When I was younger, I thought the shortcut was the way. In High School, I loved reading Muscle and Fitness. From the pages of those magazines, I was drawn to the one magic exercise for accelerated growth. I was intrigued by the miraculous supplement guaranteeing a 300% increase in fat loss. There was some real substance in those editions, but it was the fluff that captured my attention.
What I learned (eventually) was that taking the magic and the miraculous never worked for me. There was only one way to get stronger and leaner. I had the do the work. And the work was not a shortcut, it was an incremental daily improvement mixed with the right nutrition.
The lure of quick success was not limited only to the fitness magazines. I was also intrigued by the infomercials promising a way to get rich quick. They were most appealing when I was in between jobs or at a job I didn’t prefer. I am glad I never broke down and paid for the $1000 secrets that would guarantee me millions, but the temptation was there. But what if I missed out on the golden opportunities? I’m fine with that. If I were in my twenties with millions to burn, there is a good chance I would not have become the man I am today.
We must remember that it is a long process to get where we want to be in life. It is a journey that we may never finish. But we must not be in a hurry to get through it. It is a process that makes us better individuals. By rushing through it, we miss the opportunity to add depth, quality, and texture to our personal evolutions. C.S. Lewis said it wasn’t the load that breaks us down, it is the way we carry it. Likewise, it is not the destination that matters, but who we become along the way. No shortcuts to any place worth going. Those words from Beverly Sills hit the mark. Take the long way. You won’t regret it.
When I get to this point in my life, then I’ll be happy. How many times have you told yourself that? And when you made it to that point, did it work out for you? Did you finally find happiness? Or, did you move your time for happiness to the next point in your life? You said you would be happy when you graduated, when you got a job, when married, had kids, on and on and on. It is as if happiness is some form of payment for completing a life step. But happiness is not currency, it is a state of being.
Is it well with my soul? This is the question you should ask yourself. If you can answer yes, then you might find yourself at peace. You might be happy. And if you answer no, then you must find a way to get there. Maybe you are not being loyal to your purpose in life. Or maybe, it is a skeleton still hanging around in the closet. Is what you envision matching up to reality?
There could be many reasons why you are not happy. If this is something you want, then you must be the chief architect of your happiness. This means designing the plans, making sure it is up to code (i.e. ethical), and then building it.
Give it a try. Along the way, you might realize that it is not about the end result but something that was there the whole time, that it was a state of being achieved by the process of doing.
There are a few quotes that have always resonated with me. Thoreau had a good one about us only hitting at what we aim at. Therefore, he said, we should aim at something high even though we might fail immediately. Mix his words with Les Brown’s quote about shooting for the moon. If we do not make it to the moon, he said, at least we might land among the stars. I spend a good amount of time considering my aim in life. I also spend an equal amount of time considering the consequences of missing that mark.
Can you really lose if your aim is in the right direction? I don’t think so, and well, it reminds me of something Bruce Lee said: “A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim at.” These are some very encouraging words from Thoreau, Brown, and Lee. And though I do take a small amount of comfort in remembering them, missing the mark is still missing the mark.
There are a few things in this life that I feel called to do. Failure to do them, I believe, would haunt me into my next existence. And these are things that I do not do for the gold or the glory. Yet by achieving them, I believe I would find more wealth than on Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.
I remember my land navigation classes from the Army. You plot out your destination on the map and figure out how you are going to get there. You pull out your compass and find the direction you need to go. Sometimes obstacles get in the way, and you find yourself deviating off the path. Once you realize this, you adjust your aim and correct your course. The journey might seem never-ending. At times, it might seem impossible, but we have no choice to keep going. Keep aiming and adjusting because the rewards are too great. In fact, it is the only fortune worth finding.
I recently decided to reread The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. If you haven’t read this short book, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy. It is truly a great read that you won’t regret.
In the book, the shepherd boy Santiago is on a quest to find his treasure and obtain his Personal Legend. As straight forward as that seems, it is not so easy. Much like John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, the path may be straight ahead, but there are many obstacles along the way. In Santiago’s case, it is settling for something other than his Legend. In overcoming these obstacles, he gets content to stay where he is for a year or two. This leads him to view alternate potential futures that are tempting. It takes him a while, but he realizes true happiness won’t come staying in one place. His happiness will come in continuing on his journey.
It is a simple thing to identify with Santiago’s life. Obstacles often come in fresh opportunities, new jobs, or too-good-to-pass-up deals. They have a tendency to derail us from our own Personal Legends. And like Santiago, after a few years we wonder what happened and what could have been if we had stayed the course. Hopefully, it is not too late to pick back up and go after the treasures we dreamed of.
As I continue to read through Robert Greene’s book Mastery, I have also learned that some of the deviations have a way of better preparing us in pursuit of our quest. As I look back on my own pursuit, I realize that some of those deviations have helped mold me into who I am today. They have made me stronger and better prepared for tomorrow. Perhaps my timeline isn’t what I hoped it would be, but how many people’s timelines match up with their projections? I have to keep the faith and continue the next leg of the journey.
“It’s what you have always wanted to accomplish. Everyone, when they are young, knows what their Personal Legend is.
“At that point in their lives, everything is clear and everything is possible. They are not afraid to dream, and to yearn for everything they would like to see happen in their lives. But, as time passes, a mysterious force begins to convince them that it will be impossible for them to realize their Personal Legend.” -said the Old Man to Santiago
To stay stuck in the deviation, is to continue being who we were. We have to get past this and not allow ourselves to hold us back. We have to take all our experiences, all our learning, and become the masters of our own Personal Legends.
I write about virtue all the time. Why? I figured that the more my mind is set on these higher plains of existence, the less my mind will be in the gutters of depravity. In order to write about them, I have to read about them, think about them, and then act based on them. Of course, I am far from where I want to be. But compared to who and where I was in the past, I have come a long, long ways.
In the same manner, I love talking about fitness and nutrition. In order to talk about it, I have to stay current on what others are doing (trends past and present), do my own research, and more importantly conduct my own experiments. Since I have started talking about it, I have noticed that more people hold me accountable. Whether the criticism is good or bad doesn’t matter. I find it all constructive.
It is a universal principle that you get more of what you think about, talk about, and feel strongly about. –Jack Canfield
What is it that you want? Do you think about it? All the time? Do you talk about it and feel strongly about it? Those higher goals in life, the ones that will truly count in the end, can only be achieved if you are completely immersed in them. Go all in. Let it take over your life and see what happens.
I can’t. It is one of the more frustrating phrases I hear from my son. It is especially frustrating when it is said before he even tries. To say the words “I can’t” puts a period on the limits of possibility. Your potential is stopped short never crossing the oceans of faith and hope to land on the sandy beaches of a new reality. This is what it means to say, “I can’t.”
We live in a world where what is possible was once only conceivable in science fiction literature. All the advances we see today were once in the imaginations of yesterday. They were all created by people that said, “What if?” followed by the statement, “I can.” Our capacity for greatness is only limited by our faith in ourselves. Change is possible. Advancement is possible. Going from the ether of our dreams to the concrete world of a new reality starts with a belief in the things we cannot see but know to be possible.
All men are the same except for their belief in their own selves, regardless of what others think of them. –Miyamoto Musashi
Is it possible that where we are right now, doesn’t really matter? You could be staying at home sick with the cabin fever? You could be on the front lines fighting someone else’s war or in the cancer ward waging a battle against a foreign invader. Does it really matter where we are in this present moment?
Think of heaven. Not someone else’s version of heaven, but what you imagine it to be. Is it sipping Mai Tai’s on the beach in the waning years of life? Is it on the other side of the pearly gates reunited with the loved ones who departed before you? Is it both?
Heaven is what really matters. That is the end goal after all. And in order to get there, we have to make the pilgrimage. We have to take the journey to get to our destination. Jesus said we have to take the narrow gate. What does that mean? It means the way isn’t always easy. It isn’t always sunshine and rainbows. There are many pitfalls. There are many snares. There are wrong decisions, financial crises, global pandemics, and enemies lying in wait. But where we are right now in the journey doesn’t matter. It will pass. What matters is where we are heading.
I love this statement from Super Brain. Think of it in relation to God. In the beginning, you begin with hope. Easy right? “I hope there is a God because that would give me meaning and purpose to this life.” From hope, comes faith. “I believe in God.” But knowing, that is something entirely different. That is communion. That is walking and talking with God. That is wrestling with Him like Jacob did. It goes beyond hope and faith. It is no longer the things we believe in and cannot see, but something real, something tangible.
Heaven is out there. We are not there yet, but we can catch a glimpse of it in our mind’s eye. To get there, we have to keep going. We continue on in our journey.
I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving: To reach the port of heaven, we must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it -but we must sail, and not drift, nor lie at anchor. – Oliver Wendell Holmes
What a week! It has been a little chaotic both at home and at work. Home renovations continue. Our “study” now has a ceiling and a floor. Any week now and we will even have a kitchen. It seems like I am working longer and harder hours on my days off of work. Request from other departments and equipment failures have increased my load on the job. Less down time results in less thinking time and even less eating time (that might not be a bad thing).
In addition, I had a Monday evening meeting that ran late. And on Tuesday, I became the new Parkour instructor at my boy’s gymnastics facility. I am down about an hour of sleep at night. My reading has taken a hit. And then there is my writing. My post on Monday never happened. It wasn’t ready. I continued to work on it when I should have just let it lie. It was one of those pieces that would have been better to let percolate for a while. Instead of moving on, I kept coming back to it. Now I have gone almost an entire week without one post.
This week in summary was filled with planned diversions and unexpected distractions. Today is Friday and there is something amazing about it. Not that I can kick back and relax, but that I survived. I am still here, and I am moving forward. The week didn’t go how I planned. I didn’t finish everything I hoped to. It is okay. I am okay. My feet are still travelling the path. There may be obstacles in the way. They can slow me down, but I won’t let them stop me. Instead, I will let them help me become better. I will let them mold me into the thing I want to become. This is my faith. I will be neither deterred nor disheartened.
Life is not a having and a getting, but a becoming and a being. –Matthew Arnold
Use your gifts faithfully, and they shall be enlarged;
What are my gifts? This is not a time to be self-deprecating. I have to take a moment and figure out what gifts I have been given. Are there any areas where I am naturally talented? It isn’t an easy question. I can easily see the gifts in others. I can do many things well, but really talented? Maybe my gifts are a smattering of a bunch of different things. If so, then this is where I will concentrate and faithfully utilize my smatterings.
What if I have no gifts? What if there is no natural talent bursting from within me? No worries. I must do what I can with what I have. If I am faithful in these little things, who knows, I might be able to see where my talents reside.
Practice what you know, and you shall attain to higher knowledge.
As Augustus Octavius said, “Practice, the master of all things.” A practice executed daily becomes second nature. Practice makes us better and makes the execution of difficult tasks much easier. Can we advance to more complex tasks without practice?
Running has always been a struggle for me. I had no formal training growing up. In the Army, I became faster and could run longer, but it was still a struggle. Over the last few years, I spent more time practicing my technique. I became more conscious of bad habits. Am I a great runner today? Not at all, but I am a better runner than I was when I was younger. In no way am I faster, but I can run longer. I enjoy it more, and the toll on my body is not as severe as they were back in those Army days. Why? Practice, the master of all things. The more I run, the better runner I become.
Running is not a gift, but it is something that can be practiced. If I can practice the hard things, how much easier will it be to practice the talents I have been given?
“If she knows you will do it, she will expect you to keep doing it.” –the words of a co-worker concerning a senior leader in our chain of command.
Another new task added to my list of duties. Sometimes, it seems like I can’t do my primary work, because the amount of “side work” I have accumulated. My teammates are afraid to volunteer for anything. They don’t want to get stuck with a bunch of extra duties.
It might spread me a little thin, but I think I can handle it. If anything, it will force me to become more efficient. I’m still the new guy on the team, so give me all the things you [the team] don’t want to do. I’ll do it, and I’ll enjoy it.
The purpose of life is finding the largest burden you can bear and bearing it. –Jordan B. Peterson
There are some people out there who amaze me at what they do on a regular basis. They work 9 to 5’s, read several hours a day, and run 60-plus miles a week, all while working on their next book, volunteering, and hosting a podcast. I look at them and wonder how in the world are they able to accomplish so much. I even wonder if it is possible for me to get to that point in my own life.
Right now? No. But I shouldn’t despair, because I can do much more than what I am doing now. I can reduce wasted time. I can carry a larger burden. I can continue building and become more efficient in my current daily tasks. The more I carry, the stronger I get. This isn’t only in terms of physical strength. It is also in regards to what I am carrying mentally.
We all have the ability to do a little more. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “We must all either wear out or rust out, every one of us. My choice is to wear out.” What will you choose?