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Aspire: Chapter 1
Your Fingerprints Are at Every Scene

Ole Carlson
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Aspire How to Succeed in Life

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Each one of us has something no one else has... your fingerprints...
Be an individual. Be unique. Stand out. Make noise.
Make someone notice. That's the power of the individual.
—Jon Bon Jovi
American Musician, Songwriter, and Actor


You are accountable for your life. Nobody else is. Therefore, you need to align with who you are and refuse to be held hostage by what others want you to be, do, or have. You need to serve your best interest and not be constrained by a role that was assigned to you by someone else. You need to aggressively pursue what is important to you, and you need to pursue it rationally and with clarity.

Born into the Kennedy dynasty, Maria Shriver has spent a great deal of her life living up to her famous family's legacy and expectations. She is not only the niece of former President John F. Kennedy and Senators Robert and Ted Kennedy but also the first lady of California as the wife of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. That can be a heavy burden to live up to, and she admits that she acquiesced to surrendering her passion for her journalism career for the good of the family and the demands of NBC when Schwarzenegger became the governor of California.

In October 2007, during a speech before a packed crowd at the annual California Women's Conference, Shriver made her stand in a confession of sorts. "As long as I was trying to anticipate what you wanted from me, as long as I was trying to fulfill other people's expectations, I was in a losing game, a game that I had been playing since I was a kid. That's what I want to focus on this morning... letting go of other people's expectations of you so you can own your own life, write your own story, and live your own legacy." She is on that journey at age fifty-two and revealing her thoughts in her latest book, Just Who Will You Be? It is a good book and you should read it.

In order to help keep true to herself, Shriver wrote a list of "Ten Things I Pledge to Myself," and she invites others to compose their own pledges. Her pledge is as follows:
  • I pledge to "show up" in my life as myself, not as an imitation of anyone else.
  • I pledge to avoid using the word "just" to describe myself.

  • For example, I won't say, "I'm just a mother," "I'm just a student," or "I'm just an ordinary person."
  • I pledge to give myself 10 minutes of silence and stillness everyday to get in touch with my heart and hear my own voice.
  • I pledge to use my voice to connect my dreams to my actions.
  • I pledge to use my voice to empower myself and others.
  • I pledge to serve my community at least once a year in a way
    that will benefit other people.
  • I pledge to ask myself, "Who am I? What do I believe in?
    What am I grateful for? What do I want my life to stand for?"
  • I pledge to sit down and write my mission statement.
  • I pledge to live my own legacy.
  • And I pledge to pass it on.
I want to own my own life, write my own story, and live my version of Maria Shriver's pledges. After I inhale my final breath, I want to then vanish, having been all used up. I cannot reach that final objective if I am numbed out, driven by an insatiable ego, or directing my life to solely benefit others.

When autopilot conditioning and wide-awake awareness intersect, I hope that the latter will prevail. A life of frustration awaits you if you allow a frightened ego, disheartened by what others have or do, to dominate as you wind down to a state of conformity and unfulfilled dreams.

Do not live in the darkened shadows of what could have been. Refuse to choose a life of quiet desperation and irreversible regret. Reject the notion of playing it safe for the sake of inheritance, acceptance, or obedience to others so that they might be comfortable, served, and justified. What are you choosing? What are you invested in being, doing, and having, and for what reason and rationalization? Pay attention and be an active detective investigating your life. Your fingerprints are on all of your results.

Take care of yourself first with good intent. You can take care of others better from a foundation of strength rather than when your feet are mired in quicksand and you are being sucked down into a subservient life. You deserve more from life than finding in your final moments that your shackled hands are reaching desperately toward the surface for what might have been, but never will be.

Many are laid to rest with their dreams entombed along with them beneath chiseled headstones. Or the cooled gray ashes of what their lives might have been are scattered ceremoniously on fickle winds or outgoing tides. Eulogies are read commemorating what the departed achieved rather than what they held in abeyance. Time-stamped achievements often pale in comparison to the untapped potential that passes unnoticed along with the deceased. Grieving friends and family are left wondering who might be the next to leave undeclared hopes and desires behind. Don't let this happen to you. You deserve better. Take a stand for your life. Do it now! There is no other time to create your future.

The passing of those you care deeply about can be the wake-up call that alerts you to what you want more of. Your mortality clock will stop ticking one day, its hands idle. Science, medicine, and positive thinking have slowed the process, but they cannot end the inevitable fate of all human beings. It is up to you to learn from what is happening in your life and take appropriate action now. Are you up to it?

Wake up. Be aware. The only future you are assured of is this moment. Resist the mind-numbing, habitual herd mentality. Stop the obedient penguin march back to established and traditional patterns. Escape from the perceived safety of bordered comfort zones. End the erroneous thinking that someday you will get to what is essential to you. "Ah, someday I'll..." Someday is always too late.

The following line from Les Miserables warns us about the danger of conformity, falling in love with what we know rather than exploring what is outside of our comfort zone on a different path. "The common herd is like an old Narcissus, who adores himself and applauds the common." The herd mentality allows you to see only what is immediately in front of you. Self-inflicted blinders make you unaware of other life-enhancing possibilities that might lie just off the beaten path. You might miss an unexpected opening as the ritual of predictability, familiarity, and conformity continues to dominate your life and keep you on the straight and narrow. Many fail to seize this opportunity, and the ritual continues. Break the cycle. You cannot steer or accelerate your transformation while the car is on autopilot, directing your thoughts, mental pictures, and emotions. Biding time as your mortality clock ticks away is commonplace. Be uncommon.

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SKIRT THESE ROADBLOCKS

Research shows that we create self-imposed obstacles that block us from what we aspire to have. Dr. Scott Peck, for example, suggests two such roadblocks in his landmark self-help book The Road Less Traveled: life is difficult, and people are lazy. These two inhibitors govern our potential, and in the end, they stimulate unbearable regret.

Life Is Difficult
Dr. Peck writes, "Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult—once we truly understand and accept it—then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters." Stuff happens; no one is spared from having an impaired day. Loved ones succumb to cancer, subprime mortgages default, and seemingly solid marriages dissolve. The evening news reports that a massive hurricane has destroyed an entire city. Young men and women are sent to the Middle East to fight a war that seems impossible to win. We place our dreams on hold when the latest unforeseen drama of life interrupts them. It seems anything can happen.

Position, status, or yesterday's success is not a firewall that can protect anyone from experiencing adversity. The haves and the have-nots are all potential targets for what can go wrong in life. Adversity is an equal opportunity offender; it does not discriminate, no matter who you are, what you have achieved, or how many titles you hold. We are all vulnerable.

A paradox comes into play with successful, proactive people: They increase the odds of experiencing difficulties in life by not sitting on the sidelines. They deliberately place themselves in the bull's-eye of life. What separates them from less successful people is how they respond to the speed bumps and move on to whatever is next.

Achievement-oriented people do not remain stuck in the negative past or paralyzed by the current drama. Television legend Merv Griffin, who recently lost his long battle with prostate cancer, said: "You have to be constantly turning the page, which prevents me [sic] from getting caught up in any negativity. I just keep moving and enjoy the ride."

Griffin and other successful people find looking through the windshield at what lies before them to be more interesting than fiddling with the rearview mirror and dwelling on the ground they have already covered. High-achieving people have a curious forward approach to life; they want to explore what is next. They focus on what lies ahead and thus are not blinded by any bright approaching headlights reflected in the rearview mirror. Satchel Paige, legendary pitcher of the Negro baseball leagues, joked: "Don't look back. Something might be gaining on you." That something gaining on you might be an element of your past that has restricted your open-ended potential and has sentenced you to a no-growth life.

You cannot outrun the past if you keep focusing on it. Do not let your life be defined by sentences ending with a period. I encourage you to repeatedly insert a comma and the word "and" or the phrase "to be continued." Doing this will help you keep moving ahead.

In his book The 10 Dumbest Mistakes Smart People Make and How to Avoid Them, Dr. Arthur Freeman writes the following: "It doesn't make any difference whether what you face is something that affects your work, your personal relationships, your sense of security, your appraisal of self-worth, or your appearance... the way you think about your situation largely determines whether you will do anything about it and what you will do." Yes, life can be difficult. What are your thoughts regarding any current difficulties? Are you considering options, or are you tightening the noose?

People Are Lazy
The second roadblock Dr. Peck identified—people are lazy—is especially true when it comes to making changes in our lives. He writes, "Please keep in mind that some of the hardest-working people are ‘lazy' when it comes to changing. It is fear that keeps us from changing. Fear that keeps us from doing the hard work that change requires." Fear is mostly an illusion that shackles us to what we have rather than what we aspire to. It is a veil as thick or as thin as we imagine it to be. The veil of fear needs to be swept aside or penetrated so that we can experience the treasures that await us on the other side.

It takes conscious, focused effort and courage to challenge an unreasonable boss and risk receiving harsh feedback. It takes guts to enter life-changing therapy, to leave a destructive codependent relationship, to lose all that weight once and for all, and to revitalize a dormant marriage. It is difficult until you realize the new and better results. It is difficult until you allow better outcomes to shape your tomorrow.

Winners in life still experience fear, but they make the effort to move beyond the obstacles. They focus on what is on the other side of the barricade rather than on the obstruction. Unabashed courage is acknowledging that you are afraid, that your knees are shaking, that your mouth is bone dry, that your thoughts are scattered. In spite of all that, you choose to move through the discomfort to the desired outcome, with no guarantee of success. Many people are lazy and will settle for what is instead of what could be, what is predictable versus what is mysterious, what is convenient and comfortable versus what might stretch and expand their world. Are you being lazy about a challenge confronting you, or are you being courageous?

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AVOID THESE HAIRPIN TURNS

Other obstacles may impede your journey to fulfillment and stall your progress. Two of them are actually just flip sides of the same coin: fear of failure and fear of success.

Fear of Failure
Fear of failure paralyzes many goal seekers. What if you declare a goal, do your best, and fail to reach it? What will people think of you? What will you think of yourself? The default position is to play it safe and return to the familiar, to let today be similar to yesterday and tomorrow be a footprint of today. There is no apparent risk in that plan.

The fear-of-failure crowd will provide you with abundant support
as they, too, seek support for taking such a stagnant stance in life. It often boils down to either doing things right or doing the right thing. Conformists who are shackled by the chains of fear of failure suggest that doings things right is the proper path to take. It involves little risk. This approach to life demands that the implementers make numerous small decisions that have little impact. These same implementers are confined within tight comfort zones as they adhere to the norms of the tribe. It is a conservative "don't rock the boat" approach that governmental and business bureaucracies thrive on.

Those who choose to do the right thing, on the other hand, support the notion that the implementer will make only a few decisions, but the impact of those choices will be significant and will lie outside the boundaries of traditional conformity. Entrepreneurs, free thinkers, and risk takers dominate this crowd. Which crowd do you want cheering you on?

William Shakespeare wrote, "Our doubts are traitors, and make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt." Dr. Maxwell Maltz, plastic surgeon and author of Psycho-Cybernetics, similarly states, "Often the difference between a successful man and a failure is not one's better abilities or ideas, but the courage that one has to bet on his ideas, to take a calculated risk, and to act." I encourage you to act. Turn whatever you are thinking, picturing, and feeling into a remarkable reality. Calculate and wade confidently and intentionally out to the deeper regions of your life. Be an explorer, not a settler.

Renowned poet David Whyte of Yorkshire, England, told an audience that I was a part of in San Diego that the territory is much larger than the maps that we have for it. I encourage you to go beyond the horizon.

When famous Early American explorer Daniel Boone was asked by a Washington socialite if he had ever been lost in the wilderness, he replied, "No ma'am, but I have been a might bewildered for a month or two." Go explore; get lost temporarily. You will find your way, and in that exploration you might discover who you really are and what you truly aspire to have. You might learn to trust your choices over the choices made for you by others.

You needn't plunge initially off the high dive into uncharted waters, however, risking everything. Quantum leaps can be intimidating, as well as an unconscious strategy to sabotage yourself. Rather, I encourage you to begin by thinking bigger than you normally do, eventually thinking LARGE, far beyond where you are. You be the judge of what works for you. It is your life, and no one knows you better than you. George Bernard Shaw suggests that "Life isn't about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself." Create what brings you joy and gratitude. Go ahead and stretch until the stretch feels normal, and then stretch further.

If you are reading this book, there is a high probability that you have had numerous successes. Set your aspirations and climb to the next level. Propel yourself to where your heart, your spirit, and your longings push and pull you.

Fear of Success
Another obstacle men and women face is the fear of success. President Theodore Roosevelt once said, "It is hard to fail, but it is worse never to have tried to succeed." It seems counterintuitive that anyone would be frightened of bettering his or her life. But many people are.

What if you luck out, reach the goal, and others expect you to repeat your recent success? What if you reach the objective and cannot sustain what you have achieved because deep down you know that you don't deserve what you accomplished? Both of those reasons seem to underlie the finding in a recent article in Investment News that nearly one-third of state lottery winners seek some sort of bankruptcy relief. How does that happen? The money was handed to them and they essentially consciously or unconsciously handed it back by squandering or mismanaging it, perhaps out of the fear of success. What if you end up sabotaging what you obtained, and the interior demons of low self-esteem whisper to you: "I told you so. You should have played it safe. You should have returned to what was familiar, what you know. Who do you think you are?" Those who fear success are immobilized by innumerable "What if?" questions. Don't let the unknown rule your actions.

The fear of success has many masters. Dr. Denis Waitley, author, productivity consultant, and motivational speaker, states, "Procrastination is the fear of success. People procrastinate because they are afraid of the success that they know will result if they move ahead now. Because success is heavy, carries a responsibility with it, it is much easier to procrastinate and live by the ‘someday I'll' philosophy." That "someday I'll" philosophy can migrate unconsciously to another column with the heading "what if I had only," and then it is too late. Your clock stopped ticking. Unless you were a one-time, paid-in-advance, credit-card-on-file new patient of Dr. Jack Kevorkian (he has no repeat patients) pacing nervously back and forth in his reception area waiting for your name to be called, few know when that moment will arrive—but it assuredly will.

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DON'T TAKE THIS DETOUR

Families and cultural codes can sometimes lead us on a detour and thus discourage us from achieving and exceeding established norms. I grew up in such a family.

Ah, the luck of the draw, or maybe it's a celestial covenant in action. When I was an innocent young boy, my troubled father, whose life took a tragic and unrecoverable turn, scolded me frequently when he sensed I was contemplating or achieving what was no longer possible for him. Scowling with frustration, he often reprimanded me after enduring a difficult day with the words, "Young man, who do you think you are to try to do better in life than I have done?" It was an imposing question. It was also an unconscious command that I took seriously, so much so that my success was delayed until later in my life, after my father was gone. The bar was low, but it was the only bar I knew.

In my early adult years, I struggled with my self-esteem and my conditioned core beliefs about money and family. It was difficult and confusing to go against the commands of my parent and the role that had been assigned to and accepted by me. It had a firm grip on me. Lyman Carlson was not being cruel intentionally. He simply chose to drift asleep and erase a once positive and possible vision of his future. I was too young to sort it all out. He was too unaware and lost in his own despair to make better choices.

Much later, as an adult, I attended a Father's Day service at Unity Church in Bellevue, Washington. In a crowded pew, shoe-horned between other dads and their families, I listened to inspirational speaker Bob Trask preach to his attentive audience, "Fathers come and go, and when they go, they leave the very best of them in you."

What? That's not possible, I thought, fighting back the notion and the unexpected flow of tears. I had never entertained such an idea. I rejected the concept at first, but the words and the emotion would not disappear. They remained with increased intensity, pounding away at my awareness, dismantling what I had constructed for years. The light came on and there was no turning back. What if Bob Trask is right, and I am wrong? I had invested for so long, and with such devotion, in being the blameless victim, the underachiever with vast untapped potential. It was the story that I had created for myself, and I had assigned a supporting role to my father. This was now a defining moment that changed how I viewed myself and my relationship with my father. There was no turning back. Shame descended over me. I felt diminished. For years, I had blamed Lyman outwardly and unconsciously for my shortcomings. I had many. But it had never occurred to me to include him in my numerous victories. He was my convenient scapegoat. I consistently justified and rationalized my latest setback in life by placing the fault on his burdened shoulders. It was all one-sided. Silence from his pauper's grave was his only defense.

Through Bob Trask's short, illuminating sentence I was able to understand and to acknowledge the gifts that my father had left inside of me. I started to count the numerous Lyman deposits that had influenced me since day one: my love of music, my athletic ability, my sense of humor, my spontaneous emotions, and my intelligence.

I had sentenced my father unjustly for the negatives. And until that moment, I had rejected the concept that I was accountable for my life. In the shift of my consciousness, my father went from being scapegoat to contributor. He and I assumed new roles as I became more aware. Lyman, can you hear me?

Are you blaming anyone unjustly for what is not working in your life? It is a serious query that deserves your thoughtful consideration. You can blame, rationalize, and justify, or you can choose to reconcile. Please choose the latter! What is your long-term payoff for making another the fall guy for your shortcomings? How long are you willing to hold that person and yourself hostage? As long as you do, he or she remains in control and you remain the helpless victim, the willing martyr, stuck in your current role. When will you be willing to own your results? Who is perpetuating and collaborating with you on that strategy, and for what selfish justification?

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TAKE A NEW ROUTE

If life is difficult and people are lazy, and if the other obstacles that prevent people from living the life they aspire to are valid, many people will choose to remain stuck. Stagnancy strategies require effort, but the effort is familiar. It is a self-induced trance that becomes acceptable and an established comfort zone.

Faced with new and different approaches, people will choose
what they know even though the results are not what they want. They continue to settle for familiar yet negative repetition. They remain in their assigned roles faithfully fulfilling the wishes of others and ignoring their own longings and desires. They stumble through life semiconscious; they continue either their downward spiral or their life of stagnancy.

That path is the road most traveled. It is an outcome that you do not deserve to create, but it might be a choice that you are making. Yes, I said choice. In the words of William Jennings Bryan, "Destiny is not a matter of chance, it is a matter of choice; it is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved."

For many people the choice concept is new or unfamiliar.
Victimization, martyrdom, and being stuck in a role are seldom mentioned in the same breath with making intentional, conscious, life-enhancing choices. If it is your choice to remain stuck, then accept your decision and go about your business. At the end of any given day, you have either created value or waste. "The loving person is a person who abhors waste—waste of time, waste of human potential. How much time we waste, as if we were going to live forever," lamented author and former University of Southern California professor Leo Buscaglia.

In his hit song "Man in the Mirror," entertainer Michael Jackson states that if you want to make the world a better place, to make a difference, to make it right, and to feel real good, start with the man in the mirror. Start with yourself. Take a look at yourself and make a change.

It is ultimately up to you to take ownership for your life, to create the life that you desire. It is ultimately up to you to objectify and see the obstacles in your way for what they really are. It is ultimately up to you to correct whatever needs to be corrected because it is preventing you from having more of what you aspire to have now. It is ultimately up to you to take a new route. The tools for doing that are in the following chapters.

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EXERCISES

Please purchase a journal in which to start recording your thoughts, insights, aha's, and intended actions as you read this book. It will assist you in organizing this material and allow you to interpret this information in your voice and in your style. You can also record these insights on your computer or PDA. Those devices are less personal and kinesthetic, but the world is changing. Do what works for you. Do not set limits for yourself. Seek balance and begin by answering the following questions in your journal.
  • How do you want to be in your life? Common answers include being more open-minded, being more peaceful, and being a better listener.
  • What do you want to have in your life? Usually people say something tangible, such as owning a mountain cabin, having financial freedom, or being in better health.
  • What do you want to do in your life? Possibilities include floating down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, enjoying a glass of wine in a small bistro on the Champs- Elysees in Paris, or reading two books a month.
  • What do you want to start in your life? Maybe it's spending more quality time with your family, getting more exercise, or investing in mutual funds.
  • What do you want to stop in your life? Focus on things that do not serve you or others, such as smoking, working too hard, and being broke.
  • What do you want to continue in your life? Focus on things that are working, such as learning, being a loving parent, and contributing to your community.


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