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?

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Tools are so (not) helpful

I'm so glad that I don't have to type this blog on a typewriter, make copies on a ditto machine, track down all of your addresses, go to the post office to buy stamps... I think you get the idea.

Tools are great, but there is a danger.  Tools can't think for us.  Just because I can type this blog on my computer and distribute it across the entire world in minutes, doesn't mean that I'm good at it.  It still takes the same amount of creative energy as it would if I were using a typewriter.  It still takes the same amount of prep work.  The only change is the implementation.

Be careful that you don't use tools as a replacement for creativity, but instead use them for what they were intended.  To get to the end result quicker... not better.

Friday, September 2, 2011

How do YOU define unacceptable?

A brilliant man once said that everything we do, we do because we want to.  I somewhat agree.

But, think about this...

Many of us get up every morning and go to work.  Is it because we want to?  Honestly, I hope that you love your job and can't wait to go to work every day.  But for others, they go to work because of what they don't want.  The alternative to going to work today may be looking for a job tomorrow... and I don't want to do that.  (For the stay-at-home mom's, using the idea of not going to work is just pitifully short-sighted of me... I know... I apologize for the poor example, but I think you get the point.)

So, we use this idea of knowing what we don't want to define what we want. Why not expand the idea and use it on a larger scale?

For anyone out there struggling with the ancient question of "what do I want to do with my life?", one way to answer that is to define what you don't want to do.  Define things around you that you see and don't like, things that are unacceptable to you.  You may just find a hidden passion of yours.

"It's unacceptable that kids in my neighborhood can't afford school shoes."

"It's unacceptable that violent crime has risen in our city by 10% over the last 2 years."

"It's unacceptable that I have to drive 20 minutes to get a good cup of coffee."

So do something about it.

This idea is not revolutionary... it's not even original.  It is, however, often forgotten.  So if you're stuck, start defining unacceptable and see where it leads you.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Are you steering?

I have to admit that I spend (or "waste", depending on your opinion) a little time every day reading through Facebook status updates.  I've recently recognized a theme that breaks my heart a little bit.  I see so many people whose attitude is a direct reflection of their current circumstances.  Unfortunately, we can't always control our circumstances.

The reason that this way of living life is hard for me to watch through the window of Facebook, is that I've been there... not so long ago.  I know the feeling of waking up every day with the anticipation of things gone wrong and the dismay that will linger throughout the day when they do.

I have good news...

I've found a better way.  I've found consistency.  My circumstances no longer drive my attitude.  My attitude now drives the way that I respond to (and create) my circumstances.  For me, this consistency is my faith.  Not the plastic faith that I pretended to cling to for so long, but a real relationship with my God.

I'm also finding inspiration in others that share a similar faith and whose circumstances do NOT define their attitude.  Check out this guy.... he amazes me every day in the way that he responds to his circumstances (I apologize if his profile is private).

So, here is the challenge.  Find a rock.  Find consistency.  "Circumstance" is a horrible driver so take the wheel back and start steering.