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Posts Tagged ‘vision’

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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We are incredibly complex creatures. From macro to micro, our design is beautiful, intricate and marvelous to behold. I remember watching a short video in physics class in high school similar to the one below which showed the wave dynamics of a crowd of people:

People, when moving in an aggregated mass, tend to “go with the flow” in a way that modifies their approach to fulfilling their self-determined desires. Given that human beings are generally gregarious creatures, it follows that the longing to belong tend to bring them together into masses that move in concert with one another.

These masses are unified in purpose, interest or some other common denominator, and the individual actors tend to trade personal identity for group identity. The homogenized group may be as small as two, and if you’ve ever watched a young couple lose themselves in one another, you know what I mean. Scaled out significantly, you begin to see larger groupings such as races, religions, nationalities and so on, which are masses of people who recognize a common identity.

The rise of individualism is apparently a recent phenomenon, fueled by the great thinkers of the Renaissance. I imagine that this was only the rebirth of the idea and that individualism was generally accepted as a cosmology in earlier civilizations, but it is hard to imagine a grouping of people more tied to the notion of individualism, self-determination and self-realization than modern Western society.

We – especially in America – see ourselves as individuals capable of independent function. For many the independence is based on a freedom from the deterministic oversight of a Creator, for others it is based on the freedom from the unifying and directive control of a Church, while for some it is based on the relative sense of independence stemming from the freedoms promised by the Constitution that governs our Republic.

The roots of self-reliance, self-love, self-education are found in the soil of the notion of individualism. The rise of knowledge and the structural members of individualism – free will and choice – create the impression of self-determination, yet the physics of the matter tell a different tale. Aggregated individuals become groups and the groups take on a life of their own that in many both obvious and subtle ways undermines and dilutes the potent and catalytic influence of free will and choice.

The net result is that in many groups there are individuals who would fight to the death to defend their right to individual expression, yet they more often than not do so on the basis of the dictates of a larger group, rather than at their own behest. The perception of individualism, in my observation, is more important for the large majority of people than the reality of its manifestation.

A question I would love to realize the answer to is this: is there a unifying impulse or compulsion inherent in life itself that better heard and heeded would create a more harmonious and productive whole? Individual actors, acting primarily on the basis of unadulterated self-interest, produce in large measure the world we have today. Everything else in the observable world seems to function according to a more natural, deeper, invisible impulse.

Even our own complex, highly organized physical and energetic bodies seem to be guided by something that we haven’t sufficiently understood or explained to date. We have compiled a mountain of knowledge over the last six centuries, but what really have we learned about how to live better, more productive, happier, more harmonious lives? Precious little in my estimation.

In a world where everyone simply does what is right in his or her own eyes, without respect to a deeper unifying influence, the lowest common denominators – fear and greed – reign supreme. These base influences not only seem inescapable, they seem normal and are determined by social and physical science alike to be natural. But are they?

I don’t think that we can conclude, without reasonable doubt, that we do not have an ability to perceive and to move in concert with a higher common denominator. As human beings we tend to focus on that which we can see and we consequently explain away and dismiss, often with prejudice, that which we cannot see or adequately explain through the lens of our present consciousness. Call it group bias, fanaticism, prejudice or whatever you’d like, limited thinking leads to limited function and limited function constricts vision and understanding.

My own thinking on the matter at present is that individualism and determinism are not opposites, but instead complements. Free will and choice are vital to right function, but I do not feel that it is safe to conclude that they operate without respect to some other coordinating influence.

What about you? Another cup of coffee or tea might be in order at this point before you answer… Have a great day!

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Photo by Rick Curwen

I spent much of my youth on the soccer field, first as a defender and then as a midfielder. While I learned many lessons during the first twenty-five years, I can say that one of the most valuable lessons I took home with me came from an English coach who taught a summer camp sponsored by Umbro. He yelled, demonstrated and shouted over and over again about the importance of playing to open space.

 

Young children learning to play soccer tend to swarm around the ball, like bees in summer. The players crowd around one another and subsequently miss the opportunities to spread the game out, to pass the ball and to build successively toward the opponent’s goal. It’s cute, but inefficient.

A good coach will carefully and progressively encourage his or her players to a larger vision, one that encompasses the entirety of the playing field at all times. The first injunction I recall is to keep my head up, to scan the field and to resist the temptation to stare at the ball. It’s amazing what opens up when you really understand this direction! You see around you, you gain perspective where others remain bound by the myopic viewpoint and you become an agent of surprise rather than its unwitting victim.

The best players, you will know note, rarely, if ever look at the ball. They develop a sense for its whereabouts which is largely dependent upon their deliberately maintained awareness of the big picture. When you watch the big picture you have the opportunity to see that the events of the future cast the shadows on the present. They are much more likely to be in the “right place at the right time,” not so much by serendipity, but by design. They always seem to appear magically in open space that no one else had recognized or they become playmakers by sending the ball into open space within reach of a teammate who is in position to outmaneuver his opponent.

The same is true in the living of life. Whether or not you see yourself as a “big picture” thinker, everyone can benefit from a spoonful of big picture every now and again. Perspective management is fundamental to success in any field and without it, those involved can quickly and easily lose the way.

How do you “keep your head up” in the world you center? Are there resources you draw on, such as people, periodicals, prayer or pace changes, to broaden your perspective? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Keeping your head up allows you to develop an uncommon vision. This vision makes “playing to open space” possible. The bulk of opportunity lies dormant in open space. To fail on this principle is to limit your success in life!

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“Change is inevitable – except from the vending machine.” ~ Robert C. Gallagher

Of all of the assumptions that stop people from thinking clearly and from moving forward, there is one that stands as a giant amongst grasshoppers. I am careful to point it out as knowledge of this basic life principle is a double-edged sword. Used correctly, this principle is the basis of rapid and graceful forward movement; used incorrectly it becomes the perfect rationalization for not moving forward at all.

The principle of which I speak is related to change. As we’ve discussed previously, change is inevitable. The bits and pieces that make up matter are constantly in flux. Your body, for instance, is constantly exchanging atoms with your surrounding environment. Millions are incorporated into your body and millions are released into the air through your breath, your dead skin cells, your hair follicles, etc., every day.

Likewise, circumstances are constantly in flux. Every decision made by every human being every second adds a new variable into the mix, and like snowflakes, no two moments are ever alike. Political leaders come and go. Nations come and go. Even great civilizations come and go given enough time.

Now here’s where most people get tripped up. You can have a constant, or perhaps better put, eternal vision for the purpose of your life, even though everything else around you changes with dizzying regularity. Let’s say that your vision for your life is to be a blessing, for instance. That vision can stay in tact, no matter what else changes around you.

When your sense of purpose is clear, you have far less “needy” attachment to the things and people around you on the one hand, and a far greater sense of the value of the things and people around you on the other. Far too many people fall prey to the tendency to be identified with the forms of their lives, their material possessions, their relationships, the money they have in the bank, their friendships, etc. and they end up using the phrase “I have…” to answer the question “I am…”

Such a mistake is costly and frequently painful, for as we mentioned, the world around you is constantly in flux in ways that are far beyond your control. The sooner that you learn that you cannot control everything in your world the more heartaches you save yourself in the long run.

Now I mentioned that this knowledge is a double-edged sword and I am sure that you can imagine why. If you know that everything changes it is very easy to fall into the mindset that says “Well, then, it doesn’t really matter what I do then. It all changes and I have no control.” This laissez-faire approach has consumed many people throughout history and it unfortunately constrains to desolation and bitterness.

What can be done with this understanding? Well, first of all, embracing this principle allows your heart to come to rest. You recognize that things change, that you can have an effect while they are in your proximity, that you can appreciate what you have while you have it and that you can maintain your vision and sense of purpose no matter what your circumstances look like at any given point in time.

If your sense of self, your clarity of vision and purpose is driven by the world around you, you will be blown and tossed like a ship in a storm. Conversely, if you come to the point where you can clearly articulate your vision for your life’s purpose, you can rejoice in the fact that you have found the fountain of stability that has been available to you all the way along.

Where there is clarity of purpose, you will flourish. Your fortunes may come and go, your friends and family may oscillate near and far, but you will thrive and prosper in the midst of a constantly changing world.

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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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“The measure of a man is the way he bears up under misfortune.” ~ Plutarch

When you come across a patch of bad luck, do you tend to blame, complain, regret, disdain or collapse in futility? If so, you are likely missing a HUGE opportunity.

How you handle misfortune sows the seeds for the next harvest. Sure, there are other people than can affect your future, but if we narrow the focus to your part in the world that you center, how you handle yourself today – whether it is a good day, a bad day or something in the middle – plants seeds that will sprout in the days, weeks, months and years to come.

Maintaining your nobility, your composure and your perspective while in a valley in your life is the mark of a wise man or woman. When in a valley, you never know what lies beyond, for lack of vision. The worst thing to do is to despair, to curse the gods or the evolutionary forces that created you, for decisions, major changes, etc., are far better made from a peak than from a valley.

I’ve seen many people who, under the pressure of temporary (for all things are) misfortune, take unwarranted or misguided action. Such action invariably leads to regret. Likewise, action without vision tends to lead the doer down a maze from which escape is unlikely.

An experienced wilderness guide will move first to a location that affords vision, such as a hilltop or a bluff, before deciding on a course of action. So too should you. If you are in a valley, take whatever time you have available to gain perspective and thereby, vision.

Don’t go to a friend or relative who will commiserate, instead, go to someone who is willing to say the hard things to you. Don’t seek out those who will simply lend you an ear or a shoulder to cry on, find those who you know will help you gain perspective on the matter, on your life.

Life is too short to sit around bemoaning the fact that you could have one if you weren’t so unlucky in life or in love. Grab it by the horns and rise up! Seek those who will complement you in this regard, not those who will agree that life is miserable and that you just have to make the best of it.

Life can be vibrant, joyous, expansive and new if you let it. Staleness comes from a refusal to receive inspiration while freshness comes from a willingness to let life move in you and through you. It’s really up to you!

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Dyslexic as a child and a poor student who left school at the age of 15, Richard Branson now runs the largest group of private companies in Europe.  With annual revenues topping $25 billion, Branson’s family of “Virgin” companies look to turn conventional business wisdom on its head.

Business has grown to be one of the most powerful forces on the planet.  Its effect touches virtually every sphere of human activity; business has the potential to improve people’s lives worldwide.  Likewise, business leaders have the opportunity to make a tremendous difference in the world.

Business leadership is not for the faint of heart.  A business leader is responsible for the lives and wellbeing of others and to varying degrees, for the wellbeing of his or her community, nation and the world.  As such, anyone interested in providing leadership in a business could benefit from cultivating the following qualities of character:

1.  Humility – once this is lost, all is lost

2.  Decisiveness – every choice involves risk, those who are decisive are comfortable with risk

3.  Equanimity – keeping your cool under pressure allows perspective; fanaticism of any kind is unsustainable

4.  Courage – leadership involves standing in the spotlight…get used to scrutiny, criticism and praise

5.  Compassion – great leaders care deeply about others; leaders who understand others can help them grow more effectively

6.   Curiosity – it may have killed the cat, but curiosity is the hallmark of today’s leader

7.  Resourcefulness – no matter how great the base of resources, there is always a need for wise and creative stewardship

8.  Vision – where there is no vision, leaders and their organizations perish

Business is about people and value.  Sustainable businesses find ways to add value and to meet people’s needs and business leaders must lead from the back and from the front. 

We live in an era of unprecedented transformation and disquiet and leaders who thrive in this environment must be fast adapters.  The way business is done has changed significantly over the last 24 months and as we considered yesterday, today’s problems require today’s solutions.     

When you have the time (sorry this one is roughly 30 minutes), I recommend that you listen to Chris Anderson’s interview of Richard Branson at TED 2007:

Have a wonderful day!

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