Flying just south of Mt. Everest on our way from Kathmandu, Nepal to Paro, Bhutan, I was reminded of how important really big goals are in our life. Now, as I mentioned a few weeks ago, climbing Mt. Everest has never been a goal of mine but when I saw the mountain I thought, I don’t want to miss out on the chance to face that challenge, to some degree at least. So I decided, “I am going to climb that mountain and I am going to do it tomorrow!” And guess what? I did.
“Now, wait a minute!” you may say. “I thought you always preached that a huge goal like that takes a lot of thinking and planning? Can a person accomplish, to any real degree, such a huge goal without much thought or planning?” Well, yes, you can.
People ask me when they see the shirt that has my name on it, a picture of Mt. Everest and the 2010 date, if I made it all the way to the top or at least past base camp. I tell them that I did not make it to the summit but I did make it 100 meters past base camp–MY base camp, that is, a place at the very, very bottom of the Mountain.
The point was that I’d set a goal that meant something to me—taking the opportunity to try something, even if my accomplishment was small compared to reaching the peak. Because, yes, reaching the peak would take a lot of preparation and planning just like all Really Huge Goals do. But just because you can’t achieve the “Really Big Goal” doesn’t mean you always skip out on the experience altogether.
Life is about your experiences and memories, and the challenges you take on, no matter how small, will add to your sense of accomplishment and enrich your life. So even though you may not be able to ‘reach the top’ due to some unchangeable circumstance or because you chose to put the majority of your efforts elsewhere, if you have the chance to make a memory that won’t detour you from your primary goals, why not go for it?
May your New Year be filled with realized dreams and many happy experiences!
There were so many awe-inspiring, extraordinarily beautiful, and even startling sights during our recent trip to the Asia. But one of the oddest things—or at least one that really struck me—was the incongruous vision of Buddhist monks walking around the temple areas, looking down as they went, at something we are all very familiar with yet would not expect to see at a Buddhist temple–cell phones! Yes, these monks, ages anywhere from, (would you believe) 8 or 9 years old to 80 or 90 years old—were walking and texting or talking on that very, modern invention.
It didn’t seem to fit at all and it took a while to get somewhat used to seeing the simple Buddhist ways combined with modern technology. Didn’t Buddhist traditionally renounce conventional living? But it occurred to me after a while, that they also attach great importance to community and isn’t keeping in touch part of that? And then there’s the Buddhist philosophy of “if you can’t change something then accept it”. And I’ve been thinking about that particular outlook on and off ever since then.
It’s really a very important idea, one that we should all make a part of our lives. Whether it’s a simple thing like not getting upset at standing in line or being in a huge traffic jam or the heart-breaking circumstance of dealing with the illness or death of a loved one, we need to focus on accepting what we cannot change. Fighting it by getting angry, depressed, or taking any other destructive or non-constructive path will not make it better and often leads to more unhappiness.
I know it’s easy to say, accept it and let it go or embrace it, and much harder to act on that idea. But if there is any time of the year that would make it easier to try and live by this philosophy, it must be now, during the holiday season when forgive and forget, be of good cheer, and learning to see that it’s “A Wonderful Life” is being preached and practiced all around us. So, let’s all think about that and put it into action in our lives and I promise that we will all feel so much better.
A Happy Holiday to you and yours.
While visiting various people in Nepal and Bhutan we were told repeatedly by both Hindu and Buddhist how they strongly believed in Karma—the concept that there is a fundamental law of nature that rewards or punishes a person because of their “thoughts, words and actions” in this life and sometimes in the next life. In my opinion, this belief system is more sensible than the common Western religious focus on a reward or punishment you’ll receive in the hereafter. With Karma, the focus is on what you can do to make your life, and the lives of those around you, better now, in the life you’re presently living.
We saw the results of this belief many times through the wonderful actions of the people in both Nepal and Bhutan. We actually ended up in a light-hearted disagreement with our very friendly and funny cab driver, Mr. Pandey, while he drove us around in Kathmandu. The issue was how much we would pay him for driving us around all day. We were trying to pay him more and he was demanding less–bet that doesn’t ever happen in New York City!
I think Mr. Pandey truly understood the value of karma and how what he did now would come back to him in this life. I’m sure that thought was what motivated him. What he probably didn’t know, was that his generosity also encouraged the creation of the brain chemicals dopamine and serotonin which gives a major boost to our sense of well-being and fulfillment. (I talk a lot about this in chapter 12 of “How to Ignite Your Passion for Living”. See on page 145 in particular). I’d guess Buddha was a bit of a scientist way back in the 5th century BC, even if he didn’t know exactly what the ‘energy’ that flowed through a good and generous person was.
Can you imagine what the world would be like if everyone believed in, and acted on, the concept of Karma? I believe we all need to think more about Kama so our thoughts, words and actions help the world and ourselves now and maybe not think so much about our rewards in the next life. Because if there is an afterlife, there would be no better measure of a person than how well they lived each and every day of this one.
It’s amazing how much one can get out of visiting other countries. Not only are there the constant novel experiences but there is also so much to learn from their habits and cultures. I have now been to 74 countries and even lived in Turkey from 1959 to 1961 where I attend high school. But even so, every country is a surprise, a wonder, and a new lesson, opening my eyes to so many new and varied visions of life and living.
One thing that stood out while walking and being driven in the heavy, crazy traffic of Kathmandu was how the culture and habits of the people there differed so very much from our own. We saw so many near misses between cars and pedestrians, watched our drivers and others being regularly cut off by wildly driven vehicles, and heard so many, many horns. I mean Kimberly, I, and my two daughters, Nichol and Cammy, came within an inch or two of being hit by motorcycles as well as cars. It was quite scary at first but amazingly you get used to it. It’s just how it is there. Back home in Utah, if any of those things happened you most likely would get an angry look or get flipped off while in some other cities in the U.S. you even might get shot.
However, in India and Nepal, people never seem to get upset or mad at the honking, getting cut off, or nearly being hit. It would seem that living in very crowded conditions combined with the both the Hindu and Buddhist attitudes results in a very calm, non-defensive, understanding. It would be nice if we could realize, in our country, that things get crazy sometimes, but it’s just not worth the energy and unhappiness of being upset.
There is so much for us to learn from other countries and peoples. It’s a shame that everyone in the world can’t visit dozens of other countries and see how much we, as humans, are very much the same and that we can learn from our differences.
As most of you know, the very talented Leslie Nielsen died this past weekend. He was an amazing person not only because of his talent but also because of his perseverance.
Nielsen childhood was a difficult one, growing up in an abusive home but with one particular shining star in his life—his uncle who was a well-known actor. The awe and respect his uncle garnered inspired Nielsen to pursue an acting career even though, as he told a Boston Globe reporter in 1994, he was “very shy about it and certainly without courage regarding it”. Yet, it was what he wanted and so, even though he often felt he would be discovered to be a no-talent, he moved forward, gaining a scholarship to the Neighborhood Playhouse and making his first television appearance a few years later in 1948. However, becoming a full-time, successful actor would still be an uphill battle for another 8 years until he landed a number of film roles that finally got him noticed.
But even then, what he had wasn’t quite what he wanted. Apparently Nielsen always felt he should be doing comedy but his good looks and distinguished voice kept him busy in dramatic roles. It wasn’t until 1980—32 years into his career—that he landed the role it would seem he was made for in “Airplane!”. That movie lead him into the second half of a prolific and notable career where his comedic presence alone could make a movie a financial success even when the critics would not give it two thumbs up.
Did Nielsen then feel content in his career? Yes and no. He was thrilled to be doing the comedy that he always felt he should do, but even during his last few years, he always had an innate sense of curiosity, wondering what new role or challenge might be just around the corner. He never stopped working, never retired. He had a passion, not only for acting and entertaining but also for living.
Leslie Nielsen’s passion and perseverance is wonderfully inspiring. He built a hugely successful career with little more than plain old hard work and doggedness. He showed us that even a single desire, never given up on, can make for a remarkable life. And I, for one, want to thank him for it.