You don’t have to take what life gives you. Every day you get results. Mostly, they may be the ones you deserve. Not always, but mostly.
The product of our choices determines our actions. And our actions garner some kind of result or outcome.
Hustle is synonymous with putting in good effort, working hard to chase success and doing what’s necessary to accomplish something worthwhile. Well, it’s that, or it’s conning people (as in a “pool hustler”). I don’t mean it like that. I mean it in the good way – the best of ways.
Let’s not bury the lead this week. Easy just doesn’t work. Ever.
We want to think it does. Or that it will. But it just won’t. Ever.
The reason so many “systems” are available as online courses for everything from selling to website design to podcasting to producing killer online videos — is because people want it to be easier than it really is. And it’s not. At least not at first.
Everything is hard, until it’s easy.
I know, I know. We don’t like absolutes. I’m right there with you. Never do this. Always do that. This will never work. That will always work. Absolutes are just rarely true. I’d love to be able to accurately say that absolutes never work, but that would be another ill-spoken absolute.
Truth is, everything is hard. Hard is relative. Some things are less hard for you because of your natural aptitude, your existing skills and all the other things that make you who you are. Other things are extremely hard for you because you lack the natural aptitude…and all those other facets of your personality. But make no mistake, it’s all hard. There are merely degrees of hard.
The sooner we accept that, the better off we’re going to be. So many of our problems are caused by our own false expectations that something is going to be easy…or easier. Then, when it’s not, we get down and out, dive into a funk and lose confidence. Those eggs in your refrigerator aren’t as fragile as your true confidence. I’m not talking about bravado, or hubris. I’m certainly not talking about your delusions – if you have any – about being all that and a bag of chips. I’m talking about that confidence you’ve got down deep in your heart. Yep, that confidence that’s wrapped in an egg shell thin skin.
Bad outcomes aren’t our fault. We’re all subjected to the idiocy of others. If only they hadn’t done this. Or that. Our life would be so much better. But that moron co-worker got the promotion instead of us. The boss refused to give any of us the raise we deserved. I should be the one who got that job. The company should have sent me to that training instead of him. On and on goes the defeating self-talk. Mostly, because we just don’t think our future is in our hands.
Hustling is doing the hard work. Searching for easy is an avoidable distraction. Controlling the distraction…well, that’s also hard. Very hard. The gamification of social media makes it even harder. We’re busy liking, plusing, favoriting and giving props. Fueling our crazy need to always be connected to complete strangers, social media platforms know how to make themselves addictive. Then there’s the avoidance of hard. Procrastinating. It’s one of the most active verbs in human language – procrastinate.
“I’m so busy I just haven’t gotten around to it,” is code for “I didn’t do it because it wasn’t as important as the other things I’ve been doing” OR “I didn’t do it because I’m afraid (or I don’t know how or any number of other reasons).”
We put off the things we hate to do, things we don’t see value in doing, things we’re not quite confident in doing or things we fear doing. Hustle is one of those things. Lots of people are afraid to hustle. Many aren’t confident in how to do it. So it never gets done. Oh sure, people talk about it. They plan on it. They even formulate plans or strategies to do it. They just never get around to it. And it ruins any chance they have to succeed.
They think it’s luck or serendipity. That’s the missing ingredient for their success. Or so they think.
They think it’s opportunities that go to others, not to them.
They think their circumstances or situation put them at a disadvantage.
Daily they live by a two-word motto.
If only this were different, or that were different…THEN I’d be able to find success.
Think of what you’d most like to accomplish right now. Just one thing. One BIG thing. Got it?
This is an interactive episode today so you’re going to have to participate. Don’t worry. You can do it while you’re driving or working out. You won’t need to take your eyes off the road while you do this. You just have to think. And be honest with yourself.
Now that you’re holding a thought about the one big thing you most to accomplish – something you’ve wanted to get done for a long time, but for some reason, you just haven’t been able to do it. In fact, you’ve not even been able to start it, much less finish it. You’re paralyzed. Whenever you think about this one thing you feel like a person trapped in a mine field, afraid to step in any direction. So you stand still. You avoid taking a step. Any step. You think the worst will happen.
Do you ever wonder why you couldn’t see something before? Something that looks so clear to you now, but in the past — it just seemed concealed or camouflaged. Like those hidden words in some graphical image, you stare and stare without seeing it. Suddenly, you see it. Now it’s unavoidable. You can’t go back to not seeing it. You just glance at this image and the words pop out at you. Instantly.
A 62-year-old man slumps over at his desk while working. The office calls 9-1-1 and scrambles to help him. He’s conscious, but in a lot of pain. And he’s sweating. Within minutes emergency personnel are hovering over him as the entire office stands a safe distance, hoping he’s okay. Off he goes to the hospital lights and sirens blaring.
Two weeks later he returns to the office. He’s survived his first heart attack. It wasn’t severe, but it was severe enough. He’s different. By all accounts, he was a workaholic. A pleasant workaholic. Staffers reported that he’d arrive early, leave late and often be found there on weekends. “Hard charging” and “focused” were the words most used by his team to describe their boss. The harshest critics reported how competent he was and the worst thing they could say about him was how he was “all work.”
Even before the first day back is half gone the staff notices he’s a different man. Something has changed. Sure, they know it’s the heart attack, but they don’t know exactly what it is that’s changed. His demeanor is different. They know his priorities are different. You can just tell he’s not “all work” now. He calls a staff meeting to end the day, his first day back. He assembles the team in a conference room to thank everybody for their well wishes, hospital visits and support. It’s short, but emotional. Then, he shows glimpses of his old self by pulling up their current business. But it’s not like prior times when he’s reviewed their monthly progress. It’s different. Very different.
He tells the team to go home tonight, spend a nice evening with their families. “Tomorrow morning, come in and spend the first hour taking care of whatever is on your agenda. Then take 30 minutes to think about what we’ve done so far this month and what you think we need to do to hit our goal. Let’s get back together here at 10:30 in the morning. I want us to have a real candid conversation about what we can do better, then at noon I’d like to take everybody out to lunch. And at lunch I only have one rule: we can’t talk business. I want us to spend 90 minutes here before lunch focused on solving our problems, then I want us to get away for the next 90 minutes and not even give it a second thought. I want us to enjoy each others company during lunch. Now, go home. I’ll see everybody in the morning. And thank you again for everything you do.”
He was always respectful, but this was very different. He’s a changed man. Months later, he’s still changed. No, he hasn’t gone soft, but his focus isn’t singular any more. It’s not just all business. He’s found some balance he never had before.
You’ve either got a reason, or you don’t.” -LeRoy Jethro Gibbs
The boss has some different reasons now. Work is still important, but his approach has changed drastically. All because of a major health episode one afternoon at work. He sees life very differently now. The team is more than a team. They’re people. They have families and dreams. He’s bent toward helping each of them and all of them accomplish all they can – not because life is all business – but because their lives, even at work, represent the lives of their families, too. The purpose of it all seems so clear to him now. Before, it was just “all work.” Now, it’s work for a reason.
What’s your reason?
That’s the issue I’d like you to wrestle with. And don’t say, “To make more money.” Well, you can say that, but then I’m going to ask, “Why? What do you want more money for?”
Let’s get to the heart of the matter.
What do want and why do you want it? That’s really at the heart of it all. And that’s where you’ll find the motivation to hustle.
I don’t know what looks like for you, but I know you need it if you’re going to reach your goal, achieve your dreams or improve your lot in life. You’re going to have first figure out the answers to those questions. What do you want and why do you want it?
There have been times in my life when I thought I knew what I wanted and other times where I had no clue. Neither one were particularly helpful really. To think you want something that you may not really want has proven as ineffective of not knowing at all what I wanted. If you’re expecting me to talk to you about passion or chasing your dream, well, tap the brakes ’cause that ain’t gonna happen. Rather, I’m going to ask you to reframe it by taking the attention off yourself and putting it onto somebody else. I’m going to ask you to consider – maybe for the first time in your life – aiming at what you can do to help the people you love the most.
What do you want for your family and why do you want it? I’m not saying that’s the question for you, but that’s my question. More specifically, my question today is, “What do you want for your wife and why do you want it?”
My why question isn’t because I love her and care about her. It’s more specific than that. And I’m taking about financial or professional goals. Yes, how I accomplish those goals is important to me, but that’s the process part of things and we’re not yet to that. Right now we’re focusing on the people side of the equation. My wife is my who. After that are my kids and their families. But my wife trumps them. She’s my who.
So if I start thinking about what I need to do (the process) to hustle in order to reach my goals, I have to concentrate on her. She’s the subject of the goal. She’s largely who I want to do it for. I’m not saying you can separate yourself from the people you love most, but I am saying that I think hustling to achieve for somebody else can be more powerful than doing it to serve yourself. I know others may not agree with me on that, but that’s okay. They’re wrong. 😉
Ask anybody who is bashful about self-promotion to explain to you why they have trouble putting themselves out there. You’ll hear all kinds of troubling thoughts and notions. Ask them what lengths they’d go to serve the people they love the most. Those same people suddenly become quite fierce and determined. Odd, isn’t it? They might take abuse, verbal or otherwise, from most anybody. But let somebody start in on their family or a close friend, they break out the brass knuckles. Where does that courage come from? Why the sudden change of attitude? And when you have this conversation with them you can feel it and see it. Their entire demeanor changes when they talk about the prospect of having to defend the people they most love. They go from coward to fearless in a nanosecond.
There it is. The bigger focal point of our service. It’s not us. It’s the people we most love. We’ll do things for them we wouldn’t otherwise do. Rightfully so. The people who are dear to us empower us. They elevate our resolve. At least they should. If you’re not hustling for achievement like you should, then I’m asking you to consider who you need to do it for. Who are you trying to serve? Who do you most want to serve?
I’m clearly approaching this from a man’s perspective. I’ve got a wife, grown kids, grandkids. There are plenty of people in my life to motivate me to hustle more.
Here’s the big paradox. And you hear it all the time.
You’ve got to do this for yourself.
Are you sure about that? I’m not. Could it be just more fuel for our self-centeredness? Society reinforcing the notion that we’re #1? Sort of reminds me of the Michael Douglas character – Gordon Gekko – in Wall Street, “Greed is good.”
If greed is good, then selfishness is even better. Is it really the best idea to just do something for yourself?
Cory Wells founded Three Dog Night back in the late 1960’s. It’s fitting to play a snippet of their song because he died on October 20, 2015. He was 74. And like me, he had 5 grandchildren, a wife and two grown kids. I was about 14 when I went to see Three Dog Night play a live concert.
I’m betting he left the planet thinking about the people he loved instead of thinking about himself. No way to really know, but one is the loneliest number.
So do you hustle – or need to hustle – just for yourself? That’s fine. It’s just not something I can quite relate to…or want to relate to. I’m not interested in being alone. To each his own.
So let’s think about what hustling looks like. What is hustle?
It’s doing the hard, arduous work of achieving something. It could be anything. It doesn’t have to be some high brow accomplishment. Let’s just call it something you want to accomplish. But first, there’s the hurdle, the constraint, the problem – the reason you can’t (or think you can’t) get it done. Something is standing in your way, preventing you from succeeding. This is the “if” part of your challenge.
You’d get it done if this would happen. Or that. Lots of if’s prevent you from being as accomplished as you’d like to be. Well, that’s what you think. And we both know it doesn’t matter if it’s real or imagined, it’s still powerful enough to stop you in your tracks. I won’t bother trying to talk you out of believing that whatever it is you fear is real. For you, it is real. That boogie man is lurking in the shadows of your bedroom ready to pounce. Go ahead, believe it.
Let me tell you why I don’t care if you believe it or not. Because it doesn’t matter! You’ve still got to do the work, boogie man or not. Besides, we’ve all got dragons in our life. Real or imaged. And we both know the imaged ones are often way more powerful than the real ones. Still, we have to do something. Or do nothing. Even the zaniest of us know that doing nothing won’t work. It never has.
Whatever dragons are challenging you are manifested in one big thing we all share – FEAR.
We’re afraid of all sorts of things. I love to hear those people, usually pro athletes, who proudly declare, “I ain’t afraid of nothin’ or nobody.” Yeah, keep telling yourself that, moron. I’d wager that cat is full of fear. That’s why he’s showing off all that bravado. He’s acting like I did as a little kid when I’d go walking down a dark hall in our house. I’m hum or whistle. For some idiotic reason I thought me making noise would make the hallway safe. Something about the sound coming out of me made me feel, ever so slightly, braver! Be loud Mr. Pro Football player. Show off. Brag. Let us see how fearless you are. You’re no braver than I was as a 4-year-old walking down a dark hall in my house.
Don’t expect me to tell you there’s nothing to fear. There’s plenty of stuff to fear. Sickness. Death. Lost jobs. Broken careers. Busted relationships. Financial disaster. Just open up your home page on your web browser and you’ll see tons of stories of bad things. This past weekend up in Stillwater, Oklahoma an awful incident happened that killed four and injured almost 50. Every second of every day and night – bad things happen. Still, we go about our business. As awful as things are for those families in Stillwater, people in Stillwater and elsewhere, are going about their business today. What are we to do? Be paralyzed? Do nothing? Not go about our daily business? Not live our life because four people lost theirs? It doesn’t mean we don’t care. It doesn’t mean we’re heartless. It just means it’s impractical for the world to stop at every occurrence of something bad.
Fear is realized for some. For the rest of us, we’re anxious that we may be next. Enter an ambition. Something we want to accomplish. New fears enter our world. It all piles on top of our shoulders like a weight bar filled with enough weight to drop us to our knees. We can’t move. Not an inch. Much less take a step. Or go fast.
Fear is the biggest thief of all.
The other day I told my wife, “If Chris Farley can do that idiotic shirtless dance I think I can find the courage to do whatever I need to do.” I was referencing a skit he did about a Chippendale audition. It was a funny sketch, but I remember watching it live in 1990 thinking, “The man has no shame.”
I don’t think it’s wise to be shameless. I do think it’s wise to be brave though. And I think it’s wise to take meaningful action in spite of whatever fears you’ve got. This isn’t carelessness. It’s not a lack of caution or exercising prudence. It’s the refusal to let some unknown outcome stop you from pursuing something worthwhile. And the unknown outcome – the fear – is almost always a far lesser negative thing than the positive outcome we hope to achieve.
Years ago I got certification to instruct sales call reluctance. During that time in my life (circa 1997 or so), I was wrestling with some professional drives. Namely, I was wondering if I wanted to keep doing what I was doing. I knew I had my own fears. And since I’d been involved in sales and sales management my entire adult life, I knew how real that fear was for me, and almost everybody else. But I knew I was smart enough to know, “What’s the worst thing that can happen?” Answer: the person will refuse to buy? Or, they’ll ridicule me? Or, they’ll dog cuss me? Those last 2 have NEVER happened to me. The first one has happened quite a lot. But here I am, alive to tell the tale. Yes, people have refused to buy whatever I was selling. And yet I’m still alive.
But other people did buy from me. And if I hadn’t made the offer, what about those people? By having the courage to make the offer, I was able to make some people happy – even though others just said, “No.”
If you’re not in sales, then you may not relate to that fear — but you have your own fear. Think about it. Keep thinking about it.
That’s your enemy. That’s what’s killing your hustle. And it’s that lack of hustle that’s killing your accomplishments. The reason you don’t achieve more in life is because of that. Nothing more.
I know you want to think life is more complicated and sophisticated than that, but it’s not. It’s actually pretty simple. Not easy, but simple. Losing is easy. Winning is hard.
Fear of failure. Fear of success. Fear, fear, fear. Who cares what you’re afraid of? Not me. Shoot, I don’t even care about my own fears! I know my fears have killed more dreams, stopped me from accomplishing more than any other single element in my life. There’s not even a close second. I know that’s true. And I also know Mark Twain was right.
Can’t you relate to that? Isn’t that true in your life, too?
This is urgent because nobody can achieve a dream without hustle. And if fear is what prevent most hustle, then I guess today’s show is really about that – hustling in spite of our fear.
Mr. Twain left us another great quote.
All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure.
And we know he’s right. Sometimes we outsmart ourselves. We know so much and that’s what sparks our fears.
Over 15 years ago when we got our two Westies, Rocky and Rosie, Rosie climbed on top of a retaining wall in our backyard. It’s one of those railroad ties walls. She went under the guard rail from our deck onto the top part of this retaining wall. Fearless. We watched her anxiously, but we left her alone. Even then she was adventurous – and still is. She didn’t know how dangerous it might be IF she fell. But she didn’t fall. She was a puppy and didn’t know better. It was Twain’s magical combo of ignorance and confidence. I think about stuff like that often and know that sometimes I fancy myself being too smart. I often wonder how I can unlearn something I already know. No, I haven’t yet figured it out. I have the hack my own head trash some other way.
Hustle abounds every time you see accomplishment. Every time!
Losing can abound even in spite of hustle, but you can’t succeed without hustle.
That simple math is always in play. No hustle = no chance for success. Hustle = no guarantee for success, but at least you give yourself an opportunity to win. So what’s it going to be? No chance? Or chance?
Then there’s this – the more you hustle, and the longer you hustle, the odds swing to your favor. That’s pretty simple math, too. It’s made even more simple because most people are going to quit. Even the ones who started out hustling. In time, they’ll get discouraged and quit. Others will give it only a half-hearted effort fooling themselves into thinking they’re really hustling. Those are the folks gathered in the break room at work griping about things. They whine and complain, devoting more energy to finding sympathetic listeners than to doing the work.
Fact: Success – or any worthwhile accomplishment – is arduous work. Rewarding, but tough. Wishing isn’t hustling. Dreaming isn’t either. It’s dialing the phone. Making the appointment. Writing the book. Submitting it. It’s playing music on the street. Or in a rinky dink joint where nobody is listening. It’s in taking action, not in thinking about taking action.
“I can see my way out of this trouble” sing Moon Taxi (how can you not love a band name like that?). But it begs the question for you. Can YOU see your way out of trouble?
If you’re like most of us – sometimes you can, sometimes you can’t. It kinda depends on how big the trouble is, and your resolve or resilience at the time. We’ve all been punched in the gut with some problem that blindsided us. It can take a bit to catch your breath and get the cobwebs out of your head – and to get that nauseous feeling out of your stomach.
I’ll warn you right now that this episode and the next one are going to focus on optimism. So if you want to embrace gloominess, get lost ’cause you’re not going to enjoy this two-part trip toward the Sunny Land of Optimism.
That opening track is the last track of the new record by Moon Taxi. They’re going to serve as the house band for today’s episode and their new record, Daybreaker, is going to be the soundtrack. I want you to go to iTunes and buy it right now. Here’s the Apple iTunes link. Do you prefer Google Play? Then click this link. It’s only $7.99 at either place. Eleven tracks of pure goodness for under 8 bucks!
Before we get underway let me introduce you to the boys in the band:
Trevor Terndrup – vocals, guitar, harmonica, didgeridoo, Native American flute
Spencer Thomson – guitars, tenor banjo, Wurlitzer, vocals
Tommy Putnam – electric and upright bass, vocals
Tyler Ritter – drums and percussion, vocals
They’re from Nashville. Well, since high school. They met while attending Belmont University in Nashville. This is their 4th studio record and I’m predicting it’s gonna help ’em break out from the pack. Like a brave cyclist in the Tour De France, I’m looking for these guys to sprint ahead and leave others gasping for breath to keep up. I hope they’re all holding up smiley faces with the release of this album. It came out October 2nd and I snapped it up immediately.
Okay, let’s get on with it. It’s about changing how we view the world and our circumstances. Instead of automatically thinking of all the things that can go wrong…let’s see if we can find ways to consider all the ways it might go right! It’s optimism.
I believe in positive talk, but I think optimism demands more. If you suffer depression seek out a mental health professional. Don’t go it alone. Don’t beat yourself up because you’re unable to remedy things alone. Depression is serious and I don’t want you to trifle with it. It’s not the same thing as being pessimistic. If you’re in a place where can see no way out of your trouble, I want you to love yourself enough – and your family and friends enough – to get some help. None of us can go it alone. We all need help. There’s no shame in it. In fact, it’s probably the most courageous thing you can do…to let somebody serve you. And I’d remind you that there are people who live to serve your needs. Don’t deny them the opportunity to do what they love. I know that feeling as a guy who coaches leaders and executives. I’m flattered and honored when clients let me serve them. I guarantee mental health professionals feel the same way!
Life, like business, can be broken down into a SWOT analysis. Strengths. Weakenesses. Opportunities. Threats. We’ve all got these things in our life. It’s just that sometimes we get too focused on the Weaknesses and Threats. We shove the Strengths and Opportunities to the back of the bus where we ignore them. I guess pessimism is our ability or tendency to let the challenges loom larger than anything else. It’s that “can’t see the forest for the trees” kind of a thing.
Out of the dark we go
Into the year zero
Pick me up when I’m down
Get my feet back on the ground
Holding on with our hands
I need you here to help me stand
We all go into the darkness every now and again. Don’t we? I know I do.
I don’t know what the boys were thinking when they wrote or recorded this song, but I know what I think of as I hear it. I think of how we ought to pick ourselves up and help other people get to their feet so we can start over. So what if we got knocked down? Everybody does. There’s no shame in thinking we’re weaker than anybody else just because we find ourselves on the ground every now and then.
When my son started playing hockey he was already a good skater. Part of being a good skater is staying on your feet. Turn on any NHL hockey game and watch just a few minutes. These guys are world class skaters. Since hockey is a physical sport with checking, where opposing players are trying to knock the guy with the puck off the puck, you’ll see the guy with the puck get abused as much as legally possible. You’ll see him, and other players on the ice, get knocked down every single shift. You won’t see an NHL player go to the ice, stay there, slowly get up, embarrassed that he lost his balance. No, they pop right back up and keep going. Being knocked down is part of the game. It’s not about being knocked down. It’s about how quickly you get back up and get back into the play.
Well, Ryan didn’t like being knocked down when he started. He avoided the physical contact. I suspected it wasn’t because of fear of the contact, but it appeared fear of shame of being knocked down. I think in his head he associated falling down (even it was from being knocked down by an opposing player) with being a poor skater. Nope. Got nothing to do with that. It’s just part of the game. Every single NHL player gets knocked to the ice many times every game. All of them. I don’t care how good they can skate. If they don’t get knocked down, it means they’re not engaging the opponent and playing as hard as they can. It doesn’t happen…because NHL teams won’t allow any player to be a slacker. To play at that level, you’ve got to give it all you’ve got every time you play.
For Ryan, it wasn’t physical. He was a gifted skater. It was head trash. He had to find a place in his mind where he understood that sometimes his feet were going to be knocked out from under him. The question was, “What are you going to do now?” And, “How long are you going to stay down?” The longer you stay down, the more opportunity you give to the other team. The greater your threat if you stay down.
Isn’t that how it is in your life? I know that’s exactly how it is in my life. It’s hard to defend yourself against the struggles of life when you’re flat on your back and you’ve given up. That’s what life wants you to do. But you’ve got to be more tenacious than that. You have to get back up without embarrassment knowing that YOU can’t focus on some false shame you might feel, thinking people are looking at you, laughing at you. Trust me. They aren’t. They’re too busy watching their own life, worried that they’ll fall flat on their back. Besides, the longer you lay there the longer you give people the chance to see you laying there (see what I did there?). 😉
Resolve. Keep going…all day, all night.
Do people sometimes see you hanging by a thread? Probably. But here’s the thing. That’s a moment in time. It just doesn’t feel that way. But think about it. You can look at your troubles as lasting all day, all night. Or you can think of your resilience lasting all day, all night. Isn’t that a choice we can consciously make? We can unless we’re battling some mental health issues. I once coached a young man who was struggling with depression. He wasn’t able to see resilience. He didn’t have any. Instead, he couldn’t get his focus off his problems. He needed help and thankfully, at my urging, went to a doctor who prescribed some medication to help him. It wasn’t a crutch. It was the help he needed to turn the tables on his problems. His problems weren’t any worse than yours or mine, but he just couldn’t see how to get back to his feet. The doctor helped and it made all the difference in his life.
When we can see clearly, we have to realize that even our worst problems – maybe the death of somebody very special to us – is a moment in time. It’s a moment in time when the pain seems unbearable, but still we bear up. The loss remains, but the pain lessens. We’re consumed with thoughts of our loss, at first. But over time, those thoughts are broken up with other thoughts. Joyful thoughts. Productive thoughts. We may never get over the loss, but we recover. We regain our footing and that loss doesn’t define the entirety of our lives. And that’s with DEATH. The death of somebody we love dearly.
Few things compare to that kind of problem. So if you’re struggling financially, or with your health. Or with the health of a loved one. Or if you’re fretful about a relationship like your marriage. The problem – whatever it may be – can seem like it’s going to last all day and all night…OR you can decide instead that you’re going to make your resolve last all day and all night. That’ll make your problem just this moment in time. A time that is sure to pass, if the Lord allows us to live a little bit longer.
I look back at the struggles of my life and even those that seemed to last a long, long time — in the grand scheme of my life, they were days, weeks, months, perhaps just a few years. But they had an end. Sometimes I did a poor job of looking toward the end, immersing myself in my pain and suffering. That only made the pain last longer. I wish I had flipped things on their head and instead chosen to embrace my own tenacity and like those NHL skaters, hopped right back up and gotten myself busy in the play. It would have served me far better.
We all have our stories
We all made it through
Oh but I don’t know if I would have made it without you
Oh but I don’t know if I would have made it without you
Do you run right back to the people in your life who love you, and are willing to help you? Is that what you do when trouble hits?
Or do you run away and hide?
I know why you hide. I know why I hide. Shame. Embarrassment. Shame of what? Embarrassed about what?
That we fell down. That we failed. That we took a shot and it didn’t work out. You know the shame we should feel — the shame of neglect. The shame of being selfish. The shame of our poor conduct. Not the shame of a worthy effort that just didn’t pay off. Or the shame of a good attempt to make something positive happen, just because it turned out poorly. No shame in that.
When we run into trouble we don’t need to run away. We need to right back to the people who love us and will support us. The people willing to extend their hand and help us back up. But so often those are the very people we lash out at in our anger at our own problems. We take it out on the folks who most want to help us. We can do better. They deserve better. We deserve their help and they deserve our trust and opportunity to help.
You want to be there for your family and friends, don’t you? You want your wife or husband to confide in you? Then be willing to confide in them. Run right back to the people who can make the biggest impact in your life. They want you to.
Problems, if we give them permission, can turn into destinations instead of events or circumstances.
We have to get ready to go. We don’t want to stay here with this problem. This problem needs to end. It needs to go away, or at the very worst, it needs to be handled and endured. Either way, it’s like the old adage said of when the party shuts down or the bar closes, “You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.” Unfortunately, sometimes we do want to stay here and our problems are happy to have us stay. How does nurturing the problem help though? Instead, shouldn’t we be busy nurturing a solution, a way out, or a way to better cope?
Preparation, preparation, preparation. Mentally. Emotionally. Physically. That’s the stuff we all need. And I’m not talking about procrastination. I’m not talking about prepping, prepping and prepping because we’re fearful, or worried we’re not ready. I’m talking about putting in the work do we can be ready to go. Optimism is hard work and you’ve got to be ready for it or it won’t happen. It’s not some magical sensation that just sweeps over you.
I’ll tell you what works for me. Now I’m a faith-based guy so keep that in mind. God is important in my life. Yes, I think He should be important in your life, too. A very good friend of mine is a preacher with a web series of sermons (they’re often broadcast on local TV in some markets, too). I help do the webwork for this project because it’s an important work. You can check it out if you’re interested: Let The Bible Speak TV.
I bring that up because it’s an enormous part of my preparation. The heart of my preparation is thanksgiving. I’m not lucky, but I am blessed. When I’m down and out and prone to gloominess, I stop and think of how blessed I am. And I thank God for the basic, but powerful things. Things like being married to a good woman for the past 37 years. Like having two good Christian kids who married good Christian mates. And for 5 healthy grandkids. I’m thankful to be an American citizen where the opportunities abound, the water is clean and food is plentiful. I’m thankful for my family and friends. I’m thankful for the Church that Jesus died and purchased with His blood. I’m thankful for forgiveness of sins and all the spiritual blessings found only in Christ. So many things that I might be prone to take for granted — thanksgiving for these things compels me to be optimistic. How can it not?
That’s how my preparation begins. And yes, I pray for wisdom. Leaning Toward Wisdom isn’t possible for me without the help of God. I ponder, think and meditate all along the way working hard to prepare to make the best decision I can. But preparation is useless until and unless you take action. What are you going to do to be ready to go? You need a plan. Then you need to execute that plan. Don’t camp out in the land of your troubles. Be quick to get ready to go.
It seems obviously a story of a guy asking a woman to make up her mind if she’s gonna stay or go. He ends saying he’s made up his own mind. But let’s apply the song title at least to our point today — to make up our mind to see our way (maybe find our way) out of our troubles. Sometimes trouble lingers because we’re just not decisive enough. We loiter around trouble too much. We hope trouble will just suddenly go away all on its own. Or we hope good news will arrive at our doorstep and knock down our front door. Then we’re disappointed, maybe even depressed, when none of that happens. Leaving life to chance or hope is a poor strategy. Instead, we need to make up our mind to find a solution to what ails us.
This is where some of that preparation can help. If we’re prepped our mind to accept that bad things happen, and that they’re moments in time waiting on us to respond, then maybe it can be easier for us to make up our mind. We need to make up our mind to respond in the best way possible so we can get past the problems.
Every adult knows that much of our life is determined by how we look at our life. If we make up our mind to be sad, we’re sad. If we make up our mind to be miserable, we’re miserable. Why can’t joy and happiness and contentment work the same way? They do. They’re just harder. They take greater concentration. Choosing the harder way is often more profitable, but just not as much fun. Misery, fun? Sure, don’t you know people who aren’t happy unless they’re miserable? I do. Some people enjoy moaning and groaning about how bad their life is. Folklore would have us believe it takes far more muscles to frown than to smile, but science doesn’t seem to bear that out. No matter, it’s still better to smile than to frown, unless of course the situation warrants a frown (I’m thinking of my granddaughter who can behave in ways where I need to shoot her a frown to show my disapproval). 😉 But frowning is easier for many people. Why not make smiling a habit? Cause it’s not natural for some of us. It’s hard.
Everything is hard…until it’s easy.
It’s one of my favorite quotes. Supposedly it’s by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. I’m also a big fan of that quote attributed to him that supposedly wasn’t by him. How that’s for a brain twister?
Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back — concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that 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 favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way.
Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.
Whoever said it or wrote it deserves a medal. It’s still among my favorite pieces of prose. Very thought provoking.
Embrace the hard stuff. Make up your mind to do it anyway. Think of all the things you’ve never done because you just didn’t get started. I’m thinking of the thing that so often comes up here for me – my big barometer of neglect in my life. Playing the guitar. For more than 30 years I’ve kept a guitar (not the same one, but I’ve kept at least one around). Yet I’ve never made up my mind to do the arduous work of learning to play. I’d love to play, but so far I’m unwilling to do the hard part – going through the grind to learn. The result isn’t possible without the work. So it goes for our ability to handle our troubles successfully. They won’t just magically disappear. We need to make up our mind to jump on them.
Cuz who’s to say that I’m crazy
Keep it to yourself
Who’s to say what you should do or how you should do it? They sing of going it alone in this song, but when it comes to tackling our problems…no, don’t do that. But there are times when you have to go it alone, kinda sorta. Back up there in that making up your mind stuff…you need to decide for yourself. Yes, do it with wise counsel, but in the end…you have to decide. Who’s to say you should do this, or that? It’s your life. These are your opportunities or troubles. Easy for me to jump in the backseat and tell you how you ought to go, but you’ve go the wheel of your own life. Take it. Grab it with hands at 10 and 2. Keep it between the lines.
Who’s to say you’re crazy? Or that you’re making a foolish choice? Now, don’t be foolish. I’m not talking about choices like drug abuse, alcoholism or some other destructive behavior. Don’t choose those. Those are stupid choices. Who’s to say? The wise. That’s who.
But when life gives you the choices and none seem very obvious, it’s YOU who must decide. People may think you’re crazy for pursuing a course of action they can’t relate to, or a choice they would never make. Happens all the time. Maybe it’s a person who wants to perform music for a living, but friends and family tell them they’re crazy. Or a person who wants to create art, but everybody tells them it’ll never work. They’ll never make a living “doing art.” Who’s to say? It’s your life and you have to be responsible for the way you’re going to go…and how you’re going to do it.
Always with you.
Who is it you’re always with. Who is it you want to feel as though you’re always with? Think of an important person. A person you can associate the word ALWAYS with.
I’ve got one prominent person, my wife Rhonda. We’re in it together…ALWAYS. It’s a non-negotiable relationship. I hope you’ve got one of those.
But I’ve got others, too. Admittedly they’re not as vital, but they’re important. Close seconds. My kids and my grandkids. And I include my son-in-law and my daughter-in-law with “my kids.” That’s family. My tribe. The people who are part of my ALWAYS. And there are others beyond that, too, but you get the drift.
What about YOU? Who are the always for you?
It’s a 2-way street for me. I want to ALWAYS be there for them, and I want them to ALWAYS be there for me. We’re always together. That’s why the word WITH is so important.
We can only be with each other if we’re serving each other. It demands all of us remain dutiful in our service to each other. We don’t abuse each other. We don’t trample on each other. We behave respectfully toward each other. And we’ve got far more in common than not.
Everybody need reliable people in their life with whom they can battle trouble. I’m a pretty open guy, willing to embrace candid conversation with people close to me. I’m not hesitant to share with people I care about. I want people who are always with me to share and lean on me. I admit I prefer to be the one leaned upon instead of the one needing to lean on…but I’m learning. And lately I’ve grown somewhat in this area, but only because I’ve made it a conscious choice. I’ve intentionally leaned on people for support recently. I know I need other people. I need their prayers, their support and their encouragement. Turns out I’ve got quite a few people who are always with me…and it’s a powerful thing.
You’ve got the fight in your eyes
And now we’re shining under red hot lights
The truth burns bright as the sun
We gonna come back and show everyone
Do you have the fight in your eyes? Trouble often demands a fight. Maybe it always does. Sometimes it’s a bare-knuckled affair with no rules. Other times it’s just a leveraged judo throw. Trouble comes in all shapes, sizes and degrees of aggressiveness…and ferocity. Still, you have to fight.
There’s no time to sit on your stool in the corner. Trouble will kick you in the gut, knock you down and drag you out back for an even bigger beating. Unless you fight.
Sure, it’s often times about showing trouble who’s boss. But here’s the thing. If you don’t fight, trouble will win. If you fight, you may not have to be accomplished, or all that skillful. Trouble can be like the thief looking for an easy score. Sometimes just a little resistance is enough to show trouble the door. And just like the bashful thief looking for an easier mark, trouble will sometimes make a hasty retreat because there are just too many other options. There are way too many people who will lie down and take the abuse so trouble has no reason to linger at the door of a fighter. But you never know until you start to fight back.
Sometimes it’s hard to determine how fierce trouble is going to be. Sometimes it’s easy. Serious sickness. Death. Horrible loss. These are troubles that reveal instant fierceness. When these hit, we know we have to hit back just as hard as we can. We have to bring out our big guns because these are serious threats. But most of our troubles aren’t so intense. Quite often they’re worrisome and we hope they don’t grow or morph into something more deadly. Fear will grip us if we let it. We’ll imagine this trouble growing and multiplying. And it will if we embrace those thoughts. Instead, we need to pull a Barney Fife.
Trouble will knock us down like dominos.
If we allow the first one to fall, it’s easier for others to fall. That’s why trouble too often gains momentum. We stand by and watch it fall. Then another, and another. And another. But it’s not nearly as entertaining as those elaborate domino set ups you can watch on YouTube.
Fight the fight. We’re all in this boat together. Let’s all lean to the right – toward wisdom and we’ll keep this boat afloat!