The Splendid Torch

This is it.

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“This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.

I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can.

I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no “brief candle” for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.” — George Bernard Shaw

About a year ago, I was living in a 2000 square-foot beach house with a pool, located approximately one block from the Gulf of Mexico. I drove a Mercedes-Benz drop-top convertible. I managed a multi-million dollar business. I had great friends, numerous opportunities at fulfilling romantic relationships, a loving and supportive family and a clean bill of health.

And I was a mess.

I mean an absolute, full-blown mess.

What I had going for me didn’t register — each day was more of the same. A combination of misery that I wasn’t at the top of the social food-chain and self-pity that I hadn’t yet been permanently relocated to Cloud Nine. I tried to do so superfluously — with out-of-control spending, self-promoting behavior, sex, drugs, alcohol, attention-grabbing and vanity — which only resulted in a deepening of that same misery I was so desperate to get away from.

The more I tried to change or fix my circumstances, the more they stayed the same.

What was at the source?

In short, it was my word.

And why do I say that?

Well, buckle up for a bumpy ride.

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A wise woman once told me, 

“The quality of your life is a function of the quality of the conversations you engage in.”

A bold statement, I know. Like most everything, it’s arguable. My attempt here however, is to create something of value for you. And what I’m about to write next is likely to do one of two things:

  1. Totally empower you

  2. Piss you off

(If it’s the latter, my apologies in advance — this is not my intent.)

Here it is:

Everything that happens is irrelevant until a conversation in reality or a conversation in your head creates the relevance.

The world we live in is nothing without language, without communication — there is no sense to it, but merely a collection of moving pictures. Language creates the sense, the meaning, the reason, the purpose.

Consider the same is true for your own life. The conversations you engage in create your experience of life. A high-quality conversation is sure to — in that moment — cause a high-quality experience. Return to a crappy conversation, either in reality or in your head, and your experience is sure to diminish.

This was very much the case with me.

I said things, both out loud and to myself, all the time that weren’t in alignment with what I really care about — mostly due to never asking myself what in fact that was. What I was willing to go down fighting for.

I was merely describing what I saw — in an extremely disempowering, protective, human-like manner — instead of actually being deliberate and responsible with my words.

I was a reactor, and absolutely nothing more. The first interpretation of a situation that popped in my head was immediately deemed valid and truthful. 

I had made promises, broke them, and didn’t even acknowledge to the other person that I broke them. And what was worse, I usually had some justification or a reason for why I didn’t keep my word — as if that would make a difference in the outcome.

People don’t care about the outcome. They care that you care about what impacts them, as promises carry a heavy burden.

I repeatedly stepped over the priceless gift that language is.

And instead, became one giant ball of concerns.

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I get this easy to understand, but perhaps difficult to put into practice. We know the human brain isn’t out to make us fulfilled in life. As human beings, our most notable disadvantage is that our minds are the weakest part about us. They’re wired for survival above all else — which means what’s wrong or incomplete is always readily accessible. Our brain wants us to know what to avoid and what to fix, so we’ll therefore stay alive. Grouping, linking and associating before we even realize, it’s a generalizing machine.

This is always at play. It’s what we were born into.

However, this isn’t a problem unless you’re unaware this is the noise in the background.

For me, being the product of circumstances got old. I got fed up. And it was at this point I was ready to either take a machete to it all (the leading option at the time) or get off the excessive, self-absorbed idea that I was powerless.

I engaged in a distinct conversation — openly — that caused the most profound discovery of my entire life:

I finally got that most all of what goes on in my head and comes out of my mouth is total and complete garbage.

Nonsense.

Ridiculousness.

Not at all happening in reality and not at all helpful to myself or anyone around me.

Once I received this rude wake-up call, I began to see clearer and slowly work to clean up the mess I made. Through responsibility, letting go of what doesn’t inspire me, and honoring my word, things began to shift.

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I feel like I got gifted a second crack at life with my discovery of powerful my word was — both at creating and destroying. My commitment is to be 100% responsible for the words coming out of my mouth and being given power in my head.

I was granted an opportunity to do it right this time around and I’m not going to screw it up. I will honor my word to very best of my ability and fully accept the consequences that come along with my speaking.

My mother was persistent in her efforts to cultivate values like honesty and responsibility when I was younger, that of which I dodged like a hydroplaning car on the freeway. My words were never consistent with my actions or commitments. She knew I meant well, even though I was too fearful to face the reality of not being perfect — fearful she would love me less if I didn’t get it right.

Because of her commitment to me — her word in the matter of my life — my commitment to her is I will honor all people as long as I live. I will use my word for creation, for acknowledging, for creativity, for sharing, and for loving.

This is what I’m playing for. This is what I’m up to. I’m out to carry the torch above what’s already there. Above the existing conversation about what’s wrong or not enough. This is my stand.

For all people.

I cannot do this alone, however. It will take a world of people being responsible for the words that come out of their mouth and circulate inside their head. People brave enough to question their own thoughts and feelings. People willing to give up what won’t make a difference for what will.

This life is no brief candle, as long as we say it’s not. If we say it’s inconsequential, if we say there’s no ripple effect, we’ll continue to remain unaccountable. We’ll continue to get more of the same.

This splendid torch deserves to be carried by humanity itself — not a choice group of people. And all it will take to touch the handle is your word. Your word declaring you responsible. And your word as a matter of creation, not reaction.

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About that already-existing conversation about what’s happening, that’s not going to stop. I can’t give you anything that will make it stop, for that’s the human condition — the wiring of our brains.

However, you don’t need it to stop or even be quiet for that matter. You simply have to stop giving it power and validity.

The thoughts, feelings, and body sensations we experience that we don’t like do not exist in reality. They’re as real as our imaginary friend from when we were a kid — the friend seemed real to us, yet they were never actually.

Life happens in reality — not in our head or our body. As long as we’re consumed by what’s going on with us, we’re unable to make a difference (the focus is on nothing but ourselves, keeping us from taking action).

The people that made the biggest difference in the world over the course of history did so by virtue of creating and keeping alive empowering conversations around what they were up to. 

There were plenty of disempowering conversations available both in reality and inside the heads of Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gahndi and Nelson Mandela as they went about their journeys to make the world a better place.

They didn’t listen to any of them, much less call them the truth.

We only get one shot at this thing. So much greatness never actually rises above the surface because it’s trapped within the confines of a crummy conversation.

It’s time to give it up. Anything I say that keeps me from being present with people, in life, and making this world a better place is subject to termination. 

I can’t do anything about the circumstances of where I’m or anyone else is at this very moment. However, if it’s ever going to get any better, the spark will arrive first in the form of a conversation.

Something said — aloud or in silence.

Words can change the world.

Let’s begin with you, me, and the conversation we’re having.

And get that life — not yours or mine, but all life — depends on it.

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Thanks for reading!

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