In Part 1 of this post, I shared how fortunate I have been in my life. I have had interesting career positions that enabled me to learn along the way. Education has helped me better myself. Friends and business associates have allowed me to better understand how varied thought helps you accept the perils of life and use that development to make yourself better. I have traveled the world and interacted with powerful people which is not too bad for a poor country boy from Western North Carolina. I have also been faced with a life-threatening medical condition that opened my eyes to what was truly important in life. It has been quite a “ride” that I pray continues for a long while. As I look back at life and my experience, though not a rich or important man by society’s standards, I can without hesitation say that I follow famed Lou Gehrig’s famous thought:
“Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.”
In all this madness, and yes fun, that I have experienced to date in this wonderful voyage called life, I have found the following to be true (read last week’s post for a full description of #1-6)
1) Spiritual faith matters.
2) Let people be people.
3) Perfect is not that important.
4) Though at times you will be off-balance, strong life-balance does matter.
5) Walk your talk. word is your bond, you have achieved a true place of honor and respect whether you are totally successful or not.
6) Find your one thing.
7) Laughing is good for you. It has been said that “Laughter is a tranquilizer with no side effects.” I have found that laughing is a good thing. I have a laugh every morning when I get up and look in the mirror. It tells me that even God has a sense of humor. If you can’t have a good laugh and have some fun in the process, it makes life dull. Laughing and having fun doesn’t mean you belittle others or use laughter inappropriately based on the circumstance. It means that having fun, creating an “at ease” atmosphere of enjoyment that people run toward versus running from. Life does not command you to always be so serious. You don’t have to be the “life of the party.” You simply need to relax and go about having good wholesome fun. Remember, laughter releases endorphins which are more powerful than morphine. Lose the frown and employ a smile. It will make you a much better person.
8) Be yourself. Each person is unique for a reason. It is important to remember that. Each time I have attempted to be other than who I am, it has caused me great pain. In the big picture, making yourself look bigger than life, impresses no one. Being genuine in your actions, your impressions, etc., will allow everyone around you to understand who you are and what you truly represent. A pig can not be a cow. A horse can not be a cat. You need to focus on being the best “you” possible in every circumstance. You may be able to “con” your way for a short while; but, sooner or later, it will catch up with you. It is not where you are from that matters. It is not the clubs you belong to or the important people you know that makes other pay attention. It is not necessarily the education or the awards you receive that impresses. It is not the car you drive or the house you may live in that captures people’s attention. What truly matters is that the “real you” is present each and every day. Not that you should not grow or improve your surroundings. Simply never allow what you think you want to be to override the “you” you need to be.
9) Master your emotions. There have been times in my life when I have done a very poor job with this issue. I allowed my emotions to circumvent my thought process. Each circumstance resulted in wrong life paths being followed as well as very poor decision making. Through the process of “hard knocks” I discovered that you must never allow emotions to outrun your mental ability to think and reason. You will always encounter issues and people striving to push you to make decisions as a result of comments adverse to your normal thinking or business conditions that challenge fairness. To resolve each properly, stop the emotions and engage the reasoning. You may be so mad about a situation you could spit fire upon request; but, you must realize that this option most often only praises the problem. It does not provide the solution you need. As Oscar Wilde said, “The advantage of emotions is that they lead us astray.” They push you too often to a negative mindset and make as the old saying goes, “Mountains out of molehills.” Master your emotions and you will be able to master your future.
10) Make people aware you appreciate them. Too often at wakes, I have heard comments from many of how they really appreciated what the individual being honored did for them. I have also heard comments of regret because they never made that person aware. It is funny how a simple “thank you” can change perspective. Every day there are people who do things for you. From secretaries to a loving spouse or child, things are done for us that we take for granted. Learning to take time to thank others not only gives you a feeling of confirmation but more importantly it provides the recipient an injection of appreciation that helps solidify their self-esteem. That is a powerful confirmation. This does not mean that each act demands a “thank you” necessarily because such repetition can become disingenuous. It simply implies that along the way, it is important, no critical, that we make time to let those who help us accomplish the many tasks we face know how much we appreciate the effort. Whether those be a mentor, a parent, child, co-worker or even our sanitation providers, a “thank you” goes a long way to make someone’s day brighter. You will never fall short in life when you stop to make others feel valued.
11) Keep dreaming. I still have dreams. Though retired and entering a very different phase in my life, dreams continue to give me a huge incentive to keep active and involved. Dreams keep you young even though years mirror the reality of your age. You never get too old to dream. Colonel Harland Sanders of KFC fame was in his mid-60’s when he launched his chicken enterprise. Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote her first “Little House” books which later became a successful television series starring Michael Landon, at age 65. Anna Mary Robertson Moses, better known as “Grandma Moses” launched her very successful painting career at age 78. These individuals had dreams and never lost sight of those dreams. You see, sometimes it takes a little longer for dreams to evolve to a point you can launch them actively into your life. Remember, one of “Grandma Moses’s” paintings sold for $1.2 million. When you stop dreaming, you stop really living.
12) Strive to make a difference. Perhaps some of this truth is contained in the previous eleven, but it is important to stress the vital importance of this action. Each day someone sees you for the first time. Others may see you for the second, the tenth, twentieth, or the thousandth time. How do they see you? How do you impact what they do, see, strive to become in a different manner? What impression or lasting legacy are you placing before them? How about your community? How are you impacting your community or even your neighborhood or street for that matter in a positive manner that enables others to better enjoy the wonders of life just where they are?
You see, we have countless opportunities before us, some openly viewed and others obscured. Regardless of the view presented to us, it all boils down to what we do to positively impact the opportunities which will matter the most. Someone or something needs your special talent to make their view of the world a little more inviting. Differences are made when we decide that hesitation is a hindrance not an asset when addressing matters that need change or improvement. In the end, what will matter most is not necessarily what we did; but, more directly, what we failed to do when we had the opportunity. The greatest gift you can give to others is simply to make a positive difference by how you think, what you do or what you say. You can change lives and situations by striving to make a difference.
So what does all this really mean? What is the lesson or lessons to gain from this vast discovery article? Simply this: life brings happiness and challenge. It provides you only an opportunity. It guarantees you nothing. You make life what it is by what you choose to do or not do. As a young person, you think you know everything. By the time you realize how wrong that was, you find yourself much older and simply shaking your head about the differences that experience has provided. All in all, it is “rush” that you need to exercise each day you awake and discover that you are in fact alive and are able to begin a new day. Life is quite a bit like baseball. You have innings to play and things occur in the top and bottom of each inning. But, as long as you have one more out remaining in your final time at bat, you always have a chance to win. Whatever your definition of winning may be, hope remains eternal.
It is funny about the twists and turns of life. The memories both good and bad have made me and yes you, who we are. It is the crossroads we face depending upon our age and condition in life that is the final determining factor. Just like Alice in Wonderland, if we don’t understand where we are going, it really doesn’t matter which road we take. So my conclusion and final suggestion is this: Enjoy life! You only get the opportunity one time.