By Lauren Hanington
As children, most of us enjoyed a happy, carefree existence. Why not? We didn’t have to worry about doing laundry, running errands, or paying rent. We lived in the here and now. As for the future… we had our whole lives ahead of us. Sure, we might have occasionally thought about adulthood as we ran around the playground or had sleepovers with our friends, but it was usually with excitement and bright-eyed optimism. Being an adult was going to be absolutely wonderful.
Although I was not one to officially map out my life, I had a general idea of how it was going to play out. Suffice it to say, life did not go the way I thought it would—not even remotely. To this day, it still has not gone how I imagined it would as a child. At least now I finally have a bit more wisdom and understanding, if not patience and clarity.
Shortly before and for awhile after college, when I found myself in a city or job I did not like, I would ask myself “why?” “Why am I here in this city? Why am I working at this job I dislike so much?” “How will this help me get to where I want to be in life?” My restlessness and unhappiness made me question the path my life had taken. It was not a bad path by any means, but it was definitely a detour from what I imagined as a kid.
Despite the fact that life has not gone how I planned, I have been able to grow from every experience, set back, and hurdle. I have been able to look back at every detour and meandering path my life has taken and find something good in it—or, at the very least, glean a life lesson from it. Whether it was earning college credit while still in high school, moving to a new city where I did not know anybody, or working at a stressful job for a difficult boss, life has provided me numerous learning experiences and growth opportunities with each “trial” that has been thrown in my path.
In the moment, we may not always be aware of how an experience is shaping us or providing us with valuable life lessons. These gems are sometimes not clear until we have moved on to the next phase of our life. Only then do we realize that the job, city, or experience we bemoaned was a blessing in disguise.
So, the next time you find yourself in a job you cannot wait to leave or dealing with people that make you want to tear your hair out in frustration, take a deep breath, step back and look for the positive domino effect that will result from the current negative. Then, while you are implementing your move to bigger and better things, you will find comfort in knowing that no situation or experience is ever wasted.
I am engaged in the occupation of interviewing people and recording their life stories and family histories. I create books and videos memorializing people's lives. As I share this project I rarely hear "objections" from prospective clients. Most objections, if they can be called that, consist of,"but I haven't led an interesting life." Objections generally don't bother me, but this one does because: (1) it evinces negative self talk; and (2) I refuse to believe your life isn't "interesting." If you have given any thought to recording your story or writing your memoirs, please don't be held back by this self-limiting belief. Ultimately, whether your life is interesting is besides the point, because you aren't recording your life story to entertain people.
Watch Your Self-Talk
The way you talk about yourself is a reflection of how you think about yourself. When you say you haven't led an interesting life, the subtext or implication is you aren't an interesting person. After all, your experiences are a reflection of your choices. If you have been telling yourself the story that your life is uninteresting, you will act accordingly. Having said that, you can always find a way to change or improve your circumstances, and you can always change your outlook. You can choose to regard your own life as interesting, or you can use that feeling to inspire you to become interesting. Just don't tell yourself your life isn't interesting.
Of Course Your Life is Interesting!
It cannot possibly be true that your life is uninteresting. Millions of sperm raced each other to find an egg to fertilize, and the winner of that race became you! You are a spiritual being inhabiting a physical body, living a short existence tethered by gravity to a spinning ball of molten lava, hurtling through space in the orbit of a yellow dwarf star. Your mere existence is an awesome thing, and you have memories, perspective and personality distinct from anyone else.
Think of all the challenges and hardships you survived; the lessons learned and wisdom gained; the education you've received and are hopefully still receiving; the lives you have touched. Your life is a compilation of overlapping stories and nobody knows them better than you. Do you have a special skill or talent? Have you created something - another person maybe?
Even if you remain convinced your life is not interesting, I guarantee you have kids and grandkids, or other lives you have touched, who disagree. Others may regard you with gratitude, reverence and respect, and they would love to hear your story.
Your story is not just about you. Eternal Roots delves into your family history, including your parents and grandparents, going as far back as your memory allows. A life story interview is an opportunity for you to continue old family stories, so your ancestors' memories may live on through you.
Forget Interesting, Just Be You
I can go on and on about how you shouldn't say your life isn't interesting because it's poor self-talk, and I can continue about how your life actually is interesting, but none of this is necessary. The point of a life story interview is to be remembered, to connect and to impact others, not to entertain. If you're contemplating whether to preserve your life story, don't worry about whether it is "interesting." It doesn't matter if your story wouldn't qualify as a screenplay, if you never won a Nobel prize, or if you never traveled the world. You lived your life, and that is worthy by itself.
When I conduct life story interviews, I guide you with organized and chronological questions to tell your story. You are never left on your own with open-ended narrative questions, and you are not expected to share your life in a stream of consciousness. Eternal Roots interviews are structured yet fluid, and we cover each phase of your life. There are thousands of memories tucked away in your brain, just waiting for the right trigger. As the stories come pouring out, you'll be amazed at how interesting your life really is. So too will your loved ones. This process is too important, for your ancestors and your heirs, to be silenced by false concerns about whether your life is sufficiently "interesting."
By Victor Palomares
Not sure how 2016 treated you but my year punched me in the mouth and took my lunch money. I lost my business, my beautiful dog and best bud of 13 years Tacoma died, had family issues and if I had a girlfriend she probably would have left me. I pretty much lived a Country song now that I think of it! I really want a drink or 5 but I won't. I will skip “happy hour” this time around and keep fighting for “happy life”.
This month I celebrate my 40th birthday and 4 years of sobriety! I am extremely PROUD to share this because I am not ashamed to say this year was one of the hardest during my journey. Four years ago I gave myself the gift of truly working on the “inner me,” those negative voices of sabotage that would consistently sneak up as my “enemy”. I traded in the booze for books and started researching WHY I would fall back into my funks of depression and unexplained sadness & anger in which for many years I would use that casual drink to numb the pain and mask the true issue. I was sick and tired of living a lie. The lie that I am living this life all figured out.
Sorry to break it to you students, family and friends I don’t have all the answers. Even though I am a Teacher, Coach, have walked on fire with Tony Robbins, read every book in the self help section at the book store, meditate, do yoga, watched The Secret a gazillion times and eat my vegetables in my Hulk Hogan shirt I still fall on my face over and over again.
Yes, I have had good runs at success and happiness but then I seem to sabotage it and go back to square one. Broke, busted and disgusted with myself leading me to darkness and a whole new $1,000 motivational seminar to get out of it. I hid a lot of this pain from my friends for years because I was usually the one passing around the Coronas getting us into the next good time or kicked out of the good time. Now everyone thinks I’m a born again librarian preaching the streets with my “You can do it!” chant!
In 2016 I am not embarrassed to say I hit a wall and the chant got tired. I didn’t go back to drinking but I did go back to questioning many things in my life. Do people only call me for a good time? Do people only talk to me when they need something? Who actually cares for Victor and his dreams and darkness? Who is actually there for me when I fall? Who truly has my back? Is this sober and nice guy life really worth it? Why do I still struggle? Why are other people winning faster than me? Why should I forgive people who hurt me? Why do I keep pretending to be ok when I hurt so much inside? How can I really help these teens nationwide as my savings account dissipates? Why am I so tired? Why, why, why?
This year a dug deeper into my heart, my happiness, my joy, my God and not just my library and motivational seminar notes. Truth is you can read every book in the world but the truth is not in the self help section in the bookstore, it’s “in your heart”. Make this year the year you listen to the positive self loving voices in your heart. Listen for the things that truly make you happy and follow them. If you need to cut bad habits out of your life to hear them like I did with my sobriety, DO IT. If you need help and support, don’t judge yourself, DO IT! If you want to do yoga and read the self help books, DO IT. If you need to forgive someone who hurt you, DO IT. If you want to start that business, launch that non-profit, write that book, sing that song, cry and eat ice cream, DO IT DO IT DO IT. Do it all and don’t judge your journey! Please know there is no perfect formula and the true beauty and buzz in it all (minus the hangover) is being beautiful, messy, vulnerable, self loving, learning, experiencing and growing YOU. Such a gift we are! Such blessing it is! I am so excited to hear about all your experiences in 2017. Reach out! Say hi! We are all in this together!
P.S Love you some you!
Your new friend Victor!
Victor Palomares is a motivational speaker for teens and an anti-bullying activist. You can follow him on Facebook at Kindegarten CEO, and on Instagram at kindegartenceo. One of Victor's best known mantras is: "I'm not saying I'll personally change the world but I GUARANTEE I'll spark the teen that will!"
Note from Tom at Eternal Roots: Victor and I grew up in the same town in Los Angeles, but we went to separate elementary schools and did not know each other. I moved from LA to San Diego just before junior high, when we would have met each other. My best friends from grade school became Victor's best friends. Victor and I connected about 5 years ago through a mutual friend, and we coincidentally joined the same network marketing company at the same time.
I have always found Victor's content to be positive, engaging and uplifting. He is a beacon of positive in a sea of negative. Victor's post is a valuable reminder that no matter how strong we appear publicly, we are all fighting our own battles, internal and external. Even highly respected leaders like Victor face challenges and failures, and this is a reminder that setbacks only make us stronger. Having a firm grounding in personal development and an ability to listen to your heart will enable you to overcome anything.
The title above is a quote from Tony Robbins, whom I had the pleasure of seeing live last week. Today's post is going to bring some real value, as I'm going to share some of the gems I got from Tony and Sir Richard Branson at a conference. This post is rather lengthy, but there is no other way I could do justice to the amazing content I have to share. I promise you will get some value here if you take the time to read and process these words.
There is an annual network marketing conference hosted by an organization called Go Pro, which is headed by Eric Worre. I've learned a ton from Eric over the years, and my wife Nicole and I booked two seats at this conference a year ago. When the time came to attend we decided finding childcare for four days was cost prohibitive, so we took them with us. To Las Vegas. Fortunately, the venue was the Las Vegas Convention Center and our hotel was across the street. The craziness of the Strip was distant enough that we didn't feel too uncomfortable having our kids along. Nicole and I decided to take turns attending the conference. One of us attended while the other showed the kids a good time in Vegas.
Nicole took the first shift at the conference, and she got to see Mel Robbins (no relation to Tony), one of her favorite speakers. Nicole got a ton of value from hearing Mel in person. I took the kids to Circus Circus. I initially planned on calling a Lyft ride, but when I saw on the nav how close it literally was from my hotel, I said "we're going for a walk kids!" It took over 30 minutes of walking. It's amazing how the resorts in Vegas look so close together, but it takes forever to walk from Point A to Point B.
We arrived at Circus (I hate saying the name twice, so I'll just say it once from here on) just as the Midway opened. It's a good thing we walked there, otherwise we would have had 30 minutes to stand around at a smoky casino.
We visited the carnival games and quickly ran through the little cash I brought. It isn't much different from Chuck E. Cheese, so my kids were in their happy place. The kids each won a stuffed animal, then I won a giant Pikachu, which the kids had to "share," and they each insisted on having a hand on it at all times. A show started at the center stage, so we grabbed a seat in the bleachers and had a blast watching the trapeze act.
I'm not writing this post just to summarize a family vacation, am I? Let's talk about Tony! Tony's session started at 6:00. Our family had dinner together, then I was off to the conference, while Nicole entertained the kids in Vegas.
Tony came on stage to much fanfare. 16k people were in attendance, so the room got pretty loud. There is so much material I could cover and I took several pages of frenzied notes, some of which is illegible because I was writing so fast. I'll stick to the main takeaways I got and not just repeat Tony word for word. Tony covered much more material than I cover here. These are just some of the more digestable portions of his talk that are conducive to a blog post.
One of Tony's main themes was Energy. You are more likely to take action while in an energized state, and energized people have more influence. Tony spent probably one-third of his three-hour time slot whipping the crowd into a frenzy. His aim was to demonstrate the power of energy and put the crowd into a high energy state, rather than just lecture about it. I get it. I'm just not someone who jumps up and down screaming on cue. I can't go from 1 to 11 on a moment's notice. But that's a self-limiting belief, isn't it? Tony's point is that you must train yourself to be high energy, and be able to switch it on and off.
While the jumping around stuff wasn't very effective for me, I totally get the larger point - people are attracted to energy. He's not talking about food energy - look what happens after Thanksgiving dinner, we fall asleep. Have you heard the expression "food coma"? He's also not talking about energy from a good night of sleep. How many times have you slept 8 hours and woke up still tired? Tony's talking about emotional energy.
The following exercise totally resonated with me. Tony had us interact with each other, similar to "greeting your neighbor" while at church. He had us spend two minutes greeting everyone in the rows nearby, but we were instructed to act like we didn't care to meet each other, and to generally greet each other rudely and dismissively. It was very uncomfortable and unnatural, but it drove home the message. I had about a dozen people act artificially rude to me, and even though we were acting, every single one of the greetings hurt. If I was playing my role correctly, I hurt every one else too. Wow. If you greet someone and treat them like you don't care, if you avert eye contact, have a rude expression, mumble and give a weak handshake, you will have zero influence. People will instantly dislike you. I hated this part of the exercise, but it was a necessary evil and very instructive. He asked us to analyze how we used our facial muscles, voices and bodies.
The next step he had us greet each other with trepidation and excessive shyness. I cringed and looked sideways as I gave limp handshakes with my elbow tightly at my waist, while my greeting partners did the same. On a visceral level, I found I felt no respect for the people I was meeting. If they did not respect themselves enough to give me a hearty greeting, then I did not respect them. Those were not my true feelings about these people of course, just how the exercise made me feel in the moment. That's how Tony wanted us to feel.
Then things got fun. Tony asked us to greet each other as if we were long lost relatives or friends, and we were really exicted to reunite. We greeted each other with eyes wide open, loud voices, hugs, double clasped firm handshakes, etc. After doing 1-2 of these greetings, I could feel my mood and energy skyrocket. After 10 such greetings, I felt amazing. You greet someone like that, they feel awesome, and so do you. Both parties feel important, validated and connected.
Right when I thought the message had stuck, Tony took it to another level. He had us crank it up to 11. He instructed us to act totally ridiculous and lose our minds with glee upon greeting each other. I was a little worried at first, wondering how the hell I could top the greetings I just gave. I found a way. As soon as he said Go, I started bear hugging people, lifting them off the ground and rocking them back and forth, as if I was greeting my children. We tried to outdo each other. Imagine walking into a room with 16k people acting like this. You would think we lost our minds, and maybe we did a little bit. I'll tell you this: standing in a room of 16k people, where anyone in arm's reach was grasping at you for an enthusiastic hug, is an amazing experience I hope to have again in my lifetime. It was a high I've never felt before.
The lesson wasn't that you should act like this when you meet or greet people. You would get arrested! Restraining orders would issue. Think of the Free Hugs Project guy (look him up if you don't know him). He enters contentious locations, like political rallies and protests, and offers free hugs. He literally lives in this state. Anyhow, the point was that we need to train ourselves to raise our emotional levels. He wanted us to experience the feeling, so we understood his lesson emotionally, not just intellectually. Imagine your life if you could manifest that feeling at will. What kind of person would you become and what kind of people would you attract?
The main lesson here is that you do not influence people from your words; you influence people from the state in which you deliver your words.
B. Resources and Resourcefulness
Another theme Tony discussed is adversity. Nobody's story is unique because we all have challenges, and challenges are a catalyst for growth. Examples of resource scarcity we use to assign responsibility for our problems can be time, experience, money, energy, relationships, etc. Tony's thesis is that our problems do not flow from a lack of resources, but from a lack of resourcefulness. Let that sink in for a moment.
The stories we tell ourselves about our failures focus on a lack of resources, but we don't recognize our own capacities for resourcefulness. Tony gave an example of a TED talk he gave years ago in Silicon Valley. He asked the room who has failed at something, and not a single person raised their hand. Tony kept pressing and eventually the hands went up. Tony asked for reasons, and the room's responses exemplified a lack of resources. One person in the room yelled out that his failure was caused by an unusual resource: a Supreme Court justice. This person was Al Gore. Al blamed the loss of the Presidential election on the Supreme Court. Tony responded that he lost the election because of poor debate performance, not because of the Supreme Court. Al was blaming a lack of resources, not his own lack of resourcefulness. Had he performed better at the debates, the election would not have been left to the Supreme Court. This is why you can't blame kickers when a football team loses on a missed field goal. Had the team played better the game wouldn't have come down to a field goal try.
When we encounter the inevitable failures and setbacks, we tell ourselves stories about why it happened. We often deflect responsibility by blaming our problems on a lack of resources. Many of our problems could have been avoided or mitigated if we focused on developing our own resourcefulness. He was really talking about personal responsibility here.
Tony put a photo of Robin Williams on the screen, and asked the crowd of 16k people to raise their hands if they LOVED Robin. The entire room raised their hands, myself included. This is a man who brought so much joy and happiness into the world, yet he was not happy inside, and he ended his life. To be fair to Robin, he was also suffering from Parkinson's and dementia, so I don't want to oversimplify the end of his life. Tony's point was that even though the entire world loved Robin, he ended his own life because he was not fulfilled.
Success without fulfillment is the ultimate failure. Tony repeated this phrase a few times for emphasis. How many materially wealthy people do you know who are miserable and intolerable? How many materially poor people do you know who are fulfilled and happy? Becoming materally successful, by itself, will not make you happy.
Fulfillment is different for everyone. Tony gave an example of Steve Wynn, the casino mogul, who spent $82 million on a painting. Steve called Tony with great enthusiasm about his new acquisition, and invited him over for a viewing. Tony shared a photo of the painting on the big screen, stunning the crowd. The painting on the left is not the precise one Tony showed (I can't seem to find it), but this is pretty close. Tony saw a red canvas, but Steve saw a work of art that provided so much meaning and value that he paid $82 million. Owning or viewing works of art provides fulfillment for some people.
While fulfillment is different for everyone, Tony shared that most people obtain fulfillment by growing and giving. You are either growing or dying, there are no plateaus in life. I have read two wonderful books discussing this topic: The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson and The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy. You can't help but feel fulfilled while engaging in activities that foster your growth. You also feel fulfilled by giving to others.
One way of feeling fulfilled is by trading expectations for appreciation. We feel frustrated (the opposite of fulfilled) when circumstances fail to meet our expectations. Learn to trade your expectations for appreciation.
We also feel fulfilled by appreciating the little things in life. Here is such an example for me. During our last camping trip I bobbed around in the lake for hours. One day a beautiful blue dragonfly landed on my arm and checked me out for a good 15 minutes. We were fascinated with each other. Nicole happened to be nearby with a camera, so I caught her attention and she snapped a few pics. Here is an example of me feeling fulfilled, basking in the beauty of something most people would take for granted.
Tony's three-hour presentation ended on the topic of gratitude. The human brain is the result of 2 million years' worth of evolution. Our brains are designed for survival, not happiness. Our brains are always scanning the environment for problems. Our ancestors were looking for their next meal and making sure they did not become a meal. Modern humans aren't much different, as we are always scanning for problems and negativity. If you look for negative, you will have little problem finding it.
If you want to reprogram your brain to notice beauty and positivity, you have to actively practice gratitude. It is like exercising a muscle.
Tony gave some examples of petty annoyances that get under our skin (myself included). For example, you dial a phone number, and get annoyed because it took a whole three seconds for the line to start ringing - the horror! You're aware that the call had to go to a cell phone tower, then up to a satellite, right? In space? Don't we all get annoyed about airline delays and hassles? Did you then fly like a bird through the air and travel hundreds or thousands of miles in a couple hours? And you eventually reached your destination? We aren't limited to horse and buggy anymore, are we?
In the closing moments of the evening Tony did an interactive exercise, and this was my favorite part of the entire weekend. Tony discussed how our hearts start beating in utero before our brains have formed, and our hearts pump blood into our brains. The screen showed this graphic detailing how, when we are in a state of frustration, our brain waves and heart waves are out of sync. I know from personal experience that when you are frustrated, emotionally compromised, you are incapapble of rational thought. Attorneys play games with each other at depositions by trying to get under each others' skin. When I was a younger lawyer, and old lawyer needled at me until I got so angry I could barely think straight, and this negatively impacted my ability to focus on the witness and my questions. That was his goal.
In contrast, your heart waves and brain waves are aligned when you are in a state of appreciation. The house lights turned dim and calming music played. Tony had us stand and place both hands over our hearts and feel them beating. It has been giving us life before we were even born. Tony told us to think of a significant life event for which we are grateful. I breathed deeply, entering a state of relaxation, and thought of how I won the 5th grade spelling bee. I bested a 6th grader in front of the entire student body, and they all stood up and cheered for me. I have never experienced anything like that since. I was grateful for that moment. I started to feel calm.
Tony asked us to think of another event for which we are grateful, and it took only a couple seconds for me to settle on my wedding day. I recalled standing in front of the wedding guests on the lawn of the Dana Hotel on Mission Bay, holding hands with my bride. Our eyes were locked together, and neither of us looked away during the entire ceremony. The pastor commented on our unflinching focus on each other. In this moment, at the conference, I kept thinking, "I'm grateful that she chose me; she chose me." While standing in a room of 16k people with my eyes closed and hands on my heart, my thoughts started flipping between Nicole's deep blue eyes and the births of my two children, now 6 and 8 years old, I had an overpowering sense of calm and awe, but most of all, total GRATITUDE. I also became overtaken with emotion. I truly felt that my heart and brain were aligned. I felt totally focused, happy and fulfilled.
Please try this exercise right now and see how you feel. Turn down the lights, eliminate noise, close your eyes and place your hands on your heart. Deep breathe and meditate on the things for which you are the most grateful. I recommend starting and/or ending each day like this. That is a guaranteed way of entering a state of gratitude.
Not even a week later, I had the privilege of being a guest on an online event called The Gratitude Show. The timing was perfect because I was only a few days removed from a Tony Robbins conference, where he taught me this amazing gratitude exercise. In the closing minutes of the live show, I demonstrated the gratitude exercise. I wanted to show the audience how this works, so I did it live, and I broke down, live. It is hard enough for a man to become emotional in private, much less in front of a live audience, but I felt it was more important to teach this method to others, so I put my ego aside. Multiple people wrote in the comments that they tried the exercise and felt great, and that made the whole process worthwhile.
Click here for The Gratitude Show's YouTube channel.
Sir Richard Branson
The session with Richard Branson lasted one-third of the time we had with Tony, and it proceeded in Q&A format with Eric Worre.
Richard discussed how entrepreneurship requires bravery and entrepreneurs have ideas about how to improve others' lives. You need an idea that stands out from the crowd, then surround yourself with brilliant people.
Richard's dislike of Donald Trump has been no secret. He said the "you're fired" attitude is inconsistent with reality, that companies should be run like families, meaning you work out your problems. I could tell he wanted to say much more on this point, but held back because he did not want to become political. He never mentioned Trump by name. Richard shared more on his management philosophy, but I won't delve into that here.
Richard said you cannot fear failure. You pick yourself up if you fall down, and your resilience can become part of your story. Richard freely shared and poked fun at some of his failures, such as Virgin Soda and Virgin Brides (!). He has created massive success with some of his ideas, and massive failure with others. You are not a true entrepreneur unless you fall on your face occasionally.
Here is where I got the most value from Richard. He shared that he was in the Mojave Desert that morning, overseeing a test launch of his spaceship. A SPACESHIP. They showed a promo video of the rocket launch, followed by the ship being released, its engine fired, then the ship flew through the stratosphere. Richard said he got a tear in his eye watching this event. Can you imagine? This guy started out as a record label. He got into aviation because he got bumped from a flight, and he was eager to visit a romantic interest. He chartered a private jet, then walked through the terminal with a handwritten sign saying "Virgin Airlines, $29/ticket." He sold out the plane, then decided to launch his own airline. Now he's getting into space tourism.
I pondered how this story might apply to me. I thought how cool it must be to see your own logo (Virgin) on the side of an airplane, much less a spaceship. Of course he got emotional that morning. I then looked down at the pen in my hand. I had a batch of Eternal Roots pens made for promotional purposes. Most of them were snatched up when I naively put them on display at an expo earlier this year, but I made sure to keep some for myself. I looked down at this pen, a $0.49 pen, and marveled at the name and logo that I created. What will this become one day? What will my version of the spaceship be? I then had my own tear in my eye. Right then I got what I needed from the talk with Richard. Work hard, innovate, provide value to others, care about others, create quality products people will buy, build your brand, and there is no limit to what you can become.
Caution: Spoilers Ahead!
Soon before I had the epiphany to launch Eternal Roots, I was listening to The Alchemist on Audible. I love this app. You download audiobooks directly to your mobile device, and can listen to books anywhere you go. I listen while driving, walking around town, and at the gym. The Alchemist, among others, had a tremedous impact on my decision to launch Eternal Roots, and to ride out the adversity that came.
First, a brief summary of the novel. The Alchemist is a fascinating story about a Spanish sheepherder who craved adventure. The book commences at an abandoned church in the country, where the boy spent the night with his flock. Herding sheep used to satisfy the boy's desire for adventure, but he was having strange dreams, and sought out a gypsy to interpret his dreams. The gypsy said he needed to travel to the pyramids in Egypt, and she was so certain his dreams foretold real fortune that she demanded a percentage of the proceeds as payment for her service. The boy then set out on an adventure across the Sahara in pursuit of his personal legend. The theme of the book is that once you identify your personal legend, and decide to take action, the Universe will initially conspire in your favor. This is known as Beginner's Luck. However, the Universe will then test your resolve and challenge you, over and over. The boy's journey included abandonment in a foreign land, robbery, beatings, death threats, loneliness, self doubt and despair. While his resolve often wavered, and he desired to quit and return home to his flock, he overcame the challenges, and ultimately learned the treasure he sought was located in the very abandoned church where the story began. He had to travel to Egypt to learn that the treasure was right under his feet.
The whole point of the book was that he had to grow and develop his character before he could have the treasure. He had to overcome the challenges the Universe threw at him. The Universe doesn't just give you anything; you have to earn it. This boy was tempted over and over to give up and return home, but eventually he got so far, and became penniless, that giving up was no longer an option. That's the meaning I took from this novel. If you aren't successful yet, you haven't earned the privilege of success. If you desire a significant treasure, you must grow into the person who deserves such a treasure.
When I first listened to The Alchemist, I hadn't yet conceived of the Eternal Roots concept. Frankly, I was uncertain how the book applied to my life, although I enjoyed it and thought I understood the story. After I hatched the idea for Eternal Roots, and started encountering the invitable challenges of growing a business from the ground up, I started seeing parallels between my journey and the boy travelling across the Sahara in pursuit of his personal legend.
I'll write separately about all the challenges I've faced here, but my resolve has absolutely been tested. Every decision or idea I've had during this adventure has collided with challenges. I read in another book by Grant Cardone, The 10X Rule, that most people quit their businesses because they fail to comprehend the amount of work necessary to bring a new product or service to the marketplace. Even if you give your product away for free, it will take way more effort to succeed than you ever foresaw. That has proven true here.
Every time I face a challenge here, I accept that I am being tested, and see every roadblock as an opportunity for growth. Finding solutions for problems is exhilarating. In retrospect (not always in the moment), I'm grateful for every challenge because I learn and grow every time. I'm not the same person I was when I hatched this crazy idea, and I know I'll be a completely different person a year from now.
Now go read The Alchemist and pursue your own personal legend!
This image was taken from the whiteboard in my home office/bedroom. This is the list of my essential activities. Anything outside this scope is not serving me, and is not a productive or helpful use of my time.
I have always been a big consumer of the news, especially political news. This election cycle has been so negative and toxic, yet I struggled pulling away. There were times during my commute on the train where I was reading the negative news on my tablet, while a personal development book sat unread in my bag. While driving, I have been listening to NPR instead of personal development books on Audible (my favorite app ever). The last couple days since the election I feel the same futility, anxiety, anger, shock, etc. that half the country has been feeling. I have been consuming poison.
CNN = Constant Negative News
You know what? Consuming news such as postmortem analyses of the election, our political future, and random racial violence only makes me feel anxious, angry and helpless. I accomplish nothing in that state. I must disengage from negative information that inspires negative feelings. Today my friend Dave Daley posted a video on FB with the following caption:
Elections Are Over... Did They Distract You From Your Destination?
Yes Dave, they sure as hell did. I have been badly distracted, focusing on negative things. Things that do not serve my growth, my family, my business or profession. I can scarcely look at my FB feed without seeing videos of beatings, shared articles of doom and gloom, and angry vitriolic posts from people across the political spectrum. Fortunately, I also see people posting conciliatory, positive messages, and they are a breath of fresh air. Thank you for that. Here is one repeated phrase I find empowering:
Be the change you wish to see.
Right on. We can't control what other people do, we can only control ourselves. One way to make the world a better place is to make yourself a better person. I love that.
With the election hangover slowly subsiding, I need to focus on my essential activities. I put them on my whiteboard for a reason. Here is what I need to focus on:
None of these activities are furthered by reading Constant Negative News, mindlessly scrolling negative social media feeds, and engaging in political arguments in comment threads. They are a waste of time. They are damaging.
I asked my wife to proofread this post, as I always do. She rattled off other positive/productive activities I could add to the list above, but this wasn't meant to be exhaustive. Those activities are tailored for me. Your list would be totally different from mine. Would it kill you to create a list of positive, productive activities you should focus on? Could you place them prominently in your home, to remind yourself when you are wasting your time?
The more I focus on negative news, the less I'm focused on preserving life stories. My main priority right now is recording life stories, and sharing the mission of preserving life stories. Junk food news doesn't make the cut!
Today I saw something in the surf that is instructive about life. I have a lengthy commute to the law office from North County San Diego to Downtown. In lieu of sitting in traffic on a southbound freeway, I drive out to Carlsbad and take the Coaster Downtown. The first third of the ride hugs the coastline, and I get to check the surf throughout North County.
This morning I saw something I've experienced many times, but its meaning struck me. A swell was hitting the region today, and the waves had some size, about head high. Just south of 15th Street in Del Mar, I saw a surfer unsuccessfully paddle for a wave, and it passed him by. It was an easily catchable wave, and I could tell the surfer's paddle attempt was lacking. Maybe the wave was too big for him or maybe he lacked confidence in his ability, but he could and should have caught that wave.
I'll be very transparent here - I've been that guy when I was younger. Catchable waves have come my way, and I made a show of attempting to catch them, but didn't really paddle hard enough and the waves passed by. Sometimes the conditions were too hairy and sometimes I just lacked confidence in my ability to make the takeoff. I recall surf sessions during my youth, when I had friends out in the lineup and there was a big swell, and I would find myself in perfect position for a rogue set wave that I wanted no part of. Maybe it was too big, maybe I knew there was a bigger wave behind it, maybe the face was too steep (I've never been a fan of late takeoffs), or maybe I was struggling that day, but there have been times where I made a show of "trying" to catch the wave, but self-sabotaged the attempt. Sometimes I only made the faux effort because my peers were watching, and I gave an outward appearance of fighting for the wave, feigning frustration at missing the wave, even angrily splashing the water for show. Sad, right? Why am I even out in the water if I'm only pretending to try to catch waves? Why go through the effort of driving to the coast, parking, donning a wetsuit, facing the cold and paddling out, only to NOT surf? From my vantage point on the train this morning, on the sandstone bluff, I saw someone wimp out on a fun looking wave. I had empathy because I've done it.
I became philosophical as the train turned inland at Torrey Pines, where the ocean goes out of view. If you really want something in life, especially something important, you need to commit and fight for it. In the photo posted above, the surfer is really fighting for that wave. In order to succeed you have to be totally focused and give it your all. The wave will pass by if you give a nominal effort. Even worse, you might catch the wave anyhow, but you'll go over the falls because you weren't committed.
In life we will pursue goals that are frightening. The bigger and scarier your goal, the harder you have to commit and fight. If you half-heartedly go through the motions and let that wave/opportunity pass by, you didn't really want it in the first place. Or maybe you'll set small goals because they inspire less fear. If you are only going to make a nominal effort for something, and if you allow fear to hold you back, you are wasting your time.
This expression recently came to life for me. Not about this project at large, but in the moment.
A few weeks ago I was an exhibitor at the Successful Aging Expo in San Diego. It was a great experience and fun opportunity to share Eternal Roots with the public, showing how I preserve life stories through recorded interviews. I had sign-in sheets on the table for people seeking more information. I emailed everyone on the list, and did a round of follow up calls last weekend. I set up at the table in my back yard, where the reception is better, plugged in my earpiece and got to work. Midway through the list my 8-year old daughter Julia joined me outside, curious to watch. She sat on the table before me and quietly observed.
After several successive voicemails, a gentleman answered. I remembered him from the Expo, as I had an asterisk beside his name on the list. He wore a leather vest bearing several patches indicating he was a veteran. He approached our table and my wife Nicole, who manned the booth with me, extended her hand and thanked him for his service. He asked about our project, and as I explained the Eternal Roots concept, I flipped through the transcribed book of my grandfather that was on display. I turned to a page of my grandfather in his Air Force uniform, at age 21, and said he shared some experiences from serving in WWII. Our visitor responded that he lost his entire platoon in Vietnam, then his voice broke off and he looked to the side to compose himself. It was obvious that he never discusses Vietnam, especially with total strangers. This was the most emotionally intense moment of the day, among several. I responded that during the interview process I would never inquire into combat experience, and he would have complete control over the subject matter discussed. While I am not a veteran myself, I have enough sense to never directly inquire about combat experience. He submitted his info on the sign-in sheet, took a brochure, and moved on.
This exchange really affected me. The intensity of this man's response, and his sudden recall of the horrors he witnessed in Vietnam, drove home the importance and gravity of this project. This is real. I'm recording real experiences of real people and their stories can be uncomfortable at times. One minute this man was strolling through an expo, collecting brochures and swag from financial and estate planners, dentists and funeral homes, then he encounters me and has sudden recall of losing his platoon 40 years ago. I had to step back and process all this for a moment.
Fast forward to follow up calls in my backyard, with Julia silently observing. I was acutely aware of her presence, and wanted to demonstrate a strong work ethic. The veteran answered the phone, I reminded him of how we met, and asked if he received my email. He said he was unavailable to talk at the moment, but that he did receive my email, and he did not respond because he was not interested. He wasn't rude, just matter of fact. I thanked him for his candor and ended the call. I have experience in direct sales and have received more than my share of No's. I understand rejection is seldom personal. However, he was my most salient memory from the Expo, and I wanted to record his story. I was prepared to offer my service pro bono.
For a moment I felt deflated and dejected. Eternal Roots is my baby, so it can be hard to separate myself at times. I suddenly felt inclined to wrap it up, rationalizing that I had done enough, even though I had more people to call. Then I looked up and locked eyes with Julia. She asked what happened, and this had to become a teachable moment. I can't let her watch me quit after facing some adversity. I explained to Julia that my service isn't for everyone. Some people don't want to share their story and it can be painful for people to remember some experiences. Some people say No, and I have to move on to the next person because there are people out there who want to preserve their life stories.
With Julia observing, I had to silence the excuses being manufactured in my mind and demonstrate resiliency. The next person on my list answered and received my call favorably. She said she was "very much interested" in having me interview her husband. Had I stopped calling after getting that No, this husband's story might have gone untold, and my daughter would have absorbed an unhealthy message.
The parallels between this experience and the meme above require no explanation. This event has become part of Julia's life story, and I hope the lesson stays with her.
Today I had some thoughts about doing everything with excellence.
There is an ironic expression in the restaurant industry called the Two-Second Rule. It means food dropped on the ground can be used as long as it is picked up within two seconds. I've even heard of the "Two Foot Rule," meaning you can still use it as long as two feet haven't touched it. I've heard and used these expressions many times in my pre-law school years managing restaurants. These expressions are ironic - nobody actually abides by them (that I have seen).
My philosophy in the kitchen, both in restaurants when I was a kitchen manager, and at home where I am the self-appointed Director of Culinary Operations, is that I never serve something I wouldn't eat myself. I wouldn't eat something dropped on the ground, therefore I wouldn't serve something dropped on the ground.
Tonight I heard an allegory by Les Brown while listening to an audiobook. He told the story of a burnt out general contractor nearing retirement whose employer directed him to build one final home. Eager to get the project completed and retire, the contractor cut corners, ignored subcontractors and knowingly used inferior products. When the project was completed the employer handed the contractor the keys and said the house was his. The shoddy home was his retirement gift. This story was used to explain how you should do everything with excellence, as if you were the ultimate beneficiary.
The story reminded me of the two-second rule. While there are few parallels between cooking and construction, you should strive for excellence in everything you do, imagining yourself as the recipient your endeavors. If you would not want to own the product you are creating, then start over or find a new vocation.
I apply the same philosophy with Eternal Roots. When I'm editing videos, incorporating photos and creating the transcribed book, I strive to create a quality product I would hand down to my own children, as if it were the last thing they would see from me. If you brought a similar ethos to your trade or profession, then that is part of your story to be preserved. Many people have deluded themselves into believing they led an uninteresting life, that nobody would care to hear their story. However, if you did your best with your God-given ability, then you have a story worth preserving.
Yesterday morning I saw someone I know on the train, and later passed him in the hallway. That afternoon he was on a stretcher, being lifted into an ambulance, suffering from a possible heart attack or stroke. We get wound up in our daily lives and little cares, and we are suddenly reminded of our fragile mortality.
I work in a law office downtown. Across the hallway is the district SBA office. They have a program called SCORE, which provides mentoring resources to small businesses. I have met with a SCORE counselor about Eternal Roots, and I am now working with SCORE to create a workshop for small business owners about legal concepts.
I commute downtown on the train, where I recently met a SCORE counselor, Jack. I started talking with him because our offices are right across the elevator lobby, and I am a small business owner myself. I showed Jack this website and solicited his feedback. We chatted about doing a law workshop at their facility. He is a nice guy with a warm personality. He introduced me to the director of workshops at SCORE, and they approved my curriculum. This will provide value to small businesses, while also being a resource for obtaining new clients. Jack opened that door for me.
Yesterday I saw Jack as we got off the train in the morning. He had a distant gaze in his eyes and didn't appear to see me. He seemed deep in his own thoughts, so I stayed a bit behind as we walked to the building. We crossed paths in the hallway later that morning, and he gave me a slight nod.
Around the noon hour I heard sirens outside, and saw a fire engine pull alongside my building. Sirens aren't an uncommon sound in downtown San Diego, and I didn't think much of it. An ambulance arrived moments later. I see homeless people getting picked up all the time, and figured there was an overdose (I've seen it before).
Yesterday afternoon I had a meeting with the SCORE director to review my curriculum. The mood was somber in the office, and the director said one of their counselors wasn't feeling well and was exhibiting symptoms consistent with a heart attack or stroke. He didn't feel up to taking the ride home, and they decided to call an ambulance. I asked if it was Jack, and he said yes. I offered to reschedule our meeting, but the director said we could proceed. During the meeting he recited Jack's feedback as we reviewed my curriculum.
I don't know Jack's prognosis. All I know is he was at work one moment, being carried out on a stretcher the next. I'm sure he had things on his mind, like the election or a to-do list, and the next instant he's solely focused on survival. Should he pull through, his life will be forever changed. Jack provided insight on this business and he helped me with my law practice, and never sought anything in return. He may or may not be alive today.
When something like this happens, you have to take a moment to reflect on your own mortality. Our time on this rock is short, and we need to make the most of our lives. I recently finished an audio book by Les Brown, called The Power of Purpose. If you haven't heard of him, definitely check it out. Les asked you to imagine receiving a terminal diagnosis, like a month, six months, or a year. If you knew you had a time certain left to live, what would you do with that time? Why not live your life right now as if you knew you had limited time left? We've all heard the expression that we should live each day like it's our last, but none of us do, and we prefer not to think about it and pretend we're immortal. Les caused me to ask that uncomfortable question of myself - what would I do if I knew I had six months to live? I thought if I preserved as many life stories as possible, asked the best questions and created the best products for families to cherish, then I could leave a positive mark on the world. That would be more meaningful than giving legal advice. Forget jumping out of planes and traveling to Paris - I would rather preserve your life story.
I now ask this question of you - if you knew you had six months to live, what would you do with that time? We don't all have the luxury of quitting a job, blowing through our savings/retirement and traveling the world, but what would you do with your time, given your current means? Would you keep working that job? Would you stay in that relationship? Would you mend fences with someone? Would you change or accomplish something, or would your life stay exactly the same?
Imagine what you could accomplish if you lived your life with the intensity and urgency of someone who had six months to live. Then do it.
About the Blog
Here I write about the evolution of this project, the act of preserving life stories and personal development. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it.