Being IS Going – Car & Driver Part 1

Not long ago I published a piece about being present in the moment. Being fully present wherever I am has been something I’ve put a lot of effort into, tremendously impacting my well being. It’s a mindset — a mind reset in my case  — that requires work.

A lot of us are conditioned and encouraged to be thinking of what’s coming next. The entire concept of achieving goals requires envisioning and moving away from your present state toward something else, in the future. Existing passively in the current moment, by contrast, seems lazy. Without motivation. Going nowhere.

For me, this misconception was one I had the hardest time overcoming. My 21st century, goal-oriented and ambitious western mind had difficulty reconciling reveling in the present with growth and achievement.

Here’s the thing, though: being present is not a passive state. No, it’s actually quite the opposite. To be present is to actively be aware, to experience, analyze, appreciate, and be with purpose and whole consciousness.

Yes, accepting situations for what they are, not constantly struggling against them, is something that comes with being fully in the moment, but that acceptance is still different than missing the moment altogether because you’re rushing through it.

It’s like driving a car. Ashley and I took a trip to Atlanta last week, and while driving the four hours back, this occurred to me.

When you are driving a car, you are present inside the car. The car is on the road (hopefully), so, yes, you are also on the road, but where you really are is in the seat, inside the car, behind the wheel. The car might be going 60 or 70 miles an hour, but your actions aren’t super-fast. With me?

So let’s relate the car to your life. Or your career, or your relationship(s). The “car” can be anything you’re involved in that is in motion. The distance the car traverses is like the passage of time. Your life moves on similar to how a car moves down a highway. Cars move toward destinations. So do our lives. Sometimes we call the destinations goals.

When you begin a drive, you usually have some idea where you want to go. Sometimes you don’t; life can be like that too. Either way, the whole reason we find ourselves behind the wheel is because we want to go somewhere. Although the car is the means we use to get there, the car won’t take us there on it’s own. We have to drive (at least until we all get those cool Google cars). And driving is an action which requires at least some degree of awareness.

As a driver, the more aware you are — the more present at the wheel — the more likely your trip will successfully reach its destination. Absolutely, we can encounter other things on the road — other cars, weather conditions, deer, and stuff — outside our control that might affect the drive, but being fully present as the driver of our car, gives us the best chances to avoid or deal with such things. Similarly, continuing the analogy, by being present where you are, fully involved in this moment, you are actually more likely to guide your life to the goals you have before you.

We all know or at least have heard that distracted driving is a serious issue. Paying attention to your phone or other things instead of driving can cause accidents and harm. Sure, we may have all had those experiences where we get someplace and don’t recall the drive. It can happen. In life, we can also reach positive results without knowing how we got there. We can also, though, wreck possibilities and miss opportunities if we aren’t alert.

Being present doesn’t prevent moving forward. It’s actually your best and easiest way to help you do just that, successfully.


Demonstrating Care — Something Else My Dog Taught Me

Caring for a pet can teach you many things. One is the importance of communicating through actions rather than words.

I find myself talking to my dog a lot. I tell Milton I love him hundreds of times a day. I like to think he gets it, but I know my words don’t really mean anything to him.  I could be saying “I love glue” or “I ate stew” and he’d comprehend it just the same.

Sure, my tone conveys some sense of meaning, but using a particular tone of voice and accompanying speech with movements or even facial expressions are actions. As far as the actual words, it’s all probably “blah blah blah” to his ears.

We know dogs recognize their names. We also know they can respond to commands. Unlike people, though, it’s not because they understand the language and make the connections. It’s through repetition and training that our pets associate certain sounds with certain consequences. In effect, and to repeat, it’s the actions they understand.

The communication thing works both ways. Milton’s use of my native tongue is worse than limited. He tries, though. Barks, grunts, whines… he vocalizes to get my attention and try to get a point across. It’s the looks he gives me and the way he acts when he makes his noises that help me interpret what he might want.

Being aware of this, I do try to demonstrate how much I care for Milton as often as I tell him. We play, we take walks, I pet him, I give him treats. I do my best to take good care of him and make his life comfortable. I pay attention to him.

This relationship with my dog helps me realize my interactions with people, particularly people I’m close to, needs the same kind of care. They may have the advantage of sharing a language with me, but simply telling folks they are special isn’t communicating well enough. Real understanding comes from showing them how much they mean to me.

I probably shouldn’t pet and cuddle the people around me like I will my dog, but I can and should give them attention. I can help them when they need it. I can do things, large and small, to make their lives comfortable, to help them feel cared for.

It’s easy to say things. Sometimes too easy. Caring requires thoughtful action.

It’s been said many times before: You can’t just talk the talk, you have to walk the walk. Sometimes with a leash and a clean-up bag.

art by Butcher Billy

A Personal Vision Statement

One of the first things I noticed on LinkedIn.com this morning was a short video by LinkedIn CEO, Jeff Weiner, addressing Personal Vision Statements.* Comparing them to the vision statements of companies or organizations (their “true north”), which can inspire their employees, he suggests individuals can also create such statements to guide them and define their actions.

I’ve given thought to such a thing before, but I was inspired today to nail down a definitive statement to claim as my own. This is what I got:

“To graciously, thoughtfully, and with fullest honesty live and give to others.”

Originally I extended it to include “…in such a way to give back greatest value for the life I’ve been given,” but not only did that make it too cumbersome, it’s also redundant. Giving value (purpose, reason) back is the whole point of a vision statement.

My vision statement may not read particularly specific, but it is an edited version of the following points I wanted to include.

  1. To give value, demonstrating good reasons for living and for other people to care about or even pay attention to me,
  2. …primarily by giving graciously of myself, my talents, my experience, and my concern to others.
  3. To be thoughtful in all things; what I say, what I do, and how I respond.
  4. Not just thoughtful, but honest. Honest in communication with others, but more importantly honest by being true to myself. To be real, to not hide my true self or my abilities out of fear or other unworthy reason. To conscientiously be the real me to best help other people.

Of course, coming up with such a statement is one thing. Putting it out here is another. The real test, though, is acting on it and living up to it.


*Thanks for sharing this, Richie Norton!

More things in Heaven and Earth

The More We See the Less We Know… Or Maybe the Other Way Around

I am always learning things on my walks with my dog. Sometimes he teaches me things, sometimes I discover them on my own. Sometimes, maybe, it’s the universe.

Today while we were out I spent a lot of time admiring the pretty blue sky. When Milton would make a stop to sniff around, I looked upward, appreciating the gorgeous weather. It was sunny, bright, not a cloud to be seen. One of those days when the sky was so clear it seemed like you could see forever.

In a moment, while I admired the perfect, expansive, clear sky, it occurred to me that for as far as I could see, there was still even more that I couldn’t. Looking up, I was struck with the realization that the sunny day was actually preventing me from seeing the greater universe that was actually out there. All the billions and billions of stars with all their billions of orbiting planets were totally hidden from sight. Not because something was blocking the view, but because the light was so bright.

The idea that, figuratively speaking, the more light we shed on a thing, the more we possibly restrict our view of what might lay beyond got me thinking.

As skeptical as I can be — I don’t often accept anything at face value — I have, for as long as I can remember, also allowed for possibilities that seem contrary to rational explanation. I wouldn’t say I’m a believer in all things mystic, but I definitely recognize there are limits to what we know. It’s kind of my mission statement for this blog, after all.

When I was just a kid, the Mighty Marvel Calendar for 1975 exposed me to a quote from Hamlet that I accepted as reasonable: “There are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamed of in your philosophy, Horatio.”

Marvel Comics… always teaching me something

That’s been one of the recurring lessons from history, right? That right when civilization thinks it has something nailed down, someone or something comes along to prove otherwise.

I’m not advocating ignorance. Awareness is essential and vital. True awareness, though, includes being aware of what you don’t know. Accepting there may be truths outside your experience is a HUGE component to real understanding. Real knowledge.

The lesson applies to all sorts of things. It’s what keeps us studying, exploring, and experimenting. On a personal level, it hopefully teaches us to not judge other people or jump to conclusions. No matter how well illumined we think a situation might be, or how clearly we think we see others, there’s likely more behind the scenes that we don’t know.

I’m still happy and appreciative of the clear sky today. Not at all disappointed that I can’t see the stars. I know they’re out there, and I’ll enjoy them also when the time is right.



Some Pictures From My Phone This Week

Wanting to make a blog post, not sure what to write about. Here are some pictures I took over the last week.

Oh, man! Got these yesterday. They are great! Ashley says we’d had them before, but I’m pretty sure I’d remember.

I’m a big fan of Lay’s dill pickle chips as well as most jalapeño chips. These sort of combine what’s good about those flavors.

The first taste was amazing. I savored the next several chips and just kept eating. Noticed after eating about a third of the bag they weren’t tasting as great. There wasn’t anything different about the chips deeper in the bag, I’d just had so many I suppose my tastebuds had acclimated so I wasn’t experiencing that fresh, new flavor. I was also by that point crunching my way through the bag somewhat mindlessly. There is certainly a lesson or two there.

Food again. We had some andouille sausage I didn’t totally use when I made jambalaya last week. Added it to some blackeye peas with diced tomatoes and chilies, and threw in some leftover spinach leaves.

Made me happy for a few reasons. First, I cooked this up in the morning so Ashley would have a dinner option she could just hear up when she got home (I was working that night and wouldn’t be home for dinner). Second, I love using up leftovers and clearing stuff out if the fridge and pantry. Third, it smelled and tasted great!

We got new chairs at work. Might seem like a good thing, but it made a lot of folks mad. Goes to show you what a difference perspective makes. I like the upholstery pattern, though. Also, there is supposedly soy in the cushions because the manufacturer is committed to reducing the use of petroleum based materials.

Whoo-hoo! Maybe the most exciting thing this week — I got a new car stereo! Thank you, Ashley!

I’ve needed one for a couple of years now. Still had the original, 15 year old factory-installed unit, and it had been giving me trouble for a long time. It had got to the point where it wouldn’t play CDs or even eject them.

This new one does have a CD player, but also finally gives me modern options to connect my phone or other devices to play digital files. That’s how I was playing Al B. Sure’s “Off On Your Own (Girl)” as you’ll notice in the picture. Yay, Bluetooth!

This new stereo makes me happy and excited to be in the car. I can’t adequately express the amount of joy it gives me. It’s funny how long I dealt with the messed up CD player I had, especially when it was fairly easy to replace. Another lesson to apply to life.

Oh, and I did install the stereo myself. Not only did that save a bit of cash, it gave me a sense of accomplishment and pride.

You’ll almost always find a new picture of this guy on my phone. I love my buddy. This was after a walk. It’s so hot these days, he actually appreciates coming in and resting on the cool tile. So grateful for our good air conditioning!

ferris-life moves pretty fast

What I Don’t Know About Being Present in the Moment

The single most profound adjustment I’ve made in my life in the last few years has been learning to be present in the moment. And I still don’t entirely know what that means.

As I’ve mentioned before, I was influenced by Eastern philosophy at a kind of early age. “Going with the flow” was my lifestyle choice for decades. In a way, I’d been practicing for — albeit not actually practicing — mindful presence most of my life.

Accepting and being pleased with the present wasn’t natural for me, though. Even acting on impulse more often than not, I was nearly always more interested in the future than the current moment. Those impulsive decisions were more about getting somewhere else, creating new stories to tell, than celebrating where I was.

Generally, I lived expecting things, including myself, to be better and better in the time to come. Generally.

I suffered plenty of worry about the future too, though. Tons of regret, guilt, and issues from the past as well.

I’m no expert on being present, but I’ve learned a lot and become pretty good at it. Good enough to be happier than ever before. While I’m still developing stronger habits and skills to improve my mindfulness, here are a few things that I can share:

1. It ain’t easy. But it’s easier than you think.

Being present in the moment is challenging for us modern folks. There is so much to do, so much to see, so much to tweet or post or ha ha emoji to. Distractions are distracting. Then there are responsibilities. Stuff’s got to get done.

There’s just not enough time in the day, right?

It’s true that being present takes time. In fact, it’s all about time. But the present is never the present long.

Jerry Seinfeld did a bit about silver medal winners in the Olympics that illustrates how fleeting the present moment actually is.

This cracks Ashley up every time. How long is the present? “Now. Now. N-n-no, now.”

You might want to enjoy more than .03 of a second at a time, but, you know, the present moment IS only a moment. A few seconds pause is all it has to take to acknowledge what’s going on around you and how you’re feeling. In the time it takes to read the subject line of an email, you can re-center yourself and appreciate the moments you’re living in.

ferris-life moves pretty fast

2. Being here, now doesn’t prevent you from being there, later.

In fact, I believe it provides powerful help to get you where you want to be.

This may have been the greatest misconception I’ve had to deal with. I’ve mentioned how I’ve always been sort of future focused. I believe in goals and taking methodical steps to achieve them. Settling for the present, it seemed to me, was at odds with ambition. Even going with the flow at least meant going somewhere.

I just made the point that the present moment can be an exceptionally brief time. Thing is, the present isn’t just that one moment that’s here then gone. The present continues to be the present, stretching on into what had been, a second ago, the future. In my mind, to concentrate on each moment as it comes meant not concentrating on the times yet to be. Like a twist on Zeno’s dichotomy paradox, I mistakenly assumed truly being in the ever changing moment meant never moving.

As with Zeno’s paradoxes, though, common sense and experience proved the theory wrong.

Being present is not being stagnant. Hardly. Being present is, believe it or not, an action. It’s not doing nothing. It’s being fully aware of… being. It means connecting to the truth of a situation, taking in reality as it is. It also means connecting with the truth of yourself.

Having that awareness of who you are, what your strengths and character are, being grounded in reality — that centers you on your best path forward. Outside influences will still require reaction, but a present state of mind can help you maintain focus. And that will keep you moving in a positive direction toward your goals.

3. Living in the present heals.

A couple years ago I struggled with a dangerous bout of depression. I was lucky to get some good help, starting with my loving fiancee and a couple of doctors. It took several different steps to escape that awful situation, but you probably don’t have to guess what I’m going to tell you was one of the most important.

In my case, the state I was in had roots in serious regrets about my past AND anxiety about the future. While there was a lot of good in my life at the time, I was also experiencing a horrendous time at work. I dreaded every day.

My present was terrible. Why would I want to dwell in it longer than necessary?

Because, more than anything else I did, that fixed me.

Focusing on the present helped me finally let go of the past.

Taking a minute to focus on my breathing calmed my anxiety.

Allowing full awareness of what I was experiencing at the time, of what people were actually doing and saying, of what I was feeling and thinking cleared up apprehensive assumptions and misjudged motives.

Reflecting on the present instead of the past opened my eyes to possibilities.

Greatest of all, being truly open to the reality around me helped me realize all the reasons I have to be grateful and happy.

Enjoying the present is great when the present is good. Even when it’s unpleasant, centering yourself in the actual here and now is healthier than getting lost in imagined fears.

in search of strange

What I Don’t Know About My Shining Moment

This is a totally true story.

I was driving to band practice one day, thinking about our stage setup. We’d discussed wanting to add to our visuals onstage, and a backdrop had been mentioned specifically.

We were practicing at Mitch’s house, which was pretty remote in Union County, outside of Monroe. I was taking a slightly different route for a reason I can’t remember. Probably bad traffic on Highway 74. At any rate, I was on a road I hadn’t been on before, out in the country.

I was running through different ideas for a backdrop and stage set, everything from a banner with the band logo on it to assorted hardware and mechanical assemblages. We considered ourselves an “art rock” group, and kind of liked being weird. We also considered ourselves poor, and our resources were extremely limited.

Used to being crafty out of necessity, I suddenly had the idea that we could use a Twister mat — you know, from the game — as a banner hung behind the band. I hadn’t actually seen one in a few years, but my recollection was that it would be big enough and the simple design — big circles of different colors evenly spaced — would hit several aesthetic buttons, as well as some nostalgic ones. In my mind, it kind of fit with part of our band image, which was one of 70s sci-fi fans making android cowboy music in a basement.

Guess you had to be there.

Our Nessie-fied logo

So I’m thinking about this idea, figuring I could pick up a Twister game at Target or, even better, a thrift store or yard sale, driving on this country road all alone, when I notice something in the road a half mile or so ahead. Closer I get, it looks like maybe some roadkill. Kind of big though.

I get closer… closer… pull in the opposite lane to avoid it (there wasn’t any other traffic out there), and just as I drive get next to the lump I realize what it is.

Right. A loose, kinda balled up Twister mat.

In the middle of the road. The remote, unoccupied, no houses anywhere nearby country road.

I drove about a mile farther. Came to a stop sign where the road I had been on ended. I thought about it for a second, then turned around, went back to the Twister mat, and stopped. Still no other cars.

Swear to God, it felt like I was in a Stephen King movie.

Got out, looked all around the area, then walked over to the mat.Afraid maybe there was something wrapped up in it, a puppy or kitten or human head someone no longer wanted, I cautiously picked it up.

There wasn’t anything else in it or around it. Just the playmat. I shook it out, let it flap in the breeze for a sec, looked around again for anyone it might belong to. Folded up the vinyl, put it in my trunk, and continued on my way to band practice.

I’ve experienced some weird shit before, but this is still one of the weirdest.

I don’t know if I had a premonition about the Twister mat or if I somehow willed it into existence. Might have thought I’d imagined or hallucinated the whole thing if I didn’t actually have a slightly dirty Twister mat in the trunk of my car. Had God for some reason chosen THAT silent wish for a Milton Bradley game accessory as my prayer to answer? I’ve heard He does move in mysterious ways. Never reckoned it was that kind of mysterious.

We never did utilize the mat on stage. I think the other guys weren’t into the idea so much. Although we didn’t create anything to set up behind us, I did get to smash and throw a couple dozen marshmallow Peeps at the audience a little while later. Maybe I’ll tell you about that one sometime too.

It exists. Still. Picture taken today, May 27, 2016, of my (dirty) car trunk.



What I Don’t Know About Earworms and Subliminal Influence

If you don’t think you can be influenced by things in your environment you don’t pay attention to, let me ask you: have you ever had an earworm — a song stuck replaying in your mind? Sure you have. And have you wondered why that song? Have you ever had one that wouldn’t stop repeating that you don’t even like?

I found myself the victim of that this morning. Caught myself mentally humming a song I hear overhead at work, one I don’t like at all. I’m not even sure what the song is or who performs it. All I know about it is it’s outside my taste range. Bad enough I have to hear it at the workplace; why in the world is my own brain torturing me with the melody today?

Even though I didn’t think the mystery song had made an impression on me, and even though I very much don’t want it to stay with me, evidently I’ve heard it enough that it did.

So what other background noise are we absorbing throughout each day that can sneak up on us later?

Evaluating conversations and input when we’re actively listening takes effort and skill. What about when we aren’t so aware of what we’re hearing?


Psychologists have been aware of subliminal effects on behavior since the 19th century. There is a wealth of proof that incidental exposure to images, phrases, and sounds have an influence on mood, thinking, and our actions. Concerned? Don’t get too worried yet.

As in most things, awareness is your greatest asset. The more aware you are of your surroundings, the greater you ability to react in a positive, healthy manner. And even though we’re ironically addressing stuff that’s by nature difficult to be aware of, knowing there’s the possibility of picking up signals you might not want in your psyche gives you great advantages. You can be prepared.

There are (at least) two things that should encourage you:

First, although some unrecognized messages can find their way to you, nothing has greater control on you than YOU and your mental strength. As in other aspects of dealing with life, you choose how you behave, react, and perform. Outside stimuli shouldn’t be ignored, but your attitude toward them is your own to develop.

Second, with the knowledge that subtle triggers can affect you, you can arrange for positive subconscious cues to help you remain strong, healthy, and happy. Put the psychology to work for yourself. Reinforce good thoughts, beneficial emotions, inspiring ideas, happy memories, and encouraging targets that motivate the best in you.

For example, where I work I have to use several passwords to access systems and applications numerous times each day. While adhering to good security practices, I make make my passwords some sort of positive message to myself — variations on “PMA (Positive Mental Attitude) all day,” for instance. So every time I nearly mindlessly type in the password, I get a tiny reminder to keep the chin up. Believe it or not, even doing it as long as I have, the little phrases hidden in my passcodes still often spur a good pause and smile. And the smile itself serves as a reinforcement to happiness.

Other folks have recommended setting reminders on your phone or other device to alert you periodically. Set messages to yourself like “you’re awesome” or “remember to be grateful” that you’ll see a few times a day. If you can’t count on anyone else, you can at least be your own cheerful coach.

Obviously, the more you can structure your environment to prevent unpleasant signals and exude beneficial ones, the better. When in situations where that’s limited or not possible, there are still steps you can take to prime your subconscious the way you want.

Remember, you may not always have control of your environment, but you do always have control of yourself.

Two more suggestions:

1. Watch and carefully choose your own language. Keep it positive. Not only will that broadcast good vibes for other people in your area, but it effects you as well. The concentration and attention to selecting verbiage increases your awareness of all the communication occurring at the time, not just what you’re saying. Also, your voice is the one you hear loudest, and if you speak consciously, you effectively “hear” the words twice — once as you prepare to say them and then again as their spoken out loud.

2. Allow yourself moments of reflection throughout the day. Doesn’t have to be full out meditation, although that’s certainly optimal. A simple few seconds to objectively recognize where you are and what you’re doing is all it takes. Awareness is an asset, remember? Take a pause, ask yourself whether your behavior has been what you want it to be? Are you being true to your best self?

You might realize in these moments how things or people you’ve come in contact with during the day have influenced you. Might give you cause to be grateful, which is great! Might reveal an opportunity to correct the path on which your day has turned. That’s also great. And you might find that nothing has interfered with you achieving all the things you want. In that case the self check-in gives you a great opportunity to high-five yourself!

Lastly, remember there are lots of good messages we pick up without realizing it, too. Don’t shut yourself off from all outside stimuli. Be open to new messages. You never know where your next favorite song will come from.



Sam Jackson Royale with cheese

On the Other Hand, Maybe Don’t be Like Taco Bell

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about a lesson I learned from Taco Bell. Following their lead, I encouraged readers to give lots of extra sauce, more than they might think people need, whenever serving other people. The extra sauce was a metaphor for added value. Most people will happily deliver on expectations; distinguish yourself and heighten your own satisfaction by OVERdelivering.

On the other hand, there’s something else I’ve learned from my (too frequent) visits to Taco Bell:

Don’t call something SUPREME just because you put some sour cream on it.

Okay, sure, they also add tomatoes. Still, this seems surprisingly in contrast with the generous sauce packets policy.

Yes, Taco Supreme IS different from the regular taco. Yes, it IS more delicious. And yes, the price difference really isn’t that much. But ‘supreme’?

Supreme should be SUPREME! None better! The Ultimate! Does adding just a couple of ingredients really qualify? In this case, The Bell is demonstrating the problem with overpromising.

When you present your work to others, it’s best to be honest. With yourself as well as your audience. Misrepresentation will inevitably only lead to disappointment.

Being honest with yourself might be more challenging than accurately laying things out for other people. Pride, hubris, and plain excitement can make us overestimate our accomplishments. If you put tons of effort into a project you rightly want to make sure it’s recognized as having value. It’s important, however, to be careful not to overvalue what you’ve done.

Carefully consider your offerings before you describe, publicize, promote, or market them. Analyze yourself and your work as objectively as possible. If you have trouble with that, get help and opinions from people you trust.

Telling the world, in essence, a result was the best you could do — “it’s supreme!” — can lower expectations of your future work. It can make you appear dishonest, arrogant, or unrealistic.

Honesty does mean taking credit when you DO create something extraordinary. By no means play down or minimize your work when it is far and above the average. If it IS supreme, let the world know! If you’ve been careful to not cry wolf (or taco), they’ll believe you.



What I Don’t Know About Lasers and Prisms

Focus and prioritization appear to be hot topics in popular media right now. Isn’t it interesting how we still need reminders about subjects long accepted as principles of success?

The knowledge that multitasking is contrary to effectiveness is no secret, yet many people continue to operate as if they are somehow the exception to the rule. Kind of like how we all know overly processed fatty foods aren’t the healthiest choice, but we rationalize our fast food purchases as being an exception to our supposedly wiser normal eating behaviors. All three times we do it during the week.

As Brendon Burchard says, “common sense is not common practice.”

Attempted multitasking and being busy for the sake of being active as opposed to working exclusively toward a defined goal might cast illusions of productivity, but, as illusions, they aren’t real. Like oasis mirages in the desert, they won’t end up helping you survive, no matter how good they might look.

Thinking of illusions and seeing things, consider this: lasers and prisms both manipulate energy (light), but the way in which they do so is dramatically different. So are the results. Practically opposite.

This is such an obvious metaphor I’m certain thousands of coaches and instructors have utilized it. It’s a good one, though, and worthwhile. And since it seems we could use reminders,  lets’s go over it again.

A laser amplifies light by focusing it tightly. It creates a highly focused, direct, powerful beam with awesome capabilities. A prism, on the other hand, refracts light. It bends and spreads the light’s wavelengths, creating a spectrum of color. It’s pretty to look at; it can make an interesting display that captures attention because of all the different colors. Each color, though, has only part of the energy the beam of light entering the prism has.


We all have the ability and the choice to likewise use our personal energy. When we want to accomplish something, we can either concentrate our effort — focus — to be powerful like a laser beam, or we can spread our internal resources broadly… and create the opposite effect.

We didn’t get to play with lasers when I was in grade school (what a shame), but we did have magnifying glasses. Same idea on a simpler scale. We’ve all used a magnifying glass to concentrate sunlight and burn something, right? That doesn’t happen when the same sunlight goes through a prism. You won’t be setting any fires with your energy spread out.

When you have a goal, you’re likely to accomplish it quicker, with greater impact, by tightening your focus. Move toward that one goal directly. The shortest distance between two points is, after all, a straight line.

We’re all faced with having multiple goals, though, aren’t we?

Probably not. Not as many important ones — the “needle movers,” as Christine Comaford-Lynch calls them — anyway.

You might have many interests, you might have several good ideas you’d like to pursue, but trying to address them all at the same time can lead to frustration. Which of those ideas are going to make the greatest impact? On you, your mission, or the world? Whatever the scope of your endeavors, analyzing your options to direct your energy toward one at a time is likely to increase your effectiveness and personal satisfaction.

A multitude of great thought leaders have addressed the necessity to prioritize and narrow focus. Recently, Greg McKeown coined the term Essentialism for the discipline of “making the wisest possible investment of your time and energy in order to operate at our highest point of contribution.” Identify and eliminate the trivial for the sake of doing what’s vital.

Consider your work. What keeps you busy, and what actually matters? Are they the same? Even close?

You’ve probably heard of the Pareto Principle, also called the 80/20 rule. It’s generally acknowledged that 80% of your results come from 20% of your efforts. Read the other way around, 80% of what most of us are doing is ineffective, inessential, or, at best, not immediately bearing fruit.

Do you really want to spend the greatest percentage of your living and working hours NOT moving toward goals?

What’s the fix? Self-awareness. Analysis. Clear goal setting and defined actionable steps. Review the tasks ahead of you, the things on your to-do list. Are they important and necessary? Will they propel you in a positive direction? If they meet that criteria, prioritize them by recognizing which are MOST likely to have the GREATEST impact on helping you achieve your goals. Then get to work, and dedicate your best energy toward completing them without distraction.

It’s not always an easy exercise, but it always — ALWAYS — pays off.

By the way, do you know what the term in physics is for the process in which lasers create laser beams? Coherence. So by contrast a prismatic display not only lacks focus, it’s… incoherent.

Really helps to make the point, right?