Being Peaceful within the storm.

I am a big fan of simple. There is all too much complexity for the sake of it in life and I for one have diligently worked to eliminate as much complexity from my day as I can.

From dieting, workout routines and self-help books/podcasts to business books and money management there are a billion directions you can go. How many of these promise to be the “one thing you need!” or the “top tens ways to kick-ass everyday!” (in one form or another).

Don’t get me wrong, most of these all contain quality material and is based on knowledge and experience, I’m all for different avenues we all resonate with different approaches.

If though you have a problem and are looking for one book, one podcast, one person to fix your issue(s) you likely won’t find it. More often than not, the issue(s) your trying to fix isn’t actually the root cause of the problem.

Most of us don’t actually know what we want, even when we REALLY, REALLY WANT IT!

With all the noise in our lives it’s hard to remember what’s truly important. Honestly, it’s not a whole lot, but it is everything. Family, loved ones, adding value to those around you, being a good example for your children and neighbors, what impact you will leave once your gone, these things matter. The house, the car, the money, the status, the ego… none of this matters at the end of the day.

I have been on a mission for the past decade to find peace in my life. For the hundreds of books I’ve ready, the thousands of hours of listening I’ve done I’ve come to one simple conclusion.

God is what matters. Finding God and creating an active relationship with God has been the most powerful and impactful thing I’ve ever done. This coming from somebody who dropped out of confirmation class as a teenager and not currently involved in any organized religion.

If you have struggled to find peace in yourself, if you have found “success” in life but still have a hole growing within you, here’s the good news. You don’t need to ready a library worth of books to figure it out and apply a hundred different practices within your day.

Simply turn to God, in your own time and way. There is no one-size-fits all spiritualism or religion. How I communicate with God is my own, and I have learned how to do this in a way which works in my life and fuels me when this little world of ours goes sideways.

When I am faced with challenges I don’t know how to cope with, I used to strategize, plan and stress myself out over the ways to overcome it. These days, I take a step back and thank God for the opportunity to practice my faith, and the challenge resolves itself.

Simple. Powerful. Peaceful.

This isn’t to say my life is perfect and everything is great all the time. As a father, a husband, a business owner and athlete I can assure you I have my share of challenges and “WTF” events. It’s my approach to get things back on track which has changed, and life is better for it.

If this resonates in some way and you’re not sure where to start or why it resonates, let me know. God is always there, especially in those moments we feel most alone. Shift your perspective and you’ll find him if you haven’t yet.

Competitive Advantage

In my experience thus far I’ve learned a lot of things, and have a lot more still to learn. One thing which has been coming up lately for me is the competitive advantage concept around business. Just about every lower level manager up to the business owner know all about competitive advantage.

For those who aren’t familiar it simply means this. What makes your company/service/product different from the rest of the market? What makes your business special? Why should a customer do business with you over another similar option?

For many businesses this is one of the focal points of everything they do. Often, the easy default is “our people are the difference” and you’ve seen many companies with a tag line saying essentially the same thing.

Some companies spend a lot of money trying to out-do the competition and beat the “other guys” for market share and more sales. Think about every car, soda, potato chip commercial you’ve ever seen…

Each business is different with different needs. I don’t pretend to speak for everyone, only for myself. The competitive advantage axiom is and has been conventional wisdom for as long as business schools have been around.

Here’s the thing about conventional wisdom. It’s always conventional, just not always wisdom.

For you entrepreneurs and small/medium business owners, spend your time on improving your company, product and service and less figuring out what makes you special.

The customer wants to know how you can help them, after all you are there to provide a service/product to the customer. Spend less time thinking about your story and more time thinking about the customer experience.

There are always people who are working harder than you, and there are always people not working as hard as you. Most of them are all trying to sell themselves by touting why their different, better than the next guy.

We can’t control what others do, yet we can control what we do. In my experience when I focus myself and my business on doing the best we can for our customers and our employees; good things happen.

Doing the right thing, (not the easy thing) in the small moments builds a practice for doing the right thing in the big moments. Practice being your best, putting your best foot forward in each interaction. You won’t always succeed, you will fail in this at times. And it’s ok. Walk it off and try it again, and again.

When people ask me what my competition is, I always say the same thing. “We really don’t have any”. We focus on servicing our customer with the highest expectations, actively learning and understanding what they really need; then delivering on that.

In this approach it doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing. While the “competition” does one thing better than me, they do something else worse. There is no perfect business, each has strengths and weaknesses. Ultimately customers will do business with who they feel more comfortable with.

Your company story and brand IS important. I say build the story around the customer first, and secondly how you were able to solution their problem. At the end of the day, your customers and they’re referral are your best advantage over the competition.

It’s not you, it’s me.

The third edition or tool in this blog series is understanding nearly all our interactions are not personal, meaning it’s not about US, it’s usually about the other person.

This practice can help you reframe context in the moment and shift your perspective instantly. Practicing this can elevate your communication skills at home, work and your social life.

There are a few things to consider as a baseline for this tool. Firstly, if you look at a road map it can give you a good idea of where you are, or where you want to go from a routing standpoint, which streets to take and direction to go. A map though will not tell you where the pot-holes are, or stop signs, or “no left turn”, or “one-way” roads.

A map will give you guidance, but the terrain is a much different animal. Our perspectives on life are very much the same. Many of us have heard the axiom “perception is reality”. This is true as far as the individual who is doing the perceiving.

When we are communicating with others, our thoughts and perceptions are very different from theirs, even with friends and loved ones. We may see eye to eye on most things, but you’ll notice a few areas where you an even your closest relation have differing opinions.

Understanding people have very different perceptions than our own, and that “perception is reality”, we can see how a simple mis-understanding, or saying something a certain way can trigger us or the other party.

When we trigger somebody in this way, it has nothing to do with us and is a chance for us to learn a touch point, and gain further insight into the reaction. More on this on another day.

If we are triggered by something, then we have an opportunity to learn a touch point about ourselves, and we get to work on healing it. We get to see where we can grow mentally in these areas as they are highlighted to us.

Another baseline concept is that people are always making the best choices available to them, at that moment. People want to be good, and often they do what is perceived to be the best thing for them even when it’s at the expense of someone/something else.

Ever wonder why that co-worker threw you under the bus with the boss? It wasn’t about you, it was about them advancing their own agenda.

Lastly, the mirror effect is a well known concept which can be a tough one to accept for many. Essentially, what we see in this world is a mirror of what we are giving, putting out into the world. Imagine if all you see is sickness, misery and a world falling apart? That’s a hard pill to swallow and accept it’s not the world who’s crumbling, but you.

The mirror effect though is a real thing. This isn’t to say it’s fair, nice, considerate or compassionate to your circumstances. It can be magical, it can also be brutal. The good news is we have a choice in the matter.

What we experience from other people is a mirror of what we are displaying. It’s never about how we’re being treated as much as it is how we are treating others. It’s not personal FROM others to us, though it is entirely personal from us TO others. This brings us back to perspective. A nice clean circle.

When we are being treated, or experiencing things we don’t like we have to look inward to ourselves first.

The world we live in, the perspective we have, the live we create is entirely up to us and only us to adapt as we choose. When we allow ourselves to be persecuted, attacked, and get down on ourselves and our surroundings we will simply have more of this.

When we realize the world is doing what the world does, and people are doing what people do, and it will all happen whether we are here to experience it or not.

If you’ve ever missed an event you were invited to, a birthday, a recital, a wedding, a baseball game, you name it. The even still happened even if you didn’t show up. That is the world we live in. It’s not personal unless we take it personally, which all to often many of us do.

Creating power in your life means taking ownership of everything you experience. If you don’t like it, find a way to change it. It’s not easy, but it is simple by design.

When you start to use these tools together inside of your daily life you will begin to see shifts in how things transpire. It doesn’t happen overnight, and this is a practice which will take time to learn, hone and improve upon.

Choosing to shift our thoughts is one thing. Consistently practicing over the long term to create lasting change in us, and therefore around us is another thing. The good news is the choices are ours, and when we regress we can always shift back on track again.

Stay tuned for part 4 of this series of tools to upgrade your thoughts.

A dose of simplicity

If 2021 was a bit nuts, what I can tell so far of 2022 things are going to get even more interesting. From my own experience things are moving at lighting speed, and everyone I speak with can relate to this hyper-speed pace.

I’m not sure where the first three months of this year went, though I do know one thing. A major lesson I’ve learned through the fire is this; Be in the moment, focused and intuitive in action.

We’re all familiar with the terminology of “living in the now”, “being present” and the importance of such things. I’d like you to think about how often you truly apply these concepts to your life. I am all about living in the ‘now’, being in the moment. I can also tell you I stress about the bills, how to cover payroll, overhead, where I’ll find business to keep my staff sustained and active in the coming months.

If you’ll notice I’m quite contrary in my thinking. If I’m all living in the “now”, how can I also stress about the upcoming expenses and challenges? I imagine this conundrum sounds familiar.

Here’s what I’ve learned, and it can translate universally. Get your shit done in the moment it happens.

From the mundane to the mountains, tackling the challenges which arise on a daily basis, as they arise, has a funny way of creating results which roll over. For me it all starts with a theme I’ve implemented in my life a few months ago. “with love in my heart…”

“With love in my heart I talk to this upset customer.”

“With love in my heart I take the garbage out.”

“With love in my heart I have the difficult conversation with a loved one.”

“With love in my heart I cook for my family.”

I have practiced (and still am practicing) being in each moment, experiencing each moment, with love in my heart. In those instances I don’t feel the love, or cannot conjure it within me I step back and evaluate why I am doing it.

I have made a choice to do/be those things which I can do with love. Those things I cannot, I am shifting out of my life in some way. Through delegation or outright removal. By using this simple filter in my life, I can be in each moment, present and focused.

The past is unchangeable, the future depends on what we do in this moment.

If we are unfocused and thinking stressing about the future, we will experience uncertainty and stress. When we drill down and focus on those things we love, in the moment, actively and passionately, the future takes care of itself.

If you’re thinking to yourself, this is great for you, “but I have all these chores to do and nobody helps me”, “that’s great but I have kids and they’re a handful”, “my boss is a jerk, I wish I could like my job”.

Perhaps you should evaluate your perspective. At least you have a home, and clothes, and dishes to maintain. Many people don’t. You’re kids can be a lot of things, and they take you as an example. Are you being a good example for them?

What is your bosses motivation for being a jerk? Getting the job done or simply to feed their ego? Being pushed by a boss can be a great thing, while also being very uncomfortable in the moment. Perhaps it’s time to start looking for a new job while you still have one. You do have a choice, as long as you give yourself the choice.

Living in the moment is something we all understand, yet few of us actually practice it. And it is a practice, which we can (and do) fail at often times. The more we practice enjoying, loving the thing we are doing in each moment the easier it gets. When things seem like they’re spinning out of control, take a moment to breath, and be grateful for the opportunity to be stretched by a new challenge.

Life really is simple, yet often the simplicity is the hardest thing to practice.

Carry your flag.

Have you ever gotten into an argument with someone where you are truly confused as to how they can hold the position they do? No amount of trying to convince them to change their mind has even budged them, AND their side of the argument is the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever heard?

Most of us can easily conjure up a few quick examples of this, be it from our relationships, talk of politics and/or religion with friends and family, perhaps in discussions with co-workers about how to move the company forward. If you can’t think of anything, flip on some sports talk radio after the local football team looses, or find a local political talk show and you’ll quickly be brought up to speed.

Perhaps it’s something closer to home, maybe your a parent trying to get your kids to stay on track in the midst of the chaos of a teenagers world. Perhaps its’ trying to get your significant other to see the benefits of changing some habits to create a healthier lifestyle. Perhaps we’re trying to help a friend see the relationship they’re in is toxic, yet their blind to the concept. It can be hugely frustrating to watch someone we love and care about do (or not do) things which are ultimately hurting themselves. Often times this makes us try even harder to get our message across, even to try and force our perception onto them so they can finally see the light!

Perhaps though it’s us who need to see the light in instances such as this. I’ve come to realize people need to come to their own conclusions, in their own time if they are truly to learn the lessons. Perhaps the best we can do as we care for those we see heading down an unhealthy path is to give them space to experience what they must. (To be clear I’m not talking about a physically abusive or life threatening scenario, these obviously need to be handled with a more direct urgency.)

I am talking about guiding our children to create their own path in this world. I am referring to relationships where we feel we can help a spouse or friend to begin exercising or eating healthier. I am speaking about someone who needs to realize on their own they are far better than the current relationship is treating them. I am speaking about creating a long term sustainable change for the wellbeing of those we care about.

If you’ve ever noticed, life is lived in patterns and tends to repeat itself until we learn the lesson in the pattern. Many people find themselves in and out of relationships, yet when evaluating the relationships they realize they’ve all been the same, simply the other person changed and the scenarios are all too similar. The same goes for jobs, financial health, mental and physical health. Perhaps you’ve been working towards financial freedom for years and feel like you’ve made progress, you have a better job, a nicer home, a new car. Things are good! Yet you still don’t have any money in the bank, you still can’t afford to up and quit your job… Things really haven’t changed, only the scenery.

These patterns are in all of our lives and in all kinds of ways. Try as we might many of us will never even realize these patterns exist. These souls are the ones who end up beat down in the long run, who’s luck “ran out” on them. Our education system sure isn’t going to teach us about these things, neither is any of the mainstream educational outlets. People who notice these patterns, and find them in their own lives are the ones who actively sought the cause of what was holding them back in a certain area or areas of life.

When we try and provide our perspectives to others we are giving them the benefit of our experience. This is a great tool when we share this in a way which allows for the listener to make their own choice to utilize our experience for themselves, or not. When we try and force our opinion or perspective onto someone, we are much more likely to drive them away from us and towards the very thing we are trying to save them from.

“if you love something, let it go. If it comes back to you it’s yours. If it doesn’t it was never yours in the first place.”

When we give somebody the space to make their own choice, (especially when we think it’s wrong) we give them the opportunity to learn a life lesson and shatter the pattern, thereby giving the ability to fully move past it. This is a tough concept to accept, and even harder to apply in the moment it matters most. It is also a powerful one which can benefit all when done right.

In my last blog post I talked about acceptance of self, and therefore the world around us. Letting go of what we think others “should do” is a continuation of that thought.

In the past I used to joke how I liked to “learn lessons the hard way” which was by going through the painful experience or process on my own, even when so many people around me told me exactly what was going to happen. More often than not they were right and ultimately I would give them the old “I should have listened to you” line. A few times though, things turned out so much better because I went through it and found a new way to accomplish what I wanted, when no one (even myself sometimes) saw the path.

These times which went my way where always meant to go that way, yet there is no way to know on the front end. These are all lessons I would have had to repeat over and over again in some way until I succeeded. For all the good intentions of others, had I listened I wouldn’t have walked my path, but theirs. In each case creating a repeatable pattern in my own life.

When we truly love somebody we desire only the highest and best for them. Yet we know not what that actually is. As a father, husband, brother, son, business owner and so much else this used to be a very painful approach for me. The more I practice it and understand it though, the more I know my fear of what might happen is nothing compared to the growth and long term development of everyone involved. All will be exactly as it should, and I accept that.

I choose to carry my own flag, as I support others to carry their own.

Self: Accepted

Most of us are familiar with terms and phrases such as: “you have to love yourself, before somebody else”; “take care of yourself first”; “Be true to yourself”; “Express yourself”; “Be yourself” and so countless variations of this. While all very important and true I almost never hear the continuation of this same thought pattern. We get to be true to ourselves, embracing our passions and desires as we figure out exactly who we are in the first place. The natural next step is the world we live in, the world we experience while we do our thing.

We’ve all also heard the phrase “the world is a mirror of who we are” (or a similar variation of it). When put together it creates a very interesting dynamic and one we can utilize truly in our favor.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had several scenarios play out in my life where I’m certain I want or need a certain thing, it could be a job, promotion, material item, relationship, anything… And often times I get this thing and it isn’t at all what I thought it would be. Just as often I don’t get the “thing”, and later “out of nowhere” comes something much better.

The human mind has a miraculous ability to lie to itself, to “protect” itself from perceived harm and conflict. While I have gotten much better and continue to practice noticing when I am working on something I really shouldn’t be, I too still get sidetracked on things or ideas which seem great at first but ultimately aren’t good fits for me.

Going back to self love and acceptance; If the world is a mirror and we are totally secure and loving with ourselves, then the world we experience would be full of love and acceptance of things just as they are. Just like 2+2=4, complete interior love = complete exterior love. I’m not sure about you, but these last few years have seemed anything but loving if you’ve turned your TV on for more than a few minutes.

My mirror is telling me something.

The “issues” I see and frustration, anger, confusion and sometimes hopelessness I feel at our state of society are all reflections of inner conflict I am having at some level. What frustration I experience today is monumentally less than only a few years ago and I imagine I’ll be able to say the same thing in a few years time again. I have learned, and am still very much learning and practicing acceptance of myself and the world around me, as it is, not as I would have it.

“We must bear up against them and make the best of mankind as they are, since cannot have them as we wish” A quote from George Washington from November of 1776 after being repeatedly discouraged by his armies performance against the British in the early stages of the revolutionary war. This mentality of acceptance of what is, is purported to have bolstered his immense resolve to keep fighting and eventually win the birth of a new nation.

As I have resolved years ago to realize my highest and best self, the world I experience has also shifted. These last two years, while challenging and full of unknowns and unprecedented events have also been two of the most rewarding and fulfilling of my life. In my last blog post I gave my own personal definition of leadership and success. If we want to be leaders in this world, we must lead our own internal charge for greatness before we can guide others to achieve external greatness.

Can you guide somebody to do great things while you are a hot-mess inside? Of course you can. And you can suffer the consequences of fighting such an inner conflict. These consequences often manifest as weight issues, health issues, depression, addiction, anger and so on. I know because I’ve been down this road, luckily I was able to change direction before I was too far down it.

When I mentioned earlier the dynamic we can use in our favor, here is what I mean. When we experience things in this world we don’t like, it directly means there is some part of us internally creating this experience. If we want to effect a positive change in the world, we must be clear in our intention of looking inward for the solution, never outwardly.

Bitching out politics or how the coach lost the game for your favorite sports team just took a twist didn’t it?

We have the opportunity to check ourselves each and every day, to see the progress we have made and if we are on the right track. All we have to do is pay attention to the world around us. If you find yourself extremely frustrated and mad at the state of the world, you get to do more work than some, but there is some “low hanging fruit” you can likely start with easily. Turning off the news for one, (all of it) is a great place to start for most.

Noticing when you are getting upset or frustrated at something is another big step. Simply noticing it and taking a breath will calm things down quickly. “I notice I’m getting pissed off right now…” breaks the thought pattern and allows you to recenter. Acceptance of “what is” is another step and not likely one of the first ones. We don’t have to understand the world in order to accept it. Acknowledging this is another step on the path.

There was a monk from Tibet being interviewed by an author about the power of prayer and spirituality. The interviewer delicately asked the monk a question about a concept which was the interviewer was struggling with. (I’m paraphrasing the quotations) “If the power of prayer is so great, and Tibet has a high number of dedicated monks, why is Tibet in such turmoil as a country? Why isn’t prayer working?” asked the reporter.

“We don’t pray for a peaceful Tibet, we pray for peace in the world. Because of the turmoil in Tibet some of our monasteries have had to relocate monks to other parts of the world. Because these monks are now in other parts of the world, their teachings are spreading in ways they never would have had they remained confined. Perhaps they will return once peace has spread and our prayers have been effected” replied the monk.

Each of us has such a limited view of the world at large, there is so much we are unaware of and no way we could understand all which is happening at all times. Accepting what is, as is, is a practice which will reflect back upon us and fulfill us anew. We can utilize a bi-directional love as we accept ourselves and express who we are. And receive our mirror back in kind as we accept the world as it is too.

As a dearly departed brother of mine used to say. Keep it 100(%).