Project #CravingEncouragement Update
I’m just $80 away from the goal. Thanks to everybody who has made a financial contribution.
I’m still mostly wanting your stories of a time when somebody encouraged you in a meaningful way. You’ve seen and heard a theme in the recent shows because encouragement is an expression of belief. So I’m collecting stories of those expressions that others made in you. Why? Because it’s so rare yet so commonly craved by 100% of us.
It speaks to perhaps an even greater tragedy – loneliness. People craving encouragement – that’s all of us – likely also crave connection. Sometimes it eludes us. Sometimes we don’t know how to foster it, attract it or even reciprocate it. The human condition is often helped by other humans. There’s the irony of loneliness. And craving encouragement.
Do you want to participate? It doesn’t require any money.
Go to the Support This Podcast tab in the menu to learn more.
Let’s pick up where we left off last week thinking about our imagination instead of our past. But first, a word about thanksgiving.
Grace and gratitude.
A few weeks ago a social media guru released a statement.
Don’t let your friends change your mind.
People quickly came to shout, “Hooray!” Okay, they didn’t shout that, but there was loud approval.
Like many memes and quips I thought about it and instantly thought, “Well, it depends on your present state of mind.”
If your friend were suicidal I’d hope you’d try to change their mind.
If your friend was tempted to cheat on her spouse I’d hope you’d try to change her mind.
If your friend was intoxicated and about to get behind the wheel of his car I’d hope you’d try to change his mind.
If you’re in a funk do you not want your friends to try to help you out of it?
If you’re discouraged don’t you want your friends attempting to encourage you?
Things that sound smart, but are really stupid.
We’re surrounded by meme-based wisdom.
“Don’t overthink it.”
“Stop and think about it.”
Question: How can you think just right?
That’s part of the power of being thankful. It’s always appropriate. It’s always right. It never fails. You can’t say that about too many things. I mean to even use dramatic terms like “always” and “never” is remarkable. But it applies to being thankful.
It’s ironic to me that the things we associate with grace – at least the things I associate with grace – fit that bill more than anything else I know. Yet, we’re so reluctant to practice them.
Seems that if something was ALWAYS beneficial to us, and something that would NEVER fail us — that we’d lean in as heavily into that as possible. Instead, we shy away from it or worse. We steadfastly declare we won’t do it.
Like being thankful.
Find a time or place where their practice won’t help you. You can’t. Which is why grace is so foundational to leaning toward wisdom. The benefits are just too vast and deep to ignore.
I know the secrets. At least 3 of them.
Stop thinking about what you don’t have and think about what you do have.
Stop thinking about your lack and think about your abundance.
Stop thinking you’re a victim and instead see yourself as blessed.
But the key is – you have to want to do this. Until you want to live with grace you’ll never be able to. The second you decide you want to, you can. Instant power!
This is the beginning of spending more time in the place where you want to be. And we’re assuming that where you want to be is good for both you and those who love you. That’s not always the case.
Some people want what they want and if they hurt themselves and harm others – well, what’s that to you? Those people are the biggest fools. Selfishness, lack of temperance (self-control) and lives filled with destructive behaviors aimed at sin, self and immorality are wasted lives. They contribute nothing to themselves or the world. Instead, they wreck whatever is in their path contributing to the collective foolishness the rest of us are battling hard to conquer. In one fell swoop, they’re the enemy undoing all the good the rest of us may be attempting to establish. Yet they feel like the oppressed. Too stupid to know they’re the oppressors. But they see it how they see it and until events open their eyes, they’ll continue to be blinded by their own delusions fueled by their pride and ego.
We’ll never lack for them. They surround us. All the more reason for us to embrace the truths that can help us wage this battle – this war – against our own human foolishness. Because that’s what’s going to destroy us individually. And collectively. Our own foolishness.
All the more reason to rise early each morning dedicated to doing just one thing – conquer our own foolishness. Just today. Then we’ll get up and do it again tomorrow. And along the way, we’ll try to help somebody else conquer theirs. It’s not the least we can do. It’s the most we can do.
It begins with me. Stopping long enough to not think about what the world owes me. Or what injustices I’ve endured. But cataloging all the blessings placed under by stewardship.
It begins with me asking myself, “Am I a good, faithful steward?”
And it requires an honest, thoughtful answer. The Truth.
Grace is challenged – and all its components like gratitude, forgiveness, and compassion – by comparing ourselves to others. Fact is, others have zero impact or influence on our practice of grace. Except of course, we give them permission to control it on our behalf.
I might be more grateful except I see others who have it better than me. How can I be gracious when I see Instagram posts of people having fun, traveling to beautiful places and enjoying a life foreign to mine? My life sucks by comparison. So my lack of gratitude isn’t my fault. It’s their fault.
Never mind that intellectually I know there are millions of people who suffer present conditions far worse than mine. I don’t think of them. I don’t think of the people whose feet will never walk on hardwood, tiled or carpeted floors. People who will live their entire lives not knowing what it is to walk mere feet inside their house and turn on a faucet to have clean water. People who will live their entire lives not knowing what it is to live in a country ruled by peace. Forget about those people. Because I do.
Instead, I’m taking aim at those living better than me. Bigger, nicer houses. Newer, nicer cars. Trips. Eating at restaurants I can’t afford. Buying things I’ll never afford. Doing cool things I’ll never be able to do. Those people are the reason for my lack of grace. It’s not my fault.
Is this really where you’d like to spend your time? At this place? This is beneficial?
Why don’t we conscientiously figure out how to spend more time in better places?
I suspect it’s largely because we don’t know how. But mostly, I suspect it’s because accepting blame and responsibility for our lives is so painful. But only because we’re focused on the pain. Not the power.
Focus on the power. Not the pain.
This seems huge to me and I’m fascinated why we don’t see it more clearly. I’m really fascinated at the many times I don’t see it myself more clearly because I’m just like you – prone to my own foolishness.
When we look deeply enough inside ourselves and face our pain we feel the need to protect ourselves from it. That’s best done – so we foolishly think – in seeing others as the source of that pain. So we must protect ourselves from THEM. After all, they did this to us.
All along the way our power is diminished. Until it’s gone completely. And we’re left as roadkill on life’s highway. Powerless to do anything about it because the universe is so much bigger than us. No way we’ll ever win.
When the reality is the pain is mostly our fault. And if it’s not our fault, it’s 100% our responsibility. And there’s no need to protect ourselves from things beyond our control because we have plenty of work to do to protect ourselves from our own foolishness – best done by embracing goodness and committing ourselves to our own learning, understand and growth. In short, to become the best human beings we can!
That’s the path forward.
But that’s a lot of work. Much more work than blaming others. Never mind that it’s productive and profitable. FOR US!
That’s why we don’t do it. It’s too hard. We think.
Or maybe we just don’t know how because the collective culture is always working against us. Collective wisdom ain’t so wise. Never has been. Mob rule is a thing. And it’s never smart, wise, thoughtful or considerate. It’s herd mentality and it never fails to be colossally stupid, foolish and destructive. And mostly impulsive.
So Nike comes out with some sneaker that has Betsy Ross’ American flag on the heel. And Colin Kaepernick jumps on it as racist. And “thar she blows!” Social media ninnies from around the globe jump on it. Poor Betsy Ross. Poor Colin Kaepernick. Poor America. Poor us. All of us for being surrounded by such nonsense! But we always have been, always will be. Because the ninnies always have the numbers.
Which is an opportunity for us. You and me. An enormous opportunity!
To escape the herd of ninnies driven by impulses not their own, driven to remain victims of Nike and every other company on the planet, driven to remain victims of a society that just won’t give them everything they want and feel entitled to…so much tyranny from which to escape. And plenty of time to do it because we can do it in an instant. A flash. One blinding moment of clarity where we determine to stop being victimized and simultaneously a moment where we accept responsibility for our own lives. Our own outcomes.
Because I don’t care what Colin Kaepernick thinks.
And I don’t care what Twitter says.
And because I don’t care what new shoes or watch you just bought.
Because it doesn’t affect me. Unless I let it. And I see no value in letting it.
Except I’m thankful to live in a country where Colin can say what he wants. I hate that people like him can rally herds of ninnies and contribute to the collective lunacy, but when you express gratitude to live in America – that’s what you embrace. People’s ability and choice to be the ninnies they would be. So I salute Colin’s Ninnie Army and all like them who choose to let others dictate their path and their life’s outcome.
I just don’t choose to follow. It’s not where I want to spend my time. It’s not the place where I want my present or future to reside. So I choose something else. Something over which I have control.
I’m thankful to be an American. I’ve never had to protect myself or my family from foreign invaders. Or from fellow countrymen. I’ve only heard bombs and the machinations of warfare on TV and in films.
I’ve never had to walk miles to fetch clean water for my family. Or had to devote myself to hours a day wondering how to feed them. Or how to find suitable sleeping quarters for the night.
I don’t know such a life. I’m sad for those whose lives are defined in such ways. But I’m thankful mine is not. Not in some “I’m better than you” kind of gratitude, but in amazement wondering why I’m so blessed while others aren’t? Some things you accept and leverage for the best of yourself and those around you. I accept such things about my life and give God thanks.
I did nothing to deserve it. But I’m responsible for what I do with it. I’m a steward. So are you.
“Why me?” isn’t a worthwhile question. Largely because there is no answer. And if there were, how could it possibly help us make a positive mark on the world?
Our lives are resources. Not the stuff. Or the circumstances. Resources comprised of our experiences, our thoughts, our actions, our choices, our words, our willingness to help others, our behaviors. Which of those do you want to declare don’t belong to you? Experiences? Really? You have no influence on what you experience? Think more deeply because those resources are within your power to deploy however you see fit.
There’s the power. You can look at it intently, staring it down like you might a buddy in a “no blink” contest. Or you can surrender all of your power opting to hug it out with Pain.
I’m not saying we can avoid all pain, suffering and heartache. I’m saying we can eliminate much of it, reduce a lot of it and better manage some of it by owning our lives. All of it.
The magic of the Ideal is that you never arrive. The Land Of Your Ideal is always ahead. Somewhere. Near or far. But the daily striving is what promotes lives better today than yesterday. If only marginally. Still better.
Small erosion over time reveals itself in mountains and streams.
Small investments over time reveal the power of compounding interest.
Small movements over time reveal the power of mastering music. Or art. Or communication. Or most anything else.
“Inch by inch it’s all a cinch.” And if not a cinch, then at least a higher probability. Guarantees of nothing more perhaps than that we can make today better. And tomorrow better still. And that’s a pretty powerful guarantee.
Time spent where we want to be versus time spent where we are. Or where we’ve been. That’s why we began this conversation last week. So much focus on the past. Worthless. Because we’re powerless to do anything about it other than learn from it. But we don’t often leverage it for that positive purpose. Instead, we opt to embrace regret and blame. Neither of which serve us with much more than resentment and bitterness.
I’ve looked but been unable to find anybody – or any group of somebodies – who cranked out a good life by incorporating more resentment and bitterness into their lives. Rather I’ve seen lots of people – enough to prove to me that it’s empirical evidence. Resentment and bitterness don’t pay. They cost. Enormously!
To what are you attached?
It’s one way you can look more deeply inside yourself and see yourself accurately. Soul searching. Looking more closely inside yourself reveals answers to many questions. Most notably, “Why?”
Lots of people wake up and go to bed daily questioning, “Why?” Why am I doing this? Why is this happening to me?
But they have no true answers. Only excuses.
Until they discover their attachments. Which could be anything.
Addiction. Abuse. Ego. Narcissism. Status. Stuff.
Your attachments help define your identity.
I know lots of business people who are very attached to their status symbols. Their cars. Their suits. Their houses. Their office. Their trips and vacations. Their dinner reservations. Their stuff.
Their prestige is locked inside these things. Deeply.
Remove them – it often happens due to the cycles of life that affect us all – or remove some of them, and you’ll see people struggle because they no longer know who they are. They thought they were one thing, but now they don’t know.
What’s important to you? What’s so important that it helps define you because you choose that?
You choose it. Every day.
We’re all attached to something. Or someone.
We get to decide what’s important. Default can be our setting. It probably is for most people. The precious few – the supreme achievers among us – create a more intentional, determined course. Some of us are working toward it. Trying to escape the gravitational pull of mediocrity and foolishness.
Making choices about our attachments is a daily grind. It can be disrupted instantly. Momentarily. And that can become our new norm if we allow it.
The guy who longs for a 7 series BMW finally gets one. But he’s been attached to such things the moment he decided to long for it. When he gets it, it’s not enough. And it won’t remain new, current and cool forever. Next year a newer model will replace it. His attachment will continue down the spiral toward more. And more. And more. But his soul will never be satisfied because the attachments are – at their core – quite insubstantial. Shallow.
But it can affect any of us. Shame. Embarrassment. Not measuring up to others. Again, because we’re busy comparing ourselves to others and it either makes us feel better about ourselves or worse about ourselves. Not because of us. But because of THEM.
The Power Of THEM
The proverbial “they” know everything. And often determine everything.
Mostly they distract us from ourselves. Prevent us from searching deeply enough to stare down our fears, doubts and insecurities.
Time with ourselves is power. And pain. Focus on the power knowing the pain is real.
Spending more time in the place where you want to be requires our willingness to spend more time in the place where we need to be. No matter how uncomfortable. No matter how painful. Because that’s where the power is – at least the power we possess to change our own lives.
Fear drives too many of us.
Mostly fear of what others say. How they’ll judge us. What they’ll think of us.
Because we really care what people think of us.
It’s scary. Because we mostly don’t care about these people, but we put big power in what they think of us.
It’s scary. Because we mostly can’t control what they think of us anyway because negative people – which is by and large the defining trait of most people – are going to judge. And harshly. Much of the time.
THEY don’t matter. Because your life isn’t their life.
Conquering your life is the game. Not conquering the life of somebody else. Not allowing others to conquer your life for you.
More time in the place where you want to be means you’re not there. Yet.
Great leaders see the future first.
Are you a great leader of your life? The proof is found first in what and how you think, and then in what you do about it.
We love the comfort of excuses. Our brain craves it, seeks it and searches for it.
I know I do.
I don’t want to grind. I don’t want to sweat. I’d rather lounge. Do nothing.
But the problem is what it produces. Nothing.
Fancy and soft don’t work. In spite of our high cravings for them both.
The past is soft because it’s over. There’s nothing to do but dwell on it. So we do.
Imagination is hard. Discipline is, too.
Simplicity is hard. Complexity, not so much.
Conquering yourself is THE chore. Which is why these conversations are critical. Because they don’t require anybody else. The proverbial “they” don’t matter. Except to shut them out. So we can get to work figuring these things out for ourselves.
Where are you right now?
Your present doesn’t have to be awful. Fact is, it may be quite wonderful. It doesn’t matter. Whatever your reality is right now – that’s what matters.
For what it truly is.
Does it really matter how you got here? Maybe. But not likely as much as we think. Because it fosters excuse making. And blaming. Instead of provoking us to examine the truth of how we got here…which could be highly valuable. An autopsy designed to show us what really happened. All so we can learn from it and understand it better so we can avoid replicating it. Growth.
I screwed up. I got it wrong.
I didn’t apply myself. I was lazy. Some things came easily. Until they stopped coming easily. College kicked my butt because I didn’t do the work. I hated it. Every lousy bit of it.
Until I entered the College of Journalism where my identity felt congruent with what I cared about. And everything changed. At least college-wise. I excelled. Because I loved it.
I was an introvert expected to behave like an extrovert. So I played the role. Until it exhausted me.
The depths of the struggle were real. They are real.
Fast forward to about a decade ago. My career isn’t over, but it has drastically changed. A failed attempt to purchase the company I was running left me fractured, if not broken. It was time to reinvent myself but I had no idea how. I did all I knew to do – dive inward.
The search inside was intuitive to me. I’ve lived long enough to know it’s not intuitive for everybody.
The chore has been longer, more arduous and fraught with more failure than I ever imagined. I didn’t think it’d last this long. I didn’t think more failure and sorrow would pile up. I now know I thought I was about as down as I’d ever get. Boy was I wrong!
That’s the thing about down. Or the bottom. There’s no welcome sign.
All the attachments that proved vain had to be faced. Identities that once seemed important proved empty. Life was flipped upside down at an age when most folks are thinking of winding down. I was having to find a way to wind it up.
The good news is, I wanted to wind it up. I didn’t want to wind it down. Admittedly, I was hoping to wind it up to a new height rather than to start over. But starting over is what was demanded. I had no options if I wanted to move forward. And I did want to move forward. But only after I overcame wanting to retreat and surrender.
It always takes longer than you think. Or hope.
When you’re older, like I was (and obviously still am), it’s very hard. It has been for me. Self-discovery is like history to the older. There are more years of debris to remove so you can find the Truth.
And I had a lifetime of inner strength – part of my DNA – to be reflective. Self-introspection came easily, naturally. Along the way, I discovered that forgiveness is one of my 2 character strengths. It’s always been easy to forgive. To ask for forgiveness. Equally difficult – almost impossible – to forgive me. I had no idea how powerful that opponent would be, but it kicked me, put me in a choke hold and refused to accept my tap out. I had to fight because my lack of self-forgiveness was going to kill me. I had to learn to fight.
I haven’t won it, but I’ve turned the tide more to my favor. It took a long, long time. Largely because life threw other haymakers at me that I wasn’t planning on. It happens.
I knew who I was. That was the mainstay.
I knew what I was.
The struggle was figuring out who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do. Visualization and imagination come easily. Always have. Getting them focused so they could best serve me…that’s not been easy.
It’s a verb. One I’ve relied on. One you need to rely on.
First, figure out where you want to be. You’ve thought about it. Not likely been courageous enough to head in that direction though. So commit to the destination. Nevermind that you’re not sure how you’ll get there. Nevermind that family and friends don’t think it’s possible for you. Nevermind that you’re alone in believing in yourself.
Does it really matter? Nope.
Only because you let it.
Your family and friends aren’t the calvary come to save you. Frequently they’re the bigger enemy telling you you’ll never be able to get where you want to go. It’s okay. They mean well. They’re just like the others who haven’t been able to do it so understand their lack of faith. It’s self-imposed and now they’re just doing what they know to do – apply it to your life. But they’re not you.
You can be a better human being. You can be a bigger human being. There is an ideal to which you can grow closer. It’s up to you.
Get really clear on where you want to be. Be detailed. Be precise. Write it out. Record it. Do whatever it takes to make the visual more complete. The imagery matters. You need to see it, touch it, feel it, taste it and experience it – in your imagination. First.
Now, go there. Like any other trip, set out. Start. It’s not important how long it takes you to get there – in your imagination. What matters is that you get there.
Don’t make it a quick trip. Make it an extended stay.
Because the longer you stay there in your imagination the faster you’ll arrive in reality. It’s not a bad plan to get there as fast as possible then stay there with no intention of leaving unless you discover some better place you’d like to go.
And you will. Over time there’ll be a new improved destination. But the habits and things you figured out to get to the last one will serve to make you more efficient at getting to the new ones. It’ll happen more easily. More quickly.
Along the way, you’ll become better – even good – with being uncomfortable. The suffering will spur you on to go further than you thought you could. The pain that once crippled you will seem inconsequential. In its place, new pain will emerge. Pain that will remind you how powerful you are to discover new strengths, new abilities, and new resolve.
If you’re super blessed, a few folks will serve to encourage you along the way. Most won’t. Often times those closest to you will believe the least. It’s okay. Don’t judge them for it. Ignore them for it.
They’re not driving your life. You are. Drive it to where you most want (and need) to go. Stop waiting.