Monday, August 31, 2015


My Dear Son:

As an asset, perseverance can piggyback on persistence. In our language, however, persistence is often downgraded in its meaning. When a housefly keeps coming back regardless of a hovering flyswatter, we call the fly persistent.

So if we reserve the quality of persistence for pesky house flies making nosedives at our french fries, persistence begins get a bad rap. It's now a description of a pest.

I think we tend to hold perseverance up on a pedestal because, after all, we have visions of a brave scout who continues against all odds to survive in the wilderness as he forges his journey, say, to locate the elixir that will cure his brother's illness. He is pressing onward in the face of countless obstacles in his path. And those obstacles just keep mounting up. We see our hero as the hero he is because it seems that he presses onward around obstacles that just somehow keep hurling his way.

But persistence, well. If we tweak this story just a bit, our hero could easily digress into being nothing more than a pest. If we were to add that he persisted in convincing his brother that he could never lead a normal life or father healthy children unless his asthma was cured, then we have just introduced another set of circumstances. Our hero has just become the one who introduced a shove, and if he continues to press the issue, he may well become the antihero of our story.

And this story persists into tomorrow!

Sunday, August 30, 2015


My Dear Son:

Another quality involved in successfully disciplining yourself is perseverance. When you persevere, you tie a knot and hang onto the idea that whatever you persist in practicing will ultimately reward you. And you stop persevering if the goal you're aiming at loses its purpose or its meaning for you.

There's a saying that success can be one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration. I've found that, for the most part, this is true. Concepts and ideas can rush headlong into your life and inspire you, even tantalize you like the glare of a ten-karat diamond.

I'm here to tell you that you can float for days, even weeks on inspiration. But at some point, the fascination of the North star that at first attracted you will lose its glow, and the only sheen you'll see in its place is the shine of your own sweat.

Persistence comes easier to some personalities over others. If stick-to-it-iveness isn't one of your finer suits, you can still manage to develop perseverance. Part of staying with a pursuit is certainly founded on the original inspiration and love for that pursuit. Not getting ahead of yourself is another; taking your tasks in bites, not gulps. Continuing through the tough times because your task still holds purpose for you is key to persevering.

We'll talk more later about purpose and knowing when it's wise not to persist, or when quitting and destroying becomes necessary in order to reestablish purpose. But for now, trim your sails and don't be afraid to tack through rough waters!

Saturday, August 29, 2015


My Dear Son:

Would you feel more perfect by following a sudden switch or reversal of standards? I'm here to say I've seen standards evolve and devolve with time. So, in the end, what determines perfection?

I think it bears true that you should always examine why you perform certain tasks the way you do, and why you are required to adhere to certain standards. So you take a long, hard look at what you impose on yourself, and what you believe others ask of you. Sometimes the very act of practicing the task will lend you the answer. At other times, say, a teacher will explain the reason for the standards at hand. And other times, the value of the standard is already self-evident.

One way to determine whether or not the drive for perfection has become unhelpful is by examining its goals for practicality. What is the practical purpose of the perfectionism? Is the purpose obtainable, economical, adaptable, or functional? Perfectionism that ceases to exhibit these qualities begins to step over the line from healthy ambition into obsession.

Raising the bar of our expectations and application of skill does not always lead to perfection, and, not all perfectionism is maladaptive. Many variables enter the stream of life every time we attempt to score, say, 9 out of 10. Inability to accept a well-earned 8 can be the kind of perfectionism you don't want to keep. Sometimes it's difficult to accept the idea that you're right where you're supposed to be with your skill set at the moment. This leads to the kind of dissatisfaction that goes with maladaptive perfectionism.

This is one of those subjects that can widen in every direction. But in keeping it simple for now, I will conclude by saying, keep perfectionism in check by always honoring the practical. And be willing to reevaluate the value of the practical by measuring it against perfection.

Friday, August 28, 2015


My Dear Son:

One requirement behind exercising discipline involves consistent practice. A word or two about practice: in my experience, practice does improve skill, but does not necessarily make perfection. We all remain human and, even in our expertise, fallible.

Practicing consistently, however, does insure that you will develop skillfulness about whatever it is you're aspiring to do. If you practice consistently, a few minutes every day, at anything, you are more likely to succeed than if you cram.

Overtraining, at least in terms of physical sports, can prove dangerous and even deadly. So the key here is: practice with practicality, with consistency, with moderation.

Sometimes discipline involves excessive training. There are times when we run up against deadlines and the clock is ticking. But, for the most part, the skills that we develop by practicing a little bit every day are the ones that eventually mean the most to us, and to others.

This is why systems like Gong Fu originated from the idea “to perfect through practice.” The skills that you gain through applying yourself, a little at a time to a task every day are the ones that grant you the greatest satisfaction. It's sometimes called “paying your dues.” I prefer however, to think of personal aspiration not as something owed, but something received instead. You can bank on that anything you desire to achieve or acquire is planted into your heart for a purpose. The way you choose to explore or develop that skill is life's gift to you.

Thursday, August 27, 2015


My Dear Son:

On the subject of perfection, I think it's helpful to start with a couple of definitions. The word perfection carries with it the idea of completion or flawlessness. Perfectionism is an attempt by an individual to achieve perfection, usually by setting excessively high performance standards, accompanied by hypercritical self evaluation and concern regarding others' evaluations.

Healthy ambition or perfectionism can help a person outline ultimate or long-term goals, and when reached, the person experiences pleasure and satisfaction from arriving at that milestone of skillfulness or ability.

Maladaptive perfectionism drives some individuals to attempt to achieve unobtainable ideals, and in their failure to do so, they experience emotional and, sometimes physical distress.

An odd feature about perfection is that it always first involves a set of standards made by ourselves, others, or both. Which bears the question: if the standards we followed were suddenly lowered or reversed, would we be any less perfect in following a new set of standards?

More on perfection to come...

Wednesday, August 26, 2015


My Dear Son:

When it comes to discipline, it seems we always wish we had more of it, at least in certain areas of our lives. We spend a huge amount of time at school trying to instill this asset into you as students. We admire the cultural discipline of the Asian countries, for example, in the study of martial arts.

Most people I work with tend to think of themselves as undisciplined in some areas of their lives. The word discipline can hold a negative punch if you always think of it as something unobtainable, difficult, or painful. Some people only see discipline as punishment. Yet if you really look at the meaning behind the word discipline, you may be in for a surprise.

If you are a disciple, or student of anything, you're automatically practicing discipline. All of the elements we've discussed before: self-instruction, learning as discovery or the desire to explore, perseverance, balance, order, and seeing the larger picture are involved in exercising discipline.

You can start taking the barbs off the word discipline by simply thinking of yourself as a disciple, or one who learns, about anything. Life is all about learning, even after you're convinced you have learned what you think you need to know. It all comes back around to realizing you have yet more to explore, that you are still life's disciple.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015


My Dear Son:

It's been my experience that you can go a long way toward erasing those lines that form cliques by simply agreeing to give the world your personal best every day that you live. It's not always an easy task to do, and ultimately, you'll have to realize that you only have a certain amount of control over your daily “happenstance” encounters.

Just because you choose to frequent a certain social setting or club does not give your soul more value. Your value is intrinsic, an inborn part of you that simply is. This is never determined by or enhanced by participation in a clique.

This value is your birthright, the very fiber of your soul, you defined by only you, and no other. There are many paradoxes in life, and the truth of individual worth while maintaining an awareness of the collective is certainly one of them. It's possible that any of these structures, whether group or individual, are illusions within themselves.

Conclusions about the ideas above can involve lifelong scrutiny. But I think as a general rule, if you can allow yourself to stand outside of a clique while being the unique soul that you are, you can be assured that in giving your soul best to the world brings more permanent light and joy long after the clique has faded into the background.

Monday, August 24, 2015


My Dear Son:

Cliques among family members are probably the most regrettable of all. Yet these kinds of cliques are fairly common. Usually certain family members will choose to favor or ostracize over relatively small issues. When this happens, it is like cutting off your own thumb.

Let's first discuss what you can do if you find yourself as the outsider looking in, the one outside the clique. I think the most important tip to remember is, at one time or the other, everyone will find him or herself on the outside of some group, no matter what invaluable personal assets this person may have. 

Neither you nor I will fit into every single group. So, as the outsider looking in, it's important that you realize how very fragile and short-lived a clique can really be; that your status with the clique usually has little to do with how capable, intelligent, or valuable you are. It has much more to do with the mentality of the group at the moment, or, the person in the group who calls the shots. 

If you find yourself standing outside a clique, probably the most important question to ask is: Do I really want to be part of this group, and why? If you cannot find at least three good answers to each part of the question, there's a good chance you're better off remaining on the outside. As I've said before, in the ideal world, there would be no “outside” or “inside.”

Sunday, August 23, 2015


My Dear Son:

In the perfect world—one, say, where all people observed The Golden Rule, there would exist no cliques. As defined in social studies, clique  originated from a French word meaning a group of two or more people who interact with each other regularly and intensely. In school settings, cliques usually  revolve around clubs, gangs, academics, fads, or social trends. Cliques can even develop in family settings, as well.

All too often the operative word in maintaining a clique becomes “us against them.” Cliquish behavior assumes that the other guy cannot or will not fit in as part of the group because―well, you name it. Cliques have been formed for virtually every reason under the sun.

In order for a clique to continue to function, the participants must believe that there is more that separates them from the outsiders than what they might hold in common. So cliques are formed first by judging others as different, and they continue to survive on that basis. The problem is, we must first be able to define and identify something before we are able to identify anything as different.

This is the log in our own eye, our ability to see, name, or even quantify a difference in others in the first place. I think you will see that, if you couldn't  identify with some of the differences of outsiders, they would not remain outsiders. They would not show up on your radar at all, or even enter into you personal awareness. So, you could say, in order to continue a clique, you must first exclude the very people you understand so well.

Saturday, August 22, 2015


My Dear Son:

The Golden Rule always reaches out in broader terms, beyond just one or two people. Following The Golden Rule becomes all about perspective. Your friend probably doesn't realize or care about the store clerk who may lose his job after this shoplifting occurs on his watch, or about his three-month old baby who will go without medical care until he can find other employment.

He won't think about the company stock or the lives of the sales agents, designers, or factory workers wrapped around the success or failure of this product sales. And he certainly doesn't consider that, in the end, at least part of the reason the video game became more expensive than he could afford was due to losses from shoplifting. Now he's driving up the price even more!

The Golden Rule expands like Spandex. There's not a single life or circumstance it won't touch in some way. It has the power of the ultimate domino effect on this planet. And yet, while it reaches out in the broadest way, it starts with how we each treat ourselves, and how we send more of the same out to others. So, when you decide to do something kind and place your best foot forward, you are, in essence, brightening the world around you, one friend at a time.