Be Astounding

What do you want in life? No, I’m not talking riches and popularity. I think most people want that (at least the riches part). What do you REALLY want in life? Do you want a better job? Do you want to get in shape? Do you want a better marriage or relationships with your friends, family, and the people you care about most? Do you want to write a song, a book, a play? Do you want to play a musical instrument? Do you want to paint, draw, or sculpt? Do you want to go back to college or go for the first time? Do you want to learn a new language? 

What do you want in life? Think about it. I mean, REALLY think about it. 

I listen to people when they talk. Some may not think I do, but I do. I listen to what they say, how they say it. I pay attention to their body language, facial expressions, and the tone in their voices. As a writer, all these things play a huge part in my stories, and I’ve gotten good at listening and hearing what people say. 

I’ve seen or heard a few things this week that have made me ponder the question I posed above. One of those things—and to me the greatest deterrent from chasing dreams—is fear. That fear is based off the unknown. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know if I will be any good at it. I don’t know what tomorrow holds or how this will play out. Some of that fear is based off previous experiences. This happened to me before so … 

In many cases, I see fear of failure. I’m afraid if I try, I will fail. What if I don’t succeed? What if I fail? 

Hey, in your mind right now, I want you to look me in the eyes. Come on. Whatever color your eyes are, I want them to look into my blue ones right now, and hear the words coming off my fingertips. Are you ready for this? I understand how you feel. I have been there, and I am certain I will be there again. I hate the very idea of failing at something. It is a normal feeling. 

The following are a handful of quotes from Thomas Edison, you know, that guy that invented a bunch of things. The first of these is fairly well known. A couple of the others are not.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Yeah, so you’ve probably heard of that one. How about this one:

“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.”

One of the things I feel is important in order to doing anything is to believe you can do it. So often we don’t believe we can do something. We see someone else do it better and when we don’t do it as well as they do, we give up. 

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” Not Edison, but Theodore Roosevelt.

You may not do something the way someone else does, but that doesn’t mean you failed at it. That means you did it differently, and sometimes differently is a good thing. Don’t make the mistake of comparing how you do something, how well you do something, or your success to how well someone else does something and how successful they are. Don’t do that to yourself. Again, look into my eyes: don’t do that to yourself.

Okay, here is the third Edison quote, and it’s powerful:

“Our greatest weakness lies in giving up. The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.”

Did you get that? Seriously. Did you get that?

Giving up on something we want feels like failure. Giving up on ourselves feels like failure. It feels like shame and smells like regret later on. Keep trying. That next bit of effort might be what pushes you across the finish line.

Here’s another important thing to keep in mind: Not trying is worse than trying and not succeeding. At least by trying, you gave it your best effort. I would rather try and failed, than to wonder if I would have succeeded.

There’s one more thing and I promise I will let you go: we are a people of excuses. I can’t do that because I am too young, too old, handicapped, too fat, too thin, not strong enough, don’t have the money, don’t have the know-how, don’t have time. 

For those of you who say any of the things involving physical limits, go read my post called I’m Possible. (https://typeajnegative.wordpress.com/2021/04/07/impossible/). I understand the don’t have the money part. I deal with that on a regular basis. But there are ways around not having money to do things. The don’t know how I get as well. However, the University of Google and Youtube University are your friends and they are free. Also, you can ask people who know what they are doing for help. Sometimes they will surprise you and give you the information you need to do something. Google it. Youtube it. Ask for help. Do it. 

The issue of time. Whew. That’s a good one. Yeah, that’s mostly an excuse. If you have time to watch two hours of television at night or spend half an hour on social media five or six times a day, then you have time to pursue a dream or a desire or a better life for yourself. Sure, sometimes people are truly busy to the point of not having time for anything else. I get it. But, let’s be honest with each other, if you want something bad enough, there is always time for it because you will make time for it.

Cate and I have grabbed hold of a saying and it has become our mantra over the last half year or so: Be stronger than your excuses. We have developed separate goals for ourselves as well as goals for us as a couple. We will be the only reasons we do not reach those goals. Sure, things will come up, but excuses are no longer an option for us, and I don’t have time is the biggest excuse of them all. 

I guess there is one more Edison quote I want to share, and it’s good:

“If we all did the things we are really capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.”

Wow. That’s just … wow. I have nothing to add to that.

So, I ask you again, what do you want in life? What do you REALLY want? Don’t be afraid to go after it. Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t give up on that dream or yourself. Don’t make excuses. Be astounding. 

Much love and peace to all of y’all.

The Average Joe

A few years ago I wrote the forward to a short story collection by an author I admire and respect.  I want to share with you the first few paragraphs of this.  Stick with me here.  There is a reason for this.

Picture this:

He looks like any other person, hair a dirty brown, eyes of blue, maybe a Texas Longhorns cap on his head, some shadowed whiskers on his chin.  He may even look like the guy next door or that Kiefer Sutherland fellow, but without the intense stare.  He sits at a table on the patio of some barbecue joint or coffee house, beverage of choice in front of him (I’m willing to bet it’s the barbecue joint, and the beverage of choice is an ale called Arrogant Bastard, which is somewhat of a contradiction if you know him).

A lady sits across from him, dark-haired, olive-complexioned, eyes a soft brown.  They chit and chat about life, the day behind them and the one before them, kids and animals and work and money and probably the Astros.  Craig Biggio may come up in the conversation.  Yeah, if he were still with the Astros then just maybe…

They look like the average couple in America.  And they are.  But then she asks one question, her voice like music to his ears, and the conversation becomes less like the average couple in America and more like two business partners discussing strategy.  In this case, they discuss storylines. 

“So, what are you working on?” she asks, sipping her tea (or maybe she likes that Arrogant Bastard as well).

He shakes his head, smiles.  There is mischief in the gleam in his eyes, in the upturn of his lips.  He ponders for a moment before speaking.  Is this something she really wants to hear?  Is this something that’s going to make her gawk at him, her eyes wide, jaw open and ask, “What the hell is wrong with you?”

He shrugs and puts his hands out as if he is going to tell about the largest fish ever caught.  “There’s this guy and he’s kind of a jerk to his kids and wife and he kicks the crap out of them just because he can.  He’s a real douchebag.  But, what he doesn’t know is that there is this creature…this thing…watching him from the mirror and…”

And the story, which was nothing more than an idea moments earlier, begins to form as he talks, his voice growing more and more excited.  He wipes his lips with one hand.  “Hold on, Babe,” he says and pulls a notepad from his back pocket and a pen from his shirt.  “I need to write this down.”

This is the way it is for Kevin Wallis, the average man with above average dreams; a man who pens his darkness onto paper… 

I wrote this introduction for Kevin Wallis for his collection, Beneath the Surface of Things.  It’s a fabulous book of stories and I was honored to get to work with him on it, and blown away when he asked me to write the intro.  When I sat down to write this, I wanted to relay something to the readers that I felt was important, and that was that Mr. Wallis was an average Joe with a wife and a job and a life.  He’s just like you and just like me and just like that person sitting in Starbucks with his red cup and reading Stephen King.  He’s a person with dreams and ambitions and fears and likes and dislikes.  He loves someone and she loves him back.  He works hard.  He raises his kids the best he can.  He’s the average Joe, like you and I.

What’s the point?

At some point in life, we were all the average Joe or the average Jane.  We started out simple enough, most of us with the innocence of youth blinding us from the realities of this world.  Then we started making our way in life, following paths chosen for us at first and then that we chose later on.  We found our niche and that’s the direction we go.  Some of us stay average.   Some of us go above or below and some of us just excel so far beyond average.

But what’s the difference between average and above average and phenomenal?  Well, I believe one of those things is determination.  Another one is desire.  But I think the glue that holds determination and desire together and sparks the engine that runs the car to success is expectation.  The higher the expectation the higher you can soar (and, yes, the harder life can crash back down).

Expectation is a mindset.  That’s the best way I can put it.  If you have low expectations for yourself, don’t think you’re going to go very far.  But if you believe in yourself and your abilities, your expectations are going to be at a higher level.  They will also be harder to achieve, but that just fuels the determination and desire to keep working and reaching for those lofty expectations.

If you don’t believe you can do something, then guess what?  You’re right.  I’ve never met anyone who didn’t think they could do something achieve what they think they can’t do.  The average Joe can have an above average expectation for himself.  Every single person who has succeeded in the world had expectations for themselves, and most of them were high, expectations that weren’t necessarily within reach.  They didn’t settle for average.

There’s this group out there who sings this song.  You may have heard of them: the X Ambassadors.  The song? Renegades. I love the lyrics, but I especially dig this part:

All hail the underdogs All hail the new kids All hail the outlaws Spielberg’s and Kubrick’s

It’s our time to make a move It’s our time to make amends It’s our time to break the rules Let’s begin

If you ask me, the song is about determination and doing something to change the way things are done.  I’m probably wrong, but that’s what I get from it.

Expectations dictate what you do and how you do it.  If you don’t believe in yourself, then your expectations are terribly low.  If you want to achieve something great, you have to change your mindset, you have to change your expectations, you have to be willing to reach higher.

Before I go, let me tell you a little bit about someone else.

There’s this guy.  He doesn’t sleep all that well.  He loves his coffee and his wife and kids, not necessarily in that order.  He believes in Christ.  He has dark hair and blue eyes and a constantly dislocated thumb.  He works hard for a living at a job he sometimes likes.  He loves milk.  He loves strawberry Kool-Aid.  His favorite big music group is Pearl Jam.  His favorite local groups are Prettier Than Matt and Deleveled.  He’s a huge University of Michigan fan.  He likes to laugh and often tells corny jokes.  He has regrets and pains.  He is currently typing this blog, but by the time you read it he will be on to something else.  He—I—am the average Joe and I’m an underdog and I break the rules and for the longest time I had average expectations, and my results have been average, at best.

I no longer expect average of myself.  My expectations are higher, and sometimes that makes working a daytime job more difficult.  It makes not being where I want to be a little more frustrating.  It also makes me work harder to get better and better with each story I put out.  I expect phenomenal things and they are coming.  Please, come along with me.  Hop in the car.  Let’s take this ride together.  I’ve already put the key in the ignition and the engine is rumbling.  It’s time to put this baby in gear and get rolling.  Buckle up.  It’s going to be fun.  Until we meet again my friends, be kind to one another.