Before The Clay Has Hardened

Nobody grasped you by the shoulder while there was still time.  Now the clay of which you were shaped has dried and hardened, and naught in you will ever awaken the sleeping musician, the poet, the astronomer that possibly inhabited you in the beginning.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery

No quote has troubled me more over the years than this one from Saint-Exupery’s Wind, Sand and Stars. It’s clear message is that the passage of time eclipses the deepest yearnings of our hearts.

I think Saint-Exupery is wrong.  I think we always yearn.  I think our dreams always burn within us.  The problem is that we don’t act.

My mentor, Galen Rowell, once wrote, “One of the most shocking realizations of adult life is that most of us are not fulfilling the closest held dreams of our youth.  Instead of pursuing dreams that were once integral parts of our personalities, we end up in one way or another fulfilling someone else’s idea about who and what we should be, usually at the expense of our creative urges.”

It is this realization that discourages, that breeds bitterness. It is this realization that dulls the spirit, that frustrates the soul.

But this realization that we are off course need not harden; it can be harnessed; it can propel us to fulfill what we know to be our heart’s deepest desire. With Wisdom, we can use it to drive us forward.

Time is a thief.  But it need not steal those hopes and aspirations that form the core of who we were always meant to be.  Our dreams define us. It is our essential Purpose to achieve them.

One of the most common themes I hear after talks I give on holding fast to dreams is this: I’m too old; it’s too late.

That’s bullshit.

Too old, too late is a story told to mask fear, to hide insecurity, to explain resistance, to excuse inaction.

History is replete with geniuses and giants in business, industry, art, entertainment and athletics who were not “young” when they started out, whose talents and passions were ignited and came to fruition over the long arc of their lives. Here are but a few examples: Beverly Sills who eked out a singing career until age 40 when she became an operatic star; Colonel Sanders who founded Kentucky Fried Chicken in his 60s; Charles Darwin who toiled with his research and didn’t publish his first book on evolution until age 50; David Oreck who didn’t get started in his now world-famous business until he was 40; Grandma Moses who painted in her 70s; Julia Child who did not appear on television until she was 50; Rodney Dangerfield who only finally made it as a comic in his 40s; Bahadur Sherchan who holds the record as the oldest man to climb Mt. Everest at age 77; and Sister Madonna Budner who still competes in Ironman triathlons at age 81.

There will always be other priorities, other responsibilities, other things that “require” our attention.  We are endlessly capable of explaining to ourselves why now is not the “right” time  to listen to the still small voice that calls to us in the night, that echoes in the recesses of our hearts.

But what we we tell ourselves at the end of our lives?

How old will you be if you don’t start now?

Our resolves may flag. Our spirits may falter.  But the clay of our lives does not harden. It is always ours to form.


Dreams deferred are dreams denied. Do what you’ve always dreamed of doing.

Do it now.

The Technicolor Codpiece

In the pursuit of knowledge, every day something is added. In the practice of the Way, every day something is dropped. Less and less do you need to force things, until finally you arrive at non-action. When nothing is done, nothing is left undone.

— Lao-tzu

He wore a multi-colored codpiece.  And nothing else.

He looked to be in his mid-sixties, slim, fit and tan.  His long strides down the beach were matched by those of his companion, her long dark air blowing in the warm Caribbean breeze.

She, of course, had no need for a codpiece. She was stark naked.

The two were engaged in animated conversation, smiling, laughing. The codpiece drew attention to itself mostly because it was shaped as the beak of a toucan.

It was our first visit to Orient Beach on the beautiful island of St. Martin. What surprised us most after the startling sighting of the toucan, was how peace-filled a place it was, how welcoming the people were, how smooth the energy felt.

There was no pretense.

I thought of Orient Beach a few weeks ago.  We attended the annual Barristers’ Ball. It was a beautiful black tie affair. With a Venetian Mask theme! Think of that:  a bunch of lawyers dressed up in formal wear. Wearing masks! It was simply fascinating to watch those who play roles for a living wearing disguises!

But don’t we all?

We have the mask we wear at work.  The one we wear with our colleagues and acquaintances.  The one we wear in our role as parents. The one we wear when we are angry. The one we wear when we want to be brave.  The one we wear when we are afraid.

It is the fear, isn’t it, that drives this?

Fear that who we really are is not good enough, fit enough, slim enough, fast enough, smart enough, in-control enough, driven enough, creative enough. Fear that who we really are won’t get us admired, hired, liked or loved.

So we play roles.  The roles of who we want to be. The roles we think will get us what we want. Which is to be accepted for who really are.

What irony.

But we have we worn these costumes so long that the challenge to shed them seems insurmountable.

Where are our authentic selves?  Where do we find them; how do we rediscover them? And how do we express them in the world?

What does it take to get Real?

It takes a degree of weariness I think: we need to tire of the energy necessary to prop up our false selves. We need to feel the fatigue of inauthenticity.

It takes trust: trust that our hearts will guide us; trust that our hearts know the way; trust that our hearts always speak the truth.

It takes courage: the courage to believe that our true selves are the ones that resonate most sincerely in the world; the courage to know that who we really are is what is most powerful, encouraging and inspiring to others.

It takes love: enough love of ourselves to believe in the gift of our souls to the world.

And it takes time.  It takes a lot of time to try on all the multi-colored masks and costumes to finally discover that none of them really fit.

That our naked selves are what really matter.

When the blog posts this week, you’ll find me on St. Martin.  I’ll leave the rest of the story to your imagination.

Damn Near Perfect

To enjoy life means to enjoy the journey even though the journey itself implies that we are incomplete.

— Mike Dooley

It’s happened to you.  I know that it has.

You’re at a meeting, a social function, a cocktail party.  You’re engaged in (what you think to be) compelling conversation. You’re “on.” You’re laughing, gesticulating, exchanging pithy remarks. And then suddenly you see it:  you’re comrade’s eyes. They shift – ever so slightly – perhaps just over your right shoulder – just beyond, to the other side of the room – where someone of “greater” social significance is standing.

And then the polite dismissal: “I need to go freshen my drink, great to talk with you, let’s grab coffee someday!”

(Which you read as, “Wow, what a boring loser you are!”)

You know what I’m talking about.  OMG!  You’ve done it yourself. (And yes, I’ve done it too.)

Aren’t we always looking beyond?

To the next day, the next opportunity, the next weekend, the next game, the next goal, the next vacation, the next year, the next trip, the next job, the next chapter, the next boat, the next climb, the next house, the next… ?

We want to achieve.  We want to step it up. We want to get better.

We yearn for new, improved, better, different.

Isn’t that the way we’re hard wired?

And isn’t that a good thing? After all, where would we be in the world, in medicine, agriculture, industry, technology, research, space exploration, art and entertainment if we didn’t have the capacity to imagine, to envision, and to make manifest our most audacious dreams?

But here’s the Edge:  if we’re always looking across the room, we miss out on what’s right in front of us.  If we’re always living our goal, we fail to live our life.

If we fail to live now, we fail to live at all.

The past is gone.  The future is yet to be.  Now is all there is.

The great twentieth century philosopher Paul Tillich speaks of the eternal now, the now in which we dwell, the now in which we possess all of the past and the present and the yet to come.  The now that encompasses all that we have been, all that we are and all that we might be. It is in this now that we must live.

One of Buddhism’s greatest teachings is this: Be here now.

Show up. Be present. Not distracted. Not somewhere else. Here. Now.

Time and time again I learn that my heart speaks to me in the present, in the person who is in conversation with me now, in the task that is right before me, in this challenge that overwhelms me, in the burning fatigue that overtakes me, in this laughter that envelopes me, in the love that now embraces me.

Time and time again I learn that the Universe doesn’t make mistakes.  There are twists and turns and ups and downs; horrific crushing failures; and towering, soaring successes. Chance meetings, missed connections, flights delayed, serendipity and surprise.

All of it on purpose.  All of it with meaning. All of it with import.

And if we’re somewhere else, we miss it.

And if we miss what is, we miss what might become.

So these days, I strive to be more present at the social functions and the parties and the meetings I attend, in the conversations that that I have with friends and colleagues and clients and loved ones, in the projects on which I’m working and, yes, even in the ambitions that I am undertaking.  I try not to let my eye wander to the far corner of the room to discern what might be better or different, more significant or meaningful.  But to remain present to the magnificence of what unfolds before me.

And when I find myself wondering where else I could be or should be or might be – or when my conversational partner wanders off to certain greener pastures, the mantra I repeat to myself is this: “Perfect just as it is.”

Mike Dooley writes, “Your life can be stress-free, when every day you feel satisfied with everything you did and didn’t do, always knowing that you’ve done enough, and always feeling that you are exactly where you should be, breezing through your days with a powerful sense of grace, feeling your connection to the Universe, and appreciating that you really do have all the time in the world.”

Long ago and far away, I gave my university commencement address.  I called it The Journey and The Dream.  Life was comprised of both, I said.  And both are necessary: the Journey of our life as it it; the Dream of what it might become.  What I have discovered is that the two are not separate, they are not at all different; they are not at all two; they are the same.

The Journey and the Dream are one.  Life is lived in the moment. In this moment.  In this eternal now.

And its damn near perfect.

How good it is to strive.  How perfect it is to be.

Frank Sinatra Had The 411

Do be do be do… .

Frank Sinatra, Strangers In The Night

To be or not to be?  To do or not to do? These are the questions.

I so love The Secret.  The Law of Attraction has such resonance for me. We attract to ourselves that which exists in our lives: joy, prosperity, peace, possibility, dissonance, despair and paucity.

It is the essential authenticity of our being that matters.

The Buddhists and the mystics agree: nothing to be, nothing to do, nothing to have. We are the flow.  We are drops of the Divine in the ocean of infinite possibility. Showing up, being in the eternal now, is all that is required.

As Co-Creators, we have the capacity to bring forth, to manifest all that we can dream and imagine. There is nothing for us to do but to be open to the abundance of the Universe. All that is necessary is to be present fully and completely to all that is.

“Thoughts become things,” Mike Dooley says. “Choose the good ones.”

But here’s were I get into trouble.  It seems to me that if we just sit in the middle of a freeway thinking good thoughts, we may end up getting run over by a truck.  If we lay about eating Krispy Creams, the cardiologist will show up long before the Pulitzer.

It’s where a lot of folks get bogged down in the whole Law of Attraction thing, I think. Good thoughts are not enough.

You gotta do, too.

Creation is an action sport. It requires us to get out of bed in the morning. It requires us to get our of our comfort zones. It requires us to get out of the safety and security and predictability of our daily grinds. It requires us to risk. It requires us to fail. It requires us to show up every day whether we want to our not. It requires us to use our hearts and our minds and our souls and our bodies.

It requires us to act boldly and audaciously. And courageously.

It demands all of us – every last piece of us.  And nothing less.

Our words and our actions are our thoughts and our dreams made manifest.

Rodin imagined The Thinker.  But the bronze and marble didn’t spring forth by itself. Edison imagined the incandescent light. But it took him 10,000 tries to get it right. Armstrong dreamed of walking on the moon.  But it required a very long ride to get there.

Even small actions, small steps, taken day in and day out, result in the magnificent achievements we imagine, the grand cathedrals of our lives.

But here’s the Edge:  Action without being is empty, hollow, and ultimately joyless and without meaning.  We can get lost in the goals, the lists, the mind maps and the projects. We can lose our very selves in constant doing. The doing for the sake of doing will burn us out.

Sartre said: “To be is to do.” Socrates said: “To do is to be.”

Frank said: “Do be do be do.”

It’s the balance between the two.

Frank had it right. Do you?

When you love the path, your dreamed-of destination becomes almost incidental, and happiness becomes a daily affair.

— Mike Dooley, Infinite Possibilities