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The Giving Tree

the-giving-treeShel Silverstein has left an indelible mark on many lives for a multitude of reasons. For some, itʼs the great relief in knowing theirs are not the only minds and ears taunted by the what-ifs. For others, itʼs the fun of reimagining the lives and intentions of the monsters that surround us in our childhood. Still for some it is the fun in wondering where life takes us and what lies beyond the point Where the Sidewalk Ends. For many, itʼs the long-lasting impact of the simplicity and beauty found on the branches of The Giving Tree.

My first encounter with The Giving Tree was somewhat unconventional. I was back in my college town for a weekend of memories relived and connections renewed. Typical to my trips ʻback home,ʼ I was spending Sunday afternoon with my mentor and friend Carrie. We had just finished off a distinctly western brunch at a new Fort Worth bistro and ended up on the patio of our favorite tap house. It was a breezeless bluebird day in late spring – the kind of day that makes everything seem fresh and wholesome.

My conversations with Carrie are always a funny mix of banter and deep discussions on lifeʼs purpose and meaning. It is customary and inevitable that we argue whose political beliefs are more sound – neither winning – but always conclude with a bit of knowledge gained and a small but healthy shift in perspective. After this particular exchange she made a comment about how “my side” needs a big dose of The Giving Tree to fix our ill-refute. Continue reading

You Are The Average of Your Relationships

17t0stkd96512jpgI can remember exactly when I started asking myself the hard questions. You know, the ones that are most important in life like: What is happiness?  What is my passion?  What am I going to contribute to the world with the life I live? How can be a better person? And so on…

I was a sophomore in college in a fraternity with 50 plus brothers, and had everything you could imagine – I was living the dream.  But I remember this feeling of loneliness and uncertainty that I just could not shake.  I later realized it was because I hadn’t yet discovered who I was.  I hadn’t found my passion or embraced the ideals, values, and lifestyle of leadership that I now try to live.

That semester I started working in the Dean of Students office and involved myself in several leadership programs and positions.  It was during that time that I learned about leadership – I mean true leadership – not the definition I had been using.  Before, I considered leadership as role with a title; but after lots of self-evaluation I realized leadership is a lifestyle one lives when they are passionate, hardworking, genuine, and willing to empower others to reach their full potential.  The Texas Student Leadership Forum was one of the places where I was inspired to better myself.

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Four Tenets

elephant-blind-compoThree blind men were asked to touch an elephant and describe it to the other two men. One felt the leg, and he told his friends that the elephant was like a tree. Another felt the tail and told his friends that an elephant was like a rope. The third man felt the ear and said the elephant was like a leaf. All the men were right, but they confused the respective parts for the whole.

The risk we run when we study the four tenets individually is that we’ll forget their significance when applied together. Make no mistake, the tenets are not solely good principals to live by, they’re a comprehensive worldview that contrasts sharply with the bill of goods we’re sold in our culture and at our schools.

The lie we’re bombarded with is that life is about us. We’re told that more consumption, more experiences, and more sex will make us happy. We’re told that staying happy is the best use of our time, talent, and treasures. I’ve become convicted that the four tenets challenge that perspective directly. I think we each know this is not a truth upon which we can build and sustain a fulfilling life.

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On Friendship

I will always remember Tuesday mornings. Not just because I was able to wake up at the crack of dawn to go eat two eggs over medium, bacon, hash browns, and one piece of wheat toast, but because I spent an hour or two with a true friend. At this point in life I can finally see friendships and relationships come and go, but there are those friends that will always be there. This was one of those friends; this was one of those relationships.

The six months we spent having breakfast at the local diner brought up discussions ranging from politics, drama at work, families and the ladies that would come and go in our lives. When you have a true friendship and a real relationship, everything is on the table. Quite often it takes a while to get over the embarrassment of that pending conversation, but when you break the barrier it makes everything so much easier. You finally have someone else to speak with about what you are really thinking. Someone else is able to completely understand you as a person and provide the valuable insight you might need to apply to a life situation.

This is a true friendship, not just a frequent companion.

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Self Knowledge & Purpose

forrest-gump1What is my purpose in life?

Just a couple of years out of college, I have found the ability to be self-aware of one’s ultimate reason for existing on this Earth to be one of the most frustrating questions a person can have.

Since the beginning of complex thought, philosophers, religious scholars, and great thinkers alike have pondered whether or not our individual purpose is our own choice – or has it been predetermined?

One such great thinker by the name of Forrest Gump, stated: “I don’t know if we each have a destiny, or if we’re all just floating around accidental-like on a breeze, but I, I think maybe it’s both.”

This is certainly a question that I have personally struggled with for quite some time and it’s only recently that I have come terms with this grand Question, and finally allowed my mind to be at ease with the conclusions I have made.

I find the thought of an ultimate destiny to be very romantic and empowering; however, this thought also makes things seem a little boring.  Where is the fun in life if, who you are to be isn’t even really up to you?  Yet, at the same time, the way life plays out so beautifully sometimes, I don’t think I can dismiss the idea of destiny.  It is with these thoughts that I have come to agree with Mr. Gump.  We are all presented with many forks in the road, each path with its own destiny and purpose. But it is our choice as to which path and which destiny is ours. Continue reading