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Leaning Toward Wisdom
47 minutes | 5 days ago
And Bob’s Your Uncle (Season 2021, Episode 7)
Here’s one theory about the origin from Wikipedia: The origins are uncertain, but a common theory is that the expression arose after Conservative Prime Minister Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury (“Bob”) appointed his nephew Arthur Balfour as Chief Secretary for Ireland in 1887, an act of nepotism, which was apparently both surprising and unpopular. Whatever other qualifications Balfour might have had, “Bob’s your uncle” was seen as the conclusive one. Salisbury is widely believed to be the Uncle Bob that the expression refers to. “Bob’s your uncle” is said to derive from the supposed nepotism of Lord Salisbury, in appointing a favorite nephew, Arthur Balfour, to several political posts in the 1880s. “Bob’s your uncle” is an exclamation that is used when everything is alright and the simple means of obtaining the successful result is explained. Here in America, we’d say, “a piece of cake” or “easy as pie.” But I rather prefer, “And Bob’s your uncle.” Today’s episode was prompted by something that happened one year ago. I recorded the event on my personal Facebook page. Here’s what I wrote. Grandson #3 (Easton) and grandson #4 (Cason) went with us to see my parents yesterday. On the ride home Easton sees something and the obsession begins. It’s the little marking on the side pillars of the car indicating that there’s a side curtain airbag. He’s reading out the letters and asking, “What does that say?” All the letters are capitalized though, presenting a new challenge for his reading skills. From the backseat he’s announcing the letters. “S, L, D, E, C, U, R, T…” No break or pause, just reading the letters in straight succession. I quickly realize the problem. The L isn’t an L. It’s a capital “i.” Me: “That doesn’t spell anything. S,L,D aren’t the first letters to anything.” Easton: “Yes, it is. That’s what it says, S, L, D, E, C, U…(he goes on to announce every letter for the umpteenth time).” Me: “That says, ‘Bob’s your uncle.” Easton: “No, it doesn’t. Bob’s your uncle doesn’t start with S.” Me: “Sure it does.” Easton: “No, Bob’s your uncle doesn’t start with S.” Me: “What does ‘Bob’s your uncle start with?” Easton: “B.” Me: “Very good.” Me: “That second letter isn’t an L, it’s an “i.” Easton: “But it doesn’t have a dot.” Me: “It’s a capital i. All those letters are capitalized.” Easton: “But it’s S, L, D, E…” (again reciting every single letter) Me: “It says, ‘Side Curtain Airbag.” (I go on to explain what that is) Then comes a 10-minute conversation on how those airbags deploy. And I interject “Bob’s your uncle” some more along the way. Me: “When the airbags come out they say, ‘Bob’s your uncle’ on them.” Easton: “But I’ve never seen them say, ‘Bob’s your uncle.'” Me: “Because you’ve never seen airbags. They don’t come out until you crash the car. You never want to see ‘Bob’s your uncle’ unless you crash.” To add confusion, Rhonda inserts, “Cale is YOUR uncle.” Easton: “Then why does it say, ‘Bob’s your uncle?” Me: “To let you know the airbags are out. And uncle Cale answers to, ‘Bob.'” This goes on for about 5 more minutes with Easton growing increasingly skeptical. Rhonda finally tells him I’m “pulling his leg.” Of course, that means she has to explain what that phrase means. Easton: “I thought so. I knew it didn’t say, ‘Bob’s your uncle.'” Now, I’m Googling for Bob’s Your Uncle t-shirts in kid’s sizes! I’m also coaching him to call Cale “Bob” the next time he sees him! I smile every time I think of that car ride. I wish Bob was my uncle, but I do have a cousin named Bob. Easy peasy. That’s our hokey American equivalent. Much less clever than, “And Bob’s you’re uncle.” That’s that. Kinda sorta the same thing. I don’t know if the story is the correct origin of the saying, but I hope so because that makes it funnier to me. Some ner-do-well fella gets a high position and everybody stands around questioning, “Who? Who? Who got it?” Then some lone voice says, “Arthur. Arthur got it. Bob gave it to his nephew, Arthur.” Then some crusty old politician says, “And Bob’s your uncle!” So many ideas rush through my punny brain. So many different directions to go with all this, but a few that I don’t want to pursue are nepotism, having a leg up because of family ties, or getting advancement because of who you know, or who knows you. Easton sat by me during a recent church service. He and his little brother often sit with us Sunday afternoons or Wednesday evenings during worship. As he settles in he shows me a folded-up five-dollar bill. My wife unfolds it asking him which president is on it. He correctly answers, “Lincoln.” She then proceeds to look for where it was printed. We have a U.S. Mint here in Ft. Worth so she was looking to see if it may have been printed locally. While she’s doing that I told him, “In very fine print somewhere it says, “And Bob’s your uncle.” He proceeds to point to every line of fine print and act as though he’s reading, “And Bob’s your uncle.” I’m pretty determined to keep this bit going as long as possible. Or until I can get him a T-shirt. Or maybe until I can get myself one. Eventually, he’ll be old enough to understand an explanation of what it really means. In the meantime, I’m enjoying the quirkiness of his confusion. And of course, I’m adding to the confusion at every turn. Like this past Sunday, I asked him and his little brother, “You know what Bob spelled backward is? It’s Bob.” Cason, his little brother who I nicknamed Road Rash Roy because the kid always has scratches and skinned elbows and knees, says, “No, it doesn’t.” “Yes, it does. Bob forwards is also Bob backward…” “And Bob’s your uncle.” It’s just that easy to confuse 2 little boys who I love dearly. I mess with them so much they know it. They’re learning how to discern it all. Little do they know how important this training in sarcasm will be to their successful future in navigating the world. But I know. I also know that everything is hard…until it’s easy. I’m about 20 years into a mild fascination with minimalism. If only I’d discovered it 40 years ago my fascination might be wild, not mild. By the time kids were in college I was too far down the road to clutter and accumulation. Now that it’s just the two of us parts of it seem less daunting, but other parts more so. There is nothing about decluttering that seems worthy of uttering, “And Bob’s your uncle.” It’s insanely hard. My wife took three days a few weeks to paint the inside of some of the kitchen cabinets and reorganize things. This included purging lots of things. It also included numerous instances of, “Hey, look here at what I found.” There are so many items in a kitchen that haven’t been used in years, if ever. Begs the question, “Why do we have that?” No need to ask, “Why don’t you get rid of it?” because until you dig it out of the back of a cabinet, you have no idea you have it. Permit me to coach myself through this, with you serving as witnesses. Invisible accountability partners of sorts. The world tells us lies. Lots and lots of lies. In fact, I dare say most of what we’re told, exposed to, and the stuff that gets shared on social media are outright lies, phony ideas and falsehoods. For instance, it’s the journey, not the destination. No, it’s not. It’s all about the destination. Why do we get in the car and drive hours and hours? To get someplace where we’d like to be. Somewhere other than where we were. We endure the journey so we can get to the destination. Another lie, it’s about the process, not the outcome. No, it’s not. It’s all about the outcome. Why endure the beating of the process unless we’re pursuing the outcome. I read an article entitled, Why People Who Focus More On Processes Than Outcomes Gain More In Their Life. There’s no proof that this title is correct. But it sounds good. To some. Maybe to many. The article speaks of people who want to lose weight. Okay, just stop and think about this. A person sets out to lose weight, but that’s not the reason (motivation, a’hem “inspiration”) for it. Oh, really? Well, then why do they want to endure the process of losing weight? Because they just want to experience another area of self-discipline that requires sacrifice? No, dummy. It’s because they want to be thinner, lighter. They want the outcome. Just like when I get in the car, there’s someplace I want (or need to) be. Otherwise, I’m staying home! And staying fat! …and Bob’s your uncle. Here’s an aside, but it’s important. Do you know the difference between motivation and inspiration? Many people confuse them as synonyms, but they’re not remotely the same. Motivation is the energy you bring with you to get it done – whatever it is. Inspiration is the too-often-short-term-excitement resulting from an external source. Can I inspire you? Maybe. Mostly, here at LTW, I’m working to provoke thought. You can determine whether I succeed or not, but suppose I do inspire you to lean more toward wisdom. That inspiration won’t last unless or until you summon up the motivation – the inner energy and dedication – to do the work. I can’t want it for you enough. Nobody can either. You have to do it for yourself. That’s motivation. Easy Peasy. Bob’s Your Uncle. But more accurately, everything is hard until it’s easy. As I was making notes in preparation for this episode I wrote down three words: create, play, perform. I was thinking about musicians and how that process of making music translates to just about anything else. We create art, music, math, or athletic competency. Then we play or do. We practice the art, the music, the math, or the athletic endeavor. We do it. Over and over and over. Some of us do it well. Others of us, not so much. And we perform. Sometimes, like musicians, it’s in front of people, live or recorded. Like athletes, we have games, or matches, or meets or tournaments. People watch us perform. They look at the results of our work. There is no “Bob’s your uncle” moment in these endeavors because, unlike a political appointment, nobody can bestow these on us. We have to earn them. It made me wish I had an uncle named Bob. I wish some things – like learning guitar – were easier. But I realized if that was true, then it wouldn’t likely be as remarkable as I know it is. It might be relegated to common, ordinary, and uninspiring. Another truth appeared as I considered these 3 words (create, play, perform) — excellence isn’t in those outlier performances, but in the ordinary. I was watching (again) that Michael Jordan documentary series. MJ had some extraordinary performances, but as I watched his story – one I was able to see in real-time since I’m so old – I realized that his greatness was in the consistency of his performances over time. His level of performing at his ordinary level was so vastly more consistent than many players, and his remarkable moments were so much higher…he achieved superstar status. Rightly so. Everyday. Consistent. Discipline. Dedication. Got nothing to do with Bob being your uncle. Bob can be your uncle and it won’t matter! Here’s the thing. Some people are waiting for Bob or somebody to bequeath to them success. Or achievement. It could happen in some things, like politics. Or a lucky inheritance. Some other form of chance. But it’s got nothing to do with merit. Instead, it’s favor. It’s getting something easily. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all in favor of getting something easily if you can. It’s just a horribly unreliable way to get anything. To wait for somebody to give it to you. It’s the life of folks who embrace that “if only” philosophy. If only I could win the lottery. If only I could get that promotion. If only that company would hire me. If only I had my master’s degree. If only I had their luck. It’s an endless stream of “if only” excuses. Well, you’re a loser and life isn’t going to magically get better for you. And Bob’s your uncle! 😀 I heard a musician wonder if high achievement were the norm…would creativity lean toward awful? If everybody were bent toward creating remarkable work, would unremarkable work be deemed innovative and creative? Thankfully, we’re not beleaguered with such things because most of what’s produced isn’t all that good. I’ve even heard it argued that the universe rewards mediocrity. Maybe we can’t handle too much remarkability. Maybe average makes the world go round ’cause it’s everywhere all the time! 😉 And Bob’s your uncle. The phrase evokes a smile. Every time. Because it’s funny to me. But there’s another side that’s slightly serious. “And Bob’s your uncle,” signifies it’s easy. Effortless even. And in spite of the historical context of the phrase, most things worthwhile require a degree of dedication and hard work. Unless Bob’s your uncle. Smooth paths. Easy decisions. They’re mostly roads to nowhere, but not always. For example, surrender is a smooth path, an easy decision. It’s not something I’ve done much of when it comes to trying to make a positive difference, but as I’ve leaned toward older age…it’s become increasingly more tempting. More so in the past few years than at any other time in my life. Especially when it comes to groups where people are clamoring for power and authority. My lifelong battle against tyranny has taken a toll I guess. I find myself not caring quite as much as I once did. I’ve had my bouts battling resignation (surrender), but that seems to demand a degree of apathy, which I just don’t have. To any degree. Apathy may not always be bad though. And it may not really be apathy – not caring – as much as it may be caring less than you once did. Priorities change. Objectives do, too. I think my apathy isn’t true apathy, but my caring less than I once did. And that’s absolutely true about many things, including some group dynamics where I see people wrangle to propel themselves and their opinions forward at the expense of the group. I find myself not caring so much to benefit the group with experience and insight because wisdom has taught me I’m not able, capable or even the right fit all the time. Sometimes, as older and wiser heads always taught me, it’s best to be still and quiet so things can play out. That’s been difficult all my life…until now. Now? It’s not that hard. In fact, it’s my preferred course. And Bob’s your uncle! 😀 We’re now about 4 months into 2021 and I’ve made a number of key decisions for moving my life forward. This phrase has been part of the process as I’ve carefully examined my natural abilities, my opportunities, my challenges, and my ideal outcomes. Sir Ken Robinson wrote The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything. Sir Ken defines being in your element as finding that place where natural aptitude and what you love intersect. It’s not about simply pursuing what you most love because what you most love may not be what you’re good at. Both natural aptitude and passion (what you love) are important. At my age, I know what I’m good at. I know the very few things I’m great at. And I know what I most love. Professionally, I’m doing it. Coaching executives and leaders in high-performance careers, teams, groups, and organizations. I’ve spent my life learning these things and now I’m able to pass them on in a non-judgmental way. I challenge my clients to examine their natural abilities (including their personality, their communication styles/preferences, and what they prefer), their opportunities, their challenges, and their ideal outcomes! It’s not easy work, but clients know it’s the most worthwhile professional work they can do – to invest in themselves so they can be a more positive influence for their employees. The bottom line is making the most positive difference possible. Enter the phrase, “And Bob’s your uncle!” Last fall I began to wrestle with, “What’s easy? And likely the best course of action?” I had one specific situation of my life in mind – a group I’ve been part of for over 30 years. I concluded that being still and quiet was now easiest, and likely best. Maybe you can relate because you may be in a group that just no longer has the value it once did. Or one where your contributions aren’t needed any longer. Not a group you’re going to walk away from, but a group where you’re simply going to be a more quiet member. In my case, a very quiet and still member. And it’s fine. Fact is, it’s more than fine. “And Bob’s your uncle!” It easy. And that’s the point. It wasn’t always the case, but today things have changed. My mental and spiritual health matter. They’ve always mattered, but today there’s a renewed focus on those that I know I must pay close attention to because the damage to those can be high if we don’t protect them. For me, stillness and silence are terrific tools of protection for spiritual and mental health. Fact is, I’ve never been better. Never been as fit for the work before me. Never been this patient. Or this skilled. Or this knowledgeable. Or had this level of understanding. Or had this much ambition to want to focus on helping others. Because the window is closing and I want to benefit others with what I’ve learned. They can do with it whatever they will, but generations should never pass away without sharing what they’ve learned. Whether the next generation wants to learn it, that’s up to them. Some will. Some won’t. Either way, I don’t get too fixated on that because it doesn’t remove my urge or responsibility to do my part. This is exactly why I’m continuing to grow my coaching practice and lean more heavily into my professional pursuits more than ever. And that seems weird perhaps, given that I’m in my early 60s and not in my early 20s or 30s. But it’s completely true. For one important reason that I must convey before I finish today’s show. You have to invest yourself where you matter most. As Harry Callahan, aka Dirty Harry, said, “A man’s gotta know his limitations.” When you reach my age, hopefully, you’ve learned your limitations. But I think I’ve known all along. My limitations. They’re easy to spot. Learning what I’m best at has been a slog. Much, much tougher to figure out. But I’m there. I’ve been there for the past dozen years or more. Helping people reach new heights in their leadership is my talent. Helping leaders build high-performing cultures is my gift. Shining the spotlight on others while I remain in the shadows is most comfortable. And Bob’s your uncle. These are easy things for me. And at this age, I’m tired of doing hard. So for me, today, Bob’s your uncle means it’s high time for me to lean more heavily into helping people who most want my help. Serving people who are anxious to achieve new levels of success in their own lives and in helping the lives of those they lead. And to help people who are struggling through issues in life. It’s what I do – and what I’ve done all my life. I recently posted this diagram, a progression I’ve used almost all my life. I posted a podcast about it here at GrowGreat.com. And I referenced it in a little article at RandyCantrell.com just this week. I encourage you to think about what you’re good at – really good at. What others see you being good at, not what you most want to be good at, but aren’t. The things where your natural aptitude shines. Easily. And the things you most love. If you’re as lucky as me, they’ll be things that benefit others in some way. And Bob’s your uncle!
76 minutes | 2 months ago
I Don’t Know ‘Cause I’m Not Crazy (Season 2021, Episode 6)
I’m doing some computer work and watching Homicide Hunter on ID Discovery. It’s just on as background noise, but I perk up when the shot includes Lt. Kenda looking into the camera asking about some dysfunctional family behavior that involved murder. He answers his own question with this witty answer, “I don’t know ’cause I’m not crazy.” Reasoning with unreasonable people. Trying to relate to crazy when you’re sane. Trying to influence foolishness with wisdom. Trying to combat hatred with love. Battling sadness with humor. There are many paradoxes. “I don’t know ’cause I’m not crazy.” It implies that if Lt. Kenda were crazy then perhaps he could better understand the crazy behaviors he observes. I catch myself sometimes. Saying things that seem habitual. You know, those phrases or sayings you say all the time on auto-pilot. Without even thinking. Until one day you realize, “I say that an awful lot. I should quit doing that.” We all have them. Some of us more than others. Mine, at least on this occasion, was, “What do I know?” What do I know? I most often say it when I make an observation – not from certainty, but from uncertainty. That is, I really don’t have much of a clue if I understand something or not. Then I say, “…but what do I know?” Kenda has extensive knowledge of murder and crime. And criminal behavior. But he still doesn’t understand it because it contains a level of crazy. And he’s not crazy. Don’t we all know that sensation? That feeling? Two people find themselves needing money. Desperately. One scrambles to think of what he has that has any monetary value. Something he can sell. He thinks about what he might be able to do to hire himself out. Clean gutters. Rake leaves. Anything. The other one doesn’t think of any of those things. Instead, he thinks of who has what he wants – money. And how can he take it from them. I see that first fellow and understand. But I don’t understand the second fellow at all. My mind just doesn’t go there. Right and wrong. Those are heavily involved in these notions. Kenda can’t relate to the criminal mind. Hopefully, neither can we. Hopefully, we can’t relate to the immoral mind. The person, who when faced with some serious challenge, thinks that bad behavior might somehow make things better. That alcohol, drugs, and sex just might provide the remedy to make their lives better. It never does. But I don’t know ’cause I’m not crazy enough to think so. Crime. Immorality. Human degradation. Degradation is the act of lowering something or someone to a less respected state. Would a person intentionally lower themselves to a less respected state? Of course. People do it all the time. Some don’t think they’re lowering themselves. Some are too self-centered and just don’t care enough about themselves to increase their respected state. Still, others are plagued by addictions. Some others, by untreated or undiagnosed mental illness. Degradation is a complex issue. The significant factor here is knowledge. Knowing. More accurately, it’s about understanding, but as Kenda observed – that’s impossible when you don’t suffer the same crazy. Or the same delusion. Or the same foolishness. And honestly, do you want to? Of course not. It makes solving these problems more challenging. It makes helping – serving – some people almost impossible. “You can’t reason with an unreasonable person.” “You can’t want it for somebody if they don’t want it for themselves.” So many truisms. What should we do then? I wish I knew, but I don’t. ‘Cause I’m not crazy. Or disposed to chasing foolishness. Or bent toward committing crimes or pursuing doing the wrong thing. That doesn’t mean I’m immune from these things. Neither are you. I suppose we could all fall into the wrong things – degrading things. Thankfully, most of us don’t. Because most of us can and do keep our wits about us to prevent us from sliding off the edges. Then there’s Charlie Sheen. Just yesterday I saw an article entitled, Charlie Sheen took over the internet 10 years ago. He has serious regrets. It was a horrible scene that became a cultural phenomenon with the hashtag, #Winning. In 2010/2011 Sheen was the highest-paid actor on TV at $2 million an episode of CBS’s hit show, Two and a Half Men. But he had serious personal issues including drug and alcohol abuse. The meltdown was very public taking the Internet by storm. I remember thinking at the time, “Nobody can help this guy.” It seemed apparent that he wasn’t in any frame of mind to listen to wisdom. Or accept help. But I didn’t know any details. Here’s a snippet of the article. ‘If I could go back in time…’ “There’s a moment when [former CBS CEO] Les Moonves and his top lawyer, Bruce, were at my house and they said, ‘OK, the Warner jet is fueled up on the runway. Wheels up in an hour and going to rehab, right?’ My first thought was sort of like really … there’s some comedy value to what my first thought was,” Sheen says. “In that moment, when I said, ‘Oh, damn, I finally get the Warner jet.’ That’s all I heard. But if I could go back in time to that moment, I would’ve gotten on the jet. And it was that giant left turn in that moment that led to, you know, a very unfortunate sequence of public and insane events.” He has many regrets about what he did during that time, especially demanding a higher salary. He says now that he wasn’t being a team player. “There was 55 different ways for me to handle that situation, and I chose number 56. And so, you know, I think the growth for me post-meltdown or melt forward or melt somewhere — however you want to label it — it has to start with absolute ownership of my role in all of it,” Sheen explains. “And it was desperately juvenile.” He says he had agreed to do things their way, and he wasn’t living up to his end of the bargain. “I think it was drugs or the residual effects of drugs … and it was also an ocean of stress and a volcano of disdain. It was all self-generated, you know,” Sheen says of what prompted the incident. “All I had to do was take a step back and say, ‘OK, let’s make a list. Let’s list, like, everything that’s cool in my life that’s going on right now. Let’s make a list of what’s not cool.’ You know what I’m saying? And the cool list was really full. The not cool list was, like, two things that could’ve been easily dismissed.” He sums it up as, “I was getting loaded and my brain wasn’t working right.” Charlie observes that the media’s view of mental health today is quite different than it was when he was going through his ordeal. “I was really a guy that needed someone to reach out to and say, ‘Hey, man, obviously there’s a ton of other s*** going on. How can we help?'” Sheen says. “And instead they showed up in droves with banners and songs, all types of fanfare and celebration of, you know, what I think was a very public display of a mental health moment.” Sheen is like so many others who survive the mayhem of their poor choices and behavior. He has regrets. He can’t believe he behaved so poorly. What’s done is done! He hopes he’ll have a third act – one that’ll allow him to be remembered for his acting prowess and not his oh-so-public meltdown. Time will tell. I wish – like he seems to – that he’d have made better choices. I hope he’s doing much better. Hulu has a new movie out. An oddball affair but one I found rather captivating. Nomadland. The Atlantic describes it as a “gorgeous journey through America’s promise.” During the great recession following 2008, in 2011 a gypsum mine and plant out west closed after 88 years. The place became so desolate that even the zip code evaporated. From The Atlantic… Though Fern is the fictional center of the movie, her backstory is rooted in reality—she is from Empire, Nevada, which once served as a company town for the United States Gypsum Corporation, before it closed its local mine. An opening title card reveals the toll this shutdown took on the actual community’s livelihoods: The town emptied out so quickly that its zip code was discontinued. America has a segment of our population who are nomadic. They venture from place to place often taking seasonal work, like Fern, the main character in the movie. Restaurant work, Amazon fulfillment centers, state or national park work. Whatever they can wherever they can to keep pushing further up the road. I was already pondering Lt. Kenda’s statement when I sat down to watch Nomadland. I couldn’t help but think that I don’t know what it’s like to live as these people do. Some by choice. Others by circumstance. And still others, perhaps like Fern, because of both circumstance and choice! This is far different than not knowing because I’m not crazy. It’s not knowing because I’ve not experienced it. Watching the story unfold, about Fern and a cast of others who live on the roads roaming from place to place, I felt as though I could understand it a bit. She’s not crazy in the sense that Lt. Kenda meant it. Or the way I mean it. She’s making a choice I wouldn’t make, but that doesn’t mean anything other than she’s living her life, and I’m living mine. “And my doing this affects you how?” I say this to myself. Rarely, but on occasion, I have uttered it out loud. My son started a full-time business a couple of years ago. He’s got a successful home inspection business, RyanInspects.com. He left the field of education after about a decade. A fellow who knows us both asked me what I thought about him leaving education full-time to start his own business. Clearly, he didn’t approve. And I thought to myself, “This affects you how?” but instead I said, “I think it’s great.” Fern’s decision to live this nomadic life doesn’t affect my life at all. I can feel sadness for her. I can project and feel the loneliness of that kind of life. She visits her sister and brother-in-law. They don’t understand her choice. Or her circumstances. It’s not like she sold her possessions, got a van, and hit the road. She got caught in the economic crush of the 2008 recession. In time, necessity became her choice. Her family didn’t experience what she did. They didn’t face her circumstances. Perhaps they’d have handled it differently. Maybe not. We’ll never know. We only know what she did – and what she’s doing. She’s not trolling the highways murdering people. She’s doing whatever she can to keep moving on down the road. Judgment is easy. Compassion is hard. All of us are prone to assumptions. Judgments. Harsh critical judgments. Few of us are bent toward deeper understanding though because it’s uncomfortable. It means conversation, even confrontation. You have to go find out if you’re able. You have to ask questions. Easier to sit in solitude and draw conclusions. Fill in all the gaps of what we don’t know with what we think. Pay attention to the media you consume. For me, it’s weekday radio dubbed sports talk, but it’s really more guy talk. This week Tiger Woods had a bad car crash in L.A. Much is still unknown except that it was a horrific crash causing extensive injuries to both legs. Major surgery. A long rehab schedule awaits. I listened to this station – my very favorite – and began to notice just how assumptions rule the day. For over 2 straight days each show went on lengthy “what if” conversations. The hosts wondered if substance abuse might be involved. They wondered if he’d had any sleep the night before. They wondered if he’d ever walk again. Or if he’d ever play golf again. They wondered why it took so long to extract him. They wondered why he left his hotel around 7 am to make an hour-long drive to a 7:30 am photo shoot appointment. They wondered why he didn’t have a driver. Along with all the wondering, numerous conjectures were made. Don’t mistake conjecture for conclusions. an opinion or conclusion formed on the basis of incomplete information That’s conjecture. Lt. Kenda made a conclusion when he observed criminal behavior and confessed he didn’t know why people did such things. a judgment or decision reached by reasoning That’s a conclusion. You can take issue with Kenda’s reasoning on why he can’t understand – “cause I’m not crazy” – but it’s a logical conclusion. As for Tiger’s car wreck, I’m not qualified to draw a conclusion beyond the fact that he was driving too fast and was clearly running late. Conjecture is pointless for me. For talk radio, it burns segments and gets people listening. Sadly, it fuels our collective urge to keep on forming opinions with woefully incomplete information. Mostly, it seems conjecture is steeped in assuming the worst. As a young business leader I knew from experience coming up as a teenage worker that if the boss (a’hem “leader”) didn’t provide a narrative where I could make sense of my work, then I’d write my own story in my head. And it wasn’t good. Ever. So with my co-workers. None of us assumed we’d be getting a raise or some other good benefit. We figured we were in trouble, or we’d have to work late, or come in early. Our assumptions were always – 100% of the time – that the boss would impose on us. And you know what? We were right! 😀 By the time leadership was thrust on me I already had my mind made up that it was important for me to give people a better story. A true story. One where they could clearly and easily see how they made a positive difference. A story where they better understand how they fit into a bigger picture. Because I knew if I didn’t give them that story, they’d write one of their own — and it would be terrible. So it goes with conjecture. Lt. Kenda doesn’t know – and I don’t know either – ’cause neither of us is crazy. Not yet. Does it mean in order to understand you’d have to be crazy? To properly understand why a drug addict would kill somebody in order to get more drugs, do you have to be just like him? I’m thinking about these things because of one thing – a quest – to understand. Don’t focus on Kenda’s reason for not knowing – ’cause I’m not crazy. Instead, focus on the first part of what he said, “I don’t know.” Neither do I, but I wonder if it’s possible. I’ve got some people on my mind, but I have one particular person on my mind. So let’s see if we can help each other because I know I’m not alone. Any time I see somebody in a bad way I think of the people in their inner circle. Their family. The people who love them. TV shows about hoarders, homeless, murderers, drug addicts, and others in all sorts of distressing situations often show friends and family. The stories are often told through their eyes. At least partly. But these are 30 or 60 minute TV programs. I wonder what life looks like for them once the cameras, lights, and microphones are gone. And life goes back to whatever normal is for these people. I remember watching an interview with Jeffrey Dahmer’s dad, Lionel. He admitted that other than extreme shyness, Jeffrey seemed like any other kid. Later, after everything came to light, they learned that Jeffrey admitted riding his bike around collecting roadkill and saving it in bags. He was 12 to 14. Mom and dad knew nothing about that. Friends didn’t either. He hid it. As an adult, Jeffrey made an admission that he knew he was sick or evil…or both. Lionel wrote a book in 1994 entitled, A Father’s Story. He observes that Jeffrey is a much, much darker version of himself. Both are horribly shy, insecure, and controlling. Lionel went on to be an analytical chemist while Jeffrey suffered a string of failures. People are quite interested still in how a person can end up doing what Jeffrey did. Lionel seems to have tried to help other parents by facing the realities of what his son had done. He appeared in interviews, documentaries and wrote this book. Skeptics might claim he was hoping to profit from his son’s sins. I think that’s horribly cynical and wrong. But that’s just me. I don’t know for sure. And there it is again. A lack of understanding. Still working to figure things out. Still trying to understand, but not with some voyeuristic curiosity, but to better understand how I might improve. Yes, to first help myself. To understand what I can learn from the past. To understand how to better cope with the present. To understand how to improve moving forward. Like Lionel, I figure if more of us were willing to share such struggles, we all might learn something. And find our own path toward understanding. As a Christian, most of my understanding stems from my understanding, belief, and conviction about God. In the past decade I often myself going back to look at the life of King David. Nightly I’ve been reading aloud about him to my wife as we study hoping to learn what we can from a person acknowledged by God as being a man after His own heart. Even unbelievers know about David’s sin with Bathsheba. We wonder how a man after God’s own heart could betray God so severely that he ended up murdering Bathsheba’s innocent husband so he could have her himself. I understand it though because it’s how selfishness and sin work. We’re all capable of being blinded by our own desires. From kings to the impoverished, we’re all capable of suffering from delusions of our own making. King David proves it. Jeffrey Dahmer’s depravity proves it. The Bible also teaches me that God created us with the capacity to make up our own minds. To do what we choose. God wants us to choose Him because He wants to provide redemption from our sins. He’s the only being capable of that. We alone have the capacity – given to us by God, the Creator – to resist God. To rebel. To instead serve ourselves. Just like David did. Fortunately, David was sent a close friend and prophet, Nathan, who confronted him with his sin. Immediately, he confessed his sin and begged God to forgive him. Like the famous parable of the prodigal son in the book of Luke, King David “came to himself.” So many don’t. I think about Lionel. I think about the parents of murdered children. I think about the parents of the murderers. I think about all the people I know firsthand who are enduring grief, sorrow, and sadness because they don’t understand how foolish they’re behaving. Because they lack the capacity to have regrets. People who suffer due to their own selfish choices. I think about my own regrets. I think about what Lt. Kenda said and realize there are some things I likely won’t ever understand. Like how a person can go from one thing to something completely different. From having so many advantages to having none. From having a good reputation to being despicable. From behaving with integrity to behaving with blatant immorality. From being reasonable to being unreasonable. From being a good person to being a terrible person. Yes, I smirk whenever I hear people claim that “you’re not what you do.” Yes, you are. That’s exactly who you are. In an old 1980 movie called Carny (I only watched it ’cause Robbie Robertson of The Band was in it, along with Gary Busey) there’s a crazy old carny who utters a great line, which still makes no sense, but I’ve always loved it anyway… If I had all day, I’d be an astronaut. Gary Busey responds to the old man’s declaration, “Well, we don’t have all day and you’re not an astronaut. 😀 Indeed, we don’t have all day and I’m not an astronaut. That’s how I feel about people who utter such nonsense as “you’re not what you do.” Well, then, am I what I think about doing. If I think I’m an astronaut, am I? Am I whatever I say I am.? What makes me an astronaut? Oh, I know. Being an astronaut is doing the work of an astronaut. It’s putting in the work that qualifies me to be an astronaut. So, no, I’m not an astronaut. That doesn’t answer what I am though. There are many things I’m not. Hopefully, I’m not crazy even though I often feel as though I could be. Like Lt. Kenda, I just don’t know sometimes. Let me tell you what I do know. People – including me and including you – can do whatever we please. And mostly, we do. Yes, I know others impose on us. Jobs, bosses, situations, circumstances, obligations and the like. But each of fundamentally can choose any and all of these. Like water, we mostly find the path of least resistance where we can be most comfortable. Never mind if it’s a profitable direction or not. Never mind if we’re growing or improving. That’s not the purpose of the day. The purpose is usually to get through it and we don’t always do that in ways that ideally serve us. Or others. It mostly is about us. “Don’t prepare. Begin. Our enemy is not lack of preparation. The enemy is resistance, our chattering brain producing excuses. Start before you are ready.” – Steven Pressfield Steven Pressfield wrote The War of Art: Break Through The Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles. In it, he talks extensively about “the resistance.” It’s that thing that gets in the way of you doing something difficult, challenging, daring, better. Creative. Writes Pressfield, Fear is good. Like self-doubt, fear is an indicator. Fear tells us what we have to do. Remember our rule of thumb: The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it. Resistance is experienced as fear; the degree of fear equates to the strength of Resistance. Therefore the more fear we feel about a specific enterprise, the more certain we can be that that enterprise is important to us and to the growth of our soul. That’s why we feel so much Resistance. If it meant nothing to us, there’d be no Resistance. I’ve learned that some people, however, avoid resistance. They don’t resist themselves. The criminals Kenda encounters don’t resist either. If they think they’ll rob somebody or commit violence, they do it. Where most of us (thankfully) resist thinking such actions are even a possibility, these folks not only think they’re possible – they’re doable. It’s called self-control. Discipline. Temperance. Not everybody is willing to let that kind of resistance work in their best interests. Pressfield uses resistance while writing about fears in creative pursuits – the war of art, specifically creating art (and art is very loosely defined because it could be a book, an article, a poem, a blog post, a podcast, a video, a drawing, a song, a movie, a script, a job, a task…anything productive). I don’t know Steven but I promise he’s not urging people to ignore their fears of murdering people. Or doing anything else that’s destructive to themselves or others. I’ve also learned that you can’t want it enough for somebody else. Because we each basically make our own choices, we have the capacity to resist influences, especially those we don’t agree with. Watch any episode of Hoarders or Intervention and you’ll see what I mean. The hoarder and the addict don’t care what their friends and family think. Mostly, they don’t listen to them. Not all influences come from a place of others wanting to control us. It often comes from a place of care, concern, and wanting what’s best for us. But it doesn’t matter how much their loved ones want it for them. Nobody can want it enough to bring about positive change if the person doesn’t want it. Consider your life. Can anybody want something for you – enough to do it for you? I’m not talking about a gift or a prize. I’m talking about a choice, a behavior, or an action that only you can make. There is no human being who can want it for you enough. God can’t want it enough for you. We all know God doesn’t want people to do some of the horrible things they do – but they do them anyway. Everything is hard until it’s easy. And mostly, we prefer easy. But sometimes easy grows increasingly more difficult. A person is well-educated. They have a terrific career. And a family. Including kids. Over time it becomes increasingly easier and easier to think of themselves as a victim, deserving of whatever they want. It leads to cheating on their spouse. And more cheating. There’s alcohol and drugs. Who knows which came first. It doesn’t matter. It’s a choice. They sing the popular refrain, “I deserve to be happy.” We watch the trainwreck they seem unable to see – the one that is THEIR life – and we think, “This is happiness?” Colossal selfishness and destructive behavior too often pose as the pursuit of self…of happiness. The marriage is broken. Give it time and so too is the career. Next stop, homelessness. Boundless immorality. Unbridled drug use. A daily devotion to avoid resistance of all types. “I’m gonna do whatever I want to do and nobody is going to tell me differently.” Maybe it’s just me, but it sure looks hard from where I sit. Nothing about that nose dive looks easy, but it is self-centered, undisciplined, irresponsible, and unbridled. A scripture always leaps to my mind. Proverbs 13:15 “Good understanding giveth favor: but the way of transgressors is hard.” This is why I’m rather obsessed with improving understanding. It’s why this pursuit of wisdom – getting it right in real-time – is important. I know it’s hard to have a great marriage, but it’s much, much harder I suspect to have a bad one. I know it’s hard to have a productive career, but it’s much, much harder to have an unproductive one. Sometimes the path forward requires us to let go. Maybe it’s a past. Maybe it’s a thought of what might have been. Maybe it’s a person. Perhaps even somebody we still love very much. There’s an auxiliary point to this one and that is, we all – every single one of us – must know our limitations. We have to know who and what we are when it comes to our ability to serve others. I know people who are flathead screwdrivers and to them, every problem – every situation – looks like a flathead screw. They happily insert themselves in every situation, with everybody, because they think they have some obligation to be the fixer or they think they can fix it. Quite often, as you might imagine, they make matters much, much worse. But they rarely see it. Because it’s mostly about them and if they can walk away after inserting themselves they feel better about themselves. It doesn’t matter so much if the person they impacted is left more damaged. They’re not responsible for that. They’re the hero in their story and the story is always about them. We have to let go by understanding our limitations. None of us are exempt. Lionel had to let go of Jeffrey. Jeffrey’s crimes aren’t Lionel’s. People can judge him. I’m sure many people have and will continue to. I hope Lionel has figured out how to let go to a large enough degree that he’s been able to move forward. He’s in his 80s as I record this so I wish him all the best. Millions of parents have to learn to let go of grown-up children. Some are controlling and they need to learn to let their kids be adults because…well, the kids are adults. Some parents of wayward adult kids have to let go knowing that holding on isn’t helping. The son who is a criminal isn’t served by parents who hold on. The parents just get dragged down with their misbehaving son. Every summer there are many drownings in area lakes. Very often the story involved multiple victims because somebody jumped in to save a drowning person…only to drown themselves. I’m not saying efforts shouldn’t be put forth to save somebody. But I am saying whatever the situation, we all have to be careful. Two deaths aren’t better than one. No deaths are ideal, but sometimes that’s not possible. Sometimes people are too far gone. Some have been traveling for years down the wrong road. Do you chase them? If so, you’ll have to follow them because they’re not moving toward you. They continue to move away from you and what’s right. You have to stop. Let go. We also have to let go of thinking we’re the solution for every problem. Recently, I witnessed a person going down the wrong road, but I said to another concerned person, “I’m not the right person for that job (the job of helping this person find their way back).” I once was, but no more. I had enough wits about me regarding this situation and this person to know that I was no longer the right person for the job. It’s not an easy thing to let go of. I’d rather think – like you – that I have some capacity to be of service. Age, experience, and wisdom have taught me better! That’s delusional to think we’re the right person for every job. We’re not. None of us. I have a few very unsafe people in my life. I intentionally keep those relationships as shallow as possible. For both of us. No point in enraging people by intentionally demonstrating that I’m breathing the same air they do. 😉 I have other people who are very safe for me. People I trust. People who have, over the years, proven they have my best interests in mind. People who know I feel the same toward them. Which ones do you think are able to serve me best? Which ones do you think would do more harm to me if they inserted themselves in any effort to serve me? Well, brace yourself. You are unsafe for some. You are safe for others. Still, others don’t much think about you. You’re a non-factor. All of us have to learn to let go of thinking we can serve people at an individual, confidential level unless we are safe for THEM. All of this letting go is hard. The thing that makes it easier is to get our minds off ourselves. Too much focus on ourselves prevents us from doing it better. There are times when we need to turn the page. This is different from letting go. I only know this because letting go is easier for me than turning the page. Well, sometimes. Context matters. When it’s somebody I care for deeply, it’s insanely hard. If it’s somebody I don’t much care about, it’s easy. 😉 Let’s define turning the page. For me, it’s more like closing the book. It’s got a finality to it that I resist. I’m optimistic that things may turn around. They may come to themselves. Maybe they’ll change their mind and change their behavior. Make better choices. Then I look at the wake of destruction and sometimes I just have to conclude that the damage done is so severe I’m powerless to influence any repair. The self-inflicted harm and the harm done to others is just so vast and extensive, my optimism wanes. All the king’s men were unable to put Humpty Dumpty together again. And I find myself inching toward the point where I suspect we all must get to if we’re going to move forward and save ourselves from drowning in the problems of those we love. Like Lt. Kenda and every other homicide detective who is able to close the murder book on a case, I have to turn the page – close the book. But for me, it’s not because it’s been solved. It’s because I don’t understand. I don’t know ’cause I’m not crazy.
50 minutes | 2 months ago
Wouldn’t It Be Great If…? (Season 2021, Episode 5)
I stare out the window. The trees have dropped all their leaves. Fall fell. Now it’s winter. But I’m in north-central Texas so that isn’t quite what it is to you guys who live in Canada or Minnesota or Maine. I’m craving a change of scenery. Not just the kind nature provides, but the kind that puts your head into a clearer space. So away we go to a spot we often frequent. About half-a-day away by car. Not bad. Piney woods. They affect me in the most positive way. Here I am sitting on the covered back porch with an overhead radiant heater. It’s chilly, but I’m comfortable. I’m staring at a golf course, the 6th hole. I’ve got a clear shot of the tee boxes and the green. Almost a straight-on view, which allows me to track the balls the golfers hit from the tee. I’ve been here before. Back in the summer when I didn’t need a heater. Or flannel shirts. It was then, during the summer, when I told my wife, “I could spend quite a lot of time here.” She immediately responded, “Yeah, I could, too.” Then we engaged those dreaming wheels in our heads. They’re not really just dreaming wheels though. They’re more like pondering wheels looking for a path forward, working out a way to make it happen! You daydream. Imagining what it might be like to be in your favorite place. Maybe a beach. Maybe mountains. Maybe lakeside. Your mind drifts to your life and where you’re at versus where you’d most like to be. Some success that isn’t reality. Yet. Some achievement that’s unrealized. Some lifestyles you don’t currently enjoy. You ask yourself the same question you’ve asked most of your life. Wouldn’t it be great if…? Wouldn’t it be great if we had a lake house? Wouldn’t it be great if our business were twice as big? Wouldn’t it be great if we got a new car? Wouldn’t it be great if we got married? It’s a question we ask ourselves about anything and everything. Like a can of lighter fluid on our wildest dreams, we engage parts of our brain that feel like we’ve neglected for too long. We easily embrace it and go with the flow of imagining what life might be like if our hypothetical were real. Wouldn’t it be great if…? You’ll never say, “No, it wouldn’t be great.” Your mind will always think, “Yes. Yes, it would be great.” Because during such times, in our head we work things out so everything works out beautifully. No snags. No problems. No downsides. We do the same thing with the choices we didn’t make but wish we would have. We assume the choice we didn’t make would have worked out marvelously. We never think, “Good thing I didn’t take that other path ’cause that would have been a disaster!” In our heads, the choice we didn’t make would have worked out fine. Or perfectly fine. Or terrifically. We look back and think, “What if we’d made that other choice?” Again, in our heads, we iron out all the outcomes so they’re better than the ones we now enjoy. The reality is we only know the outcomes of the choices we made. Had we made a different choice…we think we know how it would have worked out, but we don’t really know. We project a successful outcome in our minds. It feels real prompting us to regret the choice we made. Maybe. Or at the least, wondering if the other choices might have been better! Fact is – maybe it would be great. Maybe it would be a disaster. Maybe it wouldn’t matter. We’ll only know if we pursue it. So it makes sense that our brains would gravitate to the best-case-scenario. Why not think the best? Why not think, “Wouldn’t it be great if (fill in the blank)?” That’s better than thinking, “Wouldn’t it be awful if (fill in the blank)?” I’m still sitting there looking out over a golf course with piney woods across the way. Chipmunks, squirrels and small birds are scurrying about in the morning cold foraging for food. I’m pondering life and they’re trying to sustain life. No thought about tomorrow. They’re not even bothered by later today. Talk about a lesson of being present…in the present! Here’s what I’m not thinking or saying, “Wouldn’t it be awful if we had a place like this?” People would think I’m the King of Pessimism if that were the case. I realize some people have such a dour outlook on life they may lean toward always thinking the worst, but I suspect even the most pessimistic people dream about the ideal outcome. I sure hope they do. It’s a real gift and blessing that we’re able to see and feel what great success might be like. No guarantees we’ll achieve it, but those thoughts surely inspire us, don’t they? For the past few years, I’ve regularly watched this video of a Scottish busker named Natasha Cook Jenkins. She began busking – playing music on the street – when she was 12. She’s now 20, but when she was 17 a record producer noticed her. Her persistence got her into the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, where she lives today. I watch this video more regularly than many busking videos because the camera shows us what she sees while performing. Not many people. Other busking videos most frequently show folks just going about their daily lives oblivious to the craft happening as they pass by. Having never done it myself, I can only imagine the emotional roller coaster of doing what you love only to be ignored. Or worse. I think one reason I so love busking – and have since I was a teen – is because of the courage and determination it requires. And the optimism of the performers. Optimism that they’ll make a few bucks. Optimism that people will notice. Optimism that they’ll get some positive attention that may lead to something more stable and better. The most famous busker has to be Ed Sheeran. And doesn’t it show when you watch him perform? He confesses that he learned showmanship by busking, trying to get people’s attention and keep it. From the streets and subways to Wembly Stadium, he’s proof that extraordinary talent and stone-cold determination can result in something insanely successful. Now, I just need extraordinary talent and stone-cold determination. 😀 Wouldn’t that be great? OF COURSE. In a documentary, Ed Sheeran: In My Own Words, he puts a focus where you may not expect. Indeed you have to work at it. Persistence. “You give yourself no choice but to get better.” Let’s focus on what Ed said about getting better! I’m thinking about that because the other day I heard a girl say she most wanted to be “social media famous.” It sparked the “what if” question. “What if you were social media famous?” Would that be you getting better? Maybe. Maybe not. Hulu has an ABC News documentary on Only Fans, a social media website made famous by porn stars. It’s touted as the X rated version of Instagram. Some of us think quite a lot of Instagram is already pornographic. But no matter your point of view about such things, “better” is too subjective and relative for many people. Better for whom? That’s often asked. Maybe you get up at 5 am every morning to go grind away at a very physically hard job for modest pay. In 2019 the median income for an American worker was just over $31,000. In 2020 the majority of American households earned less than $70,000. Mostly people putting in the time to earn their paychecks. Doing work worth being paid for, but not likely too glamorous. Mostly mundane. Average. In every way. A woman desiring to be an “influencer” can focus on the fame and money and wonder, “What if I were a major Instagram influencer?” Nobody knows her name. Or face. Or body. So enter Only Fans, a platform where she can become a “sex worker,” by taking off her clothes and having ordinary “fans” subscribe by paying a monthly amount. She’ll get to keep 80% of the money while the platform keeps the remaining 20%. So she begins to take nude photos of herself. And some videos, too. She’s gonna be a big star. Make lots of money. Is she getting better? No. She’s giving herself options other than making herself better. She’s contributing to the worse of humanity. The selfish, vanity that can carry any of us into a pit from which we may never recover. Worse yet, she’s contributing to helping others fall into the same pit of despair and disgrace. And she’ll argue – like modern culture always does – that it’s her right and she’s not going to hear anybody who dares make a judgment about her chosen path. Indeed, she has the right – I dare say the OPPORTUNITY – to either contribute to the good of herself and the world or to contribute to the damage to herself and the world. She’s choosing the latter, not the former. The more she argues about the good she’s doing the more I’m made to realize and understand how low humans can go in self-delusion. Sad. Sadder still is the question, “Wouldn’t it be great if porn didn’t exist?” Wouldn’t it be great if humanity behaved with more pride, dignity, and moral goodness? Wouldn’t it be great if we collectively – and individually – did our very best every single day? Wouldn’t it be great if we could trust each other for help, support, and encouragement? Wouldn’t it be great if hubris weren’t so prevalent in the world? Wouldn’t it be great? Wouldn’t it be great if we realized God is God and we’re not? Wouldn’t it be great if broken people could be put back together? Wouldn’t it be great if we found joy in the help we provided others today? Wouldn’t it be great if the pursuit of usefulness was more important than the pursuit of money or fame? As I was preparing today’s show my headphones were playing lots of tunes. Mostly, Tom Petty’s Wildflowers & All The Rest. We lost Tom back in October 2017. Years ago when I was in the record business I remember his 1979 big breakthrough with the album, Damn The Torpedos. He and the Heartbreakers became synonymous with guitar-based storytelling. And I think, “Wouldn’t it be great if Tom was still alive making music?” I hit play on The Caution Horses by Cowboy Junkies. Listening to Margo Timmins, the lead female singer, makes me feel…warm. And it’s cold outside. In fact, we may be setting records here in DFW. Just days ago we had a horrible 100 car pile-up that killed 6 due to black ice on the roads. The kind of ice you can’t see. Single-digit temps aren’t common ’round here. And I think, “Wouldn’t it be great if that wreck hadn’t happened?” It wrecked more than cars and trucks. This weekend lots of families were wrecked by a thin sheet of ice on the highway. Some “wouldn’t it be great if” questions have obvious answers. Others, not so much. Wouldn’t it be great if that were true? Oh, wait a minute. It is. And that’s worth considering more deeply. Wouldn’t it be great if you were just one decision away from fixing something? Forget trying to fix everything. How ’bout we focus on fixing something – maybe THE most important something? The day job is helping leaders at the most personal level. It’s not just professional. It’s personal, often delving into their private lives as they confide challenges and obstacles they’d like help figuring out. The work is therapeutic. Always. Because it’s safe, supportive, and encouraging. It’s common for the process to involve many discussions about decisions because the work is transformational. My clients are high performers. Slackards don’t invest in this kind of work. Neither do bosses invest in slackards. Funny how that works. Well, in work that transforms, people want to fix what ails them. It starts with one thing. I don’t think any client has ever said to me, “I’d like to fix this, and that, then this other thing, and oh yeah, then these 5 other things.” High achievers are more focused than that. They’re capable of being preoccupied with a single thing at a time and usually the most important thing – at least, the most important thing to them. What if a single decision – one decision – could make a GREAT difference? You already know that it’s possible because it’s already happened to you. You’ve made a decision that had a great impact on your life. You’ve likely made a number of them. I know I have. Just shortly after I turned 18 I asked a girl out on a date. I never dated another girl. Not quite 3 years later we married. But it didn’t last. Our youth. Our marriage has lasted over 43 years. We’re still very in love. Who knew that a single decision to ask a girl on a date would completely change my life? Who knew that decision would be among the single greatest decisions I ever made? What decisions have you made that changed one thing…or everything? Wouldn’t it be great if we knew in advance? Maybe not. The weight of the decision might paralyze us. Wouldn’t it be great if – in just 3 months – people outside our inner circle noticed improvements (changes) in our appearance, behavior, and performance? It would be great if we could find the path forward. A path to becoming better. And I don’t mean better looking, or more fit, or more well-off financially – although all of those would be pretty terrific. I mean, we really became better people. I mean wouldn’t it be great if we behaved better? But of course, that’s only possible if we can somehow find a path forward to thinking better. I’m not talking about improving our smartness. Or elevating our IQ. I mean wouldn’t it be great if we thought it was worthwhile to behave with greater moral integrity, enough humility to recognize God, enough dedication to put in the work to improve our character. I know, I know. Dream on, right? Jordan Peterson (I’m a longtime fan) observes and admonishes, You need to think through how your life could be properly arranged IF you had abilities you may now lack? Peterson is a smart, studied, insightful man. He declares that if we make that our goal and move toward it, then we’ll move closer to it. Things inevitably get better when we do that. And it’s not about happiness. It’s about meaning. It’s about transforming into a better person. And it’s difficult. Hard. But we mostly love it because we’re wired for it. Why then do people chase happiness or security in sameness? Why are some people so resistant to change? Fear. We get scared. Even in our difficulties. It’s that “devil we know” versus the one we don’t. We probably too often presume the devil we know must be better than the one we don’t. I suspect we’re mostly wrong about that though. We may be guilty of making an invalid comparison between two devils without considering that we could choose an angel over a devil. What I love about the “wouldn’t it be great if” question is the optimism. Nobody says, “Wouldn’t it be great if things didn’t work out?” The fact that we’re considering something that would be great means we’re thinking of an ideal outcome. And you know how fond I am of the ideal outcome! Nobody answers, “No, that wouldn’t be great.” At least not to ourselves if we’re asking the question. Others might. They may not share our view or our ideal outcome. Stands to reason. It’s OUR ideal outcome, not theirs. What are you thinking right now? What are your “wouldn’t it be great if” questions? This past week was quite typical for me in that I had a number of conversations with people who were facing difficulties and challenges. It wasn’t unusual in that regard, nor was it unusual for them to share those with me. After all, it’s what I do. More accurately, it’s who I am. But in preparing for this episode I reflected on the nature of the challenges. Health. Family. Relationships. Teams. Superiors. Subordinates. Schedules. Productivity. Problems from A to Z. Problems in their own lives. Problems in making choices about what they should do. Problems in helping others figure out choices. Sometimes in my professional coaching practice, I’ll ask a client to craft a “wouldn’t it be great if” question – a question aimed squarely at their challenge. There’s power in the singularity of the question, but what comes next is where the real power is found. Answer the “how” of the question. I assume the direct answer to the question is, “Yes, it would be great” or else we wouldn’t be asking the question. “Wouldn’t it be great if we won $1 million dollars?” Sure. But we’re powerless to influence how. So it’s just a dream-like, fantasy-filled question. Meaningless. Well, not exactly. It’s quite meaningful actually because it fosters covetousness, which always damages us when the aim of it is self-indulgence. Let’s covet wisdom, compassion, integrity, and other qualities that can make us better. So we answer, “Yes, it would be great” if our ideal outcome were achieved. But how? There’s the rub. General George Patton lived by one motto: Always take the offensive. Never dig in. In war and life, he always pursued forward progress. Standing still was unacceptable. The pursuit of the ideal outcome meant a degree of constant dissatisfaction. Complacency was his enemy. It should be ours, too. What if we were to take the offensive in achieving our “wouldn’t it be great if” dreams? What if we figured out how? Then committed ourselves to it? Experience has taught me the power of sticking with it long enough in order to figure it out more clearly. Almost never is success fast. Certainly hardly ever instant. Frequently our first “how” strategies prove incorrect. Maybe only slightly. Maybe a lot. So we adjust. We keep aiming at our ideal outcome, but our first few steps don’t end up taking us exactly where we planned. So we move a bit. And see what happens. If we see, feel, or sense progress – advancement, forward movement – then we’re encouraged to continue to push on. Maybe to push even harder now that we know things are improving. Setting the noble goal and pushing toward it makes things – makes us – better! Boring is digging in. Not advancing. Taking no chances. Pursuing nothing difficult. “Wouldn’t it be great if…?” The moment. The power of the moment. “Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative and creation, there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.” That quote by William Hutchison Murray was a longtime favorite of mine for years. No more. Mostly because I learned people were viewing those words through a very different lens than mine. As a Christian, I never viewed the quote as meaning we – mere mortals – have the power to bend the universe to our will. Belief in God forbids any person from seeing these words as human power to attract whatever we want. The law of attraction and the “secret” are rubbish. Delusions of mankind thinking he’s his own god, able to do as he pleases. As though the path forward is through our self-centered hubris. No wonder Dr. Peterson speaks so frequently against our malevolence. ill will, hatred, spite; pleasure in the suffering or injury of others The principles spoken of in the quote are powerful. More so when the context is our human capacity to influence our own lives, which is completely congruent with God’s divine Word. Commitment. Hesitancy. Drawing back. Ineffectiveness. Initiative. Creation. Ignorance. Ideas. Plans. Providence. Decision. Favor. Unforeseen incidents. Meetings. Material assistance. Dreams. Begin. Boldness. Genius. Power. Magic. Now. Now we’re getting somewhere. Maybe it’s our first time. Maybe not. But it’s progress if we’re internalizing the quest when we ask and answer the questions of “wouldn’t it be great if” followed by the pronoun I, followed still by an action verb or some outcome nobler than a selfish desire. Wouldn’t it be great if I were a millionaire? Or… Wouldn’t it be great if I were so valuable my work was deemed worth a million dollars by others? Wouldn’t it be great if we had a vacation home here? Or… Wouldn’t it be great if we were able to have a place here so others could enjoy this as much as we do? Maybe more? Once in a while, I have a conversation with people about podcasting because I do so much of it. People clamor for an audience. Greater numbers. More subscribers. More listeners. More shares on social media. More acknowledgments on a job well done. They’re mostly disappointed when I tell them I’ve been doing this for more than 20 years and I have very little idea about such things. And I currently produce 3 podcasts regularly – two of which are business-oriented with the desired outcome being greater exposure to business services. More plainly, the quest is to get more clients. To differentiate ourselves from the pack who isn’t out there giving away information, ideas, insights, and sharing experiences. But I certainly want to expand the reach of this and my other podcasts. Because I’m so important? Because what I have to say, or what I think carries more weight than anybody else? No. A thousand times, no! Because I’m confident that a word fitly spoken at the right time might just resonate with somebody – maybe YOU. Wouldn’t it be great if I could help you in a moment where you needed it most? I live my life like the little boy combing the beach to save the washed ashore starfish, trying to make a difference to just one. For me, that’s enough. And if that starfish happens to you, then it makes all the difference in the world.
90 minutes | 2 months ago
Frank Watkinson: A Beginner With Confidence (Season 2021, Episode 4)
I’m battling my chronic insomnia. Again. 3 am brings out my best. Sometimes. Headphones are on and I’m watching buskers on YouTube. YouTube has some suggestions for me. One is a video of a man holding an acoustic guitar. The title indicates he’s covering a Radiohead song, No Surprises. Well, I have to click on that. Not because I love Radiohead ’cause I don’t even like them. But this man does not look like he’d like them either. I can’t imagine what this cover might be like so I have to find out. Wait a minute. Wait a minute. Who is this old guy? He’s been in my life all of the 3 minutes it took him to play this song and I’m smitten. I like this guy. Instantly. A lot. This video has over 300,000 views. How have I never seen this man play before? Must be an outlier, but I’m thankful YouTube made the suggestion. I click on his name, below which I see 176K subscribers, which takes me to his YouTube channel’s main page. A hundred seventy-six thousand subscribers? WHOA! I look at the many videos he’s produced and click on another one, a John Prine cover, “I Remember Everything.” I do love John Prine. I’m still sad that John is gone. I click on that video and I’m fully smitten by this guy now. I click play who knows how many times before I finally stumble into bed. About 90 minutes later I’m up for the day. I go to Frank’s YouTube channel, to the about section. No details. No website. Just a place to click for an email address for business requests. I click it and shoot him an email. Frank, I have no idea what to even say. Except that stumbling onto your channel made me – yes, MADE ME – devote hours watching video after video. I’m a business guy who began to podcast before it was even called PODCASTING. My passion project is a podcast called Leaning Toward Wisdom (https://LeaningTowardWisdom.com – tagline is “modern tales of an ancient pursuit”). Would you be open to having a recorded conversation with me for that show? A Zoom video call. Not an interview, but a conversation with a guy from Dallas, Texas who loves what you’re doing. True confession: I’ve had a passion and love for the guitar for as long as I can remember, but I never learned to play. I learned that what I love most is watching/listening to others play. You’re now added to the list. Thank you. Think about it and let me know. I promise it’ll be fun. More fun than that stunt of your daughter slapping you about the vegan remark. 😀 Randy Frank replied the same day. Randy , Thank you for getting in touch, i don’t mind having a conversation with you i’m not sure if you know i am in the UK, so we would have to get the times right, i would probably have to take a laptop upstairs or something depending on whether anyone else is at home, my wife and grandson can get pretty noisy at times lol, you mentioned that vegan joke, funny how humour doesn’t always translate as quite a few people didn’t like the idea of a daughter doing that to her dad, but then you can’t please everyone, oh and i have family in Texas (San Antonio), never met them but still family lol, if i’m right i think you are 6 hours behind us, you mentioned you like guitars but never learned to play ……i didn’t either lol! Frank. Having watched the 2 videos with his daughter I was not surprised at the snarkiness of his reply. And the bromance continued. 😀 Listen, when you get to be the age of me and Frank you rather enjoy seeing and connecting with people who have some notion of how you grew up in the days before the Internet. Here’s the original of a cover done by Frank. This will give you an idea of just how much Frank makes these covers his own. Here’s Frank’s version of that same song. The video that blew up his YouTube channel was this cover by a heavy metal band, Slipknot. Frank has a 7 song EP available, My Life Unplugged. Here’s the Amazon link. Here’s the Spotify link. Here’s the iTunes store link. Frank also has – because people wanted to support him – a PayPal link over on his about page at YouTube. The edited video of our conversation is below. I hope you enjoy the conversation. I sure did.
57 minutes | 3 months ago
The Loudest Horn Blowers Never Are The Best Players (Season 2021, Episode 3)
I contacted about half a dozen business owners expressing interest in hiring them for a future project. Yes, they were all in the same space. I was hoping to figure out the best one to do what I wanted to be done. I sent cold emails explaining what I was hoping to accomplish. I contacted 7 companies. Literally, I contacted 7 business owners. Right away I heard back from one who offered to schedule a phone call within the next 2 weeks. A few back and forth emails resulted in him wanting a 9 am appointment. I offered to send a calendar invitation, which would include a note that he was to call me on my cell phone, which I listed in the invitation. He accepted the invitation. Now we’d wait. The morning arrived. My wife joined me here inside the Yellow Studio as we awaited the business owner’s phone call. I was going to run the call through my podcasting gear so my wife and I both had mics in front of us and each of us donned a pair of headphones. Nine o’clock arrived. Then 9:05 am. Then 9:10 am. Then 9:15 am. I told my wife, “He’s not going to call.” At 9:22 am I called him. No answer. Voice mail. I left him a voicemail saying, “I apologize if I got our time slot wrong, but you offered and accepted the calendar invitation for 9 am. Perhaps I misunderstand. I guess we can reschedule. Thank you.” At 9:33 am he called. I was in another meeting so my phone went straight to voicemail. He left a message that he was calling, acting as though he was showing up on time. When I got out of my meeting I returned his call. Rang and rang, then went to voicemail. I left another message, similar to the first one. And I never heard from him again. Let’s get one thing out here upfront. Business requires marketing – getting the word out. Elevating visibility as much as possible. Being top of mind and all that. Nobody will have a successful business without customers. And to attract customers, you need not only a good or viable product or service, but you need to make sure folks know about your good or viable product or service. That’s just the start. You also have to have your act together. Whenever I’m dealing with business owners or leaders over at the day job (GrowGreat.com) I’m focused on the trifecta of business building: a) getting new customers, b) serving existing customers better and c) not going crazy in the process! So I’d love to tell you about the differences between a business and YOU, but then I realized that may be the foundation of the issue I’m talking about today. Maybe there is NO difference. Maybe we are all in business. Perhaps we’re not selling products or services (or art, podcasts, or music) for money, but we’re certainly vying for attention. And attention may be more difficult to get than money. As a business guy, I know this much – until you get their attention you won’t get their money. So maybe there’s no difference between your personal life and a business. For some reason, that notion depresses me though. And I’m a business kinda guy. Why Don’t The Best Blow Their Own Horn The Loudest? That was my original title, but the more I thought about it the less I liked it. So I changed it to what eventually was the published title – The Loudest Horn Blowers Never Are The Best Players. The real point today is probably best summed up in the statement, “If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well.” Let’s take it a step further. If it’s worth doing well, then it’s worth doing it as well as you possibly can. It’s worth being great, remarkable, dazzling — and if you’ve got the talent, it’s worth being world-class. So why don’t those considered “world-class” toot their own horn the loudest? Well, there are exceptions. Muhammad Ali was an exception. Michael Jordan maybe. Tiger Woods in his prime. Maybe. What about a non-sports example? Can you think of one? Yes, me neither. I suppose there are some though. Outliers. There are always outliers. Then I got to thinking – I’m able to do that every now and again, on good days – “Maybe their being so world-class doesn’t require them to shout at the top of their lungs how terrific they are. Maybe their performance or accomplish speak loudly enough so they don’t have to.” That thought quickly gave way to wondering if the folks who are doing it really well are so focused on improving and getting better, they don’t have time or take the time to brag about it so others will know. Which sent me down the path of wondering how people can reach that level of performance where you’re so good you stand out. I know Steve Martin said, “Be so good they can’t ignore you.” But there are plenty of people who are good – very good – who go unnoticed all the time. Many years ago I attended a five-day training. Part of that training was on selling. The primary point of the training was what’s called “call reluctance.” Call reluctance is the reluctance people have to sell. Mostly, as an art or science, it’s about the reluctance to cold call. That is, to reach out to somebody you don’t know and attempt to get an appointment or to make a pitch. But this training was deeper than just that. It was focused on how we’ve all got head trash that can get in our way of being as good as we might otherwise be. And there was considerable (as I remember it) time spent talking about how the real key to success is VISIBILITY. During the training, a number of cultural examples were offered. These examples were relevant at the time. Names like Lee Iacocca, who was the head of Chrysler at the time. His face was all over the TV. Chrysler’s advertising was dominant at the time. The question was asked, “Do you think Lee Iacocca is the world’s best CEO?” I don’t think anybody raised their hand. Not likely, but he’s absolutely winning the visibility war. Nobody is more visible. There were other examples offered, enough to convince me they were probably right. Visibility is a big determining factor of success. Keep in mind, this training was years ago and it happened pre-Internet. When the Internet arrived folks thought visibility would be easier. After all, Seth Godin taught us that we were no longer living in a permission society. We could now write what we wanted and publish online ourselves. On our own website. We could start a podcast. Gone were the days of thinking we had to earn the right – and get permission – to be on the radio. It was a new day. The problem that we didn’t see early on was that if nobody needed permission…if nobody had to earn the right…then it was like the Sooner land rush. Anybody could join and give it a go. Which meant the sheer volume of people clamoring for visibility would skyrocket. Sure enough, it did. In 1992 I had no clue about building websites. It would take me a few years of learning enough HTML to mangle together some hideous website by 1994. I had no clue about this Internet thing. I saw no money-making opportunity. I was running a retail company. A brick and mortar operation. With legal agreements that prohibited us from even selling mail order. We were restricted by various “franchise” agreements from selling outside our local market area. Never mind that our local market area was Dallas/Ft. Worth. Still, to think of leveraging something like the world wide web was beyond my ability to compute. And I certainly didn’t see how it would improve visibility. There didn’t seem to be too much going on frankly, other than email. Remember? That’s when you were as thrilled to get an email as you were as a kid to get a piece of mail in the mailbox. 😀 By the time the Internet was wide-spread, literally becoming the WORLDWIDE web, I still couldn’t see it because it seemed to me the people getting noticed were geeks. Brainiacs. I sure didn’t fit into that group. More and more people were going “online” every day until the Internet was commonplace in everybody’s home. Which meant more and more people were “surfing” the net (a phrase that began around 1992). But… Not everybody had an online presence though. Being online then was mostly viewing. Chat rooms and forums didn’t much count. Neither did chat. Individual people didn’t have their own websites. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram weren’t yet invented. Social media wasn’t even a phrase until Ted Leonsis, an AOL executive mentioned it as a need. He said people needed someplace, “social media,” where they could gather and be entertained. Before long Blogger and other technologies made it easier for individuals to be online on their platform. Journaling became blogging. Audio journaling became podcasting. Smartphones changed the game thanks to built-in cameras and video. Now, every ninnie on the planet has a digital footprint. Some of us are BigFoot. Others are more petite. A few odd ducks are digital hermits who can’t be found. And the noise is deafening. Blow your horn as loud as you’d like. Somewhere there’s a far more famous hornblower who is louder. That whole “be seen everywhere” works when you have the drawing power to actually BE seen everywhere. Most of us lack that power. No matter how hard we blow our horn. And then we have to introduce the notion that it doesn’t work. “People hate it when others blow their own horn,” we’re told. Tell that to the Kardashians. Or just about every other cultural icon. Or just about every best selling author. Or every highly paid keynote speaker. Or every billionaire. Or every popular pro athlete. We hate it when it works so we enjoy fooling ourselves into thinking, “That doesn’t work.” 😀 Some of us hate the fact that it works! I know I hate it. But I also admit that’s partly because I’m awful at it. It feels yucky to me. And I don’t think that highly of myself anyway, so there’s that! I’ve always figured that I needed to spend all my time focused on doing a good job or producing something of value. I lack the talent or brainpower to do something really great and have time left over to shout about it. This brings up a good point… Time. Specifically, how we spend it. Business-minded folks often lean on many cliches. “Always be selling.” “Always be closing.” “Always be marketing.” “Always be prospecting.” I don’t have that many “always” hours, do you? I mean, if I’m ALWAYS doing one of those, then I’m necessarily not doing anything else. But like I said, my talent and brainpower are limited. I understand that visibility is a big deal. Not only for making money but for getting noticed. Duh. Visibility is all about being noticed. Whether you’re the owner of a company, a C-suite occupant, or a cubicle dweller – you want others to favorably notice you. We’ll come back to that adverb, “favorably.” I also understand how everybody enjoys a good story. And our story – the story of our life, or this particular chapter of our life, or this page of our life – is not just the one we’re writing (or living), but it’s also the one we’re sharing when we tell others. So it seems to me it’s about living (or doing, performing, achieving) and sharing (telling our story). This reminds me of the song written by John Sebastian, “Stories We Could Tell.” Unless we do something we’ve got no stories. By doing more – and better – we have more (and better) stories, right? It makes sense to me that’d be true. Donald Miller wrote a book entitled, A Million Miles In A Thousand Years: How I Learned To Live A Better Story. Here’s how the publisher describes the book: After writing a successful memoir, Donald Miller’s life stalled. During what should have been the height of his success, he found himself unwilling to get out of bed, avoiding responsibility, even questioning the meaning of life. But when two movie producers proposed turning his memoir into a movie, he found himself launched into a new story filled with risk, possibility, beauty, and meaning. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years chronicles Miller’s rare opportunity to edit his life into a great story, to reinvent himself so nobody shrugs their shoulders when the credits roll. Through heart-wrenching honesty and hilarious self-inspection, Donald Miller takes readers through the life that emerges when it turns from boring reality into meaningful narrative. Miller goes from sleeping all day to riding his bike across America, from living in romantic daydreams to fearful encounters with love, from wasting his money to founding a nonprofit with a passionate cause. Guided by a host of outlandish but very real characters, Miller shows us how to get a second chance at life the first time around. A Million Miles in a Thousand Years is a rare celebration of the beauty of life. Many people, including me, found the book quite enlightening and provocative, in all the best ways. I can highly recommend it. Miller speaks to the doing. And he’s a storyteller. But the book – and today’s show – is first about our performance. What we do. And how well we do it. By the way, Donald Miller figured out he could follow Michael Hyatt and make a lot more money by teaching business practices than he could by writing. So off to Nashville he goes and forms Business Made Simple, an online learning platform that he’s been promoting for a few years now. From creative “faith-based” kind of writing to marketing and sales. Miller found the path to financial enlightenment. I’m not judging. Truth is, I’m rather impressed. It was a major pivot that would have evaded most people. But after attracting the attention of lots of readers, Miller was convinced there was something more to do with that attention. Namely, sell them something. I love capitalism at work…especially when it works well. Doesn’t a big part of you wish you had it in you? Yeah, me, too! I learned a long time ago about myself that I have little trouble promoting or marketing somebody else or something else. But ME? Well, that just doesn’t feel very right, you know? I lean toward the belief that I’d prefer to do it (whatever “it” is) and do it really well (at least as well as I’m able) and not fret too much about who knows about it. I’m not telling you that that’s a recipe for success because I know it’s not. We need others to know about it if we want to have a bigger impact. If we want to have a positive influence! Let me backtrack and revisit that whole notion of being “favorably” noticed. Lots of people make daily headlines because of poor choices and poor behavior! We don’t want that kind of notoriety. We want people to admire us and the product of our efforts. Whether we create art, podcasts, writing, goods, or services – we need others to notice. Some of us need others to notice because we earn our living by selling something. Some of us need others to notice because we want to educate or train people. Some of us need others to notice because we want to be popular. Some of us need others to notice because we enjoy showing off. We need others to notice us because we all need a degree of affirmation that what we’re doing is worthwhile. Yes, we all crave encouragement and acknowledgment. Everybody needs to know they matter! The attention of others is a major barometer for all of us. I prefer to think the work will speak for itself, but I know that’s not true. I’ve spent too many hours watching unknown musicians play great music on YouTube or Facebook. They’re putting their music out there or I’d have no way to find it or hear them. But many of them aren’t making money playing music. They’ve got day or night jobs to pay the bills and they play music because they love it. A common refrain among even successful musicians is, “I’m thankful I can do this for a living.” Countless others wish they could. Just because I notice some unknown musician doesn’t mean millions of others will. I regularly watch a YouTube video by a really good musician with incredible skills and the video has only a few thousand views. Ridiculously small by any standard of popularity. Then I grow disgusted when I can go watch some inane video of nonsense that has hundreds of thousands or millions of views. Depressing, isn’t it? I’ll get really personal and tell you that as limited as I know my natural aptitude may be I often listen to podcasts or watch presentations or speeches that get rave reviews and think, “I’ve got many episodes that have more value than that!” Do you ever feel that way? If you’re a podcaster I guarantee you’ve felt it before. The business guy in me knows, from years of experience, that we must get the word out. My Christian background knows the truth of sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ. We strive to live righteous lives and be a good example and influence on others, but still we share the story of Jesus. And the gospel itself tells us the fact of our influence. Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Gospel means “good news.” What do you do with good news? You share it, of course. Well, even the introverts among us (like myself) have to learn to share and to do it more effectively. I know modern culture demonstrates that the loudest horn blowers appear to be the best. But mostly, I believe modern culture shows us the majority of people care most about the loudest horn blower more than they care whether he or she is the best. Most popular seems to matter more than best. While that can sometimes depress me, I’m growing to accept it. Mostly because there’s little I can do about it. Except as I’m writing and telling my own story. I can more highly prize those who first focus on doing great work, not those who focus on just playing the loudest. It’s not about being a contrarian. It’s more about respecting and appreciating people and their work, especially when it’s well done (and I don’t mean like a steak). “You owe it to the world to share your brilliance.” Or something to that effect. We hear it all the time. A sentiment designed to help folks blow their horn more loudly. Why? Because you’re so special the world must know about it. Randy’s Horn And now Houston, I think I’ve found my problem! I don’t think I’m so special. No, better said – I know I’m not so special. Which is why my horn has one of those mufflers in the end of it. 😀 “Well, you need more confidence,” somebody may say. Perhaps. But what I think I may need – in order to be a bigger horn player – is more arrogance. I need to think I’m special. So special that I shouldn’t hesitate to blow my horn. And loudly. So the conclusion is that folks who don’t blow their horn loudly must lack pride or performance. After all, if they produced superior work, then it’d be worth shouting about. Or if they had confidence in their work, they wouldn’t hesitate to tell others. At every opportunity. Maybe that’s true. I don’t think so, but I could be wrong. Maybe if I had more confidence I could be certain. Or maybe I have little or no talent. Or maybe my performance, accomplishments, and achievements are ordinary. Average. Or even sub-par. I mean, the odds are very high that I’m average. Stop laughing. You’re facing the same odds. I don’t care if you’ve taken your horn out of the case and you’ve been polishing it for days. That doesn’t mean you can play it. And it sure doesn’t mean it’ll play louder. Because you know the main ingredient for playing a louder horn? Air! Air. From your lungs. The term blowhard describes people who boast about themselves too much, and who often don’t have the great qualities they claim to have. That’s from Writing Explained. How much confidence do you have to have to exhale more air? Clearly more confidence than me! 😉 I realize I didn’t answer the question, “Why Don’t The Best Blow Their Own Horn The Loudest?” Fact is, I don’t think we even established whether it’s true or not. I may be more confused than I was before. But I’m still pretty clear about myself. I’m not a great hornblower. Maybe it’s because I don’t think enough about it. And maybe I don’t think enough about it because knowing that it works doesn’t change the fact that I don’t believe in it for myself. I don’t think I’m deluded about it, but I might be. I just honestly think I’m no more special – defined any way you’d like to – than anybody else. It seems to me that our special-ness is mostly determined by the few people who benefit the most from having us in their life. And the people who benefit us most, they’re the special people to us. I follow lots of people in social media who are accomplished. Even brilliant. But they’re not terribly special to my life – not in the grand scheme of things. I mean, none of them have changed my life. They’re not there to walk with me through thick and thin. That whole inner circle thing seems to have quite a lot to do with it. And my inner circle is as small as it’s ever been. Largely because some key figures have died. So it goes as we grow older. There are nine people who comprise my most immediate family. That number grows to eleven when I include my parents. Beyond that, there’s honestly not that many more. So maybe part of the answer – at least for me – is that my crowd (my audience) is so small…I don’t have to play loudly. The quality of my impact on them isn’t determined by how loudly I blow, but by how present I am. And I realize that of all the crowds to which I’m a part – the one that matters most is very, very small. So I’m not listening for loud. I’m focused on benefit, value and impact. Scope and scale. That’s the focus of modern culture. Bigger is better. But bigger is also less intimate and that doesn’t work for me. But that’s my problem. I wish I had a bottom line to all this. Or some really clever ending. But I rather think this is a never-ending story. I suspect we’d all go farther if we gave ourselves more wholly to doing the very best work of our lives, then like little boys who run to tell mom, “Hey, look at me” – we’d rush out to the world proud to show it off without any embarrassment or shame. And when they watched us doing some magical feat of our best we’d shout, “Hey watch me do it again!”
39 minutes | 3 months ago
OK, We’re Good, Right? – Season 2021, Episode 2
“Are we good?” I ask. There hadn’t been any tension. No drama. No strife. But there had been a bit of quiet. And how could you know if it was caused by the pandemic or something else? Well, you couldn’t. Unless you ask. So I did. “Yes, of course,” was the reply. A 15-minute phone conversation followed, catching up on a few things. Each of us reinforced to the other that we’d just not been in touch like either of us desired because the pandemic had completely thrown us off our rhythm. One last time, before we hung up, I said, “OK, we’re good, right?” Confirmation came immediately. “Of course, we’re better than good.” I hung up the phone and wrote the phrase, “OK, we’re good, right?” Truth is I had already been thinking quite a lot about how people – all of us – are prone to surmising. supposing that something is true without having evidence to confirm it When I was pretty young I became keenly aware of people’s obsessions with other people. Maybe something prompted it, but I don’t remember anything specific. Just a bunch of things – various situations where I’d observe people who’d make assertions about people without having any facts or evidence. It was likely the language that got my attention because I’ve always had this weird fascination with words. Especially the words people use. “I’ll bet he…(fill in the blank on what they were thinking).” Lots of people would say that about somebody. During my early teen years, I was particularly irked with what we now call “fronting.” People pretending. I naturally found pretentious people unpleasant. Mostly, I was intrigued by why people would so desperately care what other people thought about them that they’d be fake. Couple these two colliding youthful observations about people and I grew increasingly perplexed by why people weren’t just forthright with each other – and why people wouldn’t behave more honestly with each other. Besides, I’d grown up hating strife and tension. Unlike what I saw in many adults – avoiding facing it or confronting it – I was naturally wired to find out the problem because it seemed to me you couldn’t fix something without first knowing what was wrong. Making peace seemed to demand to get to the crux of the matter so you could find some common ground so everybody could move on. I’ve learned through the years that sometimes people may think I’m insecure about whatever relationship we’ve got. “Are we good?” likely smacks of “he’s feeling insecure about our relationship” to some. I don’t always word it that way, but in spite of knowing how it may sound to some, I’ve also learned that the same people who may feel I’m taking aim at my own insecurity about our relationship feel that way no matter how I make the inquiry. I know because I’ve asked. 😀 Then, there are those of us who ask a lot of questions because of our desire to know. Some of us are more naturally curious than others. It’s why for decades I’ve often told people, “I know what I know, but I don’t know what you know.” The only conversations that I hate – after the fact – are those where I feel like I’ve talked too much. It happens more frequently than I’d like and I’m constantly reminding myself to be quieter. I’m genuinely interested. Well, let’s be completely honest. I’m genuinely interested when I’m talking to somebody I really want to talk with. There’s only a small percentage of people in whom I’m not that interested. Self-absorbed, full of themselves types. Know-it-all, smartest-person-in-the-room types. I find myself lacking even a small amount of curiosity about such types, but I’m fairly interested in most people. I’m the guy who will not likely give up on the conversation until after 2 or 3 uncomfortable questions – made only uncomfortable by the person’s not being forthright to answer. NOT, by my asking some uncomfortable questions. Before I got out of high school I had learned some people are just uncomfortable talking about themselves. So I’d press on in hopes they’d grow more comfortable. Most do. Some don’t. One point of today’s show is that surmising we do. The stories we tell ourselves about others. Last time we talked a bit about self-delusion and our ability to lie to ourselves. But today it’s about our ability to tell ourselves lies about others. Well, to be fair, things that might be lies. We just don’t know. And mostly, we don’t take the time or trouble to find out. Evidence-based leadership wasn’t known by that term when it first dawned on me that in business I needed to follow evidence coupled with my intuition. I’m intuitive. Very much so. Subtle cues don’t go unnoticed. I wasn’t yet 30. I was running a retail company and had a direct report who I had a good intuition about. Months into hiring him something happened. I caught him at work with some marijuana. It was the early 1980s. I wasn’t naive to marijuana, but this man was a number of years older than me and I remember being so disappointed not just in him, but in myself. For failing to know I had hired a guy with such a lack of character to be that irresponsible at work. And he was part of my leadership team, making it all the more dreadful. At that moment, I remember looking for books and advice from mentors on how I could incorporate evidence more in my own leadership. It was my first real “gotcha” moment where my intuition had let me down. So I felt. The Internet wasn’t around yet so I remember looking for books, magazine articles, or anything else I could on how to improve how I was seeing things. And people. People hadn’t been a real problem because of my habit of asking lots of questions and doing my best to figure people out. But, as I had now learned, people can fool you. I had thought better of him. Not worse. Things Aren’t Always What We Think I used to say, “Things aren’t always as they appear” until I realized that appearances vary. Some things are exactly as they appear or seem. Some aren’t. But we all form opinions and judgments – the things we decide to think. The evidence can range from non-existent to flimsy to rock-solid. Maybe this year we can collectively do better at avoiding surmising things about each other. Maybe we can extend more grace, compassion and understanding to one another. Let’s at least try.
40 minutes | 4 months ago
Everything Is Hard, Until It’s Easy – Season 2021, Episode 1
Today’s show was prompted by an email from a new listener who asked if I had any episodes giving “my story.” Well, I didn’t have the heart to tell him this entire podcast is pretty much “my story,” but I know what he meant. Hopefully, this is my not-so-boring effort to provide him, and YOU, a bit more context about me. But as always, this isn’t about me, but it’s about US. All of us, who have an interest in leaning more and more toward wisdom…while simultaneously leaning further and further away from our own foolishness. Mentioned in today’s show, as a resource for those who care to learn more, is RandyCantrell.com. I hope you enjoy this show. And I hope collectively and individually we devote ourselves to making 2021 a year where we live better lives.
40 minutes | 4 months ago
You Have To Be Totally Tired Of Who You Are (Season 2020, Episode 15)
He lost 75 pounds in 3-1/2 months. He admits it wasn’t likely the ideal way to do it or the ideal timeframe. But he was sick and tired of being sick and tired. Here’s what he did: 1. Gave up soda and sugar 2. Ate oatmeal every morning 3. He ate grill chicken every day and premade enough for the week, his only veggie was broccoli 4. When he got too tired of chicken he ate eggs instead 5. He ate special k bars for sweet cravings (high glycemic but it worked for him) 6. He did eat fruit but his overall calories were under 1500 calories a day 7. He was hungry at night so he would go to bed early 8. He avoided dairy and went to almond milk 9. He did not go to the gym but he did walk and run I saw his video about a year ago and for some reason, it popped up in my YouTube feed again so I watched it again. He’s just a good ‘ol boy trying to get better. The minute he said it, I instantly remembered watching this a year ago – because it’s such a true statement. Lots of folks who are smarter than me had said it. We all know it’s true. In our own lives. In the lives of others. “We change our behavior when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing. Consequences give us the pain that motivates us to change.” – Dr. Henry Cloud Our slimmed-down country boy says it in a way I can completely understand. “You have to be totally tired of who you are.” Why would I be totally tired of who I am? Let me count the ways. 😉 Self-awareness is the ability to see yourself clearly and objectively through reflection and introspection. That’s how an article at PositivePsychology.com begins. The title of the article is, “What Is Self-Awareness and Why Is It Important? [+5 Ways to Increase It].” Social media is overrun with people disparaging the opinions or viewpoints of others when it comes to YOUR life. It goes well beyond the seemingly wise admonition to ignore the haters. It presupposes that everybody has the ability and desire to see themselves accurately and that each of us is able to do that without any help. It also foolishly holds that none of us benefits from listening to others. The truth is we all struggle to accurately see ourselves or to face the realities of ourselves. We likely lean toward thinking too highly of ourselves, or too lowly. It’s too easy for us to overestimate or underestimate ourselves. Accuracy is difficult. Others can help provide just enough perspective where we’re able to more accurately see ourselves. If we choose to ignore their help, it hinders us. We need the insights, experiences, and observations that others can provide. But not just anybody can do that for us. Those with whom we’re fully safe serve us best. These are the people who only want our best. They have no other agenda. They don’t want to live our lives for us. They don’t want to make our choices for us. They simply want us to do the right thing by helping us make the wisest choice that will help us be our best. They love us enough to challenge us, nudge us, push us, question us, support us, and do whatever else they can to help us move forward. If we choose to ignore or banish these people, we do so at our own peril. Self-awareness is not a solo pursuit. It demands we make wise choices in who surrounds us. That’s a critical component to succeed in growing tired of who we are when who we are has become destructive or detrimental to being our best. Recently we learned that a business hero to many – Tony Hsieh, founder of Zappo’s – was living a life most of us knew nothing about. Virtually every major news publication, including the Wall Street Journal, has written pieces that reveal Hsieh had a serious drug addiction. According to multiple accounts, he banished those who attempted to help him correct his poor behavior, choosing instead to surround himself with people who would support anything he chose to do – common behavior for drug addicts. Sadly, Hsieh’s story ended as so many do…with his death. During this pandemic, there have been a number of other sad stories where people have died at their own hands. Mental health is, thankfully, gaining more and more attention as we’ve seen too many people fall into depression and despair. I’m certainly not able, or willing, to pass judgment on people in such cases and I only use them to make the point that self-awareness and improvement demand a degree of being tired of the status quo – but it also requires a clear enough mind (free of drug abuse and addiction and also free of mental illness) to face, in the most healthy way possible, the pain of our present state. Enough pain to compel us to consider making different – aka *better* – choices! The Dunning-Kruger Effect The pandemic and the Presidential election have both proven how valid this is. As Psychology Today says, “The Dunning-Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which people wrongly overestimate their knowledge or ability in a specific area. This tends to occur because a lack of self-awareness prevents them from accurately assessing their own skills.” Last year Jeff Haden, one of my favorite Inc. contributors wrote an article entitled, Here’s How to Tell Within 5 Minutes If Someone Isn’t as Smart as They Think. Writes Jeff… That’s because wisdom isn’t found in certainty. Wisdom is knowing that while you might know a lot, there’s also a lot you don’t know. Wisdom is trying to find out what is right rather than trying to be right. Wisdom is realizing when you’re wrong, and backing down graciously. Some are certain the pandemic is a hoax. Others are certain if they contract COVID 19 they’ll die. Some are certain Donald Trump won the election. Others are certain he’s the worst thing to happen to humanity since Adolf Hitler. Now, some are certain the COVID 19 vaccine is going to a lifesaver. Others are positive that their family will never take the vaccine. It seems we’ve leaned further and further away from wisdom and more and more into being dead sure that we’re right. Even though certainty goes from one extreme to the other, rarely are we pausing long enough to wonder, “If both extremes are certain, does that mean both are right? Might both be wrong?” How can such a wide gap exist in certainty? The Dunning-Kruger Effect. That’s how. And it’s not about being confident. Or sure about things. It’s about being open enough to consider things before you reach certainty. It’s about embracing questions – or at least not resenting questions – as you navigate your decisions, choices, and actions. Truth will withstand tough scrutiny. So will wisdom. Defiance is another enemy of growth and self-improvement. Our stubborn refusal to listen, question, discuss, consider, and think don’t serve us well. Defiance is our stubbornness fueled by anger. Or bitterness. Or some other negative emotion. Defiance isn’t the fuel for self-improvement. Or wisdom. It’s destructive. So how does pain serve us? The pain of facing the reality that we’re now unhappy with ourselves? Lately, I’ve been looking more deeply into heart issues. Not cardiac stuff, but spiritual stuff. The Bible-view of our heart, our mind. That place where we reason things, believe things, ignore things, disbelieve things. That place from which flows who we are, which is based on what we choose to do. The Biebs posted this over at Instagram just a few days ago, “What you do doesn’t define who you are.” I share what commenter Jake Callanan said, “Yes it does actually.” If what you do doesn’t define who you are, then what does? There’s a sermon in the Bible delivered by Jesus. Even non-Bible readers know about the Sermon on the Mount. Matt. 13:1-9, 18-23 “On that day went Jesus out of the house, and sat by the sea side. And there were gathered unto him great multitudes, so that he entered into a boat, and sat; and all the multitude stood on the beach. And he spake to them many things in parables, saying, Behold, the sower went forth to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the birds came and devoured them: and others fell upon the rocky places, where they had not much earth: and straightway they sprang up, because they had no deepness of earth: and when the sun was risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And others fell upon the thorns; and the thorns grew up and choked them: and others fell upon the good ground, and yielded fruit, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He that hath ears, let him hear.” “Hear then ye the parable of the sower. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the evil one, and snatcheth away that which hath been sown in his heart. This is he that was sown by the way side. And he that was sown upon the rocky places, this is he that heareth the word, and straightway with joy receiveth it; yet hath he not root in himself, but endureth for a while; and when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, straightway he stumbleth. And he that was sown among the thorns, this is he that heareth the word; and the care of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful. And he that was sown upon the good ground, this is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; who verily beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” This matters because it determines whether or not we become tired of who we are – when what we are isn’t good. Not all hearts – or minds – are the same. Not all of them are good, or wise enough to recognize the need for a change. Some people lack self-awareness, wisdom, or sobriety. And it may be due to their own self-will and defiance. Or it could be due to mental illness or substance abuse. There is a reason it’s so difficult to convince people who abuse substances or who suffer a mental illness that they need help. So many among us are roaming about aimlessly lost in drug use and/or mental illness that they simply are unable to see themselves in the nose-dive that’s apparent to the sober people observing their lives. Like the drunk who thinks he’s perfectly capable of driving safely, they suffer delusions. Their detachment from truth and reality has skewed their ability to get tired of who they are. The result? They lack the desire to make a change that just might save their life. I’ve yet to see anybody who harbored bitterness and defiance ever reach the positive place required to be totally tired of who they are in order to grow, change, and improve. Growth, self-improvement, and improved wisdom demand a humility that only sober people can fully embrace. Defiant, bitter, and angry people tend to spend more time thinking they’ve been victimized by others. The line of people who have suffered wrong forms to the left. We’re all in that line. Humility affords us the opportunity to escape that line so we can busy ourselves making changes that will make us better. Let’s talk about these pronouns. YOU have to be totally tired of who YOU are. This isn’t about you being totally tired of who somebody is. Well, you can be tired of somebody’s poor, foolish, or self-destructive behavior, but it won’t do you or them much good. So it’s best to just sit down, hold that mirror in front of your face and look intently to see yourself as you really are. That’s the hard part – seeing yourself as you really are. This is where we all have to leverage the power of others. We need people in our life who care so deeply about us they’re willing to tell us what we need to hear. Willing to teach us what we need to learn. Willing to serve us no matter what. All because they have our best interest at heart. Not for any other reason. That’s who the safe people are. People who can help us figure out if we are or should be totally tired of who we are. Then there are the unsafe people – like the ones who made fun of the guy who lost all the weight. By making jokes about how he looked pregnant, it got him to see something. Of course, he already knew he needed to drop some weight. Their comments didn’t give him a sudden flash of insight, but they did serve to inspire him. Maybe it was an “I’ll-show-you” kind of inspiration. Whatever it was, he described it as provoking him to instantly be totally tired of who he was…so he set about to change. He made up his mind to do something about his weight. Nobody else could do it for him. He could have made a different choice. Anger. Resentment. Bitterness. Defiance. Sadness. Depression. Blame. He could have hugged it out with any or all of those when those co-workers poked fun at him. Instead, he chose to face what he already knew was true. As he says in his video, he knew they were right. He didn’t blame them. He opted to blame himself for letting himself get so out of shape. Accepting responsibility for his current state helped him accept responsibility for changing it. When others could have hidden behind resentment, he chose to step forward, taking on the challenge to control his own destiny by doing something about it. His refusal to just accept his current state as some new norm prompted him to chase improvement. We have those same choices. All of us. No matter what our current problems may be. Weight. Career. Fitness. Money. Relationships. Plugin whatever ails you and it’ll fit. Accept your current state and continue down a negative or destructive path. Or, accept that your current state can be changed if you’re willing to take matters into your own hands. He’s right – until we’re sick and tired of being sick and tired, we’ll continue to remain sick and tired. The Dr. Cloud quote needs to be emblazoned in our mind… “We change our behavior when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing. Consequences give us the pain that motivates us to change.” – Dr. Henry Cloud Pain. Let’s wrap this up thinking about the pain because that’s the impetus for this change – growth and improvement. If there is no pain, we’re not likely going to change anything. Of course, millions of people are blocking out the pain with drugs, alcohol and all kinds of illicit and immoral behavior in hopes they can keep running from their pain. But like a shadow that follows them everywhere they go, they can’t outrun the pain. Sadly, they wind up making the pain worse and worse. Wasted lives. Horrific lives that serve no positive purpose in their own life or in the lives of others. The Bible calls it the “root of bitterness.” It’s how many people opt to feel about their own need to grow, improve – to change! They hate those who try to help them. They hate even more those who aren’t trying to help but to hurt (like the co-workers making fun of the guy’s weight). They’re totally tired of others, not their own shortcomings, or failings, or weaknesses. They focus more on what others “do” to them instead of focusing on what they can do for themselves. Their pronouns are them and they, not me. The irony is that by refusing to focus on their own need for growth, improvement, and change they’re behaving with colossal selfishness. Are you in touch with your pain? The pain of something you know you can change if you’ll just make up your mind? Are you blaming that pain on others who really aren’t responsible for your situation, but you’d like to think they are? Are you deflecting that pain away from your own responsibility in order to stop feeling so badly? Are you searching for solace in feeling like a victim? Perhaps you’re tired of being the victim and you’re totally tired of who you are as a victim. Lean hard into that pain so it can fuel your desire to at long last do something about it. Others may have their own desires for your best but until you want it for yourself, nothing matters! First, you must do it for yourself because it’s your life. You alone will answer for the life you’ve lived. What others have done to you, or for you will not excuse you from facing the reality of your own choices, behaviors, words, and actions. Permit me to leave you with a few tips that might be helpful. Step One Be thankful. Be exhaustive in your attempts to be thankful. See how many things you can list or name. When you think you’ve reached the end, keep going. Figure out what else you have to be thankful for. Make sure people are your first thought. Step Two Now focus your gratitude on the present opportunities. Keep on going with your thanksgiving, but now focus it on the chances, happy accidents, people, and circumstances that afford you the opportunities to at long last do something about those things you need to fix or repair. Step Three Figure out the answer to, “What’s next?” Don’t fret about getting too far ahead of yourself. Just figure out the first step. What will you do to get yourself on the right path toward self-improvement, growth, and change? Ask those famous journalist’s questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why? How? Apply those questions to the first step. Just the first step! Step Four Get busy with that first step. Start. Don’t delay. Don’t talk yourself into waiting. You will not make matters worse by taking that first step. Any movement in the right direction will help. The sooner you take the step, the sooner you get on the path toward growth. The key to getting unstuck is to MOVE. Step Five Be very aware of how it’s working and adjust. This is why it’s unimportant that you have every “i” dotted or “t” crossed. No worry about it being just right, or perfect. It just has to be good enough to give you clarity of what you’re going to do first. After you take that first step, pay attention to how it’s working, and make adjustments. Step Six Don’t quit. Keep going with the intent of improving just a little bit each day. Embrace the process of daily improvement. Quit thinking about what you’re giving up and instead, think about what you’re gaining. One day at a time. Remember that adage about how you eat an elephant – “one bite at a time.” Small steps compounded over time make BIG IMPROVEMENTS. Step Seven Remember, the end result – the goal – is the reward for the work so stay focused on enjoying the process, the work! And don’t forget the pain that you’re ridding yourself of. It’s important to remember what we’re running from as we focus on what we’re running toward. It’s that “this is better than that” kind of thinking that will help us stay on course. We want to put THAT behind us so we can reach for THIS. I hope that helps you in your battles. And I hope you and your family have a safe and happy holiday season!
50 minutes | 5 months 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 | 6 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 | 9 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 | 9 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 | 9 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 | 10 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 | 10 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 | a year 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 | a year 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 | a year 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 | a year 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 | a year 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
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