Saturday, December 24, 2011

3 (last minute) steps to a Merry Christmas

  1. Stop stressing.  It's too late.  It's not going to do you any good now.  The people that love you will enjoy your company enough that they don't care if your house is dusty.  The people that are visiting for the wrong reasons are going to find something wrong no matter what you do.  Cater to the first group; spread joy to the second.
  2. Don't focus on just making everyone else comfortable.  While it's important, you shouldn't miss out on a wonderful celebration.  The people that care about you want to enjoy it with you.
  3. Stop reading this and go find someone to share your time with.  It doesn't matter if it's a phone call, a letter, an email, a Facebook message or face-to-face.  Connect with someone today.

Friday, December 23, 2011

That gift only matters if...

I'm sure the gifts you bought this year are fabulous.  I'm sure you spent a lot of time, money and stress making sure of that (I know I did).

The thing is, the gift only matters if there's love in the hands that give it.

When you hand those gifts over in a few days, fight the urge to stress about the bow being just right and the paper clashing with ribbon.  Instead, try taking that moment to really think about what you're doing. 

You spent all of that time at the mall.  All of that money that you worked hard for.  All of that stress for this single moment.

Take that moment in as much as you possibly can.  It's not about the gift, it's about that moment.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

"Kids are smarter now than they used to be"

Well... maybe.

They're generally better an high-level math.  They know how to use a computer and cell phone.  And they can spell words in third grade that I didn't learn until middle school.  But are they "smarter"?  I've heard it said that kids today "don't have any common sense."  And I would generally agree because, quite frankly, we don't give them a good reason to have it.

My grandfather, about whom I've written before, is in his 80's.  He has a 5th grade education.  He's not a math wiz and he would rather use a computer as a make-shift welding table than submit his taxes online with it.  But the man can think and reason like no other.  He has mind like a black hole and he's helped me solve more engineering problems than the "professionals" have been able to solve.

My fear is this.  With on-demand address books, mobile calendars synced to every Internet-enabled device we own and GPS devices directing our every turn, the way of the memory, critical thinking and reasoning is going out the window.

We aren't creating people like my grandfather any more.

I'm not saying technology is a bad thing.  Hey, I'm a software nerd; I love technology.  I'm just saying that we need to be sure to create opportunities for our children (and ourselves) to continually learn, to think critically, to solve problems, to reason deductively, to memorize and to fail and get back up.

As parents, it's our job to equip our kids to be successful.  My goal is raise my kids to be "smart" like my grandfather.  And if you knew him, I'm pretty sure that would be your goal too.

My Christmas Wishlist

I know you didn't ask, but I'm going to tell you anyway.  This is a list of what I truly want for Christmas:
  • I want us to help out when we see someone struggling.  It may mean a handshake, a simple meal or donating some clothing.  Just do something.
  • I want families to stop yelling at each other.  It's just not worth it.
  • I want parents to listen when their kids talk.  It's just worth it.
  • I want us to be passionate and inspired about the things we truly care about... and do something about it
  • I want us to forget about everything that has us stressed out for a day... an hour... the length of a conversation... whatever you can do.
  • I want us to realize that feeding a homeless man is more important than upgrading our cell phone... again
  • I want us to learn more from our children; they have so much to teach us
  • I want us to evaluate whether our motives are pure, and stop what we're doing if they're not
  • I want us to realize how blessed we truly are and stop pretending that our lives are so hard; it's insulting to those whose lives are actually hard
  • I want us to take some quiet time this Christmas and just do nothing but breathe
  • I want you to make your own Wishlist
  • I want you to read this list and pick a few things that you're good at and pat yourself on the back
  • I want you to read this list and pick a few things that you're bad at and try to get better
I think it's time that we stop saying that we want Christmas to truly be a time of family gatherings and being thankful for what the day actually means and start making it that way.  Christmas isn't going to just miraculously get less busy, less stressful and less hectic.  But, the good news is that we can choose to make it that way.  I pray that your Christmas is a calming, refreshing time where you can connect with those you've lost touch with and grow closer to those that are close. 

[Oh, one last thing.  If you don't mind, share this post (there are buttons below the post that allow you to share it directly to Facebook, Twitter, Email, etc.).  Thanks!]

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

How long does it last?

When you walk away... that feeling that people had when you were around, how long does it last after you leave?

If you make someone mad, it will generally last awhile.  Days, weeks, even years!  People tend to replay whatever it was that made them mad over and over in their head, which often drudges up that same anger again and again.

What if our goal was to leave behind a positive influence that was so strong that it had the same effect?  That when we walked away from a person or a group of people, they replayed their encounter over and over. And in doing so they were able to feel that emotional high again and again.

What happens if we pour into our family so deeply today that every time they have a spare moment, their mind is drawn to you?  How long could it last?

Let's find out!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Why can't we lose weight?

It's not that there aren't enough options.

It's not that the programs that we choose don't work.

It's that we're not committed to our goal.

It seems like a good idea until the work starts.  Or maybe even until the work is half way done.  But there are some things that take constant, focused, meticulous, relentless work.  That's the kind of work that separates the successful from the unsuccessful.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

You should do this NOW

Take a breath.  Take 5 minutes... right now and do nothing but breathe.

With Christmas coming soon and all of the stress that goes along with wrapping presents, preparing meals and visiting family, take right now to do nothing but breathe.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Who's laughing at you?

When's the last time you had a good laugh?  You know, the kind where you can barely breath, tears rolling down your cheeks and you can't stop no matter how hard you try.

We need to make sure that happens a little more often.  We concern ourselves so much with what other people think and how they're going to judge us that we forget to have fun.

So, don't worry about who's laughing at you.  Instead, laugh along with them.  It's good for all of us!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Why I want it to snow

When you think about it, it doesn't matter why.  In fact, it doesn't matter that I want it at all.  I can't make it snow.  It's kind of like wanting your favorite football team to win.  It doesn't really matter what you want because you have no control over the outcome.

Instead of focusing on the things you can't change, focus on the things that you can.  It's obvious when you're talking about the weather, but what about in your relationships?  What things do you have control over?  Your attitude.  Your actions.  Your reactions.

Forget about the things you can't change and focus on the things you can.  And if you could, make it snow for me!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The truth about criticism

I've been guilty of criticism.  Chances are that you have to.  When we take the time to criticize someone, it just means that we still have work to do.

What you see on the outside is always a reflection of what's on the inside.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Confidence vs. arrogance

It's good to be confident.  It's one of those intangible factors that helps people rise above their competition.  When you starting telling people how good you are, that's when you've stepped over the confidence line into arrogance.

Confident people are attractive.  Arrogant people are repulsive.

Be confident in the things you do... just don't tell us how good you are.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Hurting hurts

We've all been there.  Whether it's a lost loved one or a broken relationship, it hurts.  What do you do when the people you care about are hurting?

I often make excuses about not knowing what to say and not wanting to burden them with my company.  In actuality, I'm making excuses so that I don't have to be uncomfortable.

The answer is that we don't need to say anything.  We need to provide a handshake, a hug and a sympathetic ear.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.  Just be there.

I've failed miserably at this in the past, and now I'm working on it.  I encourage you to do the same.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Where has all the passion gone?

Is it just me or have we lost our passion?

As a leader, your job is to provide your people with passion.  Provide them with that inner drive to work for a greater cause.

As parents, give your kids the passion to achieve their dreams no matter how lofty they may seem.  As a business leader, give your employees the passion to show up and work hard every day... and not just because you're paying them.  As a church leader, give your congregation the passion to follow God wherever he may lead.

Many are capable of providing direction.  Few are capable of providing passion.  Let your passion spread unabashedly and be one of those few!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

I don't owe you anything

And neither does anyone else.

As soon as we start believing that someone owes us something, we stop taking responsibility for our own actions.  I've been guilty of self-pity, but the problem is that it's never-ending.  You can never pity yourself enough to get into a better place.  It only gets worse.  When we realize that no one owes us anything, we come to the logical conclusion that we need to (1) be completely self-sufficient, or (2) find someone that we can count on 100% of the time.

I don't know about you, but the thought that I could be totally self-sufficient sounds good... at first.  The problem with being self-sufficient is that it's not sustainable.  Eventually you will fall.  It's inevitable because we're all flawed.

That leads us to one place.  We need an unwavering foundation.  For me, it's my faith.  God doesn't change so I always have a marker to come back to.  He doesn't owe me anything, but He cares.

Kick the "the world owes me" mentality because it's not true.  Instead, find your foundation.  Then, when you realize that world doesn't owe you and that you're going to fall, you have a consistent starting point to begin again.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I'm a horrible listener

Yet, I expect my kids to listen.

What standard are you holding someone to today that you are unable to hold yourself to?

I've shared just one of mine so I'll start there.  Today I'm going to listen.  What are you going to do?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Are you a cynic? Take this test to find out

I once heard a wise man say that no one does anything unless they want to.  And, that you can make someone want to give you his or her wallet by putting a gun in their ribs, but they still have to want to do it.

Government typically takes the "gun in the ribs" approach (stay with me... this isn't a political debate.  I promise.).  They make laws and consequences to make people want to pay their taxes.  But that's the hard way.  There's an easier way.

Instead of making a law that rich people have to give their money to the IRS so that they can then pass it along to the welfare system and the welfare system can then pass what's left along to those in need, why not just find a way to make the rich want to give the money directly to the poor?

I can hear the cynics already.  You'll know that you're one of them if you are saying that this approach is impossible.  I would agree that it's impossible to achieve a 100% success rate.  Maybe a 95% success rate is even too much to ask.  But that's true for most everything.  Does that mean we shouldn't try?

Here's the easy way to get what you want.

  1. Forget about what you want.  Seriously?  Yes.  Seriously.  Sounds backwards, but it's true.
  2. Find out exactly what motivates the person that you need to help you.  EVERYONE is motivated by something.  I'm not referring to deception or flattery.  I mean sincerely find out what motivates them with the intention of helping.
  3. Be creative enough to find out how to link what they want to what you want.  This is where most good theories come to a screeching halt.  The hard work happens here.  There are few that will attempt this step, let alone succeed.  This is the part where you'll need to fail a few times before you succeed.  This is the place where the science ends and the art begins.  This is the good stuff.
So this post isn't about government.  It's about giving and getting at the same time.  If we take a sincere interest in our friends, co-workers, employees and kids, what a difference it would make in providing what they want (and getting what we want).  Try it and let me know how it goes.  Unless, of course, you're a cynic.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Let's bow our heads

Why?  What's the point?

Whether you're looking up or down isn't the point.  I can have my head facing down and my heart facing any direction at all.  I think we make this mistake a lot (I know I do).  We do the "right thing" on the outside, when the inside is all that matters.

I can have my head facing any direction I want when I pray, but if my heart is not in the right place it's all just for show.

Yes, this post is about praying, but this idea transcends prayer.  Don't focus on looking the part.  Don't focus on whether or not the people around you think you're doing the right thing.  Do the right thing.

Whether you'll do it or not depends on whether or not you want short-term recognition or long-term change.  So, which are you aiming for?

[Speaking of bowing your head to pray, what do you think of this?]

Saturday, December 3, 2011

What do you want to try next?

As children and young adults, we were asked to do something impossible.  We were asked (or told) to define what we wanted to do for the rest of our lives.  We were told that we needed to pick a career, that we needed to go to college, that we needed to get a job.  Don't misunderstand. I believe in hard work.  Here's the problem that I have.  Many of us don't know what we want to do now, let alone when we were still in high school.

I think we need a paradigm shift when we talk to our kids about defining their future.  The question is not, "What do you want to do for the rest of your life?"  The question is, "What do you want to try next?"

Encourage them to figure out what they want to try next and push them to do that one thing to the best of their ability.  If they want to try going to college, help them.  If they want to join a band, take an interest in it (even if it's not the kind of music that you like).  If they want to deliver pizzas, tell them to do it.

Push them to define what they want to try next and encourage them to do that thing whole-heartedly.

Then, do the same thing for yourself...

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Whose opinion do you value?

I know whose opinion you should value.  The people that you can say this about:

  1. They have my best interest in mind.
  2. They are willing to call me out when I'm wrong... even if it makes them uncomfortable.
Find a few people like this and hold onto them as tight as you can.  They will make you a better person.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Are you missing "it"?

Where are you right this minute?  Me?  I'm sitting in front of my computer writing what you eventually read.

Why am I here right now?

So that I can write this blog.  So that I can share my ideas with the world.  So you have something to do to pass the time while eating lunch.

Maybe.  But maybe all of that is wrong.  Maybe the reason that I think I'm here right now is not the real reason.

We often get caught up in the big picture stuff and we miss the little details of why we are in a certain place at a certain time.  Do your thing.  Keep your schedule.  Plan your activities.  Go to work.  Clean your house.  Write your books.  But don't miss "it."

If you're a mom, don't get so caught up in "taking care" of your kids that you forget to appreciate them.

If you're a business owner, don't get so caught up in "the bottom line" that you forget to listen to your customers' needs (or complaints).

If you're just a (busy) regular Joe like me, don't get so caught up in your day-to-day to-do list that you forget to have coffee with a friend.

Do your thing.  But don't miss "it" along the way.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


After cutting weight for a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) tournament a few weeks back, I realized something.  Mental endurance is so much harder to achieve than physical endurance.

Much of mental endurance deals with denying yourself.  Denying yourself comfort, or food, or extravagant gifts, or the comforts of home.

However, denying yourself is often needed for causes bigger than ourselves.

Whether it's denying yourself extra Christmas gifts so that you can donate more money to those in true need or denying yourself the comfort of lying in bed for an extra hour so that you can go to the gym, it takes work.  And it takes practice.

Start small.  Find something today that you need to deny yourself for the great good (in our culture, food and money are easy places to start!).  And most of all, don't stop after today.  Keep practicing!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Invisible or invincible?

I'm sure you've all heard this before.  If given the choice, what super power would you choose?  The ability to fly?  Invincibility?  Invisibility?  Being able to breathe underwater?  The power to turn your hearing on and off?  (Mom's are the most likely candidate to vote for this one.)

But, what are your real super powers?  What is it that you can do that no one else can do?

Can you comfort your children better than anyone else?  Are you the only one that your friends can trust to listen without judging?  Are you the one that turns ideas into products?  Or maybe you're the one that makes a home run like a well-oiled machine.

Figure out what your super power is... no excuses!  Saying that you don't have one is taking the easy way out.  And age doesn't disqualify you either; if you don't know your super power, keep looking.  I'm still looking for mine, too.

After you discover it, use your super power to do the things that no one else can do.  Love your family.  Organize projects.  Listen to people and love them.  Whatever it is that you can do like no one else, do it like no one else!

Friday, November 25, 2011

The triage of being a mom

I know.  Who am I to be writing about being a mom?

I consider myself somewhat of an authority on mom's because I get to see, on a daily basis, an absolutely wonderful Mom at work.  I learn from you every day, Cora.  Thank you!

Here's one thing I've learned.  Being a mom is like being a triage nurse (only you don't get a day off).  Your job is to prioritize the thousands of things on your (and your family's) to-do list and make sure it all gets done.  From making food, to waking tired children for school, to tying shoes, to putting Band-Aids on bruises... you, Mom, are the master of triage.

Can I give you one piece of advice?

Sometimes, the most important thing you can do is relax.  Sometimes the demands of your children need to take a back seat to you.  You are important.  And without you, the triage falls apart quickly.  So, don't forget to evaluate your needs in your daily triage.  Take a break.  You deserve it!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Who is thankful for you?

Did you ever ask yourself that question?  If not, try it.  Who are you pouring into?  Who would miss you if you didn't show up today?  Whose day would be different if you disappeared?

The interesting thing is that if we made that list, it would probably be wrong.  We often have no idea who really needs us.  We don't realize how the little things that we do affect people greatly.

You can try to make the list (and I think there's value in that), but more importantly, keep doing the little things. Keep caring.  Keep trying.  Keep smiling.  Keep giving people a reason to miss you.  You have no idea who is thankful for you and the things you do.

Hebrews 12:28-29

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I'm not sure what this means

I keep hearing people say, "We should give thanks this week."  Frankly, I'm not sure what "give thanks" even means.  So I looked it up...

give (verb): to make a present of
thanks (noun): kindly or grateful thoughts

Okay, I think I get it now (although I'm still not sure how I "make a present of grateful thoughts"). 

This idea seems a little weak and watered down.  Granted, I've posted before about the power of kind words, and there is definite value in them.  But words are easy, and actions are tough.  I challenge you to show gratitude this week.

Showing gratitude causes us to leave our comfort zone and pushes us to do something out of the ordinary to show someone how thankful you are for them.  Spiritually, maybe this means updating your prayer life.  In your relationships, maybe this means an unexpected card to a loved one.  In business, maybe this means calling a customer to thank them rather than to sell to them.

Adapt it for your situation, but show gratitude and don't settle for "making a present of grateful thoughts."

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I get to keep driving

I drive past a funeral home every day on my way to work.  This morning, though, something was different.  There were attendants in the parking lot.  There were cars with tiny, orange funeral flags.  There were dozens of black suits and dresses.  There were freshly washed, black cars.  There were tears.

The difference between those people dressed in black and me, was that I got to keep driving.  I didn't have to stop and feel their pain.  I didn't have to answer the tough questions that the children were asking.  I didn't have to hurt.  I could ignore it all and go on with my day.

But for a few rare exceptions, I think that we each do this every day.  We know there are hungry people in the world.  We know there are kids in our neighborhood that need a warmer coat for their long walk to school.  We know we'll see the homeless guy at the on-ramp on our way to the mall... and ignore him.  We get to keep driving.

I encourage you... actually... I'm begging you... do something good for someone this week.  Or better yet, today.

Just so you don't have any excuses, here are some ideas:
  • Call the local homeless shelter and see what they are in need of.  Here's the number for one in Erie, PA: Hope House for Families (814-456-8073).  Not in Erie?  Go here: and find a local one.
  • Drop off some old coats, gloves, hats, etc. at a Salvation Army location.  Just use Google Maps and type in "Salvation Army."  I'm sure you can find something to give.
  • When you see that homeless guy, give him some money.  Or better yet, ask him if he'd like to share a meal with your family.  It's easy to judge people that we know nothing about.
  • Go to Stars of Kenya and help Pastor Joshua feed some women and children.
Please stop and help.  Just because we get to keep driving doesn't mean we should.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Forgive and... remember?

I don't really think "forgive and forget" is the healthy approach to a tough situation.

Forgiving and remembering is a better idea.  If we need to forgive someone, they most likely have done something wrong.  If we forget what happened, then we didn't learn from it and we may make the same mistake that they did.

By all means, forgive.  But don't ever forget.

Friday, November 18, 2011

But it's bigger than me

Most meaningful causes are.

When we are passionate about a cause, we may still be overwhelmed because the task ahead seems so large.  Don't let that discourage you.  The bigger the task is, the more potential there is to do something great.

The world tries to tell us that our dreams are too big, that our intentions are ill-stated, that our definition of success is unattainable.  Those things are true if you're looking through a human-sized lens.  I like to dream through a God-sized lens... because He's bigger than me.

I recently met, by "accident," a man that dreams big through a God-sized lens.  His name is Pastor Joshua Atieno and he's doing great things through an organization called Stars of Kenya.  If you will read his blog you will see that his dreams are huge.  And they are coming true every day.  If you are able and feel the desire, help him.

Donations as little as $5.00/month are tremendously helpful.  In our ultra-inflated economy, we sometimes lose site of what $5.00 can do in other places.  Five dollars can't even buy me a meal at McDonald's, but in Kenya it can feed a widow for an entire week!

Create (or find) a cause that's bigger than you.  That's one way you can tell that it's worth investing in.

Stars of Kenya Donation Information:
  $5.00 - feeds a widow for a week
$20.00 - feeds a widow for a month
$25.00 - feeds an orphan for a month
$80.00 - buys a bunk bed, mattresses and sheets (currently in need of 20 bunk beds)

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Band-Aids and bruises

My little guy gets a wee bit rough sometimes. Okay... a lot rough. He's a little boy. He's supposed to be. Inevitably, with all of that roughness he winds up with a few bumps, scrapes and bruises. Without fail, regardless of the injury, he asks for one thing to make it all better: a Band-Aid.

Here's the secret with Band-Aids. They don't really fix anything. And they especially don't fix bruises. They do one thing very well, however. They cover up the evidence and before too long the wound has healed.

Unlike our bodies, most of the situations in our life aren't self-healing. From taking out another loan instead of being financially responsible to being arrogant to cover up our insecurities, we all have our Band-Aids. And like the Band-Aid on a bruise, our grown-up Band-Aids don't fix the problem either. They cover it up... and it just gets worse.

What Band-Aids are you using to avoid solving the real problems in your life? Think about it. Figure it out. And remember, removing a Band-Aid is painful so do it as quickly as possible.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

I love to be stereotyped

Seriously.  I love it.  Sometimes.

We're all familiar with the negative stereotypes.  But what about positive stereotypes?  What comes to mind when I say the name "Steve Jobs" or "Albert Einstein"?  Those names have become synonymous with innovation.  Those men have been stereotyped.

I think we should aim to be stereotyped.  We should aim, in both our business and personal lives, to have our name synonymous with our passion.  When people hear my name, what comes to mind?  What about when they hear yours?

We don't like to admit it, but stereotypes are often true in some form or fashion.  Define your desired stereotype and then work to get there.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Parking in the handicap spot

I've seen three people do this in the last two weeks and it makes me mad.  If you're doing it, you make me mad.  I'll be blunt.  You're lazy.

But then I realize, so am I.

No, I don't park in handicap spots.  But, I am guilty of being lazy in another way.  I have a computer sitting in my house that I'm sure could help someone.  I have a working microwave in my garage.  I have a used stove sitting right next to that microwave.  I have old coats in the attic that I haven't worn in two years.  And I'm too lazy to do something about it.

It's a major inconvenience for someone to live without a stove or warm coat, much like it is for a handicapped person to have to find a parking spot because the ones reserved for them have been taken by perfectly capable folks.

So while I get angry at people for parking in the wrong spot (and rightfully so), to avoid being a hypocrite, I have to admit that I'm no better.  I'm no different.

Here's the challenge: if you're parking in the handicap spots, stop it.  Don't be lazy.  Save them for the people that actually need them.  And I will, with the help of someone like Heidi, make sure that I stop being lazy and find a good home for the things that have been sitting around my house collecting dust.

[If you want to know more about what Heidi is doing, please contact her or myself and we can fill you in.]

You're not in control

As much as I talk about taking control of your circumstances and steering your own life, I recently had several brutal reminders that we're not always in control of our lives.

From a friend that lost two loved ones in an instant, to three separate families that lost loved ones within hours of each other (one of which wasn't much older than myself), to a very close family member with a health scare, I wasn't in control.  From the horrible disease that took a child just months ago to the abused children across the nation, I'm not in control.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: when your world gets tossed in the turmoil of reality, you need to have a resting place.  That's what my faith is for me, a resting place (among other things).

It's humbling to realize how small we are.  And encouraging to realize how loved we are in spite of our smallness.

Find your resting place.  Find your solace.  And if you ever need to talk, you know where to find me.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Science bothers me

First, there's something you should know.  I have a degree in electrical engineering, I love math more than any human should, I studied astronomy for quite some time and next to the Messiah, Albert Einstein would be my choice attendee for a dinner party at my house.  I value science.

But science bothers me.  It's not so much the science, but the "scientists."  I don't think there are many pure scientists left in the world.  We don't have a Galileo.  Science, like many other things in our world, has become more about business and less about research.

Universities bring in millions of dollars per year in federal grants to aid their research, but the purity of science gets lost between the paychecks.  It's no longer about the science.

I'm sure they started with good intentions, but the intentions got lost along the way and the focus changed.  It's easy to do.  I've definitely been guilty.

Let's not make the same mistakes in our homes, businesses, charities or ministries.  When you start your projects, make sure you know your focus.  Write it down.  Get it laminated.  Make it into a poster.  Paint it on your office wall.  Get it printed on t-shirts.  Do whatever you need to do to make sure your intentions don't get lost in the stress that it sometimes takes to produce results.  Don't lose the science.

You can try, but you can't stop him

On my way to work every morning there is an elderly gentleman that volunteers as a crossing guard near an elementary school. He's a common-looking man. Rather short with a scruffy gray beard covering a small portion of his aged face. A Yankees cap in warmer weather and a "Cousin Eddie" hat on the bitter-cold, Erie mornings.

There is something spectacular about this otherwise normal man. Every day. EVERY day, as cars drive past, he greets them with a smile and a wave. He doesn't care if you wave back. And admittedly, on my grouchier mornings, I have given a less than sincere smile and wave in return.  It doesn't matter to him. He'll be there tomorrow smiling and waving again. You can't stop him.

I need to learn a lesson from him. He's spreading joy consistently and in his own way. There's beauty in that. We need to find OUR way. There's beauty in that, also.

After several months of seeing him, I look forward to that smile on my way to work. We have no idea who needs some of our joy today. Spread yours. You may never know how many people you inspire.

Helping those we don't know

I think we have an obligation to help people.  Not just the people we know, but the people that weigh heavy on our hearts.  This story touched me for some reason.  I can't explain why.

If it touched you too, please do something about it.  Checks can be mailed to:
Dusckas Funeral Home
2607 Buffalo Road
Erie, PA  16510

Please include a memo stating that the donation is for Bree Drzewiecki.

The timeline is short, so if you feel it in your heart to give, please do so within the next 24 hours.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

I don't admire anyone

Joe Paterno.

If I would have mentioned that name a week ago, your immediate thoughts would have been much different than they were a few seconds ago when you read it.

Admiration is a tricky thing that I often get wrong.  I often make the mistake of admiring a person instead of admiring a person's actions.  I see that many people have made that same mistake as evidenced the last few days.

I can admire a man's determination.  I can admire a woman's devotion.  I can admire a child's innocence.  But when the admiration shifts from the actions to people, we're setting ourselves up for failure.

Humans are just that: human.  We're ALL going to fail.  Your heroes are going to let you down.  Your mentor is going to mess up.

The good news is this: if we admire actions, we can't be let down.  I admire what Joe Paterno did as a football coach.  The actions, not the man.  I admire what O.J. Simpson did as a running back.  The actions, not the man.  I admire the work ethic of many celebrities.  The actions, not the man.

Choose the target of your admiration carefully.  Try not to admire the person.  Then, when our heroes fail, our admiration can remain intact.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Learning to walk

Children fascinate me.  Have you ever watched a child learning to walk?  They don't care what anyone else thinks.  They're not afraid that you're going to laugh at them when they fall.  They don't care that it hurts a little when they topple over.  They don't fall once and decide to crawl for the rest of their lives.  They just get up... over and over and over and over.  And eventually, they do something incredible!

What could we accomplish if we stopped worrying about disappointing someone, or being laughed at, or suffering in the short term?  What are we capable of when we stop looking for everyone's approval and start doing the things that are hard?  What are we missing out on because we've decided to settle for crawling?

We all fall, but only some of us choose to get up... over and over and over.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

What are you celebrating?

My Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) instructor earned his black belt this past weekend.  This is a huge accomplishent. There's only one way to get there.  You earn it through hard work and dedication.  And that is what we should be celebrating.

Don't celebrate the black belt.  Celebrate the desire, focus and determination that it took to get there.

Don't celebrate the turkey dinner this Thanksgiving.  Celebrate the sacrifice, humility and knowledge-sharing that took place during those times.

Don't celebrate the diploma.  Celebrate the hours of self-control, tireless studying and stress-fueled performance that led to the graduation.

When we celebrate these things, we're congratulating the person on the true value of their accomplishment while, at the same time, learning key lessons for our own life.

Make a big deal out of your accomplishments, but make a bigger deal out of the character traits that it took to get you there.

Monday, November 7, 2011

You don't need approval

When you have ideas that you know are good, you don't need outside approval.

When we look for outside approval, we start to doubt ourselves.  We start to value other people's opinion even when they're wrong.

Here's the truth:  Art and creativity are, by definition, unique.  Not everyone wants unique.  Not everyone can grasp "new."

If you have an idea for a new product, a really cool store front, a fancy new logo for your business or a more efficient way to get things done around the house, don't wait for someone else to approve it.  Don't wait for someone else to discourage you into believing that your idea isn't fantastic.  Instead, get started before they have time to stop you!

Friday, November 4, 2011

3 Steps to Less Anxiety

What are you anxious about today?  We all have something, right?

I'm far from a pro at this, but here's what works best for me:
  1. Ask yourself what the worst case scenario is.
  2. Ask yourself what things would still be true if the worst case scenario occurred.  I usually think of this relationally.  Who is still going to be beside you when it all falls apart?
  3. Ask yourself what the probability of the worst case scenario occurring truly is.
I find that we often think irrationally in times of anxiety.  We lose sight of what is truly important, overestimate the likelihood of the worst case occurring and overempasize the actual consequences of the worst case scenario.

Anxious times are another example of when our mission statement could come in handy.  Find your foundation and anxiousness is less likely to shake you.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Forget about the "No"

"Can I skip my homework tonight?"

"Can I go outside and play before I do my homework?"

Here's the thing with "Can I" questions.  The answer is most often "Yes."  The real issue is not the yes or no; it's the consequence of "yes."

You can skip your homework, but you may be grounded if your grades are not up to par.  You can go outside before you do your homework, but you'll be doing homework later when we're having family time.

As adults, we often take it one step further and assume the answer is "No" without ever asking the question.  "I hate my job, but I can't change careers now.  I'm too old."

Instead, ask the "Can I" questions and forget about the "No."  Assume the answer to the "Can I" is yes and then ask yourself, "What are the consequences of 'Yes'?"

Don't hold yourself back.  There are ALWAYS options.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Are you crazy enough?

"The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do."

Are you crazy enough?

Some call it naive, some call it crazy, some call it out of touch.  But for those that believe they call it vision... hope... creativity... innovation.  There are hundreds of names for it.  It's not about what you call it, it's whether or not you believe it.

Are you crazy enough to believe that you can change the world?

If so, go... go now.  What's stopping you?

If not, why?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Collision avoidance

Trial and error.  What a wonderful idea!  Why do we hear those words, realize that trial and error works, but avoid it at all costs?  We are masters of collision avoidance.

Don't be afraid to try something new and fail.  That's how we learn.  Try something new today.  Crash hard.  And try better tomorrow!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Are you an iceberg or a pine tree?

With an iceberg, much of what they truly are is hidden below the surface.  On the other hand, pine trees generally have very shallow root systems compared their overall height.  The exact opposite of an iceberg.

With the pine tree, what you see is what you get.  With an iceberg, the true character of it is mostly hidden.  So which one are you?

We should strive to be pine trees.  Let the world know who you are and what you stand for.  There's something to be said about holding a portion of yourself back.  We all have intimate details that they world doesn't need to know.  But, when it comes to your character, your passions, your interests and you... be a pine tree!

Friday, October 28, 2011

When it's a lie

It's nice to be optimistic.  I really don't see any downside.  Except...

When it's a lie.

I hear people today saying that if you just believe hard enough that things will get better, then they will.  That's not true.  That's not even close to true.

Don't fall for this flawed idea of optimism.

Here's the deal.  Sometimes life is hard.  Sometimes it's hurtful.  We all go through self-inflicted trials and trials that we don't understand.  It's going to happen.  When it does, you don't want to hear someone preaching blind optimism.  It's not helpful.

Blind optimism is not constructive, it's not empathetic, it's not real, it won't help you connect with people and it definitely won't help the hurting.

Build people up by being optimistic in the right way.  Be honest and sincere.  Encourage people and truly evaluate their needs.  Sit and talk with them.  Learn about them.  Learn with them.  Solve problems together.  That's the kind of optimism that we need.  True relational optimism.  Leave the lies for someone else.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

It's not about the pumpkins

I was carving pumpkins last night with the kids.  My oldest, against my recommendation, chose the hardest design of all.  Half way through carving, he realized that he had ruined his pumpkin and there was only one pumpkin left that hadn't been carved.  Mine.

A deep internal dilemma ensued.

What to do?  "I told you not to pick that design because it was too hard."  Embarrassingly enough, that's what I would normally say.  But last night I had a miraculous moment of clarity where I realized... it's not about the pumpkins.

It's not about picking a vegetable, printing out some crazy picture and cutting up your vegetable to be used as a decoration.  That part we do because everyone else does it.  The value is not in the pumpkin, it's in the relationships we build while we carve them.

I make this mistake too often.  Not just in relationships, but also in business.  I start a project (or a family tradition) for a very valid reason.  Then somewhere along the line, I lose sense of why I started it in the first place.  At that point, I need to regroup and try again.

Do you continue to call on the same customers because you feel like you have to?  If it's not getting you closer to your true goals, stop doing it.  Are you attending the same church as your family because they want you there?  Ask yourself if the goal of going to church is to build a relationship with family or with God.

It's not easy to evaluate your actions, and the decisions that follow are even tougher.  I encourage you to regain sight of why you started doing the things that you do.  Feel free to keep carving, but remember... it's not about the pumpkins.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

He doesn't believe in impossible

So my 4-year-old puts on a corny tiger hat, some tiger-striped gloves, a clip-on tail and a black sweat suit.  He looks like a little boy dressed up as a tiger, but he's not.  Just ask him.  He IS a tiger!  And no one in is this world will convince him otherwise.

More importantly, do you know why he's a tiger?  Because he's a little boy.  A little boy that doesn't believe in impossible.  Little boys don't believe in limitations.  Little boys don't yet know that there is a "status quo" that tells us to fit in with everyone else.  And little boys are not afraid to fail.

Maybe you don't want to become a tiger (although it would be super cool), but what have you defined as impossible?

Finding a new job?  Mending a relationship?  Starting your own business?  Buying your own home?  Having a family?  Having more faith?

We all have our definition of impossible.  And quite frankly, most of us are wrong.  Reconsider your self-imposed limitations.  Stop holding yourself back and become the tiger that you want to be.

Matthew 19:26

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Who are you waiting for?

Stop the finger pointing.  Stop the passive, self-pity.  Stop the empty wishing.  Stop complaining about your job.  Stop daydreaming.  Stop whining about your relationships.  Stop blaming others for your circumstances.

Change takes work.  Being a better person takes work.  Changing your outlook on life takes work.  So, when I ask who you're waiting for, the answer is: "Me."

YOU have to change your mindset.  YOU have to take action.  YOU have to turn a daydream into reality.  YOU have to step out in faith to try something new.  YOU have to devote yourself to a deeper prayer life.  YOU have to make a conscious choice to stop being negative.  YOU have to seek out inspiration.  YOU have to take responsibility for your mistakes.  YOU have to lead conversations away from gossip.  YOU have to seek out new friendships even if it's hard.  YOU have to look for a new job.

God opens doors, but the door frame doesn't miraculously pass over us.  We have to find the door and then have the courage, desire and energy to walk through it.

Change takes action.  So if you want things to change, stop waiting on "me" and get moving.

Monday, October 24, 2011

It doesn't matter how

If you're lost, your map tells you where to go to get back home, but it doesn't tell you how.  The "how" is not the important part.  It doesn't matter if you ride the bus, fly, walk or ride a unicycle.  The point is not in the how, but in the where.

A family mission statement can help by defining our "where."  We can then check our daily actions against our mission statement to see if our "how" is getting us to our destination.

An example mission statement may look something like this:
"Our family will grow closer to each other every day in a way that forms stronger, long lasting relationships."
"Everyone that walks into our house will know, by our actions, that our house is a house of love."
"We will change our neighborhood by being true examples of our faith."

These are by NO MEANS perfect (or maybe not even good), but they do one thing.  They define a destination, a beacon if you will.  We then get to determine how we will get there.  Family night?  Honest talks about real life?  Spiritual guidance?  "Dinner with a neighbor" night?

There are millions of options for "how", but the "how" doesn't matter until you define the "where."  I'd challenge you to write your personal and or family mission statement.

[If choose to write a mission statement, please share by posting your mission statement on Facebook or where ever else you may read this post.  If we do this together, we can all have better mission statements!]

Saturday, October 22, 2011

It's time

I have friends visiting from out of town.  Good friends.  Great friends.  Lifelong friends.  It's time to put everything else aside and enjoy their company.

Be thankful for the friends you have.  Tell them and show them.

Thanks, Paul and Jamie.  Always a good time!

Friday, October 21, 2011

How to find your starting line

If you could take a picture of your life today, what would it say about you?  Not just a photograph, but a snapshot of your entire life: your mental well-being, your level of health, your attitude, your worries, your faith, your pain, your joy, your feelings toward your true friends, and your enemies, your stress level and your outlook on the future.

Then what would you do with it?  There's power in knowing where you are, good or bad.  If you have no idea where you are, how do you get to where you're going.

Imagine it like this.  I drop you off in the middle of a desert.  You have no clue where you are.  I then hand you a map and ask you to lead me to Madison Square Garden.  Not likely going to happen.

However, if I tell you that you're in Arizona, the game has changed.  Now you have a starting point.

Goals are wonderful, but without knowing where the starting line is, how will you get to the finish line?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Karma is dumb

This whole idea of karma bothers me.  The idea that the universe keeps score and then passes out rewards and punishments accordingly... it just sounds dumb.

It makes me wonder, if our world is based on karma, why do innocent men get sentenced to years in prison for something they didn't do?  Why do some people have to wake up and walk three hours to a nearly dry well to get life-sustaining water simply because of where they were born?  Why do crooked businessmen live a life of luxury for their entire life with no repercussions in this world?


How can one discount Christianity because they "can't understand how God would let bad things happen to good people," but they can believe in karma?  Christianity never claimed that life was fair.  It actually claims the exact opposite, that bad things will happen to good people.  Karma, on the other hand, exists on the assumption that all we do (good and bad) will come back to us.

Before we jump on the latest fad or into the latest trend, let's take the time to learn about it and understand it.  And most of all, see if it even makes sense.  And then we can draw our conclusions.

My conclusion is this: Karma is dumb.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

"Are you tired of being relevant?"

I heard Erwin McManus ask this question and it has changed the way that I think.  Relevant is what the world expects.  It means you're right in the mix.  Right in the sweet spot.

There is only one problem.  If you're right in the mix, you are not leading the way.  You're just fitting in.

Don't aim to be relevant in your own life.  Be a leader in your home, in your relationships, in your work place.  Be unique.  Be exactly what you were intricately designed to be, not what the world has made you.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

It's safer here

We often complain about our "bad luck" when, in reality, it's not luck at all, but the result of a bad decision.  Calling it bad luck let's us place blame on the universe (or God, if you will).  Calling it the result of a bad decision makes it our responsibility.

I'm not saying that we should beat ourselves up over every bad decision that we've made.  I would be more battered than one of Mike Tyson's 1987 opponents if I did that.  Instead, what I'm suggesting is that we take responsibility for our actions; that we don't blame God or man, but we admit that our decisions have led to some not-so-perfect circumstances.

There are two reasons for this suggestion:

  1. When we start displacing blaming for things that are ultimately our fault, we begin to foster an entitlement mentality (an entire topic in itself).  An entitled person wants something for nothing and every result, regardless of the actual cause, is chalked up to bad luck or God or someone else.  When this happens, we begin to think that our actions don't affect our lives.  And that's a very dangerous place to me.
  2. We can't learn if we won't humble ourselves enough to admit that we made a mistake.  We mess up, we humble ourselves, we ask for forgiveness and we work to figure out how our actions led to the initial mistake so we don't repeat it.  It's how we grow to be better, healthier people.
Please don't beat yourself up over your mistakes.  Too many people do.

Please don't blame everyone else for your circumstances.  Too many people do.

Work to find that middle ground.  It's safer there.  And one day, I hope we can say, "Join me.  It's safer here."

Monday, October 17, 2011

What does this label say?

I'm a huge fan of reading labels at the grocery store.  They serve a purpose.  They're informative.

There's another kind of label that I'm not so much a fan of, even though I often create it.  It's the label I give to the alcoholic, the gang-banger, the drug addict, the criminal or the pregnant teen.  These labels may be factual, but the issue arises when we place all of those people into a group that is lesser than the group in which we place ourselves.

Which leads me to the next label...

The label we inherently give ourselves when we begin dishing out demeaning labels to others is "arrogant."

We are all the same.  We are all broken.  Some have just made different mistakes than we have.  Realizing that the gang-banger is different and not lesser increases our ability to be compassionate.  That's a label I think we'd all appreciate.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Enabling vs. Encouraging

I was in line at the grocery store when I realized that the cashier was not having a good morning.  As she complained about her lazy co-workers, it was very interesting to see how each of the people in front of me interacted with her.

The first young lady went with the "pretend it's not happening" approach.  Ending with a, "Have a nice day!"  Next in line was the middle-aged man that handled it by complaining along.  "Yeah, I'm heading to work now and I hate my job."

Directly in front of me was a middle-aged woman that decided she was going to be the morale boost that the cashier needed.  Saying things like, "Yeah, I understand.  It's not fair for you to be working while they stand around."  Her intentions were as sincere as her message was flawed.

Enabling is not encouragement.  Enabling allows someone to believe that they are right in complaining about their circumstances.  Complaining doesn't change anything and too often leads to more resentment.  Encouragement is different.  Encouragement tells them, "Do the right thing regardless of what everyone else is doing."  And, "You're doing a great job.  I admire your work ethic."

When someone is having a rough day, encourage them, but don't enable them.  Enabling only makes their day worse.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Learning to count

Since I began writing this blog, I've had to keep reminding myself that I'm not writing to see how many people will read it.  It's not about the numbers.

More importantly, when it comes to life changing concepts and ideas (like sharing your faith and helping the less fortunate), numbers matter even less.  I know, I know.  It sounds backwards, but think about it.  What is the goal of sharing your faith?  Or helping someone less fortunate?  True heart change.

You can talk about your faith to a crowd of a million people, but if not one heart is changed, did you succeed?  You can feed a million people in a single day, but if you have to show up every day for the rest of your life, did true change occur?  In business, you can drive a million people to your website, but if none of those people think differently when they leave, what have you accomplished?  Think bigger.

If you're passionate about a cause, don't be disappointed if the numbers are lower than you expect.  Remember why you're doing what you do.  And likewise, don't consider it a success just because your numbers are higher than you anticipated.

This also applies to giving.  Don't underestimate the value of sponsoring a single child in a 3rd world country.  You may not be able to help all of them, but this seemingly small charitable act can lead to major life and social change.

Learn to count the change, not the numbers.

Want to make a change?  Check out these sites:

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Your clock is blinking

The clock on your microwave is flashing.




You know exactly what happened.  Even if you don't know how, you're sure that it happened.  Every time you see it you are certain that the power went out.

What's the flashing clock in your life?  What's the indicator to let you know that the power in your relationships, your faith, your motivation or your health has gone out?

Maybe it's that you're not excited to get to work in the morning.  Maybe it's that you have no idea what the name of your son's best friend is.  Maybe it's that you want to sleep all day.

Whatever it is, figure it out... and let your friends know.  The more people that know what your blinking clock is, the quicker someone can let you know that your power has gone out.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Yes. It's really that simple.

It can change your day.  It can change a stranger's day.  And it can definitely change a friend's day.

A smile.

I think we underestimate the effect that our attitude and actions have on the people around us.  When we get angry, the people around us are affected.  When we're sad, likewise.  But what about when we're happy?  Laughing?  Smiling?  The same thing happens.

Encourage a culture of happiness.  Laugh when you can.  Smile if you're able.  It's really that simple.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Life is...


Yesterday left my mind in quite a twist.  Early in the day, a friend of mine and his wife had a baby.  My friend's excitement leading up to this day was refreshing.  His beautiful baby was born and I'm sure he cannot stop smiling this morning.

Life is precious.  Life is wonderful.  Life is Exhilarating.

Then last night, I heard that a toddler that we have been praying for lost his battle with cancer.  My eyes tear up as I type this.  I cannot imagine the pain.  Paxton... there are no words.

Life is precious.  Life is painful.  Life is confusing.

Most of all, life is... short.  Forget your bitterness, anger, anxiety and selfishness if only for today.  Smile at people, be friendly and keep things in perspective.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Can you juggle?

One of my biggest struggles in life is trying to juggle work and family.  It's tough.  It seems like a constant pendulum swing one way or the other with no time spent in true balance.  I've been thinking a lot about this problem along with Parkinson's Law (every task we have to do fills the time allotted).

Instead of looking for a balance, I began looking to a schedule.  I have started blocking off family time where no work is allowed.  And likewise, when there's work to be done, it needs to be work time.  Are there exceptions?  Of course, but for the most part, this idea has allowed me to fully devote myself to one part of my life or the other.  When it's family time, work is forgotten.  And when it's work time... family is still on my mind, but my focus is work.

It sounded cold to me at first, but scheduling family time has helped me tremendously by allowing me the space and time to completely forget about work and truly focus on family without feeling guilty for not "getting something done."

Set aside specific non-work time to spend with your family and see what you think.  It's worth it!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

What's your reaction?

It's not about controlling your circumstances.  It's about reacting with integrity in every situation.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Are you a black hole?

I've heard people say that we have to deflect the negative comments and attitudes that come our way.  I disagree.  Instead, we need to be strong enough to absorb that negative energy.  Absorb it like a black hole absorbs light so that it never gets back out.

Be a mirror for the positive things in life.  Reflect the positive things everywhere that you go.

Likewise, be a black hole for the negative things.  Absorb any negativity that gets near you and don't spew it back out into the world.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Do you see what I see?

I would argue that nothing has more effect on our daily life than the way we think, the way we mentally handle every situation, and the mental direction that we choose every day.

From busy schedules to the loss of a loved one to taking time out of our week to relax and refresh, our mental outlook on life is a key factor in our success or failure.

It's Thursday.  How much time have you spent this week mentally preparing?  Sure, we write in our planners and make our to-do lists, but do we focus on getting mentally prepared?

So, where do we start?

Personally, I start with prayer.  Realizing that this world is so much bigger than I am helps to put things into perspective for me.

Another thing to try is visualizing your day before it happens.  Take some quiet time to close your eyes and visualize the details of your upcoming day.  See and feel the flow of your day and the ease in which you handle each situation.  Focus on how you'll handle speed bumps along the way as well.  Focus on how you'll mentally and physically respond to each scenario.

Positive visualization may seem absurd, but study after study shows that it works (professional athletes have been using this stuff for years).  It works because it gets us mentally prepared.

So, humor me and give it a shot.  Whenever you feel yourself getting overwhelmed, take some time to breathe and positively visualize the situation before it happnes.  After all, what's the risk?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Please don't lose this

I was talking with a good friend recently.  Someone that, in my mind, gets it.  We were talking about how the world needs more optimism and there was something that we were unable to figure out.

Why is everyone so angry?

Why did that elderly woman violently flip me off when I accidentally pulled out in front of her the other day (yes, that actually happened)?  Why, when we're stuck in a traffic jam, do we get so close to the car in front of us just to be sure that no one squeezes their way in?  Why do we attempt to dismember our cell phone when it drops a call from across the country?

I'm not sure I understand it, but here's my opinion.  We've lost our perspective.

If you're reading this in the United States of America (as well as many other countries across the world), you have clean, running water at your fingertips.  Some people walk for hours for clean water ("The average woman in Africa walks three miles every day for water.").

Many of you are probably reading this on a "phone" that allows you to access information about any topic you can imagine from across the Earth in seconds.

Healthcare, albeit expensive, is amazing.  And, let's not forget, we don't have to pay for healthcare.  We can choose not to go to the doctor.  It's a privelege... that millions of people don't have ("Unknown numbers of people are dying every day in Haiti due to a lack of medicines and assistance.").

We complain about the preparation of our food in a climate-controlled restaurant, when millions of children are starving to death.  Can you even fathom watching your child starve to death and having no answer for them? (StopTheHunger)

I'm not telling you all of this to make you feel bad.  I'm telling you in hopes that we all realize how fortunate we are to have our cable TV, cell phones, air conditioning, cars and basic necessities that I take for granted daily (like food, water, clothes and a house).

Remember, not one of us chose to be born where we were.  The only reason that I was born in the USA and not a 3rd world country is because God decided for me.

I'm sure we can all work on keeping our world in perspective.  I know I can... and that little old lady probably could, too.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Assumptions 101

I heard a quote the other day that went something like this:
 "If you try to be like everyone else, you'll end up being like everyone else.  But the problem is that everyone else is miserable, broke and divorced."

I'm guilty of trying to be like everyone else more often than I'd like to admit.  I think it's mostly because I'm afraid to be different. So, what am I afraid of?

I think many of us are afraid that someone will think we're weird, or quirky, or annoying.  But maybe, just maybe, someone may think we're fun, encouraging and energetic.

We, too often, let our assumptions lean toward the negative side of the fence.  I think we should try to start framing them with more reality and less pessimism.

When we're trying something new, assume that we're going to love it.  When we're meeting new people, assume that we're going to be great friends.

Try assuming the positive and see what happens!

Monday, October 3, 2011

That's just my luck!

It's a windy day and you're walking to your car in the Wal-Mart parking lot.  You walk out the door just in time to see one of those battle-ready carts screaming toward your car.  You're too far away to stop it, but close enough to hear the wonderful sound of a metal-on-metal collision.  And then you say it.  "That's just my luck!"

Now, imagine that the cart, instead of crashing into the side of your car, goes careening through the parking right past your car and comes to rest against the cart return.  Would you say the same thing?  "That's just my luck!"

It seems that we have this false perception that bad things always happen to us.  That our "luck" just isn't that great.  I don't think that's always the case.

First, to quote my 6-year-old daughter, "there's no luck involved."  It's just life and sometimes bad things happen.  And second, I don't think our "luck" is generally all that bad (remember, bad circumstances that are the result of bad decisions are not "bad luck").  [For the antagonists... are there exceptions?  Of course.]

The difference between good luck and bad luck is often in what we choose to remember.

We can remember every time that someone opened their car door into ours, but we've chosen to forget every time that someone was extra careful even when we may have parked a little too close.  We can remember every time the grocery bag ripped on the way to the car, but have chosen forget the thousands of bags that we've carried without incident.

So, let's remember that our "luck" may not be as bad as we think.  We may just need to change what we're choosing to remember.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Let's think... clearly

I have a tough time resting.  I don't mean sleeping.  I can sleep like nobody's business, but resting comes harder.

I'm slowly learning the importance of rest.  It's not just about refreshing physically, but more importantly, refreshing yourself mentally and spiritually.

Here's the danger.  Mental and spiritual exhaustion affect everyone in our lives. We become worse friends, husbands, sons and fathers.  Mental and spiritual exhaustion can go on for weeks without us knowing.

Be aware of your mental and spiritual exhaustion and do something about it!  Take time to regroup.  Not just for you, but for the people that you care about.  Make sure that you're not just thinking, but thinking clearly.

[UPDATE: As my way of practicing what I preach, I'm going to work on "taking Sunday's off."  So I won't be blogging on Sundays.  Have a great day!]

Friday, September 30, 2011

Are you helping? Really.

I'm a Facebook addict that is currently in denial. When I'm going through my daily Facebook ritual, I often come across these posts that say something like, "Change your Facebook profile pic to your favorite cartoon character for a week to raise awareness of child abuse."

When faced with critical issues like child abuse, I don't think the problem is lack of awareness; it's lack of action. It makes us feel good to "help" by getting involved. But that Facebook icon does nothing to help the abused child.

Let's try this approach.  The next time we see one of those posts, instead of doing what they ask, do something relevant.  Go to a site like or and do something that truly helps.  Because in the end, it's not about us feeling like we helped.  It's about truly helping.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Should we still hold doors for strangers?

After my jiu jitsu class the other night, I spent quite a bit of time talking to a good friend.  One of those sincere people that you can trust... without any doubt in your mind.

We got on the topic of people.  Specifically, we were talking about opening and holding doors for people.  We talked about how it seems that not as many people are doing it any more.


Maybe it's because no one says "thank you" anymore.  Maybe it's the downward sprial of, "They are not holding doors for me, so why should I hold doors for them."  Maybe it's because (most) people just don't seem to appreciate it any more.

If all of that is true, does it mean that I should stop doing it?  If I take a hard, honest look at my motivation, why was I holding the door in the first place?  Because I wanted a "thank you"?  Because I wanted someone to hold a door for me in return?  Because I wanted someone to appreciate how polite I am?  Or, was it because it was the right thing to do?

If you're doing things for the right reason, the response you get from the outside world is irrelevant.  Keep doing the right things and don't let the world change your definition of "right."  I know it's easy to be swayed by the winds of negativity, but don't fall for it.  It's a trap.  The good news is that with any trap, if you know it's there, it loses its advantage.

So, should we still hold doors for strangers?  Absolutely.  Because whether we hold a door for a stranger is not a reflection of them, it's a reflection of us.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Is it time to burn the ships?

During ancient battles, some generals would gather their men onto mighty ships, sail those ships filled with men to the land that they wanted to conquer, unload the men onto the shore... and burn the ships.  This scenario left the men with only two options: Conquer or be conquered.

I'm normally a fan of having an escape route.  It just makes sense.  And I'm sure those ships would've come in handy a time or two.  But, the generals' knew something that many of us overlook.  We're capable of amazing things when we're forced to be.  When we're forced to be.  When we're forced to perform without a net.

Have you started your journey toward a goal?  Toward a real, heartfelt, live-changing goal?  Are you keeping those safety nets around just in case?

If your goal is worth going after, be bold.  Be courageous.  And figure out if it's time to burn the ships.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

You're not mediocre

You have an awesome invitation.  So do I.  We have an open invitation to be incredible.  We can decide that we want to dream huge... and then make it happen.

Don't let anyone convince you that you're not incredible.

Don't be arrogant.  Don't be self-serving.  Don't be oblivious.

Be a dreamer... and then believe in yourself enough to make those dreams come to life.

Many of us let our dreams slip through our hands.  We let daily circumstances drag us down and convince us that we're just like everyone else.  But we're not.  We're actually not like anyone else. 

You're not mediocre.  You're incredible.  You have an invitation to be incredible every single day.  Live like it.

Monday, September 26, 2011

We're not backing down

Everyone has their thing.  Everyone, if pushed far enough, will take a stand on something.  What is it for you?

At what point do you say, "I'm not backing down because I believe in this."  Is it your family's health?  Is it education?  Exercise?  Poverty?  Violence?

I can tell you what one of mine is.  The current state of the youth in our community.  We have one of the highest (if not the highest) number of teens living below the poverty line in the entire state.  And I'm tired of it.

I'm tired of seeing kids that don't believe that they were created to do something great.  I'm tired of seeing entire communities that have no hope of giving their children a better life than they have.  I'm tired of adults in the community complaining about the violence and doing absolutely nothing about it.  I'm tired of seeing more new sidewalks in our city than new programs to keep kids off the streets.  I'm tired... but I'm not backing down.

As some of you may know, we started a mixed martial arts clothing line called Crucifix MMA a little over a year ago.  We're not starting to take our next steps.  We're planning to start an inner-city gym that is free for the community youth.  A gym that is a safe place for kids to come and learn that they are more than just another statistic.  They are loved.  They are beautiful.  They are brilliant.  They were created to do something great.  And they are needed.

We are going to tell them the truth.  And we're not backing down.

In the next few months, we'll let you know ways that you can partner with us.  In the meantime, figure out what you stand for and don't back down.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Answer me this...

I've found that I often put unnecessary stress on myself to make decision now that don't actually need to be made until later... or ever.  When we have decisions to make about what we're going to do and when we're going to do it, it makes sense to first ask if we should be doing it at all.

If we would take every task we have throughout our day and honestly answer the question "Why am I doing this?" before we did it, our to-do lists would probably get a lot shorter.  And our productivity level would be much higher.

When you start your Monday, start with asking why you are doing the things you do.  If you don't have a good answer, maybe you should re-arrange your schedule.

Ask the question "why?"  But more importantly, answer it.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Just keep playing

I went to play Lazer Tag with my Little today (my little brother from Big Brothers/Big Sisters) and IT WAS AWESOME!

Where we played, we had unlimited lives.  You could get shot as many times as you wanted.  All you had to do was wait 10 seconds, at which time you could re-position yourself, and you were good to go again.  I loved watching the kids reaction to getting shot.  They weren't deterred... at all!

Another lesson for us from the kids.  When things aren't going as you planned, take your 10 seconds (or 10 hours, or 10 days) to re-group and re-position yourself.  And get back in the game.  Don't be deterred.  Just keep playing!

Friday, September 23, 2011

How to make a bow and arrow

The other day, my son was playing with the simplistic bow and arrow that I made him this spring.  The simple design of a single stick and piece of twine led to hours of entertainment and imagination.

After an evening of fierce battle, he and I (somehow) began talking about Native Americans and their use of the bow and arrow as a weapon.  I told him that the Native Americans were able to kill a buffalo with a bow that they made by hand.  He promply asked, "How in the world did they do that?"

Exactly.  How were they able to take sticks, string and rocks and make a bow and arrow capable of killing a 1,500 pound animal?  Because they had to.  Their lives depended on it.  They were required by their situation to be innovative.

What are we capable of if we're pushed to our limits... or if we choose to push ourselves to those limits?  Could we cure the global water problem or stop human trafficking?  Maybe.

I often think that I'm just mediocre at this whole life thing.  And maybe I am.  But, if I am, it's because I'm choosing to be.  I'm not pushing myself to be innovative, to force change, to think differently and to make a difference.  I'm choosing to be mediocre.

We shouldn't settle for mediocre.  We should push ourselves and the people we truly care about to be the best.  Not just for us, but for everyone around us.

We only get one chance at this life thing, so don't wait for the buffalo to walk up to you and fall over.  Force change.  Take what you've got and make your bow and arrow.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

This is what they really want...

So last night, after a rough morning at the gym and a long day of sitting at a computer, I decided to bribe my children.  "I will give you anything you want if you rub my legs."

Now, that may sound like a pretty big promise to make to a 6-year-old and (nearly) 9-year-old, but I was tired, aching, and quite frankly, not thinking straight.

I try my best to keep my promises and the immediate panic set in as I realized that I may have to explain that a new pony doesn't fit well into a city setting, that we are not able to have Spongebob Squarepants over for dinner, and that it's not good parenting to allow a 9-year-old boy to quit school.

So, what did they ask for?

The 6-year-old went first.  This little girl is the most polite, compassionate, caring individual that I've ever met, so it's always interesting to listen to what she has to say.  She looked me straight in the face with the most beautiful smile and said...

"If I give you a massage, will you play with my stuffed animals with me tonight?"

Of course I will!  Whew... one down, one to go.  Next, my 9-year-old looks at me with that sly little grin.  I can see the wheels turning and I have one thought: I'm in BIG trouble.  And then he said it...

"Will you sit down and watch an episode of my favorite TV show with me tonight?"

Success!  Two-for-two and there's no pony-purchasing in sight.  And then I thought, I just promised them anything in this world.  Anything!  And they chose... time.  All they wanted was one-on-one time.  They didn't want stuff; they wanted time.

What a great lesson for us.  The people that care about us, kids and adults alike, don't want things from us.  They don't want money from us.  They don't want new and bigger toys or the latest fashions.  What they really want is time.  The hard question is, do you care enough to give them what they really want?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Just listen!

It's tough.  It's really tough.

... when someone you know is hurting and you would do anything to take their pain away... but you can't.

When someone I care about is hurting, I (too) often make the mistake of giving advice.  I'm an engineer.  A problem solver.  But there's one problem.  People that are feeling emotional pain do not generally want answers.  They want to know that you care.  And giving advice, even well-intentioned advice, isn't convincing.

When I've been the one hurting, I know what works for me.  To have someone listen.  Truly listen.  In this world, with all of the appointments, deadlines, text messages, phone calls, etc., for someone to put the entire universe on hold to listen to exactly what you have to say speaks volumes.

Believe me, no words that you speak will convey your love more than deliberate listening.

So, if someone you know is hurting, stop thinking about solving the problem and just listen. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

What's your revolution?

We have two options when it comes to changing something: gradual change or revolution.

I agree that there's a time and place for both, but I also think that we more often than not choose gradual change because it's easier.  Revolution takes courage.  Revolution takes commitment.  Revolution takes vulnerability.  But sometimes, revolution is the only option for real change.

You may think that this topic doesn't pertain to you, but revolutionary change doesn't have to change the world.  Maybe your revolution is bettering your family relationships, making a bold statement about a new product at work or breaking bad habits.

Revolution is simply a drastic change to the status quo.

And, if we think hard enough, I'm sure we could all find some things in our life that need revolutionary change.  I sure have some areas of my life that could use a revolution.

So, what's your revolution?

Monday, September 19, 2011

It just might rain...

... but why sit around and wait for it?

So many times we put off doing outside work or (more importantly) playing outside because it "looks like it's going to rain."  The same is true in relationships, business, family, etc.

Don't sit around waiting for it to rain.  If it's not raining, don't assume that it's going to.

If it is raining, enjoy it!  It's refreshing.  It brings life.  It builds character.  And, it helps us appreciate the sun when it shines again (because it WILL shine again).

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Are you worth dying for?

Waking up on a clear, crisp, Sunday morning is one of my favorite things in the entire world.  I sit in the comfort of my house with family so near and I wonder...

The women and men who are thousands of miles from home, in a hostile environment, risking their lives so that I can sit comfortably in my home... what do they think of me?

I know, they are fighting for our country.  The ideal that is the United States of America.  But our country is only a beautiful concept without its people.  So ultimately, they are fighting for me... and you.

Why am I worth it?  What do I provide to this world?  This country?  This community?  My home?  What makes me worth dying for?

It's easy to get caught up worrying about our own day-to-day problems, enjoyments, comforts, etc.  But, like it or not, we're all part of something bigger.  When you think of those that have given their life for you... make them proud.  Do something worth dying for!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Where should I look first?

I recently had the opportunity to hear an amazing woman by the name of Michelle Rhee speak.  She fought an impressive battle to revamp a dreadful Washington, D.C. school district... an incredibly monumental task.

She said something those few weeks ago that has resonated in my head.  The words were:
"I look for encouragement everywhere."
This statement, I believe, is more profound than it looks on the surface.  You should first understand that Ms. Rhee was (and still is) the target of brutal criticism by people all over the country for her unapologetic stance on putting students first... even if it meant firing a lot of teachers.  Through all of this, Michelle stayed optimistic and kept her focus.

But how do you drown out all of those voices of criticism?  How do you ignore the masses that are telling you that you're wrong when you know that you're right?  I think Michelle is on to something.

We often sit back and listen to criticism that seems to flow like a river toward us when we're trying to make a difference.  Encouraging voices are typically quieter and more difficult to hear.  The solution: We need to LOOK for encouragement.  If we sit back and wait for it to come to us, we may never hear it through the criticism.  However, if we get out there and actively seek encouragement we'll be sure to find those quiet voices that are waiting to build us up.  Those voices that speak truth.  Those voices that tell us to keep going.  Those voices that confirm our ideas and intentions.

If you're facing criticism, don't sit back and wait for encouragement to fall into your lap.  Use Michelle Rhee's philosophy... get out there and look for it!

So, where are you going to look first?

Friday, September 16, 2011

How smart are you?

I hear people say quite often, "he's so smart" or "she's so smart."  And I wonder, what does "smart" mean?

Often "smart" means that someone was willing to put in tireless hours working through minute details to learn something that no one else cared to learn.  Other times it means that someone knows something (even just a little bit) about a subject that seems very foreign, and therefore difficult, to us.

So, in what areas are you "smart"?  We all (yes, all!) have things that we're good at, but we tend to devalue those things unless they are in a field that our society deems worthy.  We also lose track of the things we're good at because they come naturally to us and we forget that not everyone can do them as well as we can.

Take me, for instance... I have mad math skills (I'm just saying...), but I can't cook to save my life.  I can't paint.  I'm not that good at mowing the lawn and I'm horrible at organization.  So, does being able to do math problems make me smarter than the stay-at-home-mom that cooks, cleans, organizes and schedules for an entire family?

No.  We're all smart in different areas.  The key is to take a realistic look at what you're good at without devaluing it.  Once we realize the true potential of our strengths, we can use them most effectively.

What are you good at?  What comes easily to you?

Here's the bottom line... I'll help your kids with their math homework if you organize my office!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

How to fold a map

Seriously?  No one knows how to fold a map, so let's move on to better things...

Have you ever thought of mapping out every foot step that you take in a day?  Tracking everywhere you go?  When I think about it, it makes me realize just how inefficient and unplanned my day is.  Sure, I plan, but I seem to plan on too small of a scale.  My plan doesn't often represent the most efficient way to travel throughout my day.

And, if I planned with my entire week in mind, I could make each of my days very efficient.  But, what would happen if I had a map laid out for my long-term goals?

In other words, how efficient could I be if I really took the time to map out my life?

Where are you going?  And, do you have a map to get there?  Draw a picture... draw your map to where you want to go.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Need a reason to celebrate?

We have a birthday to celebrate in our house today.  It made me think... why do we celebrate birthdays?

I personally think it's because we're celebrating the miracle of life and the fact that God allowed that person to be part of our lives for another year.

So, why do we wait an entire year to celebrate the life of someone we love?  And maybe more importantly, why do we so often celebrate with tangible gifts and not the true emotion behind the celebration?

During our busy days, we (at least, I) sometimes forget how fortunate we are to have people in our lives.  Celebrate someone's life today.  It may be a gift.  It may be total transparency in telling them how much you care.  However you choose, celebrate a life today.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Did your day start like this?

We often wake up in the morning with the mentality, "I hope it's a good day."

The truth is, the world is not waiting around to make our day "good."  Instead, we should be making the world good!

I've been known to get this one backwards, but joy is internal.  It comes from a solid foundation that we can always go back to and it doesn't sway with the winds of the world.  Joy doesn't hope for a good day.  Joy doesn't wait around to see what happens.  Joy starts on the inside and paints broad stokes of optimism wherever it travels.

Instead of waiting around to see what the world has in store for us today, let's go out and show the world what we have.  Find that inner joy and show the world that it doesn't define us.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Don't deprive yourself

Are you unique?

We're all made unique.  Whether you choose to stay that way is completely up to you.  You make look like someone else, sound like someone else or even like the same things as someone else.  But you will never BE someone else.  You are unique.

We can choose to embrace our uniqueness and give the world exactly what we were intended to provide.  Or we can choose to blend into the crowd so that most of the world doesn't even realize that we exist.

Uniqueness makes people think.  It extracts emotion that nothing else can (in both you and in others).

You're not only depriving yourself if you hide your uniqueness.  You're depriving the world of what was built into you to share with the world.

Embrace it and let us see what you've got hiding in there.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Can they see you?

On this date 10 years ago, the President of the United States said these words:
"America was targeted for attack because we're the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world.  And no one will keep that light from shining."

This statement is mostly true.  There is one that can stop our light from shining.  Us.

We can be the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity if we choose to be; if we choose not to turn off that light.

Being that light doesn't start as a country, it starts with each one of us.  If we decide to be the brightest beacon for hope in our homes, our workplaces and our neighborhoods, then our country has no choice but to reflect that hope to the world.

Being a beacon doesn't come through passiveness.  It comes through action.  Bring hope, happiness and optimism to everyone around you today.  Be the beacon.  Let them see you.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

What do you see?

I have great news!  No one and no circumstance can control how you feel today.  It's 100% your choice.

The most famous story of this power to choose is probably that of Viktor Frankl.  The man who not only survived a Nazi concentration camp, but totally broke the "victim of circumstance" mentality.

So, whatever you're facing today, control the way your react to it.  It's not about what you're going through, it's about what you see.  Perspective beats circumstance every time.

Friday, September 9, 2011

100% better?

I heard something interesting the other day.  I heard that professional athletes that truly believe that they can achieve a goal perform about 10% better than professional athletes that aren't as optimistic.  Interesting... but then I heard this...

Young boys that truly believe they can achieve a goal perform about 100% better than boys that don't believe.

Two general questions come to mind:

  1. Why is it that we do better when we believe in ourselves?
  2. What do those little boys have that cause this effect to be so drastic?
But I think this the real question:  Why don't you believe in yourself?

What's the risk?  Seriously... what do you have to lose by believing in yourself?

Today, let's look differently at ourselves.  Believing in yourself has NOTHING to do with the past.  Let's look at ourselves for what we can achieve, not what we have achieved... and maybe we can be 100% better, too.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Who's thinking with you?

I had a friend over last night to help me out with a few things.  After he left, I realized something.  I would have never been able to do by myself what we were able to accomplish together.

We seem to call on friends to help with physical tasks (moving an immensely heavy table, hanging drywall or setting up for a party), but we rarely call on friends to help us with mental tasks (figuring out the best way to organize your business or brainstorming about ways to save money).

If we, as friends, join together in our thinking and not just our doing, the results could be remarkable.  So, who's thinking with you?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Inside or outside?

Staring out the window above my kitchen table at 7:00AM.

It's comfortable.  It's warm.  It's dry.  And most of all... it's safe.

So many times in life, we stare out the window of our own comfort at the world of chaos outside and make a decision.  "Should I risk going out there?"

Our safe spot isn't affected by much of what happens on the other side of the glass.  And we can't affect much of the outside world from our window.

You have a choice.  Inside or outside?