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!]