A Tyrant to Yourself

A tyrant would tell you how to live. He would expect you to serve at his pleasure. To him, you do not have the capability to live life on your own terms. Therefore, he would take that opportunity from you. He believes your life belongs to him.

This does beg the questions. Can you live life on your own terms? Can you make the best decisions for you do you have to be led by a parental hand?

I trained myself in the school of self-control and self-denial. It was hard on me, but I would rather be my own tyrant than have someone else tyrannize me.

Henry Flagler

A person lacking discipline must be guided. Without discipline and/or guidance, you incur upon yourself unnecessary suffering manifested in the form of poor health, financial hardships, and unrewarding relationships. At the worst, your inability to control yourself could result in a stay at a local penitentiary.

Marcus Aurelius said, “Be tolerant with others and strict with yourself.” Through discipline and temperance, you can become your own tyrant. This is a key to getting where you want to go rather than have someone lead you to where they want you to go. If you want to be your own master, then you must learn to rule yourself.


Feature photo by Md Mahdi on Unsplash

In the Very Here and Now

Something is off with me today. I don’t know what it is. I’m more critical than usual. Nothing has happened to make me angry, but I am afraid the smallest thing could set me off.

I am struggling to enjoy the present moment. I am thinking about the past. I am getting frustrated about a future that has not even happened. My mind is a whirlwind struggling to stay grounded in the now. I don’t like who I am right now, this person who cannot discipline his mind.

I am reminded of this Buddhist saying: Do not pursue the past. Do not lose yourself in the future…look deeply at life as it is, in the very here and now.

It is so easy for me to give advice to others suffering from depression. I can look at their pain and what they have lost objectively, thinking that it does not affect me. But I have been there before, I am partly there now, and I will certainly be there again in the future. It is a part of being human. We suffer because we do not have what we desire.

How often did I pursue the past? Instead of learning the lesson, I went back and revisited it over and over. Can I change it? Can I bring back the dead, undo a wrong, or make a decision that would bring less suffering to the present? I cannot, so why do I stay in this place in time that I have no business dwelling in? Why do I lock myself into this misery that is no more?

Do I know what this future will bring? Do I know how I will die? Will it be on own terms? I am reminded of a friend who thinks she will pass in the same way as other members of her family. They all died at an early age, and it gives her much anxiety. As an outsider unaffected by this family condition, I am not completely empathetic to her worries. Why worry about something outside of our control? Oh, the fool that I am! Maybe I don’t consider how I will die in the same way she does, but I allow myself to get upset about something that may or may not happen later in the day. I grow anxious about the problems of tomorrow and what may come around the corner next year. Am I not the same as she?

I am reading Eckhart Tolle’s Oneness with All Life. I read a chapter of this book at night before bed. It is a beautiful book that is really speaking to me. Here is an excerpt from Chapter 7’s Becoming Present:

We can learn not to keep situations or events alive in our minds, but to return our attention continuously to the pristine, timeless present moment rather than be caught up in mental movie-making. Our very Presence then becomes our identity, rather than our thoughts and emotions.

Only Presence can free you of the ego, and you can only be present Now, not yesterday or tomorrow. Only Presence can undo the past in you and thus transform your state of consciousness.

It is not an easy thing to be present. Yet all is not lost, we can learn to be present. That is a beautiful thing because it gives me hope that I can stop pursuing the past or lose myself in the future. It gives me the opportunity to do what needs to be done now. Being locked into the present, I can give my full attention to being a good husband and a father. I can give my full attention to being a good man, a good human.

There are those I care about whose suffering is only in their mind. Yet their suffering is so great that it is affecting their bodies. Maybe it is you or maybe someone you know. We can remember our past. We can remember and love the ones we have lost. We can acknowledge our mistakes with the hopes of not repeating them. But what has happened has happened. We cannot go back. We cannot change it. The only thing we can do is go forward. And yes, we go forward into an unknown future. We do not know what will happen. There will be uncertainty, and there will be hardships. But there will also be joy, and there will be love. Whatever happens will happen, but we cannot lose ourselves in it before it happens. We must live today. We owe it to our friends and family, to our parents, our spouses, and our children. We owe it to ourselves.

Take a breath. Be aware of the breath. It is the only thing that matters in the very here and now. That breath. The breath you took before it is no more. The breath you take next doesn’t matter if you don’t take the breath you have now. One breath through your nose into your belly extending upwards to your chest. Don’t be afraid, breathe it all in. Pause at the top, savor the moment. And then, let it all out. This is freedom, and now you are free to take the next one, to move forward.


Feature photo by RKTKN on Unsplash

Gotta Do the Work

From a young age, Thomas Edison was willing to do the work. He grew up poor and got his first job at the age of twelve. He never had the chance to get a formal education.

Through books, experiments, and practical experience at various jobs, Edison gave himself a rigorous education that lasted about ten years, up until the time he became an inventor. What made this successful was his relentless desire to learn through whatever crossed his path, as well as his self-discipline. Mastery by Robert Greene

As he did the work, the opportunities came. And in time, he became one of the most prolific inventors of all time with over a thousand patents credited to his name.

When recently asked the secret of his success, he said he had always been a total abstainer and singularly moderate in everything but work. Pushing to the Front by Orison Swett Marden

When I think about all the things I really want in this world, I must remember that they are not so lofty as to be unattainable. Most of it requires only one thing to make it possible. I must do the work. It is not by luck that those hard-earned victories will fall into your lap. You gotta do the work!

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. -Thomas Edison

Two Keys to Confidence

Over the weekend I had the pleasure of hanging sheetrock in my kitchen. We are currently less than one week from having our kitchen cabinets installed. My wife and I can’t wait to have a fully functional kitchen again, rather than the torn down empty space where our kitchen used to be.

The pleasure of hanging sheetrock. I did this once before. Over ten years ago, I did our master bathroom in a house we owned in Florida. I didn’t do a good job. My seams were not smooth. The holes I made for the outlets were not very clean. There was no pleasure in this job.

A few months ago, we paid to have our sheetrock installed in our living room and hallway. That job cost over a thousand dollars. The walls looked amazing. I even got to help hang a few panels. The hour I spent helping changed my life, or at least it changed my life in regards to hanging sheetrock. I saw the right way to do the job. Exactly the opposite of the way I did it the last time. That plus a couple of YouTube videos (which I didn’t watch the first time), and I was able to do a quality job for less than $100. In the future, I have two basements and a stairway to sheetrock. I am pretty confident that I am only going to get better each time I do it. Saving money and learning a new skill, indeed this is a pleasure.

Confidence comes from discipline and training. –Robert Kiyosaki

I didn’t have much confidence in doing the job ten years ago. Like any new experience, confidence doesn’t come easy. But with repetition and a strong desire to improve, confidence increases. Discipline and training. Is there any other substitute that puts perfection in the work? It is not motivation. It is not on a whim or from a passing fancy that expertise can be built. Discipline and training. Those are the two keys that will take you to the next level and fill you with the confidence you need to be successful.

Why Staying Busy Isn’t Good Enough

Like many in the world, I’m locked down. Can’t go to work. Can’t hang out with friends and family.

And over the last couple of weeks, I have been working longer hours than usual. I get up, work out, and start working on projects around the house or at my parent’s house. I’m getting things done and really trying to stay busy. But there are draw backs, and I’ve noticed something else over the last couple of weeks.

When I punch the clock, I have more discipline. I know I have a limited amount of free time and so I try to squeeze in as much as I can. But now I am not punching a clock. As a result, my intensity has fallen off. I am not squeezing as hard. The creative work I try to do and the self-development that I try to pursue has fallen off. I have been busy. Things are getting done, but the things I feel that I am called to pursue in life have taken a back seat. I am moving but not forward in the way that I should.

Beware of the braveness of a busy life. -Socrates

Discipline is easy when it is forced upon you. As a soldier, I had no choice but to be disciplined. If I wanted to succeed, I had to have it. Same way when it comes to my professional life. To progress and become better, I have to have discipline whether I am on or off of the clock.

But now there is no clock, and I find my discipline is starting to waver. The sense of urgency is starting to diminish. I am reminded of the times in my past when everything was dark, a time when there was no drive and definitely no discipline. It is in recalling those times that I have to get back to the basics. I have to force the structure and routine back into my daily schedule. I have to punch my own internal clock and regain a sense of urgency.

Just moving in and of itself is not going to work. I have move with a purpose. I have to move with intention towards the direction I want to go. Even in these times when the world seems to be standing still, I can still move forward.

Building to Win

I have a friend who plans to run his first marathon in the summer. He has only been running for about a year. Back then, he was a smoker and knew he needed to start doing something to get into shape. So he started running. He committed his time to this endeavor. As a result, his mileage has gone up, his weight has gone down, and as far as I know, he stopped smoking. If he completes this marathon, it will be an amazing accomplishment.

Let’s recap his journey:

 

  • Made a decision to start running.
  • Made changes to way of life to accommodate for time.
  • Got friends and family involved. He even runs with his mother on a regular basis.
  • Made changes to what he puts into his body.
  • Became comfortable running longer and longer distances.
  • Entered first race and completed it.
  • Signed up for marathon and began training.

Each bullet point was a decision. Each decision turned into an accomplishment that validated his initial decision to get into shape. Completing them boosted his self-esteem. If you asked him a year ago about his confidence running a marathon, he probably would have laughed at you and thought you were insane just for asking.  But he built his confidence up mile by mile, day by day. He built it up every time he laced up his shoes to train, regardless of the weather conditions. Now, he firmly believes completing a marathon is possible.

Nothing builds self-esteem and self-confidence like accomplishment. –Thomas Carlyle

A marathon is a big deal. It is a big commitment. You don’t wake up one day and out of the blue decide to run a marathon without training. You start small and build up to it. The journey to running 26.2 miles at one time began with one step first taken long before race day.

Great achievements are possible. Make the decision. Do the work every day, even on the days you don’t feel like it. Get small victories and then scale up to larger challenges. In time this body of work you have created will be the preparation you needed to win the dream you started with so long ago.

Are you still ____?

“Are you still working out?”

I loathe this question. It is one that I told myself I never wanted to be asked again. Why? Because your level of fitness is one of the things people, whether they want to admit it or not, notice first. And for someone who is borderline obsessed with strength and endurance, the last thing I dread is for an uncle I haven’t seen in a few years pointing at my midsection.

I work hard to achieve my fitness goals. I willingly share those goals with the idea that those closest to me will hold me accountable. It is my way of staying on the path. It is my way of forcing a little extra discipline in my life in case I get a little too comfortable which happens from time to time. I have faith that I can get where I want to go, but the key to getting there is discipline.

Continuous effort, not strength or intelligence is the key to unlocking our potential. –Liane Cardes

I believe my potential is wrapped in strength and intelligence, but I don’t naturally have them. If I want to build both of these, then I need continuous effort. Discipline. It truly equals the freedom I am seeking.

There is another question I have come to hate hearing. It is a pointed barb that upon hearing strikes to the quick. Once it is there, it is embedded deep and my mind will not let it go.

“Are you still writing?”

I took a two week break from my blog. I didn’t schedule one. It just happened. I allowed other things in my life to take precedence. I veered off the path and started to become fat as a writer. Writing is similar to physical fitness. Once you stop, you begin to digress and become out of shape. The only way to keep from stopping is through continuous effort. Through discipline.

When I began my fitness journey, I had to ask myself some tough questions about whether or not it was worth it. What are the benefits of good health? Are you happy with your present condition? How much more could I do if I was fit? They may seem like they are all selfish questions and to some degree they are, but my fitness impacts my family’s well-being. It impacts my relationships with friends and co-workers. It improves my professional performance.

Last night after being asked if I was still writing, I once again had to ask myself some tough questions. Do I believe I have a message worth hearing? Could I have a positive impact on the lives of my readers? If I believe this is what I was put on this earth to do, then why am I not doing it?

The answer is yes to all of them, and I believe it is possible. This is the direction I have chosen to travel in my life. But if I want to be a strong writer and endure as one, I need to apply continuous effort. I need discipline. Faith alone can only get me so far. However when I couple that faith with discipline, I can truly maximize my potential.

I am a firm believer that physical fitness has taught me the virtues of discipline more effectively than any other method including my time in the Army. I also believe that if I can master discipline in terms of my body, I possess the necessary tools to master it mentally as well. My body is starting to bear the fruit of my labor. I have no doubt that my mind, if practiced in the same fashion, will also bear fruit.

Don’t make excuses for why you can’t get it done. Focus on all the reasons why you must make it happen. –Ralph Marston

The above quote was from the same man that said, “Have faith in yourself and in the direction you have chosen.” I think they go well together. I have to believe in the journey I’m on. I have to believe I can get to my destination. My eyes have to stay on the prize. Excuses won’t get me where I need to go, but a resolute focus on the objective and a continuous effort will.

A Stewardship of Discipline

Temperance 12/24/2019

Your mind is a sanctuary. Without discipline, how can you rule your mind?

Your body is a temple. Without discipline, the home to your spirit and soul would be in disarray.

If you cannot rule your mind or your body, how can you expect to be a good ruler of anything else? Stewardship begins with controlling the things that are in your control. Start with the body and mind. Be a good steward in these two regards, and who knows how far your rule will one day extend.

If a man does not discipline himself, he cannot bring order to his home. -Confucius

It Starts With Numero Uno

Temperance: 11/5/2019

In Lee Iacocca’s autobiography, Henry Ford III is described as a despot in control of Ford Motor Company. It was his kingdom, and he did as he pleased.

It reminds me of a previous supervisor. She ruled her kingdom with an iron scepter, yet she was completely disengaged from the actual business. She held her people to a high standard, yet she was exempt from holding herself to one. When major initiatives were being launched, she was conveniently on extended vacations far away from the action. She was a poor leader, who garnered no respect from her subordinates, peers, or senior managers.

I’m also reminded of my own experiences as a leader. I never received poor ratings, but I know my performance could have been much better. I didn’t have the discipline or the desire to know the business as well as I could. I only got by, which was far from optimal.

Remembering my own shortcomings is a good way for me to not lose my focus today. I need discipline in my life to succeed. As Jocko Willink says, “Discipline equals freedom.” When I once thought I was free, I was in fact a slave to my own fruitless whims and desires. I couldn’t trust myself to make the right decisions and I doubt anybody else could trust me as well.

Your kingdom may be a Fortune 500 company or the family unit in your home. Regardless of the size of the kingdom you would rule, you have to maintain your personal discipline. You cannot become lax and check out anytime a major deadline comes up. You have to continue to train in order to be ready at all times. It starts with numero uno. That is you, and it is me.

Would you have a great empire? Rule over yourself. –Publius Syrus

Why I Am Running: Mental Warfare

I’ve started running again. Not dabbling as I have done before. Seriously running. I am still trying to figure out why. I can’t go very long. I am not very fast. But for some reason, I feel compelled to run.

Photo by Joshua Sortino on Unsplash

This morning, I woke up at 3:45. By 4:15, I was out the door. My goal: to run 4 laps in the neighborhood. Each lap is 1.3 miles. If finish it, I will have racked up over 5 before the rooster has even started crowing.

Every morning, I go out with a goal in mind. In order to achieve that goal, I have to follow the plan. It starts when the alarm goes off. 

 Get dressed.
 Drink water.
 Lace up the boots.
 Get out the door.

One misstep throws off the timing. One moment of indecision and the plan could go by the wayside.

In any given moment we have two options: to step forward into growth or to step back into safety. –Abraham Maslow

Getting out the door is the first step, but it is not the hardest one. The real test comes during the run.

It is early. It is quiet and cold. I am all alone with the exception of a few early morning commuters. There is nobody here to push me. Nobody to tell me to keep going. At any moment I could stop, and none would be the wiser. Along my route, the opportunity is always present to take the next turn for home. There is a hundred reasons why it would be okay to stop, a hundred reasons to call it quits.

There is a war raging within me on every run. A battle between running and walking, going and stopping, persisting and quitting. My body doesn’t want anything to do with it. My mind says buck up and learn to do the hard things.

The war rages between my body and my mind. The same war that began at 3:45 when my mind told my body to get up. It is a war that has been going on my entire life. Will I do what the body wants to do, or will I obey my mind?

If you are ruled by your mind you are a king; if by body, a slave. –Cato

I have a picture in my mind. It is a version of myself that is faster and has the ability to conquer long distances, all while injury-free. Without this belief, I would never run. But I do believe, and so, I run. I am willing to find out if that which is in mind can become reality. Can my mind truly conquer my body? And if it can…

What else could it conquer?

Imagine a king. What the king wills shall be done. Within reason, a good king could go anywhere, could do anything. A king is like the mind. A good mind, within reason, could go anywhere, could will the body to do anything. Would you be king or would you be ruled by the body?

We all have it within us to go out and be the conquerors of our own bodies. To do so is simple. It is not easy, but it is simple. You do the work. Every day. You don’t give in to the desires of the flesh. You choose differently. You take the courageous step to be different. And if your mind wills it, the body will obey.

By the way, 5.2 miles this morning before the first of the cock-a-doodle-doos.