THE POWER OF FOCUS
As you can imagine, our home and bunkhouse is decorated in a western motif. There are a number of Hopi spirit dolls, or kachinas, throughout each place. Most of these are made from a combination of painted wood, leather and feathers.
There is one kachina that has been cut from a 3” thick piece of stone. The edges are sharp and clean. It’s unmistakable in the way it looks. This spirit doll was cut from a larger piece of stone in a matter of minutes using a focused jet of water under extreme pressure. There was nothing special about the water. It came from the same source the machine operator had earlier used to quench his thirst.
If a steady flow of water were continuously poured over the same stone, it would take years for it to wear down the stone. And, the result would be a smooth formless piece of rock.
This is the power of focus. The ability to focus on the outcome you desire with determination creates such an extreme pressure that every obstacle is overcome and something beautiful is created.
Go the distance!
A NEW DAY
I was over at Cowboy Joe’s place the other day talking to him about what crops he’s going to plant when it gets to be spring.
Cowboy Joe and his wife were watching their four-year-old granddaughter. While we were talking she walked up to grandpa with a piece of paper in her hand and tears in her eyes. “It’s ugly! It’s just ugly! I’ve worked and worked on this picture, and it’s just ugly!”
Grandpa took a look at the picture. It really wasn’t pretty. Even though Cowboy Joe said it looked pretty to him, she was having none of it. Finally, grandpa folded the paper, got another sheet and handed it to her.
“It’s OK, hon. Here’s a new paper. Just try to do better next time.”
Cowboy Joe’s granddaughter went away with a look of determination on her face.
A thought popped into my mind. “You know, Joe, I’ll bet God is like that. When we have a “just awful” day, He says to us, “It’s all right. Tomorrow I’ll give you a new day. Just try to do better next time.”
Cowboy Joe smiled and said, “You know, you’re getting smart in your old age.”
Cowboy Joe had just finished shoeing my gelding, and we were sitting on a bale of hay drinking a glass of lemonade that Sunny had brought us, when he started getting philosophical.
“You know, language is very important. Even the language we use when we talk to ourselves. Too often we simply lay out our goals or wishes about what we would like to accomplish.”
“What do you mean?” I said.
“Well, we say to ourselves, ‘I want to stop procrastination.’ ‘Some day I’ll get all my bills paid off.’ Or, ‘I would sure like to fix things up around my place.’ What we are actually saying is that we want to do these things, but we just don’t think we have what it takes to accomplish them.
“Instead we need to say, ‘I will stop procrastinating.’ ‘I intend to get all my bills paid off.’ And, ‘I am going to fix things up around my place.’
“This changes your mental attitude from one of wishing and hoping to one of being in the process of making it happen.”
Not waiting for a response from me, Cowboy Joe got up and walked away.
Cowboy Joe and I were talking about getting enough sleep when he said, “I’m reminded of a hand my dad hired when I was a kid.
“During the interview for the job my dad asked him if he was a good hand. The man responded, ‘I can sleep during storms.’
“Although puzzled by his answer, my dad was desperate, and hired him. The hired hand worked hard. And my dad was satisfied with his decision.
“Then one night the wind howled loudly. A storm was brewing. My dad jumped out of bed, grabbed a lantern and rushed to the hired hand’s bunkhouse. Dad shook the man to wake him.
“‘A storm is coming’ said my dad. We need to tie things down before they blow away.’ The hired hand just smiled and said, ‘I told you I could sleep during a storm,’ and rolled over.
“Frustrated, my dad hurried outside to prepare for the storm. To his amazement, he discovered that all of the haystacks were tied down, the cows were in the barn, the chickens were in the coop, the doors were barred and the shutters were tightly secured.
My dad returned to his bed and sleep. He now knew what the hired hand had meant.”
Have you ever wondered how many great ideas have occurred to people over the centuries that have been abandoned because someone though they were crazy. The interesting thing is that “nay-sayers” are quite often incorrect.
In 1876, a Western Union memo read, “This ‘telephone’ has too many shortcomings to be seriously considered as a means of communication. The device is inherently of no value.”
In 1895, the president of the Royal Society said, “Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible.”
In 1859, Edwin L. Drake tried to enlist people for his project to drill for oil and got the following response: “Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try to find oil? You’re crazy.”
Too often when a person’s comfort zone is disturbed they protect themselves by closing their minds. It’s always easier to be closed-minded than to change it…alter our viewpoint…shift our perspective…or learn something new.
Keep this in mind the next time you start a project, and go the distance.
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Cowboy Joe and I were having a cool iced tea talking about the on-coming winter and how harvest was going, when Cowboy Joe started out, “You know…” Now, I know that when he starts out with “You know,” a story is at hand.
“My cousin up in North Dakota told me about an Idaho potato farmer that went up there to grow potatoes. The North Dakota farmers had an agreement with the co-op to separate the potatoes into small, medium and large when they were sold.
“All of the local potato farmers would hand separate them in the field and place them in separate bins. The Idaho farmer put all of his potatoes in one trailer and headed to the co-op. The locals knew he wouldn’t get top dollar for his potatoes. However, to their surprise he got the same price as everyone else.
“It seems that when the Idaho farmer delivered his potatoes, they were separated like everyone else’s. While everyone else took the smooth road to the co-op, the Idaho farmer took the rough road. As the trailer rumbled over the bumps and holes, the small potatoes went to the bottom of the trailer; the medium in the middle; and the large on top. When he arrived at the co-op, all he had to do was unload the potatoes in the appropriate bins.
“Big potatoes always rise to the top on rough roads.”
Cowboy Joe just smiled, and took another drink of the iced tea. I had my lesson for the day.
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Two monks who belonged to a very austere sect that limited their contact with women were going on a pilgrimage when they came across a beautiful woman standing next to a stream that crossed the path. She pleaded with the monks to help her across the stream as she was on her way to her wedding and she didn’t want to get her dress wet.
One monk passed her by without giving notice. The other monk picked her up and carried her across the stream.
As they continued their pilgrimage, the monk who had nothing to do with the woman, expressed his disdain and for miles berated his fellow monk.
Finally, the monk being berated turned to his companion and said, “I left the woman back at the stream, but you’re still carrying her around with you.”
We need to make sure what we criticize in someone else isn't more our problem than theirs.
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A while back I heard a news item about an innovative method of building homes with straw. The straw is used as insulation with wood framing and stuccoed to give the straw sturdiness.
The builder talked about the straw being inexpensive, light and that it conserved resources.
Wrapping up the story, the reporter asked, “Just what does this say about the story of the wolf and the straw house built by one of the pigs?”
The contractor replied, “The story doesn’t say you shouldn’t build a house with straw, but that you shouldn’t let pigs build it.”
Think about it. It could be that the reason your last idea failed wasn’t that it was a bad idea, but the failure was because of the people you chose to help you accomplish it.
If you look for people who are positive and cheerful, fair in their dealings, are people of their word and are willing to go the distance, then your project will be an assured success.
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HOW BIG IS YOUR FRYING PAN?
I had just filled up Cowboy Joe’s coffee cup for the second time when he said, “Went fishin’ the other day.”
“Did you catch anything?” I asked.
“Yes, caught enough for me and my wife to have fish for supper. You know, I saw the funniest thing over at the lake.”
“What was that?” I asked.
“This old geezer was fishing about fifty yards up the bank from me. Each time he caught a fish he would pick up a small stick laying next to him; measure the fish; keep any fish smaller than the stick; and throw back any fish larger than the stick.
“After a while, I felt it was my duty to go over and tell him there weren’t any size limits on the fish.
“You won’t believe this, but the old guy said he knew there were no limits. He said the stick was the size of his frying pan, and he couldn’t use any fish bigger than the pan.
“Can you imagine that. This guy was throwing back the best fish just because he happened to have a small frying pan.
“I’ll bet there are people going through life with a small frying pan around their neck, just making sure every opportunity that comes their way isn’t too big.”
Go the distance.
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It’s natural to enjoy talking about people. It gives us a feeling of superiority. By telling a story about someone, it confirms that we wouldn’t do the terrible things that that person did. As we share and get shared to, there is a feeling of comradeship with the person to whom we’re talking. Our sharing means we’re close friends. And when we can add more details than anyone else, even if it’s speculation, we display our importance. It also gives us an opportunity to show we’re a caring person. “I’m so sorry for Sam’s family. They have to endure so much.”
But, these aren’t the only benefits that talking about people…gossiping…provides. First, it shows we have no integrity. Second, we’ve just discovered someone who will probably talk about us when we’re not around. We’ve also exposed ourselves to the possibility that the person we gossiped to will tell what we said to the person we just talked about.
There can never be trust in a relationship based upon gossip. It has been said that to be trusted is greater than to be loved. However, to be trusted is also to be loved.
Be a good neighbor and friend.
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Cowboy Joe and I were sitting on the front porch just watching the world go by. My dog, Jake, lying at my feet, scratched himself.
“That dog got fleas?” asked Cowboy Joe.
“Don’t think so,” I responded.
“I had a dog once that had enough fleas to start a flea circus.”
“A flea circus? Was there ever such a thing as a flea circus?” I asked.
“Yea. A guy brought one by our town when I was a kid. He charged five cents to see it.”
“What did it look like?”
“The fleas were in a large container that was only a few inches high, with an open top.”
“Didn’t the fleas jump out?”
“You would think they would. It seems the owner trained the fleas by putting a sheet of glass over the top. Thinking the top was open the fleas kept jumping and hitting the glass. Eventually they learned their limitations, and started jumping just short of the glass. Then the flea circus owner could take the glass off and the fleas wouldn’t jump out.”
I just shook my head and said, “Amazing.”
“You know,” responded Cowboy Joe, “some people aren’t any smarter than a flea. They put limitations on themselves, and spend their whole life in a box they could easily get out of.”
Go the distance.
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OPTIMISM AND PESSIMISM
Yesterday Cowboy Joe told me a story that he maintains is true. Whether true or not, I’m not sure, but it is interesting.
A friend of Cowboy Joe has twin boys. Since birth one was an absolute pessimist, and the other was an incurable optimist. To make them “normal” a psychologist suggested putting the pessimist in a room full of the latest toys, and the optimist in a room of horse manure. That would make the one more optimistic and the other more realistic.
After a couple of hours the psychologist went into the room full of toys. The pessimistic boy was crying. The psychologist asked why.
The boy said, “With all these new toys, I can’t decide which one to play with first, and when I do decide, I’ll probably break it.”
The psychologist then went into the room full of horse manure. The optimistic boy was standing in the middle of the room, laughing and digging through the manure.
“What are you doing?” asked the psychologist.
The boy responded, “With all this manure, there has to be a pony here somewhere.”
Be positive and cheerful.
One of my favorite Old West characters wasn’t a cowboy, lawman or outlaw. His name was Gail Borden. Gail was born in 1801. Although he only had a year and a half of education, he founded the Telegraph and Texas Register newspaper. It was his newspaper that coined the phrase “Remember the Alamo.”
After Texas got its independence, Gail made money selling real estate in Galveston. But his real love was inventing.
He invented a movable bathhouse that ran along the beach. It was a failure.
Then he built an amphibious Conestoga wagon whose wheels converted into paddles. It sank on its maiden voyage.
A yellow fever epidemic went through Galveston. Gail’s wife and two children died. Feeling yellow fever was spread by the heat, he came up with the first air conditioning unit. It failed.
During the gold rush to California one of the prospector’s major problems was food spoilage. Gail made a muck of meat and flour, cooked it and called it a “meat biscuit.” It didn’t work either.
Almost out of money, Gail took a trip to England. On the voyage home four children died from drinking contaminated milk. Gail decided to come up with milk that didn’t spoil. It took six years to come up with a product and get it patented.
When the Civil War broke out the Union Army started buying his product at a rate of 25,000 quarts per day.
Following the Civil War Gail was a wealthy man. Looking for other markets for his product he named it “Eagle Brand Condensed Milk.”
Gail Borden wrote his own epitaph. It read: “I tried and failed. I tried again and again and succeeded.”
Go the distance.
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An old prospector was camped along side of a stream that was next to a road that led into a small frontier town.
A young man on a horse came up the road, and pulled up next to the stream to let his horse have a drink. He asked the prospector, “What kind of people live here?”
The prospector asked, “What kind of people lived in the place where you just left?”
“They were a bad lot,” replied the young man. “I was glad to leave them.”
“You’ll find the same here,” said the prospector.
Later another man came by, pulled up his horse and asked the prospector the same question. The prospector also asked him about the people who lived in the town he had just left.
With a smile on his face he said, “They were great people. Honest. Friendly.”
“You’ll find the same here,” replied the prospector.
A man fishing the stream from the bank heard both conversations. He took his line out of the water and walked over to the prospector. “Those two men asked you the same question, but you gave them a different answer. How can you give a completely different answer to the same question?”
The prospector explained, “Each person carries within him the environment in which he lives. No matter where we go people are the same. People are to us what we ourselves find in them.”
Be a good friend and neighbor.
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