What To Do When Enthusiasm Wanes

What To Do When Enthusiasm Wanes

Success is the ability to move from one failure to another without loss of enthusiasm.

Often attributed to Winston Churchill or Abraham Lincoln although there’s no evidence either man said or wrote it. Both men did speak and write about resilience, persistence, and never giving up. No matter who said it, it’s wise because experience tells us it’s mostly accurate. Of course, it depends on how we define “enthusiasm.” If we mean exuberance, maybe not so much if our focus is on the cheerfulness part of it. I’ll take a shot and give you my definition of enthusiasm, as it relates to that quote.

The ability to persist, to push through, regardless of the adversity

You can interpret it differently, but that feels right to me because success requires each of us to do things we may not want to do, or things we don’t enjoy doing because we’re pursuing something we think will be worth the sacrifice and effort.

Today, let’s wrestle a little bit with this universal challenge – a loss of enthusiasm.

Randy Cantrell

The Blurry Lines of Life

The Blurry Lines of Life

Happy Birthday to my sister, Lexie. She is my only sibling. Six years older than me. 

When I was a kid growing up, folks reached 65 and it was considered the age at which people stopped working. Companies seemed to ordain that once you were 65 you were done. Finished.

Now that I’m 65 it feels so wrong. And incongruent with how the world works today.

I look at old photos of my grandparents when they were still in their 50s and they seemed so old to me at the time. Even through the lens of my 65-year-old eyes today, those old photos depict people much older than my current age. Never mind that they were a full decade younger than I now am – they looked old. They acted old. But they lived in a world where their peers looked and acted in a similar fashion.

I’m not sure how to properly define the lines of life, but mine seem to fall into a few different categories: spiritual, mental, relational, professional, and financial. There’s nothing absolute about these, but I can use them to illustrate the point of today’s show.

Spiritual is upfront because eternity changes everything. That makes our spiritual life the most important part of our life. Spiritual is the priority so it spills over into every other area.

Mental is next for me because it overlaps all of the others, too. It encompasses feelings and beliefs. It also includes our inner drive – the motivation we exhibit when we display the energy we have to achieve whatever it is we’re aiming to achieve.

Relational matters because it’s our interaction with others. From our closest relationships – like marriage – to our most casual – like some social media friends we’ve never met in person. Without this, there is no influence or impact on others. And without it, others have no influence on us either.

Professional is what we choose to do to earn a living.

Financial is our relationship with money. It includes the decisions we make with our money. Where we spend it. How we invest it. How we might waste it. Anything else involving our money, including our stuff!

These are a few of the lines I’m thinking about, but that’s not all of them.

I’m also thinking about the lines between who I am and who I most want to be. There’s the person I am versus the person I’m working to become.

I’m thinking of the past, present, and future lines, too. We all have a past that has contributed to helping us be who we now are. And all of our choices are going to impact who we’re likely to become.

As you can see, our lives are filled with lots of lines. It’s easy to understand how they can become blurred. Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between them. For example…

It’s Always About The Money. Ok, Not Always, But Often!

Yes, that’s cynical. But mostly realistic. Regardless of our age money is the ever-present elephant in the room. Every room.

I’m not saying money matters above everything, but I am saying that money is a preoccupation with most of us. We spend the greater part of our lives earning it or trying to. Then we spend time lusting for things money can buy.

Money (financial) can crossover and impact all those other areas or lines.

I’m old. I’ve had no-telling-how-many conversations with people about money and luck. And timing. Permit a qualifier. I’ve only had a few conversations with people who were chasing a dream in the arts and performance areas of life. Those folks wanted fame. They wanted their work to be seen, heard, or experienced in some way. But since I started out in small business as a teen, most of my conversations have been with people who mostly wanted money – MORE money than they currently had, or were earning.

Preparing for your time to come means preparing so you can at long last make MORE money. Nothing wrong with that, I’m just acknowledging the elephant in the room — for many people. But this is logical. We all need money. Most of us need MORE money. Not all of us need, want, or crave fame or notoriety. And many people equate fame and notoriety with more money. More money seems more universal than any other pursuit.

I’ve already confessed how daily I feel as though my worth is based on dollars. Or lack thereof. It’s not intellectual or logical. It’s emotional. It’s a feeling. It’s just one example of the blurry lines of life. There are many more.

Blurry lines don’t have to remain blurry. We’re able to clear them up with sufficient work.

Sir Ken Robinson was brilliant, witty, and extraordinary. If you’ve not read his books, you should. Especially his books on finding your element – the thing you’re very good at and the thing you most enjoy!

It speaks to our story – the one we’re writing by how we live.

Randy Cantrell

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Be A Buffalo: Stop Hiding From Your Problems

Be A Buffalo: Stop Hiding From Your Problems

Maybe I heard it because I was born in Oklahoma, a state with quite a bit of native American history and heritage. As a boy, I remember being fascinated whenever we’d find an arrowhead. The story likely came from that Indian culture I was around as a kid. I can’t be sure. Either that or it may have been because Oklahoma is also smack dab in the middle of tornado alley. Thunderstorms are a way of life around these parts (Oklahoma and north Texas).

The illustration is powerful. It deals with buffalo and thunderstorms. For those who may not know, thunderstorms travel from west to east. Cattle and buffalo react when the dark clouds start rolling in, signifying a coming storm. The cattle run east, away from the storm. The buffalo run west, directly in the path of the storm.

Question: Which animal is in the storm the longest?

Answer: The cattle…because they’re traveling with the storm.

The moral of the story is to behave more like a buffalo. Lean into your problems. Run into the storm. Don’t hide. Fight. We all have to endure the storms. It’s up to us how long we endure it. We can be like a cow running away from it, hiding. It just means we’ll be in the storm longer. Or, we can be a buffalo and fight. Face our storm by charging into it knowing that our time there will be much briefer than we ran away from it.

Storms are coming. I don’t know what they’ll look like, but the clouds are rolling in. Wave after wave. Some darker than others.

Springtime in Texas means thunderstorms and possible tornados. Lightning and hail are ordinary when the clouds are really dark.

Our life storms are no different. Some are violent and threatening. Others ramble a bit with thunder, but don’t produce much wind or rain. Some are predictable and forecasters appear to have prophetic powers. Others pop up suddenly, catching us off guard. Around here, you have to be prepared. When the sirens sound – warning us of a tornado sighting – we know where to go inside our house (or to our storm shelter if we’ve got one).

Damage depends on the severity of the storm and the preparedness of the people enduring it. When winds approach 100 miles an hour, you’re not going to prevent damage to your house, but you can stay safe. Houses can be rebuilt, new roofs can be installed and cars repaired or replaced. When you know what’s coming – and you prepare for the worst – you can survive. Battered maybe. Even bloody perhaps. People in these parts want to do what we can to survive. Mostly we do – as evidenced by how few people are killed in big storms.

But maybe I’m getting ahead of myself as I am wont to do. The storms that happen in our lives aren’t exactly like those that happen in nature. Sometimes we create our own storms. We make choices that results in thunder and lightning and significant damage. Overcoming our own stupidity can be difficult at times depending on the degree of our stupidity prowess. Some of us have extraordinary skills, brought about by years of experience in doing one stupid thing after another. Jumping off that stupidity merry-go-round can be a hard thing for some. I know. I’ve had my own struggles with it. You?

Life has options. Always.

Maybe not the ones we most want, but still — options. I’m a big fan of options because I like freedom. Freedom is being able to choose.

PigglyWiggly-LogoWalk through the aisle of your local Piggly Wiggly supermarket and you’ll clearly understand freedom. Okay, we don’t have more Piggly Wiggly stores in Texas. How sad is that? We’re no longer afforded the freedom to “dig the pig.” It’s enough to feel like a prisoner with no choices.

Okay, you get the idea — go visit your local grocery store. Pick something…some category of food item. Jam. Cookies. Cereal. Crackers. Bread. Mustard. Ketchup. It can be anything.

Now go stand in front of that category and count the different varieties you can purchase. There’s likely dozens from which to choose. That’s freedom. You have a choice to make.

Now you may look at the selection and think, “I’m not about to pay nearly $10 for some little jar of mustard.” Again, that’s your choice. You can tell yourself, “I can’t afford $10 mustard.” Again, you could choose to eat $10 mustard if you cared more about mustard. What’s that drink in your hands right now? How much did you pay for that?

That Venti Starbucks was likely over $5. It’s a one-time beverage. That jar of mustard might last you an entire month. Don’t tell me you can’t afford $10 mustard. You could if you cared more. But it’s okay that you don’t. Again, we’re talking freedom to decide – to choose what matters to you. Coffee is worth more than mustard to you. Me? I care way more about mustard than coffee ’cause I don’t drink coffee. My choice. My freedom.

No, I don’t care about mustard enough to buy $10 mustard. I just care about it more than coffee. It doesn’t mean I’m crazy for mustard. But I am crazy for Nilla Wafers. Sure, you can eat those generic “vanilla wafers.” But they’re not the same. Nilla Wafers are worth the extra money to me – if I’m going to eat vanilla wafers! Freedom.

We’ve got choices when it comes to the storms of our life, too. For the sake of our little story at the beginning, we’ve got two choices: we fight, or we run. We stand. Or we hide.

Scientists tell us we have a flee or flight mechanism that protects us. I call it having a brain. When we’re in danger we react based on our assessment of the situation.

If I’m walking down the street and somebody comes up behind, sticks what seems to be a gun in my back and yells, “Give me your money” — I’m faced with a split second choice. I’m free to run, hoping it’s not a real gun. Or hoping the robber won’t pull the trigger. Or hoping he’ll miss if he does.

I could turn around and knock him in the head. Or try. I’d likely miss.

I could scream like a girl. That’d be my first instinct. The moment he opened his mouth I think I’d automatically go to screaming.

I could empty my pockets while pleading for her to not kill me. That’s right. My robber is a girl. I’m free to make this story go any way I want. Your robber can be whoever you want. I want to be robbed by a girl. Maybe my screaming will make her laugh and leave me alone. Maybe my rugged good looks will distract her long enough for me to get that gun away from her. You never know. It could happen!

Okay, you get the point. Trouble comes and we can give in, give up or we can fight back. For today’s show, I’m going to boil it down into two very different reactions. We can either run away and hide. Or we can run into it, determined to get through it as best we can. We can be a cow. Or a buffalo.

As usual there’s irony. Or is it paradox? I’m not sure. Who can know?

I do know that buffalo and cows are about the same size. More or less. Both are from the bovine species. Yet they choose very different directions when thunderstorms hit. Cows run one way. Buffalo just the opposite.

Maybe we can’t know why, but I have an answer (you knew I would). Cows get scared and run away. They want to hide. It doesn’t work out for them. By running with the storm they just endure a lot more time in the storm. Are they stupid? Maybe. More stupid than buffalo? Perhaps. They think they’re doing the right thing. Why else would they do it? Surely they believe that running from the storm is the ideal option. That’s why they do it.

eat-more-chikinBut they’re wrong. Maybe they’re too busy protesting people eating beef. They’re holding up their “Eat Mor Chickin” signs while the buffalo are being brave.

For whatever reason that maybe they don’t even understand, cattle hide. They’re cowards. And that cowardly behavior results in far more time in the storm than if they had just stayed put. That’s right. They could have just remained in that field with that thunderstorm and they’d have been spared the time in the storm, but the skies grew dark and they got worried. So they made the wrong choice.

It’s the worst option possible for the cattle. Like us, maybe they confuse movement with proper action. Maybe they’d feel foolish just standing there while a storm blew in. So rather than feel foolish they feel better about themselves by running away. They might be saying to themselves, “At least we’re running.” Who can know what they’re thinking or saying? We just know it doesn’t work out to their best outcome.

Buffalo could also decide to stay put. That would make them wiser than the cattle running in the same direction as the storm. But buffalo aren’t content to stand there being pelted with rain, hail and possible lightning. They’re evidently wired enough like cattle to want to get out. Maybe it’s instinctive or maybe they’ve got better weather forecasters than the cattle. They know getting ahead of the storm is futile. I mean, what are you going to do? Run and run and run…until the storm peters out? That could be many miles of running. You can’t know when the storm will play out, or how?

The buffalo seem to know that storm has a beginning though. Back through the dark clouds somewhere is blue sky. The buffalo seem bent to find it. Sooner than later. They know if they run hard enough, fast enough and long enough — that the someday soon the clouds will part and the sun will shine again.

Cattle and buffalo know something is wrong. They may not know what exactly it is. Well, maybe they do. For all I know they sense barometric pressure and notice when it’s dropping. I guess I should have interviewed some cattle and buffalo in preparation for today’s show. It just seemed like too much work so instead, I decided to make some assumptions and record them as fact.

I’m going with these facts. The cattle know something is wrong. They just don’t know what. Their recognition isn’t all that keen. At least when it comes to thunderstorms. Frankly, I don’t know if they have any solid recognition skills other than knowing if folks ate more chicken then more of them might survive. But that seems futile really because where are they going to go. What will they do to survive? You can’t make a living wearing a Chick-fil-A sandwich board.

Buffalo seem to know WHAT is wrong. By recognizing the event as a thunderstorm, they react with greater wisdom. It helps to have a clear understanding of what’s wrong.

Have you ever seen a crowd know something is wrong, but not know what…and react poorly? In 1987 the State Treasurer for Pennsylvania, Robert Budd Dwyer, committed suicide in front of TV crews. He had been accused of bribery and all sorts of criminal behavior, which he denied all along. A local TV photographer came to my office on the day of this event, popped into my VCR a tape and announced, “You’ve got to see this.” Not knowing what I was about to watch I saw Dwyer conduct a press conference where once again he denied any wrong doing. After reading a prepared statement he grabbed a manilla envelope, took out a pistol and told people to get back. I remember hearing some woman screaming that he had a gun and it was evident she thought he was about to kill some people in the room. She didn’t recognize what was about to happen. (Yes, you can find video of this online to this very day)

He said a few more things, put the pistol in his mouth and pulled the trigger. TV crews caught the whole thing. Turns out the primary witness against him later admitted he lied to get a reduced sentence for his own crimes. Turns out, Dwyer may have been innocent after all. Talk about lots of failure in recognition. It was rampant. Things aren’t always as they seem.

Cattle are like that woman who ran out of the room screaming that Dwyer had a gun. She was convinced he was going to go on a murderous rampage. Who could blame her? But she was wrong. He had no intention of hurting anybody other than himself. I remember thinking how suddenly it had happened. One second he’s talking to the crowd, the next second he’s laying on the floor dead.

Dwyer had choices. Turns out he was pretty calculated in his choice. By dying in office he insured his widow got the pension of over $1 million. Was it his best option? Not likely. Maybe he could proven himself innocent. But for some reason he made his choice to end his life. I don’t think it was buffalo behavior. The storm of his life – a pending lengthy prison sentence – was seen as something he couldn’t overcome or endure. Death was the ultimate run away tactic. A permanent way to hide. No, not the wisest choice. Suicide is never the wisest choice, but I admit I have a faith bias. Our life isn’t ours to take. No human life is ours to take. Proof I guess that we’re all free to choose foolishly.

Seeing clearly is what’s necessary if we’re truly going to know what’s wrong. Keep in mind, knowing what’s wrong doesn’t necessarily imply that we know what to do about it. We can know what’s wrong and still be very unsure of what we ought to do. Today, I’m focused on knowing what’s wrong though because if don’t, there’s no way we can react properly — or with wisdom. So it’s a first things first deal.

By running away and hiding we display fear. Nothing more. Just cowardly fear.

We bury our head in the sand. We hide from our problems. We avoid dealing or confronting our circumstance.

We hope we can stay a step ahead of the storm. We hope things will work out. We hope up ahead are clear skies. Rarely, if ever, are we right.

Hiding and running away almost always lead to a more devastating outcome. There’s a benefit in pre-thinking it and making up our mind in advance. There’s benefit in thinking it over.

Each of us can determine which critter will typify our behavior. We can decide that ahead of time.

We all know storms are coming. Maybe you’re in the middle of a doozy right now. You know you’re not going to be able to avoid them all your life. Nobody does. Money won’t prevent them from hitting you. Good health won’t either. Family and friends can’t protect you from never experiencing them. They’re just part of life and they’re coming.

What are you going to do when they roll in? That’s the only question. Pre-think that and figure out what you’re going to do. Consider the cost of behaving like cattle or behaving like buffalo. Both of them have a cost.

When it comes to time in the storm, the cattle endure a longer experience. But in the moment when they run, the cattle likely feel pretty good. Maybe the buffalo a bit more scared knowing the storm is going to be hitting them directly in the face, sooner than later. Maybe they had a few moments of dread. They face the storm anyway. It’s the price they’re willing to pay to get through it quicker. Bravery always has a cost. But so does cowardice.

Stop running. Quit hiding. It just makes matter worse. And it prolongs the storm. That’s the moral of today’s show. Decide you’re going to get through whatever storms come your way as quickly and without any more damage than is required. You’re going to get wet. You’re going to hear some thunder. You’re going to see some lightning. It can’t be helped.

See the storm for what it is — an opportunity to exercise wisdom in real-time, a chance to learn and grow — and a time to prove to yourself and those you love, that you’re a buffalo!

Randy

Coasting On Memories

Coasting On Memories

“A girl I became friends with on a school trip in high school fell asleep on my shoulders on the ride back.”

“I’m still coasting on that memory.”

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Crimson and Clover and Crystal Blue Persuasion were on the same album. I was 11. It was one of my first and biggest music memories of “my” music…and perhaps it was the first record I wore out. Literally.

RayCharlesModernSoundsInCountryAndWesternMusicListening to Top 40 radio was a constant in the car. At home, the biggest memory and influence was my dad’s 1962 Ray Charles’ record, Modern Sounds of Country and Western Music.

Side one

1. “Bye Bye Love”
2. “You Don’t Know Me”
3. “Half as Much”
4. “I Love You So Much It Hurts”
5. “Just a Little Lovin’ (Will Go a Long Way)”
6. “Born to Lose”

Side two

1. “Worried Mind”
2. “It Makes No Difference Now”
3. “You Win Again”
4. “Careless Love”
5. “I Can’t Stop Loving You”
6. “Hey, Good Lookin'”

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My early music experiences consisted of great rhythm and harmonies. My sister loved The Lettermen and later on, The Carpenters. For me, Ray Charles was hard to beat. For a little kid, not yet a teenager, I was falling in love with music.

The albums were played on a piece of furniture. Homes with music had stereo consoles. stereo console

Junior high brought on a new music-related interest, hi-fi stereo gear. That fueled even deeper and broader interest in records. Tons of music memories have provided a good coasting surface for my life.

Watching the documentary about Ben Fong-Torres, famous music editor for Rolling Stone magazine brought back lots of memories of the 1970s and the music that once dominated my life. But music is just part of the memories I coast on. Words increasingly mattered, and not just the song lyrics. I devoured Ben Fong-Torres’ writing. And Hunter S. Thompson. And Cameron Crowe. Their writing wasn’t like anything familiar to me. Ben wrote about music and musicians. Hunter, well, he wrote about lots of stuff. Popular culture. Politics. I didn’t care that much about the topics, but I enjoyed how Hunter wrote. Crowe, like Ben, he was writing about musicians. I read their stuff regularly adding a new coasting surface for memories – words.

Music. Technology. Words. The convergence of these 3 things happened in the 1970s. The song remains the same.

Memories reflected my future. And my present.

Memories don’t determine the present or the future, but they influence it. Our memories are part of us. What has happened to us helps define us.

The guy coasting on the memory of the girl who fell asleep on his shoulder indicates how something so small can linger for so long…and even fuel us along the way. It’s not about coasting in the sense that we don’t do anything. Not putting any effort into anything. I don’t know what memories you may leverage for coasting, but it did make me think of what memories might be fueling me.

I began the conversation with memories of music because music has accompanied every era of my life so far. I don’t suspect it’s going to stop until my life stops. But I’m not coasting on it. Any of it. It’s not a driving force so much as a soundtrack, a key but minor player in the grand scheme of things.

I started thinking of the memory this guy shared and wondering if I had any such memories. I’m not at a loss for pivotal memories, but I’m not sure I’ve got any single memory that fuels me like that.

One of my first thoughts was about family and faith. And not separately, but how connected they are for me. I’ve long thought that I hit the lottery when it came to being born into a Christian home where I was taught the Bible and where I learned about God. And myself. From grandparents to parents to old men and old women, I was fortunate enough to have great teachers. I didn’t have to go searching for God or the truth. It was handed to me on a platter. I only had to read, listen, learn and figure out on my own whether I’d embrace it or not. It wasn’t about indoctrination as much as it was about exposure. Exposure to the Bible, to read it for myself, question whatever drove my curiosity, and make up my own mind whether I’d believe the evidence or not. I decided to follow the evidence and believe. Then obey.

Today, after years of study, more reading, many more questions, and much more listening, my conclusions have only deepened. While there’s no single moment or memory necessary that provides my coasting, there are countless cumulative memories that do. Memories of training, teaching, instruction, sermons, and conversations.

I always had a girlfriend. I never recall being a boy who went “Eeewww!” about girls. I liked girls. As a little boy, there was nothing sexual in the attraction. I was attracted to some girls for their maturity and intelligence. I was always migrating to the smart (and attractive) girls. Just being honest. But I was also attracted to the lower drama girls, the ones who were more mature. And there was a third component that was really important – fun. The girls I liked most had a sense of humor. They laughed. I enjoyed making them laugh. I used to be pretty good at it. 😉

I remember spending time with girls – not as boyfriend/girlfriend, but just as close friends. Sharing. Laughing. Talking. I was never uncomfortable around them. Mostly, I found them more interesting. Later, I figured it was because my communication style is more aligned. I’m introverted but verbal. The older I got the more crude guys became and most of the guys just weren’t that interesting to me. Only a few were funny – and they were very funny. For me, the smart guys weren’t nearly as interesting as the smart girls. The smart guys were not at all guys I wanted to spend time with because they were mostly awkward. Nerdy.

The memories are less about girls though and more about connection and conversations. Girls just happened to be much better at it, in my experience. Especially at a younger age. Girls weren’t as cruel as guys. Well, not to me anyway. And those “cruel girls” weren’t the kind of girls I spent time with anyway. Girls didn’t have rage either. I learned very early that boys have rage. We have to find effective ways to deal with it, minimize it, keep it in check, and hopefully, extinguish it.

The word that continues to leap to the forefront of my memories of all this is INTERESTING. The girls I spent the most time with were interesting. And interesting has always driven me. My curiosity has never left me, which I suppose, is why I don’t find it hard to be interested in others. For as long as I can remember, I’ve felt that other people were more interesting because I knew (and know) my life. I wanted to know more about their life. I’ve uttered the statement, “I already know what I know, but I want to know what you know” more times than I could possibly count. Or some semblance of that statement.

Here’s the thing about my memories of being interested. If I’m not, I can’t fake it. I may be able to hide it a bit, but I don’t ever try to force it. Mostly, I just try to survive it. 😉

Memories of being interested have always existed. And driven me in ways difficult to explain. Whether it was school or work or play. I don’t embrace apathy. I battle it as hard as anything I face because I hate how it feels. So rather than accept it, I lean hard into alternatives – mostly in finding ways to fuel my interest to counter-balance indifference (or at worst, apathy).

For many years I wasn’t able to fully understand it, but the more I leaned into learning about personality types I found a possible answer. I don’t have a narrow view of personality types. Are there really only 16? Or 24? Or less? Or more? That doesn’t seem likely, but after years of reading, I do think there are tendencies and common traits. Myers-Briggs identifies me as an INFJ-A (Introversion (I), Intuition (N), Feeling (F), Judgment (J) – Assertive (A)).

Laid-BackAssertive INFJs (INFJ-A) are those INFJs that have a more relaxed attitude towards daily occurrences. Both personalities have a dominant introverted function that influences their need to go through situations independently, but Assertive INFJs seem less concerned about adverse outcomes.

Myers-Briggs talks about how this personality type can close the door. Close a chapter. End something. It aptly describes how I handle toxic people, apathy, and maybe other things, too. I don’t dance with apathy. I shut it down by aiming at something that can offset it. It’s got to be in something congruent with the approaching apathy. For example, after years in small business (defined more by how close leadership is with the work rather than size), I grew a bit tired of it and had an opportunity to shift into more coaching than consulting. As indifference for consulting wained, I dug into coaching to make a shift. I never let apathy set in. I deprived indifference of the fuel it needed to grow. As a result, today I’m extraordinarily experienced in business and when the right opportunity fit arrives I’m excited, but I’m mostly given to my higher interest in coaching (helping others figure it out).

Sometimes it doesn’t work that way though. I’ve ended relationships with people who proved themselves toxic and unsafe. It doesn’t have to be ugly, or unkind. But for me, it’s definitive. I sever the relationship and walk away. The hard part for people to understand is what I’m feeling. People assume such decisions are driven by hatred or spite or something else. That’s not how it works for me. It’s never worked that way for me. My memories are all consistently driven by forgiveness (asked for or not, I don’t care because for me forgiveness isn’t something I do for the other person – I do it for myself). For me, it feels much more like closing a chapter that is now over. Done. Finished. So I move on. Forward.

Some people who know me best have expressed curiosity about that, but it’s just how it rolls. I’d love to tell you it’s fully conscious, but it’s not. It feels more like an innate thing. Some years ago I was introduced to the VIA Survey of character traits. We all have them, to varying degrees. We use some a lot. Others, hardly at all. Character traits aren’t like strengths or personality. They are much more stable than that. Harder to change perhaps because they’re who we are. What we can do is know them better, leverage them to our best and shore up areas where we may be weakest. But largely, they’re likely so ingrained into who we are that we don’t even know how or why we’re incorporating them all the time. For me, forgiveness is my number one character trait. That means it’s the trait I use the most. The one I most easily incorporate into my life. I don’t really even think about it. Or wrestle with it like I’ve learned many people do. I never analyze it, weighing why I should or shouldn’t forgive. I just decide and move on. Closing the chapter.

Memories of being that way fuel most coasting and always have. Again, there’s no one moment I can point to but a bunch of ordinary moments. Just an accumulation of lots of instances where it defines who I am.

A third and final thought came to my mind as I was thinking of the guy fueled by the memory of a girl falling asleep on his shoulder. Getting it right. Making it great. I thought of my memories and the memories I may have helped others create.

Do you ever wonder about your childhood friends? Or even friends you had back in high school? How frozen in time you all are to each other. And how you saw kids back in the day when we were all 16, or 17. Maybe younger, maybe older?

Some memories are innocent, but I wonder about others. I wonder about the people who may have drawn some conclusions about me based on the 16-year-old version of me. I don’t feel much different today, but I’m old enough now – and wise enough – to know that I made some foolish choices along the way. Behaved poorly sometimes. It goes way beyond the teenage years. I look back now at myself in my 40s and wonder what negative memories I may have sparked because of my own foolishness.

We can all coast on bad or negative memories as much as we can good ones. In my experience, it can be almost impossible to outlive some negative view others may have of us. I’m not sure what it is in the human memory that enjoys pegging a person at some moment in time as forever being THAT – whatever THAT is – but it seems fairly widespread.

I’ve got a friend who has suffered some major setbacks in life. Some due to his own foolishness. Others due to horrific circumstances of his youth. Still others due to drivers that compelled him to make choices in hopes of gaining the respect of people he sought to please. Like most of us, his story isn’t linear. It’s a long, winding road of decisions, actions and pursuits. A road filled with dreams, goals and ambitions. It’s not the story of a dirty rotten scoundrel. Or the story of an immoral, ne’er-do-well. His life, like mine and yours (probably) is the story of a guy who wanted to get it right but sometimes didn’t. A well-intended guy who proved to be imperfect. Like me. And you.

Coasting on memories compels me to think of how things in our life aren’t equal. Some choices have a bigger impact, creating longer-lasting memories for everybody concerned.

“She married the wrong guy,” says somebody. “He’s just never been good for her.”

“He’s worked like crazy to make her happy, but it’s never going to happen,” remarks somebody else.

Picking a spouse is one of those momentous decisions that carve a bigger memory for people. Get it wrong and it’s as bad as it can get. Get it right and it’s more glorious than anybody can ever imagine. Of course, there are a billion shades between the two extreme memories – and realities.

I know people who happily judge my friend for the memories born of moments here and there. I see it in their eyes. I hear it in their voices. The condescending self-righteous “I’m so much better than you” demeanor that we’re all so capable of displaying toward each other. And I know that no matter now long he lives, or how hard he tries, some folks will coast into the next life with their memories of harsh judgment toward or against him. And I know there are people on the planet who view me the same way. And you, too. I doubt any of us are immune.

But I wonder how many memories I’ve coasted on that I got wrong. Capturing some conversation, or some decision, or some action in a moment in time that may not fairly represent the reality of the person – or even the moment. Just a time I got it wrong, but over time I’ve convinced myself how right I am. Those are the questions that cause me to not coast too much on a memory. Because I know things aren’t always as they seem. Or as I remember them. In this quest to figure it out – working hard to get it right in real time – sometimes we fail. And sometimes we may never know that we failed — because we’ve convinced ourselves that we got it right.

Randy Cantrell

The Courage To Take A Swing

The Courage To Take A Swing

“Don't be pushed around by the fears in your mind. Be led by the dreams in your heart.” ― Roy T. Bennett, The Light in the HeartLast season I’m watching one of the grandkids play ball. My granddaughter plays softball and both of her little brothers play baseball. I can’t remember which kid was playing, but I noticed a few players who would approach the plate refusing to swing. By the time I’d see these players come up to bat the second time around, it was evident they were hoping they’d get a walk. Stand in the batter’s box, bat perched on their shoulder and the pitch didn’t matter. Low, high, or right down the middle. They weren’t going to swing.

The most quoted quote about such things has to be this one…

You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.              – Wayne Gretzky

At least in baseball and softball, you have the chance of being walked. 😉 No such luck in hockey!

I’ve long been fascinated – puzzled may be a better word for it – by kids who play sports, but are obviously afraid. Watching a 7-year-old step into the batter’s box fully committed to keeping that bat on his shoulder makes me wonder, “What is he afraid of?” Is he afraid of striking out? Is he afraid of looking foolish? Of being made fun of? Of hitting the ball badly?

It’s hard to know what a little kid is afraid of. It’s hard to know what somebody is fearful of because I struggle sometimes trying to identify my own fears!

For months we’ve been navigating our own version of a Little League batter’s box. We made up our mind we were not going to keep the bat on our shoulders though. But we’re not little kids. As two adult, mature (a synonym for old) people – a married couple – we didn’t step into the box until we knew we were ready. When it’s your time to hit, you’d best get on with it and give it a go.

Will we get a hit and get on base? Might we hit a double? A triple? Will we get a walk or strike out? Or…might we hit a home run?

The courage to take a swing is the courage to patiently wait for the pitch we most want to hit and give ourselves the opportunity for any degree of success. There are multiple ways to get on base. Success isn’t limited to just hitting the pitch over the fence in a homerun. That’s the very best outcome, but it’s not the only one. And if we strike out, it’s not final. We can regroup and get back into the box for another crack at success.

So we’re taking our swings…and I’m gonna share a bit of our batter’s story thus far.

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Randy Cantrell

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