Week 24: Final reminders

There’s one thing in every chapter of the Haanel, I think, that I need to hear one day of the week in which we’re reading it. And some of these are day-specific. Like today:

But remember that thought is creative and consequently every time you allow your thought to rest on any inharmonious condition, you must realize that such conditions are apparent only, they have no reality, that spirit is the only reality and it can never be less than perfect.

Yes, it means something exceptional today specifically, but I’ll remember next week, when we’re not looking forward to another webby, that inharmonious thoughts are merely imagined, that all I need to do is focus on truth.

The course might be ending, but the work continues.

Week 23: True North

I wrote about compasses last week. Not the sort of compass we’ve been using to guide our decisions in the course — worry about direction, not time — but this week, that’s the kind of compass I want to write about.

My virtue this week is discipline. I scheduled it late in the journey because it’s actually pretty easy for me, typically, and it showed up at the right time: a time that turned out to be unpredictably chaotic in my life, a time when the discipline takes some intentional practice.

Just yesterday, I had to practice it at 6:13 a.m. when I woke up, at 7:20 a.m. when I made it out the door to the gym, at 10 a.m. when my game was falling apart on the racquetball court, at 2:15 p.m., when my 2:00 appointment was 15 minutes late, at 3:15 p.m. at the grocery store, at 8 p.m. when the brownies were staring at me and at 12:45 a.m. when i opted for a salad instead of a sandwich.

Wow, I did well yesterday!

The video above fell into my lap via a leadership program I’m involved with. It’s not until almost all the way through the video that the compass shows up, but it was a stark reminder that I’m headed the right direction.

Onward. Upward, as it were, since that’s where true north lies on a compass.

Week 22a: Controlling our emotions


We are taught, in the symbolism of Freemasonry, that the compasses are used “to circumscribe our desires and keep our passions in due bounds.”

In other words, we draw a circle around what is acceptable behavior toward other people — even when we’re angry, how should we treat them? — and work to keep ourselves inside those boundaries.

For me, the most difficult part of staying inside the boundaries I choose is deciding how wide those boundaries can stretch when someone else crosses a line into what we be way too far outside my own boundaries for my comfort.

Before we get too far, let’s call back to Og, shall we? We just started Scroll 6. The theme? “Today, I will be master of my emotions.”

It’s the same lesson as the compasses, told a different way. [There appears to be no record of Mandino being a Mason, for what it’s worth.]

Back to me.

Life seems to have a way of giving us the opportunities to practice the lessons in our lives.

I don’t really want to air any family dirty laundry here, but let’s just leave it at, I’ve been afforded several opportunities over the past four days to go ahead and step outside of what I’d consider due bounds. Instead, I drew my boundaries tighter.

It’s tiring, by the way. Not only is not easy, but it’s physically demanding. You might say emotionally demanding, but the sense of being tired hits your body, not your emotions.

I am, however, both glad and grateful to be back at a place of peace, where I can extend those boundaries back to their original shape.


Week 22: Patience, and sitting

Friday morning, while I was on a masterminding call, I got a message from my doctor’s office, looking to set up a conference appointment. That means I was going in to speak to the doctor for five to ten minutes.

When I finished my mastermind call, I called the office back. It was lunchtime, so I left a message. When they hadn’t returned my call by 4 p.m., I called again. They had me on hold for so long the system hung up on me.

I waited the weekend, and called back Monday. They told me they could schedule me for two weeks out, or for later that morning.

Of course I chose later that morning. I cut my racquetball game short a half hour, drank the protein shake I had packed and went over to the doctor’s office.

After a half hour in the waiting room, I noticed the sign that said, “if you’ve been waiting for 20 minutes, please check with us.” They told me they were a little backed up.

After another 15 minutes, I remembered I had Haanel’s book on the Kindle app on my phone, so I opened my phone, did some reading, and walked around the lobby.

It was another 25 minutes before they brought me back to the exam room, where I waited another 25 minutes before the doctor came in (retrospectively, I’m sure they brought me back to the exam room because I was walking around the exam room).

If you’ve been doing the math, that’s an hour and 10 minutes in the waiting room, plus another 25 minutes waiting in the exam room (total: 95 minute), for what wound up being a seven-minute conversation.

That 25 minutes waiting for the doctor, though, was perfect. In the waiting room, the TV was blaring, people were coming in and out, and there was lots of chatter.

The exam room was quiet, outside of people walking in the hallway outside the (closed) door. It was good time to sit in the quiet, practice the Haanel, shuck the frustration of sitting in the waiting room for over an hour and in general, be able to focus for my conversation with the doctor.

Quiet, sit, patient. Exhale.

Week 21: Learning from others’ mistakes


On the webinar this week, Davene told us about mistakes she’s made, so that we don’t have to make them.

Thank you, FabD, for handling that for us.

Thomas Edison famously tried some 2,000 times to get the filaments right for the light bulb. When asked about it, he replied, “I didn’t fail. I just found 2,000 ways not to make a light bulb. I only needed to find one way to make it work.”

When I told people I was training for my first marathon, a friend asked, “doesn’t that mean you have to be able to run a marathon every day?”

No, it means I have to be able to run a marathon once, on one specific day.

When Javier Sotomayor set the record of 8 feet, 1/4 inch in the high jump, he didn’t have to jump 8 feet every time — just the once.

Learning from others, and building on what they do, is one of the things that sets us apart as humans.

Comedian Joe Rogan asks us, “If I left you alone in the woods with a hatchet, how long before you could send me an email?”

Thankfully, we don’t have to build those systems ourselves. We get to use what’s come before. Borrowing from myself:

In Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, Buckminster Fuller outlines a major innovation that came as a series of incremental improvements: the water wheel. We took the basic concept of a lever, and then we put a bucket on it. Then we put a bunch of them together in a wheel-and-spoke pattern, and then we hooked some gears up to it, so that the bucket lever arms would turn the gears and do some other work.

We don’t have to learn everything anew ourselves. We can pass along wisdom to others and build on our past experiences.

Let’s do it.

Week 20: Silence.

I feel like every week there’s one thing that jumps out of the Haanel at me. This time there are two passages that strike me. First, from 20-9:

But perception will come only in the Silence; this seems to be the condition required for all great purposes. You are a visualizing entity. Imagination is your workshop. It is here that your ideal is to be visualized.

Silence is so good for us. Are you getting enough? I often have to remember to work silence into my day. I’ll wake up, do my reading, get my sit in, then turn on a podcast and before I know it, it’s bedtime and I haven’t had any quiet since I finished my sit 18 hours earlier.

But it’s the silence that brings us our magnificence, so, note to self: SHHHHHH!

And this, from 20-18:

Inspiration is from within. The Silence is necessary, the senses must be stilled, the muscles relaxed, repose cultivated. When you have thus come into possession of a sense of poise and power you will be ready to receive the information or inspiration or wisdom which may be necessary for the development of your purpose.

On reading this again, of course, we find we’re back to silence.

So, get some quiet in your day.

Week 19: What’s wrong with the world, and how do we fix it?

We’re going to write about Tom Shadyac’s film “I Am.”

No doubt this was a transformative work for Shadyac — not only as a departure from his usual genre as a filmmaker, but also from an existential, introspective standpoint.

That’s all well and good, but did he solve the problem he set out to solve?

At the beginning of the film, he asks two questions:

(1) What’s wrong with the world?

(2) How do we fix it?

First, I want to put out a reminder (and, maybe, from an honesty standpoint, full disclosure). Shadyac’s dad co-founded the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which has, essentially, a two-fold mission: (a) Eradicate childhood cancer, and (b) treat children with cancer for free.

The St. Baldrick’s Foundation is an organization that helps to fund St. Jude through a series of fundraisers in which participants solicit donations in exchange for shaving their heads.

The Syracuse, New York, installation of the shave event consistently brings in close to a half-million dollars for St. Baldrick’s. It’s really an exciting day hosted by David Hoyne at the Irish pub he owns.

I don’t grow any hair on my head anymore, but I went to the event to support a friend and found the energy in the room so exciting that the next year, my circle donated over $2600 to see me lose a terrible beard.

At the Shave-a-Thon, I had recently begun dating the woman who would later agree to marry me, and she was so taken by the event that the following year, she took part.

Shadyac finds short answers to his questions.

Q1: What’s wrong with the world?
A1: I am.

Q2: How do we fix it?
A2: Love.

Could it be that easy?

I don’t know, but I do know we’re better when we’re kinder to each other and we love a little more.

Shadyac leaves us at the end of the film with a new question:

What’s right with the world?

I’m hoping I live to see a time when the answer is, “We are.”

Week 18: Learning, attention, power

To learn, according to Dictionary.com, is:

to acquire knowledge of or skill in by study, instruction, or experience.

This week I entered the first cohort of a Jewish leadership training class. Before the course started, facilitators asked us to find our Top 5 CliftonStrengths (formerly “StrengthsFinder”).

My five are strategic, learner, analytical, achiever and deliberative.

For a learner, the subject matter isn’t particularly important. The process of learning is.

Lo and behold, the acquisition of knowledge — AKA power — is important in the Master Key process. From the Haanel:

18-30.  The use of this power depends upon attention; the degree of attention determines our capacity for the acquirement of knowledge which is another name for power.

18-31.  Attention has been held to be the distinguishing mark of genius. The cultivation of attention depends upon practice.

18-32.  The incentive of attention is interest. The greater the interest, the greater the attention; the greater the attention, the greater the interest, action, and reaction. Begin by paying attention; before long you will have aroused interest; this interest will attract more attention; and this attention will produce more interest, and so on. This practice will enable you to cultivate the power of attention.

In case you need a little reminder about the differences (and similarities) between concentration and focus, here’s what I wrote two weeks ago.

Now, superimpose these two collections of knowledge. Find your focus, concentrate on it, learn more about it, give more attention to it, gain more power. BOOM.

This week’s virtue: Courage (Week 17 HJ)

I was going to sit here and write about this lack of focus that I’m dealing with right now, but (a) it’s a little bit because of all the pasta I’ve eaten in the past 24 hours (wheat brain!) and (b) we just did focus last week.

Onto something new.

My virtue this week is courage, and I have opportunities.

Just today I made two phone calls that, two years ago, I would have put off for weeks. It doesn’t matter what they were. I made them. I was assertive. I was rewarded (intrinsically).

When we started our MKE journey, I put my podcast on hold so that I could dedicate the time and energy to the Master Keys. But accountability in other parts of my life has fallen off. I’ve stopped doing some of the work on myself that’s important to me.

So this week I’m going to kick the podcast back into life, asking listeners to let me come back into their ears three months early. Not the easiest thing to do, but this time we’re coming back with vulnerability and honesty instead of forcing a new episode every week just because I said I would, at the cost of quality.


Week 17: Concentration and focus (talking DMPs)

Today, we interviewed a young lady named Awilda Rivera for a podcast (that’s not the royal we; Kelvin does the show with me).

If you look at her website, you’ll see that she is a spiritual adviser, success coach, yoga instructor, reiki practitioner and certification-awarder, and she performs weddings, too.

That might sound like a lot — it did to us, too — but to her it all comes down to focusing on exactly how she wants to help people, and she can explain it in right around five seconds.

We were astonished. We’re taught that in order to really succeed, we should focus on one thing.

But, we were also reminded of this week’s lesson from Haanel (17-11):

Concentration does not mean mere thinking of thoughts, but the transmutation of these thoughts into practical values[.]

I decided to dig a little deeper, so I pulled out my trusty dictionary. Concentration means

exclusive attention to one object; close mental application.

Focus, on the other hand, means

a central point, as of attraction, attention, or activity.

So Awilda has a focus. All the things she does lead her to that one central place. And when she’s doing work toward that focus, it’s concentrated work.

That’s like our DMPs, right? We want lots of things, but when it call comes down to it, we get a one-sentence shot at our focus. Here’s mine:

I make a better world by helping people become happier, healthier, kinder and more productive.

I could probably take the productive bit out, since that follows from healthier and contributes to happier, but I like the ring of it.

All of that encompasses a whole bunch of things. Diet, exercise, sleep, volunteerism, research, lifelong learning, meditation, making lists…ellipses…But it all does have a narrow focus, something I can concentrate on, as our exercise this week tells us:

33.  For your exercise this week concentrate as nearly as possible in accordance with the method outlined in this lesson. [Snip]

34.  If you wish to eliminate fear, then concentrate on courage.

35.  If you wish to eliminate lack, then concentrate on abundance.

36.  If you wish to eliminate disease, then concentrate on health.

37.  Always concentrate on the ideal as an already existing fact.[Snip]

Be what you will to be!