Dear Kelsi,

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Dear Kelsi,

I feel compelled to write you and give you some encouragement. I know it’s been a rough week for you and I know you are contemplating many things right now. I can sense your wheels are spinning nonstop much the same that mine do when I’m trying to figure this crazy life out. Anyway, all that to say, I notice. I cannot promise that you’ll get the answers you’re looking for soon—or ever for that matter—but I can desperately challenge you to never stop searching.

You see, the world is made up of people who are blindly regurgitating information that was planted in their brain by some other person or institution. These people are easily guided from one direction to another without so much as one original thought of their own. They are told what to do, what to think, and what to buy—and guess what—they do it. They give very little resistance to the powers-that-be in their lives and they prefer to stay in their comfortable cocoon.

The exact opposite kind of people are few and far between. They aren’t satisfied with the status quo, they question authority, ideas, laws, norms, and tradition. They aren’t afraid to speak their mind even when their voice is shaking. They’re used to feeling uncomfortable, alone, misunderstood, longing for deeper community and richer dialogue. They set trends. They refuse to take the same path as everyone else because it’s been “proven” to work. History was radically changed by these people. Their bravery to stand up and suggest a long-held idea was wrong—even in the face of cruel ridicule or death—has changed the world for the better. These people have pushed progress forward even when progress seemed like a dirty word. These people are badasses!

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There is much debate in the scientific community about free will—whether we have it or whether we don’t. The arguments on both sides are extremely compelling. Some people assume they have free will but act like they don’t: meanwhile, others act like they are stuck with no choices in life but they have plenty of opportunity to change the trajectory of their future if they would simply choose it. I haven’t made my mind up yet as to which side of the argument I fall, but I’m beyond grateful to even be contemplating the ideas in the first place.

I bring up free will as an example because our knee-jerk reaction is to just say of course we have free will. But do we? How do you know? Where do your thoughts come from? Who thinks those thoughts? Who put them there? Sometimes I have thoughts that are disturbing and I wonder where they come from because they obviously aren’t from me. Other times I think peaceful and loving thoughts and I am certain those thoughts are from me and they are me. I believe you get the idea.

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Here’s my point in all this: never apologize for your greatness! You are amazing and your dedication to discovering your truth will pay off for you in so many ways. You may feel like nobody understands you, and you may feel alone at times, but trust me you are on the right path. Please keep searching and sharing what you are learning. The world is full of people who are walking zombies and they need your help waking up.

I have believed in you since day one and I believe in you now more than ever.

Let me forewarn you; there will be people who might not understand the things you say from one day to the next. Well-meaning people may suggest you are misguided for saying things they don’t believe are true. Good for them. Politely thank them and then keep on being a badass. Small minds won’t understand much of what you are trying to say anyway. They may talk behind your back and they may outright tell you you’re wrong. All the while, they will be secretly jealous of your courage and their lack thereof. This doesn’t make you cocky because we both know that cockiness is nothing more than an overcompensation for insecurity. Instead, you will continue to grow in confidence—not so much in your ideas you present—but in your ability to formulate and communicate your ever-changing ideas.

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It’s a great big world with countless opportunities. There is a long history of people you can learn from who have changed their world for the better. You can be one of those people. You already are one of those people. You will walk among greatness because you choose every day to be great. I applaud your effort and I’m more proud of you than you could ever imagine!

One last thing, your tribe is out there. You are not alone. There are people out there who are changing the world for the better and sharing their ideas. They are your tribe and you belong in their company. Trust that you’ll meet each and every one at the perfect time. Watch in awe and wonder as the mysterious flow of life puts you in the company of the movers and shakers of our time. I have no doubt.

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Keep your chin up and keep writing your ass off! You never know who is reading your writing who needs to hear exactly what you have to say that day. Never stop learning, never stop growing, never stop writing—and most importantly—never stop being you!

I love you!

Dad

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I’ve Struggled with Relationships Lately

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We feel jaded when someone treats us poorly.

 

We are furious when someone acts different than we think they should.

 

We pull away from those who have hurt us because it makes sense to protect ourselves.

 

We carry life-long grudges for minor disagreements.

 

We attempt to control and manipulate those around us.

 

We desperately seek genuine love from others even though we’re disingenuous.

 

We were hurt, broken, used, abused, traumatized, betrayed, and nearly shattered.

 

And, yet, we continue to push forward, timidly trusting the motto Love Wins.

 

 

Last week, I spent two full days in training for my next profession. I took part in The Gottman Institute’s Level 1 Clinical Training: Gottman Method Couples Therapy. I’ve read several John Gottman books in the past and gained a lot of insight so I was sure the training would be well worth my time and money. Throughout the two days, my mind kept wandering to so many people that are struggling relationally. So many of us have issues with either our mates, our families, our friends, or our coworkers. Relationship issues are at the core of nearly every emotional difficulty we experience.

 

 

For the better part of two decades, I have been reading and studying most anything I could get my hands on. My studies generally encompassed human developmental topics like self-help, religion, philosophy, writing, and relationships. Because of my thirst for knowledge, I strive to learn as much as I can for my own sake—not because I want to have all the right answers, be the smartest, or prove people wrong—I genuinely love learning and growing.

With all that knowledge and experience, one would think I have a pretty good handle on what it takes to have good relationships. Often when someone is having relationship issues, it seems like human nature to instantly blame the other party or disregard your own shortcomings. That wasn’t where my thoughts went. Instead, as I went through the training last weekend, I kept being reminded of ways I fall short.

 

 

So. . .

Anytime I’m wrestling with something, I find it most useful to write about it; so, in the spirit of self-disclosure, this was the outcome:

 

 

You struggle with relationships!

 

 

You struggle with women. Somewhere along the way, something was shattered in you. Somehow you consistently attempt to be man enough for a woman but fail miserably. A marriage dashed on the rocks, one on the ropes, and multiple shipwrecks in-between. You’re smart enough to know it’s more than just picking the right one and crossing your fingers (or holding your breath).

You have uncertainties you take to a woman and then punish her when she’s helpless to answer them. When things get difficult, you bow and try to sneak backstage, away from the bright lights and scrutinizing eyes. When it’s your turn to speak your lines, something in you detests having to play the part. You’re perfectly fine saying your lines inside your head thank-you-very-much. It seems like a fine approach, but the audience and other cast members are left guessing what you think, how you feel, why you’re mute. They know your lines, they could say them for you, but they are supposed to come from your lips just like you rehearsed so many times. Say them!

 

 

You struggle with family. You have so many relationships with one foot out the door and the other on a banana peel. Each of your family members would love to talk to you and you could benefit from their relationships. Why do you withdraw, bow out, keep quiet? Some of them could use some support, a listening ear, a friendly hello. What holds you back? How do you expect them to get to know you better if you don’t communicate with them? How might they explain to you their perspectives on life, love, and happily-ever-after if never given the chance?

 

 

You struggle with friends. So many times, friends have fallen by the wayside because you allowed the friendship to wither and die. As soon as the friendship required something significant from you, you crawled back into your shell. Your fear of being wholly known for who you truly are keeps you silent. Life is messy, relationships are messy, love is messy, feelings are messy, emotions are messy, being close friends with others may get messy. Don’t shrink. Take the risk of being authentic. Say what you mean and share your experience with others.

 

 

You struggle with being a father. Remember when you were growing up and you had no idea about life and what to expect out of it? You simply did the best you could. You did what you thought was right whether it was right or not. You faked it til you made it. Guess what, you have a million life experiences your children could learn from. Tell them. Speak up. Start talking and keep talking. The best decisions are always made when we have the most information. Why would you not give them all the information you possibly could? Just because you had to figure everything out on your own doesn’t mean they should. Tell them stories every chance you get—you won’t regret it and neither will they!

 

 

Just because you struggle doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Practice makes perfect. Being authentic isn’t always the easy option but it is the right one for you. If anyone can turn these struggles into triumphs, it’s you! “To be nobody-but-yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody but yourself—means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight—and never stop fighting.” E.E. Cummings

 

I would like to share more about the Couples Therapy training but I’ll save that for another day. In the meantime, I want you to know that if you struggle with any relationships, you are not alone. I fully support and acknowledge your desire for love and belonging.

 

Peace,

 

~Travis

 

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“Suck It Up?” Yeah, right! Dealing With Grief

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I’m not sure what’s in the air!  People that are very near and dear to me are going through some real heavy shit right now.  I’m hearing stories of disappointment, terror, and difficulty way more than normal.  

When you hear about difficulties someone is going through in the news you may think to yourself, “Well that sucks.” When one of your acquaintances has something terrible happen, it hits closer to home so you may send a card or suggest to them you’re praying for them on social media.  

But what happens when really heavy, dark, difficult days befall your loved ones?  I can tell you for me personally, it’s terrible!!!  I want to do everything in my power to try and ease the pain, to lessen the blow, or to jump on top of the grenade to minimize the damage.  I obsess over how I could help or what my best option would be to help them get back to normal.  And then yesterday it totally hit me:  Some things aren’t meant to get over by just redirecting their attention.  How do you possibly get over the loss of a loved one—I mean someone you would take a bullet for just to know they are okay?  Who am I—who are we as a society—to say how long someone should take to get back to “normal?”  

What do you say to someone who’s recently experienced some heavy circumstances?  

“Get over it?”

“Suck it up?”

“Life’s a bitch?”

I’m sorry but that just doesn’t fly with me!!  Oh sure, I would love to see them break through their cloud of grief and despair; but asking them to simply brush aside their truth so I feel more comfortable is a total prick move!  And yet I’ve caught myself recently—more than once—trying to redirect a loved one’s attention away from their pain instead of simply loving them right where they are at.  

How do you say goodbye to a living arrangement that brought you sheer joy?  Maybe a spouse, roommate, sibling, son, daughter, or grandchild once graced your presence every day and now they don’t.  Saying goodbye is never easy.  Sometimes watching someone walk out the door is nearly as painful as watching your own beating heart ripped out and trampled on the floor.  

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Being a man, it’s completely natural to want to rush in and save the day.  Men are fixers and I’m no exception but some things can’t be “fixed” back to what they were before.  So what’s a fixer supposed to do with the shattered broken pieces when they fall in his lap?

The first instinct is to start sorting through the pieces and try to fit them together like a jigsaw puzzle.  But I’ve learned something very valuable recently:  Some people just need you to be there—to sit with them for a while in their pain.  You can’t take it away from them, you can’t fix it, you can’t argue with them about all the reasons they should just “let it go.”

You sit!

You sit your ass down in a chair across from them or on the couch beside them and you tell them no matter what, you’ll be there. Sometimes all they need is for someone to just be there for them even if you can’t solve their problems.  Just knowing there is someone who cares can make all the difference in the world.  

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So many people assume they only have to deal with grief when one of their loved ones passes away; but did you know that grief is a part of everyday life for everyone?  Every loss you experience in life sets grief in motion and it doesn’t have to be death; i.e. your child heads off to college, you and your spouse divorce, you have to move from a house you love, your innocence was stolen from you too early, you lose your job, your best friend moves away, your loved one goes off to war, the group you adore spending time with has an event that changes the dynamics, your health takes a drastic turn for the worse, etc.  Any loss can cause grief!

The frustrating thing about our current culture is grief is looked down upon.  If you aren’t your bubbly happy make-everyone-around-you-feel-comfortable-self then you’re somehow judged as having a problem.  And if the grief of the loss isn’t enough, now you’re stuck trying to defend your position on why you feel the way you do.  Eventually you just shove the loss down as far as you can without fully working through your grief because—well, because—your well-meaning family isn’t comfortable seeing you like this and urges you to just get over it and move on.  

Everyone reacts differently to grief but it is widely accepted that we go through the five stages of grief first introduced by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross.  The stages are: 1. Denial, 2. Anger, 3. Bargaining, 4. Depression, and 5. Acceptance.  This is not a complete list of possible emotions, your grief can go through any of these stages in any order, and you may not experience all five stages.  

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If you are experiencing loss or grief right now for any reason, I am truly sorry!!  If you have tried to take your grief to friends or loved ones who—due to their own uncomfortableness—couldn’t sit with you through the pain, I am sorry.  I recently heard Alexander Shaia suggest on The RobCast podcast, “Do not look to friends and family who have not gone on their own journey to support you when you start to grow.”  People are creatures of habit and comfort.  If you take your grief to friends or family who are unaware, you will get anything but relief.  We assume our family “should” help us with our grief, but be careful and cautious who you take your grief to.  

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For those of you I know who are going through some real heavy shit right now—I love you!! And I will do whatever I can to see you through your grief.  If you need someone to listen, I’ve been told I’m an excellent listener and would be happy to sit with you.  If you need a hug, I’ve been told I’m pretty good at those too!!

Peace my friends

~Travis

My Favorite Authors — Part 1

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Frankl

 

In his world-renowned book, Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor E. Frankl says: “What man actually needs is not a tensionless state but rather the striving and struggling for a Worthwhile Goal [caps and bold added for effect], a freely chosen task. What he needs is not the discharge of tension at any cost but the call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled by him.”

I believe what Frankl says is true for several reasons. First, I have witnessed the outcome of this in my own life. Whenever I find myself anxious or depressed due to some tension in my life, it’s most certainly a result of neglecting my Worthwhile Goal. I have experienced the “call of a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled” and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt the direction my life is going. But once in a while—more often than I care to admit—I find myself forgetting my Worthwhile Goal. If I know this about myself, why let life’s tension and stress get me down?

Recently, my wife asked me if I knew what was my biggest deterrent to living out my Worthwhile Goal. Initially, I didn’t have a great answer for her but after pondering her question for a day or two I came back and told her “Drama.” Drama with her, with my children, with my ex, or with friends and family puts me into a place of forgetting my Worthwhile Goal.

In a poetic and innocent way, she simply stated, “Well, there’s always gonna be drama.”

Touche!

She was right, and Frankl is right as well. Taking away the tension or stress isn’t enough for my life to have meaning. The days when I wake up with a sense of purpose have nothing to do with tension, stress, or “drama” that might have spilled onto my lap. Whether I have to go “punch in” at a job that’s not very fulfilling, work through difficult family issues, or spend my entire day getting lab work done at the hospital; my days are always filled with meaning as long as I take one step closer to fulfilling my Worthwhile Goal.

Viktor E. Frankl might know a thing or two about what he’s saying here. If you don’t know, Frankl was plucked from his life and thrown into Auschwitz and other concentration camps. Finding meaning and purpose amongst such dire circumstances seems unfathomable. Frankl rightly quoted (and lived by) the words of Nietzsche: “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” Don’t you find that true in your own life?

On the days when there’s no drama, no time clock, or no stressful appointments or obligations we should all be stress-free, right? Yet, are we? There is a sense of relief when stress is absent but there is also a nagging feeling beneath the surface if we’re not pursuing our Worthwhile Goal. Once again, the absence of tension or stress does not equal Meaning.

What about you? Are you struggling and striving for a Worthwhile Goal? If not, do you find yourself anxious or depressed at times? Have you considered that “a potential meaning waiting to be fulfilled” by you could be the answer to your questions?

I believe many of us know our Worthwhile Goal but it gets lost along the way. Take a step today to get it back! One step forward is far better than standing still. Make that phone call, write that letter, inquire about opportunities you’ve been pondering.

Man’s search for meaning is unique to every person. I can’t tell you what your Worthwhile Goal should be any more than you can tell me mine. But I do believe we can speak truth into each other’s lives so I’m encouraging you to figure out for yourself what is worth striving and struggling for. You won’t regret it.

Drop me a line if you’re unsure and want to talk about your Worthwhile Goal. One of my goals is helping other people figure out theirs.

Feel free to comment as well.

Peace!

 

~Travis

I Copy People!

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You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.

Jim Rohn

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If you were trying to become a better basketball player and wanted to learn everything about the game you could, wouldn’t you want to hang around people that could help you get better? If you’re trying to improve at basketball, wouldn’t it make more sense to hang around Magic Johnson or Larry Bird than to spend time with Kelly Clarkson and Oprah Winfrey? I know it sounds completely obvious but that is what most of us do on a daily basis. We hang around people assuming we are different than them when all along we are becoming the average of the people we spend the most time with.

Several years ago I read The Success Principles by Jack Canfield and he gives a whole topic to this subject. It is a known fact: YOU BECOME LIKE THE PEOPLE YOU SPEND THE MOST TIME WITH!

If you become like the people you spend the most time with, it seems rather important, then, to surround yourself with the kind of people you are trying to become. Canfield has a great suggestion that might give you a hand, “Make a list of everyone you spend time with on a regular basis–your family members, coworkers, neighbors, friends, people in your civic organization, fellow members of your religious group, and so on.
When you’ve completed your list, go back and put a minus sign (-) next to those people who are negative and toxic, and a plus sign (+) next to those who are positive and nurturing. As you make a decision about each person, you might find that a pattern will begin to form. Perhaps your entire workplace is filled with toxic personalities. Or perhaps it’s your friends who naysay everything you do. Or maybe it’s your family members who constantly put you down and undermine your self-esteem and self-confidence. You have to free yourself from the negative influence of others.
Think about it. I’m sure you know people who only have to walk into the room to totally drain you of energy. I refer to these people as psychic vampires. They literally suck the life energy right out of you. Stop spending time with them.
Are there people in your life who are always complaining and blaming others for their circumstances? Are there people who are always judging others, spreading negative gossip, and talking about how bad it is? Stop spending time with them as well.
Until you reach the point in your self-development where you no longer allow people to affect you with their negativity, you need to avoid toxic people at all costs. Your better off spending time alone than spending time with people who will hold you back with their victim mentality and their mediocre standards.
Make a conscious effort to surround yourself with positive, nourishing, and uplifting people–people who believe in you, encourage you to go after your dreams, and applaud your victories. Surround yourself with possibility thinkers, idealists, and visionaries.”

Sorry about the long quote but I felt like it was all so necessary. We really have to surround ourselves with people who want what’s best for us. Even if its family, try and distance yourself from the psychic vampires in your life. There is no reason to let someone completely suck the energy right out of you. I especially think of us parents; we don’t want our kids to hang out with the kids we know are bad news. Why do we think those kids are bad news?? Chances are its because we can sense they are not a positive influence on our children. If we strongly encourage our children to surround themselves with great friends and uplifting people, then why don’t we take our own advice?????

If you’re getting emotionally beat up by the same person over and over, put an end to it. If you’re getting talked down to by your family or disrespected by somebody at your work, put an end to it. I have a sticker in my office that says, “SPEAK YOUR MIND–EVEN IF YOUR VOICE SHAKES!

Sometimes you have to stand up for yourself before the psychic and emotional vampires will put their fangs away. They need to know you’re serious about your own health, dreams, and success. Call them on their crap in front of others if their trying to bully you or make you feel less than. Better yet, maybe you should play the song, Mean, by Taylor Swift for them.

One of the best movies I saw last year, hands down, was The Help. The most touching scene in the whole movie was when the maid was leaving the house and took the little girl in her arms and repeated with her, “You is Kind! You is Smart! You is Important!” Tear jerker for sure!!

I believe you are kind, you are smart, and you are important. Kind, smart, and important enough to surround yourself with nothing but the best!

So, in conclusion, if you now know you are an average of the five people you spend the most time with, how does that impact how you move forward? What are your top five people like? Self-centered, unkind, egotistical, lazy, judgmental, or just plain mean? Or are your top five people kind, smart, important, inspiring, passionate, and uplifting?

You are the one who chooses to spend most of your time with these people, nobody else. So, if you find your energy shifted by the people you’re spending time with, change it! I had a person who every time I was around them I would get sleepy and yawn almost every minute or two. I never realized until I read this book that they were an energy zapper for me. I mean a
literal
physical
energy
zapper
for me!
Finally, I realized I needed to avoid them. Nothing personal, just needed to spend more quality time with someone who would give me energy, not take it away.

Spend some time doing the exercise in the quote above. You might be surprised by what you find.

Until next time. . .

~Travis

PS. I love this quote below and found it fitting for some of the vampires I’m referring to. 😉

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I Have Friends that Have Relationship Issues

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I have friends that have relationship issues!

I fancy myself as a fairly gifted listener when I want to be; so when a friend is in the mood to share I usually try to make myself available. One thing I have come to realize is relationship issues never go away. One person’s issues simmer down then the next person’s drama flairs up. There is obviously a reason soap operas have been so successful for so many years.

I have friends that have relationship issues; you have friends that have relationship issues; I have relationship issues; you have relationship issues. Just when you think you’re out of the rough waters and you’ve reached smooth sailing somebody comes along and rocks the boat. It’s inevitable! If you’re breathing, you or someone around you is having issues.

The question is not whether you will or will not have any relationship issues. The question is when you have them. Remember, if you’re breathing, you have issues. I love the picture above because it reminds me that having issues is not such a terrible thing. Having issues is part of life. The mistake isn’t in making mistakes. The mistake is in not having the balls to make the mistakes. The mistake is in thinking life has to be perfect all the time. The mistake is in being too afraid to leave a bad situation. The mistake is in being too afraid to voice your opinion because you’re afraid somebody might tease you behind your back. The mistake is in burying your gifts and talents in order to guarantee you will never realize your dreams. The mistake is in hiding from your true calling because it makes more sense to stay in your secure job. The mistake is in settling for anything less than living life without any regrets.

Even though some of my friends are going through difficult times in their relationships, I applaud most of them who are dealing with their issues. They are taking chances. They are willing to make a decision to do what is right for them. They are taking ownership of their own destiny.

Taking ownership of your own destiny isn’t always easy. Sometimes its easier to stand in the shadows of a bad relationship and blame the other person for your unhappiness. Or blame them for hurting you. Or blame them for standing in the way of you realizing your dreams. Truth be told, you are responsible for your own dreams. Nobody stands in your way of reaching your highest potential but you! Any objection you have otherwise is simply excuses. Oh trust me, I’m learning that about myself too. Like I said before, words don’t just jump on the page because I like to fancy myself as a writer. It takes dedication, determination, and true grit to chase after your dreams. Sometimes I think most of all, you have to be stubborn as hell in order to get where you want to go. There’s a certain air of stubbornness in those that are determined to push through the fear and be willing to make mistakes.

How stubborn are you? Are you willing to risk making a mistake and push through your fears? What’s holding you back from taking that new job, or moving to that new destination, or changing your relationship status, or finding the peace you desire, or pursuing your dreams? Life is about making mistakes. The old saying goes, “He who dies with the most toys, wins.” I think it should be twisted around just a bit. “He who makes the most mistakes, wins!” If you’re making mistakes, at least you’re not stuck! If you’re making mistakes, at least you’re trying!

 

Peace my Friends!

 

~Travis