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.