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.

Transitions, Courage, and Insight

Life is an array of transitions.

Starting from the moment we are brought into this world; we find ourselves in the momentum of life. We grow, learn, and develop. Whether we choose it or not, we are moving. Yet, we do choose what we do with the time that is given to us.

gandalf.gif (nerd alert)

When facing decision points in life, do you have a tendency towards fearful thinking or courageous thinking?

I was watching the Disney musical Newsies with my daughters the other day, and there was a line that struck me while they were deciding whether or not to go on strike against the newspaper company. David says to the other newsies:

“Courage cannot erase our fear, courage is when we face our fear.” – Newsies Broadway musical

Courage. It is found in adversity and challenge, it is uncovered only when fear enters the situation. It is in these moments that we need to state our fears clearly, and in doing so, we will find where the fear is rooted. Once we understand the root of our fear, the path to overcoming it becomes clear.

I was having a conversation the other day about my fear of change, and I was challenged to look back at my past for times that I had to rise up in the face of my fear. I began to think:  My family move from Lakewood California to Flagstaff Arizona, my first piano recital, the first time I played guitar on stage, The first time I sang on stage, Every job that I applied for, every talk I’ve given to a group, proposing to my wife, having a daughter, having another daughter! The list went on and on, and I began to feel confident in my ability to adapt and maintain a forward momentum in life.

What insights can be taken from our past?

Ask yourself this question; and find confidence, wisdom, and empowerment. We may not have always responded the right way to change, or even made the right changes; but we always…ALWAYS… have a choice. Our tomorrow is happening today, so enter each day with confidence and courage.

There is a fragility to all of us, but there is also great resilience. Where there is fear, courage lies also. May you find insight from your past, and today may you find courage to face the future.

 

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.

 

Tales from the Trails

I was running some trails last night up on Observatory Mesa here in Flagstaff AZ, and I found myself drifting into some deep reflection. These trails in particular are behind the neighborhood we lived in for 12 years, and I hadn’t run up there much since we moved two years ago.

The sun was setting, and dusk was here. The wind was blowing, and a slight mist began to fall. A dusky mist is a magical experience.

I have spent many hours on that Mesa on solo runs, pack runs, and family hikes. There are lots of memories, and lots of dreams. This latest solo run, in particular, spawned the idea for this blog. A series of reflections from trail runs.

Trail running has been part of my life for the past 6 years or so. I have experienced community and brotherhood, pain and suffering, adventures, fear, extreme heat, and extreme cold. I have found myself laughing out loud, talking to myself, and even singing out loud. I have also had runs full of tears, not from physical pain, but from deep emotions that were unlocked through the experience.

My goal is to write something after each run that speaks to me, and I hope this connects to anyone who enjoys experiencing life or digging deep.

Now…I think I’m going to hit the trails.

 

 

 

 

One Thing

What is one thing I can give up today?

Furthermore, what is one thing that I can focus on today?

What would life look like if I asked myself these two questions each day?

This could be a revolutionary idea for growth, and realization of purpose.

If a life of impact and fulfillment is what I long for, then I must ask of myself that which desires intentionality.

“Two roads diverged in the wood, and I – I took the one less traveled by; and that has made all the difference.” – Robert Frost

 

What am I to you?

I have been thinking a lot about less lately.

Maybe this is natural as I get older, maybe it’s an overall shift in our culture (which would be a good thing); but I have been moving towards less stuff in my life, longing for more focus.

I have realized that there is direct connection (for me at least) between clutter and unrest. I am a simple man, yet I have slowly moved toward complex living in a sense. At the center,  I know that which is truly treasure: My wife, my children, my family, my friends, and my faith; these are of the utmost value to me, my top-tier treasure if you will.  Other things that bring me fulfillment are a job well done, playing guitar, writing songs, writing blogs (presently partaking in this one),  and hiking/running among other things; these would be my next tier of treasure in my life.  interesting thing is the lack of things in these lists.

If that which I value most is free of charge, and available constantly; why have I spent so much time shopping for, and accumulating stuff? I believe that this has very deep roots for me, which go back to my childhood. I have grown up telling myself that I am a “collector”. I have saved and taken care of comic books, sports cards, toys, Lord of the Rings memorabilia (nerd alert), amongst many other items. I have spent money on these, and I have wrapped a part of my identity in these. Some of the reasons for this may lie deeply rooted in my psyche, and may need professional help to diagnose; but I won’t drag you all down that rabbit hole in this blog.

I truly believe that starting as young as a child, I began to be drawn by the thrill of “the purchase.” I have accustomed myself to shopping, holding high value on that which I purchase; and worked hard to earn money to spend and these things that I would keep undamaged in their packages, holding on to some sort of hope some day that I would pass along a fortune to my kids. Well, that is not reality anymore folks! Through eBay, I realized that thousands of other people have held on to those same items I have, and are all trying to sell them. That means a flooded market, and that drives down the value of those items.

I would like to believe though, that it is more than just a market flooded by collectibles that has driven down the market. I believe that all of us are experiencing a shift in our world. Our eyes are being opened to the impact of consumerism, and the rippling effects that it has on our environment. The more we consume, the more waste there is. The more we continue to spend, the more we will be marketed to. We are hopefully realizing that it is the quality of what we have and do more than the quantity.

There is a great scene near the end of the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie (Spoiler alert!) takes place between Captan Barbosa and Carina Smyth. As the story unfolds to the audience, we find that Carina is actually Barbosa’s long lost daughter. The moment at which she realizes that this Pirate is willing to sacrifice himself for her she asks:

“Tell me, what am I to you?”

Barbosa replies, “Treasure.”

Barbosa was a pirate, a life full of taking more and more, gathering and spending his “plunder”. At the end of all things, he sees what is truly valuable, and makes the greatest decision in his life based on that which he found to be true “treasure”.

Well now I’m all teary eyed, but I hope you get the point.

Let us seek that which is truly valuable in our life; and may our actions, time, and purchases reflect our true passion.

Doin’ Something

Doin’ Something, not just the title of a grooving jazz/funk album by Soulive (which I highly recommend), but a reminder that we need to be doing something, intentionally.

Think big.

Open my mind to see opportunities, both big and small.

Broaden my focus.

I want to see beyond my needs, and see what is needed from me.

Do not begrudge the task to get to the completion, rather, enjoy the project. See the work to create as valuable as the creation itself.

“Life is a journey, not a destination” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

My friend gave me a book of short prayers that I read with my youngest daughter some nights, here is one of the prayers that she and I have memorized:

May I see each day (and the work that comes with it) as a gift.

This is good, because there is a lot of work to be done in this world. Work goes beyond making money, work is the process of creating something. Life is happening, and opportunity abounds!

Instead of saying to myself, “I should start writing again.”

I should write

this blog

right

now.

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.

 

Rantings of a madman

Contentment.

To be or not to be, that is the choice.

What is it to be content? I feel like I haven’t truly lived in contentment for a while. I have practiced thankfulness, but have not truly engraved it in my soul yet.

As we have added more stuff and more responsibility to our life, I have felt more weighed down than content.

I truly desire simplicity because I believe that in simplicity there is clarity, and in clarity there is contentment. I believe that a simple path can be blazed through complexity; because a complex life can also be beautiful if it is trekked with focus and gratefulness.

I don’t desire a life void of responsibility, neither do I want a life void of stuff; but I do want to learn how to live inspired and focused.

I long to enter each day in patience not tolerance, focus rather than anxiety.

I do need to learn to laugh at myself, instead of clinging to each failure as if it defines who I am. Move forward.

Establish goals, define what’s important now to achieve those goals. 

Life is huge right now. There is a lot in the air, a lot in the mix, and a lot to be done. It’s a privilege to have so much opportunity in life.

How will I treat my wife and kids with kindness? Perhaps it starts with searching for the opportunities. In a moment of failure or mistake, seize that opportunity to uplift and encourage. In a moment of success or personal victory, join in that celebration; no matter how small.

There is so much room in my life and character to grow, so I must accept and embrace that.

Steadfastness. Contentment. Love and kindness.

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.