If it can happen once…

Several years ago I ran into the story of a soldier in the Vietnam War, a soldier who started as the classic last kid picked for the team, bottom of the barrel sort of person. It was entirely easy to label him as “the screw up” and send him away because nobody would want that guy on a mission. It could have ended there, with our soldier being the screw up no one wanted for time an all eternity; however, that’s not what happened.

The salvation of this man came through his own honest effort; a little instruction and assistance from a wise old sergeant; and… a cup of coffee.

The sergeant could see what was happening. He talked with his soldier and then made some changes. The sergeant took away all of the soldier’s previous duties and gave him one, just one, thing to do. The soldier would be attached to the company headquarters and was to make sure that the captain had a hot cup of coffee available at any time he wanted one. It was a little thing, a silly thing, but it was something the soldier could do if he put in the effort. And this simple act, this one duty, bore amazing fruit.

The soldier, the former ‘screw up’, did his one duty. The captain had a cup of hot coffee when and where ever he wanted. And, the soldier received two critical things: sure knowledge that he was not a complete screw up, he could do things if he tried; and the opportunity to observe and learn without undue stress and criticism.

The soldier took this opportunity to observe and learn, and then he stepped up to do. Our soldier was no great tactician or leader. He wasn’t a great fighter slaying the enemy with his M16 and bayonet. He wasn’t an engineer conjuring wondrous structures and impenetrable defenses with just his entrenching tool and some communications wire. But, the man did have a gift. And, when he was given the opportunity and knowledge he needed, that gift came out.

Our soldier, the ‘screw up’ no one wanted, was a logistical problem solver. This soldier became the man who could find solutions and get dry socks and warm meals to the men of his unit. That might not sound like much if you’re sitting in your own home with your own washer and dryer, and pizza delivery on speed dial. But, trust me, if you’re out in the field, out in the dirt and muck, that kind of thing matters.

The soldier, the former ‘screw up’, became a beloved and valued member of the unit because he was given an opportunity, a chance to both learn and succeed, and he took it. He took action to become better than he had been before.

But what does this mean to us?

And so it is with us dear reader. We stand on all sides of this equation.

There are times when we are the ‘screw up’ who just needs one success, even a tiny one, and a bit of knowledge and support to put us on course to better things.

There are times when we are the one who can see a need, and an opportunity. In that case we are called upon to take action and help someone to help themselves.

Sometimes we are one of the others in the unit, the ones who need to allow space for change; the ones who will forgive the faults of the past and give someone who can grow the space and opportunity to do so.

Sooner or later we play all three roles dear reader. Sooner or later all good things will come if we let them.

That’s it for this one dear reader, see you next post… Until then…

Find an opportunity and take it!

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Larger than life

The first place I ran into the term ‘larger than life’ was in the movie Top Gun (and I am not admitting to when or where that was…). I wanted to know what ‘larger than life’ meant…

The first definition I found was someone or something literally larger than normal; the eight foot tall guy, the double sized model or blown up picture that helped you see small details, that sort of thing. The problem was that this obviously wasn’t what was meant in the movie…

Not literal…? So, what is it?

The term larger than life couldn’t mean what I thought it meant. Neither Maverick nor Tom Cruise was that tall, or wide. So, maybe the term was one of those simile or metaphor things that were all the rage in my English class at the time. So, what was Mav’ doing that would fit the descriptor…?

I found other people that were described as ‘larger than life’. Most of them were stars (the media type) or fictional characters (the super hero type). So, for a time, ‘larger than life’ meant someone who did, or could do, things regular people couldn’t (this turns out to be sort of true in my own definition, but it’s not the definition I believe in).

This definition is false. If you operate on the TV star and superhero definition of larger than life, then ‘larger than life’ starts to mean the same thing as ‘made for TV’.  Under this definition whatever you choose to call ‘larger than life’ is fake. It’s something that doesn’t happen in real life. So, how could a character be described as larger than life in the context of his or her own reality?

The search continued.

Years went on.

I found the answer.

The truth is you can be larger than life.

But it isn’t easy.

The answer (at least as I have found it)

You can be larger than life, but it isn’t easy.

Over time pieces fell into place for me. I came to understand. I’m still trying to actually do and become…

Larger than life doesn’t just mean physically bigger, or something that normal folks can’t do (they can if they work at it). Being Larger than life is a real achievable thing that appears as a feature of heroes, those whose names and stories are written large in the world.

Being larger than life isn’t necessarily a physical thing. It isn’t entirely a symbolic thing. Being larger than life is a philosophical thing, it is a way of living. One might even call it a spiritual thing.

I don’t remember the precise moment I realized it. I think it’s something that develops in you over time. To be larger than life means to be aware of, and focused on, something larger than the day to day details of life. It doesn’t mean you don’t do the day to day details, but it means your purpose, the thing you focus on, is something larger, something more meaningful. You are larger than life when you get through the challenges of daily life and don’t get trapped or consumed by them. You become larger than life when you will endure the day to day frustrations to achieve a greater purpose.

The artist who skips meals to buy brushes and paint; the person who runs into harm’s way to save a life; the parent/spouse/brother/sister who puts aside his or her own fear, sadness, or frustration to comfort a family member; these are the real larger than life people. Being larger than life means looking past the now to something greater, something more important, and then actually doing something to get there.

Being larger than life means living for things that you know are good and right; living for goals and ideals rather than praise and paychecks. That is what makes it so difficult to achieve.

I can’t say I’m perfect at it. I am not yet entirely larger than life, but I am trying dear reader. I am trying. I know that I can be larger than life, and so can you.

Being larger than life takes a lot of effort. It means putting aside vanity and foolishness in order to strive for something greater. Sometimes it means you stop worrying about ‘optics’, appearances, and ‘dignity’; but when you choose to rise above and strive for something greater who and what you are rises above the day to day as well. When you choose to rise above the day to day concerns and do something greater you become larger than life. Real dignity, satisfaction, all of the literal and spiritual things you need await and will come to you when you need them and you are ready for them.

It is scary dear reader, but it is worth it.

That’s it for this one. Until next time…

Try being a bit bigger, standing a bit taller. Trust me, it’s worth it.

Families, Choices and Bravery

One of the biggest ‘secrets’ that nobody was supposed to talk about at my wife’s family’s reunion was the fact that one of our nephews was making some big life choices, and not doing what the family expected. It was supposed to be a secret, so naturally it was one of the most discussed things at the reunion.

My nephew was looking for something, something he really wanted. The majority of the adults in the family were sure he would ‘find it’ the same way they did (whether they actually found what they were looking for is a subject for another day…). The majority of the family assumed he would spend a couple of years doing church service and then get a bachelor’s degree and enter the work force in some engineering or construction related field. Instead my nephew is joining the United States Marine Corps…

Choosing between honorable paths

Regular readers of this blog already know that I am a person of faith and I have absolutely nothing against worthy service to God. What less of you may know it that I am also a military brat (as well as being a professor’s kid…). I see honor in joining the military as well. So, this leaves us with a question… How do you choose between two good paths?

Well, you have to choose the path that is right for you. And, that might not mean the path that ‘they’ say is the right one!

There are lots of tools to use: talking to family, internet research, introspection… you might even want to throw a little prayer and fasting on that list if it helps you. But the bottom line is that if you are going to commit your life to something it needs to be worth it and it needs to be the right thing for you. It’s a decision that only you can make. Others can help, but they can’t make it for you.

And that’s it for this one dear reader. Today I think I’ll end with a joke…

One day not so very long ago a meeting was held for top leaders in the United States military. The meeting was held at Fort Benning Georgia where the army trains paratroopers, some of their bravest soldiers. Naturally the discussion quickly turned to bravery.

“I’ll show you what bravery is,” an Army general said. He called over one of his soldiers and issued an order. “Soldier, go off that jump tower with no repelling line and no parachute.”

The soldier climbed the tower. He looked down. You could tell he was scared but he stepped off the edge. Seconds later he splattered on the ground at the base of the tower.

An Airforce general shook his head. “No, that’s not bravery. Watch this. Airmen! Go off that tower with no repelling line and no parachute. Do it with style!”

Like the soldier the airman climbed the tower. Unwilling to look scared in front of the general the airman started at the back of the tower. He raised his arms like the majestic wings of one of the big bombers and ran off the platform. A few seconds later he splattered on the ground at the base of the tower.

“No,” a Marine Corps general said, “As usual we’ll be the ones to get it done.” He spotted one of his marines nearby and shouted “Marine! Off that tower! No repelling rig! No parachute!”

The generals laughed briefly when the marine ran the opposite direction, but soon he was back and scurried up the tower loaded down with several grenades and machine gun.

At the top of the tower the marine hurled grenades down before him. When he ran out of grenades he grabbed his machine gun and went off the tower firing the whole way down. In a few seconds he splattered at the base of the tower amid the smoke of his grenades and the casings of his bullets.

The proud generals looked at the one Navy admiral in the group, daring him to do better.

The admiral called over one of his sailors and said. “The order is to go off that tower with no repelling rig and no parachute.”

The sailor looked at the admiral and the generals.

He looked at the tower and the brave men splattered at its base.

He looked back at the admiral and said “No Sir.”

The generals were taken aback, but the admiral smiled. He raised one finger and said, “Now that was brave.”

Have a good one dear reader. See you next week.

When you are ready…

I’ve read it. I’ve said it. I’ve proved it true… You will get what you need when you’re ready for it.

I actually almost wrote about this last week, but the experience was a little too fresh and I guess I needed a little more distance…

As regular readers of this blog know I’m working on a young adult novel. The novel (actually the series now… Hard Way is the second book) has to do with a teenage boy trying to sort out his life. He is trying to sort out who he is; who his family is; who his friends are; and what he really believes. As the writer, it’s a challenge, but it’s a challenge that I’m willing to take. It’s a challenge I am taking.

I’m editing the second book and learning a great deal in the process. I’ve accepted that the third book (which I’m starting the first draft of next month…) is going to be even more of a challenge for reasons I’ve discussed here (link) among others.

I’m working hard, putting all the pieces I can into place. And yet, there are things missing. There are things that I can’t seem to find (on my own at least…). And then it happens…

Out of that tangled web we call the internet the girl I cared about back in high school, the girl my wife and I are both grateful to for having the courage to introduce me to the gospel of Jesus Christ, contacts me on facebook.

At the time I needed it most, the moment I was ready to receive it, someone from my past appeared and gave me what I needed. Someone provided the trigger to the memories I needed to get through the project.

You can get what you need to achieve any worthy goal dear readers. You need to be worthy of it. You need to look for it and prepare for it dear reader. But, whether you choose to call it a loving God or just a bountiful universe there is a source out there that will provide what you need when you are ready for it.

So dear reader, figure out your worthy goals. Figure out what you need to achieve them. And then get started. What you need will be there for you when the time is right.

I’m grateful to Susan and her family for really helping me when I needed it. And whether she knows it or not she’s helped me once again (Thank you Susan).

(A note for anyone wondering… No, neither one of us is going to allow anything inappropriate to come out of this. I love my wife. Susan loves her husband. I’m just telling the story of my adventures and thanking an old friend for some help along the way. (Oh, and my wife is nearly as good a shot with a handgun as I am…))

That’s it for this one dear reader. See you next post.

P.S. In an effort to become more social I’m going to be trying to respond to likes, follows and comments more consistently in the near future…

Things come…

This week I’ve been reading Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich as part of research for a project I’m starting. One of the things that I keep seeing really resonates with me right now, things come to you when you are ready.

Between me getting Johnson Farm ready to go (It’s officially on the market in May and nothing is going to stop it this time!) and my wife finishing her dissertation we’ve cleared a couple of major projects. It is a time to look back at what we have done and what is coming up next.

We have achieved things. We have had really positive things happen that seem like they are just being handed to us. But, in reality, the things that we are “just getting handed” today result from a series of steps we have taken.

This year I am able to sign my emails with the title Editor in Chief. This week my wife was invited to speak at a conference. Neither of these things would have happened if we hadn’t put in the work and started ourselves on the path a long time ago.

The amazing thing about the world we live in is that we can achieve more than we think we can. We can definitely achieve more than our critics tell us we can.

We are dear reader. We exist and exist for a purpose. We have potential dear reader. We can achieve more than we think. But if we are going to do that we need to put in the effort.

We are agents unto ourselves able to choose and act. We are members of a family, a community, a world. We need not be alone. We are stronger with others. But, we have to do our part in achieving what we want.

If you have a desire, even if it’s still just a dream, strive for it; prepare yourself for it; make yourself worthy of it; and if it is a right thing, a true thing in the eye of God and the Universe, it will happen.

And if not? Well… It is better to stand and act, to make the effort and learn and become, than it is to fail because you never tried.

That’s it for this one dear reader. See you next week.

Strange bedfellows?

There are a lot of people out there who (whether they admit it or not…) operate under the principle that because I am in group A and you are in group B we can’t associate with each other. Not only is this false but it is dangerously false!

We’re not all the same. It’s a given, just accept it. But, the fact that we’re not all the same doesn’t mean that we can’t share values and beliefs.

Here are a couple of examples:

First example

Last Sunday the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints announced that they were going to build a temple here in the town I live in. Naturally the LDS community here was thrilled. And, sadly, some of their neighbors were angry…

Several people have made comments that the building will be an eyesore. Others claimed that the Mormons were going to invade and take over…

But then there was the reaction from some prominent individuals in the Muslim community…

The Muslims welcomed the announcement of the LDS temple!

Now the LDS church is not the same thing as Islam, but these influential Muslim leaders were able to recognize the announcement as proof of a continuing, and growing, faith in God in the community. Both groups have some intolerant and outspoken members (to say the least), but both groups also value faith in God and family values.

The prominent Muslims in our community were able to recognize the event as one that built on common values and goals. (And for the ‘take over’ people: I believe the LDS community is already over 50% of the community, so it ain’t exactly an ‘invasion’… For the eyesore crowd: I’ve heard it before… And every time it’s been said (in my presence at least) the new temple sent property values UP

Second example

Down in Florida there was a guy who shot up a nightclub…

The clientele of the nightclub happened to be largely homosexual. The shooter claimed he did it because they offended his religious beliefs…

Most of us who’ve seen the news remember something about the event…

Do you remember what those ‘rednecks’ down at a local gun shop said?

The owner of the shop, and the community around it welcomed the local homosexual community in…

Now, this event was painted by some as a marketing stunt by a notoriously conservative and intolerant community, but…

Knowing the community around my own local gun shop, knowing enthusiasts of a variety of colors, creeds and political loyalties, I can also see the level where it was an honest offer.

At least at the gun shop I go to community would rather see people have the freedom to choose and live their lives than see the reign of intolerant idiots who would kill you for disagreeing with them. They are willing to stand with and defend those who they might not wholly agree with because they do believe in the freedom to choose, they do believe in people and the rights that they are given under the U.S. constitution including the right to believe as they wish and seek happiness as they understand it. (Again: at least where I go…) They do not and will not support those who would seek to oppress others by force of arms.

The point of it all…

The point is, just because I happen to be part of group A and you are part of group B, that doesn’t mean that we can’t work together when our goals values are the same. True, I might not agree with the Muslim down the street about the precise book of scripture, but in terms of valuing family and having faith in God, we kind of agree. That is something to build on, not something to run from.

True, I may be heterosexual and the neighbor may be homosexual, but that doesn’t preclude us from having the same concerns about a wave of break-ins in the neighborhood, or not wanting a meth lab across the street, or wanting good paying jobs in our community, or…

When we build on common bonds and values we grow. We also hold out the possibility that those we disagree with may eventually come to agree with us on other things (or we may come to agree with them as we learn…). If we let differences that don’t matter overshadow the things that do, we’re really cutting ourselves off from the good that we could share.

That’s it for this one dear reader. Until next time…

Find some points of agreement!

St Patrick’s Day

Well, it’s Saint Patrick’s Day and I’m in a college town…

I’m not overly worried this year, but there was that one time…

Earlier this week I overheard someone asking what Saint Patrick’s Day really is. For a lot of folks it’s a day to eat corned beef and cabbage and spend money on green stuff. For others it’s a day to drink green beer and get rowdy…

If you happen to be Catholic it’s one of the many saints days declared by the church centuries ago…

Now let me tell you what Saint Patrick’s Day is to me…

St Patrick, before he was a saint, was a man. He was a man who learned something very important to him. He learned about God the Father and Jesus Christ.  And, after he learned about them traveled his homeland sharing what he learned with his people.

So, St Patrick is really that person, that one person, who learned something important to him and shared it with the people he cared about. Whether you’re Catholic or not (I’m not…); whether you’re Christian or not (I am); being that person, the one who has the strength and bravery to learn something important and then to stand up for it is something worthy of respect.

It doesn’t really matter who you are, or what you are, if you are willing to stand up for what you believe that is honorable and worthwhile. If you are humble enough and willing enough to learn truth, and then brave enough to share that truth. You are one of the great ones, whether those around you can see it or not. To me that is why we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

And that is my message for today dear reader. Be humble, teachable, and willing to learn. But, when you find truth, stand for that truth, and the universe itself stands with you!

 

The law of sacrifice

Today we are talking about one of the great concepts of the universe! In finance and economics we would call it an ‘opportunity cost’. The world of engineering it is known as a ‘trade off’. In the world of anime our subject has been referred to as the ‘law of equivalent exchange’. Those of a more religious bend would know it as the law of sacrifice.

No matter who, or what, you are if you want something you have to give something up to get it. If you want to by lunch at a restaurant the restaurant’s owner and managers expect you to pay for it. If you want a new pair of shoes the shoe people probably want money too. Fortunately you have ways to obtain money (but, you pay a cost to get the money too…).

Not every cost is a monetary cost. If you want to sleep in an extra half hour tomorrow it’s unlikely anyone is going to charge you money to do that. However, you give up whatever else you could do with that half hour, including making money, reading a book, or something a bit more intimate.

If you want a good grade in a hard class you ‘pay’ for it by studying (or sometimes by cheating, which has its own costs…).

If you want to write a book? Well, that costs you time, effort, money and a variety of other costs…

The point is, no matter what you choose to obtain, when you choose to obtain something you’re also choosing to give something up.

The secret to the law of sacrifice is: if you choose to be aware, then you have influence over the universe. Whether you see the controlling influence in the universe as God, the laws of physics, or a giant plate of spaghetti, you have the ability to make choices. At least to an extent you can choose the results you want to strive for and what you are willing to sacrifice for them.

No, you don’t always get what you want. No, you can’t choose the consequences of your actions (after you’ve acted at least), but you can choose what you will give up and what you will put your effort into obtaining. You dear reader can influence the world around you. You dear reader can influence the universe itself.

Our power is not unlimited. There are principles and laws we must follow (and consequences for trying to break them). But we also have agency. We can choose what we will do and what we will give up. And that dear reader is part of what makes us free.

That’s it for today dear reader. Until next time…

The choice is yours!

“Facts”, “Truth”, and Constructs

There is a lot of noise made today about ‘facts’ and fact checking. There are a lot of voices out there willing to give you ‘facts’ that directly contradict the ‘facts’ that other voices are screaming at you. You can quickly find yourself in a world of ‘facts’ that seemingly can’t coexist, and yet all sides claim to be telling the truth.

How do we know what’s ‘true’?

Well, this kind of demands a definition of truth doesn’t it…

Sometimes ‘truth’ is used to mean a fact that is correct. That is an ok and valid use of the word, but often those who wish to argue for a particular position will use that meaning of truth, i.e. that a ‘fact’ is correct, to imply another meaning of ‘truth’; truths that are world spanning principles.

A world spanning principle ‘truth’ is what all sides of a debate would like to claim they have. The problem is that real truths in this sense are a very small set of very large items. This sort of ‘truth’ runs into the realm of universal truths, things that are larger than any of us really. This sort of ‘truth’ drags us into discussions of religion, deity, universality, and other things that manage to be dead simple in a massively complex way.

And yet it would be wrong to just say that because it is a religion it is true (it is also just as bad to say “because it’s a religion it’s false”!).

The problem is that much of what we mistake for ‘truth’ is actually a construct. Constructs are quite simply ideas, things that the human mind fabricates out of ‘facts’ correct or not. We build constructs to try to explain our lives and our world. We build constructs to try to find eternal truths.

The problem becomes that our tool, constructs, is almost as good at hiding truth as it is in finding truths. So, how do you tell the difference?

Truth, both kinds we’ve talked about, are detectable. A correct ‘fact’ truth is a binary switch. An event, the fact, happened or it didn’t. As I wrote these words initially I was sitting in my chair in my living room. That is a correct fact truth. It happened and I can provide evidence of it (if I were to have had someone stand over my shoulder and take a picture while I was writing for instance).

‘Eternal truth’ truths can also be detected, but it is often more challenging. ‘Eternal truth’ truths exist in the information we take in. They are there in the same way a vein of ore (and sometimes pure metal) exists in a mountain, a mountain made of our constructs. So how do we tell the difference?

Eternal Truths are constants, though they may be hard to see (and even hard to test for). You can spot them for what they are by seeing what they do not do, change.

Constructs change and evolve. They change with thought, desire, need, and the ongoing shifts in what ‘facts’ are deemed correct and ‘true’. Trying to support an idea on constructs can be as maddening as trying to support yourself while walking through soft sand or mud.

The constructs shift, but the eternal truths stay the same. The truths are the things that always are, and are always true. When I say God loves you that is an eternal truth (which we can see if we are honest with ourselves and really try to look). How we describe God, whether God is a man, a woman, both, neither, or a committee is a construct that will change depending on our ‘facts’.

That is our big thought for today dear reader. Truth, real eternal truth, is out there and we can find it. We just have to sift through all the constructs we’ve built to try to understand ourselves and the world around us.

Until next time…

Good luck, good hunting, and God be with you.

What a year

Even without going into politics (and we are not going into politics here!) 2016 has been an interesting year. While there has been bad (police shootings (both ways), acts of terror, and other man caused stupidity, dishonesty and cowardice) there has also been good. People have done courageous things, stood for right and helped other people. In the coming year let’s bring the good with us (and if we have to remember the bad remember it as a warning, don’t let wrong and revenge become a vocation).

In my own little corner of the universe 2016 has seen the launch of my first real book as a professional writer, and the transformation of my first NANOWRIMO win into what will hopefully be my first book release of 2017. This year has also seen the death of my mother, the rise of my wife’s doctoral dissertation, and yet another NANOWRIMO win. Again I seek to take the good with me, and if I have to remember the bad I choose to remember it as past and not something to live my life around.

We soon (within two weeks) will have a new year. It’s hard to say what’s going to happen and I know it will have its scary moments. Scary moments are part of life, but the key is to embrace the opportunities and move forward, to learn and do better than we have done before.

I am hoping to see many new and good things in the year to come, some of which will be discussed here. Some new things will actually happen here as I and my story continue to grow.

December holds the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice. The solstice is literally the year’s darkest day, and that’s ok. After the solstice things begin to get lighter again, the temperatures start to get warmer, and things start to grow again. So it should be with our lives.

And so dear reader I say to you Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

There are those who may choose to be offended by these wishes for good, to them I say just insert your own chosen holiday and accept that I’m including that one too (even Kwanza…). The point is that I am wishing you joy and happiness and it’s your choice to take it (or not…).

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year dear reader, and I hope to see you again in 2017.