Category Archives: Asset Based Thinking

Hidden among the stuff

We are now on the other side of Black Friday which was preceded this year by the newly christened Black Thursday (formerly Thanksgiving). The big players in major retail hatched up another way to confiscate even more money from the masses; stores traditionally closed for the holiday once known as Thanksgiving would now be open. While I did not hear of anyone being trampled to death, some frenzied consumers did act out. Reports appeared of stabbings, assaults, shootings, and police dragged by cars driven by shop-lifters. Obviously the stores are not solely blamed but we can thank them for creating the environment. Oh well, there is a price to be paid for capitalism and some consumers are willing to do whatever it takes to save a buck.

I know it is cliché and all, every Thanksgiving the posts appear in the varied social media forums appealing to all to keep the thanks in Thanksgiving. It is ironic that an effort to preserve the traditional essence of the holiday is even necessary. A time for family and a time of expressing gratitude should come without effort. But the cultural climate has changed and traditional values in society have shifted. Dissatisfaction rules the day; people are unhappy with the jobs, unhappy in their relationships, and just unhappy in general.

Zig Ziglar has been heard to say “the healthiest of all human emotion is gratitude”. Gratitude is born of an understanding; understanding that where we are and what we have in life is the result of choices we’ve made. It is born of an understanding that things could be worse. It is the understanding that life is fragile and the future is uncertain. It’s understanding what the loss of everything and the work of rebuilding is like. The yoke of labor and sacrifice weighs heavy upon those who bear it. Yet from that heaviness strength arises. The earlier you learn to work hard for what you want and then appreciate it once it’s yours the sooner you will learn gratitude. “It is good for a man that he bear the yoke in his youth, he sitteth alone and keepeth silence because he hath bourne it upon him”.

When people fail to have or express gratitude it is because they overlook certain truths. It is the schedule, it is the struggle, it is the hardness that life brings. Yet what are we missing out on?

In 2008 a social experiment was conducted in a subway of Washington, D .C. on a busy workday morning. Award winning, Carnegie Hall playing violinist Joshua Bell situated himself in a high visibility area and for nearly an hour played classical pieces. In a region of the U.S. defined by sophistication and cultured tastes, it was predicted that masses would gather to witness such a performance. Even if skill alone did not arrest attention, surely the renowned musician would be recognized. But the reality was no one even noticed him. No one recognized his talent, no one recognized him, and no one even recognized his costly $3 million dollar violin. Other things had their attention. Schedules, the work place, finances, familial issues, health concerns, relationship matters, etc. Logically these things are not inherently wrong, but where does it end?

At some point, we all reach a place where we decide not to get caught up in the race. Detach from the temporal. Divest yourself of futile efforts. The masses are buying stuff they don’t need, with money they should not waste, to impress people that really don’t care. I shake my head when I think about ways I’ve wasted time, money, and energy in my life. I am now wanting to just be grateful for what I see and hopeful toward what I will soon see.

Copyright © 2013 J.M. Cortés

Direction and Destination

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“For the ship without direction or destination, any wind will do”

The thought of being without direction or a destination is something we must never accept. Maturity acknowledges that life can change fast and unexpected; it will disorient even those who excel in focus. But there is a vast difference between situational disorientation and aimless wandering. We have all met people whose sum of initiative was merely to exist in the moment. The bare minimum was enough to satisfy them and absolutely no effort would be made to travel beyond it. We all have met them: they have worked beside us, lived near us, and may even be related; they live life in a transitory state avoiding commitment and responsibility.

Perhaps it is fear that causes people to live life this way; perhaps its anger. Possibly they became conditioned for it through the environment they were raised in. Today I listened to an educator talk about homes where a child’s academic success was optional. I have personally known individuals who communicated to their children a dismissive attitude regarding education; “a job pays bills, not a school”.  Whatever the cause, without direction or destination, there cannot be expectation either. It could be that expectation itself is the enemy to those without drive. If someone does not have any expectations they are safe from disappointment as well.

The United Nations has declared the ocean floor has evidence of 3 million ship wrecks on it. There are many causes for shipwrecks: storms, navigational error, and a ship being over loaded. However the most common cause is when a ship runs aground. A ship that runs aground typically hits a sandbar or rocks near shore causing the hull to be pierced and the ship becomes entangled. Then the ebb and flow of the tide works to literally pull the ship apart. It seems logical that the most destructive threat against a ship is when it does not serve its purpose.

Our lives are like ships; we cannot prevent the storms of life but we can navigate them. Our navigational skills are honed by learning from our experiences. Sometimes we drop our anchor and weather the storm, sometimes we move forward in spite of it. Sometimes we try to bear more than we should and casting off the excess becomes necessary.  But most importantly, we must have direction and destination otherwise we will become lost at sea. If we are without purpose, we are like a ship that moves toward shallow waters near land and faces the severe risk of running aground.

“A ship in port is safe. But that’s not what ships are built for” – Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper

Copyright © 2012 J.M. Cortés

“We have met the enemy…

…and he is us.”

Self Destructive Behaviors…it appears humans are the only mammals bent on messing with them.

The title and opening statement of this post seems to summarize the irony of it all. It is a well-known quote from Walt Kelly’s political comic strip Pogo. Aimed at environmental efforts and the launching of the first Earth Day, the message behind it highlighted a sobering truth about pollution. Technological advancements had come with a serious caveat of pollution and alternatives needed to be considered.

As it was with technological advancements and their expense of increased pollution, so it is with self-destructive behaviors. The driving force behind self-destructive behaviors has been deliberated since way back. What motivates people to engage in them? What is missing from a person’s thought processes that allow them to overrule ‘good common sense”? Studies have offered a number of reasons from self-imposed ‘punishment’ to a darker self-hatred.  Other causes such as mental disorders or environmentally driven cases (i.e. childhood experiences) are pointed to.

In their work, Roy Baumeister and Steven Scher presented 3 common models of Self Destructive Behaviors. One of them immediately comes to mind when discussing these thoughts which they appropriately called ‘Counterproductive Strategies’. Stating that people naturally act in their own interest, this form of Self Destructive Behavior is one that actually surprises the person. Essentially, they embark on an endeavor that they anticipate will have a good outcome. But mistakenly they choose or create a plan that produces the exact opposite of what they hoped for.

Self destructive behaviors can range from poor habits to intentional self-abuse. Take for example the poor habit of smoking; it has absolutely no redeemable value and sustained use yields severe consequences. But through rationalization and a dependence on the ‘feeling’ it offers, some decide it’s worth it. The costs are worth it, the health issues are worth it…a premature death is worth it. These are all considered a trade-off just for “the feeling”. (Incidentally, ‘Trade-Off’ was another model of Self Destructive Behaviors presented by Baumeister and Scher).

At the source of Self Destructive Behaviors can we find a logical reason? There are obvious factors such as immaturity or failure to recognize particular risks. Or it could be environmentally driven like actions connected to peer-pressure. But the most obvious and most ironic reason of all is that the source is found in a simple Latin word – Ego. Many have been ensnared by a word we’ve come to define as “self-esteem” or “personality”. But this Latin word defined in its basic sense speaks of the most dangerous pronoun “I”.  Many people become an enemy unto themselves. Through foolish choices, unheeded counsel, and unprofitable obstinacy they work against the very thing they want. Let it not be repeated: “We have met the enemy…and he is us”

Copyright © 2012 J.M. Cortés

Lesson learned…

“Me, I want what’s coming to me….”

“Oh? Well, what’s coming to you?”

“The world, chico, and everything in it.”

These notorious lines are repartee of the protagonist and his counterpart in a tale about the rise and fall of a drug cartel leader. While the banter assumes an influx of ill-gotten materialism, the intention and motive is the same – destructive ambition. This tale I’ve referenced is neither unique nor original; as far as humanity goes back there have been people with unbalanced appetite and unwavering drive to attain whatever they want.

When the foundation is wrong, it is to be expected the subsequent phases will be just as wrong. Typically how something is begun is how it will end. The end of the character quoted above found him lying in a pool of his own blood, victim of assassination. While this example is not only extreme and rooted in fiction, there are many with a tale of ruin simply because they were controlled by destructive ambition. There are no shortcuts to any place worth going and no quick routes for gaining that which holds true value. The enjoyment of having what is ill-gotten is short lived compared to that which is gained honorably.

A fresh awareness of this came to me as I arrived at the conclusion of a particular venture in my life. This event started 581 days ago and resulted from an emotionally charged decision. I excused the decision under the pretense of it providing a form of income (which is important) and pride (which can become one’s undoing). I launched out thinking all would be well and something good could come from it.

Needless to say, 581 days later I not only accepted the venture cost me more money than it made me I lost some other things along the way. Starting off I knew what would come from it and its limitations. But hoping for something better to evolve from it and influenced by pride I jumped into it feet first. However if I would have jumped in with my mind first I would have never entered at all.

But as things that are begun wrong can do, it came to an end in an unexpected way. The consolation in all of this is two-fold though. I’d probably have continued to waste my time on a situation that could never yield a return of discernible value. More importantly, I learned a valuable lesson about decision making during emotionally charged times…don’t do it…for when emotions run high, judgment runs low.

 

Copyright © 2012 J.M. Cortés

Perspective

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Raising the window shade to look again, I still could not see anything. First it was 15 minutes, then 30, and soon an hour had passed. There we sat waiting to begin our flight out of Washington and yet our plane had scarcely moved from the loading bridge. I could not recall a time where I had seen fog so dense, it was as if we were surrounded by billows of smoke. Finally the fog dissipated enough for the Captain to announce we would depart and I was hoping he could see more than I could. Taxiing along the runway then launching forward, we soon took flight. Climbing to 10,000 feet, then 20,000, we finally were cruising at nearly 40,000 feet. The view from that same window now presented a much different perspective; a clear blue sky and hardly any clouds could be seen.

This experience represents how perspective influences response to a situation. Nothing changed concerning the weather, but our perspective changed when we rose above it.  Many times perspective becomes obscured by difficulties, interactions with negative people, or having a pessimistic attitude. While we cannot prevent every difficulty, we can control how we respond to it. We cannot transform the negative outlook others  have but we do not have to be influenced by it. And of all these things, the one we have most power over is our own attitude. Our attitude is formed and shaped by our perspective.  “Two men look out through the same bars, one sees the mud and one the stars” (F. Langbridge)

Perspective and Difficulty

When we are confronted by difficulty, regardless of its degree, the mind immediately formulates a response. The situation may be different but the response is typically consistent with our nature.  As the density of the fog hindered visibility for flight, difficult times can hinder our vision. It’s hard to believe when everything is falling apart that a resolution is possible. Or at the least, it has an end.  The day before posting this article, I was flying in a small non-commercial aircraft. As we began our descent, the pilot told me we would encounter turbulence very soon. Descending into clouds that had been below us, we now flew in a pattern that kept us surrounded by them. Visibility was zero. The pilot responded to my surprise by stating the instrumentation is what we were now relying on. When flying in zero visibility, a pilot cannot follow feelings or perspective. Spatial disorientation might cause them to feel they are going one way when they might be going another.  When difficult times disorient us, our perspective can become our undoing. This is where the importance of positive (and higher) influences becomes most evident.

Perspective and Negative People

“Protect your spirit from contamination; limit your time with negative people.”  – Thelma Davis

Naysayers, whiners, and skeptics are everywhere. These people walk among us criticizing and complaining about everything. Some of them do not even view “the glass as half empty”; they have a readymade presentation about the insufficiencies of the glass itself. They are trained well in the art of minimizing potential and maximizing limitation. These people have rallied associates for their cause as well; an alliance based on their ability to offer fear and anxiety. They see the dark side of things; citing chapter and verse on how pitiful things are. They see the worst in people and the worst in every situation. Avoid their toxicity; they should not be permitted the opportunity to distort your perspective.

Perspective and Attitude

Remember “Tough times don’t last but tough people do”. Once I have reached the other side of a trial, I know it helps to reflect on the perspective I had during it. I try to think about how I felt and how I was thinking when it started, then the same when it was over. This helps me to work toward attaining a proper perspective when the next trial arises. Proper perspective of the past helps to have a proper perspective of the future. On the flip side, I am reminded of material I used to teach anger management that used an allegory of “life views and windows of time”. The material created a metaphor of people standing before “windows of the past, present, and future”.  Viewing life (and thus living it) from a window view of the past is not constructive. You cannot undo what has happened and regret will only create negative feelings for today. Living life from a window view of the future can create anxiety and stress. The material encouraged focus on living life from a window view of the present. We cannot change the past but the future is best prepared for by focusing on the present.

“It’s your attitude, not your aptitude that determines your altitude”.  If you’ve ever heard Zig Ziglar speak, you probably have heard him say this!

What kind of perspective do you have? Where has it taken you? Or by contrast, what has it taken from you?

Seek a higher perspective and once you have attained it, seek a higher one than that.

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Copyright © 2012 J.M. Cortés

misINTERPRETation

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“A good understanding prevents a misunderstanding”

I am not sure who coined that phrase but it is one I personally quote often. Those displaying mastery of communication through oratory, delivery, and word prose still face a formidable challenge: the understanding of their hearers. Despite the message’s content or its medium, its entire essence can be misinterpreted simply passing through the recipient’s filters. Effective communicators attempt to avoid misinterpretation through basic fundamentals of message delivery. They do not simply create a message then suppose it will be understood exactly as intended to be. Nothing can be assumed. Whether the medium is in audible, pictorial/video, or written format some of the basics are: be clear, be concise, and be consistent. When following guidelines such as these, the message can pass through the recipient’s filters with greater ease.

What are these filters I am referring to? They are a construct of personality traits and dispositions that a person develops in life. These are cultivated by influence of culture, upbringing, education, and role models. Once these filters are in place, it becomes nearly impossible for someone to receive and interpret information apart from them. Even the most objective of people will concede they often defer to predisposition. These filters are an advantage to some and a misfortune to others. Those whose upbringing was healthy and functional were afforded an opportunity to view things from that perspective. Those who were subject to pitiful role models or were raised in a dysfunctional culture learned another perspective. Regardless, the manner in which a message is interpreted and thus responded to is still a choice.

We all have experienced hearing a song play in the background somewhere then recognize later it was retained in our memory. While we may have not been listening to the song we still heard it and our subconscious tucked it away. The melody is there, the tempo is there, but what about all of the lyrics? That is one way people misinterpret the information they receive – they heard it but they did not listen to it. The information was incomplete therefore subject to misinterpretation.

There are basically 2 principal methods for translating information, texts, or a particular science. One is metaphrase and the other is paraphrase; the first aims for literal translation while the latter focuses on “an intended sense”. Terminology regarding language translation method of archaic texts has been divided up as “functional equivalency” versus “literal equivalency”. Again, the first seeks to convey what the text means in essence. The second takes the text and drops it into a receptor language with the intent of literal presentation. Of these examples, which do you think is at risk for misinterpretation? The method of metaphrase or paraphrase? A translation that is functional or literal?

It is estimated that people speak at a rate of 125 words per minute. It is also said that we spend 80% of our day communicating and 45% listening.  When you couple these figures with research stating 24 hours after hearing something, we typically remember only 50% a dilemma arises in the work place! If we take these figures and place them in a 3 ½ hour training session metric, this is what we might have:

  • 210 Minute Training Session
  • If one person did all the talking, they could say as many as 26,250 words
  • If the people trained listened at 25% efficiency, they would hear 6,562 words
  • By the next day they might only remember 3,281 words

The training attendees would do well to take notes and the speaker should choose their words carefully! But what about the filters I’ve already written about, how might they factor in? Logically those could be represented in the 25% listening efficiency, but what an exponential increase of chance for misinterpretation. The sum of the matter is that we should listen and not merely hear. That we should insist on the metaphrased and literal rather than things implied. And finally we cannot undo what led to the construction of our own filters. But we can ensure they are working for us and not against us. Prejudices, narrow mindedness, and reductionist thinking are the result of restrictive filters. They keep people from evolving mentally. Our minds have the ability to comprehend an average of 300 words per minute; more than double that which is spoken. I could throw other facts and figures out there but you get the point. We cannot allow a biased approach to information undo it’s essence through misinterpretation.

“What I hear I forget, what I see I remember, what I do I understand.”

Copyright © 2012 J.M. Cortés

Fear Unfound

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“Confrontation!” demanded Greatness, choice lost when I said yes

Standing behind me I was found wanting and darkness covered me

Flight to a light with hope I’d escape this fright

Warm tears testified against me, terror brought me to my knees

What I feared most had come upon me

Confrontation?  No! Fear itself was my dread

I arose, running away from the light to which I had fled,

I now ran toward the darkness instead

Standing there I saw more than anywhere else

Standing there I now could see myself

And standing there in the darkness my fear was not found.

More often than not, poetry is born from personal experience. I wrote this particular poem after experiencing a frightening event. Rarely do I share my poetry and furthermore I do not think it is always appropriate to interpret poetry for the reader. I believe poetry needs to interpret itself before the reader. Having said that, I feel the essence (and inspiration) for this poem may help someone so I will offer insight regarding it.

Fear is very powerful and has the ability to manipulate. Fear is a crippling and exhausting emotion. Fear is a subjective response to perception (s); whether real or perceived its influence is the same. Fear has the ability to go beyond influencing the mind to a place where its toxicity can literally cause physical health issues. With statistics in place showing 40 million people in the United States suffer from some form of anxiety related disorder, it’s clear that fear is powerful.

But of all that fear can do, what it cannot do is destroy someone determined to fight back. To some it is easier to submit to fear’s wishes or suppress its affects through medication. But once someone becomes tired of fear’s chains and fetters, they will go looking for a way to be set free. Since fear’s power increases over time more than in a single moment, it must be broken in the same manner. The war with fear is won over time; its fighting a battle here and there then celebrating each moment of victory.

A lesson in fear’s methodology is demonstrated in how a lion overcomes its prey. Lions will sometimes pursue their prey for distances that they could close much sooner. If their prey is much larger and heavier than them, it is easier to pursue them to a point of exhaustion. Then when their prey has worn down beyond running further, it will fall down and the lion attacks.

The issue with running from fear is that never catches you; how can it? The intangible has no teeth or claws to sink into you. Furthermore it is impossible to outrun something in your mind! Success in overcoming fear is not found in outrunning it, it’s found in not running it all. We have to confront our fears ‘head on’ (pun intended).

The essence of this poem I have shared is that fear must be confronted. If you start running, you will never quit.

Copyright © 2012 J.M. Cortés

2013: The Scapegoat comes to an End…

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Photograph: Copyright © 2009 Mike Bade

“Victory has many fathers but defeat is an orphan” – Galeazzo Ciano

It was considered by all of them a time of new beginnings. Expectation and aspirations filled the air as if they were a soft, enticing fragrance. The weather made its transition from the rain-less  scorching days of summer to a tranquility offered by no other season than autumn. Situated far enough east of the Mediterranean Sea, the city escaped the residual humidity lingering from the end of the season. The nights were just shy of being cold and the daily temperatures would not overheat but offer comfortable warmth instead.

The citizens of the city gathered in the temple’s courtyard and all eyes were upon the High Priest. He made his way to the Upper Gate that was situated on the eastern side of the courtyard. There waiting for him was a bound goat bleating sounds of frustration. When the High Priest stood before the goat, he dropped his right hand down hard upon the head of the goat. Hand in place; he began to confess the shared failings and transgressions of the people over the goat. At this action, those assembled in the courtyard fell prostrate silently whispering their own confessions of failure.

At the conclusion of this the High Priest commanded the goat be lead out of the courtyard, out of the city and into the wilderness. This goat became known as the scapegoat; all of their failures as individuals and as a nation were now imparted upon it. It was banished to the wilderness and sometimes purposefully led to a cliff for it to wander off of.

What I have described is how the holiday of Yom Kippur was celebrated in antiquity.  This holiday occurs in the first month of the Hebrew calendar which corresponds to September. It was believed that God during the beginning of the month would inscribe the person’s fate for the upcoming year in a Book of Life. Then on the day of Yom Kippur, the outcome would be sealed.

Today is January 1 of 2013 and all have received a new beginning. The misinterpretation of what December 21 signified on the Mayan Calendar’s was confirmed nearly 2 weeks ago. We are beyond that as well as the rest of 2012’s misinterpretations. Was 2012 a year defined by success for you? Was it a year of defeat? Reflecting on the events of the year, we might recall tears shed in sadness and tears shed for joy. We might reflect upon good memories and bad memories. But regardless of what we remember the most of, the focus must now be upon 2013.

At the beginning of this commentary was a quote found in the diary of Benito Mussolini’s son in law who was a Foreign Minister of Italy. Things were changing in him and his view of his country’s role in World War 2. His statement sums up the feelings of many who pursue success (victory). Everyone is ready to stand up for the credit of what worked, what solved the problem, and what made the difference. Yet when things fall apart rarely does anyone want their name attached to it. We’ve seen it in every social dynamic from work to family situations to events involving friends or acquaintances. While there are many contributing factors to something being defined successful, most important is that which was is honestly a part of it. Credit should be given where credit is due and what did not work needs to be admitted to as well.

I recently read a quote of Will Smith that encapsulates what I am confronting in this commentary. He said: “If you’re absent during my struggle don’t expect to be present during my success”. A true friend, a true companion, a true love will be with you when you are down and when you are up. Life will take you down some hard roads and when the day of reckoning finally arrives look up and see who is standing with you. They are your support base, they are your real friends, and they are the ones who truly love you. And when failure comes to those you care about, do not abandon them but help them. Lose the judgmentalism, don’t focus on the disappointment, and forget about saying “I told you so”. Take them by the hand, lift them up and walk with them. Whichever side you find yourself on of this paradigm, beware of contemplating the use of a scapegoat.

Many spend their entire lives depending upon the scapegoat; something they can blame their failures on. To them it seems easier to rely on their scapegoat as their prepared response. They can ascribe their shortcomings to it then cast it out to a place where it will never be found. The scapegoat will be an option for you in 2013 but you must choose another way. When difficulty comes, when resistance confronts you, do not run nor reach for the scapegoat. Settle it in your mind now: you will encounter trouble and somewhere an obstructionist awaits you. There is also a possibility those standing with you now might not be by the end of 2013.

You must decide that you will rise with them or in spite of them.

Copyright © 2012 J.M. Cortés

 

The Process in Becoming

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2013 approaches and the start of a new year is typically a baseline for new ‘things’. Diets, exercises, good habits launched, bad habits ceased…ad infinitum. Obviously a new year is a fitting launch point and so reacquainting with a certain concept is sought: “How long does it take to develop a new habit?” This query returns a number of answers; some say 2 weeks while others say 21 days. The end result is what inspires it all, the inspiration to BECOME. To become healthier, stronger, wiser, etc.

But there is a Process in Becoming that must be accepted; it is the gatekeeper to your Goals. This Process is also a catalyst to your growth. Since it’s standing between you and your goals and is responsible for your growth, it’s obviously crucial for Becoming. So what is the Process? Listed below and not in any particular order are 3 necessary elements of the Process:

LISTENING

No one likes lecturing or criticism but both are essential to development. If we want to Become something we are not, then logically we must listen to those who have already Become. Only a fool closes their eyes to what they have to show. Only a fool closes their ears to what they have to say. Only a fool closes their mind to what they have to teach. What you see, what you hear, and what you already know has not been sufficient to take you to that place you pursue. These have to be laid aside to receive something greater. This takes a great deal of courage! Shut up and listen; while you are speaking all that’s coming out is what you already know. Be still and hear so you can absorb something greater.

FAILURE

Friedrich Nietzsche said of Failure: “A thinker sees his own actions as experiments and questions, as attempts to find out something. Success and failure are for him answers above all.” What a perspective! It removes the stigma of failure by simply assigning it a place in the steps of the Process.

How many have never tried because they were afraid of failure? The potential alone was enough to detour them. But what if failure (or the perception of it) could be accepted beforehand? What if it could be considered, by default, a part of the Process? Its influence would not go away but rather it would be channeled into a productive force. Thomas Edison was quoted as saying “I have not failed, I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”.  A former supervisor once told me that the sign of a great technician is not what they fix but what they break. What this idea communicated to me was, it all comes down to experience. I have a friend who is known to take mechanical things apart once they quit working simply to learn about how they functioned. To most, these things lost their use when they broke but to him a lesson could be extracted from them.

DECISION

The etymology of our English word “decision” is from the Latin “decidere” which has within its connotation the meaning “to cut off”. Some ties have to be severed. Negative voices, destructive influences, and things that take from you but never add to you must go. They are like dead limbs on a tree or “suckers”; they partake of the substance of the root yet never contribute to the production of fruit. Get the shears out and sever these suckers off. They manifest in all forms; they can be habits, attitudes or relationships. Deal with them or they will keep doing what they want with you.

There are many more elements in the Process of Becoming than these I’ve listed. Furthermore, I did not even get close to exhausting the 3 I mentioned. But I hopefully have offered you something to think about.

The inspiration for this commentary was no doubt the reflection of something in my subconscious that played out in a dream I had this past Friday. In my dream, I was at the base of a mountain and at the summit of this mountain it was raining. The rain seeped down the side of the mountain and as I climbed the mountain it would wash down over me. During my ascent I could not tell if the rains hindered or helped me. At times I was forced to suspend myself over open areas that to fall through would mean certain death. But all the while it continued to rain and the waters flowed passed me as well as over me.

Finally I reached the top and when I hoisted myself over, I saw others who had already climbed lying down and resting. Someone rose up and asked me “are you going to take this mountain” and I replied that I would continue beyond it. When I looked beyond where we stood, I saw another set of mountains whose top was covered by clouds. As I started to walk toward them I woke up. The symbolism was not lost on me as I replayed the dream over in my mind. The Process in Becoming is akin to climbing a mountain, it is difficult but there is a mountain top experience that waits for us.

Copyright © 2012 J.M. Cortés

An Indomitable Spirit

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Few things are more awe inspiring than someone’s refusal to accept defeat. You are witnessing greatness when you see someone persevere through adversity with absolute confidence they can achieve their goal. Perseverance through adversity is evidence of an indomitable spirit. I believe resolve is like a well spring deep within everyone but the ground must be broken up for it to spring forth. When someone wants to take short cuts and retreats from hardship, they are suppressing this well spring of resolve. Allow the rains of adversity to shower the grounds above this well spring. These rains will soften the ground and make it easier for the good to break through.

An Indomitable Spirit is revealed by the choices one makes. Giving up is a choice and persevering is a choice. These choices are the result of whatever is influencing us the most. Past failures, a poor or nonexistent support system, and deficient integrity can influence the wrong choices. Previous successes, a great support system, and internal strength can influence the right choices. Nevertheless, the right or wrong choice is a conscience decision that is up to the individual to make. Environment is a powerful influence but the choice is still up to the individual. Examples abound of people who overcame a negative environment and its influence to achieve success. Examples also abound of people who failed to achieve success though they had a positive environment to thrive in. The words of Henry Ford ring true: “Whether you think you can or think you cannot, you are right”.

The record setters, record breakers, and all who have made an imprint on history were individuals who made a choice. Their Indomitable Spirit pushed them beyond limitations and defeat. Edmund Hillary was the first to lead a group of mountaineers to the summit of Mount Everest. But his first attempt was not successful and even took the lives of some of those he lead. In spite of this defeat, the British Parliament moved forward with an event to celebrate his efforts. As he entered the building, a standing ovation commenced. However Edumnd Hillary appeared to only notice  a picture of Mount Everest set up in the auditorium. He walked directly up to it and while shaking his fist at the image of Mount Everest he declared: “You won this time. But you are as big as you are ever going to get. And I’m still growing.” History reveals he would not let that defeat be final and eventually he stood on the summit of Mount Everest.

A common occurrence takes place in marathon races stretching out over significant distances,. Once first place has been secured and the other leading contenders have crossed the line, it is normal for those still far behind to drop out. An attitude prevails that since, the primary victory slots have been attained continuing the race becomes optional. Throughout my martial arts training, I have heard more than one instructor say: “You are not in competition with those around you; you are in competition with yourself”.

Zoe Koplowitz has been called “The World’s Slowest Marathon Runner”. At 64, she has participated in over 20 marathon races. The quality most distinct about her participation is not her age but the fact she has battled multiple sclerosis for more than half her life. Each time she has crossed the finish line she has been a winner. It may have not been a first place winner but a winner nonetheless. Her completion time for a race has been as much as 31+ hours. Her response to this: “It doesn’t matter how long it takes me to finish, it’s that I finish and I finish from the heart”. An Indomitable Spirit forges through the false concept that only races won, count. The Indomitable Spirit knows that some races are won strictly by virtue of finishing them.

“He who gives up when he is behind is cowardly; he who gives up when he is ahead is foolish.” –William A Ward

Copyright © 2012 J.M. Cortés

The Benefit of Resistance

Resistance becomes tolerable when viewed from a certain perspective. Have you ever had an idea that was under appreciated?  Have you ever had plans that were discouraged? When purposes are born they have a fraternal twin called desire. So when a purpose enters into your spirit and mind, the desire to see it fulfilled automatically comes with it. This is why naysayers are an annoyance at that moment; this is why negativity towards a purpose is frustrating.

There are benefits to resistance though and not all resistance should be viewed in a negative light. Additional perspectives are important and there is power in shared counsel. We can be islands unto ourselves but this is a choice that has disadvantages. The benefit of constructive analysis from an ‘outside’ source offers a perspective less invested. Our mentors, trainers, and teachers have something to gives us that we do not have and their influence is needed. The encouragement from the support base in your life needs to be heard out. I have heard the immature and shallow speak of how people in their life were ‘holding them back’ or ‘were not supporting them’. Essentially, a destructive purpose was in their mind and the caring people around them were trying to redirect. This is positive resistance and if received correctly, the benefits of it will save you.

Then there is a thing called negative resistance. This is resistance for the sake of disagreement; it is when a contrary position is held simply for sake of rebuttal. I personally have a low tolerance for negative people. People that will expel vast amounts of energy to argue against or minimize a purpose just to be different are exhausting.

For nearly 30 years, Charles Kettering was over research and development at General Motors. Referring to problems his department faced that required a collective staff meeting to resolve, he once said “when I wanted a problem solved, I’d place a table outside the meeting room with a sign: Leave slide rules here. If I didn’t do that, I’d find someone reaching for his slide rule. Then he’d be on his feet saying, ‘Boss, you can’t do it’”. At that moment he did not need his staff focused on problems, he needed them looking for solutions. For some it is preferable to say no instead of yes, to disagree instead of agree, and to negate instead of support.

There are only so many responses to negative resistance. Negativity will either subvert you from your purpose or it will inspire you to proceed. People respond differently to resistance. Some are provoked by it to the point of aggression, it fuels their fire. Others become so deflated by it that it begins to spread to other areas of their life. Do not become intimated by the forms of resistance that you face when pursuing your purpose. Difficulties can be overcome and hard times are easier to navigate with a positive outlook rather than a negative one. Resistance builds strength so if you always avoid it, what areas are remaining weak in your life?

The path of least resistance is easier to travel but your carriage never has the opportunity to become stronger. There is a threshold we reach in our study, our training, and our overall growth. When you reach this threshold, you are faced with a decision. At that moment, you can choose to stop because you are tired or “it’s just too hard”.  Or you can choose to move beyond that threshold and if you do, it has no other choice but to move with you. It is your captive at that moment, not the other way around.

I will close with this but I will write about intimidation next. Intimidation is a method of resistance but it is very caustic and must be confronted head on.

Copyright © 2012 J.M. Cortés

Feet of Clay

When something comes into existence, its foundational elements foretell its outcome. A faulty foundation will mean instability while a sure foundation provides for an optimistic future. Relationships, business ventures, and other important decisions demand a fit beginning. Whatever it takes to begin a thing will be what it takes to carry it forward.

If focus, discipline, and commitment are required for something to begin successfully then that will mean these things will be required for it to continue. It is illogical to be surprised when a thing began wrong does not progress very far. If deceit or compromise is required to carry something forward then plans should be made for more of that to be required.

The tales of the Golem in Jewish antiquity is a tale of irony. The Golem comes into existence as a creation of clay by the hands of a superior being. The irony is that the creator would make this Golem for the purpose of consulting it, the creator seeks a seer. The tale of the Golem says the fashioning of clay combined with dance or a parchment with ‘truth’ written upon it would bring the image to life.

The creator would then appeal to the Golem for direction. But what can the creation teach the creator? What can the creation provide for the creator? The Golem rises to speak yet its own feet of clay testify against it. Its very existence displays the superiority of its creator yet ironically the creator chooses to defer to it for guidance.

This example of the Golem is one that represents the basest forms of thinking. This is a symbol of shallow thought and a desire for shortcuts. It is reasoning without deductive processes, it is satisfaction with analyzing but only at the simplest of levels. It is an approach to a solution found among deficit based resources. “I want to see the solution but I don’t want to have to strain to see it”. Foolish.

Avoid the insignificance of that which stands upon feet of clay, it will never have the capacity to bear the weight of that which holds true value.

Copyright © 2012 J.M. Cortés