Most of us are only shaped by our negative experiences. Why?
I can honestly tell you, that the last nine years of my life have contained some of the most positive experiences that I have ever been a part of in my entire life, and those are what shape me.
As I’ve had a chance to wind down from all of the good craziness, decompress, and compartmentalize finishing up my first year of grad school, completion of the seventh annual event, and then the actualization that it is really summertime now, I have had a chance to reflect upon the events that took place a couple of weeks ago up at the Hafif Estate.
There are not many words that come to mind to express my thoughts, as I have been very overwhelmed and gratefully emotional over the past couple of weeks. I’ve caught myself crying at moments in time, out of pure joy and appreciation. I suppose the word that comes to mind is some sort of synonym to the word “euphoric.” Each and every one of you not only made my dreams come true, but in many ways exceeded expectations. My dreams became reality, and my reality in a lot of ways was some sort of fairy tale or an ending, climax, or culmination of events that could not even be put into a movie script.
$400,000 raised simply speaks to itself. As a committee, it is very tough for us to say that we missed, messed up, or did things wrong, as we look at the monetary value of the money that we raised (Which will go directly back to those living with paralysis), however our committee is our biggest critics of all. We have heard the feedback, both positive, and very few negative, we have taken it all into account, and let’s just say that there is nobody more excited about preparing and getting ready for the Eighth Annual event sometime next year. However, if you were to ask people on the committee they might tell you give us a few months until we actually get into that mode, as these are people that put in tireless amounts of energy, time and effort into making one spectacular night every 16 to 18 months. Exhaustion might be the proper word, but fulfillment and the saying “This is why we do it” or “It was all worth it” are the only things that come to mind by any people on the committee.
I caught myself the morning after the event, up at the estate, watching a herd of people rallied together to help with cleanup of the venue only to think to myself “wow, I am more blessed than I will ever know or give credit towards.” The amount of people that came out, helped out, volunteered, supported, advocated, attended, and most importantly donated, is something that I quite literally cannot wrap my head around. Overwhelmed, with a variety of different positive emotions is the only thing that comes to mind. But, those thoughts, that I had at the venue the day after, all circled back to one overwhelming phrase in my mind, “This is why we do it every year.” For many of us, we can wake up each and every morning and have a variety of different excuses of why we do not do certain things and always revert back to the excuse that “Well, I just do not have the time.” But, as I tell some of the most important and closest people to me, when they are seeking out advice on how to manage their time and how to make time for the important things that they are missing out on in their lives, I simply tell them one thing, “People always make time and put in the effort for the things that they truly care about and the things that are important to them.” For many of us, that time and effort that we put into things is only directed towards things that directly affect us and that we get immediate satisfaction out of, in a tangible form. I’m here to tell you, when we redirect that effort and that focus towards things that affect us indirectly, maybe the things that we GIVE in life that affect us, in the terms of making us feel good as people, are far more important than directing our focus and attention towards things that only affect ourselves. I’ve gone out to say recently, “What would life and all that it encompasses, for each of us, be for if we did not share it with other people?”
Our thoughts create our beliefs, which then create and influence our behavior and how we act. So, essentially life is about reaching people’s thoughts, so we can change their beliefs and ultimately change the way they act. Unfortunately, these people that we are trying to reach to get them to change their behaviors, are so stuck in their own default settings, of both negativity, naiveness and ignorance that they are not tuned in to what is going on around them. As people, we must change this perception among those that we are trying to reach. We need to get out of our own default settings that tell us "What little we have to give won’t make a difference, or that what we could give is not worth our time or our effort." I spoke much about default settings the night of the event, and it is something that I will share with each and every one of you again, who are reading this.
What are they? What do they say? What does that mean?
Our Default Settings say: Certain people drive us nuts, however often times the people that drive us nuts, or that we don’t like, are the people who are most like us.
Or they say: We are all so different. But in actuality, while we are all very unique and different, we must remind ourselves we are much more closely related than divided.
Or they say: We are the victim. But, how do you tell the story that you’re telling? Do you tell it as the hero, the victim or the knowledgeable bystander? If you tell it as a hero, you’ll miss out on what you need to work on and get better at. As a victim you will miss out on your strengths. But, as a knowledgeable bystander you can be your own friend or mentor who won’t pull any punches, but who is definitely on your side.
Or they say: We are not capable of monetarily giving more. However, studies show that donors are capable of giving five times more the amount than they actually give throughout the year, without substantially changing their lifestyle.
Or they say: Sometimes when things are not going well we tell ourselves we need to try harder. However, a lot of times these failures are not because of a lack of effort but a lack of knowledge and limited insight.
You see, as it turns out the most obvious and important realities are often the ones that are the hardest to see and talk about. Because of our default settings we never want to admit the prized analysis that somebody else is right and that we are wrong, which we call “Blind Certainty.”
Blind certainty- Is a close-mindedness that amounts to imprisonment, so total that the prisoner doesn’t even know he’s locked up. The things that we wholeheartedly believe are to be true and that we are certain of, turn out to be some of the things that are the most uncertain things within our lives.
Many of us learned this the hard way. Because we all actually believe that we truly are the center of the universe. We all believe this, because it is our default setting that is ingrained in us at birth, because every experience that we have had, we have been at the absolute center of. Our default setting is to be deeply and literally self-centered. If you think about it, other people’s thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to us within those moments, but our own thoughts and feelings are immediately given to us. So you might wonder, how do I adjust to this default setting? Is it a matter of knowledge or intellect, or wisdom? Do you know what wisdom is? Wisdom is knowing that we know nothing.
Because of all of our distractions in this world, it is easy to not be attentive to what is going on around us and especially what is going on inside of us, with what we are feeling and quite possibly what others are feeling.
So, we come to find out that overcoming this default setting is merely about learning how to think, and learning how to think really means learning how to exercise some control over how and what we think. It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what we pay attention to and to choose how we construct meaning from those experiences.
For many of us, we need to stop from going through our comfortable, prosperous, respectable, adult lives dead and unconscious. A lot of this stems from the boredom and the routine of our days. For many of us we get up in the morning, go to our challenging white or blue-collar jobs, work hard for eight or 10 hours, and at the end of our day we are tired and somewhat stressed and all we want to do is go home and have a good meal for dinner and unwind and compartmentalize work life from home life for an hour, and then get in bed early, because of course we have to get up for the next day and do it all over again.
But then you remember there is no food at home and you have not had time to shop this week because of your inundating job, and so now after work you have to get in your car and drive to the supermarket, or we might as well say the DMV. People everywhere. It’s the end of the workday and the traffic is bad as always, because you know we live in L.A. So, getting to the store takes way longer than it should, and when we finally get there, of course the store's crowded and because of the time of day everybody else is in there doing the same thing we are after their busy work day.
But, of course in our own eyes we see the store as being hideously florescently lit and infused with soul killing muzak or corporate pop, and it’s pretty much the last place we want to be, but we can’t just get in and out of there quickly, because we have to wander all over the huge over lit store with confusing aisles just to find the stuff we want, and we have to maneuver our carts in and out of all the other tired, hurried people with carts. But, eventually you get all of your supplies to make your home-cooked meal, but now there turns out to not be enough checkout lanes open even though it’s the end of the day rush. So the checkout line is incredibly long, which we find irritating, and we still can’t take our frustration out on the frantic lady working the register, who is overworked at her job as well. But, still in our eyes we see things so negatively like: We finally get to the checkout lines front and we pay for food and we get told to “Have a nice day!” In a voice that is the absolute voice of death to us at that juncture of our day. Then we have to take our flimsy plastic bags of groceries to our car with one crazy wheel that pulls to the left, all the way out to the crowded, bumpy, literary parking lot, and then we have the drive all the way home still in heavy, SUV intensive, rush hour traffic.
Everybody who works the “9-5” has dealt with this in some way and it has become a part of their routine, as well as many more boring, meaningless routines aside. So, the point here is that these are the exact moments where as choosing what to pay attention to, want to think and what to believe comes into play. Because the traffic jams, the crowded aisles and the checkout lines all give us time to think. If we all do not make a conscious effort of what we should be thinking about the perspective we should be seeing things from, then every time we go to shop we are going to be miserable because of our natural default setting, that we are the center of the universe and that everything is always about us: our hungriness, our desire to get home, and our overworked body. We have this nature in us to think that everybody is always in our way, unworthy people, and people that don’t work as hard as us. See these are examples of how not to think, and may not actually be actuality in the world to other people, it might just only be actuality to our ignorant selves. It seems that we forgot, that it was our choice to live and work the ways that we do. If we choose to think this way in a store or on the freeway, fine. Lots of us do. Except thinking this way tends to be so easy and automatic that it doesn’t have to be a choice, it is our natural default setting.
Maybe if we tailor our thinking to see the other perspective we can get out of this default setting. By maybe thinking that the SUV filled parking lot that is on the freeway actually has people in the SUVs because they were horrible auto accidents before and their therapist ordered them to be in a larger vehicle to make them feel safer. This may not actually be impossible. Or maybe the car that just cut us off on the freeway actually has more important needs than we do to get where they are going, like maybe rushing to their child in the hospital, so, maybe we are in his way. Or maybe we should acknowledge that all of the people inside the supermarket are just as bored and frustrated as we are, and that maybe they have more tedious routine-like painful lives than we do. But, of course we don’t think of it that way, because we are the center of the universe. If we really learn how to think, how to pay attention, then we will know there are other options. It will actually be within our power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer crazy type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred.
Because here’s the thing, while we can all debate over politics, religion, sports, or anything else in the world, one thing that we can all agree on that is Capital T true is that “we all have the choice of how we get to perceive everything, and what it is that we are going to worship.” But, let me just tell you that with that choice of what we want to worship, if money is what you worship you will never be content with what you have. If you worship your own bodies and sexual allure then as age starts to set in you will die a million deaths. If you worship the fact that you want to be seen as intellectual then at certain points you will feel as if you are incompetent. You see, the things that we worship are strictly a matter of default settings. They are the kind of worships that we gradually slip into day after day, getting more more selective about what we see and how we measure value without ever being fully aware of what we are doing. Society does not help us within this endeavor, with the rising cost of inflation, the need for power and control, puts us right back into our default settings.
But something we can control is getting out of our default setting by asking ourselves one question: If money were no object what would we be doing with our life’s? Or getting out of the default setting that "The few dollars that we have to give would not be enough to help somebody, so why give it all?"
The fact of the matter is, each and every one of us has the free will and the power to get out of these default settings of "Thinking we are the center of the world, so we can actually make a difference in it." We can achieve this by doing what we love and trying to making a difference in other people’s lives that we know we can make, whether that’s through monetary means or through granting mental and emotional help to others.
The real value of our lessons learned, in life, actually has nothing to do with knowledge and everything to do with simple awareness. Awareness of what is so real and essential, so hidden in plain sight all around us, all the time, that we have to keep reminding ourselves to take a look around and get out of those easy to fall in to default settings.
Each of us has a less literal and more figurative suitcase that we carry with us at all times. Our suitcases are what we carry and what we hold near and dear to our hearts. Occasionally, we need to open up our suitcase, so the world can see what is in it, regardless of being introvert or extrovert, or ambivert. We need to get out of those default settings that say, “What we have in our suitcase is not of value to the world.” Because every little thing that we have in our suitcase, that we hold near and dear to our hearts, and those special talents that we have, and those resources that we can provide to others, could be what makes all the difference in the world.
But I ask you a simple question: What is your inner wealth? What are the things that you have to give that can change other people’s lives?
As I try to empty out my suitcase from time to time, I do it with an understanding that I am being vulnerable, I am exposed and that people might see a side of me that they do not know. All of us have a fear of showing that one unique side of us, that hidden talent or passion, that we fear will not be accepted by people or we fear it will not be of true value to others, so why show that side of us at all?
One important aspect of my suitcase that not many people know about me, is my ability to put my thoughts into words. I’m not here to tell you that I am some world-class writer, or an incredible author of a Barnes & Noble top seller book, but I’m telling you that what I love to do, is write. I’m not necessarily one to be creative, and I do not have one ounce of musical or artistic ability in my life. The accountable side of me, as I try to be more and more accountable each day, says: not blame my parents for making me an un-creative, not musically talented and a not artistically talented person. But, that’s neither here nor there. What I’m about to share with you, is something that I have kept in my suitcase for a while, that I feel all of you should see. A poem i wrote about my life....
Making All the Right Wrong Turns
Some say I’m excessive, but I say I’m thorough,
so for that I write you this:
I once learned a valuable life lesson,
People always put so much emphasis on the beginning and the end.
Those two dates,
Your inception and departure from this beloved place
But, I’ve learned that the true emphasis should be on the time between
They call it the dash
To indicate how you lived during the time between
My newfound perception led me down a unique path.
Unique meaning one of a kind, not to be confused with
My story from beginning to end will always be unique;
It’s my story.
From inception, till this moment
I’ve led a blessed life there is no denying that,
And you’ll never see me question thy path.
In my younger years I was emotional, naïve and stubborn to say the least,
And to this day the stubborn quality has not left me.
I remain stubborn because I’m a fighter and won’t give in,
but my stubbornness has made me, contrary to popular belief, a person who will listen.
I’ve realized I don’t know it all,
regardless of what my pride says.
I’ve learned most in life when I have been wrong rather than right,
Those are new learning experiences.
That’s enough for me to keep hearing out what the wise have to say.
It’s been said life works in mysterious ways,
I can attest to that.
All the trials and tribulations since my youth
Have shown me the utmost proof
that these mysterious happenings are oftentimes the greatest blessings.
I realize life is short and even more unpredictable
one will never know when that dash can no longer be lived.
Which is why life has prompted me to give
Give most all that I have,
from time to money, from effort to acknowledgement.
What is life for if you can’t share it with all,
While doing what you love?
I’ve noted my greatest gifts that I have received in life are also the ones I’ve been able to give
Yet, many still believe receiving gifts is the only way to live.
Can you believe that I’ve been told I don’t have much to say?
I have mile long scrolls of notes in my mind,
which indicate that I think about many things each and every day.
Just when someone thinks I’m not listening,
is when I’m listening most intently.
It’s just that my speaking and acting philosophy relates to relevancy.
Some speak regardless of what they think that others may feel,
others say if you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all.
I say, only speak when it’s relevant. Time is too precious.
Some might say to that philosophy, Then how am I supposed to know where you stand?
I say, “just ask”…
Like everyone in life, death and tragedy has surrounded me.
I haven’t let it to define me
only motivate me to be better to honor those before me.
In life effort is key,
And in nearly ever relationship it’s the binding arm to coherency.
I’ve leaned and noted much over my 26 years.
Who I am today can in many ways be denoted to my supporters and peers.
Life tried to break me,
yet it only conquered my neck.
The rest stayed in tack and left my mind ready for whatever to come next.
The tragedy left me paralyzed and put me on wheels,
I laugh when I hear I’m paralyzed because I’m living life more fully than ever before.
What is a DISability anyways?
I am only “Able”
and I have been given the “Ability” now to be more than I ever could’ve before.
I grow scared of not being the dad that I want to be,
But still being a great dad is something that “I Can and Will Be”.
It won’t be the first time that I did something that I was once told I couldn’t.
People say its an impossibility to Be Perfect.
That’s okay it takes a crazy person to be unique.
Life is based off perception and is about the eyes of the beholder.
So, when may think you aren’t perfect,
there is one person that thinks you are imperfectly perfect,
because you are unique and you are yourself.
Just like, to the world you are one person, but to one person you may be the world.
So, when I wake up each day and think about what I strive to be
it truly just comes down to just me being me.
I don’t know how much time is left on my dash
and that’s okay
that’s more reason for me to take it one breath at a time and live day by day.
This path was cut out for me and that I will not deny,
in the words of O.D. (*see link below)
I truly believe that I’m “Making all the Right Wrong Turns” each time.
When my life comes to an end people will look at my photo album
and see those moments that I captured in time,
with all of my greatest supporters right there by my side.
The best part of all,
you don’t need legs to accomplish all of life’s test,
and I promise you one thing,
my stories not done yet
I am here to tell each and every one of you, that whatever it is that you have inside your suitcase, are not things that are meant to be hidden from the world and not to stay in the storage compartment of our lives. Sometimes, these are the most valuable assets and greatest gifts that we can show and give to the world that can make all the difference. So, I encourage each and every one of you to empty out that suitcase from time to time and truly think about what it is that you love in life. Because, when it comes down to it, in life, we must do what we love… You make the choice. Do what you love…
“The only way to do great work is to love what you do,” Steve Jobs once said. “If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle."
DONOR THANK YOU
O.D.- OLD DOMINION (COUNTRY MUSIC BAND) “WRONG TURNS” SONG LYRICS azlyrics.com/…rics/olddominion/wrongturns