Tag Archives: Author: Clayton Bye

Contrarianism by Clayton Clifford Bye

Contrarianism in action: Spock and I prepare to take on some invaders. Note: I’m 6′ 1″ tall

 

A True Story.

I came home one evening from a fourteen-hour workday, having had three hours of sleep the night before. I was tired, cranky and hungry.

My wife met me at the door and said “Can you take us over to the church for Kid’s Club?”

My gut-level response? Gripe!

Yeah, that’s right. I wanted to say no. I wanted to remind her that if she had a driver’s license she wouldn’t need to ask. I wanted to say that the kids could skip their meeting this week. I wanted to ask “What about my dinner?”

But what I wanted wasn’t the best response. It wasn’t even the right response. It was a typical response.

Here’s what I forced myself to do instead: I smiled. I said “Sure.” I trudged out into the cold, scraped the frost off the windows of the car, started it up, went back inside and gave everyone a hug. I did this because it was exactly the opposite of what I wanted to do.

This story took place several years ago, yet similar choices are required of me every day. It’s something that will never change. Success demands you choose actions that are out of the ordinary–every day. Are you prepared to make that commitment?

The Incredible Power Of Contrarianism.

You want a better than average life? Stop doing what most people do. Begin right now. Don’t wait until later today. Don’t put it off until tomorrow. Make some different choices–right now.

I’m serious about this! Change is one of the most universally hated events. You should be prepared to welcome it for that reason alone–just because most other people won’t. Call it Contrarian Thinking or Contrarianism. It’s a way to force yourself to look at your choices from a different perspective.

Here’s the drill… When you want to generate better results than you’ve been getting, consider choosing a behaviour opposite of what you (or most people) would normally select in this particular situation. Now, I’m not saying you have to follow the course of action this exercise points you toward. Just give it serious consideration. Does this choice offer the possibility of better results? Do you have anything to lose by attempting this task? What other alternatives can you think of that might lead you away from the ordinary and toward the extraordinary? Make the best decision for you, based on the results you’re after.

In concise terms, Contrarians believe that the average person isn’t overly healthy, wealthy or happy, that these people just don’t make the right choices, or take the right actions, that lead to a better lifestyle. Contrarian philosophy also suggests outstanding achievement might be as simple a matter as choosing behaviours exactly opposite the average.

Emulate the exceptional not the ineffectual.

Let me ask you a couple of direct questions. Do most of the people you know deal with change well? Do you? If the answer was no (and it should have been), then there’s the justification for becoming a Contrarian. Simply put, if the results most people obtain in a given situation aren’t outstanding, why would you want to behave the way they do?

Let’s use this article as an example of what I’m talking about. A lot of people tend to read self-help literature passively, using the same approach they’d choose when sitting down with a novel. Be a Contrarian; do the opposite! Stop reading the moment you finish this paragraph, and act on what you’ve learned so far. Do something that opposes your normal choices. Not overly affectionate toward your spouse? Get up and give the guy or gal a hug. Say “I love you.” Better yet, put on the coffee, get them something to read and do those dishes they were about to do; show them you love them. It’s the opposite of what you’d normally do, and yet it makes sense, doesn’t it? We all know intuitively that better behaviours lead to better relationships. So, try what I’ve suggested… Put the article aside for awhile, and do something that’s out of character, that’s the exact opposite of what you usually do.

Convinced? Probably not. But that’s alright. Success is a journey, not a destination. The key is to keep moving in the right direction, to make more good decisions than bad.

Let’s look at another example of the kind of success-oriented movement that can be generated through Contrarian thinking. This one deals with procrastination, a problem of epidemic proportions.

Most people, I’m sure you’d agree, have problems with their to-do lists. I know I did. The pressure of things left undone was a constant in my life, and there were always tasks that seemed to get put off until they became so urgent they superceded everything else, wreaking havoc with scheduled work, interfering with more pleasant pastimes, threatening the quality of my life. Solution? Using Contrarian philosophy, I began to do the exact opposite of what I’d been doing. Specifically, I made the commitment to do my unpleasant tasks at the beginning of each day. After these tasks were completed, I’d go through the rest of the day working on a list of prioritized goals, refusing to worry about items shelved for another day because of time constraints. The results not only astounded me, they changed my life.

A Powerful Contrarian Technique.

Step 1: Find the most distasteful job on your to-do list and get it done. Why? The choice represents contrarian philosophy as well as any example I could give you. There’s something invigorating about clearing a repugnant task from your list of things to do, and it’s uncommon behaviour. Try it. You won’t be disappointed.

Step 2: From now on, begin each morning by doing the least preferable job(s) of the day. Chances are you’ll feel so good about yourself procrastination won’t seem half so attractive.

Step 3: Go through the rest of your day working from a list of prioritized goals. Recognize that worrying about things left undone is counterproductive, that a steady, energetic and worry-free progression through your most important goals will leave you further ahead at the end of the day than anything else you could do. It’s another uncommon or Contrarian choice.

Remember: When you’re prioritizing, don’t fall into the habit of putting jobs at the bottom of your list because they’re difficult, or boring, or nasty or… You get my drift, right? Arrange your tasks according to their importance and urgency, not by degree of difficulty.

I have many such examples of Contrarianism in action…

Are you, or have you ever been, a couch potato? I have. Here’s how I beat the habit: I made the decision to give my wife $5 for her personal shopping fund every time I thought about turning on the television or renting a movie. The end result was I don’t watch as much television as I used to, and my wife was able to enjoy several months of shopping at my expense.

Do you have the habit of laying blame when something unpleasant happens? You’re not alone. The Contrarian (and difficult) choice is to take responsibility where most people wouldn’t. After all, there’s a staggering probability that at some point in the chain of events there was an opportunity for you to have done something to change the results you experienced. The Contrarian would also find out what it was they could have done to get better results and would make the decision to alter their behaviour next time around.

Have you got the idea? By identifying the things most people aren’t willing to do–then doing those things yourself–you put yourself way out in front of the pack. So, stop wasting time. Make the change right now. Get contrary. Get different. Get on the high road to success.

Stop doing what most people do, and start doing what successful people do.

Is that all there is to it? Do successful people just choose behaviours that oppose the average? For the most part, yes. In general, successful people set goals they’re going to enjoy pursuing, work hard on a daily basis to achieve those goals, do the best they can within the realm of their abilities and spend little time worrying about what they can’t do or what others think. You must know, you must recognize, that the average person doesn’t go through life this way. The average person is reactive, rather than proactive. The average person doesn’t chart and adhere to a specific course but tends to be at the mercy of the winds of change, a statement supported by the lack of preparedness often exhibited when a strong wind blows through.

Think I’m being too harsh? Then consider this course of action: Get a pen and paper and write down exactly what you want from life, when you want these things to happen and the resources you’ll probably need. Break each of these large goals down into smaller and smaller tasks until you get to something you can do immediately. Do this thing. Then do the next task. And the next. And so on.

What? It’s too hard? It’ll take too much time? Well, you’re right. It should become obvious that this exercise is one without end, that will take you a lifetime to complete. But that’s the point. I’m convinced there are few people in this world who make the decision to spend each of the days they’ve been given on this earth “on purpose.” Yet this is exactly what I’ve observed successful people doing! If there’s one ability these individuals share, it’s focus. Successful people “dig in.” They refuse to be daunted by the lifelong challenge implied by the word “success.” Successful people know what they want and go for it.

Be willing to cultivate experiences which will move you relentlessly toward your goals. Why? Because the average person won’t, and the successful person will.

Spend the rest of your days “on purpose.”

The idea is so elegantly simple. At some level, I believe all successful people recognize that the meaning they choose to place on their experiences determines the direction and shape of their lives. It’s like having a pair of magic glasses to illuminate what’s important and to diminish what’s not, and it bestows the power to make the right choices.

This insight is important! If you can manage to interpret your future experiences in positive, constructive or proactive ways, I’m convinced you can accomplish virtually anything you can envision. Why not begin now?

Get On Purpose.

1. Review the patterns in your life, making a list of things you enjoy doing that you’re also good at. If you come up with zilch, go out and try new experiences until you do find a pastime you can enjoy. Reasoning? If you can’t enjoy what you do, you’ll never achieve an enjoyable lifestyle.

2. Lurking within this list of things you enjoy are thousands of opportunities. Your next job is to find a product, service or idea you can sell that’s related to this list. That’s right–sell. The only way anyone ever makes any money is to sell a product or a service or an idea. Every job in the world is, in some way, a service. All businesses sell something. And behind every one of these businesses and services are ideas people have either discovered or bought. It’s something everyone should think about, if not understand.

3. As for achieving outstanding success in the field you’ve chosen, the procedure is simple… Your earnings will always rise in direct ratio to the following:

a) The demand for what you do.

It’s up to you to find this demand, or create it.

b) How well you do it.

This is where the enjoyment comes in. If you don’t enjoy what you do, you’ll never put in enough practice time to become outstanding at it.

c) How difficult it is to replace you.

The more valuable you make yourself in the eyes of your direct customer, the more difficult it becomes to replace you.

Alright, that was a global approach for getting “on purpose.” But what do you do about staying focused on a daily basis? I like to use what I call the 4 A’s of Achievement. It’s a system I devised for keeping me focused on the results I want from life. The system has helped me to maintain perspective, and it has led me to some outstanding achievements. I know it can do the same for you.

The Four A’s of Achievement.

Awareness: Know what you want–from life, from this day or even from your current task. Plan each leg of your journey “on purpose” and with daily enjoyment in mind.

This is so important! Specific destinations give you a target to aim for, or a direction in which to travel. They give you that all-important thing called focus. Having fun while you’re at it increases the likelihood that you’ll repeat the behaviour.

Action: Get moving! Small achievable steps, taken on a consistent basis, will get you where you want to go.

Virtually any vision you can hold in your mind can be accomplished in time. And as this is a life you’re planning, the only thing with the power to actually stop you is death itself. So, get moving!

Analysis: Keep your eyes open. Learn to recognize when you’re on course and when you’re not.

Think about it: Those miles you rack up every day will only get you to your next port of call if you’re travelling in the right direction. Look for signs. Write things down! Check up on yourself. Stay on course. Get “on purpose.”

Adjustment: If you find a good vehicle or a good road to travel, stick with it long enough to make some progress in the direction of your goal(s). But please! If you take a wrong turn, never hesitate to make a course correction. All good navigators know that staying on course is primarily a matter of small and continuous adjustments to keep from drifting off target.

Be prepared to modify your behaviour and actions as required.

That’s it. The uncomplicated but never easy path to the good life: Consistent and purposeful action over a lifetime – with a vigilant eye on the results.

To recap:

Figure out what you could enjoy doing with the rest of your life, then put your focus on behaviours with the potential to get you living that way. Pay attention to the results you get, making adjustments when needed. Become a Contrarian. Do what others are unwilling to do. Strive to find positive and productive meaning in each experience you have, rather than thinking, feeling, talking and acting as you have in the past. Dare to be different! If nothing else, you’ll end up with a more useful set of beliefs about what you’re capable of and about how the world works. Personally, I think the ride’s going to be more exciting than you could ever imagine. Have fun.

Copyright © 2017 Clayton Clifford Bye

An Introduction to What I Found in the Dark by Clayton Clifford Bye

These 12 poems are the first of 50 thematic poems that can be found in my collection called What I Found in the Dark. Available on Amazon, through most stores and at http://shop.claytonbye.com

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1. The dark between this life and the next, between past and future or between mind and matter haunts all of us at one time or another. Yet… there is beauty in what we can’t see and must imagine.

Headpins

Headpins
at contiguous depths
send blue lightning
across clouded voids
to be caught
by red-laced fingers
that recreate
the perfect sound
of a drop of water
splashing on skin.

 

  1. Too often we look inward where shadowed rooms filled with sideshow mirrors bend the “I” to fit what we expect and want to see. Thus, it is the rare person who can state “this is who and where I am.”

Grace

Happenstance is but a way of words,
the stumbling path of fools;
yet a trail met in the wooded night
cares not for weathered rules.

Deaf and dumb goes the traveler
toward the outer shape;
glancing not beneath the rock and leaf,
a sketch of the human ape.

But in vapid searching one still learns
to scratch the inner vein.
Eyes roll and bangles burn in that light,
the answers seem insane…

For piercing the learning dark we see
new visions clear and clean,
struggling with our ever-cluttered minds
to grasp what they might mean:

I can’t speak for you my passing friend—
what beauty lies inside;
my own journey is answered below
but still seems a fair ride…

A white-winged horse and a graceful moon
seek form in mountain fire,
while I, the fool, not too simple yet
of ornaments do tire.

 

  1. The excitement of a child stumbling upon one of the miracles we adults have become too jaded to enjoy and often too blind to see emphasizes the veil—darkness between one generation and the next, between past and present, and between each and every one of us.

A Hole in the Clouds

radiant beams
a hole in the clouds
gossamer strands
speak out loud
warmed heart
a child’s eyes aglow
soul is livened
I drive slow

 

  1. It’s said we realize the extent of a loss only after the thing has gone into the dark, and even though we might wish with all of our being to go back, it just doesn’t seem possible.

Loss

A crystal passage from here to there
but no light with which to see.
“So what?” he asks with bitterness,
that door is closed to me.

 

  1. I was playing with words when I was given a brief look at how my thoughts could touch another, one who had traveled through the dark and found me after a quarter of a century.

Found

Secret longings, mind-burnt,
now loosed from my soul,
are sweet knives outward slicing,
host-bound on the wind;

Diamond ice, time-picked clean,
will melt asunder,
a heart met in morning hours,
her dark eyes of joy.

 

  1. Sometimes the veil wraps around a life, keeping all who would see out, and leaving you to walk alone in the metaphoric dark.

The Town of Me

My days have been
the passing of dreams,
not quite real clouds
built of smoke and dust,
marking each pained
but gritty footstep
with rasping laughter
to steal away
the life-blood of
this aging ghost town,
while colourless
thoughts raised without form
walk through my halls,
echoes of silence.

 

  1. When love is brought to an empty, monotone life it may, at first, be difficult to see the changes wrought.

An Awakening

The heart loomed
royal purple
in a life of faded hues.
“What manner of beast is this?”
asked the startled soul,
ripped from living death;
fresh blood dripping from flat eyes
to colour white, wrinkled skin:
illustrating
new growth to come.

 

  1. An old farm has slipped into the dark, yet the golden glow of life in a child resurrects it—if only for a little while…

The Farm

Down to the chicken coop,
played inside,
ghost birds chuckle
as white eggs gleam
between shadow and sun.

The silver of rooftop tin
beckons me
to gray barn boards,
twisted, bent, proud—
old scents of animal hay.

Swing do I on hand coiled hemp,
bright new wings
challenge horse flies
over watching
Calico cat named Queenie.

Heavy drops of summer rain
chase me quick
to dusty tomes,
attic-hidden
above Grandad’s model-A.

Space Operas call my name;
I visit:
Tycho on moon;
fight for my life
in airless dust;
Saved! by alien contact.

Gram’s voice floats high in the wind,
brings me back
through cedar smells:
shavings, raw wood,
to bubbling tang
of strawberry-rhubarb pie.

 

  1. Love is a powerful thing: it can shine light where naught but dark has reigned for an eternity, and it can crack open the black casket of a broken heart.

Mind Places

Arriving:
soft steps,
veritas upon dark soil
alive with
light moves;
pale, warm breath undulating
catches fire
within
branches, perse and ardent trees.

I look up:
ripped wings
wind-sung in endless heaven,
virescent
in sun,
an abeyant but hungered
watching soul—
marking the path before me.

She calls me,
hard fought,
sweet pains of life taken in
without charge:
transposed;
now to shine upon my heart,
rescinding
a sentence once self-bestowed.

Unburdened,
factious
beasts of emotion vie for
a warm place
in light;
moors of heather bleeding a
desire seeks
to found a knoll of power.

Home at last:
secret
flesh opened to spoken love,
beating hard,
flutters,
butterfly wings God-given;
all tinges
hinting of wondrous eras to come.

 

  1. I was lost, yet unknown to me, she had already traveled the same dark road, following a light I didn’t believe existed.

Remembrance

Her darkness beckons to me
from the distance of a winter night,
to walk upon ancient and unknown shores
without the use of seeing eyes.

Her grace is cast on the moon,
black hair glistens in the light,
and with the cold, harsh wind
a teardrop falls into my dream.

Ease by rock so wet and black,
taste the salt upon her lips;
keep those hard-found treasures:
the ice-cold stone becomes so thin.

Oh, I can see the beauty,
and find warmth beneath the darkened land,
but will I ever know from what still pool
came that pure water in her hand?

 

  1. I’ve found that what we perceive as darkness can actually contain the most brilliant of lights: love.

I’m loved

There is a deepness,
not dark,
an inner universe
starlit,
emotional suns
of brilliant blue;

these freely given
soul orbs
keep alive my dreaming
life wish:
the two hearts I have—
oh, such wonder.

 

  1. If a heart closes, whatever good is hidden there doesn’t die: it waits in the dark, sometimes quietly, other times raging for release. The lucky ones are found, their hearts cracked like chestnuts, to reveal that which has been saved for all time.

God Smiled

God smiled upon me yesterday:
a voice from the past
was sweet water
on a dry and dusty evening;

the voice of a resurrected
angel with dark hair
came soft and warm
from across the digital heavens;

reciting stories of sunsets,
salty ocean air,
halibut steaks,
The Barra MacNeils and clams to dig.

And love, true, pure, glistening, free;
polished by the years,
honed with worry,
then set loose with faith and dignity.

I take it in with gratitude,
open my locked heart,

speak the words there
and hope what’s revealed can make things right.

 

Clayton Bye is a specialist writer. And while he has written many of hisclay own books, stories and reviews he now focuses on his work as a ghostwriter (40 books and counting) who listens carefully to the customer and then skillfully draws out the story they want to get on paper. Contact him directly to
discuss the book you want to write and to inquire about rates: ccbye@shaw.ca

Stiletto

Warning:  This story contains explicit language.

 

Gunners_stiletto_01

What happens when society begins to paint individuals in colours they don’t like? Well, I think I have an answer for you. And it begins and ends with my stiletto. This was a blade I had fashioned a few years ago, as part of my Knights Templar collection. But unlike my ceremonial swords and daggers, this piece was battle ready. Good strong steel, utilitarian design—its point proclaiming its wicked function; this triangular blade was made for stabbing.

A stiletto, you see, traditionally refers to a type of knife blade which is triangular in design rather than flat. It’s also longer than an average blade. And while it’s often referred to as a knife, a better term would be a dagger or a sword dagger―due to the cross piece between the handle and the blade. The triangular construction of the blade makes for dull edges. On the other hand, the blade is strong, much stronger than a normal knife. And then there’s that extremely sharp point. It’s this function that makes the blade ideal for stabbing, and in the past it was known to be damned good at passing through the ribs to get at the heart or lungs of an enemy.

The Italians developed the stiletto in the late 1400’s, when the art of the Vendetta, or honor duel, was openly practiced by the noble and the wealthy. A rapier (long, thin sword) would be held in one hand, and a stiletto dagger with wide cross guard would be held in the other. The stiletto could be used to fend off an opponent’s sword or catch and trap it along the cross guard. It could even be used for attacking.

The blade was also made in circular and diamond shapes, but they all had the common needle-like point. So popular were these blades that they went on to be adopted by professional assassins as their weapon of choice, both for the stabbing ability and because the dagger could be easily hidden on the body. In fact, the stiletto was so effective that entire countries banned its use.

And so we come to another reason I had the stiletto made. It was as a thumb-jerk reaction to the Mounties pulling my gun license. You see, I’d grown up with rifles and such, and right or wrong, I’d always felt safer knowing there was that kind of protection in my home. You might ask “Protection from what?” Home invasion, the drunks that have twice tried to break into my home, societal breakdown, war—I could name any number of reasons, and they would all seem somehow less frightening, because I had a good weapon at hand. Anyway, now, due to the onset of Bipolar Disorder and a three week hospital stay, I was suddenly unfit to be around firearms. I had been banned from owning or using them―painted by the same brush as those ancients who would have used the stiletto. Well fuck them; I was going to have protection. And I loved the deliciously circular nature of my situation and weapon of choice.

You see, the situation I alluded to at the beginning of my little story has nothing to do with the original issue of protection. It’s about justice…an eye for an eye. You know, that fucking McGonagle didn’t even get jail time. Road conditions, they said. Black ice, they said. Yeah, that’s why my baby’s chest was flattened. Not because the asshole was driving too fast, but because the road was icy, and Penny had enjoyed a couple of drinks before heading out for the evening. My ass. Penny would never have been that close to the side of the road, drunk or not. She always walked as far away as she could get from traffic. Her mom had lost a brother to a drunk driver, and there was no way Penny was going to repeat the tragedy. No, the fuck was driving too fast for the road condition and lost control of the vehicle. I knew it. So did he. I’d seen it in his eyes—they gleamed when the verdict was announced.

Well, I was going to fix him. No more thinking about it over and over and over again. The time had come to clear my mind. I stuck the stiletto in my waistband, the cold metal burning against my bared flesh, and I headed out. McGonagle was going get it right under the rib cage and straight up into his black, fucking heart.

I waited until midnight. The cops should have gotten their quota of drunk drivers by then. The town would be quiet, but there would still be enough traffic that I wouldn’t stand out. When I got to his place, I left the car on the street and walked up to the darkened house. I wasn’t worried about getting caught, see? But I wasn’t going give the OPP (Ontario Provincial Police) a slam dunk, either. Trying to act like I belonged there, I went to the front door and pretended to jiggle the lock with my car keys. I needn’t have worried; the idiot didn’t lock his door at night.

Now for the tough part. There were going be two kids and a wife in the house. I’d cased the place and had figured out everyone slept upstairs. Kids at the back of the house and the parents up front. Their door would be right near the top of the stairs.

I went into the house, took the stairs quietly in my soft-soled Keds, and opened the nicely weighted, oak bedroom door without hesitation, without sound. I was going to get one shot at this, and I wasn’t wasting a second. The streetlights, shining through a large window, illuminated both the man and the woman.

I’m never going to forget McGonagle’s face… My luck, he was sleeping on his back. I walked around the bed, lifted his blanket and I shoved that steel pin as hard and as deep as I could. He made a huff and his eyes opened. I shoved my face into his and leaned into the weapon. It was just like killing a trapped fox. Take hold of the chest and keep the pressure on until the heart stops. He was trying to buck now. I didn’t want to have to deal with his wife, so, keeping one foot on the floor, I laid down right on top of him. There was very little blood. A stiletto is like a wedge, and it doesn’t have grooves for bloodletting and easy removal like a hunting knife has. No, the thing went in and stayed put until I wanted it to come back out.

And that’s why I say it begins and ends with the stiletto. There’s only one place in Canada that makes a dagger like that. If the cops were on the ball, they’d find out I bought one. But it wasn’t going to be a free throw by any means. I paid cash for the blade, used a fake name and had it sent to a U.S. mail drop. We Canadians have a lot of those drops just over the American border. They don’t care what’s in a box. Don’t even care where it’s from.

So, yes, there was that paper trail, but I bought enough in the way of weapons and supplies, I was hoping it was never put together. And when the cops asked me about it, well,  I wouldn’t know what they were talking about.  “I collect swords, gentlemen,” I would say. “Used to collect rifles, too.” Then I’d pause… “No, the only knives I have are a hunting knife and a set of carving knives.” Hopefully they would be stumped.

Anyway, I’m home now. McGonagle’s wife didn’t wake up. Even when the prick shit himself. It’s late, my clothes have been burned, the stiletto’s gone forever. And I’m nursing a double shot of Blair Athol single malt, rare, 27 years-old and the perfect end to a very good day.

 

Copyright  2014 Clayton Clifford Bye

Focus is Everything by C.C. Bye

iceburgOne summer, when I was working at the top of  the Arctic Archipelago in an eight-person settlement known as Eureka, an iceberg ran aground in the strait between Ellesmere and Axel-Heiberg Islands. I enjoyed the novelty of having a mountain of ice parked outside my window, but I must admit it soon became just another part of the scenery. The same thing happened with the wolves who hunted us every time we left the confines of our buildings, and with the rabbits who achieved such tremendous speeds when racing our enclosed snow cruiser that they were able to bound along upright, front legs never touching the ground. Such strange and beautiful sights become mundane when they occur too often.

Then came a cold January day when our cook, an axe in one hand and a cardboard box in the other, asked me to go out to the berg and get him some ice. I already thought he was an eccentric, so I bit my tongue and went for a stroll.

“Make sure you get  ice from the centre of the face,” he hollered to me as I trudged out  into  the  – 40°C air.

I did what he asked. Even though the face of the berg was in shadow, and the air that pooled there seemed to be inordinately cold, and I was convinced the 30-foot wall of ice was poised to fall on my head.

When I got back, Cookie thanked me, indicated that I should put the box in the walk-in freezer, then  went on preparing dinner. No big deal. No explanations given.

Later that evening, a few of us gathered in the common room to watch a canned hockey game which had been flown in from Winnipeg. This was before the advent of satellite TV, so it was something of an event for us. Cookie came in and surprised me with one of my favourite drinks—good Canadian rye, a small amount of ginger ale and lots of ice. In fact, the tumbler was filled with so much chipped ice that rivulets of condensation had begun to run down its sides. The odd little fellow chuckled, winked at me and said, “There’s something about million-year-old ice that just makes a drink taste better.” He was right.

Many years have passed since that memorable day. Cookie’s most likely in his grave. I’ve begun to feel the sear of age myself. But every now and then, when I have a spare moment, I think about ancient ice in my drink, and the company of wolves, and I smile.

Life has helped me to understand that whether it’s a certain piece of art catching the morning light in a way that  delights, or  a walk along a leaf-strewn country road, or icebergs that run aground outside your bedroom window, the trick to having an interesting life that’s filled with beauty, is to make these things your centre of activity or interest. You must make them your focus. Because of this, I do my utter best to spend my days purposely drinking the juice of life. Yet the iceberg story is proof that beauty can also be found in memories and that it’s important to make time for revisiting them.

You can take this idea a step further by accepting those ugly, disheartening events that life seems to present with unnerving regularity. Accept them, but don’t let them affect you. Understand that they’ll eventually pass, and that you’ve the choice to refocus on better things. There’s also no rule that says you ever have to think about them again. You choose what you remember and how you remember.

A death can become a reason to celebrate someone’s life. A lost job is an opportunity to try the career you’ve always dreamt of. A failed romance has the potential to teach you about man’s incredible capacity for love. And a struggle with disease can renew your zest for life. You have the power to recall and reshape your experiences so that they work for you.

This is a simple concept with the power to transform our lives, but it’s worthless unless applied. I challenge you to spend today on the conscious enjoyment of beauty, allowing all else to be diminished or ignored. Choose to build beautiful memories while forgetting everything else. The exercise represents an important step in creating a truly enjoyable life. It can also help you to understand that focus is everything.

If you enjoyed this essay, then you’ll enjoy the countless other stories in The Contrary Canadian, available on Amazon or at my own store at http://shop.claytonbye.com

The Contrary Canadian

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A casual hike in the early 1980’s changed the course of my life. I was a meteorological technician stationed at Alert, a Canadian military site on the upper tip of Ellesmere Island—just a few hundred miles from the North Pole.

I’d persuaded an army buddy to accompany me on a prospecting trip for some of the unique black crystals that were on display at the base. We spent a few hours working our way through a maze of gullies, fording ice-rimmed streams, even crossing paths with a herd of reindeer. Another thirty minutes of walking over relatively level bench land saw us arrive in a narrow valley formed by the bases of the twin mountains we’d chosen as our destination.

Unaccustomed to such treks, I found myself winded and loath to take another step. I set down my pack, lowered an aching body to the ground and tried to put my focus elsewhere. It wasn’t long before I noticed the face of the smallest mountain was covered with ugly scars.

“Those are holes left by people who were digging for crystals,” my friend said.

“What about the other one?” I asked, indicating the unblemished surface of the larger sister.

“No one goes up there,” he replied. “No crystals.”

We turned our attention to laying out a lunch of sandwiches, fruit and hot coffee. Then, sitting with our backs against the foot of Big Sister, sheltered from the wind yet able to enjoy the sun, we studied the mountain in front of us and contemplated our next task.

My companion wanted to work some of the existing holes on the lower slopes, but something about those excavation marks didn’t sit well with me. I bit into a sandwich, turned my gaze away and looked up at the pristine slopes of Big Sister.

It came to me then, an old Robert Frost poem entitled The Road Not Taken. The implication seemed obvious: Two roads diverged, and I was going to take the one less travelled. Still, I invested a few moments to make sure I really wanted to give up my chance to acquire the rare stones I so admired. In the end, though, I chose to persuade my friend to change targets, to join me in climbing the mountain no one visited.

And what a climb it was! You’d take a step, sink at least ankle-deep into loose shale, then struggle to keep from slipping backward. Two steps up, slide a step back. Sweat poured. A stitch developed in my side. Lungs clamoured for air. Both of us questioned my intelligence.

Until, that is, we reached the summit and found a cairn that couldn’t be seen from the ground. About four feet wide at the base and just as high, the unexpected mound of rough stones made quite an impression.

“Built to last,” my friend commented.

He and I caught our breath. Then, both being convinced the structure served a special purpose, we began to poke and prod the thing. Our excitement was palpable, and justified. Within minutes we discovered a metal pipe protruding from one corner of the cairn’s foundation. In a hollow behind the pipe was a metal box which contained, written on scraps of paper, the names and comments of adventurers who’d come before us. Some dated back to the early 1960’s.

After adding my name to the cache, I walked to the northern edge of the mountain, leaned into the wind, and stared out over the partially frozen Arctic Ocean. To the east, the mountains of Greenland rose upward out of the sea. Inland and to the west,  the sun glinted off Ellesmere’s peaks. Some twenty years later, I still consider it one of the perfect moments of my life.

An important lesson was offered to me the day I left my name on that mountain at the top of the world. I learned to walk the unbeaten path, began to understand the importance of taking unique, purposeful actions. And over the years, as this lesson became an ingrained part of my life, it slowly evolved into a guiding attitude I call The Philosophy of The Road Not Taken.

The investment world has developed a similar convention known as Contrarianism. Advocates of this path pursue success through views and actions that tend to contradict prevailing wisdom. Sounds about right. Just call me The Contrary Canadian.

 

Clayton Bye is the author of 9 books, has worked as an editor and currently operates his own traditional publishing house, Chase Enterprises Publishing. Visit him at http://www.claytonbye.com or view our products at http://shop.claytonbye.com