Wise Words for Weary Warriors
“Any path is only a path, and there is no affront, to oneself or to others, in dropping it if that is what your heart tells you…Look at every path closely and deliberately. Try it as many times as you think necessary. Then ask yourself, and yourself alone, one question…Does this path have a heart? If it does, the path is good; if it doesn’t it is of no use.”
— Carlos Castaneda, The Teachings of Don Juan
I was sitting in a reception area, waiting for my financial planners — two men — to call me into their office to discuss my finances. But it was a woman (I think she was their assistant), who finally came out of the office. She sat down beside me.
“Well?” I asked.
The woman shook her head. “I think you’d be wise to call it quits.”
She was referring to my company.
“It’s simply costing you too much to run,” she said.
I sighed. “I know.”
“I came across a yellow sticky in your notes with your handwriting on it,” she continued. “And it said, ‘I think it’s time to throw in the towel.’”
I nodded, trying not to cry. “I guess I was hoping you guys would tell me otherwise.”
She took my hand. “It’s for the best, dear.”
“You’re right,” I said. And the tears came.
Then my alarm clock went off and I sat up in bed. And in that first moment of recall, an unmistakeable sense of relief washed over me. How easy it would be to just give up. Not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur. The nice lady in my dream was probably right.
I got out of bed and went into the kitchen to start coffee. Then I sat on the couch and wrote the dream down in my journal. And I got to thinking…maybe the lady wasn’t right. Perhaps she was playing Devil’s Advocate and knew that telling me what I thought I wanted to hear would make me realize how much I really didn’t.
Although throwing in the towel on my business would be the easiest path to take, it wouldn’t be the right one because my company has a heart…my heart. And that alone makes it worth fighting for.
So I got up from the couch, showered and got on with my day — which, interestingly, entailed attending a seminar by international speaker and trainer, Brian Willis. Brian’s presentation was entitled Harnessing the Winning Mind and Warrior Spirit.
And wouldn’t you know it but what Brian had to say was precisely what I needed to hear.
The seminar was geared towards police officers and military personnel but the wisdom shared was applicable to anyone. For I am realizing we are all warriors in one form or another…I mean, if we’re at least trying to achieve some sort of good in a world that desperately needs us to.
“The warrior fights because he believes that he is fighting for something good, something positive, something that will improve the quality of the world around him. The warrior never forgets that he is an example and so will always act accordingly. He is a leader, and when there is no one else to lead, the warrior must lead himself forward to a different, higher standard.”
— Richard J. Machowicz, Unleashing the Warrior Within
The more I listened to Brian’s presentation — some of which I’d heard before in his seminars over the years but obviously needed a reminder — the more I realized that for my business, failure wasn’t an option.
“Victory at all costs, victory in spite of terror, victory however long and hard the road may be; for without victory there is no survival.”
— Sir Winston Churchill
In fact, despite what the nice lady in my dream said, failure wasn’t even on the table because the success of my business is not just about me. For I can do the work I love most — writing — with or without my own company.
Rather, my business is about collaborating with others to create works that inspire, encourage and challenge people to effect positive change in themselves and the world around them. As such, my company can be a catalyst for achieving far greater things than we could achieve on our own as individuals. And my company gives people opportunities, just as I have been given so many.
If I gave up on my business, I would not physically die, no. But I made the decision a long time ago to do far more than merely survive this life.
I left Brian’s presentation with eighteen pages of notes to refer to, as I continue to revise my business strategy and hone my daily habits.
Here are the three key tips I took away:
1) Ask yourself this question: What’s Important Now?
Otherwise known as W.I.N., this question is powerful.
Every day, we make dozens of choices. By asking myself this question multiple times throughout the day, I find it easier to keep on track with achieving what is really most important.
Whether my answer is to get out into nature and walk my dog, sit at my laptop and work for an hour on a challenging essay, or send out an e-mail to a potential advertiser, asking this question throughout the day helps prioritize tasks. The trick, of course, is to answer honestly!
2) Face the Facts; Keep the Faith
“Retain unwavering faith that you can and will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties, and that at the same time have the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality.”
— The Stockdale Paradox
Having faith that, despite the odds and obstacles, all will be well is not an easy thing to do…especially since “well” is a highly subjective term that depends a great deal on one’s attitude. And yet, without faith, it’s an awfully hard slog. So faith I shall have.
3) What is one thing you can start doing differently today?
For me, it is learning to implement into my day a healthier sense of rhythm – versus forcing myself to stick to a set routine.
I tend to become a bit obsessed with ticking tasks off my to-do list, preferably in the order in which they appear, rather than on focusing on doing the tasks themselves well…and enjoying the process.
So I turned to one of my favourite authors for this bit of advice:
“It is far more creative to work with the idea of mindfulness rather than the idea of will. Too often people try to change their lives by using the will as a kind of hammer to beat their life into proper shape.”
– John O’Donohue, Anam Cara; A Book of Celtic Wisdom
If our path has a heart, then it is good. But it is up to us to ensure each step we take on that path is worthy of the warriors we are. As Albert Einstein said, “To be a warrior is to learn to be genuine in every moment of your life.”
Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening. She is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions and and the Board Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. Brian Willis is the CEO of Winning Mind Training.
Not the vegetable – the sport
A year ago, I returned to the squash court after a twenty-year hiatus (hence the really outdated safety glasses in the photo above!). I love the game. Unfortunately, I had to stop again because my knee was acting up…too many years spent pounding through the bumps on the ski hill finally caught up to me, I suspect.
But last spring, my friend Trisha and I had a ball on the squash court. We took weekly lessons from an instructor by the name of Rick, a retired elementary school teacher – which probably explains his patience.
Rick broke down the game of squash for us. Here is a summary of what I learned…for as you’ll see, learning to play squash well is perhaps rather like learning to live well.
The Rules of the Game
1. Find the teachers who care enough to teach you, even when they don’t get paid.
2. The best teachers are far more concerned with making you a better player than making you feel better about your game.
3. After the teacher is gone is often when you finally learn the lessons.
4. Take time to learn the basic skills.
5. The goal is to learn to hit the ball well – not just hit it.
6. Practice the basic skills over and over again until you’ve mastered them.
7. Good skills become good habits.
8. If you have developed good habits, when game time comes these will automatically kick in.
9. There is a difference between being taught skills and actually learning them.
10. The more you put your entire self into hitting the ball, the more impactful your efforts will be.
11. Learn skills first; strategy second.
12. Practice the skills on your own before rallying with a partner.
13. Practice one component of the skill over and over again before moving on to the next component.
14. Know the difference between a rally and a game.
a) A rally is when you hit the ball to your partner so that he or she can return it.
b) A game is when you hit the ball to your opponent so that he or she can’t return it.
14. Slow down your rally: the purpose is to develop your skills not score a point.
15. You will NOT win the game if you haven’t mastered the basic skills.
And what is “the game” but a happy, peaceful, purposeful life?
But, just like in a good game of squash, real life speeds up. So if we don’t have good habits firmly in place, which for me are: proper rest; good nutrition, clear priorities; balance; living within my means; exercise; fun; spending time in nature; ability to say no to unreasonable demands on my time; healthy boundaries in place; time with friends, family and pets; downtime on my own; creative time for writing; time for e-mail and business correspondence; time for household chores; and so on, when life does get busy again, I’ve learned the hard way (more than once) I won’t last very long in the game.
But unlike a game of squash, the stakes of losing in life are significantly higher.
It’s called burnout. And I can tell I’m heading towards burnout when:
- I start to feel overwhelmed
- I get really sad for no apparent reason
- I am absolutely exhausted
- I burst into tears easily
- I get really stressed out
- I get sick
- It feels like an elephant is standing on my chest
- I get depressed
- I lose focus
- I want to give up
- I question my purpose
- I stop smiling
- I make poor decisions
- I go deeper into debt
And then, if I still refuse to admit I’m losing the game, my cluster migraines start again and I am effectively yanked from the court – sidelined – for a month or more.
The “game” – what we perceive to be a good life – is different for each of us, of course, as are the costs of losing.
However, regardless of our individual situations, if we don’t take time to learn the necessary life skills that will get us from where we are to where we want to go – in as healthy and happy ways as possible – and then practice those skills on our own, then hone them in rallies with the people around us, then we won’t develop the good habits that will become automatic for when game time comes.
And game time always comes; if we’re still breathing, we’re technically still in the game.
But just as the game of squash is broken down into the necessary skills that, when practiced enough in non-game conditions become good habits, so it is with life…for how we spend our days is how we spend our lives
Maryanne Pope is the author of A Widow’s Awakening and the upcoming Barrier Removed; A Tough Love Guide to Achieving Dreams. She is the CEO of Pink Gazelle Productions Inc. and the Board Chair of the John Petropoulos Memorial Fund. Maryanne lives on Vancouver Island, British Columbia.
The Tim Tam Slam
Worried about not getting enough chocolate-intake this Valentine’s Day?
I can help!
Fun for the whole family, the Tim Tam Slam is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser. My friend, Ann, was the first to teach me the fine art of The Slam, which I will share with you now.
However, please note: proper technique is essential. If you don’t time the cookie-placement-on-the-tongue correctly, things can get very messy. My niece, Melly, learned this the hard way. And Tim Tams are not cookies you want to waste.
First off, you will need to buy a package of Tim Tams. Here’s what the package looks like:
Then, here’s how to do the Tim Tam Slam:
1. Make a cup of tea (Earl Grey is best) or hot chocolate
2. Open package of Tim Tam Cookies (Double Chocolate are best, Caramel a close second)
3. Bite off the very end of cookie. Bite off other end of cookie.
4. Using the Tim Tam as a straw, sip a bit of tea or hot chocolate into cookie.
5. Immediately place the cookie on your tongue (closing your mouth is a good idea) and then savour the melting chocolate.
The experience should be like…warm chocolate lava gently flowing from a volcano.
If you dare give it a try, do send us your photos of The Tim Tam Slam in action…and we’ll post ‘em on the PGP homepage.
Here’s a shot of my friend, Terri, mid-Slam: