Be Yourself. Be Authentic.

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Success in life, err, true happiness, requires that we live an authentic life. Try to live like someone else, and we will fall flat on our face in a heap of miserable failure. In work, in love, in our personal relationships; we cannot find our true destiny living a life chosen for someone else. Oscar Wilde called it right:

“Be Yourself, Everyone Else is Taken.”

The path to true fulfillment in life comes when we live the life meant for us. In a world where a “new, slimmer you” awaits us in a bottle and all will be made better with the promise of a “30-day, money-back guarantee,” many of us seem to have lost sight of the most important asset we have: our true selves. When we take the time – and do the work – to listen to that inner voice of who we truly are, we can live out the full potential of our lives and achieve true happiness.

In the world of business, employees can see through an artificial leader faster than a pane of glass. No one wants to be led by a manager who lacks the sincerity, integrity and honesty that comes from a great leader not in tune with his/her authentic self.  Perhaps a testament to our era and the general malaise of society toward the turbulent times we live in, we want real leaders running our companies, our schools and our government. When we suspect the leadership before us is less than authentic, we start to get the sense we’re being duped and mistrust sets in.

It is no different in our personal lives.

Spending your days trying to be someone you are not is exhausting. You feel trapped and exhausted. Your days are consumed by trying to second-guess your decisions and hiding your true feelings and passions from those around you. If this is you, I hate to break it to you, but the life you are living isn’t yours. Get out while you can and rescue your soul! Throw a lifeline to yourself and go live the authentic life you are destined for!

Choosing to live an authentic life comes with hard choices. People may question us for the decisions we make and the seemingly unpopular turns they see us making. To show up everyday and be our true selves is a very daunting proposition.  Most of us don’t have the courage to do it.  It takes work. It takes being able to stand up to the criticism and the self-doubt that will creep in.  But the rewards that come with knowing we are listening to who we really are and becoming who we are destined to be are beyond our imagination.

e. e. cummings wrote, “To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody but yourself means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight and never stop fighting.” Fight the battle!  Fight for you!

Being your authentic self isn’t for the faint of heart, but trust me, try with all your strength – each and every day – to let that inner you find the strength and courage to shine…because it is so worth it to live freely!

Pull Your Own Wagon

Growing up is hard. Life’s challenges come at you a mile a minute and the compound fractures your brain can accumulate from the stress number in the teens when you are trying to figure it all out. Life is hard and, unfortunately, for a young adult juggling the pressures of independence, relationships, finances, education and trying to figure out what to do with more decades ahead than you can fathom, it can be pretty darn overwhelming.

No one ever said pulling your own wagon was easy.

I remember when my daughter was little, we bought her a cool Radio Flyer wagon with removable wooden sides.  Every evening, she wanted to take a ride all over the neighborhood in that Cadillac of wagons.  As soon as she was big enough to walk and make her own demands known, she insisted on being the one to pull the wagon instead of ride.  As tiny as she was, she tugged and pulled with all her might to move those four wheels forward.  She quickly realized she didn’t have the might to pull Mom or Dad, but slowly accepted that she could, indeed, pull a few of her own stuffed and fluffed friends. And pull she did!

I think back about those wagon pulling sessions now with a different perspective and find an important lesson:

everyone has to pull their own wagon.

Coming of age is about teaching us to learn to separate ourselves from the challenges and struggles that weigh us down and hold us back.  Learning how to distinguish that which ‘feels good’ versus ‘good for us’.  It is a series of bumpy roads and switchbacks that put a lot of weight on us.  It all forces us to learn who we are, what our character is composed of and helps us build the spiritual, emotional and mental muscles that will allow us to pull ourselves through life.

We get to choose if we will allow hitchhickers in the wagon to weigh us down and distract us from where we are going. The burdens of their problems and the distractions they can create can mire our wagons in the mud. It can slow us down, tip us over and – God forbid – break us. We have to ask ourselves – as we look at those friends and fellow travelers – are they pulling their own wagon?  Or are they riding in ours?

We all own our own responsibility to know our strengths and limitations and map out our path ahead. Finding friends who can share the journey and walk along side of us on the path can be beautiful; but if they are putting their load in our wagon, the journey can quickly sour.

My heart is heavy for those who are struggling to learn how to pull their own wagons.  It is not an easy, overnight lesson.  It comes with years of bumps, skinned knees and tears.  But each disappointment brings new learning. Don’t miss that part! Don’t skip the joy of “righting your wagon,” getting back on the path and pulling ahead. Don’t be afraid to take the path less-traveled or veer away from the pack and go alone.

And when you find yourself a few steps down a path that doesn’t feel like the right one, there is a pretty good turning-radius on that wagon – it is ok to turn around, go back and find the old path.  No one will judge you when they see you coming back to start again.  In fact, your truest friends will be waiting on the path with open arms to greet you with unabashed love and joy! That is what life is all about.

Most importantly, never lose the confidence that YOU can pull your wagon.  It is yours.  Don’t allow anyone to pull it for you or weigh you down with their baggage.

All you have to do is just jump up, grab the handle and go!  Your world awaits!

Outrageously Good Work to Share: Life, He Said

A beautifully written piece reblogged from great work created on Evan Sander’s blog, The Better Man Project.  It is deep, thought-provoking and the kind of soul-stirring work that moves me and must be shared, appreciated and lived.

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Life

He said

Is a mixture of emotion and commotion

The highs are high

And the lows are low

They will make your stomach flip when you rise

And slam you into the ground when you fall

But the worst thing you could possible do

Is numb yourself

Sedate yourself

And drug yourself with a frosted heart

Life

He said

Is a mixture of heartache and triumph

The pain hangs your head

The triumph make your heart beat

You will crumble

And you will condense

And the reasons for all this, He said

Is to make you grow

To turn you into something real

Genuine. Quality. Authentic

Life

He said

Is given to those who are not afraid

Of the possibility of pain

Because they know that the struggle is positive

The blacksmiths arm is only forged by resistance

And the human soul morphs in the same way

Through punishment and perseverance

In love and determination

And in the end those who decide to accept this

Are the ones who live

Not just survive

– Evan Sanders

More inspiration can be found in his body of work, the blog The Better Man Project.

The Best or Nothing or At All

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Gottlieb Daimler’s motto Das Beste oder nichts, translated from his native German to English, ends up meaning, “The best or nothing at all”. I caught the phrase last night in a new ad campaign that broke during the 2013 World Series for the new 2014 S-Class of cars by the luxury maker, Mercedes-Benz. Those iconic words, according to legend, were written and strategically placed in front of  factory employees to “inspire, provoke and push” the collective team to build the best cars in the world.

Many would argue it is working.

The best or nothing at all is not an unrealistic objective. It is not an elite view, reserved only for those who can afford ‘S-Class’ living. Rather, it is the table stakes that get us all into the game.  It is the mindset we must all bring to our chosen vocation and to our daily reason for being.  It would argue that it is not the end game, it is the beginning.

The essence of what Daimler’s inspirational challenge was – and is – lies in the results it creates:  the ever-present desire to pursue excellence.  To push yourself to be better at your game.  Hone your craft and refine the approach you take each and every day to deliver a better product to the customers you serve. It is to tease you into to thinking about the rote ways in which you approach the tasks you do and provoke you to find a more efficient, more productive, more precise way to accomplish the same task.  To inspire you to become more creative, more enthusiastic, more passionate, heck, just be MORE!

Life is meant to be lived. Work is not who we are, it is what we do.  Whether we teach children, design roads, develop computer applications, sell groceries, solve financial problems or help people find jobs, we need to approach it wholeheartedly. No one wants a cup of coffee poured by someone who wants to be out building bridges; no one wants to drive a car built by someone who would rather be off writing the great American novel.

Bring your “A” game to what you do. Even if what you are doing right now isn’t what you chose to do forever, your next step will come more quickly if your approach this step with the very best of you. If you choose not to give it your very best, move on and – for the benefit of others who need your position – give nothing at all.

Life is too precious and there are too many waiting to live it fully! For those of us who embrace the idea of Daimler’s “Das Beste oder nichts,” here’s to the outrageously wonderful life that is ours for the claiming!

Attitude is Everything!

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The one asset in life that is yours – and yours alone! – is your attitude. No one can take it from you and the way that you choose to react to situations and respond to others is totally and completely up to you! Good times or bad times; times when your heart is about to burst with joy and times when you have no clue how your next need will be met, the way in which you confront the situations and people in your path are all up to you.

God gave us all free choice. The last freedom any of us will have on this earth is our attitude.  Use it wisely. Choose to find the silver lining in all situations. Make lemonade out of the lemons life dumps in your lap. Choose happiness.  It is a choice and do not kid yourself into thinking any differently; your attitude is a choice and it is yours alone to make!

If I’ve learned anything in my days upon this planet, it is that no one else can make you happy. People cannot do it.  Material things cannot do it. Lord knows chemical substances cannot do it. Happiness comes from within; it is a choice that you must make.

Our lives are not determined by what happens to us but how we react to what happens, not by what life brings us but the attitude we bring to life. –Wade Boggs

Regardless of the station in life where we find ourselves at this moment, choose an attitude of happiness and gratitude. Find the good – however menial it might feel at the moment – and cling to it. Let your positive attitude be your compass to guide you to the good that awaits you in your days ahead.

It is the master key to an outrageously wonderful life.

Good Enough Really IS Good Enough!

apt_one_12_12_124716My daughter auditioned yesterday for a spot on the state choir. A competitive audition, she was as nervous as a cat before a bath about the opportunity and it didn’t help that the vocal tryout was rescheduled for a few days. The anticipation of what to expect was agonizing for her – and for us!

I wanted to make something special to herald the event and recognize her efforts. A day trip hampered any attempt to get home from work early and whip something special up in the kitchen. Rather than simply not bother and let the celebration slide to the weekend when I had more time, I decided to swing through the grocery store and pick up a mini cake. In the short time she was at her audition, I dug out my cake decorating tips and quickly added her monogram to the cake top.  Nothing fancy (by any means!), but I made the store-bought cake her cake and a simple dinner of homemade soup and bread turned into a celebration of the completion of a school project and the hope that her audition would secure her a spot on the choir.

Famed French writer François-Marie, also known under his pen name as Voltaire quilled the famous quote: “Le mieux est l’ennemi du bien.” in the poem La Begueule in 1772Translated to modern times, we get the oft used quote, “The perfect is the enemy of the good.”

How often do we all forego the good and right thing to do because we don’t have time to do it perfectly?

Life isn’t about waiting until the moment is perfect to act – if you wait until then, I’ll bet my paycheck you will miss the moment.  Life is about seizing the today and the now!  Forget the big dinner party you don’t have time to prepare for, invite some friends over for take-out pizza!  If you don’t have the energy to run a mile a day, start with parking you car at the farthest spot from the door where you are going and begin by walking.  Email an old friend if you don’t have the ‘ease of words’ to pick up the phone and call. Let the emails wait tonight and go shoot hoops with your son or daughter for 30 minutes.

Don’t let perfect rob you of doing was is right and good.

My daughter was tickled pink last night with her lopsided monogrammed chocolate cake.  We laughed and giggled over the challenges we’ve all been working through with her homework and over the excitement of her pending spot in this elite choir.  How grateful I am that I made the time to stop at the store for a silly $7.00 cake and dig out my decorating kit to spruce it up.  Busy as I thought I was, I didn’t give in to the temptation to just wait until we heard she made the choir – or wait until the weekend – to celebrate.  I didn’t miss the moment.  Yes, there were lots of other things I could have been doing last night with my time, but nothing else I should have been doing.  Chocolate cake with big gobs of green icing and daisy sprinkles was right at the top of my list.

Another Outrageous Thought to Ponder: Reaching Beyond Our Comfort Zone

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For most people, being stuck in the comfort zone of life doesn’t come as the result of procrastination or inertia, it is the result of being stuck in the rut of looking at life from the same point of view time and time again.  You’ve been in the rut you are in for so long, that you’ve lost the ability to look at your situation from any different way. So until you change it up and find a new way of looking at your world, there you sit.  You’ve got to find a fresh view on life so that you can see the escape from the self-imposed prison you live in.  Subtle changes can be the beginning, but you have to be the one to make the first move.

Today, make a commitment to make a change. Drive a new way to that dead-end job. Take your run on a new path. Turn off the television tonight and take a walk around the neighborhood instead. Pass on the second serving.  Just this once; be the change you want to see.

If you can accept the realities about the life you live and what is holding you back, there is a marvelously wonderful, outrageously real life awaiting you!  Knock knock, your Utopia is at the door…do you have the courage to open it?

Finding Time to Play

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Truth by told, I love to swing. I can spend hours dangling underneath the branches of an old Oak tree on a rope swing communing with nature and resetting my balance. Just me and the sky, legs pumping and arms pulling against the ropes to see how high and I can reach; trying in earnest to touch the sky. To this day, it is an exhilarating experience for me.

But I don’t get to do it much, anymore.

Taking time, err, making time to play doesn’t get the priority it deserves. For kids and adults alike, that time on the playground of life allows us to disconnect from the rote duty and responsibilities of the day and reenergize ourselves. It is that little respite in the middle of the otherwise orderly and scheduled day that allows our brains to rest, our minds to open up to see the world and let in new ways of viewing people, problems and opportunities.

I grew up just a block or so away from a playground. Walking there and plopping myself on a swing was an easy jaunt and a quick escape to my troubles. I could settle myself on a swing – or lie on my back on a merry-go-round, staring up into the sky – and solve the problems of the day. Fifteen minutes of serious reach-for-the-sky swinging, and I could find my perspective. If I was really frustrated, I’d push the merry-go-round as hard as I could, jump on and then just like back and feel the emotion spin away as I dizzily stared up into the sky. It might take a few times to pushing and jumping on and off, but either exhaustion or peace would eventually win and I’d return home with a renewed perspective.

Today’s world needs more play time. More recess in our days to disconnect, ever so briefly, to experience the joy of a tummy-tickling laugh and the breeze of the day on our face. To put perspective into our day and rediscover our center. The daily grind won’t give it to you and if you don’t make it a priority for yourself, it won’t happen.  You’ll be the same burnt-out mess I find staring back at myself from the mirror.  The 24/7 connectivity of our world puts ridiculous demands on us all; it’s ok to block 30 minutes in Outlook for yourself.  You’ll be better for it!

I challenge you, today, to find your moment to take a walk, pull a yo-yo out of your bottom drawer or escape to your backyard and swing for a moment. Do a conference call from your deck and breathe in the crisp autumn air! Eat lunch outdoors instead of at your desk. Life is too sweet and too short to not make each and every moment count!

Today, find time to play!

Keeping it Real: Why I Blog

whybother-570x427At dinner with clients last night, the conversation shifted to my blog:  why I write, who cares what I have to say, what started me on the topic of blogging, etc.  At the surface, it was a casual discussion and, despite the light-hearted ribbing of one colleague who seriously doesn’t understand why “anyone would give a $%^# what I have to say,” the entire discussion does give me pause.

Why do I write?

I typically write my blogs in the early morning hours.  Being three time zones out of my natural pattern today allowed for some very early morning quiet time to think and meditate on why I write a blog.  I don’t write one every day.  I don’t know if anyone cares and, thankfully, I don’t measure the success of my writing by the praise I get.  I am blessed by the comments others take time to make, but when it is all said and done, my blog is my way of making sense out of the issues and ideas that swirl in my head.  It is my way to inspire and encourage others and keep myself accountable to the work required to build a great life for my family and myself.  If I had to make a list of why I blog, it would go like this:

To stay positive about my life. Life comes at me like a train sometimes and knocks me to my knees.  Juggling family, work, personal goals and trying to keep a modicum of sanity about it all takes an effort!  Rather than take a “poor, poor me” approach, I find that when I share the experiences and look for the lesson and truth in all that is happening, it forces me to change my outlook and be positive about the experience.  I can find the rainbow in the midst of the storm I’d otherwise miss.  Doing the research on the blog takes me to books, articles and places that help me grow and learn about the issues and opportunities I am wrestling with and in the midst of it all, I find I am growing and cultivating a renewed spirit and energy about myself.

To hone my craft as a writer.  I love the written word.  I love good writing.  I am attracted to people who are well-spoken, well-written and have a great command of the English language and aspire to be one of them. I write because I one day want to write a book, be known for my ability to inspire others – greatly – with my words and see every day as an opportunity to practice and improve my skills.  My stories are mine and how I share my experiences are my ability to motivate, humor and inspire others.  I want to find a way to put that to work as a parent, a manager, a motivational speaker and author someday.  For now, I will continue to peck out words and letters in some assemblance of order and rhythm to give meaning to myself and others.  It is my toe-in-the-water beginning to my dream of one day doing something outrageous to inspire and motivate others.  It is my start.

To be an instrument. I don’t always sit down and know what I am going to write about.  Many days, I sit down at the keyboard feeling drained and empty.  In those moments, when I give up my agenda for writing and whisper to God that I have nothing, he takes over.  Sometimes in big bold ways; other times in quiet gentle ways he leads me to a topic that I write about.  Ironically, those are my best blogs and the ones that get the most “hits.”  I am not a perfect Christian – far, far from it – and stumble and fall more often than most.  But in my imperfection, God shows me life lessons and ways to use my own experiences to encourage others.  When I allow him to lead and let my writing be a reflection of him in me, I can be the encouragement and inspiration someone else just might need.

To be disciplined.  There is a level of accountability and responsibility that comes with blogging and I like it. I like forcing myself to sit down and share my experiences and find the reasons for what is happening in my life.  When things are beyond chaotic in my world, the routine and order of my blog can be a calming presence in my day.  I can control it and force myself to create something from nothing.  It may not be long or fabulous every day, but it can be borne from nothing.  That brings meaning and structure to the otherwise uncontrollable aspects of my world and for that, I am thankful.

The world of blogging is an inspirational and unexpected surprise.  As I write and read the comments and posts of fellow readers and bloggers, I find myself becoming more and more inspired and intrigued by the writings and experiences of these kindred spirits I have found within the blogging community.  The encouragement and support from those who follow me and the inspiration I get from those I have discovered continue to help shape and sculpt the topics and direction my writing takes.  My writing is improving and, with time, my grammar and editing skills will continue to sharpen and (hopefully) not require so many revisions.

So why do I blog?  For me, it is a little cocktail of personal accountability, emotional well-being, Christian obedience and preparation for the next level of this outrageous life.  I write because it makes me a better me and for now, well, that’s more than enough of a reason.