Build the New

How much energy have I spent in reliving the past? It is a time locked in concrete and cannot be changed. All the “I wish I would have, could have, or should have” to no avail. What is done is done, yet so hard to be done with.

There are a few old computer programs I liked. They were familiar, therefore making it easier to use. But as technology improved, they became less appealing, buggier, and simply outdated. To keep those programs operating took more work and eventually the costs outweighed the benefits.

Like the computer programs, companies often struggle when they can’t adapt to the times. They held onto the old ways of doing business and got outpaced by their competitors. The “why fix it if it ain’t broke” mentality holds true, unless one is unaware that it is indeed broken.

The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.

Socrates

Companies that can build the new stay relevant.

Computer programs that are technologically with the times will outperform the legacy programs of yesterday.

And then, there is us. If we are constantly fighting the old, we will continuously find ourselves in a losing battle. Would it not be better for us to concentrate on building the new?

Mind, body, and spirit. If what we did in the past is no longer serving us, we would be better off building a new way to do things. It takes observation and analysis to build self-awareness. This is review of the past, not dwelling in the past. We must look to the future and plan a deviation from previously failed actions. This is strategy, not fantasy. It is in the present moment that the changes are made. Work on building the new, not fighting the old.

Within Oneself

Belief

I have a confession to make. I believe in myself. I believe I can achieve what I set out to do in life. This is my faith. I am an optimist when it comes to fulfilling my destiny. Better to be an optimist than a pessimist.

This does have a drawback. Sometimes I get so excited about my hopes for the future and how I intend to achieve it that I want to share with others. But as I learned in The Art of Impossible by Steven Kotler, telling others what I intend to do before I do it, prematurely sends dopamine to the brain. Because I imagined it and told others, I have tricked my brain into thinking it has already been accomplished. This makes doing the work even harder as the brain has already gotten the “high” it was looking for.*

Do I need to tell others? No. I have a belief in myself. That is enough. Therefore, I must temper my excitement. I must let go of the egotistical desire for aplomb. I don’t need to convince others of my plans. Instead, I must execute the plans.

Contentment

What makes me happy? Am I a dog that derives happiness from the approval of others? Happiness is internal. Being designed for action, I am happiest when I perform the work I was created to do. If I squander away my time, if I do nothing or get “busy” doing that which is outside of my life’s purpose, then my happiness wanes. Isn’t this true for all of us?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I do find joy in the success of others. If you are happy, then I am happy for you. But to be content with myself, I must do what God created me to do.

Acceptance

Approval is nice. So is acceptance. However, this also is internal. My conscience is intact. It knows what is right and wrong. If I violate it, it sends a message to the rest of my being that I am in a state of discord. If I repeatedly abuse my conscience and learn to dismiss its signal of disapproval, then I will nullify this beautiful tool designed for harmony. I am what I am. I am not what I am not. I can accept this. It is something I can work with. I hope the world can accept this. If not, then I apologize. For I cannot be anything other than what I am.

Because one believes in oneself, one doesn’t try to convince others. Because one is content with oneself, one doesn’t need other’s approval. Because one accepts oneself, the whole world accepts him or her.

Lao Tzu

We must look inward to find our peace, our harmony, and our happiness. Others cannot provide this for us. It is a task we must achieve on our own.


*While Latham and Locke originally believed that making your goal public increased motivation, a series of additional studies by NYU psychologist Peter Gollwitzer showed that talking about a goal significantly lessens your chances of achieving it. By giving voice to an aim, you’re creating what’s called a “social reality,” and this has negative consequences for real reality. The act of telling someone about your goal gives you the feeling that the goal’s already been achieved. It releases the dopamine you’re supposed to get afterward, prematurely. -Art of Impossible, Steven Kotler

Bound by Anxiety

I was living a nightmare. It was a bad rendition of George Thorogood’s “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer.” I was in my late 20’s. I had a decent job. But with all the debt I racked up from the Army, I was struggling to get by. Every cent I earned hardly covered my living expenses. It certainly was not enough to get ahead. I was miserable and saw no light at the end of the tunnel. Instead of buckling down and proactively doing something about my situation, I took what little money I had, bought some booze, and did my best to check out from reality.

I wanted to get better, yet I didn’t know how. I was stuck at the bottom of the pit I had dug for myself with no visible means of escape. Life was miserable. I was miserable.

Men are anxious to improve their circumstances, but are unwilling to improve themselves; they therefore remain bound. -James Allen

James Allen

My external situation was dire. The person I had become was one that I did not like. What I needed was a miracle. And that miracle, it was one that only I could provide. I needed an internal miracle. The process was slow. It began with letting go of the past, then I had to remove the shackles of an uncertain future, and finally I had to concentrate on the present.

To affect the external, one must look at correcting the internal. If not, one might remain bound by anxiety.


Feature photo by Nik Shuliahin on Unsplash

Thoughts Corresponding with Desire

Call it the Law of Attraction, the manifestation of desire, or simply faith. When it is set firmly in the mind, when the thoughts all but consume one’s soul, then it is only a matter of time before it becomes reality.

Our destiny changes with our thoughts; we shall become what we wish to become, do what we wish to do, when our habitual thoughts correspond with our desires.

Orison Swett Marden

I have no doubt this is true, but it has not always worked for me. Does it make it less true? Of course not. Then what went wrong? I failed to stay true to the course. Instead of one singular purpose fixed continuously in my mind, I deviated. I floated from one to the other and then to many more. I became a hobbyist dabbling in a multitude rather than an expert in the one. What good is faith in an undisciplined mind?

Now is the time to go back to the plan. I don’t need to rewrite it; I just need to execute it. I was not designed to be a multi-tasker, so I must stop pretending to be one. One focus, one task firmly and habitually set in my mind. That is enough to set the wheels in motion to becoming that which I desire.


Feature photo by Danica Tanjutco on Unsplash

Poor Trade-Offs

The man was tired. All day long, he had been working in his father’s fields. It was no easy chore, but as the oldest son, one day those fields would be his. The labor he performed on that day was well worth the reward he would have in the future.

When he got home, his brother, who had not been working in the fields, was in the kitchen making dinner. It was a stew prepared with lentils and fresh meat. The aroma from the stew and the fresh-baked bread was enough to drive the older son crazy. He asked his brother for some. The brother said yes on one condition: trade your birthright for the dinner. The older brother pleaded with him. He said if he didn’t eat soon, he was going to die. The younger sibling didn’t budge. Finally, the deal was made. For Jacob’s stew, Esau filled his belly and gave away his inheritance (Genesis 25:29-34).

For one morsel of food, he sold his birthright. -Hebrews 12:16

How many remember this story? Who could be so desperate to do such a thing? Esau’s father, Isaac, was probably one of the wealthiest in the area. Esau could have gone somewhere else to get food. He could have waited a little longer and made his own supper. But instead of holding out for the greater reward of his inheritance, he traded it away for the immediate gratification of filling his belly.

What a fool! And yet, how many times in my life have I done the same thing? How many times have I traded a better future for something insignificant? I call Esau a fool. I read the story as a kid. I knew what it was about. I did the same thing. Not once, but too many times to count. Who is the fool now?

True happiness…is not attained through self-gratification, but fidelity to a worthy purpose.

Helen Keller

Loyalty to a purpose. It is rather simple. The journey is not all interstate and smooth sailing. There are dirt roads and treacherous paths. The stops along the way are not designed to help us reach our destination. Instead, they are strategically placed to get us to stop, to stay. As enticing as they seem, would it not be better to keep on going?

Feature art: Esau Sold Jacob his Birthright and the Mess of Pottage by Matthias Stom

Destiny Found in Consistency

I am a big believer in destiny. I have faith that if I really go after something, then I can attain it. It is not a matter of if but a matter of when.

Take writing for example. There are some works that my soul has called me to write, yet they haven’t been completed. I believe they will get done in the future when the time is right (if I am fortunate enough to get to the future). Some may call this a fantasy, that I am living in a fairy tale. And if I was so remiss as to say, “I will get around to it someday,” then those naysayers would be correct. But what they don’t see is what I do daily. These stories are continuously in my mind. And every day, I work toward that end doing the research and honing my writing skills.

A consistent man believes in destiny, a capricious man in chance.

Benjamin Disraeli

There is a chance that these stories will never get written. I could die, become ill, or face some other tragedy. Those are all real possibilities. But writing what my soul has called me to write is no random toss of the dice. Maybe I will get lucky, and they become best sellers inspiring the masses. I hope it does, but that is not my motivation. I write because my soul tells me to write. This, I do every day. If I didn’t, I would not be listening to my heart. In the end, I will have accumulated quite a massive body of work. This I believe is destiny, but it can only be achieved through consistency.


Feature photo by Yannick Pulver on Unsplash

The Supreme Master of Art

We are each given a canvas at birth. The way we spend our days, each individual action, and every decision, is a brush stroke. The opportunities are before us. We can create masterpieces of beauty or brutish scenes of vulgarity. We can actively splash bright and vivid colors into our works or sit back and allow the muted grays and browns of the dullest nature to seep in.  Whether conscious or unconscious, we choose what to paint. We are the masters of our canvases, and the ones responsible for their completion.

But it doesn’t always seem that is the case. We are often our own worst enemies. We feel we have been given an infinite amount of time to complete our work. We push it off onto another day and choose leisure and recreation instead. Rather than tending to the garden of our lives, we allow the weeds to grow and choke out that which was once beautiful. However, we are still the masters of our works and our assignments due upon death, whether we feel we have completed them or not. Here, we must control the things that are in our control.

And yet sometimes, we encounter the things that are not in our control. We can allow these outside influences to halt the progress of our paintings, but that should not be the case. Each obstacle adds a new layer of complexity, and how we deal with it is the texture we add to the canvas. We can’t control the obstacles in our path, but we can control how we respond to them and how we can navigate them.

Only in man’s imagination does every truth find an effective and undeniable existence. Imagination, not invention, is the supreme Master of Art, as of life.

Joseph Conrad

Imagination. This is the supreme Master of Art. Albert Einstein said, “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” If we can dream it, we can achieve it. And if we can achieve it, then we truly become the artists we were meant to be.


Feature photo by Rifqi Ali Ridho on Unsplash

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