Tag Archives: freedom

Stand Out

Each of us defines success in a different way.  My definition of success today is being content, loving those close to me with a full heart and enjoying life to the fullest.

One of the things I like to do is speak to people about life and what they can do to accomplish their dreams and goals.  I listen to their stories and try to find the commonalities with others who have become successful in life.

I was speaking with two people, in particular, this week with very different lives, yet their stories share common threads. One is an actor who started out for many years as a carpenter first. He studied acting on the side as he worked his woodworking craft.  He lived frugally and held himself to a high standard. He pushed himself and never lost sight of where he wanted to be.  There were no roles available for guys like him, yet he never gave up and today he is in a number of shows working as a full time actor.

The second is a professional athlete who has worked at his craft his whole life.  He reached the top of his game and still he kept at it.  Even when his career started to wind down, he stuck to his personal code.  He faced tough times and many changes, but with each move and shift he learned and grew. Those tough times helped shape him and equip him for his life today coaching and pushing other athletes to reach their potential.

We can all learn from their stories.  First, they each had a clear vision of where they wanted to be, and worked toward it.  They did not get caught up in the small things that drag us down in life and will do nothing for us.  Second, they demanded excellence from themselves.  They went to bed early, got plenty of sleep and woke up early on a schedule.  Each of them was willing to sacrifice immediate temporary pleasure for their long term goals. They were willing to put as much time as they could possibly find into mastering their craft.

In doing this they cracked the code of success that many others have followed. Hard work at every stage. They gave it their all no matter how small the work seemed at the time.  People took notice because of their hard work.  Good work never really goes unseen, even if you feel like it does not matter at the time.

After many years of toil, when they finally had their big opportunity, they were ready.

Another thing that stands out to me about these two, is that they both give thanks to him who made it possible. They will tell you that God will never give you more than you can handle.  Their advice is to stay focused, do everything to the best of your ability, demand excellence from yourself and make no excuses. By following these guidelines, we can all reach our full potential.

Titus 2:7

Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity,

1 Corinthians 9:24-25

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.

 

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Thrive

Here in the United States, we have access to so many things that can enrich our lives, yet many of us never take advantage of any of it.  We all have free time, we all have resources around us – libraries, museums, job opportunities, educational opportunities.  Yet most of us would rather spend our time complaining about all of the things we don’t have and the opportunities that are not handed to us, than to go out and create opportunities for ourselves.  Why?

Did we lose the art of believing that anything is possible with hard work and determination?  It can be easy to forget that we are all truly blessed to live in a place where there is an abundance of food and medical care is always available in emergencies. Instead, we all want more, we feel we deserve more without putting in the effort to earn it.

If we spend any amount of time watching TV or poking around on social media, we will be quickly reminded of the things we are lacking.  The truth is, those things are not necessary to achieve our goals.

Life is always better when we spend our time believing that we already have the things we need to enjoy life and pursue our dreams.  Don’t wait until you achieve your goals to believe in yourself.  Believing you can’t thrive until you have reached your goal is a mistake, we need to thrive during the journey. To think otherwise only fills our days with negativity.  

I am healthy and alive and thriving, even though I have so many goals left to achieve.

The fault in my old system of belief was that I thought everything – both good and bad – happened because of me or to me.  I gave myself too much credit – I believed the world revolved around me.  It is hard not to laugh at myself now looking back.  

I believe that if everyday I put in my best effort, it will pay off in the future.  That doesn’t mean life won’t hold struggles, but it means that I can still thrive during life’s struggles.  I know life as it is at this moment is just temporary and will change sometimes for the better or worse. I believe that no matter which way life may go, I am well equipped to handle it and will continue to thrive.

Romans 15:13

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

Hebrews 11:1

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

 

Destination or Journey

Often we focus on the destination with so much intensity that we completely forget about the journey. Each of us has a unique story that goes along with our journey in life.  We are exactly where we are today because of the roads we have chosen.

In 2005 I could have never imagined that I would end up in the Midwest.  I became adapted to living the big city life during my time in New York, and the minute I left, I missed it.

I spent a lot of time in a mountain state after that, but I never enjoyed it or even considered living there.  I spent all of my time training, writing, reading and on Fridays, watching movies.  That was probably the longest time I spent living away from a coastline, until now.  Los Angeles began as my home in my early years, and became my home again.  It was the place I thought I would live the rest of my life.

Looking back, the funny thing is that I do not miss it at all.  I was going over all of the choices big and small that brought me to where I am in Illinois today.  I do not regret my past because it shaped who I am today.  I regret certain choices and actions I chose.  I never dwell on my past in a negative way, because it shaped the person I am today.  I am thankful for my journey and most of all, that I survived.  

I learned a lot of things the hard way. The lessons of my life come from experiences both good and bad.  Now, I hope to pass on my experiences to anyone who cares to listen, and save them the trouble of learning the hard way.

I lived in a state of constant dread.  A life of,  “What if?” or, “How long?”  Even after I began the change process, I still felt uneasy all the time. Looking back, I will sometimes catch myself wondering why did I not seek change sooner.  I know now that it is because I was not ready and God’s timing is perfect.

My journey taught me that we can all accomplish what seems impossible as long as we are dedicated to improving and staying the course.  We may not get exactly what we set out for, but what we do receive will be more than we could have dreamed.

Destination or journey? The real prize is what we learn along the way.
Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Psalm 119:105

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.

 

Habits Are they Helpful?

Habits.  Good, bad or slightly annoying, it is our habits that will ultimately determine where we end up: success or failure.  

I was recently sent this article about a man who had studied a group of rich people and outlined the common habits he found they had.  While that article, in particular, was only about a group of people with a high monetary net worth, I’ll go beyond that, and say that good habits can help you succeed in life, not just determine who becomes wealthy.  Money and things are temporary.  Success is also about what we do with our time while we are here on earth.

I really like this definition of a habit: a routine or behavior that is repeated regularly and tends to occur subconsciously. That pretty much encompasses all that needs to be said about habits.

It has also been said that it takes twenty-one days to form a habit.  I have been working on creating better habits for myself.  

I will give you two examples from my life.  First, I committed to writing this blog with a new post every Wednesday.  I did it for a full year. Even when I felt nobody was reading or following my posts, or I felt I could better use my time doing something else, I still sat down and wrote.   I enjoy writing and it keeps me sharp while I finish up my book. The point is that I made it a habit to sit down in front of the computer to write every single day, so that I could make sure I produce enough content.

My birthday was June 1st and I made a commitment to myself that I was really going to push myself in the fitness department. I wanted to increase my strength, so I started an intense training program with kettlebells.  I gathered all of the information that I could, buying books on kettlebells and watching training videos by the pros.   I then planned a kettlebell program four times a week to add to my regular training.  I have not missed a day and progress is moving forward at a pace better than I expected. I have made heavy kettlebell training a habit and I can feel the results.

Success in anything new does not come from luck, and it is not free.  

The time I took to examine my life and create new habits has paid off.  It was not easy to admit to myself that I had some really worthless habits.  It was hard to ditch some life long patterns I had, but I have and I will continue to work on replacing them with good ones. I can change my life. If you want to, you can change yours too.

Romans 12:2

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

 

1 Corinthians 10:13

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

 

Why Details Matter

Sometimes I like to just hang back, watch people to see what they do and how they act.  If you pay attention you can easily determine why some succeed and others fail at certain endeavors.

It has become easy for most of us to skip over the small details in life.  We live in a quick on the go society.  In reality every detail, no matter how small, matters. I have the luxury of hindsight because I am able to look back on my life and determine why I was successful at certain times. I can also be sure of why I failed at other incidents.  It comes down to the details.

Why are Vincent Van Gogh’s works of art so amazing and thought provoking?  After all anyone can paint a starry night.  In reality, very few can capture the mood and feel with a brush.

Last week I watched a championship fight between two fighters at the top of their game.  One of them was hit by a huge hook and right away he came back with a wicked cross.  The hook seemingly had little effect on the one hit.  Two still pictures reveal the reason behind it.

The hook was “winged,” which means the hips were not used and it was only a palm strike.  He didn’t hit with his knuckles, but his opponent did use his hips and turn over his punch.  Those tiny differences made the difference between being able to walk through a punch and being thrown against the ropes.

How many times do we fail to take each step we need to accomplish our goals? Are we using our hips to throw our hooks (hypothetically), or are we just slapping with our hands? I have been and am guilty as the next person when it comes to cutting corners.  I used to never worry about the small things, I always figured I could go back and fix them. This faulty way of thinking has cost me a lot over the years.  I think about all the time and heartache I could have saved myself and I realize how ignorant I had been.

We walk through life without realizing that God has provided us with everything we need to live a prosperous life of fulfillment.  It is hard because we cannot see the big picture or the final outcome. This is where faith comes into the picture and helps us get through the rough periods.  The good news is, that even though we can’t see the future, our job is not to blindly walk in faith, he has given us clear guidelines of how we should live in the Bible.

Our lives are made up of thousands of tiny actions that take place every hour of the day and night.  A chef cannot put a culinary masterpiece on the table without careful attention to each of the ingredients.

I listen when someone is explaining something unfamiliar to me and I absorb the information.  If I don’t understand something, I will ask questions.

I make every effort to do whatever task I set out to do right in the first place. I know I will fail at times, but I learn and I never continue to make the same mistakes again.

How could paying attention to details make your life easier?  The next question is why are you not sweating the details?  When we cease to learn, life is over.

Matthew 7:7-8

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.

Proverbs 13:4

The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied.

 

The Blank Canvas of Freedom

There is a lot of talk about freedom this week. The dictionary defines freedom as “The absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action.”

Our lives, especially here in the United States, are a blank canvas. Each of us is an artist, applying brush strokes with our choices.

The founding fathers laid out the most important protections we have for our freedom in the Bill of Rights. Yet, sadly, few people will ever take the time to learn about those freedoms.

Yes, we have the freedom of choice. We can eat what we want, drink what we want, stay up late or go to bed early. We can choose our friends and our occupation.  We can live in any city we choose, and work hard or take it easy.

In my life, I’ve found that the more I adhere to the things that are good for me, the more freedom I have to live life to the fullest.  It sounds counter-intuitive that self-control leads to more freedom – because self-control is restricting – but once you dig deeper you may begin to see it this way too.

Let’s get back to our founding fathers and the Bill of Rights.  Take for example the first amendment.

First Amendment: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Freedom of religion.  One of the reasons I rejected Christianity for many years was that I felt living a Christian life would restrict me in too many ways. I wanted the freedom to make my own choices, I did not want to be told how to live my life.  

 

It turns out I was wrong, and it could not be further from the truth. Seeking to follow God’s plan for my life instead of my own has freed me.  The talents I have were given to me by him, after all.  By using my gifts and talents to serve God instead of myself, I have begun to see a much broader picture of life.  Before, I was all that mattered. Every decision was based on my desires. I was a slave to myself and to sin.

I had limited knowledge of what I believed a Christian life was about, until I dug deeper.  When I began reading the Bible, it opened up my heart and changed my life in many ways.  Before, I never gave much thought to other’s feelings or the effects of my actions on those around me. Now I know that my actions always impact others.  I was alone, without a moral compass. Today I don’t live for myself.

This has been my journey.  I’m thankful for the country I live in and the freedom to find my way to this point.  

I believe that Jesus has set me free from my past, he has forgiven me for my sins and given me a fresh start.  A chance to live life differently.  Christianity is a religion, but it is so much more than that.  It is a relationship with our creator.

We all enjoy great freedom in America, thanks to our Founding Fathers. We are free to make of our lives what we want. Why waste it? It is time for all of us to make the most of life.

Galatians 5:1

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

1 Peter 2:16

Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.