You have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage—pleasantly, smilingly, non-apologetically, to say “no” to other things. And the way you do that is by having a bigger “yes” burning inside. — Stephen R. Covey
I recently listened to a man talk about a specific self-help type book—which? It’s irrelevant. He was not a fan of the book. He claimed that it provided no new and original ideas… it was all the same stuff he had been reading for years, from several different writers.
What this man did not expect though was the author to acknowledge this fact.
The author wrote that the ideas he was presenting were nothing new. But the reason he was recycling them was because he knows they don’t stick the first, or even the second time people are exposed to them.
You have to be constantly assaulted by an idea before it actually takes hold of you and you integrate it into your perception. A single exposure is not enough. A second is not enough. The idea must be consistent if you are going to accept it.
What a brilliant thought.
For several weeks, I’ve been thinking about chasing your dreams and what it takes to start down that path.
Similar to what that self-help author said about constant exposure, I think a required element is to continually try to move toward your goals.
It’s like learning to walk. You eventually find the courage and motivation to attempt to reach that goal, so you stand up. But then you meet your first obstacle—gravity—and you fall back down. It was a serious blow, one that a lot of people don’t want to get back up from.
But you aren’t dissuaded. After a recovery period, you stand back up.
Eventually, you take that first step… and it’s awkward. You fall down yet again. But you keep with it, and after several tries you begin to walk… you begin to move towards your goal.
I’ve self-published one book (The Divide). It was the sixth book I started writing. I still have the beginnings of the other 5. One is non-fiction, with a whole lot of research behind it. Two more fiction books have full scene outlines. One even has a first chapter written. But I kept falling. I kept running into obstacles with these books. It wasn’t until my sixth attempt that I finally found my rhythm and managed to walk across the room and meet my end goal. A completed book.
Now that I’m a bit better at walking, I’ve started working on another book. But I don’t refer to it as my seventh book… it’s my second book. Why? Because I know how to walk. I know I can finish this book. So what I’m really saying is that I’m writing my second book that will be published (even if that means self-publishing).
Keep standing up. Keep taking that first step. Be consistent in your efforts… and you will learn how to walk.
I would rather die of passion than of boredom. — Vincent Van Gogh
Intentional living is the art of making our own choices before others’ choices make us. ―Richie Norton
The route transitioned to the highway, which made for an easy climb. The hard surface at a manageable grade had me in good spirits and feeling sorry for the motorcycle owners that passed me, some of them decked out in leather while others pulled trailers. Nine miles of steady pedaling brought me to the Continental Divide. Here, the route followed a dirt road into the mountains. It was not a good road. It was washed out, bumpy, and after a mile of being jarred my legs began to burn. Why was I still climbing if I had already crested the Divide? My question was answered by the road’s first view.
I saw an immensity. Mountains extended past the horizon, each successive ridge achieving a lighter shade of blue until the snow of the furthest peaks couldn’t be distinguished from the distant pale-blue clouds; it was as if the clouds had chosen not to precipitate, but rather just laid themselves directly upon the mountain tops. The pines were a patchwork: green with growth, brown with burning heat, gray with decay, all shades present between the sun and the shade. My road laid at the top of the meadow that extended down slope and fanned out below me. The crisp blades bowed to the wildflower’s blue hue and the patches of dandelions, still yellow in their late bloom. A line of trees wandered through the meadow to mark the path of its stream that was fed by an alpine lake trapped somewhere above me. I couldn’t move. My breathing had stalled until my first, long, deep breath brought the wind and colors and emotions of the mountains into my lungs.
“Live your life to the fullest.”
How can such a simple, idealistic statement be so wrong?
We are being commanded to “live.” It seems as if we are being told which option is the most favorable… like a friend is signing to us — while the teacher is turned away — the correct answer on our multiple choice test.
We haven’t yet realized that this isn’t a multiple choice test though. There is no choice; “live” is the only option we have (suicide aside). Why emphasize something we have no choice over? I would argue this emphasis creates the illusion of choice… “Well, I could live, or I could…” Nothing! There are no other choices!
On top of this, “live” is a verb — we are the subject performing that verb. Life is the subject that verb is acting upon — but life is a condition of living. So, we’re suppose to perform a verb on a condition of the verb itself — we’re supposed to live our activities of living? Wait… what? There has to be a logical fallacy in there somewhere, right?
Now that my head’s spinning, let’s move on…
What about “fullest,” this valuation of life? How exactly do you valuate life? Money? Material possessions? The quantity of experiences? The impact had on other lives? Would a field mouse valuate it’s life at less than yours?
My point is this: We are more than just alive. We are — quite literally — the embodiment of life.
So what do we actually mean when we say “life your life to the fullest”? My interpretation: strive to meet your potential.
Find your calling, your passion that burns you from the inside. Living is realizing your potential. Living is creating. Contribute something that no one else can.
Whether you know it or not… whether you want to or not… you are creating something — you are creating your narrative, you are contributing your verse. So make sure it’s a verse you are actively writing.
I originally wrote the letter below for a friend graduating from high school, but after revisiting it several time over the past year, I’ve begun to wonder if I didn’t actually write it to myself. So here it is, after a few minor changes, just for you. Please keep a copy for yourself and revisit it as often as you like…I do.
There is so much I want to say, but frankly, there are not enough pages to hold the words I would give to you if I could. I’m not much of a gift giver, or receiver for that matter; I think that’s just because I value something different from most people. So this letter is your gift–it is an attempt to give you a taste of what I value, something I hope you’ll be able to understand and that will remain timeless.
When I sat down to write this, I thought I might write about my own experiences, about the lessons I’ve learned, what I might tell my younger self. During that reflection though, I realized how important those experiences are to me, how important they were to my growth and development as a person. So instead of writing some crappy lecture on life, I’m going to trust you to figure out that stuff on your own. Humans have the capacity to learn from the successes and failures of others, but that doesn’t mean we should give up first hand experience. We can only experience our own lives, so go out and take risks, make mistakes, do something you might consider regrettable later. Live passionately.
My friend, it truly is incredible how many people not only let fear govern their lives, but also let it downplay their passions. But you have the gumption most people do not; please don’t lose it. It will become more valuable as you pursue your passions and inevitably meet the resistance of the doubters who will try to impose their own fear on you and on the way you lead your life.
I do not believe fear should be discounted. It is an important experience in itself, but not one that should influence your choices. Cliché? Yes. Easier said than done? Absolutely. So let me get to your “gift” which is nothing more than a simple idea.
Time is a misconception. Neither past nor future actually exist. The past is just a collection of memories which you experience in the present and the future is nothing more than a present daydream hiding in the empty spaces of your consciousness. This means there is only one moment that exists, the only moment you ever live: the present moment. Keep this in mind when you think about what you want from life, because now is the only chance you will ever have to achieve those goals. Now is the only chance you have to define yourself as a child, parent, sibling; as a friend and teammate; as a student and teacher; as a partner and as a lover. Never let a chance to define yourself pass.
And fear? Well, we are creatures of habit. We tend to stick with a decision once we have made up our mind (even if it’s a bad decision). So, when faced with terror that stands between you and your passion, realize it only takes a split second’s worth of courage to decide you are going to stand up to that terror. Facing fear head on is not nearly as difficult as deciding to do so. Remember, now is the only chance you have to define yourself.
I hope this bit of philosophy isn’t too much for you, Friend, but I hope you hold onto this letter and glance back at it every now and then, if for nothing else, as validation of your potential, of which you have an abundance. So surround yourself with like-minded people, read inspirational quotes and anecdotes every chance you get, and remember that what you see is not necessarily as important as how you see it. The way in which you view the world will determine how you live your life.
Now let me close with one of my favorite quotes: “life begins where you comfort zone ends.” Always explore and remember that mistakes are inevitable, as are regrets. But it is better to regret something you did than something you did not do and when you do err, it may as well be on the side of passion. Welcome to the rest of your life.