A Collection of Thoughts

The ThinkerShort Rambling Thoughts on: “Transformation of the Heart”, “Connecting the Dots” “Responsibility and Boundaries”, “Believe, Receive, Become”, “Try out the YES thing!”, “The Narcissist” and “I never got this far in my Dreams!”

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It’s not uncommon for me to struggle as I draft my “Ramblings” as the process is strictly an internal one without the benefit of discussion with anyone to help frame what I am attempting to articulate. Nor do I have the opportunity to really discuss in detail the subtleties of the Rambling to add additional color or substance. Sometimes I’m concerned that the written words  and thoughts could be misinterpreted (like texting is a bad way to communicate meaningful thought). I say this to acknowledge the deficiencies I find in my Ramblings.

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As I think about a few random topics, I’m reminded of this verse:

“And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart”. Ezekiel 36:26

 Thought #1: Transformation of the Heart There are two books I’ve come across that deals with the transformation of the heart. Both authors share their journey of moving to a place of faith in their lives. The first is the book (and subsequent movie) A Case for Christ, by Lee Strobel, a reporter at the Chicago Tribune, who chronicled his transformation from an atheist into a believer as he searched for historical evidence of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. At the time, Strobel was an investigative journalist. The story includes a scene in which his editor tells him, “Do your job, do the research, follow the facts, write the story!” Strobel also recounts an interview he conducted with a forensic Doctor on the validity of Christ’s death on the cross when the Dr. siad, “Lee, you don’t want to see the truth do you?”

The second is The Story of Reality: How the World Began, How It Ends, and Everything Important That Happens in Between by Gregory Koukl. A reviewer of the book said, Koukl “…started out thinking he was too smart to become a Christian and ended up giving his life for the defense of Christianity.”

Here’s where I’ll ask for latitude as I “Ramble” a bit on just a few of the thoughts that impacted me as I read and digested these books and other aspects of life and observed and experienced human behavior. 

Thought #2: Connecting the Dots: If you want to improve your life, try saying YES Living a scripted and planned out life can create unintended boundaries, leaving us nine dotswithin a “box” that more than likely inhibits discoveries. There’s a puzzle called the “The Nine Dots Problem” that tests your ability to “think outside the box;” to find solutions to a problem. The challenge is to connect all the dots using only four lines and without lifting your pen off the paper. Impossible you say? What you discover, is that in order to connect all the dots, in four lines without leaving the paper, your line has to travel outside the perceived “box” created by the dots. I am learning that we need to get outside the “nine dots” of life to discover what we do not know!

What could thinking outside the box mean in your life? Asking for help? Seeking out guidance from others? Praying for guidance and wisdom? As that editor told Lee Strobel, “…do the research, follow the facts, write the story!” When writing your life story would it not be fun to write the story with a life partner? To share the journey together?

Thought #3: Responsibility and Boundaries

it seems life is always handing us boundaries (or rules) to be aware of. How do you go outside the acceptable boundaries (maybe think outside the box), be willing to say YES to Yes, Noexploring or opening the door to new experiences and opportunities, to go outside your comfort zone and solidify a relationship with absolute commitment (something I failed miserably at in the past)?

On occasion, I hear this from people: Why does everything seem to have boundaries? Aren’t they too inhibiting? I am always a bit surprised with the question as without boundaries we are without identity, without a moral compass, without ethics, without trust in our relationships. Another aspect of boundaries is others feeling that if you do not agree with their “boundaries” or perhaps their perspective on an issue they get snarky, irrationally mad, or combative.

Whether it’s our personal or professional relationships, being respectful of boundaries (or respectfully pushing back on boundaries) can be an essential key to nurturing a meaningful relationship. So how do we develop the positive and meaningful qualities of good relationships? An in-depth response is beyond this Rambling, however, let me use these adjectives as an entry point: Communication, Patience, Vulnerability, Collaboration, Discovery, and saying and hearing this:

“THANK YOU FOR ACTIVELY LISTENING!”

I believe we must act responsibly with the freedoms we are given, to establish who we are and want to become, and to honor who our Father is. I believe we are meant to have control over ourselves and our decisions, and to lead a good life. We all know and have seen what happens when freedoms are misused. People can lose the compass that keeps them on a path worthy of honor and respect; they may lose self-control. They may lose touch with the meaningfulness of life. This can result in a wide variety of miseries and miscues when they lose sight of boundaries and responsibility.

Everyone, every relationship, every business needs to have a well-defined, articulated, and agreed upon set of boundaries and responsibilities. Without this, failure is destined to happen.

Without boundaries and responsibility, the “Narcissist is Born!” Have you seen it? I am sure you have. Those whose success (or self-belief of their personal success) leads them to believe the world revolves about them. This is not only naïve and narcissistic, but also shows ignorance of the Christian faith. We have a choice as to what our role is and how we see it, we are not the central figure, we are just part of the supporting cast, or perhaps a member of the audience in the story of life.

Thought #4: Believe, Receive, and Become These three little words are also powerful statements that can resonate in so many aspects of our physical and spiritual life. They can guide us on a journey that never really ends. We can never “become” a success in business or in our personal relationships, if we don’t have a deep inner belief in ourselves. We must also rely on our inner strength to guide us through the roller coaster of life and along the journey of “becoming” what we are capable of with the help of the one who created us and those who surround us.   

In 2012, after winning the Masters Golf Tournament, and accepting the famed green jacket in the Butler Cabin, an emotional Bubba Watson remarked, “I never got this far in my dreams!” What a remarkable statement. If you recall, Bubba Watson won his first Masters in a playoff with one of the more remarkable shots on the first hole of the playoff. I believe this was only possible because Bubba believed in himself, worked hard, and envisioned himself on that golf course one day. The sweet reward was accomplishing more than he dreamed.

I have come to believe that it is important to say YES to dreams, to embrace Believing, Receiving, Becoming in different aspects of our life as it is the path that gives us the opportunity to reach our true potential in life, faith, and relationships.

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#4 – “Timeless and Silent Qualities”

This is the fourth and final Rambling in a four-part series of short articles of “dangling thoughts” you may be able to relate to. I hope they will be something you’ll want to ponder. I’m prepared for a variety of reactions including, “hogwash!” or “interesting!”. These topics have found themselves on the “notes app” of my iPhone over the past few months. I find the commonality of the themes interesting and the fact that they found themselves on my phone under the category of “Potential Rambling Topics!”

I recently attended an art show featuring a local artist, painter Leon Hushcha, and ran across a piece of art that was entitled, “The Kimono.” What really caught my attention was the artist’s statement, “Grace is Timeless and Silent.”

Three Great Attributes;  There are many great attributes to possess, I will ramble on three (3) of the many that help define who we are and how we live our lives: Grace, Honor, and Responsibility. In my opinion, these elements are timeless qualities—ways we can behave in a selfless manner. They manifest themselves in how we act and search for opportunities to be of value or service to others. They are part of the pool of qualities we should strive to develop and engrain into living in an intentional way.

To this day, despite having dealt effectively with my Fathers Death, I still have moments that I grieve his loss and long for those times we could talk to receive his counsel. I know I would be a more intense listener than I was 20 years ago. I am blessed, however, to still have my mother. At 94, she is remarkably vibrant, mentally sharp, and a bit of an energizer rabbit who is only hampered by arthritis which has dramatically limited her mobility. Despite this inconvenience, our weekly dinners remind me of her vibrancy, appreciation for the rich life she has had, and the honor and love she still has for my dad. I feel happy that she has a social network that helps her remain engaged in life.

My mom and I don’t always agree: I find at times the age difference creates frustrations and there are times I roll my eyes in disagreement or frustration over things she does not understand. HOWEVER, I am intentional about my attitude of Grace, Honor, and Responsibility. I allow her the grace to be who she is, I honor her as my mother, the person who brought me into this wonderful world and into a life that has blessed me. I honor her for who she is and for all the great traits she has and the love she exhibits to those around her, including her grandchildren and great grandchildren, some who she sees frequently, and others seldom if ever.

Mom has earned the right to be honored!

Finally, Responsibility, it is my turn to be responsible in helping her. It is my responsibility to remain in her life as a caretaker and someone she can rely upon in times of need. We all need to know that we have someone who “has our back” and will drop most anything to come and help. I feel blessed that I want, and can, have dinner with her most every week so we can visit and reminisce. There are nights I really do not want to go, but I always remain grounded in my commitment to honor her, demonstrate grace through action, and take on the responsibility that I have been given (and treasure).

Think about those in your life who deserve grace. Overlook the missteps we all make. Honor those you have in your life: It’s our responsibility. As my dad always used to say, “Someday we will not be able to do this!” Someday my mom will not be here and I do not want to ever have to say to myself, “I wish I had spent more time with Mom.”

“Someday we will not be able to do this!”

#3- It’s the Small Things that Count

This is the third in a four-part series of short articles of “dangling thoughts” you may be able to relate to. I hope they will be something you’ll want to ponder. I’m prepared for a variety of reactions including, “hogwash!” or “interesting!”. These topics have found themselves on the “notes app” of my iPhone over the past few months. I find the commonality of the themes interesting and the fact that they found themselves on my phone under the category of “Potential Rambling Topics!”

Its the small things

I love watching the Olympics and continue to be amazed at the talents and the evolution of the sports. I have realized that what I appreciate today is rather different than what I appreciated when I was younger. Today, I marvel at the dedication and the refinement of what it takes to be a real champion. It’s the small things that separate the great athletes from the exceptional gold medal champions.

This could also be said for what it takes to find success in business, in life, or in relationships: How do I know this?…I learned from some painful failures, I speak from painful experiences that were real and not theoretical, I learned and changed to not repeat what I have learned….what is it?  It’s the dedication, the deliberateness; the attention to detail that leads to accomplishing something really special. In our personal life, what is it that made you (or makes you) want to skip down the aisle toward a lifetime relationship? Yes, the big things are important, but what about the little things that we sometimes take for granted? love languagesHere’s a little exercise you could do with that special someone in your life: Discuss one another’s needs, wants, and the exceptional traits you see in one another. I also encourage you to read, The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate by Gary Chapman

Back to exceptional athletes, here are a few of my take-always from the recent Winter Olympics:

  • The Olympic figure skating pair from China: The commentators said, “what made them so special is that they created a mood and a feeling in their skating through the nuances of expression and movement” – the small things!
  • 1/100th of a second knocked Alpine ski racer Lindsey Vonn from a medal. What were the small things that got her that close, yet just as important, what were the small things in that two-mile journey that cost her that 1/100th of a second?
  • Twice, in two different bob-sledding events, there were two teams tied; yes tied over a two- mile course—their times were identical to the 1/100th of a second. Can you imagine? It again was the small things for both teams that created this amazing fact.

So, who says that the small things don’t count? – This is something that I will remember and embrace!

How about You?

Short Story #2- Life: It is NOT, “It is What it is!”

The Three C’s: Choice, Consequences, and Change

This is the second fn a four-part series of short ramblings of “dangling thoughts” you may be able to relate to. I hope there will be something you’ll want to ponder. I’m prepared for a variety of reactions including, “hogwash!” or “interesting!”. These topics have found themselves on the “notes app” of my iPhone over the past few months. I find the commonality of the themes interesting and the fact that they found themselves on my phone under the category of “Potential Rambling Topics!” .Choices

Each of us were born with unique talents, skills, and attributes. One of our many choices in life is whether to embrace what we’ve been given, feel envy for what others have been given, or we may shrug our shoulders and say, “It is what it is.” I believe we need to adopt an attitude of gratitude and thanks for our god given talents that we’ve been given and constantly look for ways to further develop these unique traits , attributes and talents with the help of others around us. The book, Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance did a masterful job as one of his themes, framing this notion.

During times of challenge, sorrow or loss, we often find ourselves asking big questions such as: Why did that happen to me? Why are we here? What is the meaning of all of this? What is our purpose? How will I cope and recover? How do I make a mid course correction? Perhaps one might just accept life as it is and say, “It is what it is.” – WRONG!

I am certainly not professing to have all of the answers but my experiences have taught me lessons, both good and not so good.  I offer them only as examples for consideration. in pondering some of these questions.

It seems to me we are to live a purposeful and meaningful life, embrace our god given talents and share them with others as we are here to serve others, not ourselves.

I was given an unexpected gift this winter when I attended a live concert at Crooners, a supper club in Northeast Minneapolis. At first, I was disappointed that the artist I was expecting was not the one actually performing. My attitude could have been, “Well, it is what it is.” and fuss in disappointment. However, the evening turned out to be great. Soul singer Wee Willie Walker & We “R” Band performed. What a gift! I cannot imagine anyone would have been more fun. This was a great reminder to take a pause before lamenting about something. What struck me in particular was a song with the lyrics, “I got a second chance today.” I certainly wish I had a second chance regarding some aspects of my life. Is there such a thing as a second chance? Does it really have to be “It is what it is”? Second chances provide us with opportunities to have an amazing life, relationships, a business or career, and more.

Recently, I came across an article on LinkedIn: “Setting a direction for personal change – a crucial tip to get you heading in the right direction” by Bridget Clapham (Nov 10, 2017) and found these kernels of wisdom that are worth sharing:

Ask yourself as I have asked myself these three initial (and simple) questions when wanting a change as opposed to accepting, “It is what it is!

  1. What is it that I want? Take some time and think about what it is that you really want in different aspects of your life; write down some thoughts. Phrase these thoughts in the positive (e.g. “I want to feel more confident giving a speech,” or “I want to experience more diverse travel adventures,” or “I want a true, meaningful, intimate, life partner!”)
  2. Why do I want what I have identified? This is critical as it must be for our reasons and no one else’s.
  3. What will be different when I have/or do this? What will be different when I have what I desire or have identified to be important? What will it mean to me and to those around me?

So, My Hat is off to those who adopt the motto:

IT IS NOT: “IT IS WHAT IT IS!”

A Series of Short Stories

Over the next four weeks, I will post a series of short story Ramblings which include:

#1-A Fork in the Road

#2-Life: It is NOT, “It is What it is!”

#3-It’s the Small Things that Count

#4-Three Great Traits

This series may touch on some “dangling thoughts” you can relate to. I hope they will be something you’ll want to ponder. I’m prepared for a variety of reactions including, “hogwash!” or “interesting!” These topics have found themselves on the “notes app” of my iPhone over the past few months. I find the commonality of the themes interesting and the fact that they found themselves on my phone under the category of “Potential Rambling Topics!” Here’s the first of the four stories:

 #1 – A Fork in the Road

Fork in the Road

I read a post on Facebook that in essence said, “What does not kill you makes you stronger.” On the surface that sounds rather depressing, yet the message has some substance. Take, for example, that Harvey Mackay, the author of Swim With the Sharks: Without Being Eaten Alive, once wrote in his column that one of the best things to happen to him was being fired. YIKES, really?

As I have thought about this, I’m reminded about what a friend once told me, “Bob, we all have three “C’s” to live by that guide our life and the decisions we make: Choice, Consequences, and Change.” It’s like a fork in the road—it’s not if we make a choice, it’s what choice we make and are we prepared for the consequences of the choice we are about to make?

So, what do we do when confronted with a fork in the road? Which direction do we go? What choice do we take? I say: “Have Courage” and do what just may be the most difficult—take a deep breath, pause, and surround yourself with good people whose advice you trust. (I’ve come to learn that asking for help is a strength and not a sign of Brene Brown Courageweakness.) Then listen intently for what is being said, weigh the merit, consider the outcomes, reflect on what is important, and pray for guidance.

Then, act! But do not necessarily take the path of least resistance as it may not be the least painful or beneficial in the long term. Think about a time when you faced a fork in the road. What were the choices, the consequences, and the change(s) you experienced?

As writer, Brené Brown says, “Failure can become our most powerful path to learning if we’re willing to choose courage over comfort.”

 

Stuck in the Mud!

Have you ever been stuck in the mud—either on foot or in your car? Do you remember the feeling that the more you struggled to get yourself out the deeper you sank? Perhaps all we could do was spin our wheels? Getting “stuck in the mud” creates increasing anxiety as we continue to build on the problem.

women stuck in the mudwomen 2 stuck in the mudStuck in the mud manCar stuck in the mud

 

 

During one of my recent morning men’s meetings, we talked about the vulnerability we experience when we’re struggling with something and feel “stuck.”

I asked a dear Facebook friend, Dianne V. (someone I have not met but greatly respect), to react to an unedited version of this Rambling. She shared such insight and wisdom that it’s worth sharing:

“As I read the Rambling, totally unedited, I smiled, knowing that (perhaps) just a few years ago, you would not have even entertained the thought of reaching out! It is a great analogy–being stuck in the mud with lack of vulnerability. The stronger we try to be, in isolation, the more we sink. The creativity (and the divine) comes to save the day when we ask for help! ”

Yes, Dianne, you are so right, I used to take a great deal of pride in my Norwegian heritage, my work ethic, my self-sufficiency, and inner ingenuity to get things done on my own without asking for help and seldom showing too much emotion. My persona was built on a sense of pride that tipped well into the prideful category. At the time, I thought this was such a great badge of honor!

If you’ve discovered this about yourself as I have, perhaps you’ll agree it’s not a badge of honor at all. However, I have found this is an attitude that can be changed and can create significant value in our life.

Life hands us moments where we truly find ourselves STUCK IN THE MUD and need for help!

stuck in the MudWe have a choice; try to dig ouselves out only to find we sink deeper or reaching out to someone for assistance, I am learning to choose Option #2, clearly the most difficult choice! However I am learning that seeking out and asking for help creates a more meaningful relationship with deeper appreciation and trust. This is true in business, in life in general, as well as our spiritual lives, and personal relationships—trust me, I know!

I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry.He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. (Psalm 40)

In closing, I hope we all will choose to be humble and not be afraid to ask for help when we find ourselves stuck in the mud. No one succeeds alone. Be true to yourself by being vulnerable and transparent.

As C.S. Lewis said; “We must lay before Him what is in us, not what we think ought to be in us!”

The Chex Mix of Life – Are you Absorbing the Marinade?

Check MixAre you Absorbing the Marinade? – This is one of my shorter Ramblings, in part because brevity can be a great tool for setting the stage for a more meaningful discussion; a primary objective (and, I hope, outcome) of my Ramblings.

One of my all-time favorite snacks is CHEX MIX, you know that breakfast cereal of Cheerios, Corn and Wheat Chex, pretzels, and peanuts, all covered in a buttery, salty concoction and baked to crispy perfection! It’s always been a favorite.

Not all the individual cereals are my favorite. However, each adds to the love for the totality of the treat, each adds its own unique value. Each has it owns texture, taste, and ability to absorb the buttery marinade. Without absorbing the marinade you would lose much of the value of this deaconate snack. In essence, each unique ingredient adds significant value if the marinade is obsorbed!

As a kid, I remember picking and choosing what I wanted to eat first, last, and how I was going to navigate the snack. I remember that regardless of the order, I wanted more—of all aspects of the mixture. I recall taking the pretzel sticks and stringing Cheerios on them to make an interesting combination of taste, or eating only the wheat-or corn-flavored Chex in a single handful to get the full flavor of that singular ingredient, or saving the Cheerios for last as they seemed to have absorbed more of the buttery marinade than some of the other cereals.

I tried (unsuccessfully I may say!) to rationalize to my mom that this buttery, salty snack, made up of breakfast cereal, was a great breakfast and a healthy snack! Why not, it was cereal!

Regardless of the likes and dislikes of the individual ingredients, I loved the entire mix—the diversity of tastes and textures.  The savory marinade that is absorbed in each of the cereal ingredients. This is much like life: I must admit I may not always appreciatepeople diversity the uniqueness of everyone around me, at least not at first. However, I have learned that first impressions are most often not correct and that getting to know someone’s heart and soul adds to my life; like the ingredients of Chex Mix. I need to absorb the marinade of the relationship to create a relationship that has the potential for significant value, something that I did not do well in the past, or at least not in a transparent manner.

I cannot imagine a Chex Mix with only one ingredient or without the marinade. I cannot imagine a life that did not have diversity, as it adds so much to life whether it’s friends, opinions, perspective, personalities, cultures, nationalities, or political beliefs.

These differences:

  • Add interest and depth
  • Add to and broaden perspectives
  • Solidify (or possibly alter) my own beliefs through respectful challenge

As with my Chex Mix, one element is always constant: Each ingredient may be very different, however each are good for what the value they add.

On the value of diversity, I’d like to add this caveat: Not all diversity has value, or does it? For me, it all depends on the respectful nature diversity is handled.  A worthy thought worth conversation for those who can be respectful and maintain civility in the conversation and discussion of differing perspectives.

As I wrote in a recent Rambling;  Gratitude & the Lost Art of Disagreeing

“. . . I am not implying that everyone has lost the ability to kindly express opinions and objections without being snarky or causing someone to feel they are “walking on egg shells.” Nor do I believe everyone has lost the ability to be thankful or filled with gratitude. What I am attempting to express is that far too often we fail to object and express a counter opinion in an agreeable fashion and to express and demonstrate thankfulness and gratitude. Sometimes we may go on the offensive, think we have “won” an argument or discussion, only to later discover we lost a great deal, perhaps even a relationship.”

 Like Chex Mix, the value of the uniqueness of the ingredients in our lives is in large part impacted by our ability to appreciate with respectfulness, civility and gratitude, others’ perspectives (different than agreeing) as well as others’ appreciation , civility and respectfulness of our perspectives and the manner in which they are expressed. You know, absorb the marinade to the ingredients to compliment the unique characteristics of those around us.

Here’s to EMBRACING THE CHEX MIX OF LIFE and ABSORBING THE SIGNIFICANCE of the MARINADE!

 

Connecting the Dots – Reflection and Challenge

Recently, as I was flying home from Naples, Florida, I caught myself reflecting on where I am in life and started to connect experiences I’ve had and actions I have intentionally and intuitively taken in the past three years—you know—connecting the dots. I am a bit amazed at what I am discovering, the questions answered, and the questions remaining. Since I cannot predict the future, many questions may go left unanswered. However, I like this path and the dots that are being connected as well as the dots being erased or repositioned.

I challenge you to do the same. Do so with a great deal of intentionality, look for and connect the “Dots of Life.” What do you see? Do you need a #2 pencil with an eraser?

Connecting the dots is not always easy, and at times, the dots can seem so random—o r Connecting the Dotscould it be we’re not paying attention to where they are taking us? Do we realize we have the ability to influence the dots we have in our lives and not take them for granted? Or do we brush things off with, “It is what it is!” I believe we do have a choice as to the dots that make up our lives and how we connect them. What’s more, each of us have a special #2 pencil to remove, re-arrange, and add dots to the design of our life.

Maybe you’ve tried to connect the dots but it feels too random; or you’re not #2 Pencilunderstanding what the dots are “telling you.” Could it be you’re not engaging with intentionality? Sometimes, for many of us, it’s simply easier to shrug and go with, “It is what it is!” What do you think? It could be a fun conversation don’t you think?

As I was reflecting on the plane ride home from Naples, I realized that in the past few years, despite an apparent randomness to the dots (experiences) in my life, they are taking me in a direction—a direction that makes me smile and have peace. I am still not sure what the final picture will look like as we are all a work in progress and life will continue to add dots for us to connect. Those dots may involve detours that could change (or at least tweak) the outcome. Despite all of the uncertainty of life, I am feeling that the road ahead is becoming clearer, amazing, and rewarding. I have asked myself, “Bob, what are the dots of your life, how have they impacted you and what are the connected dots telling you?” Here are a few life changing discoveries I’ve made as I’ve “CONNECTED DOTS:”…What Dots have you discovered you have connected?

  • I was hurt to the core (by something) and vowed to make a change to make sure it Be Patient God is not donedid not happen again (at least for the reasons it happened)
  • I discovered the power and personal growth that comes from reading
  • I discovered the work and writings of Brené Brown and paid attention to what she said, learning to stop hiding behind my amour of shame and guilt
  • Intentionality opened my eyes as illustrated in the PowerPoint I shared earlier
  • To be selfless and more patient
  • I committed to explore and deepen my faith and its relationship with my life
  • I realized that my work is not done and I’m grateful for the help of others

When they were young, I remember taking the kids to Disney World and going on the Disney Speedway phototrack to let them drive a “race car” (with me in the car of course). The good news is the Disney Race Track had a guide rail that kept the car somewhat in control and within the lanes yet retained the feeling of freedom of the driving experience. Thank goodness for the guide rails!

We all need to have “guide rails” to help us stay on track and moving forward. We all need to recognize that even though we want absolute control, we are never in total control and we should embrace this fact and rejoice that others are there to help.

What are the dots and experiences that help shape our lives and serve as our guide rails, help define who we are, and assist us in developing the depth of relationships we have and will have in the future? Here are a few guiding principles that have emerged for me: (What are yours?)

  • Learned(ing) the power of patience
  • Learned(ing) that control is way overrated and more often than not an attribute that is not a strength
  • Loving and embracing reading. My diverse book list (over the past few years) is far too long to list, however, here are a few books that were impactful for me: (What’s on your list and why are they there?)
    • Lessons from a Third Grade Dropout (I’m in the middle of it as I write this Rambling) by Rick Rigsby, Ph.D.
    • Think!: Why Crucial Decisions Can’t Be Made in the Blink of an Eye by Michael R. LeGault
    • 9 Attributes of a Man – Resolute Men’s Bible Study
    • The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein
    • A Dog’s Purpose: A Novel for Humans by W. Bruce Cameron
    • Brunelleschi’s Dome: How a Renaissance Genius Reinvented Architecture by Ross King
    • The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel
    • Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking by Malcolm Gladwell
    • The Invisible Thread: The True Story of an 11-Year-Old Panhandler, a Busy Sales Executive, and an Unlikely Meeting with Destiny by Laura Schroff, Alex Tresniowski, and Valerie Salembier
    • Talking with God: What to Say When You Don’t Know How to Pray by Adam Weber
    • Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink
  • Being an open listener and considering counsel from others
  • Learning to communicate vs having conversations
  • To be proud, not prideful
  • Learning to belong, not just fit in (Thank you, Brené)
  • Taking risks and being vulnerable and real
  • Digging into my faith and understanding that we are not here by accident
  • Living and growing in my faith

Think about all of this, if our dots seem randomly placed, be patient and explore what they are telling us. If we do not like where we are heading, take the #2 pencil out, erase a dot, and perhaps add a few. And finally, no matter what our dots are telling us, know that CHANGE IS POSSIBLE.

 

Meanwhile while you have your # pencil connecting your dots, enjoy the ride and don’t forget to demonstrate and express appreciation for those supporting your dot connecting journey!

cat and bike

Taking Off the Mask & Make Time for Hygge

 

Phantom MaskI attended a performance of The Phantom of the Opera over the Christmas holidays and was struck with the image of the Phantom and his mask. As I watched, I caught myself thinking, “Am I wearing a mask? How many other people are doing the same?”

Is there a part of yourself, your behavior, your persona, the way you interact with others that you use as a mask to conceal the real you? Granted, there are times that keeping things to ourselves is best to remain socially acceptable, corporately astute, socially mobile, and engaging just as there are times to be open (and revealing),. Here are some of my thoughts on distinguishing when we should put aside the mask (or our public persona):

  • When something or someone truly matters
  • When a relationship matters
  • During collaborative and/or serious business planning
  • In a mentoring environment
  • In counseling 🙂 . . . however that is defined and engaged
  • In the development of “Marble Jar”

Note: The “marble jar” is something I learned from reading Brené Brown’s work. Marble jar friends are great, intimate friends we trust, share our secrets with, and really care about each other without judgment.

 

And of course, there are those times you do not want your “thought bubble” to be visible to others at least not until you’ve had a chance (a “5-minute pause,” perhaps) to properly formulate your thoughts before they are laid bare.

Fitting in Versus Belonging Isn’t it true that life calls on us to be true to ourselves and not try too hard to “fit in” but, rather, belong? I used to think these were the same—however, I’ve discovered there is absolutely a difference, and based on the situation they both may be appropriate!

 

 

“Fitting in” or “belonging” is, in part, analogous to whether or not you wear or remove your mask.

Have you ever found yourself masking who you really are in order to fit in with others? Do you suppose this has ever caused others to wonder who you really are, what you stand for, what guides your soul?

Conversely, in my opinion, to “belong” is to be accepted for who we are: People know us and feel that we are true and real, it is apparent to others what our guiding light is, what we believe and maybe more importantly what we do not believe. There is meaningfulness in conversations that include transparency as to your beliefs, that helps define who you are. I realize it is not critical to agree with everyone on everything. In fact, it’s healthy to have your own thoughts and beliefs as long as you can embrace the “art of disagreement” (something I wrote about in a previous Rambling) and disagree appropriately (what may be appropriate in one setting may not be in another).

The lesson for me, coming out of seeing The Phantom of the Opera, and reflecting on the types of masks we may wear, is centered around being ourselves and comfortable in accepting who we are. In fact, I have come to realize that knowing and accepting who we are is more fun, more meaningful, and more critical to building strong relationships than any mask we can wear.

Embrace the Hygge Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to take this Rambling in a different direction. Do you know what hygge is? According to Wikipedia, it’s “the Scandinavian word for a mood of coziness and comfortable conviviality with feelings of wellness and contentment.” It’s an approach to the cold and bleak long winter days (not necessarily limited to winter). Originated by the Danish, it’s pronounced “hoo-guh.” Hygge is a quality of coziness, comfort, warmth, and well-being, not just with others but with yourself. It’s nurturing joy (not just happiness!). Think of it as spending a snowy evening snugly nestled in an overstuffed lounger chair, by a flickering fireplace, wearing Nordic (ethnicity not required) slipper socks, wrapped in a fluffy fleece-lined blanket, with a nice glass of wine, a really good book, your favorite music playing softly and/or with that someone special having a great fun, flirty, meaningful, and honest conversation.

As we start a new year, make 2018 wonderful and meaningful! Try to make it a point to find time for hygge and removing the mask!

Lessons from a Recovering Norwegian Being true to yourself and those around you

As I prepare for a morning talk for a west suburb Rotary, I landed on a Rambling posted back in December, 2016. As I read, it struck me that this Rambling was worthy of reposting……….

December 20th, 2016 –  This is one of my more transparent, personal, vulnerable and honest Ramblings. There is a core message around transparency in this Rambling that I hope will trigger reflection in the event that any of this applies to you, my reader.  

As with most of my Ramblings, this Rambling came about as a result of the newfound enjoyment I have in reading and learning about a variety of subjects. I’ve also become more observant about what is going on around me. Recently, I ran across an article on the different types of conflict and how they can show up in our professional and personal relationships. Whatever differences may exist among the various stresses of life, there is one popular theory that the human body reacts similarly to all stresses by igniting either a “fight or flight response” in an effort to maintain an internal balance. (For those who have followed previous Ramblings, the two different EKGs that I used to have as discussed in the “This could save your life” Rambling is reflective of this theory.)

In the past, for me at least, the fight response would have revealed itself as a snarky (a little strong, but the adjective I will use today) defensiveness and the flight response would have involved ignoring the realities of a situation by retreating into a shell and hiding with shame and guilt. I used to do both depending upon the situation. I could totally internalize something, react in an aloof or guarded manner, or even try to avoid something altogether (a mechanism of the flight response). I have discovered that in fight mode, my past “snarky” or defensive comments caused those closest to me to feel that they needed to “walk on egg shells” if they encountered this response.

Both of these reactions shielded me from meaningful communication and created internal stress, something that is destructive to a meaningful and healthy relationship. I have now come to discover how freeing and wonderful it is in being honest with myself and those around me.

Chasing meaning As a recovering Norwegian, I have discovered that chasing meaning is better for your health and relationships than trying to avoid discomfort. Perhaps there are others out there who can relate to this. (You do not need to be Norwegian to experience this, however in my case, I will place responsibility on my heritage and to a lesser degree my family of origin.)

Recently, while at my ongoing Monday morning men’s group, I was reminded of something that I have learned in the past year: It’s about a trait (a behavior) that I never really understood or practiced to the level that was needed. It is rather shocking to me to accept that I thought I knew this, but never properly refined the skill, or practiced as I do now. This past behavior is something that created a quiet, subtle barrier, an armor, so to speak and tension in meaningful relationships. Here’s what I’ve come to understand:

It is not all about ME or what someone does! The key to meaningful relationships is to really get to know the other person, to really get to know yourself, and to have serious communication (dramatically different than conversations) as to the strengths, traits, habits, needs, support, dreams, beliefs, failures, struggles and values that are critical to yourself and those that are important to the other person. The ability to ask questions and then truly listen to others is a critical and powerful tool. It helps to remove the focus from oneself and instead place more focused and deliberate attention on the other person. For instance, now I say, “Tell me about you” and then shut up and listen intently without judgment! truth

To really get to know another person you need to embrace totally non-defensive, collaborative communication that creates an environment of comfort, trust, and openness. This does not mean you always have to agree on everything. Think about how boring it would be if your closest relationships were based on saying “yes” to everything. You would be basing a relationship on something that wasn’t true and honest. I’ve come to understand we should do our absolute best to respect and honor the other person’s opinions, beliefs and input.

Understanding and respecting other perspectives, opinions, and insights expands our emotional bandwidth, strengthens relationships, and builds a broader learning curve. In the long run, it makes our relationships more interesting, healthy, and fun which is quite different than simply agreeing with another’s perspective. Living a full engaged life and developing meaningful relationships (personal and professional) means we must be true to ourselves and to those around us.

Say what you mean and mean what you say This phrase hasn’t always resonated with me. Sure, it sounds nice but in the past I did not fully digest the words and the meaning. Inot-everyone-is-true lost the substance of what was being said. However, I have discovered how freeing it is to live this mantra.

It pains me to acknowledge my past behavior and failures as they have cost me so much in my personal life. However, I’m excited about what I’ve learned! Change is possible, yet difficult and takes incredible work and desire. Thank you to all who have helped me in developing this ongoing maturity. (You know who are!)

I remember a dinner I had with a couple whose husband I did not know well. It did not take long for him to talk about their son’s challenges and struggles. There was none of the superficial bragging about “the world’s greatest kid” that we’ve all experienced at some level. Rather, it was a fully candid and open discussion and that child and his dad became real to me. As a result, the evening was more relaxing as we all could talk honestly without judgement as opposed to maintaining the superficial “egg shell” of polite chatter.

I have learned that slowing down and chasing the meaning and substance behind real opinions, conflict, stress, comments or feelings is far better for our physical, emotional, and relationship health than avoidance.

In conclusion, there are some key words that I want to briefly react to as I reflect on what I’ve discovered, It’s been an amazing learning curve!

I have discovered that an attitude and life of service, a life that is humble, a collaborative life of not being perfect, of accepting my weaknesses and flaws and living a life of being true to who I am, not who I am supposed to be all helps in building resilience to stress and maximizing life itself and the relationships around me.

How about you?