You’re on a journey… not just to discover the light shining within you, but to let it out and let it shine. That moment when discover who you really are and why you’re really here… your ultimate, individual “why”, and then align your life so that you’re living it… it’s absolutely glorious. To you, and to everybody else.
You are capable of greatness. In fact, it is already within you. You just need to discover it, and then work to bring your life into alignment so that your life’s mission and your life become one and the same. That’s when you’ll shine. That’s when you’ll experience full joy and fulfillment, when you’re actions align to your purpose. We can help.
We have become so good at virtual reality, that we mostly fail to distinguish between them. We miss so much of life. And because the biochemical rewards elicited by device use are so much more easily obtained, we use it as a substitute (often unconsciously) for the much more difficultly won, but far more fulfilling rewards of actual achievement.
This is an amazing poem, that captures it perfectly. It’s called Look Up, written and performed by Gary Turk.
The hardest handicaps to overcome are mental.
It happens when we tell ourselves the wrong story. When we look at what we’ve been given, and decide it’s not enough. And by convincing ourselves of failure, we ensure it.
But we can choose to change the story we tell ourselves.
A couple years ago I gave this speech at the Toastmasters Area D4 International Speech Competition titled “I’m hungry for bugs”. Rest assured, there’s a point, but you have to wait for it (spoiler below)…
P.S. Sorry for the bad lighting, but it gets better.
Click here for the spoiler (the point of the whole story)
Unfortunately in life, we tend to not feed those things we care the most about. Things like…
Our dreams and passions
Our physical well-being
Our child-like sense of wonder
Or sometimes even worse…
Our relationship with our children
Our relationship with our parents
Our relationship with our spouse
Our relationship with God.
Reflect for a moment on your own life, and I bet you’ll find there’s something you care deeply about, that you haven’t fed for quite some time.
Usually these are things that are close to you. Scarcity is what drives perceived value, so we tend to undervalue (at least in our daily behaviors) those things that are closest to us, or with which we have the most immediate access. So if you’re wise, you’ll pay close attention to those things closest to you, and be sensitive to when they might need feeding.
Because the one reality you can bank on, one true principle foundational to life, is that if you stop feeding something, it will die.
So the questions is, what are you not feeding?
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There are lots of reasons why you might seek change. Often those reasons are centered around yourself. Your personal betterment.
These are noble causes. You are infinitely capable, after all, and you deserve the very best, those rewards earned through the persistent pursuit of positive change.
But there is yet a higher cause. Something even nobler.
Vince Lombardi was the famous coach of the Green Bay Packers, who led them to capture their first-ever Super Bowl. In the wake of his incredible success and obvious leadership, Lombardi was highly sought after for corporate events.
He translated the principles of leadership and motivation he used on the football field into 7 principles for work and life. Chief among these 7 principles was one that was surprising for the rough and tough football coach… love. Love, he says, is more powerful than hate.
“The love I’m speaking of is loyalty, which is the greatest of loves. Teamwork, the love that one man has for another and that he respects the dignity of another…I am not speaking of detraction. You show me a man who belittles another and I will show you a man who is not a leader…Heart power is the strength of your company. Heart power is the strength of the Green Bay Packers. Heart power is the strength of America and hate power is the weakness of the world.”
Lombardi taught that when your efforts are fueled by love, you work harder, persevere longer, invest more, take greater care, and are less apt to give up.
Some years ago the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, renowned for providing some of the greatest care in the world for children battling cancer, was building a new facility on campus.
Something remarkable happened, a love-born relationship between the ironworkers and the children. As the Boston globe reported:
“It has become a beloved ritual at Dana-Farber. Every day, children who come to the clinic write their names on sheets of paper and tape them to the windows of the walkway for ironworkers to see. And, every day, the ironworkers paint the names onto I-beams and hoist them into place as they add floors to the new 14-story Yawkey Center for Cancer Care.
“The building’s steel skeleton is now a brightly colored, seven-story monument to scores of children receiving treatment at the clinic-Lia, Alex, and Sam; Taylor, Izzy, and Danny. For the young cancer patients, who press their noses to the glass to watch new names added every day, the steel and spray-paint tribute has given them a few moments of joy and a towering symbol of hope. ‘It’s fabulous,’ said [18-month-old] Kristen [Hoenshell]’s mother, Elizabeth, as she held her daughter and marveled at the rainbow of names. It’s just a simple little act that means so much.’”
The children and their parents were certainly touched, but think of the ironworkers, each morning in the bitter cold and biting wind. Their project had become more than just another building. Their work now had meaning. They had purpose.
This kind of purpose, when your efforts are somehow tied to something more than yourself, creates powerful, self-sustaining drive that you simply don’t otherwise get.
This year I helped coach my 14 year old son’s football team. The prior season was a tough one, with zero wins. Coming into the new season with that record created a powerful barrier to success – self doubt. What the boys needed was something to believe in. Something to rally around.
That something showed up on the first day of practice. His name was Austin. Austin was autistic. But he had a huge heart and an infectious sense of humor (which was often manifested by his sneaking up on a coach and inflicting physical pain, which delighted the other boys.)
His parents didn’t have much by way of expectations, but were excited he wanted to play. Austin didn’t have many friends. Until now.
The team embraced him. At first he would only practice a few plays at a time before losing interest, when he would go sit on the side and watch (or sneak up on coaches). Over time he would stay in nearly the whole practice, with help and guidance and patience of his teammates, showing him where to stand and what to do.
We decided we wanted Austin to have a lot of play time. He started, every game, as defensive nose guard, and cycled in and out every couple of plays. His parents were ecstatic at the experience.
We ended the season with 7 wins and 1 loss, and went to the championship game, where again, Austin started.
This was the same team that a year prior had not won a game.
While there were several things we worked on to overcome mental barriers, and be better prepared, in my mind nothing played a larger role, at least in gaining our initial inertia, than the fact that we had something to rally around. We had a cause greater than ourselves. We were motivated by love, by loyalty.
Love imbues your change efforts with unparalleled, uncompromising purpose.
Whatever your change efforts are, find a way to let them be led, or inspired by a cause greater than yourself, and you’ll find your rate of success increasing dramatically.
Let yourself be led by love.
(You can read all of Lambardi’s principles in his biography by Pulitzer Prize winning author David Maraniss: “When Pride Still Mattered“.)
Imagine you’ve been given a garden.
It’s you’re garden, and your responsible for its care. You decide what grows in it. You decide what it looks like. And you get to partake of the fruit that comes from it.
Like any garden, it’s gonna be prone to sprout weeds. Undesirable seeds will occasionally be blown in, and you won’t know it until they sprout. But you get to decide how long those weeds stay. How tall they get.
But be careful, because left untended, weeds have a way of taking over.
In fact, it’s often the case that after prolonged neglect, we look at our garden and see nothing but weeds.
In these times, it’s easy to curse the garden we’ve been given.
It’s also easy to look at the weeds in our garden, and think that it’s too late, or that this is how it was meant to be, and that there’s nothing we can do about it, at least not now.
When you look at your garden and see only weeds, it’s hard to forget that it’s still a garden. The weeds do not define it. They are merely the visible evidence of what you’ve allowed to grow there.
If you don’t like it, change it. It’s your garden.
Now reread this, and substitute “garden” for “LIFE”. What resonates with you?
Bob May had always been different. Small, weak, and slight as a child, he was regularly ridiculed, bullied, and made fun of. He spent his whole childhood like that.
Eventually, he graduated from Dartmouth College in 1926 and married the love of his life, Evelyn. Together they had a beautiful daughter named Barbara.
Bob became a copy writer for Chicago based Montgomery Ward. It was the great depression, and they led a modest, but meaningful life, before everything changed.
Evelyn got cancer. She passed away just days before Christmas in 1938. Bob was 34, Barbara was only 4.
Pressed with grief, and stooped in medical bills, the father and daughter struggled to with each passing day.
At work, Montgomery Ward had been purchasing and giving away coloring books each year for Christmas, and this year they decided to make their own to save money. They approached Bob May and asked him to write a story.
Bob thought of his own life, always feeling different, always feeling like you can’t get ahead. He associated with the story of the ugly duckling. Drawing on these powerful emotions, but fueled by the belief in the hidden value within each of us, he wrote the story of a cast-away, mis-fit reindeer.
Originally named Rollo, then Reginald, bob finally settled on Rudolf. He tested it on his 4 year old daughter, who loved it.
He submitted the story to his boss, who was worried about the red nose (fearing the association with drinking and drunkenness). But Bob believed in his vision, and took his friend Denver Gillen, who worked in Montgomery Wards art department, to the Lincoln Park Zoo to create a sketch of rudolf based on real reindeer.
The illustrations gave life to the story, and it was quickly approved for distribution.
Montgomery Ward distributed 2.4 million copies of their Rudolf booklet in 1939. In spite of wartime paper shortages, which curtailed printing over the next few years, they still printed 6 million copies by the end of 1946.
Post-war demand for licensing the Rudolf character were enormous, but while May was the creator, he held no copyright, and received no royalties.
Finally, a major publisher approached Montgomery Ward wanting to purchase rights to print an updated version of the story. Knowing that May was deeply in debt from Evelyn’s medical bills, Montgomery Ward’s corporate president, Sewell Avery, in an unprecedented gesture of generosity, turned the copyright over to May in January 1947.
That year it was printed commercially, featured in theaters as a 9 minute cartoon, and gained huge popularity. May’s brother-in-law, songwriter Johnny Marks, wrote the lyrics and melody for a song based on the Character, titled “Rudolf the red-nosed reindeer”.
The song was originally turned down by Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore, but was finally recorded by Gene Autry and became a phenomenal success. It sold more records than any other Christmas song, with the exception of “White Christmas”.
Bob’s belief in the hidden value within us all became a reality that changed his life, and has impacted millions upon millions of people. His vision and belief had become a reality.
May you recognize the light within yourself, no matter how deeply hidden, and find a way to make it real.
William Earnest Henley
The British boy William Ernest Henley contracted tuberculosis of the bone when he was just 12 years old. He suffered from the disease until he was 25. By then, it had progressed all the way to his foot. 13 years.
The doctors then told him that they would have to remove his most severely infected leg immediately, and that if he were to survive, they would need to remove the other one as well.
A strong willed person, he gave the doctors permission to remove just one leg, to the knee, but that he was keeping his other leg.
In 1875, at the age of 25 he wrote Invictus from his hospital bed, the perfect expression of his response to the challenges of life.
Invictus is Latin for “undefeated”.
by William Earnest Henley
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud,
Under the bludgeoning of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find me, unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
the rest of the story
Henley went on to live an active, productive life as a poet. He kept his other leg.
While imprisoned on Robben Island Prison, where he was incarcerated for 27 years, Nelson Mandela (who later served as President of South Africa, and won the Nobel Peace Prize) recited the poem to himself and other prisoners as a way to bolster their spirits, and motivate them to press onward. He felt empowered by the message of self mastery.
in overcoming adversity
Life is necessarily filled with challenges. And thank goodness. How boring it would be otherwise. But while we can’t control the cards that are dealt us, what we CAN control is how we react to those events.
Will they be events that give us strength? Will they give us wisdom? Will they teach us patience? Perseverance? Will they give us empathy for others?
Much good can come from things that seem so bad. Life’s greatest opportunities are often hidden in adversity.
But transforming life’s challenges into positive self-propellants takes self-mastery. Regardless what life gives us, we must remember “I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.”