What You Don’t Know Can Lead to Success

What if you didn’t know your limitations?

Cliff Young was a potato farmer in Australia.  That’s all he had ever done his whole life.  He worked the family farm, which was huge – about 2000 acres.  They also had about 2000 sheep on the farm.

Life with no limitsHis main job growing up was to herd the sheep.  Since they didn’t have sheepdogs, he had to do it himself.  So he would round up the sheep on foot – running – because it was just the easiest way.

Sometimes he ran constantly from dawn until dusk to get the job done.  On a number of occasions, he ran for 24 hours – all night long – to prove to himself that he could do it.

He knew he was good at running.  It was in his blood.  But one day, he heard about a race taking place in his area.  It was called an UltraMarathon, which covered 544 miles from Sydney to Melbourne.

He knew he could cover the distance, but he was really slow, and had an unusual way of running – almost loping or limping.  He had never even seen a professional race – but decided to try anyway.

The good news?  There were only 6 other participants in the race – but people who had been racing for years.

The bad news? He was 61 years old – decades older than the others.

On the day of the race, he showed up wearing overalls and rubber boots.  Everyone made fun of him.  But that’s what he had always worn to run, and that’s how he would run this race.

After the starting gun, he was immediately in last place.  But he managed to keep the other runners in sight.  As the first day progressed, they pulled away and he found himself running alone.

Jump to the finish line.  Five days, 15 hours and 4 minutes after he started, he finally crossed the finish line.  He was sure he was in last place.

But he was wrong.

He came in first place.  And he beat the other runners by two full days.

Later, he found out why.  Since he didn’t know anything about racing, he didn’t know you were supposed to stop and sleep at night.  So he kept running with that slow pace and awkward gait – and unknowingly shuffled past his faster, younger competitors — while they were sleeping.

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What would happen if we took our life challenges, watched how other people handled the same challenges — and did the opposite?

Speaker Jim Rohn used to say that we should find someone who had great success — but blew it.  Then offer them cash and say, “Here’s some money.  Please teach me everything you did to mess up your life so I can avoid doing it.”

I like that.

Watching others could be a great resource for moving in some real positive directions.

  • Everybody has areas in life that they struggle with, and they’re not finding success.  What if we did the opposite?
  • Everybody has dreams, but many have given up because those dreams seem too hard.  What if we did the opposite?
  • Everybody has a challenging relationship that’s important to them, but avoid communication.  What if we took the risk and did the opposite?

Here’s my thinking:

If we do what most people do, we’ll get the results that most people get.

If we do the opposite of what most people do, we might get the opposite of what most people get.

The late motivational speaker Earl Nightingale said, “If you want to be successful in life, simply watch what most people would do in a given situation, and then do the total opposite.  Nine times out of ten, you’ll receive greater rewards.”

Hmmm . . .

I’d love to know your thoughts.  How about if we try it for a couple of days — doing the opposite — and see how it goes?  Then we can bounce it around in the comments section, and learn from each other.  Send this to friends to get their input, too.

 

A Tale of Two Brains

Our brains are pretty amazing.

There’s a part of the brain (we’ll call it “Brain 1”) where we make decisions, solve problems and come up with creative ideas. When we have jobs, our companies are renting that portion of our brain.  It’s where we make intentional choices.

There’s another part of our brain (we’ll call it “Brain 2”) that runs pretty much on autopilot. It’s a wonderful part of our brain, because it helps us develop routines and habits that guide us through our lives.

Got a relationship problem you have to work out? Brain 1 goes into action.

Want to improve your life? Call on Brain 1.

When we read self-help books or inspirational books that motivate us to grow and become more effective, it’s Brain 1 that’s impacted.

Brain 1 helps us change. It helps us dream.  It helps us become better than we are.

Hooray for Brain 1 . . . !

two_brains_FIBrain 2 isn’t nearly as flashy. It runs quietly in the background.  But we couldn’t live without it.

Brain 1 says, “Let’s try something new.” Since it’s new, it takes intentional thought and effort.  But the more we do it, the less effort it takes.

Over time, it becomes routine.

It moved into Brain 2 – and we didn’t even realize it.

Remember the day you drove to your current job for the first time? You had to use your GPS, study every turn, figure out where to park and enter the building, and how to find the correct office.  Every step was intentional, and took your whole focus.

Now, you show up in your office and never thought about how to get there. You just did it.

That’s Brain 2.

That’s why they say it takes 21 days to develop a habit. Every habit starts in Brain 1 but eventually becomes the “new normal” in Brain 2.

Both parts are important, because they do different things. If we’re being chased by a hungry tiger, we don’t want to use Brain 1 to make a list of my five best responses, then prioritize and take action.

We just run. Brain 2 made that happen.

So, I’ve been thinking about life lately. It seems like the older we get, the more we live in Brain 2.

We’ve figured out how life works, and we get comfortable.

We find routines that keep us in our comfort zones, and follow those patterns day after day.

We find what works for us and stick with it.

We eat meals at the same time, have the same type of conversations with our families and watch the same shows every night.

We stay in Brain 2, living by default instead of design.

But we weren’t designed to live comfortable lives. We were designed to grow and change and make a difference.

Wilma was in her 80’s when I was in my 30’s. Everyone at church knew her for her energy and spunk.  Whenever she saw me, she wanted to know if I was still growing.

“What are you reading right now?” she would ask, sneaking up behind me and slapping me on the shoulder. No matter what I answered, she would tell me the best book she had read recently, and why it was so good.

“You said you were going to get your doctorate,” she would say. “Have you started?  Why not?”

“Are you treating your wife well? So, what have you done for her lately?”

Wilma was growing. She was involved.

She was living from Brain 1.

Here’s a simple question for today: Are you living your life from the comfort of Brain 2, or the vision of Brain 1?

There’s nothing wrong with Brain 2. We need those comfort zones as a place to rest and recover.  It’s the “home base” where we build the foundation for our life journey. It’s where we rebuild our courage and strength.

But it’s our launching pad, not our landing pad.

So, how are you going to stretch today? How will you use Brain 1 to learn or grow or make a difference?

It’s worth some intentional thought.

Why Nobody Steals Hotel Artwork

I’m sitting in a hotel room in Lancaster, California. It’s a simple room with the basics: a bed, a desk, a TV, and a microwave.

And there’s a painting on the wall. It’s pretty big, and has an even bigger gold frame. I’m sure it’s just a print, and there’s a piece of glass covering it.

Now, I’m not an expert on art. But I think good art is supposed to capture your emotions. It catches your eye when you see it, and you interact with the painting in an emotional way.

In other words, it moves you.

I’m not being moved.

Hotel artIt’s colorful, but I’m not sure what it represents. I’m not driven to pull it off the wall and sneak it into my car.

That got me thinking. I don’t know how many nights I’ve spent in hotel rooms in my life, but I’m guessing it’s over 1000. Fancy hotels, cheap hotels, and a bunch in-between. In all those nights, I can’t think of a time when I’ve noticed a painting.

I’m sure there was a painting in almost every room. But I didn’t notice. They didn’t grab me.

But they didn’t irritate me, either.

I wonder if the hotels buy those paintings in bulk, and use them to decorate their rooms to set the tone and make them feel “homey.” By hanging nondescript art, nobody is offended – and they don’t have to worry about people stealing it.

I wonder if the original artist feels bad knowing that his/her artwork is so bland that nobody would notice it or steal it. (But then again, if the artist gets a little commission for every print that’s purchased, having it in thousands of hotels might ease the pain a bit.)

If I compare hotel art to a masterpiece in an art museum, it will always look cheap. But if the purpose is to set a tone for the room, it does its job well.

It makes the room feel comfortable. If that’s the purpose, it’s the perfect painting for the wall.

It’s a “masterpiece” in fulfilling its purpose.

Can you feel the life lesson coming? Here it is:

You’re unique.

There’s nobody else like you.

There’s a purpose for your life that nobody else can fulfill.

If you fulfill that purpose, your life is a masterpiece.

If you compare your life with somebody else’s masterpiece, you’re trying to fulfill their purpose, not yours. When that happens, you’ll probably feel like cheap hotel art.

Don’t be somebody else. It robs the world of your uniqueness.

Be yourself. Make your own unique contribution. Quit comparing yourself to others.

Be the best “you” you can be, and the world will see a work of art.

Be a masterpiece today.

 

Virtual Coffee

Writing can be a lonely task. You do it by yourself, because you have to think.

Speaking is anything but lonely. But it’s short-lived. You stand in front of a group and interact with them for 8 hours, but they leave at the end and you’re alone again.

I make my living doing both.

It’s not a bad gig for an introvert.

friendsI love the speaking days – especially the chance to connect with people one-on-one during breaks. But constant interaction can be draining, and I’m usually pretty drained by the end of the day. I recharge on my drive home – alone.

On writing days, I love the chance to think and process ideas. I often don’t know what I think about something until I write about it. My ideas take shape during the writing process. (That’s happening as I write this; I don’t know how it’s going to end yet. I almost always get a surprise ending!)

But I’ve also learned that I need human interaction on writing days. If I don’t have it, I can get stuck in my own thoughts or get too introspective.

Going out for coffee with a friend is probably my favorite thing to do.

And maybe the most important.

When I have coffee with a friend, it’s a chance to get outside my head. I get to explore their life and their thoughts and their passion and their ideas. I always learn things I didn’t know before, and get to feel like we’re sharing life together.

When I come home and start writing again, all my thoughts are different. Interacting with a friend hits a “reset” button in my brain, even though we weren’t talking about the subject I’m writing about.

We were made to do life with other people.

We communicate through email, social media and even phone calls, and it can be a great way to connect. But something different happens when we’re face-to-face, relaxing over a cup or a meal: We have what Dr. Edward Hallowell calls a “human moment.”

Human moments refresh us. They restore us. They remind us that we’re . . . well, human.

If you’re one of the people I have coffee or a meal with, you need to know how much it means to me. Doing life with you gives me the ability to write and speak. It keeps me from being alone and introspective.

It also gives me a different perspective on blogging.

Most of the blogs I’ve read are people sharing their ideas with other people. That’s not a bad thing, but it can feel one-sided. The blogs that seem to have the biggest impact are the ones that feel like you’re having coffee with them – virtually.

Those blogs don’t seem to be about teaching; they’re about connecting. It’s about the writer laying a few thoughts on the table, and readers responding with their thoughts. It’s a true conversation, not a monologue. It’s real, and it’s vulnerable.

It’s about mutual curiosity.

It has the scent of a human moment.

Connecting through a blog doesn’t replace human moments. It’s a way for thousands of people to feel like they’re actually having an intimate conversation at Starbucks.

That’s what “comments” are for. It’s not something to stroke a writer’s ego because they get lots of comments. It’s a chance to do what we would do across from each other at a table: notice each other, hear each other, respond to each other.

It reminds us that we’re not alone. There are other people working their way through life, and we get to encourage each other on the journey.

I can’t have coffee with all of my readers. But I’m grateful we have a chance to connect in this way.

Thanks.

Go find a real person to have coffee with today.

They need a human moment – and so do you.

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts, and so would your fellow readers . . . comment below.

 

 

 

 

 

What to Do in Case of a Moose

Most hotel rooms have printed instructions on how to handle natural disasters. 

In California, I’ve read what to do if there’s an earthquake.

In Oklahoma, I’ve seen instructions on responding to a tornado.

In eastern states, I’ve prepared for a hurricane.

But in Fairbanks, Alaska, I learned what to do in case of a moose.

MooseI was amused when I saw the sheet on the desk in the rustic-themed room at the lodge where I had come to train the hotel employees.  “Clever,” I thought.  “They wrote this up to sound like those other ones.”  I assumed it was just a joke, because a moose seems pretty harmless when the only one I’ve ever known was one on TV named Bullwinkle.

I walked the paper down to the front desk.

“What’s this about?” I asked.

The desk clerk looked at me as if I was from another planet.  “It’s about what to do if you meet a moose.  Just like it says.”

“So, do you get many of them around here?” I was expecting a chuckle or two as we shared the joke.”

“Every couple of days,” she replied without expression.

“Really?”

“Really.  They wander around the parking lot out here.  That’s why we have the low door frame here at the entrance.  Once in a while, they try to come inside.”

“Is it a problem if you run into one?” I asked.

“Could be.  If they decide they don’t like you, they can do some real damage to your body parts.”

“So what are you supposed to do if you meet one in the parking lot?”

After a brief condescending stare, she pointed back to the paper I was holding.  “Read that,” she said.  “That’s why we put it in the room.”

I was a little embarrassed, but now I was curious.  I looked down at the simple instructions:

If you encounter a moose, stand behind a tree.

“Are you serious?” I asked?

“Yep.  You don’t want to run away, because they’ll catch you.  But if you stand behind a tree, it’s hard for them to get around it with those big antlers.  Pretty soon they’ll get tired of trying and wander off.”

It didn’t seem very noble to imagine my obituary: “Killed by a moose.”  So I decided to follow her instructions.

I went for a long, frigid walk that day.  The scenery was great but it was hard to relax.  I was always looking for the nearest tree, just in case I caught the interest of something large and brown.  I didn’t want my obituary to read, “Man Who Ignored Instructions Killed by Moose.”

I didn’t see any moose that day – which was a little disappointing, since I was so well-prepared. And I haven’t been able to use my new-found knowledge in Southern California.

I did learn three valuable lessons that day:

  1. I don’t know everything. 
  2. Assuming that I know everything can get me in trouble.
  3. It’s good to listen to people who know what I don’t.

Today, I’m going to listen to the people I encounter. I’ll listen to my wife – and my kids – and my grandkids – and my barista – and the person I’m sitting next to right now on a plane.

I just might learn something that I’ll need if I encounter a moose today.

What trouble could you avoid today by listening to someone with experience?

 

The Problem with Comparison

Most things of value take a lot of work.

First, we have to decide to do something.  Changing our mind takes a lot of work.

Then, we have to start.  Overcoming inertia takes a lot of work.

Then, we’re motivated. We’re starting to see some progress, and it’s exciting.

But then it gets hard.  And boring.  And we don’t see as many results as we did in the beginning.  All we see is how much work it is, and how much further away the goal seems.

So we try to hang in there with willpower.  But it gets harder and harder.

When it gets hard, we look around to see if other people are having a hard time. 

But all we see is their results.  They’re doing better than us. They’re getting the results we want.

We get discouraged.  We feel like we’ll never get to our goal.

We want to give up.  It’s not fair that we have to work so hard, and other people are already where we want to be.

So we spiral downward.  And we give up.

Again.

Here’s the problem:

goldfishWe’re comparing our journey with their results.

We’re comparing our middle with their end.

We overlook the tough journey they went through to get those results. 

We’re comparing the back of the stage with the front of the stage.  We forget that when we’re watching an amazing stage production, there’s a lot of chaos going on behind the curtain.

Comparison is deadly – usually because we’re comparing the wrong things.

Are you feeling discouraged in your progress?  Does it feel like you’ll never reach your goal?  Is the journey just getting too hard?

Don’t compare the middle of your journey with the end of somebody else’s journey. 

They were exactly where you are while they worked toward their goal.  They felt the pain, the discouragement, the frustration.  They wanted to give up.

But they didn’t give up.  That’s why they reached their goal.

Don’t give up. 

Don’t compare.

Hang in there.

You’ll get there if you keep moving.  And when you do, you’ll be able to compare success with others – because you both remember the journey.

 

So, what’s the next small step that will move you ahead in your journey today?

 

Walk Away From Yesterday

It’s easy to live in yesterday.

– Someone was mean to us.

– We made a bad choice.

– Something unfortunate happened.

– We hurt someone.

– We lost.

regretsToday is new.  Today will take our full energy to live it well.  If we put today’s energy into what happened yesterday, it will rob us of what we need for today.

We need to let it go.

It’s time to walk away from yesterday.

If someone hurt us yesterday, we need to leave it in yesterday – and choose how we’re going to respond today.

If we made a bad choice yesterday, we can acknowledge it – and make better choices today.

If something unfortunate happened yesterday, we accept the reality today and move forward.

If we hurt someone yesterday, we apologize today.

If we lost yesterday, we grieve the loss.  But we put one foot in front of the other today.

We can’t turn back time.  We can’t change what has happened.  We can make new choices about it, but we can’t change it.

We need all of today’s energy for today’s challenges.

It’s time to walk away from yesterday.

It’s time to let it go.

Ready for a new day?  Let’s go . . .

3 Words to Remove from our Vocabulary

Kids get punished for a lot of different things.  But lying tends to be universal. 

Almost every parent wants their kids to be truthful.  “If you lie, people won’t trust you,” they say.

It’s true.  Healthy adult relationships are built on trust.  If someone lies to us and we find out, it damages the relationship and trust goes out the window. 

But what about lying to ourselves?  Do we break trust with ourselves when we’re dishonest with ourselves?

I’m not trying to get all ‘Tony Robbins’ here.  But I think the words we use can keep us from trusting ourselves.  We can get “stuck.”

I’ve been thinking about how I talk to myself, wondering if it’s honest.  In the process, I’ve landed on three words (or phrases) that might be worth reconsidering: 

I can’t

I’m not talking about things that are physically impossible, like jumping 50 feet in the air or going for a year without sleep. 

But when we say “I can’t,” it often means “it’s hard.”  It ends the discussion and keeps us from exploring options. 

If we say, “I can’t lose weight,” we really mean, “It’s hard to lose weight.”

That’s honest.

Better: “I want to lose weight, and I know it’s hard.  But if I decide to, I could explore the possibilities, get help and find a way to do it.”

If we say, “I can’t run a half-marathon,” we really mean, “It would be hard to run a half-marathon.”  Saying “I can’t” keeps us on the couch.

I have to

This one is subtle, but puts us in the “victim” mentality.  It means, “I don’t have a choice.  Somebody else is forcing me to do something.”

But we do have a choice.  We can always choose what we do.  We just can’t choose the consequences of those choices.

“I have to go to work.”  Not really.  I can choose to stay home.  But if I do, I might lose my job.  That’s a consequence I don’t want, so I choose to go to work.” 

“I have to go to the dentist.”  Not really.  But if I don’t go, there might be long-term consequences.  I don’t like those consequences, so I choose to go to the dentist.

“I have to eat better.”  Not really.  I can choose to eat dessert all the time.  But if I don’t eat better, it will affect a lot of things in my life – so I choose to eat better.

Instead of “I have to,” it’s better to say “I’m going to” or “I choose to.”  It means I take responsibility for my choices, and accept the outcomes.

Try

We don’t know how successful we’ll be when we attempt something new.  But when we say, “I’ll try,” it gives us an easy out when things get tough. 

I’m not sure about this one.  But I’m thinking it would be better to say, “I will” or “I won’t” instead of “I’ll try.”  Making a commitment usually gets better results than poking around at possibilities.

As the great philosopher Yoda said:

“Do.  Or do not.  There is no try.”

So I’m just exploring the words we use with ourselves.  I want to be careful of casual words that might sabotage my potential.

I want to build trust with myself.

What do you think?

 

 

 

Advice From 100-Year Olds

Most people don’t value the elderly as much as other cultures.  We’re too busy trying to make ends meet and get ahead, so we don’t have (or take) the time to glean the richness that comes from those who have lived a lot longer.

That’s unfortunate.  Older people are filled with life experiences. They’ve been where we want to go, and know the route and the potholes to avoid.  If we don’t ask, we miss out.

We end up making avoidable mistakes.

Several publications have interviewed people that have made it to 100, then captured their advice.  Here are some gems:

Happy old“Don’t look at the calendar.  Just keep celebrating every day.”

“Vitamins? Forget it. And I don’t encourage going to a lot of doctors, either.” (said by a doctor)

“Make time to cry.”

“Travel – don’t worry about the money, just make it work.  Experience is far more valuable than money will ever be.”

“Do one thing each day that is just for you.”

“Choose the right parents.”

“I drink the faucet water.”

“Be satisfied.  You don’t have to be happy all the time, you need to be satisfied.”

“Love people. Find something to like about the person – it’s there – because we’re all just people.”

“Don’t give up and die just because you feel like it.”

“Be positive.  When you think negatively, you’re putting poison on your body.”

“There is no need to ever retire, but if one must, it should be a lot later than 65.”

“When a doctor recommends you take a test or have some surgery, ask whether the doctor would suggest that his or her spouse or children go through such a procedure . . . I think music and animal therapy can help more than most doctors imagine.”

“Take the stairs and carry your own stuff.”

“Find a role model and strive to achieve more than they could ever do.”

“Pay off your mortgage.  Then never get into debt again. Ever.”

“Listen. You learn a lot more listening to others than telling them what you know.”

“Never run out of responsibility.”

Next time you’re with an older person, slow down and listen.  Make eye contact.  Hear their heart – it might change yours.

Good advice? Comment below . . .

 

“More Parties” – The Key to Reaching Your Goals

partyOn January 1, many people make New Year’s resolutions.  They set long-range goals and say, “I’ll work like crazy to achieve these goals, and then I’ll celebrate.”

At the beginning, we’re motivated. But we run out of steam when things get hard – or tedious – or boring. Things take longer than we expect, require more energy, and have more unexpected problems. The celebration is so far away that it doesn’t keep us going, so we give up.

We need quicker celebrations.

Celebrations give us something to look forward to. They provide the fuel to keep going.

If we only have a reward at the end, it’s like only eating breakfast and expecting that one meal to last all day. We need regular refueling to stay energized, so we eat several times a day.

Without regular rewards, we sabotage our efforts to achieve our goals. 

Want to increase your chance of achieving your big goals? Try this:

  1. Set a clearly defined long-range goal – maybe for this time next year. Define:

Where you are now.

Where you want to be.

The exact date you want to be there.

  1. Determine the value of accomplishing the goal.   

Why do you want to achieve it?

  1. Decide what you’ll do to celebrate at the end.  

Make it big. Make it specific. Make it motivating.

  1. Decide where you need to be in 30 days to reach your long-range goal – then plan an appropriate reward.
  1. Decide where you need to be in 7 days to reach your 30-day goal – then plan an appropriate reward.
  1. Decide where you need to be at the end of today to reach your 7-day goal – then plan an appropriate reward.

Don’t take any reward until you complete that step – but be sure to take it. Those small rewards provide the fuel for big results.

Plan a big celebration when you reach your goal.

But plan little parties along the way.

Those little parties could make the difference in reaching your goal.

Ready to party? (Comment)

 

How To Finish the Year Well

Everybody focuses on January 1.  That’s the day for the clean slate – the fresh start – the “do-over.”

That’s a good thing.

But in doing so, there’s a tendency to think, “Well, it’s too late to fix anything in five days.  I’ll just focus on next year, and everything will be better.”

So, we develop a familiar pattern:

  • Start each year strong.
  • End each year weak.

We say things like, “Since I’m going to get in shape after the first, this is my last chance to splurge.”  It’s the Mardi Gras mindset.  Mardi Gras is one, final, big party before Lent, where people feel like they have to behave.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Kids runWe can rescue the end of this year.  The next five days could be the most significant of your entire year.

How? Try these four ideas:

1.   Set a 5-day goal. Pick one thing that you’ve been wanting to accomplish – something that would bring great satisfaction and value in the future.  It could be cleaning the garage, detailing your car (or your spouse’s), taking an online course or working through a tough project that you’ve been putting off.  Decide how much to do each day, and put it on your calendar. Commit publicly to completing it before the fireworks start.

2.   At the same time, plan each day around relationships instead of your to-do list.  Instead of looking at all the stuff you need to accomplish, start by deciding who you’ll contact today.  Pick someone that you care about that you haven’t connected with for a while.  Hand-write a note; make a leisurely phone call; invite them out for mid-afternoon coffee with no agenda.  Just give them the gift of your presence. Once a day for five days.

3.   Make a thanks log for this last year. Take an extended dinner with your spouse or family, and create a list of the best things that happened this year. List at least twelve (one for each month).  Better yet, go for 52 (one for each week).  Get as many as possible, then keep it out where people can add ideas over the next few days. No matter how bad the year was, focusing on thankfulness can change our entire perspective.

4.   Get a head start.  There’s nothing magical about January 1.  If you start today, you’ll have a 5-day head start. 

We only get each day of our lives once.  Whatever we choose to do with each day determines the value of that day.

There are five days left in the year. 

Let’s make them count!

 

I’d love to hear what you decide to do – and how you feel on January 1.  Let us know! (Comment)

 

The Gift that can Change Somebody’s Life

During my years as a college prof, students would often drop by my office to talk.  Some had questions about assignments, while others were wondering about what courses to take next semester. 

But usually, those conversations turned into life conversations.  They were negotiating the real world away from their parents, and trying to figure it out.  They just needed someone they trusted to bounce ideas around with.

It was one of the best parts of the job.

ListeningI loved those conversations.  But I was also amazed at the impact those conversations had.

I didn’t realize it at the time.  But they were listening.

They would share their thoughts, their dreams, their challenges.  They would talk about . . . well, just stuff.

I almost never had answers.  I just had ears. 

I felt like I should have better advice – better things to say.  I should have been able to draw deeply from my well of experience and wisdom, delivering pearls of insight that would blow then away.

The well usually felt pretty dry.

So I just listened.  And whenever possible, I would simply affirm something I had noticed about them that was an area of strength.

Surprisingly, they often had no idea they had that strength.  It simply never occurred to them.

To me, it was a casual conversation.

To them, it was a turning point. 

People are starved to have someone listen to them.  It tells them they have value, when they don’t value themselves.

People are starved to have someone believe in them.  If they don’t believe in themselves, they borrow that belief from us – until it becomes their own.

It’s a gift we can give that – pardon the cliché – “keeps on giving.”

Teachers do it.  Parents can do it.  Grandparents can do it.  Friends can do it.

You can do it.

Do it.

You’ll change someone’s life.

 

Thoughts? (Leave a comment)

 

 

 

 

You’re as Smart as Einstein (but here’s why he was more famous)

When people think of “smart,” they often think of Albert Einstein.

He pondered the universe, and came up with things like “The Theory of Relativity.”  I asked some friends what the theory of relativity was, and nobody could really explain it.  They knew they studied it in school, but couldn’t remember it beyond the test.

We assume Einstein was smart, because we don’t understand him.  We say, “He thought at a whole different level, and it’s beyond me.  So he was way smarter than me.”

Maybe it was the hair.  People who think deeply might not have time left over for grooming.

The problem is that we see what he accomplished (and others like him), and think, “I could never do that.  I don’t have much to contribute.”

In fact, people often say, “I’m no Einstein.”

It’s true.

We’re not Einstein. Never have been, never will be. We can’t make the contribution that Einstein made.

We’re us.

We can make a contribution that nobody else in the universe can make.

If we don’t make it, we’re robbing the world of that contribution.

So, what was the difference?  Why did Einstein make such a big contribution, and we don’t?

I’ve pondered that, and I think I’ve figured it out:

Einstein didn’t have email.

einstein_ipodSeriously.  The reason he came up with such great ideas was probably because he didn’t have as many distractions.

Bring him forward a few decades to the present day.  Imagine Einstein sitting at his desk, pondering the universe.  But he gets stuck on an idea, and isn’t sure where to go with it.

So he checks his email.  Or Facebook.  Or he tweets his friends, and reads their posts. 

He tries pondering again, but his thoughts about the universe still don’t go anywhere.

So he grabs his smartphone and tries to improve his scores on Candy Crush.  Just for a few minutes, of course.

Little distractions keep us from being focused.  But more than that, they take our momentum.  It takes a while to ramp up again after each one.

I don’t think Einstein was that different than us.  We have the potential to make a universe-sized contribution that nobody else could make – including Einstein.

As long as we don’t get distracted.

What’s something significant that you’ve been working on – something that could really make a difference if you figured it out and finished it?  Something that’s hard enough (but important enough) that it takes energy and focus?

Now – when you put time into it, how often do you get distracted?  And what is the distraction?

What would happen if you could control the distractions?

It could change everything.

Einstein was probably a focused version of us.  In fact, he once said, “It’s not that I’m so smart; it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”

Ready to make a difference?

So, put the smartphone down slowly, and nobody gets hurt . . .

 

(By the way – Einstein had a simple way of describing the theory of relativity: “When you are courting a nice girl, an hour seems like a second.  When you sit on a red-hot cinder, a second seems like an hour.  That’s relativity.”)

What Dr. Seuss Can Teach Us About Life

How many books do you know that your parents had read to them – and they read them to you – and you’re reading them to your children and grandchildren?

Not many stand the test of time. 

But Dr. Seuss books are different.

Things 1 and 2My kids loved Dr. Seuss.  They loved the whimsical pictures, the rhythmic phrases and the colorful rhymes.  And by liking all that, they got the messages Dr. Seuss was trying to teach.

I was reading through one the other day, and realized that many of the truths are timeless.  They don’t just apply to kids; they’re simple principles for adults, too.

I pulled a few samples together that sound almost trite on the surface, but reflect some solid truth we can apply each day:

On taking initiative:

“You have brains in your head.  You have feet in your shoes.  You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” 

On the value of uniqueness:

“Today you are you, that is truer than true.  There is no one alive who is Youer then You.” 

On making a difference:

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better.  It’s not.” 

On going beyond where we are:

“Think left and think right and think low and think high.  Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try!” 

On being motivated:

“You’re off to great places!  Today is your day!  Your mountain is waiting, so . . . get on your way!” 

On the value of taking action:

“Oh, the things you can find if you don’t stay behind!”

True wisdom still applies, no matter how old it is.  Pick one and live it out as you walk through today.

 

Which of these quotes do you resonate with the most?

Nobody Wins the Rat Race

Several years ago, my wife and I attended a Renaissance Faire.  It’s an outdoor event that replicates life during medieval times, with jousting competitions, fair maidens, period costumes and people walking around chewing on roasted turkey legs.

One long row included rustic games.  For a few coins, you could test your skill in competition with your fellow travelers.  We were mostly amused as we walked past the noisy booths.

But one caught my eye: the rat race.

2465725952_0b1698b661_zIt was a crude, wooden maze, sitting vertically about six feet high.  There were four compartments at the bottom with hinged doors.  Each contained a live rat. Four of us could select the rat we wanted, which they brought over and introduced to us by name.

Then they would put the rats in their boxes. On a signal, they would remove a board, which would free the rats to climb the maze to get their food at the top.

I couldn’t resist.  I paid my coins, picked my rat, and waited anxiously.

The game started.

My rat had fallen asleep.

I lost the rat race.

My consolation prize? A small, ancient-looking piece of paper with the words, “I lost the rat race.”

I kept that paper in my wallet for a long time as a reminder.  It was surprisingly true.

People get caught up in the “rat race,” trying to get ahead at work or in life.  We compete with each other, and forsake our values, health and sanity for the sake of profit and status.

But that’s the wrong race.  It’s the rat race.

And nobody gets out of it alive.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m all for achieving great purposes and reaching goals that make an impact.  I’m passionate about helping people get “unstuck” in life and make a difference.  That’s what I do for a living.

But that’s a different race.

The rat race happens when we get addicted to adrenaline.

It’s movement without purpose.

It’s making progress without making a difference.

Nobody wins the rat race.

It’s worth evaluating – are we in the right race?

I’d love your thoughts . . .

 

How to Motivate Our Kids

When my kids were born, I vowed never to say these words:

“Because I said so.”

I knew that parents resorted to those words when they were out of options. But I figured that if I was a good enough parent, I wouldn’t run out of options.

That made it even worse the first time I said it.

Motivating kidsIt’s tough to motivate others when they have a mind of their own.

When our kids are little, we’re in control. We tell them what to do, when to do it and how to do it.  We call the shots.

But as they get older, they become more independent. That’s healthy, because they need to know how to handle life on their own when we’re not around. 

 

But how do we motivate them when we can no longer control them?

Too often, parents resort to a boss/employee approach. If I’m your boss and I want to motivate you to clean your office, I have three options:

  1. I can say, “If you clean your office, I will give you $20.” (positive)
  2. I can say, “If you don’t clean your office, I will punch you in the nose.” (negative)
  3. I can influence you to want a clean office. (intrinsic)

With #1, you’ll learn to perform only if I keep paying you.  With #2, you’ll do it – but it makes everything harder in the future.

#3 produces long-term results, because the motivation comes from inside, not outside. 

So, how do we motivate our kids to make wise choices on their own?

I’m not pretending to have solid answers.  There are lots of books on the topic that promise to have “the answer.” But different kids need different approaches.  There’s no “one-size-fits-all” solution.

Instead, here are a few thoughts.  Don’t take them as advice, and it’s OK to disagree. Just use them as a catalyst for thinking about your own kids (no matter what age):

  • The older our kids become, the more we shift from control to influence.
  • Kids aren’t adults, so they need to test out their ways to handle life.  That means they’ll make mistakes.  They need an environment where it’s OK to mess up and still be loved.
  • We need to catch our kids doing things right and tell them.
  • Our communication needs to be scented with grace.  It’s hard to motivate someone in a positive direction when most of our comments are negative.
  • When our kids are making poor choices, it’s easy to make that the focal point of all our interaction.  Even in those tough times, we need casual, relaxed conversations about normal life stuff.
  • It’s enabling when people focus on our strengths instead of just our weaknesses.
  • Using a “win-win” approach with our kids let us explore solutions that will satisfy both of us, instead of us just calling all the shots.
  • When we need them to do something, we should be clear about outcomes.  Then allow them some flexibility and choice in how they reach that outcome.
  •  Everyone wants to feel valuable to others.  Our kids need to know they’re not invisible, and that we value them for who they are – not just for how they perform.

There are no guarantees or easy answers.  We just need an intentional strategy for motivating our kids, so we don’t get stuck saying, “Because I said so.”

What have you tried that has worked? (Comment below)