Exploring the World from Home

One of the more interesting things that has emerged from this crazy situation are all of the virtual tours you can do now. I did a fair amount of traveling around the US as a child, and those will always be great memories and I look forward to doing more traveling sometime in the future. But I don’t know that the experience of being in some places is worth the expense and risk and other stuff that you have to go through in order to get there, especially if you’ve never been to that place before and don’t know if you’ll like it. Yes, as I said there’s something to be said for going to the places where other people walked and lived and experiencing it first hand, and you won’t make the same memories with family and friends sitting on the couch as you would on your journey to or at that destination.

But we’re given the opportunity now to explore national parks, museums, architectural locations and lots of fun animal-focused destinations at home right now and that means that we’re given the opportunity to see and learn things that we might not have learned otherwise. I’m not opposed to those locations asking for an email to access the content or even encouraging or suggesting donations or requiring a small fee. I believe that it would more than make up for the loss of the regular fees that many organizations are missing out on right now because people aren’t traveling. Also, having that virtual experience at little or no cost first could also lead to people wanting to experience it in person, to wanting to buy merchandise or other experiences, neither of which may have been a possibility before.

I know this sounds like it belongs on my other blog where I talk at least once weekly about business topics, and while it could, my inspiration for this post is really about being excited with how much of the world we’re able to explore thanks to technology, and how thankful I am to be part of this very diverse world that we live in. This isn’t about pivoting (I’m super tired of hearing that word), it’s about sharing all the amazing things in this world with as many people as possible. I think we’ve all gained an appreciation for our world and all the amazing things in it during this time, both from learning what’s out there thanks to our virtual-only dependence, and from having our normal lives put on hold which gave us additional time to explore other things.

I hope that we remain as curious, connected and community-oriented as we’ve worked to become these past few months as we head into the future.  What have you learned about the world we share during these months?

Reality Reflection: Questions and Faith

One of the secrets of success is asking questions. It’s something I’ve learned the hard way, either in trying to work with clients or in having a healthy relationship with my significant other, but going the extra mile in some cases to ask a question (or three) is usually worth it because it means I’m not repeating anything or having to redo something. But lately we’ve been dealing with a question that doesn’t have an answer, or at least not a good one: this virus that’s sweeping the globe. It has given me a new appreciation for families who are dealing with cancer and other currently unfixable or not easily fixed disabilities or illnesses, including Alzheimers which we’ve dealt with in my family. It’s tough to face a question that you can’t answer or get answers to and there are so many unknowns at this point, and so many people affected or potentially going to be affected.

Everyone faces some challenges in their life, some of us seem to be gifted more challenges than others. We all have to decide how we’re going to face those challenges and how we’re going to deal with questions that we just can’t answer at this time. We shouldn’t handle each challenge with the same action steps or plan of attack, because each challenge is different. This virus has taught us though that it’s important to have some items in stock with at least a month’s supply and to have a bigger plan about work and school and other things that could be impacted by a challenge.

We have to decide if the questions that we raise are really that important to answer, and if so how can we individually and collectively make steps, baby or big, in the direction of finding out what is or isn’t true and what the answer is to the question. As part of that investigation, we have to consider whether we’re even asking the right question(s) or if there are other questions that better address what we’re dealing with or questions that have to be answered before we can get to the question that’s really on our minds.

Some questions we may struggle with for our entire lives and never really come up with any good answers, and I think that’s part of life. We’re not all knowing (that’s God’s job), and some things are beyond our ability to understand. One thing I’ve been blessed to not question seriously throughout my life is my faith. Sure, I have moments that I don’t know where things are going or I can’t see how they’re really going to resolve themselves or I’ve dealt with depression, but time and again God has sent me a little reminder, reassured me or been the one constant that’s been there through anything.

As we head into Holy Week on Sunday with Palm Sunday, all the questions and uncertainty we’re dealing with right now and how very different this Easter will be from past Easters, I’ve decided to share a post a day for the week, starting on Palm Sunday and ending on Saturday before Easter (with an Easter post on Monday since many churches and faith leaders will be sharing special messages around the internet on Sunday). We’ll take a look at some of Jesus’ story, the Holy Week events, and discuss some of the topics that we’re dealing with as a world right now in this unique situation.

It’s important right now to keep the faith and believe in our ability to get through this together, even as physically separated as we are.  With the free time and different situations we’re facing, it’s a good time to be asking questions and really working through the answers so that you’re prepared for what may happen in the future.  And if I’m asking one question right now more than any other, it would be for God to send an Easter miracle to our world.

Reality Reflection: Reality is Complex

Today my partner and I were out doing some grocery shopping at my favorite fresh food market (basically an indoor/winter version of a farmer’s market or farm stand) and we had a conversation about the violence in the world. We discussed if social media has been responsible for an uptick in violence (having a platform to share it with everyone) or if there isn’t really more violence and we’re just more aware of it because of social media and the news, or if there isn’t more violence but people are more apt to tell someone about the violence they’re experiencing, or if in fact the world is a more violent place, perhaps because of shorter tempers and less patience and more interaction between different people.

While we didn’t reach any real conclusions or even do any searches to see if in fact any research had been done on this topic, we settled on the fact that it’s probably a combination of these, and all of those things are really a reflection on the ways that life has changed over the decades since this country was officially founded. But as I was watching a TV show tonight and thinking about the incredibly complex and innovative things that people have done over the centuries like build the pyramids, dig tunnels, build impressive and detailed buildings, create detailed burial complexes, and endure through challenges of daily life without any of the modern technology or advantages that we often take for granted, it got me thinking about how maybe life has always been complicated and complex, but we’re only able to reveal exactly how sophisticated we’ve always been and still are now.

Yes, sometimes it’s as simple as “I was hungry so I ate the only thing I had in the house” or “I love you” (love has no real rational basis or logic as to how it’s established), but for just about everything else when it comes to people it’s not simple and there are so many sides and layers to the story, some that you may never be able to figure out or understand. Assuming that it’s as simple as face value or that someone doesn’t have a history could be a serious mistake, something that could hurt you or someone else. Maybe the safe answer is to assume it’s complicated and complex and do your best to be impatient and understand as well as you can with the information you’ve got now, and know that as more information is revealed you’ll have to adjust your understanding.

Reality Reflection: A Little More

This past week I noticed that some people took the first few days of the year off. Many would have had to start back in some capacity after the New Year, but for some reason I didn’t see as many people out and about on the first days of the year as I remember seeing in the past. For whatever reason people decided not to dive back into life full throttle after the New Year, but instead took a step back and took a little more time for themselves and their families.

Sometimes the best thing we can do is take or give a little more for ourselves. I don’t think that 2020 is going to be about being selfish, but perhaps about being more conscious and considerate about how we’re living and what’s really important. It may be the year when we finally start making some decisions and acting on them regarding how we’re living and treating each other. Maybe this will be the year that we all get a little more aligned with what we’re here to do and how to live our purpose in such a dynamic world.

What do you need a little more of? Is it something you can just take a couple of days and be refreshed? Is it something that you have to make some sacrifices to get to? Is it something you have been avoiding for a while? Is it simply time to step up and do something different in your life? What would make you most comfortable and confident going into this new year and new decade? If you haven’t made time yet this year or leading up to this year, I encourage you to take some time for reflection and planning, and think about your life and where you really want to go from here and how to get there.

Exploring with God

Monday in the US was the day that’s historically celebrated Christopher Columbus, and in recent years has also been called Indigenous Peoples Day. Personally I would make Indigenous Peoples Day another day in the year, and if we’re not wanting to name a day specifically after Columbus, to name this past Monday Explorer’s Day or something like that because the men (and women) who were part of the great exploration of the world should be recognized, because without them many of us in the US and around the world wouldn’t be where we are without them.

As I was thinking about explorers like Columbus, I got to thinking about how many people throughout the Bible traveled or were called by God to travel. Abraham traveled, Joseph traveled, the Israelites traveled, Ruth traveled, the prophets traveled, Jonah traveled, Jesus traveled, Saul/Paul traveled, many other disciples traveled, just to name a few of the well-known figures in the Bible. Some of these people traveled because their life necessitated it, others traveled because God called them to travel for reasons of ministry.

Sometimes what’s necessary for us to really discover who we are and to see the plan of God for our lives, is for us to get out of our comfort zones. Yes, God sends us wherever we are told to go to share about Him with the people there, but as Jonah learned, the journey can sometimes be as much for us as it is for them. Exploring can be fun and exciting, it can also cause some stress and discomfort, especially if you’ve got the wrong attitude or a closed heart going into the adventure.

Most of us will come to at least one point in our journey where we’re faced with the option to go out into the world and open ourselves to others and possible changes, or choose to stay where we’re at. I think we should all choose to take the opportunity to explore at least once in our lives and see what God wants to teach us or how He wants to use us through that experience. There’s nothing technically wrong with sticking with the status quo in your life and not wanting changes, but often changes happen whether we want them to or not. Being open to changes and to the experiences God has in store for us will help smooth our explorations and help us better connect with those we meet along the way.

If you’re exploring right now I invite you to share your experiences and words of wisdom for those who may be struggling with their own journey.

Reality Reflection: Out of control

It’s amazing how quickly things can sometimes spiral out of control. You say you’re just going to do one more thing and six more pop up that really need to be done that day. Or you mis-speak about something or someone mis-hears you and someone feels offended and it gets blown completely out of proportion. Or one person struggles with slick roads and it turns into a 5 car pile up. Or the weather is completely unseasonal and your family reunion plans are ruined. Or you use one wrong ingredient and the whole dish is ruined. Some of these things we have an easier time avoiding or fixing or dealing with, but for many of them we have to give recovery our best effort.

The thing about control is that you can try and be in control, and you can in fact be in control, but if someone else gets out of control you can’t do much about that except try to react or respond in the best way. In the example of communication I used earlier, it’s so easy to get caught up in a conversation and think you hear something and react instead of pausing and thinking about if you really heard what you heard and asking for clarification before forming an opinion or reacting negatively. So when it comes down to it, the better control you have, the easier it will be to stop a situation before it does spiral out of control.

It’s not about trying to be in control all of the time, if you try for that you’ll end up crazy and live such a regimented life that you miss out on a lot of adventures that the world has to offer, not to mention you won’t meet some of the cool people out there if you only focus on controlling yourself. So the question is, how good is your control? Can you stop yourself from watching another TV episode if you know you really should to do something else? Are you able to get focused on something when you really need to? Are you able to say both no and yes depending on which a situation calls for?  Are you able to let go of that control and be free and fun as the occasion calls for?  Is control a tool you use or is it controlling you?

Reality Reflection: Faithful to the Moment

For the past couple of days I’ve been thinking about the topic of being faithful. I’ve also been dealing with a headache that just won’t seem to give up, no matter what I try. As I had a tiny bit of relief tonight and was still reflecting on the topic of being faithful, I realized that sometimes being faithful means that you have to not be the person you usually are. Sometimes being faithful means doing what’s needed or right, even if it means taking some time off or turning down a responsibility or opportunity you would normally jump at.

Are you being faithful in your life right now or stubborn? It’s OK to push through sometimes, but other times what you really need to do is something different. As much as faithful is about being “true to one’s word,” “reliable,” and “dependable,” faithful is also about being steady in allegiance. So sometimes that allegiance can be with regards to being faithful to who you typically are, the responsible, caring, considerate, outgoing, giving person. But other times that allegiance needs to be to your needs at that moment.

This week I encourage you to be open to hearing, believing and doing more than just what you typically do. Break away from the patterns that normally serve you well and embrace spontaneity, do what feels right in the moment, or just explore something that you’ve taken for granted for a long time. Your life won’t fall apart for doing things differently for an hour or two or even a day or two, and you might even learn something from being faithful to the moment.

Reality Reflection: America is Awesome

As I was thinking about what to write today I discovered that National Park Week ends on Sunday.  National Park Week is a great reminder each year of the natural treasures we’ve got here in the US, and an invitation for us to not only visit them but support them too by volunteering on some upkeep and other projects at the parks.  With over 400 National Park affiliated areas around the US, there’s a really good chance that you can check out at least one in the next few months, or make one part of your summer travel plans.

Visiting National Parks as a kid with my family was definitely a highlight of the vacations we took together, especially some of the ones that aren’t household names like the Black Hills and Salem Massachusetts.  I still love getting out in nature as an adult and visiting some of these places that were discovered and enjoyed by many generations that came before me. One of the cool things about National Parks is that if you don’t want to get into the history there’s tons of great nature to explore without ever having to hear about the history side of things, but there’s lots of history if you want to get into it.

But after exploring the National Parks, you’re usually hungry, and there are some really awesome restaurants around the US to enjoy. Shows like Best Thing I Ever Ate; Diners, Drive-ins and Dives; and Food Paradise give viewers a look into some of the best and unique eats around the US. I’m always amazed when I watch shows like these because there are so many different recipes for the same food favorites and takes on classics that you could easily eat something different every day for the rest of your life and not repeat at any one restaurant (even if you might want to). There are so many chefs around America that are doing great things with food, whether you’re looking for vegan, Mexican, fried, salads, sandwiches or classics, whether you’re looking for a great sit-down meal or something on the go, that it’s impossible to give them all credit, but we can try.

I’m so thankful that we’ve got so many awesome opportunities to enjoy life and food here in America, what are your favorites?

Reality Reflections: Pictures and People

I understand that some people only respond to strength, and that’s one of the reasons that people (countries) go to war or send bombs. I wish that wasn’t the case, I wish that there was another way of making a big and clearly understandable statement without killing the people that we share the planet with, not to mention not hurting the planet either. Sometimes it seems unavoidable, like with WW2 and Hitler, or with the Rwandan Genocide in the early 90’s, those types of evil have to be stopped, and many people are willing to accept the cost of going to war or sending bombs as a result. But one of the reasons I think some people are comfortable with going to war or sending bombs in some situations that are less clear is because they don’t understand the place/people they’re attacking.

As I was thinking about what to write on today I came across this article with pictures from China. While China may not be quite the closed/secretive nation that some other countries are, I don’t think it’s a known country like France, England or the US. I certainly don’t know a lot about it outside from what I know historically or from the business side of things from the few companies I’ve advised from there. So paging through the photos I was again struck by how much China looks like other countries around the developed world, including the US. It certainly makes the people who live there seem a whole lot more like me than some unknown entity.

Every corner of the world is different, but from a few photographs some similarities are clear, maybe enough similarities that we can begin to understand that we’re not all that different after all, especially with regards to the things that matter most. We live in small homes and large high rises, we go out in nature, we worship, we spend time with family and friends, we eat, we run businesses, we work jobs, we remember history, and we work towards tomorrow. I don’t think it’s necessary to share our deepest secrets with the world or publicize everything, but if sharing photos like these can help us avoid wars in the future, or encourage us to act sooner when tragedy strikes, it’s something that should be done more often, from all around the world.

What things have helped shift your perspective or understanding of a place or culture in a positive way?

The Adventure of Easter Eggs

As many people are, I’m thinking about Easter coming up on Sunday. Whether you celebrate it more as a spring holiday and just get together with friends and family, or it’s a religious day for you, something that’s very traditional and well-known are Easter eggs. People, churches and towns around the US will gather up little plastic eggs of bright colors and hide pieces of chocolate or candy and little stickers and toys inside of them and then scatter or hide them around the house and yard for little boys and girls to find.  Maybe you’ve had the fun opportunity of filling the empty eggs with the surprises for the boys and girls.

If you think about it, Easter eggs are a lot like each of us: you never know what’s inside until you open up the egg. Sometimes you’ll find it filled with treats that you would rather trade with someone else and sometimes you’ll be thrilled with the surprise inside. Part of the gift of Easter eggs though, are the adventure of finding them, or of getting to know the other people that we share this world with. Just because the egg is yellow on the outside doesn’t mean that you’ll find the same thing on the inside all the time, or that it will always be your favorite filling because you love yellow.

As you finish this week working on victories, I encourage you to not judge people before you get to know them. Apply the breaks a bit to your speed through life and take the time to get to know someone before you jump to a conclusion about who they are or what role they may play in your life and success.  Maybe even take the time to get to know someone that you’ve not connected with in a long time or never really took the time to develop the relationship beyond a surface level.  The way you treat others can have a big impact on your ability to achieve victories, personally I’d rather have a team I can work with than find myself alone trying to be everything for everyone.