Step Into "What's Next" with Integrity and Intention
A 100-year-old Stayman Winesap apple tree in full bloom is a pretty majestic sight.
That's all my wife and I remembered from a tour of the 38-acre farm in Check, Virginia that we purchased soon afterward.
We raised our two sons there, in addition to dogs, cats, chickens, fruit trees, berry bushes, a vegetable garden and more than a few eyebrows.
Every year the apple tree bore fruit in such abundance that we couldn't keep up with processing and canning apples or pressing them into cider. The boys spent endless hours climbing that tree. My wife spent countless hours gazing out at it from her office window.
One spring, the apple tree was so loaded with blooms that it visibly vibrated with the pollination activity of bees. The limbs became so loaded with apples that they had to be propped up with two-by-fours.
The very next year the tree was obviously in distress. It appeared to be dying. My wife and I, and our boys, were devastated.
We called the county agricultural agent out to take a...
“I’m not good enough.” Or, “I’m a work in progress.”
“I’m stuck.” Or, “I’m ready!”
“I can’t catch a break.” Or, “There’s opportunity in every obstacle.”
“I’m scared.” Or, “Isn’t that interesting...?”
“No one ever helps me.” Or, “Let’s go!”
“I don’t deserve more.” Or, “I am worthy.”
“I must put my family first.” Or, “I must take care of myself to best serve others.”
“I need to learn more.” Or, “I know enough to start.”
“I don’t know how to start.” Or, “I’ll start where I am.”
“What if I fail?” Or, “Failure is not fatal.”
“What’ll people think?” Or, “Shun the non-believers.”
“I can’t afford the time or...
Grace is the act of extending forgiveness or mercy. The word itself comes from the same root as that of gratitude and is embedded deeply into the practice of generosity. Grace requires and promotes excellence of character which includes both moral virtue and ethical will.
Grace is central to many of the world’s religions and most impactful social movements. Turning the other cheek, forgiving those who harm you, and embracing anguish and misfortune are powerful and moving responses to trying situations.
Nothing is more challenging than the pursuit and practice of grace. That’s why it’s so valued and worth your persistent effort.
Only grace leads to enlightenment, wisdom, and transcendence. And grace begins with you.
How can you possibly extend forgiveness and mercy to others if you can’t yet extend them to yourself? You are an imperfect being. A broken vessel carrying around a fragile soul. Be kind to yourself, and it will be much easier to extend kindness to...
“Happiness and freedom begin with a clear understanding of one principle. Some things are within our control, and some things are not.” - Epictetus
Agency is as intoxicating as it is elusive. When the breaks go your way, it’s easy to believe it’s due to your intelligence and planning. When things go awry, it’s easy to blame others or fate.
The truth is, very little within your control, but at the same time, you do control everything required to maintain your sense of well-being and prosperity.
You ultimately control only two things. You determine how you choose to perceive yourself, others, and your situation. You also control what you decide to do next.
Everything else is beyond your control.
Your body is subject to disease, decline, and ultimately death. The attitude and behavior of others are for them to decide, not you. And there are forces far more powerful than you at work in the social, political, economic, cultural, and geographical arenas.
Is “what happens next” due to fate or the exercise of your free will?
It's comforting to believe you control what happens next. But do you? What if what happens next has already been decided? What if everything that happens is fated?
"My formula for greatness in a human being is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity." - Friedrich Nietzsche
Why not love fate? A life that is fated does not imply that it just happens to you. Life also happens through you.
In a fated cosmos, you may be a tiny cog in the machinery of the universe, but you still have a vital role to play.
Past events alone don't determine your future. You can, and should, be an active participant in your life now. How your life proceeds may be fated, but it also reflects your character. Why not do your best and let what unfolds be what it will be?
Acceptance of what happens next is the path to well-being in your endeavor. This doesn’t make you...
Art transforms culture. Art elevates and enhances generations. Philosophy and jazz are just two examples of art that changed the culture in which they were born.
Yet when these arts were dragged into the halls of academia to be dissected and disseminated, they died. Sure, you can argue that within the halls of academia philosophy and jazz are on life support. But in the popular context, they are all but extinguished.
This isn't a rant against teachers. Teachers matter. In fact, teachers are vital. If you want to learn anything worth doing, you must learn from those who already do it. But you don't have to go get schooled in an academic institution to learn about the art of living or how to swing.
In fact, I'm asserting you shouldn't.
In order to systematize, institutionalize, and monetize a subject, academics take it apart, prioritize the pieces, and codify them into a curriculum. They put the subject under glass. Nothing thrives under glass or this kind of...
Contemplating life's big questions can make you really uncomfortable. But if you seek meaning and significance, it's worth it.
Here are some that I've asked myself many times:
And the answers I arrive at are never final. They change with the situations, the scenery, and the souls I'm surrounded by through each season of my life.
Here's a process you may find helpful for assessing your current level of satisfaction with important aspects of your life and how well balanced it currently is.
There are questions worth asking yourself and processes worth considering.
What questions are you asking yourself today? What process are you using to answer them?
Keep Flying Higher!
BTW, in my upcoming book, Endeavor, I begin with these three questions:
Endeavor also explores a process for thriving through work that...
In the game of life, are you playing a finite game or an infinite game?
James Carse's short book about this is worth tracking down and reading.
The Finite Game Approach to Life
A finite game has clear rules and ends with clear winners and clear losers.
Winning a finite game of life means following the rules. Do as you're told, get schooled, get a job, get promoted, get married, have kids, get a big house, buy a lot of stuff, etc. This game ends in fortune and status.
That is if you win.
But in order for you and your "team" to win, others and their team must lose.
You know people who are playing the finite game of life. Are they the happiest, healthiest, and most human folks you know?
A finite game isn't very satisfying because it's out of alignment with our natural impulse to present, grateful, and serve others.
A Different Approach - The Infinite Game of Life
An infinite game has a different intent, to be able to keep playing. This can only happen if...
What's your relationship with adversity? What's your posture when faced with a problem? How about your mindset when misfortune comes to call?
I say, "Bring it!"
Seriously, life's inevitable trials and tribulations are opportunities.
"It is difficulties that show what people are." - Epictetus
Having trouble finding your virtue? Your moral compass? Need to get back to first principles and your guiding values? Struggle and trouble reveal who you really are, and help inform the better you. Even in defeat or failure, you can cultivate character and resilience.
"You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it." - Maya Angelou
Don't flee or hide from tough or trying times. Seek them out. Embrace them.
"Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better." - Samuel Beckett
You may well...
Is a sure thing worth pursuing?
What dream or desire would you pursue if its achievement was guaranteed? Go ahead, dream big. Tap your deepest desire.
Now, would an assurance really guarantee your pursuit of that dream or desire? I don't think so.
Work that's worth it can't come with a guarantee because it's the striving that infuses it with meaning and value. Leaning into the work with curiosity and courage helps you forge meaning. Leaping into the arena builds character and resiliency.
Facing fear and uncertainty sharpens the focus and cuts through the noise. The struggle matters because it measures the worth of the work and helps you build its (and your), identity.
You don't need a guarantee, you need to get going. What's stopping you? I guarantee it's not a lack of assurance.
Keep flying higher!