Being terrified doesn’t mean you’re weak, it means you’re human. And the most important steps we take in life are often going to be the most terrifying. They’re terrifying because they’re significant. They’re terrifying because they take you from where you’ve been and set you on a path to somewhere new. And because that path is new, it is mostly unknown, and we’re afraid of the unknown. The the wold belongs to those who step anyway. The world needs you to take that next step.
Regarding the most important things in life
There are lots of reasons why you might seek change. Often those reasons are centered around yourself. Your personal betterment.
These are noble causes. You are infinitely capable, after all, and you deserve the very best, those rewards earned through the persistent pursuit of positive change.
But there is yet a higher cause. Something even nobler.
Vince Lombardi was the famous coach of the Green Bay Packers, who led them to capture their first-ever Super Bowl. In the wake of his incredible success and obvious leadership, Lombardi was highly sought after for corporate events.
He translated the principles of leadership and motivation he used on the football field into 7 principles for work and life. Chief among these 7 principles was one that was surprising for the rough and tough football coach… love. Love, he says, is more powerful than hate.
“The love I’m speaking of is loyalty, which is the greatest of loves. Teamwork, the love that one man has for another and that he respects the dignity of another…I am not speaking of detraction. You show me a man who belittles another and I will show you a man who is not a leader…Heart power is the strength of your company. Heart power is the strength of the Green Bay Packers. Heart power is the strength of America and hate power is the weakness of the world.”
Lombardi taught that when your efforts are fueled by love, you work harder, persevere longer, invest more, take greater care, and are less apt to give up.
Some years ago the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, renowned for providing some of the greatest care in the world for children battling cancer, was building a new facility on campus.
Something remarkable happened, a love-born relationship between the ironworkers and the children. As the Boston globe reported:
“It has become a beloved ritual at Dana-Farber. Every day, children who come to the clinic write their names on sheets of paper and tape them to the windows of the walkway for ironworkers to see. And, every day, the ironworkers paint the names onto I-beams and hoist them into place as they add floors to the new 14-story Yawkey Center for Cancer Care.
“The building’s steel skeleton is now a brightly colored, seven-story monument to scores of children receiving treatment at the clinic-Lia, Alex, and Sam; Taylor, Izzy, and Danny. For the young cancer patients, who press their noses to the glass to watch new names added every day, the steel and spray-paint tribute has given them a few moments of joy and a towering symbol of hope. ‘It’s fabulous,’ said [18-month-old] Kristen [Hoenshell]’s mother, Elizabeth, as she held her daughter and marveled at the rainbow of names. It’s just a simple little act that means so much.’”
The children and their parents were certainly touched, but think of the ironworkers, each morning in the bitter cold and biting wind. Their project had become more than just another building. Their work now had meaning. They had purpose.
This kind of purpose, when your efforts are somehow tied to something more than yourself, creates powerful, self-sustaining drive that you simply don’t otherwise get.
This year I helped coach my 14 year old son’s football team. The prior season was a tough one, with zero wins. Coming into the new season with that record created a powerful barrier to success – self doubt. What the boys needed was something to believe in. Something to rally around.
That something showed up on the first day of practice. His name was Austin. Austin was autistic. But he had a huge heart and an infectious sense of humor (which was often manifested by his sneaking up on a coach and inflicting physical pain, which delighted the other boys.)
His parents didn’t have much by way of expectations, but were excited he wanted to play. Austin didn’t have many friends. Until now.
The team embraced him. At first he would only practice a few plays at a time before losing interest, when he would go sit on the side and watch (or sneak up on coaches). Over time he would stay in nearly the whole practice, with help and guidance and patience of his teammates, showing him where to stand and what to do.
We decided we wanted Austin to have a lot of play time. He started, every game, as defensive nose guard, and cycled in and out every couple of plays. His parents were ecstatic at the experience.
We ended the season with 7 wins and 1 loss, and went to the championship game, where again, Austin started.
This was the same team that a year prior had not won a game.
While there were several things we worked on to overcome mental barriers, and be better prepared, in my mind nothing played a larger role, at least in gaining our initial inertia, than the fact that we had something to rally around. We had a cause greater than ourselves. We were motivated by love, by loyalty.
Love imbues your change efforts with unparalleled, uncompromising purpose.
Whatever your change efforts are, find a way to let them be led, or inspired by a cause greater than yourself, and you’ll find your rate of success increasing dramatically.
Let yourself be led by love.
(You can read all of Lambardi’s principles in his biography by Pulitzer Prize winning author David Maraniss: “When Pride Still Mattered“.)
It amazes me how many people I talk to, even those well into advanced, seemingly rewarding careers, are actually not happy. Just within the past 4 weeks I’ve had a number of my closest friends communicate this to me, these are people who are years into outstanding careers, who have advanced degrees, people who I respect and admire for their accomplishments in life, and the success they’ve had in their careers.
But still, they’re just not happy.
Most often this is derived from a decoupling of your pursuits, from your personality. This is happening with painful frequency, and is extremely expensive.
It’s expensive to the world in terms of lost productivity, and it comes at great cost to you personally, in terms of diminished happiness lost opportunities, and the fact that you just won’t reach peak performance until you’re doing something you love to do.
Is this you? Have you found yourself thinking recently about how much you’d rather be doing something else? Do you know someone recently who is going through this?
I’m dedicating the week to this topic, and longer if necessary.
We’ll be deconstructing the problem as we would an engineering problem. We’ll analyze the constraints. We’ll discuss the principles and methods you can use to chart a new trajectory. A trajectory that moves you towards something vastly more fulfilling, towards a future where you’re pursuits are perfectly aligned with your personality.
We’ll discuss the various obstacles you will certainly face, and how to overcome them. We’ll put together a step by step guide to finding meaning and reward.
I hope you’ll join us. If you know of anyone who is in a similar stage of life, please invite them to join in the journey and participate in the discussions.
Note: Thank you for being here. Remember, you matter, and you can make a difference. Please share this post with someone else, and come back for more.
Image from Joseph
I’m a member of several psychology, neurology, and cognitive/behavioral groups on LinkedIn, where I’m able to participate in lots of great discussions.
Today, I came across a study being conducted by Deryck Thake, a student researcher from the University of Leicester School of Psychology. Deryck is studying the nature of shame and self-forgiveness, and their relationship with health and personality.
This is such an important topic, and one that I’ve recently been exploring in my book, so I thought I’d talk a little about it here (a small, sneak-preview), as well as provide a link to his survey (here), which I encourage you to take (about 10 min).
Two great obstacles
As a software engineer, I’m constantly focused on constraints. Hardware constraints, resource constraints, budget constraints, market constraints, technology constraints, bandwidth constraints, and more. There are always things that stand in the way of your objective.
In life, it’s no different. Two of the largest obstacles people often face as they endeavor to change, are those of shame and self-forgiveness.
Plagued with the memories of past mistakes, people become…
- riddled with self-doubt.
- mired in shame and discouragement.
- preoccupied with the past.
- fixated on their faults.
- plagued with depression.
It’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, to labor under these kinds of constraints and make any meaningful progress in life.
I like the metaphor of a rocket ship, held on the ground by the gravitational pull of the earth. That rocket ship has to to reach escape velocity, the speed at which it has the required momentum to escape gravity.
Like that rocket ship, we’re held captive by the gravitational pull of our past, of our present, of the way others see us and the way we see ourselves. But like that rocket, there are things we can do to reach our own sort of escape velocity.
What’s our first problem? Perspective.
Step 1: The catalytic moment
Having become so riveted on the negative, we frequently fail to see the positive, we fail to look forward, it’s like trying to drive ahead while staring in your rear view mirror (see this post). It just doesn’t work.
Those stuck in this stage are in need of what I call a catalytic moment. That blessed moment of clarity when you’re lifted above your circumstance to gain perspective. That perspective lets you envision a better destination, and that destination gives you the desire to change.
Sometimes this catalytic moment can seem illusive. But often it can be encouraged by a few core realizations. The first of which is an old engineering principle called “fault tolerance”.
Fault tolerance is where you design a system such that it is capable of tolerating fault without shutting down. Life can be the same. Faults, errors, mistakes, and failures are all part of life, they’re part of learning, they’re part of growing. They provide the opposition necessary for growth and development (see this post). We can even train our selves through failure conditioning (this post), so when we fail, we do so on our terms. We can acclimate ourselves to faults and failures so that our response, when they come, is always positive.
Often even a small degree of fault tolerance in ones perspective can be enough to lead to a catalytic moment. Sometimes that must be augmented with a moment of spirituality, or an instance where we see something better and yearn for it. Often it involves discovering the light within, a realization of our own human potential (each of which are discussed in greater detail in the book).
Those people who suffer from shame, can be helped to realize that having done bad things does not make you a bad person. That perspective transitions shame, to guilt (the more positive manifestation of the two), which can help fuel the next stage.
What’s our biggest problem now? Inertia.
Step 2: Phase 1 Propulsion
This is where the big boosters are used. This phase is all about emotion. At this point we’re in the heat of the moment (the catalytic moment, which has infused us with the desire to change).
But this initial propulsion of emotion is often short-lived. How often have you known someone (or even yourself) that has been convinced they were going to change, total conviction, seemingly endless motivation, but then fail to do so.
That’s because these phase 1 rockets, this emotional motivation, soon gives way to the still-unweilding pull of gravity. Unfortunately, it hasn’t taken us far enough away (nowhere near escape velocity) to reduce gravity’s effects even slightly.
What it has given us though, is positive momentum. It’s gotten us off the ground, and that’s substantial.
What’s our biggest problem now? Sustained momentum and an accurate trajectory.
Step 3 and beyond
The next steps toward reaching escape velocity will be discussed in more detail in the book, but include principles like:
- Controlled Failure
- Making the most of microcosms
- Change blindness and the “all of a sudden” syndrome
- We are the product of our thoughts
- Finding your own personal sweet spot
- Self-imposed limitations
- Cycle time
- Overcoming entropy
- Straining toward achievement
- It’s all about attitude
- and more…
Note: Thank you for being here. Remember, you matter, and you can make a difference. Please share this post with someone else, and come back for more.
Early this morning I was on the way to the gym, when I was suddenly turned the corner and stopped dead in my tracks.
There had been a light fog, and the sun had just broken through, casting beams of light that streamed down onto the neighborhood.
I quickly pulled over to enjoy the moment, and snapped this photo with my iPhone.
As I soaked in the scenery, I was reminded just how much beauty surrounds us, if we’ll only stop and notice.
But this post is about more than just sharing the joy of my morning. There’s real life-engineering value to simple observations like this.
Appreciating beauty is highly therapeutic for the mind and spirit. It has a calming effect which helps lift our vision, allowing us to regain perspective. It helps reduce the bad stress, and keeps us focused on the good stress (the stress that pushes us), which helps foster a strong immune system, deep and restful sleep, and an overall healthier, more capable body.
Additionally, during periods of enjoyment and joy, the neurotransmitter dopamine shoots into your prefrontal cortex. When this happens, you enjoy tremendous thought breadth (as opposed to thought depth, which you get when you focus).
Thought breadth is the crux of creativity. It allows you to see problems from different perspectives, and it’s easier to find alternate solutions to things you’ve been hyper focused on.
So while it seems simple, and it is in practice, the benefits of being more aware of the beauty that surround you have a real, powerful impact on your ability to achieve your goals, and accomplish great things.
How long has it been since you’ve watched the sun set? The whole thing. Or the sun rise? Or stopped to look at the reflection of the sky in a puddle, or water drops on a flower? There is beauty all around, try stopping for a moment now and then to enjoy it.
Your mind is extraordinarily powerful.
Without even thinking about it, you breathe, digest, circulate blood, release endorphins, feel, hear, taste, and see. All these things are processed instantly and automatically within your brain, with no apparent effort. Enough processing occurs within your brain, and without your attention, to keep your body – the most complex creation on the planet – running smoothly.
What’s even more powerful and amazing though, are the impact of our conscious thoughts. The ones we actually devote time and energy to.
Every dream that was ever realized… every invention that was ever created… every innovation, every milestone, every leap of any significance once originated as a simple thought. A thought that was nurtured, and refined.
It has been said that we tend to move towards our most dominant thought pattern. If those are primarily negative, then the direction our life inevitably turns the same direction. There’s a reason the most successful people you meet are predominantly upbeat, optimistic, can-do kind of people.
The more positive you think, the more positive you feel. The more positive you think and feel, the more inclined and motivated you are to act, create, improve, and change.
Indeed, thoughts are the seeds of action. And actions are the seeds of our future.
Want to change your future? Then change your thoughts.
Now that I’m officially unemployed, our family is having to make sacrifices. I’ve never not had a job, let alone been let go involuntarily. And for most the lives of my 6 terrific kids, I’ve had not just any job, but terrific, well-paying jobs.
Now all of a sudden, certain luxuries are going away, and it’s tough. Even though we’ve were blessed to have received a great severance, there’s still a finite amount of money in the bank, and I’ll likely need every penny in starting up my new company.
Everybody is effected in different ways. We’re canceling cable (an unnecessary $100/month), which means no more football for my eldest. One son just came home with a straight-A report card, which we usually reward by going out and buying them the book of their choice… that quickly adds up to nearly $100 by the time everybody gets their books (they’re all terrific students). We just had a family council where we decided to simply read the books we’ve already got, and instead choose other ways to celebrate their accomplishments without spending money.
These kinds of sacrifices are in no way independently substantial, but in accumulation begin to carry some weight, and there’s already been tears shed.
As a father, it’s terrifically difficult to bear. I could easily just go spend the money. I don’t have any doubt I’ll soon be earning good income, without ever fully exhausting our reserves, but the opportunity to teach lessons of sacrifice, budgeting, and wisdom during hard times is too important.
I remember times in my childhood where we had no money. Where we, at one point, had to live in a tent, or later a small RV trailer. When we ate raw pancake batter that we scrounged up from somewhere, or crackers on hotdog buns with water, or squirrels, or craw-dads from the creek. There were lots of times like this, and I know my character grew because of those times.
But now, being (only slightly) on the other end, as the provider, I realize how difficult sacrifice is. Deliberately holding back from my kids (who were never spoiled in the first place), so that they can learn the lessons of sacrifice. It’s incredibly painful.
Just now it’s caused me to reflect on the burden our Father in Heaven must feel, as He too, is forced to look on as we, His beloved children, must endure trials, heartache, and sacrifice.
I’m confident that even as I look on with love and understanding, choosing the right moments to intervene, so too does he look upon us, with even greater love and understanding, choosing the right moments to intervene, and meanwhile letting our characters grow from the struggles we’ve been given.
This experience has helped me to learn, that sacrifice is hard, but character is forever.
As I mentioned yesterday (here), on Friday I lost my job. It’s kind of a tough time for that to happen, I’ve heard the economy isn’t doing so well ;-) . I also know that in terms of finding employment, the holiday season is one of the tougher times of year to be in the job market (especially a saturated one).
But, I’m not worried. I’ve learned that there’s one single overarching secret to solving this dilemma. Obedience.
22 And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandments ye should prosper in the land; and he never doth vary from that which he hath said; therefore, if ye do keep his commandments he doth bless you and prosper you.
20 And he hath said that: Inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land…
31 Wherefore, because thou hast been faithful thy seed shall be blessed with his seed, that they dwell in prosperity long upon the face of this land; and nothing, save it shall be iniquity among them, shall harm or disturb their prosperity upon the face of this land forever.
25 …for the promise of the Lord was, if they should keep his commandments they should prosper in the land.
30 But behold, my son, this is not all; for ye ought to know as I do know, that inasmuch as ye shall keep the commandments of God ye shall prosper in the land; and ye ought to know also, that inasmuch as ye will not keep the commandments of God ye shall be cut off from his presence. Now this is according to his word.
20 Blessed art thou and thy children; and they shall be blessed, inasmuch as they shall keep my commandments they shall prosper in the land. But remember, inasmuch as they will not keep my commandments they shall be cut off from the presence of the Lord.
There are numerous other scriptures that reinforce this simple truth, that obedience brings blessings.
20 There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated-
So while I’m certainly anxious to start making money again, I’m by no means worried. For either I believe the scriptures, or I don’t. They’re either true or they aren’t. Personally, I believe they are, and that belief isn’t conditional upon my immediate, changing circumstances.
So while it seems ambiguous and even disconnected, I firmly believe (to all those who may be in a similar predicament), that the single thing we can do to most positively impact your financial situation is to clean up your life, repent of past wrongs, change where necessary, look to God, and walk that blessed road of obedience.
Such is my plan, to proceed in faith, working (nothing good happens without work), and praying, and following the spirit.
It’s an exciting time, and all doors are open.
Friday I joined the ranks of the unemployed. My prior company, a la mode, Inc. decided to downsize in the Salt Lake office and eliminated me and another product manager, moving those responsibilities back to Oklahoma City, where the company is located.
I’d been there 8 years.
Needless to say, it was a shock. But that’s not even the full story. Friday morning I woke up, and went to see the doctor about a couple painful lumps that had been lingering in my breast for over two years. I’d just read a large article on MSN on breast cancer in men, and figured I’d better go get checked. I went in to see my primary care physician, who after a brief inspection, confirmed that indeed it did appear suspiciously like breast cancer, and that I should go see a surgeon immediately to have a biopsy.
I’d just left that appointment, walked into the office and sat down, when I was called into the main conference room to meet with our director of HR who was video conferencing in on the big screen.
What a morning.
LOL, I drove home and walked into the house to the quizzical expression of my wife (who coincidentally knew nothing of my visit to the doctor). I said something like “honey, I’ve got a couple things I need to tell you”…
And then I took the weekend off!
Tomorrow I’ll have the results from meeting with the surgeon. In regards to my health, as I said in a txt to my bishop on Friday “I’m not concerned at all. There is no room for fear when you have faith. The two are entirely incompatible, they cannot coexist. And I have absolute faith, which means inherently, I have no fear.” Besides, there are lots of other things it could be.
In regards to my job, I’m also not afraid. I’ve actually had several things I’ve been meaning to start up, but have simply lacked the time to do so. Now all of a sudden I’ve got some time on my hands! ;-) And I’m motivated. Thanks in part to my boss, the company owner, who was uncommonly generous with his severance (generosity is one of his hallmarks), I’ve now got a little bit of time to try kicking something off. I look at this as one of those catalytic events in life, an opportunity to pursue my dreams. At this point, every door is open, I just have to choose which one.
I’m convinced a year from now I’ll look back on this with profound gratitude. I’ll be sharing more on this over the coming days. But needless to say, one of the things I intend to invest far more time into is this blog! So there’s already an upside to this weekend’s events.
I look forward to many more conversations together.
In regards to the concept in this post how by small and simple things are great things brought to pass. I offer the following practical encouragement.
As a parent, consistently fulfilling the simple “can you play with me”, “can you read to me”, or “can you lay by me”, means more to that child, builds more love, as well as closer and more lasting relations, than any grand plan you’re likely to set in motion.
In business, consistently and successfully tackling the opportunities at your doorstep will generate more revenue, build more good will, and give you more traction than all of the big ideas that never come to fruition.
As a boss, maximizing the little chances you have to build up an employee, encourage a peer, empower a worker, recognize effort, provide context, and share your vision, will do more to build morale and boost productivity, than nearly anything else you could have planned to do.
As an employee, consistently taking all of the little opportunities in front of you to go the extra mile, to take just a little more responsibility, to share the recognition, to add one more layer of refinement to whatever your doing, will do more to move you forward in your career and build fulfillment than most anything else you can do.
As a child of God, the little opportunities right in front of you to choose the right, to lift your standards just a little, to say no when you should say no, or say yes when you should say yes, to repent, to be just a little more humble, a little more compassionate, a little more understanding, and a little more proactive, will give you more spiritual elevation than you can imagine.
As a spouse, it’s consistently taking the immediate opportunites to say “I love you”, or tell them how nice they look, or recognize their efforts and achievements, to validate their concerns, to just be quiet and really listen, to communicate, to go on a date, and to be with them that will bring you the most enriching, fulfilling, and wholesome relationships.
In whatever you do, live in the present, and the future will shape itself.