Letting Others Think For You? Think Again


One of the most challenging tasks one can engage in is focused and thorough thinking.  Our very human tendency is to take the easy way out of things.  In the realm of thinking, the easy way out is often found in 1) trying to find cut-and-dry, black-and-white solutions to every problem or 2) denying the complexities of modern life offering superficial and simplistic solutions to sizeable challenges.

M. Scott Peck once discussed the problem of simplism in his book The Road Less Traveled and Beyond, which tends to reduce the complex challenges of modern life into neat and tidy solutions.  Too often, we gravitate towards simplistic solutions to these difficulties and mysteries.  Why?

For one, it’s easier.  Thinking–serious thinking involving focus, research and reflection–is hard work.  Again, we have a bent towards laziness…following the path of least resistance and exerting minimal effort.

The problem with simplistic thinking is that easy answers in neat, tidy packaging eventually get found out for what they are.  The result?  Cynicism.  Disillusionment.  Loss of values.  Even loss of faith.  Having come from a background that has included not a few years as a minister, simplistic solutions to serious problems ultimately destroy in the end.  Fundamentalists, note this please.

The solution?  Do your homework.  Whatever your challenge, put your time and paces in to get to the bottom of a matter.  The greater the stakes, the more effort you must exert.  At times, life is simple, even black and white.  Most of the time it is not.  If you know this going in, you’ll fare well and your ship will probably moor safely.

Do your homework.  And don’t leave it to anybody else, even the experts.  There’s far too much at stake.

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Rocky, Telling It Like It Is

rocky-balboa-trailerMy wife and I are huge fans of the “Rocky” movies.  In this moving scene from “Rocky Balboa,” Rocky gives his grown son powerful advice about taking personal responsibility for one’s life, career, dreams and choices.


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Praise and Criticism: Valuable, But Limited

Fear of ManOne receives inspirations at the oddest times.  Months ago, while listening to some a moving film score, I had a moment of understanding.  It had to do with desire for praise and fear of disapproval.

We tend to desire the approval of people we look up to and to fear the disapproval of the same.  Some of this is normal and healthy, a matter of common sense.  Most every child desires to please his parents.  Spouses yearn for the approbation of their spouses.  Employees want their bosses to be pleased with them and fear falling into disfavor due to poor performance.

All well and good.

There are many of us, however, who have an inordinate and unhealthy desire to please everybody.  We fear being “on the outs” with people–the more significant, the deeper the fear.  Corollary, we yield to the corresponding urge to bend over backwards to please.

We do this because of the valuation we’ve given to human applause or criticism.  And it trips us up.  One Proverb from the Bible sums it up: It brings a snare (Proverbs 29:25).  This fear of disapproval has been called, from ancient times,  the fear of man.

If I had Confederate currency lying around or piles of Monopoly money in my home, I would not be too upset if someone took it.  Why?  Because these things have little or no value.  Their gain or loss is of little moment.  It’s a different story when someone picks my pocket.  You get the idea.

Someone once wrote, “If you desire the praise of man, you will fear man.  If you fear man, you will serve him–for you will serve what you fear.”

What to do?

Remember, if you don’t get in the habit of drinking the Kool-Aid of praise and applause, you’re less likely to dread their loss.  You will ultimately answer to One, not seven billion.

It’s the sense of perspective that makes all the difference in the world.  Go and do the right thing and don’t fear man.  As my wife reminds me over and over again:

“We’re just people.  We poop.  We pee.  We die.”

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The Cardone Zone and Full Commitment

Grant CardoneA friend and colleague of mine has recently turned me on to yet another personal development trainer, Florida real estate mogul Grant Cardone.

While listening to an audio book of his today, Sell or Be Sold, he made this provocative statement:

“I’d rather be fully committed to the wrong thing than be half committed to the right thing.”

I have to admit, his statement rattled me.  Now, I’ve listened to enough of his material to know he’s definitely not arguing for getting behind a losing cause.  “Choose well” is his advice.

But his unnerving statement highlights an important truth, one we’ve discussed here on The Upside:  “Wherever you are, be all there.”

There is energy in full, unbridled passion for what is important to us.  When we decide “This is it—I’m getting behind this effort, this value, this goal, taking no prisoners, come hell or high water,” stuff begins to unlock, paths open, your subconscious mind begins serving you and the target you’ve set.

Life is far too short to live in half-hearted fashion.

What are your goals and are they compelling enough to motivate you to burn your bridges and trash your excuses to make them a reality?

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Getting Airborne

FlightIf you’ve ever flown in a large airliner and been seated on or near a wing, you’ll notice that there are adjustments made to the size and configuration of the wings before the pilot begins his takeoff roll.  Flaps and slats are extended, which increases the surface area and shape of the wings.  Large jet aircraft need this.

I remember vividly a terrible object lesson that illustrated what can happen when this crucial pre-takeoff step is omitted.  I lived north of Detroit, MI, in August, 1987.  One very hot and muggy Sunday evening, I was busy making donuts for the next day’s business at the bakery where I worked.  Sweat poured off me.

About an hour into the shift, a newsflash interrupted the regular radio programming announcing that a large airliner departing from Detroit Metro Airport had crashed upon takeoff.  There was one survivor—a little girl named Cecilia who was shielded by her mother.  It was an event that haunts Michiganders even  now, years later.

The ensuing NTSB investigation yielded the crucial piece of information as to why this flight was doomed.  Engine failure? No.  Mid-air collision with another aircraft?  Again, no.  The pilots had forgotten to extend the flaps and slats.  It was a hot, muggy night and this important pre-takeoff adjustment was even more critical.  The plane didn’t get the lift it needed and collided with the light towers of the nearby car rental area just northeast of the airport and came down on Middlebelt Rd.

The crash of Northwest Airlines Flight 255 was a tragedy.  Lives lost and families changed forever.

In life, we talk about “hitting the mark for our lives.”  We speak of our dreams, things we want to be and do.  Doing so, we often use the metaphors of flying.  “Fly high—the sky’s the limit.”  And so forth.

Often, we fail to get lift not unlike the jet that crashed that muggy August evening.  And, like an airliner, it is because we don’t prepare ourselves–emotionally, mentally, and physically–to accelerate into the wind and get airborne, moving towards a better future.

All the jet engines in the world will not get a plane off the ground if the shape and volume of the plane’s wings are incorrect, either by design or failure at during pre-flight adjustments.

Can I suggest that some basic modifications—and these are not big—can help us all really to roll on down the runway, get the lift we need, and soar?  Here are some:

  • Don’t be dependent on the approval of others before you roll down the runway.  Hitting a “Like” button on a social media website really doesn’t carry a whole lot of weight in the long haul—unless, of course, you let it.
  • Be honest with your makeup, drives, loves and preferences.  It’s doing something for which you have both aptitude and enjoyment that ultimately helps you fly.  Yes, we all have day jobs which we may or may not “love” but we can leverage these as well as our hobbies and avocations for the flight.
  • Avoid negative people.  They “drag” you down.  Drag hinders flight and is the reason that any jet you watch lift off the runway pulls in its landing gear immediately.  Drag will keep it from flying high and can bring it down.

Now soar!

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Surviving and Thriving in Winter

Surviving WinterMy wife and I currently make our home in northern New York, minutes from Lake Ontario.  Our region is known for what may be charitably called robust winters.  I did not grow up here but my better half did.  This winter reminds her of the winters she remembered as normal, growing up in the 70’s and 80’s.

Winter can be a very challenging time for people.  It’s not just that the cold climes cost more (fuel bills), but the combination of low temps, lack of sunlight due to shorter days, and midwinter doldra tend to really take it out of people.

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a very real physiological and psychological condition.  The shorter days combined with the lack of sunshine due to precipitation (particularly acute if you live near a large body of water) issue in lower amounts of Vitamin D and lack of endorphin and dopamine that we derive from sunlight.  It’s a tough time for lots of people.

I have zero patience for those who say “just get over it” (or other useless crappy platitudes like this) regarding mid-winter blues.  Zero patience.  This stuff is real.  Medical and mental health professionals are well aware of it.  Those who make light of it are fools, pure and simple.

I’ve lived in this region that experiences long and, at times, difficult winters.  And I’ve learned a few things about surviving and thriving in the cold and snowy portions of our year.  Here are a few:

  • Supplement your diet with Vitamin D.  We get this naturally from sunlight, but when sunlight is rare, you must make up for what the sun cannot give you.
  • Pay particular attention to those around you.  My wife is very positive and for that I am very thankful.  But my routine can bring me into contact with people who are not as positive.  Cynicism, sarcasm, trash-talk, etc. are all unedifying as a rule.  But it presents us with larger challenges during difficult seasons.  Avoid negative human beings as much as humanly possible.  Period.  It’s about surviving and you cannot thrive if you listen to those who want to sink your boat.
  • Eat well.  It’s easy when feeling down to indulge your sweet tooth with stuff loaded with sugar or cheap carbs.  Avoid.  You feel good…for about an hour.  Then you’ll feel worse.  Winter is the best time to make sure you eat healthy.
  • Listen to stuff that gives you energy and an uplift.  I have loved film scores for years.  But in times like these, it’s jazz and rock and roll that help keep me sane.  Stuff that feeds melancholy not only does not work; it’s counter-productive.  Same goes for learning and input.  I value people like Brian Tracy, Seth Godin, Tony Robbins and pastor Bill Johnson immensely in times like these.
  • Remember, winter is limited.  It has a terminus.  We’re only 33 days from spring.  This season will end—just a matter of time.
  • The heavy precipitation is important, though a pain.  It helps keep the water table high (you have to live near friends whose wells run dry to appreciate this).

What kinds of winter survival tips can you share?  We’re all ears!

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