F.O.C.U.S

How To Manage Distractions

When you have two children, you can play man to man.  More than two and you have to play zone.  As if that’s not difficult enough, there’s a new challenge.

Distractions.

Remember the pastoral days before cell phones?  Just you and nature or whoever happened to be in front of you.  You could change your oil in peace or bake a cake without being dinged.

I’m so glad cellphones weren’t around when I was a teenager.  It was bad enough not having a girlfriend, let alone worrying if I was going to get dumped via text.   My zit production was bad enough without that kind of stress looming over head.

Back in those days the only ones who had cell phones were C.E.O’s.  And the phones they had were the size of bread loaves.  When did we all become C.E.O’s?

While those days aren’t gone, something has changed.  There came a day when we found that we could do lots of things at the same time.  We could drive and talk on our phones or read a text.  We could read a book to our child and look up the latest deals in the market place when and if necessary.

But it’s more than our phones now.  There are distractions everywhere.  Go online for a few minutes and there a thousands of different rabbit trails.  They know what you like based on your searches and advertise the items in the margins.  You can go online today to find out what the weather is going to be and end up buying a kayak!

By now, perhaps you’re beginning to realize the dilemma.  There are so many alluring exits in our daily travels that we’re having a hard time reaching our destinations.

Here are some thoughts on focusing.

F: Find a system that works for you.  Personally, I’ve found that when I lock my cell phone in my car for hours on end, I can’t be distracted by it.  While that might sound harsh, find a system that works for you.  Go cold turkey.  Start by taking baby steps.  If hours on end sounds too long, lock it away for an hour or two.  Whatever you do, find what works for you.  Turn off your notifications.  Silence it during sleeping hours.  Once you find your system, tweak it and change it.  Learn from your mistakes.

O: Opt out on being part of the crowd.  We all want to be loved.  The problem is we can’t love everyone at the same time.  Oprah says she’s got a lot of money.  And because she has lots of money, she gets a lot of requests from people who want her money.  She says that while she can’t give money away to everyone, she can give away some here and there.  You’re not Oprah.  You only have a limited supply of time and energy.  Don’t try to keep everyone happy.  They’ll find you sitting in your cubicle drooling all over yourself.  Opting out of the crowd doesn’t mean you don’t care. It means you care enough for those you love to devote yourselves to them in such a way that they know they are your number one priority.  Don’t be a cellphone zombie.

C: Craft a vision for you and your family.  Part of the reason we’re so distracted is we don’t have a long term vision.  Take some time and try this exercise.  Begin by imagining what you want your children and/or family to remember about you.  Many people do this.  What do you want your epithet to say?  Then ask yourself what you want your grandchildren to remember about you.  Then your great grandchildren and great great grandchildren.  If that doesn’t help, ask yourself what you want to remembered about you one thousand years from now!  Once you can answer that question, the distractions will melt away.

U: Use your phone to create.  In the world of production, there are really only two types of people, producers and consumers.  My personal vision is to ‘create good things, beautiful things, in the lives of others and their families’.  The problem is it’s so easy to just consume all of the good and beautiful things other people have created.  You don’t have to write a novel or write a blog to be creative.  Start small.  Text your spouse during your break and tell them you love them.  Call one of your friends on FB who appears to be struggling.  Post something that is going to add value to the lives of your followers.  Start by making one call a day or one post.  Encourage one person.

S: Soar.  As you begin to take back parts of your life, your whole life will improve.  Don’t go through life being distracted left and right.  Focus on the moment.  Wherever you are, be all there.  By taking a few minutes or hours to take a bird’s eye view, you’ll develop an Eagle’s eye focus on what needs attention.  Reflection and observation are two of the most powerful tools to help you get back on track and start flying toward your dreams again.

Nothing can undermine your effectiveness quicker than distractions.  The good news is that the more you begin to focus, the more your distractions diminish.

Some people put blinders on their horses to keep the horse focused on the task at hand.  It’s not cruel.  It keeps the animal on track and focused on the task at hand.  I don’t know about you, but I need blinders sometimes.  There have been too many days when I haven’t experienced a sense of satisfaction because I’ve been distracted.  How about you?

 

 

 

What To Do Now That You Took A Risk And Things Are Looking Ugly

What Winners DO When Things Go Wrong

Although I enjoyed my job most of the time in High School and college, there were times I didn’t.  While everyone else was enjoying their weekend, I was schlepping crates of milk from the back cooler and stocking the shelves.  In the process, you had to pull all of the old milk from the back of the shelf and put the new stuff in the front.

Sometimes I stocked the Frozen section.  Nothing is more embarrassing than having zits and wearing a red smock and being seen by the other kids in your class, while filling shelves with frozen pizzas.  Usually they just snickered and kept walking.  Occasionally they’d acknowledge me with the wave of a hand.  I might as well have had a big ‘L’ tattooed on my forehead.

Soon after I stopped working for Grand Union in 1995, they offered an incentive.  It wasn’t much, just a couple thousand dollars, but as a young college student I could have used it.  It would have been fun to take the summer off and sleep in until noon everyday, all the while having disposable income.

But then there’s foresight.  That moment when you decide to keep moving forward come sink or swim.  It’s what separates the wheat from the chaff in the world of success.  Be it determination, fortitude, call it what you want, there’s something to setting your course and pressing on.

I decided to do that recently.  The path I was on was pleasant and fulfilling, yet I decided to strike out for new territories beyond my comfort zone, professionally.  Again, there was no buyout.

But there was buy-in.  I bought in to the idea that it was something God wanted me to do.  That was enough, always has been.  Sometimes what doesn’t look good on paper, makes perfect sense otherwise.  Sometimes the best thing is a change.

However, when the newness and excitement of your adventurous decision wears off, you’re left to figure out what you have to do to get out of the quicksand you’ve jumped into.

In my case, there were new hours, new days off, new people.  At times I felt like I was in a video game looking for shortcuts and secrets.  Occasionally there were hidden treasures, but most of the time there was a lot of struggle.  It’s a real challenge when you go from total competence to relative incompetence.

Some of you know exactly what I’m talking about right now.  You struck out in a new direction and sometimes you find yourself looking back over your shoulder.  You think about going back to the place and time where things were predictable.

Here are a few lessons I’ve gleaned 60 days into my new journey.

It’s going to be o.k!  If you’re like me, you need to know that right now.  One time I went camping with my Dad and his friend for the weekend.  We rode on the back of their motorcycles and pitched tents.  We were young and it was pitch black the first night.  Us kids were alone in the tent and the darker and later it got, the more sure we were that there were bears outside the tent getting ready to eat us.  I’m older now and I’m not scared of bears.  A lot of crumby things can happen, yes.  But you have to keep fear at bay and your faith intact at the same time.  Imagine how the men and women of the bible must have felt while going through their heartaches and trials.  It’s going to be o.k.  I promise.

Learning is fun!  When you attempt new things, you learn new things.  Your circle grows and so does your knowledge.  You meet new people and they teach you new things.  Sometimes what to do and other times what not to do.  You learn their stories and fears and insecurities, philosophies, viewpoints and more.  In some cases, they share exciting and innovative life strategies with you.

Your circle of influence grows!  As you meet new people, you’re impact grows.  Likewise, these people help you connect with their friends and networks.  The choice is yours, you can remain living as a big fish in a small pond or you can become a small fish in a big pond.  There used to be an old pond down behind the farm I grew up on.  It was full of Catfish.  The problem was they were all stunted.  None of the fish were over 4 or 5 inches long.  Sure you could catch a ton of them, but nothing huge.  They were so small because they had no choice but to remain in the small, overpopulated pond they lived in.  A pond with limited supplies of food and opportunities for growth.  You’re not a fish.  The choice is yours when it comes to pursuing new ventures.  You don’t have to stay in the pond, there are oceans out there!

Your confidence will grow!  Remember the first day of school?  One poor kid I went to school with peed his pants every day before he got on the bus.  He’s been dead now for many years now.  He crossed over the median on a highway into oncoming traffic while being chased by the police.

New places, especially school, can be frightening.  You have a new locker that’s hard to find and you pray everyday to crack the combination and find all of your classes.  In the hustle and bustle your books sometimes get knocked out of your hands and lie sprawled out all over the floor.  The good news is that as time goes by, your confidence grows.  Slowly but surely you learn your way around and the new sights, sounds and people become familiar.  Relax.  You learned new environments in the past, and your going to assimilate with your new environment.  One of these days you’re going to be able to give the new kid on the block a tour and show him the restroom so that he can put on fresh pants.  Or not.  Point is, as your confidence grows, you’ll be more likely to embrace fresh opportunities in the future.   The more you do, the shorter the learning curve becomes and the more potential you have.  The lessons and experience you’re gathering now will prove helpful in the future.

Your appreciation for the world we live in will grow!  You’re going to find out that wherever you go, there are new people to meet and new places to see.  And if you stay positive, you’ll find beauty all around you, no matter where you go.  The good news too is that wherever you go, God is the same.  Yesterday, today and tomorrow.  And he’s created an amazing world.  Whenever you get discouraged, just look up and when you do, you’ll find out that the view of the sky is the same no matter where you go.

My Dad used to take us fishing with Fibber McGee, a friend of his and when we asked Fibber why we weren’t catching as many fish as he was, he always said the same thing, “You have to hold your face right!”  I remember wondering what he meant for years, he’d never tell us.  Then one day I realized what he was saying.  It was a flash of lightening.  He was saying, “Whatever you do, keep a great attitude!”  You have to believe before you receive.

I don’t know what you’re going through right now, but I do know this.  Regardless of what it is, if you keep the right attitude and stay positive, things are going to turn out just fine.  It all goes back to the Law of Reaping and Sowing.  Keep planting good seed and good fruit will follow!

“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap”.  Galatians 6:7

 

 

 

 

Morning Makeover

30 Days of Waking Up at 5:30 a.m.

As a child, by the time I rolled out of bed, my Grandfather was usually coming in for breakfast after milking the cows!

This past month I focused on developing the habit of waking up at 5:30 a.m. every morning.  The results were amazing!

The quality of your morning routine dictates your whole day!

More than becoming a morning riser, my specific goal was to launch each day in such a way that the rest of the day was amazing. I kid you not, this was one of the most incredible months of my life!

It all began after discovering a book called ‘The Miracle Morning’ by Hal Elrod. His book emphasizes 6 practices every morning. Silence, Affirmations, Visualization, Exercise, Reading, and Scribing (writing). S.A.V.E.R.S.

It’s not a race. At first, it was a bit regimental. But that was my own fault. I would set the timer on my iphone for a period of time and then try to accomplish each step. You’ll soon learn that your morning routine becomes stressful rather than enjoyable when you do it this way. There is no hurry.

You’ll develop incredible energy reserves. In fact, I regularly have the energy to enjoy 17 and 18 hour days as a result of this new routine.

You’ll develop a habit that will provide lifelong returns. Arnold Schwartzenegger’s Dad took his children on day trips and required them to write reports about their experiences. The hulking figure you see today was no accident. If you study his life, he is one of the most self-disciplined people in the world and that discipline has allowed him to develop into the man he is today. All of your healthy habits snowball over time.

You’ll see the world differently. Even the army knows this. They insist soldiers make their bed first every morning. The beds are then expected. Why? Having a great day begins with a sense of accomplishment from performing one simple task well. When your morning routine changes for the better, your whole world changes and you begin to see it in a whole new way!

Amazing things happen! The first morning I implemented this routine was one of the happiest days of my life. After completing my routine the first day I can truly say it was a miracle morning. I spent the rest of the winter day hiking under an Ultra-Marine Blue sky in the Adirondack mountains of N.Y with a sense of peace I had not experienced in a long time. Last night I was invited to watch the Liberty Flames baseball game from a sky box in Lynchburg, Virginia with an world-wide expert in the field of counseling and his family! God is good….all the time.

You’ll stand out in the crowd. As you begin to feel better about yourself, others will feel better about you too! In the words of Dr. David Black, a leader is someone who when he says he’s going fishing, people don’t yawn and walk away. They want to go too. Your self- discipline will begin to ‘stick out’ and people will be drawn to you. Chances are they may not even know why, but they will.

You’ll start to dream again. If you’re like most people, there’s someone you’d like to meet in your lifetime. Maybe it’s a famous musician or a ‘movie star’, or perhaps an athlete. You can’t rewind the clock and tomorrow’s not here yet but you can start dreaming right now! You have to decide what you’re going to talk about when you meet these people. Otherwise when you meet them, you will not be able to capitalize.

Dreams really do come true! If I told you all of the things that happened this past month, you probably wouldn’t believe me. It really has been amazing!

The most amazing part is that I have fallen in love with getting up and seizing the day and you can too! I realize you’re ‘busy’ and you have a lot on your plate right now. But there are only so many hours in the day. If we don’t carve out time to do the things that really matter, our lives pass us by and we miss out on all that God has for us.

If your old model isn’t getting you the results you want, why keep using it? Don’t just tweak it or improve it incrementally, try something new. This model really works. The important thing is to find what works for you. Customize it. Tweak it. Maximize. 30 days from now you have the potential to be a whole new person.

Don’t get discouraged. No, it’s not going to be easy to begin with, but after awhile it will come as naturally as walking or riding a bike. There is an uphill battle and you will have resistance, but in time, what was once hard will become easier.

Here are three action steps:
1) Design a curriculum that works for you the night before. Think about what you want to accomplish this month and then decide what steps you have to take. Write the plan down on paper.
2) Set your alarm and make it so that you have to get out of bed to turn it off. Once you’re up, leave your bedroom a.s.a.p.
3) Drink a glass of cold water as soon as you wake up.
4) Have your materials ready so that you can begin immediately.

The Mental Clarity and Proposal App

An Easily Remembered Template For Your You And Your Team

An app by definition, according to dictionary.com is: an application, typically a small, specialized program downloaded onto mobile devices. Fancy words, for a really cool tool that can be used repeatedly to help you achieve excellent results (my own words).

Before there were digital apps, there were written ones in the form of pen and paper. This is that kind of app (for now- I’m sure it will morph into much more!).

I’m super excited about this app because it will prayerfully be the first of many! It’s an app in that it is a short, concise blog post that can be accessed and used repeatedly. At this moment, it seems there is no limit to the potential for this type of teaching.

In reality we are busier than we’ve ever been. These apps are powerful because they can be accessed and implemented quickly.

Introducing the Mental Clarity and Proposal App!

As a leader, it is important that you are clear on the direction you and those you lead are heading. As legendary teacher Howard Hendricks taught, “If theres mist in the pulpit, it will be foggy in the pew.” As a leader, it is imperative that you think and teach with clarity.

There are 5 questions you must answer if you are going to ask those you lead to commit. This idea came about as the result of a question asked by a friend who asked me to clarify a post I had made on Facebook.

The Five Questions.

Who? As you plan your work, it is important to think about who you want to join your team. This is a vital step for those who practice the art of delegation. Before others commit, they want to know who else is going to be working on the project.
What? This is pretty obvious, but it is important to know ‘what’ you plan on doing. You also need to describe your project or objective clearly! The people you lead will not be able to perform the necessary tasks unless they have a clear mental picture of your objective.
When? In the words of Andy Stanley, “Everything has a shelf-life.” When will this project start, how long will it take and when will it be completed? Until you can answer these three questions, you’re not ready to go ship. If you want to be really prepared, calendar the steps necessary to complete the project.
Where? I know what you’re thinking. Pretty obvious. Nevertheless, this is an important part of planning. Determine the where of your project before you ever discuss it.
Why? – In the words of Gail Hyatt, “People want to know the why behind the what.” You may have the greatest idea in the world, but people want to know the purpose before they are willing to fully commit.

Bonus: How? I worked in the construction business for many years under different Foreman. Each Foreman, was in charge of completing the same project. However, they each had their own formula and approach to the work. Admittedly, some were probably more productive than others. At the end of the day, each project was completed. Taking that idea a step further, be open to the ideas and strategies of those you lead when it comes to designing a project. Some of their ideas are probably going to even better than yours!

Step 2: Create Your App! Write these 5 questions in your journal or design a template on your computer. You now have a simple, yet powerful tool that will help you design and implement new and exciting ideas as they arise!

How To Get More Done

By Doing Less

Have you ever wondered how some people manage to find time to unplug? This is what you need to do if you want to accomplish more this year.

For years, I found plenty of time to unplug. Then I discovered that the more time I took for myself, the more tired I got. It also placed a strain on my closest relationships. This one little trick helped me to get back on track.

When it comes to rest, I’ve found that quality is just as important as quantity.

Remember, vocation came before vacation in the bible. God placed Adam and Eve in the garden with the charge to ‘dress’ and ‘keep’ it. Work is a gift and a pleasure. It only became more difficult after they disobeyed God. Yet as difficult as it got, nowhere in scripture do we see God abolishing the command to rest one day a week despite how hectic life gets.

Although I’d heard of the benefits of regular rest, things never really clicked until recent years. It’s counterintuitive, but you can get more done by unplugging regularly. In fact, if you’re not scheduling rest, you’re probably not resting.

God knew what He was doing when He prescribed regular rest in creation. There is day then night. The seventh day is to be a day of rest (not necessarily Sunday, but at least one day). Mealtime is a time of rest. In fact, once every seven years, farmers were to let their fields rest! Yes, even the natural world needs rest. So what do your rhythms of rest look like on a daily, weekly, annual basis?

Imagine having a whole day every week to regroup and resharpen! You can, but it’s going to require faith. The irony is you can accomplish just as much in six days as you can in seven. I realize that makes no sense to some people. I can hear you saying right now “Who’s going to do it all if I don’t?”

So what does a day of rest look like?

If you’re a pastor, I’ve got news for you: Sunday is not your day of rest. That means you need to pick another day of the week to regroup and rest.

Again, maybe you think that if you just do whatever you want, you’ll have a ‘good’ day. But again, remember that quality is just as important as quantity. You could take a year off and be absolutely miserable at the end of it.

So lets talk about variety for a minute. Are you stuck in a rut where every rest day looks the same? We all know the golfer who golfs all summer and then is glad when the summer is over. Thank God there are seasons in the North east. Otherwise, many of us would do the same things all year and reap diminishing returns in the process!

When is the last time you spent a rest day outside? I can already hear some of you protesting because it’s too cold. Not when you’re moving. Ask kids. They just bundle up and go for it, be it ice skating, sledding or building a snow castle in the front yard.

“The earth is the LORD’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.” Psalm 24:1

That doesn’t mean the outdoors is your primary place of worship. It means that there’s no place you can go and get away from evidence that there is a Creator. As a pastor I talk with people all of the time who say their church is in nature. I love the outdoors! But I love God even more and He designed us to thrive in community!

My son and I are currently working on survival packs to enjoy our times outside even more. Recently he saw someone using military water proof matches and now he wants to find some! Your essentials will include a flashlight or two, a map and two compasses. Two in case you don’t trust the first one.

On top of that, you can add a space blanket, chocolate, a mess kit, sharp knives and a fire starter. You never know when you’ll need them, and you’ll be quite happy to have them if you find yourself needing them. All of these items only weigh three or four pounds.

Once your kit or day bag is complete, you won’t have to go through the motions of preparing it every week.

I also received a Christmas present this year to help me enjoy my time outside even more. It’s a hand warmer and cell phone charger that can be charged with a USB cable just like your cell phone! I don’t currently have one (maybe you have an extra), but a GPS unit is also a great tool to have.

So how do you carve out a day just for yourself? Like everything else, if you don’t plan and schedule it, it’s not going to happen.

It may mean doing dishes and decluttering. You may have to service the car or cut the lawn. You may have to sit and just listen. Even after you do all of that, chances are your day of rest is going to include your family. Successful people know that the secret to having their own needs met is to meet the needs of others.

When it’s all said and done, you may not even end up with a whole day. You may just be able to slip away for a couple of hours. But remember, quality is just as important as quantity.

By now if you’re thinking that when you meet the needs of others, you will instantly have people meet yours, you are wrong! You’re going to have to invest. It’s going to take time to figure out what works best for you and your loved ones. Sometimes it may take years and still there will be no payout. That’s fine, that’s the way it goes. You’ll know in your heart of hearts that you’ve served as best you could.

Ultimately, there will be a reward. It may not be monetary. You may just receive a text when you get back from your day out and turn your cell phone back on. It may just come in the form of a ‘Thank You!’ letter after years of service or a blessing from God from out of the blue. Ideally you will see it in the changed lives of those you’ve invested in.

However, if you never schedule regular time to get away and regroup, chances are you’ll never be able to slow down enough to see the difference you’re making! So if you’re really busy right now, you need to unplug. You’re like your cellphone: you weren’t designed to run forever without recharging! For most people, one of the first things to get crossed off their list when they’re running full tilt is reflection and recharging. Don’t make that mistake of missing out on your pre-scheduled times of rest.

10,000 Ways to Beat Cabin Fever!

Vocation vs. Vacation

We all have seasons when we just want to go back to bed. Here’s why you shouldn’t do that.

Years ago my Dad took us ice fishing. That’s the kind of thing you do in the Northeast when all of the lakes and ponds freeze up. I especially enjoyed it because I would don a pair of ice skates and sneak out to the farthest tip up and trip the flag. Of course I only did it when things got slow. I wouldn’t say a word, but inevitably someone would see the red flag waving in the distance and everyone would make a mad dash for the “big one”. Often someone would slip and crash on the way after their coveted prize. The game never got old. Still makes me laugh!

When I wasn’t pulling pranks, I would often sit around and begin to shiver. Eventually I’d complain. My Dad would always say the same thing, “Take a lap!”. That meant that if I got up and started moving I would soon warm up.

When you’re a kid, you often don’t understand the depth of the lessons you’re learning. It’s only years later that you realize how powerful the principles are that you learned.

However, it often takes a set back to realize the importance of lessons you learned in the past.

For example, it’s easy to reach the point where inactivity seems like the best option. There’s actually a law about this. Things that are at rest have a tendency to stay at rest. And guess what? When you rest, you rust!

Remember the Tin man in the Wizard of Oz. Dorothy found him all seized up. If I remember correctly, he only had enough movement in his mouth to ask for a good oiling. We’re no different. Rest is a good thing. But too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. The same goes for sex, drink, food, you name it. One of the surest ways to lose your race is to take a permanent pitstop.

You see it all of the time in the working world. People retire and not long after they check out. I’m all for retirement if people are able to. However, a permanent vacation is no substitute for a vocation.

Go all the way back to the garden. Work came before the curse. Moses writes, “And the LORD took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.” Genesis 2:15. After the Fall, God said, “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” Genesis 3:19.

We weren’t designed for a life of inactivity. We were designed to dress and keep. When we forfeit our dominion, we forfeit our freedom.

If you want to know what that feels like, simply imagine being handcuffed and shackled. God has a better way.

If you’ve ever wondered why you’re here, you can rest assured you are here for a purpose. Part of that purpose is so that you can love God and others as well as yourself. That begins when you take God at his word and act on it. Once you do, that’s just the beginning, there is more. God wants to train you and use you to reach others.

The rub is it’s so easy to get focused on our own needs. When we do, we have a tendency to look inward and take our eyes off God and others. Before long, just like a pail full of water in January, we begin to freeze.

Here are some practical solutions I’ve found helpful.

Stay active. Yes, activity can numb the pain. We’re not talking about being excessively active to the point where we are numb to needs. But rather than looking at getting the mail in January as a curse, keep doing it. While you’re at it, write to others.

Use the phone for more than just texting. Reach out to people. Call them or stop by. People long for company these days. You just may find out that your problems pale in comparison to those of others. Ask people what they’re reading and share some of the titles that are helping you. I’m currently finding great help in “Leadership Pain”, “Concentric Circles of Care”, and “Where is God When it Hurts”. I’m also finding great comfort reading and praying through the Psalms.

Take a walk. Bake some cookies. Spend half a day cleaning the house. Just start in one corner and before long, you’ll be off to the races. There are very few things that compare to a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day. Shop around for less expensive car and home owners insurance. Take the kids iceskating. Dance in the kitchen. Be goofy and introduce them to the cartoons you watched as a kid. Dial up a family movie on Netflix…my son and I were recently intrigued by ‘My Side of the Mountain’. Share some of the music you listened to growing up as a kid….American Dream by CSNY recently took me back to the good old days when the future was still a mystery and I was searching for answers. Tell them stories about when you were a kid and how you passed the time before there were computers, cell phones, laptops and Ipads.

Teach. Don’t just pull up to the A.T.M and leave your kid in the car. Give him the debit card and walk him through using it. Let him experience the power of trial and error. Show him how to wash the car and vacuum it. Show him junk mail and how to spot it a mile away. Teach her the importance of quality rather than quantity when completing school work. Let them reap the rewards of bad seed they’ve sowed. Let them go to the bus stop without a coat, without worrying what every one will say. They’ll learn!

Eventually, we all discover that we’re “it”. It’s our turn to pass on generational wisdom and history.

Tomorrow will soon be here. Our lives are but vapors….here one minute and gone the next. The bible says to redeem the time. Cash it in, rather than saving it. These are the golden days, not some time far off in the future, so plant the corn rather than keeping it in the bin to rot and get eaten by the rats. Take a lap!

Use The Good China Now!

Don't Wait to Master this Approach

What if someone said you could radically change your life by learning to take it easy?

You’ve probably been raised to believe that you have to work hard every second of the day if you want to amount to anything.  First, you were told to get good grades.  Then you had to find the right college.  Next you had to get a good job.  Then you had to find the right mate.  Then a home.  Then have kids.  Then save for college.  Then save for retirement….

If you’re on that course, chances are you are thinking there has to be a better way.

We can get so caught up in making a living that we fail to live.

In fact, you probably know a person or two who heard the final buzzer before reaching their goals.  A grandfather who died in his sixties.  A mom who died in her fifties.  In your quietest hours you probably still wonder why.

Learning to relax may not prolong your life on earth but you’ll gain a life in the process.

The golden years aren’t when you retire.  The golden days are now.  This isn’t a dress rehearsal for the big show.  This is the big show.  If you wait to start enjoying life when you’re retired, you’ll be disappointed.

That’s not to say we shouldn’t work.  Of course we should work!  And work hard.  But if we work hard, we should also learn how to play hard.  I’m not saying ‘eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die’.  That idea runs contrary to the whole vibe of this blog.

It’s amazing that we take time to learn things we don’t enjoy and fail to study the things in life that really count.

While it is important to master things we don’t enjoy doing, it’s equally important to master things that will give us years of joy and fulfillment.  

What if you studied to discover healthy ways to unwind at the end of a long day?

What if you figured out how to dwell in your home and not just pass the time?

What if you looked for ways to find joy in the mundane?

What if you spent more time with someone who knows how to relax around and enjoy other people?

Feel free to ponder some of the other areas you would like to study in your life.  You are not a human doing, you are a human being.

Here are some tips to get you started.

Try something new and God will show you something new.  What if instead of checking Facebook first thing in the morning, you spent a couple of minutes with your cat or dog.  You have to feed them anyway.  Turn what has become a chore into something that is mutually enjoyable for both of you.  The essential thing is not your new routine, it is obliterating your old one.

Read outside your area of expertise.  Reading is not only a great way to pass the time, it’s something you’ll have to do if you are going to figure out the answers to some of the questions you’re now asking.  However, it doesn’t take as long as you think to become an expert in a new area.  After you’ve read 4 or 5 books on your new interest, you’ll become familiar with the general concept and every writer will start sounding the same.

Share a meal with someone.  No matter where you go, there will usually be people.  There’s just something about sharing food or drink with somebody.  In the gospels, you see Jesus doing this repeatedly.  However, when we get caught up in the rat race, one of the first things to go out the window is the time we spend with people we care about.  Remember, it’s not about the food.  It’s about the relationship.  Meals aren’t something we share just to gain nutritional value each day, meals are an opportunity to heal and cement healthy relationships.

Some of the happiest people you’ll meet are those who have achieved greatness but still know how to slow down and enjoy the simple pleasures of life.  You’ll know them when you meet them.  They are able to melt into their chair and relax and patiently listen while you talk.  They make you feel more relaxed by just being around them.  These kinds of leaders have learned the art of being.

Then there are the other kind.  One speaker went to a mental institution and stated, “You know why we’re all here, don’t you?”  There was a pause and someone finally stood up in the audience and said, “Because we’re not all there!”.    Influential leaders live by the mantra ‘Wherever you are, be all there’.

Are you all there, or have you been in such a hurry to get there that you’re missing out?

The amazing secret is that when you slow down and enjoy life more, you achieve more than you would otherwise.  Things are nice, but it’s not the things of life that add value to our life, it’s people.  You can lose all of the things you have and buy new ones, but the same is not true with people.

Success is a moving target, and in our pursuit of it, we miss out on the now.  We weren’t designed to work all of our lives only to achieve a momentary goal and die.  Life is a precious jewel, meant to be enjoyed each and every day not just before our last breath.  Start using the good China ware now with your children while they’re still young.  They may break a cup or plate, but you’ll have memories to enjoy and laugh about in years to come rather than a load of regrets.

 

What In The World Are You Here For?

One Simple Principle to Clarify Your Future

Have you ever felt like you were in the middle of something and didn’t know the next step to take? It’s a common problem, especially this time of the year.

I know exactly how you feel. I felt the same exact way while working construction after college. That’s right. Went to school for four years to study English and ended up running a jack hammer! At first it wasn’t all that bad. We worked out in the sun during the summer and the money was enough to even enjoy a want once in a while. Then came winter.

I believe there’s a simple reason why you may be feeling like your future is uncertain.

When we forget why we’re doing something, we lose our direction.

For example, ever gone into a room and forgotten why you were there? You don’t have to be a senior citizen for this to happen. The first thing you do is ask yourself “Why did I come in here?”

Nothing clarifies your present situation better than asking this question. When you’re happy with the answer to this question, you’ll find that your future becomes instantly clear.

Is it your job? One lady I know went to work to buy a vacuum cleaner. Thirty-five years later she was still working. That’s a whole other story, but maybe it’s time you asked yourself why you’re working the job you are right now. You may decide you’re doing it to provide for your family and create a better financial future for yourself. That’s fine. However, until you clarify why you’re working where you are right now, your future will be fuzzy and you’ll constantly lack direction.

Is it your marriage? You met the person of your dreams and it was Disney on earth. Then after you got married you were in hormone heaven for about a year. Now you realize the person you married has bad breath in the morning and actually uses toilet paper. Chances are you need to remember why you chose the path you did.

Perhaps it’s your kids. For years you dreamed of having them. You prayed for a boy and a girl. Now they’re teenagers and you often realize why some animals eat their own young. If someone asked you why you had them, what would you say?

Imagine if someone came up to you and said, “You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary.” That’s what Jesus actually told a church in the book of Revelation, chapter two verse 3. Not too shabby.

However he followed up his words of praise with this statement, “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first” (Revelation 2:4). Ouch!

This church was doing a lot of things right. The problem was they were doing a lot of good things for the wrong reason. They had lost their why. They were “going through the motions”.

When it comes to love, we in the western world associate love with the ‘warm, fuzzy, feelings’. A cupid shoots you in the heart and then you….well you know the rest of the story.

The love talked about here is more practical. It’s agape love or a sacrificial love, the kind of love Jesus had when he sacrificed himself for you and I.

It wasn’t that the Ephesian church members hated Jesus. They were still doing a lot of great things. The problem was they weren’t loving others the way he loved them. They’d forgotten their why.

In the words of Gail Hyatt, “We lose our way, when we lose our why”.

Getting back to your job. If you’re wondering why you still work where you do and you decide you started doing it to provide for your family, why not put a picture of your family on your desk? It will help you remember your why, especially during the difficult and stressful times.

The same applies to other areas of your life. Surround yourself with physical reminders of your why. These small reminders will get you through the dark times….the times when you walk into the room and ask yourself why you came in there.

The warm, fuzzy, feelings are nice when they come, but most of the time, the only thing you’ll feel is pain as you step outside of your comfort zone. Many times the pain will come in the form of uneasiness. That’s alright, use it to keep yourself on the right path.

Many people believe that as they grow, there will be less pain and fewer setbacks and obstacles. I wish that were true. But in my own experience, each passing year brings with it new challenges and problems. As someone once said, “New levels, new devils”.

Knowing your why will help you see clearly as you navigate the darkness and emotional fog. Every time you’re tempted to throw in the towel because things are getting too hard or you don’t remember where you’re going, remember your why.

Remember, there is a great deal of sacrifice in life. Jesus sacrificed and he expects no less from us. The secret is that sacrificing your comforts, goods and resources for others brings great joy. When you do, you don’t lose anything, you gain just as a flame loses no power by lighting a candle.

Chances are if your candle is burning right now, you’re in a season when you need to remind yourself of your why. Once you do, things will be much more clear, especially this upcoming year.
The last thing you want to do is keep going through the motions and hoping for some form of relief. Take some time and get to the heart of the matter. Decide your why and write it down somewhere.

What is your why?

Do This To Reach Your Goals

Did you know that studies have shown that 85% of us don’t plan?  In fact, only 10% do and another 5% simply wait to seize rare opportunities!  No matter where you fit in these statistics, planning doesn’t have to be as complicated as it seems.

Recently while talking with some friends, we talked about the upcoming year and our plans.  One of the topics was driving along the East coast between New York and Florida.  No matter who you talk to, most people try to drive the route in the shortest time possible.  All told, the trip takes about 24-30 hours depending on how many times you stop to rest and refuel.

I’ve found that in life, most of us have the same mentality when it comes to planning.  We want the shortest route possible between where we’re at and where we’re headed.  Along the way, we’ll do whatever it takes to reach our destination, be it risking our health, squandering our reserves, and straining our relationships.

I know from experience.  In my early twenties I drove my brother from New York to Florida- straight through, only stopping for fuel- and back!  He wasn’t too impressed on the way down and was even less impressed on the way home.  Thankfully, our experience was so miserable that I decided I’d never do that again.

You’re laughing, but is that how you plan?  I’d be willing to bet that you’ve already been thinking about the upcoming year and you’ve been so focused on your end results that you haven’t stopped to think about what you’re going to do along the way.  For example, if you’ve decided to diet, it’s going to be hardcore.  You’re going to stop eating junk, start eating vegetables, cut your portions, and go to the gym 3-5 times a week.  It’s not going to work!

Pursuing your goals without taking any time to celebrate or reward yourself is not just foolish, it can be devastating.  There is going to be fallout.  Taking the necessary steps to reach a goal is a wonderful thing, but more than just setting goals, you need a plan and that plan needs to include mile markers.  Nobody ever climbed Mount Everest in one giant leap, it takes many steps and times of rest.

The beautiful part is you get to be the designer.  Here’s how to start.

Decide where you’re at.  Define reality.  Mark an X on the page.

X

Next, decide where you’re headed.  Imagine a clear mental image of what things will look like when you reach your goal.

X                                                                                                                           X Clear mental image of results.

Now, draw a straight line between the two X’s.  To determine your ‘small wins’.

X________x_________x__________x_________x________X.

These are the mile markers between your starting point and destination where you will take time to reflect and celebrate!  Chances are if you’re reading this blog, you’re not very good at celebrating.  Chances are you’re a self-disciplined achiever and you’re always too busy working on the next win to celebrate.

As Stephen King wrote, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”.  If we don’t take time to relax and enjoy our successes, life loses it’s flavor.  Before you know it, you begin to think life is all about work.  The surprising thing about some of the happiest and successful people you’ll ever meet is that they recognize the importance of work and play.  When it’s time to work, nobody works harder.  When it’s time to play, they’re all in.

The question is how do you incorporate type B habits if you’re a type A personality?  Good question.  This is something I never thought about for years until recently.  I guess the short answer is you have to schedule.  Just as Holidays are marked out on the annual calendar, each of us have to decide when we’re going to come apart before we come apart.

If you’re a really driven type A person, you’ll have to begin by using the same discipline you already have, to make yourself take the time to rest and relax.  Not annually, but monthly, weekly and daily!

It going to take more than an annual vacation for you and your family to stay in the race and finish well.  You have to decide how you’re going to lead them to rest regularly and celebrate.  Face it, celebration is a lost art form in the day and age we live in.

Jesus himself realized the importance of resting.  Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat” (Mark 6:31).  I wonder how many times you and I have ignored his invitation to do the same.

Again, I’m not saying you shouldn’t make plans for the upcoming year or set a few goals.  What I am saying is New Year’s resolutions generally do not work.  The reason they don’t work is because they are usually radical sprints with little provision for rest and small wins.  Yes, they work for some, but not most.

If you don’t take the time to write down a starting and ending point with rest stops and celebrations along the way, chances are this upcoming year is going to end up the same way this year did.

Rather than expecting your pursuits to be easy, do the hard work of making a plan.  Then, work your plan and your plan will work.

The last thing any of us want to do is get to the end of our lives and look back along the highway and see the wreckage of our friends and loved ones who tried to keep up with us but couldn’t.

Slowing down so that others can keep up isn’t just a good idea if we want our loved ones to arrive with us, it’s also a great recipe for keeping ourselves in one piece.

How are you going to reward yourself as you reach for your goals in the upcoming year?

What To Do Before You Do Anything

You Need To Do This Well To Excel

Imagine walking through the mall this month and someone walks up to you and kisses you and tells you that they love you? Today we’re going to talk about why that might not be so weird in the day and age that we live in.

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If it was a complete stranger, you’d probably be shocked! If however, it was your spouse you’d think it was totally natural. Why? It all has to do with context. Given the context of marriage and your relationship at that time, your spouse has the right to kiss you and express their love for you. A stranger does not have that right.

Context may not sound like such a big deal at first glance, but it’s implications are far reaching. If you err in evaluating context as a leader, it can cost you greatly. In fact, with the advent of social media and the world we live in, it may be one of the greatest skills a leader should concentrate on.

For example, how easy is it to take a text the wrong way?  Even if the person sending it uses emoticons, their message can still be cloudy or misinterpreted, right?

As a leader, understanding your context is very important. Ask any pastor who has gone to a conference, came home, and tried to implement everything they learned. They assumed that just because something was working for another leader in California, the same would work for them in New York. Usually that’s not the case, because each context is different.

So how do you discover your context. It doesn’t happen overnight. It takes time. You need to do your research. A great example of a group who attempted to do that is found in Numbers 13 and 14. In these chapters, Moses sent 12 spies into the land of Canaan to discover the quality of the land and its resources. He also wanted to see what kind of opposition they were going to face if they decided to overtake it. They were “doing their homework”.

Again, the importance of context can’t be overstated. This is especially true when interpreting the scriptures. As you study them, you need to ask important questions. What is the historical context? What is the literary context? What is the cultural context? Any preacher will tell you that until you’ve done that, you’re not ready to preach a sermon.

Taking this a step further, context is everything in relationships and leadership, world events, politics, etc.

When we lift words or conversations out of context, they lose their meaning. For example, a conversation with your spouse might be perfectly acceptable in private, but having that same conversation in public might not be.

Again, you might totally misunderstand a statement someone makes on social media and decide to disagree. Having a conversation with that person over coffee or on the phone is probably a lot more appropriate than berating them in public.

When interpreting context, it’s so important to examine the source. It’s a little different when your four year old gets mad and says they hate you than it is when a four year employee says the same words.

As a leader, it’s so important to determine context. Your ability to do so, can make the difference between a long and fulfilling career and a short one.

I wonder how many arguments with our loved ones might be eliminated if we took the time to step back and look at the context in the given situation.

I wonder how much more peace we’d have if we walked away from conversations with our peers and interpreted their words based on the context of our friendship with them.

I wonder how much easier parenting would be if we looked at the actions and words of our children through the grid work of context.

What happens is that as we go through life, the words of those we love and their actions have the potential to derail our happiness if we fail to understand context. If we’re not careful, a one time event can be interpreted as a final straw. If we’re not careful, we can decide to burn all bridges based on a single event when someone we love was simply angry or immature. Lets face it, none of us are perfect. We all make mistakes.

The better you understand your context, the more you’ll be able to help those you love and serve.

Moses sent out spies to get the information he needed. That might be o.k. if you’re looking to start a new business or a church. But if you’re looking to better understand someone, having a conversation with them might be a better place to start.

Spending time with people is also a great way to better understand your context. When you do, be sure to occasionally ask questions to get the information you need.

If your a leader, you might even consider sending out a survey through a company like surveymonkey.com.

What are the local customs of the people you serve? There’s a difference between the customs of people in Las Vegas, Nevada and people who live in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

Cultures also vary from place to place. While this may seem like commonsense, it’s an important consideration when determining your context.

One last thing to remember is that the experts aren’t always right. Remember the 12 spies we talked about? Only 2 out of 12 of them came back with an accurate report about the Promised Land! Here we see that the majority is not always correct. While having a team is a great way to build a consensus, as a leader, you’ll have to make the best decision possible regardless of the consensus.

Again, it wouldn’t be odd if you were in the Mall and your spouse came up to you and kissed you and told you they love you. That would be perfectly natural in that setting. However, if a stranger did the exact same thing, it would be more than just plain weird, it would be unnatural. Great leaders know this and act accordingly. They do their thinking and decision making based on the context they are operating within and lead people accordingly. Call it discernment, call it heart, call it what you want, contextual thinking is powerful!