Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Guard rails and remote controls

They both do the same thing.  They keep things going in the right direction.  There is one major difference though.  A remote control is meant to continually correct the direction before anything goes wrong.  A guard rail is meant to allow a mistake but put you back on the right track.

As parents, I think we often act as remote controls trying to steer our kids through life, helping them to avoid every possible bump that life throws their way.  Remote controls keep our kids focused until we have to give up the remote.  But then they have no idea how to do life on their own.

Instead, I think we should try to be guard rails.  We should let our kids make some mistakes and when they get too far off track we can still bump them back on.  Guard rails allow them to feel their way along and get pointed in the right direction, with a little help, until eventually the rails aren't needed any more.

Put the remote control down and put up some rails for your kids!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

If their "payoff" is money...

I can't begin to explain the value that I put in someone that is willing to work hard.  I hope and pray that each one of us will instill that solid work ethic in each of our children.  It seems to be a dying trend in some regions.

So, to me, the question is not, "Should we teach our children the value of hard work?", but rather, "What will your children work hard to get?"  What do you want your child's "payoff" to be?  We often think of a "payoff" as money, but it can some in so many forms.

If their "payoff" is a strong family then that payoff will come when they spend many hours figuring out family dynamics and how to build stronger relationships.  We can help by being a great example of a father, mother, brother, daughter, etc.

If their "payoff" is a good education and strong financial future then their payoff will come when they spend countless hours studying, both books and real-world economics.  We can help by providing them the means to learn through books, taking them to the library and learning about real careers.

If their "payoff" is a strong relationship with God then that payoff will come when they spend their time focusing on reading the Bible, praying and working hard to be more like our Savior.  We can help by being an example of a true Christian, not telling them how to be a true Christian.

If their "payoff" is philanthropy then that payoff will come when they devote hours upon hours helping others that are in need and truly making a difference for future generations.  We can help by being great examples of cheerful givers.

If their "payoff" is purely money, I think we failed to teach them about the true values in life.

Monday, February 27, 2012

A case of the Monday's...

Actually, Monday is exactly the same as every other day. We just think about it differently. So, if we can train ourselves to hate Monday's, we can re-train ourselves to love Monday's.

Use today to plan the week and (more importantly) what you'll be doing next weekend.  Monday's are a great time to look back at the weekend and see what worked and what didn't.  Use that knowledge to make this Saturday the best one yet.

Planning your week isn't always fun, but planning your weekend can be!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Sometimes they aren't interested

I want my kids to clean their rooms. I want them to work hard. I want them to be honest and caring and loving. And I want them to listen when I'm talking, but sometimes they just aren't interested in what I have to say. When we have a passion in life, something that we are determined to accomplish, we want everyone to be a part of it. We tell them our grand idea with the expectation that they will love it. But sometimes they just aren't interested and that leaves us feeling let down. The problem isn't in their reaction (mostly), but in our expectation. Share your passion. Encourage people to join you. Just don't get upset with them when they aren't interested. (Sidenote: This is especially tough with family.)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

It's not failure

You made a mistake. You just messed up. When we realize that we made a mistake we can learn from it. Failure is making a mistake so big (or making so many little mistakes) that we can't recover. Mistakes happen often, actual failure is rare. Make your mistakes and move on, but don't confuse your mistakes for failure.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Fighting the cure

The wonderful world of pink eye has entered our home recently.  I have had the privilege of administering the eye drops a few times.  If you've ever tried to give a cat a bath, you have some idea of what it's like trying to give a four, six and 9-year-old eye drops.  It's the medicine that is going to make them better, but yet they fight   it.  How silly.

And how silly we are as adults for doing the same thing.  We avoid things because they're hard.  We constantly move the hard things to the bottom of our to-do list when we could immediately relieve stress if we would just take our medicine and get it over with.

What cure are you fighting today?  Stop fighting.  Open up, take your medicine and move on to better things.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Are you not entertained?

The entertainment is the easy part.  We have at our disposable more entertainment options than there have been since the beginning of time.  It's extremely easy to be entertained.  While entertainment definitely has its purpose, it's not learning, it's not connecting, it's not building, it's not growing, it's not helping.

So, I challenge the parents out there with the same question that I challenge myself with:  Are you growing your children or just entertaining them?

Anyone can grab a child and take them to a park, put them in front of the TV, put a video game controller in their hand and sit back at watch.  It takes a bigger commitment to play along with them, to understand why they like the TV shows that they like and to go down the slide behind them at the park.  Entertainment just takes time and resources.  Growing your children takes love, interested and long-term commitment.

So, I'll ask you again.  Are you growing your children or just entertaining them?

[Before you all jump down my throat, I get it.  I know that as parents we all need a break sometimes (I know for sure that I do!).  I'm all for letting them run around at the park while I sit and breathe.  There's definite value there.  The danger is when we mistake that for growing our children.]

Friday, February 17, 2012

Video game focus

In our new-age, ADD world, I'm going to need some help understanding something.  If we say we can't focus on anything as a society because we're mentally unable, why is it that when we plug into a video game we are 100% focused on the game?  Everything else goes away.  Our focus is committed to one thing and one thing only.  So, why is it that we can't achieve that same focus when it comes to writing a business letter, creating a personal budget or re-arranging our office?

I think it's because every tiny goal is laid out and presented to you in the video game, automatically.  Your next goal is constantly being fed to you as you complete the last one (think Super Mario Bros.) without you having to ask for it or figure it out.

What would happen if we arranged our days so that we were completely engaged in our current task and our next goal was automatically fed to us?  What if you made a list of every task you needed to do and you didn't "put the controller down" until you finished each task?

I'm realistic enough to know that this technique is NEVER going to work on a daily basis.  You'd spend more time planning than actually getting things done.  But, if you feel like you're falling behind, take an hour and meticulously schedule your tasks.  Write them down, get started and fight feverishly to ignore potential distractions until tasks are completed.

Now, who says you can't learn anything from playing video games?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Breakfast with a friend

If you haven't done it in awhile, you need to.  It'll take a sacrifice of some sort, but it will be worth it.  If you don't believe me, try it.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Being "manly" vs. being a man

As guys, we have this manly reputation to uphold.  And I fear we're going about it all wrong.  Just because I know how to sew (yes, it's true), read Junie B. Jones to my daughter, write love notes to my Valentine and like IKEA doesn't mean that I'm soft.

As men, we often use a watered-down, societal idea of being a man that is more about ego than anything else.  Being a man requires responsibility, leadership, self-control, courage, self-discipline, etc.  Being "manly" just requires and ego so big that you can't be honest with yourself so you overcompensate by doing only manly things.

I'll choose the former.  I hope you other men will too.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

To My Valentine...

Everyone says that life is short.  And I guess that's true, but more than that, I think we let it go by too quickly.  We wish the "bad times" away, but we often forget to enjoy those rough-around-the-edges moments.

I love the moments when one of us is sick.  What other day do we make time to be by each other's side, catering to every request and intently listening to every word to make sure that we get each detail just right?  Thanks for taking care of me and allowing me to take care of you.

I love the moments when we fight.  It shows our passion for each other and the fact that we won't let anything break us.  We're willing to be uncomfortable in the short term to guarantee that we're unshakeable in the long run.  Thanks for being willing to be uncomfortable with me.

I love the moments when we're tired.  When we can't keep our eyes open.  When the world is slowly fading to dark and I can't help but watch you drift off into your own world of dreams.  Thanks for dreaming with me.

I love the moments when we're in the car for hours.  Long trips can be a pain... or they can be a wonderful reason to disconnect from our media IV and learn about each other yet again.  Thanks for learning with me.

I love the moments when we're apart (kinda).  It helps me learn about myself while knowing how loved I really am.  Those moments help me to realize how important your role in my life is.  Thanks for staying close even when you're far away.

I love struggling together.  We've had some "life" stuff come up in the past.  And it will happen again.  It's gives us one more chance to learn with each other and about each other.  It allows us to become better people together.  Thanks for always being there to pick me up when I'm struggling to do so on my own.

And my favorite moments are the spontaneous ones where we can't stop laughing with (or at) each other. The moments when the world is silenced by the volume of our love.  Thanks for laughing with me.  I'm forever thankful.

It's so easy to fall in love with you...

They can say whatever they want

So our 6-year-old comes home from school the other day and she says that someone is "not being that nice sometimes."  It happens, right?  Kids call each other kids names.  They say your hair looks funny (which was the case this time).  They say your clothes aren't nice.  They say all kind of mean things.

Here's a little secret for my 6-year-old.  They can say whatever they want about you, but that doesn't make it true.

This advice goes for adults too.  When someone puts you down, tells you that you'll never make it, tells you that your idea is dumb or that your business idea will never work remember this: They can say whatever they want, but that doesn't mean it's true.

Keep your chin up.  Keep believing in yourself and doing the hard work to meet your goals.  And let them say whatever they want.  While they're putting you down, you can bring a smile to the rest of the world.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Why don't you care?

What is it about politics that turns us off?  (I know, I know... stay with me.)

I would say it's the drama, but Snooki is way too popular for that to be true.

I would say it's the feeling that we're being lied to, but we put up with that in our daily lives from friends, family, etc. and continue allowing them into our lives.  We don't typically give up when we get lied to... we get angry.

I would say it's because politics are boring, but we sit and read Facebook statuses all day long that say things like, "Just got a new pair of shoes!"  Seriously?  We're not easily turned off by the mundane.

The only thing that I can think is that we feel like we can't make a difference.

I'm concerned that this feeling of helplessness will bleed over into our family relationships.  We work so hard to teach our kids that they can make a difference when we don't believe that we can.  Before we can fix our country, our kids, our relationships, our faith, etc. we have to be aware of the shortcomings that we have.  Mainly, the self-imposed ones.  The limits that we put on ourselves that no one else does.

Believe that you can make a difference, because, quite frankly, you can.  But only if you believe it.

Friday, February 10, 2012

3 Reasons to Not Care

There are tons of things that we care about... and tons of things that we don't.  It's helpful to know when you should or shouldn't care.  Here are my guidelines:

I don't care if:
  1. It doesn't truly affect people.  I don't care a whole lot when the 37th version of a smart phone is released.  Your cell provider may care, but I have more important things to worry about... like my family, friends, job, life, community, etc.
  2. It's self-sustaining.  I, thankfully, don't need to change my oil once a week.  So, it's pretty self-sustaining between changes.  Many things in our life are like this (think plumbing, electricity, etc.).  However, we tend to assume that relationships are... they aren't!
  3. I can't do anything about it.  There are some things in my life that I would love to change.  Unfortunately, they're all in the past.  If I can't change it, why care?  Again, there are too many wonderful things to care about.
Think about what you care about.  And then care... today!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Dare I say it?

I read a book by the man who ultimately became famous in the U.S. for creating MAXIM magazine (he was famous in Europe long before that).  He's rich.  Actually, he's REALLY rich.  In the book he tells of living in a nearly abandoned apartment with his phone being the only utility that hadn't been shut off.  He was literally breaking his furniture into pieces and burning them for heat while watching his girlfriend leave him for his best friend that had "a real job."

You see, the reason Felix Denis is rich is not because he was luckier than I am.  It is because he was willing to sacrifice more than I am.  He was willing to risk more than I am.  He was willing to be uncomfortable more than I am.  But, for me to admit that he earned his wealth, I also have to admit that I'm not willing to follow his scarcely trodden path.

This post isn't about wealth.  It's about anything worth working for.  When you see someone that has a nice car, a nicer lawn, a devoted wife, respectful children or a stronger faith, it's most likely because they were willing to put in the work to make that happen.

Yes, it's easier to pretend they are just luckier.  But dare I say, the truth is that they probably worked harder.  

The good news for you and me is that there is nothing stopping us from working just as hard!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Why don't I have cancer?

I've seriously asked myself that question on several occasions.  The answer is always the same.

I have absolutely no idea.

We often think that we're entitled to a good life and that anything that disrupts that ideal is "bad luck."  What if we looked at it the other way?  What if each of us is entitled to a bad life and everything that distrupts that ideal is "good luck"?

What if every time your brakes work when you push the pedal, it's good luck?  What if every time your heart beats without you having a heart attack, it's good luck?  What if every day you don't lose your job, it's good luck?  Would that change your perspective?

We're often quick to blame bad luck when something goes wrong, but we're typically not so thankful for the thousands of little things that go right every day.  It's all a matter of perspective.

So, what went right today?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The bad part about anticipation

Waiting for the big game.  Waiting for a loved one to come home.  Waiting for a much-needed phone call.  Anticipation is wonderful.

The only bad part is that it seems to make time take longer.

In that "extra" time, are you more productive or less productive?  Use that extra anticipation energy to get more things done instead of just using it to wait.... longer.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Losing sight of your value

Put your glasses on.  This sometimes takes work.  You have value.  We all do.  What is yours?

Ask yourself this single question:
"What is the thing that only I can do?" 

Friday, February 3, 2012

Waiting is not a plan

So stop waiting for a job.  Stop waiting for the economy to get better.  Stop waiting for your relationship to heal.  Stop waiting for your kids to get better grades.

Change is the result of action.  If you want change you must initiate it.

The question is not, "When will this situation get better?"  The question is, "What can I do to make this situation better?"

Thursday, February 2, 2012

What is your art?

Everyone has one.  Maybe you like it.  Maybe you don't.  Maybe you're good at it.  Maybe you're not.

But the fact remains.  You will create some type of art today.  It may be a creative way to make a PB & J or it may be painting the next Mona Lisa.

So, I'll ask again.  What is your art?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

I have all of the answers

At least that's what I'm going to pretend.  I'm the adult, right?  I should have all of the answers.

Actually, we shouldn't.  I think our kids are a lot smarter and a lot more creative than we give them credit for.  I think we can learn a lot more by listening to them than we can by telling them what we think.

See, the problem is that we've already been tainted.  We've already bought into the status quo.  We already believe the lie about fitting in.  Our kids, on the other hand, have a fresh perspective on life.  They see things that we don't because the world is still amazing to them.

I think we have a lot to learn from our children.  But first, we have to admit that we don't have all of the answers.