Are you ready to save the world…one person at a time…starting with yourself?
Virtue will save the world. Vice is certainly doing quite the opposite. Over the next 7 weeks we will discuss how to overcome vice with virtue. To overcome the 7 deadly sins with their contrary virtues. As a refresher, here they are:
Let’s go in reverse order starting with Diligence. Actually, let’s start with the vice first, Sloth. Then talk about how we overcome it with Diligence.
First a few definitions to justify the title and enhance your trivia knowledge.
I like to think of the vice of sloth as a cross between the cute little mammal and the scary bears. It’s alluring and frightening at the same time.
The vice of Sloth is a reluctance to work or make an effort. Laziness, idleness, inactivity, inertia, sluggishness, shiftlessness, apathy, listlessness, lethargy, complacency, indifference. Ugh, I need a nap. Sloth is not doing what you know you should do. Doing the bare minimum needed to get by. Wasting time.
While rest is necessary to rejuvenate ourselves occasionally, too much will lead to unhappiness and even depression. Have you ever slept too long and felt groggy all day? It’s that feeling. Sloth zaps your energy. Being lazy tends to make you even lazier, it’s a vicious cycle. So why would we ever be slothful?
Two main reasons I believe, (1) we have no clear purpose, and (2) even with purpose life is hard and we seek to escape at times.
When we have no purpose, we don’t know what to do. We have no destination and therefore no roadmap to guide our actions. So we wander aimlessly. As humans we crave purpose. We want to be valued. We want to make a positive difference in the world. We want to thrive, not to just survive.
We are in a constant search of purpose, consciously or unconsciously. And since our human tendency is to avoid pain and to gain pleasure, we avoid the pain of having no clear purpose with the pleasure of distractions. There are so many to choose from. Our phones and televisions are always nearby. We can easily get lost in them. The hours pass by painlessly. They bring us short term pleasure, or at least no pain.
Even if we do know our purpose we are susceptible to sloth. The reason; Fear. Fulfilling our purpose will be difficult at times. We will occasionally doubt our ability to succeed. If we obsess about that doubt it grows into fear. Then we look for an escape. Back to distraction. Where’s my phone?
You are obviously a diligent person or you wouldn’t be reading this. I’ll bet you are really busy too. Can we be busy and slothful at the same time? What if we are busy doing the wrong things? Do you ever do the easy tasks in life and avoid the more difficult? I’m guess we all do at times. Two words; Avoidance and Procrastination, sure signs of sloth!
This is depressing! I saw a funny sign once. It said, “Dear Optimist and Pessimist, while you were arguing about whether the glass was half full or half empty, I drank it. Signed the Opportunist.” Let’s seize the opportunity to overcome sloth with diligence.
Diligence is careful and persistent work or effort. Conscientiousness, dedication, commitment, tenacity, perseverance. Doing what you were meant to do with passion. Making a positive difference for the benefit of others. Taking action. Being proactive. Focusing your efforts on important work. Avoiding distractions. Determination and persistence in the pursuit of worthwhile goals. Now that’s exciting and energizing!
You immediately know when you cross paths with someone who is living a life of diligence. They are enthusiastic, passionate, energetic, positive, happy, determined and in constant pursuit of excellence in all that they do. They are inspiring and motivating. They know their purpose and mission in life. You want to be around them and to be like them.
God has given each of us a number of gifts. Chief among them Life, Talents, Free Will, Time, and His Grace along the way. I believe He also gave us all a personal mission, but that is a huge topic for another time. And I believe He gave us all a common purpose; to come back to Him.
Think about it. God gave us all these great gifts. What does He expect in return? No one really knows. Maybe nothing. He did give us a few commandments. Love Him and neighbors (everyone else). Maybe that’s it. But how do we show our love?
Personally I feel a responsibility to use these great gifts to become the best me I can be. To serve others using the time and talents I’ve been blessed with. And to behave morally, to pursue virtue. That’s my purpose. I actually think we all share that purpose. To do the best we can and eventually make it back to God. To be saints.
I attempt to do this through using a simple three-step daily process I call TAP, as in tap my potential. It stands for Think, Act and Pray. Give it a try.
Think – Be aware of the choices you make. Interesting, as I just typed “be aware,” I left out the space. Spellcheck changed it to “beware.” Sometimes I think my mistyping is not accidental. Like in this case, beware is a good warning. As in, if you are not in a continuous state of awareness about the choices you are making, beware the consequences.
Being aware is the #1 thing we can do immediately to avoid sloth and practice diligence. To make conscious choices in line with our purpose. To be the best we can be for the benefit of others. My friend Jim is so clear about this purpose; “To make it to Heaven and bring as many others with us as we can.” So simple!
How do we do that? By doing what matters most and avoiding what matters least. By focusing our time and attention on the important things in life. Our health, our relationships with God, family, friends and neighbors, continually learning, and actively developing our talents and using them to serve others.
Here’s the thinking question I ask myself many times in a day. What’s Important Now (WIN)? This is a question Lou Holtz asked his players to think about each time they had a choice to make about how to spend their time. Actually this is both a what and why question. What should I do and why should I do it? The why answer should be that is helps us fulfill our purpose.
As I have become more spiritual, and in the spirit of striving to become a saint, I now ask God this question often, “What should I do next to bring JOY to the world.” By joy I mean something that is showing love for Jesus and Others, and helping You become your best self. Are three acronyms in one article too much? Moving on with TAP…
Act – Take action. Once you have thought through your options to WIN and bring JOY, make your choice. Then make it happen. Have no fear. No avoidance or procrastination allowed.
Pray – Think and pray are usually overlapping for me. I think that is a good thing. Thinking on our own without help from above can be dangerous. So in addition to the WIN and JOY questions throughout the day I make sure to start and end each day with prayer.
To start; Thank you for the opportunity of a new day, please guide my activities, and give me strength to carry on. To end; Thank you for the help in the things I did well, I’m sorry for my failings, I resolve to do better tomorrow, and thank you for the great gifts You have blessed me with.
That’s it, three simple daily steps to being diligent. Personally I think diligence is the key to overcoming all the vices. The ability to control our behavior begins and ends with diligence. We must be determined, persistent and consistent in exercising self-discipline to do what we know we should do, and to avoid all else.
Need some practice? Pick one thing you will do this week to be more diligent and less slothful. Something simple. Make it fairly easy. Like replacing a half hour of television or phone time every day with prayer or reading the bible. Or wake up a half hour earlier and go for a walk. Think and Act and Pray on one thing. You can do it!
Have Joyful Week! Oh, apparently I am posting on Friday’s, not Wednesday’s. I’ll be more diligent going forward:-)
p.s. Join the conversation. What do you think? What do you do to defeat sloth with diligence? Share with us. Make a blog comment, or if you are a Facebook user you can join the closed Facebook group named “Communion of aspiring saints.” I set it up recently at https://www.facebook.com/groups/2121697251396791/about/
My wife, Melanie has been extremely busy lately. When she finally arrives home each day she is exhausted. But I am eager to learn about her day and tell her about mine. We always have many of interesting stories to share, but she is tired and I’m usually not. The difference in our energy levels seems directly correlated to the number of people we have interacted with. A few for me, many for her. Interesting…
Anyway, one recent evening I was ready to talk and she wasn’t. We were in our separate offices and I couldn’t see what she was doing. I kept asking her questions and was getting no response. Finally she gave me an answer in the form of a loud statement, “Leave me alone, I’m trying to be a better person!”
That got me out of my chair quickly. I was trying not to laugh out loud and get myself in even more trouble. I saw that she was praying the rosary. I stood there and stared at her with a smile. She eventually looked up and we both cracked up laughing. I told her she was already the best person I know. Then I asked if I could use that line for an article.
Do you ever feel that way? Like if it wasn’t for all the other people around, you could be a really good person. It does seem like it might be easier, but it’s certainly not practical. We depend on each other to survive and to thrive. We were put here to serve each other through our unique missions, built around our individual talents. We are interconnected. We are interdependent. We need to get along. We want to get along. Sometimes it’s just a real challenge.
Since writing the sAint Me?! book I’ve had some really interesting discussions and debates with people from many diverse backgrounds and beliefs. The two things we always agree upon is that;
Duh! Pretty obvious I know. But it’s been obvious for thousands of years and we still have a lot of problems. Nearly all of them are caused by our collective bad behavior. And we have the ability to solve them all by actively and consistently striving to be the best possible people we can be. But we don’t. Why?!
I’m not saying we are all bad people. I fact I know very few who are. And who am I to judge. I don’t think any of us strive to be bad people. I could be wrong. Maybe the few ruin it for the many? I don’t know. But I do know that I can be better. I assume that is true for most of us. We are all human and it is difficult to consistently think, say and do what is right and good. Especially in a world where the opposite is so often rewarded. Nice guys finish last. The squeaky wheel gets the grease. Just two examples of traditional wisdom that seem backwards to me.
Oh I just remembered, there is a third area of common agreement. In the creation of a better world though being better people, we should each start by improving ourselves. To look in the mirror before pointing fingers at others. To be the person you want to interact with out in the world.
So where do we start? I always go back to basics. Working to behave more virtuously. One of the few things we have total control of in life is how we choose to behave. Maybe that’s an illusion, but I choose to believe it’s true. I control my personal behavior. Others have an influence on it, but the decisions I make are mine alone. I choose to pursue the virtues. To do what is right. To sin less. To do good and avoid bad. I use the seven deadly sins (vices) and their contrary virtues as a guide. Here’s the list in virtue/vice (I call them collectively the “V’s“) order:
I wrote about these in the book, but not in much depth. At the time I didn’t have enough knowledge. But I’ve done my research now and am ready to share it with you over the next 7 weeks. I’ll write about one paring of V’s each week to help in understanding what they are, how to identify them in your daily activities, and what specifically you can do to win on a daily basis. What is winning you ask?
I have been tracking my daily behavior for over a year. You can too with this Flying V Tracker. The worksheet contains brief definitions of each V. You score one point each time you think, say or do something that was caused by one of the V’s. Each time you notice yourself doing something good or bad (a judgement call by you and your conscience), think about which V caused it. This can be a little tricky. Like a lie might be caused by any of the vices. Pick the one that fits the circumstance. Just keep asking, “Why did I think, say or do that?” Eventually you will arrive at a V.
When I first started tracking, my goal was simply to avoid the vices. A defensive strategy. While I had some victories, it became obvious that only through actively utilizing the virtues would I ever consistently win. That is, score more virtue than vice points. So I went on the offensive. It works. Proactively focusing on virtue gives vice little time to rear its ugly head.
Try using the tracker this week. Each day pick a different virtue to focus on; 7 days in a week, 7 pairs of V’s, how convenient. Do one specific positive action related to your virtue of choice each day. For instance, for diligence you could replace a half hour of television with prayer or spiritual reading. Or for kindness, smile and say hello to everyone you encounter during the day. Make sense? Do something simple.
For extra credit, track your thoughts, words and actions for the specific set of V’s you are working on that day. You will be amazed how fast this simple awareness activity will improve your behavior…of course, assuming you need any improving in the first place.
Beginning this coming Wednesday I’ll go into more detail about each V. One set per week. I’ll give you strategies for dealing with each and them, and specific recommendations that you can implement immediately. Together we can promote the virtues and defeat the vices. And win for the benefit of all!
Until then I’ll “leave you alone so you can be a better person.”
Be Saintspirational! Scott
What is your vision of heaven? Have you ever thought about it? I do. I find it motivating. I want to get there. I wish I could find it here. Aren’t we all attempting to create our version of heaven on earth in small ways? Trying to create an environment around us that makes us and others happy?
I’ve discovered such a place recently. I get to go there every day for an hour! It’s a gym named Next Level Extreme Fitness. Don’t worry, this is not an advertisement. I don’t get a referral fee if you choose to join. I actually have a saint related point to share here. Please stick with me.
I joined this gym as part of my becoming less of a “big fat fatty” strategy. I liked it from the first time I walked in. I was greeted with a smile and a welcome. No sales pressure to join immediately. I was there for a trial class they offer in-between their eight week programs.
The gym is a huge open space. Room enough for a hundred people to workout together without crowding. I walked in and was greeted by other participants just as warmly as I had been at the front desk. Wow, what a friendly place. I had been working out at a traditional gym where everyone wears headphones and ignores each other. No eye contact allowed! Here everyone was smiling and interacting with one another. They appeared to be authentically happy to be there. Interesting.
This is not a place where you come in and do your own thing. It is built around classes. One of the regulars told me that there would be two instructors. One tells us what to do. The other shows us how to do it. Simple and mindless…right up my alley.
Before class started I surveyed the room to see what I was getting myself into. I did a quick inventory of available fitness equipment. There were roughly five hundred dumbbells of various weights, and a similar number of resistance bands. In addition there were around fifty kickboxing bags and benches and rowing machines. And lots of other things to run around and jump over like rope ladders, steps, cones and jump ropes. I was getting a little nervous.
Get over it, time to get started. Five minutes into the workout I was struggling to catch my breath. Only 55 minutes left…You can do it! As we all attempted to do as instructed the trainers walked around to make sure everyone was using the proper form, to provide the most benefit in the safest way. I got to spend a lot of quality time with them over the next hour. And they both remembered my name from the initial check-in at the front desk. Amazing!
I was impressed to watch the interactions of the trainers with participants, and participants with each other throughout the workout. Everyone was working hard individually, and encouraging each other as well. Pushing each other to give it our all. To go beyond what we would do on our own. To strive to become our healthiest physical selves.
This was the most intense workout I’d done in years. At the end, I was out of breath and lying in a puddle of sweat. The word “Extreme” in their name is not hype. After finally catching my breath, I stretched out in order to increase my odds of being able to get out of my car when I got home. As I left, the trainers again called me by name, told me how well I had done and said they hoped I would return. Still no pressure to join. Nice.
I got home feeling exhausted. It was 11:30 in the morning. I told the dogs it was time for a little nap before their walk. At 2pm I woke to a dog licking my face and a puddle of drool on my pillow…ugh. Apparently the workout wiped me out…and I’m destined to be wet all day. Had I taken a shower yet?
So what has all this got to do with heaven? Well, in my heaven everyone is always happy and friendly. That probably goes without saying since by definition everyone in heaven is a saint. It is full of people working to be their best selves. Helping each other to reach our full potential. We are all in it together, rooting for each other’s success. Encouraging, motivating and inspiring each other. Competing in a healthy way to push each other to go beyond what we would do on our own. And celebrating our success along the way.
Yes, my heaven still has us working. We need something to do for an eternity. But we will be free to do what we are best suited for given our talents, interests and the needs of others. We won’t be constrained by the need to make money. We already paid for everything through our faith and works on earth. So do whatever you want. As long as it’s something worthy of being the saint that you are now.
I experience a bit of my heaven at the gym every day. Happy people trying to be their healthiest selves. Working hard individually, and encouraging each other as well. Everyone is physically exhausted by the end of each session. But we walk out every day knowing have we have pushed ourselves and each other to overcome the workout challenge of the day. It’s a great feeling of community and accomplishment.
Again, the purpose of this article is not to get you to join the gym. Rather it is to get you thinking about creating places for yourself that give you an opportunity to spend a little time in your heaven each day.
What is your heaven like? Do you have such a place in your life? If so, get there often. If not, get busy creating it. I think we owe it to ourselves and others to find our slice of heaven here on earth. It will help to keep you motivated to strive to become the saint you are meant to be, and eventually make it to the real thing.
And who knows, you may create a place for others to enjoy as part of their heaven as well. Ryan, the founder of NLXF did just that (far left in photo). Thank you Ryan! And Sarah and Carl, trainers extraordinaire! Check it out here. And have a heavenly day! Scott
The most wonderful time of the year…bah, humbug! Can we please hurry up and get this over with? I know, not a very saintly attitude. I promised you a weekly rant, and that it will end on a high note so never fear…here we go…
There are people everywhere clogging up my streets, parking lots, stores, restaurants and fitness center. Thankfully the kids are staying off my lawn since it’s too cold and dark outside. But you people are messing up my routine. I expect crowds on weekends, but weekdays are mine. Don’t you people need to be at work? Get there and leave me alone!
I do feel guilty for being so annoyed this time of year. It should be a time of joy. Without Christmas there would be no Easter. Without Easter, no chance for us to become saints and live eternally in heaven. So why do I dread it?
Unrealistic expectations, I think. I have never understood our collective need to jam every conceivable activity into December. Let’s review. Shop for gifts, decorate the house inside and out, attend holiday parties, send cards, visit relatives and the elderly, give to the poor, volunteer for worthy causes. Plus, there are typically a whole other set of year-end expectations at work and school. All on top of our normal busy lives. Exhausting!
Then when we think it’s done, it starts all over again. Return all the gifts you don’t like and shop with the cash and gift cards. Take down the decorations. Send thank you’s for the gifts and parties. And then your credit card bill arrives. Oh, and you get to do your taxes. Good times…
I’m working hard to adopt a new attitude this year. A saintlier one. I have been using the “smile and be nice” strategy we discussed last week. Seems I usually get the, “what are you so happy about” look in return. I’m supposed to be the grumpy old man. I don’t appreciate being outdone at my own game.
I’m guessing the way we celebrate his birth is not what The Savior had in mind. Unfortunately the expectations of the season seem to overwhelm the reason for the season. It should be the saintliest time of year. It is often feels quite the opposite.
Enough ranting. Here’s a suggestion for your consideration. How about we do all the things we typically associate with Christmas throughout the entire year? Send cards to people when we think about them. Have parties when we feel like it, no reason, just because. Give gifts when we happen upon things that remind us of someone important to us. Find worthy causes and be charitable with our time, talent and treasure all year, every year.
If we do these things routinely, as a normal part of our daily life, maybe we can focus solely on the reason for the season in December. No stress. Just a time to review the blessings of the past year and anticipate the opportunities to come in the new.
Of course there are some things that you can’t, or may not want to change about your Christmas celebration. Family traditions. Personal customs that bring you joy. Do them. But also consciously cut out the excess. The distractions. Your stressors. Learn to say no to some events without feeling guilty or selfish. Take care of yourself. Keep exercising. Be temperate. No need to make that lose weight resolution any harder than it’s already going to be, Scott.
Personally I am attempting to not be grumpy this entire month, except briefly on Monday mornings. And I’m also working on my plan to ensure that 2018 is my saintliest year ever. One of the ways I intend to do that is by helping you to do the same.
I am currently developing a “virtual retreat” that is intended to make it easy for you to develop your own 2018 plan toward sainthood. There will be no cost to you other than about 5 minutes a day to read an email and do a short exercise. It will start Monday, January 8 and your plan will be complete by the end of that month.
You can learn more about the retreat and register by clicking the button below.
By the way, owning a copy of the “sAint Me?!” book is not necessary for the retreat. But I have reduced the price by a third through the end of the year in case you want the full story. You can check it out here.
Have a Joyful and Saintly week all! Scott
Thank God it’s Monday, TGIM! This is what you woke up thinking, right? Fresh off a restful Sunday, you are excited about the prospects of the upcoming week and ready to rock and roll. Or alternatively, roll over and hit the snooze…again…
I used to dread Monday’s. I hope you don’t. But if you happen to suffer from “Chronic Case of the Monday’s Syndrome,” I have a suggested prescription for you. And no, it’s not “more cowbell.”
A number of folks have told me they really enjoyed the “Old Man Rant” chapter of the “sAint Me?!” book. I always laugh and let them know I could have written an entire book on that topic alone. Yeah, I’m a cranky old guy.
So at their urging I’m going to rant further on Monday mornings until I run out of material. Is ranting consistent with our striving to be saints? I’m thinking “yes” if it concludes with recommendations for a better way. I’ll be sure to do that…always ending on a high note. Hopefully this will add to your enjoyment of Monday’s. Give it a try.
I’ll be writing about things that annoy me. They likely irritate you too. Keeping our frustrations bottled up is not good. Remember the “serenity now, insanity later” Seinfeld episode? Check it out for a guaranteed Monday morning laugh.
Ranting is good therapy. Eliminating the source of frustration is even better. I’ll be making recommendations about how we can do that. They will be simple solutions. Things we can all do immediately. Ways we can “be the change we wish to see in the world” as Gandhi put it. I’m hoping to get my grumpy old man out of my mirror soon!
Let’s start with the original “Old Man Rant” from the book. Future rants will be shorter since I realize you already have too much to do. So let the ranting begin…
Chapter 2 – Old Man Rant
In case you are on the fence about whether to devote yourself to striving for sainthood, allow me to give you a little more background. It will help to clarify where I was at in my thinking prior to accepting this mission. It may help you do the same for yourself.
My retirement goal was to find something significant to do in the world, guided by the Holy Spirit. I read many books, did some volunteering, and am participating in the religious education of teenagers. I’ve always enjoyed writing and have written many short articles on topics of interest as they come to mind. In reviewing those articles, I noticed that most of them are about things that annoy me. I’m going to summarize those things, as I believe they are part of what motivated me to embark on this saint-building challenge. Please indulge my old-man rant. Or don’t, and feel free to move on.
It goes something like this. I’m annoyed and fed up with this world! If only I could be a kid again; everything made so much sense then. The rules were simple: Be nice and respectful to everyone, work hard to be your best at whatever you chose to do, and play by the rules of right and wrong that are self-evident. You will then be rewarded commensurate with what you do and how you do it. And the good guys always win!
Now, it seems that nearly the opposite is viewed as the better route to worldly success. It’s goes something like this: Respect those you agree with and ridicule the rest, work less but expect more, and the end justifies the means, so go ahead and break the rules that don’t help you get what you want. Right and wrong are relative, perception is at least as important as reality, what you say and what you do can be vastly different and that’s okay.
Everyone is an expert at everything; just ask them. I thought I knew a lot coming into the workforce out of college but was promptly informed otherwise. I accepted that assessment; observed and listened to my bosses, coworkers, and clients; and worked long hours to gain valuable experience. Now, you can’t convince most of the newcomers that they don’t already know everything. They certainly don’t have a confidence problem. Of course, they don’t know what they don’t know. I’ve heard this condition referred to as unconscious incompetence or the arrogance of ignorance. It makes me sad, like watching someone who can’t sing try out for that television singing competition. They are stunned when finally given an honest appraisal of their ability. But with honesty comes the opportunity and motivation to improve.
Obviously there are exceptions (many I hope). Maybe I’ve just become the grumpy old man in the neighborhood yelling at kids to “get off my lawn!” Or maybe I should just give up on the old ideal and go along with the more “advanced” culture. I mean, why should we have to be nice to everyone, work hard, and be on our best behavior all the time when we can get what we want with much less effort?
We have become content with letting people tell us what to believe, since it’s so much easier than actually reviewing the facts and coming to our own conclusions. Who has time to do the research required to form our own opinions in these fast-paced times? Plus, we’d have to consider alternative points of view to get to the truth. I already know I’m right because someone told me so when they told me what to believe. Remember when we were taught how to think, not what to think? In fact, that was the main purpose of education, challenging us to think and come to our own conclusions based on facts, to question everything and search for truth.
Good and evil used to be easy to spot. Now it’s hard to tell. Bad guys win way too often. They are experts at making you believe they are the good guys. Or many times I don’t think they even know they are the bad guys. We certainly don’t. Confusion reigns. Everything bad is good, and everything good is bad. Cats and dogs living together! “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” Come and be bad, have a good time…What?!
Anyhow, I’ve come to the conclusion that I should either (a) stop letting so many things irritate me and just go along to get along, or (b) do something about it. I choose b. I think the only way out of the mess is getting back to the basics that I hope we all still learn as children. How about if we were all nice to each other, worked hard, and played by the rules . . . simple! If we can replicate this in enough people, what a pleasant world it would be.
Here’s our first assignment. Just for fun, try to be nice to everyone you interact with today and every day. Smile and greet everyone. Use the person’s name. Expect the best. You will be amazed at the results. People may wonder what the deal is with you, but they will appreciate your kindness. Just spread your happiness and joy, even if you have to fake it in the beginning. What’s the saying, fake it until you make it? Of course you will encounter some who will make this difficult. Remember, patience is a virtue. Give yourself a niceness score at the end of every day. I use a 1-10 scale, 10 being the nicest you can be. I am currently averaging a 7. Interestingly, my annoyance level actually went up initially. I got annoyed that people weren’t always nice back, but that’s my problem. Don’t expect the world to change too quickly. Just feel good that you are doing your part.
Okay, rant done. Thanks for listening.
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Thank you all for your support and have a saintly week! Scott
We just spent some time in heaven! At least it felt like how I imagine it. A beautiful home on a pristine lake in northern Minnesota. Guess which one of the 10,000? It was the peak week for the turning of leaves. The weather was perfect for long walks and slow boat rides to enjoy the colorful scenery. Heaven on earth.
We were with our friends of 30 years, Donna and Tom. They kindly invited us to their place. Thank you! They are the type of friends you can hang out with and always feel completely comfortable. We want the best for each other. We freely and honestly share our thoughts. We simply enjoy each other’s company. Complete trust. Again, heaven. We are thankful to have many couple friends like this.
I enjoy our rambling free flowing discussions. They start with a review of what our kids are up to, and then drift into whatever we find of interest. We typically solve at least one world problem, at least in our minds. And on this occasion we developed an idea for a new radio call-in program. It could actually work. We’ll probably never know. Then we moved into topics of the day. One struck me as particularly interesting.
Tom had just read an article about self-driving cars. The gist of it was that we humans are not going to be happy with them. Think about it; they will obey all the laws that we treat as mere suggestions. Imagine the annoyance of them clogging up the roadways by driving at the actual posted speed limit! They will probably be very courteous and thoughtful defensive drivers as well. Come on, the best defense is a good offense, right?!
We will attempt to alter their driving habits through a series of hand gestures and audible remarks. But they won’t care. They won’t react at all. How infuriating will that be? They won’t be pressured into driving like we want them to. Eventually we will be forced to adapt to them.
Or will we? Maybe we will just write laws and regulations to force their creators to adapt them to us. Yeah, we can’t let them get away with forcing us to obey those pesky rules of the road. We want our driving freedom. My belief is that it will take a long time until we relinquish control of our vehicles.
Anyway, back to reality. Time to head home. Our temporary heaven quickly faded as we drove. Seven hours in traffic will do that. I was back to a normal level of annoyance within the first hour. I was cut off, tailgated, and surrounded by fluctuating speed drivers. Don’t all cars have cruise control nowadays? Use it! Oops, I certainly wasn’t demonstrating the patience of a saint. Very sorry.
To calm myself I wondered what this trip would be like if we were all in those fancy self-driving cars. They would all be following the rules while taking us safely to our destinations. Just sit back and peacefully enjoy the ride. How nice.
Then I wondered, what has caused driving to be such an annoying experience nowadays? Too many cars? Too few rule followers? I’m a cranky old man? Let’s go with the rules thought.
We all learn the same laws and rules of the road. We take a test to prove we know them. I’m guessing that most of us start out following them all. Then we notice that not everyone does. Especially as it relates to the speed limit. It seems like most are going faster. They are not pleased when others observe the limit. And they let us know of their displeasure. Peer pressure kicks in. Everyone’s doing it, better speed up. Slippery slope. How about hitting the gas at a yellow light next…why not?
Reminds me of life in general. We learn the rules from our parents and teachers. Then we are introduced to another way, like the “little white lie.” That won’t hurt anyone. In fact, it may spare someone’s feelings. Peer pressure, everyone is doing it. Why not? And the slippery slide begins.
So what’s the point? Rules and Trust. You can trust that a self-driving car will follow all the rules. You know exactly what to expect from them. They are predictable and safe. That should make it easy for us to live peacefully together with them on the road. As long as we follow all the rules too. Wouldn’t it be nice to have that same level of trust with each other?
I recall the John Lennon song, “Imagine.” He sings about imagining something, and then says “it isn’t hard to do” or “its easy if you try.” But it’s not easy. Because it’s so far removed from reality. But let’s try anyway.
Imagine going out into the world everyday knowing that everyone is following the rules. The natural laws. Living morally. Living the virtues. Being kind, patient, charitable, humble, diligent. Developing their talents to the fullest. Using them to make the world a better place. Encouraging and helping each other to become our best selves. Selfishness and dishonesty don’t exist. Heaven?
It’s hard to do, but it can happen. We start with ourselves. We strive to get better every day. It helps to surround yourself with others who share your desire. Friends like Tom & Donna. And don’t cave to the peer pressure of these who don’t. They may not be happy about it. They may tailgate, honk, use sign language, and even try to run you off the road. Just ignore them, follow the rules, keep your eyes on the road and your destination in mind; to become the saint you are meant to be.
And the song goes on, “… Imagine all the people living life in peace. You may say I’m a dreamer, But I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us. And the world will be as one.”
Oh, gull lake salad is my secret mixture of peanuts and candy corn. A story for another day…
Be Saintspirational! Scott
Everything was going so smoothly. Write and publish a book, develop a website, setup social media accounts and write a few blogs. Receive some really nice feedback and invitations to speak from several groups. Reconnect with old friends and make some new ones. Then, BAM! My gorilla strikes and my halo goes missing. Well obviously the halo never existed, but the gorilla does.
The definition of 800-pound gorilla in the urban dictionary is: “A seemingly unbeatable presence always to be reckoned with; whose experience, influence, and skill threatens to defeat competitors with little effort.” A perfect description of the one I battle; Distractions, those things that prevent me from giving my full attention to the important work I should be doing.
I’ve developed many tactics for defeating them over the years, stopping just short of being locked up in an empty room. Still it’s a constant struggle to focus on the most important things in life. Like this mission. I had been consistently winning the fight for nine straight months. Probably because I had a clear goal, plans to achieve it and the commitment to see it through. The book is done and available, mission accomplished, right? Wrong!
The point of the book is to get people to do it. To make their personal plan toward sainthood and stick with it. And to encourage others to do the same. Unfortunately I had set no next step goal or plans to encourage and support people in doing that. Same thing happened when I was participating in triathlons. I set a challenging goal, trained hard, finally succeeded and have rarely ridden a bike or swam since. I was satisfied and ready to move on to other things. Thankfully my aim with this cause is much higher than achieving the initial goal. And speaking of aim, how about a short relevant story?
Once upon a long time ago in college, a group of guys were going pheasant hunting. They were all farm kids. They said something to me like, “Hey city boy, you’re going hunting with us.” I had no experience or interest. But given the choice between studying and, well anything else the choice was easy. Plus, it was clear that they were not asking for my consent. They were on the football team, I played tennis. Enough said.
We trudge through the snow to a corn field. I’m handed a shotgun and instructed on how to use it. They tell me they are all going to the other end of the field where they will spread out and walk through the rows. I am to stay put and shoot a bird when they start flying. What could possibly go wrong?!
I wait and suddenly a million, or maybe a dozen pheasants take flight. It’s loud and startling. I’m distracted by the flapping of wings and guys yelling at me to “shoot!” I attempt to take aim…but at which one? I give up and figure I’ll just shoot as many times as I can. I’m bound to hit something, right? Wrong again! The only thing to hit the ground were my friends rolling around the snow in laughter.
They knew exactly what was going to happen. They just wanted a good laugh at my expense and a story to hold over me forever. End of hunt, my last. I am glad the birds got away. Seriously, I don’t even like swatting flies. I did learn a valuable lesson that day. You must aim at one thing in order to have any chance of hitting it. And don’t let anything distract you from your intended target or you will shoot aimlessly and miss them all.
Following the book release I had no goal, no target, no one thing to aim at. There was plenty to do. I did a Blog Blog here, and a Facebook there, here an Instagram, there a Twitter, everywhere an e-mail. Cute, huh? But it became overwhelming and I couldn’t keep up with what I thought I should do, so I quit into distraction land.
I watched the endless hurricane coverage, U.S. Open tennis matches, football, etc. Worse yet, I quit the book. I wasn’t following my own plan. I stopped playing saintball. Then I started getting down on myself for being so lazy. “Dude, what’s your problem? People are actually interested. Why would you stop now?” “No good reason. Maybe fear of success and all the work that entails. Or fear of future failure where all the work goes to waste.” “You are being rediculous! Only one way to snap out of it. Establish a new goal, plan and commitment.” What…you don’t talk to yourself like this?
The new goal is to attract 450 free newsletter subscribers by the end of the year. I like to think that we have a shared goal to save the world, one person at a time starting with ourselves. Therefore, the more people we can reach with our saint building philosophy, the better chance we have of making the change we want to see in the world.
Why 450 you may ask? Simple math. The Saint Builder Foundation Facebook page has about 90 followers. My hope is that they will all become newsletter subscribers too. Then they will each find two friends to do the same, resulting in 180 more. Finally, each one of those 180 will find one more, another 180. Total, 90+180+180=450. Goooaaal!!!
And here is the plan. I pledge to:
I have been advised that to enlist your help that I should give you something. I’m not sure what that would be. There are many resources on the website, especially on the sandbox and saintball pages. I was also advised not to put them all out there for free. I have to keep reminding the expert marketers that this is not a money-making venture, but rather a life mission. We are all in this together and I want to develop and give you stuff that helps in your journey. Aspiring saints just aren’t “what’s in it for me” types anyway. Regardless, how about this? When we get to 450 newsletter subscribers there will be a yet to be determined cool recognition for you early adopters.
Here are a few ways you can help. Sign-up for the free newsletter if you haven’t already. Send an e-mail to your 5 best friends with a link to saintbuider.com and ask them to sign-up for the newsletter too. Share these blog posts with your friends.
I truly appreciate your ongoing interest and support. You all have my sincere gratitude!
I think George (yes, my gorilla has a name) has retreated for now. Back to work. I did cancel the distraction of the NFL Sunday ticket. George was very upset. I am too. Sacrifice is a saintly trait, right? Right!
Have and enjoyable weekend, Scott
I’ve been a little distracted lately by hurricanes. We have family, friends and property in the path of Irma. We’ve been through this before having lived in Florida for six years and experienced at least that many potential big hurricane strikes. As lifelong Iowans, we initially thought hurricanes were like tornadoes. We were so wrong. Tornadoes hit fast in a relatively small area. They are here and gone. Hurricanes are slow moving, cover large areas and hang around for weeks. We got a crash course when Floyd, a Category 4 arrived in Florida soon after we did. We were fortunate that it ended up skipping around our location. Unfortunately for the folks in North Carolina, it hit them hard, and Irene did the same a couple weeks later. Tragic!
It dawned on me during the recent coverage of hurricane Harvey that the dark side of mother nature sure reveals a lot about human nature; the good, the bad and sometimes the ugly. Let me attempt to explain by taking you though a typical hurricane experience.
The first thing to understand about hurricanes is that there is a long lead time. You know for at least a week that it may be coming. The well-meaning folks in the media love to talk about it 24/7. Their intent is to make sure everyone is aware of the timing and severity, and therefore making appropriate preparations. What really happens is that a slow panic sets in. And the bad begins. It’s every man and woman for themselves. Grocery stores and gas stations are emptied. Hardware stores are busy selling generators, batteries and emergency necessities that have been ignored during the good times. And yes, people are pushy, rude and selfish…fear has that affect. And there is some ugly price gouging by a few to take advantage of the bad situation.
And then you wait to see if anything is really going to happen. You make your evacuation plan in case it is absolutely necessary. You try to live your normal life. In truth, everyone is completely distracted and on edge as the storm approaches. Most are continuously checking their devices for an update on the storm track. Why, I don’t know? A hurricane’s forward speed is typically around 15 miles per hour, a slow bike ride. Fear of the unknown makes us anxious.
Eventually the waiting ends as the future becomes clear. There is either panic and worry, or relief and gratitude. We were always in the latter situation so I really can’t do justice to explaining the former. I think it’s impossible to know unless you have personally experienced it. My daughter and her family are on the road out of Florida right now. I’ll ask her to share her feelings at some less stressful time.
Then it happens. The storm hits. Words can’t explain the devastation. Lets just say, it’s bad! Raging water, ripping winds and mass destruction of property. Recall the recent images from Harvey. Imaging yourself in the place of those in the path of Irma as you watch the coverage this weekend.
Now here is the really interesting thing. Immediately following the storm is where the good begins. Recovering from a tragedy seems to bring out the best in nearly everyone. We are generous with our time, talent and treasure. We are in our people helping people mode. All the divisions fade away. Our differences in race, religion, politics and whatever just don’t matter. We are all just people ready, willing and able to help each other out. Why is that? I believe it is because we are all good at our core. It’s our natural instinct. Helping others makes us happy. So why aren’t we in this mode all the time?
In interviews of impacted people they will inevitably say something like, “I just want things to get back to normal.” I disagree. From a people interacting with each other perspective, I’d like our immediate post-tragedy behavior to be the new normal. How do we make that happen? Do we need to manufacture tragedies. Creating a crisis to get what we want is a common strategy. Kids learn that early on. Want candy in the grocery store kid? Create a scene and bingo!
Actually, I think we are already in a perpetual state of tragedy, no need to create one. A hurricane of division, distraction and confusion about what is good, right and true. We could be nice to each other all the time. We could be unified all the time. We could help each other solve problems all the time. Why don’t we? I’m sure we could come up with many reasons. But I am also certain there is no really good reason.
How about we all do this. Aid the hurricane victims in whatever way you can. Pray that those impacted by Harvey and Irma are able to maintain a sense of hope and purpose to facilitate a speedy recovery. Try to imagine the sense of loss, anger, hopelessness and grief they must be feeling. Then go out with that sense of empathy and treat everyone else as though they were a hurricane victim. Be your best self by using your unique talents to serve others in a virtuous manner. Be saintspirational!
As always, thank you for taking the time to read this. These are just my thoughts, I’m always interested in yours. Godspeed to you all.
Pop Quiz – What percentage of time is the ball in play during a professional tennis match? I was curious since I’ve been watching U.S. Open tennis tournament matches all week. Luckily there is plenty of downtime during a match. It’s easy to get work done while watching, like right now. Wow, great shot! When the announcers raise their voices I pay attention. Using the DRV to zip through a match, stopping to watch the crucial few deciding points is also a good viewing strategy. Tennis really does imitate life, a topic for another day.
Do you have an answer yet? I looked it up and was a little surprised. Then I became curious about other sports. Same question, what percent of time is the ball (or puck) actually in play? Here’s what I found through some quick internet research. I do not vouch for its complete accuracy. Let’s just say it’s approximately right.
So, what the point? There is a lot of wasted time in sports. I’m sure there are arguments to be made to the contrary, but let’s pretend there aren’t for now. I was actually shocked to learn that my favorite to watch, football, is a 95% waste of my time. My spouse was thrilled to know that. I should have saved that fact until after the upcoming season…ugh!
Now the big question – What sport does your life most imitate? How much time do you keep the ball in play? Translation – How much time are you spending on the important things in life? Those things that matter to making the world a better place for others. I hope you have been tracking that time by playing saintball. We started out with the beginner game where you subjectively label your daily activities as either valuable or waste. Or you took the easy route and only tracked wasted time and called all the rest valuable.
My early tracking showed that I was spending 39% of my time on valuable activities. Hockey, not bad comparatively. But wasting 61% of my time on earth is pathetic…embarrassing really. So, I kept tracking and vowed to do better. I set an 80% value goal. I rarely achieve it but am now averaging 65%, big improvement. That gets me 40 of 50 available saint points daily:-)
Over time I was able to get more specific about what valuable uses of time were for me. By analyzing what I was labeling as valuable in my daily tracking, I was able to group them into categories. They eventually fell into four, plus two others that together served to capture all of my time. They also happened to fit into the areas of focus that time management experts typically espouse; physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Here they are:
For you acronym lovers, the categories spell “player,” as in player of the game of life. The valuable categories are “play,” as in let’s have some fun striving to be the saints we are all meant to be, and solving all the world’s problems while we’re at it. Why not?
Now that I had the categories, I set a daily time goal for each. My thinking went like this:
Then I did my daily tracking. Of course, I needed to invent a new worksheet, remember I’m a CPA who likes structure and order. My band friend Steve knows what I’m talking about, play it Steve. My band friend Ron is horrified. Anyway, I call it the PLAYtime Tracker.
Check it out and give it a try in the upcoming week. Set your daily time goals in each category and see if you can achieve them. For extra credit, make a plan for how you are going to spend the time you have allocated. Then make them a priority by actually putting them on your schedule.
And here’s a challenge for you. If you are working, you will be tempted to count all work hours as valuable, in the Act category. Here’s the challenge – Ask yourself the following two questions:
I have an interesting statistic for you on the second question. Based on studies, only about 5 percent of the work in any business is value-added, that is, has a direct benefit to the paying customer. A world-class manufacturing company might get to 20 percent. There are all sorts of reasons for this, some legitimate and others not so much. Ignore that for now and just evaluate what you do based on the strict interpretation.
If your percentage is low, join the crowd. The purpose of this challenge is not to make you feel bad about yourself, it is simply to get you thinking about the value you are capable of providing to the world. Once you know what that value is currently, you can make changes that are within your power to more fully realize your potential value. And you might get a raise too, hey you never know:-) Try it.
I’m now trying to imitate soccer in life, the 75% sport. It really isn’t my game, but I am going to get a ball and start learning as a reminder. Let’s see if an old dog really can learn new tricks.
Have a fun, safe and saintly Labor Day weekend all!
The police use a vice squad to enforce laws concerning gambling, pornography, prostitution, and the illegal use of liquor and narcotics. Thankfully there is no such legal enforcement of vice in the broader sense of the word. The dictionary definition of vice is, “a moral fault or failing.” Ouch, guilty as charged Your Honor. The antonym of vice is virtue. Can we get some leniency by displaying a little virtue – like maybe a lifetime of double secret probation?
More to come on this but first I’m curious, what was your saintball score last week? No, I don’t expect you to tell me. Mine was 77, a lousy “C” again. 47/50 points on the valuable use of time measure, but only 30/50 on behavior. Of course I am playing the more advanced and slightly more objective version of the game, so that’s my excuse. Rather than very subjectively tracking good and bad behavior, I am tracking my conduct in terms of vice and virtue (the V’s).
I use the seven deadly sins to represent the vices since they are widely recognized. They each have a contrary virtue as well. I like to list them in a good versus evil style since they are all constantly doing battle within each of us.
I track these daily. You can too with the Flying V Tracker. Yeah there’s a story behind that name for another time. The worksheet contains brief definitions of each V. Score one point for each time you think, say or do something that was caused by one of the V’s. I usually start with noticing the good and bad behavior and then think about which V caused it.
When I first started tracking, my goal was simply to avoid the vices. A defensive strategy designed to keep the vice squad off my trail. While I had some victories, it became obvious that only through actively utilizing the virtues would I ever consistently win. That is, score more virtue than vice points daily. So I went on offense. It works. Focusing on virtue gives vice little time to rear its ugly head. But it is also very easy to slip back into vice behaviors which seem to be the much easier route to take.
So there you have it, your plan to evade the vice squad. Use the 7 virtues to defeat the 7 vices every time. To make this fun I envision a battle of angels and demons taking place within me every day. Yeah that may seem weird, but try it. Give them names if you want. Anything to keep yourself interested and engaged in fighting the good fight.
Try using the tracker for a week. You will be amazed by what you learn about yourself, both the good and the room for improvement. I’m rooting for your angels! A song line just popped into my head; “But I can hear a heavenly band full of angels and they’re coming to set me free.” Can you name the song and artist? I’ll tell you next time.
By the way, I’m on the lookout for saintly behavior and images. When I see it I’m going to use Instagram and Twitter to share with a hashtag of #besaintspirational. I encourage you to do the same with your own accounts. It would be nice to build a portfolio of saint inspiring photos and examples to help us all on our journey.
Be Saintspirational, Scott