The Journey – Poetry, Music and Imagery

Cavafy’s “Ithaca” remains one of my most beloved poems.

So, of course it came to mind last week while on a writer’s retreat when the discussion turned to poetry.

One of my favorite ways to experience the poem is by watching a stunning video that has a beautiful score by Vangelis. The poem is read by Sean Connery.

I invite you to experience it as well.

While there are many interpretations of this work, its essence is that the journey and the destination both matter.  The beliefs we take with us on the journey about our destination will determine much about the experience.  And the depth to which we experience the journey will only serve to help us better understand the real value of our destination once we arrive.

I have found success works like this.  We each define what success means to us and set out on our journey to reach it.  By the time we arrive, it will have changed because we will have changed from the journey and gained new understandings.

As Jim Rohn taught, more important than the goal itself is the person we must become to attain it. That is the essence and story of Ithaca for me. It’s a reminder to choose our destinations carefully and then travel well.

ITHACA [1910, 1911]

As you set out for Ithaca, hope that your journey is a long one, full of adventure, full of discovery. Laestrygonians and Cyclops, angry Poseidon-don’t be afraid of them: you’ll never find things like that on your way as long as you keep your thoughts raised high, as long as a rare sensation touches your spirit and your body. Laestrygonians and Cyclops, wild Poseidon-you won’t encounter them unless you bring them along inside your soul; unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

Hope that your journey is a long one. May there be many summer mornings when, with what pleasure, what joy, you come into harbors you’re seeing for the first time; may you stop at Phoenician trading stations to buy fine things, mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony, sensual perfume of every kind- as many sensual perfumes as you can; and may you visit many Egyptian cities to learn and learn again from those who know.

Keep Ithaca always in your mind. Arriving there is what you’re destined for. But don’t hurry the journey at all. Better if it lasts for years, so that you’re old by the time you reach the island, wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way, not expecting Ithaca to make you rich. Ithaca gave you the marvelous journey. Without her you would have not set out. She has nothing left to give you now.

And if you find her poor, Ithaca won’t have fooled you. Wise as you will have become, so full of experience, you’ll have understood by then what these Ithacas mean.

5 Clues You May Need A Balance Check

Work-Life balance is something we hear about, even talk about, but it would seem we rarely achieve.  A popular belief is that we can proportion ourselves out in some measured way across all the demands of our life and work. That hasn’t been successful in my experience. It just doesn’t match reality for most of us.

The more we attempt to create silos or compartmentalize our various roles, the more we face conflicting priorities and ultimately, always feel like we are failing somewhere or someone. Quite frankly, it’s not a recipe for success on any level.

We are multi-dimensional beings, and that means that instead of creating unsustainable boundaries, we will be better served by creating an integrated view of who we are and the value we bring to our world.

Victor Hugo expressed it well when he said: “To put everything in balance is good, to put everything in harmony is better.”

Our lives are very much like an aircraft as it balances and levels itself during flight, continually adjusting its positioning to stay on course.

When we look at it from that perspective, certain clues will tell us if we need to make adjustments to remain on course.

Here are five checkpoints I invite you to consider:

  • The first one is the most important, and if this isn’t in check, there’s no reason to go further until it’s addressed. I learned this lesson from life and success mentor, Jim Rohn, and it is simply this: Wherever you are, be there. That’s my first check. If I’m working and thinking about something else, I’m not going to be effective. If I’m with friends and family but thinking about work, I’m not going to be engaged. I need to focus on the moment in order to course correct.
  • The second one is what I call my calendar check. When I review my plan for the week each Sunday, I check ALL of my current goals against my calendar. Where are my health goals showing up? My learning goals? My relationship goals? If all the parts of my life aren’t there, it’s time for tuning, rather like a flight plan before take-off. We need to know we’ve got everything working as required for a successful journey.
  • My third check-in is for a focus on my core value of personal growth. I want to ensure that I am growing across multiple disciplines. My growth needs to align with all of my goals and not just my profession. Whatever it is we seek, we also need to study. I found that I wanted to grow in my knowledge of finance and investment. But my development plan didn’t reflect that. Now there are books in my library on the subject. I also attend seminars and follow podcasts that are deepening my understanding.
  • The fourth checkpoint is related to the first one, but its importance merits further reflection, and that is relationships. Each week I check in with my inner circle and review where I’m growing and need to expand that circle.
  • The last point is less specific but matters a great deal, and it is this: Am I happy? Do I feel satisfied with how I am showing up in the world and the contribution I am making? We can get so busy with the demands of life we forget to enjoy life.

Five checkpoints – clues in each one for adjusting and calibrating how we are living our lives to ensure we are making our highest possible contribution in each moment.

These are disciplines of legacy and deserving of our attention. Balance? Perhaps not. Harmonized? Guarding that every day.

Live (harmonize) today like you want tomorrow to be. Live (harmonize) well.

 

Rethink productivity: Balancing your list with your life

Hourglass time clock with sandEverything we have or do depends on one or more of these three resources:

Time – Money – Energy

It is easy to miscalculate their priority if we don’t understand one essential fact:

Only one of these resources is actually limited.

The other two can and are continuously replenished and remain available to us in far greater quantities than we can even imagine.

Only one resource is universally finite: Time.

Coming to terms with time being the most precious resource I will ever have caused me to re-evaluate and re-organize how I approach just about everything in my life. That understanding also created a marked change in my personal productivity. Those changes began to make time seem less finite because I was getting so much more accomplished! Where did all of that time come from?

Those results came down to five essential keys that have unlocked true productivity for me. They aren’t the usual suspects.  It’s not about “touching things once” or having a killer app on your phone or calendar reminder for “what’s next”.  Those can be important but they aren’t the essentials.  What I have learned and embraced is the importance of partnering with time as an ally. Seeing time as our most valuable resource and loving it for what it allows us to do creates a powerful partnership with it.  Perhaps these keys will open some life locks for you as well.   (These are written in first person, counting down in importance. Here’s a tip: Read this out loud. Say them and claim them for yourself!)

#5 – I don’t have to do everything.  WARNING: This point isn’t about delegation.  This is about choice.  I do not have to do everything.  Long to do lists do not create more meaning for my day. They only clutter the day with things that diminish what I can give to what really matters. It is far more satisfying to have 5 things finished than to have 10 things started.

#4 – Sometimes I serve others more effectively by NOT helping them (This was my hardest one to learn..) Allowing others to DO for themselves or even SERVE US is quite often a better choice.

#3 – Things sometimes take longer than I planned.  And that’s okay.  It’s important to be prepared to miss cutoffs or deadlines and to have a backup plan.  Delays are not failures.  They are just delays.  Accept them for what they are:  a change in the schedule, not a change in the plan.

#2 – New information needs to be factored into existing plans.  New knowledge can show up in many forms.  Our ability to remain fluid within change and discern when it is creating a “new” decision point is an important skill with managing our investment of time.

#1 – Being clear about what I want to accomplish is ultimately the most important factor in true productivity. Being clear means more than a general feeling or desire to achieve something. It means being really clear.  Less impressionistic – more photographic. Sharpen every pixel in the image.  This is what makes all of the decisions along the way productive in their outcome as we partner with time.

Five essential keys that have unlocked time as a partner in my life.  Perhaps they will for you, too.  Which of these would make the most productive difference for you? Start there.

Live today like you want tomorrow to be.

Live well.

 

 

 

Take your radio to work day!

Old beige vintage retro style radio receiver isolated on white bWe make assumptions about how and to whom we matter in the world. Those will stem from our own beliefs and perspective of the contributions we make.

And yet, sometimes what is most impacting about our life isn’t readily visible to us. We will not always know where we are making the most profound difference.

You see each of us is a miracle. Each of us comes into this life with our own soul print and we make a difference everyday. Even when we aren’t really conscious of it.

Let me tell you a story that brings this vividly to life. In the 1950’s, there were two men that worked in a factory in northern Ohio. One of them worked the afternoon shift and the other the night shift. They did not know each other. Yet their lives would intersect and create profound change.

The young man working second shift had just finished his tour of duty as a Marine during the Korean War. He and his bride had moved from West Virginia to Ohio in search of better opportunities. He often worked the night shift in addition to his regular hours for extra income. One night he was doing just that when he was assigned to a machine next to the other man in our story. Bear in mind that this was not mentally taxing work. In fact boredom was something they continuously contended with, each in their own way.

That night, over the humming of the machines our young Marine heard a very distinctive voice talking about all of his possibilities and how to reach all of those goals he had set for himself simply by changing his thoughts. It was as if this man was speaking directly to him. And so he went in search of the source and found the other man listening to a portable radio. The man speaking on the radio was Earl Nightingale. It was a life changing moment.

Immediately our young Marine was determined! He decided to take on an extra job instead of just extra shifts in order to earn enough money to buy his own portable radio. He had discovered his mentor even before he knew what a mentor was and did not want to miss a single opportunity to hear more! That encounter changed his life. That extra job? It was working as an attendant and mechanic at a local gas station. What happened? Ultimately, he didn’t just show up because he worked there as a mechanic. In time, he showed up because he owned the business.

I doubt that the other man in the story if asked would tell us that the most important thing he did that day was take his radio to work. He wouldn’t say that he changed lives just listening to his radio. But for that young Marine, undoubtedly that was the case. It set his life on a different course. And as a result, it did the same for mine. That young marine was my Dad.

Throughout my life what I learned most from him beyond the values of faith and family was the miracle of personal leadership and development. He defied all of the odds. He surpassed every expectation. A deeply spiritual man, he did it all with a quiet grace and humility that remains a part of his legacy. There was never a time that he was not reading or later listening to recordings and tapes. In fact, I still have his books and some of those early recordings! From that late night shift in the factory until his death, my Dad continued to live a life that celebrated learning and growth each and every day.

My Dad. He never lost sight of who he was. He never lost his vision of who he could become. And he never stopped growing into that man. He lived that legacy every day of his life. As a result, other lives were changed. And his legacy lives on in those lives. Including mine.

Thank you, Dad for always showing us not only who you were but who we could be. Thank you for being a living example of how to become that person more every day. And thank you to the gentleman that was part of God’s plan for our lives and brought his radio to work so all of this would begin!

In memory and honor of my Dad, Happy Father’s Day to all my readers! Always remember, as Earl Nightingale taught my Dad and he ultimately taught me:

“Learn to enjoy every minute of your life. Be happy now. Don’t wait for something outside of yourself to make you happy in the future. Think how really precious is the time you have to spend, whether it’s at work or with your family. Every minute should be enjoyed and savored.”

Live today like you want tomorrow to be.

Live well.

A bad day, a car wash and a lady bug: There are no small choices!

Inspiration can show up any time, and from unlikely sources! That is certainly true for the message I have adopted as my mantra for some time:

Live today like you want tomorrow to be. Live well.

It was a personal breakthrough when I recognized the power of that statement. When I first read the words, they were an invitation (and inspiration!) to stop waiting.

Chasing the proverbial carrot and never quite able to catch it. Always telling myself to keep pushing and striving and the pay-off would come. Sound familiar? Paying your dues, doing the work, climbing, always climbing. And perhaps feeling as I did at times that the summit we were working to reach was moving at the same pace we were! That carrot on a string! So the initial inspiration was to stop waiting. Start doing today what I wanted for my future. Heady stuff when you think about it.

When we ask ourselves what we are working toward it also reveals to us what we truly want to be experiencing now. Even if on a different scale, the genesis of that realization must be here and now. What is it you wish you had time for? Recognize you have time for it now if you choose to make time for it. What I have come to realize is that if I do not want it badly enough to make time for it now, there is very little chance I will make time for it later. We choose our future now.

What was the source of that inspiration? A bad day, a car wash and a lady bug. I was having a very frustrating day. My car needed detailed for an upcoming road trip and so I was sitting outside the car wash, working to try and keep all the plates in the air. A new grand-girl had arrived! I would be visiting her soon and I was tap-dancing through my must-do-list to be able to get on the road. I had been looking for a special memento for my daughter with a lady bug on it since that was already becoming her newest daughter’s nick name. When I went inside to pay for the service, a silver mirror bangle charm caught my eye because it had both a butterfly (Lauren’s favorite) and a lady bug on it. Perfect!

When I got home and looked at it closely, there was an inscription on it: Live today like you want tomorrow to be. Live well. The precise message I needed at that moment. We have to choose to live our priorities today. Don’t wait.  That became my mantra. And the mirror charm became a gift I gave myself.

Fast forward now several years and the phrase still stands but today it’s taken on a different meaning.

Every goal I have for myself this year requires one thing: Daily discipline!

Not my greatest skill. But it is my greatest need. A significant health goal, an aggressive financial goal and an important creative life goal. Each of them require that I honor my commitment to them every day.

What does that mean? It means I must LIVE TODAY like I want TOMORROW to be. It’s now a mantra of living tomorrow today. That’s the essence of personal leadership. Jim Rohn taught that when the promise is clear, the price is easy. What I think is important to recognize is that when the promise is clear, the price isn’t just easy, it is part of the privilege. It’s part of the miracle.

There are no small choices. It may seem like something we ignore or decide we’ll get to later isn’t of consequence, but it is. Taking a “day off” from the plan may seem like a reward but it’s anything but that. Those thoughts rob us of the true reward and achieving what we want for and from our lives. There are no small choices. Every choice matters.  Every day matters.

We are living our tomorrows today. Let’s pay attention and create tomorrows that honor our promise as well as our promises.

Live today like you want tomorrow to be. Live well.

The Legacy of John Chapman

Legacy has come up as a topic in several conversations of late. It’s a subject that I think about quite a bit, especially as I’m aging and looking at how our values evolve and grow over the years. Legacy to me used to be about what I left behind and how I would be remembered in terms of accomplishment and contribution. I see it differently now. Now I see it as being about what I live more than what I leave – what I begin more than what I finish.

The impact of our lives is most valuable when we see it from the perspective of how we influence the lives of others. As a life coach, I recognize that my role is being a catalyst. It isn’t my role to create personal change. That is up to the client. I can plant the seeds but they must be the ones to take on the job of gardener and bring them to life.

This thought brought me to the idea of a tree. I still believe that trees are the best example possible of what legacy really means. When a tree is planted, we know that it’s fullness will only be realized over time, in fact over many years. My brother and I planted trees in our first backyard with my Dad. We lived there 15 years and they were still not at their peak. We visited another 10 years later, 25 years after they were planted and we were in awe of them. But our connection to them came from the fact that we had been there when they were just a seedling. It was such a privilege to go back and see them after all that time and appreciate what had come from our effort.

That’s the thing about legacies, it’s not common for us to be able to witness their full value and impact because what we plant with our lives continues to grow long after we’ve moved on. We want to KNOW what we’re leaving. But in truth, what we leave is so much more than we can ever imagine.

One legendary figure that’s specific to trees that bears mention is John Chapman. You know him best as Johnny Appleseed.

The most popular stories about him have him spreading apple seeds randomly everywhere he traveled. That’s not really what happened. The true story is that he traveled, extensively. And he did plant apple trees. But with absolute intention. He planted nurseries. He even built fences around them to protect them.

Once they were established, he would leave them in the care of someone local and they would care for them and sell shares of their produce for their mutual benefit.

Each year or two, John would return to check the health of his nurseries and quite often expand them. He was without question a dedicated conservationist but he was also a sound businessman and even then, knew the value of passive income and wealth building from the earth. When he died, he left over 1200 acres of orchards to his sister.

He was considered somewhat eccentric, hence the folklore, but his real legacy was in those trees and what they represented.

It’s not enough to just plant the seed. We must take care for the growing of it and then entrust it to others so that we can move on to plant again. As the Greek proverb teaches:

We must be willing to plant trees

whose shade we will never sit in.

It’s such a powerful metaphor for how to live a meaningful life. Those powerful words from Albert Einstein come to mind again: “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” Isn’t that the ultimate legacy? The creation of value that continues to grow beyond us?

Live today like you want tomorrow to be. Live well.