Inspiration from Susan David, Muhammad Ali, Margo Price, Jeremy Ivey, and More

Once a month (or so), I share a dozen things that have inspired me to greater personal, professional, and financial success in my life. I hope they bring similar success to your life. Please enjoy the archives of earlier collections of inspirational things.

Of all of the things I’ve read lately about all of the challenges facing us, this has hit home for me the most and given me the most positive food for thought.

Virtually every one of us right now is experiencing some form of serious discomfort. All of us. If you’re lucky, it’s mostly just due to dealing with changes in all of your routines with a healthy dollop of scary news on top of it. It only gets more uncomfortable and painful from there, cycling through job loss, massive financial uncertainty, health concerns, loss of loved ones… it’s an almost endless litany of individual stress, but it’s something that all of us are trying to deal with.

For me, there’s something good in that shared experience. I’m not alone in feeling this way. I’m not alone with this sense of discomfort and general worry. Pretty much everyone else is feeling it, too. To me, that’s a powerful uniter, and it’s a really powerful way to help me see the struggles of others in a better way.

We are all in this boat together. We’re all trying to deal with that same feeling of discomfort and grief, all of us. Some have much more of a load, but all of us are carrying a burden right now. Be a little extra patient. Be a little extra kind.

2. Muhammad Ali on how you treat others

“I don’t trust anyone who’s nice to me but rude to the waiter. Because they would treat me the same way if I were in that position.” – Muhammad Ali

Think about the people you rely on to get through life. The medical professionals. The people who bring food to your local store. The people who pick up your trash. The people who keep the power running.

It’s easy to think highly of them now because of the risks they’re taking in merely performing their jobs.

However, the reality is that so many people do thankless jobs to ensure that we have a nice quality of life. They keep us safe. They keep food available. They keep health care available.

The people that keep our modern world running – and it’s an awful lot of us – deserve to be treated like, well, people. Keep that in mind as you interact with others. How would you like to be treated in their shoes? How overwhelmed are they? How much of a difference does a little bit of appreciation and kindness make when you’re doing a tough job?

From the description:

“Life’s beauty is inseparable from its fragility,” says psychologist Susan David. In a special virtual conversation, she shares wisdom on how to build resilience, courage and joy in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Responding to listeners’ questions from across the globe, she offers ways to talk to your children about their emotions, keep focus during the crisis and help those working on the front lines.

I listened to this when I was having a very rough day and it helped quite a lot. There are a lot of good points from the beginning to end, but the part that really stuck with me was the sense that I need to balance keeping myself charged and being the best I can for the people in my life, more than ever.

So many people are giving so much right now. What I can give is the best of who I am to my kids, to my wife, and to the many other people I care about (including my readers). It’s the only way I know how to do honor to the many sacrifices so many others are making.

It is really tempting to fall into a hole, to just hide under blankets and watch my phone and watch movies, but what does that do? It doesn’t do anything. It just passes the day.

We need more. We need to be more. This video really reminded me of that.

Go out there and make today great, for yourself and for those around you, to the best of your ability.

4. Chuck Palahniuk on the scars of happiness

“It’s so hard to forget pain, but it’s even harder to remember sweetness. We have no scar to show for happiness. We learn so little from peace.” – Chuck Palahniuk

It is always so much easier to dwell on the bad things in life, to deal with the hard memories and the hard experiences. We let ourselves be defined by pain and suffering.

It’s not that pain and suffering that makes life worthwhile. It’s happiness and sweetness and love. It’s laughing deep. It’s those moments when you feel good.

As I write this, my mind wants to dwell on the troubles, but if I stop and look out the window for a bit, I see my son out in the yard endlessly dribbling his soccer ball from one end of the yard to the other, back and forth, back and forth. He absolutely loves playing soccer and although he’s disappointed that his spring season seems to be canceled, he still sees an opportunity here to get better at his game. Rather than feeling bad about things, he’s looking on the bright side of the situation.

That’s an inspiration for me. He’s out there thinking about all of the things he loves about soccer, all of the moments he’s really enjoyed playing the game, and he’s channeling them into something positive, something he can control.

Recall those moments. Recall those good things. Lean into them. Your life will be better for it.

From the description:

The Tiny Desk is working from home for the foreseeable future. Introducing NPR Music’s Tiny Desk (Home) Concerts, bringing you performances from across the country and the world. It’s the same spirit — stripped-down sets, an intimate setting — just a different space.

Margo Price and her husband, Jeremy Ivey, performed a Tiny Desk (Home) Concert from their Nashville attic. Behind them are two handmade signs inspired by John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Bed-In For Peace that simply reads “Stay Home” and “Save Lives.” In addition to the rapidly spreading virus, Nashville was recently ravaged by tornadoes. Margo and Jeremy are safely quarantined with two children, their dog and cat, and guitars in hand. They played “Stone Me,” a song they co-wrote and included on Margo’s upcoming album, That’s How Rumors Get Started.

Margo and Jeremy dedicated this concert to all those that are struggling right now and thank “all the people still out there working, the doctors, all the sanitation people, everybody out there just doing what they have to do to so we can survive, all the people working in grocery stores. And to everyone who has lost their job, we feel you.” They ended the set with a premiere, a song called “Someone Else’s Problem,” that they wrote together on an airplane while Margo was pregnant. It’s a song dealing with the guilt many of us have, being part of a problem instead of part of a solution.

The NPR Tiny Desk concert series that NPR has posted on Youtube for years and I’ve been listening to daily for a long time. Sometimes I love the performers and performances and listen to them over and over; other times, it doesn’t click with me but I appreciate the skill and effort.

Given the need for social distancing, these concerts have changed recently and now feature performers performing at home. The recording setup is a little rougher, but the sense of “we’re all in this together” is incredible.

This has been my favorite of the “at home” series so far, one that I’ve played several times already and anticipate many more listens to come.

6. Alan Watts on anxiety

“No amount of anxiety makes any difference to anything that’s going to happen.” – Alan Watts

Anxiety over things you cannot control is a wasted emotion. It makes you feel worse, alters your emotions in a poor way, and likely harms your immune system as well.

Pay less attention to the things you can’t control, down to the point of only getting enough information to shape our own actions. Pay more attention to the things you can control. It takes a lot of practice and, for many of us, takes some change to how we live our lives.

You’ll find that it really helps, especially in uncertain moments like these.

7. Angela Duckworth on endurance

“Enthusiasm is common. Endurance is rare.” – Angela Duckworth

We’ve all felt this. We start a new initiative, it’s new and exciting, we see some promising quick results, and everything feels great.

Then the days pass. And the weeks pass. Perhaps the results aren’t as great as they were at the start. It’s not nearly as exciting. You start to feel frustrated and just tired of it.

That’s when success happens or failure happens. Success happens when you stick with it, when you show endurance. Failure happens when you give up, even when you know you’re on the right path, because it’s hard.

Perseverance and grit matter.

8. Togetherness, at a distance

In our neighborhood, I’ve seen lots of little things happen that are a sign of togetherness and community at a distance.

A bunch of people wrote birthday greetings to a 5-year-old girl sad that her first big birthday party had been canceled.

The elementary and middle school teachers drove around the area on a course designed to go by the homes of most of their students, waving at them and the children waving back.

People have put bears and hearts in their windows. Several people hooked up their holiday lights and turned them on again.

We can’t be physically together, but we can still be together.

9. Vivian Greene on the storms of life

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass… It’s about learning to dance in the rain.” – Vivian Greene

We are all facing a storm. How do we find the strength to dance in the rain?

I’m finding it by playing with my kids, by having a lot of family movie nights, by reading good books, by cuddling with my wife, by trying my best to find meaningful things to write about.

It’s not about pretending it’s not raining, but about learning how to dance anyway.

10. Henry David Thoreau on being good for something

“Aim above morality. Be not simply good, be good for something.” – Henry David Thoreau

As you think about the actions of your daily life in the coming days and weeks and months, ask yourself not just whether you’re doing the right thing, but whether you’re doing the best thing.

Most choices in life are more than just choosing one option or the other. We often have a spectrum of choices before us and we often make those choices in an instant.

But are those choices right? Do they just lift me up, or do they lift up the people around me, too?

Step back and ask yourself whether the things you’re doing in every aspect of your life are simply good, or whether they’re good for something. Are you helping people that are struggling, even by just giving them a break? Are you showing love to those in your life?

Don’t just choose to be good, choose to be good for something.

This is just a time-lapse of a seed that gradually transforms into a sunflower and then wilts.

I don’t know what it is about this video, but I have found myself watching it over and over again as of late. Something about it makes me feel alive and hopeful when I watch it.

Things grow and change. Things that seem ordinary bloom into something beautiful. Even when things seem to wilt, there are seeds for the future left behind.

12. Charlie Chaplin on permanence

“Nothing is permanent in this wicked world. Not even our troubles.” – Charlie Chaplin

As difficult as the affairs of the moment may be, it is worth noting that nothing is permanent. Tomorrow will be different, and the day after tomorrow different from that. A cloud that blots out the sun will drift onwards, letting the sun shine through again.

Nothing is permanent, and that’s a good thing. It is that lack of permanence that gives things a chance to grow, to roam, to improve. It’s that lack of permanence that gives bad things time to fall and good things an opportunity to rise.

No matter what troubles we’re facing in life, they’re not permanent. They will pass.

Good luck.

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