Sunday, February 01, 2015

You Can't Please Everyone

I cannot give you the formula for success but I can give you the formula for failure which is try to please everyone.
-Editor Herbert Bayard Swope
 
Everywhere you turn there is someone who has expectations of you.  Even a robust attempt to please everyone will end up mostly in failure.  I am not sure I have ever totally pleased anyone.  I’ve tried to be a good son, good brother, good husband, good father, good employee, and good leader.  The only thing I am confident I have done really well is being a grandfather.  I also try to be a good writer since writing is the closest I have ever come to having a gift.  At this point in my life I have an attitude that many may find difficult or unacceptable.  My current attitude is that I am doing the best I can and if it’s not good enough for you, you can get over it.  I believe most people, including myself, are generally doing the best they can to be all they should be.  I don’t expect perfection in myself or others.  The older I get, the more tolerant I am of human weakness.  Life is difficult, those around us often expect a lot, and our ability to deliver can vary wildly on any given day.  Abraham Lincoln once said, “You can please some of the people all of the time, all of the people some of the time, but you cannot please all of the people all of the time”.  These are wise words from a wise man.  I try to put my best self out there as much as I can with the hope I will make a positive difference in the world.  Sometimes my less than best self makes an appearance and I hope that he does no harm.  My advice is to not worry about pleasing people.  I encourage you to focus on doing good.  If you do good things you will please more people than you annoy.  Actually I think annoying some people can be a good thing and I occasionally I take pleasure in doing that.  

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Do No Harm


I once read a book called  Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn.  It is a book about mindfulness.  One chapter was about the idea of doing no harm.  If you don’t know what to do, at least do no harm.  This is a good mantra for those who find it difficult to actually practice love, kindness, and compassion.  It is similar to the Dalai Lama’s teaching that if you can’t love everyone, at least don’t hurt them.  This particular Dalai Lama teaching is something I practice a lot in the work environment.  However, I think the idea of doing no harm is a great default mantra when love, kindness, and compassion seem beyond our ability.  I like to believe that most other people, including me, are driven by idealistic motives.  However, my experience is that being optimistic, positive, and caring takes a lot of energy.  It is energy well spent but it does take a lot of effort to be a good person.  Doing no harm may seem like a negative way to live bit I think it can only have positive results.  By doing no harm we keep ourselves from unleashing negative energy into the world.  The laws of karma would say that by doing no harm, no harm will be done to you.  In a perfect world we would all be driven and motivated by caring for others and doing good things.  In the real world it is challenging to always do these things.  I still hope to practice love, kindness, and compassion as much as possible and whenever possible.  However, I also know that some days it seems beyond my ability.  When I am feeling less than charitable, I hope my backup plan of doing no harm kicks in and keeps me from saying or doing things I will regret later.      
 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Relax And Live

Worry is the most natural and spontaneous of all human functions.  It is time to acknowledge this, perhaps even learn to do it better.
-Pathologist Lewis Thomas
 
I know people…one of them is my wife…who worry about everything.  Such people are almost incapable of not worrying.  It is in their nature to worry about everything, no matter how irrational it may be.  I worry about nothing.  I sometimes have concerns and on a rare occasion I do get stressed.  My wife would say that I don’t worry because I am clueless about reality.  She would probably say this about all men.  Admittedly, there are probably times I should worry.  I do sometimes make molehills out of mountains but I am an eternal optimist who always believes things will get better even when they don’t.  What does worry accomplish?  It seems like a terrible waste of energy to me and I don’t have any that I can spare.  Such energy could be spent seeking a solution to whatever it is that you are worrying about.  I think many people worry because they cannot differentiate between an inconvenience and a real crisis.  I don’t know exactly why I do not worry.  I believe it is because of my belief and experience that God and life has always taken care of me.  One way or another I have always gotten what I need to live.  When I haven’t gotten what I thought I needed, I probably didn’t really need it.  As we all know, there are needs and there are wants.  Sometimes what I need is not what I want and it might take me a little while to accept that.  I wish people, especially chronic worriers, would take all the time and energy they waste on worrying and use it to just think deeply about their life.  They might want to reflect on the question, “Why do I worry so much and how many, if any, of my fears have actually come true”?  We all need to deal with the challenges that life gives each of us but we would also be doing ourselves a big favor if we could simply relax and live.       

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Live With A Sense Of Wonder

The secret of staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly, and lie about your age.
-Comedian Lucille Ball
 
Lots of words have been written about staying young.  Some people say age is all about attitude.  This idea has been humorously captured by the famous baseball player, Satchel Paige, in his quote “Age is mind over matter.  If you don’t mind, it don’t matter”.  Some people also talk about being “young at heart”.  I don’t think we should obsess about being young.  As Bob Dylan once sang, “Those not busy being born are busy dying”.  Sometimes our attempts to be young are little more than immature behavior.  There’s nothing more pathetic than a man or woman my age trying to act like they are twenty.  As we grow older we should trade our immaturity for wisdom.  If there is a quality we should strive for, it is not youthfulness, it is being childlike by living our life with a sense of wonder.  One of the pitfalls of aging is that we often become cynical and we can no longer be awed by anything.  If I end up physically old, wise, and with a childlike sense of wonder and awe, I will be happy with myself.  Never lose your openness to awe and wonder.  Fight your cynicism.  When nothing impresses you or causes you to be lost in the moment, you are already dead.  Life is tough and it can sometimes feel boring.  Every day there are the chores of life and the demands of making a living.  Don’t let making a living replace having a life.  Live your life with childlike wonder and awe.  Be open to the extraordinary within the ordinary.  Pay attention and be present when moments of wonder and awe reveal themselves to you.     

Monday, January 26, 2015

A Zen Reminder

Zen is doing what you are doing and being where you are.  It sounds simple but in reality is quite challenging.  Zen is also about balance.  This is also very challenging.  Keeping the different parts of our lives in balance is like spinning five or six plates on the end of long sticks all at the same time.  Getting enough rest, doing enough but not too much work, being with others and being with self, being active and being still, enjoying life and being present to the sacred, knowing when to go and when to stop, when to speak and when to be silent, is a daily challenge.  If your life feels out of balance, it probably is.  Life moves fast.  Sometimes you must slow down to keep it all from spinning out of control.  You can't be present to the moment if you meeting yourself coming and going.  Stop now, close your eyes and simply breathe for a moment.  Refresh yourself.  Do this throughout your day.  Go home at the end of this work day (if you are not already there) and practice slowing down.  Pay attention to your own breath and remember it is the source of your life.  Be where you are....

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Finding Our Original Face

We must try to discover the real person we are.  From time to time something authentic shows through in moments when we are carried away by such joy that we forget who might be looking at us, when we are unself-conscious in moments of extreme pain, or when we have a deep sense of sadness or wonder.  At these moments we see something of the true person that we are.  But often after we have seen ourselves we turn away because we do not want to confront this person face to face.  Nevertheless this is the only real person there is in us.
-Orthodox Bishop Anthony Bloom
 
Who are all of us…really?  We show up in different parts of our lives in a variety of costumes acting out the role we play for that scene.  All of us go through life wearing a variety of masks usually because we fear rejection from our fellow actors.  I shared once that every time two people meet there are six people in the room.  For each person there is the person they think they are, the person they really are, and the person the other person thinks they are.  When the masks and the costumes are stripped away, who is the real person?  We can spend much of our lives in the company of the same people and the mystery of who we are is never truly revealed.  I have long believed that the person we are when we are alone is a good indicator of who we really are.  When there are no roles to play, no games to play, and no expectations on how we should act, we are usually most comfortable being our true selves.  The whole goal of life and our individual spiritual journeys is to find our true selves.  Our true self is who we are in God.  The Buddhists call this “finding the face you had before your parents were born”.  The true self is the real self, the unmasked self, the pure essence of who we truly are.  It is our original nature and the part of us that many believe is eternal.  
 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Getting Old Is Not All Bad

At eighty I believe I am a far more cheerful person than I was at twenty or thirty.  I most definitely would not want to be a teenager again.  Youth may be glorious but it is also painful to endure.  Moreover, what is called youth is not youth; it is rather something like premature old age.
-Writer Henry Miller
 
I am not yet eighty but I am a long way from twenty or thirty.  I don’t know if I am happier in my sixties than I was in my twenties or thirties.  I have always found happiness elusive.  Usually the best I can do is to feel reasonably content.  I can say one thing with a fair amount of certainty.  I would rather be sixty than twenty.  Looking back there were too many parts of my life I found very difficult and I would not like to relive them.  At my current age I feel a sense of relief that many of life’s challenges are behind me.  Daily life is still challenging and I don’t know what lies ahead but in general I am more relaxed and more comfortable in my own skin.  When one gets older you think more and more about less and less.  You have a greater appreciation for life’s simple joys and it doesn’t take much to make you happy.  You are past the stage where you want to build an empire and most would rather have less.  A simple life has great appeal.  Perhaps it is in this simplicity, when you spend more time letting go than gathering, that people find the greatest happiness.  Occasionally I do wish I had my sixty three year old life experience and wisdom in a twenty year old body.  However, that might be a dangerous combination.  You cannot experience old age without doing time as a young person.  In all fairness, every stage of life has it’s joys and sorrows, it’s challenges and rewards, and it’s pros and cons.  If you are lucky you will experience it all.  Some of us have old souls when we are young while others are young at heart in bodies that are falling apart.  Happiness and age are in the mind and in our attitudes.  As I once said in a previous daily thought, “When we are young our bodies drag our minds around, when we are old our minds drag our bodies around”.  Think about it.  If you are young I advise you to live as well as you can while you still have the energy.