Grab life by the tail

March 26, 2015

“The person who grabs the cat by the tail and holds the cat upside down for twenty seconds gets a hundred times more information about that experience than one who may have read about it in a book.” –  (Mark Twain) – as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

If Mark Twain were alive today he might have said that on his Facebook page and then catthe SPCA would be all over him for espousing animal cruelty. What he was saying, of course, is that really experiencing life is much more interesting and educational than just reading about it. Twain might likely also hate Facebook, Twitter and most of the rest of what passes for living today. Twain would likely be shouting at those that he found with heads down and eyes focused upon their tiny screens – Grab life by the tail!

There are always distractions that tend to keep us from experiencing life. Sometimes there are also fears or concerns that cause us to avoid life, or at least those things in life that scare us. Sometimes you just have to suck it up and go for it. I enjoy the TV show The Voice, not only because it is good entertainment, but because it shows us little vignettes of people doing just that – overcoming their fears and getting up and performing before audiences that most have never been in front of before. That is usually one of the big things that the coaches must work on with the performers. In fact, most are not performers; they’re just people who sing very well. Most have some experience singing in small venues – churches or local bars – but few have any real stage experience before appearing on this show. On The Voice they get their chance to grab life by the tail.

So, what are you doing with your life? Are you taking every opportunity to share it with those that you love, or do you sacrifice that for what you think is necessary to get aheadfirst bicycle ride and earn more money? Are you there rooting for your kids at the games and plays and concerts, or apologizing later for having missed another important day in their lives? Are you taking the time for a hug and a kiss with your significant other each day or coming home late, after the lights are all out and wishing that someone had stayed up to see if you made it home? Are you letting your life partner know what you need and want from them or just going to bed angry that they can’t figure it out?  Maybe you are letting life slip away, instead you should  grab life by the tail.

Notice, if you will, that that the little phrase, “grab life by the tail” is a very active phrase. kid jumping in poolIt is not passive, It does not say “watch life go bye.” It does not advise you to, “allow life to happen.” Twain was not a passive fellow. He lived life with gusto and his advice to others is to do the same. The picture that comes to mind when one grabs a cat by the tail and lifts it in the air is not one of a passive cat, which just hangs there and accepts the situation.  Cat’s aren’t like that and one can imagine a very active (perhaps even frantic) scene, in which there are many experiences to be gained and stories to be told in later years. Life needs to be like that. You need to be making stories today that you’ll enjoy retelling for years. Grab life by the tail.

Does this mean that you should do stupid things like you might see on “reality” TV shows? No! It means not avoiding doing things or trying things because you are stopped by Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD). Living a timid life that is constrained by FUD is life in a self-imposed prison. So, rather than allowing life to happen around you, get out and make life happen in front of you. Start today. Grab life by the tail!

What’s the “Next Play” in your life?

February 20, 2015

A recent post on the Jack’s Wining Words blog had this – “Next play!”  (Mike Krzyzewski)  A recent article in the Detroit Free Press told of how Duke basketball coach “K” has a ritual of saying to his team after every play (good or bad), “Next play!”  No matter what’s happened, focus on the task at hand. 

We all tend to spend too much time on regrets about the past or worrying about the future when we really need to be more in the moment and focused upon the “Next Play.” Life is not like a chess game where you can plan several moves ahead; it is much basketball playerstoo dynamic and has too many variables for that. Rather it is more like that basketball game with you as the point guard. You go brig the ball down trhte court for the next play and try to quickly assess what you are facing (what the defense is doing ) and make adjustments. You don’t have all day to make your decisions (the shot clock is running) and sometimes they are wrong, just like in life; so you keep adjusting and trying again. Sometimes even a well-executed play doesn’t work and sometimes life throws a foul on you.

But, before we get too far into the weeds with sports metaphors for life, let’s backtrack to the main thought of today’s little saying and that is to stay focused in the moment and what is right ahead in life. While we would all like to think that we can multi-task, in fact all we usually end up doing is multiple things badly, instead of any one of them well. Letting one’s mind wander off to the past or focus too much out into the future means taking it off of the tasks at hand and life is far too complex to be doing mental texting to yourself while trying to live (drive).

eye on worldFocusing upon the present will allow you to see the whole court (back to the basketball analogy). What are the decisions that must be made? What are the options that are available to you and what are the possible outcomes of each option. That’s actually the approach that the IBMers took with the Watson computer that they built to play chess. They programmed Watson to look fairly far out at the possible moves and countermoves at any point in the game. We usually don’t need to go as deep into the possible future in real life, but we do need to recognize that every decision and action has a consequence. Hopefully we are guided by a good moral compass and strong common sense.

The Next Play in a game coached by Mike Krzyzewski is seldom something crazy or planningoff-the-wall, but it is one that he makes sure his whole team understands and is ready to execute. If you don’t understand how to execute your Next Play, call a mental time out (as coach K would call a real one in the game) and think it out. Does it make sense to you? Are you capable of executing that Next Play? If the answers are “no” then step back and come up with a different play.

What’s the Next Play in your life? Are you ready for it? Are you focused upon it?

Occasionally visit, but don’t live in the past…

February 24, 2014

I find myself occasionally using the phrase “in a prior life” in conjunction with explaining something in my past, such as my long career in the IT products and services business prior to getting into real estate (my current life). While it is just a little affectation (a throw away phrase, if you will), it does sum up nicely the fact that our past may be thought of almost like prior lives. Not of course in any Shirley McClain reincarnation way. Read more on that and her autobiography  here.

The real point is that all of that is in the past and we are and should focus upon living in the present and perhaps planning for the future. The past is a place that you might occasionally visit, especially if there are many pleasant memories that bring comfort when remembered; however, you can’t and shouldn’t live in the past. If you find yourself constantly revisiting the coulda, wouldda, shoulda’s of your life and beating yourself up over choices that you made back then, it’s time to shut those doors and move on.

thinking of the pastWe all have past lives, some with many more chapters than others. Some of those chapters were exciting and fun and some were perhaps frightening to remember.  Hopefully all of those chapters contributed something to the person that you are today and to the knowledge base upon which you now make decisions in your life.

There are memories of things that you’d love to do again, feelings that you enjoyed having and would like to have again; and there are the things that are filed away under the heading – NEVER again. Both sets of memories contributed to who you are now, but they do not define who you are now. They were stops along the journey to today. You did not get off at those stops, so don’t go back and spend time sitting in those stations.

One key to putting the past in its proper place in your life is planning – planning for today and for the future. The more that you focus upon what is just ahead and maybe just over the next hill, the less time that you have to wander back into the past. Your subconscious mind will sort out the things that you need to remember (good and bad) in order to make decisions about today and tomorrow without you spending time thinking about the past.

Once you start planning for upcoming events, your subconscious mind will move into viewing futureanticipating them and you’ll find that your conscious mind will tend to focus on that – what you can do to make this upcoming event the best that it can be. Planning and anticipation will lead to actions and pretty soon you’ll find yourself lost not in the past but in the future and that’s a much better place to be than trapped in the past.

So, if you must let your mind wander, point it to the future and not back into some dungeon from the past. Live in the present and plan for a better future – at least you can still do something about that. Have a great day today and plan for a great day tomorrow.