Randy Cantrell

Randy Cantrell is the founder of Bula Network, LLC, a boutique coaching company specializing in peer groups to help people leverage the power of others. Visit the website at ThePowerOfOthers.com.

Amnesia: Convenient or Productive

Amnesia: Convenient or Productive

“I remember it the way it should have been.”   – An old man once told me whilst reminiscing about the past

A truthful admission. Confession is good for the soul. But accurate recall is also good. And right!

Remembering the right thing requires that we first do the right thing. The only way to remember it the way it should have been is to have done what should have been done. It’s like telling the truth versus telling lies. Tell the truth and stop worrying. Because it’s the truth. Tell lies and you have to become a master juggler or be found out a liar. It begins with doing the right thing. Telling the truth. Making the right decision. Doing what’s right.

That’s how we can prevent the need for convenient amnesia.

An NFL quarterback throws a pick-six (an intercepted ball the opposing team runs back for a touchdown). The announcer remark, “He has to put that behind him and forget about it.” Within minutes when the quarterback gets the ball back, we find out whether or not he can forget the horrible mistake he just made.

Sports are filled with such instances. Aaron Judge is chasing a home run record as I hit record today. The pressure must be intense. After all, he’s a New York Yankee chasing a Yankee and an American League record, but he’s currently stuck on number 60. Striking out. Walking. Base hits here and there. Does he let his mind linger on the strikeouts? Maybe. His ability to forget it and move on, knowing the next at-bat is going to be a new opportunity to achieve the record — that’s going to make the difference in his success. He’ll figure it out. Great athletes almost always do. It’s one trait that makes them great – their ability to practice productive amnesia.

Convenient amnesia is delusion. It’s inaccurate and heavily biased in our favor. “I remember it the way it should have been.”

Productive amnesia is moving forward. It’s the realization that we failed in the past, but now we’re going to take advantage of the opportunity in front of us. 

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“Regrets, I’ve had a few,” sings Sinatra in that classic song, My Way.

Regrets, I’ve had a fewBut then again too few to mentionI did what I had to doI saw it through without exemptionI planned each charted courseEach careful step along the bywayAnd more, much, much moreI did it, I did it my way

Too few to mention is likely an understatement for most of us. If we’re willing to be honest with ourselves.

For me, it’s less about regrets and more about what lessons those regrets teach me. I work at fixing my mind on a single question, “Now what?”

Convenient amnesia gets in the way because of pride. I may not always want to admit I was stupid, foolish or that I failed. A big part of convenient amnesia is also that woulda-coulda-shoulda feeling we’ve all had. Those times when we wished we had made a different decision, or taken a different action – those times when we regret what we did or we regret what we neglected to do.

Six to eight months ago – and before – when the real estate markets were going crazy we talked about putting our house on the market, but we weren’t ready. For lots of reasons. Mostly because we had yet to embark on our mission to purge and declutter our lives. We talked about it, but we had yet to back our ears and do it.

During those times people stabbed a “for sale” sign in their yard and within days (sometimes hours) the houses were scarfed up, sold above asking price in many cases. We’re feeling that woulda-shoulda-coulda feeling about it, wishing we had prepared ourselves to take advantage, but we didn’t.

It’s not the first time we’ve felt that way. Truth is, real estate has never been my friend. 😉 All our married life we’ve found ourselves, due to career moves, needing to leave one place and move to a different place where the markets just never lined up to benefit us. In this part of the country – Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana – we inevitably needed to sell a house in a stagnant or down market and move to a less stagnant or upmarket. It’s not a recipe for solid financial growth. I always joked with older friends who declared they made money on every house they ever bought, that my real estate strategy was simple, “I like to buy high and sell low!” It’s just how timing worked against us – and every time we regretted it even though it was beyond our control. The generation that was 6-10 years older than us always seemed to be in a better place on the market cycle. But we had friends and neighbors who lost money so we felt thankful that we never did that. Mostly, we made a little bit or broke even.

But it still doesn’t stop a person from feeling regret – wishing things had been different. Better!

Wishing won’t make it so. Best to learn whatever you can from such things, then move forward. “Now what?”

The present circumstances. The present facts. Those are critical components in all this. We only know what we know at the time we make our choices. Sometimes we don’t know enough. Sometimes we misread things. It’s why the quest for clarity is so important. We can lean on others and get some insights from their perspective. We can ask questions and get answers. We can prioritize our goals. There are a number of effective things we can do to see things more clearly.

A good friend told me back in the summer, “I don’t know why you don’t have a “for sale” sign in your yard right now!” There’s some clarity I wished I had listened to, but I already knew he was right. We just weren’t prepared mentally, emotionally, or physically. And we continued to tell ourselves and each other (my wife and me), “We need weeks to get ready.” Procrastination set in. It was easier to put it off than to dive in and do the work. It always is.

Until we started and then it became an avalanche of productive work purging our lives of the clutter and stuff we didn’t need. By the time we started that work the economy was crashing with high-interest rates and even higher inflation. Days on the market continued to inch upward until it finally was drastically higher than it had been months earlier. The market was like that viral video from Brazil where a group of people doing some cross-fit training ran on the sidewalk through a restaurant area where people were seated eating. The diners panicked seeing these folks running so they jumped up, leaving their meals to run away from something they supposed was dangerous. None of them, other than the cross-fit folks, knew why they were running or what they were running from (or for). That’s how markets work. Herd mentality kicks in.

Ben was offered a job. A great job in an industry he wanted to break into. But he was unsure what to do so he delayed. He didn’t talk with anybody, opting instead to wallow around about it for a few days. By the time he thought he may want to accept it, it was too late. The company figured he was less than enthusiastic about the offer so they moved on with another candidate. Immediately he begins to berate himself wishing he’d just quickly accepted the job. Woulda-coulda-shoulda.

Will ongoing regret serve him?

No. But like us, he’s finding it hard to get over it. He can’t forget it. Well, he claims he can’t, but he can if he puts in the work. Like our purging project, it’s hard when all you’re doing is dreading it. It only gets easier when you start doing it. If he decides to practice productive amnesia he’ll be able to more quickly figure out, “Now what?”

There’s something amazingly true about history – particularly our history with our choices. We only know the outcomes of the choices we made. We assume we know what the outcome would have been if we’d done something different. Many times we assume if we’d done it differently it would have worked out better. Maybe. Maybe not.

Ben may have launched a productive new career. That’s what he initially thinks after the opportunity is lost. Ben may have embarked on a job he hated though. It may have been one of the worst choices of his life. He doesn’t consider that though. In his mind, it was like a lottery-hitting moment that he squandered. All we know is he missed the opportunity by delaying. He didn’t get the job. Whether or not the job would have worked out, whether or not he would have loved it, whether or not it would have led to a long-term career in that space – we don’t know. We’ll never know.

Rhonda and I can think, “Man, if we had sold our house during the boom we’d have sold it within days and gotten above the asking price for it.” But we’ll never know. We may just assume that’s how it would have played out.

Like Ben – what difference does it make what we assume may have happened? Are we benefitted in any way by dwelling on that? What lessons can we learn? What lessons can Ben learn?

I don’t know because the stories are still unfolding.

Did Ben do the right thing? He doesn’t feel like he did. But we don’t know the future and that’s the rub. Months from now Ben might get an opportunity that makes that first offer look awful. We don’t know.

Did we do the right thing? It can feel that way, but we don’t know our future either. Circumstances might prove favorable for our delay.

The naysayer will declare, “Well, that’s stupid. Ben should have jumped on it. You guys should have taken advantage of a hot market.”

I don’t disagree, but that’s not what happened. This isn’t about looking back with no regret, but it’s about managing the regret so we can move forward. It’s about – as it almost always is – not deceiving ourselves. It’s about not allowing ourselves to be stuck in a blame game, a regret game or worse yet – a paralyzing game where we take no action.

Ben could have jumped on the job and if it proved not what he wanted, he then could have made a different choice.

Rhonda and I could have jumped on the hot real estate market and sold our house quickly – and maybe for more than we even wanted.

Those are absolutely true.

There’s value in all of us facing that reality. Ben won’t serve himself by using every excuse as to why he lollygagged around in accepting the offer. He didn’t. Nuff said. Now what?

Ben needs to spend time trying to figure out why he procrastinated. He may find there was something not quite right about that job, or the offer. He delayed for a reason or a variety of reasons. Ben will benefit from figuring out those reasons. Doing that will likely help him grow and move forward.

Or he could decide that he’s going to regret it for a long time and blame somebody or something. He could lament specific things about the offer he didn’t quite like. For starters, he was hoping it would pay more. Maybe that got in his way and he can point to that, “If they’d have offered me $5K more I’d have taken it.” Whatever the reasons – or excuses – Ben will be best served by coming to grips with it, accepting full responsibility for the outcome, and working like crazy to get to a point where he focuses on, “Okay, now what?”

We can devote our days regretful that we didn’t jump into action to get our house on the market when things were insane. We can make all sorts of excuses for why we weren’t ready and why we were getting ready. Truth is, we weren’t and we didn’t. Was it a mistake? We don’t know. Do we regret it? Of course. We absolutely regret it. Will our regret bring back the missed opportunity? No. It never does.

Like the failure of the professional athlete – whether it’s a baseball player who strikes out, or a quarterback to throws an interception – we have to forget it and move forward. It happened. We wished it hadn’t. We think it was a bad outcome, far from our ideal outcome. It’s not what we wished to have happened, but it did happen!

Now what?

We either face reality, accept responsibility and get past it, or…we languish in regret and let the story end with our failure. 

I can’t end with another truth that impacts me and Rhonda. God.

God didn’t make our choices for us. He leaves that up to each one of us, but God has some distinct advantages. He knows everything, including the future. He also has our best eternal interests in mind. Life here doesn’t always go so well. Sometimes we struggle with things we can’t overcome so we have to just endure them. But unless we allow it, our circumstances here – great, good, or bad – don’t have to impact our eternity. God doesn’t suffer the loss of priorities we sometimes do. If we’ll devote ourselves to serving Him He’ll serve us by helping us remain redeemed. Additionally, He has the power to use the circumstances of our lives to best serve us. That includes those choices we think were missed opportunities.

This much is sure. We are not in full control of our life. There are many circumstances and actions taken by others that are far beyond our control…yet they can impact us. This whole “Now what?” way of thinking is intended to help us focus on only what we can control – ourselves. What will we think at this moment? What we will do? What choices will we make?

The rest? I’m learning to leave that up to God praying that the outcome will be the best for us spiritually.

It doesn’t prevent me from talking with God asking Him, or even pleading with Him, for what I hope to accomplish, but even Jesus, the Son of God made the appropriate plea following His own desires, “not my will, but Thine be done!”

And so it goes.

Randy Cantrell

P.S. If you’d like to sample some sermons visit InThyPaths.com for some of mine or to hear a better preacher check out LetTheBibleSpeak.tv where evangelist Kevin Presley preaches.

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I Don't Know If I Can, But I'm Gonna Try

I Don’t Know If I Can, But I’m Gonna Try

Let me start by acknowledging my dad’s 99th birthday today. Born on September 29, 1923, he’s seen quite a lot in his lifetime.

Happy 99th Birthday To Jeff Cantrell
Geoffrey “Jeff” Cantrell celebrates his 99th birthday today

I grew up hearing, “You never until you try.” I wish I could say that trying was always easy.

My biggest fears as a kid involved girls. Go figure.

Logically, I was bold. Practically, I was a coward.

My best friend had a girlfriend, but no car. I had a car, but no girlfriend. He wanted to go out on a double date so he began pressuring me to ask out somebody. Anybody.

I had a friend – she was in our social circle and we shared many classes – who I liked. She was attractive and popular. We were at his house mulling over a strategy and I mentioned I’d like to ask her out. He was less than encouraging telling me that she’d never go out with me. Stupid on his part since he had no car and was wanting me to ask out somebody. Oh well. We were 16 and not terribly savvy about such things.

I pushed back asking him, “What’s the worst thing that can happen? She rejects me.” His stupidity continued though, “And she tells everybody she knows, which is EVERYBODY.”

I’m in his room thinking that if she does that it’ll have a lifespan of less than a day. High school drama about something so small is sure to be bested by something larger within a 24-hour high school news cycle.

But I was scared. Scared to dial the number. Scared to talk to her.

Inexperience does that, which is why my favorite quote remains…

Everything is hard until it’s easy.

Nothing about this was easy. Dealing with my friend. Working up the courage to figure out what to do, and what to say. Controlling my heart rate. It was all hard.

Eventually, I dialed the number and asked her. She accepted and my buddy was completely blown away. The guy just didn’t know when to quit being stupid. It took a while before he celebrated the fact that we now had the double date booked – the double date he was desperate to make happen. No, at this moment after I hung up the successful phone call he was dog-piling the whole situation with disbelief that the endeavor had proven successful.

I didn’t know if I could, but I tried. Turns out I could get a date with a girl who my buddy thought was beyond the reach of a troglodyte like me.

I was younger than 16 when I first picked up a guitar. I wanted to learn. So I bought a book. I tried. Well, okay, maybe that’s too strong a term to describe my effort. And maybe I was less motivated for this endeavor than I was in asking a girl out for a date.

Weeks passed and it seemed to me that my mind just wasn’t going to cooperate with me learning the play the guitar. Even if my mind did kick in, I wasn’t sure my hands would comply. Besides, there sure seemed to be a lot of math-like skills required.

YouTube didn’t yet exist. Neither did the Internet. Cable TV either. We were still burying dinosaurs in those days so everything was harder!

I don’t think I lasted a month. I gave up. I tried and failed…destined to own guitars from then on, but never being able to play on.

Trying doesn’t insure success. Trying harder won’t either. Sometimes we fail no matter how hard or how long we work at it.

During a late-night headphone music session Gavin DeGraw’s song, “I’m Gonna Try” began to play. It’s an older 2013 song of his that I hadn’t listened to in a while. I’d already been thinking about a few things I wanted to try as we’re making some changes in our life. I wasn’t thinking too much about whether or not I could because most of the things I was pondering were things I was 100% confident I could do.

I had been thinking about time together with my wife. There’s lots of time wasted apart doing what has to be done to sustain life. Tons of things involved in just daily living. You know. We all know. Our to-do list never seems to get fully done. It’s less of a list and more like a never-ending cycle. A hamster wheel of daily activities that suck our time.

Well, I was thinking about how one big goal I have is to live a life with the shortest possible to-do list. The kind of to-do list required of all of us – think doing laundry, caring out the trash. But those aren’t weekly events that demand the same commitment as yard work and pool work.

For years, our typical late afternoons are consumed with getting things done. Necessary things. Drive up and down the street and it’s what we’re all doing. Those of us who aren’t doing it are paying somebody else to do it. Rhonda and I are too frugal and not lazy enough to go that route.

Imagine having 3-5 more hours every day. I had been doing that for weeks – thinking about how Rhonda and I could continue to deepen our connection. If you think after 44 years of marriage you can just ride it out, you’re nuts. Besides, I’m wired toward improvement and highly motivated to grow. I had been thinking of what we might do with that time that we hadn’t had since we were first married. But this is different.

We got married and moved into married housing at LSU. It was awesome. I loved it. Everything about it. I loved her, of course. But I loved our little apartment. I was a bike ride away from any and every class. We drove cars to work, but there’s something pretty special about a college campus. We spent a little bit of time – but not much ’cause the place was so small – making it our own. It was fun. Rewarding. But it wasn’t requiring hours every day. On Saturday mornings we’d clean the place and it didn’t take long, but it was a weekly ritual that I enjoyed. Mostly, I enjoyed us doing things together. Other than working, most everything we did, we did together.

Over time that changes. For every married couple, I suspect. It doesn’t mean you grow apart, although too many do. It just means she’s busy with something she enjoys and I’m busy with something I enjoy. I don’t enjoy sewing. She doesn’t enjoy podcasting. But when we were younger, time wise we were more into each other than we are now. It’s the practical reality of decades of marriage. At least for us. It’s not a barometer of our love for one another. It’s more a barometer of our mutual introversion and ability to be alone pursuing something we enjoy. No, it doesn’t mean we enjoy it more than we enjoy each other…but it means our lives are broader and we have independent things we want to pursue. We’ve never pursued things outside our home. Our pursuits happen in separate spaces under the same roof.

So I’m thinking of how to incorporate more things we can do together, but I’m focused on things she’d want to do together. I’m thinking of the local places we might investigate. The walks around places we’ve never walked before. The meals we could share, at home or elsewhere. By the time I’m hearing Gavin sing “I’m Gonna Try” I’ve been pondering for weeks the idea of having 20-25 hours a week together that we’ve not in over 40 years. My anticipating was (and is) extremely high.

But I began to wonder about the changes we’re making – and the ones we’ve got planned – and the first phrase emerged.

I Don’t Know If I Can…

Firstly, I thought, “Well, that’s never stopped me before.” It can slow me down for sure. Like asking the girl on a date. We were in my buddy’s bedroom with his phone right in front of me for who knows how long before I finally dialed. 😉

I’m 100% confident about this most important endeavor because it involved the person I love the most and I know my level of determination. But there are other things afoot in some longer-term plans about which I’m not nearly as sure.

It’s worth the risk.

Each of us has to decide if the thing we’re gonna try is worth the risk of finding out we can’t.

One way we’ve tackled this risk if by carefully thinking through one question.

What do we most want the next year or so to look like?

For Rhonda and me it’s about not getting too far ahead of ourselves in execution but getting far enough ahead with our strategy, or hopes. Both of us have personalities that want to know. Neither of us loves surprises. We both enjoy planning. Scheming is often the most fun of all. It’s less about fearing a loss of control and it’s more about robbing ourselves of the time spent planning and anticipating.

What’s next? That’s always a fitting question for us. And I mean what is the very next step?

We always begin with the end result – the ideal outcome. From there we work our way toward figuring out the very first step we need to take to go in that direction. Then we live with it for a bit. We normally don’t agree 100% of the time right out of the gate with an idea. That contributes to far better outcomes though as we debate, think through, and consider what each of us wants most.

Sometime in the next year or so, Lord willing, we’re going to look more seriously into creating the ideal outcome that will take us far beyond the next year or so. It’s our big goal and it involves something we’ve never done. Well, that’s not exactly accurate – the whole project involves at least a few things we’ve never done and a few things we’ve not done in a very long time.

So far we’ve mitigated risks because we’re not at a stage of life where risks are acceptable. We’re gonna try, but we don’t know if we can pull off our goal. For us, failure will happen on paper and in our minds. We’ll count the cost and figure out if we can succeed or not. So that’s our safety net, but you still have to try.

In a previous show, I talked about watching more parades, my metaphor for how to be more encouraging to people’s dreams. Too many people crush the dreams of others without giving them much thought. They just express disbelief or lack of confidence in the person’s ambitions. At best, many people just don’t know how to encourage people because they’re too busy judging how stupid or ridiculous the idea is. We think, “Man, I wouldn’t do that.” But we’re not them and it may be ideal for them.

We’ve got some friends who are much younger than us and they’ve had some big dreams for the past few years. When they first shared those dreams with us we were pretty thrilled for them. And told them so. It’s their dream. Not ours. Did it seem fantastical? Sure, but why dream small? As fantastical as it was they had a plan and a commitment. Like us, they strategized and figured out what it would take. Projecting into the future they felt confident they’d know whether or not they could succeed. The risk of failure we primarily in them not being able to pull the trigger – or having to lower their dream. Like us, they don’t see that as much of a risk at all. As I create this episode they’ve achieved their goal. I’ve been as excited for them because it fuels my own optimism for what I want to achieve.

I don’t know if I can, but I’m gonna try.

The temptation is to think we’ll either succeed or fail, but there are other outcomes. We will learn. We’ll adjust. Failure may only be our first attempt. After a handful of adjustments, we may find success. We may find out that our plans, which exist only on paper or in our head, aren’t practical or realistic. So again, we adjust if we can. Or we ditch that idea in favor of something more achievable. The options are almost limitless.

Can we achieve what we’re planning? We don’t know, but we’re gonna try.

We’re going to keep noodling the idea, which is now on iteration number 5 or so. And I have to tell you that I was getting super excited about iteration 4, but Rhonda finally blurted out a big objection she had to it – and it was a great and valid objection. One I didn’t know was as big for her as it is. So she offered an alternative, which – at least on paper – turns out to be extraordinarily better. I don’t mean a little bit better…I mean exponentially better. It’s the power of two people with a shared goal, willing to collaborate and approach the problem (or opportunity) from different perspectives! No, it’s not as one friend of mine joked, that our wives are smarter. Nor is it about husbands being smarter. Fact is, at least for us, we’re smarter together than we are alone!

That process is fun. Lots of fun.

Today, we’re mapping out on paper our plan. We don’t know if we can do it or not, but we’re gonna try. That means we’re going to figure out how much it’ll cost to achieve what we’ve planned. Could be that it’s cost prohibitive. Could be it’s not. We have to find out. When we find out we’ll know whether we can move forward or we’ll have to adjust. Either way, we win. We’re not going to fail completely.

In Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back is the famous exchange:

Luke: Master, moving stones around is one thing. This is totally different.
Yoda: No. No different. Only different in your mind. You must unlearn what you have learned.
Luke: All right, I’ll give it a try.
Yoda: No. Try not. Do… or do not. There is no try.

In one sense, that’s right. We have to take action. We can’t merely think about, dream about, or even strategize about doing something.

In another sense, it’s wrong. No success is achieved without trying. The danger of trying is failing. The danger of not trying is failing.

Had the girl I called turned me down I would have suffered defeat. Rejection. My buddy would have laughed maniacally. Perhaps she would have mockingly told the entire school that I had asked her out. “Can you believe HE asked me out?”

All of those were possible. Maybe probable.

So I could have sat in my buddy’s bedroom and refused to call her. Then I’m not defeated, or am I? Of course, I’m defeated because I didn’t even try. Then I’d have been left with all the thoughts of what might have happened if I had dialed.

So you gotta try.

The Yellow Studio began in my head. I thought about what I wanted to do. I thought about how I wanted to do it. I did my research talking with people who knew the broadcast workflow I most wanted to follow. Quickly I discovered in more detail what I already knew, “It’s gonna take hardware and hardware is more expensive than software.” At that point I could have adjusted and decided I’d alter the broadcast workflow in favor of the recording workflow. But I didn’t. Because I was able to calculate the cost of hardware. Armed with that number I could then decide what to do. No failure at that point. I could have made any decision I wanted including abandoning the entire idea or going in a different direction. Instead, I figured it was exactly what I wanted to do. I didn’t go into debt to do it because I planned for it. Saved for it. And it didn’t happen in one fell swoop. I assembled the gear over time as I scoured the Internet for deals. That’s how The Yellow Studio was born.

Part of the fun and fulfillment may be in not knowing if we can. The fact that it’s not a surefire thing may add to our excitement and the allure of chasing it.

Rhonda and I don’t know if the things we put down on paper are feasible or not. Are our ideas as great as we think they are? We don’t yet know. But we do know some semblance of them have validity. We’re 100% confident that with proper adjustments we’ll be able, Lord willing, to achieve our goals. Will they look exactly like our current plans? Maybe, maybe not.

We don’t know if we can, but we’re gonna try.

Randy Cantrell

P.S. The Yellow Studio v3.0 is being designed to be a 12-16 month version, but there are no guarantees the plan will take the shape I intend…or that it’ll be for as long as I’m planning. I can tell you I’m very excited about the prospect of it though. The simple, straightforward version thrills me. I’m pretty sure I can do it, but I won’t know until I try. Stay tuned.

Love, Laughter & Levity

Love, Laughter and Levity

“You boys, settle down.”

“Stop that foolishness.”

“Behave.”

Whenever Stanley and I were together those were common refrains from the adults observing us. It happens. When you’re kids.

We didn’t feel foolish. In fact, we felt quite smart. And wondered if cutting up and laughing out loud was foolish, then wisdom wasn’t likely going to play any part in our future.

Today I don’t ascribe the same meaning to those phrases. I’m very settled. Down. And hopefully, I’ve stopped most of my foolishness. Truth is, I never did feel very foolish because I was mostly a sober-minded kid. That last admonition is one I’ve delivered more than any other. “Behave,” can mean a variety of things depending on the situation. That’s why I love it so much. It’s universally applicable.

I loved laughter and levity as a kid. Still do. I confess I don’t engage in either one as much as when I was a kid, but the innocence of childhood helps. The burdens of adulthood don’t.

Making people laugh used to be an ongoing quest. Provoking laughter was a major investment of our time. Not all kids did it, but we did.

Jim Valvano gave an impassioned speech when he accepted a 1993 ESPY award. He was dying of terminal cancer, but in normal form, he delivered his speech with enthusiasm. Part of his speech included the admonition for people to love, laugh, cry and think. Every day. I do.

I know not everybody does. But I also know not everybody is wired to be as prone to these emotions as I am. Maybe better said, not everybody is wired to be as expressive about these things as I am. I don’t judge people. We’re all different. In how we feel and how we express those feelings.

Love, laughter, and levity aren’t personality traits. They’re part of the human condition. For each of us. How they’re expressed varies based on our personality. Our personality also largely influences how pervasive they are in our lives.

There are some distinct differences in these things and I can’t fully explain why I’ve coupled these three L words. Of the three I suspect levity may cause the most disagreement or debate.

Levity has one particular definition that I’m drawn to.

the treatment of a serious matter with humor

Some likely think of levity as the opposite of being sober. I don’t see it that way. And I don’t see it as disrespectful. I think levity can be disrespectful, but so can laughter. Context matters.

I’m using each of these words, separate and together, in the most positive way. I admit it’s easier to see love and laughter that way. Levity isn’t nearly as common a word and I suspect people largely think of it as immature behavior. Maybe it is, but I still think it can add a powerfully positive force to our life.

Some of the times where levity has been most common in my life are during times of drama. Funerals. Hospital visits. Visiting people suffering some tragedy. That’s why I lean mostly on that definition of levity – “the treatment of a serious matter with humor.” Levity is complex. And quite complicated. Of the three L words, it’s the one that requires the greatest skill. And not everybody can initiate it or even participate in it. Some people are very awkward about it. It’s one of the most uncomfortable things for me to witness. Somebody attempting to inject levity, but failing miserably. And most have no clue that they’re getting it so wrong.

“I’m so lonesome I could cry” is sometimes replaced with “I’m so lonesome I need to laugh…so I don’t cry.” Properly used levity is a tension breaker. Improperly used it’s awkward, disrespectful, or embarrassing.

Watch any standup comedian. Preferably a good one. It’s highly likely they’ll incorporate levity on some very serious or dark subjects.

Randy Cantrell

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Pursuing A More Modest Lifestyle

Pursuing A More Modest Lifestyle

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My life began, like all humans, as a simpleton. I was a child. Then a kid. It was all pretty simple (a good thing since I was a simpleton) until junior high, but that was a million miles away when I was a child. Junior high was only complicated because of relationships – and girls. 😉 Things didn’t complicate it so much because as long as I didn’t stick out like a sore thumb among my peers, I was pretty good. Besides, we were middle-class and so were most of the kids I knew.

I didn’t grow up really making a distinction between the economic prowess of somebody’s parents. In grade school my best friend, Terry lived right across the street from the school in a very modest little frame house. I knew his family wasn’t as well off as mine, but it had no impact on my relationship with him, or how I viewed him. It never crossed my mind that my family was somehow better, smarter, more clever, or anything else.

But let’s not start with the past…let’s jump to the present. My son recently turned 42, which prompted me to think about the span between my 42 and my current age, 65. Leaning Toward Wisdom began when I was 42. Twenty-three years is a long time.

At 42 I was, like my son, hitting the prime of my professional life. But my life was also growing increasingly complicated. My son was turning 19…so we were in the throes of kids entering college. Junior high kids cost more than elementary school kids. High school kids cost even more. And college kids may cost the most because of college costs…but our kids worked, too…so I’m not sure. Oh, and add the cost of sports during high school and I’d guess it’s likely a toss-up between high school and college expenses. At least for us. But I haven’t analyzed it. No matter, financially things naturally grow increasingly more complicated as the kid’s age. And as we parents age.

Enter a bigger house, a nicer neighborhood – all demanding more money upfront and more money ongoing. Enter more cars, more insurance, more maintenance…more complexity.

As kids grow up and enter adulthood life grows more complicated because lives are growing more independent. This is exactly what we want as parents, but it’s not a simple or easy thing. Especially when your son tells you he’s going to leave and move to another state. But you do what you have to do, say what you must, and grind your way through the sadness, sorrow, and worry. Then sometime later, he comes back home and your spirits soar, you feel like you can breathe again and if you’re like I was, you dive as fully into being present for your kids like never before (and it’s not like I wasn’t before, but now it was different).

These are complicated years as you attempt to help your kids navigate the unchartered waters of their own lives, in search of their own independence – something we had always tried to help them pursue, especially from high school forward. Birds leaving the nest is a great thing – a terrific achievement. Watching them – admiring them – figure it out was always worthwhile, even during the biggest challenges. We were in it together with a united purpose – preparing them for life in the real world. Preparing them to stand on their own, exercising wisdom to figure it out – and to do it all while putting God first.

Those weren’t easy years except financially. We were fortunate to have a good income and mostly we didn’t fret about money. But we weren’t foolish or stupid either. As I’ve said before, cash-flowing life was our way of life so we were never tempted to live beyond our means. Did we buy some things foolishly? Of course. Did we make some financial mistakes? Yes, I did – most notably trusting a business deal that cost us $50,000 due to my idiocy – something I’ll never quite get over thanks to the betrayal of a friend. But these things happen and I mostly got past it, thanks in large part to the fact that such an amount – while large – didn’t impact our lives. There were times in our life when $100 would have made a big difference. So I was thankful we had it to lose without much consequence. Financially at least!

But life consists of more than money and things. Complexity comes in other ways. Figuring out where you fit in the world, who you want to go through this world with – these can be complexities with further reaching consequences than money. Money problems can be more easily solved by making more or spending less or doing both at the same time. I don’t minimize those problems though because my wife and I have known struggles. We’ve made big sacrifices to climb our way out of problems. Even though most or much of life has been fairly good financially, it hasn’t been that way 100% of the time. And I’m thankful for the lessons learned in the struggle. Money problems – at least in our experience – have been more easily addressed with straightforward, heavy disciplined, pragmatic tactics. Humans are a whole lot more complicated.

A more modest lifestyle means financially, so I’m going to start there even though I’ve just admitted that humans can create more complexity than money. Truth is, both of them can be difficult to figure out.

When I say “financially” I also mean stuff, possessions, because possessions were money before they were possessions.

When I was a kid selling stereo gear I’d spend money with the thought, “What did I have to sell (I worked on straight commission) to buy this?”

My first job selling hi-fi equipment paid me 10% of the gross sale amount on loudspeakers. So if I sold a pair of $300 speakers, I’d earn $30. Pretty good. Actually, it was great. But you didn’t sell a $300 pair of speakers every day. On my day off one week, I entered the shop to collect my paycheck. They happened to be busy and maybe short-staffed. I don’t remember, but I do remember being asked by the manager if I’d help this couple. Sure. Minutes later I was ringing up a complete system that included a $500 pair of speakers. Cha-ching! I made more on my day off than any other day I could remember up to that point. Co-workers were very unhappy with me. 😉

Knowing how many hours I had to put in, and how many shoppers I had to serve in order to make $30 or $50 or any amount, gave me a perspective as I plopped down $5 for an album. Or $10 for two albums. It always seemed weirdly strange to me how long it took me to make a dollar versus how quickly I could spend it. Plus, there was always something to having money in your pocket. I’d grown up watching old men pull huge wads of bills wrapped in a rubber band…and wondering why they carried so much cash. Later I’d learn they had money, some didn’t trust banks – they had survived The Great Depression – and they were negotiators really at a moment’s notice to buy something at a deep discount. Well, I had some money, trusted banks and was rarely on the prowl for something I could buy at a deep discount. Turns out many of those old men made as much money flipping stuff they could buy cheap because they had the cash. “I’ll give you $500 cash right now,” is the kind of lingo I’d hear growing up. Tempting to the seller, when the old man peels off 5 hundred dollar bills. Never mind that I always thought it was counterproductive though for the seller to see that you had way more than five of them in your pocket. But that never seemed to matter.

As I look around at my stuff – pre-purge – and see the 1500 or so books with prices of $5-25 each and figure an average price of $10…I think of how much effort was required to earn $22,500 – the investment made into those books. Books that I simply boxed up, carted to the local library, and donated. By the way, a few weekends ago they had a sale. Hardcover books were all $1.

Only I can judge if the $22,500 was worth it. Yes, it was. But only because I had the money to invest in the books and only because I read them. They outlived their usefulness for me. I was done. Finished with them. It was time for somebody else to find value in them. I could only realize that when I understood that holding onto them was now a burden, not a blessing. Time to let go. So I did.

I didn’t amass that many books overnight. Or even in the course of a single year. I accumulated them bit by bit, a book or two at a time. Sometimes more at one time. The collection grew as most unmanaged stuff does.

A more modest collection of books was now my goal. About four shelves worth. Modesty with books – for now – looks like a few shelves versus many bookshelves. It looks like less than 100 books versus 1,500 books. I really love the books I’m keeping. I didn’t love all the books I parted with, else I’d have kept them. Modest living isn’t about parting with things I love, but it’s about letting go of things I don’t love. Or things I’m indifferent toward.

An important fact, for me, is that my current pursuit of modest living is less about necessity and more about desire. But both are in play really because I know as we grow older things are going to continue to change. I should insert a word here in our discussion because it’s critical to the process – burden.

Burden is a two-sided issue. There is the burden on us and the burden we potentially could be to others. Let’s start with the burden on us.

BreakTheTwitch.com defines minimalism like this…

Minimalism is defined as a design or style in which the simplest and fewest elements are used to create the maximum effect.

Minimalism really had a start in the art and design world in the 1960’s. Physical minimalism has grown to encompass a lifestyle of seeing how little you can get by with. Hence, a backpack kind of mentality where everything you own is reduced to what you can carry with you. Not everybody approaches it that way. You can find as many varieties of minimalism as most anything else. To each his own.

I’m not really interested in seeing how little I can own, or how much I can get rid of, but I’m very interested in unburdening myself of stuff. That includes possessions, but it’s not restricted to that. It also includes things that may preoccupy me, or things I may fret about. It includes relationships that are harmful, toxic or unproductive. It includes pursuits that have proven unfruitful or unfulfilling. It’s an approach that I began to describe to best represent how such things were impacting me – burdensome. I was highly motivated to unburden myself of things that didn’t have high utility or high value.

Some might criticize such an approach as too lofty, too restrictive or too picky. I don’t care because it’s my life and I know what I’m aiming for – and why. The why is critical. It begins with spiritual health, then moves to mental or emotional health, and lastly physical health. Those are the priorities and include the spiritual life, my relationship life (mostly, with my wife and family), and my physical life, which encompasses my physical surroundings and my actual physical health. All three areas intersect. None of them is isolated from the others. For example, the only way to practice spiritual life is to put it into action. As the scriptures show us, words without actions are meaningless.

James 2:16 “and one of you say unto them, Go in peace, be ye warmed and filled; and yet ye give them not the things needful to the body; what doth it profit?”

It doesn’t profit anything. So spiritual living – like all other living – begins in our head when we make up our minds. But it moves forward by driving our behavior. Else, it’s worthless.

Emotional and mental health is largely in our heads, but it may be physical. Chemicals in our body do impact it. Bigtime. How we think and how we feel are urgent in every area of life. Both internal and external conditions impact it. So we have to be careful what we think and how we think – and we have to also guard our minds by who and what surrounds us.

Stimuli are all around us. Cell phones. Weather. People. Activities. To-do-lists. TV. Words. Pictures. Look around. Listen. Think. What do you feel? What things in life are making you feel the way you do? What are you thinking? Why are you thinking the way you do? Again, we’re bombarded every second with a stimulus that impacts our thinking. That thinking is what generates our feelings.

Sometimes our physical surroundings help generate a stillness in us. Other times, it creates chaos in our feelings. Or something in the middle somewhere.

I’ve tried for the past four years to get in deeper touch with these. All of these. It’s not easy work. Or for the faint of heart who lack the courage to face reality.

Four years is a long slog, but I know people who have slogged much, much longer. Hiking down the dark trail of a challenging time hoping you’ll eventually find a clearing – a place where you can get your bearings and recognize where you are – is exhausting, but you have to keep going. Going back isn’t the best option when your ideal outcome is somewhere ahead. You just don’t yet know where. Or how long it’ll take to get there.

Joshua Becker is a minimalist and expert on the practice of minimalism. He’s also the author of the blog, Becoming Minimalist – and the book, The Minimalist Home: A Room-by-Room Guide to a Decluttered, Refocused Life. I was reviewing one of his articles, excerpted from that book – Love The Home You Live In.

Joshua provokes thoughts about how we might employ simplicity and a more modest lifestyle. He asks a great question.

What if the problem is that we’re living in the homes that advertisers and retailers want us to have instead of the homes that deep down we really want and need?

He writes…

I know from years of experience that by getting rid of the excess stuff in every room, you can transform your home so that you feel not only free from the stress of so much clutter around you, but also free to live a life focused on what you want to do with your limited years on this planet.

I can attest he’s right because it’s been my experience too – so far.

Modest living versus minimalism – is there a difference? I’m not sure. I’ve looked around online and found many discussions about people searching for a more appropriate description of how they’re trying to approach people. Like me, it seems there are quite a lot of folks looking for a simpler, easier way to live. They’re committed to ridding themselves of unnecessary stuff, but like me, they really don’t think of themselves as minimalists. Somebody suggested the description “spartan,” but that denotes lacking luxury or comfort so people quickly shot that down. The more I’ve thought about it, the more I’m inclined to lean into the moniker “minimalist.” I just think there can be varying levels of it, like most other things. For example, a minimalist might be an International traveler who enjoys carrying every possession in a single backpack or duffle bag. Or a minimalist might be a person living in a tiny home with possessions that are all high utility. Or a minimalist might be a person living in a large, elegant home with luxurious possessions devoid of abundance and clutter. If the backpacker is a 10 and the hi-end luxury homeowner is a 1 on the minimalism scale, I’m likely a 5 or 6. Still a minimalist, but more middle of the road. I’ve dubbed it “practical minimalism,” which I know is relative, but it’s how I think about it. Probably because my wife and I are both extremely practical people. So I’m sticking with that description.

Modest living is practical minimalism. We’re ridding ourselves of things we don’t use, don’t need and don’t love. What remains will, hopefully, be practical and modest. That means they’ll be high-utility and fewer in number. But we’ll love them. Else, they won’t make the long haul cut.

According to Joshua Becker, there are two big benefits of a minimalist home.

1) A minimized home is a better place to come home to. Without all the clutter, you’ll find that your home is more relaxing and less stressful. With fewer things competing for your attention, you’ll appreciate more and make better use of what you have. You’ll be able to focus more on the people and activities in the home that bring you joy. I know some people fear that minimizing their home will make it feel cold and impersonal, but I assure you, through minimizing, you’ll feel more at home than ever. It will be a place you anticipate returning to at the end of every day or relaxing in for a weekend.

2) A minimized home is a better place to go out from. After you minimize, you’ll be buying less stuff and spending less on repairs and maintenance, leaving you with more cash in your bank account—what I call a “minimalism dividend”—that you can use for other purposes. Even more important, because you’ll be spending less time and energy cleaning, organizing, and taking care of your possessions, you’ll have more time and energy left over for dreaming and planning for the future. With these extra resources, you’ll be better prepared to go out into the world, whether it’s for a day’s work, an evening’s entertainment, or a life-changing adventure.

You may disagree with his conclusions, but we’re pursuing a more modest lifestyle because we believe in what we’re doing. It’s the right decision for us.

Daily I’m growing more excited about ending this chapter of our lives and beginning the next one, a much more modest lifestyle. I know it’s the beginning chapter of the encore series of chapters, but I could have fully embraced it earlier in life. I just didn’t have the wisdom to pursue it. Or the knowledge. Today, I have the insights, experience, knowledge, and wisdom. Mostly, I have the determination – I’ve made up my mind. So has my wife.

When I mention the terms minimalism or modesty people automatically think of less and they think “less is less,” rather than “less is more.” Or even considering that less could be more. I’m finding out, so far, that it definitely is more. More simple. More enjoyable. More liberating. More joyful.

More time is one thing I’m looking forward to – and more freedom from homeowner to-do lists. The other night Rhonda and I were winding down the day at our usual late hour after a day’s work, followed by her diving into yard work and other chores. Lately, our lives have been pretty topsy turvy. I remarked that we’ve not been able to sit down to eat a meal together except for the rare times we go out to eat. “I’m looking forward to the next chapter where we get home and the only thing to do is whatever we want to do — and sometimes, doing it together.” Yes, I was being somewhat snarky, but I was also being 100% truthful. I’m anticipating early evening wind downs versus late night wind downs. The added bandwidth in our lives is exciting to think about. For days I’ve been imagining what we might pursue. Who knows? We’ll figure it out.

Modesty’s enemy is our desire to be impressive. We’re ashamed to drive 15-year-old cars because we’re worried about what others might think. Never mind that it’s paid for, runs fine, and gets us reliably from place to place. We pull into a parking spot slump-shouldered and fearful we’ll be spotted. And people will think less of us. So we buy more. More car than is necessary for us, but quite necessary so others will think more highly of us.

Or we shut out the noise in our head – and the real or imagined scorn of others – and we pursue what will bring us more peace and joy. There are many advantages of growing older, among them the reality that you just don’t care that much about the approval of others. Or their disdain either. 😉

My view may not be the best, or for you, but it is what it is. After 4 decades plus of marriage and the realization that it’s us – just the two of us – who are in control of our life together, we can build the life we most want or we can compromise. So far, we’ve both decided we’re not going to compromise. Instead, we’re chasing a more modest lifestyle because it’s liberating, joyful, and extremely practical.

We’re doing this for us, and for our family, too.

It’s important for us to provide as much value as possible for ourselves and our families. Our desires extend out from there, but those are the people who matter the most.

Rhonda and I are in complete agreement on how life works – and how it ought to work. That is, she and I are a family, the family that must be a priority. We love our tribe – the other 8 members of it. Those other 8 people represent two other families, each one takes priority within their own smaller circle. That’s how it is and how it should be. We wouldn’t have it any other way. We trained our kids to be independent and focus on their own families. There’d be disappointment if it didn’t happen. As grandparents, we have our place in the tribe, but within our tribe are 3 smaller tribes where the focus should not be on us.

The pursuit of a more modest lifestyle is important for us to fulfill the role we most want moving forward. We’re most important to each other and we’re lesser important to the rest of the tribe. And as time moves on we’re going to grow increasingly less important, rightfully so. It happens with all of us and only the most selfish older folks don’t understand what’s going on. The last thing we want is to grow older and become burdensome to anybody, especially to our family. A big part of our encore chapter is focused on remaining self-sufficient and then some for the rest of our lives.

Modesty matters.

That’s our new motto. Okay, it’s my new motto. But I’m pretty sure Rhonda will embrace it…’cause she already has by her actions.

Randy Cantrell

The Death Of A Queen

The Death of a Queen

The Death of a Queen1 Timothy 2:1-2

First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.

I just watched the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II.

Regal.

Formal.

Spectacular.

Historical.

As many have observed, she wasn’t part of history, she was history.

70 years and 214 days. The longest reign of any British monarch.

From February 2, 1952, until her death on September 8, 2022.

From Winston Churchill forward, she ruled 15 Prime Ministers.

Dignity.

Composure.

Poise.

Such a death compels millions to consider simultaneously consider death. So it goes with the death of the extraordinarily famous. It helps when they’re as beloved as the Queen.

Hundreds of thousands lined the streets in London and all along the procession which carried the Queen to her burial place in Windsor at St. George’s Chapel.

The Queen architected the details of her funeral, including the songs that were sung.

She wasn’t likely able to architect the details of her life though. Born into royalty in 1926 she was trained as I suppose all sovereign children are – how to be royal.

Before we think about our death, we have to think about our life, deciding how we’ll live.

I often think of the moment our soul departs our body and our spirit enters the eternal realm. Especially during times like these – the death of a famous person.

But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written:

AsI live, says the Lord,
Every knee shall bow to Me,
And every tongue shall confess to God.”

So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather resolve this, not to put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way.

  • Romans 14:10-13

It’s true. There are no dead atheists.

I often think of what the dead now know with certainty that we may not quite believe. Or know.

Like now. What does Queen Elizabeth know that she didn’t know before? What does any departed soul now know that went unknown or unrealized while in this body?

What can I know and understand right now that I may not be knowing or understanding? How can I lean harder into wisdom that is eternal, not just earthly? How can I know and understand things that transcend this life?

It’s largely the focal point of a project I began during the Pandemic, In Thy Paths.

The death of a Queen, this particular Queen, is a momentous event in history. It’s even more momentous for her soul, which continues to live on. God, the Creator, who rules over all, will be the judge of all.

I hope the death of a Queen provokes all of us to carefully consider the King that sits on the throne of our heart – the one to whom we bow and serve. For many, that king is themselves. But God, the Father, has given us a Savior, a King, a sovereign above all others. Jesus is a King with the power to give us Heaven forever.

Randy Cantrell

P.S. Today is also the 72nd anniversary of my parents. That’s right. They were married over a year before Elizabeth became the Queen.

Jeff & Becky Cantrell - married 72 years today, September 19, 2022

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