Growth and Progress

We hope for the best. Usually that means improving at something, achieving a victory, or being successful. To keep your hope intact, you have to grow. You have to make progress.

What can you do today to improve your tomorrow? Mind, body, soul. This is the trifecta you need to develop.

Mind: What are you reading? What are you learning? Knowledge. Understanding. Wisdom.

Body: Use it or lose it. Objects in motion tend to stay in motion. The opposite is true as well unless you break the trend. Discipline. Temperance.

Soul: You have to train your heart. Courage. Bravery. Perseverance.

Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning. –Benjamin Franklin

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.

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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.

Building Impossibilities

Hope 12/21/2019

Think of all the things that are an integral part of our lives. All the gadgets and technology that we can’t live without. We couldn’t even imagine those things existing a few years ago. Back then, that technology was considered impossible. Now, it is the norm.

Unless it was an accident, the impossible wasn’t created overnight. They were created by regular people going about their business and doing the things they believed were necessary. They worked within the bounds of reason and continued to build upon their foundations. One step led to another. And then, they were doing what was previously impossible.

The impossible is daunting and seems so far away, yet we are all capable of achieving it. Start small and then build. Keep building. Keep adapting. Make the plans, build the foundation, and then see how far you can go with it. It could take months, years, decades, or even more.

It starts with the seedlings of hope. It’s coupled with action and a relentless pursuit towards the goal. The impossible can become real. It can be done, and it can be done by you.

Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible. –St. Francis of Assisi

Letters to TS #2: Hope Tied to Health

Hope 12/14/2019

Letters to TS #2: Hope Tied to Health

In our last conversation, you stated that you wanted to look like you did ten years ago. “Hot” was the word I think you used for yourself back then. But after a decade of heavy drinking, the alcohol has left its mark on you.

You’ve gone two months in between drinks, and now you are beating yourself up over your last episode. You embarrassed yourself. The hangover lasted two days, but its memory is still very fresh in your mind. You feel miserable right now, and it is warranted. But there is also a positive here. You went two months. When was the last time you went that long? And if you can do two months, how long can you go until your next drink?

There was one thing that bothered me in our conversation. We know you are running away from alcohol, but are you running toward anything? What do you have driving you forward into the future? Do you have any goals other than to stop drinking? Do you have a purpose?

You have a ten year-old picture reminding you of what you used to look like. You blame the alcohol for the way you look now. You are right. It deserves some of the credit, but it goes far beyond that. As an alcoholic, you tend to justify too many things. And when it comes to being healthy, you can’t justify a poor diet or a lack of physical activity. You can’t be both an alcoholic and healthy. And even though there are some that seem to be both, one behavior will eventually be sacrificed for the other.

My friend, you need to run towards a healthy life. You need to visualize the life you could have if it wasn’t tied to the bottle. Once you have that picture burned into your mind, you need to let it consume your every waking desire. You may never look like you did ten years ago, but you could look good again. You could feel good again. No longer would you be dumbly and drunkenly walking toward your grave. Instead, you would be making the most of this precious time you have left on this earth. Fight for your health and find the hope that comes in the pursuit. It is that hope that will light your path in the future.

Always your friend, TF.

He who has health has hope; and he who has hope, has everything. –Thomas Carlyle

The Skeleton Keys #2: Hope in Yourself

Hope 11/23/2019

America, the land of opportunity. It is the reason so many come to this country. They want a better life than what is possible by staying in their own countries. Here is a chance to live the rags to riches story. Here is the chance for success that they dream of.

This is why my father’s ancestors came to America in the late 1600’s. It is why my mother’s family, fleeing from religious persecution and the threat of communism, came over 300 years later in the late 1960’s. They wanted the freedom to pursue a better life, and not just for them but for their families and their future generations.

As a kid, I didn’t understand the sacrifices that were made by those who went before me. I saw the “have’s” who had more than me and considered myself a “have-not.” It was foolish, but I was young. I imagined all the things I could do if I came from a wealthy family. The aristocrats I read about in my books filled my imagination as well. It is amazing to think there was a time when people got a stipend for having a title in front of their name. Why couldn’t this have been me?

We live in a time when we can peek into the lives of celebrities and stars. We see the where they are today, but we don’t always see how they got there. Some were born with silver spoons in their mouths. Others had to earn it. It is these others that we should really look at. How did they get to where they are today?

This week, I listened to an interview with Shaun White on the Ed Mylett Show. This was the second interview I have listened to with Shaun White and was amazed to hear about his childhood. His family wasn’t wealthy. They made a lot of sacrifices so that Shaun and his siblings could get to the mountains. Where he is today wasn’t handed to him on a silver platter. He had to earn it. He was willing to learn by watching the best until he became the best himself. He is a beneficiary of the America our forefathers imagined. Very little stands in the way of the one who has faith in the future and is willing to work for it.

That some achieve great success, is proof to all that others can achieve it as well. –Abraham Lincoln

All through history, and not only in America, do we see the success some are able to achieve despite the circumstances of their childhoods. So many come from very little but are able to attain to great heights. Once again as a youth, I didn’t believe this was something available to me. What a fool! As I get older and continue to work on myself, I now have a different belief. I have a belief that I can do anything that I put my mind to and am willing to work for. If others can do it, so can I.

The first part of this skeleton key to success is to pray mightily and work hard. The second part is to have an unwavering hope in your own self. You have to believe you can do it. If the others can, so can you!

My son, do not think I have forgotten about you. These words are not just for me, but they are for you as well. Our family blood runs strong and the desire for the success of future generations continue to this day. You must believe in your abilities and work to cultivate them. Others can guide you, but they cannot do the work for you. You will have to find your own path and then walk it for yourself.

The virtues of faith, hope, and love make up these keys able to open any door closed to you. Two keys have been discussed, the third is next.

Better Than Planned

Hope 11/16/2019

My friend started in the restaurant industry as a means to support himself through college. First a server, then a bartender. A few more years and then an assistant manager. The cost to get a doctorate in Psychology was too much. My friend stayed in the restaurant industry and is now a general manager for one of the busiest stores in his corporation. He planned on being a psychologist. Last week he said, “I never planned on being in the service industry over the last twenty years.” These days, I think he has resigned himself to be working in it until he retires. It is a lot of stress and hours, but there could be worse alternatives. And we never know what the next chapter in our life entails. What he is doing now could be preparing him for a future he never planned.

Maybe I was fortunate or just plain stupid. Growing up, I never really had a plan. I skipped around in college changing degree programs based on whatever whim I had at the time. There was no difference in my professional life either. I was a soldier, retail manager, manufacturing associate with a sprinkling of a few others in between. I plan to keep on writing. As a profession? I’m not sure. Maybe someday, but right now I’ll continue working my 40 hours and write in my spare time. I am not much different than my friend. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring or what is around the corner.

I am an ambitious person, and I do have plans. Will they come to fruition? I don’t know, but I am going to do the work and see what happens. I’m going to keep walking the path that I think is the right way to go, but I am also going to be flexible. My current stage in life might only be a stepping stone to a future I never imagined. If I get too caught up in my own plans, I might not see the better life that is in store for me.

As for my friend, I hope he does the same. This isn’t what you dreamed of all those years ago, but it is only one stage of your life. Cherish the experiences. Learn from them. See the opportunities as they come and make the most of them. They may take you away from what you planned and direct you toward the life waiting for you.

We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us. –Joseph Campbell

Believe It Is Possible

Hope 11/2/2019

Alec has been going to a new gym over the last couple of months. With no boys’ gymnastics class available in our area, he has moved to parkour. His coach teaches gymnastics as well, and she is demanding some very technical skills from him that he has not had to do before. Even cartwheels, which once were very easy for him, are now nearly impossible for him with the form his coach is requiring. It is tough for him, and his Czech coach does not coddle him like his previous coaches had done in the past. She is actually harder on him than she is on the other students. Why? Because he is the only one in the class with a gymnastics background.

He is frustrated. He is trying, but he has not yet mastered these new skills. Of course it is not impossible, but it sure seems like it to him.

We constantly witness feats which seemed impossible only a few years ago. Remember the Miracle on Ice? The Soviet hockey team could not lose, but they did. Or how about those smart watches? They would make James Bond drool. Yesterday’s miracles are today’s norm. But for all the great feats we see achieved by the modern day titans of our time, do we ever stop to consider that we have the ability to do the impossible too? Why can’t it be you or me that does the next great thing? After all, we are the masters of our own unique skills and traits.

Alec might think that those gymnastic tricks are impossible now, but they won’t be impossible forever. He has to believe it can be done, he has to practice diligently, and he has to grow in his confidence and strength. If it is humanly possible, then he can do it. So can you.

Not to assume the impossible because you find it hard. But to recognize that it it’s humanly possible, you can do it too. –Marcus Aurelius

Keep Dreaming

Hope 10/19/2019

I have been thinking about dreams lately. My dreams at night have become more and more vivid. Not only vivid, but stimulating enough to activate my mind and keep it awake for several hours afterwards. This is a bummer if I have only been asleep for ten minutes, which is what happened to me earlier in the week.

I have a friend in Ireland who told me about her recurring dreams. I am in her dreams, but in them I refuse to climb up a mountain with her. It reminds of me of my own recurring dreams. I used to love those types of dreams, because I always woke up feeling like a completed the next chapter of a book. And though my dreams are very different than my friend’s, they have one thing in common. They are both completely random. On that day at that particular time, the mind pulled that dream out of nowhere, allowed it to run its course, and then casually placed it back in the hidden closet from which it came. The sleeping dream is completely random. And try as you might, you have no ability to influence its outcome.

All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. –T.E. Lawrence

I used to spend more time thinking about my sleeping dreams than I ever did on my waking dreams. What a shame, because I was focusing on something I had no control over. Why focus on something I can’t control, when I could focus on the things I can control. One is magical in that you can’t control it or touch it. You can only watch it and hope the story turns out good. The other is magical in a totally different sense. You can imagine it, shape it, and write your own narrative. You can control it from the beginning and even see it through to its completion. The waking dream that becomes reality is truly magical, and the magician is the dreamer who chooses to keep her eyes open.

“Dream lofty dreams, and as you dream, so shall you become. Your vision is the promise of what you shall one day be.” –James Allen

I’ll Step Aside While You Create

Hope 10/12/2019

Alec loves to draw. He loves to fold paper into different shapes. But after countless boats, airplanes, paper wallets, and swords, my wife and I told him to stop wasting all that paper. Looking back on it, I am starting to think the cease and desist order was a mistake.

Alec wants to be a creator. He wants to imagine something and then make it come to life. Is this not the same thing I try to do? No one, at least anyone I ever paid attention to, has told me to stop writing. Why should I tell him to do so? Because he is wasting paper? I waste paper every day on little notes to myself. I could do a better job of conservation, but I never do. I save my conservation efforts for plastic. Besides, paper has probably never been cheaper in any other time in human history.

What if Alec’s dream is to be an artist? What if it is to be an origami instructor? Who am I to derail his dreams? Instead, I should honor his dream and encourage him to go after it.

My son, let your imagination run wild. Fly and see where that freedom will take you.

The man who has no imagination has no wings. –Muhammad Ali

Are You Really Too Old?

Hope 9/23/2019

Have you ever heard someone say they are too old to do something? After hearing it, you look at the person and try to qualify the statement. If he is older, you would think his statement makes sense. It he is not very old, then you wonder if age is really the issue. 

Why would someone make such a statement regardless of age? Is it a mental or physical limitation, or is it a lack of confidence? And if you are the one making the statement, is this the end of road for you? Are your dreams to be left in the pipe, only fleeting with no substance?

Saying you are too old to do something may have started in the physical realm. That feat you could perform twenty years ago is no longer possible. It is understandable. Age creeps up on all of us. The motivation to stay in shape has fallen off, your flexibility has diminished, and that beautiful silence you enjoyed while moving has been replaced with a bunch of clicks and pops. In today’s world anyone over thirty seems to get a pass. You have moved into over-the-hill status and are preparing for the empty nest.

Once you start believing you are too old physically, how long before you start to think you are too old mentally? When will you start thinking you can’t learn new things? When will the click and pops of your body makes it way to your brain, causing you to be mentally fatigued, sluggish, and unable to grasp new concepts? Is it only a matter of time before you are a mindless zombie perched in front of the television or hunkered down before your phone endlessly scrolling for the next high found in a cute or heart-warming picture?

Such a scenario might seem a little too extreme, but it is happening more often. If you don’t want this to be you, what can you do?

-Stay fit. You don’t have to do a lot, but you should at least do a little something. If it means going out for a walk or taking the stairs, do it. Build yourself up so that down the road your friends won’t leave you behind on the next adventure.

-Get curious. Continue to learn new things and keep that mind of yours active. Technology is only going to continue accelerating into the next phase. If you don’t keep up, you will be the one that the younger generation is staring at in amazement because you still take three minutes to send a quick text on your flip phone.

You can shoot for the sky, develop a plan to get there, and take the next actionable step needed. The possibilities are endless as long as you don’t set limitations on your goals and dreams, and you don’t handicap yourself along the way by being physically or mentally sedentary.

Get after it friends!

You are never too old to set another goal or dream a new dream. –C.S. Lewis