Walking Alone

The wildebeest in the middle of the pack has no ability to affect the herd. It is safe as long as it keeps running. Well, as long as it is not one of the thousands that get trampled along the way.

When you run with the mob, you run a risk. Your intentions might be good and noble. But if the frenzy leads it down the wrong path, you might find yourself in a dangerous situation.

To consort with the crowd is harmful; there is no person who does not make some vice attractive to us, or stamp it upon us, or taint us unconsciously therewith. Certainly, the greater the mob with which we mingle, the greater the danger. –Seneca, Letter 7: On Crowds

Remember as kids we were asked if we would jump off a cliff if our friend jumped off a cliff. If the herd goes off the cliff, the wildebeest in the middle will run off of it, whether they want to or not. The herd with good intentions to migrate to better grazing has gone astray.

It is better to walk alone, than with a crowd going in the wrong direction. –Herman Siu

To walk alone takes courage. You have ask the questions, do the research, and then come to the best conclusions. It doesn’t mean you will always be right, but at least you did the work. And if it means failure, that is okay. Keep failing until you get it right.

The great innovators of the past chose their own paths. Change came in walking alone, rather than going with the flow

Evolve or Die

The trend with businesses: If you don’t evolve, you will die. Blockbuster, Sears, JC Penney, Pier One Imports, Hertz. Just to name a few of the more notable and most recent.

As with business, so it is with humanity. We must evolve or we will die. Death will come for each and every one of us in time. But with longer life expectancies, the reaper might be delayed from his usual rounds. Almost 8 billion people on this planet. That is about double than what it was fifty years ago. The number is only going to go up. Unless:

  • We can’t get along. A more crowded earth means more differences between its inhabitants. Add some global warming in there, and we are staring at a big bucket of crabs keeping everybody else from getting to the top for a breath of fresh air (or freedom).
  • More pandemics. They have been around for centuries, and they are only getting stronger. Every couple of years a new one surges to the forefront. It is only a matter of time before the next one comes to collect its due.
  • More global catastrophes. We think we are the all-powerful dominators of this globe. Yet in the face of a hurricane, earthquake, or volcano, we are faced with our own fragility.

The list could go on. One only has to look at the Book of Revelations and start making the comparisons. What can we do with such dire tidings? How can we ensure a brighter future for our children and their children? We can:

  • Figure out how to get along. At least, until we learn how to zip off to Mars and begin the prequel to Frank Herbert’s Dune.
  • Get aggressive in fighting these viruses. We need to get healthier. We need to become more resilient as individuals. And we need to put our minds and money to work fighting the real enemies.

“The discoveries of healing science must be the inheritance of all. That is clear. Disease must be attacked, whether it occurs in the poorest or the richest man or woman, simply on the ground that it is the enemy; and it must be attacked just in the same way as the fire brigade will give its full assistance to the humblest cottage as readily as to the most important mansion.” –Winston Churchill

  • Be responsible citizens of this planet. Right now it is the only one we got. We might not be able to change the weather, but we can at least pick up after ourselves. We can make better choices, consume less stuff, and take care of the things we have. Until technology can come up with the right solutions, we can do our part.

The earth’s population will soon recognize, if they haven’t already done so, that humanity is now faced with a stark choice: evolve or die. –Eckhart Tolle

The choice is ours. To stand idly by the wayside and let things run their course is to invite death. We must find the courage to forge ahead. We might not suffer too much if we don’t, but we won’t leave humanity, our children and their children, a better place for those who come after us.

Using What I have

Today, I was thinking about a new piece of exercise equipment for my home gym. What can I get that is shiny and new? What will take me to the next level in my fitness? As I thought about this, my current inventory of equipment came to mind. Am I using what I have to the best of my ability? Has my interest in the older equipment begun to wane?

The desire for having more stuff, for having something new, is constantly weighing on me. Why do I need more? Is there something wrong with what I have? This goes beyond gym equipment. There is always a new tool that I need or would really like to have. Shoes, clothes, tech. There is always something that I think I am missing.

Beyond “stuff” is the very essence of me. I am my own biggest critic. Often, I think upon my shortcomings. It is one thing to think of how to improve, but it is quite another to use my “have-nots” as an excuse for why I –have not. If certain genes are missing from my double helix, I can’t change it. It is out of my control and wanting it will not change anything. I am who I am.

Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with what there is. –Ernest Hemingway

There are those exceptional athletes that despite not fitting the ideal profile for their sport have gone on to great success. They weren’t handicapped by supposed shortcomings. Instead, they allowed their desire to fuel them to overcome the stereotypes. They worked with what they had and went on to amaze the world.

I shouldn’t listen to the self-conjured imaginary naysayers that prevent me from where I want to go. The voices in my head* are a form of resistance reluctant to leave the comfort zone. They want to impose limitations on what is possible. To listen to the chatter would be disastrous.

The courageous do not make excuses for why it can’t be done. They make the most out of the gifts they were given. As Abraham Maslow said, “In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety.” We can overcome a lack in natural talent with persistence and courage.

*I say this jokingly lest anybody would consider locking me up.

Dare to Get Hit

Last week, my son Alec and I started watching the Rocky movies. I was amazed how interested he was in watching them. The movies held his attention even when there were no fight scenes or training scenes. When we finally made it to the sixth movie, I was impressed by Rocky’s speech to his son.

One line in particular resonated with me:

It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.

It is not about how hard you can hit. Actually, it is not about any of your physical attributes. Instead, it pertains to a matter of the heart, to the soul. Do you have the heart to keep going despite taking the hard hits? Do I? It is a question I have to constantly ask myself. More importantly I have to ask myself another question: Am I preparing myself to get hit? If you have never been hit before, the shock of that first one is hard to bear. But if you shake it off and get back up, you can recover. In time, you can become stronger and absorb harder and harder hits in the future. But none of that is possible, if you don’t learn to get hit. It isn’t possible if you can’t get back up. In the words of General George Patton, “Success is how high you bounce when you hit bottom.”

To want to get hit when you don’t have to takes courage. It is a daring risk that rewards in resilience. A true champion takes that risk. They practice getting hit. They take the chance in the hope of discovering who they really are. They dare to lose their footing along the way, because not doing so would result in a greater loss.

Rocky’s speech was a great one. I hope it resonates with you the same way it did with me.

Transcript from Rocky 6:

Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! Now if you know what you’re worth then go out and get what you’re worth. But ya gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain’t you! You’re better than that! I’m always gonna love you no matter what. No matter what happens. You’re my son and you’re my blood. You’re the best thing in my life. But until you start believing in yourself, ya ain’t gonna have a life.

If you would rather see it, watch it here:

To dare is to lose one’s footing. Not to dare is to lose oneself. –Søren Kierkegaard

Awakening the Brain

Have you ever heard the statement that we only use 10% of our brain? I am not a neurologist, but I imagine we use a lot more. How much goes into automatic functions to keep us alive? How much is used for storage of things that we have no idea about? How much do we even really know about the brain?

The question we should be asking isn’t how much of our brains do we use, but rather…How much more can we use? What are our upper limits? Is it even safe if we exceed those limits?

I may have been in an over-caffeinated state, but once I thought my head was going to explode with too much information. That was a long time ago, and there is no doubt that I have learned much more since then. As a matter of fact, I think I am learning something new every day. And this is just information. I can’t imagine the new motor skills being picked up or the additional muscle memory which has to be stored somewhere other than in the muscles only.

If I even try to contemplate the things I haven’t done, I am overwhelmed. There is a creativity side that is still in its infancy, and has yet to be fully cultivated. The opportunity for growth in that area is enormous, if I let it grow.

Compared with what we ought to be, we are only half awake. We are making use of only a small part of our physical and mental resources. Stating the thing broadly, the human individual thus lives far within his limits. He possesses powers of various sorts which he habitually fails to use. –William James

I haven’t untapped my full power, but I am trying to go beyond where I was at yesterday. The best thing I can do is remove the self-limiting governor that is preventing me from realizing my full potential. All I can do is try, and maybe along the way become a full-fledged renaissance man fully awake.

It takes a bit of courage to step beyond the comfortable. By not pushing the boundaries of our mind, we are allowing a modicum of comfort. It is an easy path to remain sedentary, whether that is physically or mentally. But, we are never too old to learn something new, if we choose to continue learning.

You Alive?

One of the tragedies of war is the extinguishing of young lives. After reading Cornwell’s Waterloo, I was appalled at how careless some of the leaders were with the lives of those underneath their command. Even when they knew their tactics were doomed to fail, they proceeded anyway at the expense of thousands of young boys still in their teenage years.

A child is a blank slate with so much potential. To die at a young age never experiencing the joys and trials of life could be one of the most calamitous mishaps in this world. Sad are those robbed of life without ever knowing what it was like to live.

When it is time to die, let us not discover that we never lived. –Henry David Thoreau

Possibly even more tragic is to go through life having never really lived. Time runs whether or not we are paying attention to it. We only get so much. And when it is gone, it is gone forever. To waste it is to throw away a gift more precious than any wealth one could imagine.

At the end of the day, can you say you used the time you were given to the best of your abilities? Did you muster up the courage to tackle the day, or did you choose to spend it on activities that were designed to pass the time? We must learn to pass our days intenton living, not existing. Don’t be the person lying on your deathbed, regretting that you wasted the one thing that you could never get back. Time.

Not Giving Up

A couple of years ago, I read the book The War of Art by Steven Pressfield. This week, I started to listen to the audio book for a little reinforcement of the message. What’s the message? How to identify and overcome our biggest enemy: resistance.

img_0939

 

What exactly is this enemy called resistance? It is anything and everything that prevents you from accomplishing what you set out to do. This could be procrastination, addiction, or even that little voice in your head telling you to quit.

I have been fighting resistance all my life. Even when I didn’t know there was an internal war taking place, resistance was still fighting. And the little voice in my head telling me to stop, that voice has been the enemy’s primary weapon. I can usually see the manifestations of this weapon during any endurance training such as running, or rowing. That innocent small voice in my head is the opening salvo in a game of psychological warfare. It starts out small enough, but in time it will take over all my thoughts. It amplifies all the pains I am feeling, whether real or imagined. The ascents and the descents become larger than what they really are. Even a soft breeze blowing in the wrong direction becomes an insurmountable obstacle.

Resistance wants me to stop. It tells me that my goals, no matter how important or noble, can wait until I am better prepared. Gone is the sense of urgency. It would be better to pursue these things tomorrow. But there is no guarantee of tomorrow. If I give in today, how can I guarantee that I will not throw in the towel again tomorrow?

Every great story on the planet happened when someone decided not to give up, but kept going no matter what. –Spryte Loriano

The endurance training I do today is a test. If I can win against resistance here, where else can I win? If I can conquer with my mind the desires of the flesh, if I can keep going when everyone else around me has given up, will I not be able to succeed in whatever venture I choose to pursue? Overcome resistance, and we can finish our projects, obtain our goals, and even achieve our dreams. Overcome resistance, and we can win the war.

Boldly Go

Last week I was able to catch The Joe Rogan Experience episode #1108 with Dr. Peter Attia. Joe Rogan’s podcast is consistently at the top of the charts and may be one of my favorite ones to listen to. I honestly think I learn something new every time I listen to it.

img_5200

In this episode, Dr. Attia talks about his open water swimming. He once held the record for the double-crossing of the Auau Channel (Maui to Lanai and then back to Maui). The over 19 mile swim took 11 hours and 45 minutes.

Can you imagine it? The swim was completed overnight to not interfere with shipping traffic. It was done at night, when God knows what is lurking or hunting in the waters below. Leaving the safety of the shore, you walk into the water and begin swimming into the unknown. There is no sight of land on the other side, only the open water.

You cannot swim for new horizons until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore. –William Faulkner

The vision is clear in your head. You can picture the destination. You can smell it and hear it. You may not be there physically. But in your mind’s eye, you go there often. How will you get there? How will you make your vision a reality? You take that first step, then the next, and you keep stepping. That first step takes courage. It is only one tiny little step. But to build courage, you have to start out small. You have to take tiny little steps over and over. In time, your stride will lengthen and you will gain your rhythm. As you train daily in courage, your ability to go farther and farther from the shore increases. You will become comfortable doing the things other people fear.

Exploration across the land, the sea, and through space began with hope. There was a hope in something beyond the known. The known is safe, and to venture into the unknown takes courage. You hope the rewards are worth it. But without taking that first step, you will never know.

The Folly of Fear-based Choices

I have done some pretty stupid things in my life. One time, I bought a new car, because my old one had an oil leak. The price to fix it was about the same as one month’s payment on the new car. If I would have taken the time, I might have been able to fix it myself. I even got the name of a friend’s friend that could have fixed it for a case of beer. Instead of dealing with the problem, I ran away from it and ran toward a whole new problem (the new car).

The best thing I could have done back then was get the car fixed. Unfortunately, I was a little on the shy side and didn’t like to ask for help. Why? Who knows, and my avoidance of that problem led to many more financial problems down the road.

I haven’t done something that stupid in a long time. But I still occasionally dip my spoon into the bowl of stupid and partake of it. Usually, this has to do with my own insecurities. I don’t want to look foolish in other people’s eyes. And my perception of their possible perception of me drives me to do some silly things.

For instance, if we are talking and I don’t understand what you are saying, I will ask you to repeat it. If I can’t get it the second time, I might nod my head in agreement. This could be some valuable information, and now I am missing it. When I can’t connect the blanks later on, I have to go through the painful process of trying to reacquire it much to the dismay of the person that gave it to me.

The idea that someone would judge me based on my lack of knowledge, on my inexperience, or naivete is almost paralyzing. Yes, I know this is an ego problem. But it’s the truth. I try do anything I can to avoid it. Well at least until recently.

It has taken me a painfully long time to learn this lesson, but I have to stop worrying about other’s opinions of me. There’s a good chance, nobody is really even paying that much attention to me anyway. If my quest is knowledge, I can’t allow imaginary obstacles to prevent from obtaining it. I have to let go of my pride and remain the student.

Men go to far greater lengths to avoid what they fear than to obtain what they desire. –Dan Brown

The things we fear are often only a figment of our imaginations. It would be a shame if that is what is keeping us from pursuing the goals that would lead us to a better life.

Take Your Blows

Courage 12/19/2019

I remember watching the old Kung Fu movies growing up. It seemed like in every one of them, there was always an idiot. He was always messing up and as result was always being punished. The master never relented but continued the beating for each offence. I am sure a real life master’s hope would be that the idiot would finally learn his lesson.

The book of Proverbs is filled with many of the same instances. And though the idiot never learns, it should be a powerful lesson for us. There are consequences for our actions. If you make a mistake, you will most likely pay the price. Hopefully, the price is so great that you don’t make the same mistake again.

The feeling of pain is a great motivator to discontinue your current path. If humans never learned from pain, we probably wouldn’t be here today. But they did. They knew the consequences of touching fire, eating poisonous food, and provoking the wrong person/animal. They passed that knowledge down to us just like we will pass it down to the next generation.

If you repeat the same mistakes over and over again, you are an idiot. Yeah, I know it sounds harsh, but we all have to deal with the broken record eventually. If you don’t, you are neither helping yourself or the next generation.

Don’t be afraid to fail. Take your blows and realize they are essentially a learning tool. Learn your lessons so that you may be able to take on greater and more complex tasks. Be the intelligent person mentioned in Proverbs and gain the knowledge necessary to evolve.

Beat a scoffer and the naïve learn a lesson; rebuke the intelligent and they gain knowledge. –Proverbs 19:25