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Living the Code

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BridgeWe're all contractors. What do we build? We build bridges. Bridges we never cross. Mark Twain said, "I've been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened."

How many times have we worried about something for days, only to have it take place, and find our worries were for nothing?

If we're going to encounter something over which we have no control, why worry about it, there's nothing we can do. If we're going to encounter something over which we have control, why worry about it, we're in control.

We're all familiar with the Ten Commandments. There is another commandment that's mentioned in the Bible much more than these ten combined. The commandment is "fear not." It's mentioned 366 times…Once for every day of the year, with leap year thrown in for good measure.

But when you are handed a lemon, ask yourself: "What lesson can I learn from this misfortune? How can I improve my situation? How can I turn this lemon into lemonade?" That way you're no longer helpless.

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Ox with ManThe story is told of a village with a wise old man the villagers would consult for advice.

One day, a farmer came to the wise man. "Help me," he cried. "My ox has died, and he was the only animal I had to help me work my fields. It's the worst thing that could happen to me!"

The wise man simply said, "Maybe so, maybe not."

The farmer went home disappointed that the wise man couldn't help him.

The next day, a young horse showed up on the farmer's land. The farmer caught the horse, and he found the horse could plow his field better than the ox. He was very happy and apologized to the wise man for his earlier thoughts. The farmer said the death of his ox was the best thing that could have happened to him.

The wise man responded, "Maybe so, maybe not." The farmer went home, frustrated.

A few days later, the farmer's son was riding the horse. The horse bolted and bucked off the boy, breaking the boy's leg. Now the son couldn't help with the farming.

Again the farmer went to the wise man and asked him how he knew finding the horse wasn't a good thing.

Again, the wise man merely said, "Maybe so, maybe not."

Totally confused, the farmer once again returned home.

Less than a week later, it was announced that war had broken out, and every able-bodied young man had to go to war, and chances were most of them wouldn't return alive. Because of the son's injury, he didn't have to join the army.

The moral of the story? Even though we may think we know the significance of what happens to us, in truth, we only "think" we know.

Think of the times you thought an event was the end of the world. In retrospect, it wasn't. So as you encounter fearful events, remember the wise man of the village.

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I stopped by the house of our mythological cowboy, Cowboy Joe, the other day.  He was picking up rocks from his front yard and putting them in a bucket.

“Looks like the bucket is full,” he said matter-of-factly. rocks

“It sure is,” I responded.

Cowboy Joe smiled.  He walked over to the driveway.  Grabbed a couple of hands full of gravel, and placed them on top of the rocks.  He then shook the bucket, and the gravel disappeared between the rocks.

“Now, is it full?”

Hedging my bet, I said, “It sure looks like it.”

He then went over to the sand box he had built for his grandson, and put a couple of hands full of sand in the bucket, again shaking the bucket.  The sand disappeared.

“Is it full now?”

Wising up, I responded, “Probably not.”

He then took the bucket over to the water hydrant, and filled it with water.

“Now, it’s full,” said Cowboy Joe with a big smile.

“I got it.  What you’re trying to show me it that no matter how full my days are, if I try really hard, I can always fit something else into them.”  I was pleased with myself.

“Wrong!  What I’m trying to show you is if you don’t put the big rocks in first, you’ll never get them in at all.  Make sure you take care of the important thing first, grasshopper.”

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Each year the Darwin Awards are given to people who do such stupid things that it's recommended they be taken out of the gene pool.

A few years ago Jacques LeFevrier won the award.  He decided he wanted to commit suicide. 

Leaving nothing to chance, he stood on the rail of a bridge and tied a noose around his neck.  The other end was tied to the bridge’s rail.  He then drank some poison.  Just as he was to jump he lit his clothes on fire.  And to add extra assurances he decided to shoot himself on the way down.

jumperSo, as Jacques jumped, he shot the pistol.  The pistol missed his head and cut through the rope above him.  He then plunged into the water below.  The water extinguished the flames, and the cold temperature made him vomit the poison.

A fisherman dragged him out of the water, and took him to the hospital…where he died of hypothermia.

This should be a lesson to us that if we’re determined we’ll accomplish our desires…but not always in the way we planned.

Go the distance.

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George Dantzig tells the story about an experience he had when he was a mathematics student at the University of California.  It was a week before graduation.  Everyone knew the person who got the highest grades would be given the job of assistant teacher. math students

George wanted the teaching job, so he studied hard.  So hard that he arrived late for the final.  The final had 8 problems.  He solved all 8.

Then he noticed there were two problems on the board.  He tried, but couldn’t solve either.  The bell rang.  As he left the room, he told the professor he couldn’t solve either of the problems on the board.  So he asked for more time.  The professor told him he could have till Friday at 4 o’clock.

math studentGeorge knew there were people in the class who were as smart as he was, and they would solve all ten of the problems.  So George spent day and night working on the problems.  Finally he was able to solve the first, and then the second.  At 4 o'clock Friday, because the professor wasn’t there, he just dropped the papers off.

On Sunday morning there was a pounding on George’s door.  It was his professor.  He said excitedly, "George you made mathematics history."

George responded by saying, "What do you mean?"  The professor said, "You came in late so you didn’t know the two problems I wrote on the board were illustrations of math problems that no one has been able to solve.

George Dantzig concluded by saying, "If I hadn’t been late for class I would have heard that professor say those two problems remain unsolved.  And I wouldn’t even have tried to solve them.

If we don’t know there are limitations, the sky is the limit. 

Go the distance.

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Everyone goes through times of doubt and fear.  Even great and famous people have their doubts and fears.

Winston ChurchillWe're all familiar with the strength and determination exhibited by Winston Churchill during World War II.  Were it not for him, England would surly have been defeated, and possibly the war itself would have turned out differently.

What people then, and even now, don't know is that Prime Minister Churchill suffered from acute depression.  He named it "the black dog."  The black dog was a lifelong battle with depression, fear, and self-doubt.  It was so severe that he would be bed ridden for days at a time.

Abraham LincolnAnother great man—probably our greatest president—suffered all his life with depression, anxiety attacks, and nightmares.  Before he became president, his friends would often keep him under a suicide watch.  That president's name?  Abraham Lincoln.

These men were able to deal with their depression and anxiety because they devoted themselves 100 percent to a great cause.

Their "great cause" was the survival of their country.  However, a great cause doesn't have to be that "great".  It can be something as simple as being the best person we can be.  And let me tell you, being the best person you can be could very well end up accomplishing great things.

Go the distance.

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man filling car up with gasWe all know that, as a country, we’re going through some tough times.  However, as the saying goes, “Tough times don’t last.  Tough people do.”  And our being tough people is what has made us the greatest nation in the world.

Unfortunately, we may just be loosing some of that toughness.

A while back I was pumping fuel in my vehicle when a man in his late thirties came up to me and asked for some money so he could buy gas for his car.

I asked him why he didn’t have money of his own.

He responded, “Well, it’s not my fault, my wife and her lawyer took all my money when she divorced me.”

“Why did she divorce you?”  I asked.

“Well, she caught me running around on her.  But it wasn’t my fault.  She wasn’t a good wife.”

“And you were a good husband?”

“Yes. Of course.”

“Then why did you run around on her?”

“I told you it wasn’t my fault.”

As nice as I could, I said, “Your situation isn’t my fault either.  And I don’t think I should be responsible for getting you out of it.”

He left mumbling something about how nobody cares anymore.

When we were infants, adults were responsible for feeding us, changing our diapers and putting us to bed.  We had little or no control over our lives.  As we got older, we got more control.  Then as a teenager, most of us fought for total control.  In reality, as a teenager, we wanted control, but not the responsibility.  As adults, a large percentage of us still want the control, but not the responsibility.

Accept responsibility for your life.

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Charlie Brown remains one of my more favorite cartoon characters. It's in part because I understand the cartoons, and Charlie Brown was always more naive than I was.     That gave me comfort.

Although Charles Schultz, the creator of the cartoon, has been dead for a number of years, Charlie Brown cartoons can still be seen in newspapers.Charlie Brown

Not many people know that Charlie Brown was Charles Schultz's alter ego.  Deep inside, Schultz said he was Charlie Brown.  And Schultz could never understand why people thought Charlie Brown was a loser.  Schultz always said that losers would give up, and Charlie Brown never gave up.

Everyone is a success.  No matter what we attempt, we succeed.  We always succeed at producing results.  The results may not be what we have planned or intended.  But at least, there are results.  And those results can be valuable if they’re looked at correctly.

We need to understand it's the exception when we try something new and have the outcome be exactly what we have hoped.

If we fail in a colossal way we have just created the opportunity to show outstanding future successes in that area.  We also know we've experienced the worst.

If we succeed, but not at the level we had envisioned, we should congratulate ourselves for the success and analyze how improvements can be made if we succeed the first time we try something, the success would be meaningless.  It’s the rain that gives us the appreciation of the sun.

Go the distance.

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I’m reminded of that ditty we said as children.  “A winner never quits, and a quitter never wins.”

Olympic RingsSo if my goal is to win the Olympic gold medal in the hundred-meter dash and I end up with a silver medal, am I a quitter?  As a total aside, a silver medal winner has a higher lever of remorse about not winning the gold medal than a bronze medal winner.  The silver medal winner is thinking, if I had tried a little harder maybe I would have gotten the gold medal.  The bronze winner is just happy to be on the podium.  Now, getting back to whether the silver medal winner is a quitter.  Maybe at the moment he sees the result of the race, he may think so, but he sure isn’t.

As we look at going the distance, we need to understand that in the same way it’s impossible to fail completely, it’s impossible to succeed completely.  Even the gold medal winner may not have succeeded completely in his goal.  He may have wanted not only to win a gold medal, but to set a world record.

At the same time, even though quit should be considered one of those bad four letter words, a person who has tried and failed is a step above the person who never tries.  At least, the person who tried has had the courage to try something different.  They’ve been successful in making a commitment to something.  They’ve been successful at discovering a way not to do something.

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Sometimes a poem of a few words can say something that would take an essay of thousands of words to say.  Below is an example:

The world won’t give me a living—
                        If it’s going to be, it’s up to me.
            Society won’t give me moral and ethical character—
                        If it’s going to be, it’s up to me.
            The university will not give me an education—
                        If it’s going to be, it’s up to me.
            Business doesn’t owe me a job—
                        If it’s going to be, it’s up to me.
            Psychology can’t give me joy and happiness—
                        If it’s going to be, it’s up to me.
            Religious institutions will not save my soul—
                        If it’s going to be, it’s up to me.
The minister who unites me in marriage to my spouse won’t give me a lifetime of happiness and harmony—
                        If it’s going to be, it’s up to me.
            The medical establishment can’t give me good health—
                        If it’s going to be, it’s up to me.
            The national economy will not deliver financial security to my purse—
                        If it’s going to be, it’s up to me.
            A new sunrise doesn’t promise to give me a great day—
                        If it’s going to be, it’s up to me.

Accept responsibility for your life.

Accept Responsibility



Not Fair!I was visiting Cowboy Joe the other day.  And he had his grandson at his place for a week.

His grandson came up complaining, “It just isn’t fair.”

"What do you mean?” said Cowboy Joe.

“Well, life just isn’t fair.”

“And it should be?” asked Cowboy Joe.


“So, what you’re saying is that the world should be organized so that it’s fair.”


“If everything were fair, then nothing would happen, nothing would survive.  Birds would die because it’s not fair for them to eat worms.  No more hamburgers, it’s not fair to the cow.  No more rides on Buck.  It’s not fair to the horse.

“We were going to the show tonight.  But, we can’t.  It’s not fair to those who can’t afford a ticket.”

Cowboy Joe’s grandson’s eyes got big, “But, that’s not fair.”

The problem isn’t whether life is fair or not.  It’s knowing the difference between fairness and injustice.  Now, injustice is something we’ll have to talk about later.

Accept responsibility for your life.

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