Aim High in Steering


I nervously shut the driver’s side door and felt trapped behind the wheel the first time my dad tried to teach me to drive a car. Four years later I would learn the most important lesson of my life. I had a problem that first day though. My problem was that I was looking at the road as close to the front of the car as I could. That seemed to be the most crucial place to look. Right there where the rubber meets the road. If I could have seen under the car I’m sure I would’ve summoned all my concentration on that area. My driving was terrible. My dad said I was all over the road. And he was right.

Four years later I took Drivers Ed in high school. The instructor introduced a concept I had not been exposed to before. He said, “Aim high in steering. If you look way up at the horizon where the road converges or goes over a hill, you will automatically see all of the rest of the road between here and there. You’ll drive nice and straight.” And he was right.

Now I use that phrase to help me live my everyday life. Instead of looking at right where I am, as close as I can get to my current circumstances, I aim high in steering. Of course, in order for this kind of thinking to benefit us, we first have to realize we actually are in the driver’s seat. We have control of how those circumstances evolve. Every thought, word, and deed leads to what’s coming next. I’ve had dreams where I’m sitting in the back seat of a car having an exciting conversation with someone, I look up and no one is driving the car. I usually get a small pang of panic at that point in the dream. So let’s admit, we are in the driver’s seat and we are indeed driving our lives.

The excitement reigns when we realize that the current circumstances we are living out are a product of all our thoughts, words, and deeds up to that point. At the point we are looking around us and noticing how things are, nothing is changeable. It’s already been made manifest. So we are looking too close to the car and our lives are swerving all over the road! Look further ahead. Use that reality generator called your imagination and imagine how you’d like it to be. Spend time in reverie. Daydream. Now you’re aiming higher. Now you’ve got your eye on the prize and no matter how far up ahead on the horizon it is, if you keep aiming there, you’ll get there. And you’ll enjoy the ride.

Just think, by merely utilizing our imagination we can drive our lives more efficiently and arrive at places we really want to go. By ignoring the use of our imagination and just letting everything run on default, we live a much more haphazard life (dangerous to ourselves and others) and maybe even miss out on destinations we were hoping to include on this trip. I just love knowing that!

On Deck

There is a place in baseball where the next batter stands and gets ready to step up to bat when his turn comes. That person is said to be “on deck”.

We experience different thoughts all day long and those thoughts, which affect our mood, can either come randomly, or we can have a hand in creating them.

An interesting way of changing or creating a mood for yourself is to imagine a scenario. If you’ve never played baseball before, please forgive the metaphor. But if you have, then you know what it feels like to be on deck.

You’re stepping up because you’re about to do something to help the team (at least that’s your hope). Maybe you’re about to experience exhilarating glory by hitting the ball way out of the park. Or maybe you’re about to suffer a shameful embarrassment by hitting a pop fly and causing another “out” for your team. But there’s no turning back now. You’re on deck!

If you’ve been procrastinating on a project that you’d really like to see happen, no need to jump out there where all the fear of failure is. Just step on deck. Get ready. The readier you are, the more confident you feel about stepping up to bat. Stay on deck as long as you need to, but notice the difference between the way you feel when you are successfully procrastinating (doing nothing toward your goal) and when you actually step on deck. BIG difference!

The Brink

I remember the three and a half mile hikes we used to take down into Feather Falls… all the way down hill. When you came to the overlook, a large wooden deck placing you just over the edge of the canyon so you could witness the Feather River plunge to the rock floor 640 feet below, there was a secret.  If you did not turn left to walk out onto the overlook, there was a secret trail to the right. No one knew it was there because it began three feet higher up a hill than the ground of the standard trail, obscured by bushes and long dry weeds.

When you clamored up that first impossible step, the trail went on and as you walked you’d see signs—warning signs that read: Caution, Brink of Falls! Stay behind the Fence! And sure enough there was an eight foot tall chain-link fence erected long enough ago that the rust had set in and it was no longer (if ever) a pretty sight. But the brave and the anarchist hikers who came before us saw fit to take bolt cutters to many of the fence’s weak points and cut wide gates to freedom. So those of us with whatever gusto it takes, could go right up to the brink of the falls. From there, the roar was deafening. But I found an even better secret.

If one were to hike up the river, just around the next bend, one would come across a fallen tree. A giant of a fir tree that had plummeted straight across the river who knows how many centuries ago. But it still had its bark, petrified somewhat by the weather and it was a wide and welcoming bridge to the other side of the river.

Once you crossed this mammoth tree-bridge, you were free to explore a land that many have never set foot upon.

Turning left and heading back toward the brink of the falls, there was an unusual rock formation. It was the peak of the hill and from the ground it rose up about ten feet from the trail. Half way up, a solid rock slice of bread (or so it appeared) was slightly removed from the mother rock, like a piece of toast sticking out of a sideways toaster. Behind this slice of stone where it used to be connected to the mother rock, was a one foot by two foot hole from one side of the pyre to the other. This produced a shelf where the rock had slid out a little bit over the canyon. It was possible to step up onto this rock, take seat and dangle your feet over the edge. It was the best seat in the house.

Looking to your left you’d witness 4,000 cubic feet of water per second from the Feather River fly out over the brink of the falls and down to the canyon floor. At about the eleven o’clock position you could see the observation deck and all the tiny tourists marveling at the site just to your left. And straight out westward you’d see the canyon stretch for miles, the river winding its way thru the gorge which sliced through the Sierra Nevada mountains eons ago.

Here’s what I’ve learned from those trips to the brink of the falls; this feeling of nearing the brink, which contains a large measure of anticipation, readiness, and pure adventure is a valuable feeling. It is a feeling you can bring to bear on any one of life’s many situations. It is a state of being. The first time I ventured up onto that secret trail, I had no idea what lie before me. I anticipated something big and very possibly dangerous. The closer I got to the brink of the falls the more excited I got to see what was there, to take in the sights and the smells and the sounds of all Nature’s fury as an entire river came rushing off a precipice and fell through mid-air only to crash on the rocks below and continue its journey toward the sea.

Sometimes we can get in touch with that feeling of excitement and adventure without the hike to the falls. We can feel that way about a project we are about to embark upon.

“The state of mind revered most by the Muse is a mind filled to the brim with notions of adventure.”

Just imagine the brink. Imagine nearing the brink and see what kinds of inspiration find you.

We’re On a Mission From God

One of the best lines in all the movies I’ve ever seen was delivered by Dan Aykroyd in The Blues Brothers.

“We’re on a mission from God.”

Such a powerful statement and most likely true in our lives much more often than we suspect.

But growing up Christian there were very mixed signals about uttering such words. To think of oneself as in league with God in any way was considered blasphemous. Some of us were led to believe we are far too profane to ever have a relationship with God. And I see solid evidence of the same admonition happening today. It’s like walking on eggshells when you can’t express your feelings about the relationship you have with God outside of an accepted set of phrases.

When I first read Ralph Waldo Emerson’s words: “The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes. Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe? Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs?” I began to wonder if he didn’t have a very good point.

What I’m trying to say is that we, as creators, often feel compelled to create. Although I cannot claim to know, there may be a strong chance that those compulsions come directly from God. So when we’re making what we’re making, we may well be on a mission from God.

I want you to walk away convinced that it is more than okay to be on a mission from God. I want you to be able to feel it when inspiration comes barreling thru your heart and you feel that ultra-conviction to follow that inspiration and create what has been delivered to you to create. And then I want you to be able to proclaim that mission to anyone who will listen, because I believe that is exactly what’s happening. You’re on a mission from God!

Say it often. Feel it. Believe it. Even if only to yourself… we really are on a mission from God.

Who Am I Talking To?

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Myself?

I read a blog the other day and I noticed something down-right peculiar. The writer kept assuming that everyone of his readers were exactly like he. That every bias and opinion and aesthetic that he held was equally shared by all. And so I began to judge this person. And that is a good thing because I have trained myself to hold up a mirror the second I begin to judge anyone.

I ask myself, “Am I like this in any way?” and I am surprised at the high percentage of times that I answer yes to that question. Then I realized,  “Oh my GOD!” I shouted it to myself at that very moment, “I do this in spades!” (meaning I do it at the highest level possible, I do it all the time).

I suppose it’s not too much of a surprise since we can only see the world from inside ourselves. Needing to rely on our senses, emotions, ideas and whatnot to experience everything around us is bound to make us a tad self-centric.

I spent a little more time analyzing the phenomenon, I actually assume the world feels exactly like I do on every topic. I remember when I was 16 years old…

It’s three forty-five in the morning, pitch black night outside and Dad is shouting, “Get out of the house!” By the time I regain some semblance of consciousness, he’s pulling me up by the arm and telling me the house is on fire and we have to get out. I sit up into a solid bank of thick, black smoke and start to choke. I cannot see. When I bend down to grab my pajamas I can see again. So I quickly dress in my pajamas and crawl as fast as I can toward the door in order to remain beneath the deathly, blinding, toxic smoke.

It had rained for three days leading up to this November night/morning, but it had froze on this night, so we are standing in bare feet on ice and cold mud watching a fire consume everything we have ever possessed, including my puppy and all our family photos.

To be left owning nothing except a pair of pajamas is probably devastating at any age. I just happen to be alive in that awkward stage of overwhelming adolescent hormones, questions about life and authority, and the need to fit in at any cost.

The community Seventh Day Adventist church starts a collection and the next day we have clothes (however ill-fitting) and food (mostly cans) for the coming Thanksgiving holiday. We move in with my grandparents who, thankfully, have room for us.

The next day I go to school. Mostly to show my parents how strong I am… to show them how resilient and unshakable I am. But when I arrive at school, no one asks me if I am okay. No one consoles me or shows any sympathy and I watch them all going about their business as if nothing has even happened. Never mind the fact that I have not announced my dilemma. That there is no way on earth that any of them can know my circumstances in the first place. I just expect them all to know and to treat me accordingly.

What a wake-up call!

I know this sounds odd, but I suspect there is a default state that we all live from that parallels this outlook. Unless we consciously think about it, we just assume that everyone around us knows what we know and has experienced the lion’s share of what we have experienced.

Hopefully I’m wrong and this is just another perfect example of self-centric thinking. But if I am right, even just for myself, then I have to know who I’m talking to. I have to realize you have NOT had the exact same experiences as me. You do NOT know everything I know. I must be mindful and speak to you with respect for the experiences you may have had which differ from mine and the mindset you may have that differs from mine.

This experience of reading a blog, judging, mirroring, and realizing how it sounds when self-centric generalizations come from others has shown me that we do not really write for others. We write for the benefit of ourselves. We write to better understand ourselves on the deepest levels.

I suspect that even self-help books benefit their authors more than anyone else. If we happen to benefit from reading someone else’s ideas, it’s all the better of course. And I pray that others may benefit from the things I write. But I must remember to ask myself, “Who am I talking to?” and realize it’s not just me.

Can you relate? I would love to hear your take on it. Please leave a comment.

…to boldly act on inspiration: The Challenge of Trusting Our Own Intuition

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I have forever been fascinated by unlimited potentiality being wrangled into a single thing by us humans.
I have a list of six values that I carry with me everywhere I go. One of them is:

“Creativity: to be creative, innovative, and to boldly act on inspiration.”

It’s easy for me to be creative. It comes naturally to me. And let’s face it, being innovative is in the same wheel-house as being creative.

But once I am inspired to create, I must brave up before I can actually create something. I have to “boldly act” on the inspiration I receive. If I create something, chances are it will find its way into the public eye. And what if people think my creation sucks and they criticize it? Or what if I’ve overestimated my skills and I really can’t create the piece I’ve imagined? For some of us there is always at least a slight level of trepidation present in the process of creating. One of two things can go wrong; either someone will judge my work as unworthy or I will fail in my attempt to create it.

I was talking with a friend the other day about the place where creativity comes from. A place where the spiritual part of ourselves meets our physical apparatus. Where idea meets execution. I have forever been fascinated by unlimited potentiality being wrangled into a single thing by us humans.

The word “inspire” comes from the Latin word, “inspirare” which means to breathe fire into; to inflame or excite. The “spir” portion of the word inspire means the same as the “spir” portion of the word spirit. So we must go to none other than the very spark of life to find inspiration.

While pondering these concepts, I began to see a parallel between inspiration and intuition. They both come from the same invisible realm… and I don’t always trust what I cannot see. I think this is why so many times we catch ourselves saying, “I had a feeling I should have {fill the blank}.” We find out we should have trusted our intuition after the fact. Once the situation plays itself out, we see our intuition was right on the money. But before the situation plays itself out, we’re not so sure. It seems like guess-work.

It is the same with our creations. After we have boldly acted on inspiration and see the fruits of our labor, we know we did the right thing. But before we see the result of our creative endeavor, we’re not so sure.

If this is the crux of the problem with trusting ourselves, and indeed I believe it is, what are we to do? How can we trust our intuition and boldly act on inspiration more often?

There was a Scottish mountain climber who summed it up nicely for me when he spoke about commitment. William Hutchison Murray (18 March 1913 – 19 March 1996) had this to say in his book: The Scottish Himalayan Expedition (1951):

“But when I said that nothing had been done I erred in one important matter. We had definitely committed ourselves and were halfway out of our ruts. We had put down our passage money—booked a sailing to Bombay.

This may sound too simple, but is great in consequence. Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings, and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.

I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:
Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.
Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!”

So I gather from all this pondering that a creative person needs only trust their intuition and commit to the act of creation regardless of any fear.  This is actually the definition of courage.

cour·age
/ˈkərij/
noun
The ability to do something that frightens one.

So a little boldness is required. And a commitment to our very Spirits.

We can do this. We can turn our backs on the nagging self-doubts about our abilities to perform, or the judgement of our works by others and boldly act on any inspiration that hits us. I say we do it! What say ye?

The Three Causes of Inspiration

The Three Causes of Inspiration:

  • Spirit
  • The Nature of a Thing
  • Heritage

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Inspiration, as fickle as some believe it is, can actually be ordered up like something on Amazon. This truth may shock you if you’ve bought into the farce about inspiration being elusive. For a long time now I’ve been trying to bust the inspiration hoax and show just how readily available inspiration truly is. People have been asking how. Give us an example, they say.

I’m assuming there are as many examples of how to get inspired as there are grains of sand on the world’s beaches, but I have ferreted out three of them which I personally admire and intend to use for years to come. Hopefully they will benefit you as well.

Before we get straight into the substance of my favorite three causes of inspiration, I’d like to point out one small caveat: Even with Amazon Prime membership you still end up waiting at least two days for your package to arrive. Being inspired is as easy as ordering something from Amazon, but it still takes a little time to “kick in”. So practice allowing for that as you test these theories.

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1. Spirit

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This inspiration comes directly to you. It is sometimes called an idea. It can come in many forms: through a dream, from a sudden thought in the shower, or an out and out vision.

Since this kind of inspiration is directly from Spirit, it is the purest and most sought-after form of inspiration. It therefore contains the most magic. Original creative ideas are authentic expressions of Spirit so they often become the cornerstone of creative movements.

But the key to using Spirit as a source for inspiration is simply to pay attention to it. Everybody has one—built-in, but few people lend their own spirit much credence. If you acknowledge your spirit and show the least bit of reverence for it, if you accept (at least to a small degree) your own shamanic powers, your spirit will reward you with inner knowing and intuition that you may not have noticed otherwise. So be kind and attentive to your spirit and you’ll experience more inspiration.

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2. The Nature of a Thing

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This inspiration is prevalent and often mistakenly regarded as the only source of inspiration. People will say that some thing inspired them.

Sometimes it is the texture of the thing, or the color, or even the smell. Sometimes it is the sound of a song or a wild animal or an industrial noise that inspires us. The noise they were inspired to use on the TV show LOST for the computer that had to be reset every 108 minutes was the beep a cash register makes when you scan an item.

This is far from the only source of inspiration, but it is one of the funnest sources to indulge in. Using your senses, you dwell upon the nature of a given item and if it appeals to you, there is often a degree of inspiration that comes along with it.

OPA is the acronym I’ve given Other People’s Artwork. OPA can be a powerful source of inspiration. You can be inspired by someone else’s creative endeavor and boldly act on that inspiration without copying it. Lord knows we should never condone plagiarism. But if you say to yourself, “I’d like to create something like that, only better.” then you are doing more than creating… you are becoming a positive cog in the wheel of evolution—you are advancing our civilization. And you are creating something brand new. So whatever you do, never shy away from being inspired by other art and other artists. Do your own thing based on the inspiration you feel from the nature of their art.

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3. Heritage

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This inspiration comes from your own personal heritage. But I do not mean your race or nationality, although those can also inspire. What I mean is the heritage that you have cultivated since you were born. Your own personal heritage that was formed by your preferences alone. These are all the things that have influenced you or warmed your heart in your lifetime.

I was raised in the mountains of Northern California and I was therefore exposed to all the lore of the 49’ers, the gold prospectors that traveled from back east in search of the Motherlode. So the old west was a big influence on me.

Natural surroundings gave me a great appreciation for the beauty of nature. After witnessing the clarity and purity of high-mountain streams, I fell in love with everything clear and transparent: water, bubbles, glass, crystals, etc. These are personal sources of enjoyment, adventure, and good feelings that I had growing up and they are a treasure trove of high-quality inspiration.

Heritage inspires through cultural significance. But again, I am not referring to the culture of the masses (although there is plenty of influence from those sources as well). I am referring to the culture of you, your own personal culture. In my family, whenever we went to the river for a swim or to go fishing or to pan for gold, we always roasted hot dogs on a stick. I remember the smell of the wood burning in the campfire and the anticipation it formed as we got closer to the camaraderie of sharing with and nourishing each other. That is an example of personal culture formed within my own lifetime.

The Hippie movement was alive and well in my teens and many of the their aspirations helped to form my own personal culture of sustainability and eco-friendly practices.

Heritage is a product, place, feeling, memory, etc., that evokes a nostalgic sense of tradition or history within your psyche. I grew up watching Indiana Jones movies and fell deeply in love with the adventure of that pseudo-archaeology. Treasure became a staple in my psyche because we searched for gold in the rivers of California and followed in the footsteps of those early gold miners.

You have a heritage that is uniquely your own. Through memory you can trace it. And it’s guaranteed, as you do, you will be inspired. God once asked me to make a list of everything I love (once I woke up from the dream I was having) and She told me to make sure it was only the stuff I love, not like. This is the best exercise to trace your heritage, because as you go back in your memory to find the things you love, you feel the feelings that all those things evoke. Those things and feelings are a part of who you are. Embrace your heritage and it will reward you with inspiration in spades.