The Success in Failure

“It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.”  Franklin D. Roosevelt

Success happens 99% of the time after you’ve failed and given up on some possibilities.  Yes, it’s important to know when to give up. When it comes to life persistence is a big part of being successful.    Einstein, Michelangelo and Thomas Edison all did some amazing things.  It’s said that Edison tried over 100 times to make the light bulb work.  He could have tried and tried to make #52 work, but it just wouldn’t so he had to know when to stop and move on to #53.  We too have to know when it’s been enough and we have to stop and accept failure.

But as Roosevelt and others have pointed out, a failure is only that so long as you don’t get up and move on.

I’m a big believer in allowing failures.  We’re not perfect.  The sooner we admit and accept that the sooner we can start working towards the successes.  It’s OK to admit you married the wrong person, you’re in the wrong job, you made a bad decision with your last hair cut or tattoo, or you need to be a better parent.  It’s not OK to leave the bad stuff alone and keep on living as is.  When we live stagnant lives we become apathetic and feel unfulfilled in life.  I know, I’ve been there.  Maybe you’re there.

If you are there, feeling stuck and unfulfilled, the first step is to discover what the failure is.  Then it’s time to take action.  It’s great to know what the problem is but if you don’t do anything about it, it’s not really worth the trouble of figuring out what’s wrong.  Then you have to make changes to the way you’ve been going about the situation.  If you’re tired of being overweight you need to make a change in your eating, exercising or life habits.  If you’re unhappy in your relationship you need to discuss it with your partner, work on it with a coach/pastor/therapist, or choose to go your separate ways.

Failure and success are both normal parts of our lives that we need to accept and work with.  Don’t give up because you failed, try again because there’s another way to do things.

Learning Kindness

“Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.”  Matthew 7:12

This verse is a challenging one for all of us.  Sure it’s easy to those who are nice to you, but it’s not so easy to be kind to those who are rude to you.  It is a huge opportunity for those of us who are Christians or people of faith to show people what it really means to have spiritual beliefs, and not perpetuate the sad truths that have made their way through society in the past that have gotten so many people labeled as hypocrites.  The unfortunate thing in all this is we haven’t treated people as well as we could have.  We’ve judged them before we’ve known everything, and we’ve been less-than-shining examples of Jesus.

If we all treated others with respect and dignity simply because they were human beings like ourselves, can you imagine how much would change?  I’ve been seeing this change in business over the past few years.  It’s slow but it’s definitely developing a stronger presence. I’ve seen fewer scam businesses be successful, more action taken against them and more bad leaders sent packing.  I’ve also seen the awareness growing that we can’t be isolated but need physical contact and connection with other people.

No, people aren’t perfect. I’m not, and I’ll guess that you probably have a fault or two.  That’s OK, I don’t mind that we’re not perfect.  I appreciate being able to extend forgiveness and grace, and receiving it as well.  I also appreciate being able to learn from our mistakes, wouldn’t life be boring if we got it right the first time?

One final thing to consider: this verse in Matthew doesn’t assume or state that others will immediately respond in kind.  In our world kindness needs to be learned.  We don’t all accept that others are kind, we’re often suspicious of the kindness that others extend to us.  This week do your best to treat others with respect in ways that you want to be treated.  Over time you’ll see people’s attitudes and actions towards you changing for the better.

A Reward for Kindness

“David, my son—is that you?” Saul asked. Then he started crying and said: “David, you’re a better person than I am. You treated me with kindness, even though I’ve been cruel to you.  You’ve told me how you were kind enough not to kill me when the Lord gave you the chance.  If you really were my enemy, you wouldn’t have let me leave here alive. I pray that the Lord will give you a big reward for what you did today.”  1 Samuel 24:16-19

David and Saul had a thing going.  Some would call it a rivalry, but David didn’t really hate Saul, he was just scared for his life because God wanted him to be king instead of Saul, and Saul didn’t like that one bit.  To add to the problems, the people of Saul’s kingdom were siding with David, and David was well-known for his military prowess, as well as his solid relationship with God.  When we meet our two main characters in 1 Samuel 24 David just had the opportunity to kill Saul but he didn’t.

It brings us to our topic of the month: kindness and the reward we get for being kind.  Sometimes it’s easy to be kind, like to the mom with her arms full with a baby carrier struggling to open the door at the coffee shop.  It’s not so easy when we’re asked to set aside a rivalry that we’ve had for years or even generations and forgive someone.

But that’s the power of kindness: it enables us and gives us the strength to be the bigger person.  And, as we’ve seen here, the kind acts we do can even teach others about kindness and transform who they are.  No, it doesn’t always work that way, nor was this the end of the interactions between David and Saul.

But it creates one of my favorite things: hope.  Yes, when that kind of kindness is introduced anything is possible.  It becomes possible to get out of your prison, it becomes possible to mend a relationship.  It becomes possible to have an impact on your family, your community, your nation, your world.  Maybe you won’t have the impact of Mother Teresa or Martin Luther King Jr, but that doesn’t mean that the kindnesses you do would go unnoticed.

God notices the kindnesses you do and will reward you for them. No, we shouldn’t do them to be rewarded, we should do them because it’s right.  But the reward we will receive is like the ice cream with apple pie.  It goes above and beyond the awesome feeling of being able to do something good for our fellow man.

This week I encourage you to do something good for someone else, maybe even someone else who can’t repay you for the kindness you’ve done. Of course, I’d love to hear all about the kind acts you do, share them in the comments so we can all celebrate together!

Bright Ideas from Benjamin Franklin

One of the great men of America, Benjamin Franklin, celebrates his birthday in January, January 17 to be precise.  As I was looking for some inspiration to share with you, I found too many good bits of wisdom to only choose one (for now anyway, I may share more on them individually in the future).  So here are some of the wise sayings of Ben Franklin:

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

“We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.”

“Remember not only to say the right thing in the right place, but far more difficult still, to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting moment.”

“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”

“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.”

“Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of.”

Qualities of a Lifetime

“It is important to work on those limitless qualities that will be valuable beyond this lifetime”  Dalai Lama

This month if you’ve been following along we’ve been talking about kindness.  We often focus on the tangible, like the money in our bank account, the spouse that just left us, the kids who are misbehaving, the food we are eating and the work we’ve got.  But what we often forget is that at it’s very essence, the tangible is made up of and directly affected by the intangible.  You may not think your attitude has anything to do with your marketing campaign’s failure, or customers asking to speak with someone else, or complaints thrown around the home, but your attitude and other intangibles like it are what most of the time make or break us.

In fact, it’s those intangibles that make us who we are.  As much as we may look different on the outside, it’s really what’s inside that makes us different, and our outside is a reflection of that.

When it comes down to it your skills and abilities may very well someday become outdated, like the computers we used in 1990, or the houses people lived in throughout Medieval Europe.  But your ability to be kind, your ability to love someone, your ability to learn something new, your ability to be patient, your ability to be confident, these will never be outdated.  In fact, they can often be the factor that enables you to be chosen over someone else.

Don’t get me wrong, learning new skills and trades is important, as is keeping up with what’s current.  But as much as we need to work on those things, even more than that we need to work on our ability to connect with people, our communication skills, and things like kindness, love and honesty.  Maybe it won’t add a measurable amount to your bottom line (unless you’re a CHO (chief happiness officer)), but not only will you feel more fulfilled and satisfied with your life, others will want to be around you too.

What are your best intangible qualities?

Future Greatness

“I am the Lord, who opened a way through the waters, making a dry path through the sea. “But forget all that— it is nothing compared to what I am going to do. For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it? I will make a pathway through the wilderness. I will create rivers in the dry wasteland.””  Isaiah 43:16, 18-19

If we take a look back into our lives we can hopefully see that God has done some amazing things in our lives.  I know I can see that in mine.  God has really blessed me thus far, and I’m very thankful.  But sometimes we can get stuck in what God has done or what has happened to us in the past.  It’s OK to celebrate and remember those things, take for example the celebration of Martin Luther King Jr’s life every year, and countless others celebrated every year.  Why do we bring them up again and again?

Sometimes it’s good to be reminded of the good that has happened, especially when things aren’t going so well.  But sometimes we get stuck in where we are, or in how amazing the past was. Apparently the 1920’s were amazing, and I’ve heard that the ancient Kings of Egypt had some awesome stories to tell.  But we’re not in 1920, nor are we in BC time.  We’re here in 2014, heading towards 2015, 2016, 2050 and beyond, we can’t go back.

What we need to remember more often is that God is the God of yesterday, today and tomorrow.  God isn’t done yet.  He’s still got some amazing things up his sleeves.  But if we restrict him to being a God of what has happened and not of what is to come, we’re missing a big part of who He is.  He is all about taking us from where we are and bringing us to much more amazing places.

Will you open your mind and life to the amazing future God has for you?

The Burden of Hate

“I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Martin Luther King Jr. was a great man and I’m thankful for another opportunity to celebrate him again this week coming up.  The funny thing about this quote is that hate and those other negative emotions do feel heavy physically.  It’s tiring to carry a burden of hating someone around with you.  Your focus on the wrong they’ve done, what was done to you, or how you’re feeling totally takes over and overwhelms everything else in your life.

On the other hand, when you do a good deed for someone else you feel light and free.  Which allows you to continue on with your day and accomplish your other responsibilities well.  Beyond that, you don’t spread a bad mood to everyone else you come into contact with.

But back to hate being a burden, we honestly have plenty of other things going on in our lives that demand our undivided attention and energy, that it’s really quite dumb to waste the time and energy on hate.  Yes, it may feel good for a couple of minutes, but that endless parade of hateful thoughts circling your brain gets annoying after a while.

When you decide to stick with love, your world opens up to unmentionable potential and possibilities.  No one wants to work with or hire someone with a chip on their shoulder, but everyone wants to work with someone who contributes a positive attitude, lots of energy and great work ethic.  When you choose to see the potential in the world around you instead of all that has gone wrong, it’s like the sky opening up after the rain.

Love in itself is a burden, but one of the best: one that has to be shared with others.  But hate can ruin more lives than can be anticipated.  What will you choose, love or hate?

Dependability of Kindness

“As small children we very much depend on the kindness of our parents.  Again in old age we depend on the kindness of others.  Between childhood and old age we falsely believe we are independent, but this is not so.” Dalai Lama

I’m a very independent person.  I love my space, can’t work well when others are popping in and out of my space and would prefer a quiet walk over attending a crowded party most days.  But the longer I am with my partner and the more time I spend around kids, the more noticeable it is when they aren’t around.  I still love my space and always will, but nothing can replace the gift of spending time with someone who loves life.

Our society has done a very good job of keeping us connected and dependent on each other, from the complications of technology to the amazing service that the men and women of the cleanup crews provide, there’s no way we could survive without others. But we choose to see ourselves as separate entities and not dependent on each other.  It’s one reason some of the senior citizens are reluctant to enter homes or communities that would help them thrive in their last years.

Part of the reason for our distrust of the kindness of others is that they have let us down.  Yes, I’ve been let down many times before, and I will be again in the future.  But I continue to believe that we’re better off together than we ever are apart.  And when we learn how to work together we’ll be in even better shape.

This week I encourage you to open your heart up a little bit and put some extra dependence on someone you trust, like your partner or a close friend.  They don’t have to take over your life, just give them a part of it that you would usually be responsible for and trust them to do it for you.  If you do it with your partner it can be a trust building activity as they can have you do something in return too.

New Life in Christ

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!”
2 Corinthians 5:17

I can remember being a young Christian and being amazed at how fresh and exciting everything seemed to be.  I may have been a bit blind to the wrong doings in the world then, but even still if I stop and take a good look around me I can strip off the layer that is put on everything by the world and see that new potential that is only found in a relationship with God.

But beyond this each of us has past lives.  We’ve all done things that we wish we hadn’t in our lifetime.  We’ve all had moments that we’ve not been proud of that (should) put us to shame.  If we can take these moments and learn from them we’ll be able to build a far better future than we could dream of at present.

When we have the opportunity to choose a new life or fresh start however, many of us shy away.  We say ‘it’s too hard’ ‘I’m scared’ ‘I could never do that’ or ‘it won’t work.’  When we choose to take this perspective on things, no, we definitely won’t find success in the new opportunity.

When we talk about having an old life and a new life, the biggest challenge is in letting the past be memories and not huge influences in everything we do.  We can learn from the past, but the past should only shape us to a point.  I encourage you this week to spend time in conversations with God about the new life and exciting plans He has for you.

Building Bridges

“We build too many walls and not enough bridges.”  Isaac Newton

This is definitely a theme for me in my life and something I constantly struggle with.  I’m a big bridge builder and cliff connector, but so many people want to put up walls and be separate.  But when we’re all islands and nothing connects us nothing gets done well.  When we choose to work together is when the possibilities become endless.  I’ll definitely be challenging myself, and you too, this year to build bridges.

Newton does make a point that we make a lot of walls in our lives, and I have to say I have some myself.  I do my very best to leave my work at my desk and not bring it with me when I’m spending time with my partner or my friends. I don’t need to know every little detail of people’s lives, so I don’t spend a lot of personal time on social media, but I love having the ability to quickly and easily connect with a friend or two who doesn’t live close by and I can’t see often.  I don’t need to know all the details of your life and you don’t need to know all of mine, so in some places walls are good things.

But when we’re struggling walls are the worst things for us.  When we cut ourselves off from help and rescue we’ll continue to suffer.  There are some things we need to work through ourselves (I can’t lose weight for you), but that doesn’t mean I can’t encourage you and support you in your struggle (like take a walk with you).

When we choose to make bridges rather than burn them we create the network of connections that never ceases to amaze me.  It’s that network that makes discoveries like those Newton made become so much more than he could have ever done alone.  What areas of your life do you need to build, or rebuild, bridges in?