Let the new year begin…

“If you’re brave enough to say goodbye, life will reward you with a new hello.”

Paulo Coehlo

This year, more than most, I am excited to see the year end and the new year begin. There is something both cathartic and exciting about the simple change of the calendar and the moving of the date from 12/31/2019 to 1/1/2020. This is a new year, a new decade, a new opportunity to live a life of purpose and clarity.

Of course it is just a date on the calendar, nothing more. We should live every day as though it were New Year’s Eve. With both eyes ahead and focused on what is to come. But we don’t. We get wrapped up in what is happening in the world around us and what we perceive is happening “to us.” I don’t typically make “New Years resolutions.” Instead I use the changing of the dates to reset my mind and as a starting point for new goals.

I am still refining my goals for 2020 but one of my goals is crystal clear. I want to live my life purposefully and with extreme focus on being fully present each and every day. I know that I will fail at this (likely daily) but to truly live one must be present, not simply along for the ride.

I understand that there will be laughter, and sadness. I understand that there will be joy and disappointments. I understand that there will be success and failure. And I want to be present to experience every bit of it, so that I can become a better person and continue the journey towards becoming the person that God created me to be.

Happy New Year!

The key to discovery…

“The greatest obstacle to discovery is not ignorance  – it is the illusion of knowledge.”

Daniel Boorstin

It is amazing how what you think you know can change over time as you realize and learn how narrow your own thinking and perspective actually can be. Learning something new not only allows one to create new opportunities but also to understand how what you thought you knew all along was incorrect.

I wish I could go back in time and teach myself all the lessons that I have learned over the years when I discovered that what I thought I knew wasn’t a complete picture of reality.

Take the time to invest in reflection and introspection, this is the key to learning from the past and growing into the future. An open mind is the key to discovery…

Pause, Reflect, Learn…

“As we learn we always change, and so our perception.  This changed perception then becomes a new teacher inside each of us.”

Hyemeyohsts Storm

The ending a calendar year is always a time of great reflection and perspective seeking for me. I really enjoy taking the time to think back over the events and happenings of the past year. I typically think through and reflect on the answers to these questions:

  • What has has happened this year? What are the joys and disappointments?
  • What are the things that I have learned, and where do I still need to do more learning?
  • What are the best books I have read and what books did I leave unread that I want to add to my list for the next year?
  • What relationships did I grow and improve and what relationships do I need to invest in?
  • Who are the people that entered and exited my life and what did I learn from these relationships?
  • How have I grown as a Christian, Father, Husband and Leader? Where do I need to further grow and develop?
  • What are the most important events from the past year and how have I grown and learned from these?
  • What habits have I grown and cultivated that I must continue? What habits are holding me back?
  • Based on my answers to the above questions what should I Start, Stop or Continue?

This is just a general approximation of the questions that I reflect on as the year draws to a close. There are others that will come to mind as I work through the answers. I have found that in order to plan the year ahead I must do the hard work of answering critical questions so that I can learn and grow. It is amazing what you can learn when you take the time to pause and reflect with honesty and candor with oneself.

This morning as I was reading and meditating on a devotional I was reflecting on this verse and found it to be a great one to use as a lens for my “year in review” exercise.

‘And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.’ Romans 8:28

Everything that happens to us happens for us, if we choose to allow ourselves to learn and grow from it. Making that choice is what gives each of us the opportunity to change our perceptions and better our lives.

Take the time to pause, reflect and learn from the past year before madly dashing into the new year that is ahead. There are valuable lessons to be learned if you give yourself the time to do so.

No pearls here…

“All problems become smaller if you don’t dodge them, but confront them.”

William Halsey

How many times in life have we built up a problem in our minds and then when we finally deal with it find that it wasn’t such a big deal at all? It is amazing how we can create a story in our heads that is so much different than reality.

Sometimes it seems so much easier to just ignore the little things and justify doing so by saying “this isn’t worth the time” or “I’ll deal with it later.” But then the problem just grows as we ignore it. Unfortunately ignored problems we ignore aren’t like the grains of sand that become pearls in an oyster. They are more like a steady leak of water under a house that undermines the foundation over time.

What is a problem or challenge that you have been putting off for another day that could/should be addressed right now? What stops you from dealing with it? Lack of time? Fear of conflict? Worry about upsetting someone? Make a list of the things you know you should deal with, but haven’t. Rank them from easiest to handle to most challenging and then commit to tackle the first one NOW. You might be surprised at how much smaller it is when you deal with it instead of continuing to ignore it.

The biggest danger in ignoring problems isn’t that the problem get larger, it is that apathy can set in and you no longer care about resolving the problem.

The conversation in your head…

“The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.”

Peter Drucker

Listening to the words that are being said is a hard proposition. All too often I catch myself listening just well enough to create my response. In many cases I, and most people, aren’t really listening at all, the mind is rehearsing its response to whatever is being said.

How do you achieve a higher level of listening which is more than hearing all the words? How do you listen well enough to understand the “why” of what is being said? Once you get to that level only then are you truly listening.

I have found two things that help me move past the natural tendency of my mind to be framing a response prematurely.

First, I remind myself to seek to understand the “why.” I want to do everything I can to be able to understand the why well enough to be able to see the conversation from the other side of the table or from another perspective.

Second, as I quiet my mind and truly listen to the words I remind myself to listen in order to ask questions. Listening to respond versus listening to ask questions takes a very different mindset. If one is focused on asking insightful questions in order to understand you can get closer to understanding the “why.”

Neither of these things are easy, and they are certainly not my natural tendency. Doing it well takes both diligence and intentional effort. In many ways it reminds me of a good meditation practice. When you fail, you catch yourself and simply begin again. Do it often enough, and with enough discipline, perhaps you can find yourself truly listening to the conversation that is going on and not just the one in your head…

Don’t throw away your shot…

“Opportunities are often things you haven’t noticed the first time around.”

Catherine Deneuve

How many times in life do we have something happen and only later realize that we missed an opportunity that was right there before us but we were too busy or distracted to take notice? Sometimes we get a second shot at those chances, other times we don’t.

My daughter is obsessed with the musical “Hamilton.” She can sing the lines of most of the songs and lights up in a special way when she gets to talking about it. As I pause and reflect on today’s quote I am reminded of one of the most famous songs and lyrics from the show. In the play Hamilton sings about his incredible desire to make a difference and contribute, specifically he says “I’m not throwing away my shot.”

Every day we countless opportunities to help others, to make a difference, to notice ways to help and serve others. If we aren’t careful we can be so busy that we miss these the first time around. Don’t throw away your shot, be present and aware today. Who knows what opportunities are there for you as first chance, a second chance or even more. Don’t throw away your shot…

Christmas every day…

“Christmas is a necessity. There has to be at least one day of the year to remind us that we’re here for something else besides ourselves.”

Eric Severeid

Just how amazing would life be if we lived with this spirit every day of the year? Why don’t we? What would it take to live out the spirit of Christ’s second commandment in our daily lives?

‘And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:36-40

If we live with this as our daily focus then it truly could be Christmas every day. How different would our lives be then?

Merry Christmas!

An incredible gift…

“Its Christmas Eve! Its the one night of the year when we all act a little nicer, we smile a little easier, we cheer a little more. For a couple of hours out of the whole year, we are the people that we always hoped we would be.”

Bill Murray

Christmas Eve is one of my favorite days of the year. I said that to my kids last night and they thought I was crazy for not picking Christmas Day. The reason for my choice is simple, Christmas Eve is filled with the joy and anticipation of Christmas Day with a strong focus on the real reason that I celebrate Christmas. It is good reminder to me that the journey is more important than the goal. Sometimes we are so focused on getting somewhere that we forget to live. We spend our time wishing our lives away, living for some future moment or time. Then when that time arrives it disappears in the blink of an eye.

Revel in today. Enjoy every precious second with friends and family for tomorrow will come and go so quickly. Be fully present today, that is an incredible gift to those that you love…

How do you measure up?

“The ability to accept responsibility is the measure of the man.”

Roy L. Smith

Who is accountable? Ultimately we each are at an individual level. Sometimes it just takes the passage of time for the fog to clear and for us to see that our own actions, or inaction’s, have conspired to create a situation or circumstance.

I have found that the most successful, and the happiest, people in life are those that live with an attitude of exceptional responsibility or ownership. A given situation or circumstance might not cause them to have joy or happiness but they own how they respond to it and do not dwell on what happened to them. Instead they focus on what they can do, and sometimes that is simply to accept what they cannot control.

So how do you do this? How do you live life in this manner? Embrace these questions honestly and with a clear willingness to either admit fault, or take accountability.

  • What could, or should, I have done that would have changed the outcome?
  • If I had this to do over again what would I do differently?
  • Where did I miss something that might have helped me make a better decision?
  • What can I learn from this to make better/different decisions in the future?
  • How have my actions, or inaction’s, created this situation?
  • What lesson is God teaching me? Or perhaps said a different way, what is God preparing me for through this journey?

The bottom line is this. We are all responsible for the actions of our lives. We are responsible for how we treat others. We are responsible for every word that comes out of our mouths and every thought that passes through our minds. To be responsible we must surrender the need to be in absolute control and practice an attitude of learning and accountability. If you can’t do this, your unhappiness is your fault.

The story in my mind…

“What we see depends mainly on what we look for.”

John Lubbock

Master Sergeant Willie Wells once told me that “in the mind of the perceiver, a perception is a fact.” This as stuck with me for over 20 years now and has been invaluable over the years. I can’t tell you how many times I have asked myself the question “am I am dealing with facts or perceptions here?” And that question can be about self or others.

I recently reread “Dare To Lead” by Brene Brown and one tool in there really jumped out at me. (Well, there are a lot of things in that book that are incredibly good, and it is a must read but this one relates to the topic at hand…)

The specific tool she shared was a simple way to convey to others that you have a specific perception in play. The way to do this is to start your conveyance with this simple statement, “the story I am creating in my mind is…” When you do this it is incredibly clarifying both for you and for the person that you are communicating with. It strips away ambiguity and helps make whatever you are thinking sound less like a personal attack and much more problem or challenge focused. Give it a try and see if you can create new perceptions/facts.

Mind over matter…

“You have power over your mind – not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”

Marcus Aurelius

It is amazing how much power we have over our minds, when we choose to exercise control of our thoughts. If we don’t, then we are giving control over to something, or someone else. That would mean that we are choosing to let someone else be in charge of our lives…

Learn or die…

“You’re always learning.  The problem is, sometimes you stop and think you understand the world.  This is not correct.  The world is always moving.  You never reach the point you can stop making an effort.”

Paulo Coelho

The minute that you think you have arrived in life, it is over. There are no end to the opportunities to grow and learn. Personally I want to be reading and learning until the day that I pass from this earth. It is the only way that I can continue to contribute to others. Learning is a gift both for yourself and to others when you use that knowledge to impact their lives.

Perhaps another way to think about this is that death occurs when you stop learning. Your body might be living, but without constant growth, your mind isn’t. That is death…

Talent + Discipline = Results

“Discipline is the refining fire by which talent becomes ability.”

Roy L. Smith

I used this quote just over a year ago (link here) and it is just so powerful that I had to use it again.

All the talent in the world isn’t going to make you successful over the long term. One must constantly and continually refine your talents so that you can turn it into your desired results. The discipline to do the hard work is what turns talent into action and that is what translates into the results you desire. Without discipline you won’t be able to grow and transform as the world changes around you.

Choose happiness…

“For every minute you are angry, you lose 60 seconds of happiness.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

If given a choice, would you rather you be angry or happy? If you are like most people you would much rather be happy. Then why do we allow ourselves to be dragged down into the empty vacuum of anger?

Being angry is a choice, being happy is a choice. We are all given a very limited amount of time on this earth. Why would you choose to waste even one precious second being angry? If you can’t control it, let it go. If you can, do something about it. If you aren’t sure, do all you can to influence the outcome. But just don’t waste time being angry. Remember you could be happy instead.

Self-forgiveness…

“Forgive many things in others; nothing in yourself.”

Ausonius

Forgiveness is healthy, especially for oneself. But be wise to the difference between forgiveness and making excuses for yourself.

It is a very thin line between accepting and forgiving yourself for something and allowing an excuse mentality to creep in. Once you become accustomed to making excuses you are no longer in control, you are a victim.

Hold yourself accountable to making sure that anytime you are giving yourself grace over some situation or circumstance you are never allowing an excuse for why you didn’t do what you set out to do to override your personal accountability.

Ownership starts with self…

Change yourself first…

“What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.”

Plutarch

Why is it that change has to start on the inside if we want to see it last on the outside? It would be so much easier if we could simply wave a magic wand and change the world to be what we it is that we want to see. Instead we have to change ourselves on the inside, and it is through those changes we become the person the world needs us to be. Only then, can the world as we perceive be permanently changed…

Happiness follows focus…

“The joy we feel has little to do with the circumstances of our lives and everything to do with the focus of our lives.”

Russell M. Nelson

In times of your greatest joy how focused would you say that you are in your life? When I reflect on this question, and am honest with myself, I can say that the happiest moments of my life have all been times when I was deeply focused on something or someone. It wasn’t the circumstances that made me happy, it was that I was deeply focused and engaged and that in turn led to happiness.

On the flip side, if you look at your life when there has been a lack of joy or happiness how would you score yourself on focus? If you scored high on focus what was it that you were focused on? Was it the right thing? Again, if I do this, and am honest with myself, the times of least joy or happiness are marred with a lack of focus, or at least a lack of focus on the things that matter.

Focus on what matters, happiness follows…

Fake Truth…

“There’s a world of difference between truth and facts. Facts can obscure the truth.”

Maya Angelou

Oh how true this is. It reminds me of the old saying “numbers never lie, but liars use numbers.” The “facts” that we take to be truth are flavored by so many things, including the lens of our own perception and experiences. Be careful taking the “facts” as they are presented and assuming they represent the “truth.” You just might fight that your understanding of the facts has created a “fake truth.”

Enjoy the season…

“Let your joy be in your journey—not in some distant goal.”

Tim Cook

I love the holiday season. Beginning with the month of October and then the run up to Thanksgiving and through the New Year is just a magical time of year. Not just because it is a time to indulge in too much rich food and extra time with family. But because the season seems to put a warmer spark in peoples hearts. Of course the true meaning of Christmas is never lost on me and the part I love most is the Christmas Eve service at church singing carols by candlelight.

When I was a child I would spend the entire holidays in breathless anticipation of Christmas morning. It wasn’t about the journey, it was about the goal. Now that I am older, and hopefully wiser, I appreciate the journey through the different holidays so much more. In fact, I would give anything to add another week to the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas. This time of year always seems to go by far to fast.

So when reading this quote today my mind immediately went to the joy of the journey through the holidays and how maturity has changed my focus from the goal to the trip. May we carry that perspective and attitude through the entire year. Along with so many other aspects of the Christmas season…

I was wrong…

“Confidence comes not from always being right but not fearing to be wrong.”

Unknown

There is such a distinct difference between a person who is always right (ego) and a person that isn’t afraid to be wrong (confident AND humble). I have worked with both and the leadership impact of the latter on those around them is incredible.

The leader who doesn’t HAVE to be right, but cares first and foremost about doing what is right builds a powerful team of thinkers and a culture of openness and candor.

The leader who is always right builds a team of people that are aggressively waiting to be told what to do. Smart people won’t stay in this kind of culture because it is demoralizing and limits the capabilities of the entire organization.

Don’t fear being wrong, embrace it, it sends a powerful lesson to those that you lead and serve.

Giving happiness…

“The most worth-while thing is to try to put happiness into the lives of others.”

Robert Baden-Powell

When you go home at the end of the day what makes you sleep better; having helped someone else find happiness or focusing on the creation of your own happiness?

I for one have found that helping someone else is what creates the happiness reward for me. It is amazing how doing for others can have such incredible personal returns when you put serving at the top of your priority list.

Who did you help find happiness today?

Worth the risk…

“If you’re not willing to risk, you cannot grow. If you cannot grow, you cannot be your best. If you cannot be your best, you cannot be happy. If you cannot be happy, what else is there?”

Les Brown

What are you willing to risk for growth? What are you willing to risk in order to become your very best? What are you willing to risk for happiness?

Doesn’t it seem like happiness should be worth every risk? You just just have to decide to take the risk. If you don’t are you choosing not to be happy?

Fanatical is good…

“Good habits are worth being fanatical about.”

John Irving

It is amazing how much work it can take to cultivate and build a good habit and how easy it can be to lose your way if you aren’t careful. If you take the time, effort and energy to build a habit then you should work hard to maintain it, even when it is tough.

It is far less work to keep the habit up than it is to build it again. Be fanatical with your good habits, don’t throw away the investment you made to build them…

No quit…

“For every failure, there’s an alternative course of action. You just have to find it. When you come to a roadblock, take a detour.”

Mary Kay Ash

It’s not failure unless you choose to quit without having exhausted every potential option. Failure isn’t fatal, but quitting just might be. Sometimes the detours are the most rewarding options…

Listen carefully…

“Knowledge speaks, but wisdom listens.”

Jimi Hendrix

How do you know when you are gaining wisdom? When you are listening to learn, not to simply respond. What is the most effective way to accomplish this? Improve your ratio of questions to statements. If you are making more statements than asking of questions you are focused on imparting knowledge. If you are asking more questions then you are learning to gain wisdom. The value of wisdom is knowing how and when to use your knowledge. Without wisdom, you just have information, and that’s not nearly as valuable…

Practice on yourself…

“There is overwhelming evidence that the higher the level of self-esteem, the more likely one will be to treat others with respect, kindness, and generosity.”

Nathaniel Branden

In order to love others fully and completely one must have love for self. Not in an egotistical manner where it is all about you and what you want but instead about respect of self. How can one give something to others which you aren’t willing or able to give yourself?

Those with low self-esteem must find ways to bring others down. I am sure that everyone knows those who are constantly seeking ways to diminish others through negative comments and a lack of appreciation and respect for our common humanity. It is sad to think that a person can be so down on themselves that they can’t find or wont find positivity in others.

If you want to learn to give with respect, kindness and generosity to others work on practicing those same things on yourself.

Winning…

“(Tool+Training+Experience) x Mindset = Goal/Success. BUT, if your mindset is zero, then the equation is (100+100+100) x 0 = Failure.”

Unknown

No matter how well trained, how well resourced or how much experience you have nothing can overcome a mindset that isn’t prepared to win. But what does a positive mindset really mean?

For me it means wanting to win and being willing to do the hard work to win, knowing that winning isn’t guaranteed, but that the lack of certain success in no way diminishes the effort put forth to achieve the goal at hand. If your mindset is set on anything less than a complete desire to win you are setting yourself up for failure…

Read for life…

“The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.”

Mark Twain

Those who know me know that I read incessantly. I am always reading or listening to a good book. In a typical year I will read between 40 – 60 books across a very broad range of topics and literary styles. I have had a love of reading for my entire life. In many ways, as a person who was home-schooled for my primary education, reading was both my doorway to learning and my way to explore a broader world.

Today I continue to read to both learn and to experience more of the world. I have always felt that there were dozens of vocations or lives that I could have explored. Unfortunately there was no way to do this so reading has been a way to “live vicariously” through the stories shared by great authors. Reading is a way to live a much broader and expansive life, even while focusing on being present in the here and now.

I truly can’t imagine going through life without a good book (or 3) going at any one time. Right now I am reading “Hamilton,” “Sacred Pace,” “The Power of Habit,” “Knowing God,” & “Outlaw Platoon.” Very different texts obviously but all scratching a particular itch.

What’s on your reading list right now?

Why = Perseverance Fuel

“Perseverance is the hard work you do after you get tired of doing the hard work you already did.”

Newt Gingrich

Is perseverance still required if you love the hard work you are doing?

Personally I have found that even when I love the work, getting tired will still happen. But I have also found that perseverance is easy when you are mindful of what (or who) you are working for. It is hard to stay committed to the hard work if you don’t have a burning and compelling “why” that is driving you forward.

If you have a clearly defined “why” then perseverance is easy. If you have lost your “why” then you are going to lose the will to get it done. Stay focused on the why.

Great people first…

“Surround yourself with great people; delegate authority; get out of the way.”

Ronald Reagan

Notice that the quote doesn’t say “delegate accountability.” You are still responsible and accountable for the results that are created.

But that is why the rest of this quote is so powerful. When you have the right people, they have the right authority, and you have the wisdom not to meddle, that’s when the magic can happen.

It all starts with having great people, nothing else works if you get that part wrong.

Stronger through overcoming…

“A challenge only becomes an obstacle when you bow to it.”

Ray Davis

I don’t see a huge difference between a challenge and an obstacle. In my mind obstacles are just harder versions of challenges. They can still be overcome.

Sometimes we need some of the challenges in our lives to become obstacles just so we can learn how much we really want something. It is recognizing the obstacle and figuring out a way to go “over, under, around or through” that builds the resilience and strength we need when the real challenges of life present themselves. I can’t think of a single challenge I have had in my life that hasn’t served to make me stronger in some way.

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