14 March 2017      

Hello, and welcome to our newest Tuesday!  We're starting the final
week of winter up here in the north, and we hope that the end of the
season finds you happy and healthy and looking forward to many good
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 Breaking through Uncertainty--
Welcoming Adversity
Jim McCormick

Following the Follower
Earl Nightingale

Ice Sculptors and Sand Blasters
tom walsh

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The way to happiness:  keep your heart free from hate, your mind free from worry, live simply, expect little, give much.

Barney O'Lavin

The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor people perfected without trials.

Chinese proverb

You have no friends;
you have no enemies;
you have only teachers.

Ancient saying

Breaking Through Uncertainty--
Welcoming Adversity

Jim McCormick

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 years ago.

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 past.

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 within us.

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.


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Following the Follower
Earl Nightingale

Processionary 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 or beginning.

Through 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.

People 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.

If 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?

So 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.

A 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.

It's 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.

But 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.

It's 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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Two monks were washing their bowls in the river when they
noticed a scorpion that was drowning.  One monk immediately
scooped it up and set it upon the bank.  In the process he was
stung.  He went back to washing his bowl and again the scorpion
fell in.  The monk saved the scorpion and was again stung.  The
other monk asked him, "Friend, why do you continue to save the
scorpion when you know its nature is to sting?"

"Because," the monk replied, "to save it is my nature."



Ice 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 sand sculptures.

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 completely.

I'm pretty 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.

Interestingly 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 the Louvre.

There are 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.

When you're 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.


More on letting go.


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I don't know what tomorrow
will bring--except 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!

Gary W. Fenchuk


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 outraged 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



Within you right now is the power to do things you
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can change your beliefs.

Maxwell Maltz


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