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Teach Me To Count

“Every man dies. Not every man really lives.”

William Wallace

I recently watched VAL, a documentary about actor, Val Kilmer. You may remember Kilmer as Ice Man in the hit movie, Top Gun. He’s also played key roles in other movies like Tombstone, Batman Forever, The Doors, and Willow. He had all the success you might expect from a movie start who has been part of many, many movies, and he had the good looks to go with it. Relatively recently, he developed throat cancer which has caused a tremendous interruption to his life and disastrous impact to his voice.

The documentary tells the story of Val Kilmer both before and after his cancer diagnosis, and I think it also provides a glimpse of hope we can find even when life doesn’t quite go as we expect it to. Here’s the trailer to give you a little taste. The documentary is available on Amazon Prime, and I’d recommend giving it two hours of your time.

The documentary was also a reminder that life is fleeting. We don’t know exactly what we might encounter as we journey through life. One thing is for sure, our days on Earth are finite.

This fact has been hitting home for me on a much more personal level these past two or three weeks as my family watches my Grandpa Miller in his last days. At 94 years old, he has lived a long life. He is a retired USPS mail carrier (he loved his job). He served in the U.S. Army in Germany in World War II. He was always very particular about his lawn and his cars for which he always paid cash. Grandpa was frugal. He was a meat and potatoes guy. More than these things, he loved Jesus, and he loved introducing people to Jesus. Over the past few years as his physical body has been failing, he has remained committed to praying (I wrote about this in a recent blog post).

Grandpa is tired and worn out. He is ready to go home – to his heavenly home.

What will you do with time you have left? How will you live your life? Will you live with regret always looking in the rear view mirror of your life? Or will you live with hope anticipating the good things yet to come?

I love how the Apostle Paul encourages us to make the most of every opportunity:

“Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”

Ephesians 5:15-17 (NIV)

It’s important for us to consider our lives and to make the most of every opportunity.

What are you waiting for?

“Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.”

Psalm 90:12 (NIV)

Iron Sharpens Iron

“For everybody in their busy lives, you need to invest in sharpening your tools, and you need to invest in longevity.”

Ryan Holmes

This morning on my walk (today is day 1,226 in my 10,000 steps a day streak), I crossed paths with one of my neighbors. He commented on how I was looking thinner. Honestly, I was flattered, but I explained to him I’d like to lose 10-15 pounds. (My height hides it pretty well.) He indicated that he also needed to lose 15 pounds, and he went on to tell me that he really needed to give up his daily Pop Tarts. I explained that I would have the same problem with Pop Tarts and an even bigger problem with ice cream if we kept them in the house on a regular basis. He then stated that he was going to get rid of his Pop Tarts. Five minutes later, I received a video text message from him crying as he threw his Pop Tarts in the trash. Our exchange ended with a text message back from me, “Be strong and courageous.”

We all have things to work on in our lives. We could be better in our eating habits, our exercise habits, our reading habits, our television viewing habits. I could go on. We each benefit when we take take to sharpen our skills and improve our habits.

In some cases this sharpening or improvement can happen with our own efforts.

But sharpening or self-improvement happens in a better way when we involve others in the sharpening process.

King Solomon said “As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.”

We need friends in our lives who will sharpen us, who will encourage us, who will call us on the carpet, who will spur us on toward love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24-25).

Who are those friends in your life? Who sharpens you? Who helps you become a better person?

If you don’t have an answer to these questions, I’d encourage you to search it out. I have found these kinds of friendships through my marriage, through my involvement at church, through my community at the gym, through a variety of community groups, and right in my own neighborhood.

I have also found sharpening through the Stretched Men Group, the mastermind group I founded to help men take the next steps in their journey. If you are interested in stepping into this kind of sharpening relationship, leave me a comment. I plan to launch the next semester at the beginning of 2022.

I’m thankful I ran into my neighbor this morning. Together we both have a shot at reaching our goal of losing 10-15 pounds and in improving ourselves for the future.

Keep stretching one step at a time!

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”

Proverbs 27:17 (NIV)

Renewed Through Accountability

“Accountability breeds response-ability.”

Stephen Covey

We all need a little accountability in our lives – that necessary kick in the butt necessary to keep us on the right path.

I’m working on my High Performance Leadership project necessary to earn my Distinguished Toastmasters (DTM) for Toastmasters International. For those unfamiliar, Toastmasters International is a world-wide organization of local clubs designed to help people improve their leadership and communication skills. And the DTM is the highest level of achievement in the organization (kind of like the Eagle Scout Rank associated with Scouting). In order to earn the DTM, I’ve given over 50 speeches and completed many leadership activities and roles.

The High Performance Leadership (HPL) project is the capstone necessary to earn the DTM, and I’ve been putting off my project for over a year. With a deadline of June 30, 2021 (which was extended a year thanks to the COVID pandemic), I only have a month to finalize the requirements of this project and to submit my paperwork which is required to make the DTM official.

To help move me along in this process and to ensure I meet the requirements by the deadline, I asked a couple of co-workers and fellow Toastmasters to hold me accountable. Last week, I made significant progress towards my goal thanks to the timely and repeated “prodding” of these individuals.

We need accountability in our lives.

My wife is one of my accountability partners for life, marriage, and family. I meet with a group of guys weekly who also hold me accountable in areas of faith, fitness, and finances. I meet with a group of entrepreneurs bi-weekly who hold each other accountable to moving forward in our businesses and side pursuits. And I meet with a group of leaders in my company on a monthly basis to hold each other accountable to leading well in our organization.

The idea of accountability can be scary. After all, we have to be transparent in order for accountability to be effective. We have to be willing to share our fears and our failings with others. Accountability is worth overcoming these fears.

Accountability is powerful. It can push us over obstacles holding us back, and accountability allows us to rise to our full potential.

One of the reasons I started the Stretched Men Group several years ago was to provide a place where men could be held accountable to stretch and take steps forward to become better husbands, better fathers, better leaders, and better men. If you are interested in joining this kind of a group, let me know (or visit StretchedMenGroup.com) by leaving a comment below.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV)

Renewed By Change

If we don’t change, we don’t grow. If we don’t grow, we aren’t really living.”

Gail Sheehy

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I used Sunday morning before church as a time for writing. I took my laptop to a local Starbucks or business that offered free WiFi, and I wrote my weekly blog post.

When the pandemic forced me to write from home, I noticed my writing time was becoming more interrupted and less consistent. My wife noticed this trend as well, and she recently encouraged me to get back out to write.

This morning, I’m writing from the back patio of the Sunshine Cafe in Limerick, PA. (By the way, this is a fantastic place for breakfast. The food is good. The waitstaff is friendly. This morning, I tried the avocado toast which was delicious along with my usual decaf coffee.) The change in scenery and routine has been just what I needed.

I spent my first 30 minutes reflecting on the past week and planning for the week ahead. Then I opened up my laptop (actually my iPad) to write this post. And I’ll have some time to do some reading before heading to church at Christ’s Church of the Valley this morning.

This is just the change I needed. In this year of renew, we may need to change things up from time to time. While I’m a proponent of disciplines, routines, and habits, I’m realizing it’s okay and even healthy to change things up every once in a while.

What change do you need to make to find renewal in you life? How has change been a good thing for you?

A Renewed Outlook on Mondays

“There are two tests in life, more important than any other test. On Monday morning, when you wake up, do you feel in the pit of your stomach you can’t wait to go to work? And when you’re ready to go home Friday afternoon, do you say, ‘I can’t wait to go home?’”

Chuck Schumer

It’s Monday night.

How was your Monday?

For many of us, Monday has become a curse word – a word that implies dread, stress, and hopelessness.

Why is that?

I’m thinking Monday has taken on such a negative reputation because so many fail to find work that brings fulfillment. Instead, many workers simply take on a job that pays the bills.

Our work matters. What we do every day for over 1/3 of our days during the work week has the possibility to leave a lasting mark. It also has the potential to simply be a waste of our time.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to waste my time when it comes to my work.

As I approach my 50th birthday at the end of this calendar year, I’ve begun doing a lot of self examination. While I intend on keeping busy contributing to society for the rest of my living years, I’m realizing that I probably have 10-15 years left before I “retire” from work as I know it. I want those 10-15 years to matter. I want to do work that fulfills me and encourages others. I want to do work that utilizing my gifts, my talents, my skills, my knowledge, and my experience, and I want to do work that helps others along the way. I want to do work that contributes to my community and my world.

I’ve begun doing more homework to help me navigate this period of self examination. Specifically, I’ve most recently been reading through Halftime: Moving from Success to Significance by Bob Buford, 48 Days to the Work and Life You Love by Dan Miller, and The Proximity Principle by Ken Coleman.

I don’t want to dread Mondays. I want to be excited about my work. I want to pursue work that aligns with my vocational calling – the place where my skills meet my passions meets my opportunities.

How are you feeling about Mondays? What steps do you need to take to have a better outlook on your work? How could an improved work outlook make a difference in your life?

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Colossians 3:17 (NIV)

Renewed Through Celebrating Work Milestones

The safest road to hell is the gradual one – the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.

C.S. Lewis

On Friday, I celebrated a work milestone. January 8, 1996 was my start date at what is now Siemens. That means I have been working for the same organization for the past 25 years.

I still have working years ahead of me, and I trust there will be other milestones along my career pathway. Nonetheless, it’s healthy to pause for a few moments to celebrate this milestone.

In my year of renew, I have actually discovered renewal by thinking about my experiences so far. Reflecting on these experiences remind me that we can find joy and satisfaction in our work. Sometimes we lose sight of this when we dwell on the day-to-day challenges we face.

With this in mind, I wanted to list here some of the things I’ve experienced as a result of my time at Siemens:

  • High Performance Leadership (HPL) Siemens Leadership Excellence (SLE) – A few years ago, I was nominated to participate in which I traveled to Chicago for a week to meet with 23 other participants from North and South America. This week gave me the opportunity to learn more about leadership and about me. It also gave me the opportunity to establish important relationships with five other participants who have virtually met together monthly ever since. This was probably the best week of my 25 years at Siemens.
  • Professional of the Year Award Trip in 2002 – I had the blessing of traveling to Hawaii with my wife to be celebrated along with other award winners. It was such an incredible experience to enjoy the beauty of Hawaii with colleagues and their spouses.
  • MBA from Penn State University – While it took a lot of time and effort, I’m thankful for Siemens support in my journey to earn this degree back in 2005.
  • Professional Engineers (P.E.) License – This also took a lot of time and effort, but I’m thankful for Siemens support to earn this licensing in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
  • Speaker at NSPE Conference – Siemens was extremely supportive in sending me to Atlanta, GA to speak at the National Society of Professional Engineers annual conference. I spoke on the topic of Engineers Managing Engineers to an audience of ~100 engineers from around the country.
  • Winner of first Siemens Shark Tank competition – I had the opportunity to present an idea in front of 400+ top Siemens leaders. As the winner of the competition, I was awarded $50,000 to implement my idea. What an incredible experience!
  • Annual Management Meetings (AMM) – I’m thankful for the opportunity to attend these meetings in Boston, Palm Springs, Fort Lauderdale, Phoenix, and Tuscon. These multi-day meetings have given me the chance to meet with other leaders from the company and to be recharged on the technology we use to serve our customers.
  • Toastmasters and Rotary – Siemens has been very supportive of my involvement in these two organizations that have helped further my leadership and communication skills and allowed me to connect more broadly with the community.
  • Countless building automation project experiences – As an engineer, project manager, and operations manager at Siemens, I’ve had the privilege of working on all kinds of different projects for a wide variety of customers: Princeton University, Merck, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Sharp, Agere Systems, Lucent Technologies, North Penn School District, and the list goes on and on. It’s remarkable to think about the different buildings I’ve seen throughout the years.
  • Interviewing, recruiting, and representing Siemens at various job fairs, colleges, and conferences – Most recently, I’ve had the privilege of talking directly to students at Drexel University, Lafayette College, and Grove City College. I’m thankful for the opportunity to connect my work experience and company with students and young engineers. I definitely could see myself growing into greater roles related to these kind of connections and interactions.
  • People, people, people – Siemens has afforded me the opportunity to meet and interact with so many people – my peers, my team members, my customers, my industry colleagues. The people is what I will remember and cherish most in my experience at Siemens.

I’m sure I could list many other specific experiences from my time at Siemens so far. This list will do for now. It has reminded me of the blessing of my job. I’ve had a place to grow, to learn, and to leave my mark. While I don’t know what the next 5, 10, 15, or even 25 years may bring as I continue down my career path, I’m excited to step back into the office tomorrow as I continue on at Siemens.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

Colossians 3:23-24 (NIV)

What blessings have you experienced as a result of your job?

On Track: Life Lessons From The Track & Field – Introduction – Audio Version

People learn and digest information in different ways. Some learn well by reading the written word. And some people learn better by listening to the written word.

I fall somewhere in between. I like to read, but I also love to listen to podcasts and audio books.

Several years ago, I released my first book, On Track: Life Lessons from the Track & Field. It’s a short paperback book available on Amazon. You can order your copy today by clicking here.

Since releasing this book and my second book (Rooftop Reflections), I’ve had several inquiries about the availability of my books in an audio format. The thought of recording an audio book scared me a little bit as I wasn’t sure of the technology to use to make this happen.

With the help of some good friends, I learned some important information about the tools I needed to record an audio book. I recently ordered these tools, and I have begun recording the audio version of On Track.

Today, I share with you the audio Introduction to On Track. I hope you enjoy! And with a little time and hard work, my audio book will be available for Audible.

Life Giving or Life Taking

“Don’t settle for what life gives you; make life better and build something.”

Ashton Kutcher

Have you ever found yourself in a place where it seems like life is sucking more out of you than you are getting back in return?

Have you ever asked yourself why you are doing what you are doing?

Have you ever wondered if you are in the right place, the right job, or the right role?

I recently found myself asking some of these same types of questions.

I’ve been at my current place of employment for nearly 25 years, and I’ve been in my current role for over three years. This has been an extremely challenging year as we navigated the challenges and distractions brought on my COVID-19 in the middle of having our best year ever from a revenue standpoint. Instead of proactively bringing new things into my team to help elevate us to the next level, I have often felt the stresses and pressures of responding the a variety of “issues” brought on by corporate direction, product developments, and resource restrictions. (I want to be cautious in how I describe this. I happen to work for a great company with a history of innovation and success. Sometimes, I can lose sight of this fact in the day to day minutia.)

Meanwhile, I have felt a lack of creativity, time, and energy for some of the things I have enjoyed on the side of work – writing, speaking, etc.

I shared these feelings this week with a close group of advisors. And they offered some fantastic advice.

First, COVID-19 and our recent move to a new home are both extreme events requiring a lot of time and attention. We live, work, and play in seasons. Sometimes the seasons of life require us to “muscle” through hard times. Sometimes the seasons of life require more focus on work. Sometimes the seasons of life provide more time for pressing into deeper areas of exploration towards our areas of passion.

Second, they reminded me of the importance of delegation. Delegation (which I’ve written about here in the past) is an excellent tool for passing knowledge on to others. It is also an great way to enable myself to do the things I like to do. As a natural people pleaser with perfectionistic (or maybe it’s OCD) tendencies, I tend to do more things myself which takes me away from things I’d rather be doing as the leader in my department and in turn leaves me depleted of energy and zest for my work. Delegation is a must in order to replenish my energy and enthusiasm.

Third, it is okay to explore new things and to consider a possible pivot. According to scientists, we are essentially completely new people every seven years as old, dead cells are replaced by new cells throughout our bodies. It goes without saying as we become new people there may be shifts in our passions and our approaches to work and life. For some, this may mean a seismic shift in our careers and jobs. For others, this may simply mean smaller shifts in our approach to our current work or activities. One of my advisors suggested I read Necessary Endings by Henry Cloud. I am someone who desires stability in my life and is terrified of change, it’s important that I learn how to bend. I need to give myself permission to change.

Finally, understanding what brings me life and what takes life out of me is important for determining my path forward. In Sleeping with Bread (Holding What Gives You Life), authors Dennis Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, and Matthew Linn, encourage readers to daily ask two questions as a means of finding meaning and direction for life. These two questions are: For what am I most grateful? For what am I least grateful? Asked another way: When did I feel most alive today? When did I most feel life draining out of me? As a result of the conversation with my advisors, I have begun answering these questions in my journal. Over the course of the next several weeks, I will take time to review my daily responses to find patterns that could help give me direction on how to make the most out of life.

Recently, I’ve been reading Think Like A Monk by Jay Shetty. In the book, he encourages readers to look for purpose in our work. He suggests we look at our jobs and our activities through a lens of purpose, passion, skills, and calling.

As we look for fulfillment in our lives, it’s a good idea to reflect on our purpose. Why are we here? How are we serving others through what we do? How are we best utilizing and enhancing our skills to meet our areas of passion?

What is giving you life today? What is taking life away from you today? How do the answers to these questions impact your world today?

By the way, we all need a group of advisors who can help us through our times of questioning, though our times when we are stuck, or through our times when we simply can’t see the path forward. If you are interested in being part of a group like this, I’d encourage you to check out the Stretched Men Group. This is a mastermind group for men looking to move forward in their parenting path, their marriage path, their career path, their faith path, and their life path. Spots are currently open. If you are interested in learning more about the group and how you can become involved, check out StretchedMenGroup.com.

Stretched Men Group Fall 2020 STARTING IN OCTOBER

“Some would argue that you’re as successful as the company you keep. Certainly there is a connection between our friends and who we are.”

Simon Sinek

We were made for connection.

We were made for community.

Even the strongest introvert needs human interaction.

COVID-19 has altered our ability to connect. Many have stopped meeting face to face to adhere to CDC guidelines and to avoid spreading the virus. These developments have altered the way we work, the way we go to church, the way we learn, and the way we connect.

When I started the Stretched Men Group several years ago, I started with virtual meetings with the hope of creating a community of men who wanted to take their next steps toward being better fathers, better husbands, and better men. While I hope to host live events someday, I’m thankful for the start with virtual meetings as it works well with our current COVID-19 situation.

Our 60-90 minute bi-weekly virtual meetings have led to men taking significant steps forward in their careers, their faith, their marriages, and their families.

The next semester of the Stretched Men Group is scheduled to kickoff at the beginning of October. Now is the perfect time to get more information about the group through a one-on-one call with me. I’d love to help answer any questions you may have about the group and see if now is the right time for you to join this special mastermind group of men.

The first official meeting of the fall semester will be October 7th at 9PM (Eastern Time – US & Canada).

If you are a looking place for connection with other men along with a place you will be stretched to take your next step forward, I’d encourage you to head over the stretchedmengroup.com TODAY and sign-up for a FREE, no pressure discovery call to learn more information about how you can join the Fall 2020 Semester of the Stretched Men Group.

You don’t want to miss it!

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV)

Look for the Helpers

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of ‘disaster,’ I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so man caring people in this world.”

Fred Rogers

Have you been watching the news lately?

The news can seem pretty scary right now.

I’ve tried to stay away as much as possible. So much of today’s news media is about blaming this side or that side for the COVID-19 crisis. Or the news is filled with emphasis on the rapid spread of the novel corona virus and the rising death toll left in its wake. I read or hear stories of people reacting out of fear – hording toilet paper, hording hand sanitizer, and yelling at people who appear to be too close to them physically.

Many media outlets are using the crisis as an opportunity to either support their political perspective or tear down the political position of the opposing side. This path will only create more disunity and higher walls in our country and in our communities. In addition, they are spreading a message of fear.

Crisis can either destroy us or can unify us.

So here is my question to you (and to me)….

How are you responding to this crisis?

Are you helping others? Are you reaching out? Are you spreading hope?

Or are you acting only for you and your benefit? Are you hording? Are you spreading messages of fear and despair?

I believe it’s important to be informed and to take responsible actions to prevent the spread of this virus. But I also believe it’s important to look for the helpers – and to become one of the helpers wherever possible.

This week, I saw some of the helpers:

I saw a team of co-workers creatively gathering PPE (Personal Protection Equipement) for distribution to our field workers who are faced with serving our customers who are providing life-sustaining services to others at hospitals, healthcare facilities, and pharmaceutical research and manufacturing sites.

I saw a group of Rotarians gathering grocery store gift cards to distribute to families in need due to furlough or loss of job caused by COVID-19.

I saw friends in the healthcare arena sacrificially putting themselves at risk by serving in hospitals, urgent care facilities, and portable COVID-19 testing facilities.

I saw teachers working together to connect with their students and to creatively continue education despite the current requirements to remain physically separated.

I saw pastors doing their best to connect with their congregations in an effort to bring messages of hope.

I saw people in my community doing their part to support local businesses who have clearly been impacted by the isolation required by the government orders to “stay at home.”

I saw family members and friends creatively using their talents to entertain and encourage others through YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Zoom, and other on-line platforms.

These are stories that might not make it to CNN or FoxNews. But these are the stories we need to hear especially in the midst of crisis.

Look for the helpers!

Be a helper!

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