Posts Tagged ‘deep thoughts’

There are connotations about the word “success” that differ based on who hears it. Some hear it and think, “Admirable goal! Top of the game, target to shoot for, best, achievement, purpose, triumph!” Some hear it and think, “Forget it! Over-achiever, out of reach, lucky, brown-nose, snob, locked out, blocked!” And still others think, “It depends,” or, “I’ve made it!” or, “Success in what, exactly?” You’ve probably had a thought pop into your own head while reading this – take it out and examine it a moment.

Isn’t it true that the first images you think of when trying to define success are the superficial stereotypes: money, fame, fancy homes, important career? Erma Bombeck noted the same thing: “Don’t confuse fame with success. Madonna is one; Helen Keller is the other.”

So you go a little deeper, and you add things like good friends, happy family, good health, strong marriage. Bet even those things are only the outside appearance of success.

So you go even deeper: real happiness, a rich spiritual life, finding your soulmate. Many would think, “Ah, at last we have come to our true definition. After all, we can’t go any deeper.” But I don’t know if these are quite it. All wonderful evidences of success, yes; but not success itself.

Maybe the English language has failed us here. Or maybe the meaning has become diluted, muted and polluted. I know I want success, but I couldn’t convey it to those around me without risking their prejudiced ideas about what that means. Even in my own mind, I sometimes wondered if my efforts at success weren’t somehow self-aggrandizing.

Then someone used another word in the same context, a similar one in content and value, one that hasn’t yet been bleached of its richness:

Significance.

Significance is the place where real, non-superficial success fetches up. Every single example of real success that I can think of boils down to becoming significant. Making a difference. Being someone or doing something that matters. What a goal! Who wouldn’t aspire to that? And isn’t that what I always meant in my heart when I described success to myself?

These words are not typically found together in the thesaurus; that is, they do not share an identical definition. But I think they point in a parallel direction, except that I don’t know of any negative cultural undertone attached to the word “significance”. The meanings of the two words are close enough that some historic quotes gain fresh new life when you take out “success” and use “significance”:

Some people [succeed/are significant] because they are destined to, but most people [succeed/are significant] because they are determined to. (Henry Ford)
Action is the foundational key to all [success/significance]. (Pablo Picasso)
One secret of [success/significance] in life is for a man to be ready for his opportunity when it comes. (Benjamin Disraeli)

Significance seems more important, more noble than mere success.

One last note: if you are a lover of language, you might have already noticed that the verb form of success is “to succeed”, which indicates action. There is no popular action verb form for significance. To succeed is to do, and to be significant is to be (or become). If only the English language had a word for “to become significant”! “I will strive for becoming significant” is far too clunky and even changes the meaning a little.

But even without the help of the exactly correct words I have begun updating my mindset to accommodate this new outlook, and have incorporated it into the efforts I make to reach my own level of success significance. I may not always succeed attain significance, but I will have given it significant effort.

What does success mean to you? Do you have friends or family to whom success a dirty word? Share it in the comments below.

I’ve never been much of a worrier. My typical reaction to impending doom is to ignore it and hope it goes away.

This strategy has worked well more often than it ought to have. I think it may be because I’m not actually ignoring it, even if that’s how it seems. Instead of panicking and flapping around like a landed trout, I send the problem down to the subconscious to find a solution; meanwhile, my outward countenance has nothing to do, which gives the appearance of calm in the face of adversity. My conscious mind sees my apparent calm and figures there must not be anything to worry about. Eventually (sometimes days or weeks later) the hardworking brain cells in the basement send up a workable answer and I’m ready to act.

This never fails to surprise those who know me well. The action step usually happens just after everyone has given up on me and decided I’m not ever going to do anything.

I suppose that I’m just reluctant to take an action unless I’m sure it will be effective. Which lever do I pull? Which knob to turn? Where to steer? When to wait? What to watch for? Sometimes there seem to be no options, and sometimes there are too many. But anxious fretting has never been an effective strategy. If I worry, it’s very short lived; if I think something might go wrong, I’ll try to fix it if I can, and then there’s nothing left to worry about.

Watching people worry makes me crazy. It just doesn’t factor into analyzing the problem, working out a logical response, or even that other useless activity, finding someone to blame. The most perplexing examples of worry are those in which a person is worried about something they cannot change. What’s the point of that?

At a religious leaders conference called The Nines, Pastor Steve Robinson of Church of the King in Mandeville, Louisiana, gave a talk called, “Worry is Temporary Atheism.” That’s a powerful idea. I understand this to refer anxiety over things beyond your own influence. The concern that our future is potentially and permanently awful, and that God can’t or won’t get you through it.

Faith in God has an amazing capacity to strengthen resolve. There are thousands of stories of people who get through the most horrible situations and credit it to their belief in an afterlife and in a loving God.  But even if you don’t believe, is there really anything so terrible that you can’t find a way to live with it? Even unbelievers find ways to persevere. It’s astonishing how strong people can be when it’s required.

So is worry a useless emotion? I think so. It is fear of an unknowable future – and the unknowable part is key, there. Think about it: if you knew precisely that a specific awful thing was going to happen, you would stop worrying about that (and start worrying about the unknowable things resulting from it, probably). If you were worried about losing a finger while working on an engine, and a genie came along and proved to you that yes, in fact, you were going to lose your left index finger, what are you going to worry about after that? You stop worrying that you might lose a finger, first of all. But then you start worrying about the details your genie left out: “Will it get infected? Will they be able to re-attach it? Will I ever play the piano again? How will I pick my nose?” Suddenly, “Will I lose a finger” doesn’t even make sense.

Is there anything about the future that is knowable? Sometimes, but that doesn’t seem to solve the worry problem. You can worry about your kids, your health, your relationships, your career and your finances, but to what end? You can influence those things, but at some point the results are out of your hands. Worry will never change the results. You have to trust that you’ve done what you can, and let it go.

Do you ever struggle with worry? Have you developed a strategy to avoid anxiety, especially over those things you cannot control? Can faith and worry exist together? Share your story in the comments section, below.

Earlier this week a meme that I ignored for awhile was making the rounds on Facebook where a friend gives you a number and you must answer, as your status, a few basic poll questions about yourself when you were that age. For instance, my sister wrote:

My number is…17
I wanted to be: in Europe ALL summer
I was scared of: NOTHING, ‘cept maybe getting a hole in my waterbed
Favorite show(s): Fame
Favorite food(s): mom’s spaghetti, dad’s grill, Luigi’s pizza, Big John Steak n Onion
Favorite drink(s): Coke in glass bottles

Later in the day, I read a post from the blog of Michael Hyatt (former Chairman of Thomas Nelson Publishers) titled What Do You Wish You Knew Then That You Know Now? (which was actually a guest post from Adam Donyes.) Somehow this captured my imagination in a way that the Facebook thing did not. The connection to me was the idea of looking back at who you used to be, once upon a time.

The Hyatt post had the potential to be a dreary excavation of a person’s lifelong regrets (in his terms, folly), but it was not. Instead, it was a study of success. The author’s premise was that age brings wisdom – the kind of wisdom that makes you say things like, “I didn’t even know how much I didn’t know.” (Let’s face facts: was there ever a time in our lives like our college years, where we were sure we had all the answers and frankly, knew it all?) His train of thought logically progressed to another idea – mainly, that at this present point in his timeline there is surely a similar body of knowledge and wisdom as yet undiscovered. So:

“Rather than accept the fact that folly was inevitable, I spent the past twelve months polling fifteen respectable men I admire – men that have lived lives of integrity, men who are faithful husbands, and have been deemed successful in their chosen vocation… The question I asked these fifteen men was this, ‘What are three things you know now that you wish you knew when you were thirty?’ I was hoping that these men would share the folly they had experienced as leaders and in life, so that I might not repeat their mistakes.”

(The results are great. You should check them out.)

It got me thinking about the person I once was. My number is… 23.
I wanted to be: a wealthy college graduate
I was scared of: dying alone
Favorite show(s): Anything on Comedy Central
Favorite food(s): Danish meatballs, pizza, lasagna
Favorite drink(s): Beer. Lots of beer.

I now look upon that guy as “Least likely to live up to his potential.”

And, a la Adam Donyes (with a little Marty McFly mixed in), what would I tell that 23-year old guy were I to meet him in 1989?

  • Stay out of debt. The idea that you need to build your FICO is a trap.
  • Sell your TV. Nothing good ever came from the hours you wasted in front of it.
  • If you want good friends, be a great one. To everyone you meet.
  • The best cure for laziness is activity. Work like hell while you can (i.e., when you’re young), and start investing the extra – even if it’s only $50 a month.
  • The trick to quitting the smokes is that only the first three days are intolerable. After that it gets easier. (And you know it would have been better not to start.)
  • What steps did you take this week to be that “wealthy college graduate”? Do something next week to make sure your answer isn’t “nothing” again next week.
  • Call your grandma.
  • Yes, there really is a God. He loves you, and cares what happens to you. He’s also a lot smarter than you are, so you should probably let him decide what path you should take. Ironically, there’s a lot of freedom in that.
  • God has someone special in mind for you. But not until you both grow up. A lot.
  • Atlanta Braves tickets are likely pretty cheap right about now. 1991 is going to be an excellent year to grab a suite for the season.

Granted, that last pearl of wisdom is probably of no use to the youth of today, but the others are golden. Or pearly. Whatever. The point is that if I had spent more time pondering, “What is the wise thing to do?” and less time searching for “What is the fun thing to do?”, I might have saved myself a ton of trouble and a decade or two of wasted effort.

The takeaway? These are still excellent pieces of advice that I can use, even today. If I continue to adhere to these principles for the next 25 years perhaps I’ll have, instead of advice, a list of things I’m glad I did right. One can hope.

Did you ever look to someone older and wiser for clues to a better life? Ever engage in the whimsical fantasy of traveling through time to speak to your younger or older self? Tell me your story in the comments section.

A couple of years ago I was feeling particularly disgusted with my lack of progress in life. I’ve always lacked self-motivation. Procrastination was like a demon that would regularly possess me, keeping me from doing the amazing things that had to be done to raise me from mediocrity.

I grew up in the rust belt, where there really is a pervasive mindset that the “little man can’t get ahead.” I really started chipping away at that paradigm when I got a grip on my finances via the Financial Peace University curriculum. Many of the processes, ideas and wisdom are adaptable to other areas of life, and I found my bow was pointing on a course that made everything seem possible. The most important revelation was that, looking back at my twenties, if I had worked harder every time I felt lazy, I might have already achieved every dream I ever had. I could have already gotten there. I’m not there now, but I could have been… if I had kicked my own ass. And if I continue doing what I’ve been doing, I’ll keep getting what I’ve been getting.

What I Need to Succeed

In a burst of creative activity, I took a Sharpie and wrote eight fundamental “needs” on every third line of a legal pad. Then I took a pen and began to fill the lines in between, and the margins, and soon every available space around these needs with actions that I could take and arguments to support them.

The end result? It’s a beautiful mess. It really has taken on an artistic aura. And it’s the most inspiring thing I’ve ever written. I have displayed it in a place in my home where I can read it (or at least parts of it) every day. And my life is better, more organized, and less prone to lethargy than ever before.

The image is probably not legible, so the full manifesto is below.

What I Need to Succeed

Avoiding (& Killing) Indecision & (Self-Imposed) Delay

Positive☺Attitude

(happy happy happy happy happy)

  • I’m smarter than 60% of the small business owners I see. 40% are smarter, but they don’t know me and don’t matter.
  • Feeling powerless will kill a good attitude.
  • I can. I’m able. I have done before.
  • Embrace change!
  • Be a servant.

Hopeful Spirit

  • Be excited about where God’s going to have put you five years from today. He might allow me to go through rough times, but he won’t make me stay there. He loves me! I am not a victim.
  • Find joy.
  • It’s up to you. Take responsibility.

Trust in God’s Help

  • Add to prayers: “Rid me of indecision, give me great confidence.” He put me here; He’ll give me everything I need. Obstacles are God’s gym equipment.
  • Be humble. Be a servant.
  • Worry? Is it something you can fix? Fix it or leave it alone.

Focused Effort

  • *LISTS, LISTS, LISTS*
  • Get rid of distractions.
  • Don’t let low priority items take over my schedule.
  • Break big tasks into little ones.

An Answer to “I’m Too Tired.”

  • STAND. Ask, “Am I really tired, or just discouraged?” if it’s real fatigue, schedule some rest. If it’s not, dig out the root of discouragement. Kill it.
  • Find joy (see “Attitude”). Talk to someone who thinks you’re great (maybe even God!)
  • The Blues: Do something fun. Watch out! It’s tempting to nurse this feeling. Force yourself to smile for ten minutes.

An Answer to “I Haven’t Got Enough Time.”

  • God gives us everything we need – including enough time to get His work done. Running out of time means either I’ve mismanaged God’s gift of time, or I’m mistaken about how much time God thinks I need.
  • Overwhelmed? Two minutes of quiet, dark, alone, prayer, sit, walk, deep breaths or whatever will not make you so late or behind schedule that it matters, but it will make you think clearer.

A Tactic to Get Started

  • Break big tasks into little ones. List-making is good.
  • Be encouraged.
  • Stand up. Walk.
  • Make a short schedule mapping out the next small piece of time, like an hour.

Knowledge: The Fear-Beater

  • Fear is not a fruit of the Spirit. Dig out the root of the fear – knowing exactly what’s scary makes it smaller. Sometimes that’s all you need. Keep researching until the fear is gone, or give the fear (& the decision) to God.
  • Insecurity is childish (see “Attitude”).

This article is part of a five-part series. See Part 1 here.

Economic Intervention
Every government program is an intervention in, and thus an interruption of, the free market. The post office, for instance, is a competitor of UPS and FedEx. But because the USPS isn’t required to make a profit, its rates are artificially imposed – and that in turn affects the rates of the private companies, too. Public schools draw funds away from every property owner in order to compete with private schools that have no captive pool of contributors – they can only charge the customers they provide a service to. (The truly criminal part of this situation is that the private school customers are often also paying the taxes that fund public schools!) Minimum wage laws prevent employers from discovering the actual value of their workforce and their ability to hire more workers. CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) standards for vehicles limit the availability of designs that are offered to the public (and have actually been proven to have cost more lives in the name of ecology). Taxes of every kind influence the fiscal decision-making of every company and individual in this country. There’s virtually no area of trade untouched by the federal, state and local governments.

So when the federal government starts talking about spending a great deal of money on a plethora of new government programs to “stimulate” the free-market economy, a perfectly reasonable and understandable reaction would be one of horror.

Mark Levin writes in the chapter called On the Free Market:

The reason stimulus plans of this sort do not work is a fundamental reality of governance: The government does not add value to the economy. It removes value from the economy by imposing taxes on one citizen and providing cash to another. Or it borrows money that would otherwise be used by investors and redistributes it elsewhere. Or it prints more money and threatens the value of the dollar. Nothing is stimulated. Spending power is not increased.

There is another aspect of government in the marketplace that should not go unmentioned. No one thinks FedEx is an inferior product to the USPS. The mere fact that private schools can charge for enrollment indicates that they clearly have a better product than the “free” public, government schools. There is nothing that government can do in the marketplace that private business cannot do better, cheaper and more efficiently. Levin writes:

Moreover, politicians and bureaucrats are substituting their uninformed, largely political decisions for those of the marketplace. Their past miscalculations demonstrate that they do not and cannot possess the information, knowledge, means, and discipline to manage the economy.

Or anything else, for that matter. Without going into too much detail, my biggest gripe when it comes to Washington’s virtual takeover of AIG, Chrysler, and now the credit card industry, is this: why does D.C., and especially our new President (who has no experience in business of any kind at all), think that they can make better corporate decisions than the people who worked ridiculous hours for years and years, clawing their way to the top of their corporate chart to become masters of their industry?

Our current federal government is taking their lead from the president – and he hates the free market. There is a specific, leftist image of what the world ought to look like, and they want to compel or coerce the country into that mould. The free market often disagrees with this image, and the Statist is alarmed that it’s wise, parental advice is being dismissed. Obama will impose the image through force onto the world rather than revise the image to fit reality. For the world’s own good, of course, whether anyone wants it or not.

Part 1: World Opinion and American Exceptionalism
Part 3: The Linguistic Psy-War Tactics of Liberals

This article is part one of a five-part series.

I’ll admit the reason for my purchase of Mark Levin’s new book, Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto, was mostly due to the hype. But hype would have had little effect had I not been examining the topics of liberty and tyranny already. I had only recently read The 5000 Year Leap by W. Cleon Skousen, which is similar in theme and content but written in a friendlier (and significantly less slanted) style. I greatly enjoyed Skousen’s book, so I may have been prejudiced against Levin, a bit. And some of the events he refers to happened just weeks before the book went to print; it seemed unlikely they had been thoroughly examined in any scholarly way. About sixty pages into Liberty I was getting a little bored with Levin’s style (and a little distracted by the resemblance the chapter titles have to reindeer names) so I stopped reading and picked up another book for a little while.

When I resumed Liberty, my cranial palate had been cleansed and I fared much better getting through the (let’s be honest, here) hip-deep snowdrifts of political philosophy. I’m not accustomed to slogging through so much theory, but this year to date has been a doozy for that section of my bookshelf. There were several points he made that I knew I would want to make note of, so a book report of sorts seemed in order. It’s because of this decision that the first criticism I have is the lack of an index – but that’s a fairly minor criticism, I’ll admit, so it had no effect on my ultimate opinion of the book. (I give it a 3.5 out of 5).

There were five specific places that I bookmarked for later review. All these points have been on my mind recently, especially since the 2008 election campaign of now-President Barrack Obama. Levin’s manuscript either solidified or supported ideas that I have been shaping in my mind lately: the world’s opinion of the U.S. should not dictate our foreign policy, federal interference/incompetence in the marketplace, how liberals (Statists) redefine words to repackage their anti-American message, the myth of the overpopulation crisis, and why the illegals currently invading our country are not the moral equivalent of our immigrant ancestors.

World Opinion and American Exceptionalism
In the chapter On Prudence and Progress (on Blitzen and Donner – er, never mind) Levin discusses the gradual and intentional drift away from freedom orchestrated by the Statist. One often-used tool to achieve this goal is shame or guilt, which in turn calls for international appeasement. Levin writes:

The Statist urges Americans to view themselves through the lenses of those who resent and even hate them… The Statist wants Americans to see themselves as backward, foolishly holding to their quaint notions of individual liberty, private property, family, and faith, long diminished or jettisoned in other countries… America is said to be out of step and regressive, justifying the surrendering of its sovereignty through treaties and other arrangements that benefit the greater “humanity.”

A reasonable person who is intellectually honest with himself can think of any number of reasons that other countries might resent the U.S. that really have nothing to do with foreign policy, decadence, perceived imperialism, national arrogance or the like. Those are excuses for criticism, not reasons. There are nations who, like the Statist, use such claims to manipulate policy. But usually, as much as I dislike using the “you’re just jealous!” theory, it’s just simple envy. Who doesn’t like to badmouth the successful relative, and see them taken down a notch or two? But despite the accusations of evil found in the rhetoric of enemy nation-states, individuals by the thousands ignore the propaganda and leave their homelands to become Americans – many risking their lives and fortunes to do so. The individuals don’t hate America, they dream of it!

No other nation has an immigration problem. People gamble it all to get a chance to live here. Why is that? It’s because America is exceptional. Our “quaint notions” make us the envy of the world – quite literally.

Part 2 – Economic Intervention

God is too big and too close to get a really good look at Him. It’s like standing next to the shear face of Stone Mountain. I need to pray for understanding about: a) how big He is, b) how close He is, and c) how there can be any kind of relationship between something that big and me – a tiny being, one of millions that He says he loves personally.