Be the Captain of your Soul.

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How would you like to become the “captain of your ship, the master of your destiny”? If this question resonates even in the slightest with you, then perhaps it’s time to actually own the notion that you are a soul having a human experience, that it’s up to you to determine the quality of experience you have as you navigate this life.

You may not get to choose all that happens to you, but you can choose how you respond. What happens to you in life is not the issue; rather, how you respond is the real issue.

The power of this simple advice comes down to an inarguable basic truth: While many events will occur throughout your life, how you go through what happens to you is your choice and yours alone. Now, of course, many will choose to argue with the inarguable, but then that’s their choice as well. Over the years of sharing God’s words to other people by applying the approach of “teaching what I most need to learn” and having observed through working with people, I have come to learn of the obvious that, in life, what you resist, you remain stuck with. If you will, allow me to share the lessons I’ve learned.

I have learned that I can complain, blame or generally be upset with what happens around me or to me, and the more upset I get, the more resistant I become, the more things remain the same. Curiously, the more I have surrendered to the fact that I’m the one choosing my reactions to the apparently negative events in my life, the fewer negative events seem to occur. It could be that the same kind of situations keep showing up with the only real difference being one of learning to make lemonade out of the lemons.

If you wish to argue with the obvious truth that you’re the one choosing how you respond to what happens, then you get to stay stuck with the quality of experience you are having. If you like the experience you are having, then there’s no need to change a thing. However, if you find yourself complaining, blaming or getting upset with what’s happening around you, perhaps it’s time to consider that you do have a choice.

You are the Captain of Your Soul

William Ernest Henley wrote an intriguing poem first published in 1875 that offers some profound wisdom and insight into how you can choose to navigate life’s currents.  The poem sums up a courageous view of dealing with life’s challenges in its concluding stanza, again underscoring that we have choice in how we experience what happens to us:

Out of the night that covers me, 
      Black as the pit from pole to pole, 
I thank whatever gods may be 
      For my unconquerable soul. 
In the fell clutch of circumstance 
      I have not winced nor cried aloud. 
Under the bludgeonings of chance 
      My head is bloody, but unbowed. 
Beyond this place of wrath and tears 
      Looms but the Horror of the shade, 
And yet the menace of the years 
      Finds and shall find me unafraid. 
It matters not how strait the gate, 
      How charged with punishments the scroll, 
I am the master of my fate, 
      I am the captain of my soul.

There are many versions of these truths, and yet they all come down to the same basic elements: what is, is. How you choose to experience what is has nothing to do with the events and everything to do with your own choices about how to respond. Of course, it’s pretty hard to make good choices if you don’t have a goal in mind. You might find it useful to take a break from everything and explore the deeper aspects of who you truly are to move past your self and spend some time listening to your soul.

What would your soul have you experience? Listen closely and you will become captain of your ship, master of your destiny. Turn a deaf ear to that quiet inner voice of your soul, and you may wind up shipwrecked instead.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this subject. How have you taken the helm? How have you guided your own experience of life? Please share in the comment section below.

Your Word is your Bond

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Do you think before you make a promise to someone? What if you can’t deliver on your word? Does it really matter? The world isn’t going to come to an end, is it? Well, actually no, but have you considered . . .

Many people are pretty casual about making promises. As a result, promises are frequently made at the drop of a hat with no real intention of keeping them. “Let’s do lunch,” “I’ll call you later,” and “I’ll be there in five minutes” are all examples of throwaway promises that are frequently made but seldom kept. However, this casual attitude can have real consequences.Think about it — when someone else breaks a promise to you, or gets caught in a lie, doesn’t that make you feel violated or cheated?  You can’t help wondering whether you were wrong to ever trust that person.

There was a time when keeping your word held special significance. We took great pride in being of good character. Personal integrity was both expected and valued. That was a time when everyone knew each other’s family, and you wouldn’t do anything that would cast a shadow on your family’s good name. It was a time when integrity was instilled in children at a very early age and was viewed as instrumental in achieving success. The truth is, our world may have changed, but the importance of integrity has not. While we may not know everyone in our own town, the world is still smaller than you think. Create some bad news and you’ll learn this for yourself.

Every time you give your word, you’re putting your honor on the line. You’re implying that others can place their trust in you because you value integrity and would never let them down. It goes without saying that if you don’t live up to your word, you may end up tarnishing your credibility, damaging your relationships, and defaming your reputation. Most importantly, you’ll be letting yourself down.

But . . . when you operate with complete integrity, what you say will be taken at face value, your intentions will be assumed honorable, and your handshake will be as good as a contract. Most importantly, you can take great pride in the standards that you’ve set for yourself and sleep well at night knowing that your conscience is clear. As for others . . . just when they think they’re fooling the world, they’ll realize that they’re only fooling themselves. A promise is a promise after all.

What do you think? Are people too casual about making promises?

 

Invest in Life. Invest in Experiences!

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“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore, Dream, Discover.” - Mark Twain

It’s everywhere in the media

The Lamborghinis on Wall Street, the Louis Vuitton bags that celebrities wear, the mansions that “successful” people live in. The list goes on. 

We’ve fooled ourselves into believing that the sole recognition  —  no, definition  —  of success & happiness comes from the type of cars we own or the number of zeros in our bank account. We’ve put the notion of material success on a pedestal and convinced those around us to adopt the same beliefs.

In a society that idolizes the pursuit of happiness, carrying out a life where one’s destination is to find joy through material goods is not only ineffective, but it’s a never-ending journey. 

The key to happiness is not spending our time & money acquiring goods.
The key to happiness is spending our time & money experiencing life.

It’s the priceless experiences in life that makes us happy at the end of day.

Experience defines us

We live in a society where tangible things appear more valuable because we can feel, hold and touch the materials we purchase. Above all, it’s because tangible things are tied with currency that places a price of its value in the marketplace.

There’s no way to physically feel the experience of trekking up a mountain trail on a Saturday morning with our closest friends. Nor can we “sell” the experience of our first fight with our partners. It’s the same reason why we can’t put a price value on a human being. 

“If we could sell our experiences for what they cost us, we’d all be millionaires.” -Abigail Van Buren

We are the accumulation of everything we’ve ever seen, heard, smelled, tasted and felt. It’s experience that teaches us not to take that 8-5 cubicle job again, and it’s experience that will lead to that next big breakthrough idea for our businesses. 

In other words, experiences come with life lessons
Materials come with nothing but a bill.

Experience stays with us

When we think back to our fondest memories, what are they?

For me, it’s not the gifts I received for Christmas or my birthday. It’s the context surrounding the gifts  —  the people at my birthday party, the smell of the hot chocolate on Christmas morning. It’s the first time I learned how to ride a bike with my dad, and the time I went on my first (awkward) date. This is what puts a smile to my face to this day. 

Here’s the main caveat to investing in materials  — they have expiration dates

Experience can be relived. Experience has emotional longevity. It can be improved in our minds as we continue to grow and progress in life. It stays with us and they are lessons we can use everyday for as long as we live. Experiences bring us happiness not just when we’re having the experience, but also when we simply think about them.

Here’s how my wife and I try to live out our experiences.   

Change budget priorities.

Let’s be truthful, we are not all born with silver spoons in our mouths and everything is freely and abundantly handed out to us to use and abuse, so, if we want to start living a life of experiences, we need to prioritize our financial budgets to accommodate the adventures we’ll undertake. This is the first consideration we make.

Learn to be prudent when purchasing materials, because salvaging those few extra dimes could lead to the experience that could change your life. 

Say “yes” more.

Growing up, we were taught to make decisions with calculated risk assessments by carefully thinking things through. If we want to start fulfilling more experiences in life —  we need to unlearn these principles.

The best adventures arise from moments when we least expect them. 

Filling our mind with “what ifs” is only going to keep us on our couches watching other people live their lives. Before we know it, our “what if” will turn into “should have.” 

Learn to be present in the moment. When the next opportunity for experience appears, ask yourself this simple question.

Will I regret not taking this opportunity?  Tomorrow, next week, or even next year? 

If the answer is yes  —  or even maybe — your immediate response should also be yes.

The future will always be uncertain. That’s never going to change. But you can control how you shape it by thinking less and taking action. 

Start with the small (and cheap) adventures.

Are you the type of person that watches the same movies over and over again, takes the same walking route to the office, and eats at the same food joints or restaurants? 

You need to break out of your regular routine.

Opening our mind up to new experiences needs to start with the small decisions and interactions we have in our daily lives. Instead of going to that same fastfood joint or restaurant near your office because you know it’s a safe decision, go somewhere new. 

The most fulfilling experiences don’t have to cost a lot of money. Often times, it’s right next door. We just need to know where to knock. 

Start taking the small risks in life. You’ll be surprised how far it takes you.

If there’s anything to take away from this article  —  take away this. 

We are all going to die one day, whether you choose to accept it or not. Towards the end of our lives, we’re going to ask the same questions.  

Did I live?
Do I have regrets?
Did I experience everything I wanted to in life?

Ask yourself if you want your existence to be defined by the type of car you owned or the adventures and freedom you led in life. 

Invest in something that will bring you lessons rather than a bill. Become rich in experience. 

Because experience will win  —  every single time

P.S. If you learned something valuable from this post, please let me know on  the comments below.

Don’t give people permission to walk all over you.

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The other day I had a talk with a friend who kept complaining about the “cold” treatment  of her colleagues at work towards her which she found rather rude. Said she had not done anything wrong to deserve such treatment in the first place. 

“Why don’t you just ask any of them?” I asked.

“Then they’ll think I’m insecure?!” she exclaimed.

Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, but lately I find myself having little tolerance for games. In the past if I sensed indifference from someone, or if they had behaved in a way that made me want to speak out, I’d refrain. I convinced myself that it wasn’t worth confronting this person over. Instead, I allowed whatever feelings of uncertainty, frustration, or anger to stew inside of me.

How many of us are guilty of this? How many of us stop ourselves from speaking out in an effort to appear calm and undeterred. Sure, there are times when it makes sense to let things slide — not everything is worth making a ruckus over. But too often, we choose to pass on our opportunity to be assertive, to stand up for ourselves, to use our voice. So it’s worth asking: is choosing to remain quiet worth sacrificing our self-respect?

The answer is obvious. Life is short. You could die tomorrow. If you feel you’ve been wronged, forgotten, neglected, disrespected, or taken advantage of, you owe it to yourself to say something about it. Too many people keep their feelings to themselves in an effort to avoid being perceived as needy, desperate or insecure. But this silent acquiescence only further deepens the insecurity they’re so desperately trying to dissociate with.

There’s no issue if something legitimately doesn’t bother you. The problem is that most people are bothered by how they’re treated, and they allow this bitterness to consume them.

Realize that there’s a difference between bitterness and anger. Maya Angelou so eloquently put it, “Bitterness is like cancer. It eats upon the host. It doesn’t do anything to the object of its displeasure.” Contrast this with anger — it’s okay to be angry, as long as you channel that energy productively.

It’s time for real talk. Don’t give people permission to walk all over you. Be constructive. Be assertive. Be firm. But whatever you do, do not go quietly into the night.

 

Make Better Mistakes Next Time

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A rather humbling scenario which I experienced couple of days ago allowed me the time to reflect how much has changed in my life in the last decade. The process led me to realize that I made so many mistakes, hurt people I loved, and behaved in ways that I can’t say I’m proud of. While I think I’ve got a good grip on my moral compass and fundamental set of values, I’m still shaping my character to this day and will probably continue doing so for the rest of my life. However, as much as I messed up, I wouldn’t take any of my mistakes back, as they taught me lessons and shaped the person I’ve become today.

This may not only hold true to me but may be to some of you too. 

It is human to make mistakes. Some mistakes are witnessed by others and come with more shame, some are in private and come with more guilt. Some hurt others, and some ultimately hurt just you. In a life where trial and error is often how we learn, avoiding making mistakes is not very realistic. However, making different choices the next time around to avoid making the same mistake — is completely in your control.

Where we differ as human beings is the choices we make after we falter. I distinguish the difference in two separate camps. There are those who use regret and remorse as a catalyst to grow and change their way of going about life in order to become better people. The consequences of their mistakes serve as reminders to do things differently to avoid repeating the same situations. Often, we need these experiences to teach us the lessons in life that ultimately shape our character.

Then, there are those who feel ashamed by their shame, and after a period of self-loathing and guilt, they resort back to their exact same way of thinking and behavior. Instead of the mistake becoming a lesson, it becomes just another cyclical loop in habits.

When you make mistakes, how do you respond? If your mistake leaves a trail of hurt and destruction in the lives of others, do you make amends and apologize with actions and empathy? Or are the people that reap the consequences of your mistake just a mere casualty of your disregard?

In my opinion, what builds character is not avoiding mistakes — it’s how you choose to think and act afterwards. Use your mistakes as opportunities to grow. And hopefully you can “make better mistakes tomorrow.”

8 Years and Counting

My wife wrote the sweetest lines on my Facebook homepage today. Turns out, hundreds of posts flooding my page from different friends can’t drown these 4 simple lines:

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If that does not bring “butterflies in your stomach”, give you “goosebumps”, or “make your heart beat faster than normal” if you are myself, I don’t know what is!

I am first to admit that when I got married I wasn’t (with absolute certainty) sure why I was getting married. My heart was in the right place but I didn’t really understand the real purpose of a marriage. How could I really? I had no idea what was going to come our way or how we would handle it. I thought I was tough enough to endure anything by myself.

8 years later I have a whole different perspective on why marriage exists.

In the first 8 years we have been married we have had more than our fair share of change. We have changed jobs, friends have come and gone, we have battled serious health issues and been heartbroken when loved ones have died, and so much more.

Today, we woke up married for 2,921 days in a row. Some good days and some bad days. More good than bad because I had her to help me. Although our personalities are wildly different, she is my biggest fan, quietly cheering me on and supporting me every single day. Marriage brings out who you really are. Sometimes it’s not very pretty. You can only be narcissistic for so long before you get called out on it. Marriage is like being in therapy every single day. You are constantly improving and striving for better from yourself and out of the relationship. As I reflect on the last 8 years, I am proud of how far we have come and how much we have grown as a married couple.

In 8 years we have changed together and as individuals. We try our hardest  to exert an effort to stay engaged with these changes because no amount of guessing or assuming can prepare you for how your spouse will actually be through any storms that you go through in your marriage relationship.

Through all the times of uncertainty, discontent and disappointment the only thing that remained constant was my wife. That was my light bulb moment. That’s why marriage exists. Life is sweeter when you have someone to help you get through it. Together. To witness your life, to keep you strong when you don’t think you can be, to keep you grounded when you’re flying high, to tackle decisions from all angles.

Someone that will remind you when you are lying in bed in a dark room crying your eyes out about some heartbreaking failure, hurtful mistake or regrettable moment in life, and being one with you, she’ll hold your hand and tell you she is sad and affected too. Which truly brings you to the truth that life isn’t always about you, luckily when you’re married it’s about someone else too.

P.S.: This post is dedicated to my wife and to all those people out there who were blessed with someone to walk with in life.

If You’re Missing your Mom this Mother’s Day

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FOREWORD: My family and I loss our beloved Mom in September 2, 2016 and this is the first Mother’s Day that we’ll be missing her. This post is also for those out there who are missing their  Moms during this occasion. 

The love of a mother is irreplaceable, and doesn’t die, even when she does. And today, in this part of the world is Sunday, and also is, Mother’s Day. A time to honor and celebrate your mother. While it is a great day and a wonderful opportunity to make your Mom feel special, it can be a hard day if your Mom has passed away. It’s a reminder of the loss you feel and carry with you everyday.

Many people have dealt with the grief of losing a parent or loved one, and they are very familiar with the foreshadowing of pain that usually follows Mother’s Day.

It’s difficult to convince yourself to celebrate this day the same way, since many people (myself included) have since considered themselves to be “motherless.”

In the past, this day was always one for admiration and love; it was a day that encouraged you to show your gratitude for the woman who brought you into this world.

But after you lose a parent, it almost seems as though the day’s only purpose is to remind you of your loss.

You see, the hardest part about all of this is the idea that she really will miss everything.

Family gatherings, holiday celebrations, special occasions such as Mother’s Day,  first child and all those other silly moments you never noticed were important until you couldn’t anymore share them with her.

All of these tribulations make it easy to resent a holiday like Mother’s Day; a day where others are filled with love, comfort and happiness.

It is a day many people take for granted because they no longer revel in it with the same contentment.

As time passes, however, you learn to cope with these emotions and although no amount of time could fully heal a wound so deep, it does allow you to find strength.

Strength that will heal you in more ways than you could ever imagine. It allows your pain to reinforce you, not define you.

And although this process is very different for many, strength allows some of the beauty in life to creep back into your view.

It transforms your grief into serenity, fear into assurance and hopelessness into promise.

For those lucky ones who still have their mothers at their side, I ask that as you rummage through the aisles of stores for the “perfect gifts” to give to them, you remember that you are the best one they could ever ask for.

Spend those last few extra moments on the phone with her; fold the clothes on the dryer (or any household chores) the first time she asks you to; listen to her terrible music because you know it makes her happy.

My deepest regret is that because I was so blindsided before, I didn’t know my last conversation with my Mom would be just that: Our last. No one is guaranteed another day, so remember to make it count.

To all of those who have lost a mother, parent or loved one, know this: They are not lost, and we are not motherless.

Celebrate this day even more so than before, for both her and you. Rejoice her life, her light and your fondest memories of her.

Remember she has a front row seat to your life and know she wouldn’t dare miss even the slightest instance of it.

Lastly, to my beautiful and courageous mother: Happy Mother’s Day. Thank you for contributing so incredibly to the person I am today.

You have given me more strength than most could ever hope to attain in a lifetime, and I am forever grateful for that.

We all hold a very special place in our hearts for you that will never be replaced. You always promised me I had guardian angels watching over me, and I’m more sure of that now than ever before.

I love you so much, and I look forward to the day I can see your smile and hear your laugh again.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the wonderful mothers out there!

Enjoy this day with your loved ones. You deserve it.