October 22, 2016 — Leave a comment

I was home most of the day today, and it felt great!

I woke up a little later than normal, and I headed to the gym for a chest, shoulders, and triceps workout.  I’ve been tracking my workouts in a handwritten journal, and it has been encouraging to see the progress over the past five weeks.  I am lifting more, and there might actually be some muscle tone developing – maybe.  The workouts have definitely contributed to helping me feel more fit and a little more flexible.

When I arrived home from the gym, our whole family enjoyed brunch – homemade, baked french toast with turkey sausage and a cup of decaf coffee.  I can’t remember the last time all four of us ate breakfast together in our house (but I know it’s been at least two months).

Next, Leanne and I spent some time going over our finances – balancing the checkbook and talking about our spending for the next week or two.  We’ve missed this weekly “meeting” for the past few weeks due to our busy weekend (and weekday) schedules with visits to Messiah College, Grove City College, and DeSales University (for one of Hannah’s cross-country meets).  These weekly financial check-ins are important for our financial beings, but I think they’re also important for our marriage as well.  It’s healthy to talk about our spending, our saving, and our plans for the future.

After our financial “meeting”, we loaded everyone in the car and headed out for a few errands which included picking up items for our Operation Christmas Child boxes, a trip to the pumpkin patch, and a trip to Ott’s to get a family picture in front of the “mountain” of mums.  The trip also included a trip to the bank, so Isaac could deposit his first paychecks.  He started working at Chick-Fil-A a few weeks ago, and this is the first time he’s had a job like this.  Talking to him about savings, spending, and giving is not new to him as we’ve tried to instill this pattern in our kids life ever since they started handling money, but it was cool to talk about it again as he was figuring out what to do with his first ever paychecks.

I took a nap this afternoon.  I’ve grown to like napping on Saturday and/or Sunday afternoon.  There’s something about taking a break that helps me thrive during the rest of the week.

Tonight, Leanne and I went to our church for a special meeting with the staff and a few other people in the church.  We talked about the church’s vision for the future.  We talked about the importance of touching the lives of kids and their families in our area and around the world.  People asked great questions, and I left encouraged by the direction of our church and its leadership.  I’m convinced that our pastors have a heart for connecting broken people to God in a way that impacts them for the rest of their lives and for eternity, and it’s exciting to be part of it.  I’m praying God will continue to grant wisdom and energy to our leaders and will provide the resources for our continued impact.

And now, I’m home again.

Time for bed.  I’m looking forward to what adventures await me tomorrow.

It’s Friday night, and our whole family is home.

(Hannah is home from Messiah College for a short break.)

While Leanne and Isaac were at piano and Hannah was out for a run, I cut the grass ahead of the rainy weather coming tomorrow.  My wife reminded me that working outside is one of the things that refreshes me, so I decided to cut the grass when I arrived home from work.  There something therapeutic about riding the tractor back and forth across my lawn.  I love creating straight lines and cool patterns in my grass, and I always appreciate the way the yard looks after a good mowing.  Tonight, I had to finish cutting the grass with the tractor headlights on so I could see where I was going.  Fall is here and the days are getting shorter.  I don’t exactly like the shorter days, but I do appreciate the different seasons we get to experience here in Pennsylvania.

For dinner tonight, Isaac made crepes.  We first enjoyed dinner crepes with ham and cheese.  Then we pigged out on dessert crepes.  Mine were filled with strawberries, bananas, and whipped cream.  Everyone else in the family put Nutella in their crepes.  This was our first meal together at home in two months since Hannah departed for college.

After a busy day and busy week, it is nice to be home.

If you read my post from yesterday, you’ll know I’m struggling with exhaustion and overcommitment.  In my post, I started to ponder this question:  “What refreshes me?”

After I road the post, Leanne came and sat down on the couch next to me, and she said I looked more relaxed.

One of the things that refreshes me is writing.

I think I forgot this.  Or maybe I have simply allowed other things to crowd out my time for writing.  It’s crazy how we let this happen.  We find something we’re passionate about (like writing).  We go after it for a while, but then other things wedge themselves into our schedules and we forget to keep doing the thing that brings us the most joy and fulfillment.

For me, I haven’t been very consistent lately when it comes to writing.  I’ve been too busy doing other things.  I’ve been too tired to carve out the time to focus on writing.  And I think it’s had an impact on me.

Writing is cathartic.  It restores my soul.  It fills me up.  It helps me process the challenges of life.  And it simultaneously gives me the opportunity to encourage others.

And I’m back at it again tonight – two nights in a row.  Hannah is cleaning up after dinner.  Leanne is working on breakfast for tomorrow morning.  Isaac is practicing the piano for church on Sunday.  And I’m sitting here in my easy chair – writing, listening, and slowly filling up my tank.

This is the day the Lord has made.  I will rejoice and be glad in it.  The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.  His mercies never come to an end.  They are new every morning.  I’m thankful for an evening to sit, to reflect, and to relax.

It’s Friday night, and I’m thankful for the weekend.

How do you unwind after a busy week?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

Where I’m At Right Now

October 20, 2016 — 3 Comments

I read an article by Ben Read today – Running on empty?

Take a look at the article.  The title alone resonated with me.  Honestly, I’m exhausted, and I’m feeling depleted.

I’ve been working hard at my job.  We’re in the middle of the annual performance management process.  I have ten direct reports requiring my evaluation, but I’m also involved in lending input on others in my department and in my office.  I care deeply about my team members, and I want this process to be meaningful for them and for their careers.  This is happening while I’m still handling the normal activities and interruptions of my job.

I’ve five weeks into a twelve week strength training program, and I’ve worked out nearly every day for the past 33 days.  The workouts have been beneficial.  I can see the results.  I’ve been working on my legs and abs, my back and biceps, and my chest, shoulders, and triceps.  And I’ve been taking a different approach to my cardio.  Most mornings I’m up at 4AM and out the door by 4:30AM on the way to the gym.  Sometimes I work out at lunch if I have a shorter workout scheduled. 

My son, Isaac, started a job a few weeks ago at Chick-Fil-A.  He works until closing three days a week, and he doesn’t have his driver’s license yet.  This means I’m out three nights a week to pick him up.  I’m so thankful for my son and his job.  And I’m thankful for the quiet moments in the car on the way home as we quietly talk about a few things as we travel the dark, windy roads back to our house.

I’m in the middle of another challenge I can’t mention here.  But I can tell you that it sucks a fair amount of emotional and mental energy out of me.

I’m half-way through my three month Stretch Man Mastermind group, and I’m happy to say that it has been going amazingly well.  The interactions with the members of the group have been thought-provoking and truly stretching.  Every two weeks, we get together, and I teach on a relevant topic for 10-15 minutes before we dive into an issue one of us is facing.  Last night, I prepared the teaching time for our next call.

I’m involved in Toastmasters.  I’m the Area Director for five clubs, and I’m trying to keep pace with my club.  I signed up to give my next speech at our next club meeting which takes place next Wednesday.  For those of you familiar with Toastmasters, I’m two speeches away from earning my ACB (Advanced Communicator Bronze) milestone.  I had to say “No” last weekend when one of the District Officers asked me to help out with an upcoming conference.  I stink at saying “No.”

I’ve been on the go every weekend for the past few months.  There is always something on my calendar on Saturday.  I haven’t been home for more than a few hours on the weekend for a while.

I could go on.

I’m over-involved.  I’m worn out.  And it’s easy to see why just looking at my thoughts above.

Maybe it’s time for a break.

Ben Reed’s article was a reminder that I need to make time to fill my tank.  I need to take time to rest, relax, and recharge.  And I need to learn to say “No.”  I can’t do everything.  And I want to do it well.  But I can’t do anything well when my tank is empty, and I can’t do many things well when I try to do everything.

My wife, Leanne, is a wise woman.  She asked me tonight, “What recharges you?”

I’m still thinking about the response to her question.

I know my annual Memorial Day Weekend Camping trip with a few of my buddies recharges me, but this is 8 months away.  I think it’s time for me to ponder this question and to take time to follow through on my response.

This is where I’m at right now.  Just thought I’d share.

What’s the condition of your “gas tank”?  What recharges you?  Share your thoughts in the comments.


Excellence is the gradual result of always striving to do better.

Pat Riley

Are you content with mediocre?  Or do you want to live a life that matters?

I chose the second option.

Living a life that matters requires intentional striving for excellence.

Yesterday, we talked about the nine things holding you back from excellence.  Today, let’s look at the keys to making excellence a reality in our lives.

10 Keys to Achieving Excellence

  1. Determine your priorities.  Take time to figure out your priorities.  List them in order from one to ten (or twenty).  For example, here’s an example of what your priorities might look like:  1) God, 2) Me, 3) Spouse, 4) Kids, 5) Health, 6) Job, 7) Family, 8) Friends, 9) Side Hustle, 10) Neighbors.  It’s important to know our priorities to help refine our focus.  If God is really my number one priority, my calendar should reflect this importance.  Making the first things first is part of becoming excellent.
  2. Get sleep.  Exercise.  Take a break.  Excellence requires the best of us.  We prevent ourselves from achieving greatness when we are worn out, exhausted, and out of shape.  Sleep, exercise, and rest will give you the energy to make excellence a reality in your life.
  3. Just say “No.”  Saying no to things that distract us from our ultimate goal is crucial to achieving excellence.  We must create margin in our schedules to pursue the things that really matter most to us.
  4. Get a coach.  A coach will help bring clarity to your life and will push you to excellence.  The wisdom and encouragement of a coach can take you to a whole new level.
  5. Find accountability.  Plug into someone who will ask you the hard questions and will keep you on track to achieve the goals you are pursuing.  Make sure you find someone who is dependable.  Accountability only works when you find someone who will be consistent in asking the tough questions.
  6. Plug into experts.  Who is already doing excellent things in the area(s) you are pursuing.  Talk to them.  Read their material.  Watch their videos.  Find out how they made it to the top of their fields.
  7. Practice.  Practice.  Practice.  If you want to be excellent, you have to put in the practice time.  If you want to be an excellent piano player, practice the piano every day.  If you want to be an excellent writer, write every day.
  8. Create a road map to success.  “If you fail to plan, you should plan to fail.”  I don’t know who said this, but it’s true.  If you want to achieve excellence, you have to put in the time, energy, and effort up front to map out your journey.
  9. Get off the couch and get moving.  Excellence will not come to you.  You have to go get it.  Stop being lazy.  Make your excellent dreams a reality by taking action TODAY!
  10. Keep going.  Don’t get discouraged.  Don’t lose momentum.  Get rid of the obstacles in your life, and press on to the goal for which you are aiming.

Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.

Steve Jobs

If you want to live a life of excellence, it’s time to get going – NOW!

What advice do you have for someone who wants to achieve excellence?  Share your thoughts in the comments.


Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.


One of my favorite movies as a teenager was Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.  It’s a teenage boy movie full of teenage boy humor.  I think that’s why I liked it so much.  I remember seeing the movie with a few of my friends, and the rest of the year we repeated lines from the movie to each other as we went about our activities.

In the movie, “excellent” was a word thrown around by Bill and Ted to describe anything they thought was cool, interesting, or fun.  If the movie had been made a few years ago, it might be called Bill & Ted’s Phat Adventure or Bill & Ted’s YOLO Adventure or something similar.

I like the word excellent or excellence.  Here’s how Wikipedia defines excellence:

Excellence is a talent or quality which is unusually good and so surpasses ordinary standards. It is also used as a standard of performance as measured e.g. through economic indicators.

Excellence is a continuously moving target that can be pursued through actions of integrity, being front-runner in terms of products / services provided that are reliable and safe for the intended users, meeting all obligations and continually learning and improving in all spheres to pursue the moving target.

Excellence doesn’t happen by accident.  It takes planning.  It requires repeated action.  And excellence means constant analysis and adjustment along the way.

I want to be known for going about life with excellence.  Despite this desire, there are several things preventing me from achieving excellence.

9 Things Holding You Back from Excellence

  1. Lack of focus – Excellence is impossible when our mind is concentrating on too many things at the same time.  I want to be an excellent husband, an excellent father, an excellent son, an excellent brother, an excellent grandson, an excellent friend, an excellent employee, an excellent boss, an excellent writer, an excellent speaker, an excellent coach, an excellent runner, an excellent driver, an excellent brewer, an excellent landscaper, an excellent reader, an excellent conference attendee, an excellent mastermind member, an excellent mastermind facilitator, an excellent Toastmaster, an excellent Toastmaster Area Director, an excellent missionary to Guatemala, an excellent leader, an excellent saxophonist, an excellent small group leader, an excellent youth volunteer, an excellent community volunteer, an excellent Eagles and Bears fan, an excellent Phillies and Cubs fan, an excellent Survivor fan, an excellent Amazing Race fan, and the list goes on and on and on.  Things things are great, but it’s hard to be excellent when I’m not focused.
  2. Lack of energy – Excellence is challenging when we lack energy.  I mistakenly believe excellence can be achieved by getting up at 4AM and going to bed at 11PM every day.  I mistakenly believe excellence can be achieved by working every day without rest.  In reality, my ability to successfully pursue excellence declines as I fail to recharge my battery by getting enough sleep and taking a break from time to time.
  3. Lack of time – Excellence won’t happen if we don’t have time for it.  I fill my calendar with activities, meetings, and “commitments” leaving little time for actions which will lead to excellence.
  4. Lack of clarity – Many fail to achieve true excellence in their lives, because they lack purpose, passion, direction, and overall clarity.  If you don’t know where you’re going, you will get their every time.  Too many of us go through life doing what others tell us to do instead of figuring out what we were meant to do.  We chase after things that don’t matter, because we don’t know the difference between “doing good things” and “doing the right things.”
  5. Lack of appropriate input – Excellence may never happen if we don’t get the right input in our lives.  If I want to become an excellent saxophone player, it won’t happen without the right instruction.  I won’t become excellent at playing the saxophone by taking lessons from a beginner drummer who has never even seen a saxophone.  And listening to podcasts about leadership will do little to help me improve when it comes to playing the saxophone.
  6. Lack of appropriate skill development – Excellence doesn’t happen with practice and intentional skill development.  Chances of becoming an excellent public speaker can be improved by listening to polished, professional public speakers, but I won’t become excellent at public speaking unless I work on my speaking skills by practicing, getting feedback, correcting my mistakes, and doing it again and again.
  7. Lack of planning – Excellence doesn’t happen by accident.  I will fail to become an excellent marathon runner without a plan.  I’ll fail to write an excellent book without an idea, an outline, and a plan to get to the final product.  It’s nearly impossible to achieve excellence without intention.
  8. Lack of action – Excellence won’t happen by sitting on the couch.  If I want to run a 5K, I have to get off the couch and run.  If I want to write a book, I have to open my laptop and write.  If I want to dunk a basketball, I have to jump.  Excellence won’t come to us.  We have to go get it!
  9. Lack of repetition – Excellence isn’t a one time event.  Excellence requires repetition.  If I want to write a book, I have to write every day.  If I want to become an excellent husband, I have to work on it every year, every week, and every day.  Too many people miss out on excellence, because they give up after the first attempt.

Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.

Vince Lombardi

Come back tomorrow for thoughts on how you and I can make excellence a reality in our lives.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.  Philippians 4:8

What’s holding you back from achieving excellence?  Share your thoughts in the comments.


Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.

Napoleon Hill

You may never know the influence you have on others.

Our words and actions matter, and they have an impact on others even when we don’t know it.

Let me show you what I mean.

A few weeks ago, I received an email from a complete stranger.  I want to share the email with you with names removed.

Hi Jon,

I was cleaning out my desk at work yesterday and came across a highlighted note on my bible study notes pages from last year. It had a note out to the side that said “contact this person and tell them that they have made a difference.”  I made this note after walking out of a lunchtime bible study with a man [from another country].  He mentioned that this blog (Jon Stolpe Stretched) was introduced to him by a friend in Philadelphia and was one of the reasons he was interested in learning more about Christianity. He also mentioned the kindness his friend in Philadelphia showed to him was an influence. Our conversation never went into details, I just asked him what influenced him to come to the bible study. He left the company that I work for in San Antonio, Texas shortly after this encounter so I was not able to follow-up more with him. This man is now back in [in his home country] and I have lost track of him but I will always wonder if he ever turned his life over to Christ or influenced others to do the same.
I had no idea what your blog was about but I did know that it positively influenced someone that I met and caused them to want to know Christ.  Thank you for that influence and sorry for not telling you sooner.
After work yesterday, I pulled up your blog and really enjoyed reading the content. If you lived in Texas, I think you would fit in really well. When I clicked the “parenting” section, I saw a nice article about sending your child off to college and this hit home with me because I just sent two of them off myself. I have a daughter that is a senior at Texas A&M University and she wants to be a full-time missionary when she graduates.  My son is a freshman this year at Messiah College in PA.  When I saw that  your daughter was also going to Messiah, I could not believe it.  I promise that my original intent was only to write and encourage a brother in Christ to keep up the good work but I also thought it was neat that our kids go to the same school.  Maybe we can meet sometime at a parent event in Grantham.
God Bless,

Xxxxxx Xxxxxxx

When I read this email, my heart warmed inside.  I’ve been writing my blog for over 9 years.  While I write the blog in part for me, I also hope my words will encourage others.  Admittedly, there are times when I wonder if anyone reads my words and if my words are really stretching anyone.  This email reminded me to keep writing – to keep sharing my reflections here for others and for me.

My words matter.  And so do yours!

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.  Psalm 19:14

What words are you holding inside of you?  What’s stopping you from sharing them with others?  How have you been impacted by the words and actions of others?  Share your thoughts in the comments.


I spent two weeks in Guatemala in July.  Each morning, I woke up before anyone else in our house, and I climbed up the steps to the roof of our house in Santo Domingo Xenacoj.  This is where I started my day with prayer, reading, and rooftop reflections.

Each morning, I recorded a video documenting my “Rooftop Reflections.”  I initially posted these on Facebook, but I realize many of my readers aren’t connected with me on Facebook.  Over the next several weeks, I’ll release these videos to you here on the blog.  These videos provide another glimpse into my experiences in Guatemala.

Here is the ninth installment:


I don’t understand this whole Twitter, Facebook stuff. I don’t get it. Make a phone call. Talk to somebody.

James Avery

Friday afternoon at the end of my workday, I received a phone call from my Grandpa.  Grandpa Miller lives in Minneapolis, MN, and I live outside of Philadelphia, PA which means we don’t see each other very often.  And I’m embarrassed to admit we don’t talk nearly as often as we should.  I think we both share the guilt for our infrequent conversations.

One of the things that keeps us connected is my blog.  Every time I publish a new blog post, Grandpa gets an email from me.  He keeps tabs on me in part by reading my blog posts.

I don’t know if you noticed or not, but I didn’t publish a single blog post last week.  One person did notice – Grandpa.  His phone call on Friday afternoon was a call of concern for me.  Was a sick?  Was I busy?  Was I okay?  Grandpa called to check-up on me.

Grandpa’s phone call reminded me of several important things.

Grandpa and My Niece

Grandpa and My Niece

4 Things I Learned When Grandpa Called Me

  1. I am loved.  Grandpa’s phone calls always remind me that I am loved.  We may not talk as regularly as we should, but I know we are thinking of each other.  In fact, Grandpa regularly prays for my family and me.  You are loved, too!
  2. I am missed when I don’t show up.  For over nine years, I’ve been writing blog posts here.  I don’t often realize the impact of my writing discipline.  The last couple of weeks have been particularly busy for me, so I decided to put attention to other things besides writing blog posts.  I guess I didn’t realize the impact of my decision.  It’s nice to know I was missed.  And I am reminded to practice the discipline of showing up – even here on my blog.  You are missed when you don’t show up!
  3. My words and actions matter to others.  It is my prayer that my words (and actions) will encourage others and will bring glory to God.  Grandpa’s phone call reminded me that my words do matter.  They keep people informed, and they stretch people to live life with more intention.  Your words and actions matter to others!
  4. I am meant to live in community.  When life gets overwhelming, I sometimes have a tendency to close up.  I’m an extrovert, but I also have a strong desire to be in control.  When I get too busy, it’s easy for me to put on blinders.  I focus so intently on the things on my schedule and my to-do list that I forget to latch into the people around me – my community.  If you’re reading this, you are part of my community.  I need you, and I think you may need me.  We need each other.  I can’t physically be with Grandpa thanks to the challenges of geography and responsibilities, but I can be present with Grandpa by connecting with him more intentionally.  You are meant to live in community!

Thank you, Grandpa, for calling!  It meant the world to me to hear your voice and to know you care.  I love you!

Who do you need to call today?  What are you going to do about it?  Share your thoughts in the comments.


I spent two weeks in Guatemala in July.  Each morning, I woke up before anyone else in our house, and I climbed up the steps to the roof of our house in Santo Domingo Xenacoj.  This is where I started my day with prayer, reading, and rooftop reflections.

Each morning, I recorded a video documenting my “Rooftop Reflections.”  I initially posted these on Facebook, but I realize many of my readers aren’t connected with me on Facebook.  Over the next several weeks, I’ll release these videos to you here on the blog.  These videos provide another glimpse into my experiences in Guatemala.

Here is the eighth installment:


Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.

Steve Jobs

Most weeks on The Stretched Blog, I ask an ice breaker question on Fridays. The questions are designed to help us get to know each other here in The Stretched Community. I’ll provide my answer to the question here in the post, and then you can leave your response in the comments. While you’re in the comments section, see how others answered the ice breaker question.

Question:  What technological advancement would you love to see in your lifetime?

My Answer:  I used this question last week for a Toastmasters Table Topics contest I facilitated, and I loved the answers given by the contestants.  One contestant said they’d like to see a memory chip developed to help people remember things, and another contestant said a time machine would be an amazing advancement.  I can’t argue with either of these responses.

Today, I’m speaking at the PSPE (Pennsylvania Society of Professional Engineers) 2016 Annual Conference on the topic of Engineers Managing Engineers.  As part of my presentation, I’ll be talking about the importance of encouraging innovation among our team members.  As the end of my talk, I’ll be asking attendees to help me brainstorm ways to foster innovation, so this question goes along with my experience today.

Since the memory chip and time machine ideas were already mentioned, I’m going with something different.  I’d love to see scientists develop an affordable human teleportation device.  I first saw the device imagined on early episodes of Star Trek.  Captain Kirk and Spock used teleportation to visit alien planets.  Aboard the Starship Enterprise, Scotty would “beam” Kirk and Spock all over the galaxy.

With family and friends spread throughout the world, I’d love to travel to visit others without wasting time.  I could travel to Dallas, TX to visit my parents and youngest brother whenever I want to see them.  I could go to Guatemala multiple time a year (or even multiple times a week) to spend time with friends in Santo Domingo Xenacoj.  Imagine all the possibilities of having a human teleportation device.  Beam me up, Scotty!

Answer this week’s ice breaker question by leaving a comment. I look forward to reading your response! (As always, feel free to share links.)  And keep Stretching!


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