To Here!

America is increasingly a land of the discontented.  TV with 300 channels in every room, desktops replaced by laptops replaced by tablets soon to be replaced by smartphones more powerful that desktop computers of at best 15 years ago (if that). Kids, wildly affluent by the standards in 90% of the world, angry at parents who fail to provide enough stimulation via the latest gadgets and experiences. Addiction, both substance and process, continuing to soar as I/we try to satisfy the hunger of the soul searching for something “Out there”.

With each passing day I am clearer that “Out there” is “Right here” lived one day at a time, the collection of well-lived “nows”. “Out there” is a land of peace, contentment, gratitude, and the satisfaction that comes from having lived for something bigger than myself built one moment at a time beginning right now, right here.

No, there is not telling really how “Out there” will turn out if I live “Right here” in a disciplined, unselfish, serving, grateful manner. Or . . . . might there be? I believe so.

All I need to is look around. The problem is not the absence of stuff, or goals that are not lofty enough, or a host of other “you should be doings”, per se. Is it possible the problem is poor vision? Or, as Mark Twain famously remarked, “It ain’t what you don’t know. It’s what you know that ain’t so that causes trouble.”

Over a decade ago, in the work, “The Millionaire Next Door”, two Northwestern University professors working on behalf of the Trust department of a large bank were stunned into the producing of the book when they realized the formula for many with wealth was VERY different from what they believed they were seeing. For instance, rather than an expensive Armani suit, the millionaire next door had not spent a single time for a suit what it likely cost to get the cuffs hemmed on an Armani suit. Nor, did he wear a Rolex or a “Tag” or a (insert the name of any watch costing over approximately $200.00) in most cases. Further, lived in the same house for 30 plus years – long after buying a bigger, nicer one in the ‘burbs would have been easy (with cash). And, today, Warren Buffet, one of the wealthiest individuals alive still lives in the same home he has for 40 plus years.

There are folks all around me quietly living in an atypical way who know the simple truth my parents, who at 80 live the most peaceful, comfortable life, serving others I know,  “Out there” turns out to be a wonderful “Here” by living effectively a single moment at a time. Their lives share this in common, they understand “Out there”, “Someday”, and “When” are “Now” and “Here” lived in an emotionally mature, disciplined manner with the people around them (and everybody’s  faults). Living looking for joy, which is all around in folks’ smiles, simple kindnesses, and in the opportunities to feel the fatigue of serving others who are in the next room, or apartment, or home, or block, etc.

I can start a delightful “Out there” NOW with the next conversation I have with my kids, my friend Bryan, Steve, or Linda. What the heck am I waiting on? I cannot control time. Why, as a biblical passage inquires, do I waste “Here” fretting about “There”. There is the face of here, however, I choose to live it. So me thinks it behooves me to reframe how I look at “Here” and spend less time trying to control “There”. Plan yes. Work hard to execute the plan? Yes. Grip the plan loosely because life happens and something beyond my too tightly grasped plan may require a revision, or enhancement to the plan? ABSOLUTELY!

To “Here” and its joys – may I choose to focus on it, and invest my efforts in mining those here, as well as, creating joy through emotionally mature, unselfish, effective conduct.

And, to those like Ken and Shirley Castle (aka Dad and Mom) and others who have modeled a “here” that may not be sexy in the moment but sure has created a delightful “there” for those they love.

to HERE!!!

Pain and Waste

Have this ever happened to you? You began work on a project and something unintended happened at the outset that felt catastrophic.

You finish the early stages of creating a spreadsheet for a project. You save at the outset so many times it seems like it is always the case. Not this time. And, when someone asks you to look at something else before you get deep into the remainder of spreadsheet project, you agree. “Need to close this out so I do not have too much open,” you think to yourself. Brain half engaged, already in the next location, you nuke rather than save your skeletal framework of the spreadsheet.

The moment you hit the key, but before you can react otherwise, you know what you have done as you look at a now blank screen. Your stomach marches out on your tongue, looks up at you screaming, “I  have angry contents I want to send your way because I AM SICK. You idiot!!!!”

It has happened to me. Yes. It is a helpless, frustrating feeling. The temptation is to tell myself something lame. Something along the lines of, “Well guess I was not supposed to do that today,” or “Apparently that project should go to someone else.” Or, perhaps worst of all, some self-deprecating, falsely humble comment to myself along the lines of, “You loser. You always do dumb things like that.” That is a response coming from Little Bart, the one who also believes at other times he should don the cape.

What is the appropriate response to pain, small or enormous? Pain, real pain. The pain of years lost, which can never be regained. The pain of opportunities squandered, some of which I may never see the likes of again. The pain of relationships damaged so badly they can never be returned to their original and potential state.

For years, my response to pain was essentially to waste it. Waste it in the sense than rather than sit with it and feel it, working to mine the lessons available once the initial searing waves passed, I medicated it in some manner. Sometimes it was flight, allowing one of my character defects to take over, guiding me to some dark place – which was only prolonging the pain.

I am grateful I finally see the reality of the truth that the pain is not such a tragedy. Pain provides me the opportunity to grow, to go to places and into actions I likely would not push myself to take without the pain. No, failure and pain are not tragedies. Both are part of the potentially redemptive part of life on this side of eternity. Wasting pain, pain endured, only to feel that same, or a very similar pain again, unnecessarily (or subject others to the same or similar pain again unnecessarily), that is a tragedy!

In pain? My heart genuinely goes out to you. I hope you have someone close by who can help calm you, reducing the likelihood you will flee in some manner to avoid the pain. Sit, hurt, grow. Mine the pain for the gold it will produce in your life.

To the lessons available to pain, and the lessons available without the cape. . .

Leadership . . . Asking AND Answering Hard Questions

“The hope of leadership lies in the capacity to deliver disturbing news and raise difficult questions in a way that people can absorb, prodding them to take up the message rather than ignore or kill the messenger.” — Ronald A. Heifetz and Marty Linsky, Leadership on the Line

I came across the quotation above recently. What struck me is the juxtaposition of delivering disturbing news and raising difficult questions, yet doing so in a manner which rather than repelling those on the receiving end, draws them in. That is a rare individual, hence the reference to leadership.

It is a quality present in the people who have been most effective in reaching me. By and large my parents, Ken and Shirley Castle, absolutely my sisters, Kendra and Janna, my dear friend of 40 years, Steve Mack, my mentor and dear brother in faith, Bryan Duncan, a mentor I chose to largely ignore, Steve Henry, all share in common this attribute. Each asked at various points questions without clenched fists, red faces, or raised volume questions such as, “What about this might you be missing or overlooking?”, “How might you be too close to this situation to appraise it effectively?”, “I understand you have asked God and believe you heard from Him, which healthy, objective parties have you spoken to who might confirm what you believe you heard to protect you from you?”, or “Why are you alone able to do something the rest of us are not typically capable of?” Questions that remained with me so that even when I rebelled the question served as a touchstone to return to when I, and others, were standing waist deep in the mess made by my having chosen to ignore the question before acting.

I have also had others in my life who acted like Bobby Knight, the former Indiana and Texas Tech University basketball coach who won almost 900 games but who, to even remotely objective observers, is the poster boy for what hypocrisy and pride run a muck looks like in real life. Make no mistake, that Knight could coach is unquestionable. Much of his message, the value of discipline, respect for authority, and teamwork continues to have value for any who will listen. However, that he increasingly had NO ability to deliver the message in an effective way is equally without dispute. And, his position as a leader continues to diminish, though paradoxically, his arrogance and hypocrisy seem to continue find an increasing number of public outlets (commentary itself on how vacuous the world we live in has become).

Like, Knight, I have had those in my life when I was wrong – note that – (I was wrong), who approached me red-faced, finger-wagging, boundary-demanding, and, “You are a mess proclaiming,” who simply prompted in me more of the very rebellion they were representing themselves to be so concerned about. Not only did I not choose to discontinue what was often self, and other injuring behavior, I, at times found new ways to continue or increase the behavior.

Please note, while my response speaks a great deal about the place I was in, and how self-absorbed I was, it also speaks to the difference we are addressing here between the leadership and self-proclaimed, “It’s my approach and I claim leadership for myself” leadership. Leaders can ask hard questions in a manner that sees the person receiving the question stop to consider her/his actions rather than having that person hunker down on further selfishness (or blatant self-destruction).

Today as you interact with individuals over whom you are blessed to have some influence, whether great or small, and each of us have someone, think carefully about the questions you ask. Do they prompt self-reflection and growth (either immediate or eventual)? Or, are they easily discounted, prompting rebellion (immediate, long-term, or both)? The choice is yours. Mentor, leader, servant or knowledgeable hypocrite, prideful ass, self-serving baffoon – you get to choose. The choice will not be as easy as you think. You may, as the coach referred to above has discovered, find a market and cash for your abilities in the second group of attributes. Is that how you want to be known? Is that what you want to be known as when you pass?

Today, take a moment to stop, track down, and say “Thank You” in some way to the Ken and Shirely, Kendra and Janna, Steves, and Bryan in your life. And then, based on their example, be one if you encounter someone who needs to be asked hard questions.

 

Pain and Flight

Pain, though unpleasant, has a beneficial side. Pain is a messenger. Pain is a symptom rather than a problem. Ok, knit pickers among you. Intense enough, pain may become somewhat of a problem as well. However, and inherently, it is designed to signal my brain that a problem, something outside what is normal is, or has occurred. Like a blinking light, pain is designed to direct my attention toward a specific area in need of assistance.

Unfortunately, rather than assess the cause of the pain in order to process and decide upon an effective cause of action, there have been far too many instances when I was in pain, especially emotional pain, where I chose to jump to whatever action I deemed necessary to escape the pain as quickly as possible. The problem with such an approach, to paraphrase the old traffic safety maxim, is that “Speed Kills”.

In fleeing at the first sign of pain, I rendered myself unable to properly assess the cause of the pain and the most effective, long-term remedy for the pain. The result ? In many cases, short-term remediation of the pain, and long term recurrence of the very same pain (or darn near).

Guess what? Me, being me, I find myself in that spot again. As I move through several transitions (personal and professional), familiar character defects have showed up at the party again. Like a bad neighbor with a knack for showing up at the most inopportune times (or would that be, like a bad neighbor who shows up at ANY time), my weaknesses, and there are enough to be their own traveling sideshow, decide to make themselves known. To say that I would like to bolt several aspects of the transitions, from meeting new people, to discontinuing the work of overall sobriety, to cutting myself off from the people who love me and will ask me hard questions to keep me moving forward is an understatement.

Gracious, so strong is the pull I feel like sleeping in my running shoes in the event I want to bolt in the middle of the night. However, like the young runner encountering his/her first side-stitch (that feeling a butcher-knife has been inserted in between your lower ribs), I have to fight off that urge to run off the track to the comfort of what I know, trusting instead the coach’s (or in my case coaches’) words that if I continue moving forward on the track the pain in my side will eventually go away, or I will cross the finish line. I win either way. I only lose if I leave the track or stop.

There is a reason the Olympics fascinate many of us. They allow us to watch men and women who in many, many cases have continued to train for years, sometimes a decade or more, often against amazing odds to reach the Olympics. Me? Heck, I am training for a Sprint distance triathlon in August and have had to ask myself, “Can I train that long with no “reward”?

Did you hear that? Train “that long” – a whole 10 months (started in mid-November). Pitiful! 10 months . . . the attention span of a tree squirrel, maybe less, to be fair to tree squirrels. No wonder I have been married twice. Living with another human for life requires a level of patience, determination, stamina, and humility that I have had little interest in me. No time for such unselfishness on planet Bart. Ironically, those attributes benefit marriage AND every other area of my life. The demand in marriage to regularly exhibit those attributes to succeed by the way, is why marriage is still the best idea, regardless the crap we spew out to ourselves about marraige being outdated. Funny, so many foolishly assert marriage is outdated, yet, research by sources far and wide keeps finding that individuals in long-term marriages are the happiest among us.

So, back to the action. Saturday I was ready to bolt from a transition situation. I am humbled to say I stepped back from the ledge after some reflection, said to the old, nasty friends, “Sorry boys. Party is by invitation only. You will need to mosey on.”

Wow, when they began to complain it was tempting to let them in. I persisted and they finally left  (be assured they will return for another attempted entrance).

What will I do next? Not quite sure. Sitting with pain is uncharted territory for me. This I do know. I will humble myself to the counsel of others, write, and pray with the confidence that others I love have been down this path of reflection, admission and patience, not only living to tell about life on the other side of pain but life they never expected, even if life with a limp.

To not running . . . and the blessings I know it will hold.

As the athletes remarked to the late, great John Candy, in the movie Cool Running, “Thanks Coach.”

Truth Is NOT Relative – A Recent National Example

Over the past several weeks respected NBC Nightly News anchor and managing editor, Brian Williams, has seen his world unravel. Williams has held the position since December of 2004. He is but the most recent example that truth is NOT relative, despite assertions to the contrary over the past half century. Williams is seeing his reputation built over decades being destroyed by his decision to be dishonest in a number of stories he reported over the years. Further, it will likely take him years (if ever) to convince the general public he was ever honest on anything that is not carefully reviewed from his past portfolio, or anything in any portfolio of work he is able to create going forward.

Fair? Perhaps not, especially in a world where the inanne idea exists that the only thing “true” is what I can perceive or experience. As one of my teenagers would say, “Really?” Is there anything less reliable that my perceptions? As God’s Word says, “My heart is deceitful in all its ways.” My own life, which I am seeing more clearly every day is proving that more and more clearly all the time. I can talk myself into ANY thing. It’s rationality can be whatever moving target I choose it to be – especially if I am only willing to subject it to my experience or perception. To quote my teens again, “Pluuueeeaasseee.”

I am guessing the Ken Lay’s, Brian Williams’, a host of politicians on BOTH sides of the aisle, litany of entertainers and professional and college athletes, the NCAA, most DI, college head coaches in football and basketball, public officials, and the list goes on . . . get lambasted by me because I either have to see their behave and take a hard look at my own, or attempt to focus your attention on them so you won’t ask me more hard questions. So you won’t confront me with body language that does not add up. Or, facts that cannot withstand the scrutiny of pointed questions.

No, truth is NOT relative. It may be difficult, heck, down right vexing to determine what the truth is at times. However, vexing, challenging, gut-wrenchingly hard, are all very different that does relative. And, they share this in common – humility.

The objective truth requires me (Williams, or anyone else) to do at least these things:

Believe my personal comfort is less important than others respect;
Believe that any professed “love” for another DEMANDS objective, verifiable truth – period;
Believe that the courage required to tell the truth in a badly broken world is its own reward;
Believe that respecting myself, which I cannot do, living a lie, is a treasure only I can take away from me;
Believe that others are worthy of the respect truth shows, regardless there station in life;
Believe that there are things that are worse than not having you believe I am all that;
Believe that humility is a greater virtue than knowing it all (or typically appearing to know it all); and
Believe, even if famous, or at high levels, the phrase, “I simply do not know is an understanding of a greater good than misleading people into believing something which is false.

So tonight before I go to bed, I will pray again for the courage to continue the journey toward honesty in every situation, as well as, the courage to proactively and quickly acknowledge when I let the popular notion, “Everyone tells a white lie now and then” – stupid as it may be to invade my actions prompting a lie.

No, truth is not relative. BTW, your taxes, the claims you and I make? Either true, or false. As recovery literature says, “Half-measures avail us nothing.”

Thank you Ken and Shirley for being people whose lives demonstrate, “It’s true or it’s false” – PERIOD, end of story. You were right!

Valentine’s Day – A Solution

All day today, all over the country men and women scurried around attempting to keep from being red faced tomorrow morning when someone they love awakens expecting to have been remembered and is disappointed they weren’t on Valentine’s Day. Yet another group will really be doing the soft shoe because they forget to take care of Valentine’s Day and they try to deceive someone who knows them well into believing otherwise Idiots (Yes, I have been that idiot).

Here is my proposed solution for Valentine’s Day and an end to all the scurrying and anxiety the day tends to bring so many, especially men. Of course I know this well as one who asserted he could leap tall buildings with a single bound, though he seldom cleared so much as a dog house effectively without crashing relationally over the course of two marriages. Why not act as if EVERY day is Valentine’s Day? What if with intentionality, I get out of myself and show those closest to me EACH day though acts of love great and small how much they are loved?

Don’t get me wrong. I am confident actual Valentine’s Day cards will be still be well received. Special tokens appreciated and the invitation to dress up and go out looking like the BOMB on Valentine’s Day a treat that will be warmly welcomed. However, if I am making an intentional point of expressing the love I have to those closest to me daily, isn’t the likelihood I am going to forget Valentine’s Day greatly lessened? Aren’t I much less likely to foolishly and selfishly try to deceive an individual I love into believing the card or gift is “at the office” if I make a regular practice of asking myself, what is something unexpected I could get home with this evening that demonstrate how fortunate I feel to have this person in my life today (or persons in the case of those with kids still at home)?

Unrealistic? I don’t think so when the concept of expressing love is viewed through the lens of the eyes of another. And, candidly, for years there has been the rub. I only cared about viewing the world through one set of eyes – MINE! Wow. What I missed is now incalculable. Much of it gone. Impossible to retrieve.

Learn from the mistake of another – treat every day like Valentine’s Day. See if it does not have an impact, a very positive impact, on how much joy there is in your world. Or, expect more of the same lame crap to magically produce some new result (it will not by the way). Choice is yours. And, in phase 3, mine.

To wise choices and a world where every day provides some evidence to those I love they are my Valentine!

I was an askhole

Recently, I heard a speaker make the statement above, as he discussed some of the work he had done to move past addiction into productive, new life. In addition to being a clever play on words, which I enjoy, it provided for me a powerful image to consider. That consideration of me, especially work to see me clearly, sometimes produces answers I do not enjoy (especially in the short-term).

I had to admit to myself many of my conversations and “service to others” over much of my adult life were about ME, and my needs from you – NOW – regardless of how skillfully disguised the motive was/is/can be. Ouch. I think folks often left those encounters feeling drained. Or, having been to one or many such conversations, in the case of those closest to me, looked forward to those conversation with the same excitement one might face a firing squad. I took energy as an askhole rather than providing energy. I sought encouragement rather than providing encouragement. Those encounters required others to bring energy they did not leave with rather than rewarding the time invested with inspiration, encouraging reminders, or tangible benefits.

Painful to admit. And, that painful admission is part of why I held off careful examination as long as I did. However, though painful, that admission has begun to decrease the number of times such is the character of my conversations.

Bluntly, I simply was not choosing to see who I really allowed me to be. One of the hardest things for me early in recovery, and at times even today, was/is seeing myself clearly (remember I practiced being nuts for 32 years). It is absolutely a work in progress, which will require the remaining days of my life. In has been a painful, challenging, amazing ride thus far to Bart 3.0.

Clarity regarding myself has been a bit of a moving target. In a world clamoring for its “individual” rights, I bought the lie. I had to look out for me. You? Well you were on your own. And part of “on your own” better be serving something I need. Wow. That was one messed up badly flying superhero (well superhero in my own head). Long before I ever deceived anyone else, I was deceiving me. I am so grateful for individuals who came into my life, to speak plainly, apologetically, and clearly about the askhole I was (and that they will call me out today if that fellow returns). Thank you Ken and Shirley, Kendra, Janna, Steve and Steve, David, James, Bryan, Rob, EJ, Bob, Anthony and sooo many others.

If you see me out there acting the askhole – please tell me, “Shut up askhole. You have two ears and one mouth, use them in that proportion.”

To clarity, regarding who I am, whatever that tells me and from whomever it comes!

Sorry this is what happens when absolute values are discarded . . .

We are such geniuses, we humans. At least in this country, approximately 75 years ago (perhaps longer), a worldview from Europe called, “deconstruction” began to gain traction in America. Because this is not a blog on philosophy I will summarize the view in this manner. Deconstruction asserts that there is no objective truth (or objective anything really). Every individual is free to hold whatever values he or she chooses to be true.

And, with each passing day, relativism, deconstruction’s child has us collectively sending ourselves a greater and greater number of mixed signals. They all however share and shout this in common – the notion of no objective truth is NUTS. Personally, as one who considered being an academic, and studied at the doctoral level, it is quite common to be a genius intellectually and an idiot practically. Relativism is a case in point.

Folks rave about a deconstructionist painter, sculptor, or architect. That is, on the architect, until it comes time to build a structure people would be safe in. Why? Because there are objective laws of engineering that no deconstructionist, “there is no objective truth” non sense can make so. A house without the proper support will come down and injure or kill its occupants – PERIOD!

Interesting that you likely would not like a decontructionist bank if you think about it. “Oh, your checking balance, there is no objective truth to that number. Truth is relative.” I can virtually assure you if you are reading this blog and an ardent deconstructionist you have been busted by the checking account example. If not, please contact me so I can be your banker.

And, finally, sports and public life sadly have become a joke as a result of relativism. Consider these two examples just from this week!

(a) http://collegefootballtalk.nbcsports.com/2015/02/06/2015-texas-signees-not-pleased-with-dl-coachs-move-to-gators/?ocid=Yahoo&partner=ya5nbcs

(b) http://finance.yahoo.com/news/president-nbc-news-just-sent-210400129.html

In the first, college football players at the University of Texas (and almost certainly other places were blatantly lied to – or wait – given relativism’s popularity, were they? Again, I will bet my skinny butt, if one of the kids who Texas coaches told, “Not to worry, the coach in question is not leaving” is YOUR kid – suddenly truth being relative stinks. Why? Because it IS NOT relative!

In the second, one of the most respected newspersons in America, Brian Williams, has been busted for lying – or wait – why is it lying if truth is relative. Why is half of America (or more) that asserts on all sorts of matters, “Well it’s not what it appears. Sometimes the facts vary”, ya ya ya, suddenly up in arms about whether or not he “lied”? How can I lie if truth is relative. Because in short it isn’t.

When I lied to former spouses, it DID NOT matter what had occurred to me. The truth is the truth – PERIOD.

Wake up folks. Lying produces harm. First, to the fabric of the character of the person who has told the lie. Second, to the individuals closest to him or her. Third to us all.

Let’s band together, squash the notion that truth is relative while there is yet time to save ourselves . . . from ourselves. Or wait – is it too late?

To objective truth . . . painful at times but ALWAYS the best option.

Your Story?

“Every life is a story. Whether it is a story worth telling and talking about, though, is up to you. People set out with grand dreams of changing the world, falling in love, doing something amazing. But the drift toward the merely acceptable happens almost without notice. That doesn’t have to be your story.” Donald Miller, “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.”

I encountered the quote above recently. It resonated with me as I move through a period of transitions in virtually area of life. It is so easy after the pain of failure to choose to allow dreaming to die, settling for a life of regret, sadness, and “what might have beens.” I have had my days there. And, as the quote said, this period of transition has lasted longer than need be as one day become another, then a week, a month, several, a year, several. You get the point.

How did it happen, “almost without notice.”

How do I turn it around?

The same way it “the merely acceptable” happened. One moment, one choice at a time I must decide that I want dreams, aspirations, and service to the benefit of others to be my passion, and my legacy from here forward. Can I change that some might say, “Brother had some bad years.” I cannot. What I can change is that others description can be, “It looked shaky from some time but I will be doggone if that bald rascal did not move in an entirely different direction beginning in late ’14. Sure glad I I hung around to see the final acts.”

Will they be the same dreams, aspirations, and service of 35 years ago? No. At my own hand I squashed, or contributed a large part of the squash, of many of those. Hard to have a 50th wedding anniversary if I am single a second time at 55. Great grandchildren to enjoy may be a stretch given my own children did not arrive until 38 (last at 42). The list could fill the remainder of a page. But, the quote above prompted an important question for me. Why are those the only dreams, aspirations and service I can ever have (and see come to pass)?

Simple question, some get to much quicker. Hey – I never said I was a genius. Besides, that slamming into the pavement with the faulty cape has rattled the brain pan. Seriously, why am I still here? Doubt very seriously it is simply to take up space feeling despondent about things that are now historical fact. Even having lost much, I still have much. More true friends that one fellow deserves. Three amazing kids who love their dad – even knowing he’s a dork who is FAR from perfect. Professional encouragement and opportunity in work I enjoy. A place to live, clothes to wear, parents who even at 80 and 79 are still more active serving others than most folks 25 years their junior (if folks their junior ever served to begin with), two wonderful sisters and their husbands, and six delightful nieces and nephews (about to be 3 talented nephew-in-laws, 1 presently), along with a great niece and nephew, and a community of faith that loves me right where I am, but loves me too much to let me stay there. Goodness, how much can one fellow want?

So what will my story be 2015 forward? Exactly what I choose it to be. What ever 2025 looks like (if I am around) will be the face of the choices I make between now and then.

I sure hope I am nearing the point where that darn cape if fully retired! I believe I am quite close. Last time I started to put it on, it was so wrinkled from being out of service I left it off. One thing I will NOT be is a superhero in a wrinkled cape. No sir.

What will your story be going forward? Have you been hurt, or hurt yourself? Made mistakes? Flat out failed at something important to you? If so, spend some time in history. There is excellent news! Many of the very well known individuals in America, and around the world through the ages have, let’s just say, more than a passing familiarity with defeat. Ever hear of a guy from centuries ago named Moses? Lived 120 years. 40 of them herding sheep in the middle of nowhere. Another 40 wondering around with a few million griping, complaining, gutless folks. Two thirds of his life wasted? Not so much. One of the last things said about him as his life closed was that God knew him personally. What an ending! How is that for a strong finish. Wonder if he ever dreamt that among those smelly, four-legged fur bag sheep. And the stories like his abound.

You and I will be merely acceptable from here forward ONLY if we choose to be.

Let’s choose – to SOAR!

Unique, And, Not So Unique

“I am unique, and thus I can . . .” a claim I have made in my own head virtually every time I have been on the cusp of something foolish. Something that often hurt, disappointed, angered, or all three, those closest to me, whether family members, friends, or co-workers.

The challenge is not the claim itself. It is an assertion that has merit. I am the only minting of a “Bart Castle” there will ever be. Some aspects of that are glorious, others, well not so much. Some who you ask about me will be enthusiastic, others, perhaps less so.

No, the challenge is not the claim to uniqueness. The challenge is the paradox of the claim.

I am indeed the only minting of me there will ever be. However, when I let fears, insecurities, and the need to be affirmed for my uniqueness be my focus, the more I become like most of the other people I encounter. On the other hand the more I surrender notions of control of others, work to genuinely serve others (with no expectation of reward or acclaim), the need to be affirmed for my uniqueness rather than simply being, the need to constantly be happy or comfortable the closer I get to joining the smallish crowd of emotional healthy folks. Folks whose numbers are relatively small but who are critical to life being manageable amongst the constant clamor for the recognition of uniqueness.

So, take a few deep breaths, disregard concerns about being recognized for your unique self. Just be you. And, by the way, if you know me, and you see me acting pridefully, arrogantly, or some way that is other than humble and grateful for what I have received, including your acquaintance wherever we encounter each other – remind me that clamoring for uniqueness is well . . . not so unique. A fully engaged life with little concern for who notices, focused instead on consistent authenticity is more likely the Road Less Traveled.