What is the greatest pain?

My daughter Ava and I went out for a mid-week dinner date on Wednesday night. She had qualified for her sectional track and field meet. Which in Wisconsin is the last step before the state championship meet. If she finished in the top 3 at the sectional meet she would make it to the state meet.

So the night before the meet we decided to go grab her favorite carb-loading meal from MACS Macaroni and Cheese joint. Which, in my opinion, should be the official restaurant chain of Wisconsin.

The Conversation

As we drove we talked about track and field. We talked about her upcoming meet. And we talked about life. Our discussion got deep. Like Johnny Deep. Or Deepak Chopra. During our convo, A.C. (Ava Claire) asked me the following question:

Ava: Dad, what do you think is the greatest pain?

Me: (resisting the urge to say T-Pain…) Physical or emotional?

Ava: Emotional.

Me: Regret

Ava: That’s exactly what I was thinking!

Me: In entrepreneurship, we say that failure is far better than regret. When I started The Weaponry I wasn’t afraid of failing. I was afraid of getting to the end of my days and having never tried to start my own business.

Ava: I love that.

Remember what Teddy Roosevelt said:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

-Teddy Roosevelt

Key Takeaway

Don’t be afraid to try. Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t be afraid to lose. Be afraid of regret. That feeling hurts more. And it lasts forever.

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If you want to be happy, plan to be all you can be.

I am a huge fan of the thinking of Abraham Maslow. Not just because he was a University of Wisconsin psychology student like me. But because he did so much to help us all understand our pursuit of happiness. The pursuit of happiness is amongst the 3 greatest pursuits in life. (Along with Trivial Pursuit and Roscoe P. Coltrane’s Hot Pursuit! from The Dukes of Hazzard.)

Here’s a new Maslow quote I heard recently. To be clear, it is new to me. Not something he said recently. He hasn’t produced any new material since June 8th of 1970.

“If you deliberately plan to be less than you are capable of being, then I warn you that you’ll be deeply unhappy for the rest of your life.

-Abraham H. Maslow:

Key Takeaway

Plan to become all that you are capable of. The pursuit is more important than the achievement. Think big. Working to become a fully realized, best-possible version of yourself is the most rewarding life-long project. And it is the best way to finish with no regrets at the end of your days.

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Can you judge someone’s character just by looking at them?

Cornelius Vanderbilt was one of the wealthiest and most powerful men the world has ever known. He dominated the shipping industry when it was America’s primary means of transportation. He dominated the railroad industry when it took center stage as the nation’s preferred means of movement for people and products. In fact, the only place Vanderbilt didn’t dominate was in college football. Where his university’s football team is a consistent bottom-dweller in the SEC.

In the excellent book, The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt (which won the Pulitzer Prize), author T.J. Stiles includes a quote about Vanderbilt from the Chicago Tribune that says, ‘He is so accurate a a judge of men, so clear-sighted, so fertile of resource, so skilful an organganizer of combinations, and the wielder of such an immense capital, that failure is next to impossible.’ That is a heck of a statement about a human. Which mean Vanderbilt was the original Parker Lewis.

The part of this quote that stands out to me is that Vanderbilt was noted for being a highly accurate judge of men. I translate men to mean people, because I often edit statements of yore to be more gender-intelligent.

If you are an accurate judge of humans you are able to surround yourself with the people of highest character. Which is key to personal happiness, friendship, and professional success. (And by highest character I don’t mean Willie Nelson.)

But how was The Commodore able to so accurately judge people? Vanderbilt himself provides an intriguing answer with the following quote:

‘God Almighty has stamped every man’s character upon his face.’

-Cornelius Vanderbilt

This is an interesting and profound statement. A statement given greater validity as it comes from one of the most successful humans of all time, known for his accurate judgement of people.

I encourage you to put this to your own test. Or said differently, I encourage you to see if you can accurately judge a person’s character simply by looking at them. Movies and TV shows regularly tap into your ability to make your own character judgements as new players are introduced and storylines develop.

Think about Ferris Beuller’s Day Off. Based on the scenario, Ferris should be the bad guy, and the Principal should be the good guy. But we instinctually see it differently. And we felt validated when we learned that the actor who played the principal pleaded no contest to a charge of soliciting a 14 year old boy. #ohhhhnooooo #chickachickaaaa

You have met people you didn’t like and didn’t trust the moment you first saw them. You have likely had the opposite experience too with people you instantly liked. You may have even experienced love at first sight, like I did  20 years ago, the moment I first saw my wife on a crowded elevator. All of these experiences provide evidence that Vanderbilt may be right.

Key Takeaway

The ability to judge character is one of the greatest abilities of all. It enables you to align with the right people, and avoid the wrong. The more attuned you are to the character of others the happier and more successful you are likely to be. Assessing character may be as simple as an eye test. Try it yourself. And let me know what you find.

Are you sharing your gift with the world?

On Tuesday I was visiting a home and saw an interesting piece of art hanging on the wall. It said, ‘The purpose of life is to discover your gift. The meaning of life is to give your gift away.’ The quote was attributed to William Shakespeare. Although that didn’t really seem like the type of thing he doth writeth or sayeth.

I was tempted to take a pic of the artwork because I liked the quote so much. But I refrained. That night when I got home I looked the quote up on the Googler. I found that the quote is often attributed to Shakespeare or Pablo Picasso. Although there is no evidence linking either of them to those words. Other than a couple of enterprising Etsy shops.

David Viscott

There is much concrete evidence that these words came from David Viscott. Viscott was a psychiatrist and professor at UCLA who had his own radio and tv shows in the 1980s and 90s. You know, like Frasier. Perhaps Picasso liked to tune in.

Here is the full quote:

“The purpose of life is to discover your gift; the work of life is to develop it; and the meaning of life is to give your gift away.” — David Viscott.

That’s a pretty great idea, David. No wonder Shakespeare and Picasso wanted to take credit for it.

Key Takeaway

Discover your gift. Develop your gift. Share it with others. And if you discover you have more than one gift, develop and share them all. The world becomes a better place with more of your magic. And remember, gifts come in all shapes and sizes. You don’t need to be a singer to be a rockstar. You simply need to find what you are really good at, make yourself great at it, and gift it to the world.

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