Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt

“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.”

—John Muir, 18th Century Scottish-American naturalist, author, environmental philosopher

Wendy, Ella, Barry, and Weston

For most of my life, my family has spent at least one week in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. It’s a place I experienced as an infant and camper — each summer until I was eleven — when the camp was purchased by a development company.

This year our daughter Rachel and her two children — Weston and Ella — came along.

Our week included plenty of swimming, walks, playground adventures and even a snake and animal farm.

Sharing the star-filled skies, hearing crickets chirping, and the sounds and smells of fresh air after a rainstorm are some of my happiest moments.

EXERCISE:

Where and when have you traveled dirt paths in your life?

Where and how can you bring even more of the natural world into your life?

The overtrained intellect becomes a buffer from experience

“The over-trained intellect becomes a buffer from experience.”

— Mark Nepo, Author of The Book of Awakening

Image from Unsplash by Alex Block

Who do you know named Sheldon? If you are like me, this list is either small or without any members. I do, however, have a Sheldon that I’ve grown fond of over the years from the TV shows The Big Bang Theory, and more recently the spin off Young Sheldon.

What I find so endearing is how both young and older Sheldon wrestle with their over-trained intellects to dip their inexperienced toes into the waters of everyday life. Their awkward efforts and reluctant “lessons learned” ring amusingly true as we, too, look at our own uncomfortable and often clumsy missteps in life.

EXERCISE:

Where have you withdrawn a bit from the world of experience into the relative safety of intellectual pursuits? What other activities are you using to buffer yourself from living a larger and perhaps louder life?

“An expert is someone who, over many years, manages to remain confident enough to keep trying and humble enough to keep learning.”

“An expert is someone who, over many years, manages to remain confident enough to keep trying and humble enough to keep learning.”

—James Clear, Author of Atomic Habits

Image of Pablo Casals from britannica.com

When asked why he continued to practice the cello three hours a day at the age of 93, Pablo Casals answered: “I’m beginning to notice some improvement.”

My dad, who passed away last March at the age of 94, loved golf. He took up this pastime at the age of 69 and played three days a week in almost any weather. Although he was not what others would call an expert, you could find him on most days swinging a dinged-up yardstick and putting on his carpet during commercial breaks of the golf channel or a televised tournament.

EXERCISE:

Where in your personal or professional life are you still passionate about enhancing your expertise and mastery?  Where do you remain confident to keep trying and humble enough to keep learning?

Make today so awesome that yesterday is jealous

“Make today so awesome that yesterday is jealous.”

—Author Unknown

Most mornings when I work out, if I’m not chatting with one of my fitness friends, I find myself watching ESPN’s Sports Center. I particularly look forward to the show’s Top 10 Plays of the Day, to see the awesome feats of athletic excellence.

Consider your life a sport. What awesome events and experiences would make your Top Ten list for this week, this month, and this year?

If your list is not quite as awesome as you would like, you are not alone. On a day-to-day basis, we all get caught up in our routines and habits. One day seems to run into the next, with few, if any, highlights.

EXERCISE:

How can and will you step up the level of awesomeness today, and perhaps make this effort a new habit, to make all of your yesterdays jealous?

Appreciation is a wonderful thing

“Appreciation is a wonderful thing: It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.”

—Voltaire, 16th Century French Writer

Image of Voltaire

Image of Voltaire from Wikiquote

Voltaire lived to be eighty-four years old. Considering he was born in 1694, that is practically a miracle, given the poor sanitation levels and lack of healthcare available in Europe at the time.

Perhaps it was his considerable appreciation for the world around him that had him experience life with a sense of greater abundance and awe. With such a healthy and robust view of life, who wouldn’t keep reaching for one more day, and then another?

EXERCISE:

How might you experience and more fully appreciate everything and everyone around you in the coming days? How would such a mindful practice lead you to a richer, more fulfilling life?

The Most Important Things are the Hardest to Say

“The most important things are the hardest to say, because words diminish them.”

—Stephen King, American Author of horror, suspense, and science fiction

Image from Unsplash by Aaron Burden

Last August, my wife Wendy and I took an extraordinary vacation with two friends. We went to Africa, Ireland, and Iceland.

As I so often do, I took a journal to capture our daily adventures, but found that I had surprisingly little interest in detailing our many wonderful experiences through the written word.

When I did write something, it felt like a recounting or summary of the days, and had none of the emotions and deep feelings of awe we experienced. I did, however, find that taking pictures lived up to the “thousand words” motto – and we sure took a bunch!

EXERCISE:

Reflect on some of the most important things in your life and consider how you experience them beyond the limits of any words. Feel free to reply to this post with your best description of what you observe, even if it falls a bit short of the full experience.

Don’t be satisfied with stories

“Don’t be satisfied with stories, how things have gone with others. Unfold your own myth.”

—Rumi, 13th-century Persian Sunni Muslim poet

Image of a woman watching TV and eating popcorn

Image from Unsplash by Jeshoots.com

One of my daily rituals is to read the Word of the Day provided by Merriam-Webster. You can subscribe by email at Merriam-Webster.com.

The word of the day on which I wrote this post was vicarious. It pertains to today’s quote in that we gain a particular experience in our imagination through the feeling and actions of another person.

Consider all the secondhand and surrogate experiences we take in through television, movies, sporting events, social media, and of course, good old gossip.

How does ingesting vicarious stories and experiences truly contribute positively to your world, beyond the distracting, entertainment value?

EXERCISE:

How and in what ways can and will you live, moving forward, to become far more of the main character of your own life story?

Experience and enthusiasm

“Experience and enthusiasm are two fine business attributes seldom found in one individual.”

—William Feather, 19th Century American Publisher

Image of a man leaping for joy on a mountain top

Image from Unsplash by Peter Conlan

How much experience do you have in your current profession?

How enthusiastic do you feel each morning as you head off to work?

If you are among the fortunate few, you would score high on each measure.

If, however you are like many people, you often begin your work efforts or new job with considerable enthusiasm, and only minimal or modest experience.

As time moves on and experience increases, many find their excitement and enthusiasm beginning to fade, sometimes to the point of reaching a dead end.

EXERCISE:

What strategies and approaches can and will you take on to maintain or – better yet – increase your current levels of enthusiasm? How might this help you gain greater experience and mastery in your chosen profession?

We are inclined to think

“We are inclined to think that if we watch a football game or a baseball game, we have taken part in it.”

—John F. Kennedy, 35th President of the United States

Image of a crowd at a sporting event

Image from Flickr by Danny Molyneux

Are you a sports fan? How many hours a week do you watch sporting events on TV? How often do you go to games or events in person?

Without question, the energy and excitement around sporting events – football, baseball, the upcoming Olympics, even golf – can be off the charts. Many people experience the by-product bursts of adrenaline through our proximity to these spectacles.

What if you lived in Roman times and were among the spectators in the Colosseum, where the game involved life or death? Clearly you would not wish to be one of the people facing the lions!

EXERCISE:

Where in your personal or professional life are you sitting on the sidelines as a spectator, thinking that somehow, you are actually in the game?

Where is it time to suit up and get on the field to actually experience life’s contests yourself?

Your Story Could Be The Key

“Your story could be the key that unlocks some else’s prison. Don’t be afraid to share it.”

—Author Unknown

Image of an open book

How many of the following roles do you currently play in your personal or professional life?

•  Parent                      •  Teacher                  •  Coach                 •  Trainer
•  Mentor                     •  Advisor                   •  Consultant           •  Role Model
•  Spiritual Guide          • Trusted Friend          •  Subject Matter Expert

If you selected several, you must have a considerable amount of life experience to share with family, friends, and colleagues who may be experiencing various setbacks and challenges.

EXERCISE:

Although I frequently encourage a “coach approach” to facilitate the internal learning capacity of those around us, please take the wisdom of today’s quote and note when it is time to share your stories and experiences generously as a contribution to those in need.