Posted by: Brad Stanford | June 10, 2017

A Great Bike Ride For A Great Cause

My wife is the Administrator of an organization called Kids Across Cultures (www.kidsacrosscultures.org/). This is what they do:

Our Purpose: Help That Enables

We don’t want to help change circumstances; we want to help change lives. KAC has no desire to provide services that breed dependence, or offer a quick fix. Aiding children through opportunities for good health, education, and economic development, is viewed as an investment in their future ability to help themselves and others.

One of the biggest ways they are helping right now is to provide water filters for people who desperately need them. In support of that mission, they have an annual bike ride through Erath county called Tour De Agua (rideforthechange.org). That bike ride happened today, and it was amazing!

We had 250 riders that participated in this incredible opportunity to help others simply by enjoying what they already do while being pampered by the KAC staff.

Not only was the ride incredible, but Dublin Bottling works released new flavors today, including Red Cola, Grapefruit soda, and an out-of-the-park little number called Green Apple:

Not only is the soda flat-out amazing, but Old Doc’s soda shop had the brilliant idea to do caramel-green apple sundaes and floats. HO. LEE. COW. That right there is worth a trip to Dublin, to taste something you won’t taste anywhere else!

Go visit http://www.kidsacrosscultures.org/ , then make arrangements to visit Old Doc’s Soda Shop this summer to get an old-fashioned taste of summer delivered straight to your taste buds.

You can thank me when you get here.

Posted by: Brad Stanford | June 8, 2017

What I’m Listening To

James Young – Feel Something

Posted by: Brad Stanford | June 3, 2017

Being A Good Person

Humans spend a lot of time on making themselves feel good. I’m not talking about gratuitous pleasure, although that’s part of it. I mean we try to stay away from pain. Be it a basic pain like hunger pains, or a more sophisticated pain like projecting an image, the majority of our time is spent on pain management.

Being a good* person – whatever that means to you – is definitely pain management. We feel bad if we’re not the person we wish to be, and we feel good when we are that imaginary person. The problem is other layers of pain management can get crossways with the goal of being a good person. One of the biggest layers is self honesty.

Calling yourself out on your own junk seems at first to take a lot of courage all the time. But that’s not true. It only takes a lot of courage the first time. The rest of the time, it hurts too much to be dishonest with yourself than living knowing that you’re lying to yourself. Once you reach that point, it’s actually – well – natural.

You see, being a good person is not about making perfect choices all the time. It’s about living with the big picture as the backdrop to your life. It’s one thing to help someone because you want to be a good person. It’s a completely different thing to help them because you are a good person.

Anything you really are is essentially a decision that’s been made in advance, either by your DNA or by an actual choice made in anticipation of life. In general, DNA tends to make us self-absorbed. We are driven by our own survival, our own hunger, our own desires. So that natural decision has been made. You will, more than likely, be naturally selfish.

So then it follows that being a good person – someone who is self-controlled, kind, loving, giving, etc – is a decision. but it’s not a decision to do good things. Any bad person can do good things. The doing is not the distinguishing factor. Who you really are, is.

The decision then, is not asking moment by moment, “What’s the right answer in this case?” The decision is, “What principles will I live by that will not be changed by circumstances?” These are principles without conditions attached.

Look at these two statements:

“I will be kind if you’re kind to me.”

“I will be kind.”

The first statement has a condition on it. The second does not. The first statement is said by someone trying to be good. The second is said by someone who actually is good.

Unconditional principles are the mark of someone who is something. Everyone else is projecting something. The disconnect for most is that they don’t have enough self-awareness to alert themselves to the discrepancy.

The good news is that anyone who wants to be something different than they are can be. But it takes the courage to judge oneself with the measure used to judge others. And for most, it’s simply less painful to not go there.

Don’t be most people.

 

*For some these days, the words “good” and “bad” are troublesome because of a lack of any one person’s authority to universally define those terms. I find this to be troublesome in itself. In short, if you don’t know what “good” means, then by default the opportunity to be a good person is not available to you. Feel free skip to the next article.

Posted by: Brad Stanford | May 5, 2017

Diversity Is Not What You Think

I’m a sucker for shows about bands from my high-school years, like VH1 Behind The Music, because I’m wired to love truth. While growing up, it was easy to look at any in-the-spotlight person or organization and think that they were examples of “making it big”. What “making it big” really meant was “having no problems”. Naturally, we aspire to have no problems, so we’re interested in people who seem to have pulled it off.

But the behind-the-scenes shows reveal all the problems that a given band or performer was going through, even while their marketing said otherwise. If there were problems, we were told, they were elite-level difficulties that arise when you have plenty of money, fame, and power. The truth, as I have mentioned before, would later be songified by The Notorious B.I.G: “Mo Money, Mo Problems”.

The 80s in America convinced an entire generation of the New American Dream. The Old American Dream was that if you worked hard, you could have a nice life with a retirement package. The New (or Morphed) American Dream was that if you hit it big – be it rock star or CEO – you could live the retirement life all the time, even while working. And if you couldn’t hit it big, you would at least attain some sort if independent lifestyle with the associated less problems/more freedom that supposedly comes with financial stability.

It was a good idea at the time. If you had projected the American path in the 80s based on business history and technology growth, it seemed reasonable that we were poised for a great lifestyle breakthrough. My grandparents had it easier than my great-grandparents. My parents had it easier than my grandparents. It seemed we were going to continue in that direction. But that’s not how it works. What goes up must come down.

It is true that technology continued its upward trend. And while slowing a bit, technological advances are still amazing me every day. I imagine this is how it felt when the industrial revolution hit America, bringing factories, new machines, airplanes, radios, and cars. Every once-in-awhile when looking at something on my phone with my kids, I’ll stop and tell them, “Do you realize that we’re watching a video clip on a device in my hand like it’s Star Trek or something? Do you realize that I’m holding more computing power in my hand than the entire computing power of all the 60s space missions combined? Isn’t that wild?” And it really is.

But something has happened to us along the way. The original American Dream included that bit about hard work. I’ve noticed that part of the “dream” is either no longer included, or over-included. People are either looking for a way not to work, or think that if they can get just one more hour of work in, that the extra will help them climb out of whatever situation they find themselves in.

What happened to us is that we’ve lost self-awareness in a really dangerous way.

A person in danger usually yells something like, “Help me!”, because they understand the position they’re in. They don’t deny it, they own it. The opposite is true for someone trying to be something that they’re not. They deny everything wrong with themselves, and expect everything to work out anyway.

Here’s how this works: when I’m at fault, and I’m honest about it, the conversation immediately changes from “How did that happen?” to “What do we do next?”. Owning one’s errors, faults, and quirks keeps things moving along smoothly. Denial locks us into fault-finding and justice-seeking. That has ended poorly in general.

Humility allows us to own our faults (or annoying uniquenesses, to coin a phrase), so we can prevent conflict. Any time you see conflict, there is a lack of self-awareness on someone’s part.

When I own my talkativeness, I don’t get offended when someone tells me I talk too much. I can agree with them, because I know that my acceptable word count is different – diverse – than others.

But if I don’t own who I am and control it, I have to find a way to make everyone else accept it.

Let that sink in.

When you don’t own who you are, you’re forced to defend yourself because your identity is wrapped up in an idea about yourself, and not in truth. You’re having to protect that image you have of yourself, lest someone pop that bubble with truth. So you’ll deflect both fault and truth to maintain a false narrative about yourself.

Being true to ourselves is appreciating diversity at the most fundamental level. This does not mean being immune to criticism because “That’s just who I am…deal with it!” True appreciation of diversity is when you understand that you’re not normal. Understanding that your reality is yours alone gives you the humility to adjust yourself the sake of others where possible.

To you, I may talk too much. To me, you talk too little. Isn’t that diverse? Who’s right – you or me? Or does it matter who’s right? If I understand that, in general, I tend to use more words than most people, then I have the freedom to think of others needs before my own and throttle myself as necessary. (I’m not great at that – just sayin’.)

If you can’t appreciate your own deviation from whatever “normal” you aspire (or imagine yourself) to be, you really don’t appreciate diversity. Making everyone else conform to your definitions of how life should run is not diversity. Crying “Foul!” when your feelings get hurt is not diversity. Safe spaces are not about safety but protecting lies, and killing diversity. But we “defend” diversity loudly, to the point of making everyone conform to our definition of it.Like an 80s band, we have a great image, but little else.

Diversity is normal. Trying to get everyone on the diversity bandwagon is similar to trying to get everyone to rally around gravity. What we need to pursue is humility about our perceived abnormalities. Owning our strengths, quirks, and faults exposes the true problems to be solved, and let’s us get on with it. Anything else is simply defending a lie that helps us sleep at night.You can keep doing what you’ve been doing, and keep getting what you’ve been getting. Or, you can do the hard work of being self-aware and humble. A simple, but difficult, choice.

Posted by: Brad Stanford | April 16, 2017

What Would Happen If You Got What You Wanted?

Whenever I ask a random person what they need, the answer is pretty universal: “More money! They say this because they have confused a tool with a solution. Most people do this with their dreams:

“If I could only ________ then I wouldn’t have to worry about ________.”

Note that the problem is worry, not whatever is in blank number two. This would be an actual solution: “If I could only stop giving worry permission to enslave me, then I wouldn’t have to worry about anything.” That’s a solution that would actually end worry, rather than increasing it like more money tends to do.

The most notorious dream along these lines is winning the lottery. “If I could just win the lottery, then…”

But a different notorious – The Notorious B.I.G – famously rapped about Mo Money, Mo Problems in 1997: “The mo money we come across the mo problems we see.” Or, take Jim Carrey who said, “I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.” King Solomon wrote an entire book called “Ecclesiastes” that described how when he denied himself no pleasure on the earth, he found it was all chasing after the wind, a waste of time.

Listen to Joe Elliott, lead singer of Def Leppard, who said he got in a band specifically to get rich and have all the women he wanted: “It got really boring after a while. It was just too easy. Women throwing themselves at you every night.” I know, I know – a devastating reality check for aspiring band members  and, well…men…everywhere.

What about Will Smith?: “We spend money that we do not have, on things we do not need, to impress people who do not care.” This from a man who had a hit single before he graduated high school. He purchased a giant home, gave money to friends and family, and said he did stupid things like buy 22 pairs of the same shoe, in all different colors. He was often paid in cash and paid no taxes, as almost every high schooler would do, I’m sure, seeing as receiving large amounts of cash does not suddenly make one an expert on taxes or investment. When the Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air came on, Smith was paying 70% of those earnings to the IRS for the first three years of the show.

And after all that, his advice was: “We spend money that we do not have, on things we do not need, to impress people who do not care.”

What’s the deal with all these guys? A lot of times, we tend to say, “Easy for them to say – they got what they wanted!” But we give ourselves way too much credit for thinking we would act any differently. See, there’s a secret about waiting for your ship to come in: nothing really changes about you.

If I move you into a bigger house with servants to take care of your daily needs along with a budget to match, nothing has really changed. You’re the same person you were minutes ago now suddenly thrust into a new scenario you’ve never even been close to before. You haven’t earned the ability to maintain the gift, so you’re destined to squander it. We aren’t wired for sudden maturity. Think about what would happen to your body if you went from age five to age twenty overnight. It hurts enough going from 11 years 20 says to 11 years and 21 days, as growing pains testify.

The best way to enjoy something is to court it, learn about it, prepare for it, then commit to it. Sometimes this is referred to as “work” or even “hard work”. However, a better description is “patience”. Indeed, patience might be one of the most impressive things you ever accomplish.

I love flying. I’ve entered sweepstakes to win airplanes. Truth be told, I was scared of winning. After winning there are sudden responsibilities that I know about, but have never had to exercise, like renting a hangar, purchasing aircraft insurance, and paying for maintenance. Thankfully, I’ve never won. I also decided to quit entering those contests until I had the resources to actually enjoy the gift rather than worry about it.

Committing to the pursuit of something you want without considering the cost of achieving it is sentencing yourself to a life of cruel and unusual punishment. This would be like a girl spending all of her growing up years planning her dream wedding, only to find out that there’s a whole lot of married life to be had after the wedding that she never planned for.

Not that such a thing ever happens.

If I were give you the desires of your heart this very second, what would you do? Would you be able to keep the gift and care for it, or have you not thought past the getting?

We imprison ourselves for years trying to achieve something that we have never learned to maintain because we spent all those years getting it rather than earning it. When all of your energy is spent on access rather than training, it’s a recipe for disaster.

If I actually won that sweepstakes airplane, and jumped into it without training, I would increase the number of wrecked airplanes on the planet by a factor of one. So then what should I do? Start saving up for an airplane over time so I don’t rush into it?

No! All that becomes is a slow-motion lottery.

What I really need to do is spend a little money on some flight training. Then maybe learn how to wash an airplane properly so I don’t break anything. It might be a good idea to talk to long-time pilots about the long-term effects of owning an airplane. Maybe hang out in that community constantly and meet people and make friends. Each step actually brings me closer to owning an airplane the right way: by earning it. Not monetarily, but through actual steps that train me in the art of being an owner-operator, and not just a dreamer.

The goal, then, is not really owning an airplane but flying an airplane myself. Once viewed that way, the path to the goal changes into something achievable.

When I was a boy with posters of airplanes on my wall, I imaged what it was like to fly them. As I got older, I got some flight training and even earned my Airline Dispatch ticket, which is flight planning for the airlines. Once I got to see what aviation was really like, the romance of it all faded away. When I realized I still loved it even without the romance, I knew for sure that I should somehow continue to pursue it as life allowed. But it no longer possessed me.

Few people have been able to pilot an airplane during their existence. At some point I have to be satisfied with that, and let everything else be icing on that cake.

Your goal should be to not waste your time on something that ultimately disappoints. You have to spend a lot of time as a wannabe to figure that out before commitment. That takes patience, which we don’t like, especially in America. But it’s far better to learn how to be content while exploring your options, than suddenly having all things given to you, only to be disappointed when nothing changes.

Avoid the mistakes of those who thought accomplishing their dreams would solve all their problems. Learn first how to be a person that solves problems while being content. Then when mo money bring mo problems, you’ll be ready.

Don’t count on your dreams to fix things. Count on you. And if that’s harder to accept than believing in some fictitious ship to come in, start there. After all you’ve been through, you’re still around to read this. Do you understand yet how strong you are?

Jesus was right: you shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

Posted by: Brad Stanford | March 10, 2017

I Was Reminded Of You

I saw an amazing thing last night, and it reminded me of you.

I was at a fun little pageant that was designed to let little girls aged 5-7 dress up in beautiful fancy dresses and feel good about themselves, with friends and family cheering them on.

They get to do the pageant thing of walking the stage and having their bio read. And then, at the end of their walk, they get asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

Each year, this mostly goes off without a hitch, and with some interesting responses. But tonight was a bit different.

There was one girl who was beautifully out of place. Her ethnicity was different than all the others. Although multiple ethnicities were represented, she was the only one of her background there. She looked like a storybook little girl that would grow up to be a storybook princess. Disney artists have been striving to draw someone like her for years. She was so peaceful. Her smile was charming. She had perfect posture. Everything seemed to be just right.

But when it came time for her to answer her question, something happened. Something subtle, yet profound occurred right there in front of everyone. As the MC knelt down with the microphone and started to say, “What do you want to be…,” a single, transparent tear slid down her left cheek. The MC didn’t stop, and neither did the girl. She answered the question with the same peace and poise with which she had ascended the stage.

“A dentist, so I can help people be healthy.”

She said it with an air of intelligence which communicated that all that was left was the doing. There was no wavering in her voice to mirror the tear that slid silently onto the stage. Just pure presence in the face of a difficult circumstance. It was so amazing that I immediately wanted to start a trust fund for her dentistry school. I wanted her to know that with such strength , she would be able to be whatever she wanted.

Then, I thought of you.

I thought of all that you’ve been through to get this far. I thought of that time there was no other way but to face your fear, and you did. I thought of how inspiring you are. I thought how important it is for you to be proud about who you are and what you want to be. I thought about how you usually don’t see yourself that way, but you should.

“Adult” merely describes your physical maturity level. In a universe that’s been around awhile, every last one of us is a child, exploring a world that’s always slightly different than the one our parents knew. No one has this down. Even the ones who seem to have everything together can be brought to tears if placed on a certain stage. No: this life – your life – is the first time your life has ever been lived. But learn this from a seven-year-old princess: you can make it through the tough questions, and get safely off the stage.

Then you can move on to being whatever you wish.

Posted by: Brad Stanford | March 4, 2017

Joy

Imagine, if you will, that I invited you to a bonfire. You arrive to discover that the bonfire is a mere six inches high and twelve inches across.

That’s not the expectation set by the word “bonfire”. It would burn out quickly, and unimpressively.

But take that same size, make it a pile of red-hot coals, and put it in my stove, and I can warm the entire front end of my house during winter.

This is the difference between happiness and joy.

Happiness is an emotion that burns brightly. It’s the bonfire, the party, the good times of the experience spectrum. Joy, however, takes time to build. To understand, think of building a fire.

On any given winter’s morning, you can find me repeating the same ritual: pile some kindling in the stove, get it lit, wait. Add larger kindling, wait. Add a log. Wait one hour, add another log. Wait another hour or two, poke the logs into pieces. Add more logs. And so forth.

By 10 or 11 am, I’ll have a decent pile of coals, and a warm house. By evening, it could be too hot, if I’ve run it full of wood all day long. Those small pieces of burning wood all pushed together sure doing amazing work. But it sure takes a lot of time.

A block of time in our lives can be heated by a number of things: a fantastic experience, a narrow escape, a devastating blow. Pile those things together in the stove, and you get the  glow of joy. That is, if you know why all those things are so valuable. The good times are obviously valuable. They are self explanatory, to the point that people worship them. Ironically, people will abandon everything from common sense to their families in search of the next happy moment. They chase happy moments like they are the most important things on the earth,

But bad times are also part of the equation of joy. In the same way the good times reveal the wiring of your pleasure center, the bad times reveal your character. It is through the successes, failures, and improvements of our character that the bad times become contributors to joyfulness – joy-fullness. In this way, the bad times become highly valuable.

The great indicator of not understanding the value of the bad times is bitterness. Bitterness comes because bad times are always taking something from us, and we get tired of the bully, yet we feel powerless to do anything about it. So we chase the good times. Rinse and repeat. This seemingly endless cycle births hopelessness. Hopelessness then solidifies the idea that the majority of life will always be bad. We get bitter not only about what we have already lost, but what we’ve decided will be lost in the future.

And this is the secret of joy: joy is just as much present-future as bitterness is. Just as bitterness accounts for the present gain that will be lost in the future, joy accounts for the harvest that will be reaped from the present sufferings. Bitterness calls the game before it starts. Joy lets the dame play out before declaring a winner.

Like fire, experiences show up, burn, and disappear, leaving behind only photographs and memories, as Jim Croce would say. You can stand in the middle of them and get burned up with them, or you can learn to position yourself outside of them, and be warmed by them.

Joy is both a choice and a gift. The gift is getting through the experiences that could have been devastating, but weren’t. You can then choose what to take away from those experiences. If you consider it dumb luck that you’re still here, or are simply braced for the next bad experience, joy will be continually out of reach, something that is only possible over there, where the grass is greener.

But if you can stop for a moment of reflection and see that no one owed you that last breath you inhaled and yet you received it, that is the beginning of joy. More than just counting your blessings, it’s the ability to see the purpose of those unmerited favors in the grand scheme of things.

Happiness is fantastic, for sure, just like fireworks are beautiful to watch. However, chasing explosions seems less useful than sitting next to the fire warming oneself in the middle of cold days. Joy is a far better measure of life than happiness. Your ability to see or estimate how the events in your life connect to your destiny will tell me more about your quality of life than your lists of favorite activities and pet peeves. Quality of life comes from what you’re able to handle, not what you’re able to do.

Joy comes from knowing the result of getting through the next thing, good or bad.

The secret to joy, then, is going through things, not escaping from them.

Posted by: Brad Stanford | February 25, 2017

Back From The Dark Side Of The Moon

Sorry for the delay in posting, recently. I hope you’re still up for some life observations and encouragement. In that vein, I have three posts for you: one about what your life is for, one discussing rising above, and one about turbulence.

I see my job as that of a photographer. I’ve said before that I like and dislike photos for the exact same reason – they show me incredible moments in time that I missed. I see my reflections on life in the same way. I offer you images and angles seen as only I can see them. And like any other art, the intent is reflection, increased awareness of the world, and a vehicle for exploring yourself.

If you’ve been wondering what happened to me and why you haven’t heard from me lately, start with Turbulence. Otherwise, enjoy the freedom to receive encouragement in any order you wish.

Posted by: Brad Stanford | February 25, 2017

Turbulence

Previously, I wrote from 30,000 feet. Today, I’m on the return trip. But there was an interesting difference on this flight.

Turbulence.

Aside from the toll it takes on the airframe, I quite enjoy turbulence. That’s because it lets me know I’m in flight. Otherwise I’m just sitting there. Of course, the side of me that wants to read, type, or not spill drinks in one or multiple laps begs to differ. But the flight side always laughs and says, “Too bad, suckers!” and throws his hands up, enjoying the roller coaster.

Turbulence in its most basic form is a section of air that is moving differently than the air around it. This actually bothers no one, and that’s important to understand. It only affects an object that enters that space. This is unlike tornadoes or hurricanes which tend to seek out trailer parks and gulf coast states, respectively, as if trying to meet a yearly quota. Turbulence moves, but far more mindlessly, itself being pushed around by other forces, rather than being a force of its own.

Airplanes are trying to get from one place to another. They move through sections of air to do so, and lots of them. This is the equivalent of running through all the front yards of all the neighborhoods in your city. Eventually, you will find the old man that yells, “Get off the lawn!” He did not go looking for you. You found him. That old man is turbulence.

After a month or more of turbulence in my business life, I finally have found some smooth air. This does not mean I have arrived. Please don’t confuse the two. Smooth air is simply the space between pockets of turbulence, a place of temporary peace. This is the moment we can reflect and change course if necessary, or be honest about our course, and reset for the next encounter. This is where I find myself: now at 39,000 feet, with periodic small jostles that remind me we’re still flying, and there is still the potential to run into something rough up ahead.

When you think you have arrived – you just finished getting everything stabilized after a lot of hard work – and you hit turbulence, it’s a double shock. The first shock is the actual jolt itself, when suddenly what used to be dependable no longer is. We tend to be disagreeable with this condition. The second shock comes from being surprised by the instability. You have to be able to admit that you fooled yourself. You thought you had landed, but you’re actually still in flight.

The faster you can get through the second shock of realizing you are in flight and turbulence is to be expected, the faster you can free yourself from the anger caused by the interruption.  This is critical for handling the turbulence.

Expected or not, planning your reaction to turbulence in advance can determine how you emerge on the other side. There are three possible outcomes: 1) continued shock, 2) neutral and 3) ready. If you end up in condition 1, it means you now must get yourself back to neutral before being able to get ready for the next encounter. If you are neutral about it, you can immediately begin planning for the next occurrence. Ready means that your plan for handling rough spots worked – as in shock absorber – and you have to spend zero energy on preparedness.

It is this last case that makes things smooth, even when they aren’t. Giving turbulence a place defuses its ability to mess with things. The wings on an airplane flex in the bumpy air. If they did not, the wings would be torn off. Thus, turbulence is not allowed to have full reign, and disaster is averted.

If you are finding wave after wave of things happening, look for what stiffness can be jettisoned. The kryptonite to Super Turbulence is flexibility. More often than not, it is our unwillingness to let go that gives turbulence free reign. Notice, too, that I didn’t say to seek fairness or justice. Sometimes letting go of what you are duly owed is the best shock absorber.

After all, what does the universe actually owe anyone? It’s more like the old man of the neighborhood is making a concession: I’ll let you stay on my lawn as long as you make yourself useful.

But he’ll still yell at you now and again. No one is surprised by this. 

You shouldn’t be either.

From 39,000 feet, somewhere over the great southwest, I wish flexibility, readiness, and de-fool-ation in your general direction.

Don’t be shocked. Be ready.

Posted by: Brad Stanford | February 25, 2017

The View From Thirty Thousand Feet

At 30,000 feet over the Southwestern desert, I’m reminded of a word that was spoken over me about my love of airplanes and flying: “You’re supposed to be above it all.”

I find myself in the middle of a story where old things are ending and new things are starting (or startling, depending on what they are). We all know from the house-flipping craze that the first step to a remodel is bringing in the demolition crew. And while it looks exciting and encouraging in its edited form, being surrounded by swinging sledge hammers and flying debris day in and day out is somewhat difficult. In fact, it’s easy to start believing that this is how it will be from now on: all destruction, all the time.

Truth be told, that has happened and can happen. We’re not that dumb – if it rains, we go inside. If fire breaks out, we escape. If the circumstances start to crumble, we’re smart enough to run. It’s not rocket science.

Except, in this case, it’s not always right to get out of difficult circumstances. Ask anyone who quit exercising if they got more healthy by doing so. Some scenarios are meant to chisel of off you what doesn’t belong so you can become the beautiful thing you’re meant to be.

Here’s the rub: the last time you started a season, the same thing happened. It chiseled you. You lost something. You grew to appreciate what was left. And just as you made peace with it, the chisel struck again, and you lost something. Perhaps something bigger (or a lot of littles – same thing).

We seem fixated on getting stabilized, not realizing that we are pottery in progress. No wonder so many are unhappy, unhopeful, and content to be tossed around by life. They spend their time getting calloused so nothing will hurt, not understanding that pain is important. And getting uncalloused takes a lot of rest and attention that life does not gracefully make room for.

As I watch the wings flex in the relative wind outside my window, I am reminded how efficient birds are. When we copied them, we tried to make wings that were stiff enough to support us, but light enough to fly. Birds not only have that covered, but they include the mechanical complexity to fold and store them away in a space so small, you hardly notice them. We eventually learned that flexibility is not an option for wings, if you want to fly comfortably. The degree of flex is up for debate, but you will flex. Stability and flexibility are brothers, not enemies.

Our best course of action is to learn to flex with the situations we encounter. That means less pride. It means not being an enforcer but an example. It also means being an expert on who you are. Only then can we have peace during demolition, fun as we learn the new stage, and find ourselves above it all.

Because it’s really beautiful up here.

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