Running into Fire

When explaining that nothing outside of us makes us feel or think anything specific, I often like to point out examples from my clients’ own experiences.

One recent day I encountered two great examples based on the same act: Saving people from a fire.

First I had a fireman in my office. I was able to help point out that while most people see a burning building and assume it makes them fearful, he sees a burning building and confidently says, “I’ve got this.” Thank goodness there are people like him who understand that the situation does not control their thoughts and feelings.

Often when I use an example like this with someone else, they will say, “Well yeah, but he is trained to think that way.” This may be true, but it doesn’t detract from the fact that his feelings are coming from his thoughts about the burning building and not the burning building itself. Actually, it emphasizes this fact. It also does not mean that all trained people react to situations with the same thoughts and feelings, or that every person responds with the same thoughts and feelings every time a certain situation is encountered. Our past and our tendencies don’t dictate a specific response either.

Another client the same day illustrated that training isn’t necessary to understand that outside circumstances don’t control our thoughts and feelings. This gentlemen had no training in fire fighting, but he once ran to a burning car and pulled out the teenagers inside while other onlookers gasped in horror or honked their horns, frustrated that he left his car blocking the middle of the road in order to save lives (it is very interesting to me that annoyance was their response to the situation). He said he did so with confidence and without a care for his personal safety. If the burning car could make us think or feel any certain way, all human reactions to the burning car would have been the same. However, my client was able to feel confident that he could save lives (and he did it without any training), others were scared, and yet others were annoyed.

Training or not, when we understand that we have a level of mental and emotional freedom from the events of the world, we gain possibility. What you do with that possibility is based on your understanding of what you can do, but at the very least, please understand that you are not controlled by outside events even if it seems that way. I don’t suggest running into a fire, but it’s a great example of an extreme situation that does not control our response.

My question to you today is this: If I met two guys in one day who run into fires to save lives (one guy trained, the other not), what’s possible for you today? What situation can rise above?

The Ego Climber

I found this quote almost 21 years ago when I was 23 years old. It was written well before that , but it so accurately described my sense of urgency at the expense of living in the moment that I almost thought Robert Pirsig wrote it for me. I think it is a beautiful description of a tension we all experience at times, and for me it is a reminder that my goal is internal and within reach.

I’ve had different favorite parts at different stages in my life. Currently, I think my favorite part is that I realize what I want is all around me.

Thanks for reading and sharing. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.


To the untrained eye ego-climbing and selfless climbing may appear identical. Both kinds of climbers place one foot in front of the other. Both breathe in and out at the same rate. Both stop when tired. Both go forward when rested. But what a difference! The ego-climber is like an instrument that’s out of adjustment. He puts his foot down an instant too soon or too late. He’s likely to miss a beautiful passage of sunlight through the trees. He goes on when the sloppiness of his step shows he’s tired. He rests at odd times. He looks up the trail trying to see what’s ahead even when he knows what’s ahead because he just looked a second before. He goes too fast or too slow for the conditions and when he talks his talk is forever about somewhere else, something else. He’s here but he’s not here. He rejects the here, he’s unhappy with it, wants to be farther up the trail but when he gets there will be just as unhappy because then it will be here. What he’s looking for, what he wants, is all around him, but he doesn’t want that because it is all around him. Every step’s an effort, both physically and spiritually, because he imagines his goal to be external and distant.

By Robert M. Pirsig, from Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance


You Are Where You Should Be

Do you believe there is something from your past holding you back in some way (e.g., holding you back from greatness, happiness, contentment, awe, etc., )? Or do you believe that some situation that exists now (or even worse, multiple situations that exist now) is holding you back?

The more you can say yes to these questions, and the more situations you can list that are holding you back, the more you are giving into the illusion of external control. Giving into the illusion too often or too tightly can sap inspiration, and it runs counter to the understanding that you can rise above the conditions of life because you actually live above the conditions of life.

Pursuing greatness, happiness, contentment, awe, etc., is only a thought away, and this is no trivial matter because it is the only place greatness, happiness, contentment, awe, etc., reside. Thoughts or feelings arise and reside internally, and they are free to vary from external control. The external world is a simply where we project them.

So if we pursue greatness, happiness, contentment, awe, etc., we will project them onto the outside world no matter where we live, and we will experience greatness, happiness, contentment, awe, etc., no matter where we live and no matter the external circumstances. This is essence of understanding, “You are where you should be.”

Of course, none of us are perfect, and each of us is unique. So we attach ourselves to people, things, and situations, and sometimes we find it difficult to get past what we perceive as problems, tragedies, etc. This is completely understandable, and the way it works for the vast majority of us. But the more we understand that even tragedies do not define us or hold us (even though it appears that way, sometimes for quite awhile), the more grit, determination, motivation, tenacity, and effort we will manifest toward overcoming those perceived problems. Furthermore, the more we understand that the idea of problems is just a projection of a personal mindset, the more easily the effort will flow.

Don’t wish time, place, and circumstance away. You are where you should be.

Grit: A Different Label for Rising and Shining

Grit seems to be all the rage these days. It’s a popular word, and it is – and always has been – an important concept. Call it grit, perseverance, tenacity, stick-to-it-iveness, whatever you want, it’s good to have. So let’s think about it more.

Some folks think grit is a characteristic some people have and others don’t. I don’t think that’s accurate. To be sure, some of us show grit more often than others, but that doesn’t mean there is a population of people who have no grit. More than likely, we all fluctuate in our own understanding of our personal grit, and some people simply think in ways that keep their natural grit hidden or covered up.

If you think about it, grit may be an aptly named but misleading term. Grit is a term we apply to people who excel through all of life’s dirt and grime. So on one hand, it certainly appears aptly named, at least for onlookers gazing at gritty individuals.

To the individual, grit often appears very different. Someone who is gritty has become aware of illusions of control and resists them (see Be Aware for more on illusions of control). They have begun to see that the outside world of circumstances has no power over them, and they understand they are free to think and feel as they can, as they feel they must. In essence, they are shining with their inner brilliance and fire despite the appearance of what we call the dirt and grime and life. When we realize the dirt and grime is just a filter, a label if you will, created by one’s own belief system, we are free to rise and shine.

The gritty individual appears to rise above the circumstances of her life. The truth is, we all live above the circumstances of our lives. Only some of us realize it.

There is one sure way to have more grit, persistence, and mental toughness in your life: Be aware that the conditions/situations of the world have no control over you.

To put it another way, nothing outside of us can make us think or feel any certain way. We think and feel certain ways about things. We project our mindsets (and the thoughts churning within them) onto the world in front of us, and this creates our experience of the world. The more we realize this process is free from external control, the more freedom we gain. The more freedom we gain, the possibility opens up to us.

I want you to imagine for a moment that the dirt and grime of the world is not controlling you. Sure, you can feel badly about it. There’s no blame to be cast your direction for feeling down, sad, anger, or fearful, but never lose sight of the fact that you are free to evolve when you are ready. When you realize you are free to do so, when you realize you live above those situations, you will naturally rise and live a life of greater possibility (see Be Awake for more on possibility). You may also see that despite negative feelings and thoughts, you need not act in a negative way, and indeed you may realize you are quite capable of greatness even when not feeling your best.

So my question to you is: What will you do when you awaken to your freedom and possibility? What plays will you make with your newfound sense of grit, or as I like to call it: tenacity, perseverance, mental toughness, shining, brilliance?

As you make plays today, please share with me if you like. Use #madetheplay as your hashtag.

As always, thanks for reading, and I greatly appreciate all your shares and spreading the message.

It’s a Great Day to be Alive

I’ve been writing for a two weeks about how no person and no thing outside you can make you think or feel any certain way, yet I advocate for positive communication. This can seem like a contradiction without further explanation, so I’d like to explain how communication and sharing our light works upon the world around us. As you know from reading my other posts, it’s not through external control.

A quick story will help me illustrate my point:


Albion, MI 1992

There’s a fire in the sky. The sun burns hot and bright already at 7:45am, and its rays punch me as soon as I step out of the locker room. As a biology major, I understand that the sun is the source of energy that fuels all life on earth, but lately its August heat just seems to drain me of mine.

I can smell the freshly cut grass and the unmistakable stench of sweat-soaked football pads. My own gear is damp and uncomfortable, and pain radiates through my body, hard-earned through pounding runs on the rock hard practice field and crushing collisions over the past week’s two and three-a-day practices.

As I trudge slowly toward the practice field, I hear Coach Dave Egnatuk’s cleats scratch the pavement as he runs up behind me, and I know what’s coming next. His voice echoes in my head before he even speaks a word. Then I hear him belt it out at the top of his lungs.
“It’s a great day to be alive!”

Coach Egnatuk runs onward toward the practice field and shouts, “It’s a great day to be alive!” every 30 yards or so. A gathering mass of players hustles behind him as he runs, a smaller mass tries hard to stay ahead of him. Many players now echo Coach’s shouts with their own.

“It’s a great day to be alive!”

“It’s a great day to be alive!” I hear Coach shout again, and suddenly I become aware of another fire. This fire is burning inside my own chest.
“It’s a great day to be alive!”

The shouts all around me are reminders of what I already know, affirmations of a core belief about the fire, warmth, and greatness of life, and as my inner fire blazes I kick up my pace to a sprint. It’s a great day to be alive indeed.


I used to think Coach Eggy shouting, “It’s a great day to be alive,” made me feel good. I mean, that’s what we call it when someone says something, we hear it, and then we start to feel good.

But there is a problem with that type of thinking. If you are a careful reader of my recent blogs (such as Be Aware), you understand that type of thinking falls into the category of giving in to the illusion of control. Nobody can make you think or feel anything. Nobody controls your thoughts or feelings. So what was going on there? Why is this concept so important? And how is it that what’s going on is something much greater than it even appears?

As we go through life and take in the world around us, we project our mindset onto it. Therefore, if I hear, “It’s a great day to be alive!” and begin to feel good, it’s because my mindset recognizes the truth or beauty in those words. The sentiment that it’s a great day to be alive was certainly within Coach, but he didn’t make it appear in me. Certainly he provided the voice to that thought at that moment, but I had to recognize my own understanding in his words. The idea that it was a great day to be alive was already within me. It was just momentarily obscured from my thoughts. I needed a reminder from out in the world to recognize it again, and in that regard, Coach was a great leader who did me a huge favor.

The power to influence our own experience of the world resides within each of us, not outside of us, and that’s a very powerful realization. It means we don’t need anyone or anything to make me feel motivated, strong, powerful. However, because we don’t control our thinking (we influence it, we truly don’t control it), we aren’t always aware of what we are overlooking. So sometimes it helps to have a leader who is pointing in the right direction.

Sometimes, you need a leader to point you in the right direction. Other times, you are the leader pointing others in the right direction.

Be a great leader today. Be a great follower today. Point in the right direction. It’s a great day to be alive.