14 March 2017
The way to
happiness: keep your heart free from hate, your mind
free from worry, live simply, expect little, give much.
cannot be polished without friction, nor people perfected
have no friends;
you have no enemies;
you have only teachers.
We all question our ability at times. Uncertainty
plagues us. It is even more intense if the ability we
are questioning relates to something we have never tried or
not succeeded at in the past.
Setbacks are common, but we rarely welcome them. We
are inclined to respond negatively to adversity. It
may be time to revisit that reflexive response.
I had an experience recently that caused me to reconsider
whether a negative response to adversity is always justified
when I was confronted with a life-threatening situation.
It was mid-morning on a warm and pleasant Saturday.
I was in the midst of my first skydive of the day. It
was my 2,123th jump since having taken up the sport fifteen
After about one minute of freefall at 5,000 above the
ground, I parted ways with my fellow jumpers to get far
enough away from them to open my parachute safely. I
initiated opening around 3,000 feet above the earth.
My parachute opened with some twists in the lines between
the parachute and me. This is not that uncommon.
What was different this time was that I was not able to
clear the twists.
The twists in the lines caused my parachute to take on an
asymmetrical shape. Receiving asymmetrical inputs, the
canopy did what it is designed to do and initiated a
turn--thatís how itís steered. The problem
occurred when the turn quickly became a rapid, diving
downward spiral that was spinning me a full 360 degrees
about once every second. This was a problem.
I looked up to assess my canopy and saw something I
donít often see--the horizon clearly visible ABOVE the
trailing edge of my canopy. This meant my canopy and I
were now on roughly the same horizontal plane. In that
I could see the horizon behind it, I was actually above my
parachute and it was leading our fast-spinning parade
rapidly towards mother earth.
My first need was to acknowledge that I was not going to
be able to solve this problem. This is not as easy as
it seems. Having successfully completed over 2,100
jumps without having to resort to my second parachute, it
was hard for me to believe I had really encountered a
problem I could not solve. I had a natural inclination
to assume I could fix this problem as I had all those in the
Sound familiar? Itís always easy to lapse into
denial when confronted with a problem. Until we
acknowledge the problem and our possible inability to solve
it--or to use the methods we have used in the past--we
donít have a chance of making things better.
Fortunately, the urgency of this situation caused my
hard-headed nature to yield much quicker than usual.
That decision probably took a second or two.
The next step, having accepted the need to follow a
different course than in the past, was to determine the
course. Fortunately, fifteen years of training and
practice before every day of jumping took hold.
I looked straight down at the two handles on either side
of my chest--one to release me from my malfunctioning canopy
and one for deploying my reserve parachute--and realized I
needed to quickly get them in my hands. I could not
help but notice when I made eye contact with them, as had
been ingrained in me during my First Jump Course way back in
1988, that by now the rapid spins had turned me back to
earth and there beyond my toes was once again the
horizon. This was bad!
Time was of the essence at this point not only because I
was now rapidly progressing toward the horse pasture below
me, but also because the centrifugal force I was starting to
experience would soon make it impossible to get my hands to
those two handles.
With my hands now securely on the handles, I was
confronted with a bothersome question, ďNow, which one
goes first.Ē The wrong order could cause my reserve
parachute to deploy into my spinning main parachute which
would result in an incurable entanglement.
Fortunately, ingrained training once again took over and
I pulled them in the right order. First the handle on
the right side which released me from my spinning main
parachute followed by the handle on the left side to deploy
my reserve parachute.
This brought on a wonderful experience. My
malfunctioning black, teal and magenta canopy was replaced
with a bright, yellow never- before-used reserve
parachute. What a lovely sight! And all this by
1,700 feet--plenty of time to spare.
Many years ago, I read a book about the challenges and
responsibilities of Secret Service agents. One of the
sad aspects of that profession is that agents who never have
the chance to validate their years of training by responding
to a threat sometimes struggle severely in retirement.
They are faced with not knowing-- with certainty--how they
would respond when faced with the paramount challenge their
career can deliver. For this reason, agents who have
faced such a challenge successfully are admired within the
culture of the Service.
That Saturday morning, I had the privilege of facing a
similar, life-threatening--and I now realize
life-defining--challenge. I faced what Secret Service
agents call ďthe dragon.Ē
For all of us the greater dragon is not the external
threat, whether it be an assassinís bullet, the
unforgiving and fast approaching earth or another
challenge. The real dragon is the self-doubt we carry
For those few splendid moments after landing safely, I
was able to put my foot firmly on the neck of the dragon. .
. and it felt great.
Keep this in mind the next time you are confronted with
adversity. On the far side of the experiences the adversity
presents, there could be a valuable gift--a renewed
confidence and certainty.
* * * *
© Jim McCormick. Jim is co-author of Motivational Selling,
editor of 365 Daily Doses of Courage and author of
the forthcoming book Seize Opportunity--A Practical
Guide to Taking Advantage of Opportunities. Jim is also
a two time skydiving World Record holder and was a member of
an international expedition that skydived to the North Pole.
More information is available at TakeRisks.com.
people behind the words
and excerpts - Daily
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caterpillars travel in long, undulating lines, one creature
behind the other. Jean Henri Fabre, the French
entomologist, once led a group of these caterpillars onto
the rim of a large flowerpot, so that the leader of the
procession found itself nose to tail with the last
caterpillar in the procession, forming a circle without end
sheer force of habit and, of course, instinct, the ring of
caterpillars circled the flowerpot for seven days and seven
nights, until they died from exhaustion and
starvation. An ample supply of food was close at hand
and plainly visible, but it was outside the range of the
circle, so the caterpillars continued along the beaten path.
often behave in a similar way. Habit patterns and ways
of thinking become deeply established, and it seems easier
and more comforting to follow them than to cope with change,
even when change may represent freedom and achievement.
someone shouts, "Fire!" it is automatic to blindly
follow the crowd, and many thousands have needlessly died
because of it. How many stop to ask themselves:
Is this really the best way out of here?
many people miss the boat because it's easier and more
comforting to follow--to follow without questioning the
qualifications of the people just ahead--than to do some
independent thinking and checking.
hard thing for most people to fully understand is that
people in such numbers can be so wrong, like the
caterpillars going around and around the edge of the
flowerpot, with life and food just a short distance
away. If most people are living that way, it must be
right, they think. But a little checking will reveal
that throughout all recorded history, the majority of
humankind has an unbroken record of being wrong about most
things, especially the important things.
difficult for people to come to the understanding that only
a small minority of the people ever really get the word
about life, about living abundantly and successfully.
Success in the important departments of life seldom comes
naturally, no more naturally than success at anything--a
musical instrument, sports, fly-fishing, tennis, golf,
business, marriage, parenthood, landscape gardening.
somehow people wait passively for success to come to
them--like the caterpillars going around in circles, waiting
for sustenance, following nose to tail--living as other
people are living in the unspoken, tacit assumption that
other people know how to live successfully.
a good idea to step out of the line every once in a while
and look up ahead to see if the line is going where we want
it to go. If it is, it could be the first time.
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photo's from a spring
day at Lake Louise)
x 800 - 1440
monks were washing their bowls in the river when they
noticed a scorpion that was drowning. One monk
scooped it up and set it upon the bank. In the process
stung. He went back to washing his bowl and again the
fell in. The monk saved the scorpion and was again
other monk asked him, "Friend, why do you continue to
scorpion when you know its nature is to sting?"
the monk replied, "to save it is my nature."
Sculptors and Sand Blasters
Once I saw the last few minutes of a television show that
fascinated me. It was called Sand Blasters, and it
featured a bunch of people building elaborate, beautiful
sculptures of sand on the beach. Once they were
finished, the judges chose three winners out of what looked
like ten entries, handing out cash prizes to the teams that
had created the artwork. Once that was done, one of
the hosts pulled out a detonator and they blew up all of the
This is one kind of artistic creation that I very much admire. The
people who are willing to create something beautiful just to
have it blown up are doing really well in the area of
letting things go in their lives, in not trying to hold
on to things "just because." I have the same
admiration for ice sculptors who create some of the most
fantastic pieces I've ever seen, knowing the whole time that
the ice will melt away and their work will disappear
suspicious of "classic" artwork. I've been
to most of the major art museums in western Europe and in the
States, and while there are some truly great works in all of
them, there are also many, many pieces that have very little
aesthetic value. They just happened to be painted by
someone famous--usually a very long time ago--so they're
displayed prominently right there along with much better
works. They're famous and valuable because some critic
or historian has said that they're famous and valuable, not
because of any other criteria. I've watched people
reach some of these paintings, and the vast majority of
people just walk right by them. There are whole rooms
in many museums full of portraits that almost no one spends
more than a few seconds in.
enough, I see much more artwork that I like a lot in our
local hospital, where there are many beautiful pieces by a
huge variety of artists. These are pieces that I can
stand and look at for a long time, just drinking in the
scene before me. None of the artists have their
paintings hanging in the Louvre, but I'd much rather have
some of these paintings in my house than most of what's in
many artists who are willing to do their own thing without
caring a bit about whether or not they become famous.
They draw or paint or photograph because they love what
they're doing and they love the results artistically.
They don't care if thousands of admiring fans stream past
their works every day--they just do what they do and enjoy
themselves while they're doing it.
To me, the
ice sculptors and the sand sculptors epitomize this healthy
attitude. Nothing in life is permanent, so why spend
so much of our time trying to create something
"immortal"? Why not express yourself right
here, right now, expressing what you truly want to express
right now, without a care as to whether or not you'll be
able to pay the bills with it? Yes, many ice sculptors
get paid for what they do, but I don't think that we're ever
going to see an "Ice Sculpture Museum."
Creating such a place would defeat the whole purpose and
philosophy behind sculpting ice in the first place--it would
be an attempt to preserve the unpreservable, to hold on to
something that should be let go.
going about your life doing your own thing, think of
yourself as an ice sculptor. What you're doing today
in your life will melt away by tomorrow (or by next week if
it's really cold outside), leaving you to do something
completely new once it's gone. As a teacher, I've
gotten used to this concept when I watch my classes end
and my students move on--many of whom I'll never even see
again. I've learned that I have to let go and let
them move on, without it affecting the way I feel about
myself or my world.
I would love to be able
to be so willing to let go of something that I could create
it one hour and see it go away the next. I think that
these artists have something very important to teach us
about letting go and not getting attached to our own
creations. Letting go is truly one of the life skills
that can help us the most as we move through our lives
trying to learn to live it fully, completely, and happily.
on letting go.
of the most important elements
of living life fully is
awareness-- awareness of our surroundings, of other people
and their motives and fears and desires, of the things that
affect us most in our lives, both positively and negatively.
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don't know what tomorrow
old age and
death--but I do know that I do
have today, one absolutely
glorious day that
I will savor and
make the most of as
if it were my
last one. . . because it may be!
In a small hut, Hakuin lived a quiet life
devoted to monastic purity. When the young unmarried daughter of the village grocer
became pregnant, she named Hakuin as the father. Her
parents went to Hakuin and charged him with the deed. Hakuin simply said, "Is that so?"
When the child was born, once again the
parents came to Hakuin.
They handed him the baby and demanded he take responsibility
for raising it. Hakuin said, "Is that so?" and
took the baby in his arms.
Dutifully he began to look after the infant.
A year later, the young woman could bear it
no longer. She confessed
that the real father was a young man who worked in the
nearby fishmarket. The parents went to Hakuin once more,
this time making deep apologies, and asked him to return the
child. Hakuin said only, "Is that so?" and gave the baby
back to them.
traditional Zen Buddhist story
you right now is the power to do things you
possible. This power becomes
available to you just as soon as you
can change your beliefs.
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