Are you a BoyScout?

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Are you a Boy Scout?

 

“Are you a boy scout?” The decrepit man looked at me with heavy but bright eyes that had seen their share of years.

“Why yes, I actually am,” I replied with uncertainty.

“Would you mind doing a good deed?”

 

That is how I found myself placing a bandage around the yellowish, infected toe nail of a 90 year-old man in my gym’s small locker room this morning. I had to hold the toe nail, which was was about to fall off, while I tightly wrapped it up with Johnson and Johnson’s most popular product. Does that make you cringe? Probably. Yet for me it had a different effect. Only minutes before I had been in the shower feeling tired, hungry and a little discouraged. I was all wrapped up in my own poor circumstances when this man’s voice had broken through the fog with that unusual question, “Are you a boyscout?” As the situation progressed and I realized what he was asking, I began to laugh out loud. You have GOT to be joking. I told him to trim his nails and see a doctor but he said, “If that’s all that is wrong with me at 90, I’m probably pretty well off.” What a perspective!

Charles (his name) brought new life to my day. He gave me a story. The image of his gross toenail will be stuck in my head days from now and it will bring a smile that I would otherwise have missed out on. Sometimes we all need a little break from the monotony of our daily routine to open our eyes to the people in the world around us. It could be taking a different route to work or getting coffee from a new coffee shop. Try a food you’ve never tried or go do Yoga for the first time. These events have more of an effect than the activity itself. They do more than you probably think.

I once heard that it is a good exercise for our brains to listen to a new CD all the way through. The reason has to do with the human brain and the pre-frontal cortex. This part of the brain, among other functions, has the ability to play out scenarios that have not yet occurred. For example, major life change’s like marriage, a Caribbean vacation, a new car, or winning the lottery. We can imagine how each of these would make us feel even before they happen. Our brain plays and replays the outcome of these hypotheticals until it becomes rooted. It becomes so rooted that when the result is different than expected, we are let down. Instead of joy at a vacation, we think, “I wish it would have been longer. The hotel staff was rude. We should have chosen a different location. The weather would have been better in July”…and so on and so forth. In terms of the CD scenario, when we listen to something we are familiar with, we mentally prepare for the next song to come on as we expect it to. So it’s actually exercising the brain to listen to a) something we are unfamiliar with and b) use our imagination, not previous experience, to think about what’s coming on next. Your brain is thinking of a hundred possibilities of what music will play next. It is being exercised. The problem with our pre-frontal cortex? Most of the time it’s wrong. Reality deals life from a different deck of cards. You want to be happy on vacation? Be thankful and happy for today. You want marriage to mean something?Be thankful for every moment you spend with that person and show love when it’s NOT expected. Why do you think flowers are more meaningful when it’s not Valentines Day? DUH!

Somehow it always comes back to a child’s imagination. Children don’t put limits on their world. One way to look at it is this: When did wrapping paper stop being a sword? When did a towel stop being a cape? As a lego maniac myself, I can assure you that when I saw a box of lego parts, I saw much more than the average kid. I saw huge lasers that could be assembled onto massive starship cruisers to battle underwater monsters. If you gave me legos today I would probably still see that. I love creativity and Disney World is one of my favorite places to be. That’s another topic though. 

The main point is that we get stuck in the monotony of day-in, day-out routine. Our brain becomes trained to expect coffee in the morning, a nine hour work shift of boredom, a job we dislike, and acquaintances we don’t even consider true friends. When something does come along that’s extraordinary, we barely lift our heads to see it. We don’t even recognize it. What if you went into every day like a kid. What if everyday you thought that ANYTHING could happen. It might allow you to begin to appreciate the little things. It would allow you to recognize the extraordinary. I mean tomorrow isn’t even guaranteed right? So ANYTHING truly can happen tomorrow. That’s how I want to think and I thank Charles for opening my eyes and widening my smile just for today. 🙂

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Momentum

Sunrise

Each day is a new life to the wise man

I’m not a good decision maker in more ways than one. First, I hate being the one in the group deciding where to eat or what movie to see. This is because I’m a people-pleaser (to my own detriment) and am often afraid of upsetting..well…anyone. Second, because I’m a people pleaser, I am likely to go with the popular vote. As you probably know, this doesn’t always put in you in the best place. In fact, the title to a chapter in Timothy Ferriss’ The Four Hour WorkWeek is title “Everything Popular is Wrong.” It’s time to get with the minority.

Today I have a few thoughts about momentum. Is it ever hard for you to get moving? Do you ever feel stuck? Again, welcome to my life. In my first post, A new year, a new you, I mentioned my goal to create a mastermind group of like-minded individuals. We had our second meeting last night. We have named it The Progressive Group. The week before we set some initial goals and this was the opportunity to follow up. Guess what? Most of us didn’t accomplish even one, myself included.

Was the group a failure? Not at all. The group was created for just this purpose- to bring tangibility to our goals and accountability for our time. We reworked our goals more specifically. We realistically looked at our schedules and decided exactly when we could accomplish things within the upcoming week. We set new goals. We challenged each other to do more. We generated momentum.

Momentum is defined by Merriam-Webster as “strength or force gained by motion or by a series of events.” You need to get the ball rolling and you need to define what your motion or event will be to do that. Let me tell you what it will not be-RESEARCH or IDLE TALK. If you want to set a goal to travel to Europe it’s great to research ticket prices, tours, and places you want to see. Nothing wrong with that, but tell me: How much momentum does that create? You can complain about your job or where you live but until you do something about it, you’re the only one who’s really in the way. Find out what you want and take step one TODAY. Be specific in terms of a daily or weekly goal.

A turning point in my life was when I decided to study abroad in college. I wanted to go somewhere warm. I told my family and my friends and got responses like, “Good for you,” without much conviction or belief that I would actually do it. I needed momentum. I decided to go to the office at school. There, I was directed to the upcoming Study Abroad Fair at the union. I initially thought of a three-month interim trip but everyone I met told me to stay the semester so I could really see the country. I chose Australia because they spoke English and it was opposite seasons so it would be warm for the entire spring semester. That’s how long it took just to pinpoint WHAT I WANTED.

My momentum hit a brick wall when I found out how much it was going to cost between flights, traveling, tuition, and living expenses. After two months of trying, I felt defeated. I remember going back to my counselor desperately asking questions about funding options. She stopped me short and said, “Drew relax! We want you to go to Australia and will do anything we can to help you get there.” She gave me a list of scholarships to apply for and explained how to change my “need” requirements for Financial Aid. She gave me step one to get my momentum back. A week or two later, my Dad ran into someone whose daughter who had just gotten back from studying Australia. I called her to ask for any advice or tips and we arranged to grab coffee. She took me through almost a thousand pictures on her laptop over the course of two hours. Guess what happened? I MADE IT to Australia. That experience has given me the confidence to do anything.

Keep in mind; no one thought I was serious. I didn’t allow anyone to stop my momentum though. I gained more motion through conversations with people and my actions than any talk or research would have achieved. If you want to go to Europe, find and talk to someone who has been there. Call a travel agent. If you want to live somewhere else then find out who lives there or who has been there. Make a phone call. Take a trip. Gain some momentum. A few closing insights: 1. Life does not stop for you to make a decision but it will pass you by. 2. Change scares EVERYBODY. Real learning and real growth comes from getting out of your comfort zone. It’s being not afraid to fail. I heard one description of success as becoming “incrementally better at failing.” You’re going to fail anyways because you’re human. Why not stumble or fall while taking steps in the direction you WANT for your life? Start doing this today but be specific. Be realistic. Don’t set a goal you can’t accomplish. You will feel defeated before you even start. Now take a look around. Welcome to the minority. 🙂