Have an extraordinary life…

November 26, 2016

The only difference between an extraordinary life and an ordinary one is the extraordinary pleasures you find in ordinary things – Veronique Vienne.

It seems to me that the key to that quote from Veronique Vienne is the word “find”. It is an action word that assumes that one is not sitting there waiting for things, and the associated pleasures, to come to them; it says that some overt effort is being made to seek out those pleasures.smell-the-roses

The opening quote is really a variation on the old saw, “Stop and smell the roses.” It is stopping and making the effort to discover the extraordinary that is to be found in all things that brings the pleasure to life. While it is pleasurable to enjoy things like roses or great works of man or even other species of living things; I would submit that the saying might be much more meaningful and rewarding if it were phrased, “Stop and meet the people.”

handshakeIt is in meeting other people that we have our most profound experiences of the extraordinary, because we can relate to their life experiences as if they were our own. We can imagine ourselves living their stories. It is really impossible to imagine yourself as a fish or maybe even living as a lion or elephant; but, one can imagine the life of the fisherman or living in Africa alongside the animals through the stories of other humans who live those lives. One only hears stories like those and imagines those extraordinary adventures if one makes the effort to stop and meet the people.

There was an old late 50’s and early 60’s TV show called Naked City and it’s closing tag line was something like, “there are a million stories in the Naked City and this has been one of them.” There are billions of people on earth and millions within this country and every talking-2one of them has a story, some of them quite extraordinary. Each of those stories allows us to escape the capsule of personal experiences that we live within and imagine new and different experiences, many of them extraordinary indeed.

Imagine meeting a refuge family from Iraq that just moved into your town. As you talk with them about their experiences you are whisked away in your mind to Aleppo, huddled in a bomb shelter or just taking cover under some rubble, with bombs dropping all around you. After the bombing has stopped, you are amazed to see children emerge and start kicking around a ball made of wadded up paper and tape; improvising a game of soccer in the midst of this chaos. How extraordinary is that?

Perhaps you meet an immigrant from an impoverished African country and you suddenly find yourself imagining walking across vast stretches of the plains and desserts in search of food and shelter. In their stories you experience living in the squalor of a refugee camp while awaiting your turn to apply for safety in another country and then the wonder and amazement, along with the fears and uncertainties, of coming to a country where there is men huggingfood and shelter for all in need, but where you don’t understand the language or customs. What an extraordinary journey.

Maybe your travels bring you in contact with Native Americans and they share stories of their heritage and traditions. Perhaps you stop and take the time to talk with an African American who is protesting that black lives matter. You might encounter a member of the GLBTQ community and turn towards them to learn, instead of away from them to shun. It could be that just finding time to share your thoughts with a loved one – your hopes and fears, dreams and disappointments – is an extraordinary experience for you. Make the effort.

In each of these encounters there are people to meet, stories to be listened to and things tolisten be learned. So, stop and meet the people and fill your life with the extraordinary pleasures found in sharing life experiences with others. Making that effort will certainly result in expanding your thinking and may even make you a better person for having listened to, and hopefully considered, that other persons point of view.

Stop and meet the people today and you will have an extraordinary life.

What could you be if you only let yourself try?

February 4, 2016

From the Jack’s Winning Words blog comes this little saying – “If you only do what you can do, you will never be more than you are now.”  (Shifu to Po in the movie, Panda 3)  The dialog continues…Po: “I like who I am.”  Shifu: “You don’t even know who you are.”

Do you know who you are or what you could be, if you only tried something new; something that you didn’t know that you could do?

We all tend to find our own “comfort zone”; that place where we love to go and stay because it is non-threatening and, well, comfortable. Some may tend to cocoon in theirprisoner comfort zone, building walls to keep others out. The trouble is that those same walls keep you held in; you become trapped in who you are and never get to explore who you could be, if only you tried some new things. Your comfort zone becomes your personal prison.

Maybe, like Po in the movie, you think that you are happy with who you are in your safe and secure little cocoon; however, it is more likely that Shifu’s admonishment is more true – “you don’t even know who you are” or who you could be. That advice is particularly true in human relationships. You will never know how your life might change and become perhaps more rewarding unless you make the choice to interact crayonswith a great variety of people. Choosing to live life with few, if any, close friends is like sitting down with a coloring book and having only one or two crayons. It can get pretty dull pretty quick and you can lose interest. Making friends and understanding their different points of view fills you crayon box with many colors and makes the pictures that you do much more interesting.

Trying different things in life both increases your knowledge and makes you a more interesting person for others to know. Can you imagine attracting “likes” on your Facebook page if all you posted every day was, “Got up ate breakfast, went to work, ate lunch, came home, ate dinner and when to bed”? Sometimes life may begin to feel like that; but that can be changed by just trying something new each day. The easiest way to saying hellodo that is to try to meet someone new each day. Each new person that you meet adds a new crayon to your box and allows you to add a new shade or color to your life story.

It’s much easier than you may think to meet someone new each day. You can start by not ignoring those that we already see or pass by each day – the person on the elevator that always seems to be there when we are in the morning, or the person that is out walking their dog at the same time that you do or the woman down the hall from you at work whom you see in the break room all the time. Don’t ignore those people, stop and say, “Hi, I see you all the time, I’m …” You may be pleasantly surprised that they were also wondering about you, too.

As for trying new things; that can be a simple as trying a new way home. We all get in ruts, comfort zones, about things like our routes to and from work or our routines before decisionsor after work. Try something new, a different route to or from work or maybe a stop on the way to or from work that we don’t normally make. Maybe you can try something completely different on a weekend; go someplace that you’ve never been or try a new activity that you’ve never tried. You don’t have to go out and try sky diving, but maybe something as simple as going to a sports event that you’ve never been to or actually participating in a sport that you’ve never tried.

It’s amazing what getting a few new things like that under your belt can do for you. Once you get past the realization of “that didn’t kill me” and maybe all the way to “I really enjoyed that”; you will find yourself looking for the next adventure out of your little comfort zone. In fact you may find that your little cocoon just got a little bit bigger and the pictures of your life a lot more colorful for having tried something new. You have butterfly 3become more than you were then because you did something that you didn’t know that you could do. And, unless this all happens on a desert island, you will also find that you now know more people than you’ve ever known, because you put yourself out there where they were, too.

Life can be beautiful and colorful if you fill your crayon box with the colors of the others that you meet. Get out there and be more than you are now.