Monday, September 29, 2014

Dreams


“Dreams pass into the reality of action. From the actions stems the dream again; and this interdependence produces the highest form of living.”

Anais Nin
“We all have dreams. But in order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort.”

Jesse Owens

“All men of action are dreamers.”

James Huneker



Dreams.  How important are they?  We all have them.  I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have a dream.  Unfortunately I know plenty of people who do not pursue their dreams or have given them up altogether.  The problem with dreams is that they aren’t real.  In 1963, Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “I have a dream.”  It was a good one and things have improved in race relations, but it wasn’t because he had a dream.  It was because he, and millions of others, took action.
Dreams are for people who sleep.  Action is for those who are…well…active.   In The Pledge, author Michael Masterson explains the difference between a dream and a goal and says he prefers to not even use the word “dream.”
Still, a dream can be a good starting place.  Sometimes in literal dreams we have ideas or messages from our subconscious.  For example, John Lennon came up with the inspiration for the song Instant Karma through a combination of conversations and a literal dream.  Upon waking from the dream, Lennon quickly put a group together (including fellow Beatle George Harrison) and recorded the song.  Ten days later it was released, “making it one of the fastest released songs in pop-music history.”  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Instant_Karma!) What started as a dream became a reality. 
What made it a reality?  What makes a dream come true?
Action.
That’s it. 
Constant, consistent, planned action.  Nothing else. 
At this very moment I’m filled with doubt that what I’m saying is any good.  I worry about being clichéd and unoriginal.  Am I really helping anyone?  Will I be seen as Hamlet’s busybody Polonius, spouting clichés and feel-good words, without changing my own life?  Even that argument doesn’t matter.  All that matters is action.  All that matters is that we do our work.  It’s possible that I will delete this entire piece when I am done.  It’s possible that no one will read it.  It still doesn’t matter.  If it’s bad, but I keep working, I will learn how to make it good. 
Self-doubt is a difficulty, but it may be just another way to keep us from working and reaching our goals.  If I were to give into my own self-doubts, where would it lead me?  I’d stop writing.  I’d tell myself it was a phase and that it served its purpose, but it was just something for a little while and that I’ve gone on to other things. 
It’s possible that my self-doubt is also a way of my unconscious telling me to work even harder, to study, and to learn more.  Perhaps it is even a gift, telling me I’ve reached a new level, and now it’s time to move forward.  Perhaps it’s telling me I’ve done a good job and I can do even more. 
Whatever it is, a curse, a gift, or a little of both, self-doubt can only be overcome by self-discipline.
How important is self-discipline?  It is the engine that drives Purpose.  The trick is to set goals and then work towards them.  This includes goals for time management and the quantity of work each of us is committed to.  In this way we make our dreams come true.  The following questions might be helpful:
·      How much time do we want to give each day?
·      What are we willing to give up?
·      How long will we persist?
·      What will we do if we don’t see results soon, or even later?
·      What will we do when we feel afraid, unmotivated, or doubtful?
·      Why are we doing this?

The last question is the most important and it one that each of us has to answer alone.  I’m doing this because, despite fear, procrastination, distractions, and self-doubt, I see no other way to reach my dreams than by doing that which has already changed my life.  In other words, it’s worked so far, and it’s the course I’ve chosen, and may even be the course chosen for me.  I Get Started and Keep Going.  That’s how I make my dreams come true.

Friday, September 26, 2014

And Just See What Happens...


Rather than go through the normal “I-don’t-know-what-to-write” routine that I endure so often, I’m going to sit here and write and just see what happens.  The worst thing that will happen is that I will produce nothing of substance or value, but I will have put in my time.  The best thing that will happen is that I will get a phone call, as a result of this work, from someone offering me a huge cash advance to write a motivational book.  Most likely, what will happen is somewhere in the middle.  I’ll do my work and feel better about myself.  Then I will work on other things that bring me closer to my goals.
But whatever happens won’t just happen.  By doing our work, we are helping it to happen. In The Science of Getting Rich, Wallace Wattles says, “(W)hen a man begins to move towards a larger life more things attach themselves to him, and the influence of his desire is multiplied.” 
In Outliers Malcolm Gladwell says that we need 10,000 hours to be the best at what we do.  Perhaps this is true.  Our work generally improves as we put more time into it.  The important thing to remember is the work.  Yes, we may want financial success and recognition for our work.  But the work is the primary thing. 
At this stage of the game, with no real tangible results, the work is all there is.  That’s why it’s important to develop habits and self-discipline.  For example, right now I’m on vacation.  I could be doing anything I want.  I have time and even a little money.  It’s a beautiful day outside.  I could be at the beach.  This morning, though it’s my day off, I woke up at 6:30.  For me, that was oversleeping.  (I had an upset stomach.)  I like to wake up at 5:00 and start writing.  Even on my days off.  When I’m not writing, I’m reading.  Not for pleasure, though I get a lot of pleasure from reading, but so that I can learn more, do better, and bless the world.  I want to be a “lovecat” as Tim Sanders calls it in his book Love Is the Killer App.  A lovecat shares his knowledge with the world, but he has to acquire that knowledge first.  The acquisition of knowledge is a labor of love, a way to serve the world. 
Reading, writing, and speaking are three ways that I serve the world, but each of us has our own way(s) to serve the world.  For those who aren’t sure, start with this question:  What do I love?
Love is always a legitimate source of information, because it comes from God.  It’s genuine.  It’s primal.  Why do we like certain colors?  Why do we love some foods over others?  For the most part, these things are a part of us.  We were born with them. 
In my own life, I have always loved reading, writing, and speaking.  I didn’t look for them.  They just came to me.  More accurately, they came with me…they arrived with me…when I was born.  And then at the right time, they came out of me.
There’s something within each of us that wants to come out and be expressed. Wattles also says this is God wanting to express Himself through us.  If this thing within us brings us love and joy and it allows us to bless others, then there is no wrong medium.  Art, dance, business, hobbies, and on and on it can go.
The important thing is to do what you love.  Even job coaches take this approach, chief among them Richard Bolles in What Color Is Your Parachute? (a book that has been coming out in new and updated editions for almost forty years).  Can our love lead to a full-time occupation?  Bolles says, “The key to a happy and fulfilling future is knowing yourself. This self-knowledge is the most important component of finding the right career.”
Again, however, before the career choice, love comes first.  It’s possible that your work may not be part of your job.  Your job may be something you do, and something you like, but your work will be something you love.
So do your work.  Do what you love.  Get Started.  Keep Going…and just see what happens.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Keep Going, Keep Going, Keep Going!


Imagine sitting alone in a room, or at your desk, or somewhere where you are supposed to be doing your work.  Not your job, the thing you’re paid for – but your work, the thing you were born for.  You have this picture in your head of your perfect life.  Not a perfect life, but your perfect life, the one you were born for.  But at this moment, it seems very…very…very far away.  You’ve already put in a significant amount of time and energy.  You’ve made your commitment.  You have no intention of changing your mind.  But at this moment, the promise of your goal seems very…very…very far away
What do you do?  You have two choices – you stop or you Keep Going.
There are three ways to stop.  You can stop for a while.  You can take a break, a nap, a day off.  You can stop for the weekend.  There’s nothing wrong with this, though in my own experience, the most I can go is a day.
Or…
You can stop until things get easier.  You can stop after the kids have grown, when you have more money, when you have fewer commitments, when you have more time or energy, or when life is a little less complicated.  There’s a word for this day.  It’s called, “Never.”  There will always be something; in fact, there will always be a lot of things.  This way of thinking is deceptive and dangerous.  Your return date may also be “never.”   Like Peter Keating in The Fountainhead, you might give up your chance. 
Or…
You can stop altogether.  You can decide that you’ve put in enough time and energy and you have little or nothing to show for it.  You can go on to something else, but you run the risk of going on to nothing at all.  “But,” you say in protest, “you don’t know how hard I’ve worked.  I’ve worked and worked and sacrificed, and I have nothing to show for it!”
I get it.  A lot of people get it.
John Kennedy Toole won a Pulitzer Prize for his book A Confederacy of Dunces...posthumously, more than ten years after killing himself due to depression and an unwillingness to seek medical help.   So there’s no guarantee of success.  So, again, I get it. 
All I can say is this:  I’m not giving up.  I may be discouraged, tired, frustrated, sad, broke, or alone, but I’m not quitting.  I may feel like I have nothing more to offer, but I’m not giving up.  I will keep working.  I will reach my goals, or I will literally die trying (though not like Toole). 
Here’s the good news.  When I started this blog, I had no idea what I was going to say.  In fact, I procrastinated on writing today because I had no idea what to write. Then I sat down and began working and the words came.  This is how it works.  We sit down and do our work and wait for it.  The Muse appears.  We do something, anything, and something will happen.  Anything can happen.
All that is required is to keep working.  Feelings don’t matter.  Discouragement in any form doesn’t matter.  Only the work matters.   You don’t stop. 
You Keep Going. 
You Keep Going. 
You Keep Going. 
I see no other valid or sane choice.  Keep Going.  

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Am I Repeating Myself?


“First say to yourself what you would be; then do what you have to do.”

Epictetus

“Be so good they can’t ignore you.”

Steve Martin

“Your life does not get better by chance.  It gets better by change.”

Jim Rohn


Why do I do it?  Why do I say the same thing almost every day?  Why do I repeat myself?  Here I go again:
·      Get Started.
·      Keep Going.
·      Do your work.
·      House on the Beach.
·      Muse.

Can you feel the “blah, blah, blah” coming?  Why is it that I seem to keep saying the same things over and over?  Because you and I need reminders.  There are two ways of looking at life and both are correct.  One way is to just enjoy life and be thankful and peaceful.  Take things as they come.  Be in the present moment.  The other way is to see life as a series of constant battles, struggles, and reaching for worthy goals.  So I remind myself every day to Get Started and to Keep Going, because when I do my work, I feel thankful and peaceful.   Every time I write a blog or move towards my goals, even in a small way, I feel good about life and about myself.   I feel stronger, larger, more confident. 
At the same time, I know life is also a battle.   My defense against the Enemy, against depression, fear, low self-esteem, and everything else that tries to do me in, is to do my work.  As I do my work, not only do I feel better, I become open to improvements, ideas, and new ways to use my work to reach my goals.
In life, and in each of us, there is room to be both Warrior and Monk.  To neglect the Warrior within is to leave ourselves unprepared for and unprotected against the inevitable (and often unexpected) delays and difficulties.   Life becomes nothing more than a constant series of battles and frustrations.  To neglect the Monk is to leave ourselves ungrateful and unhappy.  Life, and even our goal, becomes nothing more than a series of tasks and obligations.
So every day I remind myself of what I’m doing and why I’m doing it.  Reminders come in the form of 3x5 cards with pictures and written statements of my goals strategically placed where I see them every day. They come in the form of encouragement to and from others.  They come when I take care of myself.  But mostly they come when I do my actual work.  Doing our work is the best motivation possible. 
But shouldn’t we need to do our work without motivation, without reminders?  Shouldn’t we just do it what we’re supposed to do without being told?  Perhaps, if we weren’t human, the answer would be yes.  But remember, life is a battle.  We get tired.  We get discouraged.  We even get busy and forget.  At the same time, life is a gift and daily reminders help us to appreciate that gift every day.  Life is not only a gift; each day it is a new gift.
There is also another truth.  I don’t need to be reminded.  I just need to do my work.  But sometimes the reminders give me a refreshed sense of purpose.  They make me glad that I have goals.  They motivate me to work just a little harder, to not give up when I feel tired or apathetic or even just neutral.
This then is one more reminder to Get Started and Keep Going.  Do a little or do a lot, but do something that will get you towards your goal.  Then when you get there, create a new goal remind yourself, every day, why you are doing it, even if you’re repeating yourself.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Vacation


“Determine never to be idle. No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time, who never loses any. It is wonderful how much may be done, if we are always doing.”

Thomas Jefferson

“There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.”

Beverly Sills



For no reason at all, on a day off perhaps,  a weekend, a vacation day, or a day when you really don’t have anything pressing, you may feel a sense of urgency, a sense that time is short and precious, and that you don’t want to waste any of it.  Go with this feeling.  It’s not anxiety or discontent.  It’s not busyness for the sake of busyness.  It may be your Muse helping you to accomplish something.  Set a timer.  Then work on something that moves you towards your Purpose.  If at the end of that time, you still feel anxious, then go do something else.  But, if at the end of that time, you feel good, better, or great, then continue working.  That feeling is the assurance that you are moving towards your goals. 
You didn’t have to use your time this way.  You could have chosen to relax.  You can still choose that.  But maybe, just maybe, it feels more relaxing to do your work.  Maybe that peace you’re looking for isn’t on the couch with a remote; maybe it’s at the gym.  Maybe it’s in that project you’ve been avoiding.  Maybe it’s that online learning you need to do or that book you need to read.  Maybe you need to send out your resume or fill out an application or two.  Maybe you need to paint or draw something.  Maybe you need to get organized.  Maybe there’s a relationship you need to repair or improve.
Sometimes peace comes from sitting still.  More accurately, it comes from being still – internally.  We can be still on the inside and active on the outside.  In fact, that’s the best kind of peace, because we are determining how we use our time, rather than allowing time to use us.  We are in control of ourselves and thus in control of our lives.
What is your goal?  Are you moving towards it?  There is something waiting for each of us, a destiny, a plan, a goal.  No one has to follow it, but for those who choose to do so, life may become a lot more interesting.  Some say it will also become more difficult because effort requires difficulty, sacrifice, and perhaps even pain.  Here’s what I find painful:  the feeling that I missed a chance to be happy.  Relaxation is not always restful.   Many retired people have discovered this, as have many people with time off or on vacation.  Doing nothing turned out to be a lot more work.  But doing something, something meaningful, turned out to be the most relaxing thing ever.
A day off from work does not have to mean a day off from Purpose.  It’s not necessary to be a workaholic or neglect your loved ones, but can you put just 30 to 60 more minutes towards your goals.  That might make your day off a lot more relaxing. 
In most urban areas, summer is a time of vacation and rest.  But what we forget is that the reason summer vacations were three months long was because at one time most of America was rural and children needed to be home at the farms to help harvest the crops.  So it wasn’t a time of rest.  It was a time for a different kind of work. 
I’m also reminded of Aesop’s fable of the grasshopper and the ant.  During the summer, the grasshopper loafed and made fun of the ant for working so hard.  But when winter came, the starving grasshopper sadly understood how he had missed his opportunity.
I don’t want to miss my opportunity.  So I’m working now.  I can rest later, but as the old English proverbs states, I want to “make hay while the sun shines.”  In other words, I want to Get Started and Keep Going…even while on vacation.

Monday, September 22, 2014

One Day


“It's always too soon to quit.”
Norman Vincent Peale

“Determine never to be idle. No person will have occasion to complain of the want of time who never loses any. It is wonderful how much can be done if we are always doing.”

Thomas Jefferson

“Make use of time, let not advantage slip.”

William Shakespeare



One day we will all have to give an accounting for how we’ve used our time, talents and resources.  We will have to give this account to God, our loved ones, and/or ourselves.  When is this day?  It’s today.  It’s now.  This is the one day to look at your life and ask yourself if you’ve done the best you could.  Most of us will have to say no.  Here’s the good news.  The day is coming again – tomorrow.  And the next day.  And the next.  And the next.  But one day will be especially important, because on that day, based on our account, we will be promoted to the next level of position and responsibility.  Or we won’t.
            In Matthew 25:14-30, a man upon returning from a long journey, calls three servants to account how they used the money (called talents in the story) he gave them to run things while he was away.  The first two servants doubled what he gave them.  They were given promotions.  The third, not liking the man, said he buried his talents in the ground.  He was fired (some say literally, interpreting this spiritually). 
There are many things to consider in this story, but here’s the focus today:  one day, on a day I’m not expecting it, someone is going to look at my work and decide I’m ready or not ready to go to the next level.  They might look at how much reading and writing I’ve done.  They might look at the state of my health.   They might look at my financial stability.  They might look at my physical environment.  They might look at the health of my relationships.  They might even look at how clean my car is. 
I don’t know when they’re going to come.  I only know they are.  I might have to work for months or years before my opportunity comes.  Or it might be tomorrow.  All I know is that I want to be ready.  A sense of urgency is required.  I don’t have to be rushed or stressed, but I need to get as much done as I possibly can in the time I have, whatever amount of time that is.
For some reason this feels very motivating.   It’s a deadline without a date.  At any moment, my Muse could show up at the door and say, “Are you ready for me?  are you ready to got the next level?”
Delays in reaching our goals are not obstacles; they are opportunities.  This waiting time is my opportunity.  I want to use it well.  I want to use now well.  This moment is the gift I’ve been given.  I won’t waste it or squander it.
I want to be able to say yes.  So I need, we all need, to Get Started and to Keep Going.  Don’t worry about when it’s going to happen.  Just know that  it will…one day.



Sunday, September 21, 2014

All We Need to Do


“It's a very funny thing about life; if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it. 
”

William Somerset Maugham


“We will either find a way or make one. 
”

Hannibal


“Nothing great will ever be achieved without great men, and men are great only if they are determined to be so. 
”

Charles De Gaulle



Sometimes, especially when we’ve had a lot of changes or disruptions, it’s hard to get back to the old familiar way of doing things.  But sometimes that’s just what we have to do.  On Facebook I saw this unattributed quote:  “Thinking will not overcome fear.  But action will.”   For some of us our action involves thinking.  This is the beauty of writing.  One can think and act at the same time.  Writing, for me, is the chief action, the most important and cathartic action I can take.
The future is uncertain.  It has always been so.  All I can do then is take action that brings comfort and relief from fear.  We don’t need to know the future, to trust in it, or to fear it, but rather to know how we will acquit ourselves no matter what happens.  What will we do if we encounter fear, loneliness, separation, heartbreak, financial distress, injury or illness, or any of the other “slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune?”  
Or what if we encounter success, love, financial success, or the realization of our goals?  How will we acquit ourselves then?
For me, the answer to both questions is the same:
I will spend my life with my Muse, pursuing her, loving her, and convincing her every day, for the rest of my life, to stay with me. 
Good times and bad times require the same response – moving forward in our Purpose.  No matter what tomorrow brings, I want three things with me – a pen, a journal, and a good book. Everything else will work out.  The better or the worse things become, the more I need to stay focused.  If I wake up tomorrow and my best friend says, “I have to leave and I don’t know when we’ll talk or when I’ll see you again,” I need to keep working.  If I win the lottery tomorrow and suddenly have the financial means to solve all my problems, I need to keep working.  If I’m feeling fear or joy, I need to keep working.  In past blogs I’ve often mentioned the therapeutic effects of being in Purpose.  I’m grateful for that, but that’s not the reason I write.  I write because this is what I’m supposed to be doing.  I’m supposed to be with my Muse, every moment I can.  The healing is wonderful, but it’s the beginning of the process, not the end of it. 
If one day I wake up and am completely free of fear, pettiness, regret, and anger – if I wake up spiritually and emotionally whole – then after I say a prayer of gratitude, I need to say my prayer that my writing will bless God, the world, my family and friends, and my Muse and me, and start writing again, just as I do almost every morning.
Emotions cannot dictate our work.  Nor can circumstances.  We can use both to fuel our energy, but we can’t let them use us.  Our work is our work. The good news is problems often do give more energy to our work.  They give our work a sense of direction, determination and focus.  But problems aren’t necessary.  Pain isn’t necessary.  The only thing that is necessary is to follow through on my Purpose.
So tomorrow, when I wake up, I have no idea what will happen – except this:  to the best of my ability I’m going to do my work and do it well.  This is all anyone can ask of us.  It’s all that God can ask of us.  It’s all we can ask of ourselves.  Get Started and Keep Going.  That’s all any of us can do.  It’s all we need to do.  And if we keep doing it, it may be all we want to do.