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Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Ratio of Life

My grandfather used to say “life is only 10% what happens to you, but 90% what you do about it.”

Within these words can be found the secret to progress, the power in action and a hope for tomorrow. Although I am sure my grandfather was not the only person to say these particular words, he introduced me to the truth in this statement at an unforgettable time and place in my life that charted the course for how I would handle and learn to overcome the ever present opportunity for failure in my life. You see, this quote neither justifies nor denies the challenges, disappointments and tragedies that life brings, but it encourages you to pay critical attention to where you focus your energy, effort and faith when these trials of life transpire.

This entry is a deeper dive into a subject of paramount importance started in the entry “Dance Lessons”, posted back in January of this year. The enormity of its importance comes from the fact that this issue touches everyone no matter who you are, what you have, or what you believe. Everyone falls victim to challenges, tragedies and events of detriment on various levels in life. However, your ability to not only recover, but to reclaim your victory and continue to progress hinges on what you do with your energy, focus and where you place your hope.

What was your latest disappointment? What has happened to you recently or in your past that still resurfaces when your current conversations take a negative turn? Here is the more important question…are you investing your time in securing a solution or are you wasting your time focused on the problem? One thing is for certain, you can’t change the past – you can learn from it – but nothing changes what happened, so why spend your time and effort complaining about something you cannot change? The wise investment is to spend your time, energy and faith is securing a solution, learning the lesson or progressing past the thing that happened. Now many times that’s easier said than done, I know, but think of it this way…after you expend time and emotion complaining, being depressed or angry, or using some vice to suppress the issue, you still have to face it and find a way to learn and move on from it. The philosophy in this statement is to bypass the wasted effort and energy and instead use you’re the “90%” of time and focus efficiently by working toward the solution and your victory.

When it comes to life, you are either moving forward or moving backward. There is never a time where you are just sitting still, because in those moments immobility you are losing the most important of life’s limited and irreplaceable resources…time. My prayer for you is that you take a moment to evaluate, either now or when the next difficult event of life occurs, whether you are investing or wasting your time. Something I have learned in life is that the enemy of our faith uses the failures and negativity of your past to bind you, discourage you and try to destroy your hope. God in His great grace uses His promises and the hope in your future to encourage you to move in the direction of freedom and victory. What you do with your decisions, time and energy supports one of these two initiatives…I pray that you choose your alliances wisely, your future depends on it. Be Blessed!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The One Thing That Matters

My grandfather used to say “Here is the secret to relationships: remember the one thing that matters, respond accordingly and the relationship will be fine.”

In my humble opinion, this may be one of the most valuable entries that you will read on this site. Why you ask? Because it has the potential to provide the secret to success in relationships with the men and women that you come in contact with. I can say with confidence, that in my life, this truth has helped me better understand the chasm that divides males and females; it has been the voice of conscience when I have faced daily interactions that challenge my patience, understanding and character. The “one thing that matters” is as complex as it is simple because it requires self-control to put a solution in to action…and self, as we all know, can be the hardest person to control, when it really matters.

For women, the “one thing” that they need to understand about men is that men desire to be respected. My grandfather would say it is because men are created with an ego, whatever the reason, it’s true. No man wants to be considered a failure; they want to be seen as “wearing the pants” whether it is in a relationship, a career or simply driving a car (without asking directions). It doesn’t matter if it is a challenge from a woman or another man, disrespecting a man tends to consistently produce animosity and eventually could lead to a display that will demand that respect he feels that he deserves. An elderly wife of a 37 year marriage said it to me this way when I asked her to share the secret to their resilient marriage. She simply said “I know that I run things, but make sure that he thinks that he does.”

For men, the “one thing” that they must understand about women is that every woman wants security. Whether it’s emotionally, financially, physically and any other aspect of life, they want to know that things will be ok and have some sense of control. Now I don’t claim to have unraveled the mystery of the feminine mind by no means, but I can say with certainty that in my experience a secure woman is a happier and a more peaceful woman. If you are a man, try this next time you can’t figure out what is “wrong with her”, simply ask yourself, does she feel secure right now?

When you think about it, this is not new news, why do you think advertisers gear their commercials towards a woman’s security (her youthful looks, time/money savings, etc.) and a man’s ego (sex, masculinity, etc.)? I know that this entry has merely touched on the potential enormity of this discussion, but what’s important is that we take a moment to remember the “one thing” that matters and do what we can to use this knowledge to strengthen our relationships. If you do, you can proactively diffuse potential issues before they create a cycle where insecurities are responded to with disrespect and disrespect leads to actions that challenge securities. Be Blessed.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Define Your Dash

My grandfather used to say “Remember your dash and make the most of it!”

My grandfather was - simply put – was a hard worker, and owned a business that covered various lines of work, all of which were based off of his belief that you will always make money doing what people don’t want to do.
One of those lines of work was digging and covering graves, yes gruesome I know, but someone has to do the dirty work (no pun intended) when our loved ones are laid to rest and let’s face it…you will never run out of business. Since I worked with him every summer in my early youth, I spent my fair share of time in or around graveyards. Amazingly, even in the most solemn of places, my grandfather was able to drive home a spike of encouraging wisdom that still speaks to me to this day.

From time to time, I would take a moment and look some of the tombstones that marked the final resting places of the residents at the cemetery where we were working.
One particular time, as I gazed at a headstone, my grandfather asked me “do you know the most important character on that tombstone is?” I gave a few guesses to the best of my level of rationale and while the name and epitaphs were important, he focused my attention to the character that most of us tend to completely ignore…the dash.

You see, on most all tombstones there is a date of birth and a date of death, he explained, and we all have obviously experienced our date of birth, but the great mystery is our date with death.
He pointed out that what is most important in our lives are the memories we build, time that we share and legacy that we leave with people we have touched - all represented by that little dash in between those dates. Even at a young age, it hit me…we never buried cars or houses, educational degrees or trophies, never laid millions of dollars or a mirror to rest with the deceased, just their empty shell and the last outfit they will ever wear. As I began to drink in this reality, I looked at the people who came to view the grave sites of their loved ones differently. They weren’t coming to merely look at a piece of granite stone, but they came to pay respect to memories represented by that dash.

What is the significance of your dash to this point in your life?
The mere fact that you are reading this entry means that you still have an opportunity to ensure that your dash has an everlasting impact on the world around you. We have to remember that life is not about what you gain, but who you touch and what you do with your dash has a major affect on the legacy that your children inherit, that your friends remember and that you account for when you meet God. How fortunate was I that my grandfather used a portion of his dash to invest wisdom in my life that I can now share with you. No one knows when that final date will come, so never use tomorrow as an excuse to waste today. My prayer is that you use your dash to live, love and laugh like there is no tomorrow…everyday. Be Blessed.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A word to the unWise

My grandfather used to say “Experience brings knowledge, but wisdom is the ability to learn from the mistakes of others.”

It has been said that experience is the best teacher and someone who learns from experience has gained a wealth of knowledge, but knowledge and wisdom are the same thing right…or are they? According to my grandfather’s quote they are not only different in definition, but in acquisition as well. In the end, what I hope you will find is that knowledge and wisdom have many similarities, but truly have a vast difference in value and exhibition of character.

In my last entry “Well...What do you know” we looked at the difference between life experiences and a true mistakes, and this entry would be the next progression in that concept of thought. Whether or not we want to be, we are all students in the classroom of life, and like any other classroom, there are differences in the learning styles of the students. Some students need to repeat a lesson over and over until they get a clear understanding of the message, other students learn the first time they are exposed to the new information and are ready to pass a test. Then there are those students who seem to know the concept before they are taught, almost ahead of their grade, so much so, that there are higher level classes available to them for accelerated learning and often they are referred to as “gifted.”

The school of life is much the same - and experience is an unrelenting, yet rewarding teacher of its indispensable education. Applicably, the tests and trials that we all go through each contain within them a lesson to be learned, intended to increase the knowledge of the learner. Unfortunately if the lesson is not learned, the test or trial is destined to be repeated. On the other hand, as we begin to understand the opportunities to learn through our trials, they can become more bearable as we focus on the lesson, not the trial as we go through it. Even greater, when we take a moment to gain the knowledge of a life lesson through the observation or wise counsel of someone who has already been taught by experience, then we gain the wisdom that can be displayed when we face that kind of trial, and may accelerate us through it. People who display this method of learning are often referred to as…”wise”

At times, when I was younger, people would say to me,”Thomas, you have an old soul”, a compliment meaning that I was displaying wisdom beyond my that moment. It took me a while to understand, because usually I was just following some “right thing to do” that I learned from someone else, but that was just it – I learned it without having to go through it. The book of Proverbs in the bible is saturated with wisdom, I recommend you read it; additionally the older generation have volumes of wisdom that they would love to share and we all should learn something new every day. Access to wisdom is all around you, the question is what kind of student are you going to be? My prayer is that as you continue learning the lessons that come your way, you grasp those tidbits of wisdom available to you, so that life's tests and trials become less of a chance to merely obtain knowledge, and more of an opportunity to display the wisdom you have acquired. Be Blessed