Category Archives: How do you define success?

Is life a test? Or a return to love?

“. . . events that happen in the moment belong to the moment. They don’t belong to you. They have nothing to do with you. You must stop defining yourself in relationship to them, and just let them come and go.”

—Michael A. Singer in The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself 

There’s always something, isn’t there? Just when you get all your ducks in a row, a fox bounds into the pond and scatters them all hither and thither. As you chase around after flapping ducks, you say: “Really? Are you kidding me? Is this some kind of a test?”

Life as a test is a popular notion with some. Rick Warren states it as a fact in his book The Purpose-Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For? “Life on earth is a Test,” he writes. “God continually tests people’s character, faith, obedience, love, integrity and loyalty . . . God constantly watches your response to people, problems, success, conflict, illness, disappointment, and even the weather!”

Ugh. I find the image of a being—completely separate from me and the world—up there poking and prodding me to see how I react abhorrent.

A test implies that people either pass of fail. But what constitutes a pass? Who gets hurt when someone fails? And how does the word “test” make you feel? Intimidated? Scared? Paralyzed? Threatened? Overwhelmed? Under-prepared? Notice that none of those words have a positive vibe.

When contemplating why events happen the way they do and what I’m supposed to do about them, I prefer an idea that the singer Johnny Reid refers to in “A Place Called Love.” When he wrote the song, his grandmother had just died and his child had just been born. He asked himself, “Where did my grandmother go? Where did my daughter come from?”

His answer: a place called love. Sounds like as good an answer as any, and it is certainly much more reassuring than “A Place Called the Examination Centre.”

Scientific laws of the universe dictate that events we consider unpleasant or catastrophic must happen: cancers, tsunamis, wild fires. We have to accept the science, but we can choose to write our own story.

When that crafty fox leaps into our perfectly arranged row of ducks, don’t ask, “How do I pass this test?” Ask, “Who returns to love because of this?” Or “How do I help myself and others return to love?”

Return to love

Return to love


I like the image of real ducks all in a yellow fluffy row, so that how I wrote about them here. Another theory suggests that “ducks in a row” came from bowling. Early bowling pins were nicknamed “ducks,” and organizing them in their proper places before the next ball was thrown meant they were all “in a row.”

Backwards Brains: Wait for the click

A few years ago I ordered my first pair of progressive lenses. Before progressives I wore contact lenses and used reading glasses for closer work.

I drove my family crazy the first week with those progressive lenses. “I don’t know about my new glasses,” I muttered, over and over. It seemed I had to move my head too much. It seemed the reading portion of the lenses was too narrow. I fretted and worried that I had wasted a lot of money on glasses that weren’t going to work for me.

And then one day, my brain clicked. My brain figured out how to work with those glasses, and it seemed to do it instantly. One minute everything felt all wrong, and the next I was saying, “These glasses are GREAT! No matter where I look, I can see!”

I remembered that experience when I watched this video. It’s a reminder to me that sometimes we have to keep working at something that feels wrong or difficult so that we can give our brains time to figure it out.

Then, click!

Lawn-cutter or gardener: Ray Bradbury

“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies . . . A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there.

It doesn’t matter what you do . . . so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching. . . . The lawn-cutter might just as well not been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.”

—From Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

In this season of gardening, it is worthwhile to contemplate: What flowers am I growing?

What am I changing with my touch, so it transforms into something more beautiful and a little like me when I take my hands away? 

A place for the soul.

A place for the soul.

Failing positively: Lessons from Henry Ford

“We have been taught to believe that negative equals realistic and positive equals unrealistic.” —Susan Jeffers

Wouldn’t it be enlightening to gather statistics on how many people have given up on dreams because someone told them their aspirations were unrealistic? How many hockey players have hung up their skates because a coach told them the National Hockey League was a long-shot? How many entrepreneurs have stopped seeking investors after being told their ideas would never sell? How many writers have filed stories in drawers after reading dire statistics about the state of the publishing business? How many people have given up because they’ve been told that “NO” equals sensible, but “YES” equals dreamland.

More importantly, how many people equate failure with negativity? 

Henry Ford didn’t see failure as negative. On a recent trip to Michigan, I took this picture during our visit to the Henry Ford Museum. (Side note: Please visit the museum, if you have the chance. It’s about much more than cars; it’s about life.)

henry-ford

“I would rather build a big plane and learn something, even if it didn’t fly, than to build a smaller one that worked perfectly and not learn anything.” —Henry Ford

Henry Ford would rather try something unrealistic and fail positively than try something realistic and succeed negatively.

Mind-twisting, isn’t it?

Sharpen those skates, dust off that business plan, pull the stories out of the drawer: Dreamland is a fun place to live, and failure is useful too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stings like a bee: ZZzzzt happens

bumblebeeThere I was, walking in the woods, not bothering anyone, when—ZZzzzt—out of nowhere a large insect dive-bombed into my neck and stung. It was a large insect, so the impact alone stunned me. Then the sharp sting. It happened so fast and hurt so much, I didn’t see what kind of insect it was. It struck and then buzzed off, literally.

I gasped at the sharp, pain. Ow!

I stopped. I’ve never been allergic to insect stings, but you never know when that might start, and the sting was on my neck where swelling would be dangerous. I was alone and far enough away from home that a serious allergic reaction would have meant big trouble.

I waited to see if there would be swelling, and there wasn’t, so I carried on. No biggie, right?

But the unexpected attack set me to pondering the fragility of our daily lives, and how sudden, unforeseen events sometimes turn best-laid plans upside down. There we are, walking along, not bothering anyone, when—ZZzzzt—catastrophe dive-bombs in. Impact. Sting.

When those things happen, I re-evaluate what is important. Have I showed my kids  that I love them today? What was the last thing I said to my husband when he left in the morning? What will I do today to make the world a better place?

I didn’t know what happened to that large insect to make it so angry before it performed its airstrike on me. Perhaps a dog-walker disturbed it? Maybe nothing happened to it, and I simply had the misfortune to encounter the Oscar the Grouch of the insect world.

I did know that asking “Why me?” would be a waste time. Why not me?

The only thing to do when ZZzzzt happens is to stop, wait, re-evaluate and carry on with new mindfulness of what is really important.

 

 

 

 

 

Who are your all-stars?

This week, the biggest stars of Major League Baseball gather in Cincinnati for the All-Star Game; the best of the best of baseball showcasing their skills.

Fantastic baseball players all, but as I followed the events leading up to this event—the stacking of votes by Kansas City Royals fans, and the rally cries from Don Cherry and Stephen Amell (The Arrow) to drum up votes for Josh Donaldson—I wondered: What about life all-stars?

Which people are the best of the best at life?

Taking risks

Pitchers: Who are the people you know who stand alone in the glare of public scrutiny and risk getting things started? Sometimes they win, sometimes they lose, but they’re brave enough to take first steps.

Catchers: Who has the whole “field of play” in view and guides you in calling your “game.” Who always works in your best interest? Who knows the opposition you face and devises strategies to deal with it?

Batters: They aren’t the ones who throw the pitches, but they know how to handle them. Who doesn’t flinch from the fastballs life throws at them? Who chooses to ignore “bad” pitches but makes solid contact with the good ones right down the middle? Who can track those tricky curve balls and make the most of them?

Infielders: Who has your back? Who responds with lightning-quick reflexes to handle the hits that hurtle past you? They can’t handle everything, but they stretch themselves to the limit trying.

Outfielders: Who provides long-range help when you need it? Who covers lots of ground with big strides to keep the longer, slower hits from causing damage?

Who are your all-stars? Do some of those people play more than one position? 

Patrolling right field

Patrolling right field

 

 

 

 

 

anansi2050

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