Author: Erick Rheam

04 Dec 2017

Relationships Are Painful, Get Over It!

We hurt one another, it’s what we do.  The stark fact of your life is that the overwhelming majority of your issues, your pain, and suffering are caused by someone else in your life.  Whether someone fell short of your expectations, or doesn’t fully appreciate you or disrespects you, the majority of your pain is a result of your daily human interactions.

The pain and suffering you feel as a result of your relationships are a normal consequence of a flawed world trying to resolve an imbalance that will never be accomplished until Jesus ultimately returns and heals our world.

The truth is people are hurtful.  Why do we murder one another?  Why do we assault one another?  Why do we steal from one another?  Why do we ever intentionally cause pain?  The frustrating part of life is that there are a lot of unanswered questions that I’m confident can never truly be answered until the end of days, but until then, we must live with one another and carve out a life that has purpose, but how?

Sometimes finding an answer to a hard question is not the right path, instead it’s healthier to acknowledge certain truths and then adjust according to those truths.  For me, I sometimes struggle with certain truths about humanity, because I like to assume the best in people, but in order for me to lead a long, healthy and productive life, I too must acknowledge these fundamental truths:

1. People don’t care about your problems Outside of your parents and probably your spouse, most don’t care about your personal issues.  Why?  Because folks are busy dealing with their own issues.  I remember feeling sorry for myself when I had newborn twins until I ran into a young mother that struggled with new born triplets.  No matter the issue, there’s always someone dealing with something greater.  Suffering is relative.  If it’s your suffering, it’s unbearable, but everyone is suffering at varying degrees, and to them it’s huge and your suffering is less important.  That’s just life.

2. Some people don’t like you. I’m an extreme extrovert.  I love being around people.  The more relationships in my life, the better.  I enjoy getting to know people and I love to relate with others, but with the greater number of relationships comes the greater chance that people won’t buy into me.  I experience people that just dislike me, for whatever reason, and even though it can be hard, it’s just an element of life that I must accept and so must you.

3. People are selfish by nature. I’m selfish.  I’m constantly referencing my own feelings first, when interacting with others.  How does this interaction make ME feel?  What will I get out of this relationship?  These are common questions that we all ask when relating with one another, and that’s normal.  The point is not to be offended when someone puts their own interest ahead of yours.  You do it as well in many situations.  It would be nice if we were altruistic and we do have unselfish moments, but many times were just plain selfish, and accepting that fact, makes dealing with others’ selfish nature much easier in the long run.

4. People are in constant survival mode.  Our natural instinct is to survive.  We will do just about anything to extend our lives.  This plays out in our everyday lives.  When we feel threatened our unsafe, we react.  This comes in many forms.  We lash out, we attack, we flee, we avoid others, and we do whatever it takes to find our “safe zone”.  When you experience conflict with another person and they insult you with their behavior, just remember they’re trying to survive and protect themselves.  Most of the time it has very little to do with you.

 5. We need one another to survive. Despite our flaws, we need each other to survive. I will take a flawed relationship over solitude any day.  I love people, in spite of their flaws, because I too am flawed and there is value in shared camaraderie.  Why do we continue to gather with family members that frustrate and challenge us over the holidays?  Because there is value in shared experiences.  There is value in relationships and the interactions that help us grow and thrive in this world.  We were meant to relate with one another and we must continue to do so to survive and realize success.

This message is not meant to be a downer on humanity, its purpose is to encourage you to acknowledge that people are people and are a wonderful source of joy and happiness for you, but also a source of pain and frustration as well.  We must accept certain principles of humanity so we may avoid the pain of being in constant turmoil over why people do what they do.

When we begin to accept others at face value, and love them for who they are and embrace the relationships we form, then life will be easier to navigate and experience.  Remember, it’s others that will ultimately comfort you when you take your last breath and ascend to whatever beholds you on the other side.  Never lose your zest for relationships and hold on to those critical relationships during times of frustration.  Accept those for who they are and love them in spite of themselves and your life will be more fulfilling and satisfying in the end.

27 Nov 2017

It’s a Reflective Time of Year

This is a special time of year.  We’re in the final stretch and it’s a time that we begin to ponder our lives.  What kind of year has it been for you?  I believe it’s valuable to reflect and account for your life this time of year.  Enjoy the changing of the seasons, the decorations, the great food, and time spent with family and friends.  Cherish those you love and prepare to welcome in a new year.  But, take time to yourself and soak in what was this year and how it changed you, impacted you, hurt you, and uplifted you.

Looking back and reflecting on the past year can be encouraging and hurtful.  Life is edgy and sometimes cold and challenging.  In a moment, you’re on top of the world and in the next, you’re downright miserable.  No matter what happened this year, all of us are different than we were when this year started.

For me, I lost an uncle, I experienced extreme physical pain in a fire accident, and I failed to meet several goals.  I also experienced profound growth professionally and took my family on incredible vacations, and enjoyed financial success.  This was a year of new beginnings and a glimpse of what’s to come for me and my family.  It’s been an incredibly busy year with not much time to reflect; therefore, I’m determined to use my holiday season to slow down and ponder what’s important to me.  How about you?

I believe it’s healthy to reflect and if done right, can be a valuable exercise that will allow you to prepare for next year.  Here’s what I plan to do:

1. Mourn the losses:  Loss is a part of life.  Loss comes in many forms.  It could be the death of a loved one, losing money or an opportunity, loss of quality time with those that you love.  You feel those losses deep within you bones.  It’s healthy to acknowledge the loss and the effects of it.

 2. Celebrate the wins:  Thinking about the bad comes easy and it’s natural to account for what’s missing, but what about what you DO have in life?  How did you win this year?  It doesn’t have to be big wins, they can be small, but it’s important to acknowledge them and celebrate them.  Did you repair a fractured relationship?  Did you get a raise?  Did you lose 10 lbs.?  Let the happiness and satisfaction of those wins fill your soul and provide fuel for the momentum you will need going into the New Year.

 3. Acknowledge the hurts:  People hurt me this year.  It’s unavoidable and to be expected.  Relating with others is messy and it’s inevitable that you will get hurt.  Acknowledge those hurts and assess how it’s affecting you.  It is okay to feel hurt, but it’s not okay to hold onto that pain.  Forgive those that hurt you and let it go, don’t carry the frustration of challenging relationship into the New Year.

 4. Recognize the fears:  Fear has no place in your life.  Fear, if allowed to go unchecked, can dominate your decisions and stunt your growth.  Don’t allow it and bring it into the light and confess your fears to someone you trust.  What are you afraid of this year?  What’s holding you back?  What frightens you going into next year?  Acknowledge your fears and then ask, “Why do they scare me so much?”  Don’t worry about finding solutions for those fears, just bringing your fears out into the open will be enough to begin the process of healing.  Your solutions will come in time.

 5. Be grateful:  A key component of healthy reflection is to acknowledge gratitude and reflect on your blessings and on those in your life that are a gift and enhance your life.  It’s healthy to remember who’s blessed you and recount the wonderful things you have in your life.  It will provide perspective and push out the bad that’s developed in your heart.  Write down everything you’re thankful for and allow that spirit of gratitude to enter your heart and bring a smile to your face.  It feels good, doesn’t it?

 6. Dream of what’s to become:  Open your imagination and begin to dream about what you hope for in the New Year.  Don’t hold back and worry about resources, just dream and reflect on what is truly important to you and begin to ask, “what if?”  Allow your soul to explore the edges of your dreams and begin to expand your mind to the possibilities.  You only live once, don’t hold back.

 7. Give everything to God:  The final step, and most important, is to bring God into your plans, for without God, you have no plans.  There’s no doubt that God is in control of my life and when allowed into my life, He blesses exceedingly and abundantly more than I can ever imagine.  Once I reflect and take account of my life, I turn it over to the Lord and ask that He take control and guide me in a way that will honor Him the most.  I admit, this is the hardest step for me, because I often lean on my own understanding, but every time I submit my plans to the Lord, He never lets me down, without exception.  Get into the habit of giving your life back to the Lord and He will lead you down the right path.

Life is a beautiful adventure that gives so much and takes so much from us.  We all do our best and ultimately fall short of expectations, but never give up and continue to give your best.  Stop and reflect on what you accomplished this year and where you fell short.  Face your fears and don’t be afraid to dream big.  If you’re still breathing and your heart continues to beat life into your body, then you have purpose and people are blessed by you.

Reflect on your life, enjoy your life.  Take it all in, for it will soon become a distant memory and the world will move on and so should you.  Take a moment to yourself and acknowledge this year.  Take a deep breath and shed the necessary tears and smile on what you experienced.  Begin to dream for what is to come and don’t fear your next chapter, embrace your life, grab on and enjoy what your future holds.

Happy holidays to you and your family, I’m grateful for you!

20 Nov 2017

Do You Have a Victim Mentality?

One key predictor of your future success is how you think and react to what happens to you.  I have the pleasure to teach, train, and motivate professionals as part of my work.  It’s easy for me to discern who is going to be successful and who will struggle, based on their mentality and how the see the world.

Victims struggle and always will.  Victims are those that are driven by their circumstances.  Their environments control their lives and they find themselves in a vicious cycle where life and the world around them controls them.  This is called a victim mentality.

Meet Bob.  He’s a miserable human being.  Bob still lives in his hometown, and works at a dead-end job with coworkers that he doesn’t like and a boss that disrespects him.  Bob’s marriage is struggling and his kids are out of control.  He’s overweight and sick a lot.  He’s generally depressed and feels like his life is spinning out of control.  Nothing seems to go well for Bob and he just seems to have a constant run of bad luck.

Don’t feel sorry for Bob.  He’s got a disease, known as “if, then” and it’s totally curable.  You see, Bob never takes ownership of his life and allows his circumstances to dominate his decisions.  Here’s Bob’s mentality:

“I would have the courage to leave my hometown, IF my mother was feeling better.”

“I wouldn’t be so overweight, IF my wife would cook healthier foods.”

“I could get a promotion, IF my current boss would just leave the company.”

“I would look for a better job, IF my wife’s job was more secure.”

“My kids wouldn’t be so misbehaved, IF they didn’t hang around with their hooligan friends in our neighborhood.”

Meet Sarah.  Sarah is passionate and a happy human being.  She’s a single mom and teaches at the local elementary.  She’s respected by her coworkers, has great friends, and a solid relationship with her daughter.  She’s fit, healthy, and life just seems to be going her way.  Here’s Sarah’s mentality:

“I will work with my daughter’s father to ensure she has a healthy relationship with him.”

“I will continue to make better food choices and will find ways to incorporate exercise into my daily routines.”

“I will work harder to better understand my coworkers and add value to their lives.”

“I will learn what motivates my daughter and encourage her to follow her passions.”

What’s the difference between Bob and Sarah?  Is Bob just unlucky?  No, I contend Bob has a victim mentality and it’s suffered by too many of us.  How can Sarah have so much going for her and be happy with her life, while Bob continues to be miserable?  It’s quite simple and it starts with the conversations you have with yourself.

Are you late for work because you hit every red light in town, or because you just aren’t giving yourself enough time to get to work?

Are you not getting a promotion because your boss is a jerk, or are you not going above and beyond to serve the company, your coworkers, and your boss?

Is your marriage struggling because your spouse is selfish, or are you doing something that is irritating or selfish?

People with a victim mentality are never at fault.  It’s the world’s fault, their circumstances are never right and they wait for a perfect situation before they can be happy.  There are no perfect situations and those with a victim mentality will always be victims.

What do you do if you find yourself associating with someone with a victim mentality?  Limit your interactions with that person and surround yourself with the Sarah’s of the world and avoid the Bob’s.

What if you suffer from a victim mentality?  Take ownership of your life and whenever you feel life is not going your way, ask this fundamental question, “What did I do to affect this situation and how can I change to make it better?”  Most victims won’t have the courage to ask that tough question, but if you truly want growth in your life, then begin to take ownership of it and stop being the victim.

Are you a victim?  What are you going to do about it?

13 Nov 2017

There’s More Than One Way to The Top

I used to think there was a formula to success.  There is not.  There are common attributes that successful people have in common, but there’s no single path to success in any field or discipline, just like there’s no single path to the top of a mountain.  Some paths may be easier than others, but there isn’t one path that leads to the mountain top of success.  The key question, do you have the desire to succeed?

Sometimes folks will ask me, how did you get in to West Point?  I always answer the same, “on my legs.”  I don’t answer that way to be trite, it’s the truth.  I got into West Point because I was fast.  I was an accomplished high school cross-country and track athlete.  The West Point coaching staff desired my talent and so they offered me a spot at West Point.  I always tell parents of children aspiring acceptance into West Point, that my path into the Academy was unique to my story, their child’s path will be profoundly different.  If they have the desire, they will find their way.

Lately, fledging professional speakers ask me for tips on how to get more speaking gigs.  They hope I will provide them a formula that will help them discover success and gain the momentum they need to start a successful speaking career.  I even had one gentleman ask me for a list of all my event planner contacts so he could contact them and book gigs.  I replied to his request with a short and simple answer, “No, you must earn your own referrals.”  I gave him the same encouragement that I give most aspiring speakers, like what I say to young folks that desire to go to West Point.  “If you have the desire, you will find your own path.”  That is the true essence of success and the pathway to the top.

The key to anyone’s journey is to not try and duplicate someone else’s success.  That was their path and will never be yours.  The desire for success proceeds all success.  If one has the desire and is willing to grind it to the top, the path will become apparent along the way.

I used to believe in formulas.  I purchased courses and resources that promised a formula and always came away inspired, but ultimately disappointed when success alluded me.  It wasn’t until I began to take ownership of my journey and understood that my journey was unique only to me and that success would be mine if I continued to move towards it and continued to learn and grow.  Moving forward was my answer and I knew by doing that one simple thing, I would ultimately find my own path.

I’m still on my journey, but the path is becoming clearer.  There’s no one else on this path, because it’s mine.  This path will lead me where I want to go.  I’m sure it will have many twists and turns and sometimes it will be hard to make out, but I’m confident I will endure because I’ve stopped looking for a formula.  I replaced it with respecting other successful people’s journeys and discovering ways I can learn from their success, and ultimately making their success principles my own by applying those principles into my own reality.

How about you?  Are you looking for the secret to success?  Are you looking for that special formula that will finally unlock those obstacles standing in your way?  Or, will you just start moving and climbing that mountain, knowing that if you continue your journey with a grateful spirit and a spirit of growth that you will find your path along the way and when you do, success will be yours.  Don’t wait, stop searching, and start moving!

06 Nov 2017

Are You a Consumer or Producer?

Our culture promotes and celebrates work.  In fact, it’s a badge of honor for one to work long, hard hours and success is too often measured by time worked versus what’s produced.  I recently read biographies on the late Steve Jobs, CEO and co-founder of Apple, and Elon Musk, founder and CEO of Tesla.  Both men are known for their superhuman work ethic and inhumane workload that they expect of themselves and of those that work for them.  However, I contend that this is not the way to long-term and robust success.

There’s ample examples of the meteoric rise of young entrepreneurs that worked insanely hard and achieved fame, financial success and received the accolades that come with such success, but is it sustainable?  Is it worth the cost?  There’s also tons of examples of cautionary tales on successful men and women who crash and burn after achieving profound success.  For every great story on Steve Jobs’ impact on our world, there are an equal number of stories of broken relationships, bad health, and regret because of Jobs’ lifestyle.  The same goes for Elon Musk.

I will be the first to admit that I struggle with this, in my current phase of life.  I work hard and can find myself plugging away on weekends or during family time; however, I’m focused on improving in this area for I know it’s critical for my ultimate success.

What drives us to work long hours at the expense of our health and our relationships?  Is it because of the money, the recognition, or because we don’t know better?  I had a great discussion with my friend, Jack on this subject.  He noted that the world consists of two types of people, consumers and producers.

Most of us are taught to consume.  We are taught to pursue things and to consume them for our own edification.  This consumer mentality requires us to work more so we can consume more.  Producers; however, think differently.  Producers don’t work so that they can consume, they work so that they may create and bring something meaningful into the world.  Producers strive to bring value.

When I began to study producers, the ones that achieved long-term success, I was surprised that many of them didn’t work long hours, they focused on intense work over a few short hours, but did so on a consistent basis.  Studies show that our energy and brain power is a finite resource that must be carefully considered when approaching each day.  We only have four to five hours of daily peak performance available to us.  So, as I consider my life and where I want to go I must ponder what some of the world’s greatest producers had in common.  People like Edison, Einstein, Churchill, Kennedy, or Beethoven.  They all were deliberate with how they invested their time.

I want to do more than consume my way through life.  I have a strong desire to produce and bring value into the world, so as I study other great producers, I’ve discovered four common traits that’s worth considering:

1. Routine – The greats were maniacal about their routines.  They had a rhythm to their days. Most started early, which allowed them to unleash a creativity that benefited the world.  American President, John F. Kennedy, retired to his bedroom, at the White House, for a nap after lunch every day.  Famed fiction author, Stephen King, breaks up his days in two parts.  The first half he writes new material, the second half he rests, recreates and writes correspondence.  Routines free our minds and remove the drain of making daily decisions so our minds can remain fresh to ponder the critical issues of the day.

2. Focused work – I was amazed to discover that many of the greatest producers didn’t work long arduous hours.  Many focused on their most critical work around four to five hours a day, and then spent the rest of their day on less critical tasks.  They protected those hours and didn’t allow the world to penetrate their psyche.  Famed poet, Edgar Allen Poe, would lock himself up and separate himself from the world so he could remain creative and write great prose.  We don’t have the benefit of an infinite amount of creative energy, so when we spend that energy, we must do so on the right tasks that will make a profound difference in our lives and on those that will benefit from our work.

3.  Rest – Some of our greatest leaders made rest a priority.  It was a skill they harnessed to ensure they could remain sharp.  British Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, would take two hour naps in the middle of the day, during WWII, even during Nazi Germany bombing raids on London.  He recognized the need for rest and its impact on his mental health and energy during a critical time in history.  Thomas Edison napped often, throughout the day, so he could recharge his batteries and continue his experiments.  Rest is a critical element to creativity and must be respected as a vital tool for success.

 4. Exercise – Long walks and other forms of exercise are paramount to rejuvenate the mind and spirit.  Studies show that exercise allows the brain to continue to work on problems and to reformulate solutions on obstacles encountered throughout the day.  Producers leverage the habit of exercise to help them remain creative and sharp.  Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and Facebook founder, is known for taking long walks and holding meetings with critical personnel or new hires during these walks.  Many of the locals in Maine and Florida often spot Stephen King walking along the local roads while reading fiction and enjoying some fresh air.  Exercise is a key tool for producers, because of its contribution to health and creativity.

I don’t believe anyone pursues life in search of insignificance, quite the contrary.  I believe we all want to have an impact.  None of us desires to reach the end of our life only to discover it meant nothing.  To have an impact, we must become producers and create things that may help others.  To be a producer, we need to tap into our inner creative spirit, that little gift that God bestowed us when He created us.  Consider the four elements that many other great producers leveraged before us and we’ll have a shot at creating something that will outlast our days and will indeed have an impact on this world.  Which of these four elements will you pursue today?