What is Your Life’s Motto?

I have been thinking about this recently and asking myself this exact same question. Truthfully, everything I have written about up to this point, is straight from me and my thoughts. Continuing on with that trend, I must say that I spend a significant amount of time reflecting on life and the people in my life. How can I be a better husband, a better father, a son who makes his parents proud, a better friend, a better photographer, and an all around better person? These are all things I brainstorm quite often!

What is my life’s motto? What will be written, visibly or invisibly, on my tombstone? When I was in the military, we were always told to leave our current duty station “better than we found it.” It always sounded so cliche when I heard it, but it really has taken on a lot more meaning to me personally; more than it did the dozens of times I heard it in the past.

My goal in life is simple. Leave this earth better than I found it. Leave my small community better than I found it. Leave my friends and family better. Every single day, strive to end the day better than I started it. Is it that simple?

I stumble a lot. It happens. I mess up, fall into a ravine of self pity, and eventually climb and pull myself out. Of course it isn’t simple, but it’s not unattainable. I pick small things, like writing a blog or making a podcast, that somehow might impact someone else. I give a photo away that means a lot to me but more to others. I send a message to someone that might feel abandoned. We have all been there. I choose to respond with kindness to those who may not deserve it in that moment. We have all been there as well.

Bottom line, I make a conscious decision daily, despite my own shortcomings and failures, to make today better than yesterday. To be a better version of me than I was yesterday. To make those moments of reflection moments I can smile about and not moments I’m ashamed and afraid to confront.

I just try and be better and hold myself accountable to that.

America, Social Media, and Me – Part 3

A lot of times I begin writing and have a plan how something is supposed to go, but then part of the way through, decide to shift course and take it somewhere else. Therefore, what you’re reading 99% of the time is directly from the heart and not always something planned out. What was originally supposed to be a five-part series, I am going to conclude it today in the third segment.

In the second part of this series, I threw some statistics at you, both here in the United States and also internationally. Statistics regarding social media, numbers of users, active users, and time spent on social media. I concluded the segment by saying I would be the last person to tell you to spend less time on social media, although according to Apple, my screen time was down 23% this past week compared to the previous week. Not sure how that happened, but I am now under five hours a day staring at my screen. The majority of my time spent on my phone, computer, or iPad, is spent on social media. Facebook is my number one go to for social media, followed by Instagram, and then various other platforms I’m a member of. One of the main reasons for this is because my passion for photography. I spend the majority of my time, not necessarily scrolling through my newsfeed and seeing what everyone else is up to, but posting photos, looking at different analytics, and posting what I hope to be something encouraging for others to see. Which leads me to my next point and the point of this entire series.

Out of all the time we spend on social media, staring at a screen, scrolling, clicking the “like” button, or shaking our heads at some of the ridiculousness that is placed before our eyes, how much is spent with the intent of lifting others up? I am sure my newsfeed is no different than anyone else’s, not only here in America but around the world. We all have those acquaintances who feel it is their duty to mankind to voice their opinions. We all have those who, by the looks of it, are never wrong and make it a point to comment and contradict whatever it is they see. Maybe you fall into one of those categories. I know at one point in my life, I spent a lot of time on social media, airing my opinions and how I felt about different things going on here in America. It’s easy to do! It’s so incredibly easy to get on your phone at any given point throughout the day, and vent about what is frustrating you in that moment. Seriously, it takes little to no effort. I did it daily! After a couple years of doing that, I noticed a couple of things. You may have too if you fit into the above category. Your friends begin to dwindle. No, I am not talking about those who think exactly like you do. Rather, people as a whole. Furthermore, nobody really cares what my opinion is. I’m not an expert when it comes to religion, politics, finances, social skills, etc. Whenever you post on social media, regardless of who you are and how many friends or followers you have, there will always be someone who sees your post and can disagree or argue with you. Most find it almost impossible to keep scrolling without doing just that, and letting you know you’re wrong according to them.

Social media, while creating some avenues for us to be more social and intertwined than ever before, has really allowed us to be more narrow-minded, closed off, and more isolated than ever before. Think about it. Don’t like the way someone responds to your post? Delete their comment and block them. Want to find a group that caters to your way of thinking and your mindset? You can find hundreds of thousands of like-minded individuals to applaud everything you utter out of your mouth! Social media, while it gives us the ability to interact with people throughout the world, has limited and deteriorated our interpersonal skills along with the ability to communicate and compromise with people who don’t think, believe, and see things the same way we do. Social media has contributed to destroying our social skills. And we allow it to happen multiple times throughout the day. Every. Single. Day.

I decided to change my approach to social media. I actually had to retrain my social media habits and it took over two years, and I still have the occasional urge to fall back into some old negative behaviors. I decided I wanted/want my social media experience to be different. Instead of contributing to the arguments, looking for the next post to contradict, and isolating myself or others, I decided to make social media my platform to lift others up, to improve not only my life, but also the lives of others. I wanted my social media to be less about me and more about others. Rather than giving viewers something to argue about, to shake their head and scroll past, I wanted my social media platforms to be an avenue to reach people. I wanted people to see my post and it give them something to think about that day. Rather than incite fear and anger, I want to inspire hope and impact. Each time we open up our social media, whether we are scrolling through or posting something, we have that ability. We can go either direction and it’s an amazing thing to realize and take advantage of in a positive way.

I end this series today with a challenge. You have some on your social media platforms that view things differently than you. If you live in America, you know that our current political climate is a cause for extreme division; not only on social media, but within families and circles of friends. There are things that divide us. But thankfully, there are more things that unite us as people. My challenge to whoever reads this, is take a moment today on social media to build someone up other than yourself. Take a moment to set aside how knowledgeable you are, what degrees you have, or what you may think you’re an expert on, and just be a person who has the passion to see someone else be better. Make today about someone else besides yourself.

Making It Count, Part II

If you read the first chapter of a book, then skip forward and read the last chapter, everything that happens in between is just filler “stuff.” Ever heard the saying that it doesn’t matter the date you’re born or the date you die; everything happens in that little space in between? The hyphen is the most important part on a tombstone? Let’s talk about that.

We know the first chapter and we definitely know how our book of life will end. No matter what we do to try and change it, facts are facts and our last page will end like everyone else’s. But what about all those chapters in between? That’s where the truth is. That’s where our legacy, our dreams, and our impact is. Imagine a book with the first and last chapters written. All the pages in between are blank and just waiting to be written. That’s what we have folks.

All the people I walked amongst in the cemetery the other day filled their pages. Some didn’t have enough time to complete their story the way they would have liked to, while others had an ample amount of time to write a series of books. We can’t choose how much time we have to write our pages. That’s not up to us. But what we can decide is how those pages are filled.

What’s in your pages right now? Are we still trying to rewrite the first couple chapters? Are we trying to cheat our way out of the last chapter? Are we allowing someone or something else to write all the meat in the middle for us? Or…are we picking up the pen and choosing our own story? Are the pages filled with stories of courage, resilience, and impact? Or are they filled with fear, doubt, and isolation?

As I wrote yesterday and the day before, we have one chance to make it count. Nobody can force us and only we can allow someone the ability to steal it from us. Don’t waste an opportunity that is fleeting each day. Don’t abandon what many wish they could go back and rewrite, only to reach the last page and it was too late. Go ahead. Pick up your pen and begin writing.

And as for the ducks, yes, I was able to sit and get some shots of them while the sun was setting.

I truly appreciate you taking the time to read this. I would love to hear from you and if this small series encouraged you. If you can, please leave me a comment below. Also, make sure to hit the SUBSCRIBE button so my posts are delivered right to you! Thank you again.

Making It Count, Part I

Yesterday, I told you about walking in a local cemetery, taking some wildlife photos, and just taking some time to be alone and think. I think cemeteries are a good place to do that. For one, they’re typically the most quietest of places you can possibly go to. The only noise that may break up the monotonous silence is a car, or in the case of a funeral with military honors, the sound of Taps playing from a bugle and the sound of rifle fire. Other than that, a cemetery can pretty much be counted on as being quiet.

I visit the Saratoga National Cemetery a lot. Not as much as I used to, but it’s a place I like to go to and spend time reflecting and thinking. I like other cemeteries as well however because of the many different stones. Some people have huge elaborate stones that probably cost more than my car. Some are small and if you blink you’ll miss it altogether. Some have a lot of ornaments and flowers, while some have nothing at all. This particular cemetery has numerous small buildings throughout, where people are placed, rather than in the ground. I say “small,” but some are more than half the size of a single car garage. I found it slightly comical when I saw a “For Sale” sign on one. I want to know that person’s secret!

As I walked around and waited for the sun to set a little lower, determined to walk my three miles I told myself I needed to, I realized I wasn’t alone. Now before you think I’ve lost it and I’m going to say, “I see dead people,” that isn’t the case. But truly, I wasn’t alone. I was surrounded by people, who although they are no longer part of this world, once had breath. At one time they had living friends and family, they had passions, goals, desires, and an idea of what they wanted to accomplish. They had hopes and dreams, and while I hope each was fulfilled, I know realistically many departed this world with some unfinished work.

As I began to think about this reality and how life, even if we live to see over a hundred years old, is short. The first twenty years are spent learning how to become an adult, then we are an adult and spend all of our healthy and good years working for a retirement that we will most likely have less than twenty years to enjoy. Then we die. Not trying to sound blunt, but that is how each and everyone one of us is going to leave. There’s no avoiding it and all the age defying lotion and Essential Oils in the world isn’t going to change that. You and I are going to die. From the moment we are born we have begun the dying process.

I don’t want you to read up to this point and get depressed. Since we know the end result, and since we can do nothing to change yesterday, that should give us some hope. It should ignite a fire inside of us. It should give us a burning desire. A desire and passion I’m going to talk more about in the next entry, Making It Count, Part II. Why? Simply because each person I walked amongst in that cemetery once had a passion. For some it ended too soon. We owe it to each person no longer living.

Thank you for taking the time to read. I hope you enjoyed. If you did, will you do me a favor and type a comment, leave a message, or subscribe? Thank you!