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A couple years ago I gave this speech at the Toastmasters Area D4 International Speech Competition titled “I’m hungry for bugs”. Rest assured, there’s a point, but you have to wait for it (spoiler below)…

P.S. Sorry for the bad lighting, but it gets better.

Click here for the spoiler (the point of the whole story)

Unfortunately in life, we tend to not feed those things we care the most about. Things like…

Our dreams and passions

Our creativity

Our spirituality

Our physical well-being

Our child-like sense of wonder

Or sometimes even worse…

Our relationship with our children

Our relationship with our parents

Our relationship with our spouse

Our relationship with God.

Reflect for a moment on your own life, and I bet you’ll find there’s something you care deeply about, that you haven’t fed for quite some time.

Usually these are things that are close to you. Scarcity is what drives perceived value, so we tend to undervalue (at least in our daily behaviors) those things that are closest to us, or with which we have the most immediate access. So if you’re wise, you’ll pay close attention to those things closest to you, and be sensitive to when they might need feeding.

Because the one reality you can bank on, one true principle foundational to life, is that if you stop feeding something, it will die.

So the questions is, what are you not feeding?

 

Thanks for visiting. Please share.

-Rusty

Imagine you’ve been given a garden.

It’s you’re garden, and your responsible for its care.  You decide what grows in it.  You decide what it looks like.  And you get to partake of the fruit that comes from it.

Like any garden, it’s gonna be prone to sprout weeds.  Undesirable seeds will occasionally be blown in, and you won’t know it until they sprout.  But you get to decide how long those weeds stay.  How tall they get.

But be careful, because left untended, weeds have a way of taking over.

In fact, it’s often the case that after prolonged neglect, we look at our garden and see nothing but weeds.

In these times, it’s easy to curse the garden we’ve been given.

It’s also easy to look at the weeds in our garden, and think that it’s too late, or that this is how it was meant to be, and that there’s nothing we can do about it, at least not now.

When you look at your garden and see only weeds, it’s hard to forget that it’s still a garden.  The weeds do not define it.  They are merely the visible evidence of what you’ve allowed to grow there.

If you don’t like it, change it.  It’s your garden.

Now reread this, and substitute “garden” for “LIFE”. What resonates with you?

Rusty

Life is like a garden, it's yours to change

(image from **Mary**)

As per my prior post, I was recently laid off, and just had my exit interview. With it comes a distinct sense of finality now. I have 7 kids and no job. It’s kind of stressful.

But stress can be good.  If taken appropriately, it can galvanize your resolve.  It motivates you, and gives you a sense of urgency.

It also tends to cause you to see things objectively, and whenever you are able to step back from your circumstances and view them from afar, you tend to gain valuable insight and perspective that helps you see where you are, where you’re going, and how to get there.

Of course, stress can be debilitating too. It can cause you to freeze in your tracks, or overwhelm your mind so that you fail to focus on what needs to be done.

The key to dealing with stress is in your perspective. If you have a strong foundational perspective of yourself, of where you’re going, and what you need to do to get there, then stress can become fuel that propels you, rather than a gravitational pull that holds you back.

So if you find stress debilitating, it’s a leading indicator that it’s time to reflect on your foundational beliefs, and revisit your life-launch systems.

Rusty

I was talking to a friend today about change, and how exciting it is when life forces it upon you (like when I was laid off for Christmas).

People often feel committed to a particular path, just because it’s what they’re used to, or because they’ve taken it for so long, or invested so much into it that it seems a shame to waste it all.

They’re so driven by the inertia of their past decisions that they neglect change that could greatly enrich their lives.

This is a psychological, decision-making error called “lock-in”.  Companies are guilty of this as well as individuals (if not more so).

That’s where the phrase “don’t throw good money after bad” comes from.  But “money” could be exchanged for “time”.

Wherever you’re at in life pick a destination you care about and chart a trajectory to get there.  Even if it’s a slow plan that will take a lot of time. What matters most is that you make a plan and start changing direction, even if just by degrees.

As you gain momentum, you’ll be happier, find more fulfillment, and be more successful.  Even if it takes a long time. Remember, success, like mastery, is an asymptote. But we should have the courage to free ourselves from our past, to move forward in life.

Rusty

As I’ve continued writing my book, Escape Velocity, I keep thinking upon this notion of microcosms.

For more on what I call “The microcosm approach to success”, see the following two posts:

Making the most of microcosms (how to use microcosms to achieve large objectives)
Controlled Failure (how to fail on your terms)

There’s an additional point I thought I’d make though.

The Microcosm approach to success is about how to deconstruct larger objectives into smaller, more easily developed sets of skills, talents, tasks, and abilities, and then creating small, controlled environments where you can build those individually, with less risk.

But even if you don’t have something substantial you’re trying to achieve in life, there’s inherent value in living a life enriched by microcosms that challenge you. Mini-challenges if you will.

Some of that value is that we obtain an increased ability to cope with failure, as explained in the second post above. But what’s more, we begin to perfect the sets of skills required to accomplish things, even small things.

After all, the whole definition of a microcosm is a smaller representation of something larger.

When you have a life in which you frequently encounter small, controlled challenges, when life tosses you something big, something unforeseen, you’ll have already kept honed the skills and innate capacity to overcome it. You’ll just be applying it on a larger scale.

I think this is why people who frequently exercise, tend to face adversity with more optimism. Exercise, particularly weight lifting, is an ideal form of microcosmic challenges. Each day you’re forced to face fear, doubt, pain, and failure. In fact, you go into it with that in mind. That’s your objective.

But it doesn’t have to be weight lifting. The right hobbies can work the same way. They can challenge you in ways that prepare you for life’s larger challenges.

In short, microcosms make you stronger. If you don’t have a healthy dose of success microcosms in your life, I’d encourage you to find some. You’ll find that they leave you better prepared for life.

Rusty

Peaks and valleys. Life is full of them.

The important thing to remember when you’re in a valley, is that you won’t stay there forever. Valley’s are temporary, even when they seem to last an eternity.

Inevitably, you find yourself back on top again. Sometimes just remembering that can be the encouragement you need to endure.

And not all valleys are huge. Sometimes the valleys I face are daily, even hourly.

Sometimes I seem to have so much energy, direction, purpose, and momentum. And then, in a very short period of time, that all seems to get washed away somehow, and I feel tired, confused, or begin to doubt my former resolve and decisions.

When I start to feel that way, I consciously tell myself to shut up. I know it will pass; the clarity will come again, the resolve will return, the momentum will pick back up. And guess what. It does.

And so I think that one of the best ways to handle life’s little valleys is to just not take them to seriously.

Oh, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t learn our lessons (when the valleys were self-inflicted), but sometimes we just need a break, and it’s that simple.

So the next time you doubt yourself, the next time you question your journey, the next time you just feel tired and ready to give up. Just don’t. Tell yourself to shut up and chill. Forge ahead and soon you’ll find yourself back on the peak. And while you’re there, enjoy it, because it too, doesn’t last forever.

Rusty

Appreciating beauty fosters creativity

Shot with my iPhone on my way to the gym

Early this morning I was on the way to the gym, when I was suddenly turned the corner and stopped dead in my tracks.

There had been a light fog, and the sun had just broken through, casting beams of light that streamed down onto the neighborhood.

I quickly pulled over to enjoy the moment, and snapped this photo with my iPhone.

As I soaked in the scenery, I was reminded just how much beauty surrounds us, if we’ll only stop and notice.

But this post is about more than just sharing the joy of my morning. There’s real life-engineering value to simple observations like this.

Appreciating beauty is highly therapeutic for the mind and spirit. It has a calming effect which helps lift our vision, allowing us to regain perspective. It helps reduce the bad stress, and keeps us focused on the good stress (the stress that pushes us), which helps foster a strong immune system, deep and restful sleep, and an overall healthier, more capable body.

Additionally, during periods of enjoyment and joy, the neurotransmitter dopamine shoots into your prefrontal cortex. When this happens, you enjoy tremendous thought breadth (as opposed to thought depth, which you get when you focus).

Thought breadth is the crux of creativity. It allows you to see problems from different perspectives, and it’s easier to find alternate solutions to things you’ve been hyper focused on.

So while it seems simple, and it is in practice, the benefits of being more aware of the beauty that surround you have a real, powerful impact on your ability to achieve your goals, and accomplish great things.

How long has it been since you’ve watched the sun set? The whole thing. Or the sun rise? Or stopped to look at the reflection of the sky in a puddle, or water drops on a flower? There is beauty all around, try stopping for a moment now and then to enjoy it.

Rusty

Want to change your future, change your life, reach your goals, then change your thoughts.Your mind is extraordinarily powerful.

Without even thinking about it, you breathe, digest, circulate blood, release endorphins, feel, hear, taste, and see.  All these things are processed instantly and automatically within your brain, with no apparent effort.  Enough processing occurs within your brain, and without your attention, to keep your body – the most complex creation on the planet – running smoothly.

What’s even more powerful and amazing though, are the impact of our conscious thoughts.  The ones we actually devote time and energy to.

Every dream that was ever realized… every invention that was ever created… every innovation, every milestone, every leap of any significance once originated as a simple thought.  A thought that was nurtured, and refined.

It has been said that we tend to move towards our most dominant thought pattern.  If those are primarily negative, then the direction our life inevitably turns the same direction.  There’s a reason the most successful people you meet are predominantly upbeat, optimistic, can-do kind of people.

The more positive you think, the more positive you feel.  The more positive you think and feel, the more inclined and motivated you are to act, create, improve, and change.

Indeed, thoughts are the seeds of action.  And actions are the seeds of our future.

Want to change your future?  Then change your thoughts.

I love New Years Day and the turn of the new year, largely because it’s a time where we all take the opportunity to reevaluate our lives, assess where we’ve been, and plan where we’re going.  It’s a phenomenal event, pivotal, and magnificent.  I hope you all take the time to do it.

As for my assessing ’08 I found that I’d been so greatly blessed.  I had a splendid year, nearly incomparable in fact.  Even in spite of such tough times.  The brief time I’ve taken to reflect has surely manifested the Lords hand in my life, for truly, I’m unworthy of such blessing, and certainly incapable of creating such a great year autonomously.

The realization of that reflection caused me to rededicate my life in many respects (illustration of my post “Gratitude, the key to righteous desire“).  One of those areas of rededication is with my blog.  I felt strongly (as I mention here), that this was an endeavor the Lord wanted me to undertake.  He’s blessed me with the talents to do it, and it’s my duty to use those talents appropriately, leaving room for the Spirit to magnify my efforts so that they’ll be of enduring value.

But the whole process of reflection upon the past with the perspective of today tends to call out the starkest instances of entropy experienced in our lives (which I explain here).  Those areas where we’ve let slip the most.  Those are the areas we need to proactively rededicate ourselves to.

Life is not casual.  Life is engaging, and requires us to be engaged with it.  Spend too much time as a bystander, and you find your life is filled with more regret, than accomplishment and opportunity.

“Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness”.

Doctrine and Covenants 58:27

Rusty

mother_teresa1

Mother Teresa, a truly inspiring woman who dedicated over 45 years of her life to ministering to the poor, sick, orphaned, and dying, while proselytizing Christianity, once offered the following words of wisdom:

“In this life we cannot do great things.  We can only do small things with great love.”

How very often we tend to look for the “grand plan”, the big things we can do to make a big difference, all while the small opportunities that are ever-present ever pass us by.  We look beyond the mark.

But big plans seldom work out, and big ideas seldom take off, whereas the little things, the more achievable things, the more straightforward things, the more immediate things, those things that are right in front of us, are those things that really matter and really move us forward.

It’s great to dream, it’s better to do.

After all, it’s usually the cumulative effect of so many little things, done persistently, and done well, that creates greatness.

“By small and simple things, are great things brought to pass.”  (Alma 37:6)

In our lives, whether in business or as parents, as we pay closer attention to making the most of the little opportunities that lie right in front of us, we will move naturally towards the dreams that matter most.

Rusty