Tag Archives: Inspiration

Reinvention

Some argue that we are the sum of the decisions and relationships we have made over the years.  Others debate the impact of nature vs. nurture as the primary drivers of who we are.

Although that type of thinking has some value when triaging aspects of our lives, it offers little hope when we have the need for a major pivot or revival of our souls after major trauma.   Those conventional views actually work against our desire/need to reinvent.

Can you imagine walking away from reading this and venturing to do something you’ve never done before?  Kissing a stranger, attending a religious event for a faith you don’t believe in, or meditating in your backyard naked (Speedos optional).   I may or many not have done all of these (shh…), but let’s say I’m open to some new suggestions.

What you do is irrelevant, but knowing that you can do whatever comes to mind is foundational otreinvention.  Free from fear of condemnation.  Free from abstract ideas of what failure is.  Free from the definition of who you are, based on your past.

Start small, but train your brain to create new realities, one decision at a time.  Intentionally get lost, seek out anxiety, and awkwardness.  Embrace the beauty of not being good enough.  The emotional range and learnings we get from near misses, tend to be more memorable and propelling than the easy wins.

Learn to respectfully ignore friends and family, when safety is not concerned.  They often are the builders and reinforces of the boxes you have felt trapped in.  They want what they think would make you happy based on their experiences.  My secret is I’m very open about my unpredictability.   In practice, I am actually pretty moderate, but I make sure the people who know me are  aware that I am constantly redefining who I am, so they don’t fixate on what you have already seen.

If all you do is one new thing after reading this, I will smile in my soul, knowing that I might have helped you along your journey.  If all you do is think about me in speedos in my backyard…  You are welcome!

Blind Trust?

The concept of trust is intriguing.

How many times have you said that you do or don’t trust someone?

Implicit in the most generic definition of trust is the expectation that we can predict how people will behave, regardless of unknown future circumstances.

We want to believe that people will always do what they say or do what’s “right.”  Yet, we don’t often step back and consider that people will change and have varying definitions of right and wrong, that also evolve.

So, where does that leave us? Should we abandon trust and be perpetually revisiting our assumptions?

Yes.

I’m not going to add a qualifier either.

Life teaches us that people/institutions will usually do what’s in their perceived best interest to survive.  Regardless of what they have told you, promised you, and even at times in conflict with the rules of a civil society.

Trust as we have come to know it, makes us lazy.  We allow it to substitute the difficult and often uncomfortable work of continually learning what really motivates the people we interact with.

Instead of trust, may I suggest more of an evolving alignment.  Let the actual words and actions of the people in your life be fuel for growing your relationships.   Check if you are still aligned, and if things have changed, explore what you both have to do to get back in step.

The concept doesn’t scale, and that’s okay. People you don’t communicate with will continue to serve their self-interests, regardless of what you expect, so don’t let their decisions stress you out.  In their mind, you are doing the very same thing…

In summary ,

– You will change

– Others will change

– Acknowledge your misalignments

– If the relationship has value, evolve to preserve it!

I too am racist, but in recovery!

In case you’ve never met me, it may be relevant to know that my skin is likely darker than yours.  Just a hunch, but my lineage traces back to an indigenous people, with no known mixing outside of the race.

Yet, when I see people of the same or different complexions, here and abroad, I often find myself momentarily projecting assumptions about wealth, intelligence, and strength.  There is even a quick subconscious assessment of my advantage or perhaps my vulnerabilities.

Instincts, I think that’s what we call them.  They are these emotional and mental shortcuts we’ve developed throughout our lives to increase our likelihood of survival and success.   Evolutionarily, instincts evolve slowly in nature and time proves out those that are valid.

Our reality as humans has taken a bit of a turn from the rest of nature.  The instincts we have now are not our own any more.  They are derivatives of the content we digest.   We listen and watch news stories and view social media updates passively, not realizing they are changing us faster than any other evolutionary change I have ever heard of.

When I hear the word terrorist, why does my mind already have a profile ready?  What about words like poor, rich, techie, tree-hugger, banker, athlete,… you name it, we have been trained to expect certain people to fit these profiles.

Like it or not, this is our current reality.  Accepting this however, is how we begin to empower the change most of us would assume to be the right change.  Accepting this, means becoming more conscious of the content we consume.  More aware of how our consumption drives business, which drives more of the same content.

Human nature is predictable in that we ultimately do what works.  Sadly, we have seen that being racist (or similarly sexist) works for far too many people in too many parts of the world.

Those of us who are aware can unwind our “-ist” tendencies by starting to create balance in our consumption.  For every negative stereotype we are exposed to, can we actively seek out a counter?  If our media sources continue to only focus on the negative, do we have the courage to cut them off and let them know why?

Make a change first for yourself, then bring others along.  In time, as we change the nature of what “works,” we can heal our race, the human one…

Frankenstein or Hot Chocolate: embracing my “faults”

Please forgive me if the image is too graphic. But, it’s me. It’s the part of me, most have never seen. Always present, but never visible.

A few screws, plates, nuts, and bolts keep me from paralysis or worse.   I definitely went through a stretch where my self image took a hit.

But, I don’t write this for sympathy though, so please don’t worry about me. In many ways I’m significantly more at peace than I have ever been.

In the passing of Muhammad Ali, we saw a man who bore his infirmities very publicly. He provided a proud and beautiful face to Parkinson’s disease. A condition, many have suffered with, in the dark.

In a world, where we all feel pressured  to “fix ourselves,” I ask that we pause. What if, from now, you spent your time and energy doing the best you can to live a full life, just as you are?

You may not have titanium implants in your body, but you have likely built some emotional or mental hardware to stabilize yourself from previous hurts. If not, seek that stability you need to find your personal contentment.  After you’ve secured safety from further harm, then let the fun begin.

Many of my friends know that I started referring to myself as “Hot Chocolate” a few years ago, embarking on my personal mission to spread the hotness to the world.  However, most didn’t know that my new sexy self only emerged when my physical body was at it’s weakest.  Being keenly aware of the delicate fragility of life and vitality, I decided to optimize that which I could control.  It’s been fun writing my own story, comparing my life to no one else.  Just quietly exceeding my own expectations day by day.

I laugh when I hear all the things people suggest I should fix: my chipped tooth, my skinny chicken legs, the woefully under-furnished home, or my barely tapped potential as a bachelor. Thanks for the tips, but I’m really just enjoying being alive. I might get to the other stuff, but then again…

I hope you too can know that joy.  Live my friends, really enjoy each day, it’s the best thing you’ve got going for you.

Hot chocolate out!

Wealthy by choice

 

The world is so full of inspiration, when we can slow down enough to catch it. This week, while in Panama, I made a new friend. Our meeting itself was unconventional. Me, the quiet lone traveler, taking in the sites on a rooftop bar. She, the vibrant, joyful soul, celebrating her birthday with friends.

The group welcomed me in and my new friend volunteered to give me a tour of the city. Tourism pitch: the hospitality of Latin America is truly unlike any other. You must visit!

Let me refocus on the topic at hand…

As our tour began, we spoke about many things and she revealed to me that she had just quit her job. Not because there was anything better to run to, but just knowing that the life she was living to accommodate her job was not one that she wanted to maintain. It’s a choice that many people make, but what stood out to me was the peace she had, not knowing what was next. The peace was in the decision itself. There was a visible sense of empowerment in that she would choose what would come next in her life.

Our conversation impacted my view on a few things. I remembered the young lady I met on the plane, who described her multiple skills and her world of TV and Film production. My head was spinning by her array of talents, but what stood out the most, was that she was able to choose what projects and locations she worked in.

Later, I met a 61 year-old man, with 10 children, who fished for a living. For a small fee, he would take foreigners out to sea with him and allow them to join his vocation. His quiet strength and poise was that of a noble man. His contentment was palpable.

I had to pause.   I was a little bit jealous. But at no point did I wonder about their economic wellbeing. I saw a type of richness in life that I think we all would find fulfilling.

My takeaway:

We are all capable of achieving wealth. But it’s not in how much we accumulate.   It’s more in our realization that whether we choose to party all night or sit still under the sun. It is in that choice where life is most abundant.  Others may have different options than you, but ultimately, you will define your own wealth.

Choose wisely, choose freely, but when it’s all said and done, just chose and value the experience that decision yields …

 

A Night in the Congo: Why I need to learn how to play chess again…

It’s 3:00 in the morning, and instead of being in deep sleep, I’m wide awake and thinking about chess.  The game that looked so simple, yet for so long frustrated me in my youth.  I learned the moves quickly enough.  With competitive zeal, I jumped onto my school chess team and was soundly beat in rapid fashion.

For all my energy and smarts, I had failed to appreciate the history of the game.  I was unaware of the existence of systematic sequences of moves that could guarantee victory, if the opponent didn’t counter.  I knew of the power of the Queen or the Rook, but I underestimated the value of the pawns.  I had yet to learn how to trap my opponent and incentivize them to do things that would ultimately limit their choices and enable my plans.
So, what does any of this have to do with the Congo?
Tonight, I heard a friend and colleague discuss the realities of life in the Congo for so many young women and men, who have never known life without war and oppression.  Yet in the midst of such unfathomable conditions, foreign countries and companies are accumulating wealthy as the natives suffer.  He proceeded to educate me about tales in Bukina Fasa, and others chimed in about similar stories in South Africa.  I reflected on my own experiences in Ghana, Brazil, and Chile.  Do your own analysis of the history of Guatemala, Afghanistan, Iraq…  These mineral rich nations have and continue to be the profit centers for some of the largest companies and countries in the world, which is not news.
What stood out to me tonight though was the common themes that I heard, regardless of the country.  The destabilization of governments, wars, displacement of natives people, entrance of large multinationals organizations (mining companies, NGOs, banking institutions) are always there.
It’s as if there is a game of chess being played and only one side knows all the rules.  The other side keeps getting beat by the 4-move checkmate.  With increased access to information, young people are learning the rules of this international chess game.  They are realizing the abilities of their pawns, bishops and nights.  Awakening to the relatively limited power of their Kings and figureheads.  Celebrating their queens, re-positioning the pawns and giving them full access to the board.
What must happen next is the evolution beyond responding to the last move of the opponent.  The study of the history of the opponent’s moves, must inspire us to create defensive strategies that not only block their predictable moves, but set up an offensive counterattacks.  Achieving an ultimate checkmate may be 1 month, 5 years, or even 2 generations away, but an effective chess player has both short term and long term strategies.
Your opponent is experienced, and your strategies must have depth and conviction.  Every loss you take should be intentional and set up your next move.  We cannot blindly expose our strongest pieces or unnecessarily sacrifice our pawns, nor will we wait and just play defense until we lose.
The game has already started.  The opponent has moved.   Knight  to A3, what’s our next move?

Since, 1 + 1 does not equal 2,…

I am free to no longer just believe what I have been told.

Dr. Gore’s lecture began with, “In the beginning God created Math…”  Imagine my reaction.  Having grown up extremely religious, and very scientifically inclined, I had always kept the two separate.  And in one sentence, I found myself curiously speechless. 

What we proceeded to learn was how to prove that 1 + 1 does NOT equal 2.  Contact me for details, but the heart of the exercise was that, based on your assumptions, you can prove almost anything.

Whether you are talking about Science, Religion, or any social construct, if you peel the layers of the onion enough, you’ll always find some assumption or definitions at the core that are most likely based on theory.   Few of us consider the validity of our assumptions.

Over the course for our lives, the number of things we take to be true without further exploration grows.  It’s as if we get lazy and let others do all the exploring for us.  Religious books “tell” us all we need to know.  Scientific journals “tell” us of the experiments others have done to prove things. 

We sit in pews and listen to preachers or we watch TV shows that explain all the mysteries away.

STOP!  GET UP, GET OUT, and DISCOVER some “thing” for yourself!

Sorry for the excessive caps, but our humanity is at stake. 

Spiritual people, all your spiritual founders had journeys that led to enlightenment.  Please take your own journey.  We need to hear your authentic & unique stories too.  Scientists, challenge old assumptions and look at old experiments with new perspectives, and share what you discover.  If you fall in neither category, I’m sure you have plenty of assumptions that you can re-examine too.

There are so many ways I can take this, but I will stop and hope I meet some of you on our journeys of discovery.  I look forward to hearing what you have discovered for yourself and trust I’ll have a couple of interesting stories to share too!

Remember, if I can prove that 1 + 1 is not equal to 2, what else might you be wrong about?

If I was depressed…

I might not realize that, relative to the mightiest who are no longer with us, I am strong.

The awareness that with each breath, I have the ability to sustain, improve, or even create a new future would allude me.

Kind words from strangers, and persistent calls from friends and family would be a nuisance.

That car that’s always in the shop or my drafty small bedroom might cause me to overlook their ample function and curse contentment.

Lonely nights wouldn’t realize their liberating creative potential.

The wisdom acquired through pain would not light my path, or protect those who come behind me.

My larger than life smile would hide in the shadows of a persistent frown.

My murky lens would distort the memories of the purest and most genuine moments of joy that disrupt my otherwise steady state melancholy.

Alas,  I’m not depressed, any more…

The day I stopped looking for beauty

We’ve all had that moment when you were looking so hard for something, only to find it was right under your nose.  Recently, I picked up the hobby of amateur photography.  I invested in a nice camera, and started making an effort to visit interesting places and look for compelling people and artifacts to memorialize.  This blog features some of my favorite pictures so far from around the world.

I found myself looking for traits in things that would make for a beautiful picture, as if there was a formula.

Then it happened.

As I drove home on a rainy day, the clouds began to give way to the setting sun, and it was as if time stood still.  As if I was all alone in the world, seeing and feeling something that no one else in the world could know.  I pulled over right where I was.  I ignored the cars behind me and I pulled out my cheap cell phone and captured the image found attached to this blog entry.

It was as if I was experiencing beauty, not just seeing it.  I wasn’t on an exotic beach, or in an ancient city, or looking at one of the 7 wonders of the world.  I was less than a mile from my house in the suburbs of Atlanta, and I was gifted a truly indescribable moment of perfect beauty.

That moment has stayed with me. A friend commented that she was glad that i was still enough to not miss that moment.  Since then, I’ve made a conscious effort not to prescribe what beauty is.

Whether you are in a museum, looking at your mate, or in the market for a new one… slow your mind, slow your eyes and explore what you are experiencing as a whole.  What are you feeling?  How is your body responding to the moment?

I have traveled to many interesting parts of the world and often asked myself if my size, complexion, eyes, hair (or lack there of), makes me attractive to different people.  Naively thinking there is some calculus for attraction.  Yet, there are moments I can now recall, when the eyes of a stranger spoke and I missed it.  When my own involuntary smile conveyed my unconscious approval, and I ignored it.

My conclusion.  You don’t really know what experiences await you tomorrow, next week, or next year, but give yourself a chance to have these moments.  Forsake your artificial bias towards defined norms of beauty, and allow yourself to be overtaken by what only you can know as beautiful.

Rethinking poverty

I have attempted to write this post several times, hoping to reveal some life-changing secret, but tonight, as I reflect on the passing of a friend to cancer, I am reminded of the precious nature of every fleeting moment, every imperfect thought, every … you get the point.  Hear me out, and apply/share as you see fit.

What is at the key to breaking the poverty cycle?  Is it effort, discipline, education, charity?

My less than academic survey of human history finds that poverty and lack of contextual knowledge are closely aligned.  I am careful to assert context is critical.  I think there are many “smart” people who ignore the prevailing winds of their ecosystem, and struggle, simply because the knowledge they have isn’t relevant.

Disclaimer…  I’m not saying being poor is a bad thing.   If however, you are interested in leveraging financial resources to amplify your positive impact on your community and the world, read on…

Because of where you were born/live, you are subject to economic and political systems that support and drive the nation you live in.  The more you know about and are positioned to contribute to the engines of that system, the harder it is to be poor.   You may not like or agree with that system, but it chugs along, with or without you, so learn and engage.

Enough rambling.  Context-aware observations found below:

1.  The most effective way to consistently make money is being involved in the process of helping others make money.  Check out recent data on where money is made in the U.S.

http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2014/04/25/five-takeaways-from-new-gdp-by-industry-report/

I have a longer list, but I am going to stop myself because this one concept is so loaded with power, it needs to resonate.  Maybe we need a slogan.  “I make money by helping you make money.”

Too often, the mass media magnifies the power of celebrity through sports and entertainment.  Notice how that is approximately 4% of the GDP.   I highlight this single example to show what I mean by contextual awareness.   Think about it 96% of the money made in America does not come from Arts and Entertainment.

If half the money in the U.S. flows through finance, government, manufacturing, and business services, at least half our efforts should be related to equipping those we aspire to help enter those spaces.  We may not be able to open a major bank in every community tomorrow, but we can start scaled, responsible micro-lending institutions.  We may not be able to open another automative manufacturing plant tomorrow, but as the U.S. has become more competitive with China recently, small focused manufacturers can emerge and employ people in communities were manufacturing once thrived.

I should have some clean tidy conclusion right about now, but I don’t.  I’m starting a conversation, hoping to challenge us to inform people who have not always known how large the pie really is to broaden their view and stop fighting over scraps.  There is a better way.

This post is going way longer than I planned…  I’m going to make myself stop.  I will likely revisit this one and revise it soon, but for now, I post.