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!