Life lessons About Winning Losing and Bagels

We have all been disappointed when we lose the job, the scholarship, the game or some other opportunity to someone else. It’s painful! Because of these losses, we can become resentful when anything happens for good for someone else. It’s as if we believe joy has a limited supply.

My faith tradition has a beautiful scripture that explains some of promises we, as members of my faith, make to each other at baptism. 

Mosiah 18:8-9 (From the Book Of Mormon Another Testament of Jesus Christ)

 And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—

I love the idea and practice of comforting and caring for each other. I am not perfect at this yet but I have seen improvement over the years. 

As I have been pondering this scripture and my own efforts lately, I’ve come to recognize another important thing I need much more improvement on. It is something Paul mentions in Romans 12:15: Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. I need to be much better at rejoicing with those who rejoice. 

It is too easy for me to get caught up in the idea that life is a zero-sum game. Because often times it is. If I wait in line all morning for a bagel and you get the last oat and wheat with rosemary and honey schmear, I’m stuck with the sticky raisin bagel and plain boring cream cheese. You win, I lose. 

Life is filled with situations like this that are much more impactful than breakfast (in fairness if you’ve ever had a bagel from Bagelsaurus you’d know it’s no small matter). We have all been disappointed when we lose the job, the scholarship, the game or some other opportunity to someone else. It’s painful! Because of these losses, we can become resentful when anything happens for good for someone else. It’s as if we believe joy has a limited supply. The more someone else gets means less for us. This dangerous and damning mindset has not only made me bitter and resentful of others, it cripples my own ability to see what blessings I now enjoy. Instead focusing on my own blessings, I’m fixated on what I’m missing out on. When I shift the mindset and rejoice with you, I find my own blessings come to mind more often and my joy is magnified not diminished. 

It also helps me see people in a more positive light and in turn reminds me of the love God has for each of us. Also, when I really turn my heart to rejoicing with those who rejoice, I find my ability to mourn with those who mourn enhanced. It becomes easier to see them as a whole person, much more than the sum total of their wins and losses. I can also see their pain for what it is instead of hoping somehow I can be spared from the same pain. 

I still have a long way to go with this. Luckily, I get a chance to practice it every day. Even while waiting in line at the bagel shop.

Writing to Change the World

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I am writing to change the world! Well that feels like a bit much, eh? But, there it is, on my website, as the tag line. You see it on every page. I am putting it out to the world. So what troubles me about this claim? The scope! When I say I want to change the world the first thing that comes to mind is that what I do must have some kind of global impact. The earth knew I was here because of the seismic impression I left. Therein lies the rub. The scope of the ambition leaves you feeling small and hubris at the same time. 

So what do I really mean when I say I want to change the world by what I write? I mean I hope to influence the world for good, I want to be among the contributors, not just the cynics. Of course, I would like my words to reach the masses, but that’s not the main motivation, not even close. If it was, it could taint what I write. I would find myself always chasing the popular new thing looking for more eyeballs and possibly lose sight of the goal. The goal is to impact the world around me for good. A forest is a mighty thing but so is a tree. To reach the one has value, to develop your skills has merit, even if only a dozen see it. I do want to change the world but I know that may never be on the scale it sounds like. 

I’m so very grateful for those who have impacted me in my life, few of which are NYT bestsellers or have monetized their talents in grand ways. My widowed neighbor taught me at church and welcomed me into her home. She was, for me, a much needed surrogate grandparent. She was never interviewed by Oprah and didn’t “make it big” but she changed the world by changing me. School teachers, church mentors, friends, coworkers and of course family, have all blessed my life and almost without exception did those things in obscurity. But, make no mistake they changed the world by changing me.    

So why do I write? Why not just be a nice guy? Well I am trying to be a nice guy. I’m trying to be a good citizen, a good neighbor, a good husband, a good father, a good Christian etc. Part of that for me means trying to push myself in new ways and develop my talents so that I can be of value to those around me. One risk we have when we pursue this course of action is comparing ourselves to others finding, ourselves lacking and then quitting. I am sympathetic to that, and I’ve written about it on at least two occasions ( Check out those posts here and here).

We can’t let whatever we aren’t yet stop us from becoming what we can be. We also can’t minimize what we are doing because we haven’t maximized the impact. Six years ago I had the distinct impression to spend more time on social media and be more purposeful about it. That journey has led me to write more, think more and be more brave. Since then I have, little by little, accomplished a lot! Here is a brief list:

  • Finished a 40k word middle grade book
  • Joined the Society Of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators
  • Joined a writing group
  • Learned how to query agents to represent my projects
  • Began my blog 
  • Reached close to 10,000 views on the blog
  • Have had near 500,000K views on social media (this is an educated guess because FB analytics are tricky for personal accounts) 
  • Finished (almost) with the first draft of my second book
  • Created a website 
  • Learned how to better brand my work
  • Met new people 
  •  Made new friends  
  • Improved my skills 
  •  Gained new skills 
  • And in some small way have made a difference 

Perhaps the most satisfying thing that has happened is the personal messages I get. So many times I have felt like a humbug, gotten discouraged, or have been ready to walk away from everything, when someone will reach out to me and thank me for something I have written. I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of kindness and support I have received and humbled by the impact it’s had on myself and others. So yes, I may never monetize my work, and yes, I may never reach the masses, but I am changing the world, one word at a time, and that’s okay by me.