Part One: On Mastery of Self
Chapter One- The Past
A past is like an opinion- we all have one. Some memories are pleasant and some are not. Some memories are victories and some are defeat. Some events built us and others almost broke us. Some of us got bitter and some of us got better. Some repress it, some regret it and some forget it. Some have moved on and some are still living there. The one commonality about everyone’s past is that your past got you where you are today. No matter how good, how bad, how happy or how sad, the sum total of events, experiences and lessons that form our past also work together to form the person that we are today. Rather we accept this as true or not, it is. The key is to embrace whatever has happened as useful, to grow in and emulate the good and to learn from and diminish the curses of the past. By embracing the realities of our past, we can stand on the foundation built by it as we navigate our present to create our future.
Psychologists tell us that our most formative years are from early childhood and through adolescence into early adulthood. There is no denying that the events of our young lives help create who we will be as adults. This is why the next section, on parenting, is so important; there is no denying that as parents we have a huge responsibility to raise a child that the world wants to live with, and a child that wants to live in the world. Having said this, however, I decided to start with our own past- that of you and I, the adult audience of this book. I have noticed in my years of teaching that many of us have not fully resolved issues of our own childhood. I have noticed this in others and I have noticed it in myself. I am working on each; my own issues and those of my students. It is from and because of this that I chose to write about this phenomenon in the first few pages of this book.
One of the most common pieces of baggage we often carry from childhood is that of not being good enough. This is where the man or woman in question was never good enough for mom or for dad and, rather they know it or rather only subconsciously, that feeling has followed him or her well into adult life. Even if the person does not realize this, they may subconsciously avoid situations, challenges and/or even opportunities because they don’t want to experience the agony of defeat. Truth is, with or without the excuse of an overly demanding parent, many people fail to realize their full potential for the fear of failure. It will be one of the enemies we will more thoroughly investigate and plan to defeat a little later. Suffice it now to say that fear of failure is insidious and will keep you from being the best you that you are meant to be!
Of course the opposite extreme holds some adults back as well. A child who knew no real standards, structure or discipline may also grow up unable to best negotiate the demands of adult life, especially as pertains to work and other adult responsibilities. In either, or any other, case the first step towards creating the future we want is to come to terms with our past. The relevance of knowing what happened and what it did to us is really only to accept that condition and then deal with it. We should do this in the quickest and most efficient manner possible. If you have it in you, quit cold turkey! That is, accept that the past is the past and the only value for the future is to learn from it. If this is not in you, you may need to get help. It is paramount you deal with your past effectively and sooner rather than later, one way or the other.
So far we have only explored the past of our childhood, by the way; of course there is also the past that occurred more recently. Was it betrayal by a friend or family member, financial failure, business mistakes, death of a loved one or some other catastrophe that is holding you back? Whatever it is, you may feel alone or that nobody else understands. Even more harmful, you may still be blaming others for whatever happened and wherever you are in your life. The first step towards any real and meaningful progress is to accept full and utter responsibility for your life from this moment forward! Hey, I said this book would be helpful, not easy. I am not preaching anything that I don’t practice. I have messed up relationships, screwed up business and dorked up finances as much as anyone I know. In every case, it was my fault. Others may have enticed, aided and abetted or even led but nobody is in charge of my action or my choices. Wrong or right, dark or bright, I have been where I have been because I allowed me to go there! The misguided reader would think this a self-bashing; it is not, but rather empowering! When we accept full responsibility for ALL of our actions and decisions, regardless of any circumstances or excuses, we are in control! Do it now if you never have before! Realize that you and you alone are the author of your story. It is empowering!
There are of course many philosophical, psychological and even theological arguments that we can make on this matter. As a young philosophy major in college I would have wanted to spend time on these; but this is a book about action. While these are my “meditations” on mastery, this book is really meant to be more of a blueprint for mastering your own life and helping others master theirs. Therefore, though we could argue nature versus nurture, destiny versus free will and even what Freud may say about the effects of our childhood on our current actions, these will not help us as much as this- do it now! Learn from the past, live in the present and create the future. These are the three key skills we will develop, or at least explore, in the first section of this book. The first step is to proclaim that you can and will do it. Take a moment to reflect upon the things of your past that you may still be carrying with you. Ask yourself these three key questions:
- What am I carrying that is hurting me? Make a conscious decision to drop these. Pray about it and release it. If it is not adding but subtracting, let it go!
- What am I carrying that is helping me? It is also important to realize those past events that have contributed to who we are and/or are still serving us well and hold onto these. In the case of some, they may even be useful to pass on to our children.
- What can I learn? The best and highest use of our past is to learn for the future. What mistakes have I made that I don’t want to make again? What specific lessons learned could I derive from these mistakes and apply to my future life. I can honestly tell you that I have invested and learned more from the hard earned lessons of my life than from my MBA. Go learn from yours too!