The Real Enemy

After watching Randy Pausch’s “Last Lecture: Achieving Your Childhood Dreams” for the second time this semester, I started to consider what I would say if I were in that position. For several days I thought about this and I think that most of what I would say falls under a single category. Never settling.

When you stop to think about it, settling for less is the worst thing that you can ever do for yourself. You never do yourself, or anyone else, any favors by settling. The bottom line is that in every situation, good is the enemy of great. Until someone figures this out as an individual, true success in the Hero’s Journey will not come. It is impossible to reach our goals if we are willing to settle for second best, the good, or the mediocre.

As I think back on these past three or four months, the times that I have been at my lowest were the times that I accepted defeat in some way—the times that I settled. On the other end of the spectrum, when I pushed myself as far as I could and refused to accept anything less than great, I felt great.

Never settling means that you have a plan and goals. If you don’t have those, then you have already set yourself up for the mediocre. But having goals is the easy half of the battle. From there, you still have to work for it. This takes reminders, daily effort, and support. It also means stepping outside of the comfort zone and into the growth zone.

One thing that is important to note though, is that never settling does not mean meeting or accomplishing every goal or dream of yours. In Pausch’s speech, the thing that got to me the most was, “experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.” In other words, when you are going for what you want and are learning as you go, even if you don’t get that job, internship, trip, etc. you still come out on top. Never settling means always learning.

If the world at large would stop settling for less, we would all be in a much better place right now.

So if you have a dream, go for it. If you fall short, take the lessons learned and apply them. Then, keep moving forward. Live smart and be smart. Always, always, always go for the great instead of the good! This will not make your life perfect and struggle free, but it will bring you both joy and strength through the journey.

In every situation GOOD < GREAT!

Be the Change

As we go about our lives, it is easy to sit back and do your own thing. In the world that we live in, we are surrounded by struggle and pain, so it becomes easy to either numb yourself to it or to accept defeat. However, the most joy that we can receive in life is by reaching out and creating change.

When we look for personal gain and self satisfaction, we will only find disappointment. The monetary things in this world do not hold lasting value or happiness. For that, we must look outside of ourselves. Find what bothers you, something that you are passionate about, and then find a solution to it.

One of the biggest lies that we fall for is that we cannot create meaningful change. That things are too bad to even try.

In an article I read this week entitled “Irresistible Opportunities and Great Injustices,” it talks about how many of us struggle with this. It then goes on to list four ways that we may start to find a passion that moves us.

We must slow down, try being more grateful, spend time with others not as fortunate, and be sensitive to your instincts to know what to do next. As we do this, we will become tuned into things, no matter how small, that make a difference. This can be in your home, your business, in your community, or even on a global scale. It doesn’t matter. (This link leads to one of my favorite motivational videos.)

Mother Theresa once said, “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”

So go out and do what you can. Create. Build. Solve. Do what you were born to do. When you feel weak, find your strength. But never give up, for to give up is to accept defeat and lose.

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

This week I have thought a lot about the basic foundation of our country. With the elections taking place, I have been contemplating how far we have strayed from the basic, fundamental ideals and principles that governed our country.

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For my business class I read several articles on the foundation for success. A lot of this had to do with how we perceive money and power. However, the one that stuck out to me the most was founded on the Declaration of Independence. In the beginning of the article it states, “The unalienable right to the “pursuit of Happiness”* is burned into the DNA of every American. Many believe it was instrumental in creating the wealthiest and most powerful nation on the planet; others blame it for the materialistic excesses of a people who have lost their way.” From there, it goes into how our pursuit of happiness impacts each of our decisions.

The first section after the intro, it talks about learning the basic difference between happiness, satisfaction, and fulfillment. The article goes into how the different feelings affect our lives, but didn’t break it down enough for me. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, these words are defined as follows:

Happiness = A state of wellbeing and contentment; A pleasurable or satisfying experience.

Satisfaction = A happy or pleased feeling because of something that you did or something that happened to you.

Fulfillment = To succeed in achieving (something) : to make (something, such as a dream) true or real.

Each of these are worthy goals, but the way in which we focus on them and seek after them determines how likely we are to achieve these states of being. While this is a bit of a long quote, I feel it is worth mentioning here.

“Quite simply, we long for fulfillment while engaged in a futile pursuit of happiness. We are lured into a rat race, believing that money or sensual pleasures will pave a path to satisfaction and fulfillment. Ironically, we already are happy, are likely to be equally happy in the future and are even likely to be quite satis ed with life in our later years. It’s just that our human nature leads us to be so wrapped up in a self-centered quest for an unattainable “heaven on earth” that we miss the chance for a Hero’s Journey that would lead to a more meaningful life. We remain locked in a downward spiral that leaves us more self-absorbed, less joyful, less satis ed and ultimately, we die less fulfilled.”

To truly enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we must be careful about how we go about these things. Our perspectives matter and make a large impact on this! The way that we think largely impacts this! Even down to our job and the weather has a large impact on this.

If we want to successfully attain happiness, we must stop focusing on the pursuit, but enjoy the happiness that we already have, then work to keep it going. Only by doing this will the Hero’s Journey be a worthwhile journey.

Struggling to Become

Today, I was reintroduced to a fantastic video. In this short scene, the young football player is taught a valuable lesson on perseverance and goals. Often times, when we have full sight of what is ahead we sell ourselves short. Going forward blindly with the direction of others that have the full view is, in the end, far more frustrating, but has far better results.

In my life, I often feel like a blinded football player carrying 160+ pounds on my back across a seemingly never-ending field. With this in mind, I have gained a lot of what it means to make it through the struggle of becoming. This won’t come easily though, for to become is a lifelong effort. One important thing to remember though is that going through and experiencing the struggle does not give us permission to simply endure.

Life is not about enduring; it is about enduring well.

The football field is hard to cross, but if we listen to our mentors and never give up, then it will be well worth it in the end.

Set goals and make them known! If our friends/family/support system does not know what we are working towards, then how can we expect to receive help from them? We need coaches in our life to encourage us and keep us going when we lose sight of the bigger picture.

To become is not an easy task and is not for the faint of heart. But those who do continue through the struggle and truly become never regret it later on.

Leading with Execution

The “theme” of the week is leadership! I am not going to pretend to be an expert on this one, because generally I am really good at following. Being an introvert, this is where I am happy. I like to listen and assess. However, I have been working on my ability to be a leader in appropriate situations.

Among other things, one of my assigned readings for my business class was “A Message to Garcia.” The general subject matter of the article is the importance of execution. “The ability to execute is more valuable than education or talent, because it is far rarer.”

People with the drive to execute don’t stop to ask useless questions. Instead, they get to work and make a plan. If resources or information are necessary, then seek assistance, but then get right back to work.

When one masters the art of execution they will never be out of a job. This type of a person does more than the average person.

To become this, I know that I have some changes to make. I have a tendency to allow fear to take over in a lot of situations. This is probably my biggest struggle in making big life decisions. Fear. As I read the article about Garcia though, I found a really great quote.

“Turn away from the temptation to dwell on negative thoughts. Dwelling on fears only gives them more power. e best way to rid yourself of a fear is to take positive action. Courage isn’t the absence of fear but rather the ability to act in the face of it.”

This is what it takes to be a leader. The fear isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s when we allow it to take control that we begin to have problems.

Holding on to Light

The lessons that I had in all of my classes this week could not have been more perfect for me. It was one of those weeks where everything was going right…until a wall popped up out of nowhere. Suddenly, I have no idea where I need to go and what I need to do. This would be fine if I had time, but there is just over one month until I graduate. Upon graduation, I lose my student job and housing. No pressure.

Well, as I said I had classes that covered really great material that helped me out a ton. I still don’t know where I am going, but I am working on that part. In A Field Guide for the Hero’s Journey, there is a chapter on “The Giant of Despair.” Within this chapter it reads, “when you are in the valley of darkness, go on believing in light.” Just a few short sentences later, a prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp was referenced. During his captivity, he wrote the following words on a cellar wall: “I believe in the sun even when it is not shining, I believe in love even when I do not feel it, I believe in God even when He is silent.”

It amazes me the things that people push through while holding on to light and hope. In my faith, these principles are taught and I strive to live them, but it’s hard. This is something that takes work and effort, so there isn’t time to sit on the sidelines and wait for good things to come to you. Sure, failure is a possibility, but I would rather fail a thousand times than die without even trying. And that is coming from someone who’s number one fear is failure.

We need to learn to start embracing some of these failures and accept them for what they truly are: learning experiences. If you think about it, have you really failed if you learned what you needed from the situation? No matter how long the trial, no matter how far the setback, and no matter how many obstacles seem to knock you over, we cannot let fear and darkness define us.

In a talk entitled “However Long and Hard the Road” by LDS church leader Elder Jeffery R. Holland, the following was said, “As long and laborious as the effort may seem, please keep shaping and setting the stones that will make your accomplishment “a grand and imposing spectacle.” Take advantage of every opportunity to learn and grow. Dream dreams and see visions. Work toward their realization. Wait patiently when you have no other choice. Lean on your sword and rest a while, but get up and fight again.”

This is the big picture goal. Not to give in, but to fight the good fight with a dream in mind.

Passion or Die

As an English major, I have a strong love for the written and spoken language. A single word is something incredibly ambiguous. It is a combination of symbols that is given meaning through mutual agreement within a group or society. These meanings develop and change over time, which shows some of the ambiguity within the symbols.

One word that I have been thinking about this past week is passion. According to dictionary.com, this word originally meant to suffer. However, “Sense extended to sufferings of martyrs, and suffering generally, by early 13c. [the] meaning [became] ‘strong emotion, desire’ is attested from late 14c., from Late Latin use of passio to render Greek pathosReplaced Old English þolung (used in glosses to render Latin passio), literally ‘suffering,’ from þolian (v.) ‘to endure.'”

Today, this word has several different meanings. The specific definition that I want to talk about though is, “a strong or extravagant fondness, enthusiasm, or desire for anything.” 

Passion is something that keeps us moving forward towards our goals and desires. It is an emotion that we feel so strongly towards something that it becomes a part of us, like a second nature. For me, this would be reading and writing. I don’t really have to think about it, because it is a part of who I am. But get me talking about it and I won’t stop. It is these things that bring us true joy.

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Passion is also what drives us to never settle for mediocrity. It provides us with a desire to push for excellence. This to brings us toward happiness in life. It has been said by many that the pursuit of knowledge keeps us young. It is when we stop seeking after learning that we begin to dull and lose excitement. If you ask me, life is too short to risk losing excitement.

It is so important to learn early on what keeps us excited in life. Otherwise, we risk becoming those sad people that Nicholas Sparks describes. But, if we can find that early on and even get paid to do it, life will turn out to be pretty alright.