Showing posts with label challenge. Show all posts
Showing posts with label challenge. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Happy New Year

By Douglas Clark
-Head Writer - The Inspiration Engine

There's so much to be thankful for, even if you don't realize it. Set a goal for 2016 and do your best to meet it. For me, my goal is to get as much writing done as I can. Also, my other goal is to get something published.

Make a plan, stick to it and you should hit your mark. Believe in yourself and you can accomplish what you set out to do.

Good luck.


Thanks for reading.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Be a Boat Rocker

Douglas Clark
-Head writer, The Inspiration Engine

Sometimes, rocking the boat is just the shake up you need to get your life on a different course. Making a transition can totally alter your perception of life. It's a curious thing to realize that after getting so used to something one way, we can become so rigid and unwilling to try any other way. Life in our modern age is built on routine. This routine provides structure and a foundation we can rely on and expand.

However, if we become too complacent or dependent on that routine, we can become my lethargic and apathetic. I've noticed that as much as I love routine and structure, if I don't break it up a bit and deliberately introduce new challenges, I get demotivated. I think the desire to remain surrounded by the known factors in life can be so strong, it overrides the need to explore new things, especially since deviating from the known can result in great failure, personal pain, or professional setbacks.

Sometimes, however, disturbing up the apple cart is exactly what you need. The last time I switched jobs I experienced a serious amount of change. My morning routine, my workouts, break times, commute, and of course my basic job all changed. It scared me. How could I maintain all that I achieved by screwing with the status quo? Well, the status quo what is the exact thing that needed to change.

Doing the same thing over and over can help you accomplish a great deal, but eventually there comes a need to shift gears and try something new. Otherwise you will only get so far and then stall out. Making that change forces you to try something new, but it also exposes you to alternatives that you might not have ever considered otherwise. Don't let complacency fool you into thinking you are being responsible. Challenging yourself to grow is a reasonable course of action. 

For me, my mind began playing with the idea of waking up much earlier, going to bed before 10 p.m. (shocking right?), I even began thinking about how my diet and exercise schedule would change and how it would benefit me. Now I know change is scary, intimidating and hard, but focusing on the improvements it brings is what provides the motivation and encouragement we need to keep growing and improving.

No one ever changed the world by maintaining the status quo, so how can life get any better with the same old same old? Make a change for the better. It will be worth it.

Thanks for reading.
Questions and comments are welcome.

Friday, March 14, 2014

What If a Golden Opportunity Knocked?

By Douglas Clark

There is always a golden opportunity coming your way. Whether you recognize it or want to admit it, there can always be a better situation resulting from your actions. The flip side of course is disaster lurks behind every decision, ready to strike like a Viper.

Recognizing the opportunities in front of you is not always easy. Roadblocks like stress, pride, fear, despondency, fatigue, or arrogance get in the way. Truth is, most people probably miss golden opportunities because they feel overwhelmed by the change they would bring. Familiarity with your current situation is comforting. As the cliche says "the devil you know is better than the one you don't", but it is that very complacency that gets in the way of improvement and success. 

I felt stuck in a rut for a long time. I wanted to grow, take on a new career challenge, improve, but for years, (I'm sad to admit), I avoided it. Oh sure, I'd complain, but not really take action to force a change. One day I hit a tipping point and decided I must do something different or that creative, motivating drive inside of me would die. So I got a new job.

Granted, starting a new job is scary. It's also disruptive and uncomfortable. I noticed simple things like my gym and lunch routine were vastly different, but you know what? I needed that. 

I have watched people I know including myself, squander opportunities, repeatedly. It's frustrating because you know if they just seize that opportunity a lot of good things will come their way. And yet they flounder. Remember those roadblocks I mentioned? I think fear is the strongest one. Fear of failure, the unknown, making a mistake, and even fear of success all crowd out the basic truth that without a new course of action the same results or worse will occur.

Thanks Einstein. Don't let fear control you. "Fear is the mind killer". Don't be a slave to it. Use your fear as a catalyst, not an anchor. Let that fear drive you towards success, not cower under the covers. Your adventure and success in life come from slaying the monster that lurks under your bed. That's the story people want to hear and what you need to live. Get to being the hero of your life book. End the chapter of fear and start writing the Chapter of Success.

Yes it can be done. Just seize that golden opportunity!

Thanks for reading.

Questions and Comments are welcome.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Let's Be Positive

by Douglas Clark

You don't develop courage by being happy in your relationships everyday. You develop it by surviving difficult times and challenging adversity. ~Epicurus

When things are their hardest, you really need people around you that are of high quality. Positive, honest, and genuinely caring relationships make life so much easier. Forging relationships with even just one person that sees the positive and virtuous elements in life will lift your spirits and change your perspective on life, your outlook, and your demeanor. I count myself fortunate to know several positive, virtuous people. And to be honest, I’m glad they are in my life for the simple fact that they help me to see things clearly. It is especially true when life and the negativity that sometimes clings to it seem to attack you.

There’s an old saying that goes something like “you know your real friends when things go wrong”, and that’s really true. Those that stick around and help you out when you are feeling low, downtrodden, beaten by life, and sad truly deserved respect and admiration. Not everyone you know will stick with you when life gets rough, even if it isn’t your fault. Drawing on their strength and support is invaluable. And those who have such wonderful people in their lives know what I’m talking about. These people are an inspiration in their own right, even if they don’t believe it or are unaware of just how supportive they are.

I’ve made mistakes in my life and said the wrong thing, but I’ve always tried to communicate as effectively as I could. To me, the ability to really listen to what the other person is saying, but also how they are feeling makes a true difference in understanding their perspective. Now, I have also experienced people that care for nothing but churning the hate and stirring up controversy. The key is avoiding that type of negativity and focusing on the positive. Obviously that is easier said than done, but if you continually steer yourself back toward the positive, you might just find that it becomes a habit.

Adversity is a fact of life. It cannot be avoided, but it can be mitigated. If others you know are more successful, more focused, more motivated, or just happier, look to them for inspiration. Ask them what keeps them so positive and try to emulate their style. At least attempting to change your ways is better than submitting to apathy.

Thanks for reading.
Questions and comments are welcome.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Let's Write a Novel!

By Douglas Clark

November 1 starts the National Novel writing month. Check it out here. I first heard about this when I was working on my master’s degree. I actually had a novel writing class where I had to write a 50,000 word novel by the end of the semester. The concept for that class was very similar to the National Novel Writing Month contest. After finishing my class, I promised myself at some point I would compete in the contest and see what would come of it.

Now I love writing obviously, but this contest is a challenge. According to the rules, you have 30 days to write 50,000 words. That averages out to 1,667 words a day. Doesn’t seem too daunting until you realize that’s EVERY day, no break, no rest or writing vacation; 1,667 words a day. The whole point of the exercise is to prove to yourself it can be done. I mean, you are allowed to make revisions, do rewrites, add, subtract, etc., but if you want to be counted as a winner on day 30, your word count must be 50,000 or higher.

I’m using this contest as a way of forcing myself to excel in daily word count. You see for me, I can pound out 500 words a day without even realizing it, but imagine tripling that. I’ve often wondered what it would be like to be a prolific writer, but wondering only gets you so far. I’m actually going to have to write if I want a huge library of work by the time I kick the bucket. So off I go to write another novel, but this time I only have 30 days to do it.

If you’re interested and want a challenge, sign up. There’s no time like the present. I’ll give you updates during the month on how I’m doing. Wish me luck!!!

Thanks for reading.
Questions and comments are welcome.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Let's Watch Some TV!

By Douglas Clark

So, being a TV fanatic as I am, I'm always looking for the next great television show. Personally, Sci Fi is my favorite (and we're completely lacking in that regard right now), but I also have an interest in stories that focus on power, or lack of power, man's struggle against society, or vice versa. Lo and behold, I've found a couple. 

At the risk of sounding like a billboard, I'll give each show a plug. Not because I'm getting a kickback or anything, but because I think they are great shows. For me, each instills a sort of amazement. 

The first show is House of Cards. You might have heard of it. It's one of Netflix's first original productions, and I'd say they've created a masterpiece. It's based on a British original focusing on English politics, only restructured to fit the American political system. Besides the great casting, settings, writing, pacing, story lines, amazing and despicable characters, and intrigue, the introduction is amazing. 

The following clip is of the theme music only (you'll have to join Netfix to actually see the visuals that accompany it). But for me, this music alone sets the mood and tone for the show. It seems foreboding, haunting, and just a bit ominous, which is probably what the producers where going for. And I'd say they hit their mark.   

The second show on my list is Breaking Bad. Now I know this show is almost at the end of it's run, but that's all the more reason to bring it up. If you're interested in stories where a good guy falls from grace and allows the world to corrupt him, this is your story. I think it speaks to how easy it is to allow negativity and deceit to overpower you in times of crisis and need. For the main character, Walter White, life as he's lived it just becomes too much to bear, and he simple stops caring. The entire series follows his dissent into darkness. And it's an incredible ride. 

For me, only a few individual episodes stand out, but it's more the story as a whole that really makes an impact. What's cool about that is, you can sit and watch three or four episodes in a row (if you have the time) and really absorb what's going on. Now that it's on Netflix and DVD you don't have to endure the week long wait in between episodes. The opening is short and sweet, but it is distinct and engaging. 

Each of these shows has made an impact on me. I love story telling and any time I get to see a new perspective driving a story line, I'm interested. Most of the time with television, I think to myself, I could write a better episode. But with these two shows, I find myself thinking, I don't think I could do it better. Now that's awesome because it makes me feel challenged. And when that happens I get back to writing and push myself even harder. It also reminds me that others have followed their dream of writing and made it a success, so there's hope for me yet. I'm reminded of the times where I did nothing but daydream about writing, instead of actually putting pen to paper. All that combined focuses my energy to get something done.  

If you can find motivation and inspiration from things that challenge you, I think it provides a special sort of incentive to excel. What do you think? 

Thanks for reading.

Questions and comments are welcome.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Comfort Zone

Recently, I was having a conversation with someone and we talked about our comfort zones. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, ‘comfort zone’ refers to the locations, activities, emotions, and individuals in a person’s life that they are frequently exposed to. Generally, a person gravitates toward those elements that bring them a comfortable and safe feeling. You might define it as your daily routine. The point of the discussion focused on pushing that zone, expanding it and giving it more depth and whether it was always necessary. Now my personal view is most people, including myself, should continually push on that comfort zone because if you don’t, it will shrink.

I’ll explain. If you drive to work and always take the exact same route, you might become so used to that routine the thought of driving a different way might make you feel uncomfortable, or even a bit scared. Here’s a personal example for you. I usually eat out for lunch once a week. There’s a Subway two blocks away that I like so I usually find myself heading down there. Now I know Subway isn’t that great, but it’s convenient and I know the people that work there, so it’s comfortable. But, I can get pretty damned tired of sub sandwiches at times. I found that I wasn’t exploring all the other possibilities around me even though I was sick of my current situation. One day I just got so sick of subs I couldn’t even finish my sandwich. That’s when I realized I needed to get out and explore, push that comfort zone. Now, I trade off. One week I’ll go to my comfortable Subway shop, the next week I’ll try a new place. It satisfies my need for stability and my need for the ‘new’ nicely.

Okay, this may seem like a trivial example to explain how one should explore new and unfamiliar things in life. I realize that, but a lot of times, people need to start out small before they can tackle the really big challenges. Wadding into more dynamic things is better than jumping into the deep end and drowning, proverbially speaking of course. I have come to understand some things about myself; one of which is, I like learning new things and exposing myself to unfamiliar situations for the experience of it. I suppose it feeds into my need for adventure and the want to write about it later. There have been many times where my efforts to push on my comfort zone have lead to story inspiration. I like that. Others, however, aren’t so in tune with their wants and desires. Others aren’t even sure they could challenge themselves in such a manner. 

As the conversation we were having unfolded, I realized that other people need far less constant pressure to give them the motivation they need to try new things and keep life fresh. That different perspective made me think more about why motivation for me might not work for others and vice versa. But as the old saying goes “You won’t know unless you try.” So I say give it a try, even if it’s just going to a different sub shop. Think about it this way, you just might find a better tasting sandwich. 

Thanks for reading. Questions and comments are always welcome. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Finding a Lost Da Vinci

Last night I read an interesting article about a painting called the  La Bella Principessa in National Geographic magazine. Yes, I know weird right.  I still get the actual paper magazine.  I like holding a book or magazine in my hands, everything seems more real that way.  But I digress.  This painting and its mysterious story fascinated me.  Supposedly, there is strong evidence that it was painted by none other than Leonardo Da Vinci.  Leonardo is widely considered to be one of the greatest, if not the greatest master of painting there ever was.  This reputation started during his own life time.  And with a reputation like that, I would have figured everything he ever did was cataloged, indexed, and safely locked behind foot-thick glass, but apparently that isn't the case.  What really struck me was the fact that experts believe the portrait is a Da Vinci, even though some disagree saying that it doesn't look like a Da Vinci.

It's true that artists develop their own style and signature look, but if Leonardo is a master, why can't her change his style and look, and still produce a masterful work of art?  From what I've seen, Leonardo's work is grand, detailed, subtly stunning, and intricate.  Why then does it have to be stunted?  If Leonardo chose to challenge his own skill, craft a portrait with a different feel or tone, why shouldn't he?  To me that kind of expression speaks to the New, a challenge that goes against the status quo and invites innovation. 

Being creative requires trying something different.  Doing the same old same old does not bring about change.  Going against the grain, making a 180 degree turn, deliberately trying a different approach is not a bad thing and it does not mean you'll be wrong.  It just means you'll probably end up with something entirely different.  And sometimes, different is just as beautiful as the norm.  So, try something different, it might just be a beautiful thing

Thanks for reading.  Comments and questions are always welcome.  

Thursday, June 28, 2012

It Always Comes Down to Focus

How Did This Happen?

A few months ago I found myself stuck in a malaise.  Every day was a repeat; not much happened except the same old same old.  In December of 2011, I finished my master’s degree, three years of classes, including three and a half semesters of thesis writing.  It was an incredible effort, but I finished.  Mentally and intellectually I need some time off, so that’s what I did.  Before I knew it, I got stuck in a rut and felt mired in the bland boringness of doing nothing.  For a while I wasn’t sure what to do.  I mean I knew that I wanted to start writing again and make some headway on my novel.  But the thing was, I wasn’t writing, not one word.  Well, my one saving grace was this blog.  Other than that, I had abandoned my passion.  And that needed to change. 

I also remember thinking that it was about time I started learning how to play my saxophone.  See, I played for a little while back in grade school.  I really liked it but had absolutely no discipline to practice. So about two years ago I bought one with the intention of taking lessons.  Sadly, no money ever materialized for said lessons and the sax sat in my closet unused.  Fast forward to March 2012.  Here I was with time on my hands, desire to challenge myself, but still I wasn’t doing anything.  How did that happen?  Simple, I got caught in a fallacy.  I had convinced myself I need outside influences and resources to achieve my goals and follow my mission… but I was wrong.

During a conversation with my brother it came to the point where he said to me, “Maybe you’re not really a writer.  I mean, you aren’t writing.”  And you know what?  I took offense to that, without knowing why.  And then it hit me, he was right.  Damn him but I wasn’t writing, I was making excuses.  And then he said it, the line that resonated through my brain.  If indeed I was a writer, “every day you don’t write, is a failure.”  Harsh?  Yes, but necessary.  It was then I decided that I WAS a writer and I WOULD write every day, or at least make the attempt.  I also decided that I was going to teach myself how to play the sax, I mean really, what was stopping me except me?

Having a Plan Helps 

My plan was simple:  Write 500 words a day and practice the sax for 10 minutes every day after work.  For one whole month I adamantly followed the routine, without fail.  I focused on my goals; I prioritized my time, and constantly reminded myself of the failure I did not want to cause.  Now I stay focused, and even though I don’t write or practice Every day (schedules and responsibilities do change) I am constantly reminding myself of the price of failure, and refocusing my efforts to maintain as much consistency as possible.  Do I fail?  Sadly yes, Do I continually fail by not refocusing on my passion?  Not a chance. 

Every day I don’t write is a failure.  Now reword it for yourself: “Every day I don’t ____ is a failure.”

Thanks for reading.  Your comments and questions are always welcome!

This wonderful picture came from sitebits. Check them out.  The sculpture is The Thinker, by Auguste Rodin.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Adversity is like a strong wind. It tears away from us all but the things that cannot be torn, so that we see ourselves as we really are.

Today our quote comes from Arthur Golden.

What is Adversity? 

How do you deal with Adversity?  How do you handle it?  Adversity, like a challenge, is something to overcome when driving on your mission in life.  But Adversity is something greater and much more sinister than a mere challenge.  Adversity is usually a prolonged, serious struggle, a difficult and stressful hardship that won’t simply go away or disappear if you give it enough time.  It’s the giant gorilla in the room if you will.  Sometimes it is a physical disability, sometimes, it’s a mental one.  Sometimes adversity comes from society, maybe it’s legal troubles, or persons bent on causing you distress.  Unfortunately, adversity comes in many forms, and it haunts many people in various ways.  I for one have dealt with adversity for many years.  If anyone of you has ever set foot into family court, you know exactly what I mean.  I’ve also dealt with people suffering with psychological problems, who don’t even realize the harm they are causing.  You too might be dealing with something similar, or even if it’s totally different, that adversity still remains.

Can you cope with it?

So how do we deal with this giant gorilla in the room?  I mean it’s a monster and he won’t go away.  More than likely he’s going to smash up the place.  How do we stop him?  Okay, I’m using a metaphor here, but hopefully you get the idea.  And the answer is, that giant gorilla probably won’t just go away, and he probably will smash up the place, despite your best efforts.  Now I’m not saying his to dishearten you.  No, actually I’m saying this to liberate you.  Life is full of sweet and wonderful things, but also harsh and terrible things.  Accept that.  Sometimes bad things happen, no matter your preparedness, your contemplations, you plans and contingencies.  They happen regardless.  Now, some accidents and missteps happen because you were unprepared, so by all means, try to prepare.  Know this however; unexpected things occur for which you cannot prepare.  But that doesn’t mean you have to just accept the strife and be miserable. 
Whatever your adversity is, DO NOT let it define your life.  Do not let it envelop your life or dictate every action and thought you take or have.  Your personal adversity is not your master, your adversary yes, but not your master.  Once you let it take control, burrowing deep into your mind, it will take over.  So for every thought of gloom and doom, match it with a positive one.  Let yourself experience as many positive things as possible, despite the adversity. 

Even though I know my particular and personal adversity won’t go away any time soon, I know I will NOT let it dominate my life.  If I did, my life would be consumed by it.  Even if your adversity seems insurmountable, just keep in mind there was a time when it didn’t control your life.  If you truly believe, you can take back control from it as well.  Good Luck.

If you have questions or comments, I'd love to hear them.  Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Your future depends on many things, but mostly on you.

-Frank Tyger.

What is self-reliance and why is it important?  There are a lot of things in this world that you may be responsible for: bills, education, work, family members, but most of all, you are responsible for yourself.  Most people would agree with that, but in practice, many disregard their own personal care and supplant it with other chores and duties claiming that to be responsible.  But think about it, you can’t possibly take care of anyone if you can’t take care of yourself.  That is what self-reliance is all about; taking care of yourself.  Now I’m not talking about being selfish and blind to other people.  Learning to handle things on your own, depending on your own abilities, skills, and discipline are vital. 

There’s a powerful lesson in learning how to do things for yourself.  Once you have grasped the concept of self-reliance, you’ll thirst for challenges to overcome and conquer.  But how do you get there? Having self-reliance starts with believing in yourself and your potential.  Now you don’t have to be successful in every endeavor to be self-reliant, you just have to believe you can try.  Be warned though, making the attempt opens up the possibility of failure.  As strange as it may sound, that’s a good thing.  It may sound cliché but most people learn more from failure than they do from success.  I like to say, Success is born from a thousand failures.  Sounds catchy, doesn’t it?  Anyway, it may seem scary to strike out on your own and try something new, but it’s worth it. 

I used to shy away from challenge.  Honestly, I would basically hide in my room avoiding things that would cause conflict or contention.  It was safe, but boring.  It provided no stimulation or growth.  See, it’s easy to recede into the background of your own life.  Nobody is going to force you to do much, except maybe follow the law, but above and beyond that, no.  You have to be the driving force in your life.  And that’s the greatest gift in the world.  Develop your own sense of self-reliance and you can trust yourself to steer your life on toward your goals and mission.  First you have to believe in yourself, once you do, you can rely on yourself as well.  That’s a powerful force in creating a positive personal future.  Give it a try!

child with boogie board at beach

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.

Achievement can be considered the pinnacle of effort.  That which you have strived for, worked for, endured much, promised little and sacrificed to accomplish all becomes secondary to the pride and joy that comes with Achievement.  You’ve done it!  All feats, great and small bring with them a sense of satisfaction.  Once you’ve experienced that sense of wonder and awe at your own abilities you will finally understand what it means to be self-reliant, resilient, and persistent.  Picking a goal and powering through what life gives you to accomplish that goal has no substitute. 

Once you have reached that level of accomplishment and know what it takes to get there, you must push yourself even further.  You may have heard the old cliché “don’t rest on your laurels.”  Well basically that means you need to keep challenging yourself.  If you don’t, your achievement will fade.  I believe a fundamental goal in life should be to continually strive and push yourself to achieve ever greater accomplishments.  I can tell you personally, after 4 years, I’ve finally finished my Master’s degree.  I just received my diploma in the mail and it is now hanging on my office wall.  It means a lot to me, because I went through a lot, professionally and personally while trying to achieve that goal of getting my degree.  Now that I’m finished, I’m thinking of what my next challenge should be. 

Sir Edmund Hillary’s quote is quite apt, at least for me, but at the same time, I’m reminded of that little ditty we’d sing when we were kids “…The bear went over the mountain, the bear went over the mountain, the bear went over the mountain… to see what he could see.  He saw another mountain, he saw another mountain, he saw another mountain, so guess what he did.  The bear went over the mountain…”  Life is full of mountains.  Go climb them, and conquer!

Mountains with cloud cover

Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Final Frontier

Captain Kirk would say that Space is the Final Frontier, and for a kick ass Sci-Fi show, I’d say he’s right.  But in real life, I think that the Mind is the Final Frontier, but also the true beginning of life.  Think about it, can you not think?  Throughout your entire life, you live inside your mind.  Your senses tell you of the outside world, but you interpret that stimulus, thereby forming your impressions of the world.  Now I’ve said before that if you change your perspective, you change the world.  That is so very true, but that change begins with the Mind.  Your consciousness is truly your own, and uniquely yours.  Sure, you might have similarities to some, or many, but no one is exactly like you.  For some, these ideas are not new.  For others these concepts have never dawned on them.  But guess what, it’s in the Mind’s eye that you draw meaning.
They say you can’t change anyone, only yourself.  I totally believe that is true.  I’ve had people ask me advice, wonder what they should do, waffle, and procrastinate even after I told them what I would do in a certain situation.  I think it’s because on some levels people don’t want to do something that goes against their way of thinking.  But if you learn to control and alter the way you think, interpret things, and perceive things from different angles, you might find that the broader scope of understanding can be very rewarding.  Think of it as fluid thought.  The process where you can take in multiple ideas, understandings and perceptions and come to a conclusion that is much more meaningful and dynamic than it would be otherwise.  Granted, if you’re new to this idea, it can be difficult to try, or even grasp.  But see that’s the beauty of the mind.  It Can adapt, and will, if you give it a chance.
Sometimes I get bored.  Not because I don’t have anything to do, but because I’m not challenged.  I need mental stimulation that is challenging and new.  This is a personal thing and I wouldn’t expect everyone to thrive on new experiences or intellectual puzzles.  But, changing the way you approach something can yield surprisingly creative solutions.  Your mind is the most powerful tool in your arsenal of personal creativity.  Challenge your mind and it will richly reward you!

Understanding Pandemics

By Doug Clark Head Writer -  The Inspiration Engine With all that is going on with Covid 19, I thought it would be a good idea to help ...