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Leaning Toward Wisdom
50 minutes | 2 days ago
Late-Life Lucky: Anticipating The Ideal Outcome (Season 2020, Episode 14)
Robert H. Frank is the Henrietta Johnson Louis Professor of Management and Professor of Economics at Cornell’s Johnson Graduate School of Management. I don’t know him personally and until 2016 I had no idea who he was, but that’s the year I read an article in The Atlantic entitled, “Why Luck Matters More Than You Think.” It was intriguing me, but honestly, there wasn’t anything new about my intrigue. The subject of luck has fascinated me for a long time. Some people don’t believe in luck. Or serendipity. Or chance. Especially when it comes to success or achievement. By “late-life” I don’t necessarily mean age, but it might include that. Most certainly it includes experience. A person begins to learn something at an early age. Take a current professional ice hockey player. His parents put him in ice skates for the first time when he was 3. Since then he’s spent almost as much time in ice skates as he has sneakers. By the time he’s approaching 14, he’s a decade into the learning curve. Off he goes to play major junior hockey – a high level of play for boys approaching high school. He moves to another town where the team is located and he begins to play the highest level of amateur hockey while living with a host family who has taken him in. Before his 18th birthday, he’s drafted by an NHL team. He’s 15 years into the learning process, but he’s only 18. A person matures past middle-age. She’s spent her entire life pursuing art. As a young girl, she fell in love with painting and she’s been at it ever since. It’s never earned her much of a living. Until now. A while back she had a little showing at a local gallery. A blogger with a widely read blog happened to live in the area and visited the exhibition. And wrote a piece about this woman’s artwork, along with posting some pictures of her work. About a hundred miles away, in a big city, an art gallery owner saw the blog post about this now older woman’s showing. An email was sent and now after 4 decades of painting artwork in relative obscurity, she’s achieving late-life luck. She’s experienced at art and life. There are many flipside stories that counterbalance these. Stories of people who began early and never found any success. People who persisted for decades and never found any luck. Let’s talk more about it.
37 minutes | 2 months ago
If I Reach The End Before I’m Done (Season 2020, Episode 13)
In 2012 a musician Joshua Hyslop released an album, Where The Mountain Meets The Valley. Track 6 is “The Mountain.” It contains a lyric that serves as the title of today’s episode. When I first heard it I wrote that phrase down. Often I’d remember it. I’d consider the long list of things I set out to do as a young man. And those things I’d still like to get done now that I’m old. It’s different now. Not at all like it was when I was 20 and my ambitions seemed more fantastic. When Joshua’s latest record was released, on September 11, 2020, I went back to listen to other music he’d produced, including this song, The Mountain. I hadn’t thought of the phrase in a long while, but there it was marching its way to the front of my mind. Especially during early morning walks, I’d think about it. Then, a few days ago, on September 29th my father turned 97. I thought about his life and the years he’s experienced since 1923, the year he was born. For his birthday I decided to record a sort of year-by-year historical commentary from 1923 up to the present. It wound up being almost an hour-long, but the last few minutes being a son’s message to his dad. I’m blessed that both my parents are still alive and doing well, living in a house by themselves. My mom is 88. My folks have enjoyed long lives. They’re still enjoying life. They’re blessed. They won’t likely reach the end before they’re done – the blessing of living a long life. But you can never be sure. Time – our time – is tenuous at best. Which is why the admonition “make the most of it” is so common. But also why it’s become so trite and ignored. 2 Peter 3:4 and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” It’s the trap we all step into. The trap of thinking we’ll have tomorrow. Or this afternoon. Or tonight. Why? Because that’s how it’s always been for us. We had yesterday. Now we have today. So we’re fooled into thinking – believing – we’ll have tomorrow. I’m not trying to be a downer or be morose. Today’s show focuses on 5 words: Curiosity Understanding Judgment Criticality Grace (compassion) Also, here’s an old episode you may have missed that speaks to one aspect of today’s topic: the process. Enjoy!
58 minutes | 4 months ago
“I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” (Season 2020, Episode 12)
It’s a few minutes past 5 o’clock. In the morning. The sky is light thanks to an almost full moon. The city lights help, too. When you live in the city the sky isn’t nearly as dark as it is out in the country. I walk. Quite a lot. You’d think I’d look like it, but you’d be wrong. No matter. I walk 4 to 6 miles every morning. Often before the sun is up. But not as often as I did before this pandemic. 3 am and 4 am were favorite times back before life was disrupted by COVID 19. I’m not sure why that changed my readiness to hit the streets in the middle of the night, but it did. I suppose I figured people were more uneasy so I just haven’t wanted to risk it. Part of my walking routine involves traipsing through a field near a densely wooded stretch filled with all sorts of critters. I’ve seen a coyote-type creature a few times. And a cat of some sort. Not the domestic kind either. But I’m not a wildlife expert. You won’t ever see my on reality TV…especially one of those survivor type shows. Unless somebody produces one of those as a comedy where morons are dropped into the middle of nowhere so the audience can laugh maniacally at them. Mostly, in this stretch of trees are cottontail rabbits. I attribute this to the reproductive reputations earned by rabbits. But I’m not complaining ’cause I rather love them. I just wish they’d stick around a bit longer. The path I walk is about 15 to 20 yards from the tree line of the wooded area. By the time I get within 30 yards or so of them, they quickly scamper into the woods. You can see a handful of little holes that serve as their escape routes. Each hole has a nicely worn pathway as proof that they frequent these routes to dart in and out of the woods. I bent down and took the picture shown below. To give you some scale, that opening is about 10 inches wide. It’s not very big. What you don’t see is the density of the wall of growth where this opening exists. On a typical morning, I’ll spot 6 to 10 rabbits out foraging for food outside the woods, within 5 to 10 feet of their wooded home. They don’t venture out too far. I’m supposing it’s because of that coyote-type creature and the cat. But I’m sure there are other predators who’d love nothing more than a rabbit for breakfast, lunch or supper. That’s why there is no rabbit in that photograph. The little buggers are really camera shy. They’re the perfect creature for zoom lens photography, but all I have is my phone. In 1925 Hugh Harman drew a mouse around a photograph taken by Walt Disney. Walt was inspired by this tame mouse near his desk at Laugh-O-Gram Studio in Kansas City, Missouri. Mortimer Mouse was the name Disney gave the mouse until his wife, Lillian, talked him into changing it to the name we all know. Mickey Mouse. From that cartoon began the modern small animal stories told in moving pictures. But the stories existed long before that. Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human traits, emotions, or intentions to non-human entities. Like rabbits. Or other animals. Enter Aesop, a Greek storyteller credited with a number of fables. The timeframe? Around 564 BC is the date ascribed to his death. It’s up for dispute whether there was a real person Aesop behind the fables. Somebody crafted the stories though. He was reputed to be a slave who passed from various owners until he was eventually freed. History or legend has it that he was executed by being thrown from a cliff after false charges were leveled against him because he had insulted powerful people. No matter. Attributing human-like qualities to animals in his fables happened long before Walt ever imagined a mouse. Frogs. Turtles. Birds. Foxes. I suppose somebody has anthropomorphized just about everything. Especially by Hollywood. I’m thinking of Ice Age, Bugs, The Secret Life of Pets and Toy Story. In Toy Story you don’t even need a living creature. Toys will do. No big shock, Frosty The Snowman is a longtime favorite of mine! I love the modern animated movies produced by Pixar and Illumination Entertainment (they did the Despicable Me series and The Secret Life of Pets). The voice acting is great. And the music is, too. I mean when Bill Withers start singing, A Lovely Day, at the end of The Secret Life of Pets – you know these folks know their stuff. And when Randy Newman starts to sing during the many animated films he’s produced music for…well, it’s hard to imagine it getting any better. Growing up, the Warner Brothers’ cartoons with Bugs Bunny were my favorites. I’m not happy that the violence in those is being criticized by the current ninnie culture. Yosemite Sam with the stupid dragon is another favorite. Today’s title is a quote from Piglet of Winnie The Pooh fame. ” I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” I think of that quote whenever I encounter some hidden habitat of critters. Like the little escape path in the photo. It’s easy to imagine these animals as they encounter humans pretty regularly. I mean, there are houses all along the backside of these woods. There’s an open pasture on the other side where people walk. Some with their pet dogs. I’d imagine these rabbits encounter lots of people every single day. Is it exciting every single time? Would seem so. Exciting enough that they run away, fearful we’ll do them harm. That seems like too much excitement in the wrong direction though. But maybe not. I’m reminded of a passage written by the late Hunter S. Thompson. “People who claim to know jackrabbits will tell you they are primarily motivated by Fear, Stupidity, and Craziness. But I have spent enough time in jack rabbit country to know that most of them lead pretty dull lives; they are bored with their daily routines: eat, (a’hem, reproduce), sleep, hop around a bush now and then….No wonder some of them drift over the line into cheap thrills once in a while; there has to be a powerful adrenalin rush in crouching by the side of a road, waiting for the next set of headlights to come along, then streaking out of the bushes with split-second timing and making it across to the other side just inches in front of the speeding front wheels.” ― Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72 I’m no rabbit expert. I don’t know how many different breeds of rabbits there are. These rabbits I encounter every day are brown with whitetails – cottontails. I won’t insult them by saying they’re primarily motivated by fear, stupidity, and craziness. Fear? Sure. Aren’t we all? Well, come to think of it, Hunter could have easily been writing about people. Stupidity and craziness seem to be the order of the day during this pandemic of 2020. Likely all other times, too. If you’ve driven in the country much you’ve experienced what Hunter wrote about. When I first read it – more than a century ago – I laughed out loud because of how true it seemed. I had always wondered why – on a lonely dirt road where probably no more than six times a truck or car would pass – I’d always encounter some darting rabbit crossing the road right in front of me. Hunter gave me the answer. Excitement. “I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” I find myself getting excited in the morning to spot the rabbits, if only for moments. Catching them outside their micro-forest is a pretty good way to start a day. By the time I arrive near their home I’ve been walking 30 minutes or more. I’m only disappointed if somebody – usually somebody with dogs – has already passed by coming from the other direction. I know the rabbits won’t be out. They’ll have already scampered back into the brush for safety. I hate it when that happens. Thankfully, due to my early morning schedule, it doesn’t happen often, but once is too much. My disappointment is palatable when it does. It ruins the entire walk for me. Well, that an not finding any baseballs. But I love the rabbits way more than the baseballs. For new listeners, part of my walking route involves two baseball fields. As I walk the perimeter of the fields I find baseballs. Some days I don’t find any. On my record-setting day, I found 18. I now have a pretty big bag of them. Guestimation? Around 300. Pretty exciting stuff, huh? 😀 My morning rabbits are likely pretty excited to find enough food for the morning. When I get too wrapped up worrying about the future I think about them…living in the moment. Every morning when I encounter them I sorta hope that I’m the most exciting thing that happens to them because I’m not a threat to them. But rabbits are skittish for good reason. They have plenty of enemies. Predators. They have no way of knowing if I mean them harm or not. Sometimes I’m saddened by that, but I realize as critters of the field and woods, it’s necessary. Their very lives depend on it. I surmise that the rabbits don’t spend any time thinking, “I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” If anything, I’d imagine them thinking, “I sure hope nothing exciting happens today.” But what do I know? Maybe rabbits are like us. Maybe some of them are thrill-seekers while others are contented to sit still as often and as long as possible. Those woods across the way are where the rabbits live. We’re now into August. This begins month 6 of this global pandemic if you figure it began at the start of March. That’s part of the context of this episode and the question, “I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” It’s common for any of us to lose track of the day of the week during this pandemic. Practically everybody I know admits to having some Groundhog Day (the movie) moments where we feel like every day is identical to the prior day. As for excitement, I recall getting excited in month one or this ordeal when I found toilet paper and power towels. And even more excited when I found Clorox Wipes! I’ve still yet to score hand sanitizer. That might just be too much excitement for me. I started thinking of some exciting moments I’ve had in the last 5 months. The list will likely be depressing, but I’m betting you can relate. • I watched the entire series, from beginning to end, of Boston Legal. I was excited to begin it. Sad when it ended. • I get excited to run the dishwasher, do laundry and vacuum. An empty sink provides me a moment of euphoria. • Keep the pool clear is exciting. Especially after a night wind has blow leaves into it. • I bought a $7 knife at Walmart to cut vegetables with. Very exciting! • Finding a new recipe for ground beef, or potatoes, or sausage, or pasta – that’ll elevate my heart-rate. • Discovering new music, or getting a new release from a favorite artist. • Scoring Zatarain’s New Orleans Style Original Red Beans and Rice in the grocery store always feels like I’ve found a hidden treasure. • During one 3-week period when pasta was impossible to find, I scored some whole wheat pasta buried back in a shelf and felt like I had stumbled onto something illegal. • Finding at least 1 baseball on my morning walk. Finding more adds to the thrill. • Seeing the rabbits every morning may be as good as it gets for me these days. I’m horribly disappointed if somebody or something has scared them before I get there. Thankfully, it doesn’t happen very often. I make sure I’m early. Back some time ago I did an episode where I talked about simple things. It was episode 5045 entitled, Many Thieves. I mentioned how much I loved one bowl, one fork and one cup. Three items that wouldn’t likely cost more than $15 total. But they bring me joy. Sure, I could lean toward excitement about them because if I didn’t have them, life wouldn’t be quite the same. Right about now you’re thinking, “How pathetic!” 😀 But no matter, I was excited about that episode – recorded October 19, 2019. I’m still sorta excited about it, but we’ve proven I’m fairly easily excited. 😉 Excitement the state of being emotionally aroused and worked up the feeling of lively and cheerful joy something that agitates and arouses disturbance usually in protest No, I don’t mean excitement like that last definition – disturbance usually in protest. We’ve seen lots of that in the past few months. I’m not saying it’s not properly founded or directed. It’s just not what I’m talking about today. I’m not terribly excitable. Never have been. When I was growing up people accused me of being stoic. Sober. Serious. I guess mostly I was. And still am. I don’t remember getting excited too often. Truth is, I don’t recall ever being as excited as lots of the kids around me. So I’m the worst person I know to ask such a question as I’m asking today. “I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” But I’m not the worst person to ask such a question if we broaden our definition of the term “exciting.” In fact, let’s stick with that first definition and go no further – the state of being emotionally aroused. It’s not cheerful or joyful. The rabbits aren’t excited in a good way by my presence. I wish they were, but they’re afraid. Emotional arousal can include lots of things. Like crying. Or sadness. Or sympathy. July was bad month for lots of people. Every month is, I suppose. But I knew too many people who lost family members in July. A young man killed in a tragic car accident. A husband. A father. An older man. Suddenly stricken by a heart attack. A husband. A father. A grandfather. A 40-something man. A husband, father and son. As I was preparing today’s show I realized the list of people who died last month was a long list. Longer than usual. I was emotionally aroused by too many deaths in July. Too many children lost a parent. Too many parents lost a child. Too many spouses lost their mates. Too many siblings lost a brother or sister. Death often creates that kind of excitement, but we don’t use that language to describe it. Even though few things arouse our emotions like losing somebody we love. “If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day…you do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.” -Jim Valvano Laugh. Think. Cry. Those are all things I’d categorize as excitement. It’s not the stuff of The Secret Life of Pets. Or Ice Age. Or even the short burst of excitement I provide the cottontails every day. But it’s human. Remarkably human. And real. I’m fairly certain that I’ve done what Jimmy V urged people to do. Maybe not every single day, but I’d be hard-pressed to think of a day where I didn’t do all 3. They’re not hard and they constitute all the excitement I could ever want. Have you seen that video of the firemen who take the grate off the drainage ditch to rescue the little ducklings who fell in? Mom and one lucky duckling that didn’t fall into the drain are anxiously watching as the firemen rescue the others. Mom isn’t going to leave until they’re all safely back beside her. I watch wondering what she’s feeling. Wondering if there might be something more than animal instincts happening. Wondering if she knows how many there are. I suspect I’d like to think she’s got more human qualities than she truly does. But even if she doesn’t – she knows her young are in danger and she’s going to wait to retrieve them. I watch them scamper to get as close to her as possible it’s evident they know she’s there to protect them. That’s enough excitement I suppose. Falling into a drainage ditch is the kind of excitement they could all do without. Especially momma duck. Nobody craves the kind of excitement that buckles your knees. That’s too much sorrow and sadness. Too much loss. Too much crying. I’m sitting here inside The Yellow Studio late one night – wide awake, as I am wont to be around 3 am or so – and I’m thinking of the TV commercials that have peppered us during this pandemic. Sure, every major advertiser – and even minor ones – have modified their commercials to not show hoards of people. But have you noticed how basic commercials have become over the past months? Far fewer spots depict people doing thrilling things or going to thrilling places. Or so it seems to me. What I’ve noticed more and more are families eating a meal together. Kids playing in the sprinkler. Old folks being visited by children. People with their pets. Hardly the things that would get a thrill-seeker’s adrenaline going. Then there are the movies. Most have an over-emphasized element of excitement. Like Smokey & The Bandit. 😀 I can’t help it. It was on the other night. I’ve only seen it a couple hundred thousand times. (I was in the consumer electronics business during the CB radio craze when that movie was made. It’s super corny, but back in the day it was another Burt Reynold’s hit.) What’s one more time gonna hurt? A constant thrill-a-second kind of a show. A stunt man’s delight! I’ve done tons of driving throughout the Deep South. Admittedly, I’ve never hauled a tractor-trailer load full of illegal cargo, but even so, I can’t imagine going from Atlanta to Texarkana and back with anywhere near that kind of excitement. Of course, I never did travel with Burt Reynolds or Jackie Gleason either. 😉 Highs and lows. Ups and downs. The roller coaster of life is spent with both, but mostly it’s spent going up or coming down. Some of us might be more attracted to the climbs and the descents than the actual highs and lows. For myself, I feel pretty equally attracted to all of it. It was a late-night epiphany. A moment where it dawned on me I am likely “in the moment” much more than I thought. Like those rabbits. Kinda sorta. Except I live much better. And don’t have to forage for my food. Well, I do forage, but I just walk into the kitchen to do it. And nobody walks near me, threatening my safety while I eat. I sometimes wish they would. I could likely lose that 30 pounds or so that I desperately need to lose. “I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” Maybe it’s the question of a naive Piglet, but if we would embrace the broader notion of excitement, then we might find some deeper experiences in our daily lives. Homeostasis helps animals maintain stable internal and external environments with the best conditions for it to operate. It is a dynamic process that requires constant monitoring of all systems in the body to detect changes and mechanisms that react to those changes and restore stability. The cottontails, like most animals, are constantly monitoring the environment, scanning for potential threats. They’re wired to notice movements. Things that are out of the ordinary. Enter an old galoot walking by and homeostasis has been disturbed, causing the rabbits to scurry back into the brush for cover. And safety. Comfort zones are part – a big part – of homeostasis. We’ve demonized “comfort zones,” making it seem that they’re our enemy when the reality is we need them. Desperately. The excitement caused by possible threats, making us uncomfortable, indicates we should react to protect ourselves. My presence in the morning routine of the cottontails isn’t some thrill they’re looking for. I just happen to make it my business to catch them out feeding because I’m selfish like that. I really want to see them. But even in my intentional disturbance, I take care to show the rabbits I don’t intend to harm them. Some days they scamper away quickly. Other times they seem to sense that I’m the guy they saw yesterday without incident, so they keep their eye on me but continue to forage out in the open. Some days it makes me wonder if they’re being unintentionally conditioned to not see people as a threat. They shouldn’t trust everybody though. It’s likely best for them to trust no one, keeping homeostasis as it was…but that adjustment in their comfort zone may not be safe. Ordinary. Routine. Comfortable. These are vital to our survival. And our daily existence. The cottontails have a routine. I only know what a small portion of their early morning is like. And I only see them when they emerge from the woods to forage. Do they spend all day every day looking for food? Do they nap? I don’t know. I didn’t even Google it. Partly because I’d rather imagine them in the woods conducting business, having conversations, solving the problems of the woods, discussing the morons they’ve seen walk by that day. Google isn’t going to rob me of those imaginations with mundane truths about how cottontails live. What about learning, improvement, and growth? Those moments of excitement can help. Those extraordinary events, circumstances, and instances serve us – if we use them properly. My daily presence conditions the rabbits to remain wary of me, but they also learn that I’m not there to hurt them. They’re not going to abandon their foraging nearly as quickly as they once did. They usually still leave once I get within 10 feet or so, but not always. Maybe they’re onto something too tasty to leave so soon. Maybe I catch them in a moment of laziness where they figure the food their on is worth the risk. At least, right now. Which makes me wonder about the different excitements that come our way. I know they’re not all created equally. For instance, to the rabbits…my presence isn’t equal to the presence of a wolf or coyote. I’m betting they know that, too. I’m also betting they have holes in those woods where they can quickly scurry to avoid being eaten. With me, I watch them go into those little pathways into the woods, but they know with me, they don’t have to go deep into the woods. They can keep their eyes on me, and return to their foraging when I pass. Not so with another beast ready to make them a meal. Balance is the trick. And it ain’t easy. Without change (aka excitement) we don’t learn. Too much change (aka excitement) we risk desensitization, which hampers our learning. It can make us reckless. We need enough change (aka excitement) to provoke us to learn, improve, and grow. This is why I’m using the terms “excite” and “excitement” in the broadest way possible to include those things Jimmy V talked about: crying, thinking, and laughing. Too much crying and we grow depressed, desperate, and despondent. Too little, and we lack empathy. Too much thinking and we neglect to act. Too little and we’re impulsive. Too much laughing and we fail to take serious things seriously enough. Too little laughing and we’re unpleasant, lacking joy. There’s no recipe I know of. We take each day as it comes, like the rabbits. Whatever life presents, we hopefully approach it with optimism instead of panic or dread. I imagine the rabbits are excited about breakfast. Once they settle down from the excitement created by my passing, I’m confident they return to their breakfast. If I were a small critter I might be excited to find a place like this When is the last time you went into the kitchen and got excited ’cause you found food? (No, finding some stash of chocolate you forgot you had doesn’t count!) I envy the rabbits. Each morning they begin with excitement – finding food. But then again, I’m pretty blessed myself. Because each morning I begin with the excitement of greeting the rabbits. Together, we’re maintaining the cycle of excitement.
98 minutes | 4 months ago
You Collude In Your Own Death (Season 2020, Episode 11)
Are you not inside the new community? Click here to join – it’s completely FREE! LeaningTowardWisdom.com/join If you’d like access to exclusive content, like my two videos reviewing the music of 1972, join the community. I’ve moved away from Facebook so I hope you’ll join me inside this new community. Hopefully, it’ll be more interactive. All it needs now is YOU. —————————————————————————- My pondering began with Bible study. Not a big shock since you already know how important Faith is in my life. I’d heard the story my entire life, sitting in the pew as a little boy listening to old preachers tell the story recorded in Luke 15. The story of the prodigal son. As a little kid I sat there wondering why this son got a wild hair to confront his dad and make such a bold request, but mostly I wondered why the father gave him what he wanted. The adults in my life wouldn’t have so indulged me, I thought. He takes the money and whatever else he got and left home. That baffled me, too. I’d never had the urge to run away from home. Well, not for long, any way. There were days, you know? But I figured I had it pretty well. And that’s where it started for me. Wondering why this son didn’t realize how good things were. Of course, I knew the end of the story. I know in advance how bad his life got. Mostly I wondered how long he was in that far country doing whatever he was big enough to do. I wondered why he had to lose everything before he gained clarity that things back home were really great. That was likely my first serious pondering about delusion and my introduction to the fact – yes, FACT – that every human being is capable of self-deception. Seeing things inaccurately. Believing things that aren’t true. Some months I put my own sermon about this story online, but I approached it from the perspective of the father, not the son. The father, by the way, did not deceive himself. He was seeing clearly the entire time. And thankfully, his clarity served both his sons. Self-deception and delusion is an everyday conversation in my work. Twenty years ago I bought and read a book, captivated by the joining of 2 topics I was interested in, leadership and self-deception. “Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box” by The Arbinger Institute. Leaders of every ilk can be prone to self-deception. But leaders aren’t unique. It’s a complex issue and our quest to simplify things likely contributes to our delusion or false assumptions. We like neat and tidy things and most things aren’t neat or tidy. Fast forward and the topic of delusion and self-deception intersect with another conversation point, addiction. In my executive and leadership coaching work, I often have conversations with clients whose families and lives have been horribly impacted by addiction. From people abusing prescription medications, to people not abusing – but people taking prescribed medications that have completely altered their personality, to people abusing alcohol and even people consumed by gambling or other addictions. Almost weekly I have a conversation with people whose family is struggling to help a member of their clan get out of the pit. They tell stories of how the person just can’t seem to think or see things accurately. Fogged over with chemicals that have impaired their ability, I’ll often listen as they recite how smart, funny, and engaging the person was before they surrendered to some form of chemical dependency. Once in a while I hear about recovery. Like the prodigal son, it never happens quickly. In most cases, many years have elapsed before the self-deception and addiction are overcome. Success stories are both rare and lengthy. I’ve yet to encounter a story of somebody who recovered quickly. The downward spiral is long and destructive. It seems it must get very bad before there’s even hope of it getting better. I never understood it. I still don’t. The title of today’s show is a quote from an interview with a person who recovered from addiction. For over a decade she took anything and everything she could get. If it had any numbing or mind-altering capability, she grabbed it. Once sober she realized she was colluding with her own death. Repeatedly she talked of how deluded she had become because of the drugs. Opioids had thrust her into a fog where she had no idea how unclear her vision had become. She just knew she wanted the feeling she had chased since she took her first drink of alcohol as a young teen. Today, she’s able to talk about how alcohol and opioids damage brain chemistry and other physical cells. And how they also negatively impact our mental health. Craving the pleasure they can provide, no matter how destructive or temporary it may be, threatened her life and is threatening the lives of millions. When I heard her say, “You collude in your own death,” I instantly felt a sadness – the same sadness I feel every time I hear a story or personally encounter somebody who has been touched by opioids or any other addiction. Collude defined is “cooperate in a secret or unlawful way in order to deceive or gain an advantage over others.” In this sense, she meant, you’re doing this to yourself. You’re taking advantage of yourself. You’re deceiving yourself. You’re willingly contributing to your own demise. Your death. This woman made up her mind that she would fix her addiction so she could continue to use and abuse drugs. A novel thought. She figured if her addiction was a “disease” then she’d cure herself so she could pick up where she left off. She said she never turned down any drug, but with addiction – “if you can manage it, then it’s really bad news.” Meaning, it’s detrimental to every addict if they’re not able to suffer badly enough for their addiction. It was the first time I’d heard somebody articulate that. “Addicts who can manage their addiction are the most hopeless because they’re not going to change.” “I gave up everything I had so I could have a relationship with the drugs,” she said. “Thankfully, it got really bad. Bad enough I had to do something.” “I was goal-oriented. That’s why I was able to sacrifice anything and anybody for the drugs,” she reflected. Looking back now she realizes that she wasn’t able to channel that trait – being goal-oriented – into something productive. Instead, she gave herself over to the pursuit of the feeling she got when she was medicating. It trumped everything else in her life. She never saw it for what it was at the time. Only after she was sober for an extended time was she able to see her addiction for what it was. “I was not going to be stopped,” she confesses. “I was colluding in my own death and hurting a lot of people all along the way. Taking a good honest look at myself I had to take responsibility for myself.” “I had to be willing to change. What made me willing to change was the realization that I was never going to get enough drugs.” Neuroscience tells us that the brain adapts to any drug you take regularly by producing the exact opposite effect of that drug. So you can’t get enough of the drug to escape. Her name is Judith Grisel. She wrote a book, Never Enough: The Neuroscience and Experience of Addiction. Judith’s statement not only captivated me, but it troubled me. Made me wonder about the ways we’re all capable of colluding in our own death. While I’m interested in the opioid crisis, addiction and brain chemistry, particularly how brain chemistry is altered by chemicals – I’m also interested in the main topic of this podcast, WISDOM. I continue to define wisdom as getting it right in real-time. It’s making up our mind to do the correct thing at the moment. It’s demonstrated in the choices we make, the words we use to convey meaning, the way we interact with others, the beliefs we embrace, the self-control we exercise, and everything else that determines WHO we are. I suppose part of my quest to learn more about these things is my lifelong commitment to sobriety. I come by it honestly. I’m pretty hardwired to be sober. But I was also trained inside a Christian home where drugs and alcohol didn’t exist. I endured high school in the 70s without ever having taken a drink or a drag from a marijuana cigarette. I’ve been around more drugs that I care to confess, but I’ve never partaken. Mostly, because it would violate my conscience and beliefs, but truly, even if that weren’t the case, I still think I’d refrain because having command of my faculties is just too important. Since high school, I’ve joked, “I have a hard enough time sober. The last thing I need to be is drunk.” So it’s not my thing and never has been. In that regard, I can’t possibly relate to the person convinced they cannot live without it. I’ve still never had a drink or taken an illicit drug. As for pain medications, doctors have always struggled to appropriately dose me. One bout with suspected gall stones required 4 morphine shots before I stopped “shuffling” my legs, writhing in pain. Asked by a nurse to put a number on the pain, I think I said, “Six or seven.” It just didn’t seem that bad. For me, the interest isn’t in the substances themselves, but the influence they have on the human brain. How they’re able to completely change our minds and our personalities. Alcohol is commonly seen as a drug that can provide courage. Courage that otherwise wouldn’t exist. Inhibitions that fade away after a few drinks. Judgment that is impaired, but without us sensing it. People declare they’re fine. No idea how out of control they are. They’re colluding in their own death without even knowing it. Which makes sense because if they realized what they were doing – they might make a different decision. A Path To The Grave After discovering Judith Grisel I invested the 7 plus hours to listen to her read the book, Never Enough. Today’s show is my attempt to share with you what she’s taught me, coupled with some observations along the way. There will never be enough drugs because the brain has an extraordinary capacity to adapt. Hence, her title, Never Enough. “Most addicts die trying to satisfy an insatiable drive,” she says. “Alcohol makes you feel like you’re supposed to feel when you’re not drinking alcohol.” That was a sign Judith saw hanging behind a bar and she admits it accurately said what she felt when she first started to drink. Any modification in life, produced by alcohol (at first), beat facing her life of rules and tedium. But in time she discovered that the substance betrayed her. “I sought any opportunity to use mind-altering drugs…and at any cost,” she admits. She traded herself away a piece at a time to alcohol, cocaine, meth, and whatever else she could use. Looking back, almost all the memories were bad. Judith believes that the opposite of addiction is choice, not sobriety. Addiction robs you of freedom. Drugs obscure freedom. Recovery is birth at the bottom. I’ve read that before. Mostly in a Bible story I’ve known since I was a small boy. The parable of the prodigal’s son in Luke 15:11-32. A selfish, rebellious younger son tells his dad to give him his inheritance. Get it now. He wants what he’ll get when dad dies, but dad isn’t dead. Yet. Shockingly, the father gives him his inheritance. He also gives the older brother his, too. But the older brother stays home. Armed with newfound riches, the younger son leaves home and goes to a far country where he lives it up. He indulges in every vice and sin he wants. He’s the life of the party as long as he’s paying the bill. But then the money runs out. Along with the friends. Now he’s destitute. He finds himself feeding pigs and wanting what they’re eating. Recovery is birth at the bottom. There, in the pigpen, he comes to himself and realizes that the servants in his father’s house have it far better than he does. He makes up his mind he’ll go back home and beg his father to just let him be like a servant because he no longer deserves to be a son. The only way for an addict to feel normal is the take the drug, but it’s always a short-lived outcome. So the brain works hard to return to a homeostatic state…and now more drugs are required for the feeling. There is no free lunch, says Judith. Changes to brain chemistry brought about by addiction are always in the wrong direction. Addiction never benefits a person in the long haul. As I listened and read Ms. Grisel’s work, as a Christian I thought addiction sounded a lot like sin. Temporary pleasure. There’s never enough to make one full. And the longterm cost is extremely high. Another idea kept pushing to the forefront of my thoughts. Our choosing. Our behavior. Our responsibility. The evidence compels me to understand that people are different in how we react and respond to stimuli – like drugs or alcohol. I grew up hearing adults talk about the potential negative impacts of that “first drink.” My Christian upbringing notwithstanding, it seemed apparent to me that the wisest option was to simply avoid it altogether, which is what I did. To this day I have avoided taking my “first drink.” That has been my choice. I could have made a different choice. I’ll never know what might have been because I only know the result of the choice I made. Leaning toward wisdom has the aim of helping us get it right in real-time. That means, our choices – decisions we make in real time – need to be the ones that serve us best over time. Choices that benefit us immediately have to be contextualized. What is the benefit? Is the benefit moral or immoral? Does it build or erode our character? Does it benefit us while harming others? After the immediate benefit, then what? Our brain wrestles, or not, with a variety of questions. We think it through or we don’t. We consider carefully or we act impulsively. These choices – especially these first ones – are on us. Recovering addicts universally also talk about the importance of getting out of the context of their substance abuse. Namely, they confess that if they were not removed from the people who surrounded them, they’d never climbed out of the pit. Fantastically, they also admit that if they remain away from those people and places where their addiction happened for long periods of time…if they were to go back they’d instantly be triggered with memories and urges to use again. So many report having experienced that exact thing. More choices. In the people we allow to surround us. The influences we permit to impact us. Consequences. Issac Newton determined that what goes up must come down. There are always consequences. Wise decisions benefit us. Foolish ones hurt us. And not just us, but others, too. Addiction has a few insidious components. Tolerance is up near the top. It’s why the alcoholic has to drink more and more. The first experience with alcohol, however great it made you feel, can’t be replicated with the same amount. Maybe it’ll never be replicated, but people will still try. Addiction knows nothing of moderation because it alters your brain chemistry. Addiction always asks for more. Addiction to drugs and alcohol also results in increasing the very things most addicts are working to escape or avoid. It produces the exact opposite of what we’re going for. Dependance destroys us because when we stop taking the substances we feel worse than we did before we ever started taking them. It’s like we only lowered the quality of our feelings, thoughts, and emotions from the already bad place from which they started. It’s homeostasis – that balanced normal state we each have. Substance addiction gives us big ups and downs. Those swings grow increasingly impossible to manage. A Life Of False Fixes I don’t remember if Dr. Judith said that or if medical Dr. Pamela Peele said it. I’ve consumed substantial content from both of them…and many others. But it was one of the two who said it. I wrote it down because it seemed so congruent with everything I’ve read and studied about the influence opioids have on the brain. And addiction in general. It reminded me of that ancient Jewish boy who grabbed his inheritance and left home. His life fits that bill – a life of false fixes. We’re left to wonder what he was fixing, but it was clearly a life of utter selfishness. He wanted what he wanted and I suppose most all our foolish choices stem from that same urge. Google the phrase “cycle of addiction” and here’s what you get (click here). Tons of illustrations like the one below. This one starts with emotional trigger, followed by craving, then ritual, then using, then guilt, then back to emotional trigger. But every illustration seems to display “a life of false fixes” because they’re all cycles. They don’t end. They just perpetuate themselves, which seems to be the way self-deception works, too. What are we trying to fix? Many things I suspect, but at the heart of every problem seeking a fix seems to be one central thing – to feel better about oneself. I’ve spent way-yonder-too-much-time pondering this dilemma, the reason people want to feel better about themselves. What I’ve seen is the easy tendency we all have to look outside of ourselves for solutions to the problem of fixing how we feel about ourselves. A person doesn’t need an addiction to surrender to that urge. We just need to be willing to look at ourselves as victims and sadly, that road is smooth and easy. Almost all of us can hit that onramp at highway speeds. It seems chemical ingestion and the repeated act of ingesting chemicals (addiction) change not just how we feel, but how we act. At some point, likely very early, as Dr. Judith’s story clearly shows about her getting drunk for the first time at 13, it feels pretty terrific. As great as it feels, it’s equally fleeting. And for her, and millions of others who may be so predisposed genetically or emotionally (or both), the cycle began. And continued for a decade. A ten-year run of chasing something you’ll never catch, but you don’t know it. Until you do. “Everything is hard until it’s easy.” It remains my all-time favorite quote even though I’ve yet to discover who to credit with saying it. Or writing it. I’d bet I’ve written it down more than anybody alive. 😉 Dr. Judith spent a decade destroying her life until it dawned on her the truth of what a drug buddy said, “There’s never enough cocaine.” By then she had spent years chasing false fixes when the problem was staring back at her every time she looked in a mirror. And I wonder what she saw. Did she see herself as a homeless, drug addict? Did she see herself as a victim? Did she see herself as broken and unfixable? This much is clear. She did not see herself as she really was. Nor did she see her problems or fixes as they really were. It’s like looking in a math book for the answer to a history question. Everything about it is just wrong. And confusing. Because clear thinking has left the building replaced with self-pity and self-loathing. Every story I’ve ever heard about such things involves hatred, anger, resentment and bitterness. The chemicals do that, but not before selfishness kicks in. I started reviewing all the stories I’ve listened to through the years. Parents. Grand parents. Children. Mothers. Fathers. Brothers. Sisters. Aunts. Uncles. Friends. Some of them stories about others. Some of them stories about themselves. Stories of people who went looking to fix a problem with a substance. Without exception, they all began with a choice to please themselves. Each person – each story – centers on a person who reached a point where they made up their mind they didn’t care about anybody more than they cared about themselves. The irony is, that’s the moment each person lost themselves. Funny. Not in a ha-ha way, but funny in how colossally backwards that is. But I find that’s true with or without substance abuse. The more we focus on ourselves in a self-centered way, the more broken we become. And the more we look at external excuses and blame others. We’d be happy if not for them and how poorly they treat us. Never realizing the carnage we’re causing. A middle-aged man told me of his struggles to hang onto a woman he loved passionately since they were young. Her battles with substances of all kinds had wrecked her life and taken a heavy toll on his, if only because he refused to walk away. Her infidelity was extensive. He’d lost count. He described his own life – his own cycle of pursuing a life of false fixes. It sounded every bit as bad as hers. And I was just sad hearing it all. “Does she realize the pain she’s causing?” I asked. “Not in the moment,” he said. “But yes, she eventually figures it out and that just makes it worse because then she falls off the ledge and behaves even worse.” Everything is hard for them. And it’s gonna remain hard until something tragic happens to one or both of them. She can’t let go of drugs and alcohol. He can’t let go of her. They’re both lost. And you just can’t help but think it could be SO MUCH BETTER. But each of them is devoted to their own delusion. She’s looking in all the wrong places for answers and he’s fooled into thinking he’ll change her. There are too many such stories in every naked city and town. Coming Face-To-Face With Truth For those who find a way out, their stories are equally universal. And they fascinate me the most. I remain puzzled that boys, girls, men and women. Old, young and in between. Educated. Uneducated. Town folks. City folks. People from backgrounds that couldn’t be more different. But they all behave exactly the same way under the influence. And those who climb out of the pit do so with help. Lots of help. But first, they had to make a different choice by coming face-to-face with the truth. For the prodigal son in Luke 15, the Bible says…”But when he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have more than enough bread, but I am dying here with hunger!” (Luke 15:17) Coming to his senses meant he finally saw clearly. At that moment, self-deception left him. His mind was clear and accurate. For the first time in who knows how long, he was thinking wisely. Every person I’ve ever talked with who recovered or has a person close to them who did talks of such a moment. A moment of truth. There are so many common denominators in all this and I continue to be intrigued by them all. At just how universal the stories are. You hear one and it’s just like the other dozen you heard. You hear another two dozen and they seem eerily like the prior dozens. That’s because these substances affect the brain the same way. Further proof that we’re not so different. Any of us. We’ve got far more in common than we realize. So strong is the attachment to the substance and the pursuit of the feeling that few things, if any, can detach a person from it. Scientists often talk of lab rat experiments where the rats will literally kill themselves for a moment of pleasure. We’re no different. A moment of relief. A respite from whatever pain we’re enduring, self-made or otherwise. Freedom from guilt and shame. Craving the very thing that’s causing all the damage. Craving to satisfy self, which is at the heart of all the problems. We have met the enemy and he is us. But we don’t know that until we know it. We can’t see it until we do. Like those hidden images in a print hanging on a wall, we stare until our eyes cross, struggling to see what others claim they see. We think they’re lying to us. There’s nothing there, we think. They tell us to step back a bit. Squint your eyes, they say. Nothing seems to work. Increasingly frustrated we reckon they’re messing with us. Until we see it. Plain as day. It’s a smack your forehead moment. Now, step away and don’t come back for a month. The minute we see the print on the wall we spot the hidden image with ease. Why was it so hard earlier? Every story of recovery I’ve ever heard has a similar feel and tone. But unlike the exercise of peering into a print, these people had to endure some pain that was greater than the pain they were medicating. Without that none would have looked into the face of the truth. So they say. “Nobody could say anything to me,” they now report. They use words like “stupid” and “ignorant” to describe themselves then. But they didn’t see themselves that way in real-time. “Cloudy” may be among the most common terms they use to describe themselves then. “Foggy” is another. These are not terms that express clarity, purity, or accuracy. The bigger term comes to the forefront when they speak of facing the truth. Misery. “I was just miserable,” is the common refrain of every single one of them. But having the ability to recognize that misery often required some jolt – some external force or influence. Often it was law enforcement. Many of them got arrested. Others suffered violence (beaten up, shot). Something happened that grabbed them by the lapels and shook them as they’d never been shaken before. And in a moment or in a series of moments they realized they were miserable. “I hated my life,” they reflect. It was, for each of them, their moment of coming to their senses. All those abilities to sense the accuracy and truth of themselves and lives which had been lost along the way began to return. That hidden image in the print became clear. They saw themselves and their situation for what they truly were – horrible ways to live. The suffering they were attempting to escape was growing. Until it got so large it got them in trouble. Or until they figured out they no longer wanted to endure the misery they found themselves in. “The more you try to fill it with substances, the bigger it gets,” says Dr. Judith. Where do you go for the answers? Where do you go to fill whatever you sense may be missing? But there’s another aspect to those questions that feels important. Do the places you go help you in colluding in your own death? Or, do the places you go help you in colluding in your own life? Those seem central to this whole thing. As I listen to experts and first-hand accounts I realize the management of our feelings and thoughts is central to our well-being. Substances help us avoid managing them making it even harder to figure out what we’re feeling and why. This sends me down the path of trying to learn more about fear because it seems to me that so many of us are afraid of what we feel or think. But why? And what is that fear? As I often do, let me pick on myself to illustrate. Again, this is only because I’d rather pick on myself than anybody else. I manage my own thoughts and feelings with Faith, reading, writing, and music. None of these collude in my own death. Each of them, especially that first one – faith – contribute mightily to life. Not just any kind of life, but a good life. A life guided by principles, morality, integrity, character, and truth. Alienation is often a subject whenever conversations turn toward addiction. Experts tell us opioids are especially effective at helping people battle suffering. And there’s high or strong suspicion that alienation is at the heart of suffering for many people. A challenge with alienation may be in the language itself. It can depict something that is done TO us as opposed to something we feel ourselves. Maybe a more accurate term is emptiness. That’s something we can all own. On our own. And it doesn’t imply something done TO us. I suspect it’s also an experience common to all of us, if only for moments at a time. It also explains that language I commonly hear and that quote Dr. Judith uttered, “The more you try to fill it with substances, the bigger it gets.” What are trying to fill, if not emptiness? “It took me 15 years after getting sober to sit still,” admits Dr. Judith Grisel. She described herself as being in constant motion. Impulsive. Compulsive. Always darting from one thing to another. Yet, many addiction experts talk about how alienation and emptiness go hand in hand. Or at least how they CAN go hand in hand. We want to find causes. Reasons. For every story of a person from a broken, troubled home are others with a close-knit family and a strong community. I listen to the words people use. Pronouns are particularly important. The personal pronoun “I” is always at the forefront. Self-centeredness is fundamentally at the heart of it, but I’d argue that’s at the heart of all our foolishness. And that feeds into the next observation. The words missing. The feelings that aren’t expressed by addicts. Thanks. Gratitude. Those who have and are recovering admit it’s the way forward, but you can’t get there when you’re fixated on yourself. I’ve heard too many stories of people who abandoned a community that served them or was trying to. The prodigal son left home where his dad and brother were. Perhaps there were other unnamed family members. There were servants to be sure. It was home. Nobody kicked him out. Nobody pushed him away. He wanted to leave because he no longer wanted the constraints. He wanted to be free. And in searching for freedom he enslaved himself in a prison of his own making. He neglected to be thankful for what he had. He wasn’t deluded after he left home. He became deluded and that caused him to leave a place where he should have remained all along. How does it end? For too many, not well. Most people – 70-80% of people – drop out of rehabilitation programs within 6 months according to American Addiction Centers. Medscape reports that over 44,000 people in America die each year due to drug overdose. The Centers For Disease Control estimates that daily 114 people die due to drugs. The cost in human lives is high even if you just focus on the users. But when you compute the people in their families, those friends in their lives and the folks who surround them (or once did), then it’s a staggering number. Permit me to share the summary of all – and I mean 100% of the people who admit they found their way out of the pit. “I can’t believe that was me.” Every single person looks back, now in a sober-minded state where clear thinking prevails, and they cannot believe their behavior while taking the substances. Both men and women can’t believe their lies, cheating and shameful choices and behaviors. Each of them admit that prior to their substance use and abuse they would have never considered doing such things. And now, in hindsight, they still find it tough to believe they did. It began with lying. Maybe first to others, but for certain, to themselves. “She loved me and didn’t deserve what I did to her,” he says. He cheated on her repeatedly, but she didn’t know. He lied to her daily. Many times a day. He convinced himself he deserved to behave the way he chose. “I betrayed her in every way,” he continues. He blew up the marriage and the family even though his belief when he married her is that they’d grow old together. Until he was sober, he hated her for it. All of it. Even though he betrayed her. Guilt and shame were common for each person. “I would never admit it,” she says. “But I was so ashamed I couldn’t stand it…until I drank more to took more pills.” Using anger and hatred to deal with guilt and shame. “I burned everybody who loved me,” say all of them, in one way or the other. The people they turned on the most? Those they had been closest to before they entered the fog. Once in the abyss, those with whom they were closest became public enemy number one. Now, with clear hindsight vision they all readily admit that the people who most tried to help them get straight were the ones they hated the most when they were using. “I didn’t want to hear anything he had to say,” says one person. “I hated everything and everybody,” reports one recovered addict. “Mostly, I hated myself, but I kept that as quiet as possible.” Paying the piper can be expensive. Every sober person needs more than a brief chat to reveal the vastness of the damage they caused. While many will mention some financial or material related loss, that’s not where the focus is. Rather, each of them begins and ends and spends most of their time talking about the relationships they destroyed or damaged. For most, there were some critical relationships that got restored. In fact, they tell me that without those, they’d still be in the abyss. But each of them reports relationships that will never be repaired or restored. Lost spouses. Lost kids. Lost parents. Lost friends. Some damage is so great that no matter how badly we want it or how hard we work at it – restoration just isn’t possible. Regret. Enormous doses of regret are always part of the conversation. You can’t help but listen and hear the regret that will always follow these people. “What might have been,” seems at the forefront of their lives now. And I’m saddened to wonder if such a weight might compel some to go back into the pit feeling that’s where they deserve to be, even though that is yet another lie and unclear thought. A father grows older. No relationship with his now-grown kids who remember the man who sank into alcohol and treated their mother so poorly until she was forced to kick him out. He’s not the same man today, but in their minds, he’s frozen as he was. And so are they. They’re still kids who were sticking by their mom. He wonders what might have been. A son grows lonelier. He splintered his family. The strain on his parents took a toll on their marriage. They still love each other, but they couldn’t find a path forward together because his mother obsessed about his drug abuse while his father wanted to let him go so he could continue building a life with his wife. Today, an adult son wonders about the love he broke apart. A wife grows greyer. Youth is long gone. Replaced with wrinkles, crinkles, and popping joints. She’s no longer a wife, but she once was. He was her best friend, but her drinking and over-medicating drove him away. Coupled with her repeated infidelities. She remembers a time when she couldn’t have imagined life without him, but today she realizes she’s been apart from him longer than they were together. She too wonders what might have been. I’m left thinking that the whole reason for the choice was to get away from pain. But the result was the compounding of pain. Many times over! There is no greater pain than the pain of watching somebody you love…love their addiction more than they love you. The prodigal son returned home to an elated father who didn’t even let him finish the speech he had rehearsed. He was prepared to just beg to be like a servant because even his father’s servants had a better life than he did while way from home. But dad didn’t listen to the entire speech. He was too busy being happy. Too busy putting a ring on his hand, shoes on his feet and nice clothing over his shoulders. Too busy telling the servants to prepare a banquet to celebrate the fact that his lost son was now home. To the older son, dad said this… But we had to celebrate and rejoice, for this brother of yours was dead and has begun to live, and was lost and has been found. -Luke 15:32 I hope and pray that more people who use Fentanyl and other opioids — and people who abuse prescription drugs as well as illicit ones — and people who use alcohol — will come to their senses as this son did. There are too many celebrations just waiting for the opportunity.
69 minutes | 5 months ago
I’m Sure There’s A Way Forward (Season 2020, Episode 10)
She was in the midst of a struggle. It was fresh though, which is never the best time to do much more than encourage. We reviewed the facts – the things she knew to be true as opposed to the things she could be assuming. At some point I said it. “I’m sure there’s a way forward.” Just because it’s not apparent right now doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. Figuring out ways to escape isn’t often apparent. You’ve got to search high and low, devoting yourself to figuring it out. I’m thinking of that classic film, The Great Escape. Those prisoners of war had to consider a variety of paths forward in their attempt to escape. It required lots of thinking, pondering, planning, debating, and figuring it out. It also involved many setbacks and high risks. Nobody said the path forward would be apparent or easy. Besides all that, sometimes endurance is the path forward. Not overcoming. I’ve lost some friends – close friends – to fatal health issues. There was no overcoming of their illness. But each of them had to find a path forward so they could more successfully endure their eventuality. Pain. Sorrow. Sadness. Disappointment. EVERYBODY has experienced plenty of it. EVERYBODY has plenty of things they could dwell on to serve as excuses. EVERYBODY has lots of circumstances – some beyond their control and some not – that might compel them to embrace being “victims.” NONE of us are immune. A few years ago I suffered a personal setback. One I’ve alluded to in the past. It prompted me to surround myself with older men – each one a gospel preacher who I’d known all my life. I figured these were the guys who could help me find a way forward. And sure enough, they did. I’m unsure of how timing works. I’m very sure about God’s providence though – meaning God’s ability to work through the natural courses of life. We all make up our own mind. We make choices and behave in ways we choose. The Bible pretty clearly teaches us that God can and does use the natural events and circumstances of life for his Will. If I choose to behave poorly, it’s not God’s fault. He’s not behind it. It’s my own free will in motion. But my poor choice can still be leveraged by God to serve some purpose that may not be clear for a long time – if ever. One by one these 3 older sages in my life passed on…leaving me alone and pretty much without any more older men in my life who had served me as they had all my life. I’m not bringing it up to lament my plight, but to illustrate how urgent it is for all of us – no matter what we’re facing – to find a way forward. My confession is that when I lost the first one I took great comfort that I had him for as long as I did. I was especially thankful to have had him over the course of the previous year plus. His wisdom was unparalleled. But I was also very grateful I still had the other two even though both had serious health issues (one more so than the other). Curveballs enter everybody’s life. Mine came when the seemingly healthier of the two was suddenly gone. Even though he was the oldest of the 3 – the youngest was the first to pass – none of us were expecting it. The suddenness of death is always a jolt. Within a short time, the 3rd and final old man left the planet and entered Eternity. It was expected, but that didn’t make it any easier. Now there were none and my path forward was not apparent. During dark days of sadness and sorrow, it’s hard to find enough light with which to see any path or way. I’m a lifelong insomniac. Inside the Yellow Studio is a red light bulb I burn at night – like an old photographer’s darkroom. It provides enough light to see without illuminating the house and waking up Rhonda. But I’ll often traipse into the kitchen from my studio and without any lights on…and my eyes adjusted to the red glow…and I’ll struggle to barely make out where furniture and walls are so I can make my way. If I wait just a bit and employ my memory of where things are, I can make my way safely. But sometimes I rush it and bump into things. Life seems to work the same way. At least for me. Give it time. We’ve all been given that admonition when something difficult is happening to us. Time doesn’t suddenly make something better. It gives us time to make adjustments though. To let our vision adjust to these new surroundings. To grow our confidence and belief. To hopefully become more sure there’s a way forward – we just to have to find it. Figure it out. On Friday morning – July 10, 2020 – news arrived of some church friends who suffered a tragic death in their family. A son-in-law. Killed in a traffic accident. A young family is now completely torn up. Devastated. Parents. Inlaws. Grandparents. A wife. Five children. At this moment, none of them know the way forward. They only know God will be included and at the forefront because they’re Christians. They know the Faith will remain, but in this moment the sadness and sorrow are overwhelming. Yet, deep down inside the adults are sure there’s a way forward. It’s not important for them to see it right now. The grief and sorrow are too intense in this moment. Give it time. The quandary of the path forward is universal. How? Followed perhaps by… When? Human brainpower is amazing. In many ways. We’re especially adept at coming to terms with things – even sudden tragic events. While we’re often crippled at the moment, we rise to our feet sooner than maybe we expect. Figuring out ways to cope, manage, and find the path forward. Something else happened on Friday, July 10th…thankfully something far more positive than the tragedy I just told you about. Dan Miller released a new podcast episode – 48 Days To The Work You Love. “Can Your Beliefs Take You This Far?” is the title. I only read the short show notes (so far) to the episode. Dan got my attention with the copy. This week I received the most amazing testimonial story I’ve ever received. A teenage girl who has been in a wheelchair for four years read 48 Days to the Work You Love, got inspired, hopeful, and began walking with the aid of only a walker. The power of belief opens our eyes, ears, minds, and spirits to a bigger future. Talk about the power of a mind made up. Dan inserted another headline – The Power Of Belief. There are so many daily illustrations of the power of belief – a mind made up to find a path forward. ABC News (this also happened on the same Friday as the other 2 things) ended their newscast talking about a young man who couldn’t get into any college so in his desperation he took a job as a trash man. Going to work every morning at 4 am he found himself surrounded by people who saw something in him. They encouraged him to find the way forward toward his dreams. He found his way into college while continuing to work double shifts on the garbage truck. His GPA? 4.0 The story ended with him sitting with friends as he opened an email to find out whether or not he’d be accepted into Harvard Law School. He opened the email and the celebration began. A young man goes from having no prospects to being admitted to the most prestigious law school in America. More evidence of the power of a mind made up. Proof that we can decide to believe as fact… I’m sure there’s a way forward. We’re just not sure what that way is. Or when we’ll find it. Which really means one BIG thing. It’s an endurance test. A test of wills that leaves us with a challenge – how committed are we to endure whatever challenges we face? It’ll take however long it takes for us to a) make up our mind that we’re going to find a path forward and b) figure out the way. Springtime In 2020 (Is this pandemic teaching us anything?) Yes, it is. Of course, much of it isn’t very good. But we’re still learning ’cause this thing isn’t over. Is there a way forward past this pandemic? Just about everybody says they think so, but that’s about the only common ground you can hear. Otherwise, it’s a sea of conflicting opinions where half-truths, lies, conspiracy theories, scientific evidence, medical experience/expertise, and every other form of insight serves to make the noise floor so loud you can’t think. Any of them – or any group of them – could be right, so far as I know. But logic tells me they can’t all be right. And I lack the mental horsepower to know very much. I admit that not only am I NOT the smartest guy in the room when it comes to COVID 19 discussions, but I’m not sure I’m qualified to even be in the room when it’s being talked about. This much I have learned though, thanks to the pandemic. The highly opinionated have become more so. The moderately opinioned have become highly opinionated. Those falling below the “moderately opinionated” line have become increasingly quiet. Oh, I forgot one other area of common ground – frustration! All of the above, and those I failed to identify, are all frustrated almost the point of losing their minds. Google is your friend they say. Just do a search they tell us. Well, that’s not helping. You can find somebody – likely many somebodies – who will support whatever lame-brained notion you hold. Type “I think the earth is flat” into Google and here’s what you’ll find: About 185,000,000 results (0.46 seconds). Just sayin’ The point isn’t to challenge whatever you think about the pandemic – or anything else – but to demonstrate why believing in and finding a path forward is so hard these days. We’re often too busy shouting at each other. Calling each other names (yes, I’m VERY guilty because I’ve personally come to know many “nannies”). Seriously, we just don’t give hardly anybody much consideration these days. Unless they agree with us. The path forward is rarely smooth, flat and high speed. It’s less like a nice manicured track and more like mountain terrain. I can prove it. But you need to join me in looking at your own life. Think of a time when you were at a loss about moving forward. A time when you leaned on somebody who was safe for you. I’m defining safety as somebody who you knew would not use anything against you. They were simply there to help you without regard to any other outcome. Go ahead. Get that in your mind. Hold it there and let’s think more deeply about what happened for you. I’m thinking of my own times when I was facing a challenge that tested my belief in being able to move forward. I suppose I knew I could move forward, but I was uncertain how. There have been times when I didn’t even know what my next step should be. When you can’t figure out the next step to take you sure aren’t able to figure out the path. I’m thinking of my three older mentors – those who have died. They were my first phone calls many times. A couple of years ago I was facing a big dilemma and one by one, I contacted them. I told each of them what happened, how I felt, and what I was thinking of doing. Separate and independent of each other, they each challenged me by disagreeing with me. “You could do that,” said one of them, “but I think it would be a mistake.” For months and months, they challenged me by disagreeing with me. They pushed me with their knowledge, insights, and experience…peppering me with questions to help me think through my problem. Repeated phone calls seemed to blend into one long, extended conversation designed to push me forward into thinking more clearly. I spent the better part of a year daily studying, reading, thinking, and rehearsing what they were telling me. Frequently, I respectfully pushed back telling them why I felt or believed as I did. Each time, they listened but offered counter-arguments that I wasn’t able to refute. And I tried to refute them, especially early on. Does any of that resonate with you? Have you ever experienced anything similar? A time when somebody safe challenged you by disagreeing with you? I’ve described a challenge that was a big problem, but the more I’ve thought about it, even lesser challenges have produced great growth because safe people didn’t agree with me. And I’ve been on the other end with some who find me safe. That is, I’ve been able to serve them by disagreeing with them. Nothing in these safe conversations is confrontational. Nothing in them is the pushing of an opinion or agenda. Nothing in these conversations was about anything other than wanting my best. There it is. The Point “I’m sure there’s a way forward.” For myself. For people I care about. For people I may not care about. The way forward doesn’t depend on my view of anybody. It doesn’t depend on your view either. But here’s what does matter – your way forward hinges on how YOU view yourself. And it’s dramatically impacted by how well the safe people around you serve you. Part of that is on you and your openness to let them help you. Part of that is on them and their ability to put your best interests first. Peernovation is the name of a podcast I produce with partner Leo Bottary. Leo also has a book coming out by the same title. Leo’s tagline for the podcast is, “The power of WE begins with YOU.” So let’s start there. With YOU. With Me. With each of us as individuals. This focus on self isn’t selfish. It’s necessary because our path forward is OUR path. It belongs to us. Nobody else. It’s personal responsibility and accountability. This is about each of us accepting responsibility for ourselves. For our thoughts, beliefs, choices, and behaviors. While we’re influenced by others, we have our own lives to live and for good or bad or indifferent – we live the way we choose. For too many, the path forward is hidden by self-pity and other poor choices. Victim thinking is so insidious because it robs people of the power necessary to move forward. We can’t move forward and remain stuck in the past. They’re incongruent. We have to pick one or the other. Not both. Forgiveness is a subject that leaps to my mind. Our willingness – not our ability because forgiveness is within our power, but it may not be part of our willingness – to forgive helps us move forward or it cements us in our past. Our moving forward is like that. It depends on us making up our mind that we’re going to do it even though we may have no idea how. Until or unless we do that, nothing else matters. We can be surrounded by the safest people on the planet. People can encircle us who love us, care about us, and are doing everything in their power to just help us. But if we don’t make up our mind to move forward, all that help is for nothing. Once we make up our mind that we’re going to do everything in our power to move forward others can be of tremendous service in helping us find the way. Keep one small, but important thing in mind – others, those people with whom we feel safest, can influence and persuade us to make up our minds. We don’t do that in spite of ourselves, but we do it because these safe people can help us see things more clearly. That clarity can be useful so we can make up our minds – or change our minds. I’d never discount the power other people can have to help us. Or to hurt us. Sadly, the opposite of those safe people are unsafe people. They’re the people who will intentionally use anything and everything against you. The way forward requires us to ditch the unsafe people and embrace the safe folks. It’s like the oath doctors take to first “do no harm.” Each of us is responsible to stop doing harm. To ourselves and to others. We have to accept personal responsibility for our own lives, including how our lives impact others. Let’s concentrate for a minute on the first part of the statement, “I’m sure…” Confidence and belief are important. They deserve to be rooted in truth and wisdom. Those folks who believe the earth is flat are deluded. They’re not seeing clearly. They’re confident outside of truth and wisdom. Isaiah 40:22 “It is he who sits above the circle of the earth, and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers; who stretches out the heavens like a curtain, and spreads them like a tent to dwell in…” Job 26:7 “He stretches out the north over the void and hangs the earth on nothing.” Proverbs 8:27 “When he established the heavens, I was there; when he drew a circle on the face of the deep…” Job 26:10 “He has inscribed a circle on the face of the waters at the boundary between light and darkness.” But there are photos from space that clearly show the earth is a globe, a ball. Round. I could choose to deny these simple, straightforward facts, but it only proves I’m not thinking clearly. Humans have the ability to feel, think, and believe whatever they choose. It doesn’t make it real. Or true. Or wise. The same goes for our view of a forward path. I can choose to think there is no path forward. I can close my mind to the prospect that I can get past some hurdle or challenge. I can choose to avoid looking at an opportunity as an opportunity. The world is completely open to me to view it anyway I choose. My certainty about a thing influences my commitment to that thing – regardless of how accurate or true it may be. When it comes to moving forward the question must be asked… Is this certainty in my best interest? Does this certainty serve me? If so, how? My heart aches for people stuck in some past prison of their own making, unable or unwilling to move forward. Their certainty shackles them in ways no prison ever could. It traps them into being victims their entire lives. In their mind, it’s an absolute truth. Nobody is able to help them see more clearly because they won’t open their eyes. They choose to see their life as they want, making their life the reality they always believed it to be. Not realizing that they created it. First in their mind, then by their choices. On the flip side are those of us who – with the help of close, safe advisors – do battle with ourselves and our circumstances to find the way forward. We resist the wisdom of others who seek to help us without any agenda other than our best. But if we can’t see it, we can’t see it. Delusion has many causes. Medications. Illicit drugs. Alcohol. Mental illness. Selfishness. Hardheadedness. Rebellion. Immaturity. It’s an endless list I suppose. It’s the only group for whom I’m NOT sure if there is a way forward. People committed to their delusion or to their potential – a very important term, POTENTIAL – wrong view. People who refuse to consider the possibility – no matter how remote – that they could be wrong. We like to think we’re rational. By the way, that doesn’t mean devoid of emotions. Only robots or machines are capable of that. It means we prefer to think we’re reasonable – that others can reason with us and that we’re capable of reasoning with ourselves. That we can listen, understand, and figure out when or if we’ve got something wrong. If we’re highly opinionated it means we’re very committed to our viewpoint, likely to the exclusion of contrary opinions. That’s why highly opinionated folks don’t tend toward being open-minded. And many are completely closed to the prospect that their opinion might be misinformed or incorrect. Who among us is incapable of being helped? Those who refuse to be helped. For all the rest of us, we are sure there’s a way forward – because there is. “Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t–you’re right.” ― Henry Ford Let’s start winding this down with a focus on YOU and helping you finding confidence in finding a way forward. Allow me to give you a few suggestions (and that’s all they are). Don’t be afraid of having your thoughts, beliefs, assumptions or opinions tested. The truth will hold up. So unless you’re fearful of the truth, there’s nothing to fear. Don’t be committed to delusion. It’s not the way forward. Enlist safe people. Again, these are people you’re confident will not use anything against you. They want only your best. It doesn’t mean you’ll agree with them. Nor does it mean you have to. Listen. Do it with the intention of hearing and understanding. Firstly, to better understand where you might not be seeing things as clearly as you could. Secondly, to allow your safe inner circle to help you question things so you can figure out the truth. Resist the urge to hold onto the past. That includes the things that don’t withstand the wise challenges. This may be harder than you first think because it includes pet things, which can include anything…especially things that can blind us to the truth or what’s real. It happens with substances, sins, relationships, and anything we just refuse to give up even though it’s destructive. Commit to act on what you’ve learned. Listening, understanding and learning do you no good until you put it into meaningful action. Lean into making positive changes. Do it with confidence that you’ll figure it out even though you’re unsure of every step along the way. Based on your learning, you’ll have some solid ideas on how to begin. So begin. Make adjustments along the way by being committed to your growth. Continue to lean on those safe people who helped you get this far. Keep questioning things. Keep pressure-testing everything. All along the way, stop judging yourself and others. That doesn’t mean you fail to make some discernments. It means you avoid harsh judgment. Don’t put people in dog houses from which they can never escape. It won’t make you better. I hope you’re pushing forward to find your way forward. During this pandemic I understand it may be harder, but what’s our better option? I don’t see that we have one. If you’ve got one, I’m ready to hear it. Thanks for your time and attention.
86 minutes | 5 months ago
It’s Hard To Measure A Pleasure Or An Itch (Season 2020, Episode 9)
Jason Wilber was John Prine’s longtime lead guitarist and musical director. John died during this pandemic. Jason released a new album after John passed. It’s entitled, Time Traveler and contains a song, Poet’s Life. Today’s show title is a lyric from that song. How do you measure a pleasure or an itch? I don’t know. But I don’t know how you measure sadness, sorrow or disappointment either? So my inability to measure such things runs in every direction. I’ve been sharing way too much Billy Strings with the private Facebook group lately. Billy Strings is William Apostol. He’s a 27 year old guitar whiz kid who combines heavy metal with bluegrass. Yeah, I know. Sounds nuts, right? Well, it’s not nuts. It’s brilliant. Billy is one of those artists that I’ll binge on a few times a year. I’ll just listen and watch everything I can for 2 weeks straight. Mostly in complete amazement at how somebody can be so proficient at something at such a young age. I look over in the corner at my encased acoustic guitar, which I’m unable to play – and I think of measuring the value of a guitar in Billy’s hands versus a guitar in my hands. At least you could kinda sorta measure that by looking at how much income Billy earns playing the guitar versus the zero dollars I’ll ever earn with a guitar. My only chance of making money on a guitar is if I sell mine! I grew up hearing preachers deliver sermons about the powerful impact of godly women. Much of the time they’d speak of how priceless a godly wife, mother or grandmother was. And since I had all three, I can attest to the high value they deliver. But I’m not able to measure it. Proverbs 31:10 “Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.” I can’t play the guitar, but I sure do enjoy watching and listening to Billy Strings perform. In the last 2 weeks, I’ve likely spent over 50 hours listening to my Billy Strings’ records (okay, they’re digital) and watching his YouTube concerts. I love watching the guy perform. Many nights in the last 2 weeks his songs have been earworms. Many things are hard to measure. But maybe it’s worth asking, “Why measure them anyway?” The square, super-logical among us would say, “Because you can’t make progress unless you can measure it.” Check out The Squircle Academy if you want to investigate circles and squares. Ridiculous. Of course, you can make progress in something that can’t be measured. Some aspects of love may be measurable, but it’s pretty hard. John 15:13 “Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” So there’s the pinnacle, right? Hatred is at the opposing extreme I reckon. But what about all that space in between? I fell in love with my wife in the summer of 1975. After 42 years of marriage, I love her more now than then. I don’t have any paperwork to prove it. Nor do I have any assessment I can show off to her. I just know how I feel and what I think. I can measure it intuitively. By how important she is to me. By how devastated I’d be if something bad were to happen to her. By how lonely I’d be without her. By the value she provides to my life. Family. Friends. Allies. Mentors. Teachers. How do you measure their value? Billy Strings said this in a magazine interview… Those moments are what I cherish the absolute most. For instance, when I was six or seven years old, I was learning “Beaumont Rag,” and I just played the rhythm, but I kept messing it up in this one part. Right in the middle of the song, I said, “Stop. Dad, why don’t you play it and let me listen?” I listened to what he was trying to say with the guitar, and I go, “Now, let me try it again,” and I nailed it. He started laughing. He reached over his guitar and squeezed my little hand. He called my grandmother and said, “Listen to your grandson right now!” I was a little kid, but I’ll never forget that moment. Now there have been several moments since then, like when I got to introduce my dad to David Grisman in real life because my dad introduced me to David Grisman when I was seven years old. We got to sing songs all night. Let me play a little audio snippet of an evening where Billy Strings and Brian Sutton were playing together. Billy starts the conversation. Now listen to an onstage interview Billy gave during one of his band’s live shows. Here he talks about the influence of his father. Ask Billy to measure the gift his dad gave him. I’m pretty sure he’ll tell you there’s no way he can measure it. That’s why years ago MasterCard developed that advertising strategy with a single punchline, “priceless.” Some things can’t be measured with dollars. Truth is, some things can’t be measured with anything. Well, back to the lyric of Jason Wilber’s song – It’s Hard To Measure A Pleasure Or An Itch Measuring some things is difficult. Especially things such as what we find joyous or pleasurable. Or pursuits that drive us (aka, itches we have that we just must scratch). The implication is that we’re attempting to measure our own pleasure or itch. You may think, “Well, who else would measure it?” Oh, plenty of people are willing to judge our every move. Surely they’d be willing to take a crack at measuring our pleasure or itch. Is it hard? Is it impossible? Maybe not. We invest more of ourselves in things that matter to us. But it’s not always an accurate measurement of pleasure or an itch. For example, I know some people who invest quite a lot in caring for a family member desperate for their help. It’s not pleasure or an itch. Doesn’t mean they hate it or resent it, but they’re not doing it for themselves. They spend quite a lot of time in the pursuit because the person matters that much to them. Self-sacrifice may be tougher to measure than our own pleasure or itches. Or maybe it’s easier for those fixated on what they’re giving up. That’s why you often hear folks prone to feeling victimized complain of what they could be, or what they could be doing “if only.” Sometimes, those measurements aren’t terribly accurate though. People often enjoy imaging loftier outcomes than are realistic. “If only I could devote myself to my own pursuits, then I’d be world-class.” Maybe. But not likely! 😉 I digress. Pleasure. An itch. Why does my mind go to illicit pursuits or selfish behavior? I wish it didn’t, but it often does because of the nature of my work. Coaching and supporting people means helping them through difficult times. There’s lots more of that than helping people jump on obvious – or not so obvious – opportunities. We all have tough times that require more than we may think we have to give. And in so many cases, I find myself talking with somebody about betrayal, pain, sorrow, suffering. Often caused by the selfish pursuits of others. We jump on a Zoom call for a scheduled session. He’s off. Something is clearly preoccupying him today. I inquire. He breaks down and tells me of a teenage son who is pursuing drugs and alcohol. How do you measure that kind of pleasure or itch on the part of his son? A broken life. A broken father. A family turned upside down. The damage is immeasurable. We both realize the cost of this ordeal will likely last for a long time. Perhaps lifetimes. So let’s restrict the conversation to honorable, not-quite-so-selfish, and moral pursuits or pleasures. I’m tired of all the time Adversity requires of each of us. I’m exhausted thinking and talking about hatred, betrayal, and all the other ways we’re able to impose harm on others. The unkindness and other foul behavior in the name of our selfish pursuits of happiness. “I deserve to be happy!” That sound you hear is me retching over in the corner. You hear it when a husband cheats on his wife. Or a wife cheats on her husband. We can justify violating our marriage vows…proving we can justify almost anything. Including a teenage boy willing to throw his life away to get high – and the lives of his family who love him and are desperate to save him. “The business of life is the acquisition of memories,” said Mr. Carson of Downton Abbey fame. I loved that show. Some great quotes in every episode. What memories are we acquiring? What memories are we helping others acquire? It may be among the ways we can manage a pleasure or an itch. By gauging our memories and the memories others around us report. You heard now 27-year-old Billy Strings talk about events that happened in his life when he was just a child. Seven-year-old children know little about a pleasure or an itch. Mostly, the 7-year-olds who have and do occupy my life just want to play and have fun. But they’ll grow up and remember things. Little Billy has turned into one of the planet’s very best guitar players. His pleasure playing the guitar and his itch to use it as his voice first set sail when he was just a little boy surrounded by family who loved music. Particularly a father who loved it so that he passed it onto his son forming a bond that seems to only grow stronger over time. There’s a great video of Billy presenting his dad with a custom made guitar from Preston Thompson Guitars, a Billy Strings Signature model – specifically #1 of 33. There’s a great story Billy shared on Thompson Guitars’ YouTube channel about his dad’s original Martin D-93. He’s 17 when he buys the guitar back. Which means he was about 11 when his dad had to sell it. That’s a pretty big impact on an 11-year-old boy to scrape together $700 for three months in a row. Not to mention the letter-writing campaign and salesmanship to get the seller to cooperate. That’s how you measure a pleasure or an itch. By the sacrifice and action taken. There’s our answer. Sacrifice. Action. That’s how you measure a pleasure or an itch. There are at least a gazillion examples. Since I’ve been on a Billy Strings binge I was thinking of a documentary I saw years ago on Chet Atkins. He grew up in extreme poverty. Introverted by nature, Chet found it easy to sit alone with a guitar in his hands. He confessed he could sit and play for hours. Spending time with the guitar was an accurate measure of the pleasure and the itch Chet had to play the guitar. The documentary ended with Chet saying this… “If you’re lucky in this world, you’ll be born in the country, and at an early age somebody will give you a guitar and you’ll play it with your fingers. That’s what it’s all about.” Who knows how many kids are born in the country, given a guitar at an early age, but don’t end up being very good at playing the guitar. Much less, how few are talented enough and dedicated enough to earn a living at it. Never mind being good enough to become like Chet Atkins. But those are measurements of success, not measurements of a pleasure or an itch. Or are they? Effort versus success is a long-standing debate. I don’t claim to have superior insight, but it seems evident that success requires a degree of effort, but effort won’t guarantee success. Barry Sanders is in the NFL Hall of Fame. He was a running back for the woeful Detroit Lions, after playing college ball for Oklahoma State University. He walked away from the game in the prime of his professional life. Partly because football wasn’t much of a pleasure or an itch. Seems improbable given his success, but his talent was exceptional. Sometimes we see people who are extremely good at something whose pleasure doesn’t match the success. I’m thinking of all those people – from ex-Presidents to famous Hollywood actors – who enjoy painting and spend lots of time at it. Their success isn’t in painting, but that’s their itch. That’s what gives them pleasure. They don’t do it for success. I could argue that their success in whatever they’re known for (from politics to sports to acting) affords them to luxury of spending time doing something purely for the enjoyment. Unleashed from having to earn their income from it, they can dive in just because they love it so. It’s a complicated thing trying to measure things that aren’t so easily measured. Sacifice and action work…until you insert outcomes. That sparks further debate. Why must we pin outcomes on all this? Because it’s what we do. It’s how we gauge most things. Maybe that’s worth rethinking. Perhaps we ought to challenge that. Is it because we live in a capitalistic society here in America? Is it because we’re so competitive? Is it because we love to compare ourselves against others? Is it because we love to keep score? Yes, yes, yes and yes. Likely. True confession: One of the things that prompted today’s episode was my realization that I love to do a number of things that have no real outcome other than I love them. And I won’t dive too deeply into things like appreciating things such as great cartoons or music. You might argue those aren’t requiring any action on my part. Some would say they’re passive. I’m not so sure about that, but I think I understand the point. I’m not drawing the cartoons. I’m not creating the music. So how profitable could it be? Well, thankfully profitable isn’t the barometer. Pleasure or an itch…those are the things that matter in today’s conversation. I can’t truly measure the pleasure I get or the itch I have to listen to music. But I can measure my sacrifice and action in time spent doing it. It’s a lot. Sometimes I’m doing nothing nothing else, but that’s not the norm. Mostly I’m doing something else with the headphones on. But sometimes I’m walking. Other times I’m sitting and doing nothing else. Still, there are hours and hours spent listening to songs. So it’s important. Because I could be doing something else. My wife listens to audiobooks. I’ve not listened to more than 10 audiobooks in my entire life. I love to read and I’ll spend hours doing that, too. But I don’t listen to audiobooks. I love to podcast, but I’ll really blow your mind. I can’t tell you the last podcast I listened to. That’s right. Especially since this pandemic hit, I don’t think I’ve listened to a single podcast. Maybe snippets of some here and there, but barely even that. I love this communication though. I love music, but I don’t love creating it because I haven’t a clue how. Plus I lack the talent. Fact is, I have a lifelong habit of failing to make the sacrifices or take the action necessary to learn. It’s clearly not important to me. Not like listening is. I once spent a lot of time drawing, but I’ve not done that since college. I love Ballard Street cartoons though. I’ve spent time and money (sacrifice and action) proving how enjoyable Ballard Street is to me. I’ve spent no time in the last 45 years improving my ability to create cartoons. I’ve spent years and countless hours behind the mic podcasting but I’ve spent very little time with headphones on listening to podcasts. I much prefer music over podcasts when it comes to consumption, but not when it comes to creation. These aren’t up for argument in my life any more than they are in your life. We like what we like. We loath what we loath. Why? Sometimes we know. Sometimes we don’t. I’m unable to measure it. Take that Chet Atkins quote. He was born in poverty in eastern Tennessee. I wasn’t. He picked up a guitar that belonged to a brother who played. The brother was 14 years older. I don’t even have a brother. Much less an older brother who knew how to play. Like Billy Strings, Chet’s family played music. My family only played records. Would I behave differently if my circumstances had been different? We’ll never know. This is where the measuring thing really challenges us. Our imaginations go to work on what might have been. Late in high school and in early college I could see myself writing for a living. But I remember telling friends, “I don’t know any writers. They all live up in the northeast.” Well, that wasn’t true, but it was indicative of how we can perceive things and how those perceptions can fuel our choices. I knew of great southern writers. And of others from the northwest. But my generalization was merely the statement of a younger man who just couldn’t see himself in a role because I knew nobody personally who did it. So did the itch or pleasure leave? No. It morphed. Into podcasting. Blogging. Creating tons of notebooks. Never mind that I wasn’t able to make a living doing the things. I made sure I did them anyway. It doesn’t make them more or less valuable. It just makes them part of our lives. We trade things. Sacrifice. Rather than play music I listened to it. Rather than listen to podcasts, I create them. Rather than listen to books, I read them. Those are personal choices I make. That’s how I’m able to measure my own pleasure and itches. There was once a man who said to me constantly, “I’ve scratched every itch I ever had.” I haven’t. Because many of them were pretty fleeting itches. Or the pleasures weren’t strong enough 0r valuable enough to give something up instead. Life is a constant calculation – whether on the fly or with long-term planning. Is it worth it? Is it worth putting headphones on while clicking play to another Billy Strings’ concert? For you, maybe not. For me? At 3am when I’m not able to sleep. You bet. All night long. In fact, while I’m writing this I’m watching – for the umpteenth time – his concert in 2019 at Red Rocks. “I used my only phone call to contact my daddy…I got 20 long years for some dust in a baggie.” 😀 By the time I was 20 I had learned a very hard truth. Many of us are in love with being able to do something, but we’re not in love with the process of actually doing it. My love of guitar taught me that. I was a slow learner. 😉 In 1974 I bought a brand new book by Tom Wheeler. Tom was a writer for Guitar Player magazine, eventually became the chief editor in 1981. A corporate takeover of the magazine caused him to jump ship to become a professor of journalism at the University of Oregon. He died in 2018 when he was 70. I share that because it was his book that occupied me for 3 years before I concluded the truth of my life. I was more in love with being able to play the guitar than I was actually spending time learning to play. In my mind, I can imagine what it might be like to play like Billy Strings. What I’m unable to imagine is the countless hours spent figuring out how to play, which is exactly why Billy Strings is Billy Strings and I’m not. Well, that and the big talent gap between us. 😀 That’s how you measure a pleasure or an itch. Sacrifice. Action. What are you willing to give up so you can have something? Chet was playing in the boy’s restroom of the little country school because the acoustics were so good in there. What were the other boys doing? Chet says the ones who had any money were rolling dice in that same bathroom in an opposite corner from where he sat playing his guitar. Had I been at that school, I’d have likely been outside with a football. It still wouldn’t have resulted in an NFL career though! The process is almost always unpleasant and ugly for those of us who aren’t doing it. It can even be unpleasant for us sometimes. Did Billy Strings ever suck at the guitar? Of course. Probably not for long, but I’m only guessing. Only his family likely knows or remembers. First efforts are sparked more by itch than pleasure. I’m willing to speculate based largely on what I know of Billy that he wanted to be able to play like his dad, who is a really good picker. The pleasure of practice was the sacrifice and action sparked because the itch was so strong. In time, the practice became increasingly more pleasurable. Soon enough, it was what Chet experienced. It was simply playing because he loved it so. Talent kicked in catapulting him past his peers. My itch wasn’t strong enough to be scratched. When it came to the guitar, I had a very minor mosquito bite. Billy had full blow poison ivy. That measurement was key for me. You can’t have everything. Nobody can. It’s a fool’s errand to think otherwise. Billy Strings has a celebrity net worth (you know you check out that website) of $5 million. His dad has the chops to have played music for a living, but he never did. What he did do is teach a little boy, his stepson. A little boy he clearly loves every bit as much as if he were his own biological offspring. Billy is now 27. When I was 27 I didn’t have a net worth (celebrity or otherwise) of $5 million. But I had a little boy and a little girl. I had a wife I’d been married to almost 7 years. I had a fairly successful business career. I had a mentor who was helping me learn more about the Bible. I was very active at church, which was the priority. I gave up some things so I could grab other things that mattered more. So did my wife. And together, as a couple, we gave us some things together so we could have other things we felt were more important. More valuable to us. “I made different choices.” We can all say that when we compare our lives to others. Or to some ideal we have of what our life may have been like. You measure a pleasure or an itch by the choices you made – and are making. Not by the choices you failed to make. Even if they’re choices you wish you would have made. Maybe that’s why the process has to matter more than the outcome. It’s why Billy Strings loves playing the guitar and I enjoy listening to guys and gals like him play. He admits he knows he’s blessed to play for a living, but acknowledges he’d be playing any way. And I believe him. I know I’d be listening no matter what. We love to fascinate our imaginations with what might have been – mostly fixating on the most positive outcomes. In bedrooms and small spaces all over the world are children with guitars in hand dreaming of being Billy Strings or their favorite guitarist. Some are putting in the work. Others, not so much. But they’re all dreaming. Time will tell perhaps – perhaps not – if some have a strong enough itch or pleasure coupled with talent to make the dream a reality. Billy Strings is having success, but he’s not likely ever going to displace Taylor Swift. She’s worth an estimated $360 million. To be fair, she’s 3 years older than Billy though so she’s got a head start. You know how I know he loves it. Watch his face when he’s playing (the way he looks while playing in the summer of 2014 above is how he still looks). Except for this pandemic he’s playing 200 shows a year and has been doing for the past few years. He earning fans the hard way – playing live. You don’t hear his stuff on radio or TV. He loves playing. He loves performing. And he’s playing bluegrass coupled with a heavy metal vibe. Pop music is way more profitable. Another reason I know he loves it. He’s devoted to the genre, not because there’s money in it, but because it’s who he is and what he loves. His itch IS his pleasure. Pursuit is worth the action and sacrifice. Do you measure a pleasure or an itch by whether or not you can succeed at it? Some do. And I get it. I’m often said, “If it’s worth fighting for, then it’s worth winning.” And I’ve often asked, “Why fight unless there’s hope of victory?” But I’m not sure that’s correct. Sometimes the fight is worth fighting just because you enjoy the fight. I used to box with my next-door neighbor, Ray. I loved boxing. Ray knew what he was doing. I had no clue. Ray got in fights at school. I never have been in a fistfight. Ever. But I loved the process. Boxing was fun. Even if I did get punched in the nose by Ray time and time again. Until I learned how to hit him in the nose, which was way yonder more fun! But still, I just enjoyed boxing. Even if I lost, it was fun because the process was pleasurable. Doing. Does the itch compel you to do something you wouldn’t otherwise do? Do you enjoy doing it? Enough that you’ll forego doing something else? Many nights I’d just soon have on headphones and have Billy Strings – or somebody else – playing in my ears than sleep. And I rather love sleep, but evidently I love listening to music more. Other nights, like now, I’ll add one more action to the equation. Writing. The itch is thinking about all this stuff and trying to figure out ways to communicate it to you. I don’t claim to be good at it, but I absolutely do love it. If not, then I wouldn’t do it. I’d do something else. Find another itch to scratch. Have you ever tried to manage such things? For instance, have you ever tried to increase your passion for something because you know you’re not pursuing it? I’m curious how that worked out for you because I’ve never been able to fabricate it myself. Maybe I’m just inept at it. For me, it’s every bit like having a preference for one flavor of milkshake over another. It just is what it is and I have no real understanding of why. But if I were to try to make strawberry milkshakes be my favorite I’d still likely fail, even though I love strawberry flavor. I’m more likely to pick vanilla even over the chocolate and I love chocolate, too. I don’t know why. I can’t influence it to be something it’s not though. Maybe you can. I’d love to hear about it if you’ve been able to influence your itches like that. I’d imagine it’s quite powerful if you can make yourself have an itch where one didn’t exist, or if you can intensify an itch where one wasn’t strong enough to fuel you to take some real action. Let me give one final thought a go. I wonder if this resonates with you. I often get way too fascinated with wondering what itch I might be able to take better advantage of, but I just don’t have the itch. Mostly, I wonder about unrealized talent. I wonder what I might be very good at, but I’ve never tried it because I just lack the itch. Do you ever wonder that about yourself? I’m pretty sure all of us have talents we’ll never know about. There’s no evidence that I’m right, of course. It’s just intuition. But it seems logical given how many things a human could pursue. I would have made different choices perhaps if I had the insight into such things. By the 7th grade, I knew math wasn’t likely going to be a dominant player in my future. I knew words and speech likely were. From an early age, I sorta figured communication would be in my wheelhouse and science would not be. Maybe we just enjoy imagining what it might be like to be world-class at something because most of us aren’t world-class at anything. I’m not naive enough to think that’s possible, but I am mature enough to know it doesn’t matter. We can provide big value without being world-class. Still, it’s nice to imagine what it might be like to be top-notch at something. That’s why Billy Strings and other proficient musicians capture my imagination so. To pick up a guitar and be able to play with other musicians and follow them wherever they go musically is just something beyond my ability to comprehend, but I’ve seen Billy and other musicians do it. Don’t get me wrong. Again, I don’t think we have to be that exceptional to be super valuable to the world, but wouldn’t it be nice? I’m not that good at anything. Certainly not something that could be performed so others might notice. Which is another aspect of all this that fascinates me. I can look at Billy’s face and body when he’s playing and know how deep the pleasure goes and how big of an itch he’s got when it comes to making music on a guitar. Performance. Most of my biggest moments have been done when nobody was looking. Business decisions. One-on-one coaching. That suits me fine, but sometimes…wouldn’t it be nice if at least your family could see you at your best instead of your worst? Well, it speaks to the notion that you can’t improve anything if you can’t measure it. Maybe whoever said that was onto something. If we could accurately measure a pleasure or an itch then maybe we could improve it, although it completely escapes me how! Then again, there are some itches that shouldn’t be scratched, but that’s a whole ‘nother episode. All those selfish mongrels who chase whatever they please without any consideration to who they hurt. Which is why I began the show talking about us pursuing honorable, moral things. Lately, I’m having a harder time identifying a pleasure or an itch – a passion, if you please. Nevermind measuring the stupid things. Perhaps I’m nearing the end of the line because I don’t much think in terms of pleasures or itches. I think more in terms of figuring out if tonight I’ll be sleeping or watching more Billy Strings. The odds are heavy in Billy’s favor!
68 minutes | 6 months ago
Moving In Silence (Season 2020 Episode 8)
NOTE: I began preparing for this episode some days before the violent death of George Perry Floyd Jr. in Minneapolis at the hands of a police officer. As violence broke out across the country it seemed best to stay silent and observe. And listen. The irony of the title of today’s episode wasn’t lost on me. It was purely coincidental. I was already thinking very seriously about my own urge to be quieter in some specific areas of life. If you’ve listened to the COVID19 episodes you could likely figure out that my tolerance of highly opinionated, judgmental people is eroding. I’ve never much cared for it, but if the coronavirus didn’t bring such people out of the woodwork, this current ordeal surely has. I simply want you to know that today’s show is not a response to specific incidents or any news, but today’s show is mostly provoked by human behavior. Disagreement. Anger. Assumption. Judgment. Strife. Contention. No big shock really. Behaving poorly is almost always the easy choice. Doing the right thing – behaving with kindness – requires more from us. At the beginning of the pandemic, I began to post some audio sermons in a YouTube playlist entitled, In Thy Paths. The first sermon (21 minutes long) was entitled, A Certain Samaritan Answers The Question, “Who is my neighbor?” I’ve embedded it here in case you want to give it a listen. Even if you’re irreligious I hope the message will resonate with you. So with that, let’s talk about moving in silence. Thank you for hitting that play button. I know your time is valuable and I can’t properly thank you enough for giving me your time and attention. Without you, I’m just a guy talking to himself into a microphone! ____________________________________________________ It started some time ago with Baker Mayfield, starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns, but most notable in my book as being the OU Sooner Heisman Trophy winner. Last year I was highly entertained by him, as usual. But I’m a fan, so that’s my bias. During the offseason – and even during the season – Baker was widely criticized for being too loud and talkative. Prior to the beginning of this weird 2020 season, Baker decided it was time to start “moving in silence” – a quote from his press conference that captured my attention. John Prine’s song had already been in my ears and on my mind, Quiet Man. And for weeks I’d been giving serious consideration to my urge to become quieter, not in a podcasting sense necessarily, but in other real-life situations. Truth was, I had made up my mind weeks ago that I was going to be much quieter in some areas of my life. And there’s more music about silence or quiet, too. One of my favorite bands, Mandolin Orange, released an album in 2010 entitled, Quiet Little Room. Then about a couple of weeks ago Ken Yates released a new album, Quiet Talkers. It’s like the universe was pushing, not just nudging, this idea of quietness. Something that isn’t all that hard for me. In spite of the fact that I’m a podcaster who struggles with consistency. Thoreau wrote, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” I’d also been thumbing through an old book (circa 1988) – a paperback that I’ve had for years entitled, “Quiet Desperation: The Truth About Successful Men.” There are a number of books dealing with introverts which have a focus on the power of quiet. The paradox is that I’m compelled to communicate. Until I’m not. Then I’m even more compelled to be silent. And it can last quite a while. I don’t read the genre, but I jotted down a quote I ran into that I thought was quite clever. Science fiction writer, Philip K. Dick crafted a great line in a novel, Valis: “When you are crazy you learn to keep quiet.” Perhaps I’m becoming aware of my own craziness. Maybe that’s fueling my desire to pick my spots and grow increasingly quieter. I’m not sure. How can I be? I’m crazy. 😉 I know that I’m quite fond of 3am. And have been much of my life. It’s quiet. And still. The ideal time to walk about for quietness. Not likely the safest hour, but I’ve taken plenty of chances. I figure I’ll take plenty more. 3am is magical. But 4am ain’t bad either. John Rives delivered a brilliant 8-minute TED Talk back in 2007 that is still my most-watched TED Talk. I love it like I love 4am. Or 3am. The silence. The quiet. The stillness. There’s something about it. The contradiction of my own life is how much I’m a sound and communication guy. As a kid I’d come home from school and the first thing I’d do – the VERY first thing I’d do – is turn on the TV, then leave the room. I just needed the sound. It felt like opening the window to the world. Without it, the window was closed. Eventually, I’d wind my way back in the same room with the TV to watch F Troop, The Andy Griffith Show, Gilligan’s Island or McCale’s Navy. But I needed the sound. Music. Well, if you’ve listened to at least one episode of this podcast before you understand my passion for music. And how much of it I listen to. You know that phone notification you get each week that tells you if your usage for the week is up or down? And by how much – both as a percentage and as time? Well, it’s a good thing I don’t have some kind of chip in my head tracking the hours I spend listening to music ’cause it’s a ridiculous number. Communication. Speech was always one of my favorite subjects. It’s one of the reasons I went into journalism school at LSU. I’m very communicative. 😉 Then there’s that whole introvert/extrovert thing. We won’t even go down that bunny trail. I figure we’re all a walking contradiction. I admit I am. This is why in the last 6 weeks or more I’ve grown increasingly determined to shut up in some instances. I won’t bore you with the details of exactly where, but I will tell you that I was prompted to do a podcast episode about profitable disagreement over at the work podcast, The Power Of Others. It was sparked by numerous conversations with people who were frustrated with people in their lives unwilling to have or continue a discussion. In short, people with whom discussion is difficult or impossible. I make a handful of points in that podcast ending with one final point about how we can rob ourselves of profitable disagreement (where many of the best ideas and truths are found). Avoid hitting the shut-down point. That’s the point we all reach when we just no longer want to talk because we realize the push back isn’t worth the price we pay to express ourselves. It’s counter production – even destructive – when you’re trying to rally people to accomplish something worthwhile. But sometimes people don’t want to listen to anybody else. Those smartest people in the room have little use for your ideas, thoughts, feelings, or insights. It won’t be long before you reach your shut-down point. Then, you’ll do whatever you can to distance because it’s the safe play. Frankly, I think it’s the wise play. And I’m a fan of increasing that distance continually and consistently. The shut-down point is important in this conversation because there’s an area of my life where I’ve reached that point. There may even be more than one. What about you? I’m betting you could quickly and easily remember when you hit a shut-down point. What prompted you going quiet? Was it because somebody didn’t listen to you? Or was it because somebody was quick with harsh judgment? Or was it because you were ridiculed? Odds are it was because somebody – or a group of somebodies – wasn’t respectful enough or kind enough to try to understand. It may not have had anything to do with you. But still you took it to heart. For me, the quietness is driven by some strong desire. It’s not always the same. Usually, it’s the desire to stop the insanity. To stop throwing gasoline on a fire that I’d rather not have seen ignited to begin with. Sometimes it’s a quest for peace. Especially with people who may be easily inflamed. Mostly it’s driven by my complete lack of desire to be heard. The thing that provokes it can be varied, but that’s the sum total of it for me. I just reach my shut-down point and that’s all she wrote. Baker Mayfield seems to have hit his shut-down point. At least when it comes to being the starting quarterback for an NFL team. Smart. “Moving in silence” was an important phrase Baker used. It’s not merely being quiet while you do nothing. It’s continuing to move – presumably forward – while being silent. Baker’s profession allows him to move in silence while people can easily assess whether or not he’s putting in the work. Or how well he’s performing. Context matters. Not every area of our life – an area where we’ve hit our shut-down point – is one where we can demonstrate we’re still moving. People too often mistake silence for lack of movement. It may look like I’m doing nothing, but I’m actively waiting for my problems to go away. People who are always silent or quiet don’t get much attention. But folks who suddenly or over time grow quieter tend to raise suspicions. “What’s going on with him?” people ask. I got very quiet in one particular area of my life a couple of years ago. I wasn’t sure how long it might last, but it felt like the proper thing to do. So I did it. During this pandemic, I was daily hit with doses of clarity. Me and Baker. 😉 I’m more determined than ever to join him in moving in silence in this area of my life. For starters, because it’s best for me. And it’s also best for others. So it’s pretty much a no-brainer decision. But it’s one area. Just one area. “Are you sure?” asks a friend. Yes, I’m very sure. “Will it be hard?” he presses. I admit it was at first, but by now it’s truly quite easy. Likely because now after a couple of years I can tell how profitable it is for me. A man has to do what he has to do. I’m a broken record in telling people that few things are more powerful than a mind made up. My mind is made up. And my mouth is shut. “My radio’s on, windows rolled up and my minds rolled down.” – John Prine, Long Monday Moving is critical. If the silence is going to be productive, it must serve a purpose. Hopefully, it benefits everybody starting with a quiet person. As a Baker Mayfield fan, I’m hopeful that his moving in silence pays off bigtime. I’m more confident in my own moving in silence, but that’s just because I’m in control of that. Given that I’m recording this in June 2020 during this COVID19 pandemic I likely need to give context to the word “moving.” Some people are staying at home. Millions of people across the country are working from home. Staying put and staying safe isn’t synonymous with not moving though. I’m using “moving” to mean “accomplishing” or “achieving.” Like Baker, it’s about performance – performing. Performing in silence Somebody says, “Nobody wants to perform without attention.” The subject is charity and works of benevolence. I question, “Sure they do. You just don’t hear about it.” 😀 It’s the irony of every age, especially our live-out-loud Internet age. For example, there’s this Instagram from the actor Topher Grace, who played Eric on That 70’s Show. Permit a quote from scripture that specifically addresses the issue. Matthew 6:1 “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven.” But where’s the fun in that? Moving whilst shouting about it is how it’s done, right? Besides, we all know the truth of how the world works – if you don’t blow your own horn then you won’t get credit for it. And if you don’t get credit for it, then what are you doing it for? Many of us enjoy simple generalizations. And we can easily lean toward extreme absolutes…with terms like “never” or “always.” Never self promote versus always self promote. Life is more complex than that though. Circumstances, situations, and context differ making one-size-fits-all approaches impractical. Eccl. 3:7 “…A time to keep silence, And a time to speak…” There are many times when speaking and writing are necessary because they’re helpful. Sometimes the purpose is to communicate thoughts, feelings, and ideas. Sometimes the purpose is to investigate curiosity so we can understand. Or so we can better understand. That’s not likely the wisest order of the purposes either. Firstly, we ought to be silent, listen, and ask questions in order to understand. Then, we’ll be better equipped to share our thoughts, feelings, ideas, and beliefs. There’s another time to keep silence — when there’s no benefit to speaking up. Or when speaking up may even be detrimental. We all encounter some circumstances when that’s the case. The key is figuring that out. Quickly. Figuring out when to speak up and when to keep quiet is where the work begins. Figuring it out in real-time is urgent. For our own well-being and for the well-being of those around us. Unfortunately, it’s work that not everybody wants to do. Still others don’t make the work much of a priority. Yet others don’t know how to put in the work. The easy things aren’t often the best or wisest or most profitable things. The hard things more often are. Which is why it’s difficult for some to keep quiet. And for others to speak up. Why it’s easy for some to be critical and judgmental, while it’s easier for others to embrace empathy and compassion. As humans, we can all learn, improve, and grow. It largely depends on whether or not we see the benefit or value. To ourselves and to others. “Blowing out someone else’s candle won’t make yours shine brighter. Remember that.” So why do we do it? Because it fools us into thinking it will make our candle shine brighter. Even if that fails, it can make us feel better about our candle’s brightness. Maybe we do it because moving in silence is too deafening. We get trapped in our own fears and insecurities. So rather than moving in silence we lash out, judge and criticize others. Or we busy ourselves comparing ourselves to those we perceive as being more successful. Better. A universal challenge we can likely all relate to is the fear of other people’s opinions. What will they think of us? What will they say about us? Baker Mayfield is certainly living his life more out in public than most of us. By comparison, I’m a hermit living under a rock…even though I podcast and have some reasonably consistent social media presence. But compared to Baker, I’m alone in a forest just talking to myself. You’ve heard it repeatedly — one of the biggest obstacles to finding success in anything is our ability to shut out the noise of critics. But it’s deeper than that – this whole quest of moving in silence! It starts with the noise in our head. Got nothing to do with critics, but it has everything to do with our anticipation of critics. Our fears that somebody will say something bad about us. Or think something bad about us. Or worse yet, somebody will openly criticize us. Fears paralyze us. Or cripple us. Frozen in our tracks, thinking somebody somewhere will think poorly of us…we avoid moving. Fears, self-doubt and insecurities drive many of us to remain stuck in silence – instead of moving in silence! Then there’s crowd influence – going along with the responses of the vocal crowd. It doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the majority because it’s not often a quantifiable number. It’s the noise level. Think of it as humming your own song, but all around others are singing very loudly…a different song. You surrender your humming. Many do. A Point Of Context: As I was crafting the notes for this episode I was thinking of all sorts of things that illustrate this. A person says they really enjoy a certain piece of music, only to be ridiculed because others think that music is lame (for example, is anybody courageous enough to admit being a fan of Nickelback, perhaps the most ridiculed band I can think of). It happens with books, movies, art and just about anything else. I was also thinking of the people who don’t think one candidate or the other is ideal for the office of President of the United States. Or people who support the current President without approving of every single act or statement he makes. It’s hard to stand your ground on your opinions or beliefs when opposing viewpoints are so loud. A person might support opposition to the current President, but be in the company of supporters. The crowd influences them to remain silent. It’s the punchline to the joke about the wide-mouthed frog who goes throughout the area where he lives inquiring about what the other animals are eating for breakfast. He speaks loudly, with his mouth opened wide as he speaks. He finds out the giraffe eats grass. The elephant eats plants. Then the crocodile answers that he eats wide-mouthed frogs for breakfast garnering a response from the wide-mouthed frog, (pursing his lips tightly together) “Oh, really.” That’s how we can all behave when the crowd that surrounds us – however big or small – disagrees with us. “Oh, really.” If that racquet is loud enough, long enough it may even be able to alter our viewpoint. We may surrender our taste, viewpoint, opinion or belief to go along with the others. Other people influence us whether we like to admit it or not. Birds of a feather may flock together, but sometimes we become more like the birds who surround us, too. There are 2 action words in today’s title: moving & silence. Both require action and work on our part. Moving. Stationary is easy. Movement? Less so. What popped to your mind when you first heard the phrase? Moving in silence. During my bouts of insomnia, I often watch YouTube videos of people who live the RV lifestyle full-time. I’m not remotely tempted to live the way they do, but there’s something about it that I find quite fascinating. Mostly, I started subscribing to some of these channels a few years ago because I wondered why people opt for such a way of life. But I watch other shows like Hawaii Life, Home Town, House Hunters, and plenty of other shows that tell stories of people literally making moves to new places. Their stories are varied. But there’s something in every single story – people have engaged their imaginations to pursue something they don’t currently have. And in every single story is something else – experience. I started listening carefully to people talk about, in fairly vivid detail, what life will be like in this new space. When you’re traversing Hawaii with the intention of moving there, it’s easy to let your imagination run amuck. Well, it’s easy to imagine living there even if you’re visiting with no intention of ever moving. That’s the power of the imagination. You know why all these shows are so popular? Because most of us don’t do what we see these other people doing. We don’t sell everything we have, buy an RV and hit the road full-time. We don’t move to Laurel, Mississippi (the location of Home Town) and renovate some old house. We don’t uproot from our current location and head to Hawaii permanently. Vicariously, we’re able to imagine what it’d be like to do what we see others doing. All without leaving our home. Or our current situation. I’ll throw a few numbers to illustrate the point. About 1.2 to 1.6 million people would watch each new episode of Hawaii Life, a show about people finding places to buy so they can move to Hawaii. Each year about 12,500 new people move to Hawaii. That’s a bit over 1,000 people each month, a tiny fraction of people who watch the TV show. Not surprising though. Lots more of us enjoy watching and dreaming. Fewer of us enjoy making such a dramatic change. Ask any professional trainer or people involved in professional development and they’ll likely confess that in spite of doing their best to give people actionable things to improve themselves…the majority of people in attendance won’t do one thing with what they learn. Most believe that fewer than 2% will leave the training and do one thing. Fewer still will make a meaningful long-term change. Seems like a big waste of time, huh? You could think so and you’d be right. But you could also embrace my point-of-view, as evidenced by my favorite story of that little boy throwing single starfish back into the ocean one at a time, even though there are thousands of them stranded on the beach. “It made a difference to that one.” I don’t get fixated on scaling. I care more about individual impact. Good thing, too ’cause my critics enjoy pointing out how I don’t enjoy any widespread influence. They think they’re dissing me, but instead, they’re just validating my philosophy! Moving signifies forward progress. Advancement. Improvement. Growth. Silence indicates one component of that progress. Not loud. Not brash. Not calling attention to. But quietly. Without fanfare. Without spotlight. NBC News released a poll that Americans are more unhappy than they’ve been in 50 years. It has prompted a firestorm of social media posts urging people to vote. Like that’s gonna help? The pandemic. Societal unrest. Bigotry. Prejudice. Crime. Politicians are the answer? Well, okay. Moving in silence is contrasted with staying put, but doing it out loud. Don’t mistake motion with movement. As I use the word, movement means doing something more profitable than moving around. I can stand still and jump and down. Other than getting some aerobic exercise I’m not going to be advancing. I can create lots of motion though. And I can holler at the top of my lungs while doing it. That’ll likely elevate my heart rate and help exercise my lungs. But I’m not sure it’ll do much else. Do we really think somebody else’s movement will fix what ails us? Will their action make us happy? Happier? How? What of our own movement? What actions are we going to take to advance ourselves? Months ago – maybe even a year or so ago – I sat down and drew 3 circles representing the 3 big areas of my life as it relates to activity (not relationships). Relationships trump it all, but even in those relationships, there are serious actions required. Rhonda and I have been married for over 42 years. It didn’t just happen by accident or chance. We worked at it. We took actions that fostered our ability to stay together. Happily. But as I sat and drew these circles I was thinking of activities. Spiritual was the first circle, followed by Personal, then finally Professional. They form a Venn diagram where they all intersect in one single area that I shaded in and called the “sweet spot.” That sweet spot represented the work I began a few years ago where I started focusing on our ability to help each other. I called it by the same name as my professional podcast, THE POWER OF OTHERS. I’ve come to more fully understand how critical it is that we surround ourselves with people who can help us and people willing to let us help them. Activities. It reminds me of Herb Kelleher’s famous quote about the strategic planning of Southwest Airlines, the airline he helped co-found. “We have a strategic plan. It’s called doing things.” Doing things. That’s movement. Doing wise things. Doing the proper things. Doing the right things. That’s moving. In silence is doing it without fanfare. Doing it quietly. Doing it intentionally by just blending in, falling into the woodwork, if you please. Almost 2 years ago I got increasingly quiet in a few key areas of my life. Largely, spiritually. Not in avoiding teaching or preaching, which I have done in earnest during this pandemic, as evidenced by that work I call IN THY PATHS. But I began to embrace my most natural state of introversion – of being quiet much of the time. Letting life and others step to the forefront if they so chose. Here’s the irony of it all. By simply speaking of it with you, I’m breaking silence. Technically. But our moving in silence surely needs to provide some learning – not just for us, but for others. Unless we communicate, there can be little teaching. So if you find this hypocritical of me, so be it. I can suffer that momentarily. Go ahead. I started reflecting on my lifelong actions and approach. And decided it was time to more fully embrace that as I had much of my life. To not push against whatever power-mongering went on around me (and there’s always plenty to go around). But rather, to just do my work in anonymity and silence, as much as possible. The spiritual work has always been like that because one of my biggest strengths is safety. Providing people a safe space where they can pour out their problems, challenges, and difficulties knowing that I only want to help them through it. I think back of people who have gone through some traumatic ordeals unknown to almost everybody. And I’m honored to be so trusted. I don’t betray that trust. Because I know we all need somebody with whom we can be completely safe. Safe enough to be as vulnerable as we need to be to get past something. Or through it. Moving in that kind of silence is super easy for me. Moving in silence when people are behaving poorly is much, much harder. I’m not talking about people who sit still while others hurt people, but I am talking about people who may be unable to sit still while others clamor for attention or power or popularly or authority. Sitting still during that is much less natural for me, but about 2 years ago I made up my mind it was – for me – the right way to go about it. I felt it was time for me to let that go. So I did. Fast forward and enter Baker Mayfield’s comment and you may now better see why it resonated with me. I thought immediately, “Yes, that’s precisely what I’m trying to do.” I renewed my zeal for the work. Both the moving and the silence. In that order. But something else is worth mentioning before I shut up today. As I kept thinking of Baker’s comment and as I began leaning more heavily into being true to who I most am – I came to understand some other important truths. Two actually. One, those things come easily – most naturally – for us tend to be things we grossly undervalue. Because they’re not difficult. And two, we do that because culture has conditioned us to think everything worthwhile is hard. It must be difficult and if it’s not, then it’s not worthwhile. It’s not valuable unless it requires some hard grinding. You know I’m no longer a young man. I’d love to fancy myself a fast learner, but the past couple of years have taught me – more than all the other years of my life combined – that these 2 things are true. It’s possible for me to move in silence while continuing to podcast and share my insights and experiences. I can be more silent in some areas of my life while being a bit louder in others. I can do what I have always done – serve people in quiet, confidential ways where safety is key – while simultaneously choosing to share some other things in hopes they help somebody – like this podcast. Or any of my other podcasts. What about you? What will you decide is right for you? Why will you make the choices you make? Will you do it simply for yourself or will you do with others in mind, too?
60 minutes | 7 months ago
Oh, No! Not Another Covid Show! (Season 2020 Episode 7)
It’s May. And we’re still in this pandemic thing. Let’s talk it out. Some more. Join the private Facebook group. There’ll be surprises in it for you! Click here. Thanks,
70 minutes | 7 months ago
Are We Coming Out The Other Side Of Covid? (Season 2020 Episode 6)
It’s a question. Not a statement. Here in Texas, our “stay at home” order (issued by the governor) ends tomorrow, Thursday, April 30, 2020. Starting Friday, May 1st, stores can open up at 25% capacity. The exceptions are hair salons, bars and health clubs. If things continue to improve (some argue that they may not be improving), then the governor said he’ll modify his executive order to elevate the capacities to 50% on May 18th. By then, he may have a plan for bars, hair salons, and health clubs to reopen, too. As with many things, time will tell. It’s the first sign and step toward emerging from this pandemic. Maybe. Some are still quite anxious about it. Others are restless and ready to get back to the old normal. Me? I’m pretty sure I’m not ready to enter some crowded space. Those who are cavalier, thinking this is much ado about nothing, will likely think I’m an idiot. And that’s fine. I can live with it. I’ve been called worse. Today, let’s talk about music and other coping mechanisms of this pandemic. Enjoy. Stay safe. And let’s see if we can’t figure out a way to create an even better normal than our past normal. Here’s the social media post I refer to in today’s show. Laugh at will. Randy P.S. If you’d like to watch the video of this episode, plus tons of other fun stuff not available here at the website…join the private Facebook group. Just click here and answer a few quick questions.
77 minutes | 7 months ago
Continuing To Cope With Covid (Season 2020 Episode 5)
It’s been about 5 weeks since this whole stay-safe-at-home began. Today, it’s a rambling-mess documenting my effort of continuing to cope with Covid. You can judge how well or how poorly I’m holding up. Early on, I know many of us, including me, thought this might be much ado about nothing. But there are real people behind the fatality numbers. Here’s just one example that happened more than 2 weeks ago… I wish you all the best. Love, P.S. If you’d like to see a video of me recording today’s episode, then join the private Facebook group. Click here!
74 minutes | 8 months ago
Coping With Covid (Season 2020 Episode 4)
Today’s show is a video. I decided against live streaming ’cause I’m just not a live streaming guy. Okay, mostly I’m a chicken. I’ll give some words that distill today’s episode: Compassion Understanding Judgment I’m coping with COVID by trying to better understand. I hope you and yours are safe, and well. Links you may want to check out (mentioned in today’s show): Ed Sheeran’s looper board demonstrated (you can find much more if you dig deeper) Kevin Presley’s sermon on Plagues And Punishment Enjoy the show.
5 minutes | 9 months ago
March 13, 2020 – A Craving Encouragement Moment by Leaning Toward Wisdom
Happy Friday the 13th. No, I’m not superstitious. The best definition I ever heard of overthinking is creating problems that are never there. Today let me encourage us to just do stuff while avoiding thinking of all the things that could go wrong. Today it’s about thinking what if it goes right. What if it goes well. ‘Cause it could. It might. But we’ll never know if we don’t try. Fear stops us, but today needs to be the day – a notable day ’cause it’s a Friday the 13th – to give it a go and fail if we must. But we might succeed. Wildly. How will we know if we don’t try? And if we fail we’ll laugh it off. Get back up and either do it again because one failure doesn’t mean we were doing it wrong…or we’ll adjust and it slightly different. The good news is we get to decide what we’ll do. But the urgent thing is that we do something! And that we keep doing it. “When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.” – Winston Churchill Stop worrying about it. Stop thinking it may not work. Stop thinking that everybody is watching. You know that’s untrue. I certainly know it’s true. Unless you’ve got millions of followers on social media you know nobody is paying attention to your life. That’s a blessing. We can try stuff without any fear of failure or embarrassment – except in our head. So today get out of your head. “In a moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing to do, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.” – Theodore Roosevelt Today it’s about being in the sunlight of optimism. And it’s about working harder to battle our fears and pessimism thinking it won’t work. Starting today and all through the weekend let’s try an experiment. Let’s put in the work – let’s do the things we most want to try to do – and let’s assume it’ll work out. Let’s assume success. Yes, failure is always possible, but success is, too. Let’s bet on success! What if for the next 3 days we refuse to be pessimistic about what we’re doing and we embrace optimism choosing rather to believe that our work – our efforts – will pay off. Do something. Do the one thing you’ve refused to do up to now because you were afraid. Stop being so afraid you don’t do anything. Be afraid, but do it anyway. Pick the one thing that you know is in your way. The one action you’re not taking that you know may make the big difference. Do that thing. Believe it will work out to your favor. “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” – Helen Keller Go do it. If you want my help, shoot me a message using that contact page. Let me know what you’re going to do. Let me know you did it. Then let me know how it turned out. I promise I’ll reply and give you encouragement to keep moving forward. Randy
2 minutes | 9 months ago
March 9, 2020 – A Craving Encouragement Moment by Leaning Toward Wisdom
“If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will think it’s stupid.” – Albert Einstein Let’s personalize it. If YOU judge yourself by your inability to do something, you’ll think you’re stupid. There are many things you’re not. Many thing you cannot do. That doesn’t mean you’re a failure or stupid. It merely means those aren’t likely the things you should pursue. Those aren’t your element, that place Sir Ken Robinson describes as where your natural aptitude intersects with what you love. So you’d best devote more time to finding your element than lamenting what isn’t. You know what’s possible for everybody? The things within the reach of every single one of us? Goodness. Morality. Righteousness. Holiness. Love. Forgiveness. Humility. Loyalty. Friendship. Courage. Vigor. Zeal. Enthusiasm. Resolve. Persistence. Trustworthiness. Sanctification. Salvation. Add whatever words you’d like to that list. You get the idea. Nothing prevents any of us from accomplishing ALL of these things. Lasting things. Things we can instill into our families, our children, and our friends by our good influence. We can be so much more. We can do so much more. We can if only we will. What’s stopping you? Is it the pursuit of lesser things? Like money? Or fun? Or self-indulgence? Should we give up these lasting pursuits for entertainment, or luxury, or ease? Self-talk is important. Be careful how you talk with yourself. But be even more careful to see yourself for what you truly are. Invest more time in those areas where you can become a better person. Where you can make a bigger difference to others. Be wise. Be helpful. Randy P.S. Want to join us inside Facebook? Click here.
107 minutes | 9 months ago
Now What Are You Gonna Do? (Season 2020, Episode 3)
How are those New Year’s resolutions working out for you? Have you given up on them yet? The odds are you’ve already quit. And if you haven’t, you will. Almost everybody does. Sad, huh? Maybe. Maybe not. There’s good news and bad news. Let’s start with the bad news. You won’t do anything you don’t want to do. Well, actually that can be good news if you think about it in more positive ways than most people do. Because…it means you can do what you want to do. It doesn’t mean you can do it well. You may not have the talent to pull it off. But you can still give it a go. The thought of an unprofitable outcome might help you change your mind and decide to give up on it. Like me playing the guitar for the past 40 plus years. Mostly I’ve been in love with the idea of being able to play. I’ve been far less in love with actually putting in the work. So it’s pretty clear I made up my mind. Learning to play the guitar has never been important enough to me – important enough that I wanted to put in the work to learn. Freedom. We all have it. Our freedom may be impacted by our circumstances, but only to the degree we allow it. We convince ourselves of things. Real and imagined things. You know the circumstance that has always ruined my desire to learn the guitar? Not being able to play anything well for a long time. I’m not foiled by the knowledge that I’ll never play music for money, or be recognized as a great guitarist. Those were never goals or dreams. The new times I’ve sat down to try to begin learning, the task seemed so daunting that I convinced myself it’ll be years before you can play anything enjoyable. I’ve never been able to mentally or emotionally move past the truth that I just don’t enjoy the process. And even though not all processes are enjoyable, we pursue the processes that take us toward something we really want. Seems my truth is, I really don’t want to learn the guitar. Else, I’d be learning. My truth? I really enjoy listening to and watching great guitarists play music. That’s where I get pleasure. The result? I listen to a lot of music. I love it and I willingly invest the time to listen to a lot of music every single day. I can easily prioritize my music listening in lieu of other activities like watching TV or reading a novel or any other thing. The good news is you can do what you want to do. The hard part may be figuring that out. The other bad news is that you can’t decide or choose for anybody except yourself. Deciding for yourself is challenging enough, but sadly we frequently spend more time hoping to change somebody else. Meanwhile, our own growth and improvement go unattended. We’re busy trying to drive somebody else’s car. Growing increasingly frustrated when it doesn’t work. They don’t do what we want. All the while, losing more and more of ourselves. Sometimes our life goes into the ditch because we’re not taking the wheel of our own life. Maybe it’s time to change that. So now what you gonna do? It happened. Something you never saw coming. Something you knew was coming. Something bad. Maybe horrible. Life knocked you down and dragged you out back, beating you until you were so hurt you couldn’t get back to your feet. Not right away. I don’t know what it is that attacked you. It could be one of a million things. Sickness. Death. Broken relationships. Money (or lack thereof). Job. Faith. There is no area of our life immune from a crisis. Before you can dive too deeply into answering today’s question there’s another – even more personal question to answer. Who are you gonna do it for? I hope there is somebody. Think about them. Right now. Keep thinking about them. Embrace whatever feelings sweep over you. Spend a lot of time pondering the person – or the people. Why do they matter so much? What do they do for you? What do you do for them? Is your relationship with them growing? How is each of you bringing value for each other? This person – these people – matter to you. They matter to you so much you’re willing to do things differently because of them. Love does that. It helps us not focus so much on ourselves. And more on others. This isn’t about letting other people live our lives. It’s more a choice – giving permission – to specific people who we know care enough about us to help us be our best. Permission to influence us. Permission to help us. Permission to serve us. Permission to challenge us in ways where the only outcome is what’s best for us. In short, it’s about surrounding ourselves with people determined to help us live our best life. That’s who we’re going to do this for because in essence…we’re doing this for ourselves. These people are helping us. Where are you right now? And how did you get here? How you got here is important because – well, this is Leaning Toward Wisdom so we’re intent on learning from our past. Not so we can berate ourselves or others, but so we can understand. There’s the word of the moment – UNDERSTANDING. This is a quest for self-awareness. The path forward – to figuring out what we’re going to do next – isn’t in looking at others. It’s looking at ourselves. Others serve us. Help us. But we have to put in the work on ourselves. What work are we gonna do? How can we know what work to do on ourselves? By better knowing ourselves. Forget GPS analogies. How we got here doesn’t matter unless we’re lost…then it matters if we’re able to retrace our steps. Otherwise, it’s pretty useless. Not so with our lives. Choices and decisions brought us to where we are. So if wonder, “How did I get into all this mess?” The answer lies in our choices and decisions. Understanding those choices helps us. Improves us. Gives us big opportunities to grow. Wisdom is making the right choice in real-time. We’re in hot pursuit of how to do that better. So we need to learn from our past. Facing fear. This may be job 1. Frequently we’re afraid to face ourselves because we’re afraid. Afraid of what we might learn. Afraid of what we may find. Afraid of what we may come to understand. But the answers are always more valuable than the fears. Always! Are you sitting down? Standing up? Either one is fine. Just don’t do this if you’re driving or on a treadmill. It’s preferable that you do it when you’re alone where you can avoid distractions. Put your hands behind your head. Sit up straight. Tilt your head back. Close your eyes. Take one deep breath through your nose. Breath in as deeply as possible. Your stomach should go in as much as possible. Now release the air through your mouth. Slowly. Make your stomach go out as much as possible. Expel all the air out of your lungs. Repeat this four more times. Five deep breaths. Keep your hands behind your head. Keep your head tilted back. Keep your eyes closed. Just breathe normally. Do it for as long as you want. Some of you will want to pop your eyes open as soon as you end breath 5. Others of you may want to sit there for a few minutes or longer. Do whatever you want. Make a mental note (or a physical note if you enjoy journaling) of how you feel. Is it different than how you felt before you began? Put words to how you feel. Some words might leap to your mind. Calm. Comfort. Quiet. Maybe those are words that describe how you now feel. If you’d like the opposite feeling…just for the contrast, then watch FREE SOLO, the documentary about Alex Honnold attempts to conquer the first free solo climb of famed El Capitan’s 900-meter vertical rock face at Yosemite National Park. Warning Spoiler Alert: It is harrowing. My hands are sweating just thinking about it. Some words that leap to my mind are insane, terrifying, idiotic, daunting, harrowing…and I’m at a loss for the panic I’d feel venturing up a rock face. It’s completely nuts to me, but Alex loves to climb. And he’s admittedly a little off. 😉 The summit is about 3,000 feet up. 3 hours and 56 minutes of exhausting climbing with nothing but his bare hands and rock-climbing shoe clad feet. Terror and fear. It’s the opposite of calm, comfort and quiet – for me. Not for Alex. But while most of us are about “maximizing our longevity,” (that’s how Alex views it) – he’s not that interested in it. He’s more interested in performance and accomplishment than in happiness. Alex doesn’t experience fear the way I do. Or the way most people do for that matter. I get nervous climbing on the roof to clean my gutters! After the climb, somebody asks Alex, “Now what are you gonna do?” His answer, “Probably hang board.” A hang board is a board he has installed in his van – the van he’s lived in for 9 years – with various size holes that he can stick his fingers in and hang, with all his body weight being held only by those fingers in the board. Sounds like a grand time, huh? Okay, let’s make some progress here. These feelings – calm versus fear and all the others you may want to think about – spark within us a drive. Some desire. Maybe the desire is to sit on our sofa and do nothing. Maybe the desire is to go skydiving or something equally adventurous. It could be anything. Literally. It’s the spark behind the verb, “DO.” Now what are you gonna DO? Right now you’re afraid of doing something. Likely it’s THE THING you most need to do. The fear may be overt. But it may be more subtle. It may just be not wanting to confront something or somebody. It may be not wanting to disappoint somebody. It may be having too much pride to fall on your sword and fix something you know you broke. It may be a reluctance to make the first step toward reconciliation even though you know it would be terrific. That’s the thing… We mostly know – deep down inside – how much benefit we’d derive from doing THE THING. Us. Our life. We would benefit the most. Forget everybody else. The thing I’ve been somewhat preoccupied with in recent weeks is self-awareness. Lots of people talk about it. Lots of people and companies offer solutions aimed at helping us better understand ourselves. There are tons of self-assessments. And assessments performed by others. I admit I’m a sucker for them, even if they lack great scientific backing. I’m still intrigued. If you’ve found a self-assessment you’re particularly fond of – let me know. I’d like to investigate it. But that’s not my current preoccupation. My current preoccupation is our self-awareness coupled with how we think about (and approach trying to reach) our ideal self. I’ve wrestled a bit with wondering if it’s possible to have self-awareness without simultaneously having a vision of what we’d like our ideal self to be. Self-Awareness + Our Vision Of Our Ideal Self + Behaviors, Choices, Actions Aimed At Reaching Our Ideal Self = Effective Self-Improvement So there’s the context of the question, “Now what are you gonna do?” First, what are you gonna do to increase your self-awareness? Here’s a side note, some insider stuff. I’ve been listening to some previous episodes and reading some things I’ve written – all in a quest to figure out what I want to improve. See what I mean by combining self-awareness with a vision of our ideal self (or at least, a vision of our improved self)? Well, I was looking to learn more about myself, but admittedly it was a quest to grow and improve. That’s when I began to wonder if separating the two is even possible. I concluded that I wouldn’t focus as much as I wanted on what is truly my optimistic view of things. For example, I’d talk about or write about something with acknowledgment or commentary about the opposite. I want to stop doing that. Mostly because I don’t think it’s necessary and it’s useless. It doesn’t serve anybody. Like I could insert here about some people I know who are narcissistic and know it. They’re good with it. They don’t want to change it. They do think they’re better than most everybody else and it’s how they roll. They love themselves. Never mind that I can’t relate or quite understand it, but my habit (up to now) has been to mention such things — or point out such obvious things. As I was looking into this mirror to better see myself I didn’t like it. It jumped out at me. Probably because I was looking critically at myself for improved self-awareness, but with a purpose – namely, to improve. So I made up my mind I wanted to fix it. My conclusion was to fix it by intentionally approaching all my content creation with a focus on positive improvement and growth. Others can focus on the ninnies and their behavior. 😉 Thinking inward is necessary if we’re going to learn to think outward. It’s the art of going from small (just us) to larger (others). I’m very committed to that truth. I’ve not always practiced it as I should. Shame on me, but “Now what am I gonna do?” Well, I’ll tell you what I’m gonna do. I’m going to change my focus. That’s right. I’m going to make up my mind that I’m not going to shift how I think about things. How I see things. Instead of thinking of what I want or what I think I may need I’m going to lean into two different approaches. The first is responsibility. I have responsibilities. To my wife. To my family. To those things that are important. But that’s not the same as thinking about what I want or what I even think I may need. For instance, I might think, “I want to sell $30,000 worth of coaching this month.” Or I might say, “I need to sell $30,000 worth of coaching this month.” That’s very different from, “I want to help at least 6 new people this month.” Or, “I want to help at least 3 new organizations this month.” The first focuses too much on me. The others focus on the value I may be able to provide others. Deep down I’ve always wanted the later, but the former too often snags me. The former is common. The later is unique. The uniqueness is where value is found. It begins with facing the reality of who and what you are. My reality has been I’ve approached life – especially work – with an outcome that was focused on what I needed or felt I wanted (or needed). It was results-focused, but the recipient of the results was me. That’s not how I see my ideal self. It’s not how I want to roll. Nobody can change that except me. So here we go. That’s now what I’m gonna do. Part of that is communicating in a more positive way. I don’t mean in some rose-colored glasses “everything is great” way, but in a way that’s more congruent with my true optimism that we’ll overcome our problems – or we’ll endure them and learn all we can from them. I’m not naive. We’re going to have trouble. Life is smacking us around – and it’s going to keep that up. Our charge is to figure out how to battle back so we survive, thrive and can help others do the same. That’s the entire point of this podcast. To help each other figure out how we can lean toward wisdom by getting it right in real-time. The mirror work is hard but super valuable. It’s can often feel selfish, but you have to resist that thought. It’s one of the more unselfish things you can do. Mostly because until you come to grips with who you truly are, then you can’t grow, improve and become more helpful to others. The most selfish people don’t likely spend any time in self-examination. Instead, they’re busy judging, being critical and thinking less of the rest of us. So we know we don’t want to be like that. Working first on ourselves empowers us to help somebody else. It also fuels the humility needed so we can be more effective in that work. Every time we face the reality of our struggles – and find people safe enough with whom we can openly share those struggles – we grow stronger in our capacity to help somebody through whatever they’re facing. When we fail to practice that staring into the mirror stuff – we’re unequipped to help somebody do that. We don’t know how to help them because we’ve not learned to help ourselves. That’s why selfish people provide the least value to others – and are mostly worthless to themselves. To get to the “Now what are you gonna do?” phase we have to be busy looking intently at our own lives. Our own choices. Our own behaviors. And we have to do it against some standard. I’ve got a few standards. As a Christian, the first standard is the Bible. Am I doing what pleases God? You may have a different priority standard, but I hope you’ve got one. One that is bigger than yourself. Or bigger than what you want only for yourself. My other standard is based more subjectively on what I think I’m capable of. I could be wrong, but I’m always trying to gauge whether or not I’m able to be something or somebody that I’m not currently. Better. Stronger. More determined. More resolved. More of this. Less of that. It’s an avalanche of thoughts, ideas, and notions about what my ideal self would look like. Both of these standards – one based on faith which is very objective, the other based on my personal viewpoints which are very subjective – speak to the overall goal: my self-improvement. My growth as a person. Time is an important component, which is why I began the question with the present tense word of intensity, NOW. My Truth, Your Truth, THE Truth & Coming To Terms With It My truth is that nobody cares where I live. What kind of car I drive. How much money I make. Whether or not I can afford to dine out. Whether or not I can afford to take vacations. Nobody cares about how I measure up. Except me. It can vex me thinking of how others might judge me. I can get fretful about how people may think something of me that I don’t feel is accurate. My truth isn’t always THE truth. Neither is yours. My truth and your truth are wrapped up inside our fears. They’re real. They’re powerful. They’re crippling. The faster we can look at them and see them for what they really are, the better. The better for us. The better for our capacity to help somebody overcome their fears. The better for the value we can bring to our lives and others. What I feel is true for me may differ enormously and only slightly from you, but over the years I’ve discovered we’re all far more alike than we’re different. It’s why love songs resonate with so many. It’s why stories of loss pull the heartstrings of most of us. It’s why some stories are more popular than others. They resonate with a wider audience. They strike a chord inside more people, giving evidence that we feel similar things. And for similar reasons. That’s THE truth. The truth is we’re all struggling with something. We’re all feeling insecure about something. We’re all worried about something. We’re all crossing bridges we’ve not yet reached. Bridges we may never reach. But we worry about them all the same. We’re afraid of letting others know we’re worried. Like kids who whistle in the dark, we think the sound of bravado will diminish our fears, but instead, it only elevates them. And our guilt in feeling like we’re hypocrites. Or imposters. Telling the truth. To ourselves. To each other. It’s the powerful precursor to getting to NOW. And helping us face (and answer) the question, “Now what are you gonna do?” I’ve struggled mightily for the past couple of years. I’ve had some personal challenges that I never thought I’d face. I’ve experienced some loss that I wasn’t ready for. But I’m not alone. You’re right there with me. Maybe you even responded a bit as I did. Looking for the biggest rock you could find so you crawl under it. Then I just hoped I’d died there. Well, I couldn’t find the rock. And I didn’t die. So, now what are you gonna do? My truth was shown to be nothing but a lie. Many lies that I was telling myself. Many lies that I thought were true, but they didn’t withstand the rigors of scrutiny. I’m betting many of your won’t withstand it either. Which is why we have to spend time staring into the mirror. The other evening I had some show on TV about cops who use surveillance video to catch criminals. Some poor woman had been murdered. They’re looking at hours of video to see where they could last find her alive. Over the course of watching all that video, they’re looking more and more intently to make sure they’re not missing something. Some little mark on a vehicle is noticed by one of the officers. That one little detail opened their eyes to a possible suspect. Somebody who wasn’t a suspect until now. But now, armed with this little nugget of truth – brought about because they dared to look more closely at things to make sure they were seeing things accurately – now, they knew what they were gonna do. Surveillance means “close observation.” It’s where we can often get it wrong in our own lives. We neglect to look long enough so we can see closely enough. And I know why, at least for me. I’m too busy comparing my own ineptness to the highlight reel of everybody else. I can think back over the course of my career and the failures leap out, helping me shortchange whatever successes I’ve had. Truth is, the successes have far outweighed the failures, but it doesn’t feel like that at the moment. At least not until I stop and glare more intently at the real truth. No, in most moments I can more easily focus on those times when I struggled. Those times when I embarrassed myself. Those times I made a bad decision that resulted in a loss. They add up quickly in my head making me feel horrible. Inadequate. Worthless. Question: How helpful are those thoughts? For me? For my wife? For my family? For anybody who I might want to help? Yeah, we both know the answer. Those are the most destructive thoughts I can have because they do two very important – powerfully important – things. One, as a Christian they rob God of glory. The glory of having helped me thus far in my life. The glory of being God. Two, they rob me of gratitude. Gone is any thankfulness for blessings and good things. Part of my truth is my view of humility. Maybe you suffer this. I can think humility should look and feel a certain way. Moments ago I was listening to somebody talk on a podcast not focusing on yourself but instead focus on helping others. And do it without expectation, he said. I was mentally agreeing with him. Then he went on to tell multiple stories humbly bragging on himself for helping others “anonymously.” And I’m thinking, “Yet here you are telling us all about it.” Know what I mean? As much as I’d love to tell you that judgment (the harsh, critical kind) isn’t that easy for me. It can be. I’m human. I’m sitting here listening to this guy thinking, “Well, he’s at least good at promoting himself.” Honestly, I was envious because I’m awful at self-promotion. But what if I’m wrong? What if I’m not seeing it for what it really is? What if he really is humble? What if what sounds to me like bragging isn’t so much bragging, but a story hoping to encourage others to behave with similar grace? What if he’s just trying to evangelize a point I so believe in – help others? It dawned on me years ago that I’m so wired to dive into the problems of others – not to preach at them, or to tell them what I think they should do, but to help them figure out what they should do – that the rewards for me are immeasurable. It’s disingenuous to say I don’t get something from it. Truth is, I likely get more benefit than the people I’m trying to help. It makes me feel worthwhile. Valuable. Significant. Meaningful. When I engage in that work it makes me feel respectable. My truth? Nothing else does it for me. Most other things make me not feel very good about myself. Innocuous things. Innocent things. Even productive, profitable things. So while I spend so much time on what I feel like I need or want… the truth is, I don’t spend near enough time doing what I should be doing in the areas where I’m strongest. Those areas where I’m in my “element” as Sir Ken Robinson writes in his book, The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything. He appropriately defines the element as the place where a person’s natural aptitude intersects with what they love. My element is rushing to help somebody figure out how to overcome or endure a problem. That’s my real, genuine truth. It’s not altruistic either. I benefit. Greatly. Fact is, I can do it quite selfishly because it feels so good. What doesn’t feel good? Asking for and accepting help from others. It’s my Achille’s heel and I’ve not overcome it. Yet. But now I’m gonna give it greater effort. Because my self-examination journey revealed something else a few months ago. That’s the answer to why that’s my Achille’s heel. It feels like imposing to me. Like my wrong views about humility and self-promotion…I now believe I’m wrong about imposing. My entire life has been spent feeling badly imposing on others to help or serve me. I hate it. I can’t fully express how badly I hate it. I hate it as much as I equally love doing it for somebody else. Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t like being imposed on, but mostly I agree with full consent to help people. I go out of my way to find people who are struggling. Ask my wife. I’m busy trying to help people. She often gets angry with me because she thinks so often those relationships are one-way. And I understand why she feels that way. But what she doesn’t know – until now and then only if she listens 😉 – is that it’s entirely my fault. I’m on the phone with a friend. They’re telling me about some problems. I’m leaning into it. At some point, they inquire about me. It takes me one nanosecond to turn the conversation back to their problem. So I start looking more closely in the mirror about all this. And I reach some conclusions. One, it’s mostly not gone very well for me whenever I have asked for help. Boy I know that sounds awful, but let me explain. So rare has it been for me to get meaningful help, I’ve stopped asking for much of it unless it’s very targeted, specific help. For instance, I had some car trouble – a check engine light that I didn’t know the meaning of. I ask a friend who happily and graciously connected his device to read check engine codes and he helped fix the problem. He went way out of his way to do so. That kind of specific help isn’t terribly hard (although it’s still difficult). But pull back and let’s talk about something more significant. Something bigger. Something deeper. I don’t even attempt to get help. Experience has taught me that I’m not able, for whatever reason, to get any meaningful help. Proof of it happened just last week. I sent an email to somebody – we had already had a few phone conversations about my challenge (not really a problem, more of an opportunity). In the email, I specifically asked for some insights and advice. Two weeks later, still no reply. Not about that email. We had exchanged other emails. I even had other phone conversations. It never came up. So finally I emailed asking if he had received that email. His reply was typical of my experience. He said he had received it, but wasn’t sure what I wanted from him and was unsure of what help if any, he might offer. I closed his email thinking what I’ve long thought, “So it goes.” Which is why I remain focused on the problems of others and opt to go it alone with mine. The deeper dive I did with myself involved asking questions (a common habit of mine). What if it’s not as it appears? What if I’m just asking people who aren’t wired like I am? What if they’re as uncomfortable offering help as I am at accepting it? What if they just don’t know what to say? Or how to say it? What if they’d love to help me, but they’re intimidated to help? What if (and this was a biggie that a friend helped me see) they don’t think I really need help because they see me as the guy helping others? What if that makes them think, “I can’t help him. He’s bound to have more significant people in his life who can better help him.” ?? Lots of good questions. A truth I found out years ago is that very few people are wired like me. And I have mostly hated it. Hated being different. Hated being a guy who loves to go deep with people. Hated being a guy who embraces the battles others are fighting. Hated being a guy so confident that I might be able to fortify somebody, shore somebody up, give somebody encouragement to duke it out with their problems. Wishing instead that I was like I perceive (and that’s in important term) others mostly to be. Somebody who can avoid running into a burning building. 😀 A few years ago this little piece in Introvert, Dear appeared, 5 Reasons You Might Feel Unhappy If You’re An INFJ Personality. (I’m an INFJ, but not all INFJ’s are created equally) The INFJ personality type is nicknamed the Counselor because we love to help others by listening and sharing our pearls of wisdom. However, inspiring others to reach their potential doesn’t mean that INFJs are immune to having their own problems. In fact, some INFJs may become so preoccupied with other people’s feelings that they forget to check in with their own needs. This can lead to INFJs neglecting their own problems and feeling burned out and unhappy. When INFJs do realize they’ve left some issues simmering on the back burner, they may turn to others for guidance and direction. But INFJs might be disappointed when the people they turn to can’t offer the same level of insight that INFJs can give to others. As I wrestled those questions I asked the biggie, “Now what are you gonna do?” I’m still working through the answers. Which is why I bring it to you today. I know what I want to do. I want to get busy being more of my ideal self. I in no way measure up to that ideal today. And I never have. For starters, the truth I know is that gratitude is THE answer. I need to be more grateful. For everything. Including the gifts I’ve got. My truth is, I don’t want to be different. I don’t want to be the guy who can hear somebody with a problem and look the other way. I don’t like to be around a lot of people but I crave one-on-one conversations where I can dive deeply enough to understand somebody and what they’re facing. I feel terrific knowing somebody trusts me enough to lean on me. It feels wonderful. And when you’re empathy would peg an empathy meter (no, there is no such thing, but I’d peg it if there were)…then compassion is easy. And I get most judgmental when I see it lacking. It’s the one time when being critical gets super easy. Unfortunately, it happens regularly. People ignoring people. True confession: I often wish I could, but I just can’t. When you’re a noticer you can avoid noticing. It’s like trying to unsee something. Impossible. In the world of content creation, there are multiple approaches you commonly hear. Document. Share your journey. Entertain. Educate. Answer questions. The very biggest YouTube stars are so far outside my demographic that I can’t possibly get it. I’ve tried, but I’m just too old. Too experienced. And yes, too much wisdom. 😉 I still watch every now and again, but it just escapes me, proving once again, I know nothing. PewDiePie has 103 million subscribers. I’ve tried for years to get it, but I just can’t. So as much as I notice…I also notice I lack certain capacities. That includes the ability to understand or get PewDiePie and what makes him so insanely popular. I bring this up because these things vex content creators. Even podcasters like me. It speaks to self-awareness and aspiring to reach some ideal version of ourselves. And it doesn’t matter if you’re creating web-based content or not because it boils down to how we communicate. Namely, how can we communicate more effectively? I think about PewDiePie way more than an old man should. He’s got 103 million subscribers, but he’s still almost 30 million shy of hitting T-Series subscriber count (an India-based music label and movie studio who beat PewDiePie to the magical 100 million subscriber count last May). One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor. PewDiePie is a gamer. T-Series is clearly another entertainment-based channel. ALL the top channels are entertainment-based. No big shock. I knew that already. For years, I’ve joined the ranks of people who talk about how classroom teachers earn one amount, but keynote speakers and others who may disseminate knowledge in a more entertaining way earn far, far more. Context matters. A lot. To be fair, looking YouTube subscriber counts is just one metric. And it’s a metric for a much, much younger demographic than the one I occupy. But I enjoy keeping up to date with trends and popular culture, even if I do often wonder what in the Sam Hill is happening! It’s a great illustration of today’s point though because so much of our current comparisons are happening based on people and situations we don’t know about except through the Internet. It’s history. When electricity was in its infancy, few people could understand how oil-based lamps would be outmoded. When horse-drawn buggies and coaches were the norm, nobody would have believed a day would come where animals wouldn’t be involved at all in transportation. When lumber-based construction was all we knew, only Mr. Acme of Acme Brick likely foresaw how pervasive brick homes would become. 😉 Such is life. Everything is hard until it’s easy. Here’s the head game that happens to us though. I’m using content creation merely to make the point. You can apply it to whatever it is you’re endeavoring to do. Is the content here so much less valuable as PewDiePie? Is it even worth doing this podcast? Now what am I gonna do? Other than keep looking for that big rock? Oh, I’m still very much on a diligent search for the rock. Except now I know I’m looking for a boulder. In the struggle to figure ourselves out better…while we search for what might better define our ideal selves…we have to stop comparing ourselves and start figuring out what things mean to us. Important things. According to Forbes, 8-year-old Ryan Kaji is the YouTube earner with $26 million. He videos unboxing toys. I’m fascinated by it all, but I also am painfully aware that I’ve grown up using kerosene lamps compared to how my grandkids are growing up. It’s fine. Frankly, it’s more than fine. It’s how life works, except it’s working faster than ever today. And that speed is taking a toll on some of our humanity because all of us are blitzed with more and more stories by which to compare our own inadequacies. Looking at top-level achievers, in any arena, shows us just how pathetic we truly are. According to that Forbes’ article, the top 10 YouTube stars collectively earned over $160 million between June 2018 and June 2019. I do two podcasts and have a big hand in a 3rd. I’m failing spectacularly well. Or am I? Yes, yes, I honestly am. Compared to many content creators. Measured by subscriber count. Or income dollars as a result of their content. But I don’t mind. Well, only kinda sorta. 😉 My truth – THE truth – is that I’m not chasing millions of subscribers or millions of dollars. I’m not wired for it any more than I was wired to be a professional athlete. Or a guitarist. I’m not that entertaining. Or passionate about something, which I’m world-class at, that attracts lots of people. And demographically – at least as far as YouTube is concerned – I’m all wrong. These can grab my attention just like all your truths – and THE truth – can grab yours. But there’s another truth… It doesn’t matter. Well, maybe more accurately…it doesn’t have to matter unless you let it. The other truth – THE truth – is that I have experience and perspective no 8-year-old has. I don’t care how much money he earns on YouTube. And the truths keep on rolling. I have some natural aptitude for communicating. So do you. We’re different perhaps. Maybe wildly so. But I have a voice that isn’t all that common. I’m unwilling (and unable) to modify it to reverse engineer what might be income-producing. My truth is that I’d rather do it my way than do it in a way that made money. Content creation for me – podcasting and writing – are more about getting it out of my head and into the ether so others can judge whether it’s valuable for them or not. It’s never been about monetizing it. That’s my truth, but that’s not the truth for the top YouTube stars. And it’s perfectly fine. I can still throw the football in the backyard with the grandsons even though I was never Peyton Manning. His truth and my truth, when it comes to having a football in our hands, is VERY different. CBS Sports and ESPN are never going to pursue me to be on their air for millions of dollars a year. Up to now, Peyton doesn’t appear to care what they offer him. His truth is, he’d rather stay home. That may change. I may one day decide I’m going to figure out how to make money doing this thing. Sometimes we change our minds. Sometimes our circumstances change. Sometimes growth and improvement foster a change in our truth. Sometimes we do want something, but we just don’t have the stuff to pull it off. I do not have the stuff to be a YouTube star, even if it were something I wanted. “A man’s gotta know his limitations,” said Dirty Harry. I know mine. Yesterday here in Dallas Mark Cuban was on the radio and he was asked if Micheal Bloomberg gave any thought to losing $600 million to run for President. Bloomberg pulled the plug on his bid for the Democratic candidacy yesterday. Cuban admitted that no, he likely gave it no thought at all. He likely just moved right on. Bloomberg is worth over $60 BILLION. But what Cuban said next was even more interesting to me. He pointed out that if Bloomberg had more personality he’d have done better. Cuban said he thought Bloomberg might figure out a way to present himself larger, personality-wise. But he failed. And that’s that. Good-bye $600 million! Meanwhile, President Trump hit social media with the message – doing what I did isn’t so easy, is it? 😀 Bloomberg found out he couldn’t defeat Trump, even though his spots kept telling us he was the only one who could. In the battle of billionaires for the White House, Bloomberg is a major-league loser. See how comparisons work? Not very well. Angela Maiers is a speaker and consultant whose message is powerfully simple: You matter! She says “mattering” isn’t the strategy, it’s the agenda. Much of her work has been in the field of public education, but her message transcends any one arena. I agree with her. You do matter. We all matter. Does your mattering depend on how much or how little somebody else matters? We both know the answer to that. Of course not. That’s ridiculous. Then why does all this noise get in the way of our self-awareness and our pursuit of our ideal self? Because we’re ninnies! Foolish ninnies. All the more reason we need to lean harder toward wisdom. The comparisons we all make stick us – worse yet, they cripple us. Well, more accurately, we give them permission to do that to us. We’re not as good as…we’re not as successful as…we don’t make as much money as…we don’t, we’re not, we can’t. But it’s a lie. It’s not true. Truth. THE truth is we can do so much more. Maybe not as much as PewDiePie. But more. Better. We’ve not achieved our ideal self, but I fear too many of us aren’t even trying because we feel defeated before we start. If I wanted to start a YouTube channel (I have one, but it’s not very active and I have a face for audio anyway), I’m not likely going to ever earn $26 million in 20 years much less in one like that 8-year-old. So why bother? Because my self-awareness and pursuit of my ideal self have NOTHING to do with an 8-year-old YouTube star making $26 million a year. Because my self-awareness and pursuit of my ideal self have NOTHING to do with what anybody else is achieving or not achieving. My worth isn’t expanded or limited by others. That means I have to be responsible. And accountable. To myself. To my family. To the world. Daily I can choose to bring as much value as possible or to extract whatever I can get. Extraction is selfish, lonely and vanity. Contribution is the answer. Finding ways to contribute more is the process. It’s also the objective. What do you know about yourself that’s absolutely true? Include the things you’re not and the things you are. Can you get others to corroborate your findings? Try. Leverage assessments if you want. Use DISC, Myers-Briggs, StrengthsFinder and whatever else you want. I don’t personally view them as gospel, but I find benefit from them. Especially when the congruencies between them jump out. There’s likely smoke where there’s fire and all that. Come to terms with it, but don’t use it as an excuse. This is tempting and it can be difficult to recognize when something is just beyond us versus when we’re just lazy and don’t want to do it. For example, I’m an introvert. I know that about myself. I’ve always known that about myself. But that’s no excuse for failing to network more effectively. No, it’s not my natural state. Yes, it empties my tank of every ounce of energy, but I’m able to do it if I need to. And I often need to. I’m not socially awkward. Most people don’t even think of me as an introvert because I don’t appear like I am. I can – and have – used this as an excuse. But if I’m going to face the truth, the truth is I just have to work harder than an extrovert at networking and putting myself out there. All that also plays into why I podcast and why I love it so. It’s easy for me. Comfortable. Even energizing. Podcasting is great. Attending a podcasting conference…exhausting! That’s the truth. Figure those things about yourself. Don’t lock yourself into thinking you’ve got it figured out and you’re done. We’re all capable of changing. That’s what growth is all about. Figure out what’s core to who you are – like me being an introvert – and what’s not – like my ability to get better at networking, or figuring out more effective ways to do it. Now for the super-duper hard part. Stop trying to be something or somebody you’re not. This is where I see so many people make excuses. This is also where we’re tempted to ditch that whole ideal self pursuit. “Welp, this is just who I am,” we may say, refusing to even consider if we might be able to improve or grow. “I’m just an alcoholic, that’s who I am.” “I’m just a drug addict, that’s who I am.” “I just can’t be faithful to my wife, that’s who I am.” It’s not an excuse for bad behavior. Or poor choices. Get very clear on the ideal version of you. Don’t worry about aiming too high. Aim high. After all, it’s an ideal we’re aiming at. Doesn’t mean you’ll ever get there, but you can still aspire to it. Use your bad behavior as an excuse and you’ll lose. Along with everybody else in your life. You’ll neglect thinking about your ideal self. You’ll avoid putting in the work to fix what ails you or to grow and improve your life. “Now what are you gonna do?” Hopefully, the answer isn’t, “NOTHING.” I’m not going to do one stinking thing to improve. I’m happy just the way I am. Well, I’m not. I’m not happy for myself at all. I’ve got A LOT OF WORK to do. Truth is, I may not live long enough to make a sizeable dent in the work I need to do. The option isn’t acceptable to me though. To neglect the work. To avoid the effort. To not even try to be better. Figure out your ideal self. What would you like to be? If it’s the ideal YOU then it’ll be congruent with who you are and it won’t be something completely different. I’m never going to enjoy big gatherings. Or small talk. Or hearing somebody hint at some problem and saying, “See ya later!” It’s just not the fabric of who I am. But within the fabric of who I am I know I have unlimited potential to be better. More impactful. More helpful. More significant. Life these days is working to figure out how to do that. Let me wrap this up by mentioning the benefits of restriction. Culture tempts us with cliché truths that aren’t true at all. “Go big or go home.” The sentiment is to go broad. Shallow is fine but go wide. More is better. In business, I see it all the time. People struggle to niche down narrow enough. They resist going narrow and deep because culture has conditioned them to think that won’t work. And there’s too much copying going on. In everything. From manufacturing to music to YouTube channels – people are trying to reverse engineer the achievements and success of somebody else. Problem – we’re not them. Another problem – narrow works. Limitations and restrictions have high value. Less is more. Our lives get cluttered with stuff. Our heads get cluttered with ideas, thoughts and feelings. Our relationships get overly complicated with emotional baggage and selfish expectations. Learning the value of limitations and restrictions can be liberating, invigorating and inspiring. Our hearts crave simplicity, but our head tells us it’ll never work. Our heads are wrong, filled with too much cultural pressure. We’re listening to the Pied Piper of Ninnie-ism. 😉 Here’s where this can positively impact your life — you realize it’s fine to only have one superpower. It’s not about what you’re not, but it’s more about what you are. I know you want to be all things to everybody in every situation. You want to be insanely successful in your career earning a maximum amount of money. You want to be the life of the party. You want to be the coveted lover. You want to be popular and highly respected. You want too much. Time to put limits on ourselves. Time to really restrict ourselves. Go narrow. Go deep. But do it in areas that are totally congruent with who you truly are. Find your element – where your natural aptitude intersects with what you love. Figure out what you do really well – that comes naturally to you – and what you really enjoy doing. Now, get better and better at that. Find the path toward your ideal self. That’s where our journeys are uniquely our own. I’m not you. You’re not me. We each have to put in the work to answer the question, “Now what are you gonna do?” I just hope that today’s show helped inspire you to answer it and get on with it. Randy P.S. Here’s a 2014 TED talk that may inspire you a bit. It’s by journalist David Brooks. He asks a great question, “Should you live for your resume…or your eulogy?”
44 minutes | 9 months ago
Your Questions Answered (Part 1)
I’m working on a new episode, but in the meantime, I thought I’d produce this special episode answering some of the questions I get. A number of these questions come fairly regularly. Enjoy! When did Leaning Toward Wisdom begin? What got you started in podcasting? What happened to Project #CravingEncouragement? Do you make money podcasting? How much? What was the point in starting Leaning Toward Wisdom? Where is The Yellow Studio and how did it get that name? What’s your background? Why did you get interested in making a podcast about wisdom? Will you ever get on a regular schedule and release episodes more often? When you’re up at night, how do you pass the time? What is your workflow? Has it changed through the years? How long will you keep doing Leaning Toward Wisdom? Thanks for listening. I hope you’ll subscribe and join us over in the private Facebook group. Randy
49 minutes | 10 months ago
Even Dragons Have Their Endings (Season 2020, Episode 2)
“So comes snow after fire, and even dragons have their endings.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit, or There and Back Again Some years ago Dr. Henry Cloud wrote a book entitled, Necessary Endings: The Employees, Businesses, and Relationships That All of Us Have to Give Up in Order to Move Forward. Experience has taught me that this isn’t easy for some. They struggle to say, “No.” Or to quit something, even if they know “the something” isn’t working terribly well for them. The difficulty is determining how necessary the ending truly is. Quitting can be hard. Figuring out what’s necessary to quit? Even harder. You’d think to figure out what isn’t working would be easy, but it’s not always so clear cut. Sometimes we have to step back and better understand basic terms. Every website and software has terms and conditions. Those outline the responsibilities of both providers and users. Most are a grand display of legal protections but at their core…they outline the issues of WHO and WHAT. Sometimes they may also include HOW. So let’s try that with a few things in the hopes it’ll help us learn how we can figure out the endings of our dragons. ‘Cause even dragons have their ending. Dragons: They’re Not Our Pet They shouldn’t be anyway. Sometimes we make them our pets. We cuddle them. Love them. Embrace them. Do whatever we can to keep them hanging around. Hoping they’ll love us. Dragons – at least for our discussion today – are the people or situations that don’t help us progress as people. They don’t make us better. They don’t benefit us in ways that truly matter. They may be fun. They may even be rewarding in other ways – maybe they make us money, or they give us associations we enjoy. Even destructive relationships or endeavors can provide something we value…but just because we value it doesn’t mean it’s good for us. “Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says I’ll try again tomorrow.” ― Mary Anne Radmacher We can all value destructive things. Alcoholism. Drug addiction. Gambling addiction. Pornography addiction. Abuse. The world is filled with destructive things that not only exist in people’s lives…but often rule their lives. Think about the things in your life right now that you know are destructive. You know they hurt you and your ability to become a better person. Go ahead. Write them down. Open up a note in your phone and list them. All the destructive things that you know are in your way toward becoming the best version of YOU. We can all value things that aren’t destructive necessarily, but they don’t move us forward. They keep us stuck. Jobs we hate. Careers we hate even more. One-sided relationships. Oppressive bosses. Habits. Now, think about these things. They’re not bad in the sense that they’re destructive, but embracing them puts you in the same place as those destructive things. They stop you from being a better person. They stick you in a place you know isn’t your ideal best. Go ahead. Write them down somewhere. Make a note of them. All the things that you don’t think are bad, they just keep you from moving forward to improve. To get better. Dragons are dragons, even if they are our pets. They’ll turn on you. It’s only a matter of time. We should be on guard because you can never trust a dragon. Dragons are large, over-bearing creatures. Figments of our imaginations. Making them the most fierce beasts around. Because they’re largely – but not always – in our head. But even dragons have their endings. And we can help. After all, we created most of them in our minds. Stands to reason, we can stop creating them and cease to give life to the ones we did create. Dragons aren’t merely thoughts though. Some are real. They can take the form of toxic people. Or toxic situations. Or challenges and difficulties. Or even opportunities – things that might otherwise be good and profitable, but just not right for our long-term improvement. It’s that morphing ability dragons have that makes them so potentially dangerous. They don’t all look like dragons! The Dragon’s Lair: Our Thoughts & Imaginations “Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.” ― Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird “The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.” ― Randy Pausch, The Last Lecture Let’s talk about adversity, tenacity, and perseverance. Dragons represent the adversity. It doesn’t matter what form adversity takes. It’s THE THING standing in your way of positive growth, improvement, and accomplishment. In short, adversity is the dragon you must slay in order to achieve more. The funny thing about this dragon is, you feel like it’s personal, but it’s perhaps the most impersonal dragon out there. Roaming in that space between your ears. There’s nothing personal about it at all, but to us, it feels intensely personal. Individual to just us. Because this dragon has a secret weapon designed to provoke us to feel like victims. And not just any ‘ol victim, but victims of something else and somebody else. The insidiousness of this dragon is that he makes us feel like we have no control, but others do. Very quickly he’s able to help us embrace the notion that it’s not our fault. Any of it. No, we had no part in this. The Universe conspired against us. Other people did this to us. If not for all this other stuff…well, we’d be wildly successful by now. It’s how some choose to see adversity. They don’t look at it the way Harper Lee wrote about. Or the way Randy Pausch described it in his final lecture. Rarely do I encounter dragons in my life, or in the lives of others, that don’t get some type of sustenance from us. We feed them. Yes, life knocks us down and drags us out at times. People get a bad diagnosis from a doctor. A friend or loved one dies. Somebody we love tells us they no longer love us. Bad things do happen. Books and seminars abound about how we alone control our reaction to such things, but that doesn’t make it any easier to control our reactions. Years ago I had some encounters with a gentleman who had been assigned to help me. An outfit had recruited me and part of the process was this mentor fellow, who wasn’t the least bit qualified to do much mentoring. He was completely devoid of empathy. His listening skills were quite poor. Mostly, he wanted to hold forth and be the expert. Being a guru was vastly more important than being helpful. But I went along. For a bit. Two maybe three meetings I guess. He regurgitated the trite advice of how we’re in complete control of how we look at things. I was going through a bit of a health challenge at the time – this was some years ago – and although it was nothing serious it was still vexing. I was pretty matter of fact about it all, which is my nature about such things. He’d jump on it and lecture me about giving it no attention. Well, it involved surgery so giving it no attention not only wasn’t possible but in my mind would have been foolish. Okay, let’s call it what I thought at the time, STUPID. But I sat there and simply listened. When you’re battling a dragon – real or imagined – it’s not terribly helpful for an expert to sit across from you refusing to listen, urging you to just ignore it. Finally, I kicked this idiot to the curb and walked away from the opportunity because it was evident that the culture of this outfit was totally unsuitable for a human like me. But I learned some valuable things about serving others (and how not to). Choosing to not look at the dragon…or choosing to not see the dragon…which is what this expert was constantly preaching isn’t the path forward in my opinion. Recognizing the true identity of the dragon is helpful. Realizing what you might be able to do to manage or slay the dragon…extremely helpful. Sticking one’s head into the sand is no way to attempt to end the dragon’s impact on your life. And telling somebody to not think about the dragon is the surefire way to make certain that’s all they focus on. It’s that proverbial story of asking people to think about something…just make sure you don’t think about a purple elephant. All they can think about now is a purple elephant. Thank you very much. There ARE dragons in our lives. These evil creatures who frighten us. Hurt us. Maybe even capable of killing us. They take the form of challenges and adversity in all areas of our lives. Money. Relationships. Health. Spiritual. Jobs. If it’s an area of living, dragons are there. A lot of my time is spent with younger people. Which isn’t so hard since I’m growing older by the second. But I’m especially fond of trying to help kids from high school and up. And that includes some younger married couples in their 30’s or 40’s. Experience – my own and helping others – has taught me that dragons don’t look quite the same throughout the course of our lives. When we’re young they’re much more dramatic. Like us. The immaturity of our dragons can often mirror our own immaturity. Mostly, they’re also smaller, but that’s only relative to what we learn over time. When we’re young – and so are our dragons – they don’t feel small. Because relative to our size, they’re not. A high-schooler vexed about a low grade on an exam can think that dragon is going to result in ending their life. How will they possibly survive? When you’ve not done extensive battle with dragons it’s an easy thought. Fear happens every time we don’t know the outcome. The unknown scares all of us. When you’re in high school and worried about college, or a future career, or mom and dad…or your peers…the low grade frightens you. You play out every horrible scenario possible. They’re all very real for you at the time. Your life will never be what it may have otherwise been. All because you blew one exam. The dragon isn’t a figment of your imagination. He’s real. But your imagination (your brain) is keeping him alive and helping him grow. You just don’t know it when you’re in high school. Some don’t know it decades later. It’s true that we can choose what we think, feel and believe. But it’s not easy. And timing matters. Experience has taught me that things come to us when we’re ready. I’m not talking about some magical thing or even some serendipity thing. I’m talking about a time when we’re ready to make up our minds. I wish I had a secret formula for that. Some surefire way we could accelerate to that place. It’s different for each of us. And it’s not even the same for us in every situation. Some situations we can get past in a hurry. Others linger. Who knows why? Too many variables for my mind to even consider. It’s just how it is. I believe this. We can hasten the end of the dragons. Their demise is within our power. That means we can bring about their death more quickly. It’s all about reducing our time in the storm. A few years ago I did an episode about being a buffalo. It’s based on the truth that when storms arrive buffalo run into the storms. The storm is traveling one way. The buffalo are going in the opposite direction. At first, it seems counter-intuitive, but the result is the buffalo get through the storm more quickly by rushing toward it. Cattle run away from it and therefore find themselves in the storm much, much longer. We want to be buffalo. Not cattle. You Can’t Hide From Dragons. You Have To Fight Them. Have you ever successfully hidden from adversity? Yeah, me neither. But I’ve tried more often than I care to admit. You’d think history and experience would teach us to give up trying to hide, but it’s that flight response deep within each of us. Especially those of us who don’t much enjoy fighting. I suspect a lot more of us are cattle than not. For me, the dragons can seem so enormous and fierce it just seems more logical to run away. At the moment, I may not consider their size as I should. In a single step, they can make up the ground that might take me dozens of steps to cover. Besides that, I’m not fast. Never have been. Add to that the question, “Where are you going to run to? Where will you hide?” I don’t know. I’m just running. And it’s not even that proverbial story of you and me in the wood when a bear begins to chase us. I just have to outrun you. Not the bear. I’m alone with this dragon. I have to outrun him ’cause there is nobody else for him to maul. Trying to hide just prolongs the inevitable. The fight. I was watching one of those spectacular earth and wildlife documentaries the other evening. It’s one of those in the Seven Worlds, One Planet series. A mother puma was hunting to feed her young. She wasn’t having great success. After repeated attempts, she was banged up pretty badly. She had to go rest and regroup so she could regain her strength to keep up the effort. If she failed, her young would starve (or worse). Sometimes our lives are like that. The dragons injure us so we need to hide out a bit, but only so we can ready ourselves for the fight. That’s not the same as running and hiding. That’s regrouping. We have to be mindful that we may con ourselves into thinking we’re regrouping when we’re really just running for our life. Don’t confuse yourself. Face the reality of what you’re doing. A Sidebar: One Dragon That I’ve Whipped Before, But He Continues To Pursue Me Weight. Fitness. Health. I see these as one big thing. One big interconnected thing. I’m determined to lose about 30 pounds by summer. By the end of June to be exact. Or sooner. It’s been a lifelong battle. Being slim is not in the cards. Not my body type. But this isn’t about vanity. It’s about feeling better (physically and emotionally) and it’s about health (also physical and mental/emotional). These things don’t merely happen. We have to make them so. Exercise is easier than diet for me. But at my age – honestly, at ANY age – diet is likely 80% or more of weight control and health. So I’ve decided to flip the script and lean more into diet than exercise. In other words, I’m going to slay this dragon by not doing what I’ve always done – which has never worked (at least not for the long haul). I’m going to reverse my focus and for two great reasons: a) since diet is the major way toward improvement I need to lean hard into it and save a bit of time in the process (eating well takes less time than working out like a madman) and b) since diet is a major key to improved health, no time like the present to make a lifestyle change that might prevent my wife from having to take care of an impaired old man. 😉 Flipping the switch in our head is the key. Or having somebody flip it. It was a Monday. Just about a week ago. My old doctor retired so I had to go see a new doctor. He came highly recommended. I instantly liked him. But after weighing in (literally) I knew it was time to get a grip and hit things hard. A few years ago shoulder pain caused me to end up in the ER of a local hospital. Of course, they ran tests to make sure there was no life-threatening ailment. In the course of those tests, they found a bit of plaque on in some heart arteries. Not an alarming find, but my doctor put me on a statin to lower my cholesterol, which was about 140. He wanted it to be half that. And with a statin, mission accomplished. This new doctor wanted more tests so he’d know more. I appreciated his thoroughness. I had the test and it showed what I had learned a few years ago. As the testing folks said, it’s likely nothing has worsened because I’ve been on a statin since first learning about this issue. But seeing the results again – and facing it now some years later – it flipped the switch in my head, “You need to drop 30 pounds NOW.” I used to use the MyFitnessPal app on my phone but got out of the habit. So I logged in and fired it back up. And for the past week, I’ve been diligently using it. I’ve dropped 5 plus pounds (easy to do in the first week). I’ve also cut back on my water intake (I’m the rare bird who drinks too much water and no, I’m not diabetic). I’ve gone from over 150 ounces of water each day to around 60. Caffeine isn’t a problem (I hardly ever drink soda or tea. I never drink coffee – hate it.) Lord willing, by the time June rolls around I’ll be as light as I’ve ever been in my adult life. We’ll see how it goes. When the weather permits I’m going to kick my walking back up and start hitting some weights at the gym a few times weekly, too. What was stopping me? The dragons of course! The dragons of laziness, lack of motivation and habit. Until I made up my mind, “Enough!” Faster than you can snap your fingers I made up my mind and the dragon was gone! Now the challenge is to keep him out. I’m prepared for the fight, but I know I have to stay ready every single day or he’ll come back strong as ever. ———————————————— The Power Of A Mind Made Up Nobody argues with it. It’s got enormous power. Of course, the problem is getting to the point where we actually do it. On our own. Without some life-altering event compelling us. Or shaking us by the lapels to scare us half to death. My most recent weight loss motivation rekindled some fairly old inspiration that goes back about 15 years. That was when after visiting an elderly gentleman in the hospital whose health was failing, through no real fault of his own, I said this to Rhonda, “I don’t think I can do that to you.” I didn’t mean it as judgmental as it sounded against this poor man, who eventually died. I was moved by the care his wife was giving him and the enormous toll it was taking on her health. Days later I signed up at a health club and began to go religiously. It lasted for a good long while, too. Then life happened and my mind changed. Pliability is a valuable thing – our ability to change our minds. But it’s not valuable when we regress, which I did. Over time I slowly packed on a few more pounds and here I am 15 years later feeling similar feelings. I’ve made up my mind. Again. Weight loss and health issues are important, but there are equally, if not more important things that warrant us changing our mind – or making our minds up. Things like forgiveness, compassion, kindness. Things like pride, jealousy, envy. Bitterness. Resentment. Discontentment. Anger. Grief. Hurt. How? Google any of those terms and you’ll find millions of results giving various step-by-step instructions. Save yourself the time and trouble. They mostly…don’t work. Truth is, you have to be ready to make up your mind if any of those dragons are going to have their endings. Until you do that, the dragons will live on. Often thriving and growing bigger and stronger. I’m sure there are some things we can do to speed things along. I just don’t know what they are. Figuring things out takes time. And other inner ideas, thoughts and feelings. Have you ever told yourself (or somebody else)? “You need to get angry.” Or maybe you’ve said, “Stay calm. Don’t get angry.” Both can be right. Just not at the same time. Sometimes anger helps. Other times it’s the last thing you need. Which is why generic advice falls flat. Circumstances, situations, feelings, experience, age, wisdom, foolishness, and dragons vary wildly. Anybody who could quantify a one-size-fits-all solution would be insanely wealthy. Okay, some charlatans who espouse phony solutions are insanely wealthy. Proving once again, that I’m in the wrong business of telling the truth. 😉 Financial success doesn’t do it. Physical fitness doesn’t do it. Extensive academic education doesn’t do it. Brilliance in the brain department doesn’t do it. Youth sure doesn’t do it. But neither does age. Mental clarity helps. Mental health is vital. But the thing that helps more than anything is somebody else. Or a few somebodies. Other people can really accelerate our ability to figure it out – whatever IT is. It can be friends. Family. Peers. Mentors. Advisors. Whoever is compiled into your group or groups – they can make the difference in helping you reach that sweet spot of making up your mind. They can help you avoid blind spots. They can help you see things more clearly. They can share insights that might spark a pivotal moment where you change your mind. Or make up your mind. The Biggest Dragon For All Of Us – Finding Reasons Not To Do It This dragon’s name is “Excuses!” We often nickname him, “Reasons.” But he doesn’t recognize that name because it’s not his real name. My real name is Randy. Not Randall. Call me “Randall” and I won’t respond. The dragon called “Excuses” won’t answer when you call him, “Reasons.” That’s not his name. Maybe there’s another dragon called “Reasons” but that’s not your biggest dragon. We don’t do it because we don’t want to. We’d rather find reasons not to. So we throw more raw meat into the mouth of the dragon of all dragons, “Excuses.” All the energy and fuel we need to fight our fight goes into this dragon. The funny thing is we don’t seem to care if we misidentify that dragon. We intentionally do it because it makes us feel justified in not doing it. Nevermind that we’re without any justification for neglecting to do what we know we must do. Or what we should do. We just don’t want to. Until we want to…we won’t do it. I can’t make you. Nobody else can make you. But you’ll feed that dragon every day of your life in order to feel better about not doing it. He gives you something to blame. You can point at him and declare yourself a victim. He’s super loyal, too. He’s gonna be right by your side for as long as you’ll have him. This Dragon Will Be Your Pet Stride for stride he’ll follow your every step. If you let him. He just won’t love you back. Instead, he’ll rob you blind. Stealing your dreams. Hindering every thought of improving or growing. Talking you into holding onto your bitterness, resentment, and jealousy. He’s very persuasive. Want to see what he looks like? Go to your nearest mirror and you’ll see him. He’ll reach the end of the line when you decide to hit the EJECT button and stop welcoming him into your life. Until then, he’s gonna remain quite comfortable watching you limit your life. You’ve got one job to kickstart things into a more positive direction…slay this one dragon and go from there. “Past and Present I know well; each is a friend and sometimes an enemy to me. But it is the quiet, beckoning Future, an absolute stranger, with whom I have fallen madly in love.” ― Richelle E. Goodrich, Slaying Dragons (her book) Hate the dragons. Love your ideal future. Randy
56 minutes | 10 months ago
“You Can’t Plow A Field Simply By Turning It Over In Your Mind” (Season 2020, Episode 1)
Welcome to a new season of Leaning Toward Wisdom. It’s season 2020. Surely a year of clarity – at least we hope so – for many of us. I’ve got some new things in store for you this year. The first is something you’re hearing, a different microphone. It’s a mic made by a company I’d never heard of before (neither had anybody else), TechZone Audio Products. I won’t bore you with the minutia, but you’re hearing more details in my voice and I hope you find it even more pleasing than before. 😉 The biggest new thing centers around my new focus on the power of others. So intense is this urge to talk more about it, to incorporate it in all that I do…that I rebranded my “work” podcast into The Power Of Others. It was the Grow Great podcast. I can’t think of a better way to begin this new season of Leaning Toward Wisdom than to talk about how important it is for us to help each other move forward and get things done. The pursuit of wisdom isn’t about just holding good, wise thoughts. It’s about making smart, wise choices that will affect our behavior. It’s about being better by doing better! ======================== “You can’t plow a field simply by turning it over in your mind.” ― Gordon B. Hinckley He was a famous religious leader, the 15th President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Yes, I confess I had to Google that whenever I first read this quote. It’s among a list of quotes I rather like – quotes about doing things versus just planning to do things. “The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining.” [State of the Union Address January 11, 1962] ― John F. Kennedy Back in 1999 I read a book that distilled better than I ever could how I felt about doing things, The Knowing-Doing Gap: How Smart Companies Turn Knowledge into Action by Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert I. Sutton. Many of us are prone to seek more knowledge. We think if we could just learn something more, then success would be certain. The nagging question is, “What if we just did what we already know we should do?” In other words, what if we closed that knowing-doing gap and moved forward doing what we already know. There are untold thousands of people buying information and training every single day. Training and education they’ll never implement. I’ve long heard that fewer than 2% of any audience will deploy the things they learn from a public speaker or a trainer. And that may be a high estimate. This also explains why ideas aren’t nearly as powerful as we may think. I still get tickled if somebody asks me to sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement), which I refuse to do any more. People can protect their ideas like they’re gold when the reality is the gold is in doing something with that idea. Execution of the idea is where success is found. Reminds me of that famous quote by head football coach John Mckay when he was coaching the upstart, expansion Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Talk about a man who could produce some of the funniest quotes! In response to a question about his team’s execution, the head coach responded, “I’m all in favor of it.” 😀 “We didn’t tackle well today but we made up for it by not blocking.” The coach was right. We all know it. You have to DO something. Thinking about it won’t get it done. Planning it won’t either. “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.” ― Yogi Berra “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” ― Dwight D. Eisenhower I love to plan. I want to be prepared. And I’m prone to overthinking. Not enough to not act, but enough to get in my own way. But not about everything. Mostly the things that are incongruent for me. The things that don’t quite fit with who or what I am. Dirty Harry said, “A man’s gotta know his limitations.” I know mine. And I know my strengths. My overthinking leans hard in the areas where I know it’s not a natural fit for me…but I’m able to force myself to do it anyway. It doesn’t make me enjoy it or like it anymore though. It does make me work harder to figure out some better way. Experience has taught me how futile that is. I’m better off just walking away and refusing to do it. But that’s hard, too. I wrestle with it. The Power Of Others “Closer To Love” is a song by Mat Kearney that contains the lyrics, “We’re all one phone call from our knees.” We all have events that buckle our knees. Phone calls or conversations that blindside us. Some months ago I was interviewing two ladies who work for Parents of Murdered Children, a non-profit serving friends and loved ones of murder victims. One of the ladies lost a daughter to murder. Sadly, it happens to far too many – a horrific example of a knee-buckling event. Thankfully, that organization is all about helping folks work through their grief to find a new normal. Things will never be the same, but we all have to battle through to find a new normal, a place where we can move forward. It’s happened to me. Events and circumstances that lay us low. Loss. Bad change. Challenges that require time for us to wrap our brains around. Time to catch our breath and figure out, “Now what?” It’s important that we work through it so we’re not stuck in only turning it over in mind. If we just think about it without getting on with plowing the field, then bitterness and rule our lives. In April 1995 Bud Welch’s 23-year-old daughter, Julie Marie, was killed in the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City along with 167 others. In the months after her death, Bud changed from supporting the death penalty for Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols to taking a public stand against it. Three days after the bombing, Bud watched Tim McVeigh being led out of the courthouse. He remembers wishing some sniper would kill the bomber. Bud would have done it himself if given the chance. For the next 9 months or so Bud visited the bombsite daily and self-medicated with alcohol. Daily hangovers were a way of life now. Then on a cold January morning in 1996, he realized that what he was doing wasn’t working. Something had to change. Over the next couple of weeks, it dawned on him that hatred and revenge had killed his daughter and the other victims of the bombing. Shortly after that, Bud started speaking out against the death penalty. In December 1998 after McVeigh was sentenced to die for his crimes, Bud had the chance to meet McVeigh’s father and sister in Buffalo, Bill and Jennifer. The three of them sat in the kitchen together – family snapshots surrounding them on the wall. Included in the photos was one of a young high-school graduate, Timothy McVeigh. Bud couldn’t stop looking at it and observed to his dad and sister what a good-looking young man he was. Bud wrote this… “When I got ready to leave, I shook Bill’s hand, then extended it to Jennifer, but she just grabbed me and threw her arms around me. She was the same sort of age as Julie (his daughter) but felt so much taller. I don’t know which one of us started crying first. Then I held her face in my hands and said, ‘Look, honey, the three of us are in this for the rest of our lives. I don’t want your brother to die and I’ll do everything I can to prevent it.’ As I walked away from the house, I realized that until that moment I had walked alone, but now a tremendous weight had lifted from my shoulders. I had found someone who was a bigger victim of the Oklahoma bombing than I was, because while I can speak in front of thousands of people and say wonderful things about Julie. If Bill McVeigh meets a stranger he probably doesn’t even say he had a son.” Six months after the bombing a poll taken in Oklahoma City of victims’ families and survivors showed that 85 percent wanted the death penalty for Tim McVeigh. Six years later that figure had dropped to nearly half, and now most of those who supported his execution have come to believe it was a mistake. In other words, they didn’t feel any better after Tim McVeigh was executed. It’s the power of forgiveness, but it’s also the power of not simply turning it over in your mind. It’s the power of others – the power of plowing the field – putting in the work. When problems – big, vexing problems – arise, what do you do? Do you sequester yourself and try to go it alone? Do you hide and hope a rescue team will come to save you? Do you react with whatever impulses drive you in that moment? My most recent big challenge erupted about a year and a half ago. It prompted me to assemble a group of four men, all of them gospel preachers. It was about life. Personal and spiritual. These men were all trusted advisors who spent countless hours helping me not just turn it over in my mind but helping me find the path forward so I could get back into the fields and begin plowing again. These men challenged, encouraged, supported, questioned, exhorted and advised me along the way. Even though you can’t plow a field simply by turning it over in your mind…you can’t just hit the field and start plowing without first thinking about what you’re going to do. Or what you need to do to plow effectively. That’s where other people can really help us. Each brought a unique perspective, but each helped me understand my best course of action to do what was right and based on what they felt was a wise choice. I made my own decisions, but they heavily influenced my journey and behavior. It’s December 7, 2019, and I’m sitting at the funeral of one of my four advisors when the epiphanies hit me. A journey I’d been on – time spent turning things over in my mind – brought me to a point of clarity. Suddenly. After a few years. Funny how that happens. Mat Kearney, that musician who wrote the song, Closer To Love, recalled the first time he heard himself on the radio. He described it like this. “I felt like I had emerged from a 5-year knife fight.” So much for those overnight success stories. Or those lightning bolt epiphanies that strike suddenly, after years of struggle. I wish I could tell you exactly what prompted the epiphanies, but I’m not quite sure. I just know I was sitting there thinking of the friends I’ve lost through the years and thinking of my own mortality. And I suddenly got sick and tired of being sick and tired. My first thought? I don’t care what anybody thinks. I don’t care what anybody says. Almost instantly I asked myself a question, “Why have I not surrounded myself with other people to help me in the other areas of my life?” I had an immediate answer. “Because I don’t want to impose on people.” Do you realize how incongruent those two epiphanies are? On one hand, I’m thinking, “I don’t care anymore.” Simultaneously I’m thinking about how I’ve avoided surrounding myself with helpful advisors in some areas of my life because I don’t want to impose. Proof positive how humans have hold two contradictory thoughts simultaneously. It’s Saturday, December 7th, 2019 sometime after 2 pm in a funeral chapel of a small Oklahoma town. My eyes were filled with tears, but the fog was lifting in my mind. Even if I was holding two contrary thoughts. Thoughts I was deeming as epiphanies. Let me add just a bit of context. Back in February 2019 a big part of my ordeal had come to a conclusion. Details don’t matter, but when some things wound down I found some new ambitions ramping up. I had divulged these two ambitions to my chief advisor and my wife. Nobody else knew. I kept it quiet because I was wrestling with what I described as a “nagging urge.” By the time I’m sitting in this funeral that ambition was about 10 months old, but I wasn’t resolved. I bring this up because we’re talking about plowing or thinking about plowing. Those aren’t the same, but it doesn’t mean they’re completely disjointed. I’d been thinking quite seriously about something – we’ll call it plowing – for 10 months. But I wasn’t yet determined to go plow. I turning it over and over and over in my mind though. “The body doesn’t know the difference between an experience and a thought, you can literally change your biology, neuro-circuitry, chemistry, hormones, and genes, simply by having an inner event.” – Dr. Joe Dispenza You should know something about me if you’ve not figured it out yet…Faith is THE THING. Spiritual things matter the most. God trumps everything because eternity changes everything. If this life were the only thing to fret about I might make different choices. But I believe the Bible. I believe in Judgment and eternity. And that makes all the difference in how we ought to approach this life. I’m not better than you. That’s not the point. I’m just being clear on what I hope to make the priority of my life. Well, that part of my life has been a serious focal point, which prompted a 25-year-old me to move to a place where I could spend time and study with another old friend and preacher. For nine years we spent almost every Tuesday night studying the Bible together for hours. I wanted to learn more. Become a better Bible student. That friend passed away some years ago, but my time with him was priceless. Putting in the work spiritually has always been where much of my ambitions were directed. Only because the stakes are so high. I was turning it over in my mind, but only in preparation for going into the field to begin plowing. I could feel inner changes happening and I’m supposing the prior 10 months before this funeral had brought me to a point where epiphanies were possible. Epiphany, Part 1a I don’t care. I’m unafraid of failure or embarrassment. It swept over me like I was in a hot shower. I can’t explain it. And at the risk of sounding like a jerk, I thought, “even Rhonda” (my wife of 42 years who I love more than any human on the planet). I don’t care what anybody thinks or says. I “think” I know what I want to do. What I need to do. I’m an individualist. I’ve never followed the herd or felt any urge to. But I do want to be liked. I don’t intentionally behave caustically. I’d say I do care what others think – especially when it comes to reputation and doing the right thing. Just look at my professional mantra… Yes, I do care what people think of me. In a certain context. But I’m a super fan of Will Rogers. And I rather like this quote. “Too many people spend money they haven’t earned to buy things they don’t want to impress people they don’t like.” I admit I have to work harder than I’d like to ignore what others may think or say – even people I don’t know or even like. Or respect. Over the years it’s gotten easier. But here I am, sitting with the other pallbearers on this Saturday afternoon and I’m fully committed. “I don’t care anymore,” I’m thinking. Yes, the Phil Collins’ song popped into my head later that day on the ride home. Epiphany, Part 1b Why haven’t I surrounded myself with people in other areas of my life…because I know firsthand the power of it in my spiritual life? Instantly, I knew the answer. I don’t want to impose on people. Part of what I’d been planning and working toward was the launch of a professional peer advisory group of small to medium-sized business owners. Sitting there embracing my first epiphanies it dawned on me that a professional paid-for peer advisory group overcomes that feeling of imposition because all the members are united in one central thing – in the case of my offer, ThePeerAdvantage.com – the charter group are all going to be SMB owners. But there’s another big element. Every member is paying to be part of it, which means the feeling that you may be imposing on others is removed. I regretted wasting so much time by not relying on people. People with whom I can feel safe. And I regretted caring too much what people think, especially people who don’t care about me, or people who don’t even really know me. Monday morning, after the funeral – the first weekend of December 2019 – I walked into The Yellow Studio and drew a Venn diagram on my little whiteboard. You know what a Venn diagram is. It’s those circles you draw and find out where they all intersect – that one little space that they each have in common. the Venn diagram reveals epiphanies Epiphany, Part 2 Well, I drew three circles that represent the areas of my life, as I think about it: spiritual, personal and professional. I labeled the spiritual circle A because it’s first. Personal was labeled B ’cause it comes next and lastly, C was professional. I did write some things inside circles A and B. Those aren’t important for this conversation though. I’d rather you think about what might go inside those circles for your own life. Clarity. A month had passed since the funeral in Oklahoma. Now, it was a new year and I was sitting at a new funeral. Another advisor reached the end of the line in this life. Three of my four spiritual advisors were now gone. Those first epiphanies, like most epiphanies I think, involved resolve, but this was different. Deeper. Real clarity fosters real resolve. You know the difference. There’s that clarity you think you have, then there’s the clarity you know you have. It’s a confidence thing. It’s an anonymous quote most often attributed to Dr. Suess. “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.” That’s how I felt. I was so thankful for these men who surrounded me. Circle A – the spiritual circle – has always been THE circle deserving the greatest focus and attention. Epiphany, Part 3 Resolve. Epiphany, Part 1a was not caring what anybody thought because I knew what I was thinking. I knew what I thought I wanted to do. Funny thing is I cared deeply what certain people thought, people with whom I was safest. People who I know cared about me being my best. And doing my best. This part of the epiphany was mostly about not caring what the world or anybody else thought of me and whatever new ambitions I had. I certainly didn’t care the unsafe people who had populated my life. I was systematically ridding myself of them. Epiphany, Part 1b was facing the reality that I had failed to surround myself with supportive, helpful people in two of my three circles: personal and professional. Epiphany, Part 2 was distilling the ideas into these three circles depicting my life. I was pushing things forward. Getting more clear. This is when I saw more clearly the two big areas of commonality: the power of others and communication. How else can we leverage the power of others without communication? I realized the big action areas of my life were now focused on these 2 big ideas. They intersected every circle of my life starting with this most important circle. But there are two other circles on my Venn diagram. Each circle addresses the issue of today’s show – plowing versus thinking about plowing. Let’s step back for a minute and think about YOU. I’ve shared all this not to be self-indulgent, but to share my vulnerability in hopes you’ll find the courage to be vulnerable in whatever it is you may want to do next. It’s funny how that works. I’ve seen it often in groups. One person breaks the ice of the entire group by divulging some challenge or pain that has such an emotional impact on the group that everybody draws closer together. And one by one each person shows more of themselves to the group, helping forge the relationships to a whole new level of closeness. I want this to serve to do that for you. I’m not saying it has to be with me, but I want to urge you to find somebody. Somebody with whom you feel safe enough to share. Somebody safe enough that you don’t question their intentions. Like my inner circle. People you know who only want your very best. People with no other agenda. People devoid of judging you or your ambitions (or your weaknesses, problems, and challenges), but people willing and able to share insights, experience, and wisdom so you can better figure it out for yourself. Before I briefly move on beyond my A circle I want you to know one more detail. If you’re unfamiliar with the Bible story of the prodigal son, then you can turn to Luke chapter 15 and read it (verses 11 through 32). My urge is largely driven by how hard I believe it was for the younger son to go home. Home is where he belonged. That’s where all his good fortune was. He had left it all behind to live a horrible life. Until he found himself wasted and devastated. When he lost everything he came to himself and made up his mind to go home. I know there are many people who would go home spiritually to live better, but it’s a hard thing. To face people who may judge you harshly. To face the shame and embarrassment of your poor choices. But it’s still the wise choice and I’m arrogant enough to know I can help people figure it out. I know because it’s work I’ve been doing for more than 20 years right here where I work and worship. I’m ready to find out if I might find a starfish or two out beyond my local scope who need a little boy willing to toss them back into the ocean where they belong. Where they can thrive. Luke 15:11 And he said, A certain man had two sons: 12 and the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of 3thy substance that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. 13 And not many days after, the younger son gathered all together and took his journey into a far country; and there he wasted his substance with riotous living. 14 And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that country; and he began to be in want. 15 And he went and joined himself to one of the citizens of that country; and he sent him into his field to feed swine. 16 And he would fain 4have filled his belly with 5the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. 17 But when he came to himself he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish here with hunger! 18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight: 19 I am no more worthy to be called your son: make me as one of thy hired servants. 20 And he arose, and came to his father. But while he was yet afar off, his father saw him, and was moved with compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck and 6kissed him. 21 And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight: I am no more worthy to be called thy son7. 22 But the father said to his 8servants, Bring forth quickly the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: 23 and bring the fatted calf, and kill it, and let us eat, and make merry: 24 for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry. 25 Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 And he called to him one of the servants, and inquired what these things might be. 27 And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. 28 But he was angry, and would not go in: and his father came out, and entreated him. 29 But he answered and said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, and I never transgressed a commandment of thine; and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: 30 but when this thy son came, who hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou killedst for him the fatted calf. 31 And he said unto him, 9Son, thou art ever with me, and all that is mine is thine. 32 But it was meet to take merry and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found. Circle B is personal. Inside that, I didn’t necessarily put the top things which would always be relationships. Family. Friends. For me, those are a given. No, I wrote some things that were very focused on one of the big points of the intersection…communication. Communication can be a one-to-many method, but it can also include a personal element of one-to-few or one-to-one. I’m fond of all of it, but I confess I’m mostly fond of the one-to-few or one-to-one deep conversations. This podcast is communication. I know technically it’s a monologue, but it doesn’t feel that way to me. I don’t want it to feel that way to you either. It’s a conversation. It’s a conversation because I know you can relate and understand. I know humans share far more than not. We’re more alike than we may realize. I know that. So I don’t feel like I’m the only one communicating here. You’re communicating because you click play. Sometimes you interact with me on social media or email. Sometimes we jump on a Skype call or a phone call. We’re in this together. This isn’t just about me. My stories are merely a means to an end. A way to make a point. A way to provoke thought. A way to provoke wiser choices and decisions. A way to prompt wiser behavior. Communication isn’t about telling you what to do or what you should do. It’s about one big thing — helping you figure it out for yourself. Keep in mind, we’re talking about putting in the work. Plowing the field as opposed to just thinking about and talking about plowing the field. This is future stuff that needs to be present tense stuff. It’s about moving forward so we can make our ideas, thoughts, and motives become present tense. It’s about making our thoughts become a reality. Dr. Dispenza weighs in again. This time on how we can begin to make changes. “So most people then wait for crisis or trauma or disease or diagnosis… they wait for loss, some tragedy to make up their mind to change. And my message is why wait? You can learn change in a state of pain and suffering or you can learn change in a state of joy and inspiration.” “Turns out most people spend 70% of their life living in survival and living in stress, so they’re always anticipating the worst-case scenario based on a past experience and they’re literally…they’re selecting the worst possible outcome and they’re beginning to emotionally embrace it with fear and they’re conditioning their body into a state of fear.” I admit that my forces for change were loss. Crisis. But it is what it is, right? Logically I know I should be more proactive. And do it positively instead of waiting for my hand to be forced. But I’m like you. We don’t focus on it until something forces us to. What if we decided to give it the attention it deserves? Right now? Professionally, I have a habit of asking people to divulge their present knowing-doing gap. I’ll ask them to tell me what they’re neglecting to do that they know they should be doing. Then I’ll ask them to tell me what’s holding them up. What’s the constraint preventing them from doing it? Universally the answers will be something people have long known they should do. Mostly they admit that the only constraint is attention. Focus. They simply haven’t done it because they’ve neglected to make it the priority they claim it should be. In other words, they sometimes turn it over in their mind, but they just don’t get around to plowing the field. The last circle is C, Professional. Inside that circle is the name of my company, Bula Network. All my occupational work falls under that banner. I won’t bore you with details ’cause you can go find that out on your own if you’re interested. Professionally, personally and spiritually it’s all congruent though. It’s all about those two big things: the power of others and communication. The real higher-level thing is something else though. Something four men helped me do over the past couple of years, spiritually. It’s the last part of the epiphany. Epiphany, Part 4 Helping people figure it out. The tagline at my company website says – Helping Leaders Make Better Decisions Faster | Helping People Leverage The Power Of Others All 3 of these circles of my Venn diagram are about helping PEOPLE (not just leaders) make better decisions faster. Helping people fix what ails them. Helping people find their way back home. Helping people move forward past whatever adversity may have crippled them. That’s the driver behind every single thing. And as usual, that’s the lead that I so effectively buried. Are there suppressed epiphanies that you need to realize today? Of course, there are. By now you know what’s standing in the way…YOU. We’re the problem. We’re also the solution. Part of our problem is our failure to move from our head to the field. And to move from the privacy of our thoughts to the conversations with others who can help us hit the field and turn over that soil where our wildest dreams can germinate and flourish. ======================== I’ll close by reciting once more the story that best illustrates the strongest desires of my heart. It speaks to the 3 big areas of my life and what I’d like to devote myself to for whatever time I have left on the planet. saving starfish one at a time Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions. Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching. As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea. The boy came closer still and the man called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?” The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves. When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.” The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.” The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!” *adapted from The Star Thrower, by Loren Eiseley (1907 – 1977)
89 minutes | a year ago
“No.” It’s A Complete Sentence (5048)
“I’m sorry I can’t, I just don’t want to.” I’ve long known that “NO” is a complete sentence, but it doesn’t mean I’ve practiced it. Largely because people can be very impolite. And pushy! Not long ago I told somebody I would not be present at an event. Pressed I truthfully said I had some things that required my attention before heading out of town. The pressing and ridicule began. A common tactic of people. I dug in and exclaimed with greater force, “I will not be there and you won’t shame me into attending.” No is indeed a complete sentence. Dr. Henry Cloud is likely known as the father of boundaries. Read his books including Boundaries Updated and Expanded Edition: When to Say Yes, How to Say No To Take Control of Your Life. Each of us has to determine and establish the boundaries that serve us. That doesn’t mean we give each other the Heisman pose. It does mean we display enough grace to each other that we stop thinking only of ourselves and quit pressuring people to do what WE want them to do. I posted this over at Facebook just recently. Social media is N-O-T-O-R-I-U-S for poor behavior. Even by decent or good people. The whole “IBK” (idiot behind keyboard) mindset sometimes captivates any of us. We get stupid. Some more quickly than others. Not long ago a buddy of mine posted something that any reasonable person would have realized was very innocuous. In Messenger, a person took issue exclaiming she was “offended” because he had used the phrase “stinky people.” 😉 No grace. No consideration. No thoughtfulness. No mindfulness. Just an exclamation that she was offended. It was a joke about a king who has been dead for 400 years and an anonymous man. It wasn’t directed at her or any particular group of people. Hello Thin Skin, meet offense! He was quite measured in his response. Not sure I would’ve been. Mostly because I often feel like the ninnies need a battle. Else, they’ll always win. And we’re severely outnumbered by them as it is. They’re growing by leaps and bounds. Purveyors of wisdom appear to be shrinking, in spite of our collective efforts here at LTW. Reminder: SurroundedByNinnies.com is a domain I own. Click on it and check it out. “NO” isn’t a hateful response. Why do people who hear it think so? Because they’re selfish ninnies. They’re giving no consideration to the person who says, “No.” They’re brassy enough to think they DESERVE an explanation. You owe them. Or so they think. No, you don’t. Intentions play a role. So do expectations. So let’s think about those two notions, but let’s do it reverse order. Expectations The reality of expectations is our perceptions. We perceive things the way we perceive them. Is that ingrained in us? Is it unchangeable? It’s a debate, but this much appears true. Humans appear to be made of love (those of us who believe in God and the Word of God already believe this truth). Love is the number one addiction of all people. Cardiovascular disease is the number killer. But lack of love – and the stress created by it – likely kill many, many more. God designed us this way. To crave and seek love. To express that love toward others. Increasingly, brain scientists believe we’re built to see the glass half full. Neuroscientists tell us we’re born with a perfect core genetic code. We make choices and those choices impact our DNA. So our perfection can have negative genes piled on top of them, but those imperfect genes resulting from previous generations are closed or dormant. Those imperfect or negative perceptions are learned. The environment wakes up those negative genes. Two children can grow up in an identical environment but result in completely different ways of life. Because all of us, every minute of every day engage in thinking, feeling and choosing. Choosing to think negatively launches negative perceptions which will drive negative behavior. People can be saved from themselves, but only when they decide for themselves. Community helps. In fact, community is critical. This all impacts what we expect, especially what we expect from others! Expectation is an important element of human interaction. The brain is constantly filled with energy unless we’re dead. That energy can be positive or negative. We can choose to think either way. Thinking grows our brains. Which is why I’m no longer a fan of that phrase, “over-thinking.” That’s not what we’re doing. We may be obsessing, but thinking moves us in a positive direction because it’s how we grow our brain. Learning something is effective. Learning it well enough to teach it ourselves is perhaps the most effective. It expands our brainpower at a very high level. Who you are is uniquely YOU. Everybody is different. Those differences are varied and mostly immeasurable. Our similarities are extensive, too. Yale research has determined there is no “normal” brain. People have the capacity to become what they’re interested in. That’s determined by us individually. In spite of my fascination with personality assessments or some type of categorization, I know these things are merely tools. I’m growing less interested in them (not fully), but I’ve concluded they may be more harmful than useful because we can pigeonhole ourselves and others. In the Myers-Briggs personality assessment, I’m an INFJ. I can easily see how that fits. It’s congruent with my own viewpoint or perspective. My own expectations about who I am, if you please. MRI technology appears to have contributed to wrecking what we may actually know to be true in the human brain. Extensive study has been devoted to finding out if MRI technology can truly measure what’s happening in the brain. The overwhelming results seem to disprove it. This much seems to be true…we can’t currently understand what’s going on inside the human mind. Because all of us, every minute of every day engage in thinking, feeling and choosing. And that’s all individual no matter what assessments reveal. I rather think most assessments, especially SELF-assessments, reveal what we think and feel about ourselves. In that regard, I can see their value. Of course, those self-examinations have a high probability of being wrong (wrong being defined as not entirely true). Your truth is your truth though. If you perceive – and expect – something of yourself, then that’s your reality. Our accuracy in fully understanding or predicting what others will do is impacted by how long we’ve known them. I’ve been married to the same woman for almost 42 years. Yet some neuroscientists will say I’ve still got a 30% chance of wrongly predicting what she might do. My success rate of 70% is only because of how well I know her. Why? Because we’re humans. Predicting how my wife may perceive something, what she may think, how she may feel and what she may choose to do can’t be relegated to some scientific, exact science. She’s a person and those are uniquely her own. They can also change. It explains why one person can say something to you and you think nothing of it. Somebody might say the same thing – or something very similar – and it goes all over you! It’s perception. We choose how we’ll feel. We decide on our perception. We build our own expectations. A person posts something on social media updating people on recent activities in his work. It’s a perfectly fine post lacking a braggart tone, but directly speaking to various accomplishments, achievements, challenges, and hopes for the coming new year. The comments flow and are supportive. Then there’s one that stands out and hits an out-of-tune chord with the poster. The person merely comments, “Congratulations!” It lands on a sour note. Immediately the poster senses sarcasm and intent on the part of the commentator to take a jab. Maybe. Maybe not. A different person could read that same comment and reply with, “Thank you. I appreciate it.” What’s the difference? Perception. The way we see things. That includes the way we hear things. There’s no more effort required to see it – perceive it – one way versus the other. Just like the glass half full or half empty. Same visual effort required to draw either conclusion. But some choose to view it one way while others choose to see it differently. A couple of things might happen. The person could decide, with likely great effort, to reframe how they see the comment. They could assume it was a genuine note of congratulations. That would likely change their emotions instantly. Rather than feeling picked on, or made fun of they’d feel congratulated. A very different feeling. They could decide to find out. To seek a better understanding so they could know what the commentator intended. That’s gonna take some work. Sometimes we’d rather not do that. Perhaps we feel we’d appear petty if we did that. For whatever reason, we might choose we’re going to avoid finding out the real truth behind the comment. Which is perfectly okay. Question: Are we better off choosing to feel slighted or honestly congratulated? Which one fosters growth? Which one fosters a better outcome for us? Which one, if we’re wrong, provides the most ideal outcome? Thinking the worst or thinking the best? Expecting the worst or the best? It’s about the meaning we ascribe to things. Especially external things. Like a Facebook comment. I often talk about wiring. I’ll say things, “I’m wired to (fill in the blank).” Am I though? What if that’s just how I perceive myself? Does it matter? If I think it, it’s true so far as I’m concerned. If I think I’m wired a certain way it doesn’t mean that’s factually true, but it does mean practically it is. Again the expectations we form for ourselves and others come into play. My wife frequently tells me, “You’re expecting too much.” The context is expecting others to perform at a higher level. For instance, somebody can perform some task and I might remark, “He can do better.” She’ll say, “I’m not sure about that. I think he may be doing as good as he can.” Neither of us is being critical. She’s choosing to see that person’s talent or effort as all they can do. I’m choosing to see that person hasn’t applied themselves as well as they can. Which of us is right? We’re both right. I may be more disappointed, but I’m also more hopeful. I think things can always be made better. She doesn’t choose to believe that. We’re both intelligent people, but we’ve each decided what we’ll think, feel and choose. Everybody does. It’s our individualism. Understanding is another term I need to insert, but let’s wait and save that for last because we’ve not yet talked about INTENTIONS. They’re tied because sometimes we fail to accurately understand intentions. The title of today’s show is merely an illustration of how poorly we can behave toward each other. Not when we say, “No,” but when people resent (and react) to our single word sentence and choose to push boundaries rather than respect them. Consideration. Grace. Giving allowance. These are the real issues. People frequently fail to be thoughtful toward each other. Can we do better? Yes, I expect so. My wife may not think so, but I’m hopeful. 😉 Intentions Sometimes we intend to hurt others. Sometimes we don’t. Intentions are like any other thoughts – we can see them as being bad and harmful or we can view them as being good and helpful. Maybe some place in between. I’m not naive. People too frequently think intentions are bad. Probably because they often are and maybe we think there’s no downside to holding such thoughts. I mean, if somebody means ill then we’d best get busy thinking it so. But what if we’re wrong? Let’s back up just a bit, but we move forward. Those people with whom we’re very close ought to be those to whom we’re able to give the most consideration. After all, we know them best. Which may be why we sometimes feel as though we KNOW their intentions aren’t good. Here during the holiday season families endure some of the highest strife of the year. Fussing and fighting preclude any chance for family harmony. But what if we’re wrong? What if the probabilities are correct that indicate after 42 years of marriage my intuition about my own wife has a 30% chance of being wrong? Then how accurate do you suppose your intuition is about that brother-in-law you see twice a year? Or that uncle you see just once a year? Nevermind the complete stranger who may chime in on a Facebook or Instagram post. I’d like to improve my odds. Especially my odds of accurately ascribing intentions to somebody’s words or actions. The choices seem fairly binary to me. I can ascribe evil intentions, good intentions (or something in between) or I can find out. Ascribing evil intentions don’t foster in me anything good. Maybe my feelings are hurt. Maybe I get angry. Maybe I grow resentful and bitter. How am I helped by any of those feelings? Ascribing good intentions is much better, but I know the fear. What if I’m wrong? What they really meant ill? Stop and think about this. We get anxious because we don’t want to extend grace to the undeserving. If they intended to hurt us and we failed to feel hurt because we thought better of them…well, that’s completely unacceptable! Why? There’s little logic to it. It’s just how we choose to think, feel and choose. We make up our minds how we’re going to look at it. Perception is a choice! I’ve been misjudged by people who know I love them. People who I’ve proven I will support…at a high cost. People who know I’m safe. People who have trusted me in confidence. But in one instance where I may extend a challenge against something they want to do, but something I know may harm them…they suddenly ascribe to me things they know (logically) are untrue. As though this one time my intentions are different than all the other times prior. Now, they choose to think my intention is to inflict harm. In a heightened emotional state, they decide they want to feel victimized. There’s that randomness of the human mind at work. And it explains why people can behave in very unpredictable ways. Even people we think we know well. Even people we know well. And people we love. A mind is a busy place. Lots going on in there. Filled with false assumptions. Incorrect notions. Judgments. Thinking, feeling and choosing. All based on how we choose to look at the world and our place in it. How else can you explain the vast differences in how people respond to the terrible things that happen to them? Some overcome. Others suffer as victims. Some achieve satisfaction, even joy. Others embark on a lifetime of bitterness, resentment, jealousy, and envy. All because we make our choices. Proverbs 23:7 “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…” In other words, “as he is all along in his heart, so is he (at last) in act.” Our actions match our thoughts and feelings. Our thoughts and feelings follow our perceptions. That ought to give you an idea of the importance (and urgency) our perspective. It’s why we need the help of others…to make sure we’re seeing things as they truly are. But that takes work. The work of… Understanding The impediments to understanding are prejudice, pride, and self-righteousness. We have to exert lots of mental power to achieve a successful pursuit of understanding. Understanding ourselves and the changes that may be required if we’re going to grow — it demands a lot of mind power. We can do it, but it’s not easy. Change (growth) is possible no matter the obstacles. We have to want it badly enough to do it though. “The self-righteous scream judgments against others to hide the noise of skeletons dancing in their own closets.” ― John Mark Green We CAN better understand ourselves. We CAN better understand each other. First, we have to want to. Then we have to be willing to pay the higher price understanding demands. Our laziness is rewarded with misunderstanding. Our zeal is rewarded with understanding. Talking to each other. Listening to each other. That’s the genesis of understanding. Communication. Social media can be so destructive because it’s just too easy. There’s no friction to slow down our foolishness. We can be impulsive, reactionary and stupid. Nothing stands in our way. Unless we exercise sufficient self-discipline to slow down our thoughts, feelings, and choices enough to behave more wisely. A Facebook commenter irks us. We gather our thoughts and emotions. We choose to seek understanding instead of whatever negative emotions might overrun us. As we pause our negative emotions we make up our mind to think the best, but to find out the truth. It accomplishes good on multiple fronts. It provides the other person the opportunity to have us understand them and their intentions without surmising or assuming. And it also provides the opportunity to confront poor behavior, if indeed they’re guilty of ill-intentions. There’s no downside if it’s done well. “I wanted to talk to you about that post I made. I noticed you made a comment, but I have a question, “How did my post strike you?” I want to properly understand your comment.” They might lie. They might tell you the truth. You have no control over that. They might tell you they were genuinely happy at your post and commented in a way hoping to let you know how happy they were. Just here you can choose to think and feel whatever you’d like. You might think, “Liar. I know you really were being hateful.” You might think, “Well, I’m glad I asked because I may have always thought they were really being hateful.” Again, you’ll think whatever you choose to. Choose wisely. What can you control? What can’t you control? Other people. Sometimes you can’t control external circumstances. But you can control yourself. Not easily maybe, but you can do it. We all can. Your mind. That’s on you. Your thoughts. Your feelings. Your choices. Your actions. Those are all within your power. You can do easy or you can do hard until it becomes easier. Least resistance ways of life are easy but destructive. Like feeling victimized. Like refusing to make a choice. Like running away. Like hiding. Like blaming. Like making excuses. All these things are super easy requiring zero self-discipline. The hard stuff can become easier if we work at it. It’ll be insanely difficult at first, but it’ll make our life so much better. Most of what we hope for is achievable when we put in the work. Devotion to ourselves, and putting in the work can make it easier and easier to keep on keeping on. Others. We can’t control them. This is why the title of today’s show is useful to illustrate how we allow others to negatively impact us. Don’t misunderstand. We need others. We need connection and collaboration. We also need to better manage the ninnies who surround us. The people with whom we can’t be safe. The people who don’t have our best interests at heart. The hard stuff is made harder because we can be concerned with what others think. Or what they say. Or what they do. Even though we have NO CONTROL over any of those things. Self-discipline, self-control — those continue to be THE things that provide high value in your life. SELF. YOU. Not them. Not anybody else. Fear. Thinking the worst. Loss of hope. These produce thoughts, feelings, and choices that destroy us. What do you want to do? What do you want to avoid doing? These are the things you have to be courageous enough to say, “NO” to. And “NO” is a complete sentence. No explanation required. Don’t be offended if others seek understanding. If judgment is their purpose, you can figure it out and act appropriately. Helping people understand us and our context is helpful. Helping people judge us is harmful to both of us. You get to decide. “YES” is also a complete sentence. You’re saying YES or NO to yourself right now. You’re believing in yourself or you’re not. You’re putting in the work to grow or you’re not. This is where running or hiding causes us severe harm. It damages us at our core. Erodes our confidence. And our hope. Enabling us to fully embrace being victims. A vicious cycle. Skirmishes can defeat us. Forget the major war. The smallest little firefight slays us. We’re not tough enough. Mental toughness doesn’t happen without enduring the struggle. Successfully. Resilience doesn’t appear after a brief time. It demands a long-term, sustained effort. What’s your problem? Why is it your problem? Because you’ve surrendered control that rightfully belongs to YOU. You feel pressured to give an explanation to your “NO” because you’re not being responsible enough with your life. Struggling isn’t the same as suffering. Unless you make it that way. Victims suffer. They choose to suffer. Resilient people struggle. They push through adversity to find growth, improvement and greater self-discipline. Do the work on yourself. No matter what others think, feel or do. Begin it now. For yourself and for your family. For your friends and those who need your help. Put pressure on what you think is true. Don’t accept a friction-free life. It’s not worth living. It’ll be devoid of hopes and dreams. It’ll be a low-ambition life. Sure, it may be safe — well, it’ll feel safe, but it’s a lie. It’s a deadly lie. You’re not safe taking the easy path. Thieves run amock all along the easy path robbing people of their dreams and fullest potential. Lord willing, 2020 is going to be a breakout year for me because some time ago I made up my mind. I decided on some things. I figured out some things to say “NO” to and I also figured out some other things to say “YES” to. Professionally I talked about it in my final episode of the year to the work podcast over at GrowGreat.com. Professionally, after being distracted for too long I’ve decided to say “NO” to most things. I’m saying “YES” to forming a charter peer advisory group of 8 small to medium-sized business owners from around America. It’s an online group that will meet regularly. That’s my top business priority. Secondly, I’m devoted to working with leaders in group facilitation. Both of these are congruent with the one big idea that I determined to say “YES” to — the power of others! The Power Of Others You’re seeing the theme emerge. It’s about us, but it’s also about our interaction with other people. Humans have the capacity to inflict tremendous damage on each other. We also have the ability to extend extraordinary grace to one another and help each other. We get to decide which it will be. 2018 was a year unlike any others for me personally. The events aren’t terribly important. It was a year where I became more aware of how the trajectory of a person’s life can change. Suddenly. You’ve seen this happen. Maybe you’ve experienced it yourself. We tend to make big changes in our lives following big or catastrophic lapel-shaking events. The smoker gets curable lung cancer. She makes up her mind to stop smoking. Just like that. She’s literally scared straight when it comes to her smoking habit. The executive who doesn’t bother taking care of his health morphs, seemingly overnight, into a diet and fitness freak. All because chest pains revealed some reversible health challenges…but only if he’ll get his act together. So he does. A couple has no awareness of the disease until it strikes one of their children. Months of extended treatment and the fear of losing a child give the couple a brand new mission. To help this disease get greater visibility so people will donate money to help provide a cure. They devote their lives to something only 16 months ago they knew nothing about. Something happens and a switch was flipped. A new interest. A renewed interest. It happens just like THAT. Has that ever happened to you? Me neither. Until 2018. Epiphanies. That’s what these are. I suspect most of us go through life rarely experiencing them. I think I’ve had a few. Not many, but a few. The biggest ones have occurred since the summer of 2018 when life threw me a curveball. Then some fastballs that seemed to grow faster over time until 2019 sent me deeply devoted to the effort best summed up with this sentence: Who you surround yourself with matters. Disagreement isn’t the issue. Neither is conflict. Being thoughtful is the deal. Exercising mindfulness. Being considerate. Working to understand. For me, it’s always been about deeper conversations. Safe relationships where others trust me enough to lean on me. It’s work that I’ve done exhaustively for the past 20 plus years (longer really, but in earnest since 2000). The focus has mostly been in an area of FAITH. Yes, I’m a religious guy, but you know that already. The first epiphany occurred about 4-5 years ago when I became convinced that few things trump the power of making sure we’re surrounded by the people who can and will serve us. People who have our very best interests at heart. People who can challenge us, encourage us and correct us. People who love us that much. I’ve always know this truth, but professionally I was exposed to it in a different context – a professional peer advisory group. I was in the throes of that conversion when the summer of 2018 changed things. Now I began to think more deeply about the power of others in spiritual terms. Again, I’d long known this. 1 Corinthians 15:33 “Be not deceived: Evil companionships corrupt good morals.” But now I saw this (poor associations) – and other things- negatively impact somebody I loved. I saw the negative impact of pain killers, opioids and emotional struggles rob the good character of somebody. The compass went haywire and it focused me unlike anything had ever focused me on THE POWER OF OTHERS. I grew intensely focused on human kindness versus human cruelty. On human compassion versus human judgment. On human grace and understanding versus human criticality and hypocrisy. I grew increasingly intrigued by my own behavior. Hours and hours, weeks and months of self-examination. I’m not better than you. Truth is, I may not be as good as you. But thankfully this isn’t a head-to-head competition. It’s a competition against our best self. My conversations seemed to often steer toward subjects like empathy, understanding, compassion, judgment, self-righteousness, arrogance, ridicule and all the positive and negative things we’re all capable of perpetrating on one another. It was during this window of time, since 2018, that #CravingEncouragement was born. I realized how critical it is for each of us to have people around us who won’t hurt us, but instead will go to great lengths to help us. And even though I’ve now ditched project #CravingEncouragement I know it’s important. I know right now the odds are great that YOU need some encouragement. I also know the odds are great that you have something important (perhaps urgent) that you’d desperately love to share with somebody. But you’re afraid. And lonely. Because there isn’t anybody with whom you feel safe enough to share. So you’re going it alone. It’s eating you alive. And it will win unless you figure out that somebody somewhere can help you. At the risk of sounding arrogant (and you know me well enough to know I’m not), I’m THAT guy. It’s grown more clear over the past few years. I’m the guy who runs into that burning building – the lives of people in trouble, or suffering, or challenged, or lonely, or suffering. I found myself, for the first time in a very long time, suffering to understand people filled with judgment, harshness, bitterness, resentment, jealousy, and all the other negative emotions that any of us can CHOOSE to feel. Empathy drives understanding. The real horsepower is compassion. I struggled to understand all the times when I didn’t see compassion displayed. Then I spent months deeply depressed. Depressed at the truth that we can use others to feel better about ourselves. Namely, we can feel better about ourselves at the expense of others. The suffering or demise of others can make us feel better about ourselves, even though it changes NOTHING in our lives. That put me in a major funk that I wasn’t sure I could ever escape. Spiritually, I leaned on four men (I talk about it on my business-related podcast, here). Personally and professionally, I didn’t lean on anybody. I put up a wall to protect myself after enduring some body blows. We choose what we think, feel and do. Intellectually I knew that was true. Emotionally I didn’t. Until my most recent epiphany last week. Out of nowhere, it hit me. Life flipped my switch and illuminated my mind. I got my mind right. I have no idea why things sometimes take so long. This particular journey lasted about 8 years as I watched the downward slide of somebody I love very much. We choose what we think, feel and do. All of us. If we choose to crash our life, we can do that. If we choose to disrupt our life, we can do that, too. I choose to improve my life. For the past year, I’ve spent thousands of hours wrestling with ways to best do that. It has permeated every facet of my life. Spiritually. Personally. Professionally. Along the way I’ve learned “NO” is a complete sentence. That I have to do what I have to do no matter what others may do. Or say. And that doesn’t mean what some may think. It doesn’t mean I don’t care about the insights, experiences, challenges or corrections of others. It’s just the opposite of that actually. Four men had my very best spiritual interest at heart over the past 18 months. Well, truthfully they’ve had my best interests at heart for as long as they’ve known me. Three of them have known me my entire life. Those dangerous old men I talked about in the last show. I listened to them. Because I knew I was vulnerable and susceptible to faulty thinking. So I leaned hard on their wisdom knowing they were watching out for me. I choose to take advantage of their love and concern. I didn’t have to, but I’m thankful I did. Some other people fell out of my life and that too was my choice. People who demonstrated a lack of compassion and people with whom I knew I wasn’t safe. I make a choice to live without them. I said, “No.” And it was a complete sentence. Others were folks I grew even closer to. I said, “Yes.” That too was a complete sentence. It made a bigger difference. “The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson Let’s wrap this up with a question…one that has perplexed me for a very long time. How are we made better when we bite and devour each other? I realize not everybody sees their behavior for what it really is. That person who decides to blast somebody in social media isn’t likely thinking about being better. Or making anybody else feel better. She’s just being ugly and hateful because her venom needs to go somewhere. She’s filled with it. We may find that it’s the habit of her life. Making sure everybody knows how she feels about everything that offends her. I hope it makes her feel better, but I doubt it does. I rather think it just forges more firmly the habit of her life and I’m sad for her. I’m sad for those of us in her path, too. We all lose. Her decision to not live well has a cost on us all. What value is derived by not choosing wisely what we think, feel and do? Conversely, I know Mr. Dickens got it right when he said… “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.”
40 minutes | a year ago
It Takes A Lifetime To Have Old Friends (How ‘Bout We Have A Race To See Who Comes In Last?) #5047
Photograph of Ronny F. Wade by Andrew Weaver We were little boys. Stanley and me. Best friends from our beginnings. A “Halloween” 😉 costume party. All the friends of our folks were there. Dressed in garb where hiding one’s real identity was the goal. We were gathered inside the garage, sitting in a circle with folks mingling…watching all the new arrivals. Up the driveway walking like Frankenstein was a gray robot. A red light bulb for a nose. Illuminated. There was no way to know who was underneath the garb of spray-painted cardboard boxes forming this ultra low-tech robot. I had already identified my grandmother, Marie, dressed as Peter Pan. I recognized her immediately somehow. Walked right up to her, calling her by name (“Re” is what everybody, including me called her) asking her to pick me up. Nobody else could identify her. Then there was this robot creature, easily the most captivating character there. Fascinating. It was Stanley’s dad, Johnny Elmore. That’s my first memory of him. I was very young. Pre-school. Johnny was my best friend’s dad. That was my first context for him. There was never a time when he wasn’t in my life. His family was my second family. It’s just how it always was. Even when Stanely, his son and my best friend, passed from this life in 2013. Losing Stanley was the most devasting loss for me because we had so much history together. And because we were both older. Fifty-six to be precise. Losing grandparents, especially “Peter Pan,” was sad, but she had been suffering badly…relegated to a nursing facility because of the constant care she required. Losing Stan was different. He was a peer. A close friend. A trusted phone call away all the time. Until he wasn’t. Johnny Elmore and his wife, Sally, who preceded him in death were close friends with my parents. My life began in a small Oklahoma town, Ada, where Johnny was the evangelist working with the congregation where we all worshipped. They were a family of four – they’d soon become a family of 5. We were a family of four. Randy, Lexie (Randy’s sister), Joni (Stan’s sister) and Stan – Ada, OK circa 1960 or so? It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them. – Ralph Waldo Emerson It’s true of close friends, too. Close family friends. We’ve been plenty stupid around each other through the years. I know I’ve contributed MORE than my share. My heart was broken when Stanley died. I was sad for my own loss, but I was especially sad for Stanley’s folks. My imagination kicked into full swinging trying to understand what it must have felt like to bury a child – albeit a child in his 50’s. As a dad myself I was especially sensitive to Johnny’s emotions at that time. I entered the funeral home and hugged him. He whispered something about thinking about me and Stanley jumping on the bed as little boys. Here we were, two old men now, and memories of long, long ago were at the forefront of our mind. Memories of kids acting stupid. But acting stupid together is still what I miss most since Stanley died. And it’s among the many things I’ll miss most about Johnny. All the snarkiness. All the sarcasm. All the bagging on each other. Stuff that’s been part of my existence since I was that little boy in the dark suit (and before) Say what you want about aging, it’s still the only way to have old friends. – Robert Brault Regularly Johnny would tell me, “Getting old isn’t what it’s cracked up to be.” Sometimes I’d say, “It beats the alternative.” And he’d quite often quickly reply, “I’m not sure about that.” Age does that. Especially when age brings infirmities. Johnny had his. Most recently loss of balance and eyesight. The eyesight loss was especially vexing because Johnny Elmore was a reader. A study-er. A lifelong learner. Glaucoma and a detached retina (surgery was performed to fix that). He was hoping doctors could restore his eyesight. At least enough so he could get about and read. But repeated falls contributed to cutting that opportunity short. Months ago when I heard about his eyesight I remarked to my wife – who has also been close to the family since she was a teen – “If he can’t read, he’s done.” That’s how important learning was to him. Mere days before his death he turned 88. The same age as my mother. My father is 96. They were close. They’d talk on the phone frequently. Old friends staying in touch, keeping the connections alive. In the past 2 years, I’ve endured some personal challenges of my own where I relied on Johnny more heavily than ever before. And I had relied on him plenty – especially anything to do with faith. I was 11 in the summer of 1968 when I asked Johnny to baptize me for the forgiveness of my sins. He’s always been a prominent advisor for me in spiritual matters. A rock-solid Bible student I knew I could approach with any issue and he’d help me walk through it. In the last 2 years I needed him more than ever, and he was there for me. Questioning me. Advising me. Gently guiding me through the challenges. Who you surround yourself with matters. The older I grow the truer I know that to be. It’s largely why at this stage of my life I’m all-in on helping people leverage the power of others. Johnny was part of my secret power of others. He was 88. Another was 83. Another 75. Three wise old men. All of them preachers. All of them men I’d known all my life. Johnny was the oldest. But the youngest would be the first to go – Russell Barney Owens, Jr. Barney passed back in February this year. Part of my inner circle of advisors First Barney. Now Johnny. Two very special advisors who have helped me more times than I can count. Largely because we shared faith, but also because they’ve known me since I was a child. Johnny Elmore had just turned 88. Ronny Wade, 83. Barney Owens, was on his way toward 76. Three men who always understood my context. They knew me well. I knew them well. I trusted them. They cared about me. I cared about them, too. Johnny Elmore & Ronny Wade One remains. Ronny Wade. His health is failing. For 7 years he’s been quite successfully battling blood cancer, but 2019 has not been kind to him. Johnny and Ronny were close friends. Co-workers in the Faith. For me, trusted advisors who I’ve always known had my very best interest at heart. Truth tellers. Men who would caringly challenge me. Some weeks ago I made a trip to spend a few days with Ronny and his wife, Alfreda. He and Johnny had been buddies since Ronny was a teenager. Ronny never expected to be preceded in death by his lifelong friend, but that 5-year-gap in their ages grew increasingly large over the last few years. One afternoon I called Johnny while I was at Ronny’s house. After telling Johnny where I was, I handed the phone to Ronny so the two of them could talk. Ronny was relegated to an easy chair. Miles away Johnny was relegated to his bedroom unable to see clearly enough to venture too far away. As Ronny took my iPhone, he immediately said to his buddy lifelong friend, “How ’bout we have a race to see who comes in last?” They chuckled together. Dr. Seuss said it better than I ever could. Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened. Johnny died in his sleep about a week ago. Ronny was asked to preach his funeral to which he quickly agreed. However, the morning after being asked his health took a turn and doctors advised him to not travel. I felt badly for him, knowing how badly he would have liked to honor his old friend. But these are the curveballs life throws at us. We’re all crying. And sometimes smiling. In time I suspect the smiles will outweigh the tears. At least that’s how it often goes when I think of Stanley, my lifelong friend. These old friends are different to me. They’re not peers. They were and are my heroes. They’ve been the adults during my teen years. The mature adults during my early adult years. The old men during my mature years. Three men who were all just a few steps further up the trail. Age isn’t merely a number. It’s a condition. Filled with hardships and the weight that years of experience puts on a body’s bones. And heart. I’ve seen it in each of them. I see it in myself. Life takes a toll on us all. Over the past decade, I’ve leaned more heavily on each of these men than I had before. Life’s issues grew more pressing on me. As it did on them. Simplicity gave way to complexity. More moving parts produced by more people involved in our lives as we were all growing older. More folks to consider. More to think about. Then there’s the weight of responsibility. The burden of leadership. Not some formalized thing, but the influence one welds in becoming old enough to warrant the respect of others. The leadership of influence. The leadership of service. It can bow a body low. “Strengthen ye the weak hands and confirm the feeble knees.” (Isaiah 35:3) The battle was raging. As long as Moses had his hands lifted in the air, the battle would belong to him and the people. But Moses wasn’t able to do it alone. Exodus 17:11-14 “And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses’ hands were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword. And Jehovah said unto Moses, Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua: that I will utterly blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven.” We all need some help to steady our hands until the going down of the sun. Moses had two men, one on each side helping him. During my lifetime I’ve had a few select, special men of great wisdom who have helped steady my hands. And help me direct my course toward greater wisdom. They’ve warned me of road hazards helping me avoid untold calamities. They’ve cheered me on encouraging me to keep the faith and continue to battle even though defeat seemed quite certain in my eyes. They’ve questioned, challenged and supported me in ways that only old men can with a younger, albeit still old, man. In the last 5 years or so I’ve grown increasingly interested – and convinced of the high value found – in our intentional associations. Specifically, in how we leverage the power of others in our lives. It has made me more closely examine the people who have been my closest, most trusted advisors. There’s a theme in my life, and I’d imagine there is in your life, too. Think about the people who occupy your most inner circle. All of mine are gospel preachers. They always have been. Without exception. I’ve had other close friends, but not as close as these men. My current circle includes men as young as mid-40’s and now as old as 83. I’m having to go younger because my oldest mentors and advisors are passing away. Typically I’ve relied on men 15 to 20 years my senior. I don’t think it was strategic as much as it was conveniently generational. My father is 34 years older. Many of my inner circle “old friends” have been in my life as long as I can remember and they entered my life through my parents. So I think in my case that explains the age difference. It worked to my advantage. An enormous advantage. Today I find myself attempting – likely without much success – to provide similar support and insight to men 15 to 20 years my junior. I’m hoping to keep the cycle of support, encouragement, and leadership alive. Time will tell if I can succeed. I figure the next 15 plus years will make or break my legacy. And that’s not unique to me. I think it’s unique to all older men and women. We enter this phase of life where our perspective is more settled. Priorities seem clearer. Ambitions, too. As I’ve grown older my resolve has intensified. The resolve to make a bigger difference. Whatever it takes. Even if it takes a lifetime. Jason Isbell is among my favorite singer-songwriters. In 2015 he released an album entitled, Something More Than Free. One of my favorite songs on that record is “If It Takes A Lifetime.” The final refrain is “our day will come if it takes a lifetime.” I’m here to tell it does take a lifetime. It takes a lifetime to have old friends. It takes a lifetime to gain the wisdom that old friends can provide. Lots of things take a lifetime. Lifetimes are relative. Barney’s was 75 years. Johnny’s was 88. So far, Ronny’s is 83. Three different men. All of them precious to me and instrumental in my decisions, development, and wisdom. Here’s the thing. The lifetime isn’t measured in years. It’s measured in value. The value isn’t a competition. In fact, there’s no way to compare the value these three wise men provided my life. Each were different. Each contributed in a unique way. I needed what each of them brought. Barney was the first to go, but nobody challenged me quite like him. Notorious for not ever telling me what to do, he’d pose a powerful statement followed by a question. It’s the single most popular phrasing I’d hear from him when involved in a deep, serious conversation. “Well, you could do that. I’m not sure that it’d be right though. Are you sure?” And by “right” he always meant scriptural. In other words, would it be in keeping with the Word of God? Would it be what God would want based on what the Bible says? Most often the reply he’d hear would be, “Of course I’m not sure…which is why I’m talking to you.” 😉 Nobody was like Barney in my life. Nobody was like Johnny either. Johnny didn’t challenge me the way Barney did. It was different. Done in his own style. Ronny is still different from them all and admittedly I’m closest to him than any other old man. It has taken a lifetime. His personality is measured. His tone always tempered. Humor. It’s a common bond. Each of them is funny in their own way. I appreciate their sense of humor and it made the connections deeper. Barney was a man with dry, dry wit. Out of nowhere would come a quip you didn’t see coming and it would almost always lay me low with laughter. One of my favorite stories of him – and one I’ve likely told you before – was about his childhood. Barney lived in Cincinnati. He was from Kentucky, but as a kid the family moved from the Kentucky hills to the big city. They were poor as Job’s turkey. During a breakfast meeting some years ago, which included my son, Ryan, Barney was telling stories. Ryan asked him if his family ever went back to Kentucky to visit after they made the move to the city. Without blinking an eye Barney said, “Sure. We’d take a bus back down there with a sack of sandwiches and show off.” We erupted. The mere thought of some transplanted hillbillies returning home on a Greyhound bus with a sack of sandwiches to “show off” immediately struck us all as funny as Barney intended it to. I think of Barney often, especially any time Brisco Darling appears on an old Andy Griffith Show rerun. Barney’s demeanor was dry like Brisco. He was sharp, smart and well-read. The man was always reading a book, usually, a book that recorded some debate over a Bible topic. The man knew the Bible as well as any man I’ve ever known. He was an accomplished preacher who could take a complex topic and make it appear simple. I miss him dearly…and the absence of his insights and viewpoint won’t likely ever be filled. But I had him inside my inner circle so I’m thankful for our years today. Johnny’s sense of humor was without parallel in my life. I was so close to his family and we shared a snarkiness and sarcasm that made our ability to “get it” unrivaled. Like Barney, Johnny’s humor could often be subtle, but he wasn’t nearly as dry as Barney. Johnny was frequently just more matter-of-fact. Of the three men Johnny was the man with whom I was close enough to see emotional frustrations that would often morph into something very funny. When you’ve spent a lifetime there are too many such stories that flood my memory banks. Johnny could get a quick look of utter frustration and contempt for the situation. Since I was small I’ve found his angst funny. Stanley and I both did, until a belt may have been threatened. We’d all gone to some inexpensive steakhouse – the kind you used to find in any size town. Think Western Sizzler. You go through the line, place your order, get your drink and are given a number or something. Then you go find your table listening for your order to be announced over the PA. Well, this particular place had a PA that was so garbled and muffled you couldn’t understand one thing coming out of the speakers. After a bit Johnny wrinked his brow, grew a stern look and expressed his frustration with the PA. “I’ll bet you can tell what he’s saying. My lands, there’s no way to tell if he’s announcing our food or not.” I’m not sure we were even paying attention until he said something. Immediately I got tickled because it sounded like the guy was holding his hand over his mouth and speaking into the microphone. Completely unintelligible. There were millions of moments like this with Johnny. And I loved him for it because those little, everyday frustrations were easily pointed out by him. My family rolls very much the same way. It provides daily humor. It takes a lifetime to fully appreciate it I suppose. There’s nothing like old friendships. People who have known us for a long time. People who understand our context in a way that nobody else can. People who we understand well. Intent. It’s a critical component. In every friendship. Frankly, in every relationship. One that too frequently is overlooked. Somebody says something to us that hits us wrong. Or not quite right. Rather than think deeply about this person’s historical intentions, which are mostly good toward us, we suddenly have a knee-jerk reaction to what they said without any regard to their long-proven intent. With these 3 men, I’ve never questioned their intentions. Especially as it related to their relationship with me. I always knew their intentions were the best. Giving them due consideration, therefore, wasn’t hard. Behaving with grace and respect toward them wasn’t either. Even if I didn’t agree with them. And I didn’t always. There’s something else. When you’ve had 3 old men surround you your entire life…you don’t benefit from your own lifetime, but you benefit from each of theirs, too. The cumulative impact of wisdom is priceless making it all the more urgent that we keep passing it on. Randy
70 minutes | a year ago
Old Men Are Dangerous (5046)
Jim Collison Today’s Project #CravingEncouragement story comes from Jim Collison. Find him at The Average Guy website. Thanks, Jim for the encouragement, friendship, and support. Jim was one of the very first financial contributors to helping me get the Rode Rodecaster Pro here inside The Yellow Studio. You’ll hear Jim’s stories at the very end of the episode. “Old men are dangerous: it doesn’t matter to them what is going to happen to the world.” – George Bernard Shaw But old men are dangerous for so much more. It’s not that old men don’t care, it’s that they’ve learned what to care about most. Experience has taught them what matters and what’s irrelevant. Old men are dangerous because they’re able to teach younger men the things they most need to know. Nobody can teach younger men more than old men. if only younger men would listen and learn. 😉 2019 has been a year focused on the old men in my life. In the spring I lost one. Others are growing weak and frail. Old men have always been very important to me. I’ve lot a handful of them over the years. Old men who taught me a lot, but I know there was so much more I could have and should have learned. Old men aren’t likely so different from old women. Not when it comes to the resource they are for those who are younger. Younger is relative. Earlier this year I lost an old man in my life. He was 74. Meanwhile, there’s another old man in my life who is 96 and still going. My dad. That’s a 22-year spread and it makes me wonder when a guy goes from being a young man to a man, then goes to being an old man. To a 10-year-old boy, a 25-year-old is likely an old man. To a 25-year-old, a 50-year-old is for sure an old man. To the 50-year-old…well, old just takes on a very different connotation. Narrowing down the when is important. After all, old men are dangerous so we have to figure out who the old men are! 😉 I’ll leave that to you to figure out for yourself. I happen to think old women are just as dangerous as old men. If not MORE so. 😉 So I don’t discriminate. I’m equally fearful. Being dangerous isn’t restricted to being fearful though. There’s dangerous in a good way. Sorta like the word “bad.” Then there’s dangerous in a terrible way. As in, “That concert was bad.” That means the concert was awful. It can be good. As in, “That concert was bad.” That means the concert was awesome. Let’s talk about the fearful. I grew up learning fear very quickly. Spanking was how all good kids were brought up. Not beatings. Not abuse. Spankings. I don’t think it was a regional practice either. Rather, I think it was pretty universal born from years of practice sparked by Old Testament (and New Testament) teaching on discipline. “Spare the rod, spoil the child,” and all that. It clearly was a defective form of discipline and training because most of the kids I knew addressed adults as “sir” or “ma’am.” Classrooms were mostly well ordered and teachers, policemen and other authority figures were shown respect by all but the very worst kids. So it was clearly NOT the way to raise and train children. I mean it’s barbaric really. Better to have every child behaving like a spoiled hellion, smarting off to teachers, flipping off police officers and general showing disdain for anybody who dare suggest he not get his way. Society is greatly improved by our intolerance for any kind of physical discipline to show kids that they are NOT in charge. After all, the kids ARE in charge so let’s treat them that way. Like the royality of all knowledge and wisdom we know them to be. Just like when we were kids, right? When I was a boy old men were dangerous. Old women more dangerous. You got out of line and few things scared me more than an old man barking out, “Heyah! Heyah!” Hearing that would stop me dead in my tracks because I instantly knew I was caught misbehaving. Old women would get physical. They’d grab you by the back of your neck or thump you on the head or flick your ear. And that’s if you were lucky! Old women would put up with more than old men in private, but not in public. After all, you were representing not just yourself, but your family when you were out in public. And that meant you’d better represent well. Or else. Being dangerous can mean a variety of things. Many of them very good. The question can be, “Dangerous for whom?” When I was 10, old men were either entertaining or dangerous. Sometimes both. Mostly, I steered clear of them. I had already figured out that kids were the bane of most old men. 😉 Will Project #CravingEncouragement Be Cancelled Due To Lack Of Interest? It’s sure looking like it. People are reluctant to share their stories. Well, that’s an understatement. They’re refusing to share them. That’s more accurate. Even though 100% of the people I’ve ever asked declare they fully understand the power of encouragement in their life, many readily admit they can’t really remember the last time they truly offered it to somebody else. Is encouragement that rare? Apparently so. Are stories of times when we were encouraged equally rare. Perhaps. That’s why we crave it so. We all understand how valuable it is. Have I shamed you into sharing? Not likely, huh? It’s okay. I’m not judging you. I’m just disappointed because so many of you contributed money to help me get the Rodecaster Pro inside The Yellow Studio. I really wanted to hear your stories, but I’m going to stop begging you to share them. I’m not a big fan of coercion. If you change your mind you know how to contact me. I’m an old man. No matter. I was dangerous as a young man. I’m just growing more dangerous. Dangerous can be good. Dangerous can be bad. Don Cherry is Hockey Night in Canada. Is is 85. Even non-hockey folks likely know Don for his outlandish wardrobe. The guy has ALWAYS been very opinionated and always dressed loudly and sharply. Within the last week Don shot his mouth off – something he’s been paid handsomely for years to do – but this time it got him in trouble. It got him fired. You can read more about the details here. Then here’s one opinion and a counter opinion. Old men are dangerous in the sense that we’re liable to say anything. At any time. 😉 We’re “Don Cherry dangerous” once we hit 80. I can’t prove it, but there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence of it in my experience. I’ve talked with old men for the last 35 years about it. They’ve almost all told me, “There’s something that happens after a man hits 80.” These were all men older than me (at the time) who had observed the old men in their lives. They reported noticing marked differences in their old mentors after they got into their 80s. Easier to spot in others than in yourself. When I speak to old men in their 80s I don’t hear much other than, “I’m not as fast as I used to be.” They mean in every way. Physically. Cognitively. The CPU just slows down. I need to do some homework to figure out what exactly happens around the age of 80. Some men tell me they can’t remember as well as they once did (well, who can?), but they confess it’s sometimes a struggle to find the words to say what they’re feeling or thinking. It’s like the hard drive of their memory is still intact, but they can’t access it as quickly. Sometimes they can’t access it at all. This time of year I regularly watch ESPN’s College GameDay on Saturdays. Lee Corso is part of the panel. He’s 84. He should join Don Cherry in retirement because it’s been evident for a few years that he just can no longer keep up. During the segment where the panelists pick who they think will win the matchups, Lee sometimes selected teams who weren’t part of the matchup. Kirk Herbstreit does a masterful job of covering for him and helping him without making it obvious or embarrassing, but Lee should retire before he becomes much more dangerous. I’m sad for Don Cherry. I’ve always found his highly entertaining and very likable. It’s sad for Don’s public life to end like this. I wish it weren’t so. Decades of good snuffed out for no good reason. All because a network overstayed their welcome by giving him such a big, public platform. What do you do though if you’re Sportsnet, Don’s employer when he said what he did about the Canadien veterans? They should have opted him out someway, somehow so the man could ease out of the public broadcasting limelight, dignity intact. Easier said than done with an old man though, right? Yep. Because old men are stubborn. Ridiculously so! And I’d wager Don Cherry has superhero levels of stubbornness. So maybe nothing could be done to protect him from himself. As our local Dallas Stars’ color commentator Darrell “Razor” Reaugh said about him. It’s like putting Archie Bunker on Hockey Night In Canada every week. It was bound to go bad eventually. Give anybody enough mic time – even a podcaster like me – and we’re going to make a mistake. I can edit though. If I say something that’s too dangerous to release, I can remove it. Spend time in front of a live mic and the odds of getting into some type of trouble are high unless things are very scripted. This is partly why I so respect these folks who do live sports broadcasting. Guys like Joe Buck. Even Bob Costas took heat when he came out against the NFL for their idiocy with CTE and concussion protocols. Eventually, his longtime employer NBC figured out a ease him out. By January of this year, Bob quit NBC altogether. Who knows what the details really are, but I know this much. Bob Costas is world-class — in both talent and cognitive ability. He wasn’t an old man except in broadcasting terms. He was in his mid-60s. Right now he’s 67. His replacement, Mike Tirico is 52. Nuff said. That’s 15 years and it’s a considerable age gap in the broadcasting world. Maybe the point is that verbal old men are super dangerous. And those in front of cameras or behind microphones are especially so. 😀 I plan to go very dark and very quiet by the time I hit 80. That’s why I’m doing so much talking right now. I’ve got to squeeze it all in while I have time. Breaking News: Don Cherry is going to start podcasting at 85. Good for Don. 😉 Not sure I’d do it, but no matter – I don’t have to because I decided to podcast a few decades back. Now I’ve just to watch myself so I don’t get into trouble! Jordan Peterson is a 57-year-old clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. He caught my attention back in 1999 when his book, Maps of Meaning, was published. Five or six years ago is when I really leaned more into his work because listening to him is vastly more compelling (to me) than reading. That’s not a knock on him, but on me. I just lack the brainpower to keep up. He’s a very dangerous old man though. Thankfully he’s surrounded by some young men who also have hefty grey matter! Guys like Ben Shapiro. Whether you agree with Peterson’s message or not…there’s no doubt of his danger. He’s intelligent, articulate, logical, thoughtful and skilled at arguing his beliefs and opinions. He’s also willing to say what few others have been willing to say. So even if he provokes enough anger for people to think and more deeply figure things out…that alone is worth the price of admission. As I’ve watched his popularly soar I’ve figured out that his age and wisdom have helped him. He’s not an angry young man – as many young men are prone to be. He’s seasoned, weathered and even in his indignation of those things he finds atrocious, he’s driven deeply by compassion. Compassion isn’t necessarily considered a young man’s game, but I’ve learned it’s very much an old man’s game! The crusty curmudgeon is a trite figure. One I don’t find to be mostly true. Yes, they exist. From every age demographic. Young bitter people grow old and become old bitter people. The “get off my lawn” character seen mostly as an old man was the “I’ll kick your @#$” young man. They’re one and the same, except for their age. Old men are dangerous in part because they have courage. People suppose that’s because they’ve nothing to lose, but that’s foolish. Don Cherry lost a lot. Costas, too. Peterson is risking a lot. So I don’t think the danger presented by old men is because they’ve nothing to lose. And I don’t think their courage is due to that. Rather, I think they better understand the stakes. They understand – or should understand – better the difference made in some things over others. Old men know what’s important. Young men think they know. Knowing what’s important drives courage. The tipping point of courage is when knowing what’s important is coupled with strong beliefs about what’s required. Why is Dr. Peterson speaking out with such boldness? Because he has spent years thinking about things deeply and with compassion. Because he has deep beliefs in what’s wrong and what could be done to fix it. He has knowledge coupled with beliefs. Strong beliefs in what can be done to better the human condition. Old men are dangerous because they understand legacy. Their own. And they’re interested in their legacy. But that sounds too self-centered and most old men aren’t self-centered. I’ve known plenty of old men and old women. The ones who were kind didn’t start being kind when they got old. They were always kind. The ones who were mean and hateful didn’t turn out that way because they got old. They were mean and hateful young people who just got old. So it goes with self-centeredness. No, the legacy old men feel compelled to create isn’t just for their ability to feel better about themselves (although that’s part of it and there’s nothing wrong with that). It’s largely influenced by wanting to pass it on to the next ones in line. Old men want to be remembered for something meaningful and the wise ones know that’s best done in helping those behind them. Permit a personal illustration. There’s a little girl at church who gets a Diet Dr. Pepper in a cup, with a lid and straw from me as often as I can make it happen following our Sunday afternoon worship. It all began when she approached me – provoked by somebody, likely her mother – asking if she could have a drink of my Diet Dr. Pepper. Of course, I obliged. Then I gave her the entire thing. I now make it a point to take one to her, even if I didn’t get one wherever we dine out for lunch on Sunday. I’ve remarked to my wife, “I don’t know what she’ll remember or think, but I’m going to make sure her memories of me are fond ones!” Old men think like that. Young men don’t. That makes old men much, much more dangerous! Old men are dangerous because our time with them is limited. They’re only a renewable resource in the sense that there’s always more old men coming down the pike. They’re non-renewable in the sense that when old men die, they’re gone. Maybe that’s why old men will say whatever is on their mind. Of course, the danger is often found in an untethered mind resulting in an unfiltered tongue. Which is why I love watching and listening to the banter of really old movies…like The Man Who Came To Dinner with Monty Woolley, who played the leading role of Sheridan Whiteside. I love the rapid banter of these movies. And I rather love the old Mr. Whiteside character. I was high school when I really fell in love with Winston Churchill. For the same reason. An articulate, intelligent, witty man posed to quickly respond. I’ve always admired it. Churchill produced history’s funniest insult with a famous retort directed at either the socialist MP (Member of Parlament) Bessie Braddock or the Conservative Lady Astor, the first female MP (the story has involved both). When accused by one of them of being ‘disgustingly drunk’ the Conservative Prime Minister responded: ‘My dear, you are ugly, and what’s more, you are disgustingly ugly. But tomorrow I shall be sober and you will still be disgustingly ugly.’ I was 15 and Deep Purple’s Smoke On The Water was a big deal. That’s how I remember. The year was 1972. Another great year for music, but I digress – as I am wont to do. Steely Dan’s “Can’t Buy A Thrill” came out. Todd Rundgren’s “Hello, It’s Me” (song) was in regular rotation on my turntable. “You Wear It Well” by Rod Stewart and “Rocket Man” by Elton John were dominating the radio. And I was chuckling at a dead Prime Minister of England noted for delivering great speeches. And barbs. Admittedly, I was more fond of the barbs at the time. As I grew older I appreciated the speeches. True confession: a younger version of me rather looked forward to the time when I could say what I wanted. Yeah, like Churchill. 😀 Speaking of 1972 and old men, Mick Jagger was singing “Tumbling Dice” that year. It was a pretty big hit by some old rock ‘n roll guys. We thought they were old then. They’re dinosaurs now! It’s all relative, right? Come on. Mick was 29, almost 30 and over the hill when I was 15 rockin’ out to Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out.” Ask any 15-year-old if 29 is old and see how they answer! But Mick doesn’t count. He’s been dangerous his whole life. You see the rabbit hole that music creates for me? Okay, back to our regular programming – Old Men Are Dangerous! Elders were highly regarded in ancient times. In some cultures they still matter, but not in America. Old folks and the dangers they provide – that’s right, PROVIDE – is going away. Not because old men are no longer dangerous, but because younger men don’t care. Technology has had an impact. It’s forced us to think that anybody who lived in an era prior to the Internet can’t possibly have wisdom, knowledge or insight we can leverage. We assume the world has changed so dramatically that whatever danger they may have once provided…it’s over now! Completely unrelatable to the present condition. Of course, what we fail to realize is that human beings haven’t changed. In forever. People are the same today as they were at the beginning of time. Tech comes and goes. Master today’s most cutting edge tech and within 10 years your knowledge will be obsolete. Master people – knowing people, understanding people – and ten years from now you’ll only know and understand more. And better! Then there’s wisdom. Let’s not forget wisdom. Come on, we can’t forget the punch line to this entire podcast! the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment You can’t get that first one without putting in the time. Getting old is the trump card of having experience. Smart, sober-minded young men grow older. Eventually, they become smart, sober-minded old men filled with experience, knowledge and good judgment. Does that sound like a resource? Does it sound a valuable resource? Yeah, it does to me, too. Which is why I’ve always leveraged old men. Just a handful of them. I’ve lost 3 very inner circle ones so far in my life. I’ve lost easily that many more in a more outer circle of influence. The 3 I’ve lost were all dangerous in their time. And in their own unique ways. Each was very different in their personality, communication style, viewpoints and talent. But they were all dangerous, which is why I leaned heavily on them. I wanted their danger to one day rub off on me. Well, truthfully I wasn’t waiting for it to rub off…I was doing whatever I could to learn from them. None were imposing. I mean none of them was so disposed to just take a fellow under his wing, but if that fellow was determined to go under their on his own (and I was), then they were willing to let me. I pushed. I nudged. I made it a point of my life to let them know I wanted to know more, learn more and that I was willing to put in the work. Old men love a younger man willing to pay the price. It’s one of the first lessons I learned about old men. Once I got past being afraid. 😉 An online article entitled – Why saying ‘OK boomer’ at work is considered age discrimination – but millennial put-downs aren’t – appeared at The Conversation. Read it and make your own judgments. Me? I think we’re overrun with “protections” and folks getting their noses out of joint when we could simply embrace a bit of kindness, compassion, and understanding. But what do I know? Clearly not enough. The real takeaway is the disregard we’re all capable of. In my youth, the phrase “generation gap” erupted onto the popular culture scene. I wasn’t much of a believer that a generation gap suddenly appeared in the 1960s. Even as a child I could tell there were differences in old folks and young folks. We kids were an entire category all to ourselves. Which is why we ate at the card table to ourselves. Old men allowed kids to be kids…so long as the kids were together. Whenever kids entered the space of old men, then the old men made the rules. It was a brilliant set-up actually. One I often miss. It wasn’t old men disregarding children. Rather it was an expectation old men had that kids would regard them with some fear, respect and esteem. Guess what? We did. Fear the. Respect them. And esteem them. Today, I’m often surrounded by nosey kids who refuse to take a backseat to any adult. Rather, the kids are ALWAYS in the spotlight. It wasn’t always that way. Which makes me realize I completely missed out on the limelight, generationally. When I was a kid, the older folks ruled. Now that I’m an old man, the younger folks rule. It’s like I never got my turn. Now…I’m even more dangerous because of it. Randy
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