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Story and choice

nature-sky-sunset-manWhat kind of story are you living? A question like that can change everything if you are honest. It changed mine.

It was the summer of 2001, and I had taken a break from “valley life”. I was running in between my job as a fisheries biologist on the Oregon coast and the evening hatch on my favorite river. My sister’s house in the mountains for much of my 20’s was a perfect launching spot for many adventures. As a new dad, I knew I needed to get out into the woods to recharge. I had a lot of demands on my life, but at that moment, I had fishing on my mind.

As I went past a coffee table, a book caught my eye. It was normal to see new books scattered about the house. Some often were yet to be published. My brother-in-law was a consultant for the publishing world and received early copies all the time. My niece was sitting there and I she saw the book I had noticed. On the cover was a man jumping between two rocks in what had to be a wilderness landscape. It was the book Wild at Heart by John Eldredge. “That could easily be you, Uncle John,” she said. I stopped for a second without picking it up and though “interesting”. It would be two years later until I read it after my mom gave it to me as a gift. I had already become hooked on Eldredge a year before after reading his book he co-authored with Brent Curtis called Sacred Romance.

Reading Eldredge’s work change my story for good for so many reasons. Most of all I started to live within a larger story, one that had an impact far beyond my trials.

So this May I am looking forward to seeing Eldredge, Dan Allender, Jon Dale and his three sons on the big screen. For one night the film they shot about their latest great adventure will be on big screens across the country.

I had a chance to ask Eldredge a few questions about the new project. You can read those on the Huffington post here.

Story: Power tool

Close FriendsSharing our story can be one of most powerful tools we possess. People reflect on their lives, dreams, struggles and trails when we share our own.

Every story is not for everyone. Many are too fresh to share. We may still be in the middle of one, and while there may be lessons already learned, those lessons need time to ripen into solid narratives.

Other stories are for trench mates, those trusted friends, and allies who know our story thoroughly.

And if our stories are truly our most powerful tools we should treat them with the same care as a craftsman does their finest tools of the trade. We need to sharpen them, know them well and most importantly when to use them or not.

Wait for it

“It Looked Like A Normal Saturday, But Wait Till You See What Happened”
“What Happens When A Duck Finds An Empty Drink Bottle? You Won’t Believe It”
“A Man Loses His Temper In Public. What Happens Next Will Make You Cry”

These are clickbait headlines. Ones I made up.

picnicWe are falling for real ones like this every day online. Why? Because we are curious.

The best stories are not the sites associated with these headlines. The best stories are the ones people will tell us if we ask.

Today I met a young woman who is about to embark on a Parisian adventure for nine weeks this summer. This alone lead me to ask at least a dozen questions. She and her cousin have been saving since they were 7 for the trip. I was left amazed, inspired and curious to know more. And I WILL be following along as her adventure starts.

Most people have learned to keep their heads down, hide, and never trust their story to others. Too many have suffered from doubters or even those who were too busy to listen and care.

That is where we have the power. Our curiosity fuels it. We are meant to connect.

Will you join me? Instead of falling for that next click bait headline lets put down the phone or tablet. Let’s close the laptop and start asking questions.

Fresh Stories

I caught myself telling a stale narrative last night.

It was story that had become over-used and actually worthless.

I knew that I had better things to share, even as I told it.

We all do this.

Every day has many events. Like bricks in a wall they build build our overall story.

We often, just as I had, fall back on old stories. These are standbys, cheap filler added to what really is a rich life.

Why do we do this?

I have many theories. Here are a few.

We often have little margin to reflect on our daily lives.

Without it we are like speeding trains going about our day without perspective, evaluation and reflection. This is a great reason to write daily, why journaling is so helpful. We are able to see when we’ve drifted from my own narrative or become distracted by the many things that can easily clutter a story.

Another is the belief that we don’t have a significant story. I have never met an uninteresting person. I have though met many people that have told me they don’t have a story though. It doesn’t take long, if someone asks the right questions and spends time to listen, to show how untrue that is.

Last, many people fall into a common trap. They believe (even if they won’t admit it) that they are stuck and there is no way out. These are are the worst offenders. If you spend enough time around them they will tell the same stories over and over.

So now that I have discovered this stale story I will today as I connect with people, stop and choose another one. Or better yet, maybe I will be silent and listen more.

How about you?

It could have gone bad

Conflict has two paths, escalation or de-escalation.

This week I witnessed a de-escalation. A group of friends and I had volunteered to do some work on a floating home. The neighboring home-owner approached us as we were packing up for the day. His floating home gutter had been partially damaged by the adjoining home in a recent storm.

As he approached us I could feel that familiar tension in the air when someone is confronting a problem.

“Do you know who owns this house?” he asked. “It broke loose in a recent storm and damaged my gutter.”

This is where things begin down one path or the other.

This is where a smile or kind voice in return can change everything.

Bringing things like this into the conversation steered it toward de-escalation.

In two minutes we had become new friends, even sharing a story, laugh and all the potential those bring in the future.

Some resources:

Enchantment by Guy Kawasaki

How to Win Friends and Influence People

Sharing our hokmah

Hokmah is the Hebrew word for wisdom. Not just any wisdom, but that which is practical and used by those who know their craft and how to efficiently apply it. It was often used to describe what a master has gained over all their experience. We learn so much as we daily practice, fail and master.

Where are you sharing your hokmah? One reason one to one or one to few networks (think workshops, clinics and now social networks like Snapchat, Periscope, and other emerging daily) is that we get access to the experts. You have many who are waiting to learn from you.

I share about these daily blog posts and backstories here you care to follow along.


In the moment

On Monday’s my friend Gary Barkalow sends out a quote from his book It’s Your Call. Yesterday’s post was so good. It is well worth expanding, sharing, dissecting.

“We can work so hard for understanding in our circumstances that we lose the purpose and experience of it, not to mention God’s presence within it. Understanding comes to us more fully after the event, upon reflection; so what we must do during the event is stay fully engaged.” – From, It’s Your Call, by Gary Barkalow

Our world is so fast paced. A friend recently lost a job over night. Basically it was a “wait, I can’t log into my laptop” kind of quick. A whole division was shut down.

It is in moments like these where we quickly sprint to “what is next”, How will I pay…”, “why did this happen”.

Before we jump to questions, these times are great opportunities to check in on our life pace, state of mind, relationships.

Take other shakeups, ones that involve greater grief. A loss of life will change everything. Do we really give ourselves time to process?

Really any sudden change requires much of us. We can choose to stop. Stop trying to understand. We can let it hit us fully. Roll over us with each wave of emotion. We don’t let it wreck us or fall apart, useless to those who need us, but we do allow ourselves to be engaged to the hurt, relief, betrayal and everything else we are experiencing.

Even though circumstances like these are difficult they are also grow us. They expose what we are made of.

Donkeys and Decisions

Recently our family has been faced with some big decisions. These in the quiet hours of the night can seem paralyzing.

These choices involve where we will live, our kids futures, the direction of both our careers.

Tim Ferriss on his podcasts has been asking his guests what advice they would give their 30 year old self. Derek Sivers told the story about Buridan’s donkey who could not make up his mind between eating the hay near him or the water. His indecision eventually caused his death. Derek’s advice to his 30 year old self was to make decisions. Pick something and go with it. At 30 you have plenty of time to try even 7 paths before you are 95.

I have discovered that it frees me up to focus and enjoy the journey more when I make a decision. Even if it is where to eat out or to move my family across the world. What decision will you make today? It doesn’t mean you won’t choose something else down the road. It just means for now you choose one path.

For some reason I have been writing about horses and donkeys or thinking of the two lately. Maybe it is all the cleaning of stalls for my daughters horse. Here are some of those posts.

-Fire Your Boss Book Review

-Pay Attention to the Horse

-My own personal Eeyore

Picking up a frog

About a year ago we were exploring a deep canyon in the Oregon Cascade Mountains. This area is known as the old cascades because geologically it is much older than the larger mountain range that includes peaks like Mt. Hood, Three Sisters, Jefferson and Washington. This area is craggy and raw. Dense old growth forest is veined with hidden canyons. Mudslides are a normal activity and treasures are around every corner for those willing to scramble, crawl and scrape a way through them.

frogMy friend and I had our our boys and a couple of others along with us for the day. All that was planned was a canyoneering jaunt of three miles to where a bridge would bring us back to one of our vehicles.

Some of the finds that day were waterfalls to climb (luckily we brought a rope), lots of beautiful caves made from giant log jams and many critters including a frog.

I make it a point often to visit streams and leave my fly rod behind. I easily become obsessed by the possibility of trout in every pool. It leaving the rod arranges for me to disconnect from the sport and reconnect with the stream. Fly fishing master Lefty Kreh says that a great fisherman spends more time watching streams than fishing them.

Everything becomes vibrant again. I see the kingfisher, the otter, the bear tracks and the water splash on a boulder from a coyote that sprinted for safety as we advance up stream.

Patterns emerge. With it all, stress carried there from the valley melts away and we pick up frogs, salamanders and skip rocks. Boys stumble and bruise shins.

And soon enough I am back to being a calm fisherman, one that comes to the stream appreciative, not a taker but a lover.

So Perfect

Ever have an experience that was so perfect that you really can’t bring yourself to go there again? How could it possibly get better. The thrill of the chase, possibility of complete failure, or anticipation of danger.

I took this shot of one of the first trout I caught last spring while fishing on the Lower Deschutes right before the peak of the Salmon Fly Hatch. The day turned out to be the best day I have had in 39 years of fishing (I think I caught my first fish with my granddad when I was about 5).

The truth is I doubt I could possibly experience anything better. It all seemed perfect from the friendship during the day, the saltiness of the guide, the smell of the river and of course the 120 some fish we caught between the three of us or the lunker 19″ redside I battled and landed near the end of the

But, like many things in life I think if we let go and embrace what comes at us we will be pleasantly surprised. I will go fishing again (and I did a month later up at a beautiful wilderness lake and caught the biggest brook trout I have ever seen).

We love again, we risk a new business venture, we try out a new skill.

We do it with expectation even if failure, complete chaos seems headed our way or everyone tells us we are nuts. If something in us says go, then we go.

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