Lessons Learned From a Noble World Leader

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Photo taken by the author; Bow River along Edworthy Park, Calgary

“We can’t underestimate the value of silence. We need to create ourselves, need to spend time alone. If you don’t, you risk not knowing yourself and not realizing your dreams.”

Jewel

The world needs more thinkers – men and women who take the time to think carefully, deliberately, and critically.

The world needs fewer people who just blurt out the first thing that pops into their frontal lobe.

This practice and art greatly aids in making sound decisions, both personally and professionally.

Therefore, it benefits greatly the people for whom a particular decision impacts – all because someone took the time to think.

It has been stated that our best thinking takes place when we are alone.

Where we are free from distractions and ambiguous noise & left alone to contemplate and where there is space for the creative juices to flow.

Nelson Mandela knew the value of this practice.

In his autobiography, “Long Walk to Freedom”, he writes: “Although I am a gregarious person, I love solitude even more.” (1)

In remembering Mandela, he was a man of strong passion and deep convictions.

He suffered and endured nearly three decades of unjust punishment on a remote island in the South Atlantic Ocean.

Yet, he exited from this long trial more victorious than when he entered, and would go on to lead his nation of South Africa through active, quiet leadership.

If a world leader, as great as Mandela was, understood this way of life – so also should we.

What Susan Cain is suggesting is we find our niche – our sweet spot, that place where we shine, where our glory is found in, and most importantly, where we find our deepest and truest fulfillment.

The kind where we are fulfilled and satisfied – the reason for which we were made for.

To understand further, we know that the God of the Bible “shows no partiality.” (2)

What this means is each person in unique & has been given a unique gift to be uniquely expressed in this very unique world.

Like Red from “Seabiscuit”, you too have a gift.

Knowing this, we have now entered this process of discovery in finding out what that gift is, and how we can best use that gift in our world.

In terms of time, a very rare number of people discover their gift early on in life; while, for the vast majority of us, it takes a lot longer to find out what our true area of greatness is.

Even so, as Cain asserts, “[t]he secret of life is to put yourself in the right lighting. For some it’s a Broadway spotlight; for others, a lamplit desk…Figure out what you are meant to contribute to the world and make sure you contribute it.” (3)

So, what is your lighting?

Find out where you shine and live out of that.

Still not sure what to make of introverts?

Follow Cain’s advice: “Make the most of introverts’ strengths – these are the people who can help you think deeply, strategize, solve complex problems, and spot canaries in your coal mine.” (4)

After all, there’s a reason why introverts make the best CEO’s in the world, and not extroverts.

Notes:

(1) Nelson Mandela, Long Walk To Freedom (New York: Back Bay Books, 1995), 40.

(2) Romans 2:11 ESV

(3) Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (New York: Crown Publishing Group, 2012), 264.

(4) Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, 265.

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The Extroversion Dilemma

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Photo taken by the author; stunning, reflective rays on
Wood Lake in Lake Country, B.C. 

“Introverts think carefully before they speak. We can be excellent public speakers because we prepare carefully.”

– Sophia Dembling

In today’s world, extroverts are more highly praised, regarded, and given ample amounts of time to speak whatever is on their minds.

Author Anaïs Nin has been quoted as saying, “Our culture made a virtue of living only as extroverts. We discouraged the inner journey, the quest for a center. So we lost our center and have to find it again.” (1)

It seems the current communication race is almost always won by those who can speak the most eloquently, present words and ideas with the clearest emotive force and persuasion, and of course talk the fastest, loudest, or quickest.

It’s like survival of the fittest – for public discourse.

After all, during conversations those who can speak the quickest often have the floor for the longest periods of time.

How frustrating it can be to listen to the sound of someone’s voice for an extended period of time.

Susan Cain, author of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking”, has this to say about our extroverted world:

“Introverts living under the Extroversion Ideal are like women in a man’s world, discounted because of a trait that goes to the core of who they are. Extroversion is an enormously appealing personality style, but we’ve turned it into an oppressive standard to which most of us feel we must conform.” (2)

This shouldn’t be the measuring stick or the barometer for communication, by any means.

Introverts, on the other hand, are known for their deep thoughts, reflective thinking, and multi-angled approach to any given topic or situation.

They have no problem taking a few extra minutes to reflect upon the issue at hand and toss it around in their heads from every possible angle, before arriving at a conclusion to be shared.

The word here is thoughtful.

Introverts are incredibly thoughtful people due to their innate skill in putting thought into the thoughts they want to thoughtfully communicate.

Another quote from Susan Cain on the point of introverts being thoughtful individuals:

“We don’t ask why God chose as his prophet a stutterer with a public speaking phobia. But we should. The book of Exodus is short on explication, but its stories suggest that introversion plays yin to the yang of extroversion; that the medium is not always the message; and that people followed Moses because his words were thoughtful, not because he spoke them well.” (3)

When given the opportunity to speak it often surprises people at the clarity and insight these types of people bring to the table – when given the chance to speak.

To debunk the notion that extroverts have the upper hand in conversations Cain writes, “there’s zero correlation between the gift of gab and good ideas.” (4)

She goes on to say, “Don’t think of introversion as something that needs to be cured.” (5)

Oftentimes, introverts are viewed as “thinking too much” or “stuck in their head”. These are myths that have been unduly projected onto us thoughtful types.

As Cain rightly says,“[t]here is a word for ‘people who are in their heads too much’ – thinkers.” (6)

Notes:

(1) Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (New York: Crown Publishing Group, 2012), 264.

(2) Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, 4.

(3) Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, 61.

(4) Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, 5.

(5) Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, 255.

(6) “The Quiet Revolution Manifesto,” last modified 2015, http://www.quietrev.com/manifesto/.

Speaking To Be Heard

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Photo taken by the author

“We know from myths and fairy tales that there are many different kinds of powers in this world. One child is given a light saber, another a wizard’s education. The trick is not to amass all the different kinds of available power, but to use well the kind you’ve been granted. Introverts are offered keys to private gardens full of riches.”

– Susan Cain (1)

Have you ever felt at some point during a conversation that you don’t have a voice?

Or you’re not heard when you do try to say something?

It is an incredibly frustrating and discouraging feeling when you’re not heard, especially for introverts.

As introverts know full well, they’ve put in all this time preparing mentally for what to say, and when they finally have worked up enough guts to say what they’ve been thinking about for the last 40 minutes, or when a space finally opens in the conversation, nobody seems to hear what they have just said.

There is no response.

No acknowledgment.

“Did they even hear me?”, is an all-too-common question introverts ask themselves.

As I’ve known for quite some time now, I am an introvert.

I don’t have introversion at 100% on the proverbial sliding scale, but I do lean more towards being an introvert than an extrovert.

I enjoy people and hanging out with friends, but I do need time alone.

Time to think, to ponder, to reflect, to re-gain energy, to make sense of what is going on around me and in me.

To explain, for the introvert the thinking process that is required is mentally draining as well as emotionally taxing when all that internal labor doesn’t get to have a chance to be expressed and to be recognized for what it is.

This is something that really bothers me and is something I constantly battle in my life, as a person, not just as an introvert, of which I am one.

I have noticed that when this happens, I’ll respond in one of two ways: Either I’ll raise my voice louder to make sure my comment is heard, or I’ll shrink back in despair and feel defeated inside.

Both are horrible compromises that leave me feeling upset and belittled.

It seems that introverts have it hardest when trying to communicate their thoughts, especially in a group of people.

It could be at work, in the lunch room, hanging out with friends, or even during those get-togethers with your extended family over the holidays.

By this I mean, when given the spotlight to talk introverts aren’t the quickest for giving a response.

What they need (to be read as: their communication preference) is time to think and time to process their thoughts, before they communicate what is on their minds.

They’ve got to sort through the mountain of information that has been presented to them, analyze it from every known angle, and then out of that form a deep-rooted, concisely-clear thought.

See how much energy this requires?

What drives me crazy is when I’m interrupted by quick-thinking, overly-assertive extroverts, who unknowingly rob both my moments for quiet thinking and the time I could have had for expressing my thoughts out loud to them.

In short, the internal thought patterns have been interrupted; thereby, breaking the flow from one pattern of thought to another.

Notes:

(1) Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (New York: Crown Publishing Group, 2012), 266.

The Way of Adventure According to The North Face

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Photo taken by the author; Lake Country, B.C.

“Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God’s handwriting.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

I am a curious person and I thoroughly enjoy checking out new places, as well as learning interesting info about other people.

It’s who I am, which only points to my love for adventure and exploring.

Being curious and exploring go hand-in-hand.

You can’t have one without the other.

It’s the same with adventure.

Think of it as a triple-stranded link that cannot be separated.

It’s just part of being a guy and what it means to be human.

Humans, by definition, are adventurous creatures who are explorers at heart.

I love exploring each new house I’m in, each hotel I stay at, the restaurants I eat out at, the sports venues I attend, the bookstores I browse in, the coffee shops I go to read at (but most of the time end up people watching & eavesdropping), every beach I relax at when vacationing, every golf course I play, each new country I land in, and any conceivable space I am in that can be explored.

I do this work of exploration naturally.

Whether it’s small or big, it doesn’t matter as long as I’m exploring and finding out something new I hadn’t known before.

The North Face company has it right with their slogan which says, “Never Stop Exploring.”

This is one of my favorite quotes and I really like their clothing too.

This label is one of my favorite clothing line to wear, as it is a brand I feel fits my personality and what I’m about.

I wear it proudly and am proud to wear it.

When I wear this brand I feel adventurous and in need of some exploration to conquer.

It’s also like the Swiss Army knife I bought a few summer’s ago in Lucerne, Switzerland while travelling Europe.

The name of the knife was called “Explorer”.

Not surprisingly, the name of the tour I was on was called, “European Explorer.”

I hadn’t known this before I signed up and thought this was definitely not coincidental, but confirmation, about the voyage I had signed up for.

In life, adventures are all around us. You just have to be on the lookout for them.

As Kelli Worrall writes as the last advice to twenty-somethings:

“Finally, prepare to be amazed. Your life may look something like you envision. Or it may take you to places that you never imagined. Regardless. Hold on tight. Because God is in the business of blowing your mind.” (1)

For most of us, life (whether good or bad) has not turned out as we had expected.

I want to challenge each of you (myself included) to see this as part of a continual unfolding of adventures that are beyond our control, but in hindsight (and even going through them) are fun and exciting nevertheless.

I came across a cool song recently by the band, Switchfoot, entitled “Restless.”

I would encourage my readers to listen to this song on YouTube, as well as take note of the key stanza below:

          I am restless, I am restless

          I am restless, looking for you

          I am restless, I run like the ocean to find your shore

          I’m looking for you (2)

This song speaks to me about adventure.

For to be adventurous means to be restless; restless of the mundane, the usual, the dull, and the common.

Restless for excitement, freedom, and, you guessed it, adventure.

After all, life is meant to be an adventure and to be lived well.

An adventurous life is one that is well-lived.

We learn things about ourselves and this world by way of adventure.

It is in these rushing moments where some of our greatest understandings, most creative ideas, and deepest insights come from.

This is something to living life on purpose – with zeal, passion, and energy – that releases these ideas to be converged “on the go” that makes life worth living.

Being in the action, in the adventure, in the arena – whatever that looks like to you, is where this takes place.

So reader, when will be the first time you do something adventurous for the first time?

Notes:

(1) “20 Things I Wish I’d Known in My Late Twenties,” last modified March 5, 2014, http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/whole-life/20-things-i-wish-id-known-my-late-twenties.

(2) “Switchfoot: Restless,” last modified June 8, 2012, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4yMQ3sOGd8.

Exploring As Part of Adventure

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Photo taken by a family member; Wood Lake, British Columbia

“Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Part of the adventure is exploring.

Now, a guy does this naturally.

Being one, I have found this to be innately true.

Everywhere I go or travel (whether it’s to a friend’s house, a forest in the great outdoors, or a new country for my first time), I feel this inner urge to cut loose and explore all that is around me.

I do this to become well-acquainted with my surroundings, as well as any new areas that are unbeknownst to me and are in deep need of discovery – all for the sake of my inquisitive mind.

The discovery is part of the process of exploring.

It’s what makes the exploration fun.

For me, I can liken this discovery process to finding a golf ball on a golf course.

This is one of my favourite things to do when golfing. It is such a cool feeling to find a golf ball (someone else’s, of course) during the course of a round.

There is just nothing like it to me, as there is just something about this new-found discovery that really enthrals me.

Work with me here, all you non-golfers. Don’t skip over this blog post quite yet.

I’ll be playing my way around the various selection of holes and suddenly, out of nowhere, I’ll look down and discover a white ball sitting there right before my eyes – either in the rough, in the water hazard I’m walking by, or along the tree line that defines the edges of a particular golf hole.

It’s as if all this time it had been waiting for my arrival.

So I pick it up and add it to my collection in my bag. I get so excited by the discovery of a new ball set before me, and it gives me great joy in my relentless pursuit around the course.

This is just one example for me that heightens the exploring process as part of the adventure when I’m golfing.

It’s a simple act, one that probably wouldn’t mean a lot to most people, but it really grabs my attention.

This need for exploring is something that is hard-wired into us as human beings.

It’s something we do automatically and unconsciously.

Just watch the next time you’re in a new environment and see if you do not also start “looking around” in an effort to take in all your surroundings.

Odds are you’ll find yourself venturing off to some remote area of the place you’re in, which you’ve told the people you’re with that this mini-excursion will “only take 5 minutes.”

Get the idea?

We’re all in search of exploring.

We can’t help it.

It’s part of the adventure of life.

It helps take the boredom out of life and replaces it with excitement, which is a good place to live in.

Northern Ethiopia Adventures

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Photo taken by the author

Hippo sightseeing on Lake Tana, Ethiopia

“Adventure, without it, why live?”

– Johan Radcliffe

After spending about four-and-a-half weeks at the project site in Harbu Chulule, I then travelled to Northern Ethiopia to take in my own travelling adventures to end off my time in Africa before coming home to Canada.

I went to four different places: Bahir Dar, Gondor, Simien Mountains, and Lalibela.

For the first three of these I hired a guide, whom I was referred to by some friends of mine.

Bahir Dar was a 40-minute plane ride from Addis.

I was greeted by my guide at the very small airport and in one day I saw an Ethiopian Orthodox Monastery, three hippo’s and the Blue Nile Falls, which are similar to Niagara Falls in Ontario, Canada.

The water level at these falls was quite low, as the rainy season had not started yet.

Now, these hippos, you have to understand something here.

I was told right from the beginning of stepping onto this long in length, white-seated, comfortable, 10 mph engine boat, there would be a very slight chance in seeing any hippos. The percentage was actually quite high of not seeing them – at 75%.

With that, our boat driver ventured our craft into an area on Lake Tana where it drains into the Blue Nile River & where these animals are known to be.

We kept our eyes peeled on the water ahead of us, as well as to the port side and starboard side of the vessel.

We looked and looked, and saw nothing…until the first mammoth slowly lifted its head out of the water, with its two large eyes staring intently at us.

Over a period of the next 10-15 minutes, we would see the other two hippo’s appear on the surface: one-by-one, two at a time, or all three at once. It was as if they were putting on an entertainment show for us to sit back (or lean forward) and enjoy.

After this, I went to Gondor.

The main highlight was being able to go on a city tour and seeing the castle complex.

It was pretty cool to see the ancient library, as I am a bit of a nerd myself.

Also cool was seeing the various castles that had been built by the emperor’s of the day for this city and learning the history behind each of these castles.

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Library in Gondor

Next, was on to hike the Simien Mountains for 3 days and 3 nights. This was an adventure in-and-of-itself.

I quite enjoyed the scenery of the mountains and the sense of accomplishment after each day’s hike across rugged terrain.

I met up with 3 American’s, which was fun to have some company for the hike.

One couple I ran into were from New York City, of all places, and we finished the mountain range together.

The three of us ended up travelling together to our next stop in Lalibela, and like all travelling companions and new friends are, my mind was enlarged and my heart was content.

In Lalibela, I toured the 11 underground, monolithic churches and had a tour guide (a different one) help give me the history of these churches.

The structure’s interior and exterior were quite impressive to see. I learned lots about the building process of these churches and the history of each one. These rock-hewn churches have been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, so I can now cross them off my bucket list.

What about you? What has been an adventurous travel trip you’ve taken? Tell us about it in the ‘Comments’ section below.