Don’t Be Afraid to Accept the Challenge

The challenges I face today will make me better tomorrow.

The older and wiser version of yourself will be glad you did.

I am finding it difficult to pick up my guitars. They sit just across the room from me, and yet I avoid looking at them or listening as they call for me to pick them up and play. It’s nothing they did wrong. In fact, my difficulty is that I know I suck.

We generally seem to gravitate towards doing those things we are good at and shy away from our areas of weakness. This is a big problem. When trying to develop a new skill or hobby, we are usually unsatisfied with the results that we are getting. Not only that, but we will continue to perform poorly at the new technique until we have enough experience to feel confident, or we decide to leave our egos behind and just make a go of it. Here are four things we can both do to make some progress.

Give yourself some time

Life is a marathon, not a sprint. To make tangible improvement takes effort and time. No time invested results in zero gain. It’s that simple. Start with scheduling time to work on your new skill. Develop a practice routine and stick to it. I find it easier to do this if I put it on the calendar as a recurring task. To get from where you are to where you want to be you’ll need to invest your time, lose your fear of failure, and learn to enjoy the process.

Lower your expectations

It’s not uncommon to give ourselves unrealistic timetables for seeing remarkable progress. Slow down, and give yourself the benefit of the doubt. For me, that means learning to play the super-easy tunes from memory. No fancy strumming patterns just simple down strums to the beat from beginning to end. Once I can do that, I can add some upstrokes to make it sound more interesting. What is the most basic level of achievement that lets you know you are on the right track?

Look for incremental improvement

I’m not going to go from complete beginner to improvisational virtuoso in a year, and neither are you. Whether you are growing your spreadsheet skills, learning a foreign language, or have picked up a new musical instrument. You will go further if you are observant of signs that you are getting better. Analyze your progress and identify what you are doing better this week compared to last. That will help you to remain motivated and continue to try.

Choose the tougher road

There will be slips too. You may have a comparable skill that you can substitute for the one you are learning. That makes it easy to revert to your previous habits. Unfortunately, you won’t improve that way. You need to challenge the new skill. Sometimes it means taking a step backward so that you can take two forwards.

In baseball, switch hitters are usually better from one side of the plate than the other. For example, the greatest switch hitter of all time, Mickey Mantle’s batting average was 50 points higher from the right side of the plate (.330 vs. .281 from the left). Just having the ability to do both sent fear through the opposing manager regardless of where The Mick stood (372 home runs lefty and 164 batting right). Would you rather pitch to a right-handed hitter that gets on base an awful lot or a left-handed power hitter? There is no correct answer to that question.

Currently, Shohei Ohtani probably spends more hours practicing his craft than any other player in the majors. Because he needs to be both a good starting pitcher and a hitter worthy of a place in the lineup on the days he is not on the mound. That’s a tall order.

The same is true for you. The only way to develop new skills and abilities is to work at them and put them on display.

Being good at new skills and abilities is fun. Going through the learning process is not. For me, it means not letting my guitars collect dust, and playing easier versions of the songs I like. It also requires that I add guitar time to my schedule and find joy in my improvements, no matter how small. I could write about music. I am pretty good at that. Though I think it would be more fun to play. I know the older, wiser version of myself will thank me for sticking with it.

This post originally appeared on Medium.com.

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The challenges I face today will make me better tomorrow.

Don’t Be Afraid to Accept the Challenge

The older and wiser version of yourself will be glad you did. I am finding it difficult to pick up my guitars. They sit just across the room from me, and yet I avoid looking at them or listening as they call for me to pick them up and play. It’s nothing they did wrong.

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Are You Really Doing That For Free!?

There are greater rewards than money

For 19 days, I volunteered at the Olympics and rarely did a day pass where one of my friends or family members would ask; are you really doing that for free?

Just looking at the featured image will tell you, I was paid in something more valuable than money. The woman in that picture is my friend’s mother on her 86th birthday. Fortunately, I had that day off! The joy on her face when I shared my pinned-up lanyard with her is priceless. To me, it’s a reminder of the power and stories the Olympics bring to people all over the world. Fans or no fans,The Olympics is the world’s largest envent.

I didn’t meet any current athletes, though I did see my share of past Olympians. One older gentleman even went through the security check wearing his gold medal. Wow! I had opportunities to converse with people from all over the world. I shared conversations with IOC members, National Olympic Committee (NOC) Directors, and volunteers not just from wideoff places but from my own neighborhood, too. Hopefully, some of these people will remain friends for years to come.

This is a picture of me and my new friend Anad. He is originally from India and worked as an Olympic Family Assistant (OFA). He is kind and helpful. An OFA is like a host parent for the NOC and IOC members. They help their assigned NOC members to navigate the city and its intricacies, arrange transportation and ensure that their guest’s needs are met (as much as is possible during a COVID lockdown) while visiting for the Olympics. Anad, like me, was always smiling. That may be one reason why his guests always seemed so happy when they came back to the hotel. Working with him was a joy I would have never had if I’d been worried about how much I wasn’t getting paid.

I gained the title of Pin King because I had more pins than anyone on the team (22 pins in 19 days). As I stated in Giving Smiles and Solving Problems, some of these pins were given as a token of gratitude. Others were dispersed in moments of joy and serendipity.

Like this necktie from Tonga. It was given to me by a member of their NOC as she was getting ready to depart for the airport. These Olympic mementos can not be bought. In fact, to me, they are priceless.

I’ll never forget (and probably will embellish in the years to come) the second Saturday of the Games. I was working the information desk at NOC headquarters, and the electricity was phenomenal. People waving flags in the lobby, folks announcing their countrymen and women making medal rounds, others dancing through the lobby, and the general sense of camaraderie. One person even left a wooden sculpture at the Accommodation Desk as a gift of friendship. So much fun!

I am so tired of working at home alone all day, every day. There is no telecommuting at the Olympics. What a breath of fresh air it was to get out and meet people every day. I was reminded of the serendipitous experiences that can happen when in the presence of other people. Interacting with both customers and staff was an opportunity to sharpen my communication skills and flash the humorous side of my personality. I even gained strength in my legs from all the walking!

Photo by Jeswin Thomas on Unsplash
Photo by Kashish Lamba on Unsplash

I found a new taqueria that reminded me of being back in California. I was not expecting much. But when I filled his mouth with the tacos, I was overwhelmed with joy. Taco Rico was almost like being back home. If not for the Olympics, I never would have found this gem.

And speaking of memories of home, I can’t remember the last time I had a Reuben Sandwich. The one I had at Ark Hills Cafe on one of my lunch breaks was fab! It brought back memories of lunch with my grandfather, who passed away earlier this summer at 100-years-old.

By Ernesto Andrade - Flickr, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3022275

So did I work for free? Not really, I gained valuable volunteer experience, met some amazing people, reminisced of home, ate some great food, and have memories that will last a lifetime. Those things are far more valuable than cash.

Originally published on Medium.com

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Tokyo 2020 – Ready to Serve

Yesterday was my first day of volunteer activities for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and it was full of intrigue. From the start to the end, it was all an enjoyable learning experience. Step 1 – Leave early, just in case I learned Murphy’s law, If something can go wrong, it will, very early in my

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Pin Collecting at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics

Today will be my 13th day of volunteer activities, and along the way, I have enjoyed every day. You can check my previous post for evidence of that. One thing that has really become an interesting measure of the ability of each one of us volunteers to make a difference is the number of pins we receive.

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athletes filling the Olympic Rings

We Can Transform the World

Participating in the Olympics is an opportunity to be on the world stage. It is a chance to let your light shine and brighten the lives of people from all over the world. While the number of people that we Tokyo 2020 volunteers will get to interact with is going to be smaller than originally

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Tokyo 2020 Olympic Volunteer

My Tokyo 2020 Olympic Journey

The Olympics brings to mind an ideal of unity, sportsmanship and inclusion like no other event. These ideals are what I signed up for. Being part of such a massive global event, I reasoned, would surely be a beneficial experience.

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Live your life with purpose

Living a life of purpose makes it worth celebrating. It creates wealth that can never be taken away. Living with purpose gives you a reason to get out of bed every morning and leaves you feeling content as you lay your head down on your pillow each night.

Though, you may find it difficult to focus in on what you are meant to contribute in your lifetime. Finding purpose is something important, and you can discover yours by listening for your calling or creating yourself.

As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.

Listen to Your Environment

What were you born to do? Finding purpose from what comes naturally and in areas which you excel at puts you a step ahead. You may feel the need to deny these skills and abilities because they make you stand out from your peers. Don’t!

You were born to be special. Your natural talents are actually just a starting point. They give you opportunities to move beyond the norm and achieve unbelievable success if you are bold enough to embrace that.

Many times in sports the best players not only have the most ability but also the strongest work ethic. They are the ones who show up early and stay late. These players work with private coaches during the off season to get 1% better, knowing that those gains move them from great to all-stars and Hall of Fame level careers. If you are willing to put in the work, you can become spectacular too.

What comes easy for you?

There are things you do easily, and often dismissed as not a big deal, that are difficult for others to accomplish. Consider how you can use those abilities to make a difference in your life and the lives of others. Find steps to expand and develop these talents.

What do you like to do?

Consider some things you like to do and how you can make an impact through those. Maybe you are like me, a generalist as opposed to a specialist. I dabble in many areas from music to neuroscience with just a sliver of knowledge in a variety of areas. This joy for education helps me to understand situations and people in novel ways that few others see. I can then transfer information taken from one source and apply it to another. Helping bridge gaps for others.

Is there a purpose hiding in your past?

While traumatic experiences create memories that you would rather forget, you have survived a harrowing experience. As you ponder, why me? Consider what you can do to find a sense of purpose that takes you out of that unpleasantness and into an opportunity to aid others who may find themselves in similar situations to your own.

Your horrific experience is not the end of your life, just a chapter of it. Now discover what comes next and unlock the amazing powers that have been growing inside of you, waiting for the opportunity to be utilized.

Such was the case with Louis Braille, who lost his sight at the age of three. Frustrated by the lack of written knowledge available to those that could not see, he invented the Braille writing system by the age of 15.

Despite the system not being utilized in his lifetime, he continued to perfect it for uses in music, science and mathematics, textbooks, popular writing and correspondence. His system is still used around the world today as the de facto international written communication standard for the blind.

You may be like Louis Braille, finding the strength and purpose in your life through survival. Look those life altering experiences in the face. Then find the courage to make a difference in your life and the lives of others.

If you are finding it difficult to surmount those experiences, take a deep breath and do what you can to put the past behind you. What’s done is done, it’s history. Focus on today, and how you can build yourself a brighter tomorrow.

Sometimes it's just a matter of serendipity

If you have been fortunate enough to find talent and purpose through a serendipitous experience, such as a friend’s suggestion to try a new activity, or perhaps you stumbled on a fresh idea that has meaning for you in a video, article, or class, take the time to deeply explore these opportunities and the life changing effect success in one of these areas could have for you.

This is how I got started in writing. A friend suggested I try writing for an audience, and it has given me a way to share ideas and experiences with more people than I could have ever imagined. It’s possible that you are being guided towards a life changing contribution too.

Above all, listen. Regardless of how it got there, a desire to contribute is sprouting inside of you, and it is up to you to discover and nurture that.

When all else fails, create your own purpose

If you have difficulty finding purpose in your life through listening to your environment and past experiences, you can manufacture it.

Consider how you want to contribute and go for it. Take action every day or week, no matter how small. As you make progress, you will gain momentum. That force will help you through the slow times when you feel like your contributions are insignificant and a waste of time. They are neither. Sometimes the steps and success are visible and rewarding, and other times life is just a grind.

As you work to make contributions, take some time to get the bird’s-eye view. Stop and reflect on your journey. That will help you understand the next few steps forward. Don’t be afraid to readjust your methods and goals. With the clearer vision you have after you have gotten down the road a bit, you can chart more effective future steps.

The greatest achievement was at first and for a time a dream. The oak sleeps in the acorn, the bird waits in the egg, and in the highest vision of the soul a waking angel stirs. Dreams are the seedlings of realities.

Summary

Reacquaint yourself with those experiences where you felt you had made a difference, even in the smallest of ways. Then focus on how you can continue to have an impact by taking action one step at a time. In these ways, your life will have a definite purpose.

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An Opportunity in Disguise

It’s only failure if you don’t learn from the experience

I recently completed my six-month evaluation and it has been a year of terrific growth. However, no assessment is complete without looking at how you got there. The road here has not been smooth. In fact, it’s had a lot of ups and downs, that’s true for everyone. But what’s amazing is that where I am now would not have been possible without those trials and tribulations. Opportunities often come disguised as failures.

In the past, I leveraged an interest in marketing into a position as a brand manager, developed a top-rated podcast, managed an international call centre that made $3 million on a single event, and helped clients become confident presenters and meeting facilitators. Yet, there were times I wondered if I’d wasted my life. There were times when I felt absolutely worthless and that I couldn’t go on. Nevertheless, in the last six months, I’ve become a professional writer, started an online coaching business and developed my own website. All the while adding a group of successful people to both my personal and professional networks. And I’m just getting started.

It’s not where you have been that matters, it’s where you are going.

What I’ve learned from these experiences is that life prepares us for what comes next. We may not be able to see what lies ahead. But God knows. Living with trust and faith (regardless of who or what you believe in) I can accept that everything I experience is getting me ready for what comes next. Bruce Lee said, “be like water.” Living that way reveals possibilities.

Viewing my past experiences as valuable lessons for my future allows me to continue growing, and living the entirety of my life without regret. Of course, there are things I wish I could’ve done better, but I can’t do them better. They’ve already been done. But going forward, I can learn how to be more thoughtful in similar situations.No regrets, only lessons to be learned.

This philosophy gives me a different perspective on life’s challenges than many have. When a friend is sad about the passing of someone close to them, I say: “You’re lucky to have had that person in your life.” When looking back on losing a job, I say: ”I’ve contributed all I could to that company. It’s time to make new ripples.” If a colleague is apprehensive about their future, I say: “What can you do today to make your tomorrows better?”

You see, the future is what you create with your present actions. When you choose to binge watch TV all weekend or focus on what is happening in the news, you are choosing to let others control your mind and heart. When you go for a walk in nature and experience your surroundings or spend time discussing how to solve meaningful dilemmas, you are deciding to expand your skills and abilities of perception. Make meaningful decisions.

Not every day is sunny

Days that seem the worst are actually some of the best, in reflection. There were days I felt that I hadn’t accomplished anything. On a recent Monday, no to-do’s were crossed off my list, a new project without clear objectives was added to my responsibilities, and a night out with friends was cancelled.

Looking back at the end of the week I realized when no to-do’s were crossed off I actually moved a couple projects forward and then was able to complete them by the end of the week. The new project dumped in my lap was to develop a personality assessment. In this project, I will use the knowledge and skills I have developed in several of my past jobs and assignments all on one project. Then Wednesday night my boss asked me to do a presentation for one of our top clients on Friday (just three days later). It’s a good thing the plan to meet with my friends was rescheduled. I might not have had time to work on the presentation and gone out. The point is, I did accomplish things that week. But I didn’t see those accomplishments would be possible on Monday until I reframed them in my mind. In retrospect, it actually was a fantastic week!

We warriors of light must be prepared to have patience in difficult times and to know the Universe is conspiring in our favor, even though we may not understand how. — Paulo Coelho

Just put it out there

If there is one takeaway from all of this, it is to seek opportunity. That is how we truly grow and are presented with the experiences that will make us better people. Don’t wait for the stars to align, they never will. Don’t doubt your own skill or abilities. The tools you need to succeed will find you. Don’t get discouraged when you get downsized or fired. It’s time for something new. Have a dream, make a long term goal, expect the unexpected and believe with all your mind and heart that it is possible. Finally, look at each detour as a learning experience. Though they may come disguised as problems or failures, your dreams will find you. Be ready.

This post originally appeared in ILLUMINATION

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How to Create Effective Training

A guide to avoiding training that sucks As an entrepreneur, one of the hardest things you will do is bring new people on board to work your vision. The business has been your baby since its inception. Now you need to dilute that passion with employees. Not only that, but they also need to understand

Read More »