Steel and Velvet

Steel and VelvetLife is experienced on a tightrope.

Fine lines of distinction separate This from That.

As an example, the short riddle below, comprised of two sentences, is deserving of being solved. It will be our segue into the Thought Du Jour.

Each sentence is accurate.

Together, they become powerful in thought and deed.

Don’t answer the foolish arguments of fools, or you will become as foolish as they are.

Be sure to answer the foolish arguments of fools, or they will become wise in their own estimation.

While appearing contradictory, the Secret is within each of us, at our core. If we know who we are and are generous of spirit, the ‘answer’ becomes obvious:

We refuse to follow a foolish person down rabbit trails — and, we boldly share our beliefs with them.

Men of Steel and Velvet

You might ask, “What does this have to do with men of Steel and Velvet?”

The answer, “They can be firm and soft — at the same time.”

In fact, they are who they are — yet, they generously share of themselves. The perception of these differences become reality when interacting with the individuals who approach them. For example — these men of Steel and Velvet have the patience of a Saint. Some people will recognize the character trait as a virtue — others will perceive the same trait as weakness.

Two Sides of Same Coin

The first group will experience the softness flowing from mutual respect — as stories are shared. The second group will experience the hardness resulting from a rude awakening — as they are jolted from their ill-conceived perception to the harsh reality of a definitive limit. While giving the benefit of the doubt, these men of Steel and Velvet will defend their boundaries — for the benefit of those who seek protection.

Boundaries are simply ‘fine lines of distinction’. One of these fine lines separates forgiveness from flaccidity. Forgiveness is hard (to do) — flaccidity is (by its very definitionsoft. Forgiveness lets us enjoy the present moment — while moving forward into a future of opportunities. Flaccidity is for those who allow themselves to be a doormat for the feet of their enemies — while remaining tethered to the past.

Lambs to the Wolves

Lambs

Is it possible for lambs to move through a pack of wolves? What is the Secret to that?! Answer: “We are to be as wise as snakes and as innocent as doves.”

Wisdom is the forerunner to success. In fact, a four letter word is the pun intended to create a new beginning in our lives — Fore.

Yes — that which comes before. Have you ever wondered how generous people got to be that way? They give here, there, and everywhere. What came first? What is at the very beginning of their current efforts?

Answer, “Fore-give” — and, in the vernacular, Forgive.

Forgiveness

One of the best definitions of forgiveness was received in a place far removed from a religious setting. Yet, it dovetails with a belief in a Higher Power and summarizes the distinct black and white choice we will each make in our, individual, lives.

Forgiveness: Let go of the notion that there can be a better, or different, yesterday.

Simple enough. Yet, check your thoughts. Where are they? Dwelling on an episode, conversation, mistake, hurt, offense, etc. of the Past? If so, look again at the definition above.

“But”, you might say, “I have tried to forgive and that person does not deserve it, will not accept it, continues to do it, etc.” (the excuses continue on ad infinitum and ad nauseam)

DovesFore-giving is not about anyone else. It is about us and totally within our control.

Does it mean we condone the actions of another? No.

Does it mean we continue to allow another to use and abuse us? Heck, no!

Does it mean we forget, for now, with hopes of revenge, later? Again, the answer is — No.

We, simply — Let go of the notion that there can be a better, or different, yesterday.

Then, we assuage ourselves with, “Right here, right now, it’s great to be alive!”

The Offended

Many will choose to be offended. They will be envious of the peace and tranquility in our lives. The pathologically challenged will remain tethered to their past, while we move forward.

Each new day will bring the tightropes for us to walk boldly and in balance. Through it all, we retain our innocence by being able and willing to, quickly, ask for forgiveness when we are wrong and offering it freely to erase the foibles of others. By doing so we achieve —

The Reward

We ignore the foolish arguments — while sharing our core beliefs.

We wisely chart our course through danger — while being careful to remain harmless.

We forgive ourselves and others — while receiving an invitation to the future.

We, eventually, learn the inherent principle of Steel and Velvet
Easy is hard and Hard is easy.

Good Directions

Moving Forward

Good DirectionsImagine your favorite action movie. The ground is crumbling behind our heroes and heroines as they run toward the only escape available to them. Our heart is in our throat, as we encourage them to go, quickly, forward.

Life is like that. There is no standing still. There is no going back. The only direction to safety is forward.

The Story of a Friend

I lost a dear friend of twenty-plus years because he made a choice to be comfortable in a rut. The definition of a rut is – a grave with the ends kicked out. Yes, it’s dark, damp, and depressing down there. My friend exploded upon being reminded of the only two choices we have: Grow or Die.

He assured me in no uncertain terms that he was not depressed. (The fellow doth protest too much, methinks.)

As recently as, November 15, 2006, this is the complete text of the Testimonial he offered when asked to document our business relationship — Client and Certified Public Accountant.

While reflecting on the past years of business growth … the ups and downs; the trials and tests; the hard work; and, never-ending commitment to push forward … I come to realize that you have been a vital part of that growth. You have been with us all the way.

The accounting profession has truly been honored by your steadfast commitment to serving, to advise … to help direct my thoughts in the financial decisions of our company. It has made my job as CEO much easier.

We are in our 15th year and looking forward to working with you in the years to come.

Fast forward to September 14, 2011, and this is my goodbye to a business relationship, which was enjoyed by that friend, who (at one time) was closer than any brother.

The purpose of this letter is to document the essence of our phone conversation, yesterday.

At the end of that conversation, you wondered if your message was adequately communicated by asking, “Is that clear?!” My response, “Perfectly.”

It is crystal clear that there is a difference in core philosophies.

You believe and have stated quite clearly, numerous times over the last few months, that you and your Company are at the mercy of the Hand of Fate. In essence, you are tethered to a fixed set of practices, which have brought you success in the Past — and, now, are frustrated that the Present is less than accepting.

I believe life is what we make of it, friend — if it doesn’t fit, make alterations. My purpose in business is summarized in four words: Building Bright Financial Futures. I have gone to great lengths to promote this idea to the world via every digital means possible. I have clearly communicated this core belief to you via an email conversation thread from May 17th to July 20th.

My last email request of you was for one hour of your time to discern how we might build a dynamic business relationship. Having heard absolutely nothing from you, I called yesterday with an offer for year-end planning. In the past, you welcomed the opportunity for us to talk about your Company.

You chose to refuse my offer. You have that right. I also have the right to choose.

As of today, we no longer have a business relationship. You are encouraged to engage other professionals to provide services for your financial fiscal year (and, payroll calendar quarter) ended September 30th. Documents in your Client File Portal will be available to you and your representatives until December 31st.

What happened between November 15, 2006, and September 14, 2011?

We will never know. To be judgmental toward my friend and all he has experienced in the last five years is the wrong thing to do. I can, though, tell my story. In the past, I have first-hand knowledge and experience of what it’s like to be stuck in a rut. It is dark, damp and depressing.

Rest of the Story

Since this is my story, I’ll finish telling it my way.

The darkest times in my life began, at the moment, when I started to think that I had arrived. Thinking that I had reached my destination and could quit — or, coast — or, savor the rewards — or, otherwise think I had, really, become somebody. You see, the focus had shifted to thinking, believing, and acting as if, the world revolved around me.

In the simplest of analogies, my life had gone off a cliff. The ground was, literally, crumbling beneath my feet as I tumbled into the chasm of darkness.

Recovery from the pit was only possible by acknowledging, “There but for the grace of God go I” … further down into the abyss. At that moment, there was a Rock on which to cling and a view of the hard work necessary to climb from the rubble into the brightness of opportunity, once again.

Don’t Look Down

There is nothing new under the sun.

There’s a story of a guy walking on water. His name was Peter and he was a cocky fellow, with relatives from Missouri (the Show Me state). He enjoyed the companionship of a friend, who cared deeply about the growth of others.

So, one day Peter challenged his friend with, “If you’re really as good as you claim, ask me to walk on water.” Guys being guys, the friend accepted the challenge and said, “Come ahead.”

Jumping out of the boat, Peter walked on the water. But, when he looked down at the waves churning beneath his feet, he lost his nerve and started to sink.

Moral of this story: Don’t look down.

Children Grow Up

In fact, don’t look back, either. The ground is crumbling behind us. There is only one safe path — Forward.

There’s another story of a guy pondering the progression of life. His name was Paul and one of his many attributes was that of a Philosopher. He observed, “When I was a child, I talked like a child. I thought like a child. I had the understanding of a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.”

Moral of this story: Children grow up.

The Challenge

At this point in my story, there is at least one person just aching to challenge this thesis of — Forward motion being the best direction and Growth being a prerequisite to a rich life. They will posit that “going back” has its merits.

As in:

We miss a turn at the intersection and need to go back.

We forget something when leaving on vacation and need to go back.

We neglect to learn a lesson and need to go back (for another dose).

We ignore an opportunity, which is good for us, and need to go back.

Going Back & Moving Forward

I agree. There are legitimate times for us to go back and recover from frailties of the human condition. “Thank God for Good Directions and turnip greens!” (by Billy Currington and his album Doin’ Somethin’ Right) Turn up your speakers and enjoy this tune.

For the astute scholars among us, I will acknowledge their point that we are encouraged by the Good Book to go back. As we examine this riddle to the very essence of life, the answer is simple. We are encouraged to be childlike, not childish. There is a difference.

So… at the moment, when there is the temptation to think we have arrived and can stop growing — Look up, think forward, and really focus on the hard work to take the next step.

Go ahead — do it. Now, that we are big kids — older and wiser, with all of our education and experience, hurts and betrayals, safely archived in the memory banks — do it. Be innocent, be sweet, be open, be humble, be accepting, be trusting, and believe that we can experience heaven, here on earth.

All we need to do is to take that next step — often into the unknown — forward, to grow.