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Three Lessons I Learned from Saying Yes

How many experiences have you missed because of second guessing, not having enough time, or simply talking yourself out of doing something that once sounded good, for the sake of comfort and routine?

It hurts to think about the answer to that question myself. The answer for me is too many. And I nearly added another to the list a few short weeks ago.

It was Thursday night, a day before I was to embark on a solo business retreat I had been talking about for a few weeks, and I hadn’t yet booked a place to stay.

I wondered if going across the river from Minneapolis to St. Paul, finding a coffee shop, and spending some time in a park somewhere would bring the same value as a two and a half hour trip South, while saving me a few hundred dollars.

I had been thinking and talking about the trip for a few weeks and that night, I convinced myself to go through with it, booking a Victorian house in La Crosse, Wisconsin for the weekend.

It turned out to be one of the fortunate examples in which I learned what I could have missed by foregoing the trip. A weekend full of beautiful weather, great scenery, and a LOT of exploration taught me three incredible lessons: take the trip, discover self regularly, and love people.

Take the trip:

Having nearly traded the weekend for a quick trip to a familiar place for a day, I realized how critical it is to take the trip. They aren’t all as beautiful as this one was, but more often than not these kinds of trips bring me lifelong joys and memories.

I spent two nights exploring the town’s incredible food and the day between them exploring the beautiful nature of the area. I found two coffee shops I’d spend time in every week if they were near.

I caught some great pics and videos of the town and its history. I captured a few moments with baby racoons and recorded the closest encounter I’ve ever had with a butterfly. I was so close I could have touched it.

The food was some of the best I’ve had in a while, sunlight was plentiful, and the temperature was perfect — mid 80s during the day and mid 70s at night. The weekend re-energized me in ways I didn’t imagine it could.

And I almost missed it.

Wayne Gretzky summarized it best: “you miss all the shots you don’t take.” Take the trip. There’s no telling what’s on the other side.

Discover self regularly:

One of my objectives of the trip was to get crystal clear on my core values as a person, something I’ll forever embody in my work and life.

To do that, I was inspired by a Jack Raines newsletter in which he shared about an annual event hosted by Warren Buffet. Warren told his audience that everyone should write their obituaries and then find ways to live up to them.

I immediately dropped that onto my to-do list. As I thought more about it, though, I decided an obituary wasn’t deep enough. An obituary covers someone’s life at a very high level — when they were born, what their family looked like, what they did for work, and who they left behind.

I wanted to go deeper than that. I decided I’d write my own eulogy instead.

A eulogy is designed to serve as an expression of who a person was and what they meant to those around them. I knew there was one way to capture that — three values.

As I navigated my way through a few hiking paths on my way to Grandad Bluff, I thought long and hard about the three most important values I want to be remembered for.

Those three values were very clear by the end of the hike — family, integrity, and generosity.

Stay tuned for one of my next articles covering the idea behind the eulogy and the values that came with it.

The exercise of exploring deeply is something I do regularly. In a world with chaos all around, it’s a critical exercise to maintain peace and harmony.

I realized through self-discovery that the values from my eulogy aren’t over the horizon — they live with me now, in the present. That’s a product of continuing to explore and align with my life’s purpose and mission. It isn’t a one time exercise. It’s a lifelong exercise.

Discover self regularly. Waiting until it’s too late is much more painful.

Love people:

This simple, yet powerful pair of words came to me as my second night wound down. As I headed back for my rental, I decided to take a drive to the top of Grandad Bluff, the same place I’d hiked earlier. I thought it would be a nice view with the sun setting, and it was a quick, five-minute drive.

I arrived at the top and walked down to the lookout. Inside the small circle, about ten feet across the middle, I stood on one edge, leaning into the breathtaking view of the evening sun.

There were a couple groups of people, about eight people in total, inside the circle with me. They were talking about the political convention they were attending in the area.

After a few minutes of chatter, I found myself listening curiously. They were talking about everything that’s wrong in our world, including with certain groups of people and ways of life.

Within those certain groups of people were those struggling with drugs or alcohol and non-heterosexuals. In those two groups live a large majority of my network — friends, colleagues, and most importantly, family.

In particular, one woman made a statement about how sad it is that children with two same-sex parents grow up in such unstable environments. That’s when I knew my silence wouldn’t last.

They began to discuss to decline in church numbers. And in the perfectly timed moment, they invited my thoughts on the topic.

“I have a thought about why that might be. Perhaps the kind of conversation I’ve been listening to for ten minutes is why. What I heard was a real lack of compassion and some serious and unfortunate judgments.”

I went on to share that the types of people they were referencing as less than, broken, and unstable, included some of the most important people in my life.

I shared about an aunt and a cousin that aren’t heterosexual, and that the children they raised were brought up in environments more stable than the vast majority I’ve seen in my life.

Not to mention, the parents show more love and compassion toward others, in general, than most of the people I’ve ever met. They are brilliant examples of human beings.

I shared about my father’s struggles with drugs and alcohol, and of course, I was happy to share about my own experiences.

The conversation went on, in a mostly civil manner, for about ten minutes. It was productive and eye opening for me, and perhaps even for the woman who made the initial comments that caught my attention.

It was abruptly interrupted by a couple others who had been listening from a distance and had strong feelings and opinions about some of the discussion.

The two newcomers did not come with the level of calm the conversation needed to carry on. It escalated quickly and soon the two groups were gone.

As I left that night, I reflected on a question a woman asked about following God’s “rules.” There was one “rule” that came to mind and stuck with me. Love people. That’s it.

I fall short of that ideal from time to time. But today, that’s what I strive for. To love people, no matter what. Even in the conflict and heightened emotions I felt that night, I came from a place of love.

Imagine a world where we all love each other more. A world where compassion, understanding, and acceptance is the default. That’s a world worth creating. A world worth contributing to. A world worth celebrating.

I left the weekend trip on Father’s Day and headed for my family. As I reflected on the weekend, I realized I nearly missed one of the more influential weekends of the past several years. I’m grateful for the yes that brought me there, and more grateful for the three key lessons I learned:

  1. Take the trip

  2. Explore self regularly

  3. Love people

Now it’s your turn — go plan the trip. It doesn’t have to be extravagant or expensive. It doesn’t even require vacation time. Plan it. Take it. Bottle it.

Until next time.

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