Act As If You Already Are

4 08 2017

We’ve all heard these phrases.  “Fake it ‘til you make it.”  “Show love and then feelings of love will follow.”  The big thing in all of this is that action, a result of the choice of one’s will, results in desired emotions.  Sometimes it’s the other way around.  You feel ready to burst with love towards someone and then act this out.  But, time and distance taken as variables, it’s more often the opposite. Feelings follow upon definitive actions.

Aristotle, in his Nicomachean Ethics, says this:

“For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them, e.g. men become builders by building and lyre players by playing the lyre; so too we become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts.”

Writers learn to write not by reading about how to write but by actually writing.  Musicians learn their instruments with their instruments in their hands, not sitting only behind music theory books and instrument manuals. We learn by doing.

Challenge:  Find some skill—art, music, technology, relationships—and try this.  Act as if you were already the expert you both admire and aspire to be.  Do your homework, to be sure.  Then do the thing you want to be good at.  Then do it some more.

 

Suggested Resources:

The Success Principles: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be (Jack Canfield & Janet Switzer)

Outliers: The Story of Success (Malcolm Gladwell)

 

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Walking Civil War

3 08 2017

Cognitive dissonance.  “Your walk doesn’t match your talk.” Integrity vs. hypocrisy.

Part of the daily journey on this planet is learning to be one person.  Not two.  Or three.  Or six.  Integrity is related to “integer.”  A mathematical concept.  A whole number.

To live in integrity means “wholeness.”  It means our actions match our words, our values, our creeds, our codes of conduct.  You have enough to do to simply be one person.  There’s not enough energy, time or sense to construct false selves and alternate lives.

Choosing a path of duplicity and hypocrisy puts you at odds…with yourself.  You become, in effect, a walking civil war.  Fragmented.  Battling with your own heart.  Here are the takeaways of such a lousy choice:

  • Sleepless nights
  • A default tendency to look over your shoulder. “Who’s after me?  Who knows what I’ve done?”
  • The need to invent more lies to cover up your lies.
  • You medicate.  Simple—you can’t live with all these selves.  So you numb pain.  Take your pick: Drugs, booze, sex, shopping, endless busyness.  And a thousand other bypaths.

Live what you believe.  Keep your word.  Be one, not six persons.  Then sleep in peace.

 

Suggested Resources:

Who You Are When No One’s Looking: Choosing Consistency, Resisting Compromise (Bill Hybels)

Integrity: The Courage to Meet the Demands of Reality (Henry Cloud)

 

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Switchfoot “Twenty-Four”





The Thirst for Mercy

2 08 2017

“Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.”

(J.R.R. Tolkien)

 

Suggested Resources:

A Severe Mercy (Sheldon Vanauken)

The Name of God Is Mercy (Pope Francis)

Radical Forgiveness: A Revolutionary Five-Stage Process to:- Heal Relationships – Let Go of Anger and Blame – Find Peace in Any Situation (Colin Tipping)

 

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The Best Friend One Can Be

1 08 2017

BFF.  Bestie.  “People let me tell you ‘bout my best friend….” (“Courtship of Eddie’s Father” for those of us who remember the TV show theme.)

What kind of friend do you want to be?  Answer that with your response to “What kind of person do you consider a friend?”

When I was first dating my wife, I asked her how many true friends she had.  Her answer rattled me.  “Well, not many.  In my mind, a friend is someone who will die for you.”

Well.

We’ve all had “friends” who we are convenient for:

  • The *friend* you haven’t heard from in nine years.  iPhone vibrates.  “Hey, how are you??!! I’ve been thinking about you lately.  How are you?  How’s the family? (long pause) I’d like to tell you about something I’m involved in.  Can I share with you?” (Sales pitch for their new business or multi-level marketing product ensues. It’s a cold call, that’s all.)  “It’s not personal, Sonny. It’s strictly business.”
  • The *friend* who calls you up, sounds off about their life, drama, and difficulties for an hour then finally says, “So how’s it going with you?” Five minutes later after you’ve started to answer and bleed, “Well, I’ve got to get going.”
  • The *friend* who uses you as a sounding board. (Wannabe ministers are good for this.)  They preach their sermon and you are their congregation.  I had one *friend* literally not respond at all when I told them my stepfather passed away.  No affect.  Nothing.  After he had preached of course.
  • The *friend* who is there while you’re providing them a service or helping them build their business, their brand, or their empire. Then they’re gone and you don’t hear from them again.  Until, of course, they need your help and skill.

This cuts both ways.  Are you the kind of *friend* who finds people convenient rather than valuable?  Don’t lie.

Maybe we use the word friend in the same meaningless way we say “awesome” to everything.  Such friends might better be called associates, acquaintances or colleagues, even peeps.  Don’t ruin something as beautiful as the word “friend” misapplying to people like this or to you if it fits.  Nobody likes to be used.

This is what friends do:

  • They ask you how you are doing and then listen.
  • They really want nothing from you except you.
  • They call out the best in you and call you out when you’re quitting and wrecking your life.
  • They’re the ones who stick around when the train derails. They help put the cars back on the tracks.

“When you win in politics, you hear from everybody.  When you lose, you hear from your friends.” (Richard M. Nixon after he resigned as President of the United States)

Have you friends?

 

Suggested Resources:

The Chosen (Chaim Potok)

“Brian’s Song” (the original 1971 film)

 

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Switchfoot and Hope

31 07 2017

“Hope deserves an anthem and that’s why we sing.”

(Jon Foreman)

Kath and I attended a superb concert last night.  Switchfoot came to our town and played Meadowbrook Theatre, a venue at my alma mater, Oakland University, in suburban Detroit.

She was blown away.

So was I.

The band was superb.  Tight.  Didn’t miss a note.  Engaged from the opening “Hello Hurricane” to the final encore “Dare You to Move.”

I’m not a kid anymore.  That was four decades ago.  But I was a kid last night.

I first heard of Switchfoot, an alternative band from San Diego, about fourteen years ago.  Their album “The Beautiful Letdown” put them on the map in a big way.  Indeed, their performances of “Meant to Live” and “Dare You to Move” from that breakout album at the concert’s end capped the night brilliantly.

Today, I listened to interviews with the band’s co-founder, front man Jon Foreman.  When asked what Switchfoot’s music is all about, Jon answered, “Hope deserves an anthem and that’s why we sing.”

Odd, I came into their music in a big way after I passed the half-century mark.  I’m fifty-three and rock and roll for me means Led Zeppelin.  And more Led Zeppelin.  (Factoid: Jon Foreman was a part of a Led Zeppelin tribute band in his teens.  Factoid no. 2: During the middle section of “Bull In a China Shop” last night, lead guitarist Drew Shirley launched into the solo from “Whole Lotta Love.”  It was spectacular.)

As I’ve gotten to know Switchfoot’s music, I’ve become very uncomfortable.  Hope is a theme.  So are themes like “live life fully, unafraid and without regrets” and “is this who you want to be?”

Ouch.  A little too near the heart and conscience

Check them out.  They’re raw and real, all flawed humanoids trying to figure life out.  It’s all spelled out in the music.

 

Recommended Resources:

“Where the Light Shines Through” (Switchfoot)

“Fading West” (Switchfoot)

“The Beautiful Letdown” (Switchfoot)

“Fading West” – Film (Switchfoot)

 

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(Written for homeless kids in San Diego)





35 Years Ago This Evening

29 07 2017

I remember July 29, 1982 like it was yesterday.  Thirty-five years ago, I stopped at a donut shop to visit a friend and picked up the Detroit Free Press.  I read of an airplane crash.  11 people dead.  And one of them, an iconoclast Christian musician named Keith Green.

Quickly, I grabbed the newspaper and went to the house of a friend.  It was probably about 9:30 at night.  And he was in bed.

“Keith Green is dead.  You have to see this.”  He was awake immediately.  We began reflecting on the profound impact this now deceased twenty-eight year old Christian musician had on us.

Keith Green was what we label as an acronym: WYSIWYG.  “What You See Is What You Get.”  He was intense to a fault.  A friend of mine, a recording engineer, met Keith once.  He said he was so intense he was scary.

Keith was a seeker.  And eventually he latched on to Jesus of Nazareth.  Jesus became his guru.  And then his master.  He never looked back.

Keith was not easy to deal with.  He was impulsive, impetuous and his intensity–so says his longtime friend, Randy Stonehill– could often give you an Excedrin headache.  He was immature at times but dead earnest with what he knew was truth.

I was first exposed to Keith’s music as a young Christian disciple.  His in-your-face lyrics both challenged me and made me wither.  The same could be said for multiplied thousands of people who came under his influence.

Keith, thank you.  You have no idea the effect you have had on me for thirty-seven years.  Add to that multiplied millions of others.  May your tribe explode in growth.

Suggested Resources:

No Compromise: The Life Story of Keith Green (Melody Green & David Hazard)

“Your Love Broke Through:  The Keith Green Story”

 

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Worry, Hardwiring, and Useful Anxiety Hacks

28 07 2017

Worry.  We all wrestle with this, some with success, others not.  The lyric “and every morning I wake up and worry What’s gonna happen today?” comes to mind.  But you don’t have to be an Eagle to understand this.

There’s a reason we worry.  And no, you’re not weird.  You’re wired—note the rearranging of three letters.  Yes, you and I are wired for anxiety.  It’s in our brains.  It’s a matter of anatomy and physiology.  Some worry and anxiety in our lives do not make us neurotics.

There is a small part of our brains called the amygdala.  Some thinkers, like Seth Godin, call the amygdala the “lizard brain.”  The amygdala is what keeps us alert to danger.  It generates the “fight or flight” impulse in the face of real or imagined threats.  That is the hardwiring.  We have an amygdala for a reason.

But what do we do?  Anxiety is not particularly pleasant.  How do we manage this in a world that is changing and unpredictable?

I’ve learned a few things.  Still learning others.  Here’s some things that I’ve found helpful.

  • Most of what we worry about simply never happens. One study puts the number of things that never happen at 85%.  Think about that.  If you have like twenty negative anxieties you’re brooding over, on average only three of them happen.
  • Human beings are made remarkably resilient. People survive job loss, friend rejection, illness, financial calamity, relationship adversity—including breakup and divorce, every day.
  • People generally think about themselves. They’re usually not thinking about you.  Therefore, it is fruitless to imagine all sorts of awful mental scenarios.
  • Worry and anxiety about what may happen is quite often worse than actually experiencing the thing you fear.

What helps you get the upper hand on worry?

 

Suggested Resources:

Why We Are Wired To Worry And How Neuroscience Will Help You Fix it: Stop Stressing, Reduce Anxiety, Feel Happy, Finally! (Sharie Spironhi)

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff . . . and It’s All Small Stuff: Simple Ways to Keep the Little Things from Taking Over Your Life (Richard Carlson)

 

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