The Timeline Of Our Generation (5015)

I was reading this website about the various generations. The article is entitled, GENERATIONS X, Y, Z, AND THE OTHERS. I read it mostly so I could better understand the dates assigned to the various generations. I was prompted to dive more deeply into understanding the timelines because it determines the context.

Telling you that I was born in 1957 doesn’t make me any better than my son who was born in 1980. It doesn’t make me lesser or greater than my first grandchild born in 2007. Or my last one born in 2015. Each of us experiencing life in a different way.

When I hit my mid-fifties I had an epiphany. And you know I am just a man in search of an epiphany!

It was simply this. I’ve never been better! Perhaps never more undervalued either. This wasn’t a moment of feeling sorry for myself. Or complaining. It was during a conversation with somebody 20 years younger than me who was lamenting his lot in life. He was complaining and fully embracing victim mode. I was trying to help him see things more clearly, and to understand that no matter what had happened to him – or what was currently happening to him – that he could do something positive with it.

According to the research firm that posted the article, I’m part of the Boomers II or Generation Jones. Here’s what the article about us…

This first post-Watergate generation lost much of its trust in government and
optimistic views the Boomers I maintained. Economic struggles including the oil
embargo of 1979 reinforced a sense of “I’m out for me” and narcissism and
a focus on self-help and skepticism over media and institutions is
representative of attitudes of this cohort. While Boomers I had Vietnam, Boomers
II had AIDS as part of their rites of passage. The youngest members of the
Boomer II generation in fact did not have the benefits of the Boomer I class as
many of the best jobs, opportunities, housing etc. were taken by the larger and
earlier group. Both Gen X and Boomer II s suffer from this long shadow cast by
Boomers I.

It’s not right or wrong. It just is the context of the timeline of our lives. The timeline of our generation.

I was 40 by 1997 when the Internet was commonplace and usage was becoming more widespread. That means I had zero public presence during the days when most people start their digital footprint. And boy am I thankful. 😀

It also means that I had a solid 24 years of business experience before I ever wrote and published a “journal” entry. In 1997 we called them journals and what we did was called “journaling.” Later, it would become blogging on blogs. And that first audio file I put up online in 1997 wasn’t a podcast, but it was an audio journal. So it began.

I’m not romantic or sentimental about my timeline. It’s just my reality. And I’m aware that it impacts my perspective.

When my career began there was no caller ID. Our home phone rang and we answered it. I used to sell Code-A-Phone machines (a brand name), those tape driven devices that would answer our phone while we were away so people could leave us a message. Fax machines didn’t yet exist. Cable TV was just arriving. Big screen TV’s hadn’t yet been invented. TV’s were mostly sold by Magnavox or RCA dealers. We listened to music on vinyl records. Our cars mostly had AM only radios. If we wanted any stereo sound in our cars, it was provided by installing an overmarket 8-track deck with stereo speakers.

First Grade In 1963 At Hayes Elementary School In Ada, OklahomaIn 1963 President Kennedy was assassinated. I was in Mrs. Arnold’s first-grade class at Hayes Elementary School in Ada, Oklahoma. Our classroom was on the third floor (counting the basement) overlooking the front of the school where the flagpole was. We watched as the flag was lowered to half-staff. See if you can find me in the picture. #FindRandy

In 1969 when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the surface of the moon, I was 11. I watched Walter Cronkite get choked up with emotion. About 6 years earlier I saw him do the same thing when he reported President Kennedy was dead.

Walter Cronkite was a daily voice and presence in my life. He reported the body count of the Viet Nam war every weekday. Harry Reasoner and Dan Rather were “in country” as the Viet Nam vets called it. A phrase that meant you were on the ground in Viet Nam.

By 1972 I was just a few years away from emerging victorious from high school. Watergate erupted. By the fall of 1974, it was over. Nixon waved goodbye from the doorway of the helicopter and Gerald Ford was our President. He was also a character we laughed at on SNL thanks to Chevy Chase.

Saturday Night Live was among the funniest things ever. Belushi, Ackroyd, Chase, Murray, Radner, and company were weekly indulgences during my later teen years. It launched in 1975.

Fax machines were neat. They used this thermal paper, which was magical. Sadly, we learned the hard way when we ripped off the fax and filed it…that in short order all those papers in our files were completely white. That thermal image didn’t last. Enter the next trick thing – PLAIN PAPER fax, where an ink cartridge put actual ink on a page. It was quite the time saver, too because we no longer had to photocopy the thermal fax in order to preserve the fax output.

We all wore pagers, too. Not just drug dealers. They were the first, but the rest of us realized they had utility. Man alive, could it get any better? People would page us to call them. So we could hunt for a nearby pay phone and say, “Hey, you paged me. What’s up?” Talk about being connected. We had no idea what lay ahead.

The first cell phones were thousands of dollars and beyond the reach. Until they weren’t. By 1989 the flip phone hit and life couldn’t have been cooler. Until it was. Cooler.

Hello, Internet! Game over. Until it’s not. Wait until AI and VR become mainstream. I suspect we’ve not seen anything yet.

Context.

My father is 95. His generation, according to that research article I cited earlier, is part of the World War II generation. Tom Brokaw deemed them, “The Greatest Generation” because of their contributions during that war. My dad has seen considerably more than I have. The context matters.

Part of the context that matters is when things happen. I was 40 when the Internet became mainstream. My father was 74. That’s a major difference. My oldest child, my son, was 17. The Internet gave me much more leverage (an advantage) than it did my father because I was so much younger. But it gave me less advantage over my son because he was younger than me. Context is relative. It just is what it is.

Part of the power of the timeline of our generation is timing. It’s the when factor. By having the Internet all of his adult life my son has an advantage over me and his grandfather, my dad. Timing may not be everything, but it’s something. Something important.

I’ve been alive during all of my son’s life. So far.

My dad has been alive during all of my life. So far.

But our timing gives each of us a different perspective. It changes our context.

I heard stories of my great grandmother, who I was happy to know when I was just a little boy, riding in a covered wagon. Just knowing somebody in my family with that experience is part of my context. A context my son knows nothing about even though he knows covered wagons used to exist.

Timing influences us.

Passing It On. Passing It Back And Forth.

Historically I suppose the notion of passing it on was focused on the responsibility of adults to pass along wisdom and knowledge to their children and grandchildren. Appropriately so. It’s the burden of leadership and mentorship. If I have learned something that can help you, should I feel any moral obligation to share it so you may benefit from it? Certainly.

Thankfully, through the years passing it on has morphed into an even more valuable idea – passing it back and forth. Basketball teams work together to advance the ball to the open man, the player with the highest probability of making a successful shot. Why shouldn’t we do the same things with each other? Why not advance ideas, experiences and knowledge back and forth for the mutual benefit of everybody, giving each person the best chance for success? We should.

Life is competitive, but that doesn’t mean it’s always a competition. My father passed along some things to me, which I in turn, passed along to my son, and my grandsons. But I’ve passed along things to my father that could serve him – not because I’m smarter or wiser, but because my timing is different. My context is different. And sharing that context can enable him to better understand things he may otherwise find difficult. So it goes with my son. And with my grandsons.

I don’t think of it as give and take as much as I think of it as give and give. When we’re leaning toward wisdom we’re completely devoted to giving and accepting. Giving what we know and have learned and accepting what we don’t yet know, or have yet to learn.

My father was born in 1923. My grandparents were all born somewhere around the turn of the century, almost 120 years ago now. My connectivity to the years before my birth – 40 to 50 years before – coupled with my connectivity to my own grandchildren – another gap of 40 – 50 years or more gives my life a timeline that matters. You have your own timeline. And it matters to you. It helps shape how you view the world. And how you see yourself in the world.

For my life, there is a full century of time at either end of my lifespan that helps shape my context. It’s been done in stories and pictures. Recollections passed along. Conversations had. Some directly with people I knew and met. Like my maternal great-grandmothers. I never met my maternal great-grandfathers though. Some I know through their stories and their context of people who preceded them.

Yes, life is brief. The Bible bears it out. Life itself proves it. Even if you live to be quite old like my father – 95 years isn’t all that long really. Tack on another century – roughly 50 years on either end of his life and you’re now doubling the years of context that shape the story of your life. His life.

What’s the point of all this? There are so many points I suppose that deserves to be considered. I wish I were smarter and wiser to consider them all. Or even to know which ones matter the most. But I’ll go with the one that took me down this bunny trail to begin with. Our time here matters to the lives of others. We help shape the context for others. And not just somebody, but likely a rather large group of somebodies.

Those 5 kids pictured are my grandchildren. They all know my father. He’s 92 years older than the youngest and about 84 years older than the oldest. As they grow older they’ll hear stories about him, stories they’ve not yet heard, or been old enough to comprehend. They’ll pass those stories along. That lengthens the timeline for everybody along the way.

Stories of my dad’s childhood – of my mom’s childhood – expand my timeline. No, I clearly wasn’t around, but through their shared experiences I have some context of their lives. More years get added to the equation. More context. Deeper context.

The practical point of knowing that our lives impact others is the importance of communicating. Sharing.

Recently, I sat down with a very important mentor of mine. He’s in his early 80’s and known me all my life. We sat and talked over the course of some days as he visited our home. I urged him to use the webcam of his computer to record stories of his life for his kids and grandkids – something I remember doing for my kids years ago. We talked of the people who were important when he was growing up, people he’d love to see speak in video/audio today. But the technology didn’t allow it. Today, it not only provides us with the opportunity for it, but it’s convenient and cheap, or free.

Leaning Toward Wisdom began as a legacy project. Legacy is important not because of you, and selfish reasons. It’s important for the people who surround us. For all the people we influence, even if we don’t intend to.

During a recorded conversation with Drew Dudley for another podcast I co-host – What Anyone Can Do (Leo Bottary is my co-host and author of a book by that same title) – Drew uttered a phrase, “daily legacy.” I had already started the notes for this podcast episode, but it fit so perfectly I’m including it here. First, let me encourage you to go find Drew’s TEDx talk on leadership. It’s only 6 minutes long. I’m embedding it for your convenience. The story proves the power we have to impact others, even complete strangers.

You can watch or listen to our conversation with Drew here. You may find it valuable to this entire notion of how significant our lives are to the context of others. And how we contribute to the timeline of our generation, and other generations, too. Past and future.

It’s a powerful truth that our lives matter not only daily, but yesterday and tomorrow. We mostly think today and tomorrow matter most, but we also are impacted by the past – and we impact the past. Not in the sense of changing history, but in the sense of impacting the lives of people older than us.

Past. Present. Future. It all matters. Like us. We all matter. Our timeline is likely much, much larger or longer than we think even though our time is short. Short doesn’t mean unimportant or insignificant. It just means we should all have a greater sense of urgency about how we live. And in what matters most.

I saw a graphic (the one below) that captured my attention. It shows a line of people with their backs to us. Up at the front of the line people are floating up into the air. It depicts death and shows how we’re in this invisible line without knowing our place in the lines. It says that 105 people die every minute. Now you may be irreligious or very religious. I’m not judging, but the title across the top of the page asks a question, “Are you prepared to meet God?” We assume each of these people is dying and will eventually meet God, prepared or not. Then Matthew 25:1-13 is quoted. It’s the parable of the 10 virgins (five foolish and five wise) who were waiting on the bridegroom to arrive. The Lord is the bridegroom and when He returns some will be ready, but others will be completely unready.

Maybe you don’t believe in such things. I get it. But don’t overlook the big point of your timeline. 105 people die every minute. But their influence doesn’t die. Their impact doesn’t die. At least not right away. Maybe not for a very long time if they had kids, grandkids, great grandkids. Every life in that line matters.

The timeline of our generation – of our life – is enhanced and expanded when we focus more on giving away whatever we can to others. There’s the lead. Self-sacrifice is the path to self-expansion. It’s the path to having a greater impact on our own life and the lives of others. By not thinking only of ourselves, but by putting the life of others and how our lives can serve theirs at the forefront of it all.

Permit me to leave you with a few more Bible verses because they’re relevant to this conversation.

Luke 9:23-24
“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.

That daily cross – daily legacy – is self-sacrifice. It’s what Christ Himself did. Those of us who claim to follow Him try to walk in His footsteps. He certainly denied Himself. And I believe He is the Son of God. So who am I to not give myself to the benefit and welfare of others?

It’s not about your smallness, but about your bigness. There are currently 7.,7 billion of us. None better than another. None more intrinsically valuable than another. But each one uniquely different. Each one with a timeline all its own. Each one connected to multiples more who are no longer here. Imagine the impact. What if every person, all 7.7 billion only impacted 10 unique people – a ridiculously unreasonable small number – then that’s 77 billion lives impacted!

It’d be easy to argue that we’re all connected in some way. As part of the human race our time here matters. Now, the question remains, “What are we gonna do with our life? And our time here?”

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My first girlfriend was smart. It would begin a trend. Mostly being attracted to smart girls. Even in first grade, I could tell who was smart and who wasn’t. I never felt smart except in one area – people. I always had a knack for spotting and knowing the smart people. But not the brainiacs. The smart people who were also like me, people smart. As I grew older I realized it was an endangered species. Our numbers appeared to be dwindling.

Nobody knows everything. That includes people who smash your hope with doubt. And people who fuel your excuses by feeling sorry for you. And everybody in between.

I’m jotting down a few notes for today’s show while listening to Mark Knopfler’s new record, Down The Road Wherever. I can highly recommend it. Fact is, I can highly recommend anything he puts out. I envy his talent.

I once aspired to be creative. Whether in music. Or cartooning. Or in writing. I always wanted to pursue such things, but I was too practical to let the thoughts loiter around too long. So I wound up in business. Selling things. Serving customers. Pursuing business growth rather than something more soothing or joyful to my soul.

Nobody knows everything. That includes me when I’m willing to smash my own hopes with doubt.

I set about as a young man to pursue wisdom. Others can judge whether I chased it with enough vigor to catch it. But I’m still running hard. These days, mostly breathless, but still pursuing.

The road isn’t always clear. Much of the time it’s densely fogged over, creating doubts that you’re even between the lines – much less on the road to where you want to go. And if you’re life is like mine, some days you’re not really clear on where you want to go. You’re just pleased to feel like you’re still on the pavement, and not veering into the ditch.

Nobody knows everything. We’re all working to figure it out. Give yourself and those around you a break, the license to be wrong.

“Tomorrow will be better.” I grew up hearing folks say that a lot. Eventually, I found myself saying it quite a lot, too. Too much perhaps.

But it’s at the heart of hope. And hope is at the heart of today’s theme – nobody knows everything, including anybody or anything that would rob you of hope. I also know it’s at the heart of discontentment, too. Hopefully in a good way though. A way where you realize you’ve not arrived. Full well knowing you never will arrive so you may as well enjoy the journey. And whatever scenery you pass. That is if you can look up from your phone long enough to look out the window of life’s journey.

Nobody knows everything. Nobody sees everything. Nobody understands 100% of the context of your life and what you’re chasing. News flash: you don’t fully understand their story either. But we often think we do. 

Okay, let me pick up the pace. And insert some positive energy because I know you’re thinking – “Man, what a downer today!” No, not at all. So brace yourself. Hold on. Make sure your seatbelt is tightly fastened. I’m going to make a really hard left turn but trust the suspension. It’s gonna hold. And I know what I’m doing.

Life may not always turn out as we hope, but it can turn out as we need if we’ll devote ourselves to wisdom. It’s not a matter of what should have been, or what could have been, but what must be for us to grow, improve and transform into a better version of ourselves. Hopefully on the route to becoming the best version of ourselves.

Only hope remains…hope that indeed we can lean toward wisdom and make wise choices, decisions and behave in ways that will lead us the best life worth living. But it’s not merely hope. It’s practical. And real. If we make it so!

You make the difference. Or you make excuses.

I know you heard the show title today and had instant thoughts. That’s why I did it. I know it provokes images and ideas in everybody.

There’s a friend for that. Our life is a trainwreck, but we’re surrounded by people who support us. Of course, that’s because the world is filled with rubber-neckers who take solace in knowing somebody’s life is more messed up than theirs. And it gives them an opportunity to feel superior, too.

There’s a friend for that. We enjoy complaining and making excuses. They’re quick to gather around us and give us sympathy. Sometimes the sympathy spotlight is better than no light at all.

There’s a friend for that. We only have one viable option as we live today and face tomorrow. To devote ourselves to the effort. To work our hardest to make the most positive difference we can. No excuses. No blaming others. Or anything. Just chasing the wisdom so today’s decisions will lead us down a path of improvement. A path where we know enough to know how firm our hopes are…they’re our beliefs. We can surround ourselves with people who lovingly and caringly challenge us, not because there’s anything in it for them, but because they know there’s quite a lot at stake for us.

Of those three options, I know that last one is rare, which is why I wanted to talk about it today. I don’t think it should be rare. Certainly not as rare as it is.

The real topics are optimism, hope and true friends. Not merely sympathizers, but people who are devoted to helping us be our best. Even if it means telling us the truth so we can grow. Even if it means nudging or pushing us to uncomfortable places.

It also means discriminating against those who don’t serve us because they’re focused on serving themselves. Perhaps through us.

It’s knowing enough to truly believe we can get it done. It’s our willingness to face our realities – even our poor behavior and choices – so we get busy fixing what ails us so we can move forward. It’s learning, knowing and doing.

LKD.

Learning. Knowing. Doing.

People surround us who cheer us on toward whatever idiocy we embrace. Why do you think people can easily remain in dreadful, even life-threatening circumstances? Because we can all find people who think our choices are a good idea. Wanna dive into alcohol? Drugs? Theft? Immorality? There’s a friend for that. 

One stooge is just sad, not funny. But three…three stooges is hilarity because foolishness loves a crowd. Fools travel in big packs, cheering each on in their idiocy. Wisdom is willing to stand alone. Or with just a few invaluable friends who are fully committed to the cause. The cause being growth, improvement and where necessary…transformation.

Dark Side. Bright Side.

Pessimism is rampant. Always has been. Probably because it’s easy. But I’m hopeful that we can make some changes in our little part of the world. I’m constantly trying. Failing mostly, but only hope remains so I’m going to keep on trying. 

You make the difference. Or you make excuses. I don’t feel like making excuses. I’d rather try and risk failing at making a difference. I just don’t see any upside to the dark side.

Failing is hard when you’re staring down the pessimism that surrounds you. People who don’t have the hope you do. People who don’t believe. Worse yet, people who disbelieve. It’d be one thing if our detractors were just neutral, but they never are. They’re against us and our hope. And they’re anxious to let us know about it, too.

Fight back. I do. I call it out at every turn. It doesn’t likely convert them, but I figure I’m likely the only voice challenging their dark view of a thing. Or their dark view of me. I just refuse to surrender to them and their darkness. If they choose to embrace the darkness of hopelessness, that’s their business. But I don’t have to let them force me onboard. So I don’t.

That’s a darkness that’s pretty binary. It’s just black and easy to spot. But there’s a greyer darkness that isn’t so easy to see.

It’s the darkness of consent. It’s more insidious than overt pessimism because it looks like sympathy, support, and care, but it’s not. How do we know? Well, that’s hard. Really hard.

There are a few tricks we can use to figure it out if people are serving us or enabling us to continue down a foolish path.

Consider the source. Do they defend us? Do they foster our complaining and feel sorry for us? Do they assist us when we blame others? We all enjoy a degree of this kind of enabling because these are the people cheering us along.

Do they challenge us in a healthy, caring way? Not that we’ll always feel that way, but deep down – do we believe they have our very best interest at heart for the long haul? Or are they most interested in keeping us happy at the moment? Fearful of challenging us because they may not care that much about us, or because our shallow friendship matters more than our improvement.

What’s the cost to them? It may not be universally true, but it’s a fairly solid barometer. People who love us, or care deeply about us, tend to have the most to lose if we embrace foolishness.

Do the people who surround us help us avoid responsibility or do they push us to accept it? How willing are these people to help us by holding up mirrors so we can honestly see ourselves? Or to challenge us when they believe we can be better?

There are friends for all of that. Friends so-called who will enable us to continue to behave poorly. Or friends who will help us face the realities of our circumstances, choices, and behaviors so we can grow, improve and transform. Even at the risk of knowing we won’t much enjoy the experience in the short-term.

These friends can be our biggest supporters, defenders and positive challengers. Positive challengers are the people we all need. People courageous enough to help us avoid destroying ourselves with foolish decisions or behaviors. Sometimes only people who love us deeply can muster up the bravery to take us on. Challenge us to face our own foolishness so we can save ourselves from ourselves. We all need people who will never let us down. (Colbie Caillat recorded a great song and released it on her 2014 album, “Gypsy Heart” – Ain’t Never Gonna Let You Down)

There are friends for that.

Friends who feed us with hope. And belief. Friends who enlarge our will to lean more toward wisdom, and away from foolishness.

Last month (October 2018) I saw an article entitled, “5 stages of psychogenic death or ‘give-up-itis.'”

You can die simply because you give up the will to live? Sure it’s rare and difficult, but it happens. We mostly hear of it or suspect it when an elderly person loses a lifelong spouse, and within days they die, too.

One element is Aboulia, which literally means “will.” Dr. Leach, the expert cited in the article, describes this condition as when a person not only severely lacks motivation but also has almost no emotional response to the point of not wanting to speak. The sufferer becomes extremely withdrawn into themselves and has no desire or ability to help themselves or others. They simply give up and will their brain into standby position.

This is the 3rd of five stages the doctor describes. Smack dab in the middle of the process of give-up-itis’. It’s preceded by social withdrawal and apathy. While something traumatic is most likely the cause of psychogenic death or giving up to the point where a person dies, it seems to me that each of us can die a little bit when we’re surrounded by Negative Nellies, people who just don’t believe in us, or perhaps are inept at expressing a belief in us.

I’m increasingly fascinated by observing people – people in my life and people who aren’t in my life – who are so incredibly incompetent at expressing belief in others. Well, maybe a more accurate declaration would be my fascination with people seemingly incapable of accurately serving others. I witness is constantly. It sometimes feels like I’m bombarded with apathy, sympathy or negativity — no matter how hard I try to limit or restrict their presence in my life.

Sometimes I’m accused of expecting too much from others. Not expecting them to do something for me, but expecting that they can grow, improve and transform. I’m optimistic for most people. Not in a judgey way, but in a deep belief way. It’s how I’m hardwired I guess because I don’t feel like I necessarily choose to live that way. It’s just how I am. It’s my view of the world and people.

Let me explain, somebody gets up to give a presentation. It’s lackluster. Boring. Dull. Drab. But I know this person isn’t stupid. I have this deep belief that they could perform much, much better. Somebody will ask how I felt about the presentation. I’ll be honest and use those terms: boring, dull, drab. I’ll also say something, “I know he could do so much better.” Quite often, it’s that comment that sparks this retort. “Oh, I don’t know. I think that may be as good as he’s capable of.” Am I right? Are they right? Mostly we don’t find out. The next time I watch them present, it’s no better than the last, but I hang onto the notion that if they had the right person challenging them to be better, they could be better! Maybe I’m the idiot for not being that person for them, but we’re not always the right person for the task! Context and relationships matter. There are friends for that…at least, there can be.

Human potential isn’t limitless, but I suspect very few of us have pushed ours to the limit. I did a Google search on this phrase, “how much of your full potential do most of us use.” Up popped 1,280,000,000 results. The first result was an article published in Forbes in 2011 – To Unleash Your Full Potential, Do These 3 Things.

Here are the 3 things:

  1. Train your brain to learn new things by embracing uncomfortable situations
  2. Don’t believe what people say you can’t do
  3. Set small goals to achieve big results

I’m a bit focused on that middle one today – don’t believe what people say you can’t do. And people includes yourself. What you say to yourself isn’t always spot on. It’s often excuse-making. “I did my best,” isn’t necessarily accurate. I refuse to think the boring, dull presenter is incapable of doing better, even if it’s only marginally better! He’s not working on it. He’s not being pushed to be better. He’s stuck being dull and boring, clearly unable or unwilling to self-assess. (I’m constantly urging people to record themselves and listen or watch. Proof that people can be incapable of seeing or hearing reality because these same folks claim they do listen, but their performance continues to be poor. Maybe it just proves that they need more than observing the truth in order to improve.)

This is all about higher expectations and optimism. The belief that things can be improved. Even if by just a little bit. And the belief that it’s up to us, coupled with the positive influence of friends who will help us.

I’m practical, but I’m still filled with dreams, high hopes, and elevated expectations. Sure, I disappoint myself. Sure, others disappoint me, too. I’m not convinced it’s greater disappointment than if I weren’t optimistic or hopeful. But even if it is, it’s worth it because it fuels my belief in others and in myself. People are mostly good, wanting to do even better. Sometimes we just don’t know how…and that’s why there are friends for that.

In the past 2 years, I’ve spent considerable time reading and studying about our ability to change our mind. Not our ability to change our opinions, but to literally make changes in our mind. To shift our thinking. To change our beliefs. Particularly our self-beliefs. I wish I could report I’ve mastered the art, but I feel like I only know enough to realize how dreadfully inadequate I am at the art or science of it.

Here’s what I can happily report – we’re in control of how we feel. We’re also in control of how we think. Put it in a big mixing bowl, stir it vigorously and it means we’re in control of our destiny to the degree that we’re in control of our thoughts, feelings, and actions. That truth alone is life changing or should be. Why? Because it’s the foundation of what I said earlier…

You make the difference. Or you make excuses.

That’s the whole point of today’s episode. To encourage you to embrace and fully believe that. And to nudge you as firmly as I can to pick the former even though others around you may influence you to do the latter. Find friends who will help you grow, improve and transform. Ditch the friends who are simply devoted to making you happy with your current condition.

As kids, we played follow the leader. As adults, we play it, too. I don’t think it’s foolhardy to say most people make excuses and not a positive difference. In their own lives and in their service to others. It’s the paradox of my optimism. I think most of us want to make a positive difference. We just don’t. For whatever reason. Maybe we believe it when people tell us we can’t do something. Maybe we believe the voice in our own head that tells us it’d be stupid to even try. So we don’t. Maybe we just don’t know how.

Meanwhile, we’re surrounded by people making excuses. We learned to do it as little kids. Sometimes, maybe most times, it worked. It’s like complaining. It offers us almost immediate comfort. It garners sympathy from others. Yes, it wrecks us in many other ways that have long-lasting negative effects, but it’s a habit hard to break.

Our individual and collective challenge is to rise above our first instinct to follow the herd with complaints or excuse-making. I know it’s hard. But again, I have a deep belief that we’re all capable of it. And we’re all capable of more. I don’t care what the people around me say, think or do. Neither should you!

There’s a friend for that. It’s our job to find them and let them serve us…and it’ll give us the opportunity to be that friend for others, too.

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