One of the perks of a good life is to be pampered. Have the red carpet rolled out for us and let us enjoy the fruits of our success.
AC and Heating units, warm baths, packages delivered right to our doorstep, internet, and streaming services. It’s all really comfy.
Comfy is an advantage of the “luck of the draw” living in a first-world country.
But comfy can turn into complacency quickly. Getting too comfortable can make us more fearful of things “out there” we hear about. It can make us be settled with what we have now in order to not rock the boat and potentially harm our “status”. It can help us avoid any risk because when we think of risk we think of failure.
Comfortable is a luxury we have but we have to decide if that’s what we want.
There is no right or wrong answer as it’s up to each of us to forge our own paths but it is interesting to consider what happens when we push past being comfy and get a little (or a lot) uncomfortable.
What can we achieve?
What can we progress?
What can we endure?
Innovation and advancement come from being uncomfortable, both inside and out, to go where we’ve never been before.
Similar to yesterday, the earth made a full rotation. We didn’t feel it but we know it happened. We are back to the same spot where we started.
But are we?
The sun may be hanging in the sky but it’s in a slightly different position. Incremental but different. The weather is too. And so is that tree you might be looking up at.
It’s all changed. But it’s so small we don’t even see it.
Warren Buffet once said, “Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a seed a long time ago”.
That’s how growth looks. It’s small, almost microscopic, that we don’t realize it’s happening at the moment. But it’s happening to us and around us.
The book we’re reading might inspire us to start something new and magical which leads us to become happier.
The garden we wanted to start might soon become a banquet of nourishment for a local shelter.
The person we mentored might go on to create something important that impacts the world positively.
Our actions today can create a better world tomorrow for ourselves and the others around us.
We must be willing to plant the seed and keep watering it every day. We may not be able to see it grow quickly but we know the work we are doing is generous and necessary and will produce fruitful results, one way or another.
We don’t always know what those results will be but we’ll never have the chance to find out if we don’t start today.
I had a chance to get back out to Umstead Park today with my son to go for a nice trail walk and enjoy some of the beauty nature has to offer. As we were about halfway through the walk he started to ask the age-old question, “Are we there yet”, which prompted me to share some insight about life which I’ll share here.
The trail is a metaphor for life and the only thing certain is there is a beginning and there is an end.
We all start out the same way, through birth, although everyone’s trail looks different.
My perspective on the trail and the difficulty in certain spots is based on my experiences in life up to this point. I might be able to easily navigate certain terrain more easily because I have come upon similar things before and can use those memories to help me get through. There will inevitably be spots though where I need to pause and consider a plan of how to get to the next step; which rock should I step on to propel me forward, should I jump or take a long step, is there any spot that looks slick. All of these types of things come at us at different speeds and at different times, too. You have to be ready to seize all of the opportunities when they are presented to you and make the correct calculation and best decision with the information you have to go in the right direction.
My son has a different perspective. For starters, he is much shorter than me so his view on the world is already different. Everything looks bigger and scarier and his footing is a little unsteady because of the surface area of the roots and rocks. It’s not harder, it’s just different. But he also doesn’t know what he doesn’t know. The things that I am looking out for, right or wrong, may not be things that he even considers and that can work in his favor, too. There is also a lot more fear of the unknown because he hasn’t seen as many paths as I have and hasn’t climbed as many hills so his mind isn’t callused as much as mine is. That will come in time and he’ll have to endure these when they come upon him.
That’s why support systems and having people you trust are so important to get through life. We all need mentors and guides at various times and those lessons taught (like Yoda on Luke’s back during Jedi training) will come in handy as we are on our own and have to make decisions in real-time. You can walk the trail of life alone and maybe do just fine but it gets lonely and dark and depressing that way. Finding purpose is a lot harder.
You won’t always know if this path will lead to the right spot but if you continue to evaluate the terrain coming ahead you can try to get back on course if you happen to veer. So this hits another parallel, what happens when you get way off course?
We all get deep into situations we shouldn’t have whether it is a poor career choice, poor health, or a poor financial situation like when I was in $18,000 of credit card debt. That sucked. I couldn’t believe I got myself in that big hole on top of the car payment and student loans that needed to be paid off. Not to mention the other bills that had to be paid each month.
But I had a choice.
I could continue to go down that path even though I had a feeling of where that was going to lead me; more stress, more anxiety, more frustration, less happiness, or I could alter course and use my judgment and newfound experiences to lead me in a better direction.
It wasn’t going to be easy and it wasn’t going to be quick but for me to get back on level ground I had to keep chopping away in small increments. I had to choose that new path every day. In order to tackle newer challenges that were important to me then I had to make the sacrifices in the short term to help me out in the long run. Eight years later, I was completely debt-free, over 50k paid off, and I felt back on track to conquer new adventures.
And so that’s the moral here, as I told my son, the trail is the fun part and not the destination. Oh, you’ll certainly get somewhere someday but what stories are you going to be able to tell when you get there and what level of pride will you have that you navigated tough terrain and not only achieved your goals but worn the path just a little bit more to help people that are coming behind you.
That’s what I wanted him to learn and I hope it’s a great lesson for you reading this today.
Enjoy the peaks and valleys because they are inevitable.
Stop and smell the roses and don’t be in such a hurry to get somewhere.
Help others by being a guide and marking the trail with your experiences.
Don’t let fear guide you on your path but the belief in yourself that ultimately you know the direction if you just trust your own judgment.
Good luck as you navigate your own trail and hope to run into you at some point on the journey!
We all deal with stress in our own way and I’ve found that most of the “dealing” is rooted in childhood behaviors and situations that are not going away any time soon. There is hope though that you can change those behaviors and become a person who can deal with stress much better or whatever challenges you’d like to overcome.
I got to thinking about this with a work situation today when I was trying to get some information to a potential client and was waiting on others to finish their side of it before I could send it over.
In the past, I’d get anxious and be stressed out if things were taking a bit too long. I’d be checking emails or refreshing salesforce or whatever to help me cope and feel like I was at least checking and would be ready to pounce when needed. This was rooted in a lot of childhood issues I dealt with around wanting to make everything perfect because I was always fearful of being judged and not being good enough. I was always someone to go above and beyond in many situations especially when it was with people I didn’t know because of this need to make a good impression. Not a bad thing, I guess, but I’d get stressed and worry a lot. As I got older, this worry continued to transpire into my work and always having that fear of judgment in the back of my mind I’d bend over backward to get things done so quickly.
I still like to try and get things done quickly, that’s just how my personality is and I have a hard time sitting around when things aren’t complete. However, I recognized that it didn’t make any difference for (insert a given task) to be done 2 days earlier, for example, and therefore I became much better at prioritizing and staying patient.
What I have come to understand is that I need to prioritize very quickly the tasks coming across my desk and make lists / time stamps on when these need to be accomplished. If urgent, then let’s get it done but if not then don’t fret so much if it’s sitting there to do in a couple of days. This is where the patience comes in. One of my best traits I’ve learned as an adult and it transfers to many areas especially when dealing with stress and getting things done. It wasn’t always this way but as I prioritize things more clearly I don’t let my mind get cluttered anymore with focusing on it and I move on to the next important item.
The big step to make all of this possible was to address those feelings as a kid that I had to please others and look good in their eyes or I wouldn’t be worthy enough. Although I am continually working on this, I’ve all but conquered that tall mountain. My self-confidence is at a high level and I’ve come to grips that I’m not perfect and will never be. I’ve realized that if I am true to myself and the others around me that’s all that matters and I can hold my head high that I am living the life I want. Trust me, this took many years to work through and it’s a continuing process.
Here are the steps I’d go through and still do:
Sitting in thought and reflecting on my past
Have the self-awareness to recognize where I need to improve
Have the courage to make changes, slowly if necessary, to move in a better direction
Keep checking back in with myself and repeating this process to build a more solid foundation
There is no “easy” button, that’s for sure, but dealing with stress and anxiety and worry has been a big issue in the early part of my life and I made a commitment to change this, among other things. It took time and patience but I had a vision for where I wanted to go and trusted the process of getting better every day.
One last thought, I’d encourage a read of the book “Awareness” by Anthony De Mello as a starting point as it was a welcomed addition at the right time and helped a lot in these areas above.
I hope my story helps you in whatever areas you are trying to improve and please reach out if I can be a resource at all.
As I continue to go through this reflection period and have dipped into the memory bank of my earlier days it never dawned on me how many obstacles were in my way to grow as a person. Some of them I conquered, others it took many years to overcome, and others were sheer luck when they were removed for me, hence is the case with my older brother.
As a middle child, it was a brutal upbringing. Never feeling adequate enough as the 2nd son but certainly not new or different enough as the younger daughter. I felt stuck. I didn’t have many friends outside of school and hung out with a lot of my brothers’ friends. It’s funny now, really, but back then I looked up to him as an older brother and wanted to do the things he did. That’s pretty natural in most families and definitely wasn’t different in mine. Being only 17 months apart, we were close enough in age to play a lot of sports together and enjoy some of the same things. But we were so different it wasn’t even close. We thought similarly as we do to this day, but our actions were different which makes sense with his position as the first child and my place as the 2nd fiddle.
It was like that all the way through school. He was the cool, obnoxious, funny kid and I was, well, Nick’s brother. I played the role well and hid my feelings which most kids do and went on with it. What else was there to do.
But then my chance came to break out of the funk. A glimmer of hope to break free from the shackles of that existence. My big brother left for college.
So here I was, atop the mountain I so desperately was looking for. Finally, I took advantage. From afar you might not have noticed, but I knew there was a change. I was more outgoing, more sure of myself, and more the life of the party. See I too had quite a sense of humor, self-deprecating at times, and since I had forged my way as the “everyman”, I fit into many groups. I could hang with the athletes, spark conversations with the smart kids, and didn’t have a hard time talking to the girls (well unless it meant asking them out!). Still, some work needed to be done there.
What I noticed looking back is that I had built the tools in place to “win over” the crowds and be very likable and fit in almost anywhere.
I had learned emotional intelligence from being the quiet one and observing my surroundings.
I built my confidence slowly from working hard on my golf game and earning my own money through various jobs.
I learned empathy and compassion from hanging around with my grandparents
I learned to listen from watching a lot of interview TV from Regis and Kathie Lee, David Letterman, and Oprah.
It was only when the main obstacle was moved to the side that all of these things, that I didn’t really realize back then were strengths, came to life, and allowed me to open up as a person and spread my wings.
I think this can be a lesson for anyone out there struggling to find their own way. You may have what you need already to push forward and succeed but maybe there is that one obstacle standing in your way. Maybe it is the wrong job, wrong city, wrong group of friends, or something completely different. I got lucky that my big brother went to college, but you may have to pull back the layers a bit more to find what is holding you back.
Look at all the clues and whiteboard it if you have to but more times than not the most logical answer is probably the right one. The right answer may not be the one you want it to be but at least you have identified the problem and can take action to overcome it.
Once you get that boulder out of the way I’m confident that you too will be able to spread your wings and fly.