Regarding the most important things in life

Today I wanted to share with you what has come to be my all-time favorite poem.

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired of waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream-and not make dreams your master;
If you can think-and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
and treat those two impostors just the same:
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ‘em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and -toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breath a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings-nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And-which is more-you’ll be a Man, my son!

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La Envoi
Rudyard Kipling

When Earths last  picture is painted
And the tubes are twisted and dried
When the oldest colors have faded
And the youngest critics have died
Then faith, we shall need it
Lie down for an eon or two
Till the master of all good workmen
Shall put us to work anew.

Then all who were good will be happy
They will sit in a golden chair
And splash at a ten legue canvas
With brushes of comets hair
We shall have real saints to draw from
Magdalene Peter, and Paul
We shall work for an age at a sitting
And never be tired at all

And only the Master shall praise us
And only the Master shall blame
Then no one will work for money
And no one will work for fame
But each for the joy of the working
And each in his separate star
Shall draw the thing as he sees it
For the master of things as they are.

 

The last 7 days we’ve been on vacation at the Oregon Coast (which, by the way, is why I haven’t posted much).  Today we’re flying home, and all the parents are going through withdrawal as we pack our bags and prepare to leave.

Meanwhile we’ve got some Christian Rock music playing over the speakers in the living room, and all the kids (there are around 25 of them since we came as an extended family) are all holding hands and dancing in a circle, laughing and singing along.

It’s a clear blue sky, a cool 75 degrees, and we’ve had a full week’s worth of incredible together-time, hiking in ancient forests with 400 year-old trees, splashing on the beach, boogie boarding, building sand-castles, singing songs, canoe riding, sitting in the hot-tub, and all manner of frivolities!

It has been absolutely invaluable.  As I pack and reflect, I’m reminded of the importance of quality family time.  We don’t do extravagant vacations very often because of the expense and difficulty with such a large family (6 kids), but a vacation doesn’t have to be extravagant to achieve the value of quality family time.

Events like these make memories that last a life-time, shape relationships, let parents reconnect with kids, let kids see their parents act like kids, etc.  We all come home a little closer, a little more refreshed, and a lot more ready to face the oncoming school year.

I reflect on the wisdom of the Mormon practice of Monday-night family night.  Dedicating the entire night to nothing but family.  Teaching a small lesson, having a little treat, playing a little game, and just being together.

Children growing up having had regular family time seem stronger, more kind, and more prepared for life.  As latter-day Mormon prophet David O. McKay said “No amount of success can compensate for failure in the home.

Regardless whether it’s big and extravagant, or simply small and regular, family time is heaven, and we’d all do well to do it just a little more often.

Rusty

I absolutely love a freshly cut lawn.  There’s just such a harmonious, orderly, and clean appearance to it.   It looks, to the passerby, consistent and smooth, well tended.

But have you ever looked closely at a freshly cut lawn?  The closer you get to the grass, the more you notice that the ends are not cut evenly.  In fact, some are distinctly shorter than others.  Some are taller, some are cut at different angles, and some edges are even frayed.

But then stand back and you recover that same harmonious and clean appearance.

It is much the same with our own lives.  When inspected closely, as we tend to do to ourselves, there are days when our lives are inconsistent with what we think they should be.  Some days we simply don’t do as well as other days.  Some days we fail altogether.

But it’s often wise for us to step back and view our lives from a higher perspective.  For what matters most is not that every day is perfect, but that throughout the whole, we see an overarching pattern of progress.  A consistent drive towards Christ-like living.

This is the broad-scale panorama that God sees, and while he is intimately aware of the details of our lives, what he cares about the most is that we’re moving forward, doing our best, and repenting when we fall short. 

He knows that at times we might fail, and so provided a path of course correction, through repentance and the sacrifice of our Savior.

So while we shouldn’t attempt to excuse the impurities within our lives, nor be apathetic towards our daily progress, we also shouldn’t forget to step back, and put our lives into the proper perspective.

Only then, do we really know if our rows are perhaps a bit crooked, or if there is a spot or two that we need to go over again. 

So in life, don’t forget to step back.

Rusty

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Last night I struggled through most of the night with a terrible recurring dream.  In my dream, I had gone to the house of someone I knew to help them with something.  I’m not sure who exactly this person was, only that I knew them.

Once I got to their house I found that they lived in total squalor.  The house was dirty and completely unfurnished.  There was a heap of blankets on the floor that made up their bed, and only a few dishes in what should have passed for their kitchen.  They didn’t have a bathroom.  There were no pictures on the eroding walls, nor any other comforts to speak of.  I remember being so emotionally hurt that this person that I had known for so long had lived under such conditions without my knowing.  I was so ashamed that I would be so out of touch.

The numerous times I came to consciousness during this dream, I’d quickly pray for inspiration and search my recollection to see if this was specific to someone I actually knew, who stood in need of such help.  But I could never figure out who it could possibly be, and would drift back to sleep only to have the same dream again.

As I struggled today to make sense of it all, the one thing that stood out above all else, is that there are those around us who suffer in silence.

There are so many people who are part of our daily lives, or with whom we make even the most abrupt and unassuming contact with during our day, that hold hurt and pain behind the mask they wear in public.  Who struggle against all manner of trials and conflicts, and who are in such need of help, love, and support.

I only hope that I might stop being so selfish, remove the blinders before my eyes, and be close enough to the spirit to see beyond the façade and into the true heart of those around me, so that I might not fail to offer that help, love, or support at some critical time.

You just never know when you’re someone’s last remaining emotional supply line.

Rusty

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An ecosystem includes you and all that surrounds you.  It’s the whole of your environment and the affect that it has on you.

Ecosystems are powerful things, and they have a big impact on their inhabitants.  Within any ecosystem you’ll find creatures that have been shaped and fashioned to thrive within its unique set of characteristics.  Sometimes that’s a hot, humid environment; sometimes it’s one that is dry and arid.

Whatever the case may be, your ecosystem plays a large role in how you grow and develop.

So that begs the question, what IS your ecosystem?

For even on a spiritual (and emotional) plane, you are highly impacted by that which surrounds you.

What kind of music plays in your home, on your iPod, or in your car?  What pictures hang on your walls?  What friends are in your network?  What activities fill your day?

All of these questions, and others, help us determine the kind of ecosystem that we live in.  The good news is that we have control over much of our ecosystem.  We can determine whether the bulk of that ecosystem is positive, uplifting, and inspiring, and make moves to change those things that aren’t.

More importantly, as you build an ecosystem that is centered on Christ, whenever something enters your life that is contrary to that focus, it naturally finds itself in a foreign and unwelcome environment, and the ecosystem plays its part in purging it.  The purer your ecosystem is, the less tolerant you’ll find you are to things that would jeopardize that purity.

Hundreds of years ago the pioneers left us a legacy illustrating how important THEY thought it was to find themselves in the accompaniment of the saints.  They sacrificed much, to be in the society of saints, to belong to an ecosystem that would push them upward.

May we be equally aware of the ecosystems to which we belong.

Rusty

We all are given opportunities to lead.  Some lead vast organizations, others small teams, and still others, a family.

A leader is one who is so clearly focused on the destination, that they’re able to direct the paths of others.  A leader helps you see where you are, where you need to go, and then points you in the right direction.

While a manager steers you every step of the way, the leader steps back to let you work.  A leader lets you manage for yourself the specific pitfalls that might confront you as you trek your daily path onward, instructing less on the “how” and more on the “why”.

A good leader sees the principles that lie at the heart of every issue, and instructs on those principles as they’re naturally encountered.  Learning principles as they’re practically applicable makes them easier to remember

What’s more, the power of this kind of principle based leadership is that it is freeing.

After time, those who you lead have learned the bulk of the most common principles, and are thereby able to govern themselves.  A good leader often does less over time, whereas a manager must toil every step of the way.

This becomes a valuable asset within your organization (even if it’s only a family), for there are times when decisions will have to be made and you are not around.  But those who have been properly led by principles will more often make the same decisions whether you’re there or not, for they know the “why” behind your decisions.

So whomever you lead, make sure to lead by principles, and the next time you’re tempted to instruct on “how”, consider if the future payoff won’t be greater if you instead focus on the “why”, and let them figure out the details.

Rusty

I firmly believe in the importance of measurement, and that the only way to ensure we get where we want to go is by frequently measuring ourselves.  Measuring the worth of your pursuits is one way, while paying attention to your consumption is another.

We’ve all heard “you are what you eat”, but usually pass it off as nothing more than a quaint quip.

But that which we consume says more about us than we may care to believe.  After all, consumption is a result of appetite, and appetites are the illustration of our desires, needs, and cravings.

Those internal urges become the driving force that compels us to consume what we do.  As such consumption is really the external manifestation of our deepest internal desires.

Those things we consume the most voraciously, to satisfy our most compelling cravings, say a lot about where our priorities lie, and where we might be on the path to perfection.

As you look at what you consume, do you find your diet is nutritionally lacking?  Is there nutritional balance?  Are you starving yourself in some areas, while gorging in others?

Does your consumption include a healthy portion of things of real substance and eternal worth, or is it primarily made up of empty calories, fats, and sugars, that provide short term pleasure at the sacrifice of long term health.

Perhaps it would be of value to spend a few moments listing those things you consume the most of, and see what it says about you.  After all, you are what you eat.

Rusty

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The following is a video of Porter Ellet, a student at Wayne High School in Utah, who lost the use of his arm in an automobile accident when he was 4, and recently had to have it amputated.

But rather than giving up sports he loved – basketball and baseball for instance , he stuck to it, determined to not let people tell him no.  Of Porter, his basketball coach says “He’s the perfect example of how far attitude can take you” and “it’s not what happens to you, it’s how you react to it and how you deal with it that matters in life.

Porter is a lead scorer on his basketball team and is a pitcher and first basemn on his baseball team.

[YouTube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OlE0MGddLHU]

Porter is another example that we should relentlessly pursue our dreams in spite of whatever disability we might have that would otherwise stand in our way.  The future is only what we make it to be.

There’s a nother great video with an interview of Porter here.

Rusty

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A larger vision

“Don’t get your hopes up” the world so often says.  Being hopefully optimistic leaves you open to disappointment, and the result?  Hope aversion.

But naturally optimistic and hopeful people tend to achieve more.  Look at most of the people that you know who are high achievers.  In general they’re dreamers, inherently optimistic people who catch a vision and drive for it. They dare to think big, aim high, and reach for records.  They’re not held hostage by reality, but see things not for what they are, but what they could be.

Going all the way

“Be realistic”, is all too often associated with holding back effort.  It usually means “don’t get too attached”.  But attachment is exactly what propels the optimist to drive harder, to push farther, to commit, to take risks, and those are the very things that lead to success.  To them the vision is almost tangible, they let themselves get sucked in, attached, and that keeps them going when everybody else gives up.

Path finding

The path to any valuable objective is bound to be fraught with challenges.  A realist looks at those challenges and sees roadblocks, but an optimist sees only the paths around them.  They lose little time focusing on the challenges themselves, for they’re too captivated by the possible alternatives that may lead to the destination.  This focus on the destination allows them to move maneuver more nimbly, more quickly, and with more surety.

Not afraid to try

Finally, as I talked about yesterday in “Reconciling hope and disappointment“, a realist sees failure as terminal.  To them, failure means they need to adjust their view of reality, rather than keep trying, for disappointment should be avoided.  To them, to hope is to risk.  But the hopeful optimist is fueled by failure.  They don’t see failure as disappointment (nor, in truth, as failure), but rather an indication to try something else, some new approach.  And the more attached they are to their vision, the more they’re willing to keep trying.

Look at all the breakthrough’s we have experienced as a people, and ask yourself if those were led by realists, focusing on what is “realistic”, or by optimists, hoping for the realization of a dream.  Would we have ever walked on the moon?  Would we have ever flown at all?  Would we be able to peer millions of light years into space?  Would we have the miracles of medicine that we have today?  Would we have computers that can process unthinkable amounts of data in unthinkable amounts of time and that can form a vast global, interconnected network on which any person, anywhere can start a blog and talk to the world?  Would we have any of the rich media sources we have now?   The list could go on indefinitely.

None of these would be possible without the pricelessly propelling power of hope.  Hope brings dreams to reality.  Hope makes the impossible, possible.

If so many miracles are made reality by simply choosing to hope, what kind of changes would be possible in your life if you too, decided to see it not for what it is, but for what it could be?

[digg=http://digg.com/people/4_reasons_hope_breeds_success]
Rusty

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