“Wow, I just made two hundred bucks!” I announced glancing at my phone.
“Really? That’s awesome!” replied Molly.
As we found our seats arms full of popcorn and drink, I read the message again. This was what I’ve dreamed of – the whole “making money while you sleep” thing or in this case while watching a summer flick.
Ironically, this was the tail end of a great three weeks camping along the Oregon coast – not the middle of some product launch.
Years ago I published my first Kindle ebook to “demonstrate my authority” and ultimately teach workshops. I saw the need for this training because when I got started, there was little to no information available.
Although I had tried all kinds of get rich quick schemes and even programs that sincerely wanted to help you make your first dollars on the internet, I just wanted to finally make some real money online.
As I finished writing my book, there was a section about mystery shopping that felt incomplete. A friend put me in contact with Pam of IMSC (Independent Mystery Shoppers Coalition – a group for mystery shoppers formed by mystery shoppers,) and that one call launched my speaking and teaching career.
Pam not only generously took the time to talk to me about her own mystery shopping experiences, but she shared her own book and invited me to speak at the next conference in Las Vegas.
There I shared my journey as a field inspector before pitching my book and training. Although I managed to sell only a few seats, it was the beginning of my teaching online. Since then, I’ve launched other books like Local Business Alchemy and courses like “Build a Business You Can Sell” (based on my experiences as a business broker / small business adviser) and even co-produced one on Instagram marketing with a friend.
I’d be lying if I said that now I have all the answers, and I’m sitting on a beach in Thailand sipping cool drinks. There’s still a lot of work ahead. At the moment I’m doing some mix of freelance work through eLance, Guru and Fiverr. Folks are starting to contact me for things like podcasts through my LinkedIn profile.
Some folks know about my military service. This is a repost of an article from a previous blog where I share some of my Navy experiences.
“Sometimes you’re the windshield.. sometimes you’re the bug” – lyrics, Mary Chapin Carpenter song
Standing in formation at dusk outside the hangar, I felt the rivulets of sweat pooling into the delta small of my back. Lines of dungarees – half powder-blue, half blue jean – lined up in neat rows behind me. As the sweltering heat finally gave way to limp stickiness clinging to our skin, the floodlights finally flickered on – and so did the mosquitoes’ taste for blood. Yet, at first everyone seemed to just “grin and bear it.”
The commanding officer (who reminded me of Ned Flanders from the Simpsons) droned on about something that seemed important enough at the time to announce in front of the entire squadron. Meanwhile these flying syringes poked through our starched poly-cotton uniforms to draw blood with their hydraulic pistons, punctuating the agonizing minutes.
What Happens on Deployment, Stays on Deployment
We were well beyond two TACAN’s away from our home base in San Diego. The “two TACAN rule” was that once you were outside of the range of two of these military navigation aids, anything goes.
Such was the “wink-wink, nudge-nudge, need I say more” behind the veneer of Navy “family values.” It was an excuse, of course, for guys to get away with whatever didn’t leave permanent traces that flowers or penicillin couldn’t cure stateside.
At the time all this only mattered a little to me. Only 3 or 4 months ago my marriage had begun to unravel in the middle of our squadron’s West Pacific (WESTPAC) deployment aboard the USS Constellation.
I vaguely remember thinking at the time how radically different my life was turning out from the wife / house / 2.5 kids “fast-track to the space program” life that I envisioned for myself.
Maybe the most surreal moment was seeing our ship on CNN, patrolling during the Chinese missile crisis with Taiwan. Yet, instead of being an ending, somehow it was the beginning – the beginning of how I came to understand that
..life is what happens while you make plans.
Somehow, in the midst of feeling utterly small and alone in a steel city of five thousand, I discovered at the same time a much bigger part of myself.
Funny how there in what Navy pilots describe as little bigger than a postage stamp when landing at night, I realized that in your darkest moments there is grace – a quiet connectedness, even as you lay in your bed wondering what you’re doing in the middle of nowhere. This must be how future travelers will feel shuttling among the stars.
Slowly, it became more and more evident that it was acceptable to break rank and swat your neighbor’s tormentors. Military standards dictated that in formation you were supposed to stand at attention, unyielding as the ceremonial guards keeping watch on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. (be sure to watch what happens at 4:48 – VERY UNUSUAL!)
Yet, somehow by some unspoken consensus we all agreed that, while it was bad form to relieve yourself of the torture inflicted by these tiny Weapons of Mass Annoyance, it was acceptable to swat those around you.
One or two pats gradually mushroomed into what became a flurry of mercy beatings like the popping of bubble wrap at Christmas until at last we were dismissed. Sighs of relief mixed with bursts of laughter and disbelief, as we made our way back to the shelter of the hangar bay. It felt like a comic scene out of some old war movie, except this was no Hollywood fiction. No, we were far from some South Pacific island, fighting some epic battle for our lives.
End of an Era, Beginning of New
Instead, it was 1994 – the Cold War had ended with the crashing debris of the Berlin Wall, signaling the end of the Iron Curtain era. Reagan’s proud 600-ship navy had been reduced to maybe half of its former glory. To justify its piece of the budget pie, the Navy turned to unorthodox missions like the counter-narcotics operation that brought us here to Ciba, Puerto Rico.
Night after night, our squadron launched the E-2C Hawkeye, otherwise known as the Navy’s AWACS (Airborne Warning and Control System,) on sorties to coordinate various agencies that in theory intercepted the drug runners as they landed their contraband on nearby shores. While occasionally we would hear about a successful bust, it seemed like only days later there would be another story about a bigger bust stateside.
Were we really making a dent on the war on drugs? Any more than the “Just Say No” campaign? Who knows.. Some days you believe you’re making a difference. Then there are others you wonder who is really doing the swatting and who is just buzzing around.
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“I’m just not getting what you’re trying to show us!” I yelled in frustration. It’d been weeks now since I started taking lessons from Miller. He was both a brilliant dancer and teacher. Yet something was just not connecting.
While I had learned the basics from my Argentine tango teacher, I wanted to do the “advanced stuff” – the moves that seemed like all the cool kids knew and kept to themselves. I was ready, or so I thought..
Originally, I had started learning tango as way to improve my aikido practice. But pretty soon I was hooked and never looked back. Unlike swing dancing and other activities, I soon learned that I couldn’t just “dabble” in tango – it was all-in or nothing.
A pivotal moment came early on, when I attended a fairly advanced workshop. Although the instructors themselves were incredibly patient with me, an older Chinese lady pulled me aside between lessons. “Do you speak Mandarin?” she asked in a hushed whisper. Er, yes, why? She then proceeded to berate me in my native tongue, essentially asking what the hell I thought I was doing.
Because of my lack of understanding of the fundamental movements, I had been resorting to “winging it” whenever I floundered with learning a particular sequence. I thought I was being creative, but looking back I have to admit that it was the equivalent of scribbling gibberish in a college level writing course.
Too often we’re more interested in getting to the final destination than the actual journey. In the 1980s kaizen became all the range in the business world, as Americans marvelled at Japanese productivity. Ironically, this process of improvement came from an American (Deming) who taught them this methodology during the post-war rebuilding of the country.
While calling it “kaizen” gave it an Asian mystique that blended well with Eastern philosophy and culture, the scientific methods were very Western. The bottomline was that developing a process of improvement that not only provided short-term results, but also ensuring that success was more than just a matter of luck.
When life forces us into situations where self-improvement is the only way out (like learning to walk) we tend to comply. But other times we resist or avoid it altogether.
Sometimes our personal tastes lead us to have an interest or passion for improving. That was the case of cooking for me. In the age before YouTube and celebrity chefs the only real choices I had available were to find recipes and occasionally catch a public television show with a quirky chef.
Both dancing and cooking involved mastering basics before taking on more elaborate performances. In tango if you couldn’t lead a follower into a cross step, then it was pointless to be shown a more complicated sequence. In cooking if you didn’t know how to prep ingredients, then it was a lot harder to cook even the most basic dishes like an omelet.
Here’s the ironic part – learning to *be* a better dancer also made me a better cook AND ultimately, dare I say, even a better lover in bed. (Come on, ladies, help me out here!)
“How you do anything is how you do everything..”
– Derek Sivers
So, when we focus on the process, success becomes just a side effect of the results. The swordsmen learns to cut through the object. The archer focuses on the draw and lets the arrow hit its mark.
“Goals are for losers” – Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert
In travel, of course, it is definitely about the journey. Some of the most memorable moments on trips have been the drives or the plane rides.. or often the misadventures when things don’t quite go as planned.
How do you focus on the process, not just the results?
What Bill hoped to show the audience was a live demo of how to get results with content marketing. Something that none of the other speakers could do.
It was a brilliant idea. But there was just one problem – everything was set up on his computer. and without knowing all the details the bottom line was that the AV system didn’t want to play nice with his computer.
So being the entrepreneur that he is, Bill worked to find a solution.
Normally, there’s time but when you’re on stage in front of hundreds (not counting the live audience watching the streaming video) seconds turn into minutes.. which seem like hours..
Bill has apologized profusely for this glitch. I feel like we all let him down.
The speaker shouldn’t have to struggle with a technical issue when we have an audio visual crew PAID to take care of this.
I sat too far back and didn’t jump up to assist because I took the typical passive audience mode we get into.
The host didn’t say anything except an occasional joke to keep things entertaining – he could’ve used his position to ask for help, and I’m sure any number of his staff or even a room full of internet entrepreneurs could’ve helped.
But instead of any of this – the clock kept ticking, and poor Bill was left to struggle along on that big stage under the hot lights, sweating it out –
Oh, yes, you definitely REALLY feel the heat in a moment like this – BELIEVE me.
And that’s the thing.. once the fight-or-flight kicks in, our bodies tense up, our hearts pump more blood and the monkey brain starts screaming at us.
At this point it’s game over for the rational site. The Elephant has officially started her freakout mode. All the Rider can do is hold on for dear life.
There are way too many stories of bystanders that watch as someone is attacked. It’s too easy to judge, and too easy to say “no, that’s not me – I’d be different.”
But really – how we do one thing is how we do everything else. Too often we sit back and wait for others to act first. I’ve been just as guilty of this as the next person. Being passive is a habit just like procrastinating or leaving things unsaid.
I was hesitant to try the mix my girlfriend had made.
“Aww.. come on – you’ll love it!” she said unconvincingly.
Well, here goes. Bracing myself for the gag factor, I took the spoonful and..
photo: via Unsplash
Like most of us my earliest memories of the kitchen growing up was mom cooking. Maybe the dishes are slightly different from culture to culture but we all have some comfort foods that stay with us through life.
Coming to this country opened up my parents to things they had never experienced back in Taiwan and China. I still remember the shock and confusion when our family discovered that what looked like ice cream was in fact yogurt!
Cheese – the pungent smell took some getting used to. But being a kid I took to it like a happy duckling playing in the rain, and pizza became one of my favorite foods.
Occasionally, mom would need a break from the kitchen, and I stepped in as sous-chef to cook what I liked and what the rest of the family had to learn to appreciate.
For some reason Italian food was my passion as a kid. So much so that in sixth grade I even wrote a 137-page treatise (er, did someone forget to read the memo? it was supposed just be a geography report..) on Italy. Years later, I would actually travel to Rome, Venice, and Florence with my family. Let’s just say that I raised my expectations so high there was only one way to go..!
Later in college I went out with a girl who opened me up to what Asian food had to offer. Up to then my idea was Chinese food. Suddenly, I learned there was Korean, Thai, Vietnamese, even Laotian (her culture).
We would make some unbelievable dishes using just a very illegal hot plate and some utensils (some from home and others “borrowed” from the cafeteria).
Nope. No generic ramen for this homeboy. We cooked noodle dishes using all types – rice, pasta, thin, thick.. boiled, stir-fry.. you name it! We made egg rolls (that does require deep frying, right? .. er, yup!)
While I never saw myself as a chef or working in restaurants, my love and passion of food only grew through the years. Sometimes I looked for excuses to work with the hard-working folks that sweat out the details to provide amazing experiences.
With the rise of celebrity chefs I’ve noticed that slowly there is a greater appreciation of what happens in the kitchen. It’s something that I have carried with me into other areas of my life – whether as an author or entrepreneur, here are some key lessons:
Follow recipes.. before improvising – success leaves clues. Any musician knows that mastering the chords is needed before playing jazz or “jamming.” Unless you understand which ingredients work well together and “how” to bring out their flavors, you’ll either go hungry or have to stomach a lot of failed experiments!
First, master the basics – whether it’s how to chop and prep ingredients or understanding how to let dough rise before baking, anything we do requires fundamentals. This is true in flying – where you need to learn how to take-off and land before trying aerobatics, and this is true in work – where any profession has core competencies.
Good ingredients are essential – unless you’re Jesus, don’t count on making water out of wine. It’s really difficult to make an appetizing dish out of less than quality ingredients. That said, while fresh helps out a lot, you can take an old banana and make a decent smoothie, as the ripeness actually enhances the flavor. But that whole thing about the sow’s ear – yeah, don’t try this at home!
Taste, taste, taste – one of the most shocking things on Restaurant: Impossible with Chef Irvine is when he asks the restaurant owner to taste their own cooking, and they are surprised. If you don’t know how it tastes, how can you serve it to others? Learning to test how the world responds to you is another key life skill.
Passion is everything – we’re not machines, and I’ve learned that even the best intentions lead to that proverbial road to hell.. UNLESS you have the commitment that comes with passion. Do we need to make adjustments to our plans depending on the feedback we get? Absolutely. But if faith without works is dead, then intention without passion isn’t too far behind!
Hmm.. not bad. It was actually edible.
“Well, what do you think?” she asked expectantly.
“I’m still alive,” I smiled with a hint of sarcasm, feeling my chest in mock testing.
So, these are lessons that I’ve found to carry over not only to work, play, relationships but life as a whole.
What about you? Are there things you’ve learned from the kitchen or other crafts that stay with you?
Join me in talking with Chris Hill on Cinco de Mayo Tuesday, (05/05/15) about his personal journey from the corporate world to the kitchen.
This is another Sunday’s thought inspired by a poker group discussion.
Poker players often have to make decisions with incomplete information. While it’s great to develop our intuition, you need to back it up with checking your “read” – your accuracy in assessing the situation.
Suddenly, a man and his unruly children boarded the peaceful car and broke the relative calm. Covey became irritated – especially because the man just sat with his eyes closed.
The father was apparently unwilling to do anything. So finally Covey asked him to control his children’s behavior.
With a sigh the father says, “well, I suppose I should tell them to behave, but I imagine they’re just acting out. We just came from the hospital where they found out their mother had passed away.”
In that moment Covey said that he suddenly saw things differently. With that one revelation he felt differently; he behaved differently.
So, while everything else remained the same – the noisy children creating a ruckus with the passengers, the father who did nothing – his perception of the scene had changed.
Covey stopped seeing them as simply unruly children with a father who couldn’t control them. Instead he saw human beings trying to process a devastating life-changing event. His irritation faded, and he felt compassion.
But the question is – do we really have the best picture of what’s going on?
How often do we drive down the road annoyed at the pedestrian taking his time crossing – until one day we’re walking along and find that drivers are so impatient?
“You never truly know someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes” is the age old adage.
I like to believe that one day when we make that “dust to dust” transformation, we’ll have perfect knowledge – all the questions we ever had, all the things we couldn’t know in our brief, mortal lifetime, all the great riddles of the universe will be revealed.
Meanwhile, how we handle uncertainty and incomplete information determines our success. Listening to this Screw the 9 to 5 podcast, (at around 4:42 left,) reminded me of how each key moment in my life – getting a ROTC scholarship, first dates, buying my first house.. all came from feeling a fear of uncertainty and going for it.
Earlier I was reflecting on ideas that I’ve had a hard time understanding. One of them has been this idea that light behaves as both particle and wave. This is one of those arguments that the greatest scientific minds have gone back and forth on.
Finally, the agreement was that the best answer was – “it depends..”
So it seems that even science has to deal with uncertainty and the lack of complete information. This doesn’t mean that we abandon all hope. Things don’t come to a grinding halt.
On the one hand we have not enough information and jumping to conclusions. On the other too much info and a fear of not enough. Entrepreneurs often face this “analysis paralysis.”
How has something – an event, a revelation, an idea – changed your view so that it never looked the same again?
So, we were heads up – 30 players down to the two of us.
Across the table sat Cindy, seven-time winner of our little home game poker league. Again and again, she’d won first place while I was lucky to take second once in a while.
Without getting too much into poker jargon, let’s just say that we were pretty even at this point chip-wise, or our stacks were nearly even.
So, anything could still happen. And, as anyone who follows the much higher stakes WSOP games on ESPN knows, it often does.
But this was just a semi-friendly (although fiercely competitive) home league. Buy-in’s were $10, but the first place winner often took home more than a $100. Still, there was enough at stake that we took pride in winning.
“I’m all in,” declared Cindy. So, now I was left to decide – do I call and risk nearly three quarters of my chips? Or do I fold.
If I won, I could basically take it all. Then and there.
But if I was wrong, I’d be crippled. And probably just left with struggling to stay in a little longer.
Closing my eyes, I breathed and checked myself. “I call.”
Both Cindy and I were surprised at my call. I had enough respect for her game to know that she didn’t push all her chips into the middle lightly.
Yet, there I was calling her.
Turning over 6-3 off-suit, Cindy half-sheepishly chuckled. She often said that it was one of her favorite hands, even though it’s basically a rag hand (having little inherent value, unlike big poker pairs like Aces or Kings, or even Ace King). Poker players tend to have a semi-superstitious tendency to favor personal “garbage hands.” I had caught her hand in the proverbial cookie jar.
What led me to make that call? Even though my hand (Ace Ten off-suit) wasn’t too bad, it was still a gamble to call an all-in. Normally, I would struggle to make such a call. Yet, this time I made it with little hesitation. Something had changed in my game. I had changed.
“Fear is the mind killer.” This is one of my favorite lines from Dune by Frank Herbert. It’s the destroyer of possibility and for an artist, bane of creativity.
I’ve faced many forms and many shapes of fear in my life. Some advocate living fearlessly. Others say just ignore it.
But I say embrace fear, because only then can you really be free.
No, I’m not saying live your life in fear. Nor am I saying being too comfortable or complacent with fear. That’s how accidents happen – that’s just plain carelessness.
Years ago, I was more active in practicing aikido. Unlike other martial arts that profess to be a “mind over matter” form of self-defense but quickly end up being just another use of force against force, this practice stems from the founder’s philosophy.
While other martial art traditions are often hundreds of years old, aikido drew from some of these traditions and in reality is still less than a century old.
Morihei Ueshiba, also known by his followers as “O Sensei,” believed that aikido should be a path to harmony and peace, and its practice embodied this not only in the philosophy but the very technique itself.
For example, unlike judo, karate or kung fu, nothing happens until an attacker attacks. After receiving the energy of the attacker and redirecting it to neutralize the attack, only the force necessary to suppress further aggression is used.
How much is enough? Ah, that’s the art – and the lifetime of practice that come with this art.
But to my moment of truth.. aikido teaches us to resist our “natural” fight or flight instincts. It was the belief of O Sensei that many of our societal woes come from this lack of control over our fear.
If we harness this energy, we embrace the true power that is our very core – love. The opposite of love isn’t hate; it’s fear – the absence of love.
I know this sounds very touchy feely for a martial art. And at first even I was very skeptical. But once you see the power and beauty of the techniques, it’s unmistakable that you’re seeing something different than brute force.
At the very heart of this art aikido asks you, “What are you afraid of?” and “How can you embrace this?”
In that moment I realized that I was afraid of making a foolish mistake. I wasn’t worried that Cindy actually had a good hand. If I was wrong, so be it.
So, what “clicked”? Realizing that my fear was getting in the way of me making the best decision in that moment. Once I acknowledged this, my inner wisdom – that all-knowing little voice – said to call. And I did.
The hand played out, and somehow I don’t think either of us connected with the board – the rest of the cards which make up your hand in Texas hold’em. Ace high was good enough to win the hand, and thus allow me to win first place for the first time.
going all in
Funny thing – after breaking that personal poker “4 minute mile,” I went on to win first several times. And some other players in the league as well. Maybe I’m being overly philosophical but I like to believe that once we face our fears we give others the permission to do so also.
What about you? How is fear holding you back from making the right call?
For some time I’ve followed Sir Ken Robinson and his crusade to reform our current education system. If you haven’t seen his TED talk, here is a short RSA version:
One of his main points is that the school system was designed for a post-agrarian industrial system. That is, schools are designed to crank out workers in a factory assembly line fashion. Some rise to the top and become office workers. Others who can’t hack the academic standards become laborers.
Traditionally, it was the artists that suffered. There is no room for creativity in a system that values conformity and mass produced results.
In fact, Sir Ken talks about a girl who is brought in to see a psychiatrist about her learning disorder. Luckily, the perceptive doctor said the problem wasn’t with learning; she needed to be sent to dance school.
But here’s an even bigger problem. As James Altucher points out in Choose Yourself, the days of go to school, earn your degree, get a job and retire are long gone. Yet many still cling to the belief that this is the way to go.
Here’s some of what I believe schools should teach –
1) how to prioritize & time management – Stephen Covey’s 7 habits should be mandatory reading! But more important is learning how to develop your own sense of what you value – not based on what you’re told; again, following others is a factory mindset
2) how to sell – no matter what you do in life you need to learn how to be persuasive or get across your view, whether it’s applying for college or getting a raise (not even talking about your own business)
3) how to connect – social media is now a fact of life; understanding how to play well with others isn’t just a maxim – it’s now life & death!
4) how to collaborate – it’s only in the traditional school system that teaches working together is “cheating”; in the real world this is essential to success
5) how to be creative – as mentioned.. even Albert Einstein said, “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
6) most of all, how to learn – this may seem to be simply a meta idea but it goes beyond an academic idea; pass / fail is an industrial concept; today’s economy needs more entrepreneurs, and the essence of the entrepreneur’s mindset is try, learn, repeat
No wonder we have a hard time figuring out what we want out of life. Recently, I read Jeff Goins’ Art of Work. He shares not only his own journey but also that of several other ordinary folks who made extraordinary choices.
Basically, Jeff offers that you can live a life of not only with passion, but also with purpose. But it takes the courage to ask some difficult questions – made more challenging by the fact that your current friends not only don’t know the answers but wouldn’t dare ask themselves.Luckily, there’s a community of like-minded folks willing to support you on your journey.
For some time I’ve wondered about this disparity between what we’re taught and what need to learn. It’s been a long road to fill a lot of the gaps on my own. And I wouldn’t say that I have all the answers on what my purpose is.
But I do feel that I have more sense of the direction of my path. And that makes all the difference. So if you’re ready to ask some of these questions, you can grab your copy here.
What do you believe is missing in today’s school systems?
[Post-note: This blog post inspired me to launch a new blog dedicated to creative entrepreneurs on their hero’s journey – http://butterflyformula.com/
Then everything got turned upside down. It began with news just before one Thanksgiving that she had cancer on her tongue (speaking was one of the key ways she made her living). Her plans for enjoying a quiet empty nest life after raising her own kids are suddenly canceled by adopting not just one child, but three.
What struck me was how she simply realized that you can resist and curse your luck, accept things and treat it as fate, or be open to the blessing and unexpected miracle.
Recently, I watched the film version of The Fault in Our Stars based on the book by John Green. It’s a very realistic look at young cancer patients who have a star-crossed love that resonates as a modern Romeo and Juliet.
But these young, intelligent adults Gus and Hazel are neither delusional about their situation, nor are they willing to just give up on life. Moments like sitting in support groups where the leader sings on about “the heart of Jesus” highlight this.
The real tragedy comes when they discover their feelings for each other, only to find that their time will be cut short by Gus’ relapse. Rather than curse this loss, Hazel tells him, “You gave me a forever within the numbered days and I’m grateful.”
“Forever within the Numbered Days – Grateful” Fault in Our Stars John Green
I recalled Cushatt saying the same thing as one of the main “aha” moments she experienced. She realized “gratitude in many ways is my lifeline, because when you’re in a position where you’ve lost so much, where every time you turn around you’re losing something else, it can be very easy to focus on all that’s gone.”
“..The only way to push through grief really is to eventually come to some place where you see what you still have left. So I can either focus on all that I’ve lost or start to identify and recognize what I still have.”
Debbie Ford talks about how when we live within our stories, we are small and fail to see what is possible. But when we live outside and provide some distance, we see things as they are – blessing or curse is a choice.
To be honest right now I’ve struggled with some big setbacks. Even friends and loved ones have simply said why don’t you just get a job. There have been plenty of moments that I want to just take what I can get and accept it.
Yet, something keeps me going. I know that I’m here for a purpose more than filling out budget reports or making sure widgets are delivered on time.
It’s not because I think I’m too good for these things. It’s just this sense that life has been preparing me all along for a purpose beyond these tasks.
And to be honest I’ve fought this and wondered why can’t I just live a pedestrian 9 to 5 life going to the movies on weekends and sipping frappucinos with the family.
That’s the life that I had envisioned for myself. But life is what happens while you make plans, as I often say. We’re not always presented with what we want, but life constantly delivers what we need to grow.
So, in this moment of struggling financially without a car it’s up to me to be grateful that I have two hands that can type, two eyes that can read, two ears that can listen to inspiring music, and a voice to share this message that I seem meant to deliver.
It would be much easier to write this, if I was looking back at my life – “connecting the dots..” – after a prosperous career and successful achievements. The challenge is to live in this moment with gratitude – here. Now.
In the midst of the mess that was dealing with cancer recovery and raising three small children, Cushatt connects to this moment where one of the kids colors the white walls of their house to an article about the age of impressionism, where artists discovered how to create art best viewed from a little bit of distance.
She says she “realized, ‘That’s what I need to do. I’m standing too close to my canvas. I have to step back, and then I’m going to see it differently.’”
Dr. Wayne Dyer talks about how he “was deeply honored to be on a panel with Viktor Frankl in 1978 in Vienna, Austria.. [who] shared with me and the audience his assertion that it’s the ability to see beauty in all of life’s circumstances that gives our lives meaning. In his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, he describes a bowl of filthy water with a fish head floating in it, given to him by his Nazi captors in a concentration camp during WWII. He trained himself to see beauty in this meal, rather than focus on the horror of it.”
Some can only make themselves feel better by knowing that others are worse off. I find comfort in knowing that we’re each facing life’s call in our own way.
Most of all gratitude is a state of allowing – if we are focused on what we lack or what isn’t working, there can’t be room for anything else. We simply can’t see past that and be open to what is possible.
“Sometimes you have to make room for what’s unexpected because there’s a miracle there,” said Michele Cushatt.
Maybe in the end that’s the ultimate irony – that only by being grateful do we meet our selfish desires and letting the beauty hidden in each moment reveal itself to us.
Listening to a podcast of Entrepreneur on Fire, an inventor shared her story where she went to a trade show that was totally the wrong venue for her product. Thinking she had wasted her precious few start up dollars, this woman left in tears.
But, as she was leaving, the woman bumped into a man who had reached the same conclusion. It turned out that this man not only introduced her to the promotional products industry, which turned to be the ideal market for her product, but would end up being her mentor.
This reminded me of a classic old Chinese fable of a farmer who found some wild horses one day.
“What good fortune!” his neighbors declared. To which the farmer’s only response was “Sometimes what seems like a blessing is a curse.”
The next day his son tried to help tame the horses but ended up falling off one and broke his leg.
“What bad luck!” the farmer’s wife lamented.
“Sometimes what seems like a curse is really a blessing” was the farmer’s only response.
Not long afterwards the kingdom went to war, and all able-bodied males were drafted. But because the son was injured he was passed over.
Too often we fall into the trap of reacting instead of responding. What’s the difference?
In reacting we merely do what it seems like we’re “supposed to do” or “the way it’s always been done.”
To respond is to consciously make a choice. And sometimes the hard choice is to endure when we’d rather avoid all this with any number of strategies – hiding in busyness, running away and seeking escape, or simply numbing ourselves with food or alchohol.
But here’s an interesting aspect of willpower. In this TED talk the speaker shares how success and delayed gratification are really closely connected –
So often, the very thing that we see as obstacle to having what we want in a moment may in fact help us to succeed later on.
In The Obstacle is the Way the author shares story after story of how history’s greatest leaders have turned some of their biggest failures into success. Lincoln himself not only faced early challenges – losing his mother as a child, a wife as a young man, and numerous elections until finally winning key offices that led to the presidency.
Little did Lincoln know that life was preparing him for the ultimate test of his character – the Civil War itself. Had he backed down from earlier challenges or given up, Lincoln would not be the man that ultimately led this nation to victory and finally end slavery once and for all.