Thursday, August 28, 2008

Success Through One Man's Eyes - Part VII

Peace be with you!
In my quest for a distinct acronym for success I came across a series of definitions which I hadn't mentally connected with the word before. This intrigued me for some reason and caused me to think about the origin and application of the word representing the first "s" in success. Before I tell you what that word is let me see if these definitions strike you the same way.

(The Sea of Galilee)

Whole, pure, genuine; the word I'm using also describes one free from adulteration according to Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary. During periods of limited vocabulary usage I would not ordinarily associate wholeness, purity and genuineness with success. Not that it can't be, it's just that my conditioning (please go easy on me for being brutally honest here) about success has often been focused more on concrete and demonstrable character qualities like intelligence and strength. Perhaps even qualities that are visible like beauty, though in the eye of the beholder, have caught not only my fancy but that of Wall Street as a means of describing many forms of success.

So what "s" word being free from adulteration - whole, pure and genuine can I stretch as an indicator of success? Okay, you can look it up now if you want or you can just read on! I am referring to the act of being "Sincere."

So how does being whole, pure and genuine, in short sincere, lead to or help define success? Beyond the obvious answers there is also my not so obvious and perhaps abstract conclusion. Granted, this opinion is but one perspective and thus in reality carries weight with only me and of course I must use the frequent disclaimer is "subject to change" when better information is uncovered. (Just trying to be Honest, Sincere, and Real! Naturally I'm reminded that there really is no new information so what will change?)

In my opinion it doesn't matter what your definition of success is if you apply an attitude of wholeheartedness. Giving your whole heart is not an easy task beyond the lip service. Dedicating yourself to something or someone is incredibly important and often extremely difficult, more so if your heart is not pure but torn or divided. I cannot tell you how many times I tried to accomplish or achieve something only to fail because I hadn't committed my whole heart to the task of person. This is not about multi-tasking this is about surrendering the doubts, the selfish desires or any other obstacle which precludes us from giving something our all. More often than not these obstacles are internally generated not external. Wholehearted surrender to limitless thinking and acting will overcome virtually any obstacle, self induced or otherwise. Even failure is is a form of success when you offer your whole heart because you will have gained valuable experience that only goes unpaid when you quit! I guarantee it!

Purity and genuineness are synonymous with wholeness as they describe a character that is unfettered by the outside world. There is a gravitational pull towards people how are pure and genuine, even when they make mistakes, and they do if they're really human. Pure and genuine people will say, "forgive me, I was wrong." They somehow know instinctively that they don't have to be right all the time in order to be exactly who they are. They have examined themselves sufficiently to reveal an inner knowing that transcends all the obstacles of life.

Sincerity is unadulterated joy and peace with yourself. It says I don't have to be anything or anyone other than who I was created to be to be successful, however I define it. I just have to be me. It's not all about me either. The wholehearted, pure and genuine people of this world look for the best in others. They hold fast to seeing love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control in others as well as themselves.

Sincerity is a step in the ladder of success because it is powerful enough to withstand the winds of change and flexible enough to flow with it when necessary. Sincerity leads to success because love is its motive.

Peace be with you my friends.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Success Through One Man's Eyes - Part VI

Everyone and their mother watched as Michael Phelps became arguably the greatest Olympic athlete in history. I guess you could call that success. Most of us stood in awe of his accomplishments - winning 8 Gold medals in swimming, and breaking Olympic records in the process. By itself, that's enough for most of us. But, there is more!

I wanted to write about principles that are relevant to todays young men and how they can measure success. In my acronym for success I intended to use the "e" to denote excellence. As worthy a goal as seeking excellence is Michael Phelps' achievements reminded me of two other "e's" that are every bit as important and relevant today. They are endurance and enthusiasm.

Did Michael Phelps demonstrate excellence in the pool? You bet! Were his skills superior to anyone in China that week? Oh - my - Gosh, yeah Howdy! But, what struck me more than his incredible, unbelievable. almost inconceivable quest to surpass Mark Spitz's seven Olympic Gold Medals was the way in which he accomplished his amazing feat.

Where do I start? Honoring his mother with each glance and recognition of her contribution to his life; sharing his moments of glory with his sisters; acknowledging with enormous humility the contribution of his teammates (all world class athletes in their own right) and demonstrating an image that could be emulated by every young man with complete and utter confidence of acceptance. Wow! How important a contribution is that?

But, there's more! What struck me the most was his enthusiasm and endurance. His enthusiasm for living in the moment; not only of the 2008 Olympic games, but in the years of competition and training that led up to his spectacular achievements in China. Michael Phelps remained focused and present in each event, not with an eye on the future but enthusiastically executing each small victory up the ladder to the Gold Medal podium. This is the message of his victory. True excellence in any endeavor can only truly be accomplished by remaining present in each very special moment of life.

There's still more! Although he remained present in each event, this presence was the culmination of many years of enduring the practices, the competitions, the exhausting rigors of Olympic and world class caliber training regimens that would destroy most of us. Is he gifted? Absolutely! But he also endured for a very long stretch of time. He got up for the game every day, focused on the moment knowing only that he would compete that day or in the next event, if he was healthy physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. He endured by choice; by deciding to do so. That is an attitude worthy of emulation. Frankly, many athletes and professionals in other areas of life enjoy the same perspective. This is just Michael's time in the spotlight.

One last thought, if I may? This is also just one man in the limelight. There are thousands of people in various vocations and avocations that demonstrate similar attitudes. Thank God, though all too often unnoticed, they are present in their teaching or police work or management or gardening or you name it. They too, have that special or spectacular Gold Medal something which they enthusiastically demonstrate in an enduring way.

The reality is that you too, possess an ability equally worthy of emulation, duplication or respect. The question is will you be present each moment of the day? Will you submit your will humbly and subordinate yourself to a cause bigger than you are in order to accomplish your goal.
I believe Michael Phelps did; and we all gained something special from it.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Success Through One Man's Eyes - Part V

Peace be with you!

The next part of the success acronym is the second "c", for which I have chosen the word "Challenged. " I'm sure you'll notice that the form is past tense. Oh, by the way the photo attached here is one of the many trestle bridges along the New River Tail near Pulaski, Virginia. The photo was taken, as almost all of those exhibited in my work are, by my wife and life partner, Debbie-Phillips-Noll.

All of us are challenged by something, whether it's by the peers of our youth, or by our kids in their youth, or by personal issues of all kinds at any stage or time in our lives. Some challenges are easily overcome and others test our very souls. It's the latter that I want to discuss briefly here for when we are challenged beyond what we think we can accomplish, we grow. When we face adversity with a positive outlook we have the best chance to conquer that which would conquer us. Whether it is internal or external, how we face life events, planned or unplanned, in essence how we are challenged determines the quality of life we live.

Being challenged can be a "buzz word" in todays American culture. We can be challenged by work, school, sports, family, friends, or in many cases just by daily events. But what helps us succeed most is, I believe, how we are challenged by ourselves. Our successes and failures are not entirely based on what happens to us, but how we respond to what happens to us. I believe what we are challenged by most is out attitude toward life, no matter what the circumstance is and I believe that our perspective also determines our degree of success or failure.

For most I think, it is not being intellectually or emotionally challenged that causes them to stumble but the spiritual challenge of seeing that which is not yet tangible or seeing that which has not yet occurred in such a way that it is remarkably effective in terms of the eventual outcome. When we choose to see ourselves or the circumstances of our lives in the present and in a positive framework we put ourselves in the greatest possible position for success.

One of the games that I appreciate the most in terms of skill and strategy is billiards. In billiards, it isn't just the ability to make the shot you are currently playing that helps you win, but the ability to see the position of the cue ball for future shots that determines your chances of winning the game. The best billiards players are those who can combine the skill of executing the present shot with the skill of seeing future shots and placing the cue ball in excellent position to make each of the subsequent shots.

The same thing happens with our perspective about life. After the break, so to speak, when the table has been determined - the difference between success and failure - the difference in running the table or leaving the door open for your opponent, is our ability to see the shots that haven't yet been made and our ability to execute the ones that present themselves to us along the way.

There will be the naysayers and skeptics in our path and that's okay. There is also significant research and testimony to support living life positively, with vision, purpose, and perspective. I find myself challenged each day to get up for the game, to put on the type of mindset that will put me in the best possible position to execute what I am presently aiming at and place me in position for the next best available shot.

Personally, I decided several years ago (and that was later than I should have) that despite what is a attributed to Hall of Fame Football and legendary coach Vince Lombardi about "winning isn't everything, it's the only thing," that I would live a challenged life every day. I would make every effort to envision that which cannot be seen and view myself in the best possible position to respond positively and not to react negatively to each circumstance. I would challenge myself to keep focused not so much on winning, but on doing the best I can now, today, and accept the outcome as the beginning of a new challenge.

My prayer for you is that you too, will be challenged to live fully in the present, no matter the circumstance and to decide right now to be challenged to see yourself today, not only winning but, doing that which you were designed to do.

Shalom my friends and peace be with you!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Success Through One Man's Eyes Part IV

Peace be with you!

The third of the seven words in my acronym “SUCCESS” is “Chosen. Being chosen offers numerous opportunities for growth as well as a few rewards. Being the first kid selected in a choose-up game on the basketball court at the neighborhood playground or being elected president of a professional association conjure up great feelings of pride and joy. Each of us can easily identify with being chosen for something meaningful to us. What I’m referring to here is more about why we are where we are and how we got here. (If we can ever really know that!)

The subject is not about being chosen. It’s about taking responsibility for the direction, actions and judgments we have “chosen” that contributed to our present personal circumstances today - good, bad or indifferent! Success is about what we are doing now and/or planning now for the future so why talk about choice in past tense? Well, that’s fairly simple. The old adage still rings true today; if you want something different in the future you must do something different today; you must do something other than what you’ve always done or you will continue to get what you’ve always gotten.

Ever since I heard the definition of insanity – “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result,” I have tried to apply its underlying message of change to my everyday life. In that, I have found not only a great peace but the reality and interconnection of change and success.

If we want to be successful we must be willing to change. If we want to change we must know ourselves and who we really are and what needs changing in order to reach our goals. We must acknowledge the value of self examination and the acceptance of the accompanying consequences of our choices, decisions, and judgments.

I used “Chosen” as the 3rd key of success to illustrate the dynamic of the one element we as human beings share that differentiates us from any other species on the face of this planet…The Power to Choose. To reflect on the past only to observe our mistakes would be fruitless. That type of reflection only causes one to get stuck in another time period thus losing present opportunities for change.

To examine our past in its context, learning what worked and what didn’t and applying the results; the consequences, good and bad alike, we offer ourselves a greater potential for growth towards success, but more importantly significance.

Recognizing and coming to terms with the error of our ways also allows us to dismiss those moments in time that are no longer of value to our present and consequently our future. Yet, we must use our personal histories to seek out those moments where our chosen paths have either led us astray or victoriously in the direction of our destiny. We can learn from painful and joyful consequences alike, no matter how extreme, if we are willing to be honest with ourselves and forgiving of ourselves.

I am not, by any means, suggesting that one should spend their entire life looking back. Quite the contrary, I am suggesting we spend present moments in reflection in order to determine our actions for today. This is, of course, just one method of forward thinking; sort of back to the future type daydreaming. In the past few years I have spent a significant number of hours reflecting, journaling, and writing about then present day reflections that have produced both fond and tortuously painful memories. However, I will say that each hour I spent earnestly self examining the paths I have chosen revealed many blessings in disguise and contributed to handsome dividends in my present joy and future happiness despite some bitter disappointments along the way. Had I not permitted myself the reflective time, I would have missed many virtuous revelations.

There is, at least in my humble opinion, a significant difference between choices and decisions. Unfortunately there is not enough time to discuss them here in this article except to note that choices are abundant and seemingly infinite in their frequency while decisions, by their very definition, dwindle in frequency when they are executed and therefore finite.

Since 1987, when I first began journaling, I have chosen the direction for my life from many alternatives or choices. From those varied choices I have chosen thoughts, actions and quite often, due to a propensity for procrastination, inaction which has ultimately resulted in arriving at a very different station in life today – at this very moment. Some of the actions I chose were exhilarating, some very self-defeating. What I learned was not unique to me. There is an abundance of literature replete with stories, factual and otherwise, learned by others long before me and by greater men than me.

Simply, to seek the wisdom of God is supreme and if we are to focus ourselves on any one thing, loving God with all our hearts, minds, souls and strength and loving our neighbors as ourselves is a choice. Keeping that choice in the present and at the forefront of our daily lives creates unlimited possibilities and opens doors that no man can shut. In this case we choose to be chosen because we have been chosen to choose.

Shalom my friends and peace be with you,


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Success Through One Mans Eyes = Part III

The second element in the "Success" acronym is Unselfishness or what I will call "Selfless" living.

The Apostle Paul, in his letter to the church at Corinth, defines my portrayal of selfless living as he detailed the characteristics of Love in Corinthians chapter 13. The family of believers there would come to know how to recognize and demonstrate this true form of love. He said in the 5th verse, "It is not rude, it is not self‑seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs." The "it" Paul was referring to was not what the majority of our society refers to as love; it was an extraordinary compilation of traits found only in the perfect Love of God.

Selflessness was made the model of Love by Yeshua (Jesus' Hebrew name). This chapter in the Bible is often cited by Clergyman at weddings, Preachers in their sermons and even at times, counselors with their patients, and with good reason! Without love, relationships are meaningless and life becomes a never ending battle for more for the self to which we attach our minds.

Like the bridge in the photo above (White Oak Canyon - Sedona, AZ) an unselfish attitude or character provides a means of reaching the other side of a great chasm. Without this bridge, White Oak Canyon would be extremely difficult to cross, if possible at all. The canyon represents the obstacles of life, of relationships and hardships of all kinds. Without unselfishness, which I call the bridge of love, we would not be where or what we are today.

Following the example Jesus set for humanity selfless living is the art of giving of ones self, consciously, without malice or forethought. It's a matter of developing the habit of giving first, for the benefit of the person and for no other reason than to edify or please them, or to help them grow.

An unselfish spirit is an incredibly difficult trait to master but will go a long way toward mending or healing broken relationships, and a most affective way to convey love.

Humbly, I admit that I have not yet reached mastery of this almost lost art of giving. (My wife Debbie might even say, "you've got a long, long way to go.") Though I profess to work on techniques that will bring me closer to understanding and better execution I recognize that I do still fall woefully short. Please excuse the commentary but, honestly coming to terms with reality helps diffuse any inkling of pretense or arrogance.

Selflessness produces success because it places us in right relationship with those around us. Zig Ziglar would say, "You can anything you want if you will help enough people get what they want." You see, others come before we do in the business world too! If we will learn this application, if we will change the perspective we have of the order of our desires so that they follow the will of God to serve others first, then we will receive the blessings associated with the law of the harvest which says we reap what we sow. And so, it is with the bridge of love - the art of selfless living!

Shalom my friends until the next session when we discover what it means to be "Chosen," the first of the two "C's" in "SUCCESS."

Peace Be with you!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Success Through One Man's Eyes - Part II

Peace be with you!

Welcome to Part II of "Success Through One Man's Eyes." In this segment we will begin to break down, element by element, the 7 criteria I use to help define success "for me." I hope, by the end of this multiple segment article, you can express exactly what success means for you too. I challenge you to discover for yourself what success means so you can recognize it as an unintentionally produced byproduct of your journey to significance and not just some milestone to be obtained as an end.

The first element in my success line-up is "Single Mindedness." It's not something I use it's something I am, at least when I'm at my best. Being single minded, in my humble opinion, is yesteryears version of what is known today as focus. I hope I didn't scare off any multi-taskers. Being singled minded has more to do with your purpose or calling than not being able to do multiple projects simultaneously. In fact, you must be able to see the big picture and all of the elements of it working simultaneously within it. You must be clear about where you are going or you will go everywhere and nowhere. Eventually, time will become your enemy. It will erode your enthusiasm and I assure you it will cause you great pain.

Of course you may disagree, and that's okay because in this blog I get to determine my own arguments. (Chuckle) I do, however, recognize there are a number of schools of thought here. This just happens to be mine and I am guided by my experience, both the good and the bad, the achievements and the failures. I have learned how to learn from both of them.

Some say...focus on what you want, others say you can try too hard, you can concentrate too much! Well, I'm in the single minded school, primarily because I do believe that your energy follows your greatest other words your energy is somehow funneled to whatever you focus on. That's where the action is, after all nothing just happens. First there are thoughts, then there are actions. I've only experienced focused energy once, as a young man in sports. Great exhilaration accompanied that feeling and I will never forget it. I also know what it's like to spread my thoughts and energy out like a shotgun and although it's fun at times, it will not produce the type of achievement they write about in books and magazines.

So, I must conclude that single mindedness or focus is critical to success no matter how one views the end result, especially as it relates to a vision or purpose in your life Of course focus does not, by itself, define success. It is, however for me, an integral element and a lack of concentration dilutes the energy necessary to accomplish our dreams.

I encourage you to decide what your focus will be as early in life as possible; to prepare yourself with great zeal and to take immediate and prolonged action to develop yourself. Recognize the value of time and the role it plays in developing your purpose with single minded precision. Learn how to invest energy and time into yourself. When you do you will create a positive force, a life energy producing that which you focus on again and again. Oh, and by the way, write everything down. Leave no detail out! Open your mind to limitless awareness and thinking. I plead with you not to let your life energy dissipate by diluting it with the garbage of the world. Time is running out. You may think it to be infinite, but without a healthy respect for it and it's never ending movement you will only fool yourself into watering down one of your most powerful and exhaustible resources.

I have enjoyed these few moments with you. It is my privilege to be a part of your journey. Next time we get together we'll discuss how an unselfish heart determines what type of soil you'll be planting your seeds of success into.

Until then,

Peace be with you my friend!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Success Through One Mans Eyes

Peace be with you my friends!

What is success? How would you define it? How does a two year old with a pair of 50's plaid shorts and a six shooter define success? Or, does he merely contemplate the present he can see and hear and touch? Well, there will only be a million more questions like these for this little guy as time runs swiftly by him, and many of them will go unanswered. They will remain a mystery.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us." As I look at myself through the eyes of experience I see something very important. What I imagined to be important during much of my adult life really wasn't and what I have today is much like what I had as a child; a love for life, the very simplest of things, like being myself, acting goofy, making my mother smile just by being who I was, 'lil 'ol toy six shooter - me!

So what the heck does this have to do with SUCCESS? Nothing and everything, I suppose. I guess it's just my way of illustrating how much our perceptions change as we grow and development, not all for the best, either. I believe I have come almost full circle and what I define as success today seems more like where I started than where I was for the majority of my adulthood. So I guess I want to provide this acronym for success, if for no other reason that to cause those who are looking for significance in their lives to know you are not alone. There have been many before us and there will be many after us who have experienced this hormonal imbalance in men! (Sorry, I just couldn't resist)

I developed this acronym to remind me of what is really important to me and to keep me grounded in the truth I saw as 'lil 'ol six shooter - the purest eyes I've ever seen through. Yes, even better than today with all the wisdom I've gained over the years. Thank you Lord!

S ingle-minded
U nselfish
C hosen
C hallenged
E xcellent
S incere
S haring

Unfortunately that is all I have time for this evening! This is a great place to stop and contemplate. Tomorrow I will continue my definition of success and how the process of defining success relates to our attainment of it.

My thought for this evening is - Success is not something we ascribe to or attain but something we experience on the way to significance. It is not a destination but a by product of being that which we are gifted for and designed to be.

Until tomorrow, peace be with you!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

When The Road Narrows

What would you do in this situation? Of course it would depend on the circumstances; what lane you were in; which direction you were heading; what other vehicles were on the road at the same time, etc, etc.

There is a clue in the lower right hand corner...a small sign that reads "DO NOT PASS."

This photo is and optical illusion. Of course this road does not narrow as the picture suggests but, this is a great visual aid to describe something that happens every day of our lives.

It doesn't matter what the circumstances of life are. If we are to be successful, no matter how we define that term, we must align our thoughts, actions, and behaviors with Universal Laws that cannot be broken regardless of the conditions.

Whether there is a sign to warn us of impending trouble or not we have to stay in our lane or we run the risk of a deadly consequence. The same is true of life's choices. we cannot violate the universal law of gravity and expect not fall or drop down. We cannot expect to receive that which we have not sown. It just doesn't work that way.

Just as in this instance above you may get away with passing in a no passing zone, but this is especially dangerous when the road narrows. In this case it is wise to obey the law and when you are facing life situations, especially those which may not necessarily be what they seem, it is critical to once again understand that may also be severe consequences to your thoughts, behaviors, and actions.

So whether there is a warning sign or not, keep in mind the universal laws that apply to all of life's situations. Don't know what those universal laws might be? A little be of research and a passion and curiosity and they will be revealed.

Until the next mountain to cross is before us...peace be with you

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Granted, this isn't the best photo of the Grand Canyon, but it is one I was able to take personally and it is significant to me. As I stood on the edge of the Canyon I saw two images. One, was the image of a vast, powerful and incredibly awesome work of God. The second was an image of an obstacle that was foreboding beyond comprehension yet I was standing on it's precipice and dreaming of conquering it.
The images were clear metaphors about my life, in fact, all of our lives.

I too, was created to be an awesome work of God and the obstacles I place in my way can be, and often are, as foreboding in depth and breadth as the Grand Canyon itself. But, as I stood staring across this test of time I realized that I have received an equal share of grandeur and I can produce the same effect on the world as this Grand Canyon does if I will receive, as it does, the presence of God in it.

It is a matter of perspective and attitude. My perspective was opened wide, as the Canyon, and my attitude is now that I can overcome any obstacle, even one a enormous this much observed phenomena! It is a simply a choice, a decision, and I choose to see myself in the present as a man created by the same creator that molded and shaped this awe inspiring spectacle.

I hope that one day you too, will come to this place; in person and in spirit!
Of course, that choice is yours!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The First Step

I honestly do not remember my first step but, I know I would not be here without it. Even the journey of a thousand miles begins with this one action. The first step is a requirement no matter the direction; it's also what creates momentum! It's what begins the process. It's what creates the impetus for all other associated actions that lead to achievement, regardless of the goal.

So what causes us to initiate that first critical movement? I believe most of us respond to inspiration, encouragement and hope with varying degrees of vision and imagination. These are the first cognitive steps. Sometimes we must shift of our paradigms to eliminate barriers which impede our growth. Once completed, we can proceed forward toward the accomplishment of additional successive sequential actions which ultimately hurl us toward our destiny.

This is why I believe being optimistic has such a valuable impact on our success, no matter how we define it. If our first thoughts are positive and we develop those thoughts into good habits early on in life, our first steps will produce a character that will joyfully serve us and our communities regardless of circumstance.

You will find nothing new here in this blog but, having paid the price of poor choices, I am compelled to advocate and encourage the discovery and understanding of the gifts each and every one of us possess and to inspire their passionate use for the sake of humankind, one first step at a time. It is to that end that I commit myself and this first page of Born2care!

Peace be with you !