What I Live For

We are always getting ready to live but never living.

–Ralph Waldo Emerson

With this blog post I invite you into my inner life. I share this partly to get many of my ideas and plans “out there”— to usher them more fully from the realm of thought into the realm of reality— to make them more real by sharing, and also to open up the possibility of connecting with others who are interested or who might want to more actively journey life’s path with me. Putting my thoughts into writing and also helps me to clarify my own thinking.

I know it’s true that “life is what happens while we’re busy making plans,” but this post represents my life’s path, at least as far as I can see it.

Philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein tells us, “I don’t know why we are here, but I’m pretty sure that it is not in order to enjoy ourselves.” Joseph Smith offers the perspective that, “Happiness is the object and design of our existence.” At first glance these thoughts might seem incompatible, but I happen to think that Wittgenstein and Smith are both right.

Life is not about indulging in base self-gratification. It is about discovering the true and lasting happiness that comes from tuning into the deep joy and satisfaction of discovering and living our life’s purpose, in harmony with natural rhythms and God’s will for our lives.

(Whenever I talk about God I realize that I’m far from an authority on the subject, and that I can’t say that I know much more about Him than that He exists. I know that He exists simply because I exist. The way I see it, SOMETHING created me, and that something, by definition is God. Beyond that, I don’t know much. In fact, whenever the subject of God comes up, I’m reminded of a piece of advice commonly attributed to André Gide, “Love those who seek the truth; beware of those who find it.”)

As I’ve thought about why I’m here and how I want to spend my life, the fact doesn’t escape me that I’m extraordinarily blessed. I sincerely desire to share my blessings with others. We all want to make a difference.

In a speech I heard earlier this year, author Arthur C. Brooks shared a story about Johann Sebastian Bach, the great Baroque composer, in which Bach was asked, “Why do you compose music?” Bach responded unhesitatingly, “For the glory of God and the enjoyment of man.”

That answer resonates powerfully with me. It’s a great and noble thought to labor in service to God and to use the strengths, gifts and talents we’ve been blessed with uplift and enrich our own lives and the lives of others.

I think often about my dad’s remarkable career and all the good that came of it. But I have an ongoing debate with myself as to whether or not his success was worth the price he paid for it. His success came at the cost of his health, his relationships, and his spirituality (at least in the middle part of his life, when he was so focused on building and running his business). I find this question impossible to answer and endlessly debatable.

Also, I often wonder if it’s possible to achieve a level of success comparable to my dad’s while balancing health, relationships, spirituality and personal pursuits. My intuition tells me that it is, but that’s the same part of me that says that it’s possible to hit 100 out of 100 three-pointers. Sure, it’s possible, but it’s not going to happen. And anyway, it’s impossible to know for sure, and it’s a trap to compare ourselves and our accomplishments to others.

Observing my dad’s life has led me to create daily and weekly routines that help me to ensure that I give proper attention to my health, relationships and spirituality.

I walk at least three miles every day. (The 1000 Mile Challenge makes this as fun as possible.) I eat more vegetables than apple fritters. I’m home in time to eat dinner with my family every night. I practice being present when I’m with my wife or kids. My wife and I have a weekly date night. I meditate every morning and every night before bed. I usually read something of a spiritual or devotional nature a few times a week.

I practice a half dozen other minor routines in the morning or at night that help me to stay focused and balanced. I suspect that my routines border on OCD, and I know that they’re not for everyone, but I’ll keep doing them as long as they keep working for me.

In addition to my daily and weekly routines, I have identified a number of things that I want to become or accomplish before I die. I’m aware of the risk pointed to in the Japanese proverb: “Chase two hares, catch neither.” But I ignore that, opting instead to follow Peter Diamandis’ notion that, “Multiple projects lead to multiple successes” and the advice to “Start many fires.”

I have a strong commitment to all of the following objectives, though I’m pursuing some of them with a lot more energy than others.

Miller Inspiration

It’s been a little over a year since I launched Miller Inspiration, a company that serves business leaders, entrepreneurs and the 10,000+ employees of the Larry H. Miller Group by providing lessons and services related to professional training and personal development. Miller Inspiration uses the lives and lessons of my parents, Larry H. and Gail Miller, as the starting point for its curriculum.

The company is still very much in the startup and development phase, but we’ve got a great team and we’re having fun and making progress.

Miller Inspiration’s four big initiatives are:

  • Beyond Driven, a book of 99 inspirational stories about Larry H. Miller. You can learn about this project here.
  • The Larry H. & Gail Miller Family Archive. The Archive is a formal effort to collect and organize my mom and dad’s photographs, correspondence and other personal papers and to preserve them for future generations. We are currently talking with BYU about housing the Archive.
  • Workshops. We are working to create workshops for business leaders and their employees based on some of the sports and entertainment properties within the Larry H. Miller Group— the Utah Jazz, the Salt Lake Bees, Miller Motorsports Park and Megaplex Theatres.

These workshops are still in the customer discovery and content development phase, but I intend them to combine stories, learning activities, practical wisdom and humor in a way that makes them both fun and valuable.

  • Universal Message. This is a presentation intended to create cultural cohesion among the employees of the LHM Group. This is no small feat given that the Group now does business in 46 states in a wide variety of industries. This presentation is intended to convey the Group’s history, mission, vision and values, along with powerful vision for its future in an emotionally engaging way.

It’s also designed to convey who the Miller family is, and what our family and company’s commitment is to continuing the service and philanthropy we provide in the communities where we conduct business.

Family Office

John D. Rockefeller established America’s first family office in 1882. The point of a family office is to help a family to preserve its financial, intellectual and human capital.

Only 30% of family businesses successfully transfer to the third generation or beyond. As a second-generation family member I feel a great responsibility to ensure that the lessons and sacrifices that my mom and dad made to establish our family business are preserved so that the business can continue in the future. James Hughes wrote a great book on family offices called Family Wealth.

I’ve devoted significant time over the last two years to learning about family offices and how one might benefit our family. I continue to help provide direction and definition to this effort.

Professional Coaching

My wife Dawn and I are working to become professional coaches. This entails more than 300 hours of study over a seven-month period. We are nearly a third of the way through the program and we’re enjoying it immensely. We both have a few clients already. You can learn about our course of study here.

Charitable Foundation

Dawn and I recently established our own charitable foundation. We’re still a ways from putting specific plans or substantial effort into this, but we know that we want to help address some of the world’s major concerns in the areas of environmental sustainability, education, health and sanitation, nutrition, clean water, human rights and the cause of freedom.

One of my dreams for this is to create “learning journeys” where we organize trips to places we’ve been able to visit such as the rain forest or villages in Africa. Seeing the needs and opportunities up close and first-hand can have a powerful impact on people.

Zero Emissions Driverless Car

I dream of a world where cars are emissions-free and drive themselves. The potential benefits of this technology for humanity are massive (as are the challenges to making it a reality). In the future, I want to dedicate more of my time and resources to making this technology a reality.

Screenplay

I’m writing a screenplay. This creative endeavor is a welcome contrast to the non-fiction, pragmatic writing and thinking that makes up much of my workdays. I’ve devoted roughly half of my evening writing sessions to this project, which explains why I’m no longer blogging every night.

It’s a Romeo and Juliet story set in a future where the world is on the edge of ecological collapse and the brink of war. I’ve received positive feedback on a synopsis I wrote for this story that I shared with an Academy Award-nominated producer. My writing partner and I continue to plug away at this project.

Book

I want to write a book for my kids and posterity that will help them to understand who I was and what my life was like. This book will include a story I’ve been meaning to write for more than a decade about a mental breakdown / spiritual awakening I had while studying in Japan when I was 18.

During this episode I heard myself say— in Japanese— “From now on, I only want to hear God’s music.” I knew that came from somewhere deep inside of me, but I didn’t know what that meant for how to live. Here I am, eighteen years later, still trying to figure it out.

50 Mile Walk

I’m organizing a 50 mile walk from Provo to Salt Lake September 13th. It’s the kind of event where you learn a lot about yourself. This will be the seventh time I’ve walked 50 miles in 20 hours or less.

Every time I do this I ask just about everyone I know if they want to participate. Only a handful of people take me up on it, and even fewer people finish. If you have interest to give this a go let me know and I’ll be sure to add your name to my invite list.

Adventures

I will climb Kilimanjaro. I will ride a motorcycle through the streets of Tokyo at three am.

I think often about Werner Erhard’s advice: “Decide on a project for which you are willing to take complete responsibility. Complete the project successfully. Relate this achievement to others as an inspiration for them. Your willingness to express yourself may be just the trigger needed by someone else to do something for themselves. From now on, don’t wait for something to happen to you. Actually take responsibility for making something happen. Keep at it until you make it a successful experience for everyone. You can make the difference.”

Every morning I endeavor to hold onto the mindfulness I achieve in my mediation, and to carry it with me through all of my day’s activities— the little actions I take in order to achieve the big objectives I just described. I get frustrated with myself when I catch myself hurrying, trying to do too many things at once, or not being loving, patient and considerate with someone. I wish to have the patience and grace of a holy man, but I haven’t achieved that yet. But I keep trying.

I remind myself of Yogananda’s words: “Live each present moment completely, and the future will take care of itself. Fully enjoy the wonder and beauty of each instant. Practice the presence of peace. The more you do that, the more you will the presence of that power in your life.” And, “Everything you do should be done with peace. That is the best medicine for your body, mind, and soul. It is the most wonderful way to live.”

I’ve written versions of this blog post many times over the last few months, but I haven’t shared any of those due to one fear or another. I’ve thought, “People will think I’m silly for having such [big] or [nebulous] or [whatever] dreams and goals,” or “I might not succeed in achieving one (or more) of those objectives and then I’ll look stupid” or something like that.

I know that talk is cheap and that ideas are a dime a dozen. I understand that when all is said and done, more is said than done. I get that. But I also know that our own fears— our own inner critic— kills a lot of dreams and ideas before they ever have a chance to take root in the physical world. And that’s a shame because Earl Nightingale was right, “Everything begins with an idea.”

So, now that I’ve let you inside my inner life, you’re welcome to stay as long as you’d like. Just please try not to step on the dreams.

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The Write Reasons – #01

“A man is a fool not to put everything he has, at any given moment, into what he is creating.” -Frank Herbert

I write in order to develop my powers of concentration.

Of course, each moment we’re alive presents us with an opportunity to practice developing our concentration and our ability to focus— every bite of every meal, every word of every conversation, every motion in every household chore or bit of yard work, every email written and read, every commute. Everything.

So what?

For me, it matters because I’m never happier than when I’m in a state of flow, and writing is one way I’m able to intentionally enter flow. Wikipedia explains flow as “The mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. It is a single-minded immersion and represents perhaps the ultimate experience in harnessing the emotions in the service of performing and learning.”

Wikipedia goes on to say, “In flow, the emotions are not just contained and channeled, but positive, energized, and aligned with the task at hand. To be caught in the ennui of depression or the agitation of anxiety is to be barred from flow. The hallmark of flow is a feeling of spontaneous joy, even rapture, while performing a task. Flow is also described as a deep focus on nothing but the activity – not even oneself or one’s emotions.”

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi wrote a book about the flow state, appropriately titled Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. In it, he writes, “Contrary to what we usually believe … the best moments in our lives, are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times—although such experiences can also be enjoyable, if we have worked hard to attain them. The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.

He goes on to say, “Optimal experience is thus something that we make happen. For a child, it could be placing with trembling fingers the last block on a tower she has built, higher than any she has built so far; for a swimmer, it could be trying to beat his own record; for a violinist, mastering an intricate musical passage. For each person there are thousands of opportunities, challenges to expand ourselves.”

Another reason to consciously develop powers of concentration is that the ability to focus is very often foundational to success. Last year I completed a training with Jack Canfield in which he shared with me that during his research for the book The Power of Focus, he and his writing partners interviewed more than 2,000 successful entrepreneurs in order to find out what made them successful.

Almost without exception, Jack and his partners found, every successful entrepreneur possesses three attributes: 1) a high degree of clarity about what they want to accomplish; 2) powerful success habits (in the form of daily routines and disciplines); 3) a high degree of focus, or concentration.

My dad certainly possessed all three of these attributes. If he was in a meeting or on a phone call, especially if he was doing a mathematical calculation in his head, it was nearly impossible to distract him. I do remember him sometimes becoming irritated by background noise, or kids playing loudly outside (of whom I was often one).

If the sound of my playing managed to penetrate his concentration he would tell me to play somewhere else or simply to be quiet, and then he would go back to concentrating. His level of concentration was extraordinary, and it was a big part of what made him successful.

For me, understanding that we can develop our ability to concentrate feels a bit like “cracking the code” of success. I mean, it’s easy to look at people who are extraordinarily successful and simply attribute their success to natural talent, sheer luck or hard work. And in many cases, of course, all three of those things are true, but it’s also true that many of those phenomenally successful people have a great capacity for concentration that they have developed consciously or otherwise. And we can do the same.

But concentration matters for another reason too. The spiritual teacher Yogananda writes, “To be able to concentrate is essential for spiritual progress; without concentration you shall never find God.”

For me, each writing session provides an opportunity to consciously slow down and deliberately attempt to fully experience the present. I endeavor to carry this mindfulness into every aspect of my life, and those ephemeral moments when I succeed in this effort are always gratifying.

It’s not always easy, but it’s a challenge worthy of a lifetime of effort. This, I think, is what author Frank Herbert recognized when he wrote the words I opened with: “A man is a fool not to put everything he has, at any given moment, into what he is creating.”

After all, our only point of power exists in the present.

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