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September 2017

August 2017

all or nothing

 

The key to success rests in the power not to think in terms of all or nothing.

It is not easy.  Existing in extremes is wonderfully addicting.  Why should we take the time to save a little bit of money every month, when the big lottery win is just around the corner?

We have learned over time to either want everything now, or to simply give up and accept nothing at all.

This puts an unnecessary burden on our lives. It makes us turtle at the first sign of failure.  It leads us to embrace false gods.  Invest in false promises.  Get pushed and pulled by the unnecessary extremes of living and dying.

But why are we so reluctant to embrace the grey?  The in between?  To become a work in progress? 

We want it today.  We want it now.  Like petulant children, we stomp our feet, and run away when things aren’t going well.

Where does that bring us?

Exactly.

It is journey of a thousand steps that leads to a land of nowhere.  A magical land where nothing ever happens, except that we grow a little older, gaze jealously at the talented souls all around us, and scream deep seeded obscenities at ourselves in unreserved frustration.

Rome wasn’t built in a day and the Notre Dame Cathedral took some two hundred years to construct. 

Think about that? 

What would make a human being invest in a project they have no earthly right to ever see to its divine completion?

My mother and father taught me this lesson.

The Polish church we belonged to when we came to Canada lacked a physical building.  The priest and the parish community, rented the chapel at Cardinal Carter High School in Scarborough for many years, and collected funds to one day build their own sanctuary. 

My mom and dad gave money every Sunday.  They gave what they could.  They were persistent.  They were insistent.  They lived in between.

In the end, we moved away, and I never once stepped foot inside the new Church that was built some time later. 

I asked my mom one day, looking back, if it was worth it, and she replied that you don’t build a
Church for yourself.  You build a Church for everyone.  You do what you can with what you got, and you leave the rest to God.

I think you should build something.  Go make a ruckus.

Design the architectural plans.  Start looking and collecting the bricks and mortar you need.  Ask for help.  Accept the help.  Be grateful.  Be happy. 

Start with a good foundation.

Don’t go all in and don’t abandon the project because you think you are not good enough, smart enough, or young enough.

Become a great architect of your dreams.

Live in the grey moment of your life.  Take up residence in the in between.  Learn to be at peace as a magnificent work in progress.

Stop gambling.

Start living.

 


a new day

 

Every day is a new beginning. 

Another opportunity for greatness.  Another chance at redemption.  A moment to let go of our past failures or fears and embrace our unwritten future.  A time to sweat and get on with it.

For with every setting sun, we face the coming of the dawn.

We should welcome the dawn.

Those early hours of the morning are the harbinger of change.  An awakening.  A rebirth.

Time as we know it doesn’t exist. 

As much as we take comfort in the idea that our workday is coming to an end or that our retirement is slowly approaching, time is an illusion.

We do not live in a static linear universe.  We are not governed by bells and whistles.  Beeps and swipes.  Borders and languages.  By religion or political ideology.

We live in a very dynamic universe.  We never just merely exist.

You are a human being.  Take comfort in that.

Your life has value.  It has always had value. 

Somehow.  At some point of your life.   You just stopped dreaming. 

You stopped being a child.  You stopped exploring.  You traded in the amazed of it all, for a downward gaze and silence.

You stopped allowing yourself to make mistakes.  You began to punish and hate yourself for failure.  You embraced and became seduced by universally false sense of security which manifests itself in work and the idea of progress.

Like poor old Boxer in George Orwell’s Animal Farm, we believe we just must work harder.

You went to school.  You were told you were smart.  Or you were forced to go to school, told you were stupid, dropped out, and became street smart.  It doesn’t matter.  The result is the same. 

It was the beginning of the end.  The foreclosure of your dreams.

You no longer wonder like a child.  Even though you are parenting them.

You sit there paralyzed and numb sometimes, because you are not supposed to fail or make mistakes.

You desperately seek comfort and security.  You shutter at silence and do crazy things when you have free time on your hands.

Your persistence scored you a good job, with benefits, and it affords you the chance not to eat tuna out of a can as you get old.  You want to be in the centre of the gossip, because it is better than being the subject of it.  You want the iPhone 8.  An early screening of the last episode of Game of Thrones.   

You want your country to be the great again. 

You have tremendous value.

There is nothing you must do to keep it, or to maintain it.

You just should embrace the dawn.  Do what you can.  Let go.  Accept that whatever it is you are doing, at the moment, might not work.  At least this time.

Accept the fact that you are not the sum-total of your past mistakes.

Welcome to a new day.

Go out and be the person you dreamed of becoming.

Don’t worry. 

If you make a blunder, you’ll have another chance tomorrow.

But don’t wait too long, sometimes tomorrow never comes.

 


354 words

 

There is a beautiful rhythm and predictability in a healthy routine. 

I’m not talking about the mundane or mind numbing routines our immediate supervisor hurls at us when we are at work, in order to extract more productivity and efficiency from our efforts.

I am talking about the habits we ourselves form.  Routines, which after some prolonged effort, morph into dependable building blocks, that keep us moving in the right direction.

Once in a while however, those routines are broken. 

Our wonderful hamster wheel halts suddenly and most unexpectedly.  The treadmill motor burns out.  The power goes out.  Everything stops. 

Now what?

It happened this morning.  I was awoken at two o’clock in the morning by a sweet little girl who threw up her dinner into a blue Lightning McQueen bucket.  Don’t ask.  It was originally used for bath time, but now seems to serve a much higher purpose.

I didn’t wake up at 4:02 this morning.  I didn’t go to the gym.  I didn’t get to write this blog.  My diet has been suspect, at best.  I didn’t get to work on almost anything, and now that the day is ending, I sit here, forcing myself to steal some time away from my lovely children, to compose a few simple words because I have a promise to keep.  A daily ditch to dig.

Routine. 

I feel unsettled.  Unproductive.  Dark thoughts of failure, negativity, and frustration are returning.  I feel like just tuning out and binge watching television or doing something else that will let me run away from it all, but I know I can’t.

This is the difference between an amateur and a professional.  I know that now.  The difference between doing and being.  Between naivety and wisdom.

It is at this very moment that I realize I need to keep moving.  Do what you can.  Do the bare minimum.  Focus on a miniscule task.  Something.  Anything. 

Tomorrow will bring with it a new opportunity.  Tomorrow, offers a return to routine.

Cheers to the broken hamster wheel, the burned-out motor, the powerless moments.

Cheers to 354 words.

 


be a donkey

 

It’s time to be a donkey.

You and I need to become a donkey that approaches his or her commitments with unwavering stubbornness, persistence, and unbelievable tenacity.

That’s exactly what it will take to get there.

That is the cost.

Nothing less and nothing more.

Stubborn commitment.

Without the stubbornness of an Eeyore, it becomes evidently clear that nothing will ever happen.  Without tenacity and persistence, meaningful change cannot take place. 

We are very good at pretending and playing dress up.  We have done it as children and continued the practice as adults.  We tell anyone and everyone who will listen about all the great things that are about to swing our way, but deep down, we don’t really intend to expand the effort and absorb cost. 

We will not swing.  We will watch the third strike pass us by.

We all fantasise about our future and how nice it will be, how it will look and feel, taste and smell, but unfortunately, our tentative and fragile commitments, always produce delicate results.

They are easy broken.

We cannot change our lives because of sudden flights of fancy.

We have a responsibility to ourselves and those we hold dear to analyze the cost.  To reach the right conclusions.  To weigh the possibilities and accept the risk of failure.  We also need to leap forward.

We must make that leap forward with unbound stubbornness.  We must work with tremendous persistence and focus.  We must never out think or second guess our original decision.  We must push ourselves to the end.  Win or lose.

You can always do something about what didn’t work.  There is always a scientific or socio-economical reason, why something didn’t work.  You failed because your work sucked, or you found yourself in front of the wrong person or the wrong investor.  It was the right idea to lose some weight, but it came in the middle of a vacation or a long road trip.  It was simply the wrong time.

You don’t control success or failure, but you do control effort.

If you don’t invest.  If you don’t take calculated risks.  If you don’t put in the work.  Win or lose, you will never reap the benefits of winning or regroup in defeat.

Many people think they are losers.  They feel defeated, but they haven’t even started. 

They are apathetic.  They are stagnant.

They imagine themselves to have big bones, or an uncontrolled ravenous appetite.  They don’t have the right education.  They lack important contacts.  They are either too young or too old.  Too tired, or not quite ready.  They live in the wrong part of town.  They married the wrong person.  Their kids take up all their time.  They lack the necessary energy.  They have too many vices and too many terrible destructive habits.

In the end, they fall to their knees and beg for an angel of mercy to come and rescue them.

They resolve to do nothing.

They accept failure without effort.

There is nothing wrong with them.  They are on the other side of stubbornness.  The side that keeps you static and frozen in fear.  The stubbornness that has you chained up in a cave, staring at shadows on a wall.

I hope you spend some time contemplating your dreams.  Everyone has them.  At any age.  At any time.

I hope you take the time to map out a plan how to get there.

I hope that once you do, you start digging your ditch, without checking the weather forcast.  I hope your muscles ache.  Your brain gets tired.  That your pores flood your skin with sweat. 

I hope you fail.

I hope you fail often.

With failure comes the comfort of knowing, that success is only a push in a different direction.

 


weekend quotable no. 20

 

Ring the bells that still can ring,

forget your perfect offering,

there is a crack,

a crack in everything

(there is a crack in everything)

that's how the light gets in.

Leonard Cohen

 


That’s how the light gets in.

That’s exactly how the light gets in! 

Through little cracks and crevices of our lives.  Little moments and untraceable movements. At a time when we don’t expect much to happen.  Eyes cast down, in the insignificance of our daily lives.

So, forget your mistakes.  Accept forgiveness.  Let go.  Don’t look back.  Take courage in who you are, and who you are meant to be.  Take a step forward.

You can’t go back. 

You can’t change anything.  We can’t control everything.  Forget the age-old trap and illusion of perfection.  Forget what could have been, might have been, should have been, or would have been.

Life is for the living.

Life is for you. 

So, ring your bell, because you still can.

Don’t bury your talent.

Look at your beautiful eyes in the mirror.  Allow yourself a moment to stare back.

Take comfort in your failures and mistakes.

You are full of beautiful cracks.

That’s exactly how the light gets in.

 


weekend quotable no. 19

 

It has long been an axiom of mine

that the little things

are infinitely

most important

Arthur Conan Doyle

 

We measure our lives by big moments, large gatherings, and spectacular achievements.

We love big houses, fast cars, hard bodies, fame, fortune, and everything else.

But what about the little things?

What about always being there when you are needed? 

Always.  Without fail.  At all costs.

What about doing the dishes, folding laundry, walking the dog, playing dollies, stacking dominos, grocery shopping, or morning coffee?

What about the little things in life?

The unseen and the forgotten.

Are we aware of our little moments, the little things, that speak so loudly about who we truly are, and reveal the depth and meaning of our lives.

Anyone can show up for the big moments.  We are pushed into them. 

Only the wise and the free are happiest happy in the quiet moments of insignificance.

Little things.

Little moments.

Turn us into giants.

 


raise your frequency

 

I am convinced that we emanate and broadcast our very own set of human frequencies, just like radio waves.  We inimitably transmit who we are, where we have been, and where we wish to go.  The people we encounter every day, will either tune into our frequency, or else they will listen for someone else. 

Of course, I have no proof for any of this, except for some empirical evidence I have gathered over the last little while.

Common pick pockets who ply their trade throughout the world, can easily identify and take advantage of a distracted tourist, because that is the specific frequency they tuned into. 

Police officers, likewise, do the same.  They have set their mind on the prevention of crime, and they very often, with uncanny accuracy, identify potential dangers, before they happen.

Experienced teachers know which student has done their homework and which one stayed up late, binge watching television shows on Netflix. The list of excuses and tears, generally stems from the same type of mind, and becomes easy to identify over time. 

Students and teachers emit their own frequencies. 

Students know, for example, when a teacher is going through the motions, and they act out accordingly.  They make the life of that teacher a bit more miserable in the process.

What’s your frequency?

You sit at home in your comfy, torn, but sweaty, hand me down joggers and a haggard t-shirt.  You shower infrequently, and only when you finally can’t stand the foul stench of your very own flesh.  You don’t read.  You don’t write.  You don’t go out anywhere.  You don’t exercise.  You smear your mouth with fat and sugar.  You shop at thrift stores, and are always first to arrive at every garage sale.  You bitch and moan about how the world is going to end, or about the terrible weather, or perhaps how deadly tired you are. 

Yet.

Deep inside, your heart and soul, dreams of dating a supermodel.

Which supermodel, in her right mind, or a mind that has been heavily molested with untold number of pills, would ever consider dating a sweaty, funky, fat, cheap, deleterious man? (Yes, deleterious, the thesaurus is a marvelous thing).

You must know your frequency.

If you are Baptist, don’t look for others just like you in synagogues or mosques.  If you are an artist, start sharing your art with the world, so that other artists may tune into your frequency and respond in kind.

If you want kindness, give it.

If you want love, give it.

If you want your dreams to come true, do something about it.

Tell people.  Develop good habits.  Dig your ditch.  Steal more time.  Ship your work. 

Repeat.

You and I are the same.  We have the freedom to choose at what frequency we will operate today. 

The negative thoughts that will escape your mouth, will undoubtedly return to you, most likely, from the lips of another cancerous soul. 

Become self-aware. 

Listen.

Do some good today.  Think good thoughts.

Lift someone up.

Raise your frequency

 


a grieving stranger

 

When you come into the same place, at the same time, over and over again, you begin to listen to your surroundings.  You begin to distinguish the usual from the unusual, the ordinary from the extraordinary.  You begin to see what belongs and what doesn’t.

I have taken up temporary residence this summer, at a little booth inside our local Tim Hortons.  I get here about a quarter to six, every morning, and I am served my medium coffee with two creams, by the same kind woman behind the counter. 

I come and sit at the same place.  I write a few words.  I pack up, and I head home to my family for second breakfast.  (I love second breakfast).

Across from me sits a young woman who is probably in her middle thirties.  She wears no make- up.  She keeps her hair tidy in a pony-tail.  She sits across from me for about an hour or so. 

She is always here before me.  Sometimes very awake.  Sometimes very sleepy and tired.  Sometimes on her phone and on other occasions, I see her bored fingers leaf through the pages of the daily newspaper. 

Then she is gone.

As I sat down this very morning, she was crying.

I have spent my whole life pretending not to see when people cry, it seemed a lot easier, more convenient, but I can no longer allow myself to do that.  I am not sure why, but I have acquired a new sense of awareness.  A new consciousness.  A metamorphosis of sorts.

I asked her why she was crying and she explained that her grandmother died three hours ago. 

I asked her if she wanted company.  She accepted.

I moved up one booth and sat down.  We introduced ourselves, and spent a few brief moments in conversation. 

It wasn’t very long. 

I didn’t really do that much for her.  How could I? 

 I said very little, and I am certain that the pain in her heart is no better after the experience.

I am no miracle worker, but I did let her talk and I listened. 

She told me about her grandmother.  I also listened to the struggles and the battlefield of her life.  I asked questions.  I offered encouraging words, when I could. 

She soon parted and she went to work.

I am not sure what to make about any of this, except for the fact that I continue to do funny things in my life.  Little acts that I would have never had done before.

What would people think?

A married man with two children, having a coffee with a young woman he doesn’t know, and so early in the morning too.  Clearly up to something!

All I know, is that I took some time to listen to another human being tell me her brief, unconnected story, about a woman she lost and would never see again.

It didn’t take long.  It wasn’t that difficult.

I think we need to sometimes ignore what people might think.

When people think.  Nothing happens. 

We leave each other alone.  We run on our little hamster wheel.  We go to work.  We get home.  We see nothing.  We hear nothing.  We see nothing.

Nothing happens.

But what about the possibilities?

I think it is time to call your friend whom you haven’t seen in a long while.  It’s time visit your mother who suffers with Alzheimer’s. 

It’s time to say something kind to your neighbour.  Give a kind and gentle smile to the server that messed up your order. 

It’s time to give some change, to the poor.  Forgive.  Let go. 

It’s time to listen.

 


bridge builders

 

At Toastmasters International, there is this fun little exercise we do called table topics.  You are invited to the front and are given a minute or two to speak about a randomly selected.  Yester night, we used pictures.  I pulled a photograph of a beautiful bridge, and my thoughts rushed out in the following manner.

Bridges are invaluable.

They connect two land masses that would otherwise be far apart and disconnected.  Bridges help travellers maneuver safely across deep rivers, wide outstretched lakes, and otherwise impossible terrain.

As parents, we are magnificent bridge builders!

Fathers and mothers build bridges.  As parents, we take hold of a tiny little collection of cells that miraculously emerges one day.  A collection that is vulnerable and trusting, with hands wide open to the numerous possibilities of living, and somehow help this collection of cells, mature into strong and majestic men and women.

We are bridge builders.  Every, last one of us.

But we are too tough on ourselves. 

I know I am.

Sometimes, all I see, is the sound of my raised voice.  My grunts and frustrations.  Don’t touch that.  Leave the dog alone.  Stop teasing your sister.  Will you just sit still, for one minute?

Sometimes, all I can see are my countless negative words and vexations.  I can see all the moments, when I have failed as a parent.  Moments when I didn’t notice.  Was too tired.  Forgot. Made mistake, after mistake, after mistake.

Sometimes.

Sometimes.

Other times, I see the bridge I am building.

You really cannot see it, when you’re building it, because it takes years.

You build in the pounding rain, and in the hot sun.   You build when you have energy and when you are exhausted.  You build in the fog, freezing snow, and in times of hurricanes and tornadoes. 

You dig foundations.  Redraw structural plans.  Dig again.  Build.  Redraw.  Build.  Redraw.  Repeat.

You cannot see the bridge.  You cannot see what it will meet to connect two land masses born apart.  You will only see it, and have a chance to admire it, when you get old, tired, and begin to see life from a distance.

As parents, we need to have patience with ourselves.  We need reminders and trust that we are building something magnificent.

We are connecting a human being, as unique as a snowflake, and an old, ancient and largely undiscovered world. 

This is a task never done before.  Not with this human being, and not by you.  We shoulder an awesome responsibility and are entrusted the task of being a bridge builder.

We can build great people, and it doesn’t just stop with our children.

We can build anyone, at anytime, anywhere.

We are bridge builders.

We have the sway to reach out to the lonely, shy, unhappy, sad, depressed, angry, and apathetic people.   

We can build a bridge.

We can reconnect them to the world.

Or we can criticize ourselves and do absolutely nothing.

 


hearing vs listening

 

We hear fine, but the ability to listen is a different matter.

Hearing is simple. 

It doesn’t require much effort and we don’t have to worry about it, think about it, or do anything about it.  We just simply hear what we want to hear.

Throughout the day, and into weeks and years, various sounds compete for our attention.  Thousands of tiny little beeps, vibrations, resonances, voices, whispers, and bells attract our gaze and hold us captive. 

One becomes louder than the other.  One is more rhythmically pleasing than the next.  One is familiar.  The other is not.

Noise separates us from ourselves.

Please don’t misunderstand me, hearing is very important, but listening, even more so.

Listening requires a quiet mind, because a quiet mind does not simply absorb the onslaught of noise, it goes deeper than that.

A quiet mind is capable of tremendous focus, and for a very long time.  It is proficient in hearing everything, yet, like a fine surgeon, it can attune to any one specific thing, at any time.

A quiet mind can read faces.  Sense loneliness.  It knows when to say something and when to bite its lip, and keep quiet. 

It senses tears.  Knows when to push and pull.  Knows when to stay close, and when to keep its distance.

A quiet mind can stand alone, amid the daily chaos; unfazed, undivided, empathetic, and calm.

We were all born with the ability to hear, but it is up to each of us to develop our ability to listen.

A moment of silence every day is a good start. 

A few minutes of quiet meditation or prayer, perhaps not while you’re driving, of course, is a good beginning.

A good book is another, as long as the subject matter, elevates the soul, instead of burdening it with even more noise.

Writing helps as well. 

Writing has the ability to exercise the mind. 

It forces you to choose the meaning of your words very carefully, instead of mouthing countless ready-made phrases that you have come to use every day, which in the end signify nothing.

We need to listen for the details.

Our whole life derives its meaning from seemingly insignificant little details. 

You should learn to ask a lot of questions.  Like little inquisitive children, relentless in their pursuit of meaning.  Relentless in their happiness.

We need to listen, but it will never come without practice.

Without it, it is only noise. 

Paranoia. 

Anxiety.

Fear.

We need to learn to listen and there is no better day than today.

Start right now or at your earliest window of opportunity.

Develop your skill of listening.

Find meaning and happiness.