First Words

The first words we choose to speak in a day, give insight into the state of our hearts and minds.

I was watching the sun rise through the window of our living room this weekend, and it was as if something had lit the sky ablaze. The sky changed from soft gray to a blazing orange surrounded by purple, and I felt blessed and encouraged once again as I do with each sunrise. A sunrise greets the day with hope, the promise to rise again holds true each day. As I sat in the orange glow, it occurred to me that how we choose to greet each day can have an immense impact on those around us as well how we choose to view the day ahead.

Most of my days starts with silence, as I am usually the first one awake. In this silence I get a chance to choose my state of mind. Will I greet the day with a grateful heart, or will I choose a less positive path? In these times of silence, we are formulating the trajectory for our day, and choosing the lens through which we will see the day ahead. Entitlement or humility? Compassion or hate? The line that separates these dichotomies can be very thin at times depending on our filter for the day.

I want to be as committed and steadfast as the sun. It does not matter if the skies are clear or cloudy; the sun will arrive and shed light to the best of it’s ability.

When my oldest daughter wakes, she is usually greeted with kindness and calmness. We have a mellow morning before she is off to school and I am off to work; and the days with each other start pleasant. As we part ways I feel peace, because I see and feel the reciprocation of that positive attitude that I put forth. But there have been times when I had chosen to see the day through a lens of self centeredness or grumpiness, and in those times I could see and feel the reciprocation of what I put forth; and as we had parted ways, I felt restlessness rather than peace.

As the day goes on, I will continue to have first encounters with people; I have a choice as to what my first words to each person will be. Will I choose to encourage and inquire on their well-being, or will I choose to say something unimportant and somewhat negative like? There is not a need for the first words to be deep wells of wisdom or philosophy, they can be as simple as good day or how are you doing today? There is weight to those first words, because they can set the stage for the direction of our attitude; and they can set a trajectory for someone else’s day. If we put forth negativity, we will likely receive negativity; and we negate our responsibility to this life to be a source of light and hope.

As with most areas of life in which we want to succeed, there needs to be a goal or mission that you are working towards that guides our decisions. Whether we simply choose a few words (compassion, hope, inspiration, etc.), or have a declaration that states our intentions; there needs to be something in place if we wish to be intentional about our impact. I would like to end this article with some words from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. regarding this idea of a blueprint for life.

Now each of you is in the process of building the structure of your lives, and the question is whether you have a proper, a solid and a sound blueprint.

I want to suggest some of the things that should begin your life’s blueprint. Number one in your life’s blueprint, should be a deep belief in your own dignity, your worth and your own somebodiness. Don’t allow anybody to make you fell that you’re nobody. Always feel that you count. Always feel that you have worth, and always feel that your life has ultimate significance.

Secondly, in your life’s blueprint you must have as the basic principle the determination to achieve excellence in your various fields of endeavor. You’re going to be deciding as the days, as the years unfold what you will do in life — what your life’s work will be. Set out to do it well.

“And finally, and finally, in your life’s blueprint, must be a commitment to the eternal principles of beauty, love, and justice….However young you are, you have a responsibility to seek to make your nation a better nation in which to live. You have a responsibility to seek to make life better for everybody. And so you must be involved in the struggle of freedom and justice.”

This is an example of intentional living. Value yourself, work hard, and be committed to beauty, love, and justice. What will our blueprint be? What words will guide our days? What story are we choosing to write? Be as committed and steadfast as the sun, and rise to greet each day, as well as the people in it, with an intentionality to make the day a little brighter.

Healing in progress

Two weeks ago, I was about 6 miles into a 20 mile trail run; and I came across this sign: Healing in progress, stay on designated trails. Wow, did that statement ever hit home.

I had been stressed out lately trying to balance life, while pushing towards goal completion. Work demanded a lot from me, our house project demanded a lot from me, my youngest daughter was now entering dress week for her play that she had been working on for the last four months, and my other daughter is entering her pre-teen years (which is a wild ride all of it’s own as a parent). I was trying to stay mindful of my role as father and husband, and oh yeah…I signed up for a 20 mile trail race a couple of months ago.

These are all good things, but spreading yourself thin can set you up for failure if you are not intentional about your commitment to the goal.

If work is demanding a lot from me, then I must be doing something right. The house project is a gift and a privilege in and of itself, but it takes some serious mental grit to keep grinding on it after work and on the weekends.

My daughter has found a true passion for the theater which brings joy to my heart. My other daughter is still searching for something to commit to,  and I would run myself ragged for my kids if it enables them to pursue their dreams.

Being a husband and a father takes commitment and time too. I want my wife to know that she is valued, that she is important enough to me that I am willing to put in the work to develop a strong mind. She is an encourager, a hard worker, and she has mental grit.

I came across this statement from Bear Grylls in the book Tribe of Mentors by Tim Ferris (pg. 231)

“Hold tight, focus the effort, dig deeper, and never give up. It isn’t rocket science but it’s hard, as most people, when it gets tough start to look around for an excuse or a different tactic. often, though, when it starts to get tough, all it requires is for you to get tougher and hold on. The magic bit is that when it gets like this, it often means you are near the end goal! One big heave of focus, dedication, and grit, and you often pop out the other end. Look around you, though, and you see that most people are gone – they gave up in that final bit of hurting.”

I write this morning as I near the end goal of this Spring stretch. My daughter’s final performance was last night. We completed a major milestone at work. We are laying floors and installing cabinets in our addition; which means that the end goal is near. I finished my 20 mile race a couple of weeks ago, and left it all on the course. I have been trying to give 100% in all areas of life, and it has not been easy; but it is a challenge that is worth the effort.

Back to the beginning of this blog. Healing in progress, stay on desgnated trails.

The sign I saw on the side of the trail during that race impacted me deeply. It helped propel me to a new level of awareness during that race. I realized that the pain I was feeling, the hours ahead, the sweat on my brow; were all part of something I needed…healing. I embraced that I was doing something I truly loved. I went into that race overwhelmed,  with no real time to train for it (other than eating a lot and drinking beer); but I found myself being renewed.

As the pain in my body increased over the 3.5 hours, and my feet began to throb with each step; I knew I was being refined. I would leave this race stronger, both physically and mentally.  I would be able to go back home and work hard, and I knew that a resilience was being built in me.

 

The Struggle is a Privilege

Have you ever found yourself impacted by a quote or statement?

“I love a good quote.” – Me

I am constantly looking for tid bits of wisdom in blogs or books, or listening for them in conversations and presentations. Whether it’s inspiration or insight, I find that words can have a great impact.

I was downtown with a friend at a local coffee shop, just talking about life’s happenings; and we got on the topic of how much change takes place in middle schoolers as the journey of identity and physical change takes place. There is such an internal struggle to understand why we are the way we are, who we are supposed to be, how we want to dress, how we want to be perceived, and so on. That was a long time ago for me, but my daughter is just entering that phase of life.

As we discussed the struggle for self discovery, he said,”The struggle is a privilege.”

He went on to explain that our society and culture allow for us to have these teenage years to fumble through finding our identity. There are kids around the world who do not get the time to figure things out, because necessity draws them into work or affiliation to survive. There are many kids in America even, who do not get a chance to complete high school before duty and survival calls upon them.

“The struggle is a privilege.”

I have not been able to kick this phrase since I heard it, and I do not want to forget it. These words bring perspective. These words flip the world upside down. This phrase has been challenging me lately, because I have been struggling and stressed. I have felt like somewhat of a failure in some regards, feeling like I am mediocre at best in all parts of my life; instead of focusing in on each opportunity to the best of my ability.

Yet in the midst of the whirlwind, I remember “the struggle is a privilege.”

I can now step back for a moment as I remember this phrase, and I can see that though I feel spread thin; I am spread thin over opportunities, beauty, love, investments, and chosen commitments. Each one is something to be thankful for. So, can I put these words into action? Yes. I can, I am, and I will.

Complaining about what needs to be done, is time wasted; time that could have been used to actually accomplish something. This time could be used to establish a positive mindset about the path before me. The minutes and hours spent in downheartedness; I believe they were necessary to get me here, because it was a real feeling. It is usually when we get close to the bottom, that we finally reach out. Like in the movie  What about Bob? I am starting with baby steps towards who I need to be, and what I need to do.

So, if you find yourself weighed down with the expectations laid upon you; stay true, stay focused, and realize that “The struggle is a privilege.”

 

 

 

 

 

The Life we Live

“If you look at what you have in life, you’ll always have more. If you look at what you don’t have in life, you’ll never have enough.” —Oprah Winfrey

I stumbled across this quote while searching for inspiration one morning.

They are simple words put into a simple phrase, yet they hold a deep wisdom. The less is more philosophy is as old as time, and it is as relevant as ever. Here are some of the areas of life we can apply these words:

Possessions. This one is obvious, but it always needs to be addressed; because it takes practice, discipline, and self-control to be content with what we have. Also, it takes a level of maturity to be able to appreciate and be happy for someone else’s purchase or creation without feeling the need to have one for yourself too.

“If we are continually embracing contentment, we will find ourselves feeling inspiration rather than envy.”

Purpose.  Purpose, meaning, dreams, goals; these words are all associated with each other. I have a tendency to have my head in the clouds at times when I think about what I want to accomplish in life; and while it’s necessary to dream big, there is a balance with the here and now. I have been wracking my brain this past year trying to figure “what is my purpose in life”, and I ask myself this question each day. Then it hit me, perhaps the reason I could not find this epiphany I was looking for was because I was looking to far away from home… from that which I already have.

I work at a place with vast opportunity for impact, growth, and development… if I bring my best. I have a wife who has dreams that I play a part in, if only I begin to entertain those dreams as my own as well. I have two amazing daughters who are some of the most creative and inspiring humans I know; and they have been given to me. I have the privilege to pour love and encouragement into their lives, and guide them towards living an impactful life in this world.

Boom! Epiphany in the face.

“Greatness and purpose does not always lie in the unknown or uncharted territory.”

Craft. We each have a skill that we bring to the table, whether you know it or not.  Life expects something from us, and it expects nothing less than our best. Inside each of us, there are seeds of aptitude; a readiness to learn, develop, and create. We are born into this world with the greatest gift anyone could ask for…our minds. We come into this world with eyes full of wonder; and if we look at what we can bring to the world instead of tasking ourselves to master someone else’s craft, you may be surprised at what you are capable of.

Though we find ourselves moved deeply by a beautiful song, that doesn’t mean we have to be a musician. Because we are moved by the beauty of a painting, the thought put into each stroke of the brush; does not mean we have to be a painter. On the other hand, if you find yourself taking the reins at work, in your home, or even in planning a group hangout; perhaps you may have a natural tendency  to be a leader. If you find yourself deeply affected by stories of oppression, or people hurting; perhaps you have been gifted with a strong sense of empathy and compassion, both of which this world needs.

May we wake each day with eyes full of wonder, and a heart full of love. May we dream big, but start by looking at the life we are already living.

 

A Walk at Dawn: Dreams to Pursue

A walk at dawn is pretty amazing.

There is a stillness, a quietness in the air. The stars make their final plea to be seen and gazed upon, and the chill reminds you that you are alive. 

“When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive – to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love.” – Marcus Aurelius

Today is a gift; another chance to create, another day to dream. As always, focus is needed; because there is a world of opportunity out there. We need focus, because each of us has apart to play in this world.

We cannot do everything, but each of us can do something.

I’ve been reading and listening to a lot of content related to dreams and goals. We need to have our goals before us daily if we wish to achieve them. Whether big or small, it takes commitment and perseverance to see your dreams come true.  Our dreams must be pursued. We cannot let them be thrown out or forgotten; though they may take a lifetime to achieve.

One of my favorite holiday movies is It’s a Wonderful Life. I love that movie because George Bailey is a dreamer. He had grand ideas for travel and engineering, and doing anything but run the family business; but what happens? Life circumstances placed on him the responsibility of the family business, and he stepped up to the task. What he expected from life, was a little different that what life expected of him.

When he came to his existential decision point of throwing his life away, an angel appears and takes him on a journey through a world without him. He finds that all of the everyday decisions he had made in life, actually had an impact on so many of the lives around him. Life had thrown a curve ball, and he thought that he had struck out (sports analogies). Up to the point of despair, his dreams had kept him moving forward, pursuing a better world, and impacting lives around him.

A dream is a powerful force for momentum. 

In the end he realized that he truly had a wonderful life. I love the book by Dr. Seuss Oh, The Places You’ll Go. It inspires and reminds us that things may not always go our way, but we must press on.

OH!
THE PLACES YOU’LL GO!

You’ll be on y our way up!
You’ll be seeing great sights!
You’ll join the high fliers
who soar to high heights.

You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed.
You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

Except when you don’t.
Because, sometimes, you won’t.

I’m sorry to say so
but, sadly, it’s true
that Bang-ups
and Hang-ups
can happen to you….

But on you will go
though the weather be foul.
On you will go
though your enemies prowl.
On you will go
though the Hakken-Kraks howl.
Onward up many
a frightening creek,
though your arms may get sore
and your sneakers may leak.

On and on you will hike,
And I know you’ll hike far
and face up to your problems
whatever they are…  

As we move through each day, may we seek focus to define and seek our dreams daily. No matter what may come our way, we must stay true.

Here is some of the content that has inspired me:

Man’s Search for Meaning by Dr. Viktor Frankl

It’s a Wonderful life

Lasso the Moon –Podcast by Brian Buffini

Oh, the Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss

 

 

 

Come Alive

What do I expect from life?

This is a question that we ask, even if we don’t realize we are asking it. We have expectations, and we desire some definition of success in our lives.

What does life expect from me?

This is a question that brings perspective. It drives us to look beyond ourselves. It’s a question that sends us down the path of meaning, as it helps us see a reason to continue on.

But where these two questions meet, I believe that is where we find purpose and fulfillment.

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Howard Thurman

We are dreamers and idealists, full of creative potential and passion; Yet we let our dreams fade, or we don’t even take the time to dream. We don’t set goals because it feels overwhelming, or we label our dreams as too grand or better suited for a better person.

Driven solely by the question what do I expect from life?, we set our goals too low. We set our vision too small. If you ask yourself What does life expect from me?  You must be ready and willing to answer the call; because you will find that life expects a lot from you. There is a purpose for you to fulfill, and a plethora of people who need you to ask that question.

I speak from a man who is starting to tap into this. I in no way have this figured out, but I am trying; and I share this be cause I care. There is a balance between these two questions, and it is full of opportunity. Let us seize the day, and live life to the full.

 

Something I learned

I wake up daily searching for purpose and meaning; longing to know who I am supposed to be, and what I am here to do…this comes after I make my morning coffee of course.

How can I be the best dad I can be for my daughters? How can I be the best husband I can be for my wife? How do I make the most of each day?

Hungry for inspiration and clarity.

The overriding question to all of this is How can I be significant?

How does one even start to answer that question? It is a daily answer, a constant answer; and it requires direction. To be significant means that you have a positive impact in this life, and this means realizing that how we live affects others.

To work towards something, means you need something to work towards. I recently listened to a great interview with college football coach/analyst Lou Holtz. It’s about an hour, and it is totally worth it. Here is the link to the audio podcast: Lou Holtz interview

One of his keys to success is remembering W.I.N. What’s Important Now. This is how we stay on track with our goals; which means we need to have goals. One of my goals I set is to become more patient, and realize that how I  react to situations affect my family. If I truly want to achieve this, I need to exercise my mind and my heart. I need to ask my self each morning as the alarm goes off at the butt crack o’ dawn, what’s important now? I don’t really want to wake up, I’d rather sleep; but I need have time to start my day with prayer, meditation, exercise, and nutrition if I want to have a stable mindset for the day. If I truly want to strengthen my mind, improve how I react to change and unmet expectations, and think clearly; then I must invest daily in activities and practices that promote these things.

If your goal is to get stronger or drop wait, then being intentional about exercise and nutrition is important now. If your goal is to make more money, then showing up to work on time and working hard is important now. If I want to take my my family to Disneyland every year, then choosing to save a few bucks here and there instead of spending a few bucks here and there is important now.

The list goes on and on, but the idea helps gives direction and focus.

All of this is worth nothing if it were only benefiting myself, but the impact spreads so much wider than that. If I become more patient, then my family is happier; and we can do more in life. If we make more money, then we can give more money.

I hope you listen to that podcast and get inspired and laugh. My hope is that you realize that you are important to this life and this world. If we learn to set and achieve goals, our range of positive impact will constantly grow.

 

I-N-S-P-I-R-A-T-I-O-N

“You inspire me, and I inspire you, and we inspire the world.” – Grouch and Eli

I walk a line between anxiousness/ fear and excitement when something or someone inspires me. What I’ve been wrestling with lately is, “how to respond to inspiration?”

We went to a live performance of Beauty and the Beast last weekend put on by our community theatre, and the entire time I found myself in limbo between enjoying the show as part of the audience combined with this urge to be a part of something like that. What that means I don’t know, but the experience impacted me on a deeper level.

I saw all of these people putting themselves out there, allowing themselves to transform into their characters for the enjoyment of the audience and as an expression of their art. I saw such joy emit from the cast members, I saw excitement from the stagehands and crew, and something stirring inside of me.

Inspiration.

How do I respond to that inspiration, and why does it inspire me? I know that a lot of folks went to that same play, critiqued it, and enjoyed it at face value as entertainment.

But what are we supposed to do when something or someone we encounter moves us on that deeper level?

Option 1: Box up the rush of emotions, the feelings of trying something like that, and the spike of inspiration and put it up on the shelf.

Option 2: Let those emotions, feelings, and thoughts of trying something like that linger; and let them push us to step out into the unknown.

Option 1 is easier in the sense that it requires nothing of us, and option 2 leads to action. I want to be an option 2 guy. If we can let these moments of inspiration linger, then maybe they will speak to us; and maybe we discover ourselves doing something we never thought we could.

I use the play as an example. Inspiration comes in many different forms, and each of us is inspired in different ways. I see people all around who take action on inspiration, and that too inspires me.

So let’s together ride those waves of inspiration as they come our way, and perhaps discover that there may be more to us than we may think.