Intentional Growth

In August and September every year countless young people and adults go back to school around the US. The kids are in school because that’s how we do it as a society and the adults are there because they feel more specific education will benefit them in their present and future. To be honest I have plenty of less than pleasant memories from my school years. While they may not be the bad memories that too many students have of struggling with learning, bullying, racism or other types of discrimination, it would have to be something pretty serious to get me back inside a traditional classroom. I’m slightly more open to the online schooling concept, but it’s still not something that excites me by any means.

However, I am a huge supporter of being a life-long learner. Any chance I get to pick up a book, I do it. I enjoy watching some of the more educational shows on TV to learn about history and different parts of the world today. I subscribe to tons of newsletters on a variety of topics (and I’m not talking daily deal emails). I enjoy listening to friends, family and others talk about things they’re interested in, hear about or are concerned about. I even check out the news once a day so that I have some idea of what the popular media is talking about.

Why? Because one of the best ways to get ahead in life, to become better, to improve yourself, to help others, to overcome the challenges and obstacles in your life, and even to make a difference in the world is by learning. By learning about what you don’t know and learning more about what you do know you’re gaining power. No, I’m not talking about superhero power, but that may be possible some day. I’m talking about having the knowledge to know what to do when someone’s not breathing, to know how to fix a technology issue on a website, to know how to increase customer retention, to know how to help couples work through issues in their relationship, to overcome your fears, and to bring endangered species back from the brink, just to name a few. It’s not knowledge that everyone has, but if we all were more proactive about learning we would be able to fix our issues and the issues in the world faster, and have more knowledge to actually understand what the issue is as well as present several options for moving forward.

So what about you? Did your early school days ruin learning for you, or are you actively pursuing knowledge in your life today?

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Reality Reflections: A Lifetime of Learning

Today I’m thinking about the countless families around the US, and maybe even the world, who are preparing to enter another year or who have already begun. I’m a huge believer in the value of education. I think it’s so important for us to learn through our lives and never stop learning. With all the technology we have today we can learn in so many different ways, it doesn’t have to be the traditional classroom/book education, although that still has value.

You can download an app that will share with you a fact of the day or you can sign-up for an email that will do the same thing. You can watch any of the many TV programs that are history/science/education based. You can read a book. You can watch a DVD. You can watch an educational website like Explore. You can get involved with chat sites, or even social sites and talk with others on particular topics. You can even just take your lunch outside or to a popular location every day and watch and listen to what goes on around you.

The only way you can truly fail at learning is if you stop learning. If it’s something life or death you’re learning about like cancer or raising dogs, it’s important to do proper research and check out several sources before just believing what one source tells you unless that source has impeccable credentials, and even then checking out multiple sources isn’t a bad idea.

I invite you to share your favorite apps, sites, shows and learning resources in the comments!

Listen and Learn Together

Something I often say is that I don’t need to be everything to everyone. I have no problem admitting I don’t know everything about a particular topic, like spirituality, relationships or business. I can’t say I have a real interest to know everything either. However, that doesn’t mean I’m happy to be done learning or that I’m not willing to learn any more, because both of those would be big lies. I’m always interested in learning something new. I subscribe to dozens of daily newsletters on a variety of topics so that I can keep learning.

I’m curious, I like to watch TV and see how people do things, how they think, and even how crazy they are sometimes. I like to sit in a busy location and watch people go by. I like to read books and watch/listen to educational programs and so that I can be exposed to different ideas, new strategies, new ways of thinking and even things that will keep my imagination and curiosity alive.

So I’ll never give up learning and am always open to seeing things from a different perspective, trying things a different way or listening to what others have to say. But I’m not learning with the intention to be the absolutely exhaustive fount of knowledge on each and every topic. I don’t feel the need to know everything first because it’s probably not possible as we’re always learning new things and discovering new ways of exploring and analyzing. Second, there are billions of people in the world who also have great knowledge and when we bring our knowledge together not only do we combine what we know, we make the world a better place by choosing to work together.

The more you know the more connections you can make, more possibilities that will open to you and more ways you can make a difference. What will you learn today?

The Disservice of Rushing

Lately I’ve been thinking (again) about the rush that most of us live our lives being and doing. We’re so busy, trying to pack something into every second it seems. And in some ways I can understand because there’s a lot of life to be lived and lots of things to do and we’ll never be able to complete them all in our (short) life time. But I think that pressure and decision to say yes to so many things has had a negative impact on our relationships. I don’t think that we take the time often enough to really think about what we say or how we talk to people. Sometimes we’re so focused on being right or doing something our way that we’re not able to see the value in doing it another way, and we’re certainly not willing to admit that we don’t know everything.

I believe we can all learn something from everyone on the planet. Maybe it’s just one or two things, but those things can have great value. But when we go into a conversation or relationship with our minds already made up in how a conversation will go or how smart we are (and they’re not) or making a decision without really listening or getting all the facts, it’s not only hurtful to them, but can have a negative impact on us as well.

Just because someone is younger than you, is older than you, is from another country, went through a divorce, went through bankruptcy, doesn’t like pets, or likes your favorite sports team’s biggest rivals doesn’t mean that they can’t have good ideas, can’t teach you something and aren’t worth a few minutes of your time really listening to what they have to say. The same is true for advice, just because it’s free doesn’t mean it’s bad or because it costs a lot it’s good.

I don’t think it’s (just) about trying to pack every minute of every day full, it’s about making sure to use your time wisely and make the most of your life. Some of the best moments of your life will be with other people. Some of those great moments will only happen if you slow down and take the time to meet someone new, take the time to build up existing relationships or make amends in one that you’ve damaged. I encourage you to take time to slow down this weekend and really watch where you’re going, listen to the full explanation or conversation before making decisions, and suspend judgment a bit longer than you do normally. What will you experience with an open mind this weekend?

Reality Reflection: Letting Love In

This month one of the things we’ve been talking about is love.  As I was thinking about love I thought about all the different ways we can see love, feel love, express love, share love and define love.  Love isn’t black and white, it’s something that evolves, changes, grows, multiplies, and can be different for each and every person.  There’s a lot more to love than just saying “read a romance novel” or “get married.”  Love isn’t something you can really put in a box.  Plenty of people have tried though, and I think more often than not it’s those people who have the worst experiences when it comes to love (and try to ruin it for the rest of us).

If you want the best experience possible when it comes to love I think you have to be open to seeing where it takes you.  You have to be willing to take the good with the bad, to listen to the experiences of others, to try new things, and to work for it.  Sometimes it is effortless, but if you let it go for too long without contributing or exploring, the overall quality and longevity of love may begin to suffer, especially when it comes to relationships.

Yes, some people can go through life with a very narrow view of the world, very limited skill set or very limited interaction with others.  However, now more than ever people are wanting to get more out of their lives and actually have the opportunity to get more out of their lives.  We aren’t as limited as we were even 5 or 10 years ago in many regards, let alone 50 or 100, now more than ever we have the ability to become our best self ever and get the most out of our lives and the world we share.

The same is true for love.  Some people have very limited interactions with love and they leave it at that. However, I don’t believe that’s the way to live life.  I believe that our lives are better when they have love in them and that we’re better people when we choose love.  Love isn’t always easy, but in some ways it can be much easier if we’re willing to be open to how it changes and reveals itself to us and the teaching/learning opportunities that are presented to us.  There are tons of ways to have more love in your life, the question is are you willing to experience all that you may feel and see when you really let love into your life?

Learning to Listen

In our lives we have lots of questions and issues that pop up.  We don’t have all the answers, nor will we ever get all the answers.  But I believe there’s a lot of good advice out there, should we only take the time to look for it or listen to it.

There are tons of people around the world who can give us advice.  That advice isn’t always right for us, the same thing doesn’t work for everyone.  But if we’re not able to see the real issue or think we’ve exhausted all possibilities and we’re stuck, getting advice from someone else is the best course of action, rather than choosing to stay stuck.  I’m a big believer in the power of education and learning, and getting outside opinions is one of the best ways to work through an issue you may have or discover what the real issue is that you weren’t even aware of.

Listening to advice is one of the hardest things to do.  It’s not easy to hear someone else’s opinions or judgments on something we worked really hard on or something we really like, but their advice may give you the motivation and freedom to do something you’ve been debating or try a course of action rather than stay stuck.  If we can get over ourselves, our pride and our self-reliance and open up to the possibility that someone else may have some good ideas and may be able to offer some good insights, there are tons of people willing to give their opinions (educated or not) about your challenges.

No, not everything is relevant to everyone.  It’s important that when you’re given advice you take time to think about it before acting on it or dismissing it.  Don’t reject it because it’s too simple or too hard or because it doesn’t sound like something you want to do or would work for your situation.  Instead ask them to clarify and give you some more insights on the aspects that particularly challenge you.  Ask them to address the specific concerns you have.  And if after you’ve really talked it through it still doesn’t seem like a good fit, then maybe you should ask for some other advice or advice from someone else.

No one knows everything, so no one can give perfect advice all of the time.  Take all the advice you receive with a grain of salt, but always be open to learning new things and seeing things from a new perspective.

Passion: Present and Future

As we finish out last month’s talk on health, I want to talk about something that is sometimes necessary: starting over.  I was thinking about finishing September and getting one step closer to the end of this year and the start of a new one and I was reminded that sometimes you have to keep trying things to see where you fit in throughout your life.  What worked for you as a younger person may not work for you as an adult at this stage of your life, and what works now may not work for you in a few years.

As I was thinking about this I heard more about the phenom that is Tim Tebow.  If you’re not familiar with him, he was a college football star. He won the Heisman Trophy as a sophomore and continued his record setting career through the rest of his college years.  He spent a few years playing Pro football, having a few very successful (some would say lucky) plays and games, but ultimately retired in 2012.  He went on to do some broadcasting, but decided it wasn’t the right fit for him and moved to pro baseball in 2016 to quite a few heckles and jeers, but managed to hit a home run on his first at bat.

What interests me about the transitions he’s done in his life is that he keeps trying.  He was a fantastic college football player, but as it sometimes happens he wasn’t built for pro football.  Many people after they finish their pro career go to broadcasting or some related sports non-activity, which he tried.  But for some just being near something isn’t enough, they have to be truly immersed in it, as seems to be true for Tebow.

I would say the message here is two-fold.  First, that you should never give up on your passions.  Second, that you may have to keep trying and reinventing to get to your best.  Don’t give up because past success isn’t working in the present, instead, pick yourself up and try something else.