Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Ten Things I've Learned In The First 50 Years

Friday is my birthday.  I've been on this earth for fifty years now!  Fifty wonderful years.  In fact, if there's one thing I can profess to be an expert about, it's about being happy.  Through good times and bad, through gain and loss, and sickness and health, and all that other nonsense life never stops throwing our way--I've always been happy.

So here's my birthday present to you.  I'm going to share ten of my secrets to a happy, laughter-filled life!

#1  Live with an attitude of gratitude.  Every single day you're alive on this earth is a gift, and no gift should be squandered.  Appreciate the time you have.  Appreciate the things you have.  The people in your life.  Say thank you.  Tell people what they mean to you.  Show your appreciation of the gifts you have by being generous to others.  Share the things you've learned.  Be grateful for what you have, because no matter how little you find yourself with, there's always somebody with less who prays for the day they have even as much as you have.

#2  Find a place to belong.  Find people who share your morals and your values, and surround yourself with them.  Find a good church, or a Masonic Lodge, or a women's group, or a book club.  Make friends.  Share your life.  Don't be afraid to share yourself with others.  Sometimes you'll get hurt, but the alternative is going through life alone.

#3  Bury hatchets rather than sharpen axes.  Life is too short to carry grudges, and usually the only person that is hurt is yourself.  Live a clean life.  When somebody wrongs you--forgive them.  When somebody feels wronged by you, whether rightly or wrongly, just apologize and move on.  Carrying old hurts and anger around with you everywhere will suck all the joy out of life, and if you carry it long enough, it will poison you.  You'll become bitter, and you'll never be able to see the good in people because you carry all those old scars around with you from all those conflicts nobody remembers anymore . . . except you.

#4  Don't take yourself too seriously.  People are so easily offended these days.  All you have to do is disagree with some people, and they become furious.  Laugh a little.  Joke a little.  Learn to see your own faults and be able to poke fun at yourself.  Life is about accumulating experience, and some of the best experience we gain is learning from other people, and seeing the world through their eyes and experience.  So suffer yourself to remain a student rather than seeing yourself as the professor all the time.  Students keep learning, and professors very often just keep teaching the same material year after year.

#5  You get what you expect.  It's all about your attitude towards things.  If you decide you're not going to like a new restaurant, you won't.  If you think you can't do a thing, you're right.  If you decide you're probably not going to like your new boss, you won't.  Learn to eliminate your own bias, and you'll learn to live in the moment, and walk into every new situation with a clean slate and open to just live the experience.

#6  Be generous.  With your treasure.  With your knowledge.  With your experience.  With your time.  With your love.  With your respect.  With your laughter.   Most things become even more valuable when they are shared.

#7  Say yes!  Life is an adventure, and you don't go on grand adventures by playing it safe.  You have to take risks.  You can't do that unless you look for opportunities in life to try new things, and then say yes when the opportunities present themselves. 

#8  Do things that scare you.  Fear paralyzes people.  Fear of failure.  Fear of looking like an idiot.  Fear of falling.  Fear of water.  Fear of heights.  Fear.  Fear.  Fear.  My biggest fear was, and still is, being up in front of people.  Especially speaking in front of a group.  I'd be so afraid before I'd have to do something in front of people, I'd often throw up beforehand.  Ask my wife.  I did that before our wedding.  Even back when I was a musician, I'd have a few drinks before I'd play even for a couple dozen people.  Being front and center still scares me, but I do it all the time now.  I've gotten very good at hiding that fear.  In fact, last weekend I was up on a stage handing out diplomas to high school grads in front of a whole gymnasium full of onlookers. Every time I do it, I get a little better at it, and a little less afraid of doing it.  I look at all the things I've been able to do since I began working on that fear a dozen years ago that I wouldn't have been able to had I let fear stop me.  I've been the master of two Masonic Lodges.  I'm a Masonic speaker on a regular basis  I give presentations and sit on panels.  I've officiated weddings.  If you don't deal with fear, you wind up spending your life avoiding any situation that might involve that one thing you're hung up on.  The best way to overcome fear is to face it.

#9  Choose your friends wisely.  Some people have many friends.  People like me have a very few carefully chosen intimates.  Whatever your model is, introvert or extrovert, choose your friends wisely.  Pick friends that build you up instead of tear you down.  Pick friends that you know you can depend on, rather than friends that always disappoint you.  Pick friends that will pull you off to the side and give you wise counsel when you need it.  Pick friends you can trust.  There is nothing more important to a happy life than the people you choose to surround yourself with.  So exercise good judgement in those you select to be in your inner circle.

#10  The last is actually the first--find God and let him in your life.  Always start there.  I have always maintained that all people are born with a God-shaped hole in themselves.  If you don't fill it with God, you walk around with an empty space inside you.  As Ben Franklin once said, a man wrapped up in himself makes a very small package.  When you let God into your life, your life takes on a more important meaning.  It's no longer just about you, but you begin thinking about how you can live a life that would please God.  God designed us, and knows how we should live.  The answer to every single problem you may ever encounter in your life is written in the Holy Bible, if you'll only look.  When you live life the way God designed you to live it, you'll find strength, and happiness, and abundance, and love.  But when you go your own way, you'll find your path is a lot more difficult, and happiness is much harder to find.  If you want your car to last a long time, you operating and maintain it according to the owners manual.  You should view the Bible the same way--our operations manual written by our manufacturer.

So I hope you'll try and few of these out.  I think you'll find they have tremendous value.  But I'd start with the last one . . . find God first.  The other nine all come right out of the teachings of the Holy Bible.  Like I said, you'll find the answers to every question life will throw at you in there.

Enjoy!

~Todd E. Creason

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Being A Square Peg In A Round Hole

It's not always easy to do the right thing, especially in a world that doesn't seem to have many values left.  Part of what being a Freemason is about is holding ourselves to a higher standard--to be an example when everyone else around us is behaving badly.  And it's not easy. 

It's being the one person in the room willing to say what everyone else is thinking.  It is giving an honest answer when asked a question, even if makes us look bad.  It's saying you're sorry even if you didn't do anything wrong.  It's being able to forgive people no matter what they've done to you.  It's saying nothing when somebody else takes the credit for something you've done.

Being a Freemason isn't about carrying a card in your wallet, or wearing a ring, or going to a meeting every month.  It's about being a good example--even when nobody is watching.

~Todd E. Creason

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

So Much Anger In The World Today

I've never seen so much anger in the world as there is today.  I'm very fortunate that life has taught me to understand that there are things that I can control, and there are things I can't control.  I work to change the things I can control, and I work to accept the things I can't (and that's not always easy to do).

But I think the thing that bothers me the most about our society today is the lack of toleration we show to each other.  I love history, and I love politics.  Up until just a few years ago, you could talk politics with people without it ending with name calling, and accusations that people that disagree with you have a mental illness.  Eventually, what will happen is that one party or the other, driven by anger and frustration, will allow their inflexible ideology to go so far to the left or to the right that they will inevitably destroy themselves.  I think we're seeing some signs of that trend now, and what won't be good for anyone is a one party system, or even a system where one party is greatly dominant.  In world history, this has happened too many times to count.  Great nations fall when they forget the things that made them great to begin with.  And one thing that has made American great is our noisy and adversarial political system.  That is the way it was designed to be.  Our laws based on that middle ground that both political parties fundamentally agree on.  And those things we all agree on still do still exist.  We just can stop yelling at each other.

One of our greatest weaknesses today is we seem to have drifted away from the values that have made our country great.  Listening to each other.  Respecting each other.  Valuing opinions even if they disagree with our own--this has gotten so bad that some college campuses are allowing the censorship of free speech.  Civility is almost non-existent today.  We can't even talk to each other.  We can't even agree that we agree on what we agree on. 

We need to get back to showing respect for each other.  Get back to listening to each other.  Get back to being more kind to one another.  Stop yelling and start listening.  Stop seeing where we differ, and start realizing where we are the same.  If we don't, we will destroy ourselves like so many great societies have in the past. 

~Todd E. Creason

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Which Is It Going To Be Today?


"I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. 
This makes it hard to plan the day."

~E. B. White

I've always loved that quote.  In fact, I used that quote as an epigraph at the beginning of my second novel A Shot After Midnight.  I think I relate to it, because I struggled with the same conundrum for a long time.  Then I realized I could do both--I could enjoy life, and make the world a better place at the same time.  It's not really an either/or proposition.

From a very early age, I learned it was a lot more fun to play in the game than to watch it along the sidelines--and the same it true about life.  I also understood from a young age that life wasn't unlimited.  One day our heart stops beating.  There is only so much time, and only God knows the number of our days.  It's important not to waste them.  That's why I have always lived the way I have.  I don't want to get to the end of my days and have regrets.  I have packed as much as I possibly could into the first 50 years of my life and there are few signs I'll slow down any.  When I get to the end of my path, this body is going to be worn out--it's getting there now.  If there is something you want to do, by all means avoid future regret and make that happen right now.  You get one shot at this life, so don't waste it. 

But as I come up on my 50th birthday, there's another thing I've learned that is at the center of happiness. God.  I've been a Christian for more than thirty years, but I haven't always been a good one.  I'm well-meaning but often weak.  If I listed all the things I need to work on, this would be a long article.  But I've found over the years, that when I'm living my life in a way that pleases God, I find peace and happiness even through very difficult times.  When I don't, I've struggled. 

If you want to get the most of life, you have to give it away.  Get yourself out of the center of your life, and put God in the center of it.  That's how you find happiness, and that's how you find peace.  And although it sounds wrong, the truth of the matter is, when you give your life away rather than squander it pleasing just yourself, you'll learn things about yourself and the world around you that will forever change the way you view the world.

~Todd E. Creason
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