What Nelson Mandela Can Teach about Education

The story of Nelson Mandela is a story of courage, tenacity, and transformational leadership. His book Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela is a journey describing both his formative years and his long struggle to bring freedom and equality to his people and to the nation of South Africa.

nelson-mandela

One theme that captured my attention is his focus on education and learning. Even during his painful and challenging years in prison, he fought for both his own education and acted as a catalyst for the learning in others.

These words capture his view on the value of education and the difference it can make in your life:

Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, that a child of farm workers can become the president of a great nation. (Loc. 3049)

Then he said these powerful words:

It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given,
that separates one person from another.

These words are another way to describe what it means to “dance with the rest.”

When handed a lemon, you can be stung by the lemon juice that gets in your eyes and squint in pain or add some sugar and turn it into lemonade.

When handed a painful loss, you can either shrink back and let it define you or move through your grief with courage and find a new purpose and growth in it.

When handed failure in spite of your best efforts, you can either wallow in self-pity and despair or turn your failure into a classroom for deeper learning and growth.

Nelson Mandela failed in his attempts to bring equality and justice innumerable times during his life but he never gave up the fight. He kept growing through his failed attempts and disappointments until his hopes were realized.

Thomas Edison was always in school. His journey to invent the light bulb was long and difficult. He once said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

It’s what Edison made out of what he had, not what he was given that made the difference.

Education paves the way for future achievement and significance.

Nelson Mandela could have shrunk back during all his years in prison. He could have given up the fight for the freedom of his people and nation but he didn’t. He kept pressing forward – kept learning, kept reading on a wide range of topics, initiated stimulating conversations with his prison mates and guards, and expressed his thoughts stealthily through writing.

Even in the dips he kept his heart and mind active.

Where does education happens?

  • In the classroom (sometimes)
  • Through mentoring, coaching, and other focused conversations
  • Through books, seminars, workshops, podcasts, webinars, etc.
  • Through group discussion and intentional interaction
  • When you reflect and evaluate your experience (the success and failure)
  • When you see failure and disappointment as a teacher not as what defines you

Michael Jordan was educated through his losses and misses, “I’ve missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I’ve lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I’ve been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.”

It is what we make out of what we have, not what we are given, that separates one person from another. (N. Mandela) 

What have you been given?
What are you learning and making out of what you have?

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Posted in Adversity, Attitude, Character, choice, Conflict, dreams, Endurance, failure, grieving, Growth, healing, Hope, learning, Mandela, Optimism, Pain, suffering | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

A Goat and a Bull

Today I share two stories intended to bring a smile to your face and a lesson for life. Keep in mind as you read these stories, thankful people are proven to be happier, less depressed, more satisfied with life and enjoy healthier relationships.

A story of a man and his goat

goat

There lived a man in Budapest who went to see his rabbi with the following complaint, “Life has become unbearable! I live a horrible life with eight other men in a one room apartment. What can I do?”

The rabbi answered with a simple solution, “Take your goat and bring him to live with you in the apartment.” The man was dumbfounded and openly reacted to the idea but the wise rabbi insisted, “Do as I say and come back to see me in a week.”

The week goes by and the man returns looking more distraught than ever. “We cannot stand it,” he tells the rabbi. “The goat stinks, is destroying our furniture and eats everything in sight!”

The rabbi gives his next set of instructions. “Now, go back home and put the goat back in his pen. Then, wait a week and come back and see me.” The man obeys.

A week later, the exuberant goat owner returns to the rabbi and exclaims, “Life is beautiful! The nine of us haven’t been happier now that the goat is gone. I can’t thank you enough!”

The morale of the story? Change your perspective and change your life.

If you don’t like the way something looks,
change the way you look at it.
(Wayne Dyer)

The story of two men and a bull

bull

Two men were strolling through a field one day when they spotted an angry bull. They knew they were in trouble so they instantly started running towards the nearest fence.

The enraged bull took off in hot pursuit right towards them. It didn’t take them long to realize they weren’t going to make it.

Terrified, the one man shouted to his friend, “Put up a prayer, John. We’re in big trouble!”

John answered, “I can’t. I’ve never said a public prayer in my life!”

“But you must!” demanded his running companion. “The bull is catching up to us and we’re desperate for help.”

“All right,” panted John, “I’ll say the only prayer I ever heard – the prayer my father used before every meal, ‘O Lord, for what we are about to receive, make us truly thankful.’”

The morale of the story? Giving thanks* in (I didn’t say ‘for’) all circumstances may not change your circumstances but it will change you for the better in your circumstances.

*Studies show that grateful people find more positive ways to cope with the difficulties they experience, are more likely to seek support from other people, reinterpret and grow from their experiences, and spend more time planning how to deal with their problems.

Where in your life do you need a goat for a week?
How will you express gratitude “in” your circumstances?

Image source: Free image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
To receive each new post by email when they come out, enter your email address on the top right at www.camtaylor.net. And I welcome your comments!

Posted in Abundance, Adversity, anxiety, Attitude, choice, Endurance, gratitude, Growth, Hope, Laughter, learning, Perspective, self-awareness, suffering, urgency | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Be a Fox not a Porcupine

An old Eastern proverb says:

The fox has many tricks, but the porcupine has one big trick.

fox

In his book, The Gift of Adversity: The Unexpected Benefits of Life’s Difficulties, Setbacks, and Imperfection, Dr. Rosenthal suggests when dealing with adversity, we are better off being more like the fox than the porcupine.

In other words, there is no one silver bullet for dealing effectively with adversity. It’s a dance you learn to take requiring agility, variety of approach, creativity and alertness.

Dr. Rosenthal (a clinical professor of psychiatry at Georgetown Medical School) knows a lot about adversity from his own experience, years of research and his work with people going through a wide range of challenges. He shares 7 tricks for dealing successfully with adversity I want to share here.

The 7 tricks to deal successfully with adversity

  1. Accept that the adversity has occurred
  2. Proportion your response according to the nature of the adversity
  3. Analyze the situation
  4. Regulate your physical and emotional state (i.e.,  keep regular hours of sleeping and waking, eat regular meals, exercise,  meditate)
  5. Reach out for help – to family, friends or  even kindly strangers
  6. Turn your predicament into a story – to help you process it
  7. Reframe the adversity – think about it in a  different way

A Clear Head is Your Friend

The most important tool is a clear head. Don’t panic. In most situations there is time to think; thinking is your friend, and impulsive action is your enemy.

Analyze the situation, understanding what you’re up against and what resources you have at your disposal. Of course, in emergencies you will need to act quickly, but that’s when your primitive fight-or-flight responses will click into gear and – with a bit of luck and quick thinking – will save the day.

Remember, other people have been this way before and have succeeded in overcoming these very same obstacles and, in many instances, have become stronger as a consequence. If they could do it, so you can you. Now you simply need to figure out what they did that worked and how you can implement a strategy that will work for you.

What might this mean for you and I?

Adversity is multifaceted and comes in many different shapes and sizes.

It’s wise to have several tricks up your sleeve. All 7 tricks are ones I’ve used during my own season of adversity. They have helped me keep “hoping for the best and dancing with the rest.”

Let me add some food for thought from others to fan your ability to live fox-like during your time of adversity.

All sunshine makes the desert.
Arabian Proverb

Fractures well cured make us more strong.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Adversity is the mother of progress.
Mahatma Gandhi

The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man be perfected without trials.
Danish Proverb

Obstacles are great incentives.
Jules Michelet

Problems are only opportunities in work clothes.
Henry J. Kaiser

What trick would you add to the list?

Image source: Free image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
To receive each new post by email when they come out, enter your email address on the top right at www.camtaylor.net. And I welcome your comments

Posted in Adversity, Attitude, Character, curiosity, discipline, Emotions, Endurance, Hope, learning, Opportunity, Perspective, self-awareness, suffering, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Deadly Distractions and Sea Turtles

While on the Big Island of Hawaii [which explains why you haven’t seen a blog post for a while], we came across a bale of Green Sea Turtles hovering on the ocean’s edge.

Sea Turtle

Seeing these turtles, I was reminded of the dangerous journey new born turtles face when starting out in life.

The cycle of life for the turtle begins when the female crawls slowly onto shore between May and August to dig a hole and lay her 100 eggs. The unborn turtle eggs incubate deep down in the sand for two months then hatch and emerge but only survive if they find their way safely to the ocean.

The key to survival is to follow the brightest horizon which in a perfect world is in an ocean ward direction.

This is where it gets dangerous because the world isn’t perfect. Beaches once free from man’s development have been invaded by artificial light – lamp poles, restaurants and the lights from homes and condominiums along the coast where turtles are born.

Artificial light can mean death to the young turtles as they confuse counterfeit lights with the real thing and move in the wrong direction.

Sound familiar? How many times do artificial lights in our lives distract us from really living!

What counterfeit lights steer you away your true path to a hope filled future?

Some of the artificial lights that distract me:

  • Things outside my control
  • People who won’t change (as I’d like them to change of course!)
  • Worry over an uncertain future
  • Wasted time on technology and gadgets
  • An attempt to produce results instead of focusing on the process
  • Avoiding the hard or the soft conversation
  • Being busy but with activities void of meaning or purpose

When I find myself chasing these distractions, my peace goes out the window, joy is a distant reality and I’m pretty miserable.

What is the bright light on the horizon of life?

The bright light on the horizon will be slightly different for all of us. The key is to know what you’re true horizon is and head towards it. What helps me move towards the light of the horizon (and away from life stealing distractions) are three guiding principles.

Three guiding principles for moving towards a life giving ocean:

1. Know your values and let them guide you forward

For me, I put high value on connecting with God and family, making a difference, being real and always learning. When I move away from these, I start to die but when I keep them in front of me, they give life.

2. Practice self-awareness and adjust accordingly

When I start to feel stress rising, anxiety strong and joy absent, I will try to do a self-check. What’s going on within me? How am I impacting others? What needs to change? What do I need to let go of or hang on to? What’s distracting me from being at peace, loving unconditionally and being joy full?

3. Process hard news and loss with patience

I found out this week that my next surgery is two months later than I expected. Some other news we received created deep sadness. Life on this broken planet will disappoint and pain us deeply at times. You move towards life only as you deal patiently with pain, loss and disappointment.

So, what about you?

What represents the horizon’s bright light for you? Have you identified the distractions taking you in the wrong direction?

Are you following your true path or letting meaningless distractions keep you from truly living?

The incredible news is unlike sea turtles who must operate on instinct, we have the ability to choose, think, adapt and change direction when we realize we’re on the wrong path.

What distracts you from your right path?
What needs to change for you to get to the ocean?

To receive each new post by email when they come out, enter your email address on the top right at www.camtaylor.net. And I welcome your comments!

Posted in Adversity, anxiety, Attitude, Character, choice, Emotions, Endurance, Growth, Hope, learning, motivation, Perspective, purpose, self-awareness, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Chasing Yesterday

Have you ever tried to recreate yesterday? Long for what you had or almost had? Obsessing over yesterday can mess up your life. I know this from experience.

yesterday

The question I’m asking is, “How should you think about yesterday so you can be fully alive today?” The answer lies in the application to these words:

No more chasing yesterday

I’ve been chasing yesterday

This past week I had an epiphany. I saw clearly that certain parts from my past I wanted back. But then realized they aren’t coming back. Yesterday is gone and I need to stop chasing it!

So I’ve been on a journey to stay away from the unfruitful chase. Here are a few of the myths I’m debunking and facts I’m building my chase around. If you’re chasing your yesterday, I hope these can help you as well.

4 Myths Messing You Up AND 4 Facts Getting You Back on Track

Myth 1: Yesterday was better than today

The word better compares one thing to another. Maybe yesterday was better from one perspective but if you stay stuck in that perspective, you’re chasing yesterday.

Fact 1: Yesterday was different from today

Different is just different. Maybe parts of your life were better but what about the changes you’ve made for the better? We can’t totally forget our past (it’s part of us) but if we only see yesterday as better, we’ll keep chasing it and have it mess up today.

Living the past is a dull and lonely business;
looking back strains the neck muscles,
causing you to bump into people not going your way.
  Edna Ferber

Myth 2: Yesterday I was making a bigger difference

Since making a difference matters to me, I find myself comparing the difference I was making yesterday to the difference I’m not making today. And when I believe this myth, I feel dejected and unfulfilled.

Fact 2: Yesterday I made a difference and I’m ALSO making a difference today

Comparing the quality and quantity of the difference we made yesterday to the one we’re making today is very subjective and often misleading. We have no idea the difference we’re making in people’s lives.

The key is to live on purpose; shine your light; grow through your adversity; continue taking risks; love  people – and by doing that, you will make a difference. Move through the open door!

When one door closes another door opens;
but we so often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door,
that we do not see the ones which open for us.
  Alexander Graham Bell

Myth 3: What lays ahead sucks compared to what I left behind

A nagging voice in your head says: “Life sucks! If only you could go back to the life you lost!” If you’re early on in your loss and grief, it’s too early to leave it behind – the denial, anger, sadness and depression. But if you’ve experience good grief, you’ll get to acceptance and be ready to move on. This myth will keep you from hitching your wagon to the post of acceptance.

The past is a guidepost, not a hitching post.  L. Thomas Holdcroft

Fact 3: When my grieving is complete, it’s time to move on

I’m still enrolled in TU (Trial University). I’m on a semester break right now but will be back in class in a month or so for more learning (major surgery with painful rehab and focused recovery time). TU will be hard – on many levels.

But, what I need to avoid is repeating the classes I’ve already graduated from and move on. If I don’t let go of those pieces of the journey I’m done with, I’m destined to keep chasing yesterday!

Myth 4: Losing yesterday stole my confidence and I won’t get it back

When faced with change, we’re forced to learn new skills and for a time, see a drop in competence and confidence. This happens when we lose a job, are rejected in a relationship, or experience a serious injury. When our confidence takes a hit, a voice inside our head says, “You won’t get it back!”

Fact 4: My confidence will grow as I learn new skills and develop my abilities

My work life has been majorly interrupted. I’ve had to stop much of what I was doing and find other types of work that match my limitations. Even though I’ve lost some sharpness in certain skills, I know from past experience, how to get up to speed. When my body’s ready, when God is ready, when the time is right, I’ll figure it out.

So stop chasing yesterday and embrace today with everything you have in your hand!

Which myth are you believing?
What will help you to stop chasing yesterday?

Posted in Adversity, anxiety, Attitude, Change, Character, discipline, dreams, Emotions, Grief cycle, grieving, Growth, learning, motivation, Optimism, Perspective, purpose, Risk, self-awareness, suffering, surgery | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Accepting Hardships as the Pathway to Peace

The above title is a line in the full length Serenity Prayer. On first glance, you shake your head and say, “How can this be?” But as you dig deeper, you begin to see how true this can be and the hope buried in these words.

acceptance

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace…
[continued below]

These words breathe hope since true hope is “an expectation with a pathway to achieve it.” The expectation is no matter how hard it gets, peace is always possible. The pathway to get there is by accepting our hardships.

I didn’t say “having hardship.” Simply having hardship is no guarantee you’ll have peace. Accepting hardships however, puts you on the pathway where you’ll find inner peace.

The natural tendency is to look in all the wrong places for peace.

  • Solve your problems – find peace
  • Eliminate hardship – find peace
  • Lower your anxiety – find peace
  • Reduce your stressors – find peace
  • Gain control – find peace
  • Manage difficult people – find peace

In each case, they depend on our circumstances getting better.

On the contrary, peace is an inside job and the by-product of an attitude you embrace – a choice you make not based on circumstances. True peace, as the Hebrew word shalom suggests, is a wholeness of soul, a soundness in your inner world, or a well ordered life under God’s direction.

When we look for peace in outside circumstances…

  • We solve our problems but more problems come.
  • We try to eliminate hardship and soon realize it’s an unrealistic expectation.
  • We reduce today’s anxiety but wake up tomorrow with new worries.
  • We experience loss and feel robbed of the life we had.

Acceptance is“the act of taking or receiving something offered.”

There’s a dance we step with when finding acceptance – especially when going through loss and grief. If our grief and loss is too fresh, we aren’t able to embrace final acceptance as described in the grief cycle but we can find inner peace while we travel the grief road.

Grief drives men into habits of serious reflection,
sharpens the understanding,
and softens the heart
(John Adams).

My losses (mobility, health, work, an active lifestyle) aren’t over. Another major surgery is coming. With it looming, I keep bumping into emotions like anxiety, depression, frustration, fear and each time I’m doing my best to accept these hardships as the pathway to peace.

The pathway to peace (by the way) can be more like climbing the Grouse Grind (very steep and hard on the body) verses a paved pathway by an ocean shore!

To be honest, I’m in the middle of accepting my hardships but have peace fairly frequently.

Here are a few structures I’m using to find peace’s pathway:

  • Get quiet – the other day I drove to a quiet spot by the side of the road and sat there for a couple of hours with my journal, my prayers, my thoughts. Peace came as I accepted life as it was right then.
  • A gratitude rock – I heard of an idea to reduce anxiety. Find a small rock, carry it around with you and every time you touch it, express your gratitude for what you’re experiencing in that moment. We’re not told to be thankful FOR all circumstances, just IN all circumstances!
  • Adjust expectations –I’ve been recalibrating my expectations to be more in line with my limitations and current reality. It’s a practical way for me to accept my hardships instead of trying to outrun them.
  • Share life with friends – I ran into an old coffee shop friend this week I hadn’t seen since before the accident. I shared my story, heard his story and in that exchange found myself accepting my hardships and experiencing peace in my soul.
  • Change what I can change – I’ve been reading the serenity prayer over several times a day – it’s helping me to work on those things I can change, leave those I can’t change alone and finding peace in the process.

Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace is not simple or easy but it’s possible if you commit to the journey. I’m a work in progress. You’re a work in progress. But I believe true hope and inner peace is possible even when faced with hardship in this life!

What keeps you from accepting your hardships?
What’s next for you to find acceptance?

Serenity prayer continued:

Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next. Amen.
(by Reinhold Niebuhr)

Posted in Adversity, anxiety, Attitude, Change, Character, control, depression, Emotions, Endurance, gratitude, Grief cycle, grieving, Hope, Optimism, Perspective, suffering | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Waiting

Waiting  n. remaining inactive in one place while expecting something.

wait

It hit me this week – I’ve done SO MUCH waiting! And I’m not sure I like it!

Waiting for a train to go
or a bus to come, or a plane to go
or the mail to come, or the rain to go
or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow
or waiting around for a Yes or a No
or waiting for their hair to grow.
Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite
or waiting for wind to fly a kite
or waiting around for Friday night
or waiting, perhaps, for their uncle Jake
or a pot to boil, or a Better Break
or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants
or a wig with curls, or Another Chance.
Everyone is just waiting.
Dr. Seuss

I agree with Toba Beta who said: “Waiting’s exhausting”.

But I’m asking some questions in this waiting:

“Can there be more to waiting than passive inactivity?”
Can there be a way to live life and be fully alive while waiting?

I’m not willing to settle for the thinking behinds the words of Voltaire who said, “We never live; we are always in the expectation of living.”

It’s fair to say that waiting is with us to stay – regardless of our season of life. For me, the last 854 days I’ve been in waiting university.

I’ve spent time:

  • Waiting to make sense of this accident
  • Waiting for pain meds to kick in
  • Waiting for blood results
  • Waiting to be infection free
  • Waiting to get out of hospital
  • Waiting for new bone to grow
  • Waiting for surgery
  • Waiting to recover from surgery
  • Waiting to walk
  • Waiting to drive
  • Waiting to work
  • Waiting to be off work
  • Waiting to see what new normal will be

Back to the question:

“Can there be more to waiting than passive inactivity?”
Is there more to waiting than wishing what you’re going through was over so you could get on with what you wish you were getting on with?” 
 

In other words, how do you live life while waiting? The key is to CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE.

The key is to choose a different vantage point to see your waiting from. Too often we see our waiting from the dark and unattractive underbelly of the waiting instead of high above it.

Here are a few perspectives for you to try on:

What about WONDERING while waiting?

  • This is about taking some time to reflect and ponder what your gifts are, what you’re grateful for, who your important people are, what your life is really all about.

What about WANDERING while waiting?

  • If your life has slowed down, you have the opportunity to smell more flowers, talk to more friends, read more inspiring stories, notice beauty in the details (I’ve seen a lot more flowers at the speed I walk now!)

What about WEEPING while waiting?

  • If you are waiting because of some hurt or injury or illness, waiting gives you time to heal – which involves weeping. To heal, you have to weep.

What about WALTZING while waiting?

  • Waiting offers the opportunity to learn a new dance. Waiting gives you a change to grow in character and work on some missteps in how you treat people. You’ll be better for it.

What about WIDENING your view while waiting?

  • Waiting opens up new worlds and exposes us to the needs of others. I’ve grown in empathy because of the suffering I’ve experienced and I’m grateful for the broader view.

What about being WRECKED while waiting?

  • Being wrecked for the better is about having your old unworkable priorities and patterns changed because you see the world differently. Waiting disturbs your status quo and leaves you changed for the better – if you lean into it.

To be honest, I’m still working on making my waiting more life giving and seeing it from a fresh perspective. I do see signs of growth which I’m thankful for but continue to grow in this area. I invite you into this waiting journey with me.

What are you waiting for?
How does your perspective need to change so your waiting is more life giving?

Image source: Free image courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
To receive each new post by email when they come out, enter your email address on the top right at www.camtaylor.net. And I welcome your comments!

Posted in Abundance, Adversity, Attitude, Change, Character, choice, Emotions, Endurance, gratitude, healing, Hope, learning, Opportunity, Pain, Perspective, self-awareness, suffering, tears, Transition | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments