Happy Monday! This is your Monday morning reminder that you are amazing and you can handle anything.
I do not consider myself a “competitive” person. And what I mean by that is that I am not the sort of person who is constantly trying to out-do everyone else. If I am in “competition” with anyone else, it is usually myself and the standards I set for myself.
If you think about it (or if I think about it), much of what we learn growing up is about competition and how to deal with it. We start at a young age playing games on the playground. They progress to competitive sports and then competition in school and in life. Consider my life’s example:
On the playground at school
Organized sports I never played
In high school I swam, played water polo and pole vaulted.
And this does not get into all the other sports and games that we may have been introduced to that I never played.
I cannot say I really started being “competitive” in sports until I began bike racing. It began when I was about 23 or 24 – as I was quitting smoking cigarettes. I found myself needing to find new hobbies. These were things to do with my time to not think about wanting a cigarette. It also helped because I gained 15 lbs. and felt fat all the time. So, I began riding.
Bike riding was not my only pass time. I also golfed a lot. I tended more toward cycling as it did not cost my $50 every time I went out. This was also around the time I relocated to Pennsylvania from California. And Eastern Pennsylvania proved to be a great place to cycle. Lots of back roads and hills and different places to see. Plus, I got involved with a club – which led to racing.
I was involved in racing for about 4 years. And while I was never all that great, I found that the competition – against myself, against the Hills and against other riders helped me in so many ways.
It taught me to set goals. Some were training goals. Or weight goals. Or race placement goals. I had to think in advance and plan out how to do it. It taught me about honing the metal of your soul. What were my physical limitations? How do I get past them?
I soon realized that that was not a mountain that I could not get over. They could not physically defeat me. I might go slow. But I would get to the top. And this is a freeing feeling.
I just recently read a book. Yes, it was science fiction and what happened could not have happened. But the point it made was important. The main character could switch between bodies. He was in the middle of a battle. And switched to another body to retreat. He began running as fast as he could. He noticed that the body he had taken was not as strong as the one he grew up in. But he had no fear that he would be overcome with exhaustion. That endurance was more a mental thing. You had to be able to steal you mind into getting your body to do what you want it to do. Physical limitations be damned.
And it is this lesson that I have found most important about competition. It is a mindset. It is fixing a result in your mind and using your resources to get there.
When I was about 15, I hiked to the top of Half Dome in Yosemite. We finished in about 8 hours and were exhausted. But we did it. A few years later, my mother and sister decided to make the trek. My sister was probably about the same age I had been. But my Mom was 52 or 53. They set the goal. They got conditioned. And they got to the top of Half Dome as well. They did not make it down the mountain until after dark (more like 11 to 12 hours). But the task was accomplished.
This mindset can help you to get anywhere you choose.
I saw this on Facebook and felt the need to share it here. It fits right in with my list of 24 things to do when you are young. It was written by Joe Payton (A facebook friend of a friend of a friend). He said he was responding to a post from a 19 year old who had just completed his real estate coursework and was preparing to take off into a new career. And its the kind of non typical advice that I believe can help to into a successful and rewarding future. So here it is
1) You’re ahead of everybody else here. That means you can try lots of stuff and make lots of mistakes. So relax and have fun and also work like hell. Your body and mind can take the workload. But have fun doing it and be gracious and be grateful.
2) draw a smallish circle, softball sized: drop some small pebbles in it. Now put a penny in the center.
Next draw a larger circle, the size of a basketball – with one edge of the larger circle touching one edge of the smaller circle. Move the penny to the center of the larger circle. OK – the small circle represents your life up to NOW. The larger circle represents the life you’re about to expand into. The penny is you. The pebbles are your friends. As you grow, your world expands. As your world expands you go places you’ve never gone before. Your friends may choose not to. That’s OK. They are still your friends, they still share a part of your world. But you’ve got to acknowledge to yourself there are new places to go. If they don’t also grow that’s their choice. The next circle is the size of a kids swimming pool, but that’s too far in the future: be the basketball sized circle next.
3) get Jordan Peterson’s book “12 Rules For Life”. I got it in Audible and listened to it at the gym. Follow and apply the rules.
4) spend as much time as you can with your parents and uncles and aunts and grandparents. They are the closest thing you have to older versions of yourself and have the highest likelihood of truly wanting the best outcome for you. Be brave and vulnerable with them. Ask them to see you at your best and hold you to the highest possible outcome for potential you-ness.
5) Read. A lot. All the time. Audible, youtube, cliffs notes, epic movies. Read the classics. Find an author and read everything g he’s written. Twain, London, Fitzgerald, all of them. Buy books and mark them up and build a library. Read current events and read history. Watch for patterns and train your mind to look for inconsistencies and illogical outcomes, note the propaganda patterns and listen to the dissent. Build your own worldview based on your own empirical truth based on your research and experimentation. Keep your own counsel and don’t over-share. This ability to develop “a knowing” based on underlying reasons is at the core of the most successful people in history.
6) Pray. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know if there’s a God, or don’t believe, or if you know for certain there is no God, pray anyway. There will be moments when the only single thing keeping you alive and sane and able to cope is because you can converse in complete surrender to the force of the universe that I choose to call God, and that force will contain, support, supply, restrain you to make it through to a next breath. It will happen and you want to be in conversation when that time arrives. The bonus is that an ongoing conversation gives you daily enlightenment we humans are hardwired for. So use the hardware.
7) Have fun, fall in love, be friends with the oddball, go to concerts and go camping and rebuild a car.
8) Start to learn to play a musical instrument in 2019.
For my part, I took Action #3 – Read Jordan Peterson’s “12 Rules for Life” on Audible. I have the Audible app anyway with 5 free credits (I got sucked into that a few months afgo when my 14 year old did not want to read a book for school. So its time for me to use it.
All the time we are in Government School, we are looking forward to graduating and getting to our next place. What that place will be – college, trade school, a job, a gap year?
In theory, that is what you are trying to find out when we are doing that time. Are we seriously learning enough to help us get by? That is definitely up for debate.
Back in the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and maybe the 80’s, we thought so. A high school education – and the diploma it came with – were supposed to mean something. It meant you could read, understand math, understand government and civics.
Somewhere in that time, someone decided that the US was falling behind in test scores and educational outcomes versus other countries (China? Japan? Europe?) and we came up with “The New Math”, Outcomes Based Education, No Child Left Behind and Common Core. All of course were designed to help us “catch up” to these other countries whose scores were better than ours.
And in the end, did any of it help? Are our test scores any better? Graduation rates?
I tend to put little credence on the primary education system. And unfortunately when you listed to the guidance councilors at the high school level, I do not think they do either. It seems that the only thing that they are preparing kids for is the College that the kids need to get into. So I continue to ask. What will they get in college?
And after 2, 4, 6, 12 years of college (and anywhere from $20,000 to $100’s of thousands of dollars), are you any more equipped to enter the workforce?
So Back to the Question of Actual Learning
I ponder a lot of these questions because I west through the education process myself. I graduated High School, Graduated College and went out into the workforce. My college did not do a very good job at ushering me into a career. Maybe it was because I did not connect with the right office at the right time. I took my diploma and ran.
As for further formal education, it was my goal to get a job after college. I was sick and tired of being a poor student. So after almost a year of searching, I found work. It was not directly in my field of study, but I could use what I learned. And frankly, I do not think it mattered to my employer. The Diploma was simply a ticket in the door.
I could have gone for an MBA, but I really did not want to go back to school. Any further education, I have done on my own.
You hear a lot about adults going back to school and getting an additional degree. Maybe its just a bachelors. Maybe its a high school diploma. Going that route, you are still following the “EDUCATION SYSTEM.”
For me, I have not pursued anything that would get me a degree. But I continue to learn.
I am an avid reader. Last year, I accepted a challenge on the website Goodreads. In January, I declared the number of books that I would read. It ended up being 35. I actually read 42 books, but I am not bragging. But honestly it was not easy. Reading that many books means 3 books per month.
I am always reading at least 2 books at a time. Some are long. Some are short. Some are research. Others just for fun. Some are rereads.
I also nosh out on television documentaries. The History Channel and Discovery are fantastic for this.
I see it as a choice we have in life.
I recently read this meme on Facebook that offers some thoughts and stats about reading. If any of the stats are real, it is an eye opening thought. We all have brains that we can use to better ourselves. We need to keep doing it.
Have you thought much about The American Dream? You have probably heard a hundred definitions all of which use the words equality, opportunity and liberty. Wikipedia has a very good definition that I may quote later.
And I say later because I want to get back to the action part of this day. The part that says to go out and do something. As Americans, we are taught from an early age that in addition to being endowed with our own personal sovereignty and being born in the land of opportunity, that there is nothing we cannot do. Its a country where a couple of geeks in their garage can tinker around with electronics and create Apple. Another awkward kid from relatively humble beginnings can grow up to create Microsoft. And there are thousands and thousands of stories like this.
So what has made us so special? Of the 7 billion odd people on this planet, are American’s the only ones who can do this? Obviously not. However I would say that the way that we are raised, with the attitude that nothing can get in our way and we have the right and the privilege to to do whatever we want (so long as it does not get in the way of everyone else’s right to do the same). Growing up in a world where our daily life reflects this can do attitude gives Americans a leg up. We are already 2 to 3 steps up the ladder to success vs people who have not had that felling as part of their lives.
I began with this description of America mainly because America is The Land of Opportunity. How else to a measly 330 million individuals command more wealth and drive more innovations and success than the other 7.3 Billion in the world?
I do not think it comes from anything genetic that we are born with. Unless what you are morn with is simply the fact that you are here.
The success we see is in an attitude that simply has not been bred in the same way around the world. Our society is born and bred with the idea that WE ARE EXCEPTIONAL. We are endowed by our creator with unalienable rights – those of life liberty and pursuit of happiness. (its not a very big secret BTW – and one that the other 7.3 Billion might want to know that they are too – they just have to tell all the people “above them” that that is the case.
So given that we know it, many of us go out and just do it. And the success of our nation is the result.
How many times are you out and about, living your life, when an idea hit you? You imagine the perfect shoe or shirt that will absolutely change the world. It is so amazing that it will improve every aspect of your life and the lives of everyone you know. AND once you create it, you will become fabulously rich and famous overnight! Then you step off the curb into a puddle of water, your foot is soaks and you forget all about it.
The How about the idea is often a mystery. But there are ways that you can amp up your chances of making it happen. Its all about getting yourself into the right mindset. I found a cool article about creating ideas. If you are interested, read it here:
I cannot vouch for its effectiveness, but it was entertaining to read.
But then you need to create the mindset to make bring your idea to life. And this is not necessarily something that you learn. It is something that you feel. It is a fire lit inside of you.
Back in the 1920’s, Napoleon Hill penned an omnibus report called The Law of Success in 16 Lessons. It was the culmination of years of research and interviews with some of the most successful people of his times. It was read by some of the greats and then summarily ignored.
He then summarized his findings in a shorter, tighter version called Think an Grow Rich. In this book, he discusses little know concepts at the time, The Law of Attraction being one. Its basic definition is embodied in his statement:
He then goes on to describe part of the way of ensuring success is by creating a Burning Desire for your ideas. It is this burning desire that pushes an individual into action after action after action.
So back to the project of the day. How do you bring your most incredible idea into reality? This is something we should all do. It is our right. It is our privilege.
Last year about this time, I had an idea. I wanted to create a blog about gardening. I came up with the idea and immediately went to Namecheap, bought a domain and set up the blog. From idea to reality was less than an hour and at a cost of about $14. Astrogardens came to life.
Within 24 hours, I wrote the first 2-3 posts and began planning my garden. I bought seeds on Amazon. I made diagrams of how my gardens would look in my yard. I made plans about what I would be growing and where.
Now the weather did not cooperate so well, and I did not get my first seeds in the ground until April. But the idea was set in motion.
Action is required to put ideas in motion. Take action today.
Most of us have heard the biblical parable about the Good Samaritan. A Man is beaten by the side of the road. He is passed by an not helped by rich people and religious people who should offer and hand. And then is offered help by the Samaritan. One who would not be expected to help offers a hand to one it need. Saying it is not the category of person, but what might be in their heart that determines their actions.
We used to go camping throughout the state of California. We would go out once a month with a camping group through the Elks Lodge to locations all over Southern California. And from there, we had Mountains, Deserts, Beaches and Amusement parks to choose from. We would ride motor cycles, hike, swim, shoot guns. You name it.
As the Elks group, we would see other camping groups traveling around. The most curious to me were the Good Sams. The point of this organization was always lost on me until someone clued me in. I always through that they were just competition.
But their value as fellow campers who have pledged to stop when they see someone pulled over at the side of the road. And going out so often, we faced some of these challenges. There were a couple tire blowouts we dealt with. And then there was the time we jack knifed the trailer on the way up to Yosemite. Luckily the car and trailer were still driveable, and we were on our way to vacation. But the help we received on the road each time was never forgotten. And on occasion, when we were able, we paid it back.
Charitable work is a funny thing in our society. You often wonder what drives people to do charity work.
For me, it is obvious. I grew up going to a church who had its hands in many many charities. There was the Bishop’s Fund for World Relief – who did a soup drive every year. Members would donate soup items and receive a box themselves to make some of this charity soup. As I recall, the memory of that soup will always remind me of what we were doing and why (I thought it sucked, but my parents raved about it). We also sponsored weekly dinners as well as a food pantry that we were always donating to.
Then there were the annual trips down to the veteran’s hospital to deliver Christmas gifts. I always went along and remember vividly when I was sixteen and my dad gave me the keys to the truck to drive the load into the veterans hospital in downtown LA. There were the magic shows and events our club would sponsor for kids with Downs syndrome.
I grew up around it as part of the things we do to make the world a better place.
This is a difficult question for many people. Because often, even acknowledging a fear is as good as setting it off. We often bury our fears around and behind so many barriers so as not to ever have to face them.
In reading the article that began this journey, the Conquering Your Fears task seemed more like another “Just Do It!” kind of thing. They picture rock climbers suspended in the air in hammocks – for fear of certain death should they roll our of bed on the “Wrong Side.” What better way to illustrate things that that are fears to conquer then looking at something that makes me cringe and my stomach tie up in knots.
An example that we see blowing up the internet over the past few years is extreme Selfies. These are pictures of people in dangerous (usually super high and impossible) locations, taken with selfie sticks from a high angle.
To me they seemed like the next generation of planking photos (people taking pictures posed prone and stiff as a board). These were often in weird or ironic locations like in front of a sign or at the entrance to a building. I think that a few of them were taken in places like the edge of a building or on the cliff in front of the Grand Canyon.
After seeing so many of them, business owners and many others started banning the practice of plank pictures. I tended to think it was because they were so embarrassing.
But any search on the word “Extreme Selfies” will get you a plethora of gut wrenching pictures.
The idea of facing your fears has become a theme in many reality TV shows. Consider Survivor – where contestants are placed on an island and forced to brave the elements and challenging tasks to become the sole survivor. Each season there is at least one contestant that has joined just to say that they have faced their fears.
Another show, Fear Factor, gets directly to our point. What scary things might you face in order to win money. And then you can watch the people have to eat disgusting things, handle snakes and bugs, perform tasks at heights or at fast speeds. Call the winners the ones with the least fears or the most nerve or just lucky.
We watch these shows for so many reasons. Maybe we want to see them fail. That way you can say you aren’t so bad, since someone else was more scared than you might be. Or you can cheer the winners for conquering those fears.
While I admit to enjoying these contests, I also remember that its just a show. Should someone actually be in danger of falling 200 feet face first and dying, that would be something. For any horror fans, you might want to pick up the book The Running Man. It was made into a terrible movie with Arnold Schwarzenegger. It almost perfectly predicted where Reality TV could go in a dystopian future. Where people agree to try to win life changing amounts of money. But the cost mught be that they cut off their hand, are permanently maimed or something horrible like that. Reality TV today does not go that far. But depending much people’s value of life falls, who knows where we might end up.
When I first though about this, I thought of my own irrational fears. Snakes for one. Hate them. Or tight enclosed places. NO NO NO!
But I think even worse than any of these are the real life horrors. There are those of us who lost people close to them at an early age. My Dad dies when I was 25. Many of my own fears surround the loss of people close to me suddenly now. I worry about my health and that I do not fall into the traps that killed him.
Even worse, consider life threatening diseases. I remember when I was in 2nd grade, a girl a few years older than I was contracted Cancer. It was leukemia. I knew about her through a friend on my street who knew her. But I saw it more first hand as her sister was in my class. As she fought the disease, we would see her at school. And then we wouldn’t. We heard word when she passed, and no one was prepared for how to handle it.
This was the 70’s. Cancer wasn’t mainstream news, though it was obviously all over the place. We did not have councilors or safe spaces. I remember that was a fear I held onto for years. The fear of getting cancer. Or of someone I knew getting cancer.
Add this real life experience to people who experience trauma, death of a parent, death of a family member, loss of a pet.
I often wonder at slasher movies. Not only is the death happening through the movie. But think of the aftermath that they do not show. Consider how often cop dramas show the main characters shooting guns and killing people. Then how often do you see those characters curled up in a ball in the corner of a closet dealing with the trauma.
So whether it is facing extreme fears, or the horrors of daily life, what we are talking about is how you face these fears and how you deal with them.
The point of this challenge is to actively confront extreme conditions. Look them in the face without batting an eye. Or maybe you do bat an eye and then figure out how to get past it. What are the things going through your mind. Are they stopping you and holding you back? Or are they saving you from doing something that could get you killed?
I think about how often I stood in the brink of Stoneman Bridge in Yosemite, deciding whether or not to jump off. It was only a short drop – maybe 20-25 feet. The water deep enough – though maybe only 50 degrees if we were lucky. Done it a bunch of times. But standing there, the old fears return. You face them, and then take the step.