The Voice

There’s a group of people where I work that get together every other Friday to practice public speaking.  The group leader emails out a couple of topics at the beginning of the week, and each person who would like to speak has 5 minutes to present their topic.  It’s a great opportunity to regularly practice speaking in front of a group.

Although I love the creative process of getting a topic, thinking about what I want to communicate, and crafting my presentation, at some point during the process I briefly think, “I don’t have to talk this week.  I could just pass this time, then I wouldn’t have to do all this work to prepare.”  That’s the voice of fear that thinks it’s easier not to put yourself out there, to play it safe, and not to take chances.

I don’t listen to that voice.  Instead, I double-down on my preparation efforts.

Every time I finish a presentation, there’s a great feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment at having prepared and delivered a good speech.  If I’d have listened to that voice, I would have missed that feeling, as well as the experience that came with it.

We all have that voice, the one that urges us to hold back and play it safe.  And we all have the same freedom: to succumb to that voice’s false warning or to ignore it and press on.

I wonder how much joy, satisfaction, accomplishment, encouragement, innovation, experiences, personal growth, and love in the world is lost every day, because people listen to this voice.

The next time you hear this voice calling you to hold back and play it safe, tune it out, and instead press on and do great things.

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Don’t Miss It

As I was driving to the gym at 5:10 AM on a dark Tuesday morning this week I was fortunate to see an absolutely beautiful natural scene.

The full moon was high in the clear, dark western sky, illuminating a band of clouds that had stacked up along the eastern slope of the Oregon Coast Range.  The moon’s reflected light cast down on the clouds causing them to pop against the black sky with brilliant shades of silver, white, and gray.  The tableau was so striking, so breath-taking and unexpected that I just stopped in the middle of the road to watch it for a moment. (One of the benefits of a small town in the wee hours of the morning.)

As beautiful as this scene was, it would have been easy to miss, had I been too mentally distracted to notice.  I’m amazed at how busy our minds can get, with all the life events that clamor for bits of our mental capacity.  Whether it’s thinking about the people, places, or things in our life, or keeping up with all the technological notifications and alerts we’re bombarded with, our minds can easily become so full that we find ourselves distracted from, if not blind to, the things going on right in front of us.

I hate to think of being too distracted to notice such a beautiful moonlit scene.  But even worse, I wonder what other beautiful things I have failed to notice in my past, simply because I was too distracted to see them.

As we’re going about living active lives, let’s make sure we’re saving some mental capacity to take notice of the beautiful things happening right in front of us.  We never know when a naturally beautiful scene will make a surprise appearance.

Let’s be ready for it!

Dealing With Uncertainty

No matter where in the world you live, you’ve likely heard the results of the US presidential election.  It’s been a circus and I, for one, am so thankful it’s over.

The emotions people are feeling range from anger to jubilation, disbelief to indifference, and everything in between.  There is a lot of uncertainty and people are wondering just what their country, their home, and the world will look like in the months ahead.  It would be easy to get caught up in all the uncertainty and start worrying about the future, but I think there’s a better way to respond.

Instead of worrying about things that are out of our control, let’s look at ourselves, where we do have control, and choose to:

  • Exercise creativity in our work and our personal lives
  • Love those closest to us
  • Treat those around us with kindness and understanding
  • Learn, explore, and be curious about the world and people in it

These are just a few of the ways among many that we can redirect our energies away from worry of uncertainty and focus them on more meaningful pursuits.  Pursuits that can make your life and the lives of those around you better.

For me, I also take comfort in an uncertain future by knowing that God is never surprised by events and that He is always in control.

As the world looks a little uncertain, let’s remember that we can still have a positive impact in our circles of influence by choosing to offer the best of who we are to those around us.  Although we may not impact the world, we will impact our portions of it.

Of that, I’m certain.

Collecting and Applying New Ideas

For the last few years I’ve struggled with how I can remember all the great knowledge, insight, and wisdom I read in books.  Sure, I make notes and mark up the pages I read, but isn’t there a better system for cataloging all the great information I read in the course of a year?  Lately, I’ve come to realize that I’ve been asking the wrong question.

Instead of focusing on how I can recall the information I read, what would happen if instead I continued to fill my mind with good ideas, thoughts, and perspectives, and let them influence my thinking?

When I think about it, I really don’t need to get better at recalling information.  That’s Google’s job!  Instead, I should be focusing on how I can improve my thinking a little bit every day.  To do that, I’ve started to approach reading as a treasure hunt for good thoughts and ideas.  It’s pretty easy to identify them, as they often leap off the page.  The question then becomes what do I do with these good ideas once I’ve identified them?

Once I’ve been exposed to a new thought or idea, the best way I know to make use of it is to immediately start thinking where in my life I can apply it.  Underlining or highlighting it in the book and then moving on with the reading doesn’t really help solidify it.  You have to allow time to think or journal about the idea and its application in specific areas of your life.  This will cause the idea to take root and become part of your thought process; a new tool in your “thinking tool belt” that will influence how you think in the future.

I love the quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes that states,

The human mind, once stretched to a new idea, never goes back to its original dimensions.

Instead of reading to simply acquire more knowledge, let’s start focusing on collecting and applying ideas that will improve our thought process and mindset over the long term.

And think about this:  How much would your thinking improve in 1 year if you read just one book a month and from each book gleaned and applied 2 good ideas?

Let’s find out!