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The Most Important Thing

Posted on June 5th, 2008 by Will Marre.
Categories: ADP Diary, Lifeology, Lifestyle, Relationships.

In the past two weeks I have traveled from Florida to the Rocky Mountains and back to California.  I have spoken to nearly every age group, gender, and color of American, literally from 18-80.  What I heard was anger.  Anger at, well, almost everything that is so obviously broken.   But the most pervasive feeling expressed was that we are angry because we are scared.  And the most heartfelt question people asked is what can I do to create a personal oasis in a world that seems to be becoming a desert?  What can I do to create personal, financial, emotional, mental and spiritual sustainability even if the outer world is convulsing with financial bankruptcy, emotional drama, mental instability, and spiritual confusion?  This is the real question for all of us all the time.  As one 80-year put it, “Every generation has its great challenge; welcome to yours.”  From a perspective of someone who’s lived through pre-antibiotic healthcare, a great depression, a world war, civil rights, riots, and the birth of Rock ‘n Roll, that statement is code for. “Quit whining and take care of yourself.”

That very night I found myself reading a great new book, The Art of Learning, by Josh Weitzkin who quotes a powerful proverb that fits today’s challenges. Life is a long road of thorns in which we are confronted with three options:  1) we can walk the road barefoot and bloody, 2) we can sit down, weep and wait for someone to pave it, or 3) we can make our own sandals.

There have always been awful challenges.  Plagues, earthquakes, wars, famines, and droughts.  Job loss, divorce, death, and depression.  Life’s question is “Are we willing to make sandals?”  There are many ways to make them.  One truism I have discovered in coaching others for three decades is that often a 5% change in our life will result in a 100% change in how we feel.  Even though sandals only cover the “souls” of our feet, our entire body and mind rejoice at being relieved of the pain from the thorns of our life.  Here is some “leather”—tough and strong ideas that may be of value.

  1. Be physically strong.  Our body is our greatest ally in making us resilient.  We need to regularly get eight hours of sleep.  We need to eat healthy, non-manufactured food.  We should try to never go hungry and never be full.  We need to train like athletes, get our heart rates up, lift some weights and walk with our back straight.  If we are fit, our thoughts will be creative and our actions more collaborative.  That’s the brain science according to Dr. Jim Loehr (The Power of Full Engagement).
  2. We need to be emotionally centered.  We need to elevate our moods by doing positive things we deeply enjoy.  Activities of sport, art or learning that capture our full attention and help us grow.  We need to do such things at least every other day.
  3. We need to be fully present in relationships with people we trust.  Refuse to take love for granted.  Listen with your eyes and soul.  Turn off everything else.  The T. V., blackberry, and the noise of your inner chatter and really be with those whom you love.
  4.  Seek spiritual growth.  Research tells us the happiest people in the world meditate 20 minutes a day.  Join them.  Help strangers and read what inspires you.  Be open-minded.  Inclusive.  Love with your whole soul.
  5. Regain your perspective.  Take a news fast.  No radio, newspapers, T. V., Internet, or magazine news for a week.  Pretend you’re on an island in Fiji.  Listen to music that soothes you.
  6. Be an expert.  If we are going to give our gift, we simply must be great at something we value.  Educators say it takes ten years to become a true expert.  And real experts are constantly learning because they love what they are doing.  It’s not work.  And when you fuse your personality with your expert knowledge or skill, you’ll be one of a kind.  Your expertise will be work that you love doing.
  7. Travel light.  Get out of debt.  Remember, there is nothing you can buy that is worth more than peace of mind.  Nothing.
  8. Commute and drive less.  Bargain for one or two days of telecommuting.  Combine trips.  Nearly all of us can drive 25% less, which will increase our quality of life.
  9. Be strong and be flexible.  There are very happy people living under almost all circumstances.  Change what you can and see the advantage in what you cannot.
  10. Don’t take the external parts of life too seriously.  The purpose of this amusement park called life is to love deeply, learn without stopping and develop inner character that brings honor to your children.

If you’ve made some changes that have improved your quality of life, tell us about them.  We need to share our “best practices” of life.

Will Marre
Founder, American Dream Project


Comment on June 5th, 2008.

Thanks for this. Very clear. Very useful. I will quote you!

Comment on June 5th, 2008.

I just discovered your blog and your words echo what I feel exactly. It’s time to make some sandals. Right on!

Comment on June 5th, 2008.

Great list. I agree with every item on there.

One additional thing I did that made a huge difference in my life is to retrain my mind to start looking for what is right, rather than analyzing everything in terms of what is wrong. This works with people, relationships, jobs…

There will always be plenty of people around to point out all the things that are wrong in the world, so no worries that you will miss out on anything! And when you come across something that makes you angry, do what you can about it as soon as you can, and then let it go.

I am just returning from speaking at an international conference. I had people from no less than 20 different countries in my session — countries that if you relied solely on news reports would never have their citizens in the same room. It was heart-warming and inspiring to see these fabulous and intelligent people from diverse backgrounds rallying together around a universal cause.

There are great things happening every day. Make an effort to seek them out and it will change your life experience.

Lillian Quaschnick
Comment on June 5th, 2008.

When I divorced five years ago, I was forced to divest myself of most of my material possessions. To my surprise, I haven’t missed them at all. I feel freer, lighter, and less encumbered. It’s a great feeling.

Comment on June 5th, 2008.

Great topic. Our society seems to get so caught up with what is happening now, that we are not able to enjoy the ‘now’.

Life will always be stressful, but we have choices in how we react to the never-ending life challenges. If we learn to take care of ourselves and keep our thoughts, ideas, and actions focused on solutions and gratitude, our lives will be so much richer.

These 10 tips are right on!

Comment on June 5th, 2008.

This was a timely message. I think it is alway important to focus on the positive things in life. Life can be simple if we learn to love more and hate less.

Comment on June 5th, 2008.

I just returned home from my daughters high school graduation and I wish that any one of the speakers had come close to being able to quantify to these young kids the type of wisdom that is in the 10 points.
I’m going to print up cards with one of the points and directions to your site so more folks, young and old, get the message!

Comment on June 6th, 2008.

Your message was very timely as I am going through a very difficult time in my life. A stranger who I called “father” that left us 30 years ago wants to come back in our life because he is very ill and desperately needs someone to take care of him. My inner self says I should. But seeing the pain, the hurt but more importantly the scare in my mom’s eyes brought back all the painful memories. Situation like this can throw anyone off balance easily. But your list helps me to reinforce what is important in life…the love for my family. I am at peace. Thank you, thank you…

Comment on June 6th, 2008.

A while ago, I made my own seven commandments. They reflect much of what is being said here. There’s some great advice. I love the news fasting bit, and as far as choosing not to drive, as much as I wholeheartedly concur, I was still surprised to see somebody echo such an idea! Driving is just plain bad Karma in so many ways.

1. Treat your body like a Temple.
2. Love yourself and your neighbor.
3. Keep your spirits up.
4. Live the present moment.
5. Live simply.
6. Accept what you cannot change.
7. Be and do who you are.

Comment on June 6th, 2008.


I have so enjoyed seeing the various comments on the ’10 Best Practices’ that have thus far been posted by your readers. Thank you for the initial inspiration… to the basic necessities of life – – food, air, water – – you have offered another element critical to sustenance, and that is encouragement. Unlike children, who in normal circumstances receive the encouragement of parents, teachers, coaches, and others focused on their development, adults often struggle for want of encouragement. Adults are expected to be stable, centered and strong. Adults don’t always have people rallying around them, and yet as the fairly consistent responses to your blog seem to show, people require encouragement throughout their lives and adults, especially, are so very grateful and relieved when they receive it. Reading through the responses to this week’s blog, I sense that each person has written from a place of feeling the weight of the world had, for a moment, lifted. Thanks, Will.

Comment on June 6th, 2008.

I can’t help but think that there is a deliberate attempt to scare us. Gas & food prices, dire economic predictions, global warming, etc. etc (sounds like the sky is falling, doesn’t it). It makes it easier to push hidden agendas and to get us to accept things we would otherwise never stand for. Don’t fall for it! Fear is the enemy, don’t give into it. Perfect love drives out fear.
On a positive note – Primal Leadership. If you have not read the book yet, I recommend that you do so.

Terry Alderete
Comment on June 11th, 2008.

I will share your uplifting insights. There are no greater gifts than peace of mind which leads to happiness. Being clear of what is important in life and adjusting your priorities to what is near and dear to you is worth all the material things in the world and more! Thank you for your words of wisdom.I am grateful.

Scott Gentry
Comment on June 18th, 2008.

I just sent this e-mail to a group of my friends and have gotten some positive feedback.

Try to lift someone else up and you go right up with them.

Hi Friends,

I took six and a half days off of news and I felt much stronger. I am now limiting myself to about 1/100th the time I was wasting reading bad news.

This morning I saw an interesting headline from the Washington Post. As a nation, we are gloomier than our economy. See article here:

Things are not as bad as most folks feel.

Take a moment to count your blessings.


Scott Gentry
RE/MAX Properties

Comment on June 24th, 2008.

Excellent comments. We are surrounded by too much negativity right now. Your suggestions are worth following. We need more positive actions in this world. One addition might be to work on giving something to others who are in need of help. You will be amazed at how great you will feel in return and it takes your mind off of your problems.

Comment on July 4th, 2008.

I like what Kelly said about printing up cards with a tidbit and directions to your website to distribute to her friends…

If every time we see something good, we make a point to pass it on, and all our acquaintances do the same, then GOOD will win over BAD, because BAD will have to pay for advertising time, while GOOD will get free advertising…

It’s one way to make the world a better place that doesn’t cost us money… Collect all the good you come across, and share it with everyone you meet…

And have a blast doing it!

Now, to practice what I preach, allow me to share with you some good stuff I’ve come across…

(1) For anyone wishing to lose weight… improve health, or fix digestive problems… read the book “Fit For Life” by Harvey & Marilyn Diamond (about $7.00 at BNoble)

(2) Help your mom avoid osteoporosis… get her the book “Strong women stay young” by Ph.D Miriam Nelson.

(3) Good movie: Wall-E…

(4) Understand male / female dynamics in romantic relationships… read “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus” by John Gray Ph.D and other titles by him also.

Larry Klein
Comment on August 23rd, 2008.


Your post has generataed the best set of comments yet. Not one commentor has suggested what someone else should do. no commentor has said what politicians need to do, what the government needs to do, what their Mom needs to do….. Every poster has said what they do or have done and right there is the power for change. This is in fact the solution. If I see somehting that does not work for me, then I need to be the source of the fix. This means that I fix it and then, assuming my friends may not see it, I need to do some proselitizing like, “please don’t buy that Hummer and buy a hybrid instead.” That’s it. If this approach of “I am the fix” is not working, I guess I need to work harder.

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