Finding the good all around us.

As the old saying goes, life is often stranger than fiction. Most of us can relate to this through our experience, and these last few years have hammered this principle home!

There is a silver lining in all of it, where we experience bad, there is also good.

I firmly believe everything comes with a lesson, and if we can find it within us to learn the lesson, nothing is wasted. I will be the first to tell you, there are times where you simply won’t see or understand what good (or lesson) can possibly come from a situation.

I can also tell you in my experience, sometimes learning to deal with the pain of an event is the lesson. When we can resolve ourselves to stand in the harshest of times, we will be prepared for the next evolution in our life.

If you think of love and fear for a moment, I’ll provide an example of finding the good, the lesson in everything. Love and fear are two opposites of the same emotion. In fact, ALL of our emotions, the entire spectrum of what we feel stems from either love, or fear.

Pictures this, If this emotional spectrum was a line, a dot on the left side is fear, a line connects to another dot on the right which is love. Exactly where does love end and fear begin? At the halfway point you say? Now measure it, what emotion specifically is the zero point between the two?

On paper you can pinpoint a dot. In reality there isn’t a single emotion which separates the two, just a grey area which bleeds into each other. We all have a different opinion on this, a different emotional spectrum by which we judge it.

It’s the same thing with cold and hot, large and small, fresh and stale. All open for interpretation as to where cold becomes hot, large to small, fresh to stale.

Both sides of the spectrum must be present and accounted for in order for it to BE.

Now apply this concept back to life. If a thing happens and we perceive it to be bad, then by nature there has to be an opposite effect. We can’t have love without fear, or hot without cold. What I perceive to be bad is a blessing to another.

Using this simple tool in my everyday life I can shift my perspective on anything which happens around me. I can take the “bad” thing and try to understand the opposite of it, which is equally real.

When I can see the opposite, I can often learn the lesson and grow from the experience. When this happens, it’s no longer a “bad” thing but a blessing and needed event to teach me a lesson about something.

When I learn, I appreciate and stay in a focused and grateful state of mind. There is always good in the world, no matter how dark it may seem. While we don’t always have the ability to see the good in the moment, knowing it is there helps to light the way.

This is an important step in growing mentally and spiritually. The more we can practice this the more we see how this world works FOR us, instead of against us. No hustle and grind required.

What’s Your Purpose

While tucking my daughter in to bed the other night she asked me a question. “What if you found a genie lamp, and when the genie came out he only gave you one wish instead of three? With only one wish, what would you wish for?”

In the blink of an eye a thousand possibilities streamed through my mind and only one was clear and easy to choose. “I would wish that I am living my purpose on this earth.”

“That’s it?” says my little girl. “What else do I need?” I respond.

“Hm, that does make a lot of sense” she responds while I can see her pondering the scenario.

Thankfully I’ve done a lot of internal work over the last several years so I don’t have to wish to be on my path, I know inherently I already am. This quick yet powerful interaction between my daughter and I was yet another reminder of the simplistic nature of the world we live in.

The truest answers are almost always the simplest.

I could have wished for more money, a bigger house, to be forever healthy, to travel the world… and while all of these are valid responses and all serve good purposes, they all leave other areas in life lacking.

None covers all the bases.

Yet if we find and actively pursue the purpose for why we are here, all of those other areas in life fill themselves in effortlessly.

Our purpose may or may not have anything to do with what we THINK we want to do. The discovery process for many, myself included can take years of persistent trial and error. For those willing to put in the time and learn to embrace the process, the reward is far better than can be imagined at the start.

It is a journey free of a specific destination and full of surprises, risks, accomplishments to be enjoyed along the way.

If you haven’t found your path yet, or are trying to force a path you think is right, take a step back and evaluate what feels forced and what flows naturally. Lean into the natural flow and release those things which create friction.

Learning is all about perspective, and each “failure” or “hardship” is only a course correction and a grateful heart will notice this and quickly adapt a change on the path.

Leader on Duty

I don’t know if it’s just me, but I have noticed when most people talk of leadership it’s almost always referred to in the environment of a board room, the workplace or sports.

I say this with due humility, as I am a natural leader and have been in management/leadership roles professionally since I was about 19 years old. Now in my early 40’s I have more experience managing people than most people well over my age and based all of the feedback I receive I am a good leader. Feedback to me comes in the moral of my team, the results we deliver to the customers, the observations of customers, vendors and people in and around my company.

Leadership in my experience isn’t just something you do at the office. It’s not a role to play while in front of your employees and customers. Leadership to me is a lifestyle lived in each moment and applies as much to parenting and gardening as it does in our professional lives.

Gardening? I imagine you’re trying to connect the dots on this. Parenting is an easy connection though often not obvious, but gardening? Yes, in the sense of an example. As leaders, when we do a thing like gardening we tend to do it well, with intention of a quality outcome. It may or may not actually turn out well, but the effort and intention is on display as we do the thing we have set to do. This can be exercise, painting, washing the car, cooking, anything we choose to do, great leaders apply themselves to the experience.

This intent-full approach resonates to those around us often in a sub-conscious way. As leaders we don’t turn off this switch when we go home at the end of the day. We are wired to do things the best way possible, and to help others grow in a similar way.

We get to be the example we want to show to others. For me leadership flows effortlessly from the workplace to the home, to fitness and nutrition. Balancing the areas of our lives in a successful way provides the example for others to follow, and is what a new generation of leaders are doing more and more.

I for one treat my employees and my kids with the same level of appreciation and respect, and I expect from them much of the same things. While I certainly don’t believe employees are children or child-like, or that my kids are employees and have measurable expectations for performance, I do believe in treating people with one foundational starting point. I treat everyone as I would want to be treated. This simple and powerful starting point for my interactions in all aspects of my life allows for all my relationships and interactions to draw a clean and consistent pattern through them all.

My job as a father is to mentor and cultivate by kids own unique natural talents. I get to tend the garden of their little worlds, while they grow and eventually flourish in their own light. When we think of leadership in the workplace and employee development, is it really different? In scope certainly, but the concepts are the same thing. No two kids are the same, as no to employees are the same and each must be uniquely tended to.

The world is changing as it always has and will. This means everything gets to shift into focus anew. As we shift gears to the ever-changing world we can update a few definitions. Two stand out for me at the moment, which are the definitions of “Success” and “Leadership“. Leadership is no longer simply a professional capacity and success doesn’t have much to do with a bank account these days.

My definition of leadership is this: A leader is being the example of success in relationships, business, lifestyle, and mental and physical health.  Leadership is the state of being the result of how to balance all of these things with sustainable, healthy results for all persons directly involved with and around the leader.

My definition of success is this: A consistent state of being in harmony with oneself and the world we experience, while we experience it in real time.

To me being successful in leadership and in life is when you can remain calm and collected in the best of times, and the worst. Being the rock everyone else can cling to when the world (or the business, or the relationship, etc…) goes a bit crazy. By being the rock for ourselves, we can truly be there for others.

Are we there yet?

If you’re anything like me you are always striving for more. Striving to improve in all areas of life, personally, professionally, physically, working to get a little better today than we were yesterday. I have always been like this and for years I had always leaned into hitting the next stage, next level of growth.

Many of us who share this mentality also share a common trait of thinking there is a “there”, a destination at the end we will eventually reach. That once this next goal or level is achieved we’ll be “there”! Ironically, what many of us experience as we succeed in achieving our goals and moving to the next level is not a overwhelming sense of joy and accomplishment. It’s a sense simply of “what’s next”.

I love this mindset and I wouldn’t trade my continual growth for anything. This mindset though can be lead us to be very harsh critic of ourselves and our perceived accomplishments. Like most things in life we have to embrace the gifts of who we are and strengthen those areas we perceive to be not as good.

This inner critic many of us experience is not a bad thing when held in check. It can also be hugely damaging if we let it take over our sense of self worth. This inner critic can keep us sharp, on our toes and focused on the task(s) at hand; or it can ultimately demotivate and derail our progress altogether. So how do we embrace this voice within us instead of simply trying to ignore it or shout it down? Or worse, allow it to begin to infect our being as we start to believe some of the non-sense this critical voice throws at us?

The first step is simply to notice this voice and/or thoughts when they appear. When this critic starts it’s torrent simply take note that you hear this voice and it’s rant. That’s it, notice them, don’t buy into them. By simply taking note a profound shift occurs very quickly, which is a separation of yourself from this voice. You’ll notice it’s almost like over-hearing a conversation of other people, mainly one person talking AT another. You have a choice now as to how you wish to handle this. Would you allow another person to speak to you as this inner critic does? Not likely. By noticing this voice and creating a separation between it and yourself you can take ownership of your response if not the narrative of the voice.

Changing the narrative of the voice takes time and practice and can absolutely happen (for another article). Reducing the amount of air-time this voice gets is a natural progression as we remove the power this critic has over us. First though we have to get really good at understanding the voice is a crazy person. A self defense mechanism ingrained to protect us from perceived danger, even if this danger is simply and act or activity at the edge of our comfort zone.

Once you have practiced noticing the voice you will begin to notice other things. Perhaps you’ll notice the angry response many of us have when somebody cuts us off in traffic, or the frustration towards a co-worker. As we notice these things, many of us soon begin to notice our buttons are not as easily pushed because we are noticing the trigger and not responding blindly, but through a separation of rational thought and raw emotion.

The natural progression of this concept is simple. If you begin to respond to life in a more positive and understanding manner, can you see what the trend will be going forward? That’s right. As we improve our relationship within ourselves we improve all of our relationships outwardly, and this has all manner of positive outcomes. Our experience (life) is simply a collection of our choices and actions thus far. As we upgrade our thoughts and actions, our experience thus upgrades with us.

Going back to the beginning of the article, how does noticing our thoughts and separating ourselves from our inner critic have anything to do with reaching our goals and getting to that point we are all striving for?

That point we working towards doesn’t actually exist. It’s a mirage. Like seeing the end of the rainbow it can look so close, yet when you get close it’s not longer there, vanished. As we strive to improve ourselves in all aspects of life there is no point at which we’ll be done, will be at our destination and fully satisfied. When our inner critic hears this the tirade can become volatile and destructive if we let it. If we ignore it and keep trying to get to this imaginary “point” we ultimately will become miserable in the process. Most of us feeling as if we’ve failed, even in our success, especially in our success.

When we understand we will always be growing, it is indeed our nature as people who desire growth. We can quell the critic within and enjoy the process much more. After all, it’s the process and not the result which is the real prize and thing to be attained. The experiences along the way are what matter and the goals we set are simply markers along the way, like mileage posts on the highway.

Begin to notice these thoughts and pay attention to the shifts you will experience. Embrace the experience of all of it, the perceived good and bad of everyday. We wouldn’t notice the sun without the clouds.

Let me know how this works for you and what you notice along the way. This practice opens the doors for more profound change as you grow with it.