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I got the call one beautiful spring afternoon. Perhaps the most successful friend I know was in his back yard gardening. And that was a problem. One, it was the middle of the workday. Two, he doesn’t garden.

 

He called me because he was upset about a project he was working on. He felt as though he had made a mistake that put the project, and his team, at risk of failing. He called me to talk about what he should do and how to handle it. After years and years of tremendous success, he was finally facing his first failure. I was not sure whether to be flattered by his call, or upset that he thought of me when he thought of failure.

 

But the truth is, I had failed several times. Rather than take the normal course in life after leaving college, I took several measured risks. And yes, by my own standards, I failed at all of them. But in that failure, I was given a tremendous gift — I was now free. I was no longer afraid of making mistakes or failing.

 

One of the people I admire most is a woman who led an incredibly carefree life. She did what she wanted, she said what she wanted and she believed what she wanted. Talking with her, being in her presence, and hearing her stories of life was incredibly invigorating! Whenever I was with her, I always yearned for the life she had. Well, not all of it.

 

You see, the freedom she felt is not something you are born with. It is something you earn through your experiences. Prior to living the liberating, magnificent life she was living, she was a drug addict living in abandoned buildings and eating out of trash cans. It was not an easy or fun life. Yet, a life like that “holds a gift for you in its hands.” In her own words, “once you hit rock bottom and are looking for dinner in a trash can, you have nothing left to lose.” And that is when life opens up for you. In that moment, you are completely free of the fear of failing or worrying about what others may think of you.

 

In many ways I envied my friend and desired the freedom she felt. I wanted to live life as she was living it. Yet, every single time I felt that way, I also felt my fear and asked God to gift me the that kind of freedom, without having to experience rock bottom.

 

Unfortunately, I don’t think that is the way it works. True freedom is only gifted to those willing to risk it all . . . and who are not afraid to lose it.

 

“Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All of life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better.”
 

– Ralph Waldo Emerson
 

Spring is the season that reminds us that all is born again. Without fail, life is renewed and green shoots of grass, budding flowers and new leaves re-appear. Each year, the earth declares a do-over and gives us a new chance at life and growth. Every. Single. Year.

 

Why not take a hint from earth and try something new this Spring. It is the perfect time to take a risk, make a mistake and tempt failure.

 

I have always said that unless someone dies or get hurts, it is not a mistake. Too many of us are afraid to make a mistake and it paralyzes us. We stay stuck and our lives get stale. Let this spring be the opportunity when you take the risk you have always wanted and say yes to life!

 

READ HOW THIS APPLIES TO YOUR BUSINESS here.

 

heart1

I went on a date recently with a beautiful dark-skinned woman who spoke with a striking English accent. She moved to this country 10 years ago from India and is now a US citizen. During our lunch, the conversation turned to one of the taboo topics we are instructed never to talk about on dates or social gatherings. Unfortunately for me, that topic was not sex, but rather politics . . . well, kinda. In truth, it was really about the breakdown of civility in America.

 

During our conversation, she shared with me an experience she had recently in one of my favorite towns in Pennsylvania. It occurred shortly after the election in November. While she was standing at a street corner waiting for the light to change, she noticed a group of young men approaching from her right. They were quite boisterous and were celebrating President Trump’s recent victory. As they got closer, they surrounded her and starting shouting at her. “You don’t belong here!” “Get out of our country!” “Go back to where you came from!”

 

She continued to look forward, not engaging them, waiting for the light to change. She shared with me that that was the longest light of her life.

 

As you can imagine, I was deeply saddened to hear what happened to her. And even though I was surprised, perhaps I shouldn’t have been. Prejudice and such ugliness exists, and has always existed, in our country.

 

But this is not what made my heart absolutely ache with pain.

 

As she stood at that light and endured their onslaught of abuse for that never-ending minute, praying for the light to change, no one came to her aide. Not a single soul. Of all the people at that busy intersection, no man, woman or child took it upon themselves to say something, or stand by her side, or take her arm and walk with her, or diffuse the energy of the situation. No one.

 

All of the people at that intersection . . . all of us . . . let it happen.

 

Of course, none of us really knows how we will respond until we are in the situation ourselves, but I pray that when I am, I will act upon what I know and feel in my heart and take a stand for my fellow human.

 

We must never forget that those who suffer such ugliness and incivility are human, just like you and me. They are a friend, a mother, a brother, a child. They love like you and me. They cry like you and me. They feel joy like you and me. They fear like you and me. They suffer sadness like you and me. They bleed like you and me.

 

Never forget to act first and foremost from your heart, for that is where your highest truth and greatest courage resides. It is impossible for me to imagine that a heart would ever whisper to turn away in indifference.

 

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

Do not shrink in the face of your fear. Do not forget your humanness when confronted by incivility . . . and do not forget theirs. There are only two doors to choose from here – love and fear. Well, actually three. The third is indifference. But to choose that third door is to be a complicit conspirator of whatever is unfolding before you.

 

My Valentine wish for America is that we find our way through this cloud of incivility and arrive at a place where we can listen and respect those who do not agree with our current thinking. That we arrive at a place where we seek to understand, even if we choose not to adopt an opposing point of view. That we arrive at a place where we have the wisdom to understand that if we are “right” today, there is a good chance we will be “wrong” tomorrow.

 

We are, after all, human.

 

READ HOW THIS APPLIES TO YOUR BUSINESS here.

 

Your North Star

Most people start the new year setting goals conveniently disguised as New Year’s resolutions. However, people who do this are focused on the wrong thing. Before they set their goals or resolutions, it behooves them to first establish a North Star.

 

polaris-north-starJust as it is used in nautical terms, your North Star is a fixed point you can use to guide your life and ensure that you are heading in the right direction. It can serve as an unshakeable marker that will guide you through the turbulent waters of your life.

 

With that in mind, before setting your goals it is beneficial to think about and declare your North Star. If you don’t, you are essentially sailing rudderless, aimlessly floating in an ocean of possibility hoping you will reach a destination you desire. Or even worse, you may end up setting goals that are not aligned with your North Star, thus setting a course in the “wrong” direction.

 

My inspiring friend Dan Galperin (www.manpowerproject.com) once asked me a question that serves as a beautiful and fun way to establish your North Star. He asked:

 

What are the 5 impossible goals of a lifetime that would blow your mind?

 

Once you have declared these lifetime goals, they can serve as your North Star and guide your annual goals. Your goals each year should align with, support, and further your North Star – even if by just a few small steps at a time.

Here are the 5 Impossible Lifetime Goals I declared this year as I set my North Star.

  1. Plant 10,000 trees.
  2. Have $5 million in the bank.
  3. Become a Best-selling author.
  4. Be in a relationship with a stunningly attractive (inside and out), amazingly sensual, incredibly spiritual woman.
  5. Speak in front of 10,000 people.

Rather than struggle with your New Year’s resolutions this year, most of which are broken because they are not inspired by a person’s North Star, why not start 2017 by electrifying your life with a declaration of your North Star!

 

“Most people overestimate what they can do in a day, and underestimate what they can do in a year.”

– Matthew Kelly (& Bill Gates)

 

When dealing with goals, especially lifetime goals, don’t get overwhelmed by the magnificence you are declaring for yourself. You do not need to accomplish everything by tomorrow. Thinking that way is a sure recipe for frustration, which will likely lead to you giving up.

 

Rather, take your time and design a thoughtful, measured plan taking you from Point A (January) to Point B (December). Break your goals into smaller milestones which you can accomplish over the course of the whole year. By doing so, you will ensure your success and witness exhilarating progress toward your dreams.

 

This is the best way to succeed for the year . . . and your lifetime!

 

READ HOW THIS APPLIES TO YOUR BUSINESS here.

 

If you really, truly want to have the best holiday ever, I mean one like you have never experienced before . . . one that your soul has always yearned for . . . the kind of holiday you have always dreamed about . . .

. . . then I have a very simple recipe to create that experience for you.

 
gratitude2

It has just two ingredients —

    1. Gratitude.

    2. Perspective.

 

Shall we practice it?

 
 
 

If you woke up in your bedroom this morning, got out of your warm bed, and walked into your bathroom . . . be grateful.

There are 100 million people who are homeless and 1.6 billion without adequate housing.

 

If you opened your refrigerator at some point today and paused trying to figure out what to eat . . . be grateful.

There are almost 800 million people who go hungry every day.

 

If you are reading this, even if you need your glasses . . . be grateful.

17% of the world’s adult population is illiterate.

 

If you got in your car, cursed your way through a commute, and suffered through a job you hate . . . be grateful.

There are 200 million people without a job.

 

(And yes, I would strongly encourage you to consider a new job in 2017. Your life is too precious to be suffering through it.)

 

If you went through the whole day and didn’t hear any gunshots, not even once . .. be grateful.

1 in every 122 people is a refugee of war, violence or persecution.

 

If you took a glass from the cabinet, turned on your faucet – or even more miraculously, poured yourself some bottled water . . . be grateful.

10% of the world does not have access to clean water.

 

Over the years, I have found that these two simple principles – gratitude and perspective – are all I need to provide me with a great deal of joy in my life, regardless of what I personally may be dealing with.

 

There is no doubt we all suffer and experience struggles in our lives, but with a moment of pause, and a little perspective, you will quickly see how incredibly blessed you are.

 

The reality is, if you are reading this blog on your computer, chances are very good that you are among “the 1%” of the world.

 

“What if you woke up today with only those things you thanked God for yesterday.”

– Anonymous

 

Wow! What a concept! When I read this it stopped me and had me think about yesterday. It had me think about what gifts in my life I acknowledged . . . and all those I did not.

 

Gratitude takes but a moment, but lasts a lifetime. It leaves traces of love in your heart, and the heart of others. If there is one gift we should not be a Grinch about this holiday season, it is our gratitude. It costs nothing, yet is a treasure to all who hold it.

 
Epilogue
 

A few days after I wrote this entry, my neighbor in the condo above me had a leak and water poured into my bathroom through the ceiling. This is the third water issue I have had in my home this year. As you can imagine, I was a bit frustrated.
 

As I thought about the inconvenience and began to get annoyed, I suddenly remembered this entry that I just wrote. I thought about the hundreds of millions of people that don’t even have access to clean running water. And just like that, my emotions shifted from annoyance to actually being grateful for the fact that I even had the possibility of clean, running water leaking through my bathroom ceiling.
 
Amazing what a little perspective will do.
 

READ HOW THIS APPLIES TO YOUR BUSINESS here.

 

What Now?

After our recent election, I was drawn to one of my favorite places to hike – Jockey Hollow. Jockey Hollow was the encampment site for our Revolutionary Army for two brutal winters, and the hills and forests of this place are alive with the spirit that gave birth to our country.

 

jockeyhollow4On this particular sunny, fall day I decided to hike a trail I have not hiked before. While hiking, I came to a sign on the trail that indicated the trail turned right, but I saw no trail that way. What I did see, however, was a big hill in front of me, and I LOVE being on the top of hills and mountains. So I abandoned the marked trail and started bushwhacking my way up the hill.

 

The symbolism of this decision was not lost on me since we as a nation are now blazing a new trail and are venturing into uncharted territory.

 

Once on top of the hill, I explored a bit, I enjoyed the view, and I appreciated the accomplishment. From the top of that hill, though, I saw an even bigger hill, and for whatever reason it is in my blood that if there is a higher peak to climb, I MUST climb it. So off I went.

 

Here’s the thing about striving to get to a higher peak. In order to get from one peak to the next we must travel through a valley. As such, we must never fear the low points, for they are simply part of the journey to something greater.

 

When I got to the floor of the valley, I found a beautiful stream trickling over rocks, filling the air with a gurgling meditative rhythm. I sat on a rock, closed my eyes, and just listened, breathed and enjoyed the darkness of the valley shadowed by the rising hill next to me. As I listened, I pondered the fact that I did not hear or see any animals all day, which was odd. Not even a squirrel or bird.

 

After drinking in the moment, I began my ascent up the next hill. The sun was setting, and I hoped that from the next peak I would see a landmark I recognized or perhaps see a trail. I have to admit I was a bit lost and anxious as I did not have any bearing in the forest. When I reached the peak, unfortunately all I saw was more unfamiliar woods. No path. No landmark. No voices. No sound of cars.

 

Doubt crept into the back of my mind and I felt that nervous pit in my stomach that accompanies uncertainty. Now, granted I was hiking in New Jersey, so I knew that if I hiked long enough I would eventually cross a road, but with the sun going down, I also knew I needed to be smart.

 

This is why I love hiking in the woods and venturing down new paths. It tests and challenges my limits. In this moment I could either panic . . . or I could listen and trust.

 

My experience taught me to listen and trust. So I did.

 

After not seeing any animals all day, suddenly a wild turkey appeared. I couldn’t help but think that the turkey was Benjamin Franklin’s favorite bird and that he favored making it the national bird over the bald eagle, at least according to the myth.

 

I followed the turkey over the crest of the hill and as it ran off into the forest I saw a pink ribbon tied to a tree. And then another. And another after that. I followed the trail of ribbons and eventually came to a marked trail, which eventually led me to a road, which eventually led me home.

 

We must not fear new paths. It is in the unknown that we come to know ourselves best. But in order to find our way out of the darkness and uncertainty, we must listen and trust.

 

Hope is like a path in the countryside:
originally there was no path
– yet
as people are walking all the time,
in the same spot,
a path appears.

 

– Lu Xun

 

We all must travel unknown paths at some point in our lives. Whether they are found in a relationship, a career, financial matters, health, or any other domain. At some point we must step onto a new path.

 

We can either take that first step in fear and dread the journey, or we can take it with hope, trusting that it will lead us to new learning, growth, insights and maybe even an amazing adventure. Regardless of where the path may eventually lead, choosing hope and trust, rather than fear, will ensure the journey is more enjoyable.

 

READ HOW THIS APPLIES TO YOUR BUSINESS here.

 

The other day I was hanging out with my 4 year old niece when she showed me the new skills she learned at gymnastics class. Like a fillet of kid containing no bones, she did her best Simon Biles imitation, lying on her stomach, arching her back, and touching her pointed toes to her head.

 

“Come on Uncle Rich, do it.”

 

Having been wrapped around her finger since she was born, I gave it a try. While the distance between my head and toes was roughly equivalent to the distance between the earth and moon, being the wonderful, encouraging little girl that she is, I heard,

 

“Good job Uncle Rich!”

 

gymnastics2Although my attempt failed miserably, I felt the yogic position open up my hips, which have always been tight, so I decided to add this position to my morning yoga and stretching routine.


 
Bad move.

 

The next 4 days after attempting to stretch into this position more deeply, my lower back was in intense pain. My muscles screamed at me, reminding me that I was not 4 years old.

 

This got me thinking about my age, my inabilities – or more appropriately – the abilities I am losing, and how to grow old gracefully. I realized there were two critical elements to growing old gracefully – acceptance and knowing your limits.

 

Apparently, I suck at both!

 

Physically, we must accept that what our bodies could do when we were 20 years old, they no longer can do well, if at all, at 50 years old. Interestingly, there is one area of our being where these limits do not apply . . . our thinking.

 

It has been scientifically proven that our brains have a quality known as plasticity. That means that we have the ability to continually, and forever, form new neural pathways, which essentially means we can ALWAYS learn new things! Always.

 

The cliche stating “You can’t teach and old dog new tricks” is horribly wrong. And there is plenty of evidence against it.

 

  • George Washington was 44 years old when he made his epic crossing of the Delaware River and turned the fortunes of the Revolutionary War.
  • Ray Kroc was 52 years old when he bought McDonald’s and transformed it into the world’s biggest fast food franchise.
  • Laura Ingalls Wilder was 65 years old when she published the first of her Little House series.
  • John Glenn was 77 years old when he became the oldest human to go into space.
  • Mary Baker Eddy was 87 years old when she founded the Christian Science Monitor.
  • Nola Ochs was 95 when she became the oldest person to receive a college diploma.

 

And this is just the tip of the iceberg! There are an untold number of people who achieved great things as they grew older.

 

If you ask me, that is the true definition of aging gracefully. Someone who does not define themselves by their age or their body’s ability, but rather rather by the unlimited possibility held within their minds and their hearts.

 

You can judge your age by the amount of pain you feel when you come in contact with a new idea.

Anonymous

 

If the above quote referenced “new technology” rather than “new ideas”, sadly, I would have to admit that I am starting to show my age. However, in the domain of new ideas I am very, very young! In fact, I would be so bold as to say that when it comes to new ideas, I have the mind of a child . . . one where all possibilities exist.

 

In fact, when it comes to new ideas, modelling children is the way to go. Their curiosity, inquisitiveness, desire to understand and freedom from limitations allows them to create an infinite amount of possibilities. Their “land of make believe” is a perfect place to exist when trying to solve a problem. Not all the ideas will be viable, of course, but the quantity of new ideas will be astounding!

 

READ HOW THIS APPLIES TO YOUR BUSINESS here.

 

I was recently asked a question by one of my clients and I noticed that I paused for what seemed like an eternity before I responded to them.

 

I imagine some might say I paused or am slower in my thinking because I am getting old(er). Some might say it is because I am insightful and want to consider what I am saying. And others might say I am simply doing it for effect.

 

But none of those is true.

 

This is why I pause —

 

The other day when I was biking I saw what appeared to be a thick tree limb split wide open on the side of the road, perhaps from one of the many storms that passed through the area this summer.

 

However, as I got closer to the limb I saw that it was not one branch, but in fact two separate branches with a yellowing leaf between them. And neither of the limbs were split open. It was the arrangement of the three objects that gave the appearance of one large limb that had been split open.

 

thought1You see, I pause in my thinking and observation not because I am old(er) or more insightful or trying to give effect.

 

I pause . . . I must pause . . . because I think I know.

 

I have seen and witnessed enough in my life to think I know. When I see or hear something, I am quick to categorize and label it, perhaps as something similar to what I have seen or heard in the past.

 

But conclusion based on assumption is dangerous and can lead to many mistakes in thinking and action.

 

If we can’t see things with new eyes, truly see and hear things as they actually are rather than what we THINK they are, then we must be aware enough to pause and consider all possibilities before speaking or acting.

 

This is why I pause, and why it is so important for me to do so. I want to consider the truth of what is before me rather than what I think I already know.

 

It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows.
 

– Epictetus

 

Interacting with people and the world around us with an attitude of “I already know” is an epidemic these days. We all have retreated to “our sides” and we only wish to hear what we agree with or already believe to be true. Whether it is the media we listen to and read, our friends on Facebook, or our community groups, we surround ourselves mostly with information that supports our already established point of view.

 

Unfortunately, interacting with the world in this way will only limit our learning, our ability to think differently, and our ability to see the world as it truly is. And if that is how we truly wish to go through life, than we might as well lock ourselves in a room and spend the rest of our days in the dark.

 

The world can only truly be experienced by venturing out. We must consider other ideas, other people, and other beliefs if we are to be fully alive. We must venture out from the confining cage of thought we have built for ourselves and seek new truths.

 

READ HOW THIS APPLIES TO YOUR BUSINESS here.