My Favourite Lesson from King Solomon

King Solomon inherits a kingdom from his father, David, and gets a visit from God during a dream in the night.

God asks him, “What do you want?”

Solomon didn’t ask for wealth, health, extended life, power, or even death to his enemies. Instead, he asked for wisdom.

As a result of his request, which was granted, he received everything else.

It’s a lesson our world could use today.

The Value of One Connection

Never underestimate the value of connecting with people in your life.

By connection, I don’t mean the occasional thought about a person and a “hello” when you happen to run into them. It’s the deep, valuable connection that only comes when you genuinely care.

When there’s authenticity in that relationship, it becomes more valuable than any marker of success.

It compounds, grows with time, and when properly cultivated, pays more dividends to the quality of your life than any other source. It’s the reason the communities with the most centenarians (people who live past 100) are people who are socially connected.

For a child, a friend in the neighbourhood is way more valuable than a new toy in the basement.

For an adult, a friend you can depend on has the same equivalency — more valuable than a new toy in the basement.

I’ve done enough magic magic shows in retirement homes to see the difference between those with connections and those without.

The difference is even greater than night and day.

The Highest Path We Can Take

When we think of the apex of our existence, what path can take us there?

Some of us fall into a trap of getting onto a path without even knowing where it’s going. We’re just told that other people have gone on this path and we should follow them as it seems to be working for them.

Other times we see the end of the path, but get frightened at how difficult it will be to get there. Instead, we settle for what’s easiest or simply make camp and decide that hiking is not for us.

Sometimes we start on a path and end up on another one.

The highest path, and the hardest one, will always reveal the best versions of ourselves.

There will be moments of elation, quickly overpowered by moments of uncertainty.

There will be time to enjoy the scenery around us and there will be times where we need to stay focused and push through.

The important part is we keep going… step by step… little by little… until the highest path is the only one left for us to travel on.

Keeping It a Secret

There’s an old joke in the community of magicians that if you want to keep something a secret… publish it in a book.

The truth behind this adage isn’t too far from where we are today.

Although we have access to (almost) anything in the world at any moment, we still value something higher if we’re told it’s a secret.

What we don’t realize is there aren’t many secrets anymore.

Just people willing to do the work to put information together and those who are willing to believe anything that’s packaged in an exciting way.

Why Online Learning Fails

Take the best* teachers and their best courses, throw them online and offer access to anyone.

In theory, this is a game changer.

It allows anyone, anywhere, an opportunity to learn anything and from the best in their fields. It destroys barriers and adds a point to how technology can democratize economic stratification.

Why doesn’t it work?

It still depends on two human factors:

1. Wanting to learn the material.
2. Having the self-discipline to follow-through.

In a classroom, or even the home school, there is someone there to hold a student accountable. A good teacher will even get a student to push past their barriers.

Online — there are only a minority of people who are driven enough and disciplined to succeed. The platform works really well for them and they benefit from it.

In the end, it’s not the medium that’s the problem, but the user accessing it.

*Yes, the other problem is “best” is subjective. In the online world, it’s usually defined by highest rated.

Everything Has a Cost

Everything you want to do in life has a cost associated with it.

The cost could be monetary, time or personal. In order to get something, you will need to give something of yourself.

To offer something to others also comes at a cost. We expect that cost in some circumstances (a parent giving their time, energy, love and resources to their child), but fail to see it in others (the dignity lost to a family when they take charity for the first time — which is something I’ve seen a few times).

Whenever I read about a person who has become successful at whatever they are doing, I always look to see what price they paid.

Did they sacrifice having a family? Perhaps they sacrificed the family they did have.

Did they spend time barely getting by, eating scraps from wherever they could get it?

Did they forego vacations, luxuries and any comforts to their life?

How is their health, physically and mentally?

What cost did the world have to pay?

Everything we do and everything we want has a price. If you want it, you have to be willing to pay for it in advance.

Admitting What You Already Know

Our refusal to admit we were wrong is a powerful drive in making us miserable.

We know what it is that’s bothering us and what needs to be done to rectify the situation.

Having to admit it… and then follow through… is the toughest journey of the soul.

A problem for our refusal to admit what’s wrong is in our approach.

Do we look at it with disdain and do our best to protect our ego?

Or do we look at it with joy as something to celebrate because we’re finally going to improve the quality of our lives?

It’s sad to see so many miserable people today who are seeking to find fulfillment in something external. They’re constantly searching for something outside themselves that is never going to satisfy the quiet voice within that’s calling for internal reflection.

We don’t need others to tell us what’s wrong.

We already know.

It’s just a matter of admitting it.

Essential Skills

“Essential skills” is a buzz-phrase that gets thrown around in corporate speak and in education.

What should people know?

It’s a tough question because “essential skills” keep changing. So what skills would be considered timeless?

Let’s try a thought experiment:
Our entire technological infrastructure goes down, as does our energy supply. We have no access to the comforts of progress, nor the ease of transportation.

What are the essential skills needed for survival?

Knowing how to grow food would be a top priority.
Knowing how to build shelter.
Knowing how to get access to water and filter it.
Medical knowledge.
Knowing how to cooperate.
Knowing how to defend oneself from those who refuse to cooperate.

Once those are firmly established, other skills can be built upon them to rebuild what was lost.

For those who do not possess any of those skills, the benefit they could provide is a willingness to learn.

Those are essential skills that will never change.

Everything else is mere curiosity about what we’ve uncovered throughout history.

What You Wanted Then Isn’t What You Want Now

As a teenager, I wanted to be a martial artist… then a computer programmer. I also wanted a corvette.

In University, while studying Theology, I wanted to be a world-famous magician. I had no desire to own a vehicle, be in a long-term relationship or live in a house.

Ten years from now, I can already anticipate my wants (and needs) are going to change drastically again.

This is the difficulty in giving advice to others, especially when they’re at a different stage* in their life.

You’ve been in their world, but they haven’t been in yours.

You need to remember how your mind worked, or at least try to empathize how their mind is working, in order to be helpful.

Otherwise, you’re another person who “just doesn’t get it.”

It’s also something to keep in mind for people who are at a stage you will be approaching as well.

 

*Stage, by the way, doesn’t always correlate with age.

I Don’t Believe in Writer’s Block

My head is always spinning with thoughts and ideas. To get them onto the page is a matter of getting out of the way and letting them flow.

To worry too much about perfection is when the block happens. It’s a belief that writing is some kind of magical process that demands the highest level of mastery only some possess and others only fake.

Once I stopped believing that, there was never an issue to write.

Writing is work and it’s a skill that can be learned. To learn it requires practice and that can only happen when you do it.

The more you practice, the easier it becomes.

The real writer’s block is feeling like you have nothing to say.

In that case, it’s time to find your voice.