The path to Success is not a Straight Line

Anyone who’s had any amount of success in a venture knows this singular truth… a successful outcome for any project never looks like you envisioned it in the beginning. The path to success rarely runs according to the plan. The people you wanted to be involved with when you started executing never end up participating just the way you had hoped. The value that you ended up bringing to the world never looks like the value you had to offer in the beginning. And yet you have success all the same and it doesn’t matter that you took a winding path. The reason for the windy path is two-fold. First, life is never how we plan it. There are always variables that we never anticipate, no matter how long we brainstorm in our planning sessions. But, that doesn’t mean that we can’t choose to enjoy the creative process. Sometimes the unforeseen challenges that come up along the way lead us to our greatest innovations. Second, The Divine has way more in store for us than we have in store for ourselves. We can see clearly a few steps out on a great day. Some days, we can’t even see where our feet will land next. But The Divine sees further down the road than we could imagine and I believe takes great delight in throwing some curves and surprises our way. It’s these unplanned events, challenges and obstacles that hone our skills and strengthen us for even greater adventures and success in the future.

Thomas Edison had thousands of experiments that did not produce as he had hoped. However, he chose to see each of those as a stepping on his climb to success. Even the great plant fire of 1914, which destroyed half of his buildings, did not deter him. Instead, he saw it as an opportunity to rebuild a better one.

When you set your mark on creating something there will be unseen setbacks, course corrections, and help along the way. The cool thing is that these setbacks usually offer us the opportunity to tweak our work and humanity benefits from it in ways we never would have imagined. It’s the turns and obstacles in the road that refine and strengthen the value that we have to offer the world.

This will also test our resolve. ‘Are you truly called to do this?’ That’s a question you’ll end up asking yourself time and time again. But the difference with the successful person is that regardless of the twists and turns, they continue moving forward because they are convinced that the next breakthrough is directly on the other side of the seemingly impossible task that lies in front of them. So they make adjustments, put their head down, and continue the work they started. We are always adjusting our plan along the way.

There will be times when it seems like the people who were most interested in being involved in your project are no longer interested. But this isn’t always the case. That’s the lizard brain freaking you out. Sometimes people are just busy and it doesn’t mean they’ve forgotten you and your work. Other times they’ll back out completely for whatever reason they might have. It doesn’t matter. You’re going to keep moving on anyways. Because one things for sure… If you do stop, lose heart completely, and give up, there will be no successful windy path to look back on with gratitude and a sense of accomplishment.

"You have to take risks. We will only understand the miracle of life fully when we allow the unexpected to happen." - Paul Coelho

"If you so choose, even the unexpected setbacks can bring new and positive possibilities. If you so choose, you can find value and fulfillment in every circumstance." - Ralph Marston

"Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm." - Winston Churchill

a boy and a girl

Every man has a little boy inside of him that desires to be seen for who he is and to hear that he is enough. Likewise, every woman has a little girl inside of her that wants to be seen for who she truly is and deemed beautiful. I believe this. No amount of success, fame, sex, makeup, plastic surgery, cocaine, alcohol, money, recognition, travel, gambling, porn, reading, or knowledge will convince you that you are enough or that you are valued or that you are loved if you don’t value and love yourself. It just won’t. As John Eldredge wrote, “It’s like asking a pearl to give you a buffalo. It’s like asking a field of wildflowers to give you a ’57 Chevy.” It’s not going to happen

You just won’t believe it and therefore it will never be enough. The man that tells you you’re beautiful over and over again won’t be enough if you don’t believe deep in your heart that you are beautiful. If the little girl within you doesn’t accept that and believe it she will come up with the most ridiculous ways in which the man in her life will have to prove it. And then when he does prove it by jumping through an assortment of hoops and running the emotional obstacle course… she’ll just come up with a new one. Because she doesn’t believe it.

In the same way, no matter what kind of success a man has in his career or how much ‘stuff’ he has, he will always want for more if the little boy inside him doesn’t believe that he has what it takes or that he is enough just the way he is. He will continually keep accumulating cars, employees, sexual encounters, etc., with an insatiable appetite because he’s always trying to prove that to himself.

But when you believe that you are enough, that you have nothing to prove to yourself, you gain a sense of freedom that is empowering. It frees you to pursue those purposes that you were created for. It’s a different kind of ‘drive’ and a different way of being. And you can always recognize the person who accepts themself with two very distinct characteristics.

First, they aren’t always trying to win an argument. They don’t care so much about arguments because they are content with the truth that they’ve realized. They aren’t compelled to win because they are right. They are more interested in connecting with other human beings on a deep level and they are all about doing the work they’ve been called to do. Creating is extremely important to them and they’d rather do that than argue with someone. Secondly, their work produces value that benefits others. It doesn’t matter if their work is creating music, repairing cars, or styling hair. It’s done in such a fashion and with such passion that other’s lives are made better because of it.

If you don’t believe that you’re worth being ‘seen’, no amount of overtures will convince you otherwise.. People will break themselves against you trying to convince you that you are loved for who you are. If you don’t believe that you are enough, that you have what it takes, nothing you do or accumulate will prove it to you. You will always feel a sense of emptiness that you seemingly just can’t put your finger on.

Do you have that haunting emptiness? Have your choices repeatedly left you wondering why you do what you do, compulsively at times? Consider that a shift may need to occur where you begin accepting and loving yourself just the way you were created. Give that little girl or boy the greatest gift you possibly could… a little bit of grace.

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"To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance." - Oscar Wilde

"When a woman becomes her own best friend life is easier." - Diane Von Furstenberg

"And above all things, never think that you're not good enough yourself. A man should never think that. My belief is that in life people will take you at your own reckoning." - Isaac Asimov

"It's not vanity to feel you have a right to be beautiful. Women are taught to feel we're not good enough, that we must live up to someone else's standards. But my aim is to cherish myself as I am." - Elle Macpherson

Fear and how it's Good for You

Deep down I thought I was going to die. And when I tell you why, you are going to think it’s the most ridiculous thought ever. In the fall of 2013 I attended Storyline Conference in Nashville, TN. I had been interested in attending for a while now and a few of my close friends from around the country were attending and sent an invitation that I gladly accepted. The main point of the conference is that if you want to live the kind of life that you dream about, you have to get clarity, focus, and execute a plan. You basically write the kind of life you want and then you go about the business of living that life.

It was a remarkable conference that moved me on several levels. It included a workbook with incredibly helpful exercises in it that I started on before I left the conference. I flew through that puppy… until I got towards the end. One of the themes is that every good story that you read, watch, or hear involves overcoming some sort of conflict. You know, the hero has to slay the dragon, defeat the evil mage, and climb the tower to set himself and/or someone else free. But when I got to the part where I had to begin imagining and pointing out the potential conflict in the kind of story I wanted to live, I stopped. I think at that point I had experienced enough conflict within the last 3 years that I didn’t even want to begin imagining potential future conflicts. I felt like if I continued on I would die. It made no sense to me at the time, but that’s how I felt.

My good friend, known as ‘Science Mike’, explained a basic working knowledge of the brain and I’ve written about it before. The most ancient part of the human brain is the limbic system. Our feelings of fear, anger, and aggression originate there. The limbic system is fast and ruthless and necessary for survival. Thanks to its speed and efficiency, the limbic system can make judgments and decisions much faster than the newer hardware in our heads. Our brains are like a muscle–what we use most gets strongest. Negative, critical, fearful or aggressive thinking tends to strengthen the response of our limbic system in our daily living. It is exactly this part of our brain that our species has used for survival for as long as we’ve been around. Surviving the climate, predators, warring tribes and nations, difficult terrain, and… well you get the point, things that could kill us. A baby will cry as soon as it sense’s that it’s hungry or cold. In their limbic system, they know, that if no one comes to care for them, they will die.

More recent structures in human brains, like the neocortex and the anterior cingulate cortex, are the parts of our brains that produce love, compassion, empathy and our more developed thought processes.  Now, the limbic system is much more primitive and differentiates fear in a more crude manor than the neocortext. It doesn’t always differentiate between fears. Fear is fear is fear. So when your fear of rejection pops up because you’re wondering if he’s interested in you or not, the limbic system may respond to that fear as a life and death situation, causing copious amounts of stress.

5 months passed and the next Storyline conference arrived in San Diego. I love San Diego and have several friends that have lived there for years now. I didn’t go, but I did connect with friends and strangers on twitter who were headed that way. I just wanted to send them words of encouragement and maybe even vicariously experience a piece of that again. After the conference I was invited to a private facebook group to follow up on the progress of working through the materials. I immediately went back to the beginning of the book and enjoyed honing in my story with much more clarity and focus the second time around. Then, I got to the same spot which I encountered my fears and paralysis last time and once more I stopped. There was that feeling that I was going to die… again. I walked away this time with no intention of returning. Until I had a conversation with a new friend who attended the San Diego conference and probed a little when I mentioned it. There were several things that I couldn’t shake from that conversation, and one of them was wondering what it would take for me to move past my fear and further create the story that I wanted to continue to live into.

And then it hit me. I’m still alive. I’ve faced fears similar to this before and I had survived. My fears resulting from merely thinking about conflict could not kill me. I would not die from my thoughts or feelings. So with that small measure of courage, I returned to my work and pressed through. Now I’m able to complete my plan that I’ve already begun living. It is immeasurably freeing to know that I’m not shackled by this particular fear at this particular time.

What thoughts paralyze you? What new changes have you put off planning simply because you were afraid to even think about them? The fear will return. It’s wired into our limbic system. But, I can promise you this, if you move forward in the face of fear, you will not die.

"What is needed, rather than running away or controlling or suppressing or any other resistance, is understanding fear; that means, watch it, learn about it, come directly into contact with it. We are to learn about fear, not how to escape from it." - Jiddu Krishnamurti

"You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure about you. We were born to manifest the glory of God that is within us." - Marianne Williamson

"Fear stifles our thinking and actions. It creates indecisiveness that results in stagnation. I have known talented people who procrastinate indefinitely rather than risk failure. Lost opportunities cause erosion of confidence, and the downward spiral begins." - Charles Stanley

Moving from comfort to Quality of Life

A day came when I no longer equated a comfortable life with quality of life. I used to love lying around. I would do movie marathons and television marathons as often as I could. That comes from a good place. I adore getting sucked into a good story that is told well. Also, I used to spend 8 plus hours a day video gaming as an adult. I founded and created 2 different gaming communities online and organized meet ups for these communities. I loved the interaction with other people and the friendships that were built through online gaming. But the dark side that was attached to both of those passions was the massive amounts of time I would spend laying on my butt. If I didn’t choose to have a better quality of life I would probably build my life around doing very little. Even when I read that sentence, it strikes me as a void and empty life. The kind of life one might look back on with deep regret willing to trade anything for another chance to do it differently. Even as I write this I feel completely vulnerable and I can sense shame lurking in the shadows.

A few years ago I was reading Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. I stumbled across a line that has haunted me since. “Humans are designed to seek comfort and order, and so if they have comfort and order, they tend to plant themselves, even if their comfort isn't all that comfortable. And even if they secretly want for something better.” He wrote that for me.

All my life I had spent trying to make myself comfortable… safe… secure. I had been succeeding at a pretty high level. There were two problems with this however. The first was that I knew that there was something in life that I was missing out on. I couldn’t shake this intuitive feeling that I could do more, be more, serve more and enjoy more in my life. The second was equally as vexing. There was a shame attached to living my life this way that didn’t come from others. It resided deep within me and no matter what I told myself or did to numb that shame, I couldn’t shake it.

Don’t get me wrong. My profession was one of service. Helping to teach and mold the hearts and minds of youth, both spiritually and emotionally. I was certainly making sacrifices, serving others, and taking a hefty shot of self-righteousness on the side with a solid backer of pride. But every chance I got I would seek comfort. I would constantly pass on the possibility of adventure for a seat on the couch.

After giving this some thought, and finishing Don’s book, something in me sparked. I began to long for more in my life. The fear of risk and failure, combined with the discomfort that I knew I would have to endure in order to create a better life posed quite the wall of resistance. But I knew at my core that I didn’t want to look back on my life in my last days and regret not taking the risks and facing the discomfort.

So here’s what I did. I began moving towards those things in my life that scared me and felt uncomfortable. I sat down and made a list of things I think I might truly enjoy but had feelings of fear and discomfort attached to them. My entire life didn’t change overnight. Many times I backed away from what I knew I needed to charge forward with. But slowly I began to make a decision here and a decision there in the directions that I knew I wouldn’t regret. Even if it meant failure, those choices began to have value for me because I knew it was movement. I knew that If I chose to go the route which scared me and involved discomfort that I would ultimately become a better person for having made that choice.

Years later, I have a much higher quality of life. Interestingly enough, making those decisions aren’t any less fearful or uncomfortable. I don’t think the fear and discomfort will really ever go away. But the difference now is that I can use those two feelings as a guide into my future. I still slip into old patterns from time to time as well. But life is definitely better, more exciting and more aligned with what my heart wants.

What are the things that you know would make your life better but involve fear? What is it that you know if you pursued it would bring a certain amount of discomfort? Maybe those are the things you need to move towards. Nothing in life that is worth great value comes without risk. It’s just a matter of perspective. One thing is sure. You won’t look back on your life and say, “I wish I would have spent more time on the couch.”

If you're looking for a little inspiration in this area today I would highly recommend visiting Clea Shannon's 'From Fear to Love in 40 days'. She is in the middle of an incredible journey that is shaping her future in the most remarkable ways.

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"If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair." - C.S. Lewis

"The lust for comfort, that stealthy thing that enters the house a guest, and then becomes a host, and then a master." - Khalil Gibran

"Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new." - Brian Tracy

Do this One thing to be completely present with Others

Being present with people.  In the personal growth world this is talked about all the time.  “Be more present.  Stop texting or checking your email during a conversation.  Put your phone down.  Really listen when people are talking to you.”  If you’ve been paying attention recently, these thoughts are being shared almost every day by people who truly believe in them.  However, a majority of the time the ‘how to’ part of being present is always tied to stepping away from technology.  And there is truth in that advice.  I just don’t find it very helpful.  You see, I already know that if I look at my phone less I am more available for connecting with another human being.  But that doesn’t necessarily guarantee that I will actually connect with someone on a visceral level. The benefits of being present are obviously numerous.  Studies have shown that people who regularly share deep connections with others have lower stress levels, a greater sense of belonging, and lower blood pressure.  And don’t we all want to be present in every moment of our lives?  Of course we do.  How often have you played the game… ‘if you only had one more day to live’?  But it isn’t as easy as ‘just do it.’

Here is a simple and easy way to go through your day being entirely present with those you come in contact with.  Choose to look directly into the eyes of the people you are speaking with for a solid 10 seconds.  That’s it.  At the drive through, make direct eye contact with the person in the window.  At work, make direct eye contact with the people you are collaborating with.  On the train, if someone asks you the time, make the effort to look them directly in the eye when you respond.

Even brief but intentional eye contact acknowledges to another human being that they are valued and are worthy of your presence.  This is such a powerful tool.  Not only to affect the recipient of your gesture but to remind you that you are in the presence of another human being and they deserve your attention.  If you begin your exchange by intentionally making eye contact for a few moments with someone and then later in the exchange return to their eyes, both you and they will have a heightened sense of awareness that you are connecting beyond the surface level interaction.  This is true even if you are talking about the weather.

Now, before you begin practicing this today, there are a few things to be noted.  First, this can be scary and isn’t as easy as it sounds. Second, prolonged eye contact can become so intense that often times people don’t even hear what is being said.  Also, it’s just plain creepy.  Don’t be afraid to make the eye contact, but once you’re completely aware that you’ve made an unforced connection, go ahead and move your gaze naturally throughout the rest of the conversation.  And then return to the person’s eyes from time to time throughout the exchange.

This will be a trigger for you in your mind that your first and foremost purpose is to connect with this person.  This will begin to kick you brain into a purposeful conversation in which you will be aware that connecting is your intention.  More than getting your point across or communicating verbal information, you will be expressing that you are fully present with the people around you.  And what a gift that is to give.

"You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment." - Henry David Thoreau

"I do not want to foresee the future. I am concerned with taking care of the present. God has given me no control over the moment following." - Mahatma Gandhi

"To me the goal of comedy is to just laugh, which is a really high hearted thing, visceral connection and reaction." - Louis C.K.

That one time... When you followed your Heart

When you know something in your heart on a deep level it can often times be a scary thing. That’s because your heart wants the best life for you and that often times requires action attached to risk. Nothing is ever gained without some type of risk. And those endeavors that are worthy of a noble heart always involve a risk. If nothing is risked, nothing is gained. Risk is the possibility of losing something dear to you. It could be money, how you’re perceived by others (reputation), embarrassment, or simply the possibility of failure. Whatever it is that your heart is calling you to risk because of a noble action, you will feel it on a deep, almost paralyzing, level. But here is the coolest part of following your heart and taking a risk. It always pays off. It may not pay off in the way you hope, but it pays off none the less. In fact, it is guaranteed to pay off even when what is risked is lost. How is that you ask?

It’s one thing to tell yourself that you believe in yourself. It’s quite another thing to put action behind it. Action is the proof. And when you take action based on something you know deep in your heart, you are not only affirming that you believe in yourself, you are putting your money where your mouth is. Action cannot be denied. You can’t talk yourself out of an action you have taken. It’s done. It’s there. It’s etched in the stone of personal history. You can always look back at it, regardless of the outcome, and say… “I did that! I believed in myself! I believed in myself enough to take a huge risk!”

I cannot overstate how powerful this is. Every time you take action based upon what you know in your heart you reinforce belief in yourself. It’s like the heroin of confidence. Following your heart is addictive and brings the power of momentum. When you follow your heart you affirm all the remarkable things that are you and that you truly believe about yourself. This feeling of believing in yourself completely, without reserve, becomes extremely addictive because there is no negative connotation attached. It’s pure beauty in relation to yourself. And it feels indescribable to have positive feelings about yourself because you truly believe you deserve them.

Momentum begets more action. When you’ve got momentum on your side and you are following your heart, doors open up in ways you’ve never imagined. Not only that, but because you took a risk with your actions it is easy to believe that you deserve these incredible opportunities. Following your heart with action short circuits shame, doubt and hesitation on the other side of each decision and the momentum clears the resistance for your next risky task.

Now, there are two kinds of risk. The kind that involves stupidity, like walking down a dark alley by yourself in any city when you can be fairly certain there is imminent danger lurking in the shadows. It is wise to avoid these kind of risks and I would not encourage you to put yourself in harms way. But then there is the kind of risk that is less tangible. Like making yourself vulnerable to another human being or publishing an article on a topic that is extremely personal to you. The limbic system, the most primitive part of your brain, which is hard wired for survival, cannot tell the difference between the two. So it is natural to feel fear in regards to the second type of risk. But if you trust your heart and move forward by taking action you are guaranteed a pay off. It’s already worth it.

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"Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition." - Steve Jobs

"If you have the guts to keep making mistakes, your wisdom and intelligence leap forward with huge momentum." - Holly Near

"There are risks and costs to action. But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction." - John F. Kennedy

Calling all Control Freaks

Some of the greatest success stories of all time have been cut short by someone's need to control everything. Of course, our desire to control the world around us is based on an illusion–we can't control everything. We finagle and manipulate, sometimes with great intentions, in an attempt to create and order the world to suit our vision. But, let’s be honest. Some of the greatest, most fulfilling moments in our lives unfolded in a way we could never forsee. It is precisely that life and energy that is larger than us that lights us up and inspires us beyond anything we could have dreamed. We have ideas of how we want our world to be. We believe that if the things in our lives were only this way or that, life would be better and ultimately we would be happier. This is the great lie we tell ourselves. It never works for two reasons.

First, we don’t have control of other people, the weather, gravity, time, the rotation of the Earth around the sun, and often times, we have difficulty controlling our own impulses. We do have influence on some things and people outside of us, but not control. You may be the executive at your company and therefore think that you can control those working for you, but that’s an illusion as well. You can’t keep them from leaving your company. You can’t make them like you. You have influence, but not control.

The second reason that having things your way is never fulfilling is much deeper. Your vision of how you would like your world to be so that you will be happier is much too shortsighted. You don’t have the broad perspective of the universe we live in that the Divine has in order to know what will be most fulfilling to your life. There are greater things than you’ve ever imagined that the Divine has in store for you, that left to your own, you would not dream of.

Let’s just say, for argument’s sake, that you did have the power to form the world around you. To control all the people you would need to, the economy, the weather, and so forth in order to have things just the way you think they should be. But imagine if you were born with that power. You would have destroyed the world in your infantile attempts to have what you wanted. It would be reminisce of the incredible Twilight Zone episode, “It’s a Good Life” where little Anthony Fremont holds the small town of Peaksville, which is in what used to be Ohio, emotionally and physically hostage and banishes anyone, including the family dog, to a corn field never to return. Time listed that episode as the 3rd greatest episode ever because of how completely horrific it was. Even as we grow, we continue to see only dimly that which is possible and available to us in terms of greatness and fulfillment.

I have also found the greatest times of growth and fulfillment are usually found on the other side of a painful event. Now if we had our own choice we would probably eliminate painful events all together from our lives.

So how do you find fulfillment and happiness if control is an illusion and if we are always a bit narrow in our vision of greatness? First… Surrender. Surrender your desire to control everything and have everything play out the way you want to. Let go of the tiny ways that you manipulate events and the way others perceive you. Surrender your incredible desire to always have things your way and trust that the Divine will allow things to unfold in your life that will grow and stretch you in ways you never imagined. Open your heart to the possibility that there are outcomes you never dreamed of that could bring more fulfillment than you’re imagining for yourself right now.

Second… choose to be fulfilled right now. Inevitably people get angry with me when I say this, but, you can have fulfillment right now. You can choose right now to surrender your ego and controlling efforts and choose to be grateful and find beauty and happiness in your present circumstance. What if instead of fighting the circumstances of your life, you began to look for ways you can be grateful, have an open heart to what the Divine might be unfolding in your life, and chose to move forward with great anticipation? What if instead of trying to control your circumstance and the people around you, you decided to be connected to the Divine and from that wealth, give to everyone who comes along your way, starting with those closest to you? Doesn’t that sound like something worth living for? And you can have that.

I don’t think joy and fulfillment have to take a long time. I think it can happen today, right now, in this moment. That would be your choice. Continue spending the energy and effort trying to control that which you can’t, or choose to begin fulfillment immediately, surrender to the Divine, and move forward with great anticipation.

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"I do not want to foresee the future. I am concerned with taking care of the present. God has given me no control over the moment following." - Mahatma Ghandi

“Obsessive thinking can do far more harm than good and never actually causes any change. Once you start feeling more present, you’ll take less joy in feeding the mental drama around the situation and naturally be less willing to put up with negativity it brings.” - Chantal Houde

“The problem, often not discovered until late in life, is that when you look for things in life like love, meaning, motivation, it implies they are sitting behind a tree or under a rock. The most successful people in life recognize, that in life they create their own love, they manufacture their own meaning, they generate their own motivation. For me, I am driven by two main philosophies, know more today about the world than I knew yesterday. And lessen the suffering of others. You’d be surprised how far that gets you.” - Neil deGrasse Tyson

Action over Paralysis, Getting Unstuck

The paralysis that comes with the hindrance of striving to be a perfectionist and over-analyzing your situation can be one of the most frustrating hurdles to overcome.  I’ve written here before about the dangers of being a perfectionist.  It’s not that the idea of doing your best is flawed.  Doing your best in everything you do is a high standard that is worth pursuing.  It’s only as we raise our standards that we raise the quality of our life.  But that’s not what’s at play here.  I’m talking about the kind of mental and emotional paralysis that comes from always wanting to make the right decision, so much so, that you get stuck in the decision making process and can’t move forward. This often happens the most when we are faced with two seemingly good options.   That’s when we tend to get caught in the emotional rollercoaster that seemingly leads us nowhere.  Let’s face it, when the choice is obvious because one of the options is demonstrably lesser, the choice is already made for us already.  But when faced with two seemingly equal choices, that’s where it gets sticky.  “Which one is the right choice?  Which one is the best decision?”  We list out the pros and cons and they come up equal.  We begin to make arguments for both directions in our mind and in our pursuit of the best we get completely stuck, continually moving from the argument for the one to the other and back again.

This can happen in small decisions, like which meal to order off the menu.  Have you experienced this before or seen it go down?  You or someone you know is hopping back and forth on the menu, between two dinner options, both of which will be good.  But a decision isn’t made until it’s forced to because the waiter is waiting so long, standing there with pen and pad in hand.  Or two events fall on the same day or weekend on the calendar and you just can’t figure out which is the ‘best’ or ‘right’ event to commit to.  And what about what you’ll miss if you don’t choose the ‘right’ event?  It also happens in larger areas like job opportunities or even dating possibilities.

Now admittedly there is usually a lot more going on behind the scenes than just being faced with the option of two great choices.  Often times there is a lack of clarity on what we actually want, not just specifically, but in general.  Or there is an overwhelming fear when we make any decision because we’ve been conditioned to value the fear of the possibility of making a mistake over the value of action or progress.  Fortunately the answer is a solution that addresses all of these paralysis factors.

And what is that answer?

Action.  Action is the way forward.  If you have a decision you have to make, make it.   It’s really that simple.  If you have two seemingly equal choices, simply move forward with one of them.  Let me give you a few reasons why action is such a beautiful way forward.

Action is a catalyst for energy.  Don’t sit in paralysis and allow the energy that could be used for progress to be wasted in the endless loop of analysis.  Nothing opens us up to the flow of energy in our lives like taking action.  Action begets more action.  And the more action we take the more energized we tend to feel.

Action is where we learn.  We can make all kinds of guesses as to the outcome of our decisions, but it is in actually making a decision and moving forward that we begin to truly learn in life.  When we are in action we see the outcomes, literally, and we can use that experience to inform our future decisions.

There is no failure; there is only the result.  When faced with two good choices, failure is eliminated.  Unless… you spend all of your time wondering what you missed by not choosing the other option.  But that’s a terrible way to spend your thoughts and time.  Once you make your decision, commit to it and live into that decision.

Here’s a final thought.  You are allowed to change your mind.  Let’s say you’ve made a decision and taken action and now you are realizing that this clearly wasn’t the choice you wanted to make.  Next time choose the other.  It can be that simple if you let it.  And be grateful for the experience you did have and for what you learned from it.  You don’t have to be stuck.  Choose action.

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"Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot; but make it hot by striking." - William B. Sprague

"In any situation, the best thing you can do is the right thing; the next best thing you can do is the wrong thing; the worst thing you can do is nothing." - Theodore Roosevelt

"Action is a great restorer and builder of confidence. Inaction is not only the result, but the cause, of fear. Perhaps the action you take will be successful; perhaps different action or adjustments will have to follow. But any action is better than no action at all." - Norman Vincent Peale

Is What You Believe About Yourself True?

Everyone has a recurring thought… or two… or thousands.  Similar thoughts bind together after being laid one on top of the other over the years to form a strong belief system.  The incredible thing about belief systems is that they serve as a map to interpret the world around us, including our place in the world, and have the incredible power to shape our decisions in life.  The power of a strongly held belief has exponential implications for the life of an individual and a community. Take Vera for example.  She is in her late twenties and has come to believe that… “I’m just not that smart.”  Why does she believe this?  Why does she choose to see herself this way?  If you asked her she would tell you that it’s mere fact.  She never excelled in academics and was always in the middle to lower end of her class in terms of performance.  She would tell you that there are certain books she just shouldn’t waste her time reading because there are some concepts that are ‘beyond’ her scope.  With this belief entrenched in Vera’s mind, emotions and body, she limits her potential career opportunities, relationship dynamics, and possibility for growth in almost every area of her life.  Exponential implications.

But if you press the question ‘why do you believe this’, there are all sorts of alternative possibilities to the opinion that she holds to so firmly.

Is it possible that Vera had an incredibly negative experience with an educator at an early age and always associated emotionally negative feelings with school, in turn tainting her desire to study or learn in that environment?  Is it possible that one or both of her parents sent her the message that ‘no one in our family is all that smart and that’s just fine with us because no one likes a know-it-all.’  Could it be that different people learn and grow intellectually in various ways and the particular methods in which Vera is challenged intellectually were never afforded her along her educational path?  Is it possible that the structure of western education is so focused on conformity to specific methods of education that often those who don’t conform as well to these methods are improperly labeled or mistakenly diagnosed with a disability?  How many times would a young, impressionable mind have to be told this by an authority figure before they owned it as truth?

There are so many variations of these restricting views of ourselves that we tend to accept as fact, when in all likelihood, they are just opinions formed over time.  Thoughts that we bought into enough times that they grew into a belief system, which we now whole-heartedly subscribe to.

I’m no good at math.

I can’t write to save my life.

I just can’t stop myself from eating.

I am not very coordinated.

My brother is the creative one.

I’m incapable of getting organized.

I can’t follow through on things.

I don’t have what it takes.

I’m not a good communicator.

I’m terrible at relationships and always will be.

Today I just want to call to your attention that there may be some beliefs you hold as truth about yourself and they are limiting you.  Further, these beliefs aren’t based on reality, but are based on the collection of some data you’ve incorrectly extrapolated from some recurring experiences in your past.  I would like you to list 3 beliefs you’ve held onto for almost as long as you can remember that you know limit you.  And ask this question about each of of the beliefs you’ve listed… “Is it possible that it isn’t true?”

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____________________________________________________________________________ "Human beings have the awesome ability to take any experience of their lives and create a meaning that disempowers them or one that can literally save their lives."

"What we can or cannot do, what we consider possible or impossible, is rarely a function of our true capability. It is more likely a function of our beliefs about who we are." - Anthony Robbins

"Truth lives, in fact, for the most part on a credit system. Our thoughts and beliefs pass, so long as nothing challenges them, just as bank-notes pass so long as nobody refuses them." - William James

“Never limit your view of life by any past experience” - Ernest Holmes

The Privilege of Cohorts

Last week we talked about those times when our growth means that we have to let go of certain people.  Not because we don’t care about them, but because they’ve chosen to stay put… stagnant.  Our action was a reflection, for them, of their inaction and they continued to act out against our better choices. But the other side of that coin is remarkable.  Your choice to move forward and grow will attract like-willed people.  When you endeavor and dare to live an extraordinary life, people of higher caliber who are seeking the same will suddenly show up beside you.  It's amazing to have friends walking next to you on an extraordinary path, parallel to yours, because they’ve chosen to answer their own life’s calling. This is a necessary component to your growth and you won’t have to look that hard to find these people.  This is because people who dare to do great things with their life recognize that quality within others.  You’re at a conference and you can see it shining within the eye of a passing stranger.  You hear it in their tone of voice when they are giving a presentation or simply talking about a project over dinner and drinks.  You sense it in the way they treat those around them, particularly the way they treat the waiter, bartender and the young lady behind the airline ticket counter.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to these people, they want you to!  They want to have the same type of connection and support that you crave.  Imagine having a cohort or three that you know you can call when you get ‘stuck’ in the creative process.  Someone or ‘some-ones’ (yes I make up words, go with it) who understand what it’s like to encounter resistance on a particular project and understand without you even having to explain.  Yet they’ll force you to express your frustrations because they know that when you get that ‘stuff’ out in the open it will no longer own you.

These remarkable people are trustworthy.  They value you and your mission and purpose in life.  They know that you have great intentions, but they care too much to stand by and say or do nothing when its obvious that you’ve been stuck in a rut and dealing with something that seems to be holding you back.  These are the people that are aware of their own shame and welcome you to share yours because they know that nothing works better against the grip of shame than bringing light to it.  They won’t talk to you condescendingly and they can keep a tight lip because they have experienced that themselves and know how carefully what you share needs to be held.

One of the coolest aspects of having cohorts in your life is that when they share their passion and describe a project and their process it will inevitably stir something within you in regards to something you’re working on.  The two projects may not even be related in the least, but your hearts for creativity most certainly are alike.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to a cohort share about a project so completely unrelated to my life and yet standing next to their fire somehow sparks were ignited within me.

When you do find yourself journeying next to these people, give freely.  What you give to them without emotional, financial or spiritual strings attached will return to you with the same intensity with which you gave it.

So how exactly do you ‘reach out’ to these people?  Keep doing what you’re doing, but lift your head up from time to time and take a look around you to see who else is moving in the same direction.  Then summon the courage to ask a simple question.  “I’m interested in what you’re working on these days, would you take a moment to share your experience with me?”  If they say no, don’t take it personally, because it isn’t personal.  Just try it again… and again… and again until someone bursts at the seams in response.  Trust me, people love to talk about their passions and processes.  Brene Brown says, “One of the greatest barriers to connection is the cultural importance we place on ‘going it alone.’ Somehow we’ve come to equate success with not needing anyone.” No one cares if you made it on your own.  Because those who have had a moderate amount of success are already aware that it isn't possible alone. It doesn't work that way.

Someday you may find that a cohort’s passions and yours intersect on a particular project.  Should that be the case, you will find that you are one of the most blessed people on the planet.  When that wave comes along you just may have one of the most enjoyable experiences of your creative life.  Ride that wave for all it’s worth.

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"My friends have made the story of my life.  In a thousand ways they have turned my limitations into beautiful privileges and enabled me to walk serene and happy in the shadow cast by my desperation." - Helen Keller

"When a match has equal partners then I fear not." - Aeschylus

"I love acting with kids, cause they're great acting partners. They're totally present. Even when they're acting, they're still available and you can crack them up or something weird will happen and they'll go with it." - Mark Ruffalo

When moving forward with Your life costs you Friends

Something funny happens when we begin to live the kind of life we’ve dreamed of. When we act on decisions, even small ones, that are good for us, people notice. The smallest changes stick out: the kind of language we use and the way we spend our time. Most of our family, friends, and significant others will be an incredible support. Unfortunately, there are many other people in our lives who will not support the changes that we make. They will complain that we have "changed." They'll say things like, "we’ll see how long this lasts," or "it feels like you don’t care about me anymore." If you’re anything like me, you will react to comments like these by changing your actions to keep the peace. There is nothing worse for those of us who are chronic "people pleasers" than upsetting someone we care about.

The reality is that their unhappiness has nothing to do with you–it’s about them. Deep down they want to make changes too, and your action reminds them of their inaction. Instead of using that as inspiration or support to make their own changes, they react the only way they know how: by attacking or sabotaging you. They don’t want anything to change, and are comfortable where they are. Some people would rather stay in their current state than risk the unknown in an attempt to move forward.

How can you handle the criticism? How can you deal with the tension of having someone you care about upset with you? First, you’ll have to come to the agreement that living a greater life is a better story than pleasing other people. Part of this new story is that the better person you are the better friend you can be.

Next, you can respond to the complaints with a simple and direct statement, “I care about you, but I can’t go back to some of the thoughts and behaviors that didn’t get me where I wanted to go in life.” Offer them a question, “Are you trying to make me feel bad about these positive changes in my life?” No one would admit to actually doing that and they will certainly back off a little bit. However, they will eventually tell you that they feel like you don’t care about them anymore, or at least expresses something to that effect in a veiled manner. Let it go. It’s not your job to convince them that nothing will change… because it will. You want things to change, that’s why you’ve made the decisions and taken the action up this point that you have. “I’m sorry you feel this way” is a perfectly fine statement and is all you need to say.

Don’t rob these people from the opportunity to deal with their own"stuff" and possibly make some life altering decisions for themselves. Maybe they will and maybe they won’t. Maybe you’ll be the inspiration they need. Or, maybe they’ll get venomous and acrimonious. That’s their choice, and it’s on them, not you. You haven’t chosen to leave anyone behind or let anyone down. Your job is to be the best you that you can be and let the chips fall where they may. I can guarantee you that you will see a pattern emerge: those that have a difficult time with the changes you make in your life will all have something in common: You pour more time and energy into them than they do into you.

You'll know if the people around you are pouring back into you. There is nothing like having people in your life that genuinely want to see you succeed. My friend and cohort, Mike McHargue says, “If you can find someone who believes in your work, and you believe in their work, a virtuous cycle of improvement emerges.” This is so true. It’s an incredible feeling to have friends walk along the same extraordinary path you're on because they've chosen to answer their life's calling.

That’s where we're going in part 2. _______________________________________________________________________________________ "Courage is the power to let go of the familiar." – Raymond Lindquist

“Letting go doesn’t mean that you don’t care about someone anymore. It’s just realizing that the only person you really have control over is yourself.” – Deborah Reber

"Social media has given us this idea that we should all have a posse of friends when in reality, if we have one or two really good friends, we are lucky." - Brene Brown

The Grass is Greener on the Inside

Magic doesn’t lie on the other side of the fence. The fence is there only to entice you to believe that the next thing will complete you. This is how marketing works. Millions of dollars are spent to convince you that you’re miserable and the only way for you to be complete is to get that one thing that has always seemed elusive. But wait! If you call within the next 10 minutes you can be completely whole for just $19.99. Now, no one ever believes that the ‘sham-wow’ will make their life complete. But once that story is set in motion within the emotional framework of a person it feels near impossible to stop. Ikea thrives in this market. Part of the brilliance of their marketing is that they have created window shopping destinations. Once you arrive at an Ikea store, there are hundreds of stories set up via bedrooms, kitchen, baths and living rooms. You can literally walk into a mock living room and begin to own the narrative of how beautiful life would be if you were telling your story with their furniture.

The equation of the story looks like this:

Broken you + New ______________ = Complete You

There are much more subtle ways that we engage in the story of the fence and the greener grass. You feel unfulfilled in your job and you begin to think that a different job will make everything better. You seemingly can’t find what you used to from your current relationship so you begin to peer over the fence and fantasize about another man or woman. If only you were with them things would be exciting in your love life again and you would be whole. If only I were smarter (take another class). If only I was prettier (eat less food). If only my boss wasn’t such a jackwad (find a new job). If only my partner were more exciting (look for a new partner). We could play this game for God knows how long, but I won’t waist your time.

The problem with the fence and grass scenario is that it never takes into account the one constant in the equation… YOU. Once you get to the other side of the fence you will find yourself… still with yourself. And that job that you thought was perfect? There is a boss there as well and she has her marching orders.

But what if you aren’t broken? I’ll ask it again. What if there isn’t something wrong with you? What if you’re simply telling yourself the wrong story and subsequently LIVING it?

What if instead of peering over the fence you took a peek inside of yourself? Not to find what is ‘broken’ but to tell a new story. What if your story was the one about the girl who embraced her incredible creativity, beauty and strength and determined to live a full life right now… before making any external changes. What if your story was the one about the guy who instead of having to climb over the fence, immediately, was able to summon his inner strength, courage and resourcefulness to begin living the life he always knew he was purposed for?

Yes, this might lead to starting a new career. It might lead to moving to a new town or city. It even might lead to letting go of some relationships that drain you instead of accepting who you are. In this scenario the one constant, you, will be empowered from the beginning instead of waiting for an external change that may never happen.

What is it that you fantasize about which causes the grass to be so lush on the other side of the fence? What are three ways you could tell a more empowering story right now without having to change your environment immediately? There is a time and place to change the circumstances of your life. But first you need to stop telling the story that never resolves and start living a new one. What ways are you blaming the circumstance of your life for your unhappiness? What ways could you take responsibility and take control of your inner life?

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_______________________________________________________________________ "Start where you are. Distant fields always look greener, but opportunity lies right where you are. Take advantage of every opportunity of service." - Robert Collier

But whenever you feel yourself losing focus and wondering about where you’ll be happy next, bring yourself back to the present, look at what you already have, look around you and enjoy the moments that are happening right now. - Katy Cowan

"When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” – Viktor Frankl

The Power of a Question

There are questions that we can ask that change everything. The power of a good question can cause exponential growth for you. Emotionally and mentally healthy people are always asking the right questions and those questions lead them somewhere wonderful. The right questions can kick-start your brain to begin to find the right solutions. They can be a great method to bring meaning to any circumstance of your life.

I believe there are three crucial questions that you can ask that will not only change your life but bring deep meaning to some difficult and painful circumstances.

The first question is, “How might the divine already be at work in my circumstance?” This question comes with the assumption that God is already involved and at work in your life whether you see it or not. It opens our eyes to the greatness involved in your painful situation. The second question is similar,  “What about this situation is not yet whole?”  This question assumes that The Divine wants to make all things whole, including us, and would like to partner with us in our lives to bring that about.  When we ask this question our brain begins to look for ways that we can answer the question “how can I be more whole?” The third question is, “What am I willing to do now to partner with The Divine in order to transform my situation?” or “What am I willing to do right now to move forward in a healthy manner?”  This question causes our brain to search for solutions and acknowledges that there IS a way forward and we do have control over our inner lives.

Let's take rejection for example.  In fact let's go right for the jugular and talk specifically about romantic rejection.  Someone that you really like, or even love,  has possibly rejected you. Initially it's impossible not to take this rejection personally. Because if they are rejecting you it’s almost like they are saying that you were not good enough, smart enough, or beautiful enough for them. This can immediately lead us to asking the question "what is wrong with me "?  If that's the question that you're asking, your brain will immediately begin to try to find an answer. And it will find many answers my friend. I believe that once you ask your yourself a question, your mind will begin searching for possible answers.  They may not even be the right answers, but your mind will continue on trying to answer that question for days, months, or even years.

You can see how destructive this can be and how important it is ask the right questions. So let's apply our three questions to the life circumstance of being rejected romantically.

How is the divine already at work here and what is the good in this situation?  Possible answers:

1.  I can now see some areas that this relationship needed work and will use this information for future relationships.

2.  There may be an even more fulfilling healthy relationship for me in the future.

3.  Pain and frustration always precede incredible growth and I have that growth to look forward to.

What about this situation is not yet whole?  Possible answers:

1.  I can see through this rejection that I have not yet fully loved and accepted myself for who I am and I have the perfect opportunity to be comfortable in that area of my life.

2.  I can clearly see ways in which I participated in the dissolving of this relationship and can choose to be mindful of those things in my next relationship.

3.  I now realize how valuable this person is to me and will do everything I can to try to win them back without compromising myself.

What am that I'm willing to to do right now in order to partner with God transformation this situation?  Possible answers:

1.  Surrender the outcome completely and trust in the divine.

2.  Work on those areas in my life that I know will make me a better person.

3.  Begin to forgive this person.

4.  Communicate with them how I truly feel.

There is no limit to the amount of good questions you can come up  and they can be applied to any situation.

With these questions you can empower and enable yourself to be open to change and open to new meaning In your life. These questions help your brain to work for you instead of against you. And these questions can bring a deeper meaning to any circumstance.  Happiness is nice and well. But meaning and purpose have much more weight and brings holistic fulfillment to your life.

So what is bothering you today?  Before you go any further, find two things in your life that you’ve been struggling with lately.  Then, identify the damaging questions you may have been asking and replace them with these three questions.  Don’t wait.  Do this now and watch the power of these questions change your life and make it more meaningful.


"The art and science of asking questions is the source of all knowledge." - Thomas Berg
"I love the early process of asking questions about a story and deciding which questions matter most." - Diane Sawyer
"You don't want a million answers as much as you want a few forever questions. The questions are diamonds you hold in the light. Study a lifetime and you see different colours from the same jewel. The same questions, asked again, bring you just the answers you need just the minute you need them." - Richard Bach
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It's an Everyday Thang

Sometimes people say that “youth is wasted on the young.” I don’t know that I agree with that, but I can tell you that youth is wasted on the drugged-up young: I was one of them. I lived a very different life when I was in my mid twenties. I blinded my heart and dulled my emotions with substance abuse on a daily basis. Getting high wasn’t about the high. The only place I sought to find my value and worth was with validation from women. Cocaine gave me the energy I needed to be at the party, no matter how long the party lasted. I believed that if somebody wanted to be with me, even if for only a night, it was better than not being wanted at all. And if I could say "at least she wants to be with me right now" (whoever she was that I ended up with that night)... well that meant something. A lot of people don’t realize how much money you can make dealing drugs. Managing that money well, however, is a completely different story. I did work in several bars, which enabled me to sell more drugs and hang out with my friends at the same time.

Believe it or not, I was working on my Masters of Divinity at the time. I was the rare combination… Drug Dealer and Seminary Student. You don’t see a lot of people selling coke and working on a Masters of Divinity together, and for good reason. It doesn’t work. Even as I studied scripture and theology, I lied, cheated and stole. This powerful hypocrisy lead me to hurt the people I cared about most in my life.

I was completely disconnected from my God, I had no sense of worth or value, and I was as lost in depression as I could ever possibly be. And the shame that came along with knowing that I was where I was in life because of the choices I made was like walking around with the rotting carcass of a two ton elephant strapped to my back.

Interestingly enough, this behavior is not uncommon. It’s almost cliché, except for the fact that it was my life and for the most part, I felt like I could not escape. I don't tell you this to glamorize my life story, far from it. I believed I was a loser, that I deserved that life, and that I would be dead by thirty. One afternoon while I was taking a shower I collapsed to the bottom of my bathtub, weeping and crying out to my God for help. When I emerged from the water and steam filled bathroom, I was determined to come up with a plan and execute it at any cost. Four months later I sold everything, except what I could fit into my Toyota Camry, and drove across the country to crash at my parents house for about a year.

What I wasn’t aware of at the time was that I had the choice to change my life, every moment of every day. Even though I was in a living hell, the fear of change was more powerful than the pain that I had created… until it wasn’t. However, even after months of the brilliant clarity that came with sobriety, there were days that I wanted to return to that lifestyle because it was comfortable. I may have been messed up and completely self-destructive, but at least I knew how to handle life in that mode. As a sober person, everything was new and brought with it a sense of intense fear. The simplest of tasks, like scheduling appointments on a calendar seemed like it took the energy of escaping the Earth’s gravitational pull.

Every day was a choice. Connect with my God, get centered, and choose a new way, or return to where I had come from. Sixteen years later and I don’t know how to express in writing how rewarding it is to have stayed the course. The only thing that comes to mind is to say the names of my two little girls and maybe you might be able to recognize what is wrapped up in this imagery. Life.

Today I value myself; connect with the Divine hourly; have deep and meaningful relationships with the most rewarding friends a guy could have; and know my purpose, as my life and income are wed to helping others make their own changes, discover work that matters and learn to love themselves. I still make mistakes, but I’ve learned how to process through them in a healthy manner. Living an extraordinary life isn’t a one time decision. It’s a choice that’s made every single morning followed by action steps that back up that choice like powerful punches landing on the jaw of ‘the comfortable’.

Maybe you want someone else to make you feel better about yourself. Maybe you are at the end of your rope and feel like you don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell. You do. Today you have the most power you will ever have… the power of a choice. Maybe you begin exercising the power of that choice with a simple prayer asking for help.

It could be that you’ve never been to those depths, but at some point you decided that you wanted a better life for yourself, one with purpose and meaning that energizes and compels you. Now you’re wondering why things haven’t changed yet. Is it possible that you’ve forgotten that living a meaningful life is a choice one must make everyday? It doesn’t take a new year to make changes, just a choice.

When you woke up this morning, what did you choose? If it wasn’t clear, concise, and followed by actions, chances are high that it wasn’t an empowering choice. Here’s another cliché for you… thinking you’re not making a choice is most certainly a choice.

If you are interested in subscribing to the mailing list and receiving these via email, simply click under ‘subscribe to the mailing list’. _______________________________________________________________________________________ "The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time." - Abraham Lincoln

"This is as true in everyday life as it is in battle: we are given one life and the decision is ours whether to wait for circumstances to make up our mind, or whether to act, and in acting, to live." - Omar Bradley

"Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom." - Viktor Frankl

Special thanks to Mike McHargue for an open conversation and help in refining this piece

How's That Working for You?

The five words that changed my life.  Ironically, I was the one who uttered them to myself.  That’s right, I talk to myself.  So do you.  My story is a familiar one.  I didn’t have the first clue about valuing myself or loving myself and for the longest time, I had no idea that was a problem.  I had a great childhood.  I still have the most incredible parents when it comes to feeling loved and cared for.  In very concrete ways they expressed their love for me since before I can remember.  I’ve always just known their love.  I grew up in an incredible community and was involved with some wonderful people through my entire childhood and into college.  I share that so you can be aware that even people with the healthiest of upbringings have major struggles with insecurities and negative thought patterns.  I used to think that I was the only one.  Now I know I’m like every other person on the planet. Several years ago, when I hired a mentor, I knew that there were things in life that I wasn’t able to figure out and I knew I needed help.  Insecurities and limiting beliefs, attached to things like fear of loneliness, finances, my own sense of worth, and intelligence, had been haunting me since I was an adolescent.  But I didn’t know how to deal with them.  So I found a mentor I trusted and that I knew had turned things around in his own life.  His name is Mastin Kipp.  I had taken a couple courses from Mastin online and I had quickly begun to build a rapport with him.  We had similar stories, which helped with my trust.

When I first starting working with Mastin, he began describing exercises intended to help with learning to love myself.  At first I thought they were absurd.  Mirror work.  Self-affirmation sentences.  Telling myself that I loved myself whenever I felt a sense of shame for making a mistake.  One morning while I was alone and practicing these exercises, I said out loud, with a heavy dose of jaded arrogance, “this is  TOTAL HOGWASH!”  (ok maybe I used a stronger description).  What I said to myself next surprised me.

“How’s that working for you?”  I was stunned.  I couldn’t remember the last time I was content.  Thinking the way I had been thinking for so many years had led me to this point.  How was that working for me?  Not well at all.  I realized that I needed to make some major changes, but I didn’t know what.  So, even though it went against everything within me, I decided to give these exercises a chance.  Slowly, after practicing these exercises, I began to notice a difference in my overall thought patterns and demeanor.  I had once prided myself on being an over-analytical perfectionist and cynic.  But along the way, I stopped identifying with those characteristics.  I didn’t know how it worked scientifically, but I saw the evidence.  As my friend Mike told me, “you don’t have to know how an engine and transmission work in order to drive your car.”  Mike's one of the most intelligent people I know and so I asked him to explain it to me.  He's great at breaking down complex matter into laymen's terminology.  So he did.

The most ancient part of the human brain is the limbic system. Our feelings of fear, anger, and aggression originate there. The limbic system is fast and ruthless, and we’ve used it for survival for as long as we’ve been around. Thanks to its speed and efficiency, the limbic system can make judgments and decisions much faster than the newer hardware in our heads. Our brains are like a muscle–what we use most gets strongest. Negative, critical, fearful or aggressive thinking tends to strengthen the response of our limbic system in our daily living.

More recent structures in human brains like the neocortex and the anterior cingulate cortex are the parts of our brains that produce love, compassion, and empathy.  If you focus on those types of thoughts, you will enhance the neural circuits in the prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate cortex and it encourages your brain to support that way of thinking.  Intentional focus toward these kinds of thoughts has been clearly demonstrated to have helpful physiological and psychological benefits.  You can actually begin to find your identity in those thoughts and feelings.

Why do I tell you all of this?  Simple.  Maybe you’re like me.  Maybe my story resonates with you on some level.  Maybe you’re tired of being cynical, judgmental, critical of yourself, and influenced in major ways by your insecurities.  Maybe you know you need to value yourself and love yourself more but you just don't know how. Maybe when you hear me always talking about loving yourself, accepting yourself, and sharing practical ways to begin to do this, you are skeptical.  Maybe you also think that doing any kind of ‘positive’ mental and emotional exercise is too ‘Stuart Smalley-ish’ for you.  Maybe you think that is too 'touchy feely' could never work.  Maybe you’re thinking, ‘I’ll just stick with what I know.’

Well let me ask you, with the most sincere and humble of intentions, how’s that working for you?


"For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: 'If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?' And whenever the answer has been 'No' for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something." - Steve Jobs
"When we are no longer able to change a situation" - we are challenged to change ourselves." - Viktor E. Frankl
"It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad." - C.S. Lewis
I'd like to thank Mike McHargue for his brilliant ability to take complicated matters and make it possible for every person to understand them.  You can read more about The Intersection of Science and Spirit here at

Your Intentional Holiday Season

I'm sitting at the airport on my way to Destin, Florida to spend Thanksgiving with two of my favorite people, my brother-in-law and his wife.  This year will be different than the last decade for me in many respects. For the first time in 10 years I’m single and living in a new city. In the past it would have caused me a lot of fear.  However, it isn't the past and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to create new traditions with my daughters and live a new day. Something else that appears new, at least to me, via social media, is an overwhelming amount of people sharing their thoughts on how I should act this holiday season. It seems every time I check my facebook, tumblr or twitter account, someone has posted another article or blog post telling me the attitude I’m supposed to have and the choices I’m supposed to make in order to engage the season the ‘right’ way. Don’t shop on Black Friday. Do shop on Black Friday. Don’t shop on Christmas day. Do shop on Christmas day. Affirm the true meaning of Thanksgiving and Christmas. Don’t spend it with your family. Only spend it with your family. And so on and so forth. Have you seen this abundance of judgement? Am I the only one?

I am all for people having their opinions. I believe in sharing opinions too. That’s obviously what I’m doing right now in this piece. The problem I do have is when people can only see things from one side of a story… theirs. When someone tells us not to shop on Thanksgiving day so as to not pay into the ‘consumerist’ mentality, they may not realize that Thanksgiving day is the only day some hardworking people will have free to actually shop for Christmas presents. When they tell us not to go to a restaurant on Christmas day because no one should be forced to work and be away from their family on that day, they aren’t taking into account the many hardworking people who need that shift in order to make ends meet this month. When someone tells you to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas, they actually mean, their belief in the true meaning of Christmas, not necessarily your belief.

I get it. When you’re sharing your opinion, or social sharing someone else’s, you have to use strong language and make anyone who disagrees with you to look somewhat monstrous. Rarely have I found these people who are being condemned to actually be monstrous though. I’m not saying there isn’t some truth, or a lot of truth, in what is being shared. But we don’t need to own the shame that is often attached to the one-sided story being told.

Instead of feeling bad every time you read about how awful your holiday traditions are being made out to be, take a moment to reflect. Sit down with those whom you share your holiday season with and have some conversations about what you collectively think of your traditions. Don’t be afraid to be introspective together and to question what you’ve been doing for the past few years. Don’t be afraid to let go of some traditions that your family (whatever your family looks like) decides maybe doesn’t reflect your values. Don’t be afraid to let go of some traditions simply because you and the people you spend the holidays with simply don’t like the activity, or it’s lost it’s mojo. But also, don’t be afraid to continue on with your traditions just because someone with a popular voice condemns that tradition. Finally, don’t be afraid to make some new choices. Traditions all start somewhere.

So as soon as you’re done reading this and you come across the next shared post about how bad ___________________ is during the holiday season, take it with a grain of salt. The holidays are a perfect time to start being intentional… together. _____________________________________________________________________________ "Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition." - Steve Jobs

"Seek out that particular mental attribute which makes you feel most deeply and vitally alive, along with which comes the inner voice which says, 'This is the real me,' and when you have found that attitude, follow it." - James Truslow Adams

An Exercise in Self-Love

2 years ago I made a conscious decision to love myself more and seek active ways to grow my love for myself.  Since then, everything has changed in the most dramatic ways.  I've dealt with some of my greatest heartache and I've experienced some of my greatest joy.  I've left my job, my spouse left me, I've made some remarkable friendships, and I began writing and mentoring professionally.  I'll definitely share in greater detail about that process in the very near future.  I believe the more transparent I am with you, the more powerful your story will become for you and the more inspired you'll be.  But today I want to share a very practical way for you to put some action behind any desire you might have to love yourself more. Stop what you're doing and try this out.  It won't take long, but it's going to be worth it as a practical way to shift your emotional energy and express to yourself that you love yourself.  I learned it from Gala Darling.  Sit down for 10 minutes and write down every compliment that you've ever received.  List them all out.  Now you may think that this will be difficult, but it won't.  When you start, close your eyes, take 2 of the deepest breathes you've ever taken, holding them for 5 seconds at the end of your inhale.  Picture yourself sitting in the field of your choice.  You determine the flowers, the height of the grass or wheat or whatever grows in your field.  The sky is the perfect amount of blue.  Relax... and the memories of the compliments will come to you.  Set your timer for 10 minutes and begin writing down all the compliments you've ever received.  You don't have to have even believed the person telling you the compliment at the time.  But write it down anyway.  When the timer goes off, you're done.

Now, look back over that list and allow those compliments to sink in.  Throughout your day, look back at that list of compliments.  Allow them to hit you with a bit of force.  Often times we don't trust ourselves or what we think.  But if you're looking at a list that was literally created by other people, you may find your emotional energy towards yourself shifting due to the perceptions of other people.  This exercise is not about pumping yourself up or about inflating your ego.  It's about learning how to take a compliment and how to accept it without a fight.  So there is only 1 rule when you look at this list.  You aren't allowed to argue with your list.  As soon as you hear the voice that says, "that's not true about you" or "you don't deserve that compliment", you have to picture that voice being a tiny paper boat floating down a stream and away from you, out of sight.  And then, continue on with the list.  It's that simple.

Stop reading this right now and try it.  Remember to read this list a couple more times today.  I hope it opens up a path for a little more love for yourself to grow.


"Who looks outside, dreams, who looks inside, awakes." ~Carl Gustav Jung

"You are very powerful, provided you know how powerful you are." ~Yogi Bhajan

"What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.
"  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Embracing Guilt

All too often whenever I’m experiencing the feeling of guilt for having made a mistake or for having even willingly done something that I know is counter to my own good and the good of others, I immediately try to ‘sorry’ myself to death. I go into this spiral of repentance and trying to figure out how I’m going to make up for whatever mistake I made or whatever penitence I need to pay. I can become so determined to get rid of the bad feeling and remorse so quickly that often times I don’t actually allow myself to feel what I naturally NEED to feel in order to process the situation.

I’ve written and spoken many times about our need to NOT hide from the emotions we are feeling, negative or positive, but to embrace them. To allow them to hit us with their full force. This does several things that raise the quality of our lives.

One, it allows us to experience life fully, in the moment. When we hide or run from our emotions and feelings, or spend our time trying to work around them, we are cheating ourselves from the opportunity to know what it is to be human. To know what it is to feel in the center of our being. Remember, we cannot mitigate our negative feelings without mitigating our positive ones as well. So to the level with which we don’t allow ourselves to feel disappointment, anger, or sadness, we also negate the ability to feel love, joy, or satisfaction to that same level. This my friends, will lead to a very one dimensional, flat-lined life. Feel it!

Two, it allows you to be as truly sorry or repentant as you need to be. Let’s say you have made a mistake that has actually hurt somebody emotionally or even physically. Or maybe just hurt yourself emotionally or physically. If you try to skip over the remorse and get right to the apology, it will be empty. You’ll know it and they will know it. But if you allow yourself to completely feel the remorse until you realize the extent to which you are sorry, your apology and how you make up for it will absolutely be genuine, authentic, and enough. However, we must walk the fine line between shaming ourselves (this is bad) and truly allowing the feelings to run their course. Don’t shame yourself to try to feel worse or talk yourself into feeling better. Just sit back, be aware, and experience what you are feeling.

Maybe you will realize that you aren’t sorry and that even though you thought you should feel bad, you don’t. Or maybe you will realize that even though no one else thinks you did anything wrong, you are aware that you crossed a line within your own moral code.

Third and finally, embracing our emotions allows us the chance to take advantage of the opportunity to love ourselves. What? If you are having some feelings of remorse or regret, you are immediately facing an opportunity to not only allow those feelings to hit you, but to remind yourself in tangible ways, that even though you made a mistake and hurt yourself or someone else, you still love yourself and accept yourself just the way you are. And I’m serious about this one. Why wouldn’t you take every opportunity to love yourself and care for yourself?

After embracing your feeling of guilt and owning it, and you've been careful not to ride the wave of shame, then you are in a great place to move forward.  Maybe it's an apology.  Maybe it's not.  Maybe you're sorry.  Maybe you're not.  What is it that you're feeling?  That will determine your way forward.  Truly and in an authentic way.


"One's suffering disappears when one lets oneself go, when one yields - even to sadness."  ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

"The walls we build around us to keep sadness out also keeps out the joy."  ~Jim Rohn

"Guilt is anger directed at ourselves - at what we did or did not do. Resentment is anger directed at others - at what they did or did not do." ~Peter McWilliams

Being a 'Perfectionist' never leads to Freedom

People wear the badge of ‘perfectionist’ with pride. They believe that if they call themselves a perfectionist they have already attained a sense of worth. This is crap thinking. Just plain crap. The only thing being a perfectionist will guarantee you is that you will never have the kind of freedom you want and you will be stuck with a tremendous amount of shame. Every perfectionist that I’ve worked with has wanted to attain a certain amount of freedom. Financial freedom. Freedom from the expectations of others. Freedom to travel. Freedom from their scheduling. Freedom from _________. Freedom has actually been a goal for these people. The irony here is that they have chosen perfectionism as a path to freedom. You cannot get to freedom by trying to be perfect. It’s like trying to hate your way to love. Or like trying to mitigate your way to success. It just can’t be done.

Where does the shame come in? Well first of all, can we all just admit there is no such thing as perfection, in the traditional sense? No one is perfect. No one can be perfect. Aiming for perfection so that you might land on something good is also a trap. In trying to be perfect we say no to a ton of opportunities because all the stars aren’t ‘aligned’ perfectly. And when we do say yes to a few opportunities we end up disappointed that things didn’t turn out ‘perfectly’. At that point we find ourselves holding a bag full of shame for how we failed in this way or that.

The real kicker is that calling yourself a perfectionist brings about a certain sense of pride because we get to project a certain persona of elitism. “I want to do things perfectly because that’s what I demand of myself. I have high standards.” But you can have high standards and not be a perfectionist. This false sense of pride allows you to be ok with never accomplishing what you want because you can always throw out your project and declare… “It just wasn’t perfect.” Being a perfectionist affords the perfect opportunity to make excuses and partner with resistance without being aware of it.

Perfection NEVER equals freedom.

But if your intention is truly to experience freedom, why not substitute the word ‘adventure’ for ‘perfection’? Adventure certainly leads to freedom. Adventure allows you to take calculated risks. And while these risks are loaded with the potential to make mistakes or even fail, it’s totally acceptable because some of our most adventurous moments come from failures. Not the kind that end our lives, but the kind of failures that allow us to learn incredible lessons and move beyond our comfort zones. When you aren’t afraid to make mistakes you not only find yourself ready to move forward in a project with more boldness and zeal, you will also find yourself succeeding where you thought it wasn’t previously possible.

Substituting adventure for perfection allows you to take a risk. And the only way to really succeed is to find a way to become comfortable with risk.

Substituting adventure for perfection will release you from the paralysis that comes from over-analyzing every single decision. If you’re an over-analyzer, and you find yourself in the paralysis trap often, I can almost guarantee that you consider yourself a perfectionist.

Substituting adventure for perfection will immediately help you to live into the feeling of freedom. Why? Because you will actually be free from the shame, second guessing, and potential excuses that might have previously been created.

So let me ask you. What sounds better to you? What sounds like more fun? What sounds like a healthier way to live your life? Being an adventurer, or being a perfectionist. If you still think being a perfectionist is a badge of honor, maybe you need to find a new stylist. Choose adventure. It makes for a much better story.


"Jazz stands for freedom. It's supposed to be the voice of freedom: Get out there and improvise, and take chances, and don't be a perfectionist - leave that to the classical musicians." - Dave Brubeck
"It's a way of thinking that says this: 'If I look perfect, live perfect, work perfect, I can avoid or minimize criticism, blame and ridicule... All perfectionism is, is the 20-ton shield that we carry around hoping that it will keep us from being hurt." - Brene Brown
"Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a (crappy) first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won’t have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren’t even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they’re doing it." - Anne Lamott

The Incessant Voice of Your Mind

“What did he mean when he said ‘you look tired’? Maybe I am tired. Maybe he just meant that I’m ugly but was afraid to say that. I don’t think I’m that ugly. Maybe I should think I’m ugly. I’m better looking than he is, so why would he say that? Stop thinking this way. It will only make me feel bad. I always go there, to the negative right away. Why do I always do that? Maybe I just need to sleep more. I’ve always known that I need to sleep more. I should have made it a higher priority before now. Why don’t I go ahead and take a nap right now? I’m too busy to take a nap right now. I don’t even have time to be thinking about all of this stuff anyway.” How often have you had a conversation like this? The voice within your mind is always there isn’t it? Always having a conversation and always trying to make sense of the world around us and filter things in a way that makes us a bit more comfortable with reality.

And that voice is always speaking. It even changes sides of an argument within a few minutes. It won’t shut up. The voice just drones on and on and on. You don’t think so? Then try this exercise. Sit for 3 minutes and try to think of nothing. Within moments the voice will show up. “Why are you doing this? Why are you even reading this stuff? This is a waste of time.” Or… “This is good. This is exactly what you needed. You needed to clear your thoughts for a few moments.”

So tell me this. Which of these voices are you? Are you the voice that thinks this is a silly exercise? Or are you the voice that thinks this is just what you needed?

The answer is that you are neither. You are not the voice in your mind. You are the one who observes the voice. You are the one who, if you allow yourself, sits back and relaxes and just listens to what the voice has to say without attaching yourself emotionally to it. Michael Singer puts it this way, “Suppose you were looking at three objects – a flowerpot, a photograph, and a book – and were then asked, ‘Which of these objects is you?’ You’d say, ‘None of them! I’m the one who’s looking at what you’re putting in front of me. It doesn’t matter what you put in front of me, it’s always going to be me looking at it.’ You see, it’s an act of a subject perceiving various objects. This is also true of hearing the voice inside. It doesn’t make any difference what it’s saying, you are the one who is aware of it.”

This is essential to growth, to realize that you are not the voice of the mind, you are the one who observes and hears that voice. If you don’t understand this, you will find yourself in endless conversations in your mind with people who have upset you, over and over again. Anytime you hear that voice and it makes you feel uncomfortable, you won’t be able to rest until you spend your energy analyzing, over analyzing, and dove-tailing the conversation in your head until you’re too exhausted to go on. But it won’t end the voice. The voice always has something to say because the voice’s job is to try to make you somehow more comfortable with the world outside of you.

So what can you do? Try this. Next time something happens in your life that you didn’t expect or didn’t want and the voice begins to try to make sense of it all and begins talking incessantly, instead of engaging in the conversation in your mind, sit back and listen. That’s it. Don’t become attached emotionally to anything the voice is saying. What you will find is that eventually the voice will fade away, just by observing it. Because in observing it, you will realize that you are not the voice, you are the one listening. And the truth is, when the voice can no longer work to make you more comfortable, it will cease to speak… for the time being. At that point, you will not have spent your energy being caught in a conversation in your mind. Instead you can begin asking uninterrupted questions. “What is it that just happened (whatever caused the initial conversation to start) and why does it truly disturb me? What is it that I’m really bothered by? Is the true problem that this person is asking a favor of me? Or is it that I often don’t think I have what it takes to really help people.”

Once the voice subsides, you have the freedom to ask questions that will help you get to what is truly bothering you. And once you know what is at the heart of the matter, you can deal with it appropriately. Also, you will find that if you practice this, over time, you will become much more aware of who you are and what you truly want in life. Give it a shot? What do you have to lose other than the constant chatter of the voice in your mind?


“Insanity is often the logic of an accurate mind overtasked.” ― Oliver W. Holmes, Sr.

“The voice in her head told her not to trust him. But then, the voice in her head didn't trust anyone.” ― C.J. Daugherty

“We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature - trees, flowers, grass- grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence... We need silence to be able to touch souls.” ― Mother Teresa

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