Tag Archives: potential

Resisting Reality: When You Can’t Accept The Facts of Life

“…and the life of man [is] solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” –Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan

Hello friend,

Did you see the news of the 60 protesters killed in Gaza this week? How about the story of the new outbreak of the Ebola virus? It has been hard to miss the stories of potential nuclear war with North Korea and Iran. And what about those deadly storms? I also checked out an episode of David Letterman’s new interview series “My Next Guest Needs No Introduction” featuring Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai, in which she told of being shot in the head at age 17 for speaking out in support of allowing girls to be educated after her home region in Pakistan was taken over by the Taliban.

All of that was just Tuesday for me!

I know those types of stories come cascading down upon us every day of every week, threatening to drown us in shock, outrage, or despair (depending upon what the last thing was and the readiness of our defense systems). But some days, I just seem to have more nerves exposed and a weaker power of Denial, and all of this stuff storms my fortress and seeps in from all sides. It is then that I am forced face-to-face with the simple truth of human life that I work so hard to keep out: that it is uncertain and unfair, often violent and painful, and so much out of our control.

I hate that truth. I really do. All my life I have been fighting against it, resisting, denying.

I think most of us have one or more of those Realities or Truths About Life that we are–whether consciously or not–in denial of or don’t believe that they apply to us (and only us). Mine is definitely the one about the brutal and uncertain nature of our individual lives.

And I tell myself–occasionally, anyway–that it is childish and foolish to resist this truth so vehemently. After all, the evidence is everywhere. Bombs are exploding all over the world and destroying homes, businesses, sometimes entire families in an instant. Natural disasters are doing the same. Cars are crashing and taking limbs and lives. Viruses like Ebola are spreading to the unsuspecting of all ages. And kids are still getting cancer.

So, clearly, an individual human’s existence is precarious at best. More honestly, it is harsh and uncertain, often lonely and cut short. That is the practical reality.

Yet I resist that reality. I somehow refuse to accept it.

Every time I become aware of something harrowing happening in the world, I take it in and feel it. I try to meet it honestly. I don’t deny the event. I allow it to play its notes upon my heart and mind. There is sadness, sometimes disillusionment, often frustration–occasionally all three. As my system goes through all of those thoughts and feelings and the process runs its course, I deal with what is. That is a reality that I can face.

Simultaneously, however, there is a parallel reality that I cannot face (and even here in this lucid moment I will not fully accept). It is the idea that these frequent harrowing events and this uncertain and unsafe existence are a human’s natural and inevitable state of being. Something in me will not surrender to this idea, despite the abundant evidence to the contrary.

Upon reflection, I suppose that it is the idealist in me that continues to put up the fight. You see, I truly believe that we humans are capable of magnificence, both individually and collectively. I believe that our potential is so vast, almost to the point of being limitless. There is so much that is possible for us intellectually and emotionally. My vision of us acting at peak capacity is truly beautiful.

The smear on that beautiful vision, however, is our persistent and extreme failure to live up to our potential as a species. From my angle, humans are the epitome of wasted potential. Despite many wonderful examples of individual greatness, as a group, we fail at nearly opportunity to rise and make our existence safer, happier, and healthier. Almost every one of those violent uncertainties is something that we could improve or eliminate were we to use our resources wisely.

Think about the amount of money, time, brain power, muscle, and emotional resources that we devote toward attacking and defending ourselves from one another. What if all of those resources were instead devoted to making each other safer, happier, and healthier? You know, what if those trillions of dollars and all of those brilliant minds were spent on waging Peace, curing cancer, and making advances in renewable energy, education, sustainable communities, quality health care for all, clean water, healthy food, living wages, mental health, scientific research, and restorative justice? What if the humans of the planet got together and committed to doing right by each other and by the planet?

I absolutely believe that the evolution of our species would take a quantum leap forward. With that leap, I think we would eliminate nearly all of the things that make our individual lives so fraught with the terrors and pains that I have been speaking of. Cure diseases. Solve problems diplomatically. Understand the workings of our planet and how to spread our abundant resources equitably so that all can thrive and excel. Devise our buildings, transportation systems, and devices to be ultra-safe and eco-friendly.

We could do this stuff. I know we could.

But we don’t. Over and over and over we don’t. We consistently choose to operate out of Fear instead of Love and set up our perpetuating systems accordingly. Because of this Fear, we consistently act foolishly instead of wisely. Our systems further greed and corruption rather than empathy and kindness. The modus operandi that our ancestors chose and that we continue to choose works in the opposite direction of our potential.

Basically, our way is to underachieve our potential. We choose to fail ourselves. It’s a tragedy and a shame.

And in the end, what it means is that we continue to live these individual lives in perpetual danger. So many of the perils that make human life so scary–wars, diseases, food and water issues, crime, climate events, terrorism, isolation–are things that we have the resources and the ability to solve if only we were to choose our priorities wisely and act collectively out of Love. But instead, we choose to be less. That choice has us living in darkness.

Reading back over those last few paragraphs, you might not believe that I am a passionate optimist. It’s true, though. I deeply believe not only in my idealistic image of what we are capable of, but also that we will get there. I believe it is in written into the code of our species and our planet.

So sure, if you look at what we have been up to historically and what we are up to now, I agree that you could call me a fool for continuing to resist and deny the idea that human life is cruel and dangerous, uncertain and uncontrollable. And I am quite sure there will always be some element that we can strive to make more predictable and survivable–natural disaster preparation or cures for new diseases, for example. But I think I will hold onto my idealism about Who We Really Are and therefore Who We Will Become. And while one arm clings to that precious ideal, I will use the other arm to fend off any Reality or Truth About Life that says otherwise.

How about you? Is there an idea that most people accept as fact that you either deny or need to come to peace with? Open up your journal and explore your resistance to commonly accepted truths about Life. Which one do you fight against the most? What is it about that reality/truth that just doesn’t sit right with your heart or mind? Is it based on a personal experience that contradicts it, or is it more of a gut feeling or intuition that you trust? Do you think the rest of the world should awaken and adopt your stance on the subject, or is it fine as your personal belief? How would the world be different if everyone stopped accepting this idea as Reality? Okay, now to my specific resistance. Do you have any sympathy with my belief that it is not the natural and inevitable fate of humans to live amidst constant danger and uncertainty, or do you think this peril is a simple fact of Life? Are there any facets of this constant danger–disease, war, crime, natural disaster, climate events, pollution–that you believe we have the power to be free of or at least better protected from? What percentage of the usual danger and uncertainty that we face is it possible to be relieved of through measures we can take? Can you envision us taking those measures in your lifetime? How close are we as a species to achieving our potential? What actions can we take to evolve to that higher order? Am I fooling myself by expecting so much of us? Do you think it’s okay for me to carry on with this idealistic belief, or would I be better served to “face reality?” Leave me a reply and let me know: Are we right about all the things we accept as “Facts of Life,” or are there “truths” that are actually false?

Be your own standard,

William

P.S. If this topic resonated with you today, please share it on your social media channels. Perhaps we can make connections that will ultimately shift our reality for the better.

P.S.S. If this type of questioning and search for your own Truth is appealing to you, I recommend you checking out my book Journal of YOU: Uncovering the Beauty That Is Your Truth at your favorite online bookseller.

A Message to Late Bloomers: Why You Should Never Give Up

DSC_0598“It is never too late to be what you might have been.” –George Eliot

Hello friend,

POTENTIAL. What a wistful, fantastic, cursing, disappointing, and utterly pregnant word!

I have spent much of my life pondering this loaded concept. Many times have I thought or written, “The thing that saddens me most is wasted potential.” It has always broken my heart to see people settle or “underachieve” what I believed their potential to be (as though I had any right to be the judge of such things). I have, no doubt, written many times about it in my journal.

Here is one such instance, a small piece of a long entry I wrote one rainy night in Spain way back in 1997. I had been carrying on about how sometimes goals don’t push me but rather serve as limits to my growth, and I made the link as follows:

“It is all about what is possible. It leads to, or perhaps is the same as, the discussion of potential. In fact it is the same. There is that saying that God’s gift to you is your talent or potential, and your gift back to God is what you do with it. The saddest thing in the world is wasted potential (a.k.a. wasted gifts, wasted talent). I speak of this at every level, from mathematics to the ability to love to being the one to lead the big change in the world towards salvation. We must never settle! Never! That is the greatest tragedy. It pains my soul to see it. I see a girl like Marty in Beautiful Girls or Leah, and I just want to grab ahold of them and shake them, and simply say, “Never settle. There is so much inside of you. Do not be less than you can be.” It is everywhere, but I can see it in the girls of North Dakota, never seeing past the high school boyfriend, never giving themselves a chance. The tragedy. I hate to conjure that look of dead eyes in a woman that once had such a propensity for life. We must never settle!”

I have been pretty passionate about this idea over the years. I think that is what drew me to Life Coaching. You see, people don’t come to a Life Coach to be healed or fixed or made whole again. They don’t need all of their problems solved. No, they arrive whole and say, in essence, “I want to be my best. Let’s partner up to get me there!”  That makes my heart jump.

 Of course, the person on whom I have spent by far the most time and energy pondering, assessing, diagnosing, prescribing, monitoring, consoling, encouraging, and journaling about is myself. Like most people, I am probably my harshest critic. But, I am also the person I look to—usually via my journal—as the last one to believe in me and my potential when it feels like everyone else has forgotten or lost interest.

I have always believed that I have tremendous potential. I have daydreamed the biggest dreams of all for myself, things like truly saving the world with my ideas and actions. I have believed, at least once upon a time, that that power was in me.

Well, the bigger they are, the harder they fall! As I said, with great gifts come great responsibilities. Because I believed I had such magnificent gifts, my disappointment in myself—not to mention the guilt and shame—in not having made much of an impact on the world has been quite profound. I cannot believe, sometimes, how far off-track I have gone from where I once seemed to be heading. It is, when I take the time to fully consider it, quite disheartening. I have failed to honor my gifts by not using them to their fullest good. I have—shame of all shames—not lived up to my potential.

If you are at all like me and are wishing you would have done better, I have something to tell us both today:

It’s not over, friend! It isn’t. It is just starting, actually. Right now. In this beautiful moment. You have the amazing opportunity to start fresh and be better. No, not just better. You can be the person you have always—or even just once upon a time—imagined yourself to be. Look, I am not saying you are going to fly to the moon or play in the NBA; some dreams are time-specific, and you can actually miss your window. That stinks, I get it. But you are not too late for most things. Not even the DOING things. Want to learn the guitar (I do!)? Want to learn to speak Italian? Want to be better at your job? Want to get trained for a new job? Almost anything you can think of, you can still do. I wanted to have written several books by now. I haven’t. That’s disappointing, sure. But it’s not a death sentence. I still want to write them. So, I am using my failure up to this point to motivate me to be more focused going forward. Einstein said, “You never fail until you stop trying.” So get up, acknowledge that you haven’t hit every shot so far, and get focused on what you are going to be starting NOW. Notice I said “be.” Like I said, you can still DO most anything, too. You can start today, and things will still take lots of time and persistence. And there is value in the striving, of course. But the thing that is definitely yours for the taking in this very moment is your BEING. No matter how you have been so far in your life—selfish, impatient, unforgiving, greedy, unfocused, undisciplined, mean, weak, timid, insecure, afraid—you can choose to BE better and achieve it instantly. It is not as easy as it sounds—you have to KEEP choosing it over and over and over—but it is that simple. JUST CHOOSE TO BE HOW YOU WANT TO BE, AND KEEP CHOOSING IT. That is self-improvement. The DOING stuff will follow; I guarantee it. Imagine how choosing to be BRAVE would translate in your life. How would FORGIVING look on you? Picture yourself KIND. Try on AUTHENTIC (I love that one!). You can be what you see! Choose to be. This itself is an act of courage. But it is the greatest gift you will ever give yourself. So do it. Be courageous. Stand up for the greatness that you KNOW is inside you. Stop playing small. Sure, own your shortcomings. But don’t let them own you. Own your past. Just don’t live there. The old stuff doesn’t define you. YOU get to do that, starting now. And with every NOW that shows up, you get to redefine. So, make sure you define yourself as amazingly as you really are. Name it and claim it. It is time to play a bigger game. And the game starts NOW!!!

Okay, I admit that it feels much better to think about my life that way than it does when I lose myself in disappointment and regret for all I haven’t been and done. It is probably time to take my own advice. After all, despite my disappointment in my past, I truly have never stopped believing there is greatness in me. I think it is time that I rise to it. Better late than never!

How about you? How have you done so far in relation to your potential? Open up your journal and start with a little report card of your life to this point compared to the expectations you had for it. Have you done the things you believed you could or should do? Have you been the kind of person you believed you would be? What things have you lived up to? Where have you fallen short? Of what are you most disappointed in yourself? Did you feel like you were one of the people I addressed my message to? Can you let the past go? Now, change gears. Write about your potential. What kinds of things do you see yourself doing? If your best self showed itself, what characteristics would you have? How different would that feel to you? Try them on! Imagine the feelings. How is it? Do you feel elevated? Happier? Do you believe that you have the power to choose those characteristics in this moment? Are you ready to make that choice? How much better do you choose to be? How excited are you about all of this? Leave me a reply and let me know: Are you ready to bloom?

Own your magnificence,

William

P.S. If today’s message resonated with you, I am so glad! Please pass it on. Let’s bloom together!!!

The ONE That Got Away?

DSC_0227“The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances: if there is any reaction, both are transformed.” –C.G. Jung

Hello friend,

This is a ghost story.

Where do I begin? When I was 21 and just in the early stages of my acting/exploring the world/discovering myself period, I met an amazing young woman named Alex. And I mean young. She was 18, but, somehow, instead of spending her last few months of high school hanging around her schoolmates and partying, she was working out and hanging out with a bunch of twenties-and-thirtysomethings, including me. We were friends at first, as I was casually dating someone else at the time. When that fling ended and she and I continued to spend time together, I grew to realize that there was something deep and magical about her.

She was not at all like the other women I knew. For one, she was incredibly intelligent. She was fiercely independent. She was one of those “old souls” that made it seem completely natural for her to be good friends with a fortyish guy I knew. There was some pain there, too. She also had an intriguing combination of honesty and distance. She protected herself, even as she was vulnerable. It was a tricky combination to unlock, to say the least. But I admired her greatly, anyway. She oozed potential. I sensed that I would one day hear news of her curing cancer or leading a team of Doctors Without Borders that saved an entire ravaged province in Africa. I was impressed in advance.

The thing about that kind of potential when it intersects with precisely her age in a lifetime is that there is no track record. No history of “Oh, this is how you are and what you do, so I know exactly what you will be doing five years from now, too.” Real grown-up relationships often end with each party knowing just what to expect of the other’s future. There is enough film on them to know their tendencies. But when you are 18 and loaded with talent and depth, there is simply no limit. You can write your own ticket. It is like when space travel first became a real possibility. With no history and with potential to burn, it is bottled PROMISE. It is a degree of HOPE that leaves you breathless. It is, in a word, exciting.

It was during my short time of knowing Alex that I was given my very first journal by a common acquaintance. I was only writing about once a week then and quite briefly, but I am now completely enthralled as I look back on those initial entries. Even when I was dating someone else, I never failed to mention how fascinating and wonderful my friend Alex was. Eventually those entries come to the spot where there was only her in my thoughts, and we were a couple. A combustible mix of two characters protecting their hearts but still caring fiercely about the other, all the while knowing that we were headed in two very different directions. We were a classic case of two star-crossed lovers. Neither Time nor Destiny was on our side. I wanted to be a movie star and anywhere bigger and brighter than where we were, and she would be heading off to college before long and curing the world of its ills. It was a love that could not be.

I had my future of stardom on my mind and jumped at the first chance to leave town. So, instead of spending a Summer of Love with her, I put the fortress around my heart and said goodbye. I told myself that the writing was on the wall for us anyway, that we had a good handful of weeks and that a few more months was not going to change the end of the story. I chose the head over the heart. Or, rather, I chose my dreams of stardom over a possible love story. She even came to visit me for a day that Summer, and I had a very hard time letting her in. At first, I kept her at a real distance because I could not let it go on. It was only later, shortly before she left, that I realized—after all of our protecting ourselves early in our relationship and my firm resolve that we must cut the cord completely, no long-term relationships—that I really, truly loved her. I finally let myself feel that, if only briefly. It was like putting a giant weight down. I loved someone amazing. Someone who was going to set the world on fire with her brilliance. For a magic moment, I let my guard down and allowed that bottled PROMISE to enter my heart and carve its initials there.

And then she was gone. That was it. Never to be heard from again. We didn’t keep in touch. I kept on chasing my dreams across the country and across oceans. And she……….??? I have no answers. I have a million questions and even more visions of what she might have been doing all these years—the people she has touched, the wonderful places she has visited, the diseases she has cured—but they are only visions. Apparitions. She has truly become a ghost for me.

I don’t know why I never took pains to keep up with her or track her down. I never thought we would ever be together again—romantically speaking–so I wasn’t pining in that way. But that POTENTIAL. That bottled PROMISE. That HOPE. To simply follow her life story seems like reason enough for me to have kept connected, even once in a blue moon. But no. Nothing. Not a call. Not a letter. Nothing. I cannot explain my actions.

What I am left with is a ghost. An apparition of who she is. A vision of what she has done. And even a “what if” about an epic love story that might have been if our paths had crossed in a different place and time. It is the kind of stuff that an imagination can go wild with, or that can turn a sane mind insane. There is so much to dream about, so many holes to fill, both in the story and in the heart. Lots of wondering.

It has taken on a life of its own, I suppose, as the years have piled on top of one another. The ghost becomes the thing, perhaps a bigger thing than there ever was in the physical world. I had but a few months to know her and even less to love her. And now, on the other side of the scale from those few months is 21 YEARS! Years of myth-building and monument-making. Based on what? My belief in her potential. In her inner beauty and future greatness. She is immortalized for me the way James Dean and Marilyn Monroe are for others. Dying young does that to you. We only remember the best and imagine what might have been. That is my Alex. Bottled PROMISE. Forever a ghost, made sacred by potential and the sands of time.

Until now.

Yes, earlier this week, I was doing a work assignment of trying to connect to old acquaintances by sending friend requests on Facebook. I was only thinking of people from the last few years. When I finished the task, which had me feeling nostalgic for old friends, I decided to see if anyone existed from my past lives. I searched a few people from the old acting days in California without much luck. Then it hit me: my ghost! Why had I never thought of it before? Honestly, it took me a minute to get up the nerve to type her name. I just wasn’t prepared to see her, as she had existed only in my mind for over 20 years. And then, there she was. Photographic evidence of a real person. I was completely sucked in, of course, checking out her posts of her dog and her recent wedding. But I was also unnerved by it. Worlds were colliding, and it was a bit overwhelming.

I could not bring myself to send her a friend request. It was like it would be an invasion of something that existed magically in another dimension. Making us real adults that had moved on would violate that sacred space. Only later in the evening, when I reminded myself that she was a big piece of me somehow and that this is my one life and that I would actually love to hear her life story someday, did I go back and send her that request. I couldn’t tell if I had just ruined the whole thing or not, but the ghost was now actually haunting me. It occupied my mind and kept me always on edge when I turned on my phone or computer, ever wondering if my request would be answered. After a day had passed, I felt a little relieved that she hadn’t accepted it. Maybe I was a ghost in her life, too, and she preferred me that way. She was going to protect the sanctity of our otherworldly arrangement. I appreciated that.

After another full day passed, however, my heart stopped when I saw that she had accepted. With the dye now cast, I knew I had to reach out and see what the conclusion to our story would be. Not wanting to sound like the crazy stalker but still needing to be honest, I sent a note to tell her that I had always held her in the highest regard and believed that, with all of her talents, she would somehow save the world. I told her that if she ever wanted to meet up and tell me her life story, I would love to hear it. And if not, I wished her all the best. It was my Truth, and I sent it with a clear mind. And then, I waited. There were a million different ways that note could land with someone who hadn’t heard from me in 21 years and with whom I had no idea where I stood in her heart or mind, so I was totally on the edge of my seat. I wasn’t sure if it was excitement or dread. Finally, this morning, the response came. And the ghost story kind of ended.

It turned out sort of the way I intuited it when my first impulse on seeing her Facebook page was to leave it at that and not send the message. It was more romantic and mysterious when it was a creation of my mind. I could wonder forever in the ethereal haze of “What if…” Now I know that she has not cured cancer—though she is a nurse—and that she has only a vague recollection of our time together. Sure, that stings the ego a little bit (or a lot). But it is also fascinating to me, a guy who loves to study the human experience and the way our minds can choose to interpret our world. I caught a glimpse of someone for a handful of weeks, when every possibility in the world was before her, and I immortalized her there. She was my James Dean. For her, it seems, I was a happy moment in her life, but like most moments, soon forgotten. We were two ships passing in the night.

And so, my 21-year fantasy comes to an end. The bubble has burst. With the reality just a few hours old, I cannot say for sure if I regret searching her name on Facebook. I felt enriched by the fantasy all these years, so grateful was I that I got a brief glimpse at Greatness before it became Greatness. That felt good, like I had a secret window that no one else ever would. And really, I did. It doesn’t, in the end, matter if she cures cancer or prevents a nuclear crisis. Like all of us mortals, she is and always will be magic and Divine. And special. We can count ourselves lucky in this lifetime if someone sees all of that in us. But that part is not up to us, as I learned by this experiment.

I learned something else, though, too. I learned that it is perhaps an even greater gift to see that magic, that beauty, that bottled PROMISE in someone else. It is like being able to see through God’s eyes. It’s amazing, truly. Maybe my Divine vision could only sustain for this long because, after my brief glimpse, the vision was only in my mind. It was a ghost, an apparition that I could beckon in its purest form at my whim. It is hard to maintain that Divine point-of-view day after day in the real world, when that person is disagreeing with you about finances or leaving wet towels on the floor. The mind’s eye is more forgiving.

So yeah, as I process this whole thing right now and my fantasy gives way to reality, I really am grateful for this ghost that was my ghost. Today’s reality check just reminds me of what I wasn’t so aware of before: that the ghost was good for me. That the Hope was a gift. That tiny window in my lifetime is a beautiful memory for me and planted a seed far greater. She isn’t the one that got away after all. No, she is the one that will stay with me forever in that Divine form, a beautiful reminder of an important lesson. This ghost story has a happy ending after all. I’m keeping her! The ghost and I will live happily ever after……The End.

How about you? Do you have a ghost that you have lived with? Open up your journal and tell your story. Who was your ghost to you? A lover? A friend? A family member? How long did your actual relationship last before it existed only in your mind? Why did it end? Do you feel badly about the way it ended? What role does potential play in this person becoming your ghost? Are you like me and wonder how this person lived her life and changed the world with her gifts? Or is it about the potential relationship you might have had, the epic love you might have shared? Do you believe that your ghost is really “the one” for you, in the romantic sense? Do you think your ghost is somewhere feeling the same way about you? Why is the person still a ghost? Have you ever tried to track him down? What is stopping you? Is it safer just to keep him in your mind, where you get to control the vision? Who is the one person in your history that you would most like to sit down with and hear their life story? Leave me a reply and let me know: Who is the ONE that got away from you?

Love heals,

William

The Legacy of a King

IMG_1669“If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way.” –Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

About 25 years ago, I walked into the library of my high school. Well, walked may not be accurate. I felt like I was pulled in, guided there as if by some magnetic force. I was on a mission. I needed to understand who Martin Luther King was and what he really stood for. And, more importantly, why he seemed to draw me to him even though I knew practically nothing about him. It wasn’t for a class assignment or anything related to school that got me into that library. I just really needed to know. I was compelled. There are some things that are just inside of us; we fall to the Earth this way. I was drawn to Dr. King, even before that library mission, and certainly every day since. Along with a guy you might have heard of by the name of Gandhi, Dr. King is my hero. Perhaps unfortunately for me, however, he is also my measuring stick.

I LOVE books and movies, but I tend to be a bit forgetful of the specifics of the story. I watch intently, and I passionately dissect and discuss them afterward. However, if you ask me, years later, what a particular book or film is about, there is a decent chance that I will have no recollection. But, if you ask me how I felt about it, I will tell you with absolute certainty. It is like that quote about how people don’t remember what you say or do nearly as much as they remember how you made them feel. So, there I sat in the movie theatre last week watching “Selma”, being touched and moved by the experience and by Dr. King’s impact on the United States and on me, when a fact rolled across the screen as the end credits began. It reminded me that he was a mere 39 years of age when he was assassinated in 1968. This fact hit me like a giant club upside the head. Thirty-nine!! And it was four years earlier that he had won the Nobel Prize for Peace. Thirty-five!!!

These numbers had my head spinning. First, it was, “How could they take him so young? Just imagine what he would have achieved with 30 or 40 more years on the planet.” That is mind-boggling. After that thought rattled around my brain for a minute, though, it lead right into a follow-up that got me into a near-panic: “He did all of that by 39—even 35. Shoot! I am running behind! I better get going on changing lives and leaving my mark on the world. NOW!!!” 

Like I said, for me he is not just to marvel at; he is my measuring stick. You are probably thinking to yourself, “Why in the world would you choose one of the most accomplished change agents the world has ever known as your standard to live up to? Why not just take an average person—or even a moderately successful person—and try to do a little better than that?” It is a fair question and quite reasonable, actually. After all, isn’t comparing myself to Martin Luther King a direct path to failure and disappointment for me?

Maybe so. Maybe I am aiming too high. And let’s face it, my track record doesn’t quite shout out, “Hero! Difference-maker! Inspiration! Transformational leader!” I am a 42-year-old guy who has bounced around, taught a few people how to hit tennis balls, and sells shoes when I am not raising my kids. It is not exactly the resumé of Dr. King, who had a Nobel Peace Prize at 35 and was a hero and role model to people in all corners of the world. So, what gives?

Potential. That’s what. I am betting on my potential, on what I think I have in me. I think it is a lot. And I think it is special. Heart-changing. Mind-changing. Maybe even world-changing. I have thought about this concept of potential often. I think that in almost all cases, people overestimate their potential. They think they are capable of doing better—and indeed, fully expect to do better—than they actually are or do. I think it is part of why there are so many deathbed regrets. People think idealistically, especially in their younger adulthood, and dream big dreams for themselves. Unrealistically big, in most cases. (Well, as I write this, my mind changes. It is not our potential that we misread; I think those ideals are possible. We just lose our focus and fail to execute. Hence, the regrets.) I certainly may be in that unrealistic category. I am trying to measure up to Martin Luther King, for goodness sake!   Logic says that I am definitely in that category.

But don’t tell me that. Delusional or not, I am going to believe exactly what my heart and soul are screaming out to me.   They are telling me I am destined for greatness. They are telling me that I will change minds and change lives. Last week, I wrote to you that my Life Purpose Statement reads “I am a catalyst of Self-Awareness and Authenticity.” I believe that I was born with that purpose, that it lives in my soul. With that, I believe I am destined to help people know themselves better and live more authentic lives, honoring their gifts and their purpose. And the kicker is this: I believe I will do all of this on a grand scale, not just in the random few who happen to cross my path. I have a vision of publishing books that help people all over the world, of speaking in front of stadiums full of people, and yes, even of coaching people one-on-one. I want the work I do to touch all levels, from the personal to the global. As Dr. King said, I plan to do “small things in a great way” (as in my private coaching), but I also plan to do “great things”.   I believe that it is all in me.

So, while I am obviously running behind schedule on the standard set by Dr. King, I am still willing to bet on myself in the long run. I am working on my coaching practice every day, beginning to help people to live their best lives. I am writing to you every week, polishing my skills and hoping to make a more grand-scale difference as we go. And I am always, in my head, practicing the speeches I will give to you when we meet in those stadiums on some distant day. The foundation is being laid. I have to think that if I keep plugging away at these missions, constantly trying to serve others, one day my potential will transform into results.   Nothing is guaranteed of course—this is still Life, after all—but, as one of my other great idols, Henry David Thoreau, said, “if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” I am betting on me. Watch out, Dr. King, I am coming!

How about you? What do you expect from yourself in this lifetime? Open up your journal and write about what you are going to do before you die. What is your potential? Do you have the ambition to match your potential? Are you ready to dig in and do the work that it will take to live up to that? Do you use someone as a benchmark or standard that you feel you should live up to? Is it someone you know, or a celebrity or historical figure? Is it a realistic guide? Do you think people tend to overestimate, underestimate, or be pretty accurate when it comes to assessing their potential? Where do you fit? When it comes to yourself, do you tend to temper your dreams or go wild? How about with others: are you the friend/confidante who tends to suggest “Dream big!” or are you in the “Be realistic” camp? When you get to the end of your days, do you think you will be more satisfied or more disappointed with yourself and your journey? Do you think that setting your sights lower takes the pressure off and leads to greater happiness and fulfillment? Or, perhaps setting high standards and expecting the most of yourself brings out your best self and helps you play a bigger game? Where do you fall on this spectrum of expectations? Are you okay trying to do small things greatly—being a light in your little corner of the world–or do you feel destined for grander things? Leave me a reply and let me know: How big is your life and legacy going to be? 

Carpe diem,

William

Thanks, America!

DSC_0061 2“Be thankful for what you have. Your life, no matter how bad you think it is, is someone else’s fairy tale.” —Wale Ayeni

Hello friend,

I love that quote by Wale Ayeni. As a proud American–but one who is often quick to point out the faults and idiosyncrasies of my government and my society–I have to remind myself sometimes to insert the word “country” in place of “life” so that the quote can read:

Be thankful for where you live. Your country, no matter how bad you think it is, is someone else’s fairy tale.

And it is. America has been the fairy tale Paradise for countless people across the world for the last 700 years. The Land of the Free. The Land of Opportunity. These monikers are not to be taken lightly. People have killed and died for the opportunity to live here. They still do. This country is a beacon of HOPE in a world that desperately needs it.

“America” as a CONCEPT is truly magnificent. The philosophy that this country was founded and built upon is above reproach. It is tough to argue against the types of freedoms laid out for us in our Constitution. Conceptually, we are fantastically idealistic. Then you have the Oprah Winfreys, the Michael Jordans, the Bill Gateses, and such: all of these examples that show you that no matter where you start, you can hit it big in America. This place is, quite simply, bordered inspiration.

In contrast to the idealistic paragon of virtue and freedom that is “America the Concept”, the way we the people–as a society and a government–have acted has not always been so virtuous. Beginning with the European arrival in 1492, which was the start of a long and ongoing series of atrocities against the indigenous people of this land, the American people have often acted, well, un-American. We have enslaved and dehumanized others for all sorts of unsatisfactory reasons. We have been small-minded on social issues and pressured so many of our fellow citizens to silence their Truths—their religious beliefs, their sexuality, their political views—or be ostracized. We have not reached down to lend a hand to others in need, either across the world or in our own neighborhood. We have too often abused our position as the militarily strongest country in the world. In short, the actions of “We, the people”—and those of our government—have often come up short of the idealistic standards and philosophies that our nation was built upon.

As I mentioned, I am often the one pointing out our shortcomings. I want to be honest with myself and my kids about how we are doing–both as a society and as a nation–and that means owning our ongoing history of oppression. However, just because I can acknowledge the reality of our human failings, it does not mean that I cannot be truly inspired by the people of this country and the wonders that are available to us here. I am still totally in awe of “America” the concept. I love that I get to write these words without fear of my government censoring them. I love that I get to define my version of the Divine without repercussions. I love that I get to vote. I love that I was free to marry someone whose skin is a different color than mine, and I love that so many other people are recently being allowed to marry as well. I love that education is important here. I love that I can go anywhere. I love that I can dream big and have the audacity to think those dreams just might come true. But mostly, I just love that I can live my Truth. I love America!

Think of all the people around the world suffering under oppressive regimes, unable to express their opinions, practice their religion, embrace their sexuality, educate themselves to the level of their potential, and just otherwise live their Truth. America, at its best, is a Paradise in comparison. We have a long way to go as a society in terms of addressing our deep-seated “isms”—classism, racism, sexism, heterosexism, etc.—but there is nothing in our nation’s philosophy that prevents it. There is already a framework for greatness. It is ours for the taking.

I love our potential. It is truly mind-boggling. If we can begin to consistently align our actions with the ideals and liberties that America was founded upon, there is no end to the amount of good we can do, both for ourselves and for others. We might be the best thing going right now, but just think of how much better we could be. Think of what the nation’s founders believed we could be.

I have faith that one day, “we the people” will live up to the ideals that founded our borders. I am grateful for the ideals—they are wonderful guideposts–and grateful in advance for our ascent toward daily practice of those ideals. God bless America, sure, but please bless us, the people of America, and grant us the wisdom to act well. It is we, the people, who get to determine if this magnificent concept called “America” gets to transform into “America the Beautiful.” We have the opportunity to create our own fairy tale. Let’s go for it! Together!

How about you? How do you feel about your country? Open up your journal and write out your heart. What bothers you about your homeland? How has it stifled you and the full expression of your Truth? Do you ever feel embarrassed that you live here? Can you think of another country that you would prefer to live in? Which of our “isms” weighs you down the most? How can you play a part in producing a more inclusive and supportive society? What do you love most about your country? Which liberty do you enjoy most here that you know is restricted in other countries? Are you aware of how lucky you are? Leave me a reply and let me know: Are you grateful for your homeland? 

Be a light today,

William

Are You Wasting Your Life?

IMG_1196“Don’t die with your music still inside you.” —Dr. Wayne Dyer

Hello friend,

Did you ever read or hear something that completely stopped you in your tracks? I mean, totally stunned you, and in that instant gave you a smack-in-the-face reality check that made the state of your life crystal clear? I did.

I mentioned to you in my last post, “Falling Off The Tightrope”, that probably my greatest fear in this world is wasting my life, that I am not making the most of my time here. I also talked about how I am desperately trying—and failing—to do everything I possibly can to be productive and fulfill my dreams……after 8:30 P.M., when my kids fall asleep. I have enormous ambitions for those late-night hours: write these blog posts to you, write my own journal entries, work on “The Journal Project” to eventually produce the story of my life, study all of the many things I still want to learn, and on and on and on. That is my window of time available, and I am squeezing hard to fit it all in. It is a tall order, and no wonder that I have had such trouble finding the right balance.

That imbalance—specifically, the desire to accomplish more of the things that I love and feel called to do—creates a lot of tension in me. Turmoil. Stress. Anxiety. Quite simply, I want to do better than I am doing now. MUCH better. Even as I have recently become more clear about what is my soul’s calling and what lights me up, at the same time it becomes increasingly apparent how I am failing to make that positive contribution to the world in the scope that I feel capable of. I feel like I am running a losing race against my potential. That hurts my heart much more deeply than I can find words to explain. So, I keep rushing around trying to pack more and more in so I can make a greater contribution to the world before I die.

With all of this as background noise, I was, not so many months ago, going about my busy way. To ripen me even more for a wake-up call, I had just that morning had a situation at work that had gotten my blood pressure up and soured me a bit. I escaped for a quick workout in hopes of improving my mood, and when I hopped on the elliptical machine and turned on my e-reader, I found a “Quote of the Day” message in my inbox. Here is what it said:

“The feeling of being hurried is not usually the result of living a full life and having no time. It is on the contrary born of a vague fear that we are wasting our life. When we do not do the one thing we ought to do, we have no time for anything else.” –Eric Hoffer

I was absolutely shell-shocked. Stunned. You could have just as well hit me over the head with a baseball bat. I stood there dazed for a few moments before I could do anything else, and finally I started reading it over and over to slowly dissect and absorb it. It was a total “A-ha!” moment for me. Suddenly my life situation was crystal clear to me. I wouldn’t be trying to squeeze in a book or a kayak ride or a nature walk or learning the guitar or even just watching an occasional movie if I were writing full-time. Those things get edged out because I have to write and do The Journal Project in the few “free” moments I get, always feeling rushed and compromised.

I like my job. I like teaching people and helping them to gain more confidence in themselves. I really like being a small part of one of the highlights of someone’s week; that never gets old. However, thanks to the clarity that has come from a lot of soul-searching, my career has become my version of “wasting my life” by not being what my true purpose is. And because it occupies the time that it does, I am trying to hurry to do the rest and never succeeding at that. Thus it feels, as Hoffer says, as though I have no time for anything else because I am not spending the bulk of my time and energy on my calling. What a glorious feeling it would be to live my purpose—to literally work on my calling—from nine to five instead of 8:30 P.M. to oblivion. I could actually use the evening hours for hobbies and rest, and not even be stressed or guilt-ridden by that. That is a happy thought.

And so, it seems that the gauntlet has been thrown down. What am I going to DO about this moment of clarity, this reality check? It is, after all, much easier to understand my situation than it is to change it. The time for thinking has passed; the time for doing is upon me. Starting Journal of You was a direct result of that “A-ha!” moment. It was my first step out of my comfort zone, and it was my announcement to the Universe that I am in the ring at last, ready to give my gift. I can see now that this was the first of many necessary steps. This one has kept me in the post-8:30 P.M. hours, though. I must take some bolder steps in the direction of nine-to-five. These are the steps that will take more courage, more audacity.

I am definitely scared of the risks required to make the next big move, but I am getting to that tipping point of being MORE scared of the regret I will feel if I don’t. Now is the time to engage my soul and my dreams with this world. It is time to give my gift. Along with the Wayne Dyer quote at the top, the other thought that keeps pecking away at my mind is, “This is NOT a dress rehearsal!” If not now, when? It is my time to act with courage, to embrace the uncertainty, to be radically myself. I can do it. I will do it. Onward and upward! Let me never again have to wonder if I am wasting my life.

How about you? How comfortable are you with the way you are spending your time on Earth? Open up your journal, and take a long look in the mirror. What is your potential? Seriously, how great can you be? How much can you contribute to the world? Don’t limit the meaning of “contribute;” it can be anything you decide (how many smiles you put on people’s faces, how well you raise your children, how honestly you share yourself with others, how professionally you do your job, and a zillion other seemingly invisible things are magnificent contributions). Does the difference between your contributions and your perceived potential bother you like it does me? How rushed do you feel? If you do feel rushed, is it because there is simply too much to do, or are you not spending your time the right way? How does your job and career path mesh with your dreams and your purpose? Is it integrally intertwined, totally unrelated, or somewhere in between? Is your work fulfilling? What one thing could you do today to more closely align your schedule with your calling? How can you live better? Leave me a reply and let me know: Are you wasting your life?

Go boldly in the direction of your dreams,

William