January, 2012


30
Jan 12

A Double Sided Coin

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Hi, good to see you again.

In the last blog entry I talked about small words.  I’m talking about really small simple words like A, The, If, In, etc.

I made the bold statement (which I still stick with) that these words are life changing, literally life changing.

Unfortunately, these powerful simple words have tended to get lost in the flurry of sophisticated, multi syllable, impress your cubicle neighbor, MENZA stumping, uppity societal terminology.

I illustrated my point by focusing on the word “If”.                      

“IF” – This simple, two letter, one syllable word holds the world of possibilities.

I mentioned that this little word either propels us forward or traps us.  It all depends on which adjoining word we use with “If”… What or Only.

“What” is a question that naturally begs for an answer and “Only” is a statement of singular purpose.

We are going to unpack “What if” today and then spend some time in the next blog entry on Thursday on “Only if”.

“WHAT IF…”

My, my, the world of possibilities this question poses. 

“What if” is future focused.  This simple question allows us to reach our hand from our current space into the future.

Sounds great… but it depends on what you are reaching for.  Like the picture above, there are two ways to look at this.

This “what if” question can go in one of two directions.  Both directions are future focused but one is positive, exciting, and life breathing, while the other can and will suck the very life out of the marrow in your bones.

It’s sad to say, but some people spend an inordinate amount of energy looking at the negative possibilities of “What if”.

In blogs in the past I have spent good bit of time on this topic so I won’t beat it to death.  But let’s just say, some people have allowed themselves to be trapped in the past by “Only  if” while others are trapped in emotional quicksand.

The negative “what if’s” slowly suffocate the opportunities of the positive “what if’s”.

We all know people who hang out in one of these camp sites. 

One camp worries about everything and paranoia is their companion.  The other camp knows the realities of the present and potential dangers of the future but focus on the “what can be”.

Wow… I believe that… the beauty of “what can be”.

There are possibilities that are out there for us beyond our wildest imagination.  If (there you go… the “If” word) you believe there is something good out there and believe it is for you.

I am not talking about feel good, pie in the sky, ten affirmations daily, formula’s for success.  But I am talking about our choice to choose the direction that breaths life and hope.

It would be nice if some questions were popping into your mind after reading this.

The types of questions you ask will tell you a lot about  yourself.  Are you asking questions like these?

  • What if… this guy is right? 
  • What if… I was to drop off some my old thinking that traps me? 
  • What if… I could (fill in the blank)?

These are “what if”  questions that propel you forward. 

On Thursday we will take a look at the other side of the coin.

See you then.


26
Jan 12

Power of Words

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Words are remarkable.  Simple sounds from our mouths communicate our hearts and intentions to those who will listen.  Getting people to listen is the tricky part.

I am very impressed with people who possess an extensive vocabulary and have a command of the language, seriously.

I like big words, fancy words, I just don’t have too many to share.

I tell people that I have a college degree but I’m not very educated.  Unfortunately there is more truth to that statement than I would care to admit.

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Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say “infinitely” when you mean “very”; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.
- C. S. Lewis

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For me, I am still working on small simple words.  This may sound odd but I find these small simple words the most profound.

I’m talking about single syllable words that are casually used as filler around the larger fancier words.

Words like A, The, If, In, etc.  These simple words in the right setting are life changing.  I am not kidding… LIFE CHANGING.

Let me give you an example.  Let’s take a closer look at the word IF.

I heard someone use the phrase, half of LIFE is “IF”.

It’s a catchy little phrase.  The problem with catchy phrases is that we can easily lose sight of the truth it is proclaiming or the point it is making.

There is something about this simple word that is amazingly powerful… “IF”.

It denotes a possibility of something else.

Here lies its sobering power.  This simple word in our lives either propels us forward into the joyous adventure of the unknown or it entraps us in the past or current circumstances.

The direction your life takes depends on your selection of two one of words used to adjoin IF.

What or Only.

“What if…” is very future oriented.  It takes us forward.

“Only if…” or “If only…” is past oriented or current state focued.

The word we use more often with IF tells a lot about ourselves and where we focus our lives.

Over the next couple of blog entries I will dig more deeply into the two choices we make with this simple two letter word IF.

See you Monday.

Ciao.


23
Jan 12

Comfortable Tiny World

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It’s a very cold dreary day today and I am making sure I stay warm and toasty.

Call me silly, but I like to be comfortable… physically, emotionally… you name it, I like comfort.

I think wanting to be comfortable is very natural for the most part.  Comfort is NOT a bad thing whatsoever… unless.  Yes, there is an unless.

Although comfort is ok for the most part, there is a dark side.  In fact, there are some aspects of life where comfort is deadly.

You want to know the scary thing?  It’s not a death we see coming.

Comfort gone bad creates a matchbox life lined with cotton.

It’s a comfortable and safe, tiny world.  And it seems to protect us to the sting of the prickly things of life that come from change and real growth.

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What starts out as a natural attempt to make our lives happy, easily becomes a feather pillow for mediocrity.  And if left unchecked we become consumed with feeding our addiction of comfort for self.

Comfort sweetly and quietly lulls us to sleep and then slowly suffocates the person we can be.  And at that point our world has become a cozy little matchbox coffin of “what could have been”.

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In all life one should comfort the afflicted, but verily, also, one should afflict the comfortable, and especially when they are comfortably, contentedly, even happily wrong.
- John Kenneth Galbraith

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If not aroused out of our cocoon stupor our fate is sealed.   We never realize the fullness life has to offer.

It is important to note that when I talk about fullness of life, I do not necessarily mean needing to experience or taste all that our world offers.  It is not traveling to exotic places and trying new things that make a life fulfilling.

A fulfilled life comes from growth, real vibrant growth.  And growth is not a life of ease nor comfort.   It’s a risky business, and frankly, painful at times.

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Life is known only by those who have found a way to be comfortable with change and the unknown. Given the nature of life, there may be no security, but only adventure.
-Rachel Naomi Remen

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There is bad pain, which I want to avoid, and good pain (a sign of life and growth) which I want to embrace.

God forbid that I choose comfort over growth, or ease over progress in my life.

I don’t know where I will end up… but oh the joy of the adventure of growing as a person… personally, emotionally, intellectually and especially Spiritually.

Well I want to restate a portion of the prior sentence.  I stated that I didn’t know where I would end up on this grand adventure.  That is very very true.  But I do know where I will not end up… in a match box coffin.

I say this a lot, and it cannot be said enough, we live so far below what God wants for His cherished children.

So over time I have learned to be more comfortable with being uncomfortable.

How cool is that?


19
Jan 12

Don’t forget to remember to forget… Huh!?

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Yes, I know the title is a bit confusing.  But that’s not unusual is it?

We talked in the last blog about how the memory naturally fades.

The details of life seem to slowly fall off the edge of the mental plate, displaced by today’s details and events.  I thought the animated poem video called “Forgetfulness” in the last blog entry was pretty right on.

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Happiness is nothing more than good health and a bad memory.
- Albert Schweitzer

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There are some things in our lives that are branded in our memory.  These are the memories on the extreme fringes of the continuum of life… something of wonderful joy (e.g. birth of a child) or severe pain (a tragedy of some sort).

The details of the middle ground go first.  There is no emotional anchor to hold them in place.  But over time, even the details of those extreme moments begin to take their leave while the emotion of the moment holds strong.

But the real tricky part is this… if not careful we forget the things we need to remember and remember the things we need to forget.

Yes, there are some things we need to forget… but we choose to remember them.  The operative word is CHOOSE.

There are some memories that we have intentionally kept in tact.

We have all heard of selective memory, but there is also selective forgetting.

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Forgetfulness – a gift of God bestowed upon debtors in compensation for their destitution of conscience.
- Ambrose Bierce
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There are some things we hang on to that become an anchor keeping us from moving forward.

So the logical question is, why do we hang on to something that is keeping us down?

Believe it or not… there is a payoff for hanging on.  We don’t do anything without a payoff (a topic to explore in more detail at another time).

For example, some people think that by letting go it somehow lets the other person off the hook.  The payoff for hanging on in their mind is that it validates the severity of offense.

Dealing with these bad things is very simple… NOT easy… but simple.

First we have to be willing to honestly look to see if there is anything that you are hanging on to that is keeping you from going where you want and need to go.

Now we all have our baggage that hinders us.  But what I am talking about are the things we hang on to.

Forgetting and letting go is a choice.  It even talks about the need to forget the past in the Bible.

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“But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.”

Philippians 3:13

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.Side Note: As you can see I had a difficult time finding a picture of the Apostle Paul.  If you happen to run across a picture of him please pass it on.  It would be helpful for future quotes.

So, as the title says, don’t forget to remember to forget.

Ciao, see you Monday.


17
Jan 12

Don’t to Forget to Remember

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Howdy.

If you have been reading my blog the last week or so you know that it has been pretty heavy.

So I thought I would lighten things up a bit… and the nice thing about the topic is that I will still be able to make a meaningful point.

As you can tell from the title I want to spend some time talking about the importance of both remembering and forgetting.

I have found that life works a lot better if people can remember the things they should and forget the things they need to let go of.

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I’ve a grand memory for forgetting.
-  Robert Louis Stevenson
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We all have memories seared into our mind because of the significance or moment.  But these are the exceptions.

Unless a specific event is burned into our psyche, most memories in life just fade away.  The details begin to evaporate.

I ran across this animated poem by Billy Collins called Forgetfulness that talks about this reality.

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YouTube Preview Image

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The fact is, we just loose stuff over time, details are lost.

Memories of the past are displaced by the moments of the present.  This is normal… frustrating at times but normal.

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I should remember more, and I have a pretty good memory.
-  Cesar Romero
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Since the details of life being forced off the edges of our mental plate is normal, we tend to do what everyone does with a negative inevitable… we make jokes about it.

Finding humor in the negative things of life is very good indeed.  In fact I see is as a sign of a healthy person.

Take a look at this very fun video by singer, songwriter Tom Rush.  Enjoy.

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YouTube Preview Image

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Yep, I enjoyed it too.

But like most things there is another side to the coin.

The trouble is, most of us tend to forget the things we should remember and remember the things we should forget.

Yes, the details tend to evaporate.  But the memories seared into our mind remain.

In the next blog I will drill a little deeper.

We have all heard of selective memory… but there is also a selective forgetting.

See you on Thursday.


13
Jan 12

The Greeks had it right

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Hi, welcome back.

In my last blog I talked about the surprises life throws at us… the good… and the bad.

Call me silly, but personally I like the good better than the bad.

But I know that there will be bad.  I was at a funeral this week to prove that reality… very, very sad.

Side Note: Now let’s be really honest here for a moment.  Some of you reading this blog are saying, “uuuugh… I don’t want to read anything depressing.”

I understand.  I feel that way at times too.  But stick it out.

It won’t be as depressing as you may think, and hopefully be encouraging.

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I think the Greeks had a fairly accurate view of life as seen with the picture of the historic “Greek Tragedy” masks.   Life is a mix of the happy and sad.

So as you can see, I will sprinkle some modern day versions of the “Greek Tragedy” emblems throughout the blog.

I do need to make an important point of clarification about the good and bad, but particularly the bad.

I have had bad things happen (like this week) that I had no control over.  Life happens… it hurts.  I fully accept this reality.

But what I can’t tolerate, is the pain in my life that is self-inflicted… it irks me.  Now let’s face it, we have all made very stupid decisions that have brought unnecessary pain into our lives.  This is a topic for another time… not today.

In Monday’s blog I mentioned that in one week my wife and I experienced the miracle of life and the tragedy of death.

The miracle of life was a heart transplant for a dear friend.

This humble marvelous man’s days were numbered.  But the call came and the miracle transplant took place… Joy! Joy! Joy!

But this miracle of life reflected in a most powerful way the paradoxical nature of life.

The mountain top of joy for us meant a painful valley for another.  While we rejoice, someone somewhere is grieving… the “Greek Tragedy” in real life.

The real question is, how do we (you and I) view this reality of life?

For the most part I believe most people look for the good but try really hard to ignore the bad.   I think that’s kinda normal.

For me personally, this is where my Faith plays an important role.

Side Note: Once again, to my non-Christian friends, I am not trying to impose what I       believe on you.  I am just answering the question I asked two sentences earlier.

Your response to the question may be different, that’s fine.

My Faith provides a context that makes sense of the big picture to me.  I may not understand the details of the immediate but I can see the ultimate.  This is comforting.

There is something very comforting about accepting the reality that this world with all its moving parts of joy and pain is not random.  But there is a pattern and meaning to all that happens.

So I sit here seated between the pain of life and the joy of life.  I am sad and happy at the same time.

See you on Monday.


9
Jan 12

Hold on loosely for the tightest grip

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Yes, I know that it’s a weird title.  But it’s true… all too true.

My wife and I have often used the phrase, “Life is full of surprises”.

We are barely one week into 2012 and already we are hit with a miracle of life and an unexpected tragic death.

Life can change in an instant.  And when life happens, plans are irrelevant.

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“In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”
-Dwight D Eisenhower

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There is no question that we are to make plans in our lives… be intentional.  Far too many people live by default and just let life float and evolve.  And then they wake up at the age 65 and wonder what the hell happened.

You can plan all you want but… life happens.

The fact that there are no guarantees in life reality scares a lot of people.  I understand why, but we can’t allow ourselves to run scared.

It’s amazing how miserable you can make your life by running scared about the possible things that can happen.

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“I am an old man and I have known a great many troubles… but most of them never happened.”

- Mark Twain

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That’s why I have found that my firmest grip on life when I hold it loosely.

This may be a strange thing to say but the same principle is true with love.  To experience love to the fullest we must be very intentional, and hold if very loosely.

Love dies when gripped too hard.  We squeeze the life out of the thing we long for.

Like love, I want to experience life to the fullest that God intended.  And a life, like love, experienced to the fullest is salted with both the amazing peaks of joy and excitement… and the deep valleys of hurt and pain.

So because of life’s surprises my plans for the week are totally out the window.  I have to travel to be with family and for a funeral.  Funerals are not for the dead but the living.

I guess that’s why through out the Bible you see phrases like “weep with those that weep, rejoice with those who rejoice, mourn with those that mourn.”

If my wife were here she would be telling me that this entry is a downer.  It is not meant to be at all.

In the beginning of the blog I mentioned a life and a death.

On Thursday I will talk about the happiness we have experienced with the joy of life.

Ciao.


5
Jan 12

Best Tip for 2012 – Don’t listen to any tips

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Howdy, I’m glad you decided to hang out with me today.  With any luck I will have something to say that will make your visit worthwhile.

I would be really happy if my blathering causes you think, challenges your assumptions, or simply makes you laugh.  Any of these are good things.

In my first blog entry of the year I had some tips on how to make the best of any “fresh start” you wanted to make for the New Year.

I am embarrassed to say this but I did something that I personally really, really dislike… I created a list of tips.

Lists of tips really bug me because in my mind it gives the false impression that substantive life change is easy.

I cringe when I see something that promises the impossible such as…

  • Fame and fortune in 12 Days in Five easy steps
  • Four ways to make your cat less independent
  • Three simple tips to keep Steelers fans from being so obnoxious

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Talk about impossible!

Now to my credit I never implied the “fresh start” tips were easy or quick.  It was my attempt to give people a starting point.

I wasn’t intending to write a follow-up to the blog but honestly I kept being pulled back to one of points that I feel needs a little more attention.

It was tip #2 Make Changes for Yourself.

Hopefully I will not over complicate it or on the other extreme wear us all out by beating it to death.

I feel the need to press the issue because the most success in change comes when a person’s primary motivation is to do it for themselves… “I need to do this for me.  Because it’s the right thing.”

There is no question that pleasing others or regaining their respect and love is an incentive… but it cannot replace the power of doing it for yourself.

If the change is for you then you do not become disillusioned if people don’t respond the way you want or expect.

Of course it is nice and wonderful if those you love or care about respond the way you envision… that is icing on the cake.

But in it’s purest form, the response or lack of response of others is irrelevant to your journey.

You step out because you are called to higher things.  We are not called or destined to lower things.

Yes, we have all settled for things beneath us… but that is not the end of our journey.

I really admire those of you bold enough to make a “fresh start”.

The courage to start, and restart for some of us, means that your eyes are not fixed on the moment but the reality beyond.

Very, very cool.

I want to encourage you on your journey.  Hang out with me if you wish.  I’m on a journey too.

So tighten your boot strings because we’re in for a walk with some hills as-well-as flat spots.

See you Monday.


2
Jan 12

I need a “Do Over”

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Hi, Happy New Year and welcome to the first blog entry of 2012.

Well… if you are reading this blog, it means you have successfully survived another year.  Congratulations!

In the last blog entry of 2011 I reflected on the past year and talked about the different ways we deal with memories… people tend to be a Filer or a Piler.  I then launched into an eloquent discourse (humm… somewhat debatable) on the benefits of being a memory piler.

If you are assuming that in this first blog of 2012 I will poke around the topic of looking at fresh starts for the New Year – you are correct.  Oh how I hate being predictable!

As much as I didn’t want to be predictable I felt compelled to explore some possible traps of the typical New Year fresh start.

Don’t get me wrong… I like fresh starts and we NEED fresh starts.

I remember when as a kid we would be playing a game and on occasion someone would say, “Do over.”  Then we would start over… or give the person another chance.

Yes, there was always someone who would try to use it to an unfair advantage.  That’s a different topic for a different time.

But most of the time the Universal Rule of “Do Over” was requested by someone who just needed a fresh start.

If we are requesting a “Do Over” I want us to get the most out of our new beginning and not have it be sabotaged by our faulty thinking or the past.

It’s sad but true, our old thinking and baggage can and will undermine our efforts if we are not careful.

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“Don’t let the past corrupt your future.”

- Oswald Chambers

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Here are a few pointers that I hope will help.

# 1. – Give yourself permission for a “Do Over”.

We have all started things, and failed… more than once (in fact many times).  The more we have let ourselves down the harder it is to request a “Do Over”.

We’re weird like that.  Somehow we feel that we don’t deserve another chance.

Let me say as clearly and forcefully as possible – THAT IS A LIE!!!

Give yourself permission.

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# 2. – Make changes for yourself

Personal growth is… huh… personal.  If not careful you will get in the trap of trying to change for others.  That gets messy pronto.

It gets messy because of two extremes.  The first is, if you have a set back, you will disappoint them and you feel crappy cause you let them down.  Or secondly, you start to make changes and they try to force you back into the role or behavior they want you to be or is most comfortable for them.

Change affects change.  You change and it inadvertently changes the world of those around you… and some people prefer their comfort over your progress.

For real sustained change and growth we have to do it for ourselves because it’s the right thing to do.

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# 3. – Realize that the future is a clean slate

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I like that picture… and it’s true.

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# 4. – Think progress not perfection

With any bold step there are missteps along the way.  If you expect perfection you will get discouraged quickly.  And discouragement is the valley for quitting.

Understand from the beginning that there will be missteps… and accept that reality.

Our growth is a journey not a destination.

I have my share of “Do Over’s” for 2012 all lined up.

Do you want to hang out with me and journey together?  I hope you do.

I plan on making this journey with or without people being with me… but it’s a lot more fun having the company.

See you on Thursday.