It’s Just A Bad Hair Day

I’m old; I’m fat; I’m out of shape; I’ve lost my edge.

At least those were the stories I began to tell myself.

I pushed on. Turned out it was just an off day.

Some days are like that: Some days, it feels as if someone has poured cement into my running shoes. On other days, I flow like the wind.

All of us have days when it flows; and days when it doesn’t.

The problem is that, when it doesn’t flow, we tend to think that it “means” something; that something’s wrong; that’s something’s broken; that the magic has vanished. We get dark and despondent. We think it will last forever. We get discouraged. We want to quit.

The truth is: Some days it just doesn’t flow.

And it doesn’t mean a damn thing.

This is true in writing, in business, in finance, in relationships, in art, in music. Shit, I’m fairly certain it’s true in everything.

Some days, it’s just a bad hair day.

Thankfully, there’s a remedy: Show up the next day; and the next. Pretty soon it will flow again. Just as long as you haven’t given up.

I recently heard an audience member ask best selling author Theresa Ragan what the secret to her success was, what her secret was for being so prolific. She said that she showed up every day, “put her butt in the chair,” and wrote.

Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way said that our only job as creatives is to “show up on the page;” to be present on the canvas.

George Leonard who wrote the book Mastery using the metaphor of his Aikido practice said that our only job on the path to mastery (in anything) is just “to show up on the mat.”

This means showing up in the practice room, the board room, the laundry room, the bedroom; this means showing up in the classroom, on the track, in the studio, no matter what happened yesterday; or the day before; or the day before that.

Whether it flowed brilliantly; or not.

The judging, the evaluating, the questioning, the hand wringing, the self-deprecation: they’re all just distractions; they’re all just a waste of time and energy.

Our job – our only job – is to show up and do the work.

The rest will take care of itself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Re-Runs of Lost

The next five weeks can get lost if we don’t watch out.

Yes, the holidays are here again. It’s easy to put off the diet, the exercise, the fitness, the launch, the new biz, the writing, the practice, the composition, the painting, the project, the chapter.

It’s easy because there are receptions and parties, and gatherings and get togethers, and shopping and wrapping; and rushing. Yes, lots of rushing. And really no one is doing much of anything anyway; certainly not much of anything to mention other than “stuff.”

We’ll get to all those (important) things after the holidays, after the first of the year.

After the momentum’s been lost; not to mention those five (precious) weeks.

Kinda like last year.

We forget what a wonderful time of year it is to re-commit to our practices and our disciplines. We forget that in five weeks time there is still so much progress we can make toward our dreams; still so much time to complete what we set out to do this year. Still so much promise. Still so much that can be created and shared with the world.

And we forget, in the hurry and hubbub of it all, what a great time of year it is to reflect on all that’s gone well this past year; to study and celebrate the successes; to evaluate and learn from the challenges; and to plan, to begin to cue up the pieces for an exciting year ahead.

Yes, the holidays are here again. And yes it’s time to connect and rejoice; and revel in the mystery and the magic of the season.

Knowing that re-runs of “lost” are optional.

 

 

 

 

 

Just A Flesh Wound

King Arthur: [after Arthur’s cut off both of the Black Knight’s arms] Look, you stupid Bastard. You’ve got no arms left.
Black Knight: Yes I have.
King Arthur: *Look*!
Black Knight: It’s just a flesh wound.

–Monty Python and the Holy Grail

Here are some important questions: Do you focus on your weaknesses? Do you focus on what’s not going well?

Or, instead, do you focus on your strengths, your successes, your achievements?

These are important questions because the truth is this: What we focus on expands.

When we focus on what’s good, we get more of what’s good; when we focus on what’s not working, we’re likely to get more of what’s broken.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m a big believer in identifying our limiting beliefs and cutting them to ground. They’re energy suckers that lurk in the shadows. They need to be called out and eliminated.

I’m a big believer too in strategic assessment. If something’s not working, it doesn’t make sense to keep doing it over and over again.

But I’m not talking about the beliefs that trip us up or strategies that need tweaking.

What I’m talking about is the propensity to get stuck in hand-wringing, self-defeating self-fulfilling prophecy and pessimism.

We don’t have to look far these days for bad news, for things that aren’t going particularly well.

And all of us have suffered wounds in our lives: physical wounds, wounds of abuse, wounds of loss, wounds of criticism, money wounds, and wounds of self-esteem.

But most of us can also recall times in our lives when things have gone especially well, when things have been on a roll; and as my mentor, Tony Robbins says, “success leaves clues;” clues that can catapult us to new heights.

When we acknowledge those successes, when we hold them with gratitude, when we honor them: we honor what is good in ourselves, we honor our ability to co-create, we honor the divine within us.

We live in an age that is the greatest in all of our human history; on the eve of astounding ideas, technological advances and innovation; with opportunities for prosperity and abundance beyond our wildest imaginations.

Leadership expert Brendon Burchard says, “Unhitch yourself from the past — you won’t believe how fast you can run in the present.” The past is just the past.

We can kvetch; or we can create. There’s no time for both.

We may falter along the path. There may be a few flesh wounds along the way. But a loving Universe lifts us up and conspires for our success.

Let us acknowledge our blessings, all that is good, all that is working, all of our successes. May we learn; may we grow; may we prosper.

With grateful hearts.

Because: what we focus on expands.

Get Out Of Jail Free

I have the coolest speaking gig this week: I’m giving the commencement address to 20 graduates, ages 17 to 20,  who have completed their GED – in prison! I feel so extremely lucky to have the opportunity to be a voice for them. As this week’s blog, I want to share with you the words that I will share with them:

First of all, congratulations to each one of you!

What you have achieved through your hard work here is extraordinary. Knowledge can never be taken away from you. Knowledge is power.

I am happy – and privileged – to be your graduation speaker here today. But I am under no delusions of grandeur. Frankly, I don’t remember who any of my graduation speakers were. And, of the dozens of commencement addresses I have heard over the years, I remember very few of them. (In fact, the only ones I really remember are the ones that I have given.) I don’t expect that any of you will remember me. But I am hopeful that at least some of you will remember the secret that I am about to share.

How many of you would like to know the secret of all wealth and happiness; the secret of all prosperity and success? Would it be useful to you to know the one thing that will ensure that you could do and achieve anything you ever dreamed of doing? No matter where you are, no matter what your circumstance?

Give me just 20 minutes – and I will share with you that one thingthat one secret that can switch up the entire game for you.

Let me start by telling you three short stories:

1. The first is about a man who was born in a tiny one-room house. His mother died when he was 9. His sister died; his girlfriend died. He was only able to go to school for a year and a half. He got fired from his first job. He tried to start a business and he failed. He wanted to get involved in government. So he ran for the state legislature. He lost.  In fact, over the years, this man suffered failure after failure after failure, loss after loss after loss, in his efforts to become more involved in politics. But despite his loses, he kept moving forward. In 1860, he was elected the 16th president of the United States. This is the story of Abraham Lincoln who we revere as one of the greatest presidents in our entire history.

2. The second story is about a woman who was born into poverty in rural Mississippi. She was raised by a single-mother. At the age of 9, she was raped. After years of abuse, she left school and ran away from home. She got pregnant when she was 14; her child died shorty after he was born. She went back to school – and discovered that if she applied herself, she could do well.  She graduated from high school. She went on to college. When she was 19, she went to work at a radio station. They loved her. Then she went to work for a television station and did well. So well, in fact, that she eventually started her own television network. Through her work, she has impacted millions of lives around the globe. She runs a school for girls in Africa. She has become one of the richest and most influential women in the world; and for a time was world’s only black billionaire. Of course, I’m telling you the story of Oprah Winfrey.

3. My third story is about a man who was born in South Africa at a time when a violent white minority dominated the land. This man felt strongly about the injustices that he saw and he spoke out often. In 1962, he was arrested, tried and convicted. He spent the next 27 years of his life – longer than any of you have been alive – in prison. While in prison, he studied language, and history and politics and law and government. He studied all of the dialects of his people. And in spite of the harsh conditions, he exercised, he took care of his body and his mind and his spirit.

After his release from prison, he was elected the president of South Africa. And was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. This is the story of Nelson Mandela.

What do these three people have in common?

  • Each of them was disadvantaged.
  • Each of them had overpowering challenges when they were young.
  • Each of them failed and failed and failed again.
  • Each one faced unbelievable, seemingly unbearable, hardship.

Yet:

  • Each chose not to be bitter.
  • Each chose not to give up.
  • Each chose not to get lost in blame.
  • Each chose not to accept mediocrity.
  • Each chose not to run away from adversity.
  • Each one chose not to accept failure.

Let me ask you a question: Do you know how steel is made? You know, the stuff we make bridges out of?

Iron ore is taken from the earth; the ore is lumpy and not very strong. It’s put in a blast furnace at 1600º. The impurities are burned away in the fire. And the end result is a material that can holdup skyscrapers.

Abraham Lincoln wasn’t born the president who changed the face of our country. He became the Abraham Lincoln we revere; he became that man through all of the difficult times, through all of the challenges, through all of the failures.

Oprah Winfrey wasn’t born one of the wealthiest and most powerful women on the planet. She was born into poverty and abuse. She became the woman who is loved and admired by millions, who does so much for so many; she became the person she is today because of the hardships she faced, and overcame.

Nelson Mandela wasn’t born the leader of South Africa. He didn’t grow up knowing that he would become the voice of apartheid. He became the man who won the Nobel Peace Prize – who changed the face of an entire nation – through the daily choices he made over more than 27 years in prison.

They became.

They built their lives of steel by walking through the fire where they were tested, tortured, tried. And they became the people they are.

So what is the secret?

Obviously it’s not money; obviously it’s not race; obviously it’s not gender; obviously it’s not where you’re born; or whether you have one parent or two. Obviously, it’s not about whether you’ve been in prison or not. Obviously it’s not about privilege – or luck.

No, there is only one common denominator.

There is only one secret.

The secret is choice.

These people made choices.

You see it is the choices that we make that determine our success.

In every moment of our day, each one of us is called upon to make choices. And every choice we make, whether large or small, will either ensure our ultimate success; or consign us to lives of frustration and failure.

  • Who we hang with is a choice.
  • How we care for our bodies is a choice.
  • How we treat others is a choice.
  • Integrity is a choice.
  • Excellence is a choice.
  • Greatness is a choice.
  • Discipline is a choice.
  • Commitment is a choice.
  • Success is a choice.

Life doesn’t happen to us. We happen to life.

And here’s an important truth: (This may be the most important thing I say to you this afternoon. This may be the most important thing you ever hear.)

  • Each of us is unique.
  • Each of us is a singularity
  • There is no one who has your gifts and talents.
  • There has never been and there will never be another you.

From this place here today, from this fire:

  • Will you be brave enough to own your own uniqueness?
  • Will you be strong enough to claim your own vision?
  • Will you have the courage to speak with your own voice?

In this room, could there be a voice for social justice? Could there be a peace maker? Could there be an Emmy winning screen writer? Could there be a multi-platinum musician? A life saving firefighter? In this room, could there be a senator? A visionary scientist? A best-selling author?

I dare say there could be. For you see, I believe that anything is possiblewhen you choose.

It is the choices that we make in the fires of our lives that will determine our greatness.

Victor Frankl was a doctor in Vienna, Austria when the Nazi’s came to power. He had the opportunity to escape and come to the United States. But instead, he chose to stay to care for his family. The Nazis came for him. They seized and destroyed all of his writings and research that he had spent his entire life working on. They put him in the concentration camps with his wife and his parents. They exterminated his wife and his parents in the gas chambers; and burned their bodies in the crematoria.

Through all of this, Frankl chose to care for his fellow prisoners. He chose to believe that he would survive. He chose to believe that evil would be overcome, that good would prevail.

Frankl survived the war. And after he was set free, he wrote one of the greatest books of the 20th century: Man’s Search For Meaning. In that book, Frankl said that our greatest gift, the greatest of all of our human gifts, is our power to choose how we will be in every moment, regardless of our circumstances.

  • Choose to believe that you are an original.
  • Choose to believe that there is no one else like you.
  • Choose to believe that you have a contribution to make; that you have gifts and talents that only you can give to the world.
  • Choose to believe that your voice matters – that your voice can change the world.
  • Choose to make your lives extraordinary.
  • Choose to make your lives a masterpiece.

Choose. And you will enjoy success beyond your wildest imaginations.

I believe in you.

I wish each of you – each and every one of you – lives filled with peace and all good things.

________________________________________________________

For information regarding the speaking programs I offer or to check on my availability, email me at: walt@walthampton.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Identity Theft

What is your “I am” statement?

Don’t go skipping through this blog so fast. Stop and answer the question.

How we define ourselves really matters. It determines everything: It determines whether we succeed or fail; whether we prosper and thrive; or whether we suffocate, wither and die.

I’ve spoken recently to a number of groups comprised of folks who are unemployed, under employed, between jobs. I’ve heard countless “I am” statements that sound like “I am unemployed;” “I am unable to find a job;” “I’m unable to work.” “I am out of options.”

While all of these statements I am sure are heartfelt and seem true, they are also incredibly narrow, limiting, self-defining. They’re not the totality of potential.

And they’re certainly not the purview of only those who face employment challenges.

In my coaching, I hear “I am” statements all the time: “I am too old to do that.” I’m too out of shape.” “I’m too busy.” “I’m too stressed out.” “I’m not smart enough.” “I’m not someone who could ever do something like that.”

Then there are the organizations and the more-than-a-few substance-related groups that require their members to brand themselves with an “I am.”

And of course, my favorite “I am” stories are the ones I hear at networking gatherings and cocktail parties: “I’m an accountant.” “I’m a lawyer.” “I’m a financial planner.” “I’m a network marketer.”

We guys particularly enjoy these. There’s nothing like some good professional muscle flexing. “My ‘I am’ is definitely bigger than yours.”

“I am” statements become our realities, our narrow focus, our limiting beliefs; and the prisons of our minds.

It is the very worst form of identity theft: we steal our own potential by the tiny stories we make up about ourselves.

(And others.)

I love that scene from Exodus when Moses first meets God in the burning bush. God’s got a bunch of important assignments for Moses to be about. But before Moses heads back down the mountain, he wants to cozy up to God. So Moses asks for God’s name so that he can tell his peeps that he’s on a first name basis. God says, “I am who I am.” Tell them, “I am sent you.”

Of course generations have pissed and moaned, argued and fought, waged war and lobbed bombs over what they think ought to be tacked onto God’s “I am.”

But the bush wasn’t having it. Anything after the “I am” only serves to diminish.

The Universe is limitless; just as you are limitless.

Your “I am” statements can lay you flat; or make you fly.

So why not try on some new ones?

How about: I am abundant; I am loved; I am wealthy beyond measure.

Or try this one: I am unstoppable.

Think beyond the lines; think outside the box; in fact, just for a few moments, pretend there is no box.

What would yours be?

Write it down, make it real, share it in the comment section below.

Ash Hole

Financial objectives; weight loss; fitness goals; career ladders; creative projects: sometimes it feels as if we’re making no forward progress; sometimes it feels as if we’re sliding backwards; in fact, sometimes it seems as if we’re caught in a deep dark hole.

If the goal is worthy and the strategy sound, there is only one real course of action: keep on keepin’ on.

I remember years ago, right after they re-opened Mt. St. Helens, my son, Joe, and I climbed to the crater rim. Seismically unstable, the trail had been shut down for years; the landscape scorched and shattered.

As we emerged from the forest, the upper slopes were covered with ash. We’d take a step up, and slide back; another step up, another slide back. It was like hiking on a beach that had been pitched at a 45º angle, grinding and relentless.

In the clear air under the hot sun, we could see our objective. But it never seemed to get any closer. Morale flagged; we were tempted to give up; it was so discouraging.

And so it often is.

When we get bogged down, it’s easy to get despondent, to lose the focus and resolve. We feel like quitting. But here’s the truth: it’s the small, steady efforts that yield the rewards. Over time, the plodding matters.

We hung our feet over the crater rim and laughed. The seeming futility throughout the effort of the climb had been almost comic. Yet the reward of that spectacular moment was beyond compare.

Darren Hardy tells the story of the man who cut his calorie consumption by just 125 calories a day; less than the “price” of a cup of cereal. After 31 months, the man had lost 33 ½ pounds. (125 calories a day x 940 days=117,500 calories x 1 pound/3500 calories=33 ½ pounds). I wonder how many times this dude looked in the mirror and said, “damn, I still look fat.”

At mile 32 of the Vermont 50 miler, I sat and wept. Thirty-two miles was the farthest I had ever run before; and 18 miles more seemed incomprehensible to me. I stood up and plodded onward: I picked those 18 off one mile at a time.

It’s one resume at a time; a few dollars more; an extra crunch or two; just another chapter. It’s one more lesson; another rejection; another practice session; a couple more laps around the track; just a draft or two more.

No matter how dark the hole or steep the ash, take a step; and then another.

You’ll be so glad you did.