Facing the Mistakes of Life VII

We cannot relive our old mistakes, but we can make them the means of future immunity from the folly that caused them. If we were impatient yesterday, it should inspire us to be patient today. Yesterday’s anger may be the seed of today’s sweetness. Today’s kindness should be the form assumed by our regret at yesterday’s cruelty. Our unfairness to one may open our eyes to the possibility of greater fairness to hundreds. Injustice to one that may seem to have cost us much may really have cost us little if it makes us more kind, tender and thoughtful for long years.” William George Jordan

I’ve known some people who used the idea that mistakes provide lessons for our tomorrows as an excuse for not giving their highest and finest now. “There’s always tomorrow,” they say, believing that so saying gives them permission to slip up with impunity. Thank goodness that the phoenix can rise form the ashes, but that should only be the approach of last resort and never Plan A!

There must be sufficient momentum to sustain progress individually and collectively. If you, for instance, go through a day where your thoughts, words and deeds only hit the mark in 10 percent of the cases, the resultant drag will likely grind your life’s momentum to a halt if you’re not careful in the days to come. If, on the other hand, you maintain your crown of individuality and as a result, your integrity, dignity and poise, you are more likely to hit the mark, say, 75-95 percent of the time. This has the dual effect of reducing drag and increasing thrust.

Navigating the world we’ve created for ourselves, which is essentially the culmination of eons of free choice and other lesser-known causal factors, is akin to flying. If your airship is well-built, has structural integrity and is free of maintenance squawks, you’ll likely do well, regardless of the occasional turbulence. If, however, you’ve put off the maintenance, disregarded the growing rust on your wing spars and failed to make the adjustments necessary to keep your craft in top shape, the slightest bobble in the air will be sufficient to produce knots in your stomach.

There is mercy in the fact that – up to a certain point – we can learn from our mistakes and move on. Let that not be an excuse for subpar function, in fact, don’t just shoot for average. Go for the gold! The more refined your function, the more aligned your body, mind and heart, the less corrections you will need to make and what’s more, the slight adjustments you’ll need to make to your course will become almost imperceptible to others!

It is true in sports, it is the case in relationships and this principle works out in every other department of life. Just watch those who excel and you will see it in action. Learn to cooperate with it and I can assure you that your life will be a thousand times easier, more productive and less stressful!

Facing the Mistakes of Life IV

If we have been selfish, unselfishness should atone; if we have wronged, we should right; if we have hurt, we should heal; if we have taken unjustly, we should restore; if we have been unfair, we should become just. Regret without regeneration is—an emotional gold-brick. Every possible reparation should be made. If confession of regret for the wrong and for our inability to set it right be the maximum of our power let us at least do that. A quick atonement sometimes almost effaces the memory. If foolish pride stands in our way we are aggravating the first mistake by a new one. Some people’s mistakes are never born singly—they come in litters.” ~ William George Jordan

I wonder how many high school seniors could correctly define “atonement” were we to poll them as part of a graduation readiness study. Even more telling would be to compare that total to the number of students who could define “revenge.” It feels at times that the world is short on noble-minded, benevolent people and long on petty, weak-minded folks, yet somehow our faith in humanity persists.

It would save you a lot of grief were you to realize that life is too short to hold grudges, to wallow in regret or to let the voice of your individuality be muted by foolish pride. Such approaches are cancerous and constrain to bitterness, no matter how much attention you might garner in the form of pity or commiseration.

One way to avoid making the aforementioned mistakes in your living is to dedicate your life to being a blessing to others. Make no mistake, this does not mean being “nice” to people and never saying or doing hard things. Rather, it means living radiantly, listening carefully and doing all within your power to assist those within your sphere of influence to reveal their highest and finest expression no matter what they may be facing or how they are feeling at the time.

When you take this approach, the your reservoir of faith in humanity fills to overflowing and you become part of the solution – the forces of regeneration – instead of being an agent of corruption and decay. Whether or not the scales tip in favor of those who take the high road in your lifetime is really beside the point, but do what you need to do relative to your life, your challenges and your mistakes and the blessings released thereby will ripple out well beyond your immediate field of responsibility and serve as an inspiration to others who are pondering which road they should take in their living .

The Right Light

A man’s errors are his portals of discovery.” ~ James Joyce

When I look back at the mistakes I’ve made over the last few years at work or home, while training my horse, hawk and dogs, I take comfort in the fact that each one – once recognized and corrected – opened the way for the discovery of new capabilities as well as the refinement those already present.

Any mistake made affords such benefit when viewed in the right light. In fact, it can be helpful to view any new venture as an opportunity not just to learn and grow, but to make mistakes! To be sure, mistakes favor those with a steadfastness of purpose, but any fool can learn once he sees the err of his ways.

If you’re not making mistakes, you’re likely not making much of anything. So get out there and try something new!



On seeking and offering advice

In giving advice, seek to help, not please, your friend. ~ Solon

Some of the hardest things I’ve had to hear about myself came clothed as advice. Advice, pointers, tips and hints stream from every direction on a regular basis, if you are listening. Delivered by the mouths and pens of both friends and strangers, advice also comes in the form of feedback given by your circumstances.

On the other hand, I am regularly asked by friends, family and business associates for my thoughts and counsel. I’ve found over the years that the most effective way to give advice is to follow two simple rules: (1) don’t limit yourself to giving only happy, warm, fuzzy advice and (2) be strategic in your delivery. If you look to package the advice you give in a way that it is most likely to be received, even the toughest words of wisdom have a chance of landing.

One alarming trend with parents today – likely in reaction to the long swing toward laissez-faire parenting over the last decade – is the phenomenon called helicopter parenting. Such parents hover over and snuff out any flame of self-actualization in their children by over-parenting, over-advising and over-controlling.

Edna St. Vincent Millay once quipped “I am glad that I paid so little attention to good advice; had I abided by it I might have been saved from some of my most valuable mistakes.” Children, like adults, must be given room to make mistakes, for experiential learning is one of the greatest and most penetrating forms of instruction.

To be an effective at receiving advice you must possess sufficient humility to overcome the embarrassment and shame of having been moving in the wrong direction. Far too many people over the years have refused to take advice and cut their losses out of “pride.” Is it really pride or just a lack of humility?

Life, even in these fortunate days where we live well into our 80s and beyond, is too short to spend in ignorance. Good advice can save you minutes, hours or even years when heard and heeded. You must be discerning when it comes to deciding which advice to follow, but you must also take great care not to let yourself off on a technicality.

Allow me to explain. I’ve seen buckets of good advice thrown by the wayside because the intended recipient took offense to how it was delivered. Perhaps the messenger had a bad hair day, was careless or insensitive or pushy when delivering the advice, but truly humble is the man, woman or child who can see past the delivery method or style, recognize the good advice at the heart of the message and make the change.

When it comes to advice, it is best to receive it and give it with humility and equanimity. Eternal progress is at your fingertips!

The Spirit of Adventure

An old friend of mine mentioned that she is moving in a couple of weeks and that a friend of hers was going to accompany her in true “Thelma and Louise” style. I don’t remember much about the 1991 movie starring Susan Sarandon  (Louise Sawyer) and Geena Davis (Thelma), apart from a poignant quote by the character Louise Sawyer that stuck with me through the years:

You get what you settle for.

While life is better lived through giving than getting, the point is well made. You will ultimately end up with what you settle for. Benjamin Franklin, a man who refused to settle all the years of his life, made the astute observation that “Some people die at 25 and aren’t buried until 75.” Die when you die, not before.

Settling requires acquiescence to lethargy. In settling you say “thus far and no further.” To avoid settling, you must maintain a sense of adventure. Adventure, venturing forth, is the stuff of life. Every chapter of the book of your life can be filled with tales of adventure, excitement, challenge and growth. To be sure, one man’s adventure is another man’s picnic, adventure is adventure!

To be adventurous you must not fear mistakes. While you can be certain that you will make mistakes and you will taste failure on occasion, it is important to develop the strength of character that allows you to pick up the pieces and move on.

Kennedy was right, for the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Relinquish fear and you release the most common impediment to wisdom. A simple formula for a powerful experience.

Take care not to collapse in a heap of futility when you are faced with the prospect of a new adventure. Instead, embrace it. Enjoy it. Approach it with confidence, creativity and curiosity.

And never forget: you get what you settle for.