Archive for the ‘Sports’ category

True Intent

March 22, 2009

I was studying my Chopin recital program this afternoon, minding my own business, savoring the Sarabande from Bach’s English Suite No. 5 as played by Andras Schiff. In my opinion, this is the most beautiful dance in the suite, with plenty of room for expressiveness. I haven’t started to learn notes for it myself yet–I’m still somewhere about halfway through the previous dance, the Courante.

But ever since the first time I listened through this program, I’ve had a special affinity for the Sarabande. It feels very intuitive to me, as if it just floated out of my mind and materialized before me without any interference or effort. I feel as if I’ve already played it, and every harmonic turn holds a feeling of nostalgia.

It’s an easy piece for me to get drawn into, lose myself, and leave all the mundane stuff of life behind. It’s meditative, contemplative music, and I want to savor every moment of it.

I was drifting in that peaceful place, my mind free and open, enjoying every note when–

“TRUUUUUUE INTENT!”

A voice came blasting into my thoughts, completely shattering the tranquility.

“What the hell was that?” I thought. The phrase was odd, and had absolutely nothing to do with anything. “OK, I must just be tired, and my mind is playing–”

“TRUUUUUUUUUUUUUE INTENT!!!”

“Oh, come on, concentrate,” I told myself. “This is good practice for distractions during your recitals next year. You never know what–”

“TRUUUUUUUUUUE INTENT! TRUE INTENT IS THE SPLIT SECOND BEFORE THE PERSON MOVES. THAT IS THE KEY TO EVERYTHING! TELL HIM!”

It was as if a bright orange splotch had suddenly appeared while I was looking at a delicate watercolor print of fog rising off a lake at dawn. I wasn’t really alarmed–I didn’t think I was “hearing voices” in the clichéd way that people do in movies when they’re losing their minds. I’d received too many messages from the universe, and I figured this was just another one.

“Crap,” I muttered, and started the track on the CD from the beginning again. It was getting harder to ignore whoever was saying this stuff. I was still going over these things in my mind when the voice broke in again.

“TELL HIM! TELL HIM TRUE INTENT IS THE KEY!”

“I’ll do it later–I’m sure I won’t forget.” I was getting annoyed. I’d had a weekend away from home, hadn’t had time to sit at the piano, and today, at about one, I’d finally had a few moments to listen to my practice disc. And now, the dogs were resting quietly, my husband was reading, and I was–

“TELL HIM NOW! YOU HAVE TO TELL HIM RIGHT NOW!”

“Fine,” I said internally, and then, because I figured that part of the message was in the delivery, I shouted:

“TRUUUUUUUUUUUUUUE INTENT!”

Ah, that felt better, even if I had no idea what I was talking about. (“I don’t have to understand it–I only work here!”)

“What?” My husband was perhaps just as surprised to have his wife blurt something random while he was trying to read.

“You know your Daitoryu?”

“Yeah. What about it?”

“Apparently, I’m supposed to tell you that true intent is something that comes a fraction of a second before someone moves. And it’s the key to everything.”

“How do you know that?”

To put it charitably, the only thing I know about martial arts is how to spell “martial arts”. It would be like my husband, a non-musician whose background is in engineering, computers, and, at least lately, shiatsu and Oriental medicine, giving me a twenty-minute dissertation on the evolution and execution of mordents in Baroque music.

“I don’t know anything. But while I was listening to this Bach Sarabande, someone kept saying this and wouldn’t quit until I told you.”

I handed him headphones and the CD player.

“Here,” I said. “This is what I was trying to listen to.”

I waited until I knew the piece had begun, then shouted:

“TRUUUUUUUUUUUUE INTENT!”

“Stop,” he said, laughing a little.

I waited a few more seconds, then repeated:

“TRUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUE INTENT! THAT IS THE KEY TO EVERYTHING!”

I don’t remember what his response to that was, but I didn’t interrupt again. When the music had ended, he handed back the CD player.

“I’m sorry,” he said. “That is a really beautiful piece.”

Yes, I know it is. If played right, it can be heartbreakingly tender. It is such a great contrast to the mischievous, light and cheerful Passepied that follows.

“Well, at least the message got to its intended recipient,” I said. After all, that’s all that was happening. My mind was open, and whoever wanted my husband to know about “true intent” knew I was a reliable messenger.

Art and the transmission of art, the craft and knowledge of it being transferred from one person to another, is a deeply mysterious thing. You can read all the books in the world about an art, cram your head with facts and figures, theories on how things are done a certain way and why.

Yet without that person-to-person connection, the knowledge is meaningless and useless.

I’ve discovered that, if you are passionate about your art, you will be given a teacher that can transmit that art in the most perfect way for you to absorb it.

At other times, though, the transmissions come from unlikely directions. Today, I was responsible for transmitting something of an art form totally foreign to me. For me, it will always be a good story. For my husband, whose art is impacted by the message I passed, it is something valuable.

I could have ignored the voice–and believe me, I really wanted to! Couldn’t the universe find some other way to send this information without bothering me?

Maybe not. Often, a message has more import when it’s received and delivered by someone who couldn’t possibly make it up if they tried.

I’ve got at least a day or two of learning before I begin the Sarabande. When I listened to the piece later this afternoon, there were no interruptions. But even if I never hear that voice again, whenever I play the piece, somewhere deep in my mind, the words will ring out along with the notes:

“TRUUUUUUUUUUUUUE INTENT!”

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A Royal Return

February 24, 2009

As a kid, I loved names. I haven’t outgrown that, but some things have changed as I’ve gotten older.

I really enjoy baseball, particularly the “old-fashioned” notion of listening to games on the radio. Being a New York state resident, I’m interested in the Yankees, but I’m certainly not a diehard. I’ll happily cheer for any team in any game if I think they have a compelling story. Yankees, Mets, Devil Rays, Rockies … give me a good story to follow, and I’ll follow a team.

My one constant, though, from childhood on, has been that I’ve always had a soft spot for the Kansas City Royals. As a kid, I thought it was cool that a team called themselves “Royals,” and not just “Kings” or “chiefs” or “Padres”.

My husband likes to tease me that, once I get interested in something, particularly TV programs, they die and get canceled. That might not seem like it’s relevant, but the Kansas City Royals, over the past ten years at least, have been kind of like those TV shows. They start with lots of “promise,” and end every season with a losing record, not even close to the wild card, let alone the World Series.

Now, with my best friend in Kansas, I’m even more interested in the Royals. (To wit: Never one to pay much attention to college basketball, I gladly got caught up in March Madness and spent the last two days of the run on the edge of my seat, just as overjoyed as any Jayhawk fan when Kansas won it all in overtime.)

Some “experts” are saying the Royals have even more “promise” than usual this year. But we all know about early expert picks–they’re either dead right, or dead wrong, and you may as well just flip a coin to figure out which it’ll be in any given year.

I’m not paying some crazy cable bill just for Kansas baseball games. There’s a strong possibility that I’ll be in the state for intensive piano study this summer, in which case, I’ll find myself a good radio station and, when I’m not at the keyboard, I’ll be listening … and dreaming that this will be the year they recapture their crown.

Holding Up the Stars

October 28, 2008

In every aspect of life, from business to art, there are people at the top, and there are people at the bottom, with countless others in between.

We hear a lot about reaching our full potential, and we try to do this. But just as one person’s fingerprint is unique, their potential is, too. We have our own ideas about just how much we can achieve, and, whether we like it or not, the feedback we receive from the people around us plays a big part in shaping these ideas.

When we are children, no matter what environment we grow up in, we absorb things from around us. These can range from language and pronunciation to parenting style. They can include notions about what kind of career we will have (notice how many funeral homes include “and son” in their name!) to who we will marry.

No wonder, then, that we get ideas about what we can—or can’t—do, expectations that many people simply accept without thinking about where they came from, who they came from, and whether or not they are truly theirs.

Not everyone can become an internationally renowned musician, best-selling author, millionaire athlete or top-flight surgeon. Not everyone can become a teacher, farmer, veterinarian, secretary, cook, mother, or garbage collector.

To say that “surgeon” is better than “garbage collector” is impossible, since both are necessary. Without the surgeon, we have no recourse if something needs to be repaired in or cutting out of our bodies. At the same time, without the garbage collector, we would soon be overwhelmed by waste and clutter.

There are always people, in various callings, who will garner most of the public attention and recognition. Those are the “stars”. But for every one of them, there must be thousands of others behind the scenes, keeping things running smoothly.

We are all intricately bound together, from the surgeon to the garbage collector. The surgeon discards used sponges, needles, syringes and gloves without thinking twice about what happens to them once they leave the operating room. So the surgeon is directly connected to the garbage collector. Their salaries may be different—six figures versus five—but both callings, both professions, are invaluable.

Each of us is a star, and our light is the brightest thing in someone else’s skyscape. We shouldn’t necessarily go around trying to be this light. If we did, got caught up always wondering how a particular action or word from us will increase our shining, we’d become unbearable.

But every once in a while, particularly on the days when someone stops to mention it to us, it’s good to consider this, and even take time to savor what we’ve done that has inspired growth in another human being, lifting them higher so they, in turn, can become brighter stars in their own universe.

Courage Comes in Many Guises

October 26, 2008

Yesterday, I went bowling with a group from my church. Now, I make absolutely no claims to greatness. In fact, when asked if I was interested, I think I only said that I did bowl, not that I bowled well.

I lived up to my own reputation for ungreatness. I finished my first game with a 34. I thought, “Oh, next time will be better–maybe I’ve just got to get warmed up.”

Oh, it wasn’t, though. My second game earned me a whopping total of 7.

In jest, I said that I would tell people I got four strikes in a row–just wouldn’t tell them how long it took me to get them, or that they were “broken” strikes.

But really, what’s the point of my going bowling with a bunch of people? It was to have fun, and I definitely did that. I think it was more frustrating for the people who were so graciously (or mercifully?) giving me suggestions to try and make me better.

But really, it was a lot of fun. If I want to demonstrate publicly that I’m good at something, I’ll walk up to a piano. In that realm, I’m great, and I’m getting better.

This morning, I got a certificate for being “Bowler of the Day”. Everyone thought that was great. Me, I turned really red. Mention was made of my “courage”.

At first, I thought, “Oh, come on! How much courage does it take to go somewhere and pay money to eat really greasy pizza, wear hideous shoes, and throw a ball that weighs more than some newborn children?”

I was just about ready to dismiss the whole thing as sappy–hey, let’s give the blind lady an award!–and then I stopped myself.

To me, it’s not “courage” at all. I do all kinds of things every day. (I came home after church and vacuumed my house, and I’ll take out the trash later, plus write an article, practice a Beethoven concerto, feed my dogs … you know, typical Sunday or every day stuff.)

“Courage” is a sort of catch-all word. It’s what people call it when you do things they don’t think they could do if they were in your situation. So, for most people, doing lots of things without looking seems really scary and close to impossible.

It’s not, and I spend plenty of energy convincing people that it’s not. Many folks learn this, but many more don’t. Still, even if they come to accept that I, or anyone else with a disability, can do things they don’t think they’d be able to manage, “courage” is the word that gets used to describe what pushes us to do them anyway.

To a majority of people in my church, who only see me on Sunday mornings playing piano, the idea of my bowling, or flying cross-country with my guide dog, or cooking–all those things just seem too big, and they can’t get their minds around them.

But, little by little, they’re all learning. Whether I’m helping carry chairs from one room to another, bringing dishes to potluck suppers, or any number of other tasks, they’ll figure out that most of those things are no big deal to me. They’ll stop being a big deal to them, too, and there won’t be any more certificates for courageous bowling.

That’s fine with me. Mark Twain once said: “On the whole, it is better to deserve honors and not have them than to have them and not deserve them.” To me, there are plenty of other things more courageous than a blind person bowling. Save the accolades for the soldiers fighting overseas, the police who work on some of our most dangerous streets, the people facing daily struggles with the pain, loneliness and heartache caused by lifelong illness or family disintegration.

We all have to have courage at some point in our life. Courage doesn’t mean we lack fear. It simply means that, faced with a situation that induces fear either in us or in others, we find it within ourselves to keep moving forward. We refuse to let doubt or others’ misunderstandings limit what we choose to accomplish.

Six Steps to Optimism: Day 6

October 4, 2008

“There are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality: and then there are those who turn one into the other.”—Douglas Everett

Optimism and living one’s dream is like planting tiger lilies in your garden. Once they take hold, they grow and spread, and pretty soon, the whole place is filled with the brilliance of their blossoms.

When you make the choice to be an optimist, and then follow that with a series of actions that will further your dream, opening yourself to the experiences and wisdom of others so that they become captivated and energized by your enthusiasm and begin to put their strength behind you, and when you consistently take the opportunities that come to you, optimism will become an integral part of you. Even in moments of doubt, indecision or hesitation, it won’t be suppressed.

Take a minute and think about someone you have known who always seemed to be in the right place at the right time. Perhaps she was a colleague in business whose passion for her work was infectious, and no matter who she was working with or what project she was assigned, she got bigger and better results than anyone could imagine.

Or maybe it was a doctor who spent years pursuing research that everyone else passed over because it was too tedious, too unglamorous, or just too damn hard. Yet he persevered and ended up discovering a breakthrough that no one expected.

It could be the kid next door who was terrible at every sport. Everyone made fun of him, and he always got picked last for teams at school. Yet he kept practicing, kept trying, kept asking coaches how he could improve and then went back and actually tried to put their suggestions into practice. He might never have gotten onto a pro team, competed beyond his small town, but he became a coach and led another group of kids just as unlikely and unassuming as him to victory.

Over the years, all these people probably heard, countless times, “Why don’t you just give up?” They were told, “That’s foolish, you’ll never make it.” People whispered about what a waste of time and talent these people’s lives were.

Still, every one of them heard those words and chose to ignore them. They followed their hearts and were rewarded by seeing their dreams materialize into their reality.

Living a dream isn’t walking through life in La-La Land, completely oblivious to anything outside yourself. Living a dream also isn’t fighting so fiercely for chances and then guarding them so jealously that you jeopardize other people’s dreams just to get yours.

There are enough dreams in the universe for every one of us. The universe is limitless in its abundance. So while we’re striving for our own personal crown, we can take moments along the way to help another person get theirs, too.

Dreams unfold and fill our lives. Just as some people see tiger lilies as a nuisance or an undesirable weed, plenty of folks will just shake their heads in befuddlement when you tell them what your dream is.

A few years ago, I had a thriving goat herd. I was passionate about it, and I was good at taking care of it. I loved trying to make each generation better, stronger, more beautiful, more productive than the last.

At the same time, I had a very busy and successful piano teaching studio and was beginning to do a lot more traveling for performances.

When I was away at concerts, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. And when I was surrounded by the goats, I could think of no better thing to be doing.

But while I was able to reach a certain level of excellence in both areas, I had to choose between them. Goats need care every day. There are no vacations, no paid leave, no sabbaticals, no sick days. And the piano demanded time every day, and not always at home.

I loved my goats, and I still love goats. But I chose to follow the path the piano was leading me on, and for that, the goats could not go with me.

It took me months of internal struggle to reach my decision, and the first day I actually spoke it aloud, I cried. My heart felt as if it was being broken beyond repair. I had nurtured countless does and their kids from birth to their last days on earth, and wen the world seemed too crazy or confusing, the pasture and the barn was always a place of peace and reassurance. I could curl up in the hay and feel the warmth of whichever doe was herd queen at that moment, or I could channel anger and frustration into the hard, clarifying rhythm of stacking hay or cleaning stalls. Even the bucks accepted me with respect and without judgment, whether they were well-mannered about it or not. And for pure nurturing and expression of unconditional love, there is no replacement for carrying a newborn kid around nestled in my arms, or under my jacket if the day was cold, and feeling it nibble my chinn or nuzzle against my cheek with the milky velvet of its nose, feeling the fast, strong beating of its heart beneath my hands.

I still spend blissful moments among the goats at my mother’s farm, savoring the chances to milk or play with new babies or hear them bleat to one another from across the pasture.

But once the choice was made, the actions followed. Things began falling into place and carrying me toward much higher achievement at the keyboard. Now, aside from my old dog, there isn’t a whole bunch of critters who need me to feed them or, when I have to be away, find someone else who will.

I said that I wanted to be doing something musical every day of my life. I am living that dream now. There is no telling where my reality ends and my dream begins because they are one and the same.

My goats were invaluable companions on my journey. I learned countless lessons from them about compassion, integrity, perseverance, and any number of other attributes. I learned what unconditional love was so that, when I encountered it in another human being, I would recognize and appreciate it.

At some point, each person has the potential to have a life so filled with their dream that, to them, reality is not in a different sphere. There are many forks in the road to this dream, and each one can raise painful choices.

As I have often said, we make the best decisions we can with the information we have and the tools we possess in each moment. Hindsight has a way of making many people second-guess themselves or regret what they’ve done. But we have no way of knowing that, with a different choice, we would have unlocked a different outcome. People often get stuck in hard or unpleasant situations and react emotionally by saying, “I should have chosen differently—then I’d be happy”. Or they blame others, when in fact, we are the only ones who can choose or act for ourselves, and the consequences of our choices and actions must be completely owned by us.

Once the choice is made, the action begins, and the dream takes flight.

What choices have you been faced with in pursuit of your own dream? Looking back, how did the decisions you made shape the journey you experienced?

Six Steps to Optimism: Day 5

October 3, 2008

“Dreams pass into the reality of action. From the actions stems the dream again: and this interdependence produces the highest form of living.”—Anais Nin

It isn’t enough to just look at your window optimistically and say to yourself, “Life will be wonderful.” If you expect your dream to blossom but do nothing to cultivate it, then it won’t flower. We must each discover our own dream for ourselves. No one can give it to us.

Once discovered, it must be nurtured. Choices must be made, actions taken, each following on the foundations laid by the one before, but all aiming for the fulfillment of the dream.

So, when we look out the window of our perception onto the world, it is colored by all our experiences and interactions. The decisions we make and the actions we initiate all spring from this place of accumulated knowledge and wisdom.

To return to my own life as a pianist, I can say, “I want to play a concerto with an orchestra”. But first, I must learn how to use my hands to create the sounds at the instrument I will need to give the most expressive and artistic performance of that concerto. Even after mastering the techniques with my hands and fingers, I must then learn the notes of the concerto and commit them to memory, absorb them so deeply into my heart that the music becomes an extension of who I am and I become an extension of the composer who wrote it, so that it’s impossible to see any of the seams between where one ends and the other begins.

And once I have learned the notes and made them into a work of art, I must find an orchestra to play with and practice with them. Once the rehearsing is done, other people must come to the concert hall, fill up the seats and be quiet long enough to hear the fruits of all our labors.

So, I can’t just sit in my chair in my house and let the sounds from my CD player wash over me and think, “Oh, my dream is to play this piece”.

I must get up out of my chair, go to the piano, take out my music, and begin, step by step, to build the dream into reality.

Then, when the concert is finished and the applause has died away, after the hall is silent and empty and everyone has returned to their own home, I must take a few moments to savor the sweetness of what I’ve accomplished, take a clear look at what I could do better next time, and begin again.

Sometimes, beginning again is the hardest part. It is easy to become complacent and settle for “just enough” or “pretty good” or “almost”.

The optimist looks at their gold medal, or their standing-room-only concert hall, or their million-dollar book sales and says, “What can I do next?”.

It’s not that they aren’t satisfied or don’t appreciate the richness of their experiences. It’s just that they are always seeing further up the mountain, just beyond the place where the path bends in the trees and they’re not quite sure what lies ahead.

After all, “dream” is only a noun until, by choice, you make it into a verb.

What stage on your dream’s path are you in, and what action will you take next? What choice have you made today that has moved you a step closer to realizing your dream? And, if you are at a pinnacle in your mountain range, look out and see: Which mountain in the distance is calling your name, beckoning you to begin anew?

Six Steps to Optimism: Day 3

October 1, 2008

“Optimism is essential to achievement, and it is also the foundation of courage and true progress.”—Nicholas Murray Butler

What do you do once you’ve begun to change your mind?

Well, that depends. It varies from person to person. Just as there are many different ways to see a mountain, there are just as many paths to the top. They all start, though, at the same place and in the same way: at the bottom and with one step.

If you start at a place, as an optimist does, where you believe that, no matter how difficult something appears to be, you have the capacity to take on the challenge, then you will take that first step as a natural outgrowth of your perception.

The optimist doesn’t ignore obstacles or have delusions about what’s possible. The optimist just says, “I don’t know how I’ll solve this problem right now, but I’ll find out as I begin moving forward”.

And sometimes, “forward” might appear to be anything but. It’s very difficult to understand, for instance, how clearing away other people’s dirty dishes at a mediocre restaurant until all hours of the night will help if what you really want to do is write a best-selling novel. When you’re two months behind on your bills and your car dies, it’s really hard to know what these circumstances have to do with your passion for baseball. And when you’re sitting in the hospital waiting for the most recent round of MRI’s, x-rays and tests to come back so you’ll know what’s slowly robbing your mother of her ability to walk, it’s completely normal to have no comprehension of how this could possibly have any connection to your lifelong dream of performing on Broadway.

As I noted yesterday, optimism isn’t just a magic-wand feeling. It’s often hard-won over long periods of self-examination and self-discovery.

Optimism isn’t an impenetrable shield that protects us from life. But with it, we can move ourselves further along our path toward realizing the dream that is innate to every human being.

If I have optimism, even if I face adversity, I can find the courage either to reach deep within myself and persever, or, when I find my own reserves running low, reach out to other people for the encouragement I need.

For me personally, this lesson has been very concretely illustrated over the past ten months. As a pianist who is blind, I often listened to recordings or live recitals and thought of all players who were better than me as being beyond anything I could ever hope to achieve. I gave all kinds of reasons why I would never reach that level.

In short, I was a pessimist. My reasons were really excuses, and I remained stuck where I was because my perspective and perception weren’t changing.

If your mom says you do something well, that means a lot. After all, she’s your mom. But on the flip side, she’s your mom, and moms do that kind of thing, or at least many of them do.

If your husband says you do something well, that’s wonderful, too. You can derive a lot of satisfaction from pleasing first your mom and then your husband because you love them both and want to give them something to be happy about. But he’s your husband.

If you’re really committed to your dream, you won’t settle for a teacher who is just a yes man. You’ll want the one who can push the hardest and inspire you to go the highest. Whether that teacher is a “brand-name”, well-known person affiliated with a big conservatory and with lots of high-profile students or is just some seemingly average person living off the beaten track doesn’t matter.

When you go out in search of a teacher to further you along the path toward artistic greatness, that’s a choice you actively make. And if you really want your dream to progress, you won’t rest until you find that teacher, even if this searching isn’t in the forefront of your mind.

I know it wasn’t in mine when I climbed onto a bus at a music conference in Minnesota. It wasn’t on my mind when I first flew to Denver, then took the long drive into Kansas. It wasn’t even in my mind as a friendship blossomed through phone calls and e-mails.

Well, it’s in my mind now, and every day, when I sit down at the piano to practice, whether I’m doing basic technical exercises or working on repertoire, it’s impossible to escape. And, when a teacher you’ve spent a lifetime searching for tells you you can go so much farther than you believe and won’t let you wiggle out of that fact, insisting you take on the pieces you once thought would be impossible for you to play, well, that does something to one’s fundamental outlook, and everything else flows from that shift.

I’ve talked a lot about encouragement from the direction of inspiring people to reach beyond their own perceived capacity. But courage is also the displacement of fear and loneliness. Of course, we are alone within our own hearts and minds, and we are alone in our quest to attain our dreams. No one can share our journey completely with us.

Yet we are given companions who walk beside us, some only for the briefest of moments, others for decades. These companions are the people who, by words or actions, demonstrate to us in ways large and small that they salute our dreams and our calling to make them reality. These are the people who are there to encourage us and restore our strength when we are beset by doubt, fear, and all the other emotions that we carry with us always. By their belief in us and their expressions of faith in the rightness of what we are doing, we have our stamina renewed and our faith strengthened.

I used to think that Chopin’s Sonata in B-Flat Minor Op. 35 was something I’d never play. For that matter, at this time last year, the idea that I’d play Prokofiev’s Sonata No. 2 in D Minor wasn’t even registering with me. Even Beethoven’s Sonata Op. 57 (Appassionata) was just something I put on my CD player when I wanted to hear true drama.

Last November, my friend Anne started insisting I could play the Prokofiev. I ignored her until January, then decided I’d at least try.

I finished learning notes midway through February. I played it for informal music gatherings in April and May (or maybe it was march and April—can’t recall right now). I added it to a public recital program in August, and it’s still growing and maturing. But I own it. I live it.

I could not have achieved any of this without optimism. I may have had optimism in other areas of my life, but it took the encouragement of another person to rekindle it in my piano playing. With that as the foundation, I have the courage to take on new and bigger challenges and to do the daily, unglamorous work that’s necessary if I want success. And finally, because of all those elements arranged in that particular order, I am experiencing progress, and that progress is obvious to anyone who hears me now.

If you lose the courage within yourself, it doesn’t mean it’s gone forever. Look outside yourself and find someone who can spark it again. For me, one of the greatest joys of traveling is the possibility that I may meet someone whose interaction with me will change my life. Two years ago, it happened on a bus in Minnesota.

If this is true for me, imagine how many opportunities await all of us as we go about our daily lives. This is optimism at work. We are all “source material”. We are integral parts of the universe, givers and receivers of wisdom. Even if the wisdom isn’t in your particular area of interest or directly related to your passion, it’s wisdom nonetheless and is a priceless gift.

Today’s challenge: With every person you encounter in the next twenty-four hours, consider both what you can learn from them and what you may be teaching them.