resolutions.

I’m not one for resolutions. When we back ourselves into a corner with a binary win or lose, succeed or fail, endure or quit then we set ourselves up for unnecessary pressure and unattainable goals. Life is not black or white, no matter how much we’d like it to be. It is an infinite mix of colors and subtle shades that are seen differently by each and every participant or observer. It’s messy and beautiful. So I will make no resolutions this day. I will make no definite unyielding commitments. I will be kinder to myself than that… And more understanding. And more realistic. And wiser.
But what we all can, and should do is try. Every day we have the ability to see who we have been – to reflect on our decisions, good or bad. To think about how we were when we were at our best… And then we can choose to take this new day that has arrived and spend it trying to be even better.
We won’t always accomplish that objective. But I bet if we put our minds to it, we will happily surprise and amaze ourselves more often than not. More importantly, a quiet and subtle change will happen. A change like the seasons. We won’t see a difference between one day and the next, but one day we’ll find ourselves in the middle of a warm summer of happiness, and we’ll marvel at the contrast between this and our cold and nearly forgotten winter. Each little try was a tiny step of growth that will have brought us there.

choice & perspective.

Dear you,

Advice is an interesting thing. It may be as worthless as a fleeting cliché or it might be your philosophical key to unimaginable personal success. There’s no way to know beforehand. You only find out if you follow it. That’s where great advice gains its value. Though given for free, it becomes priceless.

So clearly what you do with what I’m about to share is entirely up to you. You get to live however you choose.

That, in fact, is actually my advice.

Live however you choose.

Seems simple, huh? No? Seems impossible? It is as simple or complex as we make it. You can see life as something that happens to you, and is a result of luck, or you can decide that every outcome and moment is a result of your very own decisions, actions, behaviors, and perspectives.

Our struggles, our pain, our frustration, our happiness, joy and sorrow… They are all our own personal creations. We may not choose every aspect of our lives. We may not have control over everything (though we have much more than we often believe). We do, however, get to decide how we want to respond and react to those things.

Let me give you an example. Let’s say your person of interest does not reciprocate your feelings. Ouch, right? Now what? Well, you’re kind of sad about it… But wait! Let’s stop and think for a moment! Do you HAVE to be sad about it? If you want to be sad, then be sad. That’s okay. It’s a human feeling, and sometimes we need to embrace every feel to experience all of life. But if you don’t? Well, then… We have some choices to make.

“Do I want that person to become interested?” Well, the first means of being attractive is likely to be smiling, happy, independent, exciting and vibrant, and probably not sad and mopey. Sad and mopey is usually not sexy.

But! “Is it worth feeling sad about a person who doesn’t see how remarkable and lovable you are?” Yes, yes… That person has nice teeth, and really cool hair. Got it. Neither of those will sustain you indefinitely. Be honest! No they won’t! If that person can’t see how truly amazing you are they’re maybe a little too obtuse or lack the intellectual horsepower to be worthy of you. In fact, let me tell you this: the right person for you – the one that will really make you happy – is the one who enters your life and chooses to stay. It’s not the person you hunt, trap, or chain down… But that’s another conversation.

“Okay, so so maybe that person isn’t quite worth it. Fine. I’m still sad. Now what?” Well this is the tough part. You may have to wrestle with it a bit. Why are you sad? Ask yourself that. Ask it again. Ask it again and again until you can start being really honest in how you answer. Ask it until you really know and understand your sadness. And then find the choices… Because ultimately you get to choose to be sad or not. Believe it or not, you do.

Maybe in your digging, you find that it’s not this person at all. It’s that you’re afraid you’ll always be alone. Then ask yourself, “Why is that so terrible?” There are so many good things about being independent and having to answer to no one! You are free to be with whomever you like, wherever you like, whenever you like!  No tethers! No strings!

You may find it’s because you are afraid you’re really ugly. Then ask yourself, “What is beauty, really, other than a social construct?” It’s an made up thing, so why can’t you make up your own mind about it, and decide that the absolute pinnacle of beauty is you – your skin, your bones, and the exact color of your eyes?

You may find it’s because of something else entirely, but the one thing that I know is that eventually if you keep digging you’ll discover the choice – your choice – about your perspective.

That’s just one example. There are more than I could fathom. We get to choose how we feel about how much money we have, or the place that we sleep, or our bodies, or the things that we own, or the people in our lives. If we could only remember that it’s up to us and nobody else. And then when we’ve decided that there are some things we choose to not be content with, we can then choose to change them, whether it takes a moment or a thousand years.

Ultimately that’s what it comes down to. Every feel we feel is a result of our perspective. When we analyze it enough, we can find the places where we get to choose to hold on to that perspective or to let it go… And trust me. Most times it’s scary or uncomfortable to let it go. But let it go. It’s probably scary the first time a bird spreads its wings and jumps into the sky too.

Good luck! – JUST KIDDING!!! – Good choices!

Love,
- m

ten.

Ten commandments!
 
I grew up going to church on Sundays. We were Protestant (if that matters to you). We were told all the stories. The dos and don’ts. We were told what to believe, what was right, and what was wrong. Eventually I became me. I changed, and I decided to think for myself. 
 
Today I am not religious. I do not have faith in things that fly in the face of reason and science and logic and common sense. I do not think that it is right or wise to adhere to the dogma of blind faith, or to judge, hate or seek violence against anyone who does not believe the way I do. I wish we all took that stance.
 
This is not a judgement of religion, however, however, or a plea for the world to abandon all faith. Everybody needs something to sustain themselves when they face the toughest challenges in life. My faith is in myself, but I do not condemn anybody for having faith in something or someone else… But when your faith demands that you treat another with anything less than compassion, love, tolerance, and acceptance, you might want to examine whether it is really worth holding on to.
 
I believe in no god who would condemn people for loving each other regardless of who they are, the color of their skin, their genders, their belief, the years they’ve lived, their cultures, or practically any other reason… A god that opposes love is no god at all in my book.
 
There are places on this planet at this very moment where these words I’ve just written are not only considered blasphemous, but are justifiable grounds for my swift execution. Just for words! So many other people might read that and righteously declare that this is why we must fight against such people until we’ve wiped them from the face of the earth… And they are no better.
 
But what does one do without the anchor of religion? Am I suddenly a hedonistic heathen, bent on pleasure for myself at the expense of others? Why not take what I want from those who are weaker? Why not lie? Why not cheat? Why not murder when the whim strikes me? Those are the questions that keep so many clinging to the remnants of belief in a deity… The fear of the void that would be left without one, and the fear of the chaos that might fill it.
 
But those fears are unfounded and as childish as a fear of made-up monsters. I can assure you that I have committed no heinous crimes because of my own lack of religion… Quite the opposite. We are social creatures, unable to survive alone. We are part of everything else on this little planet, and so anything we do to it, we do to ourselves. I try harder than ever before to be what I think might be a good person, and to do good things. I do not lie. I do not hate. I try to be tolerant, and fair, and just.
 
But what guides me? Where are my stone tablets full of rules?
 
They’re ingrained… Natural. A true moral compass of your own will always serve you better than a moral map written somebody else.
 
Still… after asking myself those questions, I suppose I could compile a possible list of my personal ten commandments. Maybe they’re not perfect. Maybe they’re repetitive, or maybe they’re incomplete. Maybe they are true for just today… Or maybe they make more sense than thirty five hundred years of rigid fearful doctrine full of forbidden dont’s and guilt. I’ll let you decide. 
 
Here goes:
 
Love freely
Do not hate
Be selfless
Forgive
Be honest
Seek enlightenment
Never stop learning
Be present
Be simple
Live fully
 
I think if I could live by those guiding principals I would likely leave the world just a bit better than I found it. But maybe you have an even better list. (You are, after all, remarkable). Share it! Maybe you’ll launch a new religion of sorts. A new set of beliefs… One that brings us all closer together. One that guides us to take care of each other and ourselves. 

Love isn’t a day.

Love isn’t a day.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not much a fan of holidays. Why celebrate our dads only on fathers’ day? Why celebrate moms only on mothers’ day? Give thanks only on thanksgiving? Bosses? Secretaries? Presidents? Veterans? Why does Martin Luther King, Jr. get a day, but not Louis Pasteur or Alexander Flemming? Or Ghandi? Or Einstein? Or Newton?

Why is there no universal global celebration for music? Or philanthropy? Why is there one world-wide “New Year’s” celebration when time is just a made up thing?

Why did we have to steal a holiday named for some dead guy with serious ophidiophobia to celebrate love? Why isn’t there just a world wide “love day”?

Most of all, why do we even need an arbitrary day to remind us – even obligate us – to tell the people we love how we feel? Let me tell you now… If you feel that way about somebody and you don’t tell that person you love them all the time – and make sure they both know and feel it – you’re going about love all wrong.

I’m sure there are plenty of people who would tell me I’ve got it all mixed up and backwards. They’d say, “Valentine’s day is a great excuse to show your love even more! …An extra little push to tell people that they are special to you… That they have your heart… That you love them!”

I disagree. You don’t need an excuse. Don’t wait for one. Valentines day is over for the year. Are you going to wait another whole year for every commercial on the internet, radio, television and newspaper to tell you again that it’s time to say, “I love you” again? Are you going to allow them to pressure you or make you feel broken and foolish if you don’t have a somebody else?

I hope not. I hope that you are somebody who loves because they want to love, and lets love come any time it’s right. I hope you love every day, and not just one out of every year. I hope that every single day you feel the love that exists for you. Because it does exist just as surely as your beating heart… and you deserve every bit of it.

fearlessness.

Fearlessness, trust, and caring.
Those are some magical words. More than words… Traits. Behaviors. States of being. Secret and powerful incantations… Let me explain.
We had a meeting at work about a week ago, and during part of it, we talked about one of our primary job responsibilities, and some of us were tasked with figuring out why we’re not always great at it. We assumed that maybe we needed to clarify the expectations, so we started to list all the things that we should be doing while in that role… All the tasks, and priorities. It quickly dawned on us that every single person in the room already knew that list. They knew exactly what they were supposed to be doing, but that somehow wasn’t enough to get them to do it.
Why not? That’s the question that got us to something new. When we honestly asked ourselves that question we found out that there were three things that ultimately get in the way of being great.
Fear. So many people are afraid. They won’t admit it, because of the stigma that the word brings. Fear implies weakness and lack of control. Nobody wants to be labeled that way, but want it or not we all – every one of us – have fear. You can call it something else if you like. Sometimes it’s the obvious “I’m-being-chased-by-a-wolf” terror that anybody would know, but most often it’s something different. Something hard to recognize. It’s that quiet whisper of doubt. The small vibration of anxiety. The subtle absence of confidence. It’s just feeling uncomfortable.
We avoid those feelings. Maybe there’s a reason for that. We evolved that way. Doing something uncomfortable could be DANGEROUS! It could get us HURT or KILLED! RUN!!! …But the only times we ever learn, develop, grow, or get better is when we face those feelings and have the courage to say “No… I will not run.” We take a breath and embrace the challenge before us. We might get laughed at. Or ridiculed. Or bruised. Or sore. But we will learn and grow.
We need to stand up to our fears, big or small, and tell them they don’t get to hold us back. It’s been said that courage is not the absence of fear… it is the triumph over it.
Trust. We live in a world that constantly erodes our trust in others. It’s been built that way. So many people are overselling themselves. So many products and services are made out to be much more than they actually are. We can’t trust a friendly “hello” on the street, because it’s so often followed by a hustle of some kind. There are countless ways to be taken advantage of, and even the most savvy and weary among us have been lied to and let down again and again. We lose our trust in others.
But that’s just giving up. Giving up on trust is the same as throwing your hands up and resigning yourself to live a sad, guarded, cynical and lonely life. Who’d like to sign up for that? No? No… because it’s really is not a life at all. We need to begin with trust. No matter how many times the world might try to break our trust, we need to protect it and keep it alive. I’m not advocating gullibility, or naiveté… they’re not the same. Trust is knowing that others might fail us, and often will, but it’s making sure that we first give them at least a chance to prove otherwise. It’s still believing that if we trust in somebody to do what they should, they might just do exactly that.
Care. It is there or it isn’t. You care about what you are doing, or you don’t. People will often work tremendously hard convince themselves that they care… they rationalize that what they’re doing and the way they are doing it is important to them. That’s a poor superficial gilding that flakes and peels when put to the test. For those who are deceiving themselves, the effort it takes to keep up appearances makes work harder than it ever should be, and our self-deception makes this one of the toughest behaviors to change.
But when you really ask yourself the right questions and don’t take bullshit in the replies you get, you’ll know where you stand. Do you put everything into what you’re doing? Are you completely present? Does what you are responsible for take priority over anything else that’s tugging on your attention? Do you really believe it’s worth it? …So much that you’ll make yourself uncomfortable to get better at what you do? If you can’t answer yes to all of those, then stop. You have a decision to make. You can choose to change… Search yourself, and recommit yourself to your work. It will take effort, but it will make a tremendous difference. Or you can choose to stop for good… admit that this is not what you love and give yourself the chance to find something new that does let you say yes to all of those questions. There’s a third choice, of course. You can do nothing, but we’re not going to discuss that one, because once you know you don’t care, anything less than change is unacceptable. You’re better than that. When you truly care, you know it through to your bones. You cross a threshold and a magic thing happens where work actually isn’t work at all.
Be fearless. Trust. Care. We’ve made a great deal of progress since we’ve begun to use those filters. We keep asking ourselves if we are being fearless… If we are trusting the people we’re with… If we really care. We keep pushing ourselves to be able to honestly say yes. And something unexpected has happened. We made another discovery (one that you have probably already figured out at this point): Fearlessness, trust, and caring doesn’t just apply to the role we started out trying to improve… it applies to everything you and I do. Everybody knows what they should be doing at work or in their lives in general, but few people actually always do that. Why not?
Think about where you are and what you are doing. Ask yourself: Am I being fearless? Do I trust? Do I care? Try and see… I dare you!

What is the cost of kindness?

What is the cost of kindness?

It’s free. It takes nothing away from us. But so many treat it like the most hoard-worthy commodity the world has ever seen.

I watch people act so selfishly all the time… “I’m grumpy, so I’ll act that way and I don’t care what it does to you. I’m angry, and it doesn’t matter if you made me that way, I’m going to take it out on you and everybody else I encounter. I’m sad, so I’ll bring you down too. I’m entitled, so I don’t care if I walk on you.”

So many people should be carrying signs to tell these things to the world – signs hand-lettered in their own sad and miserable script. Maybe if they had to do that they’d reflect and reconsider their behaviors. But perhaps that’s an even greater problem – the real problem. So many people walk around blind. They would be shocked if they were able to watch themselves from the outside – horrified to see themselves reflected in the mirror of truth.

I’m glad you’re not like that.

You are one of the few remarkable people who care about the world and what they do to it… Thank you for that. For being a beacon of kindness in an obliviously unkind world. Sometimes your kindness will be a single star twinkling behind a cloudy night sky, maybe obscured and changing little…. But every once in a while you kindness will be like a tiny match, struck bright and igniting some ready tinder, starting a fire that warms everybody within its cosy reach.

Either way, don’t give up. Shine! Even when the world makes you feel absurd to shine… Shine brighter! Even if all you can muster is a dim little spark, never forget that it means something to be kind. Somebody else feels it. They’ll reflect it at another somebody, and maybe even back at you.

Kindness matters… And because you have the choice to be kind or unkind, and you choose kind… You matter.

be careful what you keep.

It’s interesting how many things in our lives can be a sort of window into who we really are… our deeper personalities, our quirks, our passions, our faults. I can think of several at the moment. The inside of your car (if you have one). Your bag. Your wallet. Your computer desktop. Your locker (again, if you have one). Your bedroom… and of course, your closet. Is it perfectly organized and carefully sorted? It it a chaotic mess? Is it full beyond it’s capacity? Is it empty? Is it comfortable or strict? Is it flamboyant or minimal? So much can be gleaned from such a small part of our world.

My closet is seldom this well organized. It just got a bit of an overhaul today. I boxed up some items that I didn’t need in there… some I’ll say goodbye to and send away. Some I’ll visit again someday in the future.

It reminds me of the rest of our lives. We have old favorite friends that we would never part with no matter what, but we may not see them every day. We have others that were just what we needed at the time and had a good run, but have become passé because they were a little too trendy to last. Some we barely knew… that just didn’t ever click.

Be careful what you keep. We all have too much. Really. We do. The population of this closet of mine could be culled again by a good third – probably twice that – and I wouldn’t miss a thing. What we own also owns us. It’s a terrible struggle in this consumerist culture in which we live, but I think that he or she who owns the least often wins. That least must meet the individual’s basic needs, of course, but to have just enough and not a bit more? That seems the perfect balance. It means freedom, selflessness, generosity, and a sort of imperviousness toward loss.