Must Be Present to Win

A friend once shared one of the hidden secrets to life he’d discovered.

“When I was doing handyman work, a lot times I get job because I was the only guy who would show up.”

My friend is right.

I also remember my mother saying, “The early bird gets the worm.” At the time I thought she was explaining why some birds were bigger than others. Only years later did the words reveal themselves as a key marker on the roadmap of success.

Life is hard, but many times harder than we make it by not giving it our all.

Looking back on life I recognize the most anxious moments or those that would try and drag me mentally down were generally self-inflicted. Worrying without taking action is a dangerous cocktail.

I enjoy reading autobiographies. Doing so is like getting to live extra lives and experiences in what little time God decides is appropriate. And woven through most engaging biographies are stories of great failure – and what came next.

Right now I am working my way through an autobiography of Richard Branson, founder of Virgin enterprises and billionaire. And with nearly every chapter comes another example of him sticking his finger in an electrical outlet until he finds the one opportunity that hits. His number of business failures far exceeds the number of those that gone on to succeed. And the same is true with Bruce Springsteen’s biography and that of automotive manufacturer Tesla Motors and Space-X founder Elon Musk. All three showed up early, never let their vision be clouded by the periodic failures along the way, and changed their piece of the world.

Like most people in the world, each carries a vision. And like most people, they believe the world needs what they have or see.

But unlike most people, they act.

I have a friend who is saying the worst thing you can do in a crisis is to do nothing. He’s right. Doing nothing is pretty much a guarantee nothing will change or most likely worsen. And from that comes added anxiety, stress, and almost an ironclad guarantee of a self-fulfilled failure.

Which brings me back to my first friend’s testimony of why he was able to be successful as a handyman.

I don’t need to look to far to see this play out in my daily life. Recently I needed gutters on the house. I phoned three or four different people and companies. Guess who got the business – the one who showed up to perform a bid. And to top it off, he showed up on time the Sunday morning he said he world and his work was exceptional.

Look at the formula: he showed up, offered a bid, said when he’d do the work, and did the quality work as promised.

Life is hard when you don’t give it your all and can’t take a punch or three along the way. Get up, show up, make it happen.

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Social Media Dependency A Real Risk

The breakup was hard. We’d become so close over the years. With each day, our lives become increasingly intertwined; my secrets no longer mine and mine alone. My thoughts consumed by my need to share, the need to tell, and an increasing expectation for validation.

Breaking up from social media was one of the most difficult experiences in my life.

This may seem odd, but I’m so glad this chapter of dependency is behind me.

I wasn’t a heavy user and could quit anytime – at least that is what I said to myself. But was it changing the way my mind naturally worked? And was social media taking away valuable time with the most important people in my life? And how did my digital dependency become so powerful?

Social media is developed on scientific behavioral data resulting in the intentional numbing our self-awareness. And our organic brains are no match for learning algorithms written with the intent of manipulating our behaviors.

Facebook claims US adults spend nearly one hour per day scrolling, clicking, and uploading photos. The math equates to more than 2 weeks annually – nearly equal to the time the average American takes off for paid vacation. Imagine that. There are as many people spending more than 2 weeks scrolling, clicking, and making comments. And the end result is nothing of any real value or able to carry forward.

Breaking up is hard. It is more than deleting the apps from you phone or removing from your bookmark menu. There is a chemical dependency you must first break – the very one the rewiring of your brains are feeding you with every like, every share, every view. Through these we become literal dope addicts – the neocortex releasing small doses of highly addictive dopamine as a reward for the visual or emotional input. We become, chemically, dope addicts. Thus simply deleting the app or saying you will eliminate will bring on mental withdrawal pains.

For weeks my chemically dependent brain instinctively fought for its shot of dope – urging me to check my social media accounts, upload a photo of something I might see, or thumb scroll a the never ending feed of images or posts. Breaking up was hard as my brain chemically unwound itself.

Recently a friend said she, too, deleted the Facebook app from her phone and discovered something remarkable.

“I was standing in line at the grocery store and suddenly struck up a conversation with a stranger,” she said. “Before that I would’ve been scrolling my app.”

“It was like going back in time and I loved it!”

Recently more of my friends are sharing their recovering journey from social media dependency. Afterwards they admit to being surprised how deeply social media had encroached into their lives. And getting their life back altered how they would forever use the media in the future.

Social media is not too unlike fire. Used purposefully it can be remarkably beneficial. But unchecked it can destroy you and all things you hold dearly.

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America’s DNA On Display In Desert Town

Terlingua is hard to spell and even more difficult to get to. No one ends up in small desert town by accident. Located west of Big Bend National Park in Texas, the small town is at the crossroads of nowhere and hard to find.

But among the quirky atmosphere and desolate landscape, life is remarkably familiar.

With a newly filled tank of gas, I turn south and pull into a small Mexican restaurant on the eastern side of the highway. Dusty pickup trucks outnumber cars about 10 to 1. And eleven is about how many vehicles are parked in the gravel lot. The single story building is modest, roughly the size of a double-car garage.

But as far away from what many of us consider normal, life inside the four walls is surprisingly recognizable. In the kitchen an eclectic sound of pots, pans, and a microwave beeps fight for attention. Mom and dad work together to manage the orders coming through the window. Wooden shelves struggle under the weight of large cans waiting to be called into action. Everything in the kitchen is at arm’s reach – even each other.

The front is managed by a teenage girl, daughter to crew working the kitchen, who shares orders in Spanish through the door or window. She’s young, her decorated fingernails tapping her iPhone between handing out menus to whoever comes through the single door. Copied so many times, the words and descriptions are faded and running together.

Behind the register on the wall is a framed newspaper clipping. A ribbon and medal lay across the story of the local boy who set a record in track and field. His family is proud as they continue to work in the kitchen around the corner.

We sometimes get lost in the popular narrative of business’s success being measured by what a financial talking head might say on television: is the business scalable and will it grow? Are they maximizing their prices and preparing to expand into another market? What is the financial exit plan?

Success in this small business located along the unforgiving desert is measured by a completely different yet equally valuable set of metrics. Inside a family is working together, each dependent on each other to play an important role in the restaurant, and to never lose sight of what is important in life – their family unit.

Diners come and go while I am sitting near the door. There is no tension between family members – only a fluid and well-oiled process of operating a small family business. Conversations bark back and forth, orders are delivered to tables with minimal fuss, and no one is rushed out the door. Their home is for the sharing with those who have come in from the hard environment.

The family business is the backbone of America. Generations of small businesses raised their families beneath their feet while serving customers. Work ethic and respect for each other were burnished into the DNA. And in Terlingua, the true American small business is still alive and well.

 

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