I was in the fourth grade when I first developed a passion for piney woods. I was a pre-schooler when the woods first called out though. So by the time 4th grade arrived I’d spent half my life fascinated by and in love with — trees. Woods.
A forest is woods, but not all woods are forests. I think woods are thought of as smaller than forests. Small groups of trees, but how small is small? It depends. On how big you are. When you’re a little kid one undeveloped lot in the neighborhood thick with trees will suffice. When you’re an adult, something larger is required.
I love woods. There’s something special about them. Being in them. For extended time. Day after day is even better. Because you get to know them better.
Traipsing through woods every now and again is great, but not nearly as great as getting to know them. Well.
There is something therapeutic about woods, especially piney woods. A feeling. A sensation. There’s a psychology to them for me.
My best description? They’re a big exhale for me.
They help. I embrace it. I’m not imposing on them. They welcome me. Any time. I don’t disturb their schedule. I don’t ask them to do anything. Just be there. Just be what they naturally are. Let me stay. Stick around a bit. Then come back again tomorrow and notice more. Spot any changes. Be friendly.
Unlike most people, I trust piney woods. They don’t pretend to be something they’re not. They don’t judge me or anybody else. They don’t lie. Cheat. Or steal. They’re just there existing for the pleasure of the wildlife and not-so-wildlife. As a 4th grader, I may have added to the population of wildlife, what with all the fort building, pine straw stacking, path clearing, and whatever else we did as kids.
But that’s all behind me.
And even then I had moments of not-so-wildlife where we’d just sit on the pine needles and talk about what might come next. “What’da ya’ll wanna do now?” somebody would ask. That might spark a 30-minute discussion of various ideas that somebody might invariably shoot down until we figured out something we could all agree on.
I hope kids today have those conversations, but something tells me they don’t. A shallow investigation into social media platforms like TikTok and Snapchat indicates that our attention span is down to something like 8 seconds. Eight seconds? Isn’t that the time bull riders need to complete a successful ride?
We were often bored as kids. It didn’t always result in trouble either. It gave us time to talk, interact, argue, debate, and work things out. Eight seconds? Man alive, we spent hours collectively trying to figure out what we might do that would bring us our next adventure. But this isn’t about “good ‘ol days” syndrome. Honestly, it’s not. I’m just trying to paint context for you of how we worked to close the distance from hope to help. The gap between whatever was in our heads and what we could make real.
Like the unmotorized go-carts, we’d make out of spare parts laying around in all our carports and garages. Or the homemade skateboards out of those old metal-wheeled rollerskates. Or the countless forts and treehouses we’d cobble together out of anything we could find. And how we’d decorate the insides without any help or influence from the likes of Chip and Joanna. By the way, does anybody else wonder why Chip thinks his long hair looks good? I’ve got a neighbor who is older than I am and he decided a ponytail would look good. No, it doesn’t. You look ridiculous. So does Chip. Somebody help these people understand how unflattering it is to grow older and attempt to hang onto youthful fashion or hairdos. #JustSaying
Hope should dominate the life of every kid. I know the world is cruel and there are dangers galore, but every child deserves to be filled with hope about the future.
Hope should dominate the life of every adult. It’s harder for us because we’ve experienced sorrow, sadness, and struggle.
It helps if you’ve got a compelling story of redemption to tell. For years I’ve noticed how many book authors and speakers tell a rags to riches story. It’s a long list of celebrity authors/speakers. They lived in their car. They lived under bridges. They suffered abuse. They suffered addiction. They dove into dumpsters. They figured things out and became wildly – W-I-L-D-L-Y – successful. They found the key to success and they’ll happily teach it to you because they desperately want you to learn what they learned. Just buy their book. Or attend their seminar. Or buy their product or course.
It seems the distance from hope to help is devasting loss caused largely by your own idiocy. Until your idiocy morphs into extraordinary wisdom.
It’s like evolution though. Nobody has ever seen it. I sure haven’t.
I suppose those of us who have lived practical, responsible lives devoid of homelessness, addiction, or abuse are destined to be lifelong failures. We’re just living a story that’s too boring to achieve much else it seems. And I admit I’ve invested some bucks along the way to see if these previously homeless people had indeed figured out something unique. Not so much.
Have you ever been tempted to create a narrative that might help you get attention? Yeah, me neither. 😉
Actually, I have worked on a narrative like that, but for a fictional character – which I assume might apply to a large number of these self-help gurus. I’m still trying to come up with a believable scenario where some hobo under a bridge has the key to unlock the wisdom of success. My latest creation has me encountering a small forest gnome who lives in this tree (pictured). His name is Bjorn. Which is really weird since his home is in Arkansas. Even weirder, he’s Norwegian but he’s never lived anywhere other than that tree. Which creates a deeper mystery as to how he has so many things figured out. But such is the stuff of books, speeches, presentations, workshops, seminars, and other forms of fantasy. I rather like Bjorn so I’m planning to make his brilliance shine just as bright as possible. And he’s very snarky. So I trust him.
In the case of finding (or creating) Bjorn, the distance from hope to help is about 5 hours. That’s how long it takes to get from my house to his. So there’s that.
Hope is an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes
Hope is based in the future. Maybe in the immediate future. Maybe not.
We’ve been told hope is not a strategy, but I think it is. Or could be. Try forming an effective strategy without it.
Picture a conference room with 12 chairs around a big table. A person sits in every chair. You’re at the head of the table leading the meeting. You’ve got an idea, a strategy. This meeting is your opportunity to share it with the team, the team which you lead.
“This idea came to me over the past few days. It’s not likely going to work. There are many flaws in it. But we’re going to fully commit to it. And I hope you’ll all be as excited as I am to see it come out of the gate slowly, then eventually peter out.”
I’d love to lead a meeting like that. Just to see how the room would react.
Hope is always part of our best strategies. Because belief and confidence are required if we’re going to give our best efforts.
Every startup entrepreneur has it. Every competitive athlete has it. The hope and belief that their efforts will pay off. That the results they most desire will happen. Sustainable behaviors we think will move us closer to the goal are more easily employed when we believe in them. Why else follow a particular course?
Let’s see where this conversation takes us, huh? My hope? That’ll it’ll take you from hopelessness to hope to help!
On Saturday, May 29, 2021, I watched a suggested YouTube video. It was a 2014 award-winning documentary entitled, RESTRUNG. I guess I watch so many guitar videos that the YouTube algorithm had no problem suggesting I watch this video. Here’s the YouTube description of the video:
He had always considered making guitars a passion, not an occupation. In 2007, Randall Wyn Fullmer, an ordinary guy with a cat, decided to turn his life-long hobby into a full-out obsession. To launch his adventure he did what anyone else would do — he quit his high paying dream job at Disney, leaving behind a successful 20 year career of creating major motion pictures such as “Chicken Little” and “The Emperor’s New Groove”. It seemed to make so much sense at the time! With Disney in the rear-view, he launched his self-proclaimed “Mad Plan”, crafting small-batch bass guitars full time. From a beginner’s electrifying success to near break-down, this is a beautiful, honest and inspirational portrait of a passionate craftsperson who walked headlong into a foolhardy dream … a true tale of a life unwound and restrung.
You can check out Randall’s website, Wyn Guitars. Watch the documentary and you’ll be motivated to cheer for his continued success. And more.
A little over one minute into the documentary Randall says this…
Blind Optimism, Not-Too-Much Practicality & A Plan That So Boxes You In There’s No Escape
Randall had figured out what he believed were the ingredients for success. I won’t spoil the documentary for you, but I will tell you that it’s not a story of a man who ditched a successful career at Disney only to experience hockey stick growth curve success. Mr. Fullmer has ups and downs. Like all the rest of us. Watching his journey made his quote even more powerful for me.
Besides, only days earlier I had shared a graphic on social media.
I suppose the earliest observers of success and achievement figured out how important it is to refuse to quit. One of the best quotes is from Babe Ruth.
You just can’t beat the person who never gives up.
From an old-time baseball player to a modern-day researching university professor, there’s plenty of evidence that sticking with it can pay off. This much is sure, if you quit, you’ll never achieve whatever you’re chasing.
Randall, the guitar maker, stated it differently. And I was immediately taken by how he voiced his beliefs about the requirements of achievement, especially when you’re pursuing something creative. Like building guitars. I wonder how his Disney career influenced his wording – and his point of view. He had experience in collaborating with extraordinarily creative people. That’s why I listened to his insight more intently. He was credible. And humbly vulnerable sharing things he didn’t have to share, but in doing so helping us learn and better understand his journey.
Based on the volume of books and courses copywriters learned decades ago that people are attracted to formulas, secrets, and blueprints for success. While chasing success we’re tempted to think the people already on top of the mountain of success know something the rest of us don’t. Surely they’ve got the secret, formula, or blueprint. Then all the charlatans emerge posing as gurus. We don’t know who is genuine and who isn’t. Desperate to find the path toward the life of our dreams, we read, follow, consume and buy whatever it is they’re selling. Only to be disappointed that the secrets they share with us – for a fee – aren’t moving us any closer to our dreams.
Just before hitting record, I got an email invitation to attend a free webinar, The Secret Formula for Success. 😀
Randall knows why that’s what’s being sold. So do we.
Listen to what he said – the ingredients he determined were most needed for him to reach his goal of building a successful guitar building business.
Blind Optimism, Not-Too-Much Practicality & A Plan That So Boxes You In There’s No Escape
Ain’t nobody gonna line up to buy that book. Or course. People aren’t going to pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for an online course about those things. Because those things sound hard. Secrets, formulas, and blueprints don’t sound hard. They sound like something people just hand over to us. As one female marketer says about her multi-thousand dollar course – “it’s literally a business in a box.” That inspires buyers to invest thousands – I’m told it’s about $6,000 – because they desperately want somebody to make it easy. This attractive female marketer makes the promise people willingly buy.
But this isn’t about Internet marketing ploys and fake promises. It’s about Randall’s brilliant insight. His beliefs about what it would take for him to embark on this brand new business-building adventure. And it’s not his secret, formula, or blueprint. It’s a lot of hard work. Arduous. It requires that grit, determination, and stamina that so many observers and professional researchers have concluded are required to become a high-achiever.
You may be inclined to critique or edit Randall’s wording, but let’s avoid being ticky-tacky. For instance, blind optimism isn’t really blind. It’s not without some evidence or purposeful viewpoint. And it’s not just random. We choose our optimism based on something. Maybe mostly on what we want. But there is a basis so let’s just go with it knowing how Randall likely meant it. That’ll be easier for you to do after you watch the documentary and you see the man’s devotion to his craft.
Choosing to think the best rather than the worst is hard work. Harder for some than others.
You’re called to the boss’s office. What are you thinking?
“Oh great, I’m getting a raise!” ?
“Oh no, what have I done?” ?
Yeah, it’s that last one.
Reminds me of that old joke.
Worried that their son was too optimistic, the parents of a little boy took him to a psychiatrist. In an attempt to dampen the boy’s spirits, the psychiatrist showed him into a room piled high with nothing but horse manure. Instead of displaying distaste, the little boy clambered to the top of the pile and began digging.
“What are you doing?” the psychiatrist asked.
“With all this manure,” the little boy replied, beaming, “there must be a pony in here somewhere.”
When it comes to your own achievement – pursuing your own success – what’s the downside of optimism? Overall, I don’t see much of a downside in being an optimistic person. For years the only kickback I’ve gotten is, “You’ll be disappointed.” My retort is simple, “You’re gonna be disappointed anyway, so where’s the risk?”
But there are some downsides when it comes to personal optimism – that is, optimism about yourself and your own abilities. That’s a bit more precise than an overall optimism.
We all know people who aren’t nearly as terrific as they think they are. Full of themselves. They’re overly optimistic (yes, I think there is such a thing) about themselves. They think more highly of themselves than they should. Self-centered. Self-focused. Self-absorbed. Life is all about them.
The downside? Well, this podcast has no time limits, but I really don’t want to spend a ton of time talking about why that’s a bad way to live. Mostly, because I live and work with one notion and point-of-view. It’s one that I don’t always get right, but I know I should. And when I slip, I know I need to give it greater effort. I use one phrase to express it: a focus on others!
Yes, it’s a personal philosophy that I choose to embrace. Yes, it has caused me – at a variety of moments in my life – to question myself and think less of myself than may be healthy. I also have to sometimes wrangle that to the ground, admitting that many times it wins pinning me to the dirt, making me cry, “Uncle!”
But is optimism, even if it’s self-focused, a bad thing? Yes, when it makes us delusional about the reality of our limitations and weaknesses. And sadly, some folks think optimism is literally blind because we ignore reality or evidence. Well, that’s foolishness.
Over the weekend, singer B.J. Thomas died of stage four lung cancer. He lived here in DFW. He was 78. Optimism wouldn’t prevent him – it couldn’t prevent him – from dying of lung cancer. Sadly, B.J.’s reality was that he had stage four lung cancer. It killed him. Believing the best. Thinking he’d overcome it. Those wouldn’t help. But I rather choose to think he embraced a different kind of optimism during his final days. An optimism that helped him make the most of whatever time he had.
You see the delusion people experience when they think more highly of themselves than they should. You see it in the older man who tries to be physically alongside folks 20 years younger. Whether it’s a game of backyard football. Or climbing on the roof to clean the gutters (Google how many stories you see of older, aging men who die that way). Accepting the reality of our limitations can be tough – but wise!
No matter how hard or harsh the reality, knowing it and accepting it is vastly better than not knowing or not accepting the truth.
The truth. There’s the rub.
Just the other day this video was published on YouTube. It’s produced by The Art Of Improvement and is entitled, To Have The Great Life You Deserve, Do These 6 Things. It’s 4:30 minutes long and typifies the messages we hear daily.
Believe you are worthy.
The Universe is your ATM. (but only if you make great deposits often)
Create time to think and dream.
Minimize the toxic input.
Get off the couch and act.
Know who the real judge is. (don’t worry about what others think)
Believe you’re worthy would be better replaced with “be worthy.” Be a good human. Behave wisely. Not selfishly.
The Universe is not your ATM. It’s much less about making deposits and withdrawals as it is “you reap what you sow.” See the first point of being a good human. Act in ways that are honorable and right. It’s a better route to go, but it won’t guarantee you’ll never be mistreated. The Universe is never going to bend to your will. But your mind will. And that’ll drive how you act and behave. You’re responsible for your actions, not the Universe.
Creating time to think and dream is necessary because “as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.” We tend to be what we think about because our thoughts determine our choices and actions. Again, it’s all “reap what you sow” in full effect. And it’s always true.
Minimize the toxic input. Agreed. That includes people and situations. Toxic is defined as things harmful to your growth and improvement. Things, circumstances, and people who don’t help you be your very best. It’s not about people who disagree with you. If you want to be a drunk, drug addict and think the toxic people are those who would help you get and stay sober — well, you’re not seeing reality. You are the problem!
Get off the couch and act. True enough. Thinking and dreaming are terrific activities, but the world is filled with good intentions. The power is in the doing. Do something.
Know who the real judge implies (and the video states) is YOU. Well, kinda sorta. You get to make up your own mind. God is the final Judge. I’d suggest you not leave Him out of things, but you can if you want. The context of the video is dealing with critics. We all have to silence the unfair, unsafe critics – those who don’t want or care about our best. WE all live in glass houses, but some of us walk around with our bags of rocks looking to throw.
This kind of advice permeates our culture today. In short, it’s always got a similar theme. Be your own god. Forget everybody else. Expect the world to bend to your strongest desires so you can get what you deserve. Let me tell you – it’s likely a great thing that most of us don’t get what we deserve. Mostly, we get much better than what we likely deserve. 😉 #JustSaying
Take Control Of Your Own Success
This is another social media headline I saw just on Sunday (yesterday). Those of you who blog or podcast or write…do you ever take off in pursuit of a particular idea or line of thought and suddenly it’s like you bought a yellow car and now you notice all the yellow cars on the road? Within the last 24 hours – which honestly I don’t think are much different than any other 24-hour period – I’ve noticed a barrage of cultural notions about success is (a) designed to market or sell something and (b) which extol the idea that you are in full control. “If it is to be, it’s up to me.”
Don’t get me wrong. We must do all we can. And yes, that means we should pursue improvement, growth – and where necessary, transformation. And I’m all in favor of chasing the ideal outcome. I urge clients every week to get intentional about what they want and why. No, the ideal outcome is never “win-the-Powerball-lottery” kind of a thing. We don’t want to rely on random chance. Else we’re all just sitting around waiting for that Publisher’s Clearing House crew to arrive at our house with a bouquet of flowers and a six-foot-long check. It’s not a productive way to spend your days.
Usefulness. Value. Benefiting others. Making a positive difference.
Those are the things that matter. That’s how to spend a good day! Doing something worthwhile.
After that, of course, we hope serendipity, time, and chance work to our advantage. Sometimes they do. Sometimes they don’t. Either way, we’re doing something of value to ourselves and others.
Not Too Much Practicality
There’s something to this. Figuring out the balance between practical and not too practical may be one of the tougher challenges. If you’re too practical then you’re not likely pushing or challenging yourself enough. If you’re too impractical then you risk being deluded. And there’s the reality that innovation, growth and change happen when we let go of being too practical. It’s also why the critics come out of the woodwork when we’re working to create something new – including a newer and better version of ourselves.
Years ago I laughed at a cartoon that showed two gorillas, one on all fours and the other walking upright. His buddy on all fours remarked, “Stop that, you’ll hurt yourself.” So it goes with our efforts to do something different – something that might be creative or innovative.
“Don’t be distracted by criticism. Remember – the only taste of success some people have is when they take a bite out of you.”
– Zig Ziglar
“Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain – and most fools do.”
– Dale Carnegie
The past dozen years of coaching executives, business owners and city government leaders has proven to me that high-achievers crave being challenged to grow and improve. Sadly, many of them just haven’t found somebody capable of doing that while simultaneously making them feel safe. That’s where I come in. My clients know that I only want their very best. Nothing more. I have no hidden agenda. No secret goals. They’re in control of their own lives – to the degree any of us are. They establish their objectives. I just work to help them figure it out more quickly, then to help them navigate life so they can make it happen! Much of the work is helping them see beyond the merely practical to see – and believe in – the things they couldn’t see earlier.
At some point, I began to use the graphic below with clients. “Look at this and tell me what you see.” Most say they see a young woman. “Do you see anything else?” Most say no. I tell them to keep looking. Then, rather than let them languish, I’ll give them a hint. For instance, I may say, “Look at the young woman’s jawline. That’s the nose of an old woman. Do you see her?” Some see it instantly. Many don’t. They stare at it for a few more seconds before they see it.
Now that they see both the young woman and the old woman, they can’t unsee it. What was impossible to see before is now easy. Hence my favorite quote…
Everything is hard…until it’s easy.
Seeing the young woman, in this instance, is practical. Seeing the old woman is less practical. You may need to be less practical when it comes to your own pursuits and accomplishments. Note that I’m not talking about being impractical in life affairs – like finances, or marriage. We’re not talking about leaning into selfish foolishness. We’re leaning toward wisdom when it comes to challenging ourselves to achieve never-before-realized accomplishments.
A Plan That So Boxes You In There’s No Escape
Some describe this as a “burn the boats” strategy, which is taken from a mythical story (we don’t know if it’s true or not; I’m highly suspicious).
In 1519, Captain Hernán Cortés landed in Veracruz to begin his great conquest. Upon arriving, he reportedly gave an order to his men to burn the ships in which they arrived in.
The point was to avoid giving the men an opportunity to go back. He wanted to move forward. To make the conquest. It’s certainly not very practical. I’d argue if he did do it, it was stupid and foolish. Like the decision that goes well and makes one a hero versus the decision that goes poorly and makes one an idiot. I don’t much like those odds or potential payoffs. The gap between winning and losing seems too wide to me. But what do I know. I’ve never adventure to far away strange lands. And don’t plan on it. So there’s that! Plans.
I follow a guitar player on YouTube who ends each video with the saying, “No plan B.” It’s another common phrase that means the same thing as “burn the boats” but it just sounds less foolish to me. Besides, I happen to know success is often found not in plan B, but in plan M. Or R. Or V. Or Z.
At some point in venture capital-driven entrepreneurship, the term pivot entered. Tons of extremely successful companies pivoted into something they never intended to be. They chased success with plan A only to find it never happened. Forced to consider ways to change, alter, grow, innovate, be more creative – they figured out something else that worked like a champ.
So how can you know when to give up on plan A? I know of no hard and fast rules. It’s personal. It’s individual. We each have to find our way forward. Nobody could learn to talk for you. Or walk for you. You had to do it for yourself. So it is with this.
But the guitar maker, Randall Wyn Fullmer is onto something with his quote.
A Plan That So Boxes You In There’s No Escape – it’s an important idea because it means if we’re going to make progress we have to have a starting point. One that we’re willing to stick with for some period of time in order to give success a chance. It means we make a plan knowing it’s going to take some time. That’s where it gets very personal.
A guy works in construction. He’s newly married. He plays music and writes songs when he’s not swinging a hammer. He loves it. His wife, friends and family think he’s pretty good. But he’s not sure they count. He’s right, but not entirely. The encouragement is valuable. He dreams of moving to Nashville to see if music might be something he could be paid to do. With his wife’s encouragement, they develop a plan to move to Nashville. The plan is a pretty nice box. They agree to take the money they’ve saved, go to Nashville where he has a construction job lined up that will afford them to support themselves. His wife has a job lined up, too. A job that pays enough to allow him to take a job working fewer hours so he can concentrate more on music. “Five years,” they agree. “We’ll give ourselves 5 years to see if we can make music for a living.” Off they go with their plans. Time will tell if he can make it within 5 years. Will he achieve any traction during the 5 years? What if he’s feeling close as he enters year 5…will he give it an extra year? That’s for him to figure out, along with his wife.
The reality for him – and for Randall – is that there’s always an escape. The sentiment is to not give yourself an easy out. Randall and others who are pursuing a dream know you can’t quit every time you have to do something uncomfortable. Or something you’d rather not do. Everybody has to endure doing things we’d rather not do. We need to be boxed in enough to push through such things. For Randall, in his guitar making efforts, it’s sanding. He hates sanding. But guess what guitar making – high-quality guitar making requires lots of? Yep, sanding. So if Randall wants to be a successful guitar maker, then he’s got to push through days of sanding.
The Olympic games are getting closer. They were postponed last year due to the Pandemic. Every single athlete competing in the games, regardless of the country they represent, endure things they hate in order to get to the things they love. Maybe it’s different for some, but I dare say they all enjoy the competition more than the training. And there’s some training they hate versus some training they enjoy. They do what they do because overall they love it. It doesn’t require them to love every single minute detail of the pursuit. That’s unreasonable. It’s just not how things work.
People who travel a lot – albeit the Pandemic curbed it last year – will tell you they’re not paid for what they do so much as they’re paid for the inconvenience of traveling. Speakers who appear on a stage for an hour and get five figures aren’t paid because their insights in that hour are so remarkably invaluable. They’re paid because they have to give up an entire day to travel to and from. It’s a hassle requiring hours just to get on that stage for one (hour).
But I know some who love the travel. And the stage time. That’s a real win when there’s nothing you hate, even if there are things you may love more. Most everybody I know have certain things they must do – in order to do what they love – and they hate doing those things. But they love what they love so much it makes what they loathe less offensive. Randall hates sanding, but he loves plugging in a finished guitar to test it by playing it. The sanding doesn’t matter in that moment. And when he’s sanding he’s reminded of how great it feels to plug the instrument into an amp for testing.
“Don’t make a mistake from which you can’t – or may not be able to recover.”
Not all mistakes result in equal consequences. Some choices and decisions have higher risks. That’s why the failure of plan A may not be so bad if it helps us form a successful plan B. Is it giving yourself an escape? Not really because we don’t embark on a high-speed chase of plan A thinking it won’t work out. Or thinking we’ll have to hit the eject button. But if a time comes demanding we make a different decision – some adjustment – then we have to be open and courageous enough to make a better decision.
What’s holding you back? Right now. Today. At this moment.
But first, let’s think about what we’re pursuing. Happiness is a common answer. In fact, it may be the number one answer. But what is happiness? Answers I’ve heard include “being able to do what I want when I want,” and “the freedom to control my schedule.” That sentiment seems to be at the heart of how we view happiness. Being the curious type I am, I wonder who on the planet has that? Think of the most powerful people on the planet. Like the richest. Or country rulers, including the President of the United States, arguably labeled the most powerful person on the planet. None of them have what people feel like they need to be happy! Rather, they each likely endure impositions few of us can relate to.
So is happiness really the ideal outcome?
Think back over your life. Think about your moments of sadness and sorrow. Think about the times you’ve suffered.
Keep thinking. Now think about the times of relief. The times the news was good. Even great.
If you were to plot the events and emotions of your life would the graph look like a roller coaster or would it look like a straight line with an upward trajectory? Delusion causes us to think there are real humans who don’t suffer. Or experience the sorrows we’ve endured. But they have. All of them.
Delusion also causes us to think happiness is the pinnacle of achievement, but nobody knows how to capture it to make it a long-term sustainable experience. For a simple reason. It’s not possible. We’re pursuing an impossibility – not an impractical goal.
Let me end by challenging us to consider other pursuits. Like peace. Contentment. Purpose. Valued.
It’s like sanding for Randall. In that moment, he’s not happy. But he’s contented and at peace. The purpose of sanding matters more to him than the act. It results in a value that’s hard to measure because guitarists appreciate the feel and quality of a properly sanded instrument. Randall himself appreciates the outcome of his own arduous chore. It’s not about happiness – being to do what you when you want. Rather, it’s about doing what is necessary because your pursuit is beyond yourself. Because in the end, it’s not about you. It’s about others.
Breakthrough. That’s what most of us need. Some of us want it.
We can get it. Likely by being humble, vulnerable and open. Less likely by trying to tighten our grip. Or by attempting to control everything in our lives.
Turn loose. Hit pause. Sprint. Catch your breath. Sprint some more. Jog a bit to let your heart rate catch up. And to let your lungs relax. Then take off zigging and zagging as if you’re dodging bullets. Pick a spot ahead and now run straight toward it. Stop and heave if you must. But don’t quit.
Decide. Do. Rest. Recover. Go again. Think. Ponder. Adjust. Go some more. Recover again. Persist. Figure it out. ‘Cause that’s the point.
Abraham Lincoln said, “I don’t like that man. I must get to know him better.” All of us are going through things. Some of us are enduring things nobody truly knows or understands. Today I’m thinking of some folks who are enduring the suffering of death in their family. Others I know are going through family trauma due to betrayals and abandonment. Some are in the middle of a career or financial crisis struggling to find some path forward. Any path.
I think of the suffering and struggling that I know about, then I quickly ponder all the suffering going on among people I know personally – suffering I know nothing about. Not that I should know. Or that I need to know. Some things are confidential and private. And even if I did know, I’m not the right person for every service. I know my lane and consciously try to stay in it.
Like you, I know my own struggles. My wife knows most of them, too. But not all of them. Some are unknown by anybody else. Don’t we all operate that way?
Then proceed to understand you don’t know all the sorrows and suffering of others. Step carefully. Be gracious. Practice empathy. Display compassion. It may help you figure out your own stuff better. It sure can’t hurt.
“Before we can forgive one another, we have to understand one another.”
― Emma Goldman
Before you click play on the episode click play on this music video from Iceland’s best kept musical secret, Kaleo. I’ve spent hours with these gents playing in my headphones whilst walking about in the middle of the night, or in the early morning hours. They’re terrific.
I like them so much I bought their latest record – Surface Sounds – twice! Intentionally. Well, I pre-ordered it on Apple iTunes and was able to download a couple of songs that were released early. This was early last year. Then the release date on the record kept moving back. And back. Hello, COVID Pandemic. Then the album was released, but Apple iTunes didn’t let me download the other songs. So I Googled to troubleshoot Apple iTunes and followed at least 3 things suggested to fix such a problem. Nothing worked. In time I gave up and just hit the buy button again. Two weeks after the second purchase I got an email from Apple iTunes (see below).
So I bought the album twice but got it once. Maybe it’ll put a few extra pennies into the pocket of the band. Thanks, Apple Music (I still call it Apple iTunes). Did I tell you I’ve been a devoted Apple user since the first Mac in 1984? Well, it’s true. But even I lack the skills to know how to contact Apple about the aforementioned customer challenge. Such is life in 2021, right?
But I digress from the main point of today’s special episode – yes, that’s two special episodes in a row. Special because it wasn’t planned. Instead, it’s spontaneous. But I rather enjoy a good bout of spontaneity at times.
That song, “I Want More,” rang in my ears and played in an endless loop for days. It sounds selfish, but it isn’t. Not really. It’s ambitious. It’s restful. It’s like a favorite place of mine. A place where you go to just exhale. And feel better. But where you can’t quite get enough. Leaving you wanting more. And more. Because it’s so highly valuable. A place where your arrival causes you to sigh with relief. Where the weight is lifted away.
But in 2006 I had already been influenced a bit by John Maeda, author of The Laws of Simplicity (Simplicity: Design, Technology, Business, Life). Maeda is an MIT-educated tech brainiac. My lifelong devotion to my own lack of brainpower had forced me to simplify things. Part laziness. Part stupidity. I had a lifelong history of searching for simplicity in 2006 when I bought the book. I still have that passion – a relentless pursuit of straight-forward and simple.
I had to learn the hard way that simplifying things is hard, hard work. Sometimes my laziness doesn’t pay quite like I expected. No matter…I still found it worthwhile. So much so that I continue to do it. Every single day.
Beginning with your physical surroundings.
I wish I had, but I didn’t. My quest for more by leaning toward less first erupted in my career. Business pursuits. Business is challenging enough. There’s no need to complicate it further. So I figured. So I still figure. Experience has confirmed my youthful yearnings for simplicity.
And one of the first things I learned as a young business leader was the power of beginning with your physical surroundings. It was intuitive for me because I was the child unable to sleep in a cluttered room. Toys and stuff had to be put away or I couldn’t go to bed. But I wasn’t a kid plagued with OCD-type behaviors. I just didn’t like clutter. And I also wanted my things to be in place. I was the kid who didn’t want my toys wrecked or destroyed. I took pretty good care of my toys. It always felt like natural wiring to me because even though my mother exercised military-like discipline for cleanliness and order, I was oriented to keeping my space orderly because it’s how I wanted things.
Years later, in my 20’s, during my first business leadership role where I was bequeathed with number 1 responsibilities, I began with physical order. It would be my habit at every leadership stop I’d make. I called it exactly what it is, house cleaning. Except the place was a business, not a house. It was always positively powerful. People were energized and there was always an elevation in pride when the clutter and filth was fixed. It was further proof for me that people benefit greatly for simplicity and less. Less is more. And I wanted more.
I still want more. Of less.
But the physical surroundings continue to be a challenge. Age does that, I think. The longer you live the more moss you gather. That rolling stone metaphor isn’t exactly accurate. Go into any old person’s home and you’ll likely see more clutter than people much younger. Stuff piled upon more stuff. And I’m not talking about hoarding. I’m talking about the accumulation of stuff, piled on year after year. I chuckle whenever I look at real estate photos of homes for sale by older owners. The nicknacks and clutter are sometimes remarkably dominating. I’ve got a lifelong fascination with the folks who enjoy having their front yard decorated with clutter. I’m not talking about trash and junk, per se. I’m talking about those folks who have pink flamingos, bird feeders, birdbaths, hanging baskets filled with ferns, yard gnomes and all sorts of “hey, this will look good here” stuff. My fascination is with the mind that thinks it’s becoming and contributes to make their place a showplace. (They’re showplaces alright…”Hey, let me show you a place!”)
Thankfully, my front yard isn’t cluttered with ornaments, bird feeders, gnomes, and more, but the sheer volume of stuff that I have is…well, ridiculous! I need to schedule and perform a “house cleaning.” I want more so I need to ditch some things. A lot of things. Because I want more. And I’m convinced having less is just one way forward toward that objective.
My ideal outcome.
A challenge with figuring it out is how much of a moving target it is. It takes time. We have to sit with things for a while. It’s like stirring up water when you walk through a creek bed. Only by standing still can you let things settle so the water becomes clear again. But we all know standing still isn’t a good strategy for progress, growth and improvement.
There’s another element to figuring out the ideal outcome, too. Holding a thought for a while to make sure it’s your ideal outcome. I’m not naturally impulsive, but if I were, it would be offset by my urge to ponder and live with an outcome in my mind. Since I was a little boy I’ve considered consequences and worked to weigh the pluses and minuses. Doesn’t mean I always got it right! 😉
What’s the ideal outcome? For me, it’s not a question to be answered quickly. Sometimes I need to do more research. Almost always I need to think it through by putting myself in the situation where that outcome is realized. It’s imaginary of course, but still…it gives me the feeling I might have if it became true. Wrestling down the feeling – the psychology of it – is valuable. I’m increasingly interested in our mental health, my wife and I.
The circle of trust in Meet The Parents is kinda-sorta real. We all have them. Here’s mine.
My circle is shrinking, but not due to paranoia. Age and experience tend to show all of us how difficult it is to truly lean on people. When we’re children we trust almost everybody. Then we learn that’s a bad idea. As we learn to discriminate in choosing our friends we find sometimes people don’t mean well. Others prove themselves untrustworthy. So we thin the herd as we grow older. Think about the broad population of friends when you’re in elementary school and how narrowed down it is by the time you emerge from college. And there are practical reasons for it, too. Like proximity. And seeing people less frequently. Sometimes we just grow apart because we make choices in our life and they make different choices that steer us further away from each other instead of closer to each other. It happens. Not always because of betrayal or anything sinister.
Then there are the betrayals. We’ve all been betrayed and likely we’ve all been guilty of betraying. It may be intentional and selfish. It may be completely innocent and unintended. Every human knows the feeling. Good friends work through it and come out the other side. But sometimes, it ends the relationship and things are never the same. So it goes.
By the time I reached 50, I made a conscious decision to populate my circles of trust with fewer people. For me, it meant devoting more time to fewer people. I wanted more and figured that the path forward (for me) was by having less. Fewer people meant I could be more devoted. I wasn’t driven by what I’d get or how I might gain. I was focused on viewing myself as a resource – a finite resource. And because I’m just not that talented or good, I knew with whatever time I had left I needed to serve the people who mattered most – the people who, for whatever reason, found value in my presence.
Wanting more by having less comes to life for me more and more almost daily. Within the past decade, I’ve learned so much. About myself. About others. About life. About death. And all the stuff in between.
These 5 books have been on my mind lately. I’ve not re-read them lately, but I’ve ruminated about each of them (and others). Click on any of the images if you’d like to buy any of them.Yes, they’ll be affiliate links earning me a rinky-dink commission. But you won’t mind. Will you?
Some other random useless/useful information about today’s show: