Music can change the world because it can change people.
A few years ago, I stopped listening to music.
I didn’t have time for it.
I listen to podcasts all the time. I’m constantly filling my head with shows on leadership, personal growth, blogging, business, and spiritual growth. I listen at twice the normal speed, so I can listen to more content. I listen in the car. I listen while I’m running on the treadmill or lifting at the gym. And I sometimes listen at work while I’m working on tasks that lets me listen.
I used to listen to music all the time. Music takes you back to a place you once were. Music inspires you. Music challenges you. And music connects you with others.
A month ago, I started listening to music again.
When I recently started listening to the Hamilton soundtrack on Spotify, the DC Talk Radio station on Pandora, or the Mozart Radio station on Pandora, I felt like fresh air had been pushed into my lungs. I felt like I could breath again with a renewed sense of purpose.
Don’t forget the music!
If you’re like me, you may be focused on feeding yourself with books and podcasts. These are great, but don’t forget that music can also fill your mind and soul in ways the spoken and written word cannot.
Also, music provides a unique way to connect with the Creator.
Praise the Lord.
Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens. Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord.
What type of music, album, or song are you listening to these days? How does music impact your life? How does music STRETCH you? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Some of the roads are bumpy. Some of the roads are smooth.
Sometimes is feels like you are moving along the road like a turtle – slow and steady. Sometimes it feels like you are moving along on cruise control. And sometimes it feels like you are navigating hairpin turns at breakneck speeds.
For me, it feels like the pace of my parenting journey is moving along at the speed of sound (that’s really fast for those of you wondering).
Sometimes it’s healthy to stop and reflect on what is actually happening. That’s what this post is all about. It’s a chance for me to stop (although it may be a brief stop), to reflect, and to rejoice in what God is doing in the lives of my children.
Let’s start with my son.
Isaac just turned 16 last week. He is turning into a man right before my eyes. He is almost as tall as I am. In fact, I would suspect I will no longer be the tallest person in the family by the end of the summer.
Isaac successfully passed the Pennsylvania Permit Test, and he is now eligible to drive under the instruction of a licensed driver. I’ve been out with him twice so far. Our initial “outings” have been limited to a couple of empty parking lots, but we will quickly be graduating to roads with other cars. He’s doing a great job, and I’m excited for this step in his journey.
Isaac has been working outside of school to raise he level of his academics – specifically his reading. I have been amazed to see the level of effort he is putting into this pursuit, and I can see that it is paying off. Recently, he created a letter to send to a few music directors and teachers requesting some feedback to help him clarify his musical focus for the next few years. Before he sent out the first letter, he let Leanne and me read it. We were blown away by Isaac’s ability to clearly articulate his thoughts and questions into this letter. Isaac is growing up.
At the end of April, Isaac had his last piano recital with the teacher he has had since he started playing the piano at age four or five. His teacher is releasing him to pursue a higher level teacher. She has taken him as far as she can, and she wants him to keep stretching. Last week, he had his last lesson with her, and he will begin lessons with a new instructor this week. I think we were all a little sad to say goodbye to Mrs. Clemmens, but we were honored and humbled by her wisdom in sending him on to an instructor who can advance him further.
Finally, Isaac is diligently working on his Eagle Scout project. He is designing and building a disc golf course at our church. At first, this sound easy. If you think it’s easy, you would be wrong. He has to fully document his proposal. He has to get buy-in from several people in and out of scouts. He has to raise funds to pay for the materials required to build the course. And he has to coordinate manpower to actually build the course. He is making steady progress, and I’m excited to watch him complete this project. I know he his learning as a result of this experience.
My daughter is keeping it interesting for Leanne and me.
Hannah is on track to graduate from high school in June. Last week, she completed her last official day of classroom time, and she moves into a three-week period of career study. She will be working alongside a Spanish teacher at one of the area elementary schools. I’m sure this will give her fantastic opportunities to see what it might be like to be a Spanish teacher.
Hannah had her last high school track meet this weekend. She finished 8th in the 3200m and 3rd in the 4 x 800m relay at the conference championship meet. Her team just missed winning the conference championship by a few points. Running has brought Hannah a lot of opportunity to build her confidence, her running ability, and her leadership. In addition, she has met some fantastic friends as a result her high school running career. She is looking forward to running at the collegiate level.
Hannah finished up the academic side of her high school career by taking six AP (Advanced Placement) tests in a week. Leanne and I are amazed by the intelligence and drive that comes out of our oldest child. She is ready for college. She’ll be attending Messiah College in the fall where she’ll be a Spanish Education major enrolled in the school’s Honors College.
Hannah’s moving into a period of time in which we celebrate the past and look ahead to the future. She has received a few scholarships already, and we’re looking forward to celebrating the end of her high school career at several picnics and parties over the next few weeks. It’s just hard to believe I have a child old enough to graduate from high school. It seems like yesterday, Leanne and I were bringing Hannah home from the hospital for the first time. We are proud of who she has become.
If you’re a parent of young children, don’t blink. Don’t wish time would move faster. Don’t rush through life to get to the next stage. Life moves along fast enough by itself. Learn to schedule margin into the busyness of life. Learn to enjoy each moment. Learn to celebrate along the way. Learn to be content with the here and now. Tomorrow will come sooner than you think.
Enjoy the journey!
What parenting milestones are you celebrating now?
What brilliant idea have you had that never came to fruition because you failed to act?
Many of us have big ideas and big dreams, but that is all they ever are because we don’t take action.
Since I wrote my first book two years ago, I’ve had many people come up to me and respond with amazement. The possibility of writing a book is an idea that many have had, but it typically never happens. Perhaps, our ideas don’t go beyond the idea stage, because we are afraid – afraid to fail, afraid to face ridicule, or even afraid to succeed. Perhaps, our ideas don’t go beyond the idea stage, because we don’t know where to start. We get too caught up in the business of creating the perfect plan of attack that we develop a paralysis of analysis.
When I wrote my first book, it started as an idea. I could have put things on hold, because I was afraid I wouldn’t measure up to other authors I know and respect. I could have put things on hold, because I didn’t know anything about the publishing world. I could have put things on hold, because I had “better” things to do with my time.
It’s time to put aside your excuses for not moving ahead with your dream or idea. And it’s time to take action. Action starts by taking the next step. You don’t have to do it all at once. One step leads to another and another and another. Before you know it, your steps add up to significant progress in making your dreams a reality.
To see what I’m talking about, watch this Huffington Post video about Thomas C. Knox. He had an idea to help connect with people, and he took action. I love his quote toward the end of the video: “Quite frankly, I just thought it was something cool to do, and I did it.”
What is one idea or dream you have? What’s your next step in making your idea or dream a reality? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Know yourself. Don’t accept your dog’s admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful.
How well do you know yourself?
You have lived with yourself your entire life. You should have a pretty good idea of who you are and what makes you tick.
In reality, many of us don’t really know all that much about ourselves. We look in the mirror to make sure our hair is styled nicely and our face is clear of any major blemishes, but we too often fail to look deeper.
Getting to know ourselves takes time, energy, and perhaps some expert advice.
Two weeks ago, while I was in Chicago for a leadership development program, we spent the better part of a day getting to know ourselves better. Before we can lead others well, we must learn to lead ourselves. And self leadership starts with self discovery. As part of this process, each of the participants in the program had to take the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Temperament Index). I’ve taken this assessment before, so it was not a surprise to me that my results showed I am an ESTJ. I’m more of an Extrovert than an Introvert. I rely on Sensing as opposed to iNtuition. I’m much more of a Thinker than a Feeler. And I’m more likely to Judge than to Perceive.
Here’s what the report had to say about me:
ESTJ Snapshot ESTJs are logical, analytical, decisive and tough-minded individuals who use concrete facts in systematic ways. They enjoy working with others to organise the details and operations well in advance to get the job done. Although the descriptors below generally describe ESTJs, some may not fit you exactly due to individual differences within each type.
My MBTI results report had a lot more to say about who I am, how I tend to behave, and how I may need to adapt to potential pitfalls in my behavioral preferences. I learned a lot as a result of going through this assessment.
A couple of months ago, I did the Strengthsfinder 2.0 self assessment which helped me see my top five strengths: Harmony, Achiever, Responsibility, Disciplined, and Analyzer. My friend, Rusty Pang, recently helped me see how these strengths help to describe who I am:
“When I interpret your strengthfinders results in your personality, I see a consistent, reliable person who is a studied peacekeeper. You don’t like it when two or more people are in conflict, so you rely on your training and knowledge to fix the problem directly or create a system to promote cooperation.“
Rusty’s feedback was right on. I am completely stressed out by conflict. I want people to get along, and I want to find ways to bring resolution to situations where people don’t get along or don’t see eye to eye. When I can’t make this happen, I become restless, I lose my appetite, and I struggle to sleep well.
Learning more about yourself is more than taking a self assessment test, but this kind of tool can start you down the right path. Here’s a list of a few self assessments, you may want to try to learn more about yourself:
MBTI (Myers-Briggs Temperament Index) – To take the assessment for FREE, click here.
DISC Profile – To take the DISC personality test for FREE, click here.
Strengthsfinder 2.0 – To take this assessment, you have to purchase the book to get the code required to access the test. Click here to get the book.
Once you have the results from these types of assessments, it’s extremely valuable to sit down with a coach or expert who can help you interpret the results to get the most of your self learning. Here are a few people I recommend you check out if you are looking for assistance in interpreting your results. They can help you learn more about yourself:
Rusty PangIn his own words: “I’m a big believer in people and systems. Over the years, I have developed a system to identify, understand and empower individuals to be their best selves. Entrepurpose is how I’ve scaled the belief that everyone can know and live their purposes.”
Chris LoCurtoFrom Chris’ LinkedIn profile: “For over a decade my goal has been helping people and businesses to become the strongest and most effective they possibly can. I work with entrepreneurs, leaders, and individuals focusing on business, leadership, teams, personality styles, and life.”
Lily Kreitinger From Lily’s site: “As a Certified LifePlan Facilitator I help individuals grow and thrive by following a tried and true discovery process to the life they were meant to live.”
Once you learn more about you, you’ll be in a better position to lead yourself and others. What’s stopping you?
Have you taken any of these assessments? What were the results? What other suggestions do you have for getting to know yourself better? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
My head is full. My heart is very full. And my belly is pretty full too. This is how I feel after an intense week of leadership development.
Last week, I spent my time at the Eaglewood Resort & Spa in Itasca, IL (just outside of Chicago) with 22 other Siemens leaders from around the world. It was such an honor to be included with such wonderful company. My peers came from Peru, Brazil, Costa Rica, Mexico, Canada, and the United States, and we gathered for an exclusive leadership development course.
It will take a while for me to fully digest my experience, but I wanted to share some of my initial thoughts:
Teamwork can take you far. As part of the experience, I was put on a team with five other participants. We had the opportunity to work together on several assignments throughout the week, and I’m happy to say we were successful because we learned how to work together making the most of the different talents and skills we each brought with us.
Being present is essential to get the most of our experiences and conversations. We spent a lot of time learning to listen, learning to be assertive, and learning to coach. These things are not effective if we are not fully engaged with others.
Not everyone has my behavioral preferences and personality tendencies. I must learn to be aware of how others recharge and respond to situations. I must also learn to adapt my behaviors to lead more effectively.
Getting feedback from others is crucial to helping me grow. Before I left, I had several people from my office give me feedback through a 360 degree feedback survey. I also received feedback from my teammates throughout the week. Receiving feedback from others isn’t always easy. It requires humility, open ears, and a willingness to analyze, adapt, and accept. The feedback I received was encouraging and eye-opening. It provided an opportunity to look in the mirror and discover more about me.
Transparency opens the door to team growth. Within a few hours, my team shared aspects of our past that influenced our leadership and life up until this week. The stories shared led to more stories. The stories bonded us together in a way I hadn’t expected. By the end of the week, I not only had a team of colleagues – I had a team of friends and personal cheerleaders. I now have people in Brazil, Mexico, Canada, and the United States who I grew close to me. I know I’ll be able to connect with them when I have a leadership issue I need to navigate.
My leadership will only get better when I let others lead. I have a natural tendency to take on more than I should. I fail to delegate and to pass off leadership to my team, because I want to make sure things are accomplished at my standard. If I don’t let others lead, I’m doing a disservice to them, to me, and to my company. As I head back to work today, I’ll be looking for ways to let others lead.
I’m excited for the future of my company. In my 20+ years with the company, I have never experienced this type of training. I had the chance to rub shoulders with the up and coming leaders in the company, and they have so many great ideas which will propel our company forward into the future.
These thoughts only brush the surface of my experience last week. I left the week exhausted. I’ve spent a lot of time in silence since I left the resort on Friday afternoon. My head is full with ideas and questions related to how I will implement my learnings.
My heart is full, because I had the opportunity to dive fairly deep into the lives of several new friends. The coaches along with my colleagues left me feeling valued and accepted.
My belly is full, because they kept feeding us. Thankfully, I hit the fitness center four of the five mornings I was at the resort. This week I will get back into a more healthy and normal routine.
If you want to STRETCH your leadership, you need to invest your time and energy (and maybe some money) into yourself. This week was all about making that investment, and I’m so excited to move ahead with the new tools in my tool belt.
When was the last time you invested in yourself? How did you STRETCH as a result of this experience? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.
This week, I’m not home. I’m out-of-town attending a leadership conference in Chicago and then visiting my brother’s family in Milwaukee.
I’m away from my home in Pennsylvania.
But I’m returning to my home in Illinois. I lived outside of Chicago until I was 8 years old.
Home is where the heart is.
Pliny the Elder
At least that’s what they say.
Home is where I feel a sense of belonging. It’s where I feel a connection with my past, my present, and my future.
Home is where I feel safe. It protects me from the storms of life. It keeps me warm in the winter, cool in the summer, and dry in the rain.
Home is where I feel a sense of purpose. Sure I need to branch out – to stretch – into the uncomfortable. But my first purpose is fulfilled when I’m a home.
Home is the nicest word there is.
Laura Ingalls Wilder
I feel at home when I’m in Schwenksville, Pennsylvania. I feel at home when I’m in Mt. Holly, New Jersey. I feel at home when I’m at my job in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania. I feel at home when I’m in Grove City, Pennsylvania (where I went to college). I feel at home when I’m in Xenacoj in Guatemala.
I feel at home when I connect with others through my writing and speaking. I feel at home when I mow the lawn. I feel at home when I run the trails near my home or the treadmill at my gym.
There’s no place like home.
Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz
Despite these feelings, places, and experiences, I still have an ache – an empty spot – for home. When people pass away, others say “They went home.” This sometimes sounds cliché, but I think there’s something to it. We all have a longing for home that won’t truly be satisfied until we take up residence in our eternal home. Until then, I’m hanging onto the glimpses of home I experience in this life.
My home is in Heaven. I’m just traveling through this world.
What does home mean to you and where do you find it in your life?
This post was inspired by a fantastic video about bringing humanity to the homeless. I hope you’ll check it out below.
My post today initially started as an explanation for a recent reduction in my weekly blog posts, and it turned into an all-out focus on handling the stress we face in life. I’m not going to change the initial part of the post as I think it helps provide a window into the stress I’ve been experiencing recently. I don’t know what stress you are dealing with lately, but I’m hoping today’s post will help you as you face life’s challenges.
What is on your goal list?
Are you giving attention to the goals you really want to accomplish?
You may have noticed a recent drop off in the number of posts I am releasing each week. There’s a reason (actually, there are a few reasons):
I’m working on my next book project. A good percentage of my normal writing time is currently focused on this project. With a busy work and family schedule, I have to be intentional with my time. And in some cases, this means I have to give up something to get something else. Once I get through this book project, I hope to post more frequently. Until then, I’m learning to be content with a post or two per week.
I’ve had a few “distractions” in my life lately. Without going into too much detail, these distractions have been related to my job, my home, my family, and our upcoming missions trip to Guatemala. Most of these things are great, but they have required a significant portion of my regular bandwidth. For my job, I’m preparing to visit Chicago at the end of the month for an exclusive leadership development workshop. The pre-work for this workshop will ensure I get the most out of the experience which will team me up with leaders from Mexico, Brazil, Canada, and the United States. For my family, we are navigating the college selection process for the first time with our oldest child. We are supporting our son as he works on his Eagle Scout project. And we’re running between various activities at the track, the concert hall, and elsewhere. My parents are also going through some health challenges and life transitions. And our family is trying to put the finishing touches on our plans to go back to Guatemala this summer. (You can support us here or here.)
Life is about choices.
If you are a “Go Getter” like me, you have to come to terms with this fact: You can’t do everything.
Sometimes you have to let go of the good, so you can focus on the great. And sometimes you have to sacrifice some of the things on your personal agenda, so you can focus on the things that come your way in the course of life.
As I’ve faced some of the recent challenges (and “distractions”), I’ve dealt with some anxiety, some sleepless nights, and some emotion. To put it simply, I’ve experienced stress. Stress is a normal part of life in today’s world. Unfortunately, many of us don’t know handle ourselves when the stress levels climb. As I work through my the stress in my life, I’ve developed a list to help me deal with the stress. I’m hoping this will help you when you deal with stress.
10 Essentials For Overcoming the Stress in Your Life
Eat right. Eating junk only drags you down. When stress happens, our eating habits are the first things to be compromised. Junk in equals junk out. Put the good stuff in to help you overcome the stresses you are juggling. Eat regularly. Balance your intake with proteins and plant-based carbohydrates. Drink plenty of water. Avoid excess sugar and caffeine. Limit the amount of alcohol you consume.
Exercise. When we get too busy, we often forget to take care of ourselves physically. Regular exercise is paramount to dealing with an abundance of stress, and it’s essential for building you up for the future challenges you will face. Regular cardio and strength training gives you more energy and helps build your immune system.
Get sleep. I struggle with this one. We all need different amounts of sleep, but most of us need far more sleep that we actually get. The past few months, I have returned to taking a nap or two on the weekend. These short siestas help restore my energy levels to better handle the challenges of the upcoming week. Try going to bed earlier (I’m preaching to myself now). Turn off the electronics and the television. Read a book. Drink a warm glass of milk. And head to bed early.
Get fresh air. Too often, we get stuck in the office all day. Our only fresh air intake happens when we walk into the office at the beginning of the day and when we walk to our car at the end of the day. Use your lunch time to take a quick walk or to visit a local park. Breathe in the fresh air.
Practice gratitude. When stress levels begin to elevate, we tend to become more negative. We forget to appreciate what is going on around us. Find a way to practice gratitude. Start a gratitude journal, and write in it every day. Write down two or three things you appreciated about your day. You’ll be surprised to see the impact of this discipline on your stress levels.
Plug into a support system. You may need a little help from your friends. I’m in three or four groups that encourage me through tough times. We all need a this kind of support system. I meet with 13 other men on a weekly basis. I meet with a small group of entrepreneurs every other week. I meet with a group of families twice a month. And I meet with a group of fellow managers every week at my office. These meetings are essential to balancing the stresses of life. These groups have been a place for me to let out some of the emotion I am dealing with and to calibrate my responses to whatever is happening in my life. If the stress levels continue to rise, I’d highly recommend professional counseling. Several years ago when I was going through a very stressful time in my life, I met with a counselor for several weeks. These sessions helped.
Stay connected with those who are closest to you. Stress impacts our relationships with those we love. In order to counterbalance this natural tendency, it’s imperative that we find ways to spend time together so we can connect. My wife and I practice a weekly date night which helps. Plan ahead for time away from the normal routines and pressures of life. My wife and I are planning a trip to Vermont in June to celebrate our 20th anniversary and to simply connect away from home. If you have children, date them too. Take your son or daughter out for ice cream or for a bike ride. Time together with those we love builds better relationships and builds a foundation for dealing with the stresses of life.
Stay grounded in God’s word. Don’t underestimate the power of God’s word in overcoming the challenges of life. God’s word encourages, teaches, and reminds us of truths we must remember when life gets challenging. One of the verses that came back to me recently is Philippians 4:6-7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.“
Pray. My prayer life has increased recently. Pray for God’s intervention in the challenges you are facing. Pray for wisdom, peace, and joy. Pray for those who seem to be coming against you. Pray that God would use the challenges you are facing now to help others later. Stress often leads to bitterness, so we must pray that God would change our hearts.
Don’t give up. Don’t quit. Keep going. Don’t let the stress stop you from moving ahead. Learn. Take one step at a time. And keep stretching!
I feel better already.
How about you?
How do you handle stress? What do you do to overcome stress in your life? Why do you think it’s important to address our response to stress?
If you are looking for additional help in handling stress, I think the 7 Week Stretch Challenge could help. Sign up below:
Leadership is not about the next election, it’s about the next generation.
I volunteer on Sunday night as an adult leader at my church’s high school youth group, and I have a confession: I don’t always enjoy it. I sometimes feel out-of-place. I sometimes feel like I’m the “old guy.” And I occasionally wonder if I’m making a difference.
(How did I become the “old guy”?)
This weekend, I was talking to my wife about some recent thoughts and observations regarding my role.
Without fail, I end up having a few conversations each week with students. These conversations confirm my initial decision to volunteer with this ministry.
Students arrive at youth group with all kinds of baggage.
They are stressed out, because they have a big project, paper, or test due in the coming days.
They are exhausted, because they are super involved in sports, music, or other activities.
They are lonely, because they don’t have real friends.
They are insecure, because they don’t have a secure and stable home life.
They are confused, because they are flooded with conflicting messages at home, at school, and especially on-line.
They are struggling, because they don’t fit in, they got involved with an unhealthy habit or relationship, and they are afraid to ask for help.
I can’t solve their problems, but I can be there to listen. I can give them feedback based on my experiences. I can be there to be a positive example in their lives. And I can be there to let them know they are valued.
In my discussion with my wife, I was reminded of the importance of plugging into those who are younger. If you are reading this, you more than likely have experiences and wisdom to share with others. You have the opportunity to become a mentor, an advocate, and a cheerleader for those coming behind you.
If you want to leave a legacy…if you want to be stretched, be intentional. Invest in those who are younger than you.
When you do this, you’ll discover:
There is hope for the future.
The next generation is full of promise.
The youth of today can actually teach you.
You can make a difference in the lives of those who are younger than you.
If you feel like you still have a long way to go (and we all have a long way to go), seek out a mentor for you.
I have a renewed respect for those who invested in me. I think of my youth leaders. I think of my teachers, I think of my bosses. I think of my parents. I’m guessing they had similar concerns about my generation, and yet they continued to invest in people like me. They listened to me. They encouraged me. They pushed me forward. They loved me, and they helped me feel valuable.
Now it’s my turn!
And it’s your turn too!
Who invested in you? How are you investing in the next generation?