I have a tendency to make life so much more complex than it needs to be. Busy schedules, technology, financial management, business, and so on. There is so much I pack into life that is unnecessary and self imposed.
In the woods everything fades away. The noise of daily life is muted by the simplicity of existing in nature. Trees who’ve stood before I was born demand my attention. The rocks and hills I observe have existed long before man walked the Earth will remain long after I’m gone. The sounds of the streams provide a more beautiful music than any I would play on my iPhone. Everything I need is there in the woods, in the simplicity, and in that exact moment.
In that moment all of the busyness of life fades from existence. There are no deadlines and tasks, only serenity and wonder. My ego is replaced with the reminder of how small and temporary my life is compared to so much of what exists around me. I am lost in the moment at the very time I find my true self in the woods.
The simplicity of nature surrounding me is deafening.
Today that simplicity was shared with Becky and Gavin (Dominic was refereeing soccer games). The ridges we hiked were so amazing. I could bring a hammock and backpack and stay up there for days. The peacefulness provides a profound state of chill and introspection while my wonder and curiosity often lead me off the trail to observe interesting plants, rocks, and tree roots. Those heavily canopied maple and oak forests are some of the most magical places in the Driftless.
I’ve read portions of Walden by Thoreau but haven’t read it all the way through. When I went to order a copy online I happened across a book with that story as well as a handful of others. My plan was to read from Walden through the rest of the book, but last night I felt compelled to read the last story for some odd reason.
Laying in my hotel bed last night I read The Artist of the Beautiful by Nathaniel Hawthorne. I could hardly lay still in bed afterwards as my brain was consumed by the tale. The story has been on my mind all day long for a variety of reasons. I have a suspicion that it will haunt my thoughts the entirety of my life moving forward.
I do not want to spoil it for you if you have it read it before and will do my best to describe without giving anything away. If you’d ever like to talk with me about it in more detail I would be happy to.
While reading it there were many emotions stirred in my soul. Grit – the determination to see something through to completion. Self-worth – doing something specifically for oneself specifically because one can and also possesses a desire to do so. The stoic mindset of controlling only what one can control was seen throughout. Belief in one’s own ideals and a refusal to bend to the thoughts of the world. The beauty and simplicity found in nature. The passion that drives one to accomplish great things. Sacrificing desires for the grandest of dreams. The importance of living into one’s true self. All of these thoughts, themes, and emotions in one short story from a century and a half ago!
As I face my own personal trials and am at a crossroads of pursuing my true self this story has inspired me to be the best me I can and to trust and follow my dreams of creating something beautiful. I plan on revisiting this story often both as reminder and warning to help my choose and stay on my right path.
Before getting into my Uber from the airport I was hoping for a driver who wouldn’t want to talk much. It had been a long day and I just wanted a little bit of quiet to chill and unwind. As luck would have it I got the exact opposite and that was exactly what I needed.
Within a minute Alex and I were laughing and trading vacation stories. He shared that he and his wife had just been on a trip to Miami and shared all fun they had by the beach relaxing.
About 10 minutes in Alex shared the story of how he had moved his family away from a rough part of Chicago only to lose his only son in a tragic act of violence. We talked about family and faith.
Another few minutes in and Alex shared the story of how they just had a surprise baby girl not too long ago – even though their other daughter was 21 and they had been told that they couldn’t have any more kids. We talked about the joy of being dads. We talked about having trust in the plan of The Big Dude Upstairs – especially when we don’t quite understand his reasoning.
As our ride was wrapping up we talked about his son and my dad sitting up above and laughing at the two of us in the car joking, laughing, and loving life. We shared our belief that life is best lived with kindness and love for all people. Alex reminded me of the impermanence of life and to appreciate each and every moment we are blessed to have.
Alex brought so much joy to my heart that I can’t even begin to explain it fairly in words. In his willingness to engage in conversation with a stranger, his openness to sharing all aspects of life – good and bad, and his courage to stay positive and optimistic in the most difficult of times reminded me of what is truly important. Love and kindness for each other.
Alex dude, thank you for an incredible ride, amazing conversation, and a truly inspirational time together. Before I got in the car my heart was closed and my skies were cloudy. Big hugs to you and your family Alex, you made my world a better, brighter, and more beautiful place today. I cannot thank you enough!
This last week included a grand total of seven soccer games for the Kreiling family. Dominic had three varsity games and Gavin had four games in Madison. All soccer, all weekend.
For sure, I had a great time watching them both play. It’s always fun watching my boys doing something they are passionate about.
What I’m specifically grateful for today is the way sports helps them learn to be better leaders and adults. Throughout both of their games they did some things with extreme excellence and they both made mistakes. Regardless of the action, they learned and grew from the experience.
Both learned some priceless and timeless leadership lessons I hope they draw from throughout their lives.
For sure, sports won’t be their careers. That said, their sports experiences are helping them grow and mature into the leaders they can be. Seeing glimpses of that growth over the past week have been awesome!!
A little before noon today my mind was going a million miles a minute. I had an excellent conversation with another franchisee and there were so many thoughts rushing through my brain. Couple them with the insights and ideas from the last week and my brain was positively spinning.
I paused. I set my pen down and closed my laptop. I took a slow and deep breath… and then I went for a walk.
No music, no podcast, no audio book. Just me walking on a perfectly sunny day with no sense of direction or purpose other than letting my brain work everything out with no distractions.
Forty five minutes later I got back home, jotted down my notes, and was ready to start taking action.
What wonders a walk can do for the thought process!
Simple concept, deep gratitude, and years of future practice before I master it.
Several events reminded me today that I have time. Until I’m dead I will have time. At the time of my death time won’t matter to me anyways. I know my time is limited, but I have time until I no longer have use for it.
How often do I tell myself, “I don’t have time for that”? What a lie I tell myself. Yes, I do in fact have time. What I also have are other options of how to spend my time. What’s really happening is that I am choosing how to spend my time and I am deeming that task not worthy.
I am not unable to do something, I am making a choice.
Today I’m grateful for the piece of mind and enlightenment that come with realizing each moment, each second, is a choice I must make. Am I choosing well? How can I choose better more frequently? Until I am aware of the choice to be made I am unable to grow and close the gap between who I am and who I am called to be.
There’s a scene in Men in Black burned into my brain that surfaces every so often. Near the beginning of movie Will Smith and a few other candidates are given a battery of tests. One of those challenges is taking a test in an ornately awkward room.
The chairs are too small and uncomfortable. There are no good writing surfaces for each person. The paper for the test is flimsy and easily penetrated by the pencil. The pencils break. It is one of the worst test taking environments ever.
After suffering a few seconds Will Smith’s character notices a table in the room away from everyone. He casually stands up and slides it across the room to his chair and proceeds to take the test in relative comfort while everyone else squirms.
Often times in life I find myself being held hostage by my own learned helplessness. I am the elephant tied to a stake I could easily rip out if it weren’t for memories of it holding me back when I was an infant. There is nothing getting in my way but my own dogmatic mental constructs.
When I remember to take a step back, to pause, to zoom out, the conclusion is so easy to see. It is so simple once I see it that I laugh out loud at myself afterwards.
Today I remembered to step back. I saw the table and moved it. Problem solved.
I recently watched an intriguing podcast on racism, action, and how to actually make a difference. The speaker did an excellent job of explaining the differences between being “called out,” “called on,” and “called in.”
Call outs are straightforward and don’t often get a positive reaction. The person being called out usually digs their heels in deeper rather than change.
Being called on is similar to being called out, but in a way in which you share your positive views of the individual and ask them to help reconcile the difference you’re seeing in what they’ve expressed.
Being called in is to invite another into the conversation. There is no judgment, only curiosity in learning where the person is coming from. Thus starts a conversation and dialogue allowing us to hear the other person. Essentially it is the concept of “seek first to understand.”
Today I was called in to a conversation. The experience was wildly positive and helps me see how calling in can really make a difference. Prior to this call in I would have just put out my hands to stop the conversation, but this time was very different. Rather than feeling the need to go on the defensive I felt honored. What a huge difference in attitudes in me specifically because of how a conversation was started?