Blogging on The Brightside

"I think I can. I think I can. I think I can." -The Little Engine That Could

“What I came to realize is that fear, that’s the worst of it. That’s the real enemy. So, get up, get out in the real world, and you kick that bastard as hard as you can right in the teeth.

–Walter White

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In light the series finale, our Monday Morning Message is from Breaking Bad.  We can certainly learn a lot from Walter White, our everyday high school chemistry teacher, but this is one of the more valuable lessons he shares.  When you are done with fear, when you can move past it and confront your challenges, nothing more can stand between you and your empire.

Have a great week.

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“Many people die at twenty five and aren’t buried until they are seventy five.”

Ben Franklin

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Personally, I am most comfortable when I can get into my routine.  I am very careful to plan my week on a calendar, create a to-do list with sub-to-do lists just to make sure everything gets accomplished.  And it’s the deviations from this routine that causes stress and makes me uncomfortable.

But is that really living life- commuting to work from 9-5, getting in a workout, and catching a few reruns of the Big Bang Theory before bed?  Is that as good as it gets?  Honestly, that’s the trap that Ben Franklin realized a lot of 25-year-olds (okay, I know you’re just pretending…) fall into.  And, after all, isn’t that why we call it ‘the grind’?

Ben Franklin was definitely a character with many interests and hobbies.  I think he encourage those of us who have sailed into the doldrums of life to bypass the Lethargians and find some ways to spice things up.  It might not be a big life-altering decision, but maybe there are some little place you kind add excitement in your schedule.  I’ll help you brainstorm.

Wake up early enough to enjoy breakfast in a new restaurant, or leave the lean cuisine at home and try a new restaurant for lunch.  Cook a new recipe- autumn’s here so why not something pumpkin?  Host a dinner party for some friends, or suggest a Friday night dinner outing at a new place.  Switch out the Coors Light for a festive microbrew.

Try a new kind of workout- can you rent a kayak or a bike?  Give a spin class or zumba or fly-wheel a shot.  You could even change up the route you always run or just run it backwards.  Find a mountain, and take a hike.  Go fishing.  Maybe you don’t work out- take a walk or a swim.  Ben was an avid swimmer.  Invite someone new to join you.  Really not into working out?  What about following a new sport- become the expert.

How long has it been since you read a book?  What about a mystery or a new genre?  What other hobby’s could you find interesting?  Homebrewing?  Ben’s recipe was called “Poor Richard’s Ale.”  I just brewed my first batch last weekend.  It’s not that hard to get into, and I’m confident you could do it.  What about canning?  Maybe it’s just an arrangement of fresh cut flowers on your desk.

Could you take a course in something you’ve always been interested in?  Join a bible study or a small group?  Join a book club or start an investment club.  Meet some new friends.  Travel.  Take a day-trip or a long weekend.  Find out what beautiful landmarks are around you and go photograph them.  Then make a rainy-day hobby out of photo editing and make some art out of it.

I don’t know what it is that will make your life more fulfilling and exciting, what that something is that will make you excited to get out of bed.  And honestly, one thing probably isn’t enough.  If it’s just one thing, it’ll become part of your routine.  But always be learning.  Experiment.  Live.  These little things are what make life worth living.

Have a great week, everybody.

-R

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“Do not anticipate trouble, or worry about what may never happen. Keep in the sunlight.”

 Benjamin Franklin

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It’s easy to be lost in the darkness and to hide in the shadows.  When a stream of light is pouring through the window, move your work and your thoughts into its beams and exist in its glow.  Let its warmth radiate in all that you do and melt away your worries and troubles.  If you teach, open the blinds and let your students learn by the same light by which history’s great minds have studied.  If you are a student, take your book under a tree in the grove and let its pages be illuminated by sunlight.  And when you feel a drop upon your head and the rain clouds block out the sun, when you’ve rushed back inside to take cover, remember to turn on the light.

Have a great week everybody.  Do great things.

-Ray

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Genius is eternal patience.

-Michelangelo

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Michelangelo, the world’s best known sculptor, was commissioned to paint well over 5,000 square feet of frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.  The project required him to learn the technique of buon fresco, the most difficult type of painting undertaken by only the masters, and challenged him to learn to paint perspective correctly on a curved surface 60 feet above the viewer.  Besides these challenges, it was truly an exercise in patience.

He did it mostly by  himself.  Sure, there were assistants to carry his paints up and down the scaffolds, but most of the brushstrokes were his own.  He painted for four years, bent over backwards and painting over his head.  The master complained that the project forever ruined his vision.  500 years later, all who visit the chapel stand awestruck for a few minutes to soak up the splendor of the work.

You’re going to lose your patience this week.  You’ll sit in traffic or get put on hold for hours.  Your computer is going to freeze, probably before you remember to hit ‘save’, and your boss is going to give a ridiculous and tedious assignment.  Your baked potatoes will take longer to bake than you expect.  The check out line will be too long.  Your kids will need to use the bathroom when it’s time to get on the bus.  But if you can take a deep breath and keep it together, your patience might lead to a stroke of genius.

Have a great week everyone.

-rge

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“Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anybody else expects of you.”

Henry Ward Beecher

Be gracious.  Be flattered.  But when you put your head on your pillow and shut your eyes at the end of the day, never forget that there’s always room for improvement.  Only in a continuous pursuit of improvement do we achieve excellence.

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“I’ll time you…”

I’m not really a kid person (before you check to see who write this post, it’s me, Ray… Carly was born to work with kids.) Except for the case of cousins and close family friends, kids who I know I can pick on without hurting their oversensitive parents’ feelings, I’d just rather watch someone’s dog than their kid. Still, for the past two summers I volunteered to watch a cabin full of 8 and 9-year-olds at summer camp and in doing so learned a very valuable lesson.

The unfailing motivator for children is the phrase “I’ll time you.” You can always bribe a dog with food of any kind, but I discovered quickly that bribing kids with food or candy isn’t as effective, especially as the week goes on. See, parents send their kids packages of sugar and sweets and other counselors give out candy as rewards. So “if you go hang up that towel I’ll give you a tootsie roll” is soon met with a retort of “that’s okay, my mom sent me a 6 pound snickers bar.”

“I’ll time you” can get you pretty far. “Let’s see how long we can go without anybody in the cabin talking. I’ll time you.” “Let’s see who can get changed the fastest. I’ll time you.” You can even use it to help them burn off their sugar high with “Let’s see who can do the obstacle course and swim 100 laps. I’ll time you.”

You know the trick is on when the kids start asking you to time them. “I’m going to the bathroom, time me!” And that’s precisely when you can use it against them. “If you don’t put some vegetables on your plate, I won’t time you when you eat your ice cream.” After all, ice cream tastes better when you’re getting timed.

But the strangest part about all of this is that I don’t wear a watch, despite my girlfriend’s dad telling me “You can’t have a good time without a good watch.” Sure, I pretend to count in my head. But kids never seem to catch on that half the time I forget to count, and consequently resort to very specific times like “36.78 seconds. Good! That’s 9.58 second improvement over last time.”

Besides the babysitting lesson, there is a moral to this post. We blog to support you, motivate you, and inspire you. Every single post gets classified under the “inspiration” category. But maybe we haven’t found your “I’ll time you” yet. Having that ultimate motivator, a passion that you work for perpetually, something you strive unceasingly to improve, is ultimately important. Maybe it’s advocacy- cancer, human rights, environmental. Maybe it’s personal improvement- weight loss and fitness, education, or traveling. Maybe it’s service in your church or community. Whatever drives you, motivates you beyond all sensibility, this week “I’ll time you.”

 

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“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I can’t accept not trying.”

–Michael Jordan

Each day I wake up and go to school. I do all that I can to make sure that my students give it their all each and every single time.

I was taught when I was eight that the words “I can’t” needed to be removed from my vocabulary. One of my own teachers made us write down what we could not do. We did not hold back, we did not share with anyone else. We proceeded to bury the lists outside of school. Those words were dead to us.

Why do lessons like this only work with children? Why do we tell ourselves we can’t do something in the first place? Why don’t we just try? It’s amazing what we can accomplish with even the tiniest bit of effort.

So be a big kid and come to the front of the class. Pick up a piece of chalk and get ready to write. List everything you can’t do. Write out “I can’t….” over and over until you’ve reached the end of your list. Pick up an eraser and replace the words “I can’t” with “I will try.”Life doesn’t hand out a grade. Life doesn’t keep track. But when you looking back on your life, would you rather say, ” I couldn’t” or “I tried”?

Each day we are alive, the world asks nothing more than for us to try. It does not require perfection. So– realize that your list is a starting point and that today you can start your list and make a change for the better. This is not a guarantee of success. It’s not even the thought that you won’t fail beautifully. But without trying, you are missing out on some of your life’s best moments.

Love and Light,

Carly

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“It’s never crowded along the extra mile!”

Wayne Dyer

The 2001 Tour De France was won, perhaps if only mentally, on the great L’Alpe D’huez.  Armstrong appeared to be struggling, sitting on the back of the peleton, and his great rival, Jan Ullrich, seized the opportunity to set a backbreaking pace at the front with his T-Mobile thugs.  Perhaps Armstrong was feigning, or perhaps Ullrich poked the tiger, but at the base of the mountain Armstrong took the reigns.  Defiantly staring back into Ullrich’s eyes (this image is one of the most famous of the rivalry), Armstrong blew the field away on the slopes of the legendary climb.  In years to come, Armstrong would again and again have his way on L’Alpe D’huez, until the Tour organizers seemed to decide that the stage gave him an almost unfair advantage.

If the image of Armstrong looking back at Ullrich is so iconic, why, then, did I choose this less glamourous shot in which you can hardly tell it is the legendary Armstrong riding?  I chose it, because for all but three weeks a year being the world’s greatest cyclist is a lonely pursuit.  This is a training shot of Armstrong, when his coach, Chris Carmichael, rode up along side of him to tell him that the upper pass of his favorite Alp was blocked by several feet of snow.  Armstrong rode the mountain four times before racing it, more than any of his foes.  On one occasion, he sent his computer data to Carmichael, who thought the file had corrupted and duplicated; Armstrong had ridden the training ride twice. Champions go the extra mile.

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“Forgiveness is a strange thing. It can sometimes be easier to forgive our enemies than our friends.”

Fred Rogers

Wow.  How hard is it to forgive someone?  I’m not talking about the careless sorority girl driving her daddy’s beige Toyota Camry that cut you off on your way to work.  I mean someone who really cheesed you off.  You know, that boss or professor who has it out for you;  he won’t give you credit where credit is due but instead he hands you pile after pile of steaming dung.  Or worse, how do you forgive that friend who betrayed and stole from you, that significant other that was unfaithful, that parent who was never part of your life.

Now I’ve heard it all “Men forget but never forgive.  Women forgive but never forget.”  “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” And from Oscar Wilde, one of our favorites, “Forgive your enemies.  Nothing annoys them more.”  And yet, I don’t have a great set of words to describe how difficult it can be to extend that forgiveness to somebody; I can only say that it is far easier to hold a grudge against them.

It’s hard to forgive somebody who has not apologized, because we want to hear them say they were wrong. we were right.  It’s hard to forgive somebody who has apologized, because we need them to know just how upset we are with them.  But it takes a special kind of mature sophistication to forgive unconditionally, and that it what we should strive for.

Somebody is surely reading this post saying “I’m easy going.  I have no problem forgiving my transgressors.”  And yet, I bet even that reader was shocked when the Amish community publicly forgave the schoolhouse shooter. But why?  How is it so unnatural for us to forgive?

Let’s make a collective goal this week:  let’s all forgive somebody.  Think of how many relationships could begin to heal if each of the few people who read this blog each day would forgive somebody.   Who have you been holding that grudge against? Why?  Can you figure out a way to extend the olive branch?

I hope you all have a marvelous week.

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“People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”

Maya Angelou

Happy Monday!  One of our most popular posts, written by guest author Ryan Biggs, focused on an important message- try to do something nice for somebody everyday.  I want to remind you of that important message today.  It doesn’t take much beyond a random act of kindness to make a lasting impression on somebody.  Why don’t you give it a try this week?

Hold the door for somebody.  Pay for someone’s groceries.  Make a donation to your college or favorite non-profit.  Pray for somebody each morning or before bed.  Give somebody a ride or offer to be the designated driver.  Do your roommates dishes.  Buy a box of girl scout cookies (and give it away).  Bring your colleague coffee, and leave the barista a nice tip (two birds with one stone!).  Bring in your elderly neighbor’s newspaper.  Send a friendly text to a friend you haven’t talked to in a while.  Help a kid do her homework.  Make a friend dinner.  Tell your Mom you miss her.  Nothing inspiring you yet?

I can’t tell you what opportunities you will have to make random acts of kindness this week, but I can tell you that there will be opportunities.  This week’s challenge is to act on them.

I hope everybody makes the most of this week!

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