Inner voice determines outcomes

The other day, a friend brought up the subject of one’s “inner voice” — that unsolicited voice who speaks up without us ever asking for an opinion.

My friend had spoken with someone whose inner voice instinctively responded with reasons about why things couldn’t or shouldn’t be done.

Our inner voice is best described as how we instinctively react to circumstances or challenges we meet in life. And learning to successfully train our inner voice to our advantage is one of the most valuable lessons we can learn in life.

Imagine when someone suggests you perform a task at work differently? For many people, their first instinct is defensive. Even the dreaded — but comfortable — phrase of “but we’ve always done it this way” can find it’s a way to our lips. Or, say, another suggests you could save money by shopping at a different grocery store? Again, we rationalize that we’re familiar with our regular store. Having to learn a new store layout would make us uncomfortable, less secure.

“No” is easy. Going back to the literal beginning of human existence, our brains were intentionally wired for us to avoid change — equating shifting surroundings with danger. Survival is about being aware of unusual activities and potential threats. Fast forward through history and this is still our default setting — even if it means doing a task as nonthreatening as finding what row the peanut butter is on in a different grocery store.

And in today’s world of hyper-change, this default setting is increasingly a losing proposition.

The good news is, we can rewire ourselves.

One day a group of us sat around a table and looked up at an image on a screen on conference room wall. The image was large horse tied by small leather reins to a plastic lawn chair.

“The horse is larger than the plastic chair, right?” was the question. “Then why does the horse not simply walk away, dragging the chair wherever it wants to go?”

This was not a trick question involving physics or clever word play.

“Because he does not believe, he can walk away whenever he wants,” came the answer.

The truth is when the horse is young it is reined to a solid fence post. Try as it might, the young horse cannot pull off from the anchored marker. After a length of time, the horse learns whenever it is reined to something, it cannot break free. It simply stops trying. For the rest of time, the slightest resistance of the reins when tossed across even a tree branch will keep the horse in place.

This learned behavior is inside of us. Our minds as well as outside influences tend to teach us to be cautious and avoid danger or uncomfortable situations at all costs. Successful people commit to breaking from those reins — learning to fail or experience uncomfortable situations.

Training your inner voice can be the difference between you forever tied to small tree branch or running freely across open fields.

-30-

Bullies Leave Lifelong Scars

Bullies come in all sizes and shapes. Mine was 8 feet tall, had a face covered with hair and a booming voice that made you squint. At least that is how, as a small seventh-grader, I saw this ninth-grader each morning when I boarded a bus headed for my new school.

Standing up in the back of the bus, the bully towered over smaller students, aggressively aiming his voice at anyone he locked eyes with. Everyone’s plan was to face the front and try to stay off his radar. 
One day, he caught up with me while getting off the bus. He said that if I got back on the bus the next day he would beat me up. While he was short on details, his reputation — earned or not — preceded him.

And when someone has you by a perceived 100 pounds and is covered in facial hair, you don’t feel inclined to find out.

The next day I ran to class. And the next. And then again. School was only a couple miles away and it seemed like a reasonable solution. Truth be told, I essentially ran from the bully.

Bullies are everywhere. The reality is, however, not everyone can run from their bullies in today’s world. 

Last week when The Daily News launched the first installment in our “Bullied to the Brink” series, readers throughout Galveston County suddenly discovered long-buried and painful memories reawakening.

The subject of bullies runs deep and wide. In our own offices, people opened up like I’ve never seen before. I witnessed a lot of pain, shame and anger. Some of it was decades old; some was from people trying to help their own kids through this ugly chapter of life. 

Bullies never really know how deeply they affect people or for how long. But bullies at their core are cowards, so other’s feelings are most likely not a concern. 

Today, decades later, I still can see the face of the bully who told me not to get on the bus the next day.

As the painstakingly researched series reveals, bullies are not new. But we may have reached a point in time when we need to push the effects out into the bright light of public examination.

Recently, a high school student told me about how bullies, with social media, have so many more tools to attack others. He’s right and we should listen.

It is time we step up and recognize bullying for what it is – a violent action against another that deserves punishment.

We need to educate students and parents that bullying will not be tolerated. And if you are deemed a bully, you will be removed from society so you can’t hurt others.

I cannot stomach the death of another teenager due to bullying. And you shouldn’t either.

Please read today’s piece in The Daily News on cyberbullying. Unfortunately, today’s solutions are not nearly as simple as running to school in the morning.

– 30 –

 
 

 

Success Results From Silent Partner

Hollywood might be the last place you would expect to hear someone thanking God for their success in life.

Earlier this week actor Chris Pratt, best known for the popular film “Guardians of the Galaxy”, found his name enshrined on the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame. His likeable and modest personality both on and off the screen make him one of the more bankable stars of his time. But it is his grounded personality to the contrasting world where he makes a living even more remarkable.

Standing on the famed street Pratt offered a few words – words offering a sincere glimpse into someone who understands they are simply a vessel for God’s work in life.

“I’m a man of faith and I believe that God works in mysterious ways and gives us signs and gifts in life — and those gifts oftentimes come in the form of people,” Pratt said. “So I’ll just spend the rest of my time expressing gratitude for the people in my life who are gifts.”

I would have found these words moving had they come from a person being awarded teacher of the month or a clerk at a local convenience store reflecting on why they carry a happy disposition in life. Understanding we are not alone in this journey of life is to recognize one of the most important threads in life.

Pratt, like most all of us, has faced a lifetime of challenges. His success is as much a surprise to him as those in Hollywood. But Pratt is also like those of us in understanding his success is a result of the people placed in his life and a silent hand leading him to certain doors in life – leaving to him the courage to step through or not.

God works that way. Get used to it.

I find myself attracted to people who understand they are simply passing through life – that is their journey is not a result of their so-called personal destiny. Rather success in life is a result of having the faith to recognize there is a larger force at play in each of our lives, one gently guiding us. Pratt knows it, others I deeply respect know it, and I personally know this to be true.

God is not in the business of helping you get a larger house, new car, or cash in the bank. No, God is in the long term, big picture business. He may give you the tools, but you’ve got to recognize what you can build with them.

Too often people desperately challenge God for a Hail Mary moment in exchange of for them to attest their faith He is exists. But in realty, if we will focus on recognizing the opportunities already around us, our lives – and others – will be dramatically different and fulfilling.

You may be smart, talented, and successful. But remember if success is measured in the currency of happiness, as Pratt pointed out, the result is a team effort.

-30-

 

 

 

 

Wisdom From A Helpful Bear

In life you can be the boulder or the water – and the choice makes all the difference in the world.

Years ago I found myself reading a quirky book relating Winnie the Pooh to the Eastern philosophy of Taoism. At the time, Winnie the Pooh and his entourage of friends filled books, tippy cups, and bath towels in our home. If author A. A. Milne’s books carried messages beyond a happy-go-lucky bear, a nervous piglet, or donkey forever looking at the world through dark glasses, I wanted to know.

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In “The Tao of Pooh” author Benjamin Hoff wrote Pooh was happy not because of being self-described as a ‘bear of very little brain’, but rather the manner he chose to engage the world.

At a brief 158 pages, the book turned my world upside down.

Turns out Pooh might have been the smartest brain in the Hundred Acre Wood after all.

To Pooh by simply taking a different point of view or approach to a problem alters your stress, understanding, and potential for success.

Pooh tells Piglet of how the laws of nature support this simple premise. To illustrate he talks about a large boulder planted in the middle of a mountain stream.

Most people immediately envision conflict – a boulder anchored against the rushing waters while attempting to disrupt the gravitational flow of the universe. And with stubbornness of strategy and purpose, the boulder works unflinchingly to defeat the natural laws of the universe. The byproduct of the boulder’s iron-will creates anxiety, stress, and weakness in the boulder itself.

The boulder stands steady, rigid, and one-dimensional in the goal to fight back the water. The water, on the other hand, accepts the natural laws of nature and uses them to its advantage.

The laws of nature in this scenario are that gravity will lead the water downhill. The water accepts this tool’s help but remains being open to alternate ways to pas the boulder.

Water, Pooh says, sees the challenge of reaching the bottom pool from three different points of view: either over, around, or under the boulder. Maybe even a combination blend of these options. Regardless, by harnessing the invisible momentum of the universe (gravity) and the intelligent selecting of strategies, the water will almost always defeat the hardheaded boulder.

I remember putting the book down as if someone had opened a new door to understanding the world around me. The universe, if I’d be brave enough to leave one-dimensional world of solutions behind, would naturally reveal opportunities – thus increasing my chances for success. And it worked.

To this day in life I focus on the pool at the bottom of the mountain rather than the boulders in my way – knowing if I step back, be patient and resourceful, I will find ways around even the largest boulders in life. People, money, and even business challenges respond to the wisdom of Pooh.

Pooh might have been be a “bear of very small brain” but we can all learn a lot from him.

-30-

 

 

Inner Voice Determines Outcomes

The other day a friend brought up the subject of one’s ‘inner voice’ – that unsolicited voice who speaks up without us ever asking for an opinion.

My friend had spoken with someone who’s inner voice instinctively responded with reasons of why they couldn’t or shouldn’t do something.

Our ‘inner voice’ is best described as how we instinctively react to circumstances or challenges we meet in life. And learning to successfully train our inner voice to our advantage is one of the most valuable lesson we can learn in life.

Imagine when someone suggests you perform a task at work differently? For many people, their first instinct is defensive. Even the dreaded – but comfortable – phrase of “but we’ve always done it this way” can find it’s a way to our lips. Or say another suggests you could save money by shopping at a different grocery store? Again, we rationalize that we’re familiar with our regular store. Having to learn a new store layout would make us uncomfortable, less secure.

‘No’ is easy. Going back to the literal beginning of human existence, our brains were intentionally wired for us to avoid change – equating shifting surroundings with danger. Survival is about being aware of unusual activities and potential threats. Fast forward though history and this is still our default setting – even if it means doing a task as non-threatening as finding what row the peanut butter is located in a different grocery store.

And in today’s world of hyper-change, this default setting is increasingly a losing proposition.

Good news is we can rewire ourselves.

One day a group of us sat around a table and looked up at an image on a screen on conference room wall. The image was large horse tied by small leather reins to a plastic lawn chair.

“The horse is larger than the plastic chair, right?” was the question. “Then why does the horse not simply walk away, dragging the chair wherever it wants to go?”

This was not a trick question involving physics or clever word play.

“Because he does not believe know he can walk away whenever he wants,” came the answer.

The truth is when the horse is young it is reined to a solid fencepost. Try as it might, the young horse cannot pull off from the anchored marker. After a length of time, the horse learns whenever it is reined to something, it cannot break free. It simply stops trying. For the rest of time, the slightest resistance of the reins when tossed across even a tree branch will keep the horse in place.

This learned behavior is inside of us. Our minds as well as outside influences tend to teach us to be cautious and avoid danger or uncomfortable situations at all costs. Successful people commit to breaking from those reins – learning to fail or experience uncomfortable situations.

Training your inner voice can be the difference between you forever tied to small tree branch or running freely across open fields.

-30-

 

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Training Wheels Play Important Role

Riding my bicycle beneath the canopy of low-hanging Live Oak trees of a quiet side street, a pair of small objects to my left redirect a flash of light into my sunglasses.

One of the best things about traveling at seven and a half miles per hour is you can easily detour your plans at a moment’s notice.

Turning the raised handlebars of my cruiser bike, I circled back around.

Sometimes life gives you only a hint of a story, leaving you to fill in the vibrant colors, relatable details, and unfamiliar faces. The small objects abandoned on the sidewalk of an otherwise empty road would be my only clue.

Pulling up beside the curb two small black and silver objects silently began telling a story without details, however, one each of us can relate to and recognize in our own lives.

Sitting on the sidewalk, abandoned and alone, sat a pair of training wheels for a child’s first bicycle.

Pausing and looking around the quiet street, I realized I shared the road with only the breezes running though the branches above and the small silver and black wheels cast off by their former owner. Like the haunting exoskeleton a nymph cicada leaves behind while molting into an adult, the wheels were a marker in time for someone else to discover.

Training wheels are an important metaphor in nearly everyone’s life. Leaning to ride a bicycle is an unnatural instinct. The act plays on our power fear of failure and our natural survival instincts of avoiding pain and danger. A wobbly bicycle requires a young child learning to defeat what their mind tells them they simply cannot do. The training wheels dutifully serve as temporary bridge between what they know and understand and the difficult experience of mastering their mind and body over something forcing them far outside of their known comfort zone.

The sound of the breezes sweeping through the branches above reminded me I was still alone on the quiet street.

Learning to leave our training wheels behind is a critical life skill. For the former owner of this particular set of wheels, waiting ahead comes the courage to face a classroom of strange faces on the first day of school following at a dizzying pace of first dates, moving away from family to go to college, and possibly committing to spending the rest of their life with one special person. Sprinkling between those events will be the successes of earning job promotion, a close friend unexpectedly passing, or even learning the hard lesson all your dreams may not come true and you need to rewrite your plan.

Leaving your training wheels behind is an important step on a remarkable, unpredictable journey of life. And like the view from between the handlebars we will discover the most beautiful and inspiring moments balanced by the pain that accompanies crashing to the pavement. But to fully enjoy the ride, we must all learn to first leave our training wheels behind.

-30-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t Put Off Sleep Until Death

 

A friend is telling me about how her life never seems to slow down.

“I guess I can sleep with I’m dead,” she says.

Laughing, she turns and heads to her car – a four-hour drive is ahead of her for yet hotel bed, another meeting, and another day.

Life has a life of its own if you aren’t careful.

Ask yourself, or anyone else for that matter, if life is moving a bit too fast for comfort. Are we constantly trying to keep up with a schedule rather than pausing with nothing but our thoughts? Or are we so overly committed we find ourselves – absurdly – trying to schedule times to do nothing?

Finding the right balance is difficult. And in today’s world, one where our cell phone is rarely out of reach or text messages blindly intrude into even our most private moments, learning to erect walls or filters is becoming a survival skill.

My friend is not alone. And planning on catching up on sleep when you’re dead can be a dangerous for our health. Even the most finely turned racecar motors run a finite number of hours before having to be torn down and rebuilt. Even long-term stress on high-tensile steel eventually leads to a weakening state. Our bodies and minds are not any different.

I’ll admit I am working hard to intentionally carve out few minutes of each day with the expressed goal of not doing or thinking of anything important. While I’m not sleeping, I am trying to manage a mental balance of work, play, and life. Sometimes these moments are as simple as sitting on the front steps for 5 minutes actively listening for specific sounds – birds, plans, or even the wind pushing through the branches of trees. My phone and the hectic pace of life are, at least for those moments, on pause.

Last year a good friend sent me a book on the concept of mindfulness. He is not too unlike my other who friend who jokingly claimed she was deferring a good night’s sleep until her death. Both are highly driven, remarkably talented, and accomplished in all aspects of life. But to do so, takes balance on their part.

I’m learning is in order to take control of our lives we must first recognize the need to take control of our lives. To not is like driving a car without glancing at the fuel gauge. Eventually, both will run empty – ending in disappointment.

We owe ourselves – and those around us – the effort to pause and periodically redirect our attention. Whether meditation, reading a trashy novel, or getting in few hours of fishing is our idea of escape, we need to remind ourselves doing so is an important investment in ourselves. A life out of balance leads to unpleasant outcomes. Engines seize, fuel tanks run empty – leaving us stranded alongside the road alone and damaged.

Yes, we can all sleep when we’re dead – but no need to rush the appointment.

-30-

Journalists Under Fire

I am a journalist and I am not your enemy.

I never thought I’d be writing the sentence printed above but I find myself motivated not out of fear, but concern for democracy. Furthermore, I’ve never felt so strongly about the role of the press as I do today. Today, possibly more than ever, we need a free and robust press. 

When I was a child, Walter Cronkite reported nightly about the Vietnam War. My first memories are of body counts, grainy black and white images of helicopters, and bloodied soldiers moved around on stretchers. Then in 1968, after years of reporting on the war, Cronkite told the viewers in a rare on-air editorial piece, ‘enough was enough’.

“It seems now more certain than ever that the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in a stalemate,” he said. 

Many historians consider this one the most powerful bullets ever fired in the war. The public, armed with a straight-talking source and indisputable facts, began decisively pivoting against the government’s powerful will and entrenched narrative of the necessity for the war. 

A free press was indispensable in 1968. A free press is indispensable in 2017. 

I also do not mean this column to be perceived as a political statement, although recent remarks from President Trump only underscore the urgency of my convictions. The wheels of democracy only function when an independent and free press plays a vital role on behalf of the citizens. And as of late, the future of a free press is being pressured to back down from providing an aggressive role in keeping elected officials and government bodies in check. This is a dangerous road for society – one that leads to a junk yard populated with other societies crushed by the weight of an oppressive government. 

Open discussion, complete a wide range of passionately and differences of opinions, are a hallmark of the American democracy. Collectively we’ve spilled blood, sweat, and tears to pay for this right to disagree. We should be alarmed with anyone tries to erode or belittle our process of airing differences.   

Thomas Jefferson, while developing the architecture of the newly formed government, believed so strongly in this principle he put his words to paper in 1787 to close friend.

“Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” 

If Jefferson were alive today I am confident he’s feel the same passion in today’s world. Social media, 24-hour news cycles, and citizen journalists all play an important role in our democracy – as do an individual’s critical skills to personally vet and challenge what they see, read, and hear. We, the receivers, are the ultimate gatekeepers. 

Power is intoxicating. Human nature is highly questionable. Bad things happen to good people. The press is there to tell dig, uncover, and tell these stories for the public and those who cannot speak for themselves.

I am not your enemy.

– 30-

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Photo Credit: Walter Cronkite conducting an interview in Hue, February 1968. (National Archives and Records Administration)

Art of Conversation Threatened

Fine does not always mean fine, so says my friend.

Sitting in her office earlier this week we were talking about how our kids equate texting each other the same as speaking verbally. Today, many people use the two terms interchangeably without a thought.

“There is a difference,” she said. “Fine is not always fine. I want to hear if your fine means fine or maybe something a bit less. All that important nuance gets lost in the translation of texting.”

Her words reminded me of a conversation that same day where my daughter was using the term, texting, interchangeably with verbally communicating. She’d said she’d been speaking with a friend – someone currently halfway around the globe.

“You guys actually spoke?” I asked.

She acted as if I missed a critical class in basic communications along the way.

“No, no one talks on the phone anymore. We text each other.”

Fine, I thought to myself.

The art of conversation is simply that, an art form. Like learning to dance, carrying on a good conversation is an acquired experience. Without repeated practice, we are never sufficiently challenged to improve and sharpen our skills. And without putting in the time and effort, we tend to speak with two left feet.

Quality conversation is all about the other person, listening, responding, moving the conversation forward in sync with the other person leading whenever possible. And, like dancing, being nimble on your figurative feet, is key to being able to both see and feel the emotional tells from the other person. You are always scrutinizing the words selected (why that particular word?), reading for emotional body language (eyes darting or looking away?), and being aware of the unspoken emotions (sense any changes in the speakers cadence?).

Texting, however, is a cold and lifeless form of communication absent of genuine emotion. Emoticons are not a substitute for reading the small pause in someone’s reply to an innocent question of how they are. Empathy simply does not translate through a keyboard. And many times, this lack of multi-dimensional communication leaves a receiver misinterpreting the sender’s message.

Spoken communication is a critical component of society. Without developing the important skills to accurately read and correctly react to a live conversation, one leaves room for misinterpretation. And misinterpretation leads to hurt feelings or inappropriate replies. Verbal stepping on toes, so to say.

So where do we go from here? What does this new social acceptability of non-verbal communication mean for society? Does the loss of the art form of highly developed conversational skills potentially point to a future of more confusion and more miscommunication?

The old phrase ‘lost in translation’ is appropriate here. Translating from one language to another requires a measure of understanding the receiver may not fully understand the message as intended.

Which brings me back to my friend’s point about the important difference between texting and verbally communicating. She told me she is fine – and I believer her. All the other signs told me so.

-30-

 

Living with a half-full glass in a half-empty world

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