What Shapes You

mary-poppins

Recently my wife and I discussed the movie, Saving Mr. Banks. I was reminded of how surprised I was by the story and the film itself. It really got me to thinking about what shapes you as a person, over a lifetime. If you are not familiar with the story behind P.L. Travers and her character Mary Poppins, you can read this article for more.

Much of who I am was shaped by my childhood.

During my childhood, I had a father who drank to excess, suffered the neglect that goes with substance abuse, saw things that today are still difficult to write about, and witnessed an event that left a permanent mark. I know many of you have your own stories as well.

What’s most important here, though, is how Ms. Travers was shaped and how it produced such great work. It’s ironic how her great pain produced such great work. I found myself, as I watched the film, feeling like I was watching my own movie.

Much of what I have created, has been born from my pain and wounds.

In my one-on-one work with people, I use a process designed to help them look over their lives to find the pain and the wounds. This can be difficult work. Many are the walking wounded, and they’ve taken the path of “medicating” or just looking to escape. My great mission is to help people deal with what often they would prefer to ignore. I understand this and carry empathy for the great struggle many are facing. American culture has not helped. Our ever-increasing desire for entertainment, medication, and status are fierce animals.

Much of what I do is motivated by mission.

PL Travers found an outlet for some of what hurt. Her work has made a lot of children and adults happy. In the end, that counts for much. I don’t know if she was truly whole before the race was over, but maybe that happens on the eternity side.

Do you know what shapes you?

 

What Temptation Looks Like

All of us have, and will, come face to face with temptation. If all of your cylinders are firing, you’re facing temptation daily. My post is not a sermon on good and evil, though the two have a part to play. I really want the focus to be on what temptation looks like and how it plays out to our harm.

The idea of temptation is found in moving in a direction that will ultimately cause harm-great or small. Temptation is also subtle and unique in the beginning. Which is why so many fail the test come exam time.

The following are some areas that temptation shows up in:

  • Career
  • Physical Health
  • Marriage
  • Emotions
  • Learning

Think for a moment. Do any of the areas connect for you? Are you in the midst of giving in now?

I’m not going to give a topic-by-topic breakdown, just a general process to understand and resist what may be tempting you.

Subtlety and Innocence

Every temptation begins with subtlety and seeming innocence. The subtlety usually appears in a quiet and calm persona. It could be a person or situation. In my case, there was a time where I encountered both. I was rising at a heady (at least it felt that way) clip in my career. On one occasion I had a conversation over lunch with someone I admired and trusted. He told me I was a part of the group of young executives that would be asked to take the helm at the next level, when the current leadership retired. I remember stopping (in my head) and reviewing his opinion. It sounded great and he was in a position to know, so why not take what he said as fact? At the same moment the reason side of me kicked in. Questions like; “do I even want to be the next thing” and “are you giving in to flattery?” ran through my mind. In the end, I allowed my reason to win the day and deflected the conversation into the wind.

Giving In

I’ve also had situations where I gave into temptation. This is a tough one to write. I had been given advice over the years to listen to my wife. Not as an obedience thing, but as a good source of wisdom and intuition. I remember vividly a time where my wife warned me about a venture I was pursuing. The venture seemed sound, and ripe for success. She didn’t feel good about it and wanted me to pass on the opportunity. I faced a crossroads. Would I listen to her sound advice or push forward with my plans (one thing you should be aware of is the power ego plays in these scenarios)? In this case, I gave into the temptation my ego laid out. It cost me dearly.

Notice the subtlety and innocence in my two situations? I look back and can understand the subtlety of my thoughts and the innocence of seemingly good things/opportunities.

The end goal of temptation is to lull you and give you a false sense of reality. Voices like the following come next:

  • “Try it once and see”
  • “Everyone tells you how talented you are”
  • “You may never get this chance again”
  • “You can’t say no, they need you”
  • “I should be as successful as he/she is”

Again, maybe you’re in the midst of deciding whether you will pay heed to temptation or resist. I wrote this post for you and for me because there’s so much evidence of how better life is when you don’t give in.

If you would like more help with this topic, reach out to me directly.

The Intact Soul

The intact soul is what most everyone says they want. For definition purposes, the soul I am referring to is best described as your essence/core person. When my dad passed away 9 years ago, it was his essence/core person I missed. It was him. I think you can feel me now.

The intact soul is under assault. The assault comes from multiple angles:

  • The employer who tells you, in varied ways, to check your soul at the door for the purposes of conforming and duplication
  • The church who tells you, God, is watching and out to get you
  • The educators who stifle your creativity
  • The body politic who corrupts and thinks you don’t know what’s going on
  • The culture that passes the fake for the authentic

To have an intact soul, you must be vigilant and protective. The vigilant part is made up of long-term thinking. Having a long-term view is the equivalent of understanding that we grow up over time-a lifetime. Like all development, it doesn’t happen immediately, it isn’t like a search on Google. It is a mosaic full of pain, joy, frustration, and satisfaction. The idea of protection is rooted around not letting those examples above to have sway in your life. I’ve had multiple times in my life where I had to tell an employer, loved one, or social media channel that enough was enough. It requires courage, maybe more than you think you have. In the end, your soul demands you stand up and fight.

Here are some strategies I’ve exercised to have an intact soul:

Practice contentment-my life has been a story of times of plenty and times of want. Like anyone else, I prefer plenty over want. The lessons of ebb and flow are powerful. I now appreciate all things because all things contribute to my intact soul. It wasn’t always this way. I can remember my corporate America days as a time of grasping for control and being motivated by fear. I naively thought I could control the stock option grants and the business cycle. I naively thought I would lose everything if I lost my grand role. Both control and fear appear to deceive.

Be fearless-this one is big, considering what I’ve written and the reality of fear in our time. Take any traumatic event and you’ll see what fear can do. I’ve advised clients and those close to me to identify their greatest fears and begin working on becoming fearless. Becoming fearless is the process of looking “that thing” in the eye, over and over. Just keep at it, and eventually you’ll see “that thing” for what it really is. By the way, no one is perfect here. Practice and attention strengthen our ability to stand up and fight. The funny thing about fighting is not the winning or losing, it’s about letting your fear know you won’t fold.

Pursue success in life-I don’t need to list all the ways we’re messaged to be successful. There’s the messaging around career success, the messaging around relationship success, the messaging around material (the stuff) success, and the list goes on. Ironically, there is some messaging around success in life, but it is often much softer in decibel than the others. The great tragedy is; we will need success in life when we realize we’re not invincible. If we don’t get this one right, regret and disappointment await.

If you’ve stayed with me long enough, you might think what I’m proposing is daunting. It’s not daunting, but it is hard work. When I look back over my life, I can feel the minor and major notes. The beauty is both led me to an intact soul.

Reach out to me to learn more about how I can help further.

 

 

Truth-Telling

In many ways, truth-telling has gotten me in trouble. In the end, as I look back, it ended up for the good of the person across from me. Truth-telling is not always easy. In many situations, it has the potential of hurting the hearer or creating separation.

In the age we live in we’ve made three major mistakes:

  1. We have made truth a matter of interpretation. In other words, the truth is in the eyes of the beholder
  2. We have allowed our emotions to overrun reason. It seems that reason has been permanently exiled
  3. We are motivated by our fears

I’m making a case for truth-telling because I know the benefits. If the people closest to me had shied away from it, I would be lost in my own delusions. Often we’re very good at deluding ourselves.

I want to be very clear that truth-telling is an art. It involves love, timing and a strong grasp of the situation underpinning the conversation. If the person delivering the truth is ill-equipped or oblivious to this, the truth will be a source of harm. As you can imagine, it’s vital to seek truth from those you trust.

The following are some truths I’ve had to communicate recently:

  • “You’re smart and have a good heart. The mistake you made was allowing him to take advantage of your kindness.”
  • “He won’t give up the drugs because he doesn’t want to. When he wants to be whole, he will make the decision to own his problems.”
  • “I appreciate the desire to make things better. However, having more meetings to discuss what has been discussed to the point of nausea is a waste of everyone’s time.”
  • “I’m so sorry. I know that had to hurt you deeply. What can I do to help you?”
  • “No one owes you anything. You have been given the responsibility for your life. If you don’t like where you’re at, then begin the process of making a change.”

I haven’t perfected the art of truth-telling. I’m better at it than I was ten years ago, and I have a long way to go. It’s clear to me what happens if I fail to attempt truth-telling; I will fail myself and those who count on me.

What Are You Counting On?

What are you counting on? A simple and straightforward question. It reveals more about you and I than meets the mind.

The things we’re counting on reveal our identity.

Maybe you’re counting on someone to make you happy. Maybe your counting on that quarterly bonus. Regardless, these things shape our identity¬†without notice. A subtle defining that happens slowly over time. Identity should be formed by the immovable or at a minimum something we’re willing to stake the risk on.

Here’s a brief list of what I’m counting on:

  1. God’s understanding
  2. My wife’s commitment
  3. My children’s love
  4. Friendship of a few
  5. Solitude

As you can see from my list, there are some things that could fail me. I don’t mind because I’m willing to take the risk. And oh, the heart-break that could ensue just the same. This is living.

Don’t count on what is fleeting and temporal. Marketing often bugs us to the contrary, but that’s just selling something we really don’t need.

Some New Year Advice

By now, you’ve probably seen a thousand articles on new year resolutions. This post is not one of them. I just want to give you some new year advice.

I’ve always believed that you know how to live your life, so my help is designed to come alongside of your journey and inspire.

Here’s my new year advice:

  1. Before you start with all of your resolutions, decide what’s most important to you, then decide what you want
  2. Be very skeptical of the voices who try to tell you that there’s a fast path to getting to where you want to go. Typically, these voices are dressed in celebrity/rock star clothing. Don’t be discouraged, though, the journey is worth the struggle
  3. Focus on being who you really are. For many, this is the toughest nut to crack. Sometimes we all feel the pull to be someone that our boss or potential client wants. We rationalize in our heads that it’s ok to “act” or “stretch.” The truth is you’ll never be able to sustain the show and eventually you will be recognized as a fake
  4. Surround yourself with people who love you and are not afraid of calling you on your BS
  5. Create space for your mind and soul to speak. By the way, everything above is supported by creating space for your mind and soul

If you need any help with the points in my post, reach out through the comments section or by email.

Are You Present for December?

Out in front of you is a window of time. For the sake of my post, December. The most important question, if the Lord allows, is whether you’ll be present.

Are you present for December?

All of your life in 31 days will be found in December. No exceptions, the happy, the sad, the fears, the events, and more. The question remains, are you present for December?

Many of us sprint through the days that create the months. Busy schedules, busy activities and our lives are wrapped in the doing. Tragically, the being part of life is left in the dust. One of my greatest challenges, and opportunities is reminding and teaching my family the art of being. My family is not unlike most when it comes to the struggle of being. In many ways, I play the resounding gong. A bell designed to remind and encourage the behavior of being.

What is being mean, anyway?

I practice being in the following ways:

  1. Doing absolutely nothing in silence. Many refer to this as mindfulness. I often practice this to hear from God
  2. Stopping to look around me and let my 5 senses take over
  3. Listening
  4. Practicing my art
  5. Romancing my memories. “>Central Park¬†comes to my mind right now

If you live in a place where “being” is a strange concept, you should take the risk and try it. Don’t worry, this is not something you do for hours. Think of it as adding salt to flavor. It’s something small that is really big.