I Am

I listened to a guided meditation this morning and one of the key things I heard was the sentence, “I am.” It is short and simple with no attachments to it. It is a state of being in the present. No “I will be” or “I was,” only “I am.”

Too often I have been in the past or in the future. Too often, the question has been, “What have I done?” or “What will I do?” I have allowed these questions and those thoughts to take over and consume my mind. Regarding the future and my own arrogance concerning it, I have boasted of the things I am going to do. But no man can see the future, least of all me. Who am I to divine the things to come? Unable to change the past or control the future, I can only influence the present.

Rather than say, “What am I going to do in the future,” I should ask myself, “What can I do right now?” I can create a body of work that my future self will be both content with and better off because of. But this is only possible if I remain in the present, only in the “I am.”


Photo by David Brooke Martin on Unsplash

Beware the Stories

The stories you read. Do they nourish your mind? Are they only entertainment, something to help pass the time?

Back up in my Army days, I picked up the book Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. I knew little about the book at the time, except that it was a classic. I decided to read it. About halfway through the book something strange started to happen. The novel started influencing my dreams. I found myself conversing with the characters and trying to cope with the not-so-pleasant times. It might not have been the first time I dreamt about a book I was reading, but it was the most vivid time.

The stories you tell. What about the stories you tell whether it is to yourself or to others? Are they helpful, or are they a hindrance? If you lie to yourself enough times, soon you will believe it. If you encourage a capable person, leading them to believe they can do a task, they too in time will believe they can do it.

Beware the stories you read or tell; subtly, at night, beneath the waters of consciousness, they are altering your world.

Ben Okri

One of my favorite computer programming terms is GIGO (garbage in, garbage out). If you put in bad coding, you are going to get a program that does not work the way you intend it. The amazing thing about GIGO is that it works in so many other aspects of our lives. Eat a bunch of garbage and what happens? Either that garbage will come out or it will influence you in a way you never intended. Garbage work results in low quality products and a business model that will not last exceptionally long. And what you read and the stories you tell, if they are garbage, will imprint themselves into your very being and eventually find ways to come out. Garbage in, garbage out.

Thankfully, the opposite is true. Allow good things to come into your life, and in time, good things will be flowing from you. If you eat good food, your body will respond in a better way. If you produce quality work, others will notice and reward you for it. If you read the quality stuff, consume the right media, and tell the good stories, it will permeate your mind and your soul. Thomas Edison said, “Never go to bed without a request to your subconscious.” You could literally make that request right before you go to bed, but the reality is that you make that you make those requests throughout the day through the things you consume. This is how you engineer your tomorrow. Good stuff in today, good stuff out tomorrow.


Feature photo by Micheile Henderson on Unsplash

Develop Yourself for the Opportunities

Little League Football. It was easy. I was good. I started on both sides of the ball and played every down. The competition wasn’t that great. I didn’t have to try very hard to be successful.

Junior High School Football. I sat on the bench and watched the older kids played. I played a little on the Junior Varsity squad. I was not good and did not know why. Maybe it was an age thing.

High School Football. I saw more playing time as I got older. Well, at least if I could stay healthy. My first three seasons ended with mid-season-ending injuries. But my senior year, I finally stayed healthy and finished with all-conference honors. Despite that, I know I could have done better. I gave it everything I had from August to November. Outside of those four months, I concentrated on other things. I wasn’t dedicated to improving my fitness or my diet. Instead of exponential growth, I had normal growth on par with the average teenage boy.

Football turns out to be an excellent analogy for the first forty years of my life. There were hints of the spectacular sprinkled in with the mostly average. I did what I had to do to scrape by but never took the time and effort to develop beyond that. But after forty or so years on intermittent sleeping, I finally woke up and realized I had to do a better job. I had to slow down on the reading of fiction, had to watch less television, and most importantly had to waste less time. I had to start living like every day could be my last, because we do not know what the future will bring, and every day could really be our last. I had to get busy with life’s purpose and that meant, I had to start working on my own development.

Your level of success will seldom exceed your level of personal development, because success is something you attract by the person you become.

Jim Rohn

I cannot count how many opportunities have passed me by. Why did they go by? I wasn’t ready for them. I didn’t have the qualifications. Things I could have easily taken the time to do but never did. And for all the opportunities that I saw, how many did I never see because they were too far out of my realm of possibility?

But then when I woke up out of this mundane stupor of going through the motions of life, when I got busy with life’s purpose, I noticed a change. Opportunities started presenting themselves that I never even considered. Possibilities began to sprout that were never even a consideration before. All because I raised my level of self-development.

How can you raise your level of self-development? Do a little more each day to improve your body, mind, and soul. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither was any of us. It might not be possible to turn the tide of our life in one day. But in one day, you could move the needle towards a little more progress. Start small. Steady, incremental change performed every day will become monumental over the years. The possibilities will be endless. Opportunities will come to you that you never imagined.


Feature photo by Ben Hershey on Unsplash

The Shortcut Is not the Way

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.

Designing Happiness

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.

Your Own Personal Treasure Island

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.

An aim in life is the only fortune worth finding.

Robert Louis Stevenson

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.

Going After Our Personal Legends

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.

Think, Talk, Feel –> Get

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.

Believe and You Can

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

Sailing to Heaven

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.

Super Brain quote for faith 5-15-20

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