Never Put Off ‘Till Tomorrow What You Can Do Today – Thomas Jefferson

A Wise Man Will MAKE More Opportunities Than He Finds - Francis Bacon

My Father’s illness forces me to realize that our own mortality is imminent.  Regardless of what happens afterwards, it is impossible to escape.  So why do so many of us put our dreams on hold and procrastinate living the life we really want?  Why do we allow petty differences to rule our actions?  I am certainly not suggesting that we drop our responsibilities and run off to Aruba, but we can all take steps toward what we know in our hearts we should be doing.  We can heal wounded relationships.  We can make sincere efforts to right old wrongs.

We all have plenty of excuses as to why we are not living the way we know we should.  But that is all they are – excuses.  We have the ability to CHOOSE our thoughts and actions.  We can CHOOSE to give up or continue.  We can CHOOSE to find a path to success or accept defeat.  There are so many shining examples of people who have overcome incredible odds to achieve great things.  Here are just a few:

Oprah Winfrey – grew up in the woods of Mississippi, living in a single parent home with no running water or electricity.  Today she is a billionairess.

Joanne Rowling – the author of the Harry Potter books, she was unemployed and on welfare when she began writing. With the publication of her first three books, she made over $400 million!

-Les Wexner – raised in a working class family.  He had to mow lawns and shovel snow to earn money.  He began his empire with one small clothing store that grew into Victoria’s Secret, Abercrombie & Fitch, etc.

These people are proof that great odds can and are overcome every day. They did not have “lucky” breaks, neither did they wait around for opportunities to come to them.  They created their opportunities by taking action.

My Father has inspired me to take an honest account of my own life.   Am I really doing all I can? Am I making excuses instead of overcoming obstacles?

My challenge to you, dear readers, is to re-evaluate your own lives.  Please write back with your stories of success.  I look forward to reading them.

Take A Deep Breath And Go With The Flow

Some times even the best laid plans are foiled by events completely out of our control.  Such was the case for our trip to New York City over the holidays.  Through minute planning and budgeting, we had constructed a fun-filled, affordable, family get-away.  But, much to our dismay, Mother Nature had other plans, and we were forced to abandon all our carefully made plans and adapt to the blizzard she had thrown our way.

Rather than panic, we followed the example of the New Yorkers around us and forged on.  No one could drive, so they put on their cross country skis, and went out anyway.  Snow too deep for the kiddies – no problem, they pulled them along in sleds.  And so we too went out into the winter wonderland.  Letting spontaneity take over was very freeing and we had a great time.  Did we see the Statue of Liberty as planned?  No. Instead, we  saw children laughing and playing in Central Park, and people helping each other through the snow.  We witnessed fun, light, and love.

What we learned on this trip:  When things don’t go as planned, sometimes you just have to take a deep breath, and go with the flow!  Easier said than done for a control freak like me, but I’m working on it!

Taking Risks: Stepping Outside The Comfort Zone

To succeed you must first take a risk

While planning my own escape from convention, I have read about those who have succeeded in living their dreams, rather than settling for the life we have all been told we are “supposed” to live.  In doing this, I have discovered the following:

  • There is no success without taking risks and stepping outside of your comfort zone
  • Expect to fail several times before achieving your success
  • The most opposition will come from those who are closest to you
  • You must learn how to legally navigate the “system” for your own best interest
  • Learn from those who have succeeded in their endeavors

RISKS

The illusion is that it is nice and safe in the comfort zone – living the life we are told we are “supposed” to live.  Go to college.  Get a job. Find a spouse.  Buy a house. Have children.  Save for retirement.  We are never warned about the realities of life and the possibility that we could fail, even if we’ve played it safe. We are not told that we will spend most of the rest of our lives paying off student loans; that there may not be a job available once we graduate; that your spouse’s job may be outsourced to India; that the children will cost $222,360 (upi.com) each;  that your house is now worth less than when you bought it due to the sub prime crisis; that your retirement may be lost in the stock market and the government is about to raise the retirement age and cut benefits.  Most of these things are beyond our control, and therefore make them the biggest risk of all, but we don’t see it.  I know that I would rather take risks on my own terms knowing the possibilities rather than being an unwilling participant in the “comfort zone” that turns out isn’t so comfortable after all.  Here are some famous people who were not afraid to live life on their own terms and take risks:

Michael Dell, the founder and CEO of Dell, Inc., dropped out of college at 19.  He first started his computer company in his college dorm room. Forbes ranked Michael Dell #11 in its 400 Richest Americans.

Henry Ford never graduated high school, but went on to start one of the largest automobile manufacturing companies in the world, Ford Motor Company. He’s also credited as being the first auto manufacturer to use an assembly line.

Rachel Ray hasn’t had any formal culinary training, but has several cooking shows on the Food Network,  a talk show on NBC, several best-selling cookbooks, and her own magazine.

Steven Spielberg, is a movie director and producer.  Spielberg was denied acceptance to film school and dropped out of California State University, but that didn’t stop him from co-founding DreamWorks, a major film studio that’s produced several of the highest grossing movie hits and Academy award winning films.

FAILURES

Why is everyone so afraid of failure?  In our society we are taught that failing is bad – that it is best to play it safe.  In certain situations this can be wise advise, but does it lead to innovation?  Harvard Professor Stefab Thomke doesn’t think so.  In his book Experimentation Matters he states “Failure is not a bad thing…it is so important to the experimental process” (44).  Some of the most influential people of all time became so through failure that led to success.  As an example, Thomas Edison once said “I have not failed.  I’ve just found 10,000 ways that don’t work.”  WOW!  Just imagine what our lives would be like today if he had decided to give up on his dream. I am not afraid to fail.  I am more afraid of never trying.

OPPOSITION

Most of your opposition will come from those closest to you.  They mean well because they want you to play it safe.  There are always consequences with risks such as failure, but as we’ve already discussed there is no success without failure.  You must learn to be patient with them, but don’t give in – you may regret it if you do.  Then there are those who just don’t understand.  “What is wrong with the status quo?”  they may ask.  That same person may have a secret regret that he/she never wrote the novel they’ve always dreamed of.  Then there are those who are just plain jealous and angry.  They are mad that you are following your dream and they never had the courage to take the risk.

LEARNING

Be willing to do the research and find what it takes to make your dream happen.  Interview those who have succeeded and learn from them.  Rather than allowing the “system” to deter your progress, learn how it works so you can legally navigate it to meet your own needs.  You never really stop learning, so don’t ever think you are an expert in anything.  After all, as Nicholas Butler once said, “An expert is one who knows more and more about less and less.”

Good Luck!

Giving Back

Throughout the year we acquire several free items both from subscribing to various freebie sites, and using a combination of coupons/store sales.  During the Holiday Season we donate them.

So far, our free items are as follows:  2 reusable razors complete with blades, a blank journal with pen, white t-shirt size medium, 2 travel size soaps, 1 laundry sample, 3 cereal bars, 1 small box of granola, and 1 stuffed animal.  Although there are only a few items here, just think what we could accomplish if everyone who could, donated just this much. There are approximately 300 million US citizens.  If only 10% of us did this there would be 60 million razors, 90 million cereal bars, etc.  You get the idea.  Acquiring these items only cost the time it took to enter in a mailing address online.

A few other ways we accumulate items to donate:  by using sites such as www.couponmom.com and www.thegrocerygame.com, shopping year-end sales for the next season, and buying in bulk.  As a few examples of items in our arsenal against hunger and poverty, we have 10 bags of spaghetti @ .50 cents each, 10 jars of spaghetti sauce @ .57 cents each, 6 shampoo/conditioner combos @ .77 cents each, 2 pair of gloves @ .50 cents each, etc…

There is real power in numbers.  Together, we could make a difference.  What are you doing?

Questions of Homelessness

While sweating atop my elliptical machine today, I began to reminisce about our time spent in Manitou Springs, Colorado.  About six years ago, my wonderful Hubby was employed by the US Department of Defense and we lived at the base of Pike’s Peak.  My best friend was a homeless man who met me every morning outside a small cafe called Magnolia’s.

Pike's Peak, Colorado

There were a lot of homeless in the greater Colorado Springs/Manitou area.  I was curious.  This lead me to the guy in front of that quaint cafe.  Each morning after walking my daughter to school, I would stop and get a small cup of coffee.  Then I would sit outside enjoying the scenery and soaking up the sun.  For several days I noticed a man with a backpack doing the same.  I started a conversation with him and our friendship began.

We would talk for hours about the state of humanity; solving the world’s woes.  This man had chosen to become homeless because he was tired of “participating in the rat race.”  He wasn’t interested in keeping up appearances – having the biggest house, the best clothes, and the most impressive car – instead he was interested in relationships.  Later, I discovered that he was actually an entrepreneur.  He would use the computer at the public library to conduct business and then donate most of his proceeds.

While this does not represent the majority of the homeless population, most of whom are homeless due to economic or mental reasons, it does represent a growing population of do-gooders who are living their lives unchained by consumerism.  Their blogs are splashed all over the internet.  A few of my favorites are:

Chris Guillebeau and his blog www.chrisguillebeau.com. He makes a living traveling and blogging about it.  He just released a book called The Art of Non-Conformity. He also supports Charity: Water, an organization that brings clean drinking water to emerging nations http://www.charitywater.org.

Adam Baker and his blog www.manvsdebt.com. This guy is married with a toddler.  They paid off all their debt and travel the world, teaching english.  He has a lot of useful information about finances, credit, and travel.

Barbara Wiebel and her blog www.holeinthedonut.com.  This is an amazing woman who completely reinvented her life.  She is over 50 and makes a living traveling and writing about it.  This woman’s story is so inspiring!

These are but a few examples.  If you are interested in joining this new cultural revolution start googling and find out more.

I didn’t know it then, but it seems my journey began with the homeless man in Colorado.  At the time I thought he was a little strange (why wouldn’t you want a big house, etc.,) though part of me envied his freedom.  Who knew I would break free from the shackles of convention and start thinking outside the box?  When you do that, the possibilities you can create for yourself are endless!  My family and I are going to be working/volunteering in South America this summer (assuming all applications are granted.)  I never thought that would be possible.

Stepping Over One Another To Get To The Top

The power of a pyramid is incorrectly assumed to be at the top.  There is the all-seeing eye, or the more historically correct “the eye of providence,” staring at us from atop the pyramid on our dollar bill.

But look a little closer and you will see the true power is at the bottom because the bottom supports the top.  Please remember, We The People, DO have the power because we are holding up the top in whatever arena (government, corporate, military, etc.)  You only give away that power when you choose to believe you have none.  In a pyramid it only takes the removal of one block at the bottom to collapse the whole structure.

What would be possible if we stopped trying to step over one another to get to the top and instead helped support each other at the bottom?  We could change the top!

This begs the question: Why do people do nothing when they have all the power to facilitate a positive change?  Who said, “Ignorance is bliss?”  Perhaps people don’t want to know what is really happening around them.  Once you know something you can’t undo the knowledge and that creates a responsibility to act.  For example, if you knew someone was being abused and had the power to stop it, but didn’t, aren’t you just as much to blame as the abuser?   Now apply the analogy to big business and big government.  You can choose to remain ignorant through self-inflicted, television induced comas, or you can wake up and stand for something!

We See Only What We Expect

What do you see here?

Do you see an old couple, or do you see a young couple dancing and playing guitar?  Our minds are hardwired to only see what we expect – everything else takes work.  The good news is that we can train ourselves to be open to unknown possibilities.  Think of all that would open up for you if you went one step further than taking “the road less traveled” (Robert Frost) and instead created your own road!

Materialism

Here is a typical street in Downtown Dublin, Ireland.  Note the lack of neon signs, billboards, and skyscrapers.  While on my walk today, I contemplated why I felt so at peace in Ireland.  We don’t realize here in America how many times daily we are bombarded with images of capitalism gone amuck.  See http://www.storyofstuff.com  and watch the free documentary about how we are manipulated to purchase useless items to “belong” and how the process negatively affects our health and our world.  Back to Ireland – and most European countries-family, education, and health are more important than work or money.  We say that here, but I’m not sure we actually live it.  Just something to ponder….

Feel The Burn

While on the elliptical today I thought of all those who are much less fortunate.  I am grateful for so much.  Pondering on how to fulfill my goal of helping others, I am a little overwhelmed.  There are so many people out there who need something.  There are a lot of programs for overseas volunteerism for things like installing wells for access to clean drinking water, etc.  Here at home there are a lot of people who needs help too.  They may have access to clean drinking water, and no place to live.  There are agencies to help, but there is a huge group that fall through the cracks of the system.  So, while I’m feeling the burn of extensive muscle use while working out, I’m also feeling an emotional burn.  A burning desire to help others.  If anyone has ideas on how to help here at home, please share them.