“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.”
I wanted to feature a warm reminder from Hellen Keller, whose perspective is unlike anyone else’s. The quote is, “Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.”
Everything in life has a tradeoff. As Issac Newton put it, every action has an equal opposite reaction. If that’s the case then we can choose where we put our attention in order to surround ourselves with the things we want. That’s not to say that the shadows of life don’t exist, but it does suggest that we can focus on the light and not the dark.
With this idea there’s an interesting undertone of self-awareness. The quote talks specifically about keeping your face to the sunshine. It doesn’t directly mention seeing light, and I think that’s on purpose. It’s meant to have us take a step back and think about how we can decide to position ourselves, knowing the implications of that decision and how it affects our abilities. It is within our control to choose where we want to direct our attention, and literally moving your body to face the sunshine makes it impossible to see the shadow behind you.
When it comes to living a more positive life, that’s the first step. Prepare your environment and mentality so that it’s easy to see the light more often. Set an intention before going to bed. Surround yourself with positive messaging. Commit to routines that make you feel good. Our brains are already hardwired to discover the negative so don’t give it more fuel than it needs - Choose happy and sunshine in your life, walk boldly toward it, and it will become your experience.
How You Think and How You Feel
I’ve been learning a lot lately about the power of your thoughts and feelings. I’ve always understood them to be a two way feedback loop, but recently I’m starting to think a bit differently. Traditionally you think of your thoughts and feelings as a two way street. The things you think about affect how you feel, and then the way you feel affects the things you think about. So the two of them are extremely intertwined.
Taking a step back and understanding that we were animals before we humans, and that our brains only recently became the superpowers they are, we probably utilize more primitive hardwiring then cognitive hardwiring. This is in alignment with what I’ve learned recently, which is that 90% of our psychology is dictated by our physiology. Another way of putting it, the way we think is at the mercy of the way we feel. So yes, the feedback loop I described earlier does exist, but if you want to manipulate that loop as much as possible you’re best bet is to take care of your physiology rather than your psychology.
As Brian Johnson describes in the Optimize App, the primary element of your physiology is your energy. Are you eating the right foods, getting the right amount of rest, and doing the right things to prepare and engage your body? Your brain needs energetic fuel to be at its best, and you truly can’t will your way into things if you don’t have the right environment to do so.
The way we think and the way we feel are extremely important, and gaining an awareness of them are indicators of our well-being. But if you really want to identify a major opportunity for growth then focus on how you feel, starting with making sure you’re adequately energized.
Six Degrees of Separation
There’s a theory called the Six Degrees of Separation that states all people are no more than 6 relationships away from everyone else in the world. This suggests that everyone, from the President of Australia to a goat farmer in Laos, to a tour guide in Chile, is connected. To put it another way - Everyone in the world is a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend of friend of a friend.
That’s not too ridiculously far out if you ask me, and knowing this new-found commonality and proximity we have with everyone, we should start treating each other the same way. “Strangers are just friends waiting to happen”, and our lives can be greatly enriched if we embrace the friend in everyone we come across.
Sometimes walking down the street I see someone and I think, 'If circumstances were different and life brought me and that person together, maybe as a neighbor or a co-worker or a cashier you strike up conversation with at a grocery store, I could learn their story and we could be good friends.' Now trying to meet everyone you come across in that depth is going to be too much to manage, but if we use that same curiosity more often it very well could open the door to some new and incredible relationships.
And it’s not that far of a stretch. We’re all already connected by 6 degrees of separation, and we should lead with treating others as friends we haven’t met yet rather than strangers who threaten us. It’s an abundant mindset and the world would be just a little bit better if we adopted it.
Learning To Drive A Car
A boy who received his learner’s permit is just starting to learn how to drive a car. His dad, his teacher, says, “The most important thing to keep in mind is to watch your speed. If you’re going the right speed you’ll be a good driver.” The boy listens to the instructions and 5 minutes later rear ends the car in front of him because he was so focused at looking at the speed. Next his mom gets in the car to teach him. She says “Yes, your speed is important, but you also need to watch where you’re going. Make sure you stay between the lines and give yourself enough room behind the car in front of you.” So the boy starts driving and an hour in he runs out of gas.
I share this story because it represents two things. First, that there are often a lot of things we need to keep in mind when starting something new, and you can’t expect to be perfect at it. Which leads me to the second point - Eventually all of these little details become second nature. You become more capable and competent overall, and these different elements of the activity require less attention because you have a much better sense about them.
Don’t let a few mistakes make you want to give up. Everything is a process, it’s a practice. Eventually you’ll be on personal autopilot opening up more brain space to work on the next part of the skill that needs to be acquired.
You’re driving the car of your own life. You’re going to bump into some people. You’re going to run out of gas. But you’re also going to get better at managing those things every single day. Embrace being a learner and you’ll figure it out in no time!
Is The Jar Full?
I wanted to share a story and metaphor with you that I think illustrates a really thought-provoking point.
There once was a philosophy professor who was giving a lecture. In front of him, he had a big glass jar, a pile of rocks, a bag of small pebbles, and a tub of sand. He started off by filling up the jar with the big rocks and when they reached the rim of the jar he held it up to the students and asked them if the jar was full. They all agreed, there was no more room to put the rocks in, it was full.
“Is it full?” he asked.
He then picked up the bag of small pebbles and poured these in jar. He shook the jar so that the pebbles filled the space around the big rocks. “Is the jar full now?” he asked. The group of students all looked at each other and agreed that the jar was now completely full.
“Is it really full?” he asked.
The professor then picked up the tub of sand. He poured the sand in between the pebbles and the rocks and once again he held up the jar to his class, showing how it was even more full than before.
The lesson of the story is to relate this idea back to the fullness of your own life. When it comes to the way you spend your time, prioritize the big things first and let the other smaller things fill in the gaps. If you do the opposite you’ll neglect some things that are really important because you won’t have the room to incorporate them. You can do this by being more intentional about designing your priorities into your life - schedule times to speak with family, schedule your exercise, allocate the time you need for self-care, because when you have the major pillars of your life accounted for you’ll be able to show up more completely for everything else.
"All's well that ends well."
I want to highlight something we’ve said a million times and slow down to think a little harder about it. You know when someone tells a story and like any story it has its ups, downs and sideways. But at the end there’s some silver lining that presents a resolution. It all reaches a happy point where you might think to say “All’s well that ends well.”
People say it passively but I think there’s a lot of power to that thought. It involves accepting everything that happened, the pain, the ugly, the trauma, and recognizing that it’s part of your path and got you to where you are today.
I don’t want this to minimize what you’ve been through. The things you’ve felt and experienced were real, and likely left a large impression on you. And deservedly so because they are formative moments of your life. But I do want you to see the value and meaning in all of that, the ways those experiences shaped you, and how you would not be the person you are today without them.
At the end of the day, the only thing we can do about anything is take action in the present. The past is fixed and the future is undetermined, so being mindful of the present allows you to relate with how things are right now, and transition beyond how things used to be. I think that’s something worth reflecting positively on. When you’ve reached a point where things have ended well for you, then you’ve made it. You’re on the other side stronger, and it becomes true - “All’s well that ends well”.
For whatever reason, this idea makes me shutter, and because of that discomfort I’m choosing to explore it. The word is entitlement. Basically, entitlement means that you have rights to something, that by the nature of how it exists you get to choose what you do with it. While this has been normalized in more of a legal sense when talking about health care, property, etc., the entitlement I'm exploring is personal entitlement. It's the perception that you are owed something, whether that be happiness, wealth, or whatever it is you want more of.
This is a dangerous approach to have. When you have a strong entitled belief about something in your life there are 2 major consequences: First is the egocentrism. You view things as revolving around you and you relate everything back to yourself in almost a narcissistic way, and it affects the way you can exist with others. Then second is more of the mindset it brings. Entitlement breeds complacency. If you feel like you have rights to something, or that you’re owed something, you’re much less likely to work hard for it because you feel like you don’t have to. Then when you don’t get it you experience an inner-conflict that makes you feel like you’re being undeservedly punished, which escalates your perceived entitlement.
Given all of that, it’s important to recognize that every single one of us is very fortunate. Having grown accustomed to that good fortune, we may live in a way that makes us feel somewhat entitled to that standard of living. That’s where I invite you to view your circumstances as privilege, not entitlement. Privilege allows you to relate your personal situation with others. It takes a more comprehensive view about how you fit into the world, and ultimately, allows you to have a more positive relationship with the blessings in your life.
Anyway, I know you didn’t ask, but those are my thoughts on entitlement.
You Earned It
So often we talk about how to reframe negative events in our lives so that we can see them from a different perspective, and ultimately relate with them better. What’s fascinating is how many people (including myself) don’t give themselves credit for the great things happening in their life today. When it comes to taking 100% responsibility for your life, it means seeing yourself as the epicenter of the good, the bad, and the ugly.
As for the good stuff - The wins you have in your career, the relationships you’ve nurtured, the great ideas you’ve had and the incredible successes you’ve achieved, you earned it! You and only you are the one that made that happen for you.
You might want to take some time to sit in that idea like I have because it’s really uncomfortable to do. When I accomplish my goals, or reach major milestones, I have a tendency to write it off and attribute it to my circumstances and not give myself credit for the things I’ve done to earn it. What that has done is it has created a dynamic where I haven’t grown with my achievements, and therefore feel a sense of inadequacy around the things I should be celebrating.
And that’s what I wanted to tell you today. You earned it! You’re a stud and you’re crushing it right now. Don’t talk yourself out of it, let that feeling of earning it fuel you to keep on going. Because while you put in the work and earned it all for yourself, you’re only as good as your last play, and you need to keep earning it every single day.
If You Want It To Grow, Plant The Seed
Personal development is very much about growth - Broadening your perspective, challenging your comfort zone, and improving skills on your way to maximizing your potential. But if you think of the very idea of growth, things can’t grow unless something is there in the first place. That’s why I say, if you want it to grow, plant the seed.
Let’s look at it from the lens of a skill. You cannot improve a skill without setting the clear intention to develop it. The intention is the seed. Or how about broadening your perspective. You cannot incorporate new perspectives in your life without exposing yourself to people and resources that give you new ways of thinking. It’s the exposure that is the seed.
But let me take it a step further, and maybe it makes more sense to approach it from a business perspective. You can’t expect your first idea to take off, and you can’t expect to instantly get results because you try one thing. Another way of putting - You can’t trust that if you plant one seed it will grow. So the idea becomes to plant a bunch of seeds in the hopes that one or a few of them will grow.
It’s taking consistent action, in life and business, that allows you to plant more seeds. Your focus should always be on the input, the effort you apply, with faith that the right results will come about from that effort.
If you want it to grow, plant the seed.
Return on Effort with Greg McKeown
We all know that if we want to make progress on things that are important to us, we need to put in the time and energy. But it doesn’t stop there, because there are ways to optimize that thought so you can do more with your time and more with your energy. Greg McKeown answers the question about how we should be spending our time in his first book “Essentialism”, and now he’s answering the second question about how we should spend our energy in his new book “Effortless”. As for the latter, this is what he had to say.
Greg asks you to evaluate the ROE, the "Return On Effort". He proposes that the same amount of effort can produce different outcomes, and it’s important to identify the ways you’re putting in effort that yield the greatest results.
"You only get what you give."
I wanted to feature some incredible song lyrics. One of the songs on my morning dance playlist is “You Get What You Give” by New Radicals, which is a song about some kids trying to find their way in life. The song alternates between telling a story and sharing lessons they should keep in mind along the way. You probably recognize the chorus:
You've got the music in you
Don't let go
You've got the music in you
One dance left
This world is gonna pull through
Don't give up
You've got a reason to live
We only get what we give
I love the practical contrast this song provides. It talks about delinquency, amazing times, crippling doubt, and depression. That’s life, plain and simple, but the ultimate advice it gives through all of those emotions is the song title - “You only get what you give.” That which you share with the world will return to you in unexpected and magnified ways.
Be the brightness that lights up other people’s lives, and you’ll find that your life is much much brighter.
I have been exploring a new and extremely profound philosophy lately. For the last 6+ months (as of this writing), the core affirmation that I’ve been writing down and meditating on is “I am attracting the right possibilities into my life at the right time.” It's kind of a unique affirmation, but there’s one word in it that continues to fascinate me - Possibilities.
After learning more about the Law of Attraction, and the way that the 4th dimensional metaphysical world works, I’ve started to see the value of possibilities. A possibility is something that can happen, and it’s the metaphysical world’s way of communicating with you about the potential of your path. When you become aware that something is a possibility for your life, that’s the 4th dimension tugging you to pursue the possibility you have in mind. Some people say that's your intuition calling you to what is right for you.
But the law of attraction is not enough to get what you want. It’s not only about being aware of the possibilities around you, it’s about igniting them! That’s where the Law of Attraction, that we all know and love must be paired with it’s complimentary force, the law of action. You must exercise that possibility in order for it to be represented in the 3-dimensional world we exist in.
There are no exceptions to this thought, and there are many incredible examples of its work in action. In fact, Ryan Mannion (who is becoming a good friend) just wrote a book called “Reignite Possibilities” touches on people with incredible success stories through the actions they've taken. The best part, not only is it free to download, but it’s tied to a social impact project. When you download your free copy you will contribute one brick toward the building of a school in Cambodia. Grab a copy now at: https://www.amazon.com/Ignite-Possibilities-JB-Owen-ebook/dp/B095J38KNS/ref=nodl_
When You're Feeling Sorry For Yourself
I'm not proud of this, but lately I’ve been feeling really sorry for myself. Things changed up at work where I haven’t been entirely happy. I’ve had random technical issues and misunderstandings in conversation that have led to poor outcomes. Out of protection for myself, I started pointing the finger. I started allowing my circumstances to dictate my state of being, going through the motions by not emotionally investing in my work, and soaking in all the things I had to complain about.
Then I started asking myself questions that I ask you every single day. How might my energy be attracting this? How is my perspective affecting the way I’m seeing things? How am I responsible for the way things are going? I realized that I’m choosing to feel sorry for myself, I’m letting situations run my life instead of controlling the situations I have in front of me. And that’s when things started to flip. If I’m in control, what can I do about it? And most importantly, what do I want?
I decided that I don’t want to feel sorry for myself. I don’t want to feel drained, unmotivated, and hopeless. I want to find ways to make the most of this opportunity and extract as much value as I can from it. Upon admitting to all of that, I was able to get more creative about how I relate with my work. I started seeing how I can develop in the ways I want to, and even more powerfully, I realized how great of an opportunity I actually had to accomplish those things.
I chose to shift my perspective. I gained an awareness around how I was thinking and feeling, wanted to make a change, and connected that change to my daily effort. Things aren’t great, but they’re getting better and I’m finding a lot more meaning in what I’m doing. It’s working for me, and if you’re feeling upset or disinterested in something, I encourage you to get real with yourself and figure out what you can do about it to make things better.
This one was more of a diary entry but I thank you for reading it anyway!
Acknowledge How Others Sacrificed For You
I wanted to honor the heart of the Holiday we’re celebrating today, which is Memorial Day. Memorial Day is dedicated to remembering those who died in service of protecting our Freedom in the United States. It’s a time to reflect and see your path and circumstance, and acknowledge the sacrifices made by others to give you the privileges you have today.
Memorial Day recognizes people who made the ultimate sacrifice. There are many empty seats at dinner tables because of the heroism displayed by members of our military. The sad truth is there’s nothing we can do to change their fate, but there is a lot we can do to honor them and what they stood for. I believe the best expression of that is to make the absolute most of the incredible gifts you’ve received because of their sacrifices.
In the spirit of that, I think It’s appropriate to broaden the lens. There are people in your life today who have invested, sacrificed, and struggled for you and your well-being. Parents, teachers, siblings, friends - People have selflessly made decisions at their own expense to support you, and you wouldn’t be who you are today without them.
So my ask of you today, is to acknowledge how others have sacrificed for you, and be grateful for their contribution. Send a text, make a phone call, or do whatever feels right to you to recognize others who have made you a priority. It will mean the world to them.