Category: Don’s Blog

Tips for Fishing and Living # 44

Tip #44:

“Three-fourths of the Earth’s surface is water, and one-fourth is land.  It is quite clear that the good Lord intended us to spend triple the amount of time fishing as taking care of the lawn.” 

                                                Chuck Clark

A friend once told me of a fond memory from his childhood. Each springtime his father would bring him and his four brothers outside to fix up their yard. His father had them patch up the lawn he and his brothers would regularly wreck from playing kick ball and doing other boy-type rough neck activities. By spring their yard looked pretty bleak. This one particular spring day their next door neighbor, a married man with no children, and someone who boasted the most perfectly manicured lawn in their neighborhood, was outside observing this family springtime rite of passage. This neighbor spent countless hours laboring over his gorgeous gardens and pristine lawn, and was now eyeing with wonderment and distain the frugal efforts being made by my friend and his brothers. This particular day, as the five boys, guided by their father, went about their repair efforts, their next door neighbor came closer, leaned over the fence, and said to his father,

“Al, why do you let your boys ruin your lawn like this year after year?”

My friend said he and his brothers all stopped working and stood silently as they watched and waited to see what their father could possibly say to this less than subtle ridicule.

My friend said his father smiled at their neighbor, and then slowly and politely replied:

“Well, Frank, you see, right now I’m raising children. Later on, I’ll raise a lawn.”    

The quote at the beginning of this blog piece regarding the earth’s vast amount of water is the author’s way to justify his own passion for fishing. That’s all it is; nothing more. My friend’s father also had his passion. He clearly expressed it that Saturday morning when he proudly spoke of it to his neighbor. When he proclaimed his passion in front of his boys he also did something very wonderful. My friend told me that immediately following this incident all five boys immediately picked up their pace and got back to the task at hand. And they did so without any further resistance or complaining.

What is your passion? Do you ever speak about it? When was the last time you spent time pursuing your passion? Here’s a hint: Those things you readily do or would love to do, even if you don’t/didn’t get paid to do them, are a pretty good indicator of where your passion lies. Pay attention to how you become animated and energized whenever you talk of things you love doing, or of those things you have great interest in. When you speak about your knowledge regarding cooking, or your grasp of certain aspects of history, or your model railroad up in your attic, you are proclaiming your passion.

I love working with couples. This work is often complicated and complex. It’s been a lifelong training of mine and I believe I have developed useful skills and insight for this endeavor. Most pay me for this work. Some pay me quite well. A few I see for only a nominal fee, and occasionally I offer myself gratis. I take only those couples that have a strong desire to make their relationship better. It is one of my real passions.

I also love facilitating family constellations workshops. These workshops often provide transformational breakthroughs and huge healing in peoples’ personal lives. I make these workshops very affordable and will I invite people to attend as my guest because I see it potentially helpful in their over-coming some systemic wound they seem to be carrying. Often the couples that I am working with and who attend one or more of these workshops find their marital counseling become propelled into greater and speedier resolution. Whenever I tell others about this work, they, and I, hear me becoming extremely enthusiastic. As I become more enthusiastic about this work I am exposing this passion of mine.

If you aren’t already doing what you are passionate about, and unless you are independently wealthy, firs, go figure out what it is you love to do. Then find a way to get paid to do it. Love what you do; do what you love. Ideally these two are best when they come together. For the most part I loved when I was working full time in marriage and family ministry. Once someone asked me if “I would remain at my job if I won the lottery?” I replied, “Oh yes. Absolutely. They’d just wish I quit.”

What I meant was I would keep doing this work that I loved, only I’d now be less encumbered and less restricted in carrying out the vision I had for this work. Since I did need the salary I received I kept myself a bit in check. There’s an old saying: “There are no prophets on the payroll.” One needs to find a balance for speaking up and out while also not losing one’s job. If the two are completely out of sorts then finding a better fit somewhere else may be the only option.

Let’s say you have a job that you do not hate but is not particularly fulfilling. The pay check is good and needed. Another option is to find an outlet for you to express your passion in some other way. Maybe you’re someone who does love to manicure your lawn spending hours joyfully working at it. That’s great. Then do it. Go for it! Maybe you do love your particular job. Keep doing it. But you can still add more space for furthering your particular passion(s).

Maybe you love to sing, or dance, or even act. Maybe you enjoy writing stories or poems. You might be someone who loves being in the outdoors, hiking, or biking. It’s likely these activities are not part of your present occupation. Why not find others way to make them a bigger priority in your life? Yes, it will require you to carve out some time for these things not readily built into your present job and your otherwise too-full-life. Make room for them. Push them in. Maybe a plus in your job is you are afforded the latitude and space for extra-curricular activities. If not, force them in and schedule them.

How? Maybe you need to get up an hour earlier each in order to write, or run, or whatever. Maybe you can hire someone for some task you normally do. A neighbor’s teenager to cut your grass or shop? A house clearer one or twice a month? Maybe you join a club or a group that fosters your commitment to a given passion. A running club can facilitate you running even on those gloomy Saturdays when you’d be tempted to stay in bed. Go do the things you enjoy doing and let some others stuff slide. Create structures that facilitate this to happen.

When I first started to run in the morning I would put my shoes, socks, and running clothes out next to my bed the night before. When I woke up I put these things on before I could talk myself out of going. I was dressed and out the door before my inner critic woke up. I eliminated the searching for whatever I needed to go. ‘Socks? Oh well, maybe tomorrow.’ Instead I just went. Period.

Maybe it’s something else entirely that holds you back. Perhaps you haven’t let anyone know what you love and are passionate about. It’s something you’ve kept to yourself as some deep secret. Why? What would happen if you let your secret out – at least to someone?  By claiming it you make it more real. This is the powerful secret of success of Weight Watchers. Showing up each week and stepping on that scale makes people much more likely to stay the course throughout the week. It is a structure that holds you to what it is you said you want – in this case to drop some weight – and you’ve tapped into this structure that facilitates a greater assurance of you generating your stated goal.

I have a friend that dreamed of pursuing her great love of music in a singing career since childhood. She married and had six children. She managed to join her church choir and thus keep her finger in this love of hers. Her children have all gone on to live their own full lives. This passion she had mostly kept on the back burner was never completely lost and has now reemerged onto center stage quite literally. Today she is an active member in a regional Gilbert and Sullivan production company. She thoroughly loved that she and her husband raised their large family. Today she is having the time of her life being a loving grandmother, as well as, singing her heart out in whatever show she and her fellow actors are doing. 

Our passions are God given. They are gifts meant to be offered to the world. Stillness is the key to unmasking and fostering our gifts, and also to finding avenues to manifest them. We are required to develop a wise presence. Such a presence can only come about by slowing down our hectic lives and finding much needed stillness. Stillness fosters our awareness of three areas: our heart, mind and body. When we become poised in all three of these, and balanced and alertly present, we discover a shift in our consciousness. This is grace working within us. We’re able to get out of the well-formed rut tracks of whatever issues, agendas and ways of thinking that we otherwise glob onto. Instead we’re able to come from a deeper, steadier, and quieter place.  Again, this is sacred work on our part.

Saint Joan of Arc was questioned by the inquisitors as to how she knew that God spoke to her. She told them God spoke to her through her dreams. Then she replied, “How else would God speak to us?” Our task is to slow down, become still and quiet, in order to hear what the Ultimate Source is calling us to.

I think Joan was telling us that our dreams also have a lot to do with our passions – those things we know consciously or are expressed to us in our sleep. They are God-given and we are called to seek them out, and discern what we are to do with them. Once we do become clear what we as to what passion is, we are to develop this passion for both our own delight, and for the sake of the world.

Tips for Fishing and Living # 43

Tip #43:

“I am not against golf, since I cannot but suspect it keeps armies of the unworthy from discovering trout… ”                                 Paul O’Neil

Here’s a thought: Our life focus can be within four different categories regarding what we must deal with. There are the:

  1. Unimportant and Non-Urgent,
  2. Important and Non-urgent,
  3. Unimportant and Urgent, And
  4. Important and Urgent.

Which category or categories do you spend much of your time and energy focusing on? That’s right, when we’re totally honest we have to recognize, more often than not, we’re pay much more attention to the Urgent categories. The two Urgent ones, those things that originally might start out as Unimportant, but morph into Important, as well as Urgent, largely due to the limited attention or outright neglect we gave these things.

Our nature seems to be that we to do the things we like to do, as we put off doing the things we don’t like. It could be making a phone call we know will be unpleasant. So we put it off until the last  possible minute only to discover we’ve missed some significant time-line for actually doing something useful and perhaps doing so quite simply, and instead find we’ve caused some resentment and even hostility with the people we might have been able to handle reasonably well had we taken earlier action. We now face a greater difficulty that necessary.

Maybe it’s some kitchen sink leak that we don’t address because we don’t want to go to the bother of spending the money we think it may require to fix it. Then this defective water fixture bursts, flooding the kitchen and the lower part of our house as well. Now, we need to deal with the original plumbing repair and the damage it caused.

You get the idea. Procrastination and denial usually only create bigger problems. People often say they hate conflict and will try to avoid it at all costs. The cost usually turns out to be more than ever imagined.

I recall a very old TV commercial for a product called STP. STP is a car engine oil that the manufacturer claims will keep your car engine running smoothly and longer. The roughly one-quart size STP container sold at the time for about three dollars. The TV ad has a man dressed as car mechanic holding a container of SPT in one hand, with a car and its hood opened up with smoke coming out from the engine in the background. The mechanic smiles at the TV viewers and says:

“Pay me now,” as he raises up the STP. Then he looks over to the car and says, “Or pay me later.”

In other words, pay $3.00 now for the SPT as smart car preventive maintenance, or you’ll be paying me later for an expensive engine repair job.

We’ve been into denial and procrastination big time when it comes to our Planet. Only recently, with ever-increasing signs resulting from our neglectful and abusive practices, has it become more difficult to ignore (although there are still hold-outs). We are, hopefully, more united in recognizing the need to deal with our environmental systemic neglect and abuse. We’re taking actions we must take in the hope that we are not too late. This crisis has become both Important and Urgent.

Why it is difficult for us to address many things that we actually know we must? It’s that we are way too tolerant. Toleration has its place but often we take it beyond what is useful. It’s as if we have a collective mantra we keep chanting: “It’s not that bad.” Well, too often it really is that bad! Our toleration for stress and our avoidance of conflict, is largely due to the fact that this type of stress is in the form of chronic stress. It’s just there. It comes about ever so slowly and in incremental, tiny doses. It’s insidious and it creeps up on us before we even know it.

Chronic stress basically means that we tolerate it. If you’ve ever had a toothache and, at first it’s minor, you initially tried to tolerate it. You keep putting up with it until finally the pain becomes so intense – so acute – that you frantically call the dentist. You’re in crisis and you’re willing to drop everything in order to address it, then you know what I am talking about. Not that bad has crossed over to that bad.

There’s a famous experiment with a frog in boiling water. When the frog is dropped into a container with boiling water the frog immediately jumps out. But if the frog is placed in a container filled with room temperature water, and you do nothing to disturb it, the frog will stay in the container. The frog can leap out at any time. When the container with the frog is set on a heating element and the heat is turned up and the temperature of the water slowly begins to rise, the frog will remain in the water. At first the frog will even enjoy it. Eventually, as the temperature increases the frog becomes groggy until the water is now boiling, at which point the frog dies. The frog, like us, reacts well to acute and rapid change, but does not do so when the change comes about in small, incremental amounts.  

Learning to see the slow, gradual processes that are around us requires us to also slow ourselves down from the frenetic fast pace we live. We need to be able to pay attention to the subtle, as well as the dramatic. We won’t avoid the fate of the frog until we see that our inability to recognize small and incremental change as the greatest threat.

You could say we have delusional thinking; we have thoughts that tells us we learn from our experiences. It is true that powerful learning does come from direct experience, but there are many times it does not. As a result we over rely on our experience. There are times when our actions have consequences that go beyond our own learning horizon, making it impossible for us to learn from direct experience. Thus we arrive at distorted thinking.

Herein lies a core learning problem: We learn best from experience but often we don’t directly experience the various consequences of many of our decisions. This is so unrecognized that we don’t appreciate this causing us to have huge blind spots. We can’t see what we can’t see. And in order to see beyond ourselves and our experiences we need to slow down, and to take a careful look at the larger picture. This is why we need to see things from a systemic, non-linear perspective.   

It doesn’t matter if you go fishing, or you play golf, or for that matter, do any activity that helps you to slow down. The purpose is to enhance a greater likelihood of becoming more a mindful, more reflective, and a more conscious person. This highly valuable way of being comes about from cultivating some type of regular and consistent practice – some activity – that facilitates your slowing down. If your practice does get you to do so, then this is a very worthy endeavor.

The goal of golf is to try to score as low as possible. The purpose of golf is what you decide it to be. Fishing works the same way. Catching fish may be the goal, but your purpose for fishing is entirely up to you. Your intention matters.

Whether you are out on a golf course or wadding waist deep in a stream, or you are doing something else, for sole the purpose of becoming a more peaceful person, you may need to check out what you bring with you to this endeavor. If you intend to use this activity to slow yourself down you’ll need to leave some things back home. What’s in the package you might be bringing along without even realizing it will shape the ultimate result of the activity.

Let’s start with golfers.

Most golfers bring to the golf course a strong desire to look good and not embarrass themselves. They seek approval, plus they tote along their various judgments and assessments, constantly thinking judgments about the course, how the weather may affect their play, about the other players, and so on. Additionally they are usually only two strokes away from becoming upset. A couple of poor shots, a missed putt or two, and they’re close to having a terrible day. Within this package, you might say, is the way they’re being on the course. They may not be conscious of bringing these things along but these are the things that are bound to determine how much fun they will or will not have.

A fisherperson isn’t guaranteed of doing any better. They too need to check the baggage they’ve brought along from their hectic life to take stock in seeing exactly what state they are about creating. We cannot afford to automatically assume we’re impervious to our package – our baggage – because by failing to recognize we’ve dragged some along, we’re setting ourselves up for a dismal result.

There are golfers and fish people who will tell you their goal is to enjoy themselves, and to be out there freed from expectations and demands they otherwise place upon themselves or see as imposed from their demanding life.

Here’s some thoughts for being better able to generate a more effective and positive state of mind before playing a golf match, or prior to doing some fishing, or before doing literally anything you’re hoping will improve life.

Ask yourself:

  1. What’s the worst that could happen?
  2. What’s the best that could happen?

With some reflection on these two questions you’ll likely see that whatever you deem as the worst, as well as, the best, possible case scenarios, no matter what, ultimately isn’t going to last very long. At the end of the day, or maybe the week, you’ll have survived just fine. The earth will continue to rotate on its axis. At first, this might startle you, but when you come to see how often you’re preoccupied in putting lots of energy into situations that ultimately don’t mean all that much. We are operating out of false beliefs.

With the worst that could happen:                                                                                                                        

Say you catch zero – nada – no fish; or maybe you wind up losing your tackle in the process of that really big one that gets away. Let’s say your ball from your line drive off the green veers off deep into the woods. You search in vain but never find it; next you get caught up in a sand trap, and end your day you have a score in the high 80’s.

With such results you imagine: I won’t look very good or you think others are going to make fun of you. Maybe some even do. So what? This will not last very long, and you, and life, will move on.

The best that could happen:

You catch a lot of fish and/or a humongous fish. You have your picture with your trophy fish taken. Your golf score is in the 60’s. You imagine getting a lot of attention and you’re the talk of the boat yard or club house. So what to this, as well? This too shall pass, and then you and life will get back to life as usual.

So here’s question # 3:

What do you want? What is it that you really want from golfing? Fishing? Or whatever activity you decide to do?

Spoiler alert: I’ve already said it. It is totally up to you. You can decide what it is you want.

On a four hour golfing round, you’ll spend about fifteen minutes actually hitting the ball. The other three hours and 45 minutes you’ll be walking around on the course. The whole golf game will rest on the way you are being on the course, and will radically affect your game. How you are being will more than likely improve your goal, as well.  

Fishing is similar. If you bring all your usual preoccupation of fretting and worrying – the thing you do so well in your everyday life – along with you to the trout stream, your fishing experience will probably not pan out very well, even if you do catch a ton of fish. You’ll be unavailable. You’ll miss out on the catching of fish. You will also miss out on the possibility of relaxing and getting into a calmer state.

There is an old adage: “So much to worry about, so little time.”

Worry is such a waste of time. Worrying – and being consumed by worry – won’t change a thing. Also it will not get you to take appropriate actions. It is more likely to paralyze you. If we are to focus on anything it ought to be on those things that are Important and Urgent, or Important but soon-to-become-Urgent.

The goal of any of our activities is always about what we are doing. The purpose, however, is about who we are being. These two are quite different. The given goal usually comes along with the particular activity, whereas the purpose is what we decide it is to be. We have a large say in this.  

My suggestion: Take the time to enjoy being here (wherever HERE happens to be). Open your eyes. Look around. Breathe. Take in the beauty around you. Smell the different fragrances. Catch the breezes swaying the trees. Take in the colors and numerous shades. It’s a beautiful day. That’s what fishing (and golfing, or finger painting, etc.) is all about. Or it can be if you make it so.

Tips for Fishing and Living # 42

Tip #42:

“…trout that doesn’t think two jumps and several runs ahead of the average fisherman is mighty apt to get fried.”                                          Beatrice Cook, Till Fish Do Us Part, 1949

Sam loved to tell about whatever latest thing he was planning to do. He told of each plan always with gusto and conviction. “I’m getting a website.” “I’m buying a boat.” “I’m going back to school.” “I’m going a take a trip around the world!” Within each of his various exciting plans, however, was an implied word: someday, or a vague soon. The specifics and actual details, even when pressed, would be, at best, mostly vague and lacking.  

He would expound about these latest ideas to anyone and everyone who would listen. He’d say things in such a way that people would readily get enrolled into whatever he was planning to do. People enthusiastically believed him. Over time after hearing of one more grandiose scheme after another falling by the wayside, these same people stopped listening. Those who knew him and who had come to see plans never develop, eventually stopped listening and believing altogether.

What did seem likely was that Sam mostly enjoyed just talking about these dreams, rather than actually doing anything that might bring them into fruition. Talking about these things seemed to be an alternative for actually doing them.

Richard was someone who also talked about his dreams. He told of what he was up to, but not quite with the same zeal as Sam. In fact, Richard tended to speak of his plans, for the most part, only when others asked. He’d then reluctantly tell about his latest venture, but clearly he wasn’t interested in impressing the listener. In fact, it wasn’t that he lacked confidence, rather it seemed as if he felt superstitious about telling others about his goals for fear that this would somehow risk a diminishing of the goals being completed. He kept discussions short and sweet. But anyone could tell Richard was seriously pursuing his goals.

There was another big difference between these two men: whenever Richard described a dream he was able to bring the listeners up-to-date with what present actions were taking place. Maybe he was currently engaged in designing something out. Perhaps he working on some road block that he was attempting to work through. In this case he was in the process of figuring out how to move past whatever he’d come across.

Richard often spoke of his milestones. He could say where he was in the project and how long he expected to complete it. He’d tell you if he still needed to do more research, or if he was going about raising money he needed for some phase of his project. He might tell of some newer alternative goal he now had based upon some new discovery. A so-called “wrinkle” was not seen as an end point; it was an opportunity to better refine his original goal.

Years later Sam was still talking his someday plans, if not so loudly, along with sometimes dismissive notions and excuses regarding various prior dreams that never quite worked out due to it being the wrong time, or due to the bad breaks, or whatever else was deemed as stoppers. Meanwhile Richard was well his way to a life of realized dreams, with bigger and bolder ones to come. Richard had established his skill set as a solid foundation for actualization of great goals.

Sam was a dreamer; Richard was a visionary. There is a world of difference between dreamers and visionaries. Dreamers love to imagine great and distant futures. It is as if there is some kind of fulfillment within the dreaming aspect that they readily enjoy. Dreamers gets enjoyment in the creation of these dreams.  Dreamers take satisfaction talking about these fabulous ideas; but they fall short when it comes to taking action(s).

Visionaries conceive of a future and then use this to spring board their dream into reality. They do so by getting focused, and by having compelling reasons for why this future is vital and essential to them. They also have compelling insight as to what their life would be like without their realizing their goals. They know what they will gain from their goal, AND what they will miss out on having by not obtaining their goal.

The visionary’s true breakthrough is in their core belief that they can actually have such a future; that they deserve having it. This is so critical. It is often what separates them from dreamers. Dreamers are people who remain in the dreamer stage because they don’t really believe they deserve to have whatever it is they fantasize about having. Thus, it remains merely a dream. “This sure would be nice, BUT…”

Visionaries first believe in the future they desire to have, and see it as both possible and something they deserve. They are able to see themselves having this future. They can imagine it; and not only can they imagine it with their thoughts and by visualizing it in their life; they can feel it, as well. While they are imagining this future they are able to viscerally experience it.

About 10 years ago I decided I really, really wanted to have a corvette. I mean I really wanted to have it. This made no sense and it was a ridiculous idea! But, did I mentioned I really wanted to have one? So, I began to imagine having this particular car. I started questioning all my various old attitudes concerning who could or should, or could not or should not, own a corvette. I started talking to corvette owners. Whenever I saw someone getting in or out of their corvette I’d say “hello” and compliment how awesome their corvette was. From this came my recognizing that corvette owners came in all different shapes, sizes and types.

I also began to save money for my corvette. This became my corvette fund. Every time I got some extra cash I’d put it into my corvette fund. This fund grew and started to add up. I began to look at corvette advertisements, and I started to think about what specifically my corvette would be. It decided it would be used one, a late model in excellent condition, with a manual speed transmission, and it was to be a convertible. I had several colors I was open to so I didn’t lock this spec. down.

I went to various dealerships to see corvettes they had on the grounds. Eventually I had a photo taken of me sitting in a corvette. I looked GOOD. I started test driving different late models. I also placed the photo, along with other “corvette” things, onto my vision board. While I knew I wasn’t going to purchase a brand new one, the photo helped me remain focused.

After three years my fund seemed to have enough money to possibly buy a late model corvette. So I began looking in earnest for a good car and one I could afford. I went about doing so with absolute conviction that my corvette was out there waiting for me. I went looking for it, convinced I would locate it. Eventually I found a private seller who had recently remarried and had a son about to go off to college. He was reluctantly selling his corvette. He was asking considerably more than what I had saved. I told the seller that I knew his corvette was worth all he was asking and after explaining I would be unable to purchase it, I left. About 30 minutes later the seller called to say he’d decided to place his car with me – someone he felt would take good care of it, and so he wouldn’t have to sell to some teenager. And would sell his corvette for the amount of money I had offered.   

On May, 22nd, 2011 I bought my very own 2004, metallic blue, six-speed manual transmission, convertible corvette! What I had been visualizing for roughly three years was a reality.

Owning a corvette more than likely makes no sense at all for you. This is perfectly ok. Having or not having a corvette is not the point at all. Getting exactly what it is that you want, however, is all that I hope to encourage you to take on, and take on with gusto.

Visionaries go about doing whatever it takes to get their dream to become reality. They develop workable strategies in order to achieve this desired goal. If need be, they obtain new skills needed, and are willing to do what they aren’t currently doing, in order to bring about their dreams. They’ll acquire these skills if needed. They’ll do things today, tomorrow, or the next week, month, year – until they manifest the intended outcome. They are unwilling to settle or stop themselves with, “I’m not good at that,” or any negativity. They dismiss any and all old or out-of-date beliefs, as well as, behaviors, that don’t serve their present pursuit.

When I took on my goal of owning a corvette it was also as an experiment. I really wanted to teach myself what it takes to powerfully achieve any goals. This was, after all, just a car! Why not get the car of my dreams?

In doing so I took on numerous things and changed certain ways I had been doing things. I gave up the belief that I was not “a corvette kind of person.” I gave up my belief that I don’t have the money and I am not good at saving for things. It took a three-year savings plan that grew until it was enough money. I didn’t want to take out a loan. My corvette fund actually grew faster than I had originally imagined it could. I kept visualizing myself owning and operating a corvette, and I enjoyed the owning and operating one, in my mind, well before I physically had one.

 I also gave up old habits that didn’t serve me toward my goal. I didn’t assume things that may have been helpful before were still helpful. So I developed a new yardstick for today: does this help or hinder me? I learned things that weren’t currently within their arsenal of skills; things I now needed to achieve my goal of becoming a corvette owner. For example: at first talking to corvette owners was strange and uncomfortable. But as I did this I quickly discovered these people loved talking about their cars, and it became easy to have a these conversations.

Visionaries are also willing to ask for help. They’ll seek out the best people to assist them to reach their desired goals. Ask. Ask, Ask. Ask. Several corvette owners readily volunteered important and useful information. They advised me about good years, and not so good years, of corvettes. They informed me about area corvette clubs and how these would prove to be potential sources in finding sellers, as well as, where to find good and reliable corvette repair shops.

It’s also critical that successful people develop effective ways to manage the inner voices that otherwise stop us from moving forward or completely derail us. You know those voices. We’re all subjected to them. They’re the voices that say things like: “who are you to want this?” Or “You don’t deserve that.” Or “You are not smart enough, worthy enough,” etc.

Such people become proficient at is telling those voices to “Shut up!” Eventually they give them no attention at all because they’re way too busy moving about with their present plans. They just don’t have any tolerance – or time – to give these screaming vultures, any longer.

An effective way to stay focused is by surrounding yourself with other like-minded people. Support groups are ideal to keep you determined and unwavering. My support group turned out to be other corvette owners. The people I stopped to talk with, as well as, the numerous people I met at various corvette shows I attended during my three-year experiment.

A Mastermind group is a peer-to-peer mentoring concept used to help it members solve their problems or pursue their goals with valuable input and advice from other group members. In 1925 Napoleon Hill in his book The Law of Success, and later in his other book, Think and Grow Rich, he promoted such groups as powerful methods for committed people in achieving their goals. Mastermind groups often have people who are pursuing various goals, but have the one common purpose of fulfilment and doing so by being held accountable.

There are numerous advantages with groups:

  1. You realize you are not alone or weird for wanting bold or audacious goals.
  2. You get to express your feelings without fear of ridicule or judgment.
  3. You gain helpful information so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
  4. You improve social skills.
  5. You gain and retain hope and inspiration by other members’ achievements.
  6. You reduce your distress, sometimes with a single, helpful suggestion.
  7. You grow and increase in self-understanding.
  8. You help others, and by doing so, motivate yourself, as well.
  9. These groups are affordable to use. The peer aspect doesn’t require coaching, consulting or counseling fees.

Hill was a great believer in the Law of Attraction. This law is the belief that sees positive or negative thoughts bringing about corresponding positive or negative experiences into one’s life. The belief is based on the ideas that people and their thoughts are made from “pure energy,” and that a process of like energy attracts like energy through which a person can improve their health, wealth, and personal relationships. While there are those who dismiss this as unscientific, advocates will say that “Thoughts Become Things.” Another way to say this is that we generate whatever it is we focus on. Saint Theresa of Calcutta was known for never accepting an invitation to any anti-war rallies. She would go, instead to a pro-peace march. She knew the power of focusing on what you want, rather than on what you do not want.

Proponents of the Law of Attraction believe we do ourselves harm by focusing on that which we do NOT want. They believe we create far better results when we place our attention and energy on whatever it is we DO want. A popular slogan for this is “that which we resist, persists.” If you are dieting and you see a picture of a hot fudge sundae, and immediately you start thinking, ‘I can’t have a hot fudge sundae,’ you will cause yourself much suffering. You’d be better off having the sundae and getting it over. Whereas if you think of what you do want, such as, ‘I am committed to successful weight loss and I crave a smaller waist size,’ you’ll then be far better off. Focus on what you want.

Another old slogan is this one: “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will do.” Like the fish in the quote above we’re apt to get fried whenever we make careless, hasty, or rash decisions, or whenever we go off with half-baked ideas.

What separates dreamers from visionaries is that dreamers merely dream dreams; whereas visionaries dream AND they take corresponding action(s) – ones that will often lead toward manifesting their dreams. However, just doing actions of any kind are not what is needed. In fact whenever we don’t pay attention to possible and often unintended consequences of our actions, we won’t produce our intended goals and will instead pay a price.

 Clarity is critical, along with enough actions to go along with clarity. Life tends to be, more often than not, like a chess match, rather than that of a checkers match. Bold goals along with lofty and well-designed strategies make for more effective and successful – and fun – adventures. 

Tips for Fishing and Living # 41

Tip # 41

“…of all the liars among mankind, the fisherman is the most trustworthy.”

                              William Sherwood Fox, Silken Lines and Silver Hooks, 1954

I love a great story. A good storyteller will often use what is called “poet license.” They may take certain liberties by “embellishing” the story. Details and actual events are elaborated and altered in an effort to make the story “work” better, and will take license with various facts and other aspects within the story all in the service of delighting the listener.

What is important to recognize is that storytellers are trying to convey a truth, and as such are not necessarily confined to specific details or in getting every fact spelled out correctly. News people, however, are supposedly interested in conveying the facts. Sometimes this can come at the expense of some deeper truth. Objective news is designed for readers/listeners to take in all the facts presented and draw his/her own conclusion.   

Today there is much commotion regarding real news and entertainment. Some accuse the news media of promoting “fake news.” Others take the news to be a source for providing entertainment. The controversy comes with each seeing different slants given to news stories and how they’re portrayed. There are arguments as to what constitutes reliable sources, what are second-hand sources, and so forth. It’s so much worse today with our 24 hour TV news coverage, plus all the internet media: Podcasts, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Vimeo accounts, among others.

Much of these newer media venues have become a technological form of gossip. And it is often highly irresponsible. It’s the modern version of an old party game called “telephone,” only where a story instantly gains massive readership as the story “goes viral.”

Before this Information Age we had daily newspapers, plus the Evening TV News. Period. In one 30 minute evening TV segment that included sports, the weather, plus all the news deemed important for the particular day. Walter Cronkite and his staff decided this for us. They would assemble all that transpired in the last 24 hours and determine what to include into the evening news segment.

At the end of the program Walter would sign off by saying, “And that’s the way it is.” And we, the viewers, would think, ‘Oh, that’s the way it is.’ What it really was turned out to be exclusively what Walter and his editors decided to present to us, as well as, what not to present to us.   

Today we are a far cry from that era. We are now bombarded with numerous news streams of every conceivable viewpoint and opinion out there 24/7! We find ourselves today overloaded, confused and conflicted with differing opinions and diverse stances about everything under the sun. We’ve become overwhelmed with this endless barrage of data and information, while at the same time we’ve become addicted to it. Trying to sort out what is essential, or accurate, or relevant, is exhausting and leaves many feeling skeptical, and even cynical.

Human beings are constantly looking for simple answers to complex questions. Thus we’ve created our world as though it operates in a nice neat linear package. It’s easier for us to see things in a cause-and-effect way. ‘Such-and-such happened because of this thing.’ The problem is that the world actually does not work this way. The world is non-linear; it’s systemic.

Systematic thinking goes against our desire for simple and our abhorrence of ambiguity. We want things to be black and white, either or, yes or no, simpler kinds of solutions. This results in us, too often, only treating symptoms. We’ll skip seeking long-term solutions; solutions that require more concerted effort and deal with greater complexity. Systemic solutions are not the quick-fix we prefer.

Years ago Malcolm Gladwell in his book, The Tipping Point, made the appeal for systemic approaches rather than for linear ones. He gave example after example of what it often takes before reaching longer-term change. It might take but one more, one additional and essential, action for the crossover to a threshold that causes a tipping point. It may mean we do some actions, plus something else, as well, before we can bring about a desired result.

Besides a systems approach and non-linear thinking, there is the way we perceive the world. When we have an Experience we immediately make up our own Concept about what we just experienced. Whatever just happened, happened. The experience doesn’t mean anything. But we make it mean something. This made up meaning, or Concept about what just happened, is not the same as the Experience. Our concept about what happened, however, is what will impact the way we feel.

You didn’t invite me to your birthday party. That’s What Happened (The Experience). But as soon as I make this mean something, say, that you don’t like me, or you think very little of me, I’ve created My Concept about what happened. My Concept will cause me to now feel upset, or hurt, or angry.

Here’s the problem: I don’t realize that what happened (The Experience) isn’t the same as my Concept. I made up this Concept up about The Experience thinking these two are one in the same. Eventually we blur all our Experiences into our Concepts without ever distinguishing the two as separate and different. We then bring our Concepts into the next Experience (or the next similar Experience). When we do this we diminish the next Experience with: “Our already always way of thinking.”

Let’s say I want to go see a certain movie with you but I think because you declined my last invitation to see “this kind of movie” you’ll do so again. So maybe I’ll not even bother to ask you this time. I’ll just assume you won’t go. I’ll even be annoyed with you for not wanting to go. Or maybe I’ll ask in such a way that it’s hardly a genuine invitation. I might say, “You probably don’t want to go see this movie with me, do you?”

So how do I know that you won’t go? From the PAST. We diminish the next Experience without even realizing it. We even diminish love this way. After all ‘I already know what you’ll say/do.’ 

A more powerful way to live is to separate – to distinguish – our Experiences from our Concepts. This takes some inner work. It requires us to do more than think thoughts. We need to also think about our thinking thoughts.

A practical skill:  Whenever you feel upset realize you’re operating from your Concept. The meaning or interpretation you made up about the Experience is what’s upsetting you, and not the Experience itself. Therefore go back to the Experience.                                                                                                                                                                              Ask yourself: What happened? I said this; you said that. You did this. I did that. That’s all that happened.

Recognize that the Concept is the result of all the meanings and interpretations you made up: ‘they’re being unreasonable’, ‘she is out to take advantage,’ ‘he doesn’t care enough….’                                                                        Concept, concept, concept.                                                                                                                                                                          Such Concepts would undoubtedly make anyone feel upset. But you do not have to remain stuck with your Concepts. Why not make up better Concepts? Make new ones that move, touch and inspire you! You’re free to make up better Concepts. After all you’re the one making them all up to begin with.

The fishing quote above assumes we all lie. Lying is a relative term. Sometimes we withhold information. It’s more of an omission. We hardly ever own up to actually lying. Instead we’ll confuse what happened with our story – our concept – about what happened. This is so problematic since we end up seeing our world in a biased perspective, often making for large scale feelings of helplessness and unhappiness. Some would say we invent our own living hell.

When we do lie we often justify ourselves. We’ll have our reasons and explanations. In the book, Mistakes Were Made, But Not By Me, the authors use a theory postulated by psychologist Leon Festinger to explain such justification. The theory is called Cognitive Dissonance. The gist of Festinger’s theory is that we have great difficulty holding two conflicting ideas at the same time.

For instance I might think, ‘I am an intelligent person and I just did a stupid thing.’ These two thoughts are hard to wrap one’s brain around and hold each as true. Therefore I’ll modify one of these two disparate thoughts. I might qualify or negate ‘I did a stupid thing.’ Or I’ll tell myself this stupid thing wasn’t so stupid, or that there were extenuating circumstances that required me to fib a bit.

One could make the case that we all lie – to ourselves and to others.  I’m saying we do so not necessarily consciously. Granted, sometimes we’ll lie fully aware we are lying. We may want to avoid upsetting someone or embarrassing ourselves, or both. But most of the time we “lie” out of delusional thinking, and from non-reflective reactions. You could argue we have become lazy thinkers.

Perhaps fisher persons are not any more trustworthy than the rest of us. Maybe, instead, these fisher persons have developed a greater capacity for reflection and therefore, see things from a broader perspective. Just maybe they’re better equipped to see the good, or the beauty surrounding us, or can bring a kinder and more generous perspective into situations. It could be they are conveying some truth they hold regarding our world. With an enhanced level of contemplation perhaps they have a higher capacity for appreciation and wonderment.

This might account for why that rainbow trout just caught, seems a tad larger than an actual yardstick may indicate; or why they view their newly captured fish as being slightly more beautiful than others seem to recognize; or why they hold the catching of said fish as a more dramatic and spectacular event. This may be so because, when all is said and done, they are simply great storytellers.

Tips for Fishing and Living # 40

Tip #40:

“There’s a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore like an idiot.”

                                                                                                       Steven Wright

I’ve never caught deadpan comic Steven Wright with even the slightest grin, let alone have I seen him break into the tiniest chuckle, whenever he’s delivering one of his masterful pearls. But I can imagine him internally laughing while thinking that his last delivery ‘was pretty darn silly.’ The fine line between…  I suspect this quote has to do with one’s capacity for taking action.

We all know there are lots of very well-educated street bums and also lots of geniuses that never amount to much or contribute to making this planet any better. The one key ingredient often missing is in taking action(s).

There is a wonderful story of young two boys who were afraid to climb a fence in order to retrieve their baseball, so they threw their hats over the fence first so they’d have to go after them.

In 218 BC Hannibal did the same sort of thing when he needed to cross the Alps to get to Italy. He had his ships burned so there was only one way left to go – over the mountains. He made sure none in his army were tempted to go back or avoid the very difficult task of climbing those huge mountains.    

Looking like an idiot is not restricted to standing by the shore, of course, and it’s always an option. It just isn’t a very satisfying option. Sometimes we let our fear dictate our actions, and most especially, our inactions. We can become paralyzed by fear. It often begins with thoughts we generate… all those “what ifs.”

In the 1993 Adam Sandler album, he makes famous this repeated line, “They’re all going to laugh at you,” which is probably said or at least thought, by a lot more people than Adam Sandler. We forget that fear is illusionary. We completely miss how so much of our fear is based upon nonsense and foolish thinking.

I’ve addressed fear numerous times before, but it is so pervasive and central in our world – personally and globally – that it’s worth touching on again. Fear is our entrapment in a world that does not work. Look around if you need convincing.

Love is the antidote. We say “love makes the world go round,” but in reality the world we are compelled to operate in, too often, is a fear-based place. The opposite of love isn’t hate. The opposite of love is fear. Hate is but one of many manifestations of fear. There are lots of others: anger, selfishness, greed, violence, jealousy, envy, racism, sexism, homophobia, and on and on. 

John Lennon sang, “All you need is love.”  Of course we killed him. Too radical an idea? Jesus said this much earlier, and we know what happened to him. But love, radical or not, cannot be killed off. Also, love is more powerful than anything else. One person coming from a place of love is stronger and more powerful than, say, one hundred people coming from greed or some other aspect other than love. While we may not readily see it love, in the end, always endures.

Never in the history of our nation has there been such a communal experience of tragedy, and with it, off the chart fear, than when the World Trade Center twin towers came collapsing down. So many people saw this happening live. Others, all of us, would see these images repeatedly over and over again on television screens until they were seared into our brains. The images were so visceral and evoked mammoth amounts of fear. Terror of terrorism instantly went full throttle. We quickly became a nation where there was a suspected terrorist behind every tree! People added more locks on their doors and refused to go outside.

In 2001 our nation was in a terrible state of unparalleled fear and anxiety. Politicians and leaders, as did newscasters, talked about terrorism as if it were the Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse. People became so frightened of flying in an airplane that one million people stopped flying for about one year following 9-11. Instead they traveled by car. One million more people now took to the highways, and during that year we saw more than one half as many more deaths on the highways than from the total number of people killed on those doomed flights of September 11. There was a huge rise in highway fatalities that year. The following year, people returned to flying and the traffic fatalities declined back to the usual numbers of the previous years. No one talked about this or saw car travel as dangerous. Fear clogged up the highways and fear is what killed those additional people. Traffic fatalities are not the major focus of the evening news, however, so even to this day no one thinks this was the case in 2001-2.

Here’s another example of the effects of fear: In 2019 there were 164,000 emergency room-treated-injuries from ladder accidents, and 300 deaths resulting from these ladder injuries. That same year eighteen deaths occurred from West Nile virus. We heard a lot on the news about West Nile virus; nothing about ladder accidents and deaths. According to these statistics, however, we have a ladder death epidemic! I have rarely heard of any ladder fatality on the evening news except if it was some large crane failure or some storm related incident.

My point is we focus on certain things and we get afraid. I do not like to climb a ladder to, say, clean 2nd floor windows, but when I do I use safe practices that includes a second person steadying the ladder. I don’t panic. I breathe as I go slowly about my task. I also silence the “what if’s.”

In 1933 FDR came into his presidency during the height of the Great Depression. His address is known for his famous remark:

That there is only one thing we have to fear … fear itself – nameless, unreasoning,

unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”

Roosevelt knew there was plenty to fear aside from fear, but he also knew that “unreasoning fear” would certainly make things much more difficult and worse, and would greatly imped what needed to be handled.

FDR lifted this now famous line from Henry David Thoreau. Thoreau got it from Michel de Montaigne, who wrote “the thing I fear most is fear.” Montaigne wrote this more than three and a half centuries ago. He wrote: “The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.” My point: Our problem with fear is not new.

Don’t get me wrong, fear can be a useful and a constructive emotion. When we worry about a risk, we pay more attention and take action when warranted. Fear keeps us alive and thriving. Our species owes its very existence to fear. But “unreasoning fear” is another matter. And it is “unreasoning fear” that could have killed our Country during the Great Depression. It is what could kill our Country today.

Fear and risk are the hot topics of today. Some say we worry more than any previous generation; that we live in culture of fear. Why we are so fearful is for another time. I simply wish to point out that while we are fearful we are living longer than ever before, have few diseases, and fewer wars. There have even been massive gains to reduce poverty. We also have lower crime, and better economic opportunities etc. I know we have much more to do, but we often fail to see the improvements we do have.  I am simply saying these improvements seem to run counter to the “unreasoning fear” many carry about today. I do recognize there are things we must attend to like the environment and take major actions. Denial and/or unreasoning fear will not work. So let me speak to the way out of this daunting fear; this vicious negative cycle that keeps us so stuck. Maybe you’ve heard of it. I mentioned it already: It’s called LOVE.

Love is the antidote. It is the solution. Perhaps part of our problem as to why we don’t take this to heart is because we don’t think of love in a very accurate or realistic way. Instead we think of love as something soupy; as soft and weak. We’re caught up in some goofy, distorted, Hollywood version of love. Real Love is not foolish in anyway at all. Real Love is powerful. It is transformative.

Lately my wife and I have had the opportunity of babysitting for our newest grandchild, Elle. She is six months old, and she is exquisite. She is pure love. She is my latest reminder of how we were all originally programmed perfectly from love. We had a natural tendency to focus on love. We were, as Elle is now, connected to a world much richer than the one we connect to now. It was a world full of enchantment with a sense of the miraculous.

When her tiny fingers wrap around one of my fingers I am in rapture. It is a stunning experience. Her smile can melt the most hardened criminal. Her sleeping and relaxation is soothing. Her beauty is breath taking. She is the essence of love.

Eventually, as we grow, we were taught to focus elsewhere, not toward the natural focus toward love. We were taught to think unnaturally and to think instead with a philosophy of seeing the world that contradicts the way we are. We were taught to think thoughts like competition, struggle, sickness, limitations, guilt, and that we’re each separate from one another.

This thinking of the world is not based on love. Little Elle, and all of us, begin with love. Eventually we end up thinking from fear. Love isn’t material. We can’t see it with our physical eyes or hear with our physical ears. Love is energy. It requires a different kind of “seeing” – a different kind of knowing or thinking.

While we cannot see love, it can be expressed, and it is experienced. It shows up as kindness, giving, mercy, compassion, peace, joy, acceptance, non-judgment, joining, and as intimacy. 

Fear is our shared lovelessness. It is our individual and collective hell. When fear is expressed, we recognize it as anger, abuse, disease, pain, greed, addiction, selfishness, obsession, corruption, violence, and war.

Love is within all of us. It cannot be destroyed; it can only be hidden. We do not need to go find love, but rather we need to unbury it from within our soul. The world we knew as children – Elle’s world – is still buried within our hearts and minds.  There’s a fine line here, indeed. It calls for us to step into a paradigm shift.

“Unless we can become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 18:3).

Isn’t about time for all of us to sing together, in harmony?

“All you need is love, love is all you need.”