The Future is Ours

Crane DawnI was on a flight from Hong Kong to New York recently when I realized something that could change my life forever. How little time we spend actually thinking. I don’t mean worrying about the trivia that fills our minds with useless thoughts every moment of the day. I mean stopping for a considered time to clear our minds of meaningless nonsense and to think about something different, something perhaps bigger than who we are today or the contribution we could make to this life.

And it started me thinking about the ambition of my youth and for a moment I was sad and lost and then I simply thought of something that filled me with an overwhelming sense of exhilaration. The thought that ambition is not over until we choose to give it up. And it is our choice whether we live this life with the thoughts of something bigger or lose ourselves in the everyday minutiae of nothing at all.

By thinking about something – writing a novel, starting a business, a charitable cause or whatever it may be – we have a proven chance of achieving it. But all the time we have meaningless arguments inside our heads, reliving the past or worrying about things we cannot change, we are wasting something vital that could change our lives forever – using our minds to create a beautiful and more enriched future.

So now, I am banishing any thought that has no purpose, the internal nonsense that goes around and around and burns up the most important development of evolution, the ability to think for ourselves.

It has taken six billion years to evolve us to where we are today, with the most developed brain of any species. The limbic brain and the neocortex, 3 lbs of jelly that represents the absolute pinnacle of evolution. We can use it to play Candy Crush all day or change the world we live in. In the end it is down to thought and motivation – and the other great gift we have. The gift of freedom of choice.

Don’t waste it.

I have been writing again after many months of absence and I feel thrilled that once challenged, our minds come forward with a mass of creativity, of invention, of wonder. I’m now half way through writing a new book and I feel more excited than at any time in my life.

Be excited for all that can be rather than worried about all that may be or all that was. We have been gifted the greatest thinking machine of evolution, the human mind. And we need to use it.

The future is waiting to be created. And it is all ours.

The Habits that Kill Us

LeapingHabit keeps us exactly where we are and imagination frees us. But for all of our adult lives, we form more and more habits and routines and close our imaginations to the endless possibilities of our existence.

Habits simplify our lives and allow us to travel through this world unconsciously. So we take the same route to work everyday, we watch the same movies, and wear the same clothes. But those are meaningless, harmless habits. There are far more dangerous habits.

The most talked about habit that kills people is smoking. But in reality, the habits that confine us to a self-imposed prison, when we could have achieved so much more, kill us much more effectively—they are the habits that kill us inside, while we remain alive.

Negative beliefs are the habits that imprison us. Perpetuating beliefs that we are not capable of something because that is what we have been taught and have come to know.

As a young man, I had social anxiety disorder and the thoughts of meeting new people or making a speech filled me with terror. And I allowed that terror to imprison me for years. Then I met the greatest boss I ever had and he would never listen to my protests that I couldn’t do something. He would simply say, “Yes, you can.”

And it’s because he wouldn’t accept my excuses that I found myself making a speech to 900 people in the banqueting hall of the Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York. I couldn’t sleep for days before and I couldn’t eat. But as I listened to the applause at the end of my thirty-minute speech, I experienced the greatest high of my professional life.

Yes, you can.

Innocence unbounds our imaginations. That’s why we should protect the innocence of children for as long as we can. But as we grow into adults, so we are steadily stripped of our innocence and our imaginations begin to form limits. As we satisfy ourselves with the comfort of routine, we expertly develop the habits of our beliefs.

And as the years go by, we allow those habits to kill us.

We all need someone in our lives who tells us that we can rather than we cannot. Someone to remind us that we are repeating the negative behaviors of our past. Someone to believe in the possibilities of our imaginations.

Even if that person is you.

I’m Living in a Box

Window BoxesIt’s no fun living in a box, but we all do.

We imprison ourselves in the box that people think we should be in, eventually believing that it is where we belong. And the box has labels on it: mother, sister, executive, homemaker. Other labels are far more destructive: loser, failure, stupid, boring. And when we try to be something that is not labeled on the box, people remind us of where we belong.

When it says on the box that you don’t make decisions, someone else runs your life. When it says on the box that you are not creative, no one listens to your ideas. When it says on the box that you are a failure, no one expects you to succeed at something new.

Others doubt what it is that we are trying to become because it’s not on the label. So, we begin to doubt ourselves—perhaps before we even start to do something new. People enjoy reminding us what the label says, “Why are you doing that? It’s not who you are.”

As we go through life, we shut the lid down tighter, we make the box smaller, we often reduce things to a single label­—and that’s where we stay until the end. Every aspect of who we are sits within the box. But outside, there is a world of ambition, hope and joy.

When I tell people that I have written a book, some people smirk. I can see from the look in their eyes that they are thinking, “You are not a writer. That’s not who you are. No one will read it.”

And for the longest time, I listened to my inner critic and that internal voice was fueled by those smirks. But if I didn’t write that book, I knew that the label on the box would read, “Wasted Life.”

So I started writing and I silenced my inner critic. I posted my writing here and on Facebook and I waited. When people first started to “Like” my Facebook page and my blog and comment on my writing, I was frankly amazed. They didn’t know what the label said on the box I was in. I was encouraged to continue and more and more people found my page and told me to keep writing.

Today, I received my 100,000th Like on my Facebook page—more Likes than many best-selling authors. And on July 1st, my book will be published.

I’m changing the label on the box. Forever.

Don’t let someone tell you what or who you are. Don’t accept that you live in a box. And don’t let others keep you in there. Make a start. Do something today that’s not on the label.

Judgment

124618482I now know something. We judge ourselves through the eyes of others. And we learn most of those judgments in our childhoods. There are negative and positive judgments. But there is one judgment that I never received. The judgment of my father.

He did send me a postcard a few months after he abandoned us. He said I was now the man of the house and I should take care of my Mum. I was seven years old when I received that postcard and I still have it with me to this day.

That’s why I take care of people. My Dad told me to do it. But there is something else. He was never there to say I was doing a good job. He wasn’t there to tell me how proud he was of all the things I was doing to help my Mum. Like that time I planted sunflower seeds in the backyard so that their golden color would remind her of the sun and she wouldn’t be so sad anymore. But I forgot to water them and they died.

Or that time I tried to hatch the eggs from the pantry into chickens so that we could have eggs every day for breakfast and never be hungry again. I put them in my cowboy hat and wrapped them in Nana’s tartan scarf, the one with the tassels. Of course, they never hatched.

I met my Dad again when I was a man but it was too late. I was committed to a life of helping people and never to be praised by the one person who told me to do it. My father.

He cried to see the man who he last saw as a small boy. I wanted to cry too but I couldn’t because he was a stranger. But he was a stranger with a familiar face. A stranger who was inside my head but could never say anything about the things I did for my Mum.

Some of the most ambitious people on this planet are driven by the need for praise from the one person who will never give it. For some, it is a person who simply cannot or will not praise them. For others, like me, it is the praise of someone who is not there to give it.

So, we judge ourselves through the eyes of others. And I will never know the judgment of my father, even though he is still here inside my head.

My father died on my twenty-third birthday, destitute and alone. Perhaps one day I will see him again. Maybe he will know by then all the ways I tried to help as a boy.

And maybe we will look together at that postcard and agree that I did what he asked. As the man of the house, I took care of my Mum.

Buried Alive

ImageIt may be an ironic thing to say, but it is only with the passing of time that we finally see how much of it we have wasted. Most of us are buried alive in a prison of our own making, believing that we do not have the courage, the strength, the ability to be something different. To live in control.  To have focus, energy, clarity and time for ourselves.

Time is more valuable than money but we rarely see each and every moment in our lives as precious. Time is a gift that is gone as soon as it arrives.

In my early twenties, I was terrified of forming lasting relationships. I was afraid that I would get hurt through rejection, abandonment or betrayal. And as I developed my first long-term relationship, I believed profoundly that I did not have the strength to survive in this world on my own.

It was the perfect trap.

As that relationship developed, it became a hideous disfigurement of what love and friendship should be. The person on the other side of that relationship worked out early on what my inner fears were, and could therefore manipulate every shared situation for their own satisfaction. It became a living nightmare of emotional abuse.

I realized that I had traded the bullying of my childhood for the bullying of my adulthood. Worse, I knew what was happening but I was powerless to escape. Or so I thought.

Of course, there may be many other circumstances that keep you in your prison. The fear of financial ruin, the fear of losing the relationships with your children and your friends. The fear of failure, of humiliation, of starting something new from the beginning. But most of those fears are entirely unfounded, often planted by the very person and situation from which we want to escape.

It took the exposure of betrayal for me to finally muster the strength to leave. And looking back from where I sit now, I am sorry that I did not break out so much sooner.

Actually, we must never see time as wasted. Time is gone and we cannot get it back. You should only look back to help you see your way forward.

You may be in a loving, perfect relationship. But you may not be fulfilled in other ways. Your ambitions, your passions, your self-realization.

Try picturing yourself as you truly want to be. How you should be. Imagine every detail of how you feel, how you are standing, how you are dressed, where you are. Think of the people around you and how they are reacting to you, the positive things they are saying about you.

Now think about why you cannot make that picture come true. Break down every wall, every bar on the window, every lock that is keeping you imprisoned. Even small steps towards the door are better than sitting in your cell. It’s time to free yourself.

Don’t let this world bury you alive.

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