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How often do you reflect upon the trail you are on?

Today is September 4 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how often do you reflect upon the trail you are on?” Those who navigate the chaos often reflect upon the trail they are on. If they are satisfied with the direction in which they are traveling they continue. If, however, they are dissatisfied they work at making the necessary changes so they can get on a life trail more to their liking.

In the award winning 1990 film Dances with Wolves the character of Kicking Bird (Graham Greene) told John Dunbar (Kevin Costner) “I was just thinking that of all the trails in this life there is one that matters most. It is the trail of a true human being. I think you are on this trail, and it is good to see.”

Kicking Bird’s observation contains three points for reflection. First, he mentions ‘all of the trails in this life’ referring to all the paths available for one to follow. Are you aware of all the available trails? Do you think you are stuck on the trail you are currently on? How happy are you traveling down your current path? Have you had opportunities in the past to change paths? What did you do?

Second, Kicking Bird declares ‘the trail of the true human being.’ How do you define the trail of the true human being? What traits, characteristics, and attributes should one possess if they are walking on the trail of the true human being? Are you walking on the trail of the true human being? How do you know?

Third, Kicking Bird tells Dunbar ‘I think you are on this trail, and it is good to see.’ Do you understand people are looking at the trail you are on? While the thoughts of others should seldom deter you from forward progress, it is important to remind yourself that others, particularly those closest to you, might have an opinion about the trail on which you are traveling. Now this can also be a good thing as those closest to you can be a resource for you as you navigate the chaos. Of course, life offers opportunities for strangers to provide you with guidance on your trail as well. One such example involved Albert Einstein.

Some months before Einstein’s death in April 1955 an editor of LIFE magazine, William Miller, visited the famous scientist at his home in Princeton, New Jersey. The journalist was accompanied by his son Pat Miller and by Professor William Hermanns of San Jose State in California. Einstein responded to the son’s desire for guidance in life, as printed below, appeared in the May 2, 1955, issue of LIFE Magazine:

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day. Never lose a holy curiosity. Try not to become a man of success but rather try to become a man of value. He is considered successful in our day who gets more out of life than he puts in. But a man of value will give more than he receives.”

Kicking Bird’s ‘trail of the true human being’ is synonymous with Einstein’s ‘man of value who gives more than he receives.’ The trail of the true human being requires one to provide value to others, to give more than they receive, and to remain curious while traveling along life’s trail.

History provides examples of various people who created their own definition of the ‘path of the true human being.’ Benjamin Franklin and the father of John Wooden serve as two examples.

In 1726, at the age of 20, Benjamin Franklin created a system to develop his character.

In his autobiography entitled The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, he listed his thirteen virtues as:

1. Temperance. Eat not to dullness, drink not to elevation.

2. Silence. Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.

3. Order. Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.

4. Resolution. Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.

5. Frugality. Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself, i.e., waste nothing.

6. Industry. Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.

7. Sincerity. Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly, and, if you speak, speak accordingly.

8. Justice. Wrong none by doing injuries or omitting the benefits that are your duty.

9. Moderation. Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.

10. Cleanliness. Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.

11. Tranquility. Be not disturbed at trifles, or at accidents common or unavoidable.

12. Chastity. Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another's peace or reputation.

13. Humility. Imitate Jesus and Socrates.

John Wooden's Seven Point Creed was given to him by his father Joshua upon his graduation from grammar school:

1. Be true to yourself.

2. Make each day your masterpiece.

3. Help others.

4. Drink deeply from good books, especially the Bible.

5. Make friendship a fine art.

6. Build a shelter against a rainy day.

7. Pray for guidance and give thanks for your blessings every day.

Through his steadfast belief in his father’s Seven Point Creed, Wooden would go on to create his own 'Pyramid of Success' consisting of 15 building blocks. The cornerstones were Industriousness and Enthusiasm, climbing to such strived-for human traits as Intentness, Team Spirit, Poise and Confidence, all leading to the top of the pyramid to reach the ultimate goal of Competitive Greatness.

Just as Coach Wooden will forever be in the sports history books for leading UCLA's men's basketball teams to 10 NCAA Championships in 12 years (1964-75), his 'Pyramid of Success' illustrates another path to follow.

The examples of Franklin and Wooden help us understand today’s approach to navigating the chaos is about reflecting upon the trail you are on.

  • What trail are you traveling?

  • How often do you reflect upon the trail you are traveling?

  • If you were to create a list of traits to use while traveling your life path, which ones would you include?


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