RFS Blog | by Karl W. Palachuk – Relax Focus Succeed. Learn more at www.relaxfocussucceed.com

CAT | Misc.



Don’t Plant the Tree You See

Awhile back I wandered into a restaurant that was refurbishing their side patio dining area. They were planting a number of palm trees. They had obviously put a lot of money into this project, including the purchase of a dozen good-size palm trees.

Don't Plant The Tree You See

Don't Plant The Tree You See

It really struck me as odd, however, that they planted the trees right up against the walls of the patio area. I mean right up against the wall. It was almost as if the landscaper didn’t know the trees would grow.

I’m sure you’ve seen this too. One time I bought a house and there was a tree planted against the back wall. I knew I had to dig it up before it got large or I’d have it busting through the wall and pushing up against my foundation. On a similar vein, I frequently see trees planted so close together that both of them have stunted growth. They have to share root space and a limited supply of nutrients and water.

To be honest, this article is not about landscaping: It’s about life.

When you look at an idea or an opportunity, do you see the idea or opportunity as it appears in front of you, or as it will be in the years to come? Do you see the new employee as the person in front of you or the person she can become? Do you see your child as the kid in front of you or the man he will become?

I think one of the most powerful forces in the world is a positive mental attitude. And that’s not something that just happens. You have to exercise your PMA just as with any other muscle of success. You have to practice seeing a better future. Practice visualizing what can be.

Trees aren’t the only thing that will change and grow. Everything will change! Your house, your car, your job. Your taste in food, your favorite coffee cup, and the hobbies you take on. Everything changes.

We are comfortable “in the now” because we know what it looks like. When we act on our world, we have a sense of how it will react back to us.

But we need to also look ahead, and look beyond the obvious. Don’t plant the tree you see: Plant the tree it will become. In other words, don’t just look at the world as it is today, but look at what it can – and will – become.

One of the important lessons I learned in creating and growing businesses is that I need to run the business the way I want it to be, not just the way it is. For example, I put in processes and procedures as soon as I can. So even if I only have one employee, I operate with rules and guidelines as if I had five or ten employees. This philosophy can be summarized as “Be the company you want to become.”

If you’ve ever refinished furniture or refurbished anything (toys, houses, collectible signs, etc.), then you know that there’s a skill in seeing what something can become, despite what you see in front of you. Interior designers can see the potential in the room while the rest of us just see the room as it is.

When you get in the habit of seeing potential in all situations and all people, it gives you a certain mental push. For me, it brings a positive spin to things.

What can this opportunity become? What can this relationship become? What can this writing become.

Give it a try!

Plant some trees. But don’t just plant the tree you see.


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I Broke My Addiction

Phones haven’t been phones for awhile now.

Those who use their phones to make phone calls are “quaint” to the technorati that use their phones for buzzing around the world, twittering, Facebooking, searching, browsing, yelping, 4squaring, texting, and . . . well . . . everything but making phone calls.

I used to have a phone that was GREAT at texting and email. Oh, and phone calls. That used to be important.

Then I won a Blackberry at a vendor show. Knowing it was the future, I connected it up to my cell provider and proceeded boldly onward. Then I got addicted. The crackberry, as some call it, is as addictive as a drug. Email shows up amazingly fast, no matter where you are. The camera was great. Texting was fast and easy. It even (accurately) predicted text.

I loved everything about it.

So when it came time to get a new phone, I got a bigger, better, faster, cooler Blackberry. And with the Blackberry Tour I got even more addicted. It’s Facebook app was extremely powerful and flexible. The camera was as good as you could ask for. Texting was even easier.

And after two years with that phone, I had become one of the people who just doesn’t use the phone for phone calls any more.

The only real weakness of the Blackberry was it’s Internet connectivity. Slow. Microscopic. Impossible to use. And all services related to the Internet were also slow and unbearable.

In the meantime, almost all my friends had moved to iPhones and Droids. So when I got the chance to step up to a Droid, I did. Motorola Droid 3. Cool. Faster Internet.

The primary strength of the Droid is the fast Internet and related services. You can Google something, find addresses fast, and map right to a place. Super cool.

But . . . No addictive.

The Droid is clunky compared to the Blackberry. There was no premium placed on design here. Texting is slow and irritating. Voice recognition is cool, but you spend 25% of the time erasing. The interface is not intuitive, even for users of the older Droid systems. Battery life is very short.

Overall, the Droid 3 is poorly designed from an ergonomic perspective. Every time you touch it, you accidentally make something happen that you didn’t intend to.

The camera is “fine” but not great. The Facebook app is terrible.

Not only do I find that I text a LOT less, but I have virtually given up posting to Facebook in real time. These were two addictive features on the Blackberry.

Sometimes I leave my phone in another room, or in the car, for five or six hours.

The addiction is over.

Maybe it’s good. I need a solid, sensible phone that works competently. I don’t need an amazing device that makes me long to hold it and play with it. I need to let the phone be a tool instead of a toy.

I could go back to the blackberry. And I know I’d be totally addicted again.

But the key things that make the Droid great — Internet browsing and applications — are the killer apps of the future. I’m told the next generation of Blackberry will address these. But for technical reasons about how Blackberry works on the back end, I’m convinced that their days are numbered.

So I have given up something I truly love in order to use the technology that will eventually win the day.

And I’ve learned that an addiction can be overcome.



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Facebook and Reality Don’t Always Play Well Together

Not too long ago I was speaking to a group about automating social media. I mentioned that I post to Twitter with socialoomph.com, and that Twitter feeds Facebook and LinkedIn. I also schedule newsletters in advance, as well as some blog posts.

My humorous line was that, if I died, no one would know it for a month.

That was on a Friday. Monday, my friend Jim Locke passed away. I found out about it Tuesday morning. Monica had been at my presentation and emailed me a note that someone should make sure his feeds are stopped.

My own Facebook wall is an embarrassing collection of news and chat that mixes up the sad news with everyday posts. I put up a heartfelt note about Jim, and less than half an hour later an automated promotion for a podcast was posted. Then someone popped in and posted an interesting news article link about the Myth of Multitasking. Then an automated “Relax Focus Succeed” meditative thought for the day posted.

I will never forget the day my father died. I was in Michigan (he lived in Washington State) in grad school. I remember wandering around the campus overwhelmed with sorrow. And I thought to myself “Don’t these people know that everything’s changed? Don’t they know the world is different?”

But they didn’t know. The world keeps turning. Life keeps going for the living.

Facebook is a wonderful combination of personal and professional. A mix of friends, associates, business connections, and strangers. It’s a big, buzzing, busy world of thoughts and pictures and videos.

It’s really a lot like life.

And sometimes there’s great sorrow.

It’s an interesting thing that Facebook keeps on chugging away, even in times of great sorrow.

No disrespect is intended. But there’s a strange kind of “in your face” feel to it.

My friend Kari Hagensmith wrote a book called The Girlfriend Will. It gives advice from one woman to another about all the things that need to be taken care of on the personal side when you die. It is somewhat light hearted, but also very thoughtful.

You want to close down the social media accounts. But you also want someone to clean out your computer history, certain drawers, and boxes around the house. The online component is only part of it. But as technology marches on, the online component will become more and more of what we need to tend to when someone passes away.

I am sad for my friend Jim. But he will be remembered in large part for being a driving force in creating communities – online and off. So managing his online presence upon his passing makes perfect sense.


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Sex is Good – Who Knew?

This is not a blog about sex. It’s a blog about life. About balance. About all the things that make you a happier, healthier, more productive, more successful person. Well one of the best things you can do for yourself is to develop a happy sex life.

At some level, pretty much everybody “likes” sex. What’s not to like? But, all too often, we get busy. We’re tired. We approach it at the end of the day, the end of the week. It’s easy to put off. And then it becomes an occasional thing instead of a regular part of life.

I encourage you to chat with your mate and make sex a higher priority. In fact, a high priority. In addition to being a core element of bonding between two people, sex is a shared experience unlike anything else. It is, literally, unique.

Wanting sex is not bad. It’s biological. Having sex is not bad, as long as it is among consenting adults. What you do and how you do it can be a lifelong exploration.

And women: Please believe me that men take sex very seriously even though we love to joke about it. Monogamous sex with a dedicated partner is a huge turn-on for men. I’m not sure who writes movie scripts and TV shows, but I suspect they have deep emotional scars and very bad sex lives!

Be Sex-Healthy

If you want to see the latest research on the health benefits of sex, just Google “Sex Is Good For You” and read the results. Web MD is one of the best sites on the Internet. Start there. But also look for several articles on Ten Health Benefits of Sex or Seventeen Health Benefits of Sex, etc.

One specific article that caught my eye was Ten Surprising Health Benefits of Sex. Anyway, do your research. Here’s some of what you’ll find:

Sex lowers your blood pressure.

Sex lowers stress.

Sex increases self esteem.

Sex is associated with lower diastolic blood pressure.

At least for women (haven’t seen research on men), hugging your partner lowers blood pressure.

Sex is directly related to increased levels of immunoglobulin A or IgA, an antibody that can protect you from colds and infections.

Sex burns calories. About 170 per hour. Can’t keep going for an hour? Well, just like any other physical activity, build up a little more each day. :-)

The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health reported that the frequency of sex was NOT associated with strokes. And that’s a large study done over 20 years. So no excuses there.

Sex two or more times per week can reduce the risk of fatal heart attack by HALF for the men. Haven’t seen a stat on women.

University of Texas researchers published an article in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. They listed 237 reasons people gave for having sex. How many can you count?

Sex increases levels of oxytocin, a hormone that helps people bond to one another, feel trusting, and generous.

Even better, oxytocin increases the level of endorphins, which decreases the level of pain. Suffer from an injury or long term illness? Sex may be just what the doctor ordered!

And, of course, oxytocin helps you sleep better.

Sleeping better is a whole different subject with a long list of benefits. The point here is that sex is a good way to help you get the sleep you need.

The Bottom Line

If you’ve let your sex life slip, maybe right now is a great time to consider what you can do to get back on track. You might just live longer, be happier, sleep better, have less pain, feel more generous, lose some weight, feel better about yourself, and fall deeper in love with the one you love.

. . . Oh, and have fun, too.

– – – – –

Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor. You’re responsible for your own actions. Blah, blah, blah.


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Do You Worry Enough? Part 3

This is the third and final installment of the series that started here with “Do You Worry Enough?

Worry brings benefits.  That sounds odd to us.  Let me rephrase it:  Spending time thinking about problems brings good things into our lives.

There are two types of “focusing” on problems.  The first is to open your mind and let the problems flood in.  Perhaps focus is the wrong term.  This is more like out-of-focus.  Sit down with a pencil and paper and relax.  Take a few deep breaths and try to clear your mind.  Think about nothing.  Focus on the way your breath feels moving in and out.


If you have things to worry about, they will interrupt your relaxation.  As a “worry” presents itself, write down a brief note (not a long paragraph).  For example, you might write

– College Savings

– Business partner

– Ad revenues

– Etc.

Don’t pass judgment, don’t try to solve the problem, don’t get into details.  Just list your worries.  Set yourself a time a do this listing for ten or fifteen minutes each day for a week.  I guarantee that by day four you will be a lot less worried at night or when you’re concentrating on something else during the day.  Why?  Because your mind has been allowed to spend some time on the things it knows you should be thinking about!

The next step is to focus more clearly on your problems.  For the next several days spend your 10-15 minutes sitting comfortably and “organizing” your problems.  You may want to sort the list into categories such a family, finances, employees, etc.

Then spend a little time writing a bit of detail about each concern.  For example:

I’m worried about college savings for my kids because I’m starting late.  I wonder what college will really cost.  What’s my goal?  How do I get started?  Who can help me?  I need to talk to my spouse about this.

Set yourself a strict limit on this activity.  No more than 30 minutes a day!  You’ll be amazed!  It will give you energy.  Worry will stop draining your energy.  And as you focus on the problem you will naturally break it down into smaller pieces that are much more manageable.

This, in turn, will lead to taking actions that address the problem.  In other words, you’ll be working on a solution!  What you’ve done is to stop spending your energy trying not to worry.  Instead, you are spending a limited amount of energy focusing on issues that need some attention.

Instead of letting “worry” have an unscheduled, unlimited amount of your time, you have allowed a specific amount of time to be used improving your life!

Again, I guarantee that you will see a dramatic reduction in the amount of time spent on unscheduled worry during the day (and night).  Your mind knows that you need to spend time on these activities.  When you allot this time, your mind is more relaxed and it doesn’t need to force these thoughts upon you.

And, even better, when such thoughts pop into your mind now, they will be productive and bring solutions.  The process of focusing on a problem for a specific period and then setting it aside has tremendous power.  It organizes your unconscious mind, which works on possible solutions while you’re doing other things.  And then, seemingly out of nowhere, the solutions come forth into your conscious mind.

Problems never solve themselves:  You need to worry in a healthy way and you will find a solution.  Just as we have to focus on our happiness and our family and our health, we also need to focus on our problems.

You will never be without problems.  But you can be without excessive, unnecessary worry.  Allow yourself time to work on your problems and you’ll have a much more restful mind throughout the day.  Because you’re worrying enough—and not too much.

“Do not anticipate trouble,
or worry about what may never happen.”
— Benjamin Franklin


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How to Worry the Right Way

Do You Worry Enough? Part 2

Last time we discussed “Do You Worry Enough?” We started by framing a workable definition of the word worry.

Now we know what worry is.  How much worrying is the right amount?  That’s difficult to quantify.  I believe we need to think about the problems in our lives enough so that we understand them.  Notice I didn’t say that we need to “solve” the problems.  If a loved one is gravely sick, there’s little most of us can do to “fix the problem.”  We’re sad, perhaps depressed, maybe scared.  We have a flood of conflicting emotions that we “don’t have time for” or otherwise wish to avoid.

In such a circumstance, we need to force ourselves to sit down and think about what’s going on.  Let the emotions flood in; become overwhelmed; have a good cry; say a prayer; and then go back to our routine for awhile.

It may be necessary to do this every day for some time.  We need to let ourselves feel the feelings we’ve been trying to avoid.  We need to let all the aspects of this experience come out.  It’s difficult and physically draining.  But you need to let yourself experience what’s going on.

Some problems you can solve, but right now you don’t see the solution.  For example, financial problems.  Too many bills, or not enough income, or an unexpected expense.  It’s all too overwhelming, so we set it aside.  Intellectually, we know the problem will just get worse.  But it’s “just too much” to think about right now.

The answer, of course, is to consider all the pieces of this problem:  Your income, your regular bills, your credit, possible sources of loans or other income, payment plans, and so forth.  This is definitely a problem that can be solved.  It requires a lot of thought; it requires a plan of action; it requires some change in behavior; and it requires asking others for help.

These are just a few examples.  In each case the amount of “worry” (thinking about the problem) required is the same. You need to think about it enough to understand the problem.

Oddly enough, most of us spend more emotional energy avoiding our problems than we would spend understanding them if we tried.
Reducing Worry

You can reduce the amount of “worry” in your life by taking time to relax and simply reflect on what’s going on.  If you take time every day to sit down and relax and focus on yourself, you will find these problems a lot less overwhelming.

I try to sit down every day and reflect on four aspects of my life:

– Myself as an individual

– Myself as a partner in a romantic relationship

– Myself as a father

– Myself as a businessman

I rarely make lists of what needs to be done or what problems need to be addressed.  I simply think about what’s going on and what I need to do today.  If there’s a problem in one of these areas, or with something else, I let my mind consider it.  I don’t look for solutions or answers.  I do try to consider all aspects of the problem.  The goal is to understand everything about the problem.  When I think I really understand the problem, then it becomes clearer what I need to do.

Worry brings benefits! More about that next time.


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Living on the Edge of Incompetence

How do you feel about being incompetent? Honestly: Is it good to be incompetent?

I say yes!

I was reading a book recently and one section was about how no one wants to be seen as incompetent. One character in the book was having a crisis of incompetence.

That got me thinking about the times when I have felt the most incompetent. In every case it had to do with a new job or a new role. On my first day, or preparing for my first day, I felt incompetent.

The truth is, I’m NOT competent in most things. The same is true with everyone. At any given time, you are only competent in a few things. They might be related to your job, your hobbies, or the roles you play (parent, spouse, friend, sibling, etc.).

What are you really great at? What are you a little bit good at? Okay. Well, you’re not good at everything else! We are each incompetent about almost everything! And it’s okay.

The reason we feel particularly incompetent in a new job is that we have taken on something and we want to be good at it. So often we find ourselves saying “Well I asked for it!”

You only feel incompetent when it involves something at which you want to feel competent. In other words, the self-awareness of incompetence comes hand in hand with a desire for excellence.

In my life there have been two examples of incompetence that stand above all the rest: My first day as a teacher and my first day as a father. As it turns out, I did a pretty good job in both endeavors.

As a teacher, I had lots of reasons to feel competent. I had credentials, degrees, and many years of experience learning the subject I was going to teach. I was even given guidelines, sample course outlines, reading lists, and all kinds of resources to help in my success.

But I had never done it. I had never run a class for a semester. I had never graded papers or managed a classroom. I had never dealt with assigning deadlines and sticking to them.

And on and on. I had experienced good and bad teaching as a non-teacher.

As a new parent I felt even more incompetent. I had two great role models with my own parents. But I knew nothing about how to do this job myself.

Unlike teaching, I had very little “education” on parenting. I had read a lot about pregnancy and childbirth. My wife and I felt reasonably confident that the birth would go well. And in the final analysis, my role was primarily that of a supporting partner. I didn’t have to eat right, get sick, go through dozens of doctor visits, or do any of the pushing on the day of delivery.

But once my daughter Victoria was born, I was a full participant in the process . . . for the rest of my life.

I remember being particularly struck by the fact that they let us just leave the hospital with this new, tiny baby. “Don’t they know how incompetent I am?”

Of course with parenting, this feeling of incompetence continued for . . . well . . . 18 year so far! I feel more competent in many areas. But every new parent-related challenge has been a first.

The reason we feel so acutely incompetent in some areas in that these are the things that are most important to us. We feel the lack of competence precisely because competence is so important to us.

When I look at the complexity of an aircraft engine, I don’t feel incompetent. But I certainly am. It is overwhelming and annoying and almost miraculous to me. But I have no desire to be good at designing, fixing, or doing anything else with aircraft engines. So while I am supremely incompetent, I don’t feel incompetent.

We need to keep things in perspective. Remember, you only feel incompetent when you seek to be excellent. Incompetence is really a reflection of your desire and commitment to excellence. Being aware of your incompetence is the first step on your road to something amazing in your future!


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Reality is an interesting concept. Sometimes I think I’m the master at being mis-understood. Why? Because I work a lot with people who aren’t like myself. They interpret the world differently than I do.

Reality has three components:

– Events, actions, or statements
– Context (other things going on more or less at the same time)
– Interpretation

The most important of these is the last: Interpretation. This is true because the interpreter takes the input and the context and “translates” these into her reality.

Notice, also, what’s missing: Intention. The intended reality is important to the person who wishes to be understood, but plays no direct role in whether or not he is understood.

– – – – –

A few months back, my daughter moved away to college. So I moved out of the big, big house into a small apartment. In the big, big house I had a walk-in pantry that was larger than the entire kitchen in my apartment.

The first time my daughter came to visit, she looked at some Cup-a-Soups on top of the refrigerator and said “Oh my God, are you living on ramen noodles?” I said NO, I just didn’t have any other place to put them.

The next time she came to visit I had just been shopping. There were some granola bars on the kitchen counter. And she said, “I hope you’re not living on granola bars.” No. Of course not. But the cupboards are full and I don’t have any place to put them.

You see, my reality didn’t really figure into her perception of my reality.

I always think it’s interesting to contemplate how we all interact with one another even though we have completely different understandings about how the world works. Sometimes it’s a miracle that we “communicate” at all.

As I mentioned, I always lose the battle of relying on what I *intended* someone to see or hear. I didn’t mean to insult you, but I did. I didn’t mean to suggest something, but I did.

The only salvation I have on this front is that, over time, people learn that I’m well-intentioned. So when something could be interpreted more than one way (in their opinion), they begin to give me the benefit of the doubt. Whew!

Just remember that we’re all interpreting our world. And we don’t always realize it.

So try to be generous and kind as you translate your environment into meaningful information.

Most people are well-intentioned most of the time. Assume so and the world will be a better place.


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There are two primary ways of looking at your life. Actually, either you look at your life or you don’t look at your life. Everyone does each of these some time. A few people examine their lives all the time. A few people never examine their lives.

But almost all of us are in the middle. We spend most of our time only thinking about our lives a little bit. Then from time to time we go through a stage of thinking about our lives obsessively. In other words, 80% of the time we think about our lives 20% of the time. And 20% of the time we think about our lives 80% of the time.

I have had two incidents recently that brought this into focus for me.

First, I have a great life coach named Jenifer Landers (see Fully Expressed Coaching). One of her constant themes is to leave an opening for something to happen. Leave an opening for someone to enter your life. Leave an opening for good things to occur. Leave an opening, leave an opening, leave an opening.

Then I hired two people in my business who have the profiles of really great leaders. And it didn’t take long before they were volunteering to work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I heard lines like “Well, I can do that tonight. I have time available between 11 o’clock and midnight.”

The first thought that pops into my mind is . . . If you don’t leave an opening in your life for a personal life to show up, then it never will.

There is an assumption among many people that your personal life is the time that is left over after all the business and commitments are taken care of. But if you really want to have a personal life, you need to set aside time for it to happen. Whether it’s playing a sport, collecting something, or going out into the woods to have a good time, you need to put it on your schedule!

There are certain things in this world that expand to take up all the space available. Work can be like that if you don’t set boundaries around it. I try to leave work at 5:00 PM every day. I’m rarely there at 5:30. There is enough work to do. I could stay until midnight every night, work seven days a week, and never catch up.

And what would be the point of that? What would I have at the end of every day except another day just like the one completed? When I hear people say “I have no personal life” all I can think of is how they put themselves in that position. If you don’t make time for a personal life it certainly won’t show up on it’s own. Even if you don’t know what to do with yourself, that’s okay. Set aside the time and see what you want to do!

Workaholism kills.

Besides, you’re a much more interesting person when you have more than one dimension.


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Understand The Road You’re On

I loved my father. And one of the things I loved the most was his sense of humor.

One time we were driving across country from our old home in North Dakota to our new home in Washington State. Alongside the freeway were telephone poles. Mile after mile. Hundreds of miles after hundreds of miles.

Whenever we drove alongside railroad tracks, there were short telephone poles. I don’t know if they were telegraph lines (this was the 1960’s) or whether the train companies just used short telephone poles because they didn’t have to deal with buildings.

It didn’t matter. My father had a great explanation. I asked why the telephone polls were short and my father immediately explained: “They’re for when children make phone calls.”

Even at the time I realized how very funny that is. In addition to being a great explanation, close enough to believable to get a kid thinking, it was also a fast answer. I appreciated my father’s quick wit.

And more than 40 years later I still think that’s funny.

We travelled 1100 miles. And I remember one joke plus coloring books in the back of a station wagon.

After all these years, the interesting conclusion is very unexpected. The conclusion is that you never really understand a transition until after it’s complete.

I have a few memories of visiting North Dakota, but no strong memories of when I lived there. Once we moved to Washington State I remember a lot — even a lot about our first year there. Somehow that trip was a big enough event that it became a transition from “too young to remember” to a series of memories I savor many years later.

How can you understand the road you’re travelling without reflection? The truth is, you can’t. At the same time, there isn’t any other road. You can’t stop being on “this” road and begin being on a different road. The most you can hope for is that you build the road in front of you and create your own detour.

You can be on any road you want. But you have to start from where you are today.

The good news is that you build your road every day and you can be lazy (going nowhere) or purposeful (heading where you want). In terms of meaning, it’s hard to force meaning into your daily journey. You can try, and you should try, but evaluation of such things always involves looking backward.

When I consider all the great memories of my father, I didn’t know at the time that those moments would be the moments I would keep forever. Looking back, just less than half of my life’s journey involved travelling the road of life with my father. And now they’re powerful snippets filled with meaning for me.

Changes can be hard. Transitions can be hard. Building a detour you didn’t want to build can be hard.

But every day you can look at where you are and where you want to go and head in that direction. Life goes on. Memories are powerful motivators. At the same time, you need to be vigilant. You never know which tiny thing you experience today will become a lasting memory you’ll have forever.

It helps to sit quietly and let you life’s experiences sort themselves out in your mind. For that I recommend daily reflection, or a walk/jog without headphones. Spend time being alone with yourself without an outside source of distraction.


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