The Intersection

On Monday evening January 12th Ohio State played the University of Oregon for the College Football National Championship in Dallas Texas.  What struck me most about the game was not the score or the collective ability of each team, but the very clear life lesson that was on display during the game.  The lesson was that great things happen at the intersection of preparation and opportunity.

Although I was rooting for the University of Oregon, myself being from Oregon, I was really impressed with the performance of the Ohio State quarterback Cardale Jones.

Consider this:

  • The National Championship game was only his the 3rd college start as quarterback
  • At the beginning of the season, he was the 3rd string quarterback on his team

I was amazed by these facts while watching the game.  While on the biggest stage in college football, Jones showed the command and poise of a seasoned quarterback.  He didn’t look like a 3rd string quarterback, or someone who had only started 3 games.  He looked like he belonged there.  Was he perfect?  No.  Did he make mistakes?  For sure!  However, he was able to step in for his team when his number was called late in the season and perform extremely well.  Well enough to help win a National Championship.

It is obvious from his performance that he had been practicing and preparing for the opportunity.  His preparation intersected with his opportunity, and great things happened.

If Jones hadn’t been diligent in practice while he was still the 3rd string quarterback, he never would have done so well when he got the nod to lead the offense.  Imagine what a different outcome Jones would have had if he had said, “Once I’m the starting quarterback, then I’ll really start practicing!  However, since I’m only the 3rd string, there’s really no point in doing my best at practice.”  Jones had great performances during his 3 starts because he put in the effort to prepare himself in practice; to be ready for the opportunity, even when he didn’t see one or know that one was coming.

What about you?  Are there areas where you need to begin preparing for a future opportunity?  Is there a class you need to take, a habit or discipline you need to develop or stop?  Is there a reading, networking, exercise, or eating plan you need to get on?  If so, begin today.  Don’t’ delay and think, “I’ll start preparing when I see an opportunity.”  That kind of thinking leaves out half of the intersection equation:  There can be no greatness-causing intersection between preparation and opportunity if opportunity shows up alone.

So begin preparing today for the opportunities you seek in the future.  My guess is that, if you’re preparing, the opportunities are closer than you think.

Where Do You Want to be on December 31st

Are you looking to make significant changes in any area of your life in 2015?  If so, seriously consider the following question:

What do you want your life to look like on December 31st 2015?  

This is not only a great question, it’s also a great goal setting starting point, because it causes us to really think about how we’d like our life to look in 12 months, and gives us a target to shoot for throughout the year.  With this vision firmly planted in our mind, we can move backwards and determine what steps we need to take, and by when, in order to arrive at our desired life in 12 months.

As you start your goal setting and life planning for 2015, begin by creating a very clear and measurable picture of how you’d like your life to look on December 31st 2015.  Hold this picture in mind all year.  Do whatever you can to keep it in the front of your thoughts.  Use it to intentionally guide your behaviors and decision making which in order to cause you to arrive at the life you desire 12 months from now.

Know where you’re going in 2015, and take the necessary steps to get there.

Happy New Year!

Adding or Subtracting

I had a great Thanksgiving this year.  In the morning we had brunch with a small gathering at our house and in the afternoon we had dinner with family at my sister in-law’s house.  Both events were enjoyable and it was fun to see everyone and spend some time together.  It was a nice Thanksgiving.

At my sister in-law’s, there was a family member who was absent, due to illness and declining health.  Toward the end of the evening my sister in-law commented that it was nice not having the family member present because that way she didn’t feel on edge wondering if they were going get upset and start yelling, as they so often have in the past, thus turning what should be a fun family event into an awkward, tension filled evening.  This was clearly a case of addition by subtraction; the absence of this family member made for a more enjoyable evening for everyone else.

As I reflected on this comment, I couldn’t help think of my interactions with others and wonder if there have been times where an event would have been enhanced by my absence.  To think that the answer to this question would be “Yes”, is an awful feeling, especially if those answering are family and the people closest to me.  I never want my absence from a gathering or event to be considered addition by subtraction.

This seems like a pretty easy scenario to avoid.  If you want to be seen as someone whose presence adds to an event, then employ the following suggestions the next time you gather with family or friends:

  • Be kind to others. Greet people by name when you arrive.    Shake hands or give out hugs.  Let others in attendance know you’re glad to be part of the event with them.
  • Take the focus off of yourself and place it on others. Ask how people are doing and what they’re up to, and show an interest in their reply.  If you know of somewhere they’ve been recently, or something currently going on in their life, ask them about it and then listen to and comment on their reply.
  • Enjoy the moment and be present with the people you’re with. Put down the smartphone.  Wait until you get home to check social media.  Instead of being so eager to inform everyone who’s NOT at the event about what’s going on, engage and connect with those present.  That’s the ultimate in social media.

As you attend different events this holiday season, do so with the intent of being someone who’s presence enhances the event for others attending.  Let it be said of you that events which you attended were much more enjoyable because of your presence.   What a great gift to give people this holiday season.

Art and Artists

A couple of months ago my wife and I were on vacation, hiking in Southern Utah.  While we were passing through the small community of Bluff UT, we stopped in at Comb Ridge Coffee for lunch.  While we were there, I bought a tumbler created by one of the local artists.  I was captivated by its shape, colors and feel and have enjoyed drinking ice water from it every day since arriving home.  Not only is it a functional beverage container, it is a beautiful piece of art.

Tumbler

At first, it seems strange to refer to a beverage container as art.  Usually when I think of art, an image of a painting usually comes to mind, or a song, photograph, or statue.  However, art can be broadly defined to include anything done to an exceptional level or an extraordinary degree.

With this new art paradigm, my boundaries of what art is just exploded!  Now, I see so much art around me.  Things I never would have considered art before.  Things like:

  • Quality relationships
  • Exceptional marriages
  • Extraordinary parenting
  • Superior leadership

In addition to my expanded definition of art, I also now see myself as an artist.  Not as one who always creates exceptional or extraordinary results, but as one who is simply striving to do so.

It’s easy to tell ourselves, “I’m not an artist because I can’t draw, paint, sing …”, but that’s no longer true.  This new paradigm, where anything done to an exceptional level or extraordinary degree is art, grants all of us great opportunity to become artists of our own lives.  No longer is our form of artistic expression limited to paint, canvas, or clay.  Now we can be artistic with the words we use to communicate, the care we take in building and cultivating important relationships, or the method we use to learn and explore the environment around us.

Today, begin seeing yourself as an artist and your life as the medium for creating a beautiful work of art.  The world needs the beauty of the art you are capable of creating.

Worrying About What Might Happen

Can you imagine spending $525,600 on a device that lets you know if a meteor is going to crash into your head?  That would be ridiculous, right?  Why would someone spend that kind of money on an event that will most likely never occur?

We do the very same thing whenever we worry about something that is out of our control.  Check out these numbers that illustrate the high cost of worrying:

  • 1 day spent worrying costs 1,440 minutes of your life
  • 1 month of worrying costs 43,200 minutes of your life
  • 1 year of worrying costs 525,600 minutes of your life

That’s staggering!  Those numbers represent the price we pay to worry about something we can’t control instead of using that time for positive thinking, planning, relationship building, or personal growth and development.   The price of unproductive worry is indeed high!

So what can we do if we find ourselves tempted to start worrying about something that is out of our control?  The following steps offer timeless guidance on this topic:

First, determine the worst case scenario and prepare to accept it.  This is great advice Dale Carnegie wrote about on the topic of worry.  It is helpful to consider the worst case scenario because once you know what it is; you have a framework from which to begin problem solving.

Next, create a plan to improve on the worst case scenario.  Are there any corrective or preventative steps you can take to improve the worst case scenario?  If so, take those steps immediately.

Finally, stop worrying about it, fill your mind with positive encouraging content, and go live your life and.  If you’ve accepted the possibility of the worst case scenario and have done all you can do to influence it, then there’s nothing more you can do.  This is the point to stop worrying, because it no longer serves a purpose.  Instead of worrying, spend that time filling your mind with positive encouraging words to help improve your outlook.  It may be talking to encouraging people or listening to positive music or reading something positive.  I specifically like reading the Psalms to help alleviate worry, as there is always one that is relevant to my specific concern.

Here’s another thought to consider when you begin to worry.  According to Earl Nightingale, only 8% of what we worry about are legitimate worries!  The other 92% are what he calls, “[…]pure fog with no substance at all.”

Do we really want to spend 525,600 minutes a year worrying, especially when most worries are beyond our control or unlikely to occur?  When confronted with worry, take a moment and realize how costly worry can be in wasted minutes.  Minutes that could be spent on more personally profitable endeavors and can never be reclaimed once spent.

Where are Your Decisions Leading You

Think about the all the small decisions you make on a daily basis and project those decisions out 1, 5, or 10 years into the future, and ask yourself:

  • What kind of physical shape will I be in?
  • Will I have improved my thinking, learning and personal development?
  • How will my relationships with the ones closest to me look?
  • What kind of spiritual condition will I be in?
  • How will my financial health look?

All of these areas of our lives matter and they are influenced by our daily decisions.  Our choices, whether good or bad, may not have an immediate impact for days, months, or even longer, but eventually the compounding effect of these decisions will become noticeable.  For example, if every day we’re making unhealthy decisions, a health related crisis is coming that will demand our attention.  If however, we’re taking care of our bodies and making wise choices regarding our health, we can look forward to a healthy body that will serve us well in the years ahead.

Small daily decisions yield significant results over time.  Where are your daily decisions leading you?

Take in the Experience

I love to hike, and since I live in the Pacific Northwest of the United States, I’m fortunate to get a large dose of natural scenic beauty on a regular basis.  My favorite hiking destinations are the ones that reward hikers for their effort with a commanding view and breathtaking scenery.  Starting early in the morning on a challenging hike to a much anticipated viewpoint is one of my favorite ways to spend a day.  The anticipation of the view and then finally seeing it with my own eyes is exhilarating.  For me, it’s one of those events that make me thankful to be alive.

Three Sisters Wilderness

Three Sisters Wilderness

One thing I’ve noticed about myself in recent years is that when I reach one of these viewpoints, I immediately begin taking pictures of the scene.  Depending on the view, I can easily take over 100 pictures in my attempt to capture the beautiful scene before me.  I don’t want to miss a single detail!

Inevitably, after several minutes at my feverish picture-taking pace, I begin to hear a voice inside of me saying, “Hey, enough pictures.  Just stop, and take in the experience.”

At that point I put the camera away and just take in the experience with all of my senses.  I literally feast my eyes on the scene before me, noticing shapes, colors, contrasts and myriad other details that I had missed while seeing it through the screen of a digital camera.  I listen to the whooshing sound of the wind as it blows through the tops of pine trees or across the face of a rock-exposed mountain.  I hear the unique sound that a river makes as water curls over a rock and collapses back on itself.  There are also the tactile feelings and fresh smells of the surrounding environment that make for a complete experience.  All of these things I would have missed, had I continued taking pictures.

Those hiking experiences always cause me to wonder what else I may be missing out on in my non-hiking life when I don’t stop and take in the experience.  Where am I busily rushing around, forgetting to stop and enjoy the surrounding environment, event, or people I’m with?  Hiking is good for me in that respect.  It provides me with a mental reset, a reminder to be mindful about taking in the experience, no matter what I’m doing.

What about you?  Are there areas of your life where your too busy “taking pictures” that you’re forgetting to stop and take in the experience?  Start becoming mindful about what you’re doing and who you’re with.  Decide now that although you’ll take some pictures along the way, you’ll also be sure to put the camera down and take in the experience as well.