The most powerful human freedom…

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

Viktor E. Frankl

Last year I had the incredible chance to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau.  Words cannot describe this place, nor the pervasive sense of sadness that emanates from every corner. It wasn’t a place where you could laugh or smile, it was hard enough to find the words to simply talk to another person while there.  I vividly remember walking into the “Auschwitz 2” portion of the camp (the purpose built death camp) and there was a group of high school or college age students  walking out talking and laughing and I wanted to yell at them to be quiet to have some respect and appreciation for this place and the evil that had happened there less than 75 years before.  It was just not a place for laughter.

 

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A view through the wire to the gatehouse at Auschwitz-Birkenau

I first read Viktor Frank’s book Man’s Search For Meaning over 25 years ago and have long considered it to be one of the top ten, or perhaps top five, books that I have read in my lifetime.  Until I visited Auschwitz I don’t think I truly understood the depth of meaning that was captured in these pages.  The difference that happens to a person when they have a purpose, a meaning, a reason for living is simply astounding.  If you haven’t read this book I highly encourage you to do so.  I recently picked it back up and find the words  even more powerful now than in my previous readings.  If you ever have the chance to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau it is an experience that you will never forget.  No one should ever forget what happened there…  

We have the power to choose our attitude.  We have the choice of being a victim or an owner of our own situation and how we react to it.  This is incredibly powerful.  It is what separates those with purpose from those who are simply existing through life.  It might be the “last human freedom” as Viktor states it but I believe it is the most powerful and impactful freedom we have as mankind.  God gave us this gift of choice, the freedom to choose how we react, what we choose to focus on, how we choose to respond.  It is an incredible gift and blessing, one not to be overlooked or swept away.  

I hope and pray that no one that I love will ever have to endure anything remotely close to what Viktor, and millions of others, experienced during the Holocaust.  It is important to realize that the powerful lesson in this message doesn’t apply only in the most extreme circumstances, it applies every single day.  How we frame our lives and the intentional purpose that we are seeking to fulfill, is what I pray for myself, and those that I love to find on a daily basis.  It is a choice.  One that we all have…  

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Auschwitz Guardhouse

 

 

Who is doing the measuring?

“The best way to measure how much you’ve grown isn’t by inches or the number of laps you can now run around the track, or even your grade point average — though those things are important, to be sure. It’s what you’ve done with your time, how you’ve chosen to spend your days, and whom you’ve touched this year. That, to me, is the greatest measure of success.”

R.J. Palacio

How do you measure the impact you have had on the lives of others?  It’s certainly easy to measure tangible things like those mentioned above, and I agree that they are definitely important, but what the impact of a kind word, a simple smile, a display of genuine concern for another person?  

I would bet that most people will never be aware of the positive impact that they have had my life.  I can think of many specific examples where the actions of another have had profound impact on who I am as a person today.  They weren’t trying to impact me, they were living and behaving in accordance with their deepest beliefs, choosing how they spent their time, and in so doing they touched my life.  

When I read this quote I immediately thought of a video that a good friend shared with me earlier this week.  

These “God Moments” or “Shoulder Taps” are so powerful  and so easy to overlook in today’s hyper busy and always connected and digitally measured world.  It makes me step back and think about how so much of life today is spent measuring success in “likes,” “favorites,” and “retweets.” The real measure of success is positively impacting the lives of others and ultimately it is being being measured, just not by me…

 

What your problem isn’t, and what it is…

“Let me take some pressure off. Your problem is not discipline. Your problem is not organization. Your problem is not that you have yet to stumble upon the perfect schedule. And your problem is not that the folks at home demand too much of your time. The problem is this: there’s not enough time to get everything done that you’re convinced—or others have convinced you—needs to get done.”

Andy Stanley

Sometimes I read a quote and it just hits me between the eyes.  This is one of those.  Let me start by saying that Andy Stanley is one of my absolute favorites.  He has a special gift and if you ever get a chance to hear him speak please take full advantage of it.  He is exceptional.

There’s not enough time.  Period.  End of story.  It just can’t all be done.  When you come to terms with this fact it is liberating.  Give up the feeling of failure and insufficiency and and instead embrace the feeling of control, define what is most important and say yes to only those things.  Easy to say but oh so hard to do.  

I know that the challenge for me is figuring out just how close to the edge I can walk without falling over. I need to be uncomfortably close to the limit in order to feel challenged and inspired.  I must be stretched in order to grow.  The question that I am really pondering right now is whether or not I am choosing the right things to stretch for  Not only do we need to say “no,” we need to choose the right “yes’s.”  

 

Nothing Else Matters…

“Without a deadline, baby, I wouldn’t do nothing.”

Duke Ellington

One of the reasons that I started this blog was to enhance my writing skills and to create progress towards my goal of writing a book.  What do I want that book to be about?  I have no idea yet, but I know that I want to write one.  Reading books has been one of the greatest joys and key differentiators in my life and I have a desire to create something that will serve others and perhaps bring joy or value to them.  But, without a deadline, it will never happen.  

Why not?  All the same excuses and reasons that everyone has for not doing things they say they want to do.  “I’m too busy, life gets in the way, I don’t have time, it isn’t a priority, etc.”    (This is fodder for a separate post but what is the difference between a reason and an excuse?  An action plan with a deadline…)  

By starting this blog I now have a daily deadline to write something.  Progress towards my goal will only happen when I impose a deadline and hold myself accountable for meeting it. 

By the way, the framework of problem solving that I often use is the classic, “Why, How, What, Who, When.”

  • Why – Why do I want to do it?
  • How – How am I going to get it done?
  • What – What am I going to do?
  • Who – Who’s help do I need or Who will I impact?
  • When – When will I have it done.  

Without when, nothing else matters.  It’s all just noise and wishful thinking.  

Deadlines are worthless without accountability.  Change is a choice.  Growth is a choice.  Starting a new habit is a choice.  Stopping a bad habit or behavior is a choice.  The most critical component to these choices?  Establishing the when, and holding yourself accountable to meeting that deadline.  

“Without a deadline, baby, I wouldn’t do nothing.”  This might be one of the most brutally self-aware statements I’ve ever read.  Just remember, without a deadline, nothing else matters…    

What’s your deadline to do something different and achieve one of your goals? 

 

 

Start. Stop. Continue.

“The whole point of getting things done is knowing what to leave undone.”

Oswald Chambers

This might be the biggest challenge a leader faces. For that matter it might be the biggest challenge any person faces.  Saying “yes” to something means that you are saying “no” to something else.  

Do you have a crystal clear understanding of your priorities?  I’d like to think that I do, but honestly I struggle at times to say “no.” There is always more than can be done than should be done. For me it helps to break the question into two parts.  

  1. Should I do this?  Does it align with my priorities and goals?
  2. If yes, then can I do it?  If I say yes will I be able to complete it at an acceptable level without impacting my previous commitments?  

Sounds easy right.  If only that were the case.  

Less is more…

“A wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.”

Herbert Simon

This is our society today isn’t it?  There is so much information available that we can only consume it in 140 character soundbites.  Or so much information available that we never want to make a decision because we can always find “just a bit more information” to ensure our decision is the right one.  What if we had less information, but more focus?  Is the old adage that “less is more” more appropriate now than ever before?  

I have been spending a ton of time lately reading everything I can get my hands on regarding focus and intentionality. I am actively seeking out secret tips and special tactics to be more productive with my time. I found myself reflecting back to the “good old days” when there wasn’t a constant barrage of information coming at us 24/7.  But then I picked up my copy of “The Effective Executive” by Peter Drucker (a gift from a very wise friend) and challenges back then were the same challenges we face today.  (By the way, that book was written 50 years ago)  How do you make the best and biggest impact with the time that you have?  As much as we’d (me especially) like to make it a modern problem, it isn’t.  I’d say it’s a human problem.  Why do you think that is?

One step forward…

“You will either step forward into growth or you will step back into safety.”

Abraham Maslow

Growth is uncomfortable if you are stretching yourself.  It’s fun right?!  It’s exciting and it’s scary.  But in a good scary kind of way.  The kind of scary that makes your heart beat fast and your palms sweat.  Like the first day you drove a car by yourself.  Or the first time you had the courage to pick up the phone and call your crush and ask her out.  But what if we never did?  What if we were always safe? Safety scares me more than growth.  Because “safe” means stagnant, or complacent or perhaps death. I mean, what if we still thought the world was flat?  That would have been the “safe” choice back in the day…

What do you think?

 

Plan your work, work your plan…

“It’s not what we do once in a while that shapes our lives, but what we do consistently.”

Tony Robbins

I saw this posted on the wall at the gym today and had to take a picture.  What a great reminder.  Though I am pretty sure I need it on the mirror in my bathroom…

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Know your goals, break them into chunks, start today…  I personally use the Full Focus Planner from Michael Hyatt and the Productive App on the iPhone. Love them both.  There is just something satisfying about having a plan and working it.

 

Our choices define us…

“This is as true in everyday life as it is in battle: we are given one life and the decision is ours whether to wait for circumstances to make up our mind, or whether to act, and in acting, to live.”

Omar Bradley

I loved this quote this morning.  It puts a very fine point on the importance of daily choices, of making decisions that matter to you, your life, your goals, your priorities.  We are all going to die.  Yes, that is harsh to think about, but it is the truth.  We all have one life to live.  One life to make a difference and have an impact on this world and the lives of others.  I have long believed that there are two types of people in this world.  Those that happen to the world and those that the world happens to…

This quote resonates for me because it speaks to how much we as humans lets our circumstances define us, to define our decisions on action, as opposed to taking an active step in the outcome we want to create.  I’ve recently read and put into practice a phenomenal book by Michael Hyatt and Daniel Harkavy on this topic.  The books title is “Living Forward” and if you haven’t read it then I highly recommend it.  The life we live is either accidental or intentional, either way it is your choice…

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