Redefine What’s Ordinary: The Pool of Success

“I like to just think of myself as a normal person who just has a passion, has a goal and a dream and goes out and does it. And that’s really how I’ve always lived my life.”  –Michael Phelps

 

“I think that everything is possible as long as you put your mind to it and you put the work and time into it. I think your mind really controls everything.” –Michael Phelps

 

I could say that I had always wanted to learn how to swim. And I wouldn’t be lying. Up until 2 weeks ago, the problem was found in the time and energy I was willing to put forth into figuring it out. Let me break this down in terms of proximity.

I went ahead and calculated the total distance between myself and the realization of my goal in terms of feet. Are you ready? Here it is …*clears throat*…

 

Exactly 0 ft.

 

Interesting, isn’t it? There wasn’t any lack of pool to help me learn the right technique and internalize it. The arena that I needed was right around me. In fact, I was literally up to my neck in opportunity. I even had sound instruction, but never followed it consistently. It was way easier to stand off to the side, let my feet touch the ground, and slowly trudge through the resistance to get to where I wanted to be.

Isn’t that all of us? We love to talk about how badly we want a better job. We pass the time talking about where we’d like to travel, what kind of shape we’d like to be in, and even for the believer of God, how we wish we could know God the way so-and-so does. The desire and motivation isn’t the problem. Your lack of action and time invested is.

We always hear about action. It’s the dessert of every motivational movie and speech that ended with us saying “Man, that makes me want to get out there and try it!” It’s also the start of every year. New Year’s Resolutions are a well-worded want and usually fizzle out by June. Why? Because the truth is, if it doesn’t take less than a year to achieve, then most of us will never bother to see our progress through to the end. Hence, an Old New Year’s Resolution is usually 365 days away from January 1st.

Here’s a word of advice: Start resolving and don’t stop until you’re finished. Talk is cheap and consistency is in demand. Time and Action go hand in hand. It’s really that simple. This is why the above quotes from Michael Phelps are basic in nature and honest about our shortcomings. He knows what he wants, decides that he doesn’t want anything short of victory, and spends the amount of energy and time necessary to reach success. All as a “normal person”. Let’s play a little game called Find the Normal Person In the Room. The beauty of this game is that you could be alone in a mirror maze and I guarantee you’d find a winner. Because we’re all capable of greatness on our own stage. We just need to become the right kind of “normal”.

Going “all in” can sometimes mean meeting the price of success with exact change. It’s not just commendable, it’s required. And anything less will leave you coming up short.

Are you holding onto the walls of the pool of success? Letting go every now and then, but only an arm’s length away from safety? Here’s the thing. Going “all in” can sometimes mean meeting the price of success with exact change. It’s not just commendable, it’s required. And anything less will leave you coming up short.

Do you swim without treading water? Can you navigate your way through the obstacles, only going far enough into the deep so as to “keep your head above water”? Standing in what’s easy and manageable, this is the watery graveyard of most big dreams. We get comfortable and miss out on the vast rewards of “going off the deep end”. Again, easy is not the same as effective. Ever heard the phrase “Sink or swim”? It’s the equivalent of putting yourself in a position where you have no choice but to do better and become more. It’s a special place the successful venture to because they want more than just enough.

Do you learn enough for the day, but forget to cultivate and add to your training? That was me. I knew the basic mechanics of an experienced swimmer, I put it into practice, and at the end of a good day of trying, that’s all I was left with for the next few years: A good day of trying. Ever-trying, but never truly matching desire with action and time needed for a return on my investment.

Go and train for that job you’ve been thinking of applying for. Get another one for that trip you’ve been wanting to take. Eat right and exercise often. Draw near to God and watch Him draw near to you. With one life to live, do we really want to spend our time in the pool of success barely getting by and always in a state of trying? Or do we want to glide in the deep, confident in our ability to explore a world away from effort that never goes rewarded above the surface? A good friend of mine used to say that sometimes you have to give up what’s good for what’s great. Reach your full potential and be tenacious about it. The Michael Phelpses of this world won’t be fully accounted for, because showing up is only half the battle. Keep on showing up. And whatever you do, do it now.

 

Something Angry, Something Pride, Something Argued, Something Bride

“Temper is what gets you into trouble. Pride is what keeps you there. “ -Anonymous

 

Picture this: You’re sitting down next to the woman whom you’ve forsaken all others for and you decide to remark rather offhandedly—by the way, please note that our remarkable English language has deemed it necessary to have such a word, one that describes both a complete lack of forethought and serves as a written warning that the road ahead in this story is indeed perilous and ornamented with danger.

But I digress…..so you’re sitting there and casually remark:

 

“Man, you know what I could really use? A new [insert general and non-specific noun]. Yeah, the next time we head to the motorcycle shop I think we should buy one. Maybe today, if you don’t mind, my most tempered and ever-loving bride.”

 

I don’t think this is verbatim, but you get the picture.

 

She retorts—“That’s funny.” (Was it?) ”…I’ve been asking you for months to fix my (insert car part here) and you haven’t lifted a finger. But all of a sudden your bike is more important and now everything needs to be done right away??”

 

“Whoa, now. I did say ‘if you don’t mind’. And you seem to be implying that I wasn’t open to both errands being run today for both vehicles. How about we get both errands done while we’re out and about?”

 

“That’s fine, Andrew.”

 

“It doesn’t seem fine.” —Notice the absence of provocation. I’m simply being thorough in ensuring my wife is wholly satisfied with the end product of this currently skirted argument.

 

“Yeah, I said it’s fine.”

 

*pause for effect*

 

“…It just seems like you weren’t really concerned about it until today when you needed something.”

 

There it is. A few back-and-forth’s, a few unsolicited clarifications later, and we’ve arrived at a little place I like to call: Heateddebatesville, Texas. Where it’s always sunny and tempers boil over.

 

But wait! What’s this? Wife-partner has made an unexpected play! Just as the big guns are about to come out (not literally), and the transition from implosion to explosion is about to unfold, she unexpectedly calls for a truce! A white flag of the “Look, it’s not a big deal. Let’s not fight, okay?” variety.

 

This is a problem for two reasons.

1.) I was just about to unleash a barrage of critical points that would have devastated her cause. And subsequently 2.) I’m so worked up I don’t know what to do with myself. This is where temper turns to pride.

 

Whereas a wiser man might have relaxed his grip and lowered his now-leveled barrel, I decided to go ahead give a lil’ crank-a-roo on my Gatling gun, anyway.

 

This is typically where you see the following fruitless responses:

 

“Oh, just like that? Just like THAT, huh??” –The I’m going to maniacally and rhetorically question this new-development…a lot method.

 

“NO, you started this, now finish it!”–The Arguments are like a sandwich and good meat is expensive approach.

 

“I knew it. You just can’t admit that you were wrong to begin with.” –Ah, the oft-used What a revelation. I wasn’t sure of my convictions till now, but this did away with my wishy-washiness. Thank you, my dear strategy.

 

Many a men have been known to try and navigate out of this Bermuda Triangle of love and marriage. Many have never been seen from again. Our moral compass tends to spin out of control at this point. Quite frankly, a few years later I can’t remember even half of what it was we were fighting about.

Our words of love and even righteous anger should be like your proposal, played out over and over during the course of your marriage and always presented with the utmost consideration towards reception and environment.

But I do know this: My pride has taken over where my anger should have burned out or bowed out long ago. It’s easy to let your commitment to an argument grow legs. How dare your spouse get you all riled up, just to call it all off in a moment’s notice! Ironically, a sudden change of pace is what you were initially looking for, but now that you’re fully invested in it, you feel like you have to experience that full release! The conflict arises when this Get-your-money’s-worth mentality starts to fuel a spat past the point of a healthy conflict–which promotes growth and accountability—to a place where bickering and verbal-sparring points are all that you’ll have left at the end of the day. Speaking from experience, it’s usually always better to make an extra deposit in the marriage bank and, in a few words, leave it alone. At least for a while.

 

Fools vent their anger, but the wise quietly hold it back.” –Proverbs 29:11 NLT

 

That’s not to say that there won’t be a time where you feel a burning desire to get one more piece of valid, edifying advice in. But usually, the “real-talk” that we put so much stock into is worth enough to save for a later time. And it grows with interest. We marry for the “forever” of this lifetime, but argue as if it’s the last five minutes we’ll ever have again. Our words of love and even righteous anger should be like your proposal, played out over and over during the course of your marriage and always presented with the utmost consideration towards reception and environment. Easier said than done? Well, what isn’t? I can’t think of anything I’ve spoken into existence, today. Or ever, for that matter. Action will always be harder than thought. But extremely rewarding.

Patience in the heat of the moment. Humility through reflection. Tactfulness in the calm of a pause. Silence isn’t a weakness. These are tools of the wise. Forged in restraint and wielded to cut through a dense and tense situation to a clearing where you’ll have a more welcomed opinion. Even if that means reversing course and revisiting a point of contention at a later time.

With everything to lose and even more to gain, I would recommend trying this the next time you find a disagreement gaining momentum and reaching a sudden halt. Feed the fire of passion in your marriage rather than stoke the flames of anger and pride. And whatever you do, do it now.

The Facebook Put-down

I rarely, if ever (usually never), post a picture or meme that would cast me in a negative and degrading light, nor attack my worth as a person. Sounds a little harsh, until you realize that your News Feed is brimming over with Put-Downs!

This is me making my way through life at the moment: enter a video of a kid hitting his head on both sides of a playground slide as he makes his way down.

My dating life in a one picture: filter-heavy picture of a person sitting down, wrapping one arm affectionately around a beer staring at a starry night.

First week after my paycheck—lobster on a plate. Second week—Ice water soup in a bowl.

 

Nicely done! 30 seconds and a few swipes later and we’ve already established (jokingly, because that makes everything alright *wink*) your friends suck at life, are extremely lonely and meeting little success in the dating world, and have zero self-control when it comes to spreading out their finances through to the next payday. And that’s just scraping the surface! It’s amazing how we can scroll through this all day, every day without batting an eye, but if we were around someone who verbally talked this way about himself or herself ALL the time, we’d get sick of it really quickly. You’d think they were desperate for attention, self-loathing, and quite honestly, a little too self-absorbed. All for the sake of being “funny”.

 

“Would you punch yourself in a street fight, Mr. Burgess?”

“No sir.”

“Then don’t punch yourself in a word-fight.”

 

In the movie The Great Debaters, Denzel Washington (playing professor Melvin B. Tolson) points out that to truly advance in his life, particularly in this debate team, Hamilton Burgess (played by Jermaine Williams) would need to avoid insulting himself. The joke he had previously made at his own expense was a detriment not only to himself, but the team as a whole. …Why?

Tolson understood the power behind his words. It was a cheap and easy way to get a reaction, to become comfortable with his audience, and to make a point without involving anyone else. But at what cost?

 

“The problem with putting yourself down is that, no matter how wonderful you actually are or how many positive qualities you have, you’ll always find verification of that which you’re looking for.” —Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff with Your Family, Richard Carlson

 

Put-downs are not grounded in truth. We gravitate towards the realization of what we think is true. Sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy. We act with consistency towards our beliefs or what simply consumes our time and thoughts.

Ever notice how once you or a close buddy purchases a new vehicle, you suddenly seem to notice that vehicle everywhere? It’s not a coincidence. What was once in the background of the world is suddenly at the forefront of our minds, selectively choosing what is worth noticing.

But what’s wrong with being relatable? Nothing at all! Nobody is perfect. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. The problem is that our attitude online bleeds over into our lives. We joke in the office, we poke at the people around us who are “Forever alone!”, we chuckle at our last bologna sandwich when it’s Tuesday night and we have 3 more days to go till we make bank again. Why?

Because building takes work. Tearing down is easy and less of a laughing matter. But here’s the secret: It’s worth more. Worth the energy, worth the creativity, and worth the silence when matched up against the noise of the critical mind.

Know what would happen if you didn’t post until you had something that is a tribute to your more capable self and attractive qualities?

  1. You’ll post less at first.
  2. You’ll grab the phone out of habit and NOT desire every 10 seconds ( a.k.a. the detox period) –Take your time and keep yourself busy.
  3. Eventually, EVENTUALLY, you’ll stumble across a happening worth mentioning, a success worthy of admiration and considered imitable. Something that doesn’t conjure images of a hopeless, bumbling moron, but a human being that actually has a life and hits the mark every now and then.

Trust me, it’s more becoming. It’s Axe in the fog of B.O. posts that reek of insecurities. And you know what? It covers the stink you create (mistakes) in the sweat of grinding out other victories during the marathon of life.

 

Here’s a quick mental exercise: How do you phrase your thoughts as you make your way through the day? Does your phrasing focus on the negative or positive? Do you put an uplifting spin on what you lack or strive to achieve? Try these on for size…

 

“We never go out anymore.” Vs. “We should go out more.”

 

“I’m a terrible cook.” Vs. “My strength lies more in foods that are made on the stove-top and not baked.”

 

“I’m tired of being such a blob.” Vs. “I’m going to get more fit by trying [insert actual exercise or activity].”

 

See a pattern here? Longer sentences on the polar end of your typical dialogue? Sure. A little lighter on the heavy word-lard that’s become the social norm? Absolutely. But it has a better after-taste and doesn’t bog you down when you should be lacing up and meeting milestones. It’s a Low-PutDownMe diet that will yield a brighter outlook. I promise.