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Posts Tagged ‘Arts’

“Do not anticipate trouble or worry about what may never happen.  Keep in the sunlight.” ~Benjamin Franklin

Talking somebody down from the wall of worry is not an easy task. To do so you must deftly skirt accusations like “you just don’t understand” and “you’re not hearing me” while reassuring, distracting and refocusing attention on what can be done here and now.

Troubles are fed by the attention you pay to them. Wise is the person who understands the scope of his problems without succumbing to the temptation to fixate on them. Problems are resolved with solutions, not worries.

“Drag your thoughts away from your troubles… by the ears, by the heels, or any other way you can manage it.” ~ Mark Twain

One of the silliest things you can worry about are those things which you have no control over or any means of influencing. They are what they are and stressing about them will only drain the very battery you will draw upon to handle the challenges that pass through your sphere of influence.

If you have a list of worries, take the time to cross out those about which you can do nothing. Next to those crossed out write something you can handle or influence as things are now. You can either spend time worrying or moving in a productive direction. The choice is yours.

“You can’t wring your hands and roll up your sleeves at the same time.” ~ Pat Schroeder

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I had the pleasure of watching Cirque du Soleil’s “Ovo” in Atlanta yesterday evening. What a remarkable display of human capability! I almost wrote human “physicality” but to limit what they did to mere physical acts would likely understate what was involved in their performance. To do what they do must take enormous mental focus and emotional steadiness.

This particular show is an “immersion in the teeming and energetic world of insects.” The costumes were fabulous and the acts, especially the high wire and the trampoline/climbing wall, were breathtaking. It can be refreshing and inspiring to see such a spectacle, where people are functioning at the edge of the performance envelope available to human beings.

I am of the opinion that it is good to stretch your figurative legs on occasion. Pushing yourself to go beyond the familiar or the comfortable keeps life interesting as it typically broadens your ability to touch and inspire others. So doing also bolsters self-confidence, an element of character that can work wonders in a pinch.

Two of my extended family members have undertaken falconry, a sport that challenges comfort zones in more ways than one. The falconer’s life begins with the passing of a difficult written examination administered by the Department of Natural Resources, followed by a two year apprenticeship. To top it off, the first task of the apprentice’s life is to trap a wild bird, more often than not a maniacal, sharply-taloned Red-tailed Hawk and to “man” it, which means to get it used to close human contact.

Their progress is a delight to behold as it seems that not a day goes by without some type of new challenge that pushes each one to their limits and then slightly beyond. You cannot expect to grow as a person if you are not willing to push yourself or to be compelled by others on occasion. It matters not if the activity is mental, physical or emotional, the point is that if you reach beyond where you are you will gain flexibility, capability and strength in the process.

While I don’t anticipate jumping repeatedly (and untethered!) from a 30 foot rock climbing wall onto a trampoline and back up again anytime soon, I do know that I will rise to whatever occasion may come my way, even if it requires that I push through or conversely, relax more deeply to overcome fear, weakness or unfamiliarity.

So can you!

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I take the time every night to review my day, to tie up any loose ends and to set the stage for the day to come. Some days end like a neatly wrapped package at Christmastime. Others end like a pile of fall leaves, tumultuous and disorderly with little hope of settling into order.

No matter how your day unfolds, take time to access the quiet place in your heart that no man, woman or circumstance can ruffle. Each one has this place available to him or herself, though the failure to visit it regularly allows the weeds and the bushes to obscure the path that leads to the gate of the garden of tranquility.

The golden scissors of forgiveness, thanksgiving and appreciation keep the way clear. Some days you may need to be more specific or persistent than others as you maintain the garden path, and last evening I found this poem (written by the author of Anne of Green Gables) to be particularly helpful as I sought to organize my thoughts, soften my heart and mind and come to rest.

I hope that you enjoy it this morning and I highly encourage you to read it once again before settling in for the evening.

November Evening ~ Lucy Maud Montgomery

Come, for the dusk is our own; let us fare forth together,
With a quiet delight in our hearts for the ripe, still, autumn weather,
Through the rustling valley and wood and over the crisping meadow,
Under a high-sprung sky, winnowed of mist and shadow.

Sharp is the frosty air, and through the far hill-gaps showing
Lucent sunset lakes of crocus and green are glowing;
‘Tis the hour to walk at will in a wayward, unfettered roaming,
Caring for naught save the charm, elusive and swift, of the gloaming.

Watchful and stirless the fields as if not unkindly holding
Harvested joys in their clasp, and to their broad bosoms folding
Baby hopes of a Spring, trusted to motherly keeping,
Thus to be cherished and happed through the long months of their sleeping.

Silent the woods are and gray; but the firs than ever are greener,
Nipped by the frost till the tang of their loosened balsam is keener;
And one little wind in their boughs, eerily swaying and swinging,
Very soft and low, like a wandering minstrel is singing.

Beautiful is the year, but not as the springlike maiden
Garlanded with her hopes rather the woman laden
With wealth of joy and grief, worthily won through living,
Wearing her sorrow now like a garment of praise and thanksgiving.

Gently the dark comes down over the wild, fair places,
The whispering glens in the hills, the open, starry spaces;
Rich with the gifts of the night, sated with questing and dreaming,
We turn to the dearest of paths where the star of the homelight is gleaming.

Have a brilliant day!

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How far that little candle throws his beams!
So shines a good deed in a naughty world.
~ William Shakespeare, “Merchant of Venice”

Anyone who performs a good deed in the world the way it now is runs the risk of casting pearls before swine. You needn’t look far to see that goodness and virtue are often devoured as soon as they are delivered. Apologies met with disdain instead of forgiveness, gestures of kindness trampled upon rather than reciprocated and revelations of the heart misinterpreted and unrequited happen with alarming and potentially discouraging frequency.

While you cannot control the actions of others, you can make a difference in this naughty world by carrying yourself with dignity, that is, by refusing to sink to the lowest common denominator. John E. Southard offered helpful advice in this regard when he said: “The only people with whom you should try to get even are those who have helped you.” That single piece of advice, properly heeded, would bring an end to the poisons of vengeance, cursing and retribution.

One of the strangest things I’ve witnessed is when people attack you for helping them. If the nature of your giving doesn’t line up with what they were expecting to get for themselves, there is a chance that they will turn and rend you. No matter how much you give to people there is always the risk that they will refuse to seal the blessings with thankfulness. Blessings thus unsealed quickly leak away.

I can no other answer make, but, thanks, and thanks. ~ William Shakespeare

Giving thanks is the least expensive, yet most effective form of life insurance. It is not hard to do once you’re in the habit and thanks can be given in a million different ways. Henry Ward Beecher instructed: “The unthankful heart…knows no mercies…” and every student of life who seeks a life well-lived is wise to invest heavily in the attitude of thanksgiving.

Where to start? Why, exactly where you are! You needn’t have one single additional blessing to engage in giving thanks, here and now. Even if the only thing for which you can be thankful is that you still have life in you, you have an adequate starting point. If you lack the ability to be thankful for what you have, you’re unlikely to have the capacity to be thankful for what you’re going to receive.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend and invest wisely in the world around you. Do so on the basis that you place no expectation on the return and you will discover an inner sanctuary that nourishes, comforts and reassures.

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If you are a guy who wishes he were more of a gentleman, I would highly encourage you to visit The Art of Manliness, an uncommonly rich online resource that aims to “reviv[e] the lost art of manliness.” My brother-in-law, Zach, pointed me to the site as he has found it tremendously useful in his pursuit of ongoing refinement and I must say, I wish I had known about it earlier! It is chock-full of information and inspiration.

One of the articles in particular, “The Secret of Great Men: Deliberate Practice” piqued my interest and I hope you take a few minutes to read it, whether you are a man or a woman. Greatness is inherent in each of us, but it is foolhardy to expect that your unique brand of excellence will magically appear out of nowhere.

Of course certain rare individuals in the recorded history of man were blessed with the unrestrained expression of genius in one area or another, such a revelation usually comes at a high price. Most “geniuses” suffer from imbalances that make everyday life a challenge. I have to wonder if the imbalances emerge in part from the highly focused attention given to a certain activity, be it a sport, a musical instrument, invention, art or in whatever area you may be seen as being gifted.

The author challenged his readers to “man-up” by applying the principles of deliberate practice to an area of their lives that is in need of improvement. One of my own goals at the moment is to be more proficient and efficient in the encompassment of those for whom I am responsible at home and at work.

The life of a leader is a demanding one, and I am keenly aware that certain pastures in the various fields of responsibility suffer from inattention at times. When I have a lot of irons in the fire I find that I have to be hyper-vigilant and careful to visit – in thought, word or deed – every person, place and thing that depends upon me for guidance and leadership at least weekly. While significant loss is not always avoidable as there are things out there that are beyond the control of any and all of us, doing the best that you can – without excuse, carelessness or thoughtlessness is a great starting point.

I’ve been practicing deliberately and with regard to this particular goal I have made notable progress, especially since the conclusion of a significant business transaction that I’ve been working on for nearly two years now. Will life go back to normal? Well, maybe a new normal…we’ll see!

If there is anything I’ve learned about the application of deliberate practice it is this: don’t celebrate overly when you take ground and don’t waste time griping and bemoaning your fate when you don’t. Keep on keeping on, as they like to say in this neck of the woods.

I’ve also learned that it is important to keep the larger vision in mind, especially when you encounter setbacks. The failure to do so inevitably constrains to a loss of perspective while consistently doing so leads to a more balanced approach to the ups and downs that you encounter along the way.

Life’s lessons are endless and manliness (not bravado), grace (the product of humility) and the constant pursuit of refinement of your ability to bless the world around you are the mark of a gentleman. Thank you, The Art of Manliness and thank you, Zach for inspiring me to press onward and upward!

 

 

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Alone, by Maya Angelou

Lying, thinking
Last night
How to find my soul a home
Where water is not thirsty
And bread loaf is not stone
I came up with one thing
And I don’t believe I’m wrong
That nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

There are some millionaires
With money they can’t use
Their wives run round like banshees
Their children sing the blues
They’ve got expensive doctors
To cure their hearts of stone.
But nobody
No, nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Now if you listen closely
I’ll tell you what I know
Storm clouds are gathering
The wind is gonna blow
The race of man is suffering
And I can hear the moan,
‘Cause nobody,
But nobody
Can make it out here alone.

Alone, all alone
Nobody, but nobody
Can make it out here alone.

No matter how you cut it, we need one another. This is not a new phenomenon, neither is the need likely to become extinct with the passage of time. The need for collaboration, for complementation, is here to stay.

This need is present at every level of society and in every level of organization. No matter if rich or poor, family or nation, young or old, complementation allows for the best use of resources as it unlocks resources that would be otherwise withheld in an untrusting, dog-eat-dog, isolationist and protectionist world. No one can deny the many advances that have come at the hand of the actors in a competitive environment, but even more impressive is the revelation of what is possible when otherwise competitive actors collaborate.

Take the rescue of the Chilean miners, for example. Were it not for the competitive forces of a relatively free market, the drill bit that was loaned to the Chileans by the American private company that developed it might not have been available. Without the recognition of the need to put competition aside for a moment and share technology, the available technology might not have made its way into the right hands. I suppose the challenge is in developing the sensitivity to know when competition is best and when collaboration is most fitting.

My company is one actor among many in the health care industry. Making the world a better and healthier place is our primary goal, and more often than not we find ourselves sharing and contributing in ways that are perhaps better described as collaboration than competition. We value transparency, synergistic relationships, the sharing of ideas and experience and our emphasis in all matters is to add value.

Early in my professional career I worked in the financial services industry and I recall how shocking it was to see co-workers undermine one another in the spirit of competition. It was an unhealthy environment and those who participated were clearly suffering and I could hear the moan. That personal experience gave me an item for my “To Not Do” list, one that has remained in the top ten ever since.

Competition, the drive to give your best, is healthy. When integrity is compromised, however, competition quickly turns ugly. Look at any race for political office, the shady business of bringing new pharmaceutical drugs to market or the shocking things young actors and musicians are forced to do to promote themselves and generate sales.

One of my great hopes is that we can find the ways to rebuild a foundation of integrity in the body of humanity in a way that competition can once again be healthy. The recognition that no man, family or nation is complete unto itself is a starting point, but we must look to foster the spirit of collaboration in every sphere of human activity if we are to disperse the storm clouds described by Ms. Angelou.

Together, all together
All, yes all
Can make it out here together.

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Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

One of the presenters I was privileged to watch this weekend at our annual Energetix Lyceum described the methylation pathways of our body. Methylation acts as an on/off switch that allows the body to learn how to deal with the environment and it controls the body’s ability to detoxify.

With the industrial revolution came explosive growth in the production of new substances that have proven over time to be toxic to all living creatures on earth, including you and me. Plastics, preservatives, food colorings, synthetic fabrics, personal electronic devices and so on have made the achievement and maintenance health an increasingly difficult proposition.

I am certain that in all things there is causality. Cause and effect governs the movement from past to present and conditions the movement from present to future. What people call “luck,” as in “I had a lucky day” or “I stumbled upon the solution by dumb luck” is really another way to say “I am not too clear about the cause of this effect, but I am pleased by its occurrence.”

Similarly, the idea of “bad luck” is nothing more than an admission of the same, followed by displeasure with the outcome. In my view, professing to have good luck or bad luck is a convenient and generally acceptable way to shirk responsibility in and or for any given matter.

Those who profess to have good luck are either unwilling to accept responsibility for the investments they’ve made that have constrained to a positive outcome or they are unwilling to recognize and thank others for the seeds they’ve planted that resulted in a desirable harvest beyond themselves.

Likewise, those who claim to be the victims of bad luck are frequently avoiding the fact that they didn’t do the work required to tip the scales toward a positive outcome or they have failed to see the fact that the human race is deeply interconnected and that they more often than not are forced by the objective flow of cause and effect to harvest the less-than-perfect actions of their fellow human beings.

Luck – both good and bad – is not a random process. Like the methylation pathways in our bodies, luck is nothing more than the expression of cause and effect. Luck can appear to be random as cause and effect can be incredibly complex, with multiple agents affecting multiple processes that can link seemingly unrelated events and people.

We are all related in one way or another. Whether you read this blog in a Yurt in Costa Rica, the Presidential Suite at the Plaza Hotel in New York or a dorm room at university, your thoughts, words and actions eventually end up impacting people and events that would appear on the surface to have nothing to do with one another.

Health is also the product of cause and effect. You can no longer bank on having health throughout your life by virtue of having “good” genes. Even those with the strongest constitutions are finding themselves challenges by the mounting toxicity in our world. The point is that if you are concerned to have better luck, you must pay closer attention to causation.

The wise man handles both the good in life as well as the bad with equanimity. After a string of “good luck” he doesn’t take the good things in life for granted, rest on his laurels or forget to continue to plant seeds of inspiration, encouragement and refinement. Similarly, after a bad day or worse a bad week he doesn’t resign himself to blame, complaint or dismay.

The understanding of cause and effect is the basis for a generative life. Without this foundation it is easy to fall prey to the many substandard explanations for why life is the way it is at any given point in time.

The decisions you make in your life affect more than you could ever imagine. Think big when you think. Think of others when you think. And most importantly, think when you’re supposed to think, for luck never made a man wise.

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