Competitive spirit is healthy in moderation, for victory is only sweet when the rewards outweigh the risks. If the only goal is victory, what some might call success, the danger is that the motivation for the win is tunnel-visioned on the win itself. For in order to define something as a victory, win, or success, there also must be a loss involved. Something was lost or someone has lost. In many cases, loses are felt by many. We see this in the worst scenario of war. We also see it in sports and business and in smaller cases in day-to-day life. It’s ever-present.
We are all leaders. Even if the only person you lead in your life is you, you are still a leader. The question then becomes, if you are an army of one, are you the general or the infantry?
If we are not in charge of our marching orders, and let our ego’s dictate our behaviors, any successes we achieve were done in servitude of our egos. These are Pyrrhic victories.
Block is an interesting word. It has several meanings. Blocks as solid or metaphorical objects can be obstacles. Blocks can be descriptive of an area designed to keep things in. However, you can use building blocks to create something new or use starting blocks for stability at the start of something new. Our usage of the word shifts based on our current perspective.
Can a block be simultaneously viewed as the start of something new and an obstacle? Is the block preventing us from progress or triggering us to introduce a new way of thinking in order to push through? Build or raze: Opposites attract, even when opposites stem from the same word.
In weight lifting, the term “dumping the bar” is a phrase used to explain how to safely escape a scenario when you’ve attempted to lift more than you can handle at a given moment and there is no spotter present. Spotters are there to assist, and hopefully ensure one’s safety. In life, we don’t always have a spotter, and we do tend to occasionally attempt something more than we can currently handle whilst going it alone. This doesn’t have to be a feat of physical strength either; it can be a personal, professional, academic, social, or emotional too.
Dumping the bar means bailing out safely. Although we may have failed at achieving what we wanted in the moment, we are safe, which allows us to try again later. If we risk our safety for a final push towards success, the consequences can be deadly. Although a momentary lapse in judgement doesn’t have to necessarily be deadly, it can do enough damage to put us off our goals. It has the potential to sideline us, when all we really aspire to do, and what life is designed for, is to be in the game. We want to play! Sometimes success is knowing when to dump the bar. There’s great strength in knowing when going it alone isn’t safe.
Taking a few moments to decompress after a long work day is needed. But at what point does “me time” turn into time wasted? Most of us have lives that follow some form of routine. Routines are good when they work for us. However, if we tend to describe ourselves as constantly “busy,” but are hitting the pillow each night feeling that we haven’t been all that productive, we might be in a rut.
Ruts develop over time, and the bad news is that we will never get that time back. Ruts are defined as “long deep tracks made by the repeated passage of the wheels of vehicles.” Ruts exist for a reason. Ruts give us some form of traction (stability), but they don’t lead us anywhere new. When we are made tired by our routines, and in return spend a few hours every evening “decompressing” on the couch or in bed, what are we actually accomplishing? Do we feel better after this time has passed? Are we adding to our overall well-being, or stealing opportunities to get better in some way? If the point is to recharge or replenish our energy, how is that accomplished by doing nothing for an extended period of time? We a car is idling, its engine is running, but the car isn’t going anywhere. It’s wasting fuel. When we’re binge watching Netflix or scrolling Instagram, we’re idle. Our engines are running, but we’re going nowhere. We’re expending energy without purpose. That’s a formula for adding stress, not relieving it! For there is always somewhere more valuable to place our energy to improve our lives rather than into passively consuming. The creators of the content we consume put their energy into something for the sole purpose for us to mindlessly consume, and disguise it as entertainment. That form of consumption is vampiric. We cannot replenish our energy through energy already spent by others. There’s a difference between “time well spent” and “time, well, spent”.
When we tell our stories – when we explain ourselves – how often do we consider why we are doing so? How often do we realize that when we say we are “speaking our truth” are we failing to realize that “our truth” and “the truth” are not always the same? The truth simply “is,” while our truths are complex webs of our experiences shaping how we see situations. At best they are near approximations. Yet, we love to talk. After all, talking is communication and communication is connection, right?
Speaking is a guaranteed method used to measure how in a given moment when you are speaking, you aren’t learning anything. Speaking and learning are mutually exclusive. The paradox here is that if no one ever speaks, then no one ever learns. At some point, someone has to be a teacher and someone has to be a pupil. These are positions, not hierarchies. Reading offers the chance for contemplation, because we don’t have the authors in our presence to engage in conversation or inquiry. This opportunity for introspection is an often missed opportunity whilst in the company of others. We speak up and speak out to be heard for the sake of social norms, politeness and/or the sake of our egos.
When we tell someone else’s stories – when we attempt to explain someone else’s experiences or perspectives – how often do we consider how we can be doing so, accurately? What right do we have to speak for anyone else? Especially when we’re not necessarily experts at speaking our own truths!
What is the art of connection without excess? Is it a lonely existence, or our fear of loneliness that keeps us from knowing the answer?
Perspective is a recurring theme in this blog, and viewed primarily as something that we constantly long to achieve as a means of creating a balanced view of our lives. However, sometimes we are given a dose of perspective that’s unwanted: an unexpected diagnosis – a sudden death – a tragedy. When news is not good and there are no words in the moment that will help, a lesson on perspective will rightfully fall on deaf ears. The time for perspective is not always now!
The only perspective that matters in these moments is hopefully having learned enough from past pain to know how to move forward, even when we know it’ll likely be as though we’re blindfolded and feeling our way through the dark.
Whether the pain is pain you yourself are enduring firsthand or experiencing second, third or fourth-hand, life will keep moving. It’s a linear push. The last thing we want to hear when experiencing loss is a dose of reality. The Latin phrase “Memento Mori” means “remember, you must die.” It sounds like a threat, but it’s not. It’s a reminder of a promise to the debt that we all must pay. The people we love – their bodies are the shelter of souls. Their energy and spirit are what we are most attracted to, and that lives forever – in our hearts as a feeling, and in the stories we tell when we need some of their energy back in a moment to put a smile on our faces, or even to feel a touch of pain, just so we remember how deeply we are capable of feeling. The people who help us feel most intensely are the ones that also serve as a reminder, when we allow ourselves to be weighed down by the day-to-day stressors we experience, of what is really important to care about. Connection. True connection is what we hold onto even when it’s physically no longer there. That is love.
Goals. We can all agree that goal setting is a good thing. They are however, not the best thing to hold onto once we achieve them. Sure, there’s a grace period to celebrate our accomplishments. Once settled again though, a new realization dawns on us. “Dammit! That was a success!” Now what? What’s next?
Failure is an achievement with the an undesirable result. However, what’s keeps us driven is getting back at it until we achieve the desired result. Once that happens, we’ve often expended a lot of energy and are drained. Furthermore, we are sometimes so drained from pushing towards the goal that we didn’t even see the progress we were making until we were well beyond the finish line.
Goals can be like watching the grass grow. We need the distance to gain perspective. It’s almost like we need to have parallel lives going: one to do the work, and one to watch from afar to monitor our progress, so we can appreciate the journey to see the growth within the goals we set in real-time. There are methods of reflection that allow us to do so, and to each their own. The point is that achieving a goal should create a balanced feeling of pride and fear. Pride for what we did, and fear for either, “how do we now maintain what we’ve achieved” or “where do we go from here?” That fear, however, will be more appropriately used if we look at it as excitement for the unknown opposed to fear of the unknown.
If we feel drained on the daily, it’s likely not the work that’s draining us, it’s our approach to the work that’s exhausting. We’re failing at how we’re looking at the problem. Because, as Einstein said, “We can not solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” So when we succeed, we’ve succeeded at thinking/doing on a new level. Levels are often battles fought uphill, and in life they can be infinite. There’s good work to be done, and there’s always a demand for it. We shouldn’t fool ourselves in thinking that the demand for doing good work is an external expectation. We should demand from ourselves to put out the best work we can, and continue to build on our successes with excitement for the maintenance and/or the new.