My new book PAiLS is now available wherever books are sold (including here). I hope you enjoy it!
It took some finagling, a bit of sneaking around, and then a moderate amount of arm-twisting (you'll just have to read the book to find out what I'm talking about) but finally, in the end, Terri Brady's long awaited book Letters to Lindsey became a reality. It had a wildly successful debut at two different weekends of Life Leadership conventions in the United States and Canada, and is now available to the general public (here or here).
Below is a short excerpt from the dust jacket inscription:
Speaker, business owner, blogger, wife, and mom, Terri Brady demonstrates in the pages of her book that sometimes we can learn the most profound lessons from the simplest experiences. Drawing upon everyday occurrences in her crowded life, she is a virtuoso at finding depth in daily living. Terri takes topics both serious and light and manages to turn them into unforgettable lessons. Whether it's the frustration of infertility, cute quotes from her four children, the fright of a brain tumor, or the complexity of female personalities, Terri dazzles.
I couldn't have said it better if I'd written it myself!
I am thoroughly convinced that anyone who reads this book, man or woman, will discover both deep meaning and great entertainment, and will be inspired to live a better life. Terri, as a true example of what she writes, is the best kind of author. Enjoy!
I was in a bookstore one day browsing through the section on historical fiction. I am a sucker for a well-written novel set in a real historical time and involving characters from our past. Thumbing through the familiar names of Bernard Cornwell, Conn Iggulden, and Jeff Shaara, I was surprised to come across a couple of books in this genre by Steven Pressfield. I knew Pressfield to be the creator of the story behind the movie The Legend of Bagger Vance. Intrigued, I bought both books and read them with relish. They were remarkable. They transported me back in time, immediately got me interested in their characters, and also taught me much about the epochs in which they were set. Impressed with the breadth of Pressfield’s creative ability, I dug into the story of his success.
Apparently it was seventeen years of trying before Pressfield got his first professional writing job. It was a partnership on a screenplay for a movie called King Kong Lives. Excited and confident of success, Pressfield invited everyone he knew to the movie’s premiere. Nobody showed. Not a soul. Then the review of the movie in Vanity Fair said of Pressfield and the other man who helped write the script, “. . . Ronald Shusett and Steven Pressfield; we hope these are not their real names, for their parents’ sake.” Talk about criticism!
Pressfield himself writes of that time in his life, “Here I was, forty-two years old, divorced, childless, having given up all normal human pursuits to chase the dream of being a writer; now I’ve finally got my name on a big Hollywood production . . . and what happens? I’m a loser, a phony; my life is worthless, and so am I.”
If the story had ended there for Pressfield, we may never have heard of him. But something happened. In Pressfield’s words: “My friend . . . snapped me out of it by asking if I was gonna quit . . . no! [Pressfield answered]. ‘Then be happy. You’re where you wanted to be, aren’t you? So you’re taking a few blows. That’s the price for being in the arena and not on the sidelines. Stop complaining and be grateful.’”
It’s hard to imagine sometimes the resistance and rejection successful people have overcome on their journeys. We look at them and immediately see their genius, their ability, their authentic swing. We know them by their Margaritaville. But excellence comes only after the long struggle against any and all obstacles that come along. This is easy to forget when looking upon someone who has “made it.”
There is another, deeper lesson to be gained from Pressfield’s story, however. In effect, he was told not to waste his failure. Specifically, he was reminded to be grateful for it!
We have already been through the discussion about how failure isn’t fatal as long as it isn’t final. But we need to emphasize here that failures are extremely valuable if utilized properly, that is, if they are used as learning experiences and employed in the task of making us better.
Failures hurt. In reading the account of Pressfield’s first professional flop, it is easy to feel his pain and embarrassment. But fortunately for thousands of fans all over the world, Steven Pressfield did not allow his humiliations to define him; instead, he let them refine him. The concept is simple but difficult to live out consistently: our failures should not define us, but rather they should refine us.
Too many times we allow our failures to go to waste. As a result of the pain of failing we quit, pout, lash out, lose confidence, and lose hope. In such cases the failures hurt, but they are not allowed to instruct. They knock us down, but then are not utilized to lift us higher. They make us appear foolish, but are not allowed to help us grow wise.
Author Frans Johansson wrote, “ . . . groundbreaking innovators . . . produce a heap of ideas that never amount to anything. We play only about 35 percent of Mozart’s, Bach’s, or Beethoven’s compositions today; we view only a fraction of Picasso’s works; and most of Einstein’s papers were not referenced by anyone. Many of the world’s celebrated writers have also produced horrible books,* innovative movie directors have made truly uncreative duds, megasuccessful entrepreneurs have disappointed investors, and pioneering scientists have published papers with no impact whatsoever on their colleagues . . . the best way to beat the odds is to continually produce . . . .”
Any life lived will most certainly come with a litany of failures, mistakes, embarrassments, and humiliations. If we are not mature enough to use these shortfalls as steppingstones, they don’t find their way into our legacy and are spilled out as waste instead. In such instances, we have felt the pain but not grabbed the gain.
Never waste a failure. Wring from it all the experience and learning you can to come back stronger and better the next time. And no matter what, keep producing.
* He doesn't mean me!
My good friends Orrin Woodward and Oliver DeMille are set to release their groundbreaking book Leadershift in just a couple of weeks. If you are concerned about the erosion of freedom in the western world and are sick of partisian politics as a supposed answer to that decline, Leadershift will fill you with delight. Written as a readable story, the plot follows the gathering of leaders to discuss the enormous problems facing all free societies in our world today. What emerges from this gathering is a surprisingly simple, yet monumentally profound way to understand what has happened to freedom and what is necessary to restore and preserve it.
Let's face it; boring books stink. And nobody wants to read another screed from the people on the "blue state" side blaming those on the "red state" side, or vice versa. While playing the blame game might feed the flames of our righteous indignation, it doesn't produce any worthwhile outcomes. Meantime, our civilization continues to decline. What Leadershift does in an entertaining way is illuminate real solutions based on accurate analysis of the problems themselves.
But I won't spoil all the fun for you. Do yourself a favor and read this little book yourself. You won't be disappointed!
For anyone who knows me (the "food Neanderthal"), you may already be shocked by the title of this article. So you may not be surprised to discover that I've invited the talented Karen McCann, author of Dancing in the Fountain: How to Enjoy Living Abroad, to share on the simple pleasures of the Mediterranean culture of eating.
For one ghastly moment I looked down at my plate and began to see my dinner as a minefield of calories, fat, salt, cholesterol, mercury, white sugar and non-nutritive chemical additives. And then I remembered Chris Brady’s wonderful line in A Month of Italy: "There is never any talk of ‘low cal’ or ‘carbs’ or ‘proteins.’ For Italians, dissecting foods into these vulgar terms is as offensive as breaking sexual intercourse down into steps and sub-components.” With Chris’s words in mind, I came to my senses and tucked into my dinner with renewed enthusiasm. If my years of living in Seville, Spain, have taught me anything, it is that food should be treated as a welcome friend, not an enemy.
The Sevillanos consider it their God-given birthright to enjoy themselves every day. They fling themselves into their social lives with the same zeal Americans devote to their careers. Just meeting a friend for a café con leche can take two hours, not counting the preliminary debate about where to go for the best coffee at the best price. Lunch is even more time-consuming; my record so far is seven hours one St. Patrick’s Day in an Italian restaurant on the Costa del Sol. Dinners may last until four in the morning. Late nights can run until dawn and not infrequently include walking home through the silent streets, arm in arm with friends, and (if I am to be totally honest with you) singing a medley of old show tunes, Beatles hits, and Besame Mucho. The neighbors put up with it because they know that next time, they could be the ones serenading the barrio.
I have never met a Spaniard or an Italian who was in danger of saying, in T.S. Eliot’s famous phrase, “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.”
The essence of the Mediterranean lifestyle isn’t living in a particular geographic region, it’s about how you live wherever you are. It’s about eating when you’re hungry, taking a siesta when you’re tired and enjoying your wine without guilt or the nagging worry that Merlot really is totally uncool. Like sex, eating for pleasure isn’t something to be done indiscriminately, but it is something you’ll want to stay in practice for, so that you don’t lose your touch.
Guest blogger Karen McCann is the author of Dancing in the Fountain: How to Enjoy Living Abroad. An award-winning journalist, author, editor and blogger, she has been living in Seville, Spain, since 2004. Wanderlust has taken her to more than thirty countries, including many developing or post-war nations where she and her husband volunteer as consultants to struggling microenterprises. A fourth-generation Californian, she lived in Cleveland, Ohio, with her husband for two decades before the couple moved to Seville “for a year” and decided to make it their home. Today, she spends her time writing, blogging, painting, traveling the world and working on her next book.
Here is a chapter (33) from my upcoming book (working title) A Month of Italy: Rediscovering the Art of Vacation. I hope you like it.
Other interesting things are also attributed to this rascal believer, including legends that he conversed with the birds and talked a wild wolf out of terrorizing a little mountain town. The more believable aspects of his life are fascinating enough, however, and the deeper I researched into the life of this little man, the more respect I gained for what he accomplished.
Born a rich kid whose father was a textile merchant and mother was French, his “normal guy” name was Giovanni Francesco di Bernardone. Growing up today we might call him Johnny Fran, or something catchy like that. One can only imagine a life with such a moniker, so Francis did what all rich kids with funny names do; he lived it up. He went in for all kinds of exciting things, such as fighting in a battle to defend Assisi, getting captured and spending a year in prison, getting seriously ill, recovering, and then taking a trip to Rome to tour St. Peter’s, much as we just did (except he got to see the original basilica, not the “new” one, of course, it being the thirteenth century and all). Only instead of strolling around admiring architecture and the like, Francis decided to join in with the beggars he saw everywhere. Apparently this life either appealed to him or appalled him so much he was never the same again.
When Francis returned home after his pilgrimage to Rome, he refused to go back to his profligate way of life. As a result, his former friends teased him. It seems Francis wasn’t interested in playing sports anymore. When asked if he was planning to settle down and marry, Francis supposedly answered, “Yes. To the most beautiful bride.” What he meant by this was the bride of poverty. “Oh, that Johnny Fran is such a jokester,” his former friends no doubt thought. But they were wrong. Francis’s vow of poverty was sincere, and his way of life consistent with his new views.
He began tending to the needs of the local lepers: the lowliest and most avoided people of his day. In the church of San Diamano near Assisi he had a vision in which he claims he was told, “Francis, Francis, go and repair my house, which, you can see, is falling into ruins.” Francis took this vision literally, and launched himself into one of the original fixer-upper projects – the church in which he’d been praying. Surely pleasing the local priest, Francis began helping with restorations. He made a little miscalculation, however, when he sold some goods out of his father’s store to pay the construction costs, always exorbitant in Italy, I guess even in his day. His father didn’t take too kindly to this appropriation, however, and attempted several popular tactics to get restitution, such as assault, battery, and lawsuits.
In a hearing before the local bishop, Francis renounced his father and his inheritance, in the process even removing every stitch of clothing from his person. Departing the scene entirely naked, Francis went to live among the beggars once again, this time with a more authentic material situation.
Slowly he was able to expand his fixer-upper activities, restoring several more local churches. Then he heard a sermon that changed his life even further, compelling him to officially renounce a material life and to spread the word that the kingdom of Heaven was at hand. He dressed in a simple rough garment, which lots of painters have since reproduced, and went around to all the towns in the area preaching repentance and faith in Christ. Francis was sincere, and by the end of one year had gained eleven followers. He refused any official ordination as a priest, and he and his followers began to be known as the “lesser brothers,” because they refused to act with pride or take their place above anyone else.
Of course, such offensive behavior got them in trouble with the powers-that-be – The Church in Rome. It seems that preaching at the time was illegal unless one had obtained official sanction. So back Francis and his eleven went to the city that had started it all for him. Incredibly, and thanks to a dream he’d had, Pope Innocent III gave them an audience and an approval of sorts. Francis was instructed that as his group grew, they could come back and gain official acceptance from the church. In other words, “If you can convince more people of your ideas then maybe we’ll be convinced, too,” or something like that. This quasi-approval from The Church was pretty important because it allowed Francis and his eleven to avoid the complications of being declared heretics. This was nice, because it allowed them to live, which was very helpful in gaining new followers.
Francis continued to demonstrate his life of poverty and preach his gospel everywhere he went, many times attempting to spread the message outside of Italy, and even purportedly preaching to the Sultan of Egypt. His order of followers, ultimately called the Franciscans, spread around the globe, and the order he co-founded for women, called the Poor Claires, was also successful. Francis was involved in many pioneering movements of the faith, both big and small, including the interesting Trivial Pursuit-type fact that he was the first to set up a three-dimensional nativity scene, complete with live animals. It was two years after he died that he was officially pronounced a Saint, and therefore got the name he is best known by today: St. Francis of Assisi. He lived a life consistent with his doctrine and has been a hero of the faith down through the ages.
As soon as I realized how close we were staying to Assisi, the town made famous by this fascinating man nearly eight hundred years ago, I knew we had to go check it out. Only a short drive into Umbria past Lake Trasimeno, we began to notice the change in stone color as indicated in all the guidebooks. Where Tuscany is typically the orange of terracotta tiles and the brown of the stones found throughout the region, stones of pinker and whiter hues characterize Umbria.
We spotted the gorgeous little town from the expressway, off to our left a few miles away, cozily nestled into the side of a large ridge. The sun was already running out of steam for the day, and the dimming colors reflecting off the Umbrian stone made a pleasing contrast to the dark green all around the town. It was beautiful.
In keeping with form we managed to park in the wrong place, as some polite residents in lawn chairs informed us. So in standard fashion I unloaded the family and drove down yet another hill in search of a berth for the mini-bus.
The first thing that struck us as we shopped our way into the city was just how marvelously clean it was. This was true of most places we’d been, but for some reason Assisi was so prim we felt as if we were walking around in a dollhouse. There were also plentiful photo opportunities and I was kept busy at the shutter throughout the evening. One in particular featured three large, identical trees on a ledge behind a fountain on which two young men wearing fedoras, facing the opposite direction, were posing side-by-side for a photo of their own. From my angle exiting a small tunnel, it looked like a Beetle’s album cover. It is still one of my favorite shots I’ve ever taken.
It took a searching eye to see the reconstructions and repairs from the devastation an earthquake caused here over a decade ago. One or two buildings were undergoing massive restorations, but I wasn’t sure if this was the last of the repairs or just more of the type of ongoing construction one sees throughout these towns of old in Italy.
Terri really got into the shopping in Assisi, finding a monogramming store to customize some aprons for friends and relatives. We picked up a few more gifts and found a little out of the way place for dinner, taking our seats at long picnic tables in the front by the bar area. This was also where one had to pay at the end of a meal, and a funny photo opportunity presented itself. I looked up between my first and second plates to see a nun standing at the cash register waiting to pay her bill. From my vantage point the cash register was not visible, and it looked like she had sidled up to the bar for a drink. I decided not to take the picture, she not having actually incriminated herself, and instead enjoyed a private giggle at the arrangement of some of these restaurants.
After dinner we strolled the main streets, and I especially liked the Tempio di Minerva, the remains of a Roman temple dating back to the time of Caesar Augustus. It has been incorporated as the front of a more “modern” building, an amalgamation done hundreds of years ago. This made me think of a similar arrangement in Castiglione del Lago, and served as a constant reminder of the many layers of history enveloping us throughout our travels.
Unfortunately, the hour being late, we ran out of time and light. I would have loved to have seen the twenty-eight panels of frescoes depicting the Life of St. Francis by Giotto, some of his most renowned work, in their original position in the lower part of the Basilica di San Francesco. Also in this church rich in art treasures are frescoes by Martini, Lorenzetti, and even Cimabue. Knowing that we were only scratching the surface with our abbreviated evening visit, I made a mental note to return some day and “do” Assisi correctly. Besides, with the kids in tow we had bypassed many a museum and church interior during this trip, missing out on huge amounts of painted masterpieces. Perhaps a future visit, Lord willing, could revolve around an itinerary of Italy’s best frescoes. Wouldn’t that be a chance at sensory overload.
I made due with what we had to work with, however, and leaned against a ledge and watched the sunset. The reflected light from the changing sky almost made the buildings of Assisi glow. As I snapped a few last photos, trying desperately to capture with the lenses what the senses themselves could barely take in, I thought about the ground upon which I stood. How many pilgrims had migrated to this city throughout the centuries, searching for inspiration from a man who actually practiced what he preached? I found it interesting that in a world with no shortage of self-promoting, selfish, greedy, murderous, power hungry, materialistic, and glory hungry people, that a humble, dedicated little man from a tiny hill town could have gained so much acclaim, much less have had such an impact. About him author Robert Clark wrote, “He’d given Christ a face people hadn’t seen before, the peasant’s face. Until then Christ had been the Redeemer as the judge and king of the universe: he was painted enthroned, stern and impassive. Now he was the Redeemer as the man of sorrows, the god who became human to the quick and the marrow in order to lay claim to human wretchedness.” In fact, in my reading I discovered that many historians believe the “Franciscan revolution” begun by this humble man, which brought people back to a basic, humble faith, served to delay the Reformation by nearly three hundred years.
Is it that rare for someone to preach Christ with all his might, and if he must, use words?
Or perhaps it’s not rare, but obscure “lesser brother” types away from the camera lens of Hollywood or the national news are the ones who do it.
Or, maybe it’s supremely difficult, requiring the kind of meekness described in the Bible: enormous strength held under control, the animal appetites tamed and subdued.
The more I thought about it the more I realized what a tough, heroic figure St. Francis really was. The thousands of pilgrims throughout the centuries had chosen a worthy figure to emulate on their own journeys homeward, and I was glad to be numbered among them.
I had one more day left with the motorcycle and took an extended ride to savor the last moments with my new friend. It’s surprising the connection a man can develop with a vehicle, but I guess it’s because shared experiences build bonds, and this bike and I had traversed many a twisty road, bounced down bumpy trails, zoomed along farm paths, putt-putted through the cobble stone streets of many ancient towns. It had been my magic carpet of sorts as I’d used it to drop into stimulatingly unknown spots in this captivating country. To me, getting far off the beaten path is the best way to get an authentic feel for a place. This little motorcycle had provided a super enjoyable way to do just that. We had dead-ended in farmer’s fields, families’ driveways, and tiny piazzas in front of churches at the top of little hill towns.
I had adopted the attitude that acting like I belonged somewhere was half the battle of being allowed there in the first place. I guess you could say I was adhering to the philosophy that asking forgiveness is easier than obtaining permission. So I would just pull up to an ancient town, watch what the local scooters and motorcycles were doing, and then do likewise. This worked well enough. However, there were times when I could swear I was receiving strange looks from people, as if somehow they knew I didn’t really belong. Thinking that to be impossible I would simply nod and continue on my path, exploring like a Conquistador. Only after several weeks did I notice the huge sticker on the front headlight bezel that read: “RENT ME.”
Orrin Woodward and I are happy to announce this week's release of our latest collaborative writing project called LIFE: Living Intentionally For Excellence. This graphical book is unlike anything we've ever produced. Packed with almost 600 of our most popular one-liners from Twitter, as well as several top articles and essays on topics covering the "8 F" categories in which we live our lives (Faith, Family, Finances, Fitness, Friends, Fun, Freedom, and Following), the LIFE book is designed to entertain and educate in a unique and enjoyable way.
Available this week at http://www.launchingaleadershiprevolution.com
We sincerely hope you enjoy it! Thanks for reading!