≡ Menu

The Positive Power of Negativity

The PositivePower

We don’t need the negative waves, right? Certainly not in a perfect world, but there’s some positives we can take away from the negativity we often see and hear.

Negative Waves

Sorry about the ad in the video, but the wait was worth it. Kelly’s Heroes is a classic! Sometimes, like Oddball, we simply want to say, “Knock it off with them negative waves.” We’ve set off on a great undertaking, or had a great idea for something life-changing, only to have the flame in our spirit dashed with a bucket of ice cold bring-down.

“Do you have time to do that?”
“Are you qualified for that?”
“It might not work.”
“Haven’t people already done that?”The Positive Power of Negativity
“You might get hurt doing that.”
“Have you thought about when this/that happens?”

Or, potentially the worst thing to hear when telling someone close about your idea:

“Well, that’s good.” Then the conversation changes to something completely different, and you’re left thinking maybe your idea wasn’t that great after all.

Ooh, even better:

“Wait! I know what you should do? You should do X.”

I’ll admit it. I’m someone whose natural tendency is to take those occasions to heart. I get angry. I get down on myself for being so naive for thinking I could accomplish anything great. I am destined to hold a cardboard sign on a street corner and my life to this point has been a sham.

But, mostly I get angry.

Bless Their Hearts, Literally

Despite my first inclination when hearing such drivel, which is to assume the utterance was an indication of his/her desire that I not succeed, it was likely put forth from a good, even well-intentioned, place.

Here are a few places where these statements originate:

  • They don’t understand – You have told them a thing that you have thoughtfully considered. A thing of which you know a great deal, but which they know very little. We can’t reasonably expect to receive as much excitement from their point as we have from ours.
  • They’ve had disappointments – And, they don’t want to see you disappointed. They want to ensure you consider all facets of your idea before you go any further.
  • They don’t like risk – This goes along with the disappointments they may have had. They dislike the insecurity of new undertakings. Risk carries a lot of potential; you see the tremendous upside of risk, they see the rock bottom of the downward potential.
  • They haven’t followed their own dreams – This is neither good nor bad. It is, however, unfortunate. For whatever reason, most likely the dull comfort of security, they have not sought what is, or was, in their heart.

Certainly, sometimes people just don’t want others to succeed, but it is rare. I’ve even railed against those people here. When that’s the case, that person has an issue in his/her own life. Every. Single. Time. Even then, there is something positive to be gained, both for us and for the other person. For us, it can be a clue that, whatever our big idea, we could be onto something. For the offending party, their negativity in the form of envy is a window into their heart and life. Once we see it, then we can begin to bolster that person’s confidence in themselves, or be a source of healing for what troubles them. It helps everyone.

Whatever the reason for the words we did not want to hear, there is something to be gained. The coin we consider as negative, has a flip-side that is always positive. “Am I qualified and, if not, how can I become so?” “Do I have the time and, if not, can I structure it so that I do?” “Others are doing this, so what can I do to set myself apart?”

Also, as with the rare person that is simply envious of the great idea you have, we can always learn something about the other person. Something that we can use to improve their lives and our own.

We were not created to merely exist.

We were created to excel.

We were created for greatness.


Stress: It’s a Killer, Man

imageYou’ll be amazed, appalled, frightened even, at the destructive power of stress. But, there’s good news.

I’m a subscriber to multiple email lists, too many to even read every day, actually. I take a little time each day to read a few. I’ll admit, if the subject line in the email is to my liking, I’ll give a look.

Being the definitive procrastinator, and eternally in search of the cure, my interest was piqued by a recent email with a subject heading that dealt with stress and to-do lists. The gist of the article was that to-do lists are counterproductive and create a great deal of unnecessary stress. While I don’t wholeheartedly agree with that assessment, the article contained some eye-opening research about the tangible impact stress has upon us.

Men, I’m talking to YOU (but it applies to women, too)

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. I am a man. The book I’m writing is primarily aimed at men. So, naturally, I’m speaking to men here. That is not to say this post, or any other, does not apply to everyone. Let us continue…

Those of you who have been in the workforce for several years, have a family, a mortgage, car payments, and most every hour of every day is devoted to the care and happiness of others, this is of supreme importance to you.

I know you. I’ve been there. I am there. I feel safe in saying that you often feel every waking moment, and a good portion of your sleep, is consumed by stress and worry. You worry about your kids, your finances, your job, and a host of other immensely important things. Yep, same here.

In addition, the fact that I don’t get to write as often and as much as I would like causes me as much stress as anything. Writing is my thing, my bag, my scene. It’s what I want to do and be.

Yet, and this is a priceless nugget, oftentimes when I have some time available to crank out a couple thousand words, I can’t seem to tear myself away from some stupid game on the iPad, which just adds to my insanity.

The thing is, men, we are killing ourselves. I mean that quite literally.

The excellent article I referenced above, Why “To-Do” Lists Are Hurting Your Business, written by Arielle Kimbarovsky, contained some valuable research about stress. Essentially, short term stress causes reversible damage to “neuronal dendrites (the small ‘arms’ that neurons use to communicate with each other).” That’s bad enough, isn’t it? Stress causes damage to your brain, but reversible damage.

It gets worse. Long-term stress permanently damages neurons. Damages. Permanent! Neurons are those cells in your brain responsible for carrying and processing information. Obviously, we need them. Although we reportedly have billions of them, we need them!

We certainly don’t need to unnecessarily kill them!

Stress has also been linked to a host of other health problems: obesity, heart disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, diabetes, depression, and on and on.

You Can Only Hope to Contain Him

Let’s say, for the sake of simplicity that stress is a male. You can’t stop him, but you can contain him. Pinpoint the areas where he likes to appear and wreak havoc upon you. Are there actions you can take to minimize his impact?

When we manage our stress, we can become superhuman!

When we manage our stress, we can become superhuman!

In my case, wasting time, which prevents me from making progress on the book, creates a lot of stress and anxiety for me. In attacking stress, it is necessary to look at why I waste time.

  • I am tired – My habit is to write in the late evenings, after the kids are in bed. The problem with this is that my body and my brain are tired at that late hour.
  • Self-doubt/Fear creeps in (it’s actually the Devil in disguise, I’m convinced, and he’s a real SOB)– Who’s going to want to read what I have to say? Who am I to think I’m a writer? Things like that, along with all the negative memories I’ve accumulated making their appearance. By the way, it doesn’t really creep in. It shows up with the speed and accuracy of a missle.
  • Disorganization – With all the wonderful technology that make our lives easier comes some drawbacks. I use technology, but haven’t settled on one method for my writing, notes, research, etcetera. This causes confusion, which often leads me to waste time or say, “What’s the use?” If I’m not clear on where I saved the last passage I was writing, or not clear on the idea I wanted to convey, it’s easy for me to give up and vow to fight another day. Problem is, the same thing happens the next day.
  • Outside issues – Now, here is something that we can never escape. Problems are as ever present as they are numerous, but not usually as gargantuan as we think they are. These are the things life throws at you daily.

Each of those can be greatly minimized. Come to think of it, three of them can be all but eliminated (tiredness, self-doubt, and disorganization). The task now is to set about doing so.

For me, get in bed earlier so that I can get up early and write in the mornings, call the devil the SOB he is and move on, and write myself a note as to where I’ll start writing and the ideas and things I was preparing to write. As for outside problems, I can control how I react to those, which will provide some relief and improved outlook. That should get me started toward limiting my stress and saving my own life!

The gains we can realize by removing as much stress from our lives as within our power are immense. It’s certain that doing so will improve our health and keep us from further unnecessary intracranial destruction, and it has the potential to speed progress and exponentially improve our lives. By extension, it will also improve the lives of our loved ones.

The happier and more productive we are, the easier it will be for our families to be around us and the happier they will be. When they are happier, the more productive their lives will be, and so on.

It all starts with us. Actually, it all starts with a great deal of help from above.


The Gear Effect: Tools of the Trade


Motivation can come from many sources. Gear is one of those things and it can put you in the right frame of mind to do some conquering. Putting my hands on essential gear everyday helps to solve the problem of waning persistence when it rears its ugly head.

In general, I hold the opinion that if something doesn’t move us closer to our goal, then it has no place on our ship. Eating at a good restaurant three times per week, though gastronomically fabulous, does nothing for my advancement. In fact, it hinders progress. It might make me feel good for a short while, but the effect quickly fades. The expense is not justified.


On the other hand, I know there are things that I can put hands on everyday that will hold their own and aid in my progress and development. Some treasure will need to be expended to obtain them, but they justify themselves in the service they provide. They become a valued part of the business, the family even. They help keep the power and mojo rolling.

Below is the first example of my own “everyday carry” (EDC), a couple of the things that keep me focused on the prize, give me an assurance of preparedness for whatever may come, and are otherwise an extension of me. Your own everyday carry will be different, of that I am certain, and that’s fantastic. Remember, I am a writer. You may not be. So, some of my EDC will defy your understanding. In fact, you’ll think, “This guy is a geek!

Tools of the Trade

Plural, because I rely on two pens. No others.

The Scriveners and The Trees (and The Canine).

The Scriveners and The Trees (and The Canine).

As good an invention as sliced bread and central air conditioning are, the Pilot Precise V5 Rolling Ball pen is even better. This pen is a work of art. The lion’s share of my note taking, which is significant on a daily basis (because I can’t remember anything for more than a millisecond) is done with the Pilot. Smooth, doesn’t hang up, doesn’t get clogged.

The sole job of my other pen, the Lamy Safari Fountain, is for writing in my journal. Though not as smooth as the Pilot, the Fountain is a more than adequate throwback to a bygone era. I like to imagine myself as George Washington (though he likely wrote with a quill and inkwell) writing on the eve of battle.

I promise, the next installment of The Gear Effect will be more manly (Spoiler Alert: It will be a Benchmade knife, made in the USA).


I Found Two Extra Weeks Each Month

When it’s 11:00 p.m. on a Tuesday night and you haven’t accomplished what you wanted for the day, its easy to look back through foggy, tired lenses and think, ” I just didn’t have the time. Now, I’m so stinking tired.” A close look at your day could reveal something you didn’t expect.

The Energy Suck

What comes after the lamenting over lack of time and being tired is inevitably the stress and anxiety from having not accomplished the greatness you fully intended to achieve this morning. Then comes the blame game.

There was the guy in the Land Rover that cut you off in traffic this morning. “Dang, that took a lot out of me. I hate that guy.”

There was the irate client that lost their mind over something that was so totally out of your control.               “That nearly sent me off the cliff. Really zapped my energy. I hate that guy.”

Meetings ran long, equipment failed, tools were missing, assistant over-scheduled you, the world just sucks! “I could do so much more if 1) things just went my way and 2) I had more time. It all comes down to those two problems, right?

Admission: The above has been me in various forms as recently as yesterday.
Those things actually DO drain you, both mentally and physically. Thing is, though, they’re always there, every day, for all of us.

The Solutions

Problem 1: Isn’t it ridiculous to think things will ever go completely our way? I mean, we know that’s not going to happen. It hasn’t happened to a single human being or lower life form since the beginning of time. 
Here’s what we should do in the face of that: Accept it, get over it, and move on. Problem solved.

As for Problem 2, that’s a little more tricky, so I decided to do an analysis of my day, yesterday. Do I have enough time to do what I need to do? In my case, “what I need to do” is write at least 1,000 words per day, which can take from 1 hour to 3 or so.

This is my yesterday, beginning with the night before, which has an impact on yesterday:

12:00 a.m. – To bed after watching the latest episodes of Turn (fantastic A&E series, if you haven’t seen it) and Game of Thrones.
7:00 a.m. – 7:30 a.m. – Wake up, get up.

7:30 a.m. – 8:30 a.m. –  Shower, dress, take the dog out, make the coffee, get out the door to work.

8:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. – The job (half-hour for lunch) and back home

5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. – Supper, clean-up and evening chaos commences

6:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. – Some chores

7:00 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. – Family time, bedtime for kids

9:30 p.m. – 12:30 a.m. – Down time and bed

In the above real-life scenario, I had approximately 2.5 hours wherein I could have accomplished some or all of my goals for the day. I had time at lunch, during homework time (typically doesn’t require much), and during down time. The problem with down time is that it comes late in the day and my brain is well and truly tired.

Morning Time is the Right Time

Traditionally, free time has come during the late evening. As a 20- and 30-something, I could really produce during the 9:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. time slot. Those days are gone, for me. 

When I do succeed in writing in the late evening, my attention to detail is limited and the errors are many. On the other hand, after a big glass of water, a showering, a bite to eat and a cup (carafe) of coffee, my head is clear and bright in the AM. To make the morning possible, the late night must be sacrificed. 

Getting in bed a couple of hours earlier and up at a very doable 5:00 a.m. yields two hours that are full of mental and physical energy, clarity, and quiet. Perfect for what I need to accomplish. I know it is easier said than done, but it is the only option.

I can write during those two hours. That leaves only a half hour or so during the rest of the day that I can use to hone what I wrote and prepare for the next day. 

Two and a half hours per day, each day, provides 75 hours per month. That is almost two full 40-hour work weeks added to each month. The real bonus is that it isn’t simply “work.” Sure I’ll be working, but it will be work of my own choosing and toward goals I need to accomplish.

When I’m doing something I want to be doing, something getting me closer to my goal, I feel energized. I feel powerful, like I can’t be stopped. It is such a great feeling. We have to be ever mindful to keep the momentum going in the right direction, however, because momentum works in both directions. There is no stopping in the middle. We’re either moving forward or backward.
If you’re sitting on the fence between the good and the bad, then you’ve already chosen your side. 

Take a close look at your own daily grind. See what you can extract from it and let us know in the comments.


Virtual MentorSeries

This is the first post in the Virtual Mentor series.

Most of us have some people in our lives we can reach out to when the going gets tough or when we need some edification or direction. Such is essential to all human endeavors and happiness, in my humble opinion.

I believe we also need to have people that we admire, who are (or were) great at what they do (did), who can teach us through their words and actions, but can’t necessarily be reached anytime we need them.

These would be what I call “Virtual Mentors.” Putting our own knowledge and skills together with a solid group of virtual mentors will increase our chances for success exponentially.

I Can’t Stand This Guy

This is my virtual mentor group when all are present. That's me seated.

This is my virtual mentor group when all are present. That’s me seated.

I always wanted, no needed, to be a writer. In 2007, I finally acted on that need and I started said career, albeit extremely part-time. I wrote and published lots of articles, published blogs, had a few clients, and enjoyed it. As I mentioned in an earlier post, I stopped for an extended period after hitting a road block. Thereafter, I stopped and started a few times, never gaining a strong foothold, my confidence shaken.

Enter Jeff Goins. I don’t recall how I came across him, but it was around the time he wrote his first book, Wrecked, in 2012. I looked at his blog to see when he started and it appears to have been around 2008, after I started my own writing, but not by much.

Today, he is a well-respected writer and blogger and he has four published books to his credit. He has written for well-respected publications, been interviewed by other successful people, and his career is in the midst of blossoming.

So, you see why I can’t stand this guy. He got his start after I did and he’s a successful published author with a popular blog. I, on the other hand, have not not published a book (though it’s in the process) and this blog is at the fledgling stage. Plus, he’s younger than I am! How dare he!!

Just Messing with You

The “I can’t stand this guy” title is just a bit of fun on my part. In addition to his accomplishments in the writing craft, by all accounts, he is a good husband, father, and all around super guy. It was after following his work and reading some of his books that I gradually came back to writing.

Goins is someone worthy of being consulted virtually in more than a few areas. Chiefly, though, he has stuck to his craft through the startup phase, undoubtedly endured the early times when no one was visiting his blog, kept at it and has is now seeing the fruits of his labor pay off.

Persistence – that’s what it takes

Goins has been persistent. Sure, he’s a great writer. The thing is, there are a lot of great writers out there. If they’ve heard of Jeff Goins, I’m sure a lot of them TRULY can’t stand the guy. Why? Because, most of them have never written a book, to say nothing of publishing one. They may not even know why that is so. I can tell them the primary reason: They lack the persistence.

This extends well outside the boundaries of writing and into every field or endeavor. Whatever we desire to be or do, a great deal of the success we have depends upon our level of persistence.

Goins is a great example for all to follow. He’s on my short list of virtual mentors.

Next up in the series, George Washington. Yes, the one that’s been dead for a couple hundred years.

Who is on your list?


It’s my belief there are, through our own doing or with help from others, times when every man runs An Arc Reactor Without thePoison_low on his supply of what one writer calls the “tactical virtues”; strength, courage, mastery, and honor. Those times are extremely tough times.

(For instance, right now I’m writing at the library and there is a man who has violently coughed almost incessantly for 20 minutes. My honor is running terribly low.)

Tactical Virtues Explained

In all seriousness, our tactical virtues, when running as intended, are akin to Ironman’s power disk, his Arc Reactor. The reactor allows him to perform superhuman feats, to say nothing of it keeping him alive. Unlike our superhero, it’s only when our tactical virtues wane that we begin to be slowly poisoned.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve been re-reading a useful book, The Way of Men, by Jack Donovan. He describes the “tactical virtues” as this:

“Strength, Courage, Mastery, and Honor are the virtues that protect the perimeter; they are the virtues that save us…Whatever men fight for, Strength, Courage, Mastery, and Honor are what they must demand of each other if they are going to win…they are the fundamental virtues of men because without them, no ‘higher’ virtues can be entertained.”

How important does that sound?

I believe the guy. I look at my life thus far and see the times when I’ve felt weak, acted less than courageously, been a master of very little, and lacking all sorts of honor. Without question, there have been times such as those. They may come be again. Maybe tomorrow. Who knows? I try to keep them at bay.

(My honor is again being tested, because it’s now two days later, I’m at home writing, and my kids are having what sounds like a wrestling match upstairs that I expect to come through the ceiling at any moment. They are girls.)

Full Tactical Ability

Those times are like a virus; they are the poison within our arc reactor. They can grow, deepen, affect your mindset, hinder your progress, prevent advancement both toward higher virtue and goals and aspirations. One day, you’ll open your eyes and months or years have passed while absorbing the poison. In short, when a man is lacking his tactical virtues, he simply feels like he isn’t worthy of higher aspirations. The only thing that makes sense while in that mindset is negativity, from within and from without, as in from other people.

Now, Mr. Donovan would likely say that a man just needs to pull himself out of the nosedive. Again, he’s right, but it isn’t meant to be done alone. If you can do it alone, and it can be done, do it! There are times, however, when more help is needed.

In those times, we certainly must look inside, past whatever put us in the destructive mindset, and regain the fire. We certainly must look heavenward for direction. And, despite the I-can-do-it-myself affliction that men seem to have, we certainly must look to others, men and women, to bring us back to full tactical ability.

Whether a mentor (real or virtual), a spouse, friends, Romans, countrymen, or any combination of the foregoing, we aren’t meant to go it alone. If that were so, God would’ve stopped with Adam. We must draw upon the encouragement, successes, inspiration, and wisdom of others (tactically chosen, I should add).

The more distance we place between full tactical ability and the hell that is always seeking us out, the less likely it is to catch us.

I Don’t Care What He/She/They Think

Mr. Donovan is also correct on another matter. When speaking of that group of men who profess to not care what others think or say or do, he maintains they “…will not be trusted by the hunting and fighting gang.” They have no loyalties, and thereby cannot be counted on. I agree.

I might add, those who profess a deep concern for freedom of thought and speech, but want to limit the rights of those with whom they disagree to think and speak, fall into that same group.

Donovan, Jack (2012-03-22). The Way of Men.


He is a Man. He is Fierce.

You’ve got that right, brother. Fierce! It may be buried deeply, but fierce is there.

Viking fierce I don’t necessarily mean the Ralphie-going-off-on-the-bully in “A Christmas Story” type of fierce, though that’s in there, too. I mean a man’s fierceness in attacking and conquering his life.

Wild at Heart

I’ve been re-reading an old (relatively) favorite book, Wild at Heart, by John Eldredge. The book describes the characteristics of a man’s heart, how those characteristics have been buried and how they can be awakened.

There are too many great passages from the book to list (in just one post, which is why I’ll refer to this book many times in the coming months), but one has stuck with me at the moment:

“Life needs a man to be fierce—and fiercely devoted. The wounds he will take throughout his life will cause him to lose heart if all he has been trained to be is soft.”

Those two sentences hold a world of meaning. First, for a man to feel alive, he needs to be fierce. Attacking the obstacle/goal/problem with strength. He’s going to beat it into submission and it will be unrecognizable when he’s done with it.

Lest ye think I’m simply a warmonger, that same ferocity is applied to devotion. Devotion to wife, devotion to children, devotion to family, and so on. I believe that when a man feels powerful, every aspect of his life and, naturally, the lives of those with whom he is intertwined are enhanced.

The second sentence in that quote, “The wounds he will take throughout his life…,” however, can lead to utter destruction. That is particularly true given the time in which we live, which led me to dig another quote from within my memory (no small feat) and then find the book from whence it came, as an illustration. This is from Jack Donovan’s, The Way of Men, and it clearly and accurately summarizes what we face:

“In a complex, cosmopolitan, individualistic, disunited civilization with many thin, à la carte identities, The Way of Men is unclear. The ways touted by rich and powerful men are tossed with the ways of gurus and ideologues and jumbled with the macho trinkets of merchants in such a mess that it’s easy to see why some say masculinity can mean anything, everything, or nothing at all.”

Everyone, not just men, take several daggers to the backside, the chest, the eye sockets, the extremities and mid-section on a daily basis. When softness has been fostered, the Palladium that powers Ironman’s arc reactor is drained, and quickly. Before too long, we feel like powerless, worthless, loser drones stumbling through life. For decades, men have heard the conflicting ideas of what being a man means. To be sure, women have also heard the conflicting ideas of what it means to be a woman. I believe we both (men and women) know what brings us alive. It is not a “meeting in the middle.” It certainly isn’t the taming of the male or the curtailing of the woman.

All is not lost, because we each know what it is that fuels our fire. We just have to go in and drag it out. Let me tell you, after decades of being buried deep within, and I’m speaking societally, and possibly years worth of our own burying, it’s no easy task.

Han and Leia

I’m a huge (or “Yuge,” as The Donald would say) fan of Star Wars. So, the relationship between Han Solo and Princess Leia comes to mind, conveniently, as the epitome of how a vicious fire is kindled between a man and a woman. “Vicious” is a good thing in this context.

Han wants to win the battle in which he reluctantly finds himself against the Empire, but that’s not the extent of it. Like most men, he also seeks to be the dashing hero in the eyes of Leia. Leia, in turn, wants to be a part of that battle and relishes the role she plays with Han. Not simply as the poor damsel in distress, but a captivating and fully engaged participant in the great struggle. In this way, the level of fierce achieved is startling. And, it isn’t just possible in the movies. The same can be achieved in real life.

(Another great example is Jamie and Claire Fraser from Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. So far, I’m one of only a handful of men who has read the books, a fact I don’t at all understand

Feel the Burn!!

I like to feel the ferocity, that burning fire; like a Viking about to pillage and level a coastal town, figuratively, of course.  In my case, the pillaging comes in the form of attacking the writing of a book, because it’s the battle of the moment, it’s my thing, and, by God, it will be conquered!!

How much we can do when we kindle our fire! It’s sad to watch a match burn, fade, and die. When it’s gone, there’s absolutely nothing left for it to do, except fertilize the soil. Fortunately, people simply settle into routine dronery (that’s not a word, but I like it), they don’t really burn completely out during their lives, usually.

How sad is that? Enduring a numbness brought on by the fear of failure, the fear of ridicule and talk, the fear of success. Going through life afraid to reach inside themselves and pull out a scorching ball of fire that makes them feel alive. Maybe the match example isn’t so bad, after all.

How many lives will be impacted when each of us gets out of the boat and start pillaging our droneness? How many fires will be lit?

The first place we can start is putting a name to the thing that will kindle our fires. Do it first in the comments below and then run with that ball of fire!


Books mentioned:

Eldredge, John. Wild at Heart Revised and Updated: Discovering the Secret of a Man’s Soul. Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition (2011)
Donovan, Jack.  The Way of Men (2006).

{ 1 comment }

Situational Awareness for the Head

situational awarness

Does this sound familiar:

“I have this thing I want/need to be doing. It will make me very happy, calm even, to be working on it. It is of the utmost importance.”


In the blink of an eye, these thoughts run through your head…

“The lawn needs to be mowed before the neighbors report me to the dreaded Association. The faucet in the sink is leaking. More like “spewing.” We need groceries for dinner. Guests are coming and the house is a disaster. When will I be able to get the car fixed? The school nurse called and Child 1 is sick. You’re kidding, right now? I have work to do. Child 2 has soccer practice after school. I really need to pay some bills today. How can I get it all done? It’s too much to even think about. Will this ever stop? I’m such a loser. Can’t even begin to get my life in order. I’ll never be able to get to my ‘Thing.'”

You’ve been there, right? So have I. Too many times to count.

Situational Awareness

A few days ago, I was reading an article from one of my favorite blogs about situational awareness and how most people have none. The term “situational awareness” simply means being aware of your surroundings and appropriately tuned-in.

Somebody's going to miss this guy.

Somebody’s going to miss this guy. Wow.

People walk down the street, head buried in or talking on their phone, headphones on, with no clue as to what is happening around them. They don’t notice the elevator is already full when they try to step on. They don’t see the belligerent customer in line at the supermarket or the person lurking near their car in the parking lot. They seem to think they’re the only person in the world and all is right.

Due to my line of work, I’ve known about and practiced situational awareness for many years. It’s even more important these days than ever. But, as I read the blog post about the subject, I realized situational awareness is not limited to the physical world. It’s just as applicable to our head, or whats going on inside it.

The Morning. It’s So Nice.

We wake up every morning with a general idea, at the least, of how our day should unfold if it’s to be called a good one. In the fog of waking, the morning feels great. For me, my first thought deals with how I need just a little more sleep. Ah, that’d be great, wouldn’t it?

BAM! That ain’t happnin’. First salvo across the bow.

I get into the shower, which feels great, and the fog begins to lift. The fog is replaced with the items on the plate for the day. No room for anything else. That’s when the items I didn’t intentionally put on my plate first begin to insert themselves thereupon. Within a few hours, all those thoughts mentioned above increase and arrive at a critical mass that places me in simple survival mode. I’ve given up on doing anything besides the necessary.

Controlling the Head

At that point, I’m completely engrossed in the critically necessary. Could I have avoided this frame of mind? In most cases, I think so.

In the blog post I mentioned, Survival Mom uses the example of her child as a new driver. At every stop, he has to consciously check oncoming traffic. He doesn’t know to keep an eye out for other cars, how to watch the speedometer, keep his car in his lane, how to prepare for the next turn, all at the same time. As experienced drivers, all those things become second nature.

The same can be applied to the head. What we think, how we react, is just about all we can control each day. We can’t prevent problems from happening, but we can know they will happen. If we know they will happen, we can shape our thoughts and actions to anticipate and handle them. We can have a survival plan in place in the event the day begins to get out of hand. We can plan time into our day to help ensure we get to our “Thing.” You know, that thing that will provide nourishment and rejuvenation to our mind.

Without situational awareness for the mind, we’re daily headed for the same set of thoughts that occur at the point of desperation.

There’s a great deal of power to be had in taking control of yourself and your thoughts. In my experience, being able look an unplanned stumbling block in the eye and say, “Bring it, chief!” is a wonderful thing. I haven’t always practiced it, but it’s an effective weapon to have in the arsenal. The more I practice with it, I’m sure the better I will become at wielding it.

What are your thoughts? Can we help ourselves with internal situational awareness? Leave a comment below.

Image courtesy TaylorHerring.


It’s a War, My Friends

Without a doubt, it’s an all-out guerrilla war with no rules of engagement to speak of. It’s filled with IEDs, RPGs, and enemies seen and unseen that will kill you. Truth is, the enemy has won infinitely more battles than the good guys, but the war rages on.

Reaching any goal is a war.

In case you don’t know:

IED – Improvised explosive device
RPG – Rocket propelled grenade

Oh, it’s very real

The IED/RPG part is figurative, of course.

RPG. I dodged this one.

RPG. I dodged this one.

In my experience, when I’ve sought the right path for the right reasons, and somehow found myself on it, objects have started flying at my head. More than usual. For years, I never recognized it. I just became frustrated, angry, and felt sorry for myself that my plans were interrupted. I typically found the nearest corner and hunkered down. I quit the thing I was doing, whatever it may have been at the time.

I started many an undertaking only to quit when the going got tough. I can count on three fingers the things that were legitimately quit-worthy. Each of those shouldn’t have been started in the first place. The rest, well, I simply quit when the first salvos were fired.

Press on, soldier boy

I credit a good and wise friend for helping me to see the light and understand there is truly an unseen war raging. Just because we choose the right path, doesn’t mean things will be sweet and the living easy. In fact, it’s oftentimes soooo completely the opposite. The first, most important, step is recognizing that fact. Second, is learning to combat it, which is where I find myself now. Sometimes I win a few battles, sometimes I don’t.

For instance, 15 years ago I sat down and began writing my first book. 14 years, 360 days ago I ceased writing that book, because I talked myself out of it. I listened to the enemy in my ear saying, “No one will publish it. No one will read it. What makes you think you can write a book?

Oh, here’s another good one. Seven years ago, after a couple of years of freelance writing for several publications, I was offered a part-time position as a managing editor for a small sports media company (very small). After a few weeks, I learned the round of funding that made the position possible didn’t come through. I got mad, threw a few tantrums, quit writing and began seeking the wrong paths.

Ah, yes. Here’s a battle surely lost. Just before the managing editor fiasco, I started a venture that would allow for meaningful contributions to a couple of my favorite organizations. Soon, it was apparent the number of hours needed to get it off the ground was daunting and the possibility of failure was very real. My resolve began to waiver at about the time I was asked to speak about my venture at my church. I declined the offer and saw the venture make a quick retreat into oblivion. That one really stung, because I simply didn’t give it a chance. I listened to the enemy in my ear say, “You’ll make a fool of yourself. This is doomed to fail. Shut it down, now!

Today, I’ve made significant inroads toward the needed perseverance. That’s all we can hope for. Since self preservation is part of our existence as humans, we naturally want to limit failure, which lends to a fear of it.

The first RPG

Obstacles will arise; small ones, big ones, real ones, posers. When they do, I believe we have to press on. Many of you are like me; you feel like you’re meant to do that certain thing (it’s different for us all). So, do that thing!!

Don’t talk yourself out of it (obstacle number 1) before you start. I know, you may have been conditioned by the old, faulty maxim, “You can’t fail if you don’t start.” That’s a particularly dangerous RPG if I’ve ever seen one, because its a weapon often launched at us from people we love and respect; parents, siblings, friends, etc. They fire it at us, mostly, because they don’t want us to endure failure. It is, however, a faulty premise. That saying should go this way, “If you never start you already failed.”

So, get past that first obstacle, because its a myth grounded in timidity, and on your way to something great!

As I wrote this, I watched the Denver Broncos take the lead against the New England Patriots with just over one minute remaining. TV Camera pans to Tom Brady. He doesn’t appear scared. He’s ready for the battle that remains. The Pats ultimately lost, but he was ready.

Do you have any perseverance stories? Good or bad, it can be helpful to us.

Image courtesy DVIDSHUB.

{ 1 comment }

A Dentist in a Dangerous Place

You’ve seen dangerous places on the evening news, but unless you’ve read Robert Young Pelton’s books or seen him on Fox or other news outlets, or gone there in person, you don’t know dangerous places.

Hint: They aren’t places for the faint of heart. Myself? I’ve only been in a few dangerous spots, but none on the scale of RYP or the people I mention below.

As I said in this earlier post, I/we/you know imageof at least two other people who know dangerous places. Dr. David Sperow and his wife, Marty, know dangerous places, have been to dangerous places, and they’ll go back to dangerous places. That’s where the hurting is located. That’s where the help is needed.

Dr. Dave, and his NGO (non-governmental organization), La Cima World Missions, was just featured on the news. Read the story of the recent Iraq mission here.

LaCimaWorldMissions.org – A decade-long record of combating evil and spreading light in dangerous places.

Changes your view of dentists, doesn’t it?