladly swallow you up.

Do you believe in God? Good. That means you have a purpose in this world. And that purpose is not to huddle in despair. Throw off the blankets. Open the blinds and let the light in. Let the misfortune be a lesson. Let it be the catalyst for a stronger you.


Feature photo by Shane on Unsplash

Inspiration from the Genius

Search back through the annals of history, and you will encounter legendary figures who surpassed their fellow men with extraordinary powers of the mind. Today, we would call them geniuses and rightly so. Were they born with this talent, or did they cultivate it through acute observation and a life-time pursuit of learning.?

Let’s face it. Some people are just born with it. Yet, they still must cultivate it. Others were fortunate to get a head start. Lucky them, but only if they kept going. Most of the real geniuses began like everybody else. They all took that first step of the millions they would travel in pursuit of their destination. They kept learning. They kept working. They eventually became the masters in their fields.

The man of genius inspires us with a boundless confidence in our own powers.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Those geniuses demonstrate to us that anything is possible. Follow their examples. Let it inspire you to find your own genius.

Experimenting in the Lab of Life

What I didn’t like about High School Science: When it was time to experiment, you only had one chance to make it work. And the experiment you were conducting wasn’t really yours, you were just replicating someone else’s.

It reminds of all the time I spent reading the Book of Proverbs as a kid. I had the lessons right there in front of me, but I didn’t have the first-hand knowledge. It wasn’t until I conducted by own ill-advised experiments that I could understand the validity of Solomon’s sayings. Of course, most of those experiments went wrong. Some of them set me back several years. There were dark times of doubt and confusion. There were even more times of delusion where I traded long-term fulfillment for the fleeting pleasures of the short-term.

But not all the experiments were bad. Some were useful, providing a solid foundation that I continue to build on to this day (reading). Even the experiments that went horribly bad (finances) proved to be valuable lessons.

A true experiment, unlike those conducted in a High School Laboratory, ventures into the unknown. It will test your boundaries as it delves into the uncomfortable. Often, we choose comfort, but it is the uncomfortable that makes us resilient to fears, anxiety, stress, and weakness. The more we experiment with our bodies, our minds, and our souls, the stronger we become. By experimenting daily, we can test the boundaries of our capabilities and see what is truly possible in this life.

All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Get out of your comfort zone. Get into the lab of life and start experimenting.


Feature photo by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash

Choosing Between Safe and Great

I work in a factory. I could easily put in another fifteen years until retirement. Along the way, my family would be provided for, and I could enjoy my 3-4 weeks a year of vacation. It is not a bad life and only costs me forty hours a week (not including lunch breaks and commute times). They don’t hand out gold watches or pensions anymore, but I should have enough to live on in the last ten years or so of my life (if I am lucky enough to make it that long). I would be known as an honest, hard-working man that put food on the table and clothes on our backs. That would be my legacy.

Many have chosen this way life. It is not a bad way. If anything, it is a safe way. But if last year taught me anything, the safe way is not always as reliable as it is made out to be. Last year, the factory shut down for about six weeks. This was a better situation than many whose jobs went away completely. If my factory would have went down for a longer period or shut its doors forever, what would I have done? What if, like what we have seen over the last few weeks of weather in the United States, we had unforeseen natural disasters that we could not recover from? The safe way would be gone.

Earlier in the week, I wrote about Einstein. Was Einstein playing it safe by working in a patent office? If he went back to the family business, something that his family wanted him to do, would that have been playing it safe? Imagine if he stayed safe and never gave humanity the gift of his mind. As Harry Gray once said, “No one ever achieved greatness by playing it safe.”

My family, with good reason, wants me to play it safe. This is understandable. I am their security, their shelter, and their sustenance. If I leave the confines of safety, I put their welfare in jeopardy. The cautious person would state that it is too great a risk to venture into the unknown. But the unknown is my moon. How can I get to the moon if I am afraid to leave the earth? How can I find my New World if I live on a flat earth afraid to leave the Old?

A friend that I work with told me about a meme floating around. It said, “The hardest part of making $700k a year is leaving your $70k a year job.” There is a lot of truth in this. The unknown holds both success and failure. The known is only more of the same with maybe a 2-3% raise a year.

Thinking about money, wouldn’t more of it be nice? The company I work for makes a tremendous amount of money. They pay me so that they can make more. Will the world be a better place because of this work I do? I don’t think so. But the things I am working on, the things I want to do, could make the world a better place. Even if I made less money, making the world a better place would be worth it. So, the money as nice as making more of it would be, is not nearly as important as doing something that adds value to the lives of others. That is a legacy far beyond my own current sphere of influence.

What would I tell my son? Take the safe way and live an ordinary life free of risk? That is not what we usually tell our children. Instead, we tell them they can be anything they want to be. They can do anything they set their minds on. Is this only a fantasy we tell our children? Do we grow up and grow out of this belief that the sky is the limit? I hope not.

Feature photo by Anaya Katlego on Unsplash. What an awesome message in this photo: If not now when, if not you who.

Pay Up

I am a flawed individual. No matter how hard I try, I just can’t get it right. In all areas of my life, I have come up short.

That sounds super depressing…

But it is not.

In all areas, there is an opportunity for growth. To be flawed is to be human.

I am human.

“Mistakes [and failures],” Sophia Loren said, “are the dues one pays for a full life.”

Let us daily pay our subscription fees for this life we live.


Feature photo by Varvara Grabova on Unsplash