Mind your manners and mix your metaphors

During a rain storm last week, I saw a caterpillar scooting across the sidewalk.  He was trying to get from one rain soaked area of grass, to another.  It seemed like he was going in a new direction to a better, drier place, but he was really going to end up in a location much like where he started from.  Since I was walking there, it was not exactly the safest place for him to be.  But, I happened to be looking down, and he was spared the weight of my 200 lbs on his back.

Someday, if he makes it, he will become a butterfly.  You usually don’t see butterflies moving about in the rain.  Rather, we often see them on a bright sunny day when times are carefree and relaxed.  The butterfly can see where he is going from his view up high, and he has the wings to get him there.  If the wind blows the right way, he doesn’t really have to work much at all to get where he wants to be.  Being a butterfly is pretty sweet.

Maybe you can see the life metaphor within the caterpillar/butterfly example.  It’s not all that subtle, but it is something that might encourage you in the right moment, the next time you feel stuck and see a caterpillar struggling around on its belly like the cursed serpent of the Garden of Eden.  Perhaps the sight of a butterfly will raise your spirits and put a song in your heart when you realize how free you are, just like your winged friend.

It’s lovely and touching.

The only problem is… it’s not always the case with life as we know it.

There are times at the beginning of an endeavor when everything comes fast and easy.  The rails of life are greased with opportunity butter, and you’re coasting at a comfortable speed.  The grasshopper flies around and eats whenever he feels like it, not seeing the need to store up food for a drought or a literal rainy day.  The tiny ant works hard and saves food up for those hard times.  He doesn’t enjoy the beginning of the season when much time is spent searching and gathering, but he does live to eat and survive through the winter.

I promise that I didn’t just watch “A Bug’s Life”.  But my mind was taken to these fables and metaphors because of the stories I have heard and the movies that I have seen.  We are still dealing with bugs, but these stories seem to be painting different pictures of life and experience.

Or are they?

Metaphor, like beauty, is often in the eye of the beholder.

If you are moved to tears by a song that reminds you of a romantic relationship, and you later learn that the artist was singing about her dog, does that change the authenticity of your feelings?  Individual interpretation happens at nearly every experience of life.  You may even feel differently about an experience in the past just by remembering it now, based on your current knowledge, understanding, and feelings.  Its difficult to say if we can be truly objective about anything.

If a friend’s death causes you to slow down and smell the roses, or get busy with some task that you were delaying, both are constructive and positive.

Very little of life is either/or.  It’s not always black and white.  Some principles are not foolproof and will fail when applied liberally to all of your dilemmas.  There is often an exception that proves the rule.

So as you enjoy today, and experience a metaphor for life, pay attention to how your actions follow your understanding of that metaphor.  If there is a disconnect, then I would guess there to be another stronger principle in your life that is overlapping and overriding what you observed today.  Keep seeking.  Find the principles that are truly guiding your life and your actions.

And remember…. mind your manners and mix your metaphors.

This is Our Time

Like the kid said in the Goonies under the wishing well, this is our time, down here.  Down here in the recession is our time to shine.  The CEO of Cisco, John Chambers, thinks this moment of our lives will shape the next 25 years.  The decisions we make now are the ones that people will be telling stories about for years to come.  It’s make or break time.

Humans have a way of evolving faster when they have to.  What I mean by evolving is probably more like innovating, but its innovation for survival’s sake, which is more closely related to evolution.  Necessity is the mother of invention.  If you need to eat, you just might start thinking harder about all the different ways in which you could make money to buy food.

This is a period of paradigm shifting.  People are rethinking everything they do.  They are starting to ask themselves, “Why am I doing this?”.  On a national scale we are asking ourselves, “Tell me again, why are we at war?”  And when we go to do something we normally do, we notice our habits are changing.  I’m reminded of the old poem:

Use it up

Wear it out

Make it do

Or do without

I think there is a lot of people making their cars run longer, upgrading their computer parts instead of buying new, cutting back on cable programming and spending more time at home.  But if you take each one of these scenarios, there is a flip-side for the economy.  Car maintenance shops have increased business.  Computer repair shops are now busier than ever.  Low-budget entertainment like Red Box rentals and Netflix are increasing.

How many of you are starting to eat all of the food in your pantry? How many of you are selling your unused goods on Ebay or Craigslist? How many of you have started a second job or business? How many of you have gone through your home and unplugged unnecessary appliances to save money on electricity? How many think that these are things you should have been doing all along but never did? How are you going to live going forward? What will you do when things turn around? Will you go back to your old ways? What can you do to improve the life of yourself, your family, or a neighbors life today?

This is our time.  How we spend it is up to us.  Lets make it memorable.  Lets improve things for all mankind.  Lets bring developing countries up with us.  Lets unite as a world and stop tearing each other down.  Lets use the economy as an excuse to do the things we should have been doing all along.

How to Have a Happy New Year

How to have a happy new year:

1. Tell yourself you are going to have a good year.  Give up on the thinking that for every good thing that happens there will be something bad.  It doesn’t have to work that way, but will if you want it to.  Say you are going to have a good year and that it doesn’t have to be offset by bad.  Then write it down and speak it out loud.

2. Ask yourself what you want.  Be specific.  Narrow it down by using actions and places.  What do you want to accomplish at home? What do you want to accomplish in your business life? What things would you like to own? Where might you want to go to see or show someone?  Write down your answers, then speak them out loud.

3. Take inventory of your assets and liabilities.  Surround yourself with family and team member who share your positive outlook on life and eliminate or narrow your exposure to those who are constantly negative.  Cut out things in your life that are busy work or that are uncessary.  Ask yourself why you are doing something.  If you don’t know the answer, stop.

4. Take a step towards one of your goals each day.  Action cures fear.  A goal like debt reduction or quitting your job can be scary and seem insurmountable.  It is probably impossible to do in one step so don’t.  Figure out the next action, then write it down.  Speak the action out loud and set a deadline of accomplishing this action within the next 8 hours.

5. Develop a system to manage your thoughts or ideas.  If you’ve followed these steps you have been writing things down.  They may be on the back of an envelope, on a receipt in your car, or in an email or text message.  USe whatever you feel comfortable with to collect these musings into one cohesive place.  Only use a calendar for hard and fast dates, not for action items.  Try to avoid using email as your method of choice if possible.

6. Relax. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Take time to smell the roses and the aftershave.  Unplug.  Check your email less often. Read the news less.  Take more walks.  Lay down outside.  Feel the ground. Decompress.  Take a deep breath at least once a day.  Laugh. Forgive. Love. Visit your mother wherever she is.  Don’t make lists, take actions. Conquer fear.