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Near and far, you need to see both

Maintain Your Course:

    The point of having goals is that it gives us a destination to journey to. A lot of our growth and our fulfillment in life is going to be alone our journey to our goals, but without the goals there, the journey turns into a rambling and aimless thing. We may find growth in that wandering, but it will be accidental and haphazard, where as we go instead focused and aimed at what we really want in life we can get it. A life without a goal is a life left to chance and the vagaries of the world. Instead of wandering aimlessly, we need a point to our journey to so that we can grow in a purposeful and active way, a way we desire.

    Part of the key to achieving a goal is to not look at the destination all the time so that we can’t become discouraged. Instead we follow the daily and weekly steps that we have laid out so that we can reach our goals and stop looking at the end destination. This is vital to make sure that we can achieve our goals, but we also need another skill in order to actually arrive where we want to go. Once we have sorted out our goal and made our plans on how we get there, we have to take a little time sometimes to make sure we are on the correct path. If we don’t look up at the goal from time to time, we may come to the end of our plan and see that we are massively off base because we only looked at the steps we were taking. We were taking the steps we had planned and that is good thing, but just as no strategy survives contact with the enemy, no plan survives contact with the constantly changing world. By taking a short break from time to time to assess how we are doing on our plan and if that plan is still aiming us towards the goal we can make sure that we don’t travel too far off base.

    My work when I was contract archaeologist is a great example of this idea. Each day we needed to survey about eight miles of rough terrain to make sure there wasn’t any historical culture that would be damaged when the big trucks came through to do their work. The goal was a point four miles away and not something that we could see at the outset. So instead of just walking, our plan was to follow the GPS lines that had been laid out for us to walk. These lines were made up of a series of flags spaced every one hundred meters or so along the path. While, as we walked we were constantly scanning the ground for any evidence of a historical site, but we also had to constantly look up to the markers laid out to make sure that we were still in line and still on the route to our goals. If we just stared at our feet, we might find ourselves miles of course by the end of the day and would have accomplished very little of what we had meant to accomplish.

    This is just the same with our big goals in life. We have to look up and make sure we are still on line to achieve those goals from time to time. Today is a good day to take some time and make sure that we are maintaining our course towards our dreams and the life of fulfillment we are moving towards.

Are you holding yourself back from your dreams?

Always Seek a Better Way!

    Humans are prone to habits and patterns of doing things. This is especially true when we have found something that works well for us; we end up falling into the process of doing those things the same way every time. This can be a trap that leaves us comfortable, but not pushing us towards our aspirations and dreams. A key to getting to the wonderful heights that we dream about is to always look for ways to improve on what we are doing. This can, and should, become a habit that we all develop as it will see us sky rocketing toward our dream instead of moving along at a normal and steady pace.

    It is easy to see a little success in a process and become content with that success. We can even rationalize that if we look to change it then we will compromise that success and end up damaging the end result. Though that is a possibility, it is less likely than finding ways that we can improve on the methods and increase the success that we see from the process. Plus, even if the new process is detrimental to the output, the old process is still there to fall back on, so looking to improve is always a risk free prospect in concerns to the output.

    Think about it this way, if you do what you have always done; you will get what you have always gotten. This is the definition of stagnation and leads to a life that might be comfortable, but not one that is fulfilling. If we were comfortable with being comfortable, we wouldn’t be going through the process of self analysis and growth and driving towards our dreams. Since we do strive for our dreams by trying something new, it is not within our scope of behavior to grow and improve. This is as true of those processes in our lives that are working as it for the ones that are not working. In fact, it is easy to see the damage of the processes that don’t work are doing to our lives, but the ones that are working are an insidious prospect. Because they are working, we don’t look at them in depth and analysis them to make them better; we focus on the other things in our lives. As we fix the broken parts, we are going to find that they become working parts at the same level of success as the precious working parts, which is to say at a comfortable level. That happens because the things that are working become the benchmark in our minds for something being successful and we stop pushing the new processes once we reach that level.

    We need to push those things that are working at the same time that we fix the broken parts so that our overall success level on our journey is that much stronger and driving ahead. This take reinventing those things that are working so that the benchmark we set is that much higher time and time again. We actively take the comfortable and make it extraordinary. It is time to push ourselves past comfortable and into the realm of our dreams.

Steve Jobs knew this and was constantly saying, “there’s got to be a better way” and he was looking for that way. This is a large part of why Apple became so successful. Everything could be and would be improved. What are you going to review and look at in your life to find a better way?

 

Mistakes and Accountability

Mistakes and Accountability:

    It is a matter of fact that at some point in our journey we will act in a way that goes against our core values, that we will let the pressures of the world outside us or the pressure of the demons inside us dictate our actions rather than  acting on our values. This is not the end and it isn’t something to indicate that we are faulty or cannot achieve our goals and aspiration while holding to our values. Mistakes are just that, and we need to understand that they can be source of learning and growth just as powerful as any other out there. The key is to realize this fact, but that is also the hard part.

    The first step in this it to admit the mistake, yet this can be the hardest part. Day after day we have learned to admit our mistakes to those around us and show that we have resolve to move forward from those. That admission is very rarely one that we hold ourselves to, it is an action we take as a part of the social contract we have in a situation and nothing more. It, therefore, is a minor thing and not thought about. That is not the sort of acceptance that will result in growth. That kind of acceptance will only results in maintaining the status quo. The part that we need to internalize is that when we do make a mistake that goes against our values that we admit that mistake to ourselves and hold ourselves accountable for that mistake and its consequences.

    Accountability is the next part. We have to learn to hold ourselves accountable for the mistakes we make against ourselves. Society commonly holds us accountable for the mistakes that we make in their eyes, the traffic ticket or reprimand from a boss. We don’t have a system in place to hold ourselves accountable like that when we transgress against our own values. We have to take a big step forward and hold ourselves accountable for that transgression. This means that we need to accept the mistake, analyze the reasons we made it and resolve to grow past those reasons in the future. This is the process of being accountable to ourselves so that we can live the value driven life we believe in.

    Recently I made one of these transgressions. One of the values that xiaoyi and I hold dear is honestly with each other. It is a foundation of our relationship and our lives. Recently, I made a stupid mistake and forgot to put the gas cap back after filling up the car. Hence I lost the cap and the check engine light came on in the car. I knew what had happened and in my own mind had formulated a plan to take care of situation. Because I had that plan in my head, I didn’t tell xiaoyi about it and when she asked about the check engine light I let my embarrassment and the demons of self-worth I battle with in my head, answer saying that I wasn’t sure and would get it checked out. I knew exactly what the problem was and had plans to fix it, but in the instant I slipped and didn’t live the values that I hold. The first step I had to take was admission of the error, both to me and to my wife.

That went easy, as the mistake was laughed off, and I learned that xioayi had lost at least three gascaps in her life as well.  The damage to my values, however,  remains and isn’t something that will just go away. That is where the accountability comes in. I now have to hold myself accountable to live my value from here on, to make it a conscious effort and to ignore the demons that try to make me live away from that value. This isn’t an easy thing to accept or try to move forward from, but it is something that everyone will have to do at some point if they wish to live a value driven life.

    I hope that this has helped you become armed for that event in your life where you live away from your values and gives you ideas on how to get back on track to the life you want to lead.

Get Stuck In

Get Stuck In:

    There is an old adage that those who can, do, and those that can’t, teach. I don’t buy into that as anyone who attempts to teach something must have an exhaustive knowledge of the subject to be effective at teaching. Yet, when we look out the world we live in, we find a similar situation to that repeated just about anywhere we look in the professional world. We have people in authority positions telling those under them what to do. This makes sense on one level, if the person has risen through the ranks and started where their subordinates now sit. We call those people leaders and they are the most effective managers in any industry. On the other hand, the majority hand even, we find people promoted to that leader position without having done the work that they are advising on. This is a situation that breeds resentment and incompetent practices as the experience isn’t there for that leader to draw upon to make real and lasting effects. So, as I would say in concerns to one of my games, it is time to get stuck in.

    What I mean by getting stuck in is to get into the middle of the job that we would advise others on how to do. Do that job or task, experience the highs and lows of the situation and all the trials and tribulations that our subordinates go through on a daily life. Then, once we have gotten stuck in, stay stuck in for some time so that we can experience the ebb and flow of that job. All of this is doing two very important things for us.

    The first thing that we gain is a deeper understanding of the job or task that we are supervising. We come to understand how the operation of that situation actually works in the trenches, so to speak, which allows us to see where the deficiencies really are instead of those that we imagine, might be there. It is impossible to see all the pitfalls and hardships of the terrain of a mountain without walking that mountain. Same thing with any task, it is impossible to see what the actually pitfalls are until we fall into them and gain that experience. Once we have learned the terrain and have an understanding of it, we can actually come up with real and effective solutions to the problems that we experienced in the field. Additionally, when a problem comes to us from higher up the ladder, we have an understanding of the actual job and can devise solutions that have a chance of actually working. This is invaluable in our journey as we can create strategies that won’t waste our and other people’s effort.

    The second thing that living in the trenches gives to us is the respect and camaraderie of those below us. If we live through the same situations that they live in, then when we come to them with a problem or solution, they can listen to us with ease. We have earned the right to advise them on the situations that they face every day and the ability to convey the issue from higher up in the ladder is a way that integrates with their everyday life. With that respect and ability, we are actually going to be able to create and implement lasting solutions, rather than band aids that only patch the problem briefly.

    So, as we go through our lives, we need to be able to do the work to become a leader rather tan just a supervisor. It is time to get stuck in! So stop hesitating and jump in now!

Hold to Your Resolutions!

Defining Success:

    As we go through and start to create the lives that we want live and goals to help us get there, the vast majority of us are going to have the word “success” in that picture somewhere. Yet very few of us could tell someone what success meant if we were asked. Sure, we could give them the dictionary idea of the word or some abstract idea of success, but we don’t have an firm and clear idea of what success means to us personally. This idea is something that is going to change from person to person along the path and is something that should be defined as we move forward. There is no reason to put the word into the picture of the life we want if we can’t recognize it when we get there.

    There are countless pictures of success in the world and each person is going to have a different one, one that resonates with them and gives them that feeling that they have won, they have arrived at the life that they have always wanted. This is something that we need to take a critical look at and to define for ourselves, an idea that is person and powerful

    For many people, success is going to be having money, but that is an easy this to create if you are willing to sacrifice for it. There are plenty of people in the world that make a lot of money, but have no time for their passions or their loves ones. Are they actually successful?

For others it will be having a strong family and they will sacrifice their passions and their work for that end. Is that success? It might be to them and that is the key, success is going to be something that we need to define and understand for ourselves. My version of success isn’t going to look like your version of success.

    Let’s use another example here. In my writing I have said many times that I am a gamer, I love to play all kinds of games from board games and role playing games to video games. To me, success isn’t having my own jet or a mansion, to me success is being able to buy and enjoy the newest games without worry of cost. It is having the time and energy to indulge in my passions and find that fulfillment without neglecting the relationships in my life. To me, that is kind of simple, but it has a myriad of effects on my dreams.

My Success, than, is a combination of a lot of little things. So, to have what I want I need enough money to have a high end computer and the money to purchase around 2-3 new video games a month. Add to that the time to play the video games as well. To me, that can be done in a lot of ways, but the one that has resonated with me the best is to have no more than a 4 day work week. So I need extra disposable income and 3 days off each week to indulge.

What else does success mean for me? Somewhere to play those games. This means that I need somewhere to live that has 2 rooms for me, one set up with all the computer equipment and extra space for my friends to come and play and a second room with a large table for board games and all. So now success has an additional layer onto what it means past just money.

Finally, success needs to have the ability to maintain and enhance the meaningful relationships in my life. Some of these can be done through the gaming, but some of them need other avenues and I need to the extra money and time to be able to indulge in those as well. For me, there is a very fine balance that I need to strike between working all the time to get the money, and having the time to spend on the reasons that the money is there or finding other ways to gain financial freedom so that I don’t have to balance work. And I am in the process of doing just that and becoming my own boss with my own business!

    What sorts of things in your life mean that you are successful? What aspects of your life does success bleed into and change how that portion of your life is? Finally, what are you willing to sacrifice in your pursuit of that definition of success? Thinking about these things is a very good idea as it will flesh out your goals so that you don’t arrive at that goal and find it empty for you.

Are you Authentic and Fulfilled?

Authenticity:

    In all the reading and studying I have done to learn how to reach my dreams and goals in life, there is a theme that we should find someone that is living the life that we want and then we should copy them . This is generally presented as copying success, and it is a sure path to living an unfulfilling life. So why is it presented as a great idea?

    The reason that it is presented as a great idea to reach success is that is does produce results. By copying the actions of someone who is successful, you are following a path that has proven to get to a certain point, though you will find it won’t get you where that person you are modeling is at. So, as with many things in our culture today, it is an easy, quick fix for people to use to see results along their way to their dreams. In that regard, it can be a very good motivational technique, but it isn’t going to create a life that is fulfilling for you, even if it does produce a life that is successful on paper.

    The actuality of it, is that those people we are aimed at modeling are where they are not only because of their strategies and techniques, but also because of their passions. It is their passion for what they are doing that really drives them and creates their success. Since their passion is not my passion, I can emulate some of that success, but I can never reach the fulfilling life that they have. I might get a life I find better than the one I am living now, but that life has very little chance of actually being fulfilling because I am following someone else’s passion instead of my own and I haven’t learned how to produce results with my own passion as I have just walked a predetermined path. I will find myself in a trap that looks good, but it stifling, a gilded cage.

    The real key and lesson from this is to study those people that you would have modeled. Learn what they do, how they do it and why they do it. This will give you vast insights into the actual reason that they are successful and happy in their lives, the methods they use to live a fulfilling life. That study is going to give you the tools needed to follow your path to a fulfilling life. Instead of adopting someone else’s passion, you can use the tools you learn to follow your own passion and reach the levels of success that you see in those models. This will result in living a life that is not only successful, but also fulfilling.

    Anybody can copy the actions of someone else and, if they do it well, can achieve similar results as the person that they are copying. It is a rare and driven person that sees someone and attempts to learn the how and the why of that person and where that person is and then applies those traits to their own dreams and passions. The first set of people is those that we see in big houses with nice cars and bad tempers and unfulfilling lives. The second set of people is those that we see indulging in their lives, those people that have a soul deep smile even in the worst times in life. I don’t know about you, but I will be the second sort of person. And maybe I can even be a model for you.

Doing it Right

Fear Means You Are Doing it Right:

    Plan and simple, striving for our dreams is a terrifying prospect. There is a strange dichotomy that most people seem to grow up with. On one had we are taught that anyone can be anything, that the American dream is real and everyone can go from rags to riches. These are the folktales that we are raised with. On the other hand, the training we get in life tells us that we need to accept our place in life and that our genes, talents or intelligence will only get us so far and we need to be realistic about that in our lives. There is a terrible word “realistic”. It supposedly means that we should see the world for what it is and base our decisions off of that data. Yet reality is what we perceive it, so being realistic is just a convenient way of telling people not to see the possibilities in the world that they can create through their own perception of the world.

    This training that we have been indoctrinated in means that as we learn to step outside of that box, there is going to be fear. Fear is a natural part of human existence and happens in everyone when facing the unknown. Even the bravest people in our stories and movies are afraid of the unknown, yet they push forward anyways, just as we need to learn to do. Bravery is not the absence of fear. In fact the absence of fear is insanity. Bravery is feeling that fear and moving forward anyways. We can all be brave, that is a matter of choice and having a Why that drives us harder than the fear can hold us back. What we need to understand is that the fear is natural and is actually a sign that we are on the right track in this road. If we were not afraid, then we would just be living in the box that has been prescribed for us. There would be nothing new or exciting to happen, everything safe and boring. The fear is a sign that we are stepping outside that box and moving along the path to a future that is more amazing than the present we are living in. That fear needs to become an addiction, something we seek out so that we can be certain we are on the right path.

    Today is the day that we need to become brave and seek out those things that we fear. In fact, take a trick my wife uses everyday and try it out for a couple of weeks and see how it changes your life. Every day, xiaoyi does three things that scare her. Maybe it is calling a friend to talk about an opportunity to or contacting an organization she wishes to teach at. Every day, three things that scare her. This drives her to do those things that are our side her box and therefore in that realm of wonder we want to live in. The funny thing I was witnessed in her is that the scary things she does one day become the normal things she does a month down the line, so she is constantly striving to find more scary things to do.

    Fear is the mile marker on our journey. It is time to get a few more miles under our belt on our road to our dreams.

Another Way to be Grateful-Collecting Fulfilment

Collecting Fulfillment:

    Many people look at collecting things such as stamps or comics books as an obsession for material things, as a drive to satisfy the drive inside us with the act of owning something. For me it is far from that idea, from that image of a hoarder or of someone obsessed. Instead collecting is an act of love and a path towards living a fulfilling life. For me, collecting my miniatures is as important as collecting good friends, they sources of boundless enjoyment and time spent in the passions of my life.

    My collection is war gaming miniatures. These are little figures of real or fantasy/science fiction character that can be used in a large game with those friends I also enjoy collecting. The collection is just  a part of the overall hobby the features prominently in my day to day life, they are a source for my time and passion and as such they bring my life a peace and fulfillment that is rare in today’s world. Just collecting these figures isn’t all there is to it. The next step is to actually take the time and effort to paint them up and then the act of playing a game with my friends. They are an entire hobby that takes the act of collecting these items into the beginning of a joyful journey with them.

    The time that I spend on this hobby, from the time spent seeking just the right addition to the collection, to the painting and the gaming is time that takes me away from the stresses and hardships of life. It allows me to delve into a world of wonder and adventure that brings a smile to my face and a contentment to my soul. That time is an oasis of calm and tranquility that keeps me happy and healthy as I move through this chaotic world. The hobby even gives me respites of joy in the middle of the bustle of any day as I take a little time to think about the next piece that I will be searching for, or the next piece that I get to paint up. These are moments that remind me of the joys in life and that the stresses of the now are transient and will be replaced with the joys soon enough.  Finally, this hobby allows me to share this love and passion with those closest to me as we gather to share the hobby and strengthen the friendships in our lives. It changes collecting from an escape from the world into active change to that world, a catalyst to bring that personal joy and peace into the rest of my life and the lives of those I share this with and care about.

The collection serves as a reminder of the good things in life, the positives that can become hard to see from time to time in life.  It is a symbol of the wonderful life that I choose to live in rather than let myself drown in the hardships that life can bring. Those little miniatures with their bright paint are an army of passion and joy that drives out the pain and woe that life tries to bring to me. That is the real key to collecting, it is a contact source of happiness that is always there to remind us that life is something to love and embrace instead of something filled with fear and pain. Those collections are a powerful symbol for the fulfilling life collectors like me live.

 

-Dominic Drake

The best ways to be productive

The Illusion of Productivity

    We have been taught a fallacy in our lives. We have been taught that being busy is being productive. This could not be farther from the truth, but it is a conception that we have been instilled with and that follows us around wherever we go. Think about a job you might have or have had where you got reprimanded for not doing anything? Chances are, you had either already done everything that was on your plate or you were formulating a plan or strategy for getting those things done, but since you didn’t look like you were working furiously, the assumption was that you were not working. It happens all the time where I work. It has gotten to the point where I do twice as much actual work as anyone in the office and still get called on not being busy sometimes even though the higher ups know how much I actually do. The reason is because I am productive, not busy and that is a skill that might get us in trouble at a nine to five, but will be golden as we follow our path to our dreams and our own financial freedom through entrepreneurship.

    When we actually think about those big and important projects in life, they are not tackled by diving in and getting moving. Instead they are tackled by taking the time and energy to think and research on the project, to formulate a well thought plan and then enact that plan. The reality is that both of these methods will be the project done in around the same amount of time because the dive in method is full of wrong turns and mistakes that need to be corrected. When all’s said and done, the dive in method is also far more likely to end up faulty or way off base.

    A good correlation can be drawn from this to the way that we live our lives and approach our dreams. We have discussed the importance of setting goals and making plans on how to reach those goals. This is so that we can maintain the path that we want to get where we want to be. Our approach to productivity should be no different. We should seek to pinpoint the goal and create a plan on how to reach that. Once we have the plan, it is just a matter of enacting that plan and making small course corrections on the way. Diving in and looking busy on a project is more akin to letting the world make our decisions on our life for us. It is subject to the whims and vagaries of the situation more than it is on actually striving to reach the goal. We may look busy, but in reality we are just floundering in the dark.    

    Today, take the time to look at the problem that is facing you and to understand it and the underlying issues at hand. Take the time to see the solutions that you want to then formulate a plan on how to get there. Once you have done that, then dive in and enact the plan, but take that step back and think of it before getting in the midst of the project. I know what I find every time I do so, please share your findings with us in the comments below!

More than just a day

Here is the US, this week and month have been focused on our holiday of Thanksgiving. It is a time in our lives where we strive to remain focused on those things in our lives that we are grateful for and reaffirm our ideals of family and connection. It is a time of joy and stress all rolled into a chaotic ball of emotions and obligations. To me, it is a farce. I firmly believe that if you are only thinking about the things that you are grateful for, for one dear, one week or one month out of the entire year, you are making your life a darker and sadder place. This is an activity that should be developed and practiced all year long and at every opportunity. Thanksgiving should be every day, not just once a year.
So it is time to make that the case in our own lives, it is time to step forward and express our gratitude for those things in life that bring us joy and it is time to do this over and over again throughout the year. The first step is to change our mindset during the course of the year. During this month, we focus on those things that bring us joy, but that mindset is not limited to this month of the year; it is something that we can take with us every day. The way that I do this is that I keep a gratitude log, a book where I sit down every day and focus on those things in my life that bring me joy, that I am grateful for and I write them down to make the physical and give them that additional strength.
The next step is the hard part for many of us. We need to learn to express that gratitude that we are cultivating and let those around us know about it. Do you love the way your wife has a cup of coffee ready for you each morning, express that gratitude to her whether is it Thanksgiving or a Tuesday in June. It is important to take these steps in our lives and it makes the world around us just a little better as we share our gratitude mindset with those we love. Doing this on a constant basis also makes the impact real and lasting. If you tell someone how grateful you are for what they do for you once a year, when the season predicates it, then the sentiment can be passed off as just a season obligation. If you do it on a constant basis over the year with real feeling and vulnerability, then it will become real to the person you are grateful for and will improve their lives.
Finally, this mindset will keep you looking for those great things in your life instead of seeing the negative and damaging things. You will see the world in a light that amplifies those wonders and joys instead of relegating them to a footnote in your day. It will change your outlook on life in profound ways.
So take some time today and find out what you are grateful for and share it with us in the comments. Spread that joy that you feel and let the world become a better place even by just a little bit.