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Posts Tagged ‘blessing’

To Be a Pilgrim by John Bunyan

Who would true Valour see,
Let him come hither;
One here will Constant be,
Come Wind, come Weather.
There’s no Discouragement
Shall make him once Relent
His first avowed Intent,
To be a Pilgrim.

Whoso beset him round
With dismal Storys
Do but themselves Confound;
His Strength the more is.
No Lyon can him fright,
He’l with a Gyant Fight,
But he will have a right
To be a Pilgrim.

Hobgoblin, nor foul Fiend,
Can daunt his spirit:
He knows, he at the end
Shall Life Inherit.
Then Fancies fly away,
He’l fear not what men say,
He’l labour Night and Day
To be a pilgrim.

Life is a pilgrimage for those who chose to live and a slow march to the grave for those who prefer to simply exist. A pilgrimage, or a quest for a great moral purpose, is the aperture through which your significance is established. In fact, each day that you live is an opportunity to give expression to the blessings that surge forth from the fountain of life that you are.

As with any pilgrimage, obstacles and pitfalls must be met and overcome on a daily basis. Some days will be harder than others, but if you keep your heart and mind centered on the desire to reveal the highest and finest expression available to you, progress will be certain.

Do you see your life as purposeful journey filled with circumstances that serve as stepping stones or do you feel that you are wandering aimlessly through random experiences that lead nowhere? Where there is clarity of vision, you will flourish.

Your purpose isn’t something that you can cook up while sitting by a fire on a cool winter night. It isn’t something that you can learn from a book and neither is it something that another can outline for you. Your purpose is yours to discover and reveal.

Purpose is made known as you serve others. It is revealed organically. The more you focus on blessing and complementing those around you, the clearer your vision will become. Clarity of vision leads to clarity of purpose.

Take care that your pilgrimage does not end in mediocrity. Embrace life – both the good things and the bad – and make the most creative use of everything that comes your way. You deserve it and so does the world around you!

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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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You may have seen a “Rocky” movie or two in your life and if so, you may recall Rocky’s inspirational speech to his son in the 6th movie of the series, “Rocky Balboa.”

Rocky’s son was feeling the pressure of growing up in his father’s shadow in a life full of challenges. Rather than taking charge, his son felt victimized by the experience and was blaming everyone around him. Rather than let his son fall deeper into a state of powerlessness, Rocky pulled him up short, saying:

The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are, it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody, is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get it and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done ! Now if you know what you’re worth, then go out and get what you’re worth. But ya gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers, saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that, and that ain’t you!

Life is in part the product of every human being on earth. It is so easy to blame others for your lot in life, given the statistics. With 6+ billion people on earth it is, in a way, you against the world, and the odds are not stacked in your favor. With every person doing what is right in his own eyes, there is bound to be conflict, turmoil and competing visions for what life should or shouldn’t be like.

Grounds for quitting? Hardly! “What can be done,” you ask? Plenty!

Here are a few starting points that come to mind this morning:

  1. Accept the fact that life will have its ups and downs, no matter how perfectly you function. You harvest what others have sown more than you harvest your own planting.
  2. Never use the less-than-perfect words or actions of others as an excuse for not doing your best in every situation. Don’t let yourself off on a technicality.
  3. Approach all things with equanimity. Don’t just try hard with the things you like or want to do, give 100% in everything you do.
  4. Recognize blame as the sister of complaint. Neither is interested in resolution and both tend to exacerbate, rather than resolve, the problem.
  5. Every time you are inclined to blame, look instead for an opportunity to step up, to assume responsibility in some new way and to generate forward momentum.
  6. Lighten up. Levity, rightly used, can bring much needed perspective in areas that are weighed down by pessimism, doubt and fear.
  7. Don’t dwell on what you can’t do. Emphasize what you can do!
  8. Forgive yourself and others as many times as is necessary to clear the way for a new beginning.
  9. Let your friendships be ordered by virtue of a mutual centering in blessing, victory, and growth. Those that don’t align with these qualities will naturally dissolve and fade away (unless you remain “Friends” on Facebook).
  10. Never underestimate the bounty and resiliency of life. If you get knocked down seven times, then stand up eight.

Move forward when the time is right. Don’t miss the opportunity by wallowing in past failures, current blame or future fear.

Have a great day!

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Eastman's portrait of Longfellow in 1846

The heat wave we’ve been simmering under finally gave way yesterday and I couldn’t help but notice a sensation of the pressure being off in a more general sense. The shift was either precipitated by or perhaps just accompanied by summer rains and a soft overcast that stayed most of the day.

There is nothing like a good summer rain. As a nod to the lovely weather we’re experiencing I’d like to share another poem about summer with you, this time from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Rain in Summer

How beautiful is the rain!
After the dust and heat,
In the broad and fiery street,
In the narrow lane,
How beautiful is the rain!

How it clatters along the roofs,
Like the tramp of hoofs
How it gushes and struggles out
From the throat of the overflowing spout!

Across the window-pane
It pours and pours;
And swift and wide,
With a muddy tide,
Like a river down the gutter roars
The rain, the welcome rain!

The sick man from his chamber looks
At the twisted brooks;
He can feel the cool
Breath of each little pool;
His fevered brain
Grows calm again,
And he breathes a blessing on the rain.

From the neighboring school
Come the boys,
With more than their wonted noise
And commotion;
And down the wet streets
Sail their mimic fleets,
Till the treacherous pool
Ingulfs them in its whirling
And turbulent ocean.

In the country, on every side,
Where far and wide,
Like a leopard’s tawny and spotted hide,
Stretches the plain,
To the dry grass and the drier grain
How welcome is the rain!

In the furrowed land
The toilsome and patient oxen stand;
Lifting the yoke encumbered head,
With their dilated nostrils spread,
They silently inhale
The clover-scented gale,
And the vapors that arise
From the well-watered and smoking soil.
For this rest in the furrow after toil
Their large and lustrous eyes
Seem to thank the Lord,
More than man’s spoken word.

Near at hand,
From under the sheltering trees,
The farmer sees
His pastures, and his fields of grain,
As they bend their tops
To the numberless beating drops
Of the incessant rain.
He counts it as no sin
That he sees therein
Only his own thrift and gain.

These, and far more than these,
The Poet sees!
He can behold
Aquarius old
Walking the fenceless fields of air;
And from each ample fold
Of the clouds about him rolled
Scattering everywhere
The showery rain,
As the farmer scatters his grain.

He can behold
Things manifold
That have not yet been wholly told,–
Have not been wholly sung nor said.
For his thought, that never stops,
Follows the water-drops
Down to the graves of the dead,
Down through chasms and gulfs profound,
To the dreary fountain-head
Of lakes and rivers under ground;
And sees them, when the rain is done,
On the bridge of colors seven
Climbing up once more to heaven,
Opposite the setting sun.

Thus the Seer,
With vision clear,
Sees forms appear and disappear,
In the perpetual round of strange,
Mysterious change
From birth to death, from death to birth,
From earth to heaven, from heaven to earth;
Till glimpses more sublime
Of things, unseen before,
Unto his wondering eyes reveal
The Universe, as an immeasurable wheel
Turning forevermore
In the rapid and rushing river of Time.

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I had the opportunity several years ago to watch an episode of the sophisticated and intelligent animated show called “South Park.” It was a linguistic smorgasbord and I learned several phrases that I cannot repeat in polite company. The story line, however, tickled me.

The main characters of the show are foul-mouthed children who go through life highlighting the absurdities of the adult world, a raunchy version of Antoine de St. Exupery’s Little Prince. This episode revolved around a number of Keebler-like gnomes who rushed around stealing underwear from people’s bedroom dressers and occasionally from their bodies!

Bear with me, there is a valuable point here.

They stole them and hurriedly took them back to their workshop in a hollow tree. The boys decided to follow them after a particular raid and to their surprise, the workshop was thriving. Gnomes running around stacking the underwear in curious yet seemingly meaningful piles. One of the boys (I don’t recall which) asked the foreman “What the *&^$% are you doing in here, man?” To which, the head gnome replied: “Look on the wall Our business plan is simple!”

The camera pans up and over to a whiteboard on the wall that outlined their plan for success:

Phase 1: Collect underwear

Phase 2: ?

Phase 3: Profit

I had to laugh. How many times have you heard of someone who had a lofty goal in mind but no plan for achieving it? They sit at “A” with a vision for “C” and no clue whatsoever as to what must be done in “B” to make it happen!

The middle part typically involves hard work, focus and determination. Obstacles tend to present themselves in this phase and a successful crossing of this “no-man’s land” requires extraordinary diligence, patience and a sense of timing.

Consider my own experience with this battlefield – my several victories and many failures – I would like to share a few points that will hopefully save you time, money, and therapy! Here goes nothing:

1. Dare to dream. Think big, not impossible.

2. Believe in yourself. Enlarge the borders of your tent whenever and wherever required.

3. Believe in others. Invest in their success.

4. Recognize the oscillation between work and rest.

5. Never complain about anything. Complaint wastes potentially useful time and energy.

6. Keep a “to do” list and a “to not do” list. Don’t be your own worst enemy

7. Refrain from blame. Accept responsibility when it is yours to accept.

8. Never underestimate the power of thankfulness. A starting point is a starting point is a starting point.

9. Receive correction with equanimity, no matter who or what offers it or how it is delivered. Don’t let yourself off on a technicality.

10. Look for ways to be a blessing to others. Your fulfillment depends on your ability to assist others to theirs.

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Earlier this week I started reading Sidney Poitier’s Life Beyond Measure, Letters to My Great-Grandaughter and I recalled hearing Mr. Poitier’s beautiful honorary Oscar acceptance speech during the 74th Annual Academy Awards.  His humility, his appreciation for his fellows and his pride in his work made a lasting impression on me.  Mr. Poitier is truly a class act; impressive and stylish elegance flow from him like effervescent waters from a spring.

Thank you, Mr, Poitier!  I am reminded by your lovely words to take the time to speak eloquently, to choose my words carefully and not to be afraid of silence.  You have met the great challenges in your life with assurance, with power and with grace. 

My dear readers, remember these simple thoughts as you move through your day:

1.  Cursing and complaint destroy the delicate fabric of life. 

2.  Blessing and commendation are the cornerstones of creative achievement. 

3.  Lamentation and despair make for good poetry, but praise and cheerfulness make for a good life.

4.  Humility makes great men noble.

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The words you express are both the building blocks of your future and the footprints of your legacy.    Indeed, they are the branches upon which the ornaments of your life hang.  They color the world you center and give evidence of the center of your attention. 

What would be said of your life if the last words you spoke or penned were your very last?  Would you be as Scrooge, wishing through a bitter heart that you could go back and make amends, or would you be at peace, knowing your every syllable encouraged, inspired and blessed?

As Henry David Thoreau once said, “The only way to speak the Truth is to speak lovingly.”  Words to live by.

Join Benjamin Zander, a renowned conductor, teacher and speaker, as he discusses music and passion on TED.  Be sure to watch through to the end as Mr. Zander’s message is powerful and worth spreading.

Dare to make music with your words today, my friends.

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