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This Week's Inspiration

Quips, short tales, and inspirational topics to move us all forward. 

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Be Motivated or Be Manipulated

Be Motivated, or Be Manipulated

“People are not lazy, … they have goals which do not inspire them.” – Tony Robbins.

I have never particularly subscribed to Tony Robbins or listened to his material, but I liked this quote. It felt like the right introduction to today's piece. If you are not motivated by something, you can be manipulated into anything.

Be Motivated or be manipulated

There are many versions of this statement. “People without families are easy to control.” It’s a common theme in literature because family—husbands, wives, children, grandparents, etc.—are strong motivating factors. Without them, we are more easily manipulated.

If you have no goals, the first person with flowery speech who comes along and tells you to support their motivated goals can get you on their side. Maybe you should help them, but maybe you shouldn’t. You have the choice. However, if you are not motivated to do anything, you will latch on more quickly to anything that comes along, even if it is not best for you or anyone else.

Find your motivation. Find a goal that gets you out of bed when you are sick. People call into work sick because they don’t really want to go. People don’t call into their life’s dream sick because they care about it. They get it done anyway because they want to. When you find that thing that enables you to work through hardships, you have found your motivation.

You need to find it. If you don’t, you may find yourself at the end of your life’s journey, suddenly realizing you had been nothing but a cork on the waves all along.

The Slope

I am going to postulate that life is about the slope of the incline.

When we are young, high school seems hard, but if you are a well-adjusted adult, you will look back on that period of your life later and realize the stress you encountered then was not comparatively hard to the place you are now. Your present-day self could handle such stress easily. Similarly, the high school version of you could have handled the elementary school version of your life more easily. Later as we grow up more and perhaps have children, get a difficult job laying brick that has us up at 7:00 AM and out the door to work six days a week, you would look back at your first job at a fast-food chain and think, “easy.”

In every case you would be right. That past is probably easier for the present you, because you walked that road, you have that experience. But at the time it was a steep learning curve.

If life is a mountain, we climb, and I hope for everyone it is, then we must acknowledge the importance of the slope. Today we stand higher and so problems of the past appear literally beneath us. They are. And, the uphill climb that is yet to come will be just as difficult. In exercise and in life we train to handle the degree of the slope, more than the relative elevation. And it doesn’t matter how high you are so long as your trajectory points upward at a rate you can sustain.

When we try to look at the world this way, it reminds us of our successes, it reminds us of the journey yet to come, and it reminds us that everyone else is struggling up their own slope. Judge, or don’t, accordingly.

Keep climbing.

I Dare You

Write down one day. I dare you.

You are going to be upset, and if you are honest about doing it and what you want in life you are likely to be embarrassed about it. You won’t want to show anyone else. Go do it anyway. Write down your day and then tell me about how you don’t have time again.

I Dare You to Write the Truth

Log the day to about the nearest ten minutes.

You will start to notice things.

Dallied in the bathroom. It took you ten minutes to do a five-minute task. Watched short videos for ten minutes, fifteen minutes, thirty minutes. Watched Netflix for an hour, two, three…

Did any of these things move your goals forward? Did you get closer to writing your book? Did you get closer to starting up your exercise program? Did you spend more time with you little girl of boy reading that book with them or throwing a ball? Did it get you out to start that garden? Did it help you start working through that cook book?

 

I am not saying life should have no down time. It should. I am saying that life is going to pass you by if you let all of it become down time. You can enjoy your hobbies, but that doesn’t mean a well-done hobby isn’t sometimes work, you can have great intensions but you won’t be able to eat them, live off them, or be proud of hem as you are dying. You will be proud of things you did, and tried to do.

So, stop wasting your time.

Figure out what you are doing with your day and cut out the extra. Cut out the waste, and leave only the intentional behind. Live intentionally. Its harder in the beginning, but it is so much better in the end.

More Than

I have had a sentence stuck in my head that has been a source of hope for me, and I hope it will be a source of hope for every novelist, painter, sculptor, dancer, playwright, carver, comedian, woodworkers, glassblower and poet alive.

Everything you make is worth more, the more any one thing you make is worth.

Read it. Say it out loud. Twice. Get it stuck in your head too.

Everything you make is worth more, the more any one thing you make is worth.

We sort of know it is true. Authors who become famous after working for a lifetime in relative obscurity have their books devoured in full. G.R.R. Martin being only one of many such cases. We seek out the remnants of the lives of people like Edgar Allen Poe, with a museum that has on display such oddities as his socks. People who seek out the lost works of writers from their pen names in pieces that weren’t even that good, because some pieces they made were worth a great deal. Everything else went up in estimated value.  

If you quit right before the one piece that would make all the rest f your pieces matter, you stopped before you could become more than you are today. So don’t quit. With every creation you generate instead tell yourself this one is worth more because you have the experience of previous work. Remind yourself it only ever takes a little traction to make everything else have more worth. Inching toward the top of the pareto distribution is a slow aggregation of effort, and worth. But if you make it, everything else joins you at the top. If you don’t it was still a life worth striving for.

Go make things that are worth something.

Less Than

 Everyone has had a moment when they look at the perceived competition and think to themselves, “I am less than…” The problem is, there is nothing you can do about the competition. You can only do something about yourself. Some people are born faster, taller, stronger, smarter, more artistic, or whatever measure you’re picking, than you are. Than I am. The great swath of humanity is very different from one another and the odds of us being the best at any one thing are slimmer than slim. That’s why it doesn’t matter what the competition does. There is only one person you have to worry about being less than. Are you less than the person you could have been today? We all know this in our hearts when we have honest moments.

Who is more impressive? A man who is worth ten million dollars, has a successful banking career, and is respected by coworkers for his skill. But that same man is a terrible father, doesn’t see his daughter, is rude to his neighbors, hides that he could have gotten his master’s degree but dropped out of college because he got addicted to video games, and fails to hit the gym, ever, and is staring down a triple bypass by fifty. He gets liposuction to hide the poor diet, but it doesn’t make his arteries more fit. He looks greater than those around him, but he is so much less than what he could have been. He diminishes each day compared to who he could be.

 

Or. A woman is a good electrician. It doesn’t come easy to her, but she works hard every day, gets a little better over time. She runs a fair business, is always on time, tells customers what she is doing, and takes pride that she services almost half the apartments in her complex, and keeps the place running. She just got married, and she and her husband get along well. They aren’t the fittest in their CrossFit, but they enjoy sweating it out together and both are trying to learn to cook together from cookbooks. Each night they read together, learning something, and each day she goes to bed satisfied that she did the best she could with her sixteen waking hours. Nobody will notice how rich she is, or how fit she is or how things work the way they are supposed to work because every day she goes about her job. She is more than the person the day before. She strives.

 

It’s easier to compare ourselves to others because comparing ourselves to ourselves hurts more when we fail. It leads to “I should have,” when we didn’t, and often there is nobody else to blame. When we compare ourselves to others, we say “They had it easier because they had XYZ.” We don’t stop to think maybe they outworked us. Maybe they were genetically gifted. Maybe we did not do our part. Stop comparing to others who you cannot control. Compare to you. There isn’t even a reason to worry about what you didn’t do yesterday. Yesterday is gone, and you can’t change it. Worry about today. Worry about tomorrow. Do and plan. The only person you should be worried about being less than is the potential you of today. Did you fall short? Then try again harder tomorrow, and don’t worry about the external competition of today, and don’t worry about the you of yesterday.

 

Strive. Be greater than.

Your Days Are Numbered

But are they measured?

Measure your days

A friend of mine said to me just this week, “I don’t have the time to…”

This is the same friend who sends giant clusters of memes to group texts, who always knows everything there is to know about pop culture, and spends time ensuring that there is always a well-used watch list on their Netflix account. I have said before on this channel that everyone needs time off, and everyone does need some downtime.

But you don’t need as much as you think.

Every time you say to yourself, "I don’t have the time," have you wondered if it’s true? I think of my sister who works two jobs, helps take care of her dying husband, and assists her kids by taking care of her grandkids. Try telling her you don’t have time. You probably do, and here is how I’ll prove it to you.

Measure your day. You don’t have to do it for very long, and you can do it with things like Google Notes or a notebook. Write it down. Write down everything you do in your day meticulously. Do it for two or three days.

  • Got up, went to the bathroom, combed my hair, brushed my teeth. 15 minutes.

  • Stood at the kitchen counter thinking about breakfast while watching YouTube shorts. 10 minutes.

  • Actually made breakfast and ate. 15 minutes.

  • Went to work. 30 minutes.

  • Checked the news for 15 minutes while sort of checking email. 15 minutes.

  • Actually checked email. 30 minutes.

  • Worked on project XYZ. 2 hours.

 

At work, I am accountable for every minute of my day. I have to log to the nearest ten minutes for my projects. At first, I thought it was annoying. Now I understand the value of it. We waste such an incredible amount of our day doing nothing at all while not achieving the goals we said we were going to achieve.

If after two or three days of writing down your day, and being honest about it, you don’t look at your time spent and realize that you are embarrassed, you are either a very disciplined person, or you are still not being honest with yourself. You have the time. You have the time to start that book you want to write. You have the time to work on that woodworking project, or teach yourself that new skill. You have the time, if you make the time.

Your days are already numbered. Make sure they are measured.

When The World Tells You, No. 

Who are you?  Have you ever been pushed hard enough that you know? We don’t really know who we are until the world tells us, “No.” Find the boundaries of what you can do, and what you want. Find no.

Who are you when you're told no?

I want to date so and so. “No.”

I wanted a promotion. “No.”

I want group XYZ to like and accept me. “No.”

I don’t want to be sick anymore. “No.”

I want my loved one to be healthy again. “No.”

I want more money. “No.”

Who we are is who we are when the world tells us no. Life is easy when the world tells us yes. Yes, you can, here you go, you can have… easy doesn’t answer the most important question which is, “Who are you, deep down.”

This last three months I have received, not figuratively, 145 rejection emails and letters from magazines, and agents for short stories and books. I have mostly been told, “No, because no.” I.e. No reason given. I have been given a few reasons I can do things about but mostly I have been told no for reasons I can do absolutely nothing about.

I have been angry. I have been sad. I have wondered how the hell people like J.K. Rowling persisted for nearly a decade of being told no like this. I wondered how B. Sanderson pushed through more than ten novels of being told no. I contemplated that it is foolish to persist for years on end, and then I got angry again. Angry at myself for considering stopping. Be better. I say it here all the time.

Write better. Pitch your story better. Don’t quit. Because if you quit the only thing you guarantee, is you lose.

The world said no. Who am I today? Who are you?

Keep pushing.

Bad Choices

Bad Choices

We like to believe that if we work hard, we do everything as right as we can that life will present us with a series of options, where we get good versus bad.

Most of us don’t really work that hard though. We haven’t made all the right choices, because nobody is on point 100 %.

Even if we did, life is not going to work out that way. Sometimes life is going to present you a bad option, and a worse option. In fact, I can guarantee it. Someday you will be presented with some version of “Do you want to die now, or do you want to suffer this terrible medication, and then die a little later?” “Do you want chemo, or do you want radiation?” “Do you want to watch your beloved pet suffer, or is it time to put them to sleep?”

Life is full of terrible choices.

What makes life worth it, is the road you have taken up to that point. Will you be laying on that bed, looking down your nose at death saying, “I lived.” Or will you say “I should have.”

Will you be saying life is hard, but I have my activities, my meaningful deep work, my children, my hobbies, and I will fight through because the pain is worth one more springtime bloom?

Will you say I must part for now with this loved one, but my God I spent all my time with her that I reasonably could, and both our lives were made better for it.

Because life is full of unreasonable terrible choices. What prevents those outcomes from being merely hard, instead of a tragedy is what have you done between now and then. Did you give it your all? Or were you too afraid?

Go. Try.

Be. Better.

Don't pass yourself a weight while drowning

30 Seconds

Thirty seconds at a time you can choose to waste your life, or spend your life in a meaningful pursuit. Americans spend an average of more than 4 hours a day on their phone. They may be choosing to multitask that activity with doing dishes or watching TV or travel, but a substantial portion of that time is just watching videos.

You tube shorts average 30-40 seconds.

TikTok averages 38 seconds.

 

Average users spend more than 80 minutes a day on the platform. That’s 150 shorts.

 

What are you watching? That amazing pianist who spent ten thousand hours of practice so they could look that good for thirty seconds? The sports legend you admire? The singer? The daredevil? Movie clips?

Do you think that those thirty seconds will move you any closer to being like that person? Do you think you can base your worldviews of thirty and forty second clips of people? Do you think it can answer complex questions of politics, love, religion, racism or motivation and discipline?

Get your life back. Go cold turkey for one week, and see how much more time you have. Stop watching other people be amazing, and go find out how amazing you can be instead.

What Is a Lot?

Is a one mile run far? Is writing 10,000 words a lot? Is lifting 400 lbs. strong? Is practicing your Spanish lessons one hour a day enough? Is an audience of 100 people a lot? Is four thousand miles far away?

 

The answer to every one of these questions is, “It depends.” Or “Compared to what?”

a lot.png

There is no such thing as an absolute “a lot.”

 

If you have never run before, have a broken leg, or you are 102 years old, a one-mile run is pretty far. If you have never written before, 10,000 words is daunting. If you are Brandon Sanderson, 10,000 words is one or two afternoons. 400 lbs. is about the most I’ve ever lifted but if you are my coach, it is not even a heavy warm up set. One hour of Spanish lessons if you are never going to use it because you live in the middle of Beijing and it is uncommon, is probably a lot, if you live in Mexico City it’s probably not enough. If you hate an audience, 100 people might be terrifying, while if you are an online influencer looking for a crowd, 100 is nothing, you want hundreds of thousands. A four-thousand-mile walk is pretty far. It’s a pretty quick flight though, and the distance a space shuttle goes every thirteen minutes.

 

There are no absolutes. 

 

When I first started to write, I could write X words per day. The number doesn’t matter. I didn’t write every day, though almost, and I found I averaged X. Over a year or so I started to average about 1.5 X. At two years I found 2.5 X was pretty comfortable.

 

I wasn’t adding much time to the process, I was just getting more efficient, better at doing it, and I don’t think the quality dropped. This month, due to circumstances outside of my control I have to write about 4.0X every day, without exception, for 35 days.

 

It hasn’t been easy every day, but most days it hasn’t been too hard. Would I keep it up intentionally? Not right now. Maybe someday. But I say this to say perhaps practice does make perfect. Perhaps we can become something more than we first imagined was possible if we are given time to get there. If we give ourselves the time to get there. What we expect of ourselves in our first try might be too harsh, even if the final goal is appropriate.

 

Whatever you are capable of today, you can train yourself to do more. Pick your goal, pick your targets, break them down to 1 year, 2 year, and even 5-year activities, and you will find day by day you can get there. But don’t wait. I took years off from writing I can never get back. Don’t wait too long to start. The process of a better you takes more time than you think.

 

But it is in your power.

 

So go make it happen. Today.

More Than You Think

You are more than you think. You can do more than you believe you can.

When you were born you couldn’t count. You couldn’t read. You couldn’t navigate the world’s social cues. You knew nothing. Over the course of the first stage of your life we think of as childhood you learned these skills and many others. You went from being an incomplete person to a more complete person.

Now what?

Are you complete?

At whatever age you are reading this the answer is “not yet.” Not ever, if you are lucky.

You can be more if you want to. If you could learn all that you have learned so far, you can learn to do more. You can learn an instrument. You can learn to paint. You can learn to run. You can learn to write. You can learn to teach. You can learn science. You can learn math (yes even people who say "I just don’t do math.”)

Because you are the most complex thing in the known universe. You are human. You are inherently capable of amazing things. You can be kind when it is hard, caring when you don’t want to be, compassionate when you empathize with those who are hurt, strong when those around you need it, paternal when friends and family need redirection, and you can learn to do whatever you need to learn.

Does it mean you will get it right when you start? No. If you sit down to play Liszt’s La Campanella, you will fail. Most people will fail at this their entire life, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn to play amazingly beautiful music! You may fail to run the mile time you wanted the first time you run, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get there over time. You may fail to write more than 100 good words in your first sitting at that short story, but that still moves you 100 words closer to your goal.

Complexity doesn’t come easily, but it can come, if you try.

You are more than you are today if you chose to be.

You are more than you think if you work to be.

I Could Have Been…

I could have been a writer, a professional athlete, a musician, a doctor, an actor, a chef, a business owner, a scientist, a teacher…

If only I had paid more attention, trained a little harder, been more confident, pursued my passion, been more patient, made a different choice when…, been more disciplined, had more time…

There is value in possibility. We all know there is. We trade in it like currency. We spend time to gain education and skills so that we can become something more than we are now. We give cash, the currency of the land, and time, the currency of all our lives to increase our possibility.

Most adults would risk their lives for children, perhaps because somewhere in our hearts we understand that a five-year-old is a possibility, while we by fifty are more settled and less likely to venture into uncharted territory in pursuit of greatness and achievement. We hold sometimes too long to that state of childhood, afraid to pick a direction and march with all we have toward a goal, because we might fail. Better, we think to have possibility of becoming later, than to fail now.

But we don’t always have tomorrow. We have fewer tomorrows than most people imagine, and life fills up more todays with minutia than we want.

If you wait you may find yourself late in your days, saying “I could have been… if only I had…”

Will one of those things you say be, “If only I had gotten started?”

Or you can start today. One small step, one action at a time, to become more than you are. Trade in possibility for reality. Spend that time, spend that effort to become. When your last days come it will be far better to say “I strived for…” or “I was good at…” instead of saying I could have been, because you feared not being the best.

Possibility will not buy you satisfaction. Effort will. Action will.

Go. Try. Be, “I was…” not, “I could have been.”

Dont be afraid of fialure be afriad of inaction.

Be Kind. Everyone You Meet is Fighting a Hard Battle

Be kind. You do not know the pain others hide.

Most everywhere I look this quote or some variation of it is attributed to Plato or Philo or some other ancient Greek. Some sites recently attribute it to Ian Maclaren, but I don’t want to talk about the provenance of the quote, but I do want to mention its applicability.

For me, the applicability will be about my writing.

Every writer should have one or more writing groups. I have one, in addition to more in depth exchanged reads with beta readers. It is a place where you send your writing, and someone reviews it. They say what works for them and what doesn’t. Different people in the group will comment on different levels, some offering only beta reading impressions, or brief notes if sentences stand out to them as strange. Some people will offer grammatical changes and details.

 

I am not the best grammarian, so I tend to stick to impressions and flow and understandability.

 

This week I offered comments to a writer in the group noting several sentences that did not work for me, and several ideas throughout the piece which did not stick the landing for me. What I received back was a diatribe of nearly 1,000 words of content, explaining that I am not a real scientist, therefore my opinions on science fiction are not relevant, that I do not know how to edit, or read carefully, and that clearly, I have no idea how to be an editor, and they found my opinions to be not useful at all. He carried on about how he belonged to a better, second professional writing group, and that I was the lone voice who didn’t think his work was wonderful. All told it was aggressively written, and felt like verbal self-defense.

 

Normally I would say this is an individual who does not understand that you can’t please all of the people all of the time. They can disagree with me. They are always welcome to. I would also say that even if we don’t agree with our editors, the editors are right. If they say, “A sentence confused me.” Then it did. You can feel it doesn’t need revision, and decide you are willing to lose a certain number of readers at a sentence, but that doesn’t invalidate their stance that it confused them. Normally … I wouldn’t care. These are like coworkers, who help me along my writing journey as I am hoping to help them along in theirs.

 

Today is not normally.

 

This week my beloved pet died. This week my mother went into the hospital, without guarantee of survival. This week my wife and I are living out of suitcases. This week I have external deadlines that won’t move and don’t care about those losses. This week I am short on sleep, and overworked. This week a single person who is nearly a stranger, questioned my ability to read, the validity of my career, and every skill I have, because they had a moment of hurt feelings, lashed out, and hurt me in return… surprisingly badly.

They never stopped to consider that I am fighting my own battles as I am sure he is. I will not speak with this individual again, so no further interactions will be forthcoming. And in a few days, I will be fine as I return to a more even keel, with support from many colleagues, friends and my wife who know me well, and know what I am actually capable of. But for a few days the hurt lingers and adds to the pile.

We will all go through life hurting other people. Me, you and even my very kind wife. We will do it by accident, and we will do it on purpose. It cannot be avoided. But we can try to mitigate it. We can try to sometimes ask ourselves if we are doing it on purpose. How will this email, this conversation, this interaction impact the person in front of us? Will they come away worse for it? Am I tearing them down because I cannot build myself up? Will I be passing on my hurt, and then they pass it on, and pass it on, and pass it on… creating a less beautiful world as a result?

I’ll try not to.

You are fighting a battle. I am fighting a battle. Be kind. Sometimes be kinder than you think you need to be, or can be. The world needs it.

Shrink

Nothing I say in this post is new. Nothing I manage to find as wisdom hasn’t been learned by millions of men and women who have come before me. This is my one small voice added to a mountain of voices who have been laid low from beginning of humanity and will be until the end. Still, I will hope this is the most important posting I have ever put up.

I want to talk about your life, your world, my world, my wife’s world, your best friend’s world, your partners world, and how all of them will shrink, or already have.

Let’s start with me, my mother, my sister, and my cat.

I am in my mid-forties. I work very hard to keep up with my wife, who is very fit, and a handful of years younger than me. Despite trying to stay fit, I certainly have friends who are fitter than I am. Our family friend John is a hair's breath away from a world record row pace for his age, he bikes farther than I can understand being able to go, and I am certain that he can reach places on this planet I cannot reach.

If you said to me, Kevin, go climb to the top of Mount Everest, or K2 or many other mountains the answer is I cannot. To do so would kill me on the way. My world has shrunk in. It is not a question of did I want to, it is a question of can I, and I cannot.

Everyone will reach an age at some point in their life where their world has been reduced and they did not know about it yet. There is something you can’t do, remember, learn, or reach, that if the mood struck you, would be out of your ability now, where it might not have been outside the ability of a younger you. Maybe you can work to regain some of those things, but many are generally outside of your ability, likely forever, and time will take more of them from you as life goes by.

My sister has not exercised in her recent adult life, and her diet is poor. Partially as a result of this and partially as a result of the genetics to which all humanity is subject, she is partially bound to a wheelchair at a relatively young age. I remember hiking Mount Washington with this sister in her youth. Her world has shrunk down to where there are small steps, reasonable handicap accessibility and help to be had readily at hand. She has a wonderful husband of 30 + years, who helps a great deal, but in the planning of their vacation this year there are many places she could not go and can never go again. Her world has shrunk down.

My mother, now in her late 80’s, has had her world recede rapidly to a sphere so small my mind can not understand it. Not really. When she and my father moved to their current home, she used to walk miles a day around the blocks near them, for hours at a time. Then a few years ago she noticed it was down to a mile, maybe a little more. Then just a half mile, then barely one block, and then one block with a walker.

Her mind slowly slipped away, taking her short-term memory almost entirely with it. Her long-term memory became sufficiently suspect that there was no longer a way to say what stories she told were real or not. She lives, in any real sense, by the grace of others who take care of her. Her world shrunk first physically and eventually mentally. It is now the size of a hospital room and scattered memories through which she recognizes my father, her husband of 65 years.

My kitty has been with us for fifteen years. I’m given to understand that is a long time for an indoor only cat. In the last few weeks, her world shrunk. She struggled to make it onto the bed, so we added a box to help her make the jump in stages. Then she struggled with stairs in the house. She couldn’t trot up them anymore, but had to walk one leg at a time, carefully, while listing to the right. Then she couldn’t make it anymore and we moved the bed to the floor, and her food, water, and litterbox up to the bedroom for her.

But she didn’t know her world had shrunk. She tried to make it downstairs anyway, but she would have been terribly hurt, so we put up a child’s protection gate to keep her in a smaller range of the house. Soon she couldn’t walk well. She needed help to walk to the water and food, no matter how close it was. Then she couldn’t pee on her own, or drink without help, like someone holding her head up. We did all of it gladly, because we loved her.

My world shank when I wasn’t watching. My sister’s world shrunk further still. My mother’s world has contracted to a handful of memories she knows are true in a shifting sea of confusion. In the end my kitten’s world shrunk to that last point that waits for us all at the end. When her world shrank to nothing, my world shrank with it. It shrank as I stayed in the room with her whenever I could so she knew she was loved. It shrank because when she was gone, my world was forever changed. It became less than it was before. There are things now outside of my reach, that I cannot do.

Your world will shrink too. Maybe it already has. Who do you have around you to make the receding shores tolerable? Whether you believe in nothing at all, that this life is all we have, or that death is a doorway to whatever is next, the contraction will happen to you, and to those around you. When their worlds shrink yours will follow. Are you ready for the lessons you will need to learn to go down that road? Are you ready to support people around you who need it? Are you ready to be supported?

I don’t know if I am. I don’t know if I was. I know I am thankful. My little girl brought me more joy in life than I am able to adequately verbalize. Even in her death she made me a better man. As we diminish, we must be stronger than we thought we could be.

For us. For them, whoever your them might be.

Thank you, little Feets.

For my kitty

Beware "Just."

I don’t know if this is for readers, writers, motivation, and everyone in general. I have a lot to say in a short space about the word just.

In reading beware anyone who tells you to “Just…” do a thing. Things are not just done. They take time, effort, will, resources.

Just change jobs.

Just eat less.

Just write more.

Just put yourself out there.

Just push through.

Just find your passion.

Just spend less money.

Just talk to him/her/them more…

Just means nothing. Advice to just do a thing implies the only thing you’re missing is willpower. I am a firm believer in willpower and self-motivation, but I am not so foolish as to think that it is the only thing standing between a person and their achievements. It is the very minimal first step toward a goal, nothing more. Go. Do. Yes. But that doesn’t mean “Just.”

Just, can belittle how hard that first step is, and it can forget that it guarantees no success.

Life is harder than just.

Let’s just get rid of the word just. 😊

Everything...

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

I find it amusing how many deep thoughts are attributed to Albert Einstein. I have no idea if this is truly his statement of not. I find that I generally agree with the sentiment, if not the words. Life is too complex to be binary, but it is a lesson in how we look at the world.

Today I’m going to tell a very short story from my own life. For reasons blessedly unrelated to me directly, I have spent a fair amount of time in a hospital this week, and I want to tell you about one particular morning, because everything about this morning was a miracle.

We arrived at the hospital around 5:00 AM.

We drove there from an hour away from where we live, because we were told check in for the procedure started at 5:30, and we assumed we needed time to park, find the right wing, right desk to sign in at, etc. We were there by 5:10, and registered. We waited, as the hospital woke up.

At 6:00 we were in the admission wing. Bed 22 of 60. A long u-shaped room filled with a steady trickle of patients, nurses, doctors, anesthesiologists, friends, family and others. Vitals were taken, surgeries explained. I had thought this was a specialty wing, but as I listened, I heard about many day surgeries. Defined lightly as, “If all goes to plan you are home that night.”

Around us were, breast tissue excision, biopsies, hernia repair, skin graft, abscess drainage, laparoscopic cholecystectomy, rotator cuff repair. I heard others but those were the start.

I waited an hour as the procedure was done, they called me to be the pick-up person and driver on time, explained the outcome of the surgery. We were on our way out the door by 9:45.

We arrived home at 11:00 AM.

There is nothing above that is not a miracle. I wrote this because I was struck by the hospital, but that is not the only miracle. I drove on roads for forty miles maintained by people will never meet. Electricity kept the grid running and lights on, timed to keep us all reasonably safe. My combustion engine car moved along without exploding, and I parked 100 feet from the hospital without a problem in a parking garage built for the size of the facility such as it was.

But in the hospital the real miracle started.

Either everyone in that building was incredibly good at lying, or they all cared. Everyone was nice. They used their first names, and they used ours. They were smiling, compassionate, (Yes at 5:30 – 6:00 AM) and they were efficient.

I struggled some to find the right word for the experience. I thought about shopping, but that was all wrong because nobody shops for medical procedures they want. I hope. But something about the dance, beautifully choreographed of check in, prep, surgery, recovery, and out, with a genuine appearance of joy at helping was… a smorgasbord of everything that science medicine and administrative organization can offer all in one place.

It was a miracle. Every kind of day surgery you can need, performed by experts, with organization under one roof with reliable timing. Every one of those “casual surgeries,” were impossible 100 years ago and most would have been impossible in any format 50 years ago and many wouldn’t have been performed as they are today in 20 years ago.

It is so easy to tear things down. It is easy to complain. It is easy to think that you could have done it better, or there are problems with a system. It is hard to remember how much better it is today that yesterday. Just because something can get better, doesn’t mean it is broken, it means it is in progress.

Yesterday was hard. Yesterday someone I love had a surgery.

Yesterday was also a miracle.

Why Wait Until Tomorrow? 

What was it that you wanted to get done?

Why isn't it done?

Was whatever you did instead more important?

Are you happy it isn't done?

Is it a burden now? 

Do you feel better, or do you feel worse?

Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.

Why. Wait.

Go. Do.

Beat Procrastination. Go Do.

Kids These Days...

I'm not saying they're aliens... but aliens.

This is not about what you think it is about. Probably. Hang with me for a moment and read some things below.

“The children now love luxury; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are tyrants, …. They no longer rise when their elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up [dessert] at the table, … and tyrannize … their teachers.”

"Whither are the manly vigor and athletic appearance of our forefathers flown? Can these be their legitimate heirs? Surely, no; a race of effeminate, self-admiring, emaciated fribbles can never have descended in a direct line from the heroes of Potiers and Agincourt ..."

“…beauty, their exquisite clothing, their lax habits and low moral standards, are becoming unconsciously appropriated by the plastic minds of American youth. Let them do what they may; divorce scandals, hotel episodes, free love, all are passed over and condoned by the young ...”

“"Household luxuries, school-room steam-press systems, and, above all, the mad spirit of the times, have not come to us without a loss more than proportionate ... [a young man] rushes headlong, with an impetuosity which strikes fire from the sharp flints under his tread ... Occasionally, one of this class ... amasses an estate, but at the expense of his peace, and often of his health. The lunatic asylum or the premature grave too frequently winds up his career ... We expect each succeeding generation will grow 'beautifully less.'"

Kids these days, right? Well… no.

The first is attributed to Socrates by Plato, generally considered incorrectly though it is an ancient quote nonetheless. The second comes from Town and Country magazine in November 1771. The third is 1926. The last is December 18, 1856 issue of The National Era.

A lot has been said in the world about how if every generation was right, society would have entirely collapse by now, not steadily improved toward the high technology freedoms we exist in today that Plato could not have dreamed of. Much has been said about the fact that what we are seeing is the bottom tenth being judged by the rest, and the bottom tenth are always a problem, that is what it means to be at the bottom. Every group will have degeneracy and every group will have those who ae not an improvement on the generation before. We can not say “Generation XYZ is…” any more than it could be said about us. We are people, unique individuals with circumstances that mold who we are.

We are part of an average, and that average anchor biases where we start but…

None of this is what I want to talk about. I want to talk about a cure to “Kids these days,” mentality.

Go find one to get to know. Not yours, if you have one. That one doesn’t count because of course your kids are perfect. 😉 I know it is not easy to find a kid to talk to when you are an adult but keep an eye out for the circumstances, because it matters for your mental health. When the world looks bleak, and I don’t always want to believe in the generation to come, it is infinitely calming, and helpful to know there is a person who is going to outlive me, who will carry forward not with my ideals, not with my beliefs, but with theirs, in a way I can trust. We may differ, but at the core, they are good, as I understand the complexity of that word.

When this happens, we cannot shrug our shoulders and say “let it burn,” because there is someone I want to entrust the future to, because this person will do great things with it that I cannot imagine, and will not be here to see. It is my responsibility to all I can to help them achieve that, and I know it is not just my own biological urge to help my own offspring. It is trust that indeed… Kids these days. They will go to school for subjects which didn’t even exist when I was a child. They will discover things I could not have imagined. They will write stories I could not have penned, and make advances that my generation would not have considered worthwhile.

Go find someone you can believe in. It makes the reality of our own finitude so much more bearable.

Merry Christmas and a Happy … February?

The time of year has come back around for us to once again lie to ourselves about things we will do next year, or who we will be one year from now. New year’s resolutions. A thing I have lightly spoken out against before and I am about to speak out against again now. 

Skip New Years Resolutions

I am not against improvement. If anyone reads this channel regularly, you will know that I am entirely pro self-motivation, actualization and getting things done to make you a better you. If everyone spent half the time we spend on streaming YouTube shorts and TikTok we would all be a few percent better each month, I’m sure.

So, if I believe in resolutions to be better why am I so against new years resolutions, and why am I telling you to skip them?

“Because you are okay the way you are.”

No. That is a lie. No, you’re not. I am not. Your five-year-old isn’t. Your ten-year-old isn’t. Your fifteen-year-old isn’t. All the way up to whatever age you are. What would that even mean? You are okay the way you are? As a five-year-old? You are a dysfunctional ill prepared individual who has no idea how the world works, can barely read, can’t formulate a cogent defense of anything and lies as a matter of course because you are still trying to learn how the world works.

What about at 18-20. Really? Do you want to be the way you were at 18 for the rest of your life? I hope not. Get better. At 40? Are you really okay the way you are? What am I supposed to do for what I hope is the next forty years if that’s true? Just hang out? Where is the adventure in that?

That is the beauty of self-motivation and getting better. That is the beauty of saying the things that are wrong in your life are from you, not the world around you. Even if they are from the world around you, you can do something about it. You have agency. Otherwise, what else would we be but helpless?

All that said, why am I against new year’s resolutions?

Because they fail. Only 9% of Americans that make resolutions complete them. In fact, research goes on to show that 23% of people quit their resolution by the end of the first week, and 43% quit by the end of January. I’m proposing you don’t start in January.

Gyms will be packed with people who won’t be there in a month. Stores will be packed with people who are returning things they didn’t want, and buying things to improve themselves in some way they think is the most important. Friends and family will be talking about their progress, then they will talk about their difficulties and statistically, eventually their failures. Every ad on earth will be pushing you to join into something, to better yourself at $9.99 a month.

Wait it out. Make a plan. Make a plan. When everyone else is starting to falter, get started. When you start to falter, think back to the other portions of this site, and find a way to build your habits. Find ways to change your behavior patterns. Tell only your closest friends and loved ones what you are going to do. Don’t make a display of it. Keep your victories close, the ones nobody can take away from you.

 

Your victories are your own. Maybe it is every word you write down for your next novel. Maybe it is every individual meal that you ate only what you needed to eat. Maybe it is every time you were a little nicer to people when it was hard, or worked that little extra to make your partner happy. Maybe you found that small chunk of time to help your children achieve their dream. Whatever it is the knowledge of those victories can’t be diminished.

You can be a better you. Don’t resolve, come February, to become XYZ, or ABC percent better, just resolve to become better. Because better is better. It doesn’t matter how much better if there is forward movement.

See you in 2024. The year you can be the best you yet.

Starting in February. 😉

Raspberries Are…
The Holiday Miracle…

I would like to talk to you about a miracle.

The raspberry.

But I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s make a clear definition:

Mircale: a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency.

Miracle: a highly improbable or extraordinary event, development, or accomplishment that brings very welcome consequences.

Miracle: an amazing product or achievement, or an outstanding example of something.

I’m going to use the last two. I’m not saying that the fruit existing is a miracle so to speak but that you get to eat them, right now, is. If, for my holiday dessert I wanted raspberries and cream, which I totally do, I can go right now, or tomorrow, to the food store, and I can buy them. I can buy them any time of year. If you live in the north east of America, as I do, go outside for a moment. It is very cold. There are few leaves left on trees. Most noticeably there are no raspberries on bushes just waiting for me to eat them.

Raspberries you are eating come from somewhere. As you can see from the chart below, most of the year they come from somewhere very far away from you.

If you have seen a raspberry recently you will know they aren’t exactly robust. In fact, they are kind of squishy. That small pint of squishy raspberries which were shipped less than a few days ago form the coasts of California or Chile to your supermarket and then to be shelves and then bought and brought to your door, for me falls well inside of the “highly improbable or extraordinary event, development, or accomplishment that brings very welcome consequences.” It is certainly an amazing achievement.

We are so quick in this world to be annoyed, while we stand among miracles that kings and queens of two hundred years ago would have given a kingdom to experience.

 

Explainable by natural laws? Yes. But a miracle nonetheless.

Excuses Please

Helen Adams Keller born in 1880, lost her sight and her hearing after an illness when she was 19 months old. In a time before women’s rights, modern-medicine and technology, or anything we consider to be modern disability understanding, she wrote and published fourteen books. She gave speeches.

She is quoted as having said “Self-pity is our worst enemy and if we yield to it, we can never do anything wise in this world.”

Born in the 1800s. Blind. Deaf.

What is our excuse?

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One Story

Everyone has one story worth telling. Their own lives.

It has been said every writer writes only what they know. We know our own lives better than we know most other things, and I have rarely met a person who didn’t have at least one life lesson worth sharing.

You are special. I do not mean this as a platitude, or a participation award. I don’t believe in either of those things. But, there is the fact that nobody has ever been you. Not even your identical twin has been you. Nobody has ever had exactly your genetic sequence at exactly this moment in time, and lived the exact series of life choices you have lived. You have a unique story to tell in all of that, and there is a value in that which nobody else can bring to the table.

No artificial intelligence can reassemble it from threads of artificially averaged storylines. Nobody who was around you knows your motivations as you did, and understands the feelings of your success and failures as you did.

Write your tale down. Tell someone. Share your message.
Nobody else can.

86,400

There are 86,400 seconds in a day. 24 hours X 60 minutes x 60 seconds = 86,400.

86,400 seconds in a day

I’m a normal human being… I sleep 8 hours.

28,800 seconds gone…

There are 57,600 seconds left in your day.

I hit the snooze button. 600 seconds….

I lost ten minutes to TikTok that I won’t remember or tell anyone about. 600 seconds…

I procrastinated going to work, because I don’t want to be there, so I hit traffic and had to stay late. 30 minutes. 1,800 seconds.

I didn’t feel like studying today, I’ll do it tomorrow. Tomorrow, I can’t cram it all in, but I tried. 1,000 seconds and a lower grade.

I took a nap on the couch after work, because I was tired, because that is what I was told I should be after work. 1,800 seconds.

Where is your time going?

There are only 86,400 seconds in a day. You can do more with them than you can imagine, or … Tick, tick, tick…

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All of Yesterday’s…

Yesterday’s mistakes are yesterday’s.

They belong there, in the past, a reminder of what we did wrong, and why we need to do better. They are not to be anchors around our neck or bend our heads to the ground with failure’s memories.

Yesterday’s mistakes belong to yesterday.

This morning’s travesties belong to this morning.

The last hour's faults are nothing but a wind that has exhausted itself.

We are responsible for our blunders, though they are not liabilities. Our past bestows life’s education, and carves us, one moment at a time into something better. What person would be so confident to pull a thread of their life’s tapestry and be certain the whole image would not unravel?

All of tomorrow’s promise belongs to today. We climb the steps of our errors’ gravestones to towers of our creativity, success and betterment. Today we become who we will be tomorrow, because of all of yesterday’s building blocks.

Echo

I would like you to go grab your phone, and see how many contacts you have. I’ll wait here.

How many are friends? Family? Coworkers? Acquaintances? How many do you have no idea who they are?

I have about 180. Roughly divided they are 15 family members, 10 people I would consider something in the range of close friends to more than acquaintances, about ten acquaintances and the rest are work related contacts. I have 20, now deleted, that I had no idea who they were. The brief description of them wasn’t enough to bring back a memory for me.

My point today won’t have to do with quality of relationships. It will have to do with the echo you leave behind on the world. It is the statement that you matter. Your actions matter.

I want you to picture your interactions with those people on your phone for a while. What single image comes to you first with each name. Really, go do this, and think about it. Those interactions that you have had with these people who comprise your life and are the bones of your world and interpersonal relationships.

I want you to think about the people you have never met but who your friends and family and close friends perhaps have told you about. Maybe it is a coworker with an anecdote about someone you have never met and how this stranger to you either bolstered or destroyed your coworkers’ day. Or your family’s, or your friends’.

These people from something like the meat of our world view. The additional layers that build up over the bones of close relationships. These people create our view of the world outside our close personal bubble, and who we think inhabits it. You are one of those people to someone else doing this exercise. You are a femur or rib, or vertebrae to some who are close to you, an abdominal muscle and biceps to another further from your circle.

How much do you matter?

I have been told that I am not very social as people go, and maintain a small number of contacts. Let's take my phone and my LinkedIn profile and average them. That would be about a total of 300 people. If those 300 hundred have about 300 contacts as well, again a low estimate, I am in the perspective of life for about 90,000 people. That is a tremendous stadium full of people who my actions directly impact their viewpoint.

The same is true for you.

What kind of anecdotes spin around the world about you? Do people talk about you as reliable? Fun? Kind? Helpful? Haughty? Life changing? Forgettable? Mean? Selfish? Did you backstab that one girl that one time? Did you stand between a bully and her target? Did you pick someone up when they were down? Did you reject someone’s advances kindly, or degrade them for it? Did you give the impression that those around you matter, or that only you matter?

These small constant additions to the collective voice of humanity matter, because all those people who talk about you, even if indirectly build their view of what the world is on your actions along with everyone else’s. You will influence tens of thousands of people in your life. Be careful you influence them the right way. Because you matter, for good or ill.

Thanks

In our world people are often arguing about the native casualties and who is to blame on thanksgiving for the atrocities of our past. They mutter about the holiday being lost to Santa and the intrusion of Black Friday, the most American of holidays, or at least the most openly financially oriented one. We note how wreaths were hung a week ago in the town square as turkeys walked by underneath them. We complain that the history taught in school doesn’t match reality.

I want to stop everyone and say this. Don’t lose sight of the holiday’s purpose. The purpose of today is supposed to be thanksgiving.

Every religion on earth, and every meditative structure worth its salt encourages people to be thankful. Why? It lowers blood pressure, and gives perspective that things are better than you think, even in the midst of the terrible, and hardships of our lives. Thankfulness makes us happier.

If you are reading this you are sitting somewhere with a cell phone in hand, or a computer screen in front of you, which operates on electricity and provides you access to the internet to find it. You are not dying in prison unjustly. You are not starving to death. You are not (probably) living under the tyranny of China’s government, and you are very unlikely to be homeless. Even if you are sick, there are likely many who are sicker. Somewhere you may have a family that would spend the day with you, even if you don’t want to spend the day with them.

There are a number of things in there to be thankful for. Having a thankful attitude toward life enables us to move forward, better our own situation, and find a jumping off point. When you believe everything is terrible and the system is broken there becomes little impetus to fix it. So, this holiday season, from now until the new year, focus instead on the good. Focus on the things to be thankful for. Once you are thankful then think about the things you can do so that they will be more thankful for YOU. It’s the thing you have the most control over, and can change someone else’s world.

Friends. Family. Husbands. Wives. Children. Health. Home. Employment. Love. Kindness.

Be thankful.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year Early.

Today is Nov 8. Why am I saying happy new year?

Chinese New Year is the festival that celebrates the beginning of a new year on the traditional lunisolar Chinese calendar. Feb 10, 2024. This is the largest non January 1 new year I can find. But go ahead and check out the results of “Alternative new years days.” There are dozens.

 

New Years Events Around the World

 

Why am I saying this?

Because next year starts right now.

It has to because you don’t get enough opportunity otherwise. If you are twenty years old or older, you have about sixty years left. That’s sixty new years resolution opportunities. Not a lot, given data that shows 23% of people quit their resolution by the end of the first week, and 43% quit by the end of January. Less than 10 % achieve them at all.

What do you want to be? Great author? Great inventor? Great parent? Great fiend? Great sibling? Great sports star? What are you waiting for? January 1st? Will you be any more motivated then, than you are now? Does that date have some meaning for you that means you will succeed then instead of now?

Go do it now.

If you fail today, start tomorrow. If you fail tomorrow start the day after. Why wait until even then? You want to write a novel? Go write it. Tonight. Sit down. Write 100 words. Write an outline. Draft an idea. Don’t wait.

You have less time than you think you do.

You have more time in a day than you think, but you have less time in a lifetime than you will want. It will take longer to achieve your goals than you can imagine.

Go. Do. Now. 

What others want, or what you want?

I think there is a balance in the creative act between creating what we as creators want to see, read, hear, experience versus what others want to see created. We focus here on writing, so the question is do we write the story we want to read or the story others want to read?

This is similar to the balance we must strike as writers, when we receive edits. Are we blazing a path of unique style, or are we stubborn and pigheaded, not listening to the input of others who are trying to explain why the method we are using to write, is wrong?

I started thinking about this again when this years Nobel prize was announced. Jon Fosse seems to be a man who leans into the former over the later. He has a unique sound and unique voice, and believes that it is a positive thing which won him the prize. He seems to believe other authors should follow their own voice.

Jon Fosse, Nobel Prize Winning Author

But what if your own voice is filled with overtelling, bad cliché dialogue and passive voice? Is that your own voice or just bad writing?

What if you are a genuine genius? Your books and plays expand human knowledge and extent, giving voice to things which are previously unvoiced. Something new under the sun. But nobody understands it, so you are ignored, and your works never seen, or published.

How do we know which we are? Honestly looking at our own creative process and taking in criticism is hard. Knowing when our unique sound is being tamped down, vs knowing when our voice is just inexperience shining through takes time, and takes a willingness to look at our own failures with a harsh eye.

 

All creative endeavors do. Where your line is, and my line is will be different, but I guarantee there is one. Next time you are creating, ask yourself… am I being stubborn? Is it not as good as I think? Could other people be right? Could other people also be wrong, and this unique turn of phrase is meaningful, even if some people don’t understand it?

Be creative, but be humble. Be willing to be wrong, but be willing to be right,  just less often than you think.

Bad At It

You’re bad at it…

You are a bad writer.

You are not a good runner.

You are weak, and can’t lift much weight.

Your garden never looks as good as the neighbor’s garden.

You’re a bad actor, and everyone thinks you are a hack.

You couldn’t make the team.

Your grades aren’t ever going to be better…

You are bad at… things.

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Pick your target, you will miss. Because you are just getting started. Everyone starts somewhere. People will say otherwise. “Person XYZ was born to play the game.” “Person XYZ is just so smart.” No. Once upon a time that person was a toddler, who didn’t know how to walk, talk, write, read or catch. Everyone starts from zero.

The people who are great in their field, who make impacts that resonate through the world, work hard. They may have a genetic gift for the field they work in, but they also might not. They might be just like us. Normal people who kept at it.

Yesterday, I fumbled through a dialogue piece in my writing. I worked on the same interaction for four hours, made no progress and put it away for the day. It didn’t read right, and I still think it doesn’t read right. During breakfast this morning I contemplated what happens if someone were daunted by the task of writing a book, because each chapter, each section, didn’t read right. They start to think, “This is bad.” Like I was thinking.

Some people might say enthusiastically, “No, it’s not bad. It’s fine,” or “You are being too hard on yourself.” Yes and no. It isn’t fine. It is bad. But that’s because its bad right now. If I quit because I was bad at it, I would be too hard on myself. Acknowledging it is bad, not good enough yet, something that needs to be fixed, means I am moving in a direction.

Because I am not a good enough writer yet. I am not hitting my mark, or the mark others would want from me. Neither have you.

You are bad at “It.” The difference between people who make it to noteworthy and those who fall by the wayside is what we do with that knowledge. Are you going to stop writing that novel because its hard? Is someone else going to write the story you want written? Are you going to stop exercising because you aren’t fast enough, strong enough or skilled enough? Will you get better thinking about it on the couch? Are you going to get over stage fright, or fully giving yourself over to a role while thinking about it over a sandwich? Get up and go.

Go write. Go run. Go lift. Go act. Go read. Go study. You won’t get any better thinking about how you’re bad at it. I am bad at "It." So was Einstein. So was Shakespeare. So was Rich Froning. Until they weren’t.

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Gardening

I want to talk to you about gardening, and some lessons I have learned in the weeds. I learned similar lessons doing power lifting, and I am certain those lessons can be learned other places. I can explain them best using gardening.

Tend your Emotional Garden

A piece of our garden.

Each year, my wife and I expand our garden a little bit. We elected not to use anything electric, or powered other than a lawnmower. No electric hedge trimmers, no mulching machines, no drills are allowed. If we can’t do it with human power, an ax, a shovel and a rake etc., then it can’t get done here. Arbitrary rules, granted. We have a front bed that is only allowed to have red, white and related colors. We have a back bed that is only allowed to have purples and yellows.

The first few years tending to the garden was extremely easy. It didn’t take much time to maintain, and we could add to it with ease. As the years went by and the garden got bigger maintenance rose to match it, and we stopped expanding. Sometimes a plant would die and need to be replaced, weeds would be heavy in one place and light in others. More work was needed. We found a balance.

That is a brief tale of our gardening. Why talk about it? What does this have to do with motivation? Because the slow steady act of gardening taught me several things.

 

1. Don’t plant more than you can tend.

I mean it with plants, but it is true in other places of life. Have the number of friends you can maintain while being a good friend, rather than a poor friend to them all. Make the promises you have the ability to keep rather than overextend yourself, and fail everyone. Take on tasks at work you can excel at, and don’t promise when you can’t deliver. Engage with your significant other in a way you can maintain. We don’t all have the same extent and same skills in all ventures. Learn the size of your own garden.

2. Grow your garden slowly.

If you plant too much the first year, you can overshoot the maintenance you can handle. If we had planted the full extent of our current garden, I would have failed to maintain it properly. I would not have learned how to keep up with the year’s cadence, and plants would have died while I figured it out. By approaching it one piece at a time, growing naturally over time, the ability to keep learning as the garden grew helped me, and the plants. Know your own growth limits. We all expand at different rates, it doesn’t mean you can’t get where you want to be, but your pace may be different than others.

 

3. Have rules.

When we first began, we didn’t have rules. Any flower we liked could go in any bed, and be any color. It looked ok, because let’s be honest, flowers are pretty. As years went by, we quickly settled into a series of rules for the garden beds, imposed by ourselves of course. The rules improved the gardens. They had a more cohesive theme, they had a more appealing color palette, and they complimented each other better. Rules gave us a better outcome.

In most every aspect of life, rules give freedom, not constraint.

4. Have a garden.

Everyone will have their own garden. A place to learn how to discipline one aspect of your life and carry it into others. If you don’t have one, start looking today. Find a progressive long-term activity, and dip a toe in. Then dip the foot, then stand in the shallow end. Progress yourself as quickly as you can sustainably, with a mind toward your future self, and your self maintenance. Do so, with discipline.

Tend your garden.

Who's to Blame? 

Life is going to go wrong. Today, tomorrow or someday, someone is going to tell you that something didn’t go the way you wanted.

You didn’t get the job, you didn’t have a good yearly checkup, you didn’t earn the promotion, your child didn’t make honor role, your team lost… You will have a suboptimal moment.

Who do you blame?

You can choose to point your finger at the people around you or a bad roll of the dice. When you do, you will vent and possibly feel better, but statistically you will feel worse. You can develop a habit of saying that it is everyone else fault, and the world is out to get you, nature didn’t gift you with some specific skill or body type, and your boss just hates you.

A secret I tell people who are self-conscious is to always remember, most people don’t care about what you look like, or what you did or what your goals are. They care about theirs. Do you remember exactly what the last person worse when you thought “You look goofy?” Do you remember what you were thinking the last time you gave a promotion to someone over another person? Do you remember the last group of job applicants you rejected?

Me neither.

People are general busy with their own lives. They aren’t trying to be in your way, they aren’t out to get you and they don’t have it in for you.

Own your life. Do better. Everyone can do a little better.

Learn a new skill to add to your resume. Spend some time with your children to help them do better on their team, or the classes they struggle with. Go for a walk each day, just five to ten minutes to help move the cholesterol and scale needles along the right way.

Your life is yours. You can own it, and realize the world isn’t out to get you, or, you can be angry, get angrier, push more people away, and in the end… nothing will change for all that anger. Everyone is quick to say “Don’t blame yourself,” or “I’m sure you did your best.” Wrong. You should blame you, and you almost certainly didn’t do your absolute best.

Besides, is that the world you want to live in? Your best is not good enough? You are fine the way you are, at 20, 30, 40, 50 or whatever age with decades to go without hope for improvement. What nonsense is that when we have more opportunity than ever to continuously develop ourselves throughout life?

Do better. Earn the life you want.

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