Men complain about their female exes, romantic interests, bosses, and co-workers being the b-word, manipulative, or impossible to please. Women complain about men being selfish, self-centered, and shallow.
If we want to stop repeating the madness and find movie-quality soulmates, partners, or heroes, here are the rules:
- Quit assessing people by their outward beauty or body type (when I meet a man whose primary measurement of a woman is how fit, pretty, or built she is, or a woman who obsesses about bald, overweight, or old, I know I am in the presence of the immature and lonely)
- Look at all people the same (don’t measure by what they are or do, $$, or possessions)
- Forgive everyone (bitter people are not attractive)
- Honor your suffering instead of complaining about it (the nicest people in the world are often those who have suffered most)
- Give generously (and forget about getting something back)
Occasionally, someone tells a story that changes your life.
I can’t quit thinking about this book, not only because of the harrowing adventures it took to discover the lost Mayan Civilization and the brave and brilliant Stevens and Catherwood that made it their calling, but because the vastness of a “universe,” I had been only remotely aware of, has expanded my own. Jungle of Stone.
Confronted by these two noble, gifted, driven, and humble explorers, I am inspired and humbled by my lack of knowledge, scope, tenacity, and awareness. Thanks, William Carlsen, for excavating the story for me and forcing me out of my own “backyard.”
Even if you have no interest in ancient history or archeology, the life-stories of John Lloyd Stevens and Frederick Catherwood will enlarge your existence.
Some leaders define Vision simply as imagination plus courage. This definition reminds me that any remarkable accomplishment happens because someone had the courage to stand for what could be. And that…
- My imagination has a purpose.
- I have ideas that can make a difference.
- Many brave people before me have tenaciously fought against unbelievable odds for ideas that mattered.
- Their imagination and courage made a difference for me.
If I have imagined anything that can benefit others and if my dream makes me feel alive, chances are…this is what I was born to do.
And, if I want to accomplish anything, I must remember this on the days my efforts appear useless.
When I do not focus my intention on self-improvement and contribution, I move into a getting-by-with-the-least-amount-of-pain mode. When I allow my life to become all about survival, or vacations and parties, eating and drinking, comfort and rest, I set myself up for big-time disappointment and frustration. Life often refuses to cooperate with these objectives, throwing stuff at us like sickness, financial struggles, uncooperative people, weather, unplanned events, and…ultimately, death.
Even focusing on accolades and achievements is a dead end if not connected to self-improvement and contribution (see cheating to get ahead, narcissism, or any other type of ends-justifies-the-means rational).
For me, the intent of radical self-improvement and contribution is about valuing every other being no less or no more than I value my self. Waking up every day with this intent changes everything.
When the first thought finds me
Let it be the weight of light
When consciousness comes
Let it be a tiny whisper of surprise
That I have survived the night
Helpless and adrift in those dark hours
And have somehow landed safely
On the sun-soaked shore of another day
When the first thought finds me
Let it not be an anchor of dread
Or a tangled net of worry
Tugging me to the bottom of myself
Away from the light playing purposefully
Above my head
I wrote this poem for a personal reminder to purposely choose a first thought in the morning: a thought that doesn’t call for a sigh or a groan.
If I asked you, “What has been the most challenging book you have read lately?” or, “Who have you learned from this week?” or, “What area of your personal life have you improved recently?” would you have a ready answer? Would you have to scramble for a response, or would you have so much to talk about that it would be difficult to know where to start?
Incremental improvement of our lives doesn’t happen automatically. Without intentional focus, we settle into whatever version of ourselves is easiest. The people we admire have refused to do that.
“If only I may grow: firmer, simpler, quieter, warmer.” – Dag Hammarskjold
(Swedish Diplomat and Noble Peace Prize Recipient)
Faced with the necessity of caring for my mother with Alzheimer’s, I was completely distraught: This will never work! How am I going to take care of her? Why can’t my siblings do it? I have no time and no money for this!
Then, these words came to my mind: “Do you want your mother to be cared for?” “Of course I do,” I answered. “Then, accept the responsibility, do it with joy, and don’t worry about the “how.”
I did, and contrary to my fears, everything did work out, and with unexpected gifts along the way.
I now know that playing the martyr, despairing, or arguing with reality is a waste of time; when I do the right thing, help will come.
“Love is misunderstood to be an emotion; actually, it is a state of awareness, a way of being in the world, a way of seeing oneself and others.” – David Hawkins
This quote describes the most significant and productive shift in my life.
Before this shift, instead of putting on “love glasses” to look at life, I wore “make-it-through-the-day glasses,” “what’s-next glasses,” or worse, “I-hate-this glasses” through which life appeared a chore. Especially when I had been hurt, when life had been harsh, or when there seemed to be no hope of change, “looking at the world with love” seemed ridiculous.
Yet love always turned out to be the only lasting way out of pain.
Relief never depended on someone or something else. It was always my choice.
Put on a new pair of “love glasses.”
Find unexpected ways of being: ways to love even what is unlovable.
And watch the world change.
“We come to knowledge (self-improvement, success) as we go to war: wide-awake, with fear, with respect, and with absolute assurance. With all four of these requisites, our actions lose the blundering quality of a fool. If we fail or suffer a defeat, we will have lost only a battle, and there will be no pitiful regrets over that.” – Carlos Castaneda
I love Castaneda’s four requisites:
- absolute assurance
Although they may seem contradictory, fear and absolute assurance create the perfect juxtaposition; a tension between the raw awareness of weakness and the confident power that turns an average human being into an icon.
As in film and television, the vulnerability of the protagonist must be there or else we are not drawn to them. But, as they rise above their fear, we are lured with them…into the dangerous place where possibility lives.