Sunday, December 8, 2013

Courage of My Conviction

Conviction. This is one of the most important attributes I look for in gauging a person’s character.  It's something I honed when I ran for political office several years ago. Let’s face it, there are plenty of “great guys” that still have trouble finding their backbone when the sledding gets a little tough. A fantastic notion is immediately compromised in the absence of conviction. In the presence of conviction, even a fledgling idea can become fantastic. Conviction is powerful – it is transformative. Unfortunately, it can be as equally fragile and vulnerable. Not only do you have to know what you believe, you have to actually believe it. You have to believe it when the sun is shining and you have to believe it in the fiercest windstorm.

Having conviction doesn’t mean you necessarily have to be stubborn, inflexible, or uncompromising either. More accurately, it’s about being unwavering in principle. I often admire people I disagree with because I appreciate that they have the courage of their conviction.  In the end, words and actions have to be consistent.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

All You Need Is Love

The Beatles said it best:  Love is all you need.  So many of their songs reflect the simplicity and grandeur of Love.  It always seemed like they knew something maybe the rest of us didn't.  I know I didn't.  I've always been a romantic and respected what I thought love was - but they were singing about Love.  Love, with a capital L, is bigger - encompassing...transforming...inclusive...intangible...mysterious.  It's hard for me to try to describe, like that scene near the end of 2001: A Space Odyssey, when Dave says, "It's wonderful."

Love is undeniably the most powerful force on this planet.  When applied, the result is something positively special to behold.  I didn't always hold this view, but have come to understand the significant transformative quality of Love over a lifetime.  In today's world, where hate is often all too prevalent, it would be easy to be dismissive of such a notion.  In fact, most of my life, I was.  Not that I didn't value Love - I did.  I simply didn't appreciate it's true essence.

One experience that helped me understand was celebrating my 25th wedding anniversary.  That marital journey taught me love and Love.  I'm forever grateful to my exceptional wife for guiding me through those lessons.

At this point, I probably sound like some reincarnated flower child or modern-day liberal.  I assure you I'm neither.  Yet, Love astounds me.  I attribute the point at which I've arrived to simply living enough years.  Once you see enough hate, injustice, and death, solutions become easier to recognize and accept, and obstacles easier to identify and overcome.  As an individual, I'm finally a believer in Love.  I hope as a society, we can all be.

Monday, February 25, 2013


I constantly remind myself to simplify.  As each new year begins, I try to eliminate as many life demands as I'm able that are not absolutely essential.  It's my personal way of rejuvenating and refreshing my energy. 

For instance, I can't quit my primary job but I can (and did) idle my real estate concern.  I also took a month break from my creative passions.  I usually opt to eliminate all elective responsibilities for a short period and return to a state of bare essentials.  I know that the demands and interests will quickly build again, so my approach serves as a hard-wired circuit breaker to ensure I don't overwhelm myself (or provides fail-safe relief for an already overwhelmed state.)

I've been using this approach for the past several years and it has served me well so far.  Occasionally, I've even employed similar 2 week stretches during the year where I essentially "go off the grid."  The approach dovetails nicely with my Take Time To Relax philosophy.  I take it seriously.  Two sides of the same coin - Simplify on one side allows me to Relax on the other.  It's really the development of a habit that maintains my sanity in a crazy world that never seems to slow down and is always connected.  It's my Thoreau-inspired modern day Into The Woods...without having to actually live in the woods!

Friday, February 22, 2013

My Axioms

Along with the Cornerstones, I use the following self-developed Axioms to guide my behaviour.  You might recognize a few of them from earlier posts.

1.  Be Yourself
2.  Never Say No To Yourself
3.  Trust Your Instincts
4.  Choose Your Reaction
5.  I'm Not Beholden
6.  No Excuses
7.  Simplify
8.  Take Time To Relax
9.  There Is Always Hope

Always keep in mind that there are no magic solutions for living life.  Success and/or happiness is measured differently by each of us, so do yourself a favor by not comparing yours against somebody else's.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Loyalty: Cornerstone #7

Loyalty is a vanishing commodity in today's world but it's importance cannot be overstated.  While corporations shed employees at will or employees jump ship at the first appealing opportunity, loyalty has become increasingly elusive.  Loyalty is for the good times, the bad times, and for those times where staying loyal seems to be at odds with your own best personal interests. 

There are no degrees of loyalty.  Whether it's fidelity in marriage, loyalty on the job, or the "I've got your back" mentality of friendship, loyalty is an all-in proposition. I'm a little guy, but in a fight you can count on me to have your back for whatever that counts for. I've spent 26 years on the same job through plenty of adversity that could've sent me looking for greener pastures but I didn't go.  I don't backstab and I often assume blame that belongs to others. After 25 years of marriage, I'm still happily married and my wife can count on me to remain loyal despite whatever temptation may come my way.

Loyalty must be an equally balanced equation.  Real loyalty is earned through the implicit understanding of that reciprocity.  People often expect loyalty but aren't prepared to give it. A betrayal of loyalty was actually the catalyst for my Grinder experience. I demonstrated my sense of loyalty by remaining loyal even after the betrayal.  That was an extremely tough course of action but it has turned out to be the right decision. 

Loyalty is my own code of ethics.  It helps maintain my dignity.  It helps maintain my integrity, reliability, dependability, and trustworthiness when life makes things murky.  Loyalty is what compels me to travel the more difficult road when an easier one is readily available. Loyalty is the glue that binds my Cornerstones together.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Patience: Cornerstone #6

Patience is probably one of life’s hardest and most important lessons. It's an important avenue to clarity.  Lack of patience undermines everything else you do.  To learn patience…well, you have to be patient.  It's the same Catch-22 as developing discipline. 

True patience is hard to attain because it competes against so many of your other emotions. Emotions that can unleash themselves in a hurry and without restraint if you’re not paying close attention. I adopted my axiom of Choose Your Reaction as a mechanism to help me be more patient. I tend to be highly opinionated and controlling. I've found out the hard way what a bad combination that is! My solution was to try to eliminate the emotional component in many of my responses.

Of all the Cornerstones, I struggle with Patience the most.  I simply don't have much... but I've chosen to be patient as I slowly learn to have more. 

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Sacrifice: Cornerstone #5

Sacrifice is usually one of the hardest, though most important things you can do. It means putting someone else's needs before your own. I get my sense of sacrifice from my parents. Growing up during The Great Depression, they made sacrifices unfathomable to most of us living today. Those sacrifices continued in their desire to give the best opportunities to their children - no doubt an effort to best equip us to succeed and overcome hardship in our lives. My parents are now deceased but their example of sacrifice has been a vital component in my own approach to living life. I know I can do better though - like I said, sacrifice isn't always easy.
Of course, sacrifice extends beyond your own family. There is an equally important societal obligation. That aspect became clearer to me as I reached middle age. Basically, it's the old adage of "you reap what you sow." As a society we're in difficult times right now. It's important to find a way to contribute positively to the lives around us. It goes beyond just not being selfish - it means going that extra step. It might mean devoting time, money, or whatever to improving someone else's fortunes but certainly, it will involve personal sacrifice.  

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Determination & Perseverance: Cornerstones #3 and #4

Determination.  Perseverance.  I decided to combine the discussion of these two Cornerstones because they go hand in hand and the differentiation between them might otherwise be misunderstood.  I often think of them as the same myself but they are actually distinct.  You can be determined and not persevere.  Similarly, you can persevere but not be determined.  Think about it a can set a goal or believe in an outcome (process of determination) but then never do anything towards achieving it or give up after trying (lack of perseverance) , or conversely, you can continue heroically through numerous failures (process of perseverance) with no real understanding of the goal you're after or even believing you can achieve the goal to begin with (lack of determination.)

I wrote in a previous post, "doing begins by believing."  Determination is "believing" and Perseverance is "doing."  That's the easiest way I know of keeping the principles straight in my head.  The obvious power of these principles is in their combination.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Faith: Cornerstone #2

No matter how determined and focused, everyone falters occasionally.  That's where the importance of Faith comes in.  It doesn't really matter what your particular faith is - only that it is strong enough to rely on when doubt sets in and robs you of necessary confidence to persevere.  Sometimes, hope and trusting in something beyond yourself is all you'll have left.  If Discipline is for what you can control, Faith is for all that you can't.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Discipline: Cornerstone #1

Discipline is the cornerstone of the Cornerstones.  Important in its own right, it is an essential component to the effectiveness of my other Cornerstones.  I believe it is the foundation of success.  For me, nearly everything comes back to proper discipline.

Developing and establishing your own personal discipline is tricky, however, because to do so requires discipline.  It probably will be difficult at first (which should be expected) but if you can commit to stick with developing a habit of discipline, it will be the habit that defines all your other habits.

I discovered my own principle of discipline while studying martial arts.  Without consciously knowing it, I began to apply the same type of discipline to other life pursuits.  The benefits surprised me and when I realized what I had unconsciously applied, I quickly adopted Discipline as the key to achievement.  But for it to work, you must be unwavering.  Remember when I mentioned not going all the way to the bottom of the barrel before getting a grip?  Some call it willpower, but even willpower needs discipline.  That's my sense of discipline.  For instance, I woke up one day and decided to quit smoking.  No aids, no delays, no wishy-washy attempts - just purpose.  I took the same exact approach to drinking.  I just stopped completely - no gradual degrees of drinking less.  Singular purpose and commitment.  That's the habit of Discipline.

Discipline is a habit like any other.  Ingrained, it can be a powerful determinant of your other habits.  Unpracticed or neglected, it's effectiveness wanes.  To help maintain mine, my mantra is, "No Excuses...ever."  Devise an action plan and follow it until the goal is achieved.  You must want to achieve the goal.  You must remind yourself you have a plan to follow.  No excuses.  Singular purpose.  Discipline.