A Look In The Mirror

I saw Brandy this morning.

That’s right. You probably don’t know who Brandy is.

Brandy is a trainer at my gym.

A few years back I took a class she taught called Ab-Blast. Mostly, it was a grueling hour of contorting your body into all sorts of strange positions twice a week for 5 weeks in an effort to strengthen your core muscles.

I was ready to quit after the first class but I’d paid sixty dollars to be there and a small voice inside of me that sounded an awfully lot like my dad kept shouting You made a commitment!

I was the oldest person in the class. Oldest by a few miles. My partner for our warm ups was a twenty something who had enough energy and enthusiasm to light up a small town.

She told me I reminded her of her grandfather and kept telling me to take it easy.

I toughed it out until the last week. The last week was devoted to forming and holding a plank. If you aren’t aware, a plank is when you put your entire body parallel to the ground, lift up about six inches and hold it for thirty seconds. It’s supposed to strengthen your core muscles. Build character and all that stuff.

Uhm Okay.

It wasn’t working too well for me. I kept falling flat on the mat after about 3 seconds, so I devised a work around, so -to-speak.

I sorta scooted my butt up in the air a bit so I looked like an bridge rather than a plank. It took the pressure off of my core muscles and made me feel a bit more comfy.

Comfy not healthy

Brandy was walking around encouraging us and when she got to me she leaned over really close and whispered

The only person you’re cheating, John, is yourself

With that she firmly put her foot on my lower back and pushed.

Embarrassed?

Humiliated?

Sure was.

What happened early that morning long ago has never left my thoughts for very long.

Taking the short cut, cheating, phoning it in – call it what you will only provides us with a false sense of who we are or what we can do. I’ve come to discover it is one of the more selfish things I can do.

There have been times I’ve been tempted to take the short cut and when I do I remember what she told me. The only person I am cheating is me. I’m robbing myself of an opportunity to grow.

I’ll leave it there

Oh yeah. I don’t see Brandy very often anymore but when I do I make it a point to thank her. She just smiles.

Wisdom comes when we least expect it

Namaste.

The Chain That Binds

Before an elephant can be trained it has to be tamed.

A trainer fastens a chain to its ankle and anchors the chain to a stake in the ground. The elephant is conditioned to stop when the chain provides resistance. Once trained as a baby this elephant who has the power to tear the stake out of the ground, doesn’t. It’s been trained and conditioned to accept limitation and it behaves that way for the rest of its life.

Ever seen how huge and powerful an adult elephant is?

They should easliy remove the stake and ramble and amble wherever it chooses.

But it doesnt.

Somewhere deep inside the elephants mind, when the chain pulls taught it reminds it there are limits to where it can go and what it can do.

And what it can’t do.

It’s been conditioned.

Just like me and you.

Someone or a bunch of someones told us we couldn’t or shouldn’t.

So we didn’t

I am tempted to write another ten paragraphs telling you why we behave the way we do, but ya know what?

We already know.

Breaking that chain, metaphorical or real is a matter of how strongly we believe in our own power and passion. In our lives, our careers and our businesses, we decide what we’ll accept as a limitation and what we won’t let hold us back from our goals and dreams.

It’s up to us

Namaste

My Mother’s Wisdom

January 30, 2019

We’ve laughed about it over the years. The three things my mom told us every morning as we walked out the door for school.

As a kid they seemed annoying. Designed as something to inhibit the budding free spirit every adolescent craves. I guess Mark Twain’s old saying about how dumb my parents were at 14 and how smart they became in seven years when I reached 21 was accurate.

My mother was a child of the Great Depression. She was the fifth of six children who lived past infancy. Her father died when she was eleven and she left high school after her sophomore year so she could get a job with health insurance for herself, her mother and the one sibling that remained at home.

She worked in a dairy until she was twenty one when she and my father married. For the next fifteen years or so she worked in our home. During that time she developed a real passion and talent for drawing, painting, china painting, ceramic sculpture and was the best cook and baker I’d ever met.

We even had a kiln in our basement.

My father loved my mother without reservation. In other words, unequivocally. I am still in therapy because he refused to pay the additional twenty five dollars to upgrade my bike from a three-speed to a ten-speed but he paid put a 220 voltage outlet in the basement for my moms kiln.

Somewhere from those experiences in her life came the three things we heard each and every morning – Our marching orders.

Keep your eyes straight ahead. She wanted us to be safe. She wanted us to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible. If you looked to the left or to the right, you’d be tempted to pause and investigate and only God knows who or what was over there. You might get hit on the head and sold to a circus.

You have no opinion. Opinions get you in trouble. Trouble finds the teacher. The teacher call mom. My brother and I would sit on the steps towards our basement trying to figure out which one of us was about to get in trouble. (Most of the time the call was about me!)

You can have all the opinions you want. Just keep them locked tight in your head and you’ll be okay.

Keep your big mouth shut! If you know me, you know this was the suggestion (?) most difficult for me to master. Along with having lots of opinions I was usually pretty vocal in letting the world know what those opinions were.

I’m driving down the road one morning trying to find a way to complete this post. It’s hung here for a few days now and I was getting worried.

Why does Wednesday morning always get here so quickly?

It dawned on me that my mom put stuff out there the way she knew best and what her life experience had taught. I mean, how many kids do you know leave school to be the sole support of their family?

So, while I was sitting in yet another meeting that showed little chance of going anywhere meaningful I re-crafted her three rules of life into what they’d come to mean to me.

Always keep looking forward. Keep your eye on your goals and don’t let anything or anyone distract you from where you’re headed. 

Keep growing and keep learning. Keep close watch over what you believe today and always compare it to where you were and where you want to go. Keep your options and your opinions open and closely held.

Choose your counsel wisely. A friend once put it to me like this: There are 3 or 4 people I’d get out of bed for in the middle of the night and get out of jail, no questions asked. They are the people I have learned to trust. A few more who I’d help; but wonder why they called me.

Finally there is everyone else.

I’d tell them I was sorry and go back to sleep.

The moral?

There are those people we’d do anything for. Keep them close and cherish them.

My mom went to be with the Lord January 1 of this year. She, along with her wisdom will be missed.

P.S. Happy Sixty Third Birthday to my brother Joe

A Heroes Journey is published each Wednesday morning at 7:30 AM CST