Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.

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I have bad news, she said quietly, like a circus tamer gingerly approaching a rabid, caged lion. I waited. I’ve done the figures over twice now and keeping getting the same answer… you’re going to owe a lot for taxes this year. A lot? I asked. Like $17,000 a lot, she sheepishly replied.

 

What would your reaction be to that news, ten days prior to the filing date?

 

The first Stoic of recorded history, Zeno of Citium (331 – 261 BC) was the son of a merchant whose primary trade was purple dye. Zeno’s father would bring him along on voyages of enterprise aboard his merchant ship and provide him with books on philosophy to grow his mind and pass the time as they traveled over the water. One particularly rough crossing, the ship was overturned and destroyed and Zeno found himself brought ashore in Athens, Greece.

 

Athens was the setting of many of the (then-modern) philosophical texts Zeno has been reading all those years aboard his father’s ship and so he decided to explore the city while he awaited new passage home. Zeno stumbled into a bookstore (a man after my own heart!) and asked the clerk there where he might find the great philosophers like Socrates, whom he had been reading so much about. The clerk looked up and happened to notice a well-known Athenian philosopher, called Crates the Cynic, walking past and told Zeno to, “follow yonder man.”

 

He did and in short order became a devout mentee of Crates, thus founding Cynism as a formalized philosophy. When he reflected on his life, many years later, Zeno is credited as having said:

 

“I made a prosperous voyage when I suffered shipwreck.”

 

The tax bill I was looking at could have been a shipwreck. Or it could have indicated the jumping off point for a prosperous voyage.

 

My mindset even a year ago would’ve been to react to this news in tears or rage. How could that be possible? Damn, IRS taking so much of our hard earned money? What was wrong with my accountant, she had to be making a mistake?! Where will the money come from? Poor me! This always happen to me. I’m always struggling!

 

Yet, now, I simply laughed.

 

I’m sure there’s a mistake somewhere — we’ll find it.

 

“Constraints are blessings in disguise.” – Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson, co-authors of Rework

 

I wasn’t upset. We went line by line through the return and two wonderful things struck me during the course of that conversation with my wonderful CPA.

 

First, I wasn’t upset about the news. The mere fact that I had made enough money in my business last year to actually owe $17,000 in taxes was actually a welcome surprise! Years before I would’ve been lucky to even make $17,000 at all! Now I owed that in taxes? Surely I’d had a great 2015, as I’d already supposed. Second, by having a mindful, calm and even humorous reaction to the news, we were easily able to find the mistake. An Excel spreadsheet I had sent an under-study at her CPA office with all my 2015 business expenses had been misplaced The amount owed was drastically reduced with the business expenses entered into my return and so the psychological trauma and story telling was not only avoided, it never happened.

 

How did I get to this place where I could take the news so calmly?

 

Mindfulness training.

 

I have been a diligent student of spirit and mind over the last three years. My goal? Inner peace. Tranquility. Do I live that every day? Of course not! Some days I’d be hard pressed to tell you I’ve made any progress over the last years of dutiful, daily training. Yet, this event made me realize something. I have grown! That tranquility has taken root and mind, while still a moving motion-filled place, is not the torrid, raging waters it once was and my work is actually paying off. I feel calmer. More blessed. I’m able to see more and more that every experience is a blessing and an opportunity.

 

I’ll repeat that because it’s the key to life, to inner peace and the purpose to this story for you.

 

Every experience is a blessing and opportunity.

 

Diogenes of Sinope, another well-known Stoic commented on this perspective saying, “Such is the madness of men. That they choose to be miserable when they have it in their power to be content.”

 

A $17,000 tax bill could be a calamity, or a blessing. You could have perhaps have only dreamed of a time years ago where your business would’ve made that much, yet here you could stand with a bill that reflects just how wonderful and abundant your year really was for you.

 

You get to choose to see what exists. You get to choose to see the lesson and the blessing. It’s also your choice not to see it if you don’t want to.

 

“Change the way you look at things, and the things you look at change.” – Dr. Wayne Dyer

 

My intention for you to have the vision and open your eyes today to see all the ways in which you, and each of us, is so incredibly blessed in this moment.

Do something today your future self will thank you for!

Cupid’s day has come and gone and this seemed like the perfect moment to say a few words (although in my case it’s never just a few!) about one of the most important relationships you’ll ever realize: passion and success.

No, this isn’t a “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life,” reminder, although there’s a lot of truth to that…

No this is about painting every corner, nook, niche and crany of your life with passion.

Let me explain.

Have you ever gone in an old historic home, mansion or even palace?

I’m sure you have at least once and will visualize exactly what I am saying when I mention that our ancestors loved to compartmentalize. They built rooms about rooms of tiny, or grand, but always separated space. The kitchen had four walls and was separate to the dining room, which also had four walls and was separate to the foyer, which also had four walls and was separate from the parlor, and on and on it goes depending on the grandeur of the space.

Watch a home renovation show on TV and what’s the number one thing folks complain about when looking at a new home today? Space!

“It feels so dark and closed off,” says one couple on Fixer Upper.

“I told you I was looking for an open floor plan,” admonishes another woman on Property Brothers.

Today, you like to have an open living space for your home. A space where your kitchen and love of cooking can look out into your family room and love of your children; a place where your guests can sit in your dining room and still talk to you in the kitchen; a place with high ceilings, lots of light and all that beautiful, wonderful combining and swirling of space and energy.

So if you want that in your home, why wouldn’t you want that in your life?

Compartmentalizing our business, from our spirit, from our emotions, and from our bodies is a mistake and frankly, doesn’t work.

If you think you have to invest in a business class to see results segmented to business, good luck. If you think a painting class couldn’t possibly benefit your emotional well being, you’re probably wrong.

The truth is, when you pursue your passions in business and out of your business, your whole life gets better. It’s like open floor plan living for your soul.

The skills, discipline and relationships you’re creating in business will effect your emotions and your home life. Your personal hobbies and passions will greatly benefit and impact your career. The health and wellness of you mind and body will always make your career and emotions better off.

Your life can’t be segmented and compartmentalized.

So this is my advice: let passion paint your success.

In 1815, Giovanni Belzoni and his wife Sarah were down on their luck circus performers (he was a strongman, she allegedly a tight-rope walker) nearly broke as their finances ran dry in the English rain. The 6’6” Belzoni decided to follow lead to Turkey, where rumor had it circus performances were making a killing. En route he and Sarah had a scheduled stop in Cairo and she wanted to see the Great Pyramids. After exploring about, the giant Belzoni got impossibly stuck in a passageway and had to be excavated out of the tunnel by some locals, who helped to clear enough space to dislodge the giant man.

The story quickly spread (how embarrassing!) and an invention was extended to the Belzoni couple from a curious Turkish man in Cairo who wanted to see what the fuss (translation: the size!) over this man was all about. One thing led to another, as introductions often do, and Belzoni soon found himself in the company of a British consul general named Henry Salt.

 

Impressed by Belzoni’s size and Sarah’s wit and both of their work ethic, Salt asked this couple if they might be interested in helping him recover a large Egyptian artifact from one of the dig sites outside of Cairo. Salt was sure with Belzoni’s size and the right team, the artifact could surely be moved and brought to Cairo. He was right. Sarah and Giovanni managed a team and retrieved the artifact after months of perilous work.

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Salt was so impressed he funded the Belozonis and sent them out exploring to try to recover more artifacts for Britain. The Belzoni’s adventures throughout the Nile River Valley over the next eight years would produce of the most imposing treasures from Egypt, which still stand in the British Museum today, over two hundred years later.

In fact it was only after Belzoni that people started recognizing the value of ancient Egyptian artifacts for posterity and started extracting and preserving them for all the world (not just antiquities dealers for private homes), leading the way for the formal profession of Archeology as we know it today.

You never know where a sense of adventure, your natural abilities and your passion for performance might take you. Who knows? Perhaps your current job will take you to a new opportunity or an embarrassing mishap may lead to an introduction that will change your life.

 

The year is 1930, not a great time to be graduating from Penn State and looking for work as an architect. Yet that’s the uncertain future that faced the young Tatiana Proskouriakoff. She decided to return to graduate school at University of Pennsylvania to further her education during the height of the Great Depression. She was a particularly skilled watercolorist and enjoyed painting. So when a volunteer position popped up at the University Museum illustrating archeological renderings, Tatiana thought it would be a perfect chance to utilize her degree in architecture and her passion for painting.

She couldn’t have been more right!

Through her volunteer work, she was eventually called on to join an expedition in 1936 to the Mayan site of Piedras Negras in Guatemala. The researchers needed help with imagining architectural renderings of the ruins so they might be properly excavated and understood. Proskouriakoff began to put her skills to work and quickly started to understand and learn aspects about the Mayan culture and language from all her sketches and illustrations.

acropolis-piedras-negras

Her illustrations garnered her attention — the public and scholars alike were fascinated by her ability to lay out the detail of these (heretofore) imagined Mayan landscapes from the overgrown ruins in the Guatemalan jungle. Soon she was funded by the Carnegie Institution in D.C. to return to the jungles and complete more sketches, year after year, until eventually that exposure to the Mayan culture took root in Tatiana and she began to study their language.

Though not a linguist, nor formally trained in Mayan studies, she quickly began to make insights and advances into the language no one had made previously. Analyzing the pattern of dates and hieroglyphs, she was able to correlate a sequence of seven rulers who ruled over a span of two hundred years. This flash of decoding into the context of the inscriptions by Tatiana provided Maya epigraphers the cipher they needed to finally begin understanding the hieroglyphs.

A passion for painting could end up changing your life, and lending a hand to an entire scientific community.

 

What do you love to do in business and in your spare time that you haven’t been pursuing?

List a few things and then take action this week to sign-up for a class, seminar, buy a book, watch a tutorial, get started now with some passion pursuit just for the sake of feeling good.

You never know how a personal passion might set a new course in your life.

Let me know in the comments below what you plan to do, just for the passion of it!