Posts Tagged ‘life’

LEGACY 21: The Legacy of Asking Key Questions

July 13, 2018

It’s been several weeks since I’ve written a blog myself, but the idea for one popped up this morning when I awoke. We (my wife and I) are on our way to northwest Ohio (a 12-hour drive) to wrap up the affairs of her 93-year-old father, who died (preferable in my book to the somewhat euphemistic “passed”) this past Tuesday. In his waning days, he asked a relative, “What is the purpose of life?” The relative, definitely younger and less experienced in life, was taken aback and, not knowing how to answer, didn’t respond. She said she wished she had known what was going on and said something. I’m not sure that was the important thing. Can we ever really know if we say the right thing?

So I found myself thinking, “What are the key questions we should ask?”

What prompts us to ask? What is the purpose of asking? Do we really want answers? Or are we looking for something attendant—Relationship? Mere information? Satisfying our curiosity? (Why is it that children are always asking WHY? and we as adults stop asking?)

There are 2 kinds of questions—unimportant and important. Key questions definitely fit into the latter. But there are probably a host of questions that are important but not key. So let’s keep delving down into levels of importance and “key-ness.”

There are questions that identify information that matters, as opposed to trivia. There are questions that help influence decision-making. And there are questions that change our lives. I’m not a philosopher, so questions of epistemology (the theory of the nature of knowledge) I’m not qualified to begin to answer. How much can be known? The answer is the Question of the Ages: Who knows? (and if you respond in pat theological certainty, “God knows!”—how do you know that? And the begging questions, “Are there things He doesn’t know?” And on and on it goes…)

In my little, often-unknowing mind, there are a few KEY key questions for sure. My father-in-law asked one of them: “What is the purpose of life?” It can be asked in other ways or with other nuances: “Why am I here?” “How can I find meaning/significance?” “What do I need to be doing with my life?” Viktor Frankl’s 1946 book MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING (according to a 1991 survey conducted by the US Library of Congress and Book of the Month Club, one of the 10 Most Influential Books in the US. See Wikipedia under the term “MAN’S SEARCH FOR MEANING.” A humorous footnote: The archived article, from the NY Times, has 13 total books listed. Five of them, including Frankl’s, are tied for 9th place. There is no actual 10th place book.)

Key questions revolve around key needs: purpose, relationship, legacy. What will I leave behind? (Why do I blog? What do I gain by it?)

My father-in-law was one of the most purposeful and effective men I’ve ever met. He lived a full and productive life and left a great legacy for his family and his world.

I wish I could ask him now, “What did you mean by that question? Do you have an answer? Was it the answer you expected? Is it the answer you wanted?” and “Are you still asking questions? If so, why?” And perhaps the most important one for me, “What question should I be asking right now?”

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LEGACY 18: NOT Being AVERAGE

June 3, 2018

I think I found the point to the question my son raised about mm blogpost NOT FITTING THE MOLD, the question of what my point really was. My point was, and is, that I CHOOSE NOT to be AVERAGE. Gary M. (“Not Fitting the Mold”) is admirable to me in that respect.

Sometimes, we figure out what we want by realizing what we DON’T want.

Ironically, I found this answer become clear while reading an assignment for a mastermind group on Growth I’m in. (The entire quote is below, so you can read it if you like.)

I value differences (see my blogpost on Quirks), especially those which propel us to greatness, even if that greatness is not seen by many, or even not seen at all. Being extra-ordinary, “other than ordinary”, is great in multiple senses of the word. It is great in the common sense of “That’s great!” But it is also great in that it elevates us in the eyes of others (when seen) and elevates us in our sense of being significant whether seen or no. It creates its own grandeur.

Extraordinary is right. Extraordinary is good. Extraordinary is what brings change and growth and life and laughter and love. And being extraordinary requires a choice. It sometimes requires work, and sometimes requires swimming upstream.

My life has been very different than most. I would not trade that for anything. Being NOT AVERAGE in a great way is what I choose for my legacy. I choose being extra-ordinary.

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“Average” is what the failures claim to be when their family and friends ask them why they are not more          successful.

“Average” is the top of the bottom, the best of the worst, the bottom of the top, the worst of the best. Which of these are you?

“Average” means being run-of-the-mill, mediocre, insignificant, an also-ran, a nonentity.

Being “average” is the lazy person’s cop-out; it’s lacking the guts to take a stand in life; it’s living by default.

Being “average” is to take up space for no purpose; to take the trip through life, but never to pay the fare; to return no interest on God’s investment in you.

Being “average” is to pass one’s life away with time, rather than to pass one’s time away with life; it’s to kill time, rather than to work it to death.

To be “average” is to be forgotten once you pass from this life. The successful are remembered for their contributions; the failures are remembered because they tried; but the “average,” the silent majority, is just forgotten.

To be “average” is to commit the greatest crime one can against one’s self, humanity, and one’s God. The saddest epitaph is this: “Here lies Mr. and Ms. Average—here lies the remains of what might have been, except for their belief that they were only “average.”

–Edmund Gaudet, as quoted in Chapter 10, “The Law of the Rubber Band: Growth Stops When You Lose the Tension Between Where You Are and Where You Could Be,” THE 15 INVALUABLE LAWS OF GROWTH by John Maxwell (Hachette Book Group, 2012)

Happy People Don’t Write…Or Do They?

June 5, 2013

I find that when things are going well—when I’m happy—I don’t have the urge to write. Or perhaps it simply slides down or off the list of things I “really want to do.” When my two-year-grandson is with us, the sunshine, the sheer unabated joy of life he experiences, and even the intensity of the pains he feels, totally consume my thoughts, and I want to shut out everything else just to experience it. Writing a blogpost is the last thing on my mind.

I got some insight into this thru some sales training I’m taking (Sandler, for the record). It seems that, in statistical studies, people are motivated by a 2:1 factor by pain over other motivators. In other words, people buy to avoid pain at least twice as frequently as they do to satisfy any other need—pleasure, achieving a benefit, security, etc. And that seems to be human nature. It is the basis for most of the advertising media—create dissatisfaction, and people will buy.

So—I’m happy, therefore I don’t write. Simple.

Or is it? Yes, people are far less willing to buy into Pollyannaish stories than into Peyton Place, but still, there are genuinely happy stories to tell. Oftentimes, they are stories of overcoming some great pain—stories of courage, heroism, etc. Most of us really do like happy endings. But the key is in that phrase—“ending”—implying that there was an unhappier beginning, or middle. Every good story introduces conflict to move the plot.

So do happy people write? Sure they do. Maybe they just don’t get the publicity or the buy-in from people whose opinions seem to matter, but they do write. They may even be writing in private journals, pearls they hide away to keep them from being trampled on. Motivations for writing (or any creative art, for that matter) are as multitudinous as motivations for living, for relationships, or for being in business.

I write because I can. I write because it expresses me, it re-creates me, it grows me, it takes me places I’ve never been, and gives me thoughts I never had (this is one of them, in fact), and opens horizons of mind and relationship that would not have been there before. Writing is the vehicle to take me on a tour, around the world in 80 years—hey, I’m 75% there already. But I want the remaining 25% to eclipse the rest, just as the past year with my grandson has eclipsed the 59 that went before. I can’t explain it, but I can enjoy it.

And I can write about it, and maybe help someone else find their way into that joy.

Pooping, and Producing

April 9, 2013

My wife just bought a worm factory. Misnomer, if you ask me. It doesn’t manufacture worms. More like a worm farm, like the old ant farms, with the plexiglass walls where you could see them making tunnels and know that wasn’t how you wanted to live. This one isn’t clear—it’s a rust-brown square box made of stackable trays on legs, with a cover. (You can lift one of the trays and watch them clinging for life trying to reach the next level.)

You buy the factory/farm, then the worms separately, depending on your purpose in growing them. Ours is to get them to produce lots of poop and lots more worms, so they can produce even more poop. The poop is for composting in our garden and raised beds, and comes out the bottom at the side through a spigot designed just for that. (Probably more info than you care to know.) You have to feed them mixed “greens” (lettuce, carrots, etc.) and “browns” (coffee grounds, shredded newspaper, etc.), about a 50-50 mix. Supposedly they can multiply from 2,000 to 10,000 in just 16 weeks. (What’s that in a growth index, assuming you can keep the J-curve going? Something like 125,000% in a year?)

But it struck me that this contains a lot of analogies for our lives, and our businesses. We all want to thrive, to eat well, to have the right mix of “greens” (the growing and productive parts) and “browns” (the dying and discarded parts). We want to climb to the next level, not even knowing what that means sometimes, in the dark of unknowing, but still knowing we have to climb. We “poop” and produce—we’re born to both, and hopefully our “poop” makes someone’s garden productive.

Most of all, we serve a purpose not our own. We give our lives for the sake of those we invest in. We find value in our darknesses, and we yearn to go “from glory to glory, in ever increasing glory.” We are meant to, and we find our highest purpose there. Pooping, and producing.

“A Rock Feels No Pain…” BUT

February 3, 2013

I woke early this morning with the final lines of old Simon & Garfunkel song “I Am A Rock” playing in my mind—the part they play slowly at the end: “…and a rock feels no pain, and an island never cries”—an appealing thought to many in our society, especially when the pain has been great, and the tears many.

Still, not feeling pain can be a bad thing, as lepers and paralytics know—it can lead to physical damage to body parts that fail to respond to stimuli, and can result in infections, sickness, even gangrene and death. (I know this personally from the death of my first wife, but that’s another story for another time.) And never crying can lead to psychological constipation and emotionally stunted growth, and who knows what else. Pain and trauma internalized can be tragic.

But even more tragic are the things that are missed. A rock never gives birth to a child, an idea, or a business. A rock never experiences the pleasures of life or the blessings that pain can sometimes bring. An island cannot cry tears of joy either. A rock never moves or grows or changes. An island doesn’t multiply, or grow families, or have dinner with anyone.

I don’t want to be a rock, eroding slowly, almost eternally, only becoming sand after eons. Not for me the eternal life of the Cumaean Sybil, who forgot to ask for eternal youth, shriveling up until eventually she was placed into a jar.

I want to live and breathe and laugh and cry. I want to feel pain enough to know what true joy is. And one day I want to die gloriously, even if it’s in my sleep. Meanwhile, I want to know people to the fullest—even those who fail me, intentionally or not.

And if I am not remembered in a hundred years, what I have done that is good will still live on in the lives of those who followed, and those whom they blessed and carried on.

I love stories of people who find encouragement in some of the bleakest circumstances, who take lemons and make lemonade—and then set up a stand and sell it, or even give it away. Aron Ralston, who spent 127 hours with his arm trapped by an 800-pound boulder, and who had to cut it off to escape. The rugby players who endured 72 days in the Andes and had to resort to cannibalism to survive. Corrie ten Boom’s sister Betsie, who, in the horrors of a Nazi concentration camp, was able to be thankful for fleas—simply because it meant it kept the guards out, and allowed them to pray, and sing, and fellowship, and to be safe for a moment. She died before getting out—but Corrie lived to tell. The stories like those in Ben Sherwood’s book The Survivors’ Club. Victor Frankl’s story in Man’s Search for Meaning. Bill Strickland’s Making the Impossible Possible. The list goes on and on. I love rambling through the archives in the caverns of my mind.

Life is good. All of life. Somehow. Some way. I know there is a lot of bad—but life IS good! And feeling—and feelings—help make it so. I’m not a rock—thankfully. To re-paint Descartes, “I feel, therefore I am.”

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.

–James 1:2,12 in THE MESSAGE [Peterson]