A Constant State of Thankfulness

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I know it may seem strange that my dog, Bob Marley, would be my source of inspiration and reflection. I’m a dog lover and have been for most of my life. This little guy is seven and has been ill the last month or so. It’s the first time we’ve dealt with major sickness in the time we’ve had him. It caught my family by surprise.

The surprise was found in the nature of a first time, but it also caught me taking his constant companionship for granted. I’ll confess that I always thought of him as a constant, constant as the earth I walked on everyday. I know better.

As Bob Marley has been recovering (too soon to say full recovery), he reminds me everyday that now is what is constant. Epic living is found in that statement. There’s a chance you’re thinking that you’ve heard this story before. More flip advice from a world full of lists and how-to formulas. Maybe so, but ask yourself when you last said thank you for the following:

  • The breath of life
  • Your family (immediate)
  • Your luck
  • Your work (not your employer in this example)
  • People who helped you get to where you’re at
  • Friends who stuck with you when things got ugly
  • Your health

I’m advocating the now because it breeds a constant state of thankfulness. Discovering thankfulness when it’s too late is painful and ripe of regret. You can start now, right now, if you want to.

There’s One in Every Crowd

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Picture yourself going along and things are flowing as you like. You might even feel genuinely successful. And behold, out of nowhere (feels like that) comes the one. The one who wants to point out where you’re off or what you’ve missed.

There’s one in every crowd.

It’s not fair to have someone come in and point out the latest rumor regarding your project, or point out all of the terrible dangers ahead if you proceed. Alas, life is not…

I now look for these folks. Yep, that’s right, I look for them. I see them as a barometer of what I may be onto. Does my idea make anyone feel threatened or uncomfortable., Remember, Martin Luther King, Je. had folks tell him that forming boycotts was too risky. There are numerous examples of people who the status quo felt were dangerous. You might call them an annoyance, which they are, we just need to see the bigger picture. You don’t want your movie dominated by a jealous bit player. These types have often given up and given in. They don’t want to see you rise. The mission is too important to crumble under the weight.

I have a warning for you. The people who take on these roles in your story can be deceptive. Look at them as old hands who know how to upset the cart. They come to you subtly and in a caring manner. Don’t get sucked in. I would even advise you do something ┬ádaring. In your next encounter, ask a probing question for motive and then embrace silence. Don’t say a word no matter how uncomfortable it feels. Count 10 breaths in your head, stare into space, but do not speak. The uncomfortable silence is designed to bring out motive. Best that you know who and what you’re dealing with.

It’s not a question of if you’ll meet the “one in every crowd,” but when. The encounter after is what makes all the difference.

Happiness Pursuing You

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The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face

The first time ever I saw your face
I thought the sun rose in your eyes
And the moon and the stars were the gifts you gave
To the dark and the endless skies, my love
To the dark and the endless skies

And the first time ever I kissed your mouth
I felt the earth move in my hands
Like the trembling heart of a captive bird
That was there at my command, my love
That was there at my command, my love

And the first time ever I lay with you
I felt your heart so close to mine
And I knew our joy would fill the earth
And last till the end of time, my love
And it will last till the end of time, my love

The first time ever I saw your face, your face
Your face, your face

You may or may not recall the above classic, written by Ewan McColl. The lyrics are moving. I recently purchased George Michael’s Symphonica compilation. He performs a version. It is truly beautiful and it got me thinking.

What if happiness is pursuing us?

There’s no doubt in those lyrics we find someone moved and happy. I can relate. In my mind, happiness calls out saying; “hey Eric, I’m here.” Funny how in a given day we can ignore this quiet voice. We’ve arrived in a time of ignoring. Trading so much for accumulation, power and applause. Yet most say happiness is the thing missing most.

As it has been many times in my life, I’ve decided to go the other way. Tonight, I asked my wife, as the song inspired me, to recall a time when she was happy with me. We recalled times, places and feelings. I’ve been married close to 23 years and it feels like yesterday. What blows my mind, is how I found myself agreeing with George Michael’s voice in the song. I found myself repeating, “he’s right, it did, and does, feel as he describes.”

I’ve missed some things over my span. Some of those things were large and some small, but the dance of life finds me here and I now recognize the voice of happiness. Better yet, I know I need to respond to that voice. Not many things are as important.

Are you willing to let happiness pursue you?

What a Father Leaves Behind

Legacy is defined by what I leave behind. For the purposes of this post, what I leave behind as a father. A friend told a few weeks back that he could see my legacy through my work (writing, engagements, etc.). Funny how you sometimes don’t think about those types of things when you’re in the midst. It’s still vitally important, regardless.

My friend also recognized that all people have a legacy. He even believes more world problems would be solved if more understood the implications of their legacy. I agree and way too many don’t even consider it.

I want to leave the following behind for my kids:

  1. A sense that I understand the “fierce urgency of now.” The idea that now matters, problems matter, the fight matters.
  2. Love until it hurts. Much of life will be measured by this.
  3. There’s nothing wrong with making a mistake or failing. Go ahead and risk being laughed at.
  4. Find out what God made you to do. This is destiny and it’s worth the pursuit.
  5. People matter and they deserve your respect.
  6. Position yourself for good luck.
  7. Never let the child in you die.
  8. I love their mother, in my words and my actions.
  9. You must always speak up when evil seeks to silence.
  10. Mindfulness opens the door to loving God.

I’m sure there are more things I want them catch, and not catch. The list represents the lens I see through today.

The Trouble with Entitlement

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Had a bit of an epiphany last night about entitlement. Specifically, the trouble with entitlement and what it leads too. This post is about human beings. The government issues are for different writers out their in the blogosphere.

The trouble with entitlement is it connects directly with a nasty habit called taking things for granted.

In my world, I often hear family and friends decry taking things for granted. Most of the motivation for this comes from all of us getting the unexpected/shocking news of someone dying or someone losing something valuable.┬áThe list includes family, friends, health, and much more. You know the old saying around you don’t know what you have until its gone.

I believe taking things for granted has an evil twin, and his name is entitlement. Entitlement is a deadly trap on multiple fronts. The biggest relates to a since that I’m owed something. For example, I was downloading an update to some software last week. In that process, there was a failure. I had to start over. I caught myself saying something like, “this is not supposed to happen, I don’t have time to wait on this.” Humanly speaking, we’ve all been in that situation. The ugly truth is I felt entitled to technology working the way I wanted. So the story goes.

Our words may not utter what is really going on inside, but we do walk around with this idea that:

  • “I’m supposed to have smart, successful children.”
  • “I’m supposed to have a spouse who will not cheat.”
  • “I’m supposed to have health that doesn’t fail.”
  • “I’m supposed to have a career that lasts forever.”
  • “You’re supposed to be there when I need you.”

I’m sure you could add to the above. The truth is we’re not entitled to much. Most of what we have (Life) are gifts. Seems to me, thankfulness should overrule our attitude of entitlement. Imagine what impact that would have on our wellbeing.

Value

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I've been thinking a lot about value lately. Specifically, the conversations and presence with my kids. In the last seven years my core has been fully engaged with them. Not because I'm some rock star at parenting or a nominee for father of the year. Believe me, I've tripped and blown it more times than I care to remember. It has been a God-induced form of luck, struggles and on-purpose effort.

I didn't always find real value in my kids. I loved them and many times justified my career chasing as a benefit they'd reap from. I was afraid and self-absorbed. Always thinking I would get the time, find the time or that time would send me a relationship wrapped in red ribbons. It is about prioritizing and being deliberate about pouring yourself into the relationship. I was humbled by that truth. And, yes, it carries tremendous risk. Living always presents this and there is no living without it.

I'm now at a place where I understand true value and I am learning the art of living it out. Living it out means seeing, in the arena of my family, my relationship with them as equally valuable as a financial pursuit or a social engagement.

Here's the potential rub for you and me. If we're not careful we'll allow our career to dominate the other 7/8ths of life. Like a drug, we'll want (not need) that fix. You know, the feeling of importance, fake significance and most dangerously, identity. Don't fall for this, don't buy into your employer who tries to convince you that their most important should be your most important. Like Steven Pressfield's Resistance, in the book, The War of Art,   there is something fighting against your best intentions.

A few years ago a friend of mine told me he thought I was courageous to walk away from a career that had taken over much of my life. I wasn't, but I did see (sometimes not clearly) value in life and living. That truth remains.