Five Minute Sherpa

an espresso shot of thoughtful guidance

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Stop Trying to be Normal

There is no great genius without some touch of madness. ~ Seneca

The more normal you try to be (or the more like others you try to parrot) the less of you we will see. The move away from genius leads to people wanting to be normal, to not have to risk their necks with some dream, idea, or stroke of genius.

Normal is depressing. Normal is just plain vanilla, no toppings. Normal is the path of no resistance. Not least resistance, no resistance. Normal is normal, and more and more people are looking for the supposed feel-good nature of being normal. Let others define what normal is, then jump on the bandwagon to feel accepted, part of the team. But you’re not accepted or connected. You’re a drone that parrots what you think others want to hear, what you think others value as popular or normal.

The problem is, normal doesn’t feel good for long. It’s cheap. Like plastic forks. Good for the occasional use, but rely on it for too long and it’ll break. It’ll let you down. And then you’ll try another version of normal. Wash, rinse, and repeat. Trying to be normal is really about a misguided search for meaning. For purpose. For life.

Normal is death. It’s death to the soul. To the creative part of you that only you know, that only you see, and that only you choose to hide or show. Trying to be normal is self-rejection. It’s death.

It’s crazy to enter into and commit oneself to another person for life… It’s even crazier to become parents. Yet we put aside stats, conventional wisdom, and follow our hearts into some of the scariest, most dangerous, and land-mine-filled area called marriage. Over 50% of marriages fail today. Yet people still get married. Why? Because they’re in love. Because their heart believes that they cannot go on without the other person. That, my friends, is madness. Ignoring logic and going with you’re heart is madness.

And it’s genius. Pure creative genius. Picasso wasn’t a genius because of what he painted, he was a genius for when and how he painted.

The same is true for you. You’re not a genius for what idea you come up with, or what decision you make. You’re a genius for taking the risk to fulfill your dream. In putting your neck on the line and risk being called a fool. And trust me, those who will call you a fool are envious, because they’re normal and you’re not.

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Celebrating the Big Days

A few months ago I was with my family eating at Chick-Fil-A and I noticed an advertisement next to the counter. It said, “Make your reservations today to spend Valentines with your Love here at Chick-Fil-A. We will be serving a candlelit dinner for 2 from 5:00-9:00pm.”

As we were leaving, I showed Stephanie, my wife, the ad, and half-jokingly told her that I’d made reservations for the two of us. She shot me a look that very clearly said: “Don’t bring me here for Valentine’s Day.” Yes, I was half-kidding, but I was also half-serious. Thankfully, I listened and we celebrated elsewhere.

Birthdays, anniversaries, and Valentine’s Day are all jam packed with hopes and expectations. It’s really no surprise that Stephanie and I have had our most difficult fights surrounding these big days.

The distance between expectation and reality is the feeling of disappointment, hurt, and anger (unless, of course, the expectations are exceeded). As one who has failed mightily, the overarching advice for these days: Do not just go through the motions. These special days are far too valuable to be wasted by a half-hearted approach at celebration.

Birthdays
This day might be complicated for you or your spouse. Because birthdays are celebrated, or not, uniquely in different cultures, you or your spouse might have to have some big changes to the way you celebrate each other. In advance of a birthday, spend some time together talking about past birthdays. Ask questions like:

  • What was your favorite, and/or the most forgettable birthday in your life?
  • What was the most cherished gift you received?
  • Do you like surprises (parties, gifts, trips, etc)?
  • How best can I celebrate you on this one day of the year?

A friend of mine was thrown a surprise birthday by his wife over 15 years ago. He does not (and did not) like surprises. Today, they both still talk about this birthday as one of the low points in their relationship. Unfortunately as is the case with most of life, you will learn about how to celebrate your spouse by failing more so than you will by doing it right.

Valentine’s Day
Let me speak from a males perspective for a moment. Most men that I know do not particularly care for this day. This isn’t to say that all men don’t like it, but most do not. I think the reason is that there is a huge cultural expectation for this day to be the affirmation of a couple’s love for one another. It’s been marketed as a holiday that is focused on getting a gift for the woman in your life.

I have often heard from men that they don’t want a holiday to be what defines their love for their spouse. Some of this is because we men are arrogant and selfish. My advice to men is to think outside of the box on Valentine’s Day. Don’t just get her chocolates, cut flowers, or a balloon. Find a way to make this day special and uniquely centered around the love in your relationship. One of our favorite Valentine’s Days was when we went to a park, cooked our dinner together, and then had a “drive-in” movie in the back of our SUV (we watched a movie on a laptop).

Neither one of us remember the Valentine’s Dates when it was just about a gift, dinner, or just going through the motions.

Anniversaries
The great thing about Anniversaries is the two of you will create this day together. There is usually little personal history around this day for husband and wife, which makes creating a celebration a little less complicated than other special days. Similar to the questions in the birthday section, consider engaging ahead of time about what you want this day to look like together.

Thankfully, as I see it, redemption is only one year away. These special days come around every year, which means that if something goes awry this year, you get a chance at redemption the next year. The key to making these days special is to be intentional, plan ahead, and be creative. Do those three things and your spouse will feel loved and celebrated.

(article originally published at Start Marriage Right)

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So, You Think You Can Dance?

(article originally published at Start Marriage Right)


I move left, she moves right.
I go forward, she goes backwards.
I dip, she bends.
I swing, she flies.
We move closer and embrace.
Butterflies.

I’m a horrible dancer. The term “two left feet” has new meaning when applied to my dancing machismo. In the kitchen after work, I’m constantly getting in the way of Stephanie. Part of this is my inability to do two things at once, the other part is my lack of physical fluidity.

Interesting though, our relationship took off on a dance floor. It was New Years eve, and a planned group gathering with friends turned into a quadruple-date that ended up at a swing dance party to ring in the new year. I’d always hated to dance but there was this girl that quickly moved me out of my self-consciousness. My desire to be wherever she was made me the supporter of any and all things swing dancing. This ought to come at no surprise but she loved (and still does) to dance. Me being on the dance floor with her that night created some serious mojo between the two of us. Less than 6 months later, we were honeymooning in Nova Scotia learning a whole new kind of dance.

A friend of mine teaches marriage classes with a ballroom dance instructor. For an hour they sit in a room conversing about sex, fighting, communication and other marital pitfalls. Following the hour of marriage work, they begin the real work: Learning to dance. From what he’s said, the ballroom dancing part is more beneficial for the couples than is the workshop. The reason? Until we actually get up and start acting our parts, no amount of reading, listening, analyzing or planning will create connection.

When you stand on the dance floor with your partner, you have to communicate, someone has to lead, and someone has to follow. It’s amazing to watch a couple’s relationship tendencies come out as they struggle to make the moves on the floor. The woman resists the leadership of the man, she stumbles and they end up apart. The man resists leading, the woman leads and he wilts with shame and sadness. The couple holds each other like they are in Jr. High, neither looking at each other or wanting to be near each other and they end up dancing monotone.

… continue reading at Start Marriage Right

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What to do with criticism

 

If evil be spoken of you and it be true, correct yourself, if it be a lie, laugh at it. ~ Epictetus

No one likes criticism. But often times, criticism contains truth.

Could you get upset at the delivery of the critical comment? Sure. But you’d be missing the point. Unless you’re relating to someone incapable of relationships, which would need criticism in and of itself, then their offering of critical feedback presents a learning opportunity.

Will you judge the deliverer, or listen to the content? Don’t miss the opportunity for growth because something stings. Because usually if something stings, healing is needed.

 

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Stay Here And Feed Your People

 

One of my favorite podcasts is The Moth, a story-telling organization that hosts “story nights” around the country.  Audience members, similar to the Price is Right, are the stars of the show. They get on stage and tell a story, sometimes in reference to a theme of the evening, and they do this without notes. It’s often exciting, usually moving, and always beautiful. Stories make the world go round, and The Moth offers an intimate glimpse into some of these stories.

Last fall, The Moth hosted a “Grand Slam” event that brought 10 storytellers to the stage, and they competed against each other for the title of Grand Slam Winner. This event was in Chicago and was hosted by the Peter Sagal of the NPR show, “Wait, Wait, Don’t tell Me.” (Wait Wait is another one of my favorite podcasts.)

Towards the end of the show, Sagal was sharing a story of his own. He had a friend, Morgan, who helped to put on a develop plays in the local theater. During this time in her life, Morgan began asking questions about her own significance and place in this world. Consequently, she became a huge fan of Mother Teresa. When Mother Teresa came to town Morgan found her at her hotel and to meet her.

Morgan expressed her admiration and respect, and said she wanted to join her in Calcutta doing work in the orphanages. Morgan said, “The work you do is wonderful and important, I want to come with you to Calcutta.”

Mother Teresa replied, “No. You don’t do this work because you think it’s wonderful. You do this work because you so love the poor people of Calcutta that you can’t be away from them. That’s when you come and do this work.”

“What do you do?” Mother Teresa asked.

“What I do isn’t important,” Morgan said. “I work at a theater and I help put on plays. What use is that?”

“There are so many different kinds of famine in this world,” Mother Teresa said. “In my country, there is a famine of the body. In this country, there is a famine of the spirit. Stay here and feed your people.”

Who are ‘your people’?

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First Half Reading

One of my goals this year is to read more books. Of the dozen-plus books I’ve read so far, here are four that I suggest everyone read:

Beautiful Boy: A Father’s Journey Through His Son’s Addiction

A dad reflects on his son’s addiction to drugs (meth). As a parent, this is a terrifying read as I consider what is out there for my kids to face. But it’s a good kind of terrifying. It has forced me to face this possibility and begin conversations with my kids about addictions. Conversations won’t keep kids off of drugs, but my hope is that our relationships will give them what they need through the tumultuous years of adolescence and young adulthood.

Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption

I’m sure you’ve heard of this book, or story, and rightfully so. It’s one of the best stories that I’ve ever read. It’s a story of survival, pain, suffering, tragedy, and the will of the human spirit. All stories have loss, and all stories have redemption. The story of Zamperini has loss and redemption over and over again. Read this book and ask yourself: “Where is the parallel in my story?”

The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict

Written in a conversational format, characters discuss the nature of how war and peace interact, where does peace come from, and how do we engage it with the people around us. It’s got some powerful illustrations that help to bring the read to see that we often focus on what’s wrong with other people, but ignore the majority of what they do right. Furthermore, we often treat others more so as objects than as people and that we expect them to fully trust us even if we don’t fully trust them. This is a great book for anyone who is in any form of leadership (parents, business, marriage, church volunteers, etc — essentially anyone who deals with people in any organized fashion).

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles

Probably my favorite book so far of 2012. The first half of this book, if you let it, will call you out and challenge every part of your fear. Resistance is the main culprit to our boredom and lack of pursuit to what we want to create in life. It carries a number of little nuggets that can apply to anyone. This is a book that I will read again, and again.

 

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Sometimes the Simple Solutions are the Hardest

 

If you wish to be a writer, write. ~ Epictetus

For many years, I’ve written as a hobby. This generally means that I’d write when I was inspired, and only when I was inspired. One problem with this mentality is that I’ve missed out on many opportunities in the past because I didn’t know exactly what or how I wanted to say something. So instead of sitting down with a pen and paper (or usually a computer), I’d work on what I’d want to say in my head hoping to get it just right. Rarely did that produce something on paper. I wanted it to be perfect, or at the very least “good enough” that it’d garner rave reviews or feedback. The big lesson here is perfectionism will kill an artist, a writer.

Sometimes, the simplest solutions are the most difficult to see and take. In the case of writing, it doesn’t take hours of time or space to hammer out a few words. But that’s what I was trying to attain. This reminds me of what my dad used to say to me as a kid when I’d be in charge of unloading the dishes from the dishwasher. I’d try to do it as quickly as possible and in as few trips to the cabinets as possible. This led to me carrying 10-15 dishes precariously stacked on top of one another. His admonition to me: Don’t be lazy. Take your time, and do it without breaking things.

Learning from that over the years has allowed me to come up with hundreds of 10-20 word thoughts that one day might turn into a fuller, more meaningful article or blog post. I don’t do this every day, but I write something on most days. Once I open up the valve of content, I’m amazed at what else shows up. Just in the process of writing these 400+ words, I’ve thought of 2 other topics that I want to write about. My next step: Write about them.

Creating begets creating. This is the application for everyone. There is usually something that has been named in the form of a wish, but practical steps haven’t been taken to make that wish a reality.

“I want to start my own business”
“I want to start a family, have kids”
“I want to create art, paint, etc”
“I want to read more”
“I want to ________”

All of these wants are big ideas, and can be overwhelming to know where to start. The first step is likely the one that you’re avoiding, which is also the most difficult step. The longer you wait to take that step, the more overwhelming and difficult it becomes.

Here are a few books that are great at exploring more some of what I’ve introduced here:
Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time

Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles

48 Days to the Work You Love: Preparing for the New Normal