Together.

We are better together, we do better together, we work better together. I don’t know how else to say it, we need to do a better job at being united together to help each other to become better people. It’s something we all see every day the stories designed to divide and weaken us.

We see this no matter where we turn, the idea that we need to look down on others and unite against them because we do not see the world as others see it. That because some believe in one truth and we believe in another that there isn’t a common ground that we share. Are there bad people out there? Yes, many but overall we can agree that people are good and can surprise us if we give them the chance.

What are we? We are the human race, all struggling everyday with challenges that involve money, relationships, mental and physical health, food, borders, education, and work. We all breathe our way through another day and hope that our days can be happy, each one hopefully better than the last.

Together we can contribute to a better world for everyone if we are a little nicer, at little more patient, a little better to listen, and a little better at understanding each other. Is this the easy road to take? Once again no, but this is the best road to being more people together.

The Unknown.

What do you feel when you think of the unknown?

Are you fearful? Needing to have a plan of what is going to happen next? Do you feel hopeful that everything will play out without any real problems? Do you even worry about it? If you were to ask ten people about their thoughts on the unknown everyone’s answers would vary, and you would find some who feel similar to you but others who’s take on the unknown are vastly different than yours.

When thinking about the unknown we need to accept that failure as an option for us. If we are able to accept the unknown we need to be prepared to fail at least once as we go forward. Accepting this frees us from the fear of failure as we start out new ventures with old or new friends.  Don’t be afraid to fail, know that you probably will.

As your wading through life allow the unknown to enrich your experiences every day. We never know what is coming our way every hour is different and we never know what might happen to us. It’s best to accept that enjoying life and its unknowns will be the happiest route to go. I’ve been on both sides of the fence with accepting and fearing the unknown, I can confidently recommend that you embrace the unknown and let it enrich all that you do.

When I first left the USA in 2007 I traveled to Peru and soaked up every moment of this experience. I jumped at the opportunity to try new foods, babble in poorly conjugated Spanish, and interact with all the locals I could. My time in Peru was a life changer that put me on common ground with the world, and a desire to see everyone as equals. I was fearless in a new place and recognized that the unknown was creating an unforgettable experience.

I’ve used the same mentality with every new culture and country I’ve visited since. Have I always been accepting of a new culture and the unknowns that come with it? No, but the more I jump in and immerse myself into the local culture the better my experience is and the more genuine the conversations become with the locals.

Having apprehension about the unknown is okay, just don’t let it spoil a good time nor hold you back from living a full life of genuine happiness.

Why.

What is your why? Why do you do things that way you do them? Why are you willing to face adversity to reach your desired destination in life. These are thoughts I’ve had before when I hear about someone with a big dream that seems to be a bit more than they probably can bite, chew, and swallow. Meaning I’m not sure why they really are doing things the way they are doing, I’m probably not alone in wondering about these things.

As a youth in central Utah, I used to sell corn on the side of the road next to the high school every fall for a few summers. My Father, Grandfather, and I would go pick the corn then we’d park the truck on the side of the street and I’d sit there till the sun went down or I’d sold all my corn for the day. I learned a few interpersonal skills with people and how to sell products to folks which is a benefit to me to this day. One of the most memorable experiences for me was trying to sell a bag of corn to a man carrying a giant cross across the USA who stopped through our little town on his way to California.

I asked him about his cross and why it had a wheel on the bottom. Man, “It’s designed to make the walk easier as I carry it.” Me, “Why are you carrying that thing? Don’t you think it would be faster to leave it behind?” Man, “Yes, it would be easier, but I want to show everyone that I can carry this heavy cross from New York to California.”  Me, “Ummm, okay, but why?” Man, “I told myself if I could do this, I could do anything.” Eight or Nine year old me didn’t get it then but have never forgotten it to this day. This man had a purpose to walk across America with a heavy wooden object, and I hope it helped him see he could do anything. I did, however, sell him some corn to fuel his trek.

To this day I see and hear about people who are setting out for challenging journeys as adventurers, entrepreneurs, athletes, and scholars. I can’t always relate to nor understand their vision for choosing the challenges they have decided to claim. I can confirm that choosing a challenge that people don’t understand can be a catalyst to the greatest adventures of one’s life.

Share your why with others, and enlighten them on your vision. If they doubt you or don’t understand that is okay. They might catch a vision similar to yours one day, and take off on their own journey fueled by nothing more than why.

Speak up.

Speaking up can be a challenge no matter who you are in a uncomfortable situation. The ability to say what you need to when it’s needed to be said is a tactful gift that few have. A few thoughts on sharing the hard truth.

First off, use your words wisely. Say what needs to be said, don’t beat around the bush when delivering the message but be tactful with the way you say it. People may not appreciate you speaking up and saying what needs to be said at first but will respect you for having the gumption to say it.

Second, keep your message simple and filled with the truth. Allowing the discussion to be built around fluff and misinformation can deteriorate the trust you share with the person you are conversing with. Keep the message as lengthy as it needs to be but not too long. Use clear words that communicate the message effectively without question, use strong statements that effectively relay your message without belittling the person you are talking to

Thirdly, be mindful not to back your communication partner into a corner. When giving a hard message it’s essential to deliver a clean message with the intent to help not harm the other person. Giving others clear options will be a safe bet to avoid emotional defense and rebuttal from another. Although you clearly know where you want or need the conversation to go have options for another than can effectively lead them through the desert to the oasis that is your desired resolution.

Is this an easy skill to learn? Not really. Is it a good way to become a better communicator? Yes, say it as it needs to be said, use your words wisely, share the simple truth of your message, and keep the trail ahead open with options that lead your communication partner to a clear understanding of your desired outcome. You’ll fumble a few times until you get the hang of delivering the hard message, but once the message is delivered and you can breathe a sigh of relief it’ll be easier to relay the next time around.

React.

It’s been said that life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you react to it. I believe that there are times we react extremely well to what happens and others aren’t shining moments we look back on. Much of our days are spent reacting to what is happening around us, we are constantly making reactive decisions that steer us onward to our destination.

So many times unexpected things can happen to us, someone can cut us off in traffic, we can be blamed for something we didn’t do, or something can treat us terribly leaving us hurt and angry. These moments bring on emotions that are often hard to control. Reacting when we are angry, hurt, or scared often leads to actions taken now that we could regret later on. Our spontaneous reactions are rarely our proudest moments.

The key to reacting is to pause for a moment, or a few minutes and think. What happens when you react poorly? What happens when you don’t accept the responsibility for what you will do, are doing, or have done? It’s surely easy to react poorly then blame circumstance for our poor behavior. I have been there, I know how easy it is to point the finger of blame towards another’s behavior, forgetting the three fingers pointing back at me and my reaction.

Life isn’t meant to be easy, life is meant to be constant movement from one experience to another. Moments that can be heavy with sadness or filled with blissful happiness. How we look at what we are handed directly relates to how we view the world around us and the situations we put ourselves in.

Look at Derrick Rose, a basketball player who started his professional career on top of the game. He was known for his abilities and he was headed toward greatness, then it all crashed. Years of unprecedented injuries warped his career and reshaped what others thought of him as a player. He was traded, traded again, waived, then resigned to a less prestigious team where many thought he would spend his final few years as a professional warming a seat on the bench at best. He remained positive through the years, waited patiently, and this season has had the highest scoring game of his career against the team that waived him just a year before.

He has proven to us that sometimes the way we react to unexpected detours can lead us to where we need to be. We may stumble, we may get hurt along the way, we may even be derailed completely. However, if we are willing to stay the course toward what we want most we’ll make it where we are needed to be. Derrick Rose reacted to what he was handed and still stands among the best players in the NBA even after so many struggles.

In the end, take a moment before you react. Keep your end goal in mind and move towards it even when the unexpected derails you for a short time. You’ll get there just think before you react.  

Limit.

There I was climbing with people I barely knew, climbing a route I’d never researched, testing moves I had never used, and loving every moment of the struggle or wiggle as I climbed to the top of the route. I was afraid to fall, afraid to embarrass myself in front of strangers and climbing gurus. Yet when I fell no one laughed, no one shouted you can’t do it. I only heard encouragement from my new friends and alternate moves that I might be able to try using to move a little farther up the route.

After what seemed like an hour or so I had wiggled, pulled, and pushed my way to the top of the route that earlier had me second guessing my willpower and abilities. I was grateful for that moment when I reached the top to look down at my friends and celebrate that moment with them when I had climbed the toughest climb of my young passion for climbing.

Many of us have heard the phrase “you can’t do that.” or “you won’t make it.” by others who doubt our skills, abilities, and willpower. (Perhaps by others who doubt themselves because they tried, failed, and gave up instead of finding a way to complete the challenge in their own way.) They look at us and set limitations for us that we haven’t thought to set for ourselves. These assumptions can cripple goals, deflate confidence, or fuel the desire to accomplish lofty goals even more. I’ve been affected by both mindsets personally,  there are countless people who have limited me based off my looks, not my abilities.

These moments when we feel limited or helpless are heavy times. They can defeat us before we even begin our journeys, these moments are pivoting moments that can define you. These moments when the fight is the hardest, you have the option to allow those who limit you to win, to tell you what you can and can’t do, resulting in a type of learned helplessness.

An attitude of I can’t is a quicker destroyer of lives than an attitude of instead of doing it your way and the way you might think I should do it let me show you how I’m doing it. Some might say this behavior and attitude are dangerous because what if you fail and prove those who limited you right? I say that failure is a guaranteed step between you and the outcome you desire. You alone set your limits, how far you decide to go is entirely up to you. Just do your best, stretch a little as you go, and indeed you’ll step outside of the limits they set for you and reap the reward of true freedom in your own comfort zone.

Perspective.

Perspective controls everything in life, it guides us along the world and helps us as we experience what is happening all around us. Where would we be without seeing the good in life? Where would we be without seeing the bad? The way we view the world is enabling or hindering all depending on where you stand and the way that you view things.

Just today I was out doing some shopping at a local store, as per usual there were others roaming the store seeking out needs and wants. There were a mother and child wandering the same aisles as and I was speaking a mix of Spanglish to one another as they walked around. I speak very little Spanish, but I stopped and looked at an item and the child came up to me and exclaimed, “¿Un brazo?”. I smiled and replied si, un brazo, and quickly saw a concerned mother kneel next to her child and began talking.

She then looked at me then asked if she could explain to her child why I was missing an arm. She then proceeded to talk with her child for about a minute or so, stood up, smiled and turned away. The child looked up at me and smiled then stated, “Some of the best people in the world are missing parts.”, then turned and followed their mother. For me, that was a very cool experience, as 99 percent of the time if a child mentions my missing arm I hear an embarrassed hiss and see parents turning their child away often scolding them as they go.

Thinking about that often makes me sad that there are parents who are afraid to let their children be children and ask questions. Children are born with a knack of being able to point out the obvious and verbalize their concern with or gap in what they know about something. If a child is reprimanded for being curious about someone or something different won’t it close off their curiosity of said difference? Will it become something they begin to shy away from? Will it change their perception of those who are different than they are?

I appreciated that mother and child at the store today because they didn’t shy away from an opportunity to teach/learn but they embraced the differences each of us has and learned that differences are ok. They also reminded me that, “Some of the best people in the world are missing parts.”.