What do you think about fear?

Fear is no way to live. It keeps you from doing what you want, what you should do. 

It causes you to freeze when the moment calls for moving forward. You hide when revealing yourself is better.

Safety is not always sound. 

Sure, it protects us from risk, from possibly dying, losing. 

But living in fear doesn’t help us win. Staying alive doesn’t mean you’re living. 

Open your heart, put yourself out there, get in the game, do. 

There is more to fear than just failure, pain, and death. 

It’s not living.

A love poem to the haters

To the haters,

It’s tempting to want to hate you back. But that’s useless. 

It won’t help anything. All it does is perpetuate the hate between us. And that’s foolish. 

Instead, I will say that I love you. I feel for you and with you. I sense your pain. 

Isn’t that what causes the hate within—the pain?

I’ve been there—full of hate and fury—and it’s contagious. You can’t help but spread it to others. It’s all you have to give; it’s what you’ve been given. 

No, I will not hate you back. I will fight myself, my reactions, my need for justice, my hate. It won’t be perfect. In fact, I will be terrible at it. But I will aim to love. 

For I was loved with a divine love even when I hated, rebelled, writhed. 

I tasted a goodness that transcends hate and heals pain, freely offered in the Son of God. 

For he was hated by those who should have loved him, rejected by those who should have embraced him, killed by those who should have worshiped him. 

Love loved me when I hated him. 

How can I not love you? 

Improve your life with this one simple word

“No.” 

It’s hard to say it. It’s true. 

We want to help everyone; we want them to like us; we don’t want them to think badly of us. So we say yes. 

But the truth is that we can’t help anyone very well when we are overwhelmed. And always saying yes is overwhelming. 

And that’s no way to live. We don’t want that. Yes obligates. Yes binds. Yes is busy. 

But no isn’t like that. No frees. No empowers. No opens. 

Saying no gives us the space to say yes to what we are called to do, do what we believe we ought to do, become who we were meant to be. 

Doing this is a decision. You can choose to have a manageable schedule, space to think, time to rest, freedom to be. 

Yes or no.

It’s your choice. 

The most exciting thing about boredom

Being bored is a gift; it’s an opportunity. 

Boredom is space, freedom, capacity. It’s the ability to move around, try new things, learn, and, best of all, create. 

When you’re busy, you are trapped. You have obligations, responsibilities. You have to do such and such for so and so. 

When you’re bored, your time is open. 

The key is to fill it wisely, purposely. 

You can paint a painting, write a book, make new friends, deepen existing ones, meander through a museum, lie in the grass daydreaming, read a novel, learn something new. 

Boredom means possibilities. You get to create your adventure. 

Don’t be afraid of boredom. Find it. Embrace it. Use it. 

It means you’re free.

What is the greatest greatness in life?

In the process of becoming better, it’s easy to think we are greater than we really are. And it’s one of the worst mistakes we can make, touting our strengths and toting our accomplishments. 

But the answer isn’t to think we are lesser than we are. That won’t do; it does no good. 

For we may be great. And we can become even better. And that isn’t accomplished by looking down on ourselves or thinking that we are unworthy or incapable. No. 

So what do we do instead? 

We ought to think others better than ourselves. Hold them up, serve them, care for them, and use our greatness to help them become greater than they imagined. 

Service and love subdues pride. 

And what is interesting is in doing that, you will find that people will tout your strengths and tote your accomplishments for you. 

They will do it out of love. 

And the reward you will reap may or may not be riches, but it will be fullness. You can feel whole, blessed, rich, connected. 

Loving others is the greatest greatness.

You can conquer the fear of embarrassment

The fear of embarrassment is powerful, but it doesn’t have to overpower us.

But sometimes it does.

I know all about that.

An episode of a TV show kept me from blogging. Let me explain.

Billions, a show on Showtime, has a scene where two characters were talking about another person who got fired from their hedge fund, and one of them wanted to know where he ended up. And the other said that he thought the guy who got fired started blogging, and then they looked at each other with this smirk that said something like this—loser.

Blogging was an idea I had toyed with for months. I wanted to try it. But I was unsure of myself. Then I saw that episode. And visions of others smirking about me made me cringe. I didn’t want to be a loser. I got scared.

And I didn’t blog.

Others’ opinions about us affect us all. Parents, friends, coworkers, strangers—for me, even fictitious TV characters—can, and do, stop us from pursuing good things.

All too often, we care too much about what too many people think about us.

Dreams, goals, and hopes are squashed even before they begin because of that dynamic. A threat of a smirk halts us.

And what’s interesting (and sad) is that often it’s not the actual embarrassment that stops us. It’s our fear of it.

We don’t want the possibility of others thinking that we are a loser. But living that way robs us of reaching our potential, trying new things, becoming better.

And that fear, it’s often the fear of feeling embarrassed. It’s the fear of fear.

But we don’t need to live that way. We shouldn’t.

And this truth can set us free.

Most of what we believe other people think about us doesn’t exist. It’s not real. Most of the time, we don’t know what others think about us. It’s just our imagination, and we usually imagine something snippy or snide. It’s never anything positive, or cheery.

But really, most of the people whom we are afraid are thinking those negative thoughts aren’t thinking about us at all. They are too busy worrying about what other people are thinking about them. Their thinking about their problems, stresses—not you.

The issue isn’t them. It’s us. We tell ourselves a story of what we think they are saying about us. But it’s just our inner critic; it’s self-hate. We are calling ourselves a loser: They’re not smirking. We are.

Being aware of that is power.

Anytime we start worrying about the opinions of others, we can pause and assess the thought.
Then, we can call it what it is—a lie. It’s a false story. And we can move on. We can pursue our dreams, start that company, make a career change, be ourselves, blog.

For me, this isn’t just a battle; it’s a war. It’s fought daily. Assessing that inner critic and calling out the lies needs to happen far more than I’d like to admit. But that’s just what it is. So I fight. Many of you may need to, as well.

If so, fight on friends. It’s a practice. It’s life. And we need to get on living freely, unchained by the smirks, fear of fear, and opinions of others, free of self-hate.

Sure, there are haters out there, but that’s for another post.

For now, let’s overcome the hater within.

Failure is the secret to success

Failure doesn’t have to be the end; it can be a start to something better.  

Failing sucks—no doubt. It’s something we all want to avoid. And after we’ve failed, we may be tempted to quit, stop trying, hide. But that would be a mistake.

For greater success is forged from the ashes of failure. 

He wanted to be CEO of Apple, the company he helped start, but his board didn’t think he was ready. Then Steve Jobs was fired, setting his life in a direction he never anticipated nor planned for, at all. But his firing led him to start NeXT, buying and growing Pixar, getting married, and, finally, Apple bought NeXT which brought Jobs back to his first company and led him to become its CEO. 

That’s not how Jobs scripted his life. But it ended up being better than he planned it, all because he got fired and didn’t give up. 

Failure, for Jobs, was the beginning of something new, something better. He didn’t know it at the time. But he continued to take risks and try to add value to the world. He continued to work. And he accomplished more than he would have if he would have stayed at Apple.  

Jobs’ failure multiplied his successes. Later in his life, Jobs called getting fired the best thing that happened to him. If he stayed at Apple would we have Pixar, Toy Story, and all of the other animated movies that we love? Probably not. 

When we fail, we must remember that failure isn’t the end. It’s painful, yes; it’s embarrassing; it sucks. But if we keep moving forward and pushing ourselves, we can still succeed. But even more so we have a higher chance of multiplying our successes. 

You may not become a CEO of one of the most valuable companies in the world, instrumental in and largest stockholder of the best animation studio in the world, or even an entrepreneur. But failure can still shape a life you never imagined for yourself. 

It happens because failure creates change. Just as it did in Jobs’ life, failing changes your life and work. It shakes things up. Your career, work, trajectory, etc. is forced in directions you never saw coming. But, in that lies opportunities to see things afresh, gain learnings, try new things. And you will be surprised by what you can produce, who you can become.

What changes will, or should, occur for you isn’t for me to say, but there is one thing for sure that will change. And it’s this.  

You. 

You will be different. Failure wounds, and you will have scars. Forgetting what happened is a fool’s errand. The memories won’t leave you. But that can be a good thing. 

You will see the world, others, yourself differently. The pain you experienced will be a part of your story irrevocably. And, after you’ve survived the agony, you will see yourself anew. You can be stronger, better, more capable. 

And as life presents new bumps and bends in your path, you will find navigating them easier. And you will be able to do things you never thought you could do. 

If you don’t allow failure to crush you completely, it can become an experience that helps you soar to heights you never thought you could reach. Because you are changed, better, greater. 

Pushing through failure helps us become the people we are meant to be. It’s an essential part of reaching our potential, the potential we never even knew he had, nor ever could have achieved without the pain of failure. 

C.S. Lewis is one of my literary heroes. He is one of the greatest thinkers and writers ever to marry ink to paper. 

But, he was a loser. 

Well, he wasn’t really, but he did lose. And it did something to him. 

He considered himself a Christian apologist, which is a fancy word for someone who defends his or her faith. Lewis wrote some of the best works that articulate what Christians believe about Jesus and why. 

Then in a public debate, in a club Lewis was president of at Oxford, he and a new female professor debated on one of his positions that he wrote about in one of his books. 

And he lost. 

It’s hard to say what it did to him. Some say that he questioned his ability to be a Christian apologist and had a lot of self-doubt. Others doubt that. Whatever happened to Lewis, we can be sure that it did do something to him and his work. It changed him. Just look at his bibliography. 

He was on a tear, writing a lot of Christian nonfiction. Then, after the debate, he stopped. And he started writing children’s books. 

Chronicles of Narnia to be precise. 

And Narnia became his most successful work in terms of popularity. If Lewis never lost that debate, it’s hard to know if Narnia would have ever existed. Out of the ashes of defeat, Lewis wrote his most beloved work. 

C.S. Lewis didn’t know what his failure would produce at the time. He probably did feel humiliated, embarrassed, or bad, at least. Losing hurts. 

Lewis stopped publishing nonfiction for a long time, but he didn’t stop writing. He was knocked down. But he got up and started anew. And children all over the world were (and continue to be) blessed. 

Failure can kill. It can destroy our drive, our will, our hopes, our loves. But we can’t let it snuff us out. We must move forward. Writers must continue writing, even if they are “just” children’s books; entrepreneurs must continue starting businesses; we all must continue moving forward. 

Remember that failure is a part of the process toward success. It’s an invitation to progress. 

In my life, there have been many times when I just wanted to pack up all of my toys and check out. I wanted to quit. I didn’t just want to stop school, work, relationships; I wanted out of life. 

I do not doubt that you’ve had your fair share of pain. You’ve lost. You’ve felt shame. You’ve felt stupid. And all you want to do is hide and never come back out. 

Failures will change us. And, if we let them, we won’t just become different; we will be better. If we continue to push forward, we progress to not only to becoming better than we were before but better than we could have ever imagined ourselves to be. 

Failure isn’t just falling down.

It’s where we rise up.

Suffering is one of the best ways to find meaning

Suffering defines us, but we get to choose its definition. 

That’s what Victor Frankl, a holocaust survivor, psychiatrist, and author of Man’s Search for Meaning (affiliate link) wanted us to know. 

He told his story of suffering and survival, from a personal perspective but also as a psychiatrist. It was sad, but, more than that, it was profound.

What we suffer isn’t something we like to post on social media. Instead, we hide, ignore, and are ashamed of it. Suffering can be a subject that brings shame, embarrassment, negativity. 

But, for Frankl, it’s an opportunity. Frankl writes that when we suffer, we have one of life’s greatest opportunities to find meaning by how we respond to it. 

Suffering affords us a choice. You aren’t just a victim when you are put under pain. You may not be able to control the pain you are experiencing, but you can control how you will respond to it. You may believe that you can’t help but be bitter, angry, depressed, sad, etc. when the worst of times come. But that’s not true. You get to decide your response. You aren’t just a victim; you are an agent. Your suffering can’t rob you of that. 

Harold Kushner, a rabbi who wrote the Forward in the book, summed up Frankl’s idea of this choice: “Forces beyond your control can take away everything you possess except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation. You cannot control what happens to you in life, but you can always control what you will feel and do about what happens to you,” (p32).

This Thursday morning was exciting: We were taking our firstborn to his first day in Kindergarten. The air was crisp and cool and beautiful. We walked and chatted as we wound our way through the narrow streets lined with brick townhouses, trees, and cobblestones. 

Approaching a major intersection, we saw our crosswalk lady, Dulce. She wore her little hat, blue uniform with her fluorescent vest as she said hello to all of the kids by name. It was the first time we had seen her since summer vacation started. 

So we stopped and asked her how her summer was. She told us heart-wrenching news. 

Her son died. 

He was 36 years old, and an “accident” took him in June. She found out when she was sitting in a Starbucks waiting for her next shift. Then she got the call. After she answered, her life changed unalterably. 

“God is with me, ju know. If I no have him, I would you know…not be ok,” she told my wife and me. “God makes me strong, more strong, ju know.” 

I do know. 

When I was eight, cancer took my father. And it wasn’t the funeral that was the hardest. It was every Father’s Day that proceeded when my friends would have a great day with their dad’s, and I watched TV. 

But, over the years of struggle and loneliness, something was happening inside of me. Bitterness did not hold me. That would have killed me.

Instead, by God’s grace, my life transformed. As I grew, my pain forged in me the sense that life is not only fragile; it is also precious: It can be snatched away from us in a breath. And I chose (and continue to choose) to be grateful for every day I get to be alive. I, too, with Dulce, was getting “more strong.”

Frankl chose to transcend the concentration camps. He accomplished that by envisioning himself seeing his wife again after the war was over, caressing her face, holding her hand, laughing with her. It helped him bear the once a day “meal” of watery broth, constant hunger and cold, wearing rags and shoes with holes in the winter, endless work, the dehumanization by the SS, and living under the threat of death and beatings every moment of every day. Frankl also decided to use his knowledge and skills as a physician to serve his fellow humans; he tried to help as many as he could survive with him. He also envisioned himself lecturing about his learnings from Auschwitz, passing on his insights into humanity to the next generations. His meaning was to love his wife, help his fellow humans, and to teach. Through his suffering, he learned his meaning.

“He who has a Why to live can bear almost any How,” Frankl repeats this Nietzsche quote throughout his book. We will all suffer, but not all of us have a Why to live through suffering. Frankl believes that it’s critical to find meaning so that you can endure. When Frankl observed his friends who suffered with him in the camps, he noticed that those who stopped seeing meaning tended to die quickly. They just stopped trying. Meaning can mean the difference between life and death. 

Suffering isn’t just a choice; it’s a chance to change and become a better person. Frankl states, “Even the helpless victim of a hopeless situation, facing a fate he cannot change, may rise above himself, may grow beyond himself, and by so doing change himself. He may turn a personal tragedy into a triumph” (p146). 

Don’t we all want to grow beyond and transcend ourselves? Don’t we want to progress, become better as people, partners, parents, friends, at work, in our communities, at home? Frankl believes that suffering is one of the most significant ways to do that. 

You don’t need to have gone through the Holocaust, lost a child or parent to suffer. 

It happens to us every day, in every experience of shame, inadequacy, failure. You suffer when you lose your job or feel like you aren’t good enough to keep it, or when you are in a marriage that makes you feel like crap or experience isolation.   

No matter what we believe, we all have an opportunity in suffering. Frankl’s account and thoughts are rich, deep, and profound. 

I hope you read his book. 

I hope you suffer well. 

And may you find meaning in your life, and suffering.  

Most of all, I hope you triumph. 

Feeling amazing one bite at a time

I love meat. I always have. 

But now I’m a vegetarian. Why?

It’s simple: I feel amazing.

For decades, I felt terrible. Chronic pain in my back, legs, and joints plagued me. 

But here’s the crazy thing, I accepted it as my fate, thinking that feeling that badly was my normal. Being tired, experiencing pain, and groaning as I got out of bed was just a part of my life. 

But I was wrong. 

I could feel better. I could be well. 

It, however, did not come through modern medicine, although I saw dozens of physicians for my pain through the years, which led to large bills or hearing that I was “fine,” but no help. 

Where medicine failed, food worked; it healed. Or to be more precise, eating the right kind did. 

I don’t know if being a vegetarian is right for everyone. But if you get anything from my story, know this. 

Food is powerful. What you eat can change your life. It did mine. 

When I went to a plant-based diet, my pain disappeared. The inflammation, the aches, the sharp stab I felt when I moved my knees or hips or back, subsided. And I have the energy like I did when I was in college. 

It’s hard to believe; I’m right there with you. 

But it’s true. 

Maybe you struggle as I did. Or perhaps you don’t have chronic pain, but you just don’t feel well. 

Have you considered trying to eat only plants or at least improving your diet to non-processed foods that resemble what a farmer would harvest from the earth or her farm? 

I think doing that will surprise you. 

Becoming a vegetarian wasn’t easy. It was really hard for me. 

Changing to a plant-only diet sucks when eating meat is one of life’s greatest joys, as it was for me. 

It was my favorite cuisine. I didn’t discriminate. Pork, beef, chicken, squid, etc. on a stick, on a plate, in a pita, with sauce or dry, dry-aged or fresh, I loved it all.  

So how did I become a full-on plant-only eater? 

Gradually. 

After I watched a documentary (I don’t remember which one) about how we should eat mostly vegetables, that idea grated against my sensibilities at first. But as I marinated on it, I couldn’t see why I shouldn’t try what the documentary recommended.

Going full vegetarian was out of the question, but I could go partial. It would be for one meal, daily. I was a vegetarian for dinner; meat became a much smaller portion of my diet. That went on for several months. And I felt better, good even. 

Then after a Father’s Day meal that consisted of a monstrously delicious pork chop, I got sick—the stick my head in the toilet kind. And I suspected that it was eating all of that pork. After that, it got me thinking about something I never considered before. It was this. 

Maybe meat isn’t right for me. 

That thought seemed so fantastical and unreal because I had loved meat all my life. It never occurred to me it could be bad for me, that meat didn’t love me back. I thought our affair was mutual. But I couldn’t ignore getting sick.  

I imagined the unimaginable: a breakup. I had to stop eating flesh. 

And a week later, I was a vegetarian. 

I must confess that I was scared. When I was in college, I tried eating only plants, but it went terribly. I felt weak and tired. And I thought I would never do that again. 

But as I considered my change, I heard about B12, a vitamin that’s naturally in meats. And often if you go to a plant-based diet, you can become fatigued since you lack it. So it’s important to take a B12 supplement when becoming a vegetarian. I did. This supplement is the one I take (affiliate link). 

The results of eating only plants were immediate. I started feeling better within days and great within a week or two. 

Now, I don’t eat any meat. Well, sometimes I cheat by eating a pepperoni pizza, but very rarely. 

I just feel too good to go back. 

When I started, it used to be hard seeing people eat meat while I sat and chewed on my brussels sprouts. It felt a little unfair, and I’d feel a bit sulky. 

But now it’s just life. I’ve found foods that I can indulge in: bagels, noodles, rice, pizzas. They haven’t replaced meat. But they make eating more enjoyable. 

Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy the veggies I eat. But it’s nice to change things up from time to time. 

A couple of weeks ago, I went to two barbecues and didn’t stray. If you had told me a year ago that I would be at two barbecues but not partake from the grill, I would have laughed at you. 

But there I was chewing on a leaf while my friends enjoyed juicy bites animal. 

But don’t feel bad for me. 

I feel great, better than I have in decades. 

Feeling like this is addicting. And if staying away from beef and chewing on leaves does it, sign me up. 

That feeling is what keeps me going and has made staying away from meat easier, better even. 

And now I’m not even tempted. 

Food plays a powerful role in our lives—sometimes more than we can imagine. 

If eating only plants doesn’t make you feel well, try something different—experiment. Find what works for you. And you can feel better than you do now. It doesn’t need to be normal to feel like crap. You can be well.

What you eat can be the difference between feeling terrible or amazing. 

What will you choose?