With All Your Might

We’re drawn to the spectacular: Armstrong’s moon walk and Earhart’s flight.

We’re mesmerized by the magnificent: Mozart’s arias and Michelangelo’s chapel.

We’re captivated by the courageous: Mandela’s resistance and King’s walk.

We love the epic tale and a hero’s victory.

But why do we believe that they are not our own?

So often we stand on the sidelines and watch as spectators to greatness.  So often we fail to see – fail to know – the greatness of which we ourselves are capable.

Why do we play small when we can play big?

Another year has come and gone. Have we written the book, composed the song, patented the project, painted the picture, taken the trip, flown the balloon, established the foundation, learned to dance, started the business, explored the savannah, learned to fly, dived the reef, seen the Taj, rafted the river, taken the plunge, run the race?

(Or have we watched the television, surfed the net, fought the Mafia Wars, browsed in WalMart and competed in FarmVille?)

What are we waiting for? Do we think there’s time?

There is no time. Time is running out. The time is now.

Big is in. Small is out.

Stepping up: in.  Muddling: out.

We know the end game.  We’re not getting out alive.  So what’s the risk?

And why are we waiting?

A new year dawns.  It’s time.

Where do you want to be in your life on December 31, 2011?  What do you want to have accomplished?  Write it; make pictures of it; make it real.  Map it out; chunk it down. Plan the steps. Schedule the steps. Make it manageable. Commit.

And then take action.

Fight resistance. Build momentum.

Believe in yourself and in what you can accomplish.  But know that you can’t go it alone.

Surround yourself with people who believe in your greatness, who support your goals. We are the average of the five people with whom we spend most of our time.  Take a careful look around. And choose wisely.

Get a coach.  Find an accountability partner. Seek out communities of support.  Invest in yourself.

I discovered a wonderful community this year: MightClub. It’s comprised of thinkers and dreamers, artists and writers, entrepreneurs and innovators and healers.  It provides inspiration, support, encouragement and accountability. Its founders seized on the word Might for its meaning of both power and possibility; the power and possibility to live bigger.

Find out what you need to do for yourself to nurture and achieve your dreams.  Find out what you need to do to live your life Bigger. Find the Might in your life. Make it happen.

The sweep second hand of the clock is gone and our digital time pieces delude us. I keep a large hour glass in my studio. From time to time, I turn it over and watch the sand trickle through. It is a stark reminder that times passes whether we act or not.

As we move in to 2011, we need to believe in possibility again. And in our own innate power.  Spectators no longer. Participants in greatness. Heroes in our own epic ventures. With audacity and courage.

May 2011 be filled with Might.

Turning Point Suite

“Change today?” the beggar asked.

There was a touch of anger. Some sarcasm. A bit of sadness too.

My son glanced up at me sideways. “So now you want to be a father?” I’d been endeavoring to share some hard-earned, had-fought, hard-edged wisdom.  The conversation had been difficult. The topic unpopular.  The message unwelcome.

A long silence.

Now you want to be a father?” he asked again.  (Indeed, I haven’t always been the best dad I could be.)

“Yes, now,” I said. “I get to change and grow too, you know.”

That’s the beautiful part: we do.

We’re not caught.  We don’t have to stay the same, be the same, do the same things, go the same places, have the same job, get stuck in the same relationships, be the same weight, have the same level of fitness, make the same amount of money, have the same outlook on our life.  We can mix it up, turn it upside down, play it sideways. All out. Or not at all.

We get to choose. We get to change.

It is easy to feel stuck, to get stuck.  All of us have been there.  We get overwhelmed by the circumstances of our lives: by the financial pressures we feel, by the demands of our jobs, by the expectations of our clients and customers, by our responsibilities to our children and significant others and loved ones.  We travel down long rabbit holes into careers that we are good at but that are unfulfilling, that fail to nurture and satisfy us at the deepest levels. We find ourselves in relationships that once fed us but now, perhaps only through the ebb of time, slowly poison. We wake up overweight and out of shape with cholesterol that’s too high and estrogen that’s too low and blood pressure that’s elevated and a sex drive that’s not.  It feels too complex to untangle the tangled web; too difficult to overcome the status quo. The maze is too complicated and the cheese is nowhere to be found.

Can we get out? How do we get out?

We get to choose. We get to change.

I felt sad last week at the news of Mark Madoff’s suicide.  Bernie was a thief.  His son was collateral damage: burdened so by the sins of his father, not sensing hope, not seeing or knowing a way out, not believing that there was a way through, a way beyond.

There is always a way beyond.

Ann describes her father’s later years: disillusioned, he moved away; caught in cycles of hopelessness and isolation, he self-medicated with alcohol; and died alone.  He couldn’t believe that his world could be different.

The worlds we create can always be different.

We get to choose. We get to change.

Sometimes we need encouragement.  Sometimes we need coaching or professional help. Sometimes we need patience.  Sometimes we need a kick in the butt.  But the door is always open. It is our birthright to continually transform our lives, ourselves.

We in the Northern climes celebrated the winter solstice this week. The shortest day has come and gone. Light has triumphed over darkness once again.  The seasons change.  And so do we.

Years ago, renowned saxophonist Paul Winter composed a haunting instrumental piece as a hallmark of his magnificent winter solstice celebration: The Turning Point Suite.

Each moment in our lives is an opportunity, a turning point. Sweet.

Change today?  Yes, today.

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.

— Isaiah 43:19







Stop Deciding

There is a difference between interest and commitment.  When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when it’s convenient.  When you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results.

— Ken Blanchard

It doesn’t happen very often.  It was a rare moment of struggle.

It had rained hard all night long.  When the alarm rang at 4:30, I could still hear the splatter on the skylight.  And it was dark.

Should I go out for a run?  Or not?

I carried on this “conversation” with myself until about the third mile in.  Such a waste. Because going out the door in the morning for a run is not an option.  It’s what I do.

Deciding is not part of the equation.  I decided long ago that this was a commitment that I wanted to make for my health and fitness. If I had to face the decision every day about whether I would run or not, I would be exhausted.  And there would be plenty of days that I would “decide” not to to it: because it’s inconvenient; because it’s cold, dark, wet, unpleasant; because I’m feeling tired or achy or fat.

I make no exceptions because exceptions are slippery slopes.

“Successful people adhere to the ‘no exceptions rule’ when it comes to their daily disciplines,” writes Jack Canfield.  “Once you make a 100% commitment to something, there are no exceptions.  It’s a done deal. Nonnegotiable. Case closed! Over and out.”

Once you’ve made a decision about something, you don’t have to go through the whole process of deciding again. You’re not wrestling with it day in and day out.  It’s just something you do. No matter where you are.  Or how you feel.

Like brushing your teeth, says Canfield. Or monogamy. Or diet.

There are so many areas in our lives that might benefit from the ‘no exceptions rule.’

I journal or write.  Every day. No exceptions. I go to the gym. I set aside an hour each day for my creative projects. These are things that are non-negotiable.

We could apply the rule to projects we have at work; goals we want to pursue; places we want to go; things we want to do. Decide once. And move forward.

Leadership expert Brendon Burchard suggests we apply it to time away for ourselves. Once every 90 days, he says, take four days completely off the grid to rest, relax, renew. Do it no matter what. Do it even if you have to turn down other opportunities.

Just do it.

There’s a reason Nike’s overused slogan so resonates for us: there’s truth in it.

“It makes life easier and simpler and keeps me on focus,” says Canfield. “It frees up tons of energy that would otherwise be spent internally debating the topic over and over and over, because all the energy I expend on internal conflict is unavailable to use for creating other achievement.”

Our creative work, the work of our souls, requires action. Constant, focused, massive action. Struggle is the serpent’s voice.

So stop the struggle. Decide. On your commitment to health; on your commitment to fitness; on your commitment to service; on your commitment to giving; on your commitment to the life you want to live. Decide once and for all.

Then, as Admiral David Faragut once said, “Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead.”

Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Stop by for a visit at Hampton Photography.


Death is the only wise advisor that we have. Whenever you feel, as you always do, that everything is going wrong and you’re about to be annihilated, turn to your death and ask if that is so. Your death will tell you that you’re wrong; that nothing really matters outside its touch. Your death will tell you, ‘I haven’t touched you yet.’
Carlos Castaneda (Journey to Ixtlan)

The air was sucked out of the room.  There wasn’t a sound.

“What’s your view of death?”

The question came from the back left corner of the room.  He looked to be in his mid-thirties from the podium where I stood.

I had been talking about shitting in a can. Every audience I speak to about my high altitude mountaineering exploits loves hearing me describe the mechanics of pooping in the cold.

“What’s your view of death?”

Where the hell did that question come from? People ask about dehydrated food.  They don’t ask about death.

I glance around the room full of Rotarians. To a one, they look as if they’ve just witnessed a horrible car crash, their jaws gaping open.

The question hangs in the stillness. “What’s your view of death?”

Time stops.  I continue to smile with my laser pointer held awkwardly in my hand. Images, fragments, in slow motion, flickering on the screen of my mind: The frozen bodies; the helicopters short hauling the dead; the climbing buddy I held in the front seat of his crushed car on a clear, crisp winter afternoon, feeling his life ebb away;  the SIDS baby I tried in vain to resuscitate; the long night I spent with a dear friend holding his hand in the stillness hours after his labored breath had ceased; the vision of my little orange kitten flattened in the road as I stood looking from the stoop of my boyhood home, my small chest heaving, tears streaming down my cheeks; the memory of my grandfather in his open coffin.

What do I say to this man?  That I don’t Like death?  That I’m not a Fan? That no one consulted me?  That I wouldn’t have voted for it? That it seems like a rude interruption, both the question and the concept?

What do I say? That it seems unfair? That it shouldn’t happen?  That it robs the joy out an otherwise pleasant experience?

Do I tell him that I deny it, that I pretend, that I make up stories?   Of invincibility? Of immortality? Of its nonexistence?

Do I lie and tell him that I never think about it?

Do I explain that, whenever I hear the word, I shove my fingers in my ears and go “la la la la la” like I’m doing right now?

Do I endeavor to share my terror in the face of loss?

Do I try to explain the swashbuckling, the ho-ho-ho cheated death again bravado, that we engage in to endeavor to appear courageous, dashing, and suave?

Do I try to justify that we go to faraway high and wild places to well and truly live, and not to die?

Do I try to explain that the mere possibility of death makes experience keener, more poignant, more vibrant, more elegant, more present, more real?

Do I try to explain that life is more meaningful, more intense, more vivid, more magnificent when lived out on the Edge, the edge of a ridge, the edge of light and darkness, the edge of sea and sky; the edge of storm and calm; the Edge between what we know to be Life and what we cannot know Beyond?

“What’s your view of death?”  The question now like rancid meat on a hook. I wonder how many seconds or minutes or hours have gone by.  The silence seems to echo. The faces still frozen.  The laser pointer unmoved.

I punt (as in I dodge):  I mumble something about a “risk-reward” analysis, about the dangers of driving, about the dangers of ordinary living.

Next question, please?  (Can we talk about shitting in a can again?)

But I’ve come back to that question again and again since that “could have been a lot less awkward” afternoon.

What if I had only six months to live?  What would I do differently?  Would I have the same job?  Would I have the same relationships? Would I do the same things?  Would I go the same places? Would I have the same ridiculous complaints? Would I engage in the same petty disagreements?

Would I surf the net? Would I update my status?

Do we live as if every minute matters?  Because it does.

Do we stand in gratitude and awe, radically present to the beauty and magnificence that surrounds us?

Do we live with passion and purpose and intensity and joy?

Do we live with Might: with power and possibility?

Or do we muddle?

Carlos Castaneda says that death is our only wise advisor. It is only within its shadow that we can know what living truly is.

Jack Kornfield reminds us: live without regret, live a path with heart.

Live Your Bliss Specialist Patrick Combs instructs: play bigger than yourself.

Leadership trainer Brendon Burchard teaches: live fully, love openly, and make a difference.

“What’s your view of death?”

I think it sucks.

I choose to live.

I suspect you do too.

I Give Up

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us.

Marianne Williamson

Resistance is the enemy.

It’s what keeps us in bed when we should be running.  It’s what keeps us in the office when we should be at the gym.  It’s what compels us to organize the Tupperware when we should be doing the project proposal.  It’s what drives us to catch up on the news when we should be shooting the video. It’s what keeps us on Facebook when we should be writing the next chapter.

It is the urgent and not the important.

It creates dozens of rationalizations and excuses and fantasies and stories and myths about what we need to do, have to do, ought to do, might do, might not do, rather than to face into what we know to be the work of our soul.

Resistance is inertia fueled, and supercharged, by fear.

We know inertia.  It’s part of the natural order of things: objects at rest remain at rest, and all of that. It’s tough to overcome inertia. It’s tough to get going.

But add fear to the mix and we are capable of all sorts of delusion.

Fear of failure. Fear of success. With fear, inertia becomes a laundry list of excuses, a litany of rationalizations, an epic drama of why we’re caught, of why we can’t.

Master fear and we conquer resistance, writes Steven Pressman in his masterpiece the War of Art.  “Resistance has no strength of it’s own.  Every ounce of juice is possesses comes from us.  We feed it with power by our fear of it.”

But here’s the rub:  fear can never be conquered, can never be overcome.   The belief that fear will disappear – that somehow, sometime, we will find comfort and ease – is the quintessential lie that resistance tells us.

Fear can only be faced into with the spirit of a warrior.

Opening the door, picking up the camera, beginning to type on the keyboard, putting paint on the canvas, gigabytes on the card, stepping onto the stage, overcoming inertia despite the fear, starting down the path even when we can’t see the way, calling the lie of comfort for what it is:  these are the ways of the warrior.

Resistance manifests itself in procrastination: it is its ugly Hydra’s head. It is easier, safer, more palatable to say, “I’ll do it later, tomorrow, when I have more time, when I’m better prepared, when there’s more money, when the stars are aligned, when the muse appears, when conditions are right,” than to admit to our frailty, our weakness, our own self-doubt, our own sense of inadequacy.  It is easier, safer, more palatable to believe in the deception than to capitulate to resistance – and fear.

But tomorrow never comes.

Action erodes resistance, even in the face of fear. The facade of resistance begins to crack with even the smallest step.

So we must act.  It is not an option. It is what we do if we are dreamers, seekers, creatives, poets, authors, artists, mavericks. Warriors. However tentative, however furtive. Action creates momentum.  Even tiny, timid sustained action will slay the Hydra.

But as in all Journeys, there is an Edge.  Don’t think for a moment that we can resist resistance.  It is the great paradox: what we resist persists.  Our action must be directed. And yet, as challenging as this is, unattached to outcome.  For as Joseph Campbell wrote, “We must be willing to get rid of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”

So I give up.  I quit.  I’m throwing in the towel. No more resistance for me.  What about you?

Resistance is futile.

The smallest of actions is always better than the boldest of intentions.

Robin Sharma

Stop by for a visit at Hampton Photography.