The center of wisdom

Ever been to a restaurant with pages and pages of menu items, and noticed how much harder it is to decide what you want to eat? It's the classic paralysis of analysis phenomenon--too many choices.

Yet, we often mistake having lots of options in life with ultimate freedom.

But in ancient wisdom traditions, it was the opposite. Freedom was less about having multiple options to choose from, and more about developing a strong connection to the heart (or spirit)--which is your center of wisdom. By leading from your heart, you will always know in any moment which is the right choice is for you.

That's why "follow your heart" is still a relevant cliche. We need the constant reminder, because making career or personal choices based solely on money disconnects us from our inner wisdom--which yields depression, anxiety, and burnout syndrome.

There is no amount of money that can make us feel whole like being heart-centered can.

It's not one or the other. We obviously need to make a living, and we should allow our heart to drive the agenda most of the time. It's like a muscle. The more we allow our heart to lead the way, the stronger that connection becomes.

Show me a sign

Transformational comedian Kyle Cease has a hilarious bit that I've seen him do a couple of times at The Shine:

"You ask the Universe to show you a sign that you should leave your job... and the next thing you know you're driving down Leave-Your-Job Blvd, and you're like, 'I wonder if that was a sign.'"

His point: asking for a sign IS the sign that you're looking for. If your job was in alignment with your purpose, you wouldn't be thinking about leaving it nor would you be asking for a sign.

Often, it's not a sign that we need to ask for--rather, it's the courage to follow through with it.

Showing up

I run into people I've taught to meditate almost on a daily basis around my neighborhood. And most of the time, I'll ask them how their meditation practice is going. You know, if they meditated that morning? And if they haven't been consistent, they'll usually mumble something about needing to come back and see me for a refresher.

That's fine, I'll say, but don't wait until that happens to start meditating again. It's a practice-oriented practice. So start today. Just do 10 minutes today. And then plan to do another 10 minutes tomorrow. Practice one. And plan for the next one. Take it one day at a time, and before you know it, you'll be back consistent.

And if that doesn't work, make it bigger than you. Dedicate your practice to world peace, or to being a better parent, or to being a more inspiring leader. If you view meditation as something you do solely for yourself, you'll be more prone to skip it. But if you give your practice a bigger purpose, you'll increase your chances of showing up. And meditation is 1% technique, and 99% showing up.

Anyway

Mother Teresa's* Anyway poem was recently shared with me by my dear friend Naomi:

People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered;

Forgive them anyway. If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;

Be kind anyway. If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;

Succeed anyway. If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;

Be honest and frank anyway. What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;

Build anyway. If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;

Be happy anyway. The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;

Do good anyway. Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;

Give the world the best you've got anyway. You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and God;

It was never between you and them anyway.

Note: "Anyway" was reportedly inscribed on the wall of Mother Teresa's children's home in Calcutta, and attributed to her. However, an article in the New York Times has since reported that the original version was written by Kent M. Keith.

Saying never...

I've never had a workout that I regretted. I've never had a meditation that I wish I had skipped. I've never stood up for someone and felt bad for doing so. I've never taken a hot bath and afterwards felt like I should've just had a shower. I've never spent quality time with my family and wished I was working instead.

In the shadows of the King

Bayard met 25-year old Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1956 to help strategize the Montgomery bus boycott.

At the time, 44-year old Bayard was a seasoned activist who had survived a mountain of adversity dished out by both whites and blacks, including being silenced, threatened, arrested, beaten, imprisoned and fired from important leadership positions. In the process, he had amassed an impressive reputation as a master strategist.

It was Bayard who first introduced Dr. King and the other Montgomery bus boycott leaders to the Gandhian methods of non-violent protesting. Dr. King had not yet personally embraced nonviolence as a method for fighting injustice. In fact, he kept a gun in his house, along with armed guards at his doors.

Seven years prior, Bayard had travelled on his own to Delhi to learn the art of non-violent protesting directly from Gandhi. His methods eventually resulted in A) Montgomery City officials de-segregating the buses after a 381-day standoff, and B) helping the Civil Rights Movement draw national attention.

Out of the hundreds of protests Bayard initiated during the tumultuous Civil Rights years, his most notable achievement was conceiving and co-organizing one of the largest nonviolent protests ever held in the United States--the 1963 March on Washington--where Dr. King delivered his famous I Have A Dream speech before a crowd of 250,000 marchers.

You've probably never read about Bayard in the history books, as his involvement in the Civil Rights Movement was either marginalized, concealed or obscured. The reason was because Bayard Rustin was not just a Black activist. He was the movement's first an openly gay strategist, in a fiercely homophobic era.

Historians refer to him as the "lost prophet" of the Civil Rights Movement, and a key figure in helping to mold Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. into the international symbol of peace and nonviolence that he is today.

Bayard continued to fight for human rights until his death in 1987. And in 2013, he was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama, which is the highest civilian award of the United States.

If you want happiness

I love this Chinese proverb:

If you want happiness for an hour -- take a nap.

If you want happiness for a day -- go fishing.

If you want happiness for a year -- inherit a fortune.

If you want happiness for a lifetime -- help someone else.

The importance of "no"

For much of my professional life, I've been a people pleaser.

It's only in the last handful of years that I began to realize how, by saying "yes" to work that I didn't feel completely aligned with (in order to please someone else), I was spreading myself too thin, I was perpetually busy, and I was essentially saying "no" to my own dreams and desires.

That explained why I would often feel resentful towards the other person for putting me in that position. But really, I resented myself for not having the courage to simply say "no."

While saying "no" is still sometimes hard, I'm now able to do so more diplomatically and regularly than before--and often without feeling the need to give an explanation, which I believe is the next step in the evolution of honoring one's self.

A morning prayer

Dear Lord,

So far today, I am doing all right!

I haven't been greedy, mean, selfish, nasty, self-indulgent, gossiped or lost my temper. I have not complained, whined, cursed or eaten any chocolate, nor have I charged anything to my credit card.

But I'll be getting out of bed in a minute, and I'm really going to need your help then.

A gradual unfolding

There is the science of meditation (which is demonstrated by the powerful and measurable effects it has in the brain and body). But there is also an art to meditating.

The art of meditating--like painting--is a process of gradual unfolding. In other words, the various thoughts, the tears, even the scratching and the shifting, can have a meaningful (and even spiritual) purpose that we may not see or fully appreciate until we reach the end of the process.

To become a more "artistic" meditator, err on the side of less control, and practice more surrendering (to the process).

An ode to fall

Now that Summer is (un)officially over, here is one of my favorite quotes to wipe the slate clean and start anew:

"Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense."

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Dancing with adversity

When his family was forced out of their home, he had to work to support them. At age 21, he experienced his first failure in business. Then, at age 22, he ran for state legislature, and lost. He also lost his job. Then he aspired to go to law school, but got rejected. At 24, he borrowed some money from a friend to start another business, and by the end of the year he was bankrupt. He spent the next 17 years of his life paying off this debt. At 26, his first love died, leaving him heart broken. This also resulted in a nervous breakdown at 27. He was defeated when he ran for speaker of his state legislature. He got rejected when he sought to become the elector. He ran for Congress at 34, and lost. He ran for re-election to Congress, and lost. He suffered from clinical depression. He sought the job of land officer in his home state, and got rejected. At 45, he ran for Senate of the United States, and lost. At 47, he sought the Vice-Presidential nomination at his party's national convention, and got less than 100 votes. He ran for U.S. Senate again at 49, and again he lost. Finally, at 52 years old, Abraham Lincoln became the 16th President of the United States.

President Lincoln's ability to handle conflict and dance with adversity was unmatched, and scholars now rank him as one of the three greatest presidents ever.

Have it better

Saying someone can't be sad because someone else may have it worse is like saying someone can't be happy because someone else might have it better.

Your last impression

When a business or love relationship ends, how do we exit? With grace? With thoughtful consideration? By honoring our commitments? By going the extra mile?

We put a lot of importance on making good first impressions, but we sometimes underestimate the lasting impact of our final impression.

Anyone doing anything of note will over time develop a reputation, which can either inspire or repel people who haven't met us in person.

Most "bad" reputations are the result of repeated failures to leave a positive last impression. For instance, can anyone say the following about you:

"She quit without giving 2-weeks notice." "He broke up with me via text message." "He never said thanks after I went out of my way to help him." "She never showed up to our meeting and didn't call."

Some of these impressions for which we can be remembered forever are ridiculously small oversights that can still easily be corrected by saying thanks, giving someone a heads up, apologizing, or just by listening.

And the beauty is that every day presents another opportunity to upgrade our past impressions and design our current impressions in the way the best reflects how we ultimately want to be remembered.

The Gold's Gym Effect

I've recently been working out at Gold's Gym in Venice, CA, which is where all of the world's top bodybuilders come to train. Unlike many other gyms I've belonged to, the people working out there are as focused as it gets.

You're inspired just being there. After all, Gold's Venice was where Arnold Schwarzenegger trained when he won Mr. Olympia six times. In fact, you may occasionally see him in there lifting weights.

Since being a member, I've noticed how much more focused I've become while weight training. I don't look at my phone as much. I push myself harder. When you're surrounded by the most focused bodybuilders in the world, it's much easier to stay in the zone.

It's true that we tend to adopt the qualities of our environment, which I imagine is why they say we're the average of the people we spend the most time around. It probably has some fancy-sounding scientific name, but I call it the "Gold's Gym effect."

In fact, that's how I got into meditation--by hanging out with meditators. My diet got healthier back when I started doing lots of yoga. I also notice that I watch more Netflix when I spend time around friends who binge-watch shows. The Gold's Gym Effect.

I'm not giving you any new information here. Just a reminder that if you're unsatisfied in your life, consider surrounding yourself with more people who are doing the things or exemplifying the attributes that you want to enjoy, and let the Gold's Gym Effect work in your favor.

The tale of the futuristic film

There was once a filmmaker who was obsessed with the poor-quality Flash Gordon movies, and wondered what it would be like to film one properly. But after being unable to secure the rights, he decided to create his own version of the futuristic action-adventure movie.

He wrote for eight hours a day, five days a week for a year, coming up with odd-sounding names and places to set his adventure.

His finished treatment was soundly rejected by every movie studio--because in the 1970's, Hollywood didn't see any earning potential in futuristic films.

After spending months reworking his idea to accommodate a more meager budget, only one studio offered him a deal. And over the next two years, he wrote four more drafts, choosing components from each one for the final script.

Shooting was so hectic that he suffered from depression and became hypertensive. He ended post-production deeply discouraged--especially after a disastrous early screening for his close industry friends resulted in an impromptu intervention where they urged him not to release the movie.

Weeks later, he purposefully missed his own premiere for fear of embarrassment, and on opening day he skipped town to shield himself from the industry backlash.

To everyone's surprise, his obscure, futuristic, Flash-Gordon-knock-off film ended up becoming the highest grossing movie of all time, dethroning the previous top-grossing movie about a deranged shark.

Wondering who it could be? Here's a clue: the main character's first name combined with his last initial equals the last name of the film's now-famous director. Try to guess the name without Googling it.

Stop eating sugar

A woman once came to Mahatma Gandhi with her little boy. She asked, "Mahatma-ji, tell my little boy to stop eating sugar."

"Come back in three days," Gandhi instructed the boy's mother.

After three days, the woman and her son returned to see Gandhi. He looked at the little boy and said, "Stop eating sugar."

The woman asked, "Why was it necessary to wait three days for you to tell my little boy that?"

The Mahatma replied: "Because three days ago, I hadn't stopped eating sugar."

The impossible bridge

In 1869, German immigrant and civil engineer John Roebling hatched a plan to construct the world's first cable bridge. Since there was no other bridge of its magnitude, experts wrote it off as impossible.

The only support he received for the idea was from his son Washington, also a young engineer. Together, they prepared a detailed plan, recruited the necessary team, and began construction.

While out surveying one day, Roebling's foot was crushed in a freak ferry accident and he died from infection shortly after breaking ground.

His son, Washington, took over as chief engineer. However, Washington suffered from decompression sickness ("the bends") after leading a team down into one of the bridge's air-pressured caissons to extinguish a fire. The accident left him permanently brain damaged, virtually immobile, and mute.

The bridge's detractors began casting more doubts onto the ambitious project, but Washington remained steadfast about fulfilling his father's vision. Disabled, and only able to use his finger to communicate, he began teaching his wife bridge construction.

For 11 years, Washington's wife Emily oversaw day-to-day supervision and project management, while he monitored the progress from their living room window. Emily also served Washington's nurse.

On May 24th, 1883, a total of 1,800 vehicles and 150,300 people crossed the new East River Bridge, which was then the only land passage between Manhattan and Brooklyn, as well as the longest suspension bridge in the world.

In 1915, it was formally renamed the Brooklyn Bridge.

The five-year plan

In my meditation courses, I talk about how meditating daily for four or five years will help to stabilize happiness. And without fail, someone always gasps at the thought of having to wait five years to be happy.

First of all, I say, it's a gradual build--it's not like there's a day coming where five years from now you're going to wake up happy, whereas in the months before you were miserable.

Second of all, whether you're meditating or not, five years is going to go by anyway. So you may as well begin stabilizing happiness in the process (smile).

Connecting the dots

"You can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something - your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life."

-- Steve Jobs, Co Founder Apple Inc.