From the Beginning to the End

There is something beautiful about beginning a new adventure. The muse comes down and inspires the young hero to go on a quest. The way is unknown and holds great peril to the unsuccessful. But to the victor comes all the rewards: love, riches, and reputation. To the hero, it is a journey that is both noble and romantic. The only choice is to go forth and rescue the maiden, slay the dragon, and save the world. Therefore, the hero takes the first step.

The following steps are not so easy as the first one. Our hero encounters villains that have nothing to do with the quest but to cause mischief, doubters and naysayers that ridicule and scorn, and temptations that lure the young hero into complacency. The first step was exciting and full of hope. Every step after that was tedious and required an incredible amount of work just to take the next step.

Great is the art of beginning, but greater is the art of ending.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

We all have had our hero’s journey. Some of us might even be in one now. The journey could be losing ten pounds, quitting smoking, and finishing school. Whether big or small, it is important to us. It was great that we made the decision. Taking the first step was commendable. Unfortunately, there is no glory in only beginning the journey. Hope will wane as the trials begin. But we should not be faint of heart. The trials will make us stronger. It will make the prize at the end of the road even more precious. Great was the beginning, but greater still is the crossing of the finish line.

Every Meal Is…

I walk into the closet and over to the safe. I punch in the numbers on the keypad, turn down the handle, and open the door. The heavy stuff at the bottom is the gold. On top of it is a wad of cash. These are mostly small bills and are not neatly stacked. On the top shelf is a few scratch-off lottery tickets.

The gold is the long-term currency that I won’t touch. This is the foundation upon which I build.

The paper money is nice to have, but in time I will burn through it. It is the fluff in the safe. It takes up more space than necessary.

The lottery tickets are even more volatile than the cash. Most likely, they will end up in the trash. But they also provide a nice rush of dopamine. Though the chances are slim, there is always the possibility of the hitting the big winner.

[Note: The above is only an illustration. There is no safe in my closet. It is not currently in my budget.]

Every meal is… A short-term investment in how you feel and perform, a mid-term investment in how you look, and a long-term investment in your freedom from disease.

Alan Aragon

Every meal and snack you eat is the currency in which we operate. Our bodies are the safes.

The short-term investment is the calorie-dense, nutrition deficient food we consume. This is the fast food, processed foods, desserts, and high calorie beverages. They are designed to be visually appealing, exceptionally tasty, and engineered to keep us coming back for more. Like the old Lay’s commercial, “No one can eat just one.” These short-term investments are the culinary roller coasters taking us through the metabolic highs and the inevitable lows. They are the lottery tickets in the safe.

Our mid-term investments are the foods that can help us get to where we want to go. They provide a stable fuel source. This is the cash in the safe. We can trade the cash for more lottery tickets or exchange it for gold. As we go, the fuel gets burned. If it doesn’t get burned (action), the body will find a way to store it (fat). If we only hold onto the cash, it will be like the fluff in the safe taking up more real estate than we desire.

The long-term investments are the well-balanced and nutrient dense foods we consume. They will be used by the body to improve the foundation and infrastructure. The body will not waste this but use it to its advantage. There is no roller coaster and no burn through with this. This is our gold.

Buying lottery tickets is a risky investment. Maybe during the high, we will hit on something big. But remember, most lottery winners will eventually end up where they began if they don’t end up worse off. The cash is nice but holding onto it forever does us no good. What we want to do is resist the urge to buy the lottery tickets and trade our cash for gold. Acquiring gold requires discipline. It means we must forego the urge to invest in the short-term and minimize our mid-term holdings. The gold is a precious metal that will hold its value and give us a stable foundation for the future.

Every meal is an investment. How much we get on our returns is up to us.

We, the Sculptors

Candi Sambisari

In 2003, I saw my first Hindu temple in Indonesia. From the horizon, I couldn’t see anything. But standing at the edge of the complex, I could look down and see the whole structure. It looked like the builders created it from top to bottom, excavating and carving the solid stone beneath their feet. I was amazed at the beauty and complexity. I was amazed at the genius of the designer.

I have always loved looking at the old marble statues of antiquity. I can’t imagine the foresight and skill it took for Michelangelo to create his David from a solid block of marble that he chiseled away until he completed the image from his mind. The temple at Sambisari was no different only on a much larger scale.

Sculpture by Escultor Victor Hugo Yañez Piña

Many of us have seen the above image. Personally, I find it to be one of the most powerful impressions of what is possible. From the beginning, we see a misshapen lump of mass. Yet in the mind’s eye of the man inside is a vision of what could be. it is a vision so clear and so vivid to him. Tirelessly, he carves away the parts of him that is neither desired nor needed. This he will do until he can achieve the image he desires.

This has been my own personal vision for myself. In the beginning of my fitness journey, I was holding onto a large amount of undesirable mass. However, in my mind, I had a vision of something entirely different. Therefore, I began to shape and chisel away. I am not where I want to be yet, but I am working on it. Someday, I will finish this sculpture.

We are all sculptors and painters, and our material is our own flesh and blood and bones.

Henry David Thoreau

We have all heard that our body is a temple. To build that temple, we must imagine what the final product will look like. Once we have a vision, we can make the plans and then do the work. It is up to us to decide how spectacular and beautiful we want it to be. We are the sculptors.

Primal Union

Guard your senses.

Smelling something bad, my first instinct is to move away from the odor. If it is toxic, I could be in danger. Otherwise, it is just unpleasant. Our noses are a first line of defense that would be unwise to ignore.

If it smells bad, it is probably not a good idea to eat it. If it tastes bad, spitting it out would be preferable to swallowing it. Taste, like smell, is a protective measure designed for our safety.

Touch, like the other two senses, is a protective measure. The skin holds everything in and is designed to keep the unwanted out. Pain is a fantastic indicator of a break in the system.

That leaves hearing and sight. Over-exposure can cause irreparable damage. Like the other major senses, they send their signals to the brain. However, hearing and sight are gateways to the soul. If we do not guard what we hear and see, we can allow unwanted and potentially dangerous messages to penetrate our inner beings and expose us to subtle toxins.

Temper your sharpness.

If it is sharp, it is designed to penetrate and cut. It is a weapon that can hurt ourselves and others. Our weapons are our words and actions. Lacking discipline, our sharpness will leave pain in its wake.

Think of a swordsman. Any fool can pick up a sword without regard to the damage it can cause. But a master knows its power and will only use it in times of dire need.

Mask your brightness.

There is a great light within each of us. It is my pride that would cause me to shine my light on those unwilling to see it. If I become so bright, others will either turn away or attempt to dim it. They will only see and hear the things they choose.

I can attempt to mask my brightness with humility. Therefore, others can choose of their own accord whether to see my light.

Be at one with the earth.

To be at one with the earth is to live in harmony. The instrumentalist that cannot maintain harmony will not get the chair in the orchestra. The team member that sows discord will eventually get thrown out of the office. We are a part of this universe. We are a member of our community, a community that will live long after we are no more.

We are the catalysts for a better tomorrow. To be at one with this earth, we must be the stewards that ensure that work is done.

Guard your senses. Temper your sharpness. Mask your brightness. Be at one with the earth. This is primal union.

Lao Tzu

Primal Union

How do we achieve primal union? We must become the people we were intended to be. we cannot do this if we cannot guard our senses. If we cut and injure others, who would be willing to come close to us? If we think that shining the repulsive light of our pride on others will attract them to us, then we are mistaken. And if we cannot  be in harmony with the universe, then we will get greased like a squeaky wheel.

Your Evolution

My first experience with the study of evolution was a poster on the wall. I would lie in bed and stare at the pictures. Each generation was a little sleeker and a little better. In the early years, the advancements were slow. Oh, the design elements were fantastic. However, the technology was not all there. It took years to get up to speed. And when it did, oh man, it came in the blink of an eye. What led to this evolution? It was a creator with a vision and a team that could bring that vision to life. The poster I had on my wall back in 1988 was the evolution of the Chevrolet Corvette.

My next experience with evolution came from the history books. It wasn’t the theorized evolution of what might have happened, but the actual evolution of mankind from the iron ages to the technological marvels we see today. In the beginning, progress was slow. Changes occurred in thousand-year increments. Then around the Renaissance, progress sped up to the century pace. Next, we progressed from decades to annual improvements. Finally, we come to the present where advancements come faster than we can keep up. What was new yesterday is almost a dinosaur compared to what is new today.

We are the facilitators of our own creative evolution.

William “Bill” Hicks

Do I believe in evolution? Yes, though not in the same sense many profess to believe. We live in a highly evolved world, vastly different today than it was 10,000 years ago. Traditional evolutionists would say one leap takes millions of years. That is beyond my ability to calculate. What I see is progress coming slow in the beginning and exponential growth now.

Of all the places where I hope my personal theory in evolution proves true is within myself. My growth started out slow. How long did it take me to master basic tasks as a child, teen, or as a young adult? As I continue to learn, things are speeding up in my middle years. I have not let off on the throttle of my personal growth. I can only imagine what the possibilities will be as I continue to move forward, as I continue to evolve.

Feature photo by Johannes Plenio on Unsplash

Strong Body, Beautiful Body

Some say the body is a temple. Yet like the body, not all temples are the same.  Some are carved out of abandoned shopping centers, while others are magnificent structures designed to glorify the Deity it represents.

All temples began the same way. A dream and a vision, the clearing of ground, and then the work to build the structure. Once completed, it became a place of worship and spirituality.

It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.

Socrates

At forty-seven years of age, I still look in the mirror and imagine what my body can become. I can’t control my height, facial structure, or any of the odd features I was born with. Instead, I can only try to control the things within my power. I can make what I can control beautiful and strong. My temple holds my heart and my spirit. Therefore, I work to make it a worthy structure fit for a child of God. While on the earth, this body is the only I have, and I treat it with the reverence it deserves.

How is your temple coming along? It would be a shame to grow old and never be able to see the beauty and strength it is capable of achieving.


Feature photo by Jade Stephens on Unsplash.

Ambition and Perseverance

We are at Point A. This point is different for all of us. It could be horrible or just okay. But whatever it is, it is not Point B. Point B is where we really want to be. This is the green grass on the other side of the hill. And like our Point As, all our Point Bs are different.

To be successful in this life, we need a Point B. If we are going to get where we want to go, we must have an aim.  We need a coordinate to plug into our GPS. A map is good. It will show us the way to get where we want to go. However, a GPS is an upgrade that can give us a quicker route, keep us updated of traffic conditions, and let us know of any obstacles to avoid.  A GPS is real-time feedback.

A book will get you down the road, but can it compare to a good mentor?

If you are new to fitness and wanting to get in shape, imagine how much time a personal trainer can save you.

Ambition is the path to success. Persistence is the vehicle you arrive in.

Bill Bradley

Ambition is the path. It points to our intended destination. And persistence is a vehicle, albeit an incomplete one. Persistence is an unrelenting pursuit  from A to B. On a map, it would be as the crow flies. Instead of taking the road up the mountain with all the switchbacks and additional length, it is going straight up and through the cliffs, streams, and forest.

Persistence is when someone comes up with a possible solution to a task or problem and then stubbornly sticks to that process, regardless of whether it’s flawed or inefficient.

Rich Diviney, The Attributes: 25 Hidden Drivers of Optimal Performance

According to Diviney, persistence is one third of the more desirable attribute of perseverance. What are the other two?

Tenacity also means formulating a solution to a problem, but then constantly assessing its effectiveness.

Fortitude is the mental or emotional strength, or both, that allows a person to persevere.

Rich Diviney, The Attributes: 25 Hidden Drivers of Optimal Performance

Persistence is good, but it is not enough to get to where we want to go. We need tenacity when persistence won’t work. We need fortitude because life is a battle, and we must be able to endure the strains it puts upon us. To get to where we want to go, we need ambition and perseverance.


Feature photo by Tamas Tuzes-Katai on Unsplash

Just Say No

No. When I say it to my son, he gets upset. He doesn’t like it because his request is something he wants at the time. But what kind of parent would I be if I said yes every time?

People don’t like hearing the word no. They believe their request is reasonable. What they are asking is to their benefit. To tell them no is inconvenient for them.

It’s only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important. -Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs

If I am always saying yes, then I find an inability to get my own work done. It is difficult because I want to be nice. I want to be helpful. But doing so keeps me away from my goals, goals which are designed to benefit me and my family. I must learn to say no.

Maybe not for everything. Certainly not if I have nothing else going on.

Over the last few weeks, I have realized just how far behind I am. I had too many irons in the fire and was not making any progress on any of them. Would this have happened if I said no more often?

“No, I cannot watch your dogs, so you can have a spa day.”

“No, I can’t go to the winery for an afternoon of drinking and socializing.”

No. It is not that hard to say. I just need to get better at saying it.


Feature photo by Andy T on Unsplash

Today Is What Matters Most

What if there was a 70% chance you were going to die sometime at the end of the day? How would you go about your day? Would you approach it any differently?

Obviously, with a 70% chance, you couldn’t just throw it all in the wind, burn all your bridges, and go out with a bang. After all, there is still a 30% chance you would get to see the next day. But if you were given those odds, would you:

  • Spend a little more time the things that matter,
  • Hold your loved ones a little closer, or
  • Reflect a little more on the beautiful?

Each morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.

Buddha

This morning I am born again. I may still hear the echo of yesterday, but I can no longer change the sound. It is buried in the past. Tomorrow has not yet arrived. As a matter of fact, tomorrow may never come at all. With yesterday gone and tomorrow not guaranteed, all I have is today. All I have is this moment right now. I can affect this. I can do all the things I should have done yesterday. I can do all the things I hoped to leave for tomorrow. I can do this now as if my next breath were to be my last.


Feature photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Act in Accordance with Thinking

Consider these words from Alan Watts: A person who thinks all the time has nothing to think about except thoughts, so he loses touch with reality and lives in a world of illusions.

I’m a thinker. Not one of those ground-breaking scientists or a philosophical savant, but I do like to think. Maybe, a little too much. Maybe, even so much that I often have little to show for it.

I believed this was a good thing. Aren’t we supposed to use our heads, to be more thoughtful? The thinking part is easy. It requires little effort. Unfortunately, that’s where it goes wrong. If you want more than thoughts and live in the world of reality, then you must do something with all that thinking.

“By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground…”

Genesis 3:19

The hard part is work. that requires effort. It requires movement and action. Often, manual labor is looked upon as base and work fit for only the unintelligent unable to use their heads. If asked, many would rather work in an office than on a factory floor. They would rather use a keyboard than a wrench.

Working in a factory, I have done jobs that have required minimal brain power. If you repeat a process enough times, it will soon become second nature. I loved this type of work because it was a form of escapism. My brain could wander free without having to concentrate on the task at hand. Maybe, it was because the thinking was the easy part. I could disconnect from the hard labor. But even so, there was still a disconnect. Something was still missing.

To think is easy. To act is hard. But the hardest thing in the world is to act in accordance with your thinking.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

To act in accordance with your thinking is something only a few can do. Imagine the possibilities if we could all do this.

Feature photo by Magnet.me on Unsplash