Thank you 2020…

“I think the only answer is to live life to the fullest while you can and collect memories like fools collect money. Because in the end, that’s all you have – happy memories.”

Sarah Strohmeyer

Typically the beginning of a new year is a time of excitement and promise. This year there is a general “I’m just glad 2020 is over” sentiment in the air. While 2020 was a year filled with challenges, sadness, fear, and a host of other negative emotions, to view the entire year through a negative lens is shortsighted.  

Believe it or not, good things did occur. Positive teachings happened, and many great lessons were learned. 2020 was a year where many seeds of positive change were planted, and those seeds will take root and grow for years.  

Instead of merely celebrating the end of a challenging year, perhaps a better use of time would be to reflect on what happened this year for which we can be grateful. What did you learn? How are you healthier? Where have you added new skills? What great new things are you now prepared to embrace fully?  

Questions like these are how you can take the challenges put before you and emerge 20X more powerful than before. 2021 is going to be an incredible year BECAUSE of 2020 and the challenges you overcame.  

Relish the good that happened in 2020 and lean into those lessons so that 2021 can truly become an incredible year.

Peace and clarity live outside in nature…

“A walk in nature, walks the soul back home.”

Mary Davis

When the day is murky, and thoughts don’t come clearly, go outside.

When the world is overwhelming, and you need to find peace, go outside.

When clarity is what you seek, go outside.  

Sometimes the simplest thing is the very best solution. When in doubt, go outside; that is where clarity lives.

Do you control your mind or does it control you?

“Your worst enemy cannot harm you

As much as your own thoughts, unguarded.

But once mastered,

No one can help you as much.”

The Dhammapada 

Is your mind your most fearsome enemy or your greatest friend? Do the stories created within your mind run your life? Or do you seek to harness the raw contained within energy instead?

One defeats you, the other enables. Which one do you choose to feed?

What is failure?

“You build on failure. You use it as a stepping stone. Close the door on the past. You don’t try to forget the mistakes, but you don’t dwell on it. You don’t let it have any of your energy, or any of your time, or any of your space.”

Johnny Cash

I love this quote because, for me, it defines the difference between failure and growth. If you do the things listed here, then it isn’t a failure.   It is merely an experience that didn’t turn out the way you wanted.  Then you can learn from it and go forward better and smarter.  

Failure is refusing to learn.  

Failure is blaming someone or something else.  

Failure is quitting.  

Failure is letting the past control you instead of owning the opportunity to do something better based on the first-hand experience of what doesn’t work.

Change how you define yourself and you redefine your world…

“Maybe who we are isn’t so much about what we do, but rather what we’re capable of when we least expect it.”

Jodi Picoult

If you meet someone new at a cocktail party and introduce yourself, what do you say? How do you define yourself in the words you use after you offer up your name? Typically the statements we use next have something to do with our current or former roles. I am sure that we have all done that a million times in our lives. Do you remember anything anyone has said to you in an introduction like that? It can be pretty transactional and only memorable if you are genuinely interested or have an exceptionally high EQ.

What if, instead, we were to use words that described our behaviors on our very best days? The days where we were tested and rose to the occasion? What words would you use then? What impression would you leave on others? More importantly, what difference would it have in your life if you focused on your “best self” behaviors? Perhaps your identity would change from being role-based to passion-based…

A gift received and cherished…

“There’s no use doing a kindness if you do it a day too late.”

Charles Kingsley

As I reflected on today’s quote, I kept coming back to what I wrote on Christmas Eve in my journal since it captures the importance of taking nothing for granted, especially time. Even though this is intensely personal and not a typical posting for my self-leadership blog, I think the message is aligned and relevant. Thank you for letting me share it.  

I miss you, Gray. I honestly can’t believe you are gone. There were so many things that we were going to do in life. There were so many things that your kids were going to enjoy with you. There were so many things that we hadn’t done yet, but we were always going to do “one day.” If anything, Brother, this has been the most potent and impactful reminder to me that “one day” isn’t a promise; it is merely a hope or perhaps even a wish.

With our intense desire to control, we humans think of “one day” as a guarantee of what is to come, or at the very least, as an affirmation of what we want to come to pass. But it isn’t true; we aren’t in control and we never have been. I am sorry that you had to die for me to receive this education. I wish we could have learned this teaching together and thereby enjoyed the fruits of that experience collectively.  

Brother, I won’t waste this gift. As hard and painful as it is for everyone that loved you, your passing is a gift of awareness and meaning. With every fiber of my being, I can feel that my entire perception of life and what is important is evolving. I know I will have to fight a battle for the rest of my life to hang on to this new awareness of the preciousness of time and the prioritization of what is essential, but I promise you that I will fight that fight. Your death won’t be an event that gets lost in time as a moment of sadness and a bunch of fond memories. There are so many great memories, and yet there should be even more.  

That is the lesson here. We are all going to die. We don’t know when, where, or how but death is inevitable. When we all die, the only things that matter will have been our choices about how we lived when we were alive. The relationships we invested in will be what matters. The experiences we shared with others. The gifts we gave away. Death is a permanent end to our own lives’ active sharing but isn’t an end to those shared experiences. Those memories are to be cherished and reflected upon with joy. 

I am grateful that we have so many great memories, and while it breaks my heart to think that we will create no more together, I am so thankful to have had you as my brother. I promise you that I will celebrate you and that your death will carry significant meaning for the rest of my life, however long that may be.  

Brother, I love you. I miss you. Thank you for giving me this gift of awareness about what is important. On the Eve of our Savior’s birth, I am incredibly thankful to know that there will be a time when we are together again and will laugh together for all eternity.  

Grayson, you have left a mark on my life that can never be diminished. I love you, brother.  

Christmas can be a lifestyle choice…

“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 Sevareid

Christmas and the entire holiday season is my favorite time of the year. It’s not the presents, the holiday treats, the movies, or the decorations. The best way I can think to describe it is as the “softening of human nature.” Regardless of individual beliefs, religion, or background, the world’s general tone is kinder and more loving.  

It is easy and somewhat cliche to say we want to “treat every day like Christmas.” To quote Charles Dickens “I will try to honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.” Where we fall is that we expect everyone else to do it as well. When others don’t, we don’t, and we make excuses and allowances for our shortfalls.   

The key is not to expect the world to honor Christmas every day, but instead for each of us to choose our outlook on the world one day at a time. When we choose to represent the softer and more loving side of our own humanity, then the spirit of Christmas can be present every single day.  

To live in this way is the highest calling of all humans. Please don’t wait for others to do it first; choose to make it your manner of living. Then Christmas isn’t a necessity; it is simply a way of life.

Are you intentionally building happy memories today?

“When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things – not the great occasions – give off the greatest glow of happiness.”

Bob Hope

While this quote is specifically about Christmas, it could easily apply to any major holiday, regardless of season or Religion. The question is, what are those simple things that matter, those things that give the greatest glow of happiness?  

As I reflect on this question today, the things that come to mind have nothing to do with the things that I have received from others. It is all about the time we have spent together or the experiences we have shared.  

Are you spending your Christmas holiday this year in a manner that will become one of the “greatest glow of happiness moments when recalled in the future?” If not, it isn’t to late to change your mindset…

How are you going to stoke the fires of joy today?

“Joy is the holy fire that keeps our purpose warm and our intelligence aglow.”

Helen Keller

What is it that you do that brings you joy? When do you feel fully alive and that every fiber of your being is singing in glorious harmony? Does it have anything to do with your vocation, or does it even need to?  

These aren’t questions you should ignore. It is an absolute imperative that you must find your source of joy.  It is the coal that stokes the fires and allows you to weather any storm and deliver your best self to those you love and those whom you serve.  If you don’t have a fire burning, one you tend to regularly, how on earth can you show up and be your very best? What happens if your fire goes out?

What would happen if we spent our entire lives in the season of giving?

“Balance, peace, and joy are the fruit of a successful life. It starts with recognizing your talents and finding ways to serve others by using them.”

Thomas Kinkade

The real joy of Christmas is in the giving, not the getting, of presents. There is just nothing like finding the right gift for someone special. It is way more fun to give than it is to receive. 

What if we viewed the discovery and use of our skills, talents, and real purpose in life with the same focus and enthusiasm? What prevents us from investing our time in this way? Perhaps we have to change our perspective and make it not about unlocking our gifts for ourselves but instead on giving our gifts to others. Our entires lives should be spent in the “season of giving.”

Show or tell?

“Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.”

Albert Schweitzer

Close your eyes and think of the most impactful person in your life. What did they do that made such an impression? What were the specific behaviors or actions they demonstrated? Do you find yourself doing these same things for others? 

If you could choose to tell someone you loved them or show them, which would you choose? Which one will matter more ten years from now…

How to pull yourself out of the river…

“You drown not by falling into a river, but by staying submerged in it.”

Paulo Coelho

Life is busy. It can be easy to become overwhelmed with all the things you need to do on a day to day basis. The simplest yet hardest thing to do is to learn to say “no.” Only when you can say no to the stuff which doesn’t matter can you pull yourself out of the river.

Sometimes the river overtakes you, and you don’t even realize you are drowning. The best tactic I have found to manage this and keep from becoming overwhelmed is a simple journaling practice at the end of each day. In my daily wrap up journal, I ask myself the following five questions:

  1. What did you accomplish today that was valuable to self and others?
  2. Did you achieve your goals for the day? If not, what got in the way?
  3. How could I have made today better?  
  4. What should I have said “no” to today?
  5. What am I grateful for?

These questions are continually evolving as I learn and grow, but I have found them beneficial, especially when life is overwhelming and there don’t seem to be enough hours in the day.

Do you spend your time focused on “as it is,” or “as it should be?”

“When we take people merely as they are, we make them worse; when we treat them as if they were what they should be, we improve them as far as they can be improved.” 

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Do you take this perspective with others? Do you see people as their best and brightest selves? How do your views and interactions change when you intentionally shift your mind from the “as they are” to the “what they should be” viewpoint? What questions would you ask, and what changes would you make when you take the latter view?

What about yourself? Do you spend your time in an “as you are” or “as you should be” mindset? More importantly, when you make the mental shift, what action are you going to take for yourself or others? 

You can’t measure success by looking in the rear view mirror…

“The whole point of getting things done is knowing what to leave undone.”

Oswald Chambers

What is the most important thing you wanted to accomplish today? Not the top three or five tasks, but the one thing that had to happen to make today a success? Did you start the day with a focus on where you needed to direct your time and energy?  

It is only by intentionally deciding what you must get done that you enable yourself to say no to the things that will inevitably come up and stand in the way of what is truly essential.  

Was today a success? If you didn’t start the day with a well-defined plan, how would you even know? You can’t define success in a rear view mirror…

Will the worries of today even matter one year from now?

“Nothing in life is as important as you think it is, while you are thinking about it” 

Daniel Kahneman

What was the most important thing you were thinking about on 12/17/2010? How about 12/17/2015? 12/17/2019?  

Chances are you don’t even remember the things which were keeping you up at night or stealing joy from your life on those specific days.  So why are you losing sleep today?  Will it even matter a year from now?  

I think the real question is this.  What are those things that ARE important enough to remember in the years to come?  How much time, effort, and energy are you devoting to those areas of life?  

Invest your precious moments there; they are the things that truly matter…

How do you measure success at the end of your day?

“Seek out that particular mental attribute which makes you feel most deeply and vitally alive, along with which comes the inner voice which says, “This is the real me,” and when you have found that attitude, follow it.”

William James

For years I would challenge every new employee at our organization to think hard about how they define a “good day at work.” My challenge to them was to think about and describe how they wanted to measure success in their roles beyond the surface level metrics; I wanted them to think bigger than $’s and more than just the production of widgets. Doing those things well is only the entry price to the game; it is what you do on top of that which truly matters.  

How do you measure your success in your work? In your life? What are the metrics that truly matter beyond the paycheck and the toys and the things that won’t matter in five, ten, or twenty years? 

I would argue that you aren’t living your authentic life if you can’t answer this question with clarity and precision…

Living for the big picture means being present in each moment…

“The trick to forgetting the big picture is to look at everything close up.”

Chuck Palahniuk

If you only look at the big picture, you miss all the beauty buried in the nuances of life. You miss the sound of the owl’s call, the joy of a child seeing something for the first time, the temporal whisp of the present moment which is gone all too quickly like smoke in the wind.  

Joy lives in the present moment, and while the big picture matters, it is only in the immediate second that you can make choices that impact the big picture. Make those decisions wisely and intentionally. You never get the time back…

In the sharing of happiness life has meaning…

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

Robert Baden-Powell

Over the past few days, I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support our family has received after Grayson’s passing. The calls, emails, and texts have been simply incredible.  

It has served as a powerful and poignant reminder of why we are here on this earth. The purpose for which we were created isn’t to gather more stuff or capture more things.  Life isn’t a giant monopoly game where the one with all money wins.  Instead, we should view our lives as a spring of water flowing to give sustenance and love to others.  Life is people and the relationships we build with those we come into contact with, whether for a moment or a lifetime. 

If we aren’t spending the best effort and energy we have, giving away happiness, and being a wellspring of joy for others, we waste the precious time we have been given and miss the point of our existence.

Find someone to reach out to today and share happiness and love. In the giving of this gift, two will benefit…  

You must learn to listen if you want to show love…

“When you are listening to somebody, completely, attentively, then you are listening not only to the words, but also to the feeling of what is being conveyed, to the whole of it, not part of it. ”

Jiddu Krishnamurti

To listen, to truly listen, as described in the quote above, is one of the most effective and meaningful ways to show respect to another human being. When you listen like this, you express genuine care and empathy for the person on the other side of the conversation. To do so is to create the glue between content and meaning.  

On the other side of the conversation, when someone leans and listens in this manner, you realize that they are interested in both what you are saying and why you are saying it.  There is almost nothing more meaningful than to be heard in this way.  

If you want to show care, concern, love, and empathy, you must learn to truly listen.

The only life worth living is the one that is intensely personal…

“Only people who are capable of loving strongly can also suffer great sorrow, but this same necessity of loving serves to counteract their grief and heals them.”

Leo Tolstoy

The past 48 hours have been some of the longest and most surreal of my life. On Thursday night, my little brother suffered a major cardiac event, and despite the heroic efforts of the seven emergency responders who rushed to his aid, he lost his earthly life. It is hard for me even to write these words and realize that they are real. In all honesty, I keep wanting to wake up from this dream/nightmare and pick up the phone and hear his voice again. Unfortunately, it isn’t a dream, and the opportunity to listen to him speak will have to wait until we meet again in Heaven.  

I share this here because it is intensely personal, and because it is the stark reality of the world in which we live. We will suffer loss and pain, and nothing we can ever do will prepare us for losing someone we love.  

My brother, Kenneth Grayson Holcomb, or “Gray,” as I called him, was 40 years old and far too young to be leaving this earth. He was simply one of the best people I have ever known, and anyone that knew him would echo that sentiment. He lived to serve others and was always happiest when he could drop everything and help someone else.  

My Dad, my brother, and I spent all of our formative years as a triumvirate doing anything and everything we could do outdoors. Hunting, fishing, camping, hiking, etc., you name it, and we did it. We shared the same passions and hobbies and had dreams of one-day going elk hunting together and were looking forward to lots of fun times with our families camping in the mountains.  

In preparation for today’s blog post, I read many quotes and did a lot of praying. I uncovered so many great words of wisdom in my research, and I had a hard time choosing the right one. Ultimately I decided on this quote because it reminded me that while it is risky to love intensely, it is the act of loving someone else that provides healing. I chose to love, and I have been overwhelmed by the love and support that I have received from so many people in response to Grayson’s death. I have never felt more loved, and I consider myself blessed to have so many people in my life than can love so strongly.  

Life is short, precious, and beautiful. We cannot and should not take one moment or one relationship for granted. Hug those you love tighter tonight, and make sure they know exactly how much you care. It is only through love, intense love, that you will find the strength to carry on in immense sorrow.  

I love you Grayson, and I am going to miss you. I’ll see you in Heaven, brother…

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Matthew 5:4

Grayson is survived by his wife, Donna, and their two children James (11) and Marie (9). If you want to do something for them, I created a GoFundMe page for the kid’s college education, and you can learn more about that at this GoFundMe Link

Kenneth Grayson Holcomb: 2/11/1980 – 12/10/2020

Do you see obstacles or opportunities?

“A good person dyes events with his own color…and turns whatever happens to his own benefit.”


Do things happen to you, or for you?  There is a marked difference between these two perspectives. The former ensures that you see the world as a series of obstacles. The latter viewpoint allows you to see the world as a series of opportunities.  

The beauty is that the way we perceive the things that happen in our lives is entirely up to us. Every day, we have the opportunity to choose whether we live a life of abundance or a life of scarcity, a life of obstacles, or one of opportunity. These might be the most critical choices we ever make.

Your gifts and talents aren’t meant for you alone…

“Spend a little more time trying to make something of yourself and a little less time trying to impress people.”

The Breakfast Club

This quote reminds me of the time I heard Jim Collins talk about his work with Peter Drucker. Jim shared that after working together for a few weeks, Peter pulled him aside and said, “Jim, I think you will find in life that you will be much more effective and impactful if you spend more time being interested instead of interesting. You can’t make everything about you.”  

Now I am paraphrasing this since it has been well over ten years since I heard Jim share this story. It made an indelible impact on me, and I have written about this before, which you can view here.  

Today, as I meditated and reflected on the quote above and the Jim Collins story, it strikes me that while the implied meanings are very different, ‘focus on self versus others vs. focus on others over self,’ the root cause is the same.  “What do other people think about me?” 

How much of our time, effort, and energy do we spend managing our lives to meet others’ perceived needs or expectations? How much of ourselves do we willingly give away based on the false hope that what others believe or perceive about me is the essential thing in life?  

Instead of creating a life based on what others think about us, we should spend our lives threading the needle of meaning that exists between these two quotes. We need to identify and grow our own unique and special gifts and talents with the specific intent of bringing them to bear in a positive and impactful manner in service to others.  

I believe this is why God created each of us and then charged us to serve and love our neighbors. We must surrender our egos and use our gifts to help others. Those that do this well are the truly awe-inspiring ones…

soldier and black dog cuddling
Photo by Pixabay on

To go fast you must give in order to receive…

“Increased trusted equals increased speed and decreased cost. Decreased trust equals decreased speed and increased cost.”

Stephen R. Covey

Trust is a result of intentional actions and choices.  

In addition to the basics, such as truthfulness and integrity, several vital attributes build and enhance trust between people.  Transparency, authenticity, openness, and sincerity all serve to increase trust dramatically. 

These behaviors serve as the great enablers of productive human relationships. You can’t fake these. You either live them or don’t.   

The key is that you must perform them first, without any strings or restrictions. Only then can trust be reciprocated and speed developed.  

I find it helpful to think of building trust as an exercise. If you want to develop speed and strength, you have to work out specific muscles and continuously seek to improve your efforts. It works the same way with trust. If you want to be fast, you must be consistent in those key behaviors.  

When you do this, trust happens. When you don’t?  

Welcome to the slow lane.

What “little decisions” are you going to get right today?

“Life is all about the little decisions you make every day. You can’t change the decisions of the past, but every new day is another opportunity to make the right ones.”

Author Unknown

There isn’t a single decision you have ever made that you can redo. It is done; there are no “do-overs.” Sure, you can make decisions to try and undo bad choices or to change something when the outcome of a particular decision wasn’t favorable. But you never get the time back; you can never make that specific decision again.    

The average human lifespan in the United States is 79 years. Let’s break this down a bit.

  • 79 years X 365 is 28,835 Days + 20 to account for Leap Years = 28,855 Days
  • On each of these days, we all have the same 24 hours.  
  • We are sleeping for 8 hours (on average), so that means that we have 16 hours each day to focus our time on making good decisions that affect the rest of our days GOING FORWARD.  

There is no looking back. Every decision you make in those few and precious hours will determine how your future life is defined. Not every decision will be perfect, but every day we each have a new sixteen-hour slate by which to form and create the life we were born to live.  

Knowing this, what decisions are you going to make today?

There is no perfect time…

“The habit of always putting off an experience until you can afford it, or until the time is right, or until you know how to do it is one of the greatest burglars of joy. Be deliberate, but once you’ve made up your mind – jump in.”

Charles R. Swindoll 

One of the great joys of being a parent is watching your children learn and grow. It is incredible to see them lean in and try something new without fear and worry about failure or concerns about their decisions’ long-term repercussions. They never worry about whether the time is right; they just discover and learn.

How do you know when the time is right? Waiting for the perfect moment is just an exercise in waiting; there is no such thing as an ideal time to get started.  

There is an imperfect time, though, and it is “never.” If you aren’t willing to seize the moment, when presented, and go at it will all your gusto and drive, then you are only setting yourself up for future disappointments.  

As the Nike slogan says, “Just do it…”

Focus on the smiles to add friends to your life…

“Count your age by friends, not years. Count your life by smiles, not tears.”

John Lennon

Which life is richer, one with fewer friends but more years or one with fewer years and more friends? Which life will attract more friends, one focused on smiles or tears? 

Do you base your life on entitlement or meaning?

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.”

Albert Einstein

If nothing is a miracle, then you live a life of expectation and entitlement. If everything is a miracle, you live a life of gratitude and wonder. Which perspective is going to be more impactful on the lives of those around you? Which of these life choices will leave a legacy of meaning when your time on this earth is over?  If nothing is a miracle then there is no purpose for your life…

Time spent worrying is a waste of energy.

“If you can’t sleep, then get up and do something instead of lying there worrying. It’s the worry that gets you, not the lack of sleep.”

Dale Carnegie

There is almost nothing worse than waking up in the middle of the night with your mind racing and not being able to shut it down. Well, that’s not true. Lying there, worrying about something is much, much worse. I am guilty of this far too often, and only in recent years have I begun to manage this more effectively.  

Worrying is a 100% negative investment. Every single bit of energy spent on apprehension and anxiety is negative energy expenditure. Choose to spend your finite life positively; do something, even if it is wrong. You can always do something different if it doesn’t work out.

Sometimes there are better questions than why…

“Your peace is more important than driving yourself crazy trying to understand why something happened the way it did. Let it go.”

Mandy Hale

Sometimes “Why?” is the wrong question to ask. Much better questions are, “What are you going to do about it?” And “How are you going to learn from this?”

The bottom line is that if you have to drive yourself crazy about something, you should at least make it productive.  

When you find shared courage it multiplies…

“The people who help me find my courage are not the ones who swoop in to save the day. They’re the ones who sit with me in the fear puddle and hold my hand while my knees shake. Here’s to the hand-holders.”

Nanea Hoffman

Who are the people who have supported and encouraged you during your times of greatest need? Have you demonstrated the same thing to others?

It takes tremendous courage to be open and vulnerable to others and be willing to show your fears and tears. It also takes courage to take another person’s hand and sit with them without attempting to solve their problem. Neither of these fit the standard definition of courage, and yet they are probably more challenging and meaningful displays of heartfelt courage than many others that come more easily to mind.  

The bottom line is that courage can manifest in many different ways, and it is a multiplier. Find your own courage by doing the hard things that truly matter to someone else, and let your courage grow exponentially.  

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