True confession. I wrote this in February 2016, but it was part of the previous iteration of LTW. It came up again recently in a conversation with a client who was struggling with inner critic stuff. I figured I’d resurrect it and share it hoping it’ll serve YOU. Before we dive in I have to say that lately, I’ve been very focused on how we can become addicted to self-help, motivational mumbo-jumbo! I don’t want to contribute to that because it provides millions of people excuses for doing nothing…stuck in the Land Of Wishing I Was Somebody Else. – Randy
Is the subject anticipation, or patience? Is it value or benefit? Yes, yes, yes and yes. It’s all that and more.
Over the weekend I wrote down a sentence on my whiteboard – the one that’s about 5 feet from where I’m sitting right now.
Avoid dread by being eager!
For a few weeks now I’ve been battling my inner critic. You’d think I’d have conquered him by now, huh? Well, not so much. The older you grow the more voices join you along the way. I learned to name my characters in my head. It helps to give them cartoonish names. I doubt I’ve plumbed the depths of my personality to uncover them all, but so far I’ve identified 10 of them. Did you ever see the Three Faces Of Eve? That movie came out the year I was born. Coincidence? Hum, maybe. Maybe not. One wonders. It’s about a woman diagnosed with multiple personality disorder. Depending on who you choose to believe, some argue there is no such thing. No matter, today’s show isn’t about that, but it is about YOU and the things that go on inside your head.
I don’t have three faces. I have 10 characters, or little voices that offer me their unique perspectives. They’ve all got an agenda, too. An ax to grind. A bone to pick. I don’t always see it for what it is. Not in real time, that’s for sure.
I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating — true wisdom is the ability to make the right decision in real time. Controlling our thoughts in real time is part of it and I confess I don’t get that right nearly as often as I’d like. Too many times I listen to one of these characters in real time and I let them foil success. They rob me of so many things it’s anything other than funny.
I dove into the arduous work of getting my mind right by taking a close look at who these characters are and what they’re best at. I don’t mind sharing. As you read mine, think about your own. It’s time you introduced yourself to them and got to know them better – mostly for who they really are. These are my 10 without any editing to save face or look better in your sight:
Phillip The Prophet
He knows exactly how things are going to turn out – not well. What can go wrong, will go wrong. Phillip is standing by to say, “I told you so.”
Dillion The Disrespected
Dillion is depressed because nobody respects him, especially the people he mostly wants to respect him. Dillion ignores all signs of respect because they don’t match up to what he thinks are proper demonstrations of it – like lots of glowing praise and people constantly recognizing him. He assumes silences or casual praise mean something sinister and awful, not true respect.
Ian The Insecure
Ian doubts the capacity for anything to turn out well. He joins forces with Phillip The Prophet to regularly shy away from attempting things because he’s convinced he’s not worthy of them, even if they were to happen. Ian doesn’t feel worthy of success, but still he longs for it.
Larry The Loudmouth
Larry speaks when he shouldn’t. Instead of standing by listening and observing, Larry just can’t resist the urge to pipe up and insert himself. More often than not, Larry’s mouth gets him in trouble. He never learns that listening doesn’t require speaking.
Connor The Complacent
Connor is lax. He’s often content to sit by and do nothing, even when he knows there’s plenty to be done (and plenty that could be accomplished). Connor’s strategy is to wait and see if something good will just happen. He doesn’t believe in the Law of Attraction, but he’s hopeful something magical will just come out of the blue and land in his lap.
Greg The Gregarious
Greg is outgoing and friendly. He’s comfortable no matter who is around. He lives in the moment and doesn’t think too much about things. Greg is always living in the present.
Sammy The Shy
Sammy is bashful and prefers to hug the walls. If he had his way he’d never leave the house. He hates big crowds. He feels awkward, not knowing what to do, or who to talk to, or what to say. Many times he pretends to be on his cell phone for fear of looking stupid standing around alone.
Conrad The Confident
Conrad deeply believes he’s got skills, experience, and wisdom. He knows he’s intelligent and sharp. Conrad believes that if success has ever been achieved by anybody else – at whatever the task – then he can figure out a way to find it himself. He’s not cocky, but he’s got a quiet confidence that if given enough time, he can figure out how to succeed. He believes in himself.
Samuel The Spiritual
Samuel doesn’t agree with prosperity gospel. He knows the Bible and understands this world is not his home. He realizes that work and life here are just temporary, a means to get to eternity (and Heaven). Samuel struggles to resolve his preoccupation with his professional life – and earning a living – and his spiritual duties to God. He doesn’t believe in miracles, knowing that the time for them has ceased. He doesn’t believe in God personally indwelling him. He does believe in providence, or what some might call serendipity, but knows you can’t prove providence. He does believe God is watching out for him – and all Christians – but he’s not sure to what degree God cares about his career and his success. That makes him reluctant to lean on God for help in such matters. He also struggles with the belief that God wants him to stand on his own 2 feet. That makes him not rely on God as much as he thinks he should, and he feels guilty about that.
Gerald The Guilty
Gerald feels regret and guilt over two primary areas: what he says and what he neglects to do. Gerald feels guilty when Larry the Loudmouth spouts off. He also feels guilty when Connor the Complacent does nothing but waste time. Gerald joins forces with others to beat himself up about what he should have done differently. Gerald often regrets the time lost in doing nothing when something profitable may have at least been attempted. Or he regrets doing things he shouldn’t have even attempted.
This stuff is hard, but it’s worth the wait. It’s worth doing because the rewards are real. I figure in my own life it’s just the price I pay to get to where I want to go. I tend to look at the lost time, lost opportunities and beat myself up for not getting further faster. Do you do that? Do you second-guess yourself and wonder why it’s taking you so long? Or why it hasn’t happened yet?
I’m guessing you’re like me because if life has taught me anything – and it’s taught me plenty – it’s that we’re not so different. Not really. We may like different food and laugh at different stuff, but at some level, we’re still people chasing our dreams, running from our fears and doing our best to quieten down the voices in our head that tell us we’re not good enough.
Is it true that it doesn’t have to be so hard anymore? Maybe it does have to be hard in order to get better, and easier.
“Everything is hard…until it’s easy.”
It’s one of my all-time favorite quotes. Mostly because I know how true it is and I need to be reminded of it.
Last week I had a conversation with a friend who I was telling about some of my perceived shortcomings – things that I just have no experience in, particularly in one area I’m currently pursuing. She looked at me and said, “You’re selling yourself short. You’ve learned how to do plenty of things that were once new to you. You learned how to dress, tie your shoes, leave home and attend school every day. You’ve learned plenty of things by figuring it out. You’ll figure this out, too.”
It is complicated. While waiting for things to be worked out – which means, while I’m trying to work things out – it sure doesn’t seem simple. Part of my list of characters (I say part of the list because I’m not convinced I’ve fully identified all of them just yet) marshall together to convince me things are always tougher than they really are…and that things are always complicated. Too complicated.
“Nothing worth having comes easily,” is more than a lyric by today’s musical guests. It’s how we tend to view most everything we seek to accomplish. I’ve seen it rob me of chasing things I’d have otherwise loved to pursue. I’ve also seen it rob me of not enjoying other pursuits I did chase because I listened to my characters (and others) tell me how hard it was. But some things are very worthwhile and they’re not necessarily all that difficult.
As a kid I discovered some things I was pretty good at that weren’t terribly tough for me. I look back now and realize that I let the world convince such things weren’t very high value. Writing. Drawing. Being creative. A host of things really. I was in junior high and enjoyed drawing. Cartoonists were among the people I most admired. And writers. But I knew nobody who made a living doing those things. Those can’t be worthwhile pursuits. They’re just pipe dreams. Saturday’s Smile is my tribute to two of my all-time favorite cartoonists, Jim Unger (who died back in 2012) – the creator of Herman and Jerry Van Amerongen, creator of my very favorite cartoon, Ballard Street.
Being eager is pretty thrilling, isn’t it? You know it is. I’d attend school, go to work at the local hi-fi store and be anxious before asking my boss if I could have a Saturday off so I could drive from southern Louisiana to see my girlfriend in Ft. Worth. Sometimes he said no. But when he said yes, I’d start planning and thinking every day about how many more days it would be before I’d head north to see her. The anticipation was energizing. Almost intoxicating.
Think of the times when you’ve experienced that kind of eagerness and anxiety. We think of anxiety as a bad thing, but it’s not always that way. I would be so preoccupied and anxious to get to Ft. Worth I didn’t think I could stand it. I couldn’t concentrate on school or work. My mind was thinking of what was to come…when I’d arrive at her house and be able to spend time with her face-to-face.
Where did I go? Where did that version of me go? I’m still here. I just sometimes lose sight of who I once was – the guy able to get amped up, willing to chase a dream for all I was worth no matter what the outcome. Just a guy taking aim and giving it a go because I had to chase it. Mostly, I found out it was worth the wait – and the work.
If you’ve not figured it out by now, lots of conversation about head trash led to today’s show. Old, young. Men, women. People from one part of the country to people from my part of the world. It doesn’t matter. We’re all in the same boat. Talk of dread. Talk of anticipation. Talk of hating some things while loving others. Talk of taking risks and being safe.
Did it ever occur to you that all the outside influences working against us aren’t nearly as powerful as the enemies in our head? Yeah, me neither…until recently.
A few months ago I started beating myself up for being so stupid, so ignorant about it all. How could I have gone this long without figuring it out? How can you feel good about arriving at some wisdom that you think should have hit you long ago? Yep, Gerald The Guilty was ruling the day for a while. Until I found the courage to tell Gerald to sit down and shut up. He did.
Gerald has been around a very long time. He didn’t just salute my order and stay quiet. I’ve had to keep shoving him down into the silent seat. Gerald proves that some work is hard, but worthwhile none the less.
I found myself telling somebody about my conclusion. “I’ve had to endure what I have to get to where I am now.” And I believe it. It wasn’t just something I was saying to get myself off some hook. I was just looking at how far I’d come and realized that you can’t get there from here any other way. Some roads have got to be traveled if you’re going to go anywhere. Was it the best road? Was it the wisest path? I don’t know and it doesn’t much matter. What matters is that it’s the road I took and the path I choose at the time. Thankfully, it brought me to this place. And this time. I am where I am because of the choices I made.
Second guessing it all isn’t profitable. Wishing I’d made other choices is fruitless. My faith convinces me that I did what I did and I am where I am because at this very moment I’m where I belong, doing what I need to be doing. If I keep my priorities straight and keep striving to follow wisdom I know I’ll find my way. It’ll all be okay.
Time is still on our side. We’re alive. Alive enough to feel joy, hurt, fear, dread and eagerness.
What would my eagerness feel like without dread? What would my joy as a 17-year-old have been in seeing Rhonda after a long road trip if I hadn’t missed her so?
Today, as a grandfather what would my anxiety be like for my grandchildren without the love I have for them? Or my fear of failure be like without the concern and care I have for those I hope to serve.
I think of the anticipation of winning – whatever that looks like, in whatever area I pursue it – and realize that without the prospect of losing or having my teeth knocked down my throat, what’s the point? Winning feels so good because losing sucks so much. I don’t view life as winners versus losers, but I do see it as winning versus losing. Wisdom has taught me that neither is permanent. Mostly, they’re moments in time and in my life mostly the winning has lasted longer. The losing has been far more temporary. I’m blessed and Gerald The Guilty sometimes gets back on his feet to speak because he’s right. He’s not always wrong. Sometimes I am to be blamed. Blamed for not being as thankful as I ought to be. Blamed for being guilty of not recognizing how blessed I truly am.
What about you? Is there work you’ve neglected because you’ve not been willing to face it or grind it out? Or maybe you didn’t think it would be worth the wait.
We all get blue and lonely. We all endure tough times. Sometimes we lose heart, but I’m here today to tell you not to surrender. Instead, keep pushing forward and chasing whatever it is you want to chase. Put in the time and purse it for all you’ve got. It’ll be worth it. And it may all work out as it should. Or better.
How will you ever know if you don’t try?