Use All Your Strength

Just before dusk on the last night of an end-of-summer camping trip, a young boy and his father were walking through the woods. They walked and talked together for some time until they came across a fallen tree branch on the ground in front of them. The boy cheerfully ran ahead and called back to his dad, “Do you think I could move that branch?” His father replied, “I know you can, if you use all your strength.”

The boy grabbed the branch and struggled with trying to lift or push it in any direction, but the branch was heavy and long. The boy paused, then pushed one last time as hard as he could before he slumped over. He let out a deep sigh and said, “You were wrong, dad. I’m just not strong enough to move it.”

“Try again,” replied his father. Again, the boy tried hard to move the branch. No matter how much he struggled, it did not budge.

“Dad, I cannot do it,” said the frustrated boy. Finally, his father got down close to him and gently said, “Son, I advised you to use all your strength. You didn’t. You didn’t ask for my help.”

Bill Gates’ Annual Reading List

Bill Gates is one of the richest men in the world. He’s also pretty smart and engaged in philanthropy. That makes him a decent guy, someone whose recommendations about business and success are worth listening to.

Every year, Gates releases his recommended reading list. The list is usually eclectic and contains books many of us have never heard of.

This summer’s list contains a book called Factfulness, by Hans Rosling. Gates calls it “One of the best books I’ve ever read.” It might be worth checking out! Other books on Gate’s list are:

• Origin Story: A Big History of Everything, by David Christian
• Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson (biography)
• Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved, by Kate Bowler
• Lincoln in the Bardo, by George Saunders (the only fiction in the bunch!)

Good Luck, Bad Luck?

There is a story of a farmer whose wild stallion ran off one day.

His neighbors gathered around to commiserate with him, all muttering, “This is very bad luck.”

The farmer overheard them and shrugged, then said, “Bad luck, good luck, who knows?”

A few days later the stallion returned with a herd of wild mares. The neighbors congratulated him, saying “This is very good luck!”

“Bad luck, good luck, who knows,” said the farmer, again shrugging.

A week later the farmer’s son was trying to train one of the new mares and was thrown from the horse and broke his leg.

The neighbors gathered again, shook their heads and said, “This is very bad luck.”“Bad luck, good luck, who knows,” said the farmer.Several weeks later, a few soldiers passed through the town looking for able-bodied youth to conscript into the army. When the soldiers came to the farmer’s house and saw the boy’s broken leg, they left him alone and moved on.The neighbors gathered around, saying “That was very good luck!”“Bad luck, good luck, who knows?” shrugged the farmer once again.

The moral of the story: All luck – good and bad – is fleeting, so don’t get hung up on it!

Are You A Leader?

A junior in high school was filling out an application for her first choice school – a small, private and prestigious college – when she came across a unique question: Are you a leader?

She considered the question carefully and then decided to be radically honest. Her answer was “No.” She was afraid that because of that answer, the college would reject her application. After a few weeks, she received unusually rapid feedback in the form of a letter from the school that read:

“Dear Candidate,

We would like to inform you that this year we have already reviewed more than 800 applications. So far, there will be some 432 new leaders attending our program next year. We are happy to inform you that we have accepted your application because we feel it is important that these new leaders have at least one follower.”

The best student is often someone who admits they still have a lot left to learn.

The Year to Live

How would you spend your days if you knew you had only one more year to live? What changes would you make? Who would you forgive? What would you give up and what would you embrace? These aren’t easy questions to answer “off the cuff.” But psychologists say that putting a time limit on life, even if it’s just a mental exercise, can help us gain focus on what matters most. For that reason, it’s useful to spend some quality alone time, perhaps writing, painting, or just thinking about what you could do differently with a time limit on your life.

Or, you could do more than imagine. You could be like Stephen Levine, who decided to test the theory in his own life.

After years spent teaching meditation to terminally ill patients, Levine began to ponder the changes one might make in their lives if they knew their time was coming to an end. To test out his theory, he decided to spend a year of his life as if it were his last. He called it “The Year to Live.”

Levine soon realized there was no time to waste on regrets and bitterness. Every minute counted. This experiment helped him to let go of old resentments and forgive past wrongs. His view of the world became more compassionate, and he began to experience a heightened sense of gratitude and appreciation for the people and experiences he encountered.

During that year, Levine reports that he lived a more positive and meaningful life, with measureable differences in how he related to people and how much he got accomplished.

Fortunately, you can use your imagination to spend time reflecting, rather than doing a live experiment. You’ll still experience some of the same focusing power, which is a nice way to explore the meaning of your life.