“Non-Stop”… Life is


nonstop digitalOur lives are “non-stop flights” of which we determine the plans and are the captains.

Once we determine what is important to us, do we board the right planes and read from the right procedure manuals to ensure we get to the destiny of our choosing?

Watching the latest Liam Neeson movie, Non-Stop, granted me the opportunity to reflect on the concepts of essence and trust with respect to choosing our path in life.

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Attention GrabberIt happened again…., I was writing a blog entry when all of a sudden something else caught my attention and inspired me. I am very familiar with the topics I prepared for this blog. But when a new idea comes along, I start to work on it right away, such that it doesn’t evaporate into thin air. Besides, the focus of my book Our X Factor is on positive constructive principles. So, when I identify noteworthy situations told from a different perspective, I enjoy exploring them outside the framework of my work, such as in this blog.

Liam CalmLast night, I rented the latest movie with Liam Neeson, Non-Stop. However, I worked late; then, barely ten minutes after I popped the CD into the DVD player, I drifted off. I wasn’t expecting much because, although I’m a Neeson fan, his last few movies have been anticlimactic for me.

Wake upThis morning I got up early as I had some work to finish up and wanted to go ride my bicycle with a group leaving at 7:30AM . I decided to play the movie in the background, but as the action began and the plot thickened, I was drawn into it. I decided to watch the whole thing and went biking later, on my own.

NonstopIt was a winner, non-stop! Here’s the story of a guy that has everything pointed against him, yet he doesn’t let it faze him and perseveres in what he must do against all odds, and against 150 angry and frightened passengers. The plot of this situation became thought-provoking…

Yes, the New York-to-London flight, which I took on numerous occasions and was the setting for this movie, was a non-stop flight. Yes, once they were in the air and the suspense caught on, the unraveling of the plot was non-stop and so were the action and the rebounds in the storyline. Yes, as people began rallying against him, there were non-stop-attempts in trying to foil the man’s plan to save the plane and its passengers, and it got darn ugly—Non-Stop!

Liam DullBut the character impersonated by Liam , Bill Marks, an air-marshal, had quite a history to reveal and baggage he lugged around (and I’m not talking about his carry-on, his side arm, or the bottle of whiskey he smuggled on board the airplane). A bitter divorced, fired, alcoholic man and seemingly washed-up and unreliable guy, Bill Marks had also a heart-breaking story to tell about how he cowered at work while his five-year-old daughter was dying of leukemia at home, ten years prior to the telling of the events in the movie. (I admit, as a father, I choked back some tears at Bill’s gripping revelation of his agonizing fate.)

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During the movie, it occurred to me that people tend to be cynical and suspicious. We put more credence in stories that discredit others, than in stories about why they deserve to earn our trust.

trustWhy is that? Simply, it is easier for us NOT to take a risk on someone, than to live with the consequences of our fears coming true. As a society, we are mostly unforgiving and distrusting. We want there to be records about people and companies’ performance tracks we can rely on … and we seldom give others a second chance. How they look, what is said about them, where they live, who they hang out with and even the gossip about them is enough for us to raise our antennae. Our trust is hard to earn in part because we feel it would reflect negatively on us if we misguidedly grant it to someone seemingly not trustworthy and, if things turn out wrong, we would beat ourselves up for having “trusted” someone else—shifting blame; we do it, no matter how much we despise it.

better safe“It’s better to be safe than to be sorry,” can be construed as an attitude that masks our lack of taking accountability for our decisions. This approach, in fact, holds us back from exploring new opportunities and venturing away from the well-worn path. But face it; most of the wonderful and rewarding things that we will ever accomplish in our lives depend on the help and support of others. Hence, because we are reluctant to trust others about the fulfillment of our goals, we choose to forego many of the opportunities that come our way, and then are left with only regrets…., but we’re safe alright.

150 soulsYet in the movie, Bill Marks was the only possible salvation for those 150 passengers’ souls. As spectators, we saw this, but the passengers couldn’t. They were blinded by their fears and hid behind their inherent response not to trust—framing Bill for hijacking the plane helped foster their belief, granted. Yet had it not been for Bill’s resilience, they would all be dead because they chose to play it safe.

Later, as I left for my bike ride, a more profound thought dawned on me. Life is really non-stop

24-7We may compartmentalize our schedules all we want and believe that we complete certain things, or that some aspects of our lives and business are behind us; our lives and all that relates to them keep going 24/7 until it’s over, and we have reached the end. Our hearts tick and our lungs draw air, even if we are unaware of it most of the time. Our minds work all the time, even when we sleep. Our relationships run their course uninterrupted, even when we are not in the presence of others. The stock prices are constantly moving, whether or not we watch the ticker-tape. It’s five o’clock somewhere, but it’s also the other 23 times-of-day elsewhere. Time, as we have come to conveniently track it, is merely an illusion as life is a continuum, with successive sequences of before-and-after.

Above the stormNow let me tie this back to the main story and the more profound message in this post. Our lives continuously entail the things we undergo and many relationships on which depend the realizations of our goals. By the sheer unpredictable nature of things, we should expect turmoil every once in a while. Yet when we take stock in our lives and proactively pursue our goals, this equates to boarding a non-stop flight. In this analogy, the more we focus on our goals and important things we strive to achieve in life and the greater our ambitions, the bigger the plane we build for ourselves. As the plane—of which we become pilot—becomes bigger, it gains greater momentum, longer range, and more cargo hold.

Liam ActiveFrom that perspective, Bill Marks commands a very large non-stop plane (even though he doesn’t like flying—LOL). He built himself a large plane through his persistent and unwavering pursuit of goals, despite needing to put up with much, being let down often, and being challenged many times in his life. This reflects the quality of the grounded person Liam portrays as the lead character of this movie. When it came to stepping up to the plate, Bill would simply not let anything stand in the way of what needed to be done. The headwinds that he faced over the course of his life helped him build his resistance and his resolve. The distractions during his mission (the non-stop flight in the movie) could not knock him off course, or derail his determination about what he felt compelled to do.

If we want to be the heroes in the stories of our lives, it behooves us to build bigger planes on our non-stop flight-of-life. We must engage all the resources that are required and focus on what we need to do and do best. Judging other people or distrusting them isn’t really part of our vocation or our charter and leads us continuously on a flight of doubt, one where we don’t focus on expanding the momentum, range and cargo hold of our planes.

Large planeA big plane is hard to veer off course. When we make mistakes about trusting the wrong people, we experience some turbulence, but it won’t burn us to the ground. Only small planes are prone to storms or changes in atmospheric pressure and easily drop out of the sky. Small planeInstead of steering our lives at low altitudes through misty clouds on bumpy flight paths, we can focus on our goals, our ambition and our essence and build a larger plane to soar high above the clouds, reach much further destinations with greater comfort and fill our spacious cargo hold with a lifetime of achievements collected along the way.

Dare to dreamWhen it comes to trusting, we shouldn’t use lack of trust as an excuse to curtail our ambitions. We will get burned from time to time, for sure. But it won’t take us off-course as long as we trust our dreams, persist on our path and have faith in our goals. Our essence and determination establish the limits for each in building an adequate vessel to carry us to our destinations. To fare safely and carry with us the many precious things we collect along the way, it is entirely up to us to determine its size, its range and its flight plan.

Thank you for reading and for posting your personal comments on this topic, below.

Xavier Van de Lanotte

Xavier Van de Lanotte, Author of Our X Factor

Wishing you and yours much Success and Happiness ahead. For more ideas and strategies on awareness, our potential, our success and happiness, please consult Our X Factor, available everywhere and at http://www.ourxfactor.com/.

Our X Factor Banner

We all have an X factor…

 

Bookmark every day with Success and Happiness.

About Our X Factor

Our X Factor features a unique three-pronged approach to achieve success and happiness every day—Awareness, Making it Happen, Making it count. It is rich with quotations, references, stories, examples and anecdotes that highlight throughout the book the behavioral, psychological and philosophical aspects of our quest for success and happiness.

An X factor is the quality that bestows unique characteristics leading to the achievement of extraordinary successes and spectacular accomplishments, among other amazing things. Yet we all have an X factor, without exceptions. Our X Factor shows us how to be GREAT!

We are all different and also the same; born ordinary people. Yet we don’t have to live ordinary lives. Let’s lead extraordinary lives! My aim is to guide you along this exciting journey and, every so often with this blog, inspire you to add ‘A Dash of Greatness’ to your lives.

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You Only Live Twice


Steven Sotloff (1983-2014)

Steven Sotloff (1983-2014)

In memory of Steven Sotloff, Journalist, who was brutally and senselessly slain at age 31.

We fuss about a lot of things in our lives. Then, every so often, we are reminded what life is—or should be—about, and we find out that what is truly important is rarely what we worry about, but most often comprises the things about which we don’t think enough…

***I planned on blogging on a different subject this week, but as I was writing tonight, a newswire crossed my screen about today’s memorial services honoring Steven Sotloff, a neighbor in Pinecrest, FL, held at Beth Am, an establishment I am very familiar with, as is every parent in our community. God rest Steven’s soul. At the reading of the news brief, I decided to pull out a discussion item I tabled a few weeks ago, because something in the brief struck a chord; a quote from the last letters Steven wrote to his family: “Everyone has two lives. The second one begins when you realize that you have only one.”

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You Only Live TwiceI have always loved Nancy Sinatra, as well as her hit song and Sean Connery, and I am fascinated with Japan and Ian Fleming, who invented “Bond” and wrote the twelfth book of the series, titled “You Only Live Twice”, words that have captivated my imagination ever since I first heard them, when I was a teenager.

Nancy SinatraI remember, at age seventeen when I studied English as a foreign language, discussing philosophically with my dad the meaning behind the words of Nancy’s song. We thought it evoked the romantic and attractive notion that perhaps someday we discover something significant that gives our lives greater purpose and, as a result, pulls us in a direction we never imagined; a second life of sorts.

About a month ago, I was in the car with my oldest son, 19, who has been trying to make sense out of life and to reconcile what he would love to do with what he believes is achievable. Granted, he has put his sights on a rather difficult path to make a name for himself (producing electronic music and performing at major music festivals—Ultra perhaps), but he feels disheartened at the prospect of surmounting obstacles he believes are stacked against him from the start.

On the seldom occasions that I am in company of my children and can engage them in a conversation of substance, I love using allegories or metaphors to get my point across. It may not stick with them at first, but they remember the stories, and eventually the message reveals itself. Here is what I said.

Another Earth

We live in two worlds; a natural one and an artificial one. As such, we lead two separate and distinct lives; one that obeys the natural order of things and another that follows the artificial constructs that we created for our societies to thrive and sustain themselves.

Nature - edenIn the one world, things are simple and straightforward, also beautiful and able to stir us at our core. In this place we seek food, water and shelter to survive, things that are natural to sustain our lives and our essences, and each other to relate to one another, give our lives purpose, share with others, express our feelings and emotions and enjoy the pleasures of giving and loving.

ConfusionBut in the other world, things are complicated and ambiguous, also often opaque and filled with conflict and opposition. In that place we must constantly learn and adapt, trade, compromise and remain guarded, heed the consequences of our mistakes and plan for our futures, save, invest and protect, and always think of—and never break—the rules.

The first world operates under the common laws of nature, according to which the world, all of nature and we, humans, evolved. The second world functions as a result of the structures, rules and regulations that we, humans, invented and put in place.

FlawedNow, which stands the greatest chance to be flawed, in all logic: the world that naturally evolved and in which we can find and share everything that we may ever need, or the world that we created and in which we must hoard and divide, conquer and protect, rule and legislate, command and enforce, and maintain or restore balance by means of battles, conflicts, debates, uprisings, organizations, indoctrinations and stabilization measures, yet never really elevating ourselves from our societies’ deplorable state of inequity?

While the latter provides many of us—in the “civilized” world— with comfort and productivity to support many to live on earth with higher standards of living, greater wealth, and under a chimerical blanket of security and stability, it doesn’t contain those things that give our lives meaning and purpose, reasons to live and be happy, essence to express our relationships, or love and ideals we believe are more valuable than our own lives, as those reside exclusively with the former. In the artificial world we may find the means to survive, but in the natural world we find reasons to exist, to love and to live.

Comples structureMy allegory, however, isn’t complete without explaining why—if it is this simple and straightforward—we are not always conscious of this. Why do we spend more time worrying about work, our wealth, our capabilities, our standing in society and our possessions, than caring about the reasons for which we live, which belong to the natural world where things are simple? This lack of consciousness stems from being trapped, and from spending most time and energy living, in and for the artificial world.

Two livesThis suggests yet another split—dual—relationship; one I’ll reveal by quoting a passage inspired by the writing of Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now and A New Earth, and taken from the book Our X Factor: The Power to Achieve—Every Day—Success and Happiness.

Eckhart Tolle“Eckhart Tolle talks about the concept of relationships with ourselves, as if, he implies, there were two of us. In a way, for many of us there are: there is a self who is at peace, often dormant, and of whom we have little or no consciousness; and then, there is an ego, who is at the forefront, constantly filling our minds with thoughts, lingering in the past, projecting in the future, creating and defending positions that in all likelihood have little relevance or bearing on the achievement of our success and happiness in the present. Our thoughts are solely responsible for emphasizing mistakes and regrets from our pasts and compounding our fears that lie in uncertain futures. When we turn off those inner voices—the constant onereminiscing and calculating—we remove our ego from the equation and allow our inner selves to emerge and be fully conscious of the present moment, the now, the only moment that truly matters and in which we can act to fulfill our goals and enjoy our lives. We become one, again.”

Our X Factor, Chapter 7, page 75

Our artificial world serves a purpose, granted. It affords sustenance in relative comfort and safety to 7.1 billion humans, feat otherwise difficult to fathom. Yet, it doesn’t serve a purpose to life itself, which should be satisfying and rewarding for all, unless the things we do serve a higher purpose to the natural world. In other words, as long as we let our egos value our structures and institutions, our possessions and capabilities, our safety and comfort, our rules and regulations, our opinions and judgments and other fabrications of the artificial world above that for which we created it in the first place, then we haven’t addressed our higher purpose.

Perspective

We all possess two lives, as Steven Sotloff suggested, and the second one begins when we start leading purposeful and meaningful lives—our true lives. We realize that we have only one life when we perceive that the artificial world, in which we were trapped and about which we constantly worried, doesn’t offer much of a life and doesn’t contain the answers to the meaning of life, nor the essence of that which we love and for which we live.

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Wishing you and yours much Success and Happiness ahead. For more ideas and strategies on awareness, our potential, our success and happiness, please consult Our X Factor, available everywhere and at http://www.ourxfactor.com/.

Our X Factor Banner

We all have an X factor…

 

Bookmark every day with Success and Happiness.

About Our X Factor

Our X Factor features a unique three-pronged approach to achieve success and happiness every day—Awareness, Making it Happen, Making it count. It is rich with quotations, references, stories, examples and anecdotes that highlight throughout the book the behavioral, psychological and philosophical aspects of our quest for success and happiness.

An X factor is the quality that bestows unique characteristics leading to the achievement of extraordinary successes and spectacular accomplishments, among other amazing things. Yet we all have an X factor, without exceptions. Our X Factor shows us how to be GREAT!

We are all different and also the same; born ordinary people. Yet we don’t have to live ordinary lives. Let’s lead extraordinary lives! My aim is to guide you along this exciting journey and, every so often with this blog, inspire you to add ‘A Dash of Greatness’ to your lives.

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