Blog Post # 91 – Us, As Our Own Cavalry

On the evening of December 31st, 2006, an intense ice storm hit Alton, Illinois.

Many of the marinas were struck with severe ice.

The support beams holding the roofs above the stored motorboats collapsed at many of these marinas.

Three of the marinas were insured by an insurance company that we represented.

So my boss and I went out on January 3rd to take a look around.

The responses of the three marina owners was instructive and I think about this event often.

And if you find this story has remnants of Goldilocks and the 3 bears, I think so too.

At the first marina, a husband and wife had purchased the marina in late 2006. In fact, the sale had just closed on December 20. Although the man and woman were walking around their office and talking to us, they had basically shriveled up into a ball and were rather without function. They begged us to get the insurance company’s repair experts out to their marina to “take care of things.”

They asked us if we were the cavalry. My boss said, “no, we are the lawyers.”

At the second marina, the owner was a bit more functional. He had been through this type of ordeal on one prior occasion and had a few of his employees taking pictures and doing basic repair work. Needless to say, working on frozen, collapsed marinas is dangerous work. But he was reflective and he just sort of dug in to get started on cleaning things up.

He asked us what to do. My boss said, “take lots of pictures, be super careful and do what you can. The repair crews will be stretched thin with all of the other collapses, so do what you can to protect any boats that you can.”

When we arrived at the third marina, I was pretty tired. This was late in the day. But what I saw when I got there has stuck with me for the past ten years.

At the third marina, the owner was out in the yard directing traffic. He had called in every employee to work on the morning of January 1st. He hired his own repair crews and the team had already made significant process in cleaning up the debris. Crews shifted boats around and a bunch of the wreckage had been pulled out of the marina and stacked in the center of the yard. All repair work had been videotaped and photographed.

The owner told us his philosophy. He said, “I know the insurance company will pay me back for these repairs. But I owe it to my boat owners to do everything I can to protect them. We called the best repair team we could while the ice was still falling. My team has been here for 18 hours a day for the past three days. I will pay them overtime, but it is worth it.”

Interestingly, he also invoked the cavalry. He said, “I know there ain’t no cavalry coming to save us. So we became our own cavalry.”

When disaster or tragedy strike, we can throw up our hands and wait to be saved. Or, we can choose to swing into action and do what we can to help. So interesting to see how different people react differently to the exact same situation.

Charge!

Blog Post # 90 – Present to Be Free

Are our lives a straight line of events that occur one after another until we run out of life events?

Or, rather, are our lives a series of cycles by which different issues and events pop up, resolve and then pop up once more in a slightly different form?

As I work through a life issue, I like to think that I eventually figure out what to do and that is the end of it.

But life has a way of reminding us from time to time that the past is prologue, that things that caused us pain or concern have a way of recurring.

Stated more directly, when we overcome a problem, we want that to be the end of it.

To not have to worry about that any more.

But life doesn’t seem to be working out that way.

A small example: I wanted to give up consuming large amounts of Diet Pepsi. I cut back on DP for many weeks. I went from drinking probably 7-8 cans worth of soda a day to 1.

I thought that my dependence on soda and caffeine had diminished and was on its way to subsiding. But I eventually eased back into drinking more and more diet soda each day.

How did that happen? What did I miss?

A bigger example: let’s say there is a childhood trauma that we have been dealing with for years.

We talked about it.

We thought about it.

We prayed about it.

We let go of it.

Or so we thought.

Different triggers still remind us of the event. The strangest things can take us right back to the trauma.

Just like that – back to the past, back to the pain.

Seems like memory works like that. Trauma cuts deep.

We can be upset or sad that these memories flare up from time to time.

Or we can accept the trauma as part of our past. Recognize it, accept it and understand it is just a part of us.

Tough to do, but so freaking helpful.

So that we are free to be present. And present to be free.

Blog Post # 89 – Airplane Mode

Ten years ago, the phrase “airplane mode” meant nothing.

Today, if we put our devices on “airplane mode” it means that we will not be interrupted by text messages, emails, pings, social media alerts or any other intrusive notification.

There is no rule that says we may only switch our devices to “airplane mode” when we are on a flight.

Airplane mode is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

And not only can we put our devices on airplane mode, we can put ourselves on airplane mode.

How much time do we give ourselves for distraction-free contemplation?

How much mental space did we devote yesterday to thinking big thoughts?

Airplane mode can be a lifestyle philosophy as much as a technological technique.

When we have real work that needs to get done or when we want to create whatever it is that we call our art, we need focus and to center ourselves.

Getting away from whatever distracts us only boosts our ability to listen to our thoughts and to sense what’s really going on with us.

Airplane mode. It’s not just for Android and Apple. You may want to try it … today.

Blog Post # 88 – My Physicality

I used to think that I could think my way out of any problem.

I tend to live 95% in my head, 2.5% in my body and 2.5% in the spiritual world.

I make my living with my brain.

I spend a lot of time and energy thinking through problems and developing possible solutions for me and for my clients with my brain.

All this brain work lead me to a rather sedentary lifestyle.

Sitting at a desk, hunched over a keyboard, thinking big thoughts.

A friend recently invited me to explore my “physicality.”

This was about a month ago, but the concept has turned me all upside down.

For the past 4 weeks, I have been thinking a little less and focusing more on my body.

How I feel, where the aches and pains are and focusing on how it feels to be in this body of mine.

I’ve been exercising a little bit more and wondering, for the first time really, whether there are physical solutions to some of the issues that I’ve been dealing with.

Solutions that can only come through increased physical activity.

Issues like sleep, melancholy, soreness and energy levels.

Perhaps the solution to these conditions will not come from thinking my way through them, but rather by using my body more, strengthening my muscles and being a bit more active.

Maybe if I focus not so, so much on big picture thoughts but instead upon working my muscles and getting my blood moving that some of these issues will dissipate.

Not because I commanded them to subside with my mind, but because my body works through them with resistance, oxygen and developing more core strength.

This makes the concept of exercise seem like less of a chore than it does part of an integrated lifestyle.

For now, this is just a thought.

Maybe, though, I need fewer thoughts and a little more action.

Blog Post # 87 – Why Are You Here?

Why are you here?

What is your special purpose?

Do you ever wonder about these things?

Ever think there is something more to life than living from moment to moment?

Once we become aware that there is something more, something greater, we become curious as to how to reach our full potential.

Life can be one of endless drudgery and depressing task completion.

Or, we can go through life aware of our goals with knowledge of what our life’s work is meant to be.

We owe it to ourselves to discern what we were put on this planet to do.

This takes tremendous self-scrutiny and awareness of self.

Even after we identify what we are supposed to do, we then have to battle all of the other things that distract us or take us away from our unique contributions.

This work of self-discovery and self-awareness is not easy.

In fact, it is the hardest thing that we are called to do.

Life is not a dress rehearsal. We only have one shot at this life and we owe it to ourselves and to the world to throw everything we have into today.

For tomorrow may never come and we may find ourselves regretting the things that we didn’t do.

Blog Post # 86 – Reactive mode

Leaning in.

Offense versus defense.

How do we approach this day?

Are we pushing forward, focused and with intent?

Or are we floating along through the events and tasks of the day?

We have so many ways to entertain ourselves with meaningless fluff these days.

Facebook, the internet, television, movies, Snapchat, music.

Hours of our day can go by if we don’t pay attention.

Our day just feels different when we are in reaction mode.

We may certainly choose not to focus.

To just respond to things that happen to us.

But perhaps the wiser, more grounded approach is to strive for more.

To push ourselves to excel.

To do our very best today.

Because today may be all we have.

Indeed.

Blog Post # 85 – Empathy

Empathy.

The ability to walk in another person’s moccasins.

To see what they see. Feel what they feel. Experience their life for a bit of time.

We cannot completely empathize with another.

We can’t truly know their pain, their hurts, their struggles.

The experience of another may be diametrically opposed to the life we have had so far.

But we can learn so much from the defeats, and triumphs, of others.

Listening to another can teach us what not to do.

We can begin to understand where they are coming from.

When we practice empathy it is far easier to give people the benefit of the doubt.

When we walk through the world with the understanding that the people around us are dealing with their own issues, we are less judgmental, less frustrated and simply happier.

Impugning the motives of others, assuming the worst and being quick to anger is a hard way to go through life.

Hurts us more than it hurts anyone else.

For today, lets strive for empathy and try to help those who come in our path this day.

Blog Post # 84 – Hero

The word hero gets thrown around a lot these days.

We put people on pedestals – some belong there, many do not.

Our sometimes misguided focus leads us to sometimes follow pretenders, hucksters and false idols.

One man was the real deal. And he has died.

Words cannot adequately describe what a hero Muhammad Ali has been.

He won the heavyweight boxing title not once, not twice, but three times.

This was when being the heavyweight champion of the world was the pinnacle of academic achievement.

He was simply the greatest boxer of all time. We will never see a champion like him again.

Muhammad Ali was fearless. He refused to fight in the Vietnam War, even though it cost him three years of his prime years as a boxer.

He left the Christianity of his youth and became a Muslim. This was a time when most Americans had no idea about Islam.

He spoke out repeatedly against mistreatment of African Americans and called the white power structure out on a regular basis.

He was afraid of nobody and nothing. He risked everything for his principles.

How many of us can say that?

In so many ways, Muhammad Ali was a hero. He was a hero to African Americans during the civil rights movement. He was a hero to the 1.2 billion Muslims in the world. He was a hero to those who had no voice, no megaphone to call out racism and injustice for what it was.

People always called him “The Greatest.” And he certainly was.

On greatness, Ali said “champions aren’t made in gyms. Champions are made from something they have deep inside them, a desire, a dream, a vision.”

Rest in peace, Champ. And salam alaikum.

Blog Post # 83 – In This Moment

Being fully present solves a lot of problems.

If we are present in this moment, we aren’t concerned with the mistakes of the past.

Our focus is on what is in front of us. Nothing else.

We are not worrying about the future, either.

We know that the only thing that we can control is the choice that is in front of us right now.

Dialed in versus daydreaming about a future that may never come.

Unfortunately, it takes tremendous focus and energy to remain present in this moment.

It is all too easy to forget to stay focused and be present.

When I am with my family, I want to be focused on being here with them – not worrying about work or scrambling to answer the dings on my iPhone.

There also seems to be a very fine line between working towards a better future while understanding that the only way that we can impact that future is by the choices that we make right here, right now.

I tend to want to beat myself up over the mistakes of the recent or distant past.

Perhaps it is more helpful to keep striving to do the best that I can in this very moment.

And then let go of the result or outcome.

We can certainly try to impact our future, but if we try to control it completely, we will most likely end up frustrated and confused.

For now, let me remember to be present today. To do my best in this moment.

The future will sort itself out. Or it won’t.

Blog Post # 82 – Eat That Frog

What is the one thing that you least want to do this day?

Do that first and you may end up getting a lot more done today.

Brian Tracy likens this approach to eating a frog.

Distasteful, but sometimes necessary.

This mindset stems from an old Mark Twain quote – as so many wise approaches to life generally do.  Twain said that if you eat a live frog first thing in the morning, you know that will be the worst thing that you had to do that day.

Over the years, I have tried many productivity hacks.  Tips or approaches to getting things done.

But eating that frog, i.e., tackling the day’s biggest challenge first, seems to be the most effective.

If we complete that one big, ornery task and nothing else that day, then at least we got the task completed and off our plate.  

But more often than not, there are other tasks that need completing and when we move past the big, hairy “to do,” it frees up our mind to go after our other tasks too.

With the stumbling block gone, lots more ends up getting done.

Time to go tackle today’s frog.

Yum.