A Sand Dune, 3-Year Old & Life Lesson

It’s been a while since my last blog, and although I’ve got many reasons (excuses) why I’ve been lacking on the creative front, the truth is that I have taken some time to reflect on my life and work and take stock. I had reached a point where I felt like some of the things I was doing were not giving me the best return on my time invested, but I was struggling to clearly see which activities to cut and which to keep.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking over the last 6-8 weeks, and it’s time that I needed in order to get clarity and define my next steps in business and in life. I needed that time, and I needed to be alone with my thoughts rather than chasing a to-do list.

Of course, life and business goes on – I just stopped a lot of the content creation I was doing in the form of Facebook Live videos and blog content whilst taking stock of where I was so I could be clear on both where I’m going and how I’m going to get there.

Clarity is a beautiful thing, but you need to work for it!

Why am I telling you this? Well, there’s always bumps in the road, and there will always be unexpected challenges and set-backs in life… sometimes the hardest opponent to beat in any battle is the opponent in your head. How do people tend to react to these challenges and set-backs though? Some bury their heads in the sand and carry on regardless hoping that everything will work out in the end. Others decide that they set their smallest goals too high, favouring a retraction into their ever shrinking comfort zone rather than stepping up and becoming the person they need to be to rise and meet the challenge.

Then there’s what seems to be the contrarian approach – those who go out and look for challenges and ways they can constantly push the limits of their capabilities. These people know that if they’re not failing on their way to success, then their goals aren’t ambitious enough. A goal should be big enough that it FORCES you to grow into someone bigger and someone better in order to move through it… the obstacle is the way.

Which one are you? Does it serve you?

Be honest.

For me, it’s always my mission to seek out the challenge because I believe that I must do the things I think I cannot do – this is what helps me grow, evolve and improve every second that I’m alive.

An experience I had whilst away with the family last week highlights this point nicely.

We went away to the west coast of Wales and basically did a tour of all the best beaches up and down the coast line (and into Anglesey). One of my favourite past times at the beach is to dig holes – I like to create structures in the sand, and to set myself ‘construction goals’ for my creations. Goals like, I’ll get down to the water, or make it big enough to fit two people, or to dig out a large rock… sounds like a waste of time on the face of it, but it’s actually a really rewarding and meditative process; good for the body and the mind, as you’re getting a workout at the same time!

Everyone thought I was such a dedicated father spending so much time digging holes in the sand with and for my kids, but the truth is that those holes were as much for my benefit as they were for the kids! We had a super massive hole on one beach that had a massive pile of sand on the one side, and all our stuff on the other side, and couldn’t have been more obvious… yet someone still managed to fall down it whilst we were down at the rocks! But that’s another story for another day…

The thing is, when you’re digging holes on a beach on your own, you are in full control of the environment and the progress of the construction process. However, this is not the case when you’re at the beach with your 3 year old. Apparently, 3-year olds don’t understand that value of having dug a beautiful hole with polished straight sides… demonstrated by constantly collapsing the edges and filling my freshly dug hole with sand!

Now, given that I was super invested in these holes and had goals around my progress, it was frustrating (to say the least) to have my work reversed and the holes filled in periodically by my eldest son. That said, rather than get frustrated, I became extremely self-aware. I reminded myself that he was having a great time, and that’s what kids are supposed to do – mess around and have a great time. He was just playing with me and wanting to be involved – he wanted more of my attention. How can you be upset about that? I want my kids to want to spend time with me like that! Frustration was the wrong answer, so we played… I set a new goal – clear the sand AND make more progress in the time between his visits of demolition! A bigger challenge delivered by a simple change in thinking, afforded by beautiful state of self-awareness (aided by some helpful reminders from my better half of course!).

In this approach I found another important lesson; in life there will always be set backs and when you’re moving towards your goal it’s never in a straight line. It goes around and round, up and down, side to side, and loop the loop. It’s always 2 steps forward, 1 step back. It’s important to keep this in mind in anything you come across in life – there are always failures along the way to every great success, and you must embrace these and use them as stepping stones to deliver you to your dreams. But this takes hard work, determination, and concerted effort which is why some people give up, and shift to smaller goals that don’t require the same level of personal growth.

I realised that no matter how much my son filled my creations with sand, I always had one option available to me to help me WIN – increase the volume, increase the output, increase the effort. So I doubled down, and cleared more sand more quickly as it came flooding into the hole from above. Then I’d dig even deeper, and increase the size of my achievement by just a few more inches before another cascade of sand came crashing down from above to fill it once again.

But the size of my empire was getting ever larger, and so with each extra inch I dug, the avalanches of sand became less and less significant in relation to the size of the hole. Same amount of sand, bigger hole, less overall impact on the achievement of the goal – it filled less and less of the hole each time. This is synonymous to life in that one thing that’s guaranteed in life is that it will get HARDER. There’s no question in my mind. The real trick to winning consistently in life is to make it your mission to get better faster than life gets harder; this is the real game of life. The more time and effort you put into education, self-improvement, and professional development, the better you’ll get at playing this game of life, and the more quickly you will move through the levels.

There will always be challenges, there will always be struggles, and there will always be things that side-blind you in life – you have no control over these things when they are externally based, and so the only form of defence you have is to attack veraciously, tenaciously and unapologetically. Make it your life’s mission to get better so fast that you are able to consistently dominate your life.

Embrace the sand that comes tumbling into your hole, and use it as inspiration to fuel the fire of motivation that drives your constant and never-ending improvement. You have no control over the things life throws at you – but you have total control over how you react to it.

No excuses, move through – the obstacle is the way.

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