Tag Archives: Growth

Life Long Learning

The other day I was talking to my neighbor about general things you usually talk to your neighbor about. (Usually the other neighbors!) The weather, how the temperature is rising and becoming more humid, the days getting longer, how hard it is to sleep in with the light of the sun blazing into your bedroom earlier and earlier. She was telling me about this class she’d been taking recently at the learning annex downtown. I don’t know if you’ve ever gone to the learning annex, I’m not sure how they operate or how many of them there are, but they are a great way to learn new things. Many times they are set up in conjunction with a local community college. I’ve taken classes in Tai Chi, Piano, Assertiveness as well as many other interesting subjects. One of the great things about them is they are fairly inexpensive, and are usually held in the evenings so you can easily work them into your schedule.

We started talking about the benefits of continuous learning, and how the smartest people in the world are the people that make a decision to always be learning something. People can, for instance, learn pretty much anything at any stage in life. There is a general misconception that we can really only learn things when we are really young, say under five years old. You don’t have to go very far to find somebody to tell you that you can’t learn as easily as you can when you were younger. But then again, you don’t have to go very far to find somebody who will happily tell you that you can’t do whatever it is you want to do. It seems that some people spend all their energy trying to find as many reasons as they can why something is not possible.

You may already have started to become aware of the times in your life when you’ve been able to really learn something new. And I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the greatest things you learn are the things that sneak up on you, and take you by surprise. It’s a sad fact that many people spend their whole lives avoiding the unfamiliar, effectively shutting themselves off from future learnings and experiences. I don’t know exactly some of us got into that trap, but when you can find a way to get around it, you will find that the world is a lot more forgiving than you think. I’m wondering if most of the things that we think we are afraid of are really just things that we make up in our minds. How does it feel when you face something you are afraid of, only to discover that simply by facing it, the fear completely disappears, and all you are left with is energy and excitement?

Maybe you haven’t gotten around to doing this consciously yet, but I’m sure you can find some opportunities to take care of this sooner or later. You won’t have to go very far to find an opportunity. A great place to start is at a public speaking club like toastmasters. Because almost everyone is deathly afraid of public speaking it is a great place to realize that those fears are completely imaginary. It’s not like some hungry tiger who just escaped from the circus is going to jump out from behind a potted plant during your speech and eat you, although I admit that might make for an interesting news story.

Fear is probably one of the reasons many people don’t take classes at the learning annex or at their local community college. Of course people won’t come right out and say “I’m afraid,” they usually come up with excuses like they are too busy or something. When you realize that everybody else that takes those classes are just like you, you can really enjoy discovering how wonderful it is to embark on a journey of life long learning. What happens when you take something you’d like to learn, but up to now have coming up with excuses for not learning it, and imagine yourself five years in the future having studied it as a hobby for the last five years? How does it feel to have developed such an advanced skill set by only approaching it as hobby? How much better is your life? How many other things can you imagine yourself doing, now? How does that feel?

What Size is Your Cage?

This morning I was out walking, and I saw a woman with several large dogs. I think she is watching a couple houses for people that are on vacation, so she promised to take care of their pets while they are gone. It’s interesting how such a small woman can command such a large group of powerful looking dogs. It reminds me of that story of the circus elephant. When the elephant was a baby, they tied a rope to its leg, and then tied the other end to a nearby tree. As elephant grew, he realized that he could only go so far from the tree. When he became an adult, he had learned through experience, trial and error, that his world was only confined to a certain area around that tree. Because he was fed and cleaned on a regular basis, he never really had the motivation to and try and move past his confinements.

It’s like when I was in a fish store once, looking at the various fish. On one side of the store, were all the fighting fish. These were fish that you don’t put into a tank with another fish, because they will fight and fight until one of them is eaten by the other fish. The other side of the store is lined with passive fish. Passive fish are content to stay in a tank with many different kinds of fish, and get along well without ever feeling the need to eat each other. I noticed on the side with the fighting fish that there were two sharks, that looked as though they were the same species, or breed, or whatever you call fish, but they were much different sizes. Much different than you would expect from a parent and child. It was as though one of them was a miniature version of the other one. Of course because they were on the side of the fighting fish, they were in different tanks.

Sometimes when you try and see what is really going on behind something that looks different than you think it should, you can be amazed at the complexities that are all around us every day. When you look at this, you might see one thing, but when you look again, you might see something completely different. I’m not sure if you’ve had this experience before. It’s kind of like Déjà vu, when you see something, and you can’t quite put your finger on it. You feel that feeling, and get those sensations, and those allow you to remember those things that you’ve been thinking about for quite a while. It’s those things around you can get really interesting, and you start to really become curious about this. Like you really need to find out more , and discover the truth. Many people, like you, have the courage to follow through on your natural curiosity, while others are content to sit and wait and see what happens.

So when I asked the shop owner why the sharks are different sizes, he said it was because of how they grew up. If you put a baby shark in a small cage, it will only grow to the size of the small cage. But if you put a baby shark in the big cage, it will grow to match the size of its big cage. And the interesting thing is, even if a shark is an adult, and you switch to a bigger cage, you will see an increase in growth when you increase your cage size. Even better is when you get rid of the cage altogether, and roam free. Then you can grow to monstrous proportions.

Which is what happened to the elephant. While he didn’t grow to monstrous proportions, he realized that rope that was holding him to the tree was no match for him. One day there was a fire, and he looked down at the rope decided that it had served its purpose. It had kept him safe long enough, but if he continued to ignore it, it might actually cause him harm. So he quickly broke it, and after he found his freedom, he went and helped the other circus animals and performers escape. He has been roaming free ever since.

How about you?

The Magic of Waiting

I have a friend who is a rice farmer. He tells me about all the different things that you need to do in order to prepare for a decent rice harvest. In come cultures there are even special festivals and holidays designed to help people in this manner. There are different machines, several different stages of preparation including soil preparation, planting of the seedlings, and flooding the rice fields with water. Then the most important, the waiting. This is where the magic happens.

I don’t usually like to wait, which is why I don’t like going to doctors offices without an appointment. I made the mistake of thinking I could sneak in one Friday afternoon about an hour before I had another appointment with somebody else. Boy was that a mistake. Never make an appointment on a Friday afternoon and then just ‘pop in’ to the doctors office. I had been sitting there, already given up on the magazines that all seemed to be at least three years old. I kept checking my watch, already thinking of when I would be able to reschedule my appointment that I was already an hour and a half late for. When this guy sitting next to me starting talking. I normally don’t talk to people in doctors office waiting rooms, but you never know what can happen. You’ll be sitting there, and all of a sudden you will find yourself in the middle of a discussion that you aren’t sure where it came from.

This guy started talking about his job. He is a resource manager for a temporary staffing agency. He said that is always important to gather resources. And there really never is a good time or a bad time to gather resources. I guess since he is in that line of work, it’s important for him to keep that frame of mind. Of always being open to new things, because you never know when you are going to find this useful. He always carries a stack of business cards with him, because you never know who you might run across that you may be able to develop a mutually beneficial relationship with this person. And because the most valuable resource you can ever discover is other people, it always pays to treat people with respect. Once you’ve successfully cultivated a resource that can provide many years of valuable service, both to yourself and to the person providing the service, you can truly enjoy a beneficial relationship.

Which is why, by the time I saw the doctor, I had forgotten all about my appointment, which this guy explained to me was a sales appointment. He explained how you can easily sniff out people that are trying to sell you something from those that just want to help. And the doctor really was apologetic, it seems he had been in an unexpected surgery all morning, and was trying his best to get through all the patients.

Wonderful things happen when you wait. The rice seedlings drop their roots in to the soil, and slowly pull up the nutrients they will mix with the air to grow bigger and bigger. And after a couple of months, you can see the rice growing from the stalk. And a month or so after that, these small seedlings have turned turn into giant resources of food that can be harvested for nourishment to feed entire countries. Amazing things happen when you wait.


The Road Is Better Than The Inn

I was having lunch with a friend of mine today, a friend I hadn’t seen in a while. He’s one of those people that even though you haven’t seen this person in a long time, when you meet up with them, you can just pick up where the two of you left off. Like when you learn something, like playing the piano, you can go for several years, but once you sit down, you can remember easily whatever it was that you learned so long ago. And it’s interesting how you can remember things, isn’t it?

So my friend was telling me about an addition he’s adding on to his house. He and his wife had been planning it for sometime, but they always think of a reason to not do it right away. Need money for this, have to buy that. You know how it is. And both are working full time, and trying their best to raise three kids. It’s no wonder they are so busy, they haven’t really been able to spend much quality time together. Which I think is a misnomer, because all time is really of the same quality, it’s how you can choose to spend your time is what really matters. Like you could spend time watching TV, or you could spend time working on a project that could make it easier for you to make money and improve yourself.

And he said that building the addition to the house was really turning into a special time for him and his wife. Both working together, on the same goal. Not that raising three kids isn’t working together on the same goal. I guess something happens when you spend time with somebody actually building something physical. It’s like you can stand back, and see the progress. You can look at your plans, and compare how you are doing with where you want to go. And my friend is actually not looking forward to finish the addition as much as he thought he would. He said he is really able to enjoy the process, rather than the expectation of an end result.

Like when I was a kid. I was in boy scouts, and every summer we’d go on these long hiking trips. Sometimes a week or longer. And although we went to some great, beautiful secluded spots with fantastic fishing, my fondest memories were hiking with my buddies, looking up at the mountain pass we were aiming for.

Some people look at life itself as a long process, ever changing, ever growing. The moment we begin to lose interest, or lose that spirit of wonder is when we fool ourselves into thinking that we have arrived. We get tricked into thinking that our everyday, day in, day out routine is what life is about.

One way you can jump start yourself off the same old same old routine is to look at experiences with fresh eyes. Ask yourself before falling to sleep every night, “What did I learn today?” And let the answers come in your dreams. You may be surprised to find that you knew the secret all along, you just needed to remember. 


Quickly Unlock Your Potential for Explosive Growth

What do you want to be when you grow up? Have you ever asked that question amongst your friends when you were kids? What answer did you give? When I was really young, under five I think, I wanted to be a cowboy. Then when I got a little older, I wanted to be a baseball player. I only made it until I was cut from the junior high school baseball team. Then in high school, I wanted to be a nuclear physicist.

How about you, when you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? Did it change?

Have you ever heard that song, “don’t worry, be happy?” Catchy tune, isn’t it? Wouldn’t that be easy if you could always be happy?

How about when there was that girl or guy you wanted to talk to, but you felt a little shy or uncertain. Did you ask your friends for advice? What did they say?
“Be confident!” or “be relaxed!”

How about the advice that all parents tell their kids when they ask how to meet a special someone?
“Just be yourself!” Do you think that is good advice?

How about making friends in general? Have you ever heard the seemingly sound advice, “if you want to make a friend, be a friend?”

These all sound like good, honest truisms that might appear to help us to focus on what we want, don’t they? 

There is something, though, that I’d like to call your attention to. It is a simple shift in thinking that can help you to free your mind from unnecessarily conflict, giving you more energy to focus on what you want to achieve in life.

Be. Is. Are. Am. These are the so called “be” verbs of the English language. Linguistically, they are the same as an equals sign. So when you say “1 + 1 = 2”, you can either say “one plus one equals two,” or just as truthfully, you can say “one and one is two.”  Sounds harmless, right? But when you look under the surface just a little bit, you can see it is not as simple as it appears.

For example, lets take the simple statement “I am happy.” Sound good? Sound like something that you’d like to say, and believe? When you think of it as a mathematical equation, which is how the brain interprets it, it becomes a little bit more complicated. What else do you equate with “happy?” What do you think when you complete sentence “happiness is…”.  Whatever you come up with to complete that sentence, you are also saying that about yourself, in your mind, whenever you say “I am happy.” What if you equate some things with being happy that doesn’t really mesh well with what you personally want to feel like? For example, what if you are an athlete, and you think one day that ‘happiness is victory.’ Which means in order to be happy, somebody else has to lose. So when you say

“I am happy”

you are saying, in a sense, that

“I am making people lose.”

It might not seem like it, but whenever you use one of the “be” verbs, your mind puts all the things on the one side of the “be” equation into the category of “same” in your brain, equating all of it to the other side of the ‘be’ verb.

What if one of your goals in life is to “be happy?”  When you tell yourself “I want to be happy,” do you really mean it? Do you want to be happy when you come across an accident victim needing help? Do you want to be happy when you break your arm?

If this sounds strange and nonsensical, it is only because most people don’t take a critical view of the words that we use on a daily basis. Our language is largely unconscious, and sometimes we speak in a manner that isn’t totally supportive of ourselves.

The brain acts like a powerful computer, much more powerful that we’ll probably ever understand. And it also operates extremely fast. As a consequence, it takes huge amounts of incoming data, thoughts, images, sounds, textile feelings, and sorts them into categories as quickly as possible. When we use ‘be’ verbs, we  basically tell our brain which categories to use.

How do we get around this simple yet powerful concept? Stop using the ‘be’ verbs as much as possible. When you think about it, all that you see, trees, people, buildings, are changing processes. Nothing is static. All is undergoing flux, all the time. So nothing, in reality, ever “is.” Nothing is ever frozen in time. People grow, people change, thoughts change endlessly, one into the next.

Instead of saying “I am happy,” try saying “I feel happy.” Instead of making it your life purpose to “be happy,” try making it your life purpose to “feel happy when appropriate.”  Instead of saying “Be yourself,” try saying “behave in a manner that honestly represents both your desires and what you can offer others.”
Instead of saying “I’m so stupid,” when you make a mistake, simply say “I made a mistake.” Take whatever statement you want to make, and exchange the ‘be’ verb for a more appropriate action verb.

If this sounds like a trivial semantic argument, try this for a few days, and you’ll really notice a change. When you start to understand yourself as an ever changing, never static process, life can become much more satisfying. Always growing, always changing, always improving.



Once upon a time there were two rabbits.  Rupert and Rectangle. They were hanging out, doing rabbit stuff. Looking for carrots, finding turtles to race, and resting from making more rabbits, as it was their day off. Rupert, the younger rabbit, decided he wanted to make a model volcano. Kind of like Peter Brady, only without the electricity. Most rabbit experts will tell you that rabbits generally don’t use electricity.

So this young rabbit was building this volcano, but he couldn’t quite get it to work right. He didn’t have the lava mix quite down. I think he was using a combination of egg whites and mulch, or perhaps some kind of gelatin derivative.  He kept getting really frustrated, and he was about to give up. The wise older rabbit, Rectangle, said “Don’t give up yet, Rupert!” But Rupert just threw down his volcano making tools in dismay.

“Nothing is going right. I want to do this, and instead it does that. I want to make it lean right, and it wants to lean left.”

“Relax, Rupert relax. Go with the flow. Don’t fight against the natural order of things. It will come in time. It always does. Just remember to do things one step at a time. If it doesn’t go the way you want it, change what you are doing. Step back, take a bigger look, and figure out what to try next. It’s only practice, after all.”

Poor ruper was following along, but he didn’t quite understand the last part. “Practice? Practice for what?”

“Why tomorrow, of course. Everything you do today, is just practice for tomorrow. Because if you allow yourself to release your expectations, and let things be just the way they are, you’ll be fine. As long as you learn from what happens, you can do it better next time. Especially because you always have tomorrow to look forward to, right?”

“I guess so,” Rupert replied, “But how will I ever finish, if I only practice?”

“Take a look around you young sir, take a look at everything. Does everything look finished to you? Are all your friends not still growing? Are all the trees not still getting bigger? Does father not upgrade and improve your rabbit hole every winter? Do you not need to learn new things in school every year? Does your Uncle, the carrot farmer, not have to learn new carrot planting methods every year? Practice. It’s all just practice.”

 “Practice for tomorrow. I got it,” Rupert said, getting back to work on his volcano.

“And one of the best parts about realizing that everything is practice for tomorrow, is that no matter how bad you mess up or how well you do, you can always look forward to being able to get better.”

And Rupert proceeded to make the best volcano ever.