Killing Peter Pan

Boys will be boys.

Until they can’t be boys anymore.

All my life, I believed in the story of Peter Pan. Not the part where he flies or goes to some outlandish fantasy land where he fights pirates with a bunch of other kids who run their own island. Although the boy in me thinks that would be awesome.

I always believed in the boy Peter Pan truly was. He was a free spirit, never worried about responsibilities of any kind. He lived his life just like a boy should.

For the last x number of years I’ve been on the earth, I’ve considered myself to be a sort of Peter Pan. Even though the responsibilities of bills, student loans, car payments, working an 8 to 4 job, relationships, and several others kept punching their way into my life, I was still a boy.

Even at 39, I still am.

In September of 2014, I got married, testing Peter’s boyhood once more.

In May of 2015, I’ll be having a baby. I can only imagine what that will do to Peter.

The world we live in keeps trying to kill the Peter Pan in all of us, just like Captain Hook tried to kill Peter in the story. Life fires everything it’s got at us from the cannon’s of its menacing ship. Its crew does all it can to bring us down and take us to the grim reality that life isn’t as great as we’d like it to be, that it’s not all just fun and games.

People say funny things about this topic. They tell me that eventually, you have to grow up. That you can’t be a boy your whole life. Sooner or later, you’re going to have to act like an adult.

They, along with so many other events and circumstances in life, are trying to kill Peter Pan.

“Act like an adult,” they say.

Is that really such a good idea? Have adults done so well that they should be modeled?

Adults wage wars, seek power and money, crave vanity, lie to each other, cheat, steal, murder, rape, lust, stress, worry, gossip, hate, and fear.

Think about the things that occupy your mind on a daily basis. What do you obsess about? Go ahead, think about it. I’ll wait….

What are some of those things? Worried about paying bills or having enough money to get through the month? Are you having medical issues? Maybe you lost your job or think that you might. Perhaps you are one of those people who, from the outside, look like they have it all, but on the inside are the loneliest person on the planet.

It’s super easy to focus on things like that. They weigh us down, beat us up, and keep us locked in on the bad in our lives.

I was reconnecting with a friend the other day via social media and noticed that they had pictures of a child who appeared to have gone through chemotherapy.

This young person had bandages on their head, their face looked a little swollen, and all around they looked fairly pitiful…except for one thing.

The child was smiling.

This young person, who I assume is probably close to five years old, looked as happy as they would have on Christmas morning. Contrast that to adults who are in similar, or even way lesser circumstances. I know I would have trouble smiling like that if I was going through cancer treatments.

Yet this child was grinning broadly.

Dr. Joseph Simone and Jane Lyons published an interesting series of findings about cancer in children. You can read it here if you’re interested.

They were doing research to see why children seem to have a higher survival rate than adults when it came to various forms of cancer. Their suggestion was that perhaps young people have better care than adults.

I would say it is something altogether different. And the secret, is in the smile of that child I mentioned before.

Children don’t know what they don’t know. They live freely, love freely, and laugh freely.

They are still Peter Pan.

During Christ’s ministry on Earth, He said that we should all become more like little children. Whether you believe in the Bible or not is irrelevant. The core of that message still rings absolutely true. We should be more like children, like Peter Pan.

Albert Einstein said that he was a much better theorist when he was younger, before he’d grown old and figured everything out. That’s another paraphrase, but it’s pretty close. In other words, Peter Pan was a better scientist than grown up Einstein.

The other day, a friend of mine and I were talking, and she mentioned how I’d recently gotten married and this other guy we’re friends with might be getting married soon. She said the Peter Pans in her life were dying away.

Why does that have to be so?

Can Peter not function in the world? Can he not have a career, a family, and all the other things that only adults have?

Conventional wisdom says no.

But I say yes.

How, though?

You fight, just like Peter did. And you fight with a smile on your face. You fly through your day, smiling at every challenge, obstacle, and difficulty that comes your way.

You play, play harder than you ever did before. Enjoy moments of free time like they were your last. Feel grateful for them and love them with all your heart.

Focus on the joy of living, rather than the things you believe will make you happy or keep your life stable.

We are only here for a little while on this rock that is hurtling through space. We might as well enjoy as much of it as we can.

Naysayers might tell me, “We’ll see how you feel when you have that baby you mentioned earlier. Then try to live like Peter Pan.”

I will.

I will scratch and claw with all my strength to keep from killing Peter, and I want my child to be like him too.

Imagine a world full of Peter Pans, a place where we worked together in harmony, laughed instead of getting angry, loved instead of hated, and where we could reach higher than we ever thought possible.

That sounds like a pretty good place to me.

It can only happen if we stop killing Peter Pan.



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You Are What You Do

Through the years, I’ve met tens of thousands of people. Each one of them is a unique story.

Some of the stories are grand, wild tales of how they got to where they are. Some are simpler in nature.

No matter where I go, people are looking to change their story. Not everyone, mind you. But there is a dissatisfaction in many lives with the way things are.

Many friends have told me how they would like to write books like I do. Others have said they wish they could change careers and become something else.

There is only one way these kinds of changes can happen. That comes through doing. Continue reading


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Emergency Lifestyle Surgery

This is a guest post by M.P. MacDougall

I’ve always wanted to be a writer.

But for my entire adult life, that goal eluded me.

Rather than pursue my dream first, I gave in to practicality and accepted the mainstream idea of a ‘responsible’ career path. I served in the Air Force, learned a trade, and followed that trade to wherever promotions and pay raises beckoned me.

For more than twenty-three years, I’ve had a ‘real’ job to do, a career that has always, somehow, prevented me from taking my own dream seriously. Caught up in pursuing my ‘real’ job, I repressed my dream so far that I almost forgot it altogether.

Then I realized how unhappy I was. Continue reading


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Move the Mountain

I woke up with a jolt. Move the Mountain Cover

For a few seconds, I didn’t fully realize where I was. After several quick breaths, I rubbed my eyes to get my bearings. Moments later, those eyes began to fill with tears.

The nightmare had happened again.

It was a dream I’d been having for nearly a month. The problem was that the dream was something I yearned to be true, and every time I awoke from it, the pain of my reality set in all over again. I didn’t want to be in reality. I wanted the dream.

We often find ourselves facing dark times in life. It seems to be the way this reality works. One moment, we are standing on top of the world, celebrating, enjoying everything that is going right for us. The next moment, it all crashes down and we find ourselves wallowing in an ocean of self-pity, blame, fear, and hurt.

A few years ago, when the nightmares were hitting me hardest, I found myself in the darkest time of my life. If I couldn’t have the thing I wanted most, I felt like my life didn’t really matter. I fell into the abyss of depression.

The story of how I came out of that darkness may not be one that is made into a Hollywood movie. I didn’t go to war and come back blind or missing an arm or a leg. I wasn’t born with a debilitating disability. I didn’t face the odds and succeed in spite of them.

But it is my story.

Whatever your story might be, do not diminish it. It is yours, and no one else’s.

I often hear people say things like, “It could be worse. You could be that guy.” Then they point to poor soul who seems to have it worse than the recipient of their consolation.

Pointing out the misfortune of someone else may not be the best way to reinforce a positive mindset. More importantly than that, it diminishes the pain of the person in question.

You see, while we may look at someone else and say, “I’m having a tough time, but that poor fellow has it worse,” the funny thing is that they might be doing the same to you.

I know this to be true from a conversation I once had with a friend. We were on a walk, talking about the things going on in our lives, trying to give counsel to each other and work through the issues. It was during the dark time in my life when the nightmares were occurring.

My friend was going through something that seemed insurmountable. I couldn’t believe that he was able to walk and talk like a normal human being, much less report to his job and keep pushing forward. I thought that there was no way I could get through what he was going through.

As we strolled along, he listened to my story for a few minutes, and then stopped. He looked me dead in the eyes and said, “I don’t see how you’ve done it.”

I asked what he meant and he replied, “Your heart has been torn out so many times like this. I couldn’t have done it. I would have probably killed myself if I were in your shoes.”

That’s when it hit me.

No one has it any worse than anyone else.

There are several scriptures that talk about this in various religions, but I’m most studied with the Bible so I will reference that. There is a verse that says, “You will not be tested above that which you are able.”

As we move along this life’s path, we will face challenges. There will be some that seem like they are insurmountable. They will appear to us as mountains standing in our way, keeping us from the reality we wish to have.

The truth is that we are the only ones who have the power to move those mountains. No one else. Whatever struggles you might be experiencing, take honor in the fact that you alone are the one that can handle it. I couldn’t. Your priest, or abbot, or an internet guru, or a great teacher from the past couldn’t. You and you alone are tasked with moving the mountains in your life.

The good news is that you can move those mountains. You can create a reality your heart desires, one that will be filled with love and happiness.

I know because I’ve seen it happen in my life.

There will be tough times ahead. That’s just the way this life goes. One minute, we are sailing along on smooth seas with the wind at our back and the sun on our face. The next minute, a storm has come and the waves seem as though they will sink us.

But the waves won’t sink us. We can make it, because we alone are capable of weathering that storm.

I’d love to hear your thoughts or comments below. If you want to share a personal struggle or triumph, feel free. The community strengthens itself by encouraging others will real stories. And if you want to read about my story and how I climbed out of the darkness, you can grab a copy of it on Amazon. It’s called Move the Mountain: How Mindfulness, Gratitude, and Love can Change Your World.


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Keep Growing

You screwed up. You know you did.

Your heart fills with a growing sense of dread. That terrible feeling in your stomach won’t stop swirling, taking you to the threshold of nausea.

Why did you do what you did? You knew better. But you went and did it anyway.

I felt like this recently. I expressed my opinion on something that ended up offending someone.

For the people who know me, I rarely walk on egg shells. I live my life as honestly as I can, and sometimes that means I say things that not everyone likes. I’m okay with that.

Except this time around, it got me a reprimand at work.

The opinion I expressed wasn’t bred from an evil nature or anything like that. It was just my thoughts on a subject. While I sat in my office, awaiting my punishment, the terrible feelings rolling around in my gut weren’t fear of losing my job. Rather, I knew that I’d disappointed a friend with the things I’d said, or rather, the way I’d said them.

My boss talked it over with me in a gentle manner. Being a good leader, he has a phenomenal understanding of situations like that. Being an opinionated person himself, his grasp is all the better.

When our talk ended, I still felt a little bad about offending the other person involved, but I knew that it was one of those learning moments from which I could grow.

We all experience those kinds of moments. There have even been times where I had to close the door and remind my boss of how to handle things, and that his initial reactions weren’t appropriate.

Not a single one of us is perfect. We are constantly growing, adapting, changing into more aware and, hopefully, wise creatures.

The trick is to identify those moments ahead of time.

Going back to my little story, the comments I made had been via email. You’re likely shaking your head right now. I know. Never put strong opinions in email. And if you do, don’t send the email!

The digital age has brought many amazing things to us. We are connected to each other in ways we never thought possible in the 1980s. With that connectedness, however, we have to be more aware of how our words look and feel. Moreover, we must understand that as soon as we put them out there, they can never be taken back. Plus, they can be easily shared.

As I stared at the email, I admired how I’d cleverly crafted my words. Many people know I can be quite the smart aleck, a trait that goes back to my childhood and got me in trouble on more than one occasion in school. My finger hovered over the mouse as I prepared to click the send button.

That was the moment. In those few seconds, everything slowed down. I wondered if my words were too strong, if I maybe should save that opinion for a personal conversation rather than email. I considered what the ramifications could be if the email got into the wrong hands.

Believing there was nothing bad that could come of it, I clicked send.

That moment led me to the reprimand with my boss.

In those moments, we must recognize what is going on. We have a choice to click the button or not. If I had looked at it from the perspective of the friend I offended, I would have not clicked the button. However, I do not regret the experience.

Everything we go through in this life helps us grow. Sometimes, we may not like the growth process. It can be painful and challenging in ways we would rather skip. In the end, if we recognize the experience as an opportunity for growth, we can become better, stronger people than we imagined.

In my upcoming book, Move the Mountain: The power of a moment, I talk about more examples of little moments like the one with the email, and the power we possess to change the course of our lives and the world around us. If you’ve had some learning or growth moments, share them in the comments. None of us is perfect. As long as we learn from our errant choices, everything’s going to be okay. :)



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