“A true photograph need not be explained, nor can it be contained in words.” Ansel Adams
I admit that I have forgotten a lot. Blame it on math. There is just too much stuff to remember. Of the 8,760 hours in a year, we will be awake for over 5,000 of those hours and would be challenged if asked to remember even 300, unless we are a memory champion. Would it be nice if we had a system that could pull up any hour of any day from the past? I can think of a few moments that I would want to forget, but there are many others that I would love to recall in great detail.
There was a day, even though it was long ago, that I never forgot. I can still recall some of the details of a special event that occurred on that day. I was only seven years old. I am no memory champion, but this one has remained with me throughout my life. I am thankful, because it is a good memory. And it affected, in a positive way, much of my life. It still does.
My first fishing trip was that special event. The Warrior River, near my hometown of Birmingham, Alabama was the location for this memorable expedition and my dad was the captain. Bream was the target fish and equipment used was the old fashioned type you have seen in many movies: cane poles with boppers. Bait consisted of crickets and worms. Simple and easy to learn, this kind of fishing was the perfect introduction to the sport for a seven year-old.
Watching the cork disappear for the first time was magical – breathtaking! Forgive me for the obvious pun, but I was hooked on fishing from the very beginning. Many years later, I am still addicted to this sport. My wife says, “Fishing is like religion with Rob.” I ask forgiveness of any pastors reading this newsletter, but Carol’s comparison is pretty close to accurate.
Permanently sealed in my memory is that eventful day at age seven. Back then, there was no forecast of all the future trips I would make. Unknown would be the special times shared with family and friends, or the solitary moments, when I would be alone on the water, contemplating both the challenges and joys of life. Fishing turned out to be much more than just fishing. It provided a platform to build relationships with family and friends. It gave me the gift of private time to sort out life’s inevitable trials. It helped me to gain appreciation for the beauty of our world. I am still in awe of scenes I have enjoyed and shared with others. And, it has been fun.
My dad was not a demonstrative-type person when my sisters and I were growing up – rare were any hugs, and expressions, like, “I love you” were nonexistent. We had that type of relationship, saying and doing those things, later in our lives. But, in the early years, when what we wanted to say was difficult to express, we had fishing and Alabama football! The last fishing trip with my father, in 2006, was 10 days in The Last Frontier of Alaska, and seven of those days were fantastic fishing excursions. I can’t really put into words what happened in so many moments. I do have pictures. And, oh, do I ever have the memories. The precious memories that today mean so much more. That treasured trip is more than I would have imagined or predicted. Do you have such a memory – a single event that turned out to be much more than you expected? You probably have a bunch of them.
What special memories from the past have impacted you? What do you recall that became much more than an isolated event? Life is a goldmine and your stories are the gold. The memory of that long ago trip, at age seven, is special because I made a decision to make fishing a regular part of my journey. I used this past memory plus others to plan my future.
Most of us have yet to even scratch the surface of the wealth that is available within our stories. I admit to this being true with me, even though I speak and write about this subject all the time. Available to all of us is something that can only be described as pure gold. We all have plenty of stories. And many are about fun, but there is so much more. If only we would open our eyes and see. There are life lessons, born in the sweat and challenge of people and things that happen. There is sadness, pain, joy, love, loss and victory – all there as reminders to us about our past, but even more important, our future.
Like many of you, I have recorded lots of these special events in both pictures and words. In today’s world, it is much easier to do than in the past. I have also missed many opportunities to make a record. How much value do I place now on the picture, taken by my mom in a different age that recorded the results of my first fishing trip at seven? Priceless! Seared in my memory, gold in my goldmine, this event would impact the rest of my life. What are you doing with your gold? Is it just a memory? Or, is it meant to show you a path for the future?
Since I have started speaking and writing on a professional level, I have received a lot of positive feedback regarding my life stories. I am thankful for all the comments. As an author and speaker, I intentionally use stories because I understand their power. I have been personally impacted throughout my own life because of the decisions I have made when reviewing where I am in my journey.
Stories are the best way to teach a concept, to provide motivation, to train a team or to provide the path for a major change in your life. They are a great tool to market a product or service. You only need to look at the business world for successful companies that exceeded their own expectations, driven by their stories. Go online to the website of any successful company and you find stories of their journey.
You may like my stories, but the best ones with the greatest potential for impact belong to you. Your book, with all of its chapters, was written by you for you. I do not know what you should be doing – only you know this. But, as Nike would say, “just do it.” You will go forward, you will be led, you will become more of your destiny, not because of my journey and stories, but simply because of yours. If you do anything this week, start discovering your gold. Search and look for it. Extract it and find its meaning.
We do forget. I wish I could say it is not so. I wish I could remember more of the last 5,000 waking hours. But, at my best, I will forget most of the details. How many of us forget where we put our keys or cell phone, just an hour ago? You do not have to be old to do that. There are apps now for helping people to find their car in the parking lot when shopping or at the airport when we return from a trip. I have met a few people who have flawless memories. They are really impressive. But, I only know a few.
If life is really a goldmine and our stories are the gold, then we should protect and safeguard it. And the best way to do that is to use all of the technology that exists today to make a record of our experiences. We should take pictures every single day. Every single day. Record these pictures with dates, which is easy to do with the access to sophisticated technology. Adding captions to our pictures is a bonus. I cannot number the times that my sisters and I have looked at an old photograph and one of us would ask “Who is that person?” or “When was this taken?” You can answer these questions in the future and it is easy to do with little investment in time.
Another tool to saving that memory is to keep a journal. I have been writing for a long time, but have been keeping a personal journal only since 2006. It’s interesting and telling that I chose that year to get serious with making a personal record. That was the year after the final fishing trip with my dad and one year before his death. Don’t wait.
I have one rule for journals. There are no rules. Do not worry about punctuation, grammar or good English. The only guidance is to just write. Record the events of your life. Record how you felt. Record your goals and dreams. Write about your struggles. When you fail, write about the disappointment. You may be surprised – I no longer am – when you go back and read something and your breath is literally taken away. You did not have that understanding when you wrote it. You will be shocked sometimes, and yes, also disappointed. And you will have some pure moments of joy. You will read some things that appeared pretty boring when you recorded them and now they have been elevated to new thinking. How is this possible? I really can’t explain all of this. Perhaps, the experts can provide an explanation. I just know that it works. You are dealing with real substance here. And, it belongs to you! It is the gift that has been given to you and only you. It has a purpose in your life. It is your gold.
Decide today to do two things. If you are already doing these, I offer my congratulations. You do understand.
- Take Pictures every day
- Keep a daily journal
Some of you may be like me. I do not write in my journal daily, but that is my goal and I will keep working on it. I have also started to work on a journal of the years before 2006. I am going back and remembering all the special stories. I write them down and I ask myself what does it mean for me today? Life-changing is the only way I can describe what is happening to me in this project.
Write this date in your calendar for next year: add one year to the current date you are reading this newsletter. On that day, one year from now, go back and read your stories and review the pictures. No one will need to give you instructions on what to do next with this information. You will know. If you do follow through with this project, please add one small task for me – write to me and share your experience.
I hope you will go back often and look at the pictures you saved and read from the journal you wrote. By the time you have completed a year of regular photos and journal entries, you will know that this is what you want to do for the rest of your life.
The future is unknown.
The path ahead is often difficult to see.
We need more visibility, we need light.
Much of what we need, we already have.
Discover your stories. Find the Gold.
Illuminate your path.