What seeds will you plant today?

Planting SeedsIn his teachings,  Earl Nightingale talks about each of us being like farmers and compares our lives to their plot of land.  It is up to us to cultivate that land, to plant the seeds, to weather the storms and to bring in our harvest.

Whatever happens above, under and around our plot of land happens to everyone.  If there’s rain – it rains on everyone’s land.  If there is a draught – everyone has to deal with it. How the farmer prepares the land determines how those universal events effect it in many cases. Land can be cultivated so that it has the right elevation for drainage.  It can also be irrigated with alternate hydration sources.  Those are decisions (and investments) the farmer makes in the land in order to give it the best possible chance to produce the crops desired.

The farmer also must decide what kind of crops he (or she) wants to harvest.  After all, what comes up from the ground is going to be determined by what they put in the ground.  We can’t be surprised if we get get wheat instead of corn if we didn’t plant corn seed.  We shouldn’t expect an oak tree if a pecan seed is what we planted.  But that is quite often what we do with the plot of land called our life.  We want a certain outcome (crop) from our life but we don’t plant those seeds.  Then we are disappointed when we get a result we didn’t want.

If we want sustaining health, we must plant seeds of health.  If we want abundance financially, we must plant seeds of financial health. If we want a masterpiece life, we must plant seeds of mastery. Whatever you want from this experience we call life, you have to plant those seeds and allow them to grow.  A good friend from my college days experienced her final days here on earth this past week. As I read all of the posts from those that have known and loved her over the years since our time together it was clear that the seeds she planted were of excellence, warmth, love and faith. What a special reminder to those with days yet ahead to take care with  “seeds” and both select and plant them well.

It remains fascinating to me that within the seed, there lies the potential of a forest.  Just as the potential of our lives, begins with our days. What seeds have you planted? Are they going to bring the life forest you desire?

How leaders are remembered…

lifeAny time that one of the truly great leaders of our time leaves us it is fitting to pause and celebrate their contribution to the world.  It is also important within that reflection to think about and be grateful for the lessons that have generated meaningful change impacting us personally.

Today we mourn the passing of Nelson Mandela and celebrate his life and what it meant to so many.  As one of his many life students, I continue to be grateful that I lived in the time of Nelson Mandela and was here to witness his remarkable impact. His ability to forgive and love; the inspiration he delivered to all; his passionate commitment to freedom; and his true understanding of the power of education all forged together to create an indelible legacy.

Here are six of my favorite quotes from him that have given me inspiration and speak beyond what is true to express truth:

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.

Money won’t create success, the freedom to make it will.

For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.

It always seems impossible until it’s done.

There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.

A remarkable person that in living his legacy has changed us all.


Weekly Insight: Do you have the rarest form of courage?

CourageThere is a powerful statement I have heard many times from thought leaders over the years.  Each time I hear it, it stops me in my life tracks like a flashing light at a railroad crossing:

It’s not what we are doing or where we are going that matters.  What matters is who we are becoming

That belief is at the center of my own personal philosophy.  My manifesto is that our core belief system should require us to have a purpose-driven life.  That means we embrace our unique purpose and live each day as we want tomorrow to be.  We must grow in ways that matter, for ourselves and for others.  Our lives must deliver on our promise, for today and for the future.

I’m currently reading a book by Mark Batterson where that truth was again highlighted.  The specific work, SOUL PRINT is captivating on many levels.  As I’ve been delving into his perspective on our uniqueness and the responsibility that carries for our divine destinies, there were four key points that resonated with me.  I’m sharing those with you here with some of my own thoughts but giving full credit for the insight to Mark as the original architect of the work.

  • Insight #1: The rarest form of courage is to be ourselves. (Batterson)

At some point in life we all become conscious of “image” and we strive on some level to conform to what is “acceptable”.  We’re essentially social creatures and we want to be accepted.  And we quite often fall prey to the belief that to achieve acceptance, we have to become someone other than who we are.  And that brings the deepest form of despair.  The alignment of who we are to what we do is the single strongest contributor to how we feel, about ourselves and our life.  When we experience guilt, stress or anxiety, it is most often because we have an alignment issue. But it will take courage to move past the image and be ourselves.

  • Insight #2: When we adopt a second “persona” we agree to live a secondhand life. (Batterson)

When I first read this particular insight it startled me because it brings into focus the fact that the result is the complete opposite of what we set out to achieve.  We adopt an image that is not true to who we are because we think it will give us something “better”. But in fact, it gives us something far less than we deserve. We are always living in the shadow of that image. It does not empower us, it limits us. The best energies have been “used up” by the original.

It brought to mind something my granddaughter said to me a few years ago that stayed with me.  I asked her why she never wore shirts that had celebrity names or pictures on them like so many of her friends. She looked at me rather stunned and said: “Why would I want to wear something with someone else’s picture and name on it?” How insightful! Why indeed.

In the documentary of her 2011 tour, Katy Perry talked about this clearly. She said that everyone was trying to “place” her – to find a spot for her in the market. They were trying to find another star she could emulate and be the next “??”. Her response was brilliant.  She wasn’t interested in being the next anyone.  She was the first Katy Perry. Wonderful!

  • Insight #3:  Self-discovery is a lot like an archeological dig. It takes time and (some) treasures are hidden. (Batterson)

Here is another point where personal courage comes into play. It takes patience and perseverance to know ourselves. It takes real courage to truly see ourselves. And each layer must be sifted and sorted to understand everything that makes us unique. The good, the bad and the beautiful! As Batterson said, some of our best (treasures) are hidden. We have to be willing to not only seek them but to also bring our best selves into the light. As we excavate who we are, we also discover our purpose because we’ll begin to fully understand our unique talents and their value in the world.

  • Insight #4: The longer I live, the more I thank God for the disappointments in my life. (Batterson)

In so many stories of great triumph, it becomes clear that people do not succeed “in spite of” their challenges.  They succeed BECAUSE of their challenges.  It’s a subtle shift in perspective but it’s everything. We can be grateful for what is happening because we can have faith that what is ahead is only possible because of where we are.  The line from this section of the book that went straight into my journal was this:  “Every past experience is preparation for some future opportunity.”


Having that rare form of courage to be ourselves is not an easy path.  It is, however, always the right path. The first step is self-awareness and we then must be able to separate out what in our realm is really a “second-hand” life. We can and must allow ourselves time and perspective. But more importantly we must embrace and celebrate growth from the challenges we encounter.

We need courage to face who we are and courage to grow to the person we can be.

We need courage to be honest with ourselves and honest with the world.

We need to have courage.

But above all, we need to be.

Behind the quote… lies true inspiration.

Quotes are like little pockets of life all sewn up in a few words.  They remind us of our humanity, our potential, even at time our losses.  Sometimes the quote itself, just the words, is sufficient to inspire the moment.  But quite often, the true inspiration and value comes when we know the story behind the quote.   Over the years, there have been many times when a quote has crossed my path and has paused my step.  There have also been times when the words re-directed the next steps.  And there have been times when the words have kept my steps going.

One of those quotes showed up in my news feed on Facebook yesterday from a friend.  The timing was impeccable for my journey.  Here are those words:

“You never know what is around the corner. 

It could be everything. Or it could be nothing.

You keep putting one foot in front of the other,

and then one day you look back

And you have climbed a mountain.”

The tapestry of these words was so rich in color and texture I wanted to know more and did some research.  I found a beautiful video where the words are spoken.  The story is the inspiration.  The words mean more when you know what is behind the quote.  We cannot give up on our journey.  We must keep putting one foot in front of the other.  And one day we will look back and find that we have climbed that mountain.  And we are our own champion.



Lessons from history: A Grand Terminal

We love stories.  It’s true. And we love stories with a happy ending.  We also love stories that have some angst in them.  That demonstrate life.  We want them to entertain us, inspire us and yes- change us.  Over this past month I have been reading Mark Batterson’s book The Circle Maker.  It’s an excellent book that I’ll review once I wrap it up but in this morning’s reading, there was a story that just resonated with me because it is such an example of what transformation can really do.  And it’s not a story about a person.  It’s a story about a place.

When Daniel Burnham first came up with the idea for building what would become Washington’s Grand Terminal he had a tremendous vision for it.  And he was already well known and highly regarded.  But there was a problem.  Where they wanted to build the Grand Terminal was basically a swamp. It took 4 million cubic yards of fill dirt just to get a foundation in place.  Can you imagine what kind of vision and commitment it took to make that happen?  Why not build it somewhere else?  Because that wasn’t the vision.  It then took 5 years and cost $25M to finish building it.  But they did build it.

Grand Terminal2If you’ve never visited Washington’s Grand Terminal, it may be hard to imagine the scope of this.  It is breathtaking.

One of the quotes attributed to that visionary that started it all is “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood.”  From a swamp to a center of travel and commerce that would one day serve over 32 million people every year.

Can you imagine all of the life stories that have had their genesis at that place?  How many memory moments are tied to it’s purpose?

This year marks it’s 100th anniversary.  Over the years, it has been more than a landmark.  It has become part of the fabric that is uniquely American and specifically, Washington.  It has continued to be championed over the years as a testament to what happens when your vision is big enough to stir our blood.

You might ask what this has to do with our lives.  I believe it has everything to do with how we see things.  Using it as a metaphor for our lives: Do we see a swamp?  Or a structure that will serve millions?  How big is our vision?  Because that’s how big our life will be.  If we’re determined to serve, we will serve.   We will do what it takes to create the right foundation and build a life that serves at the highest levels not only now, but 100 years from now.

Behind the quote: Ralph Waldo Emerson

He remains one of the most influential and quoted writers of 19th century America.

What is interesting is that some of his most successful writings did not begin in fact as essays, they started out as speeches he gave to audiences and later published. 

Another notable point is that he was an early “self-publisher”.  He delivered an address to the Phi Beta Kappa Society at Cambridge in 1837 which ultimately became the work known as “The American Scholar”. 

At the urging of friends, he published it himself at his own expense. 

He also wrote his own musings in journals and it was his influence that resulted in Thoreau also starting to journal.  The Harvard University Press has published his journals in 16 volumes and some believe it contains some of his best work.  That’s not surprising to me given that the creative freedom of personal journals does often result in bursts of brilliance for most writers.

Another point worth mentioning is that he was also one of the early adopters of lecture “series” and he found that by approaching the market as a lecturer in this format gave him a much higher return financially.  At one point he was doing as many as 80 series a year and traveling a great deal.

When Walt Whitman first published his signature work Leaves of Grass, he sent a copy to Emerson for an opinion – perhaps an early “review”.  When he received a positive response, it stirred up market interest as well and a second edition was published.

What is the significance of all of this? It gives us insight into who he was and how he operated.  It helps put the quotes we have attributed to him within a context that makes them more crystallized.  It also speaks to the fact that success leaves clues.  Why do we still after nearly 200 years quote Emerson’s writings? Because he didn’t just write words.  He discussed ideas and presented new thoughts.  He delivered his message across different medias.  And he supported the work of others. His own private writings and observations of life in his world remain salient now.  One of my favorites of his thoughts is that “..The measure of a master is his success in bringing all men around to his opinion twenty years later.”

Our legacies are what live beyond us. In that respect, we are no different from Emerson. Although I have many fundamental philosophical differences with the man, in many areas his philosophies do resonate with me. Perhaps they will with you, too. 

Emerson on using new experiences as a way to put the past behind us:

Be not the slave of your own past. Plunge into the sublime seas, dive deep and swim far, so you shall come back with self-respect, with new power, with an advanced experience that shall explain and overlook the old.

Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; begin it well and serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.

Emerson on our individual uniqueness:

Insist on yourself; never imitate… Every great man is unique.

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.

None of us will ever accomplish anything excellent or commanding except when he listens to this whisper which is heard by him alone.

Emerson on character:

People seem not to see that their opinion of the world is also a confession of their character.

What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say.

And my own personal favorites:

This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.

Our chief want in life is somebody who shall make us do what we can.

The reward of a thing well done is to have done it.

And in closing, what would he say about this blog post? Perhaps he would say again: “…I hate quotations.  Tell me what you know.”  I love that.