Moving Past Fear

Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”     ~ Theodore Roosevelt

It’s easy to read Roosevelt’s words and think “to dare mighty things” is referring only to monumental undertakings.  I think this quote also speaks of living a life with willingness to step out of our comfort zones and try new things, even with the possibility of failure.

Here’s a nugget of truth that is applicable for all of us:  we are going to fail.  At some point, we’re going to fall short, do the wrong thing, say the wrong thing, or lack the skills, experience, or wisdom needed to succeed.  There’s no escaping it.  It’s part of the human condition.  But failing does not mean we are failures.

I find that liberating!

President Roosevelt’s words remind us that successes, victories, and triumphs often come through our failures.  Being willing to move ahead, even after failure, is how great things are achieved, and how a fulfilling life is lived.  On the contrary, playing it safe, in order to avoid failure, does not lead to success. Rather, it leads to regret and a life that knows neither victory nor defeat.

Where are you holding back because of a fear of failure?  What step can you take today to break through the fear that is holding you back?  Take that step, without being concerned about failing but rather be focused on giving your best effort.

Who knows, you might be wildly successful.

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Get on the Path

Ever since visiting the Grand Canyon in 2012, I’ve had this goal of doing the Rim to Rim hike.  It’s a hike from the North Rim of the canyon to the South Rim and is a very unique hiking experience with some beautiful scenery.  Many describe it as a bucket list item.  However, aside from wanting to do this hike, I haven’t taken much action to make it happen… until this week.

After talking about it with my wife we sat down, picked some dates and made reservations with a hiking outfitter to do the trip in 2017.  After I made my reservations, and paid my deposit (I had to commit money, so I’m all in!)  I felt great, because I had taken action that will cause this event to happen in 2017.  The part that was so interesting to me was how easy it was to just take action.

I often find myself researching or continuing to think about doing an activity, when instead, what I really need to do is take the step before me.  Put even more simply, I just need to take the action I know I need to take.

After I hit Submit on the on-line registration form, I wondered to myself why it had taken me so long to do this.  If it was that easy to get on the path to achieving this goal, imagine all the other goals I could achieve over a lifetime, if I just take action and get on the path.

How awful would it be to get to the end of life and wonder how different our things could have been if we had only had the courage to take initiative and get started on the path toward doing some things we really wanted to do?

Is there anything you’ve wanted to do, that you keep thinking about, but have yet to take action on?  If so, take action today.  Stick your neck out there and do something that commits you to getting on the path and seeing it through.

You Are the Force

Let’s start this week’s post with a quick test:

  1. Who is ultimately responsible for the success of your relationships?
    1. Your friends
    2. Your parents
    3. Other people
    4. <Insert your name here>

 

  1. Who is ultimately responsible for your success at work or in your career?
    1. Your employer
    2. The customers
    3. Shareholders
    4. <Insert your name here>

 

  1. Who is/was ultimately responsible for your success in school?
    1. Your teachers
    2. The school administration
    3. The financial aid office
    4. <Insert your name here>

 

  1. What is the strongest force that will shape the quality of your life?
    1. Circumstances
    2. Fate
    3. Santa Clause
    4. <Insert your name here>

Now check your answers:

  1. 4
  2. 4
  3. 4
  4. 4

How’d you do?  Hopefully your test score revealed a strong understanding that you are the driving force behind any success in life you want to achieve.

Success will rarely come our way if we are of the mindset that other people should, or will, take the initiative for our success.  Success requires effort and a self-starting mindset on our part.  Does that mean we shouldn’t ask for help from others?  By all means, seek the assistance of people who can help! (And depending on your belief, don’t forget to ask for assistance through prayer too!)

What we shouldn’t do is sit back and wait for anyone other than yourselves to make something happen for you.  No one should be more motivated for your own success than you.

 

The Investment of Time

Tuesday afternoon I went to visit a good friend that I hadn’t seen in a few years.  We spent several hours talking about what we are currently doing, what we had been doing recently, and reminiscing about shared history.  My friend’s son also joined us, and the 3 of us had a very enjoyable (and sunny) spring evening shooting the breeze on the front porch.  It was a great time!

That experience again reminded me how valuable time is and how similar it is to money.  Both can be wasted on things of little to no value or they can be invested in something that yields a great return.  The big difference between time and money is that we can always get more money.  Time squandered cannot be made up or recaptured at a later date.

This thought is sobering, and causes me to be intentional about making sure I’m investing significant portions of my time in things that yield a good return in my life and the lives of others.  So what does investing our time look like?  It can take the form of:

  • Consuming good books, spiritual text (the Bible for me), blog posts, podcasts, or any other content that improves your thinking, expands and enhances worldview, or develops your character.
  • Connecting with people who build you up, encourage you, and cause you to strive to live a better life.
  • Learning a new skill.
  • Being active on a daily basis in order to ensure a healthy body that will function properly for many years to come.
  • Connecting with people who could use your encouragement, support, skills, and experiences.
  • Supporting causes and people you believe in.

The options for investing our time are numerous!

Just like with money, we are not required to invest our time in things that will yield a lasting return.  Our time is ours to do with as we please.

I think it’s important to make sure that we are indeed making significant investments of our time over the course of our lives.  How sad it would be to look back at the end and see a life defined by the mishandling of our time.

Start With a Dot

Think about learning a new topic, whether for work, for fun, or for a changing life circumstance.  There is so much you don’t know at the beginning of the learning process that it can feel overwhelming or even hopeless; like you’ll never be able to master the topic.  So how do we overcome this feeling?  What’s the best way to start our learning journey, on our way toward mastery?  I say, “Start with a dot.”

Learning usually starts with a book, a lecture, Googling a topic, or a number of other methods to begin gaining basic information about a topic.  This basic information could be things like, vocabulary or acronyms specific to the topic, names of people in the field, specific dates, places, or events relevant to the history of the topic.  Think of each of these basic pieces of information as unique individual dots.

As you begin your initial discovery, the first piece of information you learn, represents your first dot.  Congratulations!  You now know something about your topic that you didn’t know before.  Now that you have your first dot, continue the discovery process until you learn another piece of information.  Congratulations again!  You’ve discovered your second dot.

So now you have 2 dots.  That’s good, but it’s about to get great!  Here’s where you begin to catapult your learning to a new level.  Take your 2 dots and determine how those 2 pieces of information are connected, in relation to the context of the topic you’re studying.  Begin connecting the dots.

Once we are armed with a couple of dots, we are now able to go to people who are more knowledgeable on the topic  and ask intelligent questions.  Our 2 dots allow us to talk in the language of the topic with someone who can help us:

  • connect the dots we already have, and
  • discover new dots and make connections to those dots from the dots we already have

Here’s an example:  When I was first learning to fly fish I learned that dry flies were flies that imitated bugs floating on top of the water.  I then learned that files called nymphs imitated bugs that moved along the bottom of the river.  With that knowledge, I was able to talk to people who had been fly fishing for many years and ask them about these 2 types of flies and how they were used.

After reading and talking about these types of files with people, I realized that I could use both fly types to represent a significant portion of an aquatic insect’s lifecycle, thus improving my chances of success on the water.  If the bugs weren’t on top of the water, I could switch to fishing with a nymph, and vice versa.  I now had an understanding of the importance of the roll each of these types of flies played in the overall topic of fly fishing.  I had connected my 2 initial dots about fly fishing.

As I explored the connection of my initial 2 dots, my number of additional fly fishing dots (and connections) began to compound.  I was rapidly on my way to increasing and applying my newly found knowledge of fly fishing.

The next time you feel overwhelmed at the beginning of a new learning process, just focus on identifying 2 dots.  Once you have them, look for the connection.  Then, repeat the process of collecting an additional dot and looking for the connections to the dots you already possess.  You’ll be surprised how quickly your number of dots and connections will increase.

Life is Better When We Bring Others Along

My life is much more enjoyable when I am interacting and connecting with others.  I would much rather bring people along as I travel through life than take the journey as a solitary traveler.  But how do we go about bringing others along on our life journey?  Below are 4 suggestions for building connections with the people you’re going through life with:

Include them in what’s going on in your life

Share significant news with those closest to you.  Don’t let them hear it through the grapevine.  Give people some details about what you’re up to when they ask, instead of just saying, “Not much” or “I’m fine”.  You don’t need to give a full account of every detail, or dump a bunch of bad news on folks, but let them know what you’re up to.  How can we be encouraged or comforted by others, or be encouraging or comforting to others,  if we don’t let each other know what’s going on in our lives?

Be interested in what others are doing

Going through life with others is not an exercise in collecting a supporting cast for ourselves.  It is bi-directional.  There is communication, concern, and caring that goes both ways.  The best way we can show interest in others is to listen to them when they are telling us about something going on in their life.  We can ask questions, not just for the sake of asking, but to learn more about them and how they’re feeling, what makes them tick, and what’s important to them.  I think one of the greatest gifts we can give people is our genuine interested attention.

Ask people for help

People want to help those they know and like.  For some reason thought, it is difficult to ask others for help, even when we could really use it.  We need to work at getting better at asking for help.  There’s no benefit to being a Lone Ranger, thinking we can figure a situation out all on our own.  Plus, we rob others of the opportunity to be a potential blessing to us with the assistance they could provide.

Treat people well

Thank others when they assist or bless you.  Tell them something you like or admire about them.   Send an email, write a letter, or make a phone call of encouragement, gratitude, appreciation, or comfort.  Depending on your relationship with them, let them know you love them.

When done genuinely, all of these steps require a degree of vulnerability.  That vulnerability comes from taking a risk to open up and share our real-self with others.  In doing so, we also give others a safe place to do likewise with us.

Someone Would Gladly Trade With You

Life is good, but occasionally we get frustrated and begin to complain.  This isn’t all bad, because frustration can often be the spark that causes us to take action to improve our life.  However, we get into trouble when we focus solely on what is frustrating us and develop an attitude of complaining.

We may justify our complaining by pointing out how bad things are, but here’s a thought to consider the next time we feel like complaining:  someone in the world would gladly trade places with you.

Consider this:

You think… Someone else thinks…
My job sucks. I’ll trade with you!

I’m currently unemployed and would love to have a job right now.

My marriage stinks. I’ll trade with you!

I’d love to be married and willing to work out our differences with a spouse.

I’m old. I’ll trade with you!

I’m 32 and have been diagnosed with terminal cancer.  I’d love to look forward to growing old.

I’m fat and out of shape. I’ll trade with you!

I live in a country where we rarely have enough to eat, let alone have the ability to choose a healthy lifestyle and a nutritious diet.

My life is boring. I’ll trade with you!

I’d love to have the freedom and resources you have to choose how I live my life.  There’s so much I want to do, experience, and learn.

As you look at your frustrations through the lens of how others view them, your situation starts to look a whole lot better.

The next time you find yourself having adopted an attitude complaining, stop and consider how many people would love to trade places with you.  This thought will likely give you a new perspective on your situation as well as refocus your attitude.