I spend a significant amount of time giving advice, counseling people, answering questions on things related to business, social work, and values, and walking other business people on how to think through their endeavors. Helping others bring out and maximize the value of their lives and organizations is something I love doing. I’m privileged that despite my own limitations I can somehow contribute and give back to others the incredible kindness I’ve been shown by people who were busy, or didn’t have to, or who had their own needs, but overflowed with love.
But the reality of consultancy or advice or help is that it’s only worth something if the receiver takes it and applies it faithfully until results are achieved. I don’t know how many times people have told me that they’ve “already tried” a solution, that it didn’t work, that it was bad advice, only to find out they never really persevered, that they gave up too soon, or that they didn’t follow the wisdom at all. This saddens me because I’ve realized that many of us miss out on the success, achievement, joy, and fulfilment available to us simply because of a dangerous idea called Your Best Excuse.
Your best excuse is your self-accepted reason for failure.
It is the traffic jam that made you late.
It’s your dad that was too harsh, so you rebel against authority.
It’s your teacher that embarrassed you, so you have stopped learning.
It’s the inheritance you never received but others did because you were born to a poor family, so you cheat to catch up.
It’s your stupid boyfriend’s fault that your heart’s broken.
It’s your boss’s favoritism, so you’re never promoted.
It’s your constant bad luck, so you’ve stopped trying.
It’s that person who stole from you, or mistreated you, or molested you, so you’ve stopped trusting.
It’s the unjust system we live in, so we might as well give in.
There are many more examples, many more valid reasons to be discouraged, to miss excellence, to stop fighting, to stop trying, to be mediocre, or even to surrender. These realities help us feel a little better about ourselves, even as we yearn for something better because deep inside us our hearts we know THERE IS something greater planned for us. That is the eternity God placed in our hearts – limitless, endless eternity. We can’t completely comprehend it but we feel it calling us.
But instead of focusing our mind on the greatness prepared for us and preparing ourselves body, soul, and spirit to achieve, we use that same mind, and condition the same body, soul, spirit to live limited under Our Best Excuse, as we rationalize our cowardice and laziness – and that’s exactly what it is. We don’t want to be vulnerable because we’ve failed, or have been hurt, or have been frustrated and disappointed, so we cower and get fat in our false comforts, even as we entrench ourselves more and more in the mud of our excuses.
There’s a better life for us, and it involves letting go of Your Best Excuse, letting go of our best reasons, whatever it is, even valid reasons, for living a limited lie and moving against it.
If you’ve been hurt, comfort others.
If you’ve been stolen from, give generously even if it’s your life that gives others hope.
If you’ve been sick, take steps to being healthy.
If you’ve been lazy, work.
If your heart’s been broken, love, and love unconditionally.
If you’ve gone bankrupt, try something else.
Whatever Your Best Excuse is, let go. The lie is not that your excuse is invalid, it is valid, but no matter how valid it is, the lie is that it can contain you – it can’t. You’re called to be greater than that. Your life is more valuable. Your life is worth more than Your Best Excuse.
To connect the moments,
That brought me to you…
Maybe it’s a heart that was once broken
Maybe it’s a promise unkept
Maybe it’s the hope I lost forever
Maybe it’s my fear of what’s ahead
Maybe it’s a dream I wish I’d woken
But I didn’t and now regret
Maybe it’s a step I should have taken
Maybe it’s a shame I can’t forget
Maybe a million things,
A million moments,
That brought me to you…
– Connecting the Dots
They say the lights of the fireflies are powered by memories, the memories of everyone alive and gone. And every night they fly back to this tree, to relive the closed eyes, and hands clasped, the kisses, and the moments long over.
– The Tree of Memories
Sometimes it’s good to slow down. Sometimes it’s good to stop completely. Even sometimes it’s better to take a step back – like I am now as I write this. There’s a lot of work to be finished, meetings to prepare for, emails to send, and numbers to crunch, but there’s also a soul to rest and a spirit to fill, both of which I have taken for granted despite the fact that they’re the parts of us that are eternal. But not anymore. I will remember to value these invisible treasures.
Moment #1: Fireworks
I remember being on a date once. It was her, me, and my slightly overweight wingman. We had climbed the fire escape ladder to the roof of her building and sat on a ledge. I remember her turning to me and saying, “Isn’t this great?” “Yeah”, I said “It sure is.” And I really did think it was great, because when you like someone, as in really really like someone, every simple act or experience becomes a moment, a moment unforgettable.
“Do you know what would really be great?”
“What?” I asked her.
I don’t know why I said this, but I did, and I told her, “You’ll get your fireworks.”
And I’m not making this up, but a few minutes later the dark sky lit up as red and amber sparks rained down from the welding in the building across us – like fireworks. It was amazing. The timing was perfect. Her wish was granted and I was the handsomest man in the world to her.
But that was a long time ago. A lot has changed since.
Moment #2: Primavera
I remember walking through the almost empty Charles de Gaulle airport dragging my suitcase behind me. I had missed my overnight train to Madrid and had to catch the earliest flight in the morning to make it to my meeting. I was too tired to get a hotel for the evening and I didn’t think it was practical to get a room for a few hours. I was being practical but only because I had to: I didn’t have any money and the little I did have went to the only seat I could get: business class on Air France. That hurt, and that was before they lost my luggage. But I didn’t know that then while I sat down on one of the benches. It wasn’t long before I was surrounded by sleeping homeless guys. I don’t remember being scared. I think I was too tired to get scared. I do remember that they didn’t smell very pleasant. You’re never too tired to smell stink.
But looking back, that misadventure was perfect. Sure it delayed my plans. Sure I got no sleep. Sure Air France lost my luggage. But I made it to my meeting, and not before seeing a golden-haired angel from a Botticelli painting behind the counter selling toothbrushes. And I had a thought, that maybe if I had made my train, I would have missed this most unassuming piece of divine art.
But that was just that. It was great. But it was just a visit to the museum.
Moment #3: A Sunset Painted Windy Day
I can still remember walking on the soft grass. I can still feel the wind dancing with my hair. I used to visit that place to escape my responsibilities, but today was different. Because as I looked at the setting sun sink into the darkening sky, I felt an impression in my heart tell me, “Do you see how beautiful that is? I painted that for you.” And I took it all in, the light and dark blues blending with the grays, and whites, and violets, and vermillion and other kinds of reds, and oranges like the one from the fireworks. They were all there.
We walked down that hill with the painting frescoed into our minds.
Thoughts on that Sunset Painted Windy Day
As I drove home, I still couldn’t get over it.
“You painted that for me?”
“I painted that for you. I paint every sky for you.”
“Because I love you.”
“Because you’re mine.”
That never used to make sense to me, how having someone was enough reason to make you want to make every moment special for him or her. But then I began to understand, and as I did I could feel every beautiful experience being relived and every regret redeemed because I realized, what I didn’t see then, that every moment, was made especially for me. Every welder’s spark, every delayed plan, every deferred hope, every embarrassment and every failure, every dream, every open door, and every lesson was and is made especially for me.
So tonight this post ends, and my midnight starts, by looking back at the moments that brought me to You.
But to live is to wakeup everyday, and to wakeup is to wakeup to reality – the parts we enjoy and the parts we don’t.
The past few months, since I moved out, I have gotten into this habit of just lying on my bed and staring at the metallic form of a fire sprinkler on my ceiling. Every evening before I sleep and every morning, I take some time to stay this way, staring up, lost in my thoughts – and there’s a forest of thoughts to get lost in.
Maybe that’s why my hair grows out in all directions, like extensions of my dendrites. Anyway…
One of the thoughts I’ve been thinking about is the idea of “the end”. Not necessarily death, but the conclusion of something.
Everything ends. Everything has an expiry date. Everything has a limit.
But let me share a simple thought I had when visiting my friend Mark’s mother on her last days at Medical City. I’m hoping it will help you as much as it has helped me.
Early one morning, I got a call from Mark asking me if I could ask my dad to pray for his mom. She had been fighting cancer for many years, praying, getting healed, improving, relapsing, and suffering again, but always in faith, and always with that peace beyond all understanding. My dad couldn’t go so I went instead. Mark is a friend, and his mom, Tita Charrie, is an amazing woman. I had visited her before when she could still talk, and she was always very engaging and hopeful. But that morning, when I walked into her room I knew something was very different. Her family was not there during the short period that I visited, they had to do a few things but were on their way back, so it was just Tita Charrie, the nurse, and I. My heart sank leaving a hollow feeling on my chest. And through that pit drained the little faith I had left.
I thought to myself, “God, how could you let this happen? Where is the reward of faith? Where are the answers to prayers?”
I couldn’t bring myself to pray, it just didn’t seem like any of my petitions would be answered anyway. So I sat down on the bench beside her bed, and leaned my head on the wall while I gathered myself. As I turned my head, to my right, sitting on the window ledge, I saw a tiny light violet clock. On its face was its brand: SAKURA.
Sakura. I recognized that word. I had encountered it many times on my trips to Japan. Sakura is what the Japanese call Cherry Blossoms, and every year thousands of people go out to see the Sakura in a tradition that is locally known as Hanami or “flower viewing”.
They celebrate because the Sakura, the Cherry Blossoms, represent spring. New life.
“Open your eyes, David. New life.”
I like how God can get His word through to even the most stubbornly deaf of people – people like me. He knows exactly what to say and He knows exactly how to get your attention.
So I leaned forward, put my hand on her leg, and prayed a simple prayer, because the complex ones seem to be beyond me, “Father, bring new life to this situation.” I can’t forget how she turned her head to look at me, smiling through the tube in her mouth, she lifted her arm slightly and waved. Looking back, she was probably saying goodbye, saying it the way we do to friends we know we’re going to see again.
I left that morning reminded of what Tita Charrie always knew, that even as the seasons change and bring many things to an end, because life and all it contains is fleeting, there is a Spring that ushers in new life, an amazing life without end.