Our lives are filled with opportunities. These include the opportunity to complain, to argue, to get angry, frustrated, to cry, or to give up just as much as the opportunity to change, to hope, to grow, to laugh or to have faith. Your true nature will determine which choice you will make. When faced with adversity, it is often difficult to recognize these positive options on our own. This is when we reach out to others for support. I recently experienced the healing power of positive thoughts and friendship when my 19 month-old daughter was hospitalized and underwent surgery to treat a very bad infection. There is no doubt in my mind that the thoughts and prayers of the people in my circle of friends (as well as those from people they told that I have never even met) made a huge difference. My wife and I were completely overwhelmed and comforted by this support. We were not alone, even though we were out of town when it happened. This positivity we received flowed through us and I know it affected my daughter’s recovery. Certainly the medical attention she received was top-notch and we made the choice to bring her into the ER, which reminds me of a story:
A man was trapped in his two-story home in the aftermath of a very serious hurricane that brought heavy flooding. As the floodwater reached the top of the first story of his home, a National Guard rescue boat came around to pick him up and he responded from a second-story window by saying, “No thanks. God will deliver me from this.”
Later that day, as the floodwater covered the second-story, the rescue boat came around again. And this time, he responded from the roof of his home, “No thanks. God will deliver me from this.”
Even later that day, as the waters began to cover the roof of his home, a helicopter hovered above to take him from the rooftop. Once again he responded, “No thanks. God will deliver me from this.”
Not long after this attempt, the man was swept up by the floodwater and died. When he got to heaven, he asked God with some hostility, “What happened?! I had faith that you would deliver me from the floodwater!”
And God replied, “I sent two boats and a helicopter. What more did you want?”
God’s true nature is to help and He sometimes works through us to deliver it. If you want help, it never hurts to ask for it. If we aren’t helping each other, what are we here for anyway? This is not a dress rehearsal. You are a gifted and sentient being, and you can make a difference. You can make the life you want by choosing it.
Do you believe we are a “blank slate” to be filled in with beliefs that are built on experience and perception as John Locke professed? Or does humanity have a predetermined course based upon genetics?
Nature versus nurture is a long-held philosophical debate and its influence can be seen clearly in those reaching out toward entrepreneurship. An entrepreneur must be able to maintain a strategic view of a business and be able to guide that vision to completion through executing a plan. The tactics used to achieve that goal are largely dependent on the entrepreneur’s leadership abilities and self-awareness. Leadership and personal development theory are premised on the belief that we are in control of our thoughts and actions and must make the conscious effort to make the changes we want in our lives. They also hold that these traits can be learned and developed. To be able to lead others, we must be able to lead ourselves. As I have mentioned in earlier posts, the first step in the process of self-improvement is to figure out who you are. This internal realization will give birth to the remaining steps you must take toward using your potential.
Many philosophers and self-help experts agree that we never reach the “end” of this journey, as it is a continual process toward self-awareness and personal growth. Jean Piaget is famous for positing the theory of cognitive developmental stages in humans, and this system can account on a general scale for many of the major milestones we reach in how we think. Of course, these stages alone do not make us complete. Piaget’s stages basically stop at age 12 into adulthood, and that stage, “concrete operational”, can be developed and refined significantly as one gathers experience. In addition to experience, there are other variables such as environment, cultural biases, and emotions that influence who we are and how we think. These have been impacted greatly by some profound technological advancements.
Today our environmental and cultural influences are obviously quite different than they were even 30 years ago. As technology has developed, one of the most exciting uses of it is the Internet. And within the context of the Internet, one of the most recent development in the last several years is the proliferation of social networking sites. These sites have removed many of the physical barriers that have separated us from one another across the planet, and they allow us to connect with other like-minded people.
This ability to connect on such a massive scale is what leads me to believe strongly in the “nurture” side of the philosophical argument. I believe that the slate begins as a blank, transitions to being filled in with the conditioned behaviors we learn through childhood development, and can then be re-written where necessary in adulthood. By surrounding yourself with people that share the same values and beliefs, you can influence the change you want to see in yourself and re-write your own story.
My friend and coach, Rhonda Zwelling, gave me a great golden nugget today that I just had to share. She told me it is vital for us to clear the negative thoughts and beliefs from our lives to “create a space for positivity”. The imagery of this statement is striking to me. I have always understood the importance of positive thougt, and the detrimental effects of negativity, but I never had a reference that I could tangibly equate to changing some bad habits I have acquired through countless years of condtioning. To understand the process that we must undertake to achieve positivity, I have to go back to one of my favorite quote sources, Aristotle:
We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.
I’ve heard this quote reworded many different ways, and another that comes to mind is from Jimmy Jacobs, who was one of the greatest handball champions of all-time, and later Mike Tyson’s co-manager in the early days of Mike’s fighting career. Jacobs was asked about whether Tyson’s fight schedule, which had him in the ring every two weeks, was prudent. I’ll paraphrase his response as best as I can here:
The more you do something, the better you get at it. Even if it’s throwing rocks at a telephone pole, the guy who does it every two weeks is going to be better at it than the guy who does it once every two months.
So, the question becomes, “What do you do repeatedly?”. You can reprogram your mind and acheive excellence in any area of your life that you choose, if you do the work. And the work does not need to be (and cannot be) completed in a day. When you are ready to take the journey, step out, find a guide or a mentor (not a guru), and start being the change you want to see in yourself.
After reading Katie Freiling’s excellent, three-part blog on the interconnectedness of being, “Down the Rabbit Hole“, I was reminded of a quote from Aristotle on the importance of nurturing the soul. The teachings of Aristotle were a major influence on my life and together with the lessons of Socrates and Plato, they formed in me a dedication and committment to education. Aristotle is known to have given lessons to 3 different future kings of Greece, so he knew a little about power, and how it should be used for the greater good of society.
Here’s one of my favorite quotes from him:
I do nothing but go about persuading you all, old and young alike, not to take thought for your persons or your properties, but, and chiefly, to take care about the greatest improvement of the soul. I tell you that virtue is not given by money, but that from virtue comes money, and every other good of man, public as well as private. This is my teaching, and if this is the doctrine which corrupts the youth, I am a mischievous person.
As we continue to grow in wisdom and mastery of our skills, it is vital to our society and our culture that we “give back”. There is a mindset you must have in order to be truly successful in whatever you choose to do. That mindset is rooted in the nurturing of the soul, or the self, or whatever it is you want to call the energy in you that is your being. The universe is made up of this energy, which is interconnected throughout space and time. And without giving it back to the place from which it came, you will eventually wind up “empty”. In truth, when we give back to the universe, we are also giving back to ourselves.
To see what some great teachers are doing to give back, check out these excellent people that are helping make a difference: (Jonathan Budd, Katie Freiling, Scott Brandon Hoffman). They are examples of a society within the larger culture (a new academy promoting value and integrity through social networks).