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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!

FREE Virtual Happy Hour for Men

Men:

I wanted to extend an invitation to each of you to participate in the first ever Stretched Men Group Virtual Happy Hour.  This will be an opportunity to connect as men, to share our thoughts and experiences related to the COVID-19 situation, and to be encouraged.  This invitation is open to you and any other guys who you think might be interested.  Just share the link below, and let me know they are planning to join us.  There is no cost associated with this event.

The Virtual Happy Hour will happen this Tuesday, March 24, 2020 from 7:00PM – 8:00PM.

My guess is we are all dealing with a mix of emotions, fears, and thoughts.  As many of us social distancing ourselves physically, the SMG Virtual Happy Hour will provide an opportunity to connect virtually.

Hope to see you there!

Jon

Join Zoom Meeting
https://zoom.us/j/9778629800

Win Every Day – A New Book by Mark Miller

“Greatness hinges on execution. Everything we do should ultimately contribute to superior levels of execution.”

Mark Miller – Win Every Day p. 16

Everyone wants to win – at least I would like to believe this.

I want to win in my marriage. I want to win in my parenting. I want to win in my career. And I want those around me to win – my wife, my kids, and the team I lead.

Mark Miller does it again with an excellent allegory about leadership, business, and life.

In Win Every Day – Proven Practices For Extraordinary Results, Miller lays out three keys to get the results – the daily wins – you seek. Execution is not just about the end product. Executing with excellence involves executing at a high level throughout the entire journey.

This is the second book I have read by Mark Miller, and I really appreciate the thought he puts into each and every page of his writing. He helps enlighten readers on foundational leadership wisdom through the stories he tells. (Here’s a link to my review of Win The Heart.)

I walked away after reading this book with practical advice for taking my team to the next level.

If you desire excellence and results in your business and your life, I’d recommend you pick up a copy of Win Every Day. The book officially releases on Tuesday, March 10, 2020, and you can order your copy TODAY by clicking here.

Please note: I received a pre-release copy of Win Every Day in an exchange for an honest review. I was not required to positively support this book. I truly believe this is a book that could help you win every day! Also, I could receive a few cents if you order Win Every Day by clicking and ordering through one of the links in this post.

Freedom Through Forgiveness

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Violated.

Falsely accused.

Wronged.

Disrespected.

Mistreated.

Desecrated.

Profaned.

At one time or another, we have all been wronged in such a way that we lose hope, we feel a fracture in our relationships, and we fight the natural response that seeks revenge.

The more we succumb to our natural inclinations towards revenge, anger, retaliation, and blame, the deeper we find ourselves in the pit imprisoned by our failure to forgive.

Forgiveness is the intentional and voluntary process by which a victim undergoes a change in feelings and attitude regarding an offense, lets go of negative emotions such as resentment and vengeance (however justified it might be), and with an increased ability to wish the offender well.

Wikipedia – Forgiveness

When we withhold forgiveness, our humanness somehow believes we are getting back at our enemy for their words or actions that violated us. In reality, our failure to forgive is hurting us more than we realize.

I love this quote from Maya Angelou:

“It’s one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, to forgive. Forgive everybody.”

Maya Angelou

Forgiveness is a gift. It’s a gift to ourselves. When we forgive, we open the door to freedom. We find a freedom to let go of the past, a freedom to look forward to the future with hope, and a freedom that comes from letting go of our relentless pursuit of trying to even the score with our enemies.

We all need this gift. We need this freedom.

And this is why I encourage you to consider forgiveness.

I’ll confess forgiveness doesn’t always come easy at first, but the more we practice forgiveness the easier it becomes. Developing a discipline of forgiveness produces the freedom we all need.

And one more thing, don’t forget that we too need forgiveness. We need to be forgiven. We are all messed up, screwed up people. With this in mind, I’m thankful for a God who forgives.

Jesus implies (okay, he says it pretty clearly) that if we want to be forgiven, we must forgive others.

“But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

Jesus – Matthew 6:15 (NIV)

In other words, when we forgive others we find our own freedom and forgiveness.

I don’t know how you’ve been violated. I don’t know how you’ve been wronged. I don’t know how you’ve been mistreated, profaned, desecrated, or falsely accused. But I know as hard as it may seem, forgiveness is the way. I encourage you to forgive.

Freedom.

Liberation.

Emancipation.

Deliverance.

Liberty.

Release.

Imagine how differently your world would be if you were able to experience the freedom that comes when you forgive others. Imagine the new time and energy you would have for renewing thoughts, activities, and conversations that you have wasted by holding a grudge.

Who do you need to forgive today? Go forgive them, and free yourself!

Sunday Night Stretch

For the past few months, I have been sending out a weekly email called the Sunday Night Stretch. I typically send the email out on Sunday night (although I may have sent one out on Monday one week).

These emails provide an encouraging message and more personal update from me. The emails have sparked more exchange between my readers and me.

If you’d like to get on the list to receive these weekly Sunday Night Stretch emails, you simply need to fill out the form below. I’d love to connect with you on a deeper level.

I’ll be sending out a new Sunday Night Stretch email tonight. Sign up now, so you don’t miss another one of these weekly messages.

Identity Identified

Spiritual identity means we are not what we do or what people say about us. And we are not what we have. We are the beloved daughters and sons of God.

Henri Nouwen

Who are you?

Last week, I was on a call with a couple of other colleagues from Mexico and the United States. We get together virtually once a month to encourage each other and to help each other navigate the leadership gantlet we all find ourselves in as leaders in our company.

During the call, one of the leaders confessed she was so consumed by her work that she had absolutely no life outside of work. She shared she was somewhat jealous of me, because of the active life I lead outside of my job. She has been an employee of the company for 25 years, and her work has become her identity.

What do you do?

It’s not uncommon for men to ask this question whenever they run into someone they don’t really know. What do you do?

Maybe you’re a doctor, a lawyer, a police officer, a preacher, an engineer, a businessman, an entrepreneur, a manager, or something else.

Who are you?

Here’s my initial answer to this question. I’m a husband, a father, a son, an uncle, a brother, an engineer, a manager, a leader, a writer, a speaker, a philanthropist, a Toastmaster, a Rotarian, a Pennsylvanian, an American, a friend. This list could go on.

Who are you really?

What would happen if these things were taken away from me? How would I define myself?

When we define ourselves by our activities, our careers, our titles, our positions, our geographical homes, etc. we limit ourselves. This is not who we really are. We are more!

Recently, I saw Overcomer, the latest movie from the Kendrick Brothers. The movie encouraged me to look at my identity from a better angle. In the movie, one of the characters is encouraged to read Ephesians 1 and 2 to see who we really are through Christ.

Here’s what I discovered (or rediscovered) as a result of this exercise:

  • I am God’s holy person.
  • I am faithful in Christ Jesus.
  • I am God’s son – His child.
  • I am blessed.
  • I am chosen.
  • I am blameless in God’s sight.
  • I am loved.
  • I am redeemed.
  • I am forgiven.
  • I am saved.
  • I am marked with God’s seal.
  • I am included.
  • I am remembered.
  • I am called.
  • I am God’s handiwork.
  • I am a citizen of God’s Kingdom.

This is my identity!

When your identity is found in Christ, your identity never changes. You are always a child of God.

Tim Tebow

Let me ask you again. Who are you? How do you identify yourself? What defines you? Better yet, who defines you?

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:10

Passing The Torch

“I don’t need a successor, only willing hands to accept the torch for a new generation.” Billy Graham

For the longest time, I felt like the young guy waiting in the wings for the chance to lead, the chance to be the “smart one”, the chance to be the champion.

I’m not saying I’m old by any stretch of the means. In fact, I still feel quite young in many respects; however, I’m beginning to realize that I am the one who is now in the leadership role. I’m the one who is somehow recognized as the “smart one” who must weigh in on all bigger decisions. I’m the champion for many who are now in my care.

In other words, the torch has definitely been passed to me. It’s my turn to run the race. It’s my turn to carry the burden. It’s my turn to bridge the gap between my predecessors and my successors.

This opportunity to carry the torch comes with excitement and trepidation, confidence and fear, joy and a fair amount of stress.

I want to do my best while I’m running my leg of this relay race of life. I want to move ahead in a way that leaves my team, my family, my followers in a much better place than before I took the torch.

This week, I had the blessing of driving out to Grove City College to deposit my son, Isaac, for his second year. He drove his own car out this year. This will make it easier for him to come home at break time and will give him a little more freedom to get away from campus when necessary.

For much of our drive from eastern Pennsylvania to western Pennsylvania, I took the lead. My car set the pace. I decided the direction. With two hours to go on our trip, Isaac took the lead. He navigated our path and set the speed for much of the remainder of our trip.

As Isaac’s car passed my car, I realized I was passing the torch to him. I was once a student at Grove City College. Now, my son is the one making the memories and leaving his mark on this beautiful campus. Over the past two years, I have begun to see places where my children are outpacing me. They are beginning to take the torch, and they are carrying it forward for their leg of the race.

As parents, we have the distinct honor and responsibility of passing the torch to our children. We set the pace for much of their early years. We would be doing a disservice to our children and to the future if we didn’t look for opportunities to pass the torch we have carried so long.

Passing the torch is an important aspect of life. I’m currently carrying a torch at my job, but I’m constantly looking for those who will take the torch from me and run the next leg of the race.

Who passed you the torch? Who will take the torch from you? What are you doing to prepare for the torch exchange?

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7

Overcome Negativity in the World – Be Positive

Have you noticed that there is a lot of negativity in the world these days?

There’s negativity in the news.

There’s negativity in the water cooler conversations at the office.

There’s even negativity at the dinner table.

All this negativity is dragging us down.

We are better than that.

What happened to “always look on the bright side of life”?

What happened to the glass is half full?

What happened to positivity?

My wife and I were talking the other day about the importance of bringing a right attitude – a more positive attitude – into the New Year.

While we know we will face challenges, we have decided to implement a practice of daily positivity. Each day, instead of asking ”How was your day?”, we will be asking each other “What were 3 wins for you today?”

Can you see how this changes things?

We started today when my wife arrived home from work (she’s a kindergarten teacher)?

I gave her my 3 wins, and I’ll share them with you here:

  1. I got my cap fixed (temporarily). Over the holiday, my cap (my one and only) broke. I called my dentist, and today was the first day they were back in the office since the cap broke. They got me in for an appointment this afternoon, and they hooked me up with a temporary crown while the new one is built.
  2. I fixed the garage door opener. It was a simple fix really, but the key pad outside our garage hadn’t worked right for quite a while. After reading some instructions, I learned that there was a battery in the key pad. Thankfully, I had a new 9-Volt battery laying around. I grabbed a screwdriver and replaced the battery, and the keypad works like new now.
  3. While I was in the fixing mode, I decided to call the hot tub manufacturer about a problem I had noticed with the control panel for our hot tub. While I was on the phone, I realized that the control panel was actually still working fine. I just needed to order a couple on new light bulbs to provide the appropriate back lighting to see the control panel in the dark. It may not seem like all that big of a deal, but it was a win for me.

Developing a positive attitude requires an intentional pursuit of finding the good in all things.

As you start the new year, I encourage you to look for the positive. Go against the cultural norm, and be a light for the good in this world. A positive approach to your life can make a huge difference for those around you.

What was one of your big wins today?

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